Name: Boof Bonser
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: October 14, 1981
Boof Bonser came to the Twins along with Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano, in what is beginning to look like highway robbery of the San Francisco Giants. While the Twins lost A.J. Pierzynski, they gained three arms that could all be in Minnesota during the 2006 season. For Bonser, it has been a pretty impressive career so far, and the Twins are hoping he puts it all together in 2006.
Drafted out of Gibbs High School in Florida, Bonser was taken by the Giants in the first round with the 21st pick. During his senior year of high school, Bonser was an honorable mention selection for Player of the Year in the State of Florida. For the year, he went 7-3, and posted a 1.88 earned run average.
Bonser was originally assigned to Salem-Keizer of the Northwest League, and struggled a bit during his inaugural season of professional baseball. In ten appearances, making nine starts, the right-hander went 1-4, and finished the year with a 6.00 ERA. However, he still showed promise, striking out 41 batters in 33 innings of work, and held the opposition to a .188 batting average.
It was the 2001 season that Bonser really began to make a name for himself on a national level. Playing for Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League, Bonser won 16 games, and finished the year with a 2.49 ERA. As one of the youngest players in the league, Boof went on to be named Baseball America's Low-A Pitcher of the Year, and was a South Atlantic League All-Star. For his efforts, the Giants named Bonser one of the best prospects in their organization.
In 2002, Bonser continued to rack up eye-popping strikeout numbers, whiffing 139 batters in 128 innings of work. He began the year in Double-A with Shreveport, but was demoted to High-A San Jose after struggling a bit. For San Jose, Bonser went 8-6, and had an ERA of 2.88.
The 2003 season would be Boof's last season in the San Francisco organization, and the then 22-year old made his way to the Triple-A level as a member of Fresno. Playing in both Double-A and Triple-A, Bonser made 31 starts, and against finished the season with 100+ strikeouts. That off-season, he was traded to the Twins, and he has had an up-and-down career with the Twins every since.
During the 2004 season, Bonser began the year at Double-A New Britain, but did make his way up to Rochester of the International League. For the Rock Cats, Bonser started in 27 games, while finishing the year with an ERA over 4.00 for the first time since 2002. He wound up making one start for Rochester, and looked good, tossing seven innings of one-run ball, earning the victory.
This past season, Boof anchored a Rochester staff that saw the emergence of both Liriano, and Scott Baker. Being the team's rock as those two were promoted a demoted throughout the season, Bonser won 11 games for the Red Wings. He got his ERA back under the 4.00 mark, and his 168 strikeouts were his highest total since the 2001 season.
Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup
Fastball. Bonser has a fastball that usually sits in the 88-92 miles per hour range. He does have the ability to get it higher than those totals, but seems to have lost some velocity as he has gotten older. When he was in the South Atlantic League, he was able to have his heater sit from 92-96, but he has become a better locator of his fastball. He has tremendous command of his heater, and it is one of the sneakiest pitches in his repertoire.
Other Pitches. What really helps Bonser is his ability to spot his other pitches. Some believe that his curveball is his best pitch, while others believe it is one of the ten best benders in the organization. Either way, it is definitely the perfect set-up for his above-average fastball, and his changeup has really come along. One his weakest pitch, Bonser has developed it enough that he has confidence to throw it in any count. It is because of these two pitches that Bonser has racked up so many strikeouts throughout his Minor League career.
Pitching. Bonser is a complete pitcher, in that he has the ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes, and he rarely gets rattled. In the past, some of his naysayers have said that he needs to work on his concentration, but it is clear to see that he is very confident in his stuff nowadays. He is a bulldog, and an innings eater, and could fit a number of roles in a number of pitching staffs.
Projection. Once considered a back-of-the-rotation starter, it appears that Bonser may have to switch to the bullpen if he is going to get a legitimate shot in the Major Leagues with the Twins. Maybe in another organization he could have the chance to be a starter, but within the Twins' organization, they are stockpiled with Major League ready arms. One role he could definitely be a commodity is as a long-reliever/spot-starter, where he could utilize his ability to eat up innings, without taking a rotation spot.
ETA. 2006. Bonser will be in a Twins' uniform during the 2006 season, whether it is as a starter of a reliever. He has accomplished pretty much all you can at the Minor League level, and is now just waiting for an opportunity to crack a Major League roster. One thing is for sure, when he does get his shot, Twins fans can expect him to rack up a lot of strikeouts, and pitch with intensity.