by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Minnesota Twins are often viewed as a team that can’t develop pitching prospects (with Jose Berrios being the exception to the rule). That said there are a pair of prospects rising through the system, and both could arrive and make an impact as soon as 2018. Let’s take a look at each of them and determine who has the best upside moving forward:
Stephen Gonsalves – Left-Handed Pitcher
A former fourth round pick in 2013, Gonsalves has slowly climbed the ladder and his next start will be his first in Triple-A as he’s recently been bumped to the highest level of the minors. He’s earned the promotion, posting a 2.68 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9.89 K/9 and 2.37 BB/9 over 87.1 IP at Double-A. The inning number may seem low, and that’s due to a late start to the season. A shoulder injury had him sidelined, but he was currently quoted by Michael Avallone of MILB.com in regards to that missed time and how it may have actually helped him:
“They got me tuned up real nice. The shoulder issue was almost a blessing in disguise, the way I was able to work with them,” Gonsalves said of working with Minor League rehab coordinator Corey Dietze and Rookie-level Gulf Coast League pitching coach Cibney Bello. “I’m pitching with more of my body, getting my core into it, using more of my legs. I think that’s what got me working in the 90-94 [mph] range tonight, compared to working 88-92 sometimes last year. I was throwing exclusively with my arm and we think that’s what made my shoulder hurt. Now that my body is more in tune with itself and I’m using my legs to drive off the hill, it’s going to be a lot more comfortable.”
He’s always shown strikeouts, though it’s clear that his control has taken a significant step forward this season (3.3 BB/9 for his career). In that regard the work has paid off, and we’ll have to wait and see if he can maintain it at Triple-A. The other question will be his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark:
- 2017 – 0.53 GO/AO
- Career – 0.70 GO/AO
Even if he maintain his control, that could be a difference maker. The home runs allowed are going to rise, and that will help limit his potential upside.
Fernando Romero – Right-Handed Pitcher
It took some time, but Romero has found his footing at Double-A this season and is now sitting with a sparkling 2.60 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He’s been even better of late, with a 1.57 ERA over his past 10 starts and allowing 2 ER or fewer in each of them. In fact you can take this stretch even further back, allowing 2 ER or fewer in 13 straight starts, and he’s only allowed more than 3 earned runs in 2 of his 21 appearances on the season.
We often talk about the three skills we look for from a starting pitcher, and Romero has had them all on display:
- Strikeouts – 9.35 K/9
- Walks – 3.33 BB/9
- Groundballs – 53.4%
His control has been solid this season, but he has the potential to be even better considering his career 2.7 BB/9. With further improvement there, just how good can he be?
While both pitchers carry significant intrigue, Romero’s advantage in the groundball department gives him an edge. Sure people will generally be attracted to strikeout southpaws, and Gonsalves has potential, but Romero’s just seems to be a little bit higher moving forward.
Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out our Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects by clicking here!