In the early rounds of the 2009 MLB Draft, the Minnesota Twins went heavy on college pitchers. Their first four picks were pitchers from colleges. They followed those picks by selecting four college hitters in the next five rounds. Right now, lefty Tony Davis (12th round) is pitching in Ft. Myers already. Brad Stillings (7th round) is starting with the Beloit Snappers. The Snappers bullpen includes several 2009 college draftees including Matt Tone (14th round), Dakota Watts (16th round), Kane Holbrooks (21st round) and Peter Kennelly (38th round).
First round selection, Kyle Gibson, a right-hander from the University of Missouri, fell in to the Twins laps with the 22nd overall pick. He signed almost literally at the last minute and did not pitch in 2009. He has more than warranted his lofty pick and lofty prospect rankings with his early season performance. After going 4-1 with a 1.87 ERA in seven starts with the Ft. Myers Miracle, he was recently promoted to Double-A New Britain. He is 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA in his first two starts with the Rockcats.
2nd round pick Billy Bullock was taken from the University of Florida. He was only moved to the bullpen for the 2009 college season, but in doing so, he improved his velocity and his slider. He began this season as the closer for the Ft. Myers Miracle. He struggled early, but he has not allowed a run in his last 11 appearances dating back to April 24.
Those two are pitching well, but the other two Twins first-day draft picks have not been as productive. In his Minor Details blog last week, LaVelle E. Neal wrote that 3rd round pick, Ben Tootle, was sent to the Twin Cities from Beloit and they fear a torn ulnar ligament. If that’s the case, he will need to have Tommy John surgery.
Recently, supplemental first round pick, Matt Bashore, underwent Tommy John surgery as well. The 46th overall pick last year from Indiana was sent to Elizabethton last year but pitched in just one inning of one game before being shut down.
Although Tommy John surgery will cost him the rest of the 2010 season, it certainly is not something that should end his career, or eliminate him from prospect status. What it does mean is that the Twins and Twins fans will need to be patient with him after his return.
There are several in the Twins organization that he can look to for advice and hope. Francisco Liriano and Pat Neshek are two guys who have returned from Tommy John surgery in the last couple of years. Jeff Manship, Brian Duensing and infielder Matt Macri all had Tommy John surgery in college. Carl Pavano has had several arm problems over the years and now is a very solid big league pitcher. Joe Nathan is rehabbing and recovering at the same time.
One player whose story is very similar to that of Matt Bashore’s is Matt Fox. Fox was the Twins supplemental first round pick in 2004. That season at the University of Central Florida, where Drew Butera was his catcher, the righty went 14-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 17 starts. He struck out 135 and walked just 32 in 111.2 innings. The Twins took him with the 35th overall pick.
Like Bashore, Fox went to Elizabethton where he made a few appearances. Then he missed the entire 2005 season after having Tommy John surgery. The patience that he and the Twins have shown in his return has been impressive and, based on Fox’s continual improvement and advancement, very successful.
Fox went to Extended Spring Training in 2006 and pitched for short-season Elizabethton that year and pitched 40 innings out of the bullpen. In 2007, he moved up to Beloit where he spent half the season in the bullpen before making 13 starts. He advanced to Ft. Myers in 2008 where he again began the season in the Miracle bullpen before becoming one of their top starters in the 2nd half. He was a full-time starter for the New Britain Rockcats in 2009 and ate 151 innings on the mound.
He not only returned to the mound, but he was successful. In those four years, he went a combined 27-18 and never had an ERA above 3.80 for a season. That is despite the fact that when he first came back, he had lost a lot of velocity. It has slowly come back and he is now touching 90-91 mph again.
Now 27 years old, Fox is pitching for the Rochester Red Wings. He began the season in the bullpen, but he has now made four starts for the team. Overall, he is 4-2 with a 2.82 ERA in 15 games. In 38.1 innings, he has walked 13 and struck out 28.
Fox is often forgotten on a Rochester Red Wings staff that includes Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney, Kyle Waldrop (who missed the entire 2008 season with shoulder surgery) and Jeff Manship, but he still could contribute to the Twins, probably as a long reliever if needed.
Matt Bashore, and potentially Ben Tootle, have a long road ahead of them to get to the big leagues. Hopefully it goes smoothly. But they have several pitchers in the organization to look to for advice. Matt Fox is a great guy who should give hope to a lot of pitchers who need to remain patient with their recovery.
Minor League Notes
• This past weekend, Josh Johnson (Josh’s Thoughts) and I traveled from the Twin Cities to Beloit, Wisconsin, to watch the Beloit Snappers play the Cedar Rapids Kernels in Midwest League action. It was fun to see players like Aaron Hicks and Angel Morales play a couple of games. Australian James Beresford was very impressive. We were able to watch Edgar Ibarra and Michael Tonkin make starts, and then were able to see the whole Snappers bullpen in the two games. If you want to read more of my thoughts on the trip and some of my impressions on the players, please head over to www.SethSpeaks.net and read Friday night and Sunday night’s blogs.
• Josh posted YouTube video of an at bat in which Twins OF prospect Angel Morales got hit in the head/helmet with a fastball.
• Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco will begin their Twins playing careers in the Dominican Summer League. They will play there for a few weeks, until the GCL Twins season starts in mid-June. At that time, they will evaluate whether to push them to the GCL or let them continue to play in the DSL.
• Paul Kelly and Drew Thompson are both currently out of the Ft. Myers Miracle lineup with injuries. Thompson has a hamstring injury, while Kelly is having wrist issues.
• Tom Stuifbergen told me that he threw a bullpen on Friday and felt good. He expects to be out another week and probably pitch out of the Beloit bullpen a couple of times.
• In eight games since his demotion to Ft. Myers, Joe Benson is 13-34. He is hitting .382/.447/.853 with four doubles and four home runs. Remember that he had five home runs at New Britain when he was demoted, four of them in May. That is nine home runs on the year already (8 this month). Not bad for a guy who is also nearly as fast as Ben Revere.
• In his first five games since being demoted to the Miracle, Chris Parmelee went 3-17 (.176). In his last three games, he has gone 8-13 (.615) with two walks, a triple, a grand slam and seven RBI.
• Ben Revere is on a tear. In his last ten games, he has gone 20-43 (.465) with six walks, two doubles, a triple and a home run. In his last seven games, he is 16-31 (.516).
• On Sunday, 2008 first round pick, Carlos Gutierrez improved to 1-3 with a 3.75 ERA. In his first start of the season, he gave up four runs in four innings. In his April 24th start, he gave up eight runs in four innings. In his seven other starts, he has given up two or less runs.
• On May 6, New Britain infielder Steve Singleton was hitting .192 (16-83). Last night, he went 3-5 with his 12th double and third home run. Since May 6, he has hit .353 (24-68), and is again someone to be considered as a contender for the Twins 2B job in 2011.
• Adrian Salcedo is a clear Top 10 Twins prospect in my mind. The right-hander recently turned 19 and is temporarily making some starts for the Ft. Myers Miracle. Last night, he went five innings and gave up two runs (1 earned) to pick up his first win. Interestingly, he walked three and struck out three batters in those five innings. Why interesting? Because last year in 61.2 innings with the GCL Twins, Salcedo walked just three batters and struck out 58. (courtesy tweet from Twins blogger Joe Bronk)
In other TwinsCentric news and articles:
• John has posted articles on Gardy’s late-game decision-making of late in two parts (Here isPart 1, and Part 2).
• Tune in to KFAN and KFAN.com on Tuesday morning about 7:15 to listen to John’s weekly appearance on The Power Trip morning show.
• After Parker wrote here yesterday about Justin Morneau’s Selectivity and Connectivity, Nick called the first baseman a Student of the Game.
• The TwinsCentric guys are all on Facebook, and you can follow us all on Twitter too; John, Nick, Parker and Seth.