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  1. With the Minnesota Twins missing the Postseason in 2018, the 78 win campaign simply wasn't good enough. Although Paul Molitor isn't the sole owner of fault, he deservedly took the fall after being spared a season ago. Recently I took a look at a few players that began to develop in big ways for the organization. On the flip side of that, there's some players that are watching time run out. As was the case going into 2018, the Minnesota Twins should be expected to challenge the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. With talented youth, and money to spend, there's opportunity to shake up the division at the top. If that's going to happen however, the players mentioned below need to become more known commodities as opposed to wild cards. Miguel Sano There's arguably no player wasting talent more right now than Minnesota's third basemen. Regardless of weight and conditioning issues, it's always appeared to be a work ethic situation for the Dominican Native. A healthy Sano could probably hit 30 homers in a full year without much effort. In his present state, that also likely comes with a record setting strikeout total and a hollow defensive effort. For Sano to return as the All Star caliber player he was in 2017, Minnesota needs more. This offseason Miguel has to live and breathe his craft. Being involved with a sexual assault case, and more recently, an accident involving a police officer, the organization needs a character reset as well. At 25 years old, Sano isn't a kid anymore, and his actions have consequences. Sano becomes a free agent in 2022 and is arbitration eligible in 2019. You can bet he's already bleeding money, but the career arc needs a turnaround, and fast. Byron Buxton Unlike Sano, Buxton has never had a questionable work ethic. As a tireless competitor, and someone with a never ending drive, it's availability that has held Byron back. Over the offseason, and in the year ahead, Minnesota needs their centerfielder to stay healthy and get reps. Having endured what amounts to as a lost year, the Georgia native did little for his development in the past 12 months. That will need to change in 2019. There's no denying Buxton will always be a significant asset in the field. If he can stay healthy through his exploits in center, it will come down to consistency at the plate. He's shown plenty of ability to hit during his rise in professional baseball, and there's too much talent to write that aspect off. That said, Byron is soon to be 25 and the clock is ticking there as well. Minnesota isn't in a spot to give up on either player, but as the current foundation of a promoted prospect group, they must come through. The Bullpen Naming a single player leaves too many variables out in this equation. It seems Minnesota has real assets in Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, and Trevor May. Behind them though, no one has stepped forward and that's a problem. Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, Tyler Duffey, and a handful of others have gotten their shot but failed to capitalize. With numbers that look promising on the farm, major league success has yet to follow any of those arms. You can probably expect Thad Levine to target at least a couple impact arms in relief this winter. Losing Ryan Pressly, though I agree with the premise of the trade, will need to be addressed. Although there's plenty of options internally, very few of them are looking like anything of consequence. At this point, the group mentioned above is rounding out some of their last opportunities before roster trimming begins. Without going into every area or instance that could be improved upon, the above trio of suspects is simply more vital than the rest. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton have always had the ability to be franchise altering players, and their realization of potential is integral to sustained success in the near-term. Given the Twins draft strategy in the late years of the Terry Ryan regime, generating something of substance from the glut of middling relievers is a must at this point. Once that group is passed by, there's little to feel good about in terms of a return. Over the winter, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will embark upon one of the most critical offseasons in recent memory. No matter what they do however, the emergence, development, and turnaround of the names above represents the largest piece to the puzzle. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  2. Earlier this week, Twins Daily announced the Short Season Pitcher and Hitter of the Year, and tonight we switch to the full season awards, beginning with the Relief Pitcher of the Year. In recent history, this award has been an indicator of a player making the major leagues at some point—­John Curtiss won in 2017 and also made his MLB debut, and before that Trevor Hildenberger won in 2015 and 2016 before becoming the stalwart in the bullpen he is now with the Minnesota Twins.There were several standout strikeout arms in the Twins system when it came to relief pitchers, as you will see below. Some of them have spent time in the majors this season, while a few others appear ready for their opportunity. Short profiles of our top five are to follow, but first, some players worthy of honorable mention. These players also received votes. Others Receiving Votes Nick Anderson, Rochester Red Wings – 39 G, 8-2, 4 Saves, 3.30 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 60.0 IP, 49 H, 19 BB, 88 KGabriel Moya, Rochester Red Wings – 26 G, 1-1, 4 Saves, 1.90 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 42.2 IP, 38 H, 12 BB, 50 KJohn Curtiss, Rochester Red Wings – 38 G, 2-4, 10 Saves, 3.42 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 55.1 IP, 41 H, 31 BB, 61 KRyne Harper, Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings – 38 G, 1-5, 6 Saves, 3.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 65.0 IP, 61 H, 10 BB, 86 KThese are the top five players to receive votes for Twins Daily’s Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year #5 – Jake Reed, Rochester Red Wings – 30 G, 0-3, 2 Saves, 1.89 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 47.2 IP, 34 H, 21 BB, 50 K For a few years now, it has seemed like Jake Reed was knocking on the door to the major leagues, but in part due to some injuries, hasn’t yet made the jump. I’ll say quite frankly that he should have, at least for September of this year (and last year for that matter). The ERA to finish his season is great, but he really turned it on as the season wore on, appearing in both July and August’s Relief Pitcher of the Month entries. In that time frame Reed appeared in 16 games, pitching 26 total innings and allowing just four earned runs (1.38 ERA) on 10 hits and 10 walks (good for a 0.77 WHIP), while striking out 29. #4 – Alan Busenitz, Rochester Red Wings – 27 G, 2-3, 7 Saves, 2.48 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 40.0 IP, 32 H, 8 BB, 45 K Despite appearing in 28 games with the Twins in 2017 and delivering a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, Busenitz has been on the Triple A shuttle several times this season, never quite being able to settle in. He was excellent in the minors again in 2018, including the month of May in which he didn’t allow a single run in eight appearances and 13 total innings. He was recognized in both May and June’s Relief Pitcher of the Month awards, and in that stretch over a period of 13 MiLB appearances, did not allow a run while striking out 27 in 23 innings pitched. #3 – Cody Stashak, Fort Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts – 37 G, 2-1, 4 Saves, 2.87 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 59.2 IP, 49 H, 15 BB, 74 K Stashak was a starting pitcher for the first two years of his professional career, and a decent one, after being drafted in the 13th round of the 2015 draft out of St. Johns University. But that changed in 2018, as the Twins put him in the bullpen for its entirety. He didn’t miss a beat, sustaining a sub 3.00 ERA, sub 1.10 WHIP, and sub .240 batting average against while increasing his K-rate. Stashak has always had good control, and that also didn’t leave him out of the ‘pen allowing him to have the best K/BB ratio of his career. From July through the end of the season, spanning 17 appearances and 23 innings pitched, Stashak allowed just two earned runs (0.78 ERA) on 19 hits and only 2 walks, while striking out 25. He was #2 in July’s Relief Pitcher of the Month entry and made honorable mention in two others during the season. #2 – Jovani Moran, Cedar Rapids Kernels/Fort Myers Miracle – 37 G, 9-3, 8 Saves, 2.49 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 76.0 IP, 45 H, 35 BB, 107 K If you paid attention during the year or have been clicking the links throughout this article, you know of the legend that is Jovani Moran already. He took home the monthly relief pitcher honors in June and July and received an honorable mention twice. The first thing you’ll notice with him is obviously the K’s. After striking out literally everybody with Elizabethton in 2017 (almost, his rate was 16.4/9IP) and taking home the Short Season Pitcher of the Year award, Moran continued that success with the Kernels and Miracle in 2018, finishing with a rate of 12.7K/9IP between his two stops. Surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow in 2016 seemingly ended his development path as a starter, but what they’ve found as a reliever is hard to ignore. Listed at 6’1” and 170 lbs, Moran hasn’t been known for his velocity, but may have kicked it up some in the bullpen. He has also improved the movement of his secondary pitches, led by a great changeup and improving breaking ball. Moran is one to watch closely moving forward. #1 – Andrew Vasquez, Fort Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings – 40 G, 1-2, 6 Saves, 1.30 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 69.1 IP, 50 H, 21 BB, 108 K If you thought Moran’s strikeout total was egregious, take a look at Andrew Vasquez’s. There’s a reason the left-handed Vasquez jumped from Fort Myers all the way to the Twins bullpen during the 2018 season—he has been as untouchable as his slider is elite. Like Moran, Vasquez made appearances on several of the monthly awards, including winning in August before his September callup to the majors. Leading to his recent MLB debut, Vasquez has had a standout minor league career since being drafted by the Twins in the 32nd round of the 2015 draft out of Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. His career minor league ERA is just 1.52 in four seasons and he has struck out 13.4/9IP. While his fastball will only touch the 90’s, as Twins farm director Jeremy Zoll noted to Twins Daily, “It’s all about the slider with Andrew.” Because of this pitch, he didn’t allow a single extra-base-hit to same-sided hitters during his 2017 season that ended with a trip to the Arizona Fall League (fun fact only I may know since I wrote about it: his first hit allowed in the AFL was a double to a lefty). His efforts during that 2017 campaign also landed him at #5 in this award category last year. Zoll went on to talk about how Brad Steil, Luis Ramirez (Vasquez’s pitching coach in rookie ball), and the Twins pushed him to rely on the pitch after turning pro. “The slider is your thing, make it your thing. He really owned that this year. I think he realized that not only lefties, but righties were having a really hard time hitting it too. Once he got to Double A it was like ‘All right, I’m catching a groove here’ and you could see his confidence boost. It’s been really fun to see him have that type of success, starting in high-A and ending up in the big leagues.” You can definitely see that boost in confidence talked about in his numbers on the year. With Fort Myers, Vasquez pitched 32.2 innings with a 1.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 37:13 K to BB ratio. With the Lookouts, those numbers improved to 31.0 innings with a 1.16 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and a 59:4 K to BB ratio. Then, before he was called up to the Twins he made four appearances with the Rochester Red Wings, pitching 5.2 innings and striking out 12 of the 28 hitters he faced (42.3%). It was an easy decision to add Vasquez to the 40-man when rosters expanded for September based on his numbers and the fact that he would have to be protected in the offseason anyway. Twins fans should be able to see that slider plenty of times over the final month and get an idea of what the future could hold for the 6’6” left-hander. It’s very apparent how much the Twins believe in Vasquez and his slider, as Zoll closed by recalling a conversation with Tim O’Neill, one of their national cross-checkers, who said, “How about the kid from Westmont?!” Zoll went on, “It’s an interesting story and situation to see that type of profile, having a reliever with that type of slider. Where did you learn that thing and how can we teach other people? Maybe there’s something in the water. We’ll have to ship that out to Fort Myers.” Definitely look into that, Mr. Zoll! Congratulations to Andrew Vasquez and the rest of the relievers recognized by Twins Daily for their efforts in 2018. Vasquez has the ingredients to stick around for a while, even if it’s just to devastate left-handed hitters. The Ballots In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily minor league writers: Seth Stohs – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Jake Reed, 4) Alan Busenitz, 5) Cody StashakJeremy Nygaard – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Alan Busenitz, 4) Cody Stashak, 5) Nick AndersonCody Christie – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Gabriel Moya, 4) Cody Stashak, 5) Alan BusenitzTom Froemming – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Cody Stashak, 4) Ryne Harper, 5) Nick AndersonSteve Lein – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Cody Stashak, 4) Ryne Harper, 5) Nick AndersonTed Schwerzler – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jake Reed, 3) John Curtiss, 4) Alan Busenitz, 5) Jovani MoranWhat do you think? How would your ballot look? Click here to view the article
  3. There were several standout strikeout arms in the Twins system when it came to relief pitchers, as you will see below. Some of them have spent time in the majors this season, while a few others appear ready for their opportunity. Short profiles of our top five are to follow, but first, some players worthy of honorable mention. These players also received votes. Others Receiving Votes Nick Anderson, Rochester Red Wings – 39 G, 8-2, 4 Saves, 3.30 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 60.0 IP, 49 H, 19 BB, 88 K Gabriel Moya, Rochester Red Wings – 26 G, 1-1, 4 Saves, 1.90 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 42.2 IP, 38 H, 12 BB, 50 K John Curtiss, Rochester Red Wings – 38 G, 2-4, 10 Saves, 3.42 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 55.1 IP, 41 H, 31 BB, 61 K Ryne Harper, Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings – 38 G, 1-5, 6 Saves, 3.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 65.0 IP, 61 H, 10 BB, 86 K These are the top five players to receive votes for Twins Daily’s Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year #5 – Jake Reed, Rochester Red Wings – 30 G, 0-3, 2 Saves, 1.89 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 47.2 IP, 34 H, 21 BB, 50 K For a few years now, it has seemed like Jake Reed was knocking on the door to the major leagues, but in part due to some injuries, hasn’t yet made the jump. I’ll say quite frankly that he should have, at least for September of this year (and last year for that matter). The ERA to finish his season is great, but he really turned it on as the season wore on, appearing in both July and August’s Relief Pitcher of the Month entries. In that time frame Reed appeared in 16 games, pitching 26 total innings and allowing just four earned runs (1.38 ERA) on 10 hits and 10 walks (good for a 0.77 WHIP), while striking out 29. #4 – Alan Busenitz, Rochester Red Wings – 27 G, 2-3, 7 Saves, 2.48 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 40.0 IP, 32 H, 8 BB, 45 K Despite appearing in 28 games with the Twins in 2017 and delivering a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, Busenitz has been on the Triple A shuttle several times this season, never quite being able to settle in. He was excellent in the minors again in 2018, including the month of May in which he didn’t allow a single run in eight appearances and 13 total innings. He was recognized in both May and June’s Relief Pitcher of the Month awards, and in that stretch over a period of 13 MiLB appearances, did not allow a run while striking out 27 in 23 innings pitched. #3 – Cody Stashak, Fort Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts – 37 G, 2-1, 4 Saves, 2.87 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 59.2 IP, 49 H, 15 BB, 74 K Stashak was a starting pitcher for the first two years of his professional career, and a decent one, after being drafted in the 13th round of the 2015 draft out of St. Johns University. But that changed in 2018, as the Twins put him in the bullpen for its entirety. He didn’t miss a beat, sustaining a sub 3.00 ERA, sub 1.10 WHIP, and sub .240 batting average against while increasing his K-rate. Stashak has always had good control, and that also didn’t leave him out of the ‘pen allowing him to have the best K/BB ratio of his career. From July through the end of the season, spanning 17 appearances and 23 innings pitched, Stashak allowed just two earned runs (0.78 ERA) on 19 hits and only 2 walks, while striking out 25. He was #2 in July’s Relief Pitcher of the Month entry and made honorable mention in two others during the season. #2 – Jovani Moran, Cedar Rapids Kernels/Fort Myers Miracle – 37 G, 9-3, 8 Saves, 2.49 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 76.0 IP, 45 H, 35 BB, 107 K If you paid attention during the year or have been clicking the links throughout this article, you know of the legend that is Jovani Moran already. He took home the monthly relief pitcher honors in June and July and received an honorable mention twice. The first thing you’ll notice with him is obviously the K’s. After striking out literally everybody with Elizabethton in 2017 (almost, his rate was 16.4/9IP) and taking home the Short Season Pitcher of the Year award, Moran continued that success with the Kernels and Miracle in 2018, finishing with a rate of 12.7K/9IP between his two stops. Surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow in 2016 seemingly ended his development path as a starter, but what they’ve found as a reliever is hard to ignore. Listed at 6’1” and 170 lbs, Moran hasn’t been known for his velocity, but may have kicked it up some in the bullpen. He has also improved the movement of his secondary pitches, led by a great changeup and improving breaking ball. Moran is one to watch closely moving forward. #1 – Andrew Vasquez, Fort Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings – 40 G, 1-2, 6 Saves, 1.30 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 69.1 IP, 50 H, 21 BB, 108 K If you thought Moran’s strikeout total was egregious, take a look at Andrew Vasquez’s. There’s a reason the left-handed Vasquez jumped from Fort Myers all the way to the Twins bullpen during the 2018 season—he has been as untouchable as his slider is elite. Like Moran, Vasquez made appearances on several of the monthly awards, including winning in August before his September callup to the majors. Leading to his recent MLB debut, Vasquez has had a standout minor league career since being drafted by the Twins in the 32nd round of the 2015 draft out of Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. His career minor league ERA is just 1.52 in four seasons and he has struck out 13.4/9IP. While his fastball will only touch the 90’s, as Twins farm director Jeremy Zoll noted to Twins Daily, “It’s all about the slider with Andrew.” Because of this pitch, he didn’t allow a single extra-base-hit to same-sided hitters during his 2017 season that ended with a trip to the Arizona Fall League (fun fact only I may know since I wrote about it: his first hit allowed in the AFL was a double to a lefty). His efforts during that 2017 campaign also landed him at #5 in this award category last year. Zoll went on to talk about how Brad Steil, Luis Ramirez (Vasquez’s pitching coach in rookie ball), and the Twins pushed him to rely on the pitch after turning pro. “The slider is your thing, make it your thing. He really owned that this year. I think he realized that not only lefties, but righties were having a really hard time hitting it too. Once he got to Double A it was like ‘All right, I’m catching a groove here’ and you could see his confidence boost. It’s been really fun to see him have that type of success, starting in high-A and ending up in the big leagues.” You can definitely see that boost in confidence talked about in his numbers on the year. With Fort Myers, Vasquez pitched 32.2 innings with a 1.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 37:13 K to BB ratio. With the Lookouts, those numbers improved to 31.0 innings with a 1.16 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and a 59:4 K to BB ratio. Then, before he was called up to the Twins he made four appearances with the Rochester Red Wings, pitching 5.2 innings and striking out 12 of the 28 hitters he faced (42.3%). It was an easy decision to add Vasquez to the 40-man when rosters expanded for September based on his numbers and the fact that he would have to be protected in the offseason anyway. Twins fans should be able to see that slider plenty of times over the final month and get an idea of what the future could hold for the 6’6” left-hander. It’s very apparent how much the Twins believe in Vasquez and his slider, as Zoll closed by recalling a conversation with Tim O’Neill, one of their national cross-checkers, who said, “How about the kid from Westmont?!” Zoll went on, “It’s an interesting story and situation to see that type of profile, having a reliever with that type of slider. Where did you learn that thing and how can we teach other people? Maybe there’s something in the water. We’ll have to ship that out to Fort Myers.” Definitely look into that, Mr. Zoll! Congratulations to Andrew Vasquez and the rest of the relievers recognized by Twins Daily for their efforts in 2018. Vasquez has the ingredients to stick around for a while, even if it’s just to devastate left-handed hitters. The Ballots In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily minor league writers: Seth Stohs – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Jake Reed, 4) Alan Busenitz, 5) Cody Stashak Jeremy Nygaard – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Alan Busenitz, 4) Cody Stashak, 5) Nick Anderson Cody Christie – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Gabriel Moya, 4) Cody Stashak, 5) Alan Busenitz Tom Froemming – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Cody Stashak, 4) Ryne Harper, 5) Nick Anderson Steve Lein – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jovani Moran, 3) Cody Stashak, 4) Ryne Harper, 5) Nick Anderson Ted Schwerzler – 1) Andrew Vasquez, 2) Jake Reed, 3) John Curtiss, 4) Alan Busenitz, 5) Jovani Moran What do you think? How would your ballot look?
  4. Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs) Odorizzi: 55 Game Score, 5.1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 4 K, 3 BB, 56.4% strikes (53 of 94 pitches) Home Runs: Adrianza (6), Sano (13) Multi-Hit Games: None WPA of 0.1 or higher: Adrianza .218, Odorizzi .103 WPA of -0.1 or lower: Kepler -.116, Busenitz -.416 Odorizzi’s third time through the order issues are well documented. He got off to a great start the third time through, striking out Francisco Lindor to end the fifth. He also got Michael Brantley to pop out to open the sixth. Then came the consecutive four-pitch walks and the hook, but Odorizzi still exited this game with the Twins up 2-1. Busenitz came in and gave up a game-tying single to Yonder Alonso and then a three-day homer to Jason Kipnis. All the Twins’ runs came via the longball, as Ehire Adrianza hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning and Miguel Sano hit a solo shot in the ninth. Jorge Polanco's sat for the third straight game and Eddie Rosario left this one in the sixth inning due to a leg injury. This game was broadcast on Facebook, and their booth crew, including Glen Perkins, asked Paul Molitor during an in-game interview about future roster plans. He said a decision on Byron Buxton would be coming sometime in the next 24 hours and some of the specific names he mentioned among September callups were Tyler Duffey, John Curtiss and Zack Littell. Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Next Three Games Fri at TEX, 7:05 pm CT: Stephen Gonsalves vs. Drew Hutchison Sat at TEX, 7:05 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Yovani Gallardo Sun at TEX, 2:05 pm CT: TBD Last Three Games MIN 4, CLE 3: Astudillo Gets First Homer, Mauer Scores 1,000th Run CLE 8, MIN 1: Where Did the Runs Go? OAK 6, MIN 2: Austin Goes Deep Twice in Loss
  5. Jake Odorizzi was cruising right along and then BAM, he couldn't find the strike zone. With one out in the sixth, Odorizzi issued consecutive four-pitch walks and was removed. Cleveland jumped all over Alan Busenitz to turn that into a decisive four-run inning.Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs) Odorizzi: 55 Game Score, 5.1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 4 K, 3 BB, 56.4% strikes (53 of 94 pitches) Home Runs: Adrianza (6), Sano (13) Multi-Hit Games: None WPA of 0.1 or higher: Adrianza .218, Odorizzi .103 WPA of -0.1 or lower: Kepler -.116, Busenitz -.416 Download attachment: chart (2).png Odorizzi’s third time through the order issues are well documented. He got off to a great start the third time through, striking out Francisco Lindor to end the fifth. He also got Michael Brantley to pop out to open the sixth. Then came the consecutive four-pitch walks and the hook, but Odorizzi still exited this game with the Twins up 2-1. Busenitz came in and gave up a game-tying single to Yonder Alonso and then a three-day homer to Jason Kipnis. All the Twins’ runs came via the longball, as Ehire Adrianza hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning and Miguel Sano hit a solo shot in the ninth. Jorge Polanco's sat for the third straight game and Eddie Rosario left this one in the sixth inning due to a leg injury. This game was broadcast on Facebook, and their booth crew, including Glen Perkins, asked Paul Molitor during an in-game interview about future roster plans. He said a decision on Byron Buxton would be coming sometime in the next 24 hours and some of the specific names he mentioned among September callups were Tyler Duffey, John Curtiss and Zack Littell. Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Download attachment: Screenshot_20180830-152420~2.png Next Three Games Fri at TEX, 7:05 pm CT: Stephen Gonsalves vs. Drew Hutchison Sat at TEX, 7:05 pm CT: Jose Berrios vs. Yovani Gallardo Sun at TEX, 2:05 pm CT: TBD Last Three Games MIN 4, CLE 3: Astudillo Gets First Homer, Mauer Scores 1,000th Run CLE 8, MIN 1: Where Did the Runs Go? OAK 6, MIN 2: Austin Goes Deep Twice in Loss Click here to view the article
  6. The Minnesota Twins shipped their closer Fernando Rodney to the Oakland Athletics recently. Prior to his departure, he was the only pitcher on the roster to record a save. Over the weekend Trevor Hildenberger joined his graces picking up his first on the year, and second of his career. With no real closer in tow, it’s time for Paul Molitor to open the floodgates and utilize this opportunity. Going into 2019 the expectation should be that the Twins can once again be competitive. The same core that was expected to be relied upon this season remains intact. If the offense rebounds to sufficient levels, while being supplemented with some outside talent, this collection is going to make waves in the AL Central. What does absolutely need to be addressed however is the relief core and status of the bullpen. Coming into 2018, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine helped Minnesota’s skipper by supplementing the pen. Addison Reed, Zach Duke, and Rodney were all brought in to help turn around a collection that had underperformed the year prior. By acquiring two thirds of that group on one-year deals, the Twins were able to benefit from them either as pieces part of a playoff run, or assets to acquire more talent. This winter the front office will find themselves in a similar situation, again looking to stockpile that type of talent. Who they’ll be paired with remains up in the air, and that’s where the current opportunity presents itself. It doesn’t much matter who racks up saves for Minnesota the rest of the way, but it’s integral for a host of arms to be showcased in high leverage situations. Trevor May has looked great since his promotion from Triple-A Rochester following his Tommy John rehab. Tyler Duffey has always seemed like a decent option at the back of a pen, and Taylor Rogers has been arguably the Twins best reliever this season. Trevor Hildenberger has slipped of late but is incredible when on, and Matt Magill has come out of nowhere this season to command much more work than he’s gotten. Stopping with the names currently on the 25-man roster does little for me however. At 53-64 Rochester isn’t going to make the Triple-A postseason. Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, Jake Reed, and Nick Anderson are all options worth exploring. Busenitz hasn’t ever gotten a chance to acclimate at the big-league level this season, while Curtiss has only experienced the majors in a very muted sense. Reed dealt with injuries that have delayed his debut, but his numbers have begged for an opportunity long enough. Anderson remains a flier that is worth experimenting with during this time of little consequence as well. There’s no reason to suggest that Molitor be tasked with managing a bullpen full of fresh faces and demanded each of them record time in the 9th inning. Having this collection up on the big-league roster and called upon in late game situations does make a lot of sense however. Prioritizing the current big-league roster, and guys that will assuredly be relied upon next year is a must, but the more opportunities for new arms to be tested the better. Minnesota found something solid in guys like Hildenberger and Rogers because they were given a chance to prove themselves. Rather than waiting to see if those opportunities present themselves in a fresh slate next season, now looks like as beneficial of a time as ever. There’s plenty of poor competition on the Twins schedule the rest of the way, and at this point the results don’t much matter. Seeing relief arms filter into the Target Field clubhouse at a very high rate the rest of the way would be something Minnesota fans should absolutely be on board with. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  7. Entering play on July 9, the Minnesota Twins playoff odds sit at just 1.1%. With the sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, the numbers have jumped up from the 0.4% entering the series. At this point of the season however, the writing is on the wall. Paul Molitor's squad is going nowhere, and the focus should turn to process more significantly than results. While the win total may be meaningless at the end, using the slate of games ahead for good is a must. Going into 2018, there was plenty of optimism surrounding this Twins team. They were coming off a Wild Card game, added more talent, and had another year of development for their young stars. What was also apparent, is that the amount of one-year deals and expiring contracts would allow the club to retool again in 2019. This version won't have a postseason berth to jump off of next year, but the window for opportunity remains open. For the Twins to capitalize on it, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine need to do a much better job utilizing the 25 man roster than they have thus far. For starters, the lineup should begin to reflect players with a future being prioritized. It took far too long for a superior player in Jake Cave to get real run over a retread like Ryan LaMarre. Mitch Garver clearly has a capable bat, but he's still sitting far too often behind the inept Bobby Wilson. Cave is a 25 year old fringe prospect that could be a nice 4th outfielder and take over Robbie Grossman's role. Garver has concerns behind the plate, but if the feeling is that he can't catch, opportunities should be found at first base. Going into 2019 without a clear idea of what sort of contributions these two are capable of would be a mistake. Despite the Twins pitching staff having been a significant area of improvement this season, there's going to be a good deal of turnover next year. Zach Duke and Fernando Rodney are on one year deals, while Lance Lynn is an expiring contract as well. Those guys are all trade candidates, but even if they aren't moved, it's a decent assumption they won't be back. Instead of letting someone like Matt Belisle eat innings, relievers such as John Curtiss, Alan Busenitz, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, and Jake Reed should all make major league appearances. In the rotation, the Twins will return Jose Berrios and Fernando Romero for certain. Ervin Santana has a year left on his deal, but at this point, can't be counted on. Minnesota can offer Jake Odorizzi arbitration, and Kyle Gibson falls in that group as well. The depth in the rotation remains strong, but finding out who else can rise to the top should be a goal. Zack Littell should return for some consecutive starts that allow him to be comfortable rather than nervous, and Stephen Gonsalves should make his debut for an extended period as well. Getting the jitters out and accomplishing the acclimation process now would be a good idea. At some point, the Twins should promote Nick Gordon. The 22 year old put up a .906 OPS this season for Double-A Chattanooga. Since moving up to Triple-A Rochester, he's posted just a .609 mark in 45 games. The next level has seen pretty poor results, and that should provide plenty of reason for caution. That said, the Twins are almost certainly going to let Brian Dozier walk this offseason, and Gordon would be expected to then take over. He may not win the job out of spring training, but I'd assume the goal is to have him in the big leagues by June 2019. Using a month of games that don't matter could be a very good way for him to get his feet wet. Really what it all boils down to is that the front office learn something from what's left. While trying to stay in it, many of the roster moves have trended towards lower ability players that bring an off the field aspect to the clubhouse. With poor performance and injuries having mounted, it's hard to suggest that a different story could have been told even with the most optimal roster decisions. At this point however, the Twins are presented with a desirable situation for future performance. No one should be expecting a rebuild in Minnesota any time soon, and the division sets up nicely to go for it again next year. Bringing in new parts from the free agent market, and pairing them with internal talent could very likely produce optimal results. As we've seen this season however, there's no guarantees from players within your organization, and even less so with fresh faces. Figuring out who you may be able to promote and count on now, could save a lot of face down the road. It's common sense that Minnesota will win plenty more games in 2018. It's also a fair suggestion that when the dust settles they won't matter at all. What level of development, process, and groundwork is laid for the future will be the takeaway from this year. It's time to shift the focus to that level of thinking, and hopefully we see the decisions from the top to mimic that sentiment. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  8. It’s hard to believe that the minor league seasons are reaching their second half and the Twins have had some strong performances throughout the system. As we approach the 4th of July, it’s again time to celebrate with some awards. Tonight, we start our series of Twins Daily Minor League Monthly awards by looking at the top relief pitchers in the Twins system during the month of June. (Over the next few days, we’ll also announce our choices for the top starting pitchers and hitters for June. Also, be sure to stop back often throughout the Fourth of July week as we are about to begin our midseason Top 40 prospect rankings.) Previous Relief Pitchers of the Month for 2018: April 2018: Nick Anderson, Rochester Red Wings May 2018: Todd Van Steensel, Chattanooga Lookouts June 2018: Well, just keep reading (if you happened to not look at the graphic that you clicked on to read this story.Before we share our choices for the Twins Minor League Top Five Relievers for June, here are some terrific bullpen performances that just missed the cut. HONORABLE MENTION Tyler Duffey, Rochester Red Wings, 8 G, 2.03 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 13.0 IP, 12 H, 6 BB, 11 KJared Finkel, Cedar Rapids Kernels, 7 G, 3.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 12.0 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 5 KGabriel Moya, Rochester Red Wings, 10 G (3 GS), 1. 59, 1.06 WHIP, 17.0 IP, 15 H, 3 BB, 16 KTHE TOP FIVE RELIEF PITCHERS #5 - Hector Lujan - Ft. Myers Miracle - 6 G, 2.13 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 12.2 IP, 12 H, 2 BB, 13 K The Twins 35th round draft pick in 2016 out of Westmont College had a real solid month with the Miracle in June. After a breakout 2017 season in Cedar Rapids in which he posted a 1.13 ERA and 17 saves, 2018 has had some ups and downs. However, he now has a 3.18 in 39 2/3 innings. Opponents hit just .240/.283/.340 (623) off of him in June. #4 - Paco Rodriguez - Ft. Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts - 7 G, 0.90 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 10.0 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 6 K Rodriguez was the second-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. Later that season, he made his big league debut and stayed in the big leagues through the 2015 season. Unfortunately, he fought several injuries. Fast-forward to this year, and after the season started, the Twins signed him as a free agent. Soon after, he spent a couple of weeks with the Miracle before moving up to Chattanooga in late May. The southpaw had a strong month for the Lookouts. Opponents hit just .206/.300/.294 (.594) off of the 27-year-old during the month. #3 - Alan Busenitz - Rochester Red Wings/Minnesota Twins - 8 G, 3.07 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 14.2 IP, 13 H, 0 BB, 13 K Busenitz wasn’t as good in June as he was in April and May, but he was still quite good. While fans wanted him up soon, he did get called back up with a week left in June, though he was again optioned before the month’s end. Opponents hit just .228/.241/.333 (.575) off of him. Most impressive was 13 strikeouts and zero walks. Despite his 6.43 ERA with the Twins this year, he has a 12-2 strikeout to walk ratio. #2 - Andrew Vasquez - Ft. Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts - 6 G, 2.79 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9.2 IP, 3 H, 7 BB, 17 K Vasquez represented the Twins and the Miracle in the Florida State League All-Star game in June and threw a scoreless inning (if you want to add that to his above stats). As you can see, there are times that Vasquez can struggle with control, but he limits hits by utilizing a tremendous slider that can miss a lot of bats. Like Lujan, Vasquez was drafted out of Westmont College in 2016 in the 32nd round. Following the All-Star break, he was promoted to Chattanooga. He’s made two appearances and has 10 strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. And the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month is: Cedar Rapids Kernels – LHP Jovani Moran - 6 G, 0.90 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 15.0 IP, 4 H, 7 BB, 23 K Moran was the Twins seventh-round draft pick in 2015 out of high school in Puerto Rico. He missed the 2016 season after having surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow. He returned strong in 2017, and he was the Twins Daily short-season Minor League Pitcher of the Year. For Elizabethton, he gave up just one run in 24 2/3 innings (0.36 ERA), and had just six walks to go with 45 strikeouts. Moran began the 2018 season in Cedar Rapids. He struggled with his control in April when he had 12 walks and 12 strikeouts in just 7 1/3 innings for the Kernels. Since then, he has been much improved. In May, he had 26 strikeouts and seven walks in 18 innings. As you see above, he had 23 strikeouts and seven walks in 15 innings. Still not great control, but his swing-and-miss stuff make the walks more bearable. Moran is not a big guy .He stands 6-foot-1 and weighs in at about 170 pounds. He’s got a good whip-like action and some deception in his delivery. His fastball reaches into the low-90s, and he’s got a good slider and changeup. He really just needs to keep working and developing, and gaining strength could help him add a little more velocity. He’s a really good athlete who fields the position well. There were several strong relief pitcher performances in June throughout the Twins minor league system. It was a good month for each of these pitchers mentioned today, but again, congratulations to the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month for June 2018, Jovani Moran of the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Click here to view the article
  9. Before we share our choices for the Twins Minor League Top Five Relievers for June, here are some terrific bullpen performances that just missed the cut. HONORABLE MENTION Tyler Duffey, Rochester Red Wings, 8 G, 2.03 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 13.0 IP, 12 H, 6 BB, 11 K Jared Finkel, Cedar Rapids Kernels, 7 G, 3.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 12.0 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 5 K Gabriel Moya, Rochester Red Wings, 10 G (3 GS), 1. 59, 1.06 WHIP, 17.0 IP, 15 H, 3 BB, 16 K THE TOP FIVE RELIEF PITCHERS #5 - Hector Lujan - Ft. Myers Miracle - 6 G, 2.13 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 12.2 IP, 12 H, 2 BB, 13 K The Twins 35th round draft pick in 2016 out of Westmont College had a real solid month with the Miracle in June. After a breakout 2017 season in Cedar Rapids in which he posted a 1.13 ERA and 17 saves, 2018 has had some ups and downs. However, he now has a 3.18 in 39 2/3 innings. Opponents hit just .240/.283/.340 (623) off of him in June. #4 - Paco Rodriguez - Ft. Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts - 7 G, 0.90 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 10.0 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 6 K Rodriguez was the second-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. Later that season, he made his big league debut and stayed in the big leagues through the 2015 season. Unfortunately, he fought several injuries. Fast-forward to this year, and after the season started, the Twins signed him as a free agent. Soon after, he spent a couple of weeks with the Miracle before moving up to Chattanooga in late May. The southpaw had a strong month for the Lookouts. Opponents hit just .206/.300/.294 (.594) off of the 27-year-old during the month. #3 - Alan Busenitz - Rochester Red Wings/Minnesota Twins - 8 G, 3.07 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 14.2 IP, 13 H, 0 BB, 13 K Busenitz wasn’t as good in June as he was in April and May, but he was still quite good. While fans wanted him up soon, he did get called back up with a week left in June, though he was again optioned before the month’s end. Opponents hit just .228/.241/.333 (.575) off of him. Most impressive was 13 strikeouts and zero walks. Despite his 6.43 ERA with the Twins this year, he has a 12-2 strikeout to walk ratio. #2 - Andrew Vasquez - Ft. Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts - 6 G, 2.79 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9.2 IP, 3 H, 7 BB, 17 K Vasquez represented the Twins and the Miracle in the Florida State League All-Star game in June and threw a scoreless inning (if you want to add that to his above stats). As you can see, there are times that Vasquez can struggle with control, but he limits hits by utilizing a tremendous slider that can miss a lot of bats. Like Lujan, Vasquez was drafted out of Westmont College in 2016 in the 32nd round. Following the All-Star break, he was promoted to Chattanooga. He’s made two appearances and has 10 strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. And the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month is: Cedar Rapids Kernels – LHP Jovani Moran - 6 G, 0.90 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 15.0 IP, 4 H, 7 BB, 23 K Moran was the Twins seventh-round draft pick in 2015 out of high school in Puerto Rico. He missed the 2016 season after having surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow. He returned strong in 2017, and he was the Twins Daily short-season Minor League Pitcher of the Year. For Elizabethton, he gave up just one run in 24 2/3 innings (0.36 ERA), and had just six walks to go with 45 strikeouts. Moran began the 2018 season in Cedar Rapids. He struggled with his control in April when he had 12 walks and 12 strikeouts in just 7 1/3 innings for the Kernels. Since then, he has been much improved. In May, he had 26 strikeouts and seven walks in 18 innings. As you see above, he had 23 strikeouts and seven walks in 15 innings. Still not great control, but his swing-and-miss stuff make the walks more bearable. Moran is not a big guy .He stands 6-foot-1 and weighs in at about 170 pounds. He’s got a good whip-like action and some deception in his delivery. His fastball reaches into the low-90s, and he’s got a good slider and changeup. He really just needs to keep working and developing, and gaining strength could help him add a little more velocity. He’s a really good athlete who fields the position well. There were several strong relief pitcher performances in June throughout the Twins minor league system. It was a good month for each of these pitchers mentioned today, but again, congratulations to the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month for June 2018, Jovani Moran of the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
  10. Lance Lynn was pitching well, the Twins held a 4-2 lead and they were playing the White Sox in the sixth inning. What could go wrong? Lynn opened the bottom of the sixth by slipping while trying to field a weak grounder in the grass, and from that moment forward the Twins just kept on slipping.Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs) Lance Lynn: 45 Game Score, 5.0 IP, 4 ER, 8 K, 1 BB, 65.6% strikes Bullpen: 3.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 K, 2 BB Lineup: 1-for-1 w/RISP, 2 LOB Top three per WPA: Adrianza .230, Dozier .069, Cave .017 Download attachment: WinEx626.png Lynn ended up failing to record an out in the sixth, loading the bases on a bunch of weak contact prior to being lifted for Ryan Pressly, who promptly walked Tim Anderson on five pitches to force home a run. Later that inning, Taylor Rogers gave up a two-run single that put Chicago up 5-4. The Twins ended up using four pitchers that inning, as Alan Busenitz came in to record the third out. Unfortunately, Busenitz game up a leadoff homer in the seventh and another run came across while he was on the mound in the eighth after a single, a hit by pitch, an error and another single. Then Matt Belisle came in and walked in another run. And that was just the pitching! Ehire Adrianza had a good night, going 2-for-3 with a homer and Brian Dozier hit his 11th home run of the season, but the offense struggled. The team combined for six hits and a walk. They only had one at bat with a runner in scoring position all night. After that nightmare sixth inning that saw the White Sox take the lead, the bats combined to go 0-for-9 with four strikeouts. Postgame With Molitor AL Central Standings CLE 43-35 MIN 34-41 (-7.5) DET 36-44 (-8) CHW 27-51 (-16) KC 24-55 (-19.5) Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Download attachment: Bullpen627.png Next Three Games Wed at CHW, 7:10 pm CT: Kyle Gibson vs. James Shields Thu at CHW, 1:10 pm CT: TBD vs. Lucas Giolito Fri at CHC, 4:05 pm pm CT: TBD Last Three Games MIN 2, TEX 0: La MaKKKKKKKKKKKKina TEX 9, MIN 6: Odorizzi Lays an Egg TEX 8, MIN 1: Circling the Drain See Also Twins Minor League Report (6/26): Thorpe Dominant, Miranda Slams What Fernando Rodney Experience? The Rise and Fall of Miguel Sano Click here to view the article
  11. Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs) Lance Lynn: 45 Game Score, 5.0 IP, 4 ER, 8 K, 1 BB, 65.6% strikes Bullpen: 3.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 K, 2 BB Lineup: 1-for-1 w/RISP, 2 LOB Top three per WPA: Adrianza .230, Dozier .069, Cave .017 Lynn ended up failing to record an out in the sixth, loading the bases on a bunch of weak contact prior to being lifted for Ryan Pressly, who promptly walked Tim Anderson on five pitches to force home a run. Later that inning, Taylor Rogers gave up a two-run single that put Chicago up 5-4. The Twins ended up using four pitchers that inning, as Alan Busenitz came in to record the third out. Unfortunately, Busenitz game up a leadoff homer in the seventh and another run came across while he was on the mound in the eighth after a single, a hit by pitch, an error and another single. Then Matt Belisle came in and walked in another run. And that was just the pitching! Ehire Adrianza had a good night, going 2-for-3 with a homer and Brian Dozier hit his 11th home run of the season, but the offense struggled. The team combined for six hits and a walk. They only had one at bat with a runner in scoring position all night. After that nightmare sixth inning that saw the White Sox take the lead, the bats combined to go 0-for-9 with four strikeouts. Postgame With Molitor AL Central Standings CLE 43-35 MIN 34-41 (-7.5) DET 36-44 (-8) CHW 27-51 (-16) KC 24-55 (-19.5) Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Next Three Games Wed at CHW, 7:10 pm CT: Kyle Gibson vs. James Shields Thu at CHW, 1:10 pm CT: TBD vs. Lucas Giolito Fri at CHC, 4:05 pm pm CT: TBD Last Three Games MIN 2, TEX 0: La MaKKKKKKKKKKKKina TEX 9, MIN 6: Odorizzi Lays an Egg TEX 8, MIN 1: Circling the Drain See Also Twins Minor League Report (6/26): Thorpe Dominant, Miranda Slams What Fernando Rodney Experience? The Rise and Fall of Miguel Sano
  12. A glimmering spark of hope, snuffed out forcefully by a demoralizing backslide: This recurring cycle has defined the 2018 season for the Twins, and last week epitomized it. Following perhaps its best stretch of baseball all year – four wins in five games against a pair of top-flight teams – Minnesota followed with perhaps its worst, getting outscored 26-9 in three straight losses that further whittled the club's already slim hopes as Cleveland separates itself atop the division. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/18 through Sun, 6/24 *** Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 34-40) Run Differential Last Week: -8 (Overall: -16) Standing: T-2nd Place in AL Central (8.0 GB) HIGHLIGHTS The Twins rotation has mostly been a pleasant surprise this year, and delivered one of its strongest showings over the first half of last week against Boston. Taking on arguably the most dangerous lineup in baseball, Minnesota fought its way to pitching-fueled victories on Tuesday and Wednesday; Jose Berrios and Lance Lynn teamed up with the bullpen to silence all those potent bats as the Red Sox were held to three runs total. Kyle Gibson followed with another fine effort on Thursday, but struggles from the offense and an implosion from the relief corps saddled him with a loss. On Sunday, Berrios delivered his second masterful outing of the week, firing seven shutout innings against Texas with 12 strikeouts. The trio of Berrios, Lynn and Gibson has combined to produce a 2.15 ERA across 13 total starts in June. They've been awesome. Unfortunately, they've been getting little help. It's a feeling that Eddie Rosario knows all too well. He went 6-for-20 with three extra-base hits last week, driving in four runs on Saturday while the surrounding hitters failed to provide much aid in a loss. On the relief front, Trevor Hildenberger continues to string together clean outings – four more last week, as he twirled 3 2/3 hitless innings. He hasn't allowed a run since May 18th and his ERA is down to 2.11 on the season. Fernando Rodney also came through with another spotless stretch, picking up his 16th and 17th saves while making three one-inning appearances and striking out the side in two of them. LOWLIGHTS At the end of May, I wrote about the all-around excellence of the Twins pitching staff through the first third of the season. In the bullpen, much praise was concentrated on Ryan Pressly, who'd been otherworldly to that point: Incidentally, the "odd tendency to get knocked around despite dazzling stuff" has suddenly reemerged. In nine appearances since that May 28th article was posted, Pressly has an 11.74 ERA with 12 hits and three home runs allowed in 7 1/3 innings. As amazing as Pressly's numbers looked through two months, he now sits with a sub par 4.17 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, joining the many laggards who have dragged this team to the brink of irrelevance. That group also includes: * Logan Morrison, whose two-run homer on Saturday was one of only three hits in 15 at-bats last week. He's slashing .191/.293/.347 on the year and a look of perpetual dejection has become etched into his face, but unfortunately, the Twins have had little choice but to keep running Morrison out in the middle of the lineup. * Brian Dozier, whose signature midseason surge just hasn't come to offset all the slumping. Granted, last week was better than most others for him, as it included three doubles, a home run and four walks, but he still batted just .238 while driving in one run. As Aaron Gleeman notes, we're past Dozier's usual slow-start territory: * Robbie Grossman, who has failed to execute his most reliable skill – getting on base – and therefore is providing little value for the Twins. To his credit, Grossman did collect as many extra-base hits last week (3) as he had in the previous five, but that speaks to the general lack of thunder in his bat, and he also failed to draw any walks. The 28-year-old has put up a punchless .232/.313/.346 line for the Twins and, per FanGraphs, his WAR ranks 205th out of 209 MLB hitters with 200+ PA. * Joe Mauer, who has resumed leadoff duties since returning to the lineup, but hasn't been able to find much of anything at the plate. Mauer went 3-for-18 (.167) in five games and is batting .195 since coming off the disabled list. Perhaps most perturbingly, he has drawn only one walk in 34 plate appearances after exhibiting such a keen eye in the early going. * The catcher duo of Mitch Garver and Bobby Wilson, which combined to produce five singles in 18 at-bats last week, and has primarily contributed to Minnesota's AL-worst .567 OPS at catcher. The position has become a total non-factor for this club and you've gotta think some kind of shakeup is imminent. Cameron Rupp has done nothing since joining Rochester (batting .154 with 1 HR and 20 K in 46 PA) but his teammate Willians Astudillo sure seems deserving of a shot – he has an .807 OPS for the Red Wings and is a .309 career hitter in the minors. I tend to think a more drastic move is warranted. * Jake Odorizzi, whose absolute clunker on Saturday (1.2 IP, 6 ER) was the low point in a season that's been progressively unraveling. Odorizzi hasn't completed six innings in a start since May 14th - eight turns ago. He has a 5.66 ERA over his last 10 starts, in which the Twins have gone 3-7. * Last and also least, there is newly acquired Matt Belisle, who has been outrageously bad since joining the Twins on a major-league deal after Cleveland cut him loose. The move, on its surface, was a bit mysterious since Minnesota had no real on-field need, but most understood that wasn't the real point. In any case, he's already worn out his welcome by coughing up seven runs on nine hits over two innings on Thursday and Friday, turning losses into embarrassing home blowouts. Belisle has been tasked simply with getting outs in games that are already decided, and is showing he can't fulfill even that modest role, so any perceived leadership qualities are moot. TRENDING STORYLINE With Pressly, Belisle and Addison Reed all looking shaky, Paul Molitor finds himself in a bind when it comes to right-handed relief options. Rodney's usage is restricted in the closer role, and Hildenberger is already being ridden hard with four appearances in the last six days. Matt Magill, while solid, is tough to trust in high leverage. So the manager was undoubtedly happy to see Alan Busenitz's face in the clubhouse on Sunday morning. The righty was recalled over the weekend, while Fernando Romero was demoted following another underwhelming start. We've remarked in this space several times about the sensational success Busenitz has experienced in Rochester, where he had a 1.27 ERA and 32-to-5 K/BB ratio in 28 frames. As his team heads out for a nine-game road trip, Molitor will be equipped with a deep and very well rested relief corps, thanks to the day off after Berrios went deep on Sunday. The Twins can run with a nine-man bullpen for a bit, but they'll need a fifth starter on Saturday, at which point they'll some interesting decisions. Which reliever goes out to make room? Frankly, it seems ludicrous at this point to keep Belisle around at the expense of anyone else, but the Twins did just hand him a guaranteed chunk of change. And which starter comes up? Aaron Slegers is a candidate – he continues to log quality innings for Rochester and will be roughly on schedule after starting this past Saturday. Zack Littell, who's been the only outsider to crack the Twins rotation (for a spot start in a double-header) since Phil Hughes was shipped out, is another possibility. And we'll touch on one more in the next section. DOWN ON THE FARM After leading our rundown of the system's hottest bats in this section last week, Alex Kirilloff participated in the Midwest League All-Star Game on Tuesday, batting third for the West and going 1-for-4. Two days later he was promoted to High-A Ft. Myers. Upon departing the Midwest League, Kirilloff ranked first in home runs (13), third in batting average (.333), and second in OPS (.999). This is a 20-year-old getting his first taste of full-season leagues after missing all of last year. Awfully impressive. More so when you account for his phenomenal start with the Miracle; Kirilloff has started 8-for-19 (.421) at the new level and drove in five runs in his second game. What a hitter. Royce Lewis hasn't gotten the call to join Kirilloff yet, but did accompany him at the MWL All-Star Game, starting at short and batting leadoff. He went 1-for-2 and swiped a base. Lewis has been battling through patellar tendinitis, and if you're wondering what that means, our resident orthopaedic specialist Heezy has the scoop for you. Meanwhile, in Triple-A... Adalberto Mejia. I know, I know (*extremely Obi Wan voice*) there's a name I've not heard in a long time. But on Thursday night, he fired seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts, allowing only three hits and one walk. The gem lowered his ERA to 2.91, including 1.38 over four June starts. Mejia made 21 starts for the Twins last year and looked altogether impressive. He's been excellent at Triple-A, and has the makings of a long-term rotation cog. If Romero's absence is expected to be a lengthy one, then Mejia strikes me as the obvious choice to replace him. LOOKING AHEAD The Twins will spend all of next week in the Windy City, and could really use the winds of fortune blowing in their favor. Now eight games behind Cleveland in the AL Central, the Twins basically need to be taking every series in order to keep their hopes alive. That'll be an easier ask in the South Side than the North. TUESDAY, 6/26: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Lance Lynn v. RHP Reynaldo Lopez WEDNESDAY, 6/27: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Lucas Giolito THURSDAY, 6/28: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP James Shields FRIDAY, 6/29: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Tyler Chatwood SATURDAY, 6/30: TWINS @ CUBS – ??? v. LHP Mike Montgomery SUNDAY, 7/1: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Lance Lynn v. LHP Jon Lester Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps Game 69 | MIN 6, BOS 2: Bats Get to Boston BullpenGame 70 | MIN 4, BOS 1: For Grossman and Kepler, The Price Was RightGame 71 | BOS 9, MIN 2: There Go Those Shiny Pitching StatsGame 72 | TEX 8, MIN 1: Circling the DrainGame 73 | TEX 9, MIN 6: Odorizzi Lays an EggGame 74 | MIN 2, TEX 0: La MaKKKKKKKKKKKKinaMore on Twins Daily Jamie Cameron pondered the oddity that is Twins reliever Matt MagillParker Hageman broke down Eduardo Escobar's evolution at the plateTed Schwerzler wrote that Kyle Gibson's success is no mirageRob Pannier pointed out that the St. Paul Saints have been tapping into the local college ranks for talentAndrew Thares argued that now that he's locked in, Lance Lynn was worth the wait Click here to view the article
  13. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/18 through Sun, 6/24 *** Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 34-40) Run Differential Last Week: -8 (Overall: -16) Standing: T-2nd Place in AL Central (8.0 GB) HIGHLIGHTS The Twins rotation has mostly been a pleasant surprise this year, and delivered one of its strongest showings over the first half of last week against Boston. Taking on arguably the most dangerous lineup in baseball, Minnesota fought its way to pitching-fueled victories on Tuesday and Wednesday; Jose Berrios and Lance Lynn teamed up with the bullpen to silence all those potent bats as the Red Sox were held to three runs total. Kyle Gibson followed with another fine effort on Thursday, but struggles from the offense and an implosion from the relief corps saddled him with a loss. On Sunday, Berrios delivered his second masterful outing of the week, firing seven shutout innings against Texas with 12 strikeouts. The trio of Berrios, Lynn and Gibson has combined to produce a 2.15 ERA across 13 total starts in June. They've been awesome. Unfortunately, they've been getting little help. It's a feeling that Eddie Rosario knows all too well. He went 6-for-20 with three extra-base hits last week, driving in four runs on Saturday while the surrounding hitters failed to provide much aid in a loss. On the relief front, Trevor Hildenberger continues to string together clean outings – four more last week, as he twirled 3 2/3 hitless innings. He hasn't allowed a run since May 18th and his ERA is down to 2.11 on the season. Fernando Rodney also came through with another spotless stretch, picking up his 16th and 17th saves while making three one-inning appearances and striking out the side in two of them. LOWLIGHTS At the end of May, I wrote about the all-around excellence of the Twins pitching staff through the first third of the season. In the bullpen, much praise was concentrated on Ryan Pressly, who'd been otherworldly to that point: Incidentally, the "odd tendency to get knocked around despite dazzling stuff" has suddenly reemerged. In nine appearances since that May 28th article was posted, Pressly has an 11.74 ERA with 12 hits and three home runs allowed in 7 1/3 innings. As amazing as Pressly's numbers looked through two months, he now sits with a sub par 4.17 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, joining the many laggards who have dragged this team to the brink of irrelevance. That group also includes: * Logan Morrison, whose two-run homer on Saturday was one of only three hits in 15 at-bats last week. He's slashing .191/.293/.347 on the year and a look of perpetual dejection has become etched into his face, but unfortunately, the Twins have had little choice but to keep running Morrison out in the middle of the lineup. * Brian Dozier, whose signature midseason surge just hasn't come to offset all the slumping. Granted, last week was better than most others for him, as it included three doubles, a home run and four walks, but he still batted just .238 while driving in one run. As Aaron Gleeman notes, we're past Dozier's usual slow-start territory: https://twitter.com/AaronGleeman/status/1010527091895488514 * Robbie Grossman, who has failed to execute his most reliable skill – getting on base – and therefore is providing little value for the Twins. To his credit, Grossman did collect as many extra-base hits last week (3) as he had in the previous five, but that speaks to the general lack of thunder in his bat, and he also failed to draw any walks. The 28-year-old has put up a punchless .232/.313/.346 line for the Twins and, per FanGraphs, his WAR ranks 205th out of 209 MLB hitters with 200+ PA. * Joe Mauer, who has resumed leadoff duties since returning to the lineup, but hasn't been able to find much of anything at the plate. Mauer went 3-for-18 (.167) in five games and is batting .195 since coming off the disabled list. Perhaps most perturbingly, he has drawn only one walk in 34 plate appearances after exhibiting such a keen eye in the early going. * The catcher duo of Mitch Garver and Bobby Wilson, which combined to produce five singles in 18 at-bats last week, and has primarily contributed to Minnesota's AL-worst .567 OPS at catcher. The position has become a total non-factor for this club and you've gotta think some kind of shakeup is imminent. Cameron Rupp has done nothing since joining Rochester (batting .154 with 1 HR and 20 K in 46 PA) but his teammate Willians Astudillo sure seems deserving of a shot – he has an .807 OPS for the Red Wings and is a .309 career hitter in the minors. I tend to think a more drastic move is warranted. * Jake Odorizzi, whose absolute clunker on Saturday (1.2 IP, 6 ER) was the low point in a season that's been progressively unraveling. Odorizzi hasn't completed six innings in a start since May 14th - eight turns ago. He has a 5.66 ERA over his last 10 starts, in which the Twins have gone 3-7. * Last and also least, there is newly acquired Matt Belisle, who has been outrageously bad since joining the Twins on a major-league deal after Cleveland cut him loose. The move, on its surface, was a bit mysterious since Minnesota had no real on-field need, but most understood that wasn't the real point. In any case, he's already worn out his welcome by coughing up seven runs on nine hits over two innings on Thursday and Friday, turning losses into embarrassing home blowouts. Belisle has been tasked simply with getting outs in games that are already decided, and is showing he can't fulfill even that modest role, so any perceived leadership qualities are moot. TRENDING STORYLINE With Pressly, Belisle and Addison Reed all looking shaky, Paul Molitor finds himself in a bind when it comes to right-handed relief options. Rodney's usage is restricted in the closer role, and Hildenberger is already being ridden hard with four appearances in the last six days. Matt Magill, while solid, is tough to trust in high leverage. So the manager was undoubtedly happy to see Alan Busenitz's face in the clubhouse on Sunday morning. The righty was recalled over the weekend, while Fernando Romero was demoted following another underwhelming start. We've remarked in this space several times about the sensational success Busenitz has experienced in Rochester, where he had a 1.27 ERA and 32-to-5 K/BB ratio in 28 frames. As his team heads out for a nine-game road trip, Molitor will be equipped with a deep and very well rested relief corps, thanks to the day off after Berrios went deep on Sunday. The Twins can run with a nine-man bullpen for a bit, but they'll need a fifth starter on Saturday, at which point they'll some interesting decisions. Which reliever goes out to make room? Frankly, it seems ludicrous at this point to keep Belisle around at the expense of anyone else, but the Twins did just hand him a guaranteed chunk of change. And which starter comes up? Aaron Slegers is a candidate – he continues to log quality innings for Rochester and will be roughly on schedule after starting this past Saturday. Zack Littell, who's been the only outsider to crack the Twins rotation (for a spot start in a double-header) since Phil Hughes was shipped out, is another possibility. And we'll touch on one more in the next section. DOWN ON THE FARM After leading our rundown of the system's hottest bats in this section last week, Alex Kirilloff participated in the Midwest League All-Star Game on Tuesday, batting third for the West and going 1-for-4. Two days later he was promoted to High-A Ft. Myers. Upon departing the Midwest League, Kirilloff ranked first in home runs (13), third in batting average (.333), and second in OPS (.999). This is a 20-year-old getting his first taste of full-season leagues after missing all of last year. Awfully impressive. More so when you account for his phenomenal start with the Miracle; Kirilloff has started 8-for-19 (.421) at the new level and drove in five runs in his second game. What a hitter. Royce Lewis hasn't gotten the call to join Kirilloff yet, but did accompany him at the MWL All-Star Game, starting at short and batting leadoff. He went 1-for-2 and swiped a base. Lewis has been battling through patellar tendinitis, and if you're wondering what that means, our resident orthopaedic specialist Heezy has the scoop for you. Meanwhile, in Triple-A... Adalberto Mejia. I know, I know (*extremely Obi Wan voice*) there's a name I've not heard in a long time. But on Thursday night, he fired seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts, allowing only three hits and one walk. The gem lowered his ERA to 2.91, including 1.38 over four June starts. Mejia made 21 starts for the Twins last year and looked altogether impressive. He's been excellent at Triple-A, and has the makings of a long-term rotation cog. If Romero's absence is expected to be a lengthy one, then Mejia strikes me as the obvious choice to replace him. LOOKING AHEAD The Twins will spend all of next week in the Windy City, and could really use the winds of fortune blowing in their favor. Now eight games behind Cleveland in the AL Central, the Twins basically need to be taking every series in order to keep their hopes alive. That'll be an easier ask in the South Side than the North. TUESDAY, 6/26: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Lance Lynn v. RHP Reynaldo Lopez WEDNESDAY, 6/27: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Lucas Giolito THURSDAY, 6/28: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP James Shields FRIDAY, 6/29: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Tyler Chatwood SATURDAY, 6/30: TWINS @ CUBS – ??? v. LHP Mike Montgomery SUNDAY, 7/1: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Lance Lynn v. LHP Jon Lester Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps Game 69 | MIN 6, BOS 2: Bats Get to Boston Bullpen Game 70 | MIN 4, BOS 1: For Grossman and Kepler, The Price Was Right Game 71 | BOS 9, MIN 2: There Go Those Shiny Pitching Stats Game 72 | TEX 8, MIN 1: Circling the Drain Game 73 | TEX 9, MIN 6: Odorizzi Lays an Egg Game 74 | MIN 2, TEX 0: La MaKKKKKKKKKKKKina More on Twins Daily Jamie Cameron pondered the oddity that is Twins reliever Matt Magill Parker Hageman broke down Eduardo Escobar's evolution at the plate Ted Schwerzler wrote that Kyle Gibson's success is no mirage Rob Pannier pointed out that the St. Paul Saints have been tapping into the local college ranks for talent Andrew Thares argued that now that he's locked in, Lance Lynn was worth the wait
  14. Prior to the news of the Minnesota Twins re-signing veteran reliever Matt Belisle, I had every intention of writing a piece on the curious usage of Matt Magill. Paul Molitor has routinely been lackluster when it comes to bullpen managment during his time as Twins skipper, but things got even more confusing today. After revamping the relief corps going into the season, Thad Levine, Derek Falvey, and Paul Molitor have found a way to make a relative strength into a revolving door. Needing a fresh arm at the tail end of April, the Twins turned to Matt Magill. Prior to that point, Magill last pitched in the big leagues during the 2016 season. He had just 32 innings under his belt, and at 28 years old, he was a relative flier. Now having been on the 25 man roster for 40 games, he's been used just 13 times in that stretch. Without knowing his numbers, it may not seem egregious given the lack of history to build off of. The numbers though, well they're very good. In 20.2 IP with Minnesota, Magill has posted a 1.31 ERA with a 7.4 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9. It wouldn't be a terrible thing to Magill to be largely unused if the Twins found themselves avoiding a need to go to their bullpen. However, in that 40 games timeframe he's been with the club, Ryan Pressly has been ran out to the mound 21 times, while Addison Reed has been called upon on 19 occasions. In the 21 games Pressly has appeared in, he has a 6.11 ERA and is allowing an .886 OPS to opposing hitters. Reed's 19 appearances have equaled out to a 3.38 ERA (compared to a 2.57 mark prior), and an .895 OPS against. To say they are running on fumes is an understatement. It being only June makes matters worse. Then comes the news of Matt Belisle. Not only is Paul Molitor not using his full relief corps currently, but he's now been given a veteran arm that the worst bullpen in the big leagues (Cleveland) decided to give up on even at Triple-A. Belisle filled in admirably as the Twins closer down the stretch last season, but his fastball velocity has declined to a career worst 90.9 mph. He's also ceded runs in three of eight appearances at the highest level this season. Molitor hasn't given Magill the opportunity to spell his horses despite Matt proving worthy of a chance, now he'll have an arm that should be utilized in a similar vein to Tyler Kinley or Phil Hughes before him. Sure, there's a value to clubhouse presence, and that will be a notion disseminated freely when referencing Belisle's signing. That's more a cop out than anything however. Addison Reed, Zach Duke, and Fernando Rodney were intended to be the veteran presence brought in over the offseason. All solid clubhouse guys, they effect Belisle has in the matter should be well represented in the doldrums of Target Field. By spinning an odd fit with the clubhouse tag, Minnesota should and does likely alienate more deserving players toiling away at Triple-A. Tyler Duffey noted frustration when he was recently optioned back to Triple-A. While he's had poor stints with the Twins this year, he was perfect in his recent opportunity and likely deserved better. Most egregious in all of this is none other than Alan Busenitz. Across 24 Triple-A innings thus far, Busenitz owns a 0.38 ERA, 10.5 K/9, and 1.9 BB/9. There's no other way to put it except that it's a massive mistake to have him be wasting bullets in Rochester. No longer a prospect at nearly 28 years old, Busenitz has proven he's well above the Triple-A level, and he should be working his way into a back-end role with the Twins. The signing of Matt Belisle on its own isn't some terrible decision. Given the factors at play however, it's one that Thad Levine, Derek Falvey, and Paul Molitor should all be questioned for. The bullpen is currently mismanaged, internal options likely provide a higher impact, and a negative message is sent throughout the organization. While the front office deserves to be commended for how they handled the offseason, the roster moves since the games began are puzzling at best. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  15. On Tuesday afternoon, the Minnesota Twins announced that reliever Matt Belisle had signed with the Twins after being released a day earlier by Cleveland. Infielder Gregorio Petit was Designated for Assignment to make room on the 40-man and 25-man rosters. It was a minor transaction, in the big picture, but it certainly created a ton of discussion. What does this signing mean for the Twins? Let’s try to figure it out.When the news came out that the Twins had signed Matt Belisle, my level of surprise was fairly low. I don’t know why. It just seems like what we would have always deemed a “Twins” type of move. The DFAing of Petit was also not a surprise. But as I gave it more thought, my mind raced in several different directions, and at the end of the day, I’m much calmer, but I can’t say that the move makes any more sense than it did eight hours ago. It still begs several questions. 1.) What Does Matt Belisle Have Left? Matt Belisle got off to a very slow start last year with the Minnesota Twins, but he turned it on in the second half. He pitched well and did a nice job as the Twins closer after the Brandon Kintzler trade at the deadline. Late in the offseason, he signed a one year, $1.5 million deal with Cleveland. He made the Opening Day roster. He began the season with three scoreless outings before giving up runs in his next three outings. He responded with two scoreless outings. Cleveland DFAd him. Belisle became a free agent, but soon re-signed with the team. He was released on Sunday and signed with the Twins on Tuesday. In his 10 2/3 innings, he posted a 5.06 ERA. He walked one and struck out just four. In nine outings (and also 10 2/3 innings) for Triple-A Columbus, Belisle posted a 4.22 ERA with one walk and 11 strikeouts. In other words, he shouldn’t be a late-inning reliever, but the 38-year-old can probably be a solid big league pitcher still. 2.) What Does It Say About The Front Office’s Opinion of the AAA Relievers? This was my first thought, and I know it was the thought of many others. First and foremost, it is inexplicable to me that Alan Busenitz isn’t pitching in the big leagues. Of course, that was my opinion before the Belisle signing. He pitched well late in the 2017 season for the Twins and became a reliable arm for Paul Molitor. While Busenitz didn’t make the Opening Day roster, he was promoted in mid-April. He then pitched in four of the next six games. The Twins were struggling and needed arms, so Busenitz was sent back to Rochester. In 14 games for the Red Wings, He has posted a 0.38 ERA. In 24 innings, he has given up 15 hits, walked five and struck out 28. The 27-year-old has nothing to prove in AAA, and he still have some upside. But Busenitiz isn’t the only reliever in Rochester who has to be wondering what the Twins front office is thinking. Tyler Duffey was just sent down over the weekend to make room for outfielder Jake Cave. Duffey had pitched well in limited duty since being called back up. That said, it did make sense to want a fourth bench bat. So, three days later, adding a bullpen arm and going back to three bench bats has to make him think. In 26 innings over 11 outings for the Red Wings, Duffey has posted a 1.38 ERA. He’s walked seven and struck out 26 batters.John Curtiss has the pitches to be a dominant reliever. While his short stay with the Twins earlier this season wasn’t pretty, it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) limit anyone’s idea of his potential. Coming into Tuesday, he had a 1.61 ERA in 22 1/3 innings. In that time, he had 31 strikeouts, but ten walks.Luke Bard has 19 strikeouts and six walks in his 17 innings (11 games) since his return to the Red Wings after his stint with the Los Angeles Angels. His big fastball, slider and spin rates are pretty much big league ready.Nick Anderson has given up nine earned runs in his last three outings (2 2/3 innings) which raised his season ERA from 1.16 to 4.15. So, as rough as this current “slump” is, it’s important to think about the first 14 games and 23 1/3 innings. In his 26 innings, he has walked 12 and struck out 39.Jake Reed remains in the organization. He missed time earlier in the year and has struggled somewhat in his return. In his 15 2/3 innings over ten outings, he has walked seven and struck out 14 batters.While he’s left-handed, Gabriel Moya has also pitched well in his five weeks with the Red Wings after being optioned at the end of April. He’s posted a 2.11 ERA in 21 1/3 innings. In that time, he has walked eight and struck out 29 batters.Trevor May is working his way back from Tommy John surgery. As his rehab stint ended, the Twins optioned him to Rochester and he has worked out of the bullpen since. At some point, he’ll be ready as well.That is a lot of quality options who all were just told that they have been pushed down the line another spot with the Belisle signing. The team likely calls it "depth." Hopefully the players will consider it a challenge. The other option is that they get overly upset and don't handle it well. 3.) What Kind of Leader is Belisle? (And What Kind of Leadership Does This Twins Team Need?) Matt Belisle likely isn’t going to be a difference maker for the Twins bullpen (which, frankly, has been pretty solid most of the season). The Twins have pitchers at Rochester who are just as talented, if not more talented, and younger. What we keep hearing is that the Twins are bringing in Belisle for his leadership in the clubhouse. Fair enough. There were plenty of good stories in 2017 about the role Belisle played for the team, particularly in a leadership role. However, when the Twins signed Fernando Rodney, there was some conversation about him being brought in as a leader for the pitchers. Then Zack Duke was signed, and we heard about how great of a teammate he is. And, when they signed Addison Reed, his leadership was again mentioned. I don’t mean to downplay the value of veteran leadership. It is important. But there are a lot of veterans, and there are a lot of veterans who are touted as leaders, and there are several indications that the clubhouse is not a happy place right now. There are issues. The team is five games under .500, not at all where they felt they would be at this point, Can Matt Belisle’s leadership push the Twins to more wins? That is to be determined. Can he help the Twins offense score more runs? That would also be helpful. As would getting more of the regulars back on the field and healthy. Summary So at the end of the day, this is a minor move. Matt Belisle probably has a little left in the tank. Maybe he can help out. Maybe he can eat some of the innings that are currently constantly going to Addison Reed and Ryan Pressly so that they don’t reach 100 games pitched this year. Trevor Hildenberger is starting to take more and more of those opportunities, and Matt Magill has pitched well enough to earn those opportunities as well. We have also seen what Paul Molitor likes from his bullpen. He trusts Addison Reed and Ryan Pressly. In the first half last year, he trusted Taylor Rogers and ran him into the ground by the second half. We saw that somewhat in the second half last year when he used Trevor Hildenberger most every day over the final couple of months. My guess is that Molitor will not be afraid to use Matt Belisle late in games because of how well he did in the role last year. Trust. I also suspect that this is one move that the front office is giving Molitor and the team, a veteran, in an attempt to win this year. The trade deadline is about seven weeks away. By mid-July, the front office will have some big decisions to make. Most important, will they believe that the Twins could still make the playoffs this year? As Nick wrote yesterday, it’s not yet time to give up on this year. What this signing appears to me to be, in the big picture, is a message to the team and its veterans that they have a little over a month to turn things around and put themselves in a position to compete for a playoff spot. If not, all bets are off and at that time, we can start discussing which veterans could be on the trading block and which players will come up to take their places. Click here to view the article
  16. When the news came out that the Twins had signed Matt Belisle, my level of surprise was fairly low. I don’t know why. It just seems like what we would have always deemed a “Twins” type of move. The DFAing of Petit was also not a surprise. But as I gave it more thought, my mind raced in several different directions, and at the end of the day, I’m much calmer, but I can’t say that the move makes any more sense than it did eight hours ago. It still begs several questions. 1.) What Does Matt Belisle Have Left? Matt Belisle got off to a very slow start last year with the Minnesota Twins, but he turned it on in the second half. He pitched well and did a nice job as the Twins closer after the Brandon Kintzler trade at the deadline. Late in the offseason, he signed a one year, $1.5 million deal with Cleveland. He made the Opening Day roster. He began the season with three scoreless outings before giving up runs in his next three outings. He responded with two scoreless outings. Cleveland DFAd him. Belisle became a free agent, but soon re-signed with the team. He was released on Sunday and signed with the Twins on Tuesday. In his 10 2/3 innings, he posted a 5.06 ERA. He walked one and struck out just four. In nine outings (and also 10 2/3 innings) for Triple-A Columbus, Belisle posted a 4.22 ERA with one walk and 11 strikeouts. In other words, he shouldn’t be a late-inning reliever, but the 38-year-old can probably be a solid big league pitcher still. 2.) What Does It Say About The Front Office’s Opinion of the AAA Relievers? This was my first thought, and I know it was the thought of many others. First and foremost, it is inexplicable to me that Alan Busenitz isn’t pitching in the big leagues. Of course, that was my opinion before the Belisle signing. He pitched well late in the 2017 season for the Twins and became a reliable arm for Paul Molitor. While Busenitz didn’t make the Opening Day roster, he was promoted in mid-April. He then pitched in four of the next six games. The Twins were struggling and needed arms, so Busenitz was sent back to Rochester. In 14 games for the Red Wings, He has posted a 0.38 ERA. In 24 innings, he has given up 15 hits, walked five and struck out 28. The 27-year-old has nothing to prove in AAA, and he still have some upside. But Busenitiz isn’t the only reliever in Rochester who has to be wondering what the Twins front office is thinking. Tyler Duffey was just sent down over the weekend to make room for outfielder Jake Cave. Duffey had pitched well in limited duty since being called back up. That said, it did make sense to want a fourth bench bat. So, three days later, adding a bullpen arm and going back to three bench bats has to make him think. In 26 innings over 11 outings for the Red Wings, Duffey has posted a 1.38 ERA. He’s walked seven and struck out 26 batters. John Curtiss has the pitches to be a dominant reliever. While his short stay with the Twins earlier this season wasn’t pretty, it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) limit anyone’s idea of his potential. Coming into Tuesday, he had a 1.61 ERA in 22 1/3 innings. In that time, he had 31 strikeouts, but ten walks. Luke Bard has 19 strikeouts and six walks in his 17 innings (11 games) since his return to the Red Wings after his stint with the Los Angeles Angels. His big fastball, slider and spin rates are pretty much big league ready. Nick Anderson has given up nine earned runs in his last three outings (2 2/3 innings) which raised his season ERA from 1.16 to 4.15. So, as rough as this current “slump” is, it’s important to think about the first 14 games and 23 1/3 innings. In his 26 innings, he has walked 12 and struck out 39. Jake Reed remains in the organization. He missed time earlier in the year and has struggled somewhat in his return. In his 15 2/3 innings over ten outings, he has walked seven and struck out 14 batters. While he’s left-handed, Gabriel Moya has also pitched well in his five weeks with the Red Wings after being optioned at the end of April. He’s posted a 2.11 ERA in 21 1/3 innings. In that time, he has walked eight and struck out 29 batters. Trevor May is working his way back from Tommy John surgery. As his rehab stint ended, the Twins optioned him to Rochester and he has worked out of the bullpen since. At some point, he’ll be ready as well. That is a lot of quality options who all were just told that they have been pushed down the line another spot with the Belisle signing. The team likely calls it "depth." Hopefully the players will consider it a challenge. The other option is that they get overly upset and don't handle it well. 3.) What Kind of Leader is Belisle? (And What Kind of Leadership Does This Twins Team Need?) Matt Belisle likely isn’t going to be a difference maker for the Twins bullpen (which, frankly, has been pretty solid most of the season). The Twins have pitchers at Rochester who are just as talented, if not more talented, and younger. What we keep hearing is that the Twins are bringing in Belisle for his leadership in the clubhouse. Fair enough. There were plenty of good stories in 2017 about the role Belisle played for the team, particularly in a leadership role. However, when the Twins signed Fernando Rodney, there was some conversation about him being brought in as a leader for the pitchers. Then Zack Duke was signed, and we heard about how great of a teammate he is. And, when they signed Addison Reed, his leadership was again mentioned. I don’t mean to downplay the value of veteran leadership. It is important. But there are a lot of veterans, and there are a lot of veterans who are touted as leaders, and there are several indications that the clubhouse is not a happy place right now. There are issues. The team is five games under .500, not at all where they felt they would be at this point, Can Matt Belisle’s leadership push the Twins to more wins? That is to be determined. Can he help the Twins offense score more runs? That would also be helpful. As would getting more of the regulars back on the field and healthy. Summary So at the end of the day, this is a minor move. Matt Belisle probably has a little left in the tank. Maybe he can help out. Maybe he can eat some of the innings that are currently constantly going to Addison Reed and Ryan Pressly so that they don’t reach 100 games pitched this year. Trevor Hildenberger is starting to take more and more of those opportunities, and Matt Magill has pitched well enough to earn those opportunities as well. We have also seen what Paul Molitor likes from his bullpen. He trusts Addison Reed and Ryan Pressly. In the first half last year, he trusted Taylor Rogers and ran him into the ground by the second half. We saw that somewhat in the second half last year when he used Trevor Hildenberger most every day over the final couple of months. My guess is that Molitor will not be afraid to use Matt Belisle late in games because of how well he did in the role last year. Trust. I also suspect that this is one move that the front office is giving Molitor and the team, a veteran, in an attempt to win this year. The trade deadline is about seven weeks away. By mid-July, the front office will have some big decisions to make. Most important, will they believe that the Twins could still make the playoffs this year? As Nick wrote yesterday, it’s not yet time to give up on this year. What this signing appears to me to be, in the big picture, is a message to the team and its veterans that they have a little over a month to turn things around and put themselves in a position to compete for a playoff spot. If not, all bets are off and at that time, we can start discussing which veterans could be on the trading block and which players will come up to take their places.
  17. Before we share our choices for the Twins Minor League Top Five Relievers for April, here are some terrific bullpen performances that just missed the cut. HONORABLE MENTION John Curtiss, Rochester Red Wings, 8 G, 2.61 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 12.2 K/9, 10.1 IP, 6 H, 7 BB, 14 K Luke Bard, Rochester Red Wings, 8 G, 3.00 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 12.0 IP, 9 H, 4 BB, 13 K. Cody Stashak, Chattanooga Lookouts, 7 G (1 GS), 1.88 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 10.7 K/9, 14.1 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 17 K Ryan Mason, Ft. Myers Miracle, 8 G, 2.51 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 14.1 IP, 14 H, 3 H, 14 K Jovani Moran, Cedar Rapids Kernels, 8 G (1 GS), 2.50 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 13.0 K/9, 14 H, 7 BB, 26 K. THE TOP FIVE RELIEF PITCHERS #5 - Gabriel Moya - Rochester Red Wings - 8 G, 1.38 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 13.0 IP, 9 H, 3 BB,18 K Moya made the Twins Opening Day roster wen Phil Hughes began the season on the disabled list. He was sent down to Rochester in late April. The 23-year-old southpaw from Venezuela had a strong first month in Rochester (remember, he jumped up to the big leagues directly from Double-A last year). Along with the solid numbers and striking out 12.5 batters per nine innings, opponents hit just .196/.260/.326 (.586) off of him in May. #4 - Andrew Vasquez - Ft. Myers Miracle - 8 G, 0.00 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 14.2 IP, 15 H, 2 BB, 18 K Another left-hander, Vasquez had a one-game stint in Chattanooga already this year. The Twins 32nd round pick in 2015 out of Westmont College has been moved along slowly, in large part due to some inconsistent control. After ending 2017 with the Miracle, he pitched well in the Arizona Fall League last year. He has returned to the Miracle, but he’s in need of a promotion to AA. In May, he struck out 11 batters per nine inning. He’s blessed with what should be a dominant slider. #3 - Nick Anderson - Rochester Red Wings - 8 G, 1.46 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 12.1 IP, 3 H, 5 BB, 19 K Anderson was the Twins Daily April reliever of the month, and he was nearly as good in May. The Brainerd (Minnesota) native signed with the Twins out of the independent ranks late in the 2015 season. He has been blowing hitters away ever since and now finds himself one promotion from his big league dreams. In May, opponents hit a miniscule .077/.182/.154 (.336) off of him. He’ll turn 28 in early July. It’d be great to see him debut his big fastball/slider combination by then. #2 - Alan Busenitz - Rochester Red Wings - 8 G, 0.00 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 13.0 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 19 K It is inexplicable to the writer of this article why Busenitz is not in the big leagues. He dominates AAA, and he pitched very well last year and he got just four innings early this year in the big leagues. He’s got the big fastball and what can be a very good slider. In May, opponents hit just .159/.213/.159 (.372) against him. His 13.2 K/9 shows the type of dominance that he can have. And the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month is: Chattanooga Lookouts – RHP Todd Van Steensel - 8 G, 1.13 ERA, 0.44 WHIP, 16.0 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 17 K Van Steensel is the kind of player that you just can’t help but cheer for. Signed originally by the Phillies, he was released after one year. The Twins signed him, but after one season in Elizabethton, they released him. He played in Europe and in his native Australia and a couple of years later, the Twins brought him back, this time as a reliever. Since returning, Van Steensel has been one of the best relievers in the organization. He made over 100 appearances in Ft. Myers and despite a fantastic 2017 in Chattanooga, he’s there again in 2018. He put up incredible numbers again in May. Opponents hit just .100/.148/.120 (.268) off of him. He continues to rack up big strikeout numbers and his walk rate has certainly come down this year. Van Steensel frequently shows up in these reports, but he is very worthy of this award for May. There were several very strong relief pitcher performances in May throughout the Twins minor league system. As you can see from their representation, the Red Wings have had a strong bullpen this month. It was a good month for each of these pitchers mentioned today, but again, congratulations to the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month for May 2018, Todd Van Steensel.
  18. The Twins bullpen generally pitched quite well in May. More exciting, the Twins have lots of depth as they had several relievers in Rochester that had fantastic months. Were any of them our choice for Twins Daily Minor League Reliever of the Month, as Nick Anderson was in April? Well, you’ll just have to keep reading to find out. Today, we start our May Award series with the Twins minor league relief pitcher of the month. We’ll count down the Top 5 Twins minor league relievers, and there are enough good bullpen performances that we’ll include some honorable mentions.Before we share our choices for the Twins Minor League Top Five Relievers for April, here are some terrific bullpen performances that just missed the cut. HONORABLE MENTION John Curtiss, Rochester Red Wings, 8 G, 2.61 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 12.2 K/9, 10.1 IP, 6 H, 7 BB, 14 KLuke Bard, Rochester Red Wings, 8 G, 3.00 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 12.0 IP, 9 H, 4 BB, 13 K.Cody Stashak, Chattanooga Lookouts, 7 G (1 GS), 1.88 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 10.7 K/9, 14.1 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 17 KRyan Mason, Ft. Myers Miracle, 8 G, 2.51 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 14.1 IP, 14 H, 3 H, 14 KJovani Moran, Cedar Rapids Kernels, 8 G (1 GS), 2.50 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 13.0 K/9, 14 H, 7 BB, 26 K.THE TOP FIVE RELIEF PITCHERS #5 - Gabriel Moya - Rochester Red Wings - 8 G, 1.38 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 13.0 IP, 9 H, 3 BB,18 K Moya made the Twins Opening Day roster wen Phil Hughes began the season on the disabled list. He was sent down to Rochester in late April. The 23-year-old southpaw from Venezuela had a strong first month in Rochester (remember, he jumped up to the big leagues directly from Double-A last year). Along with the solid numbers and striking out 12.5 batters per nine innings, opponents hit just .196/.260/.326 (.586) off of him in May. #4 - Andrew Vasquez - Ft. Myers Miracle - 8 G, 0.00 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 14.2 IP, 15 H, 2 BB, 18 K Another left-hander, Vasquez had a one-game stint in Chattanooga already this year. The Twins 32nd round pick in 2015 out of Westmont College has been moved along slowly, in large part due to some inconsistent control. After ending 2017 with the Miracle, he pitched well in the Arizona Fall League last year. He has returned to the Miracle, but he’s in need of a promotion to AA. In May, he struck out 11 batters per nine inning. He’s blessed with what should be a dominant slider. #3 - Nick Anderson - Rochester Red Wings - 8 G, 1.46 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 12.1 IP, 3 H, 5 BB, 19 K Anderson was the Twins Daily April reliever of the month, and he was nearly as good in May. The Brainerd (Minnesota) native signed with the Twins out of the independent ranks late in the 2015 season. He has been blowing hitters away ever since and now finds himself one promotion from his big league dreams. In May, opponents hit a miniscule .077/.182/.154 (.336) off of him. He’ll turn 28 in early July. It’d be great to see him debut his big fastball/slider combination by then. #2 - Alan Busenitz - Rochester Red Wings - 8 G, 0.00 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 13.0 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 19 K It is inexplicable to the writer of this article why Busenitz is not in the big leagues. He dominates AAA, and he pitched very well last year and he got just four innings early this year in the big leagues. He’s got the big fastball and what can be a very good slider. In May, opponents hit just .159/.213/.159 (.372) against him. His 13.2 K/9 shows the type of dominance that he can have. And the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month is: Chattanooga Lookouts – RHP Todd Van Steensel - 8 G, 1.13 ERA, 0.44 WHIP, 16.0 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 17 K Van Steensel is the kind of player that you just can’t help but cheer for. Signed originally by the Phillies, he was released after one year. The Twins signed him, but after one season in Elizabethton, they released him. He played in Europe and in his native Australia and a couple of years later, the Twins brought him back, this time as a reliever. Since returning, Van Steensel has been one of the best relievers in the organization. He made over 100 appearances in Ft. Myers and despite a fantastic 2017 in Chattanooga, he’s there again in 2018. He put up incredible numbers again in May. Opponents hit just .100/.148/.120 (.268) off of him. He continues to rack up big strikeout numbers and his walk rate has certainly come down this year. Van Steensel frequently shows up in these reports, but he is very worthy of this award for May. There were several very strong relief pitcher performances in May throughout the Twins minor league system. As you can see from their representation, the Red Wings have had a strong bullpen this month. It was a good month for each of these pitchers mentioned today, but again, congratulations to the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month for May 2018, Todd Van Steensel. Click here to view the article
  19. The Minnesota Twins just finished up a four game set with the Los Angeles Angels. By the time Fernando Romero was done with his five innings against Shohei Ohtani, Paul Molitor was tasked with utilizing a bullpen coming off an extra inning affair and quite a bit of recent work. What the Minnesota skipper was also having to deal with, was being a man short from beyond the outfield fence. Phil Hughes was available, but he isn't an option either. Hughes was jettisoned to the Twins bullpen after flopping in his first two starts of the year. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine likely saw this outcome coming given their decision to start Hughes on the DL out of spring training due to an "injury." Out of the pen, Hughes has been used in only the lowest of leverage situations, and has essentially taken on the role vacated by Tyler Kinley. Unlike the Rule 5 draft pick however, Hughes hums a fastball in at just 91 mph and doesn't really make anyone miss. The obvious elephant in the room here, is the $26.4 million owed to the former New York Yankees pitcher through 2019. Terry Ryan made an unwise decision in extending Hughes less than a third of the way into his first deal with the Twins. Rather than seeing more of a sample size, the veteran pitcher was given a guarantee after posting an MLB record breaking season in 2014. On the flip side, it'll be on both Falvey and Levine to come to grips with that number being a sunk cost. Right now, Paul Molitor and Garvin Alston are playing with a deck a few cards shy of a full set. The Twins have employed eight relievers often in the past few years, and that only highlights the importance placed on having quality options available out of the pen. As of May 14th, there's really only seven usable arms at Molitor's disposal. When going the extra reliever route, a team is suggesting that they're comfortable with a three-man bench. Minnesota has a trio that includes Bobby Wilson, Gregorio Petit, and Robbie Grossman. Outside of Grossman's bat, that group is a combination of journeyman that have more of a scrapiness to them than any distinct characteristics. In short, the lack of another option is a trickle down effect from what is currently taking place in relief. As things stand now, the Twins are leaving themselves short in the bullpen as well as off the bench, solely because a logical decision on Phil Hughes is being delayed. At Triple-A, Alan Busenitz is making the choices at the big league level look even more interesting. The owned of a 95 mph fastball and strikeout stuff, currently owns a 1.13 ERA and a 13/2 K/BB ratio across 8.0 IP. A year ago in 35.1 IP, Busenitz posted a 1.78 ERA and 9.9 K/9 for the Rochester Red Wings. Having made four appearances thus far with the big club in 2018, Busenitz has numbers that need improvement. Allowing three runs in just 4.0 IP, his 6.75 ERA isn't pretty. That small sample size doesn't overshadow the 1.99 ERA he posted in 31.2 IP a season ago however. In fact, I think the realistic performance lies somewhere in between. Busenitz is a better strikeout pitcher than the 6.5 K/9 he tallied in 2017, but he's probably not quite the guy who totaled just a 1.99 ERA either. At any rate, having Busenitz at his disposal would give Paul Molitor another necessary option out of the pen. Rather than subjecting Zach Duke to overuse against righties, or taxing arms like Taylor Rogers and Trevor Hildenberger, Busenitz could be worked into the mix and provide yet another quality option in a relief corps that's been significantly revamped from a year ago. Really what it comes down to is that Phil Hughes is the linchpin holding up multiple more adequate roster scenarios for the Twins. It's a tough pill to swallow when you're talking about that kind of money. Deciding to DFA Hughes isn't admitting defeat however. The reality is that he was trending downwards prior to his TOS surgery, and the list of successful recoveries is not a long one. It's time to thank him for what he's done, and push the water level of the club a bit higher. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  20. After a drubbing to the New York Yankees in their first matchup since the Wild Card loss last season, the Minnesota Twins had some questions to be answered. Jake Odorizzi struggled, and the bullpen provided little in the form of relief. With position player Ryan LaMarre finishing out the game, Paul Molitor needed some reinforcements, but the question now is; where do they come from? Leaving spring training, the Twins found themselves needing to juggle a bullpen to include Rule 5 pick Tyler Kinley. He looked promising with velocity out the wazoo, but in what we've seen thus far, little else has come with it. By including Kinley and Gabriel Moya (thanks to a timely Phil Hughes injury) on the 25 man roster, relief staple Tyler Duffey found himself making the trip to upstate New York. Since then, Alan Busenitz has also appeared out of the pen with the big club. After the 13-run loss, and fourth straight defeat, the Twins optioned Busenitz back to the farm. He'd posted a 6.75 ERA across four innings of work, and while the seven strikeouts are nice, the eight hits are far too many. Moya had been jettisoned previously, as he owned a 10.80 ERA across just 5.0 IP. Giving up three longballs in his brief work thus far, a tweak has to be made as he's now allowed five in just 11.1 IP at the major league level. Kinley is still being held onto after being invested in as a Rule 5 player, but the 24.30 ERA across 3.1 IP simply is unacceptable. To a certain extent, the problem for Minnesota lies in what moves they've already made. Getting Duffey back to the big league level is a good move. He's posted a 0.00 ERA across 11 IP at Triple-A, and owns a 14/1 K/BB. Behind him though, the options for Molitor and the front office are a lot of the names we've already seen. Busenitz and Moya both look like capable big league relievers to me, but neither has shown they are there right now. John Curtiss could be the next man up from Rochester, but he too would need to get off on the right foot. Outside of those names, there isn't another relief arm on the 40 man roster. At Triple-A Rochester, Jake Reed (who's currently on the DL), D.J. Baxendale, and Mason Melotakis are all names of intrigue. Of them, Reed probably has the most upside. None of those three are any sort of a sure thing however, and dipping down a level lower would be asking someone to make a big jump for the Twins. There is the option to ask a starter like Fernando Romero to work out of the pen, but unless he's used semi-regularly, that could be at a detriment to his development. What this all boils down to is Paul Molitor needing more from the guys currently expected to bolster his pitching staff. Both Odorizzi and Lance Lynn need to be better out of the rotation. When entering from relief, it's been Addison Reed, Ryan Pressly, or bust. Trevor Hildenberger has to return to 2017 form, and Taylor Rogers desperately needs to string together a few strong outings. There isn't a golden ticket waiting to happen, and the cream really needs to rise to the top. It's absolutely fair to note that the Twins have pitching depth, and it's also fair to suggest that there's a relative quality about it. That being said, the early season returns have been underwhelming, and the group as a whole must do some soul-searching to find out what more each individual can offer. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  21. The Twins were haunted by a couple of their old friends this weekend. Denard Span wore out the Twins all weekend, and Carlos Gomez finished the sweep with a walk-off home run on Sunday afternoon. Phil Hughes made his first start of the season and gave up a two-run homer in the first inning. The Twins kept coming back, but the bullpen kept letting this one slip away. Addison Reed is human after all.Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs) Download attachment: Snapshot422.png Download attachment: WinEx422.png Hughes was making his first MLB appearance of the year after a couple rehab outings in Fort Myers. He took Gabriel Moya’s spot on the 25-man roster. Per Baseball Savant, Hughes’ four-seam fastball averaged 90.1 mph and topped out at 91.7. He got six swinging strikes on his 70 pitches, (8.6 percent). For context, Hughes averaged 90.3 mph on the fourseamer and and a 6.9 percent whiff rate last season. Hughes lasted just 3 1/3 innings and gave up two runs on five hits and two walks. He exited the game with runners on the corners, but Ryan Pressly was able to work out of the jam. Pressly was perfect over 1 2/3 innings and struck out four batters. The rest of the bullpen didn’t perform as well. Taylor Rogers gave up a run and left runners at second and third with two outs. Alan Busenitz came in and gave up a three-run homer to the first batter he faced. Trevor Hildenberger recorded the last out of the seventh before Reed took over. The eighth inning started with a single and then a hit by pitch, but Reed got a massive strikeout before inducing an inning-ending double play. Things didn’t work out so well in the ninth. Reed gave up a leadoff single and then Gomez ended in on a pitch he absolutely destroyed. That gave the Rays a walk-off win to sweep the series and set the Twins down to .500. Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Download attachment: Bullpen422.png Next Three Games Mon at NYY, 6:05 pm CT Tue at NYY 5:35 pm CT Wed at NYY 5:35 pm CT Last Three Games TB 10, MIN 1: Snell Stifles Twins Bats TB 8, MIN 7: Playing The Wrong Notes MIN 2, CLE 1: Berrios Stars, LaMarre Plays Hero as Twins Survive 16-Inning Duel More From Twins Daily Twins Minor League Report (4/22): Romero Strikes Out 10, Buxton Rehabs The Twins Almanac for April 22–29 Max Kepler Improving His Approach in 2018 Click here to view the article
  22. Snapshot (chart via FanGraphs) Hughes was making his first MLB appearance of the year after a couple rehab outings in Fort Myers. He took Gabriel Moya’s spot on the 25-man roster. Per Baseball Savant, Hughes’ four-seam fastball averaged 90.1 mph and topped out at 91.7. He got six swinging strikes on his 70 pitches, (8.6 percent). For context, Hughes averaged 90.3 mph on the fourseamer and and a 6.9 percent whiff rate last season. Hughes lasted just 3 1/3 innings and gave up two runs on five hits and two walks. He exited the game with runners on the corners, but Ryan Pressly was able to work out of the jam. Pressly was perfect over 1 2/3 innings and struck out four batters. The rest of the bullpen didn’t perform as well. Taylor Rogers gave up a run and left runners at second and third with two outs. Alan Busenitz came in and gave up a three-run homer to the first batter he faced. Trevor Hildenberger recorded the last out of the seventh before Reed took over. The eighth inning started with a single and then a hit by pitch, but Reed got a massive strikeout before inducing an inning-ending double play. Things didn’t work out so well in the ninth. Reed gave up a leadoff single and then Gomez ended in on a pitch he absolutely destroyed. That gave the Rays a walk-off win to sweep the series and set the Twins down to .500. https://twitter.com/FOXSportsFL/status/988159076092624896 The Twins held a 3-2 lead in the sixth and managed to tie the game up at 6-6 in the eighth inning, so it’s not like the bats didn’t do their job. Brian Dozier extended his team-record hitting streak to open a season to 16 games with a single in the third inning. He added a game-tying, two-run single in the eighth. Eduardo Escobar hit his second home run of the season. Joe Mauer was 1-for-2 with three walks. Postgame With Molitor https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/988167802715422720 Bullpen Usage Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days: Next Three Games Mon at NYY, 6:05 pm CT Tue at NYY 5:35 pm CT Wed at NYY 5:35 pm CT Last Three Games TB 10, MIN 1: Snell Stifles Twins Bats TB 8, MIN 7: Playing The Wrong Notes MIN 2, CLE 1: Berrios Stars, LaMarre Plays Hero as Twins Survive 16-Inning Duel More From Twins Daily Twins Minor League Report (4/22): Romero Strikes Out 10, Buxton Rehabs The Twins Almanac for April 22–29 Max Kepler Improving His Approach in 2018
  23. Duffey has logged 262.0 innings for the Twins over the past three seasons, making 36 starts over the 2015-16 seasons before shifting to the bullpen for 56 appearances last season. He was being stretched out this spring, having pitched 12.2 innings over five official appearances. Alan Busenitz was a pleasant surprise last season, pitching to a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP over 28 games with the Twins. He had a 7.27 ERA in nine games this spring, but also struck out 11 batters over 8.2 innings. These moves seem to indicate that there is a very high likelihood that both Phil Hughes and Rule 5 pick Tyler Kinley will make the Opening Day roster. Hughes is coming off his second thoracic outlet syndrome procedure, but he's owed $13.2 million this season and can refuse a minor league assignment. Kinley has only made eight appearances in Triple-A, but if he doesn't break camp with the Twins he would be offered back to the Miami Marlins. For more on Kinley's chase to make the roster, check this article from Cody: Clock's Ticking: The Tyler Kinley Decision.
  24. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reported this morning that Tyler Duffey and Alan Busenitz have been optioned to Triple-A Rochester, providing some clarity on who may fill out the Opening Day pitching staff. These cuts leave just 13 active pitchers remaining in Twins camp.Duffey has logged 262.0 innings for the Twins over the past three seasons, making 36 starts over the 2015-16 seasons before shifting to the bullpen for 56 appearances last season. He was being stretched out this spring, having pitched 12.2 innings over five official appearances. Alan Busenitz was a pleasant surprise last season, pitching to a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP over 28 games with the Twins. He had a 7.27 ERA in nine games this spring, but also struck out 11 batters over 8.2 innings. These moves seem to indicate that there is a very high likelihood that both Phil Hughes and Rule 5 pick Tyler Kinley will make the Opening Day roster. Hughes is coming off his second thoracic outlet syndrome procedure, but he's owed $13.2 million this season and can refuse a minor league assignment. Kinley has only made eight appearances in Triple-A, but if he doesn't break camp with the Twins he would be offered back to the Miami Marlins. For more on Kinley's chase to make the roster, check this article from Cody: Clock's Ticking: The Tyler Kinley Decision. Click here to view the article
  25. The first four slots in the Minnesota rotation are set with Jose Berrios, Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson. The fifth spot is almost certain to go to Phil Hughes, who figures to function as sort of a starter/long reliever hybrid in the early going. With five off days in the first three weeks, the team's schedule is such that they can get through April while only needing a fifth starter two or three times. And by the time they'll require one on a more regular basis, Ervin Santana should be close to returning if not back already. That means barring injury, someone from the Opening Day staff will be bumped by Santana in late April or early May. So the competition doesn't end once camp breaks. Whoever wins that final bullpen job will need to prove his worth throughout the early part of the schedule. As things stand, there are four relievers remaining in camp to vie for that last relief gig. One could argue it's really a two-man race. Let's first take a look at the two longshots: Alan Busenitz, RHP Busenitz has a couple of very attractive numbers working in his favor: 1.99, and 95.7. The first is his ERA in 28 appearances during a sparking 2017 debut with the Twins. The second is his average fastball speed during that stint. Of the 462 pitchers to throw at least 30 innings in the majors, only 54 threw harder, placing Busenitz near the 10th percentile. But here's the problem with the 1.99 ERA: it came attached to a 4.20 FIP and 4.80 xFIP, owing to the fact that Busenitz benefitted from a .212 BABIP and 86.6% strand rate. Minnesota's analytically minded front office surely recognizes the suspect sustainability of those numbers. And as for the 95-MPH heater, it was really the sole pitch he used effectively. His other offering is a curveball and it was nothing special, helping explain why the righty produced just 6.5 K/9 and a 7.2% swinging strike rate, which nestled between relative soft-tossers Hector Santiago (7.4%) and Phil Hughes (7.2%). As a fly ball pitcher who allows quite a bit of contact, Busenitz walks a dangerous line. Only one qualified MLB reliever finished with a FB rate above 45% and a K-rate below 20% last year – Seattle's Nick Vincent, and he succeeded with a very different formula, drawing weak contact with a high-80s cutter. So there's reason for concern around Busenitz's long-term outlook unless he can crank up the K's or cut down the flies. But in the short-term, the biggest thing working against him is that – since he has multiple options remaining – the Twins have nothing to lose by sending him down to Rochester to work on those things. Gabriel Moya, LHP On the other end of the whiff spectrum lies Moya, whose 12.4% swinging strike rate during a very brief stint in Minnesota last year tied Pressly for best on the staff. Moya has also had an extremely impressive spring up to this point, allowing just one run (a solo homer in his first appearance) on three hits in six innings of work. Something that could work in Moya's favor is the Twins going with five right-handers in the rotation. Theoretically this might increase Paul Molitor's desire to have a third southpaw in the bullpen, but Moya – who relies heavily on an excellent changeup – has never had big platoon splits, and in fact last year he was much better against righties. Like Busenitz, he has options remaining so there's no harm in sending him to Triple-A to start the season. But I am confident Moya will be a solid weapon at some point. And now, the two leading contenders: Tyler Duffey, RHP On Wednesday, Duffey made his first start in almost exactly one calendar year, allowing two runs (one earned) over three innings with two strikeouts and two walks. Molitor indicated afterward that the team plans to have him make another start in five days, on March 19th. The right-hander has basically no shot at a rotation spot, so why is he getting starts? The answer is easy enough to see. "I've been told I've been just lengthened out," Duffey said. "That's just to make sure I'm ready for that long role and maybe if something happens like a rainout or whatever and they need a guy." In this capacity, Duffey looks like a very obvious fit. One thing lacking in the current bullpen makeup is a pitcher with such a profile. In 2017 he got six or more outs in 15 of his 56 relief appearances. He even completed three full innings a couple of times. "We know he can be that guy, he did it last year quite a bit," Molitor said of Duffey's capability to fill the long relief role. The manager didn't have an especially positive review of the 27-year-old's performance against a tough Boston lineup – "Overall you have to say that he battled really well, I don't think he had his best stuff" – and Duffey has generally been unspectacular on the mound this spring, but that seems almost immaterial. They need him. Or do they? Tyler Kinley, RHP Ah, the Rule 5 pick. Always fun for a skipper to deal with in spring camp. Kinley has certainly caught some eyeballs with his big velocity, including a heater that reaches 99 and a slider that can touch 90. His Grapefruit numbers have been about what you'd expect based on his track record; six innings, six strikeouts, five walks. It's becoming a little easier to understand what the Twins saw in Kinley – and Molitor had high praise for the 27-year-old earlier this month – but how does he fit? Another one-inning guy in a unit full of them? Isn't his signature short-burst velo a bit redundant with Pressly? Can a team with hopes of contending really dedicate a roster spot to such an unproven commodity? One would surmise no. But of course, if the Twins don't carry Kinley on the active roster or trade for him, they'll have to ship him back to Miami. That wouldn't be the biggest deal but Molitor is well aware of what Minnesota's front office has invested in the righty. Not financially, mind you, but with Kinley occupying a 40-man slot they've had to let some other promising players slip away – most recently J.T. Chargois, who is having a strong spring with the Dodgers. As such, the Twins owe it to themselves to get a good long look at Kinley. Could that mean bringing him north, even if it means sending Duffey down (he does have an option) and forgoing a traditional mop-up option? It's not unthinkable. Hughes can ostensibly handle that long relief role between his sporadic starts in April. I don't think Molitor's going to go with a guy he flat-out can't rely on in a key spot, but if Kinley is able to convince the manager he's worth counting on? Like I said, not unthinkable. But also not at all likely. If the team is sold on Kinley I suspect they'll try to work out a trade with Miami that would allow them to send him to Triple-A. Duffey is in the driver's seat until further notice. His flexible arm is just too useful to be sent away. Sorry to put the kibosh on whatever minimal suspense existed around the lone "position battle" in camp. But if you're into such things, the good news is that Duffey will essentially be locked in a battle with Hughes to maintain that long relief role upon Santana's return.
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