Twins Daily Awards 2017: Rookie Of The Year
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA TodayIn 2015, Trevor Hildenberger was the Twins Daily choice for Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. In 2016, he repeated as the Twins Daily Relief Pitcher of the Year. During each of those seasons, he gathered several Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month awards too. But our guess is that Hildenberger is just fine with not winning a third straight Minor League Reliever of the Year award. In fact, it’s probably a bit of a relief.
True to his humble self, Hildenberger said, “There is some relief there. Hopefully the same is true next year.”
Based on the fact that Hildenberger became manager Paul Molitor’s most reliable bullpen choice during the final two months of the season, it would appear quite unlikely that Hildenberger will see time in the minor leagues in 2018.
The right-hander began the 2017 season with the Rochester Red Wings. He was having a Hildenbergesque (let’s make this a word, Twins fans) season with the Red Wings. He was 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. In 30.2 innings to that point, he had just eight walks and 35 strikeouts. On June 21st, he recorded a five-out save. In his previous two outings, Hildenberger had recorded two-inning saves.
The next day, he got the message that every baseball player dreams of. In his words…
“Our Rochester manager, Mike Quade, called me in his office after the game on June 22nd. He started asking me about pace of play and to speed up my rhythm on the mound. I was a little thrown off until he told me I would have a chance to work on it in the big leagues because I’m getting called up.”
He left his manager’s office, received congratulations from teammates and stepped outside the visitor’s clubhouse in Buffalo. Standing there were his parents, visiting from California.
Hildenberger added, “It was very special to be able to tell my parents in person, both questioned whether I was serious for a split second, but I think that was just shock.”
They didn’t have to travel far to see their son’s first game in the big leagues. Instead of flying home, they got in their rental car and drove to Cleveland where the Twins were playing. The very next day, June 23rd, the Twins had a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. Paul Molitor summoned the side-winding righty in from the bullpen.
The first batter Hildenberger faced was catcher Roberto Perez. Perez struck out on five pitches. Bradley Zimmer doubled, but Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez both grounded out to end the game. Hildy even made his debut on FSN with a post-game interview with Kevin Gorg.
He was used sporadically until July 7 when in his fourth outing he worked 2.1 innings to record his first big league win against the Orioles. At that point, he started working more often, and it wasn’t long before he started being used in high-leverage situations.
Of his final 24 outings, only twice did he come in before the seventh inning and those were big sixth-inning moments in New York and Cleveland. At one point in mid-to-late August, Molitor used Hildenberger in six out of seven Twins games. At the time, Molitor said, “Hildenberger has been invaluable to us."
Hildenberger pitched in high-leverage situations throughout his minor league league time, but pitching high-leverage situations in the big leagues in August and September for a team in a playoff push is something different. It was something that Hildenberger thrived upon and really enjoyed.
He recently told Twins Daily, “Being able to pitch in high-leverage situations is great, it’s what you want as a reliever. You want to be the guy they run out there in a jam we need to get out of two, three, four days in a row. I think it’s earned on an outing to outing basis. You’ve got to keep earning it and keep doing your job. It’s invaluable experience to be able to throw in some big spots in big games down the stretch.”
Hildenberger wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school. He went to Cal-Berkeley and barely pitched for the first three seasons. In 2012, he started throwing sidearm and it altered the trajectory of his baseball-playing career. He was the Twins' 22nd round pick in 2014 after five years in college. He spent that summer in the GCL. He split 2015 between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers. He went to the Arizona Fall League following the season and pitched well. In 2016, he split the year between Chattanooga and Rochester.
The long, windy road to the big leagues proved well worth it for Hildenberger. It was full of positives, lessons learned and a lot of fun.
According to Hildenberger, “Winning down the stretch with such a great group of guys in that clubhouse was the best time of my life. I’ll never forget the lessons I learned in my short 3 months from everyone in the organization. There’s nothing better than winning at the highest level, just getting a taste of success will only motivate us for years to come.”
Congratulations to the Twins Daily 2017 Twins Rookie of the Year, Trevor Hildenberger!
Adalberto Mejia made 21 starts for the Twins in 2017. He made the Opening Day rotation and made his starts until a midseason injury. He came back for two starts at the end of the season. He went 4-7 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP. In 98 innings, he struck out 85 batters.
Alan Busenitz was promoted about a week before Hildenberger. He moved up and down over the next month, but by season’s end, Molitor was also not afraid to put him into key situations. He responded by posting a 1.99 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP.
Zack Granite played well for a few weeks when Byron Buxton went on the Disabled List. Aaron Slegers and Felix Jorge both had a good start for the Twins in key situations.
Here's a look at the ballots from each of our nine voters.
Seth Stohs: 1) Trevor Hildenberger, 2) Adalberto Mejia, 3) Alan Busenitz
Nick Nelson: 1) Trevor Hildenberger, 2) Adalberto Mejia, 3) Alan Busenitz
Parker Hageman: 1) Adalberto Mejia, 2) Trevor Hildenberger, 3) Zack Granite
John Bonnes: 1) Trevor Hildenberger, 2) Adalberto Mejia, 3) Alan Busenitz
Jeremy Nygaard: 1) Trevor Hildenberger, 2) Adalberto Mejia, 3) Alan Busenitz
Cody Christie: 1) Adalberto Mejia, 2) Trevor Hildenberger, 3) Alan Busenitz
Steve Lien: 1) Trevor Hildenberger, 2) Alan Busenitz, 3) Zack Granite
Tom Froemming: 1) Adalberto Mejia, 2) Trevor Hildenberger, 3) Alan Busenitz
Ted Schwerzler: 1) Trevor Hildenberger, 2) Adalberto Mejia, 3) Alan Busenitz
Trevor Hildenberger: 24
Adalberto Mejia: 19
Alan Busenitz: 9
Zack Granite: 2
Do you agree with our committee's pick? Who would be your choice for Twins Rookie of the Year and why?
PREVIOUS TWINS DAILY ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
2015: Miguel Sano
2016: Max Kepler
2017 TWINS DAILY AWARDS
2017 Most Improved: Byron Buxton
2017 Rookie of the Year: Trevor Hildenberger
2017 Pitcher of the Year: Wednesday
2017 Most Valuable Player: Thursday
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