Although the Minnesota Twins often seem to find success no matter how flashy their roster or how little they spend in free agency, there is little doubt that they are currently in rebuilding mode. In particular their pitching staff is in dire need of an infusion of talent. The team hopes that some answers can be found among the prospects they are cultivating down on the farm, with BJ Hermsen being one of the young pitchers making one of the most compelling cases for being a long term solution.
Hermsen, a big right-handed starter, was taken in the 6th round of the 2008 MLB draft out of West Delaware High School in Iowa, where he played baseball, football, and basketball. He was absolutely dominant on the pitching mound as a senior, going 10-0 with a 0.63 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 66.2 innings. He originally intended to play collegiately at Oregon State but the Twins convinced him to sign and start his professional career.
The Twins have moved Hermsen slowly thus far in his career and their patience has paid off, as evidenced by the way he threw in 2011 between A and High-A ball. He went 13-8 with a 3.33 ERA, logging a career high 151.1 innings. The ability of a young pitcher to show they can handle a higher load of innings is an important transition and one that Hermsen achieved with flying colors.
Throwing in the low 90’s, with a good breaking ball and an improving changeup, Hermsen is looking to truly break out in 2012. Already he is off to a sizzling start, getting promoted from Fort Myers in High-A to New Britain in Double-A, going a combined 3-1 with a 2.02 ERA in 9 games. Continued results like that will put him on the cusp of the major leagues and give him a shot at helping lead the Twins back to their successful ways.
This past off-season Hermsen shared some of his experiences in baseball and what he is looking forward to for this season. You can also check him out via his Twitter account and join him on his journey through the Twins system.
BJ Hermsen Interview:
Who were your favorite team and player growing up and why?: Growing up, I was a big St. Louis Cardinals fan. I kind of inherited that from my dad when I was little. We would watch their games all the time during the summer when I was younger. As far as a player goes, I always enjoyed watching Greg Maddux. He didn’t necessarily have much velocity, but he just knew how to pitch.
What pitches do you have in your arsenal, and which one do you think you need to improve the most?: I have a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, a slurve, and a change-up. I’m always looking to improve on each one of them, but I’d say my change-up.
Can you run through what your 2008 draft experience was like?: It was hectic and humbling at the same time. It was a bit of a crazy day but when you see your name come up on the screen, it’s exciting. Being able to share that moment with some of my family and friends was extremely grateful.
What do you attribute to the big step forward you took last season?: All the instruction and information I received from our pitching coordinator Eric Rasmussen, the Beloit pitching coach Gary Lucas, and the Fort Myers pitching coach Steve Mintz was very helpful. They’re doing what they do for a reason and it’s because they all have some valuable baseball knowledge to pass along. I just tried to take in as much as I could and use it to my advantage. Having a comfortable and trustworthy relationship with our catchers is also important to me. I’ve been fortunate to work with some good ones so far in minor league ball.
Besides the travel, what was the most difficult aspect of minor league life that you had to get used to?: There are a few aspects that take a bit to get adjusted to. Being away from family is always tough to get used to, especially coming out of high school. Hearing different languages was hard to get used to as well. The eating and sleeping patterns vary week by week depending on where you’re playing. Overall, I can’t complain because I’m able to wake up every day and do something I love.
What are the biggest challenges you believe you still need to conquer before you will be major league ready?: The biggest thing is just staying healthy and getting more innings and experience under my belt. I still have plenty to learn about this game. As you progress towards the top step, the mental part of the game becomes as big of a factor as the physical side. I’m just going to take things pitch by pitch and focus on the little things that will help me become successful.
Now that you have been in the Twins organization for a few years, have you developed any relationships or gotten any good advice from players on the big league roster?: During spring training, the season, or even Instructional League, it’s been phenomenal to have guys like Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, Tom Kelly, and the big league guys around. It’s nice having guys with such great knowledge of the game around to be able to pick their brains about certain things.
If you could do anything about your baseball career to this point differently, what would that be?: In all honesty, I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything happens for a reason and I feel extremely fortunate to be in the position I’m in today.
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