With the 21st overall pick on Monday night, the Minnesota Twins selected right-handed pitcher, Alex Wimmers, from Ohio State University to add to their already extensive arsenal of strike-throwers throughout the minor league system.
Going into the 2010 season, a National League area scout told Baseball America that:
"He's generally an average fastball guy. He'll touch 92. If he touched 93, it wouldn't surprise me, but he'll pitch average with some life on the fastball and really commands his fastball. For me, the separator for him is a plus curveball and plus changeup, right now, present—and not just one out of every five. And he can throw all three of them for strikes. He's got the potential to have three major league out pitches. He can get you out with the fastball, it's good enough with the sink on it and he can get righthanders out with his curveball and lefthanders out with his changeup."
Although he has a plus-curve that can generate plenty of missed bats, the Twins seem enamored by his change-up. According to Phil Mackey at 1500ESPN.com, VP of Player Personal Mike Radcliff said that:
"It's more the action, the strike-ability with it, his confidence in it, and in the end the usability of it that make the pitch effective. This guy can already use the pitch in his mix. In fact, he closes hitters out with it now, presently. We think it could very well be a top-of-the-scale change.”
With three plus-pitches and a two-time Big 10 pitcher of the year trophy in his collection, how did Wimmers fall past 20 other clubs? Projected to potentially be a higher pick during the winter, like Kyle Gibson a year prior, Wimmers’s stock fell some as the draft approached following a non-arm related injury (hamstring), not so much because of risk involved but as MLB.com’s Jonathon Mayo speculated, that he missed the opportunity to showcase his stuff on at least three occasions in front of scouts. Following the Twins selection, Baseball America’s John Manuel seconded the notion that there is no cause for injury concern related to the hamstring.
Outside of his injury, in the past Wimmers had demonstrated that he can be a tedious nibbler, walking 55 batters in 104.2 innings in ’09, which was the second-highest in the Big Ten that year. This past season, the junior hurler made solid strides in the command department, shaving his walk rate down from the gaudy 4.7 to a more manageable 2.8 as he allowed just 23 free passes in his 73 innings of work.
As a 20-year-old with Team USA in 2009, Wimmers seemed to have a good mechanical foundation (good balance point, arm break and hip rotation) but appeared to be slightly rushed in his delivery. In this particular clip, the timing of his lower-half and his upper-half seem a split-second off while his landing point is a bit unbalanced:
Comparing that to his April 9th outing of this year, we see a more fluid Wimmers. His landing point is much more controlled but he still manages to maintain that excellent leverage off of his front leg while exercising a great hip rotation with his backside during his release:
(video courtesy of ProspectJunkie.com)
The early returns suggest that the Twins have landed themselves a pitcher that is equipped to become a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Naturally, the coaching staff will have some adjustments to make to ensure that Wimmers’s command remains intact and consistent, but it would appear that the Twins have the blueprints to long-term success stashed away in the draft war room. While they may not have the savvy numbers mindset of the Tampa Bay Rays or Seattle Mariners, the Twins are scout savvy and remain competitive by time after time stocking their queue with pitchers like Wimmers who can throw strikes and have the potential to rise quickly through the organization.