Before we get too deep into things, let’s step back for a quick reminder of how the Twins acquired pitching prospects Jhoan Duran and Dakota Chalmers.
The 22-year-old Duran is from the Dominican Republic. He signed with the Diamondbacks in December 2014 and worked his way up the ladder. In late July of 2018, he came to the Twins organization with outfielders Ernie de la Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel as part of the Eduardo Escobar deal.
Twins Bench Coach Mike Bell was the Diamondbacks’ Vice President of Player Development for eight years. He said of trading Duran, “It was a painful trade, being on that side of it, watching him go. I was definitely in the room. I think it was a good trade for both teams. Escy’s a very good player, and a good teammate. I’ll tell you what, Duran is an incredible talent. I think he’s going to do a lot of good things here in the organization.”
Get to know Jhoan Duran from this story from January, shortly after he was added to the Twins 40-man roster. At that time, he spoke of his best pitches. ““Obviously I feel most comfortable with my fastball, but I also have another pitch that I really like to use and feel really comfortable with, and that’s my sinker.”
Dakota Chalmers was the 3rd round draft pick of the Oakland A’s in 2015 out of high school in Georgia. The highly-touted, hard-throwing prospect showed great stuff, but early in 2018, he had Tommy John surgery.
In August of 2018, the Twins traded veteran closer Fernando Rodney to the A’s for Chalmers, knowing he would not be able to pitch until at least the second half of the 2019 season.
He began making rehab appearances last July, and on July 30th, he debuted with the Ft. Myers Miracle. After a rough first start, he was really good in his final four starts before the end of the regular season. He then went up to Pensacola and pitched for them in the playoffs. And after that, he went to the Arizona Fall League where he struck out 25 batters in 17 2/3 innings.
Like Duran, Chalmers became an easy choice to add to the 40-man roster after the season. We caught up with the 23-year-old at Twins Fest as well for this Get to Know him story.
Now, back to their performances on Sunday. For each, it was their first appearance in Summer Camp intra-squad games. Hard to know what to expect. As pitching coach Wes Johnson pointed out, they weren’t necessarily looking for results.
“I told those guys that it wasn’t, for me, as much about balls and strikes - as crazy as that sounds - it was How was their presence? We gave them some different situations. We started their second innings with runners on.”
But it was hard not to notice that they each threw two scoreless innings, despite those situations. Also, Johnson added, “Both of those guys had to go through the heart of our order. That’s not easy. In my opinion, we have the best offense in baseball.”
Johnson said that Nelson Cruz provided the biggest compliment, “Nelson Cruz came up to me and said ‘Hey, both of those guys who just threw, they impressed me. They looked like they belonged, and they were in control.’ And I 100% agree with Nelson obviously.”
Following Sunday’s game, Rocco Baldelli excitedly discussed Duran, Chalmers, and also hard-throwing reliever Jorge Alcala. He said, "I think all three of those guys are going to be impacting us at the big league level, and probably soon... The type of stuff we're talking about is the type of stuff that impacts major league games."
Duran hit triple digits multiple times in 2019 in Ft. Myers and Pensacola. Chalmers has reached 97 at times. Alcala works 94 to 97 too. But for each of them, they have multiple pitches that could become, and maybe soon, plus pitches.
Will that happen in 2020?
While Duran and Chalmers have the stuff and the potential to be big league, impact starters, they are young. Also, in 2020, it becomes about opportunity.
The Twins have a veteran pitching staff. Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill and Homer Bailey would appear to be the starting five at the beginning of the season. In addition, Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe all showed something in 2019 in the big leagues and give the team major-league-ready starting pitcher depth.
So for 2020, especially the shortened 2020 season, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which they get the call to start this year.
However, as Wes Johnson pointed out, “Crazy things happen, as you guys know. It’s crazy times. It’s going to be tough to answer that question. There’s always that possibility. We wouldn't have them here if we didn’t think that if we needed to we could call on them and bring them up.”
Maybe even more important, these pitchers indicate that the Twins player development, and specifically, their pitcher development has come a long way. It also speaks to their pro scouting department to tout these guys as targets in that large group of late 2018 trades.
Baldelli is excited about what they can be. “Those guys are going to help us win for a very long time.They don't just have pretty good stuff. They don't just have pretty good ability. They have elite traits that are going to allow them to get a lot of outs, a lot of swings and misses.”
The reigning AL Manager of the Year specifically mentioned one of Duran’s pitches that he thinks can be great. “I don't even know what anyone wants to call the pitch Duran throws, as well, the splinker pitch, or I don't even know what to call it, but it's coming in hot. It moves and just kind of disappears.”
While it is OK to question the plate discipline of Eddie Rosario, just watch the movement of that Jhoan Duran pitch from Sunday again. That’s not a pitch that can be hit, certainly not with any authority.
The future is bright for the Twins, and specifically for these high-upside Twins pitchers. Remember that Jordan Balazovic isn’t even in the current Twins 60-player pool.
Baldelli thinks this group is going to be special, and more importantly, it really continues to enforce just how much depth the Twins have on the mound.
Baldelli noted, "What we're watching is not typical. You could watch some really good major league baseball and not see some of the stuff those guys threw out there today."
So while Dakota Chalmers and Jhoan Duran are unlikely to make starts for the Twins in 2020, it’s not impossible to think that they could contribute out of the bullpen for stints if needed. And, it’s exciting to think of what they can become - and what it means for the health of the Twins organization - if they continue to develop and gain consistency moving forward.
Their futures are quite bright.