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Matt Canterino Is Gearing Up: "It's All Systems Go"


Nash Walker
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Twins pitching prospect Matt Canterino is looking forward to 2022 with a focus on improved health. 

The Oakland Athletics drafted Oklahoma outfielder Kyler Murray with the 9th pick in the 2018 Draft. One year and one round later, the Twins drafted Matt Canterino out of Rice.

Murray wouldn’t join the A’s, instead opting to quarterback the Arizona Cardinals en route to NFL stardom. Canterino signed with the Twins for $1.1 million. 

While Murray and Canterino have taken different paths, the two crossed for a duel in Texas. Murray stepped into the box and came up empty against the right-hander.

“I struck him out,” Canterino said. 

Striking hitters out has become a common occurrence for Canterino, who fanned 45 of the 84 batters he faced in a shortened 2021 season. Canterino suffered from elbow tendinitis, ending his dominant campaign prematurely. 

Canterino, 24, has pitched just 48 Minor League innings since he graduated with a 4.0 GPA in Mechanical Engineering from Rice University. In those 48 innings, he’s struck out 76 and allowed just six total runs for a 1.13 ERA. Rice has a history of pushing pitchers, and the Twins were uber-conservative with Canterino’s workload after the draft in 2019. Then COVID-19 canceled the 2020 Minor League season. 

Canterino eclipsed 94 or more innings in all three of his seasons in college, which he said shows an aptitude to handle a larger share. So far this offseason, so good. 

“I’m feeling very healthy and feeling very, very strong.” 

A herky-jerky, “hitch” delivery helps Canterino generate a fastball in the upper-90s. The 6-foot-2 Texan pairs that fastball, which contains excellent carry, with a sharp, biting slider and an improved changeup. He compared his delivery and mix to future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw. 

Canterino’s changeup moves like a splitter, with enough depth to dart away from lefties and crowd righties who may be looking fastball or slider. That three-pitch combination held hitters to a minuscule .111/.186/.148 batting line in 2021. 

“I want to think that with success I had in limited reps this year, I want to think that I can sustain that over a full season.”

Sustaining a 0.78 ERA and 54% strikeout rate over an entire season would propel Canterino to the top of prospect lists everywhere and likely to Minnesota. Anything close to those gaudy numbers will undoubtedly move Canterino into the Major League picture for late-2022 and early 2023. 

Canterino dominated High-A hitters in 2021 and could be slated for the Double-A Wichita rotation in 2022. No matter where he pitches next season, you can bet that Canterino will have a PEZ dispenser or two handy. 

Often greeting his 2019 teammates and coaches with a “howdy!” prompted a pitching coach to tag Canterino with the nickname Woody, referring to the famous cowboy from Toy Story. In response, Canterino bought a five-pound bag of PEZ candy and handed it out via a Woody-themed dispenser. He carried the tradition into 2021 and plans to run it back in 2022. 

Canterino said he recently added a Buzz Lightyear PEZ dispenser, Woody’s galactic best friend from the movies. 

“If you ever catch me on a day I’m not pitching, Woody will be in my left pocket, and Buzz will be in my right.”

Canterino is gearing up with his PEZ dispensers for a January return to Fort Myers.

“It’s all systems go for 2022.”

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The most interesting point is the 4.0 gpa from Rice.  Isn't Rice one of the top engineering and tech schools in the country?

Was so very excited about what he was doing last year, and equally disappointed when he was shut down.  Can anyone tell me if elbow tendinitis is a precursor for TJ surgery?  Hope like heck it isn't, because this young man could be the best of the best of this crop of young guns approaching Target Field.

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I think this kid could be great.  I saw him once in CR in 2019 and he only pitched into the third, giving up no hits but 4 or 5 walks as I recall.  But, I remember thinking he had good stuff.  Then I saw him in CR last summer and he went 4 and struck out 10.  He looked so much more confident and in control, and didn't walk a batter.  I can't wait to try to catch him whevever he ends up this year.  

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PLEASE don't banish him to the bullpen!!!  Who cares if he's well aged in high A.  I still don't see the rush to chuck him in the bullpen when he has shown such potential as a starter.  Maybe as the September call up, but I'd rather see him as a bonafide starter at 27 than a bullpen arm at 25.

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2 hours ago, jrod23 said:

PLEASE don't banish him to the bullpen!!!  Who cares if he's well aged in high A.  I still don't see the rush to chuck him in the bullpen when he has shown such potential as a starter.  Maybe as the September call up, but I'd rather see him as a bonafide starter at 27 than a bullpen arm at 25.

This! I actually thought he should have been at AA to begin the year, but I sorta understand the Twins being overly cautious after being rode hard at Rice and then missing 2020.

What really stinks, at this moment in time, future to be determined, is despite some great arms and great potential on hand, the 2 best arms in the entire system are Duran and Canterino. And that is ZERO slight to the potential of Winder, Balazovic and others. 

All they need is just better health and a little more time to put it all together.

Canterino has a weird delivery that has concerned scouts since day one. Maybe they are right. But he's stated his delivery is repeatable and comfortable for him. His stuff is crazy good while he's still developing his 3rd and 4th offerings. Sorry, but age is not a factor when you are this talented and missed a full year. 

Said it before and will say it again, "baby" Duran and Canterino if you have to. Build each up for 2023. Doesn't mean they can't make an appearance in 2022 or contribute, but PLEASE work with and develop what might  be the 2 best arms in the whole system. 

 

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I've been excited about this kid for awhile.  I'd love him to do well in 2022.  have brief but dominating stops at various levels and possibly make it to the big club at the end of 2022.  I want him to be a starter.  But I could also see a move to the BP if he gets a late season call up by the Twins to limit his innings (much like the Twins did with Johan Santana to begin with).  

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Probably the best pure Stuff in the #MNTwins system. Probably no "probably" to it. 

And 24 isn't old, especially with a lost season... Take care of him and let him start. If he ends up in the bullpen in 2024, cool. But for now, definitely keep him starting. 

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His domination (K-rate and ERA) remind me of what Bailey Ober did in his time in the minors granted Ober doesn't have the big fastball Canterino does still their K rates were high, WHIP low and ERA low.  If he stays healthy I think he will succeed when he gets the call.  Has to stay healthy though and that is not easy to do as a pitcher.  With health he could have positioned himself for spot in the rotation this year but hopefully he has another good year and is ready to start in 2023.

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On 12/31/2021 at 5:09 PM, Seth Stohs said:

And 24 isn't old, especially with a lost season... Take care of him and let him start. If he ends up in the bullpen in 2024, cool. But for now, definitely keep him starting. 

You are correct 24 isn't old, but he only pitched 23 innings last year, after pitching none in 2020, Having him be a starter next year, what will his innings be capped at? So his age 24 season will be stretching him out, his age 25 season you could expect with no set back to be up around 120 innings maybe?

Why can't you do they same thing in MN in the bullpen and in 2023 as a possible starter if he has proved he can pitch more innings.

I am just sick of listening how great the Twins prospects are, but at the same time having them in the minors and people wanting them to stay in the minors. I was saying Graterol should have been up in 2018, the dude can throw 100 why waste those pitches in the minors if he will probably end up in the pen anyway. The Same with Canterino, if he stuff is so great (which I believe it is) why not have him pitching against the best. If he has the stuff to become a starter it will work out.

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