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  1. One of the easiest things to complain about regarding a manager is their bullpen usage. There was always going to be opportunity for that this season, given the relative uncertainty of the group, and Baldelli was always going to need time to let arms filter into their spots. Only a couple of weeks into the season, there’s no reason for any severe hand-wringing, but a couple of observations opportunities have presented themselves. Jhoan Duran is maybe the most exciting arm in Minnesota Twins pitching history. He’s certainly not going to be the best, but the velocity is unmatched and may forever be. It’s something this organization had never seen before and also a great outcome from the trade that sent Eduardo Escobar to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Early returns have suggested he can be an impact thrower at the back end of the Twins bullpen. He may even have taken over the closer role for the departed Rogers by the end of the season. But should he be a multi-inning reliever? That’s questionable, and it’s something worth keeping an eye on. Working two innings against the Red Sox, there was a notable dip in Duran’s velocity when he came back out. It’s not as though he wasn’t still throwing hard, but the consistency in which triple-digits were reached wasn’t maintained. Some arms are more impacted by a total number of pitches, while others could be deterred more by coming off the bench for a second inning. Whatever Duran’s role going forward is, the goal will be to get the best and most effective version of him. Only two lefties are available in Minnesota’s bullpen as it’s currently constructed, and Caleb Thielbar is probably the better of them. Not only is he a great story, but the 3.00 ERA and 10.6 K/9 over the past two seasons have been suggestive of a great arm. Even with that production, he’s still best suited in ideal spots, and that’s why Baldelli’s decision to go with him in the 8th inning of a one-run game against two righties against Boston was odd. Minnesota’s offense was non-existent on Easter Sunday, but trailing by just one looking to get their final at-bats, Thielbar was tasked with protecting a lead. He came in against Kike Hernandez and was also set to face Xander Bogaerts. Both of them are solid hitting right-handers, and they did predictable damage. Giving up four runs generating just a single out, Thielbar was ineffective in a suboptimal situation. That outing leaves us to question what the back-end of the bullpen will look like going forward and how Baldelli will choose spots. Tyler Duffey was given the first save opportunity and blew it, but he’s a good arm even with declined velocity. Jorge Alcala isn’t going to factor in for some time, and Emilio Pagan could step into those high-leverage shoes. Joe Smith is a tested veteran who has previously performed well on good teams, and the aforementioned Duran will always be in the mix. It seems that this front office is intent on avoiding paydays for relievers, but the pen they have constructed is a solid one. Give Baldelli some time to decide how he and Wes Johnson will run these arms out, and I think there’s an opportunity for it to be one of baseball’s better units.
  2. I won’t fault you if you don’t remember Juan Morillo. He pitched for Minnesota in 2009 and threw just two innings. He gave up a home run and five runs before never seeing the big leagues again. What he did do in that brief six-out appearance was throw a pitch clocked at 101.1 mph. After his departure, Minnesota has seen just two other pitchers register a triple-digit fastball. Brusdar Graterol, now with the Dodgers, checked in at 101.9 mph, and current reliever Jorge Alcala, who went on the IL on Tuesday with elbow inflamation, once touched 100.9 mph. Until now. Duran has been groomed as a starter for the Twins throughout his development. Across 82 minor league games, 80 of those appearances have come in a start. It’s gone well to the tune of a 3.99 ERA and consistent double-digit strikeout per nine numbers since 2018. If there’s been a problem, it’s been in the form of health and durability. Duran has never pitched more than 115 innings during a season, and last year for St. Paul, he was limited to just 16 innings while battling shoulder issues. Fast forward to this spring, and it seemed both beneficial and planned that Duran would throw out of the bullpen. The fireballer was used in relief, whether by design and adding to their internal group or through necessity to protect his workload. After a strong showing down in Fort Myers, Duran is now three innings into his Major League career. The Dominican has a 4/1 K/BB ratio while allowing just two hits. Aside from the eye-popping velocity, which has averaged 100.9 mph this season, his Statcast numbers compare beautifully across the league. His current 19% whiff rate would’ve ranked 4th among qualified relievers last season, just behind Liam Hendriks and ahead of Devin Williams. He’s avoided hard contact and missed barrels. Although Duran hasn’t yet forced batters to chase outside the zone, he’s kept them off-balance by simply being unhittable. The problem for the opposition is that Duran isn’t just firing straight fastballs either. His splinker is a unique offering, and that pitch has averaged 96.1 mph. The amount of movement and run he gets on both pitches creates an unfair situation for opposing batters when trying to both meet the pitch and connect optimally. It’s in the repertoire that we find his most significant reason to remain in relief. Again, the sample size is tiny, but Minnesota has turned its weapon into a two-pitch pitcher. He’s throwing the slider, a pitch the organization definitely believes in, just two percent of the time. His curveball offering has shown up 19% of the time but remains an off-speed secondary to combat the velocity. Each time Duran has stepped onto the mount this season, it’s been guaranteed that the radar gun will light up. He turns a Statcast readout red and gives the Twins something they haven’t had. What his current or future role becomes in the bullpen pecking order seems to be determined, but closer or not, knowing he’s a weapon is a significant value add for both Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson. In the age of mixing and matching arms situationally, someone like this could be matchup proof, and at just 24-years-old, that’s massive. These Twins aren’t the ones you’ve been used to in the past. It’s a different front office and now an organization that employs both the highest-paid infielder and one of the hardest throwers in the league—what a time to be alive.
  3. Minnesota has made a plethora of moves in the offseason in hopes of going from worst to first in the AL Central. The most recent of these moves was trading away Taylor Rogers and Brent Rooker to the San Diego Padres for right-handed pitchers Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagán. The Twins added some starting pitching depth with Paddack but downgraded their bullpen when they went from one of the better closers in the game in Rogers to a reliever looking to get back to his 2019 self, Pagán. With the Twins figuring to start the year with a six-man rotation, they will have ten bullpen arms. Here are my confidence rankings of the ten. 10. Jhon Romero Romero was claimed off waivers from the Washington Nationals on March 21, and he will serve primarily to eat innings in Minnesota. Romero throws in the mid-90s with a ton of vertical break on his fastball, so he may need to develop a plus-offspeed pitch, but he is a promising reliever for the Twins. Romero made five appearances for the Nationals in 2021, giving up two earned runs and striking out three batters in four innings of work. He will need to earn the trust of the Twins and the Twins fan base before they can gain confidence in him pitching in big spots. 9. Danny Coulombe A pleasant surprise in 2021, the left-handed Coulombe threw 34.1 innings for the Twins with a 3.67 ERA and a 3.75 FIP. The 32-year-old journeyman is an offspeed pitcher, throwing 66 percent of his pitches as either sliders or curveballs in 2021. Coulombe was also very good at controlling free passes, as he only walked five percent of opposing batters. In 2022, I see the Twins using Coulombe against left-handed batters, as he and Caleb Thielbar are now the only left-handers in their bullpen. Coulombe still needs to prove that he can sustain this level of success, but he could quickly jump up these rankings. 8. Josh Winder Along with teammate Jhoan Duran, Winder displayed some of the best stuff in big league spring training out of all pitchers in 2022. Injuries shortened Winder's 2021 season, but he still managed to go 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA between AA and AAA. He had a sub-1 WHIP, and the hard-throwing righty limits walks and strikes guys out, leading me to believe that he will have no problem transferring his game to the big league level. Winder will be a long reliever, and he will probably make some spot starts in 2022. 7. Jharel Cotton A pitcher nobody is talking about, Jharel Cotton could be the most underrated pitcher in the Twins bullpen. Cotton has the most vertical break on his fastball out of any pitcher in MLB and a highly effective changeup to pair with it. He had a 3.52 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 30 innings for the Texas Rangers in 2021. Cotton will be used in primarily lower leverage situations to start, and his workload could see an uptick with good performance. 6. Caleb Thielbar Despite not having an overwhelming fastball, Caleb Thielbar has done one thing very well over the past two seasons with the Twins. And that is preventing runs. Thielbar only averages 91 miles per hour on his fastball, but it pairs well with his loopy 72 mile per hour curveball. Since 2020, Thielbar has had a 3.00 ERA with 99 strikeouts in 84 innings. Although he was used in low leverage situations in 2020, with the subtraction of Taylor Rogers, the Twins will turn to Thielbar to get crucial outs against left-handed hitters, who batted .214 against him in 2021. 5. Joe Smith An under-the-radar signing for the Twins this offseason, the Twins signed former Astro Joe Smith to a one-year deal. Despite his unorthodox delivery, the 38-year-old has always had major league-level success. His 4.99 ERA in 2021 was misleading, as poor batted-ball luck inflated his ERA. His xERA was 3.55, and he has a 3.08 career ERA. Smith should slot nicely into a middle relief role, especially against righties, against whom he has allowed a .607 OPS in his career. 4. Jhoan Duran As pitchers are throwing harder than ever before, the Twins' only fireballer on the staff in 2021 was Jorge Alcalá. Until now. Jhoan Duran made the Twins opening day roster, and when he debuts, he will be electric. The centerpiece of the Eduardo Escobar trade in 2018, Duran sits in the upper 90s with his fastball, topping at 101 miles per hour in spring training. Duran had the highest STUFF+ ratings in spring training despite a small sample size. For years to come, Duran's nasty stuff could lead to him being a weapon at the back of the Twins bullpen. 3. Emilio Pagán One of the more intriguing pitchers on Minnesota's roster, Pagán will look to return to his Tampa Bay form. In 2019, Pagán was one of the best relievers in baseball as he struck out 96 batters in 70 innings with the Rays. He also had a 2.31 ERA and recorded 20 saves. He struck out 36 percent of batters and only walked 4.9 percent. When he got to San Diego, he took a step back. In 2021, he went 4-3 with a 4.83 ERA in 63 innings. He gave up 16 home runs in those 63 innings, and he ranked in the seventh percentile of all pitchers in xSLG. Pagán, like the next pitcher on this list, will look to get back to his former self. Pagán will most likely start the year as the Twins' closer. 2. Tyler Duffey After being one of the best relievers in baseball in 2019 and 2020, Duffey took a significant step back in 2021 and will need to rediscover his success for the Twins to have a shutdown bullpen in 2022. In 2019-20, Duffey was in the 93rd percentile of pitchers in strikeout percentage and the 92nd percentile in xERA. He also had a 2.26 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 83.2 innings. In 2021, Duffey was in the 54th percentile in strikeout percentage and the 66th percentile in xERA. He had a 3.18 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 62 innings. While Duffey was by no means terrible in 2021, he was a different pitcher than he was in 2019 and 2020. Duffey will be a significant part of the Twins bullpen in 2022, especially if he can regain his old form. 1. Jorge Alcalá Alcalá has always been a high octane arm who has shown flashes of dominance, and he offered three signs he was on the verge of breaking out in 2021. Alcalá has a 3.48 ERA in 85 career innings, and his stuff plays very well, as he is in the 96th percentile of all MLB pitchers in fastball velocity and chase rate. This combination could be due to him using his fastball less and his changeup more. He was also in the 86th percentile of pitchers in walk percentage in 2021. This combination of good stuff and low walk rates could lead to Alcalá being a force in the back of the Twins bullpen in 2022. With Taylor Rogers gone, I look for Alcalá to take over the closer role in 2022. Who are your top three relievers for the Twins in 2022? What would you change about these rankings? Are there any guys currently in the minors who you think will majorly impact the bullpen? Let me know in the comments and start a discussion. Thank you for reading, and Go Twins!
  4. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 4.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K (70 pitches, 42 strikes, 64%) Home Runs: Gio Urshela (1) Bottom 3 WPA: Byron Buxton (-.214), Carlos Correa (-.173), Gary Sanchez (.152), Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Ryan gives up an early home run, departs after four innings Joe Ryan was named the Opening Day starter for the Twins, becoming the first rookie starting pitcher to do so in precisely 53 years: on 4/8/1969, rookie Tom Hall took the mound, and he pitched into the sixth against the Royals in Kansas City to open the season. With only 26 2/3 big league innings in his career, Ryan became the Opening Day starter with the fewest such innings in franchise history and the first in the majors since David Nied in 1993. The first two times through the Seattle order were anything but smooth for Ryan. Having given up only five total walks in his five 2021 starts, he gave up three in the first three innings while also hitting a batter. He hung a fastball against Mitch Haniger in the first, which was crushed for a two-out, two-run home run. Seattle couldn't build momentum and add on despite posing a constant threat during the first three innings. Ryan closed out each of those innings with a strikeout, two against Eugenio Suárez. He also got some big help from a great defensive play by Carlos Correa in the third, which almost started a double play. Speaking of the new guy, he was responsible for Minnesota’s only hit early, as reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray – and his famous pants – cruised through the Twins lineup. In his first at-bat with Minnesota, C4 smacked a fastball down the middle for a single. Minnesota gets on the board, Duran impresses in majors debut Minnesota managed to get on the board in the fourth, with another new guy making a good first impression. Gio Urshela, once known for his efficiency against off-speed pitches, took Ray deep for the Twins’ first home run of the season. The fourth inning was also the final one for Ryan in the ballgame, as he once again failed to prevent baserunners from reaching. Rocco Baldelli brought in flame-throwing prospect Jhoan Duran for his Major League debut for the next two innings, and the Dominican didn’t disappoint. Duran didn’t get off to a good start, giving up back-to-back singles to open the inning. However, with his pitches reaching 100.7 MPH on the radar gun and showing off some nasty movement, he managed to blow past the heart of the Mariner lineup, striking out the next four batters. His velocity wasn’t the same during his second inning out there, but he still managed to hold off Seattle. The bats can’t provide the rally against Ray, Seattle’s bullpen Ray continued to dominate the Twins' offense and did so economically, as his pitch count didn’t hit 90 until the seventh inning. With one of baseball’s best bullpens last season, Mariner relievers managed to keep the Twins offense out of the game in the final two innings. After a 1-2-3 inning from reliever Paul Sewald in the eighth, Minnesota had one inning to try and spark a rally, and they almost did. Luis Arráez replaced Urshela in the ninth, and he put together a superb nine-pitch that ended in a leadoff single. It all came down to Gary Sánchez with two outs and a man on, and he put on a good fight but eventually flew out, merely inches away from a walk-off homer. A positive takeaway from this game for the Twins was the excellent pitching performance, especially from the bullpen. After Duran pitched two scoreless frames, Jorge Alcalá and Danny Coulombe kept Seattle scoreless for the rest of the game. Minnesota’s relievers combined for five scoreless innings, with three hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts. What’s Next? On Saturday, the series continues when Sonny Gray will make his Twins debut against Logan Gilbert. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:10 pm. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet (pitch counts were not available for Tuesday's spring training game) MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Ober 56 0 0 0 0 56 Duran 0 0 0 0 31 31 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 27 27 Alcalá 10 0 0 0 13 23 Cotton 22 0 0 0 0 22 Thielbar 0 0 0 0 0 0 Duffey 0 0 0 0 0 0 Pagán 0 0 0 0 0 0 Romero 0 0 0 0 0 0 Smith 0 0 0 0 0 0 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0
  5. Some questions surrounded Rogers returning from a finger injury that ended his 2021 season. Rogers has looked strong this spring, so there may be little to worry about for the 2022 campaign. However, the team will need to have a contingency plan if his finger injury acts up or if he suffers another injury. Here is how the team will likely use the bullpen in the late innings. 1. Taylor Rogers, LHP Rogers was a first-time All-Star during the 2021 season following a first-half where he posted a 3.35 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP and 54 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings. It was a solid first half, but it was hardly the best version of Rogers. From 2018-19, Rogers pitched nearly 140 innings with a 2.62 ERA, a sub-1.00 WHIP, and 10.8 K/9. Before his injury, Minnesota was exploring trade options for Rogers, and there was no guarantee the team would offer him arbitration this year. He is entering his final year of team control, so he needs to prove that he can be a dominant back-end reliever as he hits free agency for the first time. As a 31-year-old, it might be his only chance at a big payday, but the Twins have other options if Rogers isn’t successful in 2022. 2. Tyler Duffey, RHP Duffey was one of baseball’s best relievers entering the 2021 season as the Twins used him to get out of plenty of late-inning jams. From 2019-20, Duffey pitched 81 2/3 innings, and he struck out 113 batters with a 0.94 WHIP. Last season, he struggled for the first time since 2018 as he posted a 3.18 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP. His strikeout rate dropped from 11.6 K/9 in 2020 to 8.8 K/9 in 2021. Besides his lack of strikeouts, there were some concerns with the number of hard hits and his change in pitch usage. However, Duffey seems like the best candidate to take over the closer role if Rogers misses time or is ineffective. 3. Jorge Alcalá, RHP Alcalá has been on the cusp of a breakout for multiple seasons, and there were signs he started to break out last season. He decreased his fastball usage and saw a big jump in his changeup usage. His fastball tends to be up, so his improved changeup has played even better down in the zone. Last year in the second half, he managed a 2.88 ERA, 0.36 HR/9, 2.01 FIP, and a 32% K%. If these trends continue, Alcalá may be evolving into Minnesota’s future closer, especially if he can lower his career .843 OPS versus left-handed batters. 4. Caleb Thielbar, LHP Thielbar has been a surprise contributor to the Twins bullpen over the last two seasons as he has become one of the team’s most reliable arms. Over the last two seasons, he has a 3.00 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP and 99 strikeouts in 84 innings. He turned 35-years-old earlier this year, and he has previously been close to retirement. Outside of Rogers, he is the lefty with the most late-inning experience, so it will be intriguing to see how the Twins use him this season. Does he get the opportunity to earn his first big-league save? Dark Horse Candidate: Jovani Moran, LHP Moran was the Twins Daily 2022 Minor League Reliever of the Year, and his changeup has the potential to make him unhittable at the big-league level. He struck out nearly 41.8% of batters in the minors this season, and he will look to transition those numbers to the Twins. Like Alcalá, there may be some growing pains on the way to being a dominant late-inning arm. With Duffey and Rogers heading to free agency, Alcalá and Moran are part of the team’s long-term bullpen plans. How do you think the Twins will use the back-end of their bullpen this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  6. There was never any question that losing Pressly would hurt the Twins in the short term. He went on to post a 0.77 ERA with Houston over the final half of 2018. In 139 1/3 innings since Pressly has tallied a 2.45 ERA to go with an 11.8 K/9. He had become one of baseball’s best relievers with the Twins and has only ratcheted that up with the Astros. After making 60 appearances in 2021, Pressly’s team option vested into a fully guaranteed $10 million deal for 2022. He’ll hit the open market again before 2023 for his age 34 season. On the Twins side of things, they’ve seen a bit of what both Jorge Alcala and Gilberto Celestino can do, but 2022 should represent an opportunity for both to establish themselves completely. Let’s start in the bullpen with Alcala, as he’s a much more integral piece of the immediate puzzle. Pitching 59 2/3 innings last year for the Twins, Alcala owned a 3.92 ERA to go with a 9.2 K/9. Despite the 0.97 WHIP, his bugaboo was a 1.5 HR/9, pushing his FIP to 4.06. However, what’s worth noting is that it was a tale of two seasons for the Minnesota reliever. Through 40 appearances, he posted a 5.73 ERA and had allowed nine home runs in just 37 2/3 innings. A stretch of 22 innings pitched from that point forward, Alcala owned a 0.82 ERA, keeping opposing batters to a .420 OPS. His 27/3 K/BB was incredible, and only one ball left the yard. That’s what we must hope for coming into 2022. Derek Falvey didn’t flip Ryan Pressly for what Jorge Alcala was at the time, but he did make that move for what he could be now. At just 26-years-old, Alcala is still pre-arbitration and won’t hit free agency until 2026. Getting an elite level of production out of him for pennies on the dollar over the next four seasons would be a massive victory. He looks the part of a late-inning arm and could undoubtedly eat up closer opportunities should they present themselves. That alone would make the deal worth it, and we’ve yet to discuss Celestino. Forced into action early from Double-A after a run on outfield injuries last season, Celestino appeared in 23 games for the Twins. It went as to be expected, and he posted just a .466 OPS. Defensively the skills looked very close, but the bat needed more time to mature. Going to Triple-A St. Paul the rest of the way, Celestino made his case. Over 49 games with the Saints, he slashed .290/.384/.443 with 18 extra-base hits included five home runs. It was unquestionably his best offensive showing in the minors and should help re-establish his confidence in the future. Minnesota is always going to need a solid fourth outfielder behind Byron Buxton. I have some feelings about who they should look at outside of the organization, but Celestino could easily play himself into a better option for that role. Without needing to be an impact player immediately on Opening Day, it’s more than fair to suggest Celestino could parlay his strong finish at Triple-A into a forced promotion early on in 2022. Hitting on both inclusions in the Ryan Pressly trade would be the type of result Falvey had undoubtedly envisioned. It’s never easy to evaluate a baseball trade when it is made with an indication of how it will pan out. You can draw conclusions based on the level of prospect returned, but the real evaluation always takes place once players have had an opportunity to develop. Minnesota has pushed both talents through their system and is now ready to cash them in. It could soon become time to call this swap a victory.
  7. 3. Randy Dobnak 2021: 50 2/3 IP, 7.64 ERA (56 ERA+), 5.70 ERA, 12% K, 5% BB, -1.3 WAR It feels like centuries ago, but Dobnak was once a terrific pitcher for the Twins. Bursting onto the scene in 2019, Dobnak produced a sterling 2.25 ERA over his first 68 Major League innings. While José Berríos struggled and Michael Pineda was suspended over the first month of 2020, Dobnak and Kenta Maeda carried the rotation. It hasn’t been pretty since. Dobnak owns an 8.12 ERA over his last 57 2/3 innings, with declining strikeout and exorbitant hard-hit rates. Since signing his five-year contract extension, Dobnak has allowed 43 runs in just 50 2/3 innings. Add in a season-ending finger injury and the word ‘disaster’ seems fitting for Dobnak’s 2021 season. Despite recent results, there are reasons to believe in a bounce back. The horizontal movement on Dobnak’s signature sinker is still elite, with a top-six finish in 2021 (min. 250 pitches). Middle-finger strains can impact command, and sinkers are often reliant on pressure from that finger. If Dobnak can get healthy, that simple change could turn him back into a sturdy rotation member in 2022. 2. Ryan Jeffers 2021: 85 G, 293 PA, .199/.270/.401 (83 OPS+), 10 2B, 3B, 14 HR, 0.6 WAR The Twins put Jeffers in a difficult role last summer. They made sure to start lefty-masher Mitch Garver against southpaws, with Nelson Cruz entrenched at DH and Miguel Sanó at first base. That left Jeffers facing exclusively tough right-handed starters. That’s a tall task for a rookie catcher. With Cruz’s departure, Jeffers will undoubtedly receive more playing time against left-handed pitching in 2021. That adjustment alone should boost his offensive output Jeffers also showed a propensity to punish the ball in 2021. Among 37 catchers with at least 150 Batted Ball Events, Jeffers ranked 9th in hard-hit rate (44%), ahead of Travis d’Arnaud, Will Smith, and Gary Sánchez. Jeffers also caught a barrel in 7.8% of his plate appearances, ranking 5th and beating out Yasmani Grandal. A better role combined with hopefully improved contact rates could propel Jeffers to a breakout in 2022. At the very least, many are underestimating his potential impact. 1. Jorge Alcala 2021: 59 2/3 IP, 3.92 ERA (109 ERA+), 4.06 FIP, 27% K, 6% BB, 0.3 WAR Alcala wasn’t exempt from criticism for the Twins’ early-season collapse. He was mainly bad for his first 40 appearances, posting a 5.73 ERA and 5.35 FIP with just a 22% strikeout rate. As TwinsDaily’s JD Cameron pointed out, Alcala made some critical adjustments late in the season and flipped his results. Alcala allowed two runs over his last 22 innings (0.82 ERA). He struck out 27 of the 77 batters he faced (35%) and allowed just a .420 OPS. Alcala was incredibly dominant, combining his wipeout slider and 100 MPH fastball with an improved changeup. Now entering his age-26 season and with the Twins likely ramping up his role, a full-on Alcala emergence is bubbling. There is no pitcher on the Twins’ roster with better stuff or higher upside. COMMENT BELOW! Who are your sleeper candidates for the 2022 Twins? 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
  8. After ranking 24th as a whole when it came to pitching in 2021, the Minnesota Twins were 20th in terms of fWAR for just relievers. While slightly better than the starting staff being 25th, relief efforts took a significant step backward last year. In 2020 Wes Johnson coached the 2nd-best bullpen in baseball, and his group was 3rd overall in 2019. Getting back to that level is where things need to be focused for 2022. How can we get there? New Years Resolutions: Starting Pitching Taylor Rogers He’s here because he’s the best thing Minnesota’s bullpen has going. They could’ve decided to non-tender him if there was fear Rogers’ injury situation was grave, but that doesn’t appear to be reality. He was named an All-Star for the first time and got to show up for the game in his home state. In 2020 Rogers didn’t benefit from a season that allowed his numbers to normalize. In 2021, his 2.13 FIP was the best number of his career, and the strikeout rate was unmatched. If there’s something that Rogers needs to do in 2022, it’s be healthy and repeat as a dominant force. Lefties this good don’t grow on trees, and the Twins have one. Cody Stashak Once looking like a substantial bullpen piece, Stashak fell off the tracks significantly last year. He posted a 25/1 K/BB in his first 25 big-league innings and followed that up with a 17/3 K/BB in 15 innings during 2020. In 2021 Stashak had a 26/10 K/BB, and his ERA ballooned to 6.89. The homers and hits didn’t get out of whack, and his FIP was still solid at 3.62. In short, the pitcher he once was is still there, and we’re still dealing with a small sample size as a whole. Minnesota needs Stashak to again be a high command, big strikeout arm that can pitch in the middle innings. Tyler Duffey It wasn’t that Duffey was awful in 2021, but the pitcher Duffey became in 2019, and 2020 looked a whole lot different. Although Duffey did allow the lowest home run rate of his career, he also walked four batters per nine, easily a career-high, and his strikeouts dropped below double-digits per nine. Duffey is now 31, and while his velocity isn’t what it was in 2019, it did stay consistent from a year ago. Adding back to that number or staying consistent is a must. Generating chase swings again on his curveball has to happen, and if it’s not coming by pairing fastball velocity, then sequencing and tunneling are avenues he can further explore. Jorge Alcala We’ve been waiting for Alcala to break out over a whole year for a while. It looked like it would happen in 2021 after a strong showing in 2020. Pitching in nearly 60 innings last year, Alcala sat with a 5.54 ERA through his first 42 appearances. From there, he made 18 more appearances and tallied a 0.87 ERA and a 26/3 K/BB. That stretch was dominant and where Minnesota needs him to come out starting the season. At 26, Alcala isn’t exactly young anymore, but he certainly could be coming into his own. Juan Minaya This is maybe less about Minaya than the concept of his addition. The Twins did a good job finding the former White Sox arm as they also did with Danny Coulombe. Minaya contributed 40 innings with a 2.48 ERA. He’s always walked too many guys, but the strikeouts were there. Jharel Cotton was claimed by Minnesota, while Ralph Garza Jr. was a late-season addition. It’d be great for the Twins to hit on a handful of these types, especially if they aren’t going to add a higher tier reliever or two. At this point, these aren’t non-roster guys, and being correct on a few wouldn’t hurt. We’re now through the pitching side of things and will turn it over to the bats for the final installment. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  9. Current Relief Pitchers: Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala, Caleb Thielbar, Ralph Garza Jr., Cody Stashak, Jovani Moran, Jharel Cotton Some of the team's veteran pitchers will again figure prominently into the team's bullpen. After a late-season injury, Rogers is a question-mark at the back of the Twins bullpen. It's the first time on the injured list during his big league career, and doctors believe surgery wasn't necessary. After two dominating seasons, Duffey had some minor struggles in 2021, but he still posted a 134 ERA+. After nearly retiring and joining the college coaching ranks, Thielbar has been one of the team's most valuable relievers. Three less experienced arms have a chance to earn late-inning roles with the 2022 Twins. Last season, Alcala had a triceps injury but still made 59 appearances and finished 15 games. Moran dominated the minor's upper-levels with 109 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings on his way to being named the TD Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. His plus changeup is an elite pitch that will make him dangerous at the big-league level for years to come. Stashak missed most of 2021 with a back injury that limited him to fewer than 16 innings. Two waiver claims have survived Minnesota's offseason roster purge and will get a long look for the Opening Day bullpen. Cotton was claimed off waivers from the Texas Rangers in November. Last season at Triple-A, he pitched 42 innings and posted a 57 to 17 strikeout to walk ratio. Minnesota hopes he can start producing those types of strikeout numbers at the big-league level. The Twins claimed Garza Jr. from Houston back in August. In 18 appearances with the Twins, he posted a 3.26 ERA with 1.03 WHIP. 40-Man Roster Options Some of the team's top pitching prospects are considered starters, but many of them missed time during the 2021 season due to injury. There wasn't a 2020 minor league season and more missed time last year likely means these young arms will be on an innings limit. If Minnesota needs a bullpen boost in the second half, young arms can be added to get big-league experience. Lewis Thorpe and Randy Dobnak are two other pitchers on the 40-man roster that may see time in the bullpen. Thorpe is out of minor league options but hasn't found big-league success as a starter. Dobnak started last year in the bullpen, and it ended up being his worst professional season. Right now, Thorpe and Dobnak are in the starting rotation, but the team may sign or trade for other starters. On the Farm Options Not all of the players listed below are guaranteed to be on the team's roster at the start of next season. Still, it offers some insight into the organization's relief pitching depth. Minnesota has multiple relief pitching options populating the rosters throughout the minor leagues. In the upper-minors, Danny Coulombe is a non-roster invite to spring training. Last season, he made 29 appearances for the Twins and posted a 3.67 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP. Minnesota claimed Trevor Megill and Argenis Angulo off waivers in November. Yennier Cano is an intriguing option as he was signed out of Cuba back in 2019. During 2021, he struck out over 11 batters per nine innings at Double- and Triple-A. Ryan Mason has pitched in the Twins system since 2013. Last year he split time at the organization's two highest levels with a 2.67 ERA and a 63 to 28 strikeout to walk ratio. Melvi Acosta made all but one of his appearances at High-A last year, where he struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings. Zach Neff, a 31st round pick in 2018, posted a 4.78 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 31 Double-A appearances. At Double-A, Minnesota acquired Alex Scherff in July for Hansel Robles. Last season was his first as a full-time reliever, and he had a 2.45 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings. Like Scherff, Evan Sisk was acquired at the deadline, but he was part of the J.A. Happ trade. Sisk struggled in his first taste of Double-A (4.24 ERA) and allowed nine earned runs in 10 AFL innings. Zach Featherstone was knocked around (8.10 ERA) like Sisk in the AFL after posting a 2.13 ERA at High-A. Jordan Gore, a former infielder, is transitioning to a relief role. Last season was his first as a full-time reliever, and he posted a 2.39 ERA in time split between High- and Double-A. Minnesota left him unprotected from the Rule 5 Draft, so some other team may take a flyer on him. Denny Bentley, a 2018 33rd round pick, had a sub-2.80 ERA with 13.4 strikeouts per nine. His walk rate was high, with over five free passes per nine innings and a 1.42 WHIP. Osiris German, Samuel Perez, and Steven Cruz are three names to watch in the lower minors. German and Cruz split time between Low- and High-A. German had 90 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings, and Perez struck out 14.4 batters per nine innings. Perez signed with the Twins out of independent baseball and had a 1.45 ERA with the FCL Twins. Besides the names mentioned here, many other pitchers at each level can impact the upcoming season. Overall, Minnesota has questions in next year's bullpen, but some young arms can step up in 2022. What do you think about the organization's relief pitching depth? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES — Catchers — First Base — Second Base — Third Base — Shortstop — Center Field — Corner Outfield — Starting Pitching
  10. The Twins need some bullpen help in 2022 in addition to significant rotation help. Unfortunately, there’s only so much money to go around. Transitioning some younger arms into bullpen pieces could benefit the players and team alike and get them into the majors that much quicker. The Twins have some great young arms who could be primed to make this switch. Matt Canterino Canterino was a 2nd round pick and has been a starting pitcher for much of his minor league career. His highest ERA in a single season was 1.80 as he’s dominated every stop of the minors to this point. He sports a devastating slider and a solid complementary changeup. His fastball took a big step forward during the pandemic forced break in minor league action. He can now run it up to the high 90s consistently. With such a deep pitch mix, why shouldn’t Canterino be a starting pitcher? Canterino is already 24 years old and has only made it as high as A+ ball in his three years with the Twins. He’s thrown 48 total innings in his professional career thus far. This is partially due to the lost 2020 season, but Canterino also dealt with multiple forearm injuries which eventually ended his 2021 season. Headed into 2022, Canterino has a long way to go in developing as a starter. Staying the course not only would likely keep him out of the majors for another year or two at least, but more innings also make a recurrence of the recent arm troubles more likely. Canterino has the raw stuff to debut very soon and be an effective reliever. It’s an option the Twins could very well consider at this point. Chris Vallimont Recently added to the 40 man roster, Vallimont had too much raw talent for the Twins to risk letting him go. His 6.06 ERA across 91 innings in AA aren’t impressive, but his raw skills were. Vallimont struck out 31.1% of his hitters faced, but walked a crippling 14.6% while allowing a 1.48 HR/9. He has a decent mix of pitches featuring a low to mid 90s fastball and a decent slider, curve and change. Pitchers like Vallimont move to the bullpen all the time. Jorge Alcala was the Twins' latest iteration. Moving into a short burst role actually helped iron out the walks and allowing his stuff to play up in 1-2 inning stints helped him work around the walks he was still issuing. Unlike Alcala however, Vallimont already has a steady pitch mix to immediately have a third option. The Twins protected him in the rule 5 draft because even with his walks and homer issues, Vallimont may have the floor to join a team’s bullpen and contribute in some fashion immediately. With his 40 man spot secured, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Twins make this move and fast track him to Minneapolis sometime in 2022. Drew Strotman Acquired with Joe Ryan from the Rays, Strotman also already has a 40 man spot. He also has already reached AAA, although he struggled mightily in St. Paul, posting a 7.33 ERA in 54 innings down the stretch after posting a 3.86 mark with the Rays affiliate in his 58 innings prior. It’s very possible he faded down the stretch as 2021 was his first full season coming off Tommy John. He has an impressive 60 grade fastball which he mostly pairs with the strong duo that is his cutter and slider. He also has impressive control. The Twins may be tempted to see if Strotman can hold out his performance in a rotation role again in 2022. It’s possible however, especially if they’re trying to compete, that they acclimate him to the bullpen to start the season and quickly bring him up. His big fastball and command of his pitches give him a solid floor in the bullpen and he lacks a strong changeup which could have him bullpen bound eventually anyways. Strotman also was a reliever for much of his college career. It would be far from a failure given what we’ve already gotten from Joe Ryan if Drew Strotman simply turns out to be a reliable reliever. Are there any other pitchers in the Twins system that are bullpen bound? Would you like to see any of these three stay the course? Let us know below! — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forum — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  11. Bullpens have become the most overworked position in baseball in the last five years, and the Twins bullpen was a perfect example of overworked relievers in 2021. Of the 1,419 1/3 innings pitched from the Twins pitching staff in 2021, Twins relievers pitched approximately 617 2/3 innings pitched, or 43.5% of innings pitched. Relief pitchers making up around 40% of an MLB team's innings pitched is not uncommon in baseball today. However, it depends on who is in each team's bullpen which sets the postseason competitors, the tanking teams, and those in-between apart. The 2021 Twins bullpen falls into the in-between category, and how the front office decides to gear up the bullpen for 2022 post-lockout may be a deciding factor for how they sit in the AL Central for 2022. The Closer The Twins bullpen is far from being the worst in baseball. They have an all-star high-leverage reliever with Taylor Rogers. Rogers did miss the final two months of the season due to his finger injury in August, but he expects to be ready to go by the season's start (whenever that may be). Rogers was not the consistent closer for the Twins last season, as many remember the shuffling between him, Alex Colome, and Hansel Robles. Before his thumb injury, Rogers was beginning to see more save opportunities in games than he had earlier in the season, having three of them in his final six appearances. Suppose the Twins front office does not intend to check in on free-agent closers, such as Ian Kennedy or Richard Rodriguez, after the lockout then Rogers will likely get the nod to be the closer again in 2022. Reliable Veterans The Twins had two reliable veteran relievers in 2021 that will carry over into the same roles for 2022. Those pitchers are Tyler Duffey and Caleb Thielbar. Both Duffey and Thielbar posted solid numbers in 2021, even with some shaky outings at the start of the season. Duffey ended the season with a 3.18 ERA, .216 opponents batting average, and 8.8 K per 9. Going into his age-31 season, Duffey still looks to be one of the primary setup men for the Twins bullpen to start the 2022 season. Thielbar was the most reliable left-handed reliever for the Twins throughout the 2021 season and will likely maintain that role alongside Rogers for 2022. Thielbar's return to the big leagues full-time in 2020 was one of the best feel-good stories in a season that was really needed in the year that was. And thanks to his 3.23 ERA, 10.8 K per 9, and 1.17 WHIP from 2021.Thielbar will likely be the go-to lefty for the Twins bullpen in 2022 depending on Rogers’ role.. Bounceback Players If there's one Twins pitcher who would like to put 2021 behind him above all the rest, it would be Randy Dobnak. Dobnak's injuries throughout 2021 were already keeping him off the field. And when he was healthy, Dobnak was not the same pitcher Twins fans became accustomed to seeing from their homes in 2020. As the Twins rotation currently sits, Dobnak is more likely to see time as a starter than a reliever with only one rotation addition in Dylan Bundy. Still, Dobnak could see some time in the bullpen whether the Twins decided to add another starter or not. If he does, it's not only a matter of getting more appearances out of the bullpen when healthy but also proving his 2021 numbers were a temporary fork in the road. Dobnak is not the only pitcher in the Twins bullpen looking for a bounceback in 2022. One of the Twins' new additions, Jharel Cotton, fits into this category too. Cotton returned to the Majors for the first time since 2017, getting time with the Texas Rangers in 2021. Cotton had not pitched back-to-back seasons professionally since 2016-17 because he had Tommy John surgery in 2018 and missed all of 2020 with no minor league season. Cotton's return to MLB in 2021 was not too bad. Cotton posted a 3.52 ERA and 8.8 K/9 in 23 relief appearances with the Rangers. The big question is if he can repeat and improve upon his 2021 numbers in 2022? The Twins claimed him off waivers, believing that he can, and willing to provide him the opportunity. Young Faces Wanting to Prove Themselves Two younger relievers in the Twins bullpen are still wanting to prove themselves as big-league relievers. They are Jorge Alcala and Ralph Garza Jr. Alcala has accumulated just over two years of MLB service time . In that time, he has pitched in 77 games over parts of three seasons. 2021 was Alcala's first full season, and he was streaky. There were times when Alcala was an excellent option for the Twins, and there were others where he struggled. At season’s end, Alcala had 9.2 K/9, a .214 opponents batting average, and 0.97 WHIP. Alcala has the talent to improve in 2022 to become one of the more reliable Twins relievers. Garza Jr. was an unexpected contributor last season who showed moments when he could be a reliable option for the Twins as the 2021 season dwindled. He had nine relief appearances with the Astros before the Twins claimed him off waivers on August 4th. Garza totaled 18 relief appearances as a Twin, putting together a 3.26 ERA, a .186 opponents batting average, and a 1.03 WHIP. Garza Jr. hopes to have his first full season in the majors for 2022 and show that his brief time with the Twins so far won't just be a flash in the pan. Minor League Options Three notable players signed to minor league deals with the Twins are likely to be seen in their bullpen sometime in 2022. Those three players are Danny Coulombe, Jake Faria, and Trevor Megill. All three have an invitation to spring training with the hopes of making the Twins Opening Day roster. If Coulombe pitches in a game for them in 2022, it will be his third season in a row with appearances for the Twins. Coulombe had two relief appearances in 2020 and made 29 more in 2021. He posted a 3.67 ERA and 8.7 K/9 in 2021.. Hours before the lockout, the Twins signed Jake Faria. Faria missed the 2020 season and pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2021, making three starts and 20 relief appearances. In 2021, he had a 5.51 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, and 2.46 K/BB ratio. However, Faria is still a no-risk, high-rewarded signing for the Twins. Finally, there's Trevor Megill. Megill's time with the Twins started oddly as the Twins released him hours after claiming him off waivers from the Chicago Cubs. A few days later, on Megill's birthday, the Twins re-signed him to a minor-league deal. The burly right-hander made his MLB debut in 2021 and struggled in his 28 relief appearances. Megill is big and strong. He throws hard and has a good slider. The Twins will work with him, presumably, on his mechanics and possibly his pitch mix and hope he can make a breakthrough in 2022. How does the Twins Bullpen Stand as of today for 2022? Grading the Twins bullpen as it is right now, they are an average bullpen, and that is assuming health and that generally everyone in their bullpen will be at their peak performance in 2022. Realistically, they're more of a C- bullpen without any further additions after the lockout. As mentioned earlier and in other Twins Daily articles, Richard Rodriguez would be a fine addition to the Twins bullpen. Other names in the reliever free-agent market that might be worth pursuing include Brad Boxberger, Joe Smith, and Joe Kelly. Any reliever who has had postseason experience would be a great addition for the Twins, even if they don't compete in 2022. But having another reliever with that experience with a different to mentor Twins relievers who will be around after 2022 will pay off for the future. So if the season started today, how do you think the Twins bullpen as currently constructed?
  12. TAYLOR ROGERS 2021: 40 1/3 IP, 3.35 ERA (128 ERA+), 2.13 FIP, 35% K, 5% BB Rogers bounced back from a rough 2020 as the Twins’ steadiest bullpen piece throughout the first half. Over his first 35 appearances, Rogers posted a 2.45 ERA and 2.02 FIP while holding opponents to a .600 OPS. The All-Star lefty then gave up five runs over his next 1 2/3 innings, including a grand slam in the Twins’ last game before the break. Rogers’ season ended shortly after due to a sprained finger. The ERA paints a much worse picture for Rogers in 2021, but he was essentially the same weapon he’s been for much of his career. Even then, his looming ~$7 million price tag and finger injury could give the Twins a tricky decision on arbitration day. GRADE: A- TYLER DUFFEY 2021: 62 1/3 IP, 3.18 ERA (134 ERA+), 3.49 FIP, 24% K, 11% BB Duffey entered 2021 as one of the game’s best set-up men with a remarkable 2.31 ERA and 34% strikeout rate in 2019 and 2020 combined. Alarmingly, Duffey’s velocity was down this spring, raising questions about his arm heading into Opening Day. Those concerns were valid. Duffey posted a 5.87 ERA and 20% strikeout rate over his first 15+ innings of the season. His velocity dwindled, and his luster as a lockdown set-up man was on shaky ground. Fortunately, Duffey bounced back with a 2.30 ERA over his last 47 innings, solidifying himself back in the top-25 among American League relievers. Still, his fastball velocity is down over a tick from 2019, and he walked way too many. GRADE: B- JORGE ALCALA 2021: 59 2/3 IP, 3.92 ERA (109 ERA+), 4.06 FIP, 27% K, 6% BB Alcala was terrific in the shortened 2020 season, posting a 2.63 ERA and 29% strikeout rate in 24 innings. A full season breakout felt viable in 2021 for the hard-throwing right-hander. Like Duffey, Alcala got off to a plodding start, evidenced by a 5.73 ERA and .464 opponent’s slugging percentage in his first 40 games. Alcala struck out just 22% of hitters during that span. Alcala’s stuff is too good for such inflated numbers. With improved command in his final 22 innings, Alcala allowed just two runs (0.82 ERA) while striking out 27 and walking only three of the 77 batters he faced. GRADE: B- CALEB THIELBAR 2021: 64 IP, 3.23 ERA (132 ERA+), 3.47 FIP, 29% K, 7.5% BB One of the best stories of the 60-game campaign, Thielbar posted a 2.25 ERA and 2.34 FIP in his first 20 Major League innings since 2015. Thielbar continued a strong 2020 season immediately in 2021. He struck out nine and walked none over his first 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Thielbar subsequently allowed 15 runs over his next 27 innings, contributing to a shaky Twins bullpen. The Northfield native then put together an outstanding second half. He produced a 1.76 ERA with a 25% strikeout rate after the break. Thielbar emerged as the Twins’ best left-handed reliever after Rogers went on the injured list. His spot on next year’s team feels secure. GRADE: A ALEXANDER COLOMÉ 2021: 65 IP, 4.15 ERA (103 ERA+), 4.23 FIP, 20% K, 8% BB The Twins signed Colomé to be the pitcher he’d been over his entire eight-year career. Colomé owned a 2.95 ERA and saved 138 games before signing with Minnesota last offseason. His debut couldn’t have gone any worse. Starting with a blown save on Opening Day, Colomé allowed 16 runs and five homers over his first 26 2/3 innings with the Twins. His Win Probability Added was a staggering -2.29. Colomé eventually found his stride and pitched much better down the stretch, with a 3.29 ERA and 3.38 FIP over his last 38 games. Colomé served as the Twins’ primary closer and saved 15 of 19 games from late June to the end of the season. GRADE: D+ JUAN MINAYA 2021: 40 IP, 2.48 ERA (173 ERA+), 3.97 FIP, 26% K, 12% BB Opponents hit .189 with a .624 OPS against Minaya, whom the Twins signed to a Minor League deal before the season. He upped the usage of his outstanding changeup, which increased the effectiveness of his mid-90s fastball. Minaya had previous Major League success with the White Sox, but this was his best season. His ground-ball rate rose to a tremendous 55%, and he posted a career-high 1.1 Wins Above Replacement. Minaya’s peripherals - a 3.97 FIP in particular - create some uncertainty for sustaining success in 2022. Either way, the Twins have a ~$1 million decision to make, and there’s certainly space for him in the bullpen. GRADE: A HANSEL ROBLES 2021: 44 IP, 4.91 ERA (87 ERA+), 4.83 FIP, 23% K, 13% BB Robles had a disastrous 2020 season for the Angels after a stellar 2019 where he posted a 2.48 ERA and saved 23 games. The Twins signed him for $2 million, betting that the Covid season was an outlier for the hard-throwing veteran. It looked that way early. Robles was fantastic with a 2.83 ERA through June 12th. Opponents hit .172/.305/.283 off him during that span. Unfortunately, iffy command caught up to him and previously escaped jams no longer were. Robles allowed 15 runs over his next 15 1/3 innings and slashed much of the trade value he previously had. The Twins moved him to the Red Sox at the deadline for RHP Alex Scherff, and Robles pitched reasonably well down the stretch with a 3.60 ERA and 30% strikeout rate. GRADE: D REPORT CARDS Starting Rotation Infield Outfield
  13. Over at the Athletic, Eno Sarris wrote about an intriguing pitch being used more regularly across the league. Some people call it the Dodger Slider, while others refer to it as the Sweeper. A sweeper is a breaking pitch that is thrown faster than 77 mph with more than 6.5 inches of glove side movement and -2 inches of depth from 40 feet. Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson is known for his focus on sliders, and this might be one reason the Twins have been so successful with this pitch. So how do the Twins compare to the rest of the league? Los Angeles is the clear leader when it comes to using the Sweeper, but the Twins rank as the second-best AL team when it comes to this pitch usage. The Yankees are not far behind the Twins, but the AL Central is much further behind. No other AL Central clubs rank in baseball's top-15. To rank this highly, Minnesota has seen multiple pitchers evolve their slider over the last handful of seasons. Jorge Alcala ranks as the Twins' best pitcher when it comes to Stuff+, where he ranks higher than Shohei Ohtani, Julio Urias, and Max Scherzer. Also, his slider ranks better than league average when it comes to horizontal movement. He uses his slider more than any of his other pitches, and he held batters to a .181 batting average and .277 slugging percentage on that pitch. His slider will be critical if Alcala is going to be part of the long-term bullpen solution. Taylor Rogers is another Twins pitcher that threw his slider more this season. He increased his slider usage from 43.3% to 54%. Both of his primary pitches, his sinker, and slider, rank well above the league average when it comes to horizontal movement. His unique arm action allows for a lot of natural horizontal movement, but what about a more obvious name? One name fans might expect to use a Dodger Slider is Kenta Maeda since he spent the majority of his career in the Dodgers organization. Three of his primary pitches get more horizontal movement than average, including his sinker, splitter, and four-seamer. However, his slider ranks below average (-2.5 inches) compared to the rest of the league. Former Twin Jose Berrios is known for the movement he can generate on his pitches, so he impacted the team's overall numbers this season. Three of his pitches (four-seamer, sinker, and curveball) all get more horizontal movement than the league average, with his curveball getting 5.2 more inches than average. Griffin Jax is one name that might surprise fans to appear on the leaderboards. When it comes to Stuff+, they rank ahead of Shane Bieber, Lucas Giolito, and Madison Bumgarner. Jax saw his slider and four-seamer get four more inches of horizontal movement compared to the average. Jax may also have seen some bad luck this year as his xBA and xSLG were both lower than the batting average and slugging percentage he allowed. There were plenty of reasons to criticize Minnesota's pitching staff this season, but there may be a silver lining beneath it all. If the Twins focus on developing the Sweeper, the highly anticipated pitching pipeline might finally arrive at Target Field. Do you think the Twins can continue to use the Sweeper? 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
  14. This week, Brock Beauchamp posted in the Twins Daily forums on the increasing value of the Ryan Pressly trade. While the irony of the Twins bullpen performing strongly long after they were out of contention is not lost on most Twins fans, Alcala’s breakout may have been. In the second half of 2021, he made the leap to bona-fide high-leverage relief pitcher. Let’s begin by considering the big picture before we dive into the minutiae. Alcala may not have remained with the big league team all season given his first half if the rest of the Twins pitching wasn’t struggling so much. He put up a 4.67 ERA, 2.3 HR/9, 5.53 FIP, and just a 23% K%, pretty underwhelming for someone who can throw 100 mph. The second half, however, was a different story, Alcala managed a 2.88 ERA, 0.36 HR/9, 2.01 FIP, and a 32% K%, (Wow!) Alcala massively improved his ability to limit hard contact, keep the ball in the ballpark, and strike opposing hitters out, so, what changes led to this development? Tweaking his Pitch Mix Let’s start with Alcala’s pitch mix. In order for him to become a consistent back-end bullpen arm, Alcala has been working on incorporating a changeup into his pitching repertoire since the beginning of the 2020 season. Early in his career (and the first half of 2021), Alcala’s fastball was prone to be hit hard due to poor control and command. Alcala has reduced his use of his fastball from around 65% when he broke into the league in 2019 to just 36.6% at the end of the 2021 season. Similarly, he has increased his changeup usage to 16%, as his comfort with the pitch has grown. The value and effectiveness of Alcala’s changeup has increased significantly, due to his improved command and ability to keep the pitch down in the zone, and his ability to develop arm-side run when throwing it. A More Effective 4-Seam Fastball In addition to tweaking his pitch mix, Alcala’s fastball has become significantly more effective in 2021. Alcala has pushed the location of his four seam fastball further up the strike zone. Additionally, Alcala has developed over three inches more horizontal movement when throwing this pitch. Velocity in the high 90s with no lateral movement is one thing. Velocity in the high 90s with four inches of horizontal movement is another. This is leading to less consistent contact on the pitch. Improved Command If you want overall indicators of improved control from Alcala in 2021, they are everywhere. His first-pitch strike% improved 11.4%, his in-zone% improved 6.7%. What the Twins now have on their hands is a reliever who throws in the high 90s, has two strong complimentary pitches, an excellent BB%, and has shown the ability to implement changes which improve his command, and the movement of his pitches. A dominant Jorge Alcala, coming to a bullpen near you in 2022.
  15. For much of the early part of 2021, the relief pitching let Rocco Baldelli’s club down. Alex Colome was no longer close to his career numbers, and Tyler Duffey had seen substantial regression. The guys expected to step up failed to do so, and the Twins were left searching for answers on a near-nightly basis. There are a few givens are going into 2022, but a couple of guys have made cases for themselves to stick around despite potentially being on the outs previously. Derek Falvey has his work cut out for him, but the more he can count on internally, the less turnover the roster will ultimately need to experience. Here’s how I see the group: The Veterans - Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey It looked like a near-certainty that Rogers would be dealt at the deadline. That was before injury put him on the shelf and ended his season. He’ll return in 2022, and Minnesota will undoubtedly be hoping that he returns to form as one of the best lefties in the game. Duffey’s 3.45 ERA is fine on its own, but it’s a far cry from the 1.88 mark he put up just a year ago. Strikeouts are down, and walks are way up. If the Twins have a better unit, they need his best during the final year of arbitration. The Surprises - Caleb Thielbar, Juan Minaya, Luke Farrell, Danny Coulombe Thielbar has been the best of this group. All but retired from baseball and moving onto coaching, he emerged as an option in 2020. This season hasn’t been quite as good, but the 11.2 K/9 is going to play. He’s given up too many dingers, but as a crafty lefty option, there’s plenty to like here. Minaya made his way back to the big leagues this season and has a career-best 2.70 ERA. He’s not dominant by any means, but as a middle-inning guy that’s gotten it done before, he certainly could stick. Both Farrell and Coulombe were depth types for the Twins. Each has seen stretches of effectiveness, and while their ceilings are admittedly limited, one could lay claim to a spot in 2022. The Youth - Jorge Alcala, Ralph Garza, Jovani Moran Minnesota counted on Alcala to take a step forward this season. As a whole, the results have been underwhelming given the 4.20 ERA. However, his last 15 games have resulted in a 1.00 ERA and .501 OPS against. He has a 21/3 K/BB in his last 18 innings pitched. That’s the arm the Twins need out of the gate. Garza was a nice get from the Astros, and he’s been effective with the organization. His strikeout numbers are down some, but he’s looked the part of a middle reliever that can get big leaguers out. Moran isn’t yet established as a future fixture, but he dominated on the farm again this year, and getting a taste going into the offseason should help him prepare to stick in the future. Minnesota used 22 different relievers in 2021, and the pen was often constructed with eight or nine arms. They’ll need better depth and higher ceilings if there’s any interest in being a better unit a year from now. Maybe Alex Colome is asked back as well, but they’ll need to be picky with who is counted upon from a group that severely underwhelmed out of the gate. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  16. Box Score Bailey Ober: 5 ⅓ IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K (67.7% strikes) HR: Max Kepler (13), Brent Rooker (2) Bottom 3 in WPA: Miguel Sanó (-0.236), Jorge Alcala (-0.149), Danny Coulombe (-0.109) Win Probability Chart (via Fangraphs) Early Offense Saturday night was characterized by a distinct lack of hitting ability, but Sunday quickly proved to be a different story. Max Kepler continued his hot streak by blasting a lead-off homer to kick off the scoring. In the time it took this author to inform his mom of what Kepler did, Brent Rooker, the breaker of no-hitters, absolutely launched a titanic bomb that landed somewhere in Canada. Coming into the game, Kepler had been slugging .597 since July 4th (date chosen for no particular reason). A streak of good health has been a blessing for the outfielder who has been inconsistent since his 2019 breakout. For Rooker, the opportunity is golden. The DH spot is wide open now that Nelson Cruz is on the Rays, and Rooker must impress in a speedy manner if he wishes to be a mainstay in 2022 and beyond. Blasting a ball like that off of a righty is an excellent start. A Familiar Face Returns Jake Cave made his first start for the Twins since May 12th. The added depth is much welcomed as the team has run through approximately 1053 different center fielders in 2021. Cave can provide relief for a struggling Gilberto Celestino. This is more of a result of improper seasoning than an indictment on Celestino’s upside, which simply needs more time to be seen. At any rate, it’s good to see Cave back off the IL. Ober The Hills And Far Away The oak-like rookie made another impressive start on Sunday. Ober punched out four while allowing a pair of earned runs in what is now his longest career start (5 ⅓ IP). Ober could have gone longer, but the team has been especially careful in limiting his innings in 2021 since he did not get to pitch in games in 2020. His xFIP of 4.19 on the year places him among names like Zack Greinke, Aaron Civale, and Casey Mize. Ober may only make a handful of starts down the stretch, though. Sunday’s affair brought him to 59 ⅓ innings pitched split between St. Paul and Minnesota in 2021. His previous high mark came in 2019 when Ober threw 78 ⅔ innings between three levels of the minors. It is unclear just how many more innings the team will allow him to throw-either in an effort to match his career high or lightly pass it-but it can be solidly predicted that the team will be conservative in his workload going forward. Enjoy watching him while you can! Where Did The Momentum Go? Despite getting off to a fast 2-0 start, the Twins let their lead slowly slip away. Max Stassi proved to be an especially pesky enemy as he tripled and homered to bring the game to a tie. With the game tied, the unrivaled Shohei Ohtani took one look at a hanging Danny Coulombe slider and bazooka’d it out of right field. After Rooker’s homerun, the Twins offense let Jamie Barria settle into a groove. The righty put the homers behind him, and cruised through seven innings of work with just four baserunners allowed after the homers. None of the two Twins hits after the 1st went for extra bases. The inability of the Twins to push more runs across after getting off to such a hot start has been an issue the entire season and, once again, put a dent in their chances of winning on Sunday. It was a close 3-2 game headed into the top of the 9th. The game was still well within grasp for the Twins even if they did not have the strongest part of the lineup set up for the bottom of the inning. But, things got messy. Jorge Alcala gave up a single, a double, and another single in succession, and the Angels notched two more runs. Los Angeles would have six runs on the board when it was all said and done. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Colomé 26 22 0 11 0 10 69 Alcala 24 0 0 0 10 24 58 Duffey 0 38 0 0 0 0 38 Thielbar 17 16 0 0 16 0 49 Coulombe 5 0 32 0 0 18 55 Rogers 0 0 0 18 0 0 18 Robles 7 0 0 0 0 0 7 Minaya 0 0 0 20 0 0 20 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. Injuries are obviously impacting multiple players listed below. In a perfect world, the Twins would be able to trade away all their veterans for valuable pieces, but almost nothing has gone perfectly for the Twins in 2021. That being said, here’s some of the roster shuffle that will occur over the next month. DH: Miguel Sano Replaces Nelson Cruz Miguel Sano seems destined to be the team’s DH throughout the remaining years on his contract. There are only a handful of contending teams that need help at DH, but the most logical choice might be the AL’s best team. Brent Rooker is another possibility to get some DH at-bats in the season’s second half. At Triple-A this year, he has an .861 OPS with 10 home runs and three doubles and it seems like he’s become Minnesota’s forgotten prospect. Moving Sano off first base also allows Alex Kirilloff to start getting more consistent reps at first, which is his expected long-term defensive position. SS: Jorge Polanco Replaces Andrelton Simmons Minnesota is likely hesitant to move Polanco back to shortstop, but the team’s other options are limited. Royce Lewis was supposed to be the heir apparent, but he’s out for the year. He likely won’t be ready at the beginning of 2022, so the Twins will be players in the best free agent shortstop class in baseball history. There are some benefits to moving Polanco back to short. This allows the team to get a longer look at Nick Gordon as the team has kept him on the active roster over Gilberto Celestino and Willians Astudillo. At Triple-A, J.T. Riddle has gotten most defensive starts at shortstop, but he only has .675 OPS and he’s not part of the team’s long-term plans. SP: [Break In Case of Emergency] Replaces Michael Pineda This is going to be the toughest spot to replace, because Twins pitching has be historically bad this season. Minnesota has already added Randy Dobnak and Bailey Ober to the rotation, but where does the team turn to next? Top pitching prospect Jhoan Duran was put on the IL this week with a strained right elbow, so it doesn’t seem likely for him to pitch bulk innings at the big-league level this season. Jordan Balazovic, the team’s other top pitching prospect, has allowed 10 earned runs in 14 innings so far in 2021. Charlie Barnes and Griffin Jax can be given longer looks as rotational options, but these aren’t the exciting prospects fans have eagerly been waiting to see. RP: Jorge Alcala Replaces Hansel Robles Outside of Taylor Rogers, Robles has been the team’s most consistent reliever. To take over his late inning role, I’m all on board the Jorge Alcala train. He’s been working on increasing his changeup usage so he can be more effective versus left-handed batters. He has the potential to be a late-inning shutdown arm and the team needs to give him the opportunity to prove if he can sink or swim in this role. Minnesota’s bullpen will need an overhaul for 2022, but the team can use the rest of 2021 as a tryout for players in different roles. Can these play better than the players they are replacing? 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. Many relief pitchers can be successful by relying on two to three pitches. For instance, Taylor Rogers has found a lot of success at the big-league level by throwing a two-pitch mix with his fastball and a slider. Relievers can use their best pitches, because they don’t have to worry about facing a hitter multiple times in the same game. Some pitchers are forced to adjust their repertoire if they aren’t finding success. Jorge Alcalá was part of one of the biggest trades under the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine regime. He came to the Twins along with Gilberto Celestino as part of the Ryan Pressly deal. At the time of here is what Baseball America said, “Alcalá has a plus-plus fastball, but there are times as a starter where he gears down to try to maintain his stamina. At his best, he’s reached triple digits in the past. There are days when Alcalá looks like a one-pitch pitcher trying to start, but seen on the right days, he has the makings of being a devastating bullpen option.” Alcalá has shown flashes on turning into a devastating bullpen option, but lefties have given him headaches during his big-league career. Entering play on Wednesday, left-handed hitters had posted a .306/.397/.629 (1.026) slash-line when facing Alcalá. Compare that to the .389 OPS righties had compiled against him and it’s easy to see that something was going to have to change if he was going to progress to being used in more high leverage situations. During his big-league tenure, Alcalá has focused on throwing a fastball and a slider and since that hadn’t worked against lefties, the Twins encouraged him to work on his changeup. He threw the pitch to lefties 24 times during the 2020 season and held them to a .125 BA and a .250 SLG. His changeup breaks down and in on lefties which can make it a tough pitch to square up if he is locating it. “(Alcalá is) making adjustments,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s going out there and figuring out that sometimes facing left-handed hitters as a whole and facing left-handers and right-handers is going to be different, and you’re going to have to have — I end up calling them tricks, sometimes, but you end up coming to have a different approach.” Alcalá is going to have to keep working with the pitch and he knows the importance of what it will mean for the future of his career. “What you practice is the result you get,” Alcalá told reporters through an interpreter. “If it’s working for me in the bullpen or in practice, I think it’s going to work for me during the game. That’s my mindset. His changeup is still a work in progress, but it is the pitch that might transform him from middle reliever into a dominant late-inning option. Do you think one pitch can make the difference for Alcalá? Leave a COMMENT and star the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  19. 1. Taylor Rogers Much like in 2019, Taylor Rogers has been one of the few options Baldelli can trust in the late innings of games. At season’s start, it seemed like Rogers would be used in more of a set-up role with Colomé getting more of the closing opportunities. Until Colomé can figure it out, Rogers will be used as the closer and he has the team’s highest level of trust. 2. Hansel Robles Robles was brought in to help add veteran depth to the bullpen and he has made a good impression so far this year. His xBA ranks in the 82nd percentile and his wOBA ranks in the top 7% of the league. One of the biggest changes for him this season is his pitch usage. From 2015-18, he used his changeup less than 10% of the time. So far in 2021, he has used his changeup over 50% with his fastball usage dropping from 45% in 2020 to 31% in 2021. 3. Tyler Duffey Duffey has been one of the baseball’s best relievers over the last two seasons. In fact, MLB Network had him in their top-10 relievers entering the season. So far this year, he hasn’t looked like his dominating self as he ranks in the 24th percentile or lower in nearly every Statcast metric. Baldelli still shows trust in Duffey with the hope that he can make some adjustments moving forward. 4. Cody Stashak Stashak is striking out batters at the highest rate of his career with a K% north of 36% that ranks him in the top 6% of the league. On the other hand, batters are barreling up the ball against him quite regularly. His 20 barrel% is in the bottom 1% of the league and it is 6.5 percentage points higher than his previous career high. 5. Jorge Alcala Alcala might have the best raw stuff in the Twins bullpen and an argument can be made for him being given more high leverage spots as the season progresses. One of the toughest things for Alcala has been his inability to get left-handed hitters out on a consistent basis. For his career, lefties have a 1.178 OPS against him in 55 plate appearances. If he wants to earn more high leverage appearances, he needs to improve against southpaws. 6. Caleb Thielbar With Rogers moving into the closer role, Thielbar will be critical for when the team is facing lefties before the ninth inning. Since rejoining the Twins last year, he has posted a 2.53 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 32 innings. 7. St. Paul Train (Derek Law, Luke Farrell, Devin Smeltzer) The Twins will likely continue to shuffle through players at the backend of the bullpen, especially if a player pitches multiple innings the previous day. These players aren’t going to be relied on for high leverage situations, so there doesn’t need to be a lot of trust in using them. 8. Alexander Colomé Colomé’s start to the season has been disastrous. Until he shows signs of improvement, the teams should have little trust in him. How would you rank the bullpen by level of trust? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. Following a strong rookie campaign, Jorge Alcalá logically had higher expectations entering the 2021 campaign. Things haven’t gone perfectly to start the year, but with a couple of small changes, Alcalá might be the key to turning the Twins bullpen around. Last season, Alcalá appeared in 16 games and posted a 2.63 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP. He struck out nearly 29% of the batters he faced and posted a 163 ERA+. He ranked in the 75th percentile or higher in average exit velocity, hard hit %, barrel %, and K %. Based on those numbers, it was easy to envision Alcalá taking on a high leverage role at some point during the 2021 season. Alcalá has made seven appearances so far in 2021 and only two of those appearances have come in a Twins win. In fact, both of those wins were by six runs or more, so his role hasn’t been in the high leverage situations. On Sunday, Alcalá got five strikeouts in two innings including nine whiffs on 14 swings. This was a welcome sight after he entered play with a 20 K%, which was well below his career average. MLB Statcast has him ranked in the 40th percentile or lower in max exit velocity, hard hit %, xERA, xWOBA, xSLG. The most disturbing stat might be the fact that his barrel % ranks in the bottom 4% of the league as batters are barreling up the ball against him 17.6% of the time. One of the biggest reasons for these poor numbers so far this year might be tied to his pitch usage. During the 2020 season, Alcalá used his fastball and slider for nearly the same percentage of pitches. He used his four-seamer 46.4% of the time, while his slider was used 44.7% of the time. There has been a large increase in his fastball usage this year as he is up to 55%, which means his slider usage has dropped nearly seven points. It seems like increasing his slider usage would be a natural solution for avoiding more barrels. There’s no reason to throw Alcalá directly into a late inning role, especially with some of the other names ahead of him in the bullpen pecking order. That being said, he has been used in mostly low leverage situations or when the team was up big early in the season. He’s less experienced than other bullpen options, but look for his role to increase as the season progresses. Rocco Baldelli needs some arms he can rely on in the bullpen and Alcalá just might be the man to help turn the bullpen around in 2021. What do you think Alcalá can provide to the Twins? What should his role be moving forward? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  21. Jorge Alcala, RHP Alcala has 18 big league games under his belt, but the 2021 season can be an opportunity to prove he belongs in Minnesota’s long-term relief plans. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli already showed confidence in Alcala by using him in the seventh inning or later in every September appearance last season. Minnesota’s bullpen looks different for 2021 and this can allow Alcala to take on an even more important role. When the Twins acquired Alcala, he was still being used as a starter, but his transition to reliever has come with excellent results. Minnesota’s bullpen pecking order will likely fluctuate throughout the 2021 season with players serving in different roles depending on the situation. Can Alcala move up the depth chart throughout the season? Jhoan Duran, RHP Last winter, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said that he expected Jordan Balazovic and Jhoan Duran to both make their MLB debuts in 2020. Obviously, the shortened season stopped that from happening, but both players seem primed for a debut in 2021. Here at Twins Daily, Duran is the highest ranked pitcher in our annual top-20 prospect list and there is plenty to be excited about when thinking about what he can add to the Twins starting staff. He might be the most exciting starting pitching prospect to come through the Twins system in quite some time. With an electric fastball and improving off-speed offerings, Duran can provide a mid-season boost for the Twins, especially if the White Sox are hot on their tails. The question is, how high is his ceiling? Shaun Anderson, RHP Matt Wisler was a breakout pitcher for the Twins last season after the team brought him in and told him to concentrate even more on throwing his slider. He threw it over 83% of the time and found remarkable success. Minnesota felt comfortable enough with finding a Wisler replacement that they let him walk this winter. This season, Shaun Anderson hopes to follow a similar trajectory as Wisler. In 2020, Anderson threw his slider 53% of the time, so there is certainly room for him to use this pitch on a more consistent basis. However, there is a major difference between Wisler and Anderson as Anderson’s fastball averages 94 mph. He also ranks in the 92nd percentile when it comes to fastball spin. Working with Wes Johnson might allow Anderson to find the right mixture of these two pitches. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B While Duran moved up our rankings to the number one pitching spot, Kirilloff and Royce Lewis both can make a claim as the team’s top overall prospect. At some point in 2021, he is going to take over as a starting outfielder and the Twins hope he stays there for most of the next decade. Back in 2018, he was one of the best hitting prospects in all of baseball, but the 2019 season saw injuries take a toll. He was able to homer four times in five playoff games that season, so the power potential is there. His hit tool separates him from the crowd as he can spray the ball to all fields. As I have previously written, his minor league spray charts should be hung in a museum. His advanced approach at the plate should help him to transition to the big-league level. Kirilloff avoids swings and misses and he should pencil into the middle of Minnesota’s line-up for years to come. Who do you think will breakout for the Twins in 2021? 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
  22. First, you can get up to speed on the 'why and how' behind these rankings by reading Monday's introductory post. If you're already hip, proceed to find my choices (and reasoning) for the 16th-through-20th most valuable assets under Minnesota's control as 2021 gets underway. 20. Keoni Cavaco, SS 2020 Ranking: NR The 20th spot in these rankings is one I always wrestle with most. There are so many different players with good arguments to appear on the list; this selection becomes a battle between many semi-critical assets, whose competing qualities are fundamental to this exercise. Which is more indispensable to the Twins' plans: a proven MLB commodity with a relatively low ceiling (i.e. Randy Dobnak, Jake Cave), versus a near-ready prospect with moderate upside (i.e. Travis Blankenhorn, Edwar Colina), versus a more distant and uncertain project with game-changing potential? Ultimately, I landed on the latter, best represented in the system by Keoni Cavaco. No, he hasn't done anything of note as a professional yet, posting a paltry .470 OPS in his first turn at rookie ball in 2019. But the Twins believed in him enough to take him 13th overall – the highest pick this regime has made outside of Royce Lewis (No. 1) in 2017 – because they so value Cavaco's athleticism and long-term ceiling. I have no special insight or information on the 19-year-old, especially coming off a lost minor-league season, but frankly I trust this front office enough to consider him an important part of the big picture going forward. Needless to say, 2021 will be a key year for Cavaco. 19. Brent Rooker, OF/1B 2020 Ranking: NR The former first-round pick reached the majors in 2020, just three years after being drafted, and was exactly as advertised: an advanced bat with big bop, exhibiting no signs of intimidation against MLB pitching. Rooker has factors working against him in the context of this list – namely, a lack of asset scarcity. Big, immobile sluggers who can only play first base and corner outfield are not hard to come by. He also happens to be a bit extreme in the traditional flaws of this profile: a sub-par defender and extremely strikeout prone. But on the flip side (pun intended), his raw power is at the highest end of the spectrum and Rooker shows potential to develop into a reasonably disciplined hitter. Although he only made 21 plate appearances as a rookie before breaking his forearm, he made a strong enough impression to solidify his place in the club's plans going forward. Rooker is inexpensively controllable for years to come. 18. Josh Donaldson, 3B 2020 Ranking: NR Donaldson signed after this list came out last year, so I didn't have to struggle with the challenging task of ranking him as an asset. It goes without saying he would've been higher at that point then he is now. The first year of Donaldson's historic contract was theoretically supposed to deliver the greatest value for the Twins, but was mostly a bust. Now, he's entering his age 35 season with magnified durability concerns, still owed $70 million in guaranteed money over the next three years. In the scope of this discussion, Donaldson's huge salary is a significant drawback, limiting the front office's ability to build around him within payroll constraints. The need to prioritize adding depth behind him, due to his unreliable health, is also a negative. And yet ... to an extent, this is all counterbalanced by the monumental impact he's capable of making. Donaldson is the only former MVP on the roster, and someone who was elite both offensively and defensively just two years ago. He showed signs of being that same player while on the field in 2020. It's possible no other team would take on Donaldson's contract at this moment if they had the chance, which is why he ranks as low as he does here. But his presence will be crucial if Minnesota's is to capitalize on the current championship window. 17. Taylor Rogers, LHP 2020 Ranking: 12 One year ago, Rogers was a top-end closer, set to earn less than $5 million, yet he still didn't crack the top 10 in these rankings. That says a lot about the relative value of relief pitchers, who are – for better or worse – among the game's most fungible assets. (The Twins, having made a habit of letting quality bullpen arms walk, seem to live by this credo.) Rogers is now a year older and closer to free agency, although the Twins still control him for two more seasons. He's also coming off a tough campaign, albeit it a shortened one where his peripherals and underlying indicators remained strong. Set to earn $6 million, he's no longer the clear-cut bargain he once was. The lefty's value has surely dropped but his price isn't unreasonable, all things considered, and he remains an integral piece of this bullpen – especially with Trevor May moving on, and guys like Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard (for now) out of the picture. 16. Jorge Alcala, RHP 2020 Ranking: NR Like Rogers, Alcala has shown the ability to dominate out of the bullpen. The similarities end there. Whereas Rogers is a polished, experienced, time-tested relief fixture, Alcala is an up-and-comer with a sparse MLB track record. But that track record has yielded a 2.45 ERA and 9.8 K/9 rate in 25 ⅔ innings. The right-hander didn't exactly come out of nowhere. He was a big-ticket international signing by the Astros out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, and was the prospect headliner in a trade that sent Ryan Pressly to Houston in 2018. Though he predictably fizzled out as a starter, Alcala shows all the signs of a quality back-end reliever, and he's under team control for the next five seasons. If he can firmly establish himself as a lights-out setup man or closer in 2021, he'll move up this list. THE TOP 20 TWINS ASSETS OF 2021 20. Keoni Cavaco, SS 19. Brent Rooker, OF/1B 18. Josh Donaldson, 3B 17. Taylor Rogers, LHP 16. Jorge Alcala, RHP 11-15: Coming tomorrow!MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  23. Time can change the view of a trade, so here’s what was said back in 2018 at the time of the deal. What Did People Say at the Time of the Trade? Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said, "We had ranked all the relievers that we had interest in a few weeks ago taking a really deep look at all of them (and) we felt Pressly was the best combination for stuff, control — how much time he would be with us — and acquisition cost and ability to plug right into our bullpen. We like his stuff a lot." At the time, Twins general manager Thad Levine said, both scouts and data analysts found the team’s haul in the deal “very exciting.” When referencing the Eduardo Escobar trade and the Pressly deal, he said, “I believe four of them will go right into our top 30 prospects, and that’s meaningful. What we were able to accomplish yesterday may not pay dividends tomorrow, but on the horizon, that just got brighter.” Alcala was still starting in the Astros organization at the time of the trade. Here is what Baseball America said, “Alcala has a plus-plus fastball, but there are times as a starter where he gears down to try to maintain his stamina. At his best, he’s reached triple digits in the past. There are days when Alcala looks like a one-pitch pitcher trying to start, but seen on the right days, he has the makings of being a devastating bullpen option.” When looking at Celestino, Baseball America projected him to “end up as a plus defender in center with the ability to hit .270 with 15-20 home runs, with a fourth-outfield future as a decent fallback option.” When the Twins acquired them, Alcala and Celestino were among the top-15 prospects in the Astros' farm system, according to MLBPipeline.com. Pressly’s Houston Success Pressly has pitched a grand total of 78 1/3 innings in an Astros uniform over the course of three seasons. He was a first-time All-Star last season at the age of 30 after posting a 1.36 ERA in the first half. During that same stretch, he held opponents to a .176/.208/.282 slash-line with 47 strikeouts compared to six walks. He was one of the best relievers in the game, but things haven’t gone as perfectly since then. In 2019’s second half, Pressly ran into some struggles and dealt with an injury. His ERA jumped to 4.91 and his WHIP rose from 0.78 in the first half to 1.23 in the second half. He was forced to undergo arthroscopic right knee surgery and didn’t pitch in a game from August 15-September 21. He’d make the team’s postseason roster, but his ERA was 9.00 or higher in every round of the playoffs. So far in 2020, Pressly was in line to become Houston’s closer in place of Roberto Osuna. Pressly had a finger blister during Summer Camp and he has been dealing with elbow soreness. He left his only appearance of the year early with a cut on the cuticle above his thumbnail. The team seems optimistic that he will be able to avoid any extended time on the injured list. Minnesota’s Trade Return Jorge Alcala split time as a starter and reliever in 2019 and the Twins were aggressive with him after switching him to the bullpen. He made six relief appearances (10 2/3 innings) at Double-A and allowed two earned runs while holding opponents to a .502 OPS. At Triple-A, he did even better as he didn’t allow an earned run and he struck out 11 batters in 7 2/3 innings. He made two big league appearances as a September call-up and only allowed one hit. Since switching to the bullpen, Alcala has been able to focus on using his best two pitches, his fastball and his slider. His fastball is constantly in the mid-90s and so far this season it is averaging 96.8 mph. His slider has also ticked up a few miles per hour from 85.9 mph last year to 88.0 mph in 2020. He’s looking like he could be Minnesota’s closer of the future. Gilberto Celestino was added to the Twins 40-man roster this off-season after a breakout season. He was always seen as a strong defender, but his offensive improvements helped put him on the prospect map. He changed his base at the plate and started his swing earlier after working with Kernels hitting coach Ryan Smith. From May 9 through season’s end, he hit .303/.374/.464 with 38 extra-base hits in 98 games. Who Won the Trade? It will probably be multiple years before Twins fans will know if the organization “won” this trade. Houston got what they wanted out of the deal with Pressly turning into one of baseball’s best right-handed relief pitchers. He set an MLB record for consecutive appearances without giving up a run, the team has signed him to an extension, and he could be the team’s closer this season if he proves to be healthy. Minnesota got two players in return that could impact the big-league roster for multiple years. MLB.com updated their top-30 prospects this week and both Alcala (27) and Celestino (16) make the list. Alcala missed more bats than previous seasons and seems destined for a bullpen role. Celestino is one of the best defenders in the Twins system, but if his offensive improvements could make him an impact player at the big-league level. Looking back, what do you think about the trade? 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
  24. Back in 2016, the Twins revamped their front office by hiring Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. One of their biggest tasks in their first year on the job was preparing to have the number one overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. That draft was just the start of how they were able to add to Minnesota’s well stocked farm system. Minnesota’s current crop of regulars was moving through the system back in 2015-16 and that’s why the farm system ranked so highly. The new front office crew saw some of their impact after the 2017 MLB Draft and that continued into the following year’s draft. The results of their time at the helm are already being felt at the big-league level. 2017 Draft There were multiple options with the top overall pick back in 2017 with names like Hunter Greene, MacKenzie Gore, Brendan McKay and Kyle Wright all in the discussion. Minnesota decided Royce Lewis was the best option and he has been the organization’s highest-ranking prospect since he was drafted. Last season, Lewis finished at Double-A and under normal circumstances, he might have made his big-league debut this season. Lewis wasn’t the only strong pick in this draft. Brent Rooker was recently called up and he has been contributing to a team in the middle of a pennant race. Time will tell if he can develop into a big league regular, but his powerful swing should keep him on the roster. In the same draft, Minnesota had to offer Blayne Enlow a big signing bonus to lure him away from LSU and now he is one of the organization’s top pitching prospects. He might be a couple years away from debuting, but he add to the depth of the farm system. 2018 Draft Coming off a surprise run to the playoffs, the Twins had a much lower draft pick in 2018, but that didn’t stop them from finding players to restock the farm. Trevor Larnach was the team’s first round selection and he has developed into one of the best hitting prospects in the organization. He was the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year and the Florida State League Player of the Year. He finished last year at Double-A and now he has been part of the team’s 60-man roster that is working out in St. Paul. Another player from this draft, Ryan Jeffers, has played a pivotal role with the club due to Mitch Garver’s injury. When he was drafted, he was seen as a bat-only catcher, but he was given very little coaching on his catching defense throughout his collegiate career. Now, his 51.2% strike rate has him in the top-20 among all MLB backstops when it comes to catcher framing. Trades Add Depth Making trades is another way to stock a farm system and the Twins front office has already seen some of the rewards of those trades. Zack Littell was acquired back at the 2017 trade deadline as part of the Jaime Garcia trade and he has fit nicely into the Twins bullpen when healthy. At that same deadline, Minnesota added LHP Tyler Watson who pitched all last season at High-A with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. The 2018 trade deadline was where Minnesota was able to revamp the farm. Trading Eduardo Escobar to the Diamondbacks got the Twins back a trio of prospects including RHP Jhoan Duran, who is considered one of the team’s top pitching prospects. Also, Minnesota traded away Ryan Pressly for RHP Jorge Alcala and OF Gilberto Celestino. Alcala has shown electric stuff out of the Twins bullpen this year and Celestino could become a regular at the big-league level in the years ahead. For the Twins, this trade could pay dividends for multiple years into the future. How do you feel about the Twins consistency in their farm system? 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
  25. Before we get too deep into things, let’s step back for a quick reminder of how the Twins acquired pitching prospects Jhoan Duran and Dakota Chalmers. JHOAN DURAN The 22-year-old Duran is from the Dominican Republic. He signed with the Diamondbacks in December 2014 and worked his way up the ladder. In late July of 2018, he came to the Twins organization with outfielders Ernie de la Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel as part of the Eduardo Escobar deal. Twins Bench Coach Mike Bell was the Diamondbacks’ Vice President of Player Development for eight years. He said of trading Duran, “It was a painful trade, being on that side of it, watching him go. I was definitely in the room. I think it was a good trade for both teams. Escy’s a very good player, and a good teammate. I’ll tell you what, Duran is an incredible talent. I think he’s going to do a lot of good things here in the organization.” Get to know Jhoan Duran from this story from January, shortly after he was added to the Twins 40-man roster. At that time, he spoke of his best pitches. ““Obviously I feel most comfortable with my fastball, but I also have another pitch that I really like to use and feel really comfortable with, and that’s my sinker.” DAKOTA CHALMERS Dakota Chalmers was the 3rd round draft pick of the Oakland A’s in 2015 out of high school in Georgia. The highly-touted, hard-throwing prospect showed great stuff, but early in 2018, he had Tommy John surgery. In August of 2018, the Twins traded veteran closer Fernando Rodney to the A’s for Chalmers, knowing he would not be able to pitch until at least the second half of the 2019 season. He began making rehab appearances last July, and on July 30th, he debuted with the Ft. Myers Miracle. After a rough first start, he was really good in his final four starts before the end of the regular season. He then went up to Pensacola and pitched for them in the playoffs. And after that, he went to the Arizona Fall League where he struck out 25 batters in 17 2/3 innings. Like Duran, Chalmers became an easy choice to add to the 40-man roster after the season. We caught up with the 23-year-old at Twins Fest as well for this Get to Know him story. --------------------------------------- Now, back to their performances on Sunday. For each, it was their first appearance in Summer Camp intra-squad games. Hard to know what to expect. As pitching coach Wes Johnson pointed out, they weren’t necessarily looking for results. “I told those guys that it wasn’t, for me, as much about balls and strikes - as crazy as that sounds - it was How was their presence? We gave them some different situations. We started their second innings with runners on.” But it was hard not to notice that they each threw two scoreless innings, despite those situations. Also, Johnson added, “Both of those guys had to go through the heart of our order. That’s not easy. In my opinion, we have the best offense in baseball.” https://twitter.com/HagemanParker/status/1284955121277964296 Johnson said that Nelson Cruz provided the biggest compliment, “Nelson Cruz came up to me and said ‘Hey, both of those guys who just threw, they impressed me. They looked like they belonged, and they were in control.’ And I 100% agree with Nelson obviously.” Following Sunday’s game, Rocco Baldelli excitedly discussed Duran, Chalmers, and also hard-throwing reliever Jorge Alcala. He said, "I think all three of those guys are going to be impacting us at the big league level, and probably soon... The type of stuff we're talking about is the type of stuff that impacts major league games." Duran hit triple digits multiple times in 2019 in Ft. Myers and Pensacola. Chalmers has reached 97 at times. Alcala works 94 to 97 too. But for each of them, they have multiple pitches that could become, and maybe soon, plus pitches. Will that happen in 2020? While Duran and Chalmers have the stuff and the potential to be big league, impact starters, they are young. Also, in 2020, it becomes about opportunity. The Twins have a veteran pitching staff. Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill and Homer Bailey would appear to be the starting five at the beginning of the season. In addition, Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe all showed something in 2019 in the big leagues and give the team major-league-ready starting pitcher depth. So for 2020, especially the shortened 2020 season, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which they get the call to start this year. However, as Wes Johnson pointed out, “Crazy things happen, as you guys know. It’s crazy times. It’s going to be tough to answer that question. There’s always that possibility. We wouldn't have them here if we didn’t think that if we needed to we could call on them and bring them up.” Maybe even more important, these pitchers indicate that the Twins player development, and specifically, their pitcher development has come a long way. It also speaks to their pro scouting department to tout these guys as targets in that large group of late 2018 trades. Baldelli is excited about what they can be. “Those guys are going to help us win for a very long time.They don't just have pretty good stuff. They don't just have pretty good ability. They have elite traits that are going to allow them to get a lot of outs, a lot of swings and misses.” The reigning AL Manager of the Year specifically mentioned one of Duran’s pitches that he thinks can be great. “I don't even know what anyone wants to call the pitch Duran throws, as well, the splinker pitch, or I don't even know what to call it, but it's coming in hot. It moves and just kind of disappears.” https://twitter.com/SethTweets/status/1284997265300566018 While it is OK to question the plate discipline of Eddie Rosario, just watch the movement of that Jhoan Duran pitch from Sunday again. That’s not a pitch that can be hit, certainly not with any authority. The future is bright for the Twins, and specifically for these high-upside Twins pitchers. Remember that Jordan Balazovic isn’t even in the current Twins 60-player pool. Baldelli thinks this group is going to be special, and more importantly, it really continues to enforce just how much depth the Twins have on the mound. Baldelli noted, "What we're watching is not typical. You could watch some really good major league baseball and not see some of the stuff those guys threw out there today." So while Dakota Chalmers and Jhoan Duran are unlikely to make starts for the Twins in 2020, it’s not impossible to think that they could contribute out of the bullpen for stints if needed. And, it’s exciting to think of what they can become - and what it means for the health of the Twins organization - if they continue to develop and gain consistency moving forward. Their futures are quite bright.
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