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Article: Building for Primetime

taylor rogers blake parker trevor may ryne harper
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 08:27 PM

By the end of next week, the Minnesota Twins will be more than a third of the way through their 2019 schedule. After completing a dominant sweep in Anaheim, they have the best record and second-best run differential in baseball. Their lead in the AL Central has ballooned to eight games.

We're still a week away from June, but it is not by any means too early to start thinking big.It's been a long time since Twins fans last had the luxury of contemplating things like pennant races and playoff rotations and jockeying for home field advantage. I can't remember ever having any such thoughts before the end of May. But we're at a point where talking about the Twins as likely postseason entrants and World Series contenders is not fanciful. It's almost obligatory.

Throughout the entirety of a drawn-out rebuilding process that began with a 99-loss season in 2011, Minnesota has been future-focused. At their best (in 2015 and '17), they straddled the line, scrapping for an unlikely postseason berth while keeping their eyes trained on a championship window to come. Here in 2019, if perhaps slightly ahead of schedule, the window has been thrust open. The future is now.

There is nothing fluky or superficial about the stunning success of this Twins team. Finding weaknesses is tough. The lineup continues to reaffirm that its unparalleled 1-through-9 power and run-scoring prowess are for real. The rotation has no blatant holes. (Michael Pineda gets some flack, but all his numbers outside of a bloated HR rate – and correspondingly high ERA – are quite good for a fifth starter.)

And the bullpen has, thus far, been beyond respectable. As Matt Braun concluded in a blog entry here on Thursday, "These guys have actually been pretty good, so lay off them for now." He makes many fair points, noting that the unit rates well in key categories like FIP and leverage metrics. There's no doubt Twins relievers have performed extraordinarily well thus far.

But as I view the Twins through this new, unfamiliar lens – sudden division favorites with legitimate championship aspirations – the bullpen does weigh on me. It's almost inconceivable at this point, given how absurdly consistent they've been since Day 1, but eventually this team will hit some turbulence. The bats will go through some quieter periods, and the starters will experience downspells or injuries. In the dog days of the summer, we will really see this bullpen tested. As much as this team has surpassed my every expectation, even the most optimistic side of me can't see it grading out too well in those moments.

And when it comes to matching up against the other kingpins in the American League? Houston, New York and Boston have deep pens custom-built for October. Tampa Bay, as usual, has a vast assortment of incredibly effective relievers that no one's ever heard of – in fact, they have the game's best bullpen ERA.

I guess you could put the Twins in the same boat as the Rays, a club they seemingly modeled their approach after. Like Minnesota, Tampa has opportunistically traded away good relievers, filling the vacancies through internal pipeline or low-wattage additions. Both teams have mostly eschewed free agency; as you watch Addison Reed get cut loose with his millions in dead money, while Blake Parker and Ryne Harper continually deliver, it grows a lot tougher to question that strategy.

The Twins are finding ways to extract the most out of their talent. Pitching coaches Wes Johnson and Jeremy Hefner are clearly getting through with good info. Rocco Baldelli's decision-making and usage patterns have been strong, from my view, and he places a clear focus on taking care of his players. All these factors help elevate a group toward its true potential.

Still, unless some sort of supernatural enchantment is at play (and it's getting a little harder to rule that out with each passing day), no objective onlooker can view this bullpen with great confidence going forward.

Taylor Rogers is clearly awesome. I'm willing to buy into Parker, although his 1.10/3.87 split in ERA/FIP points to a clear luck element to his ridiculously good results thus far. After those two, the Twins have:
  • Trevor May. Sadly not anywhere near the same guy he was last year. His swinging strike rate is down to single digits (from an elite 15.4% last year), because his stuff isn't compelling people to swing outside the zone, which is also leading to too many walks. May's throwing as hard as ever and it isn't hard to envision him turning that corner, but so far he hasn't.
  • Ryne Harper. There's no knocking his splendid performance up to this point. But he's a 30-year-old MLB rookie whose fastball sits in the high-80s. He's going to need to keep doing it for quite a while longer before lifting all shrouds of doubt.
  • Matt Magill. The Twins were believers. They had him in their bullpen plans before an injury sidelined him to start the year, and since joining the team in late April, Magill has validated their faith. He might be one of the least intimidating-looking pitchers in baseball but his spectacular velocity – 95 and 88 on average with the fastball and slider – belie his aesthetic. He has ridden that stuff to copious strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA. This is clearly a higher-caliber pitcher than we saw last year, but everyone recalls the way his hot start turned ice cold in 2018.
  • Mike Morin. He has thrown strikes and gotten people out. (8.1 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 1 ER). What more could you ask? But it's only nine appearances. He's also a 28-year-old who has thrown 24 MLB innings over the past two years, and owns a 3.99 career ERA in Triple-A.
  • Austin Adams. Can't help but be impressed by his arm out of the gates. He throws even harder than Magill, and looked dominant in two outings before getting blown up by the Angels on Thursday. His nightmare outing in Anaheim (0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 5 ER) will set his numbers back for a while. And it served as a reminder: As good as some of these relievers look at times, and as much as the Twins might be optimizing their repertoires and usage, these are still pitchers signed to minor-league contracts, drawing zero demand from the league at large. Him, Magill, Morin, Harper. And the next guy can more or less be placed in the same group.
  • Tyler Duffey. He almost certainly would've been waived from the 40-man roster during the offseason, if not for holding an option that allowed the Twins to stash him at Triple-A. Now he's in the Minnesota bullpen and looking very much like the dominant reliever we all dreamed he could be. Duffey is finally showing some bite on his heater, and in combination with his ever-vexing curveball, it's piling up strikeouts.
So after Parker and Rogers, you have May and then five guys that are more or less veteran Triple-A pitchers thrust into MLB action. With the exception of Adams' implosion, they've all handled it beautifully. All are awesome individual stories, and given the substance behind each of these performances, it isn't that hard to see any one of them sustaining. But... all of them? That feels like too tall an ask, even in this possibly enchanted season.

Depth is of the essence. And that's where the pressing concerns emerge. The front office was planning around Trevor Hildenberger and Fernando Romero (and maybe Reed) as key late-inning contributors, but at present both are struggling as part of a GHASTLY bullpen at Rochester:



The Triple-A rotation hasn't been so hot either. There's no credible help at the highest level of the minors. Double-A is a little more interesting, and on Thursday, Brusdar Graterol's presence in Minneapolis raised considerable intrigue among the fan base. It sounds like Graterol was here for evaluation, but the idea of a call-up wasn't that far-fetched, which says quite a lot for 20-year-old pitcher (and for the Twins' underlying need). He's been absurdly dominant in Double-A. Alas, the right-hander recently dealt with a trapezius issue and the Twins will smartly place his welfare ahead of the team's.

With that in mind, who's going to help this bullpen? The internal reinforcement slate at present is not inspiring. The MLB Draft is suddenly less than two weeks away, meaning that Craig Kimbrel is about to be freed from his burdensome compensation pick tether. That'll fire up the discussions around him again, which is fair. But I maintain that the trade market is a superior avenue. That's how the Astros acquired the best reliever in baseball (from the Twins, unfortunately) and it's a big part of how Tampa constructed its bullpen.

The Twins are sneakily well positioned. Their relief corps has performed well, so no trade partner is going to be able to leverage it as an urgent weakness against them. At the same time, the Twins are more motivated to be proactive than other big-market contenders, who are largely flush with high-paid, established options.

Will this press them to make a hard push for Kimbrel on the other side of the draft? Or to be aggressive early in the trade market and snatch a big arm? I'll be interested to find out.

Most of all, I'm just giddy to be be in a position to think about such things.

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#2 John Bonnes

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 08:46 PM

One other point in favor if acquiring a relief arm sooner rather than later: they control his usage and don’t need to worry bout him being overused.
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#3 mikelink45

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 09:01 PM

I saw Morin get a perfect - fielders gone crazy inning that had nothing to do with good pitching, tonight Adams demonstrated his value and his double digit era is the proof.Pineda should be in the pen and a better pitcher should be in the rotation. Those are my downers on this magnificent season.  

It is the stretch run we need to think about - can Harper and the other AAAA arms do the job?AAA does not have the talent.But Graterol in the rotation and Pineda in the pen seem like good options to upgrade everything. 


#4 Riverbrian

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 09:02 PM

I disagree that Minnesota has been future focused. But the rest of the article is absolutely spot on. 

 

This team deserves support and I'd be shocked if the front office doesn't provide it. 

 

We are all seeing what depth with the lineup provides. Garver and Cruz down... no problem. They are not even missing a beat and those are two large bats that would cripple most teams. 

 

Now the front office has to look at the mound and look at it hard. Don't get cocky thinking you've built it. The baseball Gods love to mess around with those sitting around admiring their handiwork. 

 

Imagine what would happen if Taylor Rogers gets knocked out for the year. That one loss out of the bullpen would be huge. 

 

In the rotation, what happens if Berrios, or Odorizzi or Gibson or Perez or Pineda goes down. What if two of them go down? 

 

You can prepare for it... you don't have to go down with the ship if the unthinkable happens.  

 

They need to find arms they can count on immediately out of their own system and they need to start adding arms via trade once June hits.

 

If the starter price is too high, then you got to load that bullpen up in preparation for some bullpen games. Kimbrel would be awesome but it doesn't have to be Kimbrel... They just need to build a fierce pen that will shut down opponents when our OFFENSE provides a cushion and bullpen arms are always available at the trade deadline.

 

Stay away from the Gregerson and Belisle types. We don't need crafty and experienced... we need destroy all hope rockets.  

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#5 D.C Twins

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 09:06 PM

Agree 100% with all.

 

Concern about the bullpen in the postseason will also cause the relatively young and inexperienced line up to press too hard which can oft lead to problems

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#6 Old Twins Cap

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 09:09 PM

No panic. Twins are winning and slugging and pitching well.

 

F.O. will add relief at some point.

 

But, for now, with a lot of games coming up against the Whities, the Royals, the Tigres and the Indians, no need to jump into something rash.

 

The next move is the big move, so make sure it is the right move.

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#7 Thrylos

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 09:16 PM

25 year old Cody Stashak's numbers at AA:2.05 ERA, 0.727 WHIP, 14.3 K/9, 0.8 BB/9.He should replace Mr Adams tomorrow, however I think that this 28 year old teammate of his is next in line (ignore the inaccuracies in that write up.)

 

Also, I will really be surprised if Kimbrel is not a Twin in 2 weeks and a day or two (after the draft.)

 

Trevor May is clearly my biggest disappointment in the pen this season.I thought that he broke though last season. 

 

They also need an ace to be relevant during the post-season, but that will have to come in a trade.

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#8 KFEY93

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 09:18 PM

 

No panic. Twins are winning and slugging and pitching well.

 

F.O. will add relief at some point.

 

But, for now, with a lot of games coming up against the Whities, the Royals, the Tigres and the Indians, no need to jump into something rash.

 

The next move is the big move, so make sure it is the right move.

Couldnt have said it better myself. 

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#9 laloesch

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 09:29 PM

If this team keeps this up through the all-star break the front office has to go for it? I mean they would be absolutely crazy not to try and solidify the pen with another arm or two and try and possibly swing a deal for another starter.


#10 laloesch

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 09:37 PM

 

I saw Morin get a perfect - fielders gone crazy inning that had nothing to do with good pitching, tonight Adams demonstrated his value and his double digit era is the proof.Pineda should be in the pen and a better pitcher should be in the rotation. Those are my downers on this magnificent season.  

It is the stretch run we need to think about - can Harper and the other AAAA arms do the job?AAA does not have the talent.But Graterol in the rotation and Pineda in the pen seem like good options to upgrade everything. 

 

I'm willing to let Pineda work the rust off at the back end of the rotation for now. I've seen enough Yankees games on the YES network to know that when he's on he's a 8+ strikeout per 9 inning pitcher and most teams would kill to have a guy like that as a #5 starter. When he's on he can do some serious damage to opposing lineups. I remember quite a few Yankee fans telling me that Twins fans will like what they see if he gets healthy and can work out the kinks.  

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#11 Matt Braun

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 10:46 PM

I got kind of dunked on but also got my article sponsored so I guess it evens out 

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#12 ToddlerHarmon

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 11:15 PM

 

25 year old Cody Stashak's numbers at AA:2.05 ERA, 0.727 WHIP, 14.3 K/9, 0.8 BB/9.He should replace Mr Adams tomorrow, however I think that this 28 year old teammate of his is next in line (ignore the inaccuracies in that write up.)

 

 

 

Dusten Knight was released by Pensacola three weeks ago, and is now in the Mexican League. I don't know why.

 

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#13 h2oface

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Posted 24 May 2019 - 01:32 AM

I found this. Still not much info. Maybe the minor league write ups will tell us more?

 

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#14 h2oface

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Posted 24 May 2019 - 01:40 AM

And something I missed right here on TD...

 

http://twinsdaily.co...n-debuts/page-2

 

From the Strib article link:

 

"The Twins have released righthander Dusten Knight for a violation of team policy. Knight was a hit on social media this season because he liked to do back flips after notching saves; in seven games, he had posted a 1.59 ERA and three saves. Knight, 28, was selected by the Twins in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft last December from the Giants organization."

 

So what did he violate? It pushed him to Mexico?


#15 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 24 May 2019 - 05:18 AM

They definitely should be targeting a reliever now. I do like the idea of signing Kimbrel in a couple weeks, but I would still want to acquire at least one more arm via trade. I agree with Thrylos that Stashak deservers a shot. At the very least, get the kid to AAA... It's not like there's a wealth of relievers blocking him.

 

As for starting, that's not as urgent, but if that lead is well into the double digits by the end of June, I could still see trying to get an ace to help with the playoffs. Not quite sure what to do with Pineda. I suppose if no one gets hurt, he can get flipped for a prospect to a team in desperate need of a 5th starter to hang on. Not sure I want him and his elevated HR rates in the pen.


#16 Riverbrian

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Posted 24 May 2019 - 06:16 AM

 

No panic. Twins are winning and slugging and pitching well.

 

F.O. will add relief at some point.

 

But, for now, with a lot of games coming up against the Whities, the Royals, the Tigres and the Indians, no need to jump into something rash.

 

The next move is the big move, so make sure it is the right move.

 

 

They definitely should be targeting a reliever now. I do like the idea of signing Kimbrel in a couple weeks, but I would still want to acquire at least one more arm via trade. I agree with Thrylos that Stashak deservers a shot. At the very least, get the kid to AAA... It's not like there's a wealth of relievers blocking him.

 

As for starting, that's not as urgent, but if that lead is well into the double digits by the end of June, I could still see trying to get an ace to help with the playoffs. Not quite sure what to do with Pineda. I suppose if no one gets hurt, he can get flipped for a prospect to a team in desperate need of a 5th starter to hang on. Not sure I want him and his elevated HR rates in the pen.

 

I'm not sure if panic is the right word or if urgent is the right description. 

 

It's really hard to panic or think urgently in such great times. 

 

However... I am absolutely sure that if he we lost a starter and had to rely on the bullpen more to cover for the loss of the starter.  

 

Panic and Urgent will be closer to the right word. 

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#17 bighat

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Posted 24 May 2019 - 06:20 AM

 

 Not quite sure what to do with Pineda. I suppose if no one gets hurt, he can get flipped for a prospect to a team in desperate need of a 5th starter to hang on. Not sure I want him and his elevated HR rates in the pen.

 

I don't think the Twins are going to be sending Pineda to another contender at the deadline. With his 1-year contract there will likely be zero trade partners for him. He could be "dumped" as part of a deal (ie: Marlins give us Sergio Romo in exchange for Nick Gordon but they must take Pineda as part of the deal, etc).

Kind of like the Twins last year with Logan Forsythe. Twins didn't want him, he just came in the same box as Luke Raley and we didn't have a choice.

 

I don't think he's THAT bad. Way too early to give up on Pineda, he's actually thrown back-to-back quality starts, not sure why we'd panic just yet. Give him 2 more months before we pull any kind of trigger on Big Mike.

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#18 HrbieFan

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Posted 24 May 2019 - 06:48 AM

Enough with the pitty party for Kimbrel, "freed from pick compensation" stuff. Him and his agent overvalued his worth to teams and turned down multiple 3 year deals just under $20m. The Red Sox wouldn't even let him close out the World Series. There are enough flags to not be mad if he goes elsewhere.
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#19 iowadutchman

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Posted 24 May 2019 - 07:09 AM

I think the Twins can get by with Pineda all season as a fifth starter.Then he flips to the pen for postseason if needed or could be off the playoff roster in favor of a position player or another reliever.I still have hope for Mejia. His stuff seems better than many of these guys, but he needs control and confidence and conditioning.Another lefty in the pen would be nice even though Rocco seems less concerned about match ups.Having the luxury of games with big leads definitely allows him to use the pen differently than if the games were 1-3 runs.

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#20 segagenesisgenius

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Posted 24 May 2019 - 07:46 AM

 

Imagine what would happen if Taylor Rogers gets knocked out for the year. That one loss out of the bullpen would be huge. 

 

In the rotation, what happens if Berrios, or Odorizzi or Gibson or Perez or Pineda goes down. What if two of them go down? 

 

 

I agree with this, but then this is true for all teams.If Aroldis Chapman goes down, the Yankees playoff odds would take a massive hit. I'm not sure the Bosox would have won the World Series last year without Kimbrel.The Astos would probably have a few more losses if it weren't for Pressly.

 

Otherwise, in general, when I looked this up before, playoff teams on average need around 30 starts from outside of their top 5 pitchers.Basically, they need to plan for functionally a full season's worth of starts going to another pitcher.Another way to look at that is that if you need MORE than one season's worth of starts outside of your top five, you are statistically very unlikely to make it into the playoffs.I mean, what team can withstand trying to replace two of their opening day rotation pitchers?

 

As such, my priority is for the twins to patch their current holes, have a contingency plan or two for key positions, and then plan for health, because if you aren't healthy you aren't winning it all anyway. 




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