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  1. Fall/Halloween Roundup Baseball players, they’re just like us, posing in pumpkin patches and dressing up in adorable Halloween costumes. Here’s is a roundup of all of our fall favorites: Cody Stashak is Enjoying the Offseason with his Family and the Cutest Little Pumpkin Kyle Gibson and the Chocolate Factory Josh Donaldson has the Cutest Unicorn Family The Twins’ Uniform is Looking Different Nowadays Byron Buxton watched the Braves in the World Series And spoiler alert, they won! Brent Rooker shared our Daylight Savings woes. Baseball players, they’re just like us And same…. Welcome to Minnesota, Jayce Tingler and David Popkins Jayce Tingler and David Popkins will bring their impressive resumes to Minnesota next season as the Twins’ new bench coach and hitting coach, respectively. They will be replacing the late Mike Bell and Edgar Varela. Tingler comes to Minnesota from the San Diego Padres, where he spent two seasons as their manager. Prior to San Diego, he spent some time as a coach for the Texas Rangers. Popkins comes from the Dodgers organization, where two years coaching for the Arizona Dodgers and the Great Lakes Loons. Check out Aaron & John’s reaction on their latest episode of Gleeman & the Geek. Cody Laweryson is a Fall Star This 22-year-old has had a great Fall League thus far, and he was the sole Twin named on the Fall Star game roster today. In his 13 innings pitched this fall, he has struck out 17 while allowing just one home run. Congrats Cody! Check out the remaining Fall Star game roster below:
  2. Yesterday, I looked at some of the arms from the bullpen that could survive an impending roster shakeup and, knowing there will be turnover, guys that the front office should want to keep. When looking more at the rotation, a handful of arms were expected to elevate the club in 2021 that suffered injuries or setbacks and now have a murkier future. When considering both the 26-man and 40-man rosters, where do these guys fit? Randy Dobnak Signed to an extension this offseason, Dobnak watched 2021 go about as poorly as it possibly could. He owned a 7.64 ERA and was optioned back to Triple-A at one point. Getting in just over 50 innings due to a finger injury was nothing short of a disaster. Under team control through 2025, his deal was more about being earned as a self-made big-leaguer rather than necessary to lock down a future cornerstone. Still, if he returns with a clean bill of health, his status as a 5th or 6th starter with swingman abilities should remain intact. Lewis Thorpe Arguably the most disappointing arm from 2021, considering what the expectations may have been, was Thorpe. His velocity was reported to have ticked up all spring, but that never carried over to games that count. He pitched just 15 innings at the big league level and showed no ability to strike batters out. After being a former high-ceiling prospect, he appears to have been deterred by Tommy John, time missed, and his own personal setbacks. With just shy of 60 innings since debuting in 2019, I’d be far from shocked if Thorpe isn’t jettisoned from the 40-man this offseason. Devin Smeltzer The last injury update on Smeltzer came back in July. He was transferred to the 60-day Injured List with left elbow inflammation. Pitching in just one game for the Twins this season, his year was over before it ever got started. Minnesota has been quiet as to what is next for Smeltzer, but elbow injuries are always scary. He’s certainly not an option for the Opening Day rotation in 2022, and at best, would be rotational depth. Smeltzer gave the 2019 Bomba Squad some really good innings but has largely been an afterthought since. Cody Stashak Each of the past two seasons, Stashak had been one of the Twins more dominant relievers. Although utilized in scarce innings, he racked up strikeouts and limited walks. That wasn’t so much the case in 2021. While the strikeouts saw a nice jump, he allowed ten free passes in 15 2/3 innings. Hitting the Injured List with a back issue, Stashak was transferred to the 60-day IL at the end of June. Ideally, he’d be a factor for Minnesota’s revamped bullpen next season. He’ll be just 28-years-old and has looked the part of a quality arm when healthy. Griffin Jax The first of two fringe arms discussed here, Jax wasn’t injured and has gotten run for Minnesota in the season's second half. He earned a promotion with a 3.76 ERA at Triple-A St. Paul this year. In 72 innings for the Twins, he owns a 6.75 ERA but has a near-identical strikeout and walk rate compared to his minor league numbers. Jax’s bugaboo has been the longball, and 21 of them burn him far too often. However, there have been instances where he looks like the stuff can play, so keeping him on the 40-man as rotational depth makes a good deal of sense. Charlie Barnes Another one of St. Paul’s strong starting arms this year, Barnes earned his call with a 3.88 ERA across 15 turns in the Triple-A rotation. Results haven’t followed at the big league level to the tune of a 6.61 ERA in 31 1/3 innings. He’s struggling by being too hittable with a H/9 north of 10, and his strikeout rate has fallen from 7.3 at Triple-A to 4.3 in the big leagues. Being able to miss bats is a must at the highest level, and the crafty lefty will need to go back to the drawing board this offseason. The former 4th round pick will be 26 next year and should remain in the organization as rotational depth. John Gant Netting Gant for what J.A. Happ was to the Twins remains a coup. I don’t know that I have a preference for where the former Cardinals arm finds his future in Minnesota, but under team control for another year, he’ll be on the roster. His 4.73 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, but the 3.46 FIP suggests there’s more to be had here. Gant is striking out 10.8 per nine with the Twins and has worked in a starting and bullpen role. He’ll be cheap and just 29-years-old, there’s no reason Minnesota shouldn’t keep him around for a second year. The Twins won’t be able to go into 2022, thinking their depth can produce as this year's case. It should be expected to help bolster what the frontline guys are capable of, but between injuries and ineffectiveness, there’s so much volatility once you get beyond that top tier. A learning year for the front office and the manager, working out who fits where in the year ahead is a must. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. The 60-Day IL allows teams to stash an injured player away without holding a 40 man spot. The Twins have utilized this six times this season in the way of four pitchers and two hitters. With young players needing 40 man roster spots to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this winter, it’s worth revisiting these players on a case-by-case basis. Alex Kirilloff This is probably the easiest one. The Twins former top prospect should be back with a healthy wrist by Opening Day and likely penciled in at first base. There isn’t anything that would change the Twins minds. Randy Dobnak Despite a nightmare season in which Dobnak put up a 7.83 ERA in 43 innings, he’s an easy add after the Twins extended him through 2026 on a very team-friendly deal. Regarding his role, it’s anyone’s guess at this point how the Twins plan to use him, but he’s been throwing bullpens recently and could even return from a finger injury before the end of 2021. The Twins can’t cut Dobnak loose given their commitment, not to mention his recent success in the MLB. Devin Smeltzer Smeltzer only threw 4 2/3 innings without allowing a run before being put on the IL with an elbow injury. His 2022 may largely depend on the nature of his injury and whether his health can be counted on. Perhaps his lack of ceiling may give the Twins pause, but he has shown to be a competent Major League pitcher and perhaps deserves a little bit of run in a bullpen role. If he’s ready to pitch for opening day in 2022, I’d expect to see Smeltzer get one more look. Edwar Colina Colina got shelled in his lone MLB appearance in 2020 but boasts what some call the best slider in the Twins system to go along with his high-90s fastball. Colina was an arm many were excited to see get some real run this year before he underwent elbow surgery which ended his season before it began. As the Twins look to rebuild a bullpen in 2022, it’s hard to imagine them not gambling on the upside of Edwar Colina assuming his injury appears to be recovering as expected. Cody Stashak It’s possible Stashak was dealing with his back injury longer than the Twins knew, but it was a bit surprising to see him get as much of an opportunity as he did in 2021. With a 91 mph fastball, Stashak’s skillset revolved around his ability to limit walks when he debuted in 2019 which made his 13.3% walk rate this year all the more unacceptable. He upped his strikeout rate to nearly 35% at the expense of every other skill a pitcher could have as he finished with a 6.89 ERA. Stashak will be 28 next year and his ceiling is probably just an okay middle reliever which may make him an easy roster spot to dedicate to protecting another player from the Rule 5 draft. Kyle Garlick Garlick looked like the Twins best offseason acquisition for awhile and slashed .232/.280/.465 before being shut down with a sports hernia. Garlick does one thing well and that’s mash lefties, something the Twins were unable to set him up for consistently as injuries piled up. Unfortunately for Garlick, the Twins just don’t have a lot to gain from keeping a defensively-challenged 30-year-old with such a niche skillset. It’s hard to see the Twins not parting ways with Garlick unfortunately. It’s easy to look at this list of players who haven’t been contributing for quite some time and forget about them, but the Twins do have some solid players coming back off injury next year. The tricky part is trying to balance the roster on who is worthy of a return as they try and protect the necessary players to avoid another Akil Baddoo situation. Should any more of these six be definitively kept or let go this winter? Let us know 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
  4. 1. Taylor Rogers Much like in 2019, Taylor Rogers has been one of the few options Baldelli can trust in the late innings of games. At season’s start, it seemed like Rogers would be used in more of a set-up role with Colomé getting more of the closing opportunities. Until Colomé can figure it out, Rogers will be used as the closer and he has the team’s highest level of trust. 2. Hansel Robles Robles was brought in to help add veteran depth to the bullpen and he has made a good impression so far this year. His xBA ranks in the 82nd percentile and his wOBA ranks in the top 7% of the league. One of the biggest changes for him this season is his pitch usage. From 2015-18, he used his changeup less than 10% of the time. So far in 2021, he has used his changeup over 50% with his fastball usage dropping from 45% in 2020 to 31% in 2021. 3. Tyler Duffey Duffey has been one of the baseball’s best relievers over the last two seasons. In fact, MLB Network had him in their top-10 relievers entering the season. So far this year, he hasn’t looked like his dominating self as he ranks in the 24th percentile or lower in nearly every Statcast metric. Baldelli still shows trust in Duffey with the hope that he can make some adjustments moving forward. 4. Cody Stashak Stashak is striking out batters at the highest rate of his career with a K% north of 36% that ranks him in the top 6% of the league. On the other hand, batters are barreling up the ball against him quite regularly. His 20 barrel% is in the bottom 1% of the league and it is 6.5 percentage points higher than his previous career high. 5. Jorge Alcala Alcala might have the best raw stuff in the Twins bullpen and an argument can be made for him being given more high leverage spots as the season progresses. One of the toughest things for Alcala has been his inability to get left-handed hitters out on a consistent basis. For his career, lefties have a 1.178 OPS against him in 55 plate appearances. If he wants to earn more high leverage appearances, he needs to improve against southpaws. 6. Caleb Thielbar With Rogers moving into the closer role, Thielbar will be critical for when the team is facing lefties before the ninth inning. Since rejoining the Twins last year, he has posted a 2.53 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 32 innings. 7. St. Paul Train (Derek Law, Luke Farrell, Devin Smeltzer) The Twins will likely continue to shuffle through players at the backend of the bullpen, especially if a player pitches multiple innings the previous day. These players aren’t going to be relied on for high leverage situations, so there doesn’t need to be a lot of trust in using them. 8. Alexander Colomé Colomé’s start to the season has been disastrous. Until he shows signs of improvement, the teams should have little trust in him. How would you rank the bullpen by level of trust? 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
  5. Going back a decade or more, the concept of Closer-by-Committee was met with disdain by many inside baseball circles. Meanwhile, the concept behind it was certainly sound. Use your best bullpen arms in the best positions for them to succeed. In other words, if your opponent has Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton coming up to start the eighth inning, you might want to use your closer in that situation, especially if you’ve got a closer that dominates right-handed hitters. Get through that situation, and bring in the most logical next reliever for that ninth-inning save. It has also always been tradition that the better bullpens have a ninth inning guy, an eighth inning guy and maybe even a seventh inning guy. That is their role in a game that the team is winning. The role is based on the inning, not necessarily on the matchups coming during that inning. Through admittedly just eight games this season, it appears that Rocco Baldelli, Wes Johnson and the Twins have decided not to give pitcher roles by innings but instead by situation. Here is a quick breakdown of which innings the relievers have been used in so far. Taylor Rogers: 9th/Save (3) Sergio Romo: 7th (1), 8th (1), 9th/Save (1), Trevor May: 5th (1),7th (1), 8th (1), Tyler Duffey: 6th (1), 7th (2), Tyler Clippard: 6th (3), 8th (1), Cody Stashak: 8th and 9th (1), 7th (1), 8th (1) Zack Littell: 5th (1), 6th and 7th (1), Devin Smeltzer: 6th and 7th (1), Matt Wisler: 8th (1), 8th and 9th (1) Lewis Thorpe: 6th, 7th and 8th (1), 8th and 9th (1) Kenta Maeda became the first Twins starting pitcher to throw a pitch in the six innings. In games that the Twins have won, we have seen Clippard, Duffey, May, Romo, Stashak and Rogers. As interesting, pitchers have been used in a variety of roles. Trevor May has pitched in the fifth inning and in the eighth inning. On Sunday, Tyler Clippard will be used as an Opener after being used in either the sixth or eighth innings previously. Tyler Duffey has pitched in the sixth and seventh innings. Duffey said on Saturday afternoon that Baldelli has been up front with the relievers about their roles. “Rocco did a good job. Before we got started, he kind of made the rounds and talked to guys. He said, ‘Hey, situations are gonna call for guys to pitch. Just be ready.’” Earlier in the week, Sergio Romo hesitated when asked about reliever roles, but said, “We all have an ability to get hitters out in a unique way, in a different way from each other. The situations that Rocco’s been putting us in is a compliment to that, to each one of our strengths. Each one of us has been put in situations where I feel Rocco - maybe beyond 100% - knows we’re going to succeed. I think you’ll see more of that.” And succeed they have. Duffey (3 IP), Rogers (3 IP), Romo (3 IP), Stashak (4 IP), Thorpe (4 ⅔ IP) and Wisler (2 ⅓ IP) have combined to throw 20 innings with a combined 0.00 ERA. Clippard (4 IP) and May (3 IP) have each given up just one earned run. Zack Littell threw two scoreless innings in his most recent outing after giving up four runs in his first inning. Devin Smeltzer gave up five earned run in two innings in his lone outing. Combined, the bullpen has pitched 32 innings and has a 3.09 ERA. If you remove Littell’s and Smeltzer’s first outings, the bullpen has thrown 29 innings and has a 0.62 ERA. In short, outside of one game, this bullpen has been remarkable! We knew coming into the season that the bullpen was expected to be a strength of for the Twins. Many national sports media sites ranked the Twins bullpen among the Top 5 in MLB. There is talent. There are veterans like Romo and Clippard who have performed over their dozen-plus big league seasons. Taylor Rogers emerged the last two seasons as one of the best left-handed relievers in the game, if not one of the best relievers period. Trevor May and Tyler Duffey each have electric stuff and seemingly put it together in 2019s second half. Both are much more confident early this season. Zack Littell and Cody Stashak were rookies last year who were a big boost to the late-season improvements of the Twins bullpen. Stashak has been terrific early this year. Stashak said, “It (bullpen’s confidence) is pretty high. I’m sure the word’s gone around that we’ve got a solid ‘pen.” Littell struggled in his first outing, then threw two scoreless innings on Thursday night. He has now been put on the Injured List with a hamstring injury. Baldelli said of Littell, “Zack came out of his last outing with just a little bit of a hamstring tightness. You could call it an injury. You could call it just a minor incident. Really, what it comes down to, is you probably don't want to have to put a guy on the IL for something like this, but it probably would have been a couple of days before he would have seen game action again. So, does he need the full 10 days to feel better and be able to get out there on the mound? I don't know. Probably not. But to have a spot in the bullpen where you're not going to pitch a guy for a handful of days right now is also not a place where we really want to be. ” That gives Jorge Alcala, whose stuff the team has been raving about throughout summer camp, an opportunity. Before Saturday’s game, Baldelli noted, “We had some videos of him throwing at home, and he looked really, really impressive. The velocity was good and was up from what we saw in the big leagues last year. We know he has a big arm and some added depth to the breaking ball was apparent. More than anything, I think his confidence in what he's doing when he steps on the mound against hitters, against big league hitters, even against his own teammates in some of these outings and Summer Camp sessions.” So now maybe Alcala assumes the role and gets the situations that Littell had pitched. With the innings not being the determining factor for when a pitcher comes in, how does a pitcher know, or anticipate, when he might be called upon? In Saturday’s pre-game Zoom Meetings, I asked Duffey if he just needs to start getting ready earlier or if it causes him to pay attention to things like the opponent’s batting order and such. He said, “Obviously we’re not locked in for nine innings, but you kind of look at the lineup and say, ‘OK, there are some righties, or I’ve done well against that lefty in the past, or maybe we need to turn this switch-hitter around,’ something like that. Those are thoughts that go through your mind.” Duffey added, “You can’t really expect anything, and I think that’s good. It keeps everyone on their toes and mentally ready. I can’t say it enough, this is a really, really good group of guys. A lot of talent, a lot of different looks, especially out of our bullpen. I think that’s why we’re gonna have a lot of success.” Sergio Romo agrees, and is looking forward to seeing how it plays out. “It’s going to be fun to see the combinations that Rocco puts together with us. Again, it’s more of a compliment to us when he has so many different ways to use us and is so willing to do it confidently. It’s fun to be a part of again.” While the starters will, hopefully, continue to eat more innings as the season moves on, Baldelli and Johnson have to feel really good about their bullpen, knowing whoever they put into a game is fully capable of shutting the door. And having one of the top closers in the game certainly doesn’t hurt either.
  6. 1st Inning: Making Martínez Sweat The bottom of the first was not a great showing for the Twins offense. They missed some big opportunities. Nelson Cruz popped out to foul territory on a 2-0 count with two in scoring position, and later Mitch Garver grounded out to third on 3-1 with the bases juiced. No one hit anything particularly hard. And yet ... this lineup still made life extremely difficult for Cardinals starter Carlos Martínez, who needed 21 pitches to get through the frame. While the Twins may have failed to cash in, it's the kind of high-stress experience for a pitcher that can set up an inning like the second, where Minnesota took off and pushed across five runs. Martínez, a very good pitcher with a 3.36 career ERA, was soon chased from the game after just 4 2/3 innings. 2nd Inning: Hip Hip, Jorge Punctuating the five-run outburst in the bottom of the second was No. 3 hitter Jorge Polanco, who launched a two-run homer into the right field plaza. He very nearly followed with another bomb from the other side in his following at-bat, two innings later, though Cards left fielder Tyler O'Neill was able to track it down at the warning track. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1288280300909400066 Polanco tends to get lost in a shuffle a bit for this offense, as a steadily solid hitter amidst a sea of flashy sluggers. He ranked sixth on the team in OPS+ last year, and he was a bit quiet down the stretch. It can be easy to forget he was the lone All-Star on a historic 2019 offense. One person who does not lose sight of Polanco's abilities at the plate is his manager. Polanco batted cleanup in the second game of this season in Chicago. That marks the only time since Rocco Baldelli took over as skipper that the shortstop has hit anywhere below third in the lineup. 3rd Inning: Living on the Edge The last time we saw Homer Bailey, it wasn't such a pretty sight. The newly signed right-hander got knocked around in his final tune-up start at Wrigley, as the Cubs took advantage of too many hittable pitches left up around the belt. His official debut was a different story. While he wasn't immune to mistakes, Bailey was executing far better this time out, peppering the borders of FSN's strike zone visualization to maximize the effectiveness of a so-so fastball. Here in the third inning, he was at the height of his prowess for the evening, striking out the side with some stellar pitch sequences. Impressively, it was his slider and not his highly-touted splitter doing much of the work. https://twitter.com/dohyoungpark/status/1288281129947148289 Bailey had a crisp outing, allowing four hits and two walks over five innings, with four strikeouts. It's a continuation of the trend we saw in 2019, which saw noticeable improvement in many indicators of hard contact (Barrel %, Sweet Spot %, XBA, XSLG). If he can keep dancing around the edges, while dropping the occasional slow breaking ball over the plate to catch a hitter off-guard, he's gonna be in good shape. 4th Inning: Here Comes the Rain It was a picture-perfect summer evening for the opener at Target Field, although the Bringer of Rain did make his first splash in the bottom of the fourth. Josh Donaldson watered the plants on the right-field overhang with an oppo shot that just barely cleared the wall. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1288285962984984576 One thing that's really struck me about Donaldson is that even when he doesn't square it up – and so far he hasn't done so much; prior to the bomb, he was 2-for-11 with two infield singles – he still puts a charge into the ball. That home run came on a ripe pitch over the middle, but he really didn't seem to get all of it. There have been a few other occasions, including his sacrifice fly earlier in the game, where the ball has carried surprisingly far off Donaldson's bat. This guy is as strong and powerful as advertised. 5th Inning: Bailey Bounces Back The lone blemish in Bailey's outing came here in the fifth, where he left a hanging offspeed pitch over the dish and O'Neill destroyed it for a two-run homer. Following a well-struck single to open the inning, it looked like the Twins starter might be starting to lose steam. But he buckled down and rattled off three straight outs – a pop-out to first and two grounders. That's the resiliency you like to see from a back-end starter. It was maybe more encouraging to me than his triple-K third. 6th Inning: Pesky Arráez The sixth was fairly uneventful, with Tyler Clippard entering to pitch a clean top half and Minnesota going down 1-2-3 in the bottom. But one guy who did not go easily was Luis Arráez. As ever. The scrappy second baseman drove a pitch the other way and nearly had extra bases, but O'Neill was able to chase it down in left with a diving grab near the line. Arráez makes pitchers and defenders work awfully hard to get him out. He still has yet to strike out through 12 plate appearances, and he's been hitting the ball pretty dang hard. To have a player like this near the bottom of your lineup (he's hit seventh twice and ninth once) is just an unbelievable advantage. 7th Inning: Stashak and Bullpen Depth Bailey was out of the game for Minnesota after five, but the Twins had no trouble filling in the remaining innings. Second out of the bullpen was Cody Stashak, who delivered his second scoreless outing of the young season. With the exception of a ground-ball double, Stashak was basically flawless, throwing 12 of 17 pitches for strikes and retiring the side with little trouble. Just as Arráez is a major asset at the lower part of the order, Stashak is a major asset in the middle of the bullpen. He's looked every bit as good as the 3.24 ERA and 25-to-1 K/BB ratio in last year's MLB debut suggested. 8th Inning: Buxton Drops the Ball Trevor May followed Stashak in the eighth. Leading off against him was Tommy Edman, who lifted a deep fly to center field. Byron Buxton, making his first appearance of the season, sprinted back, reached the wall, and had it measured. He leapt up, had it in his glove, and the ball glanced right off it over the fence. https://twitter.com/cjzer0/status/1288302537221832707 It was a bit strange to see from Buxton, for whom the spectacular has become almost routine. But among all the negative outcomes of him chasing a ball to the wall, a solo homer with a fairly comfortable lead is one we'll take. It was a tough break for May, but he recovered nicely by striking out the next three batters. His stuff looks absolutely filthy, as he induced seven swinging strikes on 21 pitches. 9th Inning: Where is Rogers? With the exception of Rich Hill (who starts tomorrow) only two players on the active roster had yet to see game action by this point: Sergio Romo and Taylor Rogers. Even in a save situation – albeit on the less-intense side – the Twins' top-tier closer remained unused. Romo tossed a clean ninth to close out the 6-3 victory. That leaves Rogers, one of the team's best and long-tenured players, as the only reliever we've yet to see. It doesn't necessarily point to any error in judgment from Baldelli, as there's been no real need to turn to the team's highest-leverage arm, but still it seems strange that Rogers hasn't even gotten in an inning of work while several others have made multiple appearances. Hopefully there's nothing bothering the southpaw physically, and this is all situational and strategic. Through the team's first four games in 2019, Rogers had already thrown four innings across three appearances. 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  7. 37-year-old Sergio Romo has pitched in 708 major-league games over the past 12 seasons. He has once been an All Star. He was an important piece in three Giants World Series championships (2010, 2012, 2014). Tyler Clippard is 35 years old. He has pitched in 751 games over his 13 seasons in the big leagues. He is a two-time All Star, and has been a part of two World Series teams. Only side-winding Joe Smith has pitched more games than Clippard among active players. Romo is fourth among active players in games pitched. Active MLB Leaders in Games Pitched 782 - Joe Smith 751 - Tyler Clippard 710 - Joakim Soria 708 - Sergio Romo 705 - Combined MLB games pitched by Taylor Rogers (258), Trevor May (191), Tyler Duffey (169), Zack Littell (37), Cody Stashak (18), Lewis Thorpe (12), Devin Smeltzer (11), Randy Dobnak (9). Sure, you can add Matt Wisler’s 129 MLB games to the list, but then the list above doesn’t look quite as cool. That said, the point is certainly clear. The Twins have two relievers who come with a ton of major-league experience. The 2020 Twins bullpen should be strong, but these two have many experiences and tips and tricks that they can share with the younger pitchers to help them improve. Some of it is simply accepting and thriving in the reality that they are now at a different phase in their careers. Tyler Clippard credited lefty Ron Villone and right-hander Brad Lidge for being guys that he looked up to and learned a lot from when he was new to the league. Now he is taking on that role as veteran leader, and happy to do so. He said, “That perspective that I had as a younger player, looking up to those veteran guys and knowing that I’m on that side of it now. Respecting that and recognizing that is very important to me and something I enjoy the heck out of every day. Hopefully they get something out of it, but I truly enjoy it. ” In his career, Sergio Romo has had some great experiences. For instance, he was the closer for a World Series championship team. He’s been a great set up man too. And he clearly sees the talent in the guys that the Twins are projected to pitch in those late innings. https://twitter.com/SethTweets/status/1282780542178664448 We know that Taylor Rogers would love to be the guy on the mound if and when the Twins win the World Series, as Romo was when he struck out Miguel Cabrera to end the 2012 World Series. It’s something that he and the other Twins pitchers can talk to Romo about. To hear a guy with Romo’s track record acknowledge how great Rogers is has to be meaningful. But Romo and Clippard aren’t just there to lead those late-inning relievers. They are there to get outs, and some big outs in key situations. They can also instill confidence in the rest of the bullpen too Romo said, “There are guys that haven’t had their coming out party yet, and I think this short spring could be something of that sort for a couple of guys in our bullpen.” He specifically mentioned Cody Stashak and Zack Littell. “These guys are going to come out with a bang, and they’re going to be so consistent in this short sprint that it’s going to be so dang hard to not talk about them in the long run.” Littell has appreciated the leadership shown by Romo and Clippard. He said recently, “I think the biggest thing they bring to the table aside from the obvious experience they have, is the ability to show that everybody needs to just be themselves. Sergio and Clippard are two very different personality guys, but each of them is able to go out and get outs everyday and have both been doing it a long time. And there’s something to be said for being comfortable in your own skin especially when you get into these big moments in games and they both are just examples of that.” Littell had transitioned from being a starting pitcher prospect into the bullpen and was such a key cog in the bullpen’s resurgence over the final two months of the season. In 29 games on the season, he went 6-0 with a 2.68 ERA. But with Romo on the roster in August and September, Littell must have felt much more comfortable. He gave up just one earned run over 18 2/3 innings covering 15 games. Stashak made his debut in late July last year. The cool, calm right-hander walked just one batter and struck out 25 batters over 25 innings (18 games). Stashak rejoined the Twins “Summer Camp” a little bit late as he was with his wife when she gave birth to the couple’s first child. He told Twins Daily recently that he hasn’t had as much time with Clippard, but he was a locker mate with Romo throughout his time in the big leagues last August and September. Of Romo, Stashak said, “He is a guy that will answer any question even if it is not about baseball. We talked a lot during my time up there. He was more of a mentor for me as I was still trying to get comfortable up in the big leagues. He is funny, energetic and everyone loves the guy. It’s hard not to like a guy like Serg.” But Stashak was quick to compliment other veterans on the Twins roster such as Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson and Alex Avila. He added, “The atmosphere around the clubhouse is great and everyone gets along which makes it such a fun group to be around. From a pitching side there are two guys who you mentioned who have experienced it all, like being a World Series contender and even a champion. Hopefully they can help guide us to a World Series and help us win it!” While Romo is the more boisterous of the two veteran relievers, he points out that Clippard not only has experience, but that he is able to communicate well with his teammates. “The experience that he has... The communication skills that he has that I’ve already seen... Being able to share his experiences and share his thoughts, and thought-process on the mound, and when what he’s trying to accomplish in his practice, in his bullpen sessions, his flat grounds, and even his normal play-catch sessions. It’s awesome how he can simplify it all.” Clippard has relished the opportunity to lead and be an ear and an example for younger pitchers. “That’s been one of the coolest parts of my career over the last three or four years, has been being a veteran guy and being a guy that (younger) guys look to for answers, whether it be it baseball-related, off the field stuff, anything or everything. I love talking to the younger guys. I love talking about pitching. I learn a lot of the times as much from them as they might learn from me.” I have talked to several former Twins recently for some upcoming stories, and each has taken time to point out how much ‘character’ has mattered when drafting, signing or otherwise acquiring players. It is clear that trait is still very important as Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard have not only had tremendous, long-laster careers on the mound, but they clearly have had a very positive effect on younger players and teammates as well.
  8. Walks are by no means unique in any game as pitchers sometimes lose command in a given plate appearance or hitters have some especially good takes. But for Stashak, that walk is the only one he allowed in the 25 innings he pitched at the major league level this year. This gave him a BB/9 on the year of 0.36 and a BB% that was an astonishing 1% in 2019. For comparison, Josh Tomlin and Chris Martin both held the lowest BB% by a qualified reliever in 2019 with a 2.3% mark. Right around when he was called up, Stashak talked about what his focus was for pitching in MLB: https://twitter.com/dohyoungpark/status/1153432879394934786 A straight-to-the-point answer, yes, but sometimes flippancy is the most effective way at communicating a game plan and for Stashak, his game plan was executed to perfection. Before I move on, just know that I am about to bastardize the concept of sample size and draw from evidence that is not completely whole given that Stashak has just 25 innings to his name at the major league level. But, there is no statistician that can currently reach me and strangle me to death before I do this so I will continue on until forced otherwise. “Just throw strikes” is a bit of a buzz phrase in baseball mostly yelled by angry middle-aged men who would crap themselves if they ever got buzzed by an average heater. Never mind the fact that every pitcher, ever, knows that he needs to throw strikes or that not throwing strikes may actually be the superior plan. No, throwing strikes to some is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or Radiohead’s “Kid A”. Throwing strikes seems to be almost an addiction for Stashak, something he just can’t help himself from doing. He led the league in rate of pitches in the strike zone (minimum 20 innings) at 52.3%. A rookie throwing strikes at such a rate is almost unheard of and Stashak’s zone% in 2019 would put him 13th among all rookie relievers with at least 20 IP since 2010. Is that too contrived? Well, Stashak’s zone% is also seventh best among all rookie pitchers with at least 20 IP over the last three years. Stashak has been more than just a strike-thrower, though. If you’re looking for swing-and-miss ability. Stashak's 17.1% swinging strike rate ranked 15th among all pitchers with at least 20 IP in 2019 and was the highest of any Twin. Somewhat predictably, his odds of getting a swing on a pitch outside of the zone (O-Swing %) was the 12th highest in MLB among pitchers with at least 20 IP (38.6% was oddly enough right behind Randy Dobnak who had a 39.2% rate). What makes Stashak so deadly is that he has been formed in the mold of a modern reliever in that he matches a high fastball with a slider low and away to right-handed hitters. Stashak’s fastball has two less inches of drop compared to league average fastballs and his slider has four more inches of horizontal break compared to league average sliders. https://twitter.com/matthew_btwins/status/1184942051198001152 Less drop on his fastball gives it that “rising” effect that some hitters talk about and makes it a great pitch up in the zone while the extra horizontal slider movement makes his breaker especially effective when thrown outside to righties. https://twitter.com/matthew_btwins/status/1184946993489051648 Stashak was a strike-throwing machine who could get his stuff by hitters with ease even when not throwing pitches in the zone and without elite velocity (average fastball velo was 91.8 MPH). He understands what he has to do in order to get hitters out with his stuff and he has the precise ability to execute that plan. There aren’t many players who I can give a comp with as most relievers these days tend to hold a higher velocity. But as long as Stashak continues throwing fastballs up and sliders low, he should be able to get hitters out at the major league level. While he was not much of a prospect, Stashak has solidified himself in a major league bullpen and will look to be an important piece for the Twins going forward.
  9. Box Score Starter: Jose Berrios 4.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 61.4% strikes (54 of 88 pitches) Bullpen: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 7 ER, 5 BB, 6 K Home Runs: Jorge Polanco (1), Nelson Cruz (1), Miguel Sano (1) Multi-Hit Games: Jorge Polanco (2-for-4), Marwin Gonzalez (2-for-4) Top 3 WPA: Jorge Polanco (.248), Nelson Cruz(.105), Miguel Sano (.062) Bottom 3 WPA: Cody Stashak (-.151), Mitch Garver (-.123), Eddie Rosario (-.122) Bomba SZN starts early It didn’t take us long to find out who would hit the first postseason home run for the Twins in 2019. After a Mitch Garver strikeout, Jorge Polanco took James Paxton deep to put the Twins up 1-0 in the first inning. https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1180260508345217024 Then as the Twins got into the third inning, Nelson Cruz did what he has done all season to left-handed pitchers. Cruz took a ball to right field and took full advantage of that short wall in Yankee Stadium to put the Twins up 2-0. Berrios looked up for the task, until undone by errors As Berrios took the mound it looked like we were going to get a few innings of the energetic, strike-throwing Berrios we have been looking for. As fastball after fastball registered 95 mph on the gun things were going well. The one concern was the pitch count which was already at 48 pitches after two innings of work. So while far from perfect, Berrios was getting the job done. Then in the third inning Luis Arraez, who may have bumped into an umpire, looked unsteady as he headed for a short pop up and missed it as it fell to the outfield grass. That was the first of two missed opportunities to put an out on the scoreboard. It was followed by Twin-killer Edwin Encarnacion hitting his second double of the game to drive in DJ LeMahieu. Arraez was involved in the second missed opportunity as the relay from second to first during a double play did not connect. The second play looked to be more on C.J. Cron than on Arraez even though the throw was by no means perfect. Arraez redeemed himself as he would double in the fifth inning. Allowing Polanco to come back to the plate and collect his second hit of the evening and drive Arraez in to tie the game up 3-3. Bullpen wasn't quite the same The most questionable move of the night may have came at the beginning of the fifth inning. Berrios had just been taken out of the game after going four innings and giving up four hits, three walks, and one earned run. After Tyler Duffey had been warming up earlier, Baldelli turned to Zack Littell to face the heart of the Yankees lineup. Duffey came in after Littell walked Judge and hit Gardner with a pitch. By that time it gave Duffey little wiggle room and he eventually gave up a bases-loaded double to Torres off of Sano’s glove. The second questionable bullpen move came when Cody Stashak was put in the game and gave up two home runs to let the Yankees go up 7-4 in the sixth. It seems especially strange at this stage to have Stashak in against the top of the Yankee lineup when Taylor Rogers, Sergio Romo, and Trevor May are all sitting out in the bullpen. After Stashak, Baldelli turned to Kyle Gibson to likely save some of the other arms in the pen. LeMahieu continued to have a good night as he hit a bases-clearing double to go with a home run, two runs, and leaving him 3-for-5 on the night. This wasn’t a good start in an attempt to “slay the dragon” as the Twins droped the game 10-4. Thankfully we don’t even need to wait 24 hours before we will see how the Twins rebound from their Game 1 loss. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1180332338288283653 Pitching Staff Spreadsheet Here's a look at the pitching staff usage:
  10. In projecting the playoff bullpen, we need to set a few parameters. We'll presume that the Twins carry 12 pitchers, which is generally the most you'll see given the reduced need for starting depth. Even the Brewers, who last year bullpened their way through the playoffs, carried only 12 pitchers. So, we can safely assume that six of those pitchers will be Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, and Sergio Romo. Next, there is a batch of borderline locks: Randy Dobnak, Martin Perez, Devin Smeltzer. The length these guys provide is essential, especially with Minnesota possibly planning on multiple bullpen games in a series. One might quibble with Perez's presence in that second group, but I think his effectiveness against lefties (.592 OPS) solidifies his bid, given the lack of specialist alternatives. That leaves us with, at most, three open spots for the taking. And that's if the Twins elect to carry a shorthanded bench in favor of additional pen flexibility. Here are the candidates, listed from most-to-least viable as I see it: 1. Cody Stashak, RHP Stashak has ever-so-quietly put together a dominant showing in his major-league debut, posting a 23-to-1 K/BB ratio through his first 22 innings with an elite swing-and-miss rate. Control and stuff: two traits you absolutely want in your bullpen against imposing lineups filled with sluggers. The only question is how Stashak, a former 13th-round draft pick who opened this season in Double-A, will handle the pressure of such a stage. There's been zero indication to this point that he'll be rattled much. 2. Zack Littell, RHP In his second appearance of the season, Littell wore one against the Rays, giving up eight runs over 4 1/3 innings in mop-up duty. Since then, Littell has a 0.94 ERA over 25 appearances. He vacillates between a 94 MPH fastball and 87 MPH cutter in equal measure, and the formula's been very effective for him. Littell has recorded five or six outs in three of his past four appearances, so he's primed to handle a couple innings. That's very handy for the Twins in their situation. You could make a fair case that Littell should be No. 1 on this list, or even in the lock category. 3. Brusdar Graterol, RHP The 21-year-old's initial exposure to the majors has had its ups and downs, but the invigorating high points reaffirm his potential impact. Graterol is the kind of weapon you like to have at your disposal in tight contests, bringing triple-digit heat that's tough to square up when he locates it. Obviously there's an added level of risk and uncertainty at play here, but I think the Twins will wisely accept that in tandem with his upside. 4. Lewis Thorpe, LHP Now we're getting into the "outside looking in" group. Thorpe is an interesting case, because he offers length the Twins might value in front-to-back bullpen games. But he has a 6.15 ERA and 1.71 WHIP. There have been moments where Thorpe's looked really good, and his competitive moxy would fit right in with the intensity of October, but it's hard to imagine the Twins calling on him for multiple innings in a playoff game. He hasn't been good against lefties so match-ups don't really factor. 5. Kyle Gibson, RHP The Twins have given Gibson every chance. His last three appearances cascaded into catastrophe, systematically eroding the notion that he can help in any kind of postseason role. First, Gibson came back from an IL respite and got bashed for six runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. Then, he made a relief appearance and promptly gave up a costly home run. Most recently, he was an erratic mess against Kansas City, failing to complete two innings. Over his past five appearances, opponents are hitting .413 against Gibson. The physically-hampered righty continues to miss bats even in this diminished state, which is the only solace I'll take in the (likely?) event that the team carries him out of sheer loyalty. 6. Fernando Romero, RHP At the beginning of the season, it would've been easy to envision Romero at the head of this conversation. But that was a long time ago, and the 24-year-old has since had a rough go of things. Constantly wrestling with his command, Romero has seen his upper-90s fastball fail to garner the desired results, in both Triple-A and the majors. There's still a glimmer of intrigue in that raw arsenal, but he's been too shaky to merit any trust. 7. Ryne Harper, RHP It's a raw deal for Harper. He was a vital bullpen fixture in the first half. He's a great story. I'd love to see him playing a role in the postseason. I just don't think the Twins can justify carving out a spot for him. Harper's heavy reliance on a big slow curveball, supplemented by a sub-mediocre fastball, was solved by big-league hitters after about three months, resulting in a 5.51 ERA and .318 opponents' average since the break. The idea of serving those pitches up against a bloodthirsty Yankees or Astros lineup is... discomforting. 8. Trevor Hildenberger, RHP Given his history, Hildenberger might've nudged his way back into the postseason picture -- despite his immense struggles over the past year-plus -- had he managed to string together a few shutdown performances here in September. But that hasn't happened. The righty looks awful. In three appearances since returning to the Twins, he's allowed six runs on six hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings, with two swinging strikes on 59 pitches. He's not usable. 9. Kohl Stewart, RHP Stewart's last three appearances for the Twins have come against likely postseason teams: OAK, NYY, ATL, WAS. Here's how that went: 7 IP, 13 H, 10 ER (12.86 ERA), 6 K, 3 BB, 2 HR. He serves no purpose outside of mopping up meaningless innings and that's just not a guy you need around in a five-game playoff series. 10. Jorge Alcala, RHP The fact that he has made one appearance since being called up 10 days ago, as the sixth pitcher in a game that slipped out of hand late, tells you all you need to know about where he stands in this bullpen hierarchy. Alcala is merely an extra emergency arm to have around for September, and it's become clear he was never auditioning for anything more. Based on these rankings and the supposition of a 12-man staff, here's how I see the ALDS bullpen shaking out: Berrios, Odorizzi, Rogers, May, Duffey, Romo, Dobnak, Perez, Smeltzer, Stashak, Littell, Graterol. What do you think? Would you rearrange these rankings? How many pitchers do you foresee them carrying? Have any creative thoughts on strategy and deployment? Sound off in the comments.
  11. Box Score Dobnak: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 61% strikes (45 of 74 pitches) Bullpen: 2.9 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K Home Runs: None Multi-Hit Games: None Top 3 WPA: Randy Dobnak (0.25), Trevor May (0.17), Marwin Gonzalez (0.13) Bottom 3 WPA: Eddie Rosario (-0.11), Devin Smeltzerr (-0.07), Jonathan Schoop (-0.05) The legend of Randy Dobnak continues. Randy Dobnak has the greatest mustache of all time and also is the greatest Twins pitcher of all time. That was a slight exaggeration, but you get the picture. He continued his great rookie campaign with 5 1/3 great innings allowing only three hits and one run. Even he would have never predicted to be in the majors this season as two years ago he scheduled his wedding for the upcoming Sept. 28. Would it be weird to get married in the clubhouse or on the mound? The only run given up was actually off a pitch from Cody Stashak so I’m sure Randy is eternally angry with him. Besides that hit, Stashak was dominant once again, striking out the next two batters he faced. That makes 21 strikeouts and just one walk so far in his young career. When he first came up, he said he was just here to throw strikes and he seems to be doing that. Twins offense scores early, waits five innings and scores again The bats got off to a quick start tonight with a Mitch Garver walk and a Polanco double. Nelson Cruz followed with a sacrifice fly that Dick Bremer probably convinced you was a home run. Then the most unlikely event possible occurred when Miguel Sano hit an RBI triple to the right center gap. Yes, I said triple. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1175205161133727744?s=20 After nothing really got going from innings two through five, the Twins got it going again in the sixth with a Polanco walk, a Sano walk, and then a Marwin Gonzalez RBI double that let Miguel Sano once again show off his insane speed. Who needs Buxton when Sano is running like this? https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1175233968473399301 Royals put up a fight but ultimately they achieve their 99th loss. Devin Smeltzer had a nice and clean seventh inning but he and Brusdar Graterol ran into some bad luck in the eighth with batters reaching on balls with an expected batting average of .170, .140, .400 and .200 so the Royals scrappy approach finally found some luck. Brusdar and his bazooka would leave the eighth inning with a 4-3 lead. Trevor May came in for the save and struck the first batter out on three pitches. Then he struck out Whit Merrifield looking. He capped off the save with....another strikeout! All three of the strikeouts came on fastballs and hitters have just a .158 BA against his fastball to go with a 32% whiff rate. It’s his best pitch and he throws it 62% of the time. Trevor May also has a 1.62 ERA since the start of August. Elite. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1175246368161460224?s=20 Twins magic number drops to five and lead in the central stays at four. With today’s win the Twins have dropped their magic number to five games. Fangraphs has the Twins at a 99% chance to win the division. I know a lot of you are taking that 1% but just so we are all clear, the Twins will win the AL Central. As Trevor May would say, go Twins. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1175256273995976704 Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
  12. Box Score Odorizzi: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 64.5% strikes (61 of 94 pitches) Bullpen: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K Home Runs: None Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (2-4, 2B) Bottom 3 WPA: Arraez -.111, Wade -.127, Sano -.207 Twins’ offense can’t figure out Chicago bullpen The Twins’ offense found themselves struggling against one of the worst bullpens in the league. For 5 1/3 innings, four White Sox pitchers threw a no-hitter while allowing three walks. They had a threat in the first after back-to-back walks with one out, but, a Rosario pop out followed by a Sano strikeout ended the inning. After a leadoff walk in the second, the White Sox bullpen sent down 13 straight batters going into the sixth inning. That’s when the no-hitter came to a close as Polanco ripped a single into center field. After a Cruz walk, Rosario squeaked a ball through the infield to score Polanco. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1174499925805002752?s=20 Cave drew a walk to fill the bases with two outs for pinch-hitter LaMonte Wade Jr. but he grounded out to end the inning. After picking up their first hits, the Twins’ couldn’t use the momentum and went down 1-2-3 in the seventh. In the eighth, Rosario drilled a ball off the wall in right, but got thrown out trying extend it to a triple. In the ninth, the Twins again went down 1-2-3 to close out the game. Odorizzi able to minimize damage Jake Odorizzi was one out away from picking up a quality start, but ran into trouble in the sixth to end his night. Though Odorizzi picked up nine strikeouts tonight, his stuff wasn’t the best. Odorizzi gave up a leadoff hit in four of the six innings he pitched in. After giving up a leadoff single in the first, he picked up two strikeouts with Castro throwing out Garcia to end the inning. In the second he gave up a leadoff double followed by a Jimenez single to score a run, but Odorizzi picked up another double play and strikeout to get out of the inning. Odorizzi flew through the next two innings picking up four more strikeouts in back-to-back 1-2-3 innings. Through those four innings, Odorizzi already had seven strikeouts. Odorizzi found himself in a jam in the fifth inning with runners on first and second with just one out after a pair of singles. Odorizzi took advantage of facing the number eight and nine batters next, picked up another strikeout and was out of the inning with no harm. After giving up another leadoff hit, Odorizzi got two quick outs and it looked as if he would be able to at least complete six innings. With an 0-2 count to Moncada, he doubled to left-center to drive in the second run. After Jimenez drew a walk, Odorizzi’s night was ended. Bullpen Cody Stashak came into the game with two runners on and two outs and threw just three pitches to pick up a huge strikeout on Collins to end the inning. Stashak was also given the seventh inning, and he too gave up a leadoff single. He picked up back-to-back strikeouts to the eight and nine batters and then got Garcia to fly out to end the inning. Fernando Romero came in for the eighth, and believe it or not, gave up another leadoff hit. He got Abreu to ground out and struck out Moncada before being pulled for Brusdar Graterol. Graterol did his job, and got Jimenez to ground out to keep it a one-run game. A new inning, another leadoff hit, this time it was a home run to Collins to straight -away center. Graterol followed that up with nine pitches to pick up the last three outs, including a strikeout. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1174526445428903937 Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
  13. For the first time since Twins Daily’s MiLB writers have been voting on this particular award, there wasn’t much of a consensus for the top spot, whereas in the past if it wasn’t unanimous, it was relatively close. All three of the past four winners (one repeated) of this award have also gone on to pitch in the major leagues, so winning the award has been, to a degree, predictive of future success. The system wasn’t littered with as many pure strikeout relievers as they had last year, but there were still several standouts as the MLB bullpen got plenty of reinforcements throughout the year from the minors, including one who appears high on this list. Six Twins Daily Minor League writers voted for the various awards this year. For the relief pitcher of the year, we each voted for five players. The player who was voted as #1 received five points, #2 received four points and so on with the #5 vote receiving one point. Results were tabulated and can be found below. Short profiles of our top five performers are to follow, but first, some players worthy of honorable mention. These players also received votes. Others Receiving Votes Tom Hackimer, Fort Myers Miracle/Pensacola Blue Wahoos – 36 Games, 6-2, 1 Save, 2.54 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 56.2 IP, 33 H, 27 BB, 75 K (11.9/9IP) Adam Bray, Pensacola Blue Wahoos/Rochester Red Wings – 35 Games (9 starts), 4-4, 1 Save, 2.61 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 93.0 IP, 76 H, 26 BB, 83 K (8.0/9IP) Hector Lujan, Fort Myers Miracle/Pensacola Blue Wahoos – 33 Games, 2-4, 6 Saves, 2.76 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 58.2 IP, 57 H, 15 BB, 55 K (8.4/9IP) Melvi Acosta, Fort Myers Miracle/Pensacola Blue Wahoos – 28 Games (8 starts), 7-5, 4 Saves, 3.24 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 86.0 IP, 87 H, 29 BB, 79 K (8.2/9IP) Alex Phillips, Fort Myers Miracle/Pensacola Blue Wahoos – 42 Games (1 start), 5-3, 9 Saves, 2.96 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 67.0 IP, 48 H, 21 BB, 74 K (9.9/9IP) Sam Clay, Pensacola Blue Wahoos/Rochester Red Wings – 45 Games (1 start), 4-4, 10 Saves, 3.25 ERA, 1.413 WHIP, 69.1 IP, 70 H, 28 BB, 72 K (9.3/9IP) Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year Here are the top five vote getters for Twins Daily’s Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year Award. #5 – Zach Neff, Cedar Rapids Kernels/Fort Myers Miracle: 38 Games (1 start), 6-3, 8 Saves, 2.97 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 72.2 IP, 63 H, 24 BB, 89 K (11.0/9IP) Neff was the Minnesota Twins 31st round selection in the 2018 draft out of Mississippi State University after spending the first three seasons of his collegiate career at Austin Peay University. After signing last year, he reported to the Elizabethton Twins before getting a late bump to finish with the Cedar Rapids Kernels. That’s where he began the 2019 season, and he was dominant with the Kernels, posting a 2.31 ERA and striking out 11.5/9IP through mid-June before being promoted to the Miracle. As to be expected, he wasn’t as good in the Florida State League but still struck out 10.4/9IP and racked up six of his eight saves while finishing the game in 13 of his 19 appearances with Fort Myers. As a left-hander he carried reverse splits on the year, holding righties to a .569 OPS versus .622 from lefties, but (literally) the only difference was in slugging percentage, as his only home run surrendered on the year was to a left-handed hitter. In the monthly awards during the season, Neff received honorable mention once and was #3 for the month of June, where he had a 1.40 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in eight appearances. #4 – Derek Molina, Cedar Rapids Kernels/Fort Myers Miracle: 26 Games, 2-1, 11 Saves, 2.85 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 41.0 IP, 31 H, 11 BB, 61 K (13.4/9IP) Taken in the 14th round of the 2017 draft, Molina has steadily climbed the ladder in his two full seasons, appearing with Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids in 2018, and the Kernels and Miracle this season. At each stop, he’s had great strikeout numbers and ERA’s, but this year he also added control to his game by cutting his walk rate nearly in half from the year prior. After striking out 46 hitters in 29 2/3 innings with the Kernels to start the year, he was promoted to the Miracle to finish his season. If not for a shoulder injury that ended his season on July 12th, he may have been much higher on this list. That’s because what’s truly amazing about Molina’s season, is if you take out the first two games he pitched, and his last, these were his numbers on the year: 0.50 ERA, .183 BAA, .458 OPS allowed, and 53 K’s in 35 2/3 innings pitched. He appeared on the monthly award list in May (#4), and took home the top honor in June. #3 – Moises Gomez, Cedar Rapids Kernels/Fort Myers Miracle: 32 Games, 1-4, 10 Saves, 3.59 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 52.2 IP, 28 H, 21 BB, 78 K (13.3/9IP) I’ll admit I was a little surprised Gomez didn’t appear on more ballots from our voters, but of the three he did, I wasn’t the only one who ranked him #1. What stood out for me is that he maintained a sub-1.00 WHIP while having a K-rate north of 13/9 innings on the season and allowing just a .155 batting average and .507 OPS to opposing hitters. He was even more oppressive to same-sided hitters, holding righties to a .464 OPS and striking out 40.8% of them. He did not throw his first pitch until the calendar turned to May, but from then on, he was a model of consistency along with periods of dominance. In no single month did hitters post a batting average higher than .184 while in the month of June he had a 0.51 WHIP in 15 2/3 innings, and followed that up in July by posting a 1.93 ERA. It’s no coincidence those were the months he appeared on the award lists at #2 and #4 respectively. #2 – Cody Stashak, Pensacola Blue Wahoos/Rochester Red Wings: 33 Games, 7-3, 4 Saves, 3.21 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 53.1 IP, 45 H, 9 BB, 74 K (12.5/9IP) After being selected in the 13th round of the 2015 draft out of St. Johns, Stashak began his professional career as a starting pitcher, and a pretty good one at that. Over his first three steps on the organizational ladder he combined to go 19-11 with a 3.28 ERA. But when he made it to Double-A, the Twins shifted him to the bullpen and something crazy happened: his strikeout rate nearly doubled from subpar into elite territory. He set a career high in this number during the 2019 season with his 12.5K/9IP mark, and he rode that from Pensacola all the way up to 12 appearances (to this point) with the Twins. It’s a career path that should remind you a lot of Taylor Rogers’, and that’s definitely something to be excited about. He was especially dominant this season when he reached the Rochester Red Wings and triple-A’s “juiced ball,” which you probably wouldn’t have expected. With the Red Wings he racked up five wins with a 1.44 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in 14 games, striking out 34 in 25 innings along the way. During the season he appeared on the monthly award lists in April (#5) and July (#3) #1 – Anthony Vizcaya, Fort Myers Miracle/Pensacola Blue Wahoos: 41 Games (2 starts), 3-3, 11 Saves, 1.82 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 74.1 IP, 51 H, 30 BB, 83 K (10.0/9IP) For the second year in a row, the winner of this award has the initials “AV,” as Andrew Vasquez took home this award for the 2018 season. Given this recent history, my advice to Twins scouts would be to keep these initials in the back of their mind when scouring the college ranks, independent leagues, and Latin winter leagues for new prospects. Vizcaya got his professional career started in the Cleveland Indians organization, but floundered in rookie ball for two seasons before ending up playing sporadically back home in Venuzuela from 2015 to 2018. Twins pro scout Rafael Yanez liked something he saw from Vizcaya during his 2018 season there and the organization signed him in January. He hit the ground running in Fort Myers, serving as their closer to start the year and picking up seven saves in fifteen appearances before being promoted to Pensacola. He took flight at that point, improving his ERA from 2.22 with the Miracle to 0.78 with the Blue Wahoos. In his last eight appearances in the Florida State League and first six appearances in the Southern League, he pitched to the tune of a 0.00 ERA, .159 BAA, and struck out 34 in 24 1/3 innings along with picking up seven saves. He had only two appearances on the season where he surrendered more than one earned run and closed out the 2019 campaign with another stretch of twelve games where he didn’t allow an earned run and held opponents to a .508 OPS against. As a right-handed pitcher, he also held reverse splits on the year as he was lethal against lefties, holding them to a .152/.259/.202 slash line and only four extra-base hits (zero homers) in 117 plate appearances. He frequented the monthly award lists during the season, appearing on the lists for May (#2), June (honorable mention), and taking home the top honor in August for that stretch mentioned above. Congratulations to Anthony Vizcaya for being named Twins Daily’s 2019 Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year and for also making a big impression in his return to affiliated baseball in the Minnesota Twins organization! The Ballots In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily minor league writers: Seth Stohs – 1) Moises Gomez, 2) Cody Stashak, 3) Alex Phillips, 4) Derek Molina, 5) Anthony Vizcaya Cody Christie – 1) Anthony Vizcaya, 2) Alex Phillips, 3) Sam Clay, 4) Zach Neff, 5) Derek Molina Tom Froemming - 1) Cody Stashak, 2) Anthony Vizcaya, 3) Zach Neff, 4) Derek Molina, 5) Hector Lujan Steve Lein – 1) Moises Gomez, 2) Anthony Vizcaya, 3) Tom Hackimer, 4) Derek Molina, 5) Cody Stashak Ted Schwerzler – 1) Melvi Acosta, 2) Sam Clay, 3) Adam Bray, 4) Hector Lujan, 5) Moises Gomez Matt Braun – 1) Zach Neff, 2) Derek Molina, 3) Cody Stashak, 4) Sam Clay, 5) Hector Lujan Feel free to discuss! What do you think of our rankings? How would your ballot look? Who did we totally miss out on?
  14. Box Score Berrios: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 64.4% strikes (65 of 101 pitches) Bullpen: 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K Home Runs: Rosario (28) Multi-Hit Games: Rosario (2-for-4, HR), Sano (2-for-3, BB), Cron (2-for-3, BB) Bottom 3 WPA: Polanco -.106, Cave -.157, Berrios -.228 Extra Day Doesn’t Help Berrios The hope was that Berrios could use the extra day of rest to get back to his dominant self we saw earlier this season, and not the Berrios we saw last month, when he had his worst month of his career since his rookie year in … August. Since his start at the end of July when he threw seven shutout innings, he has given up 23 runs in just 27 innings coming into tonight. Berrios is usually pretty good at keeping the ball in the ballpark, in fact he’s giving up just 1.2 home runs per nine innings. This season, the first three innings is where he has surrendered the most with 13. Today, he again struggled early as he gave up two home runs to Mookie Betts in his first two at-bats, in the first two innings, on just two pitches. This year, he has also now given up 10 home runs on the first pitch of an at-bat. After a rough start to the game, Berrios was able to turn things around for a few innings. After the second home run by Betts, Berrios retired 11 of the next 13 batters, which was capped off by a very athletic play by Berrios himself. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1169423798115848192?s=20 Something that Berrios was able to use an extra rest day to his favor was getting his velocity back up. Recently, Berrios’ velocity has been consistently in the low 90s, but tonight it looked back to normal as he topped out at about 95 mph and was normally hanging around 94 mph on his fastball. That was about it for good things from Berrios, as he left the game without even recording an out in the sixth inning. Berrios gave up a leadoff single that was followed by a walk and a double to score another run as he left with runners on second and third. Eduardo Rodriguez Quiets Twins Rodriguez came into tonight's start having given up just three runs in his last 17 1/3 innings, and tonight he continued his success shutting out the Twins offense for seven innings. Rodriguez gave up just five hits while striking out eight batters. Though Rodriguez wasn’t giving up many hits, he issued four walks, but the Twins just couldn’t come through in times of need. Rodriguez struck out the side in the top of the first, and picked up his fifth strikeout in the second inning stranding two runners. In the fourth, the Twins got back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, but Cave grounded into a double play. The inning wasn’t over quite yet as Rodriguez walked the next two batters to fill the bases. He got Willians Astudillo to fly out to end the threat with no runs being scored, but four guys reaching base safely. In the final three innings, he faced just 11 batters while recording nine outs including two more strikeouts, the final coming against Max Kepler to end the inning, and Rodriguez’s start. Bullpen Once the Twins' bullpen came into the game, they quieted down the Sox offense. Ryne Harper came in for the first time since being recalled and pitched just two pitches and recorded an out with runners on second and third. Cody Stashak came in with hopes of keeping the runners on the bases. Mookie Betts picked up another RBI with a single scoring the Sox sixth and last run of the game. Stashak picked up the final two outs to end the inning and strand two runners. Stashak picked up a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh before giving way to Brusdar Graterol for his second career outing. After giving up a leadoff walk, Graterol got three straight lineouts to end the inning. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1169459159730835456 Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
  15. Box Score Pérez: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 68% strikes (68 of 100 pitches) Bullpen: 3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K Home Runs: C.J. Cron (21), J.Schoop (18) Multi-Hit Games: None Top 3 WPA: Pérez .214, Garver .154, Schoop .101 Martín Pérez returned to Target Field after a very successful road trip in which he allowed just two runs in 11 innings. The bullpen and bats restricted Pérez to no decisions in both starts. The Twins allowed 8-of-9 leadoff batters to reach base in last night’s victory. On Sunday, Pérez surrendered just one. C.J. Cron assisted Pérez to his first win since before the All-Star break with a three-run blast in the fourth inning. Pérez twirled six strong innings, allowing two runs and striking out five. Pérez has walked 3.8 batters-per-nine this year, but gave a free pass to just one hitter on Sunday. His cutter was extremely effective to right-handed batters, which is an important development after the pitch was dominant during the first half of the season, but not so during the middle part of the schedule. Left-hander Matthew Boyd started for Detroit and allowed seven runs in six innings. Jonathan Schoop had one of the four Twins’ hits, as he laced a two-run homer down the left field line in the sixth. The Twins lead the league in OPS against left-handed pitching (.885). Catcher Mitch Garver doubled off the wall in the third to improve his torrid numbers against lefties. Boyd walked five and struck Max Kepler with a pitch in the fourth. The Twins figure to see Boyd at least once more, as they have seven more head-to-head matchups with Detroit. They have scored 10 runs off him in two starts. Cody Stashak continued to be a reliable low-leverage arm out of the bullpen, pitching two innings of one-hit ball with a strikeout. He was helped out by an outstanding catch in left field by Jake Cave. https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1165726211298848768 Lewis Thorpe entered in the ninth with less luck, surrendering three hits and two runs. Thorpe escaped the jam and finished the job. Stashak and Thorpe saved the arms of Rogers, Dyson and Romo. All of which will receive two days of much-needed rest. The Twins will enjoy an off-day tomorrow before facing Chicago for a three-game series against Lucas Giolito and the White Sox. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1165739378594828288 Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
  16. Before we get to our Top 4 relievers in the Twins system in July, here are several Honorable Mentions. Adam Bray - Pensacola Blue Wahoos/Rochester Red Wings - 8 G, 2 GS, 1.86 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 19.1 IP, 12 H, 5 BB, 13 K Nate Hadley - Elizabethton Twins/Cedar Rapids Kernels - 8 G, 0.75 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 12.0 IP, 7 H, 7 BB, 18 K, Jose Martinez - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 7 G, 1.23 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 14.2 IP, 6 H, 7 BB, 11 K Steven Cruz - Elizabethton Twins - 8 G, 1.13 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 16.0 IP, 9 H, 10 BB, 25 K Jose Guevara - GCL Twins - 6 G, 0.00 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 9.0 IP, 6 H, 5 BB, 8 K THE TOP FOUR RELIEF PITCHERS #4 - Moises Gomez - Ft. Myers Miracle - 7 G, 1.93 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 9.1 IP, 4 H, 5 BB, 14 K Runner-up last month, Gomez returns to the top four in July. He was promoted to the Miracle and continued to pitch great. He limited hits. Opponents hit just .133 against him. He was able to get a lot of swings and misses. Though he is in his sixth season in the Twins organization, Gomez is still just 22 years old . #3 - Cody Stashak - Rochester Red Wings - 6 G, 0.87 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 10.1 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 12 K We only included Stashak’s minor league numbers in the above stats, so it is clear why it made sense to give him an opportunity. Batters hit just .158 off of him with a .430 OPS. And he did make his big league debut and threw two scoreless innings against the New York Yankees. Stashak isn’t tall and he is thin, but he’s got a good fastball, a good slider and generally has good control and command. The 25-year-old was the Twins 13th-round pick in 2015 out of St. Johns. #2 - Sam Clay - Pensacola Blue Wahoos/Rochester Red Wings - 9 G, 1.13 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 9 H, 3 BB, 16 K Clay was the Twins fourth-round pick in 2014 out of Georgia Tech. He was given an opportunity to start for a couple of seasons but eventually was moved to the bullpen. He spent 2018 in Chattanooga where he posted a 5.88 ERA. He began this year in Pensacola where he posted a 2.70 ERA in 31 games. He was promoted to Rochester in mid-July. He has given up just one run in six outings with the Red Wings so far, and that included an outing in which he threw three hitless innings. For the month, opponents hit just .167 with a .424 OPS against him. And the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month is: Ft. Myers Miracle – RHP Joe Record - 6 G, 0.00 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 12.1 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 13 K Joe Record is having a really nice professional debut season. The 24-year-old was the Twins 28th-round pick in 2017 out of UC-Santa Barbara. His junior season he pitched in just three games before being shut down. The Twins still drafted him, and soon after, he had Tommy John surgery. He spent the 2018 season rehabbing. He began the 2019 season with the Cedar Rapids Kernels and was a very strong candidate for this award in April. In seven games for the Kernels, he did not allow an earned run and recorded five saves. He was promoted to Ft. Myers in early May. He’s had some ups and downs, as you would expect, but in July he was really good. In fact, Florida State League hitters hit just .111 off of him with a .278 OPS. Record is big, strong and he throws the ball into the mid-90s. He’s still working his way back, so expect that he could move quickly in 2020. As you can see, there were several strong relief pitcher performances in July. These guys are all worthy of some recognition. It was a good month for each of these pitchers mentioned today. Congratulations to Joe Record, the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month for July 2019.
  17. Right now, the Red Wings have the third worst ERA in the International League, with 5.34. They are also among the five pitching staffs who have allowed the most hits (900 in 840 2/3 innings) and have the fifth worst WHIP of the league, at 1.49. Most importantly, in several moments of the season in which the Twins needed to call somebody up to maybe put out a fire, the on call pitcher would kind of pour a bit more of gasoline in it, instead. During the first weeks of April, a couple of relief pitchers were called up to make their season debut in the majors and they were absolutely awful. I’m talking about Chase De Jong and Andrew Vasquez, who joined the team in New York for the Mets two-game series. They combined for only one inning pitched, with seven earned runs on three hits, five walks and one hit batter. That was a terrible first impression and none of them got called up again. De Jong is not even part of the organization anymore. From there, not many pitchers coming up from Rochester actually accomplished a very effective contribution to the Twins. The only exceptions that come to mind are Tyler Duffey, who’s a major presence in the current bullpen, and Matt Magill, who also helped a lot during his 28 games for the team, before allowing six unearned runs on four two-out hits against the Mets July 17. He was designated for assignment and then traded after that outing. Other than these two, the Rochester-to-Minnesota bullpen shuttle has been going back and forth. Fernando Romero, Kohl Stewart and Zack Littell are examples of pitchers who have come and gone after some disappointing outings in the majors. Romero, who made the transition between the rotation and the bullpen this year, has been called up three times, but didn’t manage to bring his ERA to lower than 5.63, currently parked at 7.88. Down in Rochester, it’s not looking phenomenal either, as it stands at 4.23 in 21 games. Stewart got called up four times and has done a decent job since migrating to the bullpen, holding a 2.45 ERA as a reliever, but he got sent back this week after allowing two earned runs on three hits against the Yankees on Tuesday. Littell also got called up three times and even though he had a great stretch of ten consecutive scoreless outings, he was optioned a couple of days after he blew a lead in the 5-4 loss against Oakland last Saturday. After that list of negative examples, one would think that there’s no way the Twins could rely on the arms coming from their New York affiliate. Then, four players came up and had their big chances to pitch out of the Twins bullpen this week, performing brilliantly. After Minnesota got rid of four relief pitchers in less than 10 days (Adalberto Mejía, Mike Morin, Matt Magill and Blake Parker), they saw no other option but to try and find the solution in Rochester. Even though virtually all fans hated that choice, wanting them to actually make trades to reinforce the bullpen, it actually worked. Before and during the Yankees series in Target Field, the Twins recalled Lewis Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer and Cody Stashak, the last one making his MLB debut. Sean Poppen got the call to pitch in the opener of the White Sox series on Thursday. The four young bloods performed incredibly, combining for 11 2/3 innings of work, allowing only two earned runs, one walk and striking out twelve batters. More importantly, they helped to take the burden off the seven remaining pitchers on the Twins bullpen, who were being overused in the days before. Other than Smeltzer and Poppen, no other reliever has pitched in the last two games. Which makes me wonder. Can the Twins realistically count on one of these arms for this year? Of course, all of us want the Twins front office to go out and acquire at least two new relievers via trade, but even if they did so, there would be two other spots to fill. Can one of those four aforementioned pitchers make the cut? Only four bullpen arms have been there for a long time now: Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Ryne Harper and Tyler Duffey. It’s reasonable to assume the Twins won’t trade for four relievers, but, instead, will consider giving someone in the house a chance. If they acquire a starting pitcher via trade, then you could count one among Michael Pineda and Martín Pérez to transition to the pen, most likely Pérez, who has already done that in the beginning of the season. Still, who gets the last spot? Everything points out to former Indians great Cody Allen, who had an awful stint with the Angels early this year, got designated for assignment, and signed with the Twins on a minor league deal. So far in the minors for the Twins (Fort Myers and Rochester), he’s pitched nine innings and has a 2.00 ERA, with a .226 batting average against and striking out eight batters per nine. He has at least earned himself the right to be looked at before the deadline. If he can go back to his old self (and, so far, Wes Johnson and the coaching staff have done wonders on recovering pitchers), he could be a major lift for the bullpen. Last year the Twins pulled five trades after July 27, so we can expect a lot of action this year. But maybe someone from within could be a surprising help. What do you think? Is there anyone in Rochester who would make your team? Comment and let us know.
  18. Standings Check-In The Twins enter play on Thursday with a three-game lead in the AL Central. At the beginning of June, the Twins were up 10.5 games as Cleveland had squeaked out a .500 record up to that point. By the end of June, Minnesota still had a comfortable eight game lead, but then Cleveland really turned on the heat. The Indians have gone 13-4 in July with two of their losses coming against the Twins. Some will point to Cleveland’s recent opponents as the reasons for their success, but they are winning the games in front of them. According to Baseball Reference, the Twins have a 96.2% chance of making the playoffs and a 90.9% chance of winning the division. They put Cleveland’s odds at 9.1% to win the division and 41.1% to make the playoffs. Also, the site projects Minnesota’s best possible record as 104-58 and their worst record as 91-71. On the flip side, Cleveland’s best record is projected as 96-66 and their worst record could be 83-79. Cleveland’s best and Minnesota’s worst would put the Twins back into the AL Wild Card Game. Cleveland currently sits in the first Wild Card spot with Oakland trailing by one game. Twins fans saw how good Oakland has been in their recent match-up and the A’s have a 7-3 record over their last 10 games. Boston and Tampa Bay sit two games behind the A’s, which means the Twins are six games up from being on the outside looking in. Multiple Weaknesses Minnesota has been running through a steady group of relievers from Rochester over the last couple weeks. This comes on the heels of the club parting ways with Matt Magill, Mike Morin and Adalberto Mejia. Minnesota cleared multiple roster spots without making any immediate additions to the bullpen. Cody Stashak made his MLB debut last night and he might have been the most effective Twins pitcher in a crazy game. Other players like Lewis Thorpe and Kohl Stewart are also getting some relief opportunities. Twins relievers have seen some struggles in recent weeks albeit it has come against some strong opponents. Trevor May has given up multiple leads with some hanging breaking balls that ended up over the fence. He was even asked to pitch over 50 pitches in one game. On Thursday, Blake Parker was designated for assignment or release. Ryne Harper and Tyler Duffey have also had some blemishes on their record as of late. Even the team’s best reliever, Taylor Rogers, has seen some leads slip through his hands. Realistically, the bullpen needs some help and Rochester might not have the pieces the team needs. The bullpen hasn’t been Minnesota’s only weakness. Fans have been frustrated with the Twins inability to get clutch hits with runners in scoring position, especially with the bases loaded. Twins batters have combined for an .820 OPS with runners in scoring position. However, the club has had 91 at-bats with the bases loaded this season while hitting .195/.213/.286 with only four extra-base hits. There seems to be some kind of hang-up when three men are on base instead of just having runners in scoring position. Looming Trade Deadline Minnesota could address some of their issues through trades in the next seven days. Earlier this week, Derek Falvey joined Darren Wolfson on his podcast to discuss the upcoming trade deadline. This year’s deadline is different since team’s cant make waiver trades after July 31. Falvey believes there will be a flurry of moves right before the deadline. Minnesota has given some consideration to being the first team to pull the trigger on a big trade, but that likely would mean the team is going to have to overpay to set the market. Falvey went on to say, the Twins are interested in improving “overall pitching depth.” This could be starters, relievers or maybe the team can get creative. He mentioned, “If there are ways to add to our starting rotation, our pitching depth, is there a way to add to the bullpen at the same time?” Fans might not want to hold out for any blockbuster trade. He believes the team is most likely looking for “supplements” to the current roster. If the team is going to win this year, it is going to be because of “the group that’s in the clubhouse right now.” To some, that might not exactly be a vote of confidence. However, the Twins need to avoid doing anything brash, because those type of trades can come back to haunt an organization. Do you think there’s a chance the Twins don’t make the playoffs? What would the repercussions be for the organization? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Other Stories of Interest Byron Buxton’s Not So Secret Value Twins Getting Greatness from Utility Buyer Beware: Avoiding a Chris Archer Trade
  19. TRANSACTIONS Miguel Sano is a step closer to returning to the Twins. He traveled to Rochester to join the Red Wings today. RED WINGS REPORT Durham 11, Rochester 8 Box Score Chase De Jong: 4.0 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 56.7% strikes (51 of 90 pitches) HR: Luke Raley (7) Multi-hit games: Raley (3-for-4, 2B, HR), Brent Rooker (2-for-5, 2B), Tomas Telis (2-for-4), Jordany Valdespin (2-for-3, 2 2B, BB), Drew Maggi (2-for-4) Addison Reed had a successful first outing of his rehab assignment. The follow up didn’t go so well. The second pitch out of his hand ended up in the seats for a solo home run. Reed gave up three runs on five hits in his inning of work. Silver lining: He got four swinging strikes and threw 16 of his 21 pitches for strikes. The Red Wings rallied back from being down 9-5 in the fifth inning to getting the tying run into scoring position in the eighth. Unfortunately, their rally ended there and to make matters worse Gabriel Moya gave up a pair of runs in the top of the ninth inning. Luke Raley was the big stud at the plate. He was 3-for-5 with a double and a home run. He scored twice and drove in three runs. Raley is now hitting an even .300 to go with a .929 OPS in his first taste of Triple A. Chase De Jong … ouch. He’s been really up against it this season, and now has given up 24 earned runs in 14 innings pitched for Rochester. Old friend Aaron Slegers got knocked around for six runs, five earned, on 10 hits over five innings for Durham. It is a really difficult time to be a pitcher at the Triple-A level right now. BLUE WAHOO BITES Mississippi 4, Pensacola 1 Box Score Griffin Jax: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 70.8% strikes (51 of 72 pitches) HR: None Multi-hit games: Taylor Grzelakowski (2-for-4), Jordan Gore (2-for-4, 2B) Griffin Jax lives in the strike zone. He does such an incredible job with throwing strikes it makes it really hard for opposing teams to really rack up any runs against him. Even with Mississippi hitting three home runs off him tonight, Jax still managed to limit the damage to four runs over his six innings of work. This is Jax’s worst start of the season, as he’d given up a grand total of two earned runs in six outings heading into tonight, but it’s still a testament to what he brings to the table even when things aren’t going his way. His ERA skyrocketed up to … 1.35. Wow, what a roll he’s been on. Unfortunately, the Blue Wahoo bats couldn’t pick up the slack as Kyle Muller, Atlanta’s No. 12 prospect per MLB Pipeline, pitched a great game for the Braves. Pensacola’s lone run was scored on a wild pitch. Cody Stashak pitched two perfect innings out of the bullpen and struck out four batters. In 17 innings so far this season he has 28 strikeouts and just two walks. Alex Kirilloff had the night off. MIRACLE MATTERS Game 1: Tampa 5, Fort Myers 2 (suspended in the fifth inning due to heavy rain) Game 2: POSTPONED This team can’t catch a break with the weather right now. This makes four postponements and a suspended game already this month. It’s only the 10th! The suspended game will continue in the bottom of the fifth inning tomorrow. Lewin Diaz hit another home run, his third in seven games, and Ryan Costello added another homer. But, those stats won’t become official until this game is completed. So you can read all about that (assuming the weather cooperates) in tomorrow’s report. KERNELS NUGGETS West Michigan 8, Cedar Rapids 1 Box Score Tyler Palm: 3.0 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 55.2% strikes (37 of 67 pitches) HR: None Multi-hit games: Gilberto Celestino (2-for-4), Yeltsin Encarnacion (2-for-3, BB) The Kernels just could not get out of the fourth inning tonight. Tyler Palm and Austin Schulfer combined to give up six runs on five hits and two walks. Meanwhile, the lineup struggled to deliver a big hit, going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position while leaving eight men on base. This Cedar Rapids club could really use a boost right now. They’re 4-7 and have scored just 35 runs so far this month. Is it Wander Javier time yet? STARS OF THE DAY Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day: Cody Stashak, Pensacola Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day: Luke Raley, Rochester TOP PROSPECT SUMMARY Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed 6. Brent Rooker (ROC): 2-for-5, 2B, 2 R, RBI, K 11. Nick Gordon (ROC): 0-for-5, K, E (throw) 16. Gilberto Celestino (CR): 2-for-4 18. LaMonte Wade (ROC): 1-for-5, 2B, R 2 K SATURDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS Rochester vs. Durham, 12:05 pm CT (TBD) Pensacola at Chattanooga, 6:15 pm CT (TBD) Fort Myers vs. Tampa, 2:00 pm CT (continuation of suspended game) Fort Myers vs. Tampa, 4:00 pm CT (Charlie Barnes) Cedar Rapids at West Michigan, 6:05 pm CT (Cole Sands) Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss the games.
  20. Normally, we write up a Top 4 or Top 5 and then highlight several honorable mentions. This month, there were six relievers that really stood out. We will profile all six of them. THE TOP SIX RELIEF PITCHERS #6 - Joe Record - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 6 G, 0.00 ERA, 0.27 WHIP, 7.1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 15 K I thought about putting Record in an Honorable Mention section only because of the innings, but his numbers when he did pitch were so incredible, so dominant, I wanted to write a bit about him. It is important to remember that after the Twins took Record in the 28th round in 2017 out of UC-Santa Barbara, he soon had Tommy John surgery. So April was his professional debut after missing two years. Obviously the Twins were going to be cautious with him, especially in the cold of the Midwest League, which explains the lack of innings. But in that limited time, batters hit just .040 (.151) against him. He struck out more than two batters per innings. And, after one more scoreless inning, and his fifth save, on May 1st, the 24-year-old was promoted to Ft. Myers. #5 - Cody Stashak - Pensacola Blue Wahoos - 7 G, 2.53 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 10.2 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 16 K Stashak was the Twins 13th-round pick in 2015 out of St. Johns. He signed and spent his first three pro seasons as a starter. In 2018, he was moved to the bullpen and named to the Twins Daily 2018 Minor League All Star team after a terrific season in Chattanooga. He returns to AA this year with Pensacola and got off to a very good start. As he has done through his career, Stashak throws a lot of strikes, but out of the bullpen, he has been able to increase his velocity some and miss more bats. He limits hard contact. Definitely ready to move up to Rochester. #4 - Dusten Knight - Pensacola Blue Wahoos - 7 G, 1.59 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 11.1 IP, 4 H, 3 BB,14 K Knight came to the Twins last December in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft after spending the first six seasons of his pro career in the Giants organization. The righty was San Francisco’s 28th-round pick in 2013 out of college. He had a great April in the Twins organization. He limited base runners, threw strikes and when he did give up base runners, he limited damage. He pitched in seven games, finished six of them, went 1-0 and completed five saves. At this stage, he is probably best known for his post-saves back flip in front of the mound. Unfortunately, on May 1st, he was placed on the restricted list which typically means that he will be out for the next two months or more. https://twitter.com/SethTweets/status/1116528545847812102 #3 - Tom Hackimer - Ft. Myers Miracle - 8 G, 0.68 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 13.1 IP, 2 H, 7 BB, 23 K Hackimer returned to the mound early in the 2019 season after missing most of the 2018 with an injury. In early October, he had a bicep tendon transfer surgery. He got a late start in spring training but he’s back and he’s been really good. The side-winding right-hander was completely dominant. Not only is he not allowing base runners (other than a few too many walks), but he is missing a lot of bats. Again, Hackimer is a guy who should move up to Double-A quickly. #2 - Alex Phillips - Ft. Myers Miracle - 9 G, 0.00 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, 13.2 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 20 K Alex Phillips is an interesting case. Out of high school in Texas, he went to Arkansas and was good. He went to a junior college the next year (2015). Unfortunately, he had Tommy John surgery so he didn’t pitch again until 2017 when he attended Baylor. In 2018, he went 7-1 with a 2.40 ERA for Baylor but didn’t get drafted. He went to Evansville in the Frontier League. However, after 16 games there the Twins called and sent him to Ft. Myers. He pitched in two games for the Miracle before pitching more and pitching well in the Miracle’s run to the Florida State League championship. The 24-year-old started this year with the Miracle but as the calendar changed to May, Phillips was promoted to Pensacola. Phillips is blessed with a mid-90s fastball and an ability to throw strikes and miss bats. Most months, this resume and those results would win the top honors. And the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month is: Pensacola Blue Wahoos – RHP Ryan Mason - 8 G, 0.00 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 11.2 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 16 K Ryan Mason was the Twins 13th-round pick in 2016 out of California where he was a starter. Since his first full season of pro ball, he has worked out of the bullpen, and been very good. In 2017, he posted a 2.01 ERA in Cedar Rapids. That’s where he began 2018 but after three games he moved up to Ft. Myers. There he went 9-3 with five saves and a 2.84 ERA over 36 games and 69 2/3 innings. In April alone, Mason had four saves, splitting late-inning duties with Dusten Knight. Mason throws a lot of strikes and he gets a lot of movement. In the month, his 16 strikeouts to one walk ratio was remarkable. He worked high-leverage situations, threw a lot of strikes, missed a lot of bats and didn’t give up runs. Mason can be an intimidating opponent on the mound. He stands 6-6 and is lean and strong. He has a grizzly beard and an animated delivery that makes his low-to-mid 90s fastball appear a little quicker than it is. He is able to keep hitters off balance with solid secondary pitches. He is able to work the eighth or ninth inning, and he is able to eat two or three innings when needed. That is important because when the Twins have a need in the big leagues, it could be for one inning, or three innings, at a time. There were some really strong relief pitcher performances in April throughout the Twins minor league system. I mean, how do you pick between 0.00 ERAs? It was a good month for each of these pitchers mentioned today. Congratulations to Ryan Mason, the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month for April 2019.
  21. Before we get into it, here’s a look back at the players I’ve covered in this series so far: Jhoan Duran Alex Kirilloff Lewis Thorpe Royce Lewis Each of the previous installments of this series focuses on a specific aspect of a player's game or homes in on a particular performance. This will be more of an overview. We’re in the era of the 13-man pitching staff. Every team in baseball cycles through a great number of relievers each season, but there figure to be plenty of opportunities in the Twins’ bullpen this coming season. Relief Candidates on the 40-Man Roster The only relief pitcher who still has prospect status is Andrew Vasquez, but there are also all those starting pitchers who debuted last season who appear to be on the outside looking in. Might it make sense to give one of Chase De Jong, Stephen Gonsalves, Zack Littell, Kohl Stewart or Lewis Thorpe a shot in the bullpen? None of those guys have pitched much in relief, and some don’t fit a typical reliever profile, but it wasn’t long ago you could have said those same things about Taylor Rogers. There’s already been some talk of Fernando Romero (who is no longer technically a prospect) getting a look in the pen, maybe the Twins will consider a conversion for one of these prospects. Romero may have the most tantalizing arsenal of that group, but it's interesting to note that both Littell and Gonsalves had better strikeout rates in Triple A last season. Romero averaged 6.8 K/9 in 90 2/3 innings with Rochester while Gonsalves was at 8.5 K/9 in 100 1/3 innings and Littell had 8.3 K/9 in 106 innings. Back to Vasquez, in terms of true relievers, he ranks third on the lefty depth chart behind Rogers and Gabriel Moya. There's a great chance he'll see time in the majors again if that remains the case. The Vasquatch has dominated the minor leagues, pitching to a 1.52 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 13.4 K/9. Who’s Next on the Farm? Before we get to the prospects, there are a few minor league veteran guys who have an outside chance at working their way up into a low-leverage role. Guys like Ryne Harper, Dario Alvarez, Mike Morin, Zack Weiss and Jeffery Ames. I’m sure the Twins will add a few other relievers on minor league deals. Some of those guys won’t even last through spring training, but others will get an opportunity to show what they’ve got in Rochester. This front office seems to be intrigued by fringy relief pitchers, though they’ve mostly acquired them through waivers (Matt Magill, Oliver Drake, David Hale, Dillon Gee, Nik Turley and Drew Rucinski among others). I assume they’ll continue to be active on that front as well. The guys this front office do not seem to like are all the relief pitchers drafted in the earlier rounds under Terry Ryan. Jake Reed is pretty much the last man standing among that group. He’s 26-years-old and has 61 Triple-A appearances under his belt, so what are they waiting for? Well, behind Reed’s sterling 1.92 ERA in the 89 innings he’s pitched for the Red Wings the past two seasons is a less impressive 8.4 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. Still, production is production, and Reed should be the first man up if the front office is in the position where they need to add a relief arm to the 40-man roster. It’d be a shame if he doesn’t get a look at some point. Another name of note in Triple A is Ryan Eades. Drafted in the second round as a starter back in 2013, Eades has primarily worked out of the bullpen the past two seasons. After posting just a 6.9 K/9 in 2017, he hiked that all the way up to 10.4 K/9 last season. The really great part was that he also lowered his walk rate from 3.4 BB/9 to 2.6 BB/9 last year. Eades was outstanding in the six starts he made, posting a 0.45 ERA and 0.90 WHIP, but the longest he went was four innings. Could he be the perfect opener? Eades is 27-years-old, so there’s really no use in leaving him in the minors should an opportunity present itself. Behind Reed and Eades is another bunch of guys who’ve only reached Double A. Tyler Jay is certainly the highest-profile name among them. For me, the question is does the velocity come back? If it does, I could see Jay move up very quickly. If not, well, he didn’t exactly inspire confidence by posting a 4.22 ERA and 1.58 WHIP last season. So let’s forget about Jay for a minute. The name I really want you to come away from this article with is Cody Stashak. The Twins converted him to the bullpen last season and it was a roaring success. The 24-year-old right-hander was one of the best pitchers in all of Double A. It’s not like Stashak was a failed starter by any means. In 2017, Stashak had a 3.89 ERA, 1.10 WHIP over 16 starts. His strikeout rate was a fairly modest 7.8 K/9, but he was certainly getting the job done. Stashak was forced to the DL in late July, had a few rehab appearances out of the bullpen with the GCL Twins, then made his final three outings of the year in relief for Chattanooga. I’m not sure the reasoning behind why they decided to keep him in the bullpen, but it’s looking like a very wise decision. In 2018, Stashak had a 2.87 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 11.2 K/9. He also continued to have very good control, posting a 2.3 BB/9, giving him a K:BB ratio of 4.93. There were 289 players who pitched 50 innings or more in Double A last season. Stashak ranked fifth in K-BB%, eighth in FIP, 12th in strikeout rate and 16th in swinging strike rate. It was basically your dream scenario when you move a guy to the pen. Here’s a quick look back at one of Stashak appearances from last year just to give you an idea of who he is. This is every single pitch of this particular outing, so there’s no sugar coating involved. I’d hoped to pull some more video on him, but MiLB.tv was malfunctioning, so this also wasn’t a cherry-picked outing. It just happened to be the one I was able to get. https://twitter.com/BaseballByTom/status/1087101499073839109 Stashak also ended the year particularly strong, allowing just two earned runs over his final 23 innings (0.78 ERA). If he carries that performance over to this season, he may be knocking at the door for his major league debut. This front office has made some eyebrow-raising decisions with relief prospects, but most of the guys they’ve passed over had some degree of wildness. That hasn’t been an issue for Stashak. Speaking of guys who moved from the rotation to the bullpen, there’s also Devin Smeltzer, a lefty who the Twins acquired from the Dodgers in the Brian Dozier trade. He didn’t have the same type of dynamite transition as Stashak, but his strikeout rate did see an incredible jump. After striking out just 53 batters in 70 1/3 innings as a starter (6.8 K/9), Smeltzer rung up 30 batters in just 25 1/3 innings out of the bullpen (10.7 K/9) in 2018. One guy who could be a huge x-factor is Jorge Alcala. The flame-throwing right-hander who the Twins got from Houston in the Ryan Pressly trade could really rocket up to the majors if he successfully transitioned to a relief role, not that I’ve heard that’s the plan for him. Alcala made 16 starts and another eight appearances in relief in 2018, performing about the same in either role. He struck out 104 batters in 99 1/3 innings last season. Anybody who hasn’t pitched in Double A is a longshot to make it all the way up to the majors in one year, but hey, Andrew Vasquez did it. Quite a few members of last year’s Miracle bullpen were college draftees who will now be entering their age 24 or even 25 seasons. Guys like Hector Lujan, Ryan Mason, Alex Robinson, Colton Davis, Adam Bray and Tom Hackimer. If one of them really takes off, there doesn’t seem to be much reason not to fast track them, though a Vasquez-type ascent would be surprising. More than 160 players are featured in the Prospect Handbook.We had a ton of fun putting the book together and we’re really excited for people to read it. Recognizing these minor league players for their efforts and ability is a big motivating factor in the project, so we would love for you to pick up a copy. Click here for more information on the 2019 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook
  22. There were several standout strikeout arms in the Twins system when it came to relief pitchers, as you will see below. Some of them have spent time in the majors this season, while a few others appear ready for their opportunity. Short profiles of our top five are to follow, but first, some players worthy of honorable mention. These players also received votes. Others Receiving Votes Nick Anderson, Rochester Red Wings – 39 G, 8-2, 4 Saves, 3.30 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 60.0 IP, 49 H, 19 BB, 88 K Gabriel Moya, Rochester Red Wings – 26 G, 1-1, 4 Saves, 1.90 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 42.2 IP, 38 H, 12 BB, 50 K John Curtiss, Rochester Red Wings – 38 G, 2-4, 10 Saves, 3.42 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 55.1 IP, 41 H, 31 BB, 61 K Ryne Harper, Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings – 38 G, 1-5, 6 Saves, 3.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 65.0 IP, 61 H, 10 BB, 86 K These are the top five players to receive votes for Twins Daily’s Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year #5 – Jake Reed, Rochester Red Wings – 30 G, 0-3, 2 Saves, 1.89 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 47.2 IP, 34 H, 21 BB, 50 K For a few years now, it has seemed like Jake Reed was knocking on the door to the major leagues, but in part due to some injuries, hasn’t yet made the jump. I’ll say quite frankly that he should have, at least for September of this year (and last year for that matter). The ERA to finish his season is great, but he really turned it on as the season wore on, appearing in both July and August’s Relief Pitcher of the Month entries. In that time frame Reed appeared in 16 games, pitching 26 total innings and allowing just four earned runs (1.38 ERA) on 10 hits and 10 walks (good for a 0.77 WHIP), while striking out 29. #4 – Alan Busenitz, Rochester Red Wings – 27 G, 2-3, 7 Saves, 2.48 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 40.0 IP, 32 H, 8 BB, 45 K Despite appearing in 28 games with the Twins in 2017 and delivering a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, Busenitz has been on the Triple A shuttle several times this season, never quite being able to settle in. He was excellent in the minors again in 2018, including the month of May in which he didn’t allow a single run in eight appearances and 13 total innings. He was recognized in both May and June’s Relief Pitcher of the Month awards, and in that stretch over a period of 13 MiLB appearances, did not allow a run while striking out 27 in 23 innings pitched. #3 – Cody Stashak, Fort Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts – 37 G, 2-1, 4 Saves, 2.87 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 59.2 IP, 49 H, 15 BB, 74 K Stashak was a starting pitcher for the first two years of his professional career, and a decent one, after being drafted in the 13th round of the 2015 draft out of St. Johns University. But that changed in 2018, as the Twins put him in the bullpen for its entirety. He didn’t miss a beat, sustaining a sub 3.00 ERA, sub 1.10 WHIP, and sub .240 batting average against while increasing his K-rate. Stashak has always had good control, and that also didn’t leave him out of the ‘pen allowing him to have the best K/BB ratio of his career. From July through the end of the season, spanning 17 appearances and 23 innings pitched, Stashak allowed just two earned runs (0.78 ERA) on 19 hits and only 2 walks, while striking out 25. He was #2 in July’s Relief Pitcher of the Month entry and made honorable mention in two others during the season. #2 – Jovani Moran, Cedar Rapids Kernels/Fort Myers Miracle – 37 G, 9-3, 8 Saves, 2.49 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 76.0 IP, 45 H, 35 BB, 107 K If you paid attention during the year or have been clicking the links throughout this article, you know of the legend that is Jovani Moran already. He took home the monthly relief pitcher honors in June and July and received an honorable mention twice. The first thing you’ll notice with him is obviously the K’s. After striking out literally everybody with Elizabethton in 2017 (almost, his rate was 16.4/9IP) and taking home the Short Season Pitcher of the Year award, Moran continued that success with the Kernels and Miracle in 2018, finishing with a rate of 12.7K/9IP between his two stops. Surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow in 2016 seemingly ended his development path as a starter, but what they’ve found as a reliever is hard to ignore. Listed at 6’1” and 170 lbs, Moran hasn’t been known for his velocity, but may have kicked it up some in the bullpen. He has also improved the movement of his secondary pitches, led by a great changeup and improving breaking ball. Moran is one to watch closely moving forward. #1 – Andrew Vasquez, Fort Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings – 40 G, 1-2, 6 Saves, 1.30 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 69.1 IP, 50 H, 21 BB, 108 K If you thought Moran’s strikeout total was egregious, take a look at Andrew Vasquez’s. There’s a reason the left-handed Vasquez jumped from Fort Myers all the way to the Twins bullpen during the 2018 season—he has been as untouchable as his slider is elite. Like Moran, Vasquez made appearances on several of the monthly awards, including winning in August before his September callup to the majors. Leading to his recent MLB debut, Vasquez has had a standout minor league career since being drafted by the Twins in the 32nd round of the 2015 draft out of Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. His career minor league ERA is just 1.52 in four seasons and he has struck out 13.4/9IP. While his fastball will only touch the 90’s, as Twins farm director Jeremy Zoll noted to Twins Daily, “It’s all about the slider with Andrew.” Because of this pitch, he didn’t allow a single extra-base-hit to same-sided hitters during his 2017 season that ended with a trip to the Arizona Fall League (fun fact only I may know since I wrote about it: his first hit allowed in the AFL was a double to a lefty). His efforts during that 2017 campaign also landed him at #5 in this award category last year. Zoll went on to talk about how Brad Steil, Luis Ramirez (Vasquez’s pitching coach in rookie ball), and the Twins pushed him to rely on the pitch after turning pro. “The slider is your thing, make it your thing. He really owned that this year. I think he realized that not only lefties, but righties were having a really hard time hitting it too. Once he got to Double A it was like ‘All right, I’m catching a groove here’ and you could see his confidence boost. It’s been really fun to see him have that type of success, starting in high-A and ending up in the big leagues.” You can definitely see that boost in confidence talked about in his numbers on the year. With Fort Myers, Vasquez pitched 32.2 innings with a 1.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 37:13 K to BB ratio. With the Lookouts, those numbers improved to 31.0 innings with a 1.16 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and a 59:4 K to BB ratio. Then, before he was called up to the Twins he made four appearances with the Rochester Red Wings, pitching 5.2 innings and striking out 12 of the 28 hitters he faced (42.3%). It was an easy decision to add Vasquez to the 40-man when rosters expanded for September based on his numbers and the fact that he would have to be protected in the offseason anyway. Twins fans should be able to see that slider plenty of times over the final month and get an idea of what the future could hold for the 6’6” left-hander. It’s very apparent how much the Twins believe in Vasquez and his slider, as Zoll closed by recalling a conversation with Tim O’Neill, one of their national cross-checkers, who said, “How about the kid from Westmont?!” Zoll went on, “It’s an interesting story and situation to see that type of profile, having a reliever with that type of slider. Where did you learn that thing and how can we teach other people? Maybe there’s something in the water. We’ll have to ship that out to Fort Myers.” Definitely look into that, Mr. Zoll! Congratulations to Andrew Vasquez and the rest of the relievers recognized by Twins Daily for their efforts in 2018. Vasquez has the ingredients to stick around for a while, even if it’s just to devastate left-handed hitters. The Ballots In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily minor league writers: Seth Stohs – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Jake Reed, 4) Alan Busenitz, 5) Cody Stashak Jeremy Nygaard – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Alan Busenitz, 4) Cody Stashak, 5) Nick Anderson Cody Christie – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Gabriel Moya, 4) Cody Stashak, 5) Alan Busenitz Tom Froemming – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Cody Stashak, 4) Ryne Harper, 5) Nick Anderson Steve Lein – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Cody Stashak, 4) Ryne Harper, 5) Nick Anderson Ted Schwerzler – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jake Reed, 3) John Curtiss, 4) Alan Busenitz, 5) Jovani Moran What do you think? How would your ballot look?
  23. Before we share our choices for the Twins Minor League Top Five Relievers for July, here are some terrific bullpen performances that just missed the cut. HONORABLE MENTION Erik Cha- GCL Twins, 7 G, 1.64 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 11.0 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 8 K Ryan Eades - Chattanooga Lookouts, 6 G, 2.19 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 12.1 IP, 9 H, 0 BB, 12 K Regi Grace - GCL Twins, 3 G, 0.00 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 8.1 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 7 K Ryne Harper - Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings, 8 G, 1.42 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 12.2 IP, 11 H, 2 BB, 15 K Zach Neff - Elizabethton Twins, 9 G, 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 13.1 IP, 11 H, 5 BB, 18 K Derek Molina - Elizabethton Twins/Cedar Rapids Kernels, 7 G, 1.42 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 12.2 IP, 3 H, 12 BB, 22 K Andrew Vasquez - Chattanooga Lookouts, 9 G, 2.16 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 16 H, 1 BB, 29 K THE TOP FIVE RELIEF PITCHERS #5 - Jose Martinez - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 8 G, 1.20 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 15.0 IP, 9 H, 4 BB, 16 K You may not have heard of Jose Martinez, but this is his sixth season in the Twins organization. Signed in 2013 out of Venezuela by Jose Leon, Martinez spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons in the Dominican Summer League. He spent the last two seasons in Elizabethton. He has spent this entire season with the Kernels in Cedar Rapids.In 28 total games, he has worked 53 2/3 innings. He’s got a 4.53 ERA. He has 50 strikeouts and 21 walks. He was very good in July and ended the month with six scoreless outings covering 11 1/3 innings. He recorded a save in three of his final four outings during the month. #4 - Jake Reed - Rochester Red Wings - 8 G, 2.03 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 13.1 IP, 4 H, 5 BB, 11 K Reed was the Twins fifth-round draft pick in 2014 out of the University of Oregon. He flew up the system, pitching in the Arizona Fall League that year and starting the 2015 season in Chattanooga. However, he has fought some injuries and still has yet to receive the call up. However, if his past two months are any indication, just maybe it will come this year. In July, opponents hit just .095/.224/.143 (.367) against him. Reed has a fastball in the mid-90s that runs in on a right-hander, and he compements it with a mid-80s slider that darts away from a right-hander. #3 - Adam Bray - Ft. Myers Miracle - 9 G, 0.98 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 18.1 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 19 K Adam Bray had a fantastic baseball career if he had just quit playing after a high school state championship and a national championship with his American Legion team. He went to South Dakota State and then was drafted by the Dodgers. This March, he was acquired by the Twins in a trade. He didn’t join the Miracle until the end of June. As you can see from his numbers, he pitched a lot, and he pitched quite well. Opponents hit just .136/.212/.220 (.432) off of him during the month, and he struck out more than a batter per inning. Get to know a little more about Adam Bray from this story. #2 - Cody Stashak - Chattanooga Lookouts - 9 G, 0.00 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 13.1 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 16 K Stashak was drafted as a starting pitcher out of St. Johns in the 13th round of the 2015 draft. He was a pretty solid, underrated starter. In 2016, he posted a 2.80 ERA between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers. Last year, he posted a 3.60 ERA between Ft. Myers and Chattanooga. This year, the move was made to the bullpen and it has been successful. In 43 2/3 innings so far this year for the Lookouts, he has a 3.09 ERA and 60 strikeouts to go with just 13 walks. In July, he didn’t give up a run, earned or unearned. Opponents hit just .179/.220/.256 (.476) against him during the month. At 6-2 and thin, Stashak throws in the low 90s with a good pitch mix. He’s got good control and command. And the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month is: Ft. Myers Miracle – LHP Jovani Moran - 8 G, 1.13 ERA, 0.56 WHIP, 16.0 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 22 K Moran is the choice for Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month for the second straight month. The difference, of course, is that he was a member of the Cedar Rapids Kernels throughout the month of June. At the end of the month, Moran was promoted to Ft. Myers and hasn’t missed a beat. The 2015 seventh-round pick from Puerto Rico has pitched in different roles in his short time with the Miracle, averaging two innings per outing. In July, opponents hit just .148/.164/.204 (.367) against him. In large part, the 22:1 strikeout to walk ratio helps with that. The 21-year-old missed the 2016 season after having surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow. He returned strong in 2017, and he was the Twins Daily short-season Minor League Pitcher of the Year. For Elizabethton, he gave up just one run in 24 2/3 innings (0.36 ERA), and had just six walks to go with 45 strikeouts. Moran is not a big guy .He stands 6-foot-1 and weighs in at about 170 pounds. He’s got a good whip action and some deception in his delivery. His fastball reaches into the low-90s, and he’s got a good slider and changeup. He really just needs to keep working and developing, and gaining strength could help him add a little more velocity. He’s a really good athlete who fields the position well. There were several strong relief pitcher performances in July throughout the Twins minor league system. It was a good month for each of these pitchers mentioned today, but for the second straight month, Congratulations to Jovani Moran. He is the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month for July 2018.
  24. TRANSACTIONS With Ryan LaMarre headed to Puerto Rico as the Twins 26th man, relief pitcher Ryne Harper was promoted to the Red Wings. Cody Stashak was then promoted from Ft. Myers to Chattanooga to take Harper’s spot. Presumably Ft. Myers will add a pitcher on Tuesday when they return to play. Will that be a pitcher from Cedar Rapids, or will they just bring someone over from extended spring training for a game or two? RED WINGS REPORT Rochester 6, Charlotte 3 Box Score The Red Wings traveled to Charlotte from Gwinnett after being rained out on Sunday. There’s no question that Kennys Vargas would much prefer to be hanging out in Puerto Rico than in North Carolina this week. But after a DFA-filled spring training, he’s not on the 40-man roster, and not with his countrymen Jose Berrios and Eddie Rosario in the Caribbean. Maybe he decided to take it out on the baseball. Or maybe he just wanted to lead the Red Wings to a win, and that’s what he did. Vargas got the Red Wings on the board in the top of the first inning with a sacrifice fly. In the sixth inning, he knocked his first home run of the season to give the team a 3-2 lead. In the seventh inning, he gave the team some insurance with another sacrifice fly. He ended the game 2-3 and added his first double of the season to go with his first home run. Taylor Featherston found himself on base often. He went 1-2 with three walks. Jake Cave reached three times via the walk. Brock Stassi was 1-3 with a walk. Fernando Romero was supposed to start on Sunday, but instead he made the Monday night start. He gave up two runs on four hits and three walks. He struck out four batters. However, he came out one out shy of being able to record a win, 4.2 innings, because his pitch count was already at 81 (48 strikes). Tyler Duffey came on and got the final out of the fifth inning. He then worked three more innings. In his 3.1 innings, he gave up just one hit. He didn’t issue any walks and struck out six. 28 of his 37 pitchers were strikes. John Curtiss came on for the ninth inning. He gave up a run on two hits. He struck out two. CHATTANOOGA CHATTER Chattanooga, Jacksonville The Lookouts were scheduled to start a home series against Jacksonville, but rains caused the game to be postponed. The teams will play a doubleheader on Wednesday. MIRACLE MATTERS The Miracle had a scheduled off day on Monday. KERNELS NUGGETS The Kernels had a scheduled off day on Monday. It will be interesting to see if they are able to play in Beloit starting on Tuesday. Steve Buhr recently caught up with Kernels manager Toby Gardenhire who said that the team has “a lot of guys are doing some really good things.” STARS OF THE DAY Twins Daily Hitter of the Day: Kennys Vargas, Rochester Red Wings Twins Daily Pitcher of the Day: Tyler Duffey, Rochester Red Wings TOP PROSPECT SUMMARY Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects (or, I guess just “Prospect” tonight, performed: #2 - Fernando Romero (Rochester) - 4.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K TUESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS Rochester @ Charlotte (6:04 CST) - LHP Dietrich Enns Jacksonville @ Chattanooga (6:15 CST) - RHP Zack Littell Ft. Myers @ Dunedin (5:30) - RHP Sean Poppen Cedar Rapids @ Beloit (6:35 CST) - RHP Edwar Colina Please feel free to ask any questions about Monday’s game, or ask any questions you may have.
  25. Before we get to our Top 5 starting pitchers for the month of June, here is a list of a couple of others who deserve to be recognized for a solid month. HONORABLE MENTION Clark Beeker - Cedar Rapids - 4 GS, 23.1 IP, 2-0, 3.86 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 24 H, 3 BB, 14 K Felix Jorge - Chattanooga - 5 GS, 34.0 IP, 3-0, 2.91 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 34 H, 5 BB, 31 K Lewis Thorpe - Ft. Myers - 4 G, 3 GS, 16.2 IP, 1-0, 1.62 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 13 H, 7 BB, 16 K. THE TOP FIVE STARTING PITCHERS #5 - Fernando Romero - Chattanooga Lookouts - 4 GS, 3-0, 1.69 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 26.2 IP, 21 H, 8 BB, 27 K Romero was the choice for Twins Daily’s #1 prospect before the 2017 season, and he’s performed well in his jump to AA Chattanooga. While he started out a little slow, he has been quite good since mid-May. More important, he’s become more consistent. Along with the fantastic numbers listed above, about a strikeout each inning, opponents hit just .206/.283/.333 (.617) off Romero in June. He returned to the mound in 2016 after missing two years of playing time due to Tommy John surgery in 2014 and knee surgery in 2015. After three starts with the Kernels, he moved up to Ft. Myers where he continued to dominate until being shut down in late August. In November, he was added to the 40-man roster. #4 - Dereck Rodriguez - Ft. Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts - 5 GS, 3-0, 2.60 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 27.2 IP, 19 H, 9 BB, 31 K Rodriguez was the Twins 2011 sixth-round pick. He spent the next three years as an outfielder. He then transitioned into a pitcher full time in 2014. He was moved along slowly, but about 12 months ago, he took off. He struggled for the first six weeks of the 2016 season in Cedar Rapids, but he pitched well, and earned a late-season promotion to Ft. Myers. He began 2017 as the Miracle Opening Day starter. He earned a spot on the Florida State League All-Star team and pitched an inning in the game. He started June in Ft. Myers, but he was promoted to the Lookouts for a start. He was sent back to the Miracle in order to pitch in the All-Star Game, but then was brought back up to the Lookouts. He put up very good numbers at both levels. In fact, opponents hit just .198/.264/.281 (.541) against him. He should spend the remainder of the season with the Lookouts. He could become a free agent following the season, unless the Twins put him on their 40-man roster. #3 - Tyler Wells - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 4 GS, 2-2, 1.96 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 23.0 IP, 17 H, 4 BB, 27 K Wells was the Twins 15th-round pick last year out of Cal State-San Bernadino. At 6-8, 265 pounds, Wells can look intimidating on the mound. He runs a fastball 91-94, but his best pitches may be his breaking balls, both a 12-6 curveball and a good slider. He returned from the disabled list at the end of May and started where he left off. In June, opponents hit just .202/.236/.226 (.462) off of him. Unfortunately, he is back on the disabled list after experiencing the same issue that put him on the DL for three weeks earlier this season. He is experiencing some issues in his shoulder. An MRI was conducted because it was his second time with this issue, but the results were inconclusive. It didn’t show that anything structural was wrong. He’ll be in the Twin Cities in the coming days for another look. #2- Cody Stashak - Ft. Myers Miracle - 3 GS, 2-0, 0.98 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 18.1 IP, 10 H, 4 BB, 20 K A quick look at his raw numbers and it is hard to justify him not being #1 on this list. However, he made just three starts for the Miracle because he was placed on the DL on May 22 and didn’t return to the Miracle mound until June 15th. In half of the month, he was nearly unhittable. Opponents hit just .156/.217/.172 (.389) off him during the month. Stashak was the Twins 13th-round pick in 2015 out of St. Johns. He isn’t a flame-thrower, but he sits 90-93 and pounds the strike zone with a good three-pitch mix. He is a good athlete. If he keeps pitching well, he could be a candidate to move up to Chattanooga within the next month. And the Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month is: Chattanooga Lookouts - LHP Stephen Gonsalves - 5 GS, 4-1, 2.32 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 31.0 IP, 20 H, 8 BB, 38 K Maybe the lesson to be learned from these top starting pitcher performances in June is that if caught early and treated/rehabbed, pitchers can come back as strong, or even stronger. This month’s top starting pitcher is a great example of that. Gonsalves was the Twins fourth-round pick in 2013 out of high school in San Diego. He has quickly and consistently moved up each season. He was the Twins Daily choice for Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2016 as well as the Twins choice for their top minor league pitcher. His success caused the Twins to invite him to big league spring training this year. It was an experience he relished. “Big league camp, to me, was them telling me that I was close and need to keep driving and stay hungry. It was a great experience, meeting the guys and especially some of the veterans we had invited to camp. The other great thing about camp was that all my teammates were there with me, guys I've been playing with for the past couple years and it was awesome to go through the the experience with them.” He made a good impression at camp. Unfortunately, his spring training ended early as he was experiencing some discomfort behind his left shoulder. It was the same injury that cost him about a month during the Arizona Fall League. Because of it, he did not return to AA Chattanooga until mid-May. “Yes, it was very frustrating when I had to miss the first half of the season just because I'm always going to be the guy that wants to be out on the field competing.” In eight starts since his return, he has been very good. He is 4-3 with a 2.63 ERA. In 48 innings, he’s given up just 31 hits. He’s walked just ten and struck out 56. The concern with his AA numbers (which were astounding) in the second half of last season was the walks. He’s dropped that number while continuing to strike out more than a batter per inning. Gonsalves is choosing to take the time on the disabled list as a positive. “Although I think the injury was a little blessing in disguise. It was time for us to go over my mechanics for the last couple years and really get my entire body to work together as one. Once I came back, I started throwing a little harder, and I was more consistent with throwing strikes because my body was working together.” His fastball velocity is back, even consistently a little higher. Whereas he was 88-93 in the past, he’s now consistently 90-94. He breaking ball is better and his changeup remains a plus-plus pitch. While many wanted him to start his season in Rochester, and now he may just be ready for that jump, it was likely the best thing for him to start in AA Chattanooga. They were a winning team, competing for a playoff spot, he was with teammates he knew well, and a coach he has tremendous confidence in. As he notes, “I felt comfortable when I got back with my team in a place I had a lot of success at last year. So I was calm and relaxed. Back with working with Ivan (Arteaga, the Lookouts pitching coach) makes it feel like I never left, and I'm right where I should be.” The key to his success so far this season? In Gonsalves’s words, “The key this season has just been consistency, my delivery has made all my pitches easier for me to locate. It is letting me repeat everything easier.” And who knows, there may be another blessing in disguise to missing the first six weeks of the season. He will be under no innings limit, and as the Twins are struggling to find pitching, Gonsalves is a name that should receive a lot of consideration in another month, if not sooner. For now, it would seem the bump up to AAA Rochester should be considered following the International League All-Star Game. Gonsalves has to be added to the Twins 40-man roster after this season. So he could be a consideration for 2017, though the organization would certainly want to be sure that they won’t use an option. But September should be a real possibility. For now, we appreciate a terrific June performance by the left-hander. Congratulations to our Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month of June, Lookouts starter Stephen Gonsalves. Feel free to agree or disagree with the order, if you like. It wasn’t as easy a decision as you might think. There were several solid starters in June, and several really stood out.
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