Minor League Prospect Note: Kyle Gibson, RHP, Minnesota Twins
When the Twins drafted University of Missouri ace Kyle Gibson in the first round in 2009, they expected that he'd be in the major league rotation by now. Alas, 2012 Tommy John surgery slowed his timetable down, but he's back on the mound now and performing well enough that he could be a cog for the Twins in '13.
Gibson was considered one of the top pitching prospects available in 2009 and a near-lock for the first five picks, until a late spring velocity drop and forearm stress fracture hurt his stock. The Twins picked him 22nd-overall and signed him for $1,850,000, an above-slot bonus but one reflecting his perceived talent level absent the injury. He came back healthy in 2010 and performed effectively, going 11-6, 2.96 ERA with a 126/39 K/BB in 152 innings at three levels, finishing the year in Triple-A.
He started off strong in 2011 for Triple-A Rochester, but his velocity declined as the season progressed, and he ended up on the shelf with a bad elbow, requiring Tommy John last summer. His rehab has gone well, and now a year later he's back in Triple-A, albeit on a restricted workload. He threw three innings on August 25th, giving up six hits and four runs, but fanning five. Before that he pitched 21.2 innings in the Gulf Coast League and in Double-A, with a 23/5 K/BB ratio and 2.49 ERA.
Overall, in 24.2 innings since his return, he has a 28/5 K/BB ratio and a 2.67 GO/AO mark.
Gibson is a 6-6, 210 pounder, born October 23, 1987. At his best, he hammers the lower part of the strike zone with a 90-93 MPH fastball. Since his junior year in college, his velocity has been all over the map: at times, his fastball has sagged down into the 84-86 MPH range. However, the rebuilt elbow should help him maintain his peak velocity more easily, and so far he's been throwing hard since his return.
Secondary pitches are a strength: his slider was a plus pitch before the injury, and appears to still be so now. He varies speeds with this pitch, and at times it looks more like a curveball. He also has a very good changeup, and nobody has ever questioned his command, control, or confidence on the mound. I don't think Gibson's mechanics are the smoothest, but he repeats them consistently, and he's quite proficient with the finer points of mound work. He generates plenty of ground balls, and when his arm is right he packs in the strikeouts as well.
Overall, a healthy Gibson can be a number three starter, and perhaps a number two if he fully maxes out his talent. He turns 25 in October, doesn't have much to learn in the minors, and should be in the rotation mix entering 2013.