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Article: Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month - April 2019

devin smeltzer bailey ober griffin jax jordan balazovic randy dobnak
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#1 Seth Stohs

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Posted 02 May 2019 - 10:43 AM

Yesterday, we announced our choice for Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month. Today, we will look at a large group of starting pitchers who had strong starts to their season. The rankings were really difficult, so be sure to add your rankings as well.Before we share our choices for the Twins Minor League Top Six Starters for April, there are some terrific starting performers that just missed the cut. In fact, I find this month’s rankings really difficult, especially at the top, so I’m going to rank a Top 6 instead of five. You can discuss who should rank higher or lower.

HONORABLE MENTION
  • RHP Brusdar Graterol - Pensacola Blue Wahoos - 5 GS, 27.1 IP, 2.30 ERA, 1.02 WHIP. 16 H, 12 BB, 28 K
  • RHP Josh Winder - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 4 GS, 21.1 IP, 2.53 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 18 H, 6 BB, 23 K
  • RHP Cole Sands - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 4 GS, 19.0 IP, 2.37 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 15 H, 9 BB, 22 K
  • RHP Sean Poppen - Pensacola Blue Wahoos/Rochester Red Wings - 4 G/3 GS, 17.0 IP, 1.59 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 13 H, 8 BB, 27 K
THE TOP SIX STARTING PITCHERS



#6 - LHP Bryan Sammons - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 5 GS, 0.40 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 22.1 IP, 16 H, 12 BB, 25 K

Bryan Sammons was the Twins eighth-round pick in 2017 out of Western Carolina. Last year, he spent most of the season with Cedar Rapids but made a handful of starts for Ft. Myers and even one start in AA. He was the Miracle Opening Day starter this year and has been good. He has had plenty of bend (1.25 WHIP) but didn’t break (2 R, 1 ER in 22.1 IP) in the season’s first month. The southpaw has a solid four-pitch mix and knows how to pitch.

#5 - RHP Jordan Balazovic - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 4 GS, 20.2 IP, 2.18 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 15 H, 4 BB, 33 K

In 2016, the Twins drafted four high school hitters with their first four draft picks. Fast-forward to the sixth round and they took a high school pitcher from Canada, Jordan Balazovic. He slowly worked through the Twins rookie leagues and joined Cedar Rapids last summer where he impressed in 12 games. He returned to the Kernels to start 2019 and continued to pitch well. He has had good pitchability since signing, but he’s added velocity in the last two years and now gets a lot of strikeouts. He could be a promotion candidate.

#4 - RHP Randy Dobnak - Ft. Myers Miracle - 4 GS, 0.40 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 22.1 IP, 18 H, 4 BB, 14 K

Dobnak is a bit of an old school pitcher. He stands on the mound, takes the sign, mixes a few pitches, but generally just attacks the strike zone. So, he isn’t going to get a ton of strikes, but he is able to avoid hard contact. But that isn’t to minimize his stuff. He sits in the low-90s but can pump it up to 95 when needed. He mixes in a good breaking ball and an improved changeup. Dobnak went undrafted after four solid years at Alderson-Broaddus College (WV). He was set to play independent ball when the Twins called him. He was promoted from the Miracle to the Blue Wahoos on May 1st.

#3 - RHP Griffin Jax - Pensacola Blue Wahoos - 5 GS, 0.66 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 27.1 IP, 19 H, 9 BB, 20 K

Speaking of that 2016 draft, the Twins first college player picked was Jax, a third-rounder from Air Force. About this time last year, he learned that he would be able to start playing baseball full-time, and he has done quite well. Last year, he pitched for the Miracle and then worked in the Arizona Fall League. Jax isn’t overpowering, but like Dobnak can add a couple of ticks to his low-90s fastball at times. He’s got a really good slider that can induce weak contact.

#2 - RHP Bailey Ober - Ft. Myers Miracle - 4 GS, 0.00 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 24.0 WHIP, 24.0 IP, 18 H, 3 BB, 26 K

Bailey Ober was the national freshman of the year his first year of college. Unfortunately since then, he has fought a lot of injuries. He’s had Tommy John surgery, some back issues and other ailments that have certainly slowed his progression. The Twins drafted him in the 12th round in 2017 out of the College of Charleston. Last year when he got to Cedar Rapids, he started pitching quite well but an elbow injury ended his season a month early. His April was really good. He provided length in his starts, he threw a lot of strikes, he missed a lot of bats. I mean, things were going so well for Ober that his high school catcher got drafted by the Vikings in the first round. Unfortunately, on Tuesday, he was placed on the 7 Day IL retroactive to 4/29 with right ulnar nerve subluxation. Hopefully it’s just precautionary or a way to control innings.


And the Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month is:

Pensacola Blue Wahoos - LHP Devin Smeltzer - 5 GS, 0.60 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 30.0 IP, 19 H, 3 BB, 33 K



Smeltzer was the Dodgers fifth-round pick in 2016 out of a junior college. He pitched in AA last year and halfway through the season they moved him to the bullpen. That’s where he pitched for Chattanooga last year and then in the Arizona Fall League. But this spring, he was given another opportunity to start and it has proven to be a good decision. Smeltzer had a terrific first month of starts.

He didn’t give up a run until his third start. In his second start, he threw 8 1/3 scoreless innings, only removed because he hit 85 pitches. He averaged six innings per start even though he only threw four innings in his third start. He was hit in the head by a line drive, but even that didn’t slow him. He made his next start on schedule.

What a month. As you can see, he limited base runners. He threw a lot of strikes, not hurting himself with walks. And he also missed bats, striking out more than a batter per inning. Smeltzer doesn’t throw real hard, topping out around 92. But he mixes his pitches well, has a good breaking ball, and a little deception in his delivery.

While Smeltzer’s story - overcame childhood cancer - is a great one, people also need to recognize that he is a really good pitcher with a big league future.

Congratulations to our Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month of April, Pensacola Blue Wahoos left-hander Devin Smeltzer.

Feel free to discuss and ask questions.

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#2 goulik

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Posted 02 May 2019 - 01:09 PM

My first thought was "how does a guy with 0.00 ERA finish second? My second thought was "Oh, Ok! Yeah, that's how"

Pretty impressive top performances. Just wish these were by our prospects in AAA instead of all of them at AA and lower. 

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#3 Twinsoholic

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Posted 02 May 2019 - 02:14 PM

12 walks in 22 innings for Sammons is a red flag despite a glowing era for the month. Such a walk to innings rate will catch up to any pitcher. So, let's hope Sammons decreases the number of free passes.

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#4 Tuba

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Posted 02 May 2019 - 02:24 PM

Smeltzer wasn't even the headliner in that trade, I believe Raley was, and both for Dozier who was in very poor form at the time. What a trade.

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#5 howieramone2

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Posted 02 May 2019 - 02:29 PM

 

My first thought was "how does a guy with 0.00 ERA finish second? My second thought was "Oh, Ok! Yeah, that's how"

Pretty impressive top performances. Just wish these were by our prospects in AAA instead of all of them at AA and lower. 

When the season started, I thought the weakness of our farm system was starting pitching below Rochester. Except for Thorpe, everyone at AAA has been so-so. I take the strong start at AA etc. as a very good sign. I'm guessing we see several of these prospects sometime next season.


#6 rdehring

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Posted 02 May 2019 - 02:53 PM

OK, Seth, how did you arrange for your top pitcher to get promoted to AAA the day you filed this report?And only 3 walks the entire month!

 

To bad that Ober goes down with another injury.This kid can't get a break.  

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#7 tarheeltwinsfan

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Posted 02 May 2019 - 03:43 PM

As I read this article, I was really impressed with the 4 honorable mention pitchers. I thought, "How can these 4 not be in the top six pitchers?" Then I read the stats for the top six pitchers. Awesome !

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#8 dbminn

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Posted 02 May 2019 - 04:01 PM

The Rochester SP has been disappointing to say the least. The team ERA is a hair under 6.00. But all of the AAA teams have struggled, at least in part due to using the juiced major league ball.

 

The difference between AAA and other minor league ERAs is mind boggling. Here are the number of qualified pitchers and the number with an ERA under 4.00, followed by league ERA:

 

Midwest League(A)48-34,3.90

Florida State Lg (A+)45-33,3.36

Southern League (AA)35-23, 3.70

International Lg(AAA) 37-7, 4.99

 

Two more tidbits:

  • Kohl Stewart is a couple of innings short of qualifying (18 IP). At his current ERA of 4.50, he'd be the 11th best starter in the league, just ahead of Littell. 
  • In 2018, the IL ERA was 3.84 and the Southern League ERA was 3.88.
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#9 Seth Stohs

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Posted 03 May 2019 - 08:01 AM

 

As I read this article, I was really impressed with the 4 honorable mention pitchers. I thought, "How can these 4 not be in the top six pitchers?" Then I read the stats for the top six pitchers. Awesome !

 

It was a really good month for Twins minor league pitchers. And even a guy like Jorge Alcala who is 4-1 with a 4.71 ERA after last night. His FIP is 2.41. 

 

Lots of talent and more are prospects than we think. I am so curious to see how it plays out under the new processes of this new front office and all the coaches and coordinators. 

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#10 Seth Stohs

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Posted 03 May 2019 - 08:02 AM

 

OK, Seth, how did you arrange for your top pitcher to get promoted to AAA the day you filed this report?And only 3 walks the entire month!

 

To bad that Ober goes down with another injury.This kid can't get a break.  

 

Insider stuff... ha! Both Smeltzer and Dobnak promoted. Hopefully the Ober injury isn't serious. 


#11 Aerodeliria

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Posted 03 May 2019 - 08:23 AM

Thorpe has actually pitched very well the last three times out. His ERA got stung when Moya coughed up a grand slam with Thorpe's runners aboard. That was a pity, but he's really been quite effective. We'll need him sooner rather than later if Pineda continues to trend downward.
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#12 IndianaTwin

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Posted 03 May 2019 - 08:37 AM

Does being called to be the 26th man for a DH require 1) being on the 40-man; and 2) using an option? 

 

If not, I'd be intrigued to see Smeltzer get a shot next Saturday, particularly if his start this weekend in Rochester goes well. He's the same age (a month or two older, actually) than Littell and Thorpe and just a year younger than Stewart.

 

Pitching against the Tigers is pretty much like a facing a AAA lineup anyway, particularly given that a regular starter or two may well be given the second game off with four games in less than 48 hours. 

 

 


#13 gunnarthor

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Posted 03 May 2019 - 09:19 AM

Graterol and Balazovic are really exciting prospects. Jax pitching a lot better than I thought he could. I remember thinking he wouldn't be top 30 in our system last year. He's really stepped up now that he's pitching full time.

 

 


#14 spycake

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Posted 03 May 2019 - 09:25 AM

 

Does being called to be the 26th man for a DH require 1) being on the 40-man; and 2) using an option? 

1. Yes, you have to be on the 40-man to be the 26th man.

 

2. Once you are on the 40-man, spending 20+ days in the minors will burn an option year. It doesn't really matter how many times you are added or removed from the 25-man during that season.

 

The only thing different about being the 26th man, as opposed to a regular transaction, is it ignores the "10 day minimum" minor league stay for optioned players. (The 26th man could be someone you optioned less than 10 days before, or you could recall the same player again less than 10 days after -- serving as the 26th man doesn't reset the 10 day clock.)

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