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  • Is It Time for Jhoan Duran?

    Patrick Wozniak

    One of the questions coming into 2020 was how teams would handle prospects. Thus far, teams across the MLB landscape have shown a willingness to call-up top prospects, including several starting pitchers. With injuries severely testing Minnesota’s rotational depth, is it time for the Twins to do the same?

    Image courtesy of Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Jhoan Duran)

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    Going into the season, Minnesota’s rotational depth certainly looked like a strength, but injuries to Jake Odorizzi, Rich Hill, and Homer Bailey have taken a toll. Odorizzi is back in the rotation, but with Hill battling back issues and Bailey dealing with right biceps tendinitis, the Twins can use all the help they can get. And while Randy Dobnak has continued to amaze, both Lewis Thorpe (due to velocity loss and lack of command) and Devin Smeltzer (whose stuff is better suited for long relief) leave a lot to be desired as starters.

    Both rebuilding teams such as Kansas City (Brady Singer, Kris Bubic) and teams hoping to contend like Toronto (Nate Pearson), Philadelphia (Spencer Howard), and Houston (Christian Javier) have been quick to turn to top-pitching prospects as injuries have been abundant across the MLB. And for the most part the results have been pretty good, as the Twins can attest to after losing to the Royal’s Singer on Sunday’s series finale.

    With José Berríos, Kenta Maeda, Randy Dobnak, and Jake Odorizzi anchoring the rotation, Minnesota could make its own rookie splash by calling up Jhoan Duran to fill in the fifth and final rotation slot.

    Duran spent the majority of 2019 in High-A Fort Myers where he pitched really well (3.05 FIP, 29.9 K%) and didn’t skip a beat in his seven AA starts (2.76 FIP, 26.8 K%/5.9 BB%). In his final two starts he went 13 innings with 17 strikeouts, two walks, and allowed just one earned run. But most importantly, Duran has the stuff to succeed at the MLB level.

    Unlike Thorpe or Smeltzer, who need pinpoint command to succeed with sub-90 mph heaters, Duran can hit 100 mph, and sits in the high-90s. Duran features a two-seam fastball rather than the four-seamer that is in-vouge these days, but the two-seamer gets Duran plenty of ground balls (52.9% in A+ and 63.3% in AA) and he doesn’t give up many home runs (0.55 HR/9 in 2019).

    While the fastball velo is certainly enticing, the most exciting pitch in Duran’s mix has to be his “splinker.” As the name implies, the splinker is a hybrid between a splitter and a sinker. Twins fans have likely become somewhat familiar with splitters, as Homer Bailey and Jake Odorizzi both throw the pitch and Kenta Maeda throws a split-change, but Duran’s pitch is on a whole nother level.

    Rather than acting like an off-speed pitch, Duran’s splinker is more fastball than changeup. He manages to throw the pitch up to the mid-90s and it has the potential to miss a lot of bats and induce weak contact as it falls off the table. Having a unique pitch that is unfamiliar to big-leaguers should help Duran keep hitters on their toes and keep us entertained as well.

    The 22-year-old complements the two-seamer and splinker with a slower curveball that gets plenty of break and is working on a changeup as well. His pitch-mix is anything but traditional, and without the benefit of watching Duran pitch in the minors, it’s difficult to know exactly how well he’s progressing with the remainder of the 60-man roster over in St. Paul. However, the stuff is enticing and the Twins clearly have a need for high-upside starting pitching, so maybe we’ll see Johan Duran and his splinker in action sooner than later.

    What do you think? Are you ready for the Jhoan Duran Experience? And how do you feel about splinkers? Please leave your comments below!


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    I believe he's in St. Paul to continue developing and to build towards 2021. He is a "break in case of emergency" option at this point.


    But agree something just isn't right with Thorpe right now...very disappointing...and Smeltzer's future is best as a swing/long guy.


    If the Twins were to give him a shot, I'd like to see it while the pen has 16 guys.


    But despite some disappointments and frustration, Berrios, Maeda, Dobnak and Odorizzi is not a bad 4-sum to have right now. Does anyone really believe Berrios won't settle in? Or that Odorizzi won't do the same with some innings? And at some point, hopefully soon, Hill and/or Bailey will return and Pineda is in the back pocket in a few more weeks.


    We need a 5th starter and I don't really want to see a bunch more bullpen games. Only the Twins know how close to ready Hill and Bailey may be, or how good Duran is doing. But again, if they're going to do it, do it while you have the extra pen depth.

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    I think it depends on if Hill can start this coming weekend.  If not, get him up here, you can put Thorpe on the IL until we can figure out his velocity loss.  No big problem here.

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    FWIW, today is the 20th day of the Twins season. So any player called up for the first time in 2020, from here on out, won't get a full season of MLB service time, even if they spend the rest of the year on the roster. (The rule is normally 19 days or fewer on optional assignment and the player still gets credit for a full year, and I don't think that has been adjusted for 2020.)


    Not that I think that was really a factor with Duran, but maybe clubs will be more likely to try younger players now and going forward.

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    It's at times like these that a lack of minor league stats becomes really problematic. I have no idea how well or badly he's pitching now because there aren't any games. I know, I know, scouting the stat line is never enough, but when you're dealing with what should be a fairly finished product, looking at high-minors stats should be indicative of what to expect.


    I'd love see him for my own curiosity, but we're flying blind here.

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