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  1. Rather than opting for an ace on the free-agent market like Carlos Rodon or Kevin Gausman, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine swung a deal for Sonny Gray. They flipped relief pitching for Chris Paddack. They came to terms on a low-risk offer for Dylan Bundy. They trusted both Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. Now a month in, it’s hard to suggest they were anything but right. That said, there’s no denying that pitchers have had the upper hand thus far. When pitching in cooler temperatures the ball travels shorter distances and hitters are less comfortable. Those things will both change as the game-time temperatures warm up, so some level of regression is to be expected. How can each be evaluated individually thus far, though? Joe Ryan 5 G 27.2 IP 1.63 ERA 3.08 FIP 9.1 K/9 2.3 BB/9 The Twins Opening Day starter has done nothing to suggest he wasn’t deserving of that nod. He’s been all but dominant in each of his four turns, and despite a FIP that suggests some regression may come, he’s still pitching well above what you’d expect from a lower-velocity fastball. Ryan’s expected ERA is 2.94 which is a slight step backward, but still a dazzling number. Although he’s giving up slightly more hard-hit contact, he’s halved the barrel rate opponents are putting up against him from last season. He’s actually dialed back the fastball usage about 15% and poured it into his slider, a pitch Minnesota's coaches love. He’s throwing about one mph harder this season, and he’s upped the whiff rate to 12.7%. Ryan is giving up even less contact than last season, and although batters are chasing a bit less often, they just haven’t been able to figure him out. There’s little opportunity for Ryan not to go down as the greatest trade return in Twins history. Flipping two months of an aging veteran for a guy profiling as a staff ace is incredible. Statcast seems to agree, and no level of regression should knock him out of being a significant contributor. Sonny Gray 2 G 6.1 IP 5.68 ERA 7.03 FIP 7.1 K/9 4.3 BB/9 It’s pretty impossible to draw conclusions on Gray from two short starts and then a stint on the Injured List. If anything, it’s heartwarming to feel like a better version will return for Minnesota. Gray’s velocity was down in the time he has spent on the mound, but again he pitched in cold and through injury. There’s not much reason to spend time here breaking down what was. The Twins traded for Gray because getting him out of Cincinnati should mean better production in a more friendly ballpark. This is all still to be determined. Bailey Ober 4 G 19.2 IP 2.75 ERA 3.54 FIP 7.3 K/9 2.3 BB/9 Of the two Twins holdovers, it may have been Ober that was more questionable despite the longer track record. He had less prospect pedigree and made it work to the tune of a 4.19 ERA last season. In year two, he’s been more stingy with the home runs, although walks are up and strikeouts are down. That said, he’s still showing plenty of reason to believe in the FIP category and it’s because of deception. Ober has a fastball that plays up because of his stature. Being so tall means the 92 mph pitch gets on batters quicker. He’s limited hard-hit contact, and while his stuff isn’t overpowering, the 37.7% chase rate means batters are playing into his pitches. Allowing Ober to expand the zone gives him more ways to beat you, and he’s been successful doing that thus far. Like Ryan, Minnesota has taken a chunk of fastball usage and put it into Ober’s slider. The results have been positive so far, and it makes for a guy whose floor continues to rise. Dylan Bundy 4 G 21.1 IP 2.95 ERA 2.94 FIP 8.0 K/9 1.3 BB/9 A guy that finished in the top 10 for Cy Young voting just two seasons ago shouldn’t be considered a breakthrough, but Bundy looked lost last year with the Angels. Now he’s still striking guys out, not giving up walks, and being tight with the longball. Bundy’s velocity is about the only thing on his Statcast profile that doesn’t scream amazing. He’s avoiding the barrel, confusing batters, generating soft contact, and everything about the results suggests sustainability. The 89.7 mph average fastball velocity is a career-low, but he’s only using the pitch 38.9% of the time. The splitter/slider combination is serving him well and everything else aligns with career norms. Minnesota didn’t have Bundy reinvent the wheel, but sequencing and pitchability have led him to a place where contact has avoided an opportunity for damage. The Twins have a strong infield defense and generating ground balls 48% of the time is only going to help turn batted balls into outs. Chris Paddack 4 G 20.0 IP 3.15 ERA 1.93 FIP 7.2 K/9 0.9 BB/9 Swinging a deal for Paddack, the Twins sought to find the guy who posted a 3.33 ERA for the Padres as a rookie. A few tweaks in and they may have unlocked something. Rather than having him pitch in the middle of the zone, Minnesota has elevated his target on fastballs and the results have been encouraging. Despite pitching in cold weather to start the season for the first time, Paddack has only seen a minor dip in velocity. The Twins have also pushed their new arm to utilize a slider and his curveball more, which has taken focus away from an exceptional changeup. He’s been among the best in baseball when it comes to limiting walks, and keeping runners off the basepaths has allowed him to avoid significant damage. Paddack’s numbers are good as they are, and they’d be even better if not for bad 1st innings in each of his first two starts. Getting this type of pitcher under team control in exchange for a reliever was always going to be a win, but Minnesota’s changes could bear significant fruit for both parties. There’s a lot of good news across this rotation. That’s not to say steps backward won’t happen, because the level they are currently competing at is truly extraordinary. That being said, it’s not as though the numbers are backed by truth, and even a bit of evening out looks to stay within a good place. When everyone was clamoring for the big names, Minnesota’s front office instead trusted the process to show big improvements derived from their internal belief.
  2. Box Score SP Bailey Ober: 3.2 IP,6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (73 pitches, 49 strikes (67.1%) Home Runs: None Top 3 WPA: Trevor Larnach (.150), Gilberto Celestino (.141), Cody Stashak (.096) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Pregame Notes/Lineup Decisions (with Results) #1: Facing left-hander Tarik Skubal, Rocco Baldelli started Luis Arraez, Trevor Larnach and Max Kepler. How it went? Against Skubal, Arraez and Kepler each went 0-for-3. Larnach, however, went 2-for-2. #2: After DHing on Tuesday and playing center field on Wednesday, Byron Buxton was not in the starting lineup on Thursday afternoon. Gilberto Celestino, who is certainly a candidate to be sent back to St. Paul when rosters are reduced after Sunday’s games, is making his second start in center field in the past three games. How it went? Celestino reached base in each of his first three plate appearances. He had an RBI infield single in his first at-bat. He laid down a nice bunt in his second plate appearance and reached on a throwing error. In his third at-bat, he hit a 100 mph line drive down the right-field line for a double. With Celestino, the defense is always solid. In addition, he ranged to the gap to make a very nice sliding catch in the 8th inning. #3: There were hopes that Gary Sanchez could start behind the plate on Thursday. He was not quite ready so Ryan Jeffers started his third straight game behind the plate, including the day game after the night game. How it went? Well, Jeffers was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, but he did a nice job behind the plate. Miguel Sano has a minor knee strain. That is why he is not starting against the left-hander and Arraez is back at first base. Ober Labors, Leaves with Injury Bailey Ober clearly didn’t have his best stuff on Thursday afternoon. It’s not that he was bad. He wasn’t. He threw strikes at a good rate (67%). He missed 12 bats. But he really had to work to strand base runners. He gave up six hits and two walks and somehow worked his way out of those situations and gave up just one run. Unfortunately, Ober left the game early. With two outs in the top of the fourth inning, right after a balk, he gave up a single that gave the Tigers their first (and only) run. After the pitch, Ober hobbled off the mound, grabbed his upper right leg, and bent at the waist. Clearly, he was not going to proceed. Cody Stashak came in and stranded another Tigers runner. Tyler Duffey worked a scoreless inning. Griffin Jax ended the game with three strong innings to record the save. The team, a couple of innings later, confirmed that it was right groin tightness for Ober. Correa’s Biggest Hit… So far. Yeah, I know that his home run was crushed and immensely impressive, but Carlos Correa came through with the biggest hit of his short Twins career. Leading 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Correa came up with the bases loaded. In his two previous at-bats, he had exit velocities of 95 and 106 mph. On a 3-2 count, Correa hit a ball 108 mph toward the gap in left-center field, over Willi Castro’s head. With the Tigers’ fourth error of the game tacked on, the bases were emptied and the Twins led 5-1. Gio Urshela followed with a single to left field for a 6-1 Twins lead. To this point, Correa is hitting the ball really hard, as you can see from the top row in the chart below. However, it appears that he is hitting a lot of ground balls. He also came into Thursday’s game having struck out 32.8% of the time. For his career, Correa has struck out just under 21% of his plate appearances. In 2021, he struck out just over 18% of the time. In other words, he's going to be just fine. Three hits and four balls hit over 100 mph on this day should help him relax and start putting up the numbers that he has over his career. In addition, despite his offensive woes early in the season, Correa's defense has been consistently terrific. What’s Next? The Twins will travel to Tampa to take on the Rays this weekend. Pitching matchups for the series include: Friday 6:10: Dylan Bundy (3-0, 0.59 ERA) vs RHP Corey Kluber (0-1, 3.68 ERA) Saturday 3:10: Chris Archer (0-0, 3.18 ERA) vs LHP Shane McClanahan (1-1, 2.45 ERA) Sunday 12:10: Chris Paddack (0-2, 3.68 ERA) vs TBD Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage SUN MON TUE WED THUR TOT Winder 61 0 0 0 0 61 Jax 0 0 10 0 46 56 Thielbar 0 0 27 0 0 27 Duffey 0 0 19 0 8 27 Pagán 0 0 23 0 0 23 Smith 13 0 0 10 0 23 Coulombe 0 0 0 20 0 20 Duran 18 0 0 0 0 18 Stashak 0 0 0 0 18 18
  3. Growling Expectations The Tigers, coming off five straight losing seasons, expect to compete in 2022. They won 77 games in manager A.J. Hinch’s first season with the club, finishing in third place in the Central in 2021. While the Tigers surprised with nearly 80 wins, they feasted off a historically bad division. It hasn’t been a clean start, as the Tigers have won only six of their first 15 games. The offense has been poor, and they’ve dealt with many injuries. So far, performance hasn’t met the loftiest expectations Tigers fans have had since they won four straight AL Central titles from 2011 to 2014. How Detroit won 77 games in 2021 is somewhat remarkable. Tigers position players accounted for 9.4 fWAR, the third-lowest in MLB. The pitching staff accumulated 10.2 fWAR, tied for 8th-lowest. It wasn’t a good team, but it was a significant step forward in a new era with Hinch. There is reason for optimism in the Motor City. The Tigers' hopes start with former No. 1 pick Casey Mize, who is currently on the injured list with an elbow sprain. Lefty Tarik Skubal is off to a terrific start and harnesses a fastball in the mid-90s. The Twins have trouble against velocity-oriented lefties, and they’ll see Skubal in Thursday’s finale. Current Twins do have six homers in 73 plate appearances against him. Speaking of lefties, the Tigers signed former Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodríguez for five years and $77 million this offseason. Rodríguez has given up eight runs in 13 innings with an elevated fly-ball rate. He's set to pitch the series opener on Tuesday. Many Twins fans thought the team should bring back veteran Michael Pineda to round out the rotation. Instead, Pineda signed with the Tigers for one year and $5.5 million, and he pitched well in his first start, throwing 60 pitches and holding the Yankees down for five innings. Pineda will return to the Target Field mound Wednesday in a different uniform. The Tigers also added a new shortstop in Javier Báez on a six-year, $140 million deal. Báez is a divisive but highly talented player and can carry an offense for prolonged periods. He’s also an elite defender at shortstop, saving 46 runs since his debut in 2014. Of course, that comes with extreme swing-and-miss and long stretches of slumps Detroit’s offense posted a measly 93 wRC+ in 2021 (100 in league average), even with a Jeimer Candelario breakout and strong seasons from rookie Akil Baddoo and career minor-leaguer Eric Haase. This year, 2020’s first overall pick Spencer Torkelson joins the lineup. Torkelson looked like a complete hitter in the minors, and he enters the series hitting .217/.345/.435 in 15 games. The Tigers have a dynamic and semi-dangerous set of hitters, especially after the late addition of Austin Meadows. Mr. 3000 Miguel Cabrera is always a focus, and the Tigers have a group that could cause problems for the Twins. THREE SERIES X-FACTORS: 1. Carlos Correa Byron Buxton frankly took control of the Twins’ sweeping of the White Sox over the weekend. He leads the American League with 1.3 fWAR and a .946 slugging percentage. He can completely flip any game, and the Tigers certainly know the damage he is capable of. Carlos Correa, meanwhile, is hitting a light .192 with minimal power. If he can get going behind Buxton, the Tigers will have trouble keeping this lineup down for three games. 2. Javier Báez Báez is back after a thumb injury landed him on the 10-day injured list. He has the highest upside of any Tiger and is hitting the middle of the order. Báez, like Buxton, can heat up and dominate in a hurry. The Twins will feed him a steady diet of breaking balls, but if they hang it, he’ll bang it. Báez presents a simple but not easy challenge. 3. The bullpens The Tigers’ bullpen ranks first in the American League with a 2.30 ERA. Gregory Soto is evolving into an elite closer, and Michael Fulmer has found a new (and successful) home as a reliever. The Twins sport the 7th-highest bullpen ERA in MLB (4.16). If current trends hold, the Twins may be in trouble in the late innings. Pitching Probables Tues (6:40 CT): RHP Chris Paddack (0-2, 5.00 ERA) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 5.27 ERA) Wed (6:40 CT): RHP Joe Ryan (2-1, 1.69 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 0.00 ERA) Thurs (12:10 CT): RHP Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.81 ERA) vs LHP Tarik Skubal (1-1, 2.30 ERA) What do you think the keys to this week's series are?
  4. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Bailey Ober, 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (79 pitches, 56 strikes, 70.8%) Home Runs: none Top 3 WPA: Carlos Correa (.462), Emilio Pagán (.152), Bailey Ober (.104) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Ober pitches solid five innings, but gets no help from the offense Earlier today, the Twins official Twitter account sent out the tweet below, which could’ve somehow put a little pressure on young starter Bailey Ober: But that’s exactly what didn't happen. The sophomore had a solid start to this game, dominating the White Sox lineup. With solid command, he threw over 72% strikes in the first three innings allowing only two hits. Unfortunately for the Twins, Chicago’s starter Michael Kopech also feasted off recently weakened Minnesota’s offense through the first portion of the game. Luis Arráez opened up the first inning with a leadoff single, but Carlos Correa grounded into a double play immediately afterward. In that same inning, Jorge Polanco reached on a walk but was caught trying to steal second, ending the threat. The first man in scoring position of the game was a Twin. Trevor Larnach hit a two-out double in the second, but Kopech followed that up by retiring the next eight batters, including four strikeouts. Ober pitched a clean fourth inning, but the White Sox got to him in the fifth, with Andrew Vaughn smashing a leadoff home run to center to make it 1-0 Chicago. Ober got into a bad spot when Reese McGuire followed that homer with a double, prompting an immediate mound visit by Wes Johnson. That helped him get back on track and he retired the next three batters to limit the damage to just the one run. Ober’s night was done after that inning, with Griffin Jax coming in to pitch the sixth. With tonight’s outing, Ober lowered his season ERA to 2.81 and the Twins rotation continues to be one of the best in the majors. You know, as we all have predicted a month ago, right? Jax, Bullpen perform brilliantly; wild defense from Chicago gives Twins the lead Griffin Jax came in trying to keep this a one-run game and he couldn’t have done a better job. He threw two scoreless and hitless frames on 29 pitches – 24 sliders (83%). He pitched around a leadoff walk in the sixth and went on to retire the next six batters, causing them to swing and miss 46% of the time. After a rough outing in Kansas City on Tuesday that cost the Twins a win, Tyler Duffey got a much-needed clean inning in the eighth. He retired the top of Chicago’s lineup in order on 13 pitches, including two strikeouts, giving the offense a chance to redeem itself in the bottom of the inning. Could they do it? Well, yes and no. The inning started out atrociously for Minnesota, with Miguel Sanó and Nick Gordon quickly retired on ten pitches. Ryan Jeffers stepped up to the plate and, also quickly, was down 0-2 in the count. Suddenly, things started to change in a wild way. In the third pitch of the at-bat, Jeffers crushed a ground-rule double to left-center, bringing Arráez to the plate. Luis worked a nice six-pitch walk to keep the inning alive and bring Correa to the plate. Slumping really hard on the season so far, “C4” swung on the second pitch and grounded to the hole in deep shortstop, enough to score Jeffers. But to make things better, Tim Anderson and José Abreu made a couple of awful throws that allowed Arráez to also score and Correa to make second. (Just watch this...) Emilio Pagán was brought in to pitch the ninth and try to earn the save, but things didn’t start well for him. He gave up a leadoff double to Eloy Jiménez and loaded the bases with only one out. After a hard-fought, nine-pitch at-bat, he got McGuire to pop out. Then, he almost lost Jake Burger for the last out but managed to strike him out on a full count. What’s Next? Game two of the series is tomorrow at 3:05 pm CDT, when Dylan Bundy (2-0, 0.87 ERA) tries to keep his hot start going facing righty Vince Velasquez (0-1, 4.15 ERA). Byron Buxton is expected to be back in the lineup. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Jax 47 0 0 0 29 76 Pagán 0 0 0 9 34 43 Duran 23 0 0 15 0 38 Romero 0 30 0 0 0 30 Duffey 0 15 0 0 13 28 Smith 6 2 0 16 0 24 Stashak 0 0 21 0 0 21 Thielbar 0 0 15 0 0 15 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 0 0
  5. The void in quality in the rotation of the Minnesota Twins was obvious looking back on a miserable 2021 season. Derek Falvey, arriving from the Guardians with a sterling reputation for developing a pipeline of pitching talent, presided over a season in which everything went wrong, particularly pitching. Most Twins fans assumed the rotation would be a priority in a truncated off-season before 2022. At the very least, the Twins would strengthen their rotation with a solid mid-rotation free-agent starter, right? Wrong. While Twins territory lamented, the organization passed on the likes of Jon Gray, Carlos Rodon, Kevin Gausman, and Robbie Ray. Instead, the Twins signed Dylan Bundy before the lockout. Since the lockout ended, they added Chris Archer as a free agent and traded for Chris Paddack. While this iteration of the rotation is undoubtedly improved, it hardly inspires confidence. Twins fans know arms are on the way; Cole Sands, Louie Varland, Simeon Woods-Richardson, and Matt Canterino, to name a few. But why do the Twins seem so averse to committing to free-agent pitchers for any length of time? While it is likely that part of the reason is simply striking out on free agent offers, other clues lie in the development of Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. Derek Falvey uttered his now-famous desire to ‘build a sustainable winner’ in Minnesota upon arriving at Target Field. It’s accepted that developing a pipeline of pitching talent takes 5-6 years. The Twins' front office is now entering year six, and fans are starting to see the impact of that development. My argument is that the Twins are attempting to be loosely competitive in 2022; their real goal is a window of 2023 and beyond. We can examine the development of Ryan and Ober as a proxy for organization principles of pitcher development. Here are three common practices the Twins have leveraged to maximize Ryan and Ober that will be evident in the next wave of starting pitching talent that hits Target Field. Maximize Velocity Bailey Ober has a unique set of tools. He amassed a 32% K% throughout his MiLB career, an impressive number he combined with a 3.4% BB%. While Ober has had strong command since being drafted in the 12th round in 2017 (Falvey’s first draft), his fastball velocity was consistently at or below 90 mph throughout his MiLB career. When he reached the majors, Ober’s fastball velocity had increased to 92.3 mph. Ober’s height (he’s 6’9) allows him a top ten release extension in major league baseball. Put simply, Ober’s so tall he releases the ball closer to the plate than most pitchers, speeding batters up. Adding velocity, (via release extension or refining mechanics) is a skill-set the Twins have mastered and shown an ability help their pitchers translate onto the field. Work the Fastball Up It’s notable that five out of six members of the Twins rotation in 2022 have a track record of excellent control. In 2021 the average BB/9 across major league baseball was 3.3. Consider the Twins' internal rotation members and their numbers in 2021; Ryan 1.69, Ober 1.85. Ryan and Ober have fastball spin percentiles of 34 and 38, respectively. While it’s been well documented that Ryan has a flat fastball, his VAA (vertical attack angle) allows it to thrive and gives it a rising effect, a tendency that is maximized with fastballs up in the zone. While not all fastballs have the ability to outperform their inputs in the way Ryan’s does, the Twins have found success in going up in the zone, particularly for pitchers who don’t have elite velocity. You can see how this plays out in how Ober leverages his excellent control to locate his fastball up The Slider Revolution Throwing fastballs up in the strike zone is not a good plan in isolation, particularly if the pitch doesn’t benefit from the deception that Joe Ryan’s does. For Ober, this meant revamping his slider. Midway through 2021, he debuted a new slider, reworked to appear more distinct in velocity than his curveball. Ober added velocity to the pitch and more depth to the break. In the final month of Ober’s old slider, it surrendered a .294 xBA; this dropped to .270 the following month and .215 the month after that. In his first start of 2022, he threw the pitch 29%, compared to just 18% in 2021. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober are good pitching prospects and will likely have long, meaningful MLB careers with Minnesota. The Twins development staff has done excellent work with both, turning them into roughly 1.5 fWAR pitchers. Ultimately, they serve as placeholders at the front of the Twins' rotation. Soon they will be supplemented by Josh Winder, Louie Varland, Matt Canterino, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Cole Sands, and Jordan Balazovic. A number of the pitchers joining Ryan and Ober have the better raw velocity and stuff and, therefore, a higher ceiling as starting pitchers. It’s easy not to believe in the pitching factory Falvey has worked to develop in Minnesota. I do. It’s likely we’ll know who will lead the front of the Twins rotation by the end of 2022.
  6. Projected Rotation: Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer Depth: Josh Winder, Chi-Chi Gonzalez, Cole Sands, Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak Prospects: Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, Simeon Woods Richardson, Louie Varland, Blayne Enlow THE GOOD There's a lot of talent in this pipeline. It started coming to fruition a year ago, when Bailey Ober emerged as the team's steadiest starter and Joe Ryan arrived late with an eye-opening first impression. The Twins will be looking for more of where that came from this year, with a bevy of their top prospects in the high minors and at an age (23-25) where players tend to enter the big-league ranks. Whether or not it was their plan from the start to rely heavily on this group, it clearly is now after the club mostly whiffed on impact rotation additions during the offseason. One notable exception is Sonny Gray, who was acquired from Cincinnati in exchange for Chase Petty and instantly becomes the team's most accomplished starter. Gray gives the Twins some serious juice and cred at the top of the rotation. The 32-year-old owns a career 3.61 ERA and is a two-time All-Star – most recently in 2019 when he posted a 2.87 ERA and was worth 4.5 fWAR for the Reds. Gray was a successful starter in his early seasons with Oakland, but reinvented himself as a strikeout pitcher in Cincy, posting the three highest K-rates of his career while raising his swinging strike rates from the mid-20% range to low-30%. He was lights-out in his official spring debut on Sunday. Despite his track record and rep, Gray won't be the club's Opening Day starter come Thursday at Target Field. Instead that honor goes to Ryan, who is still technically a rookie after making five starts in 2021. Per Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com, he becomes just the third player since 1961 – and first in 35 years – to draw an Opening Day nod within the first six starts of his career. This decision probably has much more to do with Gray's readiness than anything else, but Ryan's done enough to earn it on his end. He's been spectacular everywhere in the minors, with a 2.67 ERA and 13.0 K/9 in three seasons. He looked great for the Twins late last year, flirting with a no-hitter in his second MLB start. He's been excellent this spring, allowing no runs on three hits over five innings with a 5-to-1 K/BB ratio. Following Ryan and Gray in the rotation, presumably, will be Ober. The big right-hander established himself and solidified his roster spot with an outstanding rookie performance. The question, of course, is whether he can back it up, but on the surface there is little reason to think Ober can't sustain as a solid mid-rotation starter. At the back end, the Twins are hoping to catch lightning with a pair of buy-low veteran free agents. Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer are interesting in that both were once heralded young arms and have earned top-10 Cy Young finishes at various points. But both are pretty far removed from sustained success. Realistically, the Twins are hoping that Bundy rebounds to his pre-2021 baseline, which was roughly an average pitcher (98 ERA+) who was reliable from a durability standpoint, while Archer – who hasn't posted an above-average ERA since 2017 – finds some semblance of his previous form. Neither is a total longshot. Either of these guys could turn into assets. But really their function is to handle early innings while prospects in the minors get up to speed and make their cases. Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, and Cole Sands are all among the high-upside pitchers with a very real chance of making an impact for the Twins this season. It's an exciting time. THE BAD I read the words now and they haunt me. Like corrosive acid, they eat away at my very soul. "If the Twins have ever fielded a better and deeper rotation than the one they're set to line up this year, I can't remember it," I wrote when introducing last year's starting pitching analysis. "From top to bottom (and beyond) this unit looks stacked." If I meant it in terms of a Jenga stack ready to topple, I would've been on the right track. But I didn't. After breaking through as one of the best in the league in 2019 and 2020, the pitching staff totally fell apart last year, and the rotation was a prime culprit. Twins starters ranked 25th in fWAR and ERA, and 24th in FIP and WHIP. One of their rotation mainstays, Kenta Maeda, struggled before requiring Tommy John surgery (he MIGHT make it back late this year) and the other was traded away at the deadline. Losing José Berríos hurts. A whole lot. While perhaps not living up to the lofty title of "ace," he was a clear front-line starter – one of the league's most consistent and durable pitchers. He basically never missed a start with the Twins and combined quantity with quality. La MaKina, who would've been under contract with Minnesota this year, was the real deal and he will be greatly missed. Berríos was the Twins' Opening Day starter in 2019 and 2020. Maeda took that honor last year, earning it with a Cy Young runner-up performance in '20. Now both are out of the picture, and the shift to Ryan as Opening Day starter epitomizes the front office's strategy with the rotation: shifting from proven high-caliber veterans to risky unproven minor-leaguers who aren't all that highly regarded outside of the Twins braintrust. I'm not saying it can't work. But there's a good chance it won't, and if so, this will not reflect well at all on a front office that seemingly straddled the line of reloading and rebuilding, trading their 2021 first-rounder for Gray and throwing $35 million at Carlos Correa. What's the point of all this if your rotation won't give you a chance? The optimistic side of me can buy into the idea of a rotation the features Ryan, Gray, Ober, Bundy and Archer offering enough to support a strong lineup en route to a playoff berth. But as alluded before, it's the depth behind them that frightens me. Aaron Gleeman mentioned on a recent episode of Gleeman and the Geek that Twins teams have needed an average of 17 different starters per season. With so few stable assets in place, the Twins are going to be heavily reliant on their existing talent for reinforcements beyond a thin and questionable front line. It's a bold and high-stakes vote of self-confidence. THE BOTTOM LINE Last year, it seemed like the Twins had starting pitching depth. They didn't. This year, it seems like the Twins don't have starting pitching depth. Maybe they do. Really, it comes down to largely to health, which is in many ways uncontrollable and luck-driven. The front office has left itself little margin for error on this front by investing in reclamation projects and handing the team's destiny to a stable of unproven commodities. Injuries and ill-fated signings ravaged the club's depth in 2021 and left the Twins scrambling for answers. It was understandable as a one-year blip. Another season of dreadful pitching performance will not be nearly as tolerable, and would leave Derek Falvey and Thad Levine open to all the criticism they'll receive. Their defiantly minimalist approach to the offseason pitching market will only be excusable if their methodically developed pitching pipeline pays off, and fast. Catch Up on the Rest of Our 2022 Previews: Position Analysis: Catcher Position Analysis: First Base Position Analysis: Second Base Position Analysis: Third Base Position Analysis: Shortstop Position Analysis: Left Field Position Analysis: Center Field Position Analysis: Right Field Position Analysis: Designated Hitter
  7. I share my motto for the upcoming Twins season with '90's science fiction TV show "The X-Files." I want to believe. However, looking at this pitching staff, I am having a hard time suspending my disbelief to buy in with this team. Who the heck is going to pitch? Who will play in the outfield when Buxton and/or Kepler are inevitably injured at some point this season? Who is the closer? Before the internet, folks would prepare for the upcoming season by reading one of the many preview magazines that cost an arm and a leg at the grocery store. My dad would always say that you could tell how good a team would be by how many times the preview of it said "if." There are way too many "ifs" this year for me to take the Twins seriously. I don't think they will be awful, but I don't think they are in any way a World Series team this season. Of course I am also on record as saying I thought the Wild would stink this season. So it goes. "If" Byron Buxton stays healthy... "If" Bailey Ober can be successful... "If" Dylan Bundy is one of the few reclamation projects this FO has tried that works... "If" Joe Ryan, Josh Winder, etc can be stretched out for a full season... "If" Chris Archer can provide competent innings, let alone return to his all star form... "If" Alex Kirilloff develops into an impactful, everyday player... "If" Gary Sanchez cuts down on his strikeouts... "If" Jorge Polanco can repeat his monster 2021 season... "If" Ryan Jeffers can be a solid full time catcher... There are too many "ifs" this year. I think there will be high points this season and I hope that the team is competitive well into October. But they will need a lot of things to go their way. I have been a Twins fan since I was born, and I always WANT the team to do well. I just don't know how to convince myself that they will be good this season.
  8. Josh Winder gained a lot of prospect steam last season as he performed incredibly well at Double-A with a sub 2.00 ERA in 50+ innings before getting promoted to Triple-A. He may have been well on his way to his MLB debut before being shut down with shoulder issues, but he looks healthy and effective so far this spring. Winder finds himself in the conversation for a rotation spot due to what can only be described as a massive disappointment in regards to the Twins addressing their rotation this winter. They currently have four starting pitchers penciled in with Opening Day less than two weeks away. Led by Sonny Gray, the rest of the rotation consists of reclamation project Dylan Bundy and two rookies in Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, the latter of which has only five MLB starts under his belt. The fifth spot at this point is unspoken for. Candidates include Devin Smeltzer who isn't currently on the 40 man roster. Lewis Thorpe and Griffin Jax have been moved into bullpen roles but could find themselves competing due to a lack of other options. Then of course we have Josh Winder who has yet to debut. It’s fair to grab ahold of the shiny new prospect when reading that list of names. The other three, of course, have all had their opportunities and haven’t exactly flourished. It’s absolutely possible that the Twins see this decision the same way if they fail to bring in one more arm. It’s worth noting that Winder winding up in the Opening Day rotation, however, should be viewed with much more disappointment than excitement. From Minnesota to the rest of the league, rookie pitchers fail all the time (or at least most often) in their debut. It should almost be expected at this point. Some need a bit more time in the minors such as when Jose Berrios debuted with his 8+ ERA. Others just never figure it out despite being highly touted all throughout the minors such as Stephen Gonsalves or Fernando Romero. It’s important to remember this not just to be pessimistic, but to keep expectations in check. Winder hadn’t pitched above A ball until 2021 when he posted those 54 2/3 innings in AA, and not only did he put up only 17 innings in AAA, but they weren’t all that effective. His K% fell from 31.3% to 22.4%. He allowed two home runs in those 17 innings and posted a 4.67 ERA before being shut down. Surely a small sample size, but not exactly a performance that screams “MLB ready”. The point being, if the Twins don’t add another starting pitcher to the roster and go with Winder right out of the gate, they may very well be following up an offseason failure with a decision that damages one of their top pitching prospects as well as their season. They’d likely be better off mixing and matching with arms they know everything about than a rookie pitcher who hasn’t shown he’s quite MLB ready yet. Winder would make a great Plan B for any struggling or injured arms after the season begins assuming he’s doing reasonably well in St. Paul. It’s fair to assume that he makes his debut in some way in 2022. It just shouldn’t be as the third rookie starting pitcher on an Opening Day roster that considers themselves contenders. Am I just a thief of joy, or do you agree? Leave your COMMENTS below. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  9. Ober is coming off a strong rookie campaign where he made 20 starts and posted a 4.19 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP. At the season’s end, he was named the team’s rookie of the year, which likely resulted in higher expectations for him entering 2022. Minnesota’s only offseason additions to the rotation include Sonny Gray and Dylan Bundy, so Ober will be relied on to accumulate innings. The Twins likely want him to take on an even more critical role, and his slider is the pitch that can help him take the next step. Ober used a four-pitch mix during his rookie campaign, including a four-seam fastball, slider, changeup, and curveball. His second most utilized pitch was his slider, as he threw it 18.4% of the time. Last season, batters posted a .264 batting average and a .542 slugging percentage. At Baseball Savant, his slider resulted in a 38.2 Hard Hit % and a 7 Run-Value. His Run-Value on his slider ranked as the 17th worst in baseball. One of Ober’s biggest strengths is controlling the strike zone and limiting walks. His BB% ranked in the 94th percentile, and his slider was the pitch he threw most regularly out of the zone. His slider is almost exclusively used against right-handed hitters (86%), while he regularly turns to his other offspeed offerings against southpaws. His OPS versus righties was over 100 points lower than lefties, and he had a 9.17 SO/W rate versus right-handed hitters. Last season, Ober made specific changes to his slider to add more velocity so the pitch would look more like a fastball to hitters. There were visible changes to the pitch, which helped improve his other offspeed pitches. In an interview with FanGraphs, Ober said, “I started throwing a new slider [in early-to-mid-August]. I wanted something a little bit harder. It had been around 78-80 [mph], and I wanted to give hitters something different. It was kind of blending with my curveball, too. Basically, the idea was something with a bigger speed difference between my curveball and my slider.” He went on to say, “Before, I had it a little deeper in my hand, and it had a lot more horizontal movement on it. It wasn’t as depth-y as my new one. My new one is harder [82-84] and has a little more depth, and it’s also not as horizontal anymore.” In the minor leagues, Ober could pound the strike zone with fastballs and get consistent outs. As he establishes himself at the big-league level, he will need to continue to make adjustments and rely on his secondary pitches. Minnesota’s front office identified the changes mentioned above, and he made improvements over his final seven starts, including a 3.63 ERA and a 34-to-3 strikeout to walk ratio. If Ober can continue to make adjustments, he will establish himself as a long-term rotational option for the Twins. All of his other pitches are tied to the success of his slider. How important do you think Ober’s slider is to his 2022 season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  10. BetOnline recently released an over/under of 120.5 games for each team this summer. That means there’s an expectation of at least 40 games lost due to the ongoing lockout. There is no end in sight. That’s a terrible outcome, and the fear of losing half or even the *entire* season is valid. Plenty of Twins are hoping to leave 2021 in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, they can’t show off their hard work until the season starts. It’s a crucial year for a handful of Major and Minor leaguers, but these five stick out in particular, with futures both with the team and in the league at stake. 5. Bailey Ober Ober went from a surprise addition to the 40-man roster to a rotation building block in 2021. Ober especially shined over his last ten starts, pitching to a 3.31 ERA with 51 strikeouts and just six walks in 49 innings. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound breakout averaged only 73 pitches per outing over his last 12 starts, with the Twins highly cautious of his workload. Ober had never thrown 80 innings in a season before last year. With a lengthy injury history, does a delay benefit Ober’s health, or does the loss of games hurt his chances of building up? 4. Jhoan Duran Speaking of innings, Duran must get a fair amount in 2022. After a solid 115 innings in 2019, Duran has all-of-a-sudden fallen behind, with only 16 game innings on his arm over the last two seasons. This summer, a hybrid Major-League role seemed perfect, but a delay could derail those plans. Ultimately, the Twins need to decide whether Duran is a future starter or reliever. This summer, he must catch up and log at least 60-80 innings to win a job in the Opening Day rotation in 2023. The lockout may dictate otherwise. 3. Taylor Rogers Contrary to some belief, Rogers had a terrific season before an untimely grand slam and injury threw a wrench in his bounce-back campaign. Rogers boasted a 2.45 ERA and 2.02 FIP with a 35% strikeout rate through July 8th. The Twins tendered Rogers in his final season of arbitration, expressing confidence that his middle-finger injury is in good shape. What the standout lefty needs is a complete and healthy season. The results will be there, but Rogers is likely desperate to show off his health with free agency looming next winter. 2. Miguel Sanó The Twins extended Sanó after a monstrous 2019 season where he hit .254/.362/.578 with 21 homers in the second half. The story is the same with Sanó: when he’s on, he’s lethal. When he’s off, he’s hardly playable. 2022 is the last guaranteed year on Sanó’s contract, with a $14 million Twins option for 2023. Alex Kirilloff looks like the first baseman of the future, and the Twins were not scared to demote Sanó to a platoon role during his first-half struggles in 2021. Sanó was excellent as usual in the second half, but an entire, productive season might be enough for the Twins to invest in his future with the club. 1. Royce Lewis It’s been a ruthless three years for Lewis, who is ready to go for a critical summer. Lewis’ journey has been anything but linear, with plate struggles in 2019, a canceled 2020, and a season-ending injury in 2021. Now, a lockout that restricts him from playing. There’s a chance Lewis won’t appear in a real game for *three* years because of factors out of his control. It’s a terrible break for a fantastic person, and there’s no question Lewis is the most impacted by this fiasco. What do you think? Comment below! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  11. The Twins drafted Bailey Ober in the 12th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball draft. He was taken from the College of Charleston and went to Elizabethton as a 21-year-old. After posting a 3.21 and 3.84 ERA, respectively, in each of his first two professional seasons, 2019 saw a massive leap. Compiling a 0.69 ERA across 78 2/3 inning from Rookie-ball to Double-A, Ober had announced his presence. At 6’9”, it’s pretty hard not to notice Ober, and while he doesn’t reach triple-digits, that frame allows his fastball to get on hitters quickly. He had a track record of high strikeout rates with few walks in the minors. Despite not being invited to the Twins alternate site during the 2020 minor league shutdown, Ober continued to put in work. Dominating quickly at Triple-A in 2021, he earned a big-league promotion after just 7 innings. Looking back at Ober’s track record before his promotion, there is no evidence of sustained innings. He had never pitched more than his 2019 total and had the entire 2020 season without games. What that suggests is that Minnesota would be willing to allow an opportunity for an arm they feel is ready, even if it’s not battle-tested or proven through longevity. Right now, the Twins have no less than two open rotation spots. Whether they’re filled externally or not, it’s a good bet that someone will emerge and turn heads sooner than expected. Although not a 12th rounder, my bet this season is Florida State product, Cole Sands. Arguably the most significant thing working against Sands at the moment is his recent inclusion to the Twins 40-man roster. Subject to the lockout, he cannot get the season going with other minor leaguers currently down in Fort Myers. However, Sands substantiated a strong 2019 and worthy draft position with an even greater step forward last season. Following 75 innings of work at Florida State in 2018, Sands didn’t debut professionally until 2019. He posted a 2.68 ERA and made starts from Low Single-A to Double-A. A 10.0 K/9 was paired with a 1.8 BB/9 and a 1.027 WHIP. The production looked every bit the reason why he was targeted so early in the draft. Getting back to professional games following the 2020 shutdown, Sands spent all of 2021 at Double-A Wichita. His 2.46 ERA solidified the strong debut and again was combined with a double-digit strikeout rate. He did allow an alarming number of walks at 3.9 BB/9, but the missed bats and lack of hard contact allowed him to keep opposing lineups at bay. Sands should begin at Triple-A St. Paul this year, and he could be knocking at the Major League door quickly. While the development may not be as surprising as that of Ober, this is still a guy that’s a borderline top-20 prospect for Minnesota on most national lists. He’s not going to be an ace, but a strong contributor in the middle of a rotation exists here. Ober turned in 20 starts to the tune of a 4.19 ERA in his rookie season with Minnesota, and seeing Sands do that or better might not be a crazy thought. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
  12. Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober… Dylan Bundy… Folks, that’s your Minnesota Twins rotation at the time of this writing. After trading Jose Berrios and losing Kenta Maeda to injury, the starting pitching lacks depth, high-end talent, floor, etc. Despite this fact, 14 of the top 15 starting pitchers on the free-agent market signed with teams before the lockout without a single whisper of interest from the Twins front office. This development led some to call shenanigans on the organization's statement that they plan on competing in 2022. Plenty of fans still hold out hope however that the Twins have some enormous splashes left to make that will push the Twins back into the driver’s seat of the AL Central. There are several starting pitchers on the trade market that would instantly become the leaders of the Twins rotation. Luis Castillo, Chris Bassitt, and Frankie Montas to name a few that have been thrown around in hypotheticals. One such hypothetical was just recently proposed by TwinsDaily’s own Nash Walker: The package here is steep but fair, as right-hander Frankie Montas has two years of control and finished 6th in AL Cy Young voting in 2021. In acquiring Montas, the Twins would part with Luis Arraez who is controlled through 2026 in addition to recently acquired Drew Strotman, former 1st round pick Keoni Kavaco, and Jhoan Duran whose triple-digit arm suffered an injury in 2021 but made it to AAA. Such a deal would cost the Twins in the present while leaving them open to get burned in the future, as these trades are often composed. Such a deal should raise questions, the first of which being “Does this move push the Twins over the top?”. To which I would argue “not even close”. The Twins had two front-end starters in 2021 in Berrios and Kenta Maeda for most of the season and finished in dead last place in the worst division in baseball. With a similar returning lineup (without Nelson Cruz) and a bullpen that likely won’t have any significant additions, it could be argued that the Twins are paying top dollar just to get halfway to where they were at the beginning of a disastrous 2021. Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan will certainly have a huge role in how the rotation performs, but to push the chips in while leaning so heavily on two rookies totaling well under 200 career innings would be quite the gamble. The pair would need to replicate their 2021 performances if not improve upon them to set the foundation of the Twins 2022 rotation. It’s certainly possible both are up to the task, but with such little track record and an offseason of scouting reports, it’s fair to expect some turbulence from the two rookies. It may be more realistic and fair to expect these two to perform closer to #4 starting pitchers than the rotation leaders the Twins need to make a Frankie Montas pairing worth their while. The other consideration in regards to acquiring Frankie Montas is that he’s exactly where Jose Berrios was before 2021 with two years left under contract. What would stop the Twins from similarly shipping him out at the trade deadline if the team is struggling again come July? The return would certainly be less than the price they paid in the preseason. If the Twins do in fact struggle in 2022 and hold onto Montas for the following year, he could definitely become a huge piece of the rotation in 2023 where it’s much easier to see the Twins returning to contention. That being said, they’ll have paid top dollar for two years of a premier arm and only get one meaningful season from him. In short, the Twins have a ton of question marks heading into 2022. In order to truly feel good about the rotation they probably needed at least two legitimate starting pitching additions. There are few impact options left in free agency and it’s hard to imagine them swinging two enormous trades to make up for it. What the Twins have now is a rotation problem that doesn’t come close to being solved by one big move. There are moves to be made in free agency and admittedly they could very well hit on some lower-profile additions. The lineup and bullpen could also shine bright enough to pick up some slack from the rotation. It’s hard to look at the roster and say this is the likelier scenario, however. Given the hoops we have to jump through to imagine a contender in 2022, wouldn’t it make more sense to be prudent before Opening Day and respond accordingly at the July trade deadline? It may be the anti-fun stance, but it would be a shame to see the Twins mortgage their future for a huge addition that doesn’t pay off. Especially with so many high-end prospects nearing the Major Leagues. Of all the times to acquire a huge starting pitcher the last few years, right now may be riskiest with the least amount of possible payoff. The Twins shouldn’t be looking to go all-in on an ace. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  13. What do they have so far? The Twins ended the 2021 season with a depleted starting rotation, especially after the José Berríos trade and the Kenta Maeda season-ending injury. One can argue that it was depleted since the beginning of the season, with J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker being part of it. But from such a dark year on the mound, two seemingly good arms emerged from the minors. Bailey Ober had his ups and downs but, overall, he had a very solid rookie campaign. His most impressive stretch of the season might have been the ten starts in July and August, in which he posted a 3.06 ERA, a 3.87 FIP, with 51 strikeouts and only 11 walks. With less than a hundred innings pitched on the major league level so far, you might argue that he isn’t a very reliable option just yet, but his first impression was not bad at all. Joe Ryan joined the organization in mid-July as part of the Nelson Cruz trade. After a couple of solid starts for St. Paul in August, he got called up in September, making his big league debut, and he probably couldn’t have asked for a better one. In his second start, he carried a perfect game into the seventh inning, on his way to a seven-inning shutout on only 85 pitches. Over his first four starts, Ryan maintained a very impressive 2.45 ERA and 2.49 FIP, keeping opposing batters to a .133 batting average. He struck out batters 25 times while walking them only three times. In his final start of the season, he gave up six earned runs against Detroit, spoiling his final numbers, but not the optimism around him going forward. To quote the great Do-Hyoung Park, from MLB.com, if all had gone according to plan for the Twins this season, they probably wouldn’t have discovered these two exciting, young arms. The third pitcher set to start the season on the Twins rotation is Dylan Bundy, whom Minnesota signed shortly before the league went into lockout. His career numbers aren’t impressive, and in 2021, he was moved to the Angels bullpen after struggling for the first half of the season. He did get back to the rotation in early August and closed out the season with a 3.31 ERA in the final four starts. In the shortened season of 2020, his first year with the Angels, Bundy had his best season in the majors, finishing ninth in the AL Cy Young Award voting after posting 3.29 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 138 ERA+, with 9.9 strikeouts per nine and only 2.3 walks per nine. Did Wes Johnson see anything in Bundy that can be tweaked into a 2020 version of him? How can they realistically fill the remaining gaps? Suppose you consider the aforementioned trio good enough to fill the bottom part of the rotation. In that case, the Twins can very well build a competitive group of starters by making only two additions. Here’s how I would go about filling the two remaining rotation spots. My favorite trade target is Frankie Montas. The A’s are believed to be on the verge of resetting, thus making their veteran starters available for trades. The Dominican righty is coming off a career year, having started 32 games for Oakland and accumulated 3.7 bWAR, both career-best marks for him. Over 187 innings of work in 2021, he was able to maintain a 3.37 ERA and 3.37 FIP, striking out 10.0 batters per nine and walking 2.7 per nine. Such numbers earned him a sixth-place finish in the AL Cy Young Award last season, and he is under team control for two more seasons. He produced at least twice as much bWAR as any Twins pitcher in 2021. In a rebound year for Minnesota, I can see him being the difference-maker for a team that wants to avoid a rebuilding process. Twins Daily’s Nash Walker wrote an in-depth article discussing Montas as a trade target, but not only him. He also wrote about Chris Bassitt and Luis Castillo. Since 2022 is likely not a year the Twins will be competing for a World Series, they should be looking for a proven veteran that can eat up innings and provide them with stability instead of an impact starter. In this scenario, two names come to mind, both of which are former Twins. Jake Odorizzi’s time with Minnesota didn’t end up well. In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, he struggled with injuries and missed the first portion of the season. He made only four starts that year and had an awful 6.59 ERA. He signed with the Astros for the 2021 season, and his beginning with the Houston organization was also rough, but he would eventually pick up. After struggling in his first six starts, he posted a 3.74 ERA in the final 18 starts of the season. Those numbers could indicate that he might be back on track and ready to be a reliable contributor once again. Trading for him makes sense, as you can potentially bring back a former All-Star who is still only 31 and is very likely to provide you with 150 innings, if healthy. Michael Pineda is another option I like, but many Twins fans are quick to dismiss. His time with Minnesota was stained by so much time he missed due to injuries and the suspension, but that doesn’t change the fact that he delivered some very solid innings. In 21 starts in 2021, he pitched the second-most innings for the year (106 1/3 innings) and posted a very decent 3.72 ERA. Odorizzi and Pineda aren’t aces you can rely on for years to come, but either of them (or both) could help the Twins not to suck in 2022. The most important aspect of this season is to take pressure off the development of top pitching prospects who have already reached the major league level, like Ober and Ryan. If prospects like Josh Winder and Jordan Balazovic make the leap to the majors this year, they could also benefit from that. Plus, a rotation like this could be considered much better than the one they had last year, so they could have a much better outcome than the one they had in 2021. What do you think? How would you fill those two rotation gaps differently? Share your thoughts in the comment section! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
  14. Not all of these players are going to play at an All-Star level, but the amount of talent on this roster is hard to ignore. From hitters to pitchers, the 2018 Kernels had it all. 2018 Kernels Hitting Prospects Many top position players on the 2018 Kernels have made their big-league debuts in the last two seasons. Players included on that list are Akil Baddoo, Ryan Jeffers, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Ben Rortvedt. Baddoo's big-league success has come in a Tigers uniform after being selected in last winter's Rule 5 Draft. Last season, the outfielder hit .259/.330/.436 (.766) with 40 extra-base hits and a 113 OPS+ in 124 games. Luckily, the other names on the list are still in the organization. Jeffers has proven his defensive value over the last two seasons, even when his bat struggled at times. During the 2020 season, his framing skills ranked in the 90th percentile. Kirilloff exhibited his strong hitting talent in his rookie season, but a wrist injury sapped his power. He had surgery, but he should return to form in 2022. Larnach had an up and down rookie campaign, and many still believe he can develop into an above-average big-league hitter. Like Jeffers, Rortvedt has some solid defensive skills that can make him a surprising help to the team moving forward. Two of the team's top prospects also spent time with the 2018 Kernels. Jose Miranda is coming off a breakout season where his stock is rising more than any other Twins prospect. The former number one overall pick, Royce Lewis, had knee surgery last spring and missed the entire 2021 season. Many national rankings have dropped him from their top-100 lists because of the development time he has missed the previous two seasons. On that 2018 team, Miranda and Kirilloff tied for the team lead with 13 home runs. Lewis had 23 doubles, and Baddoo added an eye-popping 11 triples. As 19-year olds, Baddoo and Lewis both added 22 or more steals. Kirilloff had a team-best .999 OPS, and Baddoo led the team with 183 total bases. Baddoo's final numbers were truly impressive. He hit .243/.352/.419 (.770) with 44 extra-base hits, 83 runs, and 24 stolen bases. 2018 Kernels Pitching Prospects There have been six pitchers from the 2018 Kernels that have already made their big-league debuts on the mound. Bailey Ober and Randy Dobnak are the two that figure to most prominently help the 2022 Twins. Ober is penciled into the starting rotation on the heels of a tremendous rookie season. Ober's expectations are high, but there might be some sophomore struggles to overcome. Dobnak signed an extension last winter and produced his worst professional season as he tried to pitch through an injury. Jovani Moran figures to get an opportunity in Minnesota's bullpen, especially with his dominant change-up. Brusdar Graterol, a teenager at the time, was still a starter in 2018. Minnesota traded Graterol to the Dodgers for Kenta Maeda, and he has transitioned to a reliever role at the big-league level. The Rangers claimed Edwar Colina off waivers from the Twins earlier this offseason. He had multiple procedures on his elbow last year, and Minnesota took him off their 40-man roster. Johan Quezada made three appearances with the Marlins in 2020, and he is currently on the Cardinals' 40-man roster. Two of Minnesota's top pitching prospects, Jhoan Duran and Blayne Enlow, also pitched for the 2018 Kernels. Duran was limited to 16 innings last season before being shut down with a strained elbow. Now, he needs to prove he can be healthy and get back on track in 2022. Enlow had Tommy John surgery in June, which has pushed him down Minnesota's prospect rankings. Dobnak led the team in innings pitched, and games started while posting a 3.14 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. Colina was still a starter, and he had a 2.48 ERA with team-high 95 strikeouts in 98 innings. Moran led the team with a 14.2 SO/9, but he also struggled with 5.5 BB/9. Dobnak won 10 games, while Balazovic, Ober, and Colina were all credited with seven wins. Cedar Rapids made it to the semifinals of the Midwest League playoffs in 2018 before falling to the Cardinals MWL affiliate. However, this roster will have long-lasting impacts at the big-league level. Which former Kernel is going to have the best MLB career? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  15. A 7th round pick in 2018, Josh Winder didn’t break into professional baseball at the top of Twins prospect lists. It would be understandable, in fact, if you hadn’t even heard his name until he really raised some eyebrows last spring. Winder reportedly made a lot of good progress during the canceled 2020 Minor League season, but it’s entirely possible he would have debuted long ago without the interruption. After totaling just under 40 innings pitched in his debut 2018 season, he topped 125 innings in 2019 at Cedar Rapids with decent strikeout numbers as well as an impressive avoidance of walks and home runs in A ball. 2021 showed Winder was far from what you’d expect out of a 7th round draft pick. In 54 innings at AA his strikeout rate eclipsed 31%. He walked under 5% of his batters faced and posted a 0.82 HR/9. His ERA was under 2. Upon his promotion to AAA, his strikeouts dropped a bit and home runs increased dramatically in a small sample before his season was cut short with shoulder fatigue. It was a disappointing end to 2021, especially for those hoping to see the 6’5 right-hander at Target Field by season’s end. Still, Winder showed enough to keep your eye on him in 2022. Winder has built up his prospect status since his selection in the draft. Scouts give him a 55 future grade fastball with 50 grades for his slider, curveball, and changeup. His pitch mix shows a lot of promise when it comes to sticking in a rotation. He may not have quite the fastball command of Joe Ryan, but the depth of his pitches doesn’t make future bullpen arm concerns quite as obvious. In regards to pitch mix, Winder matches up quite well with Bailey Ober who is deservedly receiving quite a bit of buzz headed into 2022. Winder has a superior fastball and slider, while Ober has a plus changeup and impeccable command as Twins fans saw in his 92 innings pitched last season. Where Winder undoubtedly bests Ober, however, is his past body of work. The 125 innings in his second professional season were very encouraging. It’s a benchmark that Ober has yet to reach after throwing a career-high 108 innings in 2022 across AAA and the majors. Winder’s season-ending shoulder fatigue was likely just a result of so many innings after a year off, and his injury/durability concerns moving forward shouldn’t be as significant as Ober’s who’s dealt with his fair share of injuries already throughout his career. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober get a lot of love from Twins Territory, and rightfully so. There isn’t much substitution for watching a young arm succeed at the Major League level. It is important to remember that we were right on the edge of Josh Winder possibly being in the same conversation. For as good as Ryan and Ober might be, one could argue that Winder could be the more well-rounded of the trio when it comes to a future in an MLB rotation. I’d put my money on Winder spending Opening Day in St. Paul. That being said, depending on how the Twins address the rest of the rotation it’s not impossible that Winder could win a rotation spot out of Spring Training. He’s the next man up when it comes to the Falvine pitching pipeline, and we likely won’t have to wait too long to see him in Minneapolis. He may not receive the attention of the Chase Pettys of the world, but Winder deserves a lot of credit for his meteoric rise from being a 7th round pick where even decent Minor League careers are far from the norm. Regardless of how the season goes, 2022 will be a fun year when it comes to the pitching pipeline. Expect to see Josh Winder as the first of many to stake their claim in the Twins future rotation. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  16. Before getting started, you can get up to speed on the ground rules, which were covered in the first installment, and also read up on our picks for #11-15. Here are the players we've ranked so far: 20. Matt Canterino, RHP 19. Josh Winder, RHP 18. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP 17. Gilberto Celestino, CF 16. Chase Petty, RHP 15. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B 14. Jhoan Duran, RHP 13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP 12. Trevor Larnach, OF 11. Luis Arraez, UTIL From there, we crack into the top 10. Top 20 Twins Assets of 2022: 6 through 10 10. Ryan Jeffers, C 2021 Ranking: 7 Two-way catchers are among the most valuable commodities in baseball. It's not yet clear that Jeffers will be one, but his young major-league career has offered promising signs. Defensively, Jeffers established himself as a strong pitcher framer and good overall backstop. His instincts and reaction speed enable him to make special plays. He seems to have the confidence of the pitching staff – no small feat for a 24-year-old who went from college to the majors in two years. Offensively, his rushed development has been evident. After an impressive rookie showing in 2020, Jeffers saw his OPS drop by 120 points as lacking plate discipline derailed his production. But while the .199 average and .270 on-base percentage were tough to stomach, Jeffers kept bringing the power with 14 home runs in 85 games. At worst, Jeffers looks like a good defensive catcher who can take one deep here and there. (A poor man's Salvador Perez, perhaps?) If he can evolve a bit in the batter's box, he'll become a highly coveted asset – the heralded two-way catcher. It's important to keep in mind Jeffers' age and experience; when Mitch Garver was 24, he was posting a .688 OPS in Single-A. 9. Max Kepler, RF 2021 Ranking: 3 Kepler is an average hitter and an elite defensive right fielder with a very favorable contract. That combination would have more value to a lot of other teams than it does to the Twins, who wouldn't mind spending on an outfielder and already have a top-notch defender in center. A persistent inability to turn the corner offensively – outside of a short-lived breakout in 2019 – has made Kepler a frustrating player to follow. But when you look past that, he's an excellent athlete and quality regular, still a year short of 30 and under team control at reasonable rates for the next two seasons, with a $10M option in 2024. 8. Mitch Garver, C 2021 Ranking: 8 Garver's struggles with the bat in 2020 carried over into the beginning of 2021, where he slashed .151/.196/.321 through 17 games while striking out half the time. As the catcher's incredible 2019 faded further from view, many began to wonder if his approach was broken. Maybe it was, but Garver fixed it in a hurry. He homered twice in his last game of April, and pretty much never looked back, hitting .292/.406/.584 with 11 homers and 12 doubles in 51 games the rest of the way. Garver rediscovered his plate discipline, and as soon as that happened, he got back to dominating and basically out-homering the world (on a per-rate basis). It was a second consecutive season for Garver that was cut short by injuries. The punishment he's taken behind the plate, along with the increasingly evident need to have his bat in the lineup, could compel the Twins to start shifting Garver to different positions more. But that needs to be weighed against the tremendous advantage gained by writing him in at catcher. Since 2019 Garver ranks second among all MLB backstops in wOBA (min. 500 PA). He'd be higher on this list if not for his waning team control, with free agency only two seasons away. 7. Joe Ryan, RHP 2021 Ranking: NR Managing to secure Ryan in exchange for Nelson Cruz ahead of the trade deadline was a nifty bit of work by the front office, and one that probably doesn't get talked about often enough. As a 40-year-old designated hitter approaching free agency, Cruz had limited value, but the Twins leveraged Tampa's situation and were able to add an asset that immediately becomes a key part of their plans. The 25-year-old Ryan dominated at Triple-A this year, and translated his performance to the majors. In five starts for the Twins, he struck out six times as many batters as he walked, and allowed only 16 hits in 26 ⅓ innings. The right-hander cemented his spot in a needy rotation, and he's lined up to be an inexpensive fixture for years to come. All in return for an aging and expensive DH who didn't really help the Rays that much, and is now a free agent. In terms of asset upgrades, it doesn't get much better than what the Twins pulled off here. 6. Bailey Ober, RHP 2021 Ranking: NR Like Ryan, Ober is a newcomer to the rankings and finds himself near the top. But unlike Ryan, he's not a newcomer to the system. The former 12th-round draft pick boosted his stock immensely over the past couple years by significantly increasing his velocity to shed the "soft-tossing" label. Aided by a more effective fastball, which plays up from his 6-foot-9 frame, Ober was highly impressive as a rookie. There was nothing particularly fluky about his performance for the Twins, although home runs were a bit of a recurring issue. He looks the part of a mid-rotation staple, and a guy you'd feel okay about starting in the playoffs. We've seen how difficult it is for the Twins to acquire impact pitching via free agency. Developing cost-controlled arms is instrumental to this front office's vision for success. That's why Ober and Ryan rank so highly on this list: the team's fate (especially in the short-term) is tied to them. Check back in on Wednesday when we wrap up these rankings with our picks for the top 5! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. In 2021, 10 Twins made their Major League debuts with various amounts of success. Nonetheless, a lot of these guys could play major roles in contributing to the future success of the team. Let’s see how they did. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Even though Alex Kirilloff played a game in the playoffs in 2020, he didn’t officially make his major league debut until April 14, 2021. Kirilloff had a rough start at the plate, going 0-for-15 to start his career despite some bad batted-ball luck. In April, Kirilloff’s xSLG was an otherworldly .825 but his actual slugging percentage was only .400. His average exit velocity was 95.4 MPH in April and 93 MPH in May. However, on May 5, the Twins placed Kirilloff on the IL because of a wrist injury. Kirilloff returned to the lineup on May 21 and was not the same the rest of the season, only hitting .260/.316/.387 the rest of the year. On July 21, it was announced that Kirilloff would undergo season-ending wrist surgery. In 2021, Kirilloff hit .251/.299/.423 (.722) but a lot of that was impacted by his nagging wrist injury. Lately, Kirilloff has been taking batting practice and should be ready to go for the 2022 season. Kirilloff remains an extremely promising player and should be a middle-of-the-order bat for the Twins for years to come. Grade: B Ben Rortvedt, C After Ryan Jeffers started the season 5-for-34 with 18 strikeouts and only one extra base hit, the Twins called up left-handed hitting Ben Rortvedt to back up Mitch Garver. On April 30, Rortvedt made his major league debut against the Kansas City Royals, going 1-for-3 with a walk. He recorded his first major league hit in the bottom of the eighth inning, hitting an RBI single off of Wade Davis to drive in Andrelton Simmons. Rortvedt was unimpressive at the plate in 2021, hitting .169/.229/.281 (.510) with three home runs in 98 plate appearances. Behind the plate, Rortvedt was a very good catcher. In only 256 innings, Rortvedt was worth five Defensive Runs Saved. This ranked 19th in all of MLB, and nobody else in the top 30 had less than 300 innings. Rortvedt also has a very good arm, throwing out 7 of 16 potential base stealers (44 percent). That was fourth in all of MLB among catchers with at least 200 innings. Rortvedt was a very good defensive catcher with subpar offensive abilities. If he can take a step forward with his bat, he has the potential to be an important part of the Twins future, especially if the Twins decide to trade Garver or Jeffers to acquire starting pitching. Grade: C Nick Gordon, UTIL Growing up in a baseball family, Nick Gordon had lofty expectations since being drafted in the first round by the Twins in 2014. Since then, he has had struggles with health and he became a bit of an afterthought in terms of Twins prospects. So when he made his Major League debut on May 6th, it was a feel good story for all. In his first plate appearance, he walked and then stole second on the next pitch. In his next plate appearance, he roped a single to right field for his first major league hit and then stole second base five pitches later. Gordon struck out his next plate appearance before being lifted for Jorge Polanco in the 8th inning. Gordon finished the day 1-for-2 with a walk and two stolen bases. On June 4, Gordon hit his first big league homer with his dad in the stands. Gordon was below-average with the bat, hitting .240/.292/.355 (.647). As the season progressed, Gordon greatly improved offensively. In September and October, Gordon had an OPS of .752 and a wRC+ of 103, meaning he was slightly above average in those months. He also was hitting the ball harder as the season progressed. Below is a graph of his hard hit rate by month. All season, Gordon’s hard hit rate hovered around 45 percent but in September it jumped to 63 percent. This is very encouraging to see from a young player. Gordon also was very versatile and showed he could move around the diamond which can be very beneficial for a team. He played at least 10 games at shortstop, second base, left field, and center field. He was also a good baserunner, going 10-for11 on stolen bases. He was in the 71st percentile of all players in sprint speed. Gordon could be a valuable asset for the Twins going forward if he continues to build off of his strong September and continues to be versatile. Grade: C+ Trevor Larnach, OF Ever since they drafted Trevor Larnach with the 20th overall pick in the 2018 draft, the Twins have had high expectations for him. After an impressive 2019 season between High-A and AA, Larnach has looked ready for the big leagues. He finally got his wish on May 8th, when he was the starting left fielder against the Detroit Tigers. Larnach didn’t exactly have a debut to remember, going 0-for-4 with a hit-by-pitch. Larnach picked up his first hit on May 12, when he doubled off of former Twin Liam Hendriks. Larnach got off to a good start in the big leagues, hitting .262/.357/.436 with a 120 wRC+ through July 9. After that date, Larnach was abysmal at the plate. From that point on he had a wRC+ of 29 and struck out in 42 percent of his plate appearances. He was not a great hitter against offspeed pitches. Among all MLB hitters with at least 50 plate appearances, Larnach had the highest whiff rate against sliders (56 percent) and the highest whiff rate against changeups (52 percent). The good news is that Larnach hit .362 with a .667 slugging percentage against fastballs. Teams figured out he had issues against offspeed and started throwing over 50 percent of pitches as offspeed pitches. Larnach showed some flashes of being a great hitter (max exit velocity in the 97th percentile), so if he adjusts to offspeed pitches he will be a cornerstone of the Twins lineup for years to come Grade: B- Bailey Ober, RHP At 6 feet 9 inches, Bailey Ober is the third tallest pitcher in Twins history behind Jon Rauch and Aaron Slegers. Ober and his imposing presence first appeared in the big leagues on May 18 against the Chicago White Sox. Ober went four innings, allowing four runs on five hits and one walk. He gave up home runs to Jake Lamb and Yasmani Grandal and struck out four. He got a no-decision and the Twins ended up winning 5-4 behind three Miguel Sano home runs. Ober made 20 starts in his rookie season, going 3-3 with a 4.19 ERA. Ober threw 92 innings and had a team high 5.05 K/BB ratio. This ratio was fifth best in the American League. Ober was in the 94th percentile of all pitchers in terms of walk rate and in the 85th percentile in terms of chase rate. Ober hardly threw pitches outside of the zone but when he did, hitters chased them at a high rate. Ober’s average fastball in 2021 was only 92 miles per hour, but his big frame causes the batters to have less reaction time because the ball is being released at around 52 feet from home plate, almost a foot closer than the average pitcher releases it from. This creates the illusion that Ober’s fastball is moving faster than it actually is. Despite having below average stuff (percentile rankings below), Ober’s large frame elevates him to being a good pitcher (102 ERA+) and if Ober can improve his stuff in the coming years he could be a fantastic pitcher for the Twins. Grade: A- Gilberto Celestino, OF With injuries to Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jake Cave, and Rob Refsnyder early in 2021, the Twins needed a center fielder. They decided to call up Gilberto Celestino from AA, and he made his major league debut on June 2 against the Orioles. Celestino had a rather uneventful debut, going 0-for-2 with a strikeout in a 6-3 loss. Celestino recorded his first major league hit on June 9 against the Yankees. Over the 2021 season, Celestino mightily struggled at the plate with the Twins, hitting .136/.177/.288 (.466). It was clear Celestino was overmatched at the big league level, so they sent him down to AAA St. Paul after 22 games, and he hit well at the AAA level, having a wRC+ of 125 in 49 games there. In retrospect, Celestino wasn’t ready for the big leagues but is still a good ball player. Having some big league experience under his belt will help him going forward, and he could be Byron Buxton’s primary backup going forward so we probably will be seeing Celestino in the big leagues again at some point in 2022. Grade: D Griffin Jax, RHP On June 8, Griffin Jax made history. He became the first Air Force Academy graduate to play Major League Baseball. Jax was used in a mop-up role against the Yankees in the 9th inning when the Twins were down 5-3. Jax did not have a very good debut, going one inning while allowing three runs on home runs from Miguel Andujar and Gary Sanchez. He did record his first big league strikeout when he struck out Tyler Wade on a 2-2 slider. In 2021, Griffin Jax had a tough rookie season. He went 4-5 with a 6.37 ERA. He allowed 2.52 HR/ 9 innings which was the highest among all MLB pitchers (minimum 60 innings). That number is also the highest for a single season in Twins history (min. 60 IP). The big problem was his fastball. Jax’s fastball was the fifth worst fastball in all of baseball in terms of xSLG. Jax’s fastball got crushed in 2021, but he continued to throw it almost 50 percent of the time. Jax’s slider, on the other hand, could be a very good pitch. Jax’s .271 xwOBA against the slider is good and signals that it is a pitch he should be throwing more than just 30 percent of the time, maybe up to 50 percent. Despite a bad 2021, Jax could bounce back by relying more on his off-speed pitches and revamping his pitch arsenal going into 2022. Grade: D Charlie Barnes, LHP Charlie Barnes made his major league debut in the first game of a July 17 doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers. After the first batter he faced (Robbie Grossman) went deep, Barnes was very good. Barnes went 4 2/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits and a walk while striking out one. He recorded his first major league strikeout in the second inning when he struck out Zack Short on a changeup. In Barnes’s rookie season, he went 0-3 with a 5.92 ERA. Barnes made eight starts for the Twins and threw 38 total innings. Barnes bounced back and forth between the Twins and the minor leagues quite a bit, so he never really got the chance to establish himself at the big league level. On December 23, Barnes signed with the Lotte Giants in Korea, so we wish him the best of luck in Korea as he pursues professional baseball there. Grade: D Joe Ryan, RHP Any prospect who yields a player as good as Nelson Cruz should be good enough to make an impact in the big leagues for a long time. On September 1st, Joe Ryan gave us a taste of what he will be like for years to come. Ryan had a solid major league debut, going five innings, allowing three runs on three hits and a walk while striking out five batters. He got his first career strikeout in the first inning when he struck out Ian Happ with a high fastball. Ryan had a solid debut season for the Twins, only throwing 26 innings, but going 2-1 with a 4.05 ERA. However, Ryan had some bad luck, as his xERA was 2.99. He also had 10.1 K/9 and only 1.7 BB/9. This 10.1 K/9 rate is the highest by any rookie starter in Twins history (min. 25 IP). Ryan relied on a very good high fastball/slider combination to get strikeouts. Going into 2022, Ryan is one of three starters the Twins have in the rotation. His role on the team will depend on if the Twins make any more pitching acquisitions, but expect Ryan to be a fixture in the Twins rotation next year. Grade: A- Jovani Moran, LHP Jovani Moran was very limited in year one, but he should be a fixture in the Twins bullpen in years to come. Moran made his major league debut on September 12 and went 1 1/3 innings, allowing no runs on two hits and two walks while striking out two batters. He collected his first major league strikeout when he got Nicky Lopez to chase a devastating changeup. Jovani Moran only threw eight innings for the Twins in 2021, and at first glance you wouldn’t think he was very good. He had an ERA of 7.88 and walked seven guys in eight innings. If you look deeper, Moran was unlucky. He had an xERA of 3.84, meaning he had some awful batted-ball luck. He also throws one of the best swing-and-miss pitches in the Twins organization, a disgusting changeup. His whiff rate on that pitch was an astounding 51.4 percent, meaning that over half of the swings on that pitch were misses. This changeup whiff rate was the fourth highest for any pitcher in the league. Moran was impressive in his limited work in 2021, and I am excited to see him and his changeup in the 2022 bullpen. Grade: B Final Thoughts Despite a rough season, the Twins gave us a glimpse into their future. We saw a lot to like out of some of the Twins young players in 2021 and if these players can take a step forward in 2022 and continue to develop, the Twins should be able to contend for the AL Central in the near future. What do you think of these grades? How would you grade these players for their rookie seasons? Which of these players are you most excited to watch in 2022? Who is the most likely of these players to succeed going forward? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Thank you for reading, and Go Twins!
  18. The Minnesota Twins pitching staff was 24th in baseball when combining all arms, and the starters alone were a spot lower at 25th. There’s no denying that the group needs to be much better, and right now, the group is made up of three arms. There’s more depth behind them, and there’s a man in charge that once led a strong rotation. That’s where much of this focus should come. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober These two need to establish that they are solid major-league starters. They looked the part a year ago, and continuing that growth in 2022 is a must. Ryan made just a handful of starts but held his own, even looking dominant at times. Ober saw teams multiple times and was able to make adjustments. When looking at the farm last winter, both would have been unexpected contributors, and that’s the kind of breakouts any organization loves to have. Dylan Bundy Proving he’s not 2021 bad would be a great start. The former top prospect is not the 3.29 ERA he posted in 2020, but he’s also not the 6.06 ERA he had a season ago. For what Minnesota paid him, and where the Twins need him in the rotation, Bundy being a low 4.00 ERA guy is a must. The strikeouts need to move back up over one per inning and allowing two longballs per nine can’t continue to be a thing. There’s a solid pitcher here and maybe a very good one in terms of a mid-rotation arm. Find that. Wes Johnson Back to the overall numbers of this starting staff. Johnson coached his group last season to the fifth-worst finish in baseball. In 2020, the Twins staff was the third-best. In 2019, the rotation came in fourth. Johnson has shown an ability to work with pitchers and get the most out of them. Michael Pineda became arguably the best version of himself, Kenta Maeda took steps forward, and something was made out of nothing in a couple of situations. Johnson is seen as a velocity savant but can impact much more than that. Minnesota may have the least talented group they’ve had during his tenure when 2022 starts, but Wes getting more out of each of them remains a must. Randy Dobnak You don’t make it to the majors by mistake, and you certainly don’t start a Postseason game by luck. Dobnak’s 7.64 ERA last season was as much his ineffectiveness as it was Minnesota’s indecisiveness. Having worked entirely as a starter during 2020, Dobnak was used as one in less than half his appearances a year ago. The talk of velocity boosts and missed bats in Spring Training was never present, and I’d imagine his confidence was consistently shaken with no set role. Work him back as a starter, implore him to get the job done, and utilize him the same way that bore fruit previously. Stay tuned for the next installment, where the bullpen comes under fire. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  19. Current Starting Pitchers: Dylan Bundy, Bailey Ober, Joe Ryan, Randy Dobnak, Lewis Thorpe Two young pitchers and three pitchers that struggled last season isn't the recipe needed for a last-place team trying to rebound. Bundy certainly has some intrigue, especially when looking back to his 2020 season. If the Twins can work with his pitch mix, he may improve enough to be a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. He's the most veteran pitcher on the staff, so there is a possibility the team adds other arms before Opening Day. Ober and Ryan were terrific during their first taste of the big leagues. Many were surprised by Ober's ability to pound the strike zone and work quickly. Ryan's unique fastball made it challenging for hitters to adjust, and he looks to be part of the team's long-term plans. Expectations need to be tempered with both pitchers because there will likely be some growing pains during their sophomore seasons. Last winter, Minnesota signed Dobnak to a unique extension, and then he proceeded to have his worst professional season. The Twins tried to use him in the bullpen to start the year, which was just the start of his season-long issues. Thorpe was limited to less than 40 innings last year, and he struggled at multiple levels. He's out of minor-league options, so he will have to earn a rotation spot this spring, or the team can try him in a bullpen role. 40-Man Roster Options Many of Minnesota's top pitching prospects are scheduled to spend time at Triple-A, and that might be one reason the club didn't spend big money on free agent pitching this winter. Top prospects Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Josh Winder, and Cole Sands are all on the 40-man roster and project to spend time in St. Paul. All four of these arms ranked in the team's top-20 prospects in the second half of the season. Griffin Jax has big-league experience, making him a depth option if some of the top prospects aren't ready. Minnesota acquired Drew Strotman and Ryan as part of the Nelson Cruz trade. One of the reasons the Twins acquired him was because he is close to big-league ready. Other players on the 40-man roster include Chris Vallimont and Blayne Enlow. Vallimont posted a 6.03 ERA in 21 Double-A starts last season, so it seems likely for him to get a repeat trip with Wichita. In June, Blayne Enlow underwent Tommy John surgery, so he won't be back into game action until later this summer. This winter, Minnesota had a tough decision regarding adding Enlow to the 40-man roster, but he can eventually be moved to the 60-day IL to open an additional roster spot. On the Farm Options Not all of the players listed below are guaranteed to be on the team's roster at the start of next season. Still, it offers some insight into the organization's starting pitching depth. Minnesota has multiple starting pitching options populating the rosters throughout the minor leagues. At Triple-A, there are multiple players with big-league experience. Jake Faria received a non-roster invite when Minnesota signed him at the beginning of December. Devin Smeltzer was removed from the 40-man roster after injuries limited him to one appearance in 2021. Charlie Barnes posted a 3.79 ERA with a 1.28 in 16 Triple-A starts. Bryan Sammons and Austin Schulfer are both Rule 5 eligible but can slot into roles with St. Paul if they stay in the organization. Some of the team's other top-pitching prospects are penciled in for Double-A. Minnesota acquired Simeon Woods Richardson as part of the Jose Berrios trade. As a 20-year-old, he spent all of 2021 at Double-A and played in the Olympics. The Twins selected Matt Canterino in the second round back in 2019, but he was limited to six starts last season because of an elbow strain. Louie Varland finished the year at High-A, and he will be looking to build off his breakout 2021 season. There are some other names to watch in the minor's lower levels. Much of the organization's 2019 draft class projects to be at High-A, including Cody Laweryson, Sean Mooney, and Sawyer Gipson-Long. Laweryson was young for Cedar Rapids last season, and he posted a 3.86 ERA in the Arizona Fall League. In 13 starts, Mooney posted a 2.79 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP. Gipson-Long struck out over 12 batters per nine innings at Low- and High-A in 2021. Steve Hajjar and Cade Povich were top-100 draft picks in 2021. Hajjar was one of the Big Ten's best pitchers in 2021, and that's why the Twins took him with the 61st pick. He has yet to make his professional debut. Povich dominated in his four starts after being drafted as he allowed one earned run and struck out more than 17 batters per nine innings. Their college experience can help to make them fast risers next season. Marco Raya and Chase Petty are two young pitchers to watch with the FCL Twins. Minnesota drafted Raya in the 4th round back in 2020 out of high school in Texas. Petty was the Twins 2021 first-round pick out of high school in New Jersey. Raya has yet to make a professional appearance, and Petty made two appearances after signing last year. Besides the names mentioned here, many other pitchers at each level can impact the upcoming season. Overall, Minnesota's current starting rotation doesn't look built for a playoff run, but 2022 may be set up for the young pitching core to debut. What do you think about the organization's starting pitching depth? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES — Catchers — First Base — Second Base — Third Base — Shortstop — Center Field — Corner Outfield
  20. 2021 Recap Last season, Bailey Ober surprised many during his rookie campaign. He made 20 starts and posted a 4.19 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP and 9.4 K/9. He was a welcome addition to a Twins rotation that needed plenty of replacements in the season's second half. Twins Daily named him the club's Rookie of the Year, even in a season that saw top prospects like Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach make their debuts. Joe Ryan was one of the key pieces Minnesota received in return for Nelson Cruz. With the Twins, he made five starts and posted a 4.05 ERA with a 0.79 WHIP and 10.1 K/9. His numbers look even better if you take out his final start, where he allowed six earned runs over 4 2/3 innings. He pounded the strike zone with over 70% strike rate and held batters to a .168/.210/.347 slash line. It was a small sample size, but the results were impressive. Minor League Retrospective Minnesota selected Ober with their 12th round pick back in 2017 out of the College of Charleston. Back in 2019, he posted some very impressive numbers between three different levels in the Twins system. Ober finished that season with a 0.69 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP with 100 strikeouts in 78 2/3 innings. It certainly put him on the prospect map entering the 2021 season. Ryan joined the Twins from the pitching-rich Tampa Bay organization. Initially, the Rays selected him with their 7th round pick back in 2018. He dominated at three different levels in 2019 with a 1.96 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP while striking out 13.3 batters per nine innings. Baseball America named him a top-100 prospect entering the 2020 campaign. Ober and Ryan have impressive numbers, but neither player has thrown more than 125 innings in any professional season. Ober's career-high was last season when he combined for 108 1/3 innings between Triple-A and the majors. Ryan threw 123 2/3 innings back in 2019 and, like Ober, didn't pitch at all in 2020. Last year, Ryan compiled 66 innings in the minors to go with his 26 2/3 innings with the Twins. Both pitchers are expected to throw more innings next season, but they don't seem likely to approach 180+ innings. Projecting the 2022 Campaign Multiple projection systems can help fans better understand what to expect from Ober and Ryan next season. FanGraphs lists Ober's Steamer projection has him making 28 starts and pitching 158 innings with a 4.51 ERA and 157 strikeouts. Baseball-Reference projects Ober to throw 106 innings with a 4.16 ERA and 109 strikeouts. Both of those outcomes seem reasonable, but getting to 160 innings pitched should be one of Ober's goals. Ryan is a little harder to project because it's uncertain what the Twins will do this winter. Does he start the year in the minors? Steamer projections have him throwing 166 innings with a 4.36 ERA and 173 strikeouts. That seems like a big jump in innings for a young pitcher. Baseball-Reference goes the opposite direction in their projection model, with Ryan limited to 73 innings. During those innings, they project him having a 4.19 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP and 76 strikeouts. Minnesota needs plenty of starting pitching depth for 2022, but Ober and Ryan's expectations need to be kept in check for both players. Neither player should be relied on as a top of the rotation starter, especially based on their limited big-league track record. What do you think realistic expectations should be for Ober and Ryan in 2022? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or emai
  21. It was some surprise last November when Bailey Ober was one of three players added to the Twins 40-man roster. It wasn't surprising based on his statistics. He had dominated at High-A and Double-A in 2019 to the tune of 100 strikeouts and nine walks in 78 2/3 innings. He was 8-0 with a 0.69 ERA. However, in 2020, he had a missed season. He didn't participate in the Twins 60-player pool at the alternate site in St. Paul. He didn't participate in the November Instructional League either. While we can all question the decisions to not protect players like Akil Baddoo, Tyler Wells, Jose Miranda and even Sam Clay, the Twins should get credited for protecting Bailey Ober. And Ober made the decision too really good. After starting the season with four starts in St. Paul (16 IP, 2.81 ERA, 5 BB, 21 K), he earned his first big-league promotion and made his debut on May 18th against the White Sox. He was briefly optioned back to St. Paul, but he was with the Twins from June through the remainder of the season. In 20 starts, he went 3-3 with a 4.19 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. In 92 1/3 innings, he walked just 19 batters and struck out 96 batters. He became the team's most consistent, reliable starters. Just as important, he remained healthy through the remainder of the season. Following the season, he was "handed" the Twins Daily Best Rookie Award and finished second in Top Pitcher voting. What a year it was for Bailey Ober, and we will discuss it with him tonight! Join us as we go live at 6:00 pm central time. You can participate by sending your questions. We'll cover a ton of topics over about 20-25 minutes. ------------------------------------------------------------------- Please watch LIVE tonight at 6:00 pm (central time) on the Twins Daily Twitter, Facebook or YouTube pages live. Also feel free to ask questions in the comments below or on those platforms during the show and we'll ask them. Subscribe to the Twins Daily podcast on Libsyn, Apple iTunes or anywhere you download podcasts. Here is the YouTube link where you can watch the show live, or later. For more on Bailey Ober: Follow him on Instagram at @oberbailey. Follow him on Twitter at @baileyOB_17. Click here for Twins Daily articles on Bailey Ober. Ober was a guest last November, days after he was added to the Twins 40-man roster. You can watch that episode now: Previous Episodes Click here to see more previous episodes of Twins Spotlight. Episode 36: Jose Miranda Episode 37: Kala'i Rosario
  22. As the season turned pear-shaped on the Rocco Baldelli led Twins, it became about building for the future. The hope would be a turnaround in 2022, but we have yet to see how the front office will architect the path forward. For now, these are a few key things that Minnesota fans can count as worthy of thanks. The Opportunity to Pay Byron Buxton There’s plenty of reason to be sad about Byron Buxton routinely falling short of completing an entire season. His injury issues have been well documented, and while some have been undoubtedly fluky, others are a microcosm of the tenacity with which he plays the game. Regardless of his health, it’s become wildly apparent that Minnesota’s centerfielder is among the best players in the game. He posted a 4.2 fWAR in just 61 games this season which totals out to an 11.1 fWAR per 162 game pace. Trea Turner’s 6.9 fWAR paced baseball this season, and only 19 players in history have ever surpassed 11.1 fWAR in a single season. The caveat on Buxton is availability, but that’s also the sole reason he’s even an option for the Twins future. If Buxton was healthy and playing at the level he is, a $300 million contract could be waiting for him from a host of suitors immediately upon hitting the open market. Derek Falvey is afforded the opportunity to get an otherworldly talent at a discount entirely because of his injury history. The Twins would have an option to trade Buxton whether they found themselves able to pay him or not, but retaining his services isn’t something this organization should be in a position to do. They are and would be wise to capitalize on it. The Development of Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan If there’s something that failed Baldelli this season, it was the pitching staff. Starters flopped, then the bullpen flopped, then they took turns. Minnesota has to see development going forward on the bump, and that process started with the emergence of both Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan. The former was an internal draft selection that had quietly risen the ranks and earned his due. Ober’s ability is not a mistake, and as he reached the upper levels, it became clear he had the stuff to compete in the big leagues. The latter was an absolute coup of a return in exchange for just months of Nelson Cruz. Ryan looked the part of a top-half starter, and Minnesota needs arms to restock the rotation. There has to be another wave coming for the Twins, and some of their top prospects find themselves housed in that group. Being able to benefit from previously unexpected sources is a massive boost. Either Ryan or Ober would be the front runner to start on Opening Day as things stand, but that should change before the regular season. The Debut of Nick Gordon I’m not sure what expectations should have been for Gordon at this point, but the debut in the big leagues was a feel-good story. As a former first-round pick, he’s lost luster as much more than a regular contributor. For the Twins, that may be a stretch, but he should have the chops to be a utility man at the very least. After suffering through stomach issues, Covid, missed action, and a plethora of other complications, seeing Gordon take the field in Minnesota was worthy of a big smile. He made a solid impression showing an ability to play all over the diamond, but there are still questions about his bat. His minor league track record has displayed an ability to improve in the second year of a specific level. If that can stick in the big leagues, expecting more in 2022 is a fair bet. Gordon will need to hit for average, and while power will never be his game, there’s also the speed asset on the base paths. A long-term home may not be in this organization, but he’s begun to carve out a Major League role. The Emergence of Jose Miranda It was supposed to be Royce Lewis, and then it was supposed to be Jhoan Duran or Jordan Balazovic. The Twins top prospects were all expected to show out after being hidden commodities during the lost season. None of those realities truly came to fruition, however, and Jose Miranda took the spotlight. This didn’t come entirely out of nowhere, as he was a second-round pick back in 2016. In 2019 though, Miranda posted just a .671 OPS across 119 games. After going unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, he turned on the rocket boosters. This season, Miranda picked up the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year award and continued his dominance through Triple-A. He looks big-league ready and should be able to contribute on both sides of the diamond. Power potential plays, as does a greatly-improved discipline at the plate, and while his path for playing time is cloudy, I wouldn’t bet against him forcing the Twins hand. The Health of Jorge Polanco In 2019, Jorge Polanco blasted 22 dingers and posted an .841 OPS while being miscast as a shortstop for the Twins. He flopped hard last season and struggled to the tune of a .658 OPS. Now with healthy ankles after another offseason surgery, Polanco has slid over to second base, and he turned in the most complete season of his career. Minnesota opted to bring in a true shortstop affording Polanco both health and defensive focus. He responded with an .826 OPS and a career-high 33 home runs. He’s still settling into the new position defensively, but it suits his arm strength much more favorably, and he’s among the best hitters in the majors at the position. In 2019, Minnesota extended Polanco, and now those vesting options in 2024 and 2025 look much more desirable than they did coming off of last season's results. Again, the season couldn’t have gone more awry than it did in the results column, but these are just a few takeaways that should have Twins fans thankful for 2022 and beyond. For More Twins content: — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  23. Considerations: Expectations Projections Results Injury Leverage/Value *MINIMUM 50 INNINGS TO QUALIFY* KENTA MAEDA 2021: 21 starts, 106 1/3 IP, 4.66 ERA (91 ERA+), 25% K, 7% BB After a career year in 2020, expectations were through the roof for Kenta Maeda in 2021. He was now the clear No. 1 on the staff, with PECOTA projecting him to be the third most valuable pitcher (by WARP) in the American League, behind only Shane Bieber and Gerrit Cole. PECOTA cast him as a top-six starter in all of baseball, ahead of aces Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, and Corbin Burnes. It was apparent from Opening Day that wasn’t going to happen. Maeda’s command was faulty for much of the first half, contributing to a 5.56 ERA in his first 12 starts. His fastball velocity was down an entire tick from 2020, a key warning sign for his eventual elbow surgery. Before he was pulled for good at Yankee Stadium, Maeda was on an eight-start stretch where he posted a 2.98 ERA, 3.08 FIP, and a 4:1 strikeout-to-walk rate, in line with 2020. He was replicating the dominance, but it wouldn’t last long. Maeda underwent Tommy John surgery on September 1st, knocking him out until next June at the absolute earliest. It was an injury-riddled, forgettable season for Maeda, although he did pitch well for much of his second half. GRADE: C- JOSÉ BERRÍOS 2021 (with Twins): 20 starts, 121 2/3 IP, 3.48 ERA (122 ERA+), 25.7% K, 6.5% BB For the first time since his breakout in 2017, Berríos entered the season as the Twins’ second-best starter. He dazzled the Milwaukee Brewers in the second game of the year, pitching six perfect innings and further flashing his immense talent. Would this be his Cy Young tour? It wasn’t, but Berríos was still very good for the Twins. He replicated his numbers to this point of his career, which paints him as one of the best 20 or 30 starters in baseball. Berríos carried the Twins’ rotation through injuries and ineffectiveness, leading the team in innings despite being traded in July. José’s 2021 season, along with his career as a Twin, will be remembered in a very positive way. He’s the Twins’ best homegrown pitcher since Johan Santana, and he regularly gave them a chance to win. GRADE: B+ MICHAEL PINEDA 2021: 21 starts, 109 1/3 IP, 3.62 ERA (117 ERA+), 19.2% K, 4.6% BB We won’t know the full effects of the 2020 Covid season for quite some time, but it impacted Pineda. Because of his suspension, he pitched only 26 2/3 game innings from September of 2019 to April of 2021. On the one hand, Pineda barely surpassed 100 innings and required numerous IL stints throughout the year. His fastball velocity was down, and his strikeout rate was the lowest of his career. But here’s the beauty with him: it often doesn’t matter. He gets outs. Pineda was solidly above league-average with depleted stuff and ranked 20th in ERA+ (117) among 64 American League pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. Pineda was also outstanding in September, posting a 1.85 ERA in five Twins wins. The righty could return for another run if both sides see fit. GRADE: B MATT SHOEMAKER 2021: 11 starts, 60 1/3 IP, 8.06 ERA (53 ERA+), 14.1% K, 9.5% BB It may be hard to believe, but Shoemaker’s $2 million deal with the Twins initially looked savvy. He had a track record of injuries but also of success. Shoemaker entered the year with a career 103 ERA+, placing him above league average in over 600 innings. It was a reasonable plan: get as many quality innings as possible from Shoemaker and replace him with Randy Dobnak if need be. Great in theory, awful in practice. Shoemaker exploded after a strong debut in Detroit, allowing 53 runs over his next 54 1/3 innings. Shoemaker allowed opponents to hit .297/.367/.537 with 15 homers in just over 60 innings. His opponent’s OPS of .903 matches Kirby Puckett’s All-Star campaign in 1986, when he won the Silver Slugger award and finished sixth for MVP. Woof. GRADE: F- J.A. HAPP 2021: 19 starts, 98 1/3 IP, 6.77 ERA (63 ERA+), 17.3% K, 7% BB The J.A. Happ signing is an excellent example of ceiling and floor. The Twins inked Happ with an expectation of 150 innings of decent ball. Happ owned a 3.74 ERA in over 900 innings since 2015, so the veteran seemed like a sure thing. “Happer" was off and running with a sterling 1.91 ERA and .509 opponent’s OPS over his first five starts. With Alexander Colomé struggling, Matt Shoemaker matching him, and Andrelton Simmons middling, did the Twins make the right call on Happ? Oh, no, no, no. Unfortunately, the declining strikeout rates and fastball velocity were indeed an omen. The towering lefty got crushed by the White Sox in his next start and never looked back. From that point on, Happ allowed 92 runs in 124 innings. The Twins needed him, and he responded by allowing 28 homers, or over two per nine innings. Happ was slightly better than Shoemaker but did his damage over a larger sample. He was traded for RHP John Gant at the deadline. GRADE: F- BAILEY OBER 2021: 20 starts, 92 1/3 IP, 4.19 ERA (102 ERA+), 25.3% K, 5% BB Let’s get back on track with a promising rookie. Any reasonable expectation for Ober’s 2021 likely involved a late-September call-up, despite awe-inspiring numbers in the minors and increased velocity. Ober blew that out of the water. He had a 5.84 ERA after six starts, but his response was everything. Ober emerged as the Twins’ best starter with a 3.59 ERA and .282 opponent’s On-Base Percentage over his final 14 starts. Ober shut down prolific offenses along the way. He held the Red Sox scoreless at Fenway, stymied the White Sox at Target Field, and finished his campaign with five-plus great innings against a desperate and outstanding Blue Jays lineup. For someone who very few even mentioned among the Twins’ best handful of pitching prospects, he did pretty well. Most impressively, Ober still posted a better-than-average ERA despite allowing more homers (20) than walks (19). There’s room for growth. GRADE: A RANDY DOBNAK 2021: 6 starts, 14 games, 50 2/3 IP, 7.64 ERA (56 ERA+), 11.8% K, 5.3% BB "Dobber" signed an extension after shining for much of his first two seasons as a Twin. He posted a 3.12 ERA and 3.56 FIP in a combined 75 innings. In 2020, Dobnak’s sinker had more horizontal movement than any sinker in baseball (min. 300 pitches). You’d have to double the 3.4 inches of break on second-placed Adrian Houser’s sinker (3.4) to even get near Dobnak (7.8). Due to his finger injury or strange usage patterns early in the season, Dobnak never got on track in 2021. He was largely poor out of the bullpen and equally struggled as a starter. He got crushed with a declining groundball and strikeout rate. Hope for Dobnak remains. His sinker movement was still in elite territory but was down significantly from 2020. If he can get healthy and shore up his command, a bounce back in 2022 is definitely in the cards. GRADE: F GRIFFIN JAX 2021: 14 starts, 82 IP, 6.37 ERA (67 ERA+), 18.1% K, 8.1% BB Jax, like Ober, carried little expectations going into the season. He’d posted solid minor league numbers but remained under the radar due to less-than-stellar velocity or strikeout rates. Called up in early June, Jax entered his first four games as a reliever before making his first start on July 3rd in Kansas City. He became a fixture in the rotation, starting 14 games and working through massive home run issues (23 allowed in 82 IP). It’s hard to post a 6.37 ERA and *increase* your stock, but Jax had drastic splits. He held opponents to a .175 average and .597 OPS the first time through the order. This shows that Jax’s stuff can play, just maybe not as a starter. With a slider averaging nearly 3,000 RPMs of spin and a fastball that can reach 95, a future bullpen role looks promising. Spot him up against mostly righties with an exclusive fastball-slider combo and enjoy the results. GRADE: D+ 2021 MINNESOTA TWINS GRADES Starting Pitchers Infielders - Coming Soon! Relief Pitchers - Coming Soon! Outfielders - Coming Soon! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email — For The Locked On Twins Podcast, Click Here
  24. Before diving into Berrios as the award winner, let’s take a look at some of those that finished just short. Nearly Beat Him Bailey Ober 3-3, 4.19 ERA, 92.1 IP, 9.4 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 9.0 H/9, 1.9 HR/9 Coming up just short of picking up a second award in this cycle, Bailey Ober finished only three points behind Berrios in the voting. While the Puerto Rican is no longer with the organization, Ober coincidentally finished 2021 with the same amount of starts, 20. Ober was not a top prospect at any point during his run on the farm, and enough can't be said about the work he put in with no minor league season a year ago. Ober made just four starts for Triple-A St. Paul before being called up by the Twins, and those were to the tune of a 2.81 ERA. Always a high strikeout guy, Ober punched out 11.8 per nine in his 16 innings to earn the big league call. With the Twins, his numbers didn’t slide substantially as he still struck out 9.4 per nine and dropped the walk rate down to 1.9. If there was a bugaboo in his debut season, it was the 1.9 HR/9 that was compiled by allowing 20 dingers in just north of 90 innings pitched. Going into 2022, it’s hard not to look at Ober as the current ace of the staff. With Kenta Maeda on the shelf and Berrios since departed, Ober will be relied on internally when it comes to immediately present options. He put forth an excellent rookie showing, and while the 4.19 ERA may be uninspiring, a guy who’s dealt with injuries looking this good and this healthy is plenty to drool on for Twins brass. Out Of Nowhere Caleb Thielbar 7-0, 3.23 ERA, 64.0 IP, 10.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 7.7 H/9, 1.1 HR/9 In this space, it’s probably a bit weird to see a reliever’s name show up. Someone pitching out of the pen being present probably speaks volumes to the impact starting pitching ultimately had. That said, Thielbar didn’t back in to this space by any means. Nearly retired from baseball and coaching a college team, the Minnesota native emerged in 2020 and substantiated his place this season. Across 64 innings, Thielbar posted a 3.23 ERA and a career-best 10.8 K/9. The soft-tossing lefty became one of Minnesota’s best relief arms and routinely was a guy Rocco Baldelli could turn to in critical spots. Despite never owning a blistering fastball, his stuff produced a career-best 32.3% whiff rate. The eight homers were a bit uncharacteristic for him when considering the career as a whole, but if there’s a step forward taken there in 2022, Minnesota will have created one of baseball’s best relief arms. And The Winner Jose Berrios 7-5, 3.48 ERA, 121.2 IP, 9.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 7.0 H/9, 1.0 HR/9 It’s hard to write about an award that a guy wins when he’s no longer with the organization. It stings a bit more when it’s Jose Berrios. A fan favorite who was drafted, developed and grew up with the Twins. That’s where we are, though, and there’s no denying that he was the best pitcher to throw for Minnesota in 2021. Evidenced by the return Derek Falvey got from the Toronto Blue Jays, it’s plenty apparent that the league thinks highly of the former Twins ace as well. Across 121 2/3 innings, compiled in 20 starts, Berrios posted a 3.48 ERA. His 9.3 K/9 was a slight step backward from 2020, but he remained a pillar of consistency. The 1.04 WHIP was a career-best, and so was the 7.0 H/9. Combined with his time in a Blue Jays uniform, Berrios’ 204 strikeouts were a new career-high, and he was once again in consideration for the American League All-Star team. Although the season didn’t go as planned for the Twins, and that was by no fault of Berrios, he started things well during his debut against Milwaukee. One of the season highlights, Jose punched out 12 Brewers in six no-hit innings. That was quite the opening act and a number he would never match again on the year. Berrios recorded double-digits again when he notched ten strikeouts against the White Sox on July 6. Entering the final season of arbitration eligibility, Berrios is in line for a big payday. Whether that comes with the Blue Jays or someone else on the open market, a season like this will set him up nicely at the negotiating table. As hard as it was to see him go, Berrios being worthy of this honor on the way out means he leaves on the highest of notes. Others Receiving Votes: Taylor Rogers, Michael Pineda, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala, Joe Ryan MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Preorder the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  25. Minnesota saw some solid performances from rookie players this season. However, their current value might not match up perfectly with their long-term value. 5. Bailey Ober, SP Ober was one of the most critical rookies for the 2021 Twins. In fact, earlier this week he was named the team's Best Rookie by Twins Daily. He stepped into the rotation that saw multiple players dealt away at the trade deadline. Ober has never ranked as one of the team’s top prospects, but his 2021 performance proves he can be a back-end of the rotation starter for multiple years. This provides value to the club, especially since the 2022 Twins have many rotational holes to fill. 4. Ryan Jeffers, C Like many Twins players, Jeffers had a disappointing 2021 season, but he is a prime candidate to rebound in 2022. Minnesota drafted Jeffers as a hit-first catcher with defensive skills that the Twins scouts believed in more than national publications. His defense has vastly improved since joining the Twins organization. Also, Jeffers is only 24-years-old, and he won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2024. There is a lot of defensive value associated with catchers, and Jeffers has to be average at the plate to provide long-term value. 3. Joe Ryan, SP Ryan was the top pitching prospect acquired from the Rays for Nelson Cruz, and he was impressive during his first taste of the big leagues. He pitched five innings or more in four of his five starts and allowed three runs or fewer. His most impressive start came in Chicago, where Ryan struck out 11 Cubs batters in five innings. Like Ober, Minnesota likely has Ryan penciled into the back-end of the rotation for 2022, but he has the chance to be a top-half of the rotation starter. 2. Trevor Larnach, OF In his rookie season, things didn’t go perfectly for Larnach. After a strong start, the team demoted him after some mid-season struggles. Things didn’t go much better in St. Paul where he hit .176/.323/.373 (.695) in 14 games. Larnach was a first-round pick for a reason, and he showcased his high-ceiling during the 2019 season when he posted an .842 OPS between High-A and Double-A. That performance led him to be named the 2019 Twins Daily Minor League Player of the Year. He can get back to that level and hit in the middle of the line-up for most of the next decade. 1. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Kirilloff was impressive in the middle months of the season as he posted an OPS of .760 or higher in May and June. In July, a wrist injury sapped some of his power, and he underwent season-ending wrist surgery. MLB Pipeline thinks Kirilloff has one of the highest long-term values among all 2021 rookies. Unfortunately, injuries have been part of his professional career. If Minnesota moves him to first base, he will be an above-average hitter and defender for the majority of his big-league career. How would you rank this year’s rookies when it comes to future value? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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