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Article: Twins 2018 Position Analysis: Starting Pitcher

lance lynn jose berrios jake odorrizi kyle gibson phil hughes
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 25 March 2018 - 07:05 PM

It's been said often but bears repeating: building a rotation isn't about five starting pitchers. Sure, you want five good ones lined up at the top. But in 2016 the Twins had eight different hurlers make 10-plus starts. Last year 16 guys got the nod at least once. Sixteen!

It's been common practice for Minnesota of late: inevitable injuries and underperformance leading to flimsy depth being tested. With underequipped fill-ins unable to answer the call, the Twins have gone through endless cycles of short-lived mediocrity.

Injuries and underperformance remain inevitable here in 2018, as ever, but finally the front office has built up enough depth to where a 'next man up' philosophy doesn't sound all that foreboding.

In fact, right now it's actually a little exciting.Projected Starting 5: Jose Berrios, Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes

Reinforcements: Ervin Santana, Adalberto Mejia, Trevor May, Aaron Slegers, Felix Jorge

Prospects: Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Zack Littell, Blayne Enlow, Brusdar Graterol

THE GOOD

Not so long ago, things looked quite grim for the Twins rotation. The club struck out in its pursuit of Yu Darvish and as spring training approached they hadn't added anyone of consequence. Then Ervin Santana's finger surgery was announced. Then... they signed Anibal Sanchez.

It was a low point. But it didn't last long.

Days after reaching agreement with Sanchez, the Twins pulled off a trade with Tampa to acquire Jake Odorizzi. Three weeks later they signed Lance Lynn, one of the top names on the free agent market.

By the time the Twins cut loose Sanchez, less than a month after signing him to a non-guaranteed contract, their starting unit had been reshaped. That low point felt like a distant memory. With Odorizzi and Lynn in the fold, the rotation is solidified, and it features a revitalizing medley of established quantities, intriguing youth, and pending reinforcements.

With Jose Berrios looking ready to take the next step, the Twins have a potential frontline type on hand, even with Santana set to miss the first month-plus.

Odorizzi, Lynn and Kyle Gibson look more like mid-rotation cogs, but fairly reliable ones (your mileage may vary on Gibson). Phil Hughes currently slots in at No. 5 and is tough to trust, but he can be hidden for much of April and won't have a long leash.

The rotation out of the gates doesn't boast a ton of upside beyond Berrios, but we find much more of that in the ensuing waves. Santana was of course Minnesota's top starter in 2017, and among the best in the American League. He should enter the picture sometime in May. Adalberto Mejia made 21 starts for the Twins as a 23/24-year-old in 2017 and showed he was capable. Trevor May has the stuff to make a real impact and will have plenty of time to sharpen up ahead of his June ETA.

Those three alone provide more viable rotation depth than the Twins have had in years. Even pitchers further down the board like Aaron Slegers and Felix Jorge are more appealing as MLB-ready spot start candidates than the Quad-A retreads that have typically been available over the past decade.

And then you start digging into the top prospects. Fernando Romero and Stephen Gonsalves, the organization's two best young arms that have yet to reach the majors, could be ready at any time. Zack Littell isn't far behind, nor is Lewis Thorpe. And promising teenagers Blayne Enlow and Brusdar Graterol figure to rise quickly.

The Twins have come a long, long way since 2016 when their rotation was an abominable disaster. There is enough depth, now and going forward, that it's hard to see things devolving to that point or anywhere close again.

THE BAD

While there are enough proven starters and legit prospects to inspire confidence that things won't unravel completely, the Twins still lack a credible ace, and are short on the types of overpowering arms you'd want to trot out in a playoff series.

Berrios showed major improvement last year but still profiled as more of a No. 3 on a championship contender. Lynn posted a 4.82 FIP in St. Louis. Odorizzi posted a 5.43 FIP in Tampa. We all recall how Gibson looked for much of the summer. And Hughes the finesse pitcher will be hard-pressed to get MLB hitters out consistently.

You can dream on this rotation but objectively it looks rather mediocre. The impending returns of Santana and May are somewhat heartening, but it could be June before either is ready. Will the Twins have dug a deep hole by then?

The team is sort of in a transitional period right now, with several veteran starters on short-term commitments and several prospects still needing to take their first lumps in the majors. Although Minnesota is likely on the verge of a true starting pitching breakthrough, it might realistically be another year away.

THE BOTTOM LINE

From 2016 to 2017, the Twins went from 30th to 19th in starting pitcher ERA, which is a hell of a step forward. But that was reliant on a Herculean effort from Santana, who is poised to miss a significant portion of the 2018 season.

In order to take another step and graduate to the top half of the league, Minnesota will need some other players to find that extra gear like Erv did last year. They'll also need some young hurlers to join in and find immediate success, which has been rare.

The pipeline is as strong and ripe as it's been in over a decade, but we still may need to wait just a little bit longer before it bears the fruit that can push this franchise over the hump.



~~~

Catch up on the rest of the series:

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

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#2 Brandon

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Posted 25 March 2018 - 08:08 PM

If our rotation is a 10 - 15 ranked and our relievers are in the same 10 - 15. We will have an above average pitching staff. With our current offense a potential top 5, and defense and base running and stuff also top 5 give or take. Thats good enough to win a lot of ballgames and go deep into October....If only we ponied up a 6 th year for Darvish so i wouldnt have to hear how important it is to have a number 1 starter vs 5 number 3s.

#3 Rosterman

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Posted 25 March 2018 - 08:16 PM

Yeah, and we have to see some of the future this season, as three of the arms could be gone fer sure in 2019 - Santana, Lynn and Gibson. Of course, it would be a good chance for May to come into the game as long relief, building back strength as a starter. And I do have high hopes for Romero and Gonsalves doing good, with Jorge and Littrell as the dark horses. Can't wait for the season to start and to see how everything starts to mesh together.

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#4 jimbo92107

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Posted 25 March 2018 - 08:38 PM

On paper, this is the best Twins pitching staff in quite a while. Everybody in the rotation has been a good pitcher, at least sometimes. Other than Hughes, there isn't anybody I can point to and bet that guy will struggle. 

 

Things could really get interesting around halfway through the season, when May, Mejia, Gonsalves and Romero all could be ready to contribute. 

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Baseball is easy. Just watch!


#5 Mike Sixel

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Posted 25 March 2018 - 08:41 PM

If our rotation is a 10 - 15 ranked and our relievers are in the same 10 - 15. We will have an above average pitching staff. With our current offense a potential top 5, and defense and base running and stuff also top 5 give or take. Thats good enough to win a lot of ballgames and go deep into October....If only we ponied up a 6 th year for Darvish so i wouldnt have to hear how important it is to have a number 1 starter vs 5 number 3s.


If only they had five number threes....
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One of the best opening day rosters in years. Now go get 'em.


#6 by jiminy

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Posted 25 March 2018 - 08:53 PM

Remember they're stretching out Duffey, too, so he's also on the list of potential AAA reinforcements. 


#7 highlander

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 02:33 AM

The traditional Twins rotation consisted of bringing black powder muskets to nuclear arm's pow wows.
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#8 IndianaTwin

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 05:40 AM

"From 2016 to 2017, the Twins went from 30th to 19th in starting pitcher ERA, which is a hell of a step forward. But that was reliant on a Herculean effort from Santana, who is poised to miss a significant portion of the 2018 season."

 

 

 

I'll agree with the first sentence, but not the second. Santana improved from 3.38 to 3.28 in 30 more innings last year, but the real improvement was elsewhere. Starters not named Ervin went from a 5.91 ERA in 2016 to 5.19 in 2017. That's where the real improvement was. 

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#9 rdehring

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 06:35 AM

I have this feeling that Lance Lynn is going to be a pleasant surprise, for some.Will go so far as make two predictions.One, he will have a better season than that Darvish guy; and two, he will like it here and they will shock everyone this July when the Twins extend him with a contract similar to what he was looking for this past winter.  

 

I have always wanted to be a big fan of Gibson.But days like yesterday sure make it hard, don't they?Hopefully, he will be the pitcher he was the last couple months of last year.If not, your analysis is right on as they will have several options to go before the calendar turns to summer.

 

Will this be the year that Berrios becomes a true ACE?I think so!

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#10 HitInAPinch

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 07:44 AM

I like the moves the new FO has been making so far. 

 

If BR's 2018 projectionscome true, this would be a great step for Berrios.Although, the ERA is pretty high.  

 

https://www.baseball...hing_proj::none

 

I'm just not sure if Berrios will ever be a #1-type pitcher.Give me a solid #2 behind Erv and I'd be happy.

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It's not my fault !


#11 laloesch

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 08:10 AM

 

I have this feeling that Lance Lynn is going to be a pleasant surprise, for some.Will go so far as make two predictions.One, he will have a better season than that Darvish guy; and two, he will like it here and they will shock everyone this July when the Twins extend him with a contract similar to what he was looking for this past winter.  

 

I have always wanted to be a big fan of Gibson.But days like yesterday sure make it hard, don't they?Hopefully, he will be the pitcher he was the last couple months of last year.If not, your analysis is right on as they will have several options to go before the calendar turns to summer.

 

Will this be the year that Berrios becomes a true ACE?I think so!

 

This has always been the issue with Gibson, inconsistent and a notorious slow starter.He has done it year after year.If he does it again this year, i wouldn't keep him beyond this season.

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#12 Nick Nelson

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 08:11 AM

 

I'll agree with the first sentence, but not the second. Santana improved from 3.38 to 3.28 in 30 more innings last year, but the real improvement was elsewhere. Starters not named Ervin went from a 5.91 ERA in 2016 to 5.19 in 2017. That's where the real improvement was. 

True, but Santana also threw 30 more innings than in 2016, with 5 complete games and 3 shutouts. He carried a big portion of the load. If not for his impact the staff would've ranked near the bottom of the league again.

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#13 Post-Concussive Blues

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 08:21 AM

Pineda is late season depth too
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#14 JLease

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 08:45 AM

It certainly looks like a rotation built less on hopes and prayers and more on talent and track record.

 

Kyle "the Tease" Gibson still makes me nervous, but I like him a lot better as a 4th or 5th starter who has to pitch to keep his job than someone who gets handed the 3rd slot because the options they are awful.

 

Ervin Santana isn't an "ace", but he can lead a staff. I think people tend to conflate the idea of #1 starter vs "ace" a little bit. If a guy is in the top 20 in pitching WAR among starters...isn't that a #1? If they do it a couple of years in a row, the only reason to call them a #2 is because they're not considered an "ace", the dominant starter who automatically gets looked at for the Cy. Twins will miss him the first month, but hopefully the extra time off the mound means he stays good through the whole year.

 

Berrios has the pitches to dominate and should be a fine #2. I expect him to take another step forward this year.

 

Lynn is a guy who has consistently put up results that would make him a fine #2 on most staffs as well; His last 3 healthy seasons have resulted in a bWAR over 3. That's the sort of performance that makes you one of the top 40 starters in baseball...sounds like a #2, doesn't it? I'm a little nervous about the transition to the AL; some guys don't handle it well. And there's no doubt he was lucky last year, but getting another year past the surgery should compensate for the luck returning to normal.

 

Odorizzi certainly has put up good enough results in the past to be a fine #2/3 for most MLB teams; last season was his first bad one since becoming a full-time starter in the bigs and reportedly he had some nagging injury issues that limited his effectiveness. He may be the poster child for "shut it down and get healthy" rather than "battle through it", but time will tell. He finished well and if he pitches like he did in 2015 or 2016, we're going to be thrilled. That's a much better track record to ride with as your #3 guy than we've been looking at.

 

I don't trust Gibson, but as the #4? I'm much happier than when we were hoping he'd be the #2 or #3 starter! prove me wrong, Tease. Give me the consistency we're dying for.

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#15 ALessKosherScott

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 08:56 AM

It's not the 2006 rotation with Santana, Liriano and even Bonser. But it's not the bad years where we have a bunch of Radke clones either. You have an army of decent threes with hopes that Berrios and even Odorizzi could evolve into good twos.

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#16 Doomtints

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 09:10 AM

 

Remember they're stretching out Duffey, too, so he's also on the list of potential AAA reinforcements. 

 

Yes, but we're trying to be positive.

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#17 Mike Sixel

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 09:33 AM

No shocks here...

 

https://www.fangraph...rotation-16-30/

 

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One of the best opening day rosters in years. Now go get 'em.


#18 bean5302

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 09:38 AM

I can understand the desire to be positive and optimistic, but I am just totally unimpressed with this off-season. The Twins needed an ace, not 12 number 3s. It feels like the ghost of Terry Ryan. Darvish went CHEAP and Darvish is what the Twins needed.

 

Every season, the Twins spend about $35-40M on additional salary for rotation arms. This has been the case since, I think, 2013. Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia, Ricky Nolasco/Hector Santiago, Ervin Santana and now Lance Lynn. Odorizzi was a big jump in payroll as well. It doesn't matter to me if the Twins have new dumpster fires eating the $35M in salary up every two years. It matters to me the Twins could have spent the money more efficiently.

 

In any case, this year's probable rotation had a simple mean 4.87 FIP (4.68 when Hughes is replaced by Santana) which would keep them at an identical rank of 23rd of 30 teams (or 22nd of 30 teams) based on last year.

Berrios = 3.84

Lynn = 4.82

Odorizzi = 5.43

Gibson = 4.85
Hughes = 5.43

Santana = 4.46 FIP

 

There's always the chance multiple arms take a step forward and Santana comes back without regression to his mediocre to poor FIPs, but I've long since learned if, if, if, and if happens isn't a great scenario for trying to predict your teams playoff or World Series potential.


#19 howieramone2

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 09:42 AM

 

I can understand the desire to be positive and optimistic, but I am just totally unimpressed with this off-season. The Twins needed an ace, not 12 number 3s. It feels like the ghost of Terry Ryan. Darvish went CHEAP and Darvish is what the Twins needed.

 

Every season, the Twins spend about $35-40M on additional salary for rotation arms. This has been the case since, I think, 2013. Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia, Ricky Nolasco/Hector Santiago, Ervin Santana and now Lance Lynn. Odorizzi was a big jump in payroll as well. It doesn't matter to me if the Twins have new dumpster fires eating the $35M in salary up every two years. It matters to me the Twins could have spent the money more efficiently.

 

In any case, this year's probable rotation had a simple mean 4.87 FIP (4.68 when Hughes is replaced by Santana) which would keep them at an identical rank of 23rd of 30 teams (or 22nd of 30 teams) based on last year.

Berrios = 3.84

Lynn = 4.82

Odorizzi = 5.43

Gibson = 4.85
Hughes = 5.43

Santana = 4.46 FIP

 

There's always the chance multiple arms take a step forward and Santana comes back without regression to his mediocre to poor FIPs, but I've long since learned if, if, if, and if happens isn't a great scenario for trying to predict your teams playoff or World Series potential.

The Darvish contract is one of the 10 worst in baseball. Let's see what Theo does with an anchor around his neck.

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It's official. We received more for board scapegoat John Ryan Murphy, than we did for board favorites Pinto, Arcia, and Vargas combined.


#20 Mike Sixel

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 09:46 AM

 

The Darvish contract is one of the 10 worst in baseball. Let's see what Theo does with an anchor around his neck.

 

What do you base that on, exactly? Because it's not close to one of hte ten worst this year, or next....

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One of the best opening day rosters in years. Now go get 'em.




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