The Twins announced a list of 19 non-roster invitees to spring training this afternoon, including top prospect pitcher Kyle Gibson.
Gibson was considered one of the most polished pitchers in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, but fell to No. 22 overall due to concerns about a stress fracture in his forearm. He made his professional debut last year and went 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 26 starts between High-A Fort Myers, Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester, averaging 7.5 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. The 23-year-old right-hander was recently ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Twins’ organization by Baseball America.
Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes that Gibson will be “knocking on the door” for a spot in the starting rotation, but with Carl Pavano expected to return, it’s more likely we see his major league debut during the latter part of 2011.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.