The Best Pitcher You’ve Never Heard of…
…and, no, it’s not Jimmy Scott.
His name is Kyle Gibson.
Baseball America ranked Gibson as the sixty-first minor league prospect heading into the 2010 season, ahead of other more well-known, established pitchers such as Dan Hudson, Mike Leake, Drew Storen, Phillippe Aumont and Andrew Cashner.
All without having thrown a professional pitch.
Heading into the 2009 draft, Gibson was considered the second best pitching prospect in the country, behind San Diego State’s Stephen Strasburg. A senior at the University of Missouri, Gibson went 28-10 during his three years with the Tigers and was hoping to join fellow UM alumni Max Scherzer (2006) and Aaron Crow (2008) as first round draft picks.
Then he got hurt.
During his final start, against Monmouth College in an NCAA Regional a few weeks before the draft, Gibson’s velocity suddenly dropped from the low to mid-nineties to the mid-eighties. Team doctors subsequently diagnosed Gibson as having a stress fracture in his right forearm, which is sometimes viewed as a precursor to a more serious injury.
Gibson volunteered to take, and passed, a physical shortly before the draft, yet enough concerns remained that he dropped all the way down to the Minnesota Twins at #22. Acting in good faith, the Twins signed Gibson for an amount about $600K higher than MLB’s recommended slot amount, although still quite a bit less than what a few other pitchers taken higher ended up getting.
Gibson’s a 6′6″, 210 pound righthander who throws a four-seam fastball, (92-94 avg, projects to 96), a two seamer, (92 avg), a slider that sits in the 82-85 range with a good, late break and a consistent plane, and a plus change. He has good command of all his pitches and is so confident in his secondary stuff he has to be reminded at times to throw more fastballs.
The Twins held Gibson back after he signed, giving him a chance to work himself back into game shape at his own pace, albeit under the guidance of their Instructional League medical staff. Gibson pitched without pain during Instructs, and reported to Spring Training at 100%.
Gibson already ranks as the third best prospect in the Twins system, behind five tool outfielder Aaron Hicks and the soon to be departed Wilson Ramos. He began his pro career for the Twin’s Class A Fort Myers affiliate in the Florida State League. He made seven starts, going 4-1 with one complete game (a shutout), allowing 33 hits in 43.1 innings while striking out 40 and posting an impressive 3.89 GO/AO* ratio and a .213 OPPBA.
Promoted on May 13th to the Double A Eastern League’s New Britain Rock Cats, Gibson has picked up where he left off in Florida. He’s made two starts, (he’s on the mound tonite), going 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA with sixteen strikeouts in 14.1 innings while allowing 8 hits and a .157 OPPBA.
The arm injury derailed Gibson only briefly. Unlike Strasburg, Gibson probably won’t see the major leagues this season, especially if the Twins are still in the Central Division race come September. He will, almost certainly, be part of the Minny’s 2011 rotation.
One similarity with Strasburg remains, however.
Kyle Gibson will be a true, legitimate number one starter.
Gibson’s MiLB stat page.
*GO/AO: Is a stat measuring the ratio between groundball and flyball outs.