Early AL Cy Young Award contenders include a Twins' pitcher

The second week of May is super early to start predicting post-season awards, but Twins' RHP Ervin Santana remains in the top 3 to win the AL Cy Young this season.

Here are the top 5 AL pitchers based on several criteria that Cy Young voters are usually considering:


1 Ervin Santana (5)
1 Dylan Bundy (5)
1 Dallas Keuchel (5)
1 Masahiro Tanaka (5)
2 Hector Santiago and 5 more (4)

Innings Pitched:

1 Keuchel (52-2/3)
2 Chris Sale (51-2/3)
3 Carlos Carasco (48-1/3)
4 E. Santana (47)
5 Bundy (45-2/3)
5 Yu Darvish (45-2/3)


1 Jason Vargas (1.19)
2 James Paxton (1.43)
3 E. Santana (1.72)
4 Carasco (1.86)
5 Keuchel (1.88)


1. Sale (73)
2. Lance McCullers (50)
3. Danny Salazar (49)
4. Chris Archer (48)
5. Carasco (46)
5. Darvish (46)

All the rankings and statistics are from fangraphs  as of 5/10/2017.

As a mater of fact, only Ervin Santana, Dallas Keuchel, and Carlos Carasco place in 3 out of 4 of those categories, and no pitcher places in all 4 categories.

It will be an interesting race to watch.  As a reminder, the last Twins' Cy Young award winner, was eleven years ago, Santana's namesake, Johan, who won the award unanimously.  Will another Santana bring some hardware to the Twin Cities?  We shall find out in about 6 months.  Everything is possible, especially since the Cy Young races have been very close the last few years with last years' almost a virtual tie.  Still very surprising for a team that has started the season (and the last 10 season after the other Santana left) without an "Ace" pitcher. 


Who is the best college pitcher for the Twins with the 1st overall 2017 pick? Ranking J.B. Bukauskas, Alex Faedo, Brendan McKay, and Kyle Wright

The Twins have the first overall selection in the 2017 draft the coming June, and the likely path is that they bypass the Helium and risk associated with Prep LHR/SS Tyler Greene, and will select the best College pitcher available.  Who might that be?  The Twins have been scouting  J.B. Bukauskas, Alex Faedo, Brendan McKay, and Kyle Wright.  Who of them is the best, at least on paper?

Here are their lifetime NCAA stats in several categories, including PE (if not familiar with that measure please look here and here)  The best in a category is indicated with green and the worst with red:

Clearly, Brendan McKay has has the best NCAA career, with Faedo second, mainly because his advantage over walking opponents.

Career is a long time, and usually recent performance is more indicative of future potential, so here is a comparison of their 2017 seasons:

Other than wins and losses and ERA, measurements that are not always the best to use in evaluating pitchers,  McKay has been the best this season, with Faedo losing a step to Bukauskas and Wright rounding up the quarter.

If I were to rank the four pitchers based on objective measurement criteria, the ranking would be:

  1. Brendan McKay
  2. J.B. Bukauskas
  3. Alex Faedo 
  4. Kyle Wright
However, this needs to be cross-checked with scouting-based subjective rankings, that take into consideration potential upside based on quality of pitches, personal character and make up, health, etc.

In Baseball America's top 2017 draft prospect rankings, the four rank:
  1. Brendan McKay
  2. Kyle Wright 
  3. JB Bukauskas
  4. Alex Faedo
which is also the exact ranking of the four in MLB.com's top draft ranking.

Looking at a mixed objective measurement and scout ranking list, awarding 4,3,2,1 points to players depending on their position in each of those rankings (both the object and subjective), the four would rank as follows (total points in parenthesis.)

  1. Brendan McKay (8)
  2. JB Bukauskas (5)
  3. Kyle Wright (4)
  4. Alex Faedo (3)
There you have it.  Brendan McKay is well ahead of the pack, with the other 3 inch by inch and Bukauskas just a hair ahead of Wright because of their 2017 performance. Alex Faedo lags the pack a bit, mainly because of what the scouts think about him.


Who is the Newest Twin: The Twins Trade Ervin Santana for Aroldis Chapman

Not quite.  I was watching the Rochester Red Wings at the Lehigh Valley IronPigs last night, while my phone pinked a message saying that "The Twins Traded Santana for LHP Chapman."  Digging a bit more, I found out that the trade involved the lesser versions of Santana and Chapman, Danny, who has been Designated for Assignment last week, and the Braves minor league free agent Kevin Chapman.   Who is the newest Twin, Kevin Chapman?

Chapman is an interesting story: He was drafted 3 times:  Once after a high school senior, in the 42nd round of the 2006, by Detroit and did not sign.  At that point, Champan, who had been an impressive High School prospect with a plus plus slider, had his stock fall as his velocity did through the season and was finally diagnosed with elbow tendonitis.  The elbow tendonitis became a full blown UCL tear in the University of Florida and he had Tommy John surgery as a Sophomore in 2008.   He was drafted as a draft-eligible sophomore in the 50th round of 2009 by the White Sox and did not sign.  His Junior season in College was a break-through season, and the lefty, was a poor man's Aroldis Chapman with an up to 95 mph fastball,  the return of his devastating slider, and the addition of a very workable change up.  Chapman became the closer in Florida, pitching in 31 games, in the tune of 1.65 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, striking out 9.1 per 9 and walking only 1.4 per nine.  He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 5th round of the 2010 draft, the next season, after starting this professional career at High A Wilmington (Carolina League) was anointed a top 20 prospect in that organization, which was full by top prospects then, by Baseball America that described his slider as the best in the Royals' organization.  He was a closer in waiting, like the other Chapman

But the waiting turned out to be prolonged, mainly because upon turning a pro Chapman lost the command of his pitches, allowing hitters to lay off the slider that now has been mostly in the dirt and sitting on a fastball that now was mostly on the middle of the plate.  In his 2 seasons with the Royals, albeit up to AA in his second season, Chapman allowed more than a hit an inning and about 4 walks per nine despite striking out 13 per 9 in his second season.  At that point the Royals traded him to the fast rebuilding Houston Astros for reserve outfielder Jason Bourgeois and backup catcher Humberto Quintero.   He pitched the next (2012) season with the Astros' AA Corpus Christi Hooks (Texas League) where, as a teammate of current Twins' OF Robbie Grossman, he found some command of his stuff.  Chapman pitched 58 innings in 49 games, allowing only 49 hits and 2 HRs, and despite walking 21, he struck out 50, finishing the season with a 2.64 ERA and 1.40 WHIP; he was declared the Astros' 17th best prospect by Baseball America.

In 2013 he started the season in AAA Oklahoma City, where he has been also effective (45 G, 50-2/3 IP, 42 H, 2 HR, 36 BB, 61K, 3.20 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) that despite the high walk rate that now was up to more than 6 per 9 innings, was called up to the Astros in early August where pitching well enough (25 G, 20-1/3 IP, 13 H, 1 HR, 13 BB, 15K, 1.77 ERA, 1.28 WHIP)  to start next season in Houston.  However behind his 1.77 ERA, the was a 4.28 FIP and a 5.05 xFIP and the driver for his 1.28 WHIP was a .211 BABIP, and after 20 games in 2014 his numbers normalized (21 G, 21-1/3 IP, 22 H, 3 HR, 11 BB, 19K, 4.64 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) and returned to AAA by late April.  He was only to be recalled for a total of 12 games the next 2 seasons by the now competing Astros before he left as a free agent signing a minor league contract with the Braves.  This season he pitched in AAA International League Gwinnett and the early returns look pretty atrocious on the surface:  (9 G, 11-2/3 IP, 14 H, 1 HR, 3 BB, 10K, 7.71 ERA, 1.46 WHIP).  However behind these numbers there is a career low 2.31 BB/9, a 3.67 FIP and career best 3.28 xFIP and an ugly .371 BABIP.  The now 29-year-old's fastball is not where it used to be, but it is a more controllable 90-92 mph, his slider is still effective in the high 70s and his change up, albeit in the mid low 80s, has been move effective than anticipated.

Chapman will live by the strikeout and ground balls (2.7 ground balls per fly ball, a bit above his career average, this season) and die by the walks and fastballs down the middle.  It is too early to tell which version will play for the Red Wings (and maybe if good enough for the Twins) but this is overall a good trade for the Twins, replacing Danny Santana who fell behind Eduardo Escobar and Ahire Adrianza in the majors (and maybe even Tommy Field in AAA) with Chapman who is a serviceable lefty reliever (who will not require a 40-man spot allowing the Twins to keep one free) and can potentially surprise.   Positively.  Even if his first name is not Aroldis.