Twins Hope Shibuya Adds Velocity To His Pitchability

MINNEAPOLIS—Most professional players begin with overwhelming physical gifts, then learn how to harness them.

The Twins hope 22-year-old righthander Tim Shibuya takes the opposite route.

"He's a very polished, mature, intelligent pitcher," vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "He commands the mound, commands the strike zone. He knows what he's doing out there, far beyond his experience."

That explains the 8-2, 3.30 record and brilliant 70-11 K-BB ratio during Shibuya's 13 starts in 2011 at Rookie-level Elizabethton, a debut season so impressive he earned Appa-lachian League pitcher of the year honors.

Not bad for a 23rd-round pick who commanded a $2,000 bonus. Not bad for a pitcher who, Radcliff admits, lacks some of the more obvious attributes of a top prospect.

"He doesn't throw quite as hard, and his breaking pitches don't have quite the snap," Radcliff said. "That's why he wasn't drafted earlier—guys with more projectable gifts go first. He makes do with a little bit less."

But the Twins project Shibuya, a dominant starter during a four-year career at Division II UC San Diego, to develop the physical part as he goes along. He went 40-15, 2.19 over 47 appearances and 424 innings for the Tritons.

The Jackson, Wyo., native can touch 90 mph with his fastball, and Radcliff said Shibuya has shown the stamina to keep his velocity over several innings.

"As he gets a little older and a little bigger, he'll gain a little more zip," Radcliff said of the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Shibuya. "He's got a slight build, but he's building arm strength. And we're helping him get a little more angle to his pitches."

Mostly, though, Radcliff sees Shibuya advancing quickly through the minors with his above-average savvy. He owns a chemistry degree from UCSD, "and there's nothing wrong with intelligence," Radcliff said. "His intangibles are so strong, we think he's well-positioned to have success."


• The Twins signed 16-year-old Venezuelan righthander Mauricio Silva for a bonus of $370,000. Scouts regard him as one of the most advanced pitching prospects available from his homeland.

• Lefthander Francisco Liriano registered a 7.36 ERA and 16-7 K-BB ratio in 15 innings during a stint with Escogido during the Dominican League playoffs. The Twins encouraged him to participate even after a 2011 season plagued by shoulder soreness and ineffectiveness.