Hearing Wichita Wind Surge manager Ramon Borrego talk about lefty Jovani Moran and right-hander Yennier Cano, one can’t help but be excited about the idea of them joining the Twins bullpen, maybe even later this year. Both have been really good so far through the season’s first six weeks.
Through games on Friday, Jovani Moran was 2-1 with a 0.84 ERA over 11 games. In his 21 1/3 innings pitched, he has given up just seven hits, walked six and struck out 32 batters (13.5 K/9). Yennier Cano has also pitched in 11 games. He is 3-1 with a 1.65 ERA. In his 16 1/3 innings, he has given up 17 hits, walked five and struck out 27 batters (14.9 K/9).
“Cano is a monster,” stated Borrego. “He’s a hard worker. He’s a Cuban guy. He’s so fun. Cano is one of those guys that wants the ball. It’s unbelievable. Give me the ball. If he pitched the night before, he wants to pitch the next day.”
The Twins signed Cano in the summer of 2019. He got into a couple of GCL games to start his career before joining High-A Ft. Myers where he pitched in eight games before the end of the season.
Borrego shared a story that Cano had told him recently. When in Cuba, Cano started one night and went six innings. The next night, he came in and was the closer and recorded the save. His team played the next day again, and he worked three innings.
Cano told Borrego, “That’s what we do there.”
Because of his Cuban backstory, Cano didn’t sign until he was 25. Now 27, the Twins could choose to move him aggressively this season. Cano has a mid-90s fastball with some movement as well as a slider that can be devastating.
For Moran, he has a devastating pitch too, his changeup. Borrego said of the lefty, “Everybody is talking about how he’s throwing 94 with a changeup that’s reminding us of Johan Santana. That changeup is unbelievable. He can even say (to the batter) ‘Here comes the changeup. Here we go.’ and nobody’s going to hit it. That changeup is nasty.”
Borrego emphasized how dominant Moran has been. “ It’s kind of like, you give the ball to (Moran), and you can relax and go drink some coffee. That guy is going to dominate. That happened two nights ago. We brought Moran into a really tough situation because we needed strikeouts. That’s what he did. He faced two batters. Bang. Bang. Strikeouts. Went to the next inning easily.”
Bringing up memories of that Johan Santana changeup will certainly create excitement. It hasn’t been a smooth road for Moran since the Twins made him their 7th round draft pick in 2015 out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico.
He pitched a little that summer but then he missed the season in 2016 after having bone chips removed from his elbow. He returned in 2017 and struck out 45 batters in 24 2/3 innings at Elizabethton. He went 3-1 with a miniscule 0.36 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP. He was again good in 2018. Between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers, he went 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA. In 76 innings, he struck out 107 batters.
In 2019, he struggled in his jump to Double-A, but also missed quite a bit of time due to injury. He ended the season with nine innings in the Arizona Fall League.
Borrego noted, “he lost his confidence a little bit. Spike one in the dirt. He wasn’t as consistent. We tried a lot of things to help him out. I was worried about him.“
But after a lost 2020 season, Jovani Moran and his confidence appear to be back. “This year, we have that guy back. Now, he’s a different guy. It’s unbelievable. You can see it.”
Borrego relayed a conversation he had with Moran during batting practice earlier this week. When Borrego asked him how he is feeling, Moran responded by saying, “I’m ready to play in the big leagues. I’m ready to show that I’m ready to pitch at that level.”
Borrego agrees. “I have no doubt about it. He’s dominated. I’m glad for him. He’s healthy. That’s a big thing.”
The Wind Surge manager knows that Cano and Moran probably won’t be in Wichita for much longer. “It’s our job. When we can move guys up, we feel so happy for them.”
“At some point, you’re going to see those guys in St. Paul. I don’t know when, but it’s right there. It’s really close. For right now, those guys have fun. They are competing really well. Those guys just want to play the game and they want to win.”
And hopefully, before too long, these two intriguing pitchers will be helping the Twins win.