Minnesota Twins Add Free Agent Pitcher Ryan Vogelsong
Twins Shore Up Pitching Depth With Signing of Free Agent Pitchers
A week after signing multiple fielders to free agent contracts, the Twins did the same with several pitchers – all with invitations to major league Spring Training in Ft. Myers.
Highlighting the group is one-time S.F. Giants World Series starter, Ryan Vogelsong, who last year pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Also signing were Nick Tepesch, Raul Fernandez, Alex Wimmers, and Drew Rucinski. All five pitchers are right-handers.
We’ll break down the signings to see which of the above pitchers could break through with the Twins in 2017.
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Wimmers, who was a free agent, did pitch for Minnesota in 2016, and has been in the organization since being drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft out of Ohio State.
Injuries interrupted his career in 2012, and has been shackled with high ERA’s throughout his minor league career.
Finally, last year, Wimmers got the big league call-up and his first career win last September 7th over the Kansas City Royals.
Familiarity should help Wimmers if the relievers’ cuts at the end of Spring Training are close. Otherwise, he seems comfortable continuing to hone his craft at AAA Rochester.
While Vogelsong is the biggest name of all the relievers, I’m slotting him second if he’s looking to be a starter. If he’s looking to spot start and some long relief, he would obviously rank higher than Wimmers, as far as chances to make the big league club.
If all the Twins eligible starters are healthy coming out of March, he’ll have a hard time looking to crack the 2017 rotation as a right-hander. But as a right-handed Tommy Milone-style option, he would be an upgrade.
Last year, Vogelsong started out of the bullpen for the Pirates, transitioned into a starter’s role, before landing on the DL after getting hit in the face while batting by Rockies’ pitcher, Jordan Lyles.
Oddly, Vogelsong had his best month just after coming off the disabled list in August, posting a record of 2-3 / 34 IP / 3.44 ERA / 26 K / 14 BB. That’s versus a 1-4 record in all the other months, and posting a 4.81 ERA for the entire season.
Tepesch, 28, is looking to resurrect his career after undergoing thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in 2015 – the same surgery Phil Hughes is coming back from this season.
As a rookie in 2015, Tepesch made 17 starts for the Texas Rangers, posting a 4.84 ERA with 76 strikeouts against only 27 walks in 93 innings. In 2014, he struggled with his control, walking 44 batters versus just 56 K’s in 126 innings pitched.
He signed a similar make-good contract with the Dodgers last year, first pitching for their AAA team before surfacing in the bigs in June for a spot start – one that he lost. It was his only appearance for L.A. last season.
Despite a stellar start to his 2016 minor league season for the Dodgers at Oklahoma City Dodgers (3-0 record in 3 games / 2.00 ERA / 17-3 K/BB ratio), he refused his assignment to look for work elsewhere after his demotion.
I think Tepesch is a great candidate for a minor-league deal. When he’s on, he’s as good as any other candidate the Twins might try out for the 3-5 slots in the starting rotation. But, given his stubbornness to be just a starter (he played for four different organizations’ AAA clubs last year), he won’t wait long to look for another chance if he doesn’t break camp with the Twins.
Drew Rucinski & Raul Fernandez
Both Rucinski and Fernandez are long shots. Rucinski was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Cleveland Indians, and has bounced from the Angels, Cubs, and now to Minnesota. His lifetime MiLB stats show just a 28-30 W/L in 103 games (81 starts), with a 4.54 ERA. He’s been assigned to the Rochester Red Wings.
Fernandez was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Rockies in 2007 – as a catcher. He converted to pitching in 2009 because of his arm strength, but has understandably struggled with his control, even after becoming strictly a reliever in 2012. Fernandez has been assigned to the AA Chattanooga Lookouts.
Notes: Twins have announced that both new front office signees, LaTroy Hawkins and Torii Hunter, will serve as color analysts opposite Dick Bremer on this year’s TV schedule on Fox Sports North. They will fill in when regular color man, Bert Blyleven, is on vacation. They join former Twins Jack Morris and Roy Smalley in that capacity.