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  1. Box Score SP: Devin Smeltzer: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K (80 pitches, 52 strikes (65.0%)) Home Runs: None Bottom 3 WPA: Tyler Duffey (-0.590), Max Kepler (-0.208), Nick Gordon (-0.197) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Despite a ninth-inning rally and a stellar outing from Devin Smeltzer, the Twins fell short to Kansas City by a score of 3-2 on Thursday night. The Twins outhit the Royals 12 to 6 and left 12 runners on base but ultimately fell short thanks to a three-run eighth inning from Kansas City. And while the loss was a tough one, starting pitcher Devin Smeltzer was an incredible icing on the cake for the Twins on the night. Called up from St. Paul to start for Joe Ryan (who was placed on the Covid IL), Smeltzer wasn’t just a replacement; he provided one of the strongest pitching outings the Twins have seen all year. After a quarter of the season spent flirting between Triple-A St. Paul and the Twins, Thursday evening proved that Smeltzer deserves a permanent spot on the Major League Roster. Smeltzer pitched seven innings of shutout ball while only allowing two hits and one walk, striking out six. The crafty lefty has started three games for the parent club this season and has passed the test with flying colors. Through those three games, Smeltzer has a 1.74 ERA in 17 ⅓ innings while only allowing two runs. Keep the man up. The Twins plated their first run in the second inning when Ryan Jeffers laced an RBI single to left field that scored Luis Arraez from second base. Originally perceived as a downgrade from Mitch Garver, Jeffers has been absolutely rock-solid all season. Thursday’s RBI was his fourth in his last three games and the Raleigh, NC native sits in the 95th percentile for pitch framing behind the plate. Not too shabby. The Twins struck again in the fourth inning. Jose Miranda put his recent slump in the rearview with a leadoff double (5) and was later scored by a Gilberto Celestino line-drive single to right field to put the Twins up 2-0. As highly-touted a prospect there is, Miranda’s woes at the plate drew attention from Twins Territory. Yet the 23-year-old rookie has excelled recently. Miranda notched a second-inning single in addition to his double on Thursday and has recorded two multi-hit games in the past week. There’s still a ways to go, but it’s relieving to see the young slugger find his footing. Following Smeltzer’s stellar outing, Tyler Duffey struggled in the bullpen, allowing three runs on four hits in the top of the eighth inning to give Kansas City the lead. The Twins mounted a rally in the bottom of the eighth thanks to a string of singles from Gary Sanchez, Gio Urshela, and Arraez. Yet with the bases loaded, the Twins were unable to plate a run. Rookie Yennier Cano had his first solid outing of the season, pitching the top of the ninth inning. After giving up a leadoff walk, Cano retired the next three batters to keep the Twins within a run going into the ninth inning. After a ninth-inning infield single from Byron Buxton, the Twins fell just short due to a pair of Fielders Choices and a sharply hit ball by Gary Sanchez that found the glove of Kansas City shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. Gio with the Glove Despite the loss, Gio Urshela made one of the finest plays the league has seen all season in the second inning. Web gem! What’s Next? The Twins continue their Memorial Day weekend series against the Royals tomorrow night at 6:40 p.m. CST at Target Field. Young talent Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.85 ERA) will face off against Brad Kelly (1-4, 3.40 ERA) on what is supposed to be a gorgeous night in Minneapolis. You can buy tickets to tomorrow night's game here. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
  2. ----------------------------------- Tyler Duffey. You know him; you may like him! The Duffman is now the longest-tenured Twins pitcher, debuting in 2015 back when Ryan O’Rourke and Blaine Boyer were a thing (Caleb Thielbar was technically on that team also, but he took a bunch of years off, so it doesn’t count the same). Evolution has defined his entire career; Duffey moved to a relief role in 2019, cut his changeup, and found new success as a reliable late-inning arm. He’s back to tinkering in 2022. 2019 is the pivotal year in this discussion. Yes, those previous seasons do count, but Duffey was a different pitcher, so different that analyzing those years does not help us. The Twins front office decided that Duffey would not be up to snuff as a starter (probably true) and moved him to the bullpen where his fastball/curveball combo could play up. Friends, that’s exactly what it did. Duffey averaged 94 MPH with his fastball and spent 57 ⅔ innings laying waste to batters to the tune of a 2.50 ERA with great peripherals (3.06 FIP, 2.94 xFIP). Success since that year has been inconsistent, though. He was better in 2020 (1.88 ERA, 2.57 FIP), but his peripherals fell off a cliff in 2021 (3.49 FIP, 4.19 xFIP, enough walks to start a protest). He became hittable and less deadly outside the strike zone, as both his O-Swing % dipped (33.9% in 2019 to 26.6% in 2021) and Contact % rose (69.2% in 2019 to 77.9% in 2021); a terrible combination for any pitcher. Oh, and he’s lost a tick and a half on his fastball. The fastball is perhaps the most interesting pitch in Duffey’s repertoire. His curveball always had deep, visceral movement, the kind of drop that pushes one to theorize that all stadiums have a baseball magnet hidden underneath home plate. His 4-seam fastball, though, never carried great traits. It spins a bit more than average but doesn’t ride in the way that Justin Verlander’s heater can look like it’s elevating towards heaven. Still, he had enough juice to effectively attack hitters at the top of the zone in 2019. In the years since? It’s a different story. That’s… something; he’s become unpredictable, which can help to a degree (the hitter can’t know where the pitch is going if you don’t either), but inconsistency has plagued him with this new strategy. His solution? Re-invite the sinker to the party. He’s thrown the sinker 10.8% of the time—mainly against righties—and has successfully thrown it in exactly one location. See if you can spot the pattern: The pitch has excellent Statcast outcomes, but with only six batted ball events against it, bringing up those numbers seems foolish. Overall, Duffey has had an inconsistent start to his season, more than what one would expect from any reliever. The good news is that he might be ahead of the curve by trying out his sinker more; the bad news is that it is unclear yet whether that plan will work. Either way, Duffey is a changed pitcher in 2022.
  3. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Sonny Gray 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K Homeruns: None Top 3 WPA: Sonny Gray .389, Gio Urshela .148, Carlos Correa .116 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) On Tuesday night, the Twins were out to secure another series win against Detroit. Here’s how they lined up against the Detroit Tigers. Sonny Gray came out looking comfortable on Tuesday night. Through his first two innings, he allowed two soft singles to Miguel Cabrera and Spencer Torkelson (66 mph and 71 mph respectively). Gray appeared ‘on’ from the get go, locating well, with Ryan Jeffers stealing plenty of close calls for the Twins pitcher. After a solid first inning, Tigers starter Beau Brieske ran into trouble in the second inning. He walked Max Kepler, who came around to score on a Gio Urshela single. Kepler would have been dead to rights at home plate, had Javy Baez not inexplicably indicated to Tigers’ left fielder Willi Castro to throw to second. The Twins were up, 1-0 after two innings. The Twins increased the lead in the third inning. Byron Buxton, mired in a slump, just missed a home-run to right center-field. The ball had a .970 xBA and was recorded at 105.7 mph off the bat, a promising sign. A Luis Arraez single and Carlos Correa double increased the lead to 2-0. In the top of the fourth inning, Jeimer Candelario scalded a ball into the right center field gap. Byron Buxton made his best catch of the season to prevent extra bases for Detroit. The Twins had a threat in the bottom of the fourth inning. Gio Urshela singled (110 mph) and Jose Miranda doubled (108 mph) to put men on second and third with one out. Ryan Jeffers flew out to center field and Gio Urshela was thrown out at home plate after tagging up at third. At the end of four innings, the Twins led just 2-0 in a game that could have been put on ice. Twins fans have to be encouraged by Miranda, who seems to be driving the ball more consistently in recent games. Meanwhile, Gray was on cruise control. Through five innings, he had given up three hits, one walk, and struck out six Tigers hitters on just 68 pitchers. In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Twins threatened again. Luis Arraez missed a home run to right field by a few feet and had to settle for a single. Carlos Correa and Gary Sanchez walked to load the bases with Max Kepler up, fresh off a grand slam on Monday night. Kepler flew out to shallow left field, not deep enough for Arraez to tag. Gilberto Celestino grounded out to end the inning. Through five innings, the Twins had seven hits, three walks, but only two runs to show for it. Gray had retired seven straight hitters when Jonathan Schoop singled in the top of the sixth inning. A rare passed ball by Ryan Jeffers moved Schoop to second base, with no outs. Gray bucked down, striking out two of the next three hitters to escape the inning unscathed, his seventh and eight strikeouts of the game. In the bottom of the inning, Gio Urshela led off with his third hit of the game, before Jose Miranda grounded into a double play to extinguish yet another Twins scoring opportunity. Gray came out to start the seventh inning with a pitch count of 83. He left it at 95 pitches, having retired the side in order and struck out 10 in seven innings of scoreless work. Tyler Duffey relieved Gray in the eighth inning. Duffey struck out two and retired the side in order on just 12 pitches. The Twins offered nothing in the bottom of the eight inning, leaving Jhoan Duran to close the game out for Minnesota. Duran allowed a single to Miguel Cabrera and hit Jeimer Candelario to put runners on first and second base with one out. Duran got Willi Castro to ground into a double play to secure the shutout for the Twins. The Twins have now won six in a row, their second such streak in 2022. They’ve won four series in a row since being swept by Houston and sit 11 games over .500, with a 5.5 game lead over the White Sox. So sound the clubhouse gong, its just like Max Kepler said, ‘vibes over everything.’ Bullpen Usage Chart - FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Jax 18 0 0 33 0 51 Pagán 19 0 0 28 0 47 Duran 16 0 17 0 14 47 Duffey 18 0 14 0 12 44 Cano 0 0 38 0 0 38 Smith 0 21 0 17 0 38 Megill 0 0 31 0 0 31 Thielbar 0 18 0 3 0 21 Stashak 0 18 0 0 0 18 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will conclude their series against Detroit. Dylan Bundy starts for Minnesota, against Rony Garcia of the Tigers. First pitch is 12:10 CT. By the way, the game is on YouTube on Wednesday. Postgame Interviews
  4. If you’ve watched every outing of Emilio Pagán’s this season, you’re probably in a constant state of indigestion at this point. Time and time again he’s been trusted with high leverage after Tyler Duffey ceded such opportunities early in the season. Time and time again he’s flirted with disaster. Pagán’s struggles are no secret: Every time he takes the mound the opponent gets one free base runner at the very least. Pagán’s free passes have spiraled out of control in his last 6 outings in particular, in which he’s issued nine walks in 5 2/3 innings. To this point, he’s gotten the job done, although this stretch includes two saves recorded on full counts with bases loaded in one-run games, while another involved runners on 2nd and 3rd. After watching such outings, it’s fair to wonder when Pagán’s luck is going to run out. Emilio Pagán was always something of a reclamation project for the Twins after being acquired on Opening Day. After shining in Tampa Bay’s bullpen, he posted ERAs north of 4.50 in 2020 and 2021 in San Diego and quickly fell out of favor with the Padres. In San Diego, Pagán’s strikeouts dropped considerably from a 36% rate to a rate of about 26% during his two years with the Padres. More notably, Pagán started getting absolutely crushed. All of his quality of contact measurements such as hard-hit rate, barrels etc. cratered. Home runs became his Achilles Heel, although his walk rates still remained respectable at 10.3% in 2020 and just 6.8% in 2021. So where does Pagán’s near 25% walk rate come from in 2022? Before any trade talk even started, Pagán noted that he had planned to start throwing a splitter he learned from former all-star closer Kirby Yates this season. Long just a fastball/cutter pitcher, it sounded like a great idea as his lack of variety in his repertoire likely led to his loud contact issues. His early returns are good as the pitch has a 40% whiff rate and he has yet to allow a hit on it. It’s worth wondering however whether this new pitch has thrown him off his game a bit. This could be a case where the new splitter is directly accounting for more balls in Pagán’s appearances. The pitch is rarely actually in the strike zone, and all it takes is a scouting report and the ability to recognize it’s not a fastball or cutter, and hitters can sit back and watch it go by. It’s also worth noting that individual pitches can actually affect a pitcher’s overall repertoire. Chris Paddack is famous for losing a tremendous amount of ride on his fastball in San Diego after adding his curveball. Whether it’s psychological or physical, adding a pitch isn’t always just a plug-and-play situation. At any rate, Pagán appears to be making significant strides in the direction of becoming a valuable reliever again… except the disastrous walk rate. His whiffs are fantastic, his quality of contact has been much improved, and he now possesses a pitch mix that should conceivably be able to get hitters out on both sides of the plate. The question is whether he can once again figure out how to throw strikes. If not, all of his improvements become a moot point, as sooner or later his free passes will start crossing home plate. For a pitcher with a 7% career walk rate, it may be worth betting on Pagán’s recent issues being a blip on the radar rather than a crippling problem developed at the age of 31 after six seasons in the MLB. That being said, it’s a problem that needs to be fixed ASAP, and likely shouldn’t be done in the 9th inning with games on the line. The streak of “effectiveness” we’ve recently seen keeps looking more and more like good luck, and carrying these issues into the remaining four and a half months of the season simply will not end well. Emilio Pagán is doing a lot right, but it’s what he’s doing wrong that’s drawing the most attention. Can he get his walks under control or will his improvements from the last two years be wasted by too many free passes? — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  5. 1: Baldelli showed confidence in Duffey, and it paid off. Confirmation bias runs rampant in sports fandom, and it's one reason that every coach, manager, and official reliably receives an undue share of criticism. In recognizing this, it's only fair to give Rocco Baldelli his due. I wrote earlier this week, following Tyler Duffey's second costly meltdown of this young season, that Baldelli should act quickly in reducing the veteran's bullpen role. This was less a reaction to Duffey's two bad outings this year and more with an eye toward his overall regression since 2020. He just seems to have lost a ton. Alas, Baldelli turned back to Duffey in a big spot on Friday night. With the Twins down 1-0 in the eighth inning and the top of Chicago's order due up, Duffey took the ball and mowed 'em down. He struck out Tim Anderson and Leury Garcia before inducing a groundout from José Abreu. Threat neutralized. And along with it, the angry mob. For now. 2: Correa finally caught a break. The game started in signature fashion for Carlos Correa. He worked a good first AB against Michael Kopech before smashing a hard drive up the middle ... straight to the shortstop for a double play – his league-leading fifth of the season to quash a modest budding rally. Correa hasn't looked great at the plate by any means, and his whiff rate says it all. But he's also been dealing with some rotten luck. His exit velocities and hard-hit rates are near the top of the charts, but so often the outcomes have resembled the above. So it was nice to see fortune finally tilt in his favor in the eighth inning. With runners on the corners and two outs, Correa drilled a 98-MPH one-hopper into the hole between short and third. Anderson made a nice play on it to his right, but his off-balance throw to first missed wide and chaos ensued. By the end of it all, the Twins were in the lead and Correa was pumping up his teammates in the dugout. It was an unorthodox way to finally come through for the new team but we'll take it. 3: Baseball sure is a boring product right now. I guess Correa's eventful infield hit could be described as exciting, but there have been few such moments in the many innings of baseball played this week. What a dull and dreary product fans are receiving these days. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to have it. I realize that Major League Baseball could've easily been absent from our lives at this point, had the lockout not mercifully ended in March. But the quality of the play has just been really sub-par, with dead-ball era vibes across the league, and Friday was a perfect encapsulation. The Twins have been a big mess lately, yet Chicago was only messier. The winning runs scored on sloppy defensive plays, and the game featured a familiar lack of compelling offensive sequences. I was watching on TV with a few friends who are – I would say – at least moderate Twins fans. None of them could even sustain their attention on the ninth inning of a tightly contested one-run game. Even as a total diehard who revels in every intricacy of the game, I could feel their pain. It was a drag to watch. In the waning moments of a game where seemingly nothing ever happened, Emilio Pagán was battling through never-ending at-bats up until he finally escaped his self-made mess with a borderline strike three call. It was an unfulfilling end to an unfulfilling victory. I hope better days are ahead.
  6. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Bailey Ober, 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (79 pitches, 56 strikes, 70.8%) Home Runs: none Top 3 WPA: Carlos Correa (.462), Emilio Pagán (.152), Bailey Ober (.104) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Ober pitches solid five innings, but gets no help from the offense Earlier today, the Twins official Twitter account sent out the tweet below, which could’ve somehow put a little pressure on young starter Bailey Ober: But that’s exactly what didn't happen. The sophomore had a solid start to this game, dominating the White Sox lineup. With solid command, he threw over 72% strikes in the first three innings allowing only two hits. Unfortunately for the Twins, Chicago’s starter Michael Kopech also feasted off recently weakened Minnesota’s offense through the first portion of the game. Luis Arráez opened up the first inning with a leadoff single, but Carlos Correa grounded into a double play immediately afterward. In that same inning, Jorge Polanco reached on a walk but was caught trying to steal second, ending the threat. The first man in scoring position of the game was a Twin. Trevor Larnach hit a two-out double in the second, but Kopech followed that up by retiring the next eight batters, including four strikeouts. Ober pitched a clean fourth inning, but the White Sox got to him in the fifth, with Andrew Vaughn smashing a leadoff home run to center to make it 1-0 Chicago. Ober got into a bad spot when Reese McGuire followed that homer with a double, prompting an immediate mound visit by Wes Johnson. That helped him get back on track and he retired the next three batters to limit the damage to just the one run. Ober’s night was done after that inning, with Griffin Jax coming in to pitch the sixth. With tonight’s outing, Ober lowered his season ERA to 2.81 and the Twins rotation continues to be one of the best in the majors. You know, as we all have predicted a month ago, right? Jax, Bullpen perform brilliantly; wild defense from Chicago gives Twins the lead Griffin Jax came in trying to keep this a one-run game and he couldn’t have done a better job. He threw two scoreless and hitless frames on 29 pitches – 24 sliders (83%). He pitched around a leadoff walk in the sixth and went on to retire the next six batters, causing them to swing and miss 46% of the time. After a rough outing in Kansas City on Tuesday that cost the Twins a win, Tyler Duffey got a much-needed clean inning in the eighth. He retired the top of Chicago’s lineup in order on 13 pitches, including two strikeouts, giving the offense a chance to redeem itself in the bottom of the inning. Could they do it? Well, yes and no. The inning started out atrociously for Minnesota, with Miguel Sanó and Nick Gordon quickly retired on ten pitches. Ryan Jeffers stepped up to the plate and, also quickly, was down 0-2 in the count. Suddenly, things started to change in a wild way. In the third pitch of the at-bat, Jeffers crushed a ground-rule double to left-center, bringing Arráez to the plate. Luis worked a nice six-pitch walk to keep the inning alive and bring Correa to the plate. Slumping really hard on the season so far, “C4” swung on the second pitch and grounded to the hole in deep shortstop, enough to score Jeffers. But to make things better, Tim Anderson and José Abreu made a couple of awful throws that allowed Arráez to also score and Correa to make second. (Just watch this...) Emilio Pagán was brought in to pitch the ninth and try to earn the save, but things didn’t start well for him. He gave up a leadoff double to Eloy Jiménez and loaded the bases with only one out. After a hard-fought, nine-pitch at-bat, he got McGuire to pop out. Then, he almost lost Jake Burger for the last out but managed to strike him out on a full count. What’s Next? Game two of the series is tomorrow at 3:05 pm CDT, when Dylan Bundy (2-0, 0.87 ERA) tries to keep his hot start going facing righty Vince Velasquez (0-1, 4.15 ERA). Byron Buxton is expected to be back in the lineup. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Jax 47 0 0 0 29 76 Pagán 0 0 0 9 34 43 Duran 23 0 0 15 0 38 Romero 0 30 0 0 0 30 Duffey 0 15 0 0 13 28 Smith 6 2 0 16 0 24 Stashak 0 0 21 0 0 21 Thielbar 0 0 15 0 0 15 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 0 0
  7. To suggest that Duffey is solely responsible for the two losses he's been tagged with is not quite fair. In both cases he was working with an extremely thin late-game lead thanks to an offense that just can't seem to get going. Nevertheless, both on April 9th against Seattle and on Tuesday night against Kansas City, Duffey entered with a fresh inning and one-run lead. In both cases, those leads turned to deficits (and eventual losses) on his watch. As a result, Duffey enters play on Wednesday with the worst Win Probability Added (-0.88) among all major-league players. If this feels familiar, there's a reason. In 2021, Alex Colomé had the worst WPA in the majors by a wide margin for the month of April. We saw the effect his implosion had on the course of the Twins season. It's difficult not to feel a sense of déjà vu. Now, it also must be noted that we're dealing with incredible small sample sizes here. Duffey has made only three appearances this season. Making rash decisions on such a basis tends to be unwise. For example, Liam Hendriks also finds himself near the bottom of the WPA leaderboard – I doubt the White Sox are about to bump him into mop-up duty. But there is really no optimism to be drawn from Duffey's performance. He looks TERRIBLE. It seemed clear that he was on the road to regression last year as his peripherals all slid downward, but it was hard to envision such an extraordinary manifestation of this regression so rapidly. The main problem is that Duffey's fastball, which needs to be a reliable mainstay to set up his breaking ball, is an unusable pitch. He has thrown it 22 times so far and produced zero swings and misses. When putting the four-seamer in play, opponents are 4-for-6 with two doubles and a home run. The average exit velocity on this contact is a whopping 103 MPH. Good grief. Rocco Baldelli is short on alternatives at the back end of the bullpen presently, which casts a pall on the decision to trade Taylor Rogers on the eve of Opening Day. (Rogers, by the way, is 5-for-5 in save attempts with a 0.00 ERA for the Padres.) But using Duffey in big spots is simply not an option right now. He needs to be relegated to low leverage and unless things change quickly he's probably going to be on DFA watch. It's unfortunate to see from a well-liked player who's been with the organization for so long. But the Twins don't have the luxury of letting sentimentality affect their decision-making. Baldelli simply cannot stand idly by and let another season spin off the rails out of deference to a bad relief pitcher based on nothing more than stature and track record. He just can't.
  8. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Archer 4.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO Homeruns: None Bottom WPA: Duffey -.305, Jeffers -.204, Polanco -.177 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) On Tuesday night, the Twins opened up a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals. This is the first series against an AL Central opponent in the young season and offers an opportunity to see Bobby Witt Jr. for the first time. With Byron Buxton not yet ready to return to the lineup, much of the pregame banter ahead of the opening game of the series surrounded Luis Arraez and his first career start at first base. Shifting to first base allows the Twins a respite from Miguel Sano’s cold bat while navigating Arraez’s defensive struggles at third base. It also marked the highest Nick Gordon has hit in a lineup at the major league level. The Twins almost struck early, facing Carlos Hernandez, who came in with an ERA north of 8.00. Jorge Polanco reached on a walk and made second base on a Carlos Correa groundout. Max Kepler then flew out to Whit Merrifield on the edge of the warning track on a ball that seemed destined to be a home run before it hung up in the wind. Kepler’s 107 mph fly ball had an xBA of .720. Coming off a strong first start of the season against the Dodgers, Chris Archer struggled to find the zone in the first inning. He threw 10 of his first 22 pitches for strikes, giving up a single to Nicky Lopez and a walk to Salvador Perez, before Hunter Dozier struck out to end the threat after an early mound visit by Wes Johnson. The Twins were in business in the third inning. Gary Sanchez led off with a double. Ryan Jeffers immediately followed up with a single, and Tommy Watkins sent Sanchez home. Sanchez was thrown out by Michael Taylor on a close play at the plate. It was a questionable decision to send Sanchez, with no outs and Arraez up, not the first by Watkins this season. The error would prove costly. Despite an Arraez single, two quick outs resulted in a scoreless inning. The Twins finally broke through in the fourth. Nick Gordon hit a one-out triple after Max Kepler was given out on a questionable bang-bang play at first base (the Twins had used their challenge). A Gio Urshela scored Gordon, and Gary Sanchez’s second double scored Urshela, giving the Twins a 2-0 lead. The Royals cut the lead to 2-1 after a Salvador Perez home run in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Twins finally chased Hernandez in the fifth, when an Arraez double and a Correa single increased the lead to 3-1. When Hernandez left the game, the Twins had eight hits and nine batted balls over 100 mph, despite just three runs to show for it. Baldelli chose to pinch-hit Garlick for Gordon in the fifth to try and add more insurance, but he struck out to end the inning. Archer ran into trouble in the fifth. A soft Taylor single was followed up by another from Cam Gallagher. Archer then walked Merrifield to load the bases with one out. Archer then walked Lopez scoring a run to cut the lead to 3-2 and force Archer from the game. Mercifully, Joe Smith continued his ability to escape jams, getting Bobby Witt Jr to ground into an inning-ending double play. On the second pitch of the sixth inning, Salvador Perez deposited a Tyler Duffey fastball into the left-field bleachers for his second home run of the day, tying the game at three. Andrew Benintendi was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. Hunter Dozier gave the Royals a 4-3 lead, crushing another home run. Duffey gave up exit velocities of 104.9 mph, 104 mph, 109.8 mph, and 105.7 mph to the first four hitters he faced, a second brutal appearance this season, again surrendering a Twins lead. The Twins threatened at the top of the seventh when a Correa walk and Kepler single put two runners on. Garlick flew out to centerfield to end the inning. Jhon Romero pitched a scoreless bottom of the seventh and eighth for the Twins. The Twins' bats went quiet in the second half of the game. After recording eight hits in the first five innings the Twins managed one more in the final four. Fans can point to the base-running send error by Watkins or another implosion by Duffey. Either way, they lost another winnable game. Instead of losing to a team making a playoff push, they dropped a game they should have had against a team who should be propping up the AL Central basement at the end of the season. Bullpen Usage Chart THU FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Winder 28 0 66 0 0 0 94 Romero 34 0 11 0 0 30 75 Jax 0 22 0 0 47 0 69 Duran 0 34 0 0 23 0 57 Thielbar 18 0 0 17 0 0 35 Duffey 0 0 0 18 0 15 33 Pagán 20 11 0 0 0 0 31 Stashak 0 0 0 17 0 0 17 Coulombe 14 0 0 0 0 0 14 Smith 3 0 0 0 6 2 11 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins will continue their short series against the Royals. Chris Paddack aims to bounce back from a shaky first start against lefty Daniel Lynch. First pitch is at 7:10 CT. Postgame Interviews
  9. 10. Jorge Polanco - “Te Siento en Para” by Liro Shaq, Ceky Viciny, Bulin 47 Is this song actually good, or has it just been around long enough that we can’t live without it? The number of times I’ve hummed the hook to myself in the past few years was enough to secure a spot for this tune, tattooed forever in our eardrums. This music video has a modest 8.8M views on YouTube, with at least half contributed to the Twins’ gameday staff themselves. We do not recommend watching this video at work or in public. 9. Max Kepler - “London Calling” by The Clash This song was re-released twice before Kepler himself was born. This was the highest-charting single by The Clash until their monstrous hit, “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” Rolling Stone has it ranked as one of their “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” I can’t argue with greatness, but this tune doesn’t have the average fan busting out of their seat quite like some of the others on this list. Or at least this fan, who is under the age of 50 (sorry). The intro is catchy, though. 8. Nick Gordon - “Came and Saw (feat. Rowdy Revel)” by Young Stoner Life & Young Thug Full disclosure, I didn’t know this song or any of these artists before today. However, this made me root for more Gordon at-bats. The background trumpets and strong beat bring any couch potato to their feet. 7. Bailey Ober - “Public Service Announcement” - Jay-Z “Public Service Announcement” was one of the many hits from Jay-Z’s 2003 album, “The Black Album,” which included other hits such as "Encore" and "Dirt off Your Shoulder." As YouTube user NATO FORCE RECORDS said three months ago, “2022 and I’m still here.” Allow Ober to reintroduce himself this season as one of the aces of this pitching staff. 6. Luis Arraez - “Ojos Colorau” by Mora “Ojos Colorau”, which translates to “colored eyes”, starts off as a slow ballad but abruptly picks up the pace after the first chorus. Mora is a young artist, hailing from Bayamón, PR, the hometown of José Berríos. May all of our young rookies who start the season off slowly also abruptly pick up the pace. 5. Josh Winder - “Please Take Me Home” by Blink 182 Like many others born between 1990 and 1998, Winder is an elder millennial who stomped around their bedroom listening to the greatest genre of all time, emo pop. Although this isn’t one of Blink 182’s bigger hits, “Please Take Me Home” has everything you’d need in one stop. With Travis Barker drum riffs and “my” pronounced like “moye”, your head will uncontrollably bop when Winder takes the mound. 4. Caleb Thielbar - “Wake Up” by Rage Against the Machine Great alarm clock song. Great tune all around by an all-time band. Fun fact, this song was never released as a single, but it is usually played as the final song of every Rage Against the Machine show. All Thielbar needs now is a trench coat and black sunglasses. Kashmir is a no-go for that trench coat. 3. Danny Coulombe - “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone Even if you don’t think you know this one, you absolutely do. This kid-friendly tune will bring a smile to every face in the ballpark, and how can you not love that? Thank you, Danny…and Starlord. 2. Carlos Correa - “25/8” by Bad Bunny Bad Bunny was the most streamed artist on Spotify in the last two years and is one of the best-selling Latin artists of all time. Unfamiliarity with Bad Bunny is a character flaw, and Correa’s pick of "25/8" brings us one of his best sleeper hits. This music video has 88.3M views on YouTube, and while I didn’t do the math, that is probably more views than most of this list combined. 1.5 Chris Archer - “Voodoo Child” by Jimi Hendrix Full disclosure, the announcement of this walk-up song came after I was already done writing this. I couldn’t pick a tune to remove from the list nor disrespect Hendrix. Therefore, I made an executive decision to put him here. Please send all complaints to renabanenacomplaints@gmail.com. Honorable Mentions: Joe Ryan - “Fire on the Mountain” by the Grateful Dead Self-explanatory. Kenta Maeda - “Hikoutei” by King Gnu This song would’ve topped the list if Maeda was in the rotation this season, but it didn’t feel right putting this one in if it couldn’t be heard at a ballpark. Spotify just isn’t the same. Jorge Alcala - “Entro Con la U” by Monkey Black This one has arguably the most catchy beat out of this entire list, but the repetitiveness took it out of the top ten. 1. Tyler Duffey - “Electric Feel” by MGMT I didn’t read into the lyrics until I had to take a deep dive into the list of walk-up songs, and I’d recommend against doing so. Your toes will uncontrollably tap, and your mood will instantaneously lift anytime this tune comes on. It’s the perfect vibe for a Sunday afternoon at the ballpark. Check out the full list of all the Twins’ 2022 Walkup music: And teammates supporting one another is always good!
  10. Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 1 | SEA 2, MIN 1: Robbie Ray Silences Twins Bats in Opener Game 2 | SEA 4, MIN 3: Duffey's Blown Save Spoils Buxton Heroics Game 3 | MIN 10, SEA 4: Power Bats Detonate in Blowout Win Weekly Snapshot: Fri, 4/8 through Sun, 4/10 *** Record Last Week: 1-2 (Overall: 1-2) Run Differential Last Week: +4 (Overall: +4) Standing: T-2nd Place in AL Central (1.0 GB) NEWS & NOTES The Twins came into this 2022 season with a remarkably clean bill of health (knocks on wood). Randy Dobnak and Cody Stashak both opened on the injured list, but neither was a key part of the team's plans. For the most part everyone seems to be in good shape, including some pitchers who loomed as question marks coming in. Let's hope this trend continues. Early-season injury woes played a huge role in tanking the '21 season in April and May. HIGHLIGHTS The new guys are making strong first impressions. In Friday's season opener, Gio Urshela put the Twins on the board for the first time in 2022 with a solo homer off of Robbie Ray. On Saturday, pitching staff newcomers Sonny Gray, Joe Smith and Jharel Cotton combined to allow two runs over 6 ⅔ innings. Emilio Pagán added a scoreless frame with two strikeouts in his Twins debut on Sunday. Gary Sánchez came just a few feet short of introducing himself to fans with a walk-off home run on Friday, but he didn't miss two days later when he launched a first-inning grand slam to the third deck, opening up a huge early lead for the Twins. Minnesota's flashiest new addition, Carlos Correa, has already shown what he can do with the bat, launching a 458-foot moonshot as part of Sunday's homer barrage, and we've also seen his defensive prowess in action several times. He played a key role in the weekend's finest highlight in the field – a perfect relay throw to gun down the go-ahead run at home plate on Sunday afternoon. As impressive as all these acquisitions were, one thing is clear: It's Byron Buxton's world, and everyone else is just living in it. The newly locked up face of the franchise started his season with a brief quiet spell, going hitless in his first seven at-bats, and then rattled off three straight home runs. The first of them, a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning on Saturday night, should've lifted the team to victory. It was another entry in a shocking and depressing saga of Twins teams spoiling signature Buxton moments, but watching him scream into the dugout after unloading on that pitch was awesome nonetheless. Buxton's two dingers on Sunday helped set the tone for a bomba breakout, with the Twins piling up five homers in a route of the Mariners. But the explosiveness this weekend wasn't limited to the plate. Jhoan Duran made his big-league debut on the mound in Friday's opener, and he lived up to the billing. The 24-year-old showed remarkable poise, allowing the first two batters he faced to reach base on singles before bearing down and striking out four straight, all swinging. He finished with two scoreless innings, keeping the deficit at one and giving the Twins a chance at a late comeback. If Duran can stay healthy he's going to be a pivotal weapon at the back of this bullpen, that's clear. LOWLIGHTS It didn't take long for the Twins to feel the loss of their best reliever. On Saturday, a dramatic late home run gave Minnesota a one-run lead going into the ninth. In a spot where he would've normally loved to go to his longtime bullpen stalwart Taylor Rogers, Rocco Baldelli turned instead to his next most-tenured reliever. It didn't go well. Making his season debut, Duffey quickly coughed up the lead, allowing two runs on three hits. He frankly looked terrible, inducing just one swinging strike on 18 pitches. The blown save felt very familiar to last year's Alex Colomé experience, not just in terms of results, but even stylistically: ugly pitches out over the plate in key spots. Duffey has a lost a ton of juice since his peak in 2019, when he was one of the league's most dominant relievers. Back then he averaged 94 MPH with his fastball; on Saturday, he maxed out at 93.5 and usually worked in the 91-92 range. His mid-80s knuckle curve didn't looked very sharp. So far this has all the makings of another step downward in Duffey's regression. If it continues, hopefully Baldelli takes notice and adjusts the bullpen hierarchy accordingly. Duffey should not be getting critical high-leverage looks merely because of his experience and tenure. There are much better arms in this pen right now. Offensively, it's hard to complain much about a weekend that saw the Twins tally 14 runs with nine homers in three games, but once again this lineup is looking a bit too dependent on the long ball for run-scoring. It'd be nice to see a bit more rally action from, and that'll require some of the laggards to get going. Those include Alex Kirilloff (0-for-11) and Miguel Sanó (0-for-10). TRENDING STORYLINE The Twins bench is in flux. The team chose to carry Gilberto Celestino as fourth outfielder out of camp, but this is clearly a temporary arrangement. There's little doubt the team is angling for free agent Justin Upton, who cleared waivers over the weekend after being released by the Angels in late spring. Upton is a far cry from the star commodity of his heyday, but he's a nice fit on this Twins roster as an experienced corner outfielder who can still mash left-handed pitching. Although he struggled overall last year with a .705 OPS, Upton did slash .22/.355/.483 against lefties and has an .852 career OPS against them. He would also add ANOTHER first overall draft pick to an organization that already has Correa, Tim Beckham and Royce Lewis on hand. The Twins certainly aren't alone in their interest in Upton, now that he's free from his big contract in LA. I suspect we'll find out one way or another by early this week. If the team is unable to land the veteran, they'll likely swap out Celestino for Kyle Garlick, which would require a 40-man move. LOOKING AHEAD A tough week lies ahead for the Twins, who will wrap up their four-game series against Seattle on Monday before welcoming the star-studded Los Angeles Dodgers to Target Field for a short midweek series. From there, it's a day off on Thursday followed by a trip to Fenway for four games against the Red Sox. Over the next three days, we'll get a look at the back half of Minnesota's rebuilt rotation, with new additions Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer and Chris Paddack starting in consecutive games. It'll be interesting to see where Rocco goes with the rotation after that. MONDAY, 4/11: MARINERS @ TWINS – RHP Chris Flexen v. RHP Dylan Bundy TUESDAY, 4/12: DODGERS @ TWINS – TBD v. RHP Chris Archer WEDNESDAY, 4/13: DODGERS @ TWINS – RHP Walker Buehler v. RHP Chris Paddack FRIDAY, 4/15: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Joe Ryan v. RHP Nick Pivetta SATURDAY, 4/16: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Sonny Gray v. RHP Tanner Houck SUNDAY, 4/17: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Michael Wacha
  11. Box Score SP: Sonny Gray: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (76 pitches, 52 strikes (68.4%)) Home Runs: Luis Arraez (1), Byron Buxton (1) Bottom 3 WPA: Tyler Duffey (-.620), Miguel Sano (.098), Jorge Polanco (.080) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Sonny Gray, who started his very first regular-season game as a Minnesota Twin, completed 4 2/3 innings in his debut. Gray has a solid presence on the mound and control of his strike zone. Even when he isn’t throwing 94 mph, his command of the strike zone earned him four strikeouts and 52 strikes. Birthday boy, Luis Arraez, hit his first home run of the season in the bottom of the first inning and subsequently gave the Twins their very first lead of the season! Byron Buxton, who didn't get on base in the season opener or in his first three plate appearances on Saturday, brought the Twins' bench to life and fans to their feet in the bottom of the eighth inning when he hit his first home run of the season deep into left field. The offense had been remarkably quiet and Buxton turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. It was the second hardest-hit home run for Buxton at 112.3 MPH. Nick Gordon who had a huge run-in with Max Kepler on April 4 in the final game of spring training is feeling better and certainly showed that there are no lingering side effects from the collision. Gordon ripped the ball through the shift in the second inning, advancing Ryan Jeffers to third. Gordon had a tremendous plate appearance that ended in a walk to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning. For the second straight day, Carlos Correa made great defensive plays that really showed his dedication to this team and skill he brings to the game. I was talking to a few fans at yesterday’s game and some are still in disbelief that he is here, but he’s here and making a difference all over the field. The Twins defense is certainly better with him. In an opportunity to get to know our new pitcher, Chris Archer who just joined the Twins today in the clubhouse was on the headset during the third and fourth inning of the game today and talked about how much he’s excited to be here. Archer attributes a large amount of his move here to not only Rocco, but Jake Odorizzi. He called him to see what the organization and the city and the fans are like and "Odo" gave nothing but props to the city, fans, and organization. He loves the new defense and Ryan Jeffers as the catcher. He said that it came down to a few teams, but that he genuinely believes in this team and organization. We look forward to seeing him on the mound. Tyler Duffey came in the ninth inning, and according to Baldelli it was exactly as it was planned, except the pitching didn't go the way they wanted. Duffey continues to struggle with command of the strike zone and gave Julio Rodriguez his first MLB hit, With two outs, Adam Frazier doubled into left-center to score Rodriguez and tie the game. Ty France followed and drove Frazier home with the go-ahead run. Not the way the Twins or their fans wanted the game to end, and while some of the players struggled to make contact with the ball, we saw glimmers of what is yet to come with this team as the months and the bats get a chance to warm up. What’s Next? The Twins will finish their series at home with the Mariners tomorrow at 1:10 pm central time with Bailey Ober taking on left-hander Marco Gonzalez. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Duran 0 0 0 31 0 31 Coulombe 0 0 0 27 0 27 Cotton 0 0 0 0 20 20 Smith 0 0 0 0 20 20 Thielbar 0 0 0 0 18 18 Duffey 0 0 0 0 18 18 Alcalá 0 0 0 13 0 13 Ober 0 0 0 0 0 0 Pagán 0 0 0 0 0 0 Romero 0 0 0 0 0 0 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0
  12. 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!
  13. Projected Bullpen: Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, Jorge Alcalá, Jharel Cotton, Joe Smith, Jhoan Duran, Danny Coulombe Depth/Prospects: Griffin Jax, Jhon Romero, Jovani Moran, Juan Minaya, Cody Stashak, Jake Faria, Yennier Cano, Drew Strotman, Lewis Thorpe, Trevor Megill, Ronny Henriquez THE GOOD During the first three months of the 2021 season, Twins relievers ranked 26th in the majors in the fWAR, 27th in FIP, and 25th in WPA. During the last three months, they ranked 13th, 15th and 4th in those respective categories. You might not have noticed it, due to the team's total irrelevance after May or so, but the bullpen improved dramatically from the first to second half. It was night and day. And it's not the first time we've seen this pattern play out. Back in 2019, Twins relievers ranked 10th in the majors in fWAR and 12th in FIP over the first three months, then led all of baseball in both categories the rest of the way. The front office and coaching staff have shown they can make this work: creating depth, then sorting through it until you find the right mix you can trust. Meanwhile, when looking at how poorly this regime's biggest bullpen splashes have panned in Alex Colomé and Addison Reed, who both looked like relatively safe plays, it's easy to understand why they'd opt against pouring investments into established commodities. There's a lot to like here. Taylor Rogers has consistently been one of the league's most effective late-inning relievers since 2018, and his sterling performance this spring helps alleviate concerns around any lingering effects from last year's finger injury. Tyler Duffey and Caleb Thielbar have proven to be rock-solid setup men. Jorge Alcalá offered real signs of optimism with his 2.88 ERA and .195 BAA last year after the All-Star break, playing a huge role in the bullpen's second-half turnaround. Joe Smith and Jharel Cotton were nice veteran pickups for the middle innings. There are also a some wild cards in the mix adding another level of intrigue. Chief among them is Jhoan Duran, who has been dazzling people with his incredible stuff this spring. He appears to be healthy and throwing at his best while the Twins are transitioning him into a full-on relief role. It's a perfect storm. He looms as a monster difference-maker in this pen. I've written about Griffin Jax as a guy whose stock could skyrocket in a relief role, and like Duran, the team is poised to tap that potential in short order. Jovani Moran has flashed good stuff from the left side. And any of the club's various pitching prospects – many of whom were discussed in our SP analysis – have a chance to impact the bullpen, especially with the likelihood that Minnesota will be looking for length and multi-inning options. THE BAD Last year we learned about the downside of sorting out a bullpen during the season: those early lesson through failure can be extremely costly. By the time Colomé pulled it together and the Twins moved on from some laggards, the relief unit had already played a huge role in tanking their season. This is the nature of the bullpen: it is a fickle beast, and yet so dramatically influential to the outcome of a season. Great bullpens carry teams into the playoffs and beyond. Bad bullpens can put an otherwise decent squad out of the running by June. This year's unit for the Twins really feels like it could go either way. That's always somewhat true, given the volatility of relief pitching, but the variability feels especially high right now. Rogers was at his best before going down last year, but we need to see him keep on cooking. At 31, his age is becoming as much of a regression factor as his injury. Duffey's performance last year included a bunch of ominous signs – most notably a drop in velocity and a HUGE drop in whiff rate. Alcalá has had his moments but feels hard to trust given the inconsistency. And let's keep in mind, this represents their first line of defense. Once you get past these established contributors, you're looking at mostly unproven prospects and minor-league signings. I'm not going to wring my hands over the lack of spending at this position (where the sum total of salaries will barely surpass that of White Sox closer Liam Hendriks alone), because relief free agency becomes such a hazardous game of darts, as we've seen. If the Twins can identify the right guys, implement the right tweaks, and pull the right strings, they'll be in good shape. Unfortunately, last year was not a great confidence-builder in their ability to do so. At least not until too late. THE BOTTOM LINE Lots of talent. Lots of question marks. The Twins have shown in the past they can handle a bullpen – they methodically developed the league's best in 2019, and it carried over to 2020 where they tied Tampa for the AL lead in bullpen fWAR – but last year's unraveling dimmed their shine. It's a big "prove it" year for Wes Johnson, Pete Maki, and the entire Twins pitching braintrust. Was 2021 a blip or a breakdown? Catch Up on the Rest of Our 2022 Previews: Position Analysis: Catcher Position Analysis: First Base Position Analysis: Second Base Position Analysis: Third Base Position Analysis: Shortstop Position Analysis: Left Field Position Analysis: Center Field Position Analysis: Right Field Position Analysis: Designated Hitter Position Analysis: Starting Pitcher
  14. 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.
  15. Even those fans who can't make it down to Fort Myers this spring will have plenty of opportunities to catch the team in action, with 12 of 16 Grapefruit League games slated to be televised. If you get a chance to tune in, keep an eye on these players as they look to rebound from various injuries and setbacks. Taylor Rogers' finger Rogers hasn't pitched in a game since he walked off the mound shaking his finger last July 26th at Target Field. His status has been a major source of uncertainty in Minnesota's planning and outlook. They badly need him to return as the bullpen stalwart of years past. But can they count on it? Theoretically, Rogers should be well clear of the middle-finger sprain that ended his season. The injury took place almost eight months ago and didn't require surgery. But Twins fans who've watched middle-finger issues dramatically affect other slider-reliant pitchers like Ervin Santana and Randy Dobnak can't take for granted that Rogers will be the same guy as before – especially given that he's now 31 at the volatile position of relief pitcher. The Twins will be in big trouble if Rogers can't get back to his previous level or close. It'll be interesting to see how comfortable he is letting loose after the long layoff, as well as the more measurable aspects like velocity, spin, and results. Good news so far: Rogers is throwing in camp with no apparent hindrance. Dobnak will be worth watching for the same reason, given that he's also coming off a finger injury that mostly ruined his season. But he's not nearly as vital as Rogers to the team's plans this year. Royce Lewis' movements and defense Seeing Lewis on the field in general will be a sight for sore eyes. Coming off a season lost to a major knee injury, it will be especially interesting to see how the 22-year-old is running and moving, given how much of his value and upside are tied to his special athleticism. Is the top-end speed still fully intact? Is he moving laterally with comfort and ease? Most importantly: how does he look at shortstop? Lewis' ability to stick at the position was already in question before the missed time and injury. Yet he remains the best long-term hope in the organization, and as of now, the door is wide open. Alex Kirilloff's swing After joining the Twins last year, Kirilloff started 0-for-14 in his first five games. Then his potential shined through, as he slashed .327/.346/.674 in his next 12 games while showing remarkable power – four home runs and five doubles in 52 plate appearances. The rest of the way, Kirilloff was largely hampered by a wrist injury that sapped his power, managing just four homers and a .382 slugging percentage in his last 42 games. It was fairly evident from watching him swing the bat that he just wasn't quite right. The Twins eventually shut him down and he underwent season-ending surgery on July 23rd. We haven't seen him since. Well, Rocco Baldelli has, and he likes what he sees. That Kirilloff appears unrestricted is a good sign. He's now almost eight months removed from a procedure said to require about eight weeks of recovery, so he should be totally good in that regard. But there are no guarantees for hitters coming back from significant wrist surgeries. I'll be keeping a close eye on how his swing looks and how loud the contact is. Tyler Duffey's velocity Last spring, Duffey came to camp and raised some eyebrows with his reduced velocity, working in the high 80s after dominating with mid-90s heat the previous two seasons. For his part, the reliever downplayed any concerns, but his spring was a precursor to a 2021 season that saw his velocity drop to new lows as a reliever – with performance tailing off in tandem. Like Rogers, Duffey's success carries outsized importance in a bullpen full of question marks. Can he find that 96-MPH fastball again or is he a low-90s guy (or worse) now as he ages into his 30s? Those extra couple of ticks make an enormous difference for him. The radar gun in Fort Myers could provide key early indicators. 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. Tyler Duffey was drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 draft out of Rice. Despite spending much of his college career in the bullpen, the Twins were able to boost his fastball velocity and add a changeup to his already plus breaking ball, and make him a starter. After debuting in the Twins rotation, Duffey struggled and became an afterthought before eventually resurfacing in the bullpen. The right-hander of course used a change in fastball philosophy and his wipeout curveball to become one of the most underrated relievers in all of baseball during 2019-2020. 2021 was a bit shaky but Duffey has established himself as a reliable, high leverage reliever. The Twins should use Duffey’s successful blueprint on another arm who shares several similarities. Griffin Jax has been a starter throughout the minors and filled in for an ailing rotation during his 2021 debut. The Air Force Captain was never a top prospect and rarely posted above-average performances in the minors. Upon his debut, it was clear that Jax was a two-pitch pitcher, a trait that led to significant trouble navigating lineups multiple times. What wasn’t apparent until his debut is just how good one of his two pitches was. Eno Sarris, a prominent writer at The Athletic uses a pitching model called Pitching+ which measures velocity, movement, and spin to determine a pitcher’s “Stuff+” while measuring their ability to locate into “Location+”. A 100 grading is average for both metrics. Jax, due in large part to his slider, grades ahead of Bailey Ober, Joe Ryan, and Dylan Bundy in Stuff+ at an above average 102.8. While the full pitch by pitch Pitching+ Model isn’t publicly available, Sarris has noted that Jax’s slider is one of the best pitches in baseball according to Stuff+. It’s fair to assume Jax’s fastball may hold him back with little movement and averaging under 93 mph. What he’s left with is a less than spectacular fastball to set up for a fantastic breaking ball. This approach likely doesn’t pan out well in the rotation, but could be more than enough to dominate in short stints as we’ve seen with Tyler Duffey. As fellow Twins Daily writer Cody Christie pointed out in January, Jax would slot into an opener role very well based on his success particularly in the first inning. It’s also fair to wonder however whether Jax could thrive in a short-term, high leverage role in the late innings. Similar to Duffey, Jax could add some velocity to his fastball and try to place it at the top of the zone to set up his devastating breaker. It’s become a common recipe for success for relievers across baseball. The Twins bullpen has a lot of uncertainty between Taylor Rogers’ finger, Tyler Duffey’s 2021 struggles, and the question of whether both pitchers will even be on the Twins Opening Day roster. With the front office unlikely to add significant free agents to the bullpen mix, someone like Jax who’s already shown his abilities at the MLB level could easily climb the bullpen ladder throughout 2022 and find himself settled into a significant role by season’s end. Whether it’s opening games or closing them, Jax’s slider proving to be a cheat code of a pitch is a great development. With several high profile arms coming up with stronger chances of sticking in the rotation, the Twins developing deeper prospects such as Griffin Jax into possible bullpen pieces would be a huge development. Griffin Jax is an incredible story, but he’s elevated himself from a depth piece to a possible regular for the Twins in 2022. Do you agree? — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  17. From 2019-20, Duffey had been one of baseball’s best relievers. Across 80 games, he posted a 2.31 ERA with a 0.94 WHIP and 12.5 K/9. In fact, MLB.com ranked Duffey as one of baseball’s best relievers entering the 2021 season. Minnesota used Duffey as a fireman out of the bullpen, and he was successful in this role. Things changed in 2022 as he struggled for the first time since becoming a full-time reliever. So, what are some concerns with his 2021 performance? Concern 1: Surrendering Hard Hits Giving up hard contact is never a good trait for a pitcher, and this problem can be even more apparent with relievers and a smaller sample size. During the 2021 season, Duffey’s average exit velocity (4th percentile) and hard hit% (7th percentile) were among the lowest in baseball. Back in 2019, his hard-hit % ranked in the 48th percentile, so this was quite the drop from the last full season. Last season, his four-seam fastball was one of the pitches that resulted in the aforementioned changes. His slugging percentage on his fastball was .289 in 2020, and he allowed a .374 slugging percentage in 2021. Duffey was pitching from behind more regularly in 2021, which meant he saw an increase in his fastball usage by 5%. His fastball velocity isn’t elite, so good hitters will be able to square it up and make hard contact. Concern 2: Decrease in Strikeouts Another concern with Duffey’s 2021 season was the significant dip in strikeout percentage. During 2019-20, his 12.5 SO/9 is exactly what teams want from a late-inning reliever. His K% ranked in the 92 percentile or higher in each of those seasons. Last season, his K% dropped to the 54th percentile as he posted an 8.8 SO/9 which was a career-worst since moving to the bullpen. Last season, Duffey posted a 40 K% with his four-seamer, but that dropped to 22% in 2021. In the previous three seasons, his curveball has averaged nearly 35 K%, but he only got a 25.4 K% in 2021. His Whiff% with his curveball also dropped almost 14%. Since he was behind in the count more regularly, there’s a good chance he couldn’t use his pitch mix to the best of his advantage. Concern 3: Change in Pitch Usage Duffey also saw increased use in his sinker last season, which doesn’t cause issues on the surface. Using a new pitch can keep batters off-balance, but Duffey’s sinker didn’t do that at all. Opponents posted a .444 batting average with a .556 slugging percentage when facing his sinker. It also had the lowest Whiff% of any of his pitches. Luckily, he only threw his sinker 44 times, but the results were lacking. His other pitches also saw some change in usage. In his first two seasons as a reliever, he saw increased curveball use. Last year, he decreased usage of his curveball by nearly 5%. Some of this change in pitch usage was related to being behind in the count more regularly. This forced him to cut back on his curveball and turn to his fastball, which had disastrous results. Duffey is entering a critical year of his professional career. Next winter, he will hit the free-agent market, and he is coming off a career-worst season. In a contract year, the 2022 campaign will go a long way in determining the kind of market he will face in his first taste of free agency. Relief pitchers can be fickle, and Minnesota hopes that Duffey can alleviate these worries in 2022. What are you most worried about with Duffey’s 2021 performance? 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. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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?
  21. For more on each of these arbitration-eligible players, you can read much more in The Question: To Tender or Not To Tender. Here is the quick summary: John Gant cleared waivers and became a free agent. Rob Refsnyder was DFAd and became a free agent. Willians Astudillo was DFAd, cleared waviers and was released. Jake Cave signed a one year, $800,000 for 2022. In addition to those four arbitration-eligible players, lefty Devin Smeltzer was DFAd, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A. You might have heard, the Twins have agreed to terms with Byron Buxton on a seven-year, $100 million contract extension which also includes some creative, interesting incentives. But there is more work to be done, and today (Tuesday) should be an interesting day. The team still have to make decisions on seven more arbitration-eligible players. Here is some information on each of those players (mostly from Sunday's article), but we will have a spot ready to update whenever we hear any news on any of the players. Also, be sure to vote on whether or not you would a.) Tender a contract, b.) Non-tender the player, or c.) Try to reach an agreement at a lower dollar value. If player won't, then non-tender. LUIS ARRAEZ - UT (24) Service Time: 2 years, 121 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 4 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $2 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1.5 million JHAREL COTTON - RHP (30) Service Time: 3 years, 52 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.2 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: N/A DANNY COULOMBE - LHP (32) Service Time: 3 years, 8 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $800,000 Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1 million TYLER DUFFEY - RHP (31) Service Time: 5 years, 74 days Arbitration Year: 3rd of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $3.7 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $3.5 million MITCH GARVER - C (31) Service Time: 4 years, 45 days Arbitration Year: 2nd of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $3.1 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $3.5 million JUAN MINAYA - RHP (31) Service Time: 2 years, 140 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.1 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1 million TAYLOR ROGERS - LHP (31) Service Time: 5 years, 145 days Arbitration Year: 4th of 4 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $6.7 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $7 million CALEB THIELBAR - LHP (35) Service Time: 3 years, 131 days Arbitration Year: 2nd of 4 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.2 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1.5 million Again, we will update this article throughout the day on Tuesday until we learn what the resolution is for each player. There may be some agreements, maybe even multi-year deals. There will be contracts tendered without an agreement. At that point, numbers will be exchanged by the team and the player. There are likely to be a non-tender or two as well which will make those players free agents immediately, like happened with Eddie Rosario a year ago.
  22. The Twins have already made several transactions that have altered their list of arbitration-eligible players. Early in November, the Twins decided to put right-handed pitcher John Gant on waivers. When he cleared, he elected to become a free agent. Gant came to the Twins at the July trade deadline as part of the J.A. Happ trade. He was set to make approximately $3.7 million in his final season of arbitration. Outfielder Rob Refsnyder played like a Legend for a while after the Twins called him up, even playing a lot of center field. However, after a couple of injuries, including a concussion, he wasn’t able to repeat that performance. The minor league veteran was projected to make about $800,000, but the Twins DFAd him this month too. It became a talker, but the Twins signed outfielder Jake Cave to a one-year, $800,000 deal for 2022. Like all arbitration deals, it isn’t completely guaranteed. Finally, just last week, the Twins DFAd the fan-favorite, Williams Astudillo. Set to make a projected 2022 salary around $1.2 million in his first arbitration season. Since he hasn’t hit since his debut season in 2018 and has little defensive value, it was an easy decision to remove him from the roster and after he cleared waivers, they simply released him. And then the Twins claimed right-handed pitcher Jharel Cotton from the Texas Rangers in early November. Let’s take a look at him and the other arbitration-eligible Twins players that the Twins have a decision to make before Tuesday’s deadline. (in alphabetical order, note: age on April 1, 2022) LUIS ARRAEZ - UT (24) Service Time: 2 years, 121 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 4 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $2 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1.5 million Why Tender? Though Arraez struggled late in 2021 and ended out with a batting average below .300 for the first time in his professional career. He can play in left field and second base, and actually had a solid season playing third base in 2021. On the other side of his case, he had several IL trips again due to his knees and legs. Likelihood to be Tendered: 10 Summary: Just over the weekend, we learned that MLB had set the “Super 2” line at 2.116 (two years, 116 days) service time. Fortunately, the Twins' brass doesn't need to spend much time thinking about whether or not to tender a 2022 contract to Arraez. It's a given. What is his future with the organization? Could he be traded? If not, what position will he play, or will he continue to play all around the diamond? All to be figured out... after that contract is tendered on Tuesday. BYRON BUXTON - CF (28) Service Time: 5 years, 160 days Arbitration Year: 4th of 4 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $7.3 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $8 million Why Tender? Because he’s Byron Buxton. Because his 2022 salary will be minimal relative to the value he will and has provided. Because they can then continue negotiating a potential long-term deal. Because even if they don’t reach a deal, he can easily be traded for a very nice return. Likelihood to be Tendered (1 unlikely to 10 very likely): 10. Easy choice. Summary: This one will require very little thought. What happens beyond tendering hims a 2022 contract has been the topic of debate for the past six months. JHAREL COTTON - RHP (30) Service Time: 3 years, 52 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.2 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: N/A Why Tender? Because he showed some good stuff out of the Rangers bullpen in his return to the big leagues following Tommy John surgery. Because of what he had shown as a starter in Oakland early in his career. Because he’s got a good fastball, but a great changeup. Likelihood to be Tendered: 5 Summary: There are reasons to believe that Cotton could be a solid middle-relief pitcher option, and who knows, maybe the Twins think that he could be healthy enough to get back to starting and be an option for a back of the Twins rotation too. However, the Twins may also ask for Cotton to agree to a 1 year, $900,000 or $1 million deal, and if he accepts, great. If not, non-tendered and he becomes a free agent. DANNY COULOMBE - LHP (32) Service Time: 3 years, 8 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $800,000 Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1 million Why Tender? Coulombe isn’t an exciting pitcher, but he’s long been a solid MLB left-handed reliever, and he pitched well for the Twins in the second half. Had quite a bit of MLB success before injury including being used very often for Oakland for a couple of seasons. He is very similar to Caleb Thielbar, so again, is it necessary to have another lefty in a ‘pen that already should include Thielbar and Taylor Rogers, with Jovani Moran in the near-ready position as well? Likelihood to Tender: 6 Summary: Coulombe has been better than most Twins fans probably think. He’s just solid with limited upside. For $800,000, little reason not to tender him. That said, they may do what they did with Thielbar a year ago and lock him up to a deal below projection. TYLER DUFFEY - RHP (31) Service Time: 5 years, 74 days Arbitration Year: 3rd of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $3.7 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $3.5 million Why Tender? Duffey’s velocity may have been down a little bit in 2021, but he still put up solid numbers. He ranked right up there with the top relievers in baseball over the past three seasons. Hasn’t received many Save opportunities, which certainly keeps his arbitration salary down, but he’s been used in high-leverage situations. Can they reach an agreement on a one-year deal before an arbitration hearing? Could they look to lock up Duffey for two or three seasons? (maybe a two-year, $7 million deal, or even a three-year, $12 million deal). Likelihood to Tender: 9 Summary: Another easy decision because even if things go poorly, he should have some trade value so non-tendering makes no sense. With so many question marks in the Twins bullpen, losing Duffey would make things even more difficult. MITCH GARVER - C (31) Service Time: 4 years, 45 days Arbitration Year: 2nd of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $3.1 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $3.5 million Why Tender? Remember his 2019 season? Well, after a poor April, Garver returned to that high-level, 2019 form for much of the rest of the season. The lone concern is an injury history that really hurt him in 2020, but also a couple of times during the 2021 season. Garver’s name shows up in some trade rumors this offseason, and teams would likely line up if the Twins made it known he was available. Likelihood to Tender: 10 Summary; An easy decision to tender him a contract. Likely a much more intense conversation has likely occurred regarding the future of the Twins catcher position. While the idea of a Garver/Ryan Jeffers even split of playing time makes a ton of sense in theory, would it work in reality? Or, could the fact that they have both of them, along with Ben Rortvedt in Triple-A and clearly the best defensive catcher of the three, maybe one could be dealt in the offseason for some pitching. None of that alters how easy the decision will be to tender Garver. JUAN MINAYA - RHP (31) Service Time: 2 years, 140 days Arbitration Year: 1st of 3 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.1 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1 million Why Tender? Minaya came up to the Twins in the season’s second half and really performed well. He showed good life on his pitches and was put into some big situations. The interesting thing is that he pitched much better for the Twins than he did in his time with the Saints. He had some good years with the White Sox. He has had some control issues in his career, but he’s also very capable of racking up strikeouts. Likelihood to Tender: 6 Summary: Minaya was certainly a nice surprise for the Twins in the second half of the season, but was that enough to tender a seven-digit deal? Like Cotton and Coulombe, it might be another case where the Twins offer him $900,000 to $1 million for 2022, and if he takes it, great. If not, he can be non-tendered. TAYLOR ROGERS - LHP (31) Service Time: 5 years, 145 days Arbitration Year: 4th of 4 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $6.7 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $7 million Why Tender? I think we would start with the fact that he has been one of the best relievers in baseball over the past four or five seasons. Aside from some struggles in the shortened-2020 season, he’s been very good. He also has been very healthy until his late-July finder injury that cost him the final two months of the 2022 season. The lone question regarding Rogers will be how he recovers and returns from the finger injury since he did not have surgery. Likelihood to Tender: 9 Summary: Another easy choice. Reports indicated that teams were still interested in trading for Rogers, even after he got hurt. They certainly can trade him in the offseason or in July should they choose to do so. I personally think there should also be extension thoughts with Rogers. He’s become a leader on the team, and has earned it based on production. Of course, Aaron Loup getting two years and $17 million might tell us that Rogers should get quite a bit more than that. However, I would offer him a three-year, $24 million deal with an option at $9 million for a fourth year. CALEB THIELBAR - LHP (35) Service Time: 3 years, 131 days Arbitration Year: 2nd of 4 MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.2 million Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Prediction: $1.5 million Why Tender? By the end of the 2021 season, the Minnesota native was Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson’s most relied upon, if not reliable, bullpen arm. He really increased his ability to miss bats. His fastball sat between 91 and 95 mph, and that slow, 68 mph curveball is a good pitch to go with a strong slider. Likelihood to Tender: 8 Summary: Another easy choice. Just offer it to him, work on a good deal and call it good. Because of his age and that he’s got a few more seasons before free agency, there is no reason to do anything but go year-to-year with him. How long will the Twins be able to keep Thielbar away from a college coaching career? Your turn. If you’re in charge, would you tender contracts to all of these players? What kind of deals would you like to see? Discuss.
  23. 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
  24. From 2019 to 2020, Tyler Duffey ranked second in all of baseball in ERA among all pitchers who had thrown at least 80 innings. He struck out over 12 batters per nine innings and became one of the most dominant and underrated bullpen arms in all of baseball. After Taylor Rogers struggled in 2020, some even believed Duffey should have been elevated to closing duties. 2021 hasn’t been quite the same for Duffey, although he’s still been a valuable arm. His strikeouts have dropped to under a batter per inning while his walks have ballooned to a career high of over four per nine innings. In short, Duffey just hasn't been consistent. His 0.7 fWAR in 2021 matches his 2020 mark despite throwing 35 more innings. Now over 30 years old and entering his last ride through arbitration, Duffey becomes an interesting case for 2022. Non-Tender After making a bit over $2m in 2021 it would be surprising to see the Twins scoff at a moderate pay increase for a reliever who’s been so solid. Still, it’s fair to wonder whether the front office has learned a lesson in hubris when it comes to bullpen building. It would raise some eyebrows, but they very well could look at Duffey’s age and stat line and believe there’s better value to be had elsewhere for $3-4m. While I wouldn’t advise non-tendering such a dependable reliever given the year the Twins just had, there’s a scenario where the front office would be correct in this decision. Relievers, in general, are volatile and Duffey is coming off of an inconsistent season with diminished velocity and is now over the age of 30. I think this is the least-likely scenario, but it’s definitely a possibility. Extension One way to avoid having to worry about arbitration and impending free agency is to work on an extension. Duffey and the Twins could hammer out a 2-3 year deal for a fairly insignificant figure that makes sense for both sides. Duffey would get security for the next two years and the Twins get the reassurance of one of their bullpen stalwarts staying for the next two years. Again, I see this as an unlikely scenario. Duffey looked far from on the top of his game throughout all of 2021, and I’d guess the Twins would have liked to see more from him in order to lock him up through his age 32 season. Reach a Deal The likeliest scenario is the Twins find the middle ground on a pre-arbitration one-year deal as they showed they like to do in the 2020 offseason. Duffey gets one last year guaranteed in Minnesota and the Twins get another year of a hopefully-reliable reliever with no further commitment into the future. This also allows the Twins to trade Duffey (something I thought they would have done this year) at the deadline if out of contention or even turn around and trade him before the season begins. The price would be the driving factor, but if a team sees their 2022 setup man and offers a fair price to bring him in, the Twins may just save the money and take the return. I think this outcome is increasingly likely if someone like Donaldson or Buxton are traded during the winter and the team shifts its outlook to 2023. Duffey’s had a storied career in Minnesota, but one way or another it may be nearing its end. The Twins have to assess which route best benefits the team moving forward, and it may not be as easy a decision as it would have been last offseason. How do you think the Twins should handle the Duffey situation? — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  25. 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
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