To say the Minnesota Twins need to upgrade their starting rotation is an understatement. Only Scott Diamond is pencilled in to return to the big league staff from last season, and he didn't even begin the year in the majors.
All but one of the five members of the opening day rotation remains on the 40-man roster. The only returning pitcher from the five is Liam Hendriks, who is a prospect battling for the fifth spot.
Joining Diamond as the four pitchers pencilled into the starting rotation for the season opener are Vance Worley (acquired in an offseason trade), Kevin Correia (signed as a major league free agent) and Mike Pelfrey (signed as a major league free agent).
Cole De Vries - The 6-foot-2-inch, 180-pound veteran had mixed results in his first big league season. The undrafted former Minnesota Golden Gopher climbed through the Twins system without much attention. He had a wide disparity in ERA in home and away games. Usually, the better number is in home games, but De Vries had just the opposite. His road ERA was 2.92 while posting a 5.63 ERA at Target Field.
Samuel Deduno - The 6-foot-3-inch, 190-pound veteran was the second best pitcher on Twins' staff last season. He was described as "effectively wild." He walked just over six batters per nine innings, but gave up just 69 hits in 79 innings. Despite being a non-roster invitee, he may have a leg up for the fifth spot.
Kyle Gibson - The 6-foot-6-inch, 210-pound prospect returned last season from Tommy John Surgery. He pitched really well for both single-A teams before finishing the season at triple-A. The former first round draft pick struggled at triple-A, but rebounded with a dominating stint in the Arizona Fall League. He has yet to top 155 innings pitched as a professional pitcher.
Rich Harden - The 6-foot-1-inch, 195-pound veteran is the most talented of all the pitchers that have a chance at making the Twins big league roster. That is when he is healthy. He gives the Twins a strikeout presence that has not been on the team's roster in several years. He has finished in the top 25 in his respective league in strikeouts with three teams since 2004 and has a career strikeout rate of 9.2 per nine innings. He has topped 145 innings in a season just four times in his 11 professional seasons.
Liam Hendriks - The 6-foot-1-inch, 205-pound veteran has dominated the minor leagues, but has not been able to translate it into the bigs. He has a minor league career ERA of 2.65, but a major league ERA of 5.71. He didn't get his first big league win until his 19th career start, which came last September.
B.J. Hermsen - The 6-foot-5-inch, 235-pound prospect had a breakout season at double-A last year. MLB.com names him one of the top 20 prospects in the Twins organization. The Masonville, Iowa native projects as a back-of-the-rotation control pitcher. In four minor league seasons, he has walked just 90 batters in over 477 innings. His accuracy has led to a 3.21 ERA and four complete games.
Pedro Hernandez - The 5-foot-10-inch, 200-pound prospect was acquired in a trade in July last season. He has stellar minor league stats with a 3.49 ERA. He made his major league debut last season and was shelled (eight earned runs in four innings). He is prototypical control pitcher, but he may end up in the bullpen.
Trevor May - The 6-foot-5-inch, 215-pound prospect has become the second best pitching prospect in the Twins organization and he has yet to throw a pitch for the Twins. He was acquired in an offseason trade that also brought Worley to the Twins. He strikes out just over 11 batters per nine innings, but also walks over 4.5 per nine innings. If he can harness his control a little more, he could be in the majors sooner rather than later.
P.J. Walters - The 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound veteran was another surprising member of the Twins staff last season. He was signed as a minor league free agent, who was expected to just give depth to the triple-A rotation. He earned a call up in May, and would have stuck around longer if not for an injury. He eventually found his way back into the big league rotation and struggled to regain his pre-injury form.
The Best Case Scenario
Harden proves healthy and pitching like his old self. He becomes the ace of the staff with Worley, Diamond, Correia and Pelfrey filling it out. Gibson begins the year at triple-A and continues his return from Tommy John Surgery. The Twins are also able to work Pelfrey back from his Tommy John Surgery without over doing it as well. Diamond proves that last season was not a fluke while Worley and Correia get quickly acclimated to pitching at Target Field.
The Worst Case Scenario
Injuries bite the rotation again. Diamond has the proverbial sophomore jinx. Worley, Correia and Pelfrey look lost in their new environments. The pitching staff has another disastrous season and the prospects take their lumps in the major leagues before they are ready.