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All Arms on Deck: Should the Twins Accelerate Matt Canterino?


The 2022 Minnesota Twins have been a pleasant surprise to many, especially considering they started the season in a 4-8 hole. They’re in first place, with a squandering White Sox team 4.5 games back entering Friday. Even then, the Twins could use a boost in multiple areas. The bullpen is no exception. 

 

The Twins have some exciting young arms in their organization. Jhoan Durán is striking out nearly 40% of the batters he faces; Josh Winder (currently on the IL) showed glimpses of being a special addition. While not developed in the Twins’ system, Joe Ryan is as important to the team’s future as anyone else. The good news: there’s more on the way. 

Jordan Balazovic, 23, is struggling mightily for the Triple-A Saints, but his track record shows the makings of a potential mid-rotation stalwart. Simeon Woods Richardson, 21, has a 3.02 ERA and 25% strikeout rate in eight starts for Double-A Wichita. David Festa, 22, throws in the upper-90s and could be on his way to a Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year award. 

The future looks hopeful for the Twins’ pitching staff. But as John Trusler said in 1562, there’s no better time than the present. The Twins can push a crucial chip into their contention hopes in 2022. Let’s break it down. 

CASE FOR FAST-TRACKING MATT CANTERINO TO THE TWINS
Jordan Balazovic probably has the best chance of remaining a starter long-term among the Twins' top pitching prospects. That’s not to say he’s the likeliest to make the most significant impact in 2022 or that his stuff is the best in the system. That title now belongs to Canterino, thanks to a Durán graduation from prospect status. Canterino works in the mid-to-upper 90s, pairing his buzzing fastball with a hammer-breaking ball and an improved changeup. 

Canterino is dominating at Wichita, striking out over 35% of the hitters he sees and allowing a minuscule number of hits and homers. He’s been monitored closely, maxing out at 62 pitches in nine outings this year. His stints are already short, so his transition to Minnesota’s bullpen shouldn’t be a catatonic shift. Furthermore, the Twins could get creative with his usage, using him as an opener when needed. He could pair up with Chris Archer or Dylan Bundy, giving hitters a different look with his herky-jerky delivery. 

Canterino owns a 2.22 ERA in 2022, with opponents mustering a .477 OPS in 28 ⅓ innings. He’s 24 years old with a 1.53 ERA in 76 1/3 Minor League innings. Right-handed hitters have logged 183 plate appearances against Canterino in the minors. 77 have struck out, and only 18 have recorded a hit, with zero home runs. 

Durán is an excellent example of this type of talent winning the day. The fire-breathing phenom ranks 2nd among qualified American League relievers in strikeout rate (38%), and he'd thrown only 16 innings with a 5.06 ERA above Double-A entering 2022. Canterino’s repertoire isn’t on the level of Durán, but it’s undoubtedly comparable in electricity. It’s swing-and-miss stuff, and as Durán showed, sometimes it works immediately in the majors.  

Canterino could be the wheel the Twins are looking for. They desperately lack a high-leverage reliever in the role Jorge Alcala was supposed to fill. Alcala is nearing his return from elbow inflammation, which shouldn’t preclude the Twins from promoting Canterino quickly. If Alcala and Canterino pitch to their stuff, the Twins will have three right-handed relievers with 95+ fastballs and disgusting breaking balls. 

CASE AGAINST FAST-TRACKING MATT CANTERINO TO THE MAJORS
It’s fun to dream about the bullpen the Twins could deploy in the second half of the season, especially if they make a move for a reliever at the deadline. But at what cost? It’s unlikely Durán will ever be a full-time starter again, and he can only provide so much value as a high-end reliever. Balazovic’s future is in more question than ever before, given his early struggles for the Saints, as is the script with top pitching prospects. Things can thin in a hurry. 

Moving Canterino to the bullpen could be a short-term move for a contending team, but there were already questions about his viability as a starter. His delivery is rigid, he had elbow problems a year ago, and he’s thrown less than 100 game innings since the Twins drafted him in 2019. All three of those things were primarily valid for Durán. It’s hard to envision Canterino throwing 150 innings in a season, but should the Twins give up on it now?

A bullpen assignment is not a death sentence for a starter, but it’s certainly a step back. Canterino would need to ramp back up, something the Twins are already trying to do in 2022. Bringing him up as a reliever sets that process back even more, especially if he’s deployed in one-inning stints. In that scenario, there’s little chance he could reach 100 innings this year. It may benefit all parties to keep starting him in the minors while planning on a debut in the rotation in 2023. 

Most importantly, for as electric as Canterino is, it’d be unwise to assume he’d find immediate success in the majors. Durán could be a unicorn, and he's worked through rough patches of his own early on. Canterino’s 12% walk rate this year is cause for hesitation, and this would be a new role for him. 

The Twins are trying to win every day. It’s possible Canterino could help them do that, but it’s equally possible he’s not ready for that giant leap. 

What do you think? Should the Twins accelerate Matt Canterino to the majors?

Comment below!

 


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Yes, call Canterino up to the Twins. Start him in middle relief and have him throw about 50-60 pitches. If he does well, keep moving him to higher leverage situations, the same way the Twins did with Duran early on. I think the Twins have a specific innings limit for Canterino for this year. They should be able to have him hit that number of innings in the bullpen. He can still go back to being a starter next year.

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I love your idea of using him as an opener. Since Canterino’s only throwing 3-4 innings per start at AA,  why not have him start the game so he remains in a role he’s comfortable in, and let him pitch until he hits his 60 pitch limit before bringing in Archer who can’t go more than 4 innings anyway. 
 

We have to do something to limit the wear and tear on our bullpen, and this strategy would go a long way to giving the bullpen nearly a full day off every 5-6 days. 

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I would think the Twins have a pretty significant innings limitation on him this year, so I don't think it would be a good idea to switch him to a bullpen role where his routine will totally change.  I would keep him as a starter in the minors and maybe promote him to St. Paul this summer if he continues to throw well.  He is issuing a lot of walks this year so he still has some things to work on.  I could see Festa moving quickly into a relief role however.  He is really looking good.

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What is it with this organization that they keep turning their minor league starters into relievers the minute they get within a country mile of Minneapolis?  AA is the place to decide:  are we going to stretch him out into an actual starter, or groom him to be a reliever through AAA and up.  Enough of the short starts and innings limits.  Can the kid pitch or not?  Decide.  Then plan his future.  

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Because Balazovich was mentioned above, I have a question.  As I read columns about the Twins minor league pitching from 1500 miles to the east, I consistently hear that Balazovic is the top ranked pitching prospect (or close to it).  But when I read the minor league summaries of games, I keep seeing him getting hit hard, only lasting a couple innings, and taking another loss.  What is his story?  Is he a great prospect or is he an over hyped prospect?

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The idea of bringing up a pitcher as an opener is sound and helps reduce the workload on the bullpen. Does it have to be Canterino? Are there other prospects who can do this? 

Secondly, I am not convinced Duran is now a reliever for the rest of his career. Starters have more value, it might be prudent to explore Duran as a starter next year.

Finally, if Winder returns healthy the rotation which admittedly needs depth consists of: Ryan, Gray,  Ober, Winder, Bundy, Archer and possibly Smeltzer. Could two of these combine for opener approach if no prospects are deemed viable?

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Canterino looks really good on milb.com, but there is likely some deeper analysis from the Twins staff concerning whether he is ready or not for MLB bats. 

I think he would be best served as an opener which is mol the role for him thus far this season. One thing to consider is that Canterino has been hurt a few times by shoddy defense causing his pitch count to run higher in an inning than it ordinarily would, and the Twins put solid defenders behind their pitchers this year. I would like to see how he presents with the Twins as a 45-60 pitch reliever. He is old enough to move up.

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50 minutes ago, GNess said:

The idea of bringing up a pitcher as an opener is sound and helps reduce the workload on the bullpen. Does it have to be Canterino? Are there other prospects who can do this? 

Secondly, I am not convinced Duran is now a reliever for the rest of his career. Starters have more value, it might be prudent to explore Duran as a starter next year.

Finally, if Winder returns healthy the rotation which admittedly needs depth consists of: Ryan, Gray,  Ober, Winder, Bundy, Archer and possibly Smeltzer. Could two of these combine for opener approach if no prospects are deemed viable?

Possibly Smeltzer???   He proved his worth and was sent down last week.  He promptly returned and proved worthy again.  Put away the pencil and use the Sharpie to put him in the rotation, at least ling relief. 

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I don't like the idea of bringing him up with the idea of being an opener. Burns a spot in the pen and we should have enough conventional starters with Ryan, Ober, Gray, Winder, Archer, Smeltzer, & Bundy to come up with a group of 5. I would favor stretching him out in AA for the 1st half and then maybe move him up to AAA in the 2nd half. If he can't handle the work load then convert him to the bullpen.

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Have no idea what the Twins plans are for Canterino, other than he is one heck of an exciting prospect.  Would hope they want to keep him starting, while keeping his innings/pitch counts down coming back from several injuries.

Considering this article is about help for the Twins from a pitcher currently at Wichita, I ask what the future holds for Schulfer.  Kid has been flat out unhittable in the Wind Surge closer role.  He is the one I would hope gets a promotion to St. Paul with another move to the Twins come late summer.  Will he be successful?  Who knows, but sure like how he has been throwing at Wichita.

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Since the Twins are (smartly) limiting his innings I kinda like the idea of using him as an opener or pairing him with Archer who also doesn't give them much length. 

But only if that doesn't shut the door on him starting again in 2023. I have always been very high on Canterino and I am still convinced that he can't only be a starter but maybe even be that elusive frontline starter the Twins have tried to develop forever. I would hate it if he ended up in the bullpen because of need and never even got a chance to prove himself in the rotation. 

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The guy is VERY exciting to watch. But I'd think the first move would be to move him up to St Paul, and keep him in his limited starting situation. Gives him a run against better hitters, keeps him as stretched as he can be this year, and frankly the Saints could use him as a starter (bummer starting down six runs like last night).

If that goes well, it might be more appropriate to talk about a call up in an opener or relief role.

If I had to guess, I'd expect long-term he is more reliever; there is nothing smooth about his delivery, and he has little history of staying healthy as a starter using it. 

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I think Smeltzer should be up and starting. Move Archer to a long relief role to piggyback off of another starter since he struggles multiple times through a lineup and keeps getting pulled quickly.

Leave Canterino to develop as a starter.

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Never been a fan of Smeltzer, Thorpe, Stashack. Long relievers at best.

Teams are lucky to get 5 inings from any starter these days. The days of Jim Kaat going 12 innings and winning a 1-0 decision over his opponent who also pitched 12 are long gone.

It's all about the Bullpen today!

One can only dream of the bullpen we would have had we kept May, Pressley, Roger's; the three of whom would only cost $22M

Lewis surprised & showed he is ready, Miranda is coming along.

As good as Correa is, that $35M would have paid for the above bullpen AND bought us a top flite closer.

This FO has it backwards as usual.

Without at least one more top reliever, this team will dash all our hopes yet again.

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I'm an advocate for long relief, long relief is an excellent opportunity for getting our prospects feet wet, Winder has thrived at long relief before starting and injuring himself. Could Canterino come up later in the season in long relief? Maybe. 

I myself don't see Canterino as an future starter due to his herky jerky motion, destined more for long relief. So he could be more valuable to the Twins as trade bait as a future starter instead for frontline pitching. 

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I think Canterino should stay in AA until he has several games of 5-6 innings then he can go to AAA.  After the trade deadline the Twins could promote him to finish out the season in the pen as a 2-3 inning pitcher pitching at most once every three days.  This would allow the Twins to bring him up and limit innings while giving him time to build up his arm strength.  

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7 minutes ago, Brandon said:

I think Canterino should stay in AA until he has several games of 5-6 innings then he can go to AAA.  After the trade deadline the Twins could promote him to finish out the season in the pen as a 2-3 inning pitcher pitching at most once every three days.  This would allow the Twins to bring him up and limit innings while giving him time to build up his arm strength.  

I am a little confused as to how we limit innings by having him work on 5-6 inning starts, and then build up his arm strength by bringing him back down to a 2-3 inning relief role.  If we want to build him up, then 6 or more innings would be more logical, and limiting his innings in the majors would do the opposite of building arm strength.  I still say we need to make up our minds at this stage of his career if he is going to be a starter or a reliever and stay the course.  

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2 hours ago, Mark G said:

I am a little confused as to how we limit innings by having him work on 5-6 inning starts, and then build up his arm strength by bringing him back down to a 2-3 inning relief role.  If we want to build him up, then 6 or more innings would be more logical, and limiting his innings in the majors would do the opposite of building arm strength.  I still say we need to make up our minds at this stage of his career if he is going to be a starter or a reliever and stay the course.  

I imagine he is on an innings limit.  I doubt they let him go much more than 100 innings this year.  Or they probably have a more complicated pitch limit.  Either way as a starter he should have a handful of 5-6 inning starts this year. If he does that and we want him on this team, he would need to come up as a reliever.  The minor league season ends the last week of August maybe first week of September.  

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20 minutes ago, Brandon said:

I imagine he is on an innings limit.  I doubt they let him go much more than 100 innings this year.  Or they probably have a more complicated pitch limit.  Either way as a starter he should have a handful of 5-6 inning starts this year. If he does that and we want him on this team, he would need to come up as a reliever.  The minor league season ends the last week of August maybe first week of September.  

And have him pitch in a handful of 1-2 inning relief appearances in non pressure situations?  I am still lost as to how that helps develop a starter.  I guess I am of the old school mind set that starters are starters and relievers are relievers; find what they are best suited for and put them in the situation that brings out their best and trust their development.  But don't develop a starter and then put him in the back of the bullpen until you figure it out.  Just my extremely humble opinion.  

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My answer, for now, is a resounding no. People a whole lot smarter than me will eventually make the determination for Canterino as to whether or not he remains in the rotation or transitions eventually to the pen. And maybe that will be his ideal role. I have little doubt he'd be great in the pen. But I absolutely don't take one of the most electric arms in my system, who seems to have legitimate SP capabilities and projection and transition him at this time because he MIGHT be able to help the 2nd half of the year.

There was belief for some time Alcala was going to be a RP. There have been bumps, but he's flashed, and finished 2021 looking awesome. Part of that was growing experience, and part was a 3rd pitch that was only decent, but helped him against LH hitters. I want to say it was a form of change, but not certain IIRC. (Man I hope he comes back healthy and ready to go in June)!

Duran needed a 3rd pitch to remain a SP but also had the possibility of being a fine BP piece, with even better stuff than Alcala and a higher ceiling. Had he been 100% healthy in 2021 I wonder if he'd even be in the pen this year? But tremendous stuff, need and opportunity has placed him as perhaps the best arm in the entire pen for 2022. Ironically, it's maybe  the development of his 3rd pitch, his power curve, that may be leading to his sudden rise and acclimation to his role. I can see a real argument for a return to the rotation at some point, but I think he's at where he's going to stay.

Every single pitching prospect is different than every other pitching prospect. They grow and develop individually for a number of reasons. And it's really easy to predict EVERY pitching prospect to the pen. In fact, it seems at times, that virtually every profile or breakdown you read states a bullpen option for everyone. I don't recall if Canterino had any injuries while in college at Rice. But unless I'm mistaken, and I don't believe I am, his is not a case of multiple injuries. He was drafted in 2019 and had pitched an awful lot of innings in 2019, and his career. He was not hurt when drafted, just treated with kid gloves. Initially, the Twins reported he would report for instructional work, but might not throw in any games. They changed course and decided to give him a limited 25 IP. He then missed 2020. He was off to a great start in 2021 before having soreness and ended up shut down for the year, unfortunately, like many others, the Twins erring on the side of caution.

Still only 24yo and off to a very good start this year, it would be grossly misguided, IMO, to do anything other than bring him along and stretch him out and nurture him as a SP. He might even reach AAA some time in the 2nd half. MAYBE, come the end of the year, he comes up in the pen to help. But there is no way I transition such a great arm this early when he has real potential as a SP.

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7 hours ago, roger said:

Have no idea what the Twins plans are for Canterino, other than he is one heck of an exciting prospect.  Would hope they want to keep him starting, while keeping his innings/pitch counts down coming back from several injuries.

Considering this article is about help for the Twins from a pitcher currently at Wichita, I ask what the future holds for Schulfer.  Kid has been flat out unhittable in the Wind Surge closer role.  He is the one I would hope gets a promotion to St. Paul with another move to the Twins come late summer.  Will he be successful?  Who knows, but sure like how he has been throwing at Wichita.

Great point on Schulfer, roger.  I agree 100%.  I mentioned Festa in an earlier post, but Schulfer has really been a shutdown guy at Wichita, and he seems to have solved his problem with bases on balls.  Only 4 walks this year.  And, he has AA experience.  Great take.

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You have to hope Canterino can push towards 100 innings period this year. Yes, he needs to expand and show that he can possibly get thru an order, say, a third time.

Unless you want him to be a bullpen opener.

But if the Twins need a bullpen arm to advance from AA, they only need to look at Schulfer, Scherff, Sisk or Sammons...who need to advance to St. Paul pronto and decisions made about keeping them on the 40-man come of the off-season. Canterino, the team never rushes to add players before they have to...it seems. He doesn't need a 40-man add this year.

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Oh, let's face it; he will have to come up at some point and so may others.  24 pitchers have stepped on the mound so far this year and it isn't even June.  This team goes through pitchers more often than I spill beer on my shirt.  It feels like the old radio show "clear the airwaves, clear all the airwaves for the big broadcast", only in our case it is clear the 40 man, clear the entire 40 man for the IL broadcast.  Can't wait to see which phenom gets the next cup of coffee (as they used to say).  :(  

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I would rather bring Smeltzer into the rotation, have him pitch 6 or 7 innings, then bring in Archer to cut loose for 2 innings. Archer has been good for two innings so far, but not much further. Maybe he could amp up his heater a couple clicks if he's not trying to pace himself. Maybe then he'd avoid those long at-bats with ten foul balls. 

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7 hours ago, DocBauer said:

My answer, for now, is a resounding no. People a whole lot smarter than me will eventually make the determination for Canterino as to whether or not he remains in the rotation or transitions eventually to the pen.

And people even smarter than them will second guess whichever way they go. :)

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