Saturday, June 25, 2011

Kyle Gibson: On the Verge

Going into the 2009 college season Kyle Gibson was one of the highest rated prospects for the 2009 draft. Most draft experts expected Gibson to be taken in the top 10 in the 2009 MLB draft from the University of Missouri. However, during the season Gibson suffered a stress fracture in his pitching forearm. He claimed that he was completely healed by the time the draft happened, but obviously teams did not believe him. For a guy that was projected to be a top ten guy, Gibson’s stock dropped worse than the stock market. The Twins were lucky to have Gibson drop to them at pick 22. The Twins got to the podium in record time in order to get the 6’6 right hander from Greenfield, Indiana. After the draft the question was could the Twins sign him as he made it known after the draft that he expected to be paid like a top ten pick like he should have been drafted. After much speculation the Twins and Gibson were able to compromise and signed was 1.8 million. Being that Gibson signed so late in the season they had him wait until instructional league to throw. Then in 2010 he came on the scene and just had a dominant season. Gibson started the season in Fort Myers with the Miracle and was just awesome. These are the numbers he put up with the Miracle:

FM: 4-1 1.87 era 7 starts 43.1 innings 33 hits 12 walks 40 strikeouts 1.00 whip

Gibson just showed his dominance with the Miracle, but the stat that just impressed the heck out of me was his 3.83 ground ball rate which is awesome. That just showed that he is a groundball machine as his heavy sinker would show. There are not many major leaguers that can induce that many ground balls and for a guy making his first major league stop it was quite impressive. Gibson then moved up to AA New Britain and it was there where he suffered through his first real ups and downs as a professional. However, what impressed me was after getting killed in two or three starts he made the proper adjustments and came on strong. That is the important thing for a prospect is being able to make adjustments when things are not going well and that is probably Gibson’s strengths as a pitcher is his ability to make the needed adjustments and get better and better. At New Britain he put up the following numbers, but keep in mind that most prospects hit the wall at the AA level, but Gibson hit the wall and then just broke through it.

NB: 7-5 3.68 era 16 starts 93 innings 91 hits 22 walks 77 strikeouts 1.22 whip

As I said it was a tougher level so he took some bumps in the road, but he persevered through it and became a better pitcher for it. Towards the end of the season they put him in the bullpen in order to limit his innings since he did not pitch very much in 2009 due to his injury. His groundout rate stayed strong at 2.21 which is not where it was in Fort Myers, but is still very very good. When you thought he would finish the year in New Britain then came some injuries in Rochester so he went up and made a few starts up with the Red Wings.

Roc: 3 starts 1.72 era 15.2 innings 12 hits 5 walks and 9 strikeouts 1.09 whip

Here is his numbers for 2010 season as a whole to show how good he was
11-6 2.96 era 26 starts 152 innings 136 hits 39 walks 126 strikeouts 1.15 whip

After his great 2010 season most prospect guys had Gibson as either the number one or two prospect in the whole organization for the Twins. That is saying something as the Twins have bulked up their farm system with better drafting and spending more money overseas than they had ever done before. There were some that wondered if Gibson would start the 2011 season with the Twins or more likely go to Rochester for a couple months in order to avoid the Super 2 status that organizations want to avoid at any cost as it will cost them more money as the player gets another year of arbitration which means one less year of having their contract renewed. So Gibson started the year in Rochester and again has had his ups and downs with a higher level. This is what Gibson has done in 2011 so far with the Red Wings.

Roch: 3-7 3.89 era 14 starts 76.1 innings 79 hits 20 walks 80 strikeouts 1.88 ground out rate

Well it has been a mixed bag for Gibson this season in Rochester as he has had his great outings as he almost threw a no hitter earlier this season and then he has also had his rough outings. However, through and through it has been a solid season for Gibson, but it is obvious that Gibson was not ready for the Twins at the beginning of the year and his time in Rochester has done him good. I know what I think, but I wanted to get a different perspective on Gibson so I got the blogger that probably knows Gibson the best and that is Seth Stohs from who has had Gibson on quite a few of his podcasts. Seth was kind enough to answer some questions about Kyle Gibson and really allowed me to see a different perspective of Kyle Gibson the prospect.

The first thing that I asked Seth was what he felt were Kyle’s strengths and weaknesses as a pitcher and he replied, “Strengths - he throws a bunch of pitches, has good control of all of them, gets a lot of ground balls and understand how to pitch and the mental side of the game. As for weaknesses, there really aren't any. Of coure, there are things he can improve, and he will work on those things, but that will just come with more innings and time.” I couldn’t agree more with Seth in that he has a lot of high quality pitches that he can control both sides of the plate to get guys out. I believe the old saying is true that the more bullets that you have in the gun to get guys out the better off your going to be. I do think that Gibson can become a little more consistant, but that will come with time. He just needs to pitch to get better at everything, but the thing I love about Gibson is his strengths way outweigh his weaknesses.

Next, I asked Seth what does Kyle Gibson throw and he is his response, “Gibson sits between 89 and 92, but he can touch 93 with his fastball. He has a very good slider, and a decent changeup. The big thing is that he gets a ton of ground balls because his pitches all sink.” The thing that I would like to add that some guys think if you don’t throw 97 you can’t be a top of the rotation starting pitcher and that is so not true. Gibson can control all of his pitches and get tons of ground balls, but he can also strikeout his share of hitters which makes him all the more dangerous.

Then I asked Seth if Gibson was ready for the Big Leagues, “If he was with another team, or if the Twins were currently in a position to need a starter, he could pitch in the big leagues and be a solid starter. The fact that he doesn't have to be pushed allows him to continue to work and get better.” My feeling on this is I do think that Gibson needs a little more time in AAA in order to become more and more consistant. Could he survive at the Big League Level probably, but another half of a year in AAA is not going to hurt him one bit and will allow him to work on things so he is ready to come out of spring training in 2012 in the Twins rotation.

Next, I asked Seth what he feels that Gibson needs to work on the most. “Sounds like a boring answer, but he really just needs to work on his consistency. Consistency with all of his pitches. Consistency from inning to inning. It is strange to say that because he seemingly gives up 2-3 runs every game. But in many of those games, he has given up those runs in one of the innings. So, consistency with his pitches, all of the basic stuff that can always get better.” I totally agree there is not one thing in particular that he needs to work on, but just to become more and more consistant in everything he does.

Then Seth was asked about what he likes most about Kyle Gibson, “What's not to like? He is a terrific pitcher with all of the attributes that make a potentially very good major league pitcher. But I think his best attributes have little to do with throwing a baseball. Gibson is a well-grounded individual with strong character. He is very smart. He is very competitive and hard working. He is humble and will never take anything for granted. Then we can talk about his pitching!” That is what impressed me the most about Gibson the few times that I have talked to him is how humble he is. A person with his talent you would think he would be all full of himself, but that could not be further from the truth as he is a geniounly good guy along with being a very good pitcher.

The big question I then asked Seth is why most prospect guides have Gibson ranked as the Twins number one prospect, “he's a great combination of everything you look for in a pitching prospect. He's got all of the intangibles. His 6-6, lanky, projectable. But he also is very close, and he is putting up the numbers. Prospect ratings are about upside and about likelihood of reaching that upside. Gibson has the ability to be an All-Star pitcher, and he is close and likely to be a very good big league pitcher.” My opinion is why he is so highly regarded is not only his high ceiling, but he is very likely to reach his ceiling because of his hard work and determination, but most of all because he makes good adjustments.

The final question I asked Seth was about Gibson’s ceiling, “Due to the sinkerball, his absolute ceiling would be Brandon Webb circa 2006-2008... An innings-eater, with very good ERA, low walks and lots of ground balls. As far as strikeouts, he'll likely be in the Scott Baker range where he will strikeout between 7 and 7.5 batters per nine innings. But that's where the Cliff Lee's and Roy Halladay's are as well. So, when people talk about Gibson not being a prototypical #1 because of the lack of strikeouts, don't buy it. I don't know if Gibson will be a #1, but the reason won't be the strikeouts because Halladay, Lee and other accepted #1s don't necessarily strikeout a ton either. That said, Gibson's strikeout totals this year have been encouraging as well!” My feeling is that Gibson absolutely has the potential to be a number one starter at the big leagues and at very worst a very good number two on a good rotation.

Kyle Gibson has taken the negative of dropping in the draft as a positive and made people forget about all the concerns in the draft. He is such a hard worker and so determined to succeed that I would not put anything past him. I think he has some things to work on and feel that he can be better than he is right now so that is exciting as his work effort will not allow him to accept being a pretty good pitcher, but to be the best he can be. I really believe in two to three years Kyle Gibson will be a all-star caliber pitcher for the Twins and the next in a long line of great pitchers that have made their home in Minnesota.