Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Did Tommy Milone Unlock The Next Level?

Terry Ryan gets criticized for a lot of things, and while some are fair and others aren't, one of my favorite moves in recent history is the acquisition of Tommy Milone. Knowing his club needed more major league quality starters, Ryan flipped Sam Fuld (who was acquired on waivers from the Oakland Athletics after he was DFA'd in 2014) back to Oakland in the summer, for Milone. The Twins got a legitimate major league starter, and the Athletics got their castoff back. While his Twins career hasn't had many highlights, the tides may now be turning.

Still just 28 years old, Milone has plenty of major league playing time ahead of him. This season, he found himself competing for the 5th and final rotation spot, and eventually snagging as the team headed north from Fort Myers. Four starts into the season, Milone owned a 2-1 record with a 4.76 ERA, 5.2 K/9, and 4.4 BB/9. Not horrible numbers, but not also where you would want out of a starting pitcher, the Twins sent Milone to Triple-A Rochester in deciding to keep Trevor May in the starting rotation.

Following the demotion, the transportation happened. Despite owning a 4.02 career ERA at the major league level, Milone has sported a 3.00 ERA in the minors. Last season, he made one start at Triple-A Rochester and pitched to a 1.29 ERA. His first three starts down on the farm in 2015 have been incredibly impressive to say the least.

Over the course of 23.1 innings, Milone owns a 3-0 record, and 0.00 ERA while giving up just 14 hits. His 0.686 WHIP is impressive, but his 12.7 K/9 and 0.8 BB/9 is nearly flawless. As a whole, each of his numbers looks to be a big step forward even put up against his career minor league stats. Knowing that he wants to get back to the major leagues, the Twins may be expecting somewhat of a different pitcher this time around.

Looking at Milone as a whole however, the Twins have to place a relatively high amount of focus on his career totals. A back end of the rotation starter, it's hard to expect that a handful of lights out minor league starts are going to rewrite his career. That being said, for the first time in a Twins uniform, Milone may be showing glimpses of the quality and capable starter that they traded for.

There's no doubt that Mike Pelfrey has been an asset to the Twins this season. Pitching out of the rotation, he has kept hisERA at a 3.23 mark through seven starts. Considering his recent track record, this is nothing to scoff at, and likely suggests that he's healthy for the first time in a while. However, he still owns a 4.90 FIP (fielding independent pitching) mark, which means more regression is probably coming. If Pelfrey continues to open the door, the Twins have to feel good about having Milone ready to go.

As has been the case since the get go this year for the Twins, Minnesota has more quality options than they have at any point in recent memory. Tommy Milone is never going to be a Cy Young winner, but the more time he spends dominating Triple-A, should only allow him to ride that confidence when called upon in the big leagues. I'm not naive enough to believe the former Athletic has reinvented himself, but right now he's going great, and there's no reason not to be happy about it.