On Wednesday, the Twins filled the final spot on their 40-man roster by claiming 27-year-old Ralph Garza Jr. off waivers. Garza Jr. will report to Triple-A St. Paul.
Drafted from the University of Oklahoma by the Astros in the 26th round of the 2015 draft, Garza Jr. made his MLB debut earlier this season with Houston. Garza pitched 11 innings in nine games for the Astros, going 1-2 with a 4.91 ERA while striking out 14. He pitched against the Twins on June 2, hurling two innings of one-run ball while striking out two in a 14-3 win against Minnesota at Target Field. Garza was designated for assignment by the Astros when the team activated RHP Josh James from the 60-day IL.
Even though Garza’s small sample of numbers at the MLB level isn’t great, he’s been excellent at the AAA level. The reliever posted an impressive 1.96 ERA for Houston's Triple-A affiliate Sugar Land this season in ten appearances. In that span, he gave up just five hits and two runs while striking out 17 in 14 1/3 innings pitched.
Garza was even more successful in 2019 with former Houston AAA affiliate Round Rock. Garza was electric, serving as both a closer and a set-up man, posting nine saves and 16 holds en route to an 8-1 record with a 4.04 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 78 innings.
Although he’s got six pitches in his arsenal, Garza relies primarily on his sinker, four-seam fastball, and slider. Garza’s fastball averages about 92 MPH, and his sinker floats around 90 MPH. Yet his greatest asset is the contrast between his heat and offspeed pitches. The Texas native’s curveball averages just 75 MPH and is his primary strikeout pitch. That contrast landed him an excellent 25.8 strikeout percentage in Triple-A and 14 strikeouts at the big league level in 2021.
Of all the waiver signings that the franchise has made in 2021, this one has the potential to be one of the better ones. Garza has consistently dominated in Triple-A and frankly hasn’t had that many opportunities to prove himself in MLB play. Expect the Saints to implement Garza into the back end of their bullpen immediately. And while it isn’t a given, successful results in St. Paul could earn Garza a spot in the Twins bullpen by the end of the season.