2017 Minnesota Twins Roster Projections - The Relief Pitchers
Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker, USA TodayIf you missed any of the other parts in this series, you can find them here: The Catchers, The Outfielders, The Middle Infielders, The Corner Infielders, and The Starting Pitchers.
RHP - Brandon Kintzler (32), JT Chargois (26), Ryan Pressly (28), Matt Belisle (36), Tyler Duffey (26), Trevor May (27), Justin Haley (25), Ryan Vogelsong (39), Michael Tonkin (27)
LHP - Taylor Rogers (26), Ryan O’Rourke (28), Craig Breslow (36), Glen Perkins (33-DL)
The Givens: All right, let’s try to clear this up, if even just a little. These pitchers are ‘Givens’ to make the Opening Day roster, assuming health. Brandon Kintzler will likely start the season as the closer. Maybe he’s not the prototype for a big league closer, but he survived (and maybe even thrived?) in the role in the second half. Matt Belisle signed recently and is also a given to fill a role in the Twins bullpen. Ryan Pressly is a given. He was pretty solid in the 8th inning last year until he got overused. The other given is lefty Taylor Rogers who had a very solid rookie season last year. In my mind, JT Chargois should be a given. I don’t think that he necessarily is, but he needs to be in the big leagues.
To Start Or Relieve: Tyler Duffey and Trevor May head to spring training with the same set of circumstances. Both have started in the past, and both have spent a lot of time in the big leagues. Duffey has started. May has primarily been in the bullpen the last couple of seasons. Both could be in the rotation. Both should probably be in the big leagues. However, each has an option remaining which could be used if the new regime thinks that they could develop into solid starters by spending any time in the bullpen.
To Start Or Relieve (Part 2): The Twins have a few more players who could start or relieve, though the odds of starting are lower. Justin Haley was the Twins Rule 5 pick. As you know, that means that he has to stick on the Twins 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the Red Sox (or kept via a trade). Veteran Ryan Vogelsong was signed to a minor league deal. The 39-year-old could fit into the fifth starter competition or, like Haley, he could fill a long-relief type of role.
The Lefties: There should be some good competition for the second lefty in the bullpen, alongside Taylor Rogers. If Glen Perkins is healthy and able, he will be in the bullpen, a given. More likely, he’ll start the season on the disabled list or rehabbing. Ryan O’Rourke is the best lefty in the organization against left-handed batters. If used in that role, he has a ton of value. However, depending on how well the starters pitch in 2017, the team may decide to go with someone else. Buddy Boshers signed out of the indy leagues last offseason and pitched well through 2016. Mason Melotakis will be ready at some point in 2017. It’s also possible that due to numbers the team could go with just one left-hander.
Rochester Red Wings
RHP - Jake Reed (24), Alex Wimmers (28), Trevor Hildenberger (26), Alan Busenitz (26), DJ Baxendale (26), Jim Miller (34)
LHP - Buddy Boshers (28), Mason Melotakis (25)
There are some guys coming through the system that we should see in 2017 (as we said in 2016). It will be interesting to see which guys come up, and in what order. Of the eight names mentioned here, only Boshers and Melotakis are currently on the 40-man roster, and they both have a legitimate chance to make the big league roster. Melotakis is at about the same point in his post-Tommy John surgery that JT Chargois was last year.
Wimmers’ road to the big leagues was long and winding, but he got there last August and pitched pretty well the final month of the season. He came off the 40-man roster, but he signed back with the team quite quickly. Jim Miller has big league time with the Orioles, Rockies, A’s and Yankees going back to 2008. The 35-year-old signed a minor league deal with the Twins recently.
DJ Baxendale could get another opportunity to start, but he pitched very well out of the bullpen once he was promoted to Rochester. It’s a role that fits his stuff well. Alan Busenitz came to the Twins last August 1st in the trade that sent Alex Meyer and Ricky Nolasco to the Angels. Busenitz isn’t a big guy, but he has the ability to reach 100 mph at times.
Jake Reed and Trevor Hildenberger are the two that we’ll likely be hearing a lot about early in the season. They are two guys who could be ready at any time to help in the big leagues. Both were drafted in 2014, Reed in the fifth round and Hildenberger in the 22nd round. Hildenberger was the Twins Daily Relief PItcher of the Year in both 2015 and 2016.
RHP - Nick Burdi(23), Raul Fernandez (26), John Curtiss (23), Ryan Eades (25), Brandon Peterson (25), Luke Bard (26), Alex Muren (25), Todd Van Steensel (26), Matt Tracy (28), Zack Jones (26 - DL)
LHP - Nik Turley (27), Cam Booser (24)
2016 was a very frustrating season for Nick Burdi. If healthy, he will likely return to the Lookouts to start over in 2017. Also if healthy, he has a good chance to debut in 2017. Speaking of healthy returns, Alex Muren missed the 2016 season after having thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Zack Jones unfortunately will miss the 2017 season (or at least a large part of it) after shoulder surgery.
Matt Tracy signed as a free agent. He pitched in one game for the Yankees in 2015. Raul Fernandez re-signed with the Twins this year and got an invitation to big league camp. He split 2016 between Ft. Myers and Chattanooga. The same can be said of Brandon Peterson, the Minnesotan, who has been one of the best relievers in the Twins system since he was drafted in 2013. Luke Bard spent some time with the Lookouts last year as well. His fastball reaches 97 mph, so with some improved control he could move up as well. Todd Van Steensel finally got called up to AA at the end of the 2016 season. He will be pitching for Team Australia in the upcoming WBC.
Ryan Eades pitched for the Lookouts last year. Halfway through the season he moved into the bullpen. While he could still start, his stuff may play out well for him in the 'pen. John Curtiss suffered through a couple of injuries in 2015. He began 2016 in Cedar Rapids, but after dominating for a month, he moved up to Ft. Myers. He pitched well in the Arizona Fall League as well.
Ft. Myers Miracle
RHP - Nick Anderson (26), Williams Ramirez (24), Michael Cederoth (24), Thomas Hackimer (22), Confesor Lara (26), Max Cordy (23), Zach Tillery (24), Logan Lombana (22)
LHP - Michael Theofanopoulos (24), Anthony McIver (24), Sam Clay(23)
Nick Anderson signed late in the 2015 season out of the independent leagues. The Brainerd area native has pitched very well since signing and came on strong late in 2016 with the Miracle. Thomas Hackimer was a closer at St. John’s. After signing, he spent the remainder of last season with the Kernels. He should make the move up to Ft. Myers. Michael Cederoth stayed healthy in Cedar Rapids and is now ready to move up. Williams Ramirez came on last year with the Kernels and has the ability to throw very hard with a good slider. Max Cordy throws 95 as well, and he did well after moving up from extended spring. Zach Tillery missed most of the 2016 season with injury, but he’ll need to make the move up to Ft. Myers. Logan Lombana served a 50-game suspension last year. Late in the season, he moved up and ended the season with the Miracle. Confesor Lara signed with the Twins for the last couple of weeks of the season after being let go by the Tigers organization.
Michael Theofanopoulos repeated in Cedar Rapids during the first half of the 2016 season. He pitched well and then did well in the second half with the Miracle. McIver spent the season with the Kernels and very quietly put together a strong season. Sam Clay pitched in the Midwest League All-Star Game for the Kernels. He did move up to Ft. Myers to end the season. Drafted out of Georgia Tech where he was a reliever, it’s likely Clay moves to the bullpen at some point during the season.
Cedar Rapids Kernels
RHP - Colton Davis (23), Johan Quezada (22), Alex Schik (22), Clark Beeker(24), Patrick McGuff (22), Quin Grogan(23), Hector Lujan (22)
LHP - Andrew Vasquez (23), Alex Robinson (22)
It becomes really difficult to project who will be in the lower level bullpens. Several of these pitchers were starters in college at this time last year. That group includes Colton Davis, Alex Schik, Clark Beeker, Patrick McGuff and Quin Grogan. Davis and Beeker ended the season in Cedar Rapids’ bullpen. McGuff joined the Kernels for their playoff run last year after dominating the GCL and at Elizabethton.
Johan Quezada became quite popular last year when it came out that he grew a bunch and started throwing fastballs that occasionally touched triple digits. Hector Lujan was a 2015 draft pick. He pitched in Elizabethton, and he actually made one appearance in Ft. Myers too.
Andrew Vasquez made a couple of appearances in Elizabethton before moving up to Cedar Rapids where he dominated.. In 38.1 innings, he struck out 51 batters (12.4 per nine). Alex Robinson was used as a starter at the start of the 2016 E-Twins season, but he completely lacked control. He’s likely a bullpen guy, but he’ll have to get a lot better control to do that.
Extended Spring Training
RHP - Moises Gomez (20), Juan Gamez (22), Blair Lasko (23), Callan Pearce (21), Matz Schutte (19), Garrett Kelly (22), Zach Strecker (23), Vadim Balan (23), Petru Balan (20)
LHP - Domenick Carlini (23), Austin Tribby (22)
Unlike many years, the Twins signed several undrafted players after the draft. Zach Strecker went to Kentucky and then pitched out of the GCL bullpen. Blair Lasko couldn’t throw strikes at Buffalo, but he found some control in the summer league and threw well, and hard, and the Twins took a shot. Garrett Kelly went to Wake Forest where he was a catcher, but he moved to the mound. He throws 95, but he’s got a lot of room to grow. Juan Gamez was drafted in 2016, but he has a similar story. He was a catcher in college, but the Twins quickly moved him to the mound as well.
This offseason, the Twins signed Petru Balan, the younger brother of the Vadim Balan. The two are from Moldova. Vadim Balan pitched just a couple of times in the GCL in 2015 before having some back issues that caused him to miss all of 2016. Callan Pearce, from South Africa, has pitched in the GCL the last three years. He’ll jump up to Elizabethton. Matz Schutte is from The Netherlands and has pitched in the GCL the last two years. The 20-year-old Moises Gomez pitched the last two seasons in the GCL. In 2016, he was 4-0 with a 1.19 ERA.
Lefties Domenick Carlini and Austin Tribby were drafted in 2016 and pitched in Elizabethton. They could pitch in Cedar Rapids in 2017 as well.
1.) JT Chargois
2.) Jake Reed
3.) Nick Burdi
4.) Trevor Hildenberger
5.) Mason Melotakis
6.) Thomas Hackimer
7.) John Curtiss
8.) Andrew Vasquez
9.) Alan Busenitz
10.) Alex Wimmers
So what do you think? Who will comprise the Twins bullpen, and how will things trickle down the system? Which prospects are you most looking forward to seeing perform in 2017?