Before we share our choices for the Twins Minor League Top Four Starters for May, there were some other strong starting performers that just missed the cut. Let’s discuss the top starting pitchers in the organization in the season’s first month. It's great that there were several deserving choice this month.
- RHP Andrew Cabezas - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 6 G, 5 GS, 27.2 IP, 2.93 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 18 H, 11 BB, 21 K
- RHP Blayne Enlow - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 3 GS, 14.2 IP, 1.84 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 13 H, 6 BB, 23 K
- RHP Cole Sands - 5 GS, 22.0 IP, 2.45 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 13 H, 12 BB, 28 K
- RHP Bailey Ober - St. Paul Saints - 4 GS, 16.0 IP, 2.81 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 13 H, 5 BB, 21 K
THE TOP FOUR STARTING PITCHERS
#4 - RHP Tyler Beck - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 4 G, 2 GS, 16.0 IP, 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 8 H, 4 BB, 19 K
That Tyler Beck is on the list of starters is part of the story. He was the Twins 30th round draft pick in 2019 after being the closer for the Division II champion U of Tampa. He had a circuitous route to pro ball that went through D2, the Big 10, junior college, and he was a reliever all the way. He worked in long relief for the Kernels his first two games this year, but he ended the month with two starts, the first of which was his first start since high school. He has been fantastic.
Matt Wallner was his roommate when the players were staying at a hotel earlier this month. He said, “His curveball doesn’t look fun to face. He spots his fastball too. He gets some stupid-looking swings. It’s been fun to watch. He’s going to keep doing it because he fills up the zone. It’s been impressive.”
#3 - LHP Kody Funderburk - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 5 G, 4 GS, 18.1 IP, 1.13 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 12 H, 4 BB, 34 K
Funderburk was the Twins 15th round draft pick in 2018 out of Dallas Baptist where he was a pitcher and a power hitter. Since joining the Twins organization, he has solely been used on the mound. He made 12 appearances for the Kernels in 2019. After a lost 2020 season, Funderburk is back with the Kernels, though of course they are now the High-A affiliate. He was the team’s Opening Night starter and has been very good and efficient too. In a recent start, he threw 55 pitches over 5 2/3 innings. His manager said, “He was really efficient. He got a ton of ground balls. Didn’t strike out many guys, but he had that cutter working in on their hands and got a lot of weak contact to the left side of the infield. Keeps the infield on their toes when he works that quick and gets a lot of action.”
#2 - RHP Josh Winder - Wichita Wind Surge - 5 GS, 24.1 IP, 1.48 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 16 H, 6 BB, 30 K
Winder is the prospect with the most helium over the past six to nine months, and his performance on the mound in the season’s first month has justified it. He was the Twins seventh round draft pick in 2018 out of Virginia Military Institute. He spent the full 2019 season in Cedar Rapids and did well. At instructional league last fall, his fastball bumped up to 97 mph from 92 mph and he opened eyes. He went to big-league spring training, and this year he skipped High-A and jumped right to Double-A. He was the Wind Surge Opening Day starter, and he has been terrific. He went 4 2/3 innings in his first start and has completed five innings in three of his past four starts. The only game he didn’t pitch five? Well, he had four no-hit innings at Tulsa before a rain delay.
Wichita manager Ramon Borrego said he noticed Winder at Instructional League. “We had reports that Winder threw a good slider and his fastball was 90, 93 mph. When I saw that guy throwing on the mound at 97-98, I was like, ‘Oh my gawd!’ He’s a big, strong guy, a really hard worker. I remember meeting with (minor league director) Alex Hassan and saying ‘I think this guy can be really good.’”
Winder is continually trying to improve. He recently said, “I didn’t feel quite satisfied with my first two outings and made some adjustments between the second and third start, took more control of the game. This last start I was a little more aggressive. So I’m slowly getting back into facing other teams and getting back into season form. Just polishing some finer points of my game and figuring out how to best use my stuff. It’s been fun. Definitely been getting into a groove, so hopefully I can keep that going.”
And the Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month is:
Cedar Rapids Kernels - RHP Matt Canterino - 4 GS, 18.0 IP, 1.00 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 10 H, 3 BB, 35 K
Matt Canterino was the Twins second-round pick in the 2019 draft out of Rice University. He ended that year with a handful of starts with Low-A Cedar Rapids. During the lost 2020 season, Canterino did get to spend time at the Twins alternate site in St. Paul and at Fall Instructional League. Before the start of spring training, video surfaced on Twitter of him hitting 99 mph on the radar gun.
Canterino was invited to Twins spring training in the development camp and began his season at High-A Cedar Rapids where he has dominated. In his four starts, he has six strikeouts in three innings, nine strikeouts in five innings, 10 strikeouts in six innings and 10 strikeouts in four innings. He has just three walks on the season and two of them came in his first start.
After his most recent outing, manager Brian Dinkelman said, “Another good night for Matt. Had all his pitches working tonight. He had ten strikeouts. He’s just throwing the ball really well for us right now, and giving us good starts. We’re excited about the way he’s throwing the ball and keeps progressing and hopefully he will get himself to the big leagues hopefully one of these days.”
Canterino said of his early season success and strategy. “The main focus is getting ahead early, and staying ahead throughout the at bat. Trying to play to my strengths. You just want to make good pitches early in the count in the zone and force them to do something with it. There are so many swings-and-misses and so many easy outs to be had if you’re in the strike zone early on. It’s important to do that. Hitting is so tough, so if you’re in the zone early with a couple of different pitches, you often times find yourself in those counts where you can get a strikeout.”
Congratulations to our Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month of May, Cedar Rapids RHP Matt Canterino, and all of the starting pitchers who got off to a strong start after their long layoffs.
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