A Refreshing Shift in Twins Territory
Image courtesy of © Peter G. AikenWhen the dust settles on the 2018 season, the Minnesota Twins will close out a September that has featured starters such as Kohl Stewart, Zack Littell and Stephen Gonsalves. Sure, all those guys have taken their lumps at times, but the coaching staff has used these meaningless games to get a handful of prospects some very important big-league exposure. When it comes to the rotation, depth is present, and there’s more than a couple of names ready to be written in.
Right now, today, we can safely suggest that Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, and Michael Pineda will start the season in the Twins rotation. That foursome is plenty capable of leading a club to the playoffs, on paper, and that’s a very good place to start. Berrios has flashed the ability of a budding star, Gibson is rounding into his expected form, and the numbers suggest that Odorizzi isn’t far behind. Pineda didn’t debut due to a knee injury, but he should be virtually 100% this spring.
During 2018 Twins starters have posted an 8.25 K/9 which was the 14th best mark in the majors. A season ago, they ranked 26th in that category with a 7.08 K/9 mark. Although they’ve stepped back a bit in terms of ERA ranking, the 4.58 mark trumps the 4.73 tally they were at in 2017. To suggest that the front office has begun to make it’s mark on the bump would be an understatement.
Certainly, it’s Berrios who gets all the praise, and he’s been more than deserving of it. His 3.81 ERA on the year isn’t much of an improvement from the 3.89 mark set last year, but he’s fanning more batters and issuing fewer walks. Jose’s key will continue to be limiting the homers, having given up 1.2 per nine this year.
When dissecting both Odorizzi and Gibson, it’s hard not to look at both in a similar context. Gibson is the guy who appears to have taken the largest steps forward, but there’re a few areas of suggested regression. Nonetheless, he’s transformed himself into a reliable middle-of-the-rotation piece, and that has significant value for the Twins. Jake took his lumps for a while with his new team but has turned it on down the stretch. Since August 3rd, the former Rays starter owns a 3.83 ERA and 3.49 FIP. Another guy who is middle-of-the-road, Odorizzi is a solid option.
It’s certainly fair to question what the Twins will get in Michael Pineda. Although Tommy John surgery is plenty routine at this point, he hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since July 5, 2017. With the Yankees, he was a hard thrower who generally outshined his ERA with his FIP and could benefit from a more pitcher-friendly ballpark. Another strikeout arm, it’s a solid addition to the Minnesota stable.
Yes, you’ve counted correctly, that’s only four starters in total. Right now, Minnesota could opt to turn the reins over to Fernando Romero from the get go. He got a good deal of experience this season and has always been a guy projected to profile at the top of a starting rotation. The front office also will have significant money to spend, and while Dallas Keuchel is the household free agent name, Patrick Corbin is probably the cream of the crop.
With only one spot open, and internal depth built in, Minnesota has the luxury of not needing to load up on veteran retreads. Any arm brought in should be at the quality of Gibson and Odorizzi or better. Allowing the new guy to bump each starter back a rung only helps to further solidify the overall water level of the group. For the first time in a while, this organization doesn’t need to completely remake the position group, and they really shouldn’t want to.
The Twins are doing a lot of things well on the mound. They’re striking batters out, and they’ve got sustainable answers on a rolling weekly basis. When it comes to searching from within, the likes of Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, and others need to display a notion that they’re capable of more. That piece of the puzzle remains to be seen, but it looks like the Twins have the bump covered.
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