Anchored by a resurgent Francisco Liriano and a surprisingly strong campaign from Carl Pavano, the Twins currently sit sixth in the American League with a 4.10 ERA from their starting rotation. The rest of their rotation has primarily consisted of Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, and Brian Duensing. Let's take a look at how things could shake out for 2011.
The Twins offered Pavano arbitration last year, and the jury was out on whether or not offering it was the right move after he accepted. Pavano's $7MM has been a steal for Minnesota though, as the right-hander has already thrown 189 innings of 3.52 ERA ball. Only Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay have posted marks better than Pavano's 1.5 BB/9, and his 3.34 K/BB ratio is 18th in the Majors (with Liriano and Baker ahead of him). The Twins will certainly offer Pavano arbitration again — he currently qualifies as a Type A free agent. He may decline and seek multiple years on the free agent market, but there's also the chance that he finds those multiple years in Minneapolis, where he and his signature mustache have developed a cult following.
Liriano is arbitration-eligible for a second time and figures to see a nice raise on his $1.6MM salary this season. If the Twins are convinced of his health, they may look to lock him up before 2011 as they did with Baker pre-2009 and Blackburn pre-2010.
Baker's extension has been far more successful than Blackburn's, who temporarily lost his rotation spot to Duensing after being optioned to Triple-A Rochester in late July sporting an ERA of 6.66. Since returning, Blackburn seems to have gotten back on track, though. Slowey saw similar struggles early in the summer but came back to post an ERA just over 4.00 in July and August, including a 2.89 ERA over his last six starts before hitting the DL recently.
Duensing has been a breath of fresh air to a rotation that failed to acquire what many thought was a much-needed starter at the deadline. Overall, through 99 innings, Duensing's posted a 2.09 ERA and has a nice 2.0 BB/9. His 83.2% strand rate and 4.14 xFIP suggest he's due for some regression, however. Still, he offers the Twins some insurance in case Pavano departs, but who else could they call on?
Minnesota drafted Kyle Gibson in the first round of 2009, and he's risen quickly through the minors, reaching Triple-A in just one season with an overall 2.96 ERA, 7.5 K/9, and 2.3 BB/9. Considered a potential Top 10 pick, he fell to the Twins at 22nd due to concern over a stress fracture in his arm. Baseball America ranked him as the game's 22nd-best prospect on their mid-season rankings.
Jeff Manship has filled in admirably for the Twins in long relief and spot starting in 2010, posting a 2.38 ERA through 22.2 innings. Like most Twins pitchers, he's not big on the strikeouts, but he limits his walks well.
Glen Perkins is another former first-rounder for the Twins, but he seems to have fallen out of favor with the organization to some extent after nearly filing a grievance over his service time in 2009. Perkins has struggled tremendously with a 5.88 ERA in Rochester this season, while allowing 10 earned runs in 10 innings with the big league club. David Bromberg, the Twins' #9 prospect entering the season, has a 3.75 ERA through 151.1 innings in the upper minors as well.
The Twins stand to enter 2011 with Liriano, Baker, Slowey, Blackburn, and Duensing, though the latter two could be pushed for competition by someone like Gibson early in the season, or could give way if Pavano returns. Their pitching depth may not feature many top-of-the-rotation type arms, but should allow them a solid, consistent rotation through and through.
I’ve always said this team would be the best it they had 1 true ace. Just think if they would have gotten Lee or even Lilly…
Liriano’s been a 6.0 WAR pitcher and has a 2.31 FIP and 3.02 xFIP, striking out 9.68/9 and walking 2.8/9. I’d call that pretty Ace-like. Lee would’ve been a great addition, sure, but I don’t think it’s fair to say they’re lacking an ace. With all of Lee’s struggles lately, Liriano’s been just as good this season, he just didn’t get all the attention and have the shutouts and minuscule walks to show it. Both are exactly 6.0 WAR pitchers and their ERA, FIP, and xFIP are all nearly identical.
Thank you for laying down the facts. It’s annoying that people say the Twins need an ACE. Plus FL is better than Lily.
Pretty on target, Brandon. The Twins are a stark contrast from most teams in that they would be better if they had a really good pitcher. Groundbreaking. And if they had gotten Lilly, he would be just ahead of Duensing in WAR. If they had traded for Jeremy Gutherie, they might be undefeated.
Kyle Gibson probably won’t be Major League Ready until at least june or july of 2011. But if the Twns will have almost the same rotation next season, but Rauch, Guerrier, Crain, and Fuentes are all free agents. They need to re-sign at least 3 of them.
I don’t know that re-sigining three of them is an answer. They’ve got some good minor league bullpen arms like Slama, Waldrop, and possibly Delaney. They’re all risks to offer arbitration. Of the bunch, Crain’s recent work shows he has the most upside to work out long-term. Fuentes on a reasonable deal maybe, but I don’t think he’ll want to work as a lefty specialist, even if he should. He’ll likely look for a more significant bullpen role elsewhere.
Yeah, Slama and Waldrop are going to be very good relievers, but for a team
like the Twins, you want to make sure that you know what you have. I look at
their current bullpen as “sure things” while Slama for example, could be
very good, but there is nothing that tells me that he will succeed as a
7th/8th inning reliever next season.
Most of the Twins relievers over the years — Rauch, Fuentes, and Capps excluded — have come from minor league roles or uncertainty. Crain, Guerrier, and Neshek were all put into those roles out of the minor leagues. Nathan had never closed when he was acquired.
Slama’s ridiculous strikeout numbers suggest he should do just fine in a setup capacity, and Alex Burnett had a great deal of success this season as well before he hit a rough patch.
Manship is an option for relief as well. He’s not much different than Guerrier… pitches to contact, broke into the bigs in his mid-20s doing long relief and spot starting.
I guess I’m of the opinion that there’s bigger needs to spend on than bullpen help. The Twins need an answer every day at second base and need to work on their bench. With the crop of relievers they have in the minors (we haven’t even mentioned Carlos Gutierrez yet, though he’s struggled), I don’t foresee bullpen help being too difficult to come by.
Re-signing one of those relievers (Crain would be the best choice most likely) would be worthwhile. However they’re already going to have Nathan, Capps, Mijares, and probably Manship, plus the possibility of Duensing/Blackburn being at the back-end. Add in Slama at the very least for his phenomenal minor league numbers, and they’re not going to need all of those arms, especially not with those price tags.
yes, They need to bring in some Relief pitching but with all the arms in the farm, they probably only need one experienced arm and that person does have to be from the 2010 squad. Fuentes, Guerrier, Crain or Rauch will probably be over paid by other teams in 2011.
I don’t think the problem is that they lack and “ace” per se, I think Liriano is at least close enough to ace quality that they can get by. But Slowey and Baker have never been more than a #3 to me (now especially since their injuries). The Twins need a solid #2, preferably someone who can strike someone out. It doesn’t have to be a C. Lee. A brett Myers type pitcher, maybe a J. Vazquez type pitcher (get him out of New York and I would wager money that he pitches more like what he career average indicate). Admittingly, I’m not sure which starters are free agents this winter, but they need to target someone who is more than a #3 pitcher. And I agree with SPANdemonium, their bullpen needs to be addressed (perhaps even more important than the rotation- don’t rely on Nathan too much next year).
I think Pavano has filled in nicely as a number two this season as well, but you’re correct in saying that there’s no clear-cut “#2 type starter” going forward. Either Baker or Slowey could be that guy, but they need to have some work to do. Both need to get the ball on the ground more and play to Minnesota’s strength: infield defense.
I think going with ground ball pitchers works well in the regular season, but you need some power arms in the post season. Going into a 7 game series with Liriano and 3 soft tossers would scare me. Pavano has done well this year, but I still view him more in a #3 role (mostly due to his unreliable track record). The more I think about it, J. Vazquez (anytime other than as a Yankee) is the exact type of pitcher I’m thinking of.
I love Brian Duensing in the role he has basically created for himself: first half reliever, second half starter. While he wont get to 200 innings or a ton of wins, it does two things. 1, add a fantastic left handed arm to the bullpen in the first half. 2, add a quality starter in the second half, which is almost like a trade.
resign pavano, if age catches up to him next year and he regresses, you put duensing in that spot
Why does Duensing STILL have to fight for a rotation spot? He is constantly proving he’s better than Blackburn and Slowey. Shouldn’t those 2 fight it out for the last rotation spot?
Throw Baker into that mix, too. Blackburn’s starts in big games has shown me a lot more than Baker. I don’t buy the Scott Baker hype…I’d love to see Pav, Liriano, Duensing, Blackburn, and some combination of Baker/Slowey/Gibson