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Cool Heat: Shaggy Is A Closer In Waiting

With his long curly locks and laid back attitude, JT Chargois fits the description you'd expect for a guy with the nickname Shaggy. On the surface, though, he doesn't quite match the prototype for an imposing late-inning reliever.

At least, until he lets loose that incredible fastball.
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA Today
Back in October, I wrote about the righty's heater, which measured up against some of the game's best in 2016. A glance at what others on that list managed to achieve on the mound is beyond encouraging. Among those who were able to throw that hard while avoiding tons of walks, there was basically universal success. Hitters aren't going to do much with consistent 97 MPH fastballs that find the zone, especially if there's any secondary pitch to play them up.

Chargois has that: a hard slider that registers in the upper-80s and keeps hitters from keying on his red-hot fastball. He also has shown the ability to keep both in the zone, though that wavers. His command certainly wasn't there in a disastrous MLB debut last June that saw him cough up five earned runs while recording only two outs and throwing less than half of his 30 pitches for strikes.

Ask the righty about that Saturday afternoon, and his easygoing smile evaporates.

"That kind of performance is not acceptable," Chargois said. "I don’t feel like that’s who I am, it’s not what I’m about."

What went wrong?

"Everything. Your dream’s coming true right in front of your eyes, and I have to do my job? That seems impossible."

The moment Chargois had long dreamed of quickly turned into a nightmare as a loaded Red Sox lineup turned a one-run ninth-inning lead into a blowout. Following a brilliant two-month run in the minors that earned him his promotion, he couldn't find any answers. The 25-year-old faced eight batters and six reached base as a carousel spun around him on the Target Field mound: three singles, two walks, a hit batsman, a run-scoring wild pitch.

Immediately after the game, he was optioned back to the minors. In Rochester, he picked up where he left off by limiting hits, missing bats and – most importantly – throwing strikes. In 17 outings after returning to the Red Wings, he walked only four of 93 batters faced. Two months later, he was back up in the big leagues and this time he was ready to show what he was about.

Appearing 24 times the rest of the way, he posted a 2.82 ERA, and finished strong by allowing just one run on six hits in his final 13 trips to the hill.

The impressive rebound put Chargois in a position where he now has a very realistic shot at winning a bullpen job this spring. But unsurprisingly, the manager wants to see more consistency and efficiency.

"We saw a little bit of both sides of that last year," Paul Molitor noted. "Strike thrower and aggressive, and the results were usually pretty good. And other times, you look up and he’s at 28 pitches to get through an inning."

This issue has nagged at Chargois at times in Grapefruit League play. Last Monday, he came on in relief of starter Justin Haley in the third inning and got two quick strikeouts, but things began to drag with several deep counts and an HBP before he finally wrapped it up.

"We had him slated to pitch two today," Molitor said afterward, "but he had a long inning, so I didn’t send him back out there for just seven or eight pitches."

Pitch economy was rarely a problem for Chargois after he made it his focus last year. Following that clunker debut, he averaged fewer than five pitches per out recorded the rest of the way, in both the minors and majors. That's where he wants to live. If he does, he can certainly set his sights on a late-inning role – perhaps the most coveted one.

Glen Perkins is destined to start the year on the shelf. While there is a general assumption that incumbent Brandon Kintzler will open as closer, Molitor has been reluctant to make that official. "I'm not going there yet," the skipper responded when I asked him about it last weekend.

One wonders if the door is being left open for Chargois. In one sense, his level of experience lags behind guys like Kintzler and Ryan Pressly, who've spent much more time in the majors. But in another sense, he has a significant edge.

Kintzler had never recorded a big-league save prior to 2016 and his pitch repertoire is hardly tailored to the gig, though he performed admirably when called upon last summer. Pressly brings gas but has no closing experience and Molitor seems disinclined to mess with the setup role where he proved capable.

Chargois, meanwhile, is a closer through and through. He dominated in that capacity as a junior for Rice University, and in the Cape Cod League, before the Twins made him the 72nd overall draft pick in 2012. Though he was selected during a time period where Minnesota was infatuated with trying to turn collegiate relievers into starters (they did so with Rice co-closer Tyler Duffey, whom they drafted three rounds later), there were never such inklings with Chargois.

After signing, he went to Elizabethton and closed. Injuries cost him the next two seasons, but when he returned in 2015 he went to Fort Myers and closed, then moved up to Chattanooga and did the same. Last year, he recorded 16 saves in Double-A and Triple-A. So it was fitting that his ill-fated first taste of the majors came in the ninth inning.

Sooner or later, it feels inevitable that Chargois will own the final frame for the Twins. And if the precedents set by other MLB closers who bring velocity in the same range – such as Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Edwin Diaz and Ken Giles – are any indication, he could become one of the league's best.

But before he lands the job, he must prove that he can tame that big heat, and the key to doing so might be keeping his cool. Luckily, that seems to come naturally to Chargois.


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61 Comments

 

I think there can be some flexibility, but not nearly as much as is one might think. It might be something like "you have this sequence of hitters after the 6th inning" more than you are only going to pitch in the 8th or be a closer.

 

It is too hard to chase leverage, pitchers can't warm up quickly and cool down and expect to get up again. There is a reason relievers are sequenced based on situation.

concur.  I think the best answer is to have a bullpen full of good relievers, so that you don't have to worry so much about which one to use when.

 

Since that's difficult, to say the least, you're left with how to use what you have.  And planning for use based on situation is just extremely difficult to pull off.

    • Mike Sixel likes this

 

concur.  I think the best answer is to have a bullpen full of good relievers, so that you don't have to worry so much about which one to use when.

 

Since that's difficult, to say the least, you're left with how to use what you have.  And planning for use based on situation is just extremely difficult to pull off.

But managers are paid to know their players' skills (availability and suitability).  When to change and when to leave the pitcher in.  Management by pitch count, inning, or batter is lazy and implies that the team either has little trust in their manager or is a back seat driver/puppet master.  

Time for Shaggy to close now. He got his coffee last year. He is good to go.
    • Mike Sixel and Vanimal46 like this
So how many closers in waiting are we up to now? At least 3 by my count.
Are we going to rotate them, or give them each one out in the 9th?

Chargois at the 72nd pick.....Jay at #6......ugh. (sorry, wrong thread)

He isn't going to make this team. Too bad, it is right in front of him.

    • Thrylos likes this

After his last couple appearances, I'd say that Shaggy needs to spend some time in Rochester to get his command where it needs to be...

    • Oldgoat_MN and adorduan like this
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Halsey Hall
Mar 21 2017 05:41 PM

Both Kintzler and Belisle started games today in the minors. Two innings each. Kintzler had a rough time of it I felt.

Well, I'm all for Shaggy getting a shot.  Love all that I hear about his lively fastball, etc; something the Twinks have been sorely missing.  In fact I was licking my chops the last couple-three years about all those young flamethrowers we'd recently drafted, and not a single one of 'em, for reasons of injury or ineffectiveness, have been seen up top so far.  Shaggy was probably #1 on my list of those guys.  

 

Now, I don't have time to follow things on a daily basis, so I don't know what he's working on for this ST, if it's a change, or another pitch for the repertoire, but all I see is him getting hit hard, and having long-ass innings.  (to paraphrase Jim Mora), Closer?  C-c-c-closer?  You kiddin' me?

It's too bad the nickname "Louisiana Lightning" has already been used. How about "Louisiana Hot Sauce"?

  

I like it. Bayou Blaze?

Why not call it as we see it
"The Cajun Closer"
And Chargois is optioned.

He can work on his closing in Rochester.
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Brock Beauchamp
Mar 24 2017 01:17 PM

 

concur.  I think the best answer is to have a bullpen full of good relievers, so that you don't have to worry so much about which one to use when.

 

Since that's difficult, to say the least, you're left with how to use what you have.  And planning for use based on situation is just extremely difficult to pull off.

Yeah, it's hard to predict what will happen in a few innings' time but there are a few things a manager can do to create a more flexible bullpen.

 

For example, it's the sixth inning of a tie game. The bases are loaded with no outs.

 

Call in your best reliever. Just do it. And teach your relievers that those situations will occasionally arise. They're the "eighth inning guy" 90% of the time but when an obviously critical situation arises earlier in the game, they should be ready to get the team out of the jam.

 

Far too often we've seen that kind of sixth inning situation pitched by the "sixth inning guy", which makes zero sense. Deal with the later disaster situations when they arise, if they arise at all. Use your best guys earlier in the game when it makes sense.

 

The manager doesn't need to do that often but there's some wiggle room in there I'd like to see explored more often; the "obviously critical" points of a game we all see unfold once every couple of weeks.

 

And Chargois is optioned.

He can work on his closing in Rochester.

 

Well then. Eventually they'll add some youth, but clearly not now.

Well then. Eventually they'll add some youth, but clearly not now.


If the youth is going to perform like he did, probably better that they don't add it.

His spring is a huge disappointment. The spot was right there and he coughed it up.
    • Thrylos and Willihammer like this

 

If the youth is going to perform like he did, probably better that they don't add it.

His spring is a huge disappointment. The spot was right there and he coughed it up.

 

In specific, I agree. In general, this team is SOL if they refuse to promote youth in principle. Given their talk and actions, I'm still waiting. 

In specific, I agree. In general, this team is SOL if they refuse to promote youth in principle. Given their talk and actions, I'm still waiting.


You mean other than about half the roster?

Even the greatest farm system isn't going to fill out significantly more than that.

 

You mean other than about half the roster?

Even the greatest farm system isn't going to fill out significantly more than that.

 

It should be pretty clear that I said...promote. What young player have they added, that wasn't on the roster? 

 

edit:

Indeed, with Chargois and Berrios probably not on the roster, and JRM probably not, I think they've actually reduced the amount of young players, but we won't know for another week or so.

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Willihammer
Mar 24 2017 02:02 PM
Chargois' spring: 8.1 IP, 16H, 2HR, 3 BB, 2HBP, 8 K.

 

Chargois' spring: 8.1 IP, 16H, 2HR, 3 BB, 2HBP, 8 K.

 

even in a world where stats don't matter, that's just bad. 

    • Vanimal46 likes this

 

Chargois' spring: 8.1 IP, 16H, 2HR, 3 BB, 2HBP, 8 K.

So he's got an SO/9 of almost 9? Awesome, but he clearly needs work.

 

No idea how long he'll be down but I suspect we'll see him pretty soon. 

I believe they are looking for him to be the full time closer no later than early next year. If he can establish value they will trade him and expect Tyler Jay to be ready by then.

    • Mike Sixel likes this
Photo
Willihammer
Mar 24 2017 02:34 PM

So he's got an SO/9 of almost 9? Awesome, but he clearly needs work.
 
No idea how long he'll be down but I suspect we'll see him pretty soon. 
I believe they are looking for him to be the full time closer no later than early next year. If he can establish value they will trade him and expect Tyler Jay to be ready by then.

e965339ef2f7ec69cd723354f029a41d30c64e75

    • Mike Sixel likes this

So he's got an SO/9 of almost 9? Awesome, but he clearly needs work.

No idea how long he'll be down but I suspect we'll see him pretty soon.
I believe they are looking for him to be the full time closer no later than early next year. If he can establish value they will trade him and expect Tyler Jay to be ready by then.


I agree, he should be back up relatively quickly, but I'd pump the brakes on the other two points.
    • Oldgoat_MN likes this

So he's got an SO/9 of almost 9? Awesome, but he clearly needs work.

No idea how long he'll be down but I suspect we'll see him pretty soon.
I believe they are looking for him to be the full time closer no later than early next year. If he can establish value they will trade him and expect Tyler Jay to be ready by then.

e965339ef2f7ec69cd723354f029a41d30c64e75
Have you read the posts on this thread? That was extremely restrained.

 

I agree, he should be back up relatively quickly, but I'd pump the brakes on the other two points.

OK. I'll push them back a year.

Yeah, it's hard to predict what will happen in a few innings' time but there are a few things a manager can do to create a more flexible bullpen.

For example, it's the sixth inning of a tie game. The bases are loaded with no outs.

Call in your best reliever. Just do it. And teach your relievers that those situations will occasionally arise. They're the "eighth inning guy" 90% of the time but when an obviously critical situation arises earlier in the game, they should be ready to get the team out of the jam.

Far too often we've seen that kind of sixth inning situation pitched by the "sixth inning guy", which makes zero sense. Deal with the later disaster situations when they arise, if they arise at all. Use your best guys earlier in the game when it makes sense.

The manager doesn't need to do that often but there's some wiggle room in there I'd like to see explored more often; the "obviously critical" points of a game we all see unfold once every couple of weeks.


When, in that situation, did you get your best reliever up and Warming?

If you waited until it was high leverage to do so, it's too late. So you had to have had your best reliever warming to start the 6th. And you'll need to do the same for each of the next 2 innings too, at which point he's unusable tomorrow.

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