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Bailey Ober wasn’t a top prospect headed into 2021 but now looks like a fixture in the 2022 rotation. While not a highly-touted arm, Ober has vaulted himself into the Twins plans. Who could be the next Bailey Ober in 2022?

There appear to be plenty of innings to go around in 2022. While we hope to see prospects such as Jordan Balazovic and Jhoan Duran debut, Bailey Ober is proof that it isn’t always the shiny top prospect that storms into the Major Leagues. The Twins have a few arms in the minors who could be a pleasant surprise to the MLB club next season.

Drew Strotman - Twins MLB.com Ranking: 17

The less-hyped player in the Nelson Cruz return this summer, Strotman went straight to St. Paul upon his arrival where it appears he’ll finish his season. Once a strong control pitcher, Strotman has had a walk rate over 12% this year. The Twins may be able to attribute this to his 2018 Tommy John surgery and inability to knock off the last of the rust with the lack of a 2020 season.

Still, Strotman has plenty to like. He can hit the mid-90s as a starter with his best offering being a cutter with a decent curveball to pair with it. He was striking out nearly 25% of his hitters faced  with a mid-3s ERA with Tampa’s AAA team in Durham before struggling across the board with the Saints, possibly a result of him hitting an innings wall in his first full season back.

Strotman will be 25 next season and already possesses a 40-man roster spot. He’s in the most convenient spot of all three of these pitchers to get one of the first calls next season, especially if he comes out on fire to open the season.

Cole Sands - Twins MLB.com Ranking: 19

Sands has spent 2021 exclusively at AA after a brief debut there in 2019. Despite his 10.4% walk rate this year, he’s long had the reputation as a strike-thrower, never before walking more than 6.3% of hitters. It’s a safe bet on Sands regaining that control which would bode well for his future considering he’s maintained a strikeout rate of 30% in 2021.

Sands has also limited the long ball in his minor league career. 2021 is his career-worst with a still-respectable 0.93 HR/9. With a 2.93 ERA at AA this year, Sands will get the call to the next level sooner rather than later. At that point, his high floor for strikeouts, low walk totals and limiting homers puts him in a great spot to get an opportunity when the Twins need innings filled in 2022. It’s the same baseline of skills that Bailey Ober used to get to the big leagues.

Chris Vallimont - Twins MLB.com Ranking: 21

In some ways, 2021 has been a disappointment for Chris Vallimont who’s sporting a 6.00 ERA at the AA level through 78 innings. He hadn’t shown a huge control problem prior to this year but has walked 14.4% of batters faced. He used to limit homers but has allowed a 1.27 per 9 innings this year. Still, that 6.00 ERA indicates a bit of bad luck according to his 4.40 FIP and 4.62 xFIP.

Vallimont still shows a strong ability to strike out opponents, and has done so at a 32.1% rate. If he can return to his career norms in terms of walks and homers allowed, he could move aggressively to the MLB level as he’ll be 25 to begin 2022. He seems to have the raw stuff to dominate hitters if he can manage to iron out some kinks.

If there’s one thing we can expect from the pitching staff next season, it’s that there will be plenty of opportunities. Bailey Ober appears to be a diamond in the rough, thrown into a trial by fire due to a pitching staff that completely turned over by season’s end. Could one of these three be the next development arm to take this route to success? Could it be one not listed here?

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31 minutes ago, roger said:

You talk about significantly increased walk rates as a problem for all three this year.  Is it possible this is the result of none of these pitchers pitching in 2020?  Would be interesting to see if that is common throughout the minor leagues.

If I'm remembering correctly Simeon Woods Richardson was also struggling with walks for the first time in his career in Toronto's system early this year. Would be interesting to look at walk, and injury, rates amongst minor league pitchers this year. I feel like somebody around here could find some data.

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1 hour ago, chpettit19 said:

If I'm remembering correctly Simeon Woods Richardson was also struggling with walks for the first time in his career in Toronto's system early this year. Would be interesting to look at walk, and injury, rates amongst minor league pitchers this year. I feel like somebody around here could find some data.

It may not be the sole reason for it (the higher BB rates), but I'm sure it factors in there somewhat for many pitchers in the Twins org and possible throughout the league.

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49 minutes ago, Vanimal46 said:

If I were a betting person, I’d put my money on Cole Sands. His increase in walks isn’t as steep as the others, and he keeps the ball in the playing field. There’s a lot to like about him. 

I really like Sands too I just worry about his durability.  He does seem to get hurt each year he has been in the minors.  He looks the most Oberesque to me as well as he likes the top of the zone and his stuff plays well at the top of the zone as well.  Hopefully his arm can take the load otherwise I see him in the pen.

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Now that we at close to the end of a full season, I find it hard to believe that the lack of  the 2020 season is the reason they are still walking more. It seems to all through the system. Is it possible that the Twins pitching philosophy is screwed up? Maybe Shoemaker had a point.

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Enlow might not be enough under the radar guy to be the next Ober but I have a feeling he emerges next year.  I guess Sands is the same kind of under the radar prospect that could turn into a solid MLB starter.  

Valimont is nothing like Ober in that he struggles with command and Ober has plus command.  However, he has the stuff and he would be very good if he were able to develop even average command.  He is 24 and it does not seem to be improving so I have my doubts.  I am hoping moving to the BP and getting more frequent reps helps his control.

Sawyer Gibson-Long is the one that most reminds me of Ober.  Great command.  He would be a good bet if he could dial up the velo a couple mph like Ober was able to do.
 

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I don't think any of these guys are the next Ober.  Ober had supreme command for a minor leaguer, and it's translated to very good command in his first MLB stint.  It's also why he has a chance to be very, very good going forward, because "very good" command is going to return to "great." That's just not going to happen with others.

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I'm still not sure that Bailey Ober is the next Bailey Ober. I mean, I'm somewhat encouraged but this is all wayyyyy too soon.

Maybe since I don't have anything nice to say, I'll just wait to comment on your next article, which will likely be titled thusly: "Viola. Blyleven. Santana. Ober: let's debate the top Twins pitchers of all time".

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I've been reading a bit lately about players that used to be Twins flourishing on other teams while we play people on our team that seem obviously "not ready for prime time".  Only two pitchers come to mind right now, JT Chargois and Luis Gill (really?  We traded a possible big league pitcher for Jake Cave?), but would like to see someone on this site put together a list of Baddoos and Lamonte Wades (I saw no future for Wade, don't remember Baddoo playing in the majors) that would be playing for the Twins today.  Give me Wade and Gill for Cave and I'll be real happy.

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On 9/5/2021 at 10:43 AM, beterday said:

I've been reading a bit lately about players that used to be Twins flourishing on other teams while we play people on our team that seem obviously "not ready for prime time".  Only two pitchers come to mind right now, JT Chargois and Luis Gill (really?  We traded a possible big league pitcher for Jake Cave?), but would like to see someone on this site put together a list of Baddoos and Lamonte Wades (I saw no future for Wade, don't remember Baddoo playing in the majors) that would be playing for the Twins today.  Give me Wade and Gill for Cave and I'll be real happy.

Maybe it would be better if you saw a list for the whole league. I would guess this happens with every team. Player development is more of a crap shoot in MLB than any other sport. Hindsight is 20/20. All teams make minor trades that include young lottery tickets like Gil and some of the Twins prospects you read about were acquired this way. What happens if Baddoo settles in as a 4th outfielder type and Miranda is an all-star? Do we then criticize the Detroit FO for taking the wrong guy?

 

I will agree that there are some fringe vet types on the 40 man at times that I would love to hear the reasoning explained.

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