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  1. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Dylan Bundy, 5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K (85 pitches, 63 strikes, 74.1%) Home Runs: Trevor Larnach (1) Bottom 3 WPA: Trevor Megill (-.315), Gary Sánchez (-.265), Max Kepler (-.222) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Dylan Bundy and Rony García pitched really well to begin this game, shutting out both offenses for three innings. Making his second start since being reinstated from the injured list, Bundy gave up three hits in those three innings, but he had excellent command and never pitched himself into jams. The Twins caught a break in the third inning when Derek Hill tried to score from third on a pitch that got away from Gary Sánchez. Home plate umpire Charlie Ramos called him out and the Tigers challenged the play, but it was upheld. Was the tag really applied? The first runs of the game came in the bottom of the fourth inning. García was on a roll, having retired six Twins in a row. Then, Sánchez drew a walk against him and that came back to haunt García. On the next at-bat, Trevor Larnach obliterated a four-seamer, crushing it for a two-run home run, his first of the season. With such a mammoth shot, Larnach continues to feast on fastballs. Coming into this game, ha was slugging .459 against fastballs, with also a .500 xSLG, per Statcast. This home run came off his bat at 112.4 MPH, his hardest-hit ball of the season. Bundy, now with some run support, continued his solid effort, pitching into the sixth inning. He gave up a leadoff single in the fifth but went on to strike out the next three batters on 11 pitches. Returning for the sixth, he gave up a leadoff home run to Harold Castro, bringing the Tigers within one run. If it wasn’t for a fielding error that allowed Javier Báez to reach, Bundy would likely finish another inning and possibly complete a quality start, but after striking out Jeimer Candelario for his second punchout of the inning, Rocco Baldelli decided to bring take him out of the game at 85 pitches. After a couple of rough starts before hitting the IL, Bundy has given up one run through 8 2/3 innings since rejoining the team. A shaky bullpen allows Detroit to tie the game After Larnach’s home run in the fourth, the Twins offense went 2-for-13, failing to provide the bullpen some insurance runs. Griffin Jax and Joe Smith kept the shutout going until the end of the seventh, but then Emilio Pagán gave up a leadoff home run to the same Castro in the eighth, tying the game at 2-2. With a hit and a walk given up today, Pagán has now allowed hitters to reach safely against him in 11 of his last 12 outings. His season WHIP now sits at 1.47, a career-worst for him, despite the excellent 2.30 season ERA thus far, a career-best. Should we be at all worried about him? Caleb Thielbar came flew pitch the top of the ninth and he also struggled, despite facing the bottom of the Tiger lineup. After retiring the leadoff hitter, he allowed the next three batters to reach on a single and a couple of walks, loading the bases. Detroit brought in Miguel Cabrera to pinch-hit for Castro, but Thielbar caught a break when a ball four was called a strikeout for the second out of the inning. It was up for the cold offense to avoid extra innings and secure the sweep. Sánchez flied out to lead off the ninth, making it eight straight Twins retired in a row, but then things nearly shifted the Twins' way. Kyle Garlick, pinch-hitting for Larnach, got hit by a pitch and then reached third on a Nick Gordon two-out single. But Minnesota couldn’t capitalize, as Gilberto Celestino grounded out and the game headed for extras. Detroit snatches the lead in the 10th, Twins rally falls short Trevor Megill took the mound to pitch the 10th inning, with former Twin Jonathan Schoop as the ghost runner at second. After striking out Báez to lead off the inning, Megill hung a four-seamer in the heart of the plate, which got crushed by Candelario for a two-run homer. Celestino was inches away from robbing him of the dinger. But the Twins weren’t done. Hitless for his previous 23 at-bats, Byron Buxton reached safely for the first time in three games on a throwing error by shortstop Willi Castro. Luis Arráez followed that with a liner to center, loading the bases with no outs for Minnesota’s batters three, four, and five. Michael Fulmer struck out Carlos Correa, then A.J. Hinch brought in lefty Andrew Chafin to try and get the final two outs. He did so on eight pitches, striking out Max Kepler and getting Sánchez to pop out. What’s Next? The Twins remain home, where they start a four-game series tomorrow against the Kansas City Royals. The first game is scheduled for tomorrow at 6:40 pm CDT, and, up until now, Minnesota’s starting pitcher is still to be determined. The Royals will have lefty Daniel Lynch (4.01 ERA) on the mound. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT Jax 0 0 33 0 23 56 Thielbar 18 0 3 0 30 51 Pagán 0 0 28 0 21 49 Smith 21 0 17 0 3 41 Megill 0 31 0 0 8 39 Cano 0 38 0 0 0 38 Duran 0 17 0 14 0 31 Duffey 0 14 0 12 0 26 Stashak 18 0 0 0 0 18
  2. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Dylan Bundy 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO Homeruns: Royce Lewis (2), Gary Sánchez (4) Bottom 3 WPA: Josh Winder -.489, Jorge Polanco -.143, Jose Miranda -.131 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) On Tuesday night, the Twins were out to secure another series win in Oakland. The game marked the return of Dylan Bundy from the COVID IL. Bundy had struggled prior to being on the IL. The storyline heading into the game was if he could give the Twins an opportunity to win? Here’s how Minnesota lined up. The Twins came into the game having won the previous four encounters against Oakland despite scoring just 10 runs. Perhaps Oakland was the team to get Bundy back on track? Bundy looked relatively comfortable in the first inning, retiring Oakland on 19 pitches, surrendering only a bloop single to left-field that Nick Gordon couldn’t quite track down. James Kaprielian cruised through his first two innings of work for Oakland. He served Twins hitters a steady diet of mid-90s fastballs up in the zone, and breaking pitches down. Bundy worked around a leadoff walk in the second inning, keeping the game scoreless through two innings. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Coliseum, it was going down. Royce Lewis led off the top of the third inning with a scorching, 111.7 mph double to the left-center-field gap. The Twins failed to capitalize however, as Jose Miranda and Jorge Polanco struck out to extricate Kaprielian from trouble. Tony Kemp singled in the bottom of the third with Josh Winder already warming up. A short start was always likely for Bundy, returning from COVID. Jed Lowrie walked to put runners on first and second base with one out. Jose Miranda bobbled a relatively straightforward grounder to third that should have been an inning-ending double play. He managed to rescue the force at second, putting runners at the corners with two out. Bundy escaped, striking out Seth Brown to throw three scoreless, and encouraging innings in his return from the IL. The Twins continued to struggle to cash in runners in the fourth inning. Gary Sánchez missed home runs on two sliders he crushed down the left-field line by mere feet. Max Kepler singled to left field with one out, but the Twins couldn’t bring him home, despite a hard hit lineout from Nick Gordon to right field. Josh Winder relieved Bundy in he bottom of the fourth inning. With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Kevin Smith crushed a belt-high fastball into the left-field seats to give Oakland a 2-0 lead. The pitch wasn’t a bad one from Winder, it was above the strike zone, Smith just hit it out. The Twins got half of the lead back in the top of the fifth, when Royce Lewis blasted his second home run into the left-field seats, cutting the deficit to one. Lewis has made the Twins forthcoming roster challenge difficult, with Bailey Ober, Carlos Correa, and Trevor Larnach all due back from the IL in short order. One thing is clear, he can’t be sent down right now, he’s on fire. Winder struggled with his command in the fifth inning, with Oakland’s contact continuing to find holes. He loaded the bases with two outs, before escaping the bases loaded jam, to preserve the one-run deficit. Gary Sánchez knocked Kaprielian from the game, launching a game-tying, solo home run to left field after Elvis Andrus took a base hit away from Jorge Polanco in the previous at bat. Max Kepler added a one-out single. Rocco Baldelli pinch hit Kyle Garlick for Nick Gordon. Garlick promptly struck out, before Gilberto Celestino reached on an infield hit to put runners at first and third base with two outs and Royce Lewis due up. Lewis grounded out to second base to end the inning with the game tied at two. Aside from a walk for Luis Arraez, the top of the seventh inning was uneventful for the Twins. In the bottom of the innings, the Athletics broke the game open. Winder walked Lowrie and hit Laureano. There is an argument that Winder should have been pulled, having surrendered five hits and two walks to that point. He stayed in the game. Seth Brown crushed a double and Sean Murphy blooped a single and the Athletics took a 5-2 lead. Winder surrendered two more hits before finally being pulled by Baldelli. He allowed five runs on nine hits with two walks in 3.2 innings of work. It's clear that the Twins had planned on the combination of Bundy and Winder eating the majority of the innings on Tuesday night. Ultimately, Winder's command issues made that plan challenging to execute. The Twins threatened in the top of the eight, managing two base runners, but failed to eat into the lead. The Athletics closed out the game in the ninth to even the series at one game each. In spite of this, the Twins have won the season series, and will look to win the current series on Wednesday. The Twins fell to 21-16 on the season. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Winder 0 0 0 0 78 78 Jax 50 0 0 25 0 75 Pagán 22 9 10 0 0 41 Thielbar 0 15 2 0 16 33 Smith 4 15 9 0 0 28 Cano 0 0 0 25 0 25 Duffey 0 5 0 20 0 25 Duran 10 12 0 0 0 22 Stashak 0 0 13 0 0 13 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will conclude their series against Oakland. Sonny Gray gets the start for Minnesota, against Daulton Jefferies of the Athletics. First pitch is 2:37 CT
  3. On Wednesday night in Baltimore, Dylan Bundy took away any possibility of a Twins win for the second straight start. While recording just 11 outs, Bundy surrendered 11 hits, two walks, two home runs, and nine earned runs. For the second straight start, he allowed a string of five-plus hitters to reach base safely without recording an out, a feat that’s rare enough to wonder whether it could possibly be a fluke. After dazzling in his first three starts, Bundy has absolutely cratered his season line. The result of this is a reality check for Twins fans on a pitcher who’s failing to crack 90 mph and posted an ERA over 6.00 in 2021. Having signed for $5m, Bundy should have never been expected to provide premium innings, even after his first three starts. The question is whether the Twins' front office has received this same reality check. The issues were plentiful for the 2021 Twins, but starting pitching was arguably #1 on the list. The signings of J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker, whom the Twins had identified as values in the offseason, turned out to be two of the worst pitchers in all of baseball and provided the Twins with a predetermined loss every 4th and 5th day. Despite this fact, Shoemaker remained in the rotation until the end of June and Happ remained until he was somehow traded at the deadline. Both proved that pitching signings of their tier simply don’t warrant a whole lot of patience. Neither has a job in Major League Baseball in 2022. Context is key in this scenario, as by the time they need to move on became abundantly clear, the Twins season was effectively over already. The farm system also suffered from a wide range of pitching injuries, leaving the Twins with several bullpen days per week and no replacement options for the rotation. In short, the goal became crossing off innings rather than filling them in a meaningful way. In 2022, things have to be different. Two starts make up just a small percentage of a pitcher’s season-long workload, and plenty of high-quality arms will struggle for such a short stretch. For that reason it’s not yet time to make any significant moves with Dylan Bundy. That being said, it is time for the Twins to feel some skepticism towards the 29-year-old right-hander. After watching three starts and wondering whether any kind of success could continue given Bundy’s visible lack of stuff, these last two starts may be the beginning of our answer. Unlike 2021, the Twins simply have too many alternatives to allow Bundy to become a deciding factor in their 2022 season. Their financial commitment to him is too low, as are the odds of him factoring into any long-term plans. With him headed to the COVID IL, we should get to see more from Josh Winder for another start or two, although it’s very likely Bundy gets a chance to reclaim his spot in the rotation. In the meantime, if Josh Winder continues to stake his claim to a rotation spot, it may leave the Twins set up to act quickly if Bundy doesn’t rebound. For what it’s worth, they’ve shown early signs of learning from their mistakes in 2021. After sticking with Alex Colomé through one of the worst months by a reliever in franchise history, the Twins were very quick to pull the plug on Tyler Duffey in high leverage this season after his early struggles. I would guess their lack of patience with a homegrown former staple of their bullpen foreshadows a very short leash for a one-year bounceback candidate in the rotation. At this point one thing is certain, Dylan Bundy is currently the last man on the totem pole that is the Twins rotation. The wounds that 2021 left in Twins Territory are still fresh in the minds of fans as many already wonder “How many more starts can we let this happen?”. For a front office that was seemingly so eager to show off the arrival of their pitching pipeline, my best bet would be “Not much longer” as the Twins attempt to make a worst to first rebound in 2022. How long of a leash should Dylan Bundy get? — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  4. A year ago, the Twins were doing a little West Coast swing. While in Anaheim, several players including Max Kepler, Kyle Garlick, and Caleb Thielbar tested positive for Covid. The Twins were in the early part of a delayed season that was already going south quickly. Losing players and the stress of that situation only contributed to the Twins early-season demise in 2021. Obviously the hope this time around is that the affected players (and manager) are feeling alright and can return to the game in quick fashion, hopefully within a week. That said, we may not have heard the end of this. Players have been testing today, and with more positive tests, it is likely that they will continue to test in the coming days. We know that Covid's incubation period can be several days, so the Twins could find more positives for the next few days as well. Max Kepler has felt under the weather for a couple of days. He left Wednesday night's game early. He has taken a few Covid tests and they have been negative to this point. GM Thad Levine said other players are also feeling a little under the weather. We shall see where this takes us, but it could be a very interesting weekend for the Twins. The Twins entered play on Thursday with a 15-10 record and a 3 1/2 game lead over the White Sox and Guardians in the AL Central. Levine told reporters in Baltimore, "This is why you built out a lot of versatility and experience in your coaching staff and go get several people on our bench who have had managerial experience whether it be in the big leagues or winter leagues or in the minor league," That is equally important when considering how the Twins built their roster, with several players able to play multiple positions. Speculation is that the Twins personnel may have contracted Covid while in Tampa as several members of the Rays coaching staff are also currently out for the same reason. Bundy and Arraez were both placed on the Covid-IL. Per MLB Trade Rumors: "As per the 2022 version of the league’s COVID protocols, Arraez and Bundy will miss at least the next 10 days, though they may make an earlier return if they meet three criteria — two negative PCR tests, at least 24 hours without a fever, and approval from a team doctor and a MLB/MLBPA joint committee of two other physicians." With that in mind, the Twins will likely need to add a couple of players to their active roster on Friday. To replace Luis Arraez, the team will likely want a 40-man roster guy who could play multiple positions if needed. They will also want to add a pitcher to replace Bundy. Sonny Gray is making a start for the Saints this weekend. Josh Winder, Chris Paddack and Joe Ryan are scheduled to start for the Twins this weekend at Target Field against the A's. So the Twins could go with a long reliever or a starter. It will be interesting to see what direction the team goes with a pitcher. It would seem that Alex Kirilloff would be the hitter to return. We will continue to update this as more information becomes available.
  5. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Dylan Bundy, 3.2 IP, 11 H, 9 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (74 pitches, 55 strikes, 74.3%) Home Runs: Carlos Correa (2) Bottom 3 WPA: Dylan Bundy (-.465), Gio Urshela (-.096), José Miranda (-.082) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Dylan Bundy was looking for a bounce-back start after the rough one he had against Tampa Bay last Friday. It was a good chance for him to regain some confidence, mainly because he would face an Orioles offense that had a team OPS of .609 coming into this game, the third-worst in the majors. Bundy managed to pitch a couple of clean innings despite a cold offense in his support early, but things completely derailed for him in the third. Gilberto Celestino couldn’t glove a playable fly ball from Jorge Mateo, who ended up at second. Cedric Mullins homered to right to give Baltimore a 2-0 lead in the next at-bat. That got to Bundy. He then gave up back-to-back walks, throwing only one strike in the next nine pitches. Baltimore kept the line moving with a pair of RBI singles from Austin Hays and Rougned Odor, making it 4-0 Orioles. Then, with Odor on, Ramón Urías smashed a two-run homer to center, making it 6-0 for Baltimore. The offense comes to life, give the Twins a chance After three innings of struggles, Minnesota’s offense finally got the ball rolling and put together a four-run fourth. After Luis Arráez worked a leadoff walk, Carlos Correa hit a two-run dinger off Kyle Bradish. Two other Twins batters reached before the Orioles starter could record an out, with Jorge Polanco drawing a walk and a Trevor Larnach single. They both scored with a Nick Gordon single and a Gio Urshela sac fly, and suddenly the Twins were back in the game. This could’ve been a five-run inning if the Twins weren’t so unlucky tonight. With Gary Sánchez at first and Gordon at third, Celestino hit a line drive that would've reached the outfield and scored Gordon, but the liner hit Sánchez on the base path, and the inning was over. Baltimore gets three runs back as defensive miscues continue The Orioles ambushed Bundy again in the bottom of the fourth, scoring three runs, also with a little help from some lousy fielding from Minnesota. After Bundy struck out the leadoff batter, he gave up back-to-back singles. The second one of those came on a throwing error by José Miranda, and both runners moved into scoring position. Then Bundy had another meltdown, giving up three more runs on a single, a sac fly, and a double, putting the Orioles ahead by 9-4. Bundy’s night was done before getting the inning’s final out, with Danny Coulombe coming in his relief. The Twins starter finished the night with ten hard-hit balls and an average exit velocity of 93.4 mph. Coulombe and Jovani Moran, who got called up earlier this week, did a fine job in relief of Bundy. They combined for 4 1/3 innings of shutout ball. So far in this series, Twins relievers have been doing a fantastic job, not allowing runs in 12 1/3 innings of work. What’s Next? The series final game is tomorrow, with first pitch scheduled to 6:05 pm CDT. The Twins turn to Chris Archer (2.93 ERA) to try to win the series against Spenser Watkins (2.55 ERA). Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT Duffey 0 17 0 18 0 35 Thielbar 15 0 0 18 0 33 Duran 20 0 10 0 0 30 Pagán 0 0 27 0 0 27 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 26 26 Stashak 14 0 0 11 0 25 Moran 0 0 0 0 25 25 Jax 0 0 15 0 0 15 Smith 9 0 2 0 0 11
  6. Rather than opting for an ace on the free-agent market like Carlos Rodon or Kevin Gausman, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine swung a deal for Sonny Gray. They flipped relief pitching for Chris Paddack. They came to terms on a low-risk offer for Dylan Bundy. They trusted both Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. Now a month in, it’s hard to suggest they were anything but right. That said, there’s no denying that pitchers have had the upper hand thus far. When pitching in cooler temperatures the ball travels shorter distances and hitters are less comfortable. Those things will both change as the game-time temperatures warm up, so some level of regression is to be expected. How can each be evaluated individually thus far, though? Joe Ryan 5 G 27.2 IP 1.63 ERA 3.08 FIP 9.1 K/9 2.3 BB/9 The Twins Opening Day starter has done nothing to suggest he wasn’t deserving of that nod. He’s been all but dominant in each of his four turns, and despite a FIP that suggests some regression may come, he’s still pitching well above what you’d expect from a lower-velocity fastball. Ryan’s expected ERA is 2.94 which is a slight step backward, but still a dazzling number. Although he’s giving up slightly more hard-hit contact, he’s halved the barrel rate opponents are putting up against him from last season. He’s actually dialed back the fastball usage about 15% and poured it into his slider, a pitch Minnesota's coaches love. He’s throwing about one mph harder this season, and he’s upped the whiff rate to 12.7%. Ryan is giving up even less contact than last season, and although batters are chasing a bit less often, they just haven’t been able to figure him out. There’s little opportunity for Ryan not to go down as the greatest trade return in Twins history. Flipping two months of an aging veteran for a guy profiling as a staff ace is incredible. Statcast seems to agree, and no level of regression should knock him out of being a significant contributor. Sonny Gray 2 G 6.1 IP 5.68 ERA 7.03 FIP 7.1 K/9 4.3 BB/9 It’s pretty impossible to draw conclusions on Gray from two short starts and then a stint on the Injured List. If anything, it’s heartwarming to feel like a better version will return for Minnesota. Gray’s velocity was down in the time he has spent on the mound, but again he pitched in cold and through injury. There’s not much reason to spend time here breaking down what was. The Twins traded for Gray because getting him out of Cincinnati should mean better production in a more friendly ballpark. This is all still to be determined. Bailey Ober 4 G 19.2 IP 2.75 ERA 3.54 FIP 7.3 K/9 2.3 BB/9 Of the two Twins holdovers, it may have been Ober that was more questionable despite the longer track record. He had less prospect pedigree and made it work to the tune of a 4.19 ERA last season. In year two, he’s been more stingy with the home runs, although walks are up and strikeouts are down. That said, he’s still showing plenty of reason to believe in the FIP category and it’s because of deception. Ober has a fastball that plays up because of his stature. Being so tall means the 92 mph pitch gets on batters quicker. He’s limited hard-hit contact, and while his stuff isn’t overpowering, the 37.7% chase rate means batters are playing into his pitches. Allowing Ober to expand the zone gives him more ways to beat you, and he’s been successful doing that thus far. Like Ryan, Minnesota has taken a chunk of fastball usage and put it into Ober’s slider. The results have been positive so far, and it makes for a guy whose floor continues to rise. Dylan Bundy 4 G 21.1 IP 2.95 ERA 2.94 FIP 8.0 K/9 1.3 BB/9 A guy that finished in the top 10 for Cy Young voting just two seasons ago shouldn’t be considered a breakthrough, but Bundy looked lost last year with the Angels. Now he’s still striking guys out, not giving up walks, and being tight with the longball. Bundy’s velocity is about the only thing on his Statcast profile that doesn’t scream amazing. He’s avoiding the barrel, confusing batters, generating soft contact, and everything about the results suggests sustainability. The 89.7 mph average fastball velocity is a career-low, but he’s only using the pitch 38.9% of the time. The splitter/slider combination is serving him well and everything else aligns with career norms. Minnesota didn’t have Bundy reinvent the wheel, but sequencing and pitchability have led him to a place where contact has avoided an opportunity for damage. The Twins have a strong infield defense and generating ground balls 48% of the time is only going to help turn batted balls into outs. Chris Paddack 4 G 20.0 IP 3.15 ERA 1.93 FIP 7.2 K/9 0.9 BB/9 Swinging a deal for Paddack, the Twins sought to find the guy who posted a 3.33 ERA for the Padres as a rookie. A few tweaks in and they may have unlocked something. Rather than having him pitch in the middle of the zone, Minnesota has elevated his target on fastballs and the results have been encouraging. Despite pitching in cold weather to start the season for the first time, Paddack has only seen a minor dip in velocity. The Twins have also pushed their new arm to utilize a slider and his curveball more, which has taken focus away from an exceptional changeup. He’s been among the best in baseball when it comes to limiting walks, and keeping runners off the basepaths has allowed him to avoid significant damage. Paddack’s numbers are good as they are, and they’d be even better if not for bad 1st innings in each of his first two starts. Getting this type of pitcher under team control in exchange for a reliever was always going to be a win, but Minnesota’s changes could bear significant fruit for both parties. There’s a lot of good news across this rotation. That’s not to say steps backward won’t happen, because the level they are currently competing at is truly extraordinary. That being said, it’s not as though the numbers are backed by truth, and even a bit of evening out looks to stay within a good place. When everyone was clamoring for the big names, Minnesota’s front office instead trusted the process to show big improvements derived from their internal belief.
  7. Every starter, aside from maybe Sonny Gray, had some question marks heading into the season. Could Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan at least maintain, if not build off, their successful campaigns in 2021? Can Dylan Bundy return to his 2020 form, or was that just the exception to his otherwise Mediocre career? What will we get out of Chris Archer, and who will get innings when he inevitably misses time? We don't have the answer to all of those questions, but we can start to get the answers to some of them, which is reflected in the voting. And all those questions existed before the Twins traded for Chris Paddack the day before the season started, which opened up questions about the bullpen. We undoubtedly need more time to answer all of those questions, but all that considered, I think we can be happy about the first month of the season. Without further ado, let's see how Twins Daily writers voted. Honorable Mention #2: Joe Smith Joe Smith had quietly been a great addition to the Twins bullpen. Raise your hand if you knew that Smith had a 0.00 ERA over 7 2/3 innings across nine outings. [Embarrassingly keeps hands at his side]... yeah, either did I. The bullpen took its lumps early, but the elder statesmen has been the model of consistency for the first month of the season, and his veteran presence could prove to benefit some of the younger arms in the bullpen. The 38-year-old knows what a playoff team looks like when he sees one. He's pitched in the postseason over five different seasons, including 2017-2019 with the Indians and Astros, where he appeared in the ALCS (2018) and World Series (2019). That experience can be invaluable to a pitching staff that lacks a postseason resume. Honorable Mention #1: Dylan Bundy Are we getting the 2020 version of Dylan Bundy? Of course, It's too early to say for sure, and he was roughed up in his final start of the month but otherwise was brilliant for the Twins in April. The key for him, well, really any pitcher but especially Bundy, will be to limit the free bases and home runs. He did just that in April with a 1.27 BB/9 and 0.84 HR/9 supplemented with an 8.02 K/9, and his 2.95 ERA ended up being 0.68 runs higher than his xERA. The early results are promising, but we need a more significant simple to see if the bing, the bang, and the boom are here to stay. Pitcher of the Month: Joe Ryan Can Joe Ryan build off his cup of coffee from 2021? Uh, yeah. The rookie right-hander fooled hitters all month to the tune of a 25:6 K: BB ratio and a 1.17 ERA over 23 innings across four starts. His 2.65 xERA suggests that regression is likely, but that's not surprising, and I think he would still be the winner if that were his actual ERA for April. But that’s not just a great month for a rookie; that's a great month for any starting pitcher, no matter how long they've been doing it. He accrued 0.6 fWAR, which was good enough for 19th in all of baseball among starters. It's been a fantastic start to the 25-year-olds Major League Baseball career. He’ll look to continue improving in the month of May, starting with an outing against the lowly Baltimore Orioles. If you were to rank your top 3 for the month of April, are these the three you would have ranked? In the same order?
  8. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Dylan Bundy, 6.0 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 7 K (94 pitches, 57 strikes, 60.6%) Home Runs: none Bottom 3 WPA: Dylan Bundy (-.362), Jorge Polanco (-.042), Luis Arráez (-.032) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Tampa roughs up Bundy early, building a six-run lead Before tonight’s game, Dylan Bundy had given up only one earned run in over fifteen innings of work this season. But he had a 6.19 career ERA against Tampa Bay, and, apparently, that track record came back to haunt him in this game. The Rays severely roughed him up before he could record his first out of the evening, building a four-run lead only eight pitches into Bundy’s start. A pair of doubles to open the game, and the home team took a quick one-run lead. That was followed by a Yandy Díaz line drive to right that put men in the corners before Josh Lowe hammered a three-run shot to deep center. Bundy’s struggles continued as he walked the next batter, Randy Arozarena, who almost scored in the next at-bat, but he was caught at home plate by a beautiful Trevor Larnach assist from left. On the other side, Corey Kluber had no trouble early against the Twins lineup. Despite some hard contact from Twins bats early, it took him only 20 pitches to retire the first six Minnesota batters in order. His offense provided him with some more run support in the second, as Bundy, still struggling with his command, gave up a leadoff walk to Taylor Walls, and he was pushed across a couple of at-bats later, making it 5-0 Tampa in the second. Bundy settles down, but the offense can’t rally After Kluber finished his first time through the other with yet a third perfect inning, Bundy started to find some groove. For the first time in the evening, he quickly retired the first two batters of the inning in the third. But Mike Zunino jumped on the first pitch he saw next for another Tampa Bay home run. He came back for the fourth and tossed his first 1-2-3 inning of the night. Bundy's adjustments after the third inning would be pointless unless the offense could back him up. In the fourth, the bats came to life briefly and put the Twins on the board. Kluber hit Byron Buxton to lead off the inning, and a couple of at-bats later, Carlos Correa got Minnesota’s first hit of the night, scoring Buxton from second. After that, Jorge Polanco grounded into a double play, and the Twins had to settle for the one run. Though the offense couldn’t come through and rally, Bundy made sure to eat up some more innings. He threw a couple more 1-2-3 innings, in the fifth and the sixth, before departing the game. Curiously enough, his final line saw him walking only two batters while striking out seven. A couple of positive takeaways Only a miracle could save the Twins offensively, but that didn't come close to happening. The silver lining tonight was Danny Coulombe's solid-as-a-rock outing out of the bullpen. He pitched a couple of scoreless frames, inducing six swinging strikes. He also avoided hard contact really well, limiting Rays batters to an average of only 85.1 mph exit velocity. Despite the horrific night at the plate for Minnesota, another silver lining from tonight might have been another good game from Correa. Minnesota was limited to only three hits in the night, and two of them belonged to him. His overall season numbers still don't look good, but he is now 5-for-9 in the past two games, with a double and four runs batted in. What’s Next? Game 2 of the series is tomorrow, with the first pitch scheduled for 3:10 pm CDT. Former Ray Chris Archer (3.18 ERA) takes the mound for Minnesota, facing lefty Shane McClanahan (2.45 ERA). Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Jax 0 10 0 46 0 56 Coulombe 0 0 20 0 35 55 Duffey 0 19 0 8 0 27 Thielbar 0 27 0 0 0 27 Pagán 0 23 0 0 0 23 Stashak 0 0 0 18 0 18 Smith 0 0 10 0 0 10 Duran 0 0 0 0 0 0 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0
  9. Last Week's Game Results: Game 10 | MIN 8, BOS 3: Garlick, Polanco Homer as Twins Split in Boston Game 11 | KC 4, MIN 3: Duffey Implodes as Twins Waste Winnable Game Game 12 | KC 2, MIN 0: Another Solid Pitching Performance Gets Wasted Game 13 | MIN 1, KC 0: Joe Cool Dazzles, Slough of Singles Game 14 | MIN 2, CWS 1: Twins Catch Break, Win Thriller Game 15 | MIN 9, CWS 2: Buxton, Bundy Lead in Comfortable Win Game 16 | MIN 6, CWS 4: Twins End White Sox Sweep with a Bang Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 4/18 through Sun, 4/24 *** Record Last Week: 5-2 (Overall: 8-8) Run Differential Last Week: +13 (Overall: +2) Standing: 1st Place in AL Central (0.5 GA) NEWS & NOTES Thankfully it was a week filled with more good news than bad news on the injury front. First, the bad news: Jorge Alcalá was moved to the 60-day injured list with his elbow inflammation showing no signs of improvement. He'll be out until at least June, dealing a serious blow to the Twins' bullpen outlook. Replacing him on the 40-man roster is José Godoy, who joined the team as a third catcher. The additional depth was needed with Minnesota's top two backstops experiencing some (hopefully minor) issues. Gary Sánchez was scratched on Saturday due to abdominal tightness and Ryan Jeffers was scratched on Sunday due to a knee contusion. Neither player was placed on IL, although seemingly neither was available on Sunday. With a cortisone injection improving the condition of his ailing right wrist, Alex Kirilloff is set to start a brief rehab stint in St. Paul on Tuesday. He may rejoin the Twins next weekend. Meanwhile, Byron Buxton is already back and making a HUGE impact. We'll get to that shortly. HIGHLIGHTS The refreshingly impressive Twins rotation kept on rolling in Boston, Kansas City, and back home into Minneapolis. Check out the yeoman’s work in each successive game Monday through Saturday: Dylan Bundy @ BOS: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K Chris Archer @ KC: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K Chris Paddack @ KC: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Joe Ryan @ KC: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K Bailey Ober vs. CWS: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K Dylan Bundy vs. CWS: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Add in Chris Archer's so-so effort on Sunday (3 IP, 2 ER) and the rotation posted a 2.21 ERA in seven games last week. Starting pitching is carrying this team in April. Joe Ryan's outing was perhaps the most critical of the bunch last week – he was masterful Thursday in a 1-0 victory where the Twins needed every bit of his greatness. With a marked increase in his slider usage (up to 31.2% in his first three starts, from 16.0% in 2021) Ryan continued to relentlessly attack the zone while inducing whiffs and weak contact. Dylan Bundy lowered his ERA for the season to 0.59 (third-lowest in baseball) with a pair of excellent starts. His early success owes to a few factors, but a big one is that he's pounding the strike zone at one of the highest rates in the league. His fastball has been extremely effective, despite ranking in the 9th percentile for velocity (averaging just 89.0 MPH). Hitters are batting .133 against it with zero extra-base hits through three starts. The offense's breakout on Saturday, which saw them score more runs (9) than they had in the previous four games (6) was keyed in part by Luis Arraez, who went 4-for-5 in the contest and is now slashing .354/.426/.458 after a 9-for-21 run. But the true star of the week – and stop me if you've heard this before – was Buxton. He only started three games, taking a few games off to make sure all was well with his sore knee, but the team's best player wasted no time making his presence felt. After a 1-for-4 game as DH against Kansas City on Thursday, Buxton started in center at Target Field on Saturday night and went 4-for-4 with a home run, HBP, and three runs scored. On Sunday, he came through with a clutch game-tying two-run homer in the seventh and then walked it off with an epic three-run blast in the 10th. It was a really special moment. There really aren't words to describe what Buxton is doing right now. He's single-handedly winning ballgames. He has hilariously accumulated 1.4 fWAR in a span of 10 games. His WPA in Sunday's game alone (0.761) was higher than all but seven MLB players had accumulated ALL season. This is amazingly fun to watch. I continue to believe Buxton's contract extension will go down as the most important move this franchise has ever made. LOWLIGHTS Up and down the lineup, hitters continue to generally struggle. Carlos Correa finally notched some hits, going 6-for-22, but they were all singles and he also mixed in three GIDPs. Trevor Larnach, who went 2-for-22 with eight strikeouts, looks like he belongs in Triple-A (and will likely soon head back). Max Kepler failed to register an extra-base hit or RBI; his slugging percentage sits at .300 yet he's still batting fourth or fifth every time he's in the lineup. But make no mistake: Miguel Sanó continues to be the biggest laggard on offense for the Twins. Following a 2-for-22 week, his slash line sits at an embarrassing .083/.224/.146, and the supposed slugger has produced just one home run and three RBIs in 15 games. It's a weird deal with Sanó. The process isn't bad. He's taking good at-bats and making hard contact, with barrel and chase rates that rank among the best in the league. But there's constantly no payoff and it's hard to view it all as just bad luck. On Sunday, in a key spot with the tying run on second in the 10th, he got the green light on a 3-0 count and popped out to the catcher. I mean come on dude. On the bullpen front, Tyler Duffey coughed up another close lead and saw it turn into a loss on his ledger. While his meltdown Tuesday in Kansas City was less damaging than the blown save against Seattle – this time the offense had three chances to tie or take a lead, although of course they failed – it was substantively much uglier. Rather than getting dinked and dunked on a string of hits like in his first blown save, Duffey gave up a pair of long home runs in KC on absolute meatballs left out over the plate. He left that outing with the worst Win Probability Added (-0.88) of any pitcher or hitter in the big leagues. With his season starting to feel like an Alex Colomé redux, Duffey bounced back on Friday night. Rocco Baldelli gave a strong vote of confidence to his embattled veteran, handing Duffey the ball with a one-run deficit in the eighth against the top of the Chicago order, and Duff delivered: a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. Hopefully it's a sign of stabilization to come, because the Twins really need Duffey to be a Dude in that bullpen – especially in light of the unfortunate Alcalá news. TRENDING STORYLINE What is the plan with Gilberto Celestino? That is the big looming question in my mind right now. He's 23 years old, and still very much a developing prospect – he's played a total of 75 games above Single-A in the minors – yet for some reason Celestino is relegated to stagnation on the big-league bench. He's been with the Twins since Opening Day, accruing just 10 at-bats (with one hit) in three weeks. I get that the 40-man roster situation is a bit challenging, but this is getting ridiculous. Not only does Celestino offer very little as a bench player for the Twins, but more importantly, this is terrible for his development. He needs regular at-bats. I understood carrying him as a short-term patch while the Twins pursued Justin Upton, but if that's not happening ... what are we doing here exactly? LOOKING AHEAD Having passed their first test against an AL Central contender in flying colors, the Twins will now welcome another one to Target Field as Detroit visits for a three-game series. We're slated to see old friend Michael Pineda on Wednesday night. Then it's off to a Tampa for three games against the always-tough Rays. It feels like the Twins have faced an inordinate number of left-handed starters early on this year, and that trend continues with (at least) four southpaws on the upcoming docket. The health situations of Sánchez and Jeffers will be worth closely monitoring. TUESDAY, 4/26: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Eduardo Rodriguez v. RHP Chris Paddack WEDNESDAY, 4/27: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Joe Ryan THURSDAY, 4/28: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tarik Skubal v. RHP Bailey Ober FRIDAY, 4/29: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Dylan Bundy v. TBD SATURDAY, 4/30: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Chris Archer v. LHP Shane McClanahan SUNDAY, 5/1: TWINS @ RAYS – RHP Chris Paddack v. LHP Josh Fleming
  10. Dylan Bundy Strong Starts When the Twins signed Dylan Bundy, he looked like a veteran pitcher that would add depth to the back of the starting rotation. He was coming off a terrible season for the Angels, where he posted a 6.06 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. It was easy not to get too excited about what he could mean to the Twins based on his previous performance. However, he has faced two potential playoff teams, and his season couldn’t have started much better. Against Seattle, he pitched five shutout innings while only allowing one hit. On Monday in Boston, he pitched into the sixth inning while racking up six strikeouts and limiting a potent Red Sox lineup to one run. This year, his most significant improvement is a big jump in chase rate as he ranks in the 92nd percentile. His slider, which he uses against righties, resulted in a 60 Whiff%. Bundy is also using his changeup more regularly, so these will be trends to watch in his future starts. Carlos Correa’s Cold Bat Carlos Correa is coming off a tumultuous winter where he tested free agency for the first time, changed agents, and arrived at spring training after other players. Maybe all of those aspects impact his on-field performance, or he is just in the middle of a rough patch. Either way, he is off to the worst start of his career with a .595 OPS with three extra-base hits in the team’s first nine games. Minnesota was certainly expecting more from Correa, and he was likely expecting more from himself. His cold start also brings up another intriguing aspect for the years ahead. Minnesota signed him to a three-year contract with opt-outs at the end of each season. Correa was likely hoping to hit the free-agent market again next winter as he entered his age-28 season and cash in on an even more lucrative deal. If he has a poor performance in 2022, he may reconsider staying with the Twins for 2023. That decision is a long way off at this point, and Twins fans hope his bat warms up as the weather improves. Jhoan Duran’s Strikeout Totals Fans were excited to see what Jhoan Duran could add to the Twins bullpen, especially those that have followed his minor league career. His appearances have turned into must-watch TV with his triple-digit fastball and his already famous splinker. Duran has racked up some strikeout numbers in limited action. Across six innings, he has 11 strikeouts which rank second among all relievers in baseball. The only pitcher ahead of him has appeared in three more games than Duran and pitched one more inning. It will be interesting to see how the Twins use Duran throughout the rest of the season. Minnesota will likely watch his innings pitched and his time between appearances with his previous injury history. Duran has already made appearances in close games during the late-innings. He will likely serve in a closer role at some point in the future, but will he get those opportunities in 2022? Which of these surprises stands out most to you? Are there other surprises on the team? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  11. Box Score SP: Dylan Bundy: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (71 pitches, 51 strikes (71.8%)) Home Runs: Kyle Garlick (1), Jorge Polanco (2) Top 3 WPA: Dylan Bundy (.162), Kyle Garlick (.160), Jorge Polanco (.126) Game Score: Twins 8, Red Sox 3 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The city of Boston was buzzing with excitement on Monday, also known as Patriots Day. It was the first Patriots Day to feel normal since COVID-19 entered our vocabulary. Just outside of Fenway Park was the running of the Boston Marathon. While Bostonians were looking for a good day, it did not start that way for Red Sox fans as COVID would rear its ugly head. Before game time, Kevin Plawecki was spotted leaving the stadium in street clothes. Later it would be reported that he and two other Red Sox staffers had tested positive for COVID. It will certainly be a development we, as Twins fans, will want to keep an eye on as it could have a ripple effect if any Twins players or staff would also end up testing positive. A Cleanup Spot Garlick Tater Monday morning, as the starting lineup was posted on Twitter, there was plenty of angst surrounding the selection of Kyle Garlick to hit cleanup. Garlick proved his doubters wrong with Carlos Correa on base by placing a Rich Hill pitch right on top of the Green Monster in left field. At first look, there is reason to be initially frustrated that an offensively struggling Twins team would bat a player who wasn’t even on the Opening Day roster cleanup. Garlick also flexed one of the big reasons the Twins front office preferred him over the recently traded Brent Rooker. Garlick rakes against lefties. Entering the day, Garlick, over his career, had slashed .258/.298/.567 with a .865 OPS against southpaws. Bundy Finally Gives Up a Run Even though his velocity seemed to be down, Dylan Bundy pitched very well and was nearly flawless through four innings. That included a stretch in which Bundy sent down ten batters in a row. Bundy ran into trouble in the fifth inning, allowing his first run as a Twin. When the Twins tried to stretch Bundy into the sixth and save the bullpen another inning, everything really went south for Bundy. After getting Hernandez out to start the inning on a strikeout, the next two hits were struck hard and resulted in runners on second and third base with one out. If the Twins did not have a three-run lead, Baldelli might have gone to his bullpen right away to begin the inning. It seemed like a measured gamble worth taking with the lead and how efficient Bundy had been. While the results may have been very similar to Bundy’s first Twins start last Monday, there is one thing to keep an eye on. Last week Bundy kept hard-hit balls to a minimum. Monday morning, the hard-hit rate was up considerably. He gave up ten hard hits and boasted a hard hit % of 66.7%. Where Smith Big in Relief Joe Smith was tasked with cleaning up the mess that was left after Bundy was pulled from the game. He was able to get Martinez to hit an infield grounder that Sano fielded and froze Devers leading to an eventually tag placed on the Red Sox third baseman. Then after an intentional walk to Verdugo, Smith got Arroyo to hit a loud F8 to end the inning. The sixth inning could have turned into an ugly inning, but the veteran Smith was able to come in and save the Twins three-run lead. Polanco Comes Up Big While Garlick got things going on the offensive side of the ball, Jorge Polanco put a big exclamation point on the morning and afternoon. Polanco followed up Garlick’s two-run home run over the Green Monster with one of his own with Gilberto Celestino on base. Then in the eighth inning, with the bases loaded, Polanco came through with a two-RBI single. Polanco’s eight-inning single gave the Twins second baseman a 2-for-5 day and four RBIs, which helped give his team some much-appreciated breathing room. Polanco’s single was part of an excellent eighth inning for the Twins. An inning where they scored four runs on only one hit! Griffin Jax even pitched a scoreless eighth, helping the Twins get past an inning that has not been friendly to them this season. What’s Next? The Twins will move on to Kansas City for their first look at the fellow AL central Royals. Tuesday's game will feature Chris Archer's second start of the season. While the Royals look to send Carlos Hernandez to the mound. Because of the Wild and Wolves, the Twins game will be on the CW. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Winder 28 0 66 0 0 94 Jax 0 22 0 0 47 69 Duran 0 34 0 0 23 57 Romero 34 0 11 0 0 45 Thielbar 18 0 0 17 0 35 Pagán 20 11 0 0 0 31 Duffey 0 0 0 18 0 18 Stashak 0 0 0 17 0 17 Coulombe 14 0 0 0 0 14 Smith 3 0 0 0 6 9
  12. The void in quality in the rotation of the Minnesota Twins was obvious looking back on a miserable 2021 season. Derek Falvey, arriving from the Guardians with a sterling reputation for developing a pipeline of pitching talent, presided over a season in which everything went wrong, particularly pitching. Most Twins fans assumed the rotation would be a priority in a truncated off-season before 2022. At the very least, the Twins would strengthen their rotation with a solid mid-rotation free-agent starter, right? Wrong. While Twins territory lamented, the organization passed on the likes of Jon Gray, Carlos Rodon, Kevin Gausman, and Robbie Ray. Instead, the Twins signed Dylan Bundy before the lockout. Since the lockout ended, they added Chris Archer as a free agent and traded for Chris Paddack. While this iteration of the rotation is undoubtedly improved, it hardly inspires confidence. Twins fans know arms are on the way; Cole Sands, Louie Varland, Simeon Woods-Richardson, and Matt Canterino, to name a few. But why do the Twins seem so averse to committing to free-agent pitchers for any length of time? While it is likely that part of the reason is simply striking out on free agent offers, other clues lie in the development of Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. Derek Falvey uttered his now-famous desire to ‘build a sustainable winner’ in Minnesota upon arriving at Target Field. It’s accepted that developing a pipeline of pitching talent takes 5-6 years. The Twins' front office is now entering year six, and fans are starting to see the impact of that development. My argument is that the Twins are attempting to be loosely competitive in 2022; their real goal is a window of 2023 and beyond. We can examine the development of Ryan and Ober as a proxy for organization principles of pitcher development. Here are three common practices the Twins have leveraged to maximize Ryan and Ober that will be evident in the next wave of starting pitching talent that hits Target Field. Maximize Velocity Bailey Ober has a unique set of tools. He amassed a 32% K% throughout his MiLB career, an impressive number he combined with a 3.4% BB%. While Ober has had strong command since being drafted in the 12th round in 2017 (Falvey’s first draft), his fastball velocity was consistently at or below 90 mph throughout his MiLB career. When he reached the majors, Ober’s fastball velocity had increased to 92.3 mph. Ober’s height (he’s 6’9) allows him a top ten release extension in major league baseball. Put simply, Ober’s so tall he releases the ball closer to the plate than most pitchers, speeding batters up. Adding velocity, (via release extension or refining mechanics) is a skill-set the Twins have mastered and shown an ability help their pitchers translate onto the field. Work the Fastball Up It’s notable that five out of six members of the Twins rotation in 2022 have a track record of excellent control. In 2021 the average BB/9 across major league baseball was 3.3. Consider the Twins' internal rotation members and their numbers in 2021; Ryan 1.69, Ober 1.85. Ryan and Ober have fastball spin percentiles of 34 and 38, respectively. While it’s been well documented that Ryan has a flat fastball, his VAA (vertical attack angle) allows it to thrive and gives it a rising effect, a tendency that is maximized with fastballs up in the zone. While not all fastballs have the ability to outperform their inputs in the way Ryan’s does, the Twins have found success in going up in the zone, particularly for pitchers who don’t have elite velocity. You can see how this plays out in how Ober leverages his excellent control to locate his fastball up The Slider Revolution Throwing fastballs up in the strike zone is not a good plan in isolation, particularly if the pitch doesn’t benefit from the deception that Joe Ryan’s does. For Ober, this meant revamping his slider. Midway through 2021, he debuted a new slider, reworked to appear more distinct in velocity than his curveball. Ober added velocity to the pitch and more depth to the break. In the final month of Ober’s old slider, it surrendered a .294 xBA; this dropped to .270 the following month and .215 the month after that. In his first start of 2022, he threw the pitch 29%, compared to just 18% in 2021. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober are good pitching prospects and will likely have long, meaningful MLB careers with Minnesota. The Twins development staff has done excellent work with both, turning them into roughly 1.5 fWAR pitchers. Ultimately, they serve as placeholders at the front of the Twins' rotation. Soon they will be supplemented by Josh Winder, Louie Varland, Matt Canterino, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Cole Sands, and Jordan Balazovic. A number of the pitchers joining Ryan and Ober have the better raw velocity and stuff and, therefore, a higher ceiling as starting pitchers. It’s easy not to believe in the pitching factory Falvey has worked to develop in Minnesota. I do. It’s likely we’ll know who will lead the front of the Twins rotation by the end of 2022.
  13. Box Score SP: Dylan Bundy: 5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K (67 pitches, 47 strikes (70.1%)) Home Runs: None Top 3 WPA: Dylan Bundy (.288), Jorge Polanco (.223), Luis Arraez (.118) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Cy-Bundy? Ok, so no one is going Cy-Young award yet on Dylan Bundy. His outing Monday night was very encouraging and clean. Considering the question marks surrounding Bundy and how he might step into the Twins rotation. For at least one turn, the answer was very good. Bundy was very efficient as he made it through 5 innings while only throwing 67 pitches of one-hit ball. 5-6 innings each time out of anything close to Monday night would be an excellent outcome for the Twins' free-agent addition. Everyone gets an RBI-Single The Twins got their first run in the first inning on an RBI double. In the 5th inning, the offense got going with three straight RBI singles and put the Twins up 4-0. Byron Buxton provided the fireworks as he almost hit his 4th home run of the season. Instead, the ball hit the top of the wall, letting Buxton cruise into second with a double. Then, Luis Arraez into Jorge Polanco into Gio Urshela gave the Twins those three straight singles and three more runs on the board. After a weekend that provided a heavy diet of long home runs, the Twins went the route of stringing hits together to get runs on the board. Did Rocco Go to the Wrong Guys in the Pen? After the Twins went up 4 in the fifth inning, Rocco still chose to run out many of his key arms. Caleb Thielbar took the sixth, Tyler Duffey the seventh, and Joe Smith the eighth. It seemed like a game situation where the Twins could have worked some of their lower leverage arms into the game and saved the higher leverage arms for the Dodgers as they come to town tomorrow. If you refer to the bullpen chart at the bottom of the game recap, it seems there is a potential pattern Rocco is following, at least early on. The relievers have been bunched into groups that allow days rest between outings for each reliever. That is true for all the relievers outside of Josh Winder, who has yet to pitch through this opening series. Tonight’s game felt like an excellent opportunity for Winder to have gotten at least an inning or two. We did get to see Jhoan Duran in the ninth and Wow... Base Running Woes Twins fans are not immune from feeling the woes of bad base running. Monday night was a flashback of that. The home team saw two base runners thrown out at home plate. The first was Miguel Sano in the second inning, and the second Alex Kirilloff who was thrown out just ahead of the RBI single parade in the fifth. Those two missed runs may have been enough to add to leaving Winder in the bullpen and not on the mound. What’s Next? The Twins will welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers to town along with their powerhouse of a lineup. Chris Archer is set to make the start for the Twins in a game that is scheduled to begin at 6:40 p.m. The Dodgers will look to send Andrew Heaney to the mound. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Coulombe 0 27 0 15 0 42 Duran 0 31 0 0 11 42 Alcalá 0 13 0 27 0 40 Smith 0 0 20 0 19 39 Thielbar 0 0 18 0 19 37 Duffey 0 0 18 0 14 32 Cotton 0 0 20 0 0 20 Romero 0 0 0 15 0 15 Pagán 0 0 0 10 0 10 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0
  14. Minnesota signed Bundy to add depth to a pitching staff that had no veteran presence at the time. The 29-year-old spent the last two years pitching in the Angels rotation with some up and down moments. Last season he posted a 6.06 ERA with a 1.36 WHIP in 90 2/3 innings. However, his 2020 campaign was his best as a big leaguer as he posted career-best totals in ERA (3.29), WHIP (1.03), K/9 (9.9), and BB/9 (0.7). He finished in the top-10 for the AL Cy Young, so how can the Twins get that version of Bundy? Off-Speed Pitch Usage One of the most significant changes in Bundy's repertoire last season was a switch in his off-speed pitch usage. During his breakout 2020 campaign, he used his slider 25% of the time, his changeup 21% of the time, and his sinker 8% of the time. His slider usage dropped nearly 4% last season, but the most significant change was with his sinker, which went up to 17.3% and became his third most used pitch. Bundy's sinker was not very effective, so it's interesting that he used that pitch so regularly. Batters posted a .609 SLG when facing this pitch, which was over 100 points higher than any of his other pitches. His changeup was the pitch that saw the most considerable decrease in use last season, but he held batters to a .441 SLG against that pitch. Minnesota's coaching staff had all spring for him to concentrate on his pitch usage, and it seems likely for the club to want him to use more sliders and fewer sinkers. Keep the Ball in the Park Outside of 2020, Bundy posted a home run rate north of 1.4 HR/9 in every season. He cut that number in half during the shortened 2020 campaign as batters struggled to barrel up the ball. During that season, Bundy posted career-best totals in Barrel %, Hard Hit % and average exit velocity. For the first time in his career, he did an excellent job limiting home runs, which can be tricky for a flyball pitcher. Minnesota's defense behind Bundy will be one of baseball's best, especially up the middle. Carlos Correa has already made multiple outstanding defensive plays in his limited time with the Twins. Byron Buxton can easily track down balls in the gap, which should help a flyball pitcher like Bundy. These defenders can't pull back every hard-hit home run, but they should help provide a solid defense to assist the team's pitching staff. Fastball Spin MLB cracked down on sticking substances last season, and some pitchers were impacted more than others. Bundy has ranked exceptionally well throughout his career in fastball spin, with him usually being in the 85th percentile or higher. One of his worst seasons for fastball spin was the 2020 campaign, when he ranked in the 80th percentile. Last season, his fastball spin was in the 89th percentile even though his velocity is below league average. Batters hit .237 with a .474 SLG against his fastball during the 2021 season. Bundy is a crucial cog in the Twins' plan for the 2022 season, and his success or failure will go a long way in deciding the team's playoff fortunes. What will you be watching for with Bundy? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  15. Projected Rotation: Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer Depth: Josh Winder, Chi-Chi Gonzalez, Cole Sands, Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak Prospects: Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, Simeon Woods Richardson, Louie Varland, Blayne Enlow THE GOOD There's a lot of talent in this pipeline. It started coming to fruition a year ago, when Bailey Ober emerged as the team's steadiest starter and Joe Ryan arrived late with an eye-opening first impression. The Twins will be looking for more of where that came from this year, with a bevy of their top prospects in the high minors and at an age (23-25) where players tend to enter the big-league ranks. Whether or not it was their plan from the start to rely heavily on this group, it clearly is now after the club mostly whiffed on impact rotation additions during the offseason. One notable exception is Sonny Gray, who was acquired from Cincinnati in exchange for Chase Petty and instantly becomes the team's most accomplished starter. Gray gives the Twins some serious juice and cred at the top of the rotation. The 32-year-old owns a career 3.61 ERA and is a two-time All-Star – most recently in 2019 when he posted a 2.87 ERA and was worth 4.5 fWAR for the Reds. Gray was a successful starter in his early seasons with Oakland, but reinvented himself as a strikeout pitcher in Cincy, posting the three highest K-rates of his career while raising his swinging strike rates from the mid-20% range to low-30%. He was lights-out in his official spring debut on Sunday. Despite his track record and rep, Gray won't be the club's Opening Day starter come Thursday at Target Field. Instead that honor goes to Ryan, who is still technically a rookie after making five starts in 2021. Per Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com, he becomes just the third player since 1961 – and first in 35 years – to draw an Opening Day nod within the first six starts of his career. This decision probably has much more to do with Gray's readiness than anything else, but Ryan's done enough to earn it on his end. He's been spectacular everywhere in the minors, with a 2.67 ERA and 13.0 K/9 in three seasons. He looked great for the Twins late last year, flirting with a no-hitter in his second MLB start. He's been excellent this spring, allowing no runs on three hits over five innings with a 5-to-1 K/BB ratio. Following Ryan and Gray in the rotation, presumably, will be Ober. The big right-hander established himself and solidified his roster spot with an outstanding rookie performance. The question, of course, is whether he can back it up, but on the surface there is little reason to think Ober can't sustain as a solid mid-rotation starter. At the back end, the Twins are hoping to catch lightning with a pair of buy-low veteran free agents. Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer are interesting in that both were once heralded young arms and have earned top-10 Cy Young finishes at various points. But both are pretty far removed from sustained success. Realistically, the Twins are hoping that Bundy rebounds to his pre-2021 baseline, which was roughly an average pitcher (98 ERA+) who was reliable from a durability standpoint, while Archer – who hasn't posted an above-average ERA since 2017 – finds some semblance of his previous form. Neither is a total longshot. Either of these guys could turn into assets. But really their function is to handle early innings while prospects in the minors get up to speed and make their cases. Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, and Cole Sands are all among the high-upside pitchers with a very real chance of making an impact for the Twins this season. It's an exciting time. THE BAD I read the words now and they haunt me. Like corrosive acid, they eat away at my very soul. "If the Twins have ever fielded a better and deeper rotation than the one they're set to line up this year, I can't remember it," I wrote when introducing last year's starting pitching analysis. "From top to bottom (and beyond) this unit looks stacked." If I meant it in terms of a Jenga stack ready to topple, I would've been on the right track. But I didn't. After breaking through as one of the best in the league in 2019 and 2020, the pitching staff totally fell apart last year, and the rotation was a prime culprit. Twins starters ranked 25th in fWAR and ERA, and 24th in FIP and WHIP. One of their rotation mainstays, Kenta Maeda, struggled before requiring Tommy John surgery (he MIGHT make it back late this year) and the other was traded away at the deadline. Losing José Berríos hurts. A whole lot. While perhaps not living up to the lofty title of "ace," he was a clear front-line starter – one of the league's most consistent and durable pitchers. He basically never missed a start with the Twins and combined quantity with quality. La MaKina, who would've been under contract with Minnesota this year, was the real deal and he will be greatly missed. Berríos was the Twins' Opening Day starter in 2019 and 2020. Maeda took that honor last year, earning it with a Cy Young runner-up performance in '20. Now both are out of the picture, and the shift to Ryan as Opening Day starter epitomizes the front office's strategy with the rotation: shifting from proven high-caliber veterans to risky unproven minor-leaguers who aren't all that highly regarded outside of the Twins braintrust. I'm not saying it can't work. But there's a good chance it won't, and if so, this will not reflect well at all on a front office that seemingly straddled the line of reloading and rebuilding, trading their 2021 first-rounder for Gray and throwing $35 million at Carlos Correa. What's the point of all this if your rotation won't give you a chance? The optimistic side of me can buy into the idea of a rotation the features Ryan, Gray, Ober, Bundy and Archer offering enough to support a strong lineup en route to a playoff berth. But as alluded before, it's the depth behind them that frightens me. Aaron Gleeman mentioned on a recent episode of Gleeman and the Geek that Twins teams have needed an average of 17 different starters per season. With so few stable assets in place, the Twins are going to be heavily reliant on their existing talent for reinforcements beyond a thin and questionable front line. It's a bold and high-stakes vote of self-confidence. THE BOTTOM LINE Last year, it seemed like the Twins had starting pitching depth. They didn't. This year, it seems like the Twins don't have starting pitching depth. Maybe they do. Really, it comes down to largely to health, which is in many ways uncontrollable and luck-driven. The front office has left itself little margin for error on this front by investing in reclamation projects and handing the team's destiny to a stable of unproven commodities. Injuries and ill-fated signings ravaged the club's depth in 2021 and left the Twins scrambling for answers. It was understandable as a one-year blip. Another season of dreadful pitching performance will not be nearly as tolerable, and would leave Derek Falvey and Thad Levine open to all the criticism they'll receive. Their defiantly minimalist approach to the offseason pitching market will only be excusable if their methodically developed pitching pipeline pays off, and fast. Catch Up on the Rest of Our 2022 Previews: Position Analysis: Catcher Position Analysis: First Base Position Analysis: Second Base Position Analysis: Third Base Position Analysis: Shortstop Position Analysis: Left Field Position Analysis: Center Field Position Analysis: Right Field Position Analysis: Designated Hitter
  16. What do they have so far? The Twins ended the 2021 season with a depleted starting rotation, especially after the José Berríos trade and the Kenta Maeda season-ending injury. One can argue that it was depleted since the beginning of the season, with J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker being part of it. But from such a dark year on the mound, two seemingly good arms emerged from the minors. Bailey Ober had his ups and downs but, overall, he had a very solid rookie campaign. His most impressive stretch of the season might have been the ten starts in July and August, in which he posted a 3.06 ERA, a 3.87 FIP, with 51 strikeouts and only 11 walks. With less than a hundred innings pitched on the major league level so far, you might argue that he isn’t a very reliable option just yet, but his first impression was not bad at all. Joe Ryan joined the organization in mid-July as part of the Nelson Cruz trade. After a couple of solid starts for St. Paul in August, he got called up in September, making his big league debut, and he probably couldn’t have asked for a better one. In his second start, he carried a perfect game into the seventh inning, on his way to a seven-inning shutout on only 85 pitches. Over his first four starts, Ryan maintained a very impressive 2.45 ERA and 2.49 FIP, keeping opposing batters to a .133 batting average. He struck out batters 25 times while walking them only three times. In his final start of the season, he gave up six earned runs against Detroit, spoiling his final numbers, but not the optimism around him going forward. To quote the great Do-Hyoung Park, from MLB.com, if all had gone according to plan for the Twins this season, they probably wouldn’t have discovered these two exciting, young arms. The third pitcher set to start the season on the Twins rotation is Dylan Bundy, whom Minnesota signed shortly before the league went into lockout. His career numbers aren’t impressive, and in 2021, he was moved to the Angels bullpen after struggling for the first half of the season. He did get back to the rotation in early August and closed out the season with a 3.31 ERA in the final four starts. In the shortened season of 2020, his first year with the Angels, Bundy had his best season in the majors, finishing ninth in the AL Cy Young Award voting after posting 3.29 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 138 ERA+, with 9.9 strikeouts per nine and only 2.3 walks per nine. Did Wes Johnson see anything in Bundy that can be tweaked into a 2020 version of him? How can they realistically fill the remaining gaps? Suppose you consider the aforementioned trio good enough to fill the bottom part of the rotation. In that case, the Twins can very well build a competitive group of starters by making only two additions. Here’s how I would go about filling the two remaining rotation spots. My favorite trade target is Frankie Montas. The A’s are believed to be on the verge of resetting, thus making their veteran starters available for trades. The Dominican righty is coming off a career year, having started 32 games for Oakland and accumulated 3.7 bWAR, both career-best marks for him. Over 187 innings of work in 2021, he was able to maintain a 3.37 ERA and 3.37 FIP, striking out 10.0 batters per nine and walking 2.7 per nine. Such numbers earned him a sixth-place finish in the AL Cy Young Award last season, and he is under team control for two more seasons. He produced at least twice as much bWAR as any Twins pitcher in 2021. In a rebound year for Minnesota, I can see him being the difference-maker for a team that wants to avoid a rebuilding process. Twins Daily’s Nash Walker wrote an in-depth article discussing Montas as a trade target, but not only him. He also wrote about Chris Bassitt and Luis Castillo. Since 2022 is likely not a year the Twins will be competing for a World Series, they should be looking for a proven veteran that can eat up innings and provide them with stability instead of an impact starter. In this scenario, two names come to mind, both of which are former Twins. Jake Odorizzi’s time with Minnesota didn’t end up well. In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, he struggled with injuries and missed the first portion of the season. He made only four starts that year and had an awful 6.59 ERA. He signed with the Astros for the 2021 season, and his beginning with the Houston organization was also rough, but he would eventually pick up. After struggling in his first six starts, he posted a 3.74 ERA in the final 18 starts of the season. Those numbers could indicate that he might be back on track and ready to be a reliable contributor once again. Trading for him makes sense, as you can potentially bring back a former All-Star who is still only 31 and is very likely to provide you with 150 innings, if healthy. Michael Pineda is another option I like, but many Twins fans are quick to dismiss. His time with Minnesota was stained by so much time he missed due to injuries and the suspension, but that doesn’t change the fact that he delivered some very solid innings. In 21 starts in 2021, he pitched the second-most innings for the year (106 1/3 innings) and posted a very decent 3.72 ERA. Odorizzi and Pineda aren’t aces you can rely on for years to come, but either of them (or both) could help the Twins not to suck in 2022. The most important aspect of this season is to take pressure off the development of top pitching prospects who have already reached the major league level, like Ober and Ryan. If prospects like Josh Winder and Jordan Balazovic make the leap to the majors this year, they could also benefit from that. Plus, a rotation like this could be considered much better than the one they had last year, so they could have a much better outcome than the one they had in 2021. What do you think? How would you fill those two rotation gaps differently? Share your thoughts in the comment section! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
  17. Two of the names below struggled mightily last season, and the other pitcher missed multiple seasons throughout his career. All three have something to prove in 2022, which can be exciting for a team like the Twins that need big-league pitching depth. Dylan Bundy Bundy was Minnesota's lone free-agent signing before the lockout, but there might be some reasons to hope he can bounce back in 2022. Bundy surprised many during the pandemic shortened 2020 season with a resurgent year, including finishing in the top-10 for the AL Cy Young. He posted a 3.29 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP and 72 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings. It looked like Bundy was finally reaching the ceiling many thought he had as one of baseball's top prospects. Last season, Bundy couldn't replicate his 2020 numbers, and that's one of the main reasons the Twins were able to sign him for such a relatively cheap contract. One of Bundy's most prominent issues in 2021 was his inability to strand runners. Bundy has a 70.8 LOB% for his career, but last season that number dipped to 64.0%. Another change last season was he doubled his sinker usage, and batters posted a .609 SLG against it. Minnesota likely pushes Bundy to throw more sliders and batters combined for a .494 SLG versus that pitch in 2021. Randy Dobnak Dobnak's name will be featured on multiple bounce back lists this winter because he can't be as bad as he was in 2021. Last season, Dobnak was pushed out of the rotation coming out of spring training, but it was clear that he wasn't a reliever. In 14 big-league appearances, he allowed 43 earned runs in 50 2/3 innings. At Triple-A, he made four starts and posted a 3.00 ERA with a 1.39 WHIP. A finger injury caused him issues throughout the season, and he was eventually put on the 60-day IL. His terrible, no good, very bad season came to an end, so things can't go much worse for him in 2022. Minnesota doesn't need Dobnak to be a frontline starter, but he needs to fit into the backend of the rotation. Last season, his slider got plenty of hype during spring training as he looked like a whole new pitcher. Then during the season, his slider was his worst pitch as batters posted an .815 SLG against it. Dobnak needs to prove he is healthy, and then he can be relied on to be more than rotational depth. Fans are understandably low on him, but a healthy Dobnak will be a welcome addition to the team's rotation next year. Jharel Cotton Minnesota claimed Cotton off of waivers from Texas this winter, and he certainly offers some intrigue for a pitcher-hungry team. Previously, Cotton was a top-100 prospect in the Oakland organization, and they gave him opportunities to stick as a starter. Last season, he pitched in the big leagues for the first time since 2017 and compiled a 3.52 ERA with a 1.40 WHIP. All his appearances came as a reliever in 2021, but some believe he might provide some valuable innings for the Twins in 2022. One of the reasons for this optimism is the amount of spin Cotton has added to his fastball. According to FanGraphs, his fastball had the second-highest amount of vertical movement in baseball last year among pitchers with at least 30 innings. He also utilizes a changeup with a lot of movement that is more than 10-mph slower than his fastball. By adding in his average slider and it's easy to see how he might fit into the rotation when needed next season. Minnesota will have starting opportunities, and Cotton has a chance to prove he can be more than a reliever. Which pitcher is most likely to bounce back? 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. It’s a commonly held maxim that 40 fWAR gives you a pretty consistent opportunity for October baseball. It’s a pretty basic tenet of roster construction. Throughout the Falvey era, the Twins have shown an impressive level of flexibility in ‘how’ they go about trying to construct a 40 fWAR roster. In 2021, there was an increased emphasis on defense, highlighted by the addition of Andrelton Simmons as their starting shortstop. Ultimately, none of that mattered, as everything that could go wrong, did go wrong in 2021. In considering roster construction through the lens of assembling a 40 fWAR team, Minnesota has come up woefully short in a critical area so far this offseason. Before we dig into that. Let’s look at some data from 2021, and projections for 2022. For the sake of this argument, I’ll use fWAR actual totals from 2021 and ZiPS projections for 2022, acknowledging that projections are problematic and often difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from. With those caveats in mind, however, there are some meaningful conclusions to draw from these data: The scale of the 2021 Twins failure was pretty magnificent. Given that they haven’t made significant roster additions, there’s essentially a gap of 10 fWAR between their 2021 projection and actual performance, that’s staggering. A 2022 Minnesota Twins offense that is close to its projection has the team in contention pretty much by itself. The Twins’ success will live or die with its excellent offensive core. The Twins are not as far as it may feel from a team that can challenge for an AL Central crown in 2022. It’s equally obvious where the flaws are. The Twins bullpen was horrendous in the first half of 2021, evidenced by a higher projection with the same fungible relievers in 2022. There’s room for improvement there, but only so much from the bullpen. The Twins’ biggest mistake this offseason was not tapping into the mid-tier starting pitching free agent market, to raise the floor or the rotation. Looking at the Twins’ primary competition in the AL Central tells an interesting tale. The White Sox are as reliant on their rotation as the Twins are on their offense. Their rotation is projected over 14 fWAR in 2022. The up-and-coming Tigers, project 9.7 fWAR from their rotation. A similar mark for the Twins would put them just under a projected 40 fWAR for the 2022 season. Where did the Tigers get this boost to jump their rotation to 10 fWAR? Signing Eduardo Rodriguez. The Twins 2022 rotation is inherently unstable. Dylan Bundy is returning from an incredibly poor 2021, Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober had hugely promising debut’s, but their 2022 outcomes are less stable and predictable than say, a Casey Mize or Tarik Skubal, simply due to their small sample sizes in 2021. Why did the Twins front office not aggressively pursue at least one stabilizing starting arm who lives in the 2.0-3.0 fWAR range to stabilize the rotation? A Blueprint for Success Let’s use the San Francisco Giants as a point of comparison. Upon initial consideration, comparing the Twins to a 107 win team may seem unfair, but I beg to differ. In 2020, the Giants were a sub .500 team in a shortened season, finishing at 29-31. This improvement mirrors (betters) the Twins improvement from 2018 (78-84), to 2019 (101-61). The Giants re-upped with three of their starters from 2021. They signed Alex Wood to a two-year, $25 million contract, Alex Cobb to a two-year, $20 million contract, and Anthony De Sclafani to a three-year $36 million contract. These three pitchers combined for 8.0 fWAR in 2021 and project for 7.8 fWAR in 2022. They average, together, $11.5 million per year when considering their contracts cumulatively. Each of these pitchers is likely to accumulate around $16-20 million in value based on their projections for 2022. There is value to be had in the mid-tier starting pitching market, which the Twins chose to ignore. Even signing one pitcher of this profile takes the teams’ projection to just under 39 fWAR in 2022 and does not inhibit your financial flexibility (they’re not spending big on a shortstop anyway, folks). The Twins front office has built a team that relies on offense and is pre-disposed to take advantage of the value in the mid-tier pitching market. Minnesota is not signing the front of the rotation starting pitchers and has not shown aggression in pursuing pitching upgrades on the trade market. While the lockout has frozen out any additional roster construction since the beginning of December, I’m no closer to understanding their roster construction strategy for pitching, a confounding frustration that may come back to haunt the 2022 Twins.
  19. The Minnesota Twins pitching staff was 24th in baseball when combining all arms, and the starters alone were a spot lower at 25th. There’s no denying that the group needs to be much better, and right now, the group is made up of three arms. There’s more depth behind them, and there’s a man in charge that once led a strong rotation. That’s where much of this focus should come. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober These two need to establish that they are solid major-league starters. They looked the part a year ago, and continuing that growth in 2022 is a must. Ryan made just a handful of starts but held his own, even looking dominant at times. Ober saw teams multiple times and was able to make adjustments. When looking at the farm last winter, both would have been unexpected contributors, and that’s the kind of breakouts any organization loves to have. Dylan Bundy Proving he’s not 2021 bad would be a great start. The former top prospect is not the 3.29 ERA he posted in 2020, but he’s also not the 6.06 ERA he had a season ago. For what Minnesota paid him, and where the Twins need him in the rotation, Bundy being a low 4.00 ERA guy is a must. The strikeouts need to move back up over one per inning and allowing two longballs per nine can’t continue to be a thing. There’s a solid pitcher here and maybe a very good one in terms of a mid-rotation arm. Find that. Wes Johnson Back to the overall numbers of this starting staff. Johnson coached his group last season to the fifth-worst finish in baseball. In 2020, the Twins staff was the third-best. In 2019, the rotation came in fourth. Johnson has shown an ability to work with pitchers and get the most out of them. Michael Pineda became arguably the best version of himself, Kenta Maeda took steps forward, and something was made out of nothing in a couple of situations. Johnson is seen as a velocity savant but can impact much more than that. Minnesota may have the least talented group they’ve had during his tenure when 2022 starts, but Wes getting more out of each of them remains a must. Randy Dobnak You don’t make it to the majors by mistake, and you certainly don’t start a Postseason game by luck. Dobnak’s 7.64 ERA last season was as much his ineffectiveness as it was Minnesota’s indecisiveness. Having worked entirely as a starter during 2020, Dobnak was used as one in less than half his appearances a year ago. The talk of velocity boosts and missed bats in Spring Training was never present, and I’d imagine his confidence was consistently shaken with no set role. Work him back as a starter, implore him to get the job done, and utilize him the same way that bore fruit previously. Stay tuned for the next installment, where the bullpen comes under fire. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. There’s no denying that Derek Falvey has a ton of work to do when filling out Rocco Baldelli’s pitching staff. Jose Berrios has been traded. Kenta Maeda is on the shelf. Michael Pineda is gone. Bundy joins holdovers Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan as the only arms currently penciled into the big league rotation. Minnesota needs someone to own the designation of staff ace. The Twins also currently have a projected payroll of just $91 million. Put those two realities together, and you get an equation that results in needing to spend something like $40 million and find a top-tier arm. Come on down Carlos Rodon. The former Chicago White Sox lefty has been through quite the past few seasons. After pitching just seven and ⅔ innings in 2020, the White Sox non-tendered their former third overall pick. His season-best innings total came way back in 2016 when he threw 165. Often injured, Rodon has thrown just an average of 58 innings per season from 2017-2020. Then came 2021, and Rodon responded by putting up a breakout campaign. Named to his first All-Star Game, Rodon also finished 5th in the Cy Young voting. His 2.37 ERA was bolstered by a 2.65 FIP and a 0.957 WHIP. Dropping a full walk per nine off his career average and jumping his strikeouts per nine by more than three, it was every bit the dominant performance you’d hope to see. Rodon got there by allowing the lowest hard-hit rate of his career and gave up his second-lowest home run rate. Looking through his peripherals, there’s plenty to be excited about as well. Rodon generated a career-best 34% chase rate and another career-best 14.9% whiff rate. He’d never generated a CSW% (called and swinging strikes) better than 29.3% until he hit 30.3% last season. Those realities coincide with a velocity boost that Rodon saw an average fastball sitting at 95.4 mph, nearly a mile and a half bump on his career average. That’s where things also get sticky for Rodon. Dealing with a shoulder injury defined simply as “fatigue” in August, his velocities saw a decline down the stretch. Following a return from the IL, Rodon worked five games for Chicago, going 23 total innings, or an average of roughly four and ⅔ per start. The results were promising in that he posted a 2.35 ERA and held opposing batters to a .536 OPS with a 25/6 K/BB. An average fastball velocity that sat at 96-97 mph from June 8 through July 18 got back above 95 mph just once the rest of the way and averaged just 93.3 mph once he returned from the Injured List. Therein lies the rub and why Rodon is both available and a perfect fit for the Twins. This front office has avoided being locked into long-term pacts, especially with pitchers. They wanted no part of a seven-year deal with Jose Berrios, and even Kevin Gausman’s five-year contract may have been too much. There’s no denying they should’ve been a big player for Marcus Stroman on a three-year deal, but this is a spot to right that. Because Rodon has been hurt and Minnesota likes to keep risk relatively low, the two should be made for each other. Rather than getting the $20+ million annually or five-year deal Rodon may have earned in a normal situation, he likely should be available for something around $30 million on a two-year deal. The contention has remained that if the Twins want to avoid the market trends of length, they must be willing to spend above value on shorter-term opportunities. This is a perfect spot for Minnesota to strike, whether a one or two-year deal. Rodon gives the club an ace, and if the injuries persist, there’s no real setback with the short agreement. We won’t know how things work out for Rodon or Minnesota until the lockout is lifted. The landscape could change for players and ownership going forward, but it’s hard to see these two sides fitting any less perfect than they appear at this moment. Leaving just one option on the table gives Derek Falvey little room for error, but this is a situation where he needs to put his best foot forward and not miss. 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. The Twins signed Dylan Bundy to a 1-year, $5 million deal on Wednesday night, with a $1 million buyout on an $11 million club option for 2023. The move came just hours before the MLB owners unanimously enforced a lockout of the players. The signing of Bundy shouldn’t alter the fact that the Twins front office receives a ‘doing the bare minimum’ grade in improving the starting rotation thus far in free agency. Frustratingly, we’ll have to wait to see how the story plays out. In Bundy, however, the Twins have signed a solid upside arm they hope will have a Robbie Ray type impact season in 2023. What range of outcomes does Bundy offer? How might the Twins tweak his approach to maximize a high upside play? Let’s dig into the numbers. Conveniently, Bundy has shown his entire range of outcomes in his past two seasons with the Angels. Last season, he was rancid. In 90 2/3 innings he managed a 6.06 ERA (4.83 xERA), a 21.2% K%, and 0.0 fWAR. Woof. Conversely, in the shortened 2020 season over 65 2/3 innings, he managed a 3.29 ERA (3.02 xERA), 27% strikeout%, and 2.0 fWAR, that’s a 6.0 fWAR pace over a full season, phew! To put that all visually, here is 2020 and 2021 next to each other. In incredibly simple terms, a Bundy season splitting the difference of those two outcomes would generate approximately a 2.5 fWAR season which is nothing to be sneezed at and a solid start to what needs to be an extensive overhaul of a non-existent rotation for the Twins before the 2022 season kicks off. So what attracted the Twins to Bundy, and how might they try and tweak his approach next season? Here’s what attracted the Twins to Dylan Bundy. Bundy has a nasty slider. In 2020, he threw it 25% of the time. In 2021, he threw it just 21%. Expect that figure to skyrocket in 2022. It’s by far his best pitch and was worth over four runs in 2021. The Twins will have him throw it 30% of the time or more. It’s notable that Bundy’s slider location was one of the primary reasons he struggled in 2021. In 2020, the heat map has it right in the corner of the strike zone, as opposed to far more centrally located in 2021. Regaining command of that pitch will be critical to his success in 2022. Another reason the Twins were likely attracted to Bundy is his fastball. Long gone are the days when Bundy was a top prospect throwing his fastball in the high-90s. It does, however, have an extremely high spin rate, the Twins’ most obvious fastball-related tendency. Bundy’s formula with the Twins will be fastballs high in the zone a la Jake Odorizzi and a high volume of sliders down and away to right-handed hitters. In my opinion, there’s not much to dislike about the Bundy move. He’s a high upside play who can easily be a solid number three starting pitcher on a great contract. The nagging question which will gnaw at Twins fans throughout the lockout and make it difficult to focus on the positives of the Bundy signing in isolation, was tweeted by John Bonnes yesterday. ‘Do the Twins front office love good contracts more than good players?’ We'll have to wait and see.
  22. In 2011, Dylan Bundy was the fourth overall draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles from Owasso High School in Oklahoma. Because of his draft status, he immediately became one of the top prospects in baseball. He signed a five-year MLB contract starting in 2012, and received a $4 million signing bonus. He made two late-inning appearances for the Orioles in 2012 and worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings over two games. Unfortunately, at that point injuries derailed his career. He did not return to the big leagues until 2016 when he posted a 4.02 ERA over 109 2/3 innings in 36 games. That season, he split time between the bullpen and rotation. Since 2017, he has been used exclusively as a starter. Now 29, Bundy went 2-9 with a 6.06 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP in 19 starts. In 90 2/3 innings for the Angels, he walked 34 and struck out 84 batters. He ended the season on the 60-Day Injured List with a shoulder injury. It was a tough season following a 2020 season in which he finished ninth in AL Cy Young voting. He went 6-3 with a 3.29 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP over 11 starts and 65 2/3 innings. He also struck out 72 batters and walked just 17. He was in a lot of rumors at that season's trade deadline. The Twins certainly are hoping that he returns to that form. Bundy will make $4 million in 2022. The Twins will also have the option of bringing him back in 2023 for $11 million or buying out that option for $1 million. When he was drafted, he was known for his 100 mph fastball. In 2021, his average fastball velocity was 90.8 mph. Of course, in his successful 2020 season, his fastball velocity was 90.2. Bundy also throws a slider about 21% of the time, and it comes in the low 80s. He also throws a slower curve in the mid-70s and a changeup in the low-80s. As a four-pitch pitcher, he remains intriguing. In 2021, he threw each of his pitches at least 13.8% of the time. It will be interesting to see what Wes Johnson and Pete Maki saw in Bundy that they might be able to tinker with to try to bring out his best performance. Bundy slots into the Twins starting rotation with Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan. Others currently in line for a possible rotation spot include Randy Dobnak, Griffin Jax, Lewis Thorpe and prospects such Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran and Josh Winder.
  23. Minnesota’s Weaknesses Entering the season, Minnesota was perceived to have one of the strongest line-ups in baseball. That hasn’t been the case so far as the Twins have struggled through injuries to regular starters like Mitch Garver, Byron Buxton, Josh Donaldson, and Luis Arraez. This has resulted in making nearly everyday players out of Ryan Jeffers, Jake Cave, Marwin Gonzalez and Ildemaro Vargas. It’s easy to think the Twins need replacements for these players, but the best thing for the team would be for their injured players to be healthy and producing as the team enters the playoffs. Last season, Minnesota’s biggest weakness was pitching, and this was especially true for the bullpen. This is why the team made multiple deadline deals for bullpen help. The Twins relief core has turned into one of the team’s strengths over the last year and that might mean the team isn’t looking to upgrade unless there is some player control involved. Minnesota’s starting rotation has seen multiple injuries, but the team depth in this department. Possible Trade Options Lance Lynn, Texas Lynn has been good since leaving the Twins in 2018. Last season with Texas, he posted a 3.67 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in over 200 innings. He struck out 246 batters and only walked 59 on his way to finishing in the top-five for the Cy Young. In just over 100 innings with the Twins, Lynn had an ERA north of 5.00 and he didn’t exactly leave the team on good terms. He is under team control through 2021 and the Rangers are within a handful of games of a playoff spot, and he could be one player for the team to avoid. Trevor Rosenthal, Kansas City Minnesota might be hesitant about trading with another team in the division, but Rosenthal might be the ideal candidate. He was signed to a minor league deal in Kansas City and he has been outstanding through the season’s first half. So far, he has limited batters to two runs on seven hits in 12 appearances (11 1/3 innings). This includes a 1.06 WHIP and a 15 to 5 strike out to walk ratio. Kansas City is in a similar position to the Rangers so the team will have to decide if they want to trade pieces away. Keone Kela, Pittsburgh Unlike the team’s above, Pittsburgh is clearly not making the playoffs, but Kela is going to have to prove he is healthy over the next week. He left a game last Friday after five pitches as the Pirates revealed he had right forearm tightness. He is a free agent at season’s end, and it seems likely for him to be dealt if he is healthy. Kela has been limited this season because of a positive coronavirus test and this most recent injury. Dylan Bundy, Los Angeles Bundy might be one of the hottest names tossed around in rumors leading up to the deadline. The Angels have struggled this season and currently have one of baseball’s worst records. He is under team control through the 2021 season. So far this season, he ranks in the 80th percentile when it comes to fastball spin rate, hard-hit rate, and opponents’ exit velocity. Increased use in his slider has been part of his success and that has been something the Twins have harnessed with other current pitchers. Mychal Givens, Baltimore Givens has been dominant out of the Orioles bullpen this year and he has some intriguing traits the Twins might be interested in. Firstly, he is under team control through the end of 2021. Secondly, his slider has gotten hitters to whiff on it over 40% of the time. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and his increased usage of his slider is certainly intriguing. Minnesota might not need a ton of bullpen help but Givens could certainly provide a boost. There are three right-handed hitters that could be intriguing with some of Minnesota’s top right-handed bats on the injured list. Another possible pitching option is a man that’s boisterous on social media, but he is a free agent at season’s end and that could make him tradeable. What’s Going to Happen? Overall, it seems likely for the trade deadline to be relatively quiet when compared to recent years. Few owners and front offices are going to be willing to take on significant contracts with the uncertainty facing baseball in 2021. Baseball has dodged a few bullets this season, but no one is sure of the long-term ramifications of no fans in the stands and other lost revenue. Minnesota also has the luxury of Michael Pineda being added back to the rotation at the end of August. His addition could be construed as trading for rotation help. Jake Odorizzi, Rich Hill, and Homer Bailey have all seen time on the injured list this year and adding Pineda only strengthens the depth of a rotation that has been stretched this season. The last time the Twins saw Pineda, he was amid a tremendous stretch on the mound and he will have the month of September to get back on track. What do you think the Twins will do at the trade deadline? Add an arm? Add to the line-up? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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