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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Last Man In? Jared Burton

The Twins are taking a slightly different approach to spring training this year, scheduling an extra three days of workouts prior to their March 3rd opener against the Rays. This increased workload will allow the Twins a few more days to work on fundamentals after showing incredibly poor defense and consistently committing rudimentary errors throughout the 2011 season. The Twins are also bringing more players to camp this year in order to create a sense of urgency surrounding jobs on the big league roster. Among these are 26 non-roster invitees, including 11 pitchers. Some of these, including Jason Bulger, Phil Dumatrait and Jared Burton have significant big league experience. Of the three, Burton seems perhaps the most likely to compete for one of the final few Twins bullpen spots available.

Burton was originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 2002 (8th round) but was selected by the Reds in the 2006 Rule 5 draft. Burton has had a recent history of injuries including shoulder inflammation and a variety of muscle strains, managing only 8 innings in the last 2 big league seasons. Despite this, Burton fits the mold of what the Twins are looking for in a solid bullpen addition. Over 5 major league seasons Burton has managed a ERA of 3.41 (.397 FIP), WHIP of 1.325, struck out 143 in 169 innings and held opposition hitters to an average of .237, solid numbers for a middle of the bullpen arm.

Jared Burton may be a dark horse for a bullpen spot this spring.
A look at Burton’s velocity shows a fastball that sits in the low to mid 90s and a decent looking slider. Burton should thrive in Target Field. In 5 seasons in hitter friendly Great American Ball Park Burton was exceptionally good at keeping the ball inside the park, 0.7 HR/9, has a solid whiff rate of 7.6 SO/9 and while the amount of free passes he issues has been consistently high 3.9 BB/9 an improved Twins defense should help him limit the damage his lack of control may cost him.

Burton also appears to have some deception to his delivery with only 5.8% of fly balls becoming HR (compared to the MLB average of 7.5%) as well as when healthy making opposing hitters watch his stuff go by, with a L/SO of 38% in 2008, compared to the MLB average of just 25%. If Burton has a solid spring he may seize an opportunity in an iffy and inexperienced Twins bullpen to see if he can replicate his solid big league numbers from the early part of his career. At this point, taking a flyer on Burton would be preferable to the perennially sub-par Alex Burnett, who has shown little to no growth over his first two MLB seasons, look out for Burton as a spring surprise.

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