Constructing the Best Bullpen Mix to Finish 2019
Image courtesy of © Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY SportsStop me if you have heard this before. The Minnesota Twins could use some better pitching performances. Early in the season all the focus was on the bullpen, and while it has more recently shifted to the starters and a stretch of dismal starts, all the changes with the relievers do cause us to wonder what should the Twins bullpen look like for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs.
The good news (if there can be such thing about something you struggle with) about the Twins bullpen struggles is that they are not alone in those struggles. The Dodgers, Cubs, Braves, Padres, and even the Yankees among others have had their own hiccups along the way, whether it be performance or injury related.
As a reminder to ourselves, here is what the bullpen looked like coming into Opening Day 2019.
RHP Trevor May
LHP Taylor Rogers
RHP Blake Parker
RHP Trevor Hildenberger
RHP Ryne Harper
LHP Martin Perez
LHP Adalberto Mejia
IL-RHP Matt Magill
Now Perez’s inclusion was obviously the early season luxury of being able to roll with a four-man rotation. Besides Perez’s move to the rotation we have also seen Parker, Mejia, and Magill all let loose and Hildy has been sent down, hurt, and is now trying to make a comeback. The task at hand today is trying to assemble the best bullpen with what is available to the Twins for the stretch run as they try to outpace the Indians once again like they did to begin the season.
Constructing the Bullpen for the Rest of 2019
For starters, Taylor Rogers, Sergio Romo, and Ryne Harper will have a place in the bullpen barring any injury. Even after allowing a grand slam to Carlos Santanna Sunday, Rogers is still the best reliever this team has and still one of the best in the league at what he does. As food for thought, there was this informative tweet from Aaron Gleeman regarding Rogers’ usage.
This makes it all the more important to find reinforcements for the bullpen so that Rocco can give Rogers some rest. Romo was brought in to be part of the backend of the bullpen and has a 1.59 ERA since coming on the scene. He has only allowed the one run since joining the Twins. Harper has done nothing but get the job done this season holding a 2.96 ERA in 51 games. While he is the third reliever mentioned here, the Twins need Harper to fill a role in the sixth and seventh innings and not end up as the third-best reliever on this list in order for the team to be competitive with playoff caliber teams.
The polarizing Sam Dyson will and needs to be part of this bullpen as well for the Twins to be competitive. They went out and traded three prospects for him for a reason. While Rogers is the Twins best reliever and Romo can and has saved out some games, Dyson is really the guy that can help effectively take a load off of Rogers. The good news is Dyson looks ready to come off the IL as soon as Tuesday. Now just hopefully whatever needed to happen during those 10 days happened and he is ready to be the good Sam Dyson the Twins traded for.
Tyler Duffey and Trevor May are two that carry baggage of memories with them for fans. It is sometimes hard to shake the memories of bad Duffey from our minds and see that he has continued to pitch well in relief in 2019. His ERA is a respectable 3.23 even if his 4.11 FIP gives a little reason for concern. Duffey has also turned in seven straight scoreless appearances and hasn’t given up multiple runs since July 6. Giving Duffey a run of 13 appearances with one run or less. Right role, Duffey has value for a competitive team.
May had us all excited when he pulled back and nearly hit 100 mph on the radar gun. Unfortunately that has been bookended by a stretch toward the end of July where he took a loss, blew a lead, and blew a save and allowed seven runs over three games and on the other end the solo shot he allowed to Tyler Naquin. May is likely the best representation of a power arm this bullpen currently has and his 3.74 ERA and K/9 north of 10 lands him a spot here.
That gives us a foundation of Rogers, Romo, Dyson, Harper, Duffey, and May in the bullpen for the stretch run, but this is where I would like to do some searching to see if we can put someone else in that final spot or two for the bullpen. Cody Stashak, Zack Littell, and Randy Dobnak have all had some flashes but when I am looking at the Astros and Yankees come postseason, if I could get a different pitcher in their spot that would be great.
Quest for Outside Help
The Twins could always look outside of the organization to the waiver wire to see if they could pick up a veteran reliever who has been cast off by his club. I would have been all on board the Twins taking a chance on Kyle Barraclough but he wound up with the Giants on a waiver claim. That leaves at last check relievers like Tony Sipp, Greg Holland, Trevor Rosenthal, and David Hernandez to look at.
Obviously none of these guys are having great seasons and come with risk and that is why they were sent through waivers. Sipp and Holland feel like the most likely to gain some attention out of this group (Holland to the Nationals is currently drawing some strong steam). Sipp purely because he is a lefty and Holland because he is a “proven closer.” Neither looks to have much upside as Sipp may just be nearing the end at 36 and Holland looks to have lost velocity and is being hit as hard as ever in his career. I think the Twins should and will pass here.
Turning to the Farm
That leaves in-house options to round out the bullpen. The safe in-house option is to continue rotating Triple-A arms like the Twins have been and maybe add Ryan O’ Rourke, who was recently brought back into the system.
If we are willing to not keep it safe this seems like the spot where we lean on some Rob Antony steam and call on Brusdar Graterol. We are all likely familiar with Graterol as the top arm in the Twins farm system. While he has generally been working as a starter, his shoulder injury will cause him to need to rebuild some strength to regain length to his outings, making a bullpen role perfect for him down the stretch.
Graterol would add plenty of velocity to the bullpen since as a starter he can regularly hit triple digits. The shorter appearances out of the pen would also allow him to maintain extra velocity on his slider making it that much more effective of a pitch. At 20-years-old it feels very anti-Twins, but this is a new regime and they seem ready to unleash Graterol if it helps the team compete.
It may even be worth taking a look further down the line of Double-A Twins pitchers. Jorge Alcala, who was acquired in the Ryan Pressly trade, has the velocity that is exciting for a bullpen arm as he can also touch triple digits. The problem is, like Fernando Romero who I haven’t included on this list, he hasn’t fully harnessed his pitch arsenal and is struggling with a 5.96 ERA.
Another 2018 trade deadline acquisition in Jhoan Duran (Eduardo Escobar trade) could be someone who the Twins could try. Duran joins Graterol and Alcala as someone in the Twins system who can hit triple digits on the radar gun. He has had a solid season as a starter even though he has struggled since being promoted to Double-A Pensacola with his ERA jumping to 5.29 over three games from 3.23 over 16 at High-A Fort Myers. If he can smooth things out in the next couple weeks the No. 9 prospect by both Twins Daily and MLB Pipeline could join Graterol as an aggressive promotion to the major league pen.
If I am the Twins, I believe this is the bullpen I am rolling with going forward.
CL Taylor Rogers
CL Sam Dyson
RHP Sergio Romo
RHP Ryne Harper
RHP Trevor May
RHP Tyler Duffey
RHP Brusday Graterol
(if Twins stay with a three-man bench)
RHP Jhoan Duran or Triple-A rotation
This obviously hopes for a Dyson return to form to take some pressure off of Rogers, but Taylor is still the shutdown guy whenever that is needed. The biggest weakness in this pen is that there is still only one lefty. So I wouldn’t hate it if someone wanted to try to shift Martin Perez or Devin Smeltzer into the bullpen. I just don’t know if I am convinced about either of them being great bullpen arms. I would also tread very carefully with Duran, but I am very curious to know how the front office views both him and Graterol. I would hate to mess with either of their developments for a handful of bullpen innings.
Let me know how you would construct the Twins bullpen moving forward. Nicely call me crazy if necessary, or high fives are always nice as well.
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