Ranking MLB’s Starting Rotations: 25-21

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For rankings 30-26, check the link.

25. Minnesota Twins

  • 1)  RHP Phil Hughes, 28 years old: 16-10, 3.52 ERA, 209.2 IP, 221 H, 82 ER, 16 HR, 16 BB, 186 K, 1.13 WHIP, 7.98 K/9, 0.69 BB/9, 3.18 xFIP, 6.1 WAR, 0.91 GB/FB, .324BABIP
    • 40.2 percent fly balls, 3,046 pitches, 2,224 strikes, 8.8 swinging strikes
    • 92.1 MPH FB (64.7), 88.5 MPH CUT (20.7), 76.2 MPH CRV (14.4), 83.5 MPH CH (0.2)
    • Hughes was developed a Yankee, and was regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball. He came up with fellow Yankee farm hand Ian Kennedy, and both achieved greater success when they left New York. From 2007 to ’13, Hughes won 56 games, lost 50, and posted a 4.53 ERA, walking 2.8 per nine innings. After the 2013 season, he signed a three-year, $24 million deal with the Twins, and had his best season to date, with 16 wins and the best strikeout-walk ratio in MLB history, and finished seventh in Cy Young voting. The Twins then extended his contract for three more seasons. He enters 2015 as the number one guy in Minnesota.
  • 2) RHP Ervin Santana, 32 years old: 14-10, 3.95 ERA, 196 IP, 193 H, 86 ER, 16 HR, 63 BB, 179 K, 1.31 WHIP, 8.22 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, 3.47 xFIP, 2.8 WAR, 1.31 GB/FB, .319BABIP
    • 42.7 percent ground balls, 2,987 pitches, 1,899 strikes, 11.7 swinging strikes
    • 92.3 MPH FB (52.2), 83.4 MPH SL (32.9), 84.5 MPH CH (14.2), 77.5 MPH CRV (0.7)
    • After spending the first nine years of his career in the AL, Santana spent most of last offseason trying to leverage teams into a deal in a slow-moving pitcher’s market. For most of the offseason, he was heavily sought after by pitching needy teams like Toronto and Baltimore. He ended up signing a one-year, $14.5 million deal with Atlanta, pitching behind Julio Teheran and Aaron Harang. Entering another contract season, coming off two one-year deals (the other being with Kansas City), and two successful campaigns, he was in prime position to get a long-term contract at 32 years old. It didn’t take long for Minnesota to throw him an offer, with whom he signed a four-year, $54M contract with. He gives the Twins another legitimate top-of-the-rotation starter behind Hughes, and takes some pressure off of young pitchers like Kyle Gibson and Tommy Milone. All around, a good signing for Minnesota and a good fit for Santana, a guy who misses more bats than both Hughes and Gibson, in a division with mostly pitcher’s parks.
  • 3)RHP Kyle Gibson, 27 years old: 13-12, 4.47 ERA, 179.1 IP, 178 H, 89 ER, 12 HR, 57 BB, 107 K, 1.31 WHIP, 5.37 K/9, 2.86 BB/9, 3.99 xFIP, 2.5 WAR, 2.05 GB/FB, .287BABIP
    • 54.4 percent ground balls, 2,800 pitches, 1,714 strikes, 8.8 swinging strikes
    • 91.3 MPH FB (62.6), 84.4 MPH SL (21.8), 83.4 MPH CH (12.5), 80.0 MPH CRV (3.2)
    • Mostly a ground ball pitcher, he was drafted in the first round by Minnesota in 2009 out of the University of Missouri. After going 21-21 with a 3.51 ERA in the minors, he made his major league debut midway through the 2013 season, and finished 2013 with two wins, four losses, and a 6.53 mark. 2014 was his first full season, and not a bad one, with a great ground ball/fly ball rate, only 12 home runs in 31 starts, and a winning record. Now that he’s the third man in the rotation, with a full year of experience under his belt, Gibson has to be considered a breakout candidate. He pounds the zone with his fastball and gets a lot of ground balls, and behind a guy like Hughes and Santana, I think you have a solid 1-2-3 in Minnesota.
  • 4) RHP Ricky Nolasco, 32 years old: 6-12, 5.38 ERA, 159 IP, 203 H, 95 ER, 22 HR, 38 BB, 115 K, 1.52 WHIP, 6.51 K/9, 2.15 BB/9, 3.97 xFIP, 1.2 WAR, 1.16 GB/FB, .351BABIP
    • 41.8 percent ground balls, 2,641 pitches, 1,663 strikes, 8.7 swinging strikes
    • 90.1 MPH FB (49.1), 81.6 MPH SL (26.8), 73.8 MPH CRV (13.7), 79.6 MPH SPL (10.4)
    • After signing a four-year, $49M deal with Minnesota last offseason, Nolasco didn’t exactly deliver on his expectations. He lost twice as many games as he won, allowed a home run every 7.23 innings, and had a .311 opponent’s batting average. Compared to season’s past, it might not surprise people who’d seen him pitch, as this is a guy who, since 2009, has a 4.48 ERA in (mostly) the NL East, a relatively inferior division compared to the AL Central.
  • 5)LHP TommyMilone, 27 years old: 6-4, 4.19 ERA, 118 IP, 128 H, 55 ER, 16 HR, 37 BB, 75 K, 1.40 WHIP, 5.37 K/9, 2.82 BB/9, 4.56 xFIP, 0.4 WAR, 1.00 GB/FB, .290BABIP
    • 39.4 percent ground balls/fly balls, 1,925 pitches, 1,199 strikes, 7.3 swinging strikes
    • 86.6 MPH FB (48.5), 80.1 MPH CH (24.3), 85.6 MPH CUT (15.0), 74.4 MPH CRV (12.2)
    • If the Twins had better rotation depth, they’d probably find themselves pretty high on these lists, but after the solid top three of Hughes-Santana-Gibson, they leave a bit to be desired, with Nolasco and Millone, and other options like Mike Pelfrey and Trevor May. For a 27-year-old, Millone has bounced around a bit. He went to college at USC and was drafted by Washington in 2008, and was sent to Oakland in a trade that sent lefty Gio Gonzalez to Washington. He spent a few years in Oakland, and was then traded to the Twins last season for scrappy outfielder Sam Fuld. He started five games for Minnesota before being shut down with a neck injury. He enters this year in a competition for the fifth spot, and between him, Mike Pelfrey (12-29, 4.99 since 2011), and Trevor May (3-6, 7.88), Millone is probably the best choice. They’d be a great team to enter the bidding for a Max Scherzer or James Shields, or even veteran stop gaps like Brandon Beachy, Chris Young, or Aaron Harang.
  • Other possible contributors:
    • RHP MikePelfrey, 30 years old: 0-3, 7.99 ERA, 23.2 IP
      • The former Mets highly touted righty hasn’t seen much success since 2010. Went 5-13 with a 5.19 for Minnesota in 2013. He seems destined for the ‘pen.
      • 91 MPH FB, 84 MPH SPL, 83 MPH SL, 74 MPH CRV
    • RHP Trevor May, 25 years old: 3-6, 7.88 ERA, 45.2 IP
      • 54-46 in the minors, he struggled in nine starts. Could end up winning a spot down the road if/when Nolasco is traded/sent to the ‘pen.
      • 92 MPH FB, 83 MPH CH, 77 MPH CRV, 82 MPH SL
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