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Article: The Twins Bullpen Is Set (And You’re Not Going To Love It)

brandon kintzler matt belisle tayor rogers craig breslow ryan pressly
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#1 John Bonnes

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 10:33 AM

The Twins made their final bullpen roster moves today, reassigning Nick Tepesch and Alex Wimmers to minor league camp. While the official roster is not set, those moves clarify the likely bullpen. It is not an impressive group.

Brandon Kintzler will return as a closer. The 32-year-old took over the closer job for the Twins last year when Glen Perkins was injured and saved 17 games. He also struck out 5.8 guys per nine innings pitched, which puts him well below the average strikeout rate of a major league pitcher (which is 8.1 K/9), let alone a major league closer.Free agent signee Matt Belisle will be one of the right-handed setup men. He is 36 years old and this is his fourth team in the last four years. His strikeout rate last year was 6.8 K/9. He and Kintzler have been effective, but It is safe to posit that on many teams, they would be trusted to be seventh inning setup men, at best. Indeed, that was their role on their teams the year before they joined the Twins.

The other right-handed setup men have a little more upside, but fewer results. Ryan Pressly is 28 years old and put up an average strikeout rate (8.0 K/9) and showed added velocity during spring training. Michael Tonkin is even younger (27 years old) and had an even higher strikeout rate (10.0 K/9), but was homer-prone last year (13 HR in 71.1 IP) and again in spring training (3 HR in 12.1 IP). He had a poor spring training and it is likely that being out of options (which means the Twins could lose him if he didn’t make the roster) is why he made the roster.

The left-handed relievers have a similar "veteran/youngster" profile as the right-handers. The veteran is Craig Breslow, a 36-year-old who the Twins signed on a minor-league deal this offseason. The “youngster” is 26-year-old Taylor Rogers who is truly tough on lefties (547 OPS against in 2016) but is unlikely to expand that role due to his troubles against right-handed hitters (811 OPS against in 2016).

Finally, the swingman will be 25-year-old Justin Haley, who is also likely on the roster due to his status as a Rule 5 pick. If he did not make the roster, the Twins would need to return him to the Red Sox.

It’s not difficult to justify each of these players having a spot in a major league bullpen. And with the exception of the decision to demote JT Chargois, it’s probably the best group that could come north with the team. But this is a group of back-of-the-bullpen talents, some of which are going to be saddled with high-leverage bullpen roles.

Twins manager Paul Molitor seems to understand this. “I think we’re going to have to do some mixing and matching towards the end,” said Molitor last week, “with Kintzler on the backside, so, we’ll see how it goes.”

There is a scenario where this bullpen is successful. “My hope is that between the experience and the talent - some still developing - that it’s going to be better,” said Molitor. But there are a lot of scenarios where the opposite is true and the lack of tools that are at Molitor’s discretion is an organizational problem.

The one thing a bad team should be able to do is find good relief arms; they have all the advantages in that area. They have the first pick in waivers. They have innings to invest. They have opportunities for under-the-radar free agents. They have higher draft picks. They can trade veterans for younger, still developing arms. The advantages go on and on. That the Twins have utterly failed in this area after six years of futility is the most damning indictment of the Terry Ryan front office.

But just so we’re clear, the new leadership has not garnered immediate results either. The biggest change so far is adding the journeyman reliever Belisle. There were no obvious diamonds in the rough discovered in spring training this year that provide hope that 2017 will be any better than the previous six years.
We'll see how it goes. The tension that Twins fans will feel at the end of ballgames is, for now, the same as the tension fans of the other 29 teams feel as their bullpen tries to nail down a win. But the feeling today - of skepticism after six years of cringing - is uniquely their own.

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#2 tarheeltwinsfan

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 10:40 AM

I was more optimistic about our bullpen 28 days ago.

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#3 Blake

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 10:40 AM

I, for one, am looking forward to the 10-9 Twins wins. Nothing like a nail-biting one run game!

 

 

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#4 ChiTownTwinsFan

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 10:43 AM

Love? How about even like? All I can say in trying to have hope is that I hope a few of these guys are on a short leash and being given one last final 'Are we sure' look before replacing and removing them for prospects that should be up.
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#5 TKGuy

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 10:47 AM

Ugh, why are we rolling with 30 somethings in the bullpen when we wont contend? Wimmers, shaggy and mejia should be on this team, but I'm guessing Duffey will be the 5th starter and we'll keep DanSan
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#6 Mike Sixel

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 10:48 AM

Brutal. Nothing about this makes me feel good about the new FO. 

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I don't know, it is a site to discuss sports, not airline safety.....maybe we should take it less seriously?


#7 Nick Nelson

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 10:51 AM

I'm excited to see Tonkin let loose in a role that he's better suited for. Personally I believe that his struggles last year tied considerably to his being asked to throw tons of pitches while miscast as a long man. With Haley now occupying that role, Tonkin can unleash the fire in one-inning stints.

 

If they were to let him go elsewhere and he succeeded in that capacity, we'd have looked back at it as a critical misstep. 

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#8 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 10:53 AM

Other than Chargois, very little here surprises me.

 

So I guess it's not so much that I dislike the bullpen, it's more that I already resigned myself to this happening.

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#9 Vanimal46

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 10:56 AM

I'm excited to see Tonkin let loose in a role that he's better suited for. Personally I believe that his struggles last year tied considerably to his being asked to throw tons of pitches while miscast as a long man. With Haley now occupying that role, Tonkin can unleash the fire in one-inning stints.

If they were to let him go elsewhere and he succeeded in that capacity, we'd have looked back at it as a critical misstep.


I disagree we would ever look back at it as a critical misstep. Tonkin is nothing more than a typical 6th-7th inning reliever. They did not trust him to pitch in any high leverage situation last season.

I've posted this before. Let's say you walk into a bar mid-conversation. You hear "He's a decent reliever that throws hard." Would you narrow that down to Tonkin? Or is that describing 7 other relievers available in the minors?
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#10 wavedog

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 10:59 AM

I think we know how this will end up - but it is Spring and we can always hope for the best. We will see how Belisle and Breslow do - we could have signed some higher profile relievers.  I thought a given that Chargois would be in at least the setup discussion, so hopefully he performs well at AAA and comes up soon.  We have got to develop some power arms to at least get in the mix. 

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#11 hybridbear

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 11:00 AM

Hopefully Molitor will make better use of his relievers this year. It seemed like some of Tonkin's issues last year were due to mismanagement. Taylor Rodgers also seems like the definition of LOOGY. Hopefully Molitor doesn't try to make him pitch to righties too much.

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#12 ThejacKmp

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 11:01 AM

 

Ugh, why are we rolling with 30 somethings in the bullpen when we wont contend? Wimmers, shaggy and mejia should be on this team, but I'm guessing Duffey will be the 5th starter and we'll keep DanSan

 

I mean, Duffey is still a young guy, he's only 26 to Mejia's almost 24. It's not like they put Vogelsong in the rotation over young guys. Duffey isn't eligible for arbitration for two more years, he wouldn't be picking an old guy with no future.

 

And I'm not sure which young guy should have made it over Danny Santana. Santana is 26 and is younger than Adrianza, JB Schuck and Vargas (albeit by three months), the other guys who could have taken that last spot. There's no young guy Santana is blocking. The Twins don't have anyone young who they want to be the 25th man - we all want Vielma, Garver and Granite to be playing every day and working on their game, not languishing as a backup who starts once every week or two and gets a few late innings every once in awhile.

 

I'd have liked to have seen Wimmers over Haley (I still hold some hope for Tonkin, I never wanna give up early on a guy with his tools) but get wanting to hold onto a guy with Haley's upside. Wimmers will be first one up if anyone gets hurt/sucks. Chargois can use a few months in the minors before forcing his way onto the team. Not too worried about him.

 

Unlikely as it may seem, Belisle, Breslow and Kintzler may be worth something at the deadline. I'm okay with keeping them - I just want a short leash if one of them goes Jepsen's way.

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#13 Mike Sixel

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 11:01 AM

 

Hopefully Molitor will make better use of his relievers this year. It seemed like some of Tonkin's issues last year were due to mismanagement. Taylor Rodgers also seems like the definition of LOOGY. Hopefully Molitor doesn't try to make him pitch to righties too much.

 

Agreed, as long as Molitor is here, I don't know how anyone could feel good about the bullpen.

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I don't know, it is a site to discuss sports, not airline safety.....maybe we should take it less seriously?


#14 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 11:05 AM

I care less about the Opening Day bullpen than I do the front office's willingness to pull the rug out from under some of these guys in May.

 

That will be more telling than the motley crew of mediocrity they assembled out of the gate.

 

I don't mind occasionally winging it and hoping for the best - particularly in a situation as bad as the one they inherited last November - but I very much mind the refusal to cut loose bad players in a timely fashion.

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#15 Mike Sixel

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 11:07 AM

 

I care less about the Opening Day bullpen than I do the front office's willingness to pull the rug out from under some of these guys in May.

 

That will be more telling than the motley crew of mediocrity they assembled out of the gate.

 

I don't mind occasionally winging it and hoping for the best - particularly in a situation as bad as the one they inherited last November - but I very much mind the refusal to cut loose bad players in a timely fashion.

 

Sure, whatever, but giving them a pass on this seems a bit overly forgiving to me....I'd like to see this team "wing it" by betting on an unproven young guy as a RP, just one time, out of the gate.  

I don't know, it is a site to discuss sports, not airline safety.....maybe we should take it less seriously?


#16 Rhino and Compass

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 11:08 AM

No matter how good or bad your bullpen is, it will be helped exponentially by a rotation that can work deep into games. I'm more concerned that the rotation still doesn't seem to have much positive momentum than I am that the bullpen is still underwhelming

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#17 Vanimal46

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 11:14 AM

Sure, whatever, but giving them a pass on this seems a bit overly forgiving to me....I'd like to see this team "wing it" by betting on an unproven young guy as a RP, just one time, out of the gate.


How lucky is Rogers?! He gets not 1, not 2, but 3(!!) veteran pitchers giving him constant guidance and attention. Are the veterans going to set up 8 hour shifts to hold his hand throughout the day?
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#18 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 11:20 AM

 

Sure, whatever, but giving them a pass on this seems a bit overly forgiving to me....I'd like to see this team "wing it" by betting on an unproven young guy as a RP, just one time, out of the gate.  

I'm not giving them a pass. I question the Chargois move, for sure... but what bothers me the most was the acquisition of Belisle and Breslow, really.

 

Just go get a decent reliever and pay a few bucks. Big deal, this payroll is too low anyway. No $12m contract over two years is going to hurt this team in any meaningful fashion. Nick's latest article sold me a bit on the Breslow deal, though. Really good info in that piece but more could have been done with the bullpen and it wouldn't cost much to do it.

 

There was enough room in the pen to fit a decent reliever, a mediocre vet, and a young guy.

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#19 BoofBonser

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 11:21 AM

It's okay, we only have like 50 guys in the minors waiting to take their spots. 

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#20 Rosterman

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 11:24 AM

Can't wait to see the breakout at Rochester and Chattanooga with more than 30 pitchers vying for roster spots, many that will be returning for another season at the same level.

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