Last winter, it was clear to anyone looking at the Twins roster that the team needed frontline starting pitching. There were other off-season needs, but they only had Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober penciled into the rotation and many other question marks. Minnesota had the financial flexibility to sign frontline starting pitching, but the club decided to go in a different direction.
With the pending lockout, the Twins front office watched most frontline free agent starters ink contracts with other organizations. Minnesota's lone signing before the lockout was Dylan Bundy, who figured to fit into the rotation's back half. It was tough to decipher how the Twins expected to fill the rotation, but the team's plan became clear as spring training inched closer.
Following the lockout, Sonny Gray was the Twins' biggest offseason pitching acquisition. He was a clear frontline starter and pitched that way during the 2022 season. The team added Chris Archer to join Bundy at the back of the rotation, and Chris Paddack joined the club in a last-minute deal before Opening Day. All these arms impacted the 2022 Twins, but the club wanted to rely on the young pitching in the system to supplement the veteran arms.
Derek Falvey was brought to Minnesota because of his experience with the Cleveland organization. During his Cleveland tenure, one of his calling cards was cultivating young pitching, which has been a staple of the Guardians organization. Minnesota was going to start the 2022 campaign with Ryan and Ober in the rotation, but there were expectations that other young pitchers would join their ranks. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case, and Minnesota's pitching pipeline may have taken a step back this season.
As the season began, it looked like the Twins had plenty of pitching prospects in the upper minors that had the potential to impact the roster. Minnesota had five upper minors starting pitchers ranked in their top-10 prospects, and others rounded out their top-20 list. Ryan had an up-and-down season as a rookie, but he is on pace to set the team's rookie record for strikeouts. Josh Winder and Cole Sands have combined to pitch just over 80 big league innings, with both missing games due to injury. Louie Varland saw his stock rise the most out of this group as he pitched well in the upper minors before making his big league debut in September.
Matt Canterino and Jordan Balazovic were arguably the team's top pitching prospects entering the 2022 campaign, but it was a lost season for both. Canterino dominated on the mound in 13 appearances, but he needed Tommy John surgery before the season's end. Balazovic was on pace to debut in 2022, but he struggled at Triple-A and is now getting back on track. Besides Varland, Simeon Woods Richardson helped his stock the most this season, and he deserves to make some starts for the Twins down the stretch.
Many will blame injuries for the Twins' failures during the 2022 season. However, the lack of contributions from the pitching pipeline is also concerning. Not every pitching prospect can be successful throughout their professional careers, and there is hope that some of these arms will get healthy in the offseason. As Minnesota's focus turns to 2023, the front office might not be able to rely as heavily on the pitching pipeline when building next year's roster.
Did the pitching pipeline plan fail in 2022? Is there hope for improvement in 2023? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.