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The elephant in the room - Umpires

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Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:39 PM
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Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:22 PM
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Trevor May Future Closer

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:32 PM
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Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:01 PM
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Class Achter

Lately, we have read a lot about the starting staff in Rochester, and for good reason. Yohan Pino has already been promoted to the Minnesota Twins. Logan Darnell and Kris Johnson are pitching well, and each has pitched once with the Twins already this year. Alex Meyer is a future ace and Trevor May is probably next in line for a promotion.

Less is being said about a reliever in Rochester who appears ready for an opportunity to help the Minnesota Twins at the big league level. For AJ Achter, that phone call would mean the world.

Achter (pronounced awk-ter) said recently, “I can imagine it would be an amazing roller coaster of emotions. Just to think of so many people who have invested so much time and made so many sacrifices over my career to even give me this opportunity is unbelievable. For me to get the ultimate reward of reaching that goal, would not just be a big deal for me personally, but everyone who has believed in me my entire life.”

Attached Image: AJAchter.jpg

Photo by Joe Territo/RedWingsBaseball.com

As you know, Achter was the Twins 46th round pick in 2010 out of Michigan State University. He went to the Cape Cod League and then signed with the Twins twenty minutes before the August 16 deadline. He pitched in just four games that year for Elizabethton. In 2011, he went to Beloit where he made 19 starts. He returned to Beloit in 2012, this time in the bullpen. Since that move, he has flown through the Twins farm system. He posted a 1.70 ERA between Beloit and Ft. Myers in 2012 to earn the Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year ‘Award.' Last year, he split his season between New Britain and Rochester and posted a 2.54 ERA.

Following the season, he was invited to participate in the Arizona Fall League, where he pitched well. It was an experience the right-hander enjoyed.

“The experience in the AFL was unbelievable. It was a privilege to put on the Twins uniform every day and compete against the best prospects in baseball. My first seven or eight outings were great. Then I tired out and those guys out there make you pay for mistakes. But it was a great experience playing with so many outstanding players and forming lifelong friendships with them.”

However, Achter was not added to the 40-man roster last fall and went undrafted in the Rule 5 draft. He also did not get an invitation to big league camp as a non-roster player. Then, after spring training camp, he began the 2014 season back a level at New Britain, a decision that likely disappointed Achter. He handled it well.

“It was disappointing to start back there after having some success in Rochester the year before, but I understood that was the numbers game. I tried to turn it into motivation to get back to AAA as soon as an opportunity opened up and thankfully it did in mid-April.”

That promotion to the Red Wings happened after just three games with the Rock Cats. In 6.2 innings, he gave up no runs on three hits and a walk while striking out 11.

With the Red Wings, he has continued his dominance. In 20 games and 34 innings, he has a 1.85 ERA and a minuscule 0.77 WHIP. He has given up just 14 hits, walked 12 (five in his last two outings) and struck out 33 batters. Opponents are hitting just .124 off him.

Achter has a solid three-pitch mix. He has a two-seam fastball in the low 90s which moves and sinks. He also is occasionally able to touch 95 with a four-seam fastball. He also has a sharp slider and a very good changeup. So, at 6'-5", he throws hard and gets ground balls, but is also able to mix his speeds well. He has always shown good control.

So, to what does Achter attribute his success?

“It's been a combination of everything. Aside from my last outing, my fastball command has been very good which is what I work off of. I've used a new slider grip that has helped that pitch be more consistent.”

Achter has always been able to find motivation. He knows that 1,394 players were selected before him, and he uses that.

“My motivation is working toward a dream that I've had since I've been a kid. With my dad playing in the NFL, I always had a dream of playing pro football, but baseball was always my true love. Regardless of obstacles or circumstances I've never lost sight of the same goal I had as a kid and that's being a Major League Baseball player. It is my motivation every day I wake up.”

Achter’s father, Rod, was the Minnesota Vikings 9th round pick in the 1983 NFL Draft.

The Rochester starting rotation and bullpen have both been tremendous. Gene Glynn and pitching coach Marty Mason have used them all very effectively. Achter has been used in save situations and in long relief. Achter gives a lot of credit to his pitching coach.

“Marty has been one of the biggest reasons this staff has been what's it's been. He's an unbelievable influence, especially on us younger guys. He lets us do our own thing but if something needs to be corrected his knowledge of pitching is second to none. I cannot say enough good things about the impact he's had on me out on the mound.”

In my mind, the 25-year-old has a chance to be a solid set up man, pitching in the 7th inning or even in long relief. In that way, I think he would profile similarly to Matt Guerrier during his early years with the Twins.

The Minnesota Twins currently have eight men in their bullpen, one more than would be ideal. Should a time come this season when the Twins need another arm, Achter's name should come up prominently in those discussions.

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