April 7, 2010

Needing a Miracle

Jake Mauer has been around baseball for his entire life. Of course he's known as "Joe's Brother" but it wasn't long ago that Jake was also trying to make a name for himself as a player. The Twins drafted Jake in the 23rd round of the 2001 draft, the same year they took Joe in the first round. But an ongoing elbow injury forced Jake from playing, so instead of riding off into the sunset, he remained involved with the game he loved, as a coach. He got his first managerial job in 2008 when he was given the reigns to the Gulf Coast League Twins. He finished second in the Southern division with a 35-21 record. In 2009, Jake lead the GCL Twins to a first place in the Southern division with a nearly identical record of 34-21.

During his time with the GCL Twins, Jake was applauded for the way he worked with such a diverse group of players. After the promotion of Jeff Smith to New Britain following the 2009 season, the Twins promoted Jake to Ft. Myers where he'll manage the reigning Florida State League South champions.

When taking a first glance at the roster, it looks like Jake will have his work cut out for him in 2010. The Miracle don't have nearly as threatening of a team as they had a year ago with top prospects Ben Revere, David Bromberg, Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee having all been promoted to Double-A New Britain. Other top prospects Aaron Hicks and Angel Morales will both start the year back in Beloit.

The Twins drafted Shooter Hunt in the supplemental first round of the 2008 draft after a successful collegiate career at the University of Virginia and (most notably) Tulane University. He was one of the best pitchers in the draft, but concern over his control made him available when the Twins took him with the 31st overall pick. He was handed a $1.08 million signing bonus and assigned to the Appalachian League where he struck out 34 batters and walked only six while giving up one earned run in four starts. He finished the year by making seven starts for the Beloit Snappers. He posted a 5.46 ERA and had a 34/27 K/BB ratio.

His struggles continued when he returned to Beloit in 2009. Hunt appeared in seven games - five of them starts - between April and May for the Snappers. In just 17 2/3 innings, he had an 18/33 K/BB ratio (no, those numbers aren't switched) with a 10.70 ERA.

He was placed on the disabled list with a strained groin muscle, which many hoped was the cause for his poor control. He was sent to Extended Spring Training and eventually joined the Gulf Coast League Twins in June, but Hunt's struggles persisted. He appeared in another seven games - five of them starts - and had an 8/25 K/BB ratio in 15 innings.

Hunt's season came to an end in July when the Twins sent Hunt home to "clear his head." Despite some believing he was struggling with poor mechanics, the Twins believed his problems stemmed from problems "upstairs." He hasn't pitched in a meaningful game since, so it remains to be seen whether or not the Twins prognosis was correct. Hunt has worked primarily as a starter throughout his career, but my guess is that he'll work out of the bullpen (at least at first) in Ft. Myers.

Hunt has perhaps the most electrifying 'stuff' in the organization, but he can't hit the strike zone to save his life. The Twins (and Jake) hope that they cured his yips on the mound, but at this point, they may need a miracle.


Adam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam said...

Great post, I think people hear Hunt's name then his numbers and assume that he was a mid-round pick that just isn't panning out. When people realize he was the 31st pick overall on 2008, and also consider the "raw stuff," as you mentioned, that he has, they realize how huge it would be if he could figure it out. I think he could settle right into a bullpen role, although that would be unfortunate that a starter with that much upside would be relegated to a bullpen role.


Josh Johnson said...

I think he could settle right into a bullpen role, although that would be unfortunate that a starter with that much upside would be relegated to a bullpen role.

He may begin in the bullpen, but move into the rotation. At this point, there's no telling what's going to happen. He may have more potential than any other pitcher in the Twins system, but he also has more work to do than any other pitcher as well.

This is a big season for Hunt, hopefully he figures things out.

Anonymous said...


What do you think the chances are of jake managing joe Mauer and the Twins someday in the bigs? If it is a possibility, do you think that would be a good/bad idea?

Josh Johnson said...

Ya know, I don't think it'd be a bad idea, and it's definitely possible. But Ron Gardenhire is the manager right now and I hope he still is throughout Mauer's time in Minnesota. If the time comes and Jake is the best guy for the job, I wouldn't think there'd be a problem with him managing his younger brother.

smartguy12 said...

What do you think of hunts season so far in his last outing he pitched 3 hitless innings with 6 strikeouts?

Josh Johnson said...

It was really scary after his first appearance, but it's nice that he's finally finding the strike zone. 11/4 K/BB ratio since the opener. Still walking too many, but he's certainly looking much, much better.

Couldn't be more thrilled for him. By several accounts, he's a great guy and a hard worker.

smartguy12 said...

I live near where the New Britian Rock Cats play, who and when do you think is going to be up here by the end of the season, Gibson... Hunt...?