Buzz, your girlfriend, WOOF! – Kevin McCallister
When you look at the potential 2013 Minnesota Twins rotation, you’re likely to have the same reaction that Kevin did when he saw the framed picture of Buzz’s less-than-attractive girlfriend. The Twins rotation finished dead last in WAR and strikeout percentage last year and were bottom five in the league in just about every other category. Woof, indeed.
Scott Diamond, the staff “ace,” is scheduled to make his first spring start a little over a week from now and is questionable for the start of the season. And even when he does return, the Twins will be getting back a guy who had the fourth worst strikeout rate among qualified pitchers last season.
The Twins must really like low strikeout pitchers because their staff is littered with them. This offseason they brought in one of the three pitchers who had a lower strikeout rate than Diamond last year, Kevin Correia. And all but one of their potential starters has a career strikeout rate that is under 16%.
Early Depth Chart:Vance Worley Scott Diamond Kevin Correia Mike Pelfrey Liam Hendriks Kyle Gibson Brian Duensing Rich Harden Cole DeVries Nick Blackburn Samuel Deduno Esmerling Vasquez
The one starter who has eclipsed the 16% strikeout mark is Vance Worley. As a result, Worley is the starter with the most fantasy potential.
A couple things about Worley don’t make a ton of sense. The first is the aforementioned strikeout rate. Worley has a healthy strikeout percentage right around 20% in his first 275 or so major league innings despite the fact that he has a paltry swinging strike rate of 5.5%.
He’s done it by leading the league in looking strike percentage in two consecutive seasons. I’ve looked into the sustainability of higher-than-normal looking strike rates before, and without going into much detail, I’ll just say that pitchers with high swinging strike rates are the ones who have been able to maintain a high looking strike rate. However, Worley has been doing it for more than a full season worth of work, so maybe he’s the exception to the rule. But there’s downside in his strikeout rate.
The other strange thing is that Worley saw his ISO allowed go from .132 in 2011 to .151 last year despite the fact that his groundball rate jumped by 7% and his fly ball percentage dropped about as much. If his batted ball profile holds, he might be in line for a little positive regression with his ISO allowed.
There are a couple of other issues that factor in to any Worley analysis. One is a positive; he’s moving to a ballpark that is much more pitcher-friendly. The other is a negative; he’s moving to the less pitcher-friendly league. There’s just a lot of good and bad that goes along with Worley, and that uncertainty makes him a spot starter at best in mixed leagues.
The next best option is Diamond. But unfortunately, Diamond screams downside. We all know the strikeouts aren’t there, and his control may not be as good as it looked last year. His BB% of 4.3% was far better than anything he did in the minors. His best case is an ERA around 4.00 with an average WHIP and no strikeouts or wins. He’s only an option in AL-only and not a good one.
After that, there’s almost no fantasy value to be found. Correia and Mike Pelfrey have squarely established themselves as below average starters. Brian Duensing could see some starts but his role should be a LOOGY out of the ‘pen. Cole DeVries, Samuel Deduno, PJ Walters, Esmerling Vasquez and even Nick Blackburn could be called on to make spot starts at some point, but none of those guys had an xFIP below 4.50 last year in limited work. They also have Rich Harden, but no one is holding their breath on him anymore.
The only other potentially attractive options for AL-only players are a couple of young guys, Liam Hendriks and Kyle Gibson, who were ranked as top 10 prospects in the Minnesota system by Baseball America prior to 2012.
Hendriks has been positively atrocious in his first 20 major league starts (5.71 ERA), but he displayed excellent control at all levels of the minors. And he has a solid walk rate of 6.7% in his first 100-ish major league innings. If that skill continues to develop, Hendriks could maybe give you a season like Diamond had last year with a few more strikeouts if he makes the rotation.
Gibson is coming off Tommy John surgery and will be on an innings limit (130-140 IP) no matter where those innings come. But he’s got some strikeout ability, and his control was above average in the minor leagues. When he gets his shot this season, he’s worth an add for AL-only players and a guy worth watching for those in deep mixed leagues.
Not that this is a surprising conclusion, but the Twins rotation is still awful.
Huge thanks to the only Twins fan I know, @Adams_Steve, for getting me up to speed on this sorry state of affairs.