On Opening Day, Minnesota rostered a rookie starter in Joe Ryan and allowed him to take the ball. Surprisingly, the bullpen also included rookie prospect Jhoan Duran, who wasn’t exactly expected to crack camp with the big league club. Then there’s Jose Miranda, who spent a month in St. Paul before getting to the majors and making it stick. Each has a case, but some are better than others.
Baldelli turned to Ryan as his Opening Day starter following just a five-start debut in 2021. Ryan looked the part of a very good pitcher, but Sonny Gray had been acquired to be the ace of this staff. Giving the nod to an internal option made sense, however, and Ryan has made the most of it.
Through 19 starts this season, Ryan owns a 3.92 ERA across 101 innings. Despite not throwing with much velocity, Ryan is just under striking out a batter per inning. He’s been bit by the home run allowing 1.4 per nine innings, but his walk rate remains manageable at 2.5 BB/9.
Ryan has basically been a league-average pitcher this season. His 98 ERA+ tells a fair story, and while the numbers are great against poor competition, they’re relatively troubling against teams Minnesota would find in October. He’s settled in as a true rotation piece, but it’s fair to call him more of a number three than anything else.
Where would this Minnesota bullpen be without the emergence of their triple-digit hurler. Across 43 appearances Duran owns a dazzling 2.09 ERA. He has a strong 11.7 K/9 and limits walks allowing just a 2.1 BB/9.
As mentioned, it wasn’t originally expected Duran would make the Opening Day roster. He worked as a starter at Triple-A in 2021, and while his arm didn’t hold up for long stretches at a time, that was still a path to explore. Instead he’s become the Twins best high-leverage reliever, and may be among the best in the role across all of baseball.
Duran doesn’t need to be a traditional closer. Sure, he’s got six saves this season, but his 3.10 win probability added is reflective of a guy that gets things done whenever the team needs him, at the most dire moments. Relievers don’t get a ton of love when it comes to awards on a national stage, but Duran should’ve been an All-Star and deserves Rookie of the Year votes.
After spending April at Triple-A, Jose Miranda made his Major League debut on May 2nd. By May 26 he had a .484 OPS and was optioned back to St. Paul following Royce Lewis’ return to health. When it was determined the top prospect would need season ending surgery, Miranda’s trip across town was turned back and he’s been amazing since.
In 58 games since May 30, Miranda owns an .877 OPS while batting .313 and contributing 20 extra-base hits. He’s launched 10 homers and has been a catalyst in many key spots. Miranda has shown a knack to produce with runners in scoring position, and he’s consistently been given opportunities to bat in the top four or five lineup spots.
There are probably other favorites such as Julio Rodriguez and Bobby Witt Jr. when it comes to the American League Rookie of the Year award, but I’m not sure Miranda should be considered much behind them. The reality for Minnesota is that they have two guys who have kept their team afloat, and a third who’s been a constant in the rotation despite massive uncertainty.
Who do you feel has been the most valuable for the Twins this year? Can any of these three actually contend for the award across the entirety of the American League?