In the wake of the Twins' second-straight loss and Nick Blackburn's mystery "is-it-an-injury-or-is-it-a-fam
ily-issue" thing, I decided to check out a month's worth of minor league stats to see if there's anyone cooking right now. I'll give you the bad news first: if you're hoping there's some little-known starting pitcher waiting to throw quality innings at the major-league level, you're not going to find him. Because you've probably already seen what Jeff Manship, Glen Perkins and others can do. And it's not really that great. But when you look at lower levels, you find a wealth of fun young talent outside of the Ben Revere's and Aaron Hicks' of the world. If you take a closer look, this is what you'll find…
Anthony Slama, RP, AAA Level
Everyone's heard about this guy by now, but it's worth mentioning that against all odds (he's a "fool you", not an "overpower you" kind of pitcher), Slama is leading the Rochester Red Wings in strikeouts in a relief role. He's recorded five saves, and would be a great choice to sub in for any of Jesse Crain, Sean Burnett or a few other relievers who've screwed the pooch this year. By the way, batters are hitting just .109 off him to start the year… I realize it's early, but he's displayed this kind of dominance at every level for the past three years or so.
Dustin Martin, 2B, AAA Level
I'm not saying Martin is the next big thing at second base, but he's shown quite an improvement in plate discipline this year in 16 games. He's got a 9:12 strikeout to walk ratio going right now (.424 OBP), where last year it was 39:92 (.319 OBP). Also, he hit a total of five homers in AAA last season, but has three this year. Looks like he's growing as a player, and he just turned 26, so there's reason to believe he could make an impact with the Twins.
Trevor Plouffe, SS, AAA Level
It's too early to evaluate a guy like this because there's not as stark a contrast to last season's totals like our guy Martin above. But in 20 games this season, Plouffe has only a 7:7 K/BB ratio (.367 OBP compared to .313 last year). And he's stolen two bases already compared to three in all of 2009 (118 games). He's making a little noise, so I'll keep an eye on him.
Brian Dinkelman, 2B, AAA Level
His power stroke hasn't come in yet, but the 38 doubles and eight homers in 2009 kind of caught my eye. Dinkelman is patient at the plate too, so far having recorded a nice .404 (13:11 K/BB) On-base percentage through 20 games played. He doesn't run much either, but I'm looking for a sign that the home runs might increase this year. He's 27 this year, and it's time to shine.
David Bromberg, SP, AA Level
Bromberg earned a promotion with a sizzlin' 2.70 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 8.7 K/9 performance at High-A Fort Myers in 2009, and has responded well this year to souped-up competition. In his first three starts - 18 innings - he's given up just 13 baserunners and struck out 17 batters. Just two earned runs, as well. Impressive!
Bobby Lanigan, SP, High-A Level
Through four starts, it's pretty apparent why the 22-year-old Lanigan breezed through Elizabethtown and Beloit last year. He's struck out 20 batters and allowed two earned runs through 22 innings in 2010. Also, Lanigan has allowed just 20 baserunners, giving him a pretty dominant base from which to POSSIBLY leap to New Britain later this season.
Kyle Gibson, SP, High-A Level
A lot of people know Gibson's name… he was a highly-rated prospect in last year's draft, and has performed accordingly in 30+ innings at Fort Myers. In fact, he just threw a complete-game shutout his last time out, with six strikeouts and one hit allowed. Gibson's first start of the year was a little bumpy, but from that point on he's given up just 21 baserunners in 27 innings. And struck out 21 batters. He'll be in New Britain by year's end.
Liam Hendriks, SP, Low-A Level
Hendriks showed some signs of being really good last year with a solid K/BB ratio and K/9 ratio. Gotta love a guy who refuses to give free passes and limits balls in play. This season in Beloit, he's been downright dominant with 26 Ks in 22 innings and just nine TOTAL baserunners allowed. One earned run in four starts, as well. Somehow he hasn't factored into a decision yet so his record is 0-0, but don't let that fool you. He's been absolutely filthy thus far.
Can't wait to watch the Twins face off against Cleveland this weekend. I'm a little worried about how bad the hitting looked over the past 14 innings or so, but then I remembered that we're actually a pretty solid scoring team, and that we'll probably sweep the Indians this weekend. Because they suck.
Until next time, thanks for reading!