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  1. It’s understandable that a controllable starter like Chris Paddack may have been available for a lesser return given his elbow issues. Unfortunately, they reared their head just a few starts into 2022 and now it appears he’ll undergo surgery to fix the problem that was already there. Emilio Pagan was hardly a throw-in, however, and despite his 4.83 ERA last season, he’s just a few years removed from being one of baseball’s more dominant relievers. Pagan, who recently turned 31-years-old, posted a 2.31 ERA in his lone season with the Tampa Bay Rays. Acting as their closer that year, he recorded 20 saves and worked 70 innings. His 12.3 K/9 was a career-high, and the 1.7 BB/9 was near a career-low. The 3.30 FIP suggested it was all pretty solidly rooted in advanced statistics as well. Of course, he wasn’t the same pitcher the past two seasons for the Padres, and that’s likely why they were willing to upgrade the back end of their pen. For Minnesota, needing to replace Rogers, Pagan would immediately become an option should he find a way to harness his former glory. Things started ugly for the Twins' new closer as he took the loss in his second appearance, and blew a save in just his third try. Through his first six outings this year Pagan had just a 7/6 K/BB and appeared to be doing a tightrope act each time he took the mound. Since that point though, Pagan has pitched another six innings and has not allowed an earned run. His 8/4 K/BB is more manageable and the ERA is down to 1.54. While the free passes remain an issue, he’s worked around the danger thanks to a career-best 5.4 H/9. It’s not as though Pagan simply lost the ability to find the zone. He’s an established veteran with more than 200 Major League innings under his belt, and in that time he surrendered just a 2.3 BB/9. The gaudy 7.7 BB/9 comes from something else, and he was asked about it following his fifth save of the season. Having basically always been a two-pitch pitcher, and really only one when you consider the secondary offering is a version of the other, Pagan changed his repertoire this season. He’s traditionally been categorized as a fastball and slider guy, although most reporting systems call his secondary offering a cutter. This offseason he added a splitter and it’s drastically different from what he already brings to the table. During Spring Training, and still then with the Padres, San Diego manager Bob Melvin said, “He’s coming up with a new pitch. He’s throwing a split(-fingered fastball) a lot. … I think a third pitch will serve him well. Typically, a bullpen guy, especially late innings, is more of a two-pitch guy. But I think a third pitch will be good for him. Fastball, sliders are mostly hard (stuff). This is kind of a slower pitch, goes in a different direction, and gives the hitter something else to think about. He’s thrown it in a game and feels confident about it.” To this point in 2022, the splitter has been a focal point for Pagan. He’s thrown it over 17% of the time, and it’s drastically changed the cutter usage. In developing a new pitch and then utilizing it in games, it’s understandable there would be some hiccups and likely control or command issues. As he continues to find comfort with the offering, the walks should subside back down to his career norms. Rocco Baldelli has a very good thing going at the back of his pen right now. Whether going with rookie fireballer Jhoan Duran, or veteran-tested Pagan, he’s got capable arms to mix and match for any situation. The more Minnesota can lean into both of them shutting down the opposition, the better they’ll find themselves positioned to close out games in routine fashion.
  2. Griffin Jax had a poor 2021 season by just about any stat you prefer. He struck out just 18.1% of batters, walked them at an 8.1% clip, and gave up 23 home runs in 82 innings, a total high enough to make Bert Blyleven blush. Unsurprisingly, his ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line looked more like the price of gas these days, as it went 6.37/6.47/5.75. Outside of a surprise, 10 strikeout game against the White Sox on August 10th, outings of upside were few and far between. Jax always had a trick up his sleeve: his slider. The pitch was a bright spot in an otherwise bland repertoire, running a .275 xWOBA with characteristics favorable in Eno Sarris' pitch data collection. Ironically, his popular slide piece only recently joined his repertoire. You can read Jax himself describe the pitch to David Laurila in possibly the greatest baseball information series known to mankind. According to Jax, the pitch came as a fluke; “I was toying around in catch-play, right before I was about to go on the mound, and was like, ‘What if I just turned my curveball a little bit?’ That’s how I got the slider I have now.” Coaches immediately caught on to the pitch and encouraged him to continue using it. In its horizontal break, the pitch perfectly fits with the sweeper revolution in baseball, and it has buoyed Jax’s 2022 season so far. With his two-pitch (basically one-pitch) mix, Jax became a reliever. His velocity has bumped up two ticks to 94.7 MPH, and he has thrown his slider a Matt Wisler-like 52.7% of the time. While the fastball remains hittable, the breaker is anything but. He owns a .195 xWOBA with it, while hitters are whiffing 47.3% of the time they swing at it. That’s good. In fact, that’s good for 11th best amongst all pitchers in MLB who have faced 25 hitters in 2022. The total numbers are inspiring; an ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line of 1.35/2.43/2.83 that looks great in any era, dead ball or not. The only two criticisms are ‘it’s early’ and ‘it’s not sustainable.’ The first point is fair, but the second one may not be true in the age of breakers. Matt Wisler, Amir Garrett, Andrés Muñoz, Diego Castillo, and the Rogers twins are all quality relievers throwing sliders more often this season than Jax. And, well, just look at the pitch! Hitters may eventually key in on the pitch, but its movement combined with Jax’s command makes it a safe bet that he’ll continue to succeed in the majors. Like we talked about with Danny Coulombe, where a pitch ends up matters as much, if not more than any movement profile. Jax knows how to put his slider juuuuuuuust in the precise place to fool hitters. Yeah, that’ll work. Griffin Jax has become a revelation, finding his proper place in the bullpen where he can unleash as many sliders as humanly possible. It has only been a handful of innings, but Jax has wholly changed course from 2021; his performance is much improved, and his stuff suggests that this will be a permanent change.
  3. It was a vastly different experience going to that little ballpark compared to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, but watching unknown minor leaguers play on those fields always filled my mind with delusions of grandeur to be like them one day—a professional baseball player chasing their dream to become a Major Leaguer. That is the main reason I do a little bit different of a list heading into a new season than all those “Top Prospects” lists you see here at Twins Daily, on MLB.com, or at other outlets like FanGraphs and Baseball America. There are so many of them these days I don’t think this amateur scout can tell you anything you haven’t already heard. Instead, I want to recognize all those guys who have worked hard to get where they are, whether they’re a top prospect or not, and whom you might see make their MLB debut at Target Field during the upcoming season—those ready to make their childhood dreams like mine come true. Across all of Major League Baseball during the 2021 season, 265 players made their Major League debut, with eight members of the Minnesota Twins organization contributing to that number. They included pitchers Charlie Barnes, Griffin Jax, Jovani Moran, Bailey Ober, and Joe Ryan, as well as position players Gilberto Celestino, Nick Gordon, Trevor Larnach, and Ben Rortvedt. All four of those hitters and pitchers Jax and Ober were profiled in this same column before the start of the 2021 season, and you’ll see some of the same names in this list below for the 2022 calendar year that didn’t quite make the jump. So, who are the prospects that could make their Major League debut and become the next Minnesota Twins during the 2022 season? ON THE 40-MAN ROSTER: The Twins enter the 2022 season with a 40-man MLB roster that does not have much room for position players yet to make their MLB debut. That list is just two players, but any fan should be excited about the names that are included in this section. There is, however, much more room for pitchers in both the starting rotation and the bullpen, and the top end talent is almost all at the top of their system to start the 2022 season. Royce Lewis (22 years old on opening day), IF/OF – Twins Daily’s #2 Prospect (Lewis made his MLB debut on 5/6, playing SS against the Oakland Athletics and batting 7th. He finished 1-for-4, picking up a single in the 8th inning of a 2-1 win) It’s hard to gauge where Royce Lewis is at in his development, given he’s missed two entire years’ worth of time due to Covid and tearing his ACL. But when we last saw him, he was crushing in the Arizona Fall League to the point he took home the league’s MVP award. He has continued to work on his swing while off the field, and I expect big things during the 2022 season when he finds his footing. The biggest question continues to be what position he will play when he reaches the majors. I have been critical of his shortstop play in the past, but there is no doubt he can be an elite defender in the outfield. He excelled at third base in the AFL as well if that does not work out. That is to say, if he’s hitting well and anyone in the outfield or middle infield on the Major League roster goes out for an extended period, it would not surprise me at all if Lewis is the name that gets called to fill in if he is hitting. Plus, he looked good at short for the Saints on Tuesday if you were wondering: Jordan Balazovic (23), RHP – TD’s #4 Prospect Balazovic is ticketed for the starting rotation with the St. Paul Saints in 2022, though he will start the season on the Injured List with a left knee strain. While he does not necessarily get the accolades around his pure “stuff” that some of the other guys on this list do, he has been one to get better results as he’s climbed the ladder. That can be attributed some to having better command, but he has also shown steady improvement with his offerings year over year, showcased by his fastball averaging around 96 MPH with Wichita last season. One thing going against him is innings, as his 97 in 2021 were a career high after missing the first two months with a back injury. There is little doubt when it comes to Balazovic that he will break through as a starting pitcher and stay there when he reaches the majors, compared to others further down this list. Jose Miranda (23), 3B – TD’s #3 Prospect (Miranda made his MLB debut on 5/2, playing third base and batting sixth against the Baltimore Orioles. He was 0-for-4 in a 2-1 Twins win) The thing with Miranda was never about talent, as the Twins had always seen a good bat in the infielder from Puerto Rico. However, before the 2021 season that bat had never quite lived up to expectations, producing just one season with an OPS above .750 and that was all the way back in rookie ball. But coaches continued to encourage him to alter his approach and wait for pitches he could do damage with, instead of swinging first and asking questions later. He took it to heart and ran with it for the 2021 season, enroute to one of the most impressive Minor League seasons you have ever seen from a Twins prospect. He led all of the minors in total bases, clubbing 32 doubles and 30 home runs in 127 games between Wichita and St. Paul. He finished with a .344/.401/.572 slash line and rocketed up prospect lists by the end of the year. He’s basically only a corner infielder and won’t win any Gold Glove awards with his defense, but if he’s even close to repeating those hitting numbers in 2022 at triple-A, his bat will force the issue sooner rather than later. Jhoan Duran (24), RHP – TD’s #7 Prospect (Duran made his MLB debut on opening day, pithing two innings against the Seattle Mariners. He allowed two hits, walked one, and struck out four in a scoreless outing) Whether they’ve been trying or not, since I’ve been a fan of the Twins they have always had a velocity problem. Duran is one of the pitchers who can continue to change that, whether that comes as a starter or a reliever. He has size, is capable of hitting 100+ MPH with his fastball, and throws a weird sinker he can play off that velocity to get swings and misses. Like many young hurlers, consistency is key and despite his stuff he has had trouble maintaining that start-to-start in the past. When he is on Duran is fully capable of dominating an outing, but has thrown only 16 innings in live games since the end of the 2019 season. If you were asking me before the start of Spring Training, I would have fully expected Duran to begin the season in the St. Paul Saints rotation. Instead, he has been absolutely dominant in his outings thus far and will come North with the Twins to start the year! Josh Winder (25), RHP – TD’s #9 Prospect (Winder made his MLB debut on 4/12, pitching one inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He allowed one run on two walks and struck out one. He made his first MLB start on 5/1, and picked up the win with 6 innings of shutout baseball. He allowed just two hits, walked one, and struck out seven against the Tampa Bay Rays) A casual fan may not recognize Winder’s name as much as others, but I recommend paying a lot more attention to him this season. I have seen evidence from the Twins over the past two years that they may think he is the best of the starting pitching bunch they have approaching the majors. Plus, as of writing this he is still on the bubble to come North to Minneapolis instead of St. Paul to start the 2022 season. While he only threw 72 innings last year, they were so good that he was the Twins representative to play in the Futures Game during All Star Weekend. He was promoted to triple-A immediately after that and made four starts for the Saints before being shut down for the rest of the season with a shoulder impingement. He was solid in his outings this spring, starting three games (meaning he was facing mostly MLB players) and allowing just two runs on seven hits and two walks, while striking out nine in eight total innings pitched. While there is no reason for the Twins to put him in the bullpen permanently, it would not shock me to see him as part of a 16-man pitching staff to start the season in a piggy-backing role. I can even envision him performing better than whomever he follows to the point he takes over when rosters get cut down from 28 players. Cole Sands (24), RHP – TD’s #13 Prospect (Sands made his MLB debut on 5/1, pitching two innings of relief against the Tampa Bay Rays. He allowed two earned runs on three hits, and struck out two.) Making his professional debut during the 2019 season, Sands was a standout performer and as a result pitched at three levels, reaching double-A for one start to end the year. He finished the season with a 2.68 ERA and struck out 108 hitters over 97 1/3 innings. He followed that up in 2021 by dominating with Wichita to the tune of a 2.46 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 80 1/3 innings. He missed some time due to an injury, but will be in the Saints rotation to start the 2022 season. His path reminds me a bit of one Bailey Ober and if the Twins can get more of that, they would be ecstatic. Since he is on the 40-man roster, you never know—if he is lined up to pitch on the right day, an injury on the Twins could spur a cab ride across the river to Target Field at any point. Drew Strotman (25), RHP The second half of the trade package the Twins received from the Tampa Bay Rays for Nelson Cruz, Strotman was thought by some evaluators to be the better prospect in the deal at the time. I do not think that is the case now, considering Joe Ryan is slated to pitch opening day for the Twins while Strotman fell off a bit after coming over, but it should give you an idea of how well the Twins did in that trade to get both of those guys. He throws in the mid-90s with a good cutter that catches the attention of scouts, but command has been a bit of an issue since having Tommy John Surgery back in 2018. He is being fully transitioned to the bullpen in 2022 and could turn into another high-octane option there as the season progresses. Ronny Henriquez (21), RHP – TD’s #16 Prospect With the flurry of trade activity that happened after the lockout ended, the Twins ended up with an intriguing right-hander from the Texas Rangers in sending off Mitch Garver. You will hear a lot about his size or lack thereof, but there is a lightning arm attached to his right shoulder that hits the mid-90s with ease. He has consistently piled up strikeouts and limited baserunners, but the long ball has been a bugaboo as he gave up nearly two per nine innings pitched in double-A last season. He has primarily started games in his pro career thus far and should continue to do so with the Twins, but his profile sounds a lot like a future reliever when it is all said and done. Chris Vallimont (25), RHP The moniker of the “Vallimonster” is apt for the right-hander, as he can perform quite the Jekyll and Hyde routine whenever he is on the mound. He paired a 13.0/9IP strikeout rate with a 5.8/9IP walk rate during the 2021 season and if you go game to game, you will see that up and down nature in his stat lines as well. A switch to the bullpen to maximize his pure stuff in shorter stints is something to watch for during the season if that pattern continues. TOP PROSPECTS: Consider this entry more of a “not-yet-on-the-40-man-roster” section heading into this season since a lot of the top prospects have already appeared above, but what remains below still holds the theme that these guys are close to Major League ready. All three of them are on the double-A roster of the Wichita Wind Surge to start the year, with a few of them sure to move up quickly when the 40-man depth above is called upon by the Twins. Austin Martin (23), IF/OF – TD’s #1 Prospect The top prospect on our board, it is slightly odd that Martin returns to double-A to start the season after spending all of the 2021 season there, but he does have some things to work on. Those being his defense at shortstop (or elsewhere), and tapping into some power that may have been hindered by a wrist injury throughout last year. That said, he posted a .414 on-base percentage in 93 games that led all of double-A and you would be hard-pressed to find a more prototypical leadoff hitter anywhere in the minors. As soon as a spot opens up in St. Paul I expect Martin to be promoted, but the depth the Twins have when it comes to position players pushes a debut timeline out to later in the summer. He is the type of talent who can force that issue sooner rather than later, however. Simeon Woods Richardson (21), RHP – TD’s #8 Prospect Plenty of people seem to be down on SWR going into the 2022 season, but I am not one of them. You cannot blame him for the 2020 season being canceled or for competing in the Olympics (though he didn’t pitch at all) in the middle of the 2021 campaign. There was absolutely some rust to shake off by the time he put on a Wind Surge uniform, but he did flash what makes him highly regarded as well: A key point to consider with him in comparison to every other player on this list is his age. Even after missing a full season, he was only 20 years old and pitching in double-A at the beginning of last year. Especially for the Twins, this is a rare occurrence. Jose Berrios, for example, had turned 21 a couple of months before he reached double-A and was the quickest moving pitcher the Twins had produced in a long time. If he can reign back in his control, Berrios is also a great comp for the type of ceiling we are talking about for Woods Richardson, who has dwarfed any strikeout rates the former Twins pitcher ever produced in the minors. Matt Canterino (23), RHP – TD’s #6 Prospect Canterino finds himself in double-A to start the 2022 season despite pitching only 23 total innings last year with Cedar Rapids. That was due to elbow troubles, which is a legitimate concern moving forward given his history coming out of Rice University and herky-jerky mechanics, but you cannot deny the numbers. He struck out over half the hitters he faced while walking only four in his time on the mound, resulting in a 0.78 ERA and 0.61 WHIP. His stuff is electric, with a fastball that can reach the high 90’s and a slider and changeup that are both legitimate swing-and-miss offerings as well. Due to those health concerns, there are many evaluators who see the bullpen in his future, but if you are looking for a pitcher that can make some serious noise during the 2022 campaign, Canterino is your guy. MINOR LEAGUE DEPTH: While these players may not necessarily be top prospects, they are at or near the top of the system and have performed well to get themselves there. It could be a situation where a pitcher is lined up to pitch on the right day the Twins need a spot-start across the river at Target Field, or an injury leads to needing a specific position covered and there is no other ready replacement available. Maybe something new has clicked and they have improved their stock from internal evaluators. No matter how it happens, players like these are always needed at some point during the MLB season. Ryan Mason (26), RHP Mason has been a standout performer in the bullpens of Twins affiliates since being taken in the 13th round of the 2016 draft. Missing the 2020 season hurt guys like him more than most, but he came back in 2021 to post stellar numbers and finished the final two months of the season in St. Paul. While there, he posted a career-high strikeout rate of 12.1/9IP, and guys like him are always among my favorites to root for. Yennier Cano (27), RHP (Even though he didn't throw a pitch as the game was suspended, Yennier Cano was credited with his MLB debut on 5/11 against the Houston Astros. When he did take the mound the next day, he delivered two perfect innings before running into some trouble in his third. In total, he allowed three runs on three hits, and struck out two.) A sneaky international signing all the way back in 2019, Cano finally got to showcase his talents for a full season during the 2021 campaign, spending the bulk of it in St. Paul. He boasts a mid-90s fastball and deep repertoire, as well as an intimidating mound presence that reminds me a lot of Aroldis Chapman (both are around 6’4” and 230 lbs). He will need to reign in the walks that spiked once he reached triple-A, but certainly looks the part of a bullpen horse. Mark Contreras (27), OF (Contreras made his MLB debut on 5/12, when the suspended game from the day before resumed he took over for Byron Buxton, playing left field. He finished 0-for-2, but scored a run and drove in one with a sac fly in the 11-3 loss to the Houston Astros.) Contreras made his mark in the Twins organization with his defense, taking home a MiLB Gold Glove award after the 2019 season, but something clicked for him in the batter’s box in 2021. Spending the bulk of the year with St. Paul, the lefty nearly matched his career home run total to that point (23) with 20 on the year, 18 of them coming in his 95 games at triple-A. I would not expect Contreras to get the call as a long-term starter in the majors, but you can do a lot worse with a fourth outfielder type as he can play all the outfield positions well, including center in a pinch. Jermaine Palacios (25), IF Palacios is a bit buried on an organizational depth chart with the names Carlos Correa, Royce Lewis, and Austin Martin in the fold, but what he has above the other two prospects is that he is definitely a shortstop. That fact plays against him a little for the 2022 season as those two prospects above him need the work, but he is in triple-A where he will be moved around the infield depending on the day. He also showed some pop with 19 home runs for Wichita last year, and was also spectacular in the Venezuelan Winter League during the offseason, posting a .987 OPS in 42 games. DARK HORSES: There always seems to be a player or two who comes out of nowhere to make a surprise debut during the season. They might be a known name but are not that far up the ladder at the season’s outset, returning from an injury so they have been forgotten some, or have a unique skill set or background that is intriguing and could pay big dividends if something else falls into place. These are my shots in the dark at guys that could be in 2022. Jordan Gore (27), RHP The former shortstop begins the season as a high-leverage option out of the St. Paul Saints bullpen. He split time between Cedar Rapids and Wichita during the 2021 season, picking up seven saves and striking out 11.7/9IP with a WHIP below 1.00. Plus, he has great hair. Louie Varland (24), RHP – TD’s #14 Prospect First of all, he is #OneOfUs, growing up in Maplewood and being drafted out of Concordia University in St. Paul in the 15th round of the 2019 draft. Second of all, he is the reigning Twins and Twins Daily’s, Minor League Pitcher of the Year. That is because he struck out 142 hitters in 103 innings pitched last season split between Fort Myers and Cedar Rapids. He is buried on a starting pitching depth chart at this point, but if he continues that type of dominance in double-A and eventually triple-A this season, there will be a spot for him at some point. Edouard Julien (22), OF – TD’s #19 Prospect I have long been a fan of the type of player Julien was during the 2021 season, where he led all of the minors in walks (110 in 112 games) and had an on-base percentage flirting with .500 for a large chunk of the season. He also tapped into some power upon being promoted to Cedar Rapids, launching 15 homers in 65 games after getting out of the Florida State League. He starts the 2022 season with Wichita, and he and Austin Martin should prove extremely annoying to double-A pitching for much of the summer. So, there you have it, my picks for some of the minor league players I think could be called up to the majors and put on a Minnesota Twins uniform for the first time during the coming season. When do you think any of them will show up at Target Field? Who are you looking forward to the most? And who are some of the prospects you think I have missed that could make that jump? Let’s play ball!
  4. Box Score SP: Sonny Gray 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K (66 pitches, 42 strikes (63.6%)) Home Runs: Jorge Polanco (3) Top 3 WPA: Jhoan Duran (.265), Sonny Gray (.205), Jorge Polanco (.159) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Welcome Back Sonny Sonny Gray has had a less than great start since coming to the Twins organization in a trade after the lockout. His much-anticipated acquisition meant some rounding out to the pitching rotation. Gray came from Cincinnati in March in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Chase Petty, Gray brings a source of veteran leadership to the rotation and a player to watch, but he has been sidelined much of the early season. He wasn’t nearly as stretched out as his teammates at the conclusion of spring training and ultimately ended up with a right hamstring injury early in the season. The discomfort was obvious on his face as he stepped back off the mound in the second inning and ultimately out of the rotation. Gray has only pitched one game at Target Field, against Seattle. He missed the last 19 games. During his IL stint, the pitcher rehabbed his hamstring and made one rehab start for Low-A Fort Myers last weekend. He pitched three shutout innings with one hit allowed and five strikeouts. He hasn’t left the team except for that one rehab game. He’s been with them in Florida and Baltimore, so instead of taking the starting position in St. Paul today, he returned to the mound on Saturday. In his first inning, he looked composed, loose, and settled in by the second batter, bouncing back from 3-0 count on Chad Pinder to strike him out. The outfield assisted in Gray getting through his first inning, giving him a quick 1-2-3 to his start back with the team. Gray continued to pinpoint his pitches and left the game with 66 pitches. The plan was for him to be around 65 pitches. Considering this is his first game back and throwing four shutout innings and allowing only one hit, this seemed to be like the time to pull him and let the bullpen take over. The bullpen continued to keep the game right where Gray left it. Home Grown Lineup... until it wasn't For a short time, the line-up that complimented Sonny Gray’s return was a homegrown Twins farm system team. For all the years that the Twins fans have spent frustrated with the front office, this lineup is a product of patience and hard work. Players like Trevor Larnach, Jose Miranda and Royce Lewis who have all put up outstanding numbers in the minors only to come-up to the Twins and show why they deserve to be on the 40-man. This was the original lineup. Jayce Tingler who has stepped up for Rocco Baldelli who is currently quarantining in Baltimore, has done a good job steering the ship and making good lineup and in-game decisions. This is exactly what happened after the "home-grown lineup" was announced, Trevor Larnach was sidelined with lower body tightness. Gary Sanchez replaced him in the lineup. Hopefully, we will get a chance for that lineup again, but it was fun to see and awesome to know how much homegrown depth there is.. Joining the crew on Friday was Alex Kirilloff. He didn't play on Friday night, but on Saturday, he batted eighth. Considering he had surgery that ended his 2021 season on that joint last July, there was some concern it would be more than just inflammation. This latest injury didn’t turn out to be anything structural. He started his rehab assignment with St. Paul on April 31st and played four games in St. Paul before being activated from the IL on Friday. Polanco the under-rated All-Star Jorge Polanco has been flying under the radar and while carrying a batting average of .211, he has an eight-game hitting streak, and six of his last fourteen RBIs in two games alone (May 1st and May 3rd). In his appearance against the Rays on May 1st, Polanco went 4-for-5 with two doubles and four RBI, rocketing the Twins to a 9-3 win. Among the stars of the Twins team, Polanco is potentially one of the better players on the team that doesn’t get talked about enough. He also doesn’t talk about himself. He is focused on being a team member and contributing to the game overall. He sets goals for himself that he doesn’t talk about, and even with solid defense and hitting, he still doesn’t reach all his goals. In a previous press conference Manager, Rocco Baldelli talked about the significance that Polanco has on the field. "He's such a solid contributor for us on the field," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He does everything almost kind of under the radar. Personality-wise, he's a wonderful human being, but he's a quiet guy, and that's just who he is. So we probably don't talk about him enough." And just as this writer was deep-diving into Polanco’s stats, Polanco hit his third home run of the year, 451 feet according to Baseball Savant off of Kaprielian’s slider to center field to give the Twins a 1-0 lead in the sixth. Close Calls and a Marginal Lead Things started to heat up in the seventh inning as it looked like the Athletics were going to get into the action after a deep liner to center field that slid between Buxton and Nick Gordon, allowing Christian Bethancourt to get a double. The A’s momentum was brought to a screeching halt when Max Kepler stopped a fly ball by Brian McKinney to end the inning. In the bottom of the eighth, Royce Lewis got the second hit of his MLB career, a double off the wall in right-center. He was promptly picked off when a bunt was missed. Even with a challenge to New York, the call remained, and a frustrated Lewis returned to the dugout. Pitcher A.J. Puk had a tough time in the eighth, bobbling a ball hit back to him off of the bat of Gilberto Celestino who advanced to first and waited for a chance to advance, but to no avail. Heading into the ninth, the Twins had no insurance runs and a marginal lead, but Jhoan Duran came back out to finish what he started in the eighth frame. It wasn't without stress though. Just like Friday's game, this game brought extra anxiety in the ninth as Duran walked a batter and then hit another. The last out seemed to take forever. As Ryan Jeffers framed strike two to Bethancourt, the Twins were looking at one remaining strike to complete the game. Bethancourt continued to foul-off balls prolonging the pain of the ninth before Duran threw him with a 100mph fastball to get him swinging to end the game! Sonny Gray and the bullpen pulled off a combined shutout and guarantee a series win. Can they come back tomorrow and complete the sweep? Who is your favorite reliever in our Bullpen right now? Are you nervous about all the ninth inning bases loaded? What’s Next? The Twins finish up the series tomorrow on Mother’s day against Oakland before Houston arrives at Target Field. Pitching matchups for the series include: Sunday 1:10 central: Chris Paddack (1-2, 3.15 ERA) vs RHP Dalton Jefferies (1-4, 4.81 ERA) Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Coulombe 0 26 0 0 12 38 Thielbar 18 0 18 0 0 36 Jax 0 0 15 0 19 34 Duran 0 0 0 0 31 31 Duffey 18 0 0 11 0 29 Pagán 0 0 0 28 0 28 Stashak 11 0 0 0 0 11 Smith 0 0 0 6 0 6 Sands 0 0 0 0 0 0
  5. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Chris Archer: 4.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (76 pitches, 52 strikes (68.4%)) Home Runs: Byron Buxton (8) Bottom 3 WPA: Jhoan Duran (-0.263), Gio Urshela (-0.2.52), Jorge Polanco (-0.80) Game Score: Orioles 5, Twins 3 Game Notes Alongside Rocco Baldelli, Luis Arraez and Dylan Bundy tested positive for Covid prior to Thursday night's game. Bench Coach Jayce Tingler filled in as manager for Thursday's game. Star shortstop Carlos Correa left the game in the seventh inning after being hit in the wrist and hand in consecutive at-bats. Nick Gordon replaced Correa. Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The Twins got on the board in the third inning thanks to a pair of singles, an error, and a force out. Trevor Larnach led off the inning with a sharp single to right that was followed by a blooper single courtesy of Jose Miranda. Larnach advanced on the hit to second and later to third on a Baltimore throwing error. The error would cost the Orioles. On the next at-bat, Byron Buxton grounded into a force out that scored Larnach from third. Miranda's hit was the second of his young MLB career. In a world of quick judgment, it should be applauded that Miranda has two hits in his first three MLB games. Buxton's third-inning RBI was just the start. After a Ryan Jeffers walk, Buxton crushed his eighth homer of the year over the infamous left-field wall at Camden Yards to give the Twins a 3-2 lead. Buxton's launch came off the bat at 113 MPH and traveled a whopping 452 feet. Buxton is tied for second-most homers among all of MLB so far this season. Starting pitcher Chris Archer lasted four innings on the night, giving up five hits. The two runs that he surrendered came on solo home runs from the Orioles. Archer struck out six and failed to give up a walk in an outing that was mostly admirable minus the two homers. Caleb Thielbar followed Archer in the pen and was solid minus a solo shot given up to Jorge Mateo. Thielbar hit his target on the 1-2 pitch but Mateo eyed the pitch well and won the battle. Griffin Jax followed Thielbar and kept the Orioles from scoring through 1 2/3 innings. Flamethrower Jhoan Duran followed suit to finish off the inning in the seventh, but the haunting of the solo shot returned in the eighth. Ryan Hayes launched a go-ahead homer to put the O's ahead and Ryan Mountcastle followed suit with his second shot of the day to give Baltimore a 5-3 lead that would hold to the end. What’s Next? After a 4-3 road trip, the first place Twins will return home to Target Field to take on the Oakland A's tomorrow evening at 7:10 pm CST. Young sensation Josh Winder (1-0, 2.20 ERA) will make his second MLB start against Oakland's Cole Irvin (2-1, 2.93 ERA). It's supposed to be a beautiful evening, buy your tickets here! Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
  6. But they battled back, scoring one run off of White Sox ace Lucas Giolito and tying up the game on a home run by Byron Buxton in the seventh inning. They threatened to take the lead in the eighth inning but left the bases loaded when Luis Arraez grounded out to second base. That didn't stop the Twins from having faith. Byron Buxton came up to bat in the 10th inning to get a three-run homerun to walk it off! Box Score SP: Chris Archer: 3 IP,3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (61 pitches, 32 strikes (52.4%)) Home Runs: Byron Buxton 2 (6) Top 3 WPA: Byron Buxton (.761), Jhoan Duran (.227), Max Kepler (.168) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Larnach’s Series Trevor Larnach’s series versus the White Sox has been one of consistency. Since the game in Kansas City versus the Royals, Larnach has had a hit every game, responsible for two of the RBIs in the Saturday afternoon game giving the Twins a seven-run lead in the bottom of the fourth. He did not fare as well at the plate today, striking out twice (looking, once with the bases loaded, and once with runners on second and third) but still found a way to contribute. As Archer struggled to maintain control in the third inning, with bases loaded, Andrew Vaughn singled a sharp line drive to Larnach in left-field, who threw a cannon home to Jose Godoy to end the inning. Godoy Makes Twins Debut Jose Godoy’s contract was added to the Twins’ roster yesterday and made his debut with the Twins today. The former Seattle Mariner had 40 at-bats last year ending the season with a .162 batting average. Ryan Jeffers was scratched from the line-up two hours before game time for a knee contusion and Gary Sanchez is still out with abdominal tightness. Godoy saw five pitches in his first at-bat, striking out. Godoy’s first and second appearances he struck out, but rounded out his first game with the Twins being walked by Aaron Bummer, before being sent home off Byron Buxton game-tying two-run home run. Then he walked again in the 10th inning, coming around again on Buxton's game-winning home run. His defense and chemistry with Archer was impressive to watch. The rookie catcher was able to frame pitches on a consistent basis and has good reaction time. Godoy showed his speed and agility as he ran to catch a foul off Grandal’s bat at the top of the third. Interference from the fence made for a hard catch, but Archer and Godoy got Grandal to swing at a high fast ball striking him out with the next pitch. He did, however, commit a cardinal sin in the 8th inning. With the winning run on third base and one out, he squared to bunt but popped out to White Sox pitcher Kendall Graveman. Postgame Postscript: We learned after the game that Jeffers took a ball off his knee earlier this series and had a left knee contusion and that Rocco really did not want to use him. That proved to be important as there was that opportunity in the 8th inning to pinch hit for Godoy in the bat in which he popped out on a bump. So the Twins entered today's game with three catchers on the active roster, but only one was truly active. Bats Show Signs of Life The Twins line-up was consistent over the series and through today battling rain and cold to keep their bats swinging, a nice change of pace from the earliest part of the season’s start. With the exception of a few players getting strikeouts early, by the 6th inning, at a minimum, almost every bat made contact with a pitch. Even Miguel Sano who was 0-for-8 through the series ended up getting a single into right field in the second inning. Giolito Returns But Doesn’t Last Long The Twins have been having trouble scoring runs, so the last thing they need is to face a preseason Cy Young Award candidate. Not only was today’s opposing pitcher, Lucas Giolito, a candidate, he opened the season as one of the favorites at 13-2 odds. However, he was also making his first start after a stay on the 10-day injured list for an abdominal strain, and that rust showed a bit in the first inning. Giolito threw 26 pitches that inning, only half of which were strikes, and walked two Twins. But with the bases loaded, he escaped untarnished by striking out Trevor Larnach on two changeups and a fastball. The story was similar in the third inning. This time, a walk, and a couple of singles loaded the bases, and the Twins cashed in a run on a sacrifice fly by Gio Urshela. But Giolito escaped further damage by fooling young left-handed hitters - this time both Larnach and Nick Gordon - with his changeup and fastballs away. Still, he had already thrown 65 pitches through three innings, and due to his stint on the injured list, it was expected he would only throw 70-80 pitches in his second outing this year. Sure enough, after an efficient fourth inning, his day was over. Gordon’s Growth Nick Gordon played in his 12th game today, starting at shortstop as manager Rocco Baldelli gave Carlos Correa a day off. He entered today with a 694 OPS in 26 plate appearances. He will likely never show a lot of power, and a .261 batting average is nothing special, but he is getting on base almost 35% of the time. Almost any evaluation of Gordon’s future and performance are tied to the wide range of expectations attached to him. If your expectations are tied to his selection in the first round of the 2014 draft, or of his family pedigree, you’re likely going to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, your expectations of him were set by his performance and health issues in AAA as recently as 2019, you might be delighted by his sudden progression as a valuable bench asset. To both camps, I’d suggest it is time to take a look at him with fresh eyes. He’s a 26-year-old who is likely to never post a big OPS because he will likely never hit for power. But he gets on base, he is capable (though not outstanding) in several key defensive roles, and as a left-handed hitter, he is more likely to get a decent matchup versus right-handed pitchers. Plus, he’s an asset on the base paths. All that makes him an ideal super-utility player, which is exactly the role he is fulfilling this year. If he can show that he can raise his batting average closer to .300, he might improve to the point where he could be a regular starter. Fortunately for him, his performance and usefulness should provide plenty of opportunities to show his development in the super-utility role. Winder Unleashed After nearly a week without making an appearance, long reliever and promising prospect Josh Winder made an appearance when Chris Archer only lasted three innings. He gave up one run over four innings, striking out two and giving up three hits. Maybe most notably, after struggling with his control in his first appearance, he walked none and threw strikes in 42 of his 61 pitches. Winder is working as the long reliever but is a starting pitching prospect long-term. We saw today what we have seen from him so far: he is a slider-first pitcher who turns to his fastball to keep hitters off-balance. It seems to be working well in a relief role, but it will be interesting to see how it plays when he has to face a lineup a second time. Certainly today that was in question, as he gave up a home run on his second time through the order. But for the most part, we likely won’t see him face batters more than once in his current role with the Twins. We might get a better sense of that if he was starting in St. Paul, but he’s now fulfilling an important role with the major league club. Regardless, it’s nice to see another Twins pitching prospect having some success in the majors. Postgame Postscript: We learned after the game that the plan was always for Archer to be limited to only 50-60 pitches, and he was told that after his last start in Kansas City. We also learned from Rocco that this decision was specific to Archer; they're not planning right now on similar planned short starts with the rest of the rotation. He also hinted that they wanted to do this now, when they still had a 28-man roster. It'll be interesting to see if Winder eventually does go down to St. Paul as part of the mandatory roster trimming that will happen next week, or whether he'll continue in this role in which he's having success. Clutch Buxton Byron Buxton had a fantastic series, hitting every chance he got, and coming through whenever the team needed him. His 3-run home run came on a 3-1 count with runners on second and third base and one out. White Sox closer Liam Hendricks, in his second inning of work, pitched to Buxton in that situation rather than give him a free pass to first base and load the bases for Luis Arraez. It’s not clear that strategy would have fared any better, but they likely would choose a different path given another chance. Postgame Postscript: As expected (and completely appropriate) postgame interviews centered entirely around Buxton doing godlike things. Baldelli called Buxton the best player in the world right now, and marveled at some of the things he did. But you might be surprised at what he wanted to breakdown: it was Buxton's first, game-tying home run in the 8th. Here it is, because he breaks down what we are seeing pretty nicely. "He's facing a left-hander who as we saw earlier in the game, is one of the best left-handers in the game. Gets a ton of groundballs. He's a really hard guy to drive the ball in the air against. And he's a guy that normally pitches all the right-handers in, pound 'em in. And he decided to go away to Buck. And it took a few pitches, but Buck identifies what's going on. Completely changes what he's trying to do at the plate. And lines a ball over the right field fence. I mean, there's nothing typical or everyday or normal about that. That's very, very special. And I don't want to stop talking about it, because it's so impressive. Even for people who watch this level of baseball everyday. To see what he's doing it's just awesome." What’s Next? The Twins will enjoy an off day at home on Monday before starting a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Target Field. Pitching matchups for the series include: Tuesday 6:40: Chris Paddock (0-2, 5.00) vs LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 5.27 ERA) Wednesday 6:40: Joe Ryan (2-1, 1.69 ERA) vs RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 0.00 ERA) Thursday 12:10: Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.81 ERA) vs LHP Tarik Skubal (1-1, 2.30 ERA) Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
  7. Dylan Bundy Strong Starts When the Twins signed Dylan Bundy, he looked like a veteran pitcher that would add depth to the back of the starting rotation. He was coming off a terrible season for the Angels, where he posted a 6.06 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. It was easy not to get too excited about what he could mean to the Twins based on his previous performance. However, he has faced two potential playoff teams, and his season couldn’t have started much better. Against Seattle, he pitched five shutout innings while only allowing one hit. On Monday in Boston, he pitched into the sixth inning while racking up six strikeouts and limiting a potent Red Sox lineup to one run. This year, his most significant improvement is a big jump in chase rate as he ranks in the 92nd percentile. His slider, which he uses against righties, resulted in a 60 Whiff%. Bundy is also using his changeup more regularly, so these will be trends to watch in his future starts. Carlos Correa’s Cold Bat Carlos Correa is coming off a tumultuous winter where he tested free agency for the first time, changed agents, and arrived at spring training after other players. Maybe all of those aspects impact his on-field performance, or he is just in the middle of a rough patch. Either way, he is off to the worst start of his career with a .595 OPS with three extra-base hits in the team’s first nine games. Minnesota was certainly expecting more from Correa, and he was likely expecting more from himself. His cold start also brings up another intriguing aspect for the years ahead. Minnesota signed him to a three-year contract with opt-outs at the end of each season. Correa was likely hoping to hit the free-agent market again next winter as he entered his age-28 season and cash in on an even more lucrative deal. If he has a poor performance in 2022, he may reconsider staying with the Twins for 2023. That decision is a long way off at this point, and Twins fans hope his bat warms up as the weather improves. Jhoan Duran’s Strikeout Totals Fans were excited to see what Jhoan Duran could add to the Twins bullpen, especially those that have followed his minor league career. His appearances have turned into must-watch TV with his triple-digit fastball and his already famous splinker. Duran has racked up some strikeout numbers in limited action. Across six innings, he has 11 strikeouts which rank second among all relievers in baseball. The only pitcher ahead of him has appeared in three more games than Duran and pitched one more inning. It will be interesting to see how the Twins use Duran throughout the rest of the season. Minnesota will likely watch his innings pitched and his time between appearances with his previous injury history. Duran has already made appearances in close games during the late-innings. He will likely serve in a closer role at some point in the future, but will he get those opportunities in 2022? Which of these surprises stands out most to you? Are there other surprises on the team? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  8. One of the easiest things to complain about regarding a manager is their bullpen usage. There was always going to be opportunity for that this season, given the relative uncertainty of the group, and Baldelli was always going to need time to let arms filter into their spots. Only a couple of weeks into the season, there’s no reason for any severe hand-wringing, but a couple of observations opportunities have presented themselves. Jhoan Duran is maybe the most exciting arm in Minnesota Twins pitching history. He’s certainly not going to be the best, but the velocity is unmatched and may forever be. It’s something this organization had never seen before and also a great outcome from the trade that sent Eduardo Escobar to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Early returns have suggested he can be an impact thrower at the back end of the Twins bullpen. He may even have taken over the closer role for the departed Rogers by the end of the season. But should he be a multi-inning reliever? That’s questionable, and it’s something worth keeping an eye on. Working two innings against the Red Sox, there was a notable dip in Duran’s velocity when he came back out. It’s not as though he wasn’t still throwing hard, but the consistency in which triple-digits were reached wasn’t maintained. Some arms are more impacted by a total number of pitches, while others could be deterred more by coming off the bench for a second inning. Whatever Duran’s role going forward is, the goal will be to get the best and most effective version of him. Only two lefties are available in Minnesota’s bullpen as it’s currently constructed, and Caleb Thielbar is probably the better of them. Not only is he a great story, but the 3.00 ERA and 10.6 K/9 over the past two seasons have been suggestive of a great arm. Even with that production, he’s still best suited in ideal spots, and that’s why Baldelli’s decision to go with him in the 8th inning of a one-run game against two righties against Boston was odd. Minnesota’s offense was non-existent on Easter Sunday, but trailing by just one looking to get their final at-bats, Thielbar was tasked with protecting a lead. He came in against Kike Hernandez and was also set to face Xander Bogaerts. Both of them are solid hitting right-handers, and they did predictable damage. Giving up four runs generating just a single out, Thielbar was ineffective in a suboptimal situation. That outing leaves us to question what the back-end of the bullpen will look like going forward and how Baldelli will choose spots. Tyler Duffey was given the first save opportunity and blew it, but he’s a good arm even with declined velocity. Jorge Alcala isn’t going to factor in for some time, and Emilio Pagan could step into those high-leverage shoes. Joe Smith is a tested veteran who has previously performed well on good teams, and the aforementioned Duran will always be in the mix. It seems that this front office is intent on avoiding paydays for relievers, but the pen they have constructed is a solid one. Give Baldelli some time to decide how he and Wes Johnson will run these arms out, and I think there’s an opportunity for it to be one of baseball’s better units.
  9. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K (82 pitches, 60 strikes, 73.1%) Home Runs: Miguel Sanó (1) Top 3 WPA: Joe Ryan (.189), Miguel Sanó (.170), Luis Arráez (.109) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Twins lose Buxton early but score four runs on five hits It was an eventful start to the game for Minnesota. Eight pitches into the first inning, Byron Buxton left the game with an apparent leg injury. He popped up to shallow left, and when Boston’s defense couldn’t make the play because of the sun, he sprinted and slid into second when the injury occurred. He immediately headed to the dugout and was replaced by Nick Gordon. On the brighter side of the inning, Luis Arráez snapped an 0-for-7 funk with a liner to center, and yet again, the Red Sox defense couldn’t take care of it, allowing Gordon to score the game’s first run easily. Even though Jorge Polanco drew a walk, helping to drive Nick Pivetta’s pitch count to 26, Minnesota had to settle for the one run in the first. But that wouldn’t last long. After Joe Ryan cruised through the bottom first on only eight pitches, striking out two and throwing strikes on every pitch, the offense ambushed Pivetta, scoring three runs on three hits. After Trevor Larnach drew a one-out walk, Miguel Sanó followed with a moon shot that went over the ‘green monster’ to make it 3-0 Twins. That was his first base hit of the season. Could his biggest early-season problem be the cold weather? Later on, Gordon singled to center with two outs, only to be brought home in the following at-bat by an Arráez double, making it 4-0 Minnesota. That’s the second multi-hit game for Luis this season. Closing out the inning with 54 pitches, Pivetta was done after two. Alex Verdugo got Boston a run back in the bottom of the second with a solo homer to center. Ryan looks excellent through six; the offense adds on After a somewhat shaky opening day start, Ryan looked superb today at Fenway. Boston hitters simply couldn’t figure him out, especially his slider, which produced whiffs 47% of the time in the first five innings. He also managed to get out of jams during the fourth and fifth innings when Boston had two runners on in each of them. In the meantime, he got even more run support from the bats. Carlos Correa and Polanco reached on a walk and a single to open the fifth inning, and both of them scored on a Gary Sánchez ground ball, making it 6-1 Minnesota. With those two runs batted in, Sánchez now has more RBI against Boston than any other team in the majors. Ryan continued his fantastic outing with a 1-2-3 sixth, shredding through Red Sox hitting with his off-speed offerings. By the end of the inning, he had produced an astonishing 19 swinging strikes, a career-high for him. Overall, 40% of his pitches were either called strikes or swinging strikes. Duran breaks Twitter, Boston’s rally comes up short Jhoan Duran took over once Ryan departed, and he baffled local fans and media with an incredible seventh inning. He retired the side on eight pitches which averaged 98.2 MPH and touched 102 MPH. His performance drew the attention of several national media accounts on Twitter. Boston got to him during the eighth, scoring three runs. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a leadoff double and was pushed across a couple of at-bats later by a Kike Hernandez double. Then, Rafael Devers followed that with a two-run home run to the corner right, cutting the Twins lead in half. Duran cooled down and struck out the final two batters to end the inning. With the Red Sox getting dangerously close, Minnesota needed some insurance runs. Reliever Matt Barnes retired Arráez to open the top of the ninth, but he gave up a couple of walks against the following two batters. The Twins cashed in on both of those walks, first with a Max Kepler single and then with a slow groundout from Larnach with the bases loaded, bringing the lead back to four. Emilio Pagán came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth, and he threw a clean 1-2-3 inning to secure the win. What’s Next? For game two on Saturday, the Twins turn to Sonny Gray, who is set to face Boston’s Tanner Houck. The first pitch is scheduled for 3:10 pm CDT. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Duran 11 0 0 0 34 45 Thielbar 19 18 0 0 0 37 Romero 0 34 0 0 0 34 Pagán 0 20 0 0 11 31 Winder 0 28 0 0 0 28 Jax 0 0 22 0 0 22 Smith 19 3 0 0 0 22 Coulombe 0 14 0 0 0 14 Duffey 14 0 0 0 0 14
  10. I won’t fault you if you don’t remember Juan Morillo. He pitched for Minnesota in 2009 and threw just two innings. He gave up a home run and five runs before never seeing the big leagues again. What he did do in that brief six-out appearance was throw a pitch clocked at 101.1 mph. After his departure, Minnesota has seen just two other pitchers register a triple-digit fastball. Brusdar Graterol, now with the Dodgers, checked in at 101.9 mph, and current reliever Jorge Alcala, who went on the IL on Tuesday with elbow inflamation, once touched 100.9 mph. Until now. Duran has been groomed as a starter for the Twins throughout his development. Across 82 minor league games, 80 of those appearances have come in a start. It’s gone well to the tune of a 3.99 ERA and consistent double-digit strikeout per nine numbers since 2018. If there’s been a problem, it’s been in the form of health and durability. Duran has never pitched more than 115 innings during a season, and last year for St. Paul, he was limited to just 16 innings while battling shoulder issues. Fast forward to this spring, and it seemed both beneficial and planned that Duran would throw out of the bullpen. The fireballer was used in relief, whether by design and adding to their internal group or through necessity to protect his workload. After a strong showing down in Fort Myers, Duran is now three innings into his Major League career. The Dominican has a 4/1 K/BB ratio while allowing just two hits. Aside from the eye-popping velocity, which has averaged 100.9 mph this season, his Statcast numbers compare beautifully across the league. His current 19% whiff rate would’ve ranked 4th among qualified relievers last season, just behind Liam Hendriks and ahead of Devin Williams. He’s avoided hard contact and missed barrels. Although Duran hasn’t yet forced batters to chase outside the zone, he’s kept them off-balance by simply being unhittable. The problem for the opposition is that Duran isn’t just firing straight fastballs either. His splinker is a unique offering, and that pitch has averaged 96.1 mph. The amount of movement and run he gets on both pitches creates an unfair situation for opposing batters when trying to both meet the pitch and connect optimally. It’s in the repertoire that we find his most significant reason to remain in relief. Again, the sample size is tiny, but Minnesota has turned its weapon into a two-pitch pitcher. He’s throwing the slider, a pitch the organization definitely believes in, just two percent of the time. His curveball offering has shown up 19% of the time but remains an off-speed secondary to combat the velocity. Each time Duran has stepped onto the mount this season, it’s been guaranteed that the radar gun will light up. He turns a Statcast readout red and gives the Twins something they haven’t had. What his current or future role becomes in the bullpen pecking order seems to be determined, but closer or not, knowing he’s a weapon is a significant value add for both Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson. In the age of mixing and matching arms situationally, someone like this could be matchup proof, and at just 24-years-old, that’s massive. These Twins aren’t the ones you’ve been used to in the past. It’s a different front office and now an organization that employs both the highest-paid infielder and one of the hardest throwers in the league—what a time to be alive.
  11. 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
  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. Stop losing sleep over pitching Out of the 16 pitchers on the roster, only three appeared on last season’s Opening Day roster (Caleb Thielbar, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala). This reformation came quietly, with the Twins choosing to promote from within and to sign smaller names in larger quantities. The biggest changes came from trades, which have already reaped some benefits (@ Twins legend, Gio Urshela). This is the most pitchers that Minnesota has carried on their roster in the past five years, with the Twins opting to add exclusively pitching to their expanded roster. The Twins learned the hard way last season that quantity can override quality. This new approach prevents a single point of failure, such as when the Twins were forced to consistently use Alex Colomé after the mass exodus in the bullpen. It doesn’t hurt that the Twins supplemented quantity without compromising quality. Jhoan Duran’s performance made fans forget about Brusdar Graterol and Taylor Rogers. Jorge Alcala is coming into his own, putting away the Mariners in 13 pitches. Going into tomorrow, the Twins have eight completely fresh bullpen arms, which is equal to the total number of pitchers in the bullpen last season. The pitching may not be the best in the AL Central, but the Twins have taken the necessary steps to prevent a nuclear meltdown. Alex Kirilloff will lead the team in strikeouts This is not necessarily a bad thing, with Shohei Ohtani, Randy Arozarena, and Salvador Perez appearing collectively in the top 10 strikeout leaderboard last season. The Twins’ strikeout leader in Miguel Sanó struck out a career-high 185 times but also walked a career-high 59 times last season. He continues to trend in this direction. Gary Sánchez lived a very similar narrative in New York. However, the young rookie has the most to prove in this group. He was on a hot streak before a season-ending injury last year, with some doubting his impact on the team post-injury. Alex Kirilloff wants to be in the elite class of the Buxtons and Correas of the world, and he has the talent to back it up. There is no doubt that Kirilloff will swing for the fences if given the opportunity. Joe Ryan is the real deal The bats were quiet, but Joe Ryan had a good outing in his first Opening Day start and sixth start overall against a much improved, playoff-hungry Seattle Mariners team. Even though his one mistake to Mitch Haniger cost the game, he worked himself out of every other jam. Outside of pitch count, Ryan’s stats today don’t fall too far behind Robbie Ray’s, with Ray collecting one more strikeout. However, Ryan’s composure falls in the footsteps of the Cy Young winner. One of Ray’s biggest assets is his ability to regain control after a mistake on the mound. On paper, Ryan had the worst start of his career, but his ability to minimize damage and regain control are all signs of a future ace like Ray. Today, Ryan showed maturity in his experience beyond his years. The Front Office (probably) knew what they were doing Although it would’ve been nice to have Mitch Garver or Josh Donaldson’s bat in the lineup today, things have shaken out decently thus far. Gio Urshela was the hero of the game, and Carlos Correa was in mid-season form. Promoting Jhoan Duran has given fans someone exciting to root for. As mentioned above, the brand new pitching staff looks to be an improvement from last season. Even though the season is long and many things can still go wrong, the Front Office had done a passable job of addressing some of the biggest concerns from last year. As Penny Lane once said, “it’s all happening.” …and Jose Berríos getting pulled in the first inning didn’t hurt this argument. Fan-favorite Frankie Montas didn’t fare too well either…
  14. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 4.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K (70 pitches, 42 strikes, 64%) Home Runs: Gio Urshela (1) Bottom 3 WPA: Byron Buxton (-.214), Carlos Correa (-.173), Gary Sanchez (.152), Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Ryan gives up an early home run, departs after four innings Joe Ryan was named the Opening Day starter for the Twins, becoming the first rookie starting pitcher to do so in precisely 53 years: on 4/8/1969, rookie Tom Hall took the mound, and he pitched into the sixth against the Royals in Kansas City to open the season. With only 26 2/3 big league innings in his career, Ryan became the Opening Day starter with the fewest such innings in franchise history and the first in the majors since David Nied in 1993. The first two times through the Seattle order were anything but smooth for Ryan. Having given up only five total walks in his five 2021 starts, he gave up three in the first three innings while also hitting a batter. He hung a fastball against Mitch Haniger in the first, which was crushed for a two-out, two-run home run. Seattle couldn't build momentum and add on despite posing a constant threat during the first three innings. Ryan closed out each of those innings with a strikeout, two against Eugenio Suárez. He also got some big help from a great defensive play by Carlos Correa in the third, which almost started a double play. Speaking of the new guy, he was responsible for Minnesota’s only hit early, as reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray – and his famous pants – cruised through the Twins lineup. In his first at-bat with Minnesota, C4 smacked a fastball down the middle for a single. Minnesota gets on the board, Duran impresses in majors debut Minnesota managed to get on the board in the fourth, with another new guy making a good first impression. Gio Urshela, once known for his efficiency against off-speed pitches, took Ray deep for the Twins’ first home run of the season. The fourth inning was also the final one for Ryan in the ballgame, as he once again failed to prevent baserunners from reaching. Rocco Baldelli brought in flame-throwing prospect Jhoan Duran for his Major League debut for the next two innings, and the Dominican didn’t disappoint. Duran didn’t get off to a good start, giving up back-to-back singles to open the inning. However, with his pitches reaching 100.7 MPH on the radar gun and showing off some nasty movement, he managed to blow past the heart of the Mariner lineup, striking out the next four batters. His velocity wasn’t the same during his second inning out there, but he still managed to hold off Seattle. The bats can’t provide the rally against Ray, Seattle’s bullpen Ray continued to dominate the Twins' offense and did so economically, as his pitch count didn’t hit 90 until the seventh inning. With one of baseball’s best bullpens last season, Mariner relievers managed to keep the Twins offense out of the game in the final two innings. After a 1-2-3 inning from reliever Paul Sewald in the eighth, Minnesota had one inning to try and spark a rally, and they almost did. Luis Arráez replaced Urshela in the ninth, and he put together a superb nine-pitch that ended in a leadoff single. It all came down to Gary Sánchez with two outs and a man on, and he put on a good fight but eventually flew out, merely inches away from a walk-off homer. A positive takeaway from this game for the Twins was the excellent pitching performance, especially from the bullpen. After Duran pitched two scoreless frames, Jorge Alcalá and Danny Coulombe kept Seattle scoreless for the rest of the game. Minnesota’s relievers combined for five scoreless innings, with three hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts. What’s Next? On Saturday, the series continues when Sonny Gray will make his Twins debut against Logan Gilbert. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:10 pm. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet (pitch counts were not available for Tuesday's spring training game) MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Ober 56 0 0 0 0 56 Duran 0 0 0 0 31 31 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 27 27 Alcalá 10 0 0 0 13 23 Cotton 22 0 0 0 0 22 Thielbar 0 0 0 0 0 0 Duffey 0 0 0 0 0 0 Pagán 0 0 0 0 0 0 Romero 0 0 0 0 0 0 Smith 0 0 0 0 0 0 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0
  15. Duran originally signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks back in February 2015 out of the Dominican Republic. His professional debut came in the Dominican Summer League, where he posted a 3.25 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP in 63 2/3 innings. He struggled to strike out batters (6.2 K/9), but he was two years younger than the average age of the competition at his level. During the 2016 season, Duran made his stateside debut, but he was limited to seven starts. It was such a small sample size that it’s hard to read much into his 4.96 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. He made his full-season debut during the 2017 season. In 62 1/3 innings at Low-A, he posted a 4.24 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP, but his K/9 was still below 6.4. His early career numbers didn’t exactly put him on the prospect map. As a 20-year-old in 2018, Duran moved up to High-A and struggled to transition to the next level. In 64 2/3 innings (15 starts), he allowed 34 earned runs, but his strikeout numbers were on the rise. After posting a 7.1 K/9 or lower in 2017, he posted a 9.9 K/9 while keeping his walk rate reasonably consistent. Scouts were starting to come around on Duran, and teams like Minnesota noticed. At the 2018 trade deadline, the Twins acquired Duran along with Gabriel Maciel and Ernie De La Trinidad for Eduardo Escobar’s expiring contract. Besides Duran, the other two players are no longer in the organization. Duran posted even better numbers after the trade at High-A as he tossed 36 innings with a 2.00 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP, and 11.0 K/9. As the 2018 season ended, he posted career-best totals in nearly every statistical category. While the 2018 season saw Duran emerge, the 2019 season is when he firmly established himself on the prospect map. As a 21-year-old, he reached Double-A while posting a 10.6 K/9. He pitched 115 innings with a 3.76 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. He established himself as one of Minnesota’s top pitching prospects, and Baseball America had him ranked on their top-100 list. Duran’s development may have been impacted by the missed 2020 minor league season. Minnesota had added him to the 40-man roster leading into the season, allowing him to work at the team’s alternate site. His innings pitched increased in every professional season, so it would be interesting to see if a different scenario played out during the 2020 campaign. However, that didn’t happen, and Duran retook the mound in 2021. He made five appearances at Triple-A, and there were some electric moments as he hit triple-digits with his fastball. Unfortunately, he was limited to 16 innings due to an elbow strain, but he avoided surgery. Minnesota’s front office likely considered this when deciding to transition him to relief pitching in 2022. His triple-digit fastball and splinker combo can make him a dangerous relief option. His splinker is a pitch rarely seen in baseball, making it challenging for hitters to know how to attack it. As a reliever, he can ignore some of his less effective pitches and focus on his two best offerings. He was very successful this spring, but now he will need to prove he can translate this success to the big-league level. Baseball’s use of pitchers continues to evolve, and Duran can still provide value even if he isn’t used as a starter. In the wake of trading away the team’s current closer, it’s hard not to look at Duran and wonder if he can be the team’s closer in the future. What memories do you have of Duran’s time in the minors? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  16. Breaking Down the Opening Day Roster On Thursday, the Twins finalized their Opening Day roster, with a few surprises rounding out the fringes. The most noteworthy names on the official 28-man squad heading into the season are rookie Josh Winder (serving as a long man in relief), Gilberto Celestino serving as the fourth outfielder (very temporarily, I suspect), and newcomer Jhon Romero edging Griffin Jax for a final bullpen spot. Matthew Taylor wrote a great article posing one pivotal question for each player on the 28-man roster. Oh, and the shakeup we'll cover next also added a very surprising twist to the season-opening mix. Catch Up on the Last-Minute Trade Between Minnesota and San Diego You can never count this front office out. Just when it looked like they were going to roll into the regular season with a conspicuously thin starting rotation, the Twins pulled the trigger on a big trade on the morning of MLB Opening Day. In a last-minute stunner, the team traded its longtime closer and best reliever Taylor Rogers, along with Brent Rooker, to San Diego for starter Chris Paddack and reliever Emilio Pagán. Seth Stohs offered some immediate reaction when the move was announced on Thursday morning, and Ted Schwerzler followed up with analysis of the trade's impact. Joe Ryan vs. Robbie Ray: How Big is Seattle's Matchup Edge? It has the makings of a serious mismatch on paper: the reigning Cy Young winner going up against a rookie with five MLB starts under his belt. JD Cameron has you covered with a full breakdown of the Ryan vs. Ray tilt. As he notes, "Ray could not contrast more markedly with Ryan in experience, build, or arsenal." Elsewhere, Andrew Mahlke wrote about how the Twins are showing major confidence in Ryan by giving him the Opening Day nod. Theo Tollefson pointed out that Ryan is in rare air as a rookie. Our Official Season Preview Guide The Twins experienced a lot of change over the past offseason. Your best bet for getting fully up to speed is by grabbing a copy of Twins Daily 2022 Season Preview. Featuring contributions from JD, Lucas, Nash, Rena, David, Seth, and myself, this PDF breaks down each of the club's biggest offseason moves – the Correa signing, the Buxton extension, the Gray trade, and much more – while also highlighting rookies who are likely to debut and laying out 22 crucial things to know before the first pitch. The guide is free to all caretakers. Buy in for a minimum of one month at six bucks, and it's yours. Stick with us if you're so inclined. But make sure you grab the guide. Position by Position Roster Analysis Over the past few weeks, I've been running through in-depth breakdowns of every position on the team as the season gets underway – from catchers to relievers. The questions we seek to answer in these pieces: What's the outlook? How's the depth? What's the plan going forward? Read up on the 2022 Minnesota Twins roster: 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 Position Analysis: Relief Pitcher Get Acquainted with the Top Prospects We recently unveiled our Twins top prospects tracker. I highly recommend bookmarking it and checking back often. It'll be updated throughout the season as stocks rise and fall. If you're looking for a detailed analysis of the organization's best upcoming talent heading into this 2022 season, you can read my overview of the system or click through to profiles on each of the top 20 Twins prospects (spoiler alert: MANY of them are going to debut this year): 20. Steve Hajjar, LHP: Big 6-foot-5 southpaw drafted in the 2nd round last year, touted for his changeup. 19. Edouard Julien, INF: Versatile fielder drew 101 BB in 112 G last year at Single-A, good for a .434 OBP. 18. Spencer Steer, INF: Mashed 24 homers in a breakthrough power season, playing mostly 2B and 3B. 17. Blayne Enlow, RHP: Looked to be clicking last year before TJ surgery, which will cost him '22 season. 16. Emmanuel Rodríguez, OF: Extreme contact woes marred otherwise highly encouraging rookie-ball debut. 15. Louie Varland, RHP: Honored as the org's top minor-league pitcher in '21 thanks to dazzling A-ball performance. 14. Cole Sands, RHP: Polished righty has posted a 2.53 ERA, 10.3 K/9 in two seasons since joining Twins system. 13. Matt Wallner, OF: Huge raw power will play if he can shore up his plate discipline and whiffing tendency. 12. Gilberto Celestino, OF: Was overwhelmed during rushed MLB debut, but the skills are undeniable. 11. Noah Miller, SS: 38th pick in '21 draft out of HS swings from both sides with legit chance to stick at short. 10. Josh Winder, RHP: Absurdly dominant between AA/AAA last year, and is basically ready to go at 25. 9. Chase Petty, RHP: Team's top draft pick from last summer was a high-school phenom with 100-MPH heat. Traded to Reds for Sonny Gray. 8. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP: Mechanics and control hold back premium arsenal, but he's still young. 7. Jhoan Duran, RHP: Imposing flamethrower has makeup to dominate but must get past scary elbow issues. 6. Matt Canterino, RHP: His 1.13 ERA and 76 Ks in 48 IP since being drafted in 2019 say it all, good and bad. 5. Joe Ryan, RHP: Amazing numbers in minors were made to look legit during 5-start run with Twins. 4. Jordan Balazovic, RHP: Safest combination of ceiling, floor, and proven durability among arms in the system. 3. José Miranda, 2B/3B: Perennial breakthrough candidate broke through with minor-league season for the ages. 2. Royce Lewis, SS: Missed 2 straight years, but has the elite skills, athleticism, and drive to catch up fast. 1. Austin Martin, SS/OF: Headliner of 2022 deadline sell-off is a worthy top prize, with evident star qualities. Finally, a Word to Our Community I originally published this stream of thoughts on Twitter, but figured I would do so here as well, because you all are the people I was really addressing: It's almost Opening Day. An Opening Day some of us (legitimately) thought would never come. I'm feeling really excited and just gonna gush a little bit. In February we celebrated the 10th birthday of Twins Daily. It's been a wild and amazing ride. I feel both proud and humbled to have played a small role in it. John Bonnes, Parker Hagemen, Seth Stohs and Brock Beauchamp are the best partners and friends a guy could ask for. We've developed something so special that we're hoping to extend it into new markets. We joined forces with a Brewers site, Brewer Fanatic, with the goal of bringing our same model of community-based independent coverage to fans in Milwaukee. It's a movement! We also just launched a "Caretaker" program at TD which gives members a way to financially support our operation, mainly because they want to see it sustain and grow while supporting our creators. The response has been unbelievable. Seriously. Twins Daily is, and always has been, driven by the talented and dedicated people that contribute their time and energy to its cause. We have assembled so many that I can't even try to fit them all in a series of tweets. Y'all are amazing. You are the future. Baseball is ultimately a small part of life. Following it closely is a hobby and diversion. But it matters, a lot, to so many of us. That's become clearer than ever over the past few years as fans have repeatedly grappled with the prospect of losing their beloved summer pastime. Personally, this sport has connected me to John, and Seth, and Parker, and Brock. And basically everyone I know on through this community. I never would've guessed when I started a blogspot in 2005 that this obsessive side hustle would turn into something so integral to who I am. Our site's success instills in me a deep faith that this model can keep carrying fandom and online coverage forward. I'm stoked. The internet, for all its imperfections, is perfect for bringing together all sorts of random folks around a shared passion and pursuit. We're not competing with mainstream media or traditional journalism. We're adding to them. Twins fans have never had access to more awesome content and diverse perspectives. That was the entire goal of this endeavor from the start. THANK YOU. See you at the ballpark.
  17. Why go with a flexible pitching staff? There are two significant reasons. The first stems from the natural volatility of relievers, something in the DNA of the position curses them with inconsistency more unusual than any other position in baseball. We see relievers rise and fall yearly, with only a handful of genuinely elite talents remaining at the top of the heap for more than a year at a time. They’re about as consistent as Ohio or Pennsylvania in an election year. That creates a significant challenge for team-building. Beyond occasionally being stuck with poor performances, the issue is the sunk-cost fallacy that comes with bringing in a free-agent reliever. The Twins know all about this. What do you do with a struggling reliever with a solid history of success? Alex Colomé was utterly dreadful in 2021, blowing saves in cartoonish fashion for three painful months before the sting of each loss numbed due to the team’s already poor record. If Colomé were some AAAA schlep, he would have been optioned before April ended, and a different arm would have had the chance to prove themselves. But Colomé didn’t have options, and the team owed him $5 million, so the Twins had to be as confident as humanly possible that Colomé was no longer worth the roster spot. The season was already a lost cause by that time, and Colomé remained on the team. Ensuring that you can quickly rid yourself of a poor-performing reliever is a wise strategy. The other main reason to have flexibility is rooted in pitching philosophy. For years, a pitcher was either a starter, an individual capable of pitching anywhere between five-to-nine innings every fifth day, or they were a reliever, an individual tasked with netting three outs on a moment's notice. The system does not make much sense if one thinks about it. There’s a significant grey area between “incapable of pitching deep into games” and “can only be relied upon for three outs.” Indeed, some of these arms could go for two or three innings, right? One could combine pitchers like Voltron to make a better, more complete staff out of pitchers with potential drawbacks. Fortunately, some more enlightened baseball philosophers have moved away from this rigid binary, and, in a move that harkens back to the pitching staffs of the 60s and 70s, labels like “starter” and “reliever” have merged into someone simply being an “out-getter.” A pitcher is no longer only good for one or five-to-nine innings; they are allowed to get as many outs as physically possible. A myriad of terms have grown into our shared baseball lexicon to describe this shift: “opener,” “piggy-backing,” uhhh, “two dogs and two cats.” While differing in their meaning, they all call back to the idea that pitchers differ in the duration of their effectiveness. The Rays are a masterclass in this style of strategy. In what feels like the millionth year in a row, the team owned a top-10 pitching staff in baseball by fWAR, struck out a small army, and barely walked anyone despite losing ace Tyler Glasnow to Tommy John surgery. Four pitchers, Shane McClanahan, Rich Hill, Glasnow, and Shane Baz, appeared solely as a starter. The 11 other pitchers who made a start for them in 2021 also appeared out of the bullpen at some point in 2021. Let’s take a look at their strategy in action. On July 28th, Michael Wacha pitched five solid innings before being followed by Drew Rasmussen, old friend Matt Wisler, Pete Fairbanks, and Andrew Kittredge. On August 12th, Rasmussen started the game and went four innings; he was followed by Collin McHugh, old friend J.T. Chargois, Louis Head, and Ryan Sheriff. Rasmussen both started and entered the game in the sixth inning in about a two-week period, and he netted significant innings in both roles. It’s a high-wire act for sure, a bad game or two could throw the entire staff into chaos, but a deft manager can properly tip-toe the line. In practice for the Twins, we may see something like Chris Archer going four innings, Jhoan Duran following with three innings of his own, and then the usual suspects of Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers cleaning up the game, assuming all went well. This style of pitching management will be even more necessary at the beginning of the season; starters are not yet ready for their usual pitch counts, and games have not yet been shortened (but I wouldn’t put anything by Rob Manfred). Expanded rosters will help alleviate the pitching roster crunch. As it stands, five relievers—Rogers, Duffey, Joe Smith, Jharel Cotton, and Danny Coulombe—are un-optionable (without the risk of losing them on waivers). The rest of the bullpen will be ushered into the continuous testing machinery to determine which arms can stay at the major league level. Think of it like the Hunger Games, but you’re sent to St. Paul instead of dying. Guys like Griffin Jax, Josh Winder, Cody Stashak, and Jovani Moran may or may not begin the season in the majors, but the team will certainly shuffle them in at some point in 2022. It may be for the best if you don’t get too attached to the names you see in the bullpen to begin the season. How would you like to see the pitching staff work, especially in the season's first month. Leave a COMMENT and discuss below.
  18. 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
  19. Not that long ago, evaluators considered Minnesota’s farm system among baseball’s best. It helped that the Twins were terrible for multiple seasons, and they were able to stockpile high draft picks to rebuild their system. Entering the 2022 season, many national rankings put the Twins farm system in the bottom half of the league. Many of the organization’s top prospects are on the brink of making their debuts, so what does that mean for the future of the farm system? Prospects on the Brink According to MLB Pipeline, the team’s top eight ranked prospects are all expected to debut in 2022. Minnesota’s pitching pipeline looks ready to start producing big-league talent. Joe Ryan was recently named the team’s Opening Day starter, even though he has only made five starts in his big-league career. Jhoan Duran looks like he can be a dominant bullpen option if the team decides to keep him in a relief role. Josh Winder also has an opportunity to be used out of the bullpen to start 2022. Besides these Opening Day options, Jordan Balazovic, Simeon Woods Richardson, and Drew Strotman all project to debut at some point in 2022. Minnesota’s top position player prospects also project to start the season at St. Paul. Jose Miranda dominated the Double- and Triple-A levels, so it seems like he has little left to prove in the minors. Austin Martin is widely considered the team’s top prospect, and he was an on-base machine at Double-A last season. Minnesota has worked with him on his power production and that should put him on a path toward a 2022 debut. Royce Lewis is returning from an injury, so he must prove he can produce like a top prospect. All eight of these prospects may use up their rookie eligibility during the 2022 season, and this has the potential to leave little on the shelves in the minor leagues. What Will Be Left? Minnesota’s pitching depth means some of the team’s top pitching prospects are behind other pitchers in the organization's pecking order. An argument can be made that Matt Canterino is the best pitching prospect in the organization, but all the other names mentioned above are ahead of him on the depth chart. Ronny Henriquez and Louie Varland are both intriguing prospects, but they have multiple stops left to get to the big-league level. Blayne Enlow is returning from Tommy John surgery, so he will likely wait until 2023 to debut. Steve Hajjar is an intriguing name to watch because of his collegiate experience. Last year’s second-round pick may end up being a top-10 prospect in the organization entering the 2023 season. He’s certainly a player to watch this season. Two of the organization's top power prospects will likely still be in the system entering next season. Aaron Sabato and Matt Wallner fit the mold of a typical power hitter with little value on the defensive side of the ball. Noah Miller and Keoni Cavaco are two higher draft picks from this regime with something to prove. Other position players like Spencer Steer and Misael Urbina are also working their way towards Target Field. All of these players have upside, but they aren’t in the same category of prospect as Martin, Lewis, or Miranda. Ramifications So, what does this all mean? Minnesota has a plethora of talent in the upper level of the minors, which is a great problem for any organization. However, is the team less likely to trade these players away because of their proximity to the majors? Teams with top-ranked farm systems can move their prospects for MLB talent to make their team even more competitive. This MLB-ready pipeline should allow the Twins to keep their winning window open, but the team’s future depth relies on a strong farm system that can churn out big-league talent. Minnesota projects to have plenty of young talent in the big leagues, but it will result in a dramatically depleted depth in the minors. Do you think the Twins will have one of baseball’s worst farm systems entering next season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  20. In recent years, multiple prospects across baseball have used new technology and data to help refine their delivery to add something to their fastball. A middle-level prospect with a low-graded fastball can add movement and velocity to start moving up prospect lists. The pitches below rank on the 20-80 scouting scale, and most of these fastballs are big-league ready. 5. Matt Canterino, RHP Current Fastball/Future Fastball: 55/55 Minnesota selected Canterino from Rice University back in 2019 with the team’s second-round pick. His fastball sits from 91-96 mph but can top out at 98 mph. Last season, he struck out 45 batters in 23 innings. However, he has pitched fewer than 50 professional innings due to multiple IL trips. He has the pitch mix to be a starter at the big-league level, but many believe he will wind up serving in a relief role because of his health concerns. He just turned 24-years-old this winter, so the 2022 campaign will be important in deciding his role as he gets closer to the big-league level. 4. Jordan Balazovic, RHP Current Fastball/Future Fastball: 55/55 Balazovic pitched a career-high 97 innings last season, and he was over 2.5 years younger than the average age of the competition at Double-A. He was inconsistent throughout the 2021 campaign, but there were flashes of brilliance. His fastball sits in the 93-96 mph range, and he can top out at 97 mph. Some of the other names on this list will end up in the bullpen, but Balazovic still projects to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter, which has plenty of future value. Since he is already on the 40-man roster, there is a good chance Balazovic will make his big-league debut in 2022. 3. Jhoan Duran, RHP Current Fastball/Future Fastball: 60/60 Duran’s fastball is electric, as he showed last year by hitting over 100 mph at Triple-A. Typically, he sits in the 95-99 range, but he can reach over 100 mph if he rears back and gets the adrenaline pumping. He missed most of the 2021 season with a forearm strain, and there’s potential for him to end up as a bullpen arm. Even with his high velocity, his fastball doesn’t lead to a high strikeout rate, similar to former Twins prospect Brusdar Graterol. If healthy, Duran can get another opportunity to start, but it’s hard not to consider him a bullpen option as soon as 2022. 2. Steven Cruz, RHP Current Fastball/Future Fastball: 70/70 Cruz has been in the Twins organization since signing as an international free agent in 2017. Last season, his fastball sat at 95-99 mph while topping out at 101 mph. He doesn’t rank as one of Minnesota’s top pitching prospects because he seems destined for a bullpen role. His command is lacking (5.9 BB/9), but his fastball-slider combination may be enough to be a useful relief arm at the big-league level. Last season, he posted a 14.4 SO/9 between Low- and High-A. To continue to move up the ladder, he will need to harness some of his erratic control. 1. Joe Ryan, RHP Current Fastball/Future Fastball: 70/70 Ryan’s fastball has been discussed in depth since he was traded to the Twins last July. He sits 90-94 mph while topping out at 96 mph. While that might not be as impressive as others on this list, his secondary characteristics separate his fastball from the others. He struck out over 35% of the batters he faced in the minors, and the team saw him transition that success to the big-league level. One of the concerns with Ryan is how frequently he uses his fastball, so it will be interesting to track his pitch usage throughout the 2022 campaign. Who do you think has the best fastball in the Twins system? Should someone else make the list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES — Top Power Tool Prospects — Top Hit Tool Prospects — Top Speed Tool Prospects MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  21. My plea to the Twins all winter was to field a team that has a fighting chance. As constructed before the lockout, the Twins were looking at another down year, with speculation looming of a rebuild, retool, or anything in-between. They’ve made their decision. After signing Correa to a quasi-one-year deal and trading first-round pick Chase Petty for Sonny Gray, the Twins can't go back now. It’s time to push more chips into the pile. Rumors are swirling about a Frankie Montas addition, and Luis Castillo is still in Cincinnati, where the Reds have told everyone the party is over. The Twins need to supplement a less-than-stellar rotation, but the bullpen is also lacking in the hard-throwing right-hander department. Enter Jhoan Duran, who turned heads Saturday with a truly dazzling spring appearance. Duran threw 19 pitches, with three at 99 mph or more. He struck out two over two perfect innings. Duran has the repertoire to be a dominant starter, with a 70-grade fastball and developing breaking stuff. The hope is he remains a future rotation member, with the Twins crossing their fingers for a healthy summer ahead. He’s thrown only 16 game innings since 2019, so ramping him up in 2022 is critical. It wouldn't be easy to convince me that Duran, 24, couldn’t help the Twins immediately. He’s an electric young arm, similar to former Twins flamethrower Brusdar Graterol. Understanding they needed to help the 2020 team in any possible way, the Twins first decided to move Graterol to a bullpen role, tracking him to make the team on Opening Day. Then, further recognizing a need to supplement, the Twins traded Graterol to the Dodgers for Kenta Maeda. The Twins made both decisions knowing they had to aid a preseason American League Central favorite in any way possible. After signing Correa, how is this year any different? Duran may be part of a package that returns Montas, Sean Manaea, Castillo, or Tyler Mahle, but that’s not what I’m proposing. Let Duran cook. He’s 24, needs innings, and looks ready to contribute. A bullpen move isn’t a death sentence. White Sox starter Michael Kopech is a great example. A hard-throwing right-hander coming off an injury, the White Sox let him eat out of the bullpen in 2021, and he now resides in their rotation. The Twins’ bullpen consists of Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcalá, Caleb Thielbar, recently-added Joe Smith, Jharel Cotton, and perhaps Randy Dobnak or Jovani Morán. It’s an OK group but could use a boost. Even if the Twins sign a high-leverage, right-handed reliever, Duran could fill a key role. Duran and Alcalá would form a potentially dominant pairing of right-handed flamethrowers, setting up for Duffey and Rogers. Duran could pitch in low, medium, and high leverage and even open some games. He’d be a swiss-army knife for Rocco Baldelli and a potentially valuable one. The Twins have decided they want to win in 2022. By moving Duran to the bullpen, they’re pushing more chips into the pot, which I’ve been calling for since the offseason commenced. What do you think? Should the Twins move Jhoan Duran to the bullpen for 2022? Comment below! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  22. BetOnline recently released an over/under of 120.5 games for each team this summer. That means there’s an expectation of at least 40 games lost due to the ongoing lockout. There is no end in sight. That’s a terrible outcome, and the fear of losing half or even the *entire* season is valid. Plenty of Twins are hoping to leave 2021 in the rearview mirror. Unfortunately, they can’t show off their hard work until the season starts. It’s a crucial year for a handful of Major and Minor leaguers, but these five stick out in particular, with futures both with the team and in the league at stake. 5. Bailey Ober Ober went from a surprise addition to the 40-man roster to a rotation building block in 2021. Ober especially shined over his last ten starts, pitching to a 3.31 ERA with 51 strikeouts and just six walks in 49 innings. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound breakout averaged only 73 pitches per outing over his last 12 starts, with the Twins highly cautious of his workload. Ober had never thrown 80 innings in a season before last year. With a lengthy injury history, does a delay benefit Ober’s health, or does the loss of games hurt his chances of building up? 4. Jhoan Duran Speaking of innings, Duran must get a fair amount in 2022. After a solid 115 innings in 2019, Duran has all-of-a-sudden fallen behind, with only 16 game innings on his arm over the last two seasons. This summer, a hybrid Major-League role seemed perfect, but a delay could derail those plans. Ultimately, the Twins need to decide whether Duran is a future starter or reliever. This summer, he must catch up and log at least 60-80 innings to win a job in the Opening Day rotation in 2023. The lockout may dictate otherwise. 3. Taylor Rogers Contrary to some belief, Rogers had a terrific season before an untimely grand slam and injury threw a wrench in his bounce-back campaign. Rogers boasted a 2.45 ERA and 2.02 FIP with a 35% strikeout rate through July 8th. The Twins tendered Rogers in his final season of arbitration, expressing confidence that his middle-finger injury is in good shape. What the standout lefty needs is a complete and healthy season. The results will be there, but Rogers is likely desperate to show off his health with free agency looming next winter. 2. Miguel Sanó The Twins extended Sanó after a monstrous 2019 season where he hit .254/.362/.578 with 21 homers in the second half. The story is the same with Sanó: when he’s on, he’s lethal. When he’s off, he’s hardly playable. 2022 is the last guaranteed year on Sanó’s contract, with a $14 million Twins option for 2023. Alex Kirilloff looks like the first baseman of the future, and the Twins were not scared to demote Sanó to a platoon role during his first-half struggles in 2021. Sanó was excellent as usual in the second half, but an entire, productive season might be enough for the Twins to invest in his future with the club. 1. Royce Lewis It’s been a ruthless three years for Lewis, who is ready to go for a critical summer. Lewis’ journey has been anything but linear, with plate struggles in 2019, a canceled 2020, and a season-ending injury in 2021. Now, a lockout that restricts him from playing. There’s a chance Lewis won’t appear in a real game for *three* years because of factors out of his control. It’s a terrible break for a fantastic person, and there’s no question Lewis is the most impacted by this fiasco. What do you think? Comment below! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  23. Matt Canterino was drafted by the Twins in the second round of the 2019 draft, out of Rice University. In a similar fashion to other drafted in 2019, his organizational visibility was limited early, due to the shortened 2020. None of that slowed Canterino, however, as he showed significant advancements in his repertoire, velocity, and approach after joining the Twins alternate site at the end of the 2020 season. Age: 24 (DOB: 12/14/1997) 2021 Stats (A and A+): 23 IP, 0.78 ERA, 0.61 WHIP, 45 K, 4 BB ETA: 2023 2021 Ranking: 9 National Top 100 Rankings: BA: NR MLB: NR ATH: NR BP: NR What’s to Like? Off the mound, Matt Canterino is a friendly, likable player who is always generous with his time, thoughts, and perspective. On the mound, he’s an apex predator, pacing and stalking around the mound with the level of intent he brings to his pitches. Canterino has a true four-pitch mix, beginning with a blazing fastball. At Rice, this sat in the low 90s, but he sits comfortably in the upper 90s with it now (reaching 99 mph). The other pitch which has developed into a significant weapon since he turned professional is his changeup, which has developed excellent tumble and is a plus pitch against hitters on both sides of the plate. Canterino also offers a deep curveball which sits in the high 70s/low 80s and a hard slider, which is his best breaking pitch. Canterino also has excellent control, (despite unusual, herky-jerky looking mechanics), walking just four hitters in 23 innings pitched in 2021 and dominating two levels of minor league baseball in the process. What’s Left to Work On? Not much, in terms of his pitch mix or approach. Canterino now carries a 60-grade fastball to go with a 55-grade changeup and 55-grade slider, with 55-grade control. There’s really only one orange flag in his young career. Health. Canterino missed the majority of 2021 with elbow injuries. Additionally, his collegiate career was spent at Rice, a program notorious for being reckless with young arms. Canterino could not have had a more dominant start to his professional career, but the combination of a shortened season in 2020 and injuries in 2021 mean he has not pitched more than 25 innings in a season in his career to date. If he can remain healthy, he has middle to top of the rotation upside as a starting pitcher. Make no mistake, a healthy Matt Canterino in 2022 should be a dominant force in the minor leagues if his short track record is any indicator. Previous Rankings Honorable Mentions Prospects 16-20 Prospects 11-15 #10: Josh Winder, RHP #9: Chase Petty, RHP #8: Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP #7: Jhoan Duran
  24. Age: 24 (DOB: 1/8/98) 2021 Stats (AAA): 16 IP, 5.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 22 K, 13 BB ETA: 2022 2021 Ranking: 5 National Top 100 Rankings BA: NR | MLB: NR | ATH: NR | BP: NR What's To Like On May 27th of last year, Duran had it all working. His entire "What's To Like" section could essentially be boiled down to that outing alone. Facing the Iowa Cubs in his second start of the year for St. Paul, the Dominican right-hander struck out eight over four innings of one-hit, shutout ball. He touched triple digits multiple times with his heater. He unleashed a bevy of nasty offspeed pitches, including his signature "splinker." Duran was in command and flat-out dominant, showing every bit of the ability that made him the top pitcher in our rankings last year. This ability has more or less been on display since Duran first came to Minnesota at the 2018 deadline, when he led the return package from Arizona for Eduardo Escobar. In 167 innings as part of the Twins organization, he has 202 strikeouts and a 3.50 ERA, with just 132 hits allowed. Duran's performance tailed off quickly last year after the aforementioned late-May gem, and he was shut down before the end of June due to an elbow strain. Concerning, obviously, but hardly damning after the disruption of a lost season in 2020. Plenty of other pitchers experienced health issues last year, inside and outside the Twins organization. The Twins opted for a PRP injection rather than surgery. He was able to throw again in the fall, albeit not in live games – seemingly a positive sign. He's already 24 and hasn't built up much durability, so the bullpen is Duran's most likely destination at this point. And that's okay. So long as he stays off the injured list and is able to unleash his arsenal at full strength, he will be an asset. What's Left To Work On Duran was not a perfect prospect even before injuries wiped out his 2021 season – his control and changeup both need work, especially if he hopes to stick as a starter – but simply keeping himself on the mound would be a huge accomplishment for the 6-foot-5 hurler in 2022. Throwing 16 innings total over the past two years is a major setback to his workload development, although he'd built up a decent baseline beforehand by throwing 100 innings in 2018 and 115 in 2019. His big sturdy build and previous history of durability provide hope Duran can get back on track health-wise. But we'll have to see him get through a couple months incident-free in order to feel confident the team's course of action in 2021 negated a need for surgery, rather than delaying it. What's Next It's unknown exactly what the Twins' plan is for Duran this year. There's been no indication the club intends to move him into the bullpen straightaway, but surely they will be very cautious with his innings – even his pitch counts and stress levels within those innings. On one hand, keeping him in Triple-A for awhile seems like the best way to carefully manage his arm. On the other hand, if he truly is healthy and throwing flames again, you don't necessarily wanna waste a bunch of his bullets in the minors. It might be the best way to bring Duran along is as a multi-inning reliever, which would fit with the vision for a modular pitching staff that doesn't rely on traditional six-inning starters to shoulder the load. Unless and until the Twins make some impactful veteran additions to the rotation, I'm going to assume they're tentatively planning as such. If healthy (a big IF, clearly), I'd give Duran a decent chance of winning a roster spot in spring training and a strong chance of debuting in the first half of the season. Previous Rankings Honorable Mentions Prospects 16-20 Prospects 11-15 #10: Josh Winder, RHP #9: Chase Petty, RHP #8: Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP #7: Jhoan Duran, RHP #6: Coming tomorrow!
  25. Finding solid relief pitching can be a challenging task for an organization. Relievers can burn bright for short periods and then burn out quickly. Many of the best relievers in Twins history were pitching prospects that were unsuccessful as starters, including Glen Perkins, Joe Nathan, and Taylor Rogers. The pitchers listed below are still considered starting pitchers, but their eventual development path may shift them to a bullpen role. Jhoan Duran Seth's Top-30 Pitcher Ranking: 8 Minnesota originally acquired Duran as part of the Eduardo Escobar trade. Since then, he has become one of the most exciting pitching prospects to come through the Twins farm system in quite some time. His electric fastball has been clocked at over 100 mph, even if the gun was a little hot. His off-speed offerings include a slider and a famous "splinker." With at least three big-league pitches, it's easy to imagine him sticking as a starter, but injuries impacted his 2021 season. Last season, he started the year on the IL with forearm/elbow issues, which can cause lingering problems. Duran was limited to 16 innings pitched with a 5.06 ERA and a 1.81 WHIP. He flashed some electric stuff and struck out more than a batter per inning. After five appearances, he was placed back in the IL and shut down for the year. Luckily, he avoided surgery, but the bullpen may offer him a way to stay healthy and provide value with his dominant pitch mix. Even Baseball America thinks Duran will be in the bullpen by 2025. Simeon Woods Richardson Seth's Top-30 Pitcher Ranking: 4 Woods Richardson has been part of two different blockbuster trades before his 21st birthday. At last year's trade deadline, the Twins acquired him along with Austin Martin for José Berríos. Both the Blue Jays and the Twins were aggressive with Woods Richardson last season as he pitched the entire season at Double-A, where he was over 4.5 years younger than the average age of the competition. Across 15 starts (53 1/3 innings), he posted a 5.91 ERA with a 1.54 WHIP and a 77 to 34 strikeout to walk ratio. Currently, he utilizes a four-pitch mix, and he can add more velocity as he adds to his frame. He will likely repeat Double-A next season, where he will still be young for the level. Minnesota will give him every opportunity to make it as a starting pitcher, and a move to the bullpen would be multiple years into the future. However, his fastball and changeup are above average pitches that could translate to him becoming a dominant late-inning reliever. Cole Sands Seth's Top-30 Pitcher Ranking: 13 Sands was an intriguing pick when the Twins took him with a fifth-round pick back in 2018. He had posted a 4.73 ERA in three seasons in college, but he had projectability. Now, he has turned both of his offspeed offerings into plus pitches, and his fastball velocity has increased. Last season at Double-A, he posted a 2.46 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 80 innings. These improvements point to his potential to stick as a starter, but a shift to the bullpen may also be on the table. He has yet to pitch more than 98 innings in a season throughout his professional career. If he is going to stick as a starter, he will have to increase his workload in the years ahead. Another issue was his walk rate more than doubled from 1.8 BB/9 in 2019 to 3.9 BB/9 in 2021. He's dealt with some arm problems in the past, so a shift to the bullpen may give him a better opportunity to impact the big-league roster. Which pitching prospect is destined for a bullpen role? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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