Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Duensing's Dilemma

Brian Duensing is a pitching prospect that a lot of organizations would love to have. Drafted out of the University of Nebraska in the third round of the 2005 draft, he's risen very quickly through the Twins' system, dominating rookie ball in his first half-season as a pro, then quickly jumpinh from Low-A ball to Triple-A over the next two seasons while posting solid results at every stop. In total, Duensing holds a 3.17 ERA over two-and-a-half seasons in the Twins organization, with a 297-to-93 strikeout-to-walk ratio and just 32 home runs allowed in 377 2/3 innings. Plus, he's left-handed, which is always a plus. At 25 years old and with a strong season at Triple-A under his belt (he went 11-5 with a 3.24 ERA over 116 2/3 innings in Rochester last year), it would seem that the stage is set for Duensing to make an impact in the big leagues. Unfortunately, the organization's current situation may prevent that from happening any time soon.

The Twins aren't in need of starting pitching help right now -- in fact, when Kevin Slowey returns from the disabled list it appears that their rotation may be overcrowded. When the Twins eventually do need to draw from the minors for some help in the rotation, it's unclear whether Duensing will be near the head of the line for a promotion in spite of the fact that he's gotten off to a strong start at Rochester (2.74 ERA in 23 IP).

The Twins may be eager to get a look at fellow Triple-A farmhands Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey, both of whom were received in the Johan Santana trade. This is especially true for Mulvey, who is off to a fantastic start in Rochester this year with a 1.02 ERA and 20-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio through three starts. Another Triple-A left-hander who the Twins may want to take a look at soon is Glen Perkins, who has gotten off to a slow start with the Red Wings this year but is generally considered to have more upside than Duensing.

It's difficult to gauge where Duensing stands in the pecking order. I haven't often heard officials in the organization talk about him publicly much, but he was cut relatively early in spring training and isn't often mentioned as a potential call-up candidate. Even if he does get called up for a spot start at some point, it's difficult to imagine him sticking in the rotation for long unless he pitches lights-out, what with the influx of high-upside prospects rising through the organization.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Duensing though, because eventually the Twins are going to need to make room in their Triple-A rotation for guys like Oswaldo Sosa and Anthony Swarzak, who is pitching exceedingly well at Class-AA New Britain. If the young hurlers in the Twins' rotation continue to pitch the way they are now, there might not be room with the big-league club for another starter. Duensing almost seems like a spare part who would be a logical trade candidate, but 25-year-old college pitchers who don't miss a lot of bats tend to not have a ton of trade value.

He'll be a player to keep an eye on this season.

17 comments:

SethSpeaks said...

It is an interesting dilemma, to be sure. He doesn't even need to be added to the 40 man roster until after the 2009 season, and then he has three option years. Obviously he won't be in AAA for the next five seasons, but there is no rushing him either. I would agree that Mulveyhas passed him by, and maybe Humber too... and Perkins, and next up with be Sosa, Swarzak, Manship and Guerra. tought spot for him.

Matt P said...

Interesting dilemma? I'd say fabulous dilemma. You can never have enough pitchers. I don't know the trade value of any them, but it's always nice to have some chips to play with. I don't think a mid-season trade is really necessary. But with an excess of young outfielders at AAA and our current young outfield I could see one of Pridie/Span/McDonnell being some trade bait, although arguably only McDonnell is young. The only addition I could possibly see is getting another left handed reliever. Another option is Mariano Gomez who is absolutely killing it so far. 11.2 IP, 0.77 ERA, 0.69 WHIP and 11K/3BB. He seems like a formidable option if someone loses a step in the bullpen.

TT said...

Mulvey has passed him by

I doubt it. Mulvey was scheduled to start the season at AA. He got moved up only because the Twins traded away Dickey to Seattle. He has done well at AAA so far, but the season is very young. Mulvey only has three starts with less 18 IP. No one saw much of him during spring training so you might want to wait until the league is familiar him. The same is true of Duensing.

The summaries of how players in the organization did last week is fun to read, but drawing any conclusions from that is a bad idea. For one thing, players can be working on things they need to do differently in the big leagues. They may be making a lot of progress this time of year even if the results are ugly.

Nick N. said...

Seth and Matt, as the title of the post suggests, my feeling is that this is a dilemma for Duensing, not for the organization. You can never have too many quality pitching prospects, and Duensing is under the team's control for some time, so one can't really view this situation as a bad one for the Twins.

However, in most any other organization, Duensing would be on the verge of getting a shot in the big leagues, if he hadn't gotten it already. He's just in an unfortunate situation here.

I doubt it. Mulvey was scheduled to start the season at AA. He got moved up only because the Twins traded away Dickey to Seattle. He has done well at AAA so far, but the season is very young. Mulvey only has three starts with less 18 IP. No one saw much of him during spring training so you might want to wait until the league is familiar him. The same is true of Duensing.

One thing that is worth noting is that both Mulvey and Duensing have basically experienced nothing but success since becoming pros. As college products, they're basically expected to handle the low minor leagues well, but they've both pitched well in the high minors, which many consider to be the true test for players that come out of college. In fact, Mulvey basically went straight to Double-A after signing with the Mets and succeeded there, which I find quite impressive.

But with an excess of young outfielders at AAA and our current young outfield I could see one of Pridie/Span/McDonnell being some trade bait, although arguably only McDonnell is young

When you say "McDonnell," are you referring to Darnell McDonald? Because in that case, he's 29, so I don't think anyone would argue that he's young, and I also strongly doubt that he has any trade value whatsoever despite a good start this season.

SethSpeaks said...

Nick,
I agree that it is a great situation for the Twins and tough for Duensing. Like Matt said, 'it is a fabulous dilemma' for the Twins. For Duensing, it is a tough thing.

Good take too on Duensing and Mulvey not experiencing any adversity so far in their careers. Remember Slowey really never experienced any difficulties until he got to the Twins last summer, then he corrected those at Rochester and came back even better.

it is about opportunity and upside. I also think that the dilemma is great because it allows the Twins to be patient with the likes of Swarzak and Sosa and Guerra and Manship and Robertson and Burnett and, and, and...

Mulvey may have been ticketed for AA by the Twins, but the fact is that based on 2007, he was more than ready to move up to AAA.

I would concur that McDonald has no trade value. Span has very limited trade value. Pridie has the most trade value, but the Twins destroyed that by saying out loud that he's a fourth OF option.

chris tatarek said...

u guys are acting like the twins minor leaguers are the second coming of Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine.

none of the Joe Shmoes that you guys are talking about have much of a chance of ever being solid big leaguers.

The twins coaching staff purposely goes after pitchers that will make it to the majors. They go after guys that will be lights out in the minors with no intention of bringing them up because they dont have "major league stuff"

The only value that these pitchers have is as trade bait. Not so we can get quality players however, the whole idea is that we trade them away, they bust, and the GM looks like a genius, regardless of the crappy players which we recieved.

None of these guys will ever win eight games in a major league season.

you heard it here first.

Jewscott said...

I don't know if it's as fabulous as you guys make it out to be for the organization. Great rotations gain their advantage from the top of the staff, not the bottom, and the problem is most of the names listed don't have the stuff to be more than a back-end pitcher. The problem is still Garza and Santana are gone and Liriano may never be the same. And Baseball Prospectus pretty much summed up the rest of the Twins' young pitchers best when it said they all have 10% less stuff than you'd like to see from a pitching prsopect.

Having a lot of really good 4th starters works if you're willing to flip these pitchers when their value is high. That hasn't been the Twins M.O. the last decade or so.

As for Duensing, I'd be surprised if he didn't get his chance if he pitches as well as he has-- even if it's out of the bullpen.

Anonymous said...

jewscott said, "And Baseball Prospectus pretty much summed up the rest of the Twins' young pitchers best when it said they all have 10% less stuff than you'd like to see from a pitching prsopect."

Don't know exactly what he and Baseball Prospectus mean by "less stuff", but I presume they're referring to power pitching, high velocity, and ball movement.

Pitchers like Baker, Slowey, and Blackburn seem to defy that kind of analytical system. I can only conclude that Twins pitchers who fare well or dominate at the AAA level are bona fide major league candidates.

These are sparkling assets the Twins better not bury in AAA. Use 'em or trade 'em for offense prospects.

Jewscott said...

I think the point is rather simple. None of the Baker, Slowey, Blackburn, Duensing, Humber, Mulvey group is going to be a true ace. None of them are even likely to be lefit #2 starters on good staffs. This is fine if Liriano returns to form and Bonser bounces back to where he was in 2006.

Where are you at if that doesn't happen though?

Nick N. said...

None of the Baker, Slowey, Blackburn, Duensing, Humber, Mulvey group is going to be a true ace. None of them are even likely to be lefit #2 starters on good staffs.

I don't know if I'd necessarily agree with that. Slowey could pan out to be a better version of Radke, and Radke was a pretty good No. 2 behind Santana for a few years I'd say. Baker also has the potential be a legit No. 2 type, if he's not already.

The Twins might not have that true ace, but if you have a rotation that is above-average 1-5, with a couple very good pitchers at the top, you can certainly hold your own.

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