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  1. Twins 2018 Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year

    There were several standout strikeout arms in the Twins system when it came to relief pitchers, as you will see below. Some of them have spent time in the majors this season, while a few others appear ready for their opportunity.

    Short profiles of our top five are to follow, but first, some players worthy of honorable mention. These players also received votes.

    Others Receiving Votes

    • Nick Anderson, Rochester Red Wings – 39 G, 8-2, 4 Saves, 3.30 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 60.0 IP, 49 H, 19 BB, 88 K
    • Gabriel Moya, Rochester Red Wings – 26 G, 1-1, 4 Saves, 1.90 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 42.2 IP, 38 H, 12 BB, 50 K
    • John Curtiss, Rochester Red Wings – 38 G, 2-4, 10 Saves, 3.42 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 55.1 IP, 41 H, 31 BB, 61 K
    • Ryne Harper, Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings – 38 G, 1-5, 6 Saves, 3.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 65.0 IP, 61 H, 10 BB, 86 K
    These are the top five players to receive votes for Twins Daily’s Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year.

    Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year

    #5 – Jake Reed, Rochester Red Wings – 30 G, 0-3, 2 Saves, 1.89 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 47.2 IP, 34 H, 21 BB, 50 K

    For a few years now, it has seemed like Jake Reed was knocking on the door to the major leagues, but in part due to some injuries, hasn’t yet made the jump. I’ll say quite frankly that he should have, at least for September of this year (and last year for that matter). The ERA to finish his season is great, but he really turned it on as the season wore on, appearing in both July and August’s Relief Pitcher of the Month entries. In that time frame Reed appeared in 16 games, pitching 26 total innings and allowing just four earned runs (1.38 ERA) on 10 hits and 10 walks (good for a 0.77 WHIP), while striking out 29.

    #4 – Alan Busenitz, Rochester Red Wings – 27 G, 2-3, 7 Saves, 2.48 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 40.0 IP, 32 H, 8 BB, 45 K

    Despite appearing in 28 games with the Twins in 2017 and delivering a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, Busenitz has been on the Triple A shuttle several times this season, never quite being able to settle in. He was excellent in the minors again in 2018, including the month of May in which he didn’t allow a single run in eight appearances and 13 total innings. He was recognized in both May and June’s Relief Pitcher of the Month awards, and in that stretch over a period of 13 MiLB appearances, did not allow a run while striking out 27 in 23 innings pitched.

    #3 – Cody Stashak, Fort Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts – 37 G, 2-1, 4 Saves, 2.87 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 59.2 IP, 49 H, 15 BB, 74 K

    Stashak was a starting pitcher for the first two years of his professional career, and a decent one, after being drafted in the 13th round of the 2015 draft out of St. Johns University. But that changed in 2018, as the Twins put him in the bullpen for its entirety. He didn’t miss a beat, sustaining a sub 3.00 ERA, sub 1.10 WHIP, and sub .240 batting average against while increasing his K-rate. Stashak has always had good control, and that also didn’t leave him out of the ‘pen allowing him to have the best K/BB ratio of his career. From July through the end of the season, spanning 17 appearances and 23 innings pitched, Stashak allowed just two earned runs (0.78 ERA) on 19 hits and only 2 walks, while striking out 25. He was #2 in July’s Relief Pitcher of the Month entry and made honorable mention in two others during the season.

    #2 – Jovani Moran, Cedar Rapids Kernels/Fort Myers Miracle – 37 G, 9-3, 8 Saves, 2.49 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 76.0 IP, 45 H, 35 BB, 107 K

    If you paid attention during the year or have been clicking the links throughout this article, you know of the legend that is Jovani Moran already. He took home the monthly relief pitcher honors in June and July and received an honorable mention twice. The first thing you’ll notice with him is obviously the K’s. After striking out literally everybody with Elizabethton in 2017 (almost, his rate was 16.4/9IP) and taking home the Short Season Pitcher of the Year award, Moran continued that success with the Kernels and Miracle in 2018, finishing with a rate of 12.7K/9IP between his two stops. Surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow in 2016 seemingly ended his development path as a starter, but what they’ve found as a reliever is hard to ignore. Listed at 6’1” and 170 lbs, Moran hasn’t been known for his velocity, but may have kicked it up some in the bullpen. He has also improved the movement of his secondary pitches, led by a great changeup and improving breaking ball. Moran is one to watch closely moving forward.

    #1 – Andrew Vasquez, Fort Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings – 40 G, 1-2, 6 Saves, 1.30 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 69.1 IP, 50 H, 21 BB, 108 K

    If you thought Moran’s strikeout total was egregious, take a look at Andrew Vasquez’s. There’s a reason the left-handed Vasquez jumped from Fort Myers all the way to the Twins bullpen during the 2018 season—he has been as untouchable as his slider is elite. Like Moran, Vasquez made appearances on several of the monthly awards, including winning in August before his September callup to the majors.

    Leading to his recent MLB debut, Vasquez has had a standout minor league career since being drafted by the Twins in the 32nd round of the 2015 draft out of Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. His career minor league ERA is just 1.52 in four seasons and he has struck out 13.4/9IP.

    While his fastball will only touch the 90’s, as Twins farm director Jeremy Zoll noted to Twins Daily, “It’s all about the slider with Andrew.” Because of this pitch, he didn’t allow a single extra-base-hit to same-sided hitters during his 2017 season that ended with a trip to the Arizona Fall League (fun fact only I may know since I wrote about it: his first hit allowed in the AFL was a double to a lefty). His efforts during that 2017 campaign also landed him at #5 in this award category last year.

    Zoll went on to talk about how Brad Steil, Luis Ramirez (Vasquez’s pitching coach in rookie ball), and the Twins pushed him to rely on the pitch after turning pro. “The slider is your thing, make it your thing. He really owned that this year. I think he realized that not only lefties, but righties were having a really hard time hitting it too. Once he got to Double A it was like ‘All right, I’m catching a groove here’ and you could see his confidence boost. It’s been really fun to see him have that type of success, starting in high-A and ending up in the big leagues.”

    You can definitely see that boost in confidence talked about in his numbers on the year. With Fort Myers, Vasquez pitched 32.2 innings with a 1.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 37:13 K to BB ratio. With the Lookouts, those numbers improved to 31.0 innings with a 1.16 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and a 59:4 K to BB ratio. Then, before he was called up to the Twins he made four appearances with the Rochester Red Wings, pitching 5.2 innings and striking out 12 of the 28 hitters he faced (42.3%).

    It was an easy decision to add Vasquez to the 40-man when rosters expanded for September based on his numbers and the fact that he would have to be protected in the offseason anyway. Twins fans should be able to see that slider plenty of times over the final month and get an idea of what the future could hold for the 6’6” left-hander.

    It’s very apparent how much the Twins believe in Vasquez and his slider, as Zoll closed by recalling a conversation with Tim O’Neill, one of their national cross-checkers, who said, “How about the kid from Westmont?!” Zoll went on, “It’s an interesting story and situation to see that type of profile, having a reliever with that type of slider. Where did you learn that thing and how can we teach other people? Maybe there’s something in the water. We’ll have to ship that out to Fort Myers.”

    Definitely look into that, Mr. Zoll!

    Congratulations to Andrew Vasquez and the rest of the relievers recognized by Twins Daily for their efforts in 2018. Vasquez has the ingredients to stick around for a while, even if it’s just to devastate left-handed hitters.

    The Ballots

    In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily minor league writers:
    • Seth Stohs – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Jake Reed, 4) Alan Busenitz, 5) Cody Stashak
    • Jeremy Nygaard – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Alan Busenitz, 4) Cody Stashak, 5) Nick Anderson
    • Cody Christie – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Gabriel Moya, 4) Cody Stashak, 5) Alan Busenitz
    • Tom Froemming – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Cody Stashak, 4) Ryne Harper, 5) Nick Anderson
    • Steve Lein – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Cody Stashak, 4) Ryne Harper, 5) Nick Anderson
    • Ted Schwerzler – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jake Reed, 3) John Curtiss, 4) Alan Busenitz, 5) Jovani Moran
    What do you think? How would your ballot look?

    • Sep 13 2018 09:07 AM
    • by Steve Lein
  2. CLE 5, MIN 3: Odorizzi Fades, Busenitz Blows It

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Odorizzi: 55 Game Score, 5.1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 4 K, 3 BB, 56.4% strikes (53 of 94 pitches)
    Home Runs: Adrianza (6), Sano (13)
    Multi-Hit Games: None
    WPA of 0.1 or higher: Adrianza .218, Odorizzi .103
    WPA of -0.1 or lower: Kepler -.116, Busenitz -.416
    [attachment=11997:chart (2).png]
    Odorizzi’s third time through the order issues are well documented. He got off to a great start the third time through, striking out Francisco Lindor to end the fifth. He also got Michael Brantley to pop out to open the sixth.

    Then came the consecutive four-pitch walks and the hook, but Odorizzi still exited this game with the Twins up 2-1.

    Busenitz came in and gave up a game-tying single to Yonder Alonso and then a three-day homer to Jason Kipnis.

    All the Twins’ runs came via the longball, as Ehire Adrianza hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning and Miguel Sano hit a solo shot in the ninth.

    Jorge Polanco's sat for the third straight game and Eddie Rosario left this one in the sixth inning due to a leg injury.

    This game was broadcast on Facebook, and their booth crew, including Glen Perkins, asked Paul Molitor during an in-game interview about future roster plans. He said a decision on Byron Buxton would be coming sometime in the next 24 hours and some of the specific names he mentioned among September callups were Tyler Duffey, John Curtiss and Zack Littell.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11998:Screenshot_20180830-152420~2.png]
    Next Three Games
    Fri at TEX, 7:05 pm CT: Stephen Gonsalves vs. Drew Hutchison
    Sat at TEX, 7:05 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Yovani Gallardo
    Sun at TEX, 2:05 pm CT: TBD

    Last Three Games
    MIN 4, CLE 3: Astudillo Gets First Homer, Mauer Scores 1,000th Run
    CLE 8, MIN 1: Where Did the Runs Go?
    OAK 6, MIN 2: Austin Goes Deep Twice in Loss

    • Aug 30 2018 07:59 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  3. Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher Of The Month - June 2018

    Before we share our choices for the Twins Minor League Top Five Relievers for June, here are some terrific bullpen performances that just missed the cut.

    HONORABLE MENTION

    • Tyler Duffey, Rochester Red Wings, 8 G, 2.03 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 13.0 IP, 12 H, 6 BB, 11 K
    • Jared Finkel, Cedar Rapids Kernels, 7 G, 3.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 12.0 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 5 K
    • Gabriel Moya, Rochester Red Wings, 10 G (3 GS), 1. 59, 1.06 WHIP, 17.0 IP, 15 H, 3 BB, 16 K
    THE TOP FIVE RELIEF PITCHERS


    #5 - Hector Lujan - Ft. Myers Miracle - 6 G, 2.13 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 12.2 IP, 12 H, 2 BB, 13 K


    The Twins 35th round draft pick in 2016 out of Westmont College had a real solid month with the Miracle in June. After a breakout 2017 season in Cedar Rapids in which he posted a 1.13 ERA and 17 saves, 2018 has had some ups and downs. However, he now has a 3.18 in 39 2/3 innings. Opponents hit just .240/.283/.340 (623) off of him in June.


    #4 - Paco Rodriguez - Ft. Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts - 7 G, 0.90 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 10.0 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 6 K


    Rodriguez was the second-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. Later that season, he made his big league debut and stayed in the big leagues through the 2015 season. Unfortunately, he fought several injuries. Fast-forward to this year, and after the season started, the Twins signed him as a free agent. Soon after, he spent a couple of weeks with the Miracle before moving up to Chattanooga in late May. The southpaw had a strong month for the Lookouts. Opponents hit just .206/.300/.294 (.594) off of the 27-year-old during the month.


    #3 - Alan Busenitz - Rochester Red Wings/Minnesota Twins - 8 G, 3.07 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 14.2 IP, 13 H, 0 BB, 13 K


    Busenitz wasn’t as good in June as he was in April and May, but he was still quite good. While fans wanted him up soon, he did get called back up with a week left in June, though he was again optioned before the month’s end. Opponents hit just .228/.241/.333 (.575) off of him. Most impressive was 13 strikeouts and zero walks. Despite his 6.43 ERA with the Twins this year, he has a 12-2 strikeout to walk ratio.


    #2 - Andrew Vasquez - Ft. Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts - 6 G, 2.79 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9.2 IP, 3 H, 7 BB, 17 K


    Vasquez represented the Twins and the Miracle in the Florida State League All-Star game in June and threw a scoreless inning (if you want to add that to his above stats). As you can see, there are times that Vasquez can struggle with control, but he limits hits by utilizing a tremendous slider that can miss a lot of bats. Like Lujan, Vasquez was drafted out of Westmont College in 2016 in the 32nd round. Following the All-Star break, he was promoted to Chattanooga. He’s made two appearances and has 10 strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.



    And the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month is:

    Cedar Rapids Kernels – LHP Jovani Moran - 6 G, 0.90 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 15.0 IP, 4 H, 7 BB, 23 K

    Moran was the Twins seventh-round draft pick in 2015 out of high school in Puerto Rico. He missed the 2016 season after having surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow. He returned strong in 2017, and he was the Twins Daily short-season Minor League Pitcher of the Year. For Elizabethton, he gave up just one run in 24 2/3 innings (0.36 ERA), and had just six walks to go with 45 strikeouts.


    Moran began the 2018 season in Cedar Rapids. He struggled with his control in April when he had 12 walks and 12 strikeouts in just 7 1/3 innings for the Kernels. Since then, he has been much improved. In May, he had 26 strikeouts and seven walks in 18 innings. As you see above, he had 23 strikeouts and seven walks in 15 innings. Still not great control, but his swing-and-miss stuff make the walks more bearable.


    Moran is not a big guy .He stands 6-foot-1 and weighs in at about 170 pounds. He’s got a good whip-like action and some deception in his delivery. His fastball reaches into the low-90s, and he’s got a good slider and changeup. He really just needs to keep working and developing, and gaining strength could help him add a little more velocity. He’s a really good athlete who fields the position well.


    There were several strong relief pitcher performances in June throughout the Twins minor league system. It was a good month for each of these pitchers mentioned today, but again, congratulations to the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month for June 2018, Jovani Moran of the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

    • Jul 01 2018 06:27 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  4. CHW 8, MIN 4: South Side Slip

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    Lance Lynn: 45 Game Score, 5.0 IP, 4 ER, 8 K, 1 BB, 65.6% strikes
    Bullpen: 3.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 K, 2 BB
    Lineup: 1-for-1 w/RISP, 2 LOB
    Top three per WPA: Adrianza .230, Dozier .069, Cave .017
    [attachment=11750:WinEx626.png]
    Lynn ended up failing to record an out in the sixth, loading the bases on a bunch of weak contact prior to being lifted for Ryan Pressly, who promptly walked Tim Anderson on five pitches to force home a run.

    Later that inning, Taylor Rogers gave up a two-run single that put Chicago up 5-4. The Twins ended up using four pitchers that inning, as Alan Busenitz came in to record the third out.

    Unfortunately, Busenitz game up a leadoff homer in the seventh and another run came across while he was on the mound in the eighth after a single, a hit by pitch, an error and another single.

    Then Matt Belisle came in and walked in another run. And that was just the pitching!

    Ehire Adrianza had a good night, going 2-for-3 with a homer and Brian Dozier hit his 11th home run of the season, but the offense struggled. The team combined for six hits and a walk. They only had one at bat with a runner in scoring position all night.

    After that nightmare sixth inning that saw the White Sox take the lead, the bats combined to go 0-for-9 with four strikeouts.

    Postgame With Molitor


    AL Central Standings
    CLE 43-35
    MIN 34-41 (-7.5)
    DET 36-44 (-8)
    CHW 27-51 (-16)
    KC 24-55 (-19.5)

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11749:Bullpen627.png]
    Next Three Games
    Wed at CHW, 7:10 pm CT: Kyle Gibson vs. James Shields
    Thu at CHW, 1:10 pm CT: TBD vs. Lucas Giolito
    Fri at CHC, 4:05 pm pm CT: TBD

    Last Three Games
    MIN 2, TEX 0: La MaKKKKKKKKKKKKina
    TEX 9, MIN 6: Odorizzi Lays an Egg
    TEX 8, MIN 1: Circling the Drain

    See Also
    Twins Minor League Report (6/26): Thorpe Dominant, Miranda Slams
    What Fernando Rodney Experience?
    The Rise and Fall of Miguel Sano

    • Jun 26 2018 11:43 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  5. Week in Review: Sinking Ship

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/18 through Sun, 6/24

    ***

    Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 34-40)

    Run Differential Last Week: -8 (Overall: -16)

    Standing: T-2nd Place in AL Central (8.0 GB)


    HIGHLIGHTS

    The Twins rotation has mostly been a pleasant surprise this year, and delivered one of its strongest showings over the first half of last week against Boston. Taking on arguably the most dangerous lineup in baseball, Minnesota fought its way to pitching-fueled victories on Tuesday and Wednesday; Jose Berrios and Lance Lynn teamed up with the bullpen to silence all those potent bats as the Red Sox were held to three runs total.

    Kyle Gibson followed with another fine effort on Thursday, but struggles from the offense and an implosion from the relief corps saddled him with a loss.

    On Sunday, Berrios delivered his second masterful outing of the week, firing seven shutout innings against Texas with 12 strikeouts.

    The trio of Berrios, Lynn and Gibson has combined to produce a 2.15 ERA across 13 total starts in June. They've been awesome. Unfortunately, they've been getting little help.

    It's a feeling that Eddie Rosario knows all too well. He went 6-for-20 with three extra-base hits last week, driving in four runs on Saturday while the surrounding hitters failed to provide much aid in a loss.

    On the relief front, Trevor Hildenberger continues to string together clean outings – four more last week, as he twirled 3 2/3 hitless innings. He hasn't allowed a run since May 18th and his ERA is down to 2.11 on the season. Fernando Rodney also came through with another spotless stretch, picking up his 16th and 17th saves while making three one-inning appearances and striking out the side in two of them.

    LOWLIGHTS

    At the end of May, I wrote about the all-around excellence of the Twins pitching staff through the first third of the season. In the bullpen, much praise was concentrated on Ryan Pressly, who'd been otherworldly to that point:

    As good as Reed's been, the star of this unit has been Ryan Pressly, who is finally pulling it all together at age 29. Last year, he had an odd tendency to get knocked around despite dazzling stuff, premium velocity, and good control. This year, the stuff has gotten even better and hitters just can't handle it.

    Pressly's swinging strike rate has jumped from 12.2% to 16.8%, which ranks 11th out of 180 qualified MLB relievers. He's been especially lethal in May, where that figure has jumped to 19%. He has given up one home run thus far, after giving up 10 in 2017.

    Incidentally, the "odd tendency to get knocked around despite dazzling stuff" has suddenly reemerged. In nine appearances since that May 28th article was posted, Pressly has an 11.74 ERA with 12 hits and three home runs allowed in 7 1/3 innings.

    As amazing as Pressly's numbers looked through two months, he now sits with a sub par 4.17 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, joining the many laggards who have dragged this team to the brink of irrelevance.

    That group also includes:

    * Logan Morrison, whose two-run homer on Saturday was one of only three hits in 15 at-bats last week. He's slashing .191/.293/.347 on the year and a look of perpetual dejection has become etched into his face, but unfortunately, the Twins have had little choice but to keep running Morrison out in the middle of the lineup.

    * Brian Dozier, whose signature midseason surge just hasn't come to offset all the slumping. Granted, last week was better than most others for him, as it included three doubles, a home run and four walks, but he still batted just .238 while driving in one run. As Aaron Gleeman notes, we're past Dozier's usual slow-start territory:



    * Robbie Grossman, who has failed to execute his most reliable skill – getting on base – and therefore is providing little value for the Twins. To his credit, Grossman did collect as many extra-base hits last week (3) as he had in the previous five, but that speaks to the general lack of thunder in his bat, and he also failed to draw any walks. The 28-year-old has put up a punchless .232/.313/.346 line for the Twins and, per FanGraphs, his WAR ranks 205th out of 209 MLB hitters with 200+ PA.

    * Joe Mauer, who has resumed leadoff duties since returning to the lineup, but hasn't been able to find much of anything at the plate. Mauer went 3-for-18 (.167) in five games and is batting .195 since coming off the disabled list. Perhaps most perturbingly, he has drawn only one walk in 34 plate appearances after exhibiting such a keen eye in the early going.

    * The catcher duo of Mitch Garver and Bobby Wilson, which combined to produce five singles in 18 at-bats last week, and has primarily contributed to Minnesota's AL-worst .567 OPS at catcher. The position has become a total non-factor for this club and you've gotta think some kind of shakeup is imminent. Cameron Rupp has done nothing since joining Rochester (batting .154 with 1 HR and 20 K in 46 PA) but his teammate Willians Astudillo sure seems deserving of a shot – he has an .807 OPS for the Red Wings and is a .309 career hitter in the minors. I tend to think a more drastic move is warranted.

    * Jake Odorizzi, whose absolute clunker on Saturday (1.2 IP, 6 ER) was the low point in a season that's been progressively unraveling. Odorizzi hasn't completed six innings in a start since May 14th - eight turns ago. He has a 5.66 ERA over his last 10 starts, in which the Twins have gone 3-7.

    * Last and also least, there is newly acquired Matt Belisle, who has been outrageously bad since joining the Twins on a major-league deal after Cleveland cut him loose. The move, on its surface, was a bit mysterious since Minnesota had no real on-field need, but most understood that wasn't the real point.

    In any case, he's already worn out his welcome by coughing up seven runs on nine hits over two innings on Thursday and Friday, turning losses into embarrassing home blowouts. Belisle has been tasked simply with getting outs in games that are already decided, and is showing he can't fulfill even that modest role, so any perceived leadership qualities are moot.

    TRENDING STORYLINE

    With Pressly, Belisle and Addison Reed all looking shaky, Paul Molitor finds himself in a bind when it comes to right-handed relief options. Rodney's usage is restricted in the closer role, and Hildenberger is already being ridden hard with four appearances in the last six days. Matt Magill, while solid, is tough to trust in high leverage.

    So the manager was undoubtedly happy to see Alan Busenitz's face in the clubhouse on Sunday morning. The righty was recalled over the weekend, while Fernando Romero was demoted following another underwhelming start. We've remarked in this space several times about the sensational success Busenitz has experienced in Rochester, where he had a 1.27 ERA and 32-to-5 K/BB ratio in 28 frames.

    As his team heads out for a nine-game road trip, Molitor will be equipped with a deep and very well rested relief corps, thanks to the day off after Berrios went deep on Sunday.

    The Twins can run with a nine-man bullpen for a bit, but they'll need a fifth starter on Saturday, at which point they'll some interesting decisions.

    Which reliever goes out to make room? Frankly, it seems ludicrous at this point to keep Belisle around at the expense of anyone else, but the Twins did just hand him a guaranteed chunk of change.

    And which starter comes up? Aaron Slegers is a candidate – he continues to log quality innings for Rochester and will be roughly on schedule after starting this past Saturday. Zack Littell, who's been the only outsider to crack the Twins rotation (for a spot start in a double-header) since Phil Hughes was shipped out, is another possibility.

    And we'll touch on one more in the next section.

    DOWN ON THE FARM

    After leading our rundown of the system's hottest bats in this section last week, Alex Kirilloff participated in the Midwest League All-Star Game on Tuesday, batting third for the West and going 1-for-4. Two days later he was promoted to High-A Ft. Myers.

    Upon departing the Midwest League, Kirilloff ranked first in home runs (13), third in batting average (.333), and second in OPS (.999). This is a 20-year-old getting his first taste of full-season leagues after missing all of last year. Awfully impressive. More so when you account for his phenomenal start with the Miracle; Kirilloff has started 8-for-19 (.421) at the new level and drove in five runs in his second game. What a hitter.

    Royce Lewis hasn't gotten the call to join Kirilloff yet, but did accompany him at the MWL All-Star Game, starting at short and batting leadoff. He went 1-for-2 and swiped a base. Lewis has been battling through patellar tendinitis, and if you're wondering what that means, our resident orthopaedic specialist Heezy has the scoop for you.

    Meanwhile, in Triple-A... Adalberto Mejia. I know, I know (*extremely Obi Wan voice*) there's a name I've not heard in a long time. But on Thursday night, he fired seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts, allowing only three hits and one walk. The gem lowered his ERA to 2.91, including 1.38 over four June starts.

    Mejia made 21 starts for the Twins last year and looked altogether impressive. He's been excellent at Triple-A, and has the makings of a long-term rotation cog. If Romero's absence is expected to be a lengthy one, then Mejia strikes me as the obvious choice to replace him.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    The Twins will spend all of next week in the Windy City, and could really use the winds of fortune blowing in their favor. Now eight games behind Cleveland in the AL Central, the Twins basically need to be taking every series in order to keep their hopes alive. That'll be an easier ask in the South Side than the North.

    TUESDAY, 6/26: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Lance Lynn v. RHP Reynaldo Lopez
    WEDNESDAY, 6/27: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Lucas Giolito
    THURSDAY, 6/28: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP James Shields
    FRIDAY, 6/29: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Tyler Chatwood
    SATURDAY, 6/30: TWINS @ CUBS – ??? v. LHP Mike Montgomery
    SUNDAY, 7/1: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Lance Lynn v. LHP Jon Lester

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game RecapsMore on Twins Daily

    • Jun 24 2018 07:32 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  6. Twins Sign Belisle: What Does This Mean?

    When the news came out that the Twins had signed Matt Belisle, my level of surprise was fairly low. I don’t know why. It just seems like what we would have always deemed a “Twins” type of move. The DFAing of Petit was also not a surprise.

    But as I gave it more thought, my mind raced in several different directions, and at the end of the day, I’m much calmer, but I can’t say that the move makes any more sense than it did eight hours ago. It still begs several questions.


    1.) What Does Matt Belisle Have Left?

    Matt Belisle got off to a very slow start last year with the Minnesota Twins, but he turned it on in the second half. He pitched well and did a nice job as the Twins closer after the Brandon Kintzler trade at the deadline.

    Late in the offseason, he signed a one year, $1.5 million deal with Cleveland. He made the Opening Day roster. He began the season with three scoreless outings before giving up runs in his next three outings. He responded with two scoreless outings. Cleveland DFAd him. Belisle became a free agent, but soon re-signed with the team. He was released on Sunday and signed with the Twins on Tuesday.

    In his 10 2/3 innings, he posted a 5.06 ERA. He walked one and struck out just four. In nine outings (and also 10 2/3 innings) for Triple-A Columbus, Belisle posted a 4.22 ERA with one walk and 11 strikeouts.

    In other words, he shouldn’t be a late-inning reliever, but the 38-year-old can probably be a solid big league pitcher still.


    2.) What Does It Say About The Front Office’s Opinion of the AAA Relievers?

    This was my first thought, and I know it was the thought of many others. First and foremost, it is inexplicable to me that Alan Busenitz isn’t pitching in the big leagues. Of course, that was my opinion before the Belisle signing. He pitched well late in the 2017 season for the Twins and became a reliable arm for Paul Molitor.

    While Busenitz didn’t make the Opening Day roster, he was promoted in mid-April. He then pitched in four of the next six games. The Twins were struggling and needed arms, so Busenitz was sent back to Rochester. In 14 games for the Red Wings, He has posted a 0.38 ERA. In 24 innings, he has given up 15 hits, walked five and struck out 28. The 27-year-old has nothing to prove in AAA, and he still have some upside.

    But Busenitiz isn’t the only reliever in Rochester who has to be wondering what the Twins front office is thinking.

    • Tyler Duffey was just sent down over the weekend to make room for outfielder Jake Cave. Duffey had pitched well in limited duty since being called back up. That said, it did make sense to want a fourth bench bat. So, three days later, adding a bullpen arm and going back to three bench bats has to make him think. In 26 innings over 11 outings for the Red Wings, Duffey has posted a 1.38 ERA. He’s walked seven and struck out 26 batters.
    • John Curtiss has the pitches to be a dominant reliever. While his short stay with the Twins earlier this season wasn’t pretty, it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) limit anyone’s idea of his potential. Coming into Tuesday, he had a 1.61 ERA in 22 1/3 innings. In that time, he had 31 strikeouts, but ten walks.
    • Luke Bard has 19 strikeouts and six walks in his 17 innings (11 games) since his return to the Red Wings after his stint with the Los Angeles Angels. His big fastball, slider and spin rates are pretty much big league ready.
    • Nick Anderson has given up nine earned runs in his last three outings (2 2/3 innings) which raised his season ERA from 1.16 to 4.15. So, as rough as this current “slump” is, it’s important to think about the first 14 games and 23 1/3 innings. In his 26 innings, he has walked 12 and struck out 39.
    • Jake Reed remains in the organization. He missed time earlier in the year and has struggled somewhat in his return. In his 15 2/3 innings over ten outings, he has walked seven and struck out 14 batters.
    • While he’s left-handed, Gabriel Moya has also pitched well in his five weeks with the Red Wings after being optioned at the end of April. He’s posted a 2.11 ERA in 21 1/3 innings. In that time, he has walked eight and struck out 29 batters.
    • Trevor May is working his way back from Tommy John surgery. As his rehab stint ended, the Twins optioned him to Rochester and he has worked out of the bullpen since. At some point, he’ll be ready as well.
    That is a lot of quality options who all were just told that they have been pushed down the line another spot with the Belisle signing.

    The team likely calls it "depth." Hopefully the players will consider it a challenge. The other option is that they get overly upset and don't handle it well.

    3.) What Kind of Leader is Belisle? (And What Kind of Leadership Does This Twins Team Need?)

    Matt Belisle likely isn’t going to be a difference maker for the Twins bullpen (which, frankly, has been pretty solid most of the season). The Twins have pitchers at Rochester who are just as talented, if not more talented, and younger. What we keep hearing is that the Twins are bringing in Belisle for his leadership in the clubhouse.

    Fair enough. There were plenty of good stories in 2017 about the role Belisle played for the team, particularly in a leadership role.

    However, when the Twins signed Fernando Rodney, there was some conversation about him being brought in as a leader for the pitchers. Then Zack Duke was signed, and we heard about how great of a teammate he is. And, when they signed Addison Reed, his leadership was again mentioned.

    I don’t mean to downplay the value of veteran leadership. It is important. But there are a lot of veterans, and there are a lot of veterans who are touted as leaders, and there are several indications that the clubhouse is not a happy place right now. There are issues. The team is five games under .500, not at all where they felt they would be at this point,

    Can Matt Belisle’s leadership push the Twins to more wins? That is to be determined. Can he help the Twins offense score more runs? That would also be helpful. As would getting more of the regulars back on the field and healthy.


    Summary

    So at the end of the day, this is a minor move. Matt Belisle probably has a little left in the tank. Maybe he can help out. Maybe he can eat some of the innings that are currently constantly going to Addison Reed and Ryan Pressly so that they don’t reach 100 games pitched this year. Trevor Hildenberger is starting to take more and more of those opportunities, and Matt Magill has pitched well enough to earn those opportunities as well.

    We have also seen what Paul Molitor likes from his bullpen. He trusts Addison Reed and Ryan Pressly. In the first half last year, he trusted Taylor Rogers and ran him into the ground by the second half. We saw that somewhat in the second half last year when he used Trevor Hildenberger most every day over the final couple of months. My guess is that Molitor will not be afraid to use Matt Belisle late in games because of how well he did in the role last year. Trust.

    I also suspect that this is one move that the front office is giving Molitor and the team, a veteran, in an attempt to win this year. The trade deadline is about seven weeks away. By mid-July, the front office will have some big decisions to make. Most important, will they believe that the Twins could still make the playoffs this year? As Nick wrote yesterday, it’s not yet time to give up on this year.

    What this signing appears to me to be, in the big picture, is a message to the team and its veterans that they have a little over a month to turn things around and put themselves in a position to compete for a playoff spot. If not, all bets are off and at that time, we can start discussing which veterans could be on the trading block and which players will come up to take their places.

    • Jun 13 2018 04:51 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  7. Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month - May 2018

    Before we share our choices for the Twins Minor League Top Five Relievers for April, here are some terrific bullpen performances that just missed the cut.

    HONORABLE MENTION

    • John Curtiss, Rochester Red Wings, 8 G, 2.61 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 12.2 K/9, 10.1 IP, 6 H, 7 BB, 14 K
    • Luke Bard, Rochester Red Wings, 8 G, 3.00 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 12.0 IP, 9 H, 4 BB, 13 K.
    • Cody Stashak, Chattanooga Lookouts, 7 G (1 GS), 1.88 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 10.7 K/9, 14.1 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 17 K
    • Ryan Mason, Ft. Myers Miracle, 8 G, 2.51 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 14.1 IP, 14 H, 3 H, 14 K
    • Jovani Moran, Cedar Rapids Kernels, 8 G (1 GS), 2.50 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 13.0 K/9, 14 H, 7 BB, 26 K.
    THE TOP FIVE RELIEF PITCHERS



    #5 - Gabriel Moya - Rochester Red Wings - 8 G, 1.38 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 13.0 IP, 9 H, 3 BB,18 K


    Moya made the Twins Opening Day roster wen Phil Hughes began the season on the disabled list. He was sent down to Rochester in late April. The 23-year-old southpaw from Venezuela had a strong first month in Rochester (remember, he jumped up to the big leagues directly from Double-A last year). Along with the solid numbers and striking out 12.5 batters per nine innings, opponents hit just .196/.260/.326 (.586) off of him in May.


    #4 - Andrew Vasquez - Ft. Myers Miracle - 8 G, 0.00 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 14.2 IP, 15 H, 2 BB, 18 K


    Another left-hander, Vasquez had a one-game stint in Chattanooga already this year. The Twins 32nd round pick in 2015 out of Westmont College has been moved along slowly, in large part due to some inconsistent control. After ending 2017 with the Miracle, he pitched well in the Arizona Fall League last year. He has returned to the Miracle, but he’s in need of a promotion to AA. In May, he struck out 11 batters per nine inning. He’s blessed with what should be a dominant slider.


    #3 - Nick Anderson - Rochester Red Wings - 8 G, 1.46 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 12.1 IP, 3 H, 5 BB, 19 K


    Anderson was the Twins Daily April reliever of the month, and he was nearly as good in May. The Brainerd (Minnesota) native signed with the Twins out of the independent ranks late in the 2015 season. He has been blowing hitters away ever since and now finds himself one promotion from his big league dreams. In May, opponents hit a miniscule .077/.182/.154 (.336) off of him. He’ll turn 28 in early July. It’d be great to see him debut his big fastball/slider combination by then.


    #2 - Alan Busenitz - Rochester Red Wings - 8 G, 0.00 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 13.0 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 19 K


    It is inexplicable to the writer of this article why Busenitz is not in the big leagues. He dominates AAA, and he pitched very well last year and he got just four innings early this year in the big leagues. He’s got the big fastball and what can be a very good slider. In May, opponents hit just .159/.213/.159 (.372) against him. His 13.2 K/9 shows the type of dominance that he can have.



    And the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month is:

    Chattanooga Lookouts – RHP Todd Van Steensel - 8 G, 1.13 ERA, 0.44 WHIP, 16.0 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 17 K



    Van Steensel is the kind of player that you just can’t help but cheer for. Signed originally by the Phillies, he was released after one year. The Twins signed him, but after one season in Elizabethton, they released him. He played in Europe and in his native Australia and a couple of years later, the Twins brought him back, this time as a reliever. Since returning, Van Steensel has been one of the best relievers in the organization. He made over 100 appearances in Ft. Myers and despite a fantastic 2017 in Chattanooga, he’s there again in 2018. He put up incredible numbers again in May. Opponents hit just .100/.148/.120 (.268) off of him. He continues to rack up big strikeout numbers and his walk rate has certainly come down this year. Van Steensel frequently shows up in these reports, but he is very worthy of this award for May.


    There were several very strong relief pitcher performances in May throughout the Twins minor league system. As you can see from their representation, the Red Wings have had a strong bullpen this month. It was a good month for each of these pitchers mentioned today, but again, congratulations to the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month for May 2018, Todd Van Steensel.

    • Jun 04 2018 08:11 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  8. TB 8, MIN 6: Twins Swept on Gomez Walk-off Homer

    Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs)
    [attachment=11358:Snapshot422.png][attachment=11359:WinEx422.png]
    Hughes was making his first MLB appearance of the year after a couple rehab outings in Fort Myers. He took Gabriel Moya’s spot on the 25-man roster. Per Baseball Savant, Hughes’ four-seam fastball averaged 90.1 mph and topped out at 91.7. He got six swinging strikes on his 70 pitches, (8.6 percent). For context, Hughes averaged 90.3 mph on the fourseamer and and a 6.9 percent whiff rate last season.

    Hughes lasted just 3 1/3 innings and gave up two runs on five hits and two walks. He exited the game with runners on the corners, but Ryan Pressly was able to work out of the jam. Pressly was perfect over 1 2/3 innings and struck out four batters.

    The rest of the bullpen didn’t perform as well. Taylor Rogers gave up a run and left runners at second and third with two outs. Alan Busenitz came in and gave up a three-run homer to the first batter he faced. Trevor Hildenberger recorded the last out of the seventh before Reed took over.

    The eighth inning started with a single and then a hit by pitch, but Reed got a massive strikeout before inducing an inning-ending double play.

    Things didn’t work out so well in the ninth. Reed gave up a leadoff single and then Gomez ended in on a pitch he absolutely destroyed. That gave the Rays a walk-off win to sweep the series and set the Twins down to .500.


    The Twins held a 3-2 lead in the sixth and managed to tie the game up at 6-6 in the eighth inning, so it’s not like the bats didn’t do their job.

    Brian Dozier extended his team-record hitting streak to open a season to 16 games with a single in the third inning. He added a game-tying, two-run single in the eighth. Eduardo Escobar hit his second home run of the season. Joe Mauer was 1-for-2 with three walks.

    Postgame With Molitor

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=11360:Bullpen422.png]
    Next Three Games
    Mon at NYY, 6:05 pm CT
    Tue at NYY 5:35 pm CT
    Wed at NYY 5:35 pm CT

    Last Three Games
    TB 10, MIN 1: Snell Stifles Twins Bats
    TB 8, MIN 7: Playing The Wrong Notes
    MIN 2, CLE 1: Berrios Stars, LaMarre Plays Hero as Twins Survive 16-Inning Duel

    More From Twins Daily
    Twins Minor League Report (4/22): Romero Strikes Out 10, Buxton Rehabs
    The Twins Almanac for April 22–29
    Max Kepler Improving His Approach in 2018

    • Apr 22 2018 09:45 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  9. Tyler Duffey, Alan Busenitz Optioned

    Duffey has logged 262.0 innings for the Twins over the past three seasons, making 36 starts over the 2015-16 seasons before shifting to the bullpen for 56 appearances last season. He was being stretched out this spring, having pitched 12.2 innings over five official appearances.

    Alan Busenitz was a pleasant surprise last season, pitching to a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP over 28 games with the Twins. He had a 7.27 ERA in nine games this spring, but also struck out 11 batters over 8.2 innings.

    These moves seem to indicate that there is a very high likelihood that both Phil Hughes and Rule 5 pick Tyler Kinley will make the Opening Day roster.

    Hughes is coming off his second thoracic outlet syndrome procedure, but he's owed $13.2 million this season and can refuse a minor league assignment. Kinley has only made eight appearances in Triple-A, but if he doesn't break camp with the Twins he would be offered back to the Miami Marlins.

    For more on Kinley's chase to make the roster, check this article from Cody: Clock's Ticking: The Tyler Kinley Decision.

    • Mar 22 2018 08:43 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  10. Report From The Fort: Sorting Out The Lone Position Battle

    The first four slots in the Minnesota rotation are set with Jose Berrios, Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson. The fifth spot is almost certain to go to Phil Hughes, who figures to function as sort of a starter/long reliever hybrid in the early going.

    With five off days in the first three weeks, the team's schedule is such that they can get through April while only needing a fifth starter two or three times. And by the time they'll require one on a more regular basis, Ervin Santana should be close to returning if not back already.

    That means barring injury, someone from the Opening Day staff will be bumped by Santana in late April or early May. So the competition doesn't end once camp breaks. Whoever wins that final bullpen job will need to prove his worth throughout the early part of the schedule.

    As things stand, there are four relievers remaining in camp to vie for that last relief gig. One could argue it's really a two-man race. Let's first take a look at the two longshots:

    Alan Busenitz, RHP

    Busenitz has a couple of very attractive numbers working in his favor: 1.99, and 95.7. The first is his ERA in 28 appearances during a sparking 2017 debut with the Twins. The second is his average fastball speed during that stint. Of the 462 pitchers to throw at least 30 innings in the majors, only 54 threw harder, placing Busenitz near the 10th percentile.

    But here's the problem with the 1.99 ERA: it came attached to a 4.20 FIP and 4.80 xFIP, owing to the fact that Busenitz benefitted from a .212 BABIP and 86.6% strand rate. Minnesota's analytically minded front office surely recognizes the suspect sustainability of those numbers.

    And as for the 95-MPH heater, it was really the sole pitch he used effectively. His other offering is a curveball and it was nothing special, helping explain why the righty produced just 6.5 K/9 and a 7.2% swinging strike rate, which nestled between relative soft-tossers Hector Santiago (7.4%) and Phil Hughes (7.2%).

    As a fly ball pitcher who allows quite a bit of contact, Busenitz walks a dangerous line. Only one qualified MLB reliever finished with a FB rate above 45% and a K-rate below 20% last year – Seattle's Nick Vincent, and he succeeded with a very different formula, drawing weak contact with a high-80s cutter.

    So there's reason for concern around Busenitz's long-term outlook unless he can crank up the K's or cut down the flies. But in the short-term, the biggest thing working against him is that – since he has multiple options remaining – the Twins have nothing to lose by sending him down to Rochester to work on those things.

    Gabriel Moya, LHP

    On the other end of the whiff spectrum lies Moya, whose 12.4% swinging strike rate during a very brief stint in Minnesota last year tied Pressly for best on the staff. Moya has also had an extremely impressive spring up to this point, allowing just one run (a solo homer in his first appearance) on three hits in six innings of work.

    Something that could work in Moya's favor is the Twins going with five right-handers in the rotation. Theoretically this might increase Paul Molitor's desire to have a third southpaw in the bullpen, but Moya – who relies heavily on an excellent changeup – has never had big platoon splits, and in fact last year he was much better against righties.

    Like Busenitz, he has options remaining so there's no harm in sending him to Triple-A to start the season. But I am confident Moya will be a solid weapon at some point.

    And now, the two leading contenders:

    Tyler Duffey, RHP

    On Wednesday, Duffey made his first start in almost exactly one calendar year, allowing two runs (one earned) over three innings with two strikeouts and two walks. Molitor indicated afterward that the team plans to have him make another start in five days, on March 19th.

    The right-hander has basically no shot at a rotation spot, so why is he getting starts? The answer is easy enough to see.

    "I've been told I've been just lengthened out," Duffey said. "That's just to make sure I'm ready for that long role and maybe if something happens like a rainout or whatever and they need a guy."

    In this capacity, Duffey looks like a very obvious fit. One thing lacking in the current bullpen makeup is a pitcher with such a profile. In 2017 he got six or more outs in 15 of his 56 relief appearances. He even completed three full innings a couple of times.

    "We know he can be that guy, he did it last year quite a bit," Molitor said of Duffey's capability to fill the long relief role.

    The manager didn't have an especially positive review of the 27-year-old's performance against a tough Boston lineup – "Overall you have to say that he battled really well, I don't think he had his best stuff" – and Duffey has generally been unspectacular on the mound this spring, but that seems almost immaterial. They need him.

    Or do they?

    Tyler Kinley, RHP

    Ah, the Rule 5 pick. Always fun for a skipper to deal with in spring camp. Kinley has certainly caught some eyeballs with his big velocity, including a heater that reaches 99 and a slider that can touch 90. His Grapefruit numbers have been about what you'd expect based on his track record; six innings, six strikeouts, five walks.

    It's becoming a little easier to understand what the Twins saw in Kinley – and Molitor had high praise for the 27-year-old earlier this month – but how does he fit? Another one-inning guy in a unit full of them? Isn't his signature short-burst velo a bit redundant with Pressly? Can a team with hopes of contending really dedicate a roster spot to such an unproven commodity?

    One would surmise no. But of course, if the Twins don't carry Kinley on the active roster or trade for him, they'll have to ship him back to Miami. That wouldn't be the biggest deal but Molitor is well aware of what Minnesota's front office has invested in the righty.

    Not financially, mind you, but with Kinley occupying a 40-man slot they've had to let some other promising players slip away – most recently J.T. Chargois, who is having a strong spring with the Dodgers. As such, the Twins owe it to themselves to get a good long look at Kinley. Could that mean bringing him north, even if it means sending Duffey down (he does have an option) and forgoing a traditional mop-up option?

    It's not unthinkable. Hughes can ostensibly handle that long relief role between his sporadic starts in April. I don't think Molitor's going to go with a guy he flat-out can't rely on in a key spot, but if Kinley is able to convince the manager he's worth counting on? Like I said, not unthinkable.

    But also not at all likely. If the team is sold on Kinley I suspect they'll try to work out a trade with Miami that would allow them to send him to Triple-A. Duffey is in the driver's seat until further notice. His flexible arm is just too useful to be sent away.

    Sorry to put the kibosh on whatever minimal suspense existed around the lone "position battle" in camp. But if you're into such things, the good news is that Duffey will essentially be locked in a battle with Hughes to maintain that long relief role upon Santana's return.

    • Mar 14 2018 04:29 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  11. Can Extending Relief Appearances Address Baseball’s Pace of Play Concerns?

    Twins relief pitchers averaged 3.267 outs per appearance in 2017, which was actually slightly above league average. There seems to be a perception that the game has become more specialized of late, but even back in 1997 the average relief appearance was only 3.5 outs. That's not a huge difference, but starting pitching has surely changed greatly over that time, right?

    Yes, but maybe not as much as you would have guessed. Last season, starting pitchers averaged 5.5 innings, or 16.5 outs. Back in 1997, they averaged 6.0 innings, or 18 outs. By using those figures, the average number of pitchers needed to get 27 outs as risen from 3.57 in 1997 to 4.28 last season. Over that same stretch, the average time of game has increased 12 minutes, from 2:56 to 3:08.

    The more pitchers/pitching changes needed, the longer the games are going to take. Makes sense. But relief pitchers can throw more. We know this. Just look at how they’re used in the minor leagues.

    Trevor Hildenberger 2017
    Outs per appearance
    Twins 3.42
    Rochester 4.38

    Appearances with more than three outs
    Twins 15/37 (40.5 percent)
    Rochester 11/21 (52.4 percent)

    Appearances with six outs or more
    Twins 6/37 (16.2 percent)
    Rochester 9/21 (42.9 percent)

    Alan Busenitz 2017
    Outs per appearance
    Twins 3.39
    Rochester 4.41

    Appearances with more than three outs
    Twins 9/28 (32.1 percent)
    Rochester 13/24 (54.1 percent)

    Appearances with six outs or more
    Twins 5/28 (17.9 percent)
    Rochester 8/24 (33.3 percent)

    Those are big differences, right? But the crazy thing is Hildy and Booze weren’t even really stretched that far on the farm compared to some other minor leaguers. Logan Lombana (5.47) and Michael Theofanopoulos (5.43) both averaged more than five outs per game out of the bullpen. Just trailing them were Todd Van Steensel (4.89), Luke Bard at (4.78), Sam Clay (4.70) and Andrew Vasquez (4.70).

    Bullpen specialization is a very rare thing in the minor leagues.

    The closest thing the Twins had to a long man over the course of the season was Tyler Duffey. He recorded more than three outs in 25 of his appearances, which was tied for the sixth-most in baseball. Still, even Duffey only averaged 3.80 outs per appearance. The MLB leader in outs per games in relief was Yusmeiro Petit at 4.4.

    There are certainly some strategic reasons why relief appearances are shortened in the major leagues, but there also seem to be a lot of games in which MLB managers burn through an unnecessary number of bullpen arms. The Twins only played 33 one-run games last season, and here are some numbers that suggest a lot of their games are in hand to some degree even after just four innings:

    2017 Minnesota Twins
    Leading entering the fifth inning: 60-11 (.845)
    Tied entering the fifth inning: 13-12 (.520)
    Trailing entering the fifth inning: 12-54 (.182)

    Maybe those numbers are so extreme exactly because of the way bullpens are currently used, I don’t know. But it seems the question for managers becomes this: Would you rather let one of your relievers record six outs and not be able to use him for a few days, or use two different pitchers for an inning each and rest easy knowing at most they’ll just need one night off?

    If the pace doesn't pick up, it's entirely possible the Commissioner takes aim at bullpen usage. Could he decide to enforce some kind of minimum batters faced per relief appearance? Who knows? The MLB certainly seems motivated to pick up the pace. It'll be interesting to see at what lengths they'll go to make that happen.

    Related
    Players’ Union Rejects Pace Of Play Proposals
    Dozier Debate: Contract Extension? Pace of Play?
    Twins And Losses Supershow 54 - Slow News Day (pace of play discussion begins a bit after the 13-minute mark)

    • Jan 30 2018 08:33 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  12. 2017: The Year In Debuts

    It will likely not surprise anyone to know that of the 14 players to debut, 11 of them were pitchers. The first four pitchers on the list below are no longer with the organization. Of the remaining players, it’s not difficult to see a potential role for each of them at some point in 2018 or beyond.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    As someone who follows the Twins minor league system so closely, it’s fun to watch several of these players work their way through the entire minor league system and get that big league opportunity whether it’s a long-term gig or just a short-term opportunity. That’s part of why I write the Twins Prospect Handbook, and why I encourage Twins fans to do so each year. The 10th Annual Twins Prospect Handbook (2018) is now available in paperback or e-book.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Justin Haley - April 5

    Haley was the Rule 5 draft pick who came to spring training. He made the Opening Day roster and in the team’s second game, he recorded the final three outs of a Twins win. Two outings later, he struck out six in 3.1 scoreless innings to record his first MLB save. He went on the disabled list twice before being offered back to the Red Sox where he finished the season in AAA.



    Jason Wheeler - May 30

    Wheeler had worked his way up the Twins minor league system since being drafted out of college in 2012. He had been added to the Twins 40-man roster after the 2015 season. He was removed late in the 2016 season, but he kept working, making starts and finally got the call in late May. In his first inning (8th inning against the Astros), he issued a one-out walk but then coaxed a double play. Then the Astros scored two runs off of him, singles by Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, in his second inning. He pitched in relief again the next night. After that series, he was DFAd and claimed by the Dodgers. He also pitched in the Orioles organization.



    Randy Rosario - June 2

    Rosario was the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month in May. He gave up just one run on four hits and two walks in 13.2 innings in Chattanooga. He struck out 18. The Twins had a need at the start of June, and Rosario was called up directly from AA. In his first inning, he came into the 8th inning against the Angels with the Twins ahead 11-2. He worked a 1-2-3 inning. Former Twins outfielder Shane Robinson was his first strikeout. He also got Albert Pujols out. He came back out for the ninth inning and gave up three runs. He worked in one more game, and gave up five runs in 0.1 innings. He was sent down and finished the season with the Lookouts. He was DFAd after the season and claimed by the Chicago Cubs.




    Nik Turley - June 11

    Turley signed a minor league deal with the Twins and didn’t even get a big league spring training invite. However, in the season’s first two months, he gave up 33 hits, walked 15 and struck out 84 batters in 52.2 innings. Fans (at least those who follow the Twins minor leagues) were clamoring for him to be called up. He made his debut in San Francisco. He gave up four runs on eight hits over four innings. He walked none and struck out four. He made two more (not-so-good) starts before being sent back to the minors. He came up twice more throughout the season and ended the year in the bullpen. Following the season, he was DFAd and claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates.



    Alan Busenitz - June 17


    Busenitz came to the Twins from the Angels in the Ricky Nolasco/Alex Meyer/Hector Santiago deal. Busenitz may be the best of the traded players. He came up for the first time in mid-June. He struck out the first batter he faced, MVP candidate Jose Ramirez. He walked a batter and gave up a hit in his first inning. He worked a second inning (and gave up a homer to Francisco Lindor). He went up and down a couple of times before coming up for good for the final two months. By season’s end, he became a reliable bullpen arm for Paul Molitor late in the season.



    Trevor Hildenberger - June 23

    Hildenberger was well known to Twins Daily readers as he was the Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year in 2015 and 2016. He was well on his way to a third straight award when he was called up in late June. In his first game, he came in for the ninth inning with a 5-0 lead. Roberto Perez was the first batter he faced, and the first strikeout victim. After a double, Hildenberger got Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez to ground out to end the game. It didn’t take long for Hildenberger to become the most reliable, and used, reliever in the Twins bullpen.





    Felix Jorge - July 1

    Jorge washttp://m.mlb.com/cut.../239860898/null directly from AA Chattanooga as the 26th man and started the second game of the doubleheader against Kansas City. He gave up two runs in the first inning, but then he put four straight zeroes on the board. He gave up a leadoff single in the 6th inning and was taken out. That man later came around to score. He recorded his first MLB Win. He went down after the game, but four days later, he came back up to make a second start. This time he didn’t get out of the third. He was sent down again after that game and didn’t return. However, he showed enough stuff that he should remain on the 40-man roster and continue to get opportunities.



    Zack Granite - July 8

    Zack Granite was scheduled to play in the AAA All-Star Game, but Jason Castro went on the 7-Day disabled list and Granite was called up.

    When Castro came off the DL, Byron Buxton was hurt so he stayed, and he played well. In his major league debut, Granite was called on to pinch-hit late in the game. He worked an 11-pitch at bat before popping out. His first hit was a double just out of the reach of Jose Altuve.



    Late in the season, Granite got hold of one for his first Major League home run.



    And while he may not be quite Byron Buxton in center field, Granite can cover some serious ground in the outfield.





    Dietrich Enns - August 10

    Enns came to the Twins with Zack Littell from the Yankees in exchange for lefty Jaime Garcia. Just a couple of weeks later, he was called up to make a start in Milwaukee. In it, he went just 2.1 inning and gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits. The highlight of that game for him was probably getting his first big league hit. Five days later, he came out of the bullpen and gave up two runs in five outs. He was sent down, and then he spent most of the rest of the season on the disabled list. He remains on the 40-man roster.



    Aaron Slegers - August 17

    Aaron Slegers has gradually worked his way up the Twins system, one year at a time, and in 2017, he was the Twins minor league pitcher of the year for a very good season in AAA Rochester. In mid-August, he was added to the 40-man roster and called up to start Game 2 of a doubleheader as the team’s 26th man. Through six innings against Cleveland, he gave up just one run. He got a strikeout to start the 7th, but then he gave up a hit and was removed. The game-tying run scored after he left. But Slegers gave up two runs on two hits and two walks over 6.1 innings. He was sent down after the game but came back up with the September call ups. He remains on the Twins 40-man roster and should be a candidate for starts in 2018.



    Mitch Garver - August 19

    In mid-August, Robbie Grossman dove for a ball, collided with Byron Buxton and broke his thumb. Grossman was placed on the DL, and Mitch Garver was called up. In his debut, he struck out as a pinch hitter. The next day, he went 1-4 with a walk. His hit, as expected, was an infield single. He had a total of nine hits in 46 at-bats including three triples and a double. At this point, Garver appears to be the backup catcher option for the Twins heading into the 2018 season.




    John Curtiss - August 25

    Curtiss was the Twins Daily choice for Minor League Relief PItcher of the Year in 2017. It’s been a quick ascension for Curtiss in the last two seasons. He began 2016 in Cedar Rapids, then was promoted to Ft. Myers a month later, and then pitched in the Arizona Fall League. He began this season in Chattanooga and moved up to Rochester midseason. He was surprised when he got his promotion to the big leagues. In his debut, he came into the 9th inning with the Twins leading Toronto 6-1. He struck out the first batter he faced, Steve Pearce, and then got fly outs from Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak to end the game. His fastball/slider combination make him a potential late-inning option for years to come.




    Niko Goodrum - September 2

    Goodrum could have become a free agent last offseason, but instead he quickly re-signed with the Twins. He moved up to AAA and put together a solid season while showing he is capable of playing all over the diamond. It was that skill that likely got him called up on September 1st. He mostly played right field and second base for the Twins in his brief time. He didn’t get many at-bats, but he was able to record his first major league hit, an infield single. Goodrum was DFAd following the season and quickly signed a minor league deal with the Detroit Tigers



    Gabriel Moya - September 12

    Gabriel Moya came to the Twins in late July in a trade with the Diamondbacks for John Ryan Murphy. He was so good all year in Double-A, that MiLB.com named him the top relief pitcher in all of the minor leagues this year. He continued the dominance and helped the Chattanooga Lookouts to a share of the Southern League championship. As soon as that series was done, the Twins added him to the 40-man roster and called him up. He worked 6.1 innings over seven outings. In his debut, he came into the ninth inning with the Twins leading 16-0. He issued a one-out walk to Wil Myers, but he struck out Jabari Blash to end the inning and the game.



    Congratulations to each of these players! Share your thoughts on these debuts and these players.

    • Dec 29 2017 08:33 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  13. Twins Daily Awards 2017: Rookie Of The Year

    In 2015, Trevor Hildenberger was the Twins Daily choice for Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. In 2016, he repeated as the Twins Daily Relief Pitcher of the Year. During each of those seasons, he gathered several Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month awards too. But our guess is that Hildenberger is just fine with not winning a third straight Minor League Reliever of the Year award. In fact, it’s probably a bit of a relief.

    True to his humble self, Hildenberger said, “There is some relief there. Hopefully the same is true next year.”

    Based on the fact that Hildenberger became manager Paul Molitor’s most reliable bullpen choice during the final two months of the season, it would appear quite unlikely that Hildenberger will see time in the minor leagues in 2018.

    The right-hander began the 2017 season with the Rochester Red Wings. He was having a Hildenbergesque (let’s make this a word, Twins fans) season with the Red Wings. He was 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. In 30.2 innings to that point, he had just eight walks and 35 strikeouts. On June 21st, he recorded a five-out save. In his previous two outings, Hildenberger had recorded two-inning saves.

    The next day, he got the message that every baseball player dreams of. In his words…

    “Our Rochester manager, Mike Quade, called me in his office after the game on June 22nd. He started asking me about pace of play and to speed up my rhythm on the mound. I was a little thrown off until he told me I would have a chance to work on it in the big leagues because I’m getting called up.”

    He left his manager’s office, received congratulations from teammates and stepped outside the visitor’s clubhouse in Buffalo. Standing there were his parents, visiting from California.
    Hildenberger added, “It was very special to be able to tell my parents in person, both questioned whether I was serious for a split second, but I think that was just shock.”

    They didn’t have to travel far to see their son’s first game in the big leagues. Instead of flying home, they got in their rental car and drove to Cleveland where the Twins were playing. The very next day, June 23rd, the Twins had a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. Paul Molitor summoned the side-winding righty in from the bullpen.

    The first batter Hildenberger faced was catcher Roberto Perez. Perez struck out on five pitches. Bradley Zimmer doubled, but Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez both grounded out to end the game. Hildy even made his debut on FSN with a post-game interview with Kevin Gorg.



    He was used sporadically until July 7 when in his fourth outing he worked 2.1 innings to record his first big league win against the Orioles. At that point, he started working more often, and it wasn’t long before he started being used in high-leverage situations.

    Of his final 24 outings, only twice did he come in before the seventh inning and those were big sixth-inning moments in New York and Cleveland. At one point in mid-to-late August, Molitor used Hildenberger in six out of seven Twins games. At the time, Molitor said, “Hildenberger has been invaluable to us."

    Hildenberger pitched in high-leverage situations throughout his minor league league time, but pitching high-leverage situations in the big leagues in August and September for a team in a playoff push is something different. It was something that Hildenberger thrived upon and really enjoyed.
    He recently told Twins Daily, “Being able to pitch in high-leverage situations is great, it’s what you want as a reliever. You want to be the guy they run out there in a jam we need to get out of two, three, four days in a row. I think it’s earned on an outing to outing basis. You’ve got to keep earning it and keep doing your job. It’s invaluable experience to be able to throw in some big spots in big games down the stretch.”

    Hildenberger wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school. He went to Cal-Berkeley and barely pitched for the first three seasons. In 2012, he started throwing sidearm and it altered the trajectory of his baseball-playing career. He was the Twins' 22nd round pick in 2014 after five years in college. He spent that summer in the GCL. He split 2015 between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers. He went to the Arizona Fall League following the season and pitched well. In 2016, he split the year between Chattanooga and Rochester.

    The long, windy road to the big leagues proved well worth it for Hildenberger. It was full of positives, lessons learned and a lot of fun.

    According to Hildenberger, “Winning down the stretch with such a great group of guys in that clubhouse was the best time of my life. I’ll never forget the lessons I learned in my short 3 months from everyone in the organization. There’s nothing better than winning at the highest level, just getting a taste of success will only motivate us for years to come.”

    Congratulations to the Twins Daily 2017 Twins Rookie of the Year, Trevor Hildenberger!


    CANDIDATES

    Adalberto Mejia made 21 starts for the Twins in 2017. He made the Opening Day rotation and made his starts until a midseason injury. He came back for two starts at the end of the season. He went 4-7 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP. In 98 innings, he struck out 85 batters.

    Alan Busenitz was promoted about a week before Hildenberger. He moved up and down over the next month, but by season’s end, Molitor was also not afraid to put him into key situations. He responded by posting a 1.99 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP.

    Zack Granite played well for a few weeks when Byron Buxton went on the Disabled List. Aaron Slegers and Felix Jorge both had a good start for the Twins in key situations.


    THE BALLOTS

    Here's a look at the ballots from each of our nine voters.

    Seth Stohs: 1) Trevor Hildenberger, 2) Adalberto Mejia, 3) Alan Busenitz
    Nick Nelson: 1) Trevor Hildenberger, 2) Adalberto Mejia, 3) Alan Busenitz
    Parker Hageman: 1) Adalberto Mejia, 2) Trevor Hildenberger, 3) Zack Granite
    John Bonnes: 1) Trevor Hildenberger, 2) Adalberto Mejia, 3) Alan Busenitz
    Jeremy Nygaard: 1) Trevor Hildenberger, 2) Adalberto Mejia, 3) Alan Busenitz
    Cody Christie: 1) Adalberto Mejia, 2) Trevor Hildenberger, 3) Alan Busenitz
    Steve Lien: 1) Trevor Hildenberger, 2) Alan Busenitz, 3) Zack Granite
    Tom Froemming: 1) Adalberto Mejia, 2) Trevor Hildenberger, 3) Alan Busenitz
    Ted Schwerzler: 1) Trevor Hildenberger, 2) Adalberto Mejia, 3) Alan Busenitz


    POINTS

    Trevor Hildenberger: 24
    Adalberto Mejia: 19
    Alan Busenitz: 9
    Zack Granite: 2


    Do you agree with our committee's pick? Who would be your choice for Twins Rookie of the Year and why?


    PREVIOUS TWINS DAILY ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

    2015: Miguel Sano
    2016: Max Kepler


    2017 TWINS DAILY AWARDS

    2017 Most Improved: Byron Buxton
    2017 Rookie of the Year: Trevor Hildenberger
    2017 Pitcher of the Year: Wednesday
    2017 Most Valuable Player: Thursday

    • Oct 10 2017 08:39 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  14. Inexperienced Bullpen Gaining Valuable Experience

    Trevor Hildenberger was the Twins Daily choice for Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year in both 2015 and 2016. He was called up to the big leagues and debuted on June 23rd in Cleveland. That was just six days after another 26-year-old reliever, Alan Busenitz, made his debut for the Twins at Target Field against Cleveland.

    Hildenberger has stayed with the Twins since that debut and has gradually earned higher leverage opportunities.

    "It's great to pitch in high-pressure situations but it's confidence you have to earn every outing. You gotta keep building on good outings and keep improving."


    Posted Image
    photo by Daniel Mick (of Trevor Hildenberger)

    In his first 13 outings, he pitched in six games when there was a four (or more) run differential, and he pitched before the seventh inning six times. In his next 13 appearances, Hildenberger has been terrific. Three times he has pitched in a blowout situation, but only when things started getting a bit hairy, and he has not pitched before the seventh inning in a game.

    Overall, he has posted a 2.59 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP over 31.1 innings. He’s shown the skills that he showed throughout his minor league career. He walks very few (1.1 BB/9), and despite not being overpowering, he misses bats often (9.8 K/9).

    Since August 2nd, he has worked 14 innings over 14 games. He’s got a 1.93 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP in that time frame. In one stretch, he worked in six out of seven Twins games. He has become a trusted, reliable member of Molitor’s bullpen.

    As Molitor said after a recent Twins game, “Of course, Hildenberger has been invaluable to us.”

    And Busenitz? “Busenitz has been very good.”

    Alan Busenitz has been up and back to AAA Rochester a couple of time since his debut, but since returning on August 2nd, he has been fantastic. In 10 games and 13 innings, he has a 0.69 ERA (one earned run in his most recent game), and has a 0.46 WHIP. Opponents have hit just .077 against him in that time.

    In 18 games overall for the Twins, Busenitz has worked 23.2 innings and can boast an ERA of 1.90 and a WHIP of 0.93.

    The hard-throwing Busenitz generally sits between 95 and 96 and has touched 97 and even 98. He’s also gained much more confidence in his breaking ball since he’s been back, and that’s been a big pitch for him.

    For Busenitz, it’s been great to earn the respect and trust of his manager. Like Hildenberger, Busenitz has been used in higher leverage situations. Of his first 11 outings in the big leagues, they all came with the Twins having a very large lead or a large deficit, or before the seventh inning.

    He told Twins Daily recently, “It’s a great feeling. I try not to look at the innings any differently. They’re all important. They’re all important to me, and they’re all important to the team. I’m just glad to help out wherever I can.”

    Busenitz was kind of a throw-in in the trade (at least for many on the outside) last August 1st between the Twins and the Angels. The Twins sent right-handers Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer to the Angels in exchange for left-hander Hector Santiago along with Busenitz.

    For the manager, it has obviously been important to ease the relievers into the big leagues with lower-leverage situations. However, he says that it’s been very important to get this kind of production from these youngsters.

    Molitor said, “Absolutely, as a whole, the guys we have out there, there’s not a ton of experience. We have to roll the dice a little bit with the fact that these guys are learning on the fly here. But the results instill a lot of confidence in Neil (Allen), Eddie (Guardado) and myself, and the guys playing behind them. These guys are coming in there and pitching effectively, and sometimes in big spots. We’re still mixing it up fairly well, but roles are kind of changing. It’s fluid.”

    A week ago, the Twins called up another hard-throwing reliever from Rochester’s roster, John Curtiss. Curtiss has dominated minor league ball season, both at AA And AAA. He has now appeared in four games, and three of them have been in low-leverage situations. While we like to think that it’s OK to throw these young, talented guys into those tougher situations, that isn’t always what is best. It’s more ideal to bring them along more slowly, in lower leverage spots, and (as Hildenberger and Busenitz have done) start giving him more high leverage spots when it is earned. While Busenitz and Hildenberger are already 26, Curtiss is still just 24.

    This time in the big leagues has to be invaluable for these inexperienced pitchers, and the young hitters too. They are gaining valuable service time and opportunities when they play, and they should learn from it. The same can be said for the Twins young hitters as well, from Byron Buxton to Mitch Garver. The experience will be great for this season, but equally important, for years to come.

    Busenitz’s added in a discussion with Twins Daily. “It’s unbelievable (being in the big leagues). Being on a winning team, I’m sure, makes it all that much better. My only experience has been this one, and it’s been fantastic.”

    According to Hildenberger, the playoff race has been fun. "Being in a playoff race has been eye opening so far and been so much fun playing meaningful games this late in the year. We're all pulling in the same direction and that's a wonderful thing to be a part of."


    It’s been a pretty fantastic ride for the Twins, and their fans, as well. As Hildenberger said, "Now we enter a September playoff race, which is amazing, and I can't wait."

    • Sep 05 2017 03:26 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  15. KC 5, MIN 4: What Even Is A Swing, Anyway?

    Snapshot (chart via Fangraphs)
    [attachment=10748:Snapshot93.png]
    I took a quick look through the MLB official rule book, and guess what? There doesn’t appear to be an actual definition of a swing or check swing in there. How crazy is that? It’s basically all up to the individual umpires to determine what is an attempt to strike the ball.

    Does that simply mean their bat passes the front of the plate? Is it when the barrel of the bat carries past the body of the batter? All depends on who you ask, I guess. Here’s a great screenshot Ted Schwerzler shared, you be the judge.


    Molitor certainly thought that was a swing attempt. He took issue with the call and was asked to hit the showers early, or whatever managers do after the game.

    That was a massive call, as instead of being strike three it gave Cain new life. He crushed a go-ahead two-run triple, and was actually thrown out at home trying to get an inside-the-parker. That was in the top of the seventh inning, so the Twins had opportunities to make up for that call but fell short.

    After a game on Saturday in which the scoring more closely resembled a football game (the Twins won 17-0), this one was more like a ping-pong match. The Royals took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning, but the Twins got two in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead. The Royals responded with two runs of their own in the top of the sixth, but the Twins charged right back with a pair of runs of their own to make it 4-3 heading into that decisive top of the seventh in which Kansas City took hold of the lead for good.

    Ervin Santana went 6.2 innings and had four earned runs. Alan Busenitz gave up that huge triple, he gave up an earned run over 0.1 innings. He had gone nine-straight appearances without giving up a run.

    Eduardo Escobar, who hit two homers on Saturday, blasted his 15th of the season, a two-run shot. Byron Buxton was 2-for-2 with his fifth triple of the year and a walk.

    Standings
    The Yankees will be playing the Red Sox on Sunday Night Baseball (imagine that), so the Twins are currently 1.5 games back of New York for the top wild card. The Angels lost and Baltimore won Sunday, so those two clubs both trail the Twins by 1.5 games for the second wild card.

    Postgame With Molitor

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=10749:Bullpen93.png]
    Looking Ahead
    Mon: Twins (Jose Berrios) at Rays (Alex Cobb), 6:10 pm CT
    Tue: Twins (Bartolo Colon) at Rays (Jake Odorizzi), 6:10 pm CT
    Wed: Twins (Aaron Slegers) at Rays (Blake Snell), 12:10 pm CT

    Looking Back
    MIN 17, KC 0: What Negative Run Differential?
    KC 7, MIN 6: Oh, So Close
    MIN 5, CHW 4: Twins Win on Walk-Off HBP

    • Sep 03 2017 07:33 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  16. MIN 5, CHW 4: Twins Win on Walk-Off HBP

    Snapshot (chart via Fangraphs)
    [attachment=10733:IMG_20170831_155217.jpg]
    [attachment=10734:chart.png]
    On his second pitch on the ninth, Belisle gave up a crushing go-ahead homer to Alen Hanson. He also walked the next batter, but to his credit Belisle righted the ship and struck out three of the next four batters he faced to limit the damage. There was an intentional walk in the middle of those K's. You never like to see your closer (are we calling him that?) give up a go-ahead home run in the ninth, but at least he didn’t completely unravel.

    With David Robertson traded away, the White Sox have a lot of uncertainty in the back end of their bullpen, too. Juan Minaya, who entered the game with three career saves, coughed up the lead in the bottom of the ninth. Ehire Adrianza led off the inning with a pinch-hit single. Zack Granite popped out on a bunt attempt for the first out, but thank goodness in the end it didn’t matter. Brian Dozier walked, Rosario hit a game-tying single and Joe Mauer walked to load the bases.

    Jorge Polanco hit the first pitch he saw back to the pitcher for the second out. That’s when the Kepler heroics happened. Well, maybe that’s overselling it a bit. The very first pitch of the at-bat, an 88 mph slider, hit Max to give the Twins yet another August win. It looked like it got him squarely on the back shin, but Max was able to jog down to first and participate in the victory celebration. Kepler also hit a game-tying RBI double in the fifth inning.

    It was an odd day for Bartolo. Typically a wizard at coaxing “good” contact, Colon gave up 10 hits. Also weird: he struck out a season-high eight batters. At the end of the day, that combination resulted in a quality start (6.0 IP, 3 ER). Alan Busenitz pitched two shutout innings before Belisle gave up the run in the ninth.

    The Twins got some great news on Byron Buxton. His hand injury is merely considered day-to-day, a bruise of the hamate bone.

    Standings
    Cleveland was off, so the Twins are now 6.5 games back in the division. The Yankees won, but the Orioles finally lost. So the Twins remain a game back of New York for the first Wild Card and are 1.5 games up on the Angels for the second spot. Baltimore is 2.5 back. The next teams trail the Twins by four games. The crowd has started to thin out.

    Postgame With Molitor


    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=10735:IMG_20170831_154811.jpg]
    Looking Ahead
    Fri: Twins (Dillon Gee) vs. Royals (Jason Hammel), 7:10 pm CT
    Sat: Twins (Kyle Gibson) vs. Royals (TBD), 6:10 pm CT
    Sun: Twins (Ervin Santana) vs. Royals (TBD), 1:10 pm CT

    Looking Back
    MIN 11, CHW 1: Rosario Hits 2 HRs, Buxton Exits With Injury
    MIN 6, CHW 4: Polanco Does it All
    MIN 7, TOR 2: Buxton Hits 3 Homers, Twins Win Series at Toronto

    • Aug 31 2017 09:47 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  17. CWS 5, MIN 1: Twins Drop Ugly Game, Series to White Sox

    Win Expectancy (via Fangraphs)
    [attachment=10679:WinEx824.png]
    Top 3 Twins per WPA: Escobar .055 | Rosario .037 | Mauer .032

    It’s almost hard to believe the White Sox managed to score five runs off Berrios, given how nasty he was. Jose only gave up four hits and struck out nine batters over 5.1 innings, but he also walked three and the Twins made a pair of costly errors (one of which was committed by Berrios).

    The fourth inning was particularly painful. Berrios walked the leadoff hitter, rookie Yoan Moncada, on four pitches. After retiring Jose Abreu, first baseman Mitch Garver committed a fielding error on a groundball in the hole. Moncada, who had stolen second base, hustled around to score, putting the Sox up 2-0.

    Berrios then gave up back-to-back singles to load the bases with one out. Next, Tim Anderson hit an RBI ground out to put the White Sox up 3-0. With the two outs and runners at the corners, Berrios' pickoff throw went passed third baseman Ehire Adrianza, allowing the White Sox to score their fourth run.

    It was a high-risk, low-reward move. I get that these guys are professionals and practice and prepare for everything, but how many pickoff throws has Adrianza fielded at third base in his life? And how many times has Berrios even ever attempted a pickoff at third?

    Either way, that mistake was far from the reason the Twins lost this one. For the second-straight night the bats went ice cold. After making 2017 James Shields look like vintage James Shields Wednesday evening, the Twins gave the same treatment to Derek Holland. The longtime former Ranger entered the night with a 6.28 ERA, but he was able to hold the Twins to one run over 6.0 innings.

    The Twins managed just five hits, with their only run coming on Byron Buxton’s 10th homer of the year. Buxton has now hit 19 home runs for the Twins over the last 365 days. He actually homered exactly a year ago today … for the Rochester Red Wings.


    Eddie Rosario drew two walks, and is up to 28 in 118 games this season. He entered this year with 27 walks in 214 career games. Brian Dozier was 0-for-3 with a walk. The team really needs him to provide some offense against lefties, especially now that Miguel Sano is out. The Twins face another southpaw tomorrow. Jason Castro was placed on the seven-day concussion DL, which allowed the club to bring Zack Granite back up. He was 0-for-2 with a walk.

    The bullpen was solid, as Ryan Pressly and Alan Busenitz each pitched 1.1 scoreless innings. Pressly has now given up just two earned runs in 13.0 innings (1.38 ERA) this month. Busenitz gave up runs in each of his first two appearances with the Twins, but since then he’s given up only two earned runs over 18.1 innings (0.98 ERA).

    Postgame With Molitor

    Twins W-L Record
    Overall: 65-62
    Last 10: 6-4
    Last 20: 13-7
    Last 40: 20-20
    Last 80: 39-41

    AL Central Standings
    Cleveland 70-56
    Minnesota 65-62 (-5.5)
    Kansas City 64-62 (-6.0)

    AL Wild Card Standings
    WC1: Yankees 68-58 (+3.5)
    WC2: Minnesota 65-62
    Angles 65-63 (-0.5)
    Kansas City 64-62 (-0.5)
    Seattle 65-63 (-0.5)
    Texas 64-63 (-1.0)

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=10680:Bullpen824.png]
    Looking Ahead
    FRI: Twins (Bartolo Colon) at Toronto (J.A. Happ), 6:07 pm CT
    SAT: Twins (Dillon Gee) at Toronto (Marco Estrada), 12:07 pm CT
    SUN: Twins (Kyle Gibson) at Toronto (TBD), 12:07 pm CT

    Question of the Day
    Are we to the point where Joe Mauer (.256/.344/.293 vs. LHP) needs to be in the lineup against lefties just for his defense?

    • Aug 25 2017 08:13 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  18. MIN 5, ARI 0: Berri-0s

    Win Expectancy (via Fangraphs)
    [attachment=10638:WinEx819.png]
    Top 3 Twins per WPA: Berrios .281 | Dozier .148 | Castro .084

    We’ve seen several Twins break out of slumps around the same time these last couple weeks, I guess it was Berrios’ turn tonight. Jose entered the evening with a 6.18 ERA and 1.52 WHIP over six second-half starts. It’s a baseball cliche to say a player mired in a slump is due, but it certainly felt like Berrios was going to get back on track eventually.

    And oh boy did he ever get back on track. Berrios gave up just two hits and walked one batter. Here are his seven strikeouts:


    Last night it was all about the home runs, tonight the Twins singled the D-Backs to death. They scored all five of their runs in the fourth inning despite not recording a single extra-base hit in that frame. They strung together five singles and had an error and a walk mixed in.

    Sano, who was the DH tonight, exited the game after he was slow to get down the first base line on a double play that ended that huge fourth inning. Mitch Garver replaced Sano and struckout in his major league debut.

    Alan Busenitz was perfect over the final two innings, lowering his ERA to 1.93 in his 18.2 innings pitched on the big club this season.

    Postgame With Molitor

    Twins W-L Record
    Overall: 62-59 (.512)
    Last 10: 7-3 (.700)
    Last 20: 12-8 (.600)
    Last 40: 21-19 (.525)
    Last 80: 39-41 (.488)

    AL Central Standings
    Cleveland 68-53
    Minnesota 62-59 (-6.0)
    Kansas City 61-61 (-7.5)

    AL Wild Card Standings
    WC1: Yankees 66-56
    WC2: Minnesota 62-59
    Angels 63-60 (-0.002 winning percentage)
    Seattle 63-61 (-0.5)

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=10639:Bullpen819.png]
    Looking Ahead
    SUN: Twins (Bartolo Colon) vs. Arizona (TBD), 1:10 pm CT
    MON: Twins (TBD) at White Sox (TBD), 4:10 pm CT
    MON: Twins (TBD) at White Sox (TBD), Game 2
    TUE: Twins (TBD) at White Sox (TBD), 7:10 pm CT
    *It's not official, but it's sounding like the Twins will roll with Dillon Gee, Tim Melville and Kyle Gibson as the starters in those games at Chicago.

    Question of the Day
    Who is the player you’d most like to see enshrined next in the Twins Hall of Fame?

    • Aug 20 2017 04:23 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  19. Bullpen Ramblings

    The Twins bullpen has not been good again this year. Here are the numbers:

    Bullpen ERA: 4.53 (25th)
    Strikeouts: 345 (26th)
    Walks: 132 (7th)
    Batting Average Against: .269 (30th)

    Also, the Twins bullpen ranks seventh in Innings pitched with 407.1 innings. That is largely the fault of the starting rotation. Even with the first halves of Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, the starters’ ERA is 4.89 (26th). The 625.1 innings the Twins starters have thrown ranks 27th lowest. They are also in the bottom half of MLB in strikeouts, walks, and batting average against. Again, the bullpen has generally been OK (not good, but not horrific either) until they have to throw a lot of innings due to a run of short starts.

    While the Twins were generally healthy during spring training, there were some things that were already known.

    First, while Glen Perkins was trying to throw some bullpens, it was clear that he would miss an extended time at the beginning of the season. Trevor May was going to be transitioned back to a starter before his season ended before it started when he had Tommy John surgery.

    In the offseason, the Twins spent $2 million on veteran Matt Belisle. He had four horrific outings early in the season. But then he was nearly flawless for about six weeks before becoming the team’s closer. He recorded saves in his first three opportunities before blowing one.

    The Twins also brought in some veteran types on minor league contracts. Craig Breslow got the longest big league look before the Twins DLd him and released him. Drew Rucinski has seen some time. Independent ball signing Nik Turley made three starts that didn’t go well, though it looks like his future could be in the bullpen.

    So, why did the Twins sign so few relievers when we knew that there was potential for it to be a huge concern?

    Brandon Kintzler would likely be solid, if not a stereotypical closer. He was much better than anticipated, even earning an All-Star berth and appearance. Taylor Rogers was coming off a solid rookie season and looking to improve upon it. Ryan Pressly’s clearly got the stuff to believe in. Fair to say that hasn’t gone real well much of this season. Tyler Duffey made the move to the bullpen and needed an opportunity to develop in that role.

    It was clear from the get-go that 2017 was going to be an evaluation year for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. That meant giving extended opportunities to several arms. Could Buddy Boshers be an alternative if (and eventually when) Craig Breslow didn’t pan out? Michael Tonkin got through 2016 without an option. Could he take a step forward in 2017?

    The team also added Justin Haley in the Rule 5 draft and wanted to evaluate him. Just like claiming the likes of Adam Wilk, Chris Heston and Dillon Gee. Add arms and evaluate.

    Already, we have mentioned nine names for eight (and ideally seven) bullpen spots. But then there were other injuries that started piling up toward the end of spring training.

    JT Chargois and his upper-90s fastball had a terrific September for the Twins and could have been a key contributor this season. Instead, 2017 has been the third lost season for Chargois since the Twins drafted him in 2012.

    Nick Burdi had a lost 2016 season, but in the season’s first month, he was throwing hard, and throwing strikes, and seemingly very closer to debuting with the Twins. Instead, he had Tommy John surgery in May and that will likely cost him much of the 2018 season as well.

    Tyler Jay was moved from the role of starting pitcher to relieverin spring training. The idea was that he would be able to move up more quickly. Instead, he’s missed nearly the entire season with biceps tendinitis and thoracic outlet-type symptoms.

    And Jake Reed stayed with the big league club through most of spring training, but in the final spring game, he pulled a muscle in his side and missed the season’s first two months.

    If you want to add Mason Melotakis to this group, that may work because he was supposed to get to the big league club this year. Unfortunately, he pulled an oblique early in the spring and didn’t have an opportunity to pitch in big league camp. While he hasn’t been injured, his velocity is way down. His numbers at AAA Rochester have been quite good. But he was able to be DFAd, went unclaimed and was outrighted to Rochester.

    Each of those guys was likely expected to be a key contributor in the Twins bullpen by this time in the season. Instead, they have received zero innings so far but Reed, and possibly Melotakis, has a shot of getting a call this season.

    However, that has opened up opportunity for others. Alan Busenitz got the call first. He went up and down a few times, but with recent outings, he has shown good improvement. His mid-to-upper 90s fastball is good, and he has a good breaking ball too.

    Trevor Hildenberger was the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year in 2015and 2016. He came up in late June and has shown that he can get big league hitters out. On Sunday, he got four outs to record his first MLB save. While his fastball sits in the upper-80s most of the time, his changeup is really, really good. And he throws each of his pitches from a couple of angles.

    Busenitz and Hildenberger should factor into the 2018 Twins bullpen options. Hopefully Jay and Reed, Chargois and Melotakis, and maybe even Burdi at some point, will get an opportunity and could factor into the bullpen.

    But other names have surfaced for 2018 as well. John Curtiss had a very strong 2016 season, spending a month in Cedar Rapids before moving up to the Miracle. He also performed well in the Arizona Fall League. He’s been absolutely fantastic in 2017, both in Chattanooga and since his move up to Rochester.

    Luke Bard was recently promoted to AAA after putting up huge strikeout numbers at Chattanooga. Ryan Eades has been solid in the bullpen. The Twins also acquired lefty reliever Gabriel Moya from the Diamondbacks in exchange for John Ryan Murphy. He’s put up silly numbers at AA all year. Nick Anderson has been, arguably, quietly, the best reliever in the Twins farm system all season. Todd Van Steensel has put up another year with great numbers, this time at Chattanooga.

    And we don’t know what the ultimate roles will be for the likes of Fernando Romero, Dietrich Enns, Dereck Rodriguez or other starters in the upper levels of the minor leagues.

    The cabinet is certainly not bare, and as Falvey and Levine have said, accumulating arms and talented arms is clearly a focus.

    If you’re looking for a sleeper for 2018, look to the GCL where right-hander Michael Kohn has been pitching the last few weeks. A former teammate of Torii Hunter, Kohn threw for the Twins in a tryout and soon after the Twins offered him a deal. Kohn was eating lunch with another former teammate and former Twins reliever Kevin Jepsen when his agent texted him with the Twins offer. The Twins signed him to a two-year minor league deal that includes an invitation to big league camp in 2018. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since May of 2015 due to shoulder surgery. In 115 games (132 games) over parts of five seasons in the big leagues, he struck out 111. He has pitched five innings over five appearances in the GCL over the last two weeks.

    And finally, there is Glen Perkins. The three-time All-Star hasn’t pitched since April of 2016. He had shoulder surgery, reattaching the muscle to the bone. It had to be incredibly painful, and clearly it has taken a ton of work to get back. His rehab stint in entering its final week. The Twins will (presumably) call him up and give him an opportunity. I’m realistic about how much he’ll be able to contribute down the stretch. I hope he can just be solid. This is most likely the final season of his career, unless his plans have changed due to these injuries. The Twins aren’t going to pick up his option. So enjoy what he’s got left. Hope for the best. Appreciate the work he’s put in to get back and remember how great he was for a three or four year stretch.

    The Twins could certainly go out right now and add a reliever or two in a trade. The cost, in terms of dollars or prospects would not be high. Or, they could call up guys like John Curtiss, Mason Melotakis, Luke Bard and Jake Reed in September and give them a shot.

    The cupboard for Twins relief pitching options is far from bare. I would again advocate in the upcoming offseason that they not go crazy on bullpen arms in free agency. Maybe one veteran on a one-year, low cost, low risk deal, and a couple more minor league signings. That’s it. And then find a manager and pitching coach (whether that is Paul Molitor and Neil Allen or not) who will be willing to go with the young arms.

    • Aug 15 2017 05:46 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  20. MIN 7, MIL 2: 5 Alive!

    Win Expectancy (via Fangraphs)
    [attachment=10587:WinEx810.png]
    Now that Jorge Polanco is out of his funk, the only slumping Twins hitters are Joe Mauer (.194 average over last four weeks) and Byron Buxton (.559 OPS since returning from the DL).

    Well, better make that were Joe Mauer and Byron Buxton.

    Joe and Buxton had three hits each, Miguel Sano had a pair of hits and, of course, Polanco collected two more base knocks. Jorge is now 14-for-28 so far this month. I haven’t had the chance to fire that through my Internet machine to analyze, but that seems pretty darn good.

    Enns walked in a run with one out in the third inning, and that was enough to get the hook despite the Twins holding a four-run lead. He gave up two runs (one unearned, but due to his own error) on five hits and a walk while throwing just 53 pitches. The average velo on his fastball was 89.6 mph and his go-to secondary offering was his curveball, which averaged 79.8 mph, according to Baseball Savant.

    Enns will still be searching for his first MLB strikeout his next time out, whenever that may be, but he did cross another big milestone off the list. He got his first hit. Like, first hit ever as a professional. Enns had zero plate appearances in the minors, which was evident as he struck out trying to bunt in his first plate appearance. Things went much better his second time up.


    Alan Busenitz was the first man out of the bullpen, making his first appearance since Aug. 1 and just his third outing since being recalled on July 24. Booze threw 2.2 perfect innings while striking out two batters. Sano made an excellent inning-ending double play to help him out of a jam in the third.

    Ryan Pressly held Milwaukee scoreless in both the sixth and seventh innings, Tyler Duffey pitched a perfect eighth with two K's and Buddy Boshers capped off an impressive night for the bullpen with a scoreless ninth.

    Since the Brandon Kintzler trade, the Twins bullpen has given up just three earned runs over 31.1 innings (0.86 ERA). It’s so obvious now that trade was simply a motivational tactic by the new front office. Man, those guys are good.

    Both Cleveland and Kansas City lost again, putting the Twins back into second place in the AL Central, 3.5 games back. At the conclusion of the game, the Twins were just one game out in the Wild Card race, but Seattle’s game was still in progress.

    With all the victories lately, you’d think the Twins would loosen up a bit and have some fun. But, as evidence from this behind-the-scenes footage from FOX Sports North, the fellas have been all business:

    Postgame With Buxton

    Postgame With Molitor

    Twins W-L Record
    Overall: 57-56 (.504)
    Last 10: 7-3 (.700)
    Last 20: 10-10 (.500)
    Last 40: 18-22 (.450)
    Last 80: 38-42 (.475)

    Defensive Lineups
    Here’s a look at the starting lineups from the past seven games:
    [attachment=10588:Lineups810.png]
    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=10589:Bullpen810.png]
    Looking Ahead
    Friday: Twins (Kyle Gibson) at Detroit (Anibal Sanchez), 6:10 pm CT
    Saturday: Twins (Jose Berrios) at Detroit (Jordan Zimmermann), 5:10 pm CT
    Sunday: Twins (Ervin Santana) at Detroit (Matthew Boyd), 12:10 pm CT

    • Aug 11 2017 04:37 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  21. SDP 3, MIN 0: Don’t Need a Closer if You Can’t Score

    Win Expectancy (via Fangraphs)
    [attachment=10541:WinEx81.png]
    This was an encouraging night for Berrios and Buxton, which in the big picture is really what’s important for the remainder of this season. Berrios gave up just one run over 7.0 two-hit innings. He walked two and struck out four, throwing just 75 pitches, 46 for strikes.

    If this was an AL game, there’s little doubt Jose would have gone out for the eighth inning, but he was pinch hit for as the leadoff man in the eighth inning. Paul Molitor has been an easy target of late, but I think that’s a move that had to be made in a 1-0 game at the time.

    Along with going 1-for-3, Buxton also stole his 17th base of the season. Eduardo Escobar was a bright spot as well, going 1-for-2 with a pair of walks. Zack Granite had a rough night at the plate, hitting into two double plays, but he also made a nice catch at the wall in left field.

    Joe Mauer made the play of the game with this sweet over the shoulder basket catch.


    Unfortunately, Alan Busenitz gave up a two-run homer in the eighth inning. As someone who has been clamoring for the young relievers to get more opportunities, that was a tough pill to swallow in the first game post-Kintzler, but here’s hoping Busenitz doesn’t have to wait so long between appearances for another chance to prove himself. His last game prior to tonight was July 25.

    Postgame With Molitor

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=10542:Pen81.png]
    Wednesday
    Twins (Ervin Santana) at San Diego (Luis Perdomo), 2:40 pm CT

    Over his last five starts, Perdomo has given up 21 runs in 25.1 innings, though only 15 of those were earned (5.33 ERA). The right-hander has yielded an .895 OPS and has a 15:9 K:BB ratio over that same stretch. Lefties have hit .331/.407/.494 (.901 OPS) off him this season.

    Santana followed a terrible June with a more respectable, yet still uninspiring July. In four starts he had a 4.68 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Through his first 11 starts, Erv had a 1.75 ERA. In his 10 starts since, his ERA is 5.46.

    • Aug 02 2017 05:51 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  22. Twins Can Use System To Define Summer

    Stated hereby Seth Stohs, the Twins will be tested to “trust the system” down the stretch. Way back in November, I looked at a handful of prospects that Minnesota would be inclined to call up during the 2017 season. Of the eight names mentioned, two have been promoted, with three remaining as possible call ups. The two promoted, Trevor Hildenberger and Zack Granite, more than had to convince their way up, however.

    When it comes to trusting the system, players like Hildenberger, Granite and Alan Busenitz should serve as cases in point. While not all prospects see the same level of success before rising to the big leagues, each player in that trio saw a significant amount of success prior to promotion, and has continued to show value at the MLB level.

    In the bullpen, Hildenberger has pitched 15.1 innings to the tune of a 3.52 ERA. His delivery creates problems for big league hitters, and that’s equated to an 8.2 K/9 with just a 1.8 BB/9. He’s had a rough outing or two, but has already begun to rise in the confidence-shown-in-him department. Busenitz finds himself in a similar situation, having been sent down despite production suggesting he not be demoted. Now 9.2 IP into his 2017 MLB season, he owns a 1.86 ERA backed by a decent 2.8 BB/9. The 3.7 K/9 is a far cry from the 9.9 K/9 he owned at Triple-A, but should continue to trend upward.

    Both bullpen arms have shown well and Granite has followed suit in the outfield, a poor decision in Los Angeles notwithstanding. Granite now has 14 MLB games under his belt with a .327 OBP. After starting slow, he’s climbed back to a .255 average and owns an even 5/5 K/BB. He was never going to show power at the highest level, and his game has continued to be one of speed and defense.

    If the Twins continue down the path they are on, one of either standing pat or selling, trusting the system is something they should fully get behind. 2018 represents a realistic opportunity for the organization to compete at a playoff level, and finding out a bit more regarding internal options is hardly a bad decision.

    Mitch Garver is currently tearing up Triple-A Rochester. He owns a .926 OPS and has a very strong .387 OBP. Given his positional flexibility to help out not just behind the plate, he would seem an immediate upgrade over current backup Chris Gimenez. Triple-A arms like Aaron Slegers (3.35 ERA across 18 starts), Jake Reed (1.84 ERA in 14.2 IP), and Mason Melotakis (1.80 ERA in 10.0 IP) all have legitimate claims to a roster spot. Dipping down a level lower, both top pitching prospects Stephen Gonsalves and Fernando Romero could benefit from big league time this year.

    As the summer fades into fall, the Twins shouldn’t be packing it in, but rather competing, and doing so by figuring out who may be able to immediately help in 2018. While spring training is a nice launching pad, it’s hard to learn much against watered down competition. Playing some key players prior to September could yield strong results and help to lay the foundation for the winter acquisition season.

    There’s no doubt you don’t want to ruin prospects by exposing them too soon, but at the end of the day, the goal is to have them compete at the highest level. No number of stats accumulated on the farm mean anything in the long run, and there’s a group of prospects who have already shown they were ready well before their call this season. With the final third of the season fast approaching, Minnesota stands to benefit by trusting their system, and letting the development take its next step.

    • Jul 27 2017 09:46 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  23. Twins 2, Dodgers 6: Twins Fall Below .500

    Before the game even started, things were a bit strange for the Twins. Less than an hour before game time, Miguel Sano was scratched from the lineup due to his aggravated wrist (from Monday night’s hit-by-pitch). He got x-rays, and they were negative, which of course is positive. Eduardo Escobar was going to hit sixth and play shortstop. Instead, he moved to third base and batted cleanup. Jorge Polanco played shortstop. That was the easy lineup construction situation of this game.

    Win Expectancy (via fangraphs)

    Posted Image

    Jose Berrios started for the Twins and he was solid early. He began the game with three shutout innings. He used his fastball at a variety of speeds, from 92 to 97. He also had a very sharp curveball again, as evidenced by this 1st-inning pitch to Corey Seager:



    Top Three Twins (by Win Expectancy)
    • Zack Granite (.078) - 1-4, RBI 1B
    • Joe Mauer (.060) - 1-2, 2 BB
    • Jason Castro (.026) - 1-4
    Zack Granite gave the Twins a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the 3rd inning. However, in the fourth inning, the Dodgers bats took over. They scored four runs on five hits off of Berrios. While he got through the inning, he was pinch hit for in the top of the fifth frame. Trevor Hildenberger pitched a scoreless fifth frame. He got one out in the sixth as well.

    However, that’s when things went strange. Paul Molitor came out to talk to the umpire and tell him he was making a double-switch. He had Ryan Pressly come in to the game to take Hildenberger’s spot as pitcher. He had Ehire Adrianza come in to play shortstop, replacing Jorge Polanco. Of course, Adrianza would bat in the pitcher’s spot in the double switch. Seemed simple enough.

    As Molitor explained, the umpire somehow heard that Belisle was coming in for Rosario. Molitor thought that he explained it (Pressly for Polanco) correctly. Molitor took the blame for the miscommunication, though I certainly don't think he needs to.




    But after Pressly threw one pitch, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts came out to ask the umpires about the double switch. Confusion ensued. The umps talked to Roberts. Then went and talked to Molitor. Then Roberts again. Then they called the offices in New York where a rules interpretation was done. Over 20 minutes later, Polanco needed to stay in the game and Adrianza went to left field with Eddie Rosario coming up. That meant that the pitcher’s spot in the lineup would come up two spots earlier.



    Roberts explained following the game that part of the concern was that Jorge Polanco had been taken out of the game for the first pitch after Pressly came in. He noted that apparently there is a re-entry rule that allowed Polanco to re-enter the game at shortstop when Adrianza went out to left field instead, removing the hot-hitting Eddie Rosario.



    Of course, Roberts kept saying Escobar, which was wrong, and probably adds to the confusion.

    After the 20+ minute delay, Pressly served up three straight hits to give the Dodgers two additional runs of offense. They didn’t need it, but it gave them the final 6-2 win.

    AL Central

    Cleveland won late on an Edwin Encarnacion grand slam. Earlier in the evening, the Royals topped the Tigers. The White Sox lost to the Cubs. The Twins came into their Tuesday night game at Dodgers Stadium with a .500 record and… …

    Cleveland 52-45 .536 ---
    Kansas City 52-47 .525 1.0
    TWINS 49-50 .495 4.0
    Detroit 45-54 .455 7.0
    Chicago 39-58 .402 8.0


    Bullpen Usage

    Trevor Hildenberger, Ryan Pressly and Alan Busenitz worked out of the Twins bullpen on Tuesday night. Here is a look at which relievers may be available on Wednesday night.

    Posted Image


    What’s Next?

    The Twins and Dodgers will finish their three-game series on Wednesday night (9:10 central time). It will be Ervin Santana (1-0, 5.40 ERA) facing right-hander Brock Stewart (0-0, 0.00 ERA).

    Ervin Santana is coming off his worst start of the season. On Friday night, the All- Star gave up five runs and needed 95 pitches in just 3.1 innings against the Tigers. He gave up two homers in the game as well. In his one July start before the All-Star Game, he gave up two runs in nine innings. In his first post-All Star Game start, he gave up just two runs in six innings, but he walked five. Santana will look to get the Twins back on track.

    Lefty Alex Wood, who is 11-1 so far this season for the Dodgers, was scheduled to start on Wednesday. Instead, right-hander Brock Stewart will make his first start for the Dodgers this season. He has worked 13 innings over six appearances this season out of the bullpen. Last year, he made seven appearances, including five starts for the big league club. Stewart was a name mentioned in the offseason when there were approximately 13.2 million Brian Dozier-to-the-Dodgers rumors.

    • Jul 26 2017 08:02 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  24. Twins Minor League Report (7/16): Romero Strong in Short Start, Rooker Homers Again

    Find out everything that happened in the Twins minor league system on Sunday.

    RED WINGS REPORT
    Lehigh Valley 4, Rochester 3
    Box Score

    J.R Murphy hit a solo homer, but the Red Wings could muster only three other hits and Tim Melville had his worst start for Rochester. Over 4.1 innings, Melville gave up four earned runs on seven hits.

    All that’s a shame, too, because the bullpen was phenomenal. Craig Breslow retired both batters he faced, one on strikes. Mason Melotakis gave up a hit over his 0.2 shutout innings. Alan Busenitz was particularly impressive, striking out four of the five men he faced. John Curtiss finished things off with a perfect inning with two strikeouts.

    The Wings were rallying in the eighth, as Matt Hague reached on an error with one out, and would scored on an Edgar Corcino double. ByungHo Park drew a walk, but the Iron Pigs were able to turn two on a Tommy Field grounder to third to end the threat.

    CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
    Chattanooga 5, Jacksonville 2
    Box Score

    Fernando Romero held the Jumbo Shrimp to two runs over his five innings of work, striking out six in the process. Romero threw 82 pitches, 54 for strikes. It was the third-straight start in which Romero pitched exactly five innings despite not eclipsing even 90 pitches. It would appear he’ll be on a pretty strict innings limit for the rest of the season.

    The Lookouts were trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the second, but a big two-out rally led to Chattanooga tallying three runs in the inning. Travis Harrison had the big hit of that frame, a two-run double. Nick Gordon had a nice night at the plate, going 2-for-5 with an RBI and a stolen base, but he also made his 19th error of the season.

    Jonathan Rodriguez and Max Murphy also had two hits each. Ryan Eades followed Romero with three shutout innings and Paul Clemens pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save.

    MIRACLE MATTERS
    Fort Myers 6, St. Lucie 3
    Box Score

    The Miracle improved to 17-5 in the second half behind another great start from Sean Poppen, who lowered his ERA with Fort Myers to 0.55. Poppen held the Mets to one run over 6.1 innings and racked up five strikeouts while walking just one batter.

    Zander Wiel hit a two-run homer, his eighth of the season, and the following players got two hits a piece: Sean Miller, Mitchell Kranson and Jaylin Davis. Kranson has had a nice first 20 games since being called up from Cedar Rapids, hitting .304/.360/.430 (.791 OPS).

    Tom Hackimer, who has a 0.96 ERA of his own, got the last two outs of the seventh. Alex Robinson gave up two runs over the final two innings, striking out three in the process.

    KERNELS NUGGETS
    Cedar Rapids 8, South Bend 4
    Box Score

    The Kernels snapped a season-high five-game losing streak with a much-needed offensive explosion. Cedar Rapids had scored just four runs total in their previous six games, but they managed to tally two runs before even recording an out in this one.

    Aaron Whitefield led off the game with a walk and stole his 20th base of the season. Joe Cronin followed with a walk and Travis Blankenhorn delivered a two-run triple. Lewin Diaz plated Blankenhorn on a groundout. Diaz was 2-for-4 with a double and a walk. Amaurys Minier hit a three-run homer in the third inning, his second of the year with the Kernels

    Anthony Marzi had a three-run lead before even taking the mound. He improved to 3-0 on the season by holding the Cubs to two runs over six innings. Marzi, who the Twins signed out of the Atlantic League, now has a 1.37 ERA and 0.71 WHIP over his first three appearances in the organization.

    E-TWINS E-NOTES
    Greenville 8, Elizabethton 4
    Box Score

    Brent Rooker hit his seventh home run of the season in just his 21st game played, but it was one of only four hits on the day for the Twins. Shortstop Jordan Gore delivered the other big knock, a three-run double.

    Edwar Colina gave up three runs over 4.1 innings, Rickey Ramirez was rocked for four runs in his 1.2 innings and Jared Finkel gave up a run over two innings. This was a big game in the landscape of the Appalachian League, as the loss dropped E-Town to a half-game back of Greenville in the West division.

    GCL TWINS TAKES
    Scheduled off day.

    TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
    Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day: Sean Poppen, Fort Myers (6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K)
    Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day: Amaurys Minier, Cedar Rapids (1-for-4, HR, BB, 3 RBI, 1 R).

    MONDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
    Rochester vs. Charlotte, 4:05 pm CT, David Hurlbut (3.44 ERA, 1.40 WHIP)
    Rochester “at” Charlotte (in Rochester), Game 2, Aaron Slegers (3.75 ERA, 1.36 WHIP)
    Chattanooga vs. Jacksonville, 10:15 am CT, Felix Jorge (3.14 ERA, 1.30 WHIP)
    Fort Myers vs. St. Lucie, 10:05 am CT, TBD
    Cedar Rapids at South Bend, 12:05 pm CT, Eduardo Del Rosario (4.48 ERA, 1.33 WHIP)
    Elizabethton at Greenville, 6:00 pm CT, Huascar Ynoa (5.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP)
    GCL Twins vs. GCL Rays, 11:00 am CT, TBD

    Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss Sunday's games.

    • Jul 16 2017 07:38 PM
    • by Tom Froemming
  25. Royals 8, Twins 1: Another Fielding Blunder Leads to Another Ugly Inning

    Win Expectancy & Top 5 Plays (via Fangraphs)
    [attachment=10365:WinEx630.png]
    [attachment=10366:TopPlays630.png]
    The Twins entered the bottom of the fourth inning up 1-0 thanks to a Miguel Sano RBI single. In the bottom of the inning, Santana gave up a leadoff single before committing the error on the potential double play. Next pitch: home run. Eric Hosmer put KC up 3-1 and Ervin gave up four more hits in the inning.

    Maybe the biggest reason why the Twins have been playing as well as they have so far in 2017 has been due to a huge defensive turnaround. The gloves have slumped of late, as the team has given up nine unearned runs over the past four games.

    There was some controversy over both Hosmer’s homer and a foul call on a ball Brian Dozier thought stayed fair. Both plays were reviewed, but the Twins were apparently still not satisfied with either call.


    Here’s the top-down view of Hosmer’s homer via Baseball Savant:
    [attachment=10368:HosmerHR.png]
    In what basically equated to garbage time late in the game, Jorge Polanco made a beautiful play ranging deep in the hole and rifling the ball over to first to record the out.

    Alan Busenitz was another bright spot, as he threw the final 2.2 innings, shutting out the Royals in the process. With the double dip tomorrow, that was huge. What did he get for it? A demotion. Life as a middle reliever can be tough. Having thrown 35 pitches, it wasn’t likely Busenitz would be available anytime soon, so a fresh arm in Ryan Pressly was called up.

    Postgame With Molitor

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:
    [attachment=10367:Pen630.png]
    *Busenitz was optioned. Ryan Pressly, who threw 19 pitches Monday and 21 Thursday was called up.

    Saturday
    Twins (Jose Berrios, 2.98 ERA) at Royals (Luke Farrell), 1:15 pm CT
    Twins (Felix Jorge) at Royals (Jason Hammel, 4.75 ERA), 7:35 pm CT

    There will be two Major League debuts tomorrow: Luke Farrell for the Royals in Game 1 and Felix Jorge for the Twins in Game 2. Farrell, a right-hander, had a 3.83 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 8.4 K/9 in Triple A. Jorge, 23, has been developing a feel for getting the third strike of late. Through his first nine starts he averaged 5.2 K/9 for Chattanooga, but over his last five starts that’s kicked up to 8.2 K/9. He’s also induced 20 swinging strikes in two of his past four starts.

    Jose Berrios’ ERA on the road is nearly a run higher than at Target Field (2.51 vs. 3.41). Jason Hammel has been on a roll, registering a 2.51 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over his past five starts.

    AL Central Standings
    Cleveland 42-36
    Twins 40-38 (-2)
    Kansas City 39-39 (-3)
    Detroit 35-43 (-7)
    Chicago 34-44 (-8)

    • Jul 01 2017 04:23 AM
    • by Tom Froemming