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  1. These five players have key questions to answer in the season ahead. I promise none of them have to do with injuries. Image courtesy of Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports Yes, we all know that health uncertainty is the banner headline for the 2023 Twins. "If they're healthy" is the rallying cry for even the most optimistic fan. As pivotal as they are, these situations just aren't very fun to analyze or talk about, because they feel so beyond anyone's control. Much of the team's outlook hinges on whether Tyler Mahle can pitch without shoulder weakness, and Alex Kirilloff can swing without pain. These things either will happen or they won't, and if they don't, it's not necessarily anyone's fault. The human body is fickle. Today I'm going to look at five critical points of uncertainty for the Twins that have nothing to do with injuries. (Well, almost nothing.) Instead, it's about these players proving they can deliver in areas where the club really needs them if they're to achieve their goals. 1. Can Joe Ryan excel against good teams? Hidden in Ryan's very good overall numbers last year (13-8, 3.55 ERA in 147 innings over 27 starts) is the fact that his success was largely buoyed by beating up on horrible AL Central opponents. In eight starts against the Royals and Tigers, the two teams he faced more than any other, Ryan went 8-0 with a 0.94 ERA. He won every start, allowing just five earned runs on 26 hits (one homer) in 48 innings. Look: that's an absurd level of dominance against any major-league lineup. Ryan certainly deserves a ton of credit for being absolutely automatic in those match-ups. But the flip side is that against all other opponents, he went 5-8 with a 4.80 ERA. The 26-year-old has already established himself as a solid mid-rotation starter who can take care of business against lesser lineups. But with so many question marks elsewhere in the rotation, the Twins are really leaning on him to be more. Showing he can up his game against better offenses than Detroit and KC will be key, both because he'll face less of each in the rebalanced schedule, and because the Twins will (hopefully) need starters they can count on in the postseason. 2. Can Jorge Polanco fill Luis Arraez's OBP void? There's no question that Arraez's ability to get on base will be deeply missed, and his departure raises questions about how a power-driven lineup will fare without his penchant for creating opportunities. There's reason to hope Polanco can make up for some of what the top of the order just lost. You might look at Polanco's career .334 OBP and say, eh, nothing special. Even his .346 mark last year was quite ordinary. But here's the thing: he posted it while batting a career-low .235, thanks to DOUBLING his walk rate from 2021. Polanco's 14.4% BB rate last year would've ranked fifth-best in baseball if his at-bats qualified. If the newfound patience sticks and Polanco is able to sustain a similar walk rate while his batting average rebounds to somewhere in the range of his .270 career benchmark, you've got the recipe for an Arraez-like OBP, or better. To wit: if Polanco walked at same rate in 2021 – when he batted .269 with a .323 OBP – as he did in 2022, he would've had 92 walks and a .395 on-base percentage. 3. Can Nick Gordon make himself essential? Gordon is coming off a breakthrough season that earned him Most Improved Twin honors and saw him accrue nearly 450 plate appearances. In many cases, a campaign like that for a former first-round draft pick would open the door for a big opportunity, if not a starting role. But the circumstances of the offseason leave him in a spot where he'll be scrapping for playing time from the start, and potentially buried on the depth chart. He's not their top backup center fielder (that's Michael A. Taylor). He's not their best lefty-swinging backup corner OF or DH option (that's Trevor Larnach). He's not their top backup anywhere in the infield, and in fact, I'd be somewhat surprised if the Twins view him as anything more than an emergency option on the dirt. Injuries can of course change the equation here, but as things stand, Gordon will have a hard time finding his way off the bench with any regularity. That is, unless he can force the issue. At times last year the former light-hitting shortstop looked like a game-changing offensive force, like in August when he slashed .321/.360/.531 with three steals and 17 RBIs in 26 games. Gordon was electric. Bring more of that to the table, and Rocco Baldelli will find a way to get Gordon into the lineup as much as he can. 4. Can José Miranda play third base effectively? The viability of Miranda's bat is not in question after a convincing rookie campaign that saw him handle everything MLB pitchers could throw at him, thanks to high-contact swing that generated power to all fields. Now he needs to define his defensive future. If he's able to hold on as a capable third baseman, at least for a few years, as opposed to switching to 1B/DH duty, it'd be a boon for the team's planning and lineup-building. An early slide down the defensive spectrum diminished Arraez's value in the front office's eyes, but Miranda can still avoid that route. Thus far, I would say the signs are less than encouraging. His defense at third base checked out pretty poorly last year, by almost any measure or metric, and scouting reports were hardly glowing in the minors. But plenty of third basemen who looked rough as rookies went on to establish themselves at the hot corner (calling Corey Koskie), and Miranda's still only 24. His offseason efforts to slim down have also notably resulted in a body that, per Carlos Correa, "looks sexy." We'll see if the defense can follow suit. 5. Can Jorge Alcalá get lefties out? Coming off a season where he made only two appearances due to an elbow injury that ultimately required debridement surgery, Alcalá is obviously a health question mark. Can his arm hold up, much less get back to pumping the upper-90s heat that led to big results in 2020/21? The Twins seem to be counting on it, because they have yet to make any significant additions to their bullpen this offseason. Unless that changes, they're banking largely on Alcalá's return to provide depth in the mid-to-late innings, setting the table for Jhoan Durán and Jorge López at the back end. Even assuming he's healthy, Alcalá needs to turn one more corner to be the kind of weapon the Twins need him to be. He needs to overcome his susceptibility against left-handed pitchers, who have pummeled him to the tune of .275/.358/.508 in his MLB career. That .866 OPS is 354 points higher than his mark against righties. Baldelli will have the ability to strategically deploy Alcalá in favorable match-ups to an extent, but if the righty wants to truly be relied upon as a key late-inning weapon, he'll need to show he can handle the lefty sluggers and pinch-hitters that come his way. View full article
  2. Yes, we all know that health uncertainty is the banner headline for the 2023 Twins. "If they're healthy" is the rallying cry for even the most optimistic fan. As pivotal as they are, these situations just aren't very fun to analyze or talk about, because they feel so beyond anyone's control. Much of the team's outlook hinges on whether Tyler Mahle can pitch without shoulder weakness, and Alex Kirilloff can swing without pain. These things either will happen or they won't, and if they don't, it's not necessarily anyone's fault. The human body is fickle. Today I'm going to look at five critical points of uncertainty for the Twins that have nothing to do with injuries. (Well, almost nothing.) Instead, it's about these players proving they can deliver in areas where the club really needs them if they're to achieve their goals. 1. Can Joe Ryan excel against good teams? Hidden in Ryan's very good overall numbers last year (13-8, 3.55 ERA in 147 innings over 27 starts) is the fact that his success was largely buoyed by beating up on horrible AL Central opponents. In eight starts against the Royals and Tigers, the two teams he faced more than any other, Ryan went 8-0 with a 0.94 ERA. He won every start, allowing just five earned runs on 26 hits (one homer) in 48 innings. Look: that's an absurd level of dominance against any major-league lineup. Ryan certainly deserves a ton of credit for being absolutely automatic in those match-ups. But the flip side is that against all other opponents, he went 5-8 with a 4.80 ERA. The 26-year-old has already established himself as a solid mid-rotation starter who can take care of business against lesser lineups. But with so many question marks elsewhere in the rotation, the Twins are really leaning on him to be more. Showing he can up his game against better offenses than Detroit and KC will be key, both because he'll face less of each in the rebalanced schedule, and because the Twins will (hopefully) need starters they can count on in the postseason. 2. Can Jorge Polanco fill Luis Arraez's OBP void? There's no question that Arraez's ability to get on base will be deeply missed, and his departure raises questions about how a power-driven lineup will fare without his penchant for creating opportunities. There's reason to hope Polanco can make up for some of what the top of the order just lost. You might look at Polanco's career .334 OBP and say, eh, nothing special. Even his .346 mark last year was quite ordinary. But here's the thing: he posted it while batting a career-low .235, thanks to DOUBLING his walk rate from 2021. Polanco's 14.4% BB rate last year would've ranked fifth-best in baseball if his at-bats qualified. If the newfound patience sticks and Polanco is able to sustain a similar walk rate while his batting average rebounds to somewhere in the range of his .270 career benchmark, you've got the recipe for an Arraez-like OBP, or better. To wit: if Polanco walked at same rate in 2021 – when he batted .269 with a .323 OBP – as he did in 2022, he would've had 92 walks and a .395 on-base percentage. 3. Can Nick Gordon make himself essential? Gordon is coming off a breakthrough season that earned him Most Improved Twin honors and saw him accrue nearly 450 plate appearances. In many cases, a campaign like that for a former first-round draft pick would open the door for a big opportunity, if not a starting role. But the circumstances of the offseason leave him in a spot where he'll be scrapping for playing time from the start, and potentially buried on the depth chart. He's not their top backup center fielder (that's Michael A. Taylor). He's not their best lefty-swinging backup corner OF or DH option (that's Trevor Larnach). He's not their top backup anywhere in the infield, and in fact, I'd be somewhat surprised if the Twins view him as anything more than an emergency option on the dirt. Injuries can of course change the equation here, but as things stand, Gordon will have a hard time finding his way off the bench with any regularity. That is, unless he can force the issue. At times last year the former light-hitting shortstop looked like a game-changing offensive force, like in August when he slashed .321/.360/.531 with three steals and 17 RBIs in 26 games. Gordon was electric. Bring more of that to the table, and Rocco Baldelli will find a way to get Gordon into the lineup as much as he can. 4. Can José Miranda play third base effectively? The viability of Miranda's bat is not in question after a convincing rookie campaign that saw him handle everything MLB pitchers could throw at him, thanks to high-contact swing that generated power to all fields. Now he needs to define his defensive future. If he's able to hold on as a capable third baseman, at least for a few years, as opposed to switching to 1B/DH duty, it'd be a boon for the team's planning and lineup-building. An early slide down the defensive spectrum diminished Arraez's value in the front office's eyes, but Miranda can still avoid that route. Thus far, I would say the signs are less than encouraging. His defense at third base checked out pretty poorly last year, by almost any measure or metric, and scouting reports were hardly glowing in the minors. But plenty of third basemen who looked rough as rookies went on to establish themselves at the hot corner (calling Corey Koskie), and Miranda's still only 24. His offseason efforts to slim down have also notably resulted in a body that, per Carlos Correa, "looks sexy." We'll see if the defense can follow suit. 5. Can Jorge Alcalá get lefties out? Coming off a season where he made only two appearances due to an elbow injury that ultimately required debridement surgery, Alcalá is obviously a health question mark. Can his arm hold up, much less get back to pumping the upper-90s heat that led to big results in 2020/21? The Twins seem to be counting on it, because they have yet to make any significant additions to their bullpen this offseason. Unless that changes, they're banking largely on Alcalá's return to provide depth in the mid-to-late innings, setting the table for Jhoan Durán and Jorge López at the back end. Even assuming he's healthy, Alcalá needs to turn one more corner to be the kind of weapon the Twins need him to be. He needs to overcome his susceptibility against left-handed pitchers, who have pummeled him to the tune of .275/.358/.508 in his MLB career. That .866 OPS is 354 points higher than his mark against righties. Baldelli will have the ability to strategically deploy Alcalá in favorable match-ups to an extent, but if the righty wants to truly be relied upon as a key late-inning weapon, he'll need to show he can handle the lefty sluggers and pinch-hitters that come his way.
  3. Blayne Enlow and Cody Stashak are separated by five years of age and 72 MLB innings, with Enlow having yet to debut. Despite their stark differences, they both find themselves on the 40-man bubble this winter. What might the future hold for these two wild card bullpen options for 2023? Image courtesy of Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports The Twins have a returning base for their bullpen in theory, though it could be argued that one more dependable arm would be a good addition. Still, this year we saw how important it is for the fringes of your bullpen to have depth and talent in addition to the back end. For that reason, the Twins have some difficult decisions to make on a pair of relievers already holding 40-man spots this winter who are far from sure things. Cody Stashak Stashak at his best is the perfect reliever to occupy the fringes of a good team’s bullpen. His low velocity, two-pitch mix has been plenty effective with a career 27.6% K-rate and 4.7% walk rate. He established himself enough in both 2019 and 2020 to make appearances in the postseason. For a reliever that seems to have endeared himself to the Twins in his career, why does he find himself on the bubble? We haven’t heard Stashak’s name in a long time, as he was shut down after just 16 1/3 innings this year with shoulder issues that turned out to be a torn labrum. Pitchers do make their returns from such an injury, but with the question marks the recovery process raises, 28-year-old Stashak is far from a sure thing. Plenty of players will have to be trimmed from the 40-man to fit all of the returning 60-Day IL players back onto the team. With no-brainers including Jorge Alcala, Kenta Maeda, etc., Stashak's limited role and ceiling even when at 100% could make him a 40-man casualty. Also consider that it likely wasn’t a given that Stashak would return at all after a 2021 season in which he posted a near 7.00 ERA, due mostly to the fact that his impeccable walk rate swelled to 13.3%. It would be awesome to see Stashak return and fill a middle relief spot, but the fact of the matter is even though he’s a solid arm for the middle innings, his ceiling is limited, his health is in question, and it may not be hard to fill his role with upcoming players such as Ronny Henriquez or Cole Sands if either get moved to the bullpen full time. The Twins will have a tough decision to make on one of the few remaining pieces of the 2019 Bomba Squad bullpen. Blayne Enlow It feels like we’ve heard Enlow’s name for years… because we have. Despite being selected 76th overall in 2017, Enlow is still just 23 years old. One of their top pitching prospects for several years, Enlow’s prospect stock has taken a hit. Having missed 2021 with Tommy John surgery, he returned in 2022 making a few starts before finishing the season out of the bullpen, making it Double-A Wichita. At 23, it’s likely Enlow could build back up and have a normal career as a starting pitcher. His move to the bullpen, however, is an indication that the clock is ticking and that the Twins were hoping to see a shortened path for the 6’3 right-hander to the majors. Having made his last start on August 6, Enlow made 12 appearances out of the bullpen. He went 1-1 with 3 saves, but his 6.06 ERA with a 22.2% K rate and 12.3% BB rate doesn’t exactly indicate that he’ll be close to the majors to start 2023. It’s easy to argue that given his new role, he needs more time to adjust to the routines of a starting pitcher, but the biggest concern in terms of Enlow’s future as a Twin is how long such an adjustment could take. It’s possible he spends the winter adjusting and comes out of the gate more well-prepared for a short-stint role in 2023. It’s also possible that the Twins decide they don’t have the 40-man roster space to make such a gamble. At this point, the best-case scenario is that everything goes perfectly and he can debut in the Twins bullpen in mid-to-late 2023. Having only periodically flashed the high-end talent that compelled the Twins to take a prep pitcher early in the 2017 draft, it’s certainly possible that they see better uses for the 40-man spot he currently possesses. For two fringe bullpen pieces, it may not seem like that impactful of a decision for the Twins to make in regards to keeping them on the 40-man roster. Still though, their decisions on these two likely impact whether the team goes out and brings in external help or possibly impacts other players who will be on the 40-man roster bubble. Should the Twins keep one or both around for one more year? Should they let them go? Let us know below. View full article
  4. The Twins have a returning base for their bullpen in theory, though it could be argued that one more dependable arm would be a good addition. Still, this year we saw how important it is for the fringes of your bullpen to have depth and talent in addition to the back end. For that reason, the Twins have some difficult decisions to make on a pair of relievers already holding 40-man spots this winter who are far from sure things. Cody Stashak Stashak at his best is the perfect reliever to occupy the fringes of a good team’s bullpen. His low velocity, two-pitch mix has been plenty effective with a career 27.6% K-rate and 4.7% walk rate. He established himself enough in both 2019 and 2020 to make appearances in the postseason. For a reliever that seems to have endeared himself to the Twins in his career, why does he find himself on the bubble? We haven’t heard Stashak’s name in a long time, as he was shut down after just 16 1/3 innings this year with shoulder issues that turned out to be a torn labrum. Pitchers do make their returns from such an injury, but with the question marks the recovery process raises, 28-year-old Stashak is far from a sure thing. Plenty of players will have to be trimmed from the 40-man to fit all of the returning 60-Day IL players back onto the team. With no-brainers including Jorge Alcala, Kenta Maeda, etc., Stashak's limited role and ceiling even when at 100% could make him a 40-man casualty. Also consider that it likely wasn’t a given that Stashak would return at all after a 2021 season in which he posted a near 7.00 ERA, due mostly to the fact that his impeccable walk rate swelled to 13.3%. It would be awesome to see Stashak return and fill a middle relief spot, but the fact of the matter is even though he’s a solid arm for the middle innings, his ceiling is limited, his health is in question, and it may not be hard to fill his role with upcoming players such as Ronny Henriquez or Cole Sands if either get moved to the bullpen full time. The Twins will have a tough decision to make on one of the few remaining pieces of the 2019 Bomba Squad bullpen. Blayne Enlow It feels like we’ve heard Enlow’s name for years… because we have. Despite being selected 76th overall in 2017, Enlow is still just 23 years old. One of their top pitching prospects for several years, Enlow’s prospect stock has taken a hit. Having missed 2021 with Tommy John surgery, he returned in 2022 making a few starts before finishing the season out of the bullpen, making it Double-A Wichita. At 23, it’s likely Enlow could build back up and have a normal career as a starting pitcher. His move to the bullpen, however, is an indication that the clock is ticking and that the Twins were hoping to see a shortened path for the 6’3 right-hander to the majors. Having made his last start on August 6, Enlow made 12 appearances out of the bullpen. He went 1-1 with 3 saves, but his 6.06 ERA with a 22.2% K rate and 12.3% BB rate doesn’t exactly indicate that he’ll be close to the majors to start 2023. It’s easy to argue that given his new role, he needs more time to adjust to the routines of a starting pitcher, but the biggest concern in terms of Enlow’s future as a Twin is how long such an adjustment could take. It’s possible he spends the winter adjusting and comes out of the gate more well-prepared for a short-stint role in 2023. It’s also possible that the Twins decide they don’t have the 40-man roster space to make such a gamble. At this point, the best-case scenario is that everything goes perfectly and he can debut in the Twins bullpen in mid-to-late 2023. Having only periodically flashed the high-end talent that compelled the Twins to take a prep pitcher early in the 2017 draft, it’s certainly possible that they see better uses for the 40-man spot he currently possesses. For two fringe bullpen pieces, it may not seem like that impactful of a decision for the Twins to make in regards to keeping them on the 40-man roster. Still though, their decisions on these two likely impact whether the team goes out and brings in external help or possibly impacts other players who will be on the 40-man roster bubble. Should the Twins keep one or both around for one more year? Should they let them go? Let us know below.
  5. Coming off a 2021 Major League Baseball season that the Minnesota Twins would like to forget, there’s no denying that this version of the club has been much better. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone that didn’t expect more of this club, and while injuries have caused problems, there’s been performances leaving much to be desired. Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports Plenty of blame has been placed on Rocco Baldelli and the combination of Derek Flavey and Thad Levine. Some of that may be warranted, but the production, or lack thereof, falls on the shoulders of players. Whether through injury or ineffectiveness, Minnesota was certainly hoping to get more than they did this season from several different talents. There have been a few guys that could find themselves contending for the least valuable player to the Twins this season, but these five are the ones that stick out to me. Joe Smith Over the offseason there was only one bullpen addition made to a team that needed a turnaround in relief. Smith came in as a 38-year-old with shaky peripherals from last season. He’s a slider pitcher with a funk delivery that relies on deception to carry him. At no point was anyone deceived and the modest strikeout totals he used to generate never were present. Smith gave up homers in bunches and the largest issue here was probably that the front office held on too long. Jorge Alcala Disappointing not for performance, but lack thereof, Alcala was expected to be a key contributor in this bullpen. He was arguably the guy expected to step up as Jhoan Duran has, but ultimately contributed just three innings this season. Alcala suffered an arm injury and then setback after setback before his continually delayed timeline was updated to be through the end of the season. He’d be a big boost for the 2023 squad, but it’s hard to count on what he may be at that point. Alex Kirilloff Another injury-riddled season, Kirilloff underwent season-ending wrist surgery a year ago. Then he shut down his offseason routine because it didn’t entirely heal. He played through it for a while with muted results, went to St. Paul figured out how to make it work, then saw it flare up to the point of being unusable. Kirilloff was expected to be the first baseman and play plenty for Minnesota. Instead he underwent an even more significant procedure and now is a massive question mark coming into 2023. Still young, he can be an integral part of this club’s future, but his health must get right first. Gary Sanchez Acquired to be a rotational catcher with Ryan Jeffers, Sanchez was billed as being a potential solution given a fresh chance. Despite leaving New York, he’s been the same bad catcher we’ve seen for years, and without the occasional longball, there’d be no highlights to touch on at all. Ryan Jeffers going down for a significant period of time has only highlighted how little Sanchez can be relied upon on a daily basis. Emilio Pagan Acquired the day before the season began, Minnesota saw an opportunity to acquire value in the form of Chris Paddack. Taylor Rogers didn’t work out for the Padres and was ultimately shipped to Milwaukee, but Pagan could single-handedly be blamed as the reason Minnesota would wind up losing the division. He’s been given opportunity because of his raw stuff, but with little ability to execute, he’s proven to be the same pitcher Tampa Bay gave up on a handful of years ago. View full article
  6. Plenty of blame has been placed on Rocco Baldelli and the combination of Derek Flavey and Thad Levine. Some of that may be warranted, but the production, or lack thereof, falls on the shoulders of players. Whether through injury or ineffectiveness, Minnesota was certainly hoping to get more than they did this season from several different talents. There have been a few guys that could find themselves contending for the least valuable player to the Twins this season, but these five are the ones that stick out to me. Joe Smith Over the offseason there was only one bullpen addition made to a team that needed a turnaround in relief. Smith came in as a 38-year-old with shaky peripherals from last season. He’s a slider pitcher with a funk delivery that relies on deception to carry him. At no point was anyone deceived and the modest strikeout totals he used to generate never were present. Smith gave up homers in bunches and the largest issue here was probably that the front office held on too long. Jorge Alcala Disappointing not for performance, but lack thereof, Alcala was expected to be a key contributor in this bullpen. He was arguably the guy expected to step up as Jhoan Duran has, but ultimately contributed just three innings this season. Alcala suffered an arm injury and then setback after setback before his continually delayed timeline was updated to be through the end of the season. He’d be a big boost for the 2023 squad, but it’s hard to count on what he may be at that point. Alex Kirilloff Another injury-riddled season, Kirilloff underwent season-ending wrist surgery a year ago. Then he shut down his offseason routine because it didn’t entirely heal. He played through it for a while with muted results, went to St. Paul figured out how to make it work, then saw it flare up to the point of being unusable. Kirilloff was expected to be the first baseman and play plenty for Minnesota. Instead he underwent an even more significant procedure and now is a massive question mark coming into 2023. Still young, he can be an integral part of this club’s future, but his health must get right first. Gary Sanchez Acquired to be a rotational catcher with Ryan Jeffers, Sanchez was billed as being a potential solution given a fresh chance. Despite leaving New York, he’s been the same bad catcher we’ve seen for years, and without the occasional longball, there’d be no highlights to touch on at all. Ryan Jeffers going down for a significant period of time has only highlighted how little Sanchez can be relied upon on a daily basis. Emilio Pagan Acquired the day before the season began, Minnesota saw an opportunity to acquire value in the form of Chris Paddack. Taylor Rogers didn’t work out for the Padres and was ultimately shipped to Milwaukee, but Pagan could single-handedly be blamed as the reason Minnesota would wind up losing the division. He’s been given opportunity because of his raw stuff, but with little ability to execute, he’s proven to be the same pitcher Tampa Bay gave up on a handful of years ago.
  7. Twins fans will be clamoring to add more pitching depth at the trade deadline, and there’s little doubt the team will need pitching. However, as they return from injury, these three pitchers can bolster the team’s pitching staff. Injuries can play a significant role in a team’s eventual finish to the season, as clubs that have their key players are more likely to stay in contention. Expectations were high for two of the three players below to help the Twins in 2022, and one possibly being a late-season addition to the team’s plans. All three are expected to return before the season ends for a team fighting to stay in first place. Bailey Ober, SP Injury: Right Groin Strain Expected Return: Early July Bailey Ober was arguably Minnesota’s best pitcher in the second half of 2021, so hopes remained high for him entering his sophomore season. In seven starts (33 2/3 innings), he posted a 4.01 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP and a 29-to-7 strikeout to walk ratio. Before going on the IL, he allowed eight earned runs in his last two starts, so his numbers may have been impacted by him trying to play through the injury. When healthy, Ober has been one of the team’s most consistent pitchers, and his return will be a welcome addition to an improving rotation. It will be interesting to see what the Twins decide to do with the starting rotation. Currently, the Twins have five pitchers already occupying rotation spots, so the team will have a few options. Bringing Ober back might push the team to move to a six-man rotation. Candidates to remove from the rotation include Devin Smeltzer and Dylan Bundy. Smeltzer has been pitching well, but he has minor league options remaining. Bundy would have to be moved to the bullpen or designated for assignment. It seems likely for the team to switch to a six-man rotation because another injury will likely occur to a starter. Jorge Alcala, RP Injury: Right Elbow Inflammation Expected Return: July Minnesota’s bullpen has been a question mark for most of the season, with few pitchers having any level of trust. Alcala was projected to be one of the team’s high leverage relievers, but he has been limited to two appearances this season. Elbow issues can be problematic and linger, especially for high-velocity pitchers. There’s little doubt the Twins bullpen would take on a remarkably different view if Alcala was healthy and pitching late in games. At the beginning of June, Alcala appeared in a rehab assignment with Fort Myers, where he was hitting 96-97 mph on the radar gun. Unfortunately, his throwing progression was temporarily halted due to stiffness in his right elbow. Minnesota had Alcala continue to work on strengthening exercises, and he is expected to resume throwing this week. Kenta Maeda, SP/RP Injury: Modified Tommy John Surgery Expected Return: Possibly September Kenta Maeda has a chance to turn into Minnesota’s not-so-secret playoff reliever, especially based on his track record with the Dodgers. Luckily, Maeda had an internal brace put in the elbow to cut his recovery time down by a couple of months. His procedure took place on September 1, 2021, and the recovery time is 9-12 months. At the beginning of June, he shifted his recovery from the team’s Fort Myers facilities to Minneapolis so he could be closer to the team. Maeda has been throwing from flat ground at 120 feet and is scheduled to throw off the mound near the beginning of July. There is obviously no guarantee that Maeda will be back on the team’s roster this season. If the team wants him to start games, he will need a more lengthy rehab assignment to build up his workload. His best option to help the 2022 Twins may be to come out of the bullpen if the team’s doctors feel he is up to the task. How much do you think these three pitchers will help the Twins in the second half? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  8. Injuries can play a significant role in a team’s eventual finish to the season, as clubs that have their key players are more likely to stay in contention. Expectations were high for two of the three players below to help the Twins in 2022, and one possibly being a late-season addition to the team’s plans. All three are expected to return before the season ends for a team fighting to stay in first place. Bailey Ober, SP Injury: Right Groin Strain Expected Return: Early July Bailey Ober was arguably Minnesota’s best pitcher in the second half of 2021, so hopes remained high for him entering his sophomore season. In seven starts (33 2/3 innings), he posted a 4.01 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP and a 29-to-7 strikeout to walk ratio. Before going on the IL, he allowed eight earned runs in his last two starts, so his numbers may have been impacted by him trying to play through the injury. When healthy, Ober has been one of the team’s most consistent pitchers, and his return will be a welcome addition to an improving rotation. It will be interesting to see what the Twins decide to do with the starting rotation. Currently, the Twins have five pitchers already occupying rotation spots, so the team will have a few options. Bringing Ober back might push the team to move to a six-man rotation. Candidates to remove from the rotation include Devin Smeltzer and Dylan Bundy. Smeltzer has been pitching well, but he has minor league options remaining. Bundy would have to be moved to the bullpen or designated for assignment. It seems likely for the team to switch to a six-man rotation because another injury will likely occur to a starter. Jorge Alcala, RP Injury: Right Elbow Inflammation Expected Return: July Minnesota’s bullpen has been a question mark for most of the season, with few pitchers having any level of trust. Alcala was projected to be one of the team’s high leverage relievers, but he has been limited to two appearances this season. Elbow issues can be problematic and linger, especially for high-velocity pitchers. There’s little doubt the Twins bullpen would take on a remarkably different view if Alcala was healthy and pitching late in games. At the beginning of June, Alcala appeared in a rehab assignment with Fort Myers, where he was hitting 96-97 mph on the radar gun. Unfortunately, his throwing progression was temporarily halted due to stiffness in his right elbow. Minnesota had Alcala continue to work on strengthening exercises, and he is expected to resume throwing this week. Kenta Maeda, SP/RP Injury: Modified Tommy John Surgery Expected Return: Possibly September Kenta Maeda has a chance to turn into Minnesota’s not-so-secret playoff reliever, especially based on his track record with the Dodgers. Luckily, Maeda had an internal brace put in the elbow to cut his recovery time down by a couple of months. His procedure took place on September 1, 2021, and the recovery time is 9-12 months. At the beginning of June, he shifted his recovery from the team’s Fort Myers facilities to Minneapolis so he could be closer to the team. Maeda has been throwing from flat ground at 120 feet and is scheduled to throw off the mound near the beginning of July. There is obviously no guarantee that Maeda will be back on the team’s roster this season. If the team wants him to start games, he will need a more lengthy rehab assignment to build up his workload. His best option to help the 2022 Twins may be to come out of the bullpen if the team’s doctors feel he is up to the task. How much do you think these three pitchers will help the Twins in the second half? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  9. Tyler Duffey nearly blew a five run lead against the Blue Jays on Sunday. With the AL Central there for the taking, it's time for the Twins to move on. On Sunday, in a series against a red hot playoff contender, Tyler Duffey entered the game with a 8-3 lead, courtesy of solid pitching, some good luck, and a remarkable offensive performance by the Twins against Kevin Gausman. He left it having given up a walk, three hits, a three-run home run, and recording just two outs. Jovani Moran replaced Duffey to get the final out for the Twins and secure an unlikely series win in Toronto. I’m not usually one to advocate for reactionary moves or cut bait on long-time contributors to the team, but it’s time to move on from Tyler Duffey. Duffey By the Numbers Let’s start by putting some of Duffey’s 2022 numbers in perspective. Out of 193 qualified relievers, he ranks 172nd in ERA, 187th in xERA, and 170th in HR/9. I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice to say, there are a lot of categories in which Duffey ranks in the bottom handful of relievers in the league. If we look into more advanced numbers, we see a similar story. Looking at his Statcast profile percentiles, Duffey is 6th percentile in average exit velocity, first percentile in HardHit%, first percentile is xBA. The list goes on, and it does not make for encouraging reading. Results and Process Duffey’s numbers may be poor, but perhaps a peek under the hood tells a story his numbers do not? After all, we’re talking about the same reliever who managed a 33.6 K% and 2.79 xERA in 2020, and was even better in 2019. Duffey’s command tells the story of his 2022. Here’s the location of his four seam fastball in 2022. Here’s the location of his curveball in 2022. Let’s compare the curveball to that of Jhoan Duran in 2022. There are two major takeaways here. Duffey is leaving his fastball out over the heart of the plate far too often. He has some of the poorest velocity and stuff in the Twins bullpen. Duffey’s fastball location is a non-starter. Simply put, it is not a good enough pitch to have location this poor. Opposing hitters are teeing off on it, to the tune of a .649 SLG and 64% hard hit %. Additionally, he’s throwing too many uncompetitive curveballs. There are too many breaking pitches starting off the plate and finishing way off the plate. Hitters are picking up on this and sitting on his fastball because his curveball often starts slightly too low or too far outside. Roster Crunch Duffey earns $3.2 million in 2022, hardly expensive for a reliever. Even though from a performance perspective I think he should be DFA'd, I think it’s unlikely the Twins will. He has a lengthy tenure with the team and is a strong presence in the clubhouse. The challenge becomes, who do you send down to the minors to keep Duffey on the roster? Every option I can think of has an advantage in velocity or stuff that I wouldn’t sacrifice to keep Duffey on the team. Trevor Megill? Throws 98 mph and has a 36% K% in his first 8 innings. Jharel Cotton? 3.22 xERA so far in 2022. Jovani Moran? 46% K% and a legitimately dominant left-handed changeup. Throw into the mix that Jorge Alcala will return to the team in the next week and give the bullpen a much needed boost and the Twins could have a bullpen crunch in the near future. Duffey has been an incredible servant to the Twins and burned brightly in 2019 and 2020 as a legitimately dominant reliever. But now is not a time for sentimentality. The AL Central is there for the taking. Which inning of a close game do you want Tyler Duffey pitching in September against the White Sox? View full article
  10. On Sunday, in a series against a red hot playoff contender, Tyler Duffey entered the game with a 8-3 lead, courtesy of solid pitching, some good luck, and a remarkable offensive performance by the Twins against Kevin Gausman. He left it having given up a walk, three hits, a three-run home run, and recording just two outs. Jovani Moran replaced Duffey to get the final out for the Twins and secure an unlikely series win in Toronto. I’m not usually one to advocate for reactionary moves or cut bait on long-time contributors to the team, but it’s time to move on from Tyler Duffey. Duffey By the Numbers Let’s start by putting some of Duffey’s 2022 numbers in perspective. Out of 193 qualified relievers, he ranks 172nd in ERA, 187th in xERA, and 170th in HR/9. I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice to say, there are a lot of categories in which Duffey ranks in the bottom handful of relievers in the league. If we look into more advanced numbers, we see a similar story. Looking at his Statcast profile percentiles, Duffey is 6th percentile in average exit velocity, first percentile in HardHit%, first percentile is xBA. The list goes on, and it does not make for encouraging reading. Results and Process Duffey’s numbers may be poor, but perhaps a peek under the hood tells a story his numbers do not? After all, we’re talking about the same reliever who managed a 33.6 K% and 2.79 xERA in 2020, and was even better in 2019. Duffey’s command tells the story of his 2022. Here’s the location of his four seam fastball in 2022. Here’s the location of his curveball in 2022. Let’s compare the curveball to that of Jhoan Duran in 2022. There are two major takeaways here. Duffey is leaving his fastball out over the heart of the plate far too often. He has some of the poorest velocity and stuff in the Twins bullpen. Duffey’s fastball location is a non-starter. Simply put, it is not a good enough pitch to have location this poor. Opposing hitters are teeing off on it, to the tune of a .649 SLG and 64% hard hit %. Additionally, he’s throwing too many uncompetitive curveballs. There are too many breaking pitches starting off the plate and finishing way off the plate. Hitters are picking up on this and sitting on his fastball because his curveball often starts slightly too low or too far outside. Roster Crunch Duffey earns $3.2 million in 2022, hardly expensive for a reliever. Even though from a performance perspective I think he should be DFA'd, I think it’s unlikely the Twins will. He has a lengthy tenure with the team and is a strong presence in the clubhouse. The challenge becomes, who do you send down to the minors to keep Duffey on the roster? Every option I can think of has an advantage in velocity or stuff that I wouldn’t sacrifice to keep Duffey on the team. Trevor Megill? Throws 98 mph and has a 36% K% in his first 8 innings. Jharel Cotton? 3.22 xERA so far in 2022. Jovani Moran? 46% K% and a legitimately dominant left-handed changeup. Throw into the mix that Jorge Alcala will return to the team in the next week and give the bullpen a much needed boost and the Twins could have a bullpen crunch in the near future. Duffey has been an incredible servant to the Twins and burned brightly in 2019 and 2020 as a legitimately dominant reliever. But now is not a time for sentimentality. The AL Central is there for the taking. Which inning of a close game do you want Tyler Duffey pitching in September against the White Sox?
  11. 1. Reinforcements are on the way A big reason why the Minnesota Twins have struggled over the last couple weeks have been because of the sheer number of players that they have been missing in these games. Just to list the name of players that have hit the injured list over the past two weeks illustrates how dire it has been: Carlos Correa (COVID-19), Joe Ryan (COVID-19), Gilberto Celestino (COVID-19), Josh Winder (Shoulder), Sonny Gray (Pectoral), Royce Lewis (Knee), Danny Coulombe (Hip). The good news for the Twins, though, is that many of these players figure to be back shortly. It’s been just about one week since Ryan, Celestino and Correa hit the COVID-19 list and they figure to be back in the fold in just a few short days. Additionally, Jorge Alcala has already begun his rehab assignment as he reaches the end of his time on the 60-day injured list, and all reports point to his arm looking strong. The return timelines of Josh Winder, Sonny Gray and Royce Lewis are less clear, but all three of these vital players appear to have avoided major injuries and figure to be healthy in turn for the late summer home stretch of the season. Finally, the Twins are close to getting Alex Kirilloff added back onto the squad as well. Kirilloff struggled mightily during his time with the Twins, but since getting sent back down to AAA, Kirilloff has found his groove to the tune of a .863 OPS. Getting Kirilloff back to his expected form would be a big time addition. 2. White Sox Look Terrible For as bad as the Minnesota Twins have looked lately, the Chicago White Sox have looked even worse. The team that everyone expected to run away with the American League Central has not at all looked the part all season. After falling prey to a sweep from the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday afternoon, the White Sox now find themselves at 23-26 with a negative-55 run differential, the second-worst run differential in the American League. While true that the schedule is about to get tough for the Twins, the White Sox face an equally tough slate with their next six games coming against the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s hard to envision the Guardians, Tigers, or Royals making any sort of run at the American League Central, and with the White Sox looking as bad as they have looked, there’s still plenty of reason to feel optimistic about the Twins’ chances of making the playoffs. 3. Third Wild Card Spot If the White Sox do figure things out and start playing much better than they have over the first third of the season, the Twins still have a great shot at making the playoffs via the Wildcard. As a part of the new CBA agreement, there are now three Wildcard teams that make the American League playoffs. In an American League where nine teams currently have a record under .500, it shouldn’t take any more than 85 wins to make the playoffs. To put that in perspective, the Twins would just need to play .500 baseball over the balance of the season to lock down a playoff spot. Additionally, all Wildcard teams are now guaranteed an extended playoff series, rather than a one-game playoff. There is certainly reason to be frustrated with how the Minnesota Twins have been playing lately. However, with the reinforcements on the way, along with the way the White Sox have been playing and the fact that three Wild Card teams from the American League will make the playoffs, the Minnesota Twins still find themselves in a good spot to reach the postseason, where anything can happen (even if you’re the Minnesota Twins). Are you worried about the Minnesota Twins? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!
  12. There is a lot of concern in Minnesota Twins Territory after the Twins four of five games against the Detroit Tigers this week. Don’t sound the alarms, though, there are plenty of reasons not to worry. 1. Reinforcements are on the way A big reason why the Minnesota Twins have struggled over the last couple weeks have been because of the sheer number of players that they have been missing in these games. Just to list the name of players that have hit the injured list over the past two weeks illustrates how dire it has been: Carlos Correa (COVID-19), Joe Ryan (COVID-19), Gilberto Celestino (COVID-19), Josh Winder (Shoulder), Sonny Gray (Pectoral), Royce Lewis (Knee), Danny Coulombe (Hip). The good news for the Twins, though, is that many of these players figure to be back shortly. It’s been just about one week since Ryan, Celestino and Correa hit the COVID-19 list and they figure to be back in the fold in just a few short days. Additionally, Jorge Alcala has already begun his rehab assignment as he reaches the end of his time on the 60-day injured list, and all reports point to his arm looking strong. The return timelines of Josh Winder, Sonny Gray and Royce Lewis are less clear, but all three of these vital players appear to have avoided major injuries and figure to be healthy in turn for the late summer home stretch of the season. Finally, the Twins are close to getting Alex Kirilloff added back onto the squad as well. Kirilloff struggled mightily during his time with the Twins, but since getting sent back down to AAA, Kirilloff has found his groove to the tune of a .863 OPS. Getting Kirilloff back to his expected form would be a big time addition. 2. White Sox Look Terrible For as bad as the Minnesota Twins have looked lately, the Chicago White Sox have looked even worse. The team that everyone expected to run away with the American League Central has not at all looked the part all season. After falling prey to a sweep from the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday afternoon, the White Sox now find themselves at 23-26 with a negative-55 run differential, the second-worst run differential in the American League. While true that the schedule is about to get tough for the Twins, the White Sox face an equally tough slate with their next six games coming against the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s hard to envision the Guardians, Tigers, or Royals making any sort of run at the American League Central, and with the White Sox looking as bad as they have looked, there’s still plenty of reason to feel optimistic about the Twins’ chances of making the playoffs. 3. Third Wild Card Spot If the White Sox do figure things out and start playing much better than they have over the first third of the season, the Twins still have a great shot at making the playoffs via the Wildcard. As a part of the new CBA agreement, there are now three Wildcard teams that make the American League playoffs. In an American League where nine teams currently have a record under .500, it shouldn’t take any more than 85 wins to make the playoffs. To put that in perspective, the Twins would just need to play .500 baseball over the balance of the season to lock down a playoff spot. Additionally, all Wildcard teams are now guaranteed an extended playoff series, rather than a one-game playoff. There is certainly reason to be frustrated with how the Minnesota Twins have been playing lately. However, with the reinforcements on the way, along with the way the White Sox have been playing and the fact that three Wild Card teams from the American League will make the playoffs, the Minnesota Twins still find themselves in a good spot to reach the postseason, where anything can happen (even if you’re the Minnesota Twins). Are you worried about the Minnesota Twins? Leave a comment below and start the conversation! View full article
  13. One of the easiest things to complain about regarding a manager is their bullpen usage. There was always going to be opportunity for that this season, given the relative uncertainty of the group, and Baldelli was always going to need time to let arms filter into their spots. Only a couple of weeks into the season, there’s no reason for any severe hand-wringing, but a couple of observations opportunities have presented themselves. Jhoan Duran is maybe the most exciting arm in Minnesota Twins pitching history. He’s certainly not going to be the best, but the velocity is unmatched and may forever be. It’s something this organization had never seen before and also a great outcome from the trade that sent Eduardo Escobar to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Early returns have suggested he can be an impact thrower at the back end of the Twins bullpen. He may even have taken over the closer role for the departed Rogers by the end of the season. But should he be a multi-inning reliever? That’s questionable, and it’s something worth keeping an eye on. Working two innings against the Red Sox, there was a notable dip in Duran’s velocity when he came back out. It’s not as though he wasn’t still throwing hard, but the consistency in which triple-digits were reached wasn’t maintained. Some arms are more impacted by a total number of pitches, while others could be deterred more by coming off the bench for a second inning. Whatever Duran’s role going forward is, the goal will be to get the best and most effective version of him. Only two lefties are available in Minnesota’s bullpen as it’s currently constructed, and Caleb Thielbar is probably the better of them. Not only is he a great story, but the 3.00 ERA and 10.6 K/9 over the past two seasons have been suggestive of a great arm. Even with that production, he’s still best suited in ideal spots, and that’s why Baldelli’s decision to go with him in the 8th inning of a one-run game against two righties against Boston was odd. Minnesota’s offense was non-existent on Easter Sunday, but trailing by just one looking to get their final at-bats, Thielbar was tasked with protecting a lead. He came in against Kike Hernandez and was also set to face Xander Bogaerts. Both of them are solid hitting right-handers, and they did predictable damage. Giving up four runs generating just a single out, Thielbar was ineffective in a suboptimal situation. That outing leaves us to question what the back-end of the bullpen will look like going forward and how Baldelli will choose spots. Tyler Duffey was given the first save opportunity and blew it, but he’s a good arm even with declined velocity. Jorge Alcala isn’t going to factor in for some time, and Emilio Pagan could step into those high-leverage shoes. Joe Smith is a tested veteran who has previously performed well on good teams, and the aforementioned Duran will always be in the mix. It seems that this front office is intent on avoiding paydays for relievers, but the pen they have constructed is a solid one. Give Baldelli some time to decide how he and Wes Johnson will run these arms out, and I think there’s an opportunity for it to be one of baseball’s better units.
  14. The day before the Minnesota Twins were set to kick off their 2022 Major League Baseball season, closer and clubhouse veteran Taylor Rogers was traded. There was internal confidence in this bullpen, and it seemed warranted, but Rocco Baldelli has had the group out of whack at times. One of the easiest things to complain about regarding a manager is their bullpen usage. There was always going to be opportunity for that this season, given the relative uncertainty of the group, and Baldelli was always going to need time to let arms filter into their spots. Only a couple of weeks into the season, there’s no reason for any severe hand-wringing, but a couple of observations opportunities have presented themselves. Jhoan Duran is maybe the most exciting arm in Minnesota Twins pitching history. He’s certainly not going to be the best, but the velocity is unmatched and may forever be. It’s something this organization had never seen before and also a great outcome from the trade that sent Eduardo Escobar to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Early returns have suggested he can be an impact thrower at the back end of the Twins bullpen. He may even have taken over the closer role for the departed Rogers by the end of the season. But should he be a multi-inning reliever? That’s questionable, and it’s something worth keeping an eye on. Working two innings against the Red Sox, there was a notable dip in Duran’s velocity when he came back out. It’s not as though he wasn’t still throwing hard, but the consistency in which triple-digits were reached wasn’t maintained. Some arms are more impacted by a total number of pitches, while others could be deterred more by coming off the bench for a second inning. Whatever Duran’s role going forward is, the goal will be to get the best and most effective version of him. Only two lefties are available in Minnesota’s bullpen as it’s currently constructed, and Caleb Thielbar is probably the better of them. Not only is he a great story, but the 3.00 ERA and 10.6 K/9 over the past two seasons have been suggestive of a great arm. Even with that production, he’s still best suited in ideal spots, and that’s why Baldelli’s decision to go with him in the 8th inning of a one-run game against two righties against Boston was odd. Minnesota’s offense was non-existent on Easter Sunday, but trailing by just one looking to get their final at-bats, Thielbar was tasked with protecting a lead. He came in against Kike Hernandez and was also set to face Xander Bogaerts. Both of them are solid hitting right-handers, and they did predictable damage. Giving up four runs generating just a single out, Thielbar was ineffective in a suboptimal situation. That outing leaves us to question what the back-end of the bullpen will look like going forward and how Baldelli will choose spots. Tyler Duffey was given the first save opportunity and blew it, but he’s a good arm even with declined velocity. Jorge Alcala isn’t going to factor in for some time, and Emilio Pagan could step into those high-leverage shoes. Joe Smith is a tested veteran who has previously performed well on good teams, and the aforementioned Duran will always be in the mix. It seems that this front office is intent on avoiding paydays for relievers, but the pen they have constructed is a solid one. Give Baldelli some time to decide how he and Wes Johnson will run these arms out, and I think there’s an opportunity for it to be one of baseball’s better units. View full article
  15. I won’t fault you if you don’t remember Juan Morillo. He pitched for Minnesota in 2009 and threw just two innings. He gave up a home run and five runs before never seeing the big leagues again. What he did do in that brief six-out appearance was throw a pitch clocked at 101.1 mph. After his departure, Minnesota has seen just two other pitchers register a triple-digit fastball. Brusdar Graterol, now with the Dodgers, checked in at 101.9 mph, and current reliever Jorge Alcala, who went on the IL on Tuesday with elbow inflamation, once touched 100.9 mph. Until now. Duran has been groomed as a starter for the Twins throughout his development. Across 82 minor league games, 80 of those appearances have come in a start. It’s gone well to the tune of a 3.99 ERA and consistent double-digit strikeout per nine numbers since 2018. If there’s been a problem, it’s been in the form of health and durability. Duran has never pitched more than 115 innings during a season, and last year for St. Paul, he was limited to just 16 innings while battling shoulder issues. Fast forward to this spring, and it seemed both beneficial and planned that Duran would throw out of the bullpen. The fireballer was used in relief, whether by design and adding to their internal group or through necessity to protect his workload. After a strong showing down in Fort Myers, Duran is now three innings into his Major League career. The Dominican has a 4/1 K/BB ratio while allowing just two hits. Aside from the eye-popping velocity, which has averaged 100.9 mph this season, his Statcast numbers compare beautifully across the league. His current 19% whiff rate would’ve ranked 4th among qualified relievers last season, just behind Liam Hendriks and ahead of Devin Williams. He’s avoided hard contact and missed barrels. Although Duran hasn’t yet forced batters to chase outside the zone, he’s kept them off-balance by simply being unhittable. The problem for the opposition is that Duran isn’t just firing straight fastballs either. His splinker is a unique offering, and that pitch has averaged 96.1 mph. The amount of movement and run he gets on both pitches creates an unfair situation for opposing batters when trying to both meet the pitch and connect optimally. It’s in the repertoire that we find his most significant reason to remain in relief. Again, the sample size is tiny, but Minnesota has turned its weapon into a two-pitch pitcher. He’s throwing the slider, a pitch the organization definitely believes in, just two percent of the time. His curveball offering has shown up 19% of the time but remains an off-speed secondary to combat the velocity. Each time Duran has stepped onto the mount this season, it’s been guaranteed that the radar gun will light up. He turns a Statcast readout red and gives the Twins something they haven’t had. What his current or future role becomes in the bullpen pecking order seems to be determined, but closer or not, knowing he’s a weapon is a significant value add for both Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson. In the age of mixing and matching arms situationally, someone like this could be matchup proof, and at just 24-years-old, that’s massive. These Twins aren’t the ones you’ve been used to in the past. It’s a different front office and now an organization that employs both the highest-paid infielder and one of the hardest throwers in the league—what a time to be alive.
  16. The day before the 2022 Major League Baseball season began, the Minnesota Twins traded their closer, Taylor Rogers. Long before that move, it appeared that Jhoan Duran would make the Opening Day roster, and closer or not, it seems he may be everything the organization has been looking for. I won’t fault you if you don’t remember Juan Morillo. He pitched for Minnesota in 2009 and threw just two innings. He gave up a home run and five runs before never seeing the big leagues again. What he did do in that brief six-out appearance was throw a pitch clocked at 101.1 mph. After his departure, Minnesota has seen just two other pitchers register a triple-digit fastball. Brusdar Graterol, now with the Dodgers, checked in at 101.9 mph, and current reliever Jorge Alcala, who went on the IL on Tuesday with elbow inflamation, once touched 100.9 mph. Until now. Duran has been groomed as a starter for the Twins throughout his development. Across 82 minor league games, 80 of those appearances have come in a start. It’s gone well to the tune of a 3.99 ERA and consistent double-digit strikeout per nine numbers since 2018. If there’s been a problem, it’s been in the form of health and durability. Duran has never pitched more than 115 innings during a season, and last year for St. Paul, he was limited to just 16 innings while battling shoulder issues. Fast forward to this spring, and it seemed both beneficial and planned that Duran would throw out of the bullpen. The fireballer was used in relief, whether by design and adding to their internal group or through necessity to protect his workload. After a strong showing down in Fort Myers, Duran is now three innings into his Major League career. The Dominican has a 4/1 K/BB ratio while allowing just two hits. Aside from the eye-popping velocity, which has averaged 100.9 mph this season, his Statcast numbers compare beautifully across the league. His current 19% whiff rate would’ve ranked 4th among qualified relievers last season, just behind Liam Hendriks and ahead of Devin Williams. He’s avoided hard contact and missed barrels. Although Duran hasn’t yet forced batters to chase outside the zone, he’s kept them off-balance by simply being unhittable. The problem for the opposition is that Duran isn’t just firing straight fastballs either. His splinker is a unique offering, and that pitch has averaged 96.1 mph. The amount of movement and run he gets on both pitches creates an unfair situation for opposing batters when trying to both meet the pitch and connect optimally. It’s in the repertoire that we find his most significant reason to remain in relief. Again, the sample size is tiny, but Minnesota has turned its weapon into a two-pitch pitcher. He’s throwing the slider, a pitch the organization definitely believes in, just two percent of the time. His curveball offering has shown up 19% of the time but remains an off-speed secondary to combat the velocity. Each time Duran has stepped onto the mount this season, it’s been guaranteed that the radar gun will light up. He turns a Statcast readout red and gives the Twins something they haven’t had. What his current or future role becomes in the bullpen pecking order seems to be determined, but closer or not, knowing he’s a weapon is a significant value add for both Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson. In the age of mixing and matching arms situationally, someone like this could be matchup proof, and at just 24-years-old, that’s massive. These Twins aren’t the ones you’ve been used to in the past. It’s a different front office and now an organization that employs both the highest-paid infielder and one of the hardest throwers in the league—what a time to be alive. View full article
  17. With 31 hours until their first game, the Twins traded away their closer, Taylor Rogers. With the season starting very soon, the Twins now have a few big question marks in their bullpen. Who will they rely on to get big outs in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings? What roles will each reliever play in the bullpen? How confident are we in each arm? Here are confidence rankings in the Twins bullpen. Minnesota has made a plethora of moves in the offseason in hopes of going from worst to first in the AL Central. The most recent of these moves was trading away Taylor Rogers and Brent Rooker to the San Diego Padres for right-handed pitchers Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagán. The Twins added some starting pitching depth with Paddack but downgraded their bullpen when they went from one of the better closers in the game in Rogers to a reliever looking to get back to his 2019 self, Pagán. With the Twins figuring to start the year with a six-man rotation, they will have ten bullpen arms. Here are my confidence rankings of the ten. 10. Jhon Romero Romero was claimed off waivers from the Washington Nationals on March 21, and he will serve primarily to eat innings in Minnesota. Romero throws in the mid-90s with a ton of vertical break on his fastball, so he may need to develop a plus-offspeed pitch, but he is a promising reliever for the Twins. Romero made five appearances for the Nationals in 2021, giving up two earned runs and striking out three batters in four innings of work. He will need to earn the trust of the Twins and the Twins fan base before they can gain confidence in him pitching in big spots. 9. Danny Coulombe A pleasant surprise in 2021, the left-handed Coulombe threw 34.1 innings for the Twins with a 3.67 ERA and a 3.75 FIP. The 32-year-old journeyman is an offspeed pitcher, throwing 66 percent of his pitches as either sliders or curveballs in 2021. Coulombe was also very good at controlling free passes, as he only walked five percent of opposing batters. In 2022, I see the Twins using Coulombe against left-handed batters, as he and Caleb Thielbar are now the only left-handers in their bullpen. Coulombe still needs to prove that he can sustain this level of success, but he could quickly jump up these rankings. 8. Josh Winder Along with teammate Jhoan Duran, Winder displayed some of the best stuff in big league spring training out of all pitchers in 2022. Injuries shortened Winder's 2021 season, but he still managed to go 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA between AA and AAA. He had a sub-1 WHIP, and the hard-throwing righty limits walks and strikes guys out, leading me to believe that he will have no problem transferring his game to the big league level. Winder will be a long reliever, and he will probably make some spot starts in 2022. 7. Jharel Cotton A pitcher nobody is talking about, Jharel Cotton could be the most underrated pitcher in the Twins bullpen. Cotton has the most vertical break on his fastball out of any pitcher in MLB and a highly effective changeup to pair with it. He had a 3.52 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 30 innings for the Texas Rangers in 2021. Cotton will be used in primarily lower leverage situations to start, and his workload could see an uptick with good performance. 6. Caleb Thielbar Despite not having an overwhelming fastball, Caleb Thielbar has done one thing very well over the past two seasons with the Twins. And that is preventing runs. Thielbar only averages 91 miles per hour on his fastball, but it pairs well with his loopy 72 mile per hour curveball. Since 2020, Thielbar has had a 3.00 ERA with 99 strikeouts in 84 innings. Although he was used in low leverage situations in 2020, with the subtraction of Taylor Rogers, the Twins will turn to Thielbar to get crucial outs against left-handed hitters, who batted .214 against him in 2021. 5. Joe Smith An under-the-radar signing for the Twins this offseason, the Twins signed former Astro Joe Smith to a one-year deal. Despite his unorthodox delivery, the 38-year-old has always had major league-level success. His 4.99 ERA in 2021 was misleading, as poor batted-ball luck inflated his ERA. His xERA was 3.55, and he has a 3.08 career ERA. Smith should slot nicely into a middle relief role, especially against righties, against whom he has allowed a .607 OPS in his career. 4. Jhoan Duran As pitchers are throwing harder than ever before, the Twins' only fireballer on the staff in 2021 was Jorge Alcalá. Until now. Jhoan Duran made the Twins opening day roster, and when he debuts, he will be electric. The centerpiece of the Eduardo Escobar trade in 2018, Duran sits in the upper 90s with his fastball, topping at 101 miles per hour in spring training. Duran had the highest STUFF+ ratings in spring training despite a small sample size. For years to come, Duran's nasty stuff could lead to him being a weapon at the back of the Twins bullpen. 3. Emilio Pagán One of the more intriguing pitchers on Minnesota's roster, Pagán will look to return to his Tampa Bay form. In 2019, Pagán was one of the best relievers in baseball as he struck out 96 batters in 70 innings with the Rays. He also had a 2.31 ERA and recorded 20 saves. He struck out 36 percent of batters and only walked 4.9 percent. When he got to San Diego, he took a step back. In 2021, he went 4-3 with a 4.83 ERA in 63 innings. He gave up 16 home runs in those 63 innings, and he ranked in the seventh percentile of all pitchers in xSLG. Pagán, like the next pitcher on this list, will look to get back to his former self. Pagán will most likely start the year as the Twins' closer. 2. Tyler Duffey After being one of the best relievers in baseball in 2019 and 2020, Duffey took a significant step back in 2021 and will need to rediscover his success for the Twins to have a shutdown bullpen in 2022. In 2019-20, Duffey was in the 93rd percentile of pitchers in strikeout percentage and the 92nd percentile in xERA. He also had a 2.26 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 83.2 innings. In 2021, Duffey was in the 54th percentile in strikeout percentage and the 66th percentile in xERA. He had a 3.18 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 62 innings. While Duffey was by no means terrible in 2021, he was a different pitcher than he was in 2019 and 2020. Duffey will be a significant part of the Twins bullpen in 2022, especially if he can regain his old form. 1. Jorge Alcalá Alcalá has always been a high octane arm who has shown flashes of dominance, and he offered three signs he was on the verge of breaking out in 2021. Alcalá has a 3.48 ERA in 85 career innings, and his stuff plays very well, as he is in the 96th percentile of all MLB pitchers in fastball velocity and chase rate. This combination could be due to him using his fastball less and his changeup more. He was also in the 86th percentile of pitchers in walk percentage in 2021. This combination of good stuff and low walk rates could lead to Alcalá being a force in the back of the Twins bullpen in 2022. With Taylor Rogers gone, I look for Alcalá to take over the closer role in 2022. Who are your top three relievers for the Twins in 2022? What would you change about these rankings? Are there any guys currently in the minors who you think will majorly impact the bullpen? Let me know in the comments and start a discussion. Thank you for reading, and Go Twins! View full article
  18. Minnesota has made a plethora of moves in the offseason in hopes of going from worst to first in the AL Central. The most recent of these moves was trading away Taylor Rogers and Brent Rooker to the San Diego Padres for right-handed pitchers Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagán. The Twins added some starting pitching depth with Paddack but downgraded their bullpen when they went from one of the better closers in the game in Rogers to a reliever looking to get back to his 2019 self, Pagán. With the Twins figuring to start the year with a six-man rotation, they will have ten bullpen arms. Here are my confidence rankings of the ten. 10. Jhon Romero Romero was claimed off waivers from the Washington Nationals on March 21, and he will serve primarily to eat innings in Minnesota. Romero throws in the mid-90s with a ton of vertical break on his fastball, so he may need to develop a plus-offspeed pitch, but he is a promising reliever for the Twins. Romero made five appearances for the Nationals in 2021, giving up two earned runs and striking out three batters in four innings of work. He will need to earn the trust of the Twins and the Twins fan base before they can gain confidence in him pitching in big spots. 9. Danny Coulombe A pleasant surprise in 2021, the left-handed Coulombe threw 34.1 innings for the Twins with a 3.67 ERA and a 3.75 FIP. The 32-year-old journeyman is an offspeed pitcher, throwing 66 percent of his pitches as either sliders or curveballs in 2021. Coulombe was also very good at controlling free passes, as he only walked five percent of opposing batters. In 2022, I see the Twins using Coulombe against left-handed batters, as he and Caleb Thielbar are now the only left-handers in their bullpen. Coulombe still needs to prove that he can sustain this level of success, but he could quickly jump up these rankings. 8. Josh Winder Along with teammate Jhoan Duran, Winder displayed some of the best stuff in big league spring training out of all pitchers in 2022. Injuries shortened Winder's 2021 season, but he still managed to go 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA between AA and AAA. He had a sub-1 WHIP, and the hard-throwing righty limits walks and strikes guys out, leading me to believe that he will have no problem transferring his game to the big league level. Winder will be a long reliever, and he will probably make some spot starts in 2022. 7. Jharel Cotton A pitcher nobody is talking about, Jharel Cotton could be the most underrated pitcher in the Twins bullpen. Cotton has the most vertical break on his fastball out of any pitcher in MLB and a highly effective changeup to pair with it. He had a 3.52 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 30 innings for the Texas Rangers in 2021. Cotton will be used in primarily lower leverage situations to start, and his workload could see an uptick with good performance. 6. Caleb Thielbar Despite not having an overwhelming fastball, Caleb Thielbar has done one thing very well over the past two seasons with the Twins. And that is preventing runs. Thielbar only averages 91 miles per hour on his fastball, but it pairs well with his loopy 72 mile per hour curveball. Since 2020, Thielbar has had a 3.00 ERA with 99 strikeouts in 84 innings. Although he was used in low leverage situations in 2020, with the subtraction of Taylor Rogers, the Twins will turn to Thielbar to get crucial outs against left-handed hitters, who batted .214 against him in 2021. 5. Joe Smith An under-the-radar signing for the Twins this offseason, the Twins signed former Astro Joe Smith to a one-year deal. Despite his unorthodox delivery, the 38-year-old has always had major league-level success. His 4.99 ERA in 2021 was misleading, as poor batted-ball luck inflated his ERA. His xERA was 3.55, and he has a 3.08 career ERA. Smith should slot nicely into a middle relief role, especially against righties, against whom he has allowed a .607 OPS in his career. 4. Jhoan Duran As pitchers are throwing harder than ever before, the Twins' only fireballer on the staff in 2021 was Jorge Alcalá. Until now. Jhoan Duran made the Twins opening day roster, and when he debuts, he will be electric. The centerpiece of the Eduardo Escobar trade in 2018, Duran sits in the upper 90s with his fastball, topping at 101 miles per hour in spring training. Duran had the highest STUFF+ ratings in spring training despite a small sample size. For years to come, Duran's nasty stuff could lead to him being a weapon at the back of the Twins bullpen. 3. Emilio Pagán One of the more intriguing pitchers on Minnesota's roster, Pagán will look to return to his Tampa Bay form. In 2019, Pagán was one of the best relievers in baseball as he struck out 96 batters in 70 innings with the Rays. He also had a 2.31 ERA and recorded 20 saves. He struck out 36 percent of batters and only walked 4.9 percent. When he got to San Diego, he took a step back. In 2021, he went 4-3 with a 4.83 ERA in 63 innings. He gave up 16 home runs in those 63 innings, and he ranked in the seventh percentile of all pitchers in xSLG. Pagán, like the next pitcher on this list, will look to get back to his former self. Pagán will most likely start the year as the Twins' closer. 2. Tyler Duffey After being one of the best relievers in baseball in 2019 and 2020, Duffey took a significant step back in 2021 and will need to rediscover his success for the Twins to have a shutdown bullpen in 2022. In 2019-20, Duffey was in the 93rd percentile of pitchers in strikeout percentage and the 92nd percentile in xERA. He also had a 2.26 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 83.2 innings. In 2021, Duffey was in the 54th percentile in strikeout percentage and the 66th percentile in xERA. He had a 3.18 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 62 innings. While Duffey was by no means terrible in 2021, he was a different pitcher than he was in 2019 and 2020. Duffey will be a significant part of the Twins bullpen in 2022, especially if he can regain his old form. 1. Jorge Alcalá Alcalá has always been a high octane arm who has shown flashes of dominance, and he offered three signs he was on the verge of breaking out in 2021. Alcalá has a 3.48 ERA in 85 career innings, and his stuff plays very well, as he is in the 96th percentile of all MLB pitchers in fastball velocity and chase rate. This combination could be due to him using his fastball less and his changeup more. He was also in the 86th percentile of pitchers in walk percentage in 2021. This combination of good stuff and low walk rates could lead to Alcalá being a force in the back of the Twins bullpen in 2022. With Taylor Rogers gone, I look for Alcalá to take over the closer role in 2022. Who are your top three relievers for the Twins in 2022? What would you change about these rankings? Are there any guys currently in the minors who you think will majorly impact the bullpen? Let me know in the comments and start a discussion. Thank you for reading, and Go Twins!
  19. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 4.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K (70 pitches, 42 strikes, 64%) Home Runs: Gio Urshela (1) Bottom 3 WPA: Byron Buxton (-.214), Carlos Correa (-.173), Gary Sanchez (.152), Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Ryan gives up an early home run, departs after four innings Joe Ryan was named the Opening Day starter for the Twins, becoming the first rookie starting pitcher to do so in precisely 53 years: on 4/8/1969, rookie Tom Hall took the mound, and he pitched into the sixth against the Royals in Kansas City to open the season. With only 26 2/3 big league innings in his career, Ryan became the Opening Day starter with the fewest such innings in franchise history and the first in the majors since David Nied in 1993. The first two times through the Seattle order were anything but smooth for Ryan. Having given up only five total walks in his five 2021 starts, he gave up three in the first three innings while also hitting a batter. He hung a fastball against Mitch Haniger in the first, which was crushed for a two-out, two-run home run. Seattle couldn't build momentum and add on despite posing a constant threat during the first three innings. Ryan closed out each of those innings with a strikeout, two against Eugenio Suárez. He also got some big help from a great defensive play by Carlos Correa in the third, which almost started a double play. Speaking of the new guy, he was responsible for Minnesota’s only hit early, as reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray – and his famous pants – cruised through the Twins lineup. In his first at-bat with Minnesota, C4 smacked a fastball down the middle for a single. Minnesota gets on the board, Duran impresses in majors debut Minnesota managed to get on the board in the fourth, with another new guy making a good first impression. Gio Urshela, once known for his efficiency against off-speed pitches, took Ray deep for the Twins’ first home run of the season. The fourth inning was also the final one for Ryan in the ballgame, as he once again failed to prevent baserunners from reaching. Rocco Baldelli brought in flame-throwing prospect Jhoan Duran for his Major League debut for the next two innings, and the Dominican didn’t disappoint. Duran didn’t get off to a good start, giving up back-to-back singles to open the inning. However, with his pitches reaching 100.7 MPH on the radar gun and showing off some nasty movement, he managed to blow past the heart of the Mariner lineup, striking out the next four batters. His velocity wasn’t the same during his second inning out there, but he still managed to hold off Seattle. The bats can’t provide the rally against Ray, Seattle’s bullpen Ray continued to dominate the Twins' offense and did so economically, as his pitch count didn’t hit 90 until the seventh inning. With one of baseball’s best bullpens last season, Mariner relievers managed to keep the Twins offense out of the game in the final two innings. After a 1-2-3 inning from reliever Paul Sewald in the eighth, Minnesota had one inning to try and spark a rally, and they almost did. Luis Arráez replaced Urshela in the ninth, and he put together a superb nine-pitch that ended in a leadoff single. It all came down to Gary Sánchez with two outs and a man on, and he put on a good fight but eventually flew out, merely inches away from a walk-off homer. A positive takeaway from this game for the Twins was the excellent pitching performance, especially from the bullpen. After Duran pitched two scoreless frames, Jorge Alcalá and Danny Coulombe kept Seattle scoreless for the rest of the game. Minnesota’s relievers combined for five scoreless innings, with three hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts. What’s Next? On Saturday, the series continues when Sonny Gray will make his Twins debut against Logan Gilbert. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:10 pm. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet (pitch counts were not available for Tuesday's spring training game) MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Ober 56 0 0 0 0 56 Duran 0 0 0 0 31 31 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 27 27 Alcalá 10 0 0 0 13 23 Cotton 22 0 0 0 0 22 Thielbar 0 0 0 0 0 0 Duffey 0 0 0 0 0 0 Pagán 0 0 0 0 0 0 Romero 0 0 0 0 0 0 Smith 0 0 0 0 0 0 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0
  20. Minnesota put together a lovely pitching performance, but Robbie Ray’s fantastic outing ultimately was the difference-maker. The Mariners held off a Twins rally late and handed Minnesota’s first season loss. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Joe Ryan, 4.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K (70 pitches, 42 strikes, 64%) Home Runs: Gio Urshela (1) Bottom 3 WPA: Byron Buxton (-.214), Carlos Correa (-.173), Gary Sanchez (.152), Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Ryan gives up an early home run, departs after four innings Joe Ryan was named the Opening Day starter for the Twins, becoming the first rookie starting pitcher to do so in precisely 53 years: on 4/8/1969, rookie Tom Hall took the mound, and he pitched into the sixth against the Royals in Kansas City to open the season. With only 26 2/3 big league innings in his career, Ryan became the Opening Day starter with the fewest such innings in franchise history and the first in the majors since David Nied in 1993. The first two times through the Seattle order were anything but smooth for Ryan. Having given up only five total walks in his five 2021 starts, he gave up three in the first three innings while also hitting a batter. He hung a fastball against Mitch Haniger in the first, which was crushed for a two-out, two-run home run. Seattle couldn't build momentum and add on despite posing a constant threat during the first three innings. Ryan closed out each of those innings with a strikeout, two against Eugenio Suárez. He also got some big help from a great defensive play by Carlos Correa in the third, which almost started a double play. Speaking of the new guy, he was responsible for Minnesota’s only hit early, as reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray – and his famous pants – cruised through the Twins lineup. In his first at-bat with Minnesota, C4 smacked a fastball down the middle for a single. Minnesota gets on the board, Duran impresses in majors debut Minnesota managed to get on the board in the fourth, with another new guy making a good first impression. Gio Urshela, once known for his efficiency against off-speed pitches, took Ray deep for the Twins’ first home run of the season. The fourth inning was also the final one for Ryan in the ballgame, as he once again failed to prevent baserunners from reaching. Rocco Baldelli brought in flame-throwing prospect Jhoan Duran for his Major League debut for the next two innings, and the Dominican didn’t disappoint. Duran didn’t get off to a good start, giving up back-to-back singles to open the inning. However, with his pitches reaching 100.7 MPH on the radar gun and showing off some nasty movement, he managed to blow past the heart of the Mariner lineup, striking out the next four batters. His velocity wasn’t the same during his second inning out there, but he still managed to hold off Seattle. The bats can’t provide the rally against Ray, Seattle’s bullpen Ray continued to dominate the Twins' offense and did so economically, as his pitch count didn’t hit 90 until the seventh inning. With one of baseball’s best bullpens last season, Mariner relievers managed to keep the Twins offense out of the game in the final two innings. After a 1-2-3 inning from reliever Paul Sewald in the eighth, Minnesota had one inning to try and spark a rally, and they almost did. Luis Arráez replaced Urshela in the ninth, and he put together a superb nine-pitch that ended in a leadoff single. It all came down to Gary Sánchez with two outs and a man on, and he put on a good fight but eventually flew out, merely inches away from a walk-off homer. A positive takeaway from this game for the Twins was the excellent pitching performance, especially from the bullpen. After Duran pitched two scoreless frames, Jorge Alcalá and Danny Coulombe kept Seattle scoreless for the rest of the game. Minnesota’s relievers combined for five scoreless innings, with three hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts. What’s Next? On Saturday, the series continues when Sonny Gray will make his Twins debut against Logan Gilbert. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:10 pm. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet (pitch counts were not available for Tuesday's spring training game) MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Ober 56 0 0 0 0 56 Duran 0 0 0 0 31 31 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 27 27 Alcalá 10 0 0 0 13 23 Cotton 22 0 0 0 0 22 Thielbar 0 0 0 0 0 0 Duffey 0 0 0 0 0 0 Pagán 0 0 0 0 0 0 Romero 0 0 0 0 0 0 Smith 0 0 0 0 0 0 Winder 0 0 0 0 0 0 View full article
  21. Some questions surrounded Rogers returning from a finger injury that ended his 2021 season. Rogers has looked strong this spring, so there may be little to worry about for the 2022 campaign. However, the team will need to have a contingency plan if his finger injury acts up or if he suffers another injury. Here is how the team will likely use the bullpen in the late innings. 1. Taylor Rogers, LHP Rogers was a first-time All-Star during the 2021 season following a first-half where he posted a 3.35 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP and 54 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings. It was a solid first half, but it was hardly the best version of Rogers. From 2018-19, Rogers pitched nearly 140 innings with a 2.62 ERA, a sub-1.00 WHIP, and 10.8 K/9. Before his injury, Minnesota was exploring trade options for Rogers, and there was no guarantee the team would offer him arbitration this year. He is entering his final year of team control, so he needs to prove that he can be a dominant back-end reliever as he hits free agency for the first time. As a 31-year-old, it might be his only chance at a big payday, but the Twins have other options if Rogers isn’t successful in 2022. 2. Tyler Duffey, RHP Duffey was one of baseball’s best relievers entering the 2021 season as the Twins used him to get out of plenty of late-inning jams. From 2019-20, Duffey pitched 81 2/3 innings, and he struck out 113 batters with a 0.94 WHIP. Last season, he struggled for the first time since 2018 as he posted a 3.18 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP. His strikeout rate dropped from 11.6 K/9 in 2020 to 8.8 K/9 in 2021. Besides his lack of strikeouts, there were some concerns with the number of hard hits and his change in pitch usage. However, Duffey seems like the best candidate to take over the closer role if Rogers misses time or is ineffective. 3. Jorge Alcalá, RHP Alcalá has been on the cusp of a breakout for multiple seasons, and there were signs he started to break out last season. He decreased his fastball usage and saw a big jump in his changeup usage. His fastball tends to be up, so his improved changeup has played even better down in the zone. Last year in the second half, he managed a 2.88 ERA, 0.36 HR/9, 2.01 FIP, and a 32% K%. If these trends continue, Alcalá may be evolving into Minnesota’s future closer, especially if he can lower his career .843 OPS versus left-handed batters. 4. Caleb Thielbar, LHP Thielbar has been a surprise contributor to the Twins bullpen over the last two seasons as he has become one of the team’s most reliable arms. Over the last two seasons, he has a 3.00 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP and 99 strikeouts in 84 innings. He turned 35-years-old earlier this year, and he has previously been close to retirement. Outside of Rogers, he is the lefty with the most late-inning experience, so it will be intriguing to see how the Twins use him this season. Does he get the opportunity to earn his first big-league save? Dark Horse Candidate: Jovani Moran, LHP Moran was the Twins Daily 2022 Minor League Reliever of the Year, and his changeup has the potential to make him unhittable at the big-league level. He struck out nearly 41.8% of batters in the minors this season, and he will look to transition those numbers to the Twins. Like Alcalá, there may be some growing pains on the way to being a dominant late-inning arm. With Duffey and Rogers heading to free agency, Alcalá and Moran are part of the team’s long-term bullpen plans. How do you think the Twins will use the back-end of their bullpen this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  22. Last winter, the Twins brought in Alex Colome to serve in a late-inning role, but he failed miserably. Now, Taylor Rogers is returning from injury, so what’s the team’s late-inning bullpen pecking order? Some questions surrounded Rogers returning from a finger injury that ended his 2021 season. Rogers has looked strong this spring, so there may be little to worry about for the 2022 campaign. However, the team will need to have a contingency plan if his finger injury acts up or if he suffers another injury. Here is how the team will likely use the bullpen in the late innings. 1. Taylor Rogers, LHP Rogers was a first-time All-Star during the 2021 season following a first-half where he posted a 3.35 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP and 54 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings. It was a solid first half, but it was hardly the best version of Rogers. From 2018-19, Rogers pitched nearly 140 innings with a 2.62 ERA, a sub-1.00 WHIP, and 10.8 K/9. Before his injury, Minnesota was exploring trade options for Rogers, and there was no guarantee the team would offer him arbitration this year. He is entering his final year of team control, so he needs to prove that he can be a dominant back-end reliever as he hits free agency for the first time. As a 31-year-old, it might be his only chance at a big payday, but the Twins have other options if Rogers isn’t successful in 2022. 2. Tyler Duffey, RHP Duffey was one of baseball’s best relievers entering the 2021 season as the Twins used him to get out of plenty of late-inning jams. From 2019-20, Duffey pitched 81 2/3 innings, and he struck out 113 batters with a 0.94 WHIP. Last season, he struggled for the first time since 2018 as he posted a 3.18 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP. His strikeout rate dropped from 11.6 K/9 in 2020 to 8.8 K/9 in 2021. Besides his lack of strikeouts, there were some concerns with the number of hard hits and his change in pitch usage. However, Duffey seems like the best candidate to take over the closer role if Rogers misses time or is ineffective. 3. Jorge Alcalá, RHP Alcalá has been on the cusp of a breakout for multiple seasons, and there were signs he started to break out last season. He decreased his fastball usage and saw a big jump in his changeup usage. His fastball tends to be up, so his improved changeup has played even better down in the zone. Last year in the second half, he managed a 2.88 ERA, 0.36 HR/9, 2.01 FIP, and a 32% K%. If these trends continue, Alcalá may be evolving into Minnesota’s future closer, especially if he can lower his career .843 OPS versus left-handed batters. 4. Caleb Thielbar, LHP Thielbar has been a surprise contributor to the Twins bullpen over the last two seasons as he has become one of the team’s most reliable arms. Over the last two seasons, he has a 3.00 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP and 99 strikeouts in 84 innings. He turned 35-years-old earlier this year, and he has previously been close to retirement. Outside of Rogers, he is the lefty with the most late-inning experience, so it will be intriguing to see how the Twins use him this season. Does he get the opportunity to earn his first big-league save? Dark Horse Candidate: Jovani Moran, LHP Moran was the Twins Daily 2022 Minor League Reliever of the Year, and his changeup has the potential to make him unhittable at the big-league level. He struck out nearly 41.8% of batters in the minors this season, and he will look to transition those numbers to the Twins. Like Alcalá, there may be some growing pains on the way to being a dominant late-inning arm. With Duffey and Rogers heading to free agency, Alcalá and Moran are part of the team’s long-term bullpen plans. How do you think the Twins will use the back-end of their bullpen this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  23. Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Jorge Alcala had an eye-opening second half of the 2021 season and figures to be a key piece to the team's 2022 bullpen. Here's a look back at some of his numbers after the All-Star break and what adjustments he made. View full video
  24. Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Jorge Alcala had an eye-opening second half of the 2021 season and figures to be a key piece to the team's 2022 bullpen. Here's a look back at some of his numbers after the All-Star break and what adjustments he made.
  25. There was never any question that losing Pressly would hurt the Twins in the short term. He went on to post a 0.77 ERA with Houston over the final half of 2018. In 139 1/3 innings since Pressly has tallied a 2.45 ERA to go with an 11.8 K/9. He had become one of baseball’s best relievers with the Twins and has only ratcheted that up with the Astros. After making 60 appearances in 2021, Pressly’s team option vested into a fully guaranteed $10 million deal for 2022. He’ll hit the open market again before 2023 for his age 34 season. On the Twins side of things, they’ve seen a bit of what both Jorge Alcala and Gilberto Celestino can do, but 2022 should represent an opportunity for both to establish themselves completely. Let’s start in the bullpen with Alcala, as he’s a much more integral piece of the immediate puzzle. Pitching 59 2/3 innings last year for the Twins, Alcala owned a 3.92 ERA to go with a 9.2 K/9. Despite the 0.97 WHIP, his bugaboo was a 1.5 HR/9, pushing his FIP to 4.06. However, what’s worth noting is that it was a tale of two seasons for the Minnesota reliever. Through 40 appearances, he posted a 5.73 ERA and had allowed nine home runs in just 37 2/3 innings. A stretch of 22 innings pitched from that point forward, Alcala owned a 0.82 ERA, keeping opposing batters to a .420 OPS. His 27/3 K/BB was incredible, and only one ball left the yard. That’s what we must hope for coming into 2022. Derek Falvey didn’t flip Ryan Pressly for what Jorge Alcala was at the time, but he did make that move for what he could be now. At just 26-years-old, Alcala is still pre-arbitration and won’t hit free agency until 2026. Getting an elite level of production out of him for pennies on the dollar over the next four seasons would be a massive victory. He looks the part of a late-inning arm and could undoubtedly eat up closer opportunities should they present themselves. That alone would make the deal worth it, and we’ve yet to discuss Celestino. Forced into action early from Double-A after a run on outfield injuries last season, Celestino appeared in 23 games for the Twins. It went as to be expected, and he posted just a .466 OPS. Defensively the skills looked very close, but the bat needed more time to mature. Going to Triple-A St. Paul the rest of the way, Celestino made his case. Over 49 games with the Saints, he slashed .290/.384/.443 with 18 extra-base hits included five home runs. It was unquestionably his best offensive showing in the minors and should help re-establish his confidence in the future. Minnesota is always going to need a solid fourth outfielder behind Byron Buxton. I have some feelings about who they should look at outside of the organization, but Celestino could easily play himself into a better option for that role. Without needing to be an impact player immediately on Opening Day, it’s more than fair to suggest Celestino could parlay his strong finish at Triple-A into a forced promotion early on in 2022. Hitting on both inclusions in the Ryan Pressly trade would be the type of result Falvey had undoubtedly envisioned. It’s never easy to evaluate a baseball trade when it is made with an indication of how it will pan out. You can draw conclusions based on the level of prospect returned, but the real evaluation always takes place once players have had an opportunity to develop. Minnesota has pushed both talents through their system and is now ready to cash them in. It could soon become time to call this swap a victory.
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