Slegers Solidifies Status With Strong Spring Showing
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs (photo of Aaron Slegers)Slegers called 2016 a “successful year, minus the three weeks in July.”
He prides himself in his ability to take the ball and provide innings. “I was able to take the ball every fifth day and be as consistent as possible.” He continued, pointing out that he wants to be reliable. “That’s what I see from myself in the big leagues, taking the ball every fifth day and be an innings eater. The manager knows what he’s going to get on an every fifth day bases, a spot of consistency in a big league pitching rotation.”
Unfortunately, he wasn’t added to the Twins 40-man roster in November. I know there was a lot of concern that he might be selected in the Rule 5 draft. Slegers himself was not opposed to the idea of being selected, as his 2016 Lookouts teammate and battery mate Stuart Turner was. However, the draft came and went, and Slegers remained in the organization. Several in the organization took a deep breath in relief.
Shortly after the calendar turned to 2017, Slegers received a call from Twins Minor League Director Brad Steil informing him he was invited to Twins big league spring training as a non-roster player. As you would expect, Slegers was very excited and appreciative, and quickly accepted.
When asked about his experience, he summarized briefly by saying “It was fun.”
But, Slegers actually broke up his experience in big league camp into two parts.
“The first week, I was kind of staying to myself and observing and seeing how things were done and how the various veterans and the guys who have been there before go about their business. Which was a great experience and I’m glad I did that.”
That makes sense, the Be Seen But Not Heard approach. However, he continued, “Then I transitioned into being more proactive and asking questions. A few of those guys, like Matt Belisle and Ryan Vogelsong and Brandon Kintzler, were extremely helpful. When I would show myself to guys like Belisle, that I wanted to learn and I’d ask things he was working on, he was more than receptive to show me what he was working on and expand on things he’d learned in the past. He really made himself available and approachable on a daily basis.”
Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Levine often talked about bringing in veteran leadership. Following the signing of Belisle, it was reiterated, that he was a quality person and a nice leader for younger players. While those things aren’t necessarily visible to the public, this is a good example of what a veteran can do to assist a younger player on the roster.
When the Twins sent Slegers back to minor league camp, manager and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor was very complimentary of the right-hander. Molitor said, "Slegers came even better than advertised for me. I'd heard a lot of very positive things about makeup. But the way that he threw the ball was good."
Reports on Slegers will say that he throws a fastball that sits 90-92 mph. However, he has the ability to hit 94 and even 95 at times. He’s got a good sinker and slider, and a still-developing changeup.
It is the changeup that likely will determine how good Slegers can be at the next level. He knows he can rely on his “two-seam sinkers to righties and lefties,” but “when I have the changeup working, throwing it 15-20 times per start, it really seems to pay off for me.”
Earlier in his career, he was mostly a fastball/slider pitcher, but last year in Chattanooga, his pitching coach and manager really encouraged him to utilize and develop the changeup.
Slegers points out, “From my A ball outings in Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers, it was mostly fastballs and sliders, and the changeup was mostly on the backburner. When I worked with (Lookouts pitching coach) Ivan (Arteaga) and (Lookouts manager) Doug (Mientkeiwicz), getting the changeup around twenty times a game. I don’t put quotas on myself. Obviously, there are different mixes of righties and lefties in a lineup, but when the hitter has a different look after seeing the sinker, and then I throw the changeup behind it, it seems to be effective.”
He’s coming off of a very nice season in AA Chattanooga. He’s been able to spend nearly a month in Twins big league spring training. He has a couple of goals in mind.
First, Slegers said, “(I want to) refine my craft as a starter, pitch calling and going deep into games and continue taking the ball every fifth day.”
On another tier, Slegers has a lofty, but achievable goal. “I see myself getting in the conversation to get to the big leagues at some point this year. There are certain things out of spring training, where I break, that I can’t control. Wherever I might be at a certain point in the season, but just force the hand and get myself into that conversation.”
There is no reason for him to return to AA Chattanooga in 2017, so he should start for the Red Wings every fifth day.
Aaron Slegers has been very consistent since the Twins drafted him. For the most part, he has remained healthy. He didn’t sulk when he wasn’t added to the 40-man roster in November and earned an invitation to big league spring training. He took advantage of his time in camp, and looks to put the things he’s learned into action in 2017.