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Buxton: "Pissed" at Twins for No Call-Up Decision...

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Create Your Own Offseason Blueprint

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Hey gang!   Hopefully by now you've all downloaded your copy of the 2019 Offseason Handbook (if not, you can grab it here). Now, it'...

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Article: Reviewing 2018 Breakout Prospects

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Sir Mix-A-Lot's Rotation Guide: Filling Out the Back End

Posted by Secondary User , 27 January 2018 · 546 views

With the offseason hot stove about as warm as a [insert pathetic attempt at humor here] and pitchers and catchers set to report in just three weeks, it's roster prediction time. This article will start by looking at the starting rotation.

At the time of publication, most of the free agent starting pitchers are still available and the Twins have been rumored to be in active discussions with Yu Darvish. The expectation is a meaningful addition will be added either through trade or free agency, with the likely route looking more and more like free agency. This article will be written under the assumption that they add a starter that will lock into the opening day rotation.

1) Ervin Santana

Since his signing, Ervin Santana has been everything the Twins could have hoped he would be minus 80 games. Since becoming a Twin, Santana has registered a 3.47 ERA over 500.2 innings, including 211.1 in 2017 en route to a 10.0 bWAR. His peripherals have all stayed largely in line with what he's done throughout his career, and while a modest K-rate in the high teens and a fly ball tendency aren't going to produce the low FIP results people want to see, over the the last five years he's shown a consistent ability to out pitch his peripherals. Whether that will hold up over the remainder of his contract is yet to be seen, but barring the addition of one of a handful of options, Ervin is all but assured to be the Opening Day starter for the 3rd year in a row.

2) Jose Berrios

After a hellacious start to his career and a stint in Rochester to start 2017, Jose re-entered the Twins rotation in mid May and looked much more the pitcher Twins fans were expecting to see. With the help of his elusive two-seam fastball and wipeout curve, Jose worked a 3.89 ERA. With a 22.6% K-rate, improved control, and a work ethic second to none, there is plenty to be excited about as Jose starts the season at 23 years old and firmly slotted into the 2nd spot in the rotation.

Related note:
If you're looking for a reason to be optimistic that Jose could take the next step into a full fledged top of the rotation starter, I'll leave you with this:

Jose used his changeup around 8.5% of the time in 2017, 14% to lefties and only 4% against righties. Here's an example of Garret Cooper looking an absolute fool at a changeup that just disappears.

With a curve that works so hard from right to left, I'd like to see him incorporate this pitch more. If he can get consistent results with his changeup, watch out....

4) Adelberto Mejia

With the two obvious options aside, and an addition almost certainly slotting into the top 3 somewhere, we now get to the fourth spot in the rotation. This is the first point where I've encountered some differing opinions, though it seems like a no-brainer to me. Adelberto Mejia, who was required for Eduardo Nunez back in 2016, has a fastball that sits 92-94 slider. The bulky left-hander struggled to get deep into games in 2017, using a lot of pitches early while walking 4 hitters per 9 innings. This is a bit of an oddity considering he never really struggled with walks in the minors. He posted a 4.50 ERA, which is a little below average (98 ERA+), but given he'll be 24 at the start of the season, the room for growth is there. You'd like to see improvement to the 19% K-rate along with the efficiency this season, but expecting a solid 3/4 contribution from Mejia in 2018 is definitely no stretch. On the flip side,

5) [Insert Pitcher Here]

Most people want to insert Kyle Gibson here, and that will almost assuredly be the direction they go to start the season. However, you can put me in the group of people that don't think Gibson's strong second half wasn't a career turning point. As was the case with the Twins schedule in general, Kyle faced a much easier set of opponents in the second half. Of Kyle's 13 second half starts, only two of them came against teams with winning records (those two games did happen to be Houston and Cleveland, for whatever that's worth). Four of them came against the Tigers, two against the Royals, two against the Blue Jays, and one each against the Rangers, Padres and White Sox. Not exactly a murder's row.

There are a few different routes to competition for the 5th spot:

Return from Injury
Last spring, Trevor May was stretching back out to be a starter when he needed Tommy John surgery to repair his UCL. While he doesn't figure to be ready until May (har har) at the earliest, it'll be interesting to watch just what role is envisioned for him as he makes his return.

Phil Hughes also ended the season the the DL last year while undergoing a secondary surgery for Thoracic Outlet syndrome. After a breakout 2014, Hughes immediately saw his velocity drop and the results disappear along with it. After two procedures, can he regain his velocity, and perhaps a rotation spot?

Rochester's rotation figures to be quite full at the start of the minor league season. From ranked prospects such as Fernando Romero and Stephen Gonsalves to deeper prospects like Dietrich Enns, Zack Littel, Kohl Stewart, Aaron Slegers and Felix Jorge, there figures to be competition at the highest minor league level. With so many arms, you'd like to think that someone will take a step forward and force the organization's hand.

Free Agency

Yes, we're assuming the Twins will make a free agent starting pitcher addition, but could they double down and bring in two arms? With the market developing slowly, can they find the room to fit Darvish plus a Lynn, Cobb, or even a Jaime Garcia? If Darvish goes elsewhere, could they take that money and hedge their bet by bringing in both Lynn and Cobb? There are still a lot of arms available, and it doesn't appear as if there are a lot of teams willing to pony up the money to get these starters to sign. Does that open the door for something a little unexpected to happen?

The top of the Twins rotation looks set one through three. My perception is that I'm more bullish on Mejia than most and more bearish on Gibson than most. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see an other season similar to last year where the fifth spot in the rotation becomes a carousel until someone sticks. Unlike last year, with the AAA depth, I fully expect someone to stick this season.