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Gibson’s Great Start

The Twins promoted 2009 first-round pick Kyle Gibson to Double-A yesterday on the heels of his seventh start in the Florida State League, which lowered his ERA to 1.87 in 43.1 innings. Gibson was the 22nd overall pick last season out of the University of Missouri, where he dropped in the draft due to concerns over a predraft stress fracture in his throwing arm. Minnesota’s great scouting department saw an opportunity to get great value — Gibson was a potential top 10 pick entering the spring — and gave him $1.85 million, more than five hundred thousand above slot.

Gibson is a prototypical Twins draftee, as he combines solid sinker-slider (and an improved changeup) stuff with fantastic command. He has walked 2.5 batters per nine so far this season, but should be capable of even better numbers than that down the road. But where the Twins have usually found success with flyball pitchers in the past — Baker, Slowey, Garza, etc. — Gibson promises to throw an arm into the Minnesota rotation capable of a 50% groundball rate. I say this with confidence both due to the scouting reports on the tilt he gets from a 6-6 frame, his command, and two starts this season:

April 19: His third start of the season, Gibson scattered seven hits and two earned runs in seven innings against Tampa’s High-A affiliate. However, most impressively, Gibson recorded 16 groundball outs, and not a single fly out. Of the seven hits, however, five were put in the air. Still, for the game, 18 of the 23 batters to put a ball in play hit it on the ground.

April 29: Gibson’s best start to date, he allowed just one hit and one walk in a complete game shutout against Jupiter. The lone hit was a groundball, one of 17 that he would induce on the game. Only one batter recorded a fly out, and not until the ninth inning.

After struggling in his first start — allowing two home runs and eight baserunners in just 3.2 innings — Gibson tightened things up and finished his Fort Myers career with this: 39.2 IP, 27 H, 6 ER, 0 HR, 10 BB, 33 K, and a GO/AO ratio of 6.3. He moves to a New Britain team that has a cumulative .333 BABIP, so Gibson will need better infield defense to find sustained success at this higher level. Redgardless of the outcome, I do think Gibson will be capable of helping the Twins as early as next season, and he might just be the top prospect in their loaded system at the moment. And again, the Twins scouting department comes off as one of the game’s smartest, getting some of the best value in the first round by rolling the dice on an injured pitcher.