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Minnesota Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of 2014

Yesterday, we named JO Berrios as the Minnesota Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. Today, we will be diving into the top relief pitchers for the season. Clearly the Twins have made it a focus tto obtain power arms in recent years, particularly in the draft. Many of them have moved up the system and are performing very well. Hopefully several of those power arms will quickly work their way up the farm system to the majors.
Image courtesy of Linwood Ferguson, Ft. Myers Miracle (photo of Brandon Peterson)
It’s been a very good year for relievers in the Twins minor leagues. I think we need to recognize several more pitchers who have had terrific seasons.

HONORABLE MENTION
  • Jim Fuller – New Britain Rock Cats (3-1, 1 save, 2.41 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 56.0 IP, 48 H, 30 BB, 68 K)
  • Ryan Pressly – Rochester Red Wings (1-4, 6 saves, 2.98 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 60.1 IP, 55 H, 21 BB, 63 K)
  • Jared Wilson – Cedar Rapids Kernels (3-4, 2.95 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 58.0 IP, 46 H, 25 BB, 56 K)
  • Nick Burdi – Cedar Rapids Kernels/Ft. Myers Miracle (2-0, 5 saves, 2.66 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 20.1 IP, 13 H, 10 BB, 38 K)
  • Brandon Bixler – Cedar Rapids Kernels (7-4, 2.68 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 74.0 IP, 49 H, 37 BB, 77 K)
  • Chris Mazza – Cedar Rapids Kernels (4-4, 2.79 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 48.1 IP, 47 H, 11 BB, 62 K)
  • Dallas Gallant – Cedar Rapids Kernels (2-1, 5 saves, 0.64 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 28.0 IP, 12 H, 9 BB, 46 K)
  • Michael Tonkin – Rochester Red Wings (3-4, 2.80 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 45.0 IP, 41 H, 12 BB, 46 K)
Feel free to debate them, or ask any questions you may have.

Relief Pitcher of the Year

#6 – Alex Muren – Cedar Rapids Kernels/Ft. Myers Miracle (4-2, 1 save, 2.77 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 74.2 IP, 65 H, 12 BB, 55 K)

Muren was the Twins 12th round pick in 2012 out of Cal State-Northridge. He has worked out of the bullpen since signing and despite not having a huge fastball, he has put up solid numbers all the way through. In 2014, he began in Cedar Rapids. The 22-year-old posted a 2.89 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP in 56 innings over 29 games in Cedar Rapids. He was promoted to Ft. Myers where he posted a 2.41 ERA with a 1.18 WHIP. He averaged just 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings, but he doesn’t hurt himself with walks, having given up just 1.4 walks per nine innings. Muren is successful because he has been able to coax about 2.8 ground balls per flyout and keet the ball in the park.

#5 – Jake Reed – Elizabethton Twins/Cedar Rapids Kernels (3-0, 8 saves, 0.29 ERA, 0.45 WHIP, 31.0 IP, 11 H, 3 BB, 39 K)

Should Reed be on this list since he only started pitching in late June? Well, just take a look at those numbers again and tell me that we shouldn’t find some place for him in the top 6. Including the playoffs, he ended the season by tossing 24.2 consecutive scoreless innings. The 21-year-old was the Twins 5th round pick this June out of the University of Oregon. He is blessed with a mid-90s fastball and good secondary stuff too. Like fellow 2014 pick Nick Burdi, Reed could move up quickly in the Twins farm system. In fact, he will be participating in the Arizona Fall League this year.

#4 – AJ Achter – New Britain Rock Cats/Rochester Red Wings (4-4, 7 saves, 2.17 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 78.2 IP, 47 H, 25 BB, 80 K)

Achter won this award in 2012, his first year as a reliever. Last year, he was the runner up to Tyler Jones. This year, he falls to #4 on the list, but he is doing it at the highest level. He was the Reliever of the Month the first two months of the season. And on September 1st, he learned that he was headed to the big leagues. Achter was the lone representative of the Rochester Red Wings in the AAA All-Star game. He pitched in every role for the Red Wings this season. He was the closer, a set up man, a long reliever and even made a spot start. He has three or four pitches and when he has control, he can be very good.

#3 – Todd Van Steensel – Cedar Rapids Kernels/Ft. Myers Miracle (1-0, 9 saves, 1.39 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 58.1 IP, 38 H, 24 BB, 71 K)

It’s been an interesting ride for Van Steensel the last five years. He signed with the Phillies and pitched in the GCL in 2009. He was released, but he signed with the Twins and pitched at Elizabethton in 2011. The Twins released him after that season. Then, he pitched in the Netherlands and in his native Australia. He became a reliever, started throwing harder and the Twins gave him another opportunity before spring training this year. He began the season at extended spring training but was soon promoted to Cedar Rapids where he became a late inning man. In 34.2 innings, he walked just nine and struck out 45. He posted a 1.30 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. He was promoted to Ft. Myers where he fit into the sixth and seventh innings. With the Miracle, he worked 23.2 innings and struck out 26. The 23-year-old has a big, tall leg kick and then throws a low-to-mid 90s fastball with a sharp slider.

#2 – Lester Oliveros – New Britain Rock Cats/Rochester Red Wings (4-3, 18 saves, 1.64 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 65.2 IP, 44 H, 27 BB, 88 K)

Oliveros came to the Twins in August of 2011 in the Delmon Young trade. In September of 2012, he had Tommy John surgery and aside from a few rehab appearances, he missed the entire 2013 season. The Twins chose to start him off in New Britain where he dominated as the team’s closer for the season’s first half. In 24 games and 30.1 innings, he posted a 0.89 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. He walked 14 and struck out 36. He was just as good in Rochester where in 24 games, he worked 35.1 innings. He walked 13 and struck out 52. He finished the season very strong in August and earned his September recall to the big leagues.

Relief Pitcher of the Year – Brandon Peterson – Cedar Rapids Kernels/Ft. Myers Miracle (2-1, 4 saves, 1.56 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 57.2 IP, 37 H, 19 BB, 84 K)

In June of 2010, Brandon Peterson was finishing his senior year in high school. He was Burnsville high school’s shortstop and their top pitcher. His team played in the Minnesota state high school championship game. They lost 5-3, but Peterson became the first high school player to hit a home run at Target Field. Now Peterson’s ultimate baseball goal is to pitch in Target Field and attempt to not give up home runs for the Minnesota Twins.

After two years at Des Moines Area Community College, Peterson went to Wichita State where he had a strong junior season in 2013 with the Shockers. After the season, he was the Twins 13th round draft pick.

Since signing, he has been a strikeout machine. In 27.1 innings with Elizabethton last year, he struck out 40. He began the 2014 season in Cedar Rapids where he pitched in just nine games. In 12.2 innings, he walked just two and struck out 19. He posted a 0.71 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP. He was quickly promoted to Ft. Myers. In 45 innings, he walked 17 and struck out 65. He posted a 1.80 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. He did not give up a home run all year.

Though he did not get as much name recognition as teammates like Nick Burdi and Zack Jones late in the season, Peterson was a vital man in the seventh and eighth innings for the Miracle. Peterson throws a fastball that sits 92 to 93 mph and occasionally touches 95. He also has a slider in the low 80s.

----
Congratulations again to Brandon Peterson and all of these relief pitchers who had some terrific seasons of the bullpen in the Twins farm system.

We’ll be back tomorrow with the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year.


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15 Comments

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Paul Pleiss
Sep 10 2014 05:58 AM

I like Lester Oliveros for the RotY, but you make a fine case for Peterson, and at 22 he's just about where he should be with respect to age/level. It's exciting to see so many guys on your list who have legit stuff and a chance to make it to the show, even guys who throw hard, which the organization hasn't had enough of in recent years.

Definitely can't argue with Oliveros either. He's had a very strong season, especially considering it's his first year back.

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Miles Tones
Sep 10 2014 08:01 AM

It's a strong list with many worthy candidates.  However, I'm a bit stunned Gallant and Burdi are not in the top six.  Reed WAS included, so it's apparently not due to small sample set.  Gallant put up video game numbers, and Burdi would have if you excuse his debut.  

 

I realize its choosing among several excellent options, but I'd have pegged Reed first.  He was almost unfair this year.

It's a strong list with many worthy candidates.  However, I'm a bit stunned Gallant and Burdi are not in the top six.  Reed WAS included, so it's apparently not due to small sample set.  Gallant put up video game numbers, and Burdi would have if you excuse his debut.  

 

I realize its choosing among several excellent options, but I'd have pegged Reed first.  He was almost unfair this year.

 

Actually the low innings is the only reason that Gallant and Burdi weren't there. Reed's numbers were absolute video game numbers, and so were Gallant's. But innings pitched factor into this as well, and 57+ nearly doubles 31 and it does double 28 and 20. It's definitely nothing against those guys as much as it's that Peterson and the rest of the top 4 did it for the full season as opposed to half of a season. 

Obviously happy to see Peterson at the top of the list.  As an '09 alum, it's great to see former BHS athletes living out their dreams.  Go Blaze!

 

The field was extremely talented for RP of the year, especially in high K numbers, something that we're all excited about.  However, I really liked that all of these guys were pretty good at limiting the number of walks.

Actually the low innings is the only reason that Gallant and Burdi weren't there. Reed's numbers were absolute video game numbers, and so were Gallant's. But innings pitched factor into this as well, and 57+ nearly doubles 31 and it does double 28 and 20. It's definitely nothing against those guys as much as it's that Peterson and the rest of the top 4 did it for the full season as opposed to half of a season. 

 

That is why I figured Burdi was not there.His post first appearance numbers are crazy, 38 K's in 20.1 IP. 2 ER. 13 H, 6 BB. 

Very bright future for this heavily used part of the Twins lineup.

There are 12 relievers on that list that had a 9k per 9 innings or better and a few more that were close.Pretty soon our relievers will strike out more that our starters.

Do you see Alex Muren in a Matt Guerrier type role? Come in and pitch a couple innings of middle relief if needed.  But, more importantly, being able to induce a ground ball double play in a crucial situation.

Do you see Alex Muren in a Matt Guerrier type role? Come in and pitch a couple innings of middle relief if needed.  But, more importantly, being able to induce a ground ball double play in a crucial situation.

 

Interesting comparison because they're similar in size, build and stuff... but Guerrier has been a fly ball guy in his career, while Muren is a ground ball type. Obviously that can change and normalize if he continues to move up the system, but there's something to that.

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Miles Tones
Sep 10 2014 10:38 AM

Interesting that no one has recently whined about all the relievers the Twins drafted this year.  Apparently, Burdi, Reed, Cederoth, Clay, and Curtiss seem to be working out just fine...

Seth, thanks for all the time you invest in following the minor leagues.I have followed your work for many years, and you are a wealth of information.You also conduct yourself very well on-line and seem to be a gentleman in how you interact with others.

 

Whenever there's a question about a minor leaguer, I believe you'll be a reliable source of information.Thanks for being a huge part of the appeal of this website for me.

    • DAM DC Twins Fans, Craig Arko and chamoman like this

Totally spot on, Seth. And this certainly is a difficult task. Some of these guys are just putting up ridiculous numbers.

 

Oliveros' situation scares me given this SSS in the majors again.

Even before this year's draft assault on relievers, this was our farm system's strongest position. With the additions of Burdi and Reed, it might be the best in the minor leagues.

 

The Twins MiLB teams...

 

1st - Least Earned Runs Allowed

1st - Least HR allowed

1st - K-BB%

1st - WHIP

 

You CAN'T (really, you can't) get better than that.

 
2014 MiLB Pitching Leaders - HR Allowed
2014 MiLB Pitching Leaders - WHIP
2014 MiLB Pitching Leaders - K-BB%
2014 MiLB Pitching Leaders - Earned Runs
 
*These charts courtesy of mlbfarm.com
    • Seth Stohs, James, Don't Feed the Greed Guy and 2 others like this

Seth, thanks for all the time you invest in following the minor leagues.I have followed your work for many years, and you are a wealth of information.You also conduct yourself very well on-line and seem to be a gentleman in how you interact with others.
 
Whenever there's a question about a minor leaguer, I believe you'll be a reliable source of information.Thanks for being a huge part of the appeal of this website for me.


Very kind of you to say. Thank you!

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