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  1. Like
    sun reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Is There More to Trevor Megill?   
    Trevor Megill could be called a relative success when compared to the other acquisitions the Twins made to the 2022 bullpen. Megill debuted with the Cubs in 2021 but was DFAd after the season. The Twins claimed him and soon after they DFAd him and he was outrighted to Triple-A. Megill found his way onto the roster in late May. He returned to the Saints for one appearance in early July but was able to stick with the big-league club for the remainder of the season. He may remain there as we head into the 2023 campaign. 
    Megill threw 45 innings with a 4.80 ERA. He struck out over a batter per inning, kept walks to a respectable level and was incredibly stingy in the longball department. This led to FIP and xFIP painting the picture of a mid to low 3s ERA reliever, even if xERA disagreed. Averaging 98 mph on the fastball, the raw stuff alone was probably enough to justify Megill remaining in a low-leverage role throughout the season. After bouncing around a few organizations with little MLB experience, some may assume that at 28, Megill may not have much development left. But what if they were wrong?
    For much of the season, Megill was a two-pitch pitcher. Plenty of relievers get by on a limited repertoire, but typically one of their pitches are an equalizer against same-handed hitters. Megill, who threw almost exclusively a high 90s fastball and a big overhand curve, didn’t have such a repertoire. In fact, Megill performed significantly better against left-handed hitters than right. His strikeout-to-walk rate was three times higher against lefties than righties. His OPS against was nearly .150 points lower. He was actually more of a lefty specialist, and a dominant one at that. Still though, there isn’t much reason that Megill shouldn’t be getting right-handed hitters out consistently.
    The Twins undoubtedly took note of this along the way, as Megill started throwing a pitch that was classified as a slider in August around 27% of the time, and this became his second-most used pitch for the final two months of the season. It’s easy to assume that the Twins were trying to provide Megill with a pitch to match up better against right-handed hitters, as any kind of improvement in that department would have raised Megill’s game to a whole new level. Their midseason attempt to make an adjustment doesn’t show up well on paper with Megill posting his worst two months of the season with this new pitch, but it’s likely been a focal point of his offseason and could have much better results come spring.
    Another issue with Megill is that for all of the spin and velocity he gets on his fastball, it’s one of his most-hittable pitches. Opponents hit nearly .300 on the pitch, and while they didn’t slug well against it, the expected numbers say Megill got lucky. Looking at where he threw his heater gives an obvious answer as to what’s going on here.
    Averaging 98 mph is a huge plus for Megill, but the days of even a triple-digit fastball overpowering lineups are gone. Hitters were bound to get around on it every so often, and when they did, the fastball was often right where they could drive it. We’ve seen the Twins fix this with pitchers such as Tyler Duffey. Dropping the fastball at the top of the zone consistently keeps it out of the danger zone and allows it to play up a few miles per hour. It worked with Tyler Duffey working low-to-mid 90s. For Megill, it may make the pitch unhittable if he has the command to make a change.
    It’s possible that Megill remains the low-leverage middle reliever he was in 2022. The fact that he remains on the roster, and the Twins didn’t push hard to replace him, however, hopefully means that they have hopes that he has more ceiling to reach and a plan to get him there. They began the process midseason in 2022 but with a full offseason to develop a new pitch, Megill could wind up with a devastating pitch to pair with his high-octane fastball against right-handed hitters. In 2023, Trevor Megill could factor into the bullpen mix in a surprisingly big way. Do you agree?
  2. Like
    sun reacted to Adam Friedman for an article, Nick Gordon and Kyle Farmer Give Twins' Bench a 1-2 Punch   
    The AL Central is expected to be very tight and, according to projections and betting lines, the Twins are projected to finish second or third. For the Twins to make up the ground on Cleveland and Chicago, they'll need to get production on the margins, whether on defense, in the bullpen, or off the bench. 
    Kyle Farmer and Nick Gordon's platoon pairing as utility players could be an excellent way for the Twins to score crucial extra runs. Left-handed hitting Gordon will play most days when righties are pitching, and right-handed hitting Farmer will play most days when lefties are pitching, which will give the Twins lineup added length in either platoon situation. 
    Kyle Farmer
    When the Twins brought in Kyle Farmer from the Reds via trade, Twins fans hoped he would serve as a platoon bat in a utility role. Farmer can fill in all around the infield and corner outfield and, if necessary, at catcher. Farmer playing a utility role hinged on the Twins bringing in a big-name shortstop, and for a while, it appeared the Reds 2022 starting shortstop would be the Twins' Opening Day shortstop in 2023.
    When Carlos Correa signed with the Twins for at least six years, Farmer was thrust back into that utility role for which he is well-suited. Being able to target lefty pitchers for him to match up with could be a massive advantage for the Twins. In 2022, he obliterated left-handed pitchers with a 157 wRC+, which indicates he was a 57% above-average hitter, fueled by a .568 SLG.
    Farmer will move around the diamond for the Twins to hunt lefty matchups. Considering that two righties, a switch-hitter, and just one lefty make up the Twins' Opening Day infield, they may shuffle things around when lefties are on the bump. Farmer could slot in at left field, as the Twins have suggested, although he's only played four innings in the outfield in his major league career. Alternatively, they could move Jose Miranda to first base and slot Farmer, the superior defensive third baseman, at third. 
    Wherever he slots in, the Twins hope that he will continue his dominance in those platoon matchups and provide much more versatility than their 2022 right-handed platoon bat, Kyle Garlick.
    Nick Gordon
    Nick Gordon put together his first full season at the major-league level in 2022. To the surprise of many, the 2014 first round pick was excellent. 
    Gordon showed a surprising bit of power at the plate, especially against right-handed pitching. He put up a 111 wRC+ overall, and a 125 wRC+ against righties. He also showed that there might even be another level when he had a phenomenal 141 wRC+ against righties from July 1st to the end of the season. 
    Due to his health, Gordon has a minimal track record of success at the upper minors or major-league level, so it's reasonable to question whether his production is sustainable. However, the batted ball data indicates that it was not just a flash in the pan. Gordon graded out in the 86th percentile for xSLG based on the quality of his contact. That could improve if he faces fewer left-handed pitchers, against whom he had a horrible 58 wRC+ against. 
    Beyond roughing up righties, Gordon provided tremendous defensive flexibility. He played at least 17 games at left field, second base, shortstop and center field. He wasn't good at any position and was below average in the infield, but he was about average at both left field and center field. His ability to be somewhat competent at many positions will enable the Twins to get his bat into the lineup against righties as they get regulars off their feet. 
    If you ask the average fan in any market outside of Cincinnati or Minnesota, they probably don't know Nick Gordon or Kyle Farmer. But these can be the type of bench players that make the difference between winning the division and coming up just short, especially when injuries pop up. Depending on the matchup, having one of Farmer or Gordon in the lineup just about every day will be a tremendous asset for the Twins in 2023.
  3. Like
    sun reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Twins Daily 2023 Top Prospects: #9 Louie Varland, RHP   
    Age: 25 (DOB: 12/9/1997)
    2022 Stats: (AA/AAA): 126.1 IP, 3.06 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
    ETA: 2023
    2022 Ranking: 15

    National Top 100 Rankings
    BA: NR | MLB: NR | ATH: NR | BP: NR
    Varland's big-league debut on September 7th was emblematic of his journey as a prospect, which earned him back-to-back Twins Minor League Player of the Year awards: he met a new challenge with poise and confidence, and he handled it brilliantly.
    You could hardly ask for more stressful introductory circumstances than stepping into Yankee Stadium to face MVP Aaron Judge and the Bronx Bombers on behalf of a team desperately clinging onto postseason hopes. Varland took it in stride. In his first match-up against Judge, he got a swinging strikeout with a beautifully executed righty-on-righty changeup.
    Varland went to pitch into the sixth inning, finishing with a final line (5.1 IP, 2 ER, 7 K, 1 BB) that reflected his body of work in a five-start September stint with the Twins: 26 IP, 3.81 ERA, 21 K, 6 BB. Add in his outstanding work at Double-A and Triple-A prior to the promotion, and you've got a statement season that lends further legitimacy to the former 15th-round pick's pro credentials.
    As much as he's improved his stuff from where it was when he was drafted, Varland still lacks the pure velocity or secondary quality of other pitchers in the Twins' current rotation mix, and others on this top prospects list. But there's something to be said for having the confidence and pace to execute as consistently as he does on the mound, including pressure-packed situations. 
    Another thing working for Varland, particularly in the context of Minnesota's current situation, is his dependability and durability. He's one of the few on this list (or currently in the majors) who's been able to reliably take the mound each fifth day without issue. Last year between the majors and minors he threw 150 innings, which is more than any Twins pitcher has totaled since 2019. This, as a 24-year-old with one pro season under his belt.
    Clearly there's a lot to like from this hometown hurler who has proven so much. So why isn't he higher than ninth on our list? That comes down to Varland's final proving point ahead.
    What's Left to Work On
    Varland's overachieving accomplishments have earned him organizational awards and an early arrival in the majors. But they haven't shifted the broader view of his future upside, which helps explain why he still doesn't appear on any global top prospect lists and – despite moving up six spots this year – remains behind eight players (including several pitchers) in our rankings.
    It comes down to the substance behind his performance. Varland's fastball plays up due to his extension and deceptive release point, and he's added a ton since his college days, but it still averages under 94 MPH, placing it on the lower side of today's MLB spectrum. None of his secondary pitches – the slider, cutter and change – have shown to be particularly outstanding offerings. 
    The righty manages to make the most of his arsenal thanks to a good approach and situational fortitude – for example, he held opponents to a .643 OPS with runners on last year compared to .726 with the bases empty – but decades of evaluation have taught us there's a limit to how far you can go with this kind of raw stuff.
    Generally speaking, that's about a third or fourth starter. And that's what Varland has mostly looked like thus far, which is hardly an insult. There's plenty of value in a player with his consistency and reliability providing several cost-controlled seasons of roughly average performance from an MLB rotation.
    What's Next
    I don't think anyone in the organization would deny that Varland looks like a major-league pitcher. He could credibly be written into the back end of the Twins rotation on Opening Day, if needed, but the Twins have wisely stacked veteran depth to allow the 25-year-old righty to open up at Triple-A (where he's made four starts) so he can serve as a quality rotation reinforcement with a chance to lock down his spot as soon as the opportunity comes.
    Reaching the next level of MLB starting pitcher status would require fundamentally improving some of his pitches to overpower batters with more than a polished approach, but we're talking about a guy whose legendary work ethic led to adding nearly 10 MPH in fastball velocity and vastly upgrading his secondary repertoire since being drafted as a little-known 15th-rounder out of Concordia University. If anyone can do it, it'd be Louie Varland.
    Feel free to discuss these prospects and ask as many questions as you like in the COMMENTS below.
    For more Twins Daily content on Louie Varland, click here. 
    Previous Installments
    Honorable Mention
    Prospects 21-30
    Prospects 16-20
    Prospects 11-15
    Prospect #10: Austin Martin, SS
    Prospect #9: Louie Varland, RHP
    Prospect #8: Coming Wednesday!
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