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  1. Jhoan Duran has melted faces, Emilio Pagán has given everyone heart attacks, and Joe Smith has rumbled on, continuing his excellence with a fastball that wouldn’t get pulled over on most highways. Yet, Griffin Jax has quietly emerged as a reliable stud in the bullpen, giving the team desperately needed bridge-outs in the middle innings with relative ease. Let’s talk about Jax, the relief ace. Griffin Jax had a poor 2021 season by just about any stat you prefer. He struck out just 18.1% of batters, walked them at an 8.1% clip, and gave up 23 home runs in 82 innings, a total high enough to make Bert Blyleven blush. Unsurprisingly, his ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line looked more like the price of gas these days, as it went 6.37/6.47/5.75. Outside of a surprise, 10 strikeout game against the White Sox on August 10th, outings of upside were few and far between. Jax always had a trick up his sleeve: his slider. The pitch was a bright spot in an otherwise bland repertoire, running a .275 xWOBA with characteristics favorable in Eno Sarris' pitch data collection. Ironically, his popular slide piece only recently joined his repertoire. You can read Jax himself describe the pitch to David Laurila in possibly the greatest baseball information series known to mankind. According to Jax, the pitch came as a fluke; “I was toying around in catch-play, right before I was about to go on the mound, and was like, ‘What if I just turned my curveball a little bit?’ That’s how I got the slider I have now.” Coaches immediately caught on to the pitch and encouraged him to continue using it. In its horizontal break, the pitch perfectly fits with the sweeper revolution in baseball, and it has buoyed Jax’s 2022 season so far. With his two-pitch (basically one-pitch) mix, Jax became a reliever. His velocity has bumped up two ticks to 94.7 MPH, and he has thrown his slider a Matt Wisler-like 52.7% of the time. While the fastball remains hittable, the breaker is anything but. He owns a .195 xWOBA with it, while hitters are whiffing 47.3% of the time they swing at it. That’s good. In fact, that’s good for 11th best amongst all pitchers in MLB who have faced 25 hitters in 2022. The total numbers are inspiring; an ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line of 1.35/2.43/2.83 that looks great in any era, dead ball or not. The only two criticisms are ‘it’s early’ and ‘it’s not sustainable.’ The first point is fair, but the second one may not be true in the age of breakers. Matt Wisler, Amir Garrett, Andrés Muñoz, Diego Castillo, and the Rogers twins are all quality relievers throwing sliders more often this season than Jax. And, well, just look at the pitch! Hitters may eventually key in on the pitch, but its movement combined with Jax’s command makes it a safe bet that he’ll continue to succeed in the majors. Like we talked about with Danny Coulombe, where a pitch ends up matters as much, if not more than any movement profile. Jax knows how to put his slider juuuuuuuust in the precise place to fool hitters. Yeah, that’ll work. Griffin Jax has become a revelation, finding his proper place in the bullpen where he can unleash as many sliders as humanly possible. It has only been a handful of innings, but Jax has wholly changed course from 2021; his performance is much improved, and his stuff suggests that this will be a permanent change. View full article
  2. Griffin Jax had a poor 2021 season by just about any stat you prefer. He struck out just 18.1% of batters, walked them at an 8.1% clip, and gave up 23 home runs in 82 innings, a total high enough to make Bert Blyleven blush. Unsurprisingly, his ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line looked more like the price of gas these days, as it went 6.37/6.47/5.75. Outside of a surprise, 10 strikeout game against the White Sox on August 10th, outings of upside were few and far between. Jax always had a trick up his sleeve: his slider. The pitch was a bright spot in an otherwise bland repertoire, running a .275 xWOBA with characteristics favorable in Eno Sarris' pitch data collection. Ironically, his popular slide piece only recently joined his repertoire. You can read Jax himself describe the pitch to David Laurila in possibly the greatest baseball information series known to mankind. According to Jax, the pitch came as a fluke; “I was toying around in catch-play, right before I was about to go on the mound, and was like, ‘What if I just turned my curveball a little bit?’ That’s how I got the slider I have now.” Coaches immediately caught on to the pitch and encouraged him to continue using it. In its horizontal break, the pitch perfectly fits with the sweeper revolution in baseball, and it has buoyed Jax’s 2022 season so far. With his two-pitch (basically one-pitch) mix, Jax became a reliever. His velocity has bumped up two ticks to 94.7 MPH, and he has thrown his slider a Matt Wisler-like 52.7% of the time. While the fastball remains hittable, the breaker is anything but. He owns a .195 xWOBA with it, while hitters are whiffing 47.3% of the time they swing at it. That’s good. In fact, that’s good for 11th best amongst all pitchers in MLB who have faced 25 hitters in 2022. The total numbers are inspiring; an ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line of 1.35/2.43/2.83 that looks great in any era, dead ball or not. The only two criticisms are ‘it’s early’ and ‘it’s not sustainable.’ The first point is fair, but the second one may not be true in the age of breakers. Matt Wisler, Amir Garrett, Andrés Muñoz, Diego Castillo, and the Rogers twins are all quality relievers throwing sliders more often this season than Jax. And, well, just look at the pitch! Hitters may eventually key in on the pitch, but its movement combined with Jax’s command makes it a safe bet that he’ll continue to succeed in the majors. Like we talked about with Danny Coulombe, where a pitch ends up matters as much, if not more than any movement profile. Jax knows how to put his slider juuuuuuuust in the precise place to fool hitters. Yeah, that’ll work. Griffin Jax has become a revelation, finding his proper place in the bullpen where he can unleash as many sliders as humanly possible. It has only been a handful of innings, but Jax has wholly changed course from 2021; his performance is much improved, and his stuff suggests that this will be a permanent change.
  3. Roster sizes for all MLB teams will be shrinking by two spots on May 2nd, limiting teams to 26 players until September. Yesterday, Theodore Tollefson looked at which hitters may be on the chopping block, and now I will look at a few pitchers on the fringe. The Twins took advantage of the 28-man rosters by supplementing their bullpen with extra arms. Especially with a lockout-shortened Spring Training, this was crucial as it allowed for Twins starting pitchers to have a reasonable ramp-up period. Now that we are three weeks into the season and starters are beginning to reach their “Opening Day form,” I think we will see at least one bullpen pitcher be sent down to St. Paul and possibly two. With that said, let's look at the pitchers who might be on the outside looking in. Josh Winder I think this is the most obvious choice and would go as far as issuing a guarantee that he makes his way down to St. Paul. Winder is a promising 25-year-old prospect who has found success as a starter at every level, not to mention providing the Twins with some effective relief innings so far in 2022. The long-term picture for Winder is that of a mid-rotation arm, not a long reliever out of the pen, whose only “red flag” is being shut down in July last year due to a shoulder injury. While he should be the first to be sent down to St. Paul, he’s likely also the first to earn a spot start when the Twins have a need in the big league rotation. Griffin Jax Although he’s older than Winder, Jax is another one who needs to get innings, and I think it’s time to groom him as a reliever. In the last year or so, Jax has developed a slider that is now his best pitch and mixes that with a mid-90s fastball that seems to add a couple of ticks when he comes out of the pen. As noted by Nick, it’s a small sample, but the Twins have starting depth in their minors which provides them the flexibility to give Jax some run as a reliever. If the long-term plan is a reliever role, I could see him sticking in Minneapolis as he’s been one of the few non-starter bright spots in 2022. Cody Stashak He seems older than 27 because he’s pitched parts of four seasons at the Major League level. I’m conflicted with Stashak as I don’t see any upside to him taking a spot in St. Paul, but I don’t know how effective he can be in Minneapolis. He showed promise over 40 relief innings in 2019 and 2020, but the road has been rocky for Stashak since dealing with ineffective pitching and, of course, a strained bicep that cost him most of last season. So far, 2022 hasn’t been kind to Stashak, but I’d instead give him some time in Minneapolis in low leverage spots than any role across town with the Saints. If you are the Twins, who would your two roster cuts be next week? View full article
  4. The Twins took advantage of the 28-man rosters by supplementing their bullpen with extra arms. Especially with a lockout-shortened Spring Training, this was crucial as it allowed for Twins starting pitchers to have a reasonable ramp-up period. Now that we are three weeks into the season and starters are beginning to reach their “Opening Day form,” I think we will see at least one bullpen pitcher be sent down to St. Paul and possibly two. With that said, let's look at the pitchers who might be on the outside looking in. Josh Winder I think this is the most obvious choice and would go as far as issuing a guarantee that he makes his way down to St. Paul. Winder is a promising 25-year-old prospect who has found success as a starter at every level, not to mention providing the Twins with some effective relief innings so far in 2022. The long-term picture for Winder is that of a mid-rotation arm, not a long reliever out of the pen, whose only “red flag” is being shut down in July last year due to a shoulder injury. While he should be the first to be sent down to St. Paul, he’s likely also the first to earn a spot start when the Twins have a need in the big league rotation. Griffin Jax Although he’s older than Winder, Jax is another one who needs to get innings, and I think it’s time to groom him as a reliever. In the last year or so, Jax has developed a slider that is now his best pitch and mixes that with a mid-90s fastball that seems to add a couple of ticks when he comes out of the pen. As noted by Nick, it’s a small sample, but the Twins have starting depth in their minors which provides them the flexibility to give Jax some run as a reliever. If the long-term plan is a reliever role, I could see him sticking in Minneapolis as he’s been one of the few non-starter bright spots in 2022. Cody Stashak He seems older than 27 because he’s pitched parts of four seasons at the Major League level. I’m conflicted with Stashak as I don’t see any upside to him taking a spot in St. Paul, but I don’t know how effective he can be in Minneapolis. He showed promise over 40 relief innings in 2019 and 2020, but the road has been rocky for Stashak since dealing with ineffective pitching and, of course, a strained bicep that cost him most of last season. So far, 2022 hasn’t been kind to Stashak, but I’d instead give him some time in Minneapolis in low leverage spots than any role across town with the Saints. If you are the Twins, who would your two roster cuts be next week?
  5. As of writing this article on April 5th, the year of our Lord 2022, the Twins bullpen is far from set. Some prominent names have established themselves, while other, darker horses rode a hot spring into the opening day roster. But the pitching staff generally is a name salad of “whos” and “whys;” players with little star power at the moment but who are still guys potentially capable of carrying a team. The Twins this year will be flexible, and that is a good thing. Why go with a flexible pitching staff? There are two significant reasons. The first stems from the natural volatility of relievers, something in the DNA of the position curses them with inconsistency more unusual than any other position in baseball. We see relievers rise and fall yearly, with only a handful of genuinely elite talents remaining at the top of the heap for more than a year at a time. They’re about as consistent as Ohio or Pennsylvania in an election year. That creates a significant challenge for team-building. Beyond occasionally being stuck with poor performances, the issue is the sunk-cost fallacy that comes with bringing in a free-agent reliever. The Twins know all about this. What do you do with a struggling reliever with a solid history of success? Alex Colomé was utterly dreadful in 2021, blowing saves in cartoonish fashion for three painful months before the sting of each loss numbed due to the team’s already poor record. If Colomé were some AAAA schlep, he would have been optioned before April ended, and a different arm would have had the chance to prove themselves. But Colomé didn’t have options, and the team owed him $5 million, so the Twins had to be as confident as humanly possible that Colomé was no longer worth the roster spot. The season was already a lost cause by that time, and Colomé remained on the team. Ensuring that you can quickly rid yourself of a poor-performing reliever is a wise strategy. The other main reason to have flexibility is rooted in pitching philosophy. For years, a pitcher was either a starter, an individual capable of pitching anywhere between five-to-nine innings every fifth day, or they were a reliever, an individual tasked with netting three outs on a moment's notice. The system does not make much sense if one thinks about it. There’s a significant grey area between “incapable of pitching deep into games” and “can only be relied upon for three outs.” Indeed, some of these arms could go for two or three innings, right? One could combine pitchers like Voltron to make a better, more complete staff out of pitchers with potential drawbacks. Fortunately, some more enlightened baseball philosophers have moved away from this rigid binary, and, in a move that harkens back to the pitching staffs of the 60s and 70s, labels like “starter” and “reliever” have merged into someone simply being an “out-getter.” A pitcher is no longer only good for one or five-to-nine innings; they are allowed to get as many outs as physically possible. A myriad of terms have grown into our shared baseball lexicon to describe this shift: “opener,” “piggy-backing,” uhhh, “two dogs and two cats.” While differing in their meaning, they all call back to the idea that pitchers differ in the duration of their effectiveness. The Rays are a masterclass in this style of strategy. In what feels like the millionth year in a row, the team owned a top-10 pitching staff in baseball by fWAR, struck out a small army, and barely walked anyone despite losing ace Tyler Glasnow to Tommy John surgery. Four pitchers, Shane McClanahan, Rich Hill, Glasnow, and Shane Baz, appeared solely as a starter. The 11 other pitchers who made a start for them in 2021 also appeared out of the bullpen at some point in 2021. Let’s take a look at their strategy in action. On July 28th, Michael Wacha pitched five solid innings before being followed by Drew Rasmussen, old friend Matt Wisler, Pete Fairbanks, and Andrew Kittredge. On August 12th, Rasmussen started the game and went four innings; he was followed by Collin McHugh, old friend J.T. Chargois, Louis Head, and Ryan Sheriff. Rasmussen both started and entered the game in the sixth inning in about a two-week period, and he netted significant innings in both roles. It’s a high-wire act for sure, a bad game or two could throw the entire staff into chaos, but a deft manager can properly tip-toe the line. In practice for the Twins, we may see something like Chris Archer going four innings, Jhoan Duran following with three innings of his own, and then the usual suspects of Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers cleaning up the game, assuming all went well. This style of pitching management will be even more necessary at the beginning of the season; starters are not yet ready for their usual pitch counts, and games have not yet been shortened (but I wouldn’t put anything by Rob Manfred). Expanded rosters will help alleviate the pitching roster crunch. As it stands, five relievers—Rogers, Duffey, Joe Smith, Jharel Cotton, and Danny Coulombe—are un-optionable (without the risk of losing them on waivers). The rest of the bullpen will be ushered into the continuous testing machinery to determine which arms can stay at the major league level. Think of it like the Hunger Games, but you’re sent to St. Paul instead of dying. Guys like Griffin Jax, Josh Winder, Cody Stashak, and Jovani Moran may or may not begin the season in the majors, but the team will certainly shuffle them in at some point in 2022. It may be for the best if you don’t get too attached to the names you see in the bullpen to begin the season. How would you like to see the pitching staff work, especially in the season's first month. Leave a COMMENT and discuss below. View full article
  6. Why go with a flexible pitching staff? There are two significant reasons. The first stems from the natural volatility of relievers, something in the DNA of the position curses them with inconsistency more unusual than any other position in baseball. We see relievers rise and fall yearly, with only a handful of genuinely elite talents remaining at the top of the heap for more than a year at a time. They’re about as consistent as Ohio or Pennsylvania in an election year. That creates a significant challenge for team-building. Beyond occasionally being stuck with poor performances, the issue is the sunk-cost fallacy that comes with bringing in a free-agent reliever. The Twins know all about this. What do you do with a struggling reliever with a solid history of success? Alex Colomé was utterly dreadful in 2021, blowing saves in cartoonish fashion for three painful months before the sting of each loss numbed due to the team’s already poor record. If Colomé were some AAAA schlep, he would have been optioned before April ended, and a different arm would have had the chance to prove themselves. But Colomé didn’t have options, and the team owed him $5 million, so the Twins had to be as confident as humanly possible that Colomé was no longer worth the roster spot. The season was already a lost cause by that time, and Colomé remained on the team. Ensuring that you can quickly rid yourself of a poor-performing reliever is a wise strategy. The other main reason to have flexibility is rooted in pitching philosophy. For years, a pitcher was either a starter, an individual capable of pitching anywhere between five-to-nine innings every fifth day, or they were a reliever, an individual tasked with netting three outs on a moment's notice. The system does not make much sense if one thinks about it. There’s a significant grey area between “incapable of pitching deep into games” and “can only be relied upon for three outs.” Indeed, some of these arms could go for two or three innings, right? One could combine pitchers like Voltron to make a better, more complete staff out of pitchers with potential drawbacks. Fortunately, some more enlightened baseball philosophers have moved away from this rigid binary, and, in a move that harkens back to the pitching staffs of the 60s and 70s, labels like “starter” and “reliever” have merged into someone simply being an “out-getter.” A pitcher is no longer only good for one or five-to-nine innings; they are allowed to get as many outs as physically possible. A myriad of terms have grown into our shared baseball lexicon to describe this shift: “opener,” “piggy-backing,” uhhh, “two dogs and two cats.” While differing in their meaning, they all call back to the idea that pitchers differ in the duration of their effectiveness. The Rays are a masterclass in this style of strategy. In what feels like the millionth year in a row, the team owned a top-10 pitching staff in baseball by fWAR, struck out a small army, and barely walked anyone despite losing ace Tyler Glasnow to Tommy John surgery. Four pitchers, Shane McClanahan, Rich Hill, Glasnow, and Shane Baz, appeared solely as a starter. The 11 other pitchers who made a start for them in 2021 also appeared out of the bullpen at some point in 2021. Let’s take a look at their strategy in action. On July 28th, Michael Wacha pitched five solid innings before being followed by Drew Rasmussen, old friend Matt Wisler, Pete Fairbanks, and Andrew Kittredge. On August 12th, Rasmussen started the game and went four innings; he was followed by Collin McHugh, old friend J.T. Chargois, Louis Head, and Ryan Sheriff. Rasmussen both started and entered the game in the sixth inning in about a two-week period, and he netted significant innings in both roles. It’s a high-wire act for sure, a bad game or two could throw the entire staff into chaos, but a deft manager can properly tip-toe the line. In practice for the Twins, we may see something like Chris Archer going four innings, Jhoan Duran following with three innings of his own, and then the usual suspects of Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers cleaning up the game, assuming all went well. This style of pitching management will be even more necessary at the beginning of the season; starters are not yet ready for their usual pitch counts, and games have not yet been shortened (but I wouldn’t put anything by Rob Manfred). Expanded rosters will help alleviate the pitching roster crunch. As it stands, five relievers—Rogers, Duffey, Joe Smith, Jharel Cotton, and Danny Coulombe—are un-optionable (without the risk of losing them on waivers). The rest of the bullpen will be ushered into the continuous testing machinery to determine which arms can stay at the major league level. Think of it like the Hunger Games, but you’re sent to St. Paul instead of dying. Guys like Griffin Jax, Josh Winder, Cody Stashak, and Jovani Moran may or may not begin the season in the majors, but the team will certainly shuffle them in at some point in 2022. It may be for the best if you don’t get too attached to the names you see in the bullpen to begin the season. How would you like to see the pitching staff work, especially in the season's first month. Leave a COMMENT and discuss below.
  7. The Twins still haven’t acquired another starting pitcher as Opening Day nears. With only a few fringe free-agent options even available to fill the fifth rotation spot, fans have called for adding yet another rookie to the rotation when the season begins. This may be a mistake. Josh Winder gained a lot of prospect steam last season as he performed incredibly well at Double-A with a sub 2.00 ERA in 50+ innings before getting promoted to Triple-A. He may have been well on his way to his MLB debut before being shut down with shoulder issues, but he looks healthy and effective so far this spring. Winder finds himself in the conversation for a rotation spot due to what can only be described as a massive disappointment in regards to the Twins addressing their rotation this winter. They currently have four starting pitchers penciled in with Opening Day less than two weeks away. Led by Sonny Gray, the rest of the rotation consists of reclamation project Dylan Bundy and two rookies in Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, the latter of which has only five MLB starts under his belt. The fifth spot at this point is unspoken for. Candidates include Devin Smeltzer who isn't currently on the 40 man roster. Lewis Thorpe and Griffin Jax have been moved into bullpen roles but could find themselves competing due to a lack of other options. Then of course we have Josh Winder who has yet to debut. It’s fair to grab ahold of the shiny new prospect when reading that list of names. The other three, of course, have all had their opportunities and haven’t exactly flourished. It’s absolutely possible that the Twins see this decision the same way if they fail to bring in one more arm. It’s worth noting that Winder winding up in the Opening Day rotation, however, should be viewed with much more disappointment than excitement. From Minnesota to the rest of the league, rookie pitchers fail all the time (or at least most often) in their debut. It should almost be expected at this point. Some need a bit more time in the minors such as when Jose Berrios debuted with his 8+ ERA. Others just never figure it out despite being highly touted all throughout the minors such as Stephen Gonsalves or Fernando Romero. It’s important to remember this not just to be pessimistic, but to keep expectations in check. Winder hadn’t pitched above A ball until 2021 when he posted those 54 2/3 innings in AA, and not only did he put up only 17 innings in AAA, but they weren’t all that effective. His K% fell from 31.3% to 22.4%. He allowed two home runs in those 17 innings and posted a 4.67 ERA before being shut down. Surely a small sample size, but not exactly a performance that screams “MLB ready”. The point being, if the Twins don’t add another starting pitcher to the roster and go with Winder right out of the gate, they may very well be following up an offseason failure with a decision that damages one of their top pitching prospects as well as their season. They’d likely be better off mixing and matching with arms they know everything about than a rookie pitcher who hasn’t shown he’s quite MLB ready yet. Winder would make a great Plan B for any struggling or injured arms after the season begins assuming he’s doing reasonably well in St. Paul. It’s fair to assume that he makes his debut in some way in 2022. It just shouldn’t be as the third rookie starting pitcher on an Opening Day roster that considers themselves contenders. Am I just a thief of joy, or do you agree? Leave your COMMENTS below. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here View full article
  8. Josh Winder gained a lot of prospect steam last season as he performed incredibly well at Double-A with a sub 2.00 ERA in 50+ innings before getting promoted to Triple-A. He may have been well on his way to his MLB debut before being shut down with shoulder issues, but he looks healthy and effective so far this spring. Winder finds himself in the conversation for a rotation spot due to what can only be described as a massive disappointment in regards to the Twins addressing their rotation this winter. They currently have four starting pitchers penciled in with Opening Day less than two weeks away. Led by Sonny Gray, the rest of the rotation consists of reclamation project Dylan Bundy and two rookies in Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, the latter of which has only five MLB starts under his belt. The fifth spot at this point is unspoken for. Candidates include Devin Smeltzer who isn't currently on the 40 man roster. Lewis Thorpe and Griffin Jax have been moved into bullpen roles but could find themselves competing due to a lack of other options. Then of course we have Josh Winder who has yet to debut. It’s fair to grab ahold of the shiny new prospect when reading that list of names. The other three, of course, have all had their opportunities and haven’t exactly flourished. It’s absolutely possible that the Twins see this decision the same way if they fail to bring in one more arm. It’s worth noting that Winder winding up in the Opening Day rotation, however, should be viewed with much more disappointment than excitement. From Minnesota to the rest of the league, rookie pitchers fail all the time (or at least most often) in their debut. It should almost be expected at this point. Some need a bit more time in the minors such as when Jose Berrios debuted with his 8+ ERA. Others just never figure it out despite being highly touted all throughout the minors such as Stephen Gonsalves or Fernando Romero. It’s important to remember this not just to be pessimistic, but to keep expectations in check. Winder hadn’t pitched above A ball until 2021 when he posted those 54 2/3 innings in AA, and not only did he put up only 17 innings in AAA, but they weren’t all that effective. His K% fell from 31.3% to 22.4%. He allowed two home runs in those 17 innings and posted a 4.67 ERA before being shut down. Surely a small sample size, but not exactly a performance that screams “MLB ready”. The point being, if the Twins don’t add another starting pitcher to the roster and go with Winder right out of the gate, they may very well be following up an offseason failure with a decision that damages one of their top pitching prospects as well as their season. They’d likely be better off mixing and matching with arms they know everything about than a rookie pitcher who hasn’t shown he’s quite MLB ready yet. Winder would make a great Plan B for any struggling or injured arms after the season begins assuming he’s doing reasonably well in St. Paul. It’s fair to assume that he makes his debut in some way in 2022. It just shouldn’t be as the third rookie starting pitcher on an Opening Day roster that considers themselves contenders. Am I just a thief of joy, or do you agree? Leave your COMMENTS below. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  9. Tyler Duffey has been a rock-solid addition to the Twins bullpen after failing to pan out in the rotation. At 31 years old with one year of control left, his time with the Twins may be nearing an end. Luckily they may have a ready-made replacement already in the majors. Tyler Duffey was drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 draft out of Rice. Despite spending much of his college career in the bullpen, the Twins were able to boost his fastball velocity and add a changeup to his already plus breaking ball, and make him a starter. After debuting in the Twins rotation, Duffey struggled and became an afterthought before eventually resurfacing in the bullpen. The right-hander of course used a change in fastball philosophy and his wipeout curveball to become one of the most underrated relievers in all of baseball during 2019-2020. 2021 was a bit shaky but Duffey has established himself as a reliable, high leverage reliever. The Twins should use Duffey’s successful blueprint on another arm who shares several similarities. Griffin Jax has been a starter throughout the minors and filled in for an ailing rotation during his 2021 debut. The Air Force Captain was never a top prospect and rarely posted above-average performances in the minors. Upon his debut, it was clear that Jax was a two-pitch pitcher, a trait that led to significant trouble navigating lineups multiple times. What wasn’t apparent until his debut is just how good one of his two pitches was. Eno Sarris, a prominent writer at The Athletic uses a pitching model called Pitching+ which measures velocity, movement, and spin to determine a pitcher’s “Stuff+” while measuring their ability to locate into “Location+”. A 100 grading is average for both metrics. Jax, due in large part to his slider, grades ahead of Bailey Ober, Joe Ryan, and Dylan Bundy in Stuff+ at an above average 102.8. While the full pitch by pitch Pitching+ Model isn’t publicly available, Sarris has noted that Jax’s slider is one of the best pitches in baseball according to Stuff+. It’s fair to assume Jax’s fastball may hold him back with little movement and averaging under 93 mph. What he’s left with is a less than spectacular fastball to set up for a fantastic breaking ball. This approach likely doesn’t pan out well in the rotation, but could be more than enough to dominate in short stints as we’ve seen with Tyler Duffey. As fellow Twins Daily writer Cody Christie pointed out in January, Jax would slot into an opener role very well based on his success particularly in the first inning. It’s also fair to wonder however whether Jax could thrive in a short-term, high leverage role in the late innings. Similar to Duffey, Jax could add some velocity to his fastball and try to place it at the top of the zone to set up his devastating breaker. It’s become a common recipe for success for relievers across baseball. The Twins bullpen has a lot of uncertainty between Taylor Rogers’ finger, Tyler Duffey’s 2021 struggles, and the question of whether both pitchers will even be on the Twins Opening Day roster. With the front office unlikely to add significant free agents to the bullpen mix, someone like Jax who’s already shown his abilities at the MLB level could easily climb the bullpen ladder throughout 2022 and find himself settled into a significant role by season’s end. Whether it’s opening games or closing them, Jax’s slider proving to be a cheat code of a pitch is a great development. With several high profile arms coming up with stronger chances of sticking in the rotation, the Twins developing deeper prospects such as Griffin Jax into possible bullpen pieces would be a huge development. Griffin Jax is an incredible story, but he’s elevated himself from a depth piece to a possible regular for the Twins in 2022. Do you agree? — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here View full article
  10. Tyler Duffey was drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 draft out of Rice. Despite spending much of his college career in the bullpen, the Twins were able to boost his fastball velocity and add a changeup to his already plus breaking ball, and make him a starter. After debuting in the Twins rotation, Duffey struggled and became an afterthought before eventually resurfacing in the bullpen. The right-hander of course used a change in fastball philosophy and his wipeout curveball to become one of the most underrated relievers in all of baseball during 2019-2020. 2021 was a bit shaky but Duffey has established himself as a reliable, high leverage reliever. The Twins should use Duffey’s successful blueprint on another arm who shares several similarities. Griffin Jax has been a starter throughout the minors and filled in for an ailing rotation during his 2021 debut. The Air Force Captain was never a top prospect and rarely posted above-average performances in the minors. Upon his debut, it was clear that Jax was a two-pitch pitcher, a trait that led to significant trouble navigating lineups multiple times. What wasn’t apparent until his debut is just how good one of his two pitches was. Eno Sarris, a prominent writer at The Athletic uses a pitching model called Pitching+ which measures velocity, movement, and spin to determine a pitcher’s “Stuff+” while measuring their ability to locate into “Location+”. A 100 grading is average for both metrics. Jax, due in large part to his slider, grades ahead of Bailey Ober, Joe Ryan, and Dylan Bundy in Stuff+ at an above average 102.8. While the full pitch by pitch Pitching+ Model isn’t publicly available, Sarris has noted that Jax’s slider is one of the best pitches in baseball according to Stuff+. It’s fair to assume Jax’s fastball may hold him back with little movement and averaging under 93 mph. What he’s left with is a less than spectacular fastball to set up for a fantastic breaking ball. This approach likely doesn’t pan out well in the rotation, but could be more than enough to dominate in short stints as we’ve seen with Tyler Duffey. As fellow Twins Daily writer Cody Christie pointed out in January, Jax would slot into an opener role very well based on his success particularly in the first inning. It’s also fair to wonder however whether Jax could thrive in a short-term, high leverage role in the late innings. Similar to Duffey, Jax could add some velocity to his fastball and try to place it at the top of the zone to set up his devastating breaker. It’s become a common recipe for success for relievers across baseball. The Twins bullpen has a lot of uncertainty between Taylor Rogers’ finger, Tyler Duffey’s 2021 struggles, and the question of whether both pitchers will even be on the Twins Opening Day roster. With the front office unlikely to add significant free agents to the bullpen mix, someone like Jax who’s already shown his abilities at the MLB level could easily climb the bullpen ladder throughout 2022 and find himself settled into a significant role by season’s end. Whether it’s opening games or closing them, Jax’s slider proving to be a cheat code of a pitch is a great development. With several high profile arms coming up with stronger chances of sticking in the rotation, the Twins developing deeper prospects such as Griffin Jax into possible bullpen pieces would be a huge development. Griffin Jax is an incredible story, but he’s elevated himself from a depth piece to a possible regular for the Twins in 2022. Do you agree? — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  11. Across the baseball landscape, teams have turned more regularly to openers and bullpen games to cover innings in a 162-game season. Do the Twins have a perfect pitcher to fit the opener role? Tampa Bay has long been looked at for their front office prowess as they find ways to stay near the top of one of baseball's toughest divisions. Using an opener is one idea that originated in Tampa that other teams have adopted in recent years. In 2019, many teams jumped on the opener bandwagon, and there were mixed results. According to MLB.com, "An 'opener' is a pitcher -- normally a reliever -- who starts a game for purposes of matching up against the top of the opponent's line-up in the first inning, which has traditionally been the highest-scoring inning, before being relieved by a pitcher who would otherwise function as a starter. This allows for a team to counter its opponent's first three batters with the pitcher it feels has the best chance for success against them." Twins manager Rocco Baldelli joined Minnesota from the Tampa Bay organization, so there was some thought to him bringing the opener strategy with him. Baldelli has turned to bullpen games in his tenure, but the opener strategy hasn't been used very often. With the Twins short on starting pitching, there is a chance the team is more likely to use an opener next season to cover more innings. The good news for the club is the team may have a perfect candidate to slide into the opener role. Minnesota originally drafted Griffin Jax from the United States Air Force Academy back in 2016. His military commitment meant he had a unique path to the big leagues, but he debuted in 2021. Across 82 innings, he posted a 6.37 ERA with a 1.35 WHIP and a 65 to 29 strikeout to walk ratio. One of his most significant issues was he allowed 23 home runs. While those numbers don't look great, a silver lining may point to his future value with the club. There's no question that Jax struggled to adjust to the big league level, but he was excellent during his first time through the order. Last year in the first inning, he posted a 2.57 ERA with a 13 to 3 strikeout to walk ratio. Batters only hit .160/.204/.240 (.444) with one home run in the first inning. Looking at these numbers, it is easy to see how Jax may be an opener candidate, but his early inning success wasn't just limited to the first frame. Over half of Jax's innings pitched came in innings 1-3 when he would be facing a line-up for the first time. He held batters to a .184 batting average with a .266 OBP in those frames. He struck out 38 batters in 43 1/3 innings, which is nearly a full strikeout higher compared to his full-season rate. He did allow 12 home runs in innings 1-3, but seven of those homers came in the third inning when a lot of line-ups would be turning over for the first time. Limiting Jax to one time through the order might be the sweet spot to put him in a position to succeed. There are other reasons the Twins might be interested in employing an opener strategy next season. Many of the team's top prospects are pitchers, and there can be challenges transitioning to the big-league level. Some pitchers will be on pitch counts or innings limits, and others are returning from injury. Putting Jax into an opener role can help transition some of these other young pitchers into the rotation. Do you think Jax would be a good candidate to serve as an opener? Are the Twins going to use an opener more regularly next season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  12. Tampa Bay has long been looked at for their front office prowess as they find ways to stay near the top of one of baseball's toughest divisions. Using an opener is one idea that originated in Tampa that other teams have adopted in recent years. In 2019, many teams jumped on the opener bandwagon, and there were mixed results. According to MLB.com, "An 'opener' is a pitcher -- normally a reliever -- who starts a game for purposes of matching up against the top of the opponent's line-up in the first inning, which has traditionally been the highest-scoring inning, before being relieved by a pitcher who would otherwise function as a starter. This allows for a team to counter its opponent's first three batters with the pitcher it feels has the best chance for success against them." Twins manager Rocco Baldelli joined Minnesota from the Tampa Bay organization, so there was some thought to him bringing the opener strategy with him. Baldelli has turned to bullpen games in his tenure, but the opener strategy hasn't been used very often. With the Twins short on starting pitching, there is a chance the team is more likely to use an opener next season to cover more innings. The good news for the club is the team may have a perfect candidate to slide into the opener role. Minnesota originally drafted Griffin Jax from the United States Air Force Academy back in 2016. His military commitment meant he had a unique path to the big leagues, but he debuted in 2021. Across 82 innings, he posted a 6.37 ERA with a 1.35 WHIP and a 65 to 29 strikeout to walk ratio. One of his most significant issues was he allowed 23 home runs. While those numbers don't look great, a silver lining may point to his future value with the club. There's no question that Jax struggled to adjust to the big league level, but he was excellent during his first time through the order. Last year in the first inning, he posted a 2.57 ERA with a 13 to 3 strikeout to walk ratio. Batters only hit .160/.204/.240 (.444) with one home run in the first inning. Looking at these numbers, it is easy to see how Jax may be an opener candidate, but his early inning success wasn't just limited to the first frame. Over half of Jax's innings pitched came in innings 1-3 when he would be facing a line-up for the first time. He held batters to a .184 batting average with a .266 OBP in those frames. He struck out 38 batters in 43 1/3 innings, which is nearly a full strikeout higher compared to his full-season rate. He did allow 12 home runs in innings 1-3, but seven of those homers came in the third inning when a lot of line-ups would be turning over for the first time. Limiting Jax to one time through the order might be the sweet spot to put him in a position to succeed. There are other reasons the Twins might be interested in employing an opener strategy next season. Many of the team's top prospects are pitchers, and there can be challenges transitioning to the big-league level. Some pitchers will be on pitch counts or innings limits, and others are returning from injury. Putting Jax into an opener role can help transition some of these other young pitchers into the rotation. Do you think Jax would be a good candidate to serve as an opener? Are the Twins going to use an opener more regularly next season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  13. As the Twins embark on the daunting offseason task of building their 2022 pitching staff nearly from scratch, it's worth wondering if their forward-thinking front office might step outside the box and take a nontraditional approach. A revealing recent quote from general manager Thad Levine leads one to believe it's a path they're considering. Earlier this week, Dan Hayes of The Athletic penned a piece sizing up the monumental challenge ahead of the Twins as they seek to fill the top three spots in their rotation from the outside. The end of the piece includes this quote from the Twins GM, which really caught my attention: “I think with the challenge comes opportunity,” Levine said. “We’re going to be as creative as we can be in terms of not being necessarily hemmed into the notion of it has to look exactly the way it has always looked. We may end up looking at this from the lens of how many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff and how far does that take us?” While Levine's allusion is not overly specific, one could take it to mean the Twins are envisioning a staff filled with "hybrid" pitchers – not quite starters, but not traditional one-inning relievers either – stringing together nine-inning games, without the expectation of one guy throwing six or seven. This is, in some respects, the direction baseball is trending, and it's been very noticeable in recent postseasons. For a team in Minnesota's position, embracing this revolution fully would make a lot of sense. Here are some reasons why: Free agent starting pitchers are expensive and hazardous. Mid-market teams like the Twins rarely play at the highest level because it's tough to be outbid resource-intensive (not to mention more appealing) heavy hitters, and because getting it wrong on a guy you commit $100+ million to can really set you back. As Hayes notes in his article, the Twins face an especially tough challenge because the two "sure things" in their rotation, Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, are young and inexperienced starters who threw about 100 innings apiece this season. They'll surely have workload limits in place next year, and the model we're discussing would help accommodate that, while reducing a need to compensate by going out and finding proven durable workhorses on the open market (far and few between, highly expensive). Theoretically this could be a way to maximize effectiveness for a multitude of pitchers. We've seen many failing starters reinvent themselves as outstanding relievers, and this would be a pivot in the same vein. Guys can let loose more in shorter stints, rely on a two- or three-pitch mix, and avoid going through the lineup multiple times. In the not-too-distant past, it would've been difficult if not impossible to facilitate a system like this, but the expansion of rosters and the ability to continually carry 13-14 pitchers makes it feasible. You might ask, what types of pitchers would fit under an approach like this? There are a few names on the free agent market that catch my eye, but first, let's discuss some internal candidates to thrive under such an arrangement. Randy Dobnak: He's not really built up to a starter's full workload after throwing 46 and 70 innings in the last two seasons. As a multi-inning reliever or "extended opener" type starter, he'd be able to stretch out without pushing too hard. Griffin Jax: I wrote a while ago about why I like Jax as a candidate to level-up in a relief role: he's got one really good pitch (his slider), and he held opponents to a .597 OPS the first time through the lineup this year. Limiting him to two- or three-inning stints could help unlock his peak form. Lewis Thorpe: I'm not sure if the Twins will continue to try and see things through with Thorpe, and it wouldn't surprise me if he's dumped from the 40-man roster in the near future. That said, if they are committed to giving him one more shot to get healthy and show his stuff, this seems like the way to do it. Full-time starter is out the window at this point. Upcoming Prospects: The Twins have a wealth of near-ready prospects in the minors, but most of them have been plagued by injury issues and nearly all will need to be carefully managed and monitored. This approach helps here, just as it does with managing young MLB starters like Ober and Ryan. Of course, the Twins can't do it all with what they have on hand. They'll need to bring in some talent. The downside of this model is that established MLB starters are probably not going to want to sign on for such unconventional and reduced usage. The upside is that you can possibly make savvy and cost-effective moves, signing down-and-out guys and turning them around. To be clear, the kinds of pitchers who would likely to be signed to support this framework are NOT going to excite anyone. As you look at some of the names I'll throw out below, it's important to think of them not as they are, but as what they could be. Surely no one in Seattle was excited when they signed downtrodden starter Kendall Graveman for $1.25M last year, but now he's suddenly a hot commodity after posting a 1.77 ERA as a reliever. Here are a few pitchers from the current free agent class who strike me as fits in the hybrid mold: Garrett Richards: Struggled as a starter for Boston this year, but moved to the bullpen in mid-August and posted a 3.42 ERA with one homer allowed in 18 appearances the rest of the way. He threw two or more innings in five of those appearances. Jordan Lyles: Been terrible the past two years while mostly pitching out of the rotation. But he's still only 31 and had some success as a multi-inning RP/swing-man type as recently as 2018. Vince Velasquez: I don't have a specific reason for identifying Velasquez in this mix other than he's always had good stuff that has never really played as a starter. Why not try something else? He'll be extremely cheap despite a career 9.9 K/9 rate. Trevor Cahill: Sort of the same deal here as above. Cahill has a good repertoire but has struggled to sustainably harness it. He has plenty of experience as both starter and reliever, so the shift to a role like this could be relatively natural for him. Josh Tomlin: There's nothing very interesting or exciting about Tomlin; I just think he'd be a likely target if the Twins were to take an approach like this. He's an experienced veteran who spent the past three years in Atlanta pitching in such a capacity – frequent multi-inning relief appearances with the occasional start mixed in – and he has Derek Falvey ties from his days in Cleveland. I'm sure much of the response to names like these, or even to an overall experimental approach like the one being proposed, will be some variation of "Cheap Pohlads." But I'd submit that the cost efficiencies of this approach enable the team to invest heavily elsewhere – say, a star shortstop, or a high-end closer, or putting all of their chips on one workhorse type starter while using the shorter-duration usage patterns otherwise. Will the Twins actually lean into a radically innovative pitching staff model like this? I don't know. Would I personally advise it? I'm not sure. But you don't have to read between the lines much to see they're considering something along these lines, and you don't have to squint too hard to see the logic and potential value in it. "How many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff and how far does that take us?” Maybe we're about to find out. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  14. "The Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation is proud to honor Minnesota Twins pitcher Griffin Jax,” Bob Feller Act of Valor Foundation Founder and President Peter J. Fertig said. “Griffin has served his country honorably, becoming the first professional athlete in Major League Baseball to come from the United States Air Force Academy. His service to our country, like Bob Feller’s, serves as a reminder that service above self is still as important today as it was in years past." Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller enlisted in the military after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. This award recognizes those who share Feller’s commitment to serving the United States. The award began in 2013. When Griffin Jax was the Twins third-round draft pick in 2016, he became the highest-drafted player ever from the Air Force Academy. On June 8, he became the first Air Force Academy graduate to play in the big leagues. He remained on active duty in 2019, and he maintains the rank of Captain in the Air Force Reserves. His wife Savannah is a Captain in the US Air Force. She was deployed to Afghanistan just last year and was scheduled for another deployment in 2021. In an MLB.com article by Do Hyoung-Park, Jax said, "I think my job is stressful, but hearing what she has to do, and all that stuff, I've got it easy." In a pre-recorded acceptance aired online on Thursday night, Jax remained humble and thanked many including the Twins for nominating him. It's clear his entire family has strongly supported the military, not only in words and funds, but with active duty. "It is a huge honor. As a fellow serviceman, I understand the sacrifice and duty that one must embody as a serviceman. While I serve more in the recruitment role as a reservist, I understand first-hand, watching what my wife does on a day-to-day basis, and my two brothers, both Air Force Academy graduates and in pilot training, and their spouses as well. I watch how they embody themselves in the morals and the sacrifices they take on daily. I just want to give them a shout out as well because they are the true reason this award exists. Past Bob Feller Act of Valor Award winners 2013: Justin Verlander 2014: Nick Swisher 2015: Jonathan Lucroy 2016: Brad Ziegler 2017: Darren O’Day 2018: Sean Doolittle 2019: Ian Kennedy 2020: Craig Stammen The 2021 winners include: 1. National Baseball Hall of Fame Award: Joe Torre, Major League Baseball 2. Major League Baseball Award: Griffin Jax, Minnesota Twins 3. United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Award: ACC (AW/SW/IW) Joshua A. Sawyer, Naval Air Station Fallon, NV 4. United States Marine Corps, Jerry Coleman Award: First Sergeant, Daniel P. Best, Support Company, III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Support Battalion, III Marine Information Group 5. Peer-to-Peer, Sea Command Award: USS GERMANTOWN (LSD 42) Junior Enlisted Association, Sasebo Japan. 6. Peer-to-Peer, Ashore Installation Award: Training Support Center, Great Lakes, IL Chapter of the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD) 7. Bob Feller Fellowship Award: Galen Odell, Emerson College According to the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation says on its website, “Each honoree possesses the values, integrity, and dedication to serving our country that Bob Feller himself displayed.” Over 500 MLB players have served in the military, including 37 Hall of Famers. Congratulations to Griffin Jax and the other recipients tonight! More on Griffin Jax: Get To Know: Twins RHP Prospect Griffin Jax (January 2017) Jax Debuts for Kernels (July 2017) Griffin Jax's Baseball Career Resumes (May 2018) ERA to MBA: The Many Talents of Griffin Jax (May 2021) Prospect Retrospective: Griffin Jax (June 2021) Trio Hinting at Twins Pitching Pipeline (August 2021)
  15. We learned in mid-September that Twins pitcher Griffin Jax had been named the 2021 MLB winner of the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award winner. On Thursday night, he received the honor in a virtual ceremony. "The Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation is proud to honor Minnesota Twins pitcher Griffin Jax,” Bob Feller Act of Valor Foundation Founder and President Peter J. Fertig said. “Griffin has served his country honorably, becoming the first professional athlete in Major League Baseball to come from the United States Air Force Academy. His service to our country, like Bob Feller’s, serves as a reminder that service above self is still as important today as it was in years past." Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller enlisted in the military after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. This award recognizes those who share Feller’s commitment to serving the United States. The award began in 2013. When Griffin Jax was the Twins third-round draft pick in 2016, he became the highest-drafted player ever from the Air Force Academy. On June 8, he became the first Air Force Academy graduate to play in the big leagues. He remained on active duty in 2019, and he maintains the rank of Captain in the Air Force Reserves. His wife Savannah is a Captain in the US Air Force. She was deployed to Afghanistan just last year and was scheduled for another deployment in 2021. In an MLB.com article by Do Hyoung-Park, Jax said, "I think my job is stressful, but hearing what she has to do, and all that stuff, I've got it easy." In a pre-recorded acceptance aired online on Thursday night, Jax remained humble and thanked many including the Twins for nominating him. It's clear his entire family has strongly supported the military, not only in words and funds, but with active duty. "It is a huge honor. As a fellow serviceman, I understand the sacrifice and duty that one must embody as a serviceman. While I serve more in the recruitment role as a reservist, I understand first-hand, watching what my wife does on a day-to-day basis, and my two brothers, both Air Force Academy graduates and in pilot training, and their spouses as well. I watch how they embody themselves in the morals and the sacrifices they take on daily. I just want to give them a shout out as well because they are the true reason this award exists. Past Bob Feller Act of Valor Award winners 2013: Justin Verlander 2014: Nick Swisher 2015: Jonathan Lucroy 2016: Brad Ziegler 2017: Darren O’Day 2018: Sean Doolittle 2019: Ian Kennedy 2020: Craig Stammen The 2021 winners include: 1. National Baseball Hall of Fame Award: Joe Torre, Major League Baseball 2. Major League Baseball Award: Griffin Jax, Minnesota Twins 3. United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Award: ACC (AW/SW/IW) Joshua A. Sawyer, Naval Air Station Fallon, NV 4. United States Marine Corps, Jerry Coleman Award: First Sergeant, Daniel P. Best, Support Company, III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Support Battalion, III Marine Information Group 5. Peer-to-Peer, Sea Command Award: USS GERMANTOWN (LSD 42) Junior Enlisted Association, Sasebo Japan. 6. Peer-to-Peer, Ashore Installation Award: Training Support Center, Great Lakes, IL Chapter of the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD) 7. Bob Feller Fellowship Award: Galen Odell, Emerson College According to the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation says on its website, “Each honoree possesses the values, integrity, and dedication to serving our country that Bob Feller himself displayed.” Over 500 MLB players have served in the military, including 37 Hall of Famers. Congratulations to Griffin Jax and the other recipients tonight! More on Griffin Jax: Get To Know: Twins RHP Prospect Griffin Jax (January 2017) Jax Debuts for Kernels (July 2017) Griffin Jax's Baseball Career Resumes (May 2018) ERA to MBA: The Many Talents of Griffin Jax (May 2021) Prospect Retrospective: Griffin Jax (June 2021) Trio Hinting at Twins Pitching Pipeline (August 2021) View full article
  16. Teams try to find any possible way to gain an advantage. One pitch is taking the league by storm, and the Twins look like they are ahead of the curve. Over at the Athletic, Eno Sarris wrote about an intriguing pitch being used more regularly across the league. Some people call it the Dodger Slider, while others refer to it as the Sweeper. A sweeper is a breaking pitch that is thrown faster than 77 mph with more than 6.5 inches of glove side movement and -2 inches of depth from 40 feet. Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson is known for his focus on sliders, and this might be one reason the Twins have been so successful with this pitch. So how do the Twins compare to the rest of the league? Los Angeles is the clear leader when it comes to using the Sweeper, but the Twins rank as the second-best AL team when it comes to this pitch usage. The Yankees are not far behind the Twins, but the AL Central is much further behind. No other AL Central clubs rank in baseball's top-15. To rank this highly, Minnesota has seen multiple pitchers evolve their slider over the last handful of seasons. Jorge Alcala ranks as the Twins' best pitcher when it comes to Stuff+, where he ranks higher than Shohei Ohtani, Julio Urias, and Max Scherzer. Also, his slider ranks better than league average when it comes to horizontal movement. He uses his slider more than any of his other pitches, and he held batters to a .181 batting average and .277 slugging percentage on that pitch. His slider will be critical if Alcala is going to be part of the long-term bullpen solution. Taylor Rogers is another Twins pitcher that threw his slider more this season. He increased his slider usage from 43.3% to 54%. Both of his primary pitches, his sinker, and slider, rank well above the league average when it comes to horizontal movement. His unique arm action allows for a lot of natural horizontal movement, but what about a more obvious name? One name fans might expect to use a Dodger Slider is Kenta Maeda since he spent the majority of his career in the Dodgers organization. Three of his primary pitches get more horizontal movement than average, including his sinker, splitter, and four-seamer. However, his slider ranks below average (-2.5 inches) compared to the rest of the league. Former Twin Jose Berrios is known for the movement he can generate on his pitches, so he impacted the team's overall numbers this season. Three of his pitches (four-seamer, sinker, and curveball) all get more horizontal movement than the league average, with his curveball getting 5.2 more inches than average. Griffin Jax is one name that might surprise fans to appear on the leaderboards. When it comes to Stuff+, they rank ahead of Shane Bieber, Lucas Giolito, and Madison Bumgarner. Jax saw his slider and four-seamer get four more inches of horizontal movement compared to the average. Jax may also have seen some bad luck this year as his xBA and xSLG were both lower than the batting average and slugging percentage he allowed. There were plenty of reasons to criticize Minnesota's pitching staff this season, but there may be a silver lining beneath it all. If the Twins focus on developing the Sweeper, the highly anticipated pitching pipeline might finally arrive at Target Field. Do you think the Twins can continue to use the Sweeper? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  17. Earlier this week, Dan Hayes of The Athletic penned a piece sizing up the monumental challenge ahead of the Twins as they seek to fill the top three spots in their rotation from the outside. The end of the piece includes this quote from the Twins GM, which really caught my attention: “I think with the challenge comes opportunity,” Levine said. “We’re going to be as creative as we can be in terms of not being necessarily hemmed into the notion of it has to look exactly the way it has always looked. We may end up looking at this from the lens of how many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff and how far does that take us?” While Levine's allusion is not overly specific, one could take it to mean the Twins are envisioning a staff filled with "hybrid" pitchers – not quite starters, but not traditional one-inning relievers either – stringing together nine-inning games, without the expectation of one guy throwing six or seven. This is, in some respects, the direction baseball is trending, and it's been very noticeable in recent postseasons. For a team in Minnesota's position, embracing this revolution fully would make a lot of sense. Here are some reasons why: Free agent starting pitchers are expensive and hazardous. Mid-market teams like the Twins rarely play at the highest level because it's tough to be outbid resource-intensive (not to mention more appealing) heavy hitters, and because getting it wrong on a guy you commit $100+ million to can really set you back. As Hayes notes in his article, the Twins face an especially tough challenge because the two "sure things" in their rotation, Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, are young and inexperienced starters who threw about 100 innings apiece this season. They'll surely have workload limits in place next year, and the model we're discussing would help accommodate that, while reducing a need to compensate by going out and finding proven durable workhorses on the open market (far and few between, highly expensive). Theoretically this could be a way to maximize effectiveness for a multitude of pitchers. We've seen many failing starters reinvent themselves as outstanding relievers, and this would be a pivot in the same vein. Guys can let loose more in shorter stints, rely on a two- or three-pitch mix, and avoid going through the lineup multiple times. In the not-too-distant past, it would've been difficult if not impossible to facilitate a system like this, but the expansion of rosters and the ability to continually carry 13-14 pitchers makes it feasible. You might ask, what types of pitchers would fit under an approach like this? There are a few names on the free agent market that catch my eye, but first, let's discuss some internal candidates to thrive under such an arrangement. Randy Dobnak: He's not really built up to a starter's full workload after throwing 46 and 70 innings in the last two seasons. As a multi-inning reliever or "extended opener" type starter, he'd be able to stretch out without pushing too hard. Griffin Jax: I wrote a while ago about why I like Jax as a candidate to level-up in a relief role: he's got one really good pitch (his slider), and he held opponents to a .597 OPS the first time through the lineup this year. Limiting him to two- or three-inning stints could help unlock his peak form. Lewis Thorpe: I'm not sure if the Twins will continue to try and see things through with Thorpe, and it wouldn't surprise me if he's dumped from the 40-man roster in the near future. That said, if they are committed to giving him one more shot to get healthy and show his stuff, this seems like the way to do it. Full-time starter is out the window at this point. Upcoming Prospects: The Twins have a wealth of near-ready prospects in the minors, but most of them have been plagued by injury issues and nearly all will need to be carefully managed and monitored. This approach helps here, just as it does with managing young MLB starters like Ober and Ryan. Of course, the Twins can't do it all with what they have on hand. They'll need to bring in some talent. The downside of this model is that established MLB starters are probably not going to want to sign on for such unconventional and reduced usage. The upside is that you can possibly make savvy and cost-effective moves, signing down-and-out guys and turning them around. To be clear, the kinds of pitchers who would likely to be signed to support this framework are NOT going to excite anyone. As you look at some of the names I'll throw out below, it's important to think of them not as they are, but as what they could be. Surely no one in Seattle was excited when they signed downtrodden starter Kendall Graveman for $1.25M last year, but now he's suddenly a hot commodity after posting a 1.77 ERA as a reliever. Here are a few pitchers from the current free agent class who strike me as fits in the hybrid mold: Garrett Richards: Struggled as a starter for Boston this year, but moved to the bullpen in mid-August and posted a 3.42 ERA with one homer allowed in 18 appearances the rest of the way. He threw two or more innings in five of those appearances. Jordan Lyles: Been terrible the past two years while mostly pitching out of the rotation. But he's still only 31 and had some success as a multi-inning RP/swing-man type as recently as 2018. Vince Velasquez: I don't have a specific reason for identifying Velasquez in this mix other than he's always had good stuff that has never really played as a starter. Why not try something else? He'll be extremely cheap despite a career 9.9 K/9 rate. Trevor Cahill: Sort of the same deal here as above. Cahill has a good repertoire but has struggled to sustainably harness it. He has plenty of experience as both starter and reliever, so the shift to a role like this could be relatively natural for him. Josh Tomlin: There's nothing very interesting or exciting about Tomlin; I just think he'd be a likely target if the Twins were to take an approach like this. He's an experienced veteran who spent the past three years in Atlanta pitching in such a capacity – frequent multi-inning relief appearances with the occasional start mixed in – and he has Derek Falvey ties from his days in Cleveland. I'm sure much of the response to names like these, or even to an overall experimental approach like the one being proposed, will be some variation of "Cheap Pohlads." But I'd submit that the cost efficiencies of this approach enable the team to invest heavily elsewhere – say, a star shortstop, or a high-end closer, or putting all of their chips on one workhorse type starter while using the shorter-duration usage patterns otherwise. Will the Twins actually lean into a radically innovative pitching staff model like this? I don't know. Would I personally advise it? I'm not sure. But you don't have to read between the lines much to see they're considering something along these lines, and you don't have to squint too hard to see the logic and potential value in it. "How many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff and how far does that take us?” Maybe we're about to find out. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  18. Over at the Athletic, Eno Sarris wrote about an intriguing pitch being used more regularly across the league. Some people call it the Dodger Slider, while others refer to it as the Sweeper. A sweeper is a breaking pitch that is thrown faster than 77 mph with more than 6.5 inches of glove side movement and -2 inches of depth from 40 feet. Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson is known for his focus on sliders, and this might be one reason the Twins have been so successful with this pitch. So how do the Twins compare to the rest of the league? Los Angeles is the clear leader when it comes to using the Sweeper, but the Twins rank as the second-best AL team when it comes to this pitch usage. The Yankees are not far behind the Twins, but the AL Central is much further behind. No other AL Central clubs rank in baseball's top-15. To rank this highly, Minnesota has seen multiple pitchers evolve their slider over the last handful of seasons. Jorge Alcala ranks as the Twins' best pitcher when it comes to Stuff+, where he ranks higher than Shohei Ohtani, Julio Urias, and Max Scherzer. Also, his slider ranks better than league average when it comes to horizontal movement. He uses his slider more than any of his other pitches, and he held batters to a .181 batting average and .277 slugging percentage on that pitch. His slider will be critical if Alcala is going to be part of the long-term bullpen solution. Taylor Rogers is another Twins pitcher that threw his slider more this season. He increased his slider usage from 43.3% to 54%. Both of his primary pitches, his sinker, and slider, rank well above the league average when it comes to horizontal movement. His unique arm action allows for a lot of natural horizontal movement, but what about a more obvious name? One name fans might expect to use a Dodger Slider is Kenta Maeda since he spent the majority of his career in the Dodgers organization. Three of his primary pitches get more horizontal movement than average, including his sinker, splitter, and four-seamer. However, his slider ranks below average (-2.5 inches) compared to the rest of the league. Former Twin Jose Berrios is known for the movement he can generate on his pitches, so he impacted the team's overall numbers this season. Three of his pitches (four-seamer, sinker, and curveball) all get more horizontal movement than the league average, with his curveball getting 5.2 more inches than average. Griffin Jax is one name that might surprise fans to appear on the leaderboards. When it comes to Stuff+, they rank ahead of Shane Bieber, Lucas Giolito, and Madison Bumgarner. Jax saw his slider and four-seamer get four more inches of horizontal movement compared to the average. Jax may also have seen some bad luck this year as his xBA and xSLG were both lower than the batting average and slugging percentage he allowed. There were plenty of reasons to criticize Minnesota's pitching staff this season, but there may be a silver lining beneath it all. If the Twins focus on developing the Sweeper, the highly anticipated pitching pipeline might finally arrive at Target Field. Do you think the Twins can continue to use the Sweeper? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  19. How did Twins starters fare in 2021? Let's grade them! View full video
  20. How did Twins starters fare in 2021? Let's grade them!
  21. Box Score Griffin Jax: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K Home Runs: Josh Donaldson (26) Top 3 WPA: Griffin Jax .290, Josh Donaldson .058, Caleb Thielbar .056 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) For all of his ups and downs this season, Griffin Jax ended his rookie campaign on a high note as the Minnesota Twins brushed past the Kansas City Royals Saturday night. Jax tossed five innings of one-hit, scoreless ball and was bolstered by the hot bats of Miguel Sano (2-for-4, 2B), Luis Arráez (2-for-3, 2 RBI), and Josh Donaldson (1-for-3, HR) as the Twins picked up their 72nd win of the season, keeping them at 89 losses headed into Sunday's regular season finally. Jax was once thought of as a long shot to ever reach the major leagues after posting mediocre strikeout numbers during his minor league career. However, while he likely won't be counted on as a starter in the long run due to his propensity to surrender home runs his second time through the order, Jax displayed enough talent to warrant a shot in next season's bullpen, one that figures to look much different than the 2021 iteration. Byron Buxton (1-for-5) also continued his success at the plate by connecting for his 22nd double of the season. Entering play, Buxton had accumulated 4.0 fWAR in 59 games, which is an MVP-caliber pace when extrapolated over the course of a full season (i.e. 120 or so games). Buxton's status will be one of the biggest talking points this offseason as he figures to be one of the most sought after names on the trade market. The Twins could — and arguably should — off him a contract extension as well. While many will bring up his injury history as a reason not to extend him, Buxton will be worth every penny of his next contract extension, regardless of the dollar amount and regardless of which team it is with. As a reference, Jorge Polanco has been the Twins’ most valuable player this season and likely would garner MVP votes if his team wasn’t one of the 10 worst in all of baseball. Entering play on Saturday, he had accumulated 4.1 fWAR. The Twins conclude the 2021 season on Sunday when Charlie Barnes (0-3, 5.86 ERA) goes up against Jackson Kowar (0-5, 11.28 ERA). First pitch is slated for 2:10 p.m. CT. Postgame Interviews Griffin Jax on his final start. Tyler Duffey on the bullpen's performance and more. Finally, Rocco Baldelli's postgame comments. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Duffey 18 21 0 0 15 54 Thielbar 13 0 14 0 26 53 Colomé 26 18 0 0 7 51 Farrell 0 0 0 38 0 38 Moran 0 0 0 38 0 38 Garza Jr. 19 0 12 0 0 31 Alcalá 10 0 13 0 0 23 Minaya 0 22 0 0 0 22 Vincent 0 0 16 0 0 16 Coulombe 0 0 0 15 0 15 Barraclough 0 0 14 0 0 14 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
  22. Griffin Jax and the Twins offense powered the Twins past the Royals to stave off a 90-loss season for one more day. Box Score Griffin Jax: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K Home Runs: Josh Donaldson (26) Top 3 WPA: Griffin Jax .290, Josh Donaldson .058, Caleb Thielbar .056 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) For all of his ups and downs this season, Griffin Jax ended his rookie campaign on a high note as the Minnesota Twins brushed past the Kansas City Royals Saturday night. Jax tossed five innings of one-hit, scoreless ball and was bolstered by the hot bats of Miguel Sano (2-for-4, 2B), Luis Arráez (2-for-3, 2 RBI), and Josh Donaldson (1-for-3, HR) as the Twins picked up their 72nd win of the season, keeping them at 89 losses headed into Sunday's regular season finally. Jax was once thought of as a long shot to ever reach the major leagues after posting mediocre strikeout numbers during his minor league career. However, while he likely won't be counted on as a starter in the long run due to his propensity to surrender home runs his second time through the order, Jax displayed enough talent to warrant a shot in next season's bullpen, one that figures to look much different than the 2021 iteration. Byron Buxton (1-for-5) also continued his success at the plate by connecting for his 22nd double of the season. Entering play, Buxton had accumulated 4.0 fWAR in 59 games, which is an MVP-caliber pace when extrapolated over the course of a full season (i.e. 120 or so games). Buxton's status will be one of the biggest talking points this offseason as he figures to be one of the most sought after names on the trade market. The Twins could — and arguably should — off him a contract extension as well. While many will bring up his injury history as a reason not to extend him, Buxton will be worth every penny of his next contract extension, regardless of the dollar amount and regardless of which team it is with. As a reference, Jorge Polanco has been the Twins’ most valuable player this season and likely would garner MVP votes if his team wasn’t one of the 10 worst in all of baseball. Entering play on Saturday, he had accumulated 4.1 fWAR. The Twins conclude the 2021 season on Sunday when Charlie Barnes (0-3, 5.86 ERA) goes up against Jackson Kowar (0-5, 11.28 ERA). First pitch is slated for 2:10 p.m. CT. Postgame Interviews Griffin Jax on his final start. Tyler Duffey on the bullpen's performance and more. Finally, Rocco Baldelli's postgame comments. Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Duffey 18 21 0 0 15 54 Thielbar 13 0 14 0 26 53 Colomé 26 18 0 0 7 51 Farrell 0 0 0 38 0 38 Moran 0 0 0 38 0 38 Garza Jr. 19 0 12 0 0 31 Alcalá 10 0 13 0 0 23 Minaya 0 22 0 0 0 22 Vincent 0 0 16 0 0 16 Coulombe 0 0 0 15 0 15 Barraclough 0 0 14 0 0 14 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email View full article
  23. Box Score: Griffin Jax: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (83 pitches, 61 strikes) Home Runs: Byron Buxton (16) Win Probability Chart: Top 3 WPA: Mitch Garver (.122) Byron Buxton (.096) Jake Cave (.091) Bottom 3 WPA: Nick Gordon (-.188); Josh Donaldson (-.188) Griffin Jax (-.169) Jax Maxes Out It’s been a tough rookie season for Griffin Jax. After being called up in early June, Jax became a full-time starter almost immediately. He’s shown glimmers of hope, but today was not one of those days. After today’s outing, his ERA rose slightly to 6.78 on the season. Nothing to write home about, per se, but a good outing against the Blue Jays at that. This leaves questions to be asked about his role for next season. Ted Schwerzler took a look at the future of this role (and many others) earlier this week. Lord Byron is Back! Even the mighty need some time to heat up after returning from the IL. Since returning from the IL on August 27th, Byron Buxton hasn’t quite lived up to the bar of his MVP-caliber run in the first half of the season. However, Buxton seems to be heating back up, just in time for the end of the season. Today, he hit his 6th home run of the month, putting him just one less than Jorge Polanco. Since coming back from the IL, the Twins have been 14-14 in games that Buxton plays in. Even though the games don’t matter on paper, Buxton gives hope to all Twins fans for next year on the horizon. In the meantime, enjoy Buxton’s bomb from today. GarvSauce: Good as Gravy Mitch Garver finds himself in a very similar but elongated boat as Byron Buxton. Long IL stint: check. Painful recovery post IL stint: check. The past year hasn’t been kind to Mitch. However, Garver continues to bounce back to his 2019 ways with another double today that almost left the ballpark. Since coming back from this latest stint, Garver has been a gravy train that can’t be stopped with back-to-back multi-hit games before today. If this continues, Garver will finish the season with a line slightly higher than his career numbers, showing that continued improvement is on the horizon. Around the Bases Max Kepler came back to the lineup with two singles under his belt, his first multi-hit game since his undisclosed (but non-COVID) illness. Jake Cave hushed his haters by driving in the first run of the game. Although Miguel Sano later struck out to leave two runners stranded, he produced a big double off of Alek Manoah. Nick Vincent balked. Bullpen Usage WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Vincent 0 13 0 0 33 46 Coulombe 0 0 0 37 0 37 Farrell 0 19 0 18 0 37 Garza Jr. 0 16 0 0 18 34 Barraclough 0 0 0 33 0 33 Minaya 13 0 19 0 0 32 Thielbar 0 14 0 0 17 31 Duffey 12 0 17 0 0 29 Colomé 24 0 5 0 0 29 Moran 0 0 0 19 0 19 Alcalá 10 0 6 0 0 16 Postgame Interviews
  24. The offensive juices ran dry once again for the Twins, leading to a series split against the playoff-hopeful Blue Jays. Box Score: Griffin Jax: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (83 pitches, 61 strikes) Home Runs: Byron Buxton (16) Win Probability Chart: Top 3 WPA: Mitch Garver (.122) Byron Buxton (.096) Jake Cave (.091) Bottom 3 WPA: Nick Gordon (-.188); Josh Donaldson (-.188) Griffin Jax (-.169) Jax Maxes Out It’s been a tough rookie season for Griffin Jax. After being called up in early June, Jax became a full-time starter almost immediately. He’s shown glimmers of hope, but today was not one of those days. After today’s outing, his ERA rose slightly to 6.78 on the season. Nothing to write home about, per se, but a good outing against the Blue Jays at that. This leaves questions to be asked about his role for next season. Ted Schwerzler took a look at the future of this role (and many others) earlier this week. Lord Byron is Back! Even the mighty need some time to heat up after returning from the IL. Since returning from the IL on August 27th, Byron Buxton hasn’t quite lived up to the bar of his MVP-caliber run in the first half of the season. However, Buxton seems to be heating back up, just in time for the end of the season. Today, he hit his 6th home run of the month, putting him just one less than Jorge Polanco. Since coming back from the IL, the Twins have been 14-14 in games that Buxton plays in. Even though the games don’t matter on paper, Buxton gives hope to all Twins fans for next year on the horizon. In the meantime, enjoy Buxton’s bomb from today. GarvSauce: Good as Gravy Mitch Garver finds himself in a very similar but elongated boat as Byron Buxton. Long IL stint: check. Painful recovery post IL stint: check. The past year hasn’t been kind to Mitch. However, Garver continues to bounce back to his 2019 ways with another double today that almost left the ballpark. Since coming back from this latest stint, Garver has been a gravy train that can’t be stopped with back-to-back multi-hit games before today. If this continues, Garver will finish the season with a line slightly higher than his career numbers, showing that continued improvement is on the horizon. Around the Bases Max Kepler came back to the lineup with two singles under his belt, his first multi-hit game since his undisclosed (but non-COVID) illness. Jake Cave hushed his haters by driving in the first run of the game. Although Miguel Sano later struck out to leave two runners stranded, he produced a big double off of Alek Manoah. Nick Vincent balked. Bullpen Usage WED THU FRI SAT SUN TOT Vincent 0 13 0 0 33 46 Coulombe 0 0 0 37 0 37 Farrell 0 19 0 18 0 37 Garza Jr. 0 16 0 0 18 34 Barraclough 0 0 0 33 0 33 Minaya 13 0 19 0 0 32 Thielbar 0 14 0 0 17 31 Duffey 12 0 17 0 0 29 Colomé 24 0 5 0 0 29 Moran 0 0 0 19 0 19 Alcalá 10 0 6 0 0 16 Postgame Interviews View full article
  25. Coming into 2021, the Minnesota Twins looked to have an inside track within the AL Central division, mainly due to their depth. They had plenty of options on the pitching side, and before being exposed, lots of those names seemed plenty capable. Yesterday, I looked at some of the arms from the bullpen that could survive an impending roster shakeup and, knowing there will be turnover, guys that the front office should want to keep. When looking more at the rotation, a handful of arms were expected to elevate the club in 2021 that suffered injuries or setbacks and now have a murkier future. When considering both the 26-man and 40-man rosters, where do these guys fit? Randy Dobnak Signed to an extension this offseason, Dobnak watched 2021 go about as poorly as it possibly could. He owned a 7.64 ERA and was optioned back to Triple-A at one point. Getting in just over 50 innings due to a finger injury was nothing short of a disaster. Under team control through 2025, his deal was more about being earned as a self-made big-leaguer rather than necessary to lock down a future cornerstone. Still, if he returns with a clean bill of health, his status as a 5th or 6th starter with swingman abilities should remain intact. Lewis Thorpe Arguably the most disappointing arm from 2021, considering what the expectations may have been, was Thorpe. His velocity was reported to have ticked up all spring, but that never carried over to games that count. He pitched just 15 innings at the big league level and showed no ability to strike batters out. After being a former high-ceiling prospect, he appears to have been deterred by Tommy John, time missed, and his own personal setbacks. With just shy of 60 innings since debuting in 2019, I’d be far from shocked if Thorpe isn’t jettisoned from the 40-man this offseason. Devin Smeltzer The last injury update on Smeltzer came back in July. He was transferred to the 60-day Injured List with left elbow inflammation. Pitching in just one game for the Twins this season, his year was over before it ever got started. Minnesota has been quiet as to what is next for Smeltzer, but elbow injuries are always scary. He’s certainly not an option for the Opening Day rotation in 2022, and at best, would be rotational depth. Smeltzer gave the 2019 Bomba Squad some really good innings but has largely been an afterthought since. Cody Stashak Each of the past two seasons, Stashak had been one of the Twins more dominant relievers. Although utilized in scarce innings, he racked up strikeouts and limited walks. That wasn’t so much the case in 2021. While the strikeouts saw a nice jump, he allowed ten free passes in 15 2/3 innings. Hitting the Injured List with a back issue, Stashak was transferred to the 60-day IL at the end of June. Ideally, he’d be a factor for Minnesota’s revamped bullpen next season. He’ll be just 28-years-old and has looked the part of a quality arm when healthy. Griffin Jax The first of two fringe arms discussed here, Jax wasn’t injured and has gotten run for Minnesota in the season's second half. He earned a promotion with a 3.76 ERA at Triple-A St. Paul this year. In 72 innings for the Twins, he owns a 6.75 ERA but has a near-identical strikeout and walk rate compared to his minor league numbers. Jax’s bugaboo has been the longball, and 21 of them burn him far too often. However, there have been instances where he looks like the stuff can play, so keeping him on the 40-man as rotational depth makes a good deal of sense. Charlie Barnes Another one of St. Paul’s strong starting arms this year, Barnes earned his call with a 3.88 ERA across 15 turns in the Triple-A rotation. Results haven’t followed at the big league level to the tune of a 6.61 ERA in 31 1/3 innings. He’s struggling by being too hittable with a H/9 north of 10, and his strikeout rate has fallen from 7.3 at Triple-A to 4.3 in the big leagues. Being able to miss bats is a must at the highest level, and the crafty lefty will need to go back to the drawing board this offseason. The former 4th round pick will be 26 next year and should remain in the organization as rotational depth. John Gant Netting Gant for what J.A. Happ was to the Twins remains a coup. I don’t know that I have a preference for where the former Cardinals arm finds his future in Minnesota, but under team control for another year, he’ll be on the roster. His 4.73 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, but the 3.46 FIP suggests there’s more to be had here. Gant is striking out 10.8 per nine with the Twins and has worked in a starting and bullpen role. He’ll be cheap and just 29-years-old, there’s no reason Minnesota shouldn’t keep him around for a second year. The Twins won’t be able to go into 2022, thinking their depth can produce as this year's case. It should be expected to help bolster what the frontline guys are capable of, but between injuries and ineffectiveness, there’s so much volatility once you get beyond that top tier. A learning year for the front office and the manager, working out who fits where in the year ahead is a must. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
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