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WOLFSON: Zack Littell to Make MLB Debut Tuesday

Darren Wolfson of KSTP reported Saturday night that the Twins would be calling up Zack Littell to start one of the games of their doubleheader Tuesday against the White Sox. Littell was promoted to Rochester at the start of May, where he's pitched to a 2.57 ERA over five appearances.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily
Here's the full Tweet from Doogie:

Littell spent April with Double A Chattanooga where his 5.87 ERA and 1.52 WHIP left something to be desired, but that came with an impressive 12.5 K/9 rate and 4.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He debuted with Rochester on May 5 and made an immediate impression, pitching six shutout innings.

In 28 innings with the Red Wings, Littell has a 2.57 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. He also turned some heads in spring training, as he struck out eight batters over five innings of one-run ball before being shifted over to the minor league side of camp.

Littell was acquired from the Yankees at last year's trade deadline and wound up having a banner year, going 19-1 with a 2.69 ERA between three minor league clubs in 2017.

Littell entered this season as Twins Daily's No. 11 prospect in the system. His fastball typically sits in the low 90s, but it's said to have a high spin rate and it pairs nicely with his slow curveball. That may not sound like a combination that can dominate, but Littell has averaged 10.9 K/9 between Chattanooga and Rochester this season. He also throws a changeup and has a great feel for pitching.

It's been quite the journey to the major leagues for Littell, who's still just 22-years-old. This is his sixth season as a professional, but he's already pitched for eight different minor league teams.

Littell was drafted out of high school in the 11th round by the Seattle Mariners and signed for $100,000. He was traded to the Yankees after the 2016 season and then dealt to the Twins less than a year later. He's already on the 40-man roster, and MLB rules allow teams to carry a 26th man for a doubleheader, so no roster moves will be required to make room for Littell.

A little over an hour before Wolfson broke the news, our Ted Schwerzler was wondering aloud on Twitter if maybe Littell was Minneapolis bound. Turned out to be a good hunch.

It comes as a bit of a surprise to see Littell getting the call above other, more experienced starters such as Aaron Slegers, Adalberto Mejia and Stephen Gonsalves, but Littell is coming off an excellent month. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but of that quartet, Littell is also the only one who was acquired under the Derek Falvey regime.

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45 Comments

Wow. Looking at his peripherals a couple weeks ago upon his promotion to AAA, I was thinking this guy could be a comer. I just didn't think he would leapfrog three arms (May, Mejia, Gonsalves) this quickly.

 

I am hoping his upcoming opportunity is not just confirmation bias on the part of FalVine for trading for him. What a huge shot in the arm if he proves to be an immediate contributor.

    • Carole Keller and Dman like this

likey - want to see these guys get a chance

Really looking forward to seeing what he can do. Nothing against him, because he really has been productive as he'll and seems to know how to pitch. I'm thinking he's the guy because Slegers may not be ready yet after his long stint a couple days ago, Gonsalves had a recent and poor outing and Mejia just started. Seems Littell is deserving and the most ready for his next turn.

 

Really looking forward to seeing what he can do. Nothing against him, because he really has been productive as he'll and seems to know how to pitch. I'm thinking he's the guy because Slegers may not be ready yet after his long stint a couple days ago, Gonsalves had a recent and poor outing and Mejia just started. Seems Littell is deserving and the most ready for his next turn.

 

That's what is most surprising. Slegers seemed to have "passed the test" vs. the Royals- his "long stint" was only 5.1 IP and 83 pitches, and he would basically be pitching with his normal days off. 

    • ashbury, Oldgoat_MN, Dman and 1 other like this
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KirbyDome89
Jun 02 2018 11:52 PM

"Maybe it's just a coincidence, but of that quartet, Littell is also the only one who was acquired under the Derek Falvey regime."

 

I don't think it is. 

    • jokin and Jham like this

Cool, I didn't think we'd get to see Littell quite yet. He's still young and he'll likely need more time at AAA, but it'll be great to see him pitch for the first time. I think he can be a solid #4 starter in the majors if things go right. It also reminds me how good of a deal the Jaime Garcia flip was - getting Littell and Enns for Ynoa was a fantastic flip. By the way, Huascar Ynoa is struggling at single A for the Braves right now (5.62 ERA, 1.51 WHIP).

    • SF Twins Fan and BJames like this

Does he have more than two pitches?  An ok 3rd pitch?  I worry about starters who only profile two pitches...curious it wasn't 'Gonsoves

    • Carole Keller likes this
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The Wise One
Jun 03 2018 01:31 AM

 

That's what is most surprising. Slegers seemed to have "passed the test" vs. the Royals- his "long stint" was only 5.1 IP and 83 pitches, and he would basically be pitching with his normal days off. 

Normal rest is every 5 days, not 6Other than Slegers, Littell is the only other starter to choose from that has pitched well this year in Rochester. They might as well see what he has got at the major league level.

Cool, I didn't think we'd get to see Littell quite yet. He's still young and he'll likely need more time at AAA, but it'll be great to see him pitch for the first time. I think he can be a solid #4 starter in the majors if things go right. It also reminds me how good of a deal the Jaime Garcia flip was - getting Littell and Enns for Ynoa was a fantastic flip. By the way, Huascar Ynoa is struggling at single A for the Braves right now (5.62 ERA, 1.51 WHIP).



Nothing against Littell or the trade, but maybe Huascar Ynoa will be in the majors sometime as well. In his last start,: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER/R, BB, 9 K. CJ Wittman of BPro mentioned him in May 30 Minor League Update:

Ynoa is the younger brother of former $4.2M dollar bonus baby Michael Ynoa. Huascar was signed by the Twins during the 2014 J2 period for $800K and later traded to the Braves for Jaime Garcia. He features a plus fastball, average changeup and slightly below-average curveball but the main concerns have always been his well-below-average command. He’s likely headed for a bullpen role in the future but only 1 BB in 6 IP is encouraging.

Off topic, but the next player mentioned was:
Jose Miranda, 2B, Twins (Low-A Cedar Rapids): 3-5, 2 2B, HR, R, 6 RBI.
Miranda was a 2016 second-round pick by the Twins out of Puerto Rico. Miranda had a solid end to the 2017 season and was considered one of the better hitting prospects in that league. He provides average defensive value all over the diamond but he’s gotten off to a slow start this year at the plate. If he could hit at a fringe-average level with the same power grade, he could be a utility piece in the future.

Seemed like a given that Sleggers would get the chance after his outing in KC. Kind o sucks for him, but it will be interesting to see what Littell can do.

 

Other than Slegers, Littell is the only other starter to choose from that has pitched well this year in Rochester. 

 

Wrong again. What you asserted is simply not true. Romero has already been rewarded for his success at Rochester. And, as I noted before, besides Slegers, Littell has now leapfrogged over Slegers and 3 other SPs that have had either proven major league experience and/or some current or prior success at Rochester. Namely, May, Mejia and Gonsalves.

 

Make no mistake, this is a huge opportunity and a vote of confidence for Littell, the youngest SP in AAA for the Twins.

 

 

Keep in mind, when looking at his K numbers, that K's are up in the minor leagues just as much as MLB (if not more than), even without pitchers batting in AAA.

Still Littell has been a tick above league average in strikeouts at AAA this year, in his age 22 AAA debut which is nice, but not quite as impressive as the same numbers would have been a few years ago.
    • gil4, Dantes929 and Sconnie like this
I have felt throughout the Falvey era that they lean towards their own Acquisitions over the players they inherited. I'm happy for Littell but I have to believe that Gonsalves has to be frustrated by seeing so many go up before he even gets a chance. So I hope littell is great and Romero comes back from his last loss, but I hope we soon see Gonsalves too.
    • Dantes929 and SF Twins Fan like this

Congrats to Littell!

 

SSS, but the Twins have looked at both LaMarre and Cave as OF callups. Now, they've had a chance to see Slegers. Second SP called up is Littell. Seems if a player is on the 40-man and has performed at AAA, they'll give them a taste of the bigs. Good for scouting, good for the player - even if it's only one game.

    • jorgenswest, Dantes929, jokin and 5 others like this
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jorgenswest
Jun 03 2018 07:28 AM

Congrats to Littell!
 
SSS, but the Twins have looked at both LaMarre and Cave as OF callups. Now, they've had a chance to see Slegers. Second SP called up is Littell. Seems if a player is on the 40-man and has performed at AAA, they'll give them a taste of the bigs. Good for scouting, good for the player - even if it's only one game.


The 40 man piece is the key. They don’t know which injuries are ahead and what kind of flexibility they will need on the 40 man roster. If a guy is going to be added to the 40 man roster at this point, they better be extremely confident that the player is here to stay and will make an impact.
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diehardtwinsfan
Jun 03 2018 07:29 AM
I'm not sure what the consternation here is. Littell happens to line up with the start and this is literally a 1 start and then get sent back down type deal. May as well get a look at him. This would have been Gonsalves if his start had lined up with this game.
    • nicksaviking, brvama and tarheeltwinsfan like this
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Tom Froemming
Jun 03 2018 07:59 AM

 

Does he have more than two pitches?  An ok 3rd pitch?  I worry about starters who only profile two pitches...curious it wasn't 'Gonsoves

He throws five: Two fastballs, a curve, changeup and slider.

 

I'm not sure what the consternation here is. Littell happens to line up with the start and this is literally a 1 start and then get sent back down type deal. May as well get a look at him. This would have been Gonsalves if his start had lined up with this game.

This front office clearly likes this move of getting a guy's debut in as the 26th man for a doubleheader. If I remember correctly, they did just that with both Felix Jorge and Aaron Slegers last season. So it could be that had more to do with it than anything.

 

But, it's not like this doubleheader came up outta nowhere. They could have moved things around to line anyone up to make this start.

    • diehardtwinsfan, nicksaviking, Dantes929 and 5 others like this
Good for Littell.

Pretty good timing to get a kid pitching well up for a start. If they take 3 of 4 from Cleveland today, then go do some damage in a 4 gamer with the Sox, they could find themselves back working striking distance. They have a couple of tough series outside of the division this month (Bos and LAA), but they have another set with Cleveland, as well as the White Sox, Tigers, and Rangers.
    • Dantes929 and dbminn like this
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Nine of twelve
Jun 03 2018 08:29 AM
I'm surprised they didn't go with Slegers, but one of the reasons not mentioned so far for choosing Littell is to give him a little positive reinforcement. He and the team are all well aware that this is a one-and-done callup and he's pitching against an inferior team so it's a relatively low-pressure situation. It's much different than, for example, becoming part of the rotation replacing an injured starter during the heat of a pennant race. I hope the team tells him that and that he should just let it fly.
    • DannySD likes this

There are lots of baseball decisions I don't like, such as the ridiculous minor league rule for extra innings.But I like the effect the 26th man has had since put on the books (was it last year?). 

 

It gives teams a chance to bring up top prospects for one game in 'the show.'And what a benefit for those young prospects to get that first feel of what it is like to pitch on the biggest stage.And there are no hard feelings when sent back down because they knew from the start that is what would likely happen.This is one rule that makes sense and is working....love it!

    • Carole Keller, Han Joelo, Kevin and 12 others like this

 

His fastball typically sits in the low 90s, but it's said to have a high spin rate and it pairs nicely with his slow curveball. That may not sound like a combination that can dominate,

 

Tell that to Johan Santana.

It was written years ago that it's not about the fastball velocity alone, but the difference in velocity between the fastball and the changeup. Too little of a difference doesn't work, nor does too much of a difference. There's a 'sweet spot.'

    • gil4 likes this

 

There are lots of baseball decisions I don't like, such as the ridiculous minor league rule for extra innings.But I like the effect the 26th man has had since put on the books (was it last year?). 

 

It gives teams a chance to bring up top prospects for one game in 'the show.'And what a benefit for those young prospects to get that first feel of what it is like to pitch on the biggest stage.And there are no hard feelings when sent back down because they knew from the start that is what would likely happen.This is one rule that makes sense and is working....love it!

 

And for the Twins, it gives them a chance to drop one game of a doubleheader more often than they should.

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Brock Beauchamp
Jun 03 2018 09:16 AM
I was wondering when this guy would get a chance. Makes sense to use him as the 26th man in a doubleheader.
Who cares about all the other crap, I hope he blows them away!
    • Carole Keller, blindeke and Nine of twelve like this
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Nine of twelve
Jun 03 2018 10:19 AM

Who cares about all the other crap, I hope he blows them away!

It could happen. Remember we're playing the White Sox, and if we can punish them in game 1 their bullpen will be thin. Let's get a sweep!
    • gil4 likes this

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