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Last night, I began a series of blog postings in which myself and four other Twins minor league bloggers will be making some picks. Yesterday, we shared our Twins Minor League Breakout Hitters in both the Upper and Lower Levels of the Twins minor league system. Today, I will share with you our thoughts on who could be Twins minor league breakout pitchers in 2011. Of course, the term “Breakout” means something different for everyone. For me, it isn’t about who will have the best year. Instead it is about who is probably not real well known, but by the end of the year the player will be known by more and more people because they have a very good year. Others may define it differently. In the Comments at the bottom, please feel free to discuss your choices. But here is just a reminder of who is on the panel:
Roger Dehring – He has been tracking the Twins minor league system and players for a long time. He is an occasional guest writer here, but he does a tremendous job of keeping the fine folks of Twinkie Town updated on the Twins minor leagues with his Weekly Minor League Reports each Saturday.
Josh Johnson – Finishing up college may inexplicably understandably been his top priority of late, but when it comes to knowing the Twins minor league system, Josh is among the top! He has written at Josh’s Thoughts for several years.
Steve Lien – Steve writes the Twins content for Gear Up for Sports. He has written a lot of information on Twins minor leaguers and spent nearly as much time watching minor league practices in Ft. Myers as I did.
Cody Christie – Cody is the North Dakota Twins fan even if he now makes his residence in the Twin Cities. He has been a he addition to the Twins blogosphere in the past year writing on all levels of Twins baseball from the minors to the history.
Her are our choices for the Breakout Pitchers of the Year. Each of us will make two selections, one in the upper levels (AA/AAA) And one in the lower levels of the system.
TWINS BREAKOUT PITCHER – UPPER LEVELS
Seth – Steve Hirschfeld – He was tremendous in Ft. Myers two seasons ago and pitched in the Arizona Fall League. He was hurt most of last year. But he is a big guy with a good mix of pitches, and after a missed 2010, he will be anxiously awaiting 2011! Runner-Up: Bobby Lanigan.
Roger – Deolis Guerra – We all continue to have high expectations from this young man who is the lone player remaining from the Santana trade. Like Hicks, he has yet to live up to both expectations and the hype. But we all need to remember that he will still be only 21 years old on opening day. Reports from spring training say he is the most improved player in camp. Like Hicks, I believe this will be the year his performance meets expectations. Runner-up: Billy Bullock
Josh – Bobby Lanigan – Lanigan was on his way to a breakout ’10 before missing a month-and-a-half with an arm injury. He has good control of his fastball and a slider that will make hitters swing out of their shoes.
Steve – Billy Bullock Carlos Gutierrez. For the first time in his Minor League career, Gutierrez will begin the season pitching out of the bullpen, where he excels with a 95 MPH power-sinker that induced over 3 Ground Ball Outs per Fly Ball Out in 2010 (60% GB Rate at AA, which is phenomenal). His overall numbers aren’t impressive at first glance (which is why he’s my “breakout” pick) and he needs to harness his control, but he should see significant improvement across the board working exclusively out of the ‘pen. RUNNER-UP: Dakota Watts.
Cody – Liam Hendriks – Hendriks was well on his way to being the break-out pitcher of the lower levels last season with the Twins. He fits the mold of a “Twins Pitcher” by throwing strikes and keeping the ball down in the zone. It is going to be great to see what kind of season he can have without an injury interrupting the middle of his year. Runner-Up: Kyle Waldrop.
TWINS BREAKOUT PITCHER – LOWER LEVELS
Seth – Tom Stuifbergen – He first broke out in 2009 for Netherlands in the WBC. He had missed all of 2008 with some shoulder problems, but he did great against the Dominican Republic. At the time, some Twins fans thought he should have gone to the Miracle that year because of those four innings. However, he went to Elizabethton and pitched well. And in 2010, he pitched well when healthy for the Snappers. He will begin the 2011 season with the Miracle. I think he stays healthy, and if he does, he has a terrific changeup, very good control and is very smart on the mound. Runner-Up: BJ Hermsen.
Roger – Manuel Soliman – Soliman is a native of the Dominican Republic who spent his first two seasons in the organization as a third baseman for the DSL Twins. It soon became clear that his strong arm would not overcome his inability to hit much over the Mendoza line, thus he was converted to a pitcher with the DSL Twins in 2009. Soliman would report to the Elizabethton Twins last year, skipping the GCL. With what we saw from this young man in the Appy League, we can look for him to have a huge 2011. He should begin his season in Beloit with a promotion to Ft. Myers following the all-star break.
Josh – Bruce Pugh – Pugh was on his way to a great 2010 season until an elbow strain derailed his season. When he returned from his month-long stint on the D.L., he couldn’t find the strike zone consistently and just wasn’t the same pitcher. He started two games in New Britain and walked eight batters in seven innings, but he’ll be back in Ft. Myers to start the 2011 season.
Steve – Manuel Soliman. Another area where its hard for me to pick out a “breakout” pitcher, as many of the Twins pitching prospects have already excelled at the lower levels (i.e.: Dan Osterbrock, Liam Hendriks, Tom Stuifbergen). Soliman was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, and at Elizabethton last year, he led the team in Strikeouts while posting a 5-2 record, 3.48 ERA, and 1.05 WHIP in 12 starts. RUNNER-UP: Pat Dean.
Cody – Alex Wimmers – Many are comparing Wimmers to last year’s break-out prospect, Kyle Gibson. Wimmers has the chance to make some big strides this year and it will be interesting to see if he can advance all the way to AAA like Gibson did in 2010. Since he doesn’t have an overpowering fastball, keep an eye on his ability to strike out batters as moves through the Twins system. Runner-Up: Adrian Salcedo
We’ll be back later with our predictions for Twins Minor League Hitter and Pitcher of the Year. Feel free to leave your pitcher choices in the comments today.