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Article: Twins Bullpen - Internal Candidates

ryan orourke alex meyer michael tonkin aj achter taylor rogers
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#1 Seth Stohs

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 12:05 AM

The Minnesota Twins’ bullpen has been a mess for the last six weeks. For the first six weeks of the season, guys like Blaine Boyer and Aaron Thompson were incredible, helping the Twins to a great month of May. They could do no wrong. Did the clock strike midnight on them? Did they get over-used, and over-exposed? Quite possibly.

Following their walk-off win on Monday night, the Twins announced that Thompson had been optioned to AAA-Rochester and the contract of lefty Ryan O’Rourke had been selected. He was the first guy on my list of possible left-handed relievers called up to replace Thompson or Duensing. So yes, there could still be another left-hander added. And they could use right-handers.The Twins made one move on Monday night, but the bullpen is still full of questions. Today, I’m going to write about the internal options for the Twins bullpen should they go that direction.


Left-Handed Relief Pitchers

RYAN O’ROURKE

O’Rourke, the 27-year-old from Massachusetts absolutely dominated same-sided hitters in 2014 at New Britain. He has done very well again in 2015 against left-handers in AAA. Right-handed bats have hit him very well, so O’Rourke should be considered a LOOGY. Of the 36 lefties he’s faced this year, he has struck out 20 of them. (O’Rourke was added to the 40-man roster on Monday night and will join the Twins at Target Field on Tuesday.)

CALEB THIELBAR

After spending all of 2014 and the final four months of 2013 in the Twins bullpen, Thielbar began the 2015 season in Rochester. He did come up for a six-game stint, but he is back with the Red Wings. He has struggled. In 26 innings, he has walked 17 and struck out just 13. Lefties have posted a .548 OPS on him this year. He remains on the 40-man roster.

LOGAN DARNELL

Darnell made four starts and three relief appearances for the Twins in 2014. This spring, he was moved to the bullpen exclusively. He has worked 30 innings over 23 appearances and has a 2.40 ERA despite a 1.57 WHIP. However, since May 19, he has given up an earned run in just one out of 11 outings including 23 strikeouts in 19 innings. Left-handers are hitting .306/.364/.306 (.670) against him. He is on the 40-man roster.


Right-Handed Relief Pitchers

AJ ACHTER

Coming into Monday night, Achter had a 2.15 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP. In 37.2 innings, he had just ten walks and 38 strikeouts. He was 13 for 13 in save opportunities. On Monday night, he gave up four runs on five hits in one inning, but that was really his first clunker of the year. Achter has been the most consistent relief pitcher in the Twins minor leagues since moving to the bullpen in 2012. He pitched in 11 innings over seven games last year with the Twins. All he does is get people out. He remains on the 40-man roster.

MICHAEL TONKIN

If anyone would benefit from frequent flyer miles, it’s Tonkin. He has been up and down from Minnesota to Rochester a dozen times over the last three seasons. In 50 big league games, he has a 3.92 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. He also has walked too many and given up the long ball too often. In 17.2 innings at Rochester this year, he has walked three and struck out 27. At some point, the Twins need to just let him pitch in the big leagues and see what they have. He will be out of options in 2016, so they do need to figure out if he can produce in the big leagues. He is on the 40-man roster.

ALEX MEYER

The progression of Meyer has been well documented here in the pages of Twins Daily. After just nine games in the bullpen, the Twins called him up. It didn’t go well. His struggles with control of the strike zone were apparent. He was sent back to Rochester to continue to work from the bullpen. As a starter, opponents had an OPS of .845. As a reliever, it’s been .672. It’s clear how much movement he gets from his fastball and slider. The Twins can be patient with him. He is on the 40-man roster.

MARK HAMBURGER

Hamburger was one of the bigger stories of spring training. He made it to the final week of big league camp before being sent to Rochester where he began the season as a starter. After four starts, he had an ERA of 6.30 in 20 innings. He has made 22 appearances out of the bullpen since then and has a 3.47 ERA. He is not on the 40-man roster.

SCOTT ATCHISON

Over the weekend, the Twins quietly signed 39-year-old Atchison a few days after he was released by Cleveland. He has been placed on the Chattanooga roster for now. He pitched in the big leagues in parts of nine seasons between 2004 and 2015. He is a good reminder of the nature of most relievers. In 2014 with Cleveland, he posted a 2.75 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in 72 innings over 70 games. In 23 games (19.2 innings) this season he posted a 6.86 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. Most likely, he has an opt-out date and will have to be called up or lost. He is not on the 40-man roster.

LESTER OLIVEROS

After missing all of 2013 because of Tommy John surgery, he returned and was cautiously used in 2014. He ended the season with the Twins. He wasn’t 100% in spring training and began the season in Rochester. He got off to a fast start, but his performance has leveled off. Overall, he has a 3.79 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP in 35.2 innings. He has walked just 13 and struck out 46. Opponents posted an OPS of .947 off of him in June, and he missed seven days because he was suspended for throwing at an opposing batter’s head. He is not on the 40-man roster.

STEPHEN PRYOR

Pryor came to the Twins from the Mariners last August in exchange for Kendrys Morales. He didn’t get a September call-up. He was invited to big league spring training. However, he has been on the disabled list all season. Over the weekend, he began a rehab stint in the GCL. He has made two appearances and would likely go to Rochester (or even Chattanooga) before going further. He is not on the 40-man roster.


Starting Pitchers

TAYLOR ROGERS

Rogers has been a starter since he was drafted in the 11th round out of Kentucky. In four seasons, he is 33-21 with a 2.96 ERA. More relevant to the here and now, he is 7-5 with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP with Rochester. With so much starting pitching depth, the bullpen is an option for Rogers. A quick look at his AAA splits this year shows that he has been really dominant against lefties. They are hitting .178/.197/.186 (.383). He has given up no home runs, two walks and 36 strikeouts. Right-handers have hit .296/.352/.423 (.775) with six home runs, 25 walks and 41 strikeouts. He is not on the 40-man roster, but he will need to be added following the season, so if he continues to pitch well, he could find himself In the Twins bullpen.

TYLER DUFFEY

Duffey has been the one example of drafting a college reliever and trying to make him into a starter can be successful. He was a co-closer at Rice with JT Chargois. Since going pro, he has primarily started. He began this season with eight starts in Chattanooga and posted a 2.56 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. He now has made eight starts in Rochester and has a 2.44 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. He’s got good control, throws strikes, and has a good mix of pitches. However, as a reliever, he can hit 97 which would make his secondary pitches look even better. Again, due to the Twins starter depth, Duffey may need to come up as a reliever. Like Rogers, he was a spring training invite and would need to be added to the 40-man roster following the season. He could come up before that.

JOSE BERRIOS

Berrios was recently promoted from AA to AAA. After 15 starts, an 8-3 record, a 3.27 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP with the Lookouts, he moved up to Rochester where he made his first start on Friday. He is clearly the Twins top starting pitcher prospect. He has great stuff, fastball, change-up and breaking pitches. He could come in out of the bullpen (which would be short-term) if the Twins remain in the pennant race. A September call up may be less likely as he doesn’t need to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2016 season.


So there you have it, the internal options that are there should the Twins decide to make more changes in the bullpen without trading away prospects and talent. We’ll be back later in the week to talk more about the Twins bullpen.

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#2 Brandon

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 12:51 AM

Kansas City designated Frasor for assignment and could be an option
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#3 brvama

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 07:12 AM

Excellent run down on internal candidates, Seth. Of the choices, I like AJ and Tomkin for different reasons: Achter b/c of his performance and Tomkin for the reasons you stated. Duffy is intriguing. With his background could be a good addition to the BP on a push to the post-season. Plus his upper 90's FB would play well. Can't ignore Rogers either. There will need to be some roster moves to get some of these up. My gut tells me that may be limited until Aug-Sep. We'll see.
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#4 hybridbear

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 07:38 AM

This doesn't seem like a very promising list of pitchers :(


#5 HitInAPinch

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 07:49 AM

 

Kansas City designated Frasor for assignment and could be an option

I would take a shot with Frasor, but you gotta know what you're getting. 

37 yrs. old, 24 hits + 15 walks in 23 innings. 

 

I'd give him a shot.Same with Neftali Feliz.

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#6 HitInAPinch

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 07:57 AM

The Twins seem to have accumulated more than a few ancient mariners :-)I'd probably be rotating them in and out, 2 at a time.And I'd definitely keep the auditions rolling.Twins need [and have the time] to find out what they really have. 

 

I'm also intrigued at the possibility of bringing up a Berrios, Rogers or Duffey just to get a look.

 

Oh, and there's always Pelfrey.He still gets another chance as a started, but I think he's done.

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#7 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 08:26 AM

 

This doesn't seem like a very promising list of pitchers :(

I look at that list and see a hell of a lot of talent.

 

Some of it should have started getting tryouts in Minnesota a few months ago. We can't expect Oliveros to step into the seventh inning role right off the bat so getting him up here in May or early June should have been a priority... Instead, we saw the Twins put him into the Rochester rotation for a few games and then he got suspended for beaning someone.

 

Sigh.

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#8 Mike Sixel

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 08:35 AM

Rogers and Duffey can be in MN as RP, and still maybe be starters someday, works for other organizations......works well for them, actually.

 

I'd prefer Rogers up, as a LOOGY who can also get out right handers.

I'd like Achter up.

 

Duensing isn't the LOOGY now, with O'Rourke up? I am interested to see how this works out.....

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It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 


#9 spycake

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 09:16 AM

O'Rourke certainly brings the K's versus LHB:

 

http://minorleaguece...00&type=pitcher

 

But while Rogers has a lower K rate versus LHB, he does have a higher ground ball rate and lower BB and HR rates:

 

http://minorleaguece...00&type=pitcher

 

Probably room to give them both a shot.  (Do we really need all 3 of Nunez, Santana, and Escobar right now?  Hey, just noticed that Escobar is now listed under "Outfielders" at the Twins site, hooray...)


#10 nater79a

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 10:39 AM

Don't mind the LOOGY O'Rourke being brought up. However, I do question the timing of it, especially with the 4-game series against the Tigers coming up before the break. Who do we use O'Rourke against.... Alex Avila? Anthony Gose? Can't use him to turn around V-Mart as he he slashes .405/.458/.548 against lefties. Tigers are a heavy right-handed lineup.

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#11 Mike Sixel

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 10:46 AM

What is Duensing's role, if someone else is the LOOGY?

It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 


#12 SwainZag

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 10:59 AM

 

What is Duensing's role, if someone else is the LOOGY?

 

Though it's a SSS, lefties have hit Duesing a lot better than righties this season.  It's been since 2011 where Duesing was actually quite dominant against left handed hitters.  Duesing hasnt' given up a run in his last 8 innings, and the last runs he gave up were on that Moreland double to CF....a ball I still think Hicks should have caught.

 

I like the O'Rourke for Thompson move, though I think it should have been done a week or two ago.


#13 Mike Sixel

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 11:09 AM

 

Though it's a SSS, lefties have hit Duesing a lot better than righties this season.  It's been since 2011 where Duesing was actually quite dominant against left handed hitters.  Duesing hasnt' given up a run in his last 8 innings, and the last runs he gave up were on that Moreland double to CF....a ball I still think Hicks should have caught.

 

I like the O'Rourke for Thompson move, though I think it should have been done a week or two ago.

 

That split thing is interesting, thanks. The last 8 innings.....compared to the last 1.5 years.....not sure I'm convinced.....

It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 


#14 SwainZag

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 11:19 AM

 

That split thing is interesting, thanks. The last 8 innings.....compared to the last 1.5 years.....not sure I'm convinced.....

 

Oh I am surely not convinced.  He has only thrown 20 innings this year.  In those 1st 12 innings he stuck out 5 compared to 9 walks and gave up 19 hits.  In the last 8 he has struck out 5 compared to 1 walk and only given up 2 hits.  Gives a little hope that he can be a positive member of the pen going forward.

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#15 Blackjack

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 11:21 AM

Good review Seth! Thanks!!

 

I hope the Twins cycle thru these internal candidates rather than some of the has-beens that have been released by other teams. What makes the Twins think that they can get something out of them if they failed with other teams??

 

Reclamation projects are fine in the off season, maybe the player is still healing from an injury, maybe they've added another pitch but in mid-season if they've been release they're failures.Plus lets see what we have internally, and if nothing else give them some experience.

 

I also would have liked to see Pelfrey to the pen instead of May.He's gone after this year, give May the starts to help the Twins in 2016.

 

 


#16 Rosterman

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 11:24 AM

 

This doesn't seem like a very promising list of pitchers :(

For immediate options, it isn't all that bad, especially if you take starters and put them in the bullpen (Rogers, Duffy). Remember, the Twins are still one up with May now in the bullpen. Looks like Nolasco won't be back. But until they figure out Pelfrey, the Twins at least have solid starting depth. I would like to think that Duffy (and perhaps Rogers) would be above any of the 5th starters we trotted out in the past. But, who knows.

 

The Twins have to make a decision of Fieb. Is he the next Jared Burton? Can he bring up his worth jsut a tad and be someone someone would trade a low-level prospect. I'm just not comfortable with him in the setup role.

 

Boyer is doing okay. I'm not sure the longterm, but for now, plesaed with him. As well as Pressly and Graham in the backend either pitching long innings or doing mop-up work.

 

So, ultimately, it comes down to three pitchers on the bubble. Fien (who somehow works mroe often than not), Boyer (who ash been a surprise, but they will catch up to him) and Duensing (who s finally pitching, but is still just a fraction of whatever he was. Do we have guys thatcan replace these guys and give us speed, groundballs, whatever on demand?

 

Oliveros is always the most intriguing. I'm not sure what's up with him. He's really really good, or just has a bad moment...which most pitchers do. But will he tell you if he's not quite up to the task?

 

I would give Achter a try. Ultimately, would like to see Meyer step up and laim a palce in the bullpen, using it as a stepping stone to get back on the starter track. 

 

Yes, there are more names: Zach Jones, who just had a couple of bad outings but still dominates. Of course we have Reed and Burdi, who were expected to dominate, but still need work. 

 

Chargois and Hildenberger are names to watch right now.

 

The Twins could always make a 40-man spot by designating Jason Wheeler for assignment, which might be easier NOW since they sent him back. And Noalsco COULD go on the 60-day DL...he's already been on it for a couple of those weeks, thus freeing another 40-man spot. The Twins also have to make a decision on Darnell (not to mention ultimate decisions on roster spots of Thielbar and Thompson). At some point, is Shane Robinson the odd-man out in the outfield. What do you do about Santana/Nunez/Escobar, especially with Polancoi n the wings. So finding a 40-man spot isn;t all that difficult (remove a starter in trade, disable a starter longterm, designate one-or-two minor league guys off the roster, release one or two position players).

 

Great analysis, Seth. You never know how/where someone like O'Rourke will materialize. Now if someone ahd remained smart about Gilmartin? Or even Guerra?

 

 

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#17 Cap'n Piranha

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 11:49 AM

 

Rogers and Duffey can be in MN as RP, and still maybe be starters someday, works for other organizations......works well for them, actually.

 

I'd prefer Rogers up, as a LOOGY who can also get out right handers.

I'd like Achter up.

 

Duensing isn't the LOOGY now, with O'Rourke up? I am interested to see how this works out.....

 

Roger's .296/.352/.423 line against righties, combined with a sub 2/1 k/bb ratio suggests he's not exactly great at getting righties out.  I'd leave him starting in AAA for now, and if ROR can't cut it, make him the LOOGY.

 

Duffy should be kept in the AAA rotation, as he's probably #7 on the SP depth chart, now that Nolasco is getting surgery.  When the Twins (hopefully) move on from Pelfrey after this year, and trade a starter, he's set to be our #5 in 2016.

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#18 ashbury

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 12:03 PM

AJ ACHTER

Coming into Monday night, Achter had a 2.15 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP. In 37.2 innings, he had just ten walks and 38 strikeouts. He was 13 for 13 in save opportunities. On Monday night, he gave up four runs on five hits in one inning, but that was really his first clunker of the year. Achter has been the most consistent relief pitcher in the Twins minor leagues since moving to the bullpen in 2012. He pitched in 11 innings over seven games last year with the Twins. All he does is get people out. He remains on the 40-man roster.

Not mentioned in this discussion is that for the past three seasons Achter has done well against right-handed batters but has done even better against lefties.

 

I don't see a particular reason to call up a LOOGY like O'Rourke who is going to be limited to whatever lefties the opposing manager permits him to face, when someone with broader skills is equally available.

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#19 Mike Sixel

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 12:49 PM

 

Roger's .296/.352/.423 line against righties, combined with a sub 2/1 k/bb ratio suggests he's not exactly great at getting righties out.  I'd leave him starting in AAA for now, and if ROR can't cut it, make him the LOOGY.

 

Duffy should be kept in the AAA rotation, as he's probably #7 on the SP depth chart, now that Nolasco is getting surgery.  When the Twins (hopefully) move on from Pelfrey after this year, and trade a starter, he's set to be our #5 in 2016.

 

And, the Cardinals would have him in the pen this year, and starting next year. I don't get why the Twins can't follow that path. I'd think Berrios is your #5 next year......

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It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 


#20 spycake

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 01:23 PM

 

Not mentioned in this discussion is that for the past three seasons Achter has done well against right-handed batters but has done even better against lefties.

 

I don't see a particular reason to call up a LOOGY like O'Rourke who is going to be limited to whatever lefties the opposing manager permits him to face, when someone with broader skills is equally available.

Achter isn't particularly dominant against either side, though.

 

If you are going to carry 12 or 13 pitchers, you should have room for a good lefty specialist.  (And if everybody is carrying that many pitchers, there aren't many pinch-hitting options on the bench, so your specialist will get to face some LHB, or at least force a manager into a questionable substitution.)

 

A bullpen needs a generic righty or two, but you don't need 3-4 of them.

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