The Twins acquired reliever Kevin Jepsen, which inevitably led to some “Call Me Maybe” jokes since, you know, Carly Rae has the same last name.
Of the two minor league pitchers they gave up, one of them — Chih-Wei Hu — has not only a name but a reputation perfectly suited for the polarization that social media thrives upon. (The other is Alexis Tapia).
Unscientific research indicates exactly half of people responded with a “Hu” joke, showing that they had never head of the 21-year-old pitcher by noting that his name rhymes with who; the other half, the amateur scouts, complained that the Twins gave up too much for Jepsen — and at the very least, they made it clear they knew who Hu is.
For the first group, here’s a quick primer on Hu: The 21-year-old right-hander wasn’t thought of as much of a prospect when the Twins brought him over from Taiwan in 2013, but he has performed well at every level — including an impressive spot start earlier this year at Class AAA Rochester, though that was his only work above the Class A level. He is said to have pretty impressive command, a decent fastball and an intriguing palm ball, an obscure pitch that has grown increasingly rare in recent seasons.
He started the season as MLB.com’s 24th-ranked prospect in the Twins organization (not in all of baseball, just in the organization). The site moves quickly and now has him listed with Tampa Bay as that organization’s 16th-best prospect. So he’s not really a hot-shot, but he has made a pretty good leap already this season. In close to 200 career minor league innings, mostly as a starter, he’s 16-5 with a 2.31 ERA. That’s really good, of course, with strong peripheral numbers as well — but remember, too, that almost all of it is at Class A or below.
For the second group, here’s a quick take on whether the Twins will regret trading him: It’s almost impossible to tell how a prospect who hasn’t really pitched above Class A will fare long-term. The big separator will come in the next two seasons, when Hu will presumably get looks at Class AA and above. That said, he had emerged enough already to become a legitimately intriguing prospect, and the Rays are known for having a pretty good eye for pitching talent. It is entirely possible that he will make it to the majors; it’s also entirely possible that even if he’s major league caliber at some point, he won’t be as good as Kyle Gibson, Trevor May, Jose Berrios and others still in the Twins’ pipeline who are considered better prospects.
While I might have preferred that the Twins didn’t give up somebody who has such good numbers, even at low levels, they owed it to themselves to — at the very least — try to beef up the bullpen. Jepsen is a rung below the best relievers, but he’s a right-handed power arm who gives the Twins a better chance to win those close and late games they’ve been losing for a couple of months. As Tim Brewster said, if you want to get some, you gotta bring some.
This was not Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps. Ramos was much further along and even had 27 at bats with the Twins before the trade. Trading prospects for relievers is a squishy business. The Twins could end up regretting this deal, but Hu still has a very long way to go for that to become true.