Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Who is Michael Tonkin?

The Twins announced on Tuesday that Michael Tonkin would be called up to make his MLB debut. The 23-year old right-handed relief pitcher has been in the Twins organization since 2008. He was drafted in the 30th round that year out of high school and he spent the last six seasons working his way through the minor leagues.

Tonkin was used as a starter in the lower level of the minors and he got mixed results. In 2009, he started nine games for the GCL Twins and posted a 3.62 ERA with 60 strikeouts over 54.2 innings. The next year he was asked to start 12 games for Beloit and his ERA continued to rise. He threw 65 innings at the High-A level and his ERA ended up being 4.29.

The front office decided to go in a different direction with Tonkin entering the 2011 season. He would be moved to the bullpen to try and take advantage of his ability to strike out batters. It was a tough transition as he threw 76.2 innings for Beloit and had a 3.87 ERA. His WHIP was an ugly 1.383 but he did strikeout 69 batters.

It had to be a tough offseason for Tonkin as he took some bruises in his first two trips through the Midwest League. Minnesota would send him back to Beloit for the start of 2012 and it seemed like something finally clicked. He pitched 39.0 innings for the Snappers and had a 1.38 ERA with an eye-popping 53 strikeouts. He moved to Fort Myers and continued to post solid numbers.

The Twins decided to send Tonkin to the Arizona Fall League during last offseason. In what is considered a tough pitching environment, Tonkin held his own. Over 14.2 innings, he had a 2.45 ERA with seven strikeouts and three walks. His 0.75 WHIP was the second best mark on his AFL club. This performance stood out and the Twins were ready to put Tonkin on the fast track.

Tonkin started 2013 by tossing 24.1 innings for New Britain. In 22 relief appearances, he had a 2.22 ERA with 30 strikeouts and eight walks. This was enough to earn him a promotion to Triple-A. Since arriving in Rochester, Tonkin has been very good. He has thrown 14.2 innings and limited opponents to two earned runs. He posted a 0.955 WHIP with 16 strikeouts and three walks.

His 6-foot-7 frame on top of weighing 220 pounds allows him to be quite the presence on the mound. It also helps that he can scare opponents with a fastball in the upper 90s with some movement. His slider is also a very good pitch. It sits in the mid to upper 80s and it can be thrown for strikes on a regular basis. There have been some issues in the past with his mechanics but he seems to have gotten those under control.

Tonkin was just added to the 40-man roster this past offseason. The club probably didn't expect him to make it this far in 2013 so it will be some good exposure for him to get a taste of the big leagues. It sounds like the club could keep him around if he is able to perform well. 

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