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Spring Training Storylines: Pitchers And Catchers

After months of speculation about free agency, baseball is back. Minnesota’s pitchers and catchers report for their first official workout on Wednesday. As with any spring training, there are plenty of questions surrounding the Twins after the team reports to Fort Myers.

Let’s dive into some of the questions surrounding the team’s pitchers and catchers…
Image courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Who leads the rotation?
Ervin Santana is out for the first month of the season. This will give an opportunity for other pitchers to step up and lead the rotation. Jose Berrios could be poised for a breakout season. He dominated at multiple levels in the minor leagues and he’s shown flashes of brilliance at the big league level. It seems like 2018 could be his coming out party and the Santana injury might allow him to take his rightful spot at the top of the rotation.

Even though the Twins missed out on Yu Darvish, the front office has a plan in place moving forward. Other free agents like Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn have been in regular contact with the Twins. The Star Tribune is reporting that Minnesota has offered a trade to Tampa Bay for former All-Star Chris Archer. This trade would likely revolve around Max Kepler and multiple prospects. Jake Odorizzi is another potential trade target from Tampa and his price tag would likely be lower than Archer's.

Who fills in while Santana is out?
If Minnesota adds one of the names listed above, there will still be parts of the rotation to sort out during spring training. The Twins will certainly be testing the mantra, “There’s no such thing as too much pitching.” There are likely three rotation locks, Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson and Adalberto Mejia. This leaves one spot open if the team adds another pitcher or two spots if they stay with the current roster.

There are a variety of players in contention for the rotation's final spot. Aaron Slegers, Dietrich Enns, Felix Jorge, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May and Phil Hughes could all see time in the rotation this year. Situations like options remaining and contracts likely factor into the team’s final roster construction.

Who winds up in the bullpen?
Much like the rotation, there are some locks for the bullpen. Fernando Rodney figures to get the bulk of the save opportunities. Addison Reed, Zach Duke and Trevor Hildenberger will get plenty of late inning opportunities. Some of the players that miss out on a rotation spot will also end up in the bullpen. May, Hughes and Duffey could all be candidates for a long-relief role. Other players in consideration will be Taylor Rogers, Ryan Pressly, Alan Busenitz, Tyler Kinley, John Curtiss, J.T. Chargois and Gabriel Moya.

If the pitching staff was being created today, here’s how I’d see things coming together.
Starting Rotation: Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Adalberto Mejia, Phil Hughes, Tyler Duffey
Bullpen: Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Ryan Pressly, Alan Busenitz

Who earns the back-up catcher role?
Chris Gimenez took his talents to Chicago and might have had a role in luring Yu Darvish the Cubs. This means the Twins have an opening at the back-up catcher role. Mitch Garver posted a .928 OPS at Triple-A in 2018. In 110 Triple-A games, he has hit .298/.386/.520 with 18 home runs and 34 doubles. He seems ready to take over the back-up catcher role. If the Twins want him to be starting every day, he could end up back in Rochester. This could leave an opportunity for a player like Bobby Wilson to earn the back-up catcher position.

What storylines will you follow with pitchers and catchers this spring? Leave a comment and start the discussion.

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76 Comments

 

I don't think there's even a 1 percent chance of Romero breaking camp with the Twins.

 

Considering how many pitchers have AAA experience in front of him, I don't see why the Twins would even consider promoting him.

 

Fernando Romero is a good, not great, prospect who has several capable pitchers (of varying degrees) in front of him in the organization. Why would you leapfrog that guy to the majors before he pitches a single inning of AAA ball?

 

I would agree up to a point, but for a different reason:

 

The biggest issue that Romero has right now is endurance.The max innings he ever pitched in a season are 125, last season.And from those, the last 20 or so in August were ugly, because he ran out of steam.So he has been an 100 inning guy in the minors so far, which means that there is no way that he can be a 200 inning guy in the majors in 2018. 

 

2019 is a different story and if he builds up to 150+ good innings this season, he will be there.That should be the Twins goal for him in 2018, which makes any thought about him being part of their pen, kinda contrary to the big picture regarding him.Now where he starts the season is debatable.I actually can see him pitch earlier in the season in the majors, if he is hot, rather than in September when he might be out of gas.

 

About the last sentence: Romero has the highest potential and best stuff of all the Twins starting pitchers that are ready or near ready, and his stuff, unlike Gonsalves's top of the zone stuff, has a high probability to play in the majors.I have not seen Littell pitch in person.Romero is close to, if maybe a step behind of, Berrios as far as ceiling goes.But the endurance (and the changeup, for Berrios also btw) is an issue.

 

    • slash129 likes this

I just don't see Hughes in the rotation to start the season...bullpen maybe.There are only 2 games in April where we need a 5th starter, so I see us breaking camp with 4 starters and a heavy bullpen.When the time comes for a 5th starter, they can fill in by bringing up a AAA guy like Slegers to give them a start and swap out a bull pen guy that has options (heavy bullpen becomes normal size).I think they can piece things together with a 4 man rotation and fill ins until Erv is back.I do think they will add a starter via FA to go with the 3 locks though.

    • howieramone2, caninatl04 and Doctor Wu like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Feb 13 2018 11:18 AM

 

I would agree up to a point, but for a different reason:

 

The biggest issue that Romero has right now is endurance.The max innings he ever pitched in a season are 125, last season.And from those, the last 20 or so in August were ugly, because he ran out of steam.So he has been an 100 inning guy in the minors so far, which means that there is no way that he can be a 200 inning guy in the majors in 2018. 

 

2019 is a different story and if he builds up to 150+ good innings this season, he will be there.That should be the Twins goal for him in 2018, which makes any thought about him being part of their pen, kinda contrary to the big picture regarding him.Now where he starts the season is debatable.I actually can see him pitch earlier in the season in the majors, if he is hot, rather than in September when he might be out of gas.

 

About the last sentence: Romero has the highest potential and best stuff of all the Twins starting pitchers that are ready or near ready, and his stuff, unlike Gonsalves's top of the zone stuff, has a high probability to play in the majors.I have not seen Littell pitch in person.Romero is close to, if maybe a step behind of, Berrios as far as ceiling goes.But the endurance (and the changeup, for Berrios also btw) is an issue.

Right, I forgot that Romero barely touched 125 IP last season. Good point.

 

I would agree up to a point, but for a different reason:

 

The biggest issue that Romero has right now is endurance.The max innings he ever pitched in a season are 125, last season.And from those, the last 20 or so in August were ugly, because he ran out of steam.So he has been an 100 inning guy in the minors so far, which means that there is no way that he can be a 200 inning guy in the majors in 2018. 

 

I agree that he struggled late last year probably due to running out of gas. However, the days of 200IP being a benchmark are gone. Only 15 pitchers last year threw >200IP. Hell, only 60 pitchers threw >160IP.

 

Romero might struggle late in the season but if he can get to 150IP that is the same as most pitchers in baseball these days.

You know who has been pretty consistently throwing 200 or more innings a season (if only barely).

Chris Archer. Who apparently is below average, according to some ;-)
    • Twins33, Oxtung and Sconnie like this
Holy cow that rotation would be horrendous
    • caninatl04 likes this

I just don't see Hughes in the rotation to start the season...bullpen maybe. There are only 2 games in April where we need a 5th starter,


Not sure if that is really true. Their only April off days are the first week and around the Puerto Rico trip. They don't have one in May until May 9th either. That's 9 straight days, then 19 straight days.

And even if you skip the 5th starter once or twice, you're not doing it to get more starts for a vet like Ervin Santana like we did last year. You are increasing the workload on guys like Berrios, Mejia, Duffey, etc.

I'd count on needing 5 starters the whole time.
    • USAFChief, Twins33, brvama and 3 others like this

 

They have? Gonsalves has 22 IP at AAA, and he gave up 14 runs. Romero has yet to throw a pitch in AAA, and had a 3.53 ERA in AA where the league ERA was 3.60.

If our TD writers are accurate, if their reports have considered all the trials and errors in their progress then I am ready to give them a chance.

If our TD writers are accurate, if their reports have considered all the trials and errors in their progress then I am ready to give them a chance.


I think the TD writers like them in context as prospects, but I'm not sure they've advocated for their immediate promotion to the majors. Perhaps they argued for a faster promotion to AAA last year, particularly for Gonsalves, but in absence of that I don't think they'd recommend essentially skipping AAA altogether based on spring training performance.
    • Twins33 and slash129 like this

 

You know who has been pretty consistently throwing 200 or more innings a season (if only barely).

Chris Archer. Who apparently is below average, according to some ;-)

I've seen people say he is not worth our starting right fielder plus 3 of our top prospects but have not seen anyone say below average.I might have missed it.

    • Bill Tanner likes this

I hope Berrios handles the pressure (and more added pressure of being the opening day starter) and comes out throwing like the ace we all think and hope he's going to be. I'm concerned that hes going to get amped up and be horrible the first few starts.

 

    • howieramone2 likes this

 

I've seen people say he is not worth our starting right fielder plus 3 of our top prospects but have not seen anyone say below average.I might have missed it.

 

I wouldn't pay that price unless it was someone like Clayton Kershaw with a Cy Young under his belt. Archer has been too inconsistent to justify that price.

 

I wouldn't pay that price unless it was someone like Clayton Kershaw with a Cy Young under his belt. Archer has been too inconsistent to justify that price.

Kershaw would cost considerably more. This is the piece that people seem to forget. If you only are willing to trade for (or sign) one of the top 5 pitchers in all of baseball their price is going to be considerably higher! A trade package for Kershaw starts with Buxton and includes several other high end pieces.

    • Twins33 likes this

 

I hope Berrios handles the pressure (and more added pressure of being the opening day starter) and comes out throwing like the ace we all think and hope he's going to be. I'm concerned that hes going to get amped up and be horrible the first few starts.

Sometimes I think it would be smart to just flip the rotation.I think the perception out there right now is that we will at a large disadvantage at every spot in the rotation. I think the reality is that we will be at a slight to moderate disadvantage at every spot in the rotation, at least until Santana gets back. If you flip the rotation you are at a disadvantage in the 1st two spots, slight disadvantage in the 3rd spot and a slight to moderate advantage in the 4th and 5th spots. Just seems like the numbers would come out a little better that way. If we get a guy like Cobb then we would have the advantage in maybe 3 spots.Of course this all depends on the opponent. Maybe not so smart this year but I still think the idea of having Berrios start in the 3rd or 4 games instead of the 1st is reasonable.

I've seen people say he is not worth our starting right fielder plus 3 of our top prospects but have not seen anyone say below average. I might have missed it.

on another thread. The one about twins making an offer for archer. Poster said Archer was a below average pitcher the last two years.
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twinssporto
Feb 13 2018 03:29 PM

 

Saw a photo of him throwing a bullpen yesterday. I'm not counting on him for anything, though.

I'm going to Tweet some pics of me throwing the ball with my kid in the yard today.  I might qualify for a starting spot in the rotation this year...

    • Mike Sixel likes this

 

I'm going to Tweet some pics of me throwing the ball with my kid in the yard today.  I might qualify for a starting spot in the rotation this year...

 

Exactly ;)

    • twinssporto likes this

The Twins have a bunch of pitchers to make a quick decision about before their value plummets. Are Romero and Jorge actually in the plans, or can still cater trade possibilities. Do you cut ties with Phil Hughes? Is May a starter or bullpen guy (could May close). Duke, Reed and Rodney have pushed back the youngsters, who have done a pretty good job of pushing themselves back, too...how does Chargois, Reed, Melotakis, Busenitz fit into the future bullpen plans or will they be pushed aside by others.

 

Is Garver best served riding the bench, or actually catching games pitched by Jorge, Romero and Gonsalves at AAA for a good part of the season. Actually working behind-the-plate and keeping those skills developed.

 

But if the Twins add a Bobby Wilson, they need 40-man spaces. Too many "prospects" on the 40-man roster! TraideBait if you can get proven talent...better than letting them walk via the waiver wire.

We have a brilliant new front office. Oh, by the way, our #2 starter is Kyle Gibson. Both of these statements cannot be true simultaneously.
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Dan In Real Life
Feb 13 2018 06:08 PM
Am I alone in being far more optimistic about the bullpen going into the season? I get that last year is not a high bar to clear, but they've got the makings of a more-than-decent bullpen. I actually really like the idea of Hughes in the bullpen, if he's around at all.

 

I think the TD writers like them in context as prospects, but I'm not sure they've advocated for their immediate promotion to the majors. Perhaps they argued for a faster promotion to AAA last year, particularly for Gonsalves, but in absence of that I don't think they'd recommend essentially skipping AAA altogether based on spring training performance.

No they have not advocated that, I am suggesting the Twins be open to that.But the TD reports give me confidence that they might be ready.

I think the TD writers like them in context as prospects, but I'm not sure they've advocated for their immediate promotion to the majors. Perhaps they argued for a faster promotion to AAA last year, particularly for Gonsalves, but in absence of that I don't think they'd recommend essentially skipping AAA altogether based on spring training performance.

im having a hard time finding the quote, but my recollection is Falvey has said things to a similar effect. I recall him saying that prospects would get goals and feed back throughout and the desired result would be maybe a little less time in rookie ball and low, and more time in double and triple A, where it made sense.

Seems like Lewis and Rooker are going through the lower levels a bit faster than how I remember the TR era of management would have them progress.
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tarheeltwinsfan
Feb 14 2018 07:36 AM

Brothers and Sisters: We entered the off season needing a # 1 SP and a #4 SP in order to contend with the Cleveland Mudrats. The sun is shinning today in Ft. Myers! The pitchers and catchers have reported. We have gotten neither a #1 nor a #4 SP. Let's all rise, grab out song books and sing the first verse of, "It's Now or Never"...page 18 in our books. Let's all sing loudly, so the guys upstairs in the front office can hear us. A one and a two...

    • Twins33 and Vanimal46 like this

I don't see how Hughes could even be considered for the starting rotation to start the season. Hey, I'd love to be proved wrong and see him revert to the form he showed 3 or 4 years back, but I think that's highly unlikely at this point, especially since he's coming back from an injury. I'm guessing someone with a tad of MLB experience, such as Slegers, would have more of a chance to earn a spot.

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FormerMinnasotan
Feb 14 2018 07:47 AM

I don't see how Hughes could even be considered for the starting rotation to start the season. Hey, I'd love to be proved wrong and see him revert to the form he showed 3 or 4 years back, but I think that's highly unlikely at this point, especially since he's coming back from an injury. I'm guessing someone with a tad of MLB experience, such as Slegers, would have more of a chance to earn a spot.

Or Felix Jorge...

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