Monday, January 23, 2017

Twins Still Looking For Next Radke

As the 2017 Major League Baseball season quickly approaches, the Minnesota Twins are nearly set to embark on sunny Fort Myers, Florida for Spring Training. There's not a lot of unknowns for the upcoming season, and much of Paul Molitor's club having success rests on known commodities stepping up. As pitching continues to remain a focal point, the Twins are still looking for their version of an ace, or an embodiment of Brad Radke.

On April 3, 2017, the Minnesota Twins will host the Kansas City Royals. It's nearly a guarantee that Ervin Santana will take the mound for Molitor's club, and in doing so, will be somewhat out of the norm. In making a second straight Opening Day start for the home nine, the Twins will give the ball to the same pitcher to open consecutive seasons for the first time since Carl Pavano in 2012 and 2011. While back-to-back years with some top of the rotation certainty is nice, it's hardly a calming realization.

In looking at the way in which the Twins have toed the rubber on Opening Day, they've yet to have a pitcher get the ball on three consecutive Opening Day starts since Brad Radke's run of seven straight years ended in 2005. Since then, Minnesota has asked nine different pitchers to make Opening Day starts. Although an Opening Day nod does not an ace make, it's a level of consistency that Minnesota has long lost.

Brad Radke pitched 12 big league seasons and was a one-time All Star. He generated Cy Young votes once, in his age 24 season, and had a relatively mediocre big league career. What he was though, was a staple in the Twins rotation, and a guy that could be relied upon on a yearly basis. His career K/9 checked in at just 5.4, but he tallied just 1.6 BB/9 over his 2,451 major league IP. His career 4.22 ERA wasn't anything to blow you away, and while his career earnings topped $61 million, he never got any sort of an ace level payday.

The reality is that the Twins of today need their version of Radke. Looking up and down the system, there's next to no true top of the rotation potential. Fernando Romero has been dubbed a potential ace for the Twins, but he's a ways away from being able to prove that at the big league level. Ervin Santana has been a steadying force among the Twins rotation, but given the current landscape, would be an ideal trade candidate.

At some point, the Twins need to develop some pitching.

We're not too far removed from the Twins throwing money at free agent arms. Terry Ryan overspent on a guy like Ricky Nolasco, before appropriately allocating on Phil Hughes (only to extend him and make it a less than ideal scenario). Every team needs top tier pitching, and the reality is that Minnesota is going to be beat out dollars wise on the market more often than not. It only highlights how much more important that internal mastery be achieved.

With high draft picks in recent years, the Twins have taken arms such as Kohl Stewart and Tyler Jay. The former looks like a failing high school pick that can't miss bats, while the latter profiles better as the reliever he was in college. Knowing where the franchise is, missing on must-hit arms can't continue to be a trend.

If you've made it this far, I'm sorry that I can't offer you much in the form of hope. Maybe we just highlighted already accepted information, but maybe it again calls into focus how difficult landing top arms truly is. Ervin Santana will throw a second straight Opening Day for the Twins. Sure, that's a feat for this organization, but the reality is that he's not an ace, and right now, he's not even Minnesota's ghost of Brad Radke.

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