Kohl Stewart Needs to Become the Minnesota Twins' Next Great Pitcher

The Fourth-Overall Pick in This Year's Draft Must Pan Out for Twins' Rebuild to Be a Success

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | It has been noted during the 2013 season that the Minnesota Twins' farm system has become loaded with elite prospects. The transition has been sudden, but Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton have already started plowing through the organization and appear to be cornerstones going forward.

Despite their rise to prominence, the Twins still needed to find an elite starting pitcher for a rotation that was excited about Carl Pavano being their opening day starter a couple seasons ago.

That's why using the fourth-overall pick in the Major League Baseball Entry Draft on June 6 on high school pitcher Kohl Stewart is an important milestone in their rebuilding process.

The right-hander, who signed a $4.5 million contract on June 19 to begin his professional career, represents a shift in an organization that has lived and died with solid collegiate arms in their recent history.

Whether it was Adam Johnson, Scott Baker or Kevin Slowey, the Twins decided that taking a pitcher that could pound the strike zone and limit walks was more important than finding their next ace.

It was a strategy that worked well when the Twins were competing in a weak American League Central during the 2000s, but the division has gotten better in recent years as teams have looked for that one guy to take a three or four-game losing streak and turn it into history.

Looking around the division today, the Twins are the only team that does not have a legitimate ace.

Justin Verlander, James Shields and Justin Masterson all have become leaders of their respective staffs while the Twins have hoped and prayed that Scott Diamond would exceed low expectations to fill that void.

This makes Stewart's development not only something to follow, but important to the long-term success of the team.

Stewart has the tools to fill the void for an ace. Baseball America says that his mid-90s fastball and power curve should only get better once he fully concentrates on baseball (Stewart was also a top quarterback prospect that had committed to Texas A&M before signing with the Twins).

That type of potential will be welcome for a team that has seen its starters register roughly 90 miles-per-hour on their pitches since the opening of Target Field in 2010.

If he succeeds, the Twins will have another key piece to reload after a pair of seasons spent in the bottom of the American League Central. If he turns out to be the next Alex Wimmers or Ryan Mills, the rise of their minor league system will mean plenty of 9-8 games rather than AL Central championships.

Chris Schad is a lifelong Twins follower that has spent a majority of his life cheering the Twins on through the dark '90s and success of five American League Central championships in the 2000s. His work has also been published on Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @crishad.

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