The time to make changes in the starting rotation is coming with Mahle due off the IL in about a week. Mahle, Gray and Ryan are easy picks, everyone else is in play - pick two of Bundy, Archer, Aaron Sanchez, Smeltzer, Louie Varland, SWR for 5, or should we go to a 6 man rotation and pick 3? Who goes into the bullpen?
To me, first choice is obvious - Dylan Bundy, The man has a 2.33 ERA in August and has kept the Twins in every game he's started this month. Rocco needs to try giving him a shot at going more than 5 innings but he has been an above average 4/5 rotation guy for the last month. The second choice is less obvious but the guy it shouldn't be is pretty clear - Chris Archer. He had a 11.74 ERA in July and has a 5.24 ERA in August. While he was better earlier, he only pitched 19 innings last year and is coming off a potentially career ending injury. He is running out of gas. Either put him in the bullpen or shut him down.
That leaves Smeltzer and Sanchez on the roster, and Louie Varland and SWR down in AAA. Smeltzer was exposed while in the rotation before - 1.50 ERA in May, 4.10 in June, 8.76 in July - and actually looks the part of a long reliever with a 1.80 ERA since coming back up. Varland is tempting but he just got to AAA. SWR still has control issues and also just got there, and there isn't anyone else on the Saints roster who looks like anything close to a MLB starter. Those two could come up on 9/1 and still be under the 45 days so retain their rookie status for 2023. Very tempting to try to catch lightning in a bottle but I just don't think either one is ready. Here's your winner - Aaron Sanchez. Yes, he was bad with the Nats, but his 2 starts with the Twins so far have been a total of 9 innings, 4 runs. He would have gone longer against Houston if Rocco hadn't messed up. His pitches have life and I could see him being very good against weaker teams and holding his own against better ones. If he pitches well Sunday against the Giants I think he's the man for the #5 spot in the rotation.
For the bullpen, two changes jump out at me. First, Brad Peacock or Jharel Cotton should come up and replace Megill. Megill has good stuff, but he's been figured out - 1.86 ERA in July, 6.55 in August. Peacock is experienced and can better give us back of the bullpen work. Cotton had a 2.83 ERA when sent down, albeit with a FIP over 5. He's risky, but we could use another multi inning/long man with the shorter starts and he can fill that role. Archer stays and hits the BP or goes on IL. I would also be ok with Moran coming up if Archer goes on the IL. Remember, we get 2 more spots on 9/1 and one of them can be a pitcher so we can add one for a 9 man bullpen. I say add Peacock and Cotton, move Archer to the bullpen, option Megill and option/DFA Pagan. Moran can come up if there's an injury but remember, once he comes up he's hit his limit for the year and can't be sent back down without exposing him to waivers.
That would give us a starting rotation as of 9/1 of Mahle, Gray, Ryan, Bundy, Sanchez. The Bullpen is Duran and Lopez as the late inning guys, Jax, Theilbar, Fullmer, Archer (or Moran) and Peacock for innings 6-8, and Smeltzer and Cotton as the multi inning/long men. Smeltzer and Archer are the emergency starters. That's our best pitching staff for September in my view.
What say ye?