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How do the Twins look with their current relief core for 2022?


There is no doubt that bullpens get much more usage in recent years, and that is true of the Twins as well. If the season started today, who would be in the Twins bullpen, and could they be successful?

Bullpens have become the most overworked position in baseball in the last five years, and the Twins bullpen was a perfect example of overworked relievers in 2021. Of the 1,419 1/3 innings pitched from the Twins pitching staff in 2021, Twins relievers pitched approximately 617 2/3  innings pitched, or 43.5% of innings pitched. 

Relief pitchers making up around 40% of an MLB team's innings pitched is not uncommon in baseball today. However, it depends on who is in each team's bullpen which sets the postseason competitors, the tanking teams, and those in-between apart. The 2021 Twins bullpen falls into the in-between category, and how the front office decides to gear up the bullpen for 2022 post-lockout may be a deciding factor for how they sit in the AL Central for 2022. 

The Closer
The Twins bullpen is far from being the worst in baseball. They have an all-star high-leverage reliever with Taylor Rogers. Rogers did miss the final two months of the season due to his finger injury in August, but he expects to be ready to go by the season's start (whenever that may be). 

Rogers was not the consistent closer for the Twins last season, as many remember the shuffling between him, Alex Colome, and Hansel Robles. Before his thumb injury, Rogers was beginning to see more save opportunities in games than he had earlier in the season, having three of them in his final six appearances. 

Suppose the Twins front office does not intend to check in on free-agent closers, such as Ian Kennedy or Richard Rodriguez, after the lockout then Rogers will likely get the nod to be the closer again in 2022. 

Reliable Veterans 
The Twins had two reliable veteran relievers in 2021 that will carry over into the same roles for 2022. Those pitchers are Tyler Duffey and Caleb Thielbar

Both Duffey and Thielbar posted solid numbers in 2021, even with some shaky outings at the start of the season. Duffey ended the season with a 3.18 ERA, .216 opponents batting average, and 8.8 K per 9. Going into his age-31 season, Duffey still looks to be one of the primary setup men for the Twins bullpen to start the 2022 season.

Thielbar was the most reliable left-handed reliever for the Twins throughout the 2021 season and will likely maintain that role alongside Rogers for 2022. Thielbar's return to the big leagues full-time in 2020 was one of the best feel-good stories in a season that was really needed in the year that was. And thanks to his 3.23 ERA, 10.8 K per 9, and 1.17 WHIP from 2021.Thielbar will likely be the go-to lefty for the Twins bullpen in 2022 depending on Rogers’ role.. 

Bounceback Players
If there's one Twins pitcher who would like to put 2021 behind him above all the rest, it would be Randy Dobnak. Dobnak's injuries throughout 2021 were already keeping him off the field. And when he was healthy, Dobnak was not the same pitcher Twins fans became accustomed to seeing from their homes in 2020. 

As the Twins rotation currently sits, Dobnak is more likely to see time as a starter than a reliever with only one rotation addition in Dylan Bundy. Still, Dobnak could see some time in the bullpen whether the Twins decided to add another starter or not. If he does, it's not only a matter of getting more appearances out of the bullpen when healthy but also proving his 2021 numbers were a temporary fork in the road.

Dobnak is not the only pitcher in the Twins bullpen looking for a bounceback in 2022. One of the Twins' new additions, Jharel Cotton, fits into this category too. Cotton returned to the Majors for the first time since 2017, getting time with the Texas Rangers in 2021. Cotton had not pitched back-to-back seasons professionally since 2016-17 because he had  Tommy John surgery in 2018 and missed all of 2020 with no minor league season.

Cotton's return to MLB in 2021 was not too bad. Cotton posted a 3.52 ERA and 8.8 K/9 in 23 relief appearances with the Rangers. The big question is if he can repeat and improve upon his 2021 numbers in 2022? The Twins claimed him off waivers, believing that he can, and willing to provide him the opportunity. 

Young Faces Wanting to Prove Themselves
Two younger relievers in the Twins bullpen are still wanting to prove themselves as big-league relievers. They are Jorge Alcala and Ralph Garza Jr

Alcala has accumulated just over two years of MLB service time . In that time, he has pitched in 77 games over parts of three seasons. 2021 was Alcala's first full season, and he was streaky. There were times when Alcala was an excellent option for the Twins, and there were others where he struggled. At season’s end, Alcala had 9.2 K/9, a .214 opponents batting average, and 0.97 WHIP. 

Alcala has the talent to improve in 2022 to become one of the more reliable Twins relievers. 

Garza Jr. was an unexpected contributor last season who showed moments when he could be a reliable option for the Twins as the 2021 season dwindled. He had nine relief appearances with the Astros before the Twins claimed him off waivers on August 4th. Garza totaled 18 relief appearances as a Twin, putting together a 3.26 ERA, a .186 opponents batting average, and a 1.03 WHIP.

Garza Jr. hopes to have his first full season in the majors for 2022 and show that his brief time with the Twins so far won't just be a flash in the pan. 

Minor League Options 
Three notable players signed to minor league deals with the Twins are likely to be seen in their bullpen sometime in 2022. Those three players are Danny Coulombe, Jake Faria, and Trevor Megill. All three have an invitation to spring training with the hopes of making the Twins Opening Day roster. 

If Coulombe pitches in a  game for them in 2022, it will be his third season in a row with appearances for the Twins. Coulombe had two relief appearances in 2020 and made 29 more in 2021. He posted a 3.67 ERA and 8.7 K/9 in 2021.. 

Hours before the lockout, the Twins signed Jake Faria. Faria missed the 2020 season and pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2021, making three starts and 20 relief appearances. In 2021, he had a 5.51 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, and 2.46 K/BB ratio. However, Faria is still a no-risk, high-rewarded signing for the Twins. 

Finally, there's Trevor Megill. Megill's time with the Twins started oddly as the Twins released him hours after claiming him off waivers from the Chicago Cubs. A few days later, on Megill's birthday, the Twins re-signed him to a minor-league deal. The burly right-hander made his MLB debut in 2021 and struggled in his 28 relief appearances. Megill is big and strong. He throws hard and has a good slider. The Twins will work with him, presumably, on his mechanics and possibly his pitch mix and hope he can make a breakthrough in 2022. 

How does the Twins Bullpen Stand as of today for 2022?
Grading the Twins bullpen as it is right now, they are an average bullpen, and that is assuming health and that generally  everyone in their bullpen will be at their peak performance in 2022. Realistically, they're more of a C- bullpen without any further additions after the lockout. 

As mentioned earlier and in other Twins Daily articles, Richard Rodriguez would be a fine addition to the Twins bullpen. Other names in the reliever free-agent market that might be worth pursuing include Brad Boxberger, Joe Smith, and Joe Kelly. 

Any reliever who has had postseason experience would be a great addition for the Twins, even if they don't compete in 2022. But having another reliever with that experience with a different to mentor Twins relievers who will be around after 2022 will pay off for the future. 

So if the season started today, how do you think the Twins bullpen as currently constructed?

 


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I like adding an arm or two just because you're going to run through SO many arms, you've got to have a plethora of options.  I would build from the back end first.  Rogers can close.  But I scratch my head as to why Rocco was using Colome and Robles instead of Rogers more last year.  Were the Twins trying to depress Rogers stats to make his arb. number lower ??  That's no way to manage.  I would LOVE Rich Rodriguez as a closer but I would also love to see the Twins add an arm like Alex Reyes from the Cardinals.  His value is LOW and the Cards have had other arms move past him.  He still has tremendous "stuff."  I would like to see a trade with the Cards that brings us SS Paul DeJong and Alex Reyes.  Not sure what the Cardinals would be looking for but it would not cost much to pry those two away from them.  Sosa seems to have beaten DeJong out for the SS position.  

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I think Jovani Moran is going to be a significant contributor in the bullpen in 2022 (assuming there's a season, of course). He had some struggles in his first taste last season, but also showed he had the pitches to compete. He's got some control issues that he needs to keep working on, but you can absorb the BBs when you hunt Ks like he does. He's a lefty who can torch guys from both sides of the plate and I think he's for real.

I wouldn't mind them adding one more RHP for the bullpen, but otherwise I'm ok with rolling with what we have and cycling guys through to find an effective and consistent bullpen.

Rogers, Duffey, Alcala, and Thielbar are a solid crew for the back end, and then you add in Garza, Cotton, and Moran/Coloumbe plus one more RHP fireballer and the 'pen looks pretty solid, flexible, and ready to go. Few players on scholarship and the biggest risk is Rogers being healthy, but he's also the most proven guy so he's worth the risk.

I don't believe in throwing extra cash at a guy because they're a "proven closer", and I don't believe in dropping $5-8M AAV contracts on most relievers. Too many of those guys are fungible from year to year and not worth the risk. I'd rather go with guys who have minor league options left who can be cycled, converting failed starters, and only putting the cash down on top talent.

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IMO is that the last several seasons, we've had a break down in the BP at some point, which also overextends the rotation. IMO where we can avoid that is having  solid long relief, having a solid crew w/ rotating AAAA prospects. Last season we put too much confidence on a weak rotation and a failing short relief (Last season when Colume' was terrible they should've yanked him immediately as being the closer and slowly work him back) , which was our early demise. 

We have a good core, I like Richard Rodrigues as an cheap option. We have even a weaker rotation this season. Is why we should have a stronger long relief corp, rotating pitching prospects, playing who's hot, keeping the rotation and short relief fresh

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4 hours ago, TopGunn#22 said:

A trade with the Cardinals could look something like this:

Twins get:  DeJong (SS) 4.50   Alex Reyes (RHP)  0.0    4.50 Total Value.

Cards get:  Strotman (RHP) 3.9   Valimont  (RHP)  1.1    5.00 Total Value.

Appealing trade possibility, although I'd give up a DH type with a low pitching prospect. With the DH being adapted in NL they should go for it.

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4 hours ago, roger said:

Don't you consider Moran or Stashak as potential 2022 contributors to the pen?  If so, why not?

I’ll be honest, I completely forgot about Moran while writing this piece. That mistake is on me. Stashak on the other hand, I honestly just see him running out of options before he can really reestablish himself as a reliever and getting DFA’d

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I look forward to the day when all the stats reverse themselves and we discover that arms can't pitch every other day so a bullpen has to be set up with a starting pitcher that actually gets innings.  

I think we're either going to see pictures eventually start to take innings like they should or will start seeing six man rotations and they will be forced to extend the roster to accommodate for all the arms that are needed. 

Of course the problem is we see already is that there are not that many arms that are viable and so we will continue to have a lot of mediocre pitching. And I don't mean just the twins I mean overall in baseball.

 

I see comments about not paying so much for proven closures and that's fine. But I also have seen numerous comments about the junk heap pictures that we keep grabbing hoping that they will rebound with another good year or find some magic in a slider. 

I'm sorry to say but this is one area where safer metrics has really adversely impacted baseball from my perspective.  

 

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When you are looking at names on the 40-man roster, I picture Dobnak being groomed solely as a rotation arm. He could start easily at St. Paul to get back to speed. He could also be removed from the 40-man, depending on his spring training, as his contract might be too much to gamble for anotehr team's 40-man roster.

 

There is also talk of transitioning Jax and Thorpe into long-relief roles, which would be wonderful if you have a bunch of starters who can barely get thru the fifth inning, or have inning caps for the season. Thorpe needs to prove himself in the spring or is gone. Jax could also be the guy on the fringe.

 

Last year the Twins shuffled many names on the bullpen express  out of St. Paul, guys NOT on the 40-man when the season started. When you do that, you do risk them leaving (Waddell, Anderson). Just remember all those that came, and went: Luke Farrell, Derek Law, Danny Coulombe, Juan Minaya, Ian Gibault, Nick Vincent, Edgar Garcia, Kyle Barraclough, Beau Burrows, Andrew Albers. As well as those minor league free agents signed that didn't make the call: Brecklyn Williams, Jason Garcia, Brandon Koch, Adam Lau, Erik Manoah, Vinny Nittoli, Sean Gilmartin, amongst others.

 

The Twins also have Yennier Cano getting older, Iam Hamilton back at St. Paul, and Ryan Mason as a prospect that could still disappear in the Rule 5.

 

But the question remains: Twins have a surefire closer? Necessary if competitive, not necessary if just playing ball games.

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I have no interest in Rodriguez short of a minor league deal. His xERA and xFIP both declined significantly last year and they are the better indicators of performance this year.

Colome performed exactly as should have been expected last year with an XFIP of 4.21. It had been 4.26 in 2020. The Twins made the mistake of buying too much into ERA last year with Colome. Will they with Rodriguez?

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1 hour ago, h2oface said:

This team is in big truouble from the mound, all aspects. And when you look at the Top 100 and top 10 MLB position prospects, only Twins' fans seem to think our farm is promising.

There were 6 prospects from last year’s fangraphs top 100 that did not graduate to the major leagues. That would be a well above average number of prospects for a team. I guess that must be just natural fertilizer from the horse on the farm

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12 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

I look forward to the day when all the stats reverse themselves and we discover that arms can't pitch every other day so a bullpen has to be set up with a starting pitcher that actually gets innings.  

I think we're either going to see pictures eventually start to take innings like they should or will start seeing six man rotations and they will be forced to extend the roster to accommodate for all the arms that are needed. 

Of course the problem is we see already is that there are not that many arms that are viable and so we will continue to have a lot of mediocre pitching. And I don't mean just the twins I mean overall in baseball.

 

I see comments about not paying so much for proven closures and that's fine. But I also have seen numerous comments about the junk heap pictures that we keep grabbing hoping that they will rebound with another good year or find some magic in a slider. 

I'm sorry to say but this is one area where safer metrics has really adversely impacted baseball from my perspective.  

 

I couldn't agree more.  We need at least a couple of SP's who can get through the lineup 3 times, or we will go right back to where we were last year, with a 13 man staff and 2-4 AAA guys on the St. Paul express back and forth.  If we truly had 15 or 16 pitchers in the system who could get people out on a fairly consistent basis, we wouldn't need 15 or 16 pitchers.  We throw too many innings with pitchers who either can't make the major league roster for any length of time or are at the edge of the roster, both starters and bullpen.  It all begins with the starters; 5 innings or less a game and the bullpen simply has to go too deep into arms that are borderline major league pitchers or less for too many of the innings afterwards.  

I accept I will be lectured on the idea that it is simply the way the game is played today, and that may very well be true, but it doesn't make it the right way to go.  There simply are not enough pitchers of major league caliber to keep going down that path.  Use the ones who are better and longer, and we won't be having this conversation for years to come.  

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5 hours ago, Mark G said:

I couldn't agree more.  We need at least a couple of SP's who can get through the lineup 3 times, or we will go right back to where we were last year, with a 13 man staff and 2-4 AAA guys on the St. Paul express back and forth.  If we truly had 15 or 16 pitchers in the system who could get people out on a fairly consistent basis, we wouldn't need 15 or 16 pitchers.  We throw too many innings with pitchers who either can't make the major league roster for any length of time or are at the edge of the roster, both starters and bullpen.  It all begins with the starters; 5 innings or less a game and the bullpen simply has to go too deep into arms that are borderline major league pitchers or less for too many of the innings afterwards.  

I accept I will be lectured on the idea that it is simply the way the game is played today, and that may very well be true, but it doesn't make it the right way to go.  There simply are not enough pitchers of major league caliber to keep going down that path.  Use the ones who are better and longer, and we won't be having this conversation for years to come.  

I agree with this. At some point all the clever manipulation of pitching roles don’t matter. If you have crappy pitchers you will get crappy pitching no matter how you slice and dice it. 

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