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Pirates, Twins complete Morneau trade with RHP Duke Welker

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The Twins and Pirates completed the Justin Morneau trade late last night with pitching prospect Duke Welker

Duke Welker
Duke Welker
Leon Halip, Getty Images

The Minnesota Twins and the Pittsburgh Pirates completed the Justin Morneau trade yesterday, establishing that the player to be named is right-handed pitcher Duke Welker. Welker joins outfielder Alex Presley as the newest member of the Minnesota organization. Here's the scoop.

Duke Welker, RHP: Welker was drafted by the Pirates in the second round in 2007, from the University of Arkansas. Initially a starter, he struggled badly with ERAs over 5.00 and a poor set of component ratios in Low-A in 2008 and 2009, rated as a major disappointment.

That changed in 2010: he was converted to relief and pitched much more effectively, posting a 3.60 ERA combined between Low-A and High-A. A 2.25 ERA with a 45/25 K/BB in 52 innings followed in High-A in 2011, with six saves. He posted a 2.29 ERA with a 49/25 K/BB in 55 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012, then followed up with a 3.48 ERA and a 64/29 K/BB in 62 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis this year.

Welker is a big guy, listed at 6-7, 240. As a starter he had problems developing a third pitch and throwing strikes with his low-90s fastball and a slider. As a reliever, he is much more effective, throwing 95-98 MPH with better command. His slider is sharper, and in the bullpen he doesn't have to worry as much about a third pitch. He keeps the ball down and is generally a ground ball pitcher.

Although his command has improved, it is still erratic. Welker projects as a middle reliever at the major league level. He's not an outstanding prospect, but he isn't a zero either and has some potential to help the Twins relief corps going forward.