Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month - April
Relief pitchers often go unrecognized unless they don’t do their job. However, in April, when starters are on pitch counts and may not always go even to the fifth inning, they are very important. Today, we’ll look at the top relievers in the Twins farm system in April.
Number 5 – New Britain – Cole Johnson- 1.74 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 10.1 IP, 7 H, 7 BB, 11 K
Johnson is the first of two relievers in this top five list who was drafted in a round that no longer exists. He was the Twins 44th round pick in 2011 out of Notre Dame. He pitched a handful of innings as a starter in Beloit in 2012, but he has been very good in the bullpen ever since. He spent just 13 games with Ft. Myers last year before ending with 28 outings for the Rock Cats. That’s where he started this season, and he has been very good in the early going. A few fewer walks would be very good though.
Number 2 – Cedar Rapids – Brandon Peterson – 0.84 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 10.2 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 16 K
Peterson is a Minnesota native, having played his high school ball at Burnsville. After spending some time at Des Moines CC, he transferred to Wichita State. Following the 2013 season, he was selected in the 13th round by the Twins. He struck out 40 batters in 27.1 innings last year in Elizabethton. He moved up to Cedar Rapids and had a strong first month posting sub-1.00 ERA and WHIP while not walking many and striking out more than 1.5 per inning. Pretty impressive!
Number 3 – New Britain – Lester Oliveros – 0.00 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 9.1 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 10 K
In 2013, Oliveros pitched just 6.1 innings of rehab in the GCL after having Tommy John surgery late in the 2012 season. The hard-thrower is in New Britain to get his work in and continue the process of his return. To say the least, so far so good. Though he’s really only pitched one inning at a time, he has been very impressive. He is yet to allow a run and is striking out over one batter per inning. As he continues to gain strength, it won’t (or at least shouldn’t) be too long before he gets back up to Rochester.
Number 2 – New Britain/Rochester – AJ Achter – 1.10 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 16.1 IP, 9 H, 4 BB, 20 K
Like Johnson, Achter was drafted in a round that no longer takes place. He was the Twins 46th round pick in 2009 out of Michigan State. He was my choice for Twins minor league pitcher of the year in 2012 when he split the season between Beloit and Ft. Myers. He was almost as good in 2013 when he split the season between New Britain and Rochester. He ended the season in the Arizona Fall League. Certainly it was just about roster spots that Achter returned to New Britain, but it was a given that as soon as a spot opened in Rochester, he would take it. That came after just three appearances with the Rock Cats. He didn’t mope, he went out and dominated.
And the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month is:
Rochester – Yohan Pino – 1.17 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 23.0 IP, 12 H, 7 BB, 27 K
Yohan Pino photo courtesy Rochester Red Wings
There was no question that the overall pitcher of the month (and maybe the player of the month) in the Twins farm system in April was Yohan Pino. Should he be categorized with the starters (he does have more innings pitched than most starters in the organization) or the relievers (he’s made four bullpen appearances and two spot starts)? Of course, in one of those starts, he threw a seven-inning, complete game shutout.
This offseason, the Twins brought him back, signing the veteran free agent to a minor league contract. Ten years earlier, 2004, the Twins had signed Pino out of Venezuela. That summer, he was the Dominican Summer League Pitcher of the Year. In 2005, he was in Elizabethton where he went 9-2 with 64 strikeouts in 67.2 innings. In 2006, he went 14-2 with a 1.91 ERA, primarily out of the Beloit bullpen, though he ended the season making seven starts. That’s the role he has had ever since, splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. He got up to Rochester in 2009, but in late August, he was sent to Cleveland in exchange for Carl Pavano. In early 2011, he went to the Blue Jays organization. He was there until this spring when he was invited to Twins spring training.
Maybe Yohan Pino should be in his own category. Either way, he deserves to be recognized for a tremendous opening month.
Quickly, here are some Honorable Mentions, a few guys worthy of recognition:
[*=1]Matt Hoffman – Rochester – 0.96 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 9.1 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 8 K
[*=1]Madison Boer – Ft. Myers – 1.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 9.0 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 1 K
[*=1]David Hurlbut – Ft. Myers – 1.59 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 17.0 IP, 16 H, 7 BB, 6 K
[*=1]Brandon Bixler – Cedar Rapids – 0.73 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 12.1 IP, 7 H, 9 BB, 14 K
Relief pitchers often don’t get the recognition they deserve. They are generally unnoticed unless things go bad. That’s why we recognize the relief pitchers here. Each of these pitchers did his job, and they all did it well.
Later today, check back for the April Hitters of the Month.