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  • Is Jovani Moran Being Overlooked in the Twins Pen?

    Ted Schwerzler

    The Minnesota Twins entered last season with a questionable bullpen. Then they shook things up even more on the night before Opening Day. This season, the group will be a lot better, but how much of an impact will Jovani Moran make?

    Image courtesy of Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

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    Rocco Baldelli left spring training last year thinking Taylor Rogers would be his "closer." Last March, he was likely assuming that Jhoan Duran would be a starter in St. Paul. Neither of those things proved to be true, and the bullpen was in flux for most of the season.

    Emilio Pagan was a source of consternation. Duran emerged as a superstar. Caleb Thielbar stayed consistently effective. Griffin Jax looked the part of a late-inning reliever in his first season in the bullpen. Many arms were sent to the mound, but one that continued to go up and down was lefty Jovani Moran.

    If you guessed that he threw 40 2/3 innings in the big leagues in 2022, I’d question your honesty. Moran was moved between teams seven different times. Splitting time almost evenly, Moran appeared in 20 games for the Saints and threw 31 times for the Twins.

    What should also jump off the page is genuinely how good Moran was.

    Last season the Twins southpaw posted a 2.21 ERA and had an even better 1.78 FIP. His expected ERA was nearly even at 2.28, and his xFIP was still solid at 2.88. Those numbers were consistent at Target Field and on the road. For a guy who has consistently issued too many free passes, he does an incredible amount exceptionally well.

    While he may walk too many, he does a nice job of limiting hard contact. Moran has not given up a home run in nearly 50 major-league innings. He’s only allowed 34 hits in that same period. Sure, he racks up strikeouts in droves, but equally important, his barrel rate is below 6%.

    Moran is not cut from the same cloth as Duran or a prototypical flamethrower. His average fastball velocity last year was just over 93 mph. With that, he got batters to chase nearly one-third of the time, has an incredible 16% whiff rate, and gives up contact only 64% of the time across the board. It’s truly impressive how good the 25-year-old Puerto Rican was for the Twins, especially considering his 2022 ERA with the Saints was 6.00.

    Building depth around the diamond was a goal for the Twins' front office in the offseason. That also rings true in the bullpen. For Moran, he could certainly be the odd man out. It remains to be seen if the Twins will carry three lefties. Moran still has two minor-league options, and although Thielbar is a lock, Danny Coulombe could also be added to the 40-man and 26-man rosters. If Moran starts at Triple-A, that level of talent on the farm is something to be excited about.

    No matter what role Moran fills for the team, he has now shown an ability to perform at a very high level. This isn’t just an arm that loads the bases and dances out of trouble. We have now seen the Twins develop a strikeout pitcher that misses bats and doesn’t allow situations to get him burned.

    A season ago, Griffin Jax was coming off an ERA north of 6.00 and having been a failed starter (over his 14 career starts). He now looks the part of a bullpen stalwart. Moran has already begun the transformation; another step forward in 2023 could make him scary.

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    Many of us have been high on Moran for years now.  It is simply the walks and untimely hits that were his kryptonite. If he has control of his pitches when he comes in he looks elite but when he starts walking guys things can get out of hand.  Hopefully the consistency is there this year as we need him to make this a better than average pen.

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    I like Moran a lot. He could be either a late inning weapon, or a multi-inning weapon. Or both, I guess. But he's also the perfect example of relievers being hard to predict. If he's on, he's lights out. If he's not, he's a disaster waiting to happen.

    With that changeup he doesn't need pin point control. Get some early fastballs over for strikes and then let that change eat. A pitch like that should give him a chance for a really nice career. I'm excited to see how he does this year. Could make the pen really good if he's good Moran most of the time.

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    3 hours ago, wabene said:

    He is a lefty, but he's got reverse splits, correct? That makes him very useful, especially when the opposing manager sends a bunch of rightys out to face him, lol 

    And when he has to face righties as part of the 3 batter minimum. They do still have that rule in place for this year correct?

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    5 hours ago, MMMordabito said:

    50 innings without giving up a dinger to start a career is pretty good. That will be something fun to follow this year.

    Knock on wood 😉

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    I've been high on Moran ever since I first saw him pitch for the Twins.  His change up reminds of of Johan Santana.  Yes, he's got to cut down on walks but I think that will come.  Nobody seems to hit anything especially hard off him.  I'm expecting good things to continue this year.  He may emerge as our #1 left handed option.   

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    I love that changeup from Moran. The walks aren't great, but it's a little easier to work around as a reliever who doesn't give up hard contact and hunts Ks. If he can keep the BB/9 to 4 or less, then he's a weapon in the bullpen. There's not much more for him to do in AAA and his upside is definitely higher than Coloumbe, so he'd be my pick if they only keep 2 LHP in the bullpen. But his splits make him viable as more than a lefty specialist, so if they kept another one he still fits nicely on the team. His presence is one of the reasons to feel better about the bullpen depth on this squad.

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    16 minutes ago, gman said:

    I'm at the point where I wonder why he has to make the cut. Last year's results should give him a place in the pen.

    I think he had to pitch himself off the team this spring to be sent out, and he hasn't done that. Given that the Twins five starters (and three most likely replacements) are all right handed, I think having three left handers in the bullpen is not only acceptable, but preferable. That would mean finding a 40-man spot to add Coulombe (along with either Garlick or Castro) and asking the front-end guys in the bullpen to occasionally pitch multiple innings.

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