"He may have been a 15th rounder but he's a first rounder in my book."
In a world of challenges and turmoil, nothing draws a smile like the sight of brotherly love. Poking back and forth with grins and banter, it's safe to say the connection is tightly-wound between the Varland brothers.
Sons of North St. Paul and alumni of Concordia-St. Paul, Louie and Gus have emerged as rising stars in their respective organizations.
WATCH TWINS SPOTLIGHT WITH GUS AND LOUIE VARLAND
Louie Varland started the 2021 season in Low-A Fort Myers and finished a bulk of the season with High-A Cedar Rapids, throttling the competition at both levels. The younger brother finished the season with a 10-4 record and 2.10 ERA in addition to being named Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year in his first professional season. Not a bad first rodeo.
Older brother Gus has cemented himself as a staple in the Dodgers organization just a year after receiving Tommy John surgery. Despite what some would call a setback, the Dodgers had so much faith in Varland that they placed him at the Double-A level in 2021 despite his injury-riddled season at High-A in 2020.
Just 24 and 25 years old, the road ahead looks bright for two of the most exciting prospects to come out of the Land of 10,000 Lakes in recent history. Twins Daily's Seth Stohs had a chance to chat with the two on Wednesday night, here's what you need to know.
1. College, Man
As mentioned, both Gus and Louie pitched at Concordia University in St. Paul, etching themselves as two of the most dominant players in Golden Bear history. Yet playing with his older brother for the DII school wasn't initially the plan for Louie. Like many younger siblings, Louie wanted to go anywhere besides the school that his brother was pitching for.
"I just wanted to go to a place where I could pitch against him and beat him," Louie chuckled.
That didn't stop Gus from putting on his recruiting shoes and doing everything possible to get another member of the family in a navy blue and gold jersey.
"I was encouraging him through the entire process to come and sign at Concordia," Gus said. "I was talking to the coaches, we had him throw a bullpen in front of us, and I was trying my hardest to get him there. He fought it off for the longest time but ended up signing in the end, and it was the best thing ever."
"It worked out the absolute best way that it could have, and I really enjoyed those two seasons that I had with him," Louie responded.
Both brothers experienced immense individual success on the mound but cited underdog team performances as their favorite memories from CSP. Gus recalls his freshman season when the Golden Bears went into the season unranked and ended up mounting an incredible run that landed the team in the NSIC conference championship game. Louie's favorite moment came two years later when the Golden Bears rallied another incredible run before falling to eventual national champion Augustana (SD) in the conference championship.
On paper you'd assume that the two spent three seasons together given that they're only one year and school grade apart. They only spent two. The reason? Gus was drafted after his junior year by the Oakland Athletics in the 14th round of the 2018 Draft; not a bad reason to leave!
2. Scouting Reports
Gus spent 2021 with the Tulsa Drillers, a team that frequently plays the Twins' Double-A affiliate Wichita Wind Surge. Throughout the course of the season he would hear scouting reports on how his younger brother was pitching in Low and High-A.
"I was in Tulsa running foul poles right around when Louie was called up to High-A and I remember chatting with (Wichita pitcher) Cole Sands and him saying 'He's tearing it up, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets called up (to Double-A).'"
Louie stayed in High-A Cedar Rapids for the rest of the year, cementing himself as the team's ace. He credits his success to the talented crop of arms pitching alongside him and fellow 2019 Twins draft picks, including names like Tyler Beck, Casey Legumina, and Sawyer-Gipson Long.
"It's a really supportive relationship with those guys, we're always bouncing ideas off of each other," Louie said "Yes, we're competing against each other but at the end of the day it's very friendly and great to work with them."
Could the two face off at the Double-A level in 2022? There's a fairly high probability; you betcha, wouldn't that be awesome!
3. Life After Baseball
Perspective is huge in life and in baseball. And while the Varland's both have an excellent shot at making the show, they haven't forgotten about the over-arching 'life after baseball question.'
Both brothers completed their degrees from Concordia-St. Paul in 2020. Gus finished his mathematics degree and would love to one day teach math or work in the baseball industry in data analytics. Louie earned a degree in Sports Management and Marketing. Will Louie serve as his own agent? Probably not. Still, the fact that both men have taken the extra step to prioritize their education is impressive.
On the topic of analytics, both men spoke volumes on the technology and data analysis used in their respective organizations. This has been echoed by many if not most Twins prospects that have appeared on Twins Spotlight, yet it was awesome to hear Gus' perspective on the Dodger's organization. Traded from Oakland, he appreciates the investment that Los Angeles has made in being as 'cutting edge' as possible.
Organizations like the Dodgers are nationally-recognized for their emphasis in staying 'on top of the modern edge,' it seems like the Twins are working their way into that silo as well.
4. Respective Arsenals
The 2022 season presents opportunities to hone in on successes and foster new pitches for both Louie and Gus. Louie's arsenal consists of a strong fastball, changeup, and slider.
"I have to keep my fastball at the top of the zone because that's where it works best, my changeup is a work in progress but has come a long way, and I need to get my slider to move more horizontally while keeping the same velocity," he said.
That slider is something the the Twins have worked on with him and that he hones in on when throwing bullpens with his brother in the offseason.
Similar to his brother, Gus relies on a high-riding fastball, changeup, and slider. He has also begun to add a cutter to his skillset and plans to make that an emphasis in his '22 campaign.
- Gus received a non-roster invite to Dodgers spring training in 2021 and struck out Fernando Tatis Jr!
- In addition to playing baseball at North St. Paul, Louie wrestled and played football. Gus played basketball through his junior year.
- Similar to Drew Strotman (who was featured on Twins Spotlight earlier this week), Gus describes being traded as a mixed bundle of emotions. Luckily for him, the Dodgers and A's both call Arizona their home for spring training so he gets to catch up with his old friends and teammates from Oakland each year.
- In addition to being named Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Louie was the unanimous winner of our Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year Award. Past winners of the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year award include Jose Berrios, Johan Santana, and Brad Radke.
Feel free to discuss this impressive brother tandem below.