Monday, July 17, 2017

Big Leap For Next Twins Starter

After making just on Triple-A start at Rochester, the Minnesota Twins will call on Bartolo Colon to take a stab at shoring up their starting rotation. With the group of five being in flux virtually all season long, the hope is that Colon can be a steadying presence. The reality however, is Minnesota will more than likely be needing a new arm in the coming weeks, and this time, it could be another impact prospect making a big jump.

Stephen Gonsalves has been lighting Double-A Chattanooga on fire, and it appears his time is soon coming. While it was Felix Jorge who got the first crack at the jump, it never made much sense to put Gonsalves in a spot start scenario. Jorge can be a nice piece for Minnesota in the coming years, but he doesn't have the upside that Gonsalves possesses. As one of the organizations top arms, Minnesota will be promoting Gonsalves with the intention of him staying, and the numbers suggest he may be ready.

Getting off to a late start this season, Gonsalves has thrown just 63 innings over 11 starts. While that could be seen as a detriment, he's made 24 starts at Double-A in his career, and now has less miles during the 2017 season. This year, Gonsalves has also elevated his game to another level. After struggling with command in his Double-A debut tour (4.5 BB/9), he's been near perfect this season (1.7 BB/9). On top of lowering the free passes, he's held strong with a 10.6 K/9 mark, truly dominating the level of competition.

Often times, organizations are faced with the idea of whether or not to move a prospect from Double-A to Triple-A as opposed to the highest level. While that works for some, Gonsalves could be argued to be ready for more. He's pitched to a 2.86 ERA and has shown an ability to do more than simply throw the ball by opposing hitters. A lefty with solid velocity and better pitchability, the former fourth round pick appears more ready for the big leagues than ever before.

At the highest level, Minnesota will have some decisions to make. Colon is going to be added to the 40 man roster, while Hector Santiago seems destined to eventually come off the DL, and Phil Hughes looms in the bullpen. Despite that any number of them could make starts, the idea that you'd be counting on them seems a longshot at best. There's sunk cost in both Santiago and Hughes, meaning the Twins would need to be ok simply eating dollars and moving on. Arguably the smart decision, it's not the easiest one to swallow either. Regardless of how things are handled, Gonsalves has forced the issue.

Considering the landscape of the organization, it's really a discussion between Gonsalves and teammate Fernando Romero when it comes to the next man up. The latter is on an innings limit still not too far removed from surgery, and could be a candidate to pitch out of the pen or make a spot start. It's really only Gonsalves that profiles as an impact addition that can be inserted into the rotation and stay.

Right now, it's hard to look at when and where makes sense for Gonsalves. Things are going to remain up in the air throughout the month of July, and as the Twins scour the trade market. As the summer draws on though, I'd be nothing short of surprised if Gonsalves isn't the next man up to take the ball at the start of the game for Minnesota. Suggesting he's ready is a good bet, and things have more than begun to line up.

With youth already the backbone of the big club thanks to Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Jose Berrios all playing key roles, Minnesota could be best served to continue the movement. Maybe not an ace, Gonsalves profiles as a rotation fixture for years to come, and a season from now, could be pitching the Twins into the Postseason.

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