Friday, March 20, 2015

Controversy Proves Beneficial For The Twins

Minnesota Twins pitcher Alex Meyer throws a fastball during spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., on Sunday, February 23, 2014. (Pioneer Press: Ben Garvin)
The Minnesota Twins are more than two weeks into spring training preparing for the upcoming 2015 season. As they continue to push towards Opening Day, the eventual 25 man roster will be made more clear as the days go by. Initial cuts included big names like Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Jose Berrios. While they were expected, it signified the Twins moving forward with more playing time for their regulars. Today, Alex Meyer was optioned to Triple-A Rochester, and the move provided what will be seen as a controversial decision. Minnesota would be wise not to run from that.
After Twins beat reporter Rhett Bollinger broke the news, the Twitterverse quickly was turned into a place with opinions floating around left and right. Meyer was acquired by the Twins for Denard Span in the offseason before the 2013 season. At 25 years old, he was expected to compete for a role in the starting rotation this season. We now know that's not going to happen out of the gate, but the controversial decision brings a lot excitement with it for the Twins.

A season ago, one that ended with another 90 loss campaign by the hometown team, the Twins had virtually no battles taking place in the starting rotation. That's not to suggest they were rock solid on the mound, not by a long shot. Instead, it's indicative of just how bad the state of pitching was for the club. There were no options better than Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey as a 4th and 5th starter. In 2013, it was even worse. The Twins were ok taking Liam Hendriks and Cole De Vries as part of the starting rotation on Opening Day. Having to make a decision on Meyer shows that the Twins in fact have options.

Right now, controversial decisions provide two ways to look at things for Twins fans. On the negative side, it can once again be seen as a club slow playing prospects. Minnesota has become synonymous with keeping their youth in the minors for too long, and getting very little return out of them when they do emerge. Going with less appealing options has people grasping at straws, in hopes of justifying just how silly they think the specific move was.

Take this comparison for example.
Pushing a narrative to suggest a point doesn't typically work out. In this situation, the lone comparable point is that both Meyer and Bumgarner are 25 years old. Forget the fact that Meyer has nearly double the walk rate Bumgarner did in the minors, and that Madison was in a professional system since the age of 19, as opposed to Meyer's 22. What it signifies is a sentiment of animosity in regards to the move. However, that leads us to the other side of the coin.

By all statistical measures, Meyer has been atrocious when it comes to command both in big league spring training and over the course of the past season. Blame it on his tall frame, his arm slot, or maybe just happenstance. No matter what, asking someone to start games and give free passes to batter is a recipe for disaster, no matter how many strikeouts he accumulates. The fact that the Twins aren't in a position where they are forced to do so is the silver lining.

There's absolutely no reason to believe that Meyer is being passed up for the likes of Mike Pelfrey. He was as much in the starting competition as Tim Stauffer was. There's no benefit to publicly saying so, but Terry Ryan mentioning the bullpen as a fallback option for those who lose out all but signifies where Pelf is headed. Instead, Meyer is being passed up for Tommy Milone and Trevor May, two pitchers with major league experience. Milone is a soft-tossing lefty, and while not the sexy option, he's shown that he is a capable pitcher during his time with Oakland. May struggled mightily in his debut with the Twins last season, but has made strides this spring, and should be expected to offer more the second time around.

Really what it all boils down to for the Twins is that controversial decisions mean that there are options to be considered. When Buxton and Sano are called upon, it will be because they are ready and can provide a net positive to the big league club. The same rings true for Meyer, May, and Eddie Rosario. Wanting prospects to be displayed at the major league level is every organizations goal. That being said, the inclusion of a name on a list means little if the production doesn't follow when the call up actually happens, or isn't there before the call up is made.

A controversial decision comes on both sides of the coin, and the Twins are going to have to navigate plenty of them in the coming year. Knowing that's what lies ahead, there's more reason for optimism than there isn't.