Under The Radar: Bullpen Breakouts
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsHere are three under the radar relievers that could be surprise bullpen aces in 2020.
Alcala was acquired for Ryan Pressley in 2018 and was an unspectacular starter at the time. Inconsistent control and a questionable offspeed mix warranted a move to the bullpen midseason in 2019. He went on to put up a 0.98 ERA with 18Ks and 4 walks in 18 innings before getting called up to the majors, where we only saw two appearances from him. His approach was similar to what we’ve seen pitchers like Tyler Duffey be so successful with; Cut out everything but your best offspeed pitch and fastball, which sits mid to high 90s for Alcala. Look forward to seeing what Alcala can do with a full season in the bullpen, even if he doesn’t break camp with the major league team.
Cody’s are cool. Stashak is one of the overlooked arms that have come up through our system because he gets things done in a different way than the Alcala’s of the world. In his 25 MLB innings, he averaged just 91.7 mph on his fastball. Stashak however sports plus command, allowing only 10 walks in 78.1 innings in 2019. While that’s an unexciting skill for some, he also struck out 24.1% of batters he faced in his debut season. That pairing could be very effective, and I’d expect Stashak to only improve further as he tweaks his approach to attacking hitters. He may not reach his career highs in the minors of 30%+ K rates or 12+ K/9, but Stashak may have a ceiling we haven’t yet seen. Stashak should be headed north with the Twins to start the year, and will be getting every opportunity to move up the ladder in the pen.
By now you’ve read this name and you’re moving your mouse to the “close” button on your browser. Please don’t. Romero is essentially in the position that Duffey was last year, as this may be his last shot. We all saw what the Twins were able to unlock in Duffey however, and I’d argue Romero has an even higher ceiling with his big time fastball and still relatively young age. In 2016, his K% was around 25% for the first time since 2016 in A ball, his most successful season to date.The biggest issue for Romero in 2019 however was his walks. 40 of them in 71.2 innings isn’t going to play. It may have been a result of his mechanical tweaks however, as the coaching staff was trying to find a way to make his stuff click. If he can get the walk issue ironed out, he still has the raw stuff to dominate professional hitters as we’ve seen in flashes over the years. You may not believe in Romero at this point, but I’d encourage you to believe in the organization’s ability to find the missing piece.
We’re just beginning to see the payoff from a complete overhaul of this organization, especially on the pitching development side. While we discuss these three breakout candidates for our bullpen in 2020, there’s an argument to be made for dozens of other arms in the system who could exceed expectations this season. Expect to see plenty of young guys test their mettle at the major league level. Who’s your bet for our bullpen breakout in 2020?
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