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  • Review the Debuts: Twins Rookie Pitchers


    Cody Christie

    Minnesota’s front office planned on the pitching pipeline providing value at the big-league level during the 2022 season. Here’s a look at the rookie pitchers who debuted in 2022.

    Image courtesy of Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

    It was clear that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine planned for the pitching pipeline to start producing big-league talent in 2022. There have been some breakthrough performances, but some question marks remain heading into the offseason. Look back at the seven pitchers that made their debut this year. Consider how they may fit into the team's plan in 2023 and beyond. 

    Jhoan Duran
    2022 Stats (57 G): 1.86 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 89 K, 16 BB, 67 2/3 IP

    Duran has been unbelievable for the entire season. He quickly evolved into one of baseball’s most dominant bullpen weapons. It can be easy to forget that he wasn’t used as a reliever until spring training this season. Duran is also going to set the rookie record for most Win Probability Added (WPA) by a Twins pitcher since 1990, which puts him in elite company. There aren’t enough words to describe what Duran has meant to the Twins bullpen this season, and he is a vital part of the team’s long-term plans. 
    MLB Debut (April 8): 2 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 4 K, 1 BB

    Josh Winder
    2022 Stats (14 G): 4.31 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 45 K, 17 BB, 64 2/3 IP

    Minnesota’s rotation was full to start the 2022 season, but the team decided it needed Winder on the big-league roster. He pitched well to start the season with a 1.61 ERA while holding batters to a .464 OPS in his first five appearances. Unfortunately, shoulder issues started bothering him again, and he was limited to three big-league appearances from May 18 through September 10. He’s made four September starts where he has allowed 12 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. It’s nice that he has been able to prove he is healthy before the season ends. 
    MLB Debut (April 12): 1 IP, 1 ER, 0 H, 1 K, 2 BB

    Cole Sands
    2022 Stats (11 G): 5.87 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 28 K, 13 BB, 30 2/3 IP

    Sands didn’t make the Opening Day roster, but the Twins needed him at the big-league level by the beginning of May. During the 2021 season, he was terrific at Double-A with a 2.46 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in 19 appearances. That performance hasn’t followed him to the 2022 campaign as his ERA rose by over three runs in sporadic opportunities at Triple-A. Sands missed time this season with a right elbow contusion after taking a line drive off the bat of Yuli Gurriel. Sands is only 24 years old, and the Twins hope he can see more of his 2021 performance in the future. 
    MLB Debut (May 1): 2 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 2 K, 0 BB

    Yennier Cano
    2022 Stats (10 G): 9.22 ERA, 2.05 WHIP, 14 K, 11 BB, 13 2/3 IP

    Cano’s path to the big leagues was unique. He signed as a 25-year-old from Cuba in 2019. This season, he pitched well in the minors with a 1.90 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP in St. Paul. His first taste of the big leagues hasn’t gone perfectly as he has allowed 21 earned runs in 11 appearances. Minnesota included Cano as part of the package to acquire Jorge Lopez at the trade deadline.  
    MLB Debut (May 11): 2 1/3 IP, 3 ER, 3 H, 2 K, 0 BB

    Louie Varland
    2022 Stats (5 G): 3.81 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 21 K, 6 BB, 26 IP

    Varland has dominated the minor leagues over the last two seasons as he was recently named the TD Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive season. Minnesota put him in a tough spot for his big-league debut. He took the mound at Yankee Stadium. He performed well as he pitched into the sixth inning and held the Yankees' line-up to two runs on three hits with seven strikeouts. There have been a few hiccups in his other starts as he has allowed four home runs, including two homers by the Angels. Varland has inserted himself into Minnesota’s long-term pitching plans even with these blemishes. 
    MLB Debut (September 7): 5 1/3 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 7 K, 1 BB

    Ronny Henriquez
    2022 Stats (3 G): 2.31 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 9 K, 3 BB, 11 2/3 IP
    Henriquez can sometimes be one of the forgotten players from Minnesota’s flurry of trades this past winter. The Twins acquired Henriquez as part of the Mitch Garver trade because he was an intriguing pitching prospect. At Triple-A this season, he split time as a starter and reliever with a 5.66 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. He is only 22 years old and is considered one of the team’s top 30 prospects. This season was his first pitching over 100 innings. The club will need to decide if he is a starter or reliever, but with his youth, they don't need to decide that for a while. 
    MLB Debut (September 19): 4 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 2 K, 2 BB

    Simeon Woods Richardson
    2022 Stats (1 G): 3.60 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 3 K, 2 BB, 5 IP

    Woods Richardson made his much-anticipated debut last weekend and performed admirably even with some poor defense behind him. After struggling at Double-A in 2022, he dominated in the upper minors this season. He posted a 2.77 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP, including 115 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings. Only Varland finished ahead of Woods Richardson in the TD Minor League Pitcher of the Year balloting. Many rankings have Woods Richardson as a higher-rated prospect than Varland, so it will be fun to track their development in the years ahead.
    MLB Debut (October 2): 5 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 3 K, 2 BB

     

     

    Which pitching prospect are you most excited about moving forward? Who has the highest ceiling? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

     
     
     
     

     

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    SWR gets my vote. I think he's got the highest ceiling of the starters.  Duran if he ever goes back to being a starter. Not that a great BP arm isn't something to get excited about. 4-6 good to great innings trumps 1 outstanding inning. IMO

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    As starter SWR gets my vote highest ceiling SP & Duran as RP. I think Duran still has hope  in becoming a SP. Durability will come into the equation, it'd be very exciting.

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    I also believe that SWR will be in the Twins rotation at some point next year.  The pitching pipeline is arriving.  It will be nice to have a lot of the pitchers in St. Paul as a backup to the twins rotation.  Henriquez may be the exception as I could see him as a long reliever on the Twins staff.

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    IMO there are two prospects in that list SWR and Henriquez, and I most excited about SWR. At 21 year old doing well at AA and AAA is always exciting.

    Duran is the best pitcher of the group but he spent the whole year in the majors so I don't consider him a prospect.

    The rest are all over 25 years old and still trying to prove themselves, so either they should have a job with the Twins next year or probably be gone, no reason taking up a 40 man spot on that old of pitchers that aren't in the majors. IMO

     

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    It has taken a few years, but we finally have some plus SP options heading into next year. Ryan, Mahle, Ober, SWR, Varland(Google wants to change to Verlander), Gray, Paddock, Winder, Maeda, and Sands. Thankfully no Bundy or Archer next year! 

    As for the OP, I am most excited to see what SWR can do next year. 

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    This list shows how silly it is to list a bunch of prospects and expect that they will all become major leaguers. Duran was outstanding and one of the few bright spots of the season.  The rest of them who knows, especially Winder and Sands who are older do not have dominant stuff and have shown next to nothing in the big leagues. 

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    Although I am very optimistic that SWR can be special, my nod goes to Varland.  Kid has done so well in the handful of starts he made this season.  Believe both will begin 2023 in St. Paul and will be first up to join the Twins mid-season as starters are needed.

    See the 2023 starting rotation as Gray, Mahle, Maeda, Ryan and Ober, not necessarily in that order.  How well each of the older starters pitches combined with how well Varland and SWR pitch will dictate whether or not the Twins extend any/all of the three veterans next spring/summer.

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    With the exception of Vatland and Duran none of them yet.  The farm system has not produced any significant front of the rotation pitching or every day starting position players.  Most of these prospects have not performed well over any significant period of time, been injury prone, or both.  Whether they can stay healthy and pitch well enough over an entire season to justify keeping them in the rotation will determine the direction of the team for the next5-7 yearsGiven how few starting. Pitchers the farm system has produced since  Falvey and Levine took over I am not optimistic.

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    What's not to like about Durhan?  He was awesome.  Haven't seen enough of swr to make any judgements yet.  At this point the projected starting pitchers for 2023 are big question marks.  After Ryan and Gray, Mahle should be there but his arm I juries is a concern.  Maeda will becoming in not having pitched in many months.  Not sure what to expect there.  Paddack won't be back until maybe August or September after his second tommy John.  Over and Wonder have had many injuries.  All these prospects haven't proven much of anything yet.  If the Twins don't get a better starting and bullpen pitching, they will go nowhere again.  I'm hoping this off season they don't go dumpster diving for pitching again.  But I'm sure they will.

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    Contrary to popular belief, but I think the pipeline is starting to show. Whether those pitchers were received in trades or not, I think we are getting what we wanted. SWR making the club was big. He showed he was ready and took aim. He pitched very strong considering his start was so late in the year, but a little more time with some mechanics work and I think he'll be a starter for years to come. 

    Duran was phenomenal this season. I think he is for sure moved to the bullpen as a pitcher. He was great for set up this season and I think next year he and Lopez are going to split as Closers until one of them decides they want it more. Yes, Duran did have some control issues throughout the season, but a lot of pitchers who touch 100 tend to have control issues. But a 104 MPH FB mixed with a 100 MPH Splinker, is something that ML hitters are going to try to adjust to but be unsuccessful. 

    Sands pitched about where everyone expected him to. He was overpowering, but he also wasn't underwhelming either. Reminds me of Kyle Gibson. Good enough to be a solid 4-5 pitcher with maybe being our inning eater out of the bullpen. 

    Varland is a strong pitcher that reminds me of Ryan. Has a low release point that creates a good amount of deception to the opposing batters. If he can find a good 3rd pitch I think he is looking at a pretty good career. Because next year, I bet you that there is gonna be more than enough footage out there for hitting coaches to use and help their teams. 

    Winder was avg. Not much else to say. Maybe the shoulder injury is still lingering this late in the season but unlikely. Maybe he had the advantage early because not much was known, but then when footage and statistics came out, hitters started mashing.

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    Pretty good list. Expect six to be back in 2023, and hopefully for many eyars after.

    Remembering the Twins rookie pitchers since 2019: Smeltzder, Thorpe, DObnak, Romero, Hildenberger, Eades, Poppen, Stashak, Graterol, Alcala, Colina, and last year Ober, Ryan, Jax, Barnes, Moran, 

    Humm, Barnes left and did well in Asian leagues.

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    Duran had a special season. In the last week, Henriquez displayed some talent that may play in relief.

    Varland has looked pretty good as he worked his way through the minor leagues and could be in the rotation in April.

     

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    13 minutes ago, mikelink45 said:

    Berrios showed us that you can't judge a rookie by his first season. So the answer to the question is I have no idea who's going to do it. But I hope somebody steps forward. Ober surprise me and I'm willing to be surprised by another two or three pitchers. 

    In the bullpen for part of this year was the reminder the other direction your starter can go, Michael Fulmer. ROY to setup reliever

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    2 hours ago, mac098 said:

    Contrary to popular belief, but I think the pipeline is starting to show. Whether those pitchers were received in trades or not, I think we are getting what we wanted. SWR making the club was big. He showed he was ready and took aim. He pitched very strong considering his start was so late in the year, but a little more time with some mechanics work and I think he'll be a starter for years to come. 

    Duran was phenomenal this season. I think he is for sure moved to the bullpen as a pitcher. He was great for set up this season and I think next year he and Lopez are going to split as Closers until one of them decides they want it more. Yes, Duran did have some control issues throughout the season, but a lot of pitchers who touch 100 tend to have control issues. But a 104 MPH FB mixed with a 100 MPH Splinker, is something that ML hitters are going to try to adjust to but be unsuccessful. 

    Sands pitched about where everyone expected him to. He was overpowering, but he also wasn't underwhelming either. Reminds me of Kyle Gibson. Good enough to be a solid 4-5 pitcher with maybe being our inning eater out of the bullpen. 

    Varland is a strong pitcher that reminds me of Ryan. Has a low release point that creates a good amount of deception to the opposing batters. If he can find a good 3rd pitch I think he is looking at a pretty good career. Because next year, I bet you that there is gonna be more than enough footage out there for hitting coaches to use and help their teams. 

    Winder was avg. Not much else to say. Maybe the shoulder injury is still lingering this late in the season but unlikely. Maybe he had the advantage early because not much was known, but then when footage and statistics came out, hitters started mashing.

    The pipeline sprung a big leak when Petty was traded. 

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    Duran's debut was probably best since there is a large sample size to evaluate. To return to starting, he probably needs to be convinced to take 5-8mph off his pitches. His arm didn't hold up to starting in the minors and probably can't in the majors. He has great breaking pitches to go with his fastball, but he would have to learn to pitch in a manner that allows his arm to hold up i longer outings.

    I do like that two of our best rookie pitchers actually debuted last year, Jax and Ryan.

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    22 hours ago, tarheeltwinsfan said:

    The pipeline sprung a big leak when Petty was traded. 

    How can you say that? He was an 18 yr old untested player. For all we know the kid could have 2 TJ surgery before he's 21 with how hard he throws. The kid may not even make the majors. He could have a career derailed by injuries. There are so many scenarios that could happen with a 18-19 yr old flamethrower. So you can't say that the pipeline sprung a leak when Petty was traded. Especially because he was traded for a very solid Starter that would have been flipped at the deadline from Cincinnati. 

    Now if you had stated that the pipeline got a kink in it, I wouldn't have disagreed. With Balazovic and Enlow not living up to expectations, I think it is fair to say that there have been a hick-ups with our top prospects. 

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    22 hours ago, old nurse said:

    In the bullpen for part of this year was the reminder the other direction your starter can go, Michael Fulmer. ROY to setup reliever

    Sometimes the FO and Pitching coach notice something that makes it so you cannot be a starter anymore. Maybe, you're a little too erratic. Maybe you're velocity isn't where its supposed to be as a starter. Maybe they notice your stamina isn't what is used to be when you were a younger player. I mean, not everyone is gonna be Scherzer or Verlander and stay in the Rotation their entire career. 

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    There is talent listed in all of the players listed  ...

    Duran was poised  and good ....

    Varland solid in his starts , poised against yankees in yankee stadium  ...

    Ober strong to finish the season  ...

    Moran solid but alittle erratic in control ... 

    SWR 1 start , to early to evalute his major league career ...

    Winder , Sands and henrique  might be suited for the pen , winder had some solid starts before arm injury and would be an option in long relief  ( 2 innings or more ) ...

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    23 hours ago, tarheeltwinsfan said:

    To answer your question, "Which pitching prospect are you most excited about moving forward?", I have to honestly say, Chase Petty. I hate it took Petty being traded to get Sonny Gray. I like Gray, but please FO, don't do that again. 

    You don't have to worry about Petty, The Reds allowed him to pitch 98 innings at age 19, so his career is basically over. It is my understanding if you jump from 5 innings to 98 your arm will be ruined fro for life, at  least that is what I have read. 😉

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    5 hours ago, mac098 said:

    Sometimes the FO and Pitching coach notice something that makes it so you cannot be a starter anymore. Maybe, you're a little too erratic. Maybe you're velocity isn't where its supposed to be as a starter. Maybe they notice your stamina isn't what is used to be when you were a younger player. I mean, not everyone is gonna be Scherzer or Verlander and stay in the Rotation their entire career. 

    Maybe my post was just a reminder not to get to overboard on a pitcher. 

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    6 hours ago, mac098 said:

    How can you say that? He was an 18 yr old untested player. For all we know the kid could have 2 TJ surgery before he's 21 with how hard he throws. The kid may not even make the majors. He could have a career derailed by injuries. There are so many scenarios that could happen with a 18-19 yr old flamethrower. So you can't say that the pipeline sprung a leak when Petty was traded. Especially because he was traded for a very solid Starter that would have been flipped at the deadline from Cincinnati. 

    Now if you had stated that the pipeline got a kink in it, I wouldn't have disagreed. With Balazovic and Enlow not living up to expectations, I think it is fair to say that there have been a hick-ups with our top prospects. 

    I realize you've got to give talent to get talent, I just don't like trading Petty and Brustar when the Twinkies are so desperate for pitching. Always have been, Always will be. 

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    6 hours ago, Mike Sixel said:

    Varland and SWR look like they might be legit. That would be great. 

    Yep.  This was also my takeaway from the last couple weeks.  That's pretty significant.  The other thing that caught my attention was that Ober's new slider looks like it could really elevate his upside.  He can put batters away now.  Ober looked considerably better than Winder at the end of the year IMO.

    I would also add that the last weeks gave me some hope they will come up with a long relief guy or two.  Sands / Henriquez / Dobnak and Paddack could fill the multi-inning RP role.  I really did not think Sands or Henriguez were Major League pitchers but they just might have a role.

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    I think it goes without saying Duran looks pretty special. 

    I really liked what little I actually saw of Varland. I think the composure really impressed me. I don't know if he starts with the Twins out of the gate next year, but I expect him to see a lot of action. 

    SWR looked good in his lone start. But what's impressed me was how good he was at 2 different levels while being so young and rebounding from a very crazy 2021. Like Varland, I expect him to get time in 2023 with the Twins.

    I believe Moran was still a rookie and I liked what I saw. His control seemed better as the year moves along and he was just nasty at times. I think he's a keeper.

    Even though his K's were down, I liked Winder a lot before his shoulder barked at him. Really hoping it was just a fatigue situation and he'll be 100% next year. I think he's got a shot to be as good as Varland, SWR, or anyone else.

    Do Henriquez and Sands move to the pen? I don't like to move a young arm out of the rotation too early, but these 2 and everyone else could fill an important role as middle/long men, at least initially. Can always move back to the rotation later, much like the Cardinals are noted for doing. Sands disappointed this year overall. Terribly inconsistent. But when I look at a rookie arm I'm looking at velocity for sure, but also, does he have a breaking ball? Sands has both. Can he harness his stuff? We'll see.

    Some very solid work and some disappointments from this class. But you can see the arm talent.

    Who am I looking forward to seeing next year? Festa, Balazovic, Enlow, Headrick, and Prielipp are at the top of my list, even though I'm leaving out a couple of others. I don't expect Festa or Prielipp to debut, but i want to see how close they can get. Balazovic to rebound. Enlow to re-establish how good he was looking before his injury, (his trajectory was looking way up). And Headrick because he's LH, and might be an outstanding arm for one of the middle/long spots in the pen very soon.

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    I think both SWR and Varland will be back with AAA to begin next season. Both are starters and need to be treated as such for their development especially since neither pitched a lot at AAA.

    Winder will compete for a rotation spot but could be a similar pitcher to Jax out of the 'pen. 

    I think Sand will move to the 'pen full time in 23. He doesn't seem to have enough quality pitches to stick as a starter and a career similar to Duffey could be in the mix for him. 

    Henriquez will be back at AAA as a starter. See if he can start since he's still very young. 

    All in all, a successful group of pitchers to make their debuts. 

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    Honestly, I am kind of excited for all of these guys. 

    Also, what is to say that some of these arms that are tabbed as starters now can't become effective relievers? If the Twins are able to employ what they wanted to do all along. Pay 1-2 starters and fill the rest with your pipeline, than I think it makes sense that guys like Varland, SWR, Winder, Ober, etc not be pigeonholed as absolute starting pitchers. Having 2-3 guys in your pen that can go multiple innings would be a huge help if in fact you plan to not use your starters much past the 2nd time through.

    Had we used(or had available) some of these guys this year to piggyback guys like Bundy, Archer, etc. The rest of our bullpen wouldn't have been beaten up so bad and there would have been no need for guys like Pagan, Duffey, Joe Smith, Megill, etc. 

    One way or the other, I am going to give these guys some credit that for the first time in awhile, it looks as if we have all kinds of useful arms in the top of our system that may be available to use wherever the brass sees fit. 

     

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