Minnesota Twins Finding Success Mining Independent Leagues for Talent

Caleb Thielbar Has Successful Debut, Andrew Albers Could Be Next, Chris Colabello Tearing Up IL

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COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Twins have earned a reputation as a team with a good scouting department, and they pride themselves on scouting every corner for talent, including the independent leagues. This is a necessity for a team that has television revenues that can't rival the large-market clubs, and it is paying off for the Twins in 2013.

The initial payoff came Monday, May 20 when Caleb Thielbar was promoted to the big leagues and made his major-league debut for the Twins. Thielbar, a native of Randolph, Minn., was pitching for the St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association when the Twins signed him near the end of the 2011 season.

Thielbar's appearance Monday was the first by a former Saint. And what a performance it was. Thielbar pitched two shutout innings, giving up just one single on the first pitch he threw and striking out three batters with no walks. In fact, of the 25 pitches he threw, 20 were for strikes.

Thielbar was one of the few bright spots for the Twins in a 5-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves that extended their losing streak to six games. He hit 93 mph on the radar gun and showed a really good curve ball that he could throw at two different speeds and a decent changeup. If he continues to pitch like that, the Twins would be crazy to send him down when they need another starting pitcher.

Thielbar was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009, but he was released after struggling in his first taste of low Class A ball in 2010.

Andrew Albers Could Be Next Starting Pitcher Called Up by Minnesota Twins

The Twins might be getting some more help from independent leagues in the near future. Andrew Albers, whom the Twins signed out of the independent Can-Am Association prior to the 2011 season, has been the most consistent starter for the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings. He has a 2.34 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and a 40/12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42 1/3 innings pitched.

Albers was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 10th round in 2008 but was released after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament in spring training 2009 and having Tommy John surgery. In 2010, the Saskatchewan-native pitched in the Can-Am Association prior to the Twins signing him for 2011.

If he is recalled to replace the recently demoted Pedro Hernandez, he and Scott Diamond would give the Twins a pair of Canadian left-handed starting pitchers. The difference between the two is that Albers has been getting almost two more strikeouts per inning pitched at Rochester.

Chris Colabello Deserves Shot to Play for Minnesota Twins

Another former Can-Am player making noise in Rochester is first baseman Chris Colabello. He has been pretty much the Red Wings' entire offense since Oswaldo Arcia was called up to the Twins in April. Colabello is batting .360/.421/.669 and his 12 home runs are the most in the entire organization, including the major leagues.

Unfortunately, unless the Twins trade Justin Morneau anytime soon, the Twins don't really have a spot available for Colabello. However, with the way the Twins are swinging the bats lately, they can't afford to not take a shot on his bat giving them a lift.

Colabello could become the primary designated hitter if the Twins decide to see if a trip to Rochester could help wake up Chris Parmelee's bat. Arcia and Ryan Doumit could split time in right field. Colabello has played a handful of games in the outfield in the minors, but it is doubtful the Twins would put him out there in the major leagues.

If Colabello does get to the big leagues, it would be an amazing story after he toiled in the Can-Am Association for seven seasons before signing with the Twins prior to 2012. He also would be the first player from NCAA Division II Assumption (Mass.) College to make it to the major leagues.

If the Twins are going to turn this franchise around, they need to maximize their revenue. Getting quality players for almost nothing is a great way to do this. All three of these players are already success stories.

These players will most likely not be star players, but they don't have to be. The Twins just need to continue to bring in quality players to surround the top talent they have in the minor leagues now that will be coming up in the next few years.

Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.

Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.

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