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  • Twins Minor League Report (7/20): Balazovic Extends Scoreless Streak


    Steve Lein

    The story heading into Tuesday’s minor league slate of games, was the recent pitching of top prospect Jordan Balazovic for the Wichita Wind Surge. You could say he was quite good again, but his continued dominance is not the only thing worth discussing on this night as three other affiliates came back late to win, one in particularly-improbable fashion.

     

    To find out just how good Jordan Balazovic was, and how the rest of the Minnesota Twins affiliates managed their comebacks on Tuesday, keep reading!

    TRANSACTIONS

    • The Minnesota Twins returned Griffin Jax back to St. Paul and assigned outfielders Rob Refsnyder and Kyle Garlick to the Saints on a rehab assignments.
    • With the Kernels OF Matt Wallner was activated from the injured list and served as the DH, batting third in the lineup.
    • RHP Landon Leach was assigned to Fort Myers from the FCL Twins.
    • The Twins have signed RHP Eiker Huizi to a minor league contract. He had signed with the Mets in 2017 and spent two seasons pitching in the DSL. The Mets released him in October of 2020. The Venezuela native is 20 years old. 


    SAINTS SENTINEL
    St. Paul 6, Omaha 4
    Box Score

    The Saints and Storm Chasers had an early tilt, and it was a good one that was sent to extra innings to kick off this week’s six-game series.

    Chandler Shepherd got the start for St. Paul and went five solid innings, allowing only one run on six hits and two walks while punching out six. Omaha got to reliever Yennier Cano in his two innings. He allowed three earned runs on six hits and struck out three. Kyle Barraclough delivered a scoreless eighth inning. He walked the first two batters of the ninth inning, but Andrew Vasquez came on and gave the Saints lineup the chance they were looking for. He got a fielder's choice, a strikeout and a ground out to send the game to extra innings. 

    Down 4-3 with two outs in the ninth, Drew Maggi stepped to the plate and was not going to let his team lose. He clubbed his 10th home run of the season to tie the game at four and send it to extra innings.

    After Vasquez held the home team in check with a scoreless ninth, Jose Miranda was quick to give St. Paul the lead with a one-out double in the tenth to score the extra runner. The rehabbing Kyle Garlick added an RBI single later in the inning to give the Saints the 6-4 lead.

    Ian Hamilton shut down the Storm Chasers in the bottom half, walking one and striking out two in the process of recording his second save.

    In the top of the first inning, Rob Refsnyder, also rehabbing with the Saints, hit a home run to right center. Jose Miranda (2-for-5, 2 R, 2B, RBI, K) and Jake Cave (3-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, K) had multiple hits.

    WIND SURGE WISDOM
    Wichita 4, Arkansas 1
    Box Score

    On the mound for Wichita on Tuesday was top pitching prospect Jordan Balazovic who was carrying a three-start and 18 2/3 inning scoreless streak into the game. He was also named the AA-Central Pitcher of the Week after a seven inning, one hit and 11 K outing in his last start.

    You could say he is locked in at this point.

    Balazovic extended his scoreless streak to 25 2/3 innings with another fantastic outing, picking up his third win of the season. He was efficient and dominant again, throwing 89 pitches, 63 for strikes (70.8%) to complete another seven inning, no-run start. He allowed just four hits and one walk while striking out six Arkansas hitters. During his streak, he has allowed just 10 hits and four walks and has racked up 30 strikeouts. It should not be long until he is pitching with the St. Paul Saints.

    His offense, and specifically Trey Cabbage, gave him more than enough run support in building a 4-0 lead heading to the ninth. Cabbage did most of that damage with an RBI double in the third inning, and then insurance in the eighth with an absolutely mammoth two-run home run.

    The Arkansas broadcast remarked that it left his bat at 114 MPH and travelled 461 feet. “Goodness…” was an apt description, play-by-play guy.

    Reliever Zach Neff came on for the eighth inning and worked around a single and walk for a scoreless frame, but was not able to keep the Travelers off the board in the ninth. In his 1 1/3 innings Neff was charged with one run on two hits and two walks. He struck out one. Jordan Gore was summoned for the final two outs, and though he gave up a single that scored a run, got a strikeout and a long fly ball for the third out to pick up his first save with the Wind Surge.

    Roy Morales (3-for-5, 2B, 3B, RBI) and D.J. Burt (2-for-4, 2B, K) also collected multiple hits in the win.

    KERNELS NUGGETS
    Beloit 3, Cedar Rapids 4
    Box Score

    The Snappers and Kernels traded leads a few times throughout this one, but neither team was able to break through for a big inning.

    Tyler Beck made the start for Cedar Rapids and scattered eight hits over his five innings, allowing just two runs along with striking out seven. Derek Molina (2 IP, H, 4 K), Melvi Acosta (1 1/3 IP, H, R, 3 K), and Zach Featherstone combined for four innings of one run ball, striking out nine and walking none.

    That was enough to keep the Kernels in the driver’s seat after the Snappers tied it at three in the top of the ninth. They took little time to end it in the bottom half, as Jair Camargo led off the inning with a bunt single, then Michael Helman drove in pinch runner Daniel Ozoria all the way from first with a walk-off double.

    Helman said humbly after the game that he just wanted to move the runner along. "I got the opportunity to at least try to move the runner and put a guy in scoring position. It somehow kept the ball fair down the line. Luckily Ozoria is fast." 

    Matt Wallner made his return from the injured list as the designated hitter. In his second at-bat he clubbed his fifth home run of the season (has played only 18 games). Camargo finished 2-for-4 with his 13th home run and two RBI. DeShawn Keirsey collected his third triple of the year and stole two bases.

    MUSSEL MATTERS
    Daytona 7, Fort Myers 8
    Box Score

    The Mighty Mussels fell behind 7-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth, but with some help from the Tortugas bullpen and on brand for Twins affiliates on the day, were able to come all the way back and steal this one on Tuesday night.

    Aaron Rozek made the start for Fort Myers and went seven innings. He allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits but also struck out eight batters. Carlos Suniaga came on in relief and after two strikeouts, gave up a single and a home run that made any comeback seem that much more improbable for the home team.

    Then the back end of the Daytona Bullpen happened.

    The bottom of the eighth went groundout, walk, walk, hit batter, walk, pitching change, walk, single, passed ball, walk, walk and before you knew it, six runs had crossed the plate for Fort Myers, and they had taken the lead 8-7.

    Warming up quickly, closer Denny Bentley slammed the door shut on the Tortugas with a one-two-three ninth inning on just eight pitches, including a three-pitch strikeout to end the game with authority. He picked up his seventh save of the season.

    Misael Urbina went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI out of the leadoff spot. The Mighty Mussels had just three other hits as a team, but were able to take advantage of a bulk of their 12 walks in that eighth inning. Jeferson Morales, Aaron Sabato, and Ruben Santana each drew three of those walks.

    COMPLEX CHRONICLES
    FCL Twins 5, FCL Rays 7
    Box Score

    The Twins fell behind early in this one but came back and took the lead 5-3 after the top of the sixth inning behind home runs from LaRon Smith and Malfrin Sosa.

    Luis Baez (2-for-5, R, 2B, K, SB) and Alexander Pena (2-for-4, R, RBI, BB, 2 K) collected half of the Twins eight hits. Kala’I Rosario added an RBI double.

    Sean Gilmartin started the game and pitched two innings. He allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits while striking out four. Wilker Reyes went the next four innings, and gave up one run on four hits and a walk. He struck out five. Cole Bellair was saddled with the blown save and loss after surrendering three runs on four hits in the final two innings, though he did strike out five.

    TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE DAY

    Pitcher of the Day – Jordan Balazovic, Wichita Wind Surge (W, 7 IP, 4 H, BB, 6 K)
    Hitter of the Day – Trey Cabbage, Wichita Wind Surge (2-for-4, R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, K)

    PROSPECT SUMMARY

    Take note that we have finished our midseason update, so there is a new list! Here is a look at how the Twins Daily Midseason Top 20 Twins Prospects performed:

    #1 – Royce Lewis (Rehab) – Out for season (torn ACL)
    #2 – Jhoan Duran (St. Paul) – Injured List (elbow strain)
    #3 – Jordan Balazovic (Wichita) – W, 7 IP, 4 H, BB, 6 K
    #4 – Matt Canterino (Cedar Rapids) – Injured List (right elbow strain)
    #5 – Jose Miranda (St. Paul) – 2-for-5, 2 R, 2B, RBI, K
    #6 – Keoni Cavaco (Fort Myers) – Did not play
    #7 – Gilberto Celestino (Minnesota) – 0-for-3, BB, K
    #8 – Josh Winder (St. Paul) – Did not pitch
    #9 – Aaron Sabato (Fort Myers) – 0-for-2, RBI, 3 BB, K
    #10 – Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) – 1-for-2, R, HR, RBI, BB
    #11 – Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) – Out for Season (Tommy John surgery)
    #12 – Bailey Ober (Minnesota) – 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, BB, 4 K
    #13 – Cole Sands Cole Sands (Wichita) – Did not pitch
    #14 – Brent Rooker (St. Paul) – 0-for-4, BB, 3 K
    #15 – Misael Urbina (Fort Myers) – 2-for-5, R, 2B, RBI, K
    #16 – Spencer Steer (Wichita) – 0-for-5, 2 K
    #17 – Wander Javier (Cedar Rapids) – 1-for-4
    #18 – Alerick Soularie (Complex) – N/A (foot injury)
    #19 – Edwar Colina (Rehab) – Injured List (elbow)
    #20 – Chris Vallimont (Wichita) – Did not pitch

    WEDNESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS

    St. Paul @ Omaha (7:05PM CST) – RHP Josh Winder (1-0, 3.75 ERA)
    Wichita @ Arkansas (7:10PM CST) – RHP Cole Sands (0-0, 2.67 ERA)
    Beloit @ Cedar Rapids (6:35PM CST) – RHP Louie Varland (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
    Daytona @ Fort Myers (6:00PM CST) – RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long (4-3, 5.36 ERA)

    Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Tuesday’s games!

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    Watched Balazovic for a couple innings.  Sure seems like a different pitcher than anyone else I see watching minor league games, well everyone except Winder.  Seems to have plenty of velo and hitters just seem to have a problem putting the barrel on the ball.

    Was good seeing Javier with another hit last night.  I understand he isn't going to go from several years of struggling to an All-Star in one season, but is great seeing him have some success with the bat.  Also great seeing Urbina and A. Pena both with two hits.

    Time to tune in tonight to see if Winder can match Jordan's performance.  Took a look at Balazovic's innings and saw that with his late start he is now at 44 innings for the season.  Seven or eight starts at 6 or 7 innings should have him pushing up towards 100 innings.  Expect a few more starts for Wichita before finishing out the year in St. Paul.  Don't think it is likely he gets a callup to the Twins, but then one never knows. 

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    Magi comes through yet again. What a season he is having. Just couldn't ask for much more.  Hope he gets a call up later in the season but that is just me. Miranda was pretty clutch too.

    Jordan had a bit of slow start but he seems to get tougher as the game goes on.  He was very efficient last night and still got a K per inning pitched.  He has been very impressive after his tough start to the year.

    I go back and forth on Cabbage.  There are times when I think he is going to be a monster and break through and then he goes missing for several games.  He has the power, he just needs to do the little things a little bit better and he looks like a good corner outfielder.

    Nice to see Wallner make it back with a bang.  I am far from his strongest supporter but still am hoping he proves me wrong and he looked pretty good last night.

    Can't believe the Muscles pulled off that win.  I had them in the lose column already as they aren't really a team built for a 6 run comeback. I guess that is why you play hard until the end as they pulled this one off by staying patient at the plate.

     

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    2 hours ago, roger said:

    Watched Balazovic for a couple innings.  Sure seems like a different pitcher than anyone else I see watching minor league games, well everyone except Winder.  Seems to have plenty of velo and hitters just seem to have a problem putting the barrel on the ball.

    Was good seeing Javier with another hit last night.  I understand he isn't going to go from several years of struggling to an All-Star in one season, but is great seeing him have some success with the bat.  Also great seeing Urbina and A. Pena both with two hits.

    Time to tune in tonight to see if Winder can match Jordan's performance.  Took a look at Balazovic's innings and saw that with his late start he is now at 44 innings for the season.  Seven or eight starts at 6 or 7 innings should have him pushing up towards 100 innings.  Expect a few more starts for Wichita before finishing out the year in St. Paul.  Don't think it is likely he gets a callup to the Twins, but then one never knows. 

    It could make sense for them to call him up in September (they’re already using an option year) just to build up more innings in preparation for 2022.

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    Balazovic's scoreless streak is made even more impressive by the fact it has come against the three teams chasing Witcha in the AA Central - North Division. Tulsa, Arkansas and NW Arkansas have a combined .530 winning percentage (all 3 over .500). He is blanking highly competitive division rivals. 

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    2 hours ago, roger said:

    Watched Balazovic for a couple innings.  Sure seems like a different pitcher than anyone else I see watching minor league games, well everyone except Winder.  Seems to have plenty of velo and hitters just seem to have a problem putting the barrel on the ball.

    Was good seeing Javier with another hit last night.  I understand he isn't going to go from several years of struggling to an All-Star in one season, but is great seeing him have some success with the bat.  Also great seeing Urbina and A. Pena both with two hits.

    Time to tune in tonight to see if Winder can match Jordan's performance.  Took a look at Balazovic's innings and saw that with his late start he is now at 44 innings for the season.  Seven or eight starts at 6 or 7 innings should have him pushing up towards 100 innings.  Expect a few more starts for Wichita before finishing out the year in St. Paul.  Don't think it is likely he gets a callup to the Twins, but then one never knows. 

    I'll be shocked if Balazovic doesn't make a few starts for the Twins this year. I was impressed with the three pitches (FB, CU, CB/SL). Had decent control/command of all three, got swings-and-misses with all three. He looks bigger and stronger. He looks pretty legit. 

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    I wonder what percentage chance folks might give to Winder and Balazovic making next season's opening day rotation?

    The question is presumptuous but not premature at this point. Both are clearly on track to make some late-season starts for the Twins. We haven't seen the Twins come out of Spring Training with a couple of rookies on the staff in a while, but that's because there hasn't been this wave of pitching talent coming up in a while.

    Somewhere between 20-30% seems plausible to me. Not likely but also not farfetched.

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    52 minutes ago, Alex Schieferdecker said:

    I wonder what percentage chance folks might give to Winder and Balazovic making next season's opening day rotation?

    The question is presumptuous but not premature at this point. Both are clearly on track to make some late-season starts for the Twins. We haven't seen the Twins come out of Spring Training with a couple of rookies on the staff in a while, but that's because there hasn't been this wave of pitching talent coming up in a while.

    Somewhere between 20-30% seems plausible to me. Not likely but also not farfetched.

    Zero if they don't pitch in the majors this year. 

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    If the team decides they are all in for next year they are better off trading them rather than go through the struggles of a young starting pitcher, 

    I hope they decide to build a foundation and acknowledge that will decrease their chance of competing next year. I hope they invest innings into Winder, Balazovic, Duran and anyone they might acquire.

    I hope they have not closed the door on Thorpe or Dobnak. Thorpe has 6 major league starts. Berrios after his first 14 major league starts had an ERA of 8.02. Dobnak sits at 20 major league starts. 

    I see a lot of 25 and under pitchers in this division with a lot of promise. Detroit has Mize, Skubal and Manning. The White Sox have Cease, Crochet and Kopech (Giolito is 26). The Royals have Singer, Bubic, Lynch and Keller. The Indians have McKenzie, Hentzges, Allen and Morgan as well as four 26 year olds including Bieber, Civale, Plesac and Quantrill. The Twins have Ober and it took a series of injuries to get to that point.

    The outlook for Twins starting pitching in 2023 is pretty dismal. I would be on the path of developing a foundation over competing next year. I would not do any one year deals for free agent pitching to try to compete. I also would not in any way think that seeing these pitches this year will tell us anything about next year. They may really struggle and that struggle may be part of the process. They may have early success but then struggle next year as the league adjusts. I am all in for investing innings in young starters next year no matter how they perform early in their careers.

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    2 hours ago, Seth Stohs said:

    I'll be shocked if Balazovic doesn't make a few starts for the Twins this year. I was impressed with the three pitches (FB, CU, CB/SL). Had decent control/command of all three, got swings-and-misses with all three. He looks bigger and stronger. He looks pretty legit. 

    I'd echo the same. Was watching this game as I wrote the report.

    Gets lots of swings and misses with his fastball, noticeably inside the zone ones as well. Don't think it was his changeup but also had a pitch with good horizontal run (not any drop) that he stole strikes with. CB/SL more of a true 12/6 curve than a wipeout pitch, but he knows where to put it to get strikes and swings/K's. Locates everything well.

    At this point I'd be surprised if he doesn't debut with the Twins at some point this year as well.

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    I don't think the twins are terribly concerned about blowing option years on balazovic; if he gets to the point where he's out of options and hasn't established himself in the rotation they're going to consider it a failure much more broadly. So i think we could see him in september, unless they have him on an innings limit. The Twins are smart enough to know that there's no real correlation between a jump in innings pitched and injury (Verducci's Law has been pretty well debunked) but since he's never thrown over 100 innings in his entire career, and didn't pitch competitive baseball at all last year because of the pandemic, they may be more cautious. If he can get to 120 IPs in 2021, it will position him very nicely to contend for a rotation spot in 2022. I don't think he'll get excluded from consideration if he doesn't make the leap for a cup of coffee this year, though, especially because we have such a dire need for MLB starting pitching.

    I'm so impressed with Jose Miranda, who continues to do basically everything right. I'm almost more surprised when he doesn't get two hits at this point.

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    1 hour ago, jmlease1 said:

    I don't think the twins are terribly concerned about blowing option years on balazovic; if he gets to the point where he's out of options and hasn't established himself in the rotation they're going to consider it a failure much more broadly. So i think we could see him in september, unless they have him on an innings limit. The Twins are smart enough to know that there's no real correlation between a jump in innings pitched and injury (Verducci's Law has been pretty well debunked) but since he's never thrown over 100 innings in his entire career, and didn't pitch competitive baseball at all last year because of the pandemic, they may be more cautious. If he can get to 120 IPs in 2021, it will position him very nicely to contend for a rotation spot in 2022. I don't think he'll get excluded from consideration if he doesn't make the leap for a cup of coffee this year, though, especially because we have such a dire need for MLB starting pitching.

    I'm so impressed with Jose Miranda, who continues to do basically everything right. I'm almost more surprised when he doesn't get two hits at this point.

    Balazovic has already used his 2021 option when he was optioned during spring training. that's not a concern. 

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    4 hours ago, Alex Schieferdecker said:

    I wonder what percentage chance folks might give to Winder and Balazovic making next season's opening day rotation?

    The question is presumptuous but not premature at this point. Both are clearly on track to make some late-season starts for the Twins. We haven't seen the Twins come out of Spring Training with a couple of rookies on the staff in a while, but that's because there hasn't been this wave of pitching talent coming up in a while.

    Somewhere between 20-30% seems plausible to me. Not likely but also not farfetched.

    I would think that could go as high as 50-50... A lot depends on Berrios, and what they see from him. How do Ober and Jax fit into the conversation. What is Dobnak's situation? But I think both will make starts for the Twins in 2021 (assuming health) and certainly go to spring training with a real shot. 

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    Just want to echo the other various comments about Jordy Blaze. I can see not rushing him too hard. I can see another game or two at AA to continue to build confidence, momentum, sharpen something, but he needs to be up in ST Paul really soon. 

    The only concern about him, Winder, Duran, Miranda, etc getting ML time this year is the very limited September call-up option that MLB so "wisely" put in to place. You don't get to bring up 6-10 guys like you used to be able to for auditions and getting their feet wet. Nope, that would ruin the integrity of the final month for contending teams. (eyeroll). So you have to have enough room on the 26 man to even be able to get all these guys time. A lot will depend on the deadline probably.

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    6 hours ago, Alex Schieferdecker said:

    I wonder what percentage chance folks might give to Winder and Balazovic making next season's opening day rotation?

    The question is presumptuous but not premature at this point. Both are clearly on track to make some late-season starts for the Twins. We haven't seen the Twins come out of Spring Training with a couple of rookies on the staff in a while, but that's because there hasn't been this wave of pitching talent coming up in a while.

    Somewhere between 20-30% seems plausible to me. Not likely but also not farfetched.

    JMO, with Berios still here in 2022, I've believed the Twins will, obviously, make a trade or sign a FA to add to the top of the rotation. The smart thing would probably be another inexpensive Shoemaker-like signing as a flier for competition and depth. But I also firmly believe that the final 2 rotation slots will be opened wide for Ober, Dobnak, Winder, Duran, and Balazovic. Barnes and Jax may get looks but are probably a notch behind along with Sands who I hope gets to finish with some AAA time yet this year. So I think there is a 50% chance that at least one of Winder or Balazovic break with the Twins. Both should be part of 2022 regardless. 

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    2 hours ago, Seth Stohs said:

    Balazovic has already used his 2021 option when he was optioned during spring training. that's not a concern. 

    I think the only concern about promoting Jordy Blaze would be service time, not options. However, if he gets his feet wet this fall, he might be able to contribute sooner or perhaps at the start of the season in 2022. 

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    5 hours ago, jorgenswest said:

    ...I hope they have not closed the door on Thorpe or Dobnak. Thorpe has 6 major league starts. Berrios after his first 14 major league starts had an ERA of 8.02. Dobnak sits at 20 major league starts...

    Thorpe was never the same after TJ. Lost a couple mph and he was a B- or C+ prospect before he tore the UCL. MLB hitters scorched his pitches and Thorpe has hardly been impressive in the minors after 2018. I think it was a big mistake to keep Thorpe on the roster instead of Tyler Wells this past offseason.

    Since Dobnak is under contract for a couple more years, I can't see the Twins ditching him without some more opportunities.

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    Can't disagree with Balazovic being promoted at this point. He's got nothing left to prove in AA. Even if the Twins were having him work on something, he's clearly not being challenged any longer.

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    2 hours ago, Seth Stohs said:

    I would think that could go as high as 50-50... A lot depends on Berrios, and what they see from him. How do Ober and Jax fit into the conversation. What is Dobnak's situation? But I think both will make starts for the Twins in 2021 (assuming health) and certainly go to spring training with a real shot. 

    Based on track record, I think it's likely this FO will attempt to start the year with 3-4 MLB veterans in the rotation, so that Duran/Balazovic/Winder are the injury replacements.  Alternatively, if we have a Shoemaker or Happ situation again, and any of those three are doing well in AAA, they could be swapped out. 

    If the FO wants to contend in 2022, they won't want zero depth behind their untested rookies starting the year in the rotation.  If the FO wants to build for 2023/2024, there's no reason to rush that young trio, and ideally, they woudl strike gold on a one-year make-good veteran, and flip him for something at the deadline in 2022, and then promote the young guy(s).

    As such, I think the odds of any of the three making the opening day roster is much more like the 20-30% the previous poster surmised.

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    6 minutes ago, bean5302 said:

    Can't disagree with Balazovic being promoted at this point. He's got nothing left to prove in AA. Even if the Twins were having him work on something, he's clearly not being challenged any longer.

    And in ST this year, Dobnak pitched 15.2 innings, only allowed 6 hits, 0 walks, struck out 19 guys, and had a 0.57 ERA.  Given his career production and pedigree, I agree with you that Jordy Blaze should be pushed up a level soon, but I wouldn't say he's not being challenged any more.  Any pitcher can go on a three game hot streak.

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    14 hours ago, bean5302 said:

    Thorpe was never the same after TJ. Lost a couple mph and he was a B- or C+ prospect before he tore the UCL. MLB hitters scorched his pitches and Thorpe has hardly been impressive in the minors after 2018. I think it was a big mistake to keep Thorpe on the roster instead of Tyler Wells this past offseason.

    MLB batters torched Berrios to start his career across more than the 6 starts Thorpe received.

    My point is larger than any one player. I advocate and have advocated for the Twins to invest innings into their young pitching rather than fill with decline phase veterans on one year contracts. You end up with the same problem of no starting pitching depth every year. 

    If the innings go to Wells (though I think he is a reliever in Baltimore) instead of Thorpe the concept is the same. Invest innings in young starting pitching next year. Give them a long leash. It might be a season or two of mediocre seasons with struggling young pitchers. It is also a way to develop a foundation they can build on.

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