Constructing a Way-Too-Early Twins Playoff Bullpen
Image courtesy of © Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY SportsOn 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.
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.
1. Taylor Rogers
2. Tyler Duffey
3. Sergio Romo
4. Sam Dyson
5. Trevor May
6. Zack Littell
7. Brusdar Graterol
8. Martin Perez
9. Ryne Harper
10. Lewis Thorpe
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.
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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