Lines stretched in both directions and seemed to be moving at a snails pace. Fans lined up hours early for the chance to get his signature on a baseball card, ball, or hat. This could sound like a TwinsFest situation that would apply to Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, or Danny Valencia. But in this case it refers to a player that is the Twins number one pitching prospect and on many lists he is the Twins overall number one prospect. The player I am referring to is Kyle Gibson. This is most likely the last TwinsFest that Gibson will be at the minor league table signing autographs for free and many fans jumped at the chance to get a signature from the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year for 2010.
I talked to Gibson briefly in his photo session when he was taking pictures with the fans at TwinsFest. He was a very personable guy and seemed genuinely interested in meeting me and talking for a short period of time. His down to earth nature was even present in the autographs he was signing. Every autograph was accompanied by a Bible verse, Ephesians 2: 8-10.
For Gibson to succeed next season there are going to be a series of things that fans will look for out of their young star. The future hopes and dreams of a successful 2011 season can be linked to Gibson and his golden right arm.
How good can Kyle Gibson be?
Fans of the Twins are looking for some of the starters in the organization to step-up big this Spring Training. Gibson has a lot of other starters in front of him and it is likely, that following his first appearance in the big league camp, he will start the year at AAA Rochester. How long Gibson stays at that level will have a lot to do with how he is performing and how the pitchers are performing at the major league level.
At this point Gibson has all of the potential to be a front of the rotation starter. He has shown this ability in college and in his first full season in the minor leagues in 2010. For the 2011 season the Twins have two other starters that are guaranteed to be ahead of Gibson, Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano. After that the Twins starting rotation picture gets a little cloudy. For Gibson to succeed he may need to play his cards right and take advantage of any opportunity that he is given at the major league level. That opportunity starts in a little over two weeks at the Twins Spring Training Complex in Florida.
What can Gibson bring to the Twins?
The Twins haven't been able to deal for a front of the rotation starter when it comes to the trading deadline. Making that late season run against the revamped Tigers and White Sox could be a challenge again in 2011. Gibson can be a mid-season move that brings energy and excitement to a team. The Twins wouldn't have to give anything up to get him and he could turn out to be as good as any other pitchers that are available on the market.
Besides the immediate influx of energy that Gibson can bring he can also offer the Twins stability in the starting rotation. The Twins have been grooming a variety of pitchers for the major league level and have yet to find the pitcher that could fit into the front end of their rotation. If Gibson can lock down one of the rotation spots in 2011 some of the pitching turmoil can be eased.
Is Gibson a Yankee killer?
The more important thing to ask might be can Gibson handle the pressure of pitching on the biggest of stage in the biggest of games. No one knows if the Twins are going to face the Yankees again in the playoffs. The Twins do know that Gibson has been able to perform at high level from college to his current minor league career. In their recent run of division titles the Twins have had a lot of big games down the stretch. Gibson will have to earn his stripes with the veterans of the Twins. If he proves himself worthy the Twins could have their rotation in order for a deep postseason run.
The future of the Twins organization has a lot riding on the right-arm of Kyle Gibson. Let's hope that signing autographs this weekend didn't wear that arm out...