In Twins system, Wimmers all about team
First-round pick in this year's Draft learning to hone arsenal
These days, when Alex Wimmers isn't on the field pitching for the Minnesota Twins in Florida's fall instructional league, he's keeping up with the pennant race.
Even a few thousand miles southeast of Target Field, the back fields are abuzz with dreams of a third World Series ring.
"It's awesome," said Wimmers, the 21-year-old right-hander whom the Twins selected with the 21st pick in this year's First-Year Player Draft.
"Everyone in the organization through the Minor Leagues, a lot of the coaches through Single-, Double-A and Triple-A, the field coordinators, everybody ... every day they're talking about it. Hopefully, this will be the year that we can break through the first round."
Wimmers has been in Florida since August. First he had a quick and dominant foray into professional baseball as a starter for the Class A Advanced Fort Myers Miracle, with whom he went 2-0 with a 0.57 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings over four starts.
Now he's learning the ropes in instructs, where long days and some ups and downs are commonplace but easily understood by a pitcher who says he's eager to soak it all in.
"Right now, I'm focusing mainly on trying to get acquainted with the system and how the Twins do things and learn a lot about my teammates," says Wimmers, a Cincinnati native and two-time Big Ten Pitcher of the Year while at Ohio State.
"It's important to take in how everybody does things and work hard on and off the field without bringing attention to yourself. A lot of it is about doing the little things right because they add up at the end of a season. The little things are what matter."
Wimmers says he's well aware of the reputation the Twins organization has built on fundamentals and that he's already noticed how the team grooms young players to fit a selfless mold.
"You be a man about everything and don't try to suit yourself," Wimmers says. "You want to do everything for your team. It's great to get individual awards, but when it comes down to it, how is your team doing? How is your team getting along? That's what really counts."
Having a low-90s fastball with impeccable command, a curveball and a Major League-ready changeup at such a young age doesn't hurt either, and that's what might set Wimmers apart from a lot of the other starting pitchers drafted this year.
Twins Minor League field coordinator Joel Lepel knew Wimmers was polished and that his changeup was a plus pitch. And since he's seen the youngster plying his craft in instructs, he's become even more impressed with Wimmers' complete package as a pitcher.
"The way he approaches it on the mound, his mannerisms on the mound, you see right away that he's very even-keeled, very mature -- he has an idea of what he's trying to accomplish, and he has a little swagger about him," Lepel says. "And what's really impressive is he throws the ball over the plate."
Oh, yes. There's that, too, and in the Twins organization, it's a big deal.
Longtime Twins righty Brad Radke excelled for years with good-enough stuff, an unflappable makeup, and, most important, the ability to throw strikes with any pitch in any count. Current playoff-bound Twins starters Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey are hewn from the same material. Lepel says Wimmers should fit right in with Minnesota's proven plan of stockpiling the unspectacular-but-solid innings-eating horse.
"He's above-average with the fastball," Lepel says. "His changeup is a pitch that I think is going to work in the future. He does what he's supposed to. He doesn't draw attention to himself. He has some humbleness to him. He's all about doing his job. He's got a lot of ingredients that will help him become a pretty decent pitcher."
He also admits that he has a lot to learn before he can even fantasize about toeing the slab at the beautiful new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis that will soon host its first postseason game.
"There are always things you can improve on," Wimmers says. "I feel like I have the stuff to be able to throw in a Major League rotation, but at the same time, being in instructional league is teaching me things every day.
"It's developing more consistency with my fastball. It's how you carry yourself on the mound, putting the team in the best position to win. I feel like I can get to the big leagues very fast, but at the same time there are a lot of things I have to learn."
Specifically speaking, Wimmers says a good portion of these instructional days has been spent working on being quicker to the plate with his slide step with runners on base, getting more weight on his back foot to harness more power out of his legs, trying not to fly open as much on his delivery so his pitches don't flatten out, and, through repetition, honing the routine mechanics of his three-pitch arsenal -- fastball, curve, change.
And since several of Wimmers' catchers are kids straight out of Latin countries who aren't fluent in English, he says he might start taking Spanish lessons, although he wouldn't have that problem with current Twins catcher and reigning American League Most Valuable Player Joe Mauer.
"I'm pretty sure he knows English," Wimmers said with a laugh.
The prized prospect turned serious once again when asked if he buys into the "fast-track" hype that often accompanies high Draft choices with college success who are often expected to breeze through the Minors and land in The Show in a flash.
"Never," Wimmers said. "I just hope that I advance my game enough that hopefully by the end of next year or the following year I'll put myself in a position to be up there. It's not in my hands, but it is. The only thing I can control is how I do on and off the field. Get stronger and be the best I can be."
Lepel says Wimmers appears to be on his way.
"He's doing what he's supposed to do in instructional league," Lepel said. "Sometimes you have good days and bad days, but part of it is figuring out what works and doesn't work in certain situations.
"He's doing well."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.