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  1. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Devin Smeltzer, 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K (74 pitches, 47 strikes, 63.5%) Home Runs: none Top 3 WPA: Devin Smeltzer (.180), Jose Miranda (.180), Jhoan Duran (.170) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) After dropping two out of three in their last series against the Royals, the Twins were poised not to let that happen again this time. To try and accomplish that, they picked up where they left off in Oakland on Wednesday and put together a great offensive display early. Despite posting a solid 3.30 ERA for the year, Royals starter Daniel Lynch was over the place to begin this game. Only two of his thirteen pitches were strikes, allowing the first three Minnesota batters to reach. After Byron Buxton walked and Carlos Correa singled to lead off, Kyle Garlick grounded to left to easily score Buxton from second. One at-bat later, Gary Sánchez refused to slow down and hit yet another extra-base hit, making it four games in a row with at least one such hit. He doubled to left to score Correa. Then, Gio Urshela scored Garlick from third on a sac-fly, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead in the first inning. The Royals got one run back on three hits against Devin Smeltzer in the bottom of the first, but the Twins immediately responded in the second. Once again Lynch struggled with his command and three of the first four Minnesota batters reached, loading the bases for Garlick. Coming into this game, Garlick was posting a 1.187 OPS against lefties. Despite not getting a hit, he did get a good enough contact to score Jose Miranda from third on a sac-fly, making it 4-1 Twins. Smeltzer pitches into the sixth with the help of stellar defense behind him Smeltzer’s night could’ve gone downhill very early in this game, as he gave up three hits in the first inning. Fortunately, he was able to limit the damage to only the one run, stranding two runners. Then he would go on to toss 4 1/3 solid innings, with great help from his fielders. He retired the side on ten pitches in the second and pitched around a leadoff walk in the second. Jorge Polanco provided a great contribution when he started a lovely 4-3 double play on an Andrew Benintendi grounder. After another quick inning in the fourth, the Twins defense continued flashing the leather. The first two outs of the fifth inning came on a couple of great defensive plays. Polanco got Nicky Lopez on a beautiful throw to first and Gilberto Celestino caught Dairon Blanco trying to stretch a single into a double. Smeltzer came back to face only one batter in the sixth and he was removed from the game with only 74 pitches. He probably never looked more comfortable on the big league level than he does right now, with his ERA dropping to 1.74 after two starts. Is he here to stay? Do his low strikeouts numbers so far worry you at all? Royals get within one, but Miranda comes up clutch The bullpen looked shaky right from the get-go, with Griffin Jax giving up a walk against the first batter he saw and getting behind 2-0 in the count against the next one. He came around and ended up striking out both remaining batters to end the fifth, but the struggles continued in the next inning. Tyler Duffey had allowed only one run in his previous ten outings. Before this ten-game stretch, he had given up two runs in a game on April 19, against this same Royals team, also at Kauffman Stadium, in a blown save that eventually would represent the series loss for Minnesota. Two pitches into the game, Duffey gave up a leadoff home run to Carlos Santana to cut the Twins lead to one. Failing to get ahead on the counts, gave up a single to Emmanuel Rivera and a double to Kyle Isbel. Rocco Baldelli had enough and pulled him. Jhoan Duran came in in his relief inheriting two runners in scoring position. Whit Merrifield scored Rivera from third on a sac-fly before Duran could end the inning, making it a one-run game. Polanco and Sánchez were quickly retired to start the eighth inning, but the Twins offense still had some fight in them. Urshela and Max Kepler worked out crucial two-out walks against reliever Dylan Coleman, allowing Miranda to come up clutch. With his second-inning single, Miranda snapped an 0-for-20 slump, and this time he wanted more. He stepped up to the plate and jumped on the second pitch for a double, lining to center where Isbell couldn’t make the play, allowing both runners to score. It was up to Emilio Pagán in the ninth to try and secure the win. He had yet to allow an earned run this month and that happened on a Rivera one-out, solo home run to deep center. With already two outs, he allowed back-to-back singles, to Isbell and Merrifield, bringing the winning run to the plate. After a mound visit, he got behind in the count 3-0 against Benintendi, but beautifully came back to strike him out looking to end the ball game. What’s Next? Tomorrow at 6:10 pm CDT both teams will be back on the field for game 2. The Twins turn to Joe Ryan (2.39 ERA), who will face Brad Keller (2.89 ERA). Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Winder 0 78 0 0 0 78 Cano 25 0 19 0 0 44 Jax 25 0 0 0 18 43 Duran 0 0 23 0 16 39 Duffey 20 0 0 0 18 38 Pagán 0 0 0 0 19 19 Thielbar 0 16 0 0 0 16 Stashak 0 0 13 0 0 13 Smith 0 0 0 0 0 0
  2. Minnesota acquired Devin Smeltzer as part of the Brian Dozier trade back in 2018. At the time of the trade, he was a middling prospect who had yet to post a sub-4.00 ERA in any professional season. Smeltzer made some adjustments with the Twins and became one of the team’s biggest surprises during the 2019 season. At Double- and Triple-A, the 23-year-old combined for a 2.76 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP and 104 strikeouts in 104 1/3 innings. His first taste of the big leagues went well as he posted 118 ERA+ with a 1.27 WHIP. One of the most significant issues in his rookie campaign was that he allowed eight home runs in 11 games, but he limited other damage, and it looked like he might fit into the team’s future plans. The 2020 season was strange for many reasons, and Smeltzer’s numbers in seven appearances don’t tell the whole story. He allowed five earned runs on six hits in two innings of work in his first outing. Five of the six outs he recorded were on strikeouts, but he surrendered two home runs. It was a disastrous start to his season, but he made six more appearances and never allowed more than two earned runs in any outing. Smeltzer also didn’t allow a home run during that stretch. All of 2020 was a small sample size, but there were positives to improve upon for 2021. Unfortunately, Smeltzer couldn’t build off those successes during the 2021 season. During spring training, he lost feeling in three fingers on his pitching hand, which impacted his control. He was limited to one appearance for the Twins in April, but multiple injuries kept him out for the remainder of the year. By season’s end, he dealt with elbow inflammation, a herniated disc, and long-term side effects from his childhood chemotherapy. In November, the Twins removed him from the 40-man roster. Now 26-years old, Smeltzer entered spring training this year with a clear goal of making it back onto the team’s roster. He made four appearances and didn’t allow a run in 11 innings. His velocity was back into the 90s, and his command and control were back to his pre-injury form. Smeltzer didn’t crack the Opening Day roster, so he went to St. Paul with something to prove. In his first four starts (19 IP), Smeltzer posted a 1.42 ERA and limited batters to hitting .194/.260/.254 (.514). In his last Triple-A appearance, he allowed six earned runs on eight hits in two innings. It was his first hiccup since spring training started, but the Twins needed another arm at the big-league level, and the team added him back to the 40-man roster. Earlier this week, Smeltzer made his first MLB start since August 7, 2020. He pitched five innings and limited the Guardians to one earned run on three hits. In that start, he showcased a pitch mix change similar to his breakout 2019 campaign. Smeltzer used his fastball over 46% of the time, with his curveball (31.2%) being used the most out of his secondary pitches. It’s only one spot start, but it was a long journey back to the big-league level for Smeltzer. In the last week, Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy returned from the injured list, and Bailey Ober is nearing a return. Some assumed Smeltzer was out of minor league options, but his demotions in 2020 were too short to count. As the rotation starts to look crowded, the Twins need to decide the best role for Smeltzer. Following Thursday's off-day, Minnesota is entering a portion of their schedule with 18 games in 17 days. This schedule quirk includes a scheduled doubleheader in Detroit and no off-day until June 6. The Twins will need plenty of pitching depth to make it through the upcoming weeks, and Smeltzer deserves the opportunity to keep pitching at the big-league level. Can Smeltzer provide value out of the MLB bullpen, or should he continue to start games at Triple-A? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  3. Box Score SP: Dustin Smeltzer: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K (70 pitches, 50 strikes (71%)) Home Runs: Gio Urshela (2) Top 3 WPA: Devin Smeltzer (.133), Jhoan Duran (.128), Gary Sanchez (.102) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Makin’ Moves Following Thursday night's game, the Twins announced that they would be bringing up a pitcher to start Friday's game. The pitching staff has been run through and since Wednesday, the clubhouse has lost five pitchers (two starters and two relievers) with either ailment or injury leaving the bullpen to manage the past few games. There was lots of inquiry and speculation, but several fans were elated to find out that Devin Smeltzer would be returning to Target Field to start against the Cleveland Guardians and Shane Bieber. To make room for Smeltzer, first baseman Miguel Sano was sent to the 60-day Injured List (left knee, torn meniscus). Sano is not expected to make it back to the club until at least July, depending on how rehab goes. Outfielder/first baseman Alex Kirilloff was optioned to St. Paul. Kirilloff has been struggling this season with his recurring wrist injury, and while he sounds optimistic on the recovery and return, his hitting for the season between IL-stints has been .172 over ten games (5-for-29) and only two runs scored. Kirilloff has one remaining option left after this transaction, the hope is that he will get more at-bats and a chance to enhance his swing as his wrist improves. Smeltzer, who lost most of the 2021 season with elbow inflammation eventually was sidelined in June with a herniated disc in his neck. Smeltzer has worked hard to get back into shape to get a chance again to start for the Twins. He had a fantastic spring training performance. Devin Smeltzer has thrown in five games and while he carries a 3.86 ERA the stat doesn't tell the whole story of how his discipline has changed. Smeltzer has seen a total of 88 batters, only allowing nine runs in 21 innings, and has struck out 18 of batters faced. Smeltzer gained muscle and command since his last start with Minnesota, looked like his old self, maybe even better. Most of his major-league starts have been against Cleveland. The lefty had a quick first inning striking out one, Smeltzer was charged with just one run over five innings of work. The bullpen came in to relieve Smeltzer and continued to keep the score low, exercising every arm option they had at their disposal to keep the Guardians from adding a run. Battle of the Bats The Guardians did get on the board early in the second when Owen Miller scored on a Franmil Reyes single to center field, but Smeltzer held the Guardians to one run and only three hits in his five-inning start back with the Twins. In the first three innings for the Twins, Bieber struck out four and worked inside to right-handed hitters making it nearly impossible to hit off of him. The bottom of the third, the Twins loaded the bases with Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, and Gary Sanchez, bringing up Max Kepler with two outs and a full count. Bieber threw a high cutter to strike out Kepler and leave the bases loaded. In the fourth inning, the bats seemed to start waking up. It looked like it was going to turn around when Gio Urshela stepped into the batter's box and hit a home run to center field to get the Twins on the board and tie up the game. The fifth inning was one of the more disappointing ones with bases loaded and nobody out, after just going through the same thing in the previous inning. Urshela, whose prior at-bat was a solo home run, hit a chopper that turned into a double play, followed by Arraez lining out to third, stranding three runners again. The Twins have a knack for leaving players stranded when in scoring position. Royce Lewis attempted to help out the Twins in the sixth inning with two bunt attempts to bring home a run. The Twins lineup doesn’t bunt nearly as much as other teams and for players like Kepler who are constantly hitting into the shift, this writer thinks bunting would be a greater offensive weapon to assist the Twins to more than one-run wins, but clearly tonight it didn't work. The Twins organization doesn't bunt, and for some, laying out a bunt with Royce Lewis, the Twins number one prospect, seemed odd. Bitter End The tenth inning started out with drama after The Twins and Guardians fought through five scoreless innings. Manager Rocco Baldelli got tossed for arguing with the umpires after Andres Gimenez was granted second base after colliding with Jose Miranda (called for interference rounding first base after a hit). To add to the already mounting stress, during all the excitement, the Guardians were able to bring home Ernie Clement, giving the Guardians a 2-1 advantage. As Jharel Cotton worked his way through the rotation, Myles Straw singled into right, scoring Gimenez before closing out the inning. Urshela, who had two RBIs tonight, helped the Twins in their shot in the tenth inning as he was able to beat out an infield single and bring home Gary Sanchez who was posted on second base as the extra-innings runner.. Where there was a spark of hope, it was quickly put out as the tying run was on base was left stranded once again when Nick Gordon struck out to end the game. While it wasn't the way fans or the Twins wanted to end the game, it was intense and exciting and the Twins still have a chance to take the series before heading out on the road. What’s Next? The Twins finish out their series with the Guardians tomorrow at 1:10pm before heading out to Oakland for a three game series followed by a stop by Kansas City to play the Royals. Pitching matchup tomorrow: Sunday 1:10 pm CST: Joe Ryan (3-2, 2.56 ERA) vs RHP Tristan McKenzie (2-2, 2.76 ERA) Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Cotton 58 0 0 0 17 75 Jax 0 0 0 50 0 50 Stashak 0 0 46 0 0 46 Thielbar 3 0 23 0 15 41 Duffey 0 0 33 0 5 38 Cano 0 0 36 0 0 36 Pagán 0 0 0 22 9 31 Duran 0 0 0 10 12 22 Smith 0 0 0 4 15 19
  4. Devin Smeltzer threw 11 innings for the big league club down in Fort Myers during Spring Training this year and gave up just five hits while striking out nine and walking two batters. He was seen as a longshot to make the Opening Day roster, but with a clean bill of health, he looked the part of an arm that may be able to help in 2022. Ultimately, the Twins decided to send Smeltzer to Triple-A, but the strong performances haven’t stopped. Working five innings today, he allowed just a single run, Smeltzer owns a 1.42 ERA through 19 innings and has a 16/6 K/BB. Given how solid Minnesota’s starters have looked thus far, it’s hard to see a place where Smeltzer fits into the rotation. There’s little reason to believe he can’t be of service in another capacity. Right now, the only left-handed arms in Rocco Baldelli’s bullpen are Danny Coulombe and Caleb Thielbar. After being reliable the past couple of seasons, Thielbar has produced lackluster results to open 2022. I’d wager Minnesota wants to see more from Thielbar before making a change, but he does have an option left. With an expected ERA of 3.63, there is reason to believe that with more outings, he will straighten things out. Whether taking over for Thielbar or someone else, it’s good to see Smeltzer making a renewed case for inclusion on the 26-man roster. Talking to Smeltzer after his outing, he suggested "health" is the most significant difference in his performance. “I had some long-term cancer side effects that popped up the past two years, finally got that taken care of. Got the neck taken care of. Everything else has just kind of fallen into place.” Working as a starter at Triple-A but having worked out of the bullpen previously, Smeltzer said, “I always prefer to start. I’m going to do everything in my power to force them to make a move.” A notoriously quick worker, Smeltzer is experiencing the minor-league pitch clock for the first time. He’s certainly not a fan. “I think it’s destroying the game of baseball. I had two strikeouts in my last game on it (granted strikes from the umpire), and it’s ridiculous, honestly. These are guys’ careers. It’ll never happen in the big leagues. I don’t think the union will ever allow it.” Sharing very similar feelings to myself, Smeltzer continued, “It’s not baseball. Shaving off 15-20 minutes of a game isn’t going to pack the stadium. You either like baseball, or you don’t.” On the other side of the ball, there was talented Twins left fielder Alex Kirilloff playing in just his fourth Triple-A game. Having rehabbed for two games with the Saints last season after dealing with the same wrist issue, he was playing left field today after DHing on Tuesday. In his first game back following a cortisone shot, Kirilloff went 1-for-1 with three walks. Making contact in each of his first three at-bats today, he went 0-for-4 while sending two fly balls to left field and grounding out on a ball to second base. The ball found him plenty in the outfield as he recorded the game’s first out on a routine fly ball. There isn’t much concern with his fielding ability, as the problem has always persisted when swinging. Last season, the cortisone shot was deemed helpful for a time before he was shut down and eventually underwent wrist surgery. The hope for both Kirilloff and the Twins would be that there’s not a consistent issue this time around, and things have corrected themselves. After finishing the game, I talked with Kirilloff to check in on the progress and how he was feeling. When asked about continued discomfort in the wrist, he noted feeling it “here and there, but that it’s a lot better than what it was before, so that’s encouraging.” Unfortunately, this is a very similar timeline to when Kirilloff’s wrist began to bother him last year. Asked what about this feels different, he said, “It’s a similar feeling to last year, but the hope is that it does the trick and it’ll last longer than it did last year. Structurally now, it’s better than it was because of the procedure I had done. The surgery did what it needed to do as far as the structure. He (the doctor) thinks it will respond differently this time.” With a history of going through the same situation, Kirilloff played just two rehab games before returning to Minnesota. When asked about the timeline for a return this season, he said, “I feel like I’m close. I haven’t talked to them yet today, but I’ll be able to find out more information when I do.” He said the decision to return would be made collectively. St. Paul continues to play good baseball, and they have some of the top hitting talents in the Twins system. It’s more likely that Royce Lewis will force his way to the big leagues this year, and Jose Miranda repeating his 2021 performance should have him to the next level. Lewis inside-outed a double in the 8th inning before walking it off in the 10th inning. Miranda recorded a double and home run. Keep tabs on St. Paul with plenty to glean for the Twins as the season progresses.
  5. Although your mileage may vary on the quality levels, there are a ton of different arms in the organization capable of contributing to the Twins bullpen. Some of them bring ample big-league experience, while others bring tantalizing upside. If just a few of these guys can hit, it'd make a huge difference for the Twins bullpen. Below you'll find 13 pitchers with a chance to join the fray this year, listed roughly in order of when you might expect to see them materialize in the big leagues. Jharel Cotton, RHP Cotton was of course a member of the Opening Day bullpen after being claimed off waivers from Texas during the offseason. He tossed a couple innings for the Twins before being sent down to Triple-A in a roster crunch. Coming off a 3.52 ERA in 30.1 IP for the Rangers last year, the 30-year-old is a candidate to return soon, although his removal from the 40-man roster complicates things. Devin Smeltzer, LHP The left-hander looked to be on his way to securing a roster spot this spring, allowing zero runs on five hits in 11 innings, but Smeltzer was surprisingly sent to Triple-A. There he has continued to excel with a 1.29 ERA in 14 frames. The Twins are keeping him stretched out for long relief duty – or possibly even another chance to start – and it's only a matter of time before he resurfaces in Minnesota. Juan Minaya, RHP He pitched extremely well out of the Twins bullpen last year, with a 2.48 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 9.7 K/9 rate in 40 innings. He's made more than 150 appearances in the majors. He currently has a 2.48 ERA and 8-to-0 K/BB ratio with the Saints. Doomed with a AAAA-player label he can't seem to shake, Minaya has to keep fighting for his chances, but like with Smeltzer, the good work should earn him another nod soon enough. Jovani Moran, LHP Compared to Cotton, Smeltzer and Minaya, Moran is much more of a prospect, and he has a leg up in that he's already on the 40-man roster. But it's the lack of polish that will force him to wait his turn. He struggled while debuting in the majors late last year, allowing seven earned runs on nine hits and seven walks in eight innings, and the control issues have persisted this year in St. Paul where he's allowed six walks in 6.1 IP. Ronny Henriquez, RHP He initially looked like a toss-in on top of Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the Mitch Garver trade, but there was immediate buzz surrounding Henriquez as an arm the Twins really fancied. His first appearance at Triple-A for the Saints last week did nothing to silence the buzz – Henriquez struck out four over three hitless innings, notching 11 swinging strikes on 47 pitches. Oh, and he's on the 40-man. It wouldn't shock me to see him beat everyone else on this list to the majors, but the Twins probably want to give him some time to settle in and form a rhythm at Triple-A. Yennier Cano, RHP Signed out of Cuba for $750K back in the summer of 2019, Cano was viewed as a potential fast riser with a big heater touching the high 90s. The pandemic year slowed him down, but Cano was excellent in the minors last season with a 3.23 ERA and 11.1 K/9 rate in 69.2 IP between Double-A and Triple-A. Through five appearances at St. Paul this year, he has an 8-to-1 K/BB ratio with zero runs allowed. Cano is already 28, so there's no sense in waiting much longer to give him a look, although he's not yet on the 40-man. I think he and Henriquez are the two pitchers on this list I'm most excited about from a short-term perspective. Trevor Megill, RHP Megill is one of a handful of veteran-ish relievers signed by the Twins to minor-league contracts during the offseason. That group also includes the likes of Jake Petricka, Jake Faria, JC Ramirez, and Dereck Rodriguez (who we've already seen). They've all got their own strengths and weaknesses but are relatively similar in terms of quality and realistic upside. MLB experience is an asset for each. Drew Stotman, RHP The Nelson Cruz trade already looks like a slam-dunk win thanks to Joe Ryan. Imagine if Strotman, the second piece of the deal, develops into an impact reliever. The Twins seem to envision that path, since they kept him on the 40-man roster throughout the offseason after he posted a 7.33 ERA in 12 starts for St. Paul following the trade. He has officially converted into relief duty now, and the early results at Triple-A have been meh (7 IP, 3 ER, 5 BB, 5 K). It might take a little time, but the 25-year-old former fourth-rounder has potential. Matt Canterino, RHP One of my favorite arms in the system. Canterino's off to a stellar start in the Wichita rotation, with with a 2.79 ERA and 13.0 K/9, but his innings are being managed with extreme caution (he has 9.2 IP in four starts). Moving him to relief is the only way the Twins can hope to get anything resembling a full season out of him. It wouldn't necessarily need to be a permanent pivot, and would set the stage for a fast track to the majors. Cole Sands, RHP A phenomenal 2021 season at Double-A (2.82 ERA, 10.8 K/9 in 80.1 IP) compelled the Twins to protect Sands from the Rule 5 draft, so he's on the 40-man roster. He reported to St. Paul as a starter and looked brilliant in his first couple turns, allowing one run over 10 innings with 12 strikeouts. Then he gave up 10 earned runs in 1.2 IP over his next two outings. Hopefully everything is okay physically, but either way his ascent to the majors has hit a major speed bump. Chris Vallimont, RHP Added to the 40-man alongside Sands during the offseason, Vallimont's campaign is off to a similarly ugly start, which may endanger his roster spot. He has a 10.29 ERA in three starts at Wichita. Either the Twins are going to try and switch gears with a bullpen role or they're gonna be forced to waive him, barring a drastic turnaround. Given he was already a marginal addition to the 40-man roster, there's no way the team can stay beholden to a 25-year-old who's getting blasted in a Double-A rotation. That said ... there's a reason they liked him. Louie Varland, RHP He was the organization's 2021 pitcher of the year thanks to a sterling 2.10 ERA and 12.4 K/9 across two levels of A-ball. Now Varland is getting his first taste of the upper minors at Wichita, and holding his own with a 4.11 ERA and 18-to-8 K/BB ratio in 15.1 IP. The Twins seem committed to him as a starter, in which case we probably won't see him this year, but a late-season look as a reliever is hardly out of the question. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP Widely regarded as a top 100 prospect in the game a year ago, Woods Richardson came over alongside Austin Martin in the José Berríos trade. As one of the younger starting pitchers in Double-A last season, he struggled a fair amount, but this year he's off to a dazzling start at Wichita: 16.2 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 14 K, zero earned runs. He's only 22, and – like Varland – pretty firmly a starter. But he's got big stuff and composure, and he's also gonna be on a strict innings limit. If Woods Richardson keeps lighting it up all summer, he could be bringing gas out of the Twins bullpen in September.
  6. TRANSACTIONS RHP Jharel Cotton cleared waivers and was assigned to the St. Paul Saints LHP Lewis Thorpe was released from the organization. SAINTS SENTINEL Toledo 2, St. Paul 1 Box Score Playing the fastest game in St. Paul Saints franchise history, lasting just two hours and seven minutes, the good guys lost by a 2-1 tally. Devin Smeltzer drew the start and was again good in this one. He went five innings allowing just two runs on five hits while punching out eight and walking one. His ERA on the season sits at 1.29. After getting behind 2-0 in the third inning, St. Paul answered with a run in the 4th inning. Derek Fisher hit into a force out but allowed Jake Cave to score, cutting the lead in half. Unfortunately, that’s where the production ended and a four-hit night for the Saints produced nothing else on the scoreboard. Fisher was the lone Saints batter to record two hits on the evening. Both Royce Lewis and Curtis Terry drew two walks to reach base a handful of times. WIND SURGE WISDOM Wichita 15, Midland 1 Box Score Chris Vallimont drew the start tonight for Wichita and worked four innings of one-run ball. He gave up three hits while walking three and striking out six. With Wichita plating six runs in the first two innings, that one run of opposing production didn’t much factor into the equation. Dennis Ortega began the scoring with a line-drive single plating Austin Martin and Cole Sturgeon. A Michael Helman at-bat complete with a throwing error then allowed Spencer Steer to score in the first inning as well. Doubling up the score in the second inning was accomplished on a Martin double that scored Andrew Bechtold, a wild pitch to score Martin, and an Ortega double that drove in Steer. The fifth inning saw another outburst for the Wind Surge in which they were able to double their early-inning tally. Kevin Merrell launched his second homer of the season before Martin drove in Bechtold on a single. Steer then ripped his 7th double, this one clearing loaded bases, and pushing the score to 11-1. Ortega then drove in Steer with a single and the blowout was fully on. Bechtold had contributed plenty on his own this evening and a sixth-inning solo blast for his second dinger of the season made it 13-1. Still supplying pressure, Sturgeon singled in the eighth inning driving in Bechtold and DaShawn Keirsey to extend the lead further making it 15-1. A whole handful of Wind Surge batters had multi-hit nights including Martin (3), Sturgeon (3), Steer (2), Ortega (3), and Bechtold (2, plus three walks). KERNELS NUGGETS Game 1: Cedar Rapids 3, Peoria 2 (F/8) Box Score Tonight’s twin bill saw Sean Mooney start game one. He went five strong innings and allowed just one run on four hits while walking and striking out two. Cedar Rapids opened up the scoring in the first inning when Seth Gray singled to drive in Jeferson Morales. After giving back the lead, Cedar Rapids jumped ahead in the eighth inning. Hot-hitting Christian Encarnacion-Strand beat out a fielder’s choice to drive in Willie Joe Garry Jr. Morales then lofted a sacrifice fly to center deep enough to score Anthony Prato and the Kernels walked it off in game one. Morales and Gray were the lone hitters to record double-digit efforts in the front half of the evening. Game 2: Cedar Rapids 4, Peoria 3 (F/8) Box Score Casey Legumina started game two tonight for the Kernels and he worked 4 2/3 innings allowing just two runs on five hits. Legumina also punched out three batters while walking one. As a whole, it was a strong bounce-back start. After getting down 2-0 in the fifth inning Cedar Rapids rallied. Morales grounded out but drove in Prato to halve the deficit in the 6th inning. The next at-bats saw Garry Jr. drive in Will Holland allowing the home team to knot things at two. Headed to extras, Cedar Rapids watched Peoria push across a run in the top half of the 8th inning but this one was far from over. Encarnacion-Strand was standing on first base after a single, and a Morales ball back up the middle resulted in a force out at second base. Prato started the inning at second base and went to third on the play, but then scored on an errant throw by the second basemen. Camargo then launched one off the base of the right field wall and Morales scored the winning run coming around from first base. For the second time on the night, Cedar Rapids walked off Peoria. MUSSEL MATTERS Dunedin 5, Fort Myers 2 Box Score The Mighty Mussels turned to Pierson Ohl this evening and he gave them four innings of work while allowing just two runs, one earned. Despite five hits, Ohl walked just one and punched out four batters on the night. After getting down 1-0, Fort Myers responded with a two-spot in the fourth inning. Mikey Perez drove in Kyler Fedko with a single before a Ernie Yake sacrifice fly scored Jesus Feliz. The lead wouldn’t last however as Dunedin knotted things in the bottom half of the inning. Unfortunately, that’s where the production ended for Fort Myers and two runs were all they could muster in this contest. Seven of nine starters recorded a base hit while everyone reached base, but no one put up a multi-hit effort. TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE DAY Pitcher of the Day – Devin Smeltzer (St. Paul) - 5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K Hitter of the Day – Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 2-3, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2 2B, 3 BB PROSPECT SUMMARY We will again keep tabs on the Twins' top prospects. You’ll probably read about them in the team sections, but if they aren’t there, you’ll see how they did here. Here’s a look at how the current Twins Daily Top 20 performed: #1 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 3-5, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB, K #2 - Royce Lewis (St. Paul) - 0-2, 2 BB, 2K #3 - Jose Miranda (St. Paul) - 1-4, 2B, BB #5 - Joe Ryan (Minnesota) - 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K #7 - Jhoan Duran (Minnesota) - 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K #10 - Noah Miller (Ft. Myers) - 1-5, 2K #12 - Matt Wallner (Wichita) - 0-5, 4 K #15 - Emmanuel Rodriguez (Ft. Myers) - 0-3, BB, K #16 - Ronny Hendriquez (Development List) - 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K (47 pitches, 28 strikes) #18 - Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 2-3, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2 2B, 3 BB FRIDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS St. Paul @ Toledo (6:05PM CST) - RHP JC Ramirez Midland @ Wichita (7:05PM CST) - RHP Louie Varland Peoria @ Cedar Rapids (6:35PM CST) - RHP Brent Headrick Fort Myers @ Dunedin (5:30PM CST) - RHP John Stankiewicz Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Thursday’s games! It sure is exciting to have all four Twins full-season affiliates back and playing.
  7. The Twins open their season on Thursday, and their Opening Day roster is becoming more clear today after three players were sent to minor-league camp. After throwing 11 scoreless innings this spring, Devin Smeltzer was sent to minor-league camp. He missed most of the 2021 season with a herniated disk in his neck. Now healthy, he was very impressive this spring and it is likely he will pitch for the Twins during the 2022 season. Jovani Moran is the Twins' top relief pitcher prospect. He made his MLB debut in September 2021, but he will begin his 2022 season in St. Paul with the Saints. And Jake Cave was outrighted to minor league camp as well. He will travel to Louisville where the Saints season begins on Tuesday. The Twins spring training roster now stands at 33. They will need to get down to 28 on the active roster before Thursday's opener. There are four non-roster players. Right-hander Jake Faria and lefty Danny Coulombe remain. Infielder Daniel Robertson and outfielder Kyle Garlick are also still in big-league camp. Will any of those four players make the Opening Day roster? Garlick and his ability to mash left-handed pitching would seem to be competing with Brent Rooker for one spot. With the 28-man roster only available to teams through May 1, it is a huge decision to add a non-roster player to the 40-man roster. Will they risk losing a couple of depth pieces by adding them to the 40-man roster for three to four weeks? Will they risk losing a player or two on waivers to make room on the 40-man roster. We may know the answer to those questions by the end of today, certainly within the next 36 hours. UPDATE Following Sunday's game, the Twins announced that Jake Faria was being sent to minor-league camp and will join the Saints in Louisville for the Triple-A opener. Also, Cody Stashak will remain in Ft. Myers to work through some biceps tendinitis. How do you think the Opening Day roster will shape up? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
  8. Expanded rosters will not be permanent. The 28-man roster will last through May 1st when rosters will go back to 26 players. It’s just enough time to allow players to have a little extra time to tune their bodies, specifically for pitchers to ready their arms. As we have seen in spring training games, this extra time will be a good thing. This additional time will also give players fighting for a spot on the roster a little more time to fight for a position. Player Injuries The most important part of spring training is getting the players ready for the regular season. Pitchers use this time to get back into a pitching schedule. Hitters need to get their timing back and get into game shape. If a player goes into a regular season with less than a whole month of training, injuries can happen more than they already do. In 2020, the players showed up to spring training in shape, but because they had less time to get back into game shape, be in live game situations and get their legs under them, injuries happened throughout the season. Spotrac recorded a 22% increase in injuries from previous years. The Twins already have Kenta Maeda out with Tommy John rehab, and Randy Dobnak is out with ongoing issues with his middle finger. Both are currently on the 60-Day Injured List. On March 24th, Brent Rooker is out with shoulder tenderness and will be kept out of the rotation until that improves. Keeping injuries at a minimum is not only important every year, but for the Twins, they have been plagued with key players being injured, so getting the extra time to loosen up with a few extra weeks will serve them well. For the players, doubleheaders (which will again consist of two nine-inning games) mean more wear and tear on their bodies. Doubleheaders are already scheduled during the season to make up for missing the first week of games, and there are sure to be other games that will be rescheduled due to rain delays. The Twins do have good depth on their roster. There will be room for moving players between the Twins and the Triple-A St. Paul Saints. However, another new rule is that players can only be optioned up to five times during a season, so they have to be careful in doing this too much. 2022 is the first season I have seen fans this excited for the new roster and the possibilities of what the players can accomplish. Defensive Battle Royce Lewis had a tough 2021 season. His pre-camp physical showed a torn ACL which was repaired by surgery on February 21st. Between the lost COVID season in 2020 and his injury, he has not had a chance to play baseball. Lewis was optioned down to St. Paul on Saturday, March 26th, but that is not going to stop him from trying to make the roster. Lewis believes he can make the 26-man roster sometime in 2022 and start his MLB career after a clean bill of health. Lewis has added some weight and some power to his swing. His offseason work has shown as he’s stepped up to the plate during spring training and will need more time in the minors to get back into full offensive and defensive mode. The extra roster spots may also give Nick Gordon more time to prove himself. Gordon has struggled a little bit in the field. Gordon has improved in the outfield, and even his bat has started to come alive, and we saw glimmers of the Gordon that we hoped to see. Both players, along with Austin Martin and Spencer Steer have learned from All-Star Carlos Correa, the newest acquisition by the Twins, during workouts and conversations before they were sent back down to minor-league camp. Correa, one of the best shortstops in baseball, has a lot to teach players, and being on the 28-man with him would be the best education either of those players could get. Martin and Lewis are ranked one and two in the organization's prospect rankings, respectively. The players fighting for the chance to stay up on the Opening Day roster are Kyle Garlick, Jake Cave, and Brent Rooker. All three outfielders have all the heart and drive in the world to make the roster, but when up against players like Byron Buxton, Trevor Larnach and Alex Kiriloff, their numbers just may not be enough. That doesn't mean that they won't see the 40-man or 26-man at all this season, it does mean however, that they are going to take the next week before the 28-man is solidified and give it everything they have got to try and edge out the other Triple-A guys. Cave, Rooker and Garlick have all struggled with injuries that have either ended their seasons or left them fighting to get back into the line-up in 2021, so not only have they not seen a lot of at-bats, but the lockout really affected them getting in the field time that they need to be a contender for the 26-man roster, but hopefully the two open spots through April give them more of the time needed to been seen as an asset to the club and stay in the Twins clubhouse. Competition in the Bullpen Clubs across MLB must carry 13 pitchers on their 26-man roster.. There is no ‘cap’ on pitchers in April, meaning the extra two spots could go to pitchers Pitching has often been a weak spot for the club, but this season there may be a glimmer of hope from what could be their Opening Day pitching staff. Pitchers such as Sonny Gray and older pitchers of the club like Chris Archer, Tyler Duffey, and Taylor Rogers have competition from the other pitchers who also want to start. Many other up-and-comers could quickly fill the extra two slots and give the Twins the pitching depth that the fans have been looking for from our club. We have seen pitchers like Joe Ryan, Devin Smeltzer, and Josh Winder out on the mound during spring training. We have seen solid performances from all three pitchers. These pitchers have a command of the mound by hitting their target based on where he and the catcher are set up constantly and impressive strikeouts. ] mlb.com Josh Winder has quickly become a fan favorite to be seen on the mound, but new acquisition Chris Archer rounds out what could be a very solid rotation, making Smeltzer and Winder work harder for those two spots. Archer has had his own struggles with the strike zone and while fans are not excited about him, there is hope that pitching coach Wes Johnson can improve the 33 year old RHP. Archer is not the ace that the Club is looking for, but he certainly is going to give the other pitchers the push they need to fight for those extra roster spots. They could all be in contention for filling the two new spots in April and potentially deeper into the season. Smeltzer has seen the most significant improvement; he looks strong, confident and has improved his strike-throwing (Smeltzer only pitched once last year and then was injured.). With only adding two players for April, there will not only be lots of competitive drive to make that 27th and 28th spot but ultimately to beat out a teammate to stay on the 26-man roster come May 1st. On paper, compared to other seasons, even the ones with the Bomba Squad, the 2022 Twins roster is one of the stronger rosters that the Twins have had in a few years. It’s exciting to think that there are players who can be in contention for an extra spot on the roster. Who do you think are some of the major contenders for a spot for not only the 28-man month-long roster but who do you think can make it to the 26-man for the remainder of the season? That said, the Twins will use a ton of guys during the remainder of the season, and probably in April too.
  9. Josh Winder gained a lot of prospect steam last season as he performed incredibly well at Double-A with a sub 2.00 ERA in 50+ innings before getting promoted to Triple-A. He may have been well on his way to his MLB debut before being shut down with shoulder issues, but he looks healthy and effective so far this spring. Winder finds himself in the conversation for a rotation spot due to what can only be described as a massive disappointment in regards to the Twins addressing their rotation this winter. They currently have four starting pitchers penciled in with Opening Day less than two weeks away. Led by Sonny Gray, the rest of the rotation consists of reclamation project Dylan Bundy and two rookies in Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, the latter of which has only five MLB starts under his belt. The fifth spot at this point is unspoken for. Candidates include Devin Smeltzer who isn't currently on the 40 man roster. Lewis Thorpe and Griffin Jax have been moved into bullpen roles but could find themselves competing due to a lack of other options. Then of course we have Josh Winder who has yet to debut. It’s fair to grab ahold of the shiny new prospect when reading that list of names. The other three, of course, have all had their opportunities and haven’t exactly flourished. It’s absolutely possible that the Twins see this decision the same way if they fail to bring in one more arm. It’s worth noting that Winder winding up in the Opening Day rotation, however, should be viewed with much more disappointment than excitement. From Minnesota to the rest of the league, rookie pitchers fail all the time (or at least most often) in their debut. It should almost be expected at this point. Some need a bit more time in the minors such as when Jose Berrios debuted with his 8+ ERA. Others just never figure it out despite being highly touted all throughout the minors such as Stephen Gonsalves or Fernando Romero. It’s important to remember this not just to be pessimistic, but to keep expectations in check. Winder hadn’t pitched above A ball until 2021 when he posted those 54 2/3 innings in AA, and not only did he put up only 17 innings in AAA, but they weren’t all that effective. His K% fell from 31.3% to 22.4%. He allowed two home runs in those 17 innings and posted a 4.67 ERA before being shut down. Surely a small sample size, but not exactly a performance that screams “MLB ready”. The point being, if the Twins don’t add another starting pitcher to the roster and go with Winder right out of the gate, they may very well be following up an offseason failure with a decision that damages one of their top pitching prospects as well as their season. They’d likely be better off mixing and matching with arms they know everything about than a rookie pitcher who hasn’t shown he’s quite MLB ready yet. Winder would make a great Plan B for any struggling or injured arms after the season begins assuming he’s doing reasonably well in St. Paul. It’s fair to assume that he makes his debut in some way in 2022. It just shouldn’t be as the third rookie starting pitcher on an Opening Day roster that considers themselves contenders. Am I just a thief of joy, or do you agree? Leave your COMMENTS below. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  10. With all big-leaguers and many top prospects absent from camp, players who are not subject to MLB's lockout are able to take center stage as they work toward the starts of their seasons with Twins affiliates. Not only could this result in extra coaching and opportunities to make an impression, but the altered timeline of an MLB season starting well after these players get rolling in the minors could also play to their advantage. Last week Nash Walker called out five players who stand to be most negatively impacted by a shortened season. Today I'll try to flip the script by highlighting some prospects and players who stand to be benefit from this very unfortunate situation. 5 Positive Prospect Scenarios Made Possible by the Delayed Season Austin Martin shows he's ready. In some respects, Martin looks like an MLB-ready player. He was a top-five draft pick two years ago, based almost entirely on his polish and advanced skills. He led all of Double-A in on-base percentage last year, brandishing a plate approach that almost everyone agrees will play in the majors. Yet, as I wrote when profiling him as our #1 prospect, there are still a few elements of Martin's game that need to be ironed out before he can make the jump. He hasn't gotten any in-game experience outside of shortstop and center field, and his swing likely needs refinement. Were spring training and Opening Day playing out as normal, Martin probably wouldn't be in the mix for a big-league job right out of the gates, even if an opportunity opened up at – say – second base or center field. But if the season doesn't start until mid-May, and Martin has already had a successful spring and strong start in St. Paul? Different ballgame, so to speak. Matt Canterino earns an immediate nod. Like Martin, Canterino is a clear-cut MLB-caliber talent who has questions to answer before receiving a look in the majors. In his case, it's not so much the condensed timeline creating ambiguity – he was drafted out of college in 2019, and turned 24 in December – but a lack of reps. Due to the pandemic and injuries, Canterino has thrown only 48 total innings since joining the Twins system, including just 23 last year. He has yet to pitch above Single-A. It's unlikely that even a brilliant showing in a typical 2022 big-league camp would have put him in line to win an Opening Day job on the pitching staff, because there is just no baseline for stamina or durability. A strong showing in spring and a healthy, dominant run at Double-A through the early weeks of the minor-league season could convince Twins brass he's ready for a look right away when the delayed MLB season starts. Like with Martin, Canterino would potentially be able to impact a much larger portion of the Twins' season than he would otherwise. And unlike Martin, the path for Canterino is pretty much wide open. Minnesota has a desperate and immediate need for electric arms like his. Louie Varland accelerates his timeline. Varland was one of the best stories of the Twins system last year, going from a relatively unknown 15th-round draft pick in 2019 to the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2021. With a powered-up fastball, he made mincemeat of hitters between Fort Myers and Cedar Rapids, posting a 2.10 ERA and 142-to-30 K/BB ratio and just six homers allowed in 103 innings. Tremendous work. But all of it done in Single-A. Varland is 24 so he's at an age where pitchers often break into the majors, but his development is lagging behind due to the pandemic. A delayed start for the big-leaguers, and other top prospects who are more advanced, could give him a chance to play catch-up. Aaron Sabato and Keoni Cavaco change their storylines. Sabato and Cavaco are both first-round draft picks from the past three years (2020 and 2019, respectively) but neither appeared in our recent top 20 prospect rankings, which is obviously a bad sign. Both had uphill climbs to justify their draft positions – Cavaco a raw prep player widely regarded as a stretch pick, Sabato a bat-only player who needed to mash immediately – and so far neither has come close, instead hurtling in the dreaded "bust" category. But in both cases, it's still early enough to remain hopeful. Eye-opening springs followed strong starts in the minors could help these downtrodden talents reverse their descending trajectories. Maybe by the time the Twins season starts, the view of one or both could be considerably different. Sabato is theoretically someone who could help this year with a big step forward. Devin Smeltzer puts himself back in the picture. Not every player in camp is a young prospect vying for their first chance at the big leagues. Smeltzer is an example of someone who's been there and is fighting to get back. The lefty spent more than two years on the Twins' 40-man roster before being outrighted last November, in the wake of a lost season. With more than two full seasons of service time, he was creeping up on arbitration eligibility. Now, he finds himself on the outside looking in. Except, in a more literal sense, he doesn't. Smeltzer's 40-man setback provides him with an opportunity to show he's gotten past the elbow issues of 2021, and is ready to help a needy Twins pitching staff again. As a 26-year-old with 70 innings of big-league experience and a 106 ERA+, he could put himself on the fast track by taking advantage of his head-start on other pitchers in similar positions, such as Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  11. The main return in the Brian Dozier trade from the Dodgers, Devin Smeltzer quickly worked his way up to the Major League club in 2019 and posted decent results for a division-winning team. Smeltzer totaled 49 innings with a 3.86 ERA even though his indicators didn’t quite back it up. 2020 and 2021 were disappointing for the left hander, as he totaled just 20 2/3 innings combined across nine appearances. His 2020 performance got him demoted to Triple-A by year's end and injuries derailed his 2021 season and eventually led to him being jettisoned off the 40 man roster. Smeltzer, however, passed through waivers and remains a Twin, awaiting 2022 in purgatory with no guaranteed roster spot. It seemed Twins fans soured on a pitcher who was at one time a fan-favorite with a great story. It may have been shinier prospects passing him by or his struggles paired with a lack of exciting stuff. The Twins are not likely to simply let go of the 26 year old so quickly. Successful soft tossers aren’t exactly common in the MLB, and Devin Smeltzer averaged 89 mph on the fastball in his rookie season with a steady decline the following two years. Look no further than right over the border at Milwaukee’s Brent Suter, however, as one example of how a pitcher with Smeltzer’s skillset can be used as a weapon. The left-hander threw 73 innings of a 3.07 ERA for the Brewers and was an important part of a very good bullpen on a playoff team. Suter has averaged anywhere from 84 to 88 mph on his fastball since his debut and has been serviceable in any role he’s found himself in since 2016. He’s well below league average in strikeouts and well above average at avoiding free passes much like Smeltzer. His lack of velocity is rare in today’s MLB and using him in short stints appears to have slowed down the league’s adjustment. The Twins likely had this in mind in 2021 when Smeltzer was buried in the depth chart, but injuries never really gave him a chance. It could also be argued that Smeltzer was on the verge of figuring something out across his last two years in the league. In 2020, he debuted a new slider which posted a whiff rate of over 27%. The result was a much improved K-rate nearing 21%, a manageable number for a pitcher who avoids walks and relies on weak contact. The walk rate increased a bit more than a pitcher of Smeltzer’s plan of attack would like, but it’s certainly something that could have been ironed out as he got more feel for the pitch. As underwhelming as Smeltzer seemed in 2020, his peripherals actually improved across the board from a 2019 debut that so many found encouraging. It’s possible Smeltzer was inching towards a new level that made him a reliable Major League pitcher for the next few years. It’s really discouraging that an elbow injury disrupted what would have been a tremendous opportunity for him at the end of a lost 2021 with so many innings available. It was likely a combination of his injury and the Twins' need for 40 man roster spots that led to Smeltzer being put on waivers. The move itself certainly doesn’t hint at the Twins prioritizing Smeltzer headed into 2022. Still, this is baseball. He’s likely to begin the season as a staple in the Saints rotation and I’d dare to call it likely we see him added back to the 40 man roster and called back up to Minneapolis again at some point. He’s the kind of player you can’t help but pull for, and he does have a respectable skillset to hang around and grab ahold of an opportunity that presents itself. His raw tools may make him a unicorn if he becomes successful, but it’s far from out of the question. Being off the 40 man may not make a comeback sound incredibly likely. For a Twins team that will likely be pitching starved again in 2022, however, it’s near impossible to rule anything out for a pitcher who’s already shown something at the Major League level. The book may not yet be written on Devin Smeltzer. MORE TWINS DAILY CONTENT — 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
  12. Spoiler Alert: Your NLCS MVP is Eddie Rosario Unsurprisingly, Eddie Rosario was named the NLCS MVP last Saturday, surrounded by his loved ones including his parents, wife, children, and closest inner circle at Truist Park. Lest we forget that Rosario was DFA’d by the Twins last offseason, signed by Cleveland, and subsequently traded to Atlanta for Pablo Sandoval, who had the third slowest sprint speed of all active players. As Jesse Sanchez of MLB said in his profile of Rosario’s humble upbringing to his MVP honor, Rosario was “born to hit” and “may be the best unknown player in baseball”. Give it up one more time for Ed-die, Ed-die, Ed-die! Nelson Cruz won the Roberto Clemente Award Last night, Nelson Cruz won the coveted Roberto Clemente award for philanthropy, joining the ranks of Clayton Kershaw, Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, and many others. Cruz was awarded this honor for his tremendous philanthropic efforts in his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz in the Dominican Republic throughout the pandemic. Here’s a list of some of Cruz’s philanthropic efforts that he aided in this past year: Provided financial support to over 1,200 families who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic Helped feed over 700 struggling families Gifted a firetruck, ambulance, and 80 uniforms to the town after a childhood friend’s home was burned down in a fire Organized dentists and optometrists to provide check-ups, dental services, glasses, and dental services Began construction of an education center And more! Not only is Cruz one of the most beloved players of all time, but he’s also an exemplary human being. Congratulations Nelson! Josh Donaldson watched a LOT of baseball Josh Donaldson was all of us, live-tweeting during every playoff game. Max Kepler snuggled a Frenchie *Googles how to become a bulldog* Randy Dobnak wasn’t a regular mom; he was a cool mom The man induces ground balls and is the biggest hype man on the planet. Everyone needs a friend like Randy. Louie Varland caught a big fish Devin Smeltzer caught an even bigger fish Sorry Louie Brent Rooker missed Jake Cave ....and we all now know where Cave stands on duck, duck, goose. Which other Twins would you like to see here in the future? Let us know down below in the comments!
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. Last Night's Game Recap PIT 6, MIN 5: Taylor Rogers Blows Save, Win Streak Snapped Today: Minnesota @ Kansas City Royals, 7:05 PM CT Betting Lines: MIN -155, O/U 9.5 Twins Starter: Devin Smeltzer, LHP 1-0 11.57 ERA Tonight is Smeltzer’s first start of the year as he’s worked as a bulk reliever for his two outings on the season. In six starts a year ago he posted a 4.11 ERA and allowed a .704 OPS to opposing hitters. While his ERA registered at just 3.44 when working in relief for the 2019 Twins, opponents OPS was nearly 200 points higher at .898. Smelter may be fond of Kansas City as they provided his first Major League win. When facing them at Target Field on August 4, 2019 he went 6.0 IP allowing no runs on just two hits while fanning four and walking one. The prototypical profile of a soft-tossing lefty, Smeltzer’s 89 mph average on the fastball won’t blow anyone away. His primary second pitch is the curveball, and it’s there that he looks for punchouts. He’s been a high strikeout guy in the minors and generated 7.0 K/9 last year as a rookie. The homer is his bugaboo and if he can avoid some of the Royals boppers tonight should go well for him. Royals Starter: Jakob Junis, RHP 0-0 4.15 ERA Junis has made just one appearance this season and it was a start against the Chicago White Sox. He lasted just 4.1 IP during that one and ceded two runs on six hits. Now in his fourth Major League season, the book has all but been written on Junis given the consistency he’s shown year over year. You can pencil him in for an ERA in the mid fours, and it’ll be complimented by a modest walk and strikeout rate. He’s been an innings eater of sorts throwing over 170 IP in each of the past two years for Kansas City. Where the biggest opportunity for opponents against Junis comes is launching the longball. He’s never allowed less than 1.4 HR/9 and was up to 1.6 HR/9 each of the past two seasons. Lefties had substantially more success against him last year, though the power numbers came from both sides of the plate. Kansas City knocked the Chicago Cubs around for 13 runs last night so it will be interesting to see if the bats have any runs support left in them. Lineup News & Notes - The St. Louis Cardinals return to the field today following their COVID-19 outbreak. It’s the first time they’ll have played a game since July 29, and the first time all 30 teams are active and healthy since the Marlins outbreak on July 26. UPDATE: More positives for the Cardinals, so no full slate tonight and St. Louis has a postponed game today. https://twitter.com/markasaxon/status/1291780266684559360 - Shohei Ohtani returned to the lineup for the Los Angeles Angels following the MRI revealing a forearm injury that will keep him off the mound for the rest of 2020. He homered. https://twitter.com/Angels/status/1291472127955091457 - Today, Mike Trout turns 29. At 74.0 fWAR he’s already posted the 46th highest mark in MLB history. What comes from here is anyone’s guess but it’s clear we’re watching one of the best ever. Around the AL Central CLE 13, CIN 0 KCR 13, CHC 2 MIL 8, CHW 3 1. MIN 10-3 (+29 run differential) 2. CLE 8-6 (+17) 3. CWS 7-6 (+2) 4. DET 5-5 (-11) 5. KCR 4-10 (-11)
  16. Smeltzer has a unique set of skills that combats his lack of velocity. His fastball rarely cracks 90 which puts him in the 6th percentile for velo among MLB pitchers. The lefty, however, can seriously spin it. His fastball comes in at a 2,400 rpm. The curveball twirls up to the plate at 2,700 rpm. He can also kill the spin on his changeup to get an above average amount of vertical drop. The slider? It was a nothing pitch. The ugly duckling to his three other quality offerings. It backed up a lot, hanging for a moment in the zone, or it would dive well beyond the strike zone, leaving hitters to just watch it skip in the dirt. While Smeltzer’s three-pitch mix worked for him in 2019, having a legitimate slider could be a massive leap forward. The Twins’ pitching analysts like Josh Kalk have long known the benefits of having a slider. Thrown properly, it looks like a fastball longer before darting. In 2008 Kalk wrote about what makes sliders so effective. “ecause curves tend to produce a larger hump, a fast-reacting hitter has slightly more time in which to put on the brakes (or alter his swing) when he realizes that the pitch is not a fastball,” Kalk wrote. “Because sliders tend to stay hidden much further down the line, a batter who is fooled in the information-gathering stage has much less time to recover.” Over 10 years ago, long before “tunneling” had even entered the standard baseball lexicon, Kalk had discovered that curveballs can pop out of the pitcher’s tunnel to give hitters a hint that something is up. This is one reason why the team has encouraged some pitchers to develop a slider. Trevor May to transition to a new slider in 2019 after he played around with a new grip that resulted in better tunneling and more movement. Tyler Duffey also added velocity to his curveball and created a pitch that had more slider-like qualities. Taylor Rogers’ emergence as a late innings force is likewise due to embracing the slider mentality. Curveballs are out, sliders are in. In order to improve his slider, Smeltzer says he targeted three metrics on his Rapsodo: Spin rate, spin axis, and velocity. “I knew what my spin, axis and velo on it needed to be,” Smeltzer says regarding his pitch design targets. “So if I had two of the three that wasn’t it. I had to keep tweaking it.” He tinkered with different grips until he found the one that helped him attain those numbers consistently. “It finally started to click and I really stuck with the grip, it’s pretty unconventional grip but through a lot of talks it just made sense from a physical standpoint of the ball’s got one direction of where to go with how I’m throwing it and it’s out. Again, I just throw it like a fastball and let the grip work.” The unconventional part is that Smeltzer throws his slider off of a one finger grip. Standard sliders are typically thrown using both the index and middle finger applying pressure to the ball but Smeltzer discovered that the middle-finger dominant release was not working. “In the past, I’ve gotten very middle finger dominant and it makes the pitch not as aggressive and it becomes loopy and very inconsistent because that finger, pressure-wise, isn’t a strength for that pitch for me,” Smeltzer explains. Smeltzer continues his pitch design tutorial to the Zoom viewers. “So with this grip here,” he says as he creates a “C” out of his index and thumb, “I’m pressing between these two and when I’m throwing it like a fastball and, because of physics, the ball can only come out this way when I’m coming through so it’s cutting through and kicking that gyro spin.” What Smeltzer is saying is that he’s reducing that loopiness his former slider had. He said that he would often drop down to release that slider and get around the ball, tipping hitters off in the process. Now he can just rip it like he would his fastball and the grip does the work. Why is this particular pitch important for his development? Inconsistent and loopy results in hitters leaving the bat on the shoulder. The 24-year-old left-hander needed something with more action, a viable weapon -- particularly against lefties. Smeltzer has pronounced reverse splits, demonstrating the ability to get right-handed hitters out at a much higher clip than left-handed ones. While his fastball and changeup combination performed well against righties, adding an aggressive slider to his mix would likely help him against those same-sided opponents, as well as keeping righties off-balance. The Twins have created a cottage industry of getting pitchers to improve their slider offerings and see big gains. Devin Smeltzer might be the next on that list.
  17. Best Fastball: Trevor May FBv: 95.6, wFB: 17.4 With Brusdar Graterol no longer on the roster, there’s a new sheriff in town. Trevor May was supposed to evolve into a middle of the rotation starter when the Twins traded for him, but now he has become a shutdown late-inning relief pitcher. One of the biggest reasons for his improved performance… a lights-out fastball that has continue to improve since he switched to the bullpen. Back in 2014 May was a starter, trying to find himself on a struggling Twins squad. His fastball wasn’t hitting 93 and it didn’t seem like the rotation was a spot where he would thrive. Fast-forward to 2019 and his fastball has jumped to 95.5 mph and he is using it almost 62% of the time. The transition to the bullpen can be tough for some players, but opponents compiled a .150 batting average against his heater and most fans will take that every day of the week. Honorable Mention: Jake Odorizzi (20.8 wFB), Jose Berrios 11.5 (wFB) Best Slider: Taylor Rogers SLv: 82.3, wSL: 7.4 Taylor Rogers is good. Let me restate that, Taylor Rogers is really good, and I don’t think the rest of baseball realizes how good he was last season. One of the biggest changes for him last season was using his curveball less often and relying more on his slider. Spoiler alert… his slider is unhittable when paired with his other off-speed pitches. Outside of Jose Berrios, Rogers might have been the most enjoyable Twins pitcher to watch last season. His calm demeanor on the mound separates him from more recent Twins closers, but his pitching repertoire certainly puts him in the same class as his successors. Having a shortened 2020 season is depriving fans of another stellar year from Rogers. Honorable Mention: Sergio Romo (wSL 3.6), Lewis Thorpe (wSL 3.9) Best Curveball: Devin Smeltzer CBv: 76.6, wCB: 3.0 Smeltzer doesn’t have the velocity most would expect from a big-league pitcher, but the movement on his pitches helps to separate him from others on the staff. Fans are constantly in awe of the movement he is able to create from his lanky frame, especially when the pitches aren’t coming in at triple-digits on the radar gun. One of the biggest reasons for his success is his ability to change pitches and alter the batter’s vantage point. Last season, his spin on his curveball ranked in the 80th percentile across baseball. He only threw the pitch 24.5% of the time so it could be a pitch that see increase usage in the years ahead. Smeltzer is never going to blow away other batters. He has to rely on movement to be successful and he could rely on his unique abilities to be a back of the rotation starter. Honorable Mention: Jose Berrios (wCB -1.8), Tyler Duffey (wCB -0.8) Best Change-Up: Michael Pineda CHv: 87.2, wCH: 4.9 Twins fans might not appreciate how good Michael Pineda was for the team last season. He was once a top prospect, but he has evolved as a pitcher with more big-league experience. His fastball and slider might be below league average but his change-up is on another tier. He threw it more with the Twins than in any other season during the StatCast era. Opponents were held to a .238 batting average and a .253 WOBA on his change-up last season. Compare that to previous seasons and opponents were hitting over .290 with a .318 WOBA. Granted he missed a season due to Tommy John, but it takes nothing away from how he was able to adapt last season. Honorable Metnion:Trevor May (wCH: 2.2), Sergio Romo (wCH: 1.6) Do you agree with these rankings? What is the best pitch in the Twins organization? 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
  18. 1. Alter His Workout Routine According to the Star Tribune, Berrios altered some of his workout routines between starts at the end of last season and he saw some positive results. He worked throughout the offseason to develop his stamina and the Twins are hoping this stamina carries throughout the 2020 campaign. Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson was influential in this end-of-season metamorphosis. In his six starts from August 6 through September 4, he got knocked around to the tune of a .971 OPS and an 8.07 ERA. After his meeting of the minds with Johnson, he pitched six innings or more in his final five starts with a 3.08 ERA and opponents being held to a .631 OPS. 2. Extra Rest in the Second Half There was talk throughout last season of giving Jose Berrios extra rest in the second half, which could include skipping his spot in the rotation or being strategic in his second-half usage. In the second half, his ERA was over a run and a half higher than the first half with opponents posting a .268/.328/.428 batting line. There were still some positive signs in those poor second-half numbers. His 9.8 SO/9 was a full strikeout higher than his career mark and he might have been unlucky with a .335 BAbip. Also, Minnesota’s perceived rotational depth could make it easier for Berrios to get extra rest. Rich Hill and Michael Pineda won’t start the year in the rotation and younger players like Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe will want an opportunity. 3. Add an Early Season Innings Limit Innings limits are usually associated with younger prospects or players coming back from injury, but it could be a strategy utilized by the Twins to save Berrios for the second half. This could allow him to pitch more innings in the second half and keep him fresh. If his entire season as a tube of toothpaste, you don’t want everything squeezed out by the end of July. https://twitter.com/ParkerHageman/status/1229868843738243072?s=20 Historically, August and September have been his worst months. His ERA in August is nearly 6.00 for his career with batters hitting .279/.355/.456 with 42 extra base hits in 21 games. His September ERA is a more respectable 4.64, but that’s still over half a run higher than his next highest month. 4. Throw More Pitches Out of the Zone This might seem like a counterproductive option for a player if you want to be pitching better in the second half, but Berrios threw 50% of his pitches in the zone last season, a career high. His 33.4% chase rate was also a career high, but batters were making solid contact when they weren’t chasing the ball. When it comes to his four-pitch mix, could any of his pitches be thrown out of the zone on a more regular basis? Being in the zone also likely caused Berrios to post a 6.5% Barrel % and an 86.5 mph Exit Velocity, which were both the highest since his rookie season. Granted the juiced-up baseball might have helped increase the exit velocity for all players. His 36.3% Hard Hit rate was the highest of his career and it was 8.4% higher than his career best mark in 2017. What do you think the Twins need to do with Berrios? 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
  19. Clearly the Twins went into the offseason hoping to add a top starting pitcher. Use the word “impact” if you like. The two impact starters on the free agent market weren’t coming here (Cole, Strasburg). Two of the free agent starters who fit in that next tier (Bumgarner and Wheeler) went elsewhere for non-baseball and non-dollar reasons. And it appears that the Twins just didn’t (understandably) want to give Hyun-Jin Ryu a fourth year. With that, they shifted their attention to adding to an already-great offense. They gave Josh Donaldson a guaranteed $92 million over the next four years, and an option for 2024 that makes it pretty likely he is retained. I am often told by Twins fans to expect the offense and several of its hitters to regress in 2020. First, my assumption is that something will be done with the baseball, which may reduce some offensive numbers, but that will be across the board, for all teams. And yes, teams will have more data points to develop a way to attack the Twins hitters. So, regression for some and for the whole, is certainly possible. However, much of the Twins offense is made up of a core of players between 22-year-old Luis Arraez and 29-year-old Silver Slugger Mitch Garver. And none of them had seasons that were so far out of the realm of their potential that makes you think that any regression would have to be major. Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler all had strong seasons, but none of them outside of what we thought they could do when they were prospects. Silver Slugger Nelson Cruz is going to turn 40 during the season. It’s silly to expect him to put up the same kind of numbers he put up in 2019, but his approach and his strength should still produce really good numbers in the middle of a lineup. Josh Donaldson replaces CJ Cron in the lineup. While he is older, he’s been one of the greatest hitters in baseball. If healthy, he should continue to put up eye-popping numbers. Injuries? Yes, injuries happen and they aren’t necessarily easy or possible to predict. But, there is one good way to alleviate some of those concerns. The first is simply to have depth. The Twins have depth. Simply in the form of Marwin Gonzalez there is depth. He can play the corner infield and corner outfield spots. LaMonte Wade and Jake Cave can man the outfield spots when needed. Ehire Adrianza is a terrific utility infielder. Alex Avila is the backup catcher. And there are prospects, high-caliber prospects at each position, who are close to MLB-ready. The Twins were able to keep Jake Odorizzi away from free agency for one more year by offering him the $17.8 million Qualifying Offer (and him accepting it). They also retained the services of right-hander Michael Pineda for the next two years. He will finish the final 39 games of his suspension and rejoin the team in mid-May. Jose Berrios is entering his Age-26 season. He will need to figure out August, but there’s a lot to be excited about it, and there is potential for him to find another level. Jake Odorizzi found his next level in 2019. Michael Pineda, at the time he was suspended, was being talked about as a possible Game 1 starter in the playoffs. That’s a solid first three. Homer Bailey? No, not exciting, but he has certainly had his moments. And, he was really good in the second half of 2019. Rich Hill? Man, if only he could stay healthy. Over the last five years, he has been a top 10-15 starting pitcher in baseball. Of course, he won’t be back until at least June after elbow surgery. There is no way to know how that recovery and rehab will go with 100% confidence. But they got him for a great contract and even if he’s back by the end of July, and can get close to what he’s been in recent years, that’s a nice pitcher to have in August, September and October. Can the Twins get the best out of him? With Hill and Pineda unable to start the season on the active list, the rotation will contain Berrios, Odorizzi, Bailey and… Well, for right now, that answer comes down to about four options; Brusdar Graterol, Lewis Thorpe, Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer. Yes, Blaine Hardy will be at spring training. Jhoan Duran is on the 40-man roster, so he’ll be at big-league spring training for a while. There may be other names mentioned early in spring training. But for all intents and purposes, it comes down to those four pitchers. All four pitched in the big leagues in 2019. Randy Dobnak: He was the Twins minor league pitcher of the year in 2019 when he pitched in Ft. Myers, Pensacola, Rochester and ended the season with the Twins, pitching well enough in September to earn a Game 2 start in the playoffs. It didn’t go well, but it shouldn’t minimize how much he grew and improved over the course of the season. And, in addition to being a good story, he’s a good pitcher too. Lewis Thorpe: He was the Twins minor league pitcher of the year in 2018. He spent most of 2019 in Rochester but came up a couple of times. He made a few starts and also pitched out of the bullpen. He had some good games and some not-so-good games, but what he did well is miss bats. Devin Smeltzer: He moved back into a starting role in 2019 and started in Pensacola. A month later he was in Rochester, and before the end of May, he made his major-league debut and it went very well. He was a frequent guest on the Rochester-to-Minneapolis travel list but experienced success in a variety of roles in the big leagues. Brusdar Graterol: He came up for September and worked out of the bullpen. He was off to a good start last year in AA, but he missed nearly three months in the middle of the season with a shoulder injury. He came back in the bullpen so that he could be called up and his triple-digit fastball could help the Twins late. He will be on some sort of innings plan, but most would think that it’d be ideal for him to continue developing as a starter. Could that be as a ‘Primary’ pitcher, or could he just be a regular starter until Pineda comes back, or until Hill returns? Derek Falvey is often given a lot of credit for the pitching development in Cleveland. We have seen them continue to develop a pipeline of quality starters. Several of their current pitchers were not top prospects when they came up but certainly have developed into that status. Corey Kluber might just be the best example of that development plan and process, though he will be with the Rangers in 2020. So, should we believe in Derek Falvey’s track record? Should we trust the processes that have been initiated by Falvey along with pitching guru Josh Kalk and minor league pitching coordinator Paul Maki, and each of the minor league coaches and coordinators brought in? How about their utilization of technologies in recent years? Why not give these guys a chance? Herein lies the question from today’s title, Do the Twins need to add another starter? In my opinion, the answer is obvious. No, they don’t NEED to add another starter. With this offense, the team will win a lot of games. Their top two pitchers (Berrios, Odorizzi) are good. Bailey certainly can be good. And, four young pitchers who got time in 2019 are certainly capable of being solid, and a few of them have the potential to be pretty good. Having that offensive support should certainly encourage them to throw a lot of strikes. Pineda will be back. Hill should be back a little later. But, it isn’t that simple. While they don’t NEED to add another starter, Falvey and Thad Levine should continue to monitor the starting pitcher trade market. I don’t think Jon Gray or German Marquez are going to be available this offseason, but those are the caliber of pitcher that the team should show interest in. Y’all know I’m not at all high on Matt Boyd, but if the Twins research and development crew says that he could be a pitcher of the Berrios/Odorizzi/Pineda quality in 2020, maybe try that. There may be names that we haven’t even thought of that they could get. But don’t just add any more pitchers just to add more pitchers. If they’re going to make a move, make it a good one. Get a pitcher as good as Odorizzi, or better. If not, take your chances with a strong offense and a pretty solid starting rotation (and a pretty solid bullpen too, mind you). Continue to evaluate and teach those inexperienced pitchers, Get Pineda back. Get Hill back… And keep an eye on the phone, always looking to make a big addition in July… or June… or May! For much more on Brusdar Graterol, Lewis Thorpe, Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer, along with Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic and about 90 other Twins minor league pitchers, order a copy of the 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. It is available in paperback or PDF ebook. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. Randy Dobnak Minnesota trusted Dobnak enough to start a playoff game at Yankee Stadium so he already might in line to get a starting rotation spot. Last week, Matthew Trueblood wrote that Dobnak might be better than people think. He pitched 58 big league innings last year and posted a 3.88 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP. It would be nice to see Dobnak more in the fifth starter role than higher in the rotation. Obviously, Michael Pineda’s suspension will play a role in that decision at the beginning of the year and it should give Dobnak the opportunity to prove he belongs in the rotation. Devin Smeltzer Smeltzer is another intriguing option after he compiled a 3.86 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in 11 appearances (49 IP). He had an interesting start to his career as he only allowed seven earned runs in his first 27 2/3 innings and opponents were held to a .651 OPS. What was more remarkable was the fact that his fastball averaged under 90 mph, but his off-speed pitches kept batters off-balance. His final six games saw his ERA rise to nearly 6.00 as the team used him more out of the bullpen. Smeltzer seems like a player that could be coming back-and-forth between Rochester and Minneapolis. Lewis Thorpe Thorpe was once one of the team’s top prospects and he won the team’s 2018 Minor League Pitcher of the Year award. Thorpe made all but two of his appearances out of the bullpen since Taylor Rogers was the team’s lone left-handed relief pitcher. Over the last two seasons at Triple-A, Thorpe has amassed a 4.73 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP and an 11.1 SO/9. Those numbers could fit in the back half of a starting rotation if he can translate that to the big leagues. It seems likely for Thorpe to get more opportunities to be a starter with the Twins in 2020, but will he have to prove himself in Rochester first? Brusdar Graterol Graterol was an exciting call-up at season’s end last year and the Twins used him entirely out of the bullpen. The plan will most definitely be for him to return to the rotation to start 2020 and this could be with Rochester. As a 20-year old, he dominated in Pensacola last season although he only made 12 appearances with the Blue Wahoos. He was limited to four Triple-A relief appearances, so the club will likely want him to build up some innings at that level. He has never pitched more than 102 innings in a season, so this year will be critical for him to stay healthy and get stretched out. Likely all the names above will have some impact on the 2020 Twins. Out of this group, who do you trust the most to be in the rotation for the majority of the season? 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
  21. Smeltzer was able to cruise through the minor league system in 2019 and eventually make his MLB debut thanks in part to the two characteristics mentioned in the previous paragraph. The majors proved to be another challenge in itself for Smeltzer but he was able to pitch to the tune of a 3.86 ERA and 4.58 FIP over his first 49 innings. Unfortunately for Smeltzer, however, is the fact that this upcoming offseason will likely push him out of the major leagues. The starting rotation is as barren as a bar at noon but the Twins have talked up their plans to step on the gas and acquire impact arms. Whether that happens or not will be seen in time but each starter gained will be another obstacle in the way of Smeltzer in 2020. If the Twins decided to stay in-house for a rotation spot or two then Smeltzer finds himself in trouble yet again as his 2019 performance was behind Randy Dobnak and he doesn’t have the prospect status or strikeout potential of Lewis Thorpe. Throw on top the likely inevitable move back to a starting spot for Brusdar Graterol and well, you see the obstacles in Smeltzer’s way. Where Smeltzer may find a niche is in the bullpen in a relief role. Now, I have always been a fan of teams getting creative with how they use relievers and I believe that Smeltzer has a unique opportunity to become a multi-inning threat out of the bullpen. What draws me to this is his splits when going through a lineup for the first time. As a starter, he had a 20.4 K-BB% when going through the lineup for the first time and as a reliever, he had a 17.1 K-BB% when going through the lineup for the first time. For context, a 20.4 K-BB% would put him above names like Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin and a 17.1 K-BB% was exactly the same number José Berríos had on the year. Granted, the starters I’m comparing him to did this over all situations, but doesn’t it sound nice to say that Smeltzer was as effective as Patrick Corbin*? *Actual statisticians can still be damned He’s great when going through the lineup for the first time, which is nice, are there any downsides? Yes there are, voice in my head, thank you. Smeltzer was one of those weird pitchers who actually had reverse splits at the major league level. Lefties slashed .316/.395/.474 against him with a wOBA of .373, that isn’t good. I know just about nothing as far as pitching goes but if I had to guess what the issue was, I would narrow it down to two things: 1. His sequencing to lefties needs to be adjusted 2. He possibly needs to better develop his slider which he only threw 5.6% of the time at the major league level Either way, his ability to mow down hitters when facing them for the first time makes me believe that Smeltzer can be a powerful weapon out of the bullpen in a multi-inning “Andrew Miller” role. Rosters will expand to 26 players next season and the added man may prove to be helpful for a pitcher on the cusp like Smeltzer. If he is to be a big part of the 2020 Twins, it would not surprise me if it is in a creative role out of the bullpen. No matter what, expect some silky smooth changeups and Jack Morris to say that Smeltzer is “pitching, not throwing” ... whatever that means. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — 3 Creative Ways for Twins to Leverage Their Spending Flexibility — Mitch Garver, Nelson Cruz Win 2019 Silver Slugger Award — 2020 Offseason Handbook Now Available for Download
  22. Again, at a minimum, the Twins will either bring back some of the starters who will become free agents (Jake Odorrizi, Michael Pineda, and Kyle Gibson) and/or sign and trade for new pitchers. But this exercise will give us an idea of the current strength, or lack thereof, of the organization’s starting pitching. The Given We’ll start with the only “lock” for the 2020 starting rotation – Jose Berrios. Hopefully, Derrek Falvey and Thad Levine will prioritize adding a starter or two in the general talent vicinity of Berrios, but there is no doubt that he will be at or near the top of the rotation. At times Berrios has looked like a true ace, especially in the first half of seasons. Even if he's more of a number two when factoring in his overall numbers (including his annual August meltdown – career 5.96 ERA), he is a nice piece and still young enough to improve. Highly Likely Randy Dobnak’s ascent from Independent ball all the way to the big leagues was one of the great stories of 2019. Ranking him this highly could be an overstatement, but we are simply looking at what the rotation would look like with no external additions. Through that lens, Dobnak is a near lock to make the rotation. Aside from his postseason start, in which expecting much from the rookie was a tall order, Dobnak was great throughout his minor league season and didn’t skip a beat after joining the big-league rotation (1.59 ERA, 2.90 FIP). Dobnak has great command and throws a sinker (36.5%), curve (27.9%), four-seamer (22.7%), and changeup (12.9%). The velocity on his four-seamer (93.4) and sinker (92.2) is respectable and he got a lot of whiffs (46.3%) on his curve. The fact that he was called upon to start Game 2 in New York says a lot about Manager Rocco Baldelli’s confidence in Dobnak. Probable This next group of young starters all debuted in 2019. We’ll start with the first who was called up, Devin Smeltzer. Besides topping Dobnak in the heart-warming backstory department by beating cancer in this youth, Smeltzer also did a fine job in his first big-league stint. Like Dobnak, Smelter wasn’t a highly-touted prospect and he was even relegated to the bullpen while in Double A last season. He was given another opportunity to start in 2019 and made the most of it. He reached high levels of success in both Triple A (3.63 ERA) and the majors (3.86 ERA), although his FIP suggests some regression (5.05 AAA, 4.58 MLB). While big in heart, Smeltzer in small in stature and lacks big velocity (89.1 mph four-seamer), however, he does have the fact that he is left-handed going for him. Like Dobnak, he seems unfazed by the big stage. The next “probable” is another southpaw, Australian Lewis Thorpe. Thorpe was a more highly-regarded prospect than both Dobnak and Smeltzer, and he seemed the most likely of the group to reach the majors this year. Thorpe has better swing and miss stuff than his previously mentioned peers, but his results in both Triple A and the MLB were a bit of a mixed bag. His ERA was high at both levels (AAA – 4.58, MLB – 6.18), but his FIP suggests better results (AAA – 3.72, MLB – 3.47) and he has pitched well in the past. Thorpe’s walk rate was high (3.25 BB/9) but he struck a lot of batters out (10.08 K/9). He has a good pitch mix (four-seamer (51.2%), slider (19.7%), curve (17.5%), and changeup (11.6%)) with his fastball averaging 91.2 mph. Thorpe hasn’t quite put it all together yet, but if he does, he could be a mid-to-back end of the rotation starter. Finally, we finish this group with the most exciting of the bunch. Brusdar Graterol debuted, as a 21-year-old September callup. Although a starter by trade, he pitched out of the bullpen as he was coming back from a shoulder condition and best served the Twins in that capacity. Graterol’s stuff is electric, as he features a sinker (49.3%), slider (30.6%), four-seamer (18.1%), and changeup (2.1%) and averaged 99.0 mph on his sinker. His slider has the potential to be devastating and if his changeup develops, he could be a front end of the rotation starter. The right-hander’s durability may determine of whether he is destined for the rotation or relief, but either way his future is bright. Outside Looking In With the hypothetical “Twins do nothing” rotation set, we turn to the next group of starters who are close, but not quite ready. Some of these pitchers are closer than others, and naturally some also offer much higher upside. Since none of them will be starting the year in this hypothetical MLB rotation, they should all get a bit more time to develop in the minors, and in reality, not all of them are expected to be MLB ready in 2020. I’ll break them down into a few different groups. High Upside, Not Quite Ready This first group consists of guys who have good stuff, good numbers, and could potentially see some big-league action in 2020. They are ranked in order of who would be most likely to be called up first and not on prospect status (in which case the order would be reversed). Baily Ober (RHP) – Ober was very good in 2019 and has been great throughout his minor league career. He has battled injuries, but his numbers have been remarkable (2019 high-A: 0.99 ERA, 26.7% K-BB%, AA: 0.38 ERA, 38.1% K-BB%). The 24-year-old has yet to pitch in Triple A, but if he continues to pitch as he has and stays healthy, he could be ready for an MLB audition. Edwar Colina (RHP) – Colina was another pitcher who flew through the system this year, starting in High A, moving up to Double A, and finishing with a brief stint in Rochester. Colina is short for a starter but throws hard and put up very good numbers (2.34 ERA high-A, 2.03 ERA AA). If he doesn’t make it as a starter, he could end up being a high-velocity, late-inning arm. Jhoan Duran (RHP) – Duran is another high-upside starter who has a chance to pitch for the Twins in 2020. He throws hard and made it all the way to Double A this year. His ERA rose from 3.23 in High A to 4.86 in Double A, but his FIP (2.76) suggests that he outperformed his ERA. Jordan Balazovic (RHP) – Balazovic may be a bit further away, as he spent 2019 pitching between Low A and High A, but he should start 2020 in Double A, and he probably ranks second only to Graterol in stuff. He pitched to a 1.61 FIP in Cedar Rapids with 14.37 K/9 and continued to pitch very well after moving up to Fort Myers (2.28 FIP, 11.84 K/9). Further Away This second group is a bit further away, but still offers a lot of upside. Cole Sands (RHP) – Sands is another guy who pitched really well this year, going all the way from Low A to a brief stint in Double A. The 2018 fifth-round pick didn’t pitch in upon joining the organization, so this was his first season in the minors. He will likely begin 2020 in Double A and could move fast. Chris Vallimont (RHP) – Vallimont came to the Twins as part of the Sergio Romo trade and was more than just a throw-in. Like Sands, Vallimont pitched very well in 2019, spending the entire season in High A, and should begin 2020 in Double A. Dakota Chalmers (RHP) – Chalmers isn’t as polished as Sands or Vallimont but he offers plenty of upside. The 23-year-old came to the Twins in exchange for Fernando Rodney and is another fire-baller. He gets a ton of strikeouts, but his future will depend on whether he can improve his control. Chalmers is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Blayne Enlow (RHP) – The Twins went over slot to sign Enlow in 2017 with the 76th overall pick, and he has pitched pretty well since joining the organization. Enlow’s ERA improved upon being called up to High-A (from 4.57 to 3.38), but he regressed in groundball rate and strikeouts, only striking out 6.62 per nine. However, Enlow is still just 20-years-old so he has plenty of time to develop. The Others There are plenty of other young starters who could see time with the Twins in 2020. Kohl Stewart (RHP) was up in 2018 and 2019 but his upside is limited and he may not stay on the 40-man roster. This was more or less a lost year for Stephen Gonsalves (LHP), but if healthy he could re-emerge in 2020. Sean Poppen (RHP) also pitched for Minnesota this year and both Griffin Jax (RHP) and Charlie Barnes (LHP) made it all the way to Triple A. This group doesn’t scream upside, but neither did Dobnak or Smeltzer coming into this season. Minnesota will probably look to add a minimum of two or three arms this offseason and we needn’t worry about seeing our hypothetical rotation. However, a lot can happen throughout the year, and several of the pitchers who were mentioned will see time with the Twins in the next year or two. With the competitive window blown fully open in 2019, the front office will need to prioritize improving the team’s one glaring hole, but it is reassuring to have plenty of alluring depth in the system to be called upon if needed. Besides, Gerrit Cole may need an occasional breather.
  23. Today, we would like to announce our choices for 2019 Minnesota Twins All-Stars. Our Twins Daily minor league report writers were asked to vote for a catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, three outfielders, a DH, a left-handed starting pitcher, a right-handed starting pitcher, a left-handed reliever and a right-handed reliever. The player at each position who received the most votes takes the spots. There were some ties, and in those cases, we each voted for the player(s) to break the ties. Read through our choices for each position. Check out how each of our writers voted. And then discuss and cast your votes as well. Let’s get started. (Note - all photos below from Seth Stohs, Twins Daily, unless noted.) The Twins Daily 2019 Minnesota Twins Minor League All Star Team Catcher: Ryan Jeffers - Ft. Myers Miracle/Pensacola Blue Wahoos Acquired: 2nd round draft pick in 2018 from UNC-Wilmington 2019 Stats: .264/.341/.421 (.762) with 16 doubles, 14 homers and 49 RBI Some were surprised when the Twins used a second-round pick in 2018 on the talented catcher. However, he has proven a lot of people wrong to this point. Known more for his bat, there are mixed reviews on his defense still. Few question his bat. He’s got a good approach at the plate, but he can provide some thump to a lineup too. He definitely likes proving people wrong. ETA - May 2021 First Base: Zander Wiel - Rochester Red Wings Acquired: 12th round pick in 2015 from Vanderbilt 2019 Stats: .254/.320/.514 (.834) with 40 doubles, 5 triples, 24 homers and 78 RBI Wiel has quietly been very productive as he has moved up the organizational ladder one level per season. He was on this team in 2016 and 2018 and was an easy choice again in 2019. He played first base most every day for the Red Wings, and he hit a ton of extra-base hits. His 69 extra-base hits led the International League. ETA - May 2020 Second Base: Travis Blankenhorn, Ft. Myers Miracle, Pensacola Blue Wahoos Acquired: Twins 3rd round pick in 2015 out of high school in Pennsylvania 2019 Stats: .277/.321/.466 (.787) with 22 doubles, 2 triples, 19 home runs and 54 RBI. Blankenhorn returns to the Twins Daily All-Star team for the first time since 2017. After a tough 2018, he returned to Ft. Myers, but within a month, he was promoted to AA Pensacola. He hit 18 doubles and 18 homers after his promotion to the Blue Wahoos. The 23-year-old remains one of the best athletes in the organization. ETA: July 2021 Third Base: Spencer Steer - Elizabethton Twins, Cedar Rapids Kernels Acquired: Twins 3rd-round in 2019 out of the University of Oregon 2019 Stats: .280/.385/.424 (.809) with 18 doubles, 3 triples, 4 home runs and 33 RBI. The Twins drafted Steer as a shortstop, and he played there for a handful of games while with the Elizabethton Twins after the draft, but he spent most of his time playing second base and third base for the Kernels. While he struggled at times for the Kernels, he provided extra-base hits and a couple of walkoff hits for the team. ETA: June 2023 photo by Steve Buhr Shortstop: Nick Gordon - Rochester Red Wings Acquired: 1st round pick in 2014 out of high school in Florida 2019 Stats: .298/.342/.459 (.801) with 29 doubles, 3 triples, 4 homers and 40 RBI It was a frustrating 2019 season for Gordon. He missed the first month of the season with a stomach issue, and he missed the final month of the season with a knee injury. He kept a positive attitude throughout it. However, in between he put up some real solid numbers. He hit for average, got on base, and hit a lot of doubles. He returns to our All-Star team for the first time since 2016. ETA: June 2020 Outfielder: Trevor Larnach - Ft. Myers Miracle, Pensacola Blue Wahoos Acquired: Twins 1st-round draft pick in 2018 out of Oregon State 2019 Stats: .309/.384/.458 (.842) with 30 doubles, 1 triple, 13 homers and 66 RBI Larnach had a very impressive professional debut in 2019. He homered in his first big-league spring training at bat. He began the season with Ft. Myers and was promoted to Double-A Pensacola after the All-Star Game. He was the Florida State League Player of the Year and Twins Daily’s choice for Minor League Hitter of the Year. ETA: July 2020 Outfielder: Jaylin Davis - Ft. Myers Miracle, Pensacola Blue Wahoos Acquired: Twins 24th round draft pick in 2015 out of Appalachian State 2019 Stats: .298/.391/.563 (.954) with 20 doubles, 1 triple, 25 home runs, 67 RBI. What a year for Jaylin Davis! He began in AA Pensacola, but when he moved up to AAA Rochester, he began destroying the baseball. His numbers above are remarkable, but then consider that he spent the final month of the minor league season in the Giants organization after a trade. He continued to hit AAA pitching for Sacramento before being called up to the Giants for September. Last night, his first MLB homer was a walkoff winner for San Francisco. He's been struggling a bit in the big leagues, but hey, he got to meet Willie Mays. ETA: September 2019 (with Giants) Outfielder - Brent Rooker - Rochester Red Wings Acquired: Twins 1st-round (compensation) draft pick in 2017 out of Mississippi State 2019 Stats: .281/.398/.535 (.933) with 16 doubles, 14 home runs and 47 RBI. Rooker has made this All-Star team each of his three seasons since being drafted in 2017. He got off to a slow start in Rochester in 2019, but when the calendar turned to May, Rooker took off. He cut his strikeout rate, increased his walk rate and started to hit for power. Unfortunately a late season injury ended his season prematurely. ETA: June 2020 Designated Hitter: Gabe Snyder - Cedar Rapids Kernels Acquired: Twins 21st-round draft pick in 2018 out of Wright State 2019 Stats: .259/.338/.462 (.800) with 21 doubles, 4 triples, 19 homers and 58 RBI Snyder was not even on the Kernels opening day roster when the season began. Sure, he joined the team about a week later, but he took off right away. He was a Midwest League All-Star at the midseason, and he was on the postseason All-Star roster. The burly 2018 draft pick provided power to the Kernels lineup throughout the season. ETA: July 2022 Right-Handed Starting Pitcher: Randy Dobnak - Ft. Myers Miracle, Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Rochester Red Wings Acquired: signed as undrafted free agent from Utica Unicorns (USPBL) via Alderson-Broaddus College 2019 Stats: 12-4, 2.07 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, 7.3 K/9 No doubt 2019 has been a bit of a whirlwind for Randy Dobnak. 26 months ago, the Twins signed him, shortly after he got engaged while playing in the United Shores Professional Baseball League. He spent all of the 2018 season in Cedar Rapids. He began 2019 in Ft. Myers before moving up to Pensacola, and then Rochester, and then back to Pensacola and then back to Rochester. And almost exactly two years after signing, he made his MLB debut. Frankly, he’s been impressive and he pitched six innings of one-hit ball in his final start of the season and will likely make the Twins postseason roster… after getting married on Saturday. And hey, he and his fiance are asking people who want to give gifts to them to instead donate to St. Judes. You can click here to do that. Dobnak was the Twins Daily choice for Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. ETA: August 2019 Left-Handed Starting Pitcher: Devin Smeltzer - Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Rochester Red Wings, Minnesota Twins Acquired: Trade from Dodgers (with Luke Raley, Logan Forsythe for Brian Dozier) in July 2018. 2019 Stats: 4-5, 2.76 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, 9.0 K/9 When the Twins acquired Smeltzer from the Dodgers at the 2018, most Twins fans probably said, “Who?” The bespectacled southpaw was mostly known for being a childhood cancer survivor. And, he has done so much good, including his Catch Cancer Looking t-shirt campaign. However, none of that alters the fact that he had a tremendous season. He came to the Twins after the Dodgers moved him to the bullpen. He pitched the rest of last season, including in the Arizona Fall League, out of the bullpen. This spring, he returned to starting, and he returned to AA. After a month, he moved up to AAA and continued to pitch well. He made his MLB debut with six shutout innings against Milwaukee in late May and pitched well most of the time in the big leagues. He went back and forth but continued to pitch well all season. ETA: May 2019 Right-Handed Relief Pitcher: Moises Gomez - Cedar Rapids Kernels, Ft. Myers Miracle Acquired: signed as undrafted free agent in April 2014 from Venezuela 2019 Stats: 1-4, 10 saves, 2.91 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, 13.3 K/9 Gomez has been in the organization a long time, and he has had his struggles at times. He figured some things out in 2019 with the Kernels and then with the Miracle. The 22-year-old from Venezuela has been able to throw more strikes and missed a lot more bats. He has a power arm and some mix. He had a breakout season and it is continuing as he is pitching in the Arizona Fall League. ETA: August 2021 Left-Handed Relief Pitcher: Zach Neff - Cedar Rapids Kernels, Ft. Myers Miracle Acquired: Twins 31st-round pick in 2018 out of Mississippi State 2019 MiLB Stats: 6-3, 8 saves, 2.97 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 11.0 K/9 After three seasons at Austin Peay, Neff transferred to Mississippi State. Following his senior season, the Twins drafted him. He began 2019 where he ended 2018, with the Cedar Rapids Kernels. He was promoted to Ft. Myers in the second half where he continued to pitch well. He showed good control, mixed his pitches well and recorded a lot of strikeouts. He is also pitching for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League. ETA: September 2021 ------------------------------------------------------------------ PREVIOUS Twins Daily Minor League All Stars Looking Back: 2016 Twins Daily Minor League All Stars C: Mitch Garver, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Luis Arraez, 3B: Nelson Molina, SS: Nick Gordon, OF: LaMonte Wade, Zack Granite, Daniel Palka, DH: Adam Brett Walker. RH SP: Fernando Romero, LH SP: Stephen Gonsalves, RH RP: Trevor Hildenberger, LH RP: Michael Theofanopoulos. Looking Back: 2017 Twins Daily Minor League All Stars C: Mitch Garver, 1B: Jonathan Rodriguez, 2B: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B: TJ White, SS: Jermaine Palacios, OF:LaMonte Wade, Zack Granite, Akil Baddoo, DH: Brent Rooker. RH SP: Clark Beeker, LH SP: Stephen Gonsalves, RH RP: John Curtiss, LH RP: Andrew Vasquez. Looking Back: 2018 Twins Daily Minor League All Stars C: Taylor Grzelakowski, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Luis Arraez, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Royce Lewis, OF: Alex Kirilloff, Jaylin Davis, Akil Baddoo, DH: Brent Rooker. RH SP: Tyler Wells, LH SP: Stephen Gonsalves, RH RP: Cody Stashak, LH RP: Andrew Vasquez. ---------------------------------------------------------------- The Votes So there you have it. The fourth annual Twins Daily Minor League All Star team. Who would get your vote? Below are the votes/selections of our 2019 Twins Daily minor league writers: Seth: C: Ryan Jeffers, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B: Ryan Costello, SS: Nick Gordon, OF: Jaylin Davis, Trevor Larnach, Gilberto Celestino, DH: Lewin Diaz, RH SP: Randy Dobnak, LH SP: Devin Smeltzer, RH RP: Moises Gomez, LH RP: Zach Neff. Cody: C: Wilin Rosario, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Luis Arraez, 3B: Wander Valdez, SS: Nick Gordon, OF: Jaylin Davis, Trevor Larnach, Brent Rooker, DH: Lewin Diaz RH SP: Randy Dobnak, LH SP: Devin Smeltzer, RH RP: Anthony Vizcaya, LH RP: Sam Clay. Tom: C: Ryan Jeffers, 1B: Lewin Diaz, 2B: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B: Ryan Costello, SS: Nick Gordon, OF: Jaylin Davis, Trevor Larnach, Gilberto Celestino, DH: Gabe Snyder, RH SP: Jordan Balazovic, LH SP: Devin Smeltzer, RH RP: Cody Stashak, LH RP: Zach Neff. Ted: C: Ryan Jeffers, 1B: Wilin Rosario, 2B: Nick Gordon, 3B: Wander Valdez, SS: Spencer Steer, OF: Trevor Larnach, Brent Rooker, Zander Wiel, DH: Travis Blankenhorn, RH SP: Randy Dobnak, LH SP: Devin Smeltzer, RH RP: Melvi Acosta, LH RP: Sam Clay. Steve: C: Tomas Telis, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B: Drew Maggi, SS: Nick Gordon, OF: Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker, DH: Gabe Snyder, RH SP: Jordan Balazovic, LH SP: Devin Smeltzer, RH RP: Moises Gomez, LH RP: Zach Neff. Matt: C: Ryan Jeffers, 1B: Gabe Snyder, 2B: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B: Spencer Steer, SS: Royce Lewis, OF: Jake Cave, Alejandro de Aza, Trevor Larnach, DH: Brent Rooker, RH SP: Bailey Ober, LH SP: Lewis Thorpe, RH RP: Derek Molina, LH RP: Zach Neff.
  24. Box Score Smeltzer: 5 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 70% strikes (57 of 81 pitches) Bullpen: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K Home Runs: Jonathan Schoop (23), Willians Astudillo (4) Multi-Hit Games: Ian Miller (2-for-5), Willians Astudillo (4-for-5), Jonathan Schoop (2-for-5), Jake Cave (2-for-5) Top 3 WPA: Cave .213, Astudillo .200, Miller .198 Young Players Make an Impact Ian Miller collected both his first big league hit and RBI in the third inning to give Minnesota an early lead. This wouldn’t have been possible if not for Ronald Torreyes stealing second, marking only the fourth stolen base for Minnesota since the All-Star break. LaMonte Wade made his first professional start at first base. He hadn’t played the position since his sophomore year of college, five years ago, and was borrowing Max Kepler’s first baseman's mitt. This was an all-around interesting lineup. Bomba Squad Reaches 300 and Beyond In the top of the seventh inning, Jonathan Schoop hit his 23rd home run of the season and the 300th of the year for the Minnesota Twins. With that home run, Minnesota became the first team to ever hit 300 home runs in a season and once again passed the Yankees for the most home runs this year. In the eighth inning, Willians Astudillo made it 301 bombas when he blasted his fourth of the year over the left field fence, giving Minnesota a 10-4 lead. Winding Down With the division already clinched and the 2019 regular season coming to an end, with no chance of leapfrogging the Yankees or Astros in the A.L. standings, we can expect to see more lineups similar to today's. Enjoy watching stress-free baseball against Kansas City and get locked in for postseason baseball. There’s nothing better and we’ve earned this, Twins Territory. Postgame With Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1177324912676990976 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.
  25. Kyle Gibson W-L 13-7, 4.76 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 151 K, 50 BB, 155.0 IP Minnesota used Kyle Gibson as a reliever on Sunday and things didn’t go exactly to plan. He entered the game after Fernando Romero had already put multiple runners on base and then Gibson surrendered a three-run home run. Only one of the earned runs was charged to Gibson, but the big hit came when he was pitching. One of the bigger issues for Gibson are the health issues he has been battling for most of the season. In spring training, he was also diagnosed with E. coli that he contracted while doing mission work during the off-season. He entered camp around 200 pounds, which is down about 15 pounds from his desired weight. Recently, he returned from the 10-day IL after missing time because of ulcerative colitis. Gibson struggles when batters get repeated looks at him in the same game, especially for the third time. His first time through the batting order he has held batters to a .248/.315/.376 (.691) slash line with a 63 to 18 strikeout to walk ratio. His third time through the line-up results in batters hitting .333/.386/.558 (.944) with eight of his 22 homers allowed coming in this situation. Martin Perez W-L 10-7, 4.89 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 125 K, 64 BB, 152.2 IP Perez didn’t even start the year in Minnesota’s rotation, but he was a breath of fresh air when he was added to the rotation in mid-April. From April 15-May 23, he looked like one of the best pitchers in the league as he posted a 2.17 ERA and held batters to a .644 OPS. His cut fastball was a revelation and it helped him to strike out 44 batters in eight games. He looked like a candidate for the All-Star Game and it certainly seemed like Minnesota had made something out of nothing. In his 18 starts since May 23, Perez has not looked like the same pitcher. His cut fastball, that had been his bread and butter during his hot start, has not looked the same. He has allowed more than a hit per inning and he’s only managed 69 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings. With 16 home runs allowed, he has surrendered nearly a home run per appearance. Right-handed batters have compiled an .817 OPS against him throughout the year. This isn’t good news for the Twins that will be facing the Yankees or the Astros in the ALDS and both clubs are very right-hand heavy. Only New York and Houston have higher OPS totals than Minnesota this year so there doesn’t seem like a scenario where Perez would be asked to see their line-up multiple times in the same game. Bullpen Game After Friday night’s botched rainout, the Twins were left no available starting pitchers for Saturday’s doubleheader. This left the team with a unique strategic situation and a full September roster of bullpen arms. In Game 1, the Twins were able to shut out the Indians behind three innings from Devin Smeltzer and more than one inning from Zack Littell, Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers. During Game 2, Lewis Thorpe was the lone pitcher to surrender any runs as he struggled with command throughout his appearance. Cody Stashak and Trevor May joined the shutout crew from Game 1, but the most impressive appearance was from 21-year old Brusdar Graterol. Over two innings, he was regularly sitting in triple-digits with his fastball and this pitch had more movement than any of his other big-league appearances. Add in a strong slider and he looked lights out. https://twitter.com/TFTwins/status/1173231000123559939?s=20 During last year’s playoffs, the Milwaukee Brewers used a bold strategy as they used Wade Miley as the starter and he only pitched to one batter. Manager Craig Counsell was hoping the Dodgers would load their line-up with left-handed hitters and then the Brewers quickly switched to a left-handed pitcher. Teams are likely more aware of this type of strategy, but it is something a team could try during October, especially one like the Twins with few starting pitching options. What strategy do you think the Twins would use in Game 3 of the ALDS? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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