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  • 3 Twins Trending Upward

    Cody Pirkl

    The Twins have hit a slide lately due to just about every facet of the team but the starting rotation. Despite their downturn, a few players are making the most of their opportunities and appear to be on an upward trajectory.

    Image courtesy of Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

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    The Twins have a mess of established players not answering the bell from Carlos Correa in the lineup to Griffin Jax out of the bullpen. This has shifted some of the pressure onto the less established members of the team to pick up the slack. Luckily, a few of them have.

    Jovani Morán
    Morán has been serving as the bullpen’s sole lefty since Caleb Thielbar hit the IL, and it appears we have a ways to go until he’s ready to return. Morán got off to a dreadful start to the season, with his patented walk issues on display and allowing a few uncharacteristic home runs. When the Twins have needed him most, he’s stepped up in what has been a leaky bullpen.

    The most encouraging piece here is his walk rate in May being about a third of his career rate in the MLB. It’s likely wishful thinking to believe this is some new norm for the inaccurate left-hander, but any reduction would be a welcome development. His command issues reared their head in Tuesday’s game when he walked a hitter with bases loaded, but also flashed the stuff to nearly escape after entering the situation with no outs. The same goes for Thursday when he walked the first hitter of the inning and promptly struck out the side. Morán’s rocky start wiped many fans' memories of his 2022 season in which he posted a 2.21 ERA in 40+ innings. If he can limit the walks just a bit, he has the ability to help fortify the bullpen during the summer months. 

    Willi Castro
    Willi’s bar isn’t set very high, but he’s definitely flashing the skills that the Twins saw when they named him the super-utility man coming out of spring training. Bouncing around the outfield and occasionally filling in at third base, Castro has posted a plenty respectable 89 wRC+. He’s posted a .711 OPS in May and more recently a .757 OPS since May 12. His .674 OPS on the season is just a touch behind Carlos Correa, and his 0.3 Wins Above Replacement is tied despite appearing in 8 fewer games.

    Castro’s recent success has largely been the result of a batting average on balls in play that would make the Cleveland Guardians blush. The fact of the matter is he’s doing more than enough offensively relative to where he’s at in the order regardless of how. There aren’t many other hitters across the Twins lineup that this can be said about. A continued hot streak may just keep Castro around deep into the summer.


    José De León

    De León sports an unsightly 5.79 ERA, but the bad news stops there. De León was added to the roster to fill a long relief role but in a very small sample, looks like he should get a chance to develop into more. Averaging near 95 mph on the fastball so far, De León has struck out nearly 47% of the hitters he’s faced. His fastball has allowed a .226 xWOBA, and the changeup and slider have generated whiff rates above 40% apiece. This explains why every existing underlying stat says he should be dominating.

    De León isn’t a young up-and-comer at 30 years old, but as we’ve seen with Brock Stewart, relievers can find a switch to flip even into their 30s. The Twins will likely be a bit less inclined to send him down based on the raw stuff he’s flashed, as doing so would expose him to waivers, and even in a small sample size, he’s shown enough to catch the eyes of other teams across the league. We’ll likely see De León get a chance to play himself into or out of a legitimate bullpen role, though for now, we can expect him to pitch in low leverage.

    Hopefully, some of the big dogs get going, but some of these names continuing to do what they’ve done and possibly even taking it a step further can help. Are there any other Twins trending up under the radar? Let us know below!


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    I'm a fan of Moran. he's always going to be a little wild at times, but that change-up is ridiculous and can bail himself out of trouble (that he usually creates for himself). He's a risky pitcher to bring in with men on base, but I have a fair amount of confidence in him to hold down any part of an opposing lineup.

    (I'm less inclined to think Castro has much of a future, despite him doing solid work as a stop-gap lately)

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    5 minutes ago, Hashim said:

    Good piece. Is Moran like a RHP that's just left handed? Why don't we have another lefty in the pen?

    Outside of Thielbar, the cupboard is pretty bare with LH pitching that can help the Twins. IIRC, a couple of the RH bullpen arms have reverse splits and can handle left handed hitters quite well. So the platoon advantage is minimized. 

    It's still SSS, but Moran has handled lefties slightly better than righties so far this year. .652 OPS (vs. RH hitters) opposed to .575 OPS (vs. LH hitters).

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    12 hours ago, jmlease1 said:

    I'm a fan of Moran. he's always going to be a little wild at times, but that change-up is ridiculous and can bail himself out of trouble (that he usually creates for himself). He's a risky pitcher to bring in with men on base, but I have a fair amount of confidence in him to hold down any part of an opposing lineup.

    (I'm less inclined to think Castro has much of a future, despite him doing solid work as a stop-gap lately)

    I concur. He just needs a bit more confidence to throw strikes. His stuff plays, but when he keeps falling behind in the counts, he ends up in hot water.

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    I like De Leon's stuff as well, but he--like so many on the team--suffers lapses of concentration/focus. The only game I was able to watch this year against the Angels provided such evidence. The Twins had trimmed the Angels' lead to one after Kirilloff's opposite field home run. De Leon gave up a flare single to Urshela. De Leon failed to pay attention to Urshela, so he took off for second. Amazingly, he still got a bad jump, but also lacking focus, Jeffers bounced his throw ten feet in front of second and to the right of the bag and on into centerfield allowing Urshela to take third. After Urshela scored, the Twins went quietly in the 8th and 9th.

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    Great article. These 3 have definitely been impressive recently. It's really hard to recognize and appreciate the positive performances during rough stretches, so it was nice of Cody to highlight these 3.

    This year I have been pretty encouraged by some of the low-leverage guys in the bullpen. Moran, De Leon, Brock Stewart actually look the part, and I don't get the urge to duck for cover like I did last year when guys like Duffey, Joe Smith, Pagan, Megill and Cotten were pitching. Even Pagan looks at least a smidge better this year than he did last year, though that is a tremendously low bar to clear. The long-relief pitchers, Sands and Headrick, have performed admirably as well when given the chance. All in all, I still feel as confident about this bullpen as I have in a while even though they've had a tough time recently.

    As for Castro, I feel like he is really underrated. He's doing everything that we were expecting from Nick Gordon, which is to say, a little bit of everything. His defensive versatility has been invaluable giving the minor injuries cropping up all over the diamond, and he has often provided sparks with his speed. I think if he were a mid-level free agent signing instead of a minor league free agent, we would be appreciating his addition more. He's still young (younger than Gordon, actually) and has 4 more years left before becoming a free agent, so I would not be surprised or disappointed to see him stick around as a utility player long-term.

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    Appreciate this analysis. Comforting that there are numbers that support my "gut feelings".

    Patience maybe paying off with Moran.

    De Leon looks the part to me, maybe as a lightning in a bottle guy this year?

    Willi fills a valuable role, especially with Gordon gone. I like that he has a different looking game than most of the regulars. Maybe our new Nick Punto.

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    And maybe Jeffers' batting work is starting to really pay off and we are seeing another upward trend develop?   One game not a trend, but wow Jeffers hit a bullet last night to win the game and he also had two singles. Maybe he is earning a bigger role especially if Vasquez doesn't return to form.

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