After looking at the Outfielders, Infielders, Catchers and Starting Pitchers, our final Spring Training Organizational Depth Chart will take a look at the relief pitchers in the Twins farm system. The bullpen was one of the better areas for the Twins in 2012, and could be again in 2013 although there are questions. The Twins have added some power arms in recent drafts, several are starting to move up the system.
As we have done in the previous depth charts, we’ll try to project where these bullpen pitchers will start the season. There will likely be seven or eight relievers on each team, and maybe a few Disabled List spots as injuries pop up. Some of these guys could get an opportunity to start at some point during the season.
So let’s get to it. Here are the Relief Pitchers in the Minnesota Twins organization:
Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Brian Duensing, Casey Fien, Alex Burnett, Josh Roenicke, Tim Wood, Ryan Pressly, (Anthony Swarzak – DL)
Perkins takes over as the full-time closer after spending most of the second half of the 2012 season working in the role. Jared Burton was a minor league free agent last year at this time. He made the roster, spent the whole season, pitched terrific and earned a multi-year contract. Brian Duensing is another lock in the bullpen. Hopefully he will just be left in the bullpen and allowed to get left-handed hitters out. Casey Fien was another minor league free agent a year ago. He had a great spring, got a mid-season promotion to the Twins, pitched very well and is pitching well again this spring. After those four, it is a bunch of question marks. Frankly, Alex Burnett has an option and has been pitching horribly again this spring. Josh Roenicke is out of options, and he has pitched well with the exception of last night. Tim Wood was pretty good, but he also had one hiccup. He is also out of options. The Twins used the 4th pick in the Rule 5 draft to take Ryan Pressly from the Red Sox organization. He will need to make the roster, or he’ll have to be offered back to the Red Sox unless they can work out a trade. Anthony Swarzak had his Twins Fest wrestling around rib injury, and he is yet to throw in a game. He will likely begin the season on the Disabled List. He’ll have to pitch well and he is also out of options.
Rochester Red Wings
Tyler Robertson, Caleb Thielbar, Anthony Slama, Bobby Lanigan, Jason Lane, Bryan Augenstein, Shairon Martis, Luis Perdomo, Mike O’Connor (Deolis Guerra, Esmerling Vazquez, Rich Harden, Rafael Perez, Dan Sattler, Lester Oliveros – DL)
Tyler Robertson is the guy on this list that has a very good chance of making the Twins Opening Day roster. He struckout the side in his major league debut last summer. Thielbar had the big breakout season last year after signing with the Twins from the St. Paul Saints in August of 2011. He made the 40 man roster and struggled in spring games, but he should surface with the Twins sometime in 2013. Anthony Slama got another chance in big league camp this year. He deserves a shot again sometime this year, but his spring showing to this point has not left a good impression so far. Bobby Lanigan finished the 2012 season with Rochester after finally moving to the bullpen. Perdomo was one of the best relief pitchers in the Twins farm system in 2012 and earned his promotion to the Twins. He is back off of the 40 man roster. Martis is pitching for Team Netherlands in the WBC. He came to the Twins in a trade during the 2012 season and started for New Britain and for the Red Wings. Bryan Augenstein was a minor league free agent who was invited to big league spring training, but he has already been sent down.
Jason Lane has 64 doubles and 61 home runs in the big leagues, but he has not played spent a day in the big leagues since 2007. Since 2009, he has been pitching in the minor leagues including the last three years in the Pacific Coast League. He ended last season with Sugar Land where he was managed by Gary Gaetti and played with the likes of Aaron Bates, Scott Kazmir and a couple of games with Roger Clemens. Reports indicated that the lefty threw quite hard. He went 9-5 with a 3.17 ERA.
Deolis Guerra will be out for at least half of the season due to the clot found in his shoulder. He should be having surgery soon. Rich Harden had shoulder surgery and missed all of 2012. He will be rehabbing for a while yet and should be brought back slowly. The Twins also signed Rafael Perez who had surgery late last season, and he will be moved slowly as well. Will he actually get a chance to start? Maybe, but he has a good track record in the bullpen. Esmerling Vasquez did a nice job in Rochester last year both in the bullpen and then as a starter. He came back to Twins spring training. Unfortunately, he suffered a shoulder strain and was sent back to the minor league side. Dan Sattler signed with the Twins from the Saints early last year, and he pitched in Ft. Myers, New Britain and Rochester. Shortly after moving up to the Red Wings, he underwent Tommy John surgery. Lester Oliveros had Tommy John surgery in September and will likely miss much of the 2013 season.
New Britain Rock Cats
Michael Tonkin, Bruce Pugh, Dakota Watts, Andrew Albers, Edgar Ibarra, Dan Turpen, Marty Popham, Jose Gonzalez, Cole Nelson, (Aaron Thompson – DL)
Of all the young players to show up at spring training this year, Michael Tonkin was one that clearly stood out to the media and to the manager. The tall, hard-throwing righty with a sharp slider should move quickly. Bruce Pugh has always been live-armed, but in 2012, he finally put it all together. For the third year, he pitched at both Ft. Myers and New Britain, but he was terrific. Likewise, it has been a roller coaster for Dakota Watts. He began the season with some tendonitis, but he really stepped up during the season. He pitched very well in Venezuela this past winter too, again showing off the mid-to-upper 90s velocity. Albers pitched well for the Twins and did a nice job with Team Canada in the WBC. He was my relief pitcher of the year in the Twins system in 2011, and last year he started for the Rock Cats. Edgar Ibarra has very good stuff. The lefty re-signed with the Twins and now that he is being a reliever, he could take off. Turpen throws hard, and although he limited his walks early in the season, by season’s end, he was walking a ton again. He ended last year at Rochester. Popham was a Twins minor league Rule 5 pick in December of 2011. He began the season in the Ft. Myers starting rotation and ended the season in the Rock Cats bullpen. Jose Gonzalez has been a closer on the teams he’s pitched on until last year in Ft. Myers. He had his ups and downs, but the hard-throwing left-hander with a terrific slider ended the season with New Britain. Nelson came to the Twins in the Delmon Young trade in August of 2011. The tall lefty from Minnesota struggled with injury and didn’t pitch well with the Miracle last year. He will likely need to make the Rock Cats roster. Thompson pitched for the Rock Cats last year before and after his 50 game suspension.
Ft. Myers Miracle
AJ Achter, Miguel Munoz, Nelvin Fuentes, Ryan O’Rourke, Corey Williams, Steven Gruver, Zach Jones, JT Chargois, Cole Johnson, Patrick Arnold, (Dallas Gallant, Manuel Soliman, Jhon Garcia – DL)
As good as Tonkin was in 2012, AJ Achter was my choice for Twins minor league relief pitcher of the year. He spent the first half of the season learning the bullpen at Beloit. He was an All-Star and was promoted to the Miracle where he was much better. He should move up to New Britain quickly. Chargois was the Twins 2nd round pick last year out of Rice. He is one who could move quickly, if healthy. Zach Jones was the team’s 4th round pick. He was clocked at 98 and 99 consistently in Beloit last season, and frequently hit 100. Control and a second pitch, and he could move up quickly. Patrick Arnold was a minor league free agent signed for depth. Miguel Munoz was hurt and rehabbed most of the 2011 season. Last year, he was slowly brought back with the Miracle. When healthy, he throws hard and has a chance to be very good. From the left side, there are some very good options. Williams led the organization in saves last year with 17. Though he didn’t pitch real great, he does have great stuff and throws hard. Nelvin Fuentes works slow and doesn’t throw real heard, but he find a way to keep hitters off of their feet. When I saw Ryan O’ Rourke pitch in Beloit in 2011, my immediate comment was that he could get big league left-handed hitters out already because of his tremendous slider. He struggled at times in 2012, but he has a chance to fill a role as he moves up. Gruver started about half of the season last year in Beloit and did well. He also pitched well out of the bullpen and has earned a chance to move up. Garcia had Tommy John surgery last June and will likely rehab much of this season. Soliman had labrum surgery last season and is already throwing to hitters this spring. Gallant pitched some for Beloit last year, but just recently, he had an ulna nerve transposition and finds himself rehabbing again.
Cedar Rapids Kernels
Tim Atherton, Tyler Jones, Chris Mazza, Ricardo Arevalo, Josh Burris, Andrew Ferreira, Tyler Herr, Travis Huber, Kaleb Merck, Alex Muren, Luis Nunez, (Tim Shibuya – DL)
Tim Atherton was with the Twins as a hitter a few years ago. He got in trouble, got released and then in late 2010, he was re-signed by the Twins as a pitcher. He throws hard and has a couple of good pitches. He walks too many, but he can miss bats. Tyler Jones came up to Beloit early in the 2012 season after being drafted in the 11th round in 2011 from LSU. He started for the Snappers most of the season. Mazza was a 27th round pick of the Twins in 2011, but he signed late. He pitched in both Twins rookie league teams and pitched very well. Arevalo signed with the Twins in 2009 and combined to go 0-8 in two seasons with the DSL Twins. In 2011, he was 0-4 with the GCL Twins. In 2012 at Elizabethton, he finally got that first win in his first start but then last his next three decisions. He pitched out of the bullpen for the E-Twins in the playoffs and does throw quite hard. Burris was the team’s 17th round pick in 2011. He made his pro debut in 2012 at Elizabethton and went 7-0 with a 1.75 ERA out of the bullpen. He struckout 40 and walked 21 in 36 innings. He throws hard but most talk about his big 12-6 curveball. Ferreira was the Twins 32nd round pick last year from Harvard. He pitched ten innings in ten games for the E-Twins. He went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA, walked seven and struckout 13. Herr was the Twins 44th round pick in 2009 out of his Texas High School. He spent two years in the GCL, and last year he went 3-0 with a 2.56 ERA in 31.2 innings at Elizabethton. He pitched in Australia this winter. When the Twins drafted Huber in the 23rd round last year from Nebraska, it was the third time he was drafted. He pitched nine games in Elizabethton. Merck was the Twins 33rd round pick last year out of TCU. He pitched in 16 games for E-Town last year and struckout 28 and walked six in 24.1 innings. Muren was the Twins 12th round pick last year from Cal State-Northridge. He posted a 1.46 ERA with a 0.86 WHIP in 24.2 innings despite striking out just 12. After going 5-0 with five saves and a 1.67 ERA in the GCL in 2011, Nunez went 0-2 with a 5.09 ERA in Elizabethton in 2012. The lefty throws very hard. Shibuya was the Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year in 2011 in his debut pro season. He pitched alright early in the season for Beloit. Unfortunately, soon after he threw a complete game shutout, he started to feel pain in his shoulder. He did have surgery in October and hopes to pitch early in the season.
Extended Spring Training/Short-Season
Angel Mata, Hung-yi Chen, Gonzalo Sanudo, Gerardo Ramirez, Melciades de la Cruz, Carson Goldsmith, Trent Higginbotham, Andre Martinez
Mata went 4-3 with a 3.38 ERA last year in Elizabethton. He has moved up one level each of the last three years, so it is possible that he’ll move up to Cedar Rapids. Either way, they’ll continue to monitor his innings because he has a great arm. Chen signed from Taiwan late in 2010. He went 0-4 with a 4.33 ERA in 12 appearances (10 starts) with the GCL Twins. Last year, he stayed in the GCL and pitched in 16 games out of the bullpen. Chen has a strong arm and great control and I think he can be a starter down the road again. Sanudo has pitched the last two years in the GCL, but he made great strikes in 2012 when he posted a 2.00 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. Most impressive, he walked just two and struckout 33 in 36 innings. Fellow Mexican Gerardo Ramirez has pitched with Sanudo the last two years. He struggled to a 6.62 ERA, but somehow had a 4-1 record. After a year in the DSL, de la Cruz came to the States last year and posted a 2.32 ERA in 31 innings in the GCL. He struckout 34. Goldsmith was the Twins 28th round pick last year out of Northwestern State University of Louisiana (same school as Mason Melotakis). He pitched in just three games before being shutdown with arm issues. Higginbotham was the Twins 26th round pick in 2011 out of high school and the Twins went well over slot to sign him. He debuted with the GCL Twins in 2012 and posted a 7.71 ERA and a 1.84 WHIP in 23.1 innings. The Twins were willing to go over slot to sign Andre Martinez, but when his physical turned out a shoulder issue, the Twins were able to sign him for below slot.
1.) Michael Tonkin, 2.) JT Chargois, 3.) Corey Williams, 4.) Josh Burris 5.) Angel Mata, 6.) Bruce Pugh, 7.) AJ Achter, 8.) Tyler Jones,.
The Twins bullpen was very good last year. They should be solid in the 8th and 9th innings again, but there are some question marks at the back of the bullpen which will be figured out. There are also some powerful arms in the Twins farm system. Guys like Dakota Watts and Bruce Pugh and Matt Hauser are close and ready to move up quickly. They have some talented left-handers. And, although we talk about those hard-throwing college relievers that the Twins drafted in 2012 that are going to get a chance to start, there are others like JT Chargois and Zack Jones who could move up quickly in the bullpen. And, if those starters prove better in the bullpen, they too could move quickly. There are a lot of talented bullpen arms in the system.
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