3 Unexpected Players the Twins Have Been Able to Rely Upon
Image courtesy of © Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY SportsTyler Duffey: 3.07 ERA, 29.6 K%, 1.15 WHIP, .211 AVG
As you all probably know, the Twins bullpen has been the main area of concern all season with guys like Blake Parker, Ryne Harper, Fernando Romero, Adalberto Mejia (I could do this all day), and many more competing for high leverage spots behind Taylor Rogers. Only one guy has been able to firmly hold his spot and that has been Tyler Duffey.
Duffey entered his third season in a relief role in 2019 and something finally clicked for him. The last two seasons were about as bad as could be for him, as he could never take that final step. His career as a reliever had a rough start with him having a 4.94 ERA in 2017 and a 7.43 ERA in 2018. There definitely were some changes made this season, but the most notable has been the large increase in his fastball usage from 36% to 51% in just one season. He also dropped the changeup and sinker and throws the curveball as his only secondary pitch.
His value to the team is a bit under-appreciated because of all the hate the bullpen has received, but Tyler Duffey had quietly helped stabilize it until the trade deadline reinforcements showed up. Among all AL relievers he ranks 19th in K%, 25th in ERA, and 23rd in opponent AVG. He is currently the Twins fourth reliever on the depth chart, so that shows just how deep this bullpen has become.
Mitch Garver: .263/.343/.597 (.940), 139 wRC+, 23 HR
The third surprising performance comes from catcher Mitch Garver, and his breakout has been equally impressive, if not more so, than the other two on this list. After ending last season with a lot of criticism about his defense not being good enough to be a major league starting catcher, Mitch set out with a mission and came back improved in the defensive aspect of the game by notably dropping his catching ERA from 4.60 to 3.82, along with putting up some elite offensive numbers to go with it.
The season began with Castro as the number one catcher and Garver as the backup, but Garver has blown away every single projection or expectation by becoming one of the premiere hitting catchers in baseball. Among MLB catchers, he ranks second in home runs (23), first in OPS (.937), and first in wRC+ (138). With Castro mashing against right-handed pitchers, the Twins have the best catching platoon in all of baseball.
Mitch Garver is looking like the catcher of the future for the Twins, and there were some arguments made that he should have been in the All-Star Game this season. If he continues to hit like he currently is, there will be a lot more opportunities for him to lead AL catchers in the All-Star Game.
Luis Arraez: .348/.416/.456 (.872), 133 wRC+, 1.50 BB/K
I’m sure you’re all well aware of rookie sensation Luis Arraez by now. He could even be in the running for the Rookie of the Year Award. Since being called up in the middle of role May, he has done nothing but get hits in whatever situation he is put in. He is well known around baseball for his outstanding walk against Edwin Diaz after coming into the game down two strikes in the count. He has one of the most professional approaches you will see at the plate.
Luis Arraez’s impact came at the perfect time for the Twins, as Opening Day second baseman Jonathan Schoop has fallen into a huge slump since June. Arraez has performed better than anyone could have expected and to see him filling the everyday second base in August is still surprising. To put his impact into one number, his Win Probability Added (WPA) is already third among Twins hitters at 1.61 despite him missing a couple of months.
So can he win the Rookie of the Year Award? Among all AL rookies, Arraez is first in AVG, first in OBP, fifth in SLG and second in OPS. The Twins pulled a hidden gem out of the minor leagues this season and he was ranked down at 22 in the Twins Daily top 30 prospects to open the season. For a 22-year-old in the middle of a pennant race, his performance has been nearly perfect so far and his approach at the plate looks like he has been here for ten years already.
The way he walks up to the box, scans the field, and then pokes a single wherever the defenders aren’t standing is a rare skill that people who say “I’m tired of all these home runs! Where did the sacrifice bunt and hit-and-run play go?” really like to watch.
Overall, there have been many players to step up this season like Ehire Adrianza, Devin Smeltzer, Michael Pineda and more but I tried picking the three that had the largest impact while having low expectations coming into the season. Every playoff team has to rely on some unexpected key players in order to win and this year’s Minnesota Twins team has plenty.
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