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Finding A Jolt For The Bullpen

Coming into 2017, the Minnesota Twins biggest question mark was their pitching staff. After being at the bottom of the big leagues last year, Minnesota needed a turnaround to return to competitiveness. They've seen a good enough start through the first 30 games or so, with the Twins own the ninth best starting ERA in MLB. the bullpen, however, is still a cause for concern.
Through their first 120 innings pitches, Minnesota checks in with the 23rd best relief ERA in MLB (4.73). The 7.43 K/9 ranks 28th out of 30 big league teams and the 3.75 BB/9 checks out in the middle of the pack. Largely unaddressed this offseason (Matt Belisle being the only signing of note), the goal should be to address the bullpen before it goes off the rails.

Looking at what's out there, you can see some definite pieces. Brandon Kintzler is a solid reliever, even if his "stuff" remains questionable for working as a closer. Taylor Rogers fits, and Tyler Duffey looks like a real weapon. I still believe Ryan Pressly is more than his funk suggests, and Justin Haley being carried makes sense. That leaves both Matt Belisle and Craig Breslow, and you have to wonder if Minnesota isn't in a position to push for more on their own being promoted.

Triple-A Rochester has some intriguing arms worthy of a shot. Adding Drew Rucinski to the 40-man roster for a brief call up was confusing, if only because there were other options. Trevor Hildenberger, D.J. Baxendale, Aaron Slegers, and even Jason Wheeler could all use a look. If we're really trying to push the envelop though, Double-A is where the Twins greatest assets lie.

Both Mason Melotakis and Nick Burdi have been lights out to start 2017. Melotakis owns a 1.17 ERA across 15.1 IP. The 25-year-old southpaw has compiled a 7.0 K/9 while offering free passes at a rate of 2.3 BB/9. The former second-round pick has been at Double-A since 2014, albeit missing the 2015 season. He's compiled just under 50.0 IP across the last two years and he's shown an ability to strike batters out, while reducing the walks in 2017.

Another second-round pick, Burdi has come out with guns blazing this season as well. The 24-year-old right-hander can push his fastball into triple digits, and seeing him healthy after throwing just three innings last year is a major plus. Across 13.2 IP this season, he's struck out 11.9 per nine innings, and he's walking batters at a very strong 2.6 BB/9. While command has always been Burdi's shortcoming, it's something he seems to have honed in this campaign.

I have no idea whether or not the Twins would promote either arm straight from Double-A, but I would lean towards them not doing so. Both have velocity and wanting to see them pitch, more than just throw, at the next level might be worth a stop in Triple-A. Neither guy is going to be able to rely solely on speed at the big league level, and seeing evidence they could get big league hitters out is a must.

Regardless of how they get to the Target Field bullpen, both Melotakis and Burdi could be there by early summer. I'd expect at least a brief stop for both in Triple-A, but guys like Breslow, or even Adam Wilk, shouldn't stand in their way. Unlike a starting prospect, relievers don't necessarily need a long stay at the highest level of the farm system; give them a taste and move them on. J.T. Chargois put forth just 12.1 IP in AAA after 11.2 IP at AA prior to his promotion last year. A similar path could be had for both of these guys.

When they arrive, there's little reason to suggest it wouldn't be an immediate boost to the bullpen. Throw in a healthy J.T. Chargois or Jake Reed, and maybe a flier on one of those other names, and Minnesota will have reworked their relief corps from within.

Right now, there are some question marks as to how it will come together, and which guys can get healthy, but what Minnesota doesn't have in starting options, they have in relief. Both Burdi and Melotakis can lead the charge and let the dice fall as they may.


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45 Comments

Like this and agree.

The injury to Chargois has hurt, or he'd already be up. (Or would have already been here but for a disappointing ST). Previous injuries to Burdi, Melotakis and Jay have also slowed movement, and possibly dented FO hopes and plans. But still mid May, the plans are not ruined by any means.

Burdi and Melotakis need to be up to Rochester soon. June 1st target date? Fine. Get it done. Let them get that experience and confidence, and then get them up. A healthy Chargois the same. There is still a lot of time, and I wouldn't be surprised to see 2 of them, if not all 3, by July sometime.

Though, barring injury, I'm still not certain who goes. I don't see Kintzler moved and someone just plugged in to his role, especially if the team is winning and p,saying competitive ball. Haley is a rule 5. Pressly has stuff, potential, and has been quite solid previously. Duffey is excelling in his role. Rogers is getting better and better. So...does that leave Breslow and Belisle to be moved? It would appear so, even though neither has performed poorly. And that's a good thing as perhaps they can can provide trade value to some degree.
    • howieramone2 likes this
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yarnivek1972
May 16 2017 07:04 PM
Belisle has performed poorly. Yeah, I've heard the couple bad outings excuse. 11 BB in 14 IP is not acceptable for a MLB pitcher. Under any circumstances. Breslow is smoke and mirrors IMO. He's allowed only 2 hits in 17 or so at bats to lefties. But he's walked 3 and only struck out 2. That's not what I would call terribly effective.
Belisle is awful. You know you're bullpen is a joke when you take one team's washed up 6th inning guy and make him the set up man.

It still blows my mind that they didnt bring a real reliever in here. After watching two different sets of FO personnel, the latter being fronted by a pitching-centric sabregeek, the only logical explanation isnthsg ownership hamstrung them and wouldn't sign off on any proposed signings.
    • Highabove likes this

Tell me why carrying Haley "makes sense."

 

 

    • Otwins, Vanimal46, Vagnavs and 1 other like this
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yarnivek1972
May 16 2017 08:48 PM

Tell me why carrying Haley "makes sense."


Falvey still hasn't decided whether the Twins are contenders or not. A contender would not have Justin Haley on the roster.
    • HitInAPinch likes this

To me, Haley looks like just a guy. There's plenty of those out there - both inside and out of the system, and they're not difficult to find. 

 

He, along with Breslow, Rucinski, Wilk, Tepesch and Belisle, shouldn't be blocking anyone from either the 40-man or active roster. I'd lump Pressly - especially with an option remaining - in that group, too.

 

If it's Burdi, Melo, Baxendale, Reed, Chargois, etc., I think any of them could add the same quality to the pen as those other guys, if not an improvement. The only "advantage" Breslow and Belisle have is their "veteranism," which shouldn't come into play for a team that I'm still not sold on as an actual contender.

    • USAFChief, beckmt, HitInAPinch and 1 other like this
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Old Twins Cap
May 16 2017 09:33 PM

Bullpen is taking on water.Big league water.

 

Duffey's stuff is okay, but only okay, as in @4.5 era.Pressley's fastball is hittable and his curve is not controllable.Ergo, not dependable.Breslow, unh-hnuh. 

 

You got Kintzler, Rogers and .... um, .... that's it.

 

Starters, maybe, at best three dependable, if Berrios pans out.

 

In other words, this season is now on life-support -- just on pitching. 

 

Bring up the kids, one-by-one, trial by fire and see who survives.

 

It's the only way to prepare for the years ahead.

    • beckmt, jun, tarheeltwinsfan and 2 others like this
Melotakis or Burdi is an easy call up IMO. I've said this before in other threads and will continue beating this drum. Relievers don't need x amount of innings at A, AA, and AAA in order to be "ready" for the majors. Ride with the hot hands and get rid of struggling relievers.
    • Mike Sixel, beckmt, TNTwinsFan and 3 others like this
Haley is another subject in itself.... 89 MPH with minimal control of his pitches by the 2nd time in the batting order? I don't understand why he's worth protecting on the 25 man roster.
    • USAFChief, tarheeltwinsfan, rghrbek and 1 other like this
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ShouldaCouldaWoulda
May 16 2017 09:52 PM

Turely!

    • SirLoin, tarheeltwinsfan and HitInAPinch like this
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HitInAPinch
May 17 2017 01:46 AM

Question on Melotakis:  Is he a lefthander that can get righthanded hitters out?  I'm not really big on the LOOGY thingy.  Need more value than that to be on MY Big League roster!  

 

The Haley's and Belisle's, etc. of the baseball world are around for only one reason:  you need them around to pause MLB advancement for RP's that aren't quite ready.  And they're disposable.  

 

I'm guessing, if the Melotakis and Burdi's of the world stay healthy and keep improving, they should be up in a couple weeks.  Unless, of course, the Haley's and Belisle's of the baseball world crash to earth a lot sooner...

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HitInAPinch
May 17 2017 01:47 AM

 

Turely!

Biggly!

    • ShouldaCouldaWoulda likes this
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The Wise One
May 17 2017 03:07 AM

 

Haley is another subject in itself.... 89 MPH with minimal control of his pitches by the 2nd time in the batting order? I don't understand why he's worth protecting on the 25 man roster.

The belief by management that their coaches and training systems can make Haley  a better and more consistent pitcher.The belief they really do not want their power pitching prospects to be long relievers.

    • howieramone2 likes this
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yarnivek1972
May 17 2017 03:59 AM

Question on Melotakis: Is he a lefthander that can get righthanded hitters out? I'm not really big on the LOOGY thingy. Need more value than that to be on MY Big League roster!

The Haley's and Belisle's, etc. of the baseball world are around for only one reason: you need them around to pause MLB advancement for RP's that aren't quite ready. And they're disposable.

I'm guessing, if the Melotakis and Burdi's of the world stay healthy and keep improving, they should be up in a couple weeks. Unless, of course, the Haley's and Belisle's of the baseball world crash to earth a lot sooner...


Not based on last year's results. Last year, LHB posted a .580 OPS while RHB were at .850. This year, he's hardly allowed any baserunners at all, but at a higher rate to RHB.

It's one reasonthat IMO he needs some time in AAA. To find out if he can get more advanced RHB out.
    • HitInAPinch likes this
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yarnivek1972
May 17 2017 04:21 AM

Bullpen is taking on water. Big league water.

Duffey's stuff is okay, but only okay, as in @4.5 era. Pressley's fastball is hittable and his curve is not controllable. Ergo, not dependable. Breslow, unh-hnuh.

You got Kintzler, Rogers and .... um, .... that's it.

Starters, maybe, at best three dependable, if Berrios pans out.

In other words, this season is now on life-support -- just on pitching.

Bring up the kids, one-by-one, trial by fire and see who survives.

It's the only way to prepare for the years ahead.


It's yet again evidence that the FO hasn't truly decided whether this team are contenders or not. If they are contenders, chances are you would be fast tracking Burdi at least to see if he can improve the late inning productivity. But, if they are not contenders, you might be more inclined to take the time and let him develop more.
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tarheeltwinsfan
May 17 2017 06:30 AM

Free Burdi!

    • LLCOOLRUT and Vanimal46 like this

We're past the Chargois 2016 AAA promotion date -- he made his AAA debut on May 10th, 2016.

 

I don't think we want to push this back any further -- if a young pitcher doesn't debut until July, that gives you very little time to evaluate their readiness and adjustments before you have to make important trade deadline decisions.

    • Mike Sixel, Willihammer and rghrbek like this

Breslow has generally been effective this year -- but he's clearly become the mop-up man.  His 0.52 game-entering leverage index is among the lowest in the league.  We are 3-12 in Breslow's 15 games this year, which gives you an idea of when he is being used.

 

Can Breslow get stretched out to be the long man, so we can drop Adam Wilk to add a 5th starter?  Otherwise, as we've seen with Tonkin, having your mop-up man be a short reliever isn't a good use of resources.

    • Halsey Hall, rghrbek and Vanimal46 like this
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Brock Beauchamp
May 17 2017 07:17 AM

 

We're past the Chargois 2016 AAA promotion date -- he made his AAA debut on May 10th, 2016.

 

I don't think we want to push this back any further -- if a young pitcher doesn't debut until July, that gives you very little time to evaluate their readiness and adjustments before you have to make important trade deadline decisions.

Which is why I'd strongly consider promoting Burdi directly from AA.

    • rghrbek, Vanimal46 and jud6312 like this

 

Which is why I'd strongly consider promoting Burdi directly from AA.

That's fine for Burdi, if they are willing to do it.

 

But there are other interesting arms in AA too, and none of them are getting promoted anywhere yet, even though there is obvious need in MLB and in AAA too (Wimmers' spot, for one).

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yarnivek1972
May 17 2017 07:44 AM

Breslow has generally been effective this year -- but he's clearly become the mop-up man. His 0.52 game-entering leverage index is among the lowest in the league. We are 3-12 in Breslow's 15 games this year, which gives you an idea of when he is being used.

Can Breslow get stretched out to be the long man, so we can drop Adam Wilk to add a 5th starter? Otherwise, as we've seen with Tonkin, having your mop-up man be a short reliever isn't a good use of resources.


Breslow has never been a long guy. He's far more likely to be flipped to a different team that will use him as a loogy. That really is all he is. He is getting lefties out better than the last couple yesrs, but he has also walked 3 of the 20 or so he has seen. That isn't helpful IMO.
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diehardtwinsfan
May 17 2017 07:52 AM

What I don't understand is how we cannot find one reliever that can be optioned/DFAd to allow for a rotation of some of our AAA/AA RP prospects.I get Molitor not trusting them, but I've got to think there's enough talent in the minors to do the "see what sticks" methodology... Between Burdi, Melotakis, Bard, and Hildenberger, there are plenty of guys who can get a two to four week extended look who you can keep up if they are doing well.I get that some are 40 man adds, and so preference would go to the guys already on the 40 for now, but this is something I'd have to think they can do.

    • Vanimal46 likes this

Not seeing much from this new FO that gives me any belief they are ready to promote and trust young players that weren't already on the roster last year. I'm not sure why Burdi isn't in AAA or the majors right now.

    • rghrbek likes this

 

What I don't understand is how we cannot find one reliever that can be optioned/DFAd to allow for a rotation of some of our AAA/AA RP prospects.I get Molitor not trusting them, but I've got to think there's enough talent in the minors to do the "see what sticks" methodology... Between Burdi, Melotakis, Bard, and Hildenberger, there are plenty of guys who can get a two to four week extended look who you can keep up if they are doing well.I get that some are 40 man adds, and so preference would go to the guys already on the 40 for now, but this is something I'd have to think they can do.

 

Because the FO went all old players, mostly w/o options, for the bullpen. It's bad 40 man strategy.

 

Not based on last year's results. Last year, LHB posted a .580 OPS while RHB were at .850. This year, he's hardly allowed any baserunners at all, but at a higher rate to RHB.

It's one reasonthat IMO he needs some time in AAA. To find out if he can get more advanced RHB out.

 

I'd argue that: a. there are more advanced RHB in AA than in AAA and b. his 0.84 ERA,0.66 WHIP, and 25% K% against RHB, even though early in the season, makes me think that he is ok against them.


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