Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

Front Page: ALDS Takeaways, Part 4: Sluggers Go Close Tog...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:10 AM
Baseball writer Joe Sheehan has been onto the importance of what he calls “short-sequence offense” in the postseason for much longer than...
Full topic ›

Front Page: Handing a Qualifying Offer to Michael Pineda

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:10 AM
The Minnesota Twins are going to be looking at filling a starting rotation that has just one guaranteed arm for 2020. A top-tier talent o...
Full topic ›

Front Page: Twins Daily 2019 Awards: Most Improved Player

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:05 AM
When the life blood of an organization with a strong belief in player development, it is crucial that players continue to develop, contin...
Full topic ›

2019 MLB (Non-Twins) Postseason Discussion Thread

Other Baseball Today, 07:55 AM
Here's thread for general (non-Twins) 2019 MLB postseason discussion!
Full topic ›

Falvey: "...We're going to target impact pitching...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 07:48 AM
Make it rain up in here, Derek.   http://www.startribu...rket/562665252/
Full topic ›

Rotating the Rotation: Is Jose Berrios Coming Up Soon?

The Twins went into Spring Training with one of the more interesting positional battles on their hands as they had three back-of-the-rotation starters -- Ricky Nolasco, Tyler Duffey, and Tommy Milone -- one of the top pitching prospects with a shot of making the majors this season in Jose Berrios, and just two spots in the rotation.

The cost savings of starting him in the minors made if fairly likely that Berrios wasn’t going to break camp with the team, but he made the decision an easy one (and removed any chance of filing a grievance over service time the way Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant did last year) by looking fairly pedestrian during his time in big league camp and getting sent down well before last cuts. On the other end of the spectrum, Milone looked strong in his spring outings, solidifying his spot early, and leaving Duffey and Nolasco in a race for the last spot. Nolasco got the nod for a litany of reasons, but it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that strictly on merit the spot could easily have easily gone to Duffey.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs
Fast forward a month from Berrios’ demotion and two weeks from the end of spring training: How do the Twins’ decisions look?

It would be an understatement to say simply that Nolasco has been better than expected. Outside of one bad inning against the Angels, which the Twins managed to work around, Nolasco has given up just two runs in his 20.1 innings of work. His groundball rate is over 50 percent, which would be a career best by a substantial margin if he could keep it up, and he’s dropped his walk rate by nearly a full walk per nine. It’s a bit worrisome that his strikeout rate is well down from his career average -- which wasn’t particularly high to begin with -- but if that’s the tradeoff for his career best soft-contact rate and the improvements in his walk and home run rates, the Twins will take it. He’s not yet to the point of being obvious trade bait, but the Twins don’t need him to be. By the time the team needs his roster spot more than they need his production, a destination may reveal itself.

The terrible weather in upstate New York has jumbled the Rochester Red Wings’ schedule, but both Duffey and Berrios have gotten in three starts, though both were cut short in their first two outings. Duffey has been largely the same pitcher for the Red Wings so far that he was for the Twins last year: allowing more baserunners than one might like, but preventing them from scoring. By results, he still seems like a pitcher the Twins have tentatively penciled into their long term plan and are glad to have ready in case of injury, but he’s not forcing their hand yet.

Berrios, on the other hand, is getting sharp. He’s racked up 20 strikeouts in his 17 innings so far, allowed less than a baserunner per inning, and hasn’t allowed more than a run in any of his three starts.

The "Extra Year" deadline likely having already passed, Berrios could be called up at any point without the Twins risking losing him a year early, especially since it will be another week or so until he’s ready to start again following his seven-inning lockdown of the Pawsox on Thursday. The Twins weren’t just playing a service time game with Berrios, however, these starts were important for him to show that he was ready. He’ll need to look good again in his next outing, but assuming he does, he’s making a compelling case that he’s ready to help the major league team crawl back into contention.

The question is: Is there a spot for him in the rotation? Ervin Santana and Phil Hughes aren’t going anywhere, which leaves just two theoretical spots, Kyle Gibson’s and Milone’s. Neither pitcher is sporting a positive fWAR so far this season, but it’s something of a blunt tool without a bit more data behind it.

Gibson’s numbers don’t look great through three starts, but the Twins believe in him with good reason and while his first start was indeed a bomb, but the subsequent two have been much better. His spot’s safe unless he hits the All-Star break with about an 8.90 ERA and a WHIP that looks like a respectable high school GPA. So the timing of Berrios’ appearance in the majors likely depends on Milone.

Though he earned his spot in camp before Nolasco did, Milone seems as though he may be pulled back into the fray if he can’t right his ship in the next few starts. The optics are admittedly bad: He’s made it out of the fifth inning just once, he has allowed four runs in each of his starts, and he has given up 17 hits in just 15.1 innings pitched despite a BABIP almost precisely at his career average. His lines would look a bit better if he had been pulled after six innings in his start against the Angels instead of allowed to face Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun, who took him deep, but the core issues would still be there: He’s giving up way too much contact and when 35 percent of it is classified as hard contact, it’s not hard to see why he keeps ending up in trouble.

Working against Milone is the fact that, even at his best, he’s something of a marginal starter. His lowest ERA in a season is 3.74, he doesn’t strike out a lot of hitters or generate a ton of groundballs; he gets by with timely outs and the occasional double play. He’s a survivor, an innings eater in the best of cases. It’s a profile the Twins have seen before in any number of other back-end-of-the-rotation guys, but their aspirations are higher this year than they’ve been in the recent past, making simply surviving a less desirable outcome, particularly when instead of eating innings, Milone is making extra work for the bullpen.

Nick Nelson caught a quirk from Milone this year that’s worth mentioning:

Posted Image

His velocity isn’t changing much the second or third time he’s seeing hitters and his release point is dropping fractionally, but not enough to explain a 900 point increase in opponents’ OPS. Absent those things, which would point to either fatigue or injury, the easiest explanation is that hitters are simply getting a good sense of how his pitches look and/or how he wants to sequence them (Alternatively, Milone could be tipping his pitches, but there aren’t any other symptoms of that). If they know what to expect, they can prepare and punish even decently executed offerings. If it is the case that Milone is simply predictable, it’s liable to get worse before it gets better as advance scouts figure out how best to prepare their players for his patterns.

If the Twins didn’t have Berrios in the minors and it was just Duffey who presented a serious threat to Milone’s spot, his leash would probably be longer than it is, but with the pitching staff needing a jump-start and Berrios seemingly ready to provide it, Milone’s general malaise surely hasn’t gone unnoticed. It’s good news for Berrios that it’s Milone who is struggling rather than Nolasco, as there are simply fewer ties that bind Milone to the majors. The Twins may not be looking for a reason to change Milone’s usage, but given how his season has gone, they’re also not keen to keep the status quo in place.

All things considered, the date to circle is May 23. A month away, it gives the Twins a chance to see if there’s something fixable with Milone, be sure that Berrios is ready, and utilize off days for Rochester to line up the rotation they way they want to slot Berrios in with the big club when necessary. The 23rd is also the first time -- assuming the Twins’ rotation doesn’t change -- Milone will face a team for the second time this year. If the Royals show preternatural familiarity with Milone and beat him up, it may force the front office to make a change whether they had planned on it or not.

  • Sconnie and Platoon like this

  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

117 Comments

Great article. The obvious solution is to move Milone to the pen. That takes advantage of his great splits going through the order the first time.

    • pbrezeasap, ThejacKmp, Danchat and 2 others like this
Fairly easy path to make it happen if Milone struggles. O'Rourke gets sent back down, Milone to the pen as the second lefty and long reliever, Berrios to the rotation. Not sure who comes off the 40 man though.

Don't forget about the ever looming possibility of injury either. These scenarios usually all depend on everyone staying healthy when, in reality, it's probably just as (or more) likely that someone goes down.
    • 70charger, Gene Larkin Fan Club and Jham like this
Photo
Old Twins Cap
Apr 22 2016 06:29 AM

Do not discount the possibility the Twins get Nolasco a few more starts and then trade him.I certainly would.If you can get a MLB team to take on that contract, do it. 

 

Sure, he looks good now, but he's doing it with sliders and curve balls.Once MLB hitters wise up to that, or his arm gets a little tired from all the torque, he will fall back to earth.

 

Look, if you had said to any of us in February:Nolasco will throw three great games to start the season, would anyone not have taken than in a heartbeat as a chance to get rid of him?

Photo
Brock Beauchamp
Apr 22 2016 06:37 AM

Is Milone out of options? I think he is but with so many Twins players out of options this season, I lost track.

I believe Milone is out of options... if it were me, I'd DFA Fien to add Berrios to the 40 man, move Milone to the pen, and call up Berrios.
    • alarp33, pbrezeasap, DAM DC Twins Fans and 6 others like this
Photo
Brock Beauchamp
Apr 22 2016 06:53 AM

 

I believe Milone is out of options... if it were me, I'd DFA Fien to add Berrios to the 40 man, move Milone to the pen, and call up Berrios.

That's the direction I'm leaning as well. I hoped Milone would be offloaded last winter but oh well, that didn't happen.

Photo
EddieMatthews
Apr 22 2016 07:05 AM

If you look at the career records of Santana, Nolasco, Hughes, Milone, Gibson, none of them stands out.  Each has had some success and some bad.  They all look like middle of the rotation guys (or worse).  None are young either.  Five milquetoasts.

 

Bring up both Duffey and Berrios by the end of May.  Terry Ryan needs to get on the phone and move two of the five current starters.  It probably doesn't matter which two go.  Let's get the youth movement rolling.  Let's find out if we have any "aces" or "stoppers" for the 2017 rotation.

    • DAM DC Twins Fans likes this

That's the direction I'm leaning as well. I hoped Milone would be offloaded last winter but oh well, that didn't happen.


Count me in on this plan but after a couple more turns in the rotation so we have better info on all involved.
    • Dantes929 likes this

 

Is Milone out of options? I think he is but with so many Twins players out of options this season, I lost track.

 

Yes, he is out of options.

Photo
HitInAPinch
Apr 22 2016 07:12 AM

A soft-tossing lefty in the bullpen?IMHO, not really a recipe for success.Definitely not the direction the Twins moving.Power pitchers in the pen!!

 

Milone being traded:kinda laughable based on any reasonable expectation of an upside and a 1 year, $4.5M contract he signed in January.

 

then again, this is the team that once traded Kevin Correa :)

 

Having watched Berrios pitch only a few times in Spring Training, his fastball is one of the flattest I've ever seen. Maybe that has changed.I really hope so.

Berrios?  Duffey?  Nah.

 

Last time I checked, there is a guy who is pitching better than both, any way you cut it, in Rochester, and he has much higher upside than both.

 

Alex Meyer should be in the Twins' rotation way before Berrios or Duffey.

 

Milone needs to go and the already pretty mediocre at best Twins' pen will not improve with someone like him.  Plenty of other arms to do mop up duty.

    • brvama, NoCryingInBaseball, twinssouth and 1 other like this
Photo
JaleelWhite FanClub
Apr 22 2016 07:22 AM

I think Meyer needs to be added to the conversation of Red Wings pitchers waiting, well, "in the wings."

 

I was really glad the Twins gave him the opportunity to start again this year. He has definitely delivered. I think he has as much potential as Berrios, maybe even a bit more upside.

 

While Duffey was great last year, if he can't get a third pitch, I think he could be a dominant reliever with a bigger fastball (thrown harder without the need to be stretched out) and his incredible curve. Think K-Rod. He has the experience/mentality from his college days.

Photo
SheboyganBrats
Apr 22 2016 07:29 AM

2017 starting rotation:  Gibson, May, Berrios, Duffey, and Meyer.  Where'd all those other guys go?

 

I'm mostly kidding with this (at least for the start of the 2017 season), but I'm glad the Twins have some guys that could very well be part of the future of the team.

    • birdwatcher and 70charger like this

Say what you will about Tommy Milone, he's a much more effective pitcher than O'Rourke. Option O'Rourke and move Tommy Milone to the bullpen if it is time to open up a spot in the rotation. The Twins have a need for a long reliever and nobody else fits that role as well as Milone. I also don't think trading away competent starting pitching is a good idea this early in the season.

 

I agree that the decision to call up Meyer or Berrios isn't an easy one right now (which is terrific). Meyer is already on the 40 man roster so they wouldn't have to move Perkins to the 60 day DL to open a spot on the roster like they would for Berrios.

 

I'd move Duffey out of the conversation and put him in the pen if we're making choices about which starters to call up and how to improve the team as much as possible. Berrios, Meyer, Duffey would be my pecking order. Knowing the Twins though, theirs is Duffey, Meyer, Berrios until they actually go through with it and it doesn't work, so they end up fixing it in July (at the earliest) when that will already be far too late.

    • alarp33, Dman and d-mac like this
Photo
Pardon My Dinger
Apr 22 2016 08:17 AM

I want Meyer to have his shot, but it's got to be Berrios. I'm pumped about Meyer's reset, but you can't deny a guy who has performed so consistently well in the minors. 

    • Drew likes this

You can't stash Milone or Nolasco in the Minors. The CBA won't allow it. 

 

You can stash Duffey and Berrios and Meyer in the Minors... The CBA Will allow that. 

 

You need at least 8 pitchers to get through the season. 

 

Of course Duffey, Berrios and Meyer were going to start the season in the minors. 

 

You don't cut depth when you don't have to. 

 

We will see these guys in the majors before the year is out. 

 

Who gets called up first is the real question. 

 

When... It will happen when the first blister or farm accident happens. 

    • Pardon My Dinger likes this

Well, I'm not sure you should worry about years of control with pitchers.....but putting that aside......

 

If Milone doesn't get better, move him to the bullpen. While  you are at it, DFA Fien, and send down the least effective guy still there. Call up Berrios and Duffey. Put Duffey in the bullpen.

 

At some point, having uber talented guys up here is more important than having mediocre guys here, but depth in the minors. I'd argue we are at that point now, but I can see why Ryan and team want to wait another week or two.

Photo
whosafraidofluigirussolo
Apr 22 2016 08:28 AM

His velocity isn’t changing much the second or third time he’s seeing hitters and his release point is dropping fractionally, but not enough to explain a 900 point increase in opponents’ OPS...(Alternatively, Milone could be tipping his pitches, but there aren’t any other symptoms of that).

 

What other symptoms of tipping his pitches might you be looking for? (Not a gotcha question, but an honestly curious one.) Opponents hitting him significantly more and harder the 2nd and 3rd times through the order seems like a big symptom already. It may not be statistically significant this early in the season, though.

 

Great article. The obvious solution is to move Milone to the pen. That takes advantage of his great splits going through the order the first time.

He doesn't have great splits going through the order the first time, except for 3 starts this season.  He's got 106 starts that say otherwise.

 

If you want to demote him to the pen, fine -- he's scuffling, we could probably use a long man out there, and we've got Berrios and/or Meyer looking good in AAA.  But he's not a prospective short relief weapon at this point.

    • nytwinsfan likes this
Photo
Hosken Bombo Disco
Apr 22 2016 09:07 AM

Say what you will about Tommy Milone, he's a much more effective pitcher than O'Rourke. Option O'Rourke and move Tommy Milone to the bullpen if it is time to open up a spot in the rotation. The Twins have a need for a long reliever and nobody else fits that role as well as Milone. I also don't think trading away competent starting pitching is a good idea this early in the season.
 
I agree that the decision to call up Meyer or Berrios isn't an easy one right now (which is terrific). Meyer is already on the 40 man roster so they wouldn't have to move Perkins to the 60 day DL to open a spot on the roster like they would for Berrios.

I don't understand the urge to option O'Rourke and keep Milone. O'Rourke seems very good against lefties. Is it because O'Rourke doesn't get shelled by both RHB and LHB equally? :)

Otherwise I agree the next starter to take a shot will be a guy already on the 40 man. Ryan continues to say this will be a short term injury for Perkins.
Photo
Hosken Bombo Disco
Apr 22 2016 09:10 AM
Good article and finding the May 23 date. That would be the Twins typical timeline but I really hope we see a move made sooner.
    • Tibs and Dman like this
Photo
nicksaviking
Apr 22 2016 09:16 AM

 

 

You need at least 8 pitchers to get through the season. 

 

Of course Duffey, Berrios and Meyer were going to start the season in the minors. 

 

You don't cut depth when you don't have to. 

 

We will see these guys in the majors before the year is out.

 

Well when you construct your roster in a way that the best pitchers have to take a back seat to preserve depth, you kind of cancel out the positive benefit of the depth.

 

Milone traded/DFA'd, Nolasco and Hughes to the pen, all three of Berrios, Duffey and Meyer up by June. It wouldn't be popular and it would never happen, but if this club ever cared about getting the most peak years out of their young arms, this is what they should be doing.

    • Dman, Hosken Bombo Disco, tobi0040 and 2 others like this

I'll take the under on May 23. 

    • Vanimal46 likes this

Having watched Berrios pitch only a few times in Spring Training, his fastball is one of the flattest I've ever seen. Maybe that has changed.I really hope so.

 
Hi there Keith Law!


Similar Articles


by Seth Stohs , Yesterday, 10:53 PM
Photo


by Patrick Wozniak , 12 Oct 2019
Photo


by Patrick Wozniak , 12 Oct 2019
Photo


by Patrick Wozniak , 10 Oct 2019
Photo


by Cody Christie , 08 Oct 2019
Photo