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Constructing a Way-Too-Early Twins Playoff Bullpen

The Twins bullpen has been the biggest issue with the Twins all season, but suddenly it has become a strength in September. With about twelve guys out there who are good enough to make a strong impact on a daily basis, who gets the nod for the playoff bullpen? Well, here is my early prediction.
Image courtesy of © Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports
On the morning of Sept. 3, 2019 the Minnesota Twins have a 99.7% chance to make the playoffs and 94.5% chance of winning the division. Of course the division race is not mathematically over, but with just under a month to go and a 6.5 game lead, you have to feel good about where the Twins are. Just look at this fun graph from Fangraphs. The Twins have not been under 50% since May 7 and even when Cleveland took the lead the Twins still had a better chance.

Attached Image: division odds.png

With the Twins all but guaranteed to go to the playoffs, a lot of talk about the potential playoff roster has been heating up. With a current 36-man roster including fifteen pitchers after September call-ups, the Twins will have a few tough decisions. Who will be in a playoff rotation? Will Kyle Gibson make the roster? How many bullpen pitchers will the Twins carry? I think the Twins will go with a three-man rotation, Kyle Gibson will still be recovering, and the Twins will have nine in the bullpen.

Who will make the Twins playoff bullpen?

After months of questioning if the Twins would even have enough pitchers to make up a competent playoff bullpen, the script has been completely flipped. The Twins now have about ten to twelve guys with a real shot to make an impact in the playoffs, but it will likely come down to about eight or nine. With five guys being locked in, who else has a shot? This list will assume Berrios, Pineda, and Odorizzi make the roster.

Locks:
1. Taylor Rogers
2. Tyler Duffey
3. Sergio Romo
4. Sam Dyson
5. Trevor May

Most likely:
6. Zack Littell
7. Brusdar Graterol
8. Martin Perez
9. Ryne Harper
10. Lewis Thorpe

Unlikely:
11. Devin Smeltzer
12. Cody Stashak
13. Trevor Hildenberger
14. Jorge Alcala
15. Fernando Romero
16. Randy Dobnak
17. Kohl Stewart

Going off of these rankings, creating a playoff bullpen will be tough and that is a good problem to have. With a three-man rotation, the Twins can likely afford to have nine men in the playoff bullpen, but who will they be?

Zack Littell is probably the easiest answer at this point. Since being transferred to the bullpen full time, he has pitched 19 2/3 innings and given up just two runs on two solo home runs. That is good for a 0.92 ERA to go with a 1.12 WHIP, 22.4 K%, and .675 OPS. The Twins have used him in a set-up role lately, showing him that they trust him. He gets the sixth spot in my way too early playoff bullpen.

Next up, the Twins will probably want at least one more left-hander to be used as a lefty specialist to go get an out against Didi Gregorius even though it seems impossible. The three competitors will be Perez, Smeltzer, and Thorpe. The best OPS against left handed hitters this season from that group belongs to Perez at just .583 (Thorpe at .929 and Smeltzer at .816) so I expect him to be an effective bullpen arm. He gets bullpen spot number seven. That leaves two more.

The eighth guy in my bullpen is someone who the Twins and everyone around them have been talking about for months, and that is the flame-throwing right-hander Brusdar Graterol. Honestly I don’t think I would be able to forgive myself if I didn’t put him here. The upside for Graterol has already been expressed by everyone around Twins Territory but even Thad Levine was saying this is definitely a special pitcher. He made these comments about him to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

“In my entire career, I’ve never seen a pitcher other than [Yankees All-Star closer] Aroldis Chapman sit above 100 MPH for an entire inning,” Levine said. “I think he threw one fastball that was timed at 99, and it was almost disappointing.”

The final spot in my early bullpen is completely up for grabs from anyone remaining. The player who outperforms the rest this month will get a playoff job so you may want to keep your eyes out for the hot hand. It could really be any of these players, but my best guess would have to be Lewis Thorpe. His 2.76 FIP and 9.2 K/9 are extremely impressive, and his best games have been against the Yankees and Red Sox. Sign me up for some more Thorpedo.

Final bullpen:
1 Taylor Rogers
2 Tyler Duffey
3 Sergio Romo
4 Sam Dyson
5 Trevor May
6 Zack Littell
7 Martin Perez
8 Brusdar Graterol
9 Lewis Thorpe

What would you change about the bullpen? Let me know in the comments below.

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10 Comments

Yes, it's too early, but you and I and everyone already know that, lol. Just too many things to play out over the next month at this point. Including, perhaps most importantly, the strength and health of Gibson.

But I am willing to play along!

First, I am going to make 2 assumptions. 1] Buxton will be ready to go. 2] A little time off will give Gibson time to refresh and be ready as well.

The Twins will go with 13 players, with Cave and Astudillo out.

They will go with a 4 man rotation, which will include Gibson.

That leaves an 8 man bullpen:

Rogers
Dyson
Romo
Duffey
May
Perez
Littell

That leaves 1 spot left. My gut tells me Thorpe as a 3rd LH who can fill a couple different roles from long/middle/situational.

Graterol is the wild card in all of this. I do not doubt his talent or potential. But I can't include him until I see performing at a high level over the next month while adjusting to the league and the new ball.
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Cooper Carlson
Sep 04 2019 08:26 PM

Yes, it's too early, but you and I and everyone already know that, lol. Just too many things to play out over the next month at this point. Including, perhaps most importantly, the strength and health of Gibson.
But I am willing to play along!
First, I am going to make 2 assumptions. 1] Buxton will be ready to go. 2] A little time off will give Gibson time to refresh and be ready as well.
The Twins will go with 13 players, with Cave and Astudillo out.
They will go with a 4 man rotation, which will include Gibson.
That leaves an 8 man bullpen:
Rogers
Dyson
Romo
Duffey
May
Perez
Littell
That leaves 1 spot left. My gut tells me Thorpe as a 3rd LH who can fill a couple different roles from long/middle/situational.
Graterol is the wild card in all of this. I do not doubt his talent or potential. But I can't include him until I see performing at a high level over the next month while adjusting to the league and the new ball.

I like it. I went without Gibson because if he is not at full health then I don’t really think he needs to be on the first series playoff roster.
    • DocBauer likes this

 

“In my entire career, I’ve never seen a pitcher other than [Yankees All-Star closer] Aroldis Chapman sit above 100 MPH for an entire inning,” Levine said. “I think he threw one fastball that was timed at 99, and it was almost disappointing.”

Interesting. I know that comment came after a minor league game, but Graterol has yet to reach 100 MPH in either of his MLB appearances so far, per Gameday (Statcast). Topped out at 99.6 vs Detroit, then 99.5 last night vs Boston.

 

Brooks Baseball (PitchF/X) has him hitting 100.0 exactly in his first and last pitches in the Detroit game, averaging 99.4, but only reaching 99.6 vs Boston with an average of 98.8.

 

http://www.brooksbas...inmlb_bosmlb_1/

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Cooper Carlson
Sep 05 2019 09:41 AM

 

Interesting. I know that comment came after a minor league game, but Graterol has yet to reach 100 MPH in either of his MLB appearances so far, per Gameday (Statcast). Topped out at 99.6 vs Detroit, then 99.5 last night vs Boston.

 

Brooks Baseball (PitchF/X) has him hitting 100.0 exactly in his first and last pitches in the Detroit game, averaging 99.4, but only reaching 99.6 vs Boston with an average of 98.8.

 

http://www.brooksbas...inmlb_bosmlb_1/

Yeah I'm sure he will get up there once he settles in more. I would bet he's more focused on hitting his spots at the moment.

In a 5 game series, do you really need 9 relief arms?I'm trying to come up with a situation where Thorpe would get a chance.In a blowout maybe?I'd rather see a 4 man rotation, 8 pen arms and an extra bat off the bench.

    • KidBro likes this

 

In a 5 game series, do you really need 9 relief arms?I'm trying to come up with a situation where Thorpe would get a chance.In a blowout maybe?I'd rather see a 4 man rotation, 8 pen arms and an extra bat off the bench.

In modern MLB, you might need that many relievers. Especially if a game goes extra innings.

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Cooper Carlson
Sep 05 2019 12:12 PM

In a 5 game series, do you really need 9 relief arms?I'm trying to come up with a situation where Thorpe would get a chance.In a blowout maybe?I'd rather see a 4 man rotation, 8 pen arms and an extra bat off the bench.

You could use the same argument for the bench. Why would the fifth guy ever get in the game? I would rather have an extra arm for extras/blowouts/tired staff
Photo
yarnivek1972
Sep 05 2019 01:31 PM

You could use the same argument for the bench. Why would the fifth guy ever get in the game? I would rather have an extra arm for extras/blowouts/tired staff


Your fifth position player would ideally be a pinch runner type. Ian Miller seems to be the preferred candidate for that role.

It should also be noted that it is entirely possible that Gibson won’t be healthy enough to pitch in the playoffs, or might be limited to a relief role due to stamina issues. That would put Perez in the rotation by default and would also leave the Twins without a veteran LHP who has had success getting LHB out. If only there was a guy like that under team control...

In modern MLB, you might need that many relievers. Especially if a game goes extra innings.


The last 6 series that have went to 5 games, no team used more than 12 pitchers, and 3/5 used 11 or fewer. Give me a speed guy off the bench over a 9th reliever anytime.
if Devin Smeltzer keeps pitching well I think he could factor in.

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