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The Kinley Conundrum is Coming for Twins


Ted Schwerzler

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Thus far in 2018, the Minnesota Twins have played seven baseball games. They've had to deal with frigid temperatures, some snow, and even a postponement in the early going. What they have yet to need due to the circumstances, is a fifth starter. That leash could soon be coming to an end however, and Rule 5 draft pick Tyler Kinley could be caught up in the heart of the shuffle.

 

Through the seven games, Minnesota has won three times by at least four runs, and they were beaten recently by the Seattle Mariners to the tune of a seven run deficit. Despite what would seem like a few opportunities, Paul Molitor has only inserted Minnesota's Rule 5 pick into one game. Kinley got an inning of mop-up work during the blowout loss to the Mariners. He threw 22 pitches over one inning and gave up a hit, run, and walk while tallying two strikeouts.

 

During his inning of work, it was ever apparent as to why the Twins both wanted to grab the former Miami Marlins prospect, and why they were able to. He topped out at 96 mph, reaching that velocity on nine of his 22 pitches. There was also three sweeping sliders at 88 mph that were offered to Mariners hitters. Just 50% of his pitches were in the strike zone however, and there were more than a couple that appeared simply non-competitive. Velocity and lack of command isn't a new blueprint, and it's one that many Rule 5 draftees possess. In being held back until this moment however, it seems widely apparent that manager Paul Molitor doesn't see the training wheels coming off any time soon.

 

This is where things begin to get a bit hairy for both the Twins and Kinley. With Ervin Santana still on the shelf (and frankly not looking like he'll be back before June), Phil Hughes is looking like the most likely candidate to be inserted into the Minnesota rotation. He could be needed as soon as Friday, and the expected move would be that reliever Gabriel Moya would be sent to the minors. In 2.1 IP thus far, Moya has allowed 2 ER on 1 HR and 2 H. It's a small sample size, and the numbers don't suggest much. While he has dominated in the minors, and looks the part of a big league reliever, he has the unfortunate burden of carrying options. What this does for Minnesota though, could be described as suboptimal.

 

In sending out Moya, Minnesota decreases their relief arms by two. Molitor already isn't using Kinley (for fair reasons), and Moya is no longer at his disposal. Coupled with the fact that Trevor Hildenberger simply has not looked right since spring training commenced and Zach Duke has been effectively (but equally ineffective) wild out of the gate with his new team, the Twins relief corps finds themselves immediately stretched. There's little denying that Alan Busenitz couldn't be helping the big league club, but right now there's just no avenue to make it happen.

 

While sorting this all out, Derek Falvey is also faced with a reality that could end up being somewhat of an "egg on face" situation. Sure, Kinley's velocity was intriguing enough to take a flier on, but he really didn't make sense for the Twins given the other options. During the roster shuffle surrounding the Rule 5 draft and beyond, Minnesota lost Luke Bard, Nick Burdi, and J.T. Chargois. Burdi wasn't going to factor into the plans this year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but both of the other two are on big league rosters and showing nicely.

 

As a Rule 5 pick, Bard has the same stipulations as Kinley does. During spring training with the Los Angeles Angels, Bard never appeared in jeopardy of missing out on the 25 man roster however. He's backed up the vote of confidence by turning in a 1.42 ERA across his first 6.1 IP this season. The eight strikeouts have equated to an 11.4 K/9, though he does have an ugly five walks in that same span as well. Chargois was a waiver claim by the Dodgers, and despite that suggesting he nearly passed through unclaimed, one of the best teams in baseball saw and avenue to improve their pen. He's rewarded them with 3.1 scoreless IP giving up just 2 H, striking out three, and working around 95 mph with his fastball.

 

Now is too late to boo-hoo over the loss of players that could have been capable of providing value in the Twins pen. What's going to be tough to stomach however is if Minnesota is forced to give up on Kinley after a matter of weeks, or even a month, and watch their alternative options thrive. At some point soon though, Paul Molitor and the Twins brain trust is going to face a crossroads that determines how they move forward. A team with Postseason aspirations can't have unusable assets out in the pen, and with guys scuffling out of the gate, there has to be more trustworthy options available sooner rather than later.

 

We shouldn't have to wait much longer to see how this situation plays itself out, and hopefully, the sting won't be too bad when all is said and done.

 

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

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The reality is that the Twins chose not to protect Bard or Burdi from the Rule 5 draft. I was as harsh on the Kinley selection when it happened for a couple of days, and for the very reasons you're mentioning (if you're going to select a hard-throwing RHP, why not just protect Bard?)... But that's the risk with every Rule 5. 

 

My guess is that the Twins aren't terribly surprised by Bard's success. They've touted his spin rates the last couple of years. I have no idea why they didn't protect him, but I know it had nothing to do with Kinley. 

 

As for Chargois, he's got options. They didn't have to keep him on the 25-man  roster regardless. That was just a weird DFAing, and weird timing, and it suggests something more. But again, I don't think there is a direct link between Kinley and Chargois. In all likelihood, I'm guessing Busenitz, Duffey and maybe even Curtiss were ahead of Chargois on the depth chart. 

 

Moya's thrown like 2.1 innings or whatever. He probably would have gone to AAA to start the season if they hadn't been wise and "DLd" Hughes, allowing them to keep an extra reliever. 

 

It's fun to mock and second guess everything. Like I've said, I do it too. But,, the reality is they've got a ton of RP depth and they clearly prioritized SP with their 40-man roster adds. It's hard to get too worked up about a Rule 5 pick. If they like and believe in Kinley's arm, they should keep him on the roster all year. If they question that, which they are free to, then they'll let him go back to the Marlins. 

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It's fun to mock and second guess everything. Like I've said, I do it too. But,, the reality is they've got a ton of RP depth and they clearly prioritized SP with their 40-man roster adds. It's hard to get too worked up about a Rule 5 pick. If they like and believe in Kinley's arm, they should keep him on the roster all year. If they question that, which they are free to, then they'll let him go back to the Marlins. 

 

I don't think there's really any room for mocking, and it's almost not even second guessing given the initial reactions. I'm all for Rule 5 additions, but think there should be something that player possesses that you don't already have.

 

I'd hope, and believe, that Kinley will get more of a rope than a month with the Twins. If not though, they'll have given up two major league commodities for a very short experiment. That's somewhat questionable even with depth.

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I'm still scratching my head at all this. On the surface it just seems like a mistake, but I can't believe it's that simple. Could it be a calculated gamble that they thought they might have more overall depth if the other teams return their Rule 5 picks?  And the Twins picked a Rule 5 just to cover the short term loss in depth? The pitchers the Twins didn't protect don't fit into the new pitching approach?

 

If they return their Rule 5 picks, do we really want them back? Are those players developing at another team's expense? I just don't understand. I'd like to understand the thought process.

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I'm still scratching my head at all this. On the surface it just seems like a mistake, but I can't believe it's that simple. Could it be a calculated gamble that they thought they might have more overall depth if the other teams return their Rule 5 picks?  And the Twins picked a Rule 5 just to cover the short term loss in depth? The pitchers the Twins didn't protect don't fit into the new pitching approach?

 

If they return their Rule 5 picks, do we really want them back? Are those players developing at another team's expense? I just don't understand. I'd like to understand the thought process.

I'm not sure how to quantify it really either. I mean I was a bit surprised it was Bard that was taken, and not Jake Reed. Still, the Twins simply didn't have enough 40 man spots to protect them all. What's odd is that even if it worked/works out, Kinley is a flier. Bard and Chargois we're both a bit safer, and had/have nearly as much upside.

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IMO this is already an "egg on the face," situation and the best thing to do is to clean it up as quickly as possible. You're spot on Ted; Molitor has no desire to use Kinley, nor should he, as Kinley hasn't shown anything to suggest he can trusted. He's eating up a 25 man spot, the importance of which is magnified given Molitor's history of bullpen usage, the early struggles of some relievers, and the unpredictability of the starting staff. 

 

For me, cutting ties with Kinley won't be hard to stomach, it'll be a relief. However Bard and Chargois are performing now has nothing to do with what's best for the Twins. I get that the optics of cutting Kinley loose this early, or while Bard and Chargois are pitching well may make it seem worse in the eyes of some, but in reality are harming themselves by holding onto a guy that can't get into games. 

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The reality is that the Twins chose not to protect Bard or Burdi from the Rule 5 draft. I was as harsh on the Kinley selection when it happened for a couple of days, and for the very reasons you're mentioning (if you're going to select a hard-throwing RHP, why not just protect Bard?)... But that's the risk with every Rule 5. 

 

My guess is that the Twins aren't terribly surprised by Bard's success. They've touted his spin rates the last couple of years. I have no idea why they didn't protect him, but I know it had nothing to do with Kinley. 

 

As for Chargois, he's got options. They didn't have to keep him on the 25-man  roster regardless. That was just a weird DFAing, and weird timing, and it suggests something more. But again, I don't think there is a direct link between Kinley and Chargois. In all likelihood, I'm guessing Busenitz, Duffey and maybe even Curtiss were ahead of Chargois on the depth chart. 

 

Moya's thrown like 2.1 innings or whatever. He probably would have gone to AAA to start the season if they hadn't been wise and "DLd" Hughes, allowing them to keep an extra reliever. 

 

It's fun to mock and second guess everything. Like I've said, I do it too. But,, the reality is they've got a ton of RP depth and they clearly prioritized SP with their 40-man roster adds. It's hard to get too worked up about a Rule 5 pick. If they like and believe in Kinley's arm, they should keep him on the roster all year. If they question that, which they are free to, then they'll let him go back to the Marlins. 

Were they that confident that Bard wouldn't be selected? That's an honest question. 

 

The way I view it, there are only 40 roster spots. I think it's a fair assumption that if MN had spots in addition to the 40 allowed they would've kept Bard, Chargois, and Burdi. If the Twins were intent on selecting any player in the Rule V, they knew that a 40 man spot was required, which in turn means other players will be left unprotected. In that regard I do think the loss of Burdi and Bard via the draft has something to do with the selection of Kinley. I realize they cleared space for FA signings, but those came after the Rule V. Why not keep as many players as you can, and then make corresponding 40 man moves when a target FA has actually been signed? 

 

The Chargois move was inexplicable all around. If you have some idea of what they were thinking or what that "something more," it suggested is I'm all ears.   

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Looking at age and actual experience, the Twins were thinking Bard might not be selected. But that is the perfect pitcher for a team to select if they MIGHT be on the outside of competing. And if their pitching death needs the selection.

 

The Twins didn't need to select Kinley. They ahd the pitching depth. Sure, he might be a longer term prospect, but you also have to keep him on the roster who potentially lose him. Bard, Chargois...both had options. They could move freely up-and-down along with other names. That is a plus. Especially is you are a contending club. 

 

A contending club doesn't need someone on the roster that the manager will only play because it is a blowout. It's a totally wasted spot, or better left for someone much closer to regular play in the majors. You can argue if Moya is that person, too, so suddenly you have two guys of questionable current quality but lots of promise on the staff. Throw in the almost a rookie Hildenberger who had a mixed spring, as did Busenitz. Whew. And you worry that you might wear out Reed, Duke, Pressly, Taylor in the early season.

 

You are already opening the season with names like Mejia, Slegers, Enns also in the minor league winds. If they don't make a callup his season, due to injury or double-headers, they more than likely will be gone come next off-season. But if that is the case, if they aren't capable of playing in the majors right now, how long DO you keep them if you need, say, a third catcher because of a short-term disabled list visit.

 

Yes, you can hope to do a trade to keep a Kinley on the 40-man and send to the minors. But then, you still have a lot of pitchers on the 40-man NOT capable of pitching in the majors...too many by one's count already: Goncalves, Jorge, Romero, Thorpe, Littell, Curtis. But unlike the aforementioned names, THESE may develop into fulltime keepers, nt just on opening day, and maybe not even by mid-season.

 

And then you have a whole 'nother crop.

 

There is still a chance Burdi could return, if the Twins want him. Bard may flame out. But Chargois may be the real one that got away!

 

 

 

 

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The one you don't have always looks better than the one you have and the FO has shown a tendency to want to have players that they can claim as their own rather than promoting from within.  Take Kinley out of the conversation and the Chagois decision was just bad.  I do not need any metrics to change my mind and Kinley is no more advanced than what we have so why create the confusion.  I'm still waiting for Lynn to be better than Gonsalves.

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I'm still waiting for Lynn to be better than Gonsalves.

I'll agree with your premise, but this is a shot that falls real far off base. Lance Lynn was nothing short of awful in his debut, but he's absolutely a middle-of-the-rotation MLB starter. The hope is that Gonsalves turns into that, and while I think he's real close to MLB ready, it's absurd to suggest Lynn isn't a better pitcher at this point in their careers.

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Should we revisit the usage or lack of tendencies of Molitor again this year? It may be that he has no intent of pitching Kinsey. I'm not at all excusing the Rule 5 debacle, but if the manager doesn't trust said player he's not playing. Therefore, you don't get a good indicator of any value.

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I'm not sure how to quantify it really either. I mean I was a bit surprised it was Bard that was taken, and not Jake Reed. Still, the Twins simply didn't have enough 40 man spots to protect them all. What's odd is that even if it worked/works out, Kinley is a flier. Bard and Chargois we're both a bit safer, and had/have nearly as much upside.

 

This is my point, and I keep forgetting. Yes, they lost Bard and Burdi, which stunk, but they didn't' lose Reed, who I would guess if they did protect a RP on the 40-man, it would have been him. 

 

What Kinley has that Chargois hasn't had to this point... durability. Of course, as others have mentioned, guys are durable until they're not, so that could always change. 

 

I feel like I'm justifying the Kinley pick when I was probably most vocal about not understanding it. That's not my goal. Bard is one of my favorite people, and since he's been healthy, that spin rate and K-rate have been amazing. I just think that we're not privvy to all the information that the decision makers are, so there must be something. 

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Should we revisit the usage or lack of tendencies of Molitor again this year? It may be that he has no intent of pitching Kinsey. I'm not at all excusing the Rule 5 debacle, but if the manager doesn't trust said player he's not playing. Therefore, you don't get a good indicator of any value.

Ehhh, this is all part of the equation though. If Falvey and Levine are going to select a guy, they have to have some level of buy in from Molitor as well. If that ends up being that Molitor sees no value in sending Kinley out there though, the bullpen takes a significant dip in having bodies that can't be used.

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Last point... 

I was "upset" about losing Bard and then picking Kinley at that time.

But, at that time (late November), I think we all assumed that the offseason would take a much different route than it did. Obviously they intended to add veteran bullpen arms. They did. Obviously they decided to focus their 40-man roster spots on starting pitchers and they protected three starting pitchers and no relievers. I'm perplexed with those two takes why they would then take a similar, though not as good, reliever with their own Rule 5 pick, but they did. 

I also think let's not judge too much on anyone's MLB debut. There are nerves. There was cold weather. Other factors. I mean, if we're going to give up on a guy after their MLB debuts, then why are we still high on Trevor May. Let''s give Kinley some time. Maybe he'll be OK. Maybe he'll stink. I know which one I think will happen, but maybe he can become a solid 6th inning guy, and if that's the case, it's a very successful Rule 5 pick regardless of the other situations surrounding it. 

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I don't think sending a Rule 5 pick back to his original team is every an "egg on face" thing. It's the normal. Keeping Rule 5 picks is the unusual.

I don't think so either, and would agree. I think where there's a misstep is in taking a Rule 5 guy, while losing equally capable (or more) players, only to lose that Rule 5 guy less than a month into the year. Obviously this is all hypothetical, because if Kinley is given more of a leash than the roster could dictate, he'll have given them plenty of evaluation opportunity.

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Not protecting Luke Bard in the rule 5 draft made sense. The decisions on Burdi and Chargois are more concerning. To me it would have been a significantly better move to add Burdi to the 40-man roster and option Chargois to the minors. The Twins could currently have Burdi on the 60-day DL (opening up his 40-man roster spot) and have Chargois at AAA. In addition the Twins would have been able to utilize the last 25-man roster spot for a player that could actually contribute. Basically, the Twins could have had 2 high upside relievers (Burdi and Chargois) still in the organization while freeing an additional 25-man roster spot, instead they chose Kinley.

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Not protecting Luke Bard in the rule 5 draft made sense. The decisions on Burdi and Chargois are more concerning. To me it would have been a significantly better move to add Burdi to the 40-man roster and option Chargois to the minors. The Twins could currently have Burdi on the 60-day DL (opening up his 40-man roster spot) and have Chargois at AAA. In addition the Twins would have been able to utilize the last 25-man roster spot for a player that could actually contribute. Basically, the Twins could have had 2 high upside relievers (Burdi and Chargois) still in the organization while freeing an additional 25-man roster spot, instead they chose Kinley.

 

And neither of those things would have stopped them from still taking Kinley, or any other Rule 5 pick. 

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I get that our scouting department saw something with Kinley and it was totally reasonable to act on acquiring him - this is what the scouts get paid for. That said, why didn’t the FO just make a trade for him using one of the guys we ended up losing in the Rule 5?

 

Am I missing something other than losing out on the gamble the FO made in the Rule 5 process? If not it seems we could have had our Kinley and ate it too without this 25 man conundrum.

 

btw....I’m actually a fan of taking shots on Rule 25 players - even Haley last year. And I also can see the upside with Kinley, but am having real trouble making sense of how we got here (like most of you).

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I think the Twins need to either offer the Marlins a minor leaguer to trade for Kinley's rights or let him go. Kinley has some intriguing stuff but he needs more time in the high minors (AA or AAA, either is fine) and the Twins shouldn't be messing around with the 7th bullpen slot. With Hildy and Duke being erratic, we could use Busenitz or Moya in that spot over Kinley, of whom Molitor isn't going to trust. We saw how this played out with Haley last year and it's going to be a repeat of that situation if they try to keep him on the roster for the whole season.

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The FO schooled themselves on this one.  They didn't need to make the Kinley move as they had in house options that were just as good.  Look I am an idiot and could see this failing from the moment they picked him.  He is old, inexperienced and wild with no option to send him up and down.  It was just absolutely idiotic to think this would work out well.  They have so much egg on their face it is impossible not to laugh at them.

 

Look I like a lot of things they have done but I never liked this move from the moment they made it.  They messed up and they should own it.

 

I will say that though I am pissed they lost Chargios they still have plenty of relief arm options so if they were going to gamble I guess this is the place to gamble but in IMO it was still a bad gamble.

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For $100,000, it's foolish not to take a look. With Burdi, Bard, and Chargois the front office sent a strong message. If everything is more or less equal, they are going to keep those with a track record of being healthy.

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4 games each for Chargois and Bard. 1 for Kinley, 2 for Moya. Not much to go on  Think of the lights out bullpen would have been as Belisle has yet to give up a run this year. Take that for the small sample size judgements.  Give it some time and see what happens. Vargas has yet to strike out in a game for Rochester....

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I have never been convinced that Molitor and Falvine are actually on the same page. But that's from the outside reading between the lines. That said, no one really knows about Kinley, as there are limited games, the weather has been bleep, and Molitor won't use him unless we are down by 7. So the jury is still out on Kinley as a pitcher. Another poster mentioned getting Molitor on board with theses moves. But the bottom line is he would not have used Bard, and didn't appear to fond of Shaggy either. Veterans. It's how he rolls. I don't know whether the FO should adapt to that theory, or Molitor should adapt to his roster. But until they straighten it out, it's obvious you can't shove young players onto him, and locking yourself into non flexible roster spot was a mistake. That or extending Molitor was?

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If Molitor didn't win Manager of the Year, would he still be managing the Twins?

 

But back to Kinley. You grab a Rule 5 if you don't have significant depth at said position. The Twins have too much depth (when 25 of your 40-men are pitchers). You don't need to carry a Rule 5 prospect if you are a contending team.

 

They got into a mess when they needed to add people like (Sanchez) Lynn to the 40-man roster. You can't cut loose of-season adds, so you only have the names to deal with who were on the roster by season's end, at best. Come spring training, yes, you can make subtractions.

 

You wonder if Chargois would've been able to pass thru waivers right at season's end when he was still coming of the disabled list. But still, the Pirates took a gamble on Burdi (and by putting him on their 60-day, he gets major league money for not pitching). 

 

It's tricky enough, now, when the Twins have to make a move on the 35-man to add, say, Hughes. What happens when Santana returns. Who goes when May is ready to come off the 60-day.

 

What players are on the bubble and will they get a looksee before a cutsee: Enns, Slegers, Mejia? The Twins don't have a lot of 40-man flexibility right now. If they would need a temporary catcher, who does that guy bump off the 40-man? 

 

You have to look at the bigger pitcher with Kinley. Does he have the stuff? Yes. Better than other guys you have at High-A and AA, probably not. Who did you lose by keeping a spot open for a Rule 5 - Burdi and Bard. Lucky Reed didn't get grabbed. If Kinley wasn't here, who wold be in the majors: Duffey, perhaps Busenitz, depending on Moya. And we still have Curtiss out there in the mix. 

 

What makes the pick tragic will be if he (1) doesn't get a chance to showase his stuff because of Molly and (2) he is sent back to his original team. 

 

Not only wasted innings, but wasted roster space.

 

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