Well it's finally happened. The day we've all been waiting for - Kyle Gibson is coming to Minneapolis with his debut scheduled for Saturday against the Royals and James Shields. By all accounts Gibson's fastball is back to the lower mid-90s where it was before he had Tommy John surgery, and with his plus slider and change I think it's been clear it's time to get Gibson to Target Field. He's put up an ERA of 3.11 this year (FIP 2.96) and has struck out 7.67 batters per nine while walking 2.72 - all numbers in line with where he was prior to his injury. Since the Super 2 deadline has passed and at this point the Twins' will control Gibson until 2019 no matter when they call him up now, the time is right.
It will be interesting - and exciting - to watch a pitcher who can actually strike out somewhere in the neighborhood of a batter per inning, but there is a big part of me that worries the Twins will try to turn him into their preferred (for some reason) mold of a strike thrower pitch to contact type, although it does look like they're actually putting their money where their mouth is when they talk about being ok with walks in exchange for more power pitching. Since 2008, only two Twins pitchers threw at least 150 innings in a season and finished with 2.5 or more walks per nine (Francisco Liriano in 2010 and Brian Duensing in 2011). This season, the Twins look like they'll have at least one if not more with Mike Pelfrey at 2.7, Vance Worley at 2.8, Sam Deduno at 3.2, and Scott Diamond not too far off the pace at 2.0. Gibson's walk numbers should fit right in, although he should strike out significantly more batters.
Since Gibson is coming up, it's worth checking in on a couple other "power pitcher" prospects the Twins acquired - Trevor May (in the Ben Revere trade) and Alex Meyer (in the Denard Span trade). May was always the kind of guy you think about when somebody uses the phrase "he's a thrower not a pitcher" and as such could actually use a little tweak towards striking out fewer in order to walk fewer if you want him to end up a starter, as long as it didn't go too far. He seems to have made some strides from earlier in his minor league career and although his Ks are down a bit from last year his walks are down as well, although at 4.2 BB/9 that's still awfully high but manageable if he can keep his strikeouts high (see: Gio Gonzalez, Matt Moore, and Ryan Dempster). With an ERA of 3.68 and WHIP of 1.43 I don't see May advancing past AA this year, and that's fine. There's nothing here that is concerning to me and I'd say he's doing what you'd expect.
Meyer, with May at New Britain, is working his way back from a shoulder injury, which frankly terrifies me because of the Twins' history with arm injuries. Prior to that, however, he was having a similar year to May with high strikeout totals (10.8 per 9) balanced by high walk totals (4.0 per 9) resulting in a decent ERA (3.68) and WHIP (1.31), all of which looking pretty solid for a 23-year old in AA for the first time. Like May, I don't see him advancing a level at any point this year, particularly with the injury, but he seems to be progressing fine through the system and will hopefully close strongly enough to start the year at AAA next year. Neither Meyer or May has been spectacular this year, but they haven't done anything to discourage Twins' fans either.
One last pitcher worth mentioning is Jose "J.O." Berrios, the dude the Twins drafted at the end of teh first round in 2012 out of a Puerto Rican High School. He put up outstanding numbers last year at both Rookie Clubs (combined ERA of 1.17 and K/BB of 49/4) earning himself a promotion to low-A Cedar Rapids this year where he made the league's all-star team. In nine starts this year he has notched an ERA of 3.17 with 56 Ks vs. 15 walks, outstanding numbers for a 19 year old. Although he's young, it wouldn't surprise me to see him at high A or even AA to start next season.
Now, potential is one thing and results another, just ask the Kansas City Royals, but the Twins' seem well positioned with these four prospects going forward. Berrios is the only one who hasn't been on a Top 100 Prospect List, but with only one year under his belt if he finishes this year strong he'll have a shot. Add in Kohl Stewart and suddenly a major weakness - starting pitching prospects - has become a strength. The future is bright, but let's hope we're looking at a Tampa kid of future rather than a Kansas City one.