Monday, September 10, 2012
Cole De Vries making most of late-season audition
Cole De Vries is one player that is getting an extended look as the season is wrapping up. The 27-year old right-hander has spent the last six seasons in the minor league system for the Twins after not even being drafted by any club. There have been plenty of ups-and-downs for him on the way to his MLB debut with the Twins but he shown some promising signs in recent weeks. So far this year, De Vries has a 5-5 record with a 4.11 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in 87.2 innings on the mound. This includes a stretch of baseball during his last four starts where he has gone 3-1 with a 1.54 ERA while averaging almost six innings in each start.
The biggest key for De Vries recent success has been his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. Before his recent hot streak, he had given up 16 home runs in 13 games for the Twins with 12 of those being starts. Opponents were hitting .264 off of him and there were three games that he gave up two or more home runs. Since getting manhandled by the offenses of Detroit and Tampa Bay in the middle of August, it has looked like a different De Vries on the mound. The batting average of opponents has dropped to .227 and he has over three times as many strikeouts as walks without a single home run allowed in that time.
It was a long hard road to get to this point for De Vries. He signed with the team as an amateur free agent and he was sent straight to Beloit for his first season of professional baseball. For the Twins, it was most likely a move to fill out rosters in the minor leagues with little thought of him making an impact on the big league club. The Minnesota native stayed the course and worked his way through every level of the minor leagues. In 2010 and 2011, the Twins tried to use De Vries as a relief pitcher with him even picking up a few saves in New Britain. But the Twins have run into plenty of headaches with the pitchers at the upper levels of the system, this meant De Vries needed to shift back to a starting job.
Besides one brief relief appearance with the Twins, De Vries has been used exclusively as a starter in 2012. He went 3-5 with Rochester and posted a 4.37 ERA over 12 starts. His ability to throw pitches in the strike zone was most likely one of the reasons the club gave him a chance at the big league level. In 70 innings at the Triple-A level, he only walked 10 batters while striking out 50 men along the way. His ability to stay in the strike zone isn't always a good thing since his pitching repertoire doesn't allow him to overpower batters. Opposing hitters averaged 9.6 hits per nine innings against him in the minors this year and that is close to his career average of 9.9 hits per nine innings.
So what does the crystal ball hold for Mr. De Vries?
In a perfect world, the Twins would love to have a plethora of starting pitchers waiting in the wings to take over the rotation for 2013. Unfortunately, the last two seasons have been as far away from perfect as possible for the Twins. There will be plenty of open spots in the rotation at the onset of spring training and there is a good chance that it will be an open competition for more than one of the spots. De Vries would need to continue his current hot streak and combine that with an impressive spring to show the front office that he deserves a spot. But behind Scott Diamond, there might not be any locks for a spot in the 2013 rotation. This leaves four other spots and not a whole lot of options for the Twins to pick from before the start of next year.
If De Vries is in the rotation to start 2013, it might not be a good sign for the 2013 version of the Minnesota Twins. He could be holding a place for a player like Kyle Gibson to get some innings under his belt in the minor leagues but a full season of De Vries might be bad news for the Twins. His Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tendencies for giving up home runs are tough to handle and it's hard to imagine a situation where he will turn back into the pitcher that gave up so many home runs earlier this year. His track record as a professional has been full of plenty of holes and the Twins don't need those holes clogging up their rotation.
Unless there aren't any better options to turn to...