What can $84 million buy you nowadays? In today's market, not as much as you'd think. The Twins needed to find some pillars in their rotation for not only this year, but for a few years down the line. They handed over a four-year deal to Ricky Nolasco and a two year deal to Phil Hughes. This team is not being built to win in 2014, they are being built to contend from 2015 and beyond. A rotation of Nolasco, Hughes, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, and Sam Deduno is what the Twins will start with this season. Come 2015, that rotation will hopefully looking something more like Nolasco, Hughes, Deduno with young prospects Kyle Gibson, Alex Meyer, and Trevor May competing for spots in the rotation.
Moving to their bullpen, that was one of the few bright spots last season and it will continue to be a strength if their relievers have to pitch fewer innings. The Twins had three pitchers with over 70 appearances last year (Duensing, Fien, and Burton), and that is less than desirable. The Twins entire roster will be a revolving door this season, so make sure to keep your head on a swivel. Now, enough small talk. Let's look at the individual players:
2014 Minnesota Twins - Pitching Staff Preview
1. Glen Perkins - RP
2013: 62.2 IP, 2-0, 36 SV, 2.30 ERA, 77 K, 0.92 WHIP
2014 Projection: 70 IP, 1-3, 30 SV, 2.90 ERA, 90 K, 1.10 WHIP
Perkins is the only Twins pitcher you can draft with confidence. The 2013 All-Star is a mid to high-tier closer who converted 36 of his 40 save chances while showcasing his ability to strike batters out in high stress situations. And the gravy on the mashed closer potatoes: he has no competition for his job. Perkins will get his opportunities, and barring a trade or an injury he is the man for the 9th inning in Minnesota. The Twins won't win a ton of games this year, but the games they win, will be close ones. Pay attention if he ends up on another team this season. He is more likely to be setting up for a shut down closer, than taking over another teams 9th inning duties.
2. Ricky Nolasco - SP
2013: 199.1 IP, 13-11, 3.70 ERA, 165 K, 1.20 WHIP
2014 Projection: 180 IP, 12-8, 4.10ERA, 150 K, 1.25 WHIP
Nolasco makes the jump to the American League for the first time in his career. That most likely will mean a modest inflation of his ERA and WHIP. He has never been one to strikeout too many players (a modest 7.38 K/9 in his career), but he has shown to be a consistent innings eater (150+ IP in the past 5 seasons) with a decent ERA (4.37 over his career). Without a clear ace on the team, Nolasco will most likely be the opening day starter. That does not bode well for him getting a slew of Ws early in the season while being matched up against other aces in the American League. However, things could shake out once we hit May and the Ws will come. Over the last few years the Twins have been brutal in scoring runs to support their starting pitchers (3.79 runs per game in 2013, which ranked them a mere 25th in the league). If they can change that tendency, it could mean a decent fantasy season for Nolasco. He is definitely the safest starting pitcher to draft on the Twins roster, but that isn't a grand endorsement.
3. Phil Hughes - SP
2013: 145.2 IP, 4 - 14, 5.19 ERA, 121 K, 1.45 WHIP
2014 Projection: 160 IP, 10 - 10, 4.2o ERA, 140 K, 1.25 WHIP
Oh sweet Phil, how I so wish for you to be a shut down pitcher this year. So much potential, so much talent. Sigh. As Weezer said when they made good music, only in dreams. His best year was 2010 when he went 18-8 with 176.1IP, 4.19 ERA, and 146Ks... all that with an unlucky .273 BABIP. Some of that may have been Yankee luck, but Hughes has the highest ceiling of all the Twins pitchers this season. Unfortunately, everything needs to come together for him to become a serviceable fantasy starter again (we're talking 2010 and then some). I wouldn't suggest drafting him unless you are in an AL only league. But I would be a hypocrite to tell you not to keep a close eye on him. It may be the perpetual optimism of being a Twins fan talking, but Hughes could be a deep sleeper, and we should all be considered geniuses together if he has a comeback season.
4. Kevin Correia - SP
2013: 185.1 IP, 9-13, 4.18 ERA, 101 K, 1.42 WHIP
2014 Projection: 190 IP, 11-9, 4.40 ERA, 110 K, 1.50 WHIP
Correia is like a Buick Century, he aint fancy, but he gets you from A to B without a fuss. The Twins need Correia to put up his typical 200 innings and 4 or so runs a game, but you need him play above his pay grade. He won't be on your draft radar unless you are in an AL-only league. However, Correia is the kind of pitcher that will keep your stats steady during a bad week. You can pencil in 3 - 5 Ks, 6innings, 4 earned runs per outing. If you don't expect much, he will deliver! If you are like me and utilize a flex spot for one of your starting pitcher positions, keep an eye on Correia's match-ups and sneak him in for a solid (not spectacular) outing.
5. Jared Burton - RP/P
2013: 66.0 IP, 2-9, 2 SV, 3.82 ERA, 61 K, 1.25 WHIP
2014 Projection: 70 IP, 3-3, 8 SV, 3.1o ERA, 70 K, 1.10 WHIP
Perkins goes down at closer and Burton is the man, simple as that. Burton is the man for the eighth inning this season with Casey Fien as his only competition for the set up role. Burton has the mind and stuff to get the job done if needed (8.32 K/9 in 2013, and 0.92 WHIP in 2012). If your league counts holds, you have yourself a consistent producer in Burton who had 27 in 2013. Then again, if your league counts holds, you got more to worry about than whether to draft Burton or not! Keep Burton on your watch list in your league, because Perkins is a guaranteed trade candidate if the Twins season goes south, and Burton will be around to help you late in the season.
6. Kyle Gibson - SP
2013: 51.0 IP, 2-4, 6.53 ERA, 29 K, 1.75 WHIP
2014 Projection: 100 IP, 7-5, 4.10 ERA, 75 K, 1.30 WHIP
Your good friend and mine, Mr. Tommy John, had his way with Gibson in November of 2011. In 2010, before the surgery, he pitched decent at the AA and AAA levels (3.68 and 1.71 ERAs, respectively). Coming back in supposed full force in 2013, he put up putrid numbers (see above, but avert your eyes). At 26 Gibson is getting on the old side to still be considered a work in progress prospect. The time is now for Gibson to show his true talents and start winning games for the Twins. SP Deduno will most likely be the fifth starter for the Twins after spring training, but they will give Gibson every opportunity to take it over. My hope is he is finally healthy and has learned a few things from his experiences from last season. Don't you dare draft him out of the gate, but keep an eye for some bargain basement wins mid-season.
Other pitchers to keep your eye on would be Andrew Albers, Samuel Deduno, Scott Diamond, Trevor May, Alex Meyer, Vance Whorley in SP roles, and Casey Fien, Brian Duensing, Anthony Swarzak in RP roles.
RP Glen Perkins is the only must draft pitcher, but Nolasco and Hughes will be sleepers. Everyone else will be either plug and play or sit and wait.
Trivia Time: Q. Who is the only Twins pitcher to get a hit in the Metrodome? A. Bobby Korecky, who got his hit in extra-innings and also won the decision for the same game!