Varland was selected in the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft, and after just a brief debut in that season, he showed out in a big way this year. Putting in a ton of work during the shutdown for minor league baseball in 2020, results showed in a big way for the up-and-coming pitcher.
I checked in with him to see why he thought there was so much success this season, talk baseball, the offseason, and pick his brain. Here’s what he had to say:
Twins Daily: You didn't get much of a debut for Elizabethton following your selection in the 2019 draft. With minor league baseball shut down last season, how did you go about improving and gearing up for the season?
Louie Varland: After pitching 8 2/3 innings and the season getting canceled, I really did exactly what the Twins asked of me, and it spiraled into improving my mechanics and staying healthy. I threw pretty much all COVID year with two short shutdown periods. When I was throwing, I was working on stuff, whether it was mechanics or pitch development. I worked with Richard Salazar, Mark Moriarty, Martijn Verhoeven, the Twins coordinators, and Kevin Walsh with Starters.
TD: With the dust settled in 2021, you were among the best minor league pitchers in baseball. What was your focus, and what did you feel helped you take the most significant step forwards?
LV: My focus was getting outs and putting my team in a position to win. In order to do that, I had to throw my pitches in my strikeout zones; Fastball top of the zone, changeup bottom right and slider bottom left. What really helped me take that next step and making it easy for me was an arm path fix. Working a lot with Martijn, Zach Bove, and my pitching coaches, I was able to clean it up and make it more efficient and easily repeatable.
TD: Having pitched at two levels this season, you saw equal success in both places. What did you feel was the most significant difference at Low-A and High-A?
LV: The biggest difference that I noticed was the batters not swinging at balls out of the zone as much. I got away with more balls out of the zone being swung at in Low-A than High-A. Batters also had a better approach looking for specific pitches during different innings depending on what pitches I have working. A little more patience, I would say. They barreled more balls as well.
TD: You've now picked up a few different Pitcher of the Year awards, both from the Twins and Twins Daily. What do those mean to you?
LV: It’s always nice to get awards. I look at them as a reward for my hard work. I do have to give credit to my fielders making great plays behind me. Nonetheless, it is a satisfying feeling even though I have a lot more work to do and more to prove.
TD: As someone from Minnesota and played their college career at Concordia in St. Paul, what would it mean for you to make the big leagues with your hometown team? What steps do you need to take in preparation for Double and Triple-A next season?
LV: It would mean a lot. It was a dream come true to be drafted by the Twins, but it would be more of a dream come true to make the big leagues with them. I need to fine-tune some pitches and continue to improve my pitching in general. Like I said earlier, I need to dial in my pitches and throw them in the strike-out zones when I want. Consistency with my three pitches.
TD: How much of the Major League Baseball postseason are you tuning into? Is there a guy or two you like to key in on and try to learn from their stuff?
LV: I need to be watching more, but I’ve tuned in a little here and there. I always love watching (Gerrit) Cole, (Max) Scherzer, (Liam) Hendriks, and (Josh) Hader.
TD: Although the offseason doesn't mean the work ends, what are you most looking forward to in terms of recharging and relaxation?
LV: I like to fish, so I will be fishing around Minnesota. Also, a little hunting. I took a couple of weeks off, and I’m back to training now, but I will enjoy the outdoors in the weekends to come before the snow flies. Then I’ll be ice fishing.