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Why Collin McHugh is a Fit for the 2020 Twins


Andrew Luedtke

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blog-0050999001579233469.jpgIn his fourth offseason at the head of the Minnesota Twins, there are two words Derek Falvey wishes he could take back, "Impact Pitching".

 

It's all the casual Twins fan has been talking about this offseason, up until the Josh Donaldson signing, of course.

 

The fact of the matter is that the Twins were agressive in pursuing their "Plan A" options for the offseason in free agents Ryu, Bumgarner, and Wheeler. It just didn't work out, mostly because of forces outside of their control.

 

To me, the Josh Donaldson signing signaled that the front office is pushing their chips to the middle of the table in 2020. At 34 years old, Donaldson might only have two years of elite production left. Now might be the time to capitalize in making that final offseason move for "impact pitching" right?; not necessarily.

 

The Twins made a pair of early offseason moves to their staff with Odorizzi accepting their Qualifying Offer, Pineda coming back on a two year deal, and a pair of New Years Eve signings in Rich Hill and Homer Bailey.

 

There is no doubt the Opening Day pitching staff still has some question marks but on paper this is a fine starting 5.

 

The question marks of course come from Pineda who is suspended for the first 39 games of 2020 and Rich Hill, who had "primary and revision" surgery and won't be back until "June or July".

 

Per Fangraphs Team Depth Charts 2020 Projections, the Twins starting staff projects to have a total WAR of 11.6, ranked 21st in MLB. Now, like I mentioned, this is because of the starts that should be made by Pineda and Hill in April - June will have to be made up by the likes of Dobnak, Smeltzer, and Thorpe. Fangraphs projects that this trio will pitch 169 total innings - which may be too many for a team with deep playoff run aspirations. But if things shake out like the Twins hope, they will have a fine starting 5 for the second half of the year, not even factoring in a potential July 31st trade. But they have to get there first. That's the key.

 

Twins Total WAR

 

As of right now there are two options the Twins have to add to their existing rotation, trade or sign a remaining free agent.

 

Sure, trading for a Robbie Ray, Matthew Boyd, or Jon Gray would be nice. However, it seems that with each day closer to Spring Training, that possibility dwindles.

 

What if they went a different direction...

 

What if they were able to sign a pitcher with starting experience who can bridge the gap in April and May to fill in until Pineda's return?

 

What if once he is not needed in the rotation anymore he can be added to the bullpen to strengthen the back end of baseball games?

 

What if he actually happens to be a very good reliever?

 

Enter, Collin McHugh.

 

Collin McHugh - The Starter

 

In 2016 - 2017, McHugh started 45 games for the Astros.

 

In 248 innings, McHugh posted a 4.14 ERA, 3.92 FIP, and a 8.7 k/9.

 

McHugh 2016   2017

 

He missed quite a bit of time in 2017 with right shoulder tendonitis. In 2018 he pitched only in the bullpen (more on that in a minute).

 

In 2019, the Astros put McHugh in the rotation on Opening Day. On the surface his numbers are ugly as a starter.

 

In 8 starts, he posted a 6.37 ERA in 41 innings with a 9.2 k/9 allowing an OPS of .808 (yikes).

 

McHugh Starter Vs Reliever

 

But let's break this down a bit and only focus on the first six starts he made in 2019, as that really is all the Twins would need out of him before Pineda is back on May 10th.

 

McHugh Game Log

 

McHugh only had one rough start. If you eliminate that outing, 5 of those 6 starts were very good. He threw 28.2 innings, struck out 36 batters, had three quality starts (one out away from 4), and allowed 8 runs - a 2.51 ERA.

 

That tells a much different story.

 

Collin McHugh - The Reliever

 

As stated earlier, in 2018 McHugh became a full time reliever. He was outstanding posting a 1.99 ERA, 2.72 FIP, a 11.7 k/9 in 72.1 innings. He also pitched in 4 playoff games that year allowing zero runs in 4 innings.

 

After he was done starting in 2019, he went back to the Astros bullpen posting a 2.67 ERA, a 10.7 k/9, in 27 appearances across 33.2 innings.

 

 

McHugh As Reliever

 

Solid.

 

Do I think the Twins still need an "impact" SP to propel them to postseason success? Sure. Do I think the July 2019 Twins rotation could be very solid? Of course. But, they have to get there. Collin McHugh would help the Twins do that and add depth to an already established bullpen core for the second half of the season. A very hybrid and cost effective approach to bolstering the Opening Day Twins rotation. They can always wait to make their "impact pitching" move until the July 31st deadline. Signing McHugh would allow them the flexibility to do that.

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Wow. A very convincing arguement. Other than trade, the only guys I would consider were Wood and Walker. We lost out on Wood, a mistake IMO, but could still have a very interesting flier in Walker.

 

I have never really considered McHugh. Probably was dismissive of being 32yo, so-so stat line from 2019, and not considered a true SO. But you've made me look closer to not only 2019, but to his career, and now I'm thinking he would be a cheap, 1yr late January addition that could make an awful lot of sense.

 

While every addition has certainly not worked out, the FO has made it a habit the past couple of years of brining guys in late on value contracts. Could this be another one?

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I think there's certainly a good argument to be made that he would be a good signing. If they announced that they'd picked him up on a reasonable deal today I'd be happy. I just wonder if they're inclined to do so with the way the pitching staff is already constructed. He had elbow problems last season and while another arm in the mix for the rotation would be great, we're already counting on missed time from Pineda and Hill. 

 

He'd be a good swing man for the rotation and bullpen, although I think they like their young guys to be able to fill that role. The other issue is the 40 man at this point. They already have to dump someone for Donaldson. I would get rid of Wisler all day for McHugh but it looks like the front office has taken a strong interest in him so I don't know that they would. They may be at a point where the pitching additions they're looking at are high impact and they're trusting the lower rungs to be filled out by the young guys.

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Good thought, It depends on what type pitcher he is. If he`s like Bailey, we don`t need another ground ball pitcher. 1 is plenty. I believe we can a get higher upside pitcher. We have plenty of pitchers to fill in as reliever who would do a good job

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Thanks for stopping by. I would have liked to take a flier on Wood...especially for the price the Dodgers paid. I think he has upside in the rotation and if that didn't work out, he had solid numbers in the 'pen. Could have been a good lefty option to compliment Rogers. Oh well. I could be talked into Walker but the reason I liked McHugh was because he could be added to the bullpen after making some spot starts in the rotation. His SP numbers in 2019 were not pretty but after seeing he was pretty good in 5 of his first 6 starts, why not go get him on a one-year deal. 

Wow. A very convincing arguement. Other than trade, the only guys I would consider were Wood and Walker. We lost out on Wood, a mistake IMO, but could still have a very interesting flier in Walker. I have never really considered McHugh. Probably was dismissive of being 32yo, so-so stat line from 2019, and not considered a true SO. But you've made me look closer to not only 2019, but to his career, and now I'm thinking he would be a cheap, 1yr late January addition that could make an awful lot of sense. While every addition has certainly not worked out, the FO has made it a habit the past couple of years of brining guys in late on value contracts. Could this be another one?

 

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They're pretty different pitchers. Here are their 2018 - 2019 stats as a comparison. McHugh gets more K's and is better overall. Plus, I envision under this "swingman" idea, he would see most of his time in the bullpen after Pineda returns. 

 

McHugh Vs Bailey

Good thought, It depends on what type pitcher he is. If he`s like Bailey, we don`t need another ground ball pitcher. 1 is plenty. I believe we can a get higher upside pitcher. We have plenty of pitchers to fill in as reliever who would do a good job

 

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That's an awesome point that I guess I should have addressed in the blog. The price for McHugh is not just McHugh...it's McHugh and whoever you lose. I agree. I think they see something in Wisler and it might be tough to bump him for McHugh if they believe Wisler has more upside than McHugh. McHugh's health being a factor too. Jon Gray or Robbie Ray, that's a different story. My hope is that if they go with this swingman approach with a young guy, they stick Graterol in the rotation then move him to the pen once Pineda returns or later. Currently, I feel there is too much weight in Thorpe, Smelly, and Dobnak. This would alleviate slightly some pressure. 

I think there's certainly a good argument to be made that he would be a good signing. If they announced that they'd picked him up on a reasonable deal today I'd be happy. I just wonder if they're inclined to do so with the way the pitching staff is already constructed. He had elbow problems last season and while another arm in the mix for the rotation would be great, we're already counting on missed time from Pineda and Hill. 

 

He'd be a good swing man for the rotation and bullpen, although I think they like their young guys to be able to fill that role. The other issue is the 40 man at this point. They already have to dump someone for Donaldson. I would get rid of Wisler all day for McHugh but it looks like the front office has taken a strong interest in him so I don't know that they would. They may be at a point where the pitching additions they're looking at are high impact and they're trusting the lower rungs to be filled out by the young guys.

 

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Definitely, not a bad idea.  If we don't go out and get a difference maker or top of the rotation arm having a good swingman makes sense if not another depth arm.  I am not sold on Homer yet.  I think he could be better or he could be a Martin Perez redux.  having an extra arm is about all that we need to wrap up the offseason.  Not saying we absolutely have to have another arm either as we do have several arms ready to come up and a few more that are close enough.  but having one more depth option if not an ace is a good idea.

 

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