August 12, 2009

Perkins to DL, Manship to Minnesota, Slama to Rochester

Glen Perkins' latest trip to the disabled list set off a series of moves that sent Jeff Manship to the big leagues with Anthony Slama moving up to replace him at Triple-A and Loek Van Mil replacing Slama at Double-A. All three promotions are worth discussing, so let's start at the top and work our way down. Coming into this season Manship ranked ninth on my annual list of the Twins' best prospects, with the following write-up attached:
An elite high-school recruit whose career at Notre Dame was delayed by Tommy John elbow surgery, Jeff Manship came back with a strong sophomore season and was selected by the Twins in the 14th round of the 2006 draft. Signed for third-round money in the form of a $300,000 bonus, Manship made his full-season pro debut in 2007 and went 15-6 with a 2.30 ERA and 136-to-34 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 149 innings between two levels of Single-A.

He stayed back at Fort Myers to begin last year, but was promoted to Double-A after posting a 2.86 ERA with zero homers allowed in 13 starts. Manship hit the first real roadblock of his career at New Britain, going 3-6 with a 4.46 ERA while serving up eight long balls in 14 starts, but still posted a solid 62-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 76.2 innings. With a career-high 155.1 innings already under his belt, Manship made nine more starts in the Arizona Fall League, including the championship game assignment.

Manship has gone from Tommy John survivor to innings eater, logging 341.1 frames over the past two years without any injury concerns. His strikeout rate has been modest since moving past low Single-A, but he's walked just 2.3 batters per nine innings as a pro while always inducing a high percentage of grounders. Manship is already 24 years old despite not yet debuting at Triple-A and no longer has the upside he did coming out of high school, but is close to arriving in the majors as a mid-rotation starter.

Since then Manship has made 21 starts between Double-A and Triple-A, with a 3.86 ERA and 75-to-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 126 innings while serving up just three homers and inducing slightly over 50 percent ground balls. Managing a measly 6.1 strikeouts per nine innings at Double-A and Triple-A has lowered Manship's long-term ceiling considerably, but he continues to throw enough strikes and coax enough grounders to potentially be a fourth or fifth starter if things go smoothly.

For now he'll likely work in long relief while being on call in case the Twins need a fill-in starter, and Manship may end up in the bullpen to stay at some point depending on who emerges from the current collection of back-of-the-rotation options that also includes Anthony Swarzak, Kevin Mulvey, and Brian Duensing. Mulvey in particular profiles as a similar pitcher to Manship, but Manship has slightly better control and less of a platoon split against left-handed hitters.

Manship replacing Perkins in Minnesota opened up a spot on Rochester's staff for Slama. Finally. He's dominated at every level, posting a 1.71 ERA and 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings as a pro--including a 2.48 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 65.1 innings at Double-A this season--yet the former 39th-round pick is just now getting his first crack at Triple-A four months before his 26th birthday. Clearly the Twins don't believe that he's the real deal, but not even testing him at the minors' highest level until now is absurd.

New Britain will miss their too-old reliever with twice as many strikeouts as hits allowed, but replacing Slama with a 7-foot-1 Dutchman should hopefully ease the pain. As the tallest pitcher in professional baseball Van Mil is definitely a project, but his results have actually been very good thus far. Signed out of the Netherlands as a 21-year-old in 2005, he has a 3.06 ERA in 147 minor-league innings. Van Mil doesn't have overpowering stuff or miss tons of bats, but has still been extremely tough to hit thus far.

Van Mil earned the promotion to Double-A by posting a 2.86 ERA and 23-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34.2 innings out of the bullpen at high Single-A, and I'm very curious to see if his success continues against stronger, more experienced competition that perhaps won't be quite so overwhelmed by a guy whose release point is basically home plate. And in one last bit of roster shuffling, 2008 third rounder and No. 35-ranked prospect Bobby Lanigan has moved up to Fort Myers as Van Mil's replacement.


Once you're done here, check out my "Circling The Bases" blog over at NBCSports.com.

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