Minnesota Twins rookie Andrew Albers almost threw a shutout against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night. Andrew Albers?
We spend a lot of time talking about the top prospects around here, but guys like Albers are great stories and can sometimes surprise us. Let's take a look at him as Prospect of the Day.
Albers is from Canada but attended college at the University of Kentucky, where he had some success as both a starter and reliever from 2005 through 2008. His senior year was very good: he posted a 2.40 ERA with a 64/16 K/BB ratio in 56 innings, almost all in relief, picking up five saves. This was enough to get him drafted by the San Diego Padres, as a strike-throwing bargain senior with a $10,000 bonus.
He pitched seven innings in rookie ball, but blew out his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2009. The Padres released him. He rehabbed, then pitched for Quebec in the Canadian-American League in 2010 and performed quite well, with a 1.40 ERA, 17 saves, and a 59/16 K/BB in 58 innings.
He attended two tryout camps in Arizona in the spring of 2011, but nobody signed him. He then drove out to Florida for a tryout with the Twins. The Twins had actually considered drafting him in '08 but the Padres beat them to it, so they were familiar with his ability and profile and signed him as a free agent. He took a spot in the High-A Fort Myers bullpen and thrived, posting a 1.55 ERA with a 46/7 K/BB in 52 innings, then continued to pitch well after moving up to Double-A (2.91 ERA, 34/7 K/BB in 43 innings).
The Twins converted him to a full time starter in 2012 with decent results (3.75 ERA, 73/12 K/BB in 98 innings for Double-A New Britain). He was even better this season, going 11-5, 2.86 with a 116/32 K/BB in 132 innings for Triple-A Rochester before his promotion.
He's a 6-1, 195 pound lefty, born October 6, 1985. As you may surmise given his background, he doesn't have a blazing fastball, working at 85-88 MPH and usually at the lower end of that range. He locates it well however, and is adept at changing speeds with his slider and changeup. He's always thrown strikes, and has succeeded at every level of baseball to which he's been exposed, including playing for the Canadian national team.
So what do the Twins have here? Albers is 27, so there's no additional upside to be had; he's not going to grow into any additional velocity. He doesn't have a big margin for error, and while the Royals were flummoxed in his debut, the scouting report will get around.
Albers has a similar profile to the man he replaced on the roster, Scott Diamond, a fellow Canadian who rode his ability to throw strikes and keep people off-balance to 12 wins and a 3.54 ERA last year. The league figured out Diamond and they'll probably figure out Albers eventually too.
But that's not really the point.
The point is that the Twins found a guy on the scrapheap who, at a minimum, is a good Triple-A starter and who has a non-zero chance of contributing something positive in the majors, at least for awhile.
Score one for good scouting, and score one for all the guys like Albers. He never give up and he earned his way to the major leagues.