2018 Twins: The Year in Debut
Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson, USA Today14 players made their major league debut for the Twins in 2017. So it shouldn’t be so bad to just write about eight of them this year. Some made strong first impressions. Some struggled. Most are somewhere in the middle.
Tyler Kinley - April 7, 2018
The Twins selected right-handed relief pitcher Tyler Kinley in the December 2017 Rule 5 draft from the Miami Marlins organization. The right-hander reached into the upper-90s, and he had a sharp slider. Rarely did he have control. Hence, he was left unprotected. He made the Twins Opening Day roster.
It took a while, but in the Twins seventh game, they found themselves down big, so Kinley got the ball for the ninth inning. He came in and did as reported. He threw hard. He gave up one run on one hit. He walked one and struck out two batters.
But he pitched just once in the Twins first 11 games. He pitched three times over the Twins next six games. He had one good outing, but over his final two outings, he gave up eight runs on seven hits and three walks in just 1 1/3 innings. The Twins designated him for assignment, and after clearing waivers, he was returned to the Marlins.
He was called up to the Marlins in September. He pitched in nine games. He gave up five runs in one of those outings. In the other eight games (10.1 innings), he gave up just one run.
Fernando Romero - May 2, 2018
Romero has long been a Twins prospect, but after missing two seasons with Tommy John surgery, the Twins have kept an eye on his innings. But, he has moved quickly up the system. He had impressed in his spring training outings the past two seasons, and fans got very excited when they learned that he was coming up to start for the Twins.
On a sunny day in early May, Romero got Twins fans even more excited. Not only was he throwing hard, but he showed a good changeup and a good slider. Against the Blue Jays, Romero threw 5 2/3 innings and did not allow a run. He gave up four hits, walked three and struck out five. His second start was in St. Louis and he was even better. He threw six shutout innings and gave up just three hits and three walks. He struck out nine batters. In his third start, he went head-to-head with Angels star rookie Shohei Ohtani. He gave up a run, but just one hit, over five innings.
In his first five starts, Romero went 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA. His sixth start did not go well. He gave up eight earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings. Then over his next five starts, he went 1-1 with a 5.33 ERA. He was sent to Rochester and continued to make starts. He was not called up in September due to an innings limit.
2019 will be Romero’s final option season. Will he get another opportunity to start? Could he be moved in to late-inning relief duties?
Jake Cave - May 19, 2018
The Twins acquired outfielder Jake Cave in a mid-March trade with the Yankees in exchange for hard-throwing prospect Luis Gil. He got a few games in big league spring training before heading to minor league camp. With Zack Granite out most of the year with a shoulder injury, Cave got an opportunity and really stepped up.
His big league debut came at Target Field against the Brewers. He batted seventh and played center field. He went 1-for-3 with two runs and two RBI. The one hit? A two-run homer.
He played in three games before heading back to the Red Wings. He was called up again in early June, and then called up for good late in June. With the Byron Buxton injury, Cave was able to play most every day. He responded by hitting .265/.313/.473 (.786) with 16 doubles and 13 home runs in 91 games. Some of those homers went a long way! The Twins named him the Bill Boni Award recipient as Twins Outstanding Rookie.
In addition, the Twins had five episodes of The Man Cave Show.
Zack Littell - June 5, 2018
The Twins had a doubleheader and it was Littell who was called up as the team’s 26th man. Littell began his big league career by striking out Yoan Moncada. He gave up two runs in the first inning after that though. He threw two zeroes on the board. However, Littell began the fourth inning by walking the first two batters. He was replaced and both runners scored. So, in three innings, he was charged with four runs on six hits and four walks. Littell averaged just 2.5 walks per nine innings in his minor league career (to this point).
Littell came back to the Twins when they needed an arm in early July, and then he ended the season with a September call up. He was the youngest player to play for the Twins in 2018. Only Lewis Thorpe pitched at a younger age at Rochester in 2018. Thorpe is about six weeks younger.
The Twins acquired Littell (with Dietrich Enns) in late July of 2017 from the Yankees in exchange for Jaime Garcia.
Willians Astudillo, - June 30, 2018
When the Twins signed Astudillo about a year ago at this time, it was an intriguing signing. As we’ve learned, Astudillo pretty much refuses to walk or strike out. He was named to the 2018 International League All-Star game, but he couldn’t play because the 26-year-old was in the big leagues. Astudillo probably had the best short MLB debut since Josmil Pinto’s incredible 2013 September.
Remember that awful series in Chicago at the end of June? Well, so does Astudillo. He entered that June 30th game in the late innings, replacing Eddie Rosario in left field. Astudillo went 1-for-2 and had an RBI in that game. He played in a very limited role in seven games over the next two weeks, none at catcher. He played left field, center field, third base, second base, DHd and even pitched. None at his “normal’ position, catcher. He was sent back down but returned to the big leagues with about a week remaining in August. That’s when the Legend of La Tortuga took off. Of his 29 games played, he had multi-hit games in ten games. Eight of those games came in his final 16 games. He showed he could catch a little. He proved to people that “chubby people can run too.” He showed a flare for the dramatic (including a walk-off home run against the Royals), and the best thing he showed was some fantastic hair!
He showed enough that MLB put out a Great Moments video for Willians Astudillo’s 2018 season.
Hidden Ball Trick in Rochester:
No-Look Pick-off in Spring training:
Kohl Stewart - August 12, 2018
Stewart was the Twins first-round pick in June of 2014 out of high school in Houston. He was not protected on the Twins 40-man roster a year ago and went unclaimed. In mid-August, the front office determined that they wanted to get a look at Stewart in the big leagues.
His debut came in Detroit. Just to make sure it wasn’t easy, they had him debut after the Tigers honored Jack Morris in a pre-game celebration. Stewart responded well. Through four innings, he gave up zero runs. However, he went out for the fifth inning and it didn’t go well. After getting the first out, Stewart gave up four straight singles before a walk ended his day. In total, he was charged with three runs on eight hits. He walked one, hit one and struck out three.
His breakout game, per se, came in his first outing. He entered the game as a “primary” pitcher and threw five shutout innings in front of friends and family in Houston against the Astros. In his final two starts, he threw 12 innings and did not give up an earned run.
Stephen Gonsalves - August 20, 2018
Eight days after Stewart debuted, fellow 2014 draft pick, Stephen Gonsalves (fourth round) was at Target Field for his MLB debut. Like Stewart, Gonsalves’s debut was delayed. As he was about to start warming up, the rains came and there was a delay. Gonsalves pitched a scoreless first inning. The second inning didn’t go as well and didn’t get out of the inning. In total, he gave up four runs on six hits and two walks in 1 1/3 innings. He struck out three.
He really struggled in his first four starts, but he pitched much better over his final three appearances, all as a “primary” starter. He gave up just one run over 12 1/3 innings. He went 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA. Opponents hit just .098/.260/.098 (.358) off of him. There were too many walks, and he knows it, but it was something to build upon. His best game was his penultimate start of the season when he threw six scoreless, one-hit innings
Andrew Vasquez - September 1, 2018
Vasquez began the season in Ft. Myers and pitched in the mid-June Florida State League All-Star game. He moved up to Chattanooga for a month, and then Rochester for a week, and then was called up on September 1st. He made the trip from Rochester to Arlington and arrived as the game was starting. He came in to start the seventh inning. It’s fair to say that his nerves showed. The first batter reached on his error. He gave up a ground ball single. After a fly out, Vasquez picked off Rougned Odor, but he dropped the ball on the rundown for his second error of the inning. He got a ground out back to himself. He got through it.
He pitched in nine total games for the Twins but the highlight was his final game. Not only was he a part of Joe Mauer’s final game, but he struck out the side in his inning
He was named the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. For much more on Andrew Vasquez, there is a feature story in the 2019 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook.
The other rookies to play for the Minnesota Twins in 2018 were Matt Magill, Gabriel Moya, Chase De Jong, Aaron Slegers, John Curtiss, Mitch Garver and Ryan LaMarre. They had all made their MLB debuts in previous seasons.
Discuss the Twins 2018 rookies, their debuts, and which will take a step forward in 2019 and beyond. Secondly, which rookies do you think will debut for the Twins in 2019?
- Thrylos, Oldgoat_MN, h2oface and 6 others like this