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The 5 Rule Draft

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 11:24 PM
This year's Rule 5 draft we lost Akil Baddo and Tyler Wells. So I thought I'd check to see how they were doing. 1st I checked on Baddo, h...
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Why isn't Buxton on MLB OPS leaders list?

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:55 PM
Buxton is listed only on the MLB HR leaders list. Not on OPS or AVG or SLG or OBP. He should be the leader in several of these. He has as...
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2021 Regular Season Game Threads

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 08:40 PM
Welcome to the 2021 edition of Twins' Baseball. Twins Daily plans to have a game thread during the regular season for every game (one thr...
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Morneau

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 06:58 PM
I thought he was was really good last year. Maybe I'm on an opening day high (Not high) but he is so good.Who would have thought he would...
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Fun with Numbers 2021

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 06:27 PM
Nelson Cruz is on pace to hit over 150 home runs if he gets 500 at bats.   Josh Donaldson slash line:1.000/1.000/2.000/3.000
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AL Central Rundown: Starting Pitching

We’re quickly coming to the end of these positional rundowns, but it’s exciting to think about how the Minnesota Twins pitching now fares in relation to the competition.
Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
The Rundown:
Despite the AL Central being a division of the “haves” and “have nots,” virtually every team has starting pitching in some form or fashion. Cleveland may have some questions on the back end, but they have one of the best arms in baseball. Chicago has gotten better while Minnesota has advanced in recent seasons. Both Kansas City and Detroit are ready to lean on prospects.

Cleveland

Terry Francona has had an embarrassment of riches when it comes to starting pitching in recent years. Unfortunately, his organization is no longer trying to the same extent this season, and Carlos Carrasco has been moved as part of that reality. Trevor Bauer is now also two years departed and there’s much uncertainty behind his traditional ace.

Shane Bieber took home the AL Cy Young in 2020 and will enter the 2021 season looking to validate the performance over a longer haul. He was dominant in virtually every performance, and Cleveland will need that output from him given their projected offensive struggles. Behind Bieber there’s established arms in the form of Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac. Both are solid if not unexciting at this point.

Most teams will drop off following their top three, and that’s true for Cleveland. Triston McKenzie and Logan Allen should be expected to get first crack at turns four and five. They are both heralded prospects and the goal would be for an organization that’s shown success developing arms, to continue it here.

Chicago White Sox

After being acquired as the headliner for Adam Eaton, Lucas Giolito will now be teammates with his trade partner. Despite scuffling his first full season in 2018, it was in 2019 that the White Sox ace put it all together. Giolito earned an All Star bid and finished 6th in Cy Young voting. He was relatively the same last season in the shortened campaign, again earning Cy Young votes and finishing 7th in 2020.

Dallas Keuchel returns as a trusted veteran arm for Chicago, and while he’s not the same pitcher he was for the Astros a handful of years ago, expecting him to take the ball and get the job done is a good bet. Chicago acquired Lance Lynn from the Texas Rangers, and he rounds out what may be the best top-three in the division. Lynn has consistently been a force, outside of his year with the Twins, and putting that level of production into the three-hole is quite the luxury.

Predicting who or how the White Sox will fare in their final two spots is anyone’s guess. Dylan Cease was a former prospect for the Cubs but hasn’t seen much consistent big-league success. Reynaldo Lopez has been all over the map, and Carlos Rodon hasn’t taken the steps forward Chicago would’ve like to have seen at this point.

Detroit Tigers

If the Tigers are going to be bad, it’s their rotation that should be a good deal of fun. Matt Boyd will again be the staff ace. He looked the part of a legit trade piece not too long ago but has since turned back into a pumpkin. A.J. Hinch will be tasked with righting that ship, and likely re-establishing his value before the 2021 trade deadline.

Behind the top spot though is where Detroit gets exciting. Tarik Skubal didn’t have the helium fellow prospect Casey Mize did, but he may end up being equally as impressive on the mound. Both have significant prospect pedigree to this point and seeing them develop at the highest level is where Tigers fans will be pinning their future hopes.

There isn’t a ton of certainty beyond that for the Detroit rotation as Michael Fulmer remains a serious question mark, Spencer Turnbull is a veteran without much of a ceiling, and Jose Urena was acquired as a waiver claim from the Miami Marlins. Detroit still has Matt Manning waiting in the wings as a top 100 prospect as well, and he could force his way into the mix sooner rather than later.

Minnesota Twins

If there’s a team in the division that knows which five arms it will slot in come Opening Day, it’s the Minnesota Twins. Kenta Maeda looked the part of a guy who could be an ace and just needed to escape the shadows of Los Angeles all this time. He was arguably the best pitcher in baseball not named Shane Bieber for 2020 and expecting him to replicate that performance in 2021 isn’t much of a stretch.

Jose Berrios still has to prove he can tap into the potential assumed to be there for him, but a level of consistency was Minnesota’s goal going into 2020. Looking to avoid the late summer swoon, he changed his offseason program and will get to see the impact of that for the first time over a full 162 in 2021.

Michael Pineda may be among the best number three starters in baseball, and the way he’s worked out for the Twins has to have them grinning about the decision to ink him during a rehab year. From there it will be J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker. The former was solid in 2021 and owned a 3.44 ERA from 2016-18. The latter has never been able to stay consistently healthy but has flashed positive signs when on the mound. Depth behind them will be utilized, but that should be the group heading north.

Kansas City Royals

Somewhat similar to the Tigers, this club should struggle but has some equally interesting pieces. Kansas City also took some risks this winter that could pay off well for them. Brad Keller has all but earned the top of the rotation spot here, and club veteran Danny Duffy will follow him.

From there the Royals have two prospects that should continue to be worth watching all year long. Brady Singer was a college standout and will look to cement his place in the big leagues, while Kris Bubic took 10 turns last year and entered 2020 as a top 100 guy.

Kansas City nabbed Mike Minor in free agency, and the veteran should find his way in any one of the three back half positions. He pitched for the Royals back in 2017 and posted a career best 2.55 ERA across 77.2 innings as a reliever. Since going back to starting he owns a 4.07 ERA in 422 innings, but there’s been substantial stretches of even more impressive stuff.

Grade Em’
Attached Image: Top.PNG

Cleveland B
Most outlets love on the Cleveland staff because of what it has been. There’s no denying that Bieber is a legit ace, but I think there’s more substance needed to determine what Plesac and Civale are. On top of that, McKenzie and Allen remain wild cards regardless of their prospect status.

Chicago White Sox B+
It was hard not to give the White Sox an “A” grade of some sorts here. Their top three could be among the best in baseball (not counting the Los Angeles Dodgers obviously). However, the problem is that after Lance Lynn they could also be a complete dumpster fire. What Reynaldo Lopez is may be indicative of how the first half goes for Chicago.

Detroit Tigers C
Not knowing what version of Matt Boyd shows up for 2021 makes this difficult, but Detroit should be looking to get the most from him before using him as a deadline chip. I’m high on Skubal and Mize has gotten plenty of praise on his own. Turnbull doesn’t do much for me, and neither does Fulmer, but Urena is two years removed from being really solid and remains just 29 years old.

Minnesota Twins B
Arguably the most established group of the division, Minnesota has a group that should represent a relatively safe floor. Both Maeda and Berrios are high upside arms while Pineda has emerged as a legit threat. Happ can be what Rich Hill was intended for last season and getting anything out of Shoemaker allows the depth to work itself out.

Kansas City Royals C-
Again, similar to the Tigers, there’s prospect development worth being excited about here. Brad Keller shouldn’t be a top of the rotation arm, and Danny Duffy may have run his course. I think the Minor move was a shrewd one though, and Bubic looked the part a season ago. If Singer can round into a legit starting arm things look better, and both Daniel Lynch and Asa Lacy could be on the way soon.

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11 Comments

Another fun essay that allows us all to have our own takes and your grades are really good talking points.Here are some random thoughts that I have:

 

  • I think Triston MacKenzie is going to be a star.I think last year let him get established.I look at that rotation and think about Bauer, Clevinger, Carrasco, Kluber and think where that rotation would rank and they could have had Hand and Miller in the BP.Is Cleveland lucky or dumb?I don't know.B
  • Kenta Maeda had a great season, but a short one.I worry that so much expectation has him an Ace and another Cy Young pitcher.I hope so, but we need the full season to see where he really ranks and Berrios needs to be consistent through out the full year. B
  • The big three at Chicago have a very poor 4/5 followup and those old arms could break down.I am not convinced that they are the best, but at this point Giolito is pushing Bieber. B
  • KC has two interesting young guys and they are getting aggressive which is fun to see.C-
  • Detroit will have their third prospect in the rotation by June and they will really be starting their road back.At that point I give them a C and potential. 
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Doctor Gast
Feb 27 2021 11:49 AM
I like our rotation but for me there's a lot of ?s. Berrios is the most proven, hopefully he'll have a greater breakthrough. Maeda and Pineda haven't put in a full season yet. CWS on paper look the best, with CLE always better than what they seem. I'd rate our rotation a distinct 3rd.
Where we excel is depth. Our rotating from AAA, where we'll have an abundance of MLB ready arms waiting to take their turn. So far will make the difference

Yeah, I think we have the third best rotation after Cleveland and Chicago. Berrios is our best pitcher and I think both Maeda and Pineda are really solid starters. After that, it's a little iffy. We have quantity but, eh. There doesn't seem to be a lot of upside with our best hope some of these guys can be average ML pitchers.

 

 

    • Channing1964 likes this
While obviously a Twins fan, a homer, and possessing a bit of an optimistic eye, I'd like to believe I can look at things with an eye that is also honest. I don't disregard the Dirty Sox first 3, but I think our top 3 match up in an equal basis. Add in what appears to be better depth from the 4 spot on down, I'd rank our staring staff a solid B+ as well.

Maeda could and probably will regress some. But even with that he is a top flight SP. Keeping it simple, his ERA could blow up a 100 points and he'd still better than most unless his peripherals just sky rocketed. And I don't buy the IP concern some have. He topped 190 IP in Japan 5 times and 175+ twice. And while he only topped 175 IP once with the Dogers, he was also moved to the pen for depth every year beyond that. In fact, it could be argued that his arm has actually been saved some wear and tear as a result.

Berrios has even better stuff and even better potential. Frankly, I constantly find myself frustrated at the lack of belief some have in the not yet 27yo. He's a 2 time All Star selection who's had some issues the 2nd half of his seasons, including each of those All Star years. I get it. But it feels like those 2nd halves are the only thing some people focus on, and not the flashes of greatness he has also displayed. In the 2nd half of 2019 he began the initial changes to his in-season routine to maintain better endurance. In other words, not following his normal and very rigid workout routine. And he actually finished 2019 strong after a couple poor outings. 2020 was going to be, hopefully, his best season to date as he and the Twins had laid the groundwork of change the previous year. We all know 2020 was odd for so many reasons! And ironically...reportedly making a few tweaks to his stuff...he finished stronger than he began the year. Still not 27yo until May I 100% believe we have yet to see the best of Berrios. I am not talking Cy Young, MVP or any additional hyperbole, but he is young, talented, dedicated and determined. As is, right now, I'd argue he'd fit in the top 3 of most any rotation in MLB.

Pineda, after a bit of a ramp-up coming off surgery, was good to great in 2019 until his suspension. (Let's please not feel the need to re-visit speculation on that topic again). And he was good/great again in 2020 when back on the bump. The guy still has decent stuff, tons of experience, has made adjustments, knows how to pitch, and has been good/great with the Twins. The ONLY concern I have is a pair of interrupted seasons that might require the Twins to "nurse" him a bit to get 30 GS and 160+IP.

I still may prefer Odorizzi over Happ. And I admit I didn't see that one coming. After a lot of reading and review and reflection, I really kinda like him as the #4. Guy is solid.

Man, I HATE the "if healthy" caveat. It always seems to suck the energy out of the conversation. But every year there is someone who just "gets right" physically and does well. Shoemaker could be that guy in 2020. BUT...IF HEALTHY...he could be a steal as the #5 starter. We're talking a veteran #5 SP with quality numbers across the board when he is actually on the hill. This is exactly the kind of flier that should be taken for the end of the rotation.

I like Dobnak. I think the Twins do also. Remember, good results for the most part and only 70+ IP thus far. I like Thorpe better...now that his head and body seem to be in order again...over Ober, but am not dismissing Ober as a possible contributor. Add in a couple live/electric arms that may be ready by the second half of the year, I like the depth here.
    • IndianaTwin and Melissa like this
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IndianaTwin
Feb 27 2021 04:55 PM

I'll take that a step further, Doc. I went through the 2019 AL stats and totaled the games started by what appeared to be a team's top three starters. They averaged 82 per team, thanks to injuries, etc. Small sample size, sure, but I'm guessing that's pretty typical of most seasons.

 

So basically half your starts from the top 3 and half from "everybody else." I'm with you in saying that I think our top 3 is very close to theirs, but I like our "everybody else" considerably better. And which team is has a better top 3 if one of their top 3 gets hurt? For them, if someone is hurt and the dumpster fire starts at No. 3, they are in trouble.

 

Overall, I think the Twins rotation does more than just match theirs -- I think it exceeds it. 

 

    • DocBauer, tarheeltwinsfan, Channing1964 and 1 other like this

I'll take that a step further, Doc. I went through the 2019 AL stats and totaled the games started by what appeared to be a team's top three starters. They averaged 82 per team, thanks to injuries, etc. Small sample size, sure, but I'm guessing that's pretty typical of most seasons.
 
So basically half your starts from the top 3 and half from "everybody else." I'm with you in saying that I think our top 3 is very close to theirs, but I like our "everybody else" considerably better. And which team is has a better top 3 if one of their top 3 gets hurt? For them, if someone is hurt and the dumpster fire starts at No. 3, they are in trouble.
 
Overall, I think the Twins rotation does more than just match theirs -- I think it exceeds it.


Bless you for putting in that much research! Lol

With luck, everyone gets to see their top SP be healthy for MOST of the season. Your top 3 ALL have 30-32 GS. But we all know that doesn't happen, right? In 2020 the Twins had one of the best staffs in MLB and they still spent half of it filling in the 4th and 5th spots.

We're in agreement on depth. What I love most is what's behind the initial depth. Dobnak and Thorpe could be/are nice. Second half of the season with Duran, Balazovic and Chalmers...wow.
    • IndianaTwin, Channing1964 and Melissa like this
I looked up their yearly totals.
Only Berrios has ever totaled 200 innings in a season.
Happ & Pineada ceiling is around 140-160.
Maeda has hit the 180 inning mark.
Shoemaker hasnt topped 75 innings in quite some time.

A little simple math of how many innings their are in a 162 game season suggests. The Twins bullpen is going to be overworked and gassed by mid july.

Its a cute staff. Just too many (all of them) that are going to struggle nailing down a 6 inning start.

Rocco going to the pen after 5& a third is going to be the underlying epitaph of 2021.

Oh well,

WIN TWINS!
    • Channing1964 likes this

Really enjoying this series Ted.

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tarheeltwinsfan
Feb 27 2021 07:53 PM

Thanks Ted. This is really a fun series of articles.

    • Channing1964 likes this

I'm am not seeing Pineda as one of the best #3 starters.If you think there is anything to "projections," then Plesac and even Cease(if he can throw strikes) will be a better #3 starter this year and certainly into the future. I think we will be relying on Happ, Shoemaker, and Dobnak more than you think..... and that will not result in a 1st place finish.

    • Channing1964 likes this
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Channing1964
Feb 28 2021 07:44 AM
I don't drink the White Sox kool aide and I think our rotation and lineup is the absolute best in the AL Central. Quite possibly we may have a top 5 bullpen again as well.