Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kyle Gibson continues to shine in AFL

When the Twins decided to send Kyle Gibson to the Arizona Fall League, it was considered an interesting choice since most teams tend not to send their top pitching prospects to this environment. The AFL can be a tough atmosphere for a pitcher to find success because most teams send their top hitting prospects and the parks tend to be a little more hitter friendly. Since Gibson is making his way back from Tommy John surgery, he didn't get many innings under his belt in 2012 so the AFL offers the Twins this opportunity. The team can control how many innings are thrown by their pitchers and pitch counts can be strictly watched by the coaching staff, all things that are critical when coming back from major elbow surgery.

So far during his time in the AFL, Gibson has been given the opportunity to start two contests for the Peoria Javelinas. He has been outstanding in both appearances and this is a great sign for the Twins organization that is a little low on top pitching prospects in the upper levels of the minor leagues. Gibson might be called on to slide into the rotation at some point in 2013 and his performance should only improve with each extra inning he can register against top hitters. As I mentioned in my post from yesterday, Gibson can't be relied on as the savior of the rotation but he could turn out to be a solid regular on a team looking for anything positive from their starters.

In his first start of the AFL season, Gibson threw five innings of shutout ball with eight strikeouts and no walks. He allowed four hits during his time on the mound but none of the hits were for extra-bases. His pitch count was at 66 at the end of five frames and there were 49 strikes out of those pitches. According to MLB.com's Gameday, Gibson ranged from 90-95 with his fastball and he mixed in a slider and a change-up. He finished his last inning strong by striking out two men in the fifth. It was an impressive outing for Mr. Gibson so hopes were high that he would be able to duplicate those numbers when he made his next start.

Yesterday, Gibson took the mound for his second appearance with Peoria and he didn't disappoint. For the second game in a row, he threw five innings with eight strikeouts. Mesa was the first team to score a run against Gibson in the AFL as the leadoff man in the fourth inning cracked a double to deep center field. After a ground out and a strikeout, it looked like Gibson might wriggle out of trouble and leave the runner at third. Unfortunately, the next man knocked a single up the middle. It took a strong throw from center fielder Billy Hamilton to end the inning when the runner tried to go first to third on a single. Overall, it was another positive step for Gibson on his road to the big leagues.

It was good to see Gibson command the strike zone for the second consecutive outing. He threw 66 pitches for the second game in a row and he ended the game with 49 strikes thrown. His fastball ranged from 92-95 and he used his slider a lot in this game to keep batters on their toes. Unlike the first game, there were a couple of extra-base hits surrendered by Gibson. He was also able to make a few defensive plays since the ball was hit back to him on the mound. A lot of the success Gibson is going to have will come from his ability to control the strike zone with his assortment of pitches and to induce ground balls. At this time, it looks like he is trying to get more of a handle on his fastball and his slider.

The front office for the Twins has to be impressed with the way Gibson has looked so far in the AFL. If he continues these performances, there is a chance for him to make the starting rotation for the Twins out of spring training next year. It seems more likely that the team will allow him to get a few starts under his belt at the Triple-A level before promoting him to major leagues. This will allow the organization to control his innings at the beginning of the year and then the Twins won't have to deal with some of the hassle the Nationals went through when they shutdown Stephen Strasburg at the end of the season. No matter if he starts in Minnesota or in Rochester, it looks like Gibson will be making his debut at Target Field some time in 2013.

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