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Article: Twins 2018 Position Analysis: Relief Pitcher

fernando rodney addison reed tyler kinley zach duke taylor rogers
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 27 March 2018 - 09:05 PM

We wrap up our position-by-position breakdown of Minnesota's organizational depth today with an examination of relief pitching. I'm excited to dig in here because this reinvented bullpen is a fascinating unit for the Twins, characterized by high-profile additions, unpredictable youth, and bold gambles.Projected Relievers: Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, Zach Duke, Ryan Pressly, Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, Gabriel Moya, Tyler Kinley

Depth: Tyler Duffey, Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, Jake Reed, Zack Jones

Prospects: Tyler Jay, Dietrich Enns, Mason Melotakis, Tyler Watson, Tom Hackimer

THE GOOD

Brandon Kintzler and Matt Belisle, who respectably held down closing duties for the 2017 team (albeit in unimposing fashion), are out. Replacing them are righties Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed, who better fit the traditional mold of dominant late-inning arms.

Minnesota has also substantially upgraded its left-handed relief foundation from a year ago, replacing Craig Breslow and Buddy Boshers with the vastly higher upside of Zach Duke and Gabriel Moya, while retaining steady specialist Taylor Rogers.

Though it lacks a true long reliever, the Twins bullpen is well constructed, giving Paul Molitor a diverse set of potent options leading up to one of the game's most experienced closers.

The quality of this group is such that Tyler Duffey (3.72 FIP in 2017) and Alan Busenitz (1.99 ERA in 28 appearances) were sent down to open the season, and few could quibble with the decisions.

Possessing power relievers who can come in and strike people out is critical in today's MLB. Last year's top five finishers in bullpen K/9 were the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers, Indians and Cubs. They were also five of the last teams standing.

Minnesota, at 7.7 K/9, ranked 29th out of 30.

The eight relievers slated to comprise this year's bullpen combined to average about a strikeout per inning in 2017. That calculation doesn't include Tyler Kinley, who of course didn't pitch in the majors but did average 12.2 K/9 in Single-A and Double-A, and barely accounts for Moya, who has averaged 11.5 K/9 in the minors.

This is suddenly a bullpen filled with strikeout pitchers — a remarkable bit of roster wizardly, progressively carried out by the new front office.

The first guys in line as call-ups or replacements? Duffey, who struck out 67 over 71 frames in his first season as a reliever. Busenitz, who brings upper-90s heat and has averaged 9.2 K/9 in Triple-A. And finally: John Curtiss, an unheralded prospect who warrants intrigue specifically because of his tremendous ability to miss bats in the Twins system, where he's struck out 245 over 195 frames (including 33 K over 24 IP at Triple-A).

So, to summarize all that: Minnesota now has the indisputable makings of a power pen, even if things go amiss with the first wave. That's a status they really haven't been able to claim since 2006, when a unit led by Joe Nathan, Jesse Crain, Juan Rincon and Pat Neshek led the AL in bullpen K/9.

That team also won 96 games – most in the franchise's modern history. Coincidence?

THE BAD

While they've equipped themselves with a bunch of capable new arms, the Twins have also let several promising ones get away.

Luke Bard was snagged by the Angels in the Rule 5 draft and it appears he'll stick on their 25-man roster. If his massive improvements in Double-A and Triple-A last year prove legit, he could potentially be closing games for the Halos by midseason.

Nick Burdi was also fished away in the Rule 5, by Pittsburgh, and he'll be stashed on the 60-day DL until completing Tommy John recovery.

In late February, the Twins lost J.T. Chargois when we was claimed off waivers by the Dodgers. He is in line to make their team.

Bard, Burdi and Chargois were all highly drafted stud relievers out of college with premium gas, and despite injury setbacks, each was on track to make an impact in the majors. Now, they're gone, lost to other organizations in exchange for nothing, because the Twins didn't deem them worth protecting.

To be sure, these were measured, rational risks. Given the checkered health histories at play here, a reluctance to plan around these volatile fireballers is quite understandable.

But elevating other pitchers as priorities – most notably, the Rule 5 pick Kinley, a relatively unaccomplished minor-leaguer who has occupied a 40-man spot since December – does have a cost.

We'll have to wait and see whether the Twins made the right calls with all this shuffling, but there's a reasonable case to be made for every pitcher on the roster deserving his spot. And when it comes to evaluating hurlers, Derek Falvey and his crew have earned some trust.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The 2018 Twins bullpen will have a very different look, both because it features more new arrivals than incumbents and because it might be the most K-heavy unit Minnesota has assembled in over a decade.

The front office chose to wager on its free agents and its Rule 5 selection rather than some homegrown arms that many of us expected to play a role at the big-league level. I'll be curious to see if their altogether logical gambles pan out. If so, the Twins will have shored up one of their most persistent disadvantages from years past.



~~~

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
Twins Daily Position Analysis: Starting Pitcher

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#2 Danchat

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Posted 27 March 2018 - 09:43 PM

Nobody's really talking about him, but Zach Duke had a perfect Spring Training (0.00 ERA) and I think he'll be able to shake off a rusty 2017 season (5.29 FIP + 5.9 K/P) and look more like the guy he was in 2014-2016 (2.74 ERA + 10.4 K/9).

 

Speaking of Bard and Chargois, I saw on Roster Resource.com that Justin Haley is projected to make the Red Sox roster as a long reliever. I didn't think he'd resurface in the majors this fast.

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#3 Pardon My Dinger

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Posted 27 March 2018 - 11:07 PM

I haven’t been following ST very closely, but it’s pretty surprising that they are going into the season without Busenitz. Thought for sure we’d be letting the Booze flow like wine all season long.
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#4 ckrolak

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Posted 27 March 2018 - 11:22 PM

Fernando Rodney didn't have a very good Spring.I hope the Spring stats don't mean anything.Otherwise it will be Addison Reed closing sooner rather than later.

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#5 Doctor Wu

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 05:22 AM

 

Fernando Rodney didn't have a very good Spring.I hope the Spring stats don't mean anything.Otherwise it will be Addison Reed closing sooner rather than later.

Yeah, Rodney didn't do much to impress in Spring Training. Hopefully, those old joints just need some time to get loose! But I still remain wary of him and how he'll do as the team's closer over the course of the season. Please ease my worries Fernando!

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#6 Tommygun921

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 06:01 AM

Burdi may never throw a MLB pitch. But he could be on the 60 day DL right now. And Chargois has to have more upside than Kinley. Or be on an even playing field at a minimum. Probably the same for Barb. So still makes no sense. Hopefully Falvine has a time machine and already knows how this plays out.
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#7 killertwinfan

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 06:07 AM

First and foremost I want to compliment Falvey and crew for the work they have done revamping our 40 man roster and farm systems. In a very short time they have put this franchise on track, with the right kind of pieces and some depth. Also, when you make this many moves you are going to make some mistakes.I fully agree with "The Bad" but recognize that this is part of the process.(I will never understand the Kinley deal).

 

I am worried about the back end of the bullpen. And, I am anxious that we are not going to get an equal performance from our new duo as compared to our old duo.A lack of performance here could derail any improvement over last season, which is the a key measuring stick for our FO. 

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#8 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 06:21 AM

Fernando Rodney didn't have a very good Spring. I hope the Spring stats don't mean anything. Otherwise it will be Addison Reed closing sooner rather than later.


And Brian Dozier will be cut by June!
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#9 rdehring

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 06:40 AM

Interesting how there is no long man in the bullpen.Understand that Hughes is penciled in to come off the DL and start on April 11.If he isn't ready, is Duffey the likely choice to come up? 

 

So they have delayed their decision of what to do with one of Moya, Kinley or someone else for two weeks.Even if they have an injury, still have that decision to get the 5th starter/long man onto the roster.


#10 jud6312

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 07:22 AM

I'm more than a little concerned that the human gas can is closing games to start the season. My hunch is that Reed will take over that role in short order - unless they plan to use him as the true fireman.

 

I'm also still scratching my head on the Kinley thing.

 

In hindsight, I think they'd probably be better off with some combination of Chargois/Busenitz/Bard/etc. over Rodney and Kinley, but I give the Wonder Twins credit for making the pen a priority.

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#11 yarnivek1972

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 07:33 AM

I’m sure someone knows the answer to this:

What is the statistical probability of scoring 1 run with 0 on, 0 out?

Now 2 runs.

Now 3 runs.

Those are Rodney’s games.

As has been the trend in MLB for several years now your BEST relievers are used to get out of that bases loaded jam in the 7th or 8th. That’s Reed, Duke, Hildenberger, Rogers, etc.

Could Rodney blow up? Yep. Control has always been a big problem with him. He has a career BB/9 of 4.4. That’s extremely high. However, closers usually get beat with the HR ball. That is not a Rodney issue. 61 allowed in over 800 career IP. A .7 per 9 rate.

Suffice to say, 1-2-3 innings aren’t going to be the norm with Rodney, but he’ll probably seal the deal 80% of the time.
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#12 theBOMisthebomb

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 07:37 AM

The negatives mentioned aren't really negatives (at least not yet), just potential missed opportunities. This unit appears stacked, it should be fun to watch them this season. Does Molitor have any plans to use the bullpen in a nontraditional fashion? He might have the weapons to make something out of the ordinary work.
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#13 Dave The Dastardly

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 07:38 AM

 

I'm more than a little concerned that the human gas can is closing games to start the season. My hunch is that Reed will take over that role in short order - unless they plan to use him as the true fireman.

 

I'm also still scratching my head on the Kinley thing.

 

In hindsight, I think they'd probably be better off with some combination of Chargois/Busenitz/Bard/etc. over Rodney and Kinley, but I give the Wonder Twins credit for making the pen a priority.

I think the head scratching is caused by a case of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence for the FO. For some reason Rule 5 pickups, players other teams don't protect, seem to enamor them more than our own prospects. Now while Shaggy has earned a spot in the Dodger's pen, we'll carry Kinley like deadweight in ours.

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#14 mikelink45

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 08:10 AM

I have had a feeling that Falvey wants his fingerprints on the entire roster and is quick to release the players of the old regime if he can find someone new that he can plug in. So Kinley in and three relievers we have been waiting for, for years, move on to new MLB teams.I think we even see that with Dozier who deserved at least an attempt at an extension. 

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#15 puckstopper1

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 08:18 AM

I have to agree with several of the comments on Rodney.Having a 41 year old close games makes me nervous.His stats last year, other than K/9, for the most part are a step backwards from Kintzler.The Twins did improve the arms around him however, so the bullpen as a whole is certainly stronger.hopefully there will be LOTS of save opportunities this season!

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#16 terrydactyls1947

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 08:23 AM

No one has yet mentioned the best addition to the bullpen in 2018. So I will.... The Bullpen Cart. Now that's something we can all get excited about.

#17 jud6312

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 09:13 AM

 

I’m sure someone knows the answer to this:

What is the statistical probability of scoring 1 run with 0 on, 0 out?

Now 2 runs.

Now 3 runs.

Those are Rodney’s games.

As has been the trend in MLB for several years now your BEST relievers are used to get out of that bases loaded jam in the 7th or 8th. That’s Reed, Duke, Hildenberger, Rogers, etc.

Could Rodney blow up? Yep. Control has always been a big problem with him. He has a career BB/9 of 4.4. That’s extremely high. However, closers usually get beat with the HR ball. That is not a Rodney issue. 61 allowed in over 800 career IP. A .7 per 9 rate.

Suffice to say, 1-2-3 innings aren’t going to be the norm with Rodney, but he’ll probably seal the deal 80% of the time.

 

An 80% save rate would not be even close to ideal. That's essentially 1984 Ron Davis.

 

I realize the game has changed and your better relievers pitch where they're needed, but can a team just on the cusp of contention really afford any games given up by an aging, strike zone-challenged closer with deteriorating stuff?

 

Obviously there's no sure-things, but I'd like something a little bit more stable. At 41, I think we're more likely to see the 2016 version of Rodney, rather than the 2017 version, which was also not all that good.

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#18 slash129

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 09:32 AM

I'm just going to enjoy The Experience as long as it lasts.I don't expect Molitor or Falvine to force the issue. It's only a one year deal. If this is the year that true, marked decline sets in, the Twins seem to have an arsenal of >Boshers/Graham/Thompson-esque relief options ready to get some chances. If not, the Twins will have a solid closer, despite his typical winding course.

 

As bad as his season numbers were, I had some of my best times of the 2017 season watching Bartolo Colon games.I'm hoping Rodney can deliver some moments like that as well.

 

I can't wait for tomorrow at 2:00 PM.


#19 TFRazor

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 09:45 AM

 

An 80% save rate would not be even close to ideal. That's essentially 1984 Ron Davis.

 

I realize the game has changed and your better relievers pitch where they're needed, but can a team just on the cusp of contention really afford any games given up by an aging, strike zone-challenged closer with deteriorating stuff?

 

Obviously there's no sure-things, but I'd like something a little bit more stable. At 41, I think we're more likely to see the 2016 version of Rodney, rather than the 2017 version, which was also not all that good.

 

How about an 87% save rate? Because that's exactly what Rodney had last season. In 2016, Rodney had an 89%. Mariano Rivera for his career was at 89%. (Fun little aside, Joe Nathan had a better save percentage than Mariano Rivera. Admittedly, over fewer opportunites. Rivera over his career: 89.071%. Joe over his: 89.125%)


#20 jud6312

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 09:52 AM

 

How about an 87% save rate? Because that's exactly what Rodney had last season. In 2016, Rodney had an 89%. Mariano Rivera for his career was at 89%. (Fun little aside, Joe Nathan had a better save percentage than Mariano Rivera. Admittedly, over fewer opportunites. Rivera over his career: 89.071%. Joe over his: 89.125%)

 

If you guys are good with the ticking time bomb, more power to you. With the number of people he walks and his age, it's not a matter of if, but when they catch up. He could've saved 100% of the games he saved in 2016 and he was still awful.

 




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