Twins Loaded with Pitching Talent

The Minnesota Twins organization has enviable depth when it comes to young pitching. The club already boasts a starting rotation that includes Glen Perkins, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, and Francisco Liriano. Blackburn and Baker are the oldest pitchers at just 27 years of age.

Another youngster – perhaps more talented than any of the pitchers save for Liriano – should spend the majority of the 2009 season in Triple-A. Anthony Swarzak, 23, was originally selected in the second round of the 2004 draft out of a Florida high school. The right-hander immediately took to pro ball and has had success at every level in the minors.

Swarzak’s biggest speed bump in the minors came in 2008 at the Double-A level. In 20 minor league games, he posted a 5.67 ERA (4.42 FIP) with 126 hits allowed in 101.2 innings. He walked 3.28 BB/9 and struck out 6.73 K/9. After pitching more than 80 innings in Double-A in 2007, Swarzak’s struggles this past season may have been more about a lack of motivation than anything else. Once promoted to Triple-A, he made seven starts and allowed 41 hits in 45 innings. He posted just 2.80 BB/9 and struck out 5.20 K/9.

The big question marks about Swarzak include his lack of a reliable change-up, which could necessitate a relocation to the bullpen at some point. But his plus curveball and 91-94 mph fastball could allow him to thrive as a late-game reliever. Swarzak was also previously suspended for testing positive for a “recreational drug” so there are some lingering question marks about his make-up.

With a talented, young starting rotation already established at the Major League level, the Twins have time to be patient with Swarzak and allow him to mature in the minors – both as a pitcher and as a person. Many organizations in baseball would love to have that luxury.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

6 Responses to “Twins Loaded with Pitching Talent”

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  1. Tom Au says:

    This is a team that could (and needed to) exchange Johan Santana for hitting.

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    • BaDA says:

      The Twins received only one “hitter” in the Santana deal, Carlos Gomez, and I don’t know if you want to call him a hitter, maybe just a great fielder and runner…

      Other than that, the Twins got Phil Humber (Not looking so good, has a chance to make the team, but is out of options) Kevin Mulvey (chance to be a #4, maybe) and Deolis Guerra who has regressed, but granted the Twins are probably teaching him differently than the Mets did, and is still very young (20?) for Hi-A

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  2. Sean says:

    Are you not concerned about a K-rate (5.20 / 6.73) that seems low for the minor leagues?

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    • philosofool says:

      It’s hard to judge a pitcher who’s considered “in development” in the minors from stats alone. If a pitcher is intended to be a starter, he needs a three pitch arsenal. Even if he has two plus pitches, if the third is a definitely a work in progress, his stats may not reflect his ceiling well at all. It’s entirely possible that his regression in 2008 was a result of working on a new pitch. The Twins are almost certainly the best team in the country when it comes to developing pitching talent, so if they promoted him from AA to AAA last year, that’s because he was ready for AAA.

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  3. Tom Au says:

    I said that the Twins “needed to” exchange Santana for hitters. I didn’t say that they did so, which may be why they are stuck on square one.

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  4. KMils says:

    Yeah, the Twins probably would have been better off getting a few hitters, but their options were rather limited. From what we can sort of figure out, the Yankees were offering pitching, the Red Sox were doing the same and the Mets were offering what the Twins ended up getting. Unfortunately, nobody really knows the offers that were coming in – it’s quite possible that the Mets deal offered the best position player (in Gomez) that the Twins felt they were going to get. He is a spectacularly good center fielder, even if he is trending towards replacement level with the bat.

    In the end, they possibly would have gotten more if they handled Johan like the Indians handled CC – it was bad timing brought on by their impatience/Johan’s desire to move/whatever. But a LaPorta-esque impact bat would be nice.

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