There has been a lot of back-and-forth among Twin Cities media members over the Twins’ strategy of when and how to bring up prospects. Some consider it smart business and valuable learning time for prospects to stay in the minors. Others argue they shouldn’t keep players who happen to be better than the major leaguers on the farm just to save a year of salary.
1500ESPN’s Phil Mackey made a wonderful, noteworthy list of pitchers the Twins have signed or acquired and how awful they are. Yet, he’s also the media member constantly telling listeners the Twins don’t need to spend more money. While I agree the Twins are a mid-major market and should be spending wisely they haven’t been doing so. Also, their refusal to put money into the RIGHT players is costing them dearly. It’s not bad luck Ervin Santana was caught with PEDs, or Ricky Nolasco was awful in 2014, or that Mike Pelfrey never reclaimed former glory. They are who everyone said they were…average or below pitchers. Good teams make good decisions. Bad teams make bad ones. If you want GOOD SP you need to spend. The Twins front office obviously isn’t as savvy as Oakland’s or St. Louis’. If they were they’d be better, or at least more consistent. Huge swings in team performance every 5 years is a sign of instability, poor evaluation and development.
All that being said, I have no problem keeping certain players down on the farm at the moment. The 1-6 start certainly signaled doom for some fans who immediately wanted to see Miguel Sano, Alex Meyer, Eddie Rosario, Jose Berrios and Byron Buxton on the big club. But each of these cases have to be examined individually.
For years the Twins have been at the forefront of a crippling disease among MLB teams. Pitchers refusing to miss bats. It’s become almost epidemic. In today’s game, power arms in both the bullpen and starting rotation are what win games. Trotting out average pitchers, with average stuff, who have always been average at best will not move you past Kansas City, Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago. That’s why it’s so puzzling to see veterans like Mike Pelfrey, who has a career ERA of 4.56, ERA+ of 88, 5.56 K/9 Inn and a 1.5 K/BB ratio. We know what Pelfrey is and after 4 straight 90-loss seasons we don’t care to see anymore. Let Meyer provide something no other starter in the rotation can provide…strikeouts.
The Twins currently rank last in MLB in strikeouts. They ranked 2nd to last in 2014, 2013 & 2011, only 28th out of 30 in 2012. Shockingly, the last time Minnesota made the playoffs they ranked 11th in MLB in Ks. Funny how that works. The formula is pretty simple: If the Twins want to remain relevant and bring some excitement to Target Field the next call-up should be Alex Meyer. I don’t care about his control problems. Meyer will get more out of working with new pitching coach Neil Allen vs MLB hitters than he will in the minors. Also, lest we not forget, Francisco Liriano was a 23-year-old with nasty stuff, but a lack of control. The Twins got a few good years out of him before Tommy John surgery. But yet he’s back on top with strong seasons in Pittsburgh. Waiting until guys are in to their mid-to-upper 20s is 2-3 years of prime arm life wasted in the minor leagues. Bringing Meyer up also may help keep the ball from going in play which with this team is a good thing. It’s one thing to “pitch-to-contact” when you have elite defense like KC.
That brings us to the next point. Byron Buxton needs to be called up. Not because of his hitting and base-running abilities, which by all accounts are impressive. But rather because I can’t stand to watch one more inning of the bumbling, stumbling, goof troop known as the Twins outfield. Watching them screw up routine catches and not get to balls in the corners would be enough to drive most fans away. It’s like Torii Hunter said, “the Bad News Bears.” Unfortunately, these are grown men who have played the game most of their lives! Buxton will learn to hit and steal bases. But right now, he’s needed so fans don’t have to witness the carnage of more OF shenanigans.
How about Sano you may be asking? He isn’t the smoothest defensive player, but does have power. Unfortunately, the Twins already have players like that, Arcia and Vargas. The biggest issue (so far, and it’s early) is the Twins inability to catch the ball and make easy plays on defense. Sure, their bats looked weak to begin, but this team finished 6th in runs scored last season. Offense shouldn’t be the problem. If the 2013 Trevor Plouffe was starting at 3B I’d probably want to see Sano. But Trevor Plouffe has improved his defense and players like Oswaldo Arcia and Kennys Vargas are playing corner IF positions and DH. I’d prefer to give them some more run in 2015. I don’t think Sano adds as much to this team as currently constructed as does Buxton.
The final player that should be called up because of NECESSITY and not fan interest, is Jose Berrios. Berrios first drew interest during the 2013 World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico as a 19-year-old. He has averaged over a SO per inning and his K/9 is 9.8. All you need to know about the state of the Twins bullpen, outside of Glen Perkins and Casey Fein, is players like Blaine Boyer, JR Graham and Tim Stauffer are in it. You can’t tell me Berrios not only has better stuff, but definitely fits the mold of a perfect bullpen guy in 2015. Hard thrower with a nasty slider. Watch the video below and tell me he couldn’t get out MLB hitters. Starting him in the bullpen would be a great way for him to acclimate to the majors without adding too much pressure or arm stress.
I agree players shouldn’t be brought up just because they’re young, exciting or have potential. But when your on-field product is atrocious and has been for 4 years, it’s time to see what you truly have in young players. Fans, front office, players and the manager KNOW what we have in aging veterans who provide “stability” or a “stop-gap.” Enough of that. Start the climb back up the hill with Buxton, Meyer and Berrios. Leave Rosario and Sano for another year.