Top 10 Minor League 1st Half Stories: #1

Now that the Minor League full-season teams have reached the halfway point of their respective seasons, takes a look at the Top-10 performances of the first half. In our #1 selection, we look at the dominating performances put on by Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey in the Florida State League, and how they pushed themselves into the upper echelon of Minor League prospects.

During our season preview of the Fort Myers Miracle , we told our readers about the incredible pitching staff that was assembled to start the 2006 season.  We definitely were not lying, as Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey have emerged as two of the best pitching prospects in all of Minor League Baseball.  They have long since been promoted from the Florida State League, but the number they did on FSL hitters at the beginning of the season is definitely the number one first half story of the Twins farm system.

Both pitchers were selected in the 2005 draft, with Garza being the first rounder, and Slowey being selected in the second round.  After successful seasons in Low-A in 2005, the Twins felt the two were ready for some better competition, and the two righties have taken that challenge head on.  Now playing in Triple-A and Double-A, Garza and Slowey continue to meet the challenge of higher levels, and some believe Garza could be ready for a September call-up this season.

Garza was the first to be promoted, making his way to New Britain on May 15.  He was selected to the Florida State League All-Star Team, but by the time the game came around he was already mowing down Eastern League hitters.  During his time with the Miracle, Garza went an amazing 5-1, and posted an earned run average of 1.42.  In 44.1 innings of work, he struck out 53 batters, and held the opposition to a .169 batting average.

Garza would not last too long in the Eastern League either, earning a spot in the Eastern League All-Star Game before being promoted once again, this time to Rochester.  With the Rock Cats, Garza went 6-2, posting a 2.51 earned run average in 57.1 innings of work.  He would go on to strike out 68 Eastern League batters, running his strikeout total to 121 for the season, which is second best in the entire Minor Leagues.

He is currently second in the Minors in wins (11) as well, and he leads the organization in both wins and strikeouts.  He will make his International League debut on Saturday, as all eyes will be looking to see if he can dominate his third level this year.

Slowey, who has the best control in the entire organization, was the best pitcher in the Florida State League at the time of his promotion to New Britain.  In our last interview with Slowey, he said he felt he would be able to handle the jump to Double-A if he gets promoted, and he has done just that.  In his time with the Cats, Slowey has posted a 3.00 earned run average, and has walked only one batter against 17 strikeouts.

But it was his time in the Florida State League that really put him on the radar.  Not only was he rated number one on <I>Baseball America</I>'s hot list, but he was also the Pitcher of the Game in the Florida State League All-Star Game.  In his 89.1 Florida State League innings, Slowey struck out 99 batters, and walked only <B>nine</B>.

Overall, Slowey posted a 1.01 earned run average, tossing shutout ball in eight of his 14 starts.  He did not allow more than two earned runs in any start, and held the opposition to a .164 batting average.  In four away starts, he posted a 0.35 earned run average, and he did not allow an earned run in his last four appearances for the Miracle.

He is the organizational leader in earned run average, is second in strikeouts, and his strikeout total is also seventh in Minor League Baseball.  If he continues to dominate at the Double-A level, he could join Garza in Rochester by the end of the season.  But even if he doesn't, the job they did on Florida State League hitters will not soon be forgotten.

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