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  • Twins Daily 2022 Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year


    Ted Schwerzler

    The Minnesota Twins used a franchise record 37 pitchers at the Major League level this season. With plenty of short starts causing a level of scrutiny, the goal is in developing better arms that can go deeper into ballgames. There’s no better place to do that than within your own system.

     

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    Derek Falvey has been tasked with building a pipeline of pitching talent since he was brought over from Cleveland to head up the front office. Minnesota has been intentional in targeting arms with upside that they can mold into solid workhorses. There were plenty of strong performances this season the farm, but only one took the title of Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year.

    Before getting to the winner, here are some others that were in contention:

    Honorable Mention-
    Pierson Ohl (Fort Myers) - 20 G 91.2 IP 3.53 ERA 1.178 WHIP 9.9 K/9 1.3 BB/9
    Jaylen Nowlin (Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids) - 22 G 71.0 IP 3.80 ERA 1.352 WHIP 14.1 K/9 4.6 BB/9
    Travis Adams (Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids) - 22 G 100.2 IP 3.93 ERA 1.162 WHIP 9.7 K/9 2.3 BB/9

    #5 Marco Raya (Fort Myers) - 19 G 65.0 IP 3.05 ERA 1.077 WHIP 10.5 K/9 3.2 BB/9
    Raya was taken in the 4th round of the 2019 Major League Baseball draft from United South High School in Laredo, TX. With the Covid shutdown and injuries over the past couple of years, 2022 was his professional debut. Skipping the Complex League entirely, Raya pitched as a 19-year-old for the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels. Across 19 games and 17 starts, he was nothing short of dominant. Arguably the staff ace, Raya racked up strikeouts in bunches while doing a good job to limit damage. He’s got mid-90s stuff and is someone Minnesota could mold into a number three starter or better.

    #4 Brent Headrick - (Cedar Rapids/Wichita) - 25 G 108.1 IP 3.32 ERA 1.080 WHIP 11.3 K/9 2.1 BB/9
    Selected in the 9th round of the 2019 Major League Baseball draft out of Illinois State University, Headick has really seen the ceiling for his stuff grow. Last year was his first full professional season and he put up strong numbers for Low-A Fort Myers. Splitting time between High-A Cedar Rapids and Double-A Wichita this year, Headrick has become an anchor on the staff at whatever level he plays. Headrick has continued to rack up strikeouts in bunches, and has shown a very strong ability to command the baseball. He gave up a few more homers after the promotion to Double-A, but was every bit as dominant. When the Wind Surge advanced to the Texas League postseason, it was Headrick tabbed as the Game 1 starter.

    #3 David Festa - (Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids) 21 G 103.2 IP 2.43 ERA 1.090 WHIP 9.4 K/9 3.0 BB/9
    Festa made quick work of Fort Myers after starting the season there following his 13th-round selection out of Seton Hall during the 2021 Major League Baseball draft. Pitching substantially for Cedar Rapids this season, he made adjustments to continue strong outings while the strikeouts took a slight dip. Just 22 years old, Festa has done a great job avoiding big innings by limiting the longball. In just over 103 innings this season, he allowed opposing batters to leave the yard only six times. For a late-round pick, the immediate development here has been incredibly encouraging.

    Runner-Up Simeon Woods Richardson - (Wichita/St. Paul) 21 G 2.93 ERA 1.080 WHIP 9.7 K/9 3.0 BB/9
    Acquired alongside Austin Martin from the Toronto Blue Jays when Minnesota sent Jose Berrios north of the border, Woods Richardson has been nothing short of dominant this season. Not being interrupted by the Olympic appearance as he was last season, Woods Richardson has settled into a routine. His 2.55 ERA at Triple-A St. Paul is even better than it was with Double-A Wichita, and he continues to average over a strikeout per inning. This is a top-half-of-the-rotation arm that Minnesota could call upon as soon as 2023.

    2022 Minnesota Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year - Louie Varland - (Wichita/St. Paul) - 24 G 126.1 IP 3.06 ERA 1.259 WHIP 10.4 K/9 3.0 BB/9
    Winning this award for the second season in a row is none other than Concordia St. Paul product Louie Varland. A St. Paul native, Varland was a 15th-round pick by the Twins during the 2019 Major League Baseball draft. After dominating Single-A in 2021, Varland continued his roll by earning a promotion to Triple-A late this season. After a 3.34 ERA across 105 innings with Wichita, Varland posted a dominant 1.69 ERA in four starts for the Saints.

    As has been the case over the duration of his professional career, Varland has been a strikeout arm. This season he’s tallied 146 strikeouts while ceding just 42 walks. Once working in the low-90s, Varland has put in the offseason work to push his fastball in the mid-90s on a consistent basis with the ability to top out near 97 mph.

    When Minnesota needed an arm for a doubleheader against the New York Yankees, it was Varland who was called on to make his big league debut. Brother, and Dodgers prospect, Gus Varland was in the stands to see Louie punch out Aaron Judge for the first strikeout of his career. Varland will continue to grow at the big league level, but he has looked the part of an arm with intrigue. He’s a hard thrower that works quick and isn’t afraid to trust his stuff.

    Although the Twins may not have immediate room for Varland in the 2023 Opening Day rotation, there should be no doubt that he’ll make a handful of starts and be ready to make an impact when his number is called.

    Previous Starting Pitcher of the Year Winners:
    2021 winner - Louie Varland
    2019 winner- Randy Dobnak
    2018 winner - Tyler Wells
    2017 winner - Stephen Gonsalves
    2016 winner - Stephen Gonsalves
    2015 winner - Jose Berrios
    2014 winner - Jose Berrios
    2013 winner - Taylor Rogers
    2012 winner - BJ Hermsen

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    I am a little lost here; the article began with the premise that we were trying to develop workhorses within our system.  Then the pitchers listed had stats that showed a lot of strikeouts, per usual, but where were the innings?  Only Varland averaged more than 5 innings a game, and that was not a lot over, unless I missed something.

    I know I am in a minority here, but if I have to choose between strike outs and innings, please, give me the innings.  Far too much intensity and energy is going into striking out people all the time, to the point that pitch counts become everything.  Again, did I miss something?   From the numbers listed in the article, all I see is the same philosophy on the farm that I see in the show.  Where are the workhorses?  

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    Considering he began the year in Wichita and will start tonight versus Ohtani, easy choice.  And what a year Varland had.  Gotta believe/hope this young man is the real deal and can be an important arm for the Twins over the coming years.

    Really like how SWR has finished his season.  Count me among those hoping he gets one start that last weekend with the Twins.  Would be nice to see both of these young men anchor the front of the Saints rotation on opening day and are in position to join the Twins permanently, come May or June.

    Continue to be intrigued with Raya.  Also want to second Mark's comments above about getting more innings out of the starters.  Got a feeling that ain't gonna happen until there are some changes in who is making those decisions.

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    I’ve become skeptical of the team’s future starters, given the mounting injuries. Also, as noted by a previous posting, hardly anyone on this list has averaged more than five innings. How is that developing a workhorse pitcher, especially when Rocco doesn’t trust his starting pitchers to go through the lineup a third time? No workhorse free agent pitcher would ever sign here with that philosophy. So count me skeptical that this management and coaching staff can develop top flight starters. 

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    More negative comments than positive ones in a celebration thread. This site never disappoints.

    These guys all had great years. The depth in the minors had never been better than it will be next year. 

    Varland was great this year, and he and SWR will start games in Minnesota next year for sure. Congratulations to him and all the rest. 

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    Although SWR's numbers look slightly better Varland was the right choice as he pitched all year pretty much without interruption.  His consistency along with a slightly better K rate makes him stand out more to me.  SWR is right there with him though which is a good thing.  It sure would be nice if those two could be front line starters along with Ryan.  Congrats to Louie who has worked his butt off and taken the title again.

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    19 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

    More negative comments than positive ones in a celebration thread. This site never disappoints.

    These guys all had great years. The depth in the minors had never been better than it will be next year. 

    Varland was great this year, and he and SWR will start games in Minnesota next year for sure. Congratulations to him and all the rest. 

    My father taught me very well the difference between asking a question of someone, and questioning someone.  He also taught me the difference between critiquing something or someone, and criticizing the same.  What I suggested are critiques and questions, not criticizing, but that is just me.  

    I, for one, never questioned the stats of the young guys coming up; I asked why we aren't producing the "workhorses" the article based its premise on.  My critique was we concentrate too hard on strike out stuff, and not enough on stamina and arm build up which would produce guys able to go deeper into games.  Others can speak for themselves, but I don't see these questions as negative.  Nor do I celebrate 4-5 inning starts as our pitchers come up through the system, because that is all they will be able to do once they get here.  The minors is the place to build up strength and durability; once they get to the show it will be much harder.  That, to me, is a critique, one that is worth of consideration by those of us who follow the team.  But, again, that is just me.  I also value the give and take on this site, because that is what keeps the interest alive when the team appears dead.  

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    32 minutes ago, Otaknam said:

    No workhorse free agent pitcher would ever sign here with that philosophy. So count me skeptical that this management and coaching staff can develop top flight starters. 

    I agree.

    I 100% believe this is why Jose Berrios wouldn't sign with the Twins and was cemented when they took him out of the playoff game with the game tied at one when he was pumped coming off the mound in the fifth. You saw it with Joe Ryan and Sonny Gray this year, too. Whatever book the Twins are using, I think comes off as a lack of trust and confidence in them, to the players. 

    I don't think they need to be throwing a bunch of complete games, but they haven't figured out how to operate a bullpen with this philosophy yet, and few have anywhere in the majors (maybe the Rays). If you're throwing 5 pitchers every game, all you're doing to me is increasing the odds one of them has a bad outing. 

    I also look at the philosophy this way: If you have a starter who is pitching well, by taking him out before that third time through the order or whatever, you're giving a psychological boost to the other team, "we no longer have to face that guy!"

    This is my long rant to say you can use the book as a guide, but your decision also MUST be informed by the game happening in front of your eyes. I have not felt like Rocco has done this at all in the last two seasons. Instead, they are an algorithm that is failing, and I would be fascinated by the level of negative deviation they're achieving compared to what it tells them should happen...

    But back on topic, congrats Louie Varland!!! Two years in a row is awesome, and I think he ran away with this award again this year!

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    Twins don't develop starting pitching.  If your goal is to only pitch the starters 4-5 innings you better darn we'll have a great bullpen not a minor league one like the Twins.  It's obvious Rocco is taking all his lessons from Tampa Bay whom he played for all those years.  Yes it's working for Tampa but not for everyone.  Mainly Tampa obviously has better scouting and minor league coaching than the Twins.  Also today the Twins DFA'D pitcher Sanchez.  He's no Cy Young but I thought did an admirable job of kind of helping out in long relief.  Why didn't they designate Pagan?  He's been one of baseballs worst relievers for THREE years now.  Looks like we will have to put up with many more blown saves next year.

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    I was frustrated by the short starts, also, in the minors. Than realized that this is a total rebuild year for msot players. You want the guys to play ALL season. It seemed to work.

    Looking at the top five, we basically are seeing the names that will crack the rotation in the next four seasons. Most will not cement a spot right away (Varland, for example, may not start 2023 with the Twins, but should be a part of the 2024 rotation going forwards).

    37 pitchers by the Twins. Whew. Okay, two were Gordon and Palacios, NOT pitchers. Still...........

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    Going by the stat line provided, Brent Headrick looks like his season was considerably better than the rest. Is there something not listed that is dragging him down in the vote?

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    4 hours ago, Otaknam said:

    No workhorse free agent pitcher would ever sign here with that philosophy.

    The Dodgers pulled Clayton Kershaw (future Hall of Famer) in the middle of a no-hitter this season. The Mets pulled Max Scherzer (future Hall of Famer) in the middle of a perfect game after 68 pitches. 

    MLB teams don't want workhorses. They want thoroughbreds.

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    59 minutes ago, DJL44 said:

    The Dodgers pulled Clayton Kershaw (future Hall of Famer) in the middle of a no-hitter this season. The Mets pulled Max Scherzer (future Hall of Famer) in the middle of a perfect game after 68 pitches. 

    MLB teams don't want workhorses. They want thoroughbreds.

    That can lead through 2/3 of the race, then go to the barn.  :)  

    What horse finishes the race?  :(  

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    5 hours ago, Whitey333 said:

    today the Twins DFA'D pitcher Sanchez.  He's no Cy Young but I thought did an admirable job of kind of helping out in long relief.  Why didn't they designate Pagan?  He's been one of baseballs worst relievers for THREE years now.  Looks like we will have to put up with many more blown saves next year.

    It's definitely looking like baseball  is definitely a business and not a game ,,, 

    Sanchez has done good  and pagan has not but since pagan has control  the FO  thinks it can turn him around nrxt year and trying awful hard not to eat crow on that trade , pagan has now had 4 awful seasons since his best one , can't figure out why pagan wasn't dfa'd  cause all he is is another Ron Davis  , good stuff but gets hit hard  ...

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    1 hour ago, Mark G said:

    That can lead through 2/3 of the race, then go to the barn.  :)  

    What horse finishes the race?  :(  

    If you had to pick 5 people to run a mile it makes sense to get one middle distance runner and 4 sprinters.

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    When looking at the last ten years of "pitcher of the year " award winners, only Berrios and Rogers made significant contributions. I am hoping for Varland to get added to that too very short list. Best of luck to him.

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    Marco Raya was described by Jeffrey Pasternostro of BP a couple days ago: "When Marco Raya has a full, healthy season under his belt he will be one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. 

    But he will never be a workhorse.

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    As I detailed in another thread, I would have picked Festa. His numbers are better than everyone else's and I don't downgrade him for the level he pitched at. Plus, the numbers above don't include his fabulous playoff game, which I think should be included.

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    On 9/23/2022 at 7:18 PM, dougd said:

    Marco Raya was described by Jeffrey Pasternostro of BP a couple days ago: "When Marco Raya has a full, healthy season under his belt he will be one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. 

    But he will never be a workhorse.

    Ok, buuuuut..... he literally just turned 20 less than two months ago and this year was his professional debut.  Perhaps we can let him actually take a few more turns on the bump before we claim Manifest Destiny?? ;) 

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    On 9/23/2022 at 8:37 AM, DJL44 said:

    Let's hope Varland fares better than the previous 4 winners of this award.

    You don't think Berrios fared well? 131 million dollars over 7 years guaranteed is a lot of money. 

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