Thursday, December 15, 2016

The rotation candidates

The news Wednesday that Tommy Milone signed with the Milwaukee Brewers led me to think about the Twins rotation at this point. (It's mid December. Do you know who your starting pitchers are?)

Let's think of it this way: there are pitchers who will be in the rotation if healthy, pitchers who can pitch their way out of rotation jobs in the spring, and pitchers who will need a break or two (injuries or ineffectiveness of others) to open the season in the rotation.

In the rotation if healthy: Ervin Santana and Phil Hughes. I'll put Hector Santiago in this category as well.

Santana is pretty obvious. Hughes is coming off surgery but has three more years to go on his contract. Santiago was weirdly inconsistent in his 11 starts with the Twins; in his first four starts, marked by an absence of walks, he posted a 10.89 ERA. After that his walks went back up to his usual levels and the ERA went down to 3.19 over his last seven starts. He's not a thrilling rotation candidate, but he did work more than 180 major-league innings last year between two teams and is the one veteran lefty in the rotation mix.

Can pitch their way out of the rotation: Kyle Gibson, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May.

Gibson and Duffey were two major reasons for the Twins 2016 decline from the competence of 2015, and I wouldn't be surprised if Gibson in particular got moved yet this offseason. There's little reason to believe the new "evidence-based" regime will be as optimistic about him as the Terry Ryan-led organization. May's physical issues as a reliever suggest that he'd be better off as a starter, and I hope he gets that opportunity.

Will need a break or two: Jose Berrios, Fernando Mejia, Justin Haley and other invitees.

La Maquina (Berrios) racked up an ERA of 8.02 in 58.1 major league innings last year; he may be the most talented of the nine arms named in this post, but he's got to command the fastball better than he did in 2016. I think he opens in Triple A. Mejia, acquired from the Giants in the Eduardo Nunez trade, probably has a better shot at the opening rotation than Berrios. Haley is the Rule 5 draftee added last week; he's use-or-lose, but he's more likely to stick as a long man/mopup reliever than at the back end of the rotation.

That's nine candidates for five jobs, but I expect it will change between today and spring training.

1 comment:

  1. I am underwhelmed by the prospective starting staff... :(