Monday, May 20, 2013

Who is Caleb Thielbar?

It has been quite the wild ride for Mr. Caleb J. Thielbar on his way to the major leagues.

The 26-year old left-hander was called-up by the Minnesota Twins on Monday after the team demoted fifth starter Pedro Hernandez. Thielbar is not a starter so the team will need to make another roster move before Friday's game to fill out the rotation. Options for this spot include Kyle Gibson, Sam Deduno, and PJ Walters.

Thielbar was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 18th round of the 2009 MLB Draft. The Minnesota native went to college at South Dakota State University. He would spend the first two years of his professional career in the lower levels of the Brewers' system.

During his first season in rookie ball, he posted a 6-1 record with a 1.53 ERA. Most of his appearances were out of the bullpen as he was asked to make two starts. Over 48 innings, he struck out 48 and walked eight. These were the type of numbers that one would expect from a college age pitcher in rookie ball.

In 2010, Thielbar found a few more bumps in the road as he tried to make his mark in the minors. He played nine games at rookie ball and his ERA jumped to 3.68 over 14.2 innings. His time in Low-A produced even worse numbers. Over 30 games, he had a 5.60 ERA and a 1.491 WHIP. He struck out 43 and walked 14 over 53.0 innings.

The Brewers would cut ties with him and it was time for Thielbar to make some changes as he headed to independent baseball.

Thielbar would find a new team to latch on with for 2011. The St. Paul Saints were looking to add some depth to their bullpen and Thielbar seemed to fit the mold. He would pitch 49.2 innings for the Saints with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.128 WHIP. He had a decent strike out to walk rate as he struck out 62 and walked 15.

The Minnesota Twins took notice of Thielbar's numbers and he signed a deal with the club. Since it was so late in the year, he was limited to three appearances with the Fort Myers Miracle. It was enough to earn his first win as a member of the Twins organization. He didn't allow a single run and he gave up one hit in 7.1 innings.

Last season was a whirlwind for Thielbar. He pitched very effectively at three different levels in the Twins system. On a return trip to the Florida State League, he pitched 12.1 innings with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.486 WHIP. The next stop was New Britain where he threw 25.0 innings with a 1.80 ERA and a 0.840 WHIP. Rochester was his final stop and he threw 40.1 innings with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.438 WHIP.

Minnesota wanted to see more out of Thielbar so he was sent to the Arizona Fall League this past year. He had pitched close to 80 innings in the minors so he had tired by the time the AFL started. Over 13 innings, he posted an 11.08 ERA. He gave up 21 hits, walked eight, and struck out 12. There was still enough there for the Twins to add him to their 40-man roster.

To start the 2013 season, Theilbar was sent back to Rochester. He was 1-1 with a 3.76 ERA in 17 relief appearances at Triple-A. In 26.1 innings, he struck out 34 and walked eight while holding lefties to a .159 batting average. Since his primary responsibility with the MLB club should be to get out lefties, he seems to be up to this task.

Over his last eight appearances with the Red Wings, he had not allowed a run. In those 11.1 innings, he  struck out 15 and limited his walks to five. Things seemed to be clicking on all cylinders for him and the time was right to have him join the Twins roster.

According to the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook, (which you can still order here for a discounted price):
"When Thielbar was pitching in the Brewers system, he threw a fastball in the mid-80s. After being released, he completely reworked his mechanics and got himself in much better shape. In 2012, he was hitting 92 mph. He has very good control of his curveball, and also throws a change-up. Some compare his delivery to that of fellow-Minnesota left-handed reliever Glen Perkins."

One of the strengths of the Twins has been their bullpen and Thielbar can be another important piece of the puzzle. It looks like he is ready for the big leagues and this will complete quite the journey to get to this point.

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