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Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month - June 2022


Twins Daily Contributor

It wasn't the prettiest month on the bump for Minor League starting pitchers in the Twins organization. Still, there were a handful of lights-out performances. See who we've selected as our Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month. 

 

Previous Minor League Starting Pitchers of the Month
May Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month: Steve Hajjar
April Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month: John Stankiewicz

For an organization fished with trophy pitching prospects, there were surprisingly very few outstanding starting pitching performances through the month of June. The diagnosis doesn't solely lie on the shoulders of poor outings; top prospects Matt Canterino and Simeon Woods-Richardson have struggled with injuries while names like Jordan Balazovic and Blayne Enlow are easing their way back from significant injuries. 

Still, June presented an opportunity for some likely and unlikely names to steal the show on the mound. Here are our top five starting pitchers in the month of June.

Number Five: RHP Mario Sanchez (St. Paul Saints) - 4 G, 2 GS, 21 2/3 IP, 1.66 ERA. 0.55 WHIP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
Signed to a minor league contract at the beginning of the year after time in the Nationals organization, June was a breakout month for the 27-year-old righty. Coming off a lackluster May where opposing hitters cooked off of him (.258 AVG), Sanchez found his stride as both a starter and long reliever, with opposing hitters averaging a meager .144 AVG off of him. 

Sanchez's best start came actually came in a loss on May 26 against Buffalo when he allowed just two runs on three hits while striking out six through six innings. The journeyman's 0.22 BB/9 of .022 in June was a career-best and the veteran certainly knows how to eat up innings in an effective way. 

 Number Four: RHP Cole Sands (St. Paul Saints) - 3 GS, 14 IP, 1.29 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 12 H,  5 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 16 K
After a less than perfect stint with the Twins, Sands returned to Triple-A St. Paul and returned to the consistency that makes him a great pitcher. Sands earned his first win of the season in a seven-strikeout masterpiece on June 29 against Omaha, allowing just one run on four hits and three walks through five innings. 

2022 hasn't been a dreamy year from Sands. A talented pitcher who has seen the game's highest level, July could provide an opportunity for Sands to return both physically and mentally to the things that garner him an impressively high ceiling. Given bullpen struggles with the parent club, that is needed now more than ever. 

Number Three: RHP Louie Varland (Wichita Wind Surge) 5 GS, 26 1/3 IP, 3.08 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 24 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 8 BB, 35 K
There's no doubt that Louie Varland has been the most exciting story in the Twins farm system over the past two years. A Minnesota kid with slight chances of 'making it,' Varland was absolutely brilliant in Fort Myers and Cedar Rapids last year and has been rock-solid for the Wind Surge in 2022. Now a top-tier prospect, the 24-year-old has come back down to earth after a few 'not bad, but not great' starts. 

Still, Varland wasn't shelled in any of his five starts and reached at least five innings in each one en route to a 2-1 record on the month. The pinnacle of that came on June 10 when Varland blew by Arkansas through six shutout innings, allowing just three hits and striking out nine. Varland has always been a strikeout pitcher and it appears that trend won't be going anywhere. Still on an excellent trajectory, expect Varland to dominate in Double-A the rest of the season and maybe even see a glimpse of St. Paul come August or September. 

Number Two: RHP David Festa (Cedar Rapids Kernels) 5 G, 4 GS, 27 2/3 IP, 2.28 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 22 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 9 BB, 28 K
Our May pitcher of the month continued to dominate in June. Festa's 28 strikeouts led the Kernels and was second in the organization to Louie Varland's 35. Rozek went 2-0 on the month wins over Lansing on June 3 and Wisconsin on June 28. Yet Festa's best start came in a no-decision on June 9 against South Bend when he tossed six shutout innings with eight strikeouts while allowing just four hits and one walk.

Festa keeps his walk numbers down for the most part, but even when he doesn't, the righty from Verona, NJ limits damage control. Despite giving up a season-high four walks on June 21 against West Michigan, Festa still allowed just one run and two hits through six innings. The versatility is beautiful and Festa is just getting started. Drafted by the Twins in the 13th round of the 2021 Draft, Festa's first full season in pro ball has been electric and the train shows no signs of stopping. It would be foolish to say that Festa won't be in Wichita by this time next season. 

Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month
LHP Aaron Rozek (Cedar Rapids Kernels) - 4 GS, 18 2/3 IP, 1.45 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, 16 K

Velocity and flare win clicks, consistency wins baseball games. A son of Burnsville, MN, Rozek had as solid and steady of a month as anyone in the organization...and in minor league baseball. 

Despite only garnering one win on the month, Rozek put the Kernels in a position to win each time he took the mound. Even in his worst start of the month, Rozek limited damage, and the Kernels ended up beating Lansing 9-3 in dominating fashion. In that start, Rozek allowed three runs on three hits (two of which were homers) and one walk while striking out five. Rozek pounded the zone and only missed on three pitches that resulted in a single and two homers. Need more proof that it wasn't that bad? Rozek threw 41 of his 60 pitches for strikes.

That's pretty damn good. Speaking of consistency, Rozek's strike percentages in each outing were 64%, 68%, 64.5%, and 69 %. The Burnsville Blaze alum's 0.80 WHIP not only led the Kernels but was only second to Mario Sanchez's 0.75 WHIP from Twins' minor league pitchers with over ten innings pitched.  

Rozek's best outing came against the Daytona Tortugas on June 17 when he pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings while allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out four. Rozek shut out his opponents in three of his four starts and averaged less than two walks in those three starts while giving up no homers. 

A graduate of Minnesota State, the undrafted Rozek signed a minor league contract with the Twins midway through the 2021 season. After bouncing between the FCL Twins, Wichita, and Fort Myers in 2021, Rozek seems to have found his stride with the Kernels in 2022. The 26-year-old is a prime example of an organization taking a chance on a player with quite a bit of uncertainty. After a lukewarm start to the season, it appears that Rozek has found his stride and his future looks bright.  

Think there are any other players deserving of Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month accolades? Converse and comment below!

 

 


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Pretty Surprised that Rozek was "that" good.   I knew he had been pitching well but I guess I hadn't calculated just how well.  He is old for the league but I love underdogs and he is fun to cheer for.

Still Festa just wow.  For a 13th round selection he has been dynamic.  Amazing how they have been able re-shape him  getting his velocity and deception up.  He looks very promising.  I know there are still questions about if he really has that third pitch nailed down but golly gee wiz it fun watching him have such surprising success his first full season of pro ball.  

Varland has been the most consistent upper level starter this year.  It hasn't always been pretty but he always gets the job done and his K rate is good as well.  I still think his stuff plays up in the pen but he has been solid as a starter and the Twins need starters.  A little bit better horizontal run on that slider and I think he can make it.  Hope they move him AAA soon as he just a bit old for AA.

Happy to see Sands back in the mix.  The MLB team is going to need him so I hope he is ready.

A nice top 5 but several key prospects are missing from this list.  Hopefully they July is their month to shine.

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Verified Member
7 hours ago, HrbieFan said:

ML POM doesn't even go 5 IP per? Not a single guy listed made it to 6 IP per. Kid gloves are fully in play 

Wuttdayamean??  These kids are READY!!

Can pitch through the opponent’s batting order twice?

Check!
 

Can occasionally pitch into the 6th inning?

Check!
 

Can max effort each pitch and avoid anything fully within the technical definition of the strike zone, all while completing each inning with fewer than 25 pitches thrown?
 

Check!

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Old-Timey Member
On 7/2/2022 at 5:18 AM, HrbieFan said:

ML POM doesn't even go 5 IP per? Not a single guy listed made it to 6 IP per. Kid gloves are fully in play 

Thanks for coming into this thread of celebration with your hawt take of negatively. 

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