With the Minnesota Twins now finished with both the regular and postseason portions of their 2017 Major League Baseball season, it's fair to look back on the year that was. This group matured, and turned around a catastrophic 2016 effort to once again give steam to a young team going places. It was a group effort, but breaking down individual performances is a must as well.
In order to provide some brevity, we'll make this a three part series. Today, grades will be handed out to the starting pitching. Monday we looked at the offense, and Wednesday will conclude with the relief group. While the Twins got starts from a ridiculous amount of different arms (16), this will focus on the five that turned in the most work.
All of the groundwork is out of the way, let's get into it.
Ervin Santana A
Over the course of the year, there wasn't much more of a steadying presence on the mound than that of Ervin Santana. He started strong out of the gates, and finished well down the stretch. There was a bit of a lull in the middle, but the final numbers resulted in a 3.28 ERA along with a 7.1 K/9 and a 2.6 BB/9.
Santana wasn't flashy, and he's never been as much, but his repertoire allowed for consistent production. For the bulk of the year, his slider had good bite, and he was able to keep opposing hitters at bay. Homers once again were an issue for him, but there's little reason not to feel good about Santana taking the mound for another 30-plus starts with Minnesota in 2018.
Kyle Gibson C+
More than any other starter for the Twins, it was a tale of two seasons for Gibson. He was demoted to Triple-A Rochester, and cast off for Jaime Garcia at one point. Through his first 16 starts of 2017, he owned a terrible 6.31 ERA and was allowing opposing hitters a .934 OPS off of him. After making some tweaks, mid-July began a new narrative. Over his final 13 starts, Gibson owned a 3.76 ERA and allowed just a .701 OPS to opposing hitters.
For years, Twins fans (as well as the front office) have hoped Gibson would round out into the first round selection he was taken as. A sinkerballer with the ability to keep the ball in the yard, the hope was that Gibson would be a ground ball machine that doesn't give up much of anything. That hasn't been the case thus far, but the second half of 2017 provides plenty of reason for excitement. Gibson will be tendered a new deal this offseason, and hoping he can be a rotation fixture in 2018 is a good place to be.
Jose Berrios B+
With Berrios, the Twins saw growth but also the volatility of young arms. Posting a 3.89 ERA on the year, the Puerto Rican native has to feel good about how his season went. With an 8.6 K/9, he flashed the ability to strike out plenty of big league hitters. There were a lot of high points, and only a few clunkers mixed in.
Coming off a tough showing his rookie year, Berrios established himself a a big league difference maker this season. Going into 2018, it's a certainty that he's a lock for the Minnesota rotation, and it will be interesting to watch him push his ceiling. He has flashed true ace ability, and Minnesota desperately needs that trend to continue. Another step forward for Berrios a year from now, could have him entering some end of season award discussions.
Adalberto Mejia C
When acquired from the Giants in exchange for Eduardo Nunez, the Twins had to be thrilled getting a capable big league arm. Mejia had began to appear on top 100 prospect lists, and he looked the part of a back-end big league starter. Across 21 outings this season, a 4.50 ERA was indicative of being virtually who he was billed to be.
Mejia isn't flashy by any means, and while he can strike batters out (7.8 K/9), he also needs to work on limiting free passes (4.0 BB/9). Getting deep in games was a struggle for him this season, and that's going to need to be a focus going into 2018. Pitch economy, as well as command are areas for growth. He'll be fighting among a group of options to round out the rotation a year from now.
Bartolo Colon C-
Although the long time veteran's 5.18 ERA is anything but exciting on paper, it was such a necessary addition for Minnesota. Picked up from Atlanta after a dismal start to the year, Colon provided a leverl of certainty for the Twins. He found a better defense to help him out, and continued to be a command artist in his elder years (1.7 BB/9).
It sounds like Colon wants to pitch again next season at age 45. He's survived this long simply by throwing strikes, and that's something the Twins needed from a fifth guy when he stepped in. I can't imagine a scenario in which he's back with the organization to start next season, but he showed that he still has a little more to give, and he helped the Twins down the stretch. It was rarely pretty, but given what the other 11 guys who made starts for Paul Molitor's squad this year did, it was relatively effective.