Minnesota Twins building a quality pitching staff for the future

Acquired from the Nationals, Alex Meyer has a chance to be a future ace of the Twins starting rotation. (John Boal)

A little under the radar this winter, the Minnesota Twins front office made a series of nice moves to help piece together a formidable, and potentially dangerous, pitching rotation.

By parting ways with Denard Span and Ben Revere, they were able to bring in three young quality arms. Vance Worley has already proven he can handle major league hitting and will jump right into the Twins 2013 rotation. The other pitcher acquired from the Phillies in the Revere deal, Trevor May, is still young at 23 and finished the 2012 season at double-A. He could be ready by the end of this year, or next year at the latest.

Perhaps the most promising prospect in the two moves was the pitcher they got back in the Span deal. The Nationals sent their top pitching prospect, 22-year-old Alex Meyer, to the Twins in the deal. He was the Nationals’ first-round pick in the 2011 draft and had a great year with their high-A affiliate.

Along with these three prospects, the Twins have a few others who were already in their rotation or minor league organization who could be big parts of their future rotation. These include: Scott Diamond, Liam Hendriks, Cole De Vries, Kyle Gibson and J.O. Berrios.

While we have to temper expectations because prospects rarely ever turn out to be as good as advertised, the Twins have assembled eight quality arms. The probability of three or four them becoming part of the future rotation is pretty good.

Let’s get a closer look at each starter.

Scott Diamond — Probably the most distinguished of the bunch, Diamond is 26 and has already spent parts of two seasons with the big league club. He was touched up during his first stint in the majors with an ERA of 5.08 in seven starts during 2011. He bounced back nicely in 2012 and was the team’s most reliable starting leading them in wins, games started, innings pitched and starter ERA. Diamond is locked up through 2018 and should be considered a two or three in the Twins rotation.

Vance Worley — I already mentioned Worley, who had major league success in 2011 for the Phillies. In 2012, he struggled through injuries and ended up with an ERA above four. The former third-round pick is only 25 and is also locked up through 2018. Worley should be considered a solid number three.

Liam Hendriks — Hendriks, 23, made 16 starts for the Twins in 2012, and things didn’t exactly go as planned. The Twins are hoping he has a bounce-back year similar to the way Diamond did. Hendriks blazed through the minor league system posting a 2.65 ERA in 482 innings. He’s not a power arm, striking out only seven batters per nine innings in the minors. I think Hendriks does have a better season in 2013, but he still projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Cole De Vries — De Vries is the oldest of the group at 27; he made his major league debut in 2012 and proved to be decent. He gave up 88 hits in 87.2 innings pitched. His minor league numbers don’t jump out at you and he’s not exactly the top-of-the-rotation starter the Twins are looking for. But he is another quality arm locked up for several years and would be a nice fifth starter as he continues to develop.

Kyle Gibson — Gibson has been touted as one of the Twins’ top prospects for a couple of years now. The 25-year-old first-round draft pick moved his way up to the triple-A club in 2011 before suffering an injury. His 2012 season was pretty much a wash as he only threw 28.1 innings. However, he added 23.1 innings in the Arizona Fall League, although he didn’t see much success there. You would have to think the time is now or never for Gibson. Once viewed as the future ace of this staff, Gibson will make the Twins happy if he proves to be a two or three starter as soon as this upcoming season.

Trevor May — May was taken by the Phillies in the fourth round of the 2008 draft and had worked his way up to double-A before being traded. The 23-year-old spent the entire 2012 season with the Phillies double-A affiliate, where he posted a 4.87 ERA in 149.2 innings. May projects as a power arm, striking out 11.1 batters per nine innings through his minor league career, including a 12.4 ratio during his 2011 campaign. May is just the type of arm the Twins have been looking for. His ceiling can be as high as a number two. At worst, he becomes a valuable arm out of the bullpen.

Alex Meyer — He’s now the prized possession in the organization, and the Twins are hoping Meyer becomes the ace of this staff for years to come. During his first year in the minors between single-A and high-A he posted a 2.86 ERA in 129 innings striking out 139 and only allowing 97 hits. That small sample size certainly isn’t enough to know how good Meyer might be, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this good, young arm rushed to the majors as soon as this season if he puts on a nice display early in either double-A or triple-A. The Twins are certainly hopeful he becomes a number-one starter.

Jose Berrios — With the 32nd pick in the 2012 draft, the Twins selected Berrios at the ripe age of 18. The Puerto Rican was listed in the draft as having a powerful arm that can touch the upper 90s, while having a hammer of a curveball. After spending some time in the Twins Gulf Coast League, where he posted a 1.08 ERA in 16.2 innings — mostly in relief, he started three games with the Twins Rookie League affiliate, allowing only two earned runs in 14 innings pitched, striking out 22 and walking one. The scouting report on him says he has great control of the strike zone, which is evident by the one walk in 14 innings. Still early for this kid, but he looks to be a possible one or two in the Twins rotation in two to three more years.

The old saying is definitely true, there is strength in numbers. We never know how many of these prospects are going to pan out, but the fact is the Twins have done a great job setting themselves up with the potential to put together a core group of pitchers for a number of years.

Do I think these guys are going to become the next dynamic trio? No.

But I expect, in the next two to three years,not many teams will be excited about facing the Twins plethora of quality arms on a nightly basis.

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