Jhoan Duran is not only the best reliever the Twins have had since Joe Nathan; he is the most talented pitcher they have had since Johan Santana/2006 Francisco Liriano. There have certainly been talented players throughout that timespan, even an all-star or two, but no one has had the absolute shutdown stuff this guy possesses. If he is remotely near the zone, opposing hitters have little to zero chance of doing anything. So why not try him in the rotation?
Twins fans have been begging for an ace since Santana's departure following the 2007 season. The closest we have come was probably Ervin Santana or Jose Berrios. Instead, we have been treated to the likes of Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, Kyle Gibson, Lance Lynn, and Jake Odorizzi. They were not bad pitchers, but they were not aces. Don't get me started on the likes of Samuel Deduno, Ricky Nolasco, Scott Diamond, or Hector Santiago. Feel free to add some more of your favorite lukewarm bowls of mashed potatoes to this list. I'm sure I left off some true gems.
So again, why not try Duran in the rotation? The whispers have already begun. He has starting experience (though with a bit of injury history). He's 6'5", 230lbs, and his body can take the innings. He has four pitches (4SFB, splinker, curveball, slider/cutter), a trait uncommon for relievers but usually necessary for starters. All the signs point to him being rotation capable, especially if he were to add a change-up. It wouldn't even have to be that good, and he would have an insane makeup as a starter. The temptation is palpable, and I have had these thoughts in the back of my head since the first time I watched this guy unleash the nastiest repertoire I have ever seen. It's not just the velocity and the movement, but the command. It is unique from others that possess stuff approaching the filth he brings.
All this being said, the answer is to resist the temptation. As tantalizing a notion as it would be, knowing every fifth day you get to watch this magnificent beast bring triple digits and then make hitters look foolish as they flail over the top of a mid-upper 80s hammer, we must resist.
Look at his numbers, folks. It's upsetting how good he was, especially in the second half when he really found his mojo. He was a man who was never rattled, never deterred. He knew he was better than anyone stepping into that box, and yes, I mean ANYONE, and it showed.
Confidence and mental state are crucial to all aspects of baseball, but especially to pitching. To a certain degree, to be a true stud on the mound, you have to have the mindset that you are the biggest and baddest motherf----- in the land. No one can beat you. That mindset comes from confidence, which comes from success.
Putting Duran in the rotation risks that success. Duran just turned 25 this month; messing with a young player who has already achieved that mindset is dangerous. You risk getting the yips after a few bad starts and then not being able to return to form in the pen. The yips are real and can happen. Anyone who has pitched knows this to be a harsh reality. It is just not worth it. Yes, we may never know if we have a true ace amongst us here and now, but we have the baddest mofo we could ever ask for, and that needs to be enough.