Twins 2018 Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year
Image courtesy of Chattanooga Lookouts (graphics by Finn Pearson)There were several standout strikeout arms in the Twins system when it came to relief pitchers, as you will see below. Some of them have spent time in the majors this season, while a few others appear ready for their opportunity.
Short profiles of our top five are to follow, but first, some players worthy of honorable mention. These players also received votes.
Others Receiving Votes
- Nick Anderson, Rochester Red Wings – 39 G, 8-2, 4 Saves, 3.30 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 60.0 IP, 49 H, 19 BB, 88 K
- Gabriel Moya, Rochester Red Wings – 26 G, 1-1, 4 Saves, 1.90 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 42.2 IP, 38 H, 12 BB, 50 K
- John Curtiss, Rochester Red Wings – 38 G, 2-4, 10 Saves, 3.42 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 55.1 IP, 41 H, 31 BB, 61 K
- Ryne Harper, Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings – 38 G, 1-5, 6 Saves, 3.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 65.0 IP, 61 H, 10 BB, 86 K
Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year
#5 – Jake Reed, Rochester Red Wings – 30 G, 0-3, 2 Saves, 1.89 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 47.2 IP, 34 H, 21 BB, 50 K
For a few years now, it has seemed like Jake Reed was knocking on the door to the major leagues, but in part due to some injuries, hasn’t yet made the jump. I’ll say quite frankly that he should have, at least for September of this year (and last year for that matter). The ERA to finish his season is great, but he really turned it on as the season wore on, appearing in both July and August’s Relief Pitcher of the Month entries. In that time frame Reed appeared in 16 games, pitching 26 total innings and allowing just four earned runs (1.38 ERA) on 10 hits and 10 walks (good for a 0.77 WHIP), while striking out 29.
#4 – Alan Busenitz, Rochester Red Wings – 27 G, 2-3, 7 Saves, 2.48 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 40.0 IP, 32 H, 8 BB, 45 K
Despite appearing in 28 games with the Twins in 2017 and delivering a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, Busenitz has been on the Triple A shuttle several times this season, never quite being able to settle in. He was excellent in the minors again in 2018, including the month of May in which he didn’t allow a single run in eight appearances and 13 total innings. He was recognized in both May and June’s Relief Pitcher of the Month awards, and in that stretch over a period of 13 MiLB appearances, did not allow a run while striking out 27 in 23 innings pitched.
#3 – Cody Stashak, Fort Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts – 37 G, 2-1, 4 Saves, 2.87 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 59.2 IP, 49 H, 15 BB, 74 K
Stashak was a starting pitcher for the first two years of his professional career, and a decent one, after being drafted in the 13th round of the 2015 draft out of St. Johns University. But that changed in 2018, as the Twins put him in the bullpen for its entirety. He didn’t miss a beat, sustaining a sub 3.00 ERA, sub 1.10 WHIP, and sub .240 batting average against while increasing his K-rate. Stashak has always had good control, and that also didn’t leave him out of the ‘pen allowing him to have the best K/BB ratio of his career. From July through the end of the season, spanning 17 appearances and 23 innings pitched, Stashak allowed just two earned runs (0.78 ERA) on 19 hits and only 2 walks, while striking out 25. He was #2 in July’s Relief Pitcher of the Month entry and made honorable mention in two others during the season.
#2 – Jovani Moran, Cedar Rapids Kernels/Fort Myers Miracle – 37 G, 9-3, 8 Saves, 2.49 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 76.0 IP, 45 H, 35 BB, 107 K
If you paid attention during the year or have been clicking the links throughout this article, you know of the legend that is Jovani Moran already. He took home the monthly relief pitcher honors in June and July and received an honorable mention twice. The first thing you’ll notice with him is obviously the K’s. After striking out literally everybody with Elizabethton in 2017 (almost, his rate was 16.4/9IP) and taking home the Short Season Pitcher of the Year award, Moran continued that success with the Kernels and Miracle in 2018, finishing with a rate of 12.7K/9IP between his two stops. Surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow in 2016 seemingly ended his development path as a starter, but what they’ve found as a reliever is hard to ignore. Listed at 6’1” and 170 lbs, Moran hasn’t been known for his velocity, but may have kicked it up some in the bullpen. He has also improved the movement of his secondary pitches, led by a great changeup and improving breaking ball. Moran is one to watch closely moving forward.
#1 – Andrew Vasquez, Fort Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings – 40 G, 1-2, 6 Saves, 1.30 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 69.1 IP, 50 H, 21 BB, 108 K
If you thought Moran’s strikeout total was egregious, take a look at Andrew Vasquez’s. There’s a reason the left-handed Vasquez jumped from Fort Myers all the way to the Twins bullpen during the 2018 season—he has been as untouchable as his slider is elite. Like Moran, Vasquez made appearances on several of the monthly awards, including winning in August before his September callup to the majors.
Leading to his recent MLB debut, Vasquez has had a standout minor league career since being drafted by the Twins in the 32nd round of the 2015 draft out of Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. His career minor league ERA is just 1.52 in four seasons and he has struck out 13.4/9IP.
While his fastball will only touch the 90’s, as Twins farm director Jeremy Zoll noted to Twins Daily, “It’s all about the slider with Andrew.” Because of this pitch, he didn’t allow a single extra-base-hit to same-sided hitters during his 2017 season that ended with a trip to the Arizona Fall League (fun fact only I may know since I wrote about it: his first hit allowed in the AFL was a double to a lefty). His efforts during that 2017 campaign also landed him at #5 in this award category last year.
Zoll went on to talk about how Brad Steil, Luis Ramirez (Vasquez’s pitching coach in rookie ball), and the Twins pushed him to rely on the pitch after turning pro. “The slider is your thing, make it your thing. He really owned that this year. I think he realized that not only lefties, but righties were having a really hard time hitting it too. Once he got to Double A it was like ‘All right, I’m catching a groove here’ and you could see his confidence boost. It’s been really fun to see him have that type of success, starting in high-A and ending up in the big leagues.”
You can definitely see that boost in confidence talked about in his numbers on the year. With Fort Myers, Vasquez pitched 32.2 innings with a 1.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 37:13 K to BB ratio. With the Lookouts, those numbers improved to 31.0 innings with a 1.16 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and a 59:4 K to BB ratio. Then, before he was called up to the Twins he made four appearances with the Rochester Red Wings, pitching 5.2 innings and striking out 12 of the 28 hitters he faced (42.3%).
It was an easy decision to add Vasquez to the 40-man when rosters expanded for September based on his numbers and the fact that he would have to be protected in the offseason anyway. Twins fans should be able to see that slider plenty of times over the final month and get an idea of what the future could hold for the 6’6” left-hander.
It’s very apparent how much the Twins believe in Vasquez and his slider, as Zoll closed by recalling a conversation with Tim O’Neill, one of their national cross-checkers, who said, “How about the kid from Westmont?!” Zoll went on, “It’s an interesting story and situation to see that type of profile, having a reliever with that type of slider. Where did you learn that thing and how can we teach other people? Maybe there’s something in the water. We’ll have to ship that out to Fort Myers.”
Definitely look into that, Mr. Zoll!
Congratulations to Andrew Vasquez and the rest of the relievers recognized by Twins Daily for their efforts in 2018. Vasquez has the ingredients to stick around for a while, even if it’s just to devastate left-handed hitters.
In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily minor league writers:
- Seth Stohs – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Jake Reed, 4) Alan Busenitz, 5) Cody Stashak
- Jeremy Nygaard – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Alan Busenitz, 4) Cody Stashak, 5) Nick Anderson
- Cody Christie – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Gabriel Moya, 4) Cody Stashak, 5) Alan Busenitz
- Tom Froemming – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Cody Stashak, 4) Ryne Harper, 5) Nick Anderson
- Steve Lein – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Cody Stashak, 4) Ryne Harper, 5) Nick Anderson
- Ted Schwerzler – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jake Reed, 3) John Curtiss, 4) Alan Busenitz, 5) Jovani Moran
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