Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Garza File

Hello. Nick Nelson is out this weekend, as he is enjoyable this weekend's series in Milwaukee. He'll report back on Monday with a review of what he saw. Of course, I don't want to igore what happened last night. It was a great game, as the Twins saw what they were missing with a great Liriano start. Makes you wonder, after that 7-1 victory, how many other loses could have been wins if a guy like Liriano had started in the bullpen over a undeserving and overrated guy like Kyle Lohse?

Anyways, Nick plans to review this Monday. For today, he put together a post on Matt Garza, the recently promoted and dominating right-hander in the Twins system, drafted last year. Here it is:

The Twins are in a state of utter disrepair. The season may still seem young, but the fact is that we are over a quarter of the way through now and the Twins are well below .500 and light years away from the top of the division.

The offense hasn't been anything special, but there can be no denying that starting pitching has been the main culprit in the Twins' punchless play. Somehow, three starters that were well above average last year have transformed into three of the worst pitchers in the league. Fortunately, there is hope for the future even if Kyle Lohse and Brad Radke are gone next year and Carlos Silva never recaptures his groundball-inducing prowess. The Twins have several pitchers in their minor league system that project to have some success at the major league level, and today I will highlight perhaps the most promising member of that group.

The Twins selected Matt Garza out of Fresno State with their first pick (25th overall) in last summer's draft. Since his selection, the young right-hander has done nothing but impress.

After being drafted, Garza posted a 3.66 ERA in four starts in the rookie league before moving up to Beloit and finishing the season there with a 3.54 ERA in 10 starts. His last year in college, Garza had a 9.97 K/9 rate and a 1.36 WHIP -- between Elizabethton and Beloit last year he posted a 10.59 K/9 rate and a 1.16 WHIP.

Garza impressed the Twins in a more direct manner in spring training this year. He took advantage of an invite to the big-league camp, pitching 7 and 1/3 innings and allowing just one run while wowing the manager and coaches with his stuff and his poise on the mound.

The Twins will likely try to avoid rushing Garza to the bigs after their experience with another high-profile college pitcher they drafted several years ago. Adam Johnson was the second overall pick in the 2000 draft -- the Twins took him ahead of such players as Rocco Baldelli, Chase Utley and Boof Bonser -- but he never had a lick of success at the major league level after the Twins called him up in just his first full year of pro ball and in fact never pitched well in the majors or minors again (he is currently struggling in the Athletics' minor league system). The last thing the Twins want to do is push Garza too hard and risk the same type of catastrophic results.

With that said, Garza's outstanding play is forcing the issue. He opened this season in Fort Myers pitching for the Miracle, the Twins' Class-A affiliate, where he went 5-1 with a 1.42 ERA, striking out 53 in 44.1 innings while posting a miniscule 0.86 WHIP. Apparently that dominance was enough to convince the Twins that Garza was ready for a promotion, which he received last week when he jumped to Double-A New Britain. In his first start for the Rockcats on Thursday afternoon, Garza was brilliant, pitching 7 and 2/3 shutout innings while striking out 13.

The Johnson/Garza comparison works to some extent, but Johnson never had the kind of success in the minors that Garza is having right now. And, as Patrick Reusse noted in the Star Tribune a couple weeks ago, "Garza has better stuff than Johnson." If Matt continues to dominate like he is right now, he will find himself on the fast-track to the major leagues.

If his success can eventually translate to the majors, Garza would provide a welcome respite to a list of questionable first-round draft picks for the Twins in the past several years that includes Johnson, outfielder B.J. Garbe, and pitcher Ryan Mills. In fact, since 1998, the Twins have had only two of their first round picks reach the majors, those being Johnson and Joe Mauer. Of those two, Mauer is the only one who's had any success. Things aren't all grim though, as the Twins have some first-rounders from the past few years other than Garza that will probably be making a splash with the major league club in the near future, including outfielder Denard Span (2002), third baseman Matt Moses (2003) and pitcher Glen Perkins (2004).

Garza's dominance in the minors is making the Twins look pretty wise and is helping to shape a trend of improved drafting habits for the organization after a string of wasted top picks. The second pitcher they selected in last year's draft, Kevin Slowey, is probably next in line to receive a promotion to Double-A. Like Garza, Slowey started the season in Fort Myers, and he has posted a 1.12 ERA with an incredible 63:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 48.1 innings there.

At 22, Garza is still young and certainly one great start in Double-A is no indication that he is a guaranteed major league stud. Still, everything we've seen from this kid has been extremely encouraging and if he continues to mow down hitters at the rate he is right now, we might see him contending for a spot in the starting rotation as soon as next year.

4 comments:

Dino Lima said...

Hello again,
I posted this in your previous post. I should have waited for you to touch on the topic before posting. I hope I haven't gone against a Cardinal rule.

Please, enjoy!

Here are 3 short video clips of Matt Garza during his pregame warmup for yesterday's game against the Fisher Cats.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1836489327991818787

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2017445929051528249

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-809254871100181331

Here's the link to the photo gallery containing many Garza shots...
http://aaronreynolds.ca/gallery/Dino_Lima

Nick M. said...

Nope. I'm sure the shots should be a useful link.

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