September 2, 2008

September Call-Ups: Pitchers

Now that September has arrived MLB teams are allowed to expand their active rosters from 25 to 40, and the Twins are expected to add a total of seven players from Double-A and Triple-A. Yesterday's entry examined the hitters joining the team for the final month and today's entry looks at the pitchers arriving for the stretch run.

Philip Humber | Starter | DOB: 12/82 | Throws: Right | Trade: Mets

2006 A+ 7 7 2.37 38.0 24 4 36 9
AA 6 6 2.88 34.1 25 4 36 10
2007 AAA 25 25 4.27 139.0 129 21 120 44
2008 AAA 31 23 4.56 136.1 145 21 106 49

Philip Humber went 35-8 with a 2.80 ERA and 422 strikeouts in 353 innings during three seasons at Rice University, winning national Freshman of the Year honors in 2002 and a College World Series title in 2003. Selected by the Mets with the third overall pick in the 2004 draft, Humber was just 15 starts into his pro career when he joined the long list of pitchers from his alma mater to suffer a major arm injury after racking up huge pitch counts in college, undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in mid-2005.

He returned to the mound a year later and thrived between Single-A and Double-A despite a drop in velocity, but has now turned in back-to-back mediocre seasons at Triple-A and will be 26 years old in a few months. Acquired from the Mets as part of the package for Johan Santana, Humber posted a 5.82 ERA in the first half while being demoted to Rochester's bullpen. He rejoined the rotation in the second half and pitched well with a 2.67 ERA and 52-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 57.1 innings.

However, the end result of his up-and-down year is nearly identical to his 2007 campaign, which is bad news given his move from the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League to the pitcher-friendly International League. Humber no longer overpowers hitters or racks up strikeouts, his control is spotty, and as an extreme fly-ball pitcher he serves up homers in bunches. People focusing on his pre-surgery potential and 6-foot-4 frame misguidedly still view him as a top prospect, but he's anything but at this point.

Humber has a 4.41 ERA and 226-to-93 strikeout-to-walk ratio while serving up 42 homers among 274 hits in 275.1 innings at Triple-A. Despite that he'll likely stick in the majors next season, because like Brian Bass this year he's out of minor-league options and would have to pass through waivers before a third stint at Triple-A. He has little chance of cracking the rotation given the Twins' collection of young starters and his best chance at long-term success will likely come as a reliever anyway.

Bobby Korecky | Reliever | DOB: 9/79 | Throws: Right | Trade: Phillies

2006 AA 16 0 3.24 25.0 30 1 14 13
AAA 34 0 3.35 51.0 52 4 28 16
2007 AAA 66 0 3.71 85.0 80 5 71 34
2008 AAA 53 0 2.91 74.1 66 3 71 22
MLB 9 0 3.48 10.1 8 1 6 4

Selected by the Phillies in the 19th round of the 2002 draft after a three-year career at the University of Michigan, Bobby Korecky was traded to the Twins along with Carlos Silva and Nick Punto in exchange for Eric Milton in December of 2003. Korecky waited another five years for his MLB debut and despite holding his own after finally being called up by the Twins in late April he was sent back to Triple-A just nine appearances later.

Korecky took the demotion in stride and thrived in his third straight year at Rochester, saving 26 games with a 2.91 ERA, 71-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .237 opponent's batting average in 74.1 innings. Calling him back up again seemingly would have been a no-brainer given the team's ongoing bullpen struggles, but instead Korecky remained at Rochester for the next three-plus months while the Twins told people who questioned their decision that they wanted him to "work on his changeup."

Much like Jason Bartlett supposedly needing to work on his "infield leadership" a few spring trainings ago, that explanation doesn't really pass the smell test for a 28-year-old reliever who's pitched in 300 minor-league games. Korecky doesn't project as anything special, but his lengthy track record includes 69 saves with a 3.34 ERA in 210.1 innings at Rochester and shows someone capable of being a solid middle reliever. If nothing else, that's something the Twins could have used in June, July, and August.

It's also something the Twins could use in the postseason, but by waiting until September to recall him they've ruled Korecky out for the playoff roster unless the "Francisco Rodriguez rule" is used to replace Pat Neshek. Bass got five months with the Twins despite a track record that pales in comparison to Korecky, who'll turn 29 years old in two weeks and hasn't gotten a chance to stick in the majors. He can get outs in the middle innings if given an opportunity, but at this point that seems unlikely.

Jose Mijares | Reliever | DOB: 10/84 | Throws: Left | Sign: Venezuela

2006 A+ 27 5 3.57 63.0 52 10 77 27
2007 AA 46 0 3.54 61.0 40 7 75 48
AAA 5 0 6.23 8.2 9 3 6 5
2008 RK 7 0 0.82 11.0 10 0 16 1
A+ 5 0 2.61 10.1 7 0 8 3
AA 11 0 2.93 15.1 16 2 17 7

Signed out of Venezuela in 2002, Jose Mijares ranked No. 28 on my list of the Twins' top 40 prospects two years ago. A disappointing 2007 season full of walks and homers between Double-A and Triple-A followed, and his prospect stock fell further when Mijares broke his pitching elbow in a car accident this winter. He returned to the mound in July, but got his feet wet at rookie-ball and high Single-A before a promotion back to Double-A last month.

Between the three levels Mijares had a 2.21 ERA, 41-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .234 opponent's batting average in 36.2 innings, which while somewhat misleading thanks to the low-level competition is nonetheless very encouraging. Mijares' raw stuff has always been considered outstanding, but in the past his results have been inconsistent at best. For instance, even while dominating at high Single-A in 2006 he served up 10 homers and walked 27 batters in 63 innings.

Last year he again served up 10 homers along with handing out 53 walks in 70.1 innings, which isn't how great relief prospects generally perform. The Twins clearly think very highly of Mijares, bypassing several more experienced pitchers to call him up all the way from Double-A despite his logging just 15 innings there thanks to the broken elbow. He's made some impressive strides this year considering the injury and with 319 strikeouts in 265.2 career innings his stuff has always been electric.

With that said, Mijares is still plenty rough around the edges just two months from his 24th birthday and definitely needs to harness his stuff while doing a better job keeping the ball in the ballpark before he can emerge as a strong late-inning option. With left-handers Dennys Reyes, Craig Breslow, and Eddie Guardado already in the bullpen he doesn't figure to see much action this month and will likely begin next season at Triple-A.

Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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