I was scanning through boxscores this morning, pausing on the boxscore of the Twins' latest defeat and suddenly I had a particular curiosity. After writing yesterday about how an organizational change in philosophy is needed, I thought, "besides the Twins current lot of mediocre pitchers, who else is out there that has come through the Minor League system with the club...what have been their results?" As I compiled the list, with the the help of some of my twitter followers (@KirbysLeftEye, @Robert_Short, @trtx84, @thisisbeth, and @SethTweets), another question became rather obvious...what has the Twins farm system really produced in the way of pitching in the last 10-15 years?
The list of home-grown Twins pitchers, excluding anyone on the current roster, is actually fairly short...shorter than I thought it would be. I didn't differentiate between starters or relievers, the only requirement was that the pitcher had to have come up (more or less) through the Twins farm system and had to have reached the Majors at some point in their career. Here's the list:
*Matt Garza - currently a starting pitcher for the Cubs
*Jose Mijares - currently a reliever for the Royals
*Kevin Slowey - currently in the Minor League system for the Indians
*Jesse Crain - currently a reliever for the White Sox (on the DL)
*Pat Neshek - currently in the Minor League system for the Orioles
*J.C. Romero - currently a reliever for the Cardinals
*LaTroy Hawkins - currently a reliever for the Angels
*Kyle Lohse - currently a starting pitcher for the Cardinals
*Grant Balfour - currently the closer for the Athletics
**Notable names missing from this list include Johan Santana (a Rule 5 selection who only spent one year in the Twins Minor League system), Matt Guerrier (taken off waivers from the Pirates in 2003), and Carlos Silva (came over in the Eric Milton trade).
Here's another list - of pitchers the Twins have drafted in the first or second round since 2000 (source):
2000 - Adam Johnson, Aaron Heilman, J.D. Durbin
2001 - Scott Tyler
2002 - Jesse Crain
2003 - Scott Baker
2004 - Glen Perkins, Kyle Waldrop, Matt Fox, Jay Rainville, Anthony Swarzak
2005 - Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey
2008 - Carlos Gutierrez, Shooter Hunt
2009 - Kyle Gibson, Matt Bashore, Billy Bullock
2010 - Alex Wimmers
2011 - Hudson Boyd, Madison Boer
When you look at that list, one thing should pop out to you and that is this fact: the Twins have not produced even ONE big-league pitcher drafted within the first two rounds of the draft in the past 6 years. The last couple of draft classes excluded (for obvious reasons) the Twins have only drafted ONE pitcher in the first two rounds who even stands a decent chance to be a Major Leaguer and that is Kyle Gibson who is currently on the DL after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. Since 2006, the Twins have drafted only two pitchers anywhere in the draft who have reached the Majors: Jeff Manship (14th round, 2006) and Anthony Slama (39th round, 2006), both of whom are currently pitching for AAA Rochester.
Maybe suggesting that the Twins need an "organizational change in philosophy" is putting the cart before the horse. Perhaps what really is needed is a change in the methods (or the personnel) that this team uses to scout young talent. (Side note: It's interesting when you take a look at the tenures of the current members in the Twins scouting department. Deron Johnson, the Twins current Director of Scouting started in 2007, the same year Bill Smith took over as GM.) To be fair, most other teams in MLB have only had a small handful of pitchers drafted in '06-'11 reach the Majors, but the Twins currently have zero. Another thing to point out here is the hit-or-miss nature of drafting pitchers...it's
like drafting a starting quarterback in the NFL. Unless you're looking at a Stephen
Strasburg type who is clearly a big-league commodity when drafted, it's
difficult to project what a pitcher's potential will be 2-5 years down
the line when they finally make it to the Big Leagues. That said, prior to 2006 the Twins did have some success drafting pitchers which bore fruit in the likes of Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, Matt Garza, Jesse Crain and Kevin Slowey - all of whom had at least a good season or two with the Major League club. Perkins is currently the best reliever in the Twins bullpen and Matt Garza has had some very good numbers for the Cubs over the last two seasons and tossed a no-hitter in 2010 with the Rays. They've shown the ability to identify good talent, at least at some point in the past, but that ability appears to have waned...or flat out disappeared.
I'd love to hear what you readers think - also, let me know if I left anyone out of the first list above.