The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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June 22, 2014

Thoma column: Drafting relievers: How's that working out?

It seemed a unique draft emphasis in 2013 for the Twins: After landing consensus top prospect Bryon Buxton, the Twins went heavy on college relief pitchers, taking five of them in their first eight picks.

It seemed unique. Until the Twins essentially replicated the strategy earlier this month. At one point — rounds 2 through 6 — the Twins selected five college relievers in a row.

As a rule, relief pitchers are less valuable than starters. Presumably, therefore, these guys were relief pitchers because they weren't good enough to start. Or because they couldn't stay healthy working longer stints.

The Twins in 2012 made several bullpen selections with the intent of trying them as starters. And some they knew going in were going to remain in the bullpen. The same is probably true of the 2014 picks. Second-rounder Nick Burdi, for example, is going to remain a relief pitcher, while sixth-rounder John Curtiss was probably only in the bullpen this year because he needed his innings limited in his return from serious arm surgery.

I thought it might be instructive to see how the 2012 attempt at mining college bullpens has worked so far.

Luke Bard (supplemental): One of the pitchers the Twins eyed as a potential starter, Bard threw all of 12.1 innings last season and hasn't pitched at all this season. Seth Stohs, a blogger who drills deep into the Twins farm system, says Bard had surgery in May to reattach two significant shoulder and back muscles. These are career-threatening surgeries at best.

Mason Melotakis (second round): The left-hander made 18 starts last year for low A Cedar Rapids, finishing the season with a 3.16 ERA in 111 innings. Elevated a level this year, he has worked mainly out of the bullpen (just two starts). He figures to be a reliever going forward.

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