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  1. Cody Allen had a few really good years in Cleveland. Many assumed that his connection with Twins CBO Derek Falvey made him a realistic offseason target for the Twins. Instead he signed with the Angels. Things did not go well for Allen in Anaheim. He was designated for assignment before being given his outright release last week. In 25 games for the Halos, he posted a 6.26 ERA and a 1.91 WHIP. In just 23 innings, he had 29 strikeouts but also walked 20 batters. From 2013 to 2017 (five seasons), he never posted an ERA over 2.99. He was Cleveland's closer a couple of those years and a key late-inning reliever. He posted 145 saves for them Jon Heyman was the first to tweet the news. Dan Hayes posts an update with a good reason for the signing. "There is no timeline." The Twins don't have to push him to the big leagues to see value. "They want to get their hands on him." Derek Falvey came to the Twins with a reputation as being a pitcher guru from his days in Cleveland. Wes Johnson is being given a lot of credit for the Twins pitching successes in 2019. It will be interesting to see when Allen arrives with a Twins affiliate and which affiliate that is. How quickly will he get to Rochester? And, the strikeouts certainly indicate that there is some stuff remaining for the still-just-30-year-old. As with RHP Drew Hutchinson, who signed a minor league deal with the Twins on Friday, signing Allen to a minor league deal is a no-risk, potentially good reward deal. If he never finds his velocity and isn't good in the minors, the Twins are not obligated to call him up. If he finds his stuff again, the Twins could have added a low-cost late inning reliever for the season's final weeks.
  2. In the offseason, many Twins fans assumed that the team would sign RHP Cody Allen to its bullpen. He signed with the Angels. They released him and now reports indicate that the Twins have signed the veteran.Cody Allen had a few really good years in Cleveland. Many assumed that his connection with Twins CBO Derek Falvey made him a realistic offseason target for the Twins. Instead he signed with the Angels. Things did not go well for Allen in Anaheim. He was designated for assignment before being given his outright release last week. In 25 games for the Halos, he posted a 6.26 ERA and a 1.91 WHIP. In just 23 innings, he had 29 strikeouts but also walked 20 batters. From 2013 to 2017 (five seasons), he never posted an ERA over 2.99. He was Cleveland's closer a couple of those years and a key late-inning reliever. He posted 145 saves for them Jon Heyman was the first to tweet the news. "There is no timeline." The Twins don't have to push him to the big leagues to see value. "They want to get their hands on him." Derek Falvey came to the Twins with a reputation as being a pitcher guru from his days in Cleveland. Wes Johnson is being given a lot of credit for the Twins pitching successes in 2019. It will be interesting to see when Allen arrives with a Twins affiliate and which affiliate that is. How quickly will he get to Rochester? And, the strikeouts certainly indicate that there is some stuff remaining for the still-just-30-year-old. As with RHP Drew Hutchinson, who signed a minor league deal with the Twins on Friday, signing Allen to a minor league deal is a no-risk, potentially good reward deal. If he never finds his velocity and isn't good in the minors, the Twins are not obligated to call him up. If he finds his stuff again, the Twins could have added a low-cost late inning reliever for the season's final weeks. Click here to view the article
  3. When Zack Littell returned to Rochester at the start of the month of June, he was told that he should work out of the bullpen. Did he sulk? No. Did he make some alterations? Yes. Over the weekend, we caught up with the Twins right-hander about the changes he has made and why he has shown so much success of late.In four games with the Red Wings before his most recent promotion to the Twins, Littell worked solely out of the Rochester bullpen. In 7 2/3 innings, he gave up just three hits, walked one and struck out 13 batters. Opponents hit just .115 off of him. When Littell was optioned, Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson gave him some things to work on with the Red Wings. The big thing was that he should work in shorter appearances out of the bullpen, rather than go back to starting which is the role he’s played his entire career. “Me and Rocco talked about it a little bit, working in shorter stints. They said I could go two or three innings, but usually just two.” With that plan in place, it can sometimes be as much mental as physical. “Taking that, it kind of changes your mind set a bit. I can just go out there and give everything I’ve got. Don’t have to worry about pitch count. Don’t have to worry about grinding out six or seven innings.” Included in their message to him for his time in Rochester was a plan to reduce the number of pitches he throws. “We talked “about shortening the repertoire. We’ve gone predominantly fastball-slider, with a few changeups as well.” That all makes sense, and if you stayed up and watched his impressive two-inning performance on Tuesday night (and Wednesday morning), you saw him airing it out. You saw a fastball at 95 to 97 mph. There were sliders at 89 to 90 mph. The fastball was effective up in the zone and the slider was good, especially when it was darting to the knees on the corners of the zone. When the Twins acquired Littell from the Yankees on July 31, 2017, he was known for his curveball, and at times it has been quite good. But not lately. “The curveball is a pitch that has been with me since the start. I always felt it was best pitch, always had the most confidence in it. The curveball is a great pitch if I’m throwing it for strikes, and I wasn’t doing that. It doesn’t do me any good, especially with the way I use my fastball up in the zone, there’s no point in throwing a curveball out of the zone being that it doesn’t tunnel at all. We were having some issues with that. General command issues.” However, while he has struggled with his curveball, his slider has become a very effective pitch for him. And, he’s been shown the analytics to back it up. “Developmentally, the slider has gotten ten times better. If you look at the numbers - swing and miss, hard contact, stats like that - the slider has been the better pitch. I think that boils down to throwing it for strikes.” While the numbers are there, Littell stresses that it is about his mindset and aggressiveness. “I think the past ten to twelve days are pretty much just a mindset thing. Being able to go out there and attack hitters right away and give everything I have, be more aggressive and not worry about pitch count.” Littell is just 23 years old, so the question has to be asked; Are his days as a starter over? Is he now deemed a relief pitcher going forward? Littell said, “They were very clear… this is just what we need now and a way to help the Twins win this year. And honestly, whatever keeps me here and helps these guys win. Nobody doesn’t want to be a part of this. Whatever keeps me here.” Outings like last night when he worked two scoreless innings and picked up his first MLB win (and showed off that 97 mph fastball) certainly help make his case. Of course, the business side of baseball isn’t always so kind, and Littell has been a part of that a couple of times already this year. Littell and Tyler Duffey are the two relief pitchers with options on the current Twins staff. It is entirely possible that if the front office decides that a fresh arm is needed on Wednesday night when the Twins play the Red Sox again, one or both of those two right-handers could find themselves back with the Red Wings. But it is clear that Littell can help the Twins in 2019, and he will (and should) continue to get opportunities. He’s just got to maintain that mindset. He will turn 24 on October 5th, and I’m sure he’d like nothing more than to be on the Twins October roster, pitching out of the bullpen in some playoff games! Click here to view the article
  4. In four games with the Red Wings before his most recent promotion to the Twins, Littell worked solely out of the Rochester bullpen. In 7 2/3 innings, he gave up just three hits, walked one and struck out 13 batters. Opponents hit just .115 off of him. When Littell was optioned, Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson gave him some things to work on with the Red Wings. The big thing was that he should work in shorter appearances out of the bullpen, rather than go back to starting which is the role he’s played his entire career. “Me and Rocco talked about it a little bit, working in shorter stints. They said I could go two or three innings, but usually just two.” With that plan in place, it can sometimes be as much mental as physical. “Taking that, it kind of changes your mind set a bit. I can just go out there and give everything I’ve got. Don’t have to worry about pitch count. Don’t have to worry about grinding out six or seven innings.” Included in their message to him for his time in Rochester was a plan to reduce the number of pitches he throws. “We talked “about shortening the repertoire. We’ve gone predominantly fastball-slider, with a few changeups as well.” That all makes sense, and if you stayed up and watched his impressive two-inning performance on Tuesday night (and Wednesday morning), you saw him airing it out. You saw a fastball at 95 to 97 mph. There were sliders at 89 to 90 mph. The fastball was effective up in the zone and the slider was good, especially when it was darting to the knees on the corners of the zone. When the Twins acquired Littell from the Yankees on July 31, 2017, he was known for his curveball, and at times it has been quite good. But not lately. “The curveball is a pitch that has been with me since the start. I always felt it was best pitch, always had the most confidence in it. The curveball is a great pitch if I’m throwing it for strikes, and I wasn’t doing that. It doesn’t do me any good, especially with the way I use my fastball up in the zone, there’s no point in throwing a curveball out of the zone being that it doesn’t tunnel at all. We were having some issues with that. General command issues.” However, while he has struggled with his curveball, his slider has become a very effective pitch for him. And, he’s been shown the analytics to back it up. “Developmentally, the slider has gotten ten times better. If you look at the numbers - swing and miss, hard contact, stats like that - the slider has been the better pitch. I think that boils down to throwing it for strikes.” While the numbers are there, Littell stresses that it is about his mindset and aggressiveness. “I think the past ten to twelve days are pretty much just a mindset thing. Being able to go out there and attack hitters right away and give everything I have, be more aggressive and not worry about pitch count.” Littell is just 23 years old, so the question has to be asked; Are his days as a starter over? Is he now deemed a relief pitcher going forward? Littell said, “They were very clear… this is just what we need now and a way to help the Twins win this year. And honestly, whatever keeps me here and helps these guys win. Nobody doesn’t want to be a part of this. Whatever keeps me here.” Outings like last night when he worked two scoreless innings and picked up his first MLB win (and showed off that 97 mph fastball) certainly help make his case. Of course, the business side of baseball isn’t always so kind, and Littell has been a part of that a couple of times already this year. Littell and Tyler Duffey are the two relief pitchers with options on the current Twins staff. It is entirely possible that if the front office decides that a fresh arm is needed on Wednesday night when the Twins play the Red Sox again, one or both of those two right-handers could find themselves back with the Red Wings. But it is clear that Littell can help the Twins in 2019, and he will (and should) continue to get opportunities. He’s just got to maintain that mindset. He will turn 24 on October 5th, and I’m sure he’d like nothing more than to be on the Twins October roster, pitching out of the bullpen in some playoff games!
  5. As of Tuesday, Wes Johnson’s staff is sending first-pitch strikes into the zone at a 62.1% rate. That’s ninth in all of baseball, and fourth in the American League. Right now, the major league average sits at 60.6%, and it’s a far cry from where this team has been previously. A year ago, Minnesota’s first-pitch strike percentage was 58.4% (28th), with preceding years sitting at 60.5% (13th), and 60.0% (16th). Getting the ball into the zone early doesn’t create a benefit in and of itself, but it allows for an increased opportunity to gain the upper hand. Trailing only the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota has given opposing batters fits with 0-2 counts showing up 29.4% of the time. Putting the pitcher in a dominant position nearly one-third of the time, the opportunity to force chase swings or generate less than ideal contact only rises. Often, good pitchers aren’t giving away at-bats either. In 2018 Minnesota’s staff turned in 91 four-pitch walks. That was the ninth-worst mark in baseball, and certainly did no favors for a group that needed to avoid extra baserunners at all costs. Through their 33 games in 2019 the Twins have allowed just 13 four-pitch walks, fifth lowest in baseball. Throwing more strikes, and more early strikes also, isn’t going to transform pitchers into strikeout stalwarts. Right now, Baldelli’s group owns the 19th-best strikeout rate in baseball. That says they can't easily put the ball past opposing hitters, and it’s evidence that that’s not the strength of this group. What we should see though, is the results be reflective of lackluster chances for the opposing batters. That has played out. Batted balls off Twins pitches have resulted in soft contact exactly one-fifth of the time. Exit velocities in the soft contact realm are the easiest to convert into outs, and Minnesota is getting the fourth most chances at them in all of baseball. As would also be expected, the 36.8% hard-hit rate ranks well, checking in at the 10th lowest in the sport. As pitchers get ahead, batters are forced to react as opposed to dictating the action at the plate. Regardless of who’s on the mound, being in a position of control helps to heighten the effectiveness of each offering. While this isn’t an exercise you may want to undertake before making sure you’ve got the correct ratios down, Minnesota has flipped the script on a long-time mantra for the organization. Pitch to contact is predicated on getting ground ball outs and allowing your fielders to do the work. Right now, the Twins' 39.5% ground ball rate is third lowest in all of baseball. If they were allowing hard hit balls, and getting behind in counts, that would be a recipe for disaster. Instead, this group is giving up the fifth-lowest HR/FB rate because it’s a perfect storm for dominance. Over the winter, and really since this front office has taken over, the emphasis has been on overhauling processes and putting people in place to drive quality results at the highest level. Most notably this offseason things took shape on the pitching mound, and that’s helped to drive a results that include getting ahead early, throwing strikes often, and generating weak popups that become immediate outs. In a strikeout-driven league, the Minnesota Twins have a stable of starters that include just one pitcher (Jake Odorizzi) with a current K/9 over 9.0. I’d imagine Jose Berrios will push this total to two by the end of the season, but the reality is that this group isn’t relying on dominance by way of the K. Pitching to their strengths, Johnson has his starters working ahead and dictating the action. When and if the strikeouts do pop up in any given game, it only raises the effectiveness of the blueprint up another notch. We are at a place where the sample size is not substantial relative to a full season, but ignoring the current merits would be a foolish proposition as well. Minnesota is challenging opposing batters, forcing their hand, and benefiting from it. The plan is working right now, and there’s no sign of an impending slow down.
  6. Coming into 2019 Perez had a five-pitch mix featuring a fastball, sinker, changeup, slider, and a curveball. He flipped those offerings with velocities ranging from 78 mph all the way up to 93 mph. As a starter, things weren’t all that impressive in 2018, but late work out of the pen seemed to capture reason for future belief. The Twins overhauled their coaching infrastructure this offseason and made a concerted effort to change how they both evaluated and implemented new ideas. Wes Johnson was brought in as the big-league pitching coach and has long been regarded as a velocity guru and someone well regarded at the top of the college ranks. A further implementation of Edgertronic cameras allowed more information to be captured during Spring Training, and guys like Josh Kalk and Jeremy Hefner were then able to turn it into actionable data. This process no doubt helped to influence one significant change for Perez. Having flirted with the idea previously, and in talking with his agent. Martin gave in and decided now was the time to introduce a cutter to his repertoire. Having never thrown the pitch in big league action previously, he is now using it one-third of the time in 2019. Scrapping the slider altogether, and halving the sinker usage, he’s prioritized his new weapon. Pushing his fastball velocity up two ticks to 95 mph, the cutter averages just under 90 mph and creates a nice pairing. Introducing something new like this, and being all in immediately, is indicative of trust and buy in for a coaching staff committed to your success. On top of turning to a new offering, Perez is certainly feeling confident with the pitch. Looking at the count profile, he’s turning to the cutter early and often. Whether behind or ahead in the count, his cutter is being paired and tunneled with other offerings to consistently keep it present in the mind of hitters. It’s one thing to be excited about something new, but Perez also has reason to celebrate the results. Not only is his velocity a career high, but he’s generating a 10.6% whiff rate which is nearly 3% above his career average. He’s getting batters to chase more often, and he’s allowing contact less than at any previously point in his career. We’re only 34 innings into his Twins tenure but calling the work thus far anything but extraordinary would be selling it short. Athletes are not robots and feeling positive momentum about such a significant development is evident of normal human emotion. Seeing Perez express gratitude following his outing against the Astros was hard not to read and immediately picture the smile beaming off his face. For a guy who has previously been highly regarded, never has seen it all come together, and now has reinvented himself to reach new heights, feeling on top of the world should be more than warranted. There’s no telling how this story ends, or how the 2019 season progresses for Minnesota’s offseason acquisition. Right now, though, the narrative is Martin Perez has found a cutter that has him looking like an asset with unrealized and untapped potential. For the Minnesota Twins, it’s nice to see a redefined infrastructure and process bear fruit in such a welcomed form.
  7. Why do the Twins need to make a determination on Fernando Romero so quickly? We’ll get to that, but first, let’s take a look at his background, why he should remain a starter, and why the bullpen could be an option for him as well. Regardless, it will be interesting to see what Derek Falvey, Thad Levine, Rocco Baldelli, Wes Johnson and Jeremy Heffner end up doing with Fernando Romero and the pitching staff in 2010. BACKGROUND Fernando Romero burst on the prospect scene way back in 2013 when he debuted stateside with the GCL Twins. Over 45 innings, Romero posted a 1.60 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP, and struck out 47 batters while walking just 13. In 2014, he was quickly promoted to Cedar Rapids. However, after just three starts he was shut down and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. He missed the rest of 2014 and all of 2015. His return was slowed by a knee injury in 2015. Early in 2016, Romero returned and went to the Kernels. However, he made just five starts and went 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA. In 28 innings, he walked just five and struck out 25 batters. He moved up to Ft. Myers and continued to pitch well. In 11 starts, he went 5-2 with a 1.88 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. Over 62 1/3 innings, he walked 10 and struck out 65 batters. With the strong showing and his prospect status, it was an easy decision to add him to the 40-man roster in November of 2016. Twins Daily named him the #1 Twins Prospect heading into the 2017 season. In 2017, Romero spent the season at Double-A Chattanooga. He pitched 125 innings over 24 games (23 starts). He went 11-9 with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. He walked 45 and struck out 120. Prior to the 2018 season, he was ranked by Twins Daily as the #2 Twins Prospect. (It took having the #1 overall draft pick to move Romero down to #2.) For the second straight year, Romero began the season by impressing the Twins coaching staff and front office with a strong spring training. He began the season in Rochester. On May 2nd, Romero was called up to make his major league debut. He tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Toronto Blue Jays to earn his first win. His next outing was in St. Louis and he threw six shutout frames to improve to 2-0. After making ten starts, he was optioned to Rochester and made just one start for the Twins the rest of the season (mid-July). Overall with the Twins, he went 3-3 with a 4.69 ERA, a 1.42 WHIP. At Rochester, he went 5-6 with a 3.57 ERA but a 1.29 WHIP. Combined, he worked 146 1/3 innings. STARTER So why should the Twins continue to give him an opportunity to start? There are several reasons. First, he had a pretty good showing early in his big-league career as a starter. In his first five starts, he went 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA. In 28 2/3 innings, he struck out 29 batters. Not only did he put up solid numbers, he showed really good stuff. His fastball sat between 92 and 95 mph and touched 96 and even 97 at times, and he maintained that through the first five innings. He did show a good breaking ball early, something that those who watched his Triple-A didn’t see consistently. He also showed a solid changeup most of the time. He spent the full season at age 23. One thought would be to continue the development as a starter, hoping that he could find more consistency with his breaking pitches and changeup. Despite missing two years, Romero was able to reach 146 1/3 innings in 2018. Ideally, with a 20% increase, he could jump up to 175 innings, a real solid number for a mid-to-late, young starting pitcher. Over Romero’s final six starts with the team, he went 1-2 with a 7.67 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP in 27 innings. BULLPEN 2019 is a crucial season for this decision to be made thanks to the rules of the Rule 5 draft. The Twins had to add Romero to their 40-man roster in November of 2016, so he used up option years in 2017 and 2018. If optioned in 2019, he would be out of options starting in 2020. At Twins Fest, Derek Falvey would not commit to Romero being moved to the bullpen, even after the addition of Martin Perez. “I wouldn’t say that’s a definite at this point, but I would say that he is definitely an option (for the bullpen).” There are several factors that go into this kind of decision, but the eye test tells people that Romero could be a force in the bullpen. And that’s something that Falvey acknowledged as well. “Fernando is someone who you watch the first few innings and you think, ‘that could be pretty special out of the bullpen.’ That’s something we’ve always talked about.” There are varying opinions on what is best for pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery, so that’s another factor according to the Twins Chief Baseball Officer. “It’s a balance. You want to think about what’s best for his health. What’s best for his long-term? He is somebody who has history with Tommy John surgery. Is there some benefit to him working out of the bullpen?” That’s part of it, but Falvey continued with the other part of the balance. “Certainly developing third pitch and getting some more variation to his repertoire is important if he is going to continue being a starter.” Don’t forget, as so many Twins fans recall, the Johan Santana spent a couple of seasons in the Twins bullpen, used in a variety of roles, before joining the starting rotation in 2004 (his first Cy Young season). There is a lot of truth to the old saying that most of the best relief pitchers in baseball were starters early in their career. A look at some of the top relievers in Twins history certainly shows that. Joe Nathan, Rick Aguilera, Eddie Guardado and Glen Perkins were all starting pitchers early in their careers. Even top relievers such as JC Romero, Juan Rincon, LaTroy Hawkins and others made starts early in their big league years. THE FIFTH STARTER SPOT I think most would agree that Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda are at least penciled into the Opening Day starting rotation. They may not need a fifth starter for a little while either, but at some point, they will need one. Martin Perez will most likely be on the Opening Day roster and is the favorite for the fifth starter spot as we speak. But there are several candidates for that spot. Some will certainly head to Rochester to start the season, but the bullpen just might be an opportunity for some of the pitchers as well. As the Twins CBO, Falvey needs to think about the big picture to the 2019 season and beyond. He needs to factor in a lot of things such as contracts, options, injuries and more. He notes, “We don’t know exactly what our team will look like on Opening Day. The reality is we’ll have injuries - hopefully less than last year - but we’ll have injuries. We’ll have struggles. We’re going to have to find ways to get those guys to step up. I think about someone like Stephen Gonsalves, or Kohl Stewart, or Fernando Romero, or Zack Littell, or Adalberto Mejia. All those guys will compete to be potential starting options for us, but if we stay healthy, maybe there’s an opportunity for those guys in the ‘pen.” YOUR TURN What will happen? How do you foresee this situation playing out. Consider what might happen as well if there is an injury. Who would you think would be the next in line? Specifically, what would you do with Fernando Romero? Clearly he’s got good fastball velocity and the potential to have three good pitches. We likely all agree that getting 175 innings out of a pitcher is probably more valuable than getting 60 to 70 innings from a reliever. Obviously Adalberto Mejia being out of options factors into decisions on him. Does Romero having just one option remaining force their hand and push a decision more quickly? Should it? What other factors would be instrumental in your decision?
  8. It is a conversation with every hard-throwing pitching prospect in baseball. Can he make it to the big leagues as a starter, or does he need to be moved to the bullpen? Fernando Romero has found himself in that situation for a while now, and it is likely that decision will ultimately be made in 2019. Will Romero get another opportunity to start, or will be be moved to the bullpen.Why do the Twins need to make a determination on Fernando Romero so quickly? We’ll get to that, but first, let’s take a look at his background, why he should remain a starter, and why the bullpen could be an option for him as well. Regardless, it will be interesting to see what Derek Falvey, Thad Levine, Rocco Baldelli, Wes Johnson and Jeremy Heffner end up doing with Fernando Romero and the pitching staff in 2010. BACKGROUND Fernando Romero burst on the prospect scene way back in 2013 when he debuted stateside with the GCL Twins. Over 45 innings, Romero posted a 1.60 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP, and struck out 47 batters while walking just 13. In 2014, he was quickly promoted to Cedar Rapids. However, after just three starts he was shut down and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. He missed the rest of 2014 and all of 2015. His return was slowed by a knee injury in 2015. Early in 2016, Romero returned and went to the Kernels. However, he made just five starts and went 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA. In 28 innings, he walked just five and struck out 25 batters. He moved up to Ft. Myers and continued to pitch well. In 11 starts, he went 5-2 with a 1.88 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. Over 62 1/3 innings, he walked 10 and struck out 65 batters. With the strong showing and his prospect status, it was an easy decision to add him to the 40-man roster in November of 2016. Twins Daily named him the #1 Twins Prospect heading into the 2017 season. In 2017, Romero spent the season at Double-A Chattanooga. He pitched 125 innings over 24 games (23 starts). He went 11-9 with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. He walked 45 and struck out 120. Prior to the 2018 season, he was ranked by Twins Daily as the #2 Twins Prospect. (It took having the #1 overall draft pick to move Romero down to #2.) For the second straight year, Romero began the season by impressing the Twins coaching staff and front office with a strong spring training. He began the season in Rochester. On May 2nd, Romero was called up to make his major league debut. He tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Toronto Blue Jays to earn his first win. His next outing was in St. Louis and he threw six shutout frames to improve to 2-0. After making ten starts, he was optioned to Rochester and made just one start for the Twins the rest of the season (mid-July). Overall with the Twins, he went 3-3 with a 4.69 ERA, a 1.42 WHIP. At Rochester, he went 5-6 with a 3.57 ERA but a 1.29 WHIP. Combined, he worked 146 1/3 innings. STARTER So why should the Twins continue to give him an opportunity to start? There are several reasons. First, he had a pretty good showing early in his big-league career as a starter. In his first five starts, he went 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA. In 28 2/3 innings, he struck out 29 batters. Not only did he put up solid numbers, he showed really good stuff. His fastball sat between 92 and 95 mph and touched 96 and even 97 at times, and he maintained that through the first five innings. He did show a good breaking ball early, something that those who watched his Triple-A didn’t see consistently. He also showed a solid changeup most of the time. He spent the full season at age 23. One thought would be to continue the development as a starter, hoping that he could find more consistency with his breaking pitches and changeup. Despite missing two years, Romero was able to reach 146 1/3 innings in 2018. Ideally, with a 20% increase, he could jump up to 175 innings, a real solid number for a mid-to-late, young starting pitcher. Over Romero’s final six starts with the team, he went 1-2 with a 7.67 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP in 27 innings. BULLPEN 2019 is a crucial season for this decision to be made thanks to the rules of the Rule 5 draft. The Twins had to add Romero to their 40-man roster in November of 2016, so he used up option years in 2017 and 2018. If optioned in 2019, he would be out of options starting in 2020. At Twins Fest, Derek Falvey would not commit to Romero being moved to the bullpen, even after the addition of Martin Perez. “I wouldn’t say that’s a definite at this point, but I would say that he is definitely an option (for the bullpen).” There are several factors that go into this kind of decision, but the eye test tells people that Romero could be a force in the bullpen. And that’s something that Falvey acknowledged as well. “Fernando is someone who you watch the first few innings and you think, ‘that could be pretty special out of the bullpen.’ That’s something we’ve always talked about.” There are varying opinions on what is best for pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery, so that’s another factor according to the Twins Chief Baseball Officer. “It’s a balance. You want to think about what’s best for his health. What’s best for his long-term? He is somebody who has history with Tommy John surgery. Is there some benefit to him working out of the bullpen?” That’s part of it, but Falvey continued with the other part of the balance. “Certainly developing third pitch and getting some more variation to his repertoire is important if he is going to continue being a starter.” Don’t forget, as so many Twins fans recall, the Johan Santana spent a couple of seasons in the Twins bullpen, used in a variety of roles, before joining the starting rotation in 2004 (his first Cy Young season). There is a lot of truth to the old saying that most of the best relief pitchers in baseball were starters early in their career. A look at some of the top relievers in Twins history certainly shows that. Joe Nathan, Rick Aguilera, Eddie Guardado and Glen Perkins were all starting pitchers early in their careers. Even top relievers such as JC Romero, Juan Rincon, LaTroy Hawkins and others made starts early in their big league years. THE FIFTH STARTER SPOT I think most would agree that Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda are at least penciled into the Opening Day starting rotation. They may not need a fifth starter for a little while either, but at some point, they will need one. Martin Perez will most likely be on the Opening Day roster and is the favorite for the fifth starter spot as we speak. But there are several candidates for that spot. Some will certainly head to Rochester to start the season, but the bullpen just might be an opportunity for some of the pitchers as well. As the Twins CBO, Falvey needs to think about the big picture to the 2019 season and beyond. He needs to factor in a lot of things such as contracts, options, injuries and more. He notes, “We don’t know exactly what our team will look like on Opening Day. The reality is we’ll have injuries - hopefully less than last year - but we’ll have injuries. We’ll have struggles. We’re going to have to find ways to get those guys to step up. I think about someone like Stephen Gonsalves, or Kohl Stewart, or Fernando Romero, or Zack Littell, or Adalberto Mejia. All those guys will compete to be potential starting options for us, but if we stay healthy, maybe there’s an opportunity for those guys in the ‘pen.” YOUR TURN What will happen? How do you foresee this situation playing out. Consider what might happen as well if there is an injury. Who would you think would be the next in line? Specifically, what would you do with Fernando Romero? Clearly he’s got good fastball velocity and the potential to have three good pitches. We likely all agree that getting 175 innings out of a pitcher is probably more valuable than getting 60 to 70 innings from a reliever. Obviously Adalberto Mejia being out of options factors into decisions on him. Does Romero having just one option remaining force their hand and push a decision more quickly? Should it? What other factors would be instrumental in your decision? Click here to view the article
  9. Fernando Romero has been placed near the top of Minnesota Twins prospect lists for the better part of the past few years now. He cracked top 100 prospect lists for the first time entering the 2018 season, and his solid showing with Triple-A Rochester in his third season removed from Tommy John surgery earned him his eventual major league debut. As with all starting pitchers, the goal would be to keep them on the mound for something like 200 innings over the course of a season. During his 125-inning output in 2017 with Chattanooga, Romero posted a 3.53 ERA bolstered by an 8.6 K/9. Those numbers were plenty respectable but didn’t jibe with the 1.89 ERA and 9.0 K/9 (paired with a 1.5 BB/9) split between two levels of Single-A in 2016. Looking to get the most out of their 24-year-old hurler with an upper 90’s fastball, the Twins could pivot to a role in relief. Despite owning a fastball that sat just shy of 96mph on average during 2018, Romero consistently left the Twins wanting more. As Twins Daily’s Nick Nelson pointed out, the thought regarding Romero’s profile generally presents the consensus that “This guy's dominant, let's get the most innings out of him we can.” He goes on to note however, that the results haven’t been indicative of that reality. With a sub 7.0 K/9 at Triple-A in 2018, and just barely breaking that mark at the big-league level, it’s apparent the ability isn’t translating to output. With a freakish fastball-slider combination, Romero can push velocity while also forcing the batter to stay on his toes. He’s utilized the heavy heat roughly two-thirds of the time while turning to his slider as the top secondary offering. Although both pitches should present difficulties to opposing hitters, 2018 saw a chase rate of just 30% and a swinging strike rate of only 10.6% for Romero. To offer some perspective, both of those marks are essentially the same profile that Jake Odorizzi posted a season ago. There’s little denying that the Twins expected a more drastic strikeout profile from Romero. Whether or not the issues stem from settling back into a full workload, or it’s more in relation to the ineffectiveness of a quality third pitch, new pitching coach Wes Johnson will be looking to unlock the 90th percentile of where Romero’s capabilities lie. Considering his youth, there’s hardly a reason to look at a move to the pen as a death sentence, or even a forever destination. Knowing the Twins need to pair more impact arms with the likes of Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, and Trevor Hildenberger however, it’s hard not to salivate at the thought of what a quick burst Romero could look like. Baseball has long since changed to be a game that doesn’t force relievers into set roles. While there’s a small number of guys still chasing saves, the best relievers in the game are called upon to put out fires when their teams need them most. Affording Baldelli the opportunity to unleash a Romero that shoves near 100mph and totes a double-digit K/9 when a lead is in jeopardy is beyond an exciting proposition. Given the financial flexibility still afforded to the club, something like $30 million shy of the 2018 Opening Day payroll, an acquisition or two for the pen should be a certainty. Raising the water level of the group by transitioning what could be the best internal option into the group only makes the collective that much more exciting. If the bullpen is rounded out by a group with names like Moya or Vasquez, you’d be asking unproven commodities to do quite a bit. A key free agent or two, plus Romero, turns the likes of May, Rogers, and Hildenberger into valuable pieces rounding out the depth instead of horses tasked with carrying the load. We certainly don’t have the answer as to whether Romero unlocks his potential in relief, but nothing we’ve seen as a starter suggests he’s there, in that starter role, currently. Narrowing the focus, using his two best pitches, and letting it fly in short stints could have both Fernando and the Twins looking at a player that performs at somewhat of an unstoppable level. Considering the current deficiency in that area, it’s a proposition that should be relatively easy to get behind.
  10. Last summer during a late season Minnesota Twins game Thad Levine sat on stage with Aaron Gleeman during the now annual Baseball Prospectus event at Target Field. There was a myriad of topics discussed but on point stood out to me. The general manager quipped that while Minnesota may not be able to outspend the competition in the form of player acquisition, they were committed to adding talent and spending dollars in other facets of the organization. Fast forward to today, and we’re beginning to see that all take shape. Recently announced skipper Rocco Baldelli certainly is a step outside of the typical candidate pool. He’s just 37 years-old and has no previous managerial experience. While that is something that would’ve been unheard of years ago, it’s a decision that has become more common recently. Alex Cora just won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox in his debut season, and Aaron Boone faired well with the Yankees out of the same division. It’s not just the managerial role that the Twins have committed to a different structure though, and it’s felt throughout the organization. Behind the scenes Minnesota has beefed up its analytics department, adding bodies in the front office that should be expected to push the needle. Formerly of Baseball Reference, Hans Van Slooten was brought into the fold prior to the 2018 season. A glance through his timeline will highlight the multiple intern, baseball operations, and baseball research positions the organization has committed to. It’s not just off the field talent though, and that has really played out as Baldelli’s staff has been named. After working with the Twins as an Advance Scout, Jeremy Hefner has been added to the field staff for 2019. He’s just 32 years-old and was pitching professionally as recently as 2017. Despite a lack of coaching experience, he has been named the Assistant Pitching Coach. The man he’ll be working next to is green in the big leagues as well. Wes Johnson was plucked from Arkansas after a successful stint with Mississippi State. He’s well regarded as a forward thinker using TrackMan and Rapsodo technologies, as well as being billed a velocity savant. On the diamond during play, Tony Diaz joins the Twins organization at the age of 41 after holding a base coaching position with the Colorado Rockies last season. Tommy Watkins is just 38 and joins the field staff after serving as a minor league manager and drawing rave reviews from all those he interacted with. Bringing both diversity as well as youth to the highest level of Twins baseball, there’s a very visible shift in dynamics taking place here. It was assumed that Paul Molitor would’ve been on his way out following the 2017 season had he not won Manager of the Year. Not handpicked by the front office, the collective obviously had plans of how they wanted things run and see those interacting with players as an avenue to get more production in the box score. Looking at how this new staff has been filled out, it’s plenty apparent to see that Molitor (by no fault of his own) wasn’t anywhere close to the ideal profile. From a top down view, and before the games begin to matter, it’s plenty fair to suggest that this whole blueprint has a very real chance to go up completely in flames. With so many coaches lacking experience at this level, and youth being a very common thread among them, it will be necessary to overcome hurdles in the process. However, the Twins are very clearly going out on a limb in the vein of innovation. If their competitive advantage isn’t going to come through outspending, looking to exploit market inefficiencies is a very astute way to go about gaining ground. We will still need to see if everything comes together and this formula ends up being worthwhile. That said, innovation doesn’t happen for those unwilling to take the first step, and the Twins front office has committed to a process that bucks the trend of retreads being selected as new hires first. Investing in the opportunity to pioneer a new process, and hopefully benefit both the 25-man active roster as well as the organization, the Twins could certainly be venturing down a path that helps to ever-so-slightly tip the scales in their favor. There’ll come a point in which we can look back and judge how it all worked out, but that remains at least a couple of years in the future right now. Reasoning and process alone make this plan appealing, and there’s little reason to cast aside the hope that it works. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  11. In 2010, Minnesota had the fifth-best ERA in the American League, and allowed the third-fewest runs. Twins pitchers bounced back after a down spell, putting forth their best post-Johan season and seemingly vindicating the staff-building approach of Terry Ryan, Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson. Maybe that's why the trio received so much leeway as things went totally awry. In 2011 the Twins allowed the league's second-most runs. Then, they did it again in 2012 and 2013. In 2014 they finally took the AL crown for runs allowed, as an obscenely poor pitching staff doomed what was actually a pretty solid offense. That was it for Gardy and Anderson. Ryan hired Paul Molitor as manager, and sought to offset the new skipper's lack of arms expertise by pairing him with Neil Allen, a minor-league pitching coach snagged out of Tampa's organization. All-out disaster ensued in 2016, leading to Terry Ryan's dismissal. Allen survived the regime change. And in 2017, his Ervin-led staff actually did show considerable improvement, but he was sent packing afterward anyway. The Twins turned to Galvin Alston, another guy with lots of experience instructing pitchers in the minors, and a bit in the majors too. He lasted one year before being ousted in yet another shakeup, which also claimed four-year bullpen coach Eddie Guardado. On Thursday, we found out who will be filling these new vacancies for an organization suddenly characterized by churn. And this time, the Twins are really coloring outside the lines. Wes Johnson, who will be named Minnesota's new pitching coach, becomes the first collegiate coach to jump straight to the majors in nearly four decades. Johnson is a forward thinker who speaks frequently of concepts like spin access and hand tilt, and is a TrackMan evangelist. So, the analytical creds are there, but Johnson's total lack of familiarity with the pro level makes him a wild card, especially when paired with the game's youngest and greenest manager in Rocco Baldelli. With these two in place, you'd think Minnesota's front office might seek out some seasoning at bullpen coach, but... nope. It sounds like they'll be going with Jeremy Hefner for that gig. The 31-year-old, who played in the majors as recently as 2013, will join an on-field MLB coaching staff for the first time after serving in the analytics office for the last two years. His role with the team was described by La Velle E. Neal III as such: "Jeremy Hefner was hired as an advance scout, but not the kind that goes to the opposing team’s games the week before they face the Twins. Hefner travels with the Twins and scouts opponents by video. The combination of what Hefner sees on his screen and statistical analysis provides players with quality intelligence." You might've heard that the Twins are being sued by a former scout for age discrimination. And while that legal action may or may not have merit, it's plain to see that this front office is heavily favoring freshness and youth at almost every turn. Derek Falvey is acting in line with the very mindset that got him hired, which only makes sense I suppose. While this shift has been refreshing, one does wonder if the Twins have veered too far in the other direction. The team's three newest coaching hires carry essentially zero practical experience between them. The Twins organization as a whole is now shockingly short on experience. The ousting of Molitor, a franchise institution and Hall of Famer, symbolize a much larger overhaul. With Joe Mauer announcing his retirement and Brian Dozier unlikely to return, there's no real tenure anywhere in the clubhouse, no reverered figures with storied histories to draw from. Does that matter? We're about to find out.
  12. While toiling in obscurity for eight years since their most recent division title, the Minnesota Twins have had their share of issues, covering all sizes, shapes and forms. But the one persistent flaw plaguing these teams is poor pitching. Minnesota's new hires at pitching coach and bullpen coach, which came to light on Thursday, illustrate just how creative – and daring – they are becoming in the quest to finally overcome their perennial run-prevention problemsIn 2010, Minnesota had the fifth-best ERA in the American League, and allowed the third-fewest runs. Twins pitchers bounced back after a down spell, putting forth their best post-Johan season and seemingly vindicating the staff-building approach of Terry Ryan, Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson. Maybe that's why the trio received so much leeway as things went totally awry. In 2011 the Twins allowed the league's second-most runs. Then, they did it again in 2012 and 2013. In 2014 they finally took the AL crown for runs allowed, as an obscenely poor pitching staff doomed what was actually a pretty solid offense. That was it for Gardy and Anderson. Ryan hired Paul Molitor as manager, and sought to offset the new skipper's lack of arms expertise by pairing him with Neil Allen, a minor-league pitching coach snagged out of Tampa's organization. All-out disaster ensued in 2016, leading to Terry Ryan's dismissal. Allen survived the regime change. And in 2017, his Ervin-led staff actually did show considerable improvement, but he was sent packing afterward anyway. The Twins turned to Galvin Alston, another guy with lots of experience instructing pitchers in the minors, and a bit in the majors too. He lasted one year before being ousted in yet another shakeup, which also claimed four-year bullpen coach Eddie Guardado. On Thursday, we found out who will be filling these new vacancies for an organization suddenly characterized by churn. And this time, the Twins are really coloring outside the lines. Wes Johnson, who will be named Minnesota's new pitching coach, becomes the first collegiate coach to jump straight to the majors in nearly four decades. Johnson is a forward thinker who speaks frequently of concepts like spin access and hand tilt, and is a TrackMan evangelist. So, the analytical creds are there, but Johnson's total lack of familiarity with the pro level makes him a wild card, especially when paired with the game's youngest and greenest manager in Rocco Baldelli. With these two in place, you'd think Minnesota's front office might seek out some seasoning at bullpen coach, but... nope. It sounds like they'll be going with Jeremy Hefner for that gig. The 31-year-old, who played in the majors as recently as 2013, will join an on-field MLB coaching staff for the first time after serving in the analytics office for the last two years. His role with the team was described by La Velle E. Neal III as such: "Jeremy Hefner was hired as an advance scout, but not the kind that goes to the opposing team’s games the week before they face the Twins. Hefner travels with the Twins and scouts opponents by video. The combination of what Hefner sees on his screen and statistical analysis provides players with quality intelligence." You might've heard that the Twins are being sued by a former scout for age discrimination. And while that legal action may or may not have merit, it's plain to see that this front office is heavily favoring freshness and youth at almost every turn. Derek Falvey is acting in line with the very mindset that got him hired, which only makes sense I suppose. While this shift has been refreshing, one does wonder if the Twins have veered too far in the other direction. The team's three newest coaching hires carry essentially zero practical experience between them. The Twins organization as a whole is now shockingly short on experience. The ousting of Molitor, a franchise institution and Hall of Famer, symbolize a much larger overhaul. With Joe Mauer announcing his retirement and Brian Dozier unlikely to return, there's no real tenure anywhere in the clubhouse, no reverered figures with storied histories to draw from. Does that matter? We're about to find out. Click here to view the article
  13. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/ep_399_final.mp3?dest-id=74590 Sponsored by Headflyer Brewing, Robinhood and Sota Stick.
  14. Aaron and John talk about pitching coach Wes Johnson and the rest of the Twins' new-look coaching staff, why college is such an untapped resource in baseball, the Twins' search for rotation help via free agency, how much of Zack Greinke's contract is too much, and the latest huge money score for MLB owners. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click this link.http://traffic.libsy...3?dest-id=74590 Sponsored by Headflyer Brewing, Robinhood and Sota Stick. Click here to view the article
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