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  • Naming the Twins 2022 Opening Day Starter

    Ted Schwerzler

    The Minnesota Twins were looking at an opportunity to re-tool for the year ahead. However, with Jose Berrios gone and Kenta Maeda shelved, the rotation is unquestionably thin. Who takes the ball on Opening Day 2022?

    Image courtesy of Jeff Curry, USA TODAY Sports

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    I have been a big proponent of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine looking at the year ahead as an opportunity to right the ship that sunk in 2021. Unfortunately, the Maeda injury is the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Replacing the entirety of a rotation, needing to overhaul the bullpen, and still being uncertain of what to do with Byron Buxton, this club has its hands full.

    It will be a busy winter but if we want the team to tackle one thing first, then starting on the bump is an excellent place to begin. Here is how I’m currently handicapping the odds for Rocco Baldelli’s starter on Opening Day this coming season.

    Bailey Ober 10%
    Ober has made 16 starts for the Twins in what has been a lost season, but he’s fully entrenched himself as a legitimate big-league arm. The sub-4.00 ERA includes a couple of rough turns, and he’s competed to the tune of a 9.3 K/9 while owning just a 2.0 BB/9 rate. The home run has been his bugaboo, and that can be something of a focus as he continues to learn the competition. I like Ober a lot. He’s got a shot to be a top-3 arm in Minnesota’s future rotation, but I don’t think this club wants to run him out as the ace after just getting his feet wet.

    Joe Ryan 5%
    He’s here, and he’s beautiful! That’s how this works, right? Ryan was acquired from the Rays in exchange for Nelson Cruz. I’m still baffled about how Minnesota pulled that off, but either way, the Olympic hurler has been great since joining the organization. His big-league debut went fine, with not much to be drawn from a lackluster Cubs lineup. It remains to be seen how the fastball will play at the highest level, lacking velocity, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t be a productive member of a good rotation. Unfortunately, Ryan is someone you likely want on the back half of the unit in 2022.

    The Prospects 2%
    It would’ve been great to see someone emerge from this group in a year that didn't feature much big league positivity. Ober was an outsider who made it, but Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Matt Canterino, Blayne Enlow, and Josh Winder all spent time on the shelf. Only two of them took turns at Triple-A, and all of them remain distant from any immediate plans. You can make a case that each has seen their prospect status take a hit, and while there’s plenty of reason to believe an impact arm or two will emerge here, none of them are going to be in the equation when the season kicks off.

    The Suspects 3%
    The additional one percent afforded to this group comes from the fact that they’ve already made it. Hello to Randy Dobnak, Griffin Jax, Charlie Barnes, and Lewis Thorpe. This foursome has taken turns for the Twins this year, but none of them have faired particularly well, and none of them should be considered beyond starting depth. Dobnak’s future is the clearest given his contract situation. There’s a real possibility the Australian (Thorpe) may be out of the organization in a couple of months, and while both Barnes and Jax have gotten their feet wet, it’s not fair to expect a substantial leap for either. This group isn’t producing your first starter of the season.

    The Field 80%
    Take your pick as to who the Twins will sign; they’re going to need at least three starters not presently with the club. Michael Pineda is a good bet to return, but if that’s your Opening Day starter, then you can imagine how the season will go. I’m less inclined to believe a long-term deal with Marcus Stroman or Noah Syndergaard makes sense when it could be a rebuilding year. Maybe an older veteran on a one-year deal happens depending on where the price tag lands. This winter, how Minnesota spends will hinge heavily on what happens with Buxton and the expectations for the returning core. Either way, I’d bet a reasonable sum that the man Baldelli gives the ball to on Opening Day is not currently in the organization.

    If you’re the manager, who is it that you’re going to? Put on your GM hat and share which arm you think gets plucked and tasked with kicking off 2022.

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    Opening Day will be pitched by whichever pitcher among the starters on the roster has the most MLB service time. Possibly Pineda if they re-sign him. Otherwise someone new they sign. Not Ober, not Dobnak, not Ryan.

    Hopefully they sign someone good, and not another Shoemaker caliber arm.

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    It’s an impossible task. Placing inning and pitch count restrictions on pitchers to keep them fresh/healthy does not work. Let’s forget about the veteran junkyard, sign one quality starter, and throw the young guys. Stock the bullpen with some high velocity guys and roll with it. The FO will also need to find starters at LF, SS, and 3B (assuming JD is the full time DH), all on a shoestring budget. Additionally, the coaching staff needs to be completely overhauled, with Rocco, Wes, and Evers as the only holdovers. Translation: it’s going to be a very busy winter.

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    On 9/3/2021 at 9:19 AM, Karbo said:

    I have to say the odds are 99.9% that the opening day starter isn't on our current roster. FO will need to sign at least 2 Starters.

    Even if they don't want to be competitive or "go for it" I agree with this.

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