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Handicapping The Twins Rotation

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 21 February 2018 · 1,075 views

minnesota twins jose berrios jake odorizzi kyle gibson
The Minnesota Twins are set to kick of spring training action with their first exhibition against the University of Minnesota on Thursday February 22. Following Stephen Gonsalves' first pitch in that tilt, the club will then play a full month's slate of games before embarking on Target Field. There's some certainties in the rotation, but there's some serious question marks too.

Before digging into some of the more uncertain options, it makes some semblance of sense to start with what we know. Right now, there's two locks, and they include:

Jose Berrios RHP

In line to get his first Opening Day start of his career, Berrios will serve as the Twins de facto ace while Ervin Santana is on the shelf. Coming off what was nearly a full year at the big league level, the Puerto Rican shined. His 3.89 ERA was in line with the 3.84 FIP. His 8.6 K/9 was a breath of fresh air for the Twins, and the 3.0 BB/9 was hardly detrimental. There's room for growth here, and expecting Berrios to push the ceiling of a true number two starter is hardly a bat bet.

Jake Odorizzi RHP

After being acquired for Jermaine Palacios, Odorizzi immediately slots in among the Twins top three pitchers. A strong middle-of-the-rotation arm, there's reason to believe he's much better than his 2017 output. Even with a career worst 5.43 FIP, he kept the ERA in check at 4.14. Home runs have been an issue on a three year trend, but there's a strike out pitcher here that is a few small tweaks away from taking the next step.
After those two guys, the Opening Day rotation gets murkier. Given the Twins schedule, there's opportunity to skip a 5th arm and get more work in for the top dogs. If they do decide to round out the group and go with five hurlers as long as Santana is sidelined, the list is long and plentiful.

Kyle Gibson RHP

Back on a one-yea, $4.2 million arbitration deal, Gibson is probably the next closest thing to a lock. While there was a significant period in 2017 where he looked like a non-tender candidate, it was his performance down the stretch that played a large part in getting the Twins to the Postseason. From July 16 on, he posted a 3.76 ERA and .701 OPS against. Across his final eight starts of the year, Gibson owned a 2.92 ERA and .684 OPS against. It's hard to imagine Kyle living up to the hype generated as a 1st round pick in 2009, but if he can replicate his late season surge, he'll be more than valuable for Paul Molitor.

OD Rotation Likelihood: 99%

Adalberto Mejia LHP

His first extended taste in the big leagues had a significant amount of ups and downs for the 24 year old. After being a top-100 prospect, Mejia was seen as a nice get for Minnesota from the San Francisco Giants. His 4.50 ERA in 2017 is hardly anything to write home about, but he showed flashes of a durable starter with the potential to miss bats. In 2018, decreasing the 4.0 BB/9 will be huge, and should play a large part in helping to extend his outings as a whole (avg start was just 4.2 IP in 2017).

OD Rotation Likelihood: 75%

Phil Hughes RHP

There's a good deal of reasons as to why Phil Hughes is the leader in the clubhouse for the 5th and final rotation spot, 26 million to be exact. Minnesota is still on the hook for two-years and $26 million thanks to the extension Terry Ryan prematurely handed the former Yankees pitcher. Hughes was great in year one for Minnesota, and serviceable in year two. Since then, he's made a combined 20 starts over the past two seasons, and owns a 5.91 ERA. The walk rate has doubled (although is still solid), and injuries have mounted. Coming back from another surgery in relation to his Thoracic Outlet procedures, he'll have to prove he's healthy. If he can make it through spring training with some semblance of effectiveness, he should get the final nod. There's also a chance he begins the season on the DL.

OD Rotation Likelihood: 50%

Anibal Sanchez RHP

Given a current 40 man spot and no other assurances, Sanchez's deal is interesting. He's only guaranteed $2.5 million if he makes the club, and can earn up to double that. The 2.57 ERA leading Detroit Tiger from 2013 is a far cry from the pitcher he's been the past three seasons. With a ballooning ERA (5.67) and a HR/9 that surpassed the 2.0 mark a season ago, the Twins have to make some changes. Working down in the zone is an area that seems of benefit to the former Tigers, and if the Twins think they've unlocked something while in Fort Myers, he could squeak his way in.

OD Rotation Likelihood: 20%

Aaron Slegers RHP

Making his MLB debut on August 17th against the Indians, Slegers turned in a quality start against the division winning Cleveland Indians. From there, he put up a clunker in St. Pete, and fizzled in relief against the Blue Jays. His 2017 ended with an outing somewhat in the middle, giving up three runs across 4.1 IP against the Tigers. At Triple-A last year, a 3.40 ERA, 7.2 K/9, and 1.8 BB/9 looked like numbers of a guy ready for a new challenge. Now with the goosebumps out of the way, Slegers looks like a decent, strong floor, fallback option for the Twins.

OD Rotation Likelihood: 10%

Stephen Gonsalves LHP

For the second straight season, Gonsalves is seen as a top-100 prospect across baseball, and viewed by many as the Twins best pitcher on the farm. Spending another half season at Double-A Chattanooga, he posted a .268 ERA across 87.1 IP. The 9.9 K/9 was a bit down from his 2016 total, but he halved his 4.5 BB/9 all the way down to 2.4 BB/9. The knock continues to be a third pitch, but Gonsalves has a good feel for the fastball and changeup. Minnesota will probably try to slow-play him a bit at Triple-A, and continued command development will only push his ceiling higher.

OD Rotation Likelihood: 5%

Fernando Romero RHP

As a new 23 year-old, Romero has officially been listed on his first top-100 prospect lists. He's been the recipient of a significant amount of praise over the past season and a half, and the national scene has taken notice with another strong year. Hitting Double-A for a full season, his 125.0 IP turned into a 3.53 ERA and an 8.6 K/9. Walks did rise back above the 3.0 per 9 mark, which is something he controlled better in 2016. The ceiling is a potential ace with velocity topping out near triple digits. There's also some level of concern that Romero may end up being just a good reliever, which is hopefully at least a few years from becoming a reality. Like Gonsalves, Romero would need a handful of things to break in his favor this spring, but a nice showing would set up a promising Triple-A tour.

OD Rotation Likelihood: 1%

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South Dakota Tom
Feb 21 2018 12:31 PM

Let's see - two locks, one 99%, then 75, 50 - Ted,you've only come up with 4.61 pitchers for 5 spots. Are we filling the other 39% chance of one rotation spot with either "someone we haven't heard of yet" or "4 man rotation?"  Maybe I just like math too much....

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Ted Schwerzler
Feb 21 2018 12:37 PM

 

Let's see - two locks, one 99%, then 75, 50 - Ted,you've only come up with 4.61 pitchers for 5 spots. Are we filling the other 39% chance of one rotation spot with either "someone we haven't heard of yet" or "4 man rotation?"  Maybe I just like math too much....

The math isn't intended to add up to 100% as much as the percentages are reflective of each player's individual opportunity out of 100%

 

Also, there's an outside chance the group starts out with just four.

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strumdatjaguar
Feb 21 2018 01:23 PM

Remember that sometime between late April and Mid-May, Ervin Santana will return.Where is Trevor May on the percentage radar?

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Ted Schwerzler
Feb 21 2018 01:26 PM

Remember that sometime between late April and Mid-May, Ervin Santana will return.Where is Trevor May on the percentage radar?


These are targets for the “Opening Day Rotation.” Santanw is shelved for a few weeks and Trevor May is on the 60 day DL...

Not even 1% for Enns?  

 

Might not be opening day, but I bet he gets a start before Romero :)

Also, word is Duffey is getting stretched this spring.He might even be a 5%er.

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Ted Schwerzler
Feb 21 2018 03:22 PM

 

Not even 1% for Enns?  

 

Might not be opening day, but I bet he gets a start before Romero :)

I don't disagree with that, but solely for Opening Day, I see 0% for Enns, Jorge, or Littell. I considered them all, but opined that if the Twins are going with a drastic shot for the 5th starter, they're aiming for their highest upside guys. Slegers doesn't fall into this category as he's the safe bet if they go younger.

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Ted Schwerzler
Feb 21 2018 03:22 PM

 

Also, word is Duffey is getting stretched this spring.He might even be a 5%er.

 

Again, he is being stretched out, but I considered Duffey a 0% because I can't see him getting a rotation shot before any of the other options. He'll be the long man in the pen, where the extra innings will also be of benefit.