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  • Twins Minor League Pitching Report: Jovani Moran


    Lucas Seehafer PT

    While the likes of Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, and Josh Winder garner most of the headlines, Double-A relief pitcher Jovani Moran may just be the most sure-thing pitching prospect in the Twins' farm system.

    Image courtesy of Ed Bailey, Wichita Wind Surge

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    The Minnesota Twins farm system is chock-full of intriguing arm talent, particularly when it comes to starting pitching. But while names such as Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, and Josh Winder grab the majority of the headlines, perhaps no single pitcher in the system is more ready for major league action than reliever Jovani Moran.  

    The Twins selected the 24-year-old lefty with the 200th pick of the 2015 draft out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy located in Florida, Puerto Rico. Since putting pen to paper and officially signing with the Twins, Moran has experienced bouts of incredible success and overall mediocrity, though his performance to date this summer has catapulted him into the franchise's Top 30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline. As of this writing, he owns a 1.91 ERA and 0.70 WHIP to go along with 55 strikeouts in 33 innings for Double-A Wichita. 

    From a purely physical standpoint, nothing about Moran stands out. He's listed at 6-foot-1-inches tall and 165 pounds with an athletic, if a little slender, frame. That said, his mechanics are fluid and repeatable - he only throws out of the stretch - and generates good forward thrust with his powerful legs. 

    Moran primarily utilizes his 4-seam fastball, which sits 92-94 mph, though it can touch as high as 96 mph, to begin at-bats and mixes in an average slider that has good, but not overwhelming, bite. However, the pièce de résistance of Moran's arsenal is his Johan Santana-like changeup, blasphemous as that may sound.

    His changeup "poofs" - for lack of a more technical scouting term - out of his hand and floats towards the catcher's mitt seemingly in slow motion while opposing batters corkscrew themselves into the ground. Batters know the changeup is coming, but the similar arm slots combined with the 10-12 mph difference between it and his 4-seamer keeps them on their heels. It is this combination that has led Moran to post the highest strikeout rate (45.8%) and second-best xFIP (2.09) among all minor league pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings this season. 

    However, Moran is not without his warts.

    He often falls behind in the count due to average command of his fastball and slider and has escaped multiple full-counts throughout the course of the season. (Note: His overall control is fine - he's walked only 11 batters in 33.0 innings - but his ability to place the ball where he wants it with every pitch is lacking. Think of control as accuracy, but command as precision. He can throw strikes, just not always in the location he and/or the catcher want.) Of the 12 hits he has allowed this summer, three have been home runs and his high leg kick, even with runners on base, leaves him susceptible to stolen base attempts; in the some-15 innings I've watched him throw this season, I have yet to seem him unleash a pick-off attempt. Additionally, Moran has a history of elbow and shoulder injuries, though he has not been placed on the injured list since July of 2019 and has not undergone any major surgeries (i.e. Tommy John). 

    That said, the numbers and video speak for themselves. Moran is one of the most untouchable relievers in all of Minor League Baseball and owns one of the league's most dominant pitches in his legitimate 70-grade changeup. It would not be surprising to see Moran take the hill at Target Field at some point this season, despite not currently being on the 40-man roster, and one could easily make the argument that he has earned the right to be called up directly from Double-A. 

    In all likelihood, though, he will see some time in St. Paul despite the Twins' bullpen woes and his consistent dominance at one of the minor league's top levels. But there is a legitimate argument to be made that he is the most likely candidate in the system to be the future ace of the Twins' bullpen due in large part to his ability to throw strikes and strike batters out. 

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    Agree that Moran merits getting to Target Field before the season is over.  Isn’t there some crazy rule this year that a player cannot be called up directly from AA or lower, rather they must pass thru AAA.

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    6 minutes ago, roger said:

    Agree that Moran merits getting to Target Field before the season is over.  Isn’t there some crazy rule this year that a player cannot be called up directly from AA or lower, rather they must pass thru AAA.

    Yes, it's due to COVID protocols, but once they clear testing and whatnot they can be called up right away.

     

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    Lucas---Nice piece on Moran---as I've been strongly in the camp of those fans that believe he can be a strong component to this bullpen for years to come.  Having seen Moran close out a win recently in Wichita, I can attest that his fastball (93-95) is legit.  As you pointed out is his outstanding changeup.  I'm not ready to put that pitch in comparison to Santana's just yet, but the video provided sure brings back fond memories of how ridiculous Johann could make hitters looked when he uncorked that filthy pitch.

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    While he's improved to 3 walks per 9 this year, that's still kind of high for a reliever. And that's against AA hitting. He'll need to improve that command or he'll just be a (maybe slightly better) Hansel Robles type.

    If his fastball/slider are really major league pitches, shouldn't he be evaluated as a starter with that elite changeup as a 3rd pitch?

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    18 minutes ago, Taildragger8791 said:

    While he's improved to 3 walks per 9 this year, that's still kind of high for a reliever. And that's against AA hitting. He'll need to improve that command or he'll just be a (maybe slightly better) Hansel Robles type.

    If his fastball/slider are really major league pitches, shouldn't he be evaluated as a starter with that elite changeup as a 3rd pitch?

    He's only started 7 of his 95 MiLB appearances, so the Twins have never really viewed him as anything but a reliever. I'd say that right now, his fastball and changeup are legit MLB pitches, but his slider is his true third pitch and it will likely only ever be average at best. It just doesn't have the attributes you'd like to see from a true third option in an arsenal; it's more of an occasional offering to keep batters honest. That could always change, but I feel comfortable saying that it will never usurp his fastball and definitely not his changeup.

    To your point, I agree that his command is probably his biggest weakness at this point, but a slightly better Hansel Robles is a darn good option out of the pen. If that's his floor, which it may or may not be, he's in a really good spot. 

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    I've been surprised that he hasn't been vacuumed up to St. Paul yet. 3BB/9 isn't great, but it's well below what Robles,  Duffey, and Colome have been "achieving" this year. Obviously the higher he goes, the more likely that rate is to climb. But he's at least got to be worth a look at AAA.

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    I am not worried about his walk rate. It isn’t unusual for pitchers who dominate in the minors to have higher walk rates. Minor league batters can’t put the ball in play so there are many more deep counts which result in more walks. In fact I find really low walk rates to be more of a concern. Those weak balls in play in the minors turn into solid contact in the majors.
     

    In 120 batters faced Moran has decided the outcome (with a strike out or walk) on 66 of them (55%). That is dominance.

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    2 hours ago, Taildragger8791 said:

    While he's improved to 3 walks per 9 this year, that's still kind of high for a reliever. And that's against AA hitting. He'll need to improve that command or he'll just be a (maybe slightly better) Hansel Robles type.

    If his fastball/slider are really major league pitches, shouldn't he be evaluated as a starter with that elite changeup as a 3rd pitch?

    I don't think it's all that high for a reliever, especially one with Moran's kind of K/9. You can accept that kind of BB/9 when he's mowing down hitters at that kind of rate and not giving up a lot of cheap hits, and while I don't expect him to keep the H/9 down around 3.3 like he has this season, he'll do great if he's around his career average on that stat (5.4).

    Lucas has the issue nailed: command. If he can spot his pitches a bit better that will keep the walk rate in a manageable 3-3.5/9 range. he really struggled with walks in 2019 and combining that with being substantially more hittable is not viable. There's no question in my mind that he can hunt K's at a serious rate, though and suggests he has the stuff to succeed in the 'pen.

    (I'm pretty sure he's closer to 180lbs at this point than the 167lbs he's listed at with bRef)

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    He has produced good to amazing numbers in his career thus far when healthy. Right now his biggest opponent isn't just gaining greater command/control, it's opportunity after not having a 2020 season, like everyone else.

    We're all frustrated by what we perceive as slow promotions this year. But let's not forget a late start and milb is just approaching their mid point, (I'm still objecting sternly to adding playoffs at the last minute as opposed to having another couple of weeks in the season for everyone)!  The Twins have started to promote the last week or so. They need to be aggressive and do more, and this includes Moran amongst others. 

    The Twins are signing fliers for St Paul right now due to injury and promotion. But AA Wichita has a couple guys that need to be up tomorrow. Really, who is blocking them except a couple fliers and a couple journeyman. 

    Get him up!

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