We all remember the (much happier) Twins team built around names such as Joe Nathan, Tori Hunter and two-time Cy Young award winner Johan Santana. Although difficult to accept, the then small market Twins would inevitably trade Santana in order to regain some value for him rather than assuredly losing him to a free-agent market lining up to sign the premier starter on the market in 2008
Speculation was rife leading up to Santana’s trade, would the Twins be able to secure a then top prospect pitching ace in the making such as Jon Lester from the Red Sox or Phil Hughes from the Yankees. Knowing that Santana would eventually hit the free agent market, neither of the AL East powerhouse franchises bit on letting go of their then top prospects. The Twins turned to Queens and traded Santana to the Mets for a package that included Carlos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey, Phil Humber and Deolis Guerra.
What an ugly trade it turned out to be. Carlos Gomez played out a few uneventful seasons as the Twins on again off again center fielder, punctuated by highlight reel plays in the outfield and a memorable playoff sealing run in game 163 of the 2009 season against the Tigers. Mulvey, a former 2nd round pick of the Mets, last pitched in the majors for the Diamondbacks in 2010 and currently holds a 4.91 ERA at the Mets AA affiliate at Binghamton. Phil Humber, himself a number 3 overall pick in 2004 was quickly let go of by the Twins after consistently struggling and picked up by the Royals and eventually the White Sox. He had a descent 2011 season but despite throwing a perfect game against the Mariners in the early going in 2012, has largely struggled his way to a 6.83 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 27.2 IP. Wow, this is like the anti Pierzynski to San Francisco trade! But what about Guerra?
In 2007 Guerra was a super raw lanky 18 year old the Mets originally signed as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela. Indeed, Guerra’s raw ability was so promising Baseball Prospectus rated him the #35 prospect in MLB prior to the 2008 season. Fast forward five year and Guerra has filled out. Now 6’5 and 245 lbs, his dominance is beginning to match his imposing physicality. After struggling mightily in 2010 and 2011 with AAA Rochester and AA New Britain respectively, Guerra is putting it together so far this season. Starting the season at New Britain, Guerra was quickly promoted after giving up just 1 ER in 12.2 IP, having a WHIP of 0.474 and overpowering hitters to the tune of a 10.7 SO/9.
Guerra has shown no sign of slowing down in the early going at AAA Rochester. In 9 IP, Guerra has yet to give up a run, surrendering just 6 hits, good for a WHIP of 0.778 and maintaining an excellent 10 SO/9. Guerra’s has held opposing hitters to a paltry .119 BA at AA New Britain and a still dominant .188 at AAA Rochester.
Looking at some of Guerra’s advanced metrics and his stuff yields just as impressive results. He has maintained a FIP (fielding independent pitching) of 1.66 at AA and 1.98 at AAA Rochester. Guerra’s velocity has receded slightly since he was a talented raw 17 year old, but his fastball still hits in the low 90s and can reach back for mid-90s heat. Guerra also has a plus slider and an excellent biting curve and has been working on developing his change up. If his early performance this year is any indication, expect to see Guerra in a Twins uniform if any member of the bullpen starts to consistently struggle. Given the Twins rough start to the season, it’s great to see at least one young arm that has the potential to succeed at the big league level.