The Twins have some exciting young arms in their organization. Jhoan Durán is striking out nearly 40% of the batters he faces; Josh Winder (currently on the IL) showed glimpses of being a special addition. While not developed in the Twins’ system, Joe Ryan is as important to the team’s future as anyone else. The good news: there’s more on the way.
Jordan Balazovic, 23, is struggling mightily for the Triple-A Saints, but his track record shows the makings of a potential mid-rotation stalwart. Simeon Woods Richardson, 21, has a 3.02 ERA and 25% strikeout rate in eight starts for Double-A Wichita. David Festa, 22, throws in the upper-90s and could be on his way to a Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year award.
The future looks hopeful for the Twins’ pitching staff. But as John Trusler said in 1562, there’s no better time than the present. The Twins can push a crucial chip into their contention hopes in 2022. Let’s break it down.
CASE FOR FAST-TRACKING MATT CANTERINO TO THE TWINS
Jordan Balazovic probably has the best chance of remaining a starter long-term among the Twins' top pitching prospects. That’s not to say he’s the likeliest to make the most significant impact in 2022 or that his stuff is the best in the system. That title now belongs to Canterino, thanks to a Durán graduation from prospect status. Canterino works in the mid-to-upper 90s, pairing his buzzing fastball with a hammer-breaking ball and an improved changeup.
Canterino is dominating at Wichita, striking out over 35% of the hitters he sees and allowing a minuscule number of hits and homers. He’s been monitored closely, maxing out at 62 pitches in nine outings this year. His stints are already short, so his transition to Minnesota’s bullpen shouldn’t be a catatonic shift. Furthermore, the Twins could get creative with his usage, using him as an opener when needed. He could pair up with Chris Archer or Dylan Bundy, giving hitters a different look with his herky-jerky delivery.
Canterino owns a 2.22 ERA in 2022, with opponents mustering a .477 OPS in 28 ⅓ innings. He’s 24 years old with a 1.53 ERA in 76 1/3 Minor League innings. Right-handed hitters have logged 183 plate appearances against Canterino in the minors. 77 have struck out, and only 18 have recorded a hit, with zero home runs.
Durán is an excellent example of this type of talent winning the day. The fire-breathing phenom ranks 2nd among qualified American League relievers in strikeout rate (38%), and he'd thrown only 16 innings with a 5.06 ERA above Double-A entering 2022. Canterino’s repertoire isn’t on the level of Durán, but it’s undoubtedly comparable in electricity. It’s swing-and-miss stuff, and as Durán showed, sometimes it works immediately in the majors.
Canterino could be the wheel the Twins are looking for. They desperately lack a high-leverage reliever in the role Jorge Alcala was supposed to fill. Alcala is nearing his return from elbow inflammation, which shouldn’t preclude the Twins from promoting Canterino quickly. If Alcala and Canterino pitch to their stuff, the Twins will have three right-handed relievers with 95+ fastballs and disgusting breaking balls.
CASE AGAINST FAST-TRACKING MATT CANTERINO TO THE MAJORS
It’s fun to dream about the bullpen the Twins could deploy in the second half of the season, especially if they make a move for a reliever at the deadline. But at what cost? It’s unlikely Durán will ever be a full-time starter again, and he can only provide so much value as a high-end reliever. Balazovic’s future is in more question than ever before, given his early struggles for the Saints, as is the script with top pitching prospects. Things can thin in a hurry.
Moving Canterino to the bullpen could be a short-term move for a contending team, but there were already questions about his viability as a starter. His delivery is rigid, he had elbow problems a year ago, and he’s thrown less than 100 game innings since the Twins drafted him in 2019. All three of those things were primarily valid for Durán. It’s hard to envision Canterino throwing 150 innings in a season, but should the Twins give up on it now?
A bullpen assignment is not a death sentence for a starter, but it’s certainly a step back. Canterino would need to ramp back up, something the Twins are already trying to do in 2022. Bringing him up as a reliever sets that process back even more, especially if he’s deployed in one-inning stints. In that scenario, there’s little chance he could reach 100 innings this year. It may benefit all parties to keep starting him in the minors while planning on a debut in the rotation in 2023.
Most importantly, for as electric as Canterino is, it’d be unwise to assume he’d find immediate success in the majors. Durán could be a unicorn, and he's worked through rough patches of his own early on. Canterino’s 12% walk rate this year is cause for hesitation, and this would be a new role for him.
The Twins are trying to win every day. It’s possible Canterino could help them do that, but it’s equally possible he’s not ready for that giant leap.
What do you think? Should the Twins accelerate Matt Canterino to the majors?