Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month - April 2019
- RHP Brusdar Graterol - Pensacola Blue Wahoos - 5 GS, 27.1 IP, 2.30 ERA, 1.02 WHIP. 16 H, 12 BB, 28 K
- RHP Josh Winder - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 4 GS, 21.1 IP, 2.53 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 18 H, 6 BB, 23 K
- RHP Cole Sands - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 4 GS, 19.0 IP, 2.37 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 15 H, 9 BB, 22 K
- RHP Sean Poppen - Pensacola Blue Wahoos/Rochester Red Wings - 4 G/3 GS, 17.0 IP, 1.59 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 13 H, 8 BB, 27 K
#6 - LHP Bryan Sammons - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 5 GS, 0.40 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 22.1 IP, 16 H, 12 BB, 25 K
Bryan Sammons was the Twins eighth-round pick in 2017 out of Western Carolina. Last year, he spent most of the season with Cedar Rapids but made a handful of starts for Ft. Myers and even one start in AA. He was the Miracle Opening Day starter this year and has been good. He has had plenty of bend (1.25 WHIP) but didn’t break (2 R, 1 ER in 22.1 IP) in the season’s first month. The southpaw has a solid four-pitch mix and knows how to pitch.
#5 - RHP Jordan Balazovic - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 4 GS, 20.2 IP, 2.18 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 15 H, 4 BB, 33 K
In 2016, the Twins drafted four high school hitters with their first four draft picks. Fast-forward to the sixth round and they took a high school pitcher from Canada, Jordan Balazovic. He slowly worked through the Twins rookie leagues and joined Cedar Rapids last summer where he impressed in 12 games. He returned to the Kernels to start 2019 and continued to pitch well. He has had good pitchability since signing, but he’s added velocity in the last two years and now gets a lot of strikeouts. He could be a promotion candidate.
#4 - RHP Randy Dobnak - Ft. Myers Miracle - 4 GS, 0.40 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 22.1 IP, 18 H, 4 BB, 14 K
Dobnak is a bit of an old school pitcher. He stands on the mound, takes the sign, mixes a few pitches, but generally just attacks the strike zone. So, he isn’t going to get a ton of strikes, but he is able to avoid hard contact. But that isn’t to minimize his stuff. He sits in the low-90s but can pump it up to 95 when needed. He mixes in a good breaking ball and an improved changeup. Dobnak went undrafted after four solid years at Alderson-Broaddus College (WV). He was set to play independent ball when the Twins called him. He was promoted from the Miracle to the Blue Wahoos on May 1st.
#3 - RHP Griffin Jax - Pensacola Blue Wahoos - 5 GS, 0.66 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 27.1 IP, 19 H, 9 BB, 20 K
Speaking of that 2016 draft, the Twins first college player picked was Jax, a third-rounder from Air Force. About this time last year, he learned that he would be able to start playing baseball full-time, and he has done quite well. Last year, he pitched for the Miracle and then worked in the Arizona Fall League. Jax isn’t overpowering, but like Dobnak can add a couple of ticks to his low-90s fastball at times. He’s got a really good slider that can induce weak contact.
#2 - RHP Bailey Ober - Ft. Myers Miracle - 4 GS, 0.00 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 24.0 WHIP, 24.0 IP, 18 H, 3 BB, 26 K
Bailey Ober was the national freshman of the year his first year of college. Unfortunately since then, he has fought a lot of injuries. He’s had Tommy John surgery, some back issues and other ailments that have certainly slowed his progression. The Twins drafted him in the 12th round in 2017 out of the College of Charleston. Last year when he got to Cedar Rapids, he started pitching quite well but an elbow injury ended his season a month early. His April was really good. He provided length in his starts, he threw a lot of strikes, he missed a lot of bats. I mean, things were going so well for Ober that his high school catcher got drafted by the Vikings in the first round. Unfortunately, on Tuesday, he was placed on the 7 Day IL retroactive to 4/29 with right ulnar nerve subluxation. Hopefully it’s just precautionary or a way to control innings.
And the Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month is:
Pensacola Blue Wahoos - LHP Devin Smeltzer - 5 GS, 0.60 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 30.0 IP, 19 H, 3 BB, 33 K
Smeltzer was the Dodgers fifth-round pick in 2016 out of a junior college. He pitched in AA last year and halfway through the season they moved him to the bullpen. That’s where he pitched for Chattanooga last year and then in the Arizona Fall League. But this spring, he was given another opportunity to start and it has proven to be a good decision. Smeltzer had a terrific first month of starts.
He didn’t give up a run until his third start. In his second start, he threw 8 1/3 scoreless innings, only removed because he hit 85 pitches. He averaged six innings per start even though he only threw four innings in his third start. He was hit in the head by a line drive, but even that didn’t slow him. He made his next start on schedule.
What a month. As you can see, he limited base runners. He threw a lot of strikes, not hurting himself with walks. And he also missed bats, striking out more than a batter per inning. Smeltzer doesn’t throw real hard, topping out around 92. But he mixes his pitches well, has a good breaking ball, and a little deception in his delivery.
While Smeltzer’s story - overcame childhood cancer - is a great one, people also need to recognize that he is a really good pitcher with a big league future.
Congratulations to our Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month of April, Pensacola Blue Wahoos left-hander Devin Smeltzer.
Feel free to discuss and ask questions.
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