Heat Check: What To Expect From Chargois
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA TodayHere's what the list of hottest MLB heaters among relief pitchers in 2016 looked like:
1. Aroldis Chapman (100.4)
2. Arquimedes Caminero (97.9)
3. Dellin Betances (97.7)
4. Craig Kimbrel (97.3)
5. Carlos Esteves (97.3)
6. Edwin Diaz (97.3)
7. Ken Giles (97.2)
8. Kelvin Herrera (97.1)
9. Matt Bush (97.0)
10. Nate Jones (96.8)
11. Hunter Strickland (96.8)
12. Matt Barnes (96.7)
13. Pedro Baez (96.7)
Among these 13, four were closers by the end of the year, and rather dominant ones at that. Chapman, Betances, Kimbrel and Giles each averaged at least 14 strikeouts per nine innings, which is really something. Among the other nine, only three finished with anything less than a sterling ERA: Caminero (3.63), Barnes (4.05) and Estevez (5.24).
We can differentiate these three from Chargois pretty easily, in that they don't have the backgrounds as outstanding college closers nor the spectacular minor league track records. But all of their 2016 seasons did share a common trait, and one that is relevant with regards to Minnesota's rookie fireballer: they all struggled with control.
Caminero, Barnes and Esteves all averaged at least four walks per nine innings, and that's a rate that makes it tough to succeed. Of course, Chargois put up a 4.7 BB/9 rate this year, so it isn't too surprising he ended up with a lackluster 4.70 ERA.
But unlike so many of the hard throwers that have come through the Twins system in recent years as the club has increased its focus on bullpen velocity – from Jim Hoey to Alex Meyer to Pat Light and beyond – there isn't a ton of reason to believe Chargois will be haunted by control issues long-term.
In 39 appearances this year with Chattanooga and Rochester prior to his call-up, the big righty handed out only 13 free passes over 47 innings. His walk problem in the majors seemed mostly related to nerves; Chargois issued six walks over his first six MLB appearances, then only six more in 19 appearances the rest of the way. In his last 12 games of the season he posted a 9-to-1 K/BB ratio while throwing a significantly higher percentage of strikes.
Unsurprisingly, Chargois was also lights-out during that final stretch, allowing only one run on six hits over 10 innings. His strong finish is the single biggest spark of hope for the Twins bullpen heading into 2017. Obviously this unit needs to improve drastically in order for the team to be competitive. Chargois dominating at the back end for an entire season would play a big part in fueling a major turnaround for the relief corps. He also serves as a key insurance policy in the ninth with the status of Glen Perkins in flux.
For a Twins pitching staff that two years ago had only one single fastball register at 97 MPH or above, Chargois is a revelation. As long as he can stay healthy and keep the ball in the zone, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that he will be a devastating weapon in the late innings.
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