Twins 2018 Short Season Pitcher Of The Year
Image courtesy of Mariana Guzman (graphics by Finn Pearson)The previous winners of the Short-Season Pitcher of the Year awards have gone on to continued success. Our 2016 choice was Huascar Ynoa. He had spent that summer in the GCL, and he began 2017 with Elizabethton. However, at the July trade deadline, he was traded to Atlanta in exchange for lefty Jaime Garcia.In 116 1/3 innings, he struck out 131 batters between Low A and High A. The 2017 winner was lefty Jovani Moran who was dominant in the Elizabethton bullpen that year (to the tune of 51 strikeouts and six walks over 28 1/3 innings). He began this year in Cedar Rapids where he was our choice for minor league relief pitcher of the month in June with the Kernels and then July with the Ft. Myers Miracle.
As you’ll read below, there were several pitchers on the Twins short-season teams who put together real solid seasons. Most of the Elizabethton starters were really good throughout the year. Of course, we are generally talking about a limited number of innings due to their seasons being just two months long. One poor outing can have an effect on their overall numbers.
Six Twins Daily Minor League writers voted for the various awards this year. For the short-season pitcher of the year, we each voted for five players. The player who was voted as #1 received five points, #2 received four points and so on with the #5 vote receiving one point. Results were tabulated and can be found below.
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:
- Austin Schulfer - Elizabethton Twins - 11 G, 7 GS, 3-0, 1.58 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 40.0 IP, 33 H, 15 BB, 34 K
- Michael Montero - GCL Twins - 12 G, 1 GS, 4-1, 1 Save, 2.41 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 33.2 IP, 26 H, 10 BB, 21 K
- Josh Winder - Elizabethton Twins - 9 GS, 3-1, 3.72 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 38.2 IP, 37 H, 6 BB, 42 K.
- Landon Leach - GCL Twins - 7 G, 6 GS, 0-1, 2.18 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 20.2 IP, 16 H, 10 BB, 16 K
- Kai-Wei Teng - GCL Twins - 10 G, 9 GS, 3-3, 3.59 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 42.2 IP, 36 H, 15 BB, 47 K
Here are the top five vote getters for Twins Short Season Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
#5 – Donny Breek, GCL Twins: 10 G, 8 GS, 2-1, 2.89 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 37.1 IP, 26 H, 17 BB, 41 K
Breek signed after the 2017 season out of The Netherlands. He arrived in Ft. Myers after regular spring training but for extended spring training. In 2016, the Twins liked something they saw from the then-16-year-old who posted a 7.51 ERA and a WHIP over 2.00 in the Dutch Major League in 2016. Breek did a nice job for the GCL Twins. He was once named the Twins minor league pitcher of the week. He’s got good stuff, though he is quite raw.
#4 – Luis Rijo, Elizabethton Twins: 5 GS, 2-0, 1.27 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 21.1 IP, 15 H, 4 BB 17 K
Rijo came to the Twins organization at the July 31 trade deadline. He was acquired along with Taylor Austin from the Yankees in exchange for Lance Lynn. Rijo had primarily pitched for the Yankees Appy League affiliate, though he also had made one start in the Florida State League and one start in the New York-Penn League. The Twins sent him to E-Town and he helped the team to an Appy League title. While he pitched in just five games (and just over four innings per start), he continued to post real strong numbers in the Twins organization.
#3 – Erik Cha, GCL Twins/Elizabethton Twins: 15 G, 2-0, 1.37 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 26.1 IP, 23 H, 7 BB, 29 K
Cha was the Twins 17th round draft pick in 2018 out of Cal State-Fullerton. He turned 21 shortly after the draft and began his career in the GCL. 13 of his 15 games came in the GCL, but he was promoted to Elizabethton where he made two appearances and then worked in the Appy League playoffs as well.
#2 – Prelander Berroa, GCL Twins/Elizabethton Twins: 10 G, 8 GS, 2-0, 2.81 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 41.2 IP, 33 H, 15 BB, 41 K
The Twins signed Berroa on July 2, in 2016. He pitched in the Dominican Summer League in 2017. His numbers weren’t good, but the Twins saw enough to bring him Stateside in 2018. He spent most of his season in the GCL. He had a nine strikeout, one-hit, scoreless outing in the GCL. After the GCL season, he moved up to Elizabethton where he made one appearance in the regular season. Finally, he worked five innings of one-run ball in the E-Twins championship-clinching game.
Pitcher of the Year – Andrew Cabezas, Elizabethton Twins:. 11 G 9 GS,, 1-3, 2.74 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 46.0 IP, 30 H, 14 BB, 44 K.
Cleveland drafted Andrew Cabezas in the 34th round of the 2015 draft out of high school. However, he decided to stay close to home and attend the University of Miami.
In his first two seasons at Miami, he worked primarily out of the bullpen. This season, he made ten starts and nine relief outings. In his three years, he went a combined 14-8 with five saves. He had a 3.69 ERA and struck out more than a batter per inning.
The Twins drafted him in the 18th round in 2018 and signed him for $90,000. He signed quickly and reported to Ft. Myers before making the trek north up to Elizabethton. For the most part, Cabezas was used as a starter and did quite well.
As you can imagine, the transition from The U of Miami to Elizabethton, Tennessee, was an adjustment. According to Cabezas, “There was a big transition from playing from University of Miami to playing with the E-Twins. From playing in front of a couple thousands fans compared to a couple hundred, the atmosphere of playing every night, the town itself... Miami and Elizabethton are completely different in their own ways.”
As you can see above and from him winning this award, Cabezas handled the transition well. He felt that the key was being aggressive and efficient with his pitches. The right-hander pointed out, “(The key) was definitely getting after batters much more efficiently. I was able to go deep in games by having the hitter making quick contact, not letting them do much. That’s probably the #1 thing that helped me out big time this season.”
His manager, the legendary Ray Smith, pointed out that Cabezas has an “attack mentality.” He continued, “(Cabezas) was able to slow his delivery down some. He could spin the ball and change speeds. He threw it over the plate for most of the season. He fields his position well. He took the ball consistently. Hitting is all about rhythm and timing, and good pitching can upset that rhythm and timing. Cabezas has ‘funk.’ Hesitation pitches, semi-quick pitches, unusual deliveries.”
Twins minor league director, Jeremy Zoll, spoke of what helped Cabezas to his quick pro start. “We knew we were getting some polish in Andrew having worked his way through the Miami program. It’s a bulldog mentality out there. He goes out there and attacks guys. Good feel for how to attack guys and utilize his pitches. Does a good job of getting ground balls. Really fills up the zone. The thing that really stands out with him is his slider. We think that’s really going to continue to be a good weapon for him here as he continues to develop and harness it and play other pitches off of that.”
The E-Twins had a really strong starting rotation as evidenced by the other starters mentioned above. It was the key to the E-Twins winning their 2018 Appalachian League championship this year.
Cabezas thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the championship team. “It was amazing! The fact the coaches had the confidence to choose me to pitch Game #3, do-or-die game, it really meant a lot because I love games with that much adversity. I haven’t won a championship since high school so I definitely missed that feeling. By winning the Appalachian League championship, it definitely made my first year playing pro baseball a thing to remember most!”
With his track record as a reliever at Miami, it’s natural to wonder whether Cabezas will stick as a starter or potentially move to the bullpen. “We’ll see” is how Jeremy Zoll responded to that question. He continued, “We’re going to give him every opportunity to continue to start here and see how his changeup continues to develop and ultimately how he holds up over the course of a full season.”
There you have it, the top pitchers in the short season leagues for the Minnesota Twins in 2017.
In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily minor league writers:
- Seth Stohs – 1) Prelander Berroa, 2) Austin Schulfer, 3) Andrew Cabezas, 4) Donny Breek, 5) Josh Winder
- Jeremy Nygaard – 1) Andrew Cabezas, 2) Michael Montero, 3) Erik Cha, 4) Donny Breek, 5) Prelander Berroa
- Cody Christie – 1) Luis Rijo, 2) Andrew Cabezas, 3) Prelander Berroa, 4) Donny Breek, 5) Michael Montero
- Tom Froemming - 1) Andrew Cabezas, 2) Josh Winder, 3) Erik Cha, 4) Kai-Wei Teng, 5) Donny Breek
- Steve Lein – 1) Luis Rijo, 2) Andrew Cabezas, 3) Michael Montero, 4) Donny Breek, 5) Kai-Wei Teng
- Ted Schwerzler - 1) Erik Cha, 2) Austin Schulfer, 3) Landon Leach, Prelander Berroa, 5) Andrew Cabezas
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