By: Sam Ekstrom | KFAN.com
The wait for top pitching prospect Kyle Gibson continues to drag on… and on.
Gibson—who has thrown two complete-game shutouts in three minor-league starts—appears as ready as ever to make his major-league debut following Tommy John surgery 18 months ago. But the reason for the delay may be strictly financial; not performance-based.
The Twins are potentially saving millions by ensuring that Gibson does not reach “Super Two” status in his first arbitration-eligible season.
A “Super Two” player is classified as follows: has between two and three years of major-league service time, appeared in 86 games the previous season, and ranks in the top 22 percent in playing time of players with between two and three years service. This final item is what the Twins are seeking to prevent.
If Gibson ranks in that top 22 percent following his third season (2015, in this case), he would be eligible for arbitration in 2016 through 2019; a total of four years. By holding him back now until the middle of June, the Twins ensure that Gibson will only be arbitration eligible for three years: 2017, 2018, and 2019.
So what difference does one year make? Possibly millions of dollars, depending on Gibson’s success.
An arbitration eligible player gets to lobby for a new deal based on the contracts of similar major-league players. For example, if Gibson went 14-5 in his season leading up to arbitration, he would be able to land a contract that compares to other players of similar age and ability.
Obviously, this type of performance would merit a multi-million dollar deal in arbitration. On the other hand, a player not eligible for arbitration would only receive the six-digit league minimum.
(Here is an article by ESPN Insider Jim Bowden that explains “Super Two” more in-depth.)
While clear standouts like Stephen Strasburg have been held back by the “Super Two” rule, Gibson’s holdup is not nearly as egregious. His last couple of seasons have been full of setbacks.
The 2009 first-round selection was 3-8 with a 4.81 ERA in 2011, and his 2012 campaign was truncated due to Tommy John. This season, despite dealing two shutouts in the month of May, Gibson has only thrown four quality starts in nine appearances.
Nonetheless, the major-league club’s starting staff is in dire need of help. Just take a look at the strikeout numbers.
Up until Vance Worley’s start against Atlanta on Wednesday, the Twins’ top two strikeout leaders were relievers Glen Perkins (25) and Jared Burton (23). Gibson, who owns an 8.1 K/9 for his minor-league career, could step in immediately and, at least, fool a hitter once in a while.
In a season that is beginning to spiral out of control, it feels more and more like Gibson—labeled for so long as Minnesota’s ace of the future—should get his shot. What do the Twins have to lose?
The answer would seem to be dollars.
By: Dan Cole | KFAN.com
In a season that began better than most had anticipated for the Minnesota Twins, things finally seem to be aligning with preseason expectations.
After going 11-12 in April, the Twins (18-25) found themselves competing in the American League Central, the division where most spectators had them pegged to finish dead last, just as they had in 2011 and 2012.
The Twins' pitching staff was getting it done to the tune of a 3.88 ERA in April, good enough for 15th-best in the majors. Only six teams allowed fewer runs than the Twins in April, which explains why they were able to finish the month near the .500 mark with an offense that was batting only .239, 23rd-best in the league.
That's right. Minnesota finished April ranked 26th in the league in runs scored (92), 30th in hits (182) and 28th in home runs (15).
When the calendar turned to May, all of this changed. The Twins, 7-13 so far this month, have fallen into the cellar of the AL Central, currently bringing up the rear seven games back from the division-leading Cleveland Indians.
Despite their inability to win games, the Twins have scored 96 runs so far in May, ninth-best in all of baseball and more than they scored in all of April. They also rank ninth in the majors in hits this month (181), to go along with a .253 team batting average, also up substantially from April.
So then how, with all this offensive production, are the Twins currently riding an eight-game losing streak and playing their worst baseball so far this season?
You know the answer: pitching.
This month, the Twins rank dead last in the league in team ERA (5.40), hits allowed (219), earned runs (109) and batting average against (.305). The primary problem is the starting pitching staff. The Twins' starter with the best ERA in May is Scott Diamond, currently sitting at a dismal 5.48. Diamond is the only Twins starter with a batting average against below .300 in May. Vance Worley, after giving up eight earned runs in 3.2 innings on Wednesday, was optioned to Triple-A Rochester following the game.
Could anyone have seen this rotation-wide pitching meltdown coming? Frankly, yes.
Of all five Twins starters, not one has a career ERA below 4.00. Mike Pelfrey is the only pitcher in the rotation to have won more than 12 games in a season. While the Twins' rotation overall was overachieving in April, Pelfrey and Worley were not. The duo finished the month with a 7.66 and 7.22 ERA, respectively, both allowing opposing batters to hit above .350 against them. Kevin Correia and Pedro Hernandez, both of whom owned ERAs below 2.50 in April, have come back down to earth and are now being buried alive beside Pelfrey and Worley.
Additionally, some of the pitching stats in April were slightly misleading. The Twins, who saw the first month of the season filled with inclement weather and rain-outs, played just 23 games in April, less than any other team in the league. This surely did favors for their low runs allowed and home runs allowed numbers. Furthermore, the Twins had the second-worst batting average against in April at .279 and finished 26th in the league in walks/hits per innings pitched with 1.36.
Fans have been calling for a change, whether it be the termination of manager Ron Gardenhire, or the cleaning-out of the front office as a whole, the "small market" mentality of the team is beginning to wear on its supporters who saw their more than $500 million ballpark go up just three seasons ago. For the time being, the Twins will live in the basement.
By: Dan Cole | KFAN.com
As a team, the Atlanta Braves were tied for third in all of baseball in home runs going into Wednesday's game against the Twins. This power became all too apparent to Twins (18-25) starter Vance Worley.
The right-hander had not made it out of the fourth inning before the Braves (28-18) teed off on him on three separate occassions, including a grand slam from catcher Evan Gattis in the bottom of the fourth. The blast came just over 12 hours after Gattis sent Tuesday night's game into extra innings with a home run off of Twins closer Glen Perkins in the bottom of the ninth.
Both Ramiro Pena and B.J. Upton homered off of Worley earlier in the game, giving the Braves 61 team home runs on the season, moving them into the league lead.
Worley, who pitched six innings without an earned run against the Red Sox in his previous start, worked just 3.2 innings on Wednesday. He gave up eight earned runs on 10 hits as the Twins lost 8-3, extending their losing-streak to eight games.
The Twins bullpen, however, put in some quality work in relief of Worley. Josh Roenicke, Ryan Pressly and Caleb Thielbar combined for 4.1 shutout innings, during which they allowed zero hits and three walks. Thielbar's appearance was the second of his career. He has now pitched four innings without allowing a run.
Paul Maholm started on the mound for the Braves, pitching 7.1 innings without allowing an earned run. He struck out four batters and walked just one.
The Twins started just two players with a batting average above the .250 mark on Wednesday, those being Eduardo Escobar and Justin Morneau. With an RBI single in the top of the sixth, Morneau continued his hot hitting this month, giving him 20 RBIs in 20 games in May. He would add another single in the top of the eighth.
Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks went 3-for-4 with a solo home run on Wednesday, putting his offensive upside back on display for the first time since his two home run performance against the White Sox back on May 13, the last time the Twins won a game.
From here, the road trip moves to Detroit, where the Twins will play four against the division rival Tigers. Game one starts on Thursday at 6:08 p.m.
UPDATE: Shortly after this afternoon's game, starting pitcher Vance Worley was optioned to AAA Rochester.