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.