Thursday, April 14, 2011

First-round pick catches the "yips"

Some disheartening news came out of Fort Myers in the last couple days. The Twins first overall selection in last years draft, Alex Wimmers, is experiencing a set-back in his first full season as a professional. He has been removed from the starting rotation of the Miracle after a rough first outing.

In that first outing, he did not manage to record an out and he walked in three runs. Overall he faced six batters, walked them all, and was charged with four earned runs. He threw 28 pitches and only four of them were strikes. There was obviously something lacking from this young pitcher in his first start of the year.

The Twins are going to spend some time working with Wimmers on his mechanics. In the mean time, they have placed him on the seven-day disabled list with flu-like symptoms being the cause. Last week I picked Wimmers to be my breakout pitcher for the lower levels of the Twins' farm system. This could be an obstacle that prevents him from achieving that award. 

There have been players that have come down with a baseball condition known as the "yips." The "yips" are when a baseball player gets a mental block that doesn't allow him to complete some of the simple tasks in the game. Some examples of this could be a pitcher not having control of their pitches, a infielder that can't make a simple throw to first, and a catcher that can't make the throw back to the pitcher.

Some of the most famous examples of the "yips" are Rick Ankiel and Chuck Knoblauch. Ankiel was forced to move from a star pitcher to a power-hitting outfielder because he couldn't find the plate with his pitches. Knoblauch was a star second baseman in his time in Minnesota. Later in his career, his case of the "yips" left him without the ability to make a simple throw to first.

Wimmers is still very young and has time to overcome this obstacle that has been put in his way. Bert Blyleven says there is no reason to be afraid of the big, bad yips as long as the problem doesn't become mental. The problem is that it usually does become mental and that is why players are forced to change positions. The best thing for Wimmers is to refocus his energy on his mechanics so he can regain his form.

As a first round pick, Wimmers has shown a lot of promise in his college career and that ability was shown in his short time with the Twins last season. Hopefully a quick fix is in order and this problem doesn't become more than a bump in the road for this prospect.

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