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Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month - May

It is hard to believe the baseball season is nearly two months old. I guess it is only June 1, but it’s time to look back at some of the best performers in the Minnesota Twins farm system. We will start today by looking at the top relief pitchers. There were a lot of terrific bullpen performances this month.

Coming up with a top five was difficult. That is why there are several honorable mentions. However, it was pretty easy to pick this month’s Relief Pitcher of the Month. He’s a guy who has experienced a lot of success ever since he signed with the Twins organization.

Number 5 – New Britain – Lester Oliveros - 1.32 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 13.2 IP, 8 H, 9 BB, 17 K

Oliveros was on this list last month, and his elbow certainly appears to be back at 100%. According to a recent Baseball America story, part of the reason he was sent to AA was because he showed up to camp overweight. However, now the weight is off and he’s back to throwing mid-90s heat. Overall on the season, he has a 0.78 ERA and seven saves for the Rock Cats.

As you recall, Oliveros came to the organization from the Tigers in the Delmon Young trade. He got to the Twins but he ended up having Tommy John surgery in September of 2012. He should be moving up to Rochester in the very near future. He will have to throw more strikes in order to get another opportunity with the Minnesota Twins.

Number 4 – Cedar Rapids/Ft. Myers – Brandon Peterson – 0.90 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 10.0 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 12 K

The Minnesota native was on this list last month when dominating in Cedar Rapids. He made two more May appearances with the Kernels before being promoted to the Miracle. He continued to dominate out of the bullpen.

Petersen throws hard, vaulting fastballs into the mid-90s. He combines that pitch with a low-80s slider that makes him very difficult on right-handed hitters. He was the 13th round pick just last year out of Wichita State. He had pitched at Des Moines Area Community College before that.

Number 3 – Cedar Rapids – Todd Van Steensel – 1.50 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 18.0 IP, 13 H, 6 BB, 22 K

Van Steensel was signed by the Twins early this year after a strong season in the Australian Baseball League. It will be his second stint with the Twins as he spent the 2011 season with Elizabethton where he went 5-2.

In his time away, he has moved to the bullpen, he has altered his mechanics and has become a dominant reliever. He now employs a high leg kick in his delivery, and he airs it out. He still has a good three pitches. He began the season in Extended Spring Training, but he was called up to Cedar Rapids at the end of April. He now has some really good stuff and a chance to move up fairly quickly.

Number 2 – Ft. Myers – Tim Shibuya – 1.10 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 16.1 IP, 12 H, 2 BB, 19 K

Shibuya’s first month in the Florida State League didn’t go so well. He posted a 7.98 ERA. He gave up 22 hits in 14.1 innings. The turn of the calendar from April to May did wonders for Shibuya.

He was the 23rd round pick in 2011 out of UC-San Diego. He was the Appy League Pitcher of the Year when he went 8-2 in Elizabethton. In the second half of 2012, he developed arm problems and had shoulder surgery in the offseason. It cost him much of the 2013 season as well, though he ended the season going 4-0 with a 0.96 ERA in 10 outings.

Shibuya doesn’t throw real hard, topping out around 90. However, he has been working on a cutter. He’s got a curveball and a changeup as well. He has always had impeccable control.

And the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month is:

Rochester – AJ Achter
– 1.72 ERA, 0.45 WHIP, 15.2 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 15 K

Attached Image: AJ Achteredie.jpg He was my choice for minor league relief pitcher of the year in 2012, his first year as a reliever, and he was almost as good last year as he smoothly adjusted to the upper levels of the farm system. Yes, he began this season back in AA, but he quickly (3 games) moved up to Rochester when there was an opening. He has been tremendous with the Red Wings. Overall, he has a 1.41 ERA and a 0.63 ERA this year.

Achter was the Twins 46th round draft pick in 2010 out of Michigan State. Achter generally sits in the low-90s but has the ability to hit 95 from time to time. He also has a good changeup along with a curveball and slider. While Michael Tonkin has the prospect status, it is Achter who continues to get the job done in whatever role he is put in. Most often, he is asked to go two or even three innings, but he also has four saves for the Red Wings.

Following the 2013 season, Achter pitched in the Arizona Fall League. However, he was not added to the 40 man roster. The way he is pitching, he should be added to the 40 man roster during this season and get an opportunity with the big league club.

Quickly, here are some Honorable Mentions, a few guys worthy of recognition:


  • Yohan Pino – Rochester – 2.41 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 18.2 IP, 16 H, 4 BB, 16 K
  • Ryan Pressly – Rochester – 2.04 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 17.2 IP, 17 H, 1 BB, 16 K
  • Aaron Thompson – Rochester – 2.45 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 11.0 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 11 K
  • Tyler Jones – Ft. Myers – 1.69 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 10.2 IP, 5 H, 7 BB, 10 K
  • Yorman Landa – Cedar Rapids – 1.80 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 15.0 IP, 8 H, 8 BB, 16 K

Relief pitchers deserve to get more recognition. Seemingly only when things go poorly do fans notice them. That’s one of the reasons that we recognize the relief pitchers here. Each of these pitchers did their job, and they all did it well.

In the next couple of days, we’ll also be recognizing the top starting pitchers and hitters for the month of May.


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