Minnesota Twins Stat Brief: Mining the Independent League

Caleb Thielbar is just one example of the talent the Twins have plucked out of independent leagues.

It’s the new hotbed of prospects for the Minnesota Twins. Three guys that the big club has called up from AAA this season went straight from this place to the minors. And all three are making an impact that has turned some heads. No, it’s not the SEC or some high school in California… we’re talking independent ball. First baseman/outfielder/designated hitter Chris Colabello, relief pitcher Caleb Thielbar and starter Andrew Albers were all playing indie ball as recently as 2010 before they were able to catch the eye of the Twins.

Colabello, who played for the Worcester Tornadoes in Massachusetts for the majority of his indie ball career, lit up the International League prior to his call-up. He was named to the league’s All-Star team after belting 24 home runs and 48 extra-base hits in his 85 games at AAA Rochester. Colabello also sported a slash line of .354/.432/.652 with 76 RBI’s, earning himself a spot with the Twins for the second time this year on July 19th.

Colabello played in seven games in late May and early June – his first time in the big leagues before heading back down to Rochester for just over a month. In the second go-round, Colabello has found himself in the line-up a majority of the nights, often hitting right in the heart of the order. In 16 games since his second promotion, Colabello is hitting a modest .196 with three home runs and six RBI’s. With the way the Twins season has gone, though, it’s great to see a guy get a chance to show what he can do when given a chance.

Thielbar, a product of the St. Paul Saints of the American Association, started his big league career with 17 consecutive scoreless appearances. The left-hander from South Dakota State didn’t allow his first run until July 8th and has only allowed three earned runs in his 29.1 innings this year (0.93 ERA). Thielbar has held his WHIP to just 0.78 this year while accumulating 26 strikeouts to his 11 walks. He’s most likely due for a regression with a 4.19 xFIP, but, hey, 17 shutout appearances don’t lie.

Albers, former of Les Capitales de Quebec in the Canadian-American Association, impressed in his big league debut Tuesday. He held the Royals scoreless through 8.1 innings pitched before being taken out in the ninth. All-in-all, Albers allowed no runs on four hits with a walk and two strikeouts with a luscious 17:9 groundball-to-flyball ratio. The 27-year-old former 10th-round pick of the Padres in 2008 throws a fastball that will sit 87-88 miles per hour. He relies heavily on his slider and changeup, with the slider occasionally reaching 80 on the gun. Albers was also an All-Star alongside Colabello with an 11-5 record with a 2.86 ERA and a 3.55 FIP at AAA this year. Albers’s K/9 was at 7.89 prior to his call-up.

None of these guys are younger than 26 years old, and none of them is on the brink of Major League stardom. But, who cares? When your team is struggling (yeah, I’m looking at you, Minnesota), it’s storylines like these that make baseball great. And if it gives us a chance to write “Les Capitales de Quebec,” then that’s just an added bonus.