The Twins have a notable lack of depth in their pitching prospect pool. It’s not for a lack of trying, certainly, but the team hasn’t really seen any of their high draft picks pan out. There has been a preponderance of injury in the minor leagues, a mismanagement of talent as it approached the majors and a frustrating lack of development, leading to Kyle Gibson being the only starting pitcher to come through the system and sustain a spot there in several years. There is a chance that Trevor May could move into the rotation soon, or Jose Berrios could get there, but there is a new rising star that warrants some serious attention.
In retrospect, it’s fairly incredible that Stephen Gonsalves fell as far as he did in the 2013 draft. He was selected in 4th round of that year’s draft, behind Kohl Stewart, Ryan Eades and Stuart Turner, despite a build that was prototypical for an athlete. At 6’5 and 225lb, Gonsalves should have been a scout’s dream. He shouldn’t have slipped through any cracks, but he did, and now the Twins have benefitted from his development.
Gonsalves has excelled at every level since being drafted, seemingly indicating that his measurables were, in fact, representative of the talent to come. He struck out nearly 11/9 last year, his first at AA, and kept his ERA below 2 in Chattanooga. He has managed to keep his ERA below 3 at every level since 36 2/3 innings in 2014, and that was attributable to bad luck and a low LOB% and high BABIP. He will likely give up more home runs than he has in the minor leagues, but so far, he gives up 1 every 27 innings, on average. That is in the minor leagues, but is still impressive.
He has fought some control issues, but they haven’t dogged him through the minors, not when his strikeout rate has been as high as it has been. It will likely be an issue when he arrives in Minneapolis. The thing that is holding him back right now is a low 90s fastball. If he can continue to get stronger (he’s only 22) and his fastball gets turned up to the mid 90s, then he is definitely a Major League pitcher. His stats so far indicate that he is a lot closer to that goal than many expected him to be at this point.
A little bit more improvement is not a far fetched, and he already seems to have a good cognizance of how to mix pitches. If he can bridge the gap from minor league stud to major leaguer, he may end up being the best pitcher the Twins have produced in a very long time.