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Part 8: Seth's Updated Top 50 Minnesota Twins Prospects (1-5)

It’s been almost a month since I started posting my 2017 postseason Minnesota Twins Top 50 Prospect Rankings. There have been mini profiles on 45 players so far, and today you will find who my top five Twins prospects are. I certainly welcome your feedback and discussion. Prospects 6-10 were very young and very exciting. The same can be said of this group, though there are also a couple of guys that we should see in a Twins uniform during the 2018 season.

If you’ve enjoyed these mini-profiles of 50 Twins prospects, you’ll definitely want to get a copy of the 2018 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook, which will be available in about a month. There will be bigger profiles on about 170 Twins prospects, along with stories, rankings and much more.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily
Let’s get to my choices for the Top 5 Twins prospects. This is a very talented group, all of who have the ability to not only play in the big leagues but be strong, long-term contributors. Please feel free to discuss. (Note - there are links to the first seven parts of this series at the bottom)

#5 OF Alex Kirilloff

Yes, he missed the entire 2017 season because he had to have Tommy John surgery in early March. He had injured his arm late in the 2016 Elizabethton season but chose to rehab and hope. The Pittsburgh native was one of the best hitters in the 2016 draft when the Twins made him the 15th overall pick in the draft. He came in and hit very well in Elizabethton .He is a big, strong kid. He’s 6-1 and about 215 pounds. He is very sound mechanically at the plate. He’s a line drive hitter who uses the whole field, and he has tremendous power potential. He should be ready for Opening Day 2018, though the Twins will certainly not rush him back. Defensively, he will be a corner outfielder. He has the arm to play right field. He’s a good athlete with a lot of potential. He just turned 20 earlier this month. (Get to know Alex Kirilloff)

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photo by Jon Tarr

#4 RHP Fernando Romero

Fernando Romero missed two full seasons because of Tommy John surgery, but he came back throwing nearly 100 mph. He’s also got a sharp slider and an improved changeup that he worked on a lot in 2017. Romero will turn 23 on Christmas Eve. He was added to the Twins 40-man roster a year ago and spent the entire season at AA Chattanooga. He went 11-9 with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. In 125.1 innings, he walked 45 and struck out 120 batters. While he’s just over 6-0 tall, he’s build very strong. He’s thick in the legs and the backside and that’s where he gets his big velocity from. The hope for Romero should be to get him to 155 to 160 innings. And he should see time in the big leagues too.


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photo by Seth Stohs

#3 SS Nick Gordon

I mean... Nick G Cinco is The Man... maybe that's where we should start:



Nick Gordon was the Twins first pick in the 2014 draft, the fifth overall pick out of high school in Orlando. He began his career in Elizabethton and has moved up one level each year. Following the 2016 season, he played well in the Arizona Fall League. 2017 was another exciting season for the shortstop. He played very well in the season’s first half. He was named to the Southern League All-Star team (though the game was rained out). He started for Team USA in the Futures Game before the All-Star game. He struggled a bit in the second half. More important than all the accolades, he took strides in his game. He set season highs in nearly every statistical category including Isolated Discipline and Isolated Power. After hitting a combined five home runs in his first three seasons, he hit nine home runs for the Lookouts. Defensively, the questions remain for many of whether he will be able to stay at shortstop. He is also considered a leader by those who know him best.

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photo by Seth Stohs

#2 LHP Stephen Gonsalves

Gonsalves was the runner up to Jose Berrios for the Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2015. In 2016, he was the choice for Starting Pitcher of the Year. Like Berrios, Gonsalves became a two-time winner when he was the choice again in 2017. His season began with an invitation to big league spring training where he had a solid showing until an injury arrived and cost him the first two months of the season. He returned to the Lookouts where he went 8-3 with a 2.68 ERA in 15 starts. He made three starts for Rochester at the end of the season. Gonsalves has a terrific mix of pitches. He has a good fastball in the 91-94 range. He throws a good changeup. He has really worked on his slider and it’s become a really good pitch. He also mixes in a cutter in some situations. He is poised and he is smart on the mound. He knows how to pitch. He was added to the 40-man roster this month. He should be given an opportunity to make starts for the Twins by mid-summer.

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photo by Seth Stohs

#1 SS Royce Lewis

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine came into an enviable situation. While the 2016 team lost 103 games, the organization was blessed with some young players with high ceilings. And, along with the worst record, they had the #1 overall pick in the 2017 draft. They had choices, and some really good choices. They could have taken a college pitcher like Kyle Wright. They could have taken a high school pitcher like Hunter Greene or MacKenzie Gore. They could have taken Brendan McKay who will pitch and may hit too. Instead, the Twins went with a high school shortstop from California named Royce Lewis with the Number One pick. And if early returns mean anything, they made a really, really good choice.

After the Boras client signed, he was sent to Ft. Myers and spent about a month in the GCL. In 36 games there, he hit .271/.390/.414 (.804) with six doubles, two triples and three home runs. In a somewhat surprising move, Lewis finished the season with 18 games in Cedar Rapids. He hit .296/.363/.394 (.757) with two doubles, a triple and a home run. Combined, he stole 18 bases in 21 attempts. Lewis has all the tools, though since he will remain just 18 until June, he will need to work and continue to develop all of them. He has a good approach at the plate and knows the strike zone. He’s got a smooth, line-drive swing. He’s got good size and will continue to grow and gain strength and could develop good power. He’s got well above average speed. He can play defense. And the more people watched him, the more many believe that he could stay at shortstop, but he could play any position on the field. He’s got what’s called an average arm, but he can make all the throws he needs to. From everything we’ve heard about him or from him, he has tremendous makeup. It will be fun to watch how aggressive the Twins choose to be with him in 2018. He will likely start in Cedar Rapids, but could he work his way up to Ft. Myers by season’s end? It’s possible.

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photo by Jean Pfiefer
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So there you have it, my choices for Minnesota Twins Top 5 prospects and my Top 50 prospects. I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with my choices… And, by the time the 2018 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook comes out, it’s likely it will change a little bit more. But it’s fun for discussion, and it’s fun to recognize fifty players who deserve to be talked about. So, please feel free to ask questions, leave comments and discuss these rankings.


Part 1: Prospects 41-50
Part 2: Prospects 31-40
Part 3: Prospects 26-30
Part 4: Prospects 21-25
Part 5: Prospects 16-20
Part 6: Prospects 11-15
Part 7: Prospects: 6-10

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68 Comments

Thanks Seth! Great way to start the morning--coffee and prospects.

 

I don't have any quibbles, but I usually see things in blocks anyway, so I don't personally get too worried about whether I might think Romero is a slightly better prospect than Gonsalves, or vice versa.  I DO get why people care, and why it is fun to try and figure out/predict which one will be slightly better.  

 

So far, the Lewis pick is a major plus on the new regimes resume.  Not that the other choices have already turned out bad, but at least to outsiders, taking Lewis seemed like a risk.  After what we saw, compared to the other options, Lewis actually seems like the safest choice of the five.

 

I don't know what it is with Gordon--I really like him, but he has always been such a vanilla prospect.  Nothing wows you unless you consider how likely he is to have a long, productive career.  The weird thing is, I remember being a pre/early teen and getting into baseball card collecting, and his Dad was part of that first "Rated Rookie" class of Donruss cards, and he WAS an exciting prospect.

 

This team is so close to contention, and it has been so long since the Twins have developed a decent starting pitcher, that I think I have downgraded Romero and Gonsalve's potential to help this year. But,  I'd rather watch them pitch then watch an expensive but mediocre veteran free agent.  I.e., if they are going to be blocked, it had better be by somebody great, not Ricky Nolasco or Phil Hughes.

 

Kirilloff was covered yesterday in comments, but his placement here seems right--for now.  He's got a lot to live up to this year, but he seems to have the makeup and tools.  It would be fun to see him, Badoo, and Lewis at CR all together next season.  That might make for a fun summer for you midwesterners.  In fact, we plan on driving to Michigan this time for our annual in-law visit next summer, so instead of making my yearly visit to the MSP airport, I might "arrange" our drive for a night in Cedar Rapids.  "Oh, look Honey, there is a minor league baseball game tonight.  We should take the boys."  I plan on seeing Mt. Rushmore on that trip (never been)--who would be the fourth Kernal for the Mt. Rushmore of Twins 2018 prospects?  Javier, I guess.  Wow.  What a team that could be.

    • Mike Frasier Law, USNMCPO, twinssouth and 5 others like this
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Tommygun921
Nov 30 2017 07:05 AM
I agree. Early returns suggest the Twins made a really, really good choice. Although I haven't checked in on how the other guys that could've gone number one have done so far. I'm definitely happy as a fan with Lewis. My initial thought when he was picked was "what the heck!?" But that was mainly because I hadn't even heard of him prior to the draft.

Han Joelo raises an interesting question.Do Lewis and Javier both begin the season in C.R?If they do, will they be sharing shortstop like last year?Or will Javier begin in XST and then slide into C.R. when Lewis moves to Ft. Myers in May or June?

 

In my thinking, both could be the Twins future shortstop.Will be interesting to see how they manage bringing them up together.

    • SF Twins Fan likes this
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Twinfan & Dad
Nov 30 2017 07:42 AM
Thanks for your work on this prospect list Seth. My question would be the same as Hans Joelo in that if we have 2 pitchers that may be ready to give us some starts this year plus we have May in the background, how many off season additions do we really need to upgrade the starting pitching? I would argue that Santana and Berrios give us a solid 2 and 3 in depth and our existing staff plus Romero,Gonsalves and May surely allows us to find 2 additional arms to round out the 4 and 5. Give me the leader of the staff through free agency or trade, overpay if you must, but DO NOT TRADE AWAY YOUNG STARTING PITCHING unless the offer is needed to acquire starting pitching. We are a franchise that is in need of developing our young arms and are on the cusp of something great with our young starting pitchers. The more arms you have the greater the chance that 1 or 2 of them become core parts of your staff. Starting pitching is very expensive on a teams payroll if you have to buy it but much cheaper when you can develop it.
    • Kelly Vance, mikelink45, IndyTwinsFan and 3 others like this

I feel like I keep putting up the same post, but the reality is, we have two arms that are cheaper, younger and ready - forget the free agent fishing trip and concentrate on getting our own players into the lineup.  

    • Kelly Vance, gman, Dave The Dastardly and 2 others like this

 

Han Joelo raises an interesting question.Do Lewis and Javier both begin the season in C.R?If they do, will they be sharing shortstop like last year?Or will Javier begin in XST and then slide into C.R. when Lewis moves to Ft. Myers in May or June?

 

In my thinking, both could be the Twins future shortstop.Will be interesting to see how they manage bringing them up together.

 

That will be quite interesting. It might be worth a trip or three to Cedar Rapids early next season to find out. But think about all the prospects who should start the season in Cedar Rapids:

 

Lewis, Javier, Kirilloff, Enlow, Baddoo, Miranda, Cabbage, and I Know I'm missing a couple of obvious ones too. Rortvedt could start there again. 

    • jrod23 and MN_ExPat like this

Thank you for all of your hard work Seth! Now I have withdrawals from our daily Minor League Reports during the season....  

    • Mike Sixel, nicksaviking, nytwinsfan and 2 others like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Nov 30 2017 08:28 AM

Great job Seth. Thank you! I wanted to select an all star team made up of the top ranked prospects based on your rankings. I was interested to see that of the top 25 players in your rankings, there were 4 OF, 6 middle infielders, 1 3B, 2 1B, 2 C, 6 RH SP, 2 LH SP, 1 RH RP, and 1 LH RP. This is a top 25 that is well balanced by positions. Even if I dropped the two lowest ranked middle infielders (Arreaz and Miranda) and substituted the 2 highest ranked pitchers after number 25 (Jax and Segers...I had to drop Rodriguiz since he is no longer with the Twins), we have a balanced, functional team. Congratulations to the front office for the balance of positions among our top prospects. 

Nice work, as always.

 

I think we're underestimating Romero a lot. I'd probably have the top 5 go Gordon, Lewis, Romero, Gonsalves, Kiriloff but a bit of a gap between 3 and 4. 

 

Romero only threw 90 innings in 2016 so the Twins went slow with him. They put him in AA where he was amazing. Over his first 110 innings, he struck out 115 batters, put up a 2.60 era (despite a high babip) and got ground balls 54% of the time. He's a strike out pitcher and a worm killer. He got tired and his last three starts made his season look a bit worse but his upside is higher than any other pitcher for now and if he can't be a starter, he'll be a lock down closer. 

 

Gonsalves was good too but he only threw 110 innings all year and was repeating AA for a while and got knocked around in AAA. He doesn't have the upside of Romero. He'll probably make the majors faster but he's more of a 4/5 than a 3 (not a bad thing). 

 

We discussed Kiriloff a lot, I still like him and am ok with his current ranking. 

 

As to the two shortstops, I'd put Gordon ahead for now just because he's several levels closer to the majors. Lewis obviously has the bigger ceiling, Gordon the safer floor at this point. I like them both quite a bit.

    • Mike Frasier Law and Kelly Vance like this

 

Lewis, Javier, Kirilloff, Enlow, Baddoo, Miranda, Cabbage, and I Know I'm missing a couple of obvious ones too. Rortvedt could start there again. 

 

 

1st half Midwest League Championshiiiiiiiiiiiip!!!

    • IaFan1 likes this
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Tom Froemming
Nov 30 2017 09:24 AM

 

I feel like I keep putting up the same post, but the reality is, we have two arms that are cheaper, younger and ready - forget the free agent fishing trip and concentrate on getting our own players into the lineup.  

I've been thinking a lot about whether they should leave a rotation spot open for one of these guys too, but it's so tough to know how a guy is going to handle his first taste in the bigs. The advantage of being a non-contender is you can give prospects a test run and if they fail it doesn't matter (like Berrios in 2016).

 

I'm excited to hear the front office talk about trying to catch Cleveland, don't get me wrong, but it is kind of a bummer that being a contender probably also means it's probably going to be more difficult for these young guys to break in.

    • Vanimal46 likes this

 

I've been thinking a lot about whether they should leave a rotation spot open for one of these guys too, but it's so tough to know how a guy is going to handle his first taste in the bigs. The advantage of being a non-contender is you can give prospects a test run and if they fail it doesn't matter (like Berrios in 2016).

 

I'm excited to hear the front office talk about trying to catch Cleveland, don't get me wrong, but it is kind of a bummer that being a contender probably also means it's probably going to be more difficult for these young guys to break in.

 

I don't think that's a bad thing at all... Historically, the team experiences bad luck handing MLB jobs to prospects on a silver platter. Let Gonsalves, Romero, Gordon, etc. earn their way to a promotion. It's still a little too early to count on them making an impact in the MLB right away. 

    • USAFChief, Twins33, nytwinsfan and 3 others like this

 

1st half Midwest League Championshiiiiiiiiiiiip!!!

Road trip in my future!

    • jrod23 likes this

 

Nice work, as always.

 

I think we're underestimating Romero a lot. I'd probably have the top 5 go Gordon, Lewis, Romero, Gonsalves, Kiriloff but a bit of a gap between 3 and 4. 

 

Romero only threw 90 innings in 2016 so the Twins went slow with him. They put him in AA where he was amazing. Over his first 110 innings, he struck out 115 batters, put up a 2.60 era (despite a high babip) and got ground balls 54% of the time. He's a strike out pitcher and a worm killer. He got tired and his last three starts made his season look a bit worse but his upside is higher than any other pitcher for now and if he can't be a starter, he'll be a lock down closer. 

 

Gonsalves was good too but he only threw 110 innings all year and was repeating AA for a while and got knocked around in AAA. He doesn't have the upside of Romero. He'll probably make the majors faster but he's more of a 4/5 than a 3 (not a bad thing). 

 

We discussed Kiriloff a lot, I still like him and am ok with his current ranking. 

 

As to the two shortstops, I'd put Gordon ahead for now just because he's several levels closer to the majors. Lewis obviously has the bigger ceiling, Gordon the safer floor at this point. I like them both quite a bit.

 

My concern with Romero is that it is not clear he can make it through a full season as a starter anytime soon. If he was wearing down at 110, he could be 3 years away.

 

Still think his likely outcome is a potentially dominant, multi-inning, reliever.

    • nytwinsfan likes this

 

My concern with Romero is that it is not clear he can make it through a full season as a starter anytime soon. If he was wearing down at 110, he could be 3 years away.

 

Still think his likely outcome is a potentially dominant, multi-inning, reliever.

I agree but even then his upside is still huge. He might be what we all wanted Burdi to be.

    • nytwinsfan likes this

 

I feel like I keep putting up the same post, but the reality is, we have two arms that are cheaper, younger and ready - forget the free agent fishing trip and concentrate on getting our own players into the lineup.  

Romero is not ready. He's a ways away, and although he certainly has real upside, it isn't even clear he'll ever be able to be a starter for 100 innings plus. Gonsalves is almost ready, but likely will take some time to adjust and reach his potential at the majors. And his upside is probably limited. In the meantime we have two quality pitchers (Santana and Berrios) and two mediocre ones (Gibson and Mejia). If we want to compete for the division, and realistically even the wild card, we definitely need at least one quality free agent SP signing.

    • Steve Lein, gunnarthor, Twins33 and 1 other like this
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Tom Froemming
Nov 30 2017 09:50 AM

 

I don't think that's a bad thing at all... Historically, the team experiences bad luck handing MLB jobs to prospects on a silver platter. Let Gonsalves, Romero, Gordon, etc. earn their way to a promotion. It's still a little too early to count on them making an impact in the MLB right away. 

Oh no, in the grand scheme of things for the Twins creating more competition and making those guys force their way in is certainly not a bad thing. But just from a selfish viewpoint of my own fandom, am I going to be more excited/invested in seeing Gonsalves/Romero or even Aaron Slegers or Trevor May pitch in the rotation, or a free agent? My heart wants to see our young guys get a shot, but my head wants the Twins to sign two starters and two relievers.

    • LimestoneBaggy, Taildragger8791, nater79a and 1 other like this
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Lee-The-Twins-Fan
Nov 30 2017 10:08 AM

I think it depends on Romero's off-season workouts - strengthening the core, building stamina for a long season.

 

Great list Seth. You know these players far better than I do. I have seen some games at Chattanooga this year, but it was rainy that weekend, so they played a DH on Sunday (two seven-inning games). I wanted to see Romero pitch, but did not.

 

 

 

I agree but even then his upside is still huge. He might be what we all wanted Burdi to be.

 

I agree, but that type of player in my mind is not worthy of clearly separating from Gonsalves, Thorpe, Rooker, Javier, Kiriloff, etc.

 

I think Lewis and Gordon are a tier, and then there is a bigger jumble after that depending on individual preferences. I can't really argue with Gonsalves being the highest since he should be a solid contributor in the majors this year as a backend guy.

Seth didn't mention anything about Romero's injury. From Sickels's writeup on Romero:

 

https://www.minorlea...spects-for-2018

"Age 22; solid season in Double-A with 3.53 ERA, 120/45 K/BB in 125 innings, a mere four homers allowed; campaign ended on a down note with poor pitching in August (8.38 ERA) punctuated by a trip to the disabled list with a shoulder impingement; status unclear at the moment; when healthy combination of plus stuff and command could make him number three starter or impressive power reliever. ETA 2018 if healthy"

 

Romero's peripherals also point toward injury instead of tiring at the end of the season. He didn't strike out less that 22% of the batters he faced in any game for 2 straight months (averaging 28% overall), and then went 14%, 0%, two week break, 8%, 12%, shutdown for the year.

 

Does anyone have an update on his health?

Wearing down and getting injured strike me more as connected than being alternative explanations for his drop.

 

Oh no, in the grand scheme of things for the Twins creating more competition and making those guys force their way in is certainly not a bad thing. But just from a selfish viewpoint of my own fandom, am I going to be more excited/invested in seeing Gonsalves/Romero or even Aaron Slegers or Trevor May pitch in the rotation, or a free agent? My heart wants to see our young guys get a shot, but my head wants the Twins to sign two starters and two relievers.

I'm in between.When is the last time the Twins added two starters and two relievers that everyone was happy with? I think the answer is never. Every "proven" player has been a prospect at one point and they don't exclusively get their chances with the losing teams and then get picked up by the better teams when they succeed.Every team relies on prospects and not just the non contending teams and not just the top prospects. Look at Bellinger for the Dodgers. He was actually mentioned as an add on piece in a trade for Dozier. and a quick check says he was only the 9th ranked prospect of the Dodgers heading into last season. Of course more prospects fail than succeed but it is a long season and every team has a revolving door of them throughout the year.Many fail but some stick. I don't think adding two starters and relievers is necessary.There are probably 25 teams looking to add starters and relievers and the lists I see usually only mention a COMBINED total of less than a dozen attractive free agent pitchers and probably a similar amount of trade possibilities. . If we could just nab one starter above the Pelfrey/Correia quality and one good reliever I would be happy since the odds say we won't get more than one or the other or maybe even neither.My preference is for Cobb but if it is Darvish or Lynn I am ok with that. Start the season with Santana, Berrios, Cobb, Meija, and Gibson and have the 4 you mentioned be ready my June because the odds are one or two starters will under perform and of those 4 prospects one or two should be able to contribute. 

Adding Cobb and a good reliever would probably rank with any off season we have had in the last 30 years aside from the AJ trade.Without hindsight that includes the 91 year. 

    • Tom Froemming likes this
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Taildragger8791
Nov 30 2017 11:01 AM

 

I feel like I keep putting up the same post, but the reality is, we have two arms that are cheaper, younger and ready - forget the free agent fishing trip and concentrate on getting our own players into the lineup.  

 

Saying that Gonsalves and Romero are ready today is a stretch, and I'm not a fan of banking my season on prospects making seamless transitions from AA to MLB right out of the gate.

 

Gonsalves doesn't have a ceiling higher than Berrios/Santana, which is the kind of pitcher we're tring to acquire. His ceiling is much more middle of the road and he still has work to do on control/command, so he'll potentially be an up & down guy for the next couple of years.

 

Romero is still building up the stamina for a full season. He won't be up to 200 innings for another 3 years. He can probably contribute soon but he isn't going to be there in the playoffs without some careful management (which means you still need another pitcher to backfill for him).

    • ashburyjohn likes this

One problem I see when reading "lists" is that all of the numbers from 1 to whatever must get filled. What's missing is some kind of a "value factor".Some number, say one a 1-1000, attached to each prospect in order for people to ascertain both the expected/anticipated value of a prospect and the relative value (difference) between the prospects.

 

Examples could show that prospects 5-15 might be a in range of 2% (20 points), but from 4 to 5 might be more like 90 points.Obviously there could be both narrow and broad differences between "lower level" prospects.

 

Seth didn't mention anything about Romero's injury. From Sickels's writeup on Romero:

 

https://www.minorlea...spects-for-2018

"Age 22; solid season in Double-A with 3.53 ERA, 120/45 K/BB in 125 innings, a mere four homers allowed; campaign ended on a down note with poor pitching in August (8.38 ERA) punctuated by a trip to the disabled list with a shoulder impingement; status unclear at the moment; when healthy combination of plus stuff and command could make him number three starter or impressive power reliever. ETA 2018 if healthy"

 

Romero's peripherals also point toward injury instead of tiring at the end of the season. He didn't strike out less that 22% of the batters he faced in any game for 2 straight months (averaging 28% overall), and then went 14%, 0%, two week break, 8%, 12%, shutdown for the year.

 

Does anyone have an update on his health?

 

I think they just shut him down. Probably minor injury if one at all.

 

They were already limiting him to 5 innings in several starts before then.


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