When could Kyle Gibson see the mound at Target Field? (Icon SMI)
From young minor league prospects to rookie big-league talent, Prospect Press will be providing an inside look at baseball's best talent for years to come. Today's Prospect Press focuses on Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Kyle Gibson.
At times this spring training, it looked as though Twins prospect Kyle Gibson could begin the season in the Twins rotation and the team wouldn't skip a beat. After all, this is the same young hurler who blistered through three levels of minor league ball, a climb reminiscent of fellow Twins farmhands Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey.
Still, both Gibson and the Twins know not to rush a potentially good thing, and he began the season in the minor leagues. As seen with the situation surrounding Slowey, the club has too many starters for its five rotation spots, and Gibson would've been sent to Rochester regardless of his spring numbers. Gibson also admitted to Phil Mackey, the stats guru on the afternoon show on AM1500 in Minneapolis, that he felt he still had plenty to work on. Mackey noted that the pitches Gibson was getting strikes on in the minors, both called and swung on, were the type of pitches that savvy hitter and "Greek God of Walks" Kevin Youkilisdidn't even flinch at when Gibson faced the Red Sox in spring Grapefruit League play. Hence, the Twins sent Gibson down to work on his approach and to find ways to get more experienced hitters out, and it's hard to deny that both sides have to be excited about the results.
Gibson, whom the Twins were able to nab with the 22nd pick in the 2009 amateur draft due (partially due to injury concerns), has been tough as nails for the Rochester Red Wings this season despite his 3-6 record. Gibson currently has a 3.79 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP, a 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) rate, and perhaps most notable to the Twins, is averaging 4.4 strikeouts to every walk (K/BB). The Twins have been near the top of the majors in fewest walks allowed for the past two decades, and it's basically become an organizational theory that good pitchers do not issue free passes at any cost, for better or for worse. This preference for polished pitchers has also led to the club drafting college hurlers in pretty much every season, with prime examples in Garza, Slowey, Scott Baker, and Glen Perkins.
All spring, both teammates and scouts alike raved about the movement on Gibson's fastball, as it has a great natural movement so that really diminishes solid contact. This movement is illustrated below is some video taken by Mackey during spring training, as Gibson threw batting practice to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau:
(video shared by permission of Phil Mackey, ESPN1500)
Clearly, the movement on Gibson's fastball has the potential to be very troublesome for opposing hitters. It should also be noted that as this was filmed in the spring, Gibson's command wasn't in mid-season form.
With regard to makeup, maturity, and poise, both Mackey and Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein have positive things to say about Gibson, with Goldstein going as far to say that Kyle was "big-league ready" in his preseason Twins prospect write-up. Unfortunately, it's still difficult to say when Gibson will make his major league debut, as the club has not yet added Gibson to the 40-man roster and has a rotation that is in the midst of a 10-2 stretch, pitching to a 1.87 ERA and 61 to 16 K/BB ratio and 11 quality starts over the past 14 contests. The Twins don't want to bring up Gibson unless he's is there to stay, nor do they want him to work out of the pen as a reliever. Once he's here, the general consensus is that he should be a long-term number two or three starter, which would slot in very nicely with a pitching rotation fronted by Baker and a revitalized Francisco Liriano.
Brandon is a 2010 graduate of the Journalism program at Northwestern College in St Paul, Minn. He also writes for TwinsMVB.com and GameOnTVMN.com. Warne also played baseball at Northwestern, and continues to play Class-A Amateur Ball in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Follow him on Twitter @brandonwarne52 or feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.