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One Twins Prospect to Watch at Each Minor League Level

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Effects of the shift

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What Kind of Return Would You Need to Trade Byron Buxton?

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Let’s drink a cold dose of reality as an 11-17 ball club. Unless Falvey and Levine zag compared to past history, it doesn’t look like our...
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Twins Lining Up a 2-Starter System

Baseball is certainly going to look different in 2020 and this will force managers to be creative in how they approach in-game strategy. From pitching changes to line-up construction, managers are facing an unprecedented 60-game schedule where decisions will be scrutinized at every turn. In this unique season, the Twins seem to be lining up a two-starter system as Opening Day approaches.
Image courtesy of © Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Like many managers, Rocco Baldelli isn’t always forthcoming with specific information in relation to the strategies his team is employing. However, a picture of Minnesota’s rotational strategy seems to be emerging from the information available.

Starters won’t likely be able to pitch late into games when the season starts, so pairing pitchers makes strategical sense. Let’s examine the team’s potential pitcher pairings.

RHP Jose Berrios/RHP Randy Dobnak
Jose Berrios had already been named the team’s Opening Day starter back in spring training, so it makes sense for him to get that opportunity when the shortened season commences. Randy Dobnak was fighting for a rotation spot in the spring, but his pairing with Berrios is intriguing. He surprised a lot of people last season as he pitched at three different minor league levels before making his debut. Berrios and Dobnak were two of the team’s starters during last season’s playoff series with New York and they could help the team get off to a strong start.

RHP Jake Odorizzi/LHP Lewis Thorpe
Jake Odorizzi accepted the Twins’ qualifying offer this winter and now he has fewer games to prove he is worth a potential long-term deal. There was a lot of buzz surrounding Lewis Thorpe back in spring training, but he left to deal with some personal matters and was eventually sent to minor league camp. With those issues behind him, he has a good chance to be back on the pitching staff. Odorizzi, a right-handed pitcher, and Thorpe, a left-handed pitcher, could make it tougher for opposing teams to create an optimal batting order.

RHP Kenta Maeda/LHP Devin Smeltzer
Kenta Maeda, Minnesota’s big off-season trade acquisition, has something to prove as a starter after being used as a starter and reliever with the Dodgers. Like Maeda, Devin Smeltzer started his professional career in the Dodgers organization. Smeltzer found success last season even though his pitching repertoire would hardly be called overpowering. He relies on a fastball that ranks in the 6th percentile for velocity and in the 86th percentile for spin. As with Odorizzi and Thorpe, this pairing gives the Twins another righty-lefty pitching combo.

LHP Rich Hill/RHP Homer Bailey
Following off-season surgery, Rich Hill wasn’t scheduled to be available to start the season. However, the delayed start means he’s ready to join the rotation. A shortened season might be just what the doctor ordered for Hill. He turned 40-years old in March and he’s averaged less than 110 innings pitched over the last four seasons. Over that stretch, he has a 3.00 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP and 10.6 SO/9. Homer Bailey is coming off a bounce-back season where he had a 4.57 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP over 163 1/3 innings. Together, they would comprise the team’s third right- and left-handed duo.

RHP Jhoulys Chacin/RHP Sean Poppen
Both Jhoulys Chacin and Sean Poppen were on the outskirts of the team’s original rotation plans, but expanded rosters to start the season allow for alterations. Chacin struggled last season in Milwaukee and Boston by posting an ERA north of 6.00. From 2015-2018, he posted a 3.97 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP, so he could be a good candidate to bounce-back in 2020. Poppen was the Twins 19th round pick back in 2016. Last season he made his big-league debut, but most of his innings came at Double- and Triple-A. Across 20 minor league appearances, he had a 4.01 ERA with a 10.7 K/9.

Minnesota’s two-starter strategy could be key for the team getting off to a good start going into a shortened season where the Twins already have a great chance to win their first championship since 1991, according to the World Series odds we found at SBD.

What do you think about this potential strategy? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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A mediocre starter coming in instead of a reliever that is tested. Hmmm. And the 5th spot looks pretty vulnerable. IF it happens, I hope it only lasts a couple rotations and the starters step it up and take the innings. It is already a short season.Not like they need to save it for the marathon. Hmmm.

    • denarded, mikelink45, JoshDungan1 and 3 others like this

It's an interesting concept. The Twins may limit their Starting 5's pitch count early, but not innings. But they may limit them throughout the year. But they won't do this all the way through. They have veteran starters. They'll go as long as they can, probably frm their second or third start, if not their first start. Berrios, Odo, Hill, Maeda. Now, the fifth starter job might be up for grabs. I'd say that's between Bailey, Chacin and Dobnak. They could be creative with that spot. And they'll want to have one other long reliever for the other four spots. 

    • mikelink45 and rdehring like this

Can't say I'm a fan - at least as it's setting up. If Chacin and Poppen weren't likely to make the rotation, why stack them together? 


If this is the plan they're going with, why not put Dobnak in Chacin's spot, as he's shown results more recently, and stack him with either Bailey or Hill?


This season has overthinking and experimental nightmare written all over it.

    • mikelink45, JoshDungan1 and sftwinsfan like this

I wouldn't put any stock into seeing Chacin followed by Poppen... I don't think Poppen will start on the 30 man roster. I would expect Hill to definitely be followed by someone.

    • mikelink45, JoshDungan1, rdehring and 1 other like this
Jul 14 2020 01:46 AM

Yeah, Chacin/Poppen seems very unlikely to me.

    • Channing1964 likes this
Jul 14 2020 05:25 AM
im not so sure I'd read too much into the intra-squad scrimmage rotation. Most likely we will see a Rotation of Berrios, Odorizzi, Hill,Maeda, then Bailey going as deep as they can. To err on the side of caution you will see Smeltzer, Dobnak, Thorpe, Chacin(if he doesn't opt out) and/or Poppen. The bullpen will stack up with Rogers, Romo, Clippard, May, Duffey, Wisler and maybe Stashak. (did i forget anyone?) If a guy throws 80 pitches in 4 innings like Odorizzi prolly will, then you will see the 2nd tier get us to the set up men. Matchups will determine who pitches and how long they pitch. Every game means 2.7 times more than normal.
    • DocBauer, dbminn, JoshDungan1 and 1 other like this
Jul 14 2020 05:26 AM
Littel....i forgot him. He is defo in the mix as well.
Doctor Gast
Jul 14 2020 06:43 AM

I`m all for this piggy-backing especially in the beginning of the year. I like the matching of LP/RP but I don`t like Chacin as the 5th starter (I`d prefer Dobnak or Bailey) yet again it`s early & there`s a lot of shaking that can happen. I can see Berrios go solo very quickly & hopefully Hill before the end of regular season but the rest I`d like to see some form of this strategy to stick 

It is interesting, this was talked about awhile ago before the summer camp started as a possibility.They cannot do this long term when rosters get down all the way to 26, but may be worth doing for a week or two.I would hope it is not set in stone though and will be adjusted based on game situation.For example, if the starter goes 5 solid innings, but pitch count is where it is time to go, but teams has a couple run lead.I would hope the regular bullpen would get the nod to secure the win.If however, the starter struggles and hits whatever pitch count at say 3 innings I could see a second starter coming in to hopefully get 3 to 5 innings and save the pen.  


Then as rosters reduce and the starters go longer the plan would be to do normal games.This could also be a plan of say 1-5 and back up 1-5 based on COVID or injury.Of course it would make sense to move guys up to matchup better, but if they are already set up with days of rest that may not be able to happen.Who knows, I cannot read Rocco's mind.

    • DocBauer likes this
Cap'n Piranha
Jul 14 2020 11:51 AM

If the Twins are going with 10 "starters", that implies they'll carry 17-18 pitchers to start the season, which is interesting.

I’ve been hoping someone would try something for a while. There’s so much data out there regarding the impact of facing hitters multiple times in a game.

I understand there are a few elite exceptions, but why wouldn’t a team struggling to put together 5 competent starters do more of this?

My only fear is that they’ll go too far in trying to adhere to this plan. I don’t want to see a guy like Berrios getting pulled after the 4th while cruising.
    • SkyBlueWaters likes this
Jul 14 2020 01:09 PM

I don’t think they should box themselves into 8 of their pitcher unavailable for any given game.


Hill and Berrios are pretty efficient they might get to the 6th inning right from the beginning. If they get into the 6th inning it should be on the bullpen. Bailey and Maeda are also reasonably efficient. All four were under 4 pitches per plate appearance with Berrios the lowest at 3.72.


Odorizzi is not nearly as efficient. He might need to be paired with someone (it doesn’t have to be the same pitcher every time) to bridge the gap to the bullpen early in the season. This is not a knock on Odorizzi. He simply throws more pitches per plate appearance because he doesn’t ever give in. He had many fewer 1 pitch at bats because he attacks with every pitch. The Twins need to be ready to take the 4 solid innings each time he goes out.

    • DocBauer and Channing1964 like this
Jul 14 2020 01:47 PM


Yeah, Chacin/Poppen seems very unlikely to me.


Agreed. Remember, too, that after 36 games, Michael Pineda comes back. That's a ways off, of course, but if we assume some form of a 5-day rotation, with Berrios, Odo & Hill always involved in its front end, we'd go through that rotation seven times before Berrios's 8th start, with Pineda theoretically eligible the 37th game of season.


Point being, the 5th starter spot or combo would be about seven games. All the more important in a short season, certainly, but I'd bet we see some variety in those 7 starts before Pineda gets a chance.


Cap'n Piranha
Jul 14 2020 02:24 PM


I’ve been hoping someone would try something for a while. There’s so much data out there regarding the impact of facing hitters multiple times in a game.

I understand there are a few elite exceptions, but why wouldn’t a team struggling to put together 5 competent starters do more of this?

My only fear is that they’ll go too far in trying to adhere to this plan. I don’t want to see a guy like Berrios getting pulled after the 4th while cruising.


My guess is that if a team is struggling to find 5 competent starters, they'd also struggle to find 2-4 MORE guys who can throw 2-4 innings every 5 days.The Twins probably have the most rotation depth of any MLB team, or at least top 3.


Littel....i forgot him. He is defo in the mix as well.


Littell is a reliever... told me the other day that he feels much more comfortable in that role now after a strong season there last year. 

    • Danchat, DocBauer and Channing1964 like this

I don't understand why they would be more likely to double up starters in a short season. Doesn't that mean starters are less likely to wear down than over a long season? Seems like you could ride them a little harder, not the other way around.


And the expanded roster and short season means you could go to the bullpen earlier, either pitching your best relievers for longer stretches, because their total innings will be reduced, or spreading innings around to more relievers. Meaning if your starter tires, or you want a change of pace, you're more likely to bring in a stud reliever than an unproven young starter barely out of the minor leagues.


I'm not against stacking starters for a change of pace or better lefty-righty matchups. I just don't expect to see it much this year. Except maybe at first, because of the shortened preseason. If no pitcher is ready to pitch more than 4 innings, you might need to spread the innings around more. But once they are stretched out, I think the Twins will ride their best pitchers as long as they can, since the season is more of a sprint than a marathon.With such a short season, it's like the playoffs have already started on day one.


As long as the game is close anyway. And given the AL Central we may see a lot of blowouts. I suspect those second tier starters will come in mostly when the Twins have bludgeoned the young Royals and Tigers starters early and built up a big lead. Then they can rest their top starters and relievers. Other than that, though, I think they will be trying to win every inning they can. Let your eighth starter blow a few games and you might find yourself behind the Spiders and Sox in the standings without enough time to catch up.

Jul 14 2020 04:10 PM

Littell is a reliever... told me the other day that he feels much more comfortable in that role now after a strong season there last year.

For sure, I only meant i forgot to list him when I was trying to remember the regular bull pen guys.
    • Seth Stohs likes this
Jul 14 2020 04:56 PM
Thanks for a thread/article that covers the almost current happenin's.

I don't look so closely, but i don't see much of that (except of course the Byron Incident)

That said, if they are havin' scrimmages, well, they kinda gotta have two sides. I would be hesitant to read much beyond that into pairs of pitchers.
    • DocBauer likes this

That leaves me really cold.I want a reliever after a good seven inning start.Chacin and Poppen is like a throw away game and we cannot afford that in a 60 game season.  


That leaves me really cold.I want a reliever after a good seven inning start.Chacin and Poppen is like a throw away game and we cannot afford that in a 60 game season.  


That's not true for a number of reasons...


1.) They aren't going this.

2.) Chacin had a tough 2019, but he's had a tremendous career, a long career, and if he can do close to what he did even two years ago, he's a quality big league starter. 

3.) Poppen's wild, but his stuff is incredible. I think the's a reliever long-term and can provide some length. He'll have to figure out the control before he can be reliable, but he's got big potential. 

4.) They aren't going to do this pattern. They're going to let starters go as long as they are able, comfortably, right from the start. That may be 4-5 innings early, but they've all put themselves in a position where they should be ready for 80-90 pitches in their first starts. 


5.) There's never a 'throw-away game' with this lineup. 

    • mikelink45 likes this

There is 60 games this year which is approx 540 inning (60 * 9)

I want the Best pitchers the most.

If I am Rocco I am trying to figure out how to get something like this done to get the most out the best best pitchers

Berrios 72
Odo 72
Hill 72
Maeda 72
Dobnak 48
Clippard 30
Duffey 30
Littell 30
May 30
Rogers 30
Romo 30
Others 24


Why would they be worrying about getting Bailey/Chacín/Poppen/Smeltzer/Thorpe innings if they aren't your best pitchers.

The relief pitchers should have no problem pitching 1 inning every other game, I understand that that the top 4 pitchers might not average 6 innings a start, but they are smart people and should be able to figure out.

I would say use the bullpen on the occasions you have to use the #5 starter.

I agree that any piggy back scenario we are seeing is for ST 2.0. With the initial 30 man roster, it could be an initial reality to get things up and running. But a normal rotation will be in place rather soon, with a deep and talented BP.

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