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What To Do With Devin Smeltzer

Cody Pirkl



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blog-0746581001578323825.jpg2019 was a fun year for so many reasons. Our Minnesota Twins fielded a historically great offense, bashing teams into submission for the entirety of the regular season. We watched huge homeruns soar out of Target Field, we watched clutch performances from our workhorses like Jose Berrios, as well as game ending dominant performances from Taylor Rogers. 2019 will be a year of fantastic Twins memories for me. Looking back on it however, no memory is quite as vivid to me as Devin Smeltzer's debut for some reason.


Smeltzer was acquired at the trade deadline in 2018 along with Luke Raley for Brian Dozier. Twins fans were sad, Dodgers fans were happy, just another year for Minnesota sports fans. As 2019 rolled on however, we started to see that we hadn't just given Dozier away for peanuts. Smeltzer rifled through AA after 30 innings. Apparently a .60 ERA was enough to get a promotion. In AAA, Smeltzer fared well, pitching to a 3.63 ERA and respectable 23.2 K%. When the Twins were in need of a spot start on May 28th, Smeltzer got the call.


Smeltzer was tasked with facing a vaunted Brewers lineup. The big storyline as you have all likely heard by now was that Devin Smeltzer, a childhood cancer survivor, had fought his way into the major leagues. It was about as fantastic of a storyline you'll find in the MLB, and that paired with my excitement to see the individual behind the gaudy numbers he had put up in the minors, I was glued to that couch cushion for this one. He went on to allow 3 hits over 6 innings, striking out 7 Brewers that night.


Smeltzer would finish the year cycling in and out of the rotation, as Pineda's suspension and Kyle Gibson's illness left plenty of innings to fill. He would finish the season with a 3.86 ERA and 4.58 FIP. He had a tougher time striking out hitters at the major league level, sending only 18.8% of the batters he faced down on strikes. This along with his difficulty with the longball (1.47/9) were the reason for the discrepancy in his ERA and FIP.


Smeltzer was used in a few roles as the season went on. He accumulated 30.2 innings pitched as a starter, finishing with a 4.11 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .239/.294.410 slash line. As a reliever in 18.1 innings, Smeltzer had a seemingly better 3.44 ERA, although this appeared to be questionable given his triple slash allowed of .306/.342/.556. Let's also not forget the 3.1 innings of 2 hits 4 Ks, and no runs against the Yankees out of the bullpen in the playoffs.


Looking ahead to 2020, Devin Smeltzer's role is up in the air. He comes off a relatively strong rookie season. While some peripherals say he overperformed, he also has some favorable Statcast number with his fastball spin rate falling into the 87th percentile, as well as a curveball in the 81st percentile. Would these measurements be best maximized in the traditional starter role we saw Smeltzer debut in? As it stands, there are two rotation spots open for the combination of Dobnak, Thorpe, and Smeltzer until Rich Hill returns from injury and Michael Pineda comes off his suspension. Even if Smeltzer gets the short end of the stick for a rotation spot, he can begin the season in AAA to stay stretched out until we need him (A strong possibility after what we've seen in 2019). Would Smeltzer's skill set play up in a bullpen role? The Twins still lack a lefty other than Taylor Rogers in the bullpen. Where would you like to see Devin Smeltzer in 2020 for our Minnesota Twins?


I would also like to take this opportunity to share the link to Devin Smeltzer's ongoing fundraising for pediatric cancer. As a childhood cancer survivor himself, Devin has set up a page of awesome merchandise where the proceeds go to Katie's Krusaders, a foundation that funds expenses for pediatric cancer patients. This program made headlines a few months ago, but I wanted to make sure people are aware of the great work Devin does off the field, which can be lost in the shuffle when you're tuning into what he does on the field.





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Thanks. He really is a great story.


I think he gets a shot at those early starts with Pineda and Hill out and makes it hard for the Twins to take him out of the rotation when they return. Keeping hitters off balance and sequencing are key for him. He is going to throw his off speed and breaking stuff more than half the time. They have got to get that mix right.

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I liked the way the Twins played revolving chairs w/ AAA pitching last year. I hope they use the false starters more this season, to keep the starters & BP fresh for the whole season. In this scenario they can use their AAA more effectively & give them more ML experience

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