At the season's start, questions swirled about whether or not the Twins starting rotation had enough to compete in the AL Central. Minnesota sits atop the division two months into the season thanks to multiple pitchers producing at a higher level than anticipated. As the calendar turns to June, here are the pitchers that provided the most value to the team over the last month.
Honorable Mention #3: Jhoan Duran
Minnesota’s bullpen struggled through different parts of May, but Jhoan Duran continues to be a bright spot. In 10 appearances during May, he posted a 1.59 ERA with a 11.1 K/9 and a 1.6 BB/9. He leads all Twins pitchers in Win Probability Added for the month as his 0.87 WPA is 13 points higher than the next closest pitcher. It’s amazing to think about what condition the Twins bullpen would be in if not for Duran’s dominance. He is transitioning from starter to reliever and he is doing it for a first-place team that desperately needs him.
Honorable Mention #2: Devin Smeltzer
Last month, Devin Smeltzer wasn't a candidate for this honor because he was pitching in the Saints rotation. In fact, the team outrighted Smeltzer off the 40-man roster in November, so he had to earn his way back to the big leagues. He pitched well enough in spring training for the team to consider him for the bullpen, but he went to Triple-A and posted a 3.86 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP.
Since being recalled, Smeltzer has been a shot in the arm for the Twins rotation. He's made four starts and pitched into the fifth inning or later in every appearance. On May 26th against Kansas City, Smeltzer was masterful as he pitched seven shutout innings with six strikeouts and only two hits allowed. He ended the month with a 1.50 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP, proving the team should continue giving him a more extended look.
Honorable Mention #1: Joe Ryan
Joe Ryan was named the TD April Pitcher of the Month, so he has been near the top of this list for the entire year. Ryan made four starts in May and posted a 3.54 ERA with a 1.33 WHIP. For the month, his strikeout numbers decreased, and his walks increased, but his overall performance still puts him among the team's best. He pitched into the fifth inning in all four starts, and he has pitched into the sixth inning in five of his eight starts this season.
His lone poor start this month came at the hands of the potent Astro's line-up. He surrendered four earned runs on four hits in that outing and allowed a career-high five walks. Out of Twins players, Baseball-Reference still has him valued at a 1.4 WAR for the season, which is over half of a win higher than any other pitcher.
Pitcher of the Month: Sonny Gray
Sonny Gray has been everything the Twins hoped he could be when they dealt Chase Petty for him this spring. He led the team in nearly every pitching category during April, including innings pitched, wins, games started, and WAR. In five starts (27 1/3 IP), he posted a 1.65 ERA with a 0.91 WHIP and a 34-to-7 strikeout to walk ratio. His 11.2 K/9 for the month is 2.5 strikeouts higher than his career mark.
In four of his five starts, he pitched into the fifth inning or longer, with the lone exception being his first start back off the injured list. Over his final three starts, he averaged over six innings per appearance, and he didn't allow more than two earned runs in any May outing. Among qualified starters, he had the AL's fourth-lowest ERA and the fourth-best K/9. Not only was he the Twins' best pitcher over the last month, but he was also one of the best pitchers in the entire league.
Do you agree with the rankings? Should someone else have been an honorable mention? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.