Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Minor League Players to Watch: Pitchers and Catchers

Pitchers and catchers will hold their first workout on Wednesday morning and that can be exciting for multiple reasons. There is hope at the beginning of any baseball year that your club will be able to put it all together and come through a long season with a World Series Championship at the other end.

Yesterday I wrote about some of the major story lines that fans can follow during the course of spring training with the pitchers and catchers. There is at least one spot open in the rotation and a couple of question marks in the bullpen to be sorted out in the coming weeks.

There will be some prospects in the big league camp that could play an important role in the coming year. If you want information on all of the prospects in the Twins minor league system, make sure to order a copy of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook.

There are plenty of other minor leaguers out there and this is just a taste of some of the young men working through the system. For now, here are a few pitchers and catchers that could be getting closer to playing a role with the club in 2013.

Catchers:  With Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit, and Drew Butera scheduled to take up most of the playing time on the big league roster at this position, there won't likely be room for younger players. There are still a couple of promising catching prospects that will be one step closer to the big leagues.

Chris Herrmann: Twins fans got a brief taste of Herrmann at the end of last season when he got a September call-up. His performance wasn't memorable but it is hard to be remembered over seven games and 19 plate appearances.

After racking up 97 games at Double-A in 2011, the Twins sent him back to New Britain and his 2012 season was one of his best as a professional. His ability to play catcher and outfield is an asset that could be very valuable in the future. He will start the year at Rochester but an injury to one of the big league catchers could mean a return trip to Minnesota.

Josmil Pinto: The 23-year old has slowly been working his way through the Twins system. Last season, he spent most of the year at Fort Myers before getting a taste of New Britain at the end of the year. A second season in the Eastern League is likely for Pinto and a strong start to the year could see him being bumped up to Rochester.

His 2012 season was his best as he hit .295/.362/.482 with 14 home runs and 26 doubles. He combined a high batting average with a good amount of power. On the defensive side of the ball, there are a few holes in his game. Pinto has a couple of levels to work out the kinks before he can make his Twins debut.

Pitchers:  All eyes will be on recent acquisitions Alex Meyer and Trevor May since there is plenty of hype following these two powerful arms. Kyle Gibson will be making his long awaited debut this year after spending most of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery. There could be at least one open spot in the starting rotation and others in the bullpen.

BJ Hermsen: The team honored Hermsen with their minor league pitcher of the year award and he will look to have a repeat performance this year. He threw almost 140 innings at the Double-A level last year so it will be interesting to see if he gets the bump up to Triple-A.

There is probably a slim chance that Hermsen makes the Opening Day roster. There are plenty of other players in camp that have big league experience so those arms will likely get first crack at the rotation. He could still spend time in upper levels of the minor leagues and he is already on the 40-man roster so that helps his cause.

Caleb Thielbar: It has been quite the story for Thielbar as he bounced around the Brewers organization before playing for the St. Paul Saints. The Twins signed him for a few brief appearances in 2011 and this led to wild ride in the 2012 season. He played at three different levels from High-A to Triple-A.

His time at Rochester wasn't outstanding but he made it one step closer to the big leagues. The Twins sent him to the Arizona Fall League this offseason. In what most experts consider a hitters league, he struggled in the AFL over a small sample size of 13 innings. Hopefully, this experience will serve him well in the future.

Michael Tonkin: It looks like Tonkin could end up being a very good relief arm at the back end of the bullpen. He put together a very good 2012 season and he seemed to get better throughout the year. He averaged 12.2 SO/9 with Beloit but he increased that number to 13.1 with the Miracle.

Like Thielbar, Tonkin got to face some of the best prospects in the game during the AFL. He fared a little better by not giving up an earned run in his first eight appearances. In the last couple of outings, he surrendered a couple home runs and four earned runs. It was still a very good AFL season as he never gave up more than one hit in an appearance.

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