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Shoemaker and the Twins Starting Depth


Ted Schwerzler

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When the Minnesota Twins set out to supplement their roster this offseason a couple of different areas presented themselves as needs. Starting pitching will always remain one as you can never have enough, but the organization is in rarefied air.

 

Following his signing with the Houston Astros it’s more than fair to suggest the Twins would’ve been well-served to wait out Jake Odorizzi. He clearly over-anticipated his market however and found a landing spot only after Framber Valdez dealt a blow to Dusty Baker’s starting rotation. Instead, Minnesota went with a one-year deal to Matt Shoemaker that set the club back just $2 million. At the time, and even now, that has the makings of a pretty shrewd move.

 

If you’re at all familiar with Shoemaker’s track record you know this, he hasn’t been available often. Across seven full Major League seasons he’s made 15 or more starts just three times, while failing to reach double digits in each of the past three. Injury issues have plagued him, but it’s worth noting that the injuries haven’t been arm related. In hoping for a regression to the fluky nature that has kept him sidelined, you have to take note of the production that has been there.

 

Back in 2016 was the last time Shoemaker threw more than 100 innings. Across 27 starts that year he posted a 3.88 ERA backed by a 3.51 FIP and an 8.0 K/9. It was the third year in a row in which he’d tallied both 20 starts and 130+ innings pitched. In that time, he owned a 3.80 ERA with a 3.77 FIP and an 8.0 K/9. When available the veteran has been incredibly consistent. He’s good for a high-threes ERA while striking out right around eight per nine and being very stingy on the free passes. Even as a third starter that would play, and he’ll pitch out of the Minnesota five-hole.

 

 

What’s maybe most important for the Twins in all of this isn’t even what Shoemaker himself brings to the table, but rather what he affords the club in regards to those around him. Randy Dobnak has started a Postseason game, Lewis Thorpe is a former top prospect that has been the darling of Spring Training, and the duo of Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic are close. That doesn’t even touch on Devin Smeltzer, who has Major League experience as well. None of them will factor into the rotation on Opening Day.

 

In 2020 Rocco Baldelli had 11 different players starts a game (two of which were openers). For the Bomba Squad a year prior, 10 different players made starts (one of which was an opener). Depth is something every team must have in the rotation, and that will probably ring truer than ever coming off such a shortened schedule a season ago. Because of what this front office has done in the development department, the Twins could be more prepared now than they ever have been before.

 

A year ago, the Twins posted the 5th best fWAR among starters in baseball. That improved upon a 7th place finish in 2019. Derek Falvey had long been considered a pitching guru for his time in Cleveland, and he’s quickly carried that acumen to a new organization. I’m not sure who will contribute what, and which starters will be there at the end, but you can bet the stable is right where the organization feels comfortable when it comes to pieces at their disposal.

 

Maybe Matt Shoemaker only gives his new club something like ten starts in 2021. That’s still more than Rich Hill or Homer Bailey a season ago, and the flexibility he provides the Twins in terms of additional depth is a bonus that can’t be overstated. Let him be healthy because he’s been good when available. When the time comes to make a change, options will be plentiful.

 

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

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You neglected what I see as another plus in the Shoemaker signing -- not having to rush Happ to get ready. 

 

The Twins COULD skip their No. 5 with a couple early off days, but they don't tend to do that. I especially don't see them doing that this year, with the concern about guys who didn't pitch a full year. So with Shoemaker, they can start Maeda on Thursday (4/1) and then have Berrios-Pineda-Shoemaker-Dodnak-Maeda-Berrios in the six-day stretch before the off day on the 9th. So, they could IL Happ at the beginning of the year, avoiding the need to rush lengthening him out.

 

Then, on the 10th, they start the stretch with 12 straight days, so they could start Happ then, or wait until as late as the 15th. By that point, they could have all back and make the decision of whether to go with a six-man rotation for a time or move Dobnak to the bullpen or St. Paul. And by then, someone else could have easily gone down, still leaving them with five stretched-out guys and Thorpe stretched out in St. Paul (assuming he gets the extra option). 

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You neglected what I see as another plus in the Shoemaker signing -- not having to rush Happ to get ready. 

 

The Twins COULD skip their No. 5 with a couple early off days, but they don't tend to do that. I especially don't see them doing that this year, with the concern about guys who didn't pitch a full year. So with Shoemaker, they can start Maeda on Thursday (4/1) and then have Berrios-Pineda-Shoemaker-Dodnak-Maeda-Berrios in the six-day stretch before the off day on the 9th. So, they could IL Happ at the beginning of the year, avoiding the need to rush lengthening him out.

 

Then, on the 10th, they start the stretch with 12 straight days, so they could start Happ then, or wait until as late as the 15th. By that point, they could have all back and make the decision of whether to go with a six-man rotation for a time or move Dobnak to the bullpen or St. Paul. And by then, someone else could have easily gone down, still leaving them with five stretched-out guys and Thorpe stretched out in St. Paul (assuming he gets the extra option). 

Very, very good points. They are afforded quite a bit of rope in decisions because of him, yes.

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Excited for Twins pitching this year, not only pitchers who will pitch early in year, but also for prospects coming up later in year and next year. Twins look like they are in good position with starting pitching for the next few years. When is last time anyone could say that.

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