Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bulk numbers of starters

When we start thinking about the Twins starting rotation, the first thing to consider is the limited opportunities.

The Twins have four veteran starters with eight- or seven-digit salaries: Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson and Hector Santiago. If healthy, they're filling 80 percent of the rotation. (I truly expected the Twins to move one of Gibson or Santiago during the winter, but it not only never happened, I never heard of any rumors.)

That leave one spot to decide this spring, and a lot of possibilities:

Young holdovers: Tyler Duffey made 26 starts last year and -- you might win a bet on this -- led the team in wins (9) despite a 6.43 ERA. Jose Berrios made 14 starts and got racked up for an 8.02 ERA, They had the two highest strikeout rates of the nine Twins who made at least nine starts, but their results were bad enough that they aren't certainties for the rotation.

The reconversion: Trevor May was on-and-off the disabled list with back problems, and a popular theory blamed it on the everyday activity of bullpen work. I like his stuff in the 'pen -- his fastball really perked up in short use -- but if he can't pitch, it doesn't do any good.

The rookies: Aldeberto Mejia -- big lefty they got from the Giants in the Eduardo Nunez trade last summer -- apparently impressed Monday throwing live BP. Justin Haley is a Rule 5 pick, so he has to make the 25-man roster or be offered back to Boston. He might stay as a long man in the bullpen,

The retreads: Ryan Vogelsong is 39, has made an All-Star team, been in the rotation for two World Series winners and has spend 12 years bouncing between Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Nick Tepesch is 11 years younger and less accomplished. Both are non-roster invitees. I don't expect much from either, but I didn't last year from Brandon Kintzler either.

There to be seen: Four arms from the farm system in camp who aren't serious contenders for April but might be factors later in the season: Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Felix Jose and Aaron Sledgers. The part of me fascinated by bright shiny objects would rather see one or two of them than Santiago or Gibson, but the sensible part knows better.

My preliminary ranking of how likely they are to open in the rotation: May. Duffey, Mejia, Tepesch, Vogelsong, Berrios, Haley.

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