Given the vast number of tribulations that have surrounded seemingly every injury affecting a player on the Twins' roster over the past couple years, folks have understandably placed low expectations on Kyle Gibson's rehab process.
The young hurler is a member of the organization's sizable faction of Tommy John victims over the past several years, and with all the setbacks that we've grown accustomed to seeing, fans across Twins Territory have conditioned themselves to scale back excitement over his potential impact next season.
Gibson is making it increasingly difficult to do so.
The former first-round draft pick, ranked by Baseball America as the game's 34th-best prospect before a 2011 season that saw him tear his UCL, turned in another sterling performance in the Arizona Fall League on Tuesday, allowing just one run on six hits over five innings while striking out eight and walking none. In two starts for the Peoria Javelinas, the right-hander is now 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 16-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 10 innings. Those are fantastic numbers in a traditionally hitter-friendly league.
Combining his AFL performance with his three-level minor-league rehab stint that stretched from July to September this season, Gibson has tallied 49 strikeouts and six walks in 38 1/3 innings since returning to pitching competitively about nine months after surgery.
Perhaps even more encouraging than the numbers are the reports on Gibson's fastball velocity, which was purportedly registering up to 93 MPH in his latest start. If true, that's a notch above what he was typically reaching before surgery, and a sign that his gaudy strikeout totals may not be a total mirage.
Now, to be clear, we're talking about a small sample against minor-league hitters, many of whom aren't even Triple-A caliber. Still, it's tough not to get excited about this major ray of positivity in what's largely been a dark and gloomy starting pitching saga.
Even if we're telling ourselves not to.