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I haven't seen any notice on Twins Daily yet, so thought I'd leave this here.   Eric Longenhagen has posted his new Twins prospect l...
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Twins Have Two Candidates For Their Next Ryan Pressly

At the 2018 trade deadline the Minnesota Twins moved Ryan Pressly to the Houston Astros. The decision came with much consternation among fans and moving an arm that had become among the best in the game seemed ill-advised. Now with a top-tier bullpen, two near arms could be ready to make that leap into a similarly elite category.
Image courtesy of © Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Often on Twitter from 2015-2017 I found myself banging a drum that Ryan Pressly was the next great arm out of the Minnesota bullpen. He’d scuffled plenty, and the numbers weren’t glowing, so there was always plenty of pushback. His 2017 was especially mediocre, but there was another level to be achieved. In 2018 he raced out to a 3.40 ERA across 47.2 IP but was backed by a 2.47 FIP and 12.8 K/9. By all intents and purposes, he’d arrived.

The Twins, not being in an immediate place of contention, made a difficult but logical decision. They cashed in on a reliever and sent him to Houston. He went on to post a 0.77 ERA in his final 23.1 IP and then followed it up with a 2.32 ERA last season. The Astros deserve credit for taking him to heights Minnesota was not previously equipped to accomplish, but the ability was always there to mold.

Now with what finished as the third best bullpen in baseball during the 2019 season, and a group that could vie to be the best in 2020, there’s two arms that jump out as potential suitors to take that next Pressly-esque step.

Trevor May – 2019 Stats 2.94 ERA 3.73 FIP 11.1 K/9 3.6 BB/9

The gaming celebrity is now 30 and already an established veteran for the Twins. He’s a free agent following this season, and despite the already glowing ERA, there’s reason to believe another level is possible. May worked around some additional trouble last year, having a FIP nearly a full point higher. Although he decreased his hit and HR rate, he doubled his walk rate and got away from the glowing 1.8 BB/9 mark he set in 2018.

Under the hood is where things get exciting for Trevor. His 34.8% hard hit rate was the lowest he’s posted as a reliever, and his 95.9 mph average velocity isn’t far off from adding two full ticks to his fastball. This is an age that relievers should see a decline in their abilities. But May, having fewer miles on his arm, could be gaining benefit from that past lack of use. Wes Johnson has him throwing absolute darts, and there’s room for a slight rebound in strikeout and whiff rates. He’s probably close to a finished product, but as the Twins invest in technology and May incorporates it, even a slight tweak could have him in the conversation for a top ten pen arm.

He’s also all in on one series being more exciting than the rest.

Zack Littell – 2019 Stats 2.68 ERA 3.62 FIP 7.8 K/9 2.2 BB/9

Acquired by the Twins when Derek Falvey flipped Jaime Garcia to the New York Yankees, Littell has long looked the part of an intriguing arm. He wasn’t ever going to be a top of the rotation starter, but the floor has never looked anything but promising. After being moved to the bullpen full time a year ago, it seemed Minnesota was ready to unleash what had quickly been established as a weapon.

Utilizing his fastball nearly 50% of the time, he too saw a near 2 mph jump on the pitch. Now averaging 94 mph, his whiff rate nearly doubled, and the chase rate rose 10%. Just 24-years-old, Littell is still settling into a relief role after a pro career of starting. His strikeout rate hasn’t seen the substantial jump yet, but I’d be on it coming.

Phil Miller of the Star Tribune recently wrote about Littell changing up his offseason, essentially shifting towards a more intentional path towards development. He had produced some eye-popping numbers last season on what largely derived from talent and ability. Embracing data and generating actionable outcomes could be the thing that takes him to a new level of sustainability. Not all relievers are late bloomers, and Littell looks the part of a guy who’s settled into a role and now is ready to explode.

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I would love to see the Twins take some of the cash they got for selling a pick to the Dodgers and use it for a Trevor May extension.

    • DocBauer, JoshDungan1 and wabene like this

I saw you promoting this this morning, Ted... gotta admit, I assumed that you were going to write about May and Duffey...


I like Littell a lot, but does this mean you already think Duffey is there? 

    • Blake, Sconnie, TL and 4 others like this
If May had not given up a few too many hanging curves last year, he would have had an epic season. If he can eliminate those this year, he will command some big money in the off season.
    • DocBauer, wabene and KFEY93 like this

Bauer isn't everyone's cup of tea, but he implies that Pressly's jump in spin rate with the Astros could only be explained by the "application of a foreign substance."  Be interesting to see if their bullpen performs differently this year assuming that they aren't cheating as much.

    • 70charger and wabene like this

"Banging the drum" might not be the best metaphor to roll out when talking about someone on the Houston Astros...

    • USAFChief, 70charger, PDX Twin and 2 others like this

I like the Littell pick.He was one of those starter or bullpen guys, and history has shown if you borderline, you normally excel in bullpen when you go all in as a pen guy.It is easier now a days to swallow that role, as the money is shifting a bit even to set up guys.In the past, all the money went to starters, even back end guys, and except for top closers, pen guys did not get paid much.Now that is shifting some, some guys are more willing to embrace the pen role sooner in their career.I hope littell is that guy. 

    • rdehring likes this


"Banging the drum" might not be the best metaphor to roll out when talking about someone on the Houston Astros...

Nah it's fine. After all, they used a trashcan

    • Platoon likes this

When Littell arrived, I kept thinking that he reminded me of Joe Nathan.Doesn't necessarily pitch like him, but something.Can he carve out a career like Nathan?We will see, but it sure would be nice.

    • Doctor Wu likes this
I also thought for sure you were going to mention Duffey.

I really liked what I saw of Littell last season, but there is absolutely room for improvement. And I mean that in a positive way.

But if we're going to include Littell in this conversation, really curious why Stashak didn't make it an article about three potentials.

I just like that we're at a point where there is actual argument on who should be included in an article like this. 5 years ago it would've been titled, "2 Guys Who Could Help Us in 5 Years"

    • wabene likes this

I would actually like to see May given a chance at the closer role, keeping Rogers as a solid set-up guy and emergency closer. I think he ahs the stuff and would be willing to take that chance.

    • tarheeltwinsfan and Doctor Wu like this

I would actually like to see May given a chance at the closer role, keeping Rogers as a solid set-up guy and emergency closer. I think he ahs the stuff and would be willing to take that chance.

Last year when a win was attainable, sometimes Baldelli would run out Rogers even if he was on fumes. I would rather that a few guys were relied upon to lock it down allowing better pacing of innings. May, Duffey, Rogers and even some Clipboard and Romo. Use the depth.
    • Twins33 and 70charger like this
Good article. I wish I was smart enough to be able to debate things like this but you're so far ahead of me and analysis I just know that I'm very happy to see how Littell has consistently seen as stock rise. For me May is almost a question mark and the sense that he seems to have been around for way too long and his recent seasons have been fun but none of this is the dominating pitcher we anticipated. The way that pitching staffs and their roles have become so fluid in the last few years I no longer think of closers and set up men. Important thing is good strong arms and lots of them since they're going to pitch every day and nobody can handle that pace.
    • Aerodeliria likes this

I'm afraid the best candidate for "next Ryan Pressly" is Brusdar Graterol.

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