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  1. Three-Bagger: Pineda, B-Squad & Romero

    Michael Pineda: It's Just Like Making a Trade!

    During the latest episode of Gleeman and the Geek, Aaron and John made a connection that I hadn't noticed: the conclusion of Pineda's carryover suspension will coincide almost exactly with MLB's rejiggered August 31st trade deadline. This brings to mind the classic utterance for Twins fans, "It's just like making a trade!" – often used to mock the team for sitting out deadlines, and pointing to players returning from injuries as impact additions.

    Interestingly, as Patrick Wozniak wrote here last week, this is basically a script-flip on the original plan for Rich Hill, who was supposed to join the fold around the standard deadline and negate a possible need for the team. Now, the veteran lefty is expected to be ready to go from Day 1.

    By being forced to serve his full remaining suspension in a shortened year, Pineda is getting a raw deal. It's almost hard to believe the league would stick to such a penalty, and that explains why reporters keep getting asked about it over and over again. Just doesn't make sense. Alas, the Twins are almost guaranteed to get one big addition around the strange new deadline.

    Twins Across the Twin Cities

    On Monday, the Twins shared publicly their 60-man player pool, which includes the entire 40-man roster plus 19 non-roster players. As expected, the discretionary "taxi squad" list is filled mostly with experienced minor-leaguers, along with a handful of top prospects.

    I gotta say that all this talk about "Summer Camp" and pools is not helping with me normal summer FOMO, but I digress. It's exciting to see all these names and to think about the possibility of young talents like Trevor Larnach or Brent Rooker making an impact. (Cody Christie wrote about the chances of various top prospects to reach the majors in 2020.)

    It's quite interesting to me that the auxiliary group will be based out of CHS Field in St. Paul, just miles away from Target Field. I've always thought it would be fun to have a minor-league team in the same vicinity as the big-league club, giving fans an opportunity to see upcoming talent without traveling. (Red Sox fans, for example, need drive only 40 minutes or so to see their Triple-A team in Pawtucket.) That won't really be in play this summer, obviously, but it's cool that Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff and other premier upcoming prospects will be staying sharp so nearby.

    On that note, I'm very curious: what is "staying sharp" going to look like? In order to be ready to step into legitimate major-league action on short notice – not to mention simply develop skills appropriately throughout the season – these extra players need to be routinely competing at a very high level, which exceeds the typical intrasquad scrimmage or sim game. What will that look like? Games? Stats? Will there be coverage? I have no doubt there'll be appetite for it.

    Wherefore Art Thou, Romero?

    One player who, like Pineda, is on the team's summer roster but currently unavailable: Fernando Romero, also on restricted list. In this case, though, the underlying reason is unclear. Romero didn't report to camp in March due to visa issues, and those issues evidently haven't been resolved.

    To my knowledge, there still haven't been any details reported on exactly what's going on here. I suppose it would make sense if the visa application system is currently bogged down and out of whack due to everything going on. Hopefully that's the case, and Romero isn't embroiled in something serious. Either way, it's a really tough situation for a guy at a key spot in his career. Romero was set to exhaust his final MLB option in 2020. At this point, you've really gotta wonder if we are going to see him pitch again in a Minnesota uniform.

    The former No. 1 Twins Daily prospect and forgotten flamethrower averaged 97 MPH with his fastball in the majors last year, ranking in the 95th percentile among all pitchers.

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    • Jun 29 2020 08:05 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  2. Fernando Romero: The Forgotten Flamethrower

    Fernando Romero's 2019 season was a disaster by any measure. It wasn't just his horrific 7.07 ERA in major-league 14 innings. Even more so, it was the totally uninspiring results he put forth while spending a majority of his campaign at Triple-A: 57.2 IP, 4.37 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, 12 wild pitches.

    The lasting memory in the minds of most fans is likely Romero's lone MLB appearance in June, when he was briefly recalled following a May demotion. With the Twins leading the Mariners 10-1 at Target Field, Romero was called upon to pitch the eighth inning in basically the lowest-stress situation imaginable.

    His sequence: walk, single, double, run-scoring wild pitch, walk. Romero was removed, sent back down, and didn't see the major-league mound again until September, when he served in essentially a mop-up role for the Twins.

    Now that we've got all that unpleasantness out of the way, let's circle back to the positives attached to the big right-hander, which are hardly erased by one bad season, no matter how discouraging:

    He's still only 25. Younger than – say – Corey Kluber was before he even joined the Cleveland rotation. Kluber seems a noteworthy comp because he was also struggling with his control around the same age.

    Romero's fastball is in a rare class. He averaged 97 MPH last year, which ranked 35th out of 646 MLB pitchers to throw 10+ innings, or in the 95th percentile. Among Twins pitchers, only Graterol can bring it harder.

    He can dominate with the slider. Buzzing in at 87 MPH, it's a very good pitch. Despite his struggles with the Twins in 2019, opponents batted just .154 and slugged .269 against the slide-piece, with an astounding 64.7% whiff rate (per Baseball Savant).

    He keeps the ball in the park. This aspect of his game curiously went amiss at the beginning of last season, as he gave up five home runs in his first six appearances between Triple-A and the majors, but the rest of the way he surrendered just two homers in 59 1/3 frames. This aligns with his broader track record – in 450 minor-league innings, Romero allowed only 18 long balls.

    He is a specimen. At 6-feet and 215 lbs, Romero is an intimidating force on the mound with the attitude to match. The qualities that gave him appeal as a late-inning weapon when the Twins switched his role last spring are still there.

    Now, Romero of course has some things working against him, the main one being command. As good as his stuff is, he rarely had any idea where it was going last year and that really cost him. But incumbent pitching coach Wes Johnson and newcomer Bob McClure have plenty to work with here.

    Will he be able to sync up with them from the start of the season? Or will he open back in Triple-A? Will the Twins continue to try making it work in the bullpen, or will they give him another shot at starting, with their bullpen depth so much stronger now than it was a year ago?

    In the late stages of last season, I expressed concern over the right-hander's status for 2020, noting that he'd burned three options and the Twins could be looking ahead to a tough decision this spring. But it was brought to my attention, via Jeremy Nygaard, that Romero likely qualifies for a fourth option.

    With this being the case, I'm thinking the best course of action might be to transition him back into a starting role at Rochester. The Twins' needs have shifted back in that direction, and in all the clamor to find an ace for the rotation, the team would be remiss to overlook an internal candidate with so many of the requisite attributes.

    If he can emerge again as a starting option, that would be a potentially huge boost. And if the move doesn't take, a relief fallback remains in place.

    Should Romero look good in spring training, perhaps the Twins will strike a happy medium by bringing him north out of camp, and using him in a long-relief or piggybacking type of capacity, while finding ways to fill innings until Michael Pineda is available. He could stay stretched without needing to be thrust back into a starter's regimen after pitching exclusively as a reliever in 2019. Perhaps more importantly, this plan would allow Romero to work closely with Johnson and McClure from the jump.

    Questions and decisions like these will rise to the forefront as Romero and the rest of the team's pitchers get ready to report to Fort Myers in two weeks. How would you prefer to see the team handle him moving forward?

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    • Jan 26 2020 08:26 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  3. Twins Game Recap (9/18): Twins’ Offense Absent Against Chicago Bullpen Game

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 64.5% strikes (61 of 94 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (2-4, 2B)

    Bottom 3 WPA: Arraez -.111, Wade -.127, Sano -.207

    Twins’ offense can’t figure out Chicago bullpen

    The Twins’ offense found themselves struggling against one of the worst bullpens in the league. For 5 1/3 innings, four White Sox pitchers threw a no-hitter while allowing three walks. They had a threat in the first after back-to-back walks with one out, but, a Rosario pop out followed by a Sano strikeout ended the inning.

    After a leadoff walk in the second, the White Sox bullpen sent down 13 straight batters going into the sixth inning. That’s when the no-hitter came to a close as Polanco ripped a single into center field. After a Cruz walk, Rosario squeaked a ball through the infield to score Polanco.

    Cave drew a walk to fill the bases with two outs for pinch-hitter LaMonte Wade Jr. but he grounded out to end the inning.

    After picking up their first hits, the Twins’ couldn’t use the momentum and went down 1-2-3 in the seventh. In the eighth, Rosario drilled a ball off the wall in right, but got thrown out trying extend it to a triple. In the ninth, the Twins again went down 1-2-3 to close out the game.

    Odorizzi able to minimize damage

    Jake Odorizzi was one out away from picking up a quality start, but ran into trouble in the sixth to end his night. Though Odorizzi picked up nine strikeouts tonight, his stuff wasn’t the best. Odorizzi gave up a leadoff hit in four of the six innings he pitched in.

    After giving up a leadoff single in the first, he picked up two strikeouts with Castro throwing out Garcia to end the inning. In the second he gave up a leadoff double followed by a Jimenez single to score a run, but Odorizzi picked up another double play and strikeout to get out of the inning.

    Odorizzi flew through the next two innings picking up four more strikeouts in back-to-back 1-2-3 innings. Through those four innings, Odorizzi already had seven strikeouts.

    Odorizzi found himself in a jam in the fifth inning with runners on first and second with just one out after a pair of singles. Odorizzi took advantage of facing the number eight and nine batters next, picked up another strikeout and was out of the inning with no harm.

    After giving up another leadoff hit, Odorizzi got two quick outs and it looked as if he would be able to at least complete six innings. With an 0-2 count to Moncada, he doubled to left-center to drive in the second run. After Jimenez drew a walk, Odorizzi’s night was ended.


    Cody Stashak came into the game with two runners on and two outs and threw just three pitches to pick up a huge strikeout on Collins to end the inning. Stashak was also given the seventh inning, and he too gave up a leadoff single. He picked up back-to-back strikeouts to the eight and nine batters and then got Garcia to fly out to end the inning.

    Fernando Romero came in for the eighth, and believe it or not, gave up another leadoff hit. He got Abreu to ground out and struck out Moncada before being pulled for Brusdar Graterol. Graterol did his job, and got Jimenez to ground out to keep it a one-run game.

    A new inning, another leadoff hit, this time it was a home run to Collins to straight -away center. Graterol followed that up with nine pitches to pick up the last three outs, including a strikeout.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Sep 19 2019 04:32 AM
    • by AJ Condon
  4. The Hazy Future of Fernando Romero

    In mostly bypassing the reliever free agent market (a wise enough choice, in retrospect) the Twins envisioned a bullpen whose back-end would be powered by the likes of Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Addison Reed, Trevor Hildenberger, and Fernando Romero, with other options to emerge during the course of the year.

    In some ways, this blueprint has come to fruition. Rogers is one of the most valuable relievers in baseball. May, outside of a few hiccups, has been a dominant force. As for those those other quality contributors developing on the fringes? We've seen plenty: Ryne Harper, Zack Littell, Tyler Duffey, and so on.

    But the almost total lack of impact from Reed, Hildenberger and Romero has left a sizable late-inning void that the team is struggling to fill.

    Like I said, you can call it the result of poor planning. Reed gave us little reason to believe he'd be an asset this year, but I can't fault the team for attempting to extract some semblance of value from their $16 million investment. (I also credit them for quickly moving on as it became apparent he wasn't up to the task.) While Hildenberger was rough in the second half last year, he had been a lights-out high-leverage fireman before.

    And Romero? This was the boldest and most audacious bet of them all – taking the best pitching prospect in the system, and fast-tracking him into a bullpen role where he could maximize his stuff and bolster a unit in need. But from the jump, this experiment was ill-fated.

    Romero looked brutal in spring training, prompting the Twins to abandon their original plan and send him to the minors. The hope was he'd acclimate, gain confidence, and join the Minnesota bullpen in short order. This didn't happen.

    After four appearances at Triple-A, the Twins recalled Romero. He stuck around for three weeks but looked ordinary. He went back down for a month, and returned to make a single appearance, facing the Mariners on June 13th. Romero started the eighth, gave up two hits and two walks without recording an out, and was returned to Rochester. He hasn't resurfaced since.

    As we near the end of August, Reed is long gone. Hildenberger is on the rehab trail (and looking promising). Romero, meanwhile, is in limbo. Over the past two months back at Triple-A, he's been totally unremarkable, posting a 4.18 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 28 innings while yielding a .261/.374/.342 slash line. To his credit he's limiting the big knocks (just one homer and six extra-base hits during this span) but his control continues to suffer, and he's not getting anywhere near the number of whiffs you look for from a big hard-thrower out of the pen.

    This stall-out doesn't spell doom for Romero. Twins fans know better by now than to form definitive conclusions about a talented young player who hasn't yet turned 25. But unfortunately, patience is ceasing to be a luxury the team can afford. Next spring he'll be out of options, meaning Minnesota will need to either carry him out of camp or expose him to waivers (where he wouldn't make it far, I imagine).

    One might say, "The reliever transition has failed, move him back to starter." Which sounds fine, except... they can't send him to Triple-A and have him readjust to that role. Does anyone feel comfortable with Romero (who by the way has never put together a complete season as a starter) in the Twins rotation right out of the gate next year? Is there any legitimate reason to think a guy who can't silence minor-league hitters as a reliever is suddenly going to be an effective MLB starter?

    Romero's inexplicably sluggish performance this season leaves the Twins in a tough spot when it comes to planning for 2020 and beyond. The reason it's worth talking about now is that the front office faces a pivotal decision in the week ahead. Next Sunday, rosters will expand for September call-ups. One day later, Rochester plays its final game of the regular season.

    Under normal circumstances (at least, normal for the past nine years), calling up Romero would essentially be a no-brainer. Development is the utmost concern, so you get him a few more opportunities and let him work with the big-league coaches, hopefully building some kind of confidence to carry forward.

    But now? The Twins are in a tight division race. They can't afford to give innings to someone they can't trust. And if their handling of him this year makes one thing clear, it's that they don't trust Romero to pitch important innings for them right now.

    Will be they be able to trust him to do so next year? They're running out of time, and chances, to inform that decision.

    • Aug 27 2019 07:16 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  5. Shoring Up Twins Bullpen Will Be a Mighty Challenge

    Let's review the facts as they stand. The most intriguing pieces currently in the Twins' bullpen are:

    • Taylor Rogers, formerly an 11th-round pick turned nondescript minor-league starter, who transitioned into relief duty immediately in the majors, and blossomed into a top-tier setup man over three short years.
    • Ryne Harper, a former 37th-round pick who toiled in the minors for nine years before making the Twins out of camp this spring on a minor-league deal. He debuted as a 30-year-old rookie.
    • Blake Parker, the team's biggest offseason bullpen splash. His smallish free agent contract as a castoff from the Angels was whittled down further after his physical. I hesitate to call him "intriguing" at this point, given his trendline, but overall he's gotten it done.
    • Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Zack Littell: All former middling prospects as starters, finding new gears as MLB relievers. Before you write off any of the three as flashes in the pan, or overachieving mediocrities, go back and read Rogers' blurb again. As I watch Duffey, May and Littell develop into lethal flamethrowers, I do wonder how differently their careers might have gone if the organization had committed to their role changes as quickly and decisively as with Rogers.
    With all due respect to Matt Magill and Mike Morin, I don't quite put either at the same level of faith as those above, but each one fits the narrative: discarded minor-league pitchers finding surprising success in the majors.

    Meanwhile, here are the pitchers conspicuously NOT contributing to the current campaign:
    • Addison Reed, who signed the largest free agent reliever deal in franchise history 18 months ago. The Twins ate a good portion of it when they released him last month.
    • Trevor Hildenberger, who was the team's most reliable bullpen arm for about a year before falling apart at the seams midway through 2018. He's currently on the injured list at Triple-A.
    • Fernando Romero, the former top pitching prospect who's flamed out in multiple stints with the Twins this year, and hasn't looked a whole lot better in Triple-A.
    I know the common refrain on Romero – especially with the benefit of hindsight: "Why mess with him? They shoulda left him as a starter." But that ignores two things: 1) he wasn't throwing or holding up all that well as a starter, and 2) I mean, look at the examples of Duffey/May/Littell. There are certainly downsides to waffling and delaying. With Romero, it's an unaffordable luxury because he'll be out of options next spring.

    The malfunctions with all three of these players are largely driving the urgency to make improvements. But each of them, and Reed especially, epitomizes the reason that's a much taller order than many clamoring fans would like to believe. Anyone expressing certainty that Craig Kimbrel would've been a decisive upgrade is kidding themselves.

    Reed, like Kimbrel, generated less free agent demand than expected, given his backend pedigree, but he still had all the makings of a bullpen stud. He was younger and less weathered than Kimbrel. And in the early portion of his contract, Reed looked the part. But his drop-off was both rapid and ruthless.

    And the thing is, he's not alone. Reed is a somewhat extreme version of an all-too-common outcome. I just checked in on the top RP options listed in the latest Offseason Handbook, and there are vastly more busts than even moderately decent values. Kimbrel still hasn't pitched in the majors. David Robertson's thrown only seven innings due to injury issues. Andrew Miller's been mediocre. Kelvin Herrera, Jeurys Familia and Joe Kelly have been terrible. Cody Allen was so bad he's already been cut by the Angels, and signed by Minnesota to a minors deal.

    Allen now feels like a long shot to make any kind of meaningful impact; but, as you go through the names above, doesn't that feel true for almost anyone? Granted, some of these guys had their red flags, but all had strong track records, and signed for many millions of dollars. To a man, they've all floundered.

    Meanwhile, the Twins are finding their most credible help in a 30-year-old journeyman and a bunch of failed minor-league starters. And most of these guys are hitting their own skids at times.

    What all of this suggests to me:

    First, it's really hard to be a relief pitcher in the major leagues right now, with stacked lineups of aggressive upper-cut swingers just waiting to feast on premium heat. This is borne out by the numbers: MLB relievers, as a whole, have a 4.50 ERA this year, up from 4.08 last year and higher than their starting counterparts (!).

    Second, and not unrelatedly: it's going to be very difficult for the Twins to solve this problem. Difficult, and stressful. They aren't short on resources by any means, but that's not the problem. Those onerous contracts plaguing other teams who splurged on the relief market last winter are one thing; when you start giving up valuable prospects, stakes are raised, especially for a team in Minnesota's position.

    There are a lot of seemingly tantalizing relief options out there on the trade market. We've been covering them in a series of profiles here on the site, so this might be a good time to get caught up:There are compelling cases to be made for several of the above, plus some others who haven't yet been covered. I myself am quite high on Raisel Iglesias. But no matter who I might favor, data shows there's an overwhelming chance I'll be wrong. The same is true for you. Again, I apologize for the bluntness.

    But of course, it doesn't matter if we're right – only the guys leading the front office. What's most important is that they buy into what's to come, rather than what's already gone.

    If only it were that easy.

    • Jun 25 2019 04:21 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  6. Week in Review: Home Cooking

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/10 through Sun, 6/16


    Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 47-23)

    Run Differential Last Week: +4 (Overall: +116)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (10.0 GA)

    Willians Watch: 12-for-25 with 2 HR last week at Triple-A

    First of all, I must point out that the "Willians Watch" tracker, which has been a depressing sight for the past many editions, is firing up again. During his first full week back at Triple-A, Willians Astudillo made a pretty strong case that it's beneath him, putting up the absurd numbers you see above. In eight games since his demotion, Astudillo is now hitting .545 with three homers and nine RBIs. He's come right back out of his shell.

    There wasn't too much activity on the transaction front last week. On Thursday, the Twins sent down reliever Ryan Eades and recalled Fernando Romero, who was himself demoted a day later (for reasons you'll read about in the Lowlights section below). Zack Littell was recalled to replace him following a very successful run in the Rochester bullpen (2.35 ERA, 13/1 K/BB ratio in 7.2 IP).


    Like any other week, it'd be appropriate to start out by shoveling praise on the offense. The bats were tremendous once again, averaging nearly six runs while extending their games-with-a-homer streak to 14. We'll cover some top performers in a moment. But first, let's give a shout-out to this team's starting rotation, which continues to amaze.

    On Wednesday, Jose Berrios was on his game once again, holding a potent Seattle lineup to one run over 6 2/3 innings. It was his fourth straight turn pitching into the seventh inning, a feat he's accomplished in six of eight starts since the beginning of May. He's been a workhorse and a stud. After striking out six with two walks in this latest effort, Berrios is now rocking a 4.94 K/BB ratio, which ranks sixth in the American League.

    Closing in on Berrios in those rankings is Kyle Gibson, who's now seventh with a 4.53 K/BB after notching six strikeouts and zero walks on Friday night in one of the best outings of his career. Dueling head-to-head with Kansas City's top starter Brad Keller, Gibby fired eight shutout innings, matching Berrios' gem on Opening Day for the highest Game Score by a Twins pitcher this year (84).

    Slowed by an offseason illness, Gibson was running a little behind in his spring build-up, and it showed early on: In his first three starts, he allowed eight walks and 18 hits over 14 2/3 innings with a 7.36 ERA. In 10 starts since, the right-hander has posted a 2.82 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 65-to-9 K/BB ratio in 60 2/3 innings. He also has a 14.9% swinging strike rate during this span; that'd rank fifth in all of baseball between Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg.

    Gibson is every bit as good as he was last year, if not better. That's a huge development for this unit.

    Even Michael Pineda joined the fun this week with his finest start as a Twin. On Thursday, the big righty tossed 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball, allowing just two hits. He left the game with a zero on the board, but reliever Ryne Harper quickly let an inherited run score, depriving Pineda of his first clean outing for Minnesota.

    Still, it was another positive step forward from the 30-year-old, who's shown a noticeable velocity bump after returning from a two-week stint on the Injured List:


    The reasonable expectation for Pineda was always that he'd improve over the course of the season as he ramped up in the wake of Tommy John surgery. That's exactly what we're seeing, and I really like how the Twins are managing his workload to keep him fresh for the second half. His IL stint was seemingly designed to give him a breather (with no real downside, as Devin Smeltzer pitched well in his stead) and Pineda has yet to throw 100 pitches in a start.

    Okay, on to that offense. Once again there were plenty of monster performers last week, so let's just run through them in bullet-point fashion:
    • Max Kepler has been on an absolute tear. After collecting four hits in Sunday's series finale against Kansas City, he finished at 9-for-23 on the week with two homers and three doubles. He drew five walks, and is working a free pass in nearly 20% of his June plate appearances.
    • Ehire Adrianza is earning himself regular playing time on merit. The utilityman started four of six games last week, as Rocco Baldelli found him opportunities at third, short, and first. Adrianza responded by continuing to rake, with five hits in 15 at-bats. He's hitting .404 in his last 22 games.
    • Mitch Garver had a magical night on Friday, delivering a dramatic two-run homer that broke a scoreless tie and propelled Minnesota to victory over KC. He was 4-for-15 on the week and has mostly picked up where he left off since coming off the IL, with nine RBIs in 10 games.
    • Marwin Gonzalez continues to be an incredibly value asset. Last week he played in all six games, starting five. He appeared at four different positions while tallying eight hits (including a pair of home runs) in 23 at-bats.
    • Nelson Cruz provided further evidence his wrist is feeling okay as he collected six hits in 20 ABs, including a pair of big homers.
    • Jonathan Schoop rebounded from a quiet week with a 7-for-19, sprinkling in a home run and a double.
    • Jorge Polanco just kept on doing his thing, finishing 8-for-27 with as many walks (3) as strikeouts. It wasn't even really a highlight week by his standards, but that alone seems worthy of calling out.

    Can anyone fix Romero? As he rose rapidly through the minor-league ranks, the hard-throwing righty gained repute as the system's best power arm in years. He looked decent last year as a rookie for Minnesota, but the decision to shift him into a bullpen role here in 2019 made all the sense in the world, from my view.

    Unfortunately, it's been pretty much a total disaster. His latest call-up wasn't exactly earned by his performance in the minors (he posted a 6.06 ERA and 1.47 WHIP over a month in Rochester following his early-May demotion), but the Twins evidently wanted to take another look and have their big-league coaches work with him more closely. It took only one appearance to reverse that plan. Romero was unbelievably brutal when called upon to pitch with a nine-run lead on Thursday, allowing all four batters faced to reach on two hits and two walks. He threw just six of 16 pitches for strikes and induced zero swings-and-misses.

    The good news, I guess, is that Romero's arm appears to be healthy; he was bringing upper-90s heat with movement. Yet he lacked any semblance of command, and hitters were feasting, as they have all year. Getting him on track seems like one of Minnesota's best bets for impactful late-inning bullpen help, but sadly, it now feels like more of a long shot than ever.

    His absence looms large in a bullpen that showed its problematic lack of depth last week, especially with Taylor Rogers unavailable for a few games due to back tightness. Harper continues to dazzle but the unit is lacking for other trustworthy options. Blake Parker looks so bad right now it's semi-shocking the Twins haven't found an excuse to put him on the shelf; he has coughed up nine earned runs, and five homers, in his last seven appearances. Tyler Duffey is filthy at times, but prone to clunkers like the ugly 10th inning that cost Minnesota Wednesday's game and spoiled Buxton's big moment. Trevor May navigated a precarious save conversion on Tuesday, then struggled through a shaky outing the following night. He's still having a really hard time getting opponents to chase, resulting in prolonged counts and plenty of stress. Matt Magill's been filling the bases with runners all month, including last week when he yielded two hits and three walks in four innings. None of three runs allowed by Mike Morin on Sunday were charged as earned, preserving his misleading 1.17 ERA, but he didn't look good.

    This bullpen is a problem. We already knew that, but it was resoundingly reaffirmed last week, even against substandard competition. Anxiety is going to run high if any tight late-inning situations develop against the imposing Red Sox lineup in the coming series.

    Minnesota generally had an ugly week defensively (which is, refreshingly, uncharacteristic). But no one's poor glovework stuck out more than Miguel Sano's. He had a fine week at the plate (4-for-14 with a home run) but Sano butchered a couple of plays at third base, and they were both costly. On Wednesday in extra innings, he mishandled a grounder and then airmailed it to first, allowing two critical runs to score. He was charged with two errors on the play, a rarity. Sano logged a third error for the week when he let a bad hop eat him up on Sunday, allowing yet another key run across.

    When Sano is able to secure the ball and whip it across the diamond, it's a beautiful thing. His arm strength is unassailable. But overall consistency has been amiss, and to my eye, Sano has missed quite a few plays he should've made. He already has five errors in just 21 games.

    With Cruz and C.J. Cron entrenched at DH and first, the Twins have little choice but to run Sano out at third base and hope he improves if they want his bat in the lineup. I did find it quite curious that Baldelli put Sano at third and Adrianza at first with Cron sitting on Sunday, though Adrianza did have his own ugly defensive gaffe at the hot corner one night earlier.


    The first domino has fallen, so to speak. On Saturday, the Yankees traded for Seattle's Edwin Encarnacion, adding the American League's leading home run hitter to their lineup (which already features No. 2, Gary Sanchez). The Mariners, apparently, are completely open for business:

    There are some interesting candidates there from the Twins' perspective (albeit no game-changing bullpen additions). The bigger story is that Buying Season is officially underway. Minnesota isn't compelled to wait until late July to pull the trigger on improvements. Although the Twins don't really need to worry about their division lead – still in double-digits as we head into the second half of June – they do need to be thinking about building for primetime. The aforementioned bullpen issues make clear that there is some work to do.

    One tidbit to file away: Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press wrote over the weekend that Minnesota is pursuing a deal for San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner...


    As the Twins evaluate internal relief options, Sean Poppen is a name we should probably be paying attention to. He's been fantastic since a promotion to Rochester in late May, working as a starter but showing traits of a guy who might level-up in the pen. On Thursday he struck out nine over six innings of one-run ball; through four starts with the Red Wings, he has a 1.13 ERA and 29-to-9 K/BB ratio over 24 innings. A former 19th-round draft pick out of Harvard, the 25-year-old righty owns a 3.17 career ERA in the minors, averaging a strikeout per inning.

    Of course, Poppen is likely behind a couple of fellow Rochester starters in line. Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe are both already on the 40-man roster, and making their own strong cases for consideration. Smeltzer struck out 10 with zero walks over 5 2/3 frames on Sunday, while Thorpe had fired five shutout frames on Wednesday, allowing one hit and striking out nine. The Twins could really use another left-hander in the pen (they had none available when Rogers was sidelined in the early part of last week) so I'd expect to see one of these two get a look soon. Both have the potential to be legitimate difference-makers.


    Big test on deck. The Twins have taken care of business thus far in a home stand full of also-rans, winning series against Detroit, Seattle and Kansas City, but now they'll wrap it up with a tough challenge against the Red Sox. Don't be fooled by Boston's third-place standing in the East and pedestrian record. They started 6-13 but have been rolling since with a 33-21 record since, and they head into Minnesota on a five-game winning streak. Can Berrios, Pineda and Gibson back up their latest performances against a far better lineup?

    Next weekend, the Twins will head down to Kansas City. As will I, along with a large group of rowdy fellows on a big booze-filled bus for my bachelor party. Which is to say, when you read this column next week, it'll be authored by someone else. Hopefully that person will have plenty of happy things to write about.

    MONDAY, 6/17: RED SOX @ TWINS – RHP Rick Porcello v. RHP Jose Berrios
    TUESDAY, 6/18: RED SOX @ TWINS – LHP David Price v. RHP Michael Pineda
    WEDNESDAY, 6/19: RED SOX @ TWINS – LHP Eduardo Rodriguez v. RHP Kyle Gibson
    THURSDAY, 6/20: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP Glenn Sparkman
    FRIDAY, 6/21: TWINS @ ROYALS – LHP Martin Perez v. RHP Jakob Junis
    SATURDAY, 6/22: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Jose Berrios v. LHP Danny Duffy
    SUNDAY, 6/23: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Homer Bailey

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Jun 16 2019 08:16 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  7. MIN 10, SEA 5: Another Double-Digit Scoring Effort, Another Bullpen Scare

    Box Score
    Pineda: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 65.6% strikes (63 of 96 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 1 K

    Home Runs: Cruz (12), Cron (15)
    Multi-Hit Games: Adrianza (3-for-5), Cruz (3-for-4, HR, BB), Polanco (2-for-6), Gonzalez (2-for-5, 2B), Schoop (2-for-4, 2B)

    WPA of +0.1: Pineda .304, Cruz .223, Arianza .204, Kepler .150
    WPA of -0.1: None
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    Early Pitchers' Duel in Minnesota
    Today’s contest featured an early pitchers' duel, which is something we are not used to seeing from Minnesota this year. Pineda and Kikuchi were both sharp early on, limiting the scoring through the first five innings as Minnesota looked to improve to an 18-4 record following a loss.

    Early Wasted Opportunities
    The scoring opportunities were limited but the Twins wasted a good one in the second inning when they had the bases loaded with nobody out and couldn’t score a run. Through the first five innings Minnesota had stranded seven runners and were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. The lone run for Minnesota came courtesy of a solo home run from Nelson Cruz in the third inning.

    Small Ball Leads to a Big Sixth Inning
    The top half of the sixth inning was not a great one for Minnesota. After allowing two baserunners with two outs Pineda was pulled from the game and Ryne Harper was brought in to face Daniel Vogelbach. The need for another left-handed reliever in the Minnesota bullpen was never more apparent after Harper surrendered a base hit to Vogelbach which tied the game at 1-1.

    The bottom half of the inning, however, was a great one for Minnesota and featured something we haven’t seen much from this team. They scored six runs in the inning without hitting a home run or collecting an extra-base hit. Max Kepler led off the inning with a walk and Rocco Baldelli reached into his bag of tricks and called for a hit-and-run play with Ehire Adrianza at the plate. The hit-and-run was executed perfectly when Ehire singled through the right side of the infield advancing Kepler to third. A throwing error from the Seattle pitcher on a pick-off attempt allowed Kepler to score from third.

    A wild pitch advanced Adrianza to third and he scored on a Jason Castro ground ball to second with the infield drawn in. After Byron Buxton drew a walk, the Twins had runners on first and second and Jorge Polanco singled to center extending his hit streak to 14 games. The bases were loaded with nobody out. Unlike the second inning, Minnesota was able to capitalize on this opportunity.

    Nelson Cruz singled through the left side of the infield, scoring Castro and Buxton giving Minnesota a 5-1 lead. After a sacrifice fly from Marwin Gonzales and an RBI single from Max Kepler, Minnesota had a six-run bottom of the sixth and a 7-1 lead, breaking open what was once a pitchers duel.

    Bomba Squad Strikes Again
    After Minnesota broke the game open in the sixth they still weren’t done scoring. In the seventh inning Buxton walked, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on an RBI single from Polanco. Following the single from Polanco, Seattle turned to their bullpen and brought in Tyler Scott who received a rude welcome from C.J. Cron when he blasted a two-run home run on the second pitch of the at-bat.

    This game was cruising along and had the makings of a low-scoring pitchers duel but the potent Minnesota offense flipped the script in a hurry. When the fifth inning ended the score was 1-0. By the time the seventh inning was over Minnesota had jumped out to a 10-1 lead.

    Pineda Looks Sharp; Romero Struggles
    Pineda’s best start of the year came on May 16 in Seattle and he didn’t disappoint against his former team today either. Although he didn’t match his success from that May 16 start Pineda gave Minnesota a solid performance finishing with 5 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 4 K.

    Fernando Romero, who was recalled from Triple-A prior the game, struggled mightily in his return to the big leagues. He surrendered two hits, two walks and two runs before being pulled from the game without recording an out.

    Matt Magill was called upon to clean up the mess created by Romero and he did just that. He walked the first batter he faced, loading the bases with no outs, but quickly rebounded to retire the side without allowing a run to score.

    Stay Hot, Ehire Adrianza
    Remember when Adrianza was hitting below the Mendoza line and all of Twins territory couldn’t wait for him to be shown the door? Well, since May 13 he’s hitting .439/.510/.634.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:

    • Jun 13 2019 09:12 PM
    • by Andrew Gebo
  8. How Will Sano’s Return Impact the Roster?

    Marwin’s Struggles
    Marwin Gonzalez has been getting most of the playing time at third base with Sano out of the line-up. Entering play on Monday, he is hitting .204/.271/.286 with four extra-base hits in 98 at-bats. These are far below his career totals (.261/.316/.414). One has to wonder if his late signing this spring has impacted his ability to get prepared for the season’s start.

    Even with his struggles, Gonzalez has shown some positive signs this season. His 91.1 exit velocity is higher than his career average. It is also higher than the MLB average this season (87.4 mph). His launch angle is around the league average at 9.0 but it's below the totals he’s put together the last two years.

    Defensively, Gonzalez ranks in the middle of the pack among American League third basemen. FanGraphs credits him with one defensive run saved so far this year. His 1.4 defensive WAR ranks him sixth among the 11 qualified AL third basemen.

    Roster Space
    Finding roster space for Sano could come from the back-end of the bench or from a 13-man pitching staff. From the bench, Ehire Adrianza seems like a likely candidate to make way for Sano. He’s hit .146/.250/.220 in 16 games this season. If Adrianza is the odd-man out, Gonzalez could shift to a fill-in role at multiple positions.

    Jake Cave could also be sent back to Rochester if the Twins are comfortable with Gonzalez serving as the fourth outfielder. Cave has hit .206/.289/.235 this season with one extra-base hit in 14 games. He has more strikeouts (9) than hits (7). Cave might be more replaceable since Adrianza is currently listed as the back-up shortstop on the team’s depth chart.

    Minnesota is also carrying 13 pitchers so the team could trim the pitching staff to 12 pitchers. Mike Morin, Fernando Romero or Matt Magill could all be candidates to taken off the 25-man roster. The Twins are in the midst of quite a stretch of games so the extra man in the bullpen might be a necessity.

    Playing Time
    If Sano is going to take back the reins at third, Gonzalez will need to slide into a secondary role. It still seems likely for Gonzalez to get playing time at other positions in the line-up, especially if Cave is the one sent down. Gonzalez’s ability to play multiple positions could shift him to a super-utility role in the weeks ahead.

    Sano could also spend some time at designated hitter, but it seems likely for Nelson Cruz to continue to get the majority of those at-bats. Among regular non-catching starters, Cruz is tied with Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez for sixth most games played. His 38-year old body might need some rest in the months ahead.

    How do you think Sano will impact the line-up? Who gets sent down? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • May 06 2019 04:22 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  9. HOU 11, MIN 0: Completely Dominated

    Box Score
    Pineda: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 65.3% strikes (64 of 98 pitches)
    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-3, 2B, BB)
    WPA of +0.1: None
    WPA of -0.1: Cruz -.127, Pineda -.164
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    This game actually got off to a very encouraging start for the Twins. After Michael Pineda pitched a 1-2-3 top of the first inning, Gerrit Cole walked the first two batters he faced and fell behind Nelson Cruz 2-0.

    That concluded the positive portion of the evening for Minnesota. Cole battled back and induced a double play, though to be fair that pitch was absolutely obliterated. The Twins didn’t get another base runner until the fifth inning and didn’t have a hit until the sixth. By that time, Houston had already busted open a 7-0 lead.

    In the grand scheme of things, this is just one loss to a good team. But if Pineda can’t be a dependable piece in the rotation, well that would be something to fret about. After giving up just five earned runs on 13 hits over his first 15 innings of the season, Pineda has now surrendered 15 earned runs on 24 hits in 14 innings since. Not good.

    To be fair, this was a 1-0 game entering the fifth inning, so it’s not like Pineda was completely overmatched from the start. Outside of those rough first couple batters from Cole, however, Twins hitters were most definitely overmatched. Cole was a beast tonight, and is up to 65 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings this year. Just silly.

    Oh, and the bullpen was bad too. Adalberto Mejia looks completely lost. He walked three of the five batters he faced and threw just 10 of his 27 pitches for strikes. The Twins also played their worst game in the field all season. Just a dreadful all-around performance, really.

    Positives? Well, Max Kepler got two more hits. Fernando Romero looked pretty nasty in a scoreless ninth. He didn’t seem to have much command, but his stuff was moving all over the place. Let’s see, one more positive … uh … at least there weren’t many people who had to suffer through the whole thing?

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    Next Three Games
    Wed vs. HOU, 7:10 pm CT (Perez-McHugh)
    Thu vs. HOU, 12:10 pm CT (Berrios-Peacock)
    Fri at NYY, 6:05 pm CT (Gibson-TBD)

    Last Game
    MIN 1, HOU 0: Let’s Go Crazy

    • May 01 2019 04:08 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  10. Finer Points: Options, part two (The Fourth Option)

    You've been led all along your whole life to believe to that there were only three options available to be used on players. And, yet, here we are, after all of these years, telling you it isn't entirely true.

    On my power ranking of lists of things that aren't true and how it changes your lives, the Belief in Only Three Options ranks only behind Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, slightly edging out the Tooth Fairy.

    So without further ado...

    How in the world...?

    Let’s figure that out. When a player signs, a clock starts. That clock is running toward a time when players must be added to the 40-man or risk exposure to the Rule 5 draft. But another clock starts, too, and that one is only counting “professional years.” Though it seems simple, it’s not as simple as it sounds. You need 90 days on an active roster to achieve that year. Suspensions, long-term injuries and *interesting* promotions can leave a player just shy in terms of accumulating a full professional season.

    To add another layer to the minutiae: This clock only matters if you are out of options before your fifth full professional season, which is why it’s such a rare occurrence.

    Kennys Vargas is the last Twin to be optioned in four seasons. After having his contract purchased in November of 2013, he spent parts or all of 2014, 2015 and 2016 on optional assignment. But, BOOM! 2017 rolls around and he’s optioned again… for the fourth time. How come? Well, two years in rookie ball (where seasons don’t last 90 days) and a suspension will do that. His first full accredited service year was 2013. His next three - 2014 through 2016 - left him out of options before his fifth full season; therefore, one more option year.

    Typically, the tell-tale sign for me is if a player is added to the 40-man roster after his first full season in low-A ball. It’s not foolproof, but it’s a decent indicator.

    Let’s take Jorge Polanco, for example. Purchased along with Kennys Vargas in November of 2013 after a full season of (and first exposure to) low-A ball. (Sorry, “purchasing” is the act of adding a player to the 40-man roster.) Polanco then spent 2014, 2015 and 2016 on optional assignments. He would follow the exact same path as Vargas, right? Right?! Wrong.

    It’s all worked out OK for Polanco since going on a second-half tear in 2017. But in the first half of the season he struggled and the Twins couldn’t send him down… thanks to a careless error they made in the July of 2010(!).

    In Polanco’s first try at pro ball, he was sent to the Dominican Summer League, a league that starts and ends earlier than rookie domestic leagues (but is still less than 90 days). In early July, however, Polanco was promoted to the GCL. Kudos to the Twins for getting Polanco (and Miguel Sano) additional at-bats… but BOOO the Twins for having Polanco (and Sano) active for 92 days that season. That promotion gave Polanco five seasons under his belt coming into 2017… and he was out of options.

    I know what you’re thinking… “Are you telling me the Twins screwed up and cost Miguel Sano a fourth option year!?” Not at all. First, Sano went two years (2016 and 2017) without being optioned, so there was no way he could qualify for a fourth regardless. Plus, he was signed after the conclusion of the minor league season in 2009, so his need to be added to the 40-man roster was a year later than Polanco, Vargas, and (next) Max Kepler, which put him on a different timeline completely.

    So what about Max Kepler? Also purchased with Polanco and Vargas, Kepler spent all of 2014 on optional assignment. His second option year, 2015, ended with a September cameo. He started 2016, his third option year, in Rochester before being recalled. He never returned to the minors. But could he have in 2017? Sure. He was out of options and within his first five professional season. In fact, if the Twins needed to, they may have been able to option him in 2018 as well. Why? Kepler missed much of 2013 with an elbow injury and failed to be active for the required 90 days. That means his first full professional season was 2014 and coming into last season he would have been, again, out of options and within his first five professional seasons.

    In the fall of 2013, before Kepler really exploded, many questioned why the Twins would add him to the 40-man roster, citing, correctly, that there was no way he’d be able to play in MLB and his development would be ruined. While a fair point, he would have been taken and stashed, because even at that time, you could figure out he’d get that fourth option. Call it a redshirt year… or whatever you’d like. He needed to be added. It was the same reason I believed the Twins should have added Johan Quezada to their 40-man roster last November (and, since they didn’t, should next November): the possibility of another option year (and really, another year of team control).

    As touched on last week, Fernando Romero is in line for a fourth option in 2020, if the need arises. As 2016 was his first professional season and he was added to the 40-man that off-season, Romero ran through three options (2017, 2018 and 2019) in his first four seasons. That allows him to be sent on optional assignment next season.

    Injuries (and, oh boy, do I have a humdinger for you a little later) are the most likely reason to trigger the elusive fourth options - former Twins prospects Randy Rosario and J.T. Chargois were heading down the road to eligibility before they left the organization (and I stopped keeping track) - but there is one other very possible scenario: The nearly-ready-for-the-MLB-draft-pick.

    In the linked last week and again here, Brock Stewart of the Dodgers thought he was out of options. (The story does a good job with accuracy; however, it misinforms readers that you get three options “once [you] reach the major leagues” when, in fact, for most, your first option comes before you sniff a major league baseball game.Though in Stewart’s case, he did reach the majors first.)

    As it turns out, Stewart spent his 2014 draft season (less than 90 days) pitching in rookie ball. His first full season was split between A-level clubs and he was “called up” (or “purchased”) during the 2016 season. He was also optioned in 2016. And then 2017 and 2018. Three options, four professional season. Have fun on that AAA/MLB Shuttle again this year, Brock!

    So, you ready for the humdinger? Let’s talk briefly about Alex Kirilloff. What if he comes back, rakes like we expect him to and, due to an injury, the Twins need another outfielder? Should he be considered? The correct answer is absolutely. For one, he’s such a good hitter, he shouldn’t need three option years to begin with. But, more importantly, even if he did, he’d qualify for the fourth option. Last year was his first full professional season due to a missing a year with an elbow injury. If he’s added a year from now, he wouldn’t be afforded that luxury. So, really, it wouldn’t make sense to not add him if you think he’s ready. (Service time manipulators notwithstanding.)

    If you have more questions about options, please ask. Until then, put the following into your baseball vernacular. (If you have leave a question about an upcoming topic, I’ll weave the answer into that particular story.)


    “Option” is the act of sending a player on the 40-man roster to the minor leagues.
    “Recall” is the act of bringing a 40-man player from the minor league to the major leagues.
    “Calling up” is the act of adding a non-40-man player to the 25-man roster.
    “Purchasing (the contract)” is the act of adding a non-40-man player to the 40-man roster… and can also be used when adding to the 25-man roster.

    “Optional assignment” is a yearly thing. You could be optioned/recalled an unlimited number of times each year.

    Once you’re optioned, you cannot be recalled for 10 days (unless you’re replacing someone on the injured list).

    You have to spend 20 days on optional assignment for it to count. If you spend less, the option does not count and you receive service time for the days you were “on option.”

    Players qualify for a fourth option if they have used up their three options, but don’t have five years of professional service. (A “year” is considered 90 days on an active roster.)

    • May 29 2019 03:31 PM
    • by Jeremy Nygaard
  11. HOU 7, MIN 1: Foregone Conclusion

    Box Score
    Stewart: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 57.1% strikes (60 of 105 pitches)
    Home Runs: Polanco (5)
    Multi-Hit Games: None
    WPA of +0.1: None
    WPA of -0.1: Stewart -.267
    (chart via FanGraphs)

    The Astros are really good. They can make even good pitchers look pretty bad. But when you leave as many pitches over the meat of the plate as Stewart did tonight, well, you’re just making it way too easy for them. Here’s the location on all of Houston’s hits off Stewart:
    Again, facing the Astros is a very tough assignment, but Stewart also had a difficult time throwing strikes. He walked three batters, threw a pair of wild pitches and his strike percentage was just 57.1. While falling behind got him into some other trouble, it is ironic that both the homers Stewart surrendered (a solo shot to Carlos Correa and a two-run homer to Michael Brantley) were on the first pitch of an at bat.

    On the positive side, at least Stewart managed to pitch sixth innings and the Twins won’t need to rely on him again in the foreseeable future. Stewart was optioned back to Rochester at the end of this game. No offense intended, there still seems to be some untapped potential in Stewart, but he wasn’t even pitching very well down in the minors. It would be nice to see him get on a roll down in Triple A prior to his next opportunity with the Twins.

    Speaking of guys who hadn’t exactly been lighting it up in Triple A, Fernando Romero came in to pitch the final two innings of this game. He pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, but gave up a two-run homer to Josh Reddick in the eighth. Romero struck out a pair of batters and threw four pitches in excess of 98 mph, so there certainly seems to be something there.

    Again, considering the Twins pinned Stewart against Verlander, it shouldn’t really be any surprise they lost this game. I’m not saying they should have moved anyone else up to start this game, it just is what it is. Verlander was his usual excellent self, holding the Twins to one run on four hits over eight innings while striking out eight.

    Rocco Baldelli decided to give a couple of his regulars the day off against a tough right-hander, though Verlander has never had big platoon splits. Both Byron Buxton and Jonathan Schoop came into tonight with a six-game hitting streak, yet both were on the bench even with an offday on the schedule tomorrow. Willians Astudillo made his first MLB start in the outfield, filling in out in right field while Max Kepler swung over to center.

    I thought it was interesting that was the call as opposed to putting Willians at third base and having Marwin Gonzalez play right. Now that Jake Cave has been sent down, the Twins are really going to need to lean on their versatility. Marwin has played all but four innings at third base this season and has yet to appear in the outfield.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    Next Three Games
    Thu OFF
    Fri vs. BAL, 7:10 pm CT (Perez-Cobb)
    Sat vs. BAL, 1:10 pm CT (Berrios-Straily)
    Sun vs. BAL, 1:10 pm CT (Gibson-Bundy)

    Last Game
    HOU 10, MIN 4: Springer and Bregman and Altuve... Oh My!

    • Apr 25 2019 05:35 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  12. Hello? Rochester... Please Send Help

    The Twins wanted to call up Zack Littell last weekend but because the season was not yet ten days old, they were unable to. Instead, they put Chase De Jong back on the 40-man roster and Designed Tyler Austin for Assignment. At the time, the Twins needed someone available in the bullpen who could eat some innings after Jake Odorizzi didn’t get out of the first inningFriday night. De Jong was not needed after all in Philadelphia thanks to good starts by Michael Pineda and Jose Berrios. He got his first opportunity on Tuesday night against the Mets. He came in to finish the ninth inning with the Twins leading 14-4. He needed 46 pitches to finish the ninth and gave up four runs and six base runners.

    Following the game, he was returned to Rochester since he would be unable to pitch for the Twins for several days. Lefty Andrew Vasquez, the easy choice for 2018 Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year, was recalled to take De Jong’s spot.

    Unlike De Jong, Vasquez was thrown right into a tough situation. With two outs in the fifth inning last night, Jake Odorizzi loaded the bases with a walk to opposing starter Noah Syndergaard. With left-handed hitting Brandon Nimmo due up, Rocco Baldelli called on the left-hander who struck out 108 batters in 69+ innings last year.

    Simply put, it did not go well for Vasquez. He couldn’t throw strikes and frankly, wasn’t close. He hit Nimmo (to put one run on the board). Then he walked both Pete Alonso and Robinson Cano to score two more runs. His fastball topped out at 87 mph and he couldn’t command the slider at all.

    I will advocate for not giving up on Andrew Vasquez, and I would assume that most of you would look at that outing as a case of nerves in his return to the big leagues. While he had struck out four batters in 1 1/3 innings in his one Red Wings appearance, he also walked two batters and gave up a hit.

    I’m not advocating that Vasquez needs to be optioned right away, though it would be understandable. But if he is, or on a higher level, if at any time the Twins need to call back to Rochester looking for some relief help, what options are there? Below you’ll find the current group of Red Wings relievers, any of who could be an option at some point this season.

    (in alphabetical order)

    Age - 32
    MLB Experience - Parts of three seasons (2014-16) with Cleveland. 53 games, 58 2/3 innings, 6.29 ERA.
    2019 Red Wings Stats - 2 Games, 4.0 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

    The Twins signed Adams late last year out of independent ball and he pitched briefly for Chattanooga. This year, is hitting 94-96 for the Red Wings in the early goings. Presumably, Derek Falvey is quite familiar with him due to his years in Cleveland.

    Age - 28
    MLB Experience - Parts of four seasons (2015-18) with the Twins. 111 games (37 starts), 287 innings, 5.46 ERA.
    2019 Red Wings Stats - 2 Games, 4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

    Duffey made such a strong impression on Twins fans late in the 2015 season, nearly catapulting a surprising team to the playoffs. He hasn’t been able to duplicate that performance since and was moved to the bullpen a few years ago. He has the curveball and spin rate that teams love.

    Age - 27
    MLB Experience - None
    2019 Red Wings Stats - 2 G, 4.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

    Eades made a strong impression during an impressive run in big league spring training this year. He showed a big fastball which reached into the mid-90s. He also showed his array of pitches. Before this season, he had just seven games of Triple-A experience.

    Age - 31
    MLB Experience - Parts of five seasons (2013-18) with Tampa Bay, Cleveland, St. Louis, Baltimore, Toronto, Milwaukee. 27 games, 33 innings. 9.27 ERA.
    2019 Red Wings Stats - 2 G, 4.1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K.

    Guilmet has had a long career. He’s pitched for six teams in the big leagues to go with several other organizations in the minor leagues. He’s got enough stuff to keep getting opportunities.

    Age - 27
    MLB Experience - Parts of five seasons (2014-18) with Angels. 186 games, 174 innings, 4.66 ERA.
    2019 Red Wings Stats - 2 G, 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K.

    Born in Minnesota, his family soon moved to the Kansas City area, but he’s still got family in the area. It would certainly be a thrill for him to play for the Twins. Morin pitched between 47 and 60 games each year out of the Angels bullpen between 2014 and 2016. He’s been hurt the last two years, but he appears to be fully healthy again. He’s a low-90s guy with a really, really good changeup.

    Age - 26
    MLB Experience - None
    2019 Red Wings Stats - 2 G, 3.0 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K

    Reed moved up to AA really quickly after being drafted by the Twins in 2014. He’s been up and down ever since, but he was remarkable for the Red Wings after June 1st last year (23 G, 37.2 IP, 1.43 ERA, .167 opponents batting average). Walks always a concern, but Reed gets a lot of movement. His fastball is 95-97, and he’s got a sharp slider too. .

    Age - 24
    MLB Experience - Debuted with the Twins in 2018. Made 11 starts, 55 2/3 innings. 4.69 ERA.
    2019 Red Wings Stats - 2 G, 5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K

    Romero was really good for his first four MLB starts last year and then struggled the rest of the way. It was surprising that the Twins decided so quickly in spring training that he would pitch out of the bullpen. He struggled in spring training and was optioned to the Red Wings. He’s off to a fast start. In his 3 1/3 hitless, no-walk innings on Wednesday, he was getting swings and misses on 97 and 98 mph fastballs.

    Currently DJ Baxendale (27) and Zack Weiss (26) are on the Red Wings injured list.

    *Note that the 2019 Red Wings Stats are for just two games, so the sample size is definitely small.


    Chase De Jong returns to the Red Wings starting rotation. The other starters in the Red Wings rotation are 23-year-old RHP Zack Littell, 23-year-old LHP Lewis Thorpe, 24-year-old RHP Kohl Stewart, 25-year-old RHP Sean Poppen and 27-year-old MLB veteran, LHP Justin Nicolino. LHP Stephen Gonsalves is on the IL as well and should be back in early May.

    These guys are options if and when a long-reliever might be needed. They could also be summoned to the Twins when a starter is needed, such as in a doubleheader situation.


    As a reminder, right-handers Matt Magill and Addison Reed, along with LHP Gabriel Moya are on the injured list. We haven’t heard updates on them recently. They are also options to join the big league bullpen when they are ready, though a rehab stint would seem very likely for all three as they have not pitched in a long time.


    I’ll just throw this tweet from Nick Nelson here:

    So, do you have a current hierarchy of who the Twins should call up next as they have needs? How about breaking that out between whether they need a long reliever, or a lefty, or a short-term option versus a more long-term guy? Share your thoughts below.

    • Apr 11 2019 04:26 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  13. Twins Minor League Report (4/9): Fort Myers Walks-Off, Pensacola PR

    Keep reading to check it all out!

    Rochester 5, Syracuse 7
    Box Score

    The Red Wings fell behind 1-0 after the first inning with right-hander Kohl Stewart on the mound, but quickly gave him a lead in the top of the second. The first four hitters in the lineup reached safely, with Adam Rosales’ single to center field scoring Luke Raley from third for Rochester’s first run. Later in the inning a Ronald Torreyes groundout brought in Zander Wiel for a 2-1 lead.

    In the top of the third a Wynston Sawyer double brought in two more runs, and Rosales followed with a double of his own to push their lead to 5-1.

    Unfortunately for Stewart and his defense, their hold on the game unraveled in the bottom half. A throwing error started the inning, then a hit batter, walk, three singles, a double, and a sac fly resulted in six runs for the Mets and they never looked back.

    All told Stewart was charged with seven runs, though only one was earned, in his 2 2/3 innings. He struck out three. Fernando Romero took over in the third for his second appearance of the season and finished 3 1/3 hitless innings. He struck out four and walked none (did hit a batter) on 40 pitches, with 25 going for strikes (63%). Jake Reed got the final two innings, going one-two-three in each, along with picking up three strikeouts.

    The Rochester lineup out-hit Syracuse 14-7 on the game, but after the third inning it was all about the pitchers for both teams. Eleven of the Red Wings hits came in those first three frames, as did all seven for the Mets.

    Six Red Wings batters picked up multiple hits including John Andreoli (2-for-4, BB, K), Randy Cesar (2-for-5, R, K), Raley (2-for-5, 2 R, 2 K), Zander Wiel (2-for-5, R, 2B, 2 K), Sawyer (2-for-2, R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB), and Rosales (2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI). Wiel and Brent Rooker also collected their first doubles of the year.

    Scheduled Day Off.

    Pensacola finished their first weekend of the Southern League season by taking three of five against the Mobile Bay Bears on the road. They headed home to Blue Wahoo Stadium for the first time in 2019 on Tuesday for a five-game series with the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp with fireballer Jorge Alcala on the mound, who struck out six in five scoreless innings in the team’s season opener.

    When they get there it also will be the first time fellow Minnesotan and Blue Wahoos PR Director Daniel Venn will get to see them in action at home as a Twins affiliate. With the off day, I caught up with Daniel about what he’s looking forward to covering the team this year and the prospects he will get know.

    Twins Daily (TD): Who has been the best prospect you’ve seen come through since you’ve been working in the minor leagues?

    Daniel Venn (DV): Both in the FSL and in spring training this year, Alex Kirilloff blows you away. I watched him twice this spring, once facing Blake Snell on a minor league backfield. The other against James Paxton and the Yankees at Hammond Stadium. Both times it was lefty-on-lefty, a tough enough match-up as it is, against two of the best left-handers in baseball. Against Snell, he stepped in and hit a wicked liner to left. Against Paxton, he flew out to the warning track. Even though both were outs, to see a kid with no experience above High-A step in, have great at-bats, and hit the ball hard against two elite-level major league pitchers is really impressive. I can't wait to watch him this year.

    TD: As a follow-up, who have been your favorite prospects? (If they’re different for any reason)

    DV: A couple guys who aren't considered 'top' prospects have really impressed me. Jimmy Kerrigan and Taylor Grzelakowski are two guys who might make it to the major leagues on grit and will and hard work alone. Both were undrafted and came out of independent baseball and play their hearts out every night.

    Twins fans should also know the names Devin Smeltzer and Griffin Jax. Both are great pitchers, great people, and great stories. Devin beat cancer as a young athlete and has dedicated his career to helping kids battling the disease. He took a perfect game into the fifth in his first outing of 2019 and K'd 9 in 5.2 IP. Jax is a second lieutenant in the US Air Force and missed most of the first two seasons of his career as an active duty member of the military serving his community. He's still active duty, but was able to resume his baseball career last year through a World Class Athlete Olympic exemption.

    TD: Who are you most excited about to see on the roster at the beginning of the year?

    DV: Obviously I'd be remiss if I didn't name Kirilloff first. I can't wait to watch him get back on the field and start hitting. He's such a mature hitter who just barrels everything up and never gets cheated on a swing.

    I'm also excited to watch this team's starting pitching every night. To have Alcala and Brusdar at the top of the rotation each throwing 98-100 is a luxury not many minor league teams have. But, then to have Devin Smeltzer, Griffin Jax, and Sean Poppen follow them? That is a deep, deep rotation that should put this team in a position to win every night.

    TD: What does it mean to you to have your “hometown” team be the parent club now?

    DV: It sounds cliche to say I have my dream job, but I really do. Following the Twins avidly as a fan, I've been checking box scores for years to see how guys like Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff and Luis Arraez and Brusdar Graterol do. Now they're part of my day job. It couldn't be more fun.

    TD: And finally, do you have a prediction for how the Blue Wahoos will do this year?

    DV: The whole Southern League is full of talent, but I like this team's chances. It takes high-end prospect talent to win in the minor leagues, which we have in guys like Kirilloff and Arraez and Graterol and Alcala, but it also takes some older, experienced guys who will grind for you all season long, and we've that too in Drew Maggi, Brian Schales, Grzelakowski, and Kerrigan. It takes a team and we've got that.

    Plus, if you take a look down a level at Fort Myers...they're absolutely loaded with talent, especially offensively. Knowing that at some point this season, there will be a wave of talent coming up from the Miracle also makes me really excited about Pensacola's chances this season.

    Big thanks to Daniel for taking the time to answer some more questions!

    Dunedin 0, Fort Myers 1
    Box Score

    It was a pitcher’s duel at Hammond Stadium on Tuesday night, with right-hander Randy Dobnak getting the start for the Miracle and his Florida State League debut. He went five scoreless innings, scattering five hits, walking one, and striking out two. Of his 89 pitches on the game, 54 went for strikes (61%) including 10 swinging. Hector Lujan came on for the sixth and went the next 2 2/3. He allowed one hit and struck out four including Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the eighth. But after consecutive walks, Tom Hackimer was brought in to snuff the threat and after loading the bases by hitting a batter, did so with a big strikeout. He finished the game by striking out the side in the ninth, but at that point the score was still tied at zero with the top of the lineup coming up for the bottom half.

    Royce Lewis got a rally started with a one-out single, then reached second on a wild pitch to put the winning run in scoring position. After an intentional walk to Trevor Larnach and an infield single off the bat of Jose Miranda, the bases were loaded for Lewin Diaz. On a 1-0 count he hit a sharp grounder through the right side for the walk-off win:

    Diaz was the only hitter to collect multiple hits on the day for the Miracle, while Travis Blankenhorn added a double.

    Kane County 4, Cedar Rapids 1
    Box Score

    Cedar Rapids got a strong first four innings from their starter Luis Rijo, but after an error started off the fifth, he got a little wild with two hit-by-pitches around a two-run double and an RBI single that put Kane County out front 3-0. In his five innings, Rijo allowed three hits and a walk while striking out six.

    The Kernels got one back in the bottom half when a Gilberto Celestino double drove in Michael Davis who had walked a batter earlier. But that’s all the offense would be able to muster on the game despite outhitting the Cougars 9-5 as they were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Celestino (2-for-5, 2B, RBI), Chris Williams (3-for-4, K), and Trey Cabbage (2-for-4) each had multiple hits.

    After Rijo was done, it was right hander Tyler Palm who came out of the bullpen. He finished the final four innings, allowing one run in the ninth, but otherwise just two hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts overall.


    Twins Daily Pitcher of the Day – Fernando Romero, Rochester Red Wings (3.1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 4 K)
    Twins Daily Hitter(s) of the Day – Lewin Diaz, Fort Myers Miracle (2-for-4, game-winning-RBI single)


    Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed:

    #1 - Royce Lewis (Ft. Myers) - 1-for-3, R, BB
    #2 - Alex Kirilloff (Pensacola) - Injured List
    #3 - Brusdar Graterol (Pensacola) - Did Not Pitch
    #4 - Trevor Larnach (Ft. Myers) - 0-for-3, BB, K
    #5 - Wander Javier (EST) - No Game
    #6 - Brent Rooker (Rochester) - 1-for-5, 2B, K
    #7 - Jhoan Duran (Ft. Myers) - Did Not Pitch
    #8 - Lewis Thorpe (Rochester) - Did Not Pitch
    #9 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) - Did Not Pitch
    #10 - Akil Baddoo (Ft. Myers) - 1-for-4, K
    #11 - Nick Gordon (Rochester) - Injured List
    #12 - Stephen Gonsalves (Rochester) - Injured List
    #13 - Ryan Jeffers (Ft. Myers) - 0-for-3
    #14 - Ben Rortvedt (Ft. Myers) - Did not play
    #15 - Yunior Severino (Cedar Rapids) - 0-for-5, 2 K
    #16 - Gilberto Celestino (Cedar Rapids) - 2-for-5, 2B, RBI
    #17 - Zack Littell (Rochester) - Did Not Pitch
    #18 - LaMonte Wade (Rochester) - 1-for-5, K
    #19 - Jorge Alcala (Pensacola) - Did Not Pitch
    #20 - Jose Miranda (Ft. Myers) - 1-for-4


    Rochester @ Syracuse (12:05PM CST) – RHP Sean Poppen (0-0, -.-- ERA)
    Jacksonville @ Pensacola (6:35PM CST) - RHP Jorge Alcala (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
    Dunedin @ Fort Myers (12:00PM CST) – LHP Bryan Sammons (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
    Kane County @ Cedar Rapids (6:35PM CST) – RHP Blayne Enlow (0-1, 27.00 ERA)

    Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Tuesday’s games!

    • Apr 10 2019 04:41 AM
    • by Steve Lein
  14. Faltering Romero Exposes Flaw in Falvey's Offseason

    Across 9 2/3 IP down in Fort Myers, Romero coughed up 10 runs (nine earned) and fanned seven while walking eight. He started out strong, but really faltered down the stretch. With Opening Day firmly in focus, the decision had to be made. Romero was going to need more time settling into his new role for Rochester.

    While it’s more than fair to suggest keeping Romero stretched out as a starter would’ve made sense, the consensus could be that he simply isn’t cut out for it. Regardless of the feelings from 1 Twins Way, the reality is that Romero is now going to upstate New York and will work a couple times a week throwing something like 20 pitches per outing. It will groom him for the role outlined for him in 2019 but doesn’t do much to help development as a rotation factor in the years ahead. We now know Romero’s path, and it was written on the wall for a matter of days now, but this is where Minnesota’s offseason starts to fall apart.

    Derek Falvey and Thad Levine failed to address pitching in almost any capacity. Blake Parker and Martin Perez have the chops to be nice additions, but they do little to raise the overall water level of the group, and don’t enhance depth at all. Going into spring training, Romero was viewed as (and talked about from team officials) as a key cog in this pitching staff. The minute that didn’t happen, things start to crumble. Add in the fact that Addison Reed hasn’t looked good at all, is now hurt with a trip to the IL possible, and things get rather bleak quick.

    Non-roster invitees Ryne Harper and Mike Morin are the two biggest names left in camp vying for one bullpen spot. It’s commendable that both have seized their opportunity, but them factoring onto an Opening Day roster that should have a divisional opportunity in front of them is a result of poor planning.

    Harper has displayed a Bugs Bunny curveball but he’s a near-30-year-old career minor leaguer. He posted a 5.19 ERA at Triple-A Rochester last season, and while the strikeout and walk rates have both been great on the farm, no one has ever deemed it worthy of a callup. Morin, on the other hand, has 186 major league appearances to his credit, most of them coming with the Angels.

    Neither option, Harper or Morin, is at fault for this. If nothing else, they’re doing everything in their power to be the solution to an organizational problem. By relying solely on the emergence of Romero, or the breakout of Matt Magill, Minnesota’s brass balked at opportunities to sign Joakim Soria, Kelvin Herrera, Brad Brach, Adam Ottavino, or even Craig Kimbrel. Martin Perez could’ve been added with another starter, allowing the “loser” to go to the pen. Any number of options could’ve been explored, but the suggestion was that we have this figured out.

    Maybe a handful of months from now we’ll look back on this as much ado about nothing. Romero could figure things out quickly at Triple A, come up and immediately be the weapon he was billed as. Maybe Harper or Morin will stick, and the front office will look great for their conviction. The flip side, however, is that the already non-existent depth is being exposed before Opening Day, and we know more names are going to be called upon.

    Paying relievers, and pitchers in general, is a fickle business practice. Good teams don’t let the elite pitchers get away and cashing in on high quality relievers before they go belly up is a smart practice. Playing in the minefield of free agency for these types is dicey, but unless you have a reliable stable of your own, targeting strong depth that pushes everyone else down a rung makes a ton of sense.

    The expectation for this club should be, and will remain, that the lineup will hit. Production 1-9 from this group should be plenty to win games on a nightly basis. Where they might lose the credibility comes in the form of trust placed on a suspect pitching staff serving up many more questions than answers. Right now, the front office believes in depth arms, I’m not ready to support them in that though. Here’s to hoping it’s this blogger with egg on his face.

    • Mar 23 2019 09:24 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  15. Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Relief Pitcher

    Projected Bullpen: Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Fernando Romero, Blake Parker, Addison Reed, Adalberto Mejia, Matt Magill

    Depth: Trevor Hildenberger, Tyler Duffey, Gabriel Moya, Andrew Vazquez, Ryne Harper, Tim Collins, Mike Morin
    Prospects: Jorge Alcala, Jake Reed, Tyler Jay, Jordan Balazovic, Tyler Wells


    The Twins have no closer.

    You might be confused reading that sentence under "THE GOOD" banner but to me, it really is a positive. We have no idea what to expect from Rocco Baldelli as a bullpen handler, but at least the rookie manager doesn't seem eager to constrict himself to rigidly defined roles. Despite its analytical awakening, Major League Baseball has lagged behind in terms of relief usage sophistication, plagued by the "save" and its overinflated prestige.

    If he simply makes a habit of using his best available arms in the highest-leverage spots – a formula that hasn't always taken hold in a game ruled by conventional hierarchies – Baldelli could find himself with an edge over opposing teams that reserve their best reliever until it's too late. And on any given day, the skipper might just find himself with multiple high-caliber arms available.

    Rogers, May and Romero are poised to form a fearsome trio in the late innings. Granted, only one of the three (Rogers) has already established himself as a top-tier reliever, but both May and Romero show all the ingredients.

    May flashed overpowering stuff as a full-time reliever in 2016, though he was hampered by back issues and inconsistent results. After losing his following season to Tommy John surgery, he came back last summer like a man on fire, piling up whiffs with mid-90s heat and powered-up secondaries. In 25 1/3 innings, he held opponents to a .221 average with a 36-to-5 K/BB ratio.

    Romero hasn't officially tried his hand as a reliever, but he has unsurprisingly taken well to the assignment this spring. His ferocious stuff seemed to play down as a starter, so the Twins are wagering it'll yield stronger results in short stints – a reasonable bet. In nine innings this spring, he has held opponents to a .188 average and .219 slugging percentage with heavy sinkers in the high-90s. He could be a hell of a weapon as a multi-inning fireman type, which appears to be the role Baldelli envisions for him.

    Behind the Big Three, the Twins have a couple of veterans with strong track records in Parker and Addison Reed, though each is coming off a down year. Mejia has been a competent major-league starter and could be a nice asset as a long man out of the pen if his repertoire levels up at all. Magill averaged a strikeout per inning as an out-of-nowhere rookie last year, and has been touching 96 on the radar gun this spring.

    Hildenberger is the big-time sleeper here. When he's on his game (as he was for his first 70 or so appearances as a Twin), he brings an ultra-reliable mix of grounders, strikeouts and control, but he was not on his game in the second half last year. That might leave him on the outside looking in when the spring training dust settles next week, but don't count him out as an important contributor to this bullpen.

    It's also possible a non-roster sleeper in camp could find his way into the picture, either at the outset or a short way into the campaign. Harper is the current favorite on that front. Collins, Morin and Jake Reed have also caught some eyes.


    The Twins lost a critical piece of their 2019 bullpen when they traded Ryan Pressly to Houston last July, and they haven't done nearly enough to fill that enormous void.

    There is one reliever in this group that you can truly feel confident in based on his recent history: Rogers. That's it. Romero and May are full of potential but neither has really proven himself. Addison Reed was a mess last year and has been this spring too. Parker's performance in 2018 was uninspiring enough – despite the 3.26 ERA – that the Angels non-tendered him, and he went unsigned for six weeks until Minnesota inked him to a meager $1.8 million deal. Mejia and Magill? Both are on the fringe of major-league viability.

    What's worse: the depth isn't really there to plug holes as they emerge.

    The best hope for an impact prospect infusion is probably Alcala, who came over from Houston in the Pressly trade. The 23-year-old possesses a high-90s fastball and a slider with the makings of an out pitch, but he was underwhelming and injured after joining Minnesota's Double-A affiliate so it's tough to view him as a short-term difference-maker. The relegation of Jay, the club's top draft pick in 2015, to afterthought status looms very large here.

    This bullpen seems far more likely to turn into an unmitigated disaster than a competitive advantage. All it takes is an injury to one of those key late-inning linchpins, or a couple of critical guys failing to assert themselves, and Baldelli will quickly find himself short on options he can trust.


    Last summer the Twins traded away one of the 10 most valuable relievers in baseball (according to fWAR), whom they still controlled in 2019. They dealt him to Houston, one of the teams they will ostensibly be competing against for the AL pennant this year. The Astros just signed him to a two-year, $17.5 million extension, indicating he'll be a building block for their elite bullpen going forward. And most damningly, the Twins failed to replace Pressly during the offseason with any kind of proven, high-impact asset to bolster the back-end of their pen. Their lone addition was a 33-year-old non-tender whose guaranteed salary was docked by health concerns.

    Oh, and the guy who will be pulling the strings has zero experience managing a bullpen. Same for both of his rookie pitching coaches.

    By nature, bullpens are highly volatile and unpredictable. There was nothing Minnesota's front office could've realistically done to establish this unit as any kind of "sure thing," but their efforts to shore it up seem woefully deficient. They are pinning their hopes on a whole lot of gambles playing out right, and Twins fans are too jaded from past trauma to feel much confidence in that outcome.

    What's most vexing about this situation is that the Twins have otherwise developed a pretty solid roster with legitimate potential. There ain't much more frustrating than building leads and watching them slip away in the latter parts of games. Unfortunately, this club seems destined to make that a routine occurrence if their planned power trio doesn't gel in the late innings, or the various questionable parts surrounding them fall the wrong way.

    The good news, I suppose, is that it's easier to upgrade relief pitching in-season than just about any other position.


    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Catcher
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: First Base
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Second Base
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Third Base
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Shortstop
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Left Field
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Center Field
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Right Field
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Designated Hitter
    Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Starting Pitcher

    • Mar 20 2019 04:34 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  16. Intro to Building a Bullpen-MLB 101

    And my oddly specific intuition is mostly correct. Since that year, the Twins have been ranked the 29th, 25th, 4th, 23rd, 23rd, 21st, 19th and 18th best bullpen respectively by fWAR each year from 2011 to now. That comes out to an average of ~20th each year that is propped up massively by the one year it was actually good. Meaning that the bullpen has been near the top of the to-do list during the offseason for quite some time now.

    This offseason was no different, while the bullpen was technically the best it had been since 2013, it was obvious that they needed to upgrade with some reliever additions if they wanted a chance to build a stable pen. And so we waited and waited this offseason as cheap, reliable veteran relievers were signed and so far the bullpen addition has been … Blake Parker.

    I’m being a bit unfair here because Parker had an incredible 2017 with the Angels and was still pretty good last year. There also appears to be internal help as Fernando Romero has also been moved to the pen along with possibly Martin Perez or Adalberto Mejia. Also internally, Trevor Hildenberger and Addison Reed present themselves as interesting bounce-back candidates but I really only trust the server of sliders to actually do so (imaginary sliders, not real ones, it does annoy me slightly that Hildy’s best pitch is actually the changeup but that’s neither here nor there).

    One interesting thing from the numbers I presented earlier was that 2013 bullpen, going from 25th the year before to fourth is quite the drastic jump. While I won’t be looking at that bullpen specifically as the target of this article, I will be looking at another similar bullpen example in the Padres. San Diego’s bullpen in 2017 was ranked 24th in ERA, 29th in FIP, and 29th in fWAR. In 2018, their bullpen was ranked sixth in ERA, second in FIP, and second in fWAR. These are all major improvements from only a one year difference. How did they do it? Well hop on in and I’ll break down how their personnel changed and what the major factors for these drastic turnarounds were.

    Let’s start with the Padres in 2017, here are the eight relievers who logged the most innings for the Padres out of the bullpen in 2017 ranked by total innings:


    These players made up the majority of the second-worst bullpen that year, and here’s how they lined up in 2018 with asterisks on the returning players:


    A few things here, this is now the second straight article I have made that references Robbie Erlin, I don’t know how to feel about that. Also, the Padres really blurred the line between starter and reliever so many of these guys logged innings in both roles which forced me to check how they got their innings for this article to be accurate which was a pain in the butt. Also, Jordan Lyles has a negative career rWAR, stop giving him jobs. And finally, who was the leader in rWAR for the Padres last year? That’s right, Hunter Renfroe apparently was, what an odd team.

    Anyways, let’s ignore my semi-coherent rambling thoughts and talk about the topic at hand, the 2018 Padres only saw four guys remain from the previous year along with 4 fresh faces who made major impacts on the 2018 team. Where did all of these guys come from? Well, let’s break that down also:

    Free Agency-Craig Stammen, Jordan Lyles
    Trade-Matt Strahm, Robbie Erlin
    Developed-Adam Cimber, Phil Maton
    Waiver claim-Brad Hand, Kirby Yates

    An awfully balanced way to build a pen, almost suspiciously balanced. Why is it suspicious? I don’t know, it just is.

    Even those free agent additions weren’t big name tickets, as mentioned before, Lyles holds a negative career rWAR and Stammen was consistent for years with the Nationals but had missed two whole years of major league time before latching on with the Padres in 2017. Strahm was a talented lefty with the Royals who came over when the Royals were actually buyers in 2017 (if you can believe that) while Erlin was in the Mike Adams trade many moons ago (y’all remember Mike Adams)?

    Maton and Cimber were never highly rated prospects in the consistently great Padres system but worked themselves up through the ranks before getting their major league chances in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Hand and Yates are interesting cases. Hand was a struggling starter for years with the Marlins before San Diego claimed him, made him a reliever, and turned him into Andrew Miller Lite. Yates bounced around a few teams and had decent peripherals in some small samples but when even the Rays don’t want an extra look at you, that’s usually a bad sign. But he added a splitter when he joined the Padres and then became death, the destroyer of worlds.

    All in all, this is an awfully long-winded way of saying that a team doesn’t need to make a big splash to have an elite bullpen. The Padres used wood, glue and duct tape to build one of the best bullpens in the game thanks to their pitching coach Darren Balsley and a front office that has an eye for talent and the patience to let that talent develop.

    The Twins will look to somewhat follow suit as they advance in 2019 hoping that players like Matt Magill, Fernando Romero and possibly an NRI or two can improve under the eyes of Wes Johnson and stick in the Twins pen to give them a similar boost that the Padres saw in 2018. Talent takes many shapes, sometimes it's hard to see how a player can become great, but oftentimes they’re just a few adjustments away from letting their skill shine. Along with improving internally, the Padres were also forward thinking on how they could get the most from their pitching staff as they utilized them more as “out-getters” rather than designating them specifically as starters or relievers.

    On the outside, it doesn't appear as if the Padres made any major moves to go from one of the worst bullpens in baseball to one of the best. And even after they traded Hand and Cimber to the Indians, they went on to have the highest bullpen fWAR in all of baseball in the second half! All they did was improve everyone by just a little bit and the effects were enormous, having a system of internal improvement will yield results that ripple throughout the entire team more than any single signing can. So, if Wes and the boys prove to be the difference makers they all seem to be, the Twins could easily follow in the footsteps of the Padres and have a great bullpen in 2019.

    Oh, and last year the Padres paid less for all of those eight guys than what Addison Reed alone made.

    • Mar 15 2019 11:14 AM
    • by Matt Braun
  17. Twins Have to Do Something About the Bullpen

    Here’s hoping anyone who ends up converting takes quickly to the role. They won’t exactly be joining the most experienced bullpen out there. Take a look at the 40-man roster, there’s an alarming lack of arms with prior MLB experience pitching out of the bullpen. Here’s the entire list of pitchers with 10 or more career relief appearances in the majors:

    Addison Reed (465 games in relief)
    Blake Parker (229)
    Taylor Rogers (198)
    Trevor Hildenberger (110)
    Trevor May (100)
    Tyler Duffey (74)
    Matt Magill (45)
    Gabriel Moya (36)

    Also, bullpen coach Jeremy Hefner is in his first season. As is pitching coach Wes Johnson. And manager Rocco Baldelli too.

    What could go wrong?

    I’m not saying this current bullpen is completely doomed, but the floor is very low. If guys like Reed and Hildy can bounce back, as John wrote about earlier today, and Romero can take to his new role, this could be a pretty strong unit. On the other hand, just imagine the impact a Taylor Rogers injury would have. You can’t expect everything to go your way.

    If there was ever a team where some Fernando Rodney or Zach Duke types made sense, this would be it. There was a time when giving some fresh faces looks in relief would have made sense, but that seems like a poor plan to open a season in which you hope to compete.

    The perfect opportunity for guys to get their feet wet would have been at the end of last season. Andrew Vasquez got in there for a whopping five innings, that was nice, but this was also a team that dumped 23 2/3 innings into Matt Belisle. But here we are, it is what it is.

    That lack of established relievers also means even the bullpen reinforcements appear to be guys who are going to have to adjust to a new role. Zack Littell, Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves or even Lewis Thorpe represent the next in line, but some of those guys will need to stay stretched out in order to serve as rotation depth. Of course, they can always make changes to the 40-man roster, but the guys next in line either have never pitched in the majors (Jake Reed, Ryan Eades) or haven’t been effective for some time (Tim Collins, Mike Morin).

    Just a quick note on the opener, I don’t think we see the Twins do much with it in 2019 unless things go very poorly. Even if it’s something they implement on a regular basis, you still need a lot of traditional relievers in your bullpen anyway.

    I take a look at the current construction of this pitching staff and see far from an ideal situation to expect a rookie coaching staff to successfully navigate. My original intention of this article was going to try to make sense of what the front office is thinking in terms of the bullpen, similar to the article I wrote about their additions to the lineup, but I can't do it. There’s no way we’re looking at the final picture. No way.

    I don’t have any inside information, this is all just a hunch, but I cannot imagine the Twins enter the regular season with the bullpen as it’s currently constructed. Among the top free agents still available (STILL!?!?!?) are Craig Kimbrel, Bud Norris, Ryan Madson, Adam Warren and Nick Vincent. Kimbrel is obviously the marquee name of that bunch, but I believe any one of those five guys could help serve as a stabilizing influence for this Twins pen.

    There are also always trades. The Twins have the prospects to give up, but I’m not sure if most non-contending teams would be motivated to make a move now or rather hold on until the trade deadline. I’ve been drooling over the idea of the Twins nabbing Mychal Givens from the hapless Orioles, though I’m not sure if there’d be any interest from either side.

    But the Twins will do something. I mean, they have to ... right?


    • Feb 20 2019 12:04 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  18. Hot Spring: 9 Twins Takes to Rev You Up for Baseball

    Some of these prognostications are positive, others are negative. Some represent my heartfelt beliefs, others are just plausible scenarios I wanted to put forth. The idea is to spark conversation and get your minds churning about the possibilities of this year's Twins team.

    Let's get to it.

    1: Byron Buxton will be an All-Star despite a sub-.250 average at the break.

    Contact issues and sub par plate discipline continue to suppress his batting average, but a fired-up Buxton comes back swinging and running harder than ever. His regular presence on defensive highlight reels, plus a gaudy SB total and double-digit homers by the break, help earn him his first (but not last) All-Star appearance.

    2: Miguel Sano will strike out 200 times.

    The only thing making this a hot take is Sano getting enough plate appearances to reach the mark. If he strikes out at his typical 36% rate, the slugger will need about 550 plate appearances to eclipse 200 Ks, a feat achieved only 13 times in MLB history. Up to this point Sano hasn't accrued even 500 PAs for the Twins in a season, but I think his offseason commitment pays off and keeps him on the field, where his profile as an all-or-nothing hitter becomes more pronounced.

    3: Fernando Romero will end the year with an iron grip on the closer role.

    He won't be awarded the gig from the start, as his manager leans toward more experienced options out of camp, but Romero's ferocious stuff and demeanor out of the bullpen help him quickly emerge in the late innings. After a few others scuffle in the ninth, Romero gets his shot and develops a rep as a lights-out bulldog.

    4: Lewis Thorpe will make 10-plus starts (or "primaries") for the Twins.

    Shifting Romero and Adalberto Mejia to the bullpen leaves the Twins short on rotation depth. That leads to guys like Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves and Zack Littell getting overexposed, but Thorpe is the one who keeps earning more chances, in large part because he comes in and pounds the zone.

    5: Jake Cave will endure a nightmarish sophomore slump.

    I think Cave has a nice career ahead of him, but he looks like the classic regression candidate coming off an outstanding rookie campaign. His performance was propped up by a .363 BABIP, and nearly one out of four fly balls clearing the fence. In 2019, pitchers adjust and Cave's contact problems (33% K-rate in 2018) come to a head. He spends more time in Rochester than Minnesota. But as a silver lining, this creates opportunity for LaMonte Wade or Michael Reed.

    6: Rocco Baldelli will be a top three finisher for AL Manager of the Year.

    In his first year at the helm, Baldelli sees the Twins add several wins, contending with Cleveland in the division up until the very end. The team's improved morale and looser play under the first-year skipper creates plenty of buzz, while his sharpness and engaging manner endear him to the ball writers that vote on MOTY.

    7: The soft underbelly of the bullpen will be a crippling weakness early on.

    Although the unit's back-end proves strong with a high-powered trio of Romero, Trevor May and Taylor Rogers, the rest of the relief corps struggles routinely. Injuries and lingering performance issues lead to turmoil in the middle innings for much of the first half.

    8: The Twins will acquire two significant arms during the course of the season.

    Despite the bullpen stumbles, Minnesota hangs around .500 for the first few months, keeping pace with a slow-starting Cleveland team in the Central. Having preserved trade capital and financial flexibility during a quiet offseason, the front office strikes aggressively to acquire a big-name reliever well ahead of the deadline. Then, in late July, they acquire a high-caliber starter with multiple years of control.

    9: Alex Kirilloff will debut for the Twins in September.

    He spends most of his summer tearing it up in Double-A, and in the final month, Kirilloff joins the Twins – not just for the experience, a la Max Kepler in 2015, but to help out. The 21-year-old appears frequently throughout the final month as the Twins push fiercely to overcome the Indians but ultimately come up a bit short.


    There you have it. If you feel like I've spoiled any surprises for the coming season, take heart in knowing that my predictions are pretty much always wrong. Though I'd bet good money that several of these things do in fact happen.

    To close out, I'll leave you with some of my favorite fan-submitted takes from Twitter. Chime in with your own in the comments section!

    • Feb 14 2019 10:01 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  19. Starter Or Reliever, That Is The Romero Question

    Why do the Twins need to make a determination on Fernando Romero so quickly? We’ll get to that, but first, let’s take a look at his background, why he should remain a starter, and why the bullpen could be an option for him as well.

    Regardless, it will be interesting to see what Derek Falvey, Thad Levine, Rocco Baldelli, Wes Johnson and Jeremy Heffner end up doing with Fernando Romero and the pitching staff in 2010.


    Fernando Romero burst on the prospect scene way back in 2013 when he debuted stateside with the GCL Twins. Over 45 innings, Romero posted a 1.60 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP, and struck out 47 batters while walking just 13. In 2014, he was quickly promoted to Cedar Rapids. However, after just three starts he was shut down and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. He missed the rest of 2014 and all of 2015. His return was slowed by a knee injury in 2015.

    Early in 2016, Romero returned and went to the Kernels. However, he made just five starts and went 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA. In 28 innings, he walked just five and struck out 25 batters. He moved up to Ft. Myers and continued to pitch well. In 11 starts, he went 5-2 with a 1.88 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. Over 62 1/3 innings, he walked 10 and struck out 65 batters.

    With the strong showing and his prospect status, it was an easy decision to add him to the 40-man roster in November of 2016. Twins Daily named him the #1 Twins Prospect heading into the 2017 season.

    In 2017, Romero spent the season at Double-A Chattanooga. He pitched 125 innings over 24 games (23 starts). He went 11-9 with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. He walked 45 and struck out 120. Prior to the 2018 season, he was ranked by Twins Daily as the #2 Twins Prospect. (It took having the #1 overall draft pick to move Romero down to #2.)

    For the second straight year, Romero began the season by impressing the Twins coaching staff and front office with a strong spring training. He began the season in Rochester. On May 2nd, Romero was called up to make his major league debut. He tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Toronto Blue Jays to earn his first win. His next outing was in St. Louis and he threw six shutout frames to improve to 2-0. After making ten starts, he was optioned to Rochester and made just one start for the Twins the rest of the season (mid-July). Overall with the Twins, he went 3-3 with a 4.69 ERA, a 1.42 WHIP. At Rochester, he went 5-6 with a 3.57 ERA but a 1.29 WHIP. Combined, he worked 146 1/3 innings.


    So why should the Twins continue to give him an opportunity to start? There are several reasons. First, he had a pretty good showing early in his big-league career as a starter. In his first five starts, he went 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA. In 28 2/3 innings, he struck out 29 batters.

    Not only did he put up solid numbers, he showed really good stuff. His fastball sat between 92 and 95 mph and touched 96 and even 97 at times, and he maintained that through the first five innings. He did show a good breaking ball early, something that those who watched his Triple-A didn’t see consistently. He also showed a solid changeup most of the time. He spent the full season at age 23. One thought would be to continue the development as a starter, hoping that he could find more consistency with his breaking pitches and changeup.

    Despite missing two years, Romero was able to reach 146 1/3 innings in 2018. Ideally, with a 20% increase, he could jump up to 175 innings, a real solid number for a mid-to-late, young starting pitcher.

    Over Romero’s final six starts with the team, he went 1-2 with a 7.67 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP in 27 innings.


    2019 is a crucial season for this decision to be made thanks to the rules of the Rule 5 draft. The Twins had to add Romero to their 40-man roster in November of 2016, so he used up option years in 2017 and 2018. If optioned in 2019, he would be out of options starting in 2020.

    At Twins Fest, Derek Falvey would not commit to Romero being moved to the bullpen, even after the addition of Martin Perez. “I wouldn’t say that’s a definite at this point, but I would say that he is definitely an option (for the bullpen).”

    There are several factors that go into this kind of decision, but the eye test tells people that Romero could be a force in the bullpen. And that’s something that Falvey acknowledged as well. “Fernando is someone who you watch the first few innings and you think, ‘that could be pretty special out of the bullpen.’ That’s something we’ve always talked about.”

    There are varying opinions on what is best for pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery, so that’s another factor according to the Twins Chief Baseball Officer. “It’s a balance. You want to think about what’s best for his health. What’s best for his long-term? He is somebody who has history with Tommy John surgery. Is there some benefit to him working out of the bullpen?”

    That’s part of it, but Falvey continued with the other part of the balance. “Certainly developing third pitch and getting some more variation to his repertoire is important if he is going to continue being a starter.”

    Don’t forget, as so many Twins fans recall, the Johan Santana spent a couple of seasons in the Twins bullpen, used in a variety of roles, before joining the starting rotation in 2004 (his first Cy Young season).

    There is a lot of truth to the old saying that most of the best relief pitchers in baseball were starters early in their career. A look at some of the top relievers in Twins history certainly shows that. Joe Nathan, Rick Aguilera, Eddie Guardado and Glen Perkins were all starting pitchers early in their careers. Even top relievers such as JC Romero, Juan Rincon, LaTroy Hawkins and others made starts early in their big league years.


    I think most would agree that Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda are at least penciled into the Opening Day starting rotation. They may not need a fifth starter for a little while either, but at some point, they will need one. Martin Perez will most likely be on the Opening Day roster and is the favorite for the fifth starter spot as we speak. But there are several candidates for that spot. Some will certainly head to Rochester to start the season, but the bullpen just might be an opportunity for some of the pitchers as well.

    As the Twins CBO, Falvey needs to think about the big picture to the 2019 season and beyond. He needs to factor in a lot of things such as contracts, options, injuries and more. He notes, “We don’t know exactly what our team will look like on Opening Day. The reality is we’ll have injuries - hopefully less than last year - but we’ll have injuries. We’ll have struggles. We’re going to have to find ways to get those guys to step up. I think about someone like Stephen Gonsalves, or Kohl Stewart, or Fernando Romero, or Zack Littell, or Adalberto Mejia. All those guys will compete to be potential starting options for us, but if we stay healthy, maybe there’s an opportunity for those guys in the ‘pen.”


    What will happen? How do you foresee this situation playing out. Consider what might happen as well if there is an injury. Who would you think would be the next in line?

    Specifically, what would you do with Fernando Romero? Clearly he’s got good fastball velocity and the potential to have three good pitches. We likely all agree that getting 175 innings out of a pitcher is probably more valuable than getting 60 to 70 innings from a reliever. Obviously Adalberto Mejia being out of options factors into decisions on him. Does Romero having just one option remaining force their hand and push a decision more quickly? Should it? What other factors would be instrumental in your decision?

    • Feb 11 2019 06:54 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  20. Fernando Romero and Designing A Slider From Hell

    The Twins acknowledged that Romero is currently a two-pitch pitcher. Technically, he has three types of fastballs (but two movement patterns), a promising slider, and a developing change-up but, functionally, he has a fastball and a slider. Because of this, the front office believes he is better served coming out of the bullpen (or at least in a role that limits his times through the order).

    Foundationally, Romero’s fastballs are solid for any pitching role. The mid-90s-plus 4-seam fastball can be elevated while his 2-seam and 1-seam fastballs burrow down-and-in to right-handed hitters. From a pitch sequencing standpoint, this is something to build upon.

    In the most basic sense, depending on the shape of a pitcher’s breaking pitch, when you have an elevated fastball, it would be best to have a curveball that can tunnel with it before descending out of the path. Likewise, if you have a running sinker, you would like to pair it more with a slider running the other direction, similar to how Kyle Gibson tunnels his. Ideally, a pitcher would have a variety of pitches moving in different directions to keep hitters defending the entire zone but a pair of complementary pitches can carve opponents up. After all, Glen Perkins had an impressive run as the Twins’ closer with a two-pitch repertoire.

    So what is the shape of Romero’s slider? The greasy techie data says that it is one that has 8.2 inches of break length from release to the plate, which is average from a right-handed pitcher, and a below average break angle of -2.9. The break angle essentially means which direction and how much the pitch is running. A break angle of 0 means the pitch follows a straight path from the release point to the target with no movement in any direction. If the break angle is positive, it means it is moving toward a right-handed hitter. Negative, toward a lefty. Romero’s -2.9 break angle means it has some movement toward left-handed hitters while the average right-hander’s slider has a break angle of -8.1.

    (To give a better picture of what break angle means, you can compare Fernando Romero’s -2.9 break angle slider with the new Yankee Adam Ottavino’s frisbee slider with a -21.5 break angle slider who is on the opposite end of the slider movement spectrum.)

    So that is the essence of his best secondary pitch. It’s thrown fairly hard (the average slider is thrown at 84 mph and his clocks in at 87), moves slightly away from right-handed hitters, and has about league-average break.

    Before coming to the big club, Paul Molitor described Romero’s slider as “inconsistent”, which is exactly how it played for the Twins. On occasion, Romero would spin a nasty hoochie woochie but on others, it would back up and sit on a platter for a lucky batter.

    While Romero’s 36 percent miss rate on the slider is above average (and actually higher than that of the oft-celebrated Ottavino), opponents posted a .723 OPS and an 88 mph exit velocity (higher than the MLB slider average of 85.8 mph) off of it. It is a small sampling, to be sure, but one can look at these numbers as an affirmation of what Molitor suggested.

    One reason for the middling production was simply location. If you divided the zone in half across the middle, separating upper and lower quadrants, his slider landed in the upper quadrant 40.1 percent of the time (significantly higher than the 25 percent league average). The good news is that hitters did not completely decimate sliders left up - but they didn’t swing through them either (just a 5% swinging strike rate up compared to a 25% one when he kept it down).

    [attachment=12216:fernando romero.png]

    The location cost him some strikeouts, leaving the ball spinning up in two-strike counts where an otherwise well-executed slider would have been a kill shot.

    [attachment=12217:trumedia_baseball_heatmap (7).png]

    In terms of sequencing, Romero’s slider has actually played well off of the 4-seam fastball, enticing a miss rate of 40 percent and a 39 percent chase rate out of the zone in a fastball-slider pairing. On the other hand, opponents may be able to tell the difference between his slider and sinker as they have a 33 percent miss rate and just a 15 percent chase rate on his slider after being set up by his sinker. If Romero does nothing to tweak his slider heading into the 2019 season, at the very least he should be pairing it more frequently off his fastball.

    Here is where the new-look, data savvy, tech-reliant Twins organization might be able to optimize Fernando Romero’s stuff.

    It would seem that Romero is a prime candidate to receive the pitch design treatment — a retooling of his pitches guided by Rapsodo technology and high-speed Edgertronic cameras. Championed by Driveline Baseball, the baseball training company has found some best practices that can identify issues and improve a pitch’s performance based on certain modifications. Before pitch design technology became available, the previous best method to improve this was to have a pitching coach observe bullpens, giving the pitcher cues and provide affirmation when the ball seems to react differently. Then they hope that a player carries whatever feel they had during the pen into the game. Between the diagnostic process and communicating what the problem and solution might be, there could be a long trial-and-error period. Now, however, armed with the new tools, a pitcher and the player development team can isolate the issue, diagnose it and set forth a plan to correct it.

    The first issue for Romero is consistency, which seems to track back to the moment the pitch leaves his hand. When he releases the slider, it may be that he is letting go too early or with different hand tilts. As researchers at Driveline have demonstrated, even the smallest minutiae such as fingertip contact points can wildly change the spin and flight path.

    Admittedly, without the high-speed cameras, it is difficult to properly diagnose the issue but from the limited slow-motion release clips, we can see where Romero’s slider needs work. Here is an example of how the slider comes out of Romero’s hand.

    Posted Image

    Romero’s thumb is tucked and his fingers are wrapped around the bottom of the baseball. At this juncture, the thumb is making very minimal contact while his index and middle fingertips are applying pressure. Then he snaps across. On average, he imparts 2,431 rpm worth of spin on his slider, which is about the league average spin rate for right-handed sliders (2,413).

    Now compare that to Justin Verlander’s slider grip and release (image courtesy of Pitching Ninja) -- the one that Verlander reportedly improved upon while using the Astros’ bevy of Edgertronic cameras to isolate his release point.

    Posted Image

    Notice how his fingers wrap the side with more contact points on his fingers. His release motion also comes down diagonally through the ball. The results were two more inches of run than Romero’s slider as well as 200 more rpms of spin (2,684 average). The added rpms is important because each increase of 100 or more translates into more swing and misses.

    Of course, not everyone has the same release or arm path. Verlander’s 6-5 frame and over-the-top delivery might preclude Romero from copying his style. Romero’s slider release almost mimics that of Marcus Stroman, whose pitch was the basis for Trevor Bauer’s recent slider rebuild (which is now superb). This may be a template for Romero to unleash hell on an improved pitch.

    Posted Image

    Like Verlander’s, Stroman’s slider grip is held deeper in the hand, which can account for more spin. Stroman’s release has his hand placement similar to Romero’s (underneath rather than like Verlander’s wrapping the side) but unlike Romero’s, Stroman has more contact with the baseball, most noticeably with his thumb (Stroman’s is flush whereas Romero’s makes contact on the side of his). The action differs slightly too as Romero pulls across while Stroman’s hand pulls down.

    To be fair, Romero’s slider numbers actually outperformed Stroman’s in 2018, with a higher swinging strike percentage, but Stroman’s numbers took a step back on the pitch this last season where he had previously had a swinging strike rate of 21 percent and a chase rate of 41 percent (with 17 and 33 being league average on the pitch). That said, Stroman’s metrics exceed those of Romero, with a 12-inch break and a 2,654 rpm spin rate. If Romero can emulate this pitch consistently, it will give him a significantly improved weapon and be a cornerstone swing-and-miss pitch vital for late innings relief.

    At the very least, tweaking his slider to give it more consistent depth and tilt could help create a monster in the bullpen. What’s more, if he reinvents his slider and maintains the more cutter-ish version, he might have the necessary three-pitch mix to be a force in the rotation.

    The Twins have built a player development infrastructure -- both the best tech and the best minds — to address this very issue. Now we will get to see it in action.

    Exciting times.

    • Feb 01 2019 09:51 AM
    • by Parker Hageman
  21. The Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2019: Part 3 (6-10)

    10. Taylor Rogers, LHP (28)
    2018 Ranking: 15

    In 2017, it looked like Rogers might be starting to emerge as one of the better relief pitchers in all of baseball. In 2018, he hammered that distinction home. While logging career highs in innings (68.1) and appearances (72), the southpaw posted numbers that rivaled some of the game's best, ranking 11th among MLB relievers in WAR (1.9), ninth in FIP (2.33) and 10th in WHIP (0.95).

    Thanks in part to a curveball that rates statistically as one of the best in the majors, Rogers has become a shutdown force, leaving behind his prior billing as a lefty matchup specialist. The unheralded bullpen hero has quietly developed into one of baseball's most valuable relievers, and the Twins control him for another three years.

    9. Max Kepler, OF (26)
    2018 Ranking: 7

    Kepler has been the subject of exhaustive discussion this offseason, here and elsewhere. He's an interesting specimen, in that he has gone through various phases as a hitter but his production has perpetually stayed in the same average-ish range. He's an exceptional defender in right field, and seemingly a solid one in center, which is helpful for the Twins given Byron Buxton's durability issues.

    The athleticism, commitment and tools are there. He's shown a reasonably high floor, turns 26 in February, and is still under team control for four more years. These things have value, and will lead to solid offers if the Twins are indeed shopping him this winter. But if Kepler continues to stagnate offensively, the fleeting intrigue further diminishes.

    8. Eddie Rosario, OF (27)
    2018 Ranking: 5

    Although he had huge moments and earned our team MVP honors this year, Rosario was actually a tick worse offensively in 2018 than 2017. His defense improved, making him a more valuable all-around player by most measures, but the outfielder has sorta settled into his norm as a very good – but not great – hitter who has stretches of total dominance (as well as an electric playmaker).

    Reaching arbitration for the first time this offseason with some strong numbers to build his case, Rosario's window of ultra-low cost is reaching its end, but he's still controlled for three more years. It's not unthinkable he finds another gear, but if this is who Eddie is, he's a good one to have around.

    7. Jorge Polanco, SS (25)
    2018 Ranking: 6

    In late March it was announced that Polanco tested positive for a PEDs, resulting in an 80-game suspension. It was an unfortunate turn of events but he took care of his business, showed up ready to roll in July, and put up rock-solid numbers the rest of the way (.288/.345/.427 in 77 games).

    Polanco didn't accrue service time during his ban so the Twins still control him through 2022, his age-28 season. His impressive showing on offense this year was offset somewhat by defensive regression, casting further doubt on his future at shortstop, but he remains usable there. And regardless, a switch-hitting middle infielder who's a reliable source of above-average offense is gonna be plenty valuable.

    6. Fernando Romero, RHP (24)
    2018 Ranking: 12

    A year ago, the highly talented Romero was docked in these rankings by one sole factor: durability. In 2017 he wore down in mid-August, hitting the wall shortly after surpassing 100 innings. His lengthy history of injuries cast some doubt on the flamethrower's ability to hold up.

    This year, he logged 146 innings between Triple-A and the majors, pitching into September for the first time ever. He debuted in the majors at age 23 and showed flashes of dominance, catching the league's attention with his upper-90s heat and 0.54 ERA through three MLB starts. I wouldn't say he totally erased the durability concerns, as he still seemed to lose steam over the course of the summer, but Romero took an important step forward. His powerful arm is destined to play a major role in 2019 and beyond.


    20. Nick Gordon, SS
    19. C.J. Cron, 1B
    18. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
    17. Jake Cave, OF
    16. Wander Javier, SS
    15. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
    14. Miguel Sano, 3B
    13. Kyle Gibson, RHP
    12. Trevor May, RHP
    11. Mitch Garver, C
    10. Taylor Rogers, LHP
    9. Max Kepler, OF
    8. Eddie Rosario, OF
    7. Jorge Polanco, SS
    6. Fernando Romero, RHP

    • Jan 01 2019 08:10 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  22. Rundown: Twins Pursuit of Pitching

    Clay Buchholz had a nice 2.01 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 3.68 K:BB ratio for the Diamondbacks last year. That's pretty awesome, right? This issue is he pitched just 98 1/3 innings in 2018. In fact, Buchholz only logged 7 1/3 innings the prior year, 139 1/3 in 2016 and 113 1/3 in 2015. So this is not a guy you’d want to bank on for innings.

    Still, Buchholz has a 3.69 ERA and 3.86 FIP over the previous four seasons. That puts him 36th in ERA among the 137 pitchers who've thrown 350 innings over the past four years, right between Ervin Santana (3.68 ERA) and Lance Lynn (3.70 ERA). In that same sample, Buchholz has the lowest HR:FB ratio (9.2%) of any pitcher.

    Buchholz missed nearly all of the 2017 season due to a partial tear of his right flexor in his forearm. Arizona was forced to shut him down in mid September this year due to a strained flexor, so that's a pretty big red flag for the 34-year-old. I would certainly prefer Drew Pomeranz, who only is 30, left-handed and has been more durable, but Buchholz is another interesting buy-low, bounce back option if the Twins are inclined to go that route.

    Betsy Helfand of the Pioneer Press reported that the Twins planned on being creative with their pitching staff again in 2019. Derek Falvey is quoted in the piece as saying “I think we are seeing across baseball a clear trend toward utilizing guys in a different way out of a bullpen. Some are clearly backend guys, some are short-stint types and there is this multi-inning role, whatever you call it. That could be really valuable to us.”

    Also included in that piece is some more steam on Fernando Romero potentially joining the bullpen. Romero had a respectable Major League debut last season, pitching to a 4.69 ERA in 55 2/3 innings with the Twins, but he did get knocked around a little. He averaged 9.7 H/9 and his WHIP was 1.42. Romero made his final nine appearances of the season with Rochester, posting a 4.76 ERA with an uncharacteristically low 6.0 K/9 rate over that span.

    It’s fair to note that along with his MLB debut, Romero also made his Triple-A debut in 2018, so something of an adjustment period was probably to be expected. Hitters at those levels make a pitcher work much harder. They don’t chase bad pitches like hitters in the lower levels. Romero’s never been much of an innings eater over his career, so that could also factor in when considering his future role.

    In his Winter Meetings wrap-up, MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park noted that the Twins are still in search of pitching. Included in that piece is this quote from Thad Levine: "We're trying to make sound business decisions, and there's a lot of supply out there. There's a lot of players on the marketplace still. So we've got a lot of options we can continue to pursue."

    Craig Edwards of FanGraphs observed that last year’s reliever market seems to have carried over. Jeurys Familia signed with the Mets for three years and $30 million while the Dodgers signed Joe Kelly to a three-year, $25 million deal. As Edwards notes, that continues the trend of relievers fetching multi-year deals between $7 and $10 million per season.

    The Twins waited out the market last year, landing Addison Reed on a two-year deal worth $16.5 million on Jan. 15. Reed had a mysterious dip in velocity that coincided by a streak of poor performances, but I’m not so sure there’s any lessons to be learned from that signing. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have extended multiple two-year offers to relievers and are just waiting for those guys to come down from seeking a third year.

    Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic asked “where are the Twins?” in a recent column for The Athletic. He doesn’t offer up an answer to that question, but Rosenthal did call the Twins “a team to watch in the days and weeks ahead.”

    Unlike the Twins, Cleveland was active at the Winter Meetings. But were they buyers or sellers? It’s kinda hard to say. The Indians traded Yonder Alonso to the White Sox for minor league pitcher Alex Call and then were involved in a complicated three-way trade with the Rays and (who else?) Mariners. Cleveland gave up Edwin Encarnacion, Yandy Diaz and Cole Sulser to acquire Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers. There was also a lot of chatter around possible Cory Kluber and Trevor Bauer trades, but those two are still with the Indians, at least for now.

    Speaking of the White Sox, they're meeting with Manny Machado today, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. They may have gained an advantage in acquiring Alonso from Cleveland. He's Machado's brother-in-law

    File this one under better late than never: A commemorative home plate has been installed at U.S. Bank Stadium in celebration of the Twins’ glory days at the Metrodome. It’s located approximately where the dish was in the old dome, which is great because that also means it’s on the main concourse of the new stadium, accessible to all fans.

    Will Leitch took a look at every team’s current, active franchise icon for MLB.com. The Twins? Jose Berrios. Man, that seems weird.

    • Dec 17 2018 01:04 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  23. Twins Daily 2018 Awards: Rookie of the Year

    Garver won the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2017 and the Twins organization also honored him with the same award. He has been a hitter throughout his time in the minor leagues and his game calling ability has continued to improve. Jason Castro’s injury allowed him to take on a more regular role as the team’s backstop.

    “It was a different role than I thought it was going to be, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Garver said. “Big growing experience, learning experience. From where I was last year to where I am now is a world of difference as far as confidence, understand(ing) the game and the speed of this level and that feeling of belonging.”

    In April, Garver got the season started off on the right foot. He batted .281/.324/.531 with four extra-base hits through his first 12 games. May was his worst month as he struggled to a .544 OPS with more strikeouts (15) than hits (12). From there, something clicked and Garver became on the team’s most consistent hitters.

    After hitting .249/.332/.367 in the first half, Garver improved in every category in the second half. He hit .295/.343/.481 with 32 RBI and 16 extra-base hits in the second half. Among Twins players, only Jorge Polanco had more RBI in the second half. Garver was also able to put up these numbers while catching the most games on the team.

    Garver’s second half wasn’t just one of the best on the Twins. It was very comparable to other MLB catchers. His RBI total ranks his third in baseball behind Salvador Perez and Yadier Molina. His slugging percentage also ranks him third behind Perez and Yasmani Grandal. His weighted runs created (wRC+) was also third among catchers as he trailed Grandal and Omar Narvaez.

    One of the biggest changes for Garver was the mentalityy that he belongs at the big-league level. “It’s not really physical, it’s just knowing you can play at this level. That’s the biggest thing,” he said. “From where I was last year -which I knew I could play at this level but I had to see myself do it - that’s the biggest difference.”

    Even as a right-handed batter, he did most of his damage against right-handed pitching. His OPS was 183 points higher against righties and he got on base over 35% of the time. His strikeout to walk ratio looked better against lefties since he faced them in fewer at-bats. In 107 plate appearances, he posted an 18 to 10 strikeout to walk ratio versus southpaws.

    When former Twins manager Paul Molitor was asked to evaluate Garver’s rookie season, he said he saw plenty of positive signs this year but there are also areas where Garver continues to improve.

    “It’s a positive, and really a pretty easy positive,” Molitor said. “We monitor the catching progress day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, and we’ve seen areas that numbers are showing up in a better way. I think that he knows that he has to get better in some capacities involving everything from pitching calling to framing and all those things.”

    “Offensively, I thought he was he was a little tentative early in the year,” Molitor added. “As his aggressiveness came, situational, finding out there’s a lot of hits over there in right field with his swing. Production, he was sitting in the low-teens in RBIs for a long time as I can recall. He’s had a nice spurt here where he started finding a way to not only get hits, but meaningful hits. I think that’s helped him and where his future might go and the role he’ll play moving forward. With Jason coming back, we’re going to have to evaluate where we’re at and see how that combination potentially works together.”

    Congrats to the Twins Daily Rookie of the Year, Mitch “Garv Sauce” Garver!

    Jake Cave only played in 90 games for the Twins and still finished eighth on the team in bWAR. He was outstanding in the month of July as he hit .314/.338/.500 with nine extra-base hits in 70 at-bats. Over the season’s final two months, he had 19 extra-base hits including nine home runs. He’s done all of this while getting on base almost 32% of the time.

    Fernando Romero made his much anticipated debut in 2018 and there were flashes of the kind of pitcher the organization hopes he can be. He made 11 starts for the club from May-July but he would reach his innings limit with the Red Wings and wasn’t called up for September. In his second start, he shut out the Cardinals over six innings and added nine strikeouts. His longest start came in Seattle when he pitched seven innings. He allowed two runs on five hits and struck out seven.

    The Ballots
    Here’s a look at the ballots from our seven voters.

    Nick Nelson: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jake Cave, 3) Fernando Romero
    Seth Stohs: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jake Cave, 3) Fernando Romero
    John Bonnes: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jake Cave, 3) Fernando Romero
    Tom Froemming: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jake Cave, 3) Fernando Romero
    Cody Christie: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jake Cave, 3) Fernando Romero
    Steve Lein: 1) Jake Cave, 2) Mitch Garver, 3) Fernando Romero
    Ted Schwerzler: 1) Jake Cave, 2) Mitch Garver, 3) Fernando Romero

    Mitch Garver: 19
    Jake Cave: 16
    Fernando Romero: 7

    How would your ballot look? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    Previous Twins Daily Rookie Winners
    2015: Miguel Sano
    2016: Max Kepler
    2017: Trevor Hildenberger

    • Oct 02 2018 07:14 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  24. Twins Minor League Report (8/27): Kernels Clinch Another Playoff Berth

    Keep reading to find out more on the night in the Twins minor league system on Mondays, please feel free to discuss and ask questions.


    • RHP Omar Bencomo was activated from the Lookouts DL. Clark Beeker was returned to the Miracle.
    Rochester 3, Syracuse 6
    Box Score

    When Fernando Romero left the mound with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Red Wings held a 3-1 lead. Ryne Harper came on and allowed both inherited runners to score. Harper went another two innings after getting the third out of the sixth inning.He gave up five hits, walked one and struck out four in his 2 1/3 innings. Romero ended up giving up three runs on eight hits over his 5 2/3 innings. He struck out six without issuing a walk.

    Byron Buxton had a single and his ninth double in the game. He was the lone Red Wings batter with more than one hit. Johnny Field, Kennys Vargas and Juan Graterol each added a double.

    Chattanooga 4, Jacksonville 1
    Box Score

    Casey Crosby was the team’s “opener” on Monday. The left-hander gave up two hits and walked two over two shutout innings. He struck out three. Omar Bencomo went the next five innings to win for the eighth time this season. He gave up five hits without allowing a run. He walked none and struck out four. Devin Smeltzer pitched a scoreless eighth inning. He was charged with a run in the ninth inning and recorded one out. Cody Stashak got the final two outs to record his fourth save.

    Andy Wilkins had another strong game. He went 1-for-2 with two walks and his 10th home run. Brent Rooker drove in a run with his 32nd double. Jimmy Kerrigan’s sixth double drove in a run as well.

    Ft. Myers 3, Bradenton 2
    Box Score

    Brusdar Graterol turned 20 years old on Sunday. On Monday, he made his first start as an non-teenager. He threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings. He gave up four hits, walked on and struck out six. Colton Davis came on and struck out three over the next 2 1/3 innings. He gave up no runs on no hits and no walks. He did hit one batter. Kevin Marnon recorded the save despite giving up two runs on three hits in the ninth inning for the save.

    Alex Kirilloff led the offense. He went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. He had RBI singles in his final two at-bats. Caleb Hamilton’s 18th double drove in the team’s first run. Aaron Whitefield was back in the leadoff spot and responded by going 2-for-4 with his sixth double.

    Royce Lewis was moved to the #3 spot in the lineup for this game. He went 0-4 and is now 5-for-48 (.104) in his last 12 games. Just a reminder, slumps can happen to anyone.

    Cedar Rapids 5, Kane County 1
    Box Score

    The Cedar Rapids Kernels will head to the Midwest League playoffs for the sixth straight season (also their sixth straight season as a Twins affiliate).

    Randy Dobnak has been a key starter for the Kernels throughout the season. With seven innings of one-run ball on Monday night, he earned his tenth win of the year. He gave up three hits, walked two and struck out four. Jared Finkel worked the final two innings without allowing a run. He gave up one hit, walked two, hit one and struck one out.

    Michael Davis continued his impressive professional debut. On this night, the shortstop went 2-for-3 with his eighth home run and three runs driven in. In 36 games with the Kernels (he played three games for Elizabethton), the 24th round pick from Texas Tech has nine doubles and eight home runs. He is now hitting .292 as well.

    Victor Tademo, making his Midwest League debut, hit his first home run of the season. He had spent the majority of this season in extended spring training and in the GCL (though he also played a few games with the Miracle).

    Elizabethton 6, Pulaski 2
    Box Score

    The E-Twins are approaching the playoffs and got a strong all-around game on Monday night. Luis Rijo started and went just two innings, but he was perfect and struck out four. Brian Rapp worked the next three innings. He gave up two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out three. Blair Lakso struck out four, and walked two, over three no-hit innings. Tanner Howell worked a scoreless ninth inning, striking out one.

    Jean Carlos Arias led the offense. He went 2-for-4 with a walk, his third triple, and his third stolen base. Jared Akins had two hits in three at bats. Trevor Casanova knocked his 14th double, and he had a walk. Ricky De La Torre doubled for the 10th time.


    The GCL Twins season came to an end on Saturday. They finished with a 32-24 record which was 1 1/2 games behind the GCL South Division champion GCL Red Sox.

    Twins Daily Hitter of the Day: Michael Davis, Cedar Rapids Kernels (2-3, HR(8), 3 RBI).
    Twins Daily Pitcher of the Day: Brusdar Graterol, Ft. Myers Miracle (5.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 IBB, 6 K)

    Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Midseason Top 20 Twins Prospects performed.
    #1 - Royce Lewis (Ft. Myers) - 0-4, K
    #2 - Alex Kirilloff (Ft. Myers) - 3-4, 2 RBI
    #3 - Brusdar Graterol (Ft. Myers) - 5.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K (88 pitches, 59 strikes)
    #4 - Nick Gordon (Rochester) - 1-4, K
    #5 - Stephen Gonsalves (Minnesota) - No game scheduled
    #6 - Trevor Larnach (Cedar Rapids) - 0-4
    #7 - Brent Rooker (Chattanooga) - 1-4, 2B(32), RBI, R, K
    #8 - Akil Baddoo (Cedar Rapids) - 0-4, K
    #9 -Wander Javier - out of for the season
    #10 - Zack Littell (Rochester) - Did not pitch
    #11 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) - Did not pitch
    #12 - LaMonte Wade (Rochester) - 1-4, R, RBI
    #13 - Travis Blankenhorn (Ft. Myers) - 0-3
    #14 - Lewis Thorpe (Rochester) - Did not pitch
    #15 - Ben Rortvedt (Ft. Myers) - Did not play
    #16 - Yunior Severino (Elizabethton) - Did not play
    #17 - Lewin Diaz (Ft. Myers) - Out for the season (wrist)
    #18 - Ryan Jeffers (Cedar Rapids) - 1-4
    #19 - Jacob Pearson (Cedar Rapids) - 1-2, BB, R, RBI, K
    #20 - Luis Arraez (Chattanooga) - Did not play
    #21 - Jose Miranda (Ft. Myers) - 0-4
    *Since Wander Javier is out, I’d add #21 to the list.

    Buffalo @ Rochester (DH 4:05 CST) - RHP Zack Littell (5-6, 3.42 ERA), TBD
    Jacksonville @ Chattanooga (6:15 CST) - RHP Sean Poppen (5-6, 3.44 ERA)
    Bradenton @ Ft. Myers (5:30 CST) - RHP Andro Cutura (4-6, 3.88 ERA)
    Cedar Rapids - No game scheduled
    Pulaski @ Elizabethton (6:00 CST) - TBD
    GCL Twins - Season Completed

    Please feel free to ask any questions about Monday’s games, or ask any questions you may have.

    • Aug 27 2018 09:30 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  25. September Piggyback Ride

    Last week one day, I was trying to think of the best way for the Twins to use the starting pitchers on their 40-man roster. (I mean, who doesn't sit around thinking about such things?)

    First, I think that as long as they are healthy, the Twins should continue with business as normal for Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson. They have been reliable the majority of their 2018 seasons and should both reach 200 innings pitched this year.

    But that leaves three more rotation spots to fill. Jake Odorizzi will continue to pitch and the fact that they haven't traded him tells me that the front office must see him as a part of their 2019 plans.

    Right now, the other two rotation spots have been given to (or earned by) Kohl Stewart and Stephen Gonsalves, their first and fourth round picks, respectively, in the 2013 draft.

    But as September approaches and rosters can expand, there are other starting pitchers that I'm sure the Twins front office and coaching staff would like to get their eyes on. Guys that they would like to see work some big league innings as they will potentially play a bigger role in 2019.

    Fernando Romero made ten starts for the Twins earlier in the season, and he is likely to finish the season with the big league club. Zack Littell made one start and one relief appearance earlier in the season and is another candidate to get some innings.

    The forgotten name through much of the season is Michael Pineda. Coming off of midseason 2017 Tommy John surgery, the Twins signed the former All-Star to a two-year, $10 million deal. He is being paid $2 million this year to rehab and will make $8 million next year. After making two rehab starts in Ft. Myers, Pineda tossed four innings for the Red Wings last night. Rehab has been going well with reports of him sitting in the mid-90s. The reported plan is for him to make two more rehab starts for Rochester before joining the Twins.

    Because the Twins are out of contention, they can afford to give opportunities to several players. For guys like Stewart, Gonsalves, Littell and Romero, there is value in any inning pitched in the big leagues. Experience can teach a lot. All four have had Triple A success and are now ready to test themselves further in the big leagues. Even if they struggle, they will have move data points to explore, and more video to watch during the offseason. I would hope that they would also learn from Garvin Alston and Jeff Pickler as well as Mitch Garver and Bobby Wilson. They should go into the season with a good plan for how to make adjustments and things to work on improving.

    For Pineda, getting back is just the start, but keeping him progressing and staying healthy through the season is what matters. Get him some innings and get him to the offseason ready to prepare to be a top of the rotation starter in 2019.

    Getting opportunities, plural, will be important for each of them. They don't have to be six or seven inning appearances. In addition to simply getting opportunities, there is the theory (and the statistics to back it up) that the third time through the lineup can be difficult on a starting pitcher. So, by limiting these guys to three and possibly four innings, you're keeping them from that third time through the lineup.

    "Piggybacking" just means that someone will start and work three or four innings and then another starter will come in and hope to go another three or four innings.
    It is different than the Opener concept where a relief pitcher starts the game and works one, or maybe two, innings and turns it over to a starter who tries to provide six or seven innings before turning it over to the rest of the bullpen.

    On his newest The Scoops podcast, Darren Wolfson again interviewed Twins GM Thad Levine. Asked if any pitchers were on an innings limit, he mentioned only Fernando Romero. "Just because he is getting into the range that he has not achieved before. I think he more than most of these guys in a bona fide candidate for a little more of a limited role, whether than comes in the bullpen or that comes as a piggyback starter. We are going to be attentive to his innings."

    Levine also said, "We've had a lot of creative discussion with Garvin Alston and with Paul Molitor around the concept of "Do we rotate some of these guys through?". Do we go to a six man rotation? Do we piggyback some of these guys?"

    It really doesn't matter the order of the match ups that the Twins choose. They could piggyback hard throwers like Romero and Pineda. Or, they could team a hard thrower like Pineda and then send Gonsalves out in relief. What I would like to see is the groupings stick together in such a way that the piggybacker who starts one game would come out of the bullpen the next time. Starters can have routines, so it could be good to expand upon that but at the same time not being completely in a new situation.

    I believe when I posted that tweet last week, Thorpe had just made (or was about to make) his first AAA start. I think it it fairly unlikely that Lewis Thorpe debuts in 2019. Maybe that spot is taken by Odorizzi.

    The other reason I would like to see the two piggybacking starters limited to seven combined innings is because the Twins also will have several relievers that they need to evaluate over the season's final month.

    Trevor Hildenberger and Taylor Rogers have been very good most of the season. You kind of know what you have there. But Matt Magill was signed to a minor league contract this past offseason and didn't even get a big league invite. I'm sure they'd like to keep putting him in more high leverage situations. Oliver Drake is on his fifth team, but so far so good since joining the Twins. They'll want to evaluate his pitch repertoire to make sure that split-fingered fastball and his strikeout rate are legit.

    But the Twins also have decisions to make on 40-man roster guys like Alan Busenitz, Tyler Duffey, and John Curtiss. Hard-throwing Nick Anderson and Jake Reed are guys that they may want to add to the 40-man roster in the offseason and if so there could be value in giving them an opportunity in September. Also, if not added to the 40-man roster, Luke Bard and DJ Baxendale can become minor league free agents.

    With all those pitchers potentially on the roster, the goal could be for the starter to get through four innings. The piggybacker would know that he will start the fifth inning with the goal of getting through the seventh inning. First, that allows bullpen guys to work the eighth and ninth innings. And if the starter is unable to get through the fourth inning, bullpen guys can bridge that gap, allowing the piggybacker to prepare as he needs to be ready fore fifth.

    The Rochester season ends on Labor Day. There will be 25 games remaining or (math minor here) five times through the rotation. If they were to use the piggybacking concept for three rotation spots, those starters (six of them) could still get 15 to 18 more innings. Not huge numbers, but a good number for each of them to end the season.

    To me, piggybacking would be the easiest way to provide opportunities and experience while also being able to control innings for more pitchers. The bullpen will be full, but that's OK.

    What to you think? Would you be in favor of maintaining a five-man rotation, moving to a six-man rotation, or piggybacking in the rotation after the Triple-A season ends?

    Share your opinions below.

    • Aug 22 2018 05:58 AM
    • by Seth Stohs