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Twins Avoid Another Mistake, Protect Big Arm


Much has been made of how badly the Akil Baddoo situation worked out for the Minnesota Twins. He hadn’t played since 2019 and was coming off an injury, but the 40 man roster had other expendable pieces, and the Detroit Tigers made it hurt. This time around, Minnesota sought to avoid a repeat performance.

With the deadline to add players onto the 40 man roster affording them protection from being exposed in the Rule 5 draft, the Twins had four locks: Royce Lewis, Jose Miranda, Cole Sands, and Josh Winder. From there, the next most logical addition was Blayne Enlow. His case was an uncertain one, however, as he underwent Tommy John surgery this past summer.

Enlow didn’t pitch in 2020 due to the minor league shut down, and he got in just 14 2/3 innings in 2021 before the arm surgery. Having topped out at High-A Cedar Rapids, the 22-year-old is plenty far from the majors as well. Don’t let that fool you, though, as this is an arm Minnesota should’ve had a chance at seeing this year. That would’ve been a monumental leap from Iowa to St. Paul and eventually Minneapolis across one season, but it also highlights this organization's belief in the kid.

Minnesota’s front office selected Enlow in the third round of the 2017 Major League Baseball draft, their first with the organization. After taking Royce Lewis first overall, the Twins went with Landon Leach in round two with the hopes of saving slot value and spending more on Enlow. Ultimately agreeing to a $2 million bonus that checked in as the highest mark of the third round and was $600 thousand more than Minnesota gave to the pick before. Steering him away from a commitment to Louisiana State University, the Twins liked the right-handed prep arm.

To this point in his professional career, Enlow has proven the Twins front office right. He posted a 3.26 ERA in his first full professional season as a 19-year-old and combined for a 3.82 ERA in 2019 as a 20-year-old. Spending the time working, getting bigger, and fine-tuning his stuff, there was no minor league pitcher I was higher on making a big jump in 2021 than Enlow. The first 14 2/3 innings of work this year came in to the tune of a 1.84 ERA and 23 strikeouts. Enlow’s command has always been the area that could use work, and seeing strikeouts jump up because of it was the expectation. A strong fastball with a plus-bender, Enlow looked the part of someone that could pitch in the top half of a Major League rotation.

After going under the knife, we’ll need to see how he responds. The Twins likely won’t see Enlow in action for much of the 2022 season, but he can continue to rehab and do so while being placed on the 60-day Injured List and not occupying a 40-man roster spot. Being able to stash him like this allows Minnesota to reap the rewards of a fully healthy player in 2023. If Enlow’s trends out of the shutdown were anything to be believed, it’s worth getting excited for a kid that could undoubtedly join the ranks of the top organizational arms.

Unlike Baddoo before him, no team selecting Enlow in the Rule 5 Draft would’ve been immediately able to see what they had on a big-league field. They could utilize the same Injured List designation, though, and would have added a big talent to the organization at next to no cost. Thankfully Minnesota didn’t pass on the opportunity to protect him solely to save a roster spot for what amounts to a handful of weeks. This is a long-term play that has a chance to pay big dividends.

Here’s to hoping Enlow’s rehab continues to go smoothly, he returns quickly, and the results are every bit as enticing as they once looked.

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I think this is right: Enlow would have gotten grabbed up in the Rule 5 by a team who would have stashed him on the 60-day IL and paid him to rehab. It's a worthy flyer to take on someone with so much upside and an even easier pitching stash than most Rule 5 picks, because they wouldn't have needed to even use a slot on the 26-man because of his injury.

They made the right call in protecting him, I think. He's going to hold a slot on the 40-man until the season gets going and we can shift him to the IL, but the talent is there and I'm not ready to give up on Enlow.

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Yes, if it looks like Enlow is NOT available until the earliest of June, you egt to put him on the IL list, and can probably rehab for, what, six weeks at a lower level before needing to return him to the roster as a 26th man on the roster, thus getting service time split then thru two seasons, as he could start the next season also on the roster before being delegated to the minors.

 

If his talent is that good, at least the Twins have the ability to not stash him at Ft. Myerstraining camp  forever but get him into the swing of things at Cedar Rapids and maybe Wichita before the 2022 season ends, and if the Twins tank, maybe even some major league relief innings to jumpstart his 2023 season...plus play him in the Arizona Fall League.

 

The difference between now and the previous season is that the Twins really have no sgortage of players they could designate off the roster. The problem comes with filling the roster to many minor league players, when you are telling fans you will be competitive and not rebuild.

 

Right now, by the process of elimination, the Twins will start Celestino, Miranda, Lewis and Rortvedy/Jefefrs in the minors from the position side of things.

 

They have 13 starting pitchers. Two will open up roster spots (Madea and Enlow). Two could switch to the bullpen (Jax, Thorpe). Balazovic, Duran, Strotman, WInder, Sands, Vallimont will start in the minors. That leaves Ober, Ryan and Dobnak as the only three of 13 probably getting a major league call, and Dobnak is on the bubble. 

 

The bullpen has 10 arms for 8 spaces. Alcala, Duffey, Rogers, Thielbar are pretty much locks.

 

Cotton, Coulombe, Garza, Minaya, Stashak are all replaceable. Unless he shines in spring training, Moran could start again at the Saints bullpen.

 

I like the future. I just am not happy with the present.

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While I would agree that it appears that they've learned from past mistakes in this case, I'd imagine that they'll be far more likely to protect pitching than position players.  The need is far greater on the mound than it is in the outfield.

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The Twins were between a rock and a hard place with Enlow. Protecting him and potentially losing a different player in rule 5 as a result. If Enlow winds up busting, and a different rule 5 pick leaves and does well, the Twins will face criticism again. It's the front office's job to protect players they've evaluated as having the talent and drive necessary to make an impact at the MLB level. Time will tell if they do a better job than they have at talent recognition.

 

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2 hours ago, wsnydes said:

While I would agree that it appears that they've learned from past mistakes in this case, I'd imagine that they'll be far more likely to protect pitching than position players.  The need is far greater on the mound than it is in the outfield.

pitching is also more likely to get snatched up in the Rule 5, though. Unless you play SS, CF, or C any team selecting a position player in the Rule 5 has to be pretty damn sure they will hit immediately, and those guys tend to get added (see Miranda, Jose) once they break out. Pitchers are easier to hide. You can take a starter who is still working on that 3rd pitch they need to make it in MLB and stash them in the bullpen.

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I will begin to believe in this FO when they quit handing out contracts to guys like Dobnak and Cave. at the same time letting guys like Rosario and Berrios leave.  Until then, it looks like they want to hang onto the worst players they have and get rid of the better ones. 

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As far as Enlow and the injured list goes, the only way to put him on the 60-Day injured list is to activate him the active roster, then put him on injured list. In that case he is using up major league service time. He can not go on the 60 day list if he is still on a minor league roster.

 

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