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  1. Twins Notebook 8/7: A Clash with the Royals

    Last Night's Game Recap
    PIT 6, MIN 5: Taylor Rogers Blows Save, Win Streak Snapped

    Minnesota @ Kansas City Royals, 7:05 PM CT
    Betting Lines: MIN -155, O/U 9.5

    Twins Starter: Devin Smeltzer, LHP 1-0 11.57 ERA
    Tonight is Smeltzer’s first start of the year as he’s worked as a bulk reliever for his two outings on the season. In six starts a year ago he posted a 4.11 ERA and allowed a .704 OPS to opposing hitters. While his ERA registered at just 3.44 when working in relief for the 2019 Twins, opponents OPS was nearly 200 points higher at .898.

    Smelter may be fond of Kansas City as they provided his first Major League win. When facing them at Target Field on August 4, 2019 he went 6.0 IP allowing no runs on just two hits while fanning four and walking one.


    The prototypical profile of a soft-tossing lefty, Smeltzer’s 89 mph average on the fastball won’t blow anyone away. His primary second pitch is the curveball, and it’s there that he looks for punchouts. He’s been a high strikeout guy in the minors and generated 7.0 K/9 last year as a rookie. The homer is his bugaboo and if he can avoid some of the Royals boppers tonight should go well for him.

    Royals Starter: Jakob Junis, RHP 0-0 4.15 ERA
    Junis has made just one appearance this season and it was a start against the Chicago White Sox. He lasted just 4.1 IP during that one and ceded two runs on six hits. Now in his fourth Major League season, the book has all but been written on Junis given the consistency he’s shown year over year.


    You can pencil him in for an ERA in the mid fours, and it’ll be complimented by a modest walk and strikeout rate. He’s been an innings eater of sorts throwing over 170 IP in each of the past two years for Kansas City. Where the biggest opportunity for opponents against Junis comes is launching the longball. He’s never allowed less than 1.4 HR/9 and was up to 1.6 HR/9 each of the past two seasons.

    Lefties had substantially more success against him last year, though the power numbers came from both sides of the plate. Kansas City knocked the Chicago Cubs around for 13 runs last night so it will be interesting to see if the bats have any runs support left in them.


    News & Notes
    - The St. Louis Cardinals return to the field today following their COVID-19 outbreak. It’s the first time they’ll have played a game since July 29, and the first time all 30 teams are active and healthy since the Marlins outbreak on July 26. UPDATE: More positives for the Cardinals, so no full slate tonight and St. Louis has a postponed game today.

    - Shohei Ohtani returned to the lineup for the Los Angeles Angels following the MRI revealing a forearm injury that will keep him off the mound for the rest of 2020. He homered.

    - Today, Mike Trout turns 29. At 74.0 fWAR he’s already posted the 46th highest mark in MLB history. What comes from here is anyone’s guess but it’s clear we’re watching one of the best ever.

    Around the AL Central
    CLE 13, CIN 0
    KCR 13, CHC 2
    MIL 8, CHW 3

    1. MIN 10-3 (+29 run differential)
    2. CLE 8-6 (+17)
    3. CWS 7-6 (+2)
    4. DET 5-5 (-11)
    5. KCR 4-10 (-11)

    • Aug 07 2020 01:00 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  2. Will a New Slider Unlock a Breakout Season for Devin Smeltzer

    Smeltzer has a unique set of skills that combats his lack of velocity. His fastball rarely cracks 90 which puts him in the 6th percentile for velo among MLB pitchers.

    The lefty, however, can seriously spin it.

    His fastball comes in at a 2,400 rpm. The curveball twirls up to the plate at 2,700 rpm. He can also kill the spin on his changeup to get an above average amount of vertical drop.

    The slider? It was a nothing pitch. The ugly duckling to his three other quality offerings.

    It backed up a lot, hanging for a moment in the zone, or it would dive well beyond the strike zone, leaving hitters to just watch it skip in the dirt.

    While Smeltzer’s three-pitch mix worked for him in 2019, having a legitimate slider could be a massive leap forward. The Twins’ pitching analysts like Josh Kalk have long known the benefits of having a slider. Thrown properly, it looks like a fastball longer before darting.

    In 2008 Kalk wrote about what makes sliders so effective.

    “[B]ecause curves tend to produce a larger hump, a fast-reacting hitter has slightly more time in which to put on the brakes (or alter his swing) when he realizes that the pitch is not a fastball,” Kalk wrote. “Because sliders tend to stay hidden much further down the line, a batter who is fooled in the information-gathering stage has much less time to recover.”

    Over 10 years ago, long before “tunneling” had even entered the standard baseball lexicon, Kalk had discovered that curveballs can pop out of the pitcher’s tunnel to give hitters a hint that something is up. This is one reason why the team has encouraged some pitchers to develop a slider.

    Trevor May to transition to a new slider in 2019 after he played around with a new grip that resulted in better tunneling and more movement. Tyler Duffey also added velocity to his curveball and created a pitch that had more slider-like qualities. Taylor Rogers’ emergence as a late innings force is likewise due to embracing the slider mentality.

    Curveballs are out, sliders are in.

    In order to improve his slider, Smeltzer says he targeted three metrics on his Rapsodo: Spin rate, spin axis, and velocity.

    “I knew what my spin, axis and velo on it needed to be,” Smeltzer says regarding his pitch design targets. “So if I had two of the three that wasn’t it. I had to keep tweaking it.”

    He tinkered with different grips until he found the one that helped him attain those numbers consistently.

    “It finally started to click and I really stuck with the grip, it’s pretty unconventional grip but through a lot of talks it just made sense from a physical standpoint of the ball’s got one direction of where to go with how I’m throwing it and it’s out. Again, I just throw it like a fastball and let the grip work.”

    The unconventional part is that Smeltzer throws his slider off of a one finger grip. Standard sliders are typically thrown using both the index and middle finger applying pressure to the ball but Smeltzer discovered that the middle-finger dominant release was not working.

    “In the past, I’ve gotten very middle finger dominant and it makes the pitch not as aggressive and it becomes loopy and very inconsistent because that finger, pressure-wise, isn’t a strength for that pitch for me,” Smeltzer explains.

    Smeltzer continues his pitch design tutorial to the Zoom viewers.

    “So with this grip here,” he says as he creates a “C” out of his index and thumb, “I’m pressing between these two and when I’m throwing it like a fastball and, because of physics, the ball can only come out this way when I’m coming through so it’s cutting through and kicking that gyro spin.”

    What Smeltzer is saying is that he’s reducing that loopiness his former slider had. He said that he would often drop down to release that slider and get around the ball, tipping hitters off in the process. Now he can just rip it like he would his fastball and the grip does the work.

    Why is this particular pitch important for his development?

    Inconsistent and loopy results in hitters leaving the bat on the shoulder. The 24-year-old left-hander needed something with more action, a viable weapon -- particularly against lefties.

    Smeltzer has pronounced reverse splits, demonstrating the ability to get right-handed hitters out at a much higher clip than left-handed ones. While his fastball and changeup combination performed well against righties, adding an aggressive slider to his mix would likely help him against those same-sided opponents, as well as keeping righties off-balance.

    The Twins have created a cottage industry of getting pitchers to improve their slider offerings and see big gains. Devin Smeltzer might be the next on that list.

    • Jul 14 2020 01:49 PM
    • by Parker Hageman
  3. Ranking the Twins Best Pitches

    Best Fastball: Trevor May
    FBv: 95.6, wFB: 17.4
    With Brusdar Graterol no longer on the roster, there’s a new sheriff in town. Trevor May was supposed to evolve into a middle of the rotation starter when the Twins traded for him, but now he has become a shutdown late-inning relief pitcher. One of the biggest reasons for his improved performance… a lights-out fastball that has continue to improve since he switched to the bullpen.

    Back in 2014 May was a starter, trying to find himself on a struggling Twins squad. His fastball wasn’t hitting 93 and it didn’t seem like the rotation was a spot where he would thrive. Fast-forward to 2019 and his fastball has jumped to 95.5 mph and he is using it almost 62% of the time. The transition to the bullpen can be tough for some players, but opponents compiled a .150 batting average against his heater and most fans will take that every day of the week.

    Honorable Mention: Jake Odorizzi (20.8 wFB), Jose Berrios 11.5 (wFB)

    Best Slider: Taylor Rogers
    SLv: 82.3, wSL: 7.4
    Taylor Rogers is good. Let me restate that, Taylor Rogers is really good, and I don’t think the rest of baseball realizes how good he was last season. One of the biggest changes for him last season was using his curveball less often and relying more on his slider. Spoiler alert… his slider is unhittable when paired with his other off-speed pitches.

    Outside of Jose Berrios, Rogers might have been the most enjoyable Twins pitcher to watch last season. His calm demeanor on the mound separates him from more recent Twins closers, but his pitching repertoire certainly puts him in the same class as his successors. Having a shortened 2020 season is depriving fans of another stellar year from Rogers.

    Honorable Mention: Sergio Romo (wSL 3.6), Lewis Thorpe (wSL 3.9)

    Best Curveball: Devin Smeltzer
    CBv: 76.6, wCB: 3.0
    Smeltzer doesn’t have the velocity most would expect from a big-league pitcher, but the movement on his pitches helps to separate him from others on the staff. Fans are constantly in awe of the movement he is able to create from his lanky frame, especially when the pitches aren’t coming in at triple-digits on the radar gun. One of the biggest reasons for his success is his ability to change pitches and alter the batter’s vantage point.

    Last season, his spin on his curveball ranked in the 80th percentile across baseball. He only threw the pitch 24.5% of the time so it could be a pitch that see increase usage in the years ahead. Smeltzer is never going to blow away other batters. He has to rely on movement to be successful and he could rely on his unique abilities to be a back of the rotation starter.

    Honorable Mention: Jose Berrios (wCB -1.8), Tyler Duffey (wCB -0.8)

    Best Change-Up: Michael Pineda
    CHv: 87.2, wCH: 4.9
    Twins fans might not appreciate how good Michael Pineda was for the team last season. He was once a top prospect, but he has evolved as a pitcher with more big-league experience. His fastball and slider might be below league average but his change-up is on another tier. He threw it more with the Twins than in any other season during the StatCast era.

    Opponents were held to a .238 batting average and a .253 WOBA on his change-up last season. Compare that to previous seasons and opponents were hitting over .290 with a .318 WOBA. Granted he missed a season due to Tommy John, but it takes nothing away from how he was able to adapt last season.

    Honorable Metnion:Trevor May (wCH: 2.2), Sergio Romo (wCH: 1.6)

    Do you agree with these rankings? What is the best pitch in the Twins organization? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • May 06 2020 03:30 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  4. Four Ways the Twins Could Avoid a Jose Berrios Second Half Slump

    1. Alter His Workout Routine
    According to the Star Tribune, Berrios altered some of his workout routines between starts at the end of last season and he saw some positive results. He worked throughout the offseason to develop his stamina and the Twins are hoping this stamina carries throughout the 2020 campaign. Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson was influential in this end-of-season metamorphosis.

    In his six starts from August 6 through September 4, he got knocked around to the tune of a .971 OPS and an 8.07 ERA. After his meeting of the minds with Johnson, he pitched six innings or more in his final five starts with a 3.08 ERA and opponents being held to a .631 OPS.

    2. Extra Rest in the Second Half
    There was talk throughout last season of giving Jose Berrios extra rest in the second half, which could include skipping his spot in the rotation or being strategic in his second-half usage. In the second half, his ERA was over a run and a half higher than the first half with opponents posting a .268/.328/.428 batting line.

    There were still some positive signs in those poor second-half numbers. His 9.8 SO/9 was a full strikeout higher than his career mark and he might have been unlucky with a .335 BAbip. Also, Minnesota’s perceived rotational depth could make it easier for Berrios to get extra rest. Rich Hill and Michael Pineda won’t start the year in the rotation and younger players like Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe will want an opportunity.

    3. Add an Early Season Innings Limit
    Innings limits are usually associated with younger prospects or players coming back from injury, but it could be a strategy utilized by the Twins to save Berrios for the second half. This could allow him to pitch more innings in the second half and keep him fresh. If his entire season as a tube of toothpaste, you don’t want everything squeezed out by the end of July.

    Historically, August and September have been his worst months. His ERA in August is nearly 6.00 for his career with batters hitting .279/.355/.456 with 42 extra base hits in 21 games. His September ERA is a more respectable 4.64, but that’s still over half a run higher than his next highest month.

    4. Throw More Pitches Out of the Zone
    This might seem like a counterproductive option for a player if you want to be pitching better in the second half, but Berrios threw 50% of his pitches in the zone last season, a career high. His 33.4% chase rate was also a career high, but batters were making solid contact when they weren’t chasing the ball.

    When it comes to his four-pitch mix, could any of his pitches be thrown out of the zone on a more regular basis?
    [attachment=13494:Berrios Pitches Out of the Zone.JPG]
    Being in the zone also likely caused Berrios to post a 6.5% Barrel % and an 86.5 mph Exit Velocity, which were both the highest since his rookie season. Granted the juiced-up baseball might have helped increase the exit velocity for all players. His 36.3% Hard Hit rate was the highest of his career and it was 8.4% higher than his career best mark in 2017.

    What do you think the Twins need to do with Berrios? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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    • Feb 19 2020 01:36 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  5. Do the Twins Really Need to Add Another Starter?

    Clearly the Twins went into the offseason hoping to add a top starting pitcher. Use the word “impact” if you like. The two impact starters on the free agent market weren’t coming here (Cole, Strasburg). Two of the free agent starters who fit in that next tier (Bumgarner and Wheeler) went elsewhere for non-baseball and non-dollar reasons. And it appears that the Twins just didn’t (understandably) want to give Hyun-Jin Ryu a fourth year.

    With that, they shifted their attention to adding to an already-great offense. They gave Josh Donaldson a guaranteed $92 million over the next four years, and an option for 2024 that makes it pretty likely he is retained.

    I am often told by Twins fans to expect the offense and several of its hitters to regress in 2020. First, my assumption is that something will be done with the baseball, which may reduce some offensive numbers, but that will be across the board, for all teams. And yes, teams will have more data points to develop a way to attack the Twins hitters. So, regression for some and for the whole, is certainly possible.

    However, much of the Twins offense is made up of a core of players between 22-year-old Luis Arraez and 29-year-old Silver Slugger Mitch Garver. And none of them had seasons that were so far out of the realm of their potential that makes you think that any regression would have to be major. Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler all had strong seasons, but none of them outside of what we thought they could do when they were prospects.

    Silver Slugger Nelson Cruz is going to turn 40 during the season. It’s silly to expect him to put up the same kind of numbers he put up in 2019, but his approach and his strength should still produce really good numbers in the middle of a lineup. Josh Donaldson replaces CJ Cron in the lineup. While he is older, he’s been one of the greatest hitters in baseball. If healthy, he should continue to put up eye-popping numbers.

    Injuries? Yes, injuries happen and they aren’t necessarily easy or possible to predict. But, there is one good way to alleviate some of those concerns. The first is simply to have depth. The Twins have depth. Simply in the form of Marwin Gonzalez there is depth. He can play the corner infield and corner outfield spots. LaMonte Wade and Jake Cave can man the outfield spots when needed. Ehire Adrianza is a terrific utility infielder. Alex Avila is the backup catcher. And there are prospects, high-caliber prospects at each position, who are close to MLB-ready.

    The Twins were able to keep Jake Odorizzi away from free agency for one more year by offering him the $17.8 million Qualifying Offer (and him accepting it). They also retained the services of right-hander Michael Pineda for the next two years. He will finish the final 39 games of his suspension and rejoin the team in mid-May.

    Jose Berrios is entering his Age-26 season. He will need to figure out August, but there’s a lot to be excited about it, and there is potential for him to find another level. Jake Odorizzi found his next level in 2019. Michael Pineda, at the time he was suspended, was being talked about as a possible Game 1 starter in the playoffs. That’s a solid first three.

    Homer Bailey? No, not exciting, but he has certainly had his moments. And, he was really good in the second half of 2019.

    Rich Hill? Man, if only he could stay healthy. Over the last five years, he has been a top 10-15 starting pitcher in baseball. Of course, he won’t be back until at least June after elbow surgery. There is no way to know how that recovery and rehab will go with 100% confidence. But they got him for a great contract and even if he’s back by the end of July, and can get close to what he’s been in recent years, that’s a nice pitcher to have in August, September and October. Can the Twins get the best out of him?

    With Hill and Pineda unable to start the season on the active list, the rotation will contain Berrios, Odorizzi, Bailey and…

    Well, for right now, that answer comes down to about four options; Brusdar Graterol, Lewis Thorpe, Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer. Yes, Blaine Hardy will be at spring training. Jhoan Duran is on the 40-man roster, so he’ll be at big-league spring training for a while. There may be other names mentioned early in spring training. But for all intents and purposes, it comes down to those four pitchers.

    All four pitched in the big leagues in 2019.

    Randy Dobnak: He was the Twins minor league pitcher of the year in 2019 when he pitched in Ft. Myers, Pensacola, Rochester and ended the season with the Twins, pitching well enough in September to earn a Game 2 start in the playoffs. It didn’t go well, but it shouldn’t minimize how much he grew and improved over the course of the season. And, in addition to being a good story, he’s a good pitcher too.

    Lewis Thorpe: He was the Twins minor league pitcher of the year in 2018. He spent most of 2019 in Rochester but came up a couple of times. He made a few starts and also pitched out of the bullpen. He had some good games and some not-so-good games, but what he did well is miss bats.

    Devin Smeltzer: He moved back into a starting role in 2019 and started in Pensacola. A month later he was in Rochester, and before the end of May, he made his major-league debut and it went very well. He was a frequent guest on the Rochester-to-Minneapolis travel list but experienced success in a variety of roles in the big leagues.

    Brusdar Graterol: He came up for September and worked out of the bullpen. He was off to a good start last year in AA, but he missed nearly three months in the middle of the season with a shoulder injury. He came back in the bullpen so that he could be called up and his triple-digit fastball could help the Twins late. He will be on some sort of innings plan, but most would think that it’d be ideal for him to continue developing as a starter. Could that be as a ‘Primary’ pitcher, or could he just be a regular starter until Pineda comes back, or until Hill returns?

    Derek Falvey is often given a lot of credit for the pitching development in Cleveland. We have seen them continue to develop a pipeline of quality starters. Several of their current pitchers were not top prospects when they came up but certainly have developed into that status. Corey Kluber might just be the best example of that development plan and process, though he will be with the Rangers in 2020.

    So, should we believe in Derek Falvey’s track record? Should we trust the processes that have been initiated by Falvey along with pitching guru Josh Kalk and minor league pitching coordinator Paul Maki, and each of the minor league coaches and coordinators brought in? How about their utilization of technologies in recent years? Why not give these guys a chance?

    Herein lies the question from today’s title, Do the Twins need to add another starter?

    In my opinion, the answer is obvious. No, they don’t NEED to add another starter. With this offense, the team will win a lot of games. Their top two pitchers (Berrios, Odorizzi) are good. Bailey certainly can be good. And, four young pitchers who got time in 2019 are certainly capable of being solid, and a few of them have the potential to be pretty good. Having that offensive support should certainly encourage them to throw a lot of strikes. Pineda will be back. Hill should be back a little later.

    But, it isn’t that simple. While they don’t NEED to add another starter, Falvey and Thad Levine should continue to monitor the starting pitcher trade market. I don’t think Jon Gray or German Marquez are going to be available this offseason, but those are the caliber of pitcher that the team should show interest in. Y’all know I’m not at all high on Matt Boyd, but if the Twins research and development crew says that he could be a pitcher of the Berrios/Odorizzi/Pineda quality in 2020, maybe try that. There may be names that we haven’t even thought of that they could get.

    But don’t just add any more pitchers just to add more pitchers. If they’re going to make a move, make it a good one. Get a pitcher as good as Odorizzi, or better.
    If not, take your chances with a strong offense and a pretty solid starting rotation (and a pretty solid bullpen too, mind you). Continue to evaluate and teach those inexperienced pitchers, Get Pineda back. Get Hill back…

    And keep an eye on the phone, always looking to make a big addition in July… or June… or May!

    For much more on Brusdar Graterol, Lewis Thorpe, Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer, along with Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic and about 90 other Twins minor league pitchers, order a copy of the 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. It is available in paperback or PDF ebook.

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    • Jan 16 2020 06:48 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  6. Trusting Internal Starting Pitching Options

    Randy Dobnak
    Minnesota trusted Dobnak enough to start a playoff game at Yankee Stadium so he already might in line to get a starting rotation spot. Last week, Matthew Trueblood wrote that Dobnak might be better than people think. He pitched 58 big league innings last year and posted a 3.88 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP. It would be nice to see Dobnak more in the fifth starter role than higher in the rotation. Obviously, Michael Pineda’s suspension will play a role in that decision at the beginning of the year and it should give Dobnak the opportunity to prove he belongs in the rotation.

    Devin Smeltzer
    Smeltzer is another intriguing option after he compiled a 3.86 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in 11 appearances (49 IP). He had an interesting start to his career as he only allowed seven earned runs in his first 27 2/3 innings and opponents were held to a .651 OPS. What was more remarkable was the fact that his fastball averaged under 90 mph, but his off-speed pitches kept batters off-balance. His final six games saw his ERA rise to nearly 6.00 as the team used him more out of the bullpen. Smeltzer seems like a player that could be coming back-and-forth between Rochester and Minneapolis.

    Lewis Thorpe
    Thorpe was once one of the team’s top prospects and he won the team’s 2018 Minor League Pitcher of the Year award. Thorpe made all but two of his appearances out of the bullpen since Taylor Rogers was the team’s lone left-handed relief pitcher. Over the last two seasons at Triple-A, Thorpe has amassed a 4.73 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP and an 11.1 SO/9. Those numbers could fit in the back half of a starting rotation if he can translate that to the big leagues. It seems likely for Thorpe to get more opportunities to be a starter with the Twins in 2020, but will he have to prove himself in Rochester first?

    Brusdar Graterol
    Graterol was an exciting call-up at season’s end last year and the Twins used him entirely out of the bullpen. The plan will most definitely be for him to return to the rotation to start 2020 and this could be with Rochester. As a 20-year old, he dominated in Pensacola last season although he only made 12 appearances with the Blue Wahoos. He was limited to four Triple-A relief appearances, so the club will likely want him to build up some innings at that level. He has never pitched more than 102 innings in a season, so this year will be critical for him to stay healthy and get stretched out.

    Likely all the names above will have some impact on the 2020 Twins. Out of this group, who do you trust the most to be in the rotation for the majority of the season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Dec 18 2019 06:40 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  7. Let's Find a Role for Devin Smeltzer in 2020

    Smeltzer was able to cruise through the minor league system in 2019 and eventually make his MLB debut thanks in part to the two characteristics mentioned in the previous paragraph. The majors proved to be another challenge in itself for Smeltzer but he was able to pitch to the tune of a 3.86 ERA and 4.58 FIP over his first 49 innings.

    Unfortunately for Smeltzer, however, is the fact that this upcoming offseason will likely push him out of the major leagues. The starting rotation is as barren as a bar at noon but the Twins have talked up their plans to step on the gas and acquire impact arms. Whether that happens or not will be seen in time but each starter gained will be another obstacle in the way of Smeltzer in 2020.

    If the Twins decided to stay in-house for a rotation spot or two then Smeltzer finds himself in trouble yet again as his 2019 performance was behind Randy Dobnak and he doesn’t have the prospect status or strikeout potential of Lewis Thorpe. Throw on top the likely inevitable move back to a starting spot for Brusdar Graterol and well, you see the obstacles in Smeltzer’s way.

    Where Smeltzer may find a niche is in the bullpen in a relief role. Now, I have always been a fan of teams getting creative with how they use relievers and I believe that Smeltzer has a unique opportunity to become a multi-inning threat out of the bullpen. What draws me to this is his splits when going through a lineup for the first time. As a starter, he had a 20.4 K-BB% when going through the lineup for the first time and as a reliever, he had a 17.1 K-BB% when going through the lineup for the first time. For context, a 20.4 K-BB% would put him above names like Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin and a 17.1 K-BB% was exactly the same number José Berríos had on the year. Granted, the starters I’m comparing him to did this over all situations, but doesn’t it sound nice to say that Smeltzer was as effective as Patrick Corbin*?

    *Actual statisticians can still be damned

    He’s great when going through the lineup for the first time, which is nice, are there any downsides? Yes there are, voice in my head, thank you. Smeltzer was one of those weird pitchers who actually had reverse splits at the major league level. Lefties slashed .316/.395/.474 against him with a wOBA of .373, that isn’t good. I know just about nothing as far as pitching goes but if I had to guess what the issue was, I would narrow it down to two things:

    1. His sequencing to lefties needs to be adjusted

    2. He possibly needs to better develop his slider which he only threw 5.6% of the time at the major league level

    Either way, his ability to mow down hitters when facing them for the first time makes me believe that Smeltzer can be a powerful weapon out of the bullpen in a multi-inning “Andrew Miller” role. Rosters will expand to 26 players next season and the added man may prove to be helpful for a pitcher on the cusp like Smeltzer. If he is to be a big part of the 2020 Twins, it would not surprise me if it is in a creative role out of the bullpen. No matter what, expect some silky smooth changeups and Jack Morris to say that Smeltzer is “pitching, not throwing” ... whatever that means.

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    • Nov 07 2019 09:38 PM
    • by Matt Braun
  8. State of the Twins Rotation

    Again, at a minimum, the Twins will either bring back some of the starters who will become free agents (Jake Odorrizi, Michael Pineda, and Kyle Gibson) and/or sign and trade for new pitchers. But this exercise will give us an idea of the current strength, or lack thereof, of the organization’s starting pitching.

    The Given
    We’ll start with the only “lock” for the 2020 starting rotation – Jose Berrios. Hopefully, Derrek Falvey and Thad Levine will prioritize adding a starter or two in the general talent vicinity of Berrios, but there is no doubt that he will be at or near the top of the rotation. At times Berrios has looked like a true ace, especially in the first half of seasons. Even if he's more of a number two when factoring in his overall numbers (including his annual August meltdown – career 5.96 ERA), he is a nice piece and still young enough to improve.

    Highly Likely
    Randy Dobnak’s ascent from Independent ball all the way to the big leagues was one of the great stories of 2019. Ranking him this highly could be an overstatement, but we are simply looking at what the rotation would look like with no external additions. Through that lens, Dobnak is a near lock to make the rotation.

    Aside from his postseason start, in which expecting much from the rookie was a tall order, Dobnak was great throughout his minor league season and didn’t skip a beat after joining the big-league rotation (1.59 ERA, 2.90 FIP). Dobnak has great command and throws a sinker (36.5%), curve (27.9%), four-seamer (22.7%), and changeup (12.9%). The velocity on his four-seamer (93.4) and sinker (92.2) is respectable and he got a lot of whiffs (46.3%) on his curve. The fact that he was called upon to start Game 2 in New York says a lot about Manager Rocco Baldelli’s confidence in Dobnak.

    This next group of young starters all debuted in 2019. We’ll start with the first who was called up, Devin Smeltzer. Besides topping Dobnak in the heart-warming backstory department by beating cancer in this youth, Smeltzer also did a fine job in his first big-league stint.

    Like Dobnak, Smelter wasn’t a highly-touted prospect and he was even relegated to the bullpen while in Double A last season. He was given another opportunity to start in 2019 and made the most of it. He reached high levels of success in both Triple A (3.63 ERA) and the majors (3.86 ERA), although his FIP suggests some regression (5.05 AAA, 4.58 MLB). While big in heart, Smeltzer in small in stature and lacks big velocity (89.1 mph four-seamer), however, he does have the fact that he is left-handed going for him. Like Dobnak, he seems unfazed by the big stage.

    The next “probable” is another southpaw, Australian Lewis Thorpe. Thorpe was a more highly-regarded prospect than both Dobnak and Smeltzer, and he seemed the most likely of the group to reach the majors this year.

    Thorpe has better swing and miss stuff than his previously mentioned peers, but his results in both Triple A and the MLB were a bit of a mixed bag. His ERA was high at both levels (AAA – 4.58, MLB – 6.18), but his FIP suggests better results (AAA – 3.72, MLB – 3.47) and he has pitched well in the past. Thorpe’s walk rate was high (3.25 BB/9) but he struck a lot of batters out (10.08 K/9). He has a good pitch mix (four-seamer (51.2%), slider (19.7%), curve (17.5%), and changeup (11.6%)) with his fastball averaging 91.2 mph. Thorpe hasn’t quite put it all together yet, but if he does, he could be a mid-to-back end of the rotation starter.

    Finally, we finish this group with the most exciting of the bunch. Brusdar Graterol debuted, as a 21-year-old September callup. Although a starter by trade, he pitched out of the bullpen as he was coming back from a shoulder condition and best served the Twins in that capacity.

    Graterol’s stuff is electric, as he features a sinker (49.3%), slider (30.6%), four-seamer (18.1%), and changeup (2.1%) and averaged 99.0 mph on his sinker. His slider has the potential to be devastating and if his changeup develops, he could be a front end of the rotation starter. The right-hander’s durability may determine of whether he is destined for the rotation or relief, but either way his future is bright.

    Outside Looking In
    With the hypothetical “Twins do nothing” rotation set, we turn to the next group of starters who are close, but not quite ready. Some of these pitchers are closer than others, and naturally some also offer much higher upside. Since none of them will be starting the year in this hypothetical MLB rotation, they should all get a bit more time to develop in the minors, and in reality, not all of them are expected to be MLB ready in 2020. I’ll break them down into a few different groups.

    High Upside, Not Quite Ready
    This first group consists of guys who have good stuff, good numbers, and could potentially see some big-league action in 2020. They are ranked in order of who would be most likely to be called up first and not on prospect status (in which case the order would be reversed).

    Baily Ober (RHP) – Ober was very good in 2019 and has been great throughout his minor league career. He has battled injuries, but his numbers have been remarkable (2019 high-A: 0.99 ERA, 26.7% K-BB%, AA: 0.38 ERA, 38.1% K-BB%). The 24-year-old has yet to pitch in Triple A, but if he continues to pitch as he has and stays healthy, he could be ready for an MLB audition.

    Edwar Colina (RHP) – Colina was another pitcher who flew through the system this year, starting in High A, moving up to Double A, and finishing with a brief stint in Rochester. Colina is short for a starter but throws hard and put up very good numbers (2.34 ERA high-A, 2.03 ERA AA). If he doesn’t make it as a starter, he could end up being a high-velocity, late-inning arm.

    Jhoan Duran (RHP) – Duran is another high-upside starter who has a chance to pitch for the Twins in 2020. He throws hard and made it all the way to Double A this year. His ERA rose from 3.23 in High A to 4.86 in Double A, but his FIP (2.76) suggests that he outperformed his ERA.

    Jordan Balazovic (RHP) – Balazovic may be a bit further away, as he spent 2019 pitching between Low A and High A, but he should start 2020 in Double A, and he probably ranks second only to Graterol in stuff. He pitched to a 1.61 FIP in Cedar Rapids with 14.37 K/9 and continued to pitch very well after moving up to Fort Myers (2.28 FIP, 11.84 K/9).

    Further Away
    This second group is a bit further away, but still offers a lot of upside.

    Cole Sands (RHP) – Sands is another guy who pitched really well this year, going all the way from Low A to a brief stint in Double A. The 2018 fifth-round pick didn’t pitch in upon joining the organization, so this was his first season in the minors. He will likely begin 2020 in Double A and could move fast.

    Chris Vallimont (RHP) – Vallimont came to the Twins as part of the Sergio Romo trade and was more than just a throw-in. Like Sands, Vallimont pitched very well in 2019, spending the entire season in High A, and should begin 2020 in Double A.

    Dakota Chalmers (RHP) – Chalmers isn’t as polished as Sands or Vallimont but he offers plenty of upside. The 23-year-old came to the Twins in exchange for Fernando Rodney and is another fire-baller. He gets a ton of strikeouts, but his future will depend on whether he can improve his control. Chalmers is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League.

    Blayne Enlow (RHP) – The Twins went over slot to sign Enlow in 2017 with the 76th overall pick, and he has pitched pretty well since joining the organization. Enlow’s ERA improved upon being called up to High-A (from 4.57 to 3.38), but he regressed in groundball rate and strikeouts, only striking out 6.62 per nine. However, Enlow is still just 20-years-old so he has plenty of time to develop.

    The Others
    There are plenty of other young starters who could see time with the Twins in 2020. Kohl Stewart (RHP) was up in 2018 and 2019 but his upside is limited and he may not stay on the 40-man roster. This was more or less a lost year for Stephen Gonsalves (LHP), but if healthy he could re-emerge in 2020. Sean Poppen (RHP) also pitched for Minnesota this year and both Griffin Jax (RHP) and Charlie Barnes (LHP) made it all the way to Triple A. This group doesn’t scream upside, but neither did Dobnak or Smeltzer coming into this season.

    Minnesota will probably look to add a minimum of two or three arms this offseason and we needn’t worry about seeing our hypothetical rotation. However, a lot can happen throughout the year, and several of the pitchers who were mentioned will see time with the Twins in the next year or two. With the competitive window blown fully open in 2019, the front office will need to prioritize improving the team’s one glaring hole, but it is reassuring to have plenty of alluring depth in the system to be called upon if needed. Besides, Gerrit Cole may need an occasional breather.

    • Oct 11 2019 09:55 AM
    • by Patrick Wozniak
  9. Twins Game Recap (9/26): Hangover Lineup Propels Minnesota to Win Number 99

    Box Score
    Smeltzer: 5 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 70% strikes (57 of 81 pitches)
    Bullpen: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

    Home Runs: Jonathan Schoop (23), Willians Astudillo (4)
    Multi-Hit Games: Ian Miller (2-for-5), Willians Astudillo (4-for-5), Jonathan Schoop (2-for-5), Jake Cave (2-for-5)

    Top 3 WPA: Cave .213, Astudillo .200, Miller .198

    Young Players Make an Impact
    Ian Miller collected both his first big league hit and RBI in the third inning to give Minnesota an early lead. This wouldn’t have been possible if not for Ronald Torreyes stealing second, marking only the fourth stolen base for Minnesota since the All-Star break.

    LaMonte Wade made his first professional start at first base. He hadn’t played the position since his sophomore year of college, five years ago, and was borrowing Max Kepler’s first baseman's mitt.

    This was an all-around interesting lineup.

    Bomba Squad Reaches 300 and Beyond
    In the top of the seventh inning, Jonathan Schoop hit his 23rd home run of the season and the 300th of the year for the Minnesota Twins. With that home run, Minnesota became the first team to ever hit 300 home runs in a season and once again passed the Yankees for the most home runs this year.

    In the eighth inning, Willians Astudillo made it 301 bombas when he blasted his fourth of the year over the left field fence, giving Minnesota a 10-4 lead.

    Winding Down
    With the division already clinched and the 2019 regular season coming to an end, with no chance of leapfrogging the Yankees or Astros in the A.L. standings, we can expect to see more lineups similar to today's.

    Enjoy watching stress-free baseball against Kansas City and get locked in for postseason baseball. There’s nothing better and we’ve earned this, Twins Territory.

    Postgame With Baldelli

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

    • Sep 26 2019 03:14 PM
    • by Andrew Gebo
  10. 2019 Minnesota Twins Minor League All-Stars

    Today, we would like to announce our choices for 2019 Minnesota Twins All-Stars. Our Twins Daily minor league report writers were asked to vote for a catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, three outfielders, a DH, a left-handed starting pitcher, a right-handed starting pitcher, a left-handed reliever and a right-handed reliever. The player at each position who received the most votes takes the spots. There were some ties, and in those cases, we each voted for the player(s) to break the ties.

    Read through our choices for each position. Check out how each of our writers voted. And then discuss and cast your votes as well.

    Let’s get started. (Note - all photos below from Seth Stohs, Twins Daily, unless noted.)

    The Twins Daily 2019 Minnesota Twins Minor League All Star Team

    Catcher: Ryan Jeffers - Ft. Myers Miracle/Pensacola Blue Wahoos
    Acquired: 2nd round draft pick in 2018 from UNC-Wilmington
    2019 Stats: .264/.341/.421 (.762) with 16 doubles, 14 homers and 49 RBI

    Some were surprised when the Twins used a second-round pick in 2018 on the talented catcher. However, he has proven a lot of people wrong to this point. Known more for his bat, there are mixed reviews on his defense still. Few question his bat. He’s got a good approach at the plate, but he can provide some thump to a lineup too. He definitely likes proving people wrong.

    ETA - May 2021

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    First Base: Zander Wiel - Rochester Red Wings
    Acquired: 12th round pick in 2015 from Vanderbilt
    2019 Stats: .254/.320/.514 (.834) with 40 doubles, 5 triples, 24 homers and 78 RBI

    Wiel has quietly been very productive as he has moved up the organizational ladder one level per season. He was on this team in 2016 and 2018 and was an easy choice again in 2019. He played first base most every day for the Red Wings, and he hit a ton of extra-base hits. His 69 extra-base hits led the International League.

    ETA - May 2020

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    Second Base: Travis Blankenhorn, Ft. Myers Miracle, Pensacola Blue Wahoos
    Acquired: Twins 3rd round pick in 2015 out of high school in Pennsylvania
    2019 Stats: .277/.321/.466 (.787) with 22 doubles, 2 triples, 19 home runs and 54 RBI.

    Blankenhorn returns to the Twins Daily All-Star team for the first time since 2017. After a tough 2018, he returned to Ft. Myers, but within a month, he was promoted to AA Pensacola. He hit 18 doubles and 18 homers after his promotion to the Blue Wahoos. The 23-year-old remains one of the best athletes in the organization.

    ETA: July 2021

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    Third Base: Spencer Steer - Elizabethton Twins, Cedar Rapids Kernels
    Acquired: Twins 3rd-round in 2019 out of the University of Oregon
    2019 Stats: .280/.385/.424 (.809) with 18 doubles, 3 triples, 4 home runs and 33 RBI.

    The Twins drafted Steer as a shortstop, and he played there for a handful of games while with the Elizabethton Twins after the draft, but he spent most of his time playing second base and third base for the Kernels. While he struggled at times for the Kernels, he provided extra-base hits and a couple of walkoff hits for the team.

    ETA: June 2023

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    photo by Steve Buhr

    Shortstop: Nick Gordon - Rochester Red Wings
    Acquired: 1st round pick in 2014 out of high school in Florida
    2019 Stats: .298/.342/.459 (.801) with 29 doubles, 3 triples, 4 homers and 40 RBI

    It was a frustrating 2019 season for Gordon. He missed the first month of the season with a stomach issue, and he missed the final month of the season with a knee injury. He kept a positive attitude throughout it. However, in between he put up some real solid numbers. He hit for average, got on base, and hit a lot of doubles. He returns to our All-Star team for the first time since 2016.

    ETA: June 2020

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    Outfielder: Trevor Larnach - Ft. Myers Miracle, Pensacola Blue Wahoos
    Acquired: Twins 1st-round draft pick in 2018 out of Oregon State
    2019 Stats: .309/.384/.458 (.842) with 30 doubles, 1 triple, 13 homers and 66 RBI

    Larnach had a very impressive professional debut in 2019. He homered in his first big-league spring training at bat. He began the season with Ft. Myers and was promoted to Double-A Pensacola after the All-Star Game. He was the Florida State League Player of the Year and Twins Daily’s choice for Minor League Hitter of the Year.

    ETA: July 2020

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    Outfielder: Jaylin Davis - Ft. Myers Miracle, Pensacola Blue Wahoos
    Acquired: Twins 24th round draft pick in 2015 out of Appalachian State
    2019 Stats: .298/.391/.563 (.954) with 20 doubles, 1 triple, 25 home runs, 67 RBI.

    What a year for Jaylin Davis! He began in AA Pensacola, but when he moved up to AAA Rochester, he began destroying the baseball. His numbers above are remarkable, but then consider that he spent the final month of the minor league season in the Giants organization after a trade. He continued to hit AAA pitching for Sacramento before being called up to the Giants for September. Last night, his first MLB homer was a walkoff winner for San Francisco. He's been struggling a bit in the big leagues, but hey, he got to meet Willie Mays.

    ETA: September 2019 (with Giants)

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    Outfielder - Brent Rooker - Rochester Red Wings
    Acquired: Twins 1st-round (compensation) draft pick in 2017 out of Mississippi State
    2019 Stats: .281/.398/.535 (.933) with 16 doubles, 14 home runs and 47 RBI.

    Rooker has made this All-Star team each of his three seasons since being drafted in 2017. He got off to a slow start in Rochester in 2019, but when the calendar turned to May, Rooker took off. He cut his strikeout rate, increased his walk rate and started to hit for power. Unfortunately a late season injury ended his season prematurely.

    ETA: June 2020

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    Designated Hitter: Gabe Snyder - Cedar Rapids Kernels
    Acquired: Twins 21st-round draft pick in 2018 out of Wright State
    2019 Stats: .259/.338/.462 (.800) with 21 doubles, 4 triples, 19 homers and 58 RBI

    Snyder was not even on the Kernels opening day roster when the season began. Sure, he joined the team about a week later, but he took off right away. He was a Midwest League All-Star at the midseason, and he was on the postseason All-Star roster. The burly 2018 draft pick provided power to the Kernels lineup throughout the season.

    ETA: July 2022

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    Right-Handed Starting Pitcher: Randy Dobnak - Ft. Myers Miracle, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Rochester Red Wings
    Acquired: signed as undrafted free agent from Utica Unicorns (USPBL) via Alderson-Broaddus College
    2019 Stats: 12-4, 2.07 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, 7.3 K/9

    No doubt 2019 has been a bit of a whirlwind for Randy Dobnak. 26 months ago, the Twins signed him, shortly after he got engaged while playing in the United Shores Professional Baseball League. He spent all of the 2018 season in Cedar Rapids. He began 2019 in Ft. Myers before moving up to Pensacola, and then Rochester, and then back to Pensacola and then back to Rochester. And almost exactly two years after signing, he made his MLB debut. Frankly, he’s been impressive and he pitched six innings of one-hit ball in his final start of the season and will likely make the Twins postseason roster… after getting married on Saturday. And hey, he and his fiance are asking people who want to give gifts to them to instead donate to St. Judes. You can click here to do that. Dobnak was the Twins Daily choice for Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year.

    ETA: August 2019

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    Left-Handed Starting Pitcher: Devin Smeltzer - Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Rochester Red Wings, Minnesota Twins
    Acquired: Trade from Dodgers (with Luke Raley, Logan Forsythe for Brian Dozier) in July 2018.
    2019 Stats: 4-5, 2.76 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, 9.0 K/9

    When the Twins acquired Smeltzer from the Dodgers at the 2018, most Twins fans probably said, “Who?” The bespectacled southpaw was mostly known for being a childhood cancer survivor. And, he has done so much good, including his Catch Cancer Looking t-shirt campaign. However, none of that alters the fact that he had a tremendous season. He came to the Twins after the Dodgers moved him to the bullpen. He pitched the rest of last season, including in the Arizona Fall League, out of the bullpen. This spring, he returned to starting, and he returned to AA. After a month, he moved up to AAA and continued to pitch well. He made his MLB debut with six shutout innings against Milwaukee in late May and pitched well most of the time in the big leagues. He went back and forth but continued to pitch well all season.

    ETA: May 2019

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    Right-Handed Relief Pitcher: Moises Gomez - Cedar Rapids Kernels, Ft. Myers Miracle
    Acquired: signed as undrafted free agent in April 2014 from Venezuela
    2019 Stats: 1-4, 10 saves, 2.91 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, 13.3 K/9

    Gomez has been in the organization a long time, and he has had his struggles at times. He figured some things out in 2019 with the Kernels and then with the Miracle. The 22-year-old from Venezuela has been able to throw more strikes and missed a lot more bats. He has a power arm and some mix. He had a breakout season and it is continuing as he is pitching in the Arizona Fall League.

    ETA: August 2021

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    Left-Handed Relief Pitcher: Zach Neff - Cedar Rapids Kernels, Ft. Myers Miracle
    Acquired: Twins 31st-round pick in 2018 out of Mississippi State
    2019 MiLB Stats: 6-3, 8 saves, 2.97 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 11.0 K/9

    After three seasons at Austin Peay, Neff transferred to Mississippi State. Following his senior season, the Twins drafted him. He began 2019 where he ended 2018, with the Cedar Rapids Kernels. He was promoted to Ft. Myers in the second half where he continued to pitch well. He showed good control, mixed his pitches well and recorded a lot of strikeouts. He is also pitching for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League.

    ETA: September 2021

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    PREVIOUS Twins Daily Minor League All Stars

    Looking Back: 2016 Twins Daily Minor League All Stars
    C: Mitch Garver, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Luis Arraez, 3B: Nelson Molina, SS: Nick Gordon, OF: LaMonte Wade, Zack Granite, Daniel Palka, DH: Adam Brett Walker.
    RH SP: Fernando Romero, LH SP: Stephen Gonsalves, RH RP: Trevor Hildenberger, LH RP: Michael Theofanopoulos.

    Looking Back: 2017 Twins Daily Minor League All Stars
    C: Mitch Garver, 1B: Jonathan Rodriguez, 2B: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B: TJ White, SS: Jermaine Palacios, OF:LaMonte Wade, Zack Granite, Akil Baddoo, DH: Brent Rooker.
    RH SP: Clark Beeker, LH SP: Stephen Gonsalves, RH RP: John Curtiss, LH RP: Andrew Vasquez.

    Looking Back: 2018 Twins Daily Minor League All Stars
    C: Taylor Grzelakowski, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Luis Arraez, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Royce Lewis, OF: Alex Kirilloff, Jaylin Davis, Akil Baddoo, DH: Brent Rooker.
    RH SP: Tyler Wells, LH SP: Stephen Gonsalves, RH RP: Cody Stashak, LH RP: Andrew Vasquez.


    The Votes
    So there you have it. The fourth annual Twins Daily Minor League All Star team. Who would get your vote? Below are the votes/selections of our 2019 Twins Daily minor league writers:

    Seth: C: Ryan Jeffers, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B: Ryan Costello, SS: Nick Gordon, OF: Jaylin Davis, Trevor Larnach, Gilberto Celestino, DH: Lewin Diaz, RH SP: Randy Dobnak, LH SP: Devin Smeltzer, RH RP: Moises Gomez, LH RP: Zach Neff.
    Cody: C: Wilin Rosario, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Luis Arraez, 3B: Wander Valdez, SS: Nick Gordon, OF: Jaylin Davis, Trevor Larnach, Brent Rooker, DH: Lewin Diaz RH SP: Randy Dobnak, LH SP: Devin Smeltzer, RH RP: Anthony Vizcaya, LH RP: Sam Clay.
    Tom: C: Ryan Jeffers, 1B: Lewin Diaz, 2B: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B: Ryan Costello, SS: Nick Gordon, OF: Jaylin Davis, Trevor Larnach, Gilberto Celestino, DH: Gabe Snyder, RH SP: Jordan Balazovic, LH SP: Devin Smeltzer, RH RP: Cody Stashak, LH RP: Zach Neff.
    Ted: C: Ryan Jeffers, 1B: Wilin Rosario, 2B: Nick Gordon, 3B: Wander Valdez, SS: Spencer Steer, OF: Trevor Larnach, Brent Rooker, Zander Wiel, DH: Travis Blankenhorn, RH SP: Randy Dobnak, LH SP: Devin Smeltzer, RH RP: Melvi Acosta, LH RP: Sam Clay.
    Steve: C: Tomas Telis, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B: Drew Maggi, SS: Nick Gordon, OF: Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker, DH: Gabe Snyder, RH SP: Jordan Balazovic, LH SP: Devin Smeltzer, RH RP: Moises Gomez, LH RP: Zach Neff.
    Matt: C: Ryan Jeffers, 1B: Gabe Snyder, 2B: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B: Spencer Steer, SS: Royce Lewis, OF: Jake Cave, Alejandro de Aza, Trevor Larnach, DH: Brent Rooker, RH SP: Bailey Ober, LH SP: Lewis Thorpe, RH RP: Derek Molina, LH RP: Zach Neff.

    • Sep 26 2019 10:00 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  11. Minnesota’s Game 3 Starting Pitching Options in the Playoffs

    Kyle Gibson
    W-L 13-7, 4.76 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 151 K, 50 BB, 155.0 IP
    Minnesota used Kyle Gibson as a reliever on Sunday and things didn’t go exactly to plan. He entered the game after Fernando Romero had already put multiple runners on base and then Gibson surrendered a three-run home run. Only one of the earned runs was charged to Gibson, but the big hit came when he was pitching.

    One of the bigger issues for Gibson are the health issues he has been battling for most of the season. In spring training, he was also diagnosed with E. coli that he contracted while doing mission work during the off-season. He entered camp around 200 pounds, which is down about 15 pounds from his desired weight. Recently, he returned from the 10-day IL after missing time because of ulcerative colitis.

    Gibson struggles when batters get repeated looks at him in the same game, especially for the third time. His first time through the batting order he has held batters to a .248/.315/.376 (.691) slash line with a 63 to 18 strikeout to walk ratio. His third time through the line-up results in batters hitting .333/.386/.558 (.944) with eight of his 22 homers allowed coming in this situation.

    Martin Perez
    W-L 10-7, 4.89 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 125 K, 64 BB, 152.2 IP
    Perez didn’t even start the year in Minnesota’s rotation, but he was a breath of fresh air when he was added to the rotation in mid-April. From April 15-May 23, he looked like one of the best pitchers in the league as he posted a 2.17 ERA and held batters to a .644 OPS. His cut fastball was a revelation and it helped him to strike out 44 batters in eight games. He looked like a candidate for the All-Star Game and it certainly seemed like Minnesota had made something out of nothing.

    In his 18 starts since May 23, Perez has not looked like the same pitcher. His cut fastball, that had been his bread and butter during his hot start, has not looked the same. He has allowed more than a hit per inning and he’s only managed 69 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings. With 16 home runs allowed, he has surrendered nearly a home run per appearance.

    Right-handed batters have compiled an .817 OPS against him throughout the year. This isn’t good news for the Twins that will be facing the Yankees or the Astros in the ALDS and both clubs are very right-hand heavy. Only New York and Houston have higher OPS totals than Minnesota this year so there doesn’t seem like a scenario where Perez would be asked to see their line-up multiple times in the same game.

    Bullpen Game
    After Friday night’s botched rainout, the Twins were left no available starting pitchers for Saturday’s doubleheader. This left the team with a unique strategic situation and a full September roster of bullpen arms. In Game 1, the Twins were able to shut out the Indians behind three innings from Devin Smeltzer and more than one inning from Zack Littell, Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers.

    During Game 2, Lewis Thorpe was the lone pitcher to surrender any runs as he struggled with command throughout his appearance. Cody Stashak and Trevor May joined the shutout crew from Game 1, but the most impressive appearance was from 21-year old Brusdar Graterol. Over two innings, he was regularly sitting in triple-digits with his fastball and this pitch had more movement than any of his other big-league appearances. Add in a strong slider and he looked lights out.

    During last year’s playoffs, the Milwaukee Brewers used a bold strategy as they used Wade Miley as the starter and he only pitched to one batter. Manager Craig Counsell was hoping the Dodgers would load their line-up with left-handed hitters and then the Brewers quickly switched to a left-handed pitcher. Teams are likely more aware of this type of strategy, but it is something a team could try during October, especially one like the Twins with few starting pitching options.

    What strategy do you think the Twins would use in Game 3 of the ALDS? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Sep 16 2019 08:41 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  12. Twins Game Recap (9/14): Bullpen, Polanco Move the Needle in Win

    Box Score
    Smeltzer: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 59% strikes (29 of 49 pitches)
    Bullpen: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

    Home Runs: Polanco (22)
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-4), Arraez (2-for-4)

    Top 3 WPA: Rogers (.209), Smeltzer (.162), Littell (.135)

    Devin Smeltzer entered this start with 14 2/3 innings pitched against Cleveland. Smeltzer had allowed 17 hits, 13 runs and six homers, including three from Francisco Lindor. Smeltzer’s success against Lindor on Saturday was a reflection of his outing. He held the All-Star to two foul pop-outs and the Indians to just one hit and no runs in three innings.

    Mike Clevinger started with his 11-2 record and 2.49 FIP. Luckily for the Twins, Jorge Polanco was not fazed. His two-run shot and dazzling diving stop in the third were decisive. Hitting home runs is vital in beating dominant pitchers, and Minnesota proved that on Saturday. Clevinger struck out 10 in eight strong innings.

    The Twins were planning on one bullpen game Saturday, but not two. After Jake Odorizzi’s start was washed away, Minnesota knew they would need 18 innings from the second-best bullpen in the American League since Aug. 1. They did not disappoint in game one. Zack Littell made his case to be a primary set-up man down the stretch with two scoreless innings. Littell could fill in for Sam Dyson after the former Giant was shut down and will undergo evaluation on his right arm.

    Taylor Rogers is seemingly unavailable for tonight's game after completing the five-out save. Rogers was huge once again, and is further submitting himself as one of the best relievers in baseball.

    This win means Minnesota will lead the AL Central by at least 2.5 games heading into the final 13-game stretch with the White Sox, Royals, and Tigers. The Twins can smell the ALDS. The magic number is 11.

    Postgame With Baldelli

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

    • Sep 14 2019 08:34 PM
    • by Nash Walker
  13. Twins Game Recap (9/8) Clevinger Shuts Down the Scuffling Twins Offense

    Box Score
    Dobnak: 2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 67% strikes (22 of 33 pitches)
    Bullpen: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: None

    Top 3 WPA: LaMonte Wade jr. (0.13), Ryne Harper (0.03), Fernando Romero (0.02)
    Bottom 3 WPA: Cron (-0.10), Dobnak (-0.10), Polanco (-0.09)

    Clevinger dominates against strange Twins lineup

    The Twins have been hit with the injury bug a frustrating amount of times this season, and that was on full display today. By the second inning, only three Twins players in the lineup were in the lineup on Opening Day. The Twins did what was expected with this lineup against the elite Mike Clevinger by getting just four hits over 6 1/3 innings.

    Max Kepler left the game after a first inning at-bat that had him feeling some upper chest pain, and Ian Miller got his first career at-bat. He struck out and was eventually replaced by Twins legend Ryan LaMarre. Through seven innings no Twin had more than one hit and a bases-loaded opportunity went to waste.

    The Twins did get a bit of offense off of Clevinger with this Mitch Garver home run.

    Twins opener not as successful the second time around

    The Twins broke out their first real opener last week against Boston and saw the Dobnak/Lewis Thorpe combination lead to a win, but today did not go as well. Dobnak started again but gave up two runs, and then his replacement was Smeltzer, who also gave up two runs.

    With Michael Pineda suspended, Kyle Gibson on the IL, Jose Berrios struggling, and Martin Perez being a huge question mark, the opener strategy will likely be utilized by the Twins down the stretch. It may even be used in the playoffs so hopefully they can get a solid rotation or combination going to see what works.

    Indians bullpen finishes off the game

    The Twins were finally able to get Clevinger out of the game, and they were threatening to get back in to it. After loading the bases with one out, C.J. Cron and Mitch Garver both struck out swinging. As a team, the Twins are hitting just .215/.221/.318 with the bases loaded. Also, the Twins lead all of baseball in wOBA, but they are somehow last in wOBA with the bases loaded. Baseball is weird.

    The eighth inning was easy for the Indians as Oliver Perez set down the side 1-2-3, and then Brad Hand and his 6.00 second-half ERA came in to finish it off. Luis Arraez hit a ball 98 MPH with a .400 xBA but Greg Allen made a great catch to rob him of a double. Adrianza flew out, Wade was hit by a pitch, Schoop walked, and 2018 Twins legend Ryan LaMarre stepped to the plate with a chance to tie the game ... He struck out.

    Twins fall to 5.5 games over the Indians

    The Twins basically just had to go 3-3 over these last six against the Red Sox and Indians and they did exactly that. Now moving on to six more tough games against Washington and Cleveland, the Twins should just go 3-3 again to secure the division. What is your panic level? I mean it shouldn’t be high except for the absurd amount of injuries, but let me know in the comments and I’ll discuss with you. Twins lose the series two games to one against the division rival Indians.

    Postgame with Baldelli

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

    • Sep 08 2019 06:24 PM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  14. Twins Minor League Report (8/20): Extra(s), Extra(s), Read All About It!

    Keep reading to find out how all those extra innings played out and how all your favorite prospects performed on Tuesday!


    There were the following player movements in the Twins system on Tuesday:

    • In Triple-A, 3B Brian Schales was assigned to Fort Myers and RHP Griffin Jax to Pensacola, while RHP Trevor Hildenberger was activated from the injured list.
    • With Jax returning to the Blue Wahoos, RHP Cole Sands was placed on theseven-day injured list in the Southern League.
    • The Twins assigned their latest free agent acquisitions to the GCL Twins in the form of their latest independent league signing, C Eric Jones, and IF Adrian Guzman.
    Buffalo 1, Rochester 4
    Box Score

    The Red Wings were able to get a big inning late to pull out a victory on Tuesday night against the Bisons at Frontier Field.

    Devin Smeltzer made the start and was effective for the first six innings, picking up a quality start. He allowed just one earned run on five hits and a walk, striking out three. The run came on solo homer in the second inning. In his first appearance since being promoted to AAA, Jorge Alcala worked two scoreless frames of relief. He walked one and struck out two to pick up his first Triple-A win. Off his rehab assignment in the GCL, Trevor Hildenberger closed out the ninth for his second save with Rochester on the season while allowing only a walk.

    Down 1-0 heading into the bottom of the eighth, the Red Wings offense finally broke through against the Bisons’ bullpen after top prospect and fireballer Nate Pearson’s day was finished. It wasn’t their bats however, but their patience as four hitters drew a walk before a Wilin Rosario two-RBI single gave them a 4-2 lead.

    Each team had just five hits on the game and all of the Red Wings knocks were singles. The teams combined to go just 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base for the game.

    Pensacola 4, Mississippi 2 (10 innings)
    Box Score

    Pensacola utilized the opener in this one, with Marcos Diplan handling the first two innings before “primary” (and scheduled starting) pitcher Edwar Colina entered the game. Diplan allowed one hit, walked one, and struck out four. Colina went the next three innings and was just as stingy by allowing only one hit and a walk while striking out three. Jonathan Cheshire got the next two frames and continued to hold the Braves scoreless by scattering three hits and striking out two.

    Mississippi was finally able to break the deadlock on the scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth against Alex Phillips thanks to a two-out triple that was followed by a single, a stolen base, and another single for the 2-0 lead heading into the ninth.

    The Blue Wahoos answer was a leadoff walk from Caleb Hamilton, an RBI triple from Mark Contreras, and sac fly from Jimmy Kerrigan to tie the game at two. Phillips delivered a one-two-three bottom of the inning to send it to extras.

    Royce Lewis started the inning on second base but got himself thrown out at third on a grounder to first from Alex Kirilloff, but it would not matter as Ryan Jeffers followed with his fourth home run with the Blue Wahoos to put them out front 4-2.

    Andrew Vasquez closed out the victory with a scoreless inning to earn his second save on the year with Pensacola, allowing only a walk.

    Fort Myers 4, Charlotte 2 (13 innings)
    Box Score

    Just like their higher-level cousins, runs were hard to come by in the Florida State League for the Miracle and Stone Crabs on Tuesday, and they also required extra innings to declare a victor.

    Dakota Chalmers made the start for Fort Myers and was fantastic for his second turn in a row. He made it through 5 1/3 innings in this one, allowing just one run on three hits and three walks while striking out seven. In his past two outings he’s allowed just the one run on six hits and four walks in 11 1/3 innings while striking out 16.

    Calvin Faucher and Moises Gomez combined to hold Charlotte scoreless over the next 4 2/3 innings. Gomez allowed the only hit between them and struck out three, with Faucher punching out the first five of the six hitters he faced. Gomez also struck out himself…I think?!

    Joe Record came on for the 11th frame and would finish the game for the Miracle to pick up his fourth win. In three innings he allowed only an unearned run on one hit and two walks while punching out four.

    The Miracle got their first run of the game in the fourth inning to tie it at one when Trey Cabbage singled to score Jacob Pearson. In the top of the thirteenth a single from Yeltsin Encarnacion brought in Cabbage and Andrew Bechtold before a wild pitch allowed a third run to scamper home for a 4-1 lead that would hold.

    Despite playing four extra innings, the teams combined for just ten hits on the game while striking out 36 times. They were 5-for-32 with runners in scoring position and left 20 men on base between them. Pearson picked up two hits, including a double, and stole a base to lead the way.

    Cedar Rapids 3, Quad Cities 9
    Box Score

    The Kernels fell into an early hole against the River Bandits, and then dug themselves deeper and were unable to climb out against a team they’ve been battling in the Midwest League Western Division all season.

    Starter Kody Funderburk was roughed up for six earned runs in the outing. He allowed seven hits, walked four, and struck out three in his 4 1/3 innings. J.T. Perez didn’t fare much better in the next 1 2/3, giving up three runs on four hits and a walk, striking out two. Jose Martinez finished the final two innings for Cedar Rapids, and they finally were of the scoreless variety. He allowed two hits and struck out four.

    The Kernels were finally able to put a run on the scoreboard in the top of the eighth thanks to an RBI ground out from Spencer Steer after a throwing error on a pickoff attempt put a runner on third base. In the ninth they got two more courtesy of Jared Akins 11th home run of the season to account for the final tally. Tyler Webb and Daniel Ozoria contributed two hits each to the effort.

    Elizabethton 7, Princeton 6 (11 innings)
    Box Score

    Starter Cody Laweryson worked around some baserunners for the first three innings, but Princeton finally broke through with a run in the bottom of the fourth to take a 1-0 lead.

    Elizabethton answered with two runs in the top of the fifth thanks to a Matt Wallner home run, his sixth of the season, but Laweryson gave them right back with a home run allowed in the bottom half. Laweryson finished five innings, allowing the three runs on five hits and a walk along with striking out eight.

    The Twins tied it back up at three in the sixth when Seth Gray launched his ninth home run of the year, then the teams traded solo home runs in the eighth with Will Holland clubbing his seventh on the season to head into the ninth tied at four.

    After Laweryson’s exit, Owen Griffith contributed two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out three. Tyler Beck allowed one run on three hits and a walk in his inning, striking out one. Benjamin Dum came on for the ninth and got them into extra innings, finishing two total innings. He allowed an unearned run on one hit while striking out two. Both teams were able to bring in the runner starting on second base in the tenth.

    In the top of the eleventh, Elizabethton got a leadoff double from Janigson Villalobos that put runners on second and third, then a throwing error allowed both of them to score for a 7-5 lead.

    For the bottom half the Twins summoned pitcher Denny Bentley and though he allowed the runner starting the extra frame on second to score on a sac fly, retired all three hitters he faced to close out a victory.

    The Twins got multiple hits from six hitters in their lineuptheir and were able to pull out the win despite going just 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position. Luckily for them, the Rays were also an inept 3-for-20.

    GCL Pirates 10, GCL Twins 2
    Box Score

    Righthander Regi Grace made the start for the GCL Twins squad and after a leadoff walk led to a run scoring in the first inning, he held the Pirates scoreless for his next two frames. In the fourth a two-out rally added two runs for a 3-0 deficit and an end to his outing. In four innings he allowed three earned runs on six hits and a walk while picking up seven strikeouts.

    The Pirates then poured it on against the bullpen, with Niall Windeler and Matthew Swain allowing a combined seven runs (three earned) from their two innings apiece. Jose Guevara pitched a scoreless ninth to finish the game for the Twins, walking one and striking out two.

    The Twins lineup wasn’t able to muster much offense with six hits and five walks on the game and finishing 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. One of their runs scored on a throwing error, while the other came on a sac fly, both in the fifth inning. Third baseman Jake Hirabayashi picked up two hits in three at-bats, drew a walk, and scored a run to lead the way. Francisco Martinez contributed the sac fly, a walk, and the Twins only extra-base hit, a double, in the loss.


    Pitcher of the Day – Calvin Faucher, Fort Myers Miracle (2.0 IP, 5 K)
    Hitter of the Day – Ryan Jeffers, Pensacola Blue Wahoos (2-for-5, go-ahead HR in 10th inning)


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

    #1 - Royce Lewis (Pensacola) - 1-for-4, BB, K
    #2 - Alex Kirilloff (Pensacola) - 1-for-5, R
    #3 - Brusdar Graterol (Pensacola) - Did not pitch
    #4 - Trevor Larnach (Pensacola) - 0-for-4, BB, 3 K
    #5 - Wander Javier (Cedar Rapids) - Did not play
    #6 - Jordan Balazovic (Fort Myers) - Did not pitch
    #7 - Keoni Cavaco (GCL) - Did not play (quad)
    #8 - Brent Rooker (Rochester) - Injured List (groin)
    #9 - Jhoan Duran (Pensacola) - Did not pitch
    #10 - Blayne Enlow (Fort Myers) - Injured List (hamstring)
    #11 - Lewis Thorpe (Minnesota) - Did not pitch
    #12 - Nick Gordon (Rochester) - Injured List (leg contusion)
    #13 - Ryan Jeffers (Pensacola) - 2-for-5, R, HR, 2 RBI, 3 K
    #14 - Luis Arraez (Minnesota) - 1-for-4, R
    #15 - Matt Wallner (Elizabethton) - 2-for-6, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, 2 K
    #16 - Ben Rortvedt (Pensacola) - Did not play
    #17 - Akil Baddoo (Fort Myers) - Injured List (Tommy John surgery)
    #18 - Jorge Alcala (Rochester) - (W, 2.0IP, BB, 2 K)
    #19 - Misael Urbina (DSL) - 1-for-2, K
    #20 - Travis Blankenhorn (Pensacola) - 0-for-5, 3 K


    Buffalo @ Rochester (6:05PM CST) - LHP Charlie Barnes (1-0, 5.79 ERA)
    Pensacola @ Mississippi (1:05PM CST) - RHP Bailey Ober (1-0, 1.29 ERA)
    Charlotte @ Fort Myers (6:00PM CST) - LHP Tyler Watson (1-5, 3.74 ERA)
    Cedar Rapids @ Clinton (6:30PM CST) - RHP Luis Rijo (5-7, 2.63 ERA)
    Elizabethton @ Johnson City (5:30PM CST) - TBD
    GCL Orioles @ GCL Twins (11:00AM CST) - TBD

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

    • Aug 21 2019 04:42 AM
    • by Steve Lein
  15. Twins Game Recap (8/15): Pineda Solid While Offense Provides Plenty

    Box Score
    Pineda: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 63.9% strikes (55 of 86 pitches)
    Bullpen (Smeltzer): 4.0 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

    Home Runs: Arraez (3), Sano (22), Rosario (27)
    Multi-Hit Games: Arraez (3-for-5), Cave (2-for-3), Gonzalez (4-for-5), Polanco (2-for-6)

    Top 3 WPA: Arraez (.170), Pineda (.115), Cave (.111)

    Twins Offense Strikes Early and Often
    The scouting report on right-handed pitcher Payano showed two things: 1) He has reverse splits with more success against left-handed batters, and 2) He struggles commanding the strike zone. That explains Sano batting second for the first time in his career as well as the five-run second inning where he was missing his spots badly after a quick first inning.

    Luis Arraez started the party with a home run, which seemed about as likely as Kenny Wu joining the Bash Brothers, what with Payano’s success against lefties. All Mighty Duck references aside, Arraez got it started again in the third with a two-out double down the right field line followed by a Marwin Gonzalez single to drive him in. After two full-count walks in the fourth, Payano’s night was over after just 3 1/3 innings although that didn’t mean much to the Twins hitters. The offense would go on to score 13 runs on 14 hits including three home runs.

    Pineda Looks Good in Return to Rotation
    Michael Pineda’s didn’t miss a beat after suffering a triceps strain during his August 1 start against the Marlins. If you haven’t been tracking him closely Pineda has been the Twins best pitcher (in terms of fWAR) since June 1 and he looked all the part tonight. It wasn’t until the fourth inning with two outs that the Rangers were able to get their first hit and at that point they were down by 10, which definitely made things easier for Pineda. With a home run to start the inning by Willie Calhoun followed by back-to-back singles, the Rangers scored their second run of the game on Jorge Polanco’s fourth error in his last three games.

    After a total of five hits, two earned runs, and 30 pitches Pineda would get through the fifth and give way to Devin Smeltzer out of the Twins bullpen. Throughout the night, Pineda was pinpointing his fastball and slider to the tune of six strikeouts and just one walk.

    The Twins will look to stay hot tomorrow against Mike Minor who’s having the best year of his career. Meanwhile, Odorizzi will take the bump for the Twins and look to continue pitching well after he’s given up one run or less in his last three starts.

    Postgame With Baldelli

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

    • Aug 16 2019 04:53 AM
    • by Matthew Lenz
  16. Michael Pineda Will Play a Huge Role During This Division Race

    In case you haven’t noticed, the Twins starting rotation has been a huge area of concern since August began. Jose Berrios has dropped off a bit, Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson struggle with consistency and then the number five spot is a fight between Martin Perez and Devin Smeltzer with neither of them doing enough to secure a job. The most consistent and reliable starter recently is Michael Pineda, but he hit the IL as August began and since then the Twins rotation holds a 5.55 ERA, 5.16 FIP, 1.61 HR/9, and 3.94 BB/9.

    Ironically, the Twins lost a key starting pitcher just a couple days after they did not add a starting pitcher at the deadline. That was controversial to some, but that is for a different day. So the Twins came into August fighting for a division, needing all hands on deck, and a few key players, including Pineda, landed on the IL at the worst time.

    People seem to forget this, but Big Mike began the season with four excellent starts before he started to slow down in his first season back from TJ surgery. There was talk about a long term extension before fans wanted to DFA him during his bad period of starts. He was eventually placed on the IL for the first time as a sort of break/precaution to get him some rest. Since his return he had been lights out, holding a 2.95 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 4.4 K/BB, and .662 OPS against. The funny thing is that nobody really started talking about how good he has been until the start before the most recent, his second, IL stint. Michael Pineda had quietly been putting up ace numbers since the start of June.

    A lot of this success has come from his ability to limit walks. He is fourth in the American League with just a 4.4 BB% so keeping guys off the bases has been key for his success. This BB% isn’t even a career high, so maybe he can get even better in that area, which would certainly be impressive.

    With Cleveland steamrolling through every opponent they face at like a .900 winning percentage, the Twins will need Pineda to return from his stint on the IL and get back into the role he had. It seems as if he stabilizes the rotation every fifth day with a guaranteed quality start. He actually has the second most quality starts on the Twins, trailing only Berrios, so he is definitely reliable.

    If the playoffs began today, Pineda would likely be the number two starter for the Twins, taking on Gerrit Cole of the Astros ... that’s scary, but it’s the truth. A playoff rotation of Berrios/Pineda/Odorizzi isn’t flashy but hopefully it could get the job done.

    Overall, the weight on this entire starting staff has only gotten much heavier with the Indians catching the team and no help for the starting staff being added at the deadline. The front office showed they have confidence in this group to get it done in big games this year so let’s see Big Mike step in and prove the Twins are here to stay. The Indians didn’t have to face him in the most recent series, but if they really want to take the division from the Twins then they have to beat the healthy version of the Twins.

    After this season Pineda will become a free agent and you should not be surprised if he returns to the Twins on a short two-year deal. He has become a solid pitcher and with the Twins having only Berrios and Perez under control, expect the team to make a noticeable effort to keep Pineda around.

    Before Pineda was put on the IL the second time, it seemed as if he was getting better with every start. It will be crucial for the Twins division chances if he can come back on that same wave he had been riding. On that note, I wonder what he would look like surfing... back to baseball. Keep in mind this is still his first season after TJ surgery so his innings could be limited. The Twins definitely seem to have a plan in place to keep him around for the long haul this season with scheduled breaks or IL stints for him to rest his arm so hopefully fatigue or major injury do not become concerns.

    He should be returning to this rotation this week so hopefully he can make the group a whole lot more reliable than they have been lately. All five starters will need to contribute if the Twins want to take the division for the first time since 2010, and I expect Michael Pineda to be leading the rotation.

    • Aug 15 2019 06:45 AM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  17. Twins Game Recap (8/9): Twins Set Home Run Record, Lose to Cleveland

    Box Score
    Smeltzer: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 60.4% strikes (49 of 81 pitches)
    Bullpen: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K

    Home Runs: Castro (12), Rosario (25)
    Multi-Hit Games: Polanco (2-for-4), Cave (2-for-4)

    Bottom 3 WPA: Smeltzer -.191, Arráez -.085, Cron -.063

    For the fourth consecutive game, the Twins didn’t get a good outing from their starting pitcher. Since Jake Odorizzi allowed only one run on Monday against the Braves, Twins starters have allowed a total of 28 runs, two of them unearned. Devin Smeltzer was off to a very good start, but he couldn’t get past Cleveland’s top of the order in the fifth.

    Before the fifth inning meltdown, in which he gave up five earned runs on five hits, Smeltzer was able to hold Cleveland batters to just a one-run lead. With the exception of the second, he threw sixteen pitches or less in all other innings. He had also allowed only two hits before the fifth. Tyler Duffey took over, but couldn’t take care of the two inherited runners.

    The Indians, on the other hand, were able to lock their second win of the series behind a fantastic start from All-Star Game MVP Shane Bieber. Like Clevinger on Thursday, Bieber went into distance, nearly reaching 110 pitches. He delivered seven innings, striking out a total of eleven Minnesota batters.

    Twins set new single season home run record
    Exactly like in the previous three games, the Twins offense had to catch up and tried to start a rally. And they did it in record-breaking fashion. Jason Castro homered off Bieber to lead off the fifth, tying the club’s single season home run record, at 225. In the sixth, Eddie Rosario jumped on the first pitch of the inning to hit the milestone dinger, break the club record and put the Twins back in the game. It was Eddie’s 25th of the year.

    Welcome to the show, Dobnak!
    A dream came true for former Uber driver Randy Dobnak tonight, as he made his major league debut. He couldn’t have asked for a better one too. The Pennsylvania native pitched four scoreless innings on 68 pitches, keeping the Twins within a swing of a bat. He did get a huge help from the defense too, when C.J. Cron threw home to get Yasiel Puig in the seventh and Luis Arráez started a double play in the eighth.

    Tied atop of the division for the first time since April 20, these two times play again tomorrow, with Odorizzi taking on the mound to face Adam Plutko. First pitch scheduled to 6:10 C.T.

    Postgame With Baldelli
    Coming soon.

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

    • Aug 10 2019 06:28 AM
    • by Thiéres Rabelo
  18. Leading Off Podcast With Cooper & Matt: Post-Trade Deadline SZN

    Scroll to the bottom for time stamps.

    Hey everyone! Click the link below for the iTunes audio of the podcast.

    In this link you can find the Spotify audio of the podcast.


    Please be sure to let us know what you think whether it’s a question, you disagree with us, or you just hate my voice by commenting on this post or heading over to our Twitter accounts below

    Cooper: Carlson_MnTwins
    Matt: Matthew_bTwins

    Time stamps:

    7:50 lengthy trade deadline talk (Dyson, so SP trade for the Twins, etc)

    27:50 Zack Greinke

    31:00 Did Cleveland get better by trading Bauer?

    37:20 Should Smeltzer stick around?

    44:20 More Injuries…

    56:40 Fan questions (when will we see Kirilloff/Graterol)

    1:15:40 Looking ahead

    • Aug 05 2019 06:51 AM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  19. Week in Review: Deadline, Dyson, Dingers

    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 7/29 through Sun, 8/4


    Record Last Week: 5-1 (Overall: 69-42)

    Run Differential Last Week: +16 (Overall: +141)

    Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (3.0 GA)

    Willians Watch: Out Indefinitely

    As the trade deadline counted down to zero on Wednesday afternoon, Twins fans were momentarily led to believe their team had come up empty in its pursuit of upgrades. Minutes after the 3:00PM, however, we got word that they did indeed make another impact addition to the bullpen:

    Sam Dyson arrived in the clubhouse midway through Thursday's game in Miami, and was called upon to close out a 4-1 victory in the ninth. It... did not go well. In fact it went about as poorly as one could possibly imagine. And sadly things hardly improved in his second Twins appearance. By the time he landed on the injured list with biceps tendinitis on Sunday, Dyson had allowed six runs on six hits and two walks while recording just two outs for Minnesota.

    Obviously it's a terrible first impression, and not the best look for the front office to be acquiring a guy who was apparently damaged goods. But if you're looking for a silver lining, at least his arm injury – the severity of which is being downplayed by the Twins – may help explain the stark deviation from a strong and consistent track record. Dyson has thrown 38 pitches as a Twin and induced only one swinging strike. This issue actually appears to date back a ways; in his last four appearances with the Giants, he got only one swing-and-miss on 42 pitches after inducing 18 in his first eight July outings (15% rate).

    The timing here is awful, for multiple reasons, but hopefully a little rest will help Dyson return to his usual form, which is excellent.

    He has posted an ERA+ of 142 or better in four the past five seasons, and was at 170 this year with the Giants. Dating back to 2014, he has a 3.19 ERA and 1.25 WHIP with just 26 homers allowed in 364 innings. He has experience as a closer and has pitched (well) in the postseason. Importantly, the Twins didn't give up a whole lot to acquire him. Jaylin Davis, who was spotlighted in our "Down on the Farm" report here two weeks ago thanks to his unbelievable power surge at Triple-A, was the headliner, along with lower-tier prospects Prelander Berroa and Kai-Wei Teng.

    As was the case with Lewin Diaz, traded days earlier to the Marlins for Sergio Romo, it was bittersweet to see Davis leave. Like Diaz, the 25-year-old outfielder was enjoying a breakout season in the minors, but he was hopelessly crowded out of the big-league picture. In San Francisco, he'll have a much clearer path, and could very well be up in the majors before year's end.

    Adding Dyson and Romo, following the recent subtractions of Blake Parker, Matt Magill, Mike Morin and Adalberto Mejia, equates to a significant upgrade for this wobbly unit. It wasn't the blockbuster shakeup many fans were hoping for – as reflected by a rather inordinate amount of rancor on social media and local radio airwaves – but it was in fact one of the boldest retoolings made by a contender last week. Outside of the Astros, who clearly won the deadline with their bombshell addition of Zack Greinke, few teams made emphatic moves – with both the Yankees and Red Sox among those who conspicuously froze up despite having clear, potentially crippling weaknesses.

    In my mind, Twins fans should be feeling good about the club's actions. Maybe not great, but the front office did what it needed to do. And with the former August waiver trade period eliminated, these contending rosters are pretty much locked in, so now it's crunch time.

    Personally, I feel pretty good about the squad Rocco Baldelli is bringing to battle, especially after the way they played over the past week. But in the coming days, they're going to be shorthanded, having placed several important contributors on the shelf:
    • Dyson, as mentioned, was placed on the IL with right biceps tendinitis. Devin Smeltzer was called up to take his spot, and made a start on Sunday, looking very good as usual. Zack Littell was also recalled over the weekend. It doesn't sound like the team expects Dyson to miss much more than his requisite 10 days.
    • Lewis Thorpe and Sean Poppen were optioned to the minors amidst the roster juggling.
    • The biggest gut-punch of the week (and maybe the season) was the placement of Byron Buxton on IL with what's being portrayed as a fairly long-term injury. He partially dislocated his shoulder in a Thursday collision with the outfield wall, and is likely to miss most or all of August. On the bright side, Jake Cave will get an extended opportunity to substantiate his monster production at Triple-A, where he was slashing .352/.393/.592 in 48 games. But there's no replacing what Buxton brings to the field. That much has become painfully obvious.
    • C.J. Cron was activated from the IL and homered in his first game back on Saturday.

    When the deadline came and went on Wednesday, there was no Greinke for the Twins. No Madison Bumgarner or Noah Syndergaard, either. What most of us suspected all along is now set in stone: Jose Berrios is going to have to shoulder the load as this team's No. 1 starter down the stretch and – if they get there – its Game 1 starter in the playoffs. He has mostly locked up the part this year, and certainly did in his latest start on Tuesday night.

    Granted, it was against a miserable Marlins lineup, but Berrios was electric, striking out 11 while cruising through seven shutout innings on just 81 pitches. He walked none and allowed only two singles, tying the Opening Day gem against Cleveland for his top Game Score posted this year (84).

    Berrios hasn't missed a start, and has pitched at least into the seventh in more than half (14 of 22). He ranks 10th among all MLB starters in innings pitched. The guy's an absolute workhorse.

    The question, going forward, is how things will shake out behind him. The rest of Minnesota's rotation has been generally healthy and effective (all five Twins starters rank among the AL's top 25 in WAR, which is pretty amazing), but they haven't followed the leader's model of stability.

    Michael Pineda, on the upswing with a 3.12 ERA since the start of June, is probably the most credible choice as No. 2 starter right now. He reasserted his case on Thursday, holding Miami to one run over six innings after producing seven innings of one-run ball in Chicago the week before. Pineda has issued one or zero walks in 15 of his 20 starts this year, and more than three only once. As a result of this and the coaching staff's careful workload management, the big righty has exceeded 100 pitches only once all year, boding well for his enduring value down the stretch.

    On that note, the Twins placed Pineda on the IL Sunday, citing a triceps strain, but one wonders if Minnesota isn't just trying to get him a break. That seemed to be the case when they shut him down for a couple weeks at the end of May, and Pineda came back much stronger in that instance. As was the case then, he might only miss one start this time around.

    Efficiency hasn't been such a strength for Jake Odorizzi, who got back on track with his 12th win on Monday but failed to complete six innings for a seventh consecutive start. His continuing lack of length is an underrated factor in the bullpen's stress test over the past month. But this was nonetheless an encouraging outing for the righty, who managed to keep the ball in the yard after surrendering 10 homers in his previous seven turns.

    Kyle Gibson also took care of business, holding Kansas City to three runs (two earned) over 6 2/3 innings on Saturday. He struck out six and induced 17 swinging strikes – his highest total since June 8th in Detroit.

    Meanwhile, Smeltzer continues to make his case for a solidified role with the big-league club. He was absolutely brilliant on Sunday, blanking the Royals over six two-hit innings and lowering his ERA as an MLB pitcher to 2.28.

    Solid pitching last week was matched by quality work from the Twins lineup, with the ageless Cruz taking control. He turned 39 just over a month ago, on July 1st, and has since launched 14 home runs in 26 games. On Saturday, the DH delivered his second three-homer game in 10 days, and his second straight five-RBI effort. The previous night, he'd gone deep while adding a pair of doubles. Incredibly, Cruz drove in 10 runs in a week that saw him start only three games, having sat out the Miami series.

    In his past 15 contests Cruz is slugging 1.154 with a dozen home runs and 24 RBIs. It's a remarkable streak even before you factor in his age, which makes it unprecedented.

    By adding four more tallies to the ledger last week, Cruz not only extends his run of 30-HR seasons to six (fourth-highest among active players) but sets a new record for home runs by a Twins DH. What a slam-dunk signing.

    Other offensive standouts for the week included Max Kepler (7-for-21 with two homers, three doubles and six walks), Eddie Rosario (8-for-20 with six RBIs), and Buxton (4-for-12 with a homer, two doubles and a steal in three games before getting hurt).


    Last time the Twins went through a difficult patch in their schedule, they were without Buxton, and his absence was felt during a tumultuous skid against the Mets, Athletics, and Yankees. Now, they're facing down a very similar scenario. Minnesota will again be missing Buxton for what could very well be a season-defining gauntlet against the Braves, Indians, Brewers and Rangers.

    The Twins really need Cave to show something here. As mentioned earlier, he was torching Triple-A pitching, and he had an impressive rookie showing at the plate as a rookie. But this year he's been unable to find it with the Twins, slashing .198/.320/.302 in 37 games after going 1-for-3 in his return on Sunday.

    If Cave can't get rolling, the Twins do have the luxury of Marwin Gonzalez as an option in right field, but he too has quietly fallen into a lull at the plate. Last week he was just 2-for-16, dropping his OPS to its lowest point (.716) since early June.

    Beyond Dyson's catastrophic debut, the pitching lowlight of last week came from Martin Perez, who was the only rotation member to drop a dud against the lowly Miami and KC offenses. On Friday night, he coughed up three homers and five runs in five innings against the Royals. Keeping the ball in the yard has generally been a strength this year for the groundballer Perez, even when he's scuffled, but of late that's ceased to be the case: In his past four turns, the lefty has surrendered eight homers – one more than in his first 15 starts combined.

    The downward turn for Perez, who owns a 5.53 ERA in 10 starts dating back to the beginning of June, in combination with another phenomenal performance from Smeltzer two days later is understandably generating some fan sentiment for a swap. I don't think we're quite there yet, especially with Pineda temporarily sidelined, but it's something to keep an eye on.

    And one way another, the Twins need to keep Smeltzer around. This kid continues to look like he belongs in the majors.


    What's going on with Trevor May? The Twins were going to need him for high-leverage innings in the second half and (hopefully) postseason, regardless of who they acquired at the trade deadline. With their biggest pickup on the shelf for upcoming showdowns against dangerous offenses, that's all the more true.

    But for now, Baldelli appears to be giving his hard-throwing righty a mental or physical break. Last week, May threw just one pitch, retiring Hunter Dozier on a fly ball to end the seventh inning on Saturday. The previous week, he threw only five pitches, completing a quick inning against the White Sox with Minnesota down 4-1.

    Since his brutal stretch of three outings in mid-July where he allowed seven very costly runs over 3 2/3 innings, May has pitched only twice in 14 days, throwing six pitches total, with neither appearance coming at a crucial juncture.

    The Twins will need him to get back on the horse this week, no doubt. May will be well rested. Can he get back into the zone he was in for several weeks before the meltdown? The club's fortunes could greatly hinge on it.


    Some excellent news on the prospect front: Brusdar Graterol is back. The organization's most promising young arm missed more than two months with a shoulder impingement, but returned to the mound last week with a pair of scoreless appearances in the Gulf Coast League. To say he was dominant against these overwhelmed rookie-level hitters would be an understatement.

    With his customary triple-digit heat back on display, Graterol should work back up to Double-A quickly, at which point he becomes an intriguing late-season bullpen candidate for Minnesota. The 20-year-old has the makings of a difference-maker, and his lengthy time on the shelf this summer has kept his innings in check, which could make the idea of him pitching into October more palatable.

    In order to have him eligible for the playoffs, the Twins would need to call up Graterol before September 1st.


    The Twins have 25 games remaining against teams with records above .500. Thirteen of them come in the next two weeks. This is easily the most difficult remaining stretch of their schedule, and Cleveland will surely be looking to take advantage. The Twins will hope to fend off a very good Braves team at home before welcoming the Indians for a HUGE four-game series.

    The Twins will be playing at home, and have both of their All-Star starters going twice. They have an opportunity to press the foot down on Cleveland's throat. Can they capitalize?

    MONDAY, 8/5: BRAVES @ TWINS – RHP Mike Soroka v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
    TUESDAY, 8/6: BRAVES @ TWINS – LHP Max Fried v. RHP Jose Berrios
    WEDNESDAY, 8/7: BRAVES @ TWINS – RHP Kevin Gausman v. LHP Martin Perez
    THURSDAY, 8/8: INDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Adam Plutko v. RHP Kyle Gibson
    FRIDAY, 8/9: INDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Shane Bieber v. LHP Devin Smeltzer
    SATURDAY, 8/10: INDIANS @ TWINS – TBD v. RHP Jake Odorizzi
    SUNDAY, 8/11: INDIANS @ TWINS – RHP Zach Plesac v. RHP Jose Berrios

    Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps

    • Aug 04 2019 07:21 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
    • Aug 04 2019 06:01 PM
    • by John Bonnes
  20. Twins Game Recap (8/4): Twins Cap Off The Sweep - Smeltzer Style

    Box Score
    Smeltzer: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 67.8% strikes (61 of 90 pitches)
    Bullpen: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
    Home Runs: Castro (11)
    Multi-Hit Games: Arraez (2-for-3), Rosario (2-for-3)

    Posted Image
    Top 3 WPA: Smeltzer (0.30), Duffey (0.17), Arraez (0.10)
    Bottom 3 WPA: Sano (-0.08), Adrianza (-0.07), Cruz (-0.06)

    Pitchers duel between Smeltzer and Keller

    This game started just like everyone predicted between a Twins AAA pitcher and literally anyone on the Royals pitching staff. Five quick shutout innings on both sides. Both Devin Smeltzer and Brad Keller were rolling and it was looking like the first team to score was going to win.

    Ehire Adrianza also made a play that made us all say “No way he gets to that ball… wow! Well no way he throws out the runner… WOW!”

    Luckily for the Twins, they were able to score a run on a 92 MPH single from Arraez, followed by a wild pitch, a productive groundout to move him to third and then a sacrifice fly from Rosario on a nice diving catch by Jorge Soler.

    Smeltzer makes his case to stay in the big leagues

    Twins starter Devin Smeltzer showed yet again that the Twins won the Brian Dozier trade last season with six shutout innings. These six innings helped to lower his ERA to just 2.28 in 28.2 career innings. He came up to fill in for Michael Pineda and he did exactly what the Twins needed from him. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him take Pineda’s next start against Cleveland as well.

    Late offense is just enough for the Twins

    After the sacrifice fly from Rosario in the sixth inning, Jason Castro homered in the seventh and then Rosario singled on a ball he thought was going 450 feet and he ended up getting caught in a rundown and then Nelson Cruz was thrown out at the plate. It was a very odd play, but the Twins were up 3-0 going into the ninth.

    The Twins bullpen finishes off the game strong

    After Devin Smeltzer was taken out in the seventh inning, Tyler Duffey was the first out of the bullpen and he did his job by throwing a clean 1-2-3 inning with a couple of strikeouts. In the eighth the Twins brought in new fan favorite reliever Sergio Romo and he did his job as well, throwing just six pitches (all strikes) and getting three outs. Taylor Rogers finished it off in the ninth with another 1-2-3 inning and that capped off a perfect game for the bullpen and a series sweep.

    Twins finish off the sweep with a three game lead over Cleveland

    The Twins won the game by a final score of 3-0 and there was really no doubt at any point despite it being a close game throughout. It looks like the Twins may have finally returned to the team we knew and loved in April and May. Tomorrow a great Atlanta Braves team comes to town with the Twins still leading the Central Division by three games.

    Twins win!

    Postgame With Baldelli

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

    • Aug 04 2019 11:12 PM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  21. Deadline Rewind: A Progress Report on the Twins 2018 Trade Deadline Additions

    Chronologically, the first trade was the Eduardo Escobar trade. Escobar was a beloved by Twins fans but trading him made loads of sense because he was an impending free agent and seemed unlikely to resign with the Twins. In return for Escobar the Twins received RHP Jhoan Duran, OF Gabriel Maciel, and OF Ernie De La Trinidad from the Arizona Diamondbacks. At the time of the trade it seemed like a pretty good return as Duran and Maciel were intriguing prospects with some upside. After one year the trade is looking even better.

    Jhoan Duran has been really good since joining the Twins. After the trade, Duran pitched for Cedar Rapids for the remainder of the 2018 season and was dominant. In 36 innings Duran struck out 44 batters while walking only 10. He finished with a 2.00 ERA and .81 WHIP and opponents hit just .154 off him. It has been more of the same this year, as Durant started in High-A Fort Myers and has pitched to a 3.23 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 78 innings pitched. In the past week Duran was called up to AA Pensacola and is inching closer and closer to the big leagues. He can hit triple digits with his heater and certainly appears to be the top dog of the 2018 trade acquisitions. Duran looks like he may make it as a starter but would certainly be enticing at the back end of a bullpen as well. Duran is 21-years-old.

    Gabriel Maciel has also done well early in his time with the organization. The Brazilian is a center fielder who has elite speed but has yet to develop much power and is listed as 5’10” and 170 pounds. He held his own last year at Cedar Rapids and began 2019 there as well. After 45 games and an impressive .309/.395/.377 triple slash, Maciel was promoted to High-A Fort Myers. He has done well since joining the Miracle, hitting .288/.366/.360, and is an ideal leadoff hitter with his speed and ability to get on base. Maciel has stolen 20 bases so far this year and is still just 20 years old.

    Ernie De La Trinidad was more of a throw in and has struggled to a .228/.314/.300 triple slash between Fort Meyers and Pensacola in 2019. He actually started the year in AA Pensacola but was sent back down to Single-A where he played in 2018. He is rather small in stature, has limited upside, and is already 23-years-old.

    Overall this trade is looking really good as Duran has become one of Minnesota’s top pitching prospects and Maciel has done quite well while flying a bit under the radar. Either one of these two could become important trade chips and have a good chance of reaching the majors.

    The Twins quickly made another big trade when they traded Ryan Pressly to the Houston Astros for RHP Jorge Alcala and OF Gilberto Celestino. Pressly was having a solid 2018 for Minnesota pitching to a 3.40 ERA (2.95 FIP) and was striking out 13/9 IP. He still had one year of team control left. Pressly has become one of the best relievers in all of baseball since joining the Astros. Pressly has pitched to a 1.60 ERA (2.31 FIP) with a WHIP of .768 for Houston. He has been absolutely filthy and would obviously be really, really nice to have in the current Twins pen.

    Like Duran, Jorge Alcala is another guy who tops out at over 100 mph. He too joined the Twins organization as a starter but many questioned whether he would remain so. Alcala pitched exclusively as a starter since joining the Twins but very recently shifted to the pen. Alcala has pitched in AA in both seasons with Minnesota and the results have not been pretty. In 2019 he has an ERA of 6.22 with a WHIP of 1.51 but he still gets strikeouts (98 in 94 IP). Walks have always been an issue with Alcala but hopefully Alcala will be able to tone things down in the pen and reach his full potential. Alcala just turned 24.

    Gilberto Celestino was a big international signing for Houston in 2015. Like Maciel, Celestino is a centerfielder but has a better chance to hit for power than Maciel. After joining the Twins, Celestino spent 2018 playing short season ball in Elizabethton and has played for Cedar Rapids in 2019. Celestino’s numbers on the year are not overly impressive (.249/.324/.366) but he has shown improvement month by month and has really heated up of late (.322/.390/.500 in July). Like Maciel, Celestino will only be 20 for the remainder of the season and contains plenty of upside.

    Although Alcala and Celestino have plenty of upside, this is probably a trade the Twins would like to take back. Pressly would make quite a 1-2 combo with Taylor Rogers and had the front office known the Twins would be contenders in 2019 this trade likely would not have been made.

    Next, the Twins traded Zach Duke to the Seattle Mariners for RHP Chase De Jong and 1B/3B Ryan Costello. As a lefty specialist, Duke was unlikely to bring back much and so far the results of this return have been fairly underwhelming.

    Chase De Jong split time between the minors and the major league club and was not particularly effective in either. For the Twins he did okay it 2018 as he posted a 3.57 ERA in four starts but the outings were short and his FIP was 4.92. 2019 has been a complete disaster for De Jong. He pitched one inning for the big league club and gave up four runs. Unfortunately, he wasn’t much better in Rochester, as he was 0-5 with a 9.73 ERA in 45.1 innings. He was released by the Red Wings on July 12.

    Ryan Costello is another player without a ton of upside but he did show some “pop” by hitting 20 home runs in 2018 (16 of them came with in low-A ball with Seattle). 2019 has been a struggle for Costello. Between High-A and AA he has hit just .212/.337/.361 for an OPS of .698 with eight long balls. Costello spends the majority of his time at first base so he will need to hit to further his career. He is 23-years-old.

    On the same day that Duke was traded, Minnesota traded Lance Lynn to the New York Yankees for 1B Tyler Austin and RHP Luis Rijo. Minnesota’s haul in this trade seemed pretty impressive as Lynn had struggled with the Twins and was a rental player.

    Austin was traded again from the Twins to the San Francisco Giants early this season. His time with the Twins was brief, but he made sense as a depth piece at first base with Joe Mauer’s looming retirement. With the Twins picking up C.J. Cron off of waivers and signing Nelson Cruz to DH, there was no room for Austin in 2019. Austin hit .236/.294/.488 with 9 home runs in 35 games for the Twins last season and since joining San Francisco he has hit just .181/.278/.402 in 68 games.

    The second piece of this trade is looking really good so far for Minnesota. Luis Rijo finished 2018 pitching for Elizabethton in rookie ball and his numbers were impressive as he was 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA in five starts. He has built upon that success in Low-A Cedar Rapids this year with a 2.55 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 77.2 innings. Rijo’s fastball now sits in the mid-90s and he also throws a curve and changeup. With his success this year and added velocity, Rijo is sure to continue moving up the prospect lists. Rijo is 20-years-old.

    On the last day of the trade deadline the Twins sent fan favorite Brian Dozier to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2B Logan Forsythe, OF/1B Luke Raley, and LHP Devin Smeltzer. Dozier was having a down year for the Twins and was also in the last year of his contract so his trade value had greatly diminished. Forsythe, who like Dozier was in the last year of his contract, was thrown in to offset Dozier’s salary and is no longer a Twin.

    Luke Raley is a strong and athletic outfielder who has raked since joining the organization. He hit .276/.371/.449 in AA for the remained of his 2018 season and joined AAA Rochester for the start of 2019. This year Raley was turning heads by hitting .302/.362/.516 but suffered a dislocated tendon in his left ankle that required surgery and has been out since mid-May. The Twins will need to decide whether or not to add Raley to the 40-man roster this off season as he will be eligible for the Rule-5 draft. Raley is 24-years-old.

    The other prospect acquired in the Dozier trade is one that Twins fans have become quite familiar with this year. Devin Smeltzer was moved to the bullpen in 2018 while in the Dodger’s minor league system and finished last season in the bullpen after joining the Twins organization as well. However, Smeltzer wanted one more chance to remain a starter and the Twins granted him his wish. In 2019, between AA and AAA Smeltzer has pitched to a 2.21 ERA and .993 WHIP with 92 Ks in 89.2 innings. Smetzer has been up with the Twins three times this season, making two starts and a total of four appearances. So far Smeltzer has done well with the big league club, pitching to a 2.91 ERA and 1.015 WHIP in 21.2 innings of work. Smeltzer is likely to see more time with the Twins this season either as a spot starter or out of the pen. Smeltzer is 23-years-old.

    The MLB has done away with the August waiver wire trade deadline but the Twins did make one August trade last season. The Twins traded closer Fernando Rodney to the Oakland A’s for Dakota Chalmers. Rodney had a team option for 2019, but exercising the option was far from certain due to Rodney’s age and performance (he has not been good in 2019).

    Dakota Chalmers is another high upside player who has struggled with control throughout his career. The former third-round pick ($1.2 million signing bonus) recently returned from Tommy John surgery and joined High-A Fort Meyers after a short rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League. Chalmers struck out 19 batters in 13.1 innings in the GCL but also walked eight. Chalmers is more of a lottery ticket at this point, but if he is able to put it all together he could be another player with the potential to shoot up the prospect lists.

    Overall, the 2018 trade return looks pretty solid. Duran, Maciel, Rijo, Raley, and Smeltzer have all had great starts in their first full year in the organization and Celestino, Alcala, and Chalmers still offer plenty of upside. The Twins were able to add great depth to an already good farm system and the only significant loss was not having Ryan Pressly in the 2019 bullpen. The Twins would love to have Pressly now but they were able to gain plenty of prospect capital and depth. This makes it easier to deal prospects without decimating the farm as well as giving the Twins plenty of hope for the future.

    Looking back a year later, how do you think the FO did for the 2018 trade deadline? Did all the additions make the loss of Pressly worthwhile? Which of the additions has most impressed you since joining the Twins organization?

    • Jul 30 2019 08:57 PM
    • by Patrick Wozniak
  22. The Rochester Firemen To The Rescue

    Right now, the Red Wings have the third worst ERA in the International League, with 5.34. They are also among the five pitching staffs who have allowed the most hits (900 in 840 2/3 innings) and have the fifth worst WHIP of the league, at 1.49. Most importantly, in several moments of the season in which the Twins needed to call somebody up to maybe put out a fire, the on call pitcher would kind of pour a bit more of gasoline in it, instead.

    During the first weeks of April, a couple of relief pitchers were called up to make their season debut in the majors and they were absolutely awful. I’m talking about Chase De Jong and Andrew Vasquez, who joined the team in New York for the Mets two-game series. They combined for only one inning pitched, with seven earned runs on three hits, five walks and one hit batter. That was a terrible first impression and none of them got called up again. De Jong is not even part of the organization anymore.

    From there, not many pitchers coming up from Rochester actually accomplished a very effective contribution to the Twins. The only exceptions that come to mind are Tyler Duffey, who’s a major presence in the current bullpen, and Matt Magill, who also helped a lot during his 28 games for the team, before allowing six unearned runs on four two-out hits against the Mets July 17. He was designated for assignment and then traded after that outing. Other than these two, the Rochester-to-Minnesota bullpen shuttle has been going back and forth.

    Fernando Romero, Kohl Stewart and Zack Littell are examples of pitchers who have come and gone after some disappointing outings in the majors. Romero, who made the transition between the rotation and the bullpen this year, has been called up three times, but didn’t manage to bring his ERA to lower than 5.63, currently parked at 7.88. Down in Rochester, it’s not looking phenomenal either, as it stands at 4.23 in 21 games.

    Stewart got called up four times and has done a decent job since migrating to the bullpen, holding a 2.45 ERA as a reliever, but he got sent back this week after allowing two earned runs on three hits against the Yankees on Tuesday. Littell also got called up three times and even though he had a great stretch of ten consecutive scoreless outings, he was optioned a couple of days after he blew a lead in the 5-4 loss against Oakland last Saturday.

    After that list of negative examples, one would think that there’s no way the Twins could rely on the arms coming from their New York affiliate. Then, four players came up and had their big chances to pitch out of the Twins bullpen this week, performing brilliantly. After Minnesota got rid of four relief pitchers in less than 10 days (Adalberto Mejía, Mike Morin, Matt Magill and Blake Parker), they saw no other option but to try and find the solution in Rochester. Even though virtually all fans hated that choice, wanting them to actually make trades to reinforce the bullpen, it actually worked.

    Before and during the Yankees series in Target Field, the Twins recalled Lewis Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer and Cody Stashak, the last one making his MLB debut. Sean Poppen got the call to pitch in the opener of the White Sox series on Thursday. The four young bloods performed incredibly, combining for 11 2/3 innings of work, allowing only two earned runs, one walk and striking out twelve batters. More importantly, they helped to take the burden off the seven remaining pitchers on the Twins bullpen, who were being overused in the days before. Other than Smeltzer and Poppen, no other reliever has pitched in the last two games.

    Which makes me wonder. Can the Twins realistically count on one of these arms for this year? Of course, all of us want the Twins front office to go out and acquire at least two new relievers via trade, but even if they did so, there would be two other spots to fill. Can one of those four aforementioned pitchers make the cut? Only four bullpen arms have been there for a long time now: Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Ryne Harper and Tyler Duffey. It’s reasonable to assume the Twins won’t trade for four relievers, but, instead, will consider giving someone in the house a chance.

    If they acquire a starting pitcher via trade, then you could count one among Michael Pineda and Martín Pérez to transition to the pen, most likely Pérez, who has already done that in the beginning of the season. Still, who gets the last spot? Everything points out to former Indians great Cody Allen, who had an awful stint with the Angels early this year, got designated for assignment, and signed with the Twins on a minor league deal. So far in the minors for the Twins (Fort Myers and Rochester), he’s pitched nine innings and has a 2.00 ERA, with a .226 batting average against and striking out eight batters per nine. He has at least earned himself the right to be looked at before the deadline. If he can go back to his old self (and, so far, Wes Johnson and the coaching staff have done wonders on recovering pitchers), he could be a major lift for the bullpen.

    Last year the Twins pulled five trades after July 27, so we can expect a lot of action this year. But maybe someone from within could be a surprising help. What do you think? Is there anyone in Rochester who would make your team? Comment and let us know.

    • Jul 27 2019 05:34 PM
    • by Thiéres Rabelo
  23. Twins Game Recap (7/24): Twins Drop Series in Another Slugfest With Yankees

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 4 IP, 10 H, 9 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 61.7% strikes (63 of 102 pitches)
    Bulllpen (Smeltzer): 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K

    Home Runs: Rosario (22), Cruz (22), Gonzalez (12)
    Multi-Hit Games: Cruz (2-for-4, HR), Rosario (2-for-4, HR), Arraez (2-for-3, BB), Schoop (2-for-3)

    Top 3 WPA: Cruz .100, Smeltzer .105, Rosario .172
    Bottom 3 WPA: Garver -.081, Polanco -.136, Odorizzi -.576

    Yankees Rake Odorizzi

    The Twins could’ve really used a seven inning performance from their All-Star pitcher tonight in hopes of giving their bullpen a night off before their series against Chicago. The Yankees offense had a different idea as they pounced on Odorizzi for seven extra base hits and a season-high, nine runs in just four innings. In his last seven starts, Odorizzi has given up at least three runs in six of those.

    Didi Gregorious and Aaron Hicks continued to destroy the Twins’ this series and they both made their presence felt early. After Gregorious demolished the Twins for five hits and seven RBIs last night, he ripped an RBI double and 2-RBI triple in the first half of the game. Hicks, who put the Yankees ahead in the ninth, and ended the game in the 10th, picked up two more RBIs in the first half off a home run and single.

    Though Odorizzi was able to strike out seven through four innings, his control was the biggest issue tonight. He wasn’t hitting his spots on any of his pitches, as he was only able to get a first pitch strike on 50% of the 24 batters he faced.

    Smeltzer Deals

    There have really only been three good pitchers for the Minnesota Twins this series, and coincidentally, they were all on the AAA roster before the series started. Lewis Thorpe gave the Twins a solid 2.2 innings on Monday, Cody Stashak gave them two shutout innings last night, and tonight Devin Smeltzer gave the Twins’ bullpen a much needed rest throwing five innings. He finished the game with five very solid innings and was the only pitcher out of the bullpen.

    After Odorizzi was only able to go four innings, Smeltzer came in and gave four shutout innings before surrendering a home run in the ninth. He gave up only three hits in those first four innings, and even struck out the side in the seventh.

    Smeltzer was called up today because the Twins were in dire need of some arms. He out-performed what was expected of him tonight, and really gave the Twins a good chance at coming back. He had command with all of his pitches and was able to pick up a first pitch strike on 16 out of the 19 batters he faced!

    Twins Offense Comes Up Short

    This whole series, both teams have needed their offense to match what the opponents did before them. Tonight was no different as the Bomba Squad tried to match the Bronx Bombers. It was an action-filled first half of the game, but the bullpens came in and shut down these hot offenses.

    The Twins got the action going when Rosario hit a 2-run homer in the bottom of the first, but saw their only lead vanish quickly. After Odorizzi gave up nine runs, that was matched by only one from the Twins, Marwin Gonzalez finally got them back on track with another 2-run homer. A Garver sac-fly and a solo shot later, the Twins saw their deficit down to only two.

    After the Twins scored their last run on a Nelson Cruz home run, the Yankee bullpen got the next 15 outs while facing only 18 batters. They had some threats throughout those 15 outs, but hit into two double plays, and stranded two guys on in the seventh.

    Postgame With Baldelli

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

    • Jul 24 2019 10:10 PM
    • by AJ Condon
  24. Internal Relief Help Could Provide Second-Half Upgrade

    Lefty Duo
    Lewis Thorpe, a left-handed pitcher, made one start for the Twins this year. Back on June 30, he held the White Sox to two earned runs on five hits while striking out seven. Thorpe is coming of a 2018 season where he was named Jim Rantz Award winner as the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

    Thorpe’s pitching repertoire might be a good fit as a bullpen arm. His fastball sits in the low-90s and he mixes in a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. Throughout his five professional seasons, Thorpe has been used as a relief pitcher on three separate occasions. In the last week, Rochester used Thorpe in relief, but this was so Fernando Romero could be utilized as an opener.

    Devin Smeltzer, another left-handed pitcher, has made three appearances with the Twins this year. Across 16 2/3 innings, he has a 3.24 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP and a 13 to 4 strikeout to walk ratio. Right before the All-Star break, Smeltzer was used as a relief arm after Kyle Gibson had started the game as an opener. In that appearance, he allowed one run on five hits in 4 1/3 innings.

    Smeltzer doesn’t exactly fit the mold of power-throwing lefty. His fastball sits in the high-80s while his change up (82.9 mph) and curveball (76.4 mph) help to keep hitters off-balance. Out of his 216 big-league pitches, only three pitches have been barreled up against him. Since Smeltzer is more of a finesse pitcher, it might make more sense for Thorpe to be given the first crack at a relief role.

    Other Names to Consider
    Over the last couple weeks, multiple 40-man roster spots have been vacated. Adalberto Mejia, Andrew Vasquez, Mike Morin and Ronald Torreyes were all either outrighted or designated for assignment. Minnesota currently has three open 40-man roster spots and no clear indication of what the plan will be for these openings. Perhaps, the club could be looking at internal options to add to the bullpen.

    Cody Allen, the former Indians and Angels closer, has been working his way through the Twins system. He made three appearances with Fort Myers and didn’t allow a run. Since joining Rochester, he has allowed two runs in three appearances with two strikeouts.

    Over the weekend, Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press mentioned that the Twins could look at other internal options. “It’s not necessarily Triple-A pitchers the Twins are considering, either,” Walters said. “They could reach to Double-A and even high-A for help. Those would be pitchers with fastballs in the mid-to-high 90s-mph range.”

    Edwar Colina is a player that could fit that mold as he was just promoted from High-A to Double-A. As a right-handed pitcher, he can hit triple-digits with his fastball. In 61 2/3 innings as a starter, he has a 2.34 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP. Also, he has a 61 to 15 strikeout to walk ratio. He made his Pensacola debut on Tuesday as he allowed two runs on four hits in four innings.

    Other than Colina, Jorge Alcala, who has pitched all year with Pensacola, could be a relief option. His fastball can hit into the high-90s, but there have been some struggles in his first taste of Double-A. He has a 6.15 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP in 89.1 innings. His 9.8 K/9 is good for a starter and the Twins could hope to take advantage of his strikeout ability.

    It seems more than likely that the Twins will be adding a relief piece or two in the weeks ahead. Could any of these arms help the Twins in the second half? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Jul 17 2019 06:41 AM
    • by Cody Christie