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  • Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month - May 2022

    Matt Braun

    May has ended, and it is now time to crown the player we at Twins Daily believed is deserving of our coveted Minor League Starter of the Month Award. College arms dominating has been the story so far this year, and our list reflects that. Let's begin!

    Image courtesy of William Parmeter / Mighty Mussels (graphics by Thieres Rabelo))

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    Previous 2022 Starting Pitcher of the Month
    April - John Stankiewicz


    This isn’t a scientific ranking by any stretch of the imagination. Other minor league writers gave feedback on their top players before the author weighed their choices with his own opinions. Results were less clear-cut than one would hope (one writer had Matt Canterino 2nd while another had him 6th). This is meant to act as a general spotlight to shine on many players, not just the one we deemed “the best,” so don’t take this any more seriously than it needs to be. 

    Honorable Mention - Travis Adams - Fort Myers Mighty Mussels, 3.15 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 29.7 K%, 20 IP
    Travis Adams, the Twins 6th round pick in 2021 out of Sacramento State, threw his hat in the ring of notable college arms making noise in 2022. He allowed a few more runs than the arms that will grace this list, but he was still outstanding—allowing an opponent batting average of .162 in May against a WHIP of 0.85.

    Honorable Mention - Chi Chi González - St. Paul Saints, 2.53 ERA, 2.52 FIP, 24.4 K%, 21 1/3 IP
    Chi Chi González joined the Twins organization this past off-season, inking a minor league deal hoping that he could pitch his way into an unsteady major league rotation. That hasn’t happened yet, but González took a significant step towards that future in May. He rebounded from a shaky April to pitch to a respectable 2.53 ERA in May without giving up a long ball in four starts.

    Number Five - Sawyer Gipson-Long - Cedar Rapids Kernels, 1.74 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 29.5 K%, 20 2/3 IP
    Sawyer Gipson-Long, another recent college arm (someone should write about that), popped up on the prospect radar last season and is proving that his success is no fluke. The righty from Mercer crushed his competition in May, allowing a sub-.200 batting average against while striking out batters at nearly a 30% clip. That’s good, folks. His age, combined with his status as an older arm, curses his evaluations to be bland; Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin described him as someone who sits “90-94 with an above-average slider and plenty of strikes.” Keep an eye on him as an under-the-radar pitcher who could be in Wichita very soon.

    Number Four - Brent Headrick - Cedar Rapids Kernels, 0.93 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 26.0 K%, 19 ⅓ IP
    Another former-collegiate pitcher, Brent Headrick, has found command in 2022, and hitters have suffered for it. Headrick crushed May, holding a WHIP of just 0.78 with three of his four starts ending without him surrendering an earned run. His FIP held him back from placing higher on this list—the next three pitchers all dominated in ERA and peripherals—but that’s hardly a knock on Headrick’s pitching ability. Allowing two earned runs in an entire month is elite, no matter how you slice it.

    Number Three - Matt Canterino - Wichita Wind Surge, 2.00 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 37.3 K%, 18 IP
    Matt Canterino had an unusual month of May; he started four games while piggybacking in another but still ended up with fewer innings than all previously named starters. Nonetheless, he dominated. Canterino allowed runs in just one outing while striking out the world as he returns from an elbow injury that shortened his 2021 season. The Rice product walked more batters than one would prefer (12.0% of them), but his strikeout total in May was so ridiculous that he still ended up at the number three spot.

    Number Two - David Festa- Fort Myers Mighty Mussels/Cedar Rapids Kernels, 1.45 ERA, 2.32 FIP, 36.8 K%, 18 2/3 IP
    One of the most talked-about Twins prospects this year, David Festa, had a month to remember in May. The 13th-round pick out of Seton Hall embodied efficiency, striking out hitters like an elite MLB reliever while not sacrificing command in favor of his stuff; he walked just 5.9% of hitters in May. His performance earned him a promotion to Cedar Rapids, where he made two outings; one great and one forgettable. His ascent through the minors could be rapid, so make sure to stop and appreciate Festa before he switches levels again. 

    Number One - Steve Hajjar - Fort Myers Mighty Mussels, 0.51 ERA, 2.21 FIP, 42.6 K%, 17 ⅔ IP
    For a while, Steve Hajjar was like Cthulu—legendary and fearsome, but never seen as he pitched with a Fort Myers team that doesn’t broadcast their games and only occasionally plays against a team that does. Then May 26th happened. Hajjar took the mound against the Bradenton Marauders and shut them down completely, fanning 10 over 5 ⅔ innings with no earned runs. It was the perfect culmination of Hajjar’s ability.

    The Twins drafted the tall lefty out of Michigan in the 2nd round of the 2021 draft; enamored by his potential, they handed him over $1 million. Hajjar didn’t pitch for the organization that year, but grumblings from team sources indicated that they were pleased with his internal performance. 

    2022 hasn’t left much for the imagination. The fewest amount of strikeouts Hajjar netted in a single game is 5, and he’s already punched out 50 batters through 29 innings of work. 29; he’s thrown 29 innings and has 50 strikeouts. Walker Buehler has thrown nearly 60 innings and only has 49. 

    The primary issue left for Hajjar is command—he’s walked 17 hitters in those 29 innings to give him a ghastly 14.7 BB% on the year. Although, there may be signs of control as he’s walked just one batter respectively in each of his last two starts. Hajjar is a starter with immense potential, and it will be a great joy to watch him develop in the Twins system.



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    Who is the next to be promoted?  I asked the same in the reliever post.  I know we are shuffling through arms and I hate it when we go to the bargain bin - so who can be moved up to Minneapolis as the needs arise?

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