Continuing from this morning's season preview of the Minnesota Twins…
Simply put, will the Minnesota rotation be good enough to push them into contention in 2013?
The Twins rotation is…well, calling them a motley bunch might not be the appropriate terminology. The Opening Day status of their best starter from a year ago, Scott Diamond, is up in the air after he had offseason elbow surgery. Their only other returning starter who put together a one win season in 2012 is Brian Duensing, who had an ERA nearly twice as high in 52 innings as a starter (6.92) than in 57 innings as a reliever (3.47) while also getting smashed for a .388 wOBA in the rotation. Picture an entire lineup hitting like Adrian Beltre…that's what opposing hitters did against Duensing once he shifted to the rotation.
As for the rest of the Minnesota rotation, the Twins brought in a host of new faces this offseason. Vance Worley was acquired from the Phillies in the Ben Revere deal, and is profiling as Minnesota's number one starter heading into Opening Day with Diamond's status in the air. The team also signed former Pirate Kevin Correia and former Met Mike Pelfrey, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery last May. All three are mainly pitch to contact guys (a fetish the Twins seem to have), and they've got just one three win season and three two win seasons among them over more than a dozen full seasons in the majors. And it's not as if these guys are just getting their careers started, either. Worley is the youngest of the trio at 25, Pelfrey turned 29 in January, and Correia will turn 33 in August.
If the Minnesota rotation is going to be solid in 2013, it depends on their young pitchers, specifically Liam Hendriks and Kyle Gibson. Hendriks has largely gotten annihilated over 20 major league starts and 108 2/3 innings, pitching to a 5.71 ERA largely thanks to an extreme gopher ball problem. But he just turned 24 in February, and has had fantastic peripherals over the last two years in the minors, where homers haven't been an issue for him. In his career in AAA, Hendriks has thrown 155 2/3 innings, struck out 112, and only walked 31 while giving up just five homers. That's a pretty solid foundation for a pitcher going forward.
As for Gibson, he's a wild card after only throwing 51 2/3 innings last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. However, he struck out 61 hitters in those 51 2/3 innings while walking just 14. Command is generally the last thing to return following the surgery, and a 2.44 walk rate in your first year back is a huge step in the right direction. He's struggling a bit this spring and will likely head to AAA to start the year, but if he holds his own there, I see no reason for the Twins to not bring him up to the majors to replace one of the lesser options in their rotation.
So essentially, it comes down to the younger guys for the Twins. If Correia is leading the team in innings at any point in the season, the Twins probably aren't contenders. They can live with Diamond, Worley, and Pelfrey in the rotation, but those three are going to need a lot more support than guys like Duensing, Correia, and the rest from the island of misfit toys that the Twins seem to be collecting in Minnesota.