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  • The Twins Have an Overlooked Lefty

    Ted Schwerzler

    The Minnesota Twins have plenty of certainties regarding their Opening Day roster for 2023. Most of the lineup looks to be set, and there isn’t much intrigue regarding the starting rotation. The final spots in the bullpen could be in flux, and there is a lefty worth considering.

    Image courtesy of Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

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    Rocco Baldelli will have a much better bullpen entering this season than last year. That much is already a given. Jhoan Duran is established as an elite arm, Jorge Lopez was an All-Star closer in 2022, and Griffin Jax has emerged as a high-leverage arm. The Twins are in a much better position.

    There are a few candidates when trying to figure out the final pieces. From the left-handed side, Caleb Thielbar and Jovani Moran have been considered the top two candidates. That is still true, and while he’s not on the 40-man roster, Danny Coulombe continues to make noise for Minnesota.

    This is the fourth straight season that Coulombe has agreed to a minor league deal with Minnesota. He has made it into major league action each year and clearly feels a level of comfort with the organization. Coulombe established himself as a big league reliever with Oakland spending the 2016-2018 seasons there, but has truly taken off with the Twins. For a team that has built more depth this season across the roster, Coulombe is another example of that.

    A season ago, the veteran reliever pitched just 12 1/3 innings before dealing with an injury. Calling his season a wash is a pretty accurate description. In 2021, Coulombe threw 34 1/3 innings for Minnesota, and his 3.67 ERA was plenty usable. He recorded roughly a strikeout per inning and limited walks to less than two per nine innings.

    Now healthy and back to work for the Twins, Coulombe has looked the part of a quality left-handed arm this spring. He has pitched in four games and has not given up a run across six innings. He has eight strikeouts and four walks. The sample size is admittedly small, but it’s not as though he hasn’t shown this type of production previously.

    It would stand to reason that Minnesota currently has two spots open for southpaws in their bullpen. There is almost no way that Thielbar misses out on the 26-man roster, and even if Moran is optioned, there would still need to be room made on the 40-man roster. The more likely outcome is that Coulombe starts his season with Triple-A St. Paul, but he could be relied upon when first needed.

    A year ago, Minnesota saw a substantial amount of injury and had to constantly shuttle pitchers from different levels of the farm system. Rather than immediately relying upon an unproven resource, Coulombe could provide a level of veteran depth that the starting rotation now seems to be afforded.

    We won’t know how this story plays out until later during spring training. The expectation should be that Coulombe is among the Twins final cuts, and that will give him plenty of opportunities. He has seen a good amount of work through the first two weeks of spring, and that should only increase as additional bodies are sent out of camp.

    Combining ZiPS and Steamer projections show Coulombe throwing something just north of 30 innings at the big-league level this year. Both systems see him posting an ERA similar to 2021 and a modest strikeout rate. While there is no such thing as a lefty specialist anymore, given the three-batter minimum, the Twins have helped the 33-year-old develop a few new tricks to keep him relevant.

    Don’t be surprised if we see Coulombe throw some serious innings for the Twins this year, and that really shouldn’t be a bad thing.

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    He's done well.  I've even taken him in my fantasy simulation league.

    Twins bullpen is being incredibly overrated for some reason by the locals, and I think it's going to have to be patched together with the likes of Coloumbe and a number of others we didn't sign (oops).

    To think the Twins will have an above average (among 20 or so contending teams) bullpen, you have to think all of this:

    1.  Relievers who stayed healthy will stay healthy again.

    2. Regression to the mean is fictional (this is for Duran, Moran mostly)

    3. A reliever who's career has been horrible will pitch lights out for the Twins after pitching to a 4.37 ERA for them last year (Lopez).

    4. Pitchers who miss a year due to a major injury will have no issues this year (Alcala).

    5.  Pagan is different from what all the evidence suggests his whole career.

    My guess is Megill, Jax, and Thielbar probably pitch about the same as a group as they did in 2022, and that's not overwhelming.  I think as much as the Twins created depth for its lineup and rotation, they ignored what's going to happen in the bullpen.

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    I was really glad he re-signed with the Twins on a milb. I really thought there was a chance he'd look for a different opportunity and might even snag a ML deal from someone in desperate need for a LH. He's proven, with the Twins, to be a reliable fill in option.

    I could be remembering incorrectly, but didn't he add or alter one if his pitches once he came to the Twins?

    I agree he probably goes to St Paul to begin the season. Especially to save a 40 man spot for now and continue to work with what is already there first. But Thielbar has proven to be relatively effective against RH batters and Moran definitely is. So there might be room for a 3rd LH at some point to help in the middle innings, or to help finish off an inning. It's a bit of a luxury, but if Duran, Lopez, Jax, Alcala, Thielbar, and Moran can be what is expected/hoped to be, I could see room for a 3rd LH.

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    2 hours ago, FlyingFinn said:

    If there really is a competition at the back end of the bullpen, don't see how Coulombe isn't winning over Pagan and Megill so far. Three LH's in the pen could be good as well. Only negative is he would require a 40 man roster move.

    And keeping all the 40 man options in place, for now, makes sense. Why remove anyone too soon when you can roll through your options there first to see what you have and keep Coloumbe in reserve.

    But, not to be mean, I can think of one 40 man spot that shouldn't have been filled by a bullpen arm at all that is still hanging around.

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    There are a few guys on the 40-man who aren't sure things or maybe long shots to make the active roster, including Henriquez, Megill, Pagan, Santana and (who the heck is?) Alex Phillips. Pagan and Santana don't have options, so if they don't make the active roster, would create 40-man space. Henriquez and Josh Winder are possible candidates for 60-day IL, which could also create roster space. 

    I do believe Coulombe will be on the active roster at some point and will provide decent results. Beyond that, having a third left hander, particularly when the club's starters all throw right handed, makes a lot of sense. 

    There are downsides. If Coulombe is added, he must stay on the roster or be DFAed. He's well into his 30s and it is a not a sure thing that he will maintain what he's been able to do. Finally, he would profile as a one-inning guy in a bullpen full of them. 

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    1 hour ago, stringer bell said:

    Beyond that, having a third left hander, particularly when the club's starters all throw right handed, makes a lot of sense. 

    Excellent thought.

    1 hour ago, stringer bell said:

    he would profile as a one-inning guy in a bullpen full of them. 

    Maybe that is why he threw two innings today........................hmmm..........

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    20 hours ago, FlyingFinn said:

    If there really is a competition at the back end of the bullpen, don't see how Coulombe isn't winning over Pagan and Megill so far. Three LH's in the pen could be good as well. Only negative is he would require a 40 man roster move.

    Oooh! You used the P-word! Thanks for all the (bad) memories.

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    He's definitely one of the 8 best relief pitchers on the roster right now. The only reason he wouldn't make it is due to 40 man status. That's a tough hurdle to jump unless another 60 day IL pops up or they finally DFA Pagan or Magill. 

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