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  • Can the Twins Count On Starter’s Health?


    Ted Schwerzler

    Realistically the Minnesota Twins have enough starters to fill out their starting rotation in 2023. That’s something they haven’t been able to say in recent seasons. While they could use another top-tier arm, the reality is they may need to count on depth much more than you’d like behind the top five.

     

    Image courtesy of © Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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    Rocco Baldelli has to be feeling good about having some starting pitchers put down in ink. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine haven’t stocked the Minnesota rotation with a high-level of talent in recent years, largely opting for upside plays. Now the Twins have at least a few arms that should be seen as high-level talent, but to what extent can any of the arms Minnesota employs be counted on?

    Sonny Gray
    It’s become a trend for starting pitchers to contribute less innings in recent seasons. Bullpens have emerged as a force late in games, and that’s going to limit the length for any starting arm. That said, Gray threw just 119 2/3 innings during his first year with the Twins, his lowest total of his career. He dealt with hamstring problems throughout the year, and while he did look like a staff ace at times, he was also unavailable in key moments.

    Tyler Mahle
    Acquired at the trade deadline from the Cincinnati Reds, Mahle has the makings of a true ace. His underlying metrics are eye-popping, and seeing him take a step forward is hardly a lofty expectation. He did deal with shoulder issues earlier in the summer however, and they then popped up again with Minnesota. The Twins got just 16 1/3 innings from their newly acquired talent, and he couldn’t make it through more than two innings in his final outing of the season. He’d been relatively healthy prior to 2022, but shoulder issues are never good for a pitcher.

    Kenta Maeda
    The Twins got a near-Cy Young winner in 2020 when Maeda posted a 2.70 ERA during the truncated season. He then threw just over 100 innings in 2021 and posted a 4.66 ERA. Having undergone Tommy John surgery and not making it back for 2022, it will have been nearly two years since Maeda last pitched in a big league game. Sure, there’s lots to like here and the track record on UCL surgeries isn’t what it once was, but Maeda will be 35 next season and the question marks couldn’t be larger.

    Joe Ryan
    You can certainly make the argument that there’s questions as to whether Ryan can handle good lineups as he struggled against stiff competition for most of 2022. What is much more certain is that the former Tampa Bay Rays prospect appears to be a pillar of health. He has remained a constant on the field since becoming a big leaguer, and while he’s probably more a number three starter than anything else, you can count on him to take the ball every fifth day.

    Bailey Ober
    Minnesota came up with some found money in developing Ober as a strong starter despite being a 12th round draft pick. He’s never pitched more than 92 1/3 innings during any pro season however, and has consistently been able to give much less. Injuries have been a consistent theme during the course of his career, and while effective, he’s largely been unavailable.

    Josh Winder
    Similar to Ober, Winder has only sparingly shown an ability to be available. He threw 125 2/3 innings during his first full professional season in 2019, and then failed to top 90 innings in either of the two seasons since. Winder is a good depth arm that can back up the end of a good rotation, but he’s certainly a question mark to remain healthy.

    Chris Paddack
    Acquired from the San Diego Padres in the Taylor Rogers trade, it was Paddack that drew Minnesota’s attention more than Emilio Pagan. Unfortunately he was available for a depressed price because of his injury concern. He’s now undergone a second Tommy John surgery, and won’t be back until mid-summer at the earliest. He looked sharp in his limited exposure for Minnesota, but counting on him in any real capacity is tough.

    Beyond those names there’s the group including Simeon Woods Richardson and Louie Varland. The Twins hope to have some of their pipeline produce in 2023 and beyond. Maybe Jordan Balazovic can find whatever he lost a season ago, and maybe there’s another guy or two that pop up to become relevant.

    The reality is, while Minnesota needs a top-tier arm to start a playoff game, they probably need one simply because of the uncertainty that surrounds who will be available, and for how long, in 2023.

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    Well it has to work.  There is virtually no one we can sign that are any better except for 2.  Verlander and always injured Degrom.  Rodon is not the answer.  We have a good rotation with some good backups if injury happens.  I want the Twins to sign/trade for some high profile shutdown bullpen arms.  Literally everyone could be replaced.

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    I hate to be the one to say this, but I don't see the Twins making any major moves with their SP.

    The argument can be made that they have strong talent coming back to the rotation from injury.  They have a handful of guys that are ready to go at the MLB level.  There are only a handful of SP in the FA market that would truly move the needle, they will either be overpaid (Rodon), or will take "reasonable" salaries to true contenders.  Anybody they could reasonably trade for will either cost half of the AAA team, or would bring less to the table then a guy like Sonny Gray (who is good, but comes with risk or baggage).

    I think it is more reasonable to assume they make runs at a few of the bigger RP names out there

     

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    I agree with Linus - can Rocco and Maki help a pitcher improve and move up from 3 to 2?  If we have a rotation of 3-4s and Rocco keeps using them for 4 - 5 innings the BP is key, but overworked.  This is not an essay that gives me good feelings about the next year. 

    Can Sonny Gray pitch the full year, can he stay injury free and mentally adjust to the Rocco method?  BR comps - Lance Lynn and Trevor Bauer.  I hope he performs at that level. 

    Will Mahle come back from his injury and stay healthy? This potential ACE (?) has had one good year - 2021.  Otherwise his ERA is in the mid 4s.  Sorry, but underlying stats don't do much for me - I need to see performance on the field.  BR comps - Paul Mitchell and Bud Norris!

    Maeda could be a mirage.  One half year of great performance and fortunately it was the short year.  Next he comes back with a more normal mid 4 ERA.  That is what his career expects. His BR comps are very good - Jameson Taillon and Collin McHugh.

    Joe Ryan is really just 1 1/2 years in the majors.  His age says that is where he should be and he definitely had the attitude to face anyone, his performance says he cannot face the really good lineups - yet.   His BR comp is Yonny Chirinos - a Player I do not know.  But I expect Joe to continue to be a workhorse if Rocco lets him.

    Bailey Ober has not pitched enough to really be much beyond a rookie - like Joe Ryan, but he has given us some very surprising results - I still do not trust him in key games. Tom McGuire and Nick Tropeano are his comps on BR - I have no idea who they are.  So let's hope he improves and stays healthy.

    Chris Paddack is actually younger than Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober - I am shocked.  He has four years of MLB experience and a poor health record.  His four year ERA is 4.20 so I hope he comes back, and I hope he is better than he has shown so far..   His comps are Aaron Civale (I like that) and Joe Ross.

    I look at the numbers, the comps, the performance last year and see, at best, a middle of the pack rotation.  I hope that some really improve on their current status. 

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    Innings Pitched by Starter Projection - Most to Least 

    Ryan (solid, healthy season upcoming)
    FA/Trade (we need an innings eater SP)
    Gray (solid season with one or two IL stints)
    Maeda (gets ramped up but he’s had his surgery)
    Ober (in and out as the #5)
    Mahle (oft injured - very sad)
    Winder (spot starter out of the pen)
    Varland (call up starter)
    SWR (call up starter)
    Paddack. (DNP)

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    No. They can't count on health. Especially the guys who have been injured in the past. There are 3 potential #3 starters among Gray, Mahle, & Ryan. I don't think any of them would be considered a #1 or #2. @Ted Schwerzler, I am curious which under-lying metrics of Mahle are "eye popping"? I see some that are above average. They currently have 3 above average starters who are good pitchers with questions around each one. After that they have wild cards and still need depth. The way they have constructed their pitching staff and handled their starters creates a lot of stress. 

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    7 Starters, 6 on the opening day rotation barring injury. Varland and Woods-Richardson wait in the ranks, along with Balazovic if he can rebound. I think that list should be enough for 2023, at least until the all-star break. I would like to see them sign Rodon or trade for an Ace, probably using Ober or Winder in a package.

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    1 hour ago, Fire Dan Gladden said:

    The argument can be made that they have strong talent coming back to the rotation from injury. 

    The argument can certainly be made and the Twins do have some decent starting pitchers and inexperienced pitchers waiting for their opportunity. We all hope to see the best from our starting pitchers. However, it is worth wondering what goals the Twins front office have for their team as compared to those teams who expect to compete for league championships. Not including Verlander (who may be resigned), Houston can roll out McCullers, Valdez, Javier, and Garcia before even considering Urquiddy and Brown. Would any of the Twins starters even make the Astros team? Maybe or maybe not. The Twins will need at least one big addition to their starting staff to enter the 2023 season with hopes of playing .500 baseball. 

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    2 hours ago, Eris said:

    What I would like to see is an analysis of the Twins pitching injuries in both the majors and minors and evaluating how this compares to other organizations. 

    I know right!  But dont worry...we got the ex oakland trainer running things now...i think he and falvey were kissing francona's ass as early as 2012. Not to worry.

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    Not sure what Twins did differently in 2019, Rocco's first year, but there were only a few injuries to SP and only short IL stints. SP of Berrios, Odorizzi, Pineda, Gibson, and Perez had few injuries, Pineada had fewest starts at 26 and IP at 146. Berries had 32 starts and 200 IP, other 3 had 29-30 starts and 159-165 IP.

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    If I’m the FO I’m signing Eovaldi. He’s also had some injury concerns but our depth is pretty good at the moment. He’s got major upside, and I think the Twins can coax some of his velocity back to regain his #1-2 starter potential. He shouldn’t break the bank either. 

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    I expect with a normal spring training, Gray will be in shape & give us more quality innings than last year. Ryan, with a full year under his belt, I expect more quality innings. Mahle, since there seems to be no impingement, I assume he suffered from "dead arm" and will prosper under different management.

    The rest leaves a lot to be desired. Maeda, I'm sorry he's not going to be the Twins savior. '23 won't be a shorten season, although spring training is normal, which gives him a leg up from the pitchers last season. Yet my expectations are that he if resembles Archer's #s he'll be good. Because of his absense, Maeda needs to be put in long relief, eventually put in to spot start and see if he can profile into the rotation some time before the end of the season.Because of injuries Ober didn't progressed so I'd put him back as long relief/ spot starter along with Varland, Winder with SWR in the wings.

    Our rotation should be  better and our short relief should be much better but if long relief isn't properly utilized then all that means is instead the whole pitching staff starting to crumble in early May, it'll start some time in June. Either way we can forget about post season.

    If we stay with Baldelli's formula of strictly relying on short relief then we need 2 more good SPs and maybe 2 high leverage short relief and keep Ober, Varland, Winder and SWR in AAA.

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    6 hours ago, Byrdman said:

    Well it has to work.  There is virtually no one we can sign that are any better except for 2.  Verlander and always injured Degrom.  Rodon is not the answer.  We have a good rotation with some good backups if injury happens.  I want the Twins to sign/trade for some high profile shutdown bullpen arms.  Literally everyone could be replaced.

    Curious as to why you feel Rodon isn't the answer. I think he pretty clearly slots in ahead of anyone the Twins currently have and would lead the majority of rotations in baseball. Also intrigued by the comment that "literally everyone could be replaced" when speaking of the bullpen. You don't think Duran was elite, thus pretty hard to replace?

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    3 hours ago, 4twinsJA said:

    Berries had 32 starts and 200 IP, other 3 had 29-30 starts and 159-165 IP.

    2 years on and still trying to replace the quality durability of a Berrios. There just arent that many SP's that can take it every 5th day and give your team a chance. Maybe Bassitt is closest to that model in this years class. Theres something to be said for those guys who can stabilize the rotation. But they should be paid. Twins just dont seem to want to pay for pitching.

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    6 hours ago, Fire Dan Gladden said:

    I hate to be the one to say this, but I don't see the Twins making any major moves with their SP.

    The argument can be made that they have strong talent coming back to the rotation from injury.  They have a handful of guys that are ready to go at the MLB level.  There are only a handful of SP in the FA market that would truly move the needle, they will either be overpaid (Rodon), or will take "reasonable" salaries to true contenders.  Anybody they could reasonably trade for will either cost half of the AAA team, or would bring less to the table then a guy like Sonny Gray (who is good, but comes with risk or baggage).

    I think it is more reasonable to assume they make runs at a few of the bigger RP names out there

     

    Concur. 

    MLBTR has Rodon at 5/$140M, or $28M/yr. 

    Using MLBTR's estimates further, I'd rather spend roll with the starters we've got and spend $28M on Kenley Jansen (2/$26M), David Robertson (2/$16M) and either Adam Ottavino or Chris Martin (both at 2/$14M). 

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    7 hours ago, Fire Dan Gladden said:

    I hate to be the one to say this, but I don't see the Twins making any major moves with their SP.

    The argument can be made that they have strong talent coming back to the rotation from injury.  They have a handful of guys that are ready to go at the MLB level.  There are only a handful of SP in the FA market that would truly move the needle, they will either be overpaid (Rodon), or will take "reasonable" salaries to true contenders.  Anybody they could reasonably trade for will either cost half of the AAA team, or would bring less to the table then a guy like Sonny Gray (who is good, but comes with risk or baggage).

    I think it is more reasonable to assume they make runs at a few of the bigger RP names out there

     

    Thanks for saying this.  Totally agree.

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    Im sure the Twins will do more dumpster diving to find pitching.  They always do and it had worked so well lol.  The current starting staff is full of maybes and hopefulness.  Nothing on sound ground.  If the twins philosophy will continue to be to let starters only go  5 innings, they better invest heavily on bullpen arms.

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    On 11/23/2022 at 10:02 AM, Fire Dan Gladden said:

    I hate to be the one to say this, but I don't see the Twins making any major moves with their SP.

    The argument can be made that they have strong talent coming back to the rotation from injury.  They have a handful of guys that are ready to go at the MLB level.  There are only a handful of SP in the FA market that would truly move the needle, they will either be overpaid (Rodon), or will take "reasonable" salaries to true contenders.  Anybody they could reasonably trade for will either cost half of the AAA team, or would bring less to the table then a guy like Sonny Gray (who is good, but comes with risk or baggage).

    I think it is more reasonable to assume they make runs at a few of the bigger RP names out there

     

    I agree

    Currently 15 spots on the 40 man roster are occupied by starting pitchers.

    There are only so many spots on the 40 man roster that can be allocated to starting pitchers before you don't have anybody playing C. 

    Teams need 7 to 10 staring pitchers (maybe more) to get through any season so the 40 man SP allocation will have to remain high because it's a numbers game on the mound. 

    Let the young arms develop into the pitchers we need them to be. 

    We should be Bundy or Archer or Shoemaker or Happ type free this year. 

     

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