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  • The Twins Starting Pitcher With the Most To Prove


    Cody Christie

    Minnesota traded away two of their starting pitchers at the deadline, so this leaves innings to fill. Here’s the one pitcher with the most to prove the rest of the season. 

     

    Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    Being a 12th round pick from the College of Charleston isn’t a spot that puts many players on the prospect map. That’s where Bailey Ober got his professional start, and he has undoubtedly made something of his professional career. Only three players from that round have made their big league debuts, and Ober is the only player out of the group to play more than one game. 

    Ober doesn’t fit the mold of the type of pitcher that organizations seek out as the game has continued to evolve. All four of his pitches are below league average when it comes to miles per hour. His Baseball Savant page has more blue than red, which points to him not being very successful so far in his big-league career. However, his recent starts point to some positive signs.

    Part of Ober’s scouting report has been the deceptive nature of his fastball. He’s 6-foot-9, and his wingspan allows his release point to be closer to the plate than some other pitchers. Also, he has started getting more vertical movement on his fastball that wasn’t present in some of his earlier starts. This movement matches his scouting reports from the minors, and it might be the biggest key for him sticking long-term in the big leagues.  

    During July, Ober saw other improvements as well. He started five games and allowed ten earned runs over 22 2/3 innings. Also, he struck out 25 batters and only issued eight walks. Hitters were only able to compile a .214/.283/.429 slash line, which showed improvement over the .891 OPS he held entering the month.  

    Bailey Ober will never be a top of the rotation starter, but there is always a need for rotational depth. Right now, Kenta Maeda is the lone name penciled in for the 2022 rotation, and there are no guarantees with him. His name was mentioned in multiple rumors at the trade deadline, and the Twins can revisit those deals this winter. 

    There are things Ober can continue to improve on throughout the season’s remaining games. As mentioned earlier, the vertical movement on his fastball is one of his biggest keys. He’s also been giving up plenty of hard-hit balls so far in his career. When he is at his best, he gets players to chase pitches and controls the strike zone. There have already been signs of those improvements in his most recent starts.

    Innings and pitch count limits are also part of the discussion with Ober and his ability to make improvements. Entering the season, Ober's career high in innings pitched was 78 2/3 innings back in 2019 when he also missed time with elbow issues. He didn't pitch at all in 2020, so the Twins, like many MLB teams this season, are going to be careful with young pitchers. He is already over 63 innings in 2021 and the team likely wants him to pitch over 100 innings. 

     

    So, what’s the upside with Ober? If he can continue to make improvements, he should be at the back-end of the rotation for multiple seasons. Minnesota has plenty of pitching prospects working their way to the big leagues, so Ober will have to prove that he can succeed over the long term. 

    What have your impressions been of Ober so far in his career? Can he continue to improve? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    Be interesting to see how the Twins rotate starter prospects into the mix. I imagine we should see Balazovic and Sands brought up, not to mention Stortman. Just so they get a taste of the major leagues. I wonder if the Twins would consider using someone like Gant as a regular opener for the younger starters.

     

    I also don't see the Twins wanting to shut down a guy like Over before the season is over. The question is do you just keep him at the 50-60 pitch level or push that upwards towards 100.

     

    Also will be interesting to see if fall instruction league exists and who the Twins send to whatever is Wieetr Ball.

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    6 hours ago, gunnarthor said:

    I actually like Ober but this is sad. Ober doesn't make the rotation on a real playoff team. As it is, he could be a 4/5 type starter if everything works out. Ideally, we could give those starts to someone with higher upside. But we aren't.

    Sad? Becoming a #4 starter is a fantastic outcome for a 12th round pick.  And if they were to go on a playoff run, he could move to the pen and possibly gain a couple ticks on his fastball, likely increasing his K rate. 

    This organization has a woeful track record with starting pitching, but Ober could be a sign of things to come.

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    10 minutes ago, Danchat said:

    Sad? Becoming a #4 starter is a fantastic outcome for a 12th round pick.  And if they were to go on a playoff run, he could move to the pen and possibly gain a couple ticks on his fastball, likely increasing his K rate. 

    Thus organization has a woeful track record with starting pitching, but Ober could be a sign of things to come.

    I agree. I like Ober. Darn nice return for a 12th round pick. But it's sad that this is what this season has come to. I want a playoff rotation. I want my promised pitching pipeline. It's sad that this is what we're left with.

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    Guys, I think Ober's development is clearly a success. He's getting better every start and showing signs of being a consistent back end starter - 4 or 5 spot. Those guys do not grow on trees and are pretty valuable. Yes, he's not a #1 or #2 but that doesn't mean he isn't important. I can absolutely see him as the 4th or 5th starter at the beginning of next season. 

    There is one thing that puzzles me. I understand that we're watching his innings but why 4-5 innings for another 10-12 starts instead of 6 plus innings for another 7-8 starts? that's what we need next year - starters that can go 6 plus innings. Let's see if he can be one of those guys and whether he can navigate that 3rd time through the lineup. Yes, that mans shutting him down in early September but that might be a good thing. We have a lot of potential starters to evaluate THIS YEAR - Ober, Jax, Barnes, Ryan, Winder, Thorpe, Balazovic, at the very least. Leave a few starts for those guys. run piggy back starts - e.g., Jax as long as he can go followed by Barnes hopefully to the end of the game - but get these guys on the mound and find out if they're ready for the big time. Commit to the re-tool NOW, don't waste this year. 

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    I do not like the way we have used Ober.  Pitch him as long as he is doing well, extend him, let him be a starter.  If he starts to wear down then shut him down, but no more 4 inning starts.  Keep bringing up the young guys.  I like Ober's story and I hope the other pitchers are so good that he does not make the rotation. 

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    10 minutes ago, LA VIkes Fan said:

    Guys, I think Ober's development is clearly a success. He's getting better every start and showing signs of being a consistent back end starter - 4 or 5 spot. Those guys do not grow on trees and are pretty valuable. Yes, he's not a #1 or #2 but that doesn't mean he isn't important. I can absolutely see him as the 4th or 5th starter at the beginning of next season. 

    There is one thing that puzzles me. I understand that we're watching his innings but why 4-5 innings for another 10-12 starts instead of 6 plus innings for another 7-8 starts? that's what we need next year - starters that can go 6 plus innings. Let's see if he can be one of those guys and whether he can navigate that 3rd time through the lineup. Yes, that mans shutting him down in early September but that might be a good thing. We have a lot of potential starters to evaluate THIS YEAR - Ober, Jax, Barnes, Ryan, Winder, Thorpe, Balazovic, at the very least. Leave a few starts for those guys. run piggy back starts - e.g., Jax as long as he can go followed by Barnes hopefully to the end of the game - but get these guys on the mound and find out if they're ready for the big time. Commit to the re-tool NOW, don't waste this year. 

    I don't know what you know about Ober but he has never had a season in MiLB where he hasn't been injured and missed time.  In 2019 he stated he felt horrible for days after starting.  I don't think the Twins thought he would be starting this early this year and likely already had a plan to limit his innings and try to help him to work on ways to get past the soreness he experiences and keep him healthy.  I presume they feel pushing his pitch count closer to 100 is counterproductive at this point.  I have no idea if it makes sense or not but so far he hasn't missed time so looks like the approach is working so far.

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    I hear you but that doesn't help us evaluate for next year unless the Twins have already decided he's a bullpen arm next year. The job for a guy who can throw up to 75-80 pitches but no more is Long Reliever, not starting pitcher. Nothing wrong with that but I say let's find out while we can in an uncompetitive year, not next year when we're hoping to compete.  

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    Color me skeptical. With more time for adjustments I worry major league hitters will figure out his sub-par stuff. The margin for success is thin on a guy who needs to be executing on all levels to get by. Lose a little command or movement  or run into a team that won't chase and that guy gets crushed. Maybe that's a back-end starter for a typical Twins team but you wouldn't typically find that guy starting for a quality playoff team. Or maybe the misguided Dobnak experience is too recent in my memory.

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    I think Dobnak is probably best suited in relief.  Let him come in as a 6th and 7th inning guy, hopefully with that power sinker and his improved slider, throw 20-30 pitches and get six outs.  That's if Rocco will allow his middle relievers to pitch more than one inning.  

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    Am I mistaken? Don't starting pitchers frequently see their innings numbers jump in their first or second year in the minors?  80 pitches to 120 pitches? something like that?  If this is true, Ober pitching 130 innings this year shouldn't be putting undue strain on his arm, should it? :)

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    1 hour ago, gunnarthor said:

    I agree. I like Ober. Darn nice return for a 12th round pick. But it's sad that this is what this season has come to. I want a playoff rotation. I want my promised pitching pipeline. It's sad that this is what we're left with.

    I think you are looking for something to complain about.  It is absolute non-sense to suggest Ober is what we are left with.  He just happens to be one of the first to be ready.  Balazovic / Ryan / Winder / Canterino / Sands / Strotman / Enlow / Woods-Richardson all have more upside and the first six are very close.   I would bet Ryan is in the rotation when he gets back from the Olympics and Winder could be anytime as well.

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    13 minutes ago, Thegrin said:

    Am I mistaken? Don't starting pitchers frequently see their innings numbers jump in their first or second year in the minors?  80 pitches to 120 pitches? something like that?  If this is true, Ober pitching 130 innings this year shouldn't be putting undue strain on his arm, should it? :)

    It wouldn't be a problem if he pitched 120 innings last years but that's not the case.  I would hope they were proceeding with caution before the crazy rate of injuries in MLB and Milb.  Now, they must be down right paranoid.

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    I am a bit puzzled on the "sub-par stuff" statement.

    He needs to work on more bite on his breaking ball, but the FB plays well, especially up in the zone.  The national announcer for the Cards game mentioned his release point is 1.5 foot closer to the plate than the MLB average, due to his extreme length.  That works out that his FB is reaching the plate the same as an average pitcher throwing 3 mph faster.

    So 92 is 95, etc.  Nothing wrong with that velo as long as he locates it well.

    I like him, hope he continues to improve, and he could develop into a very nice pitcher for the Twins.

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    23 minutes ago, Steve71 said:

    I am a bit puzzled on the "sub-par stuff" statement.

    He needs to work on more bite on his breaking ball, but the FB plays well, especially up in the zone.  The national announcer for the Cards game mentioned his release point is 1.5 foot closer to the plate than the MLB average, due to his extreme length.  That works out that his FB is reaching the plate the same as an average pitcher throwing 3 mph faster.

    So 92 is 95, etc.  Nothing wrong with that velo as long as he locates it well.

    I like him, hope he continues to improve, and he could develop into a very nice pitcher for the Twins.

    His fastball is rated 45/50, and his curve is the same. Slider is 40/40. Change-up is his highest rated pitch but I haven't heard much mention of it. Fangraphs shows everything other than his fastball gets hit really hard. Maybe these numbers will regress downward as he gets more experience but so far it doesn't look like his raw stuff is capable of beating major league hitters.

    Season Pitch Pitches BB% K% BB/K AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BABIP wRC wRAA wOBA wRC+
    2021 Fourseam (FA) 465 8.4% 28.6% 0.29 .222 .286 .370 .656 .148 .292 11.6 -2.7 .286 89
    2021 Slider (SL) 128 3.3% 26.7% 0.13 .241 .267 .655 .922 .414 .222 5.2 1.6 .378 152
    2021 Changeup (CH) 110 6.1% 12.1% 0.50 .355 .394 .677 1.071 .323 .333 7.7 3.7 .451 199
    2021 Curveball (CU) 94 6.3% 25.0% 0.25 .286 .375 .786 1.161 .500 .250 4.0 2.1 .474 215
    Season Pitch Pitches LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB Strikes Balls Pitches xMov zMov Mov
    2021 Fourseam (FA) 465 26.0% 31.5% 42.5% 22.6% 9.7% 304 161 465 -3.7 7.9 8.9
    2021 Slider (SL) 128 22.2% 16.7% 61.1% 9.1% 27.3% 82 46 128 6.7 0.4 7.0
    2021 Changeup (CH) 110 29.6% 37.0% 33.3% 22.2% 33.3% 72 38 110 -9.2 4.0 10.2
    2021 Curveball (CU) 94 10.0% 50.0% 40.0% 0.0% 50.0% 73 21 94 6.2 -8.7 10.7

     

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    I am bullish on Ober.

    I don't understand the premise of the article that he will only be useful as rotational depth, was selected late in the draft, and is on a pitch count for the rest of 2021. But that somehow he has the most to "prove." Sounds like the opposite to me. Headline and story writers need to coordinate?

    I'd like to just see him get his work in for the rest of the season. He will be a rotation piece in 2922.

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    I appreciate the positivity.  I disagree that he gets better every time he goes out, but he is trending the right direction.  

    I think every Twins pitcher needs to prove himself, even Pineda lays too many eggs for my liking.

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    31 minutes ago, Hosken Bombo Disco said:

    I am bullish on Ober.

    I don't understand the premise of the article that he will only be useful as rotational depth, was selected late in the draft, and is on a pitch count for the rest of 2021. But that somehow he has the most to "prove." Sounds like the opposite to me. Headline and story writers need to coordinate?

    I'd like to just see him get his work in for the rest of the season. He will be a rotation piece in 2922.

    That's gonna be some career.

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    I like that he generally throws strikes. If he ends up being an effective #5 starter it would be a great bonus. He looked good against the Cards but we won’t know anything until the league sees him more. 

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    A breakdown of Ober

    • (18) 2014 Had impressive results out of his independed Christian high school, but wasn't drafted.
    • (18) 2014 Attended a good, but not great college in College of Charleston
    • (18) 2014 (Freshman Year) Very impressive pitching from the freshman 1.53 ERA 82 K, 19 BB in 106.2 IP
    • (18) 2014 UCL tear ended his season.
    • (19) 2015 he missed the season recovering from TJ
    • (20) 2016 he had a good, but certainly not great, season 3.53 ERA, 96 K, 27 BB in 97.0 IP
    • (20) 2016 23rd Round Pick by the Dodgers, didn't sign, returned to college
    • (21) 2017 Took another step back in results during an injury riddled season. 4.53 ERA, 73 K, 11 BB in just 56.0 IP.
    • (21) 2017 12th Round Pick as a Red shirt junior (4th year),
    • (21) Pitched very well in rookie ball. 3.21 ERA, 11.3 K/9, 1.0 BB/9 in 28.0 IP.
    • (22) 2018 pitched decent with 3.84 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 1.1 BB/9 in 75 IP in Low A. 
    • (22) 2018 Lost 3 months due to forearm issue
    • (23) 2019 Dominated A+ and AA, but again, injuries 0.69 ERA, 11.4 K/9, 1.0 BB/9 across 78.2 IP
    • (23) 2019 Spent 3.5 months on IL for UCL nerve issue, then spent another stint on the 7 day IL in Sept.
    • (24) 2020 Lost season due to COVID shut down

    Having already had TJ and missed large sections of time in at least 2018 & 2019 for UCL and "forearm" related injuries. He's had a smattering of other trips to ILs through college and pro levels as well so it's hard to expect Ober to remain healthy. There are a lot of red flags here. All the injuries certainly contributed to Ober's stock falling and his low draft position, but his results in college declined each year as well. 

    Ober didn't exactly light the world on fire in Rookie or Low-A ball through his first couple seasons in the minors, but he suddenly really turned it on in 2019.

    Now, having lost a year in 2020, and just now having turned 26, he's a borderline age for a "prospect." Part of that means he's been thrown to the wolves in the big show with mixed results. While Ober is consistently generating strikeouts and limiting walks, a lot of his punchouts are coming from called strikes. Through the middle of the season, Ober was struggling to generate misses and hitters were making a lot of hard contact including barreling up the ball at a high rate when they did swing.

    I love the control Ober shows, and pitch counts show semi-efficient appearances, averaging about 17 pitches per inning which would allow him to pitch 6.0 innings per 100 pitch outing. His track record is pretty spotty and having good control can often lead to dominance in A+/AA without having top tier stuff. Not sure where the sudden huge boost in movement came from this last game, but in order to secure a spot in the rotation, Ober will need to keep it up. Without that additional movement, MLB hitters are probably going to figure him out and relegate him to scrapping for that 5th starter position. That's assuming his elbow hangs in there.

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    Bailey Ober has been pretty much dissected on this blog. He has had injuries, he does not project as a top three piece, he has shown well so far, and the Twins are managing his appearances. 

    If Ober can continue to pitch as he has and lengthen out to 7 innings next year with the current results, the Twins have a gem of a #5 pitcher; that's good. Perhaps the auditions will uncover a #4 rotational piece. Then if Maeda can hold down the #3 spot, the Twins only need to add the two top pieces for a solid rotation. I like Ober.

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    I'm just keeping it real here. Despite his video game numbers in milb I was surprised when the Twins added him to the 40 man. I saw numbers that couldn't possibly be sustained and saw Aaron Slegers part 2 in Ober. And I was confused he didn't go to the instructs following 2020 if they liked him enough to protect him. (Totally understood not being in St Paul last year as he wasn't seen as a depth piece for a contending team,)

    And I'm going to argue against Cody's comment about his stuff. Great control, a solid change and slider is something to work with. Velocity was definitely an issue, despite his vast extension and ability to hide the ball creating extra, perceived velocity. But again, I had serious doubts. And the injuries and reports he often didn't feel good after some starts definitely concerned me. 

    BUT, some funny things happened on the way to Target Field, to badly paraphrase an old idiom. The tall and lanky Ober spent 2020 working on his mechanics. (Might have grown more in to his body as well). Thus far, we have had ZERO reports about physical issues with his body due to a more fluid delivery and better mechanics. Those changes have seen a consistent 4-6 MPH uptick in his velocity. 

    He had 14 games in 2019, 13 GS, only 4 at AA, and his numbers were, again, outstanding. He jumped to AAA to begin 2021 and started only FOUR games tbere before being promoted. And the FO is never aggressive?

    I've seen all of or parts of most of his starts this season. I've seen a FB with movement that plays and real potential with his slider and other pitches despite needing some work. I recall his 1st start, which I believe was 4R in 4IP with some K's, and Smalley stating it was maybe the best 4R 4IP he had seen, meaning potential.

    He is a ROOKIE SP who missed 2020 and barely played at AA before making his MLB debut. He has a 1.27 WHIP right now and is averaging over a K per IP. Just how much better could he be doing at this point? 

    I can understand debates out his IP. Is it better to extend him, build his arm up and then shut him down? Or is it better to be gradual and work on stuff and slowly extend him? I'm in favor of the latter and piggy back or work in some other 2022 pen options to get a chance.

    But other than just being dominate and blowing everyone away for 5-6 IP every time out, what more could we expect from a rookie pitcher being promoted this aggressively after not pitching for a year? I think he has a real future as a solid 4-5 SO. Anything more is gravy and to be decided by time and experience.

     

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    6 hours ago, Hosken Bombo Disco said:

    I am bullish on Ober.

    I don't understand the premise of the article that he will only be useful as rotational depth, was selected late in the draft, and is on a pitch count for the rest of 2021. But that somehow he has the most to "prove." Sounds like the opposite to me. Headline and story writers need to coordinate?

    I'd like to just see him get his work in for the rest of the season. He will be a rotation piece in 2922.

     

    5 hours ago, Unwinder said:

    That's gonna be some career.

    But it explains the severely restricted pitch count so far.

    I’m sure Chief could tell us the sad story of Methuselah…had his old-testament league career cut short after a couple hundred years…all because his rookie year manager was too aggressive with pitch count. Cost him anywhere from 2-3 dollars in lost salary over a career that could have gone another six or seven centuries easily.

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    7 hours ago, LA VIkes Fan said:

    I hear you but that doesn't help us evaluate for next year unless the Twins have already decided he's a bullpen arm next year. The job for a guy who can throw up to 75-80 pitches but no more is Long Reliever, not starting pitcher. Nothing wrong with that but I say let's find out while we can in an uncompetitive year, not next year when we're hoping to compete.  

    I am leaving this for the experts. Perhaps there is some good reason for limiting his pitch counts, bit they still want him out there every 5 days to build stamina. I think that it might be nice if he could split games with one of the prospects.

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    12 minutes ago, glunn said:

    Ober is a large man. Perhaps he can build up his strength and generate greater velocity and durability.

    Except, he spent 2020 doing just that. He worked really hard on his motion/delivery to alleviate the aches and pains he felt previously after pitching. No reports this season of any recurring issues. And his velocity has jumped from high 80's to touching low 90's to being a consistent 92-94 with amazing extension and hiding. 

    For him, now, it's all about working on secondary stuff and building up his arm for IP. 

    Funny how we are so desperate for internal development for SP but we forget how bad Gibson and Berrios looked initially. And Ober, just the 1st rotational piece to reach the majors, is such a question mark when his initial numbers are better than either of them.

    Instant gratification happens so seldom.

    I predict nothing for Ober, at this point, other than just maybe being a solid back end option. Just surprised how few look at what he's done thus far and dismiss him.

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    1 hour ago, jkcarew said:

     

    But it explains the severely restricted pitch count so far.

    I’m sure Chief could tell us the sad story of Methuselah…had his old-testament league career cut short after a couple hundred years…all because his rookie year manager was too aggressive with pitch count. Cost him anywhere from 2-3 dollars in lost salary over a career that could have gone another six or seven centuries easily.

    You can't compare Ober to Methuselah, it was a completely different game back then. The average fastball was 12 MPH, and starters were expected to go 90 innings.

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