Tuesday, July 25, 2017

When Depth Becomes An Issue

When trying to set up a major league team for success over the course of a 162 game season, depth is something that every organization strives to possess. Sometimes however, depth becomes a clogging glut of similarity, and ends up being a detriment when trying to push the needle. Right now, the Minnesota Twins could find themselves in that category. The revolving door has continued on the mound, and there doesn't appear to be an end in sight.

After making his second start for the Twins, Bartolo Colon was given another opportunity to take a turn. Despite reports that he was mulling retirement, the bigger issue is that the results were less than lackluster. In two turns for Minnesota, Colon has fared poorly the second time through the lineup. He's allowed opposing hitters to go 8-19 with a triple, two home runs, and three RBI. Despite both starts coming against great offenses (Yankees and Dodgers), Colon hasn't shown any ability to be reliable.

The problem for Minnesota, is that the depth behind him provides lackluster alternatives. Kyle Gibson was recently optioned back to Triple-A Rochester. It comes on the heels of seven shutout innings against the Tigers, but is the result of a poor 6.08 ERA on the year. Gibson hasn't taken the assumed steps forward, and while he's flashed ability at times, has struggle more often than not. Right now, he's probably a better option than Colon, but that's arguably splitting hairs.

Going down the line takes Minnesota to Hector Santiago, who's currently on the disabled list. While the severity of his injury isn't known, the reality is that he wasn't good before being placed there. Santiago owns a 5.63 ERA across 14 starts and has given the club consistently poor starts. He'll likely be reinserted into the rotation at some point, unless of course the Twins want to eat his remaining salary and DFA him.

In acquiring Jaime Garcia from the Atlanta Braves, Minnesota gives themselves a realistic fourth option. Being able to pair him with Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, and Adalberto Mejia, they have another arm that they can count on giving the ball to every fifth day. The problem that continues to remain however, is depth that really provides no solutions. Whether Colon, Gibson, or Santiago is run out there, none of the trio should be given turns at this point. Because depth has essentially boiled down to warm bodies, the Twins don't have much to gain in starts from any of them.

At some point the organization could turn the keys over to the likes of top prospects Stephen Gonsalves or Fernando Romero, but it doesn't appear like that move is on the immediate horizon. Over the course of 2017, the back of the rotation has been handled by giving opportunities to dart throws. Everyone from Adam Wilk to Nick Tepesch has gotten their turn, and the results have been virtually as expected.

It's a pretty big ask for any big league club to have lights out starters even at the bottom of their rotation. Every team needs pitching and that's why it's always overpaid and at a premium. However, for Minnesota, the depth has resulted in a group of guys being cycled through one after another. For a team that's been in the thick of a division race, they've been in a spot where giving up a loss every fifth day is nearly the expectation. At some point, you'd hope that depth has some upside.

While the season wears on into the end of the summer, Minnesota will need to do everything they can to grasp at whatever playoff hopes they may have. Prospects don't always come up and blossom right away, and even the established veteran is far from a guaranteed thing. The Twins have lulled themselves into believing depth is adequate however, when nothing they run out there gives them any better chance to compete. Having depth with some reasonable upside is one thing, but simply putting names on a roster isn't an equivalent scenario.

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