2012 Arizona Fall League Delegates: Minnesota Twins

This year we decided as a staff to preview each of the team’s preliminary assignments to the 2012 AFL and our goal is to tackle each of the 30 organizations over the next 7-10 days. We hope you will follow along with us, check in several times each day and enjoy reading what we come up with. If you’re not familiar with the eligibility rules or how the rosters are constructed just click here to brush up.

Kyle Gibson at the 2011 Futures Game (Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE)

The Minnesota Twins are sending seven players to the Arizona Fall League. They will join up with players from the Reds, Phillies, Padres and Mariners to comprise the Peoria Javelinas roster. Gibson is the team’s only top-tier prospect heading to the desert but Tonkin, Herrmann and Roberts could all play significant roles for the Twins in the coming years.

LHP – Logan Darnell (23) – Twins 2010 6th Round Pick

2012 – New Britain: 5.08 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 193 H, 47 BB and 98 SO in 156.0 IP

Darnell hasn’t had the type of success you’d expect from a lefty with a plus changeup, a low-90s fastball, and a slider and change combo that both appear to be serviceable pitches. That statement applies to both his college career at the University of Kentucky and his first two full seasons in the minors, though he was effective for the E-Twins after signing in 2010. This season with the Rock Cats, he plain and simple got his brains beat in allowing 193 hits in 28 starts. At no point in the season did he have anything better than a mediocre month statistically and from May through the end of the year his ERA and opponents BA got progressively worse. In his last 10 starts he had a 7.01 ERA with a 29-15 SO-to-BB while allowing 81 hits in 51.1 innings pitched. Aside from 6 relief appearances back in 2010, the Twins have used Darnell exclusively as a starter, but a move to the bullpen is probably overdue and he still has a future in that role.

RHP – Kyle Gibson (24) – Twins 2009 1st Round Pick (22nd Overall)

2012 – GCL Twins: 2.45 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 9 H, 4 BB and 16 SO in 14.2 IP
2012 – Fort Myers: 2.57 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6 H, 1 BB and 7 SO in 7.0 IP
2012 – Rochester: 9.45 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 11 H, 1 BB and 10 SO in 6.2 IP

Heading into the 2011 season, Gibson was one of the 50 best prospects in baseball and started the year out strong with a sub 2.0 BB/9 and SO/9 over 9.0 in each of the season’s first two months. In June and July however it became apparent that something was wrong. His velocity and strikeout rate dipped and his control deserted him. Tests revealed a torn ligament in his pitching elbow and he was subsequently shut down for the year and underwent Tommy John Surgery.

The fact that Gibson bounced back so quickly to make 11 starts this season is in itself a positive sign. Even more encouraging is that he finished with a 33-6 SO-to-BB rate in 28.1 innings between the three levels and appeared to be knocking off the rust rather quickly. He has the stuff and control to be a #2 starter in the major leagues and the Twins badly need to him to reach his ceiling. His assignment to the AFL was a bit of a no brainer and a strong performance coupled with a healthy and productive 2013 spring training should earn him a spot in Minnesota’s Opening Day rotation.

LHP – Caleb Thielbar (25) – Brewers 2009 18th Round Pick

2012 – Fort Myers: 0.00 ERA, 0.49 WHIP, 4 H, 2 BB and 16 SO in 12.1 IP
2012 – New Britain: 1.80 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 18 H, 3 BB and 26 SO in 25.0 IP
2012 – Rochester: 3.57 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 42 H, 16 BB and 32 SO in 40.1 IP

The Brewers released Thielbar in the winter months after the 2010 season and the Minnesota native quickly signed with the Independent St. Paul Saints. He pitched well out of the bullpen for the Saints, caught the attention of the Twins and signed a contract with the team in August of last year. He moved quickly through the organization advancing all the way up to Triple-A but his hit, home run, walk and strikeout rates all went in the wrong direction with the Red Wings. It will be very interesting to see how he handles life in the AFL and it figures to be a stiff test for the lefty whose best pitch is his curveball.

RHP – Michael Tonkin (22) – Twins 2008 30th Round Pick

2012 – Beloit: 1.38 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 29 H, 9 BB and 53 SO in 39.0 IP
2012 – Fort Myers: 2.97 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 24 H, 11 BB and 44 SO in 30.1 IP

At the time he was drafted the 6’7″ Tonkin was considered a raw and projectable arm. It has taken him a while but he took a step forward as a part of Beloit’s relief corps this year striking out 12.2 hitters per nine innings with the Snappers. After his promotion to Fort Myers, he continued to elevate his K rate with a 13.1 SO/9 in 22 appearances. His low to mid 90s fastball features a good deal of sink and movement and he uses it effectively to generate both ground balls and strikeouts. His changeup also has natural sink, like his fastball, and has the makings of an above average if not plus pitch. Tonkin closed the year out with a 23-2 SO-to-BB in his final 10 appearances with Fort Myers and should be a reliever to watch in the AFL despite not pitching above high-A in his career.

C – Chris Herrmann (24) – Twins 2009 6th Round Pick

2012 -New Britain: 0.276/.350/.392, 25 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 2 SB, 58 BB and 89 SO

Herrmann is returning to the AFL after hitting 0.380/.456/.620 in 57 plate appearances with the Solar Sox in 2011. It took him a while to get things going in 2012 but he finished the year strong with an August slash line of 0.301/.371/.408 in 25 games and was also 6-11 in the Rock Cats three September games. He has below average power potential but the rest of his tools are at least average and he’s very athletic for a catcher. Defensively he threw out 44% of base runners in 2012, had just 3 errors and allowed only 4 passed balls in 83 games behind the plate. The Twins continue to play him in the OF about 20-25% of the time as well so he has positional versatility as well.

OF – Evan Bigley (25) – Twins 2008 10th Round Pick

2012 – New Britain: 0.268/.311/.444, 19 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 3 SB, 20 BB and 85 SO in 372 PA
2012 – Rochester: 0.207/.235/.321, 7 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 1 SB, 5 BB and 37 SO in 149 PA

Of all the Twins minor leaguers heading to the AFL, Bigley is the one that I don’t really understand. He has shown some pop in his bat at various points in his minor league career but not to the extent that it is particularly noteworthy. Bigley has a strong arm by all accounts but little else stands out. His plate discipline was a concern at the time he was drafted and based on his poor SO and BB rates, continues to be an issue. Bigley was over matched in his 39 game stint with the Red Wings and hasn’t really done anything to suggest he’s more than an organizational guy.

OF – Nate Roberts (23) – Twins 2010 5th Round Pick

2012 – Beloit: 0.299/.433/.427, 18 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 27 SB, 44 BB and 37 SO in 352 PA

Roberts didn’t make his 2012 debut until May 23rd and started on in a 2-21 slump once he took the field. As soon as the calendar flipped from May to June however, his bat came alive. He recorded a hit in 13 of his 19 games during the month with seven of those games being of the multi-hit variety. For the month he hit 0.369/.481/.554 with 9 BB and just 8 SO. His production dipped a little in July but he still posted a 0.423 OPB during the month.

Roberts doesn’t have a standout tool which makes him easy to overlook as a prospect, but four of his tools are at least average and his plate discipline and approach took a step forward this season making him an even more intriguing player to keep an eye on. Beyond the tools, he clearly has displayed a knack for getting on base – 0.439 OBP in 179 minor league games – which bodes well for his future. It is a little disappointing that the Twins kept him with Beloit for the second straight season but the organization has a great deal of OF depth and there are only so many spots at each level to be had. The AFL will be a big step up for Roberts but regardless of his performance he should make his way to Fort Myers for the 2013 season.

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For more on the Minnesota Twins, check out Puckett’s Pond!

Topics: Caleb Thielbar, Chris Herrmann, Evan Bigley, Kyle Gibson, Logan Darnell, Michael Tonkin, Minnesota Twins, Nate Roberts

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