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  1. Last year’s Twins’ bullpen spread around the most critical innings, and the relievers’ Leverage Index (LI) shows that.Perhaps it was matchups. Perhaps it was the depth of the bullpen. Or perhaps it was just coincidence. But last year’s Twins’ bullpen spread around the pressure inherent to holding close leads like almost no other Major League team, steering away from the closer-dominated hierarchy we talked about in Part 1. And you can see it using the sabrmetric stat Leverage Index (LI) that we detailed in Part 2. Here are the Twins’ qualified relievers, the average Leverage Index they faced when entering a game, and where they ranked in LI in MLB overall. Name gmLI MLB Rank Taylor Rogers 1.69 19 Sergio Romo 1.62 24 Tyler Duffey 1.61 25 Trevor May 1.36 53 Tyler Clippard 1.24 73 Caleb Thielbar 1.04 100 Jorge Alcala 0.65 146 What are you looking at? As we saw yesterday, any LI over one indicates a more-dangerous-than-average situation. Six of the Twins qualified relievers had an LI greater than one. No other team in MLB had that many. In fact, the Twins actually had eight relievers. Matt Wisler (1.11) and Cody Stashak (1.05) both also had LI over one, but just missed the “qualified” designation by a couple of innings. Baldelli shared his high leverage situations throughout the bullpen, not relying on a couple of guys to carry the load, like other teams. Alternately, you can see that the Twins look like they mostly protected rookie Jorge Alcala from those situations. Now look at how bunched together those top three relievers are, and how high up they rank compared to all MLB qualified relievers. There are 30 teams, but the Twins had three relievers in the top 25 in average LI? Yep. Toronto is the only other team that had three relievers in the top 35. Toronto is also the only other team that had four pitchers in the top 55, like the Twins did. They’re also the only team to have five pitchers in the top 75, like the Twins did. The bunching of the Twins becomes more obvious when you look at the average LI each of the Twins top relievers faced, compared to the average LI the same pitcher faced on other teams. Name gmLI Ave MLB gmLI Taylor Rogers 1.69 1.70 Sergio Romo 1.62 1.37 Tyler Duffey 1.61 1.22 Trevor May 1.36 1.03 Tyler Clippard 1.24 0.86 Caleb Thielbar 1.04 0.77 Jorge Alcala 0.65 0.69 Rogers faced about average situations for the #1 ranked person in the bullpen compared to other teams. And Alcala faced about the same as the sixth ranked guy in the bullpen. But Romo, Duffey, May, Clippard and even Thielbar all were brought into games at significantly more crucial moments than their peers on other teams. In short, Baldelli spread the wealth among the relievers in his bullpen. He is finding spots to use even the fourth and fifth best relievers that impact a game, and likely help them grow, and you can see that using LI. You can also see that using LI if you take a look at individual pitchers’ game logs. So we’ll do that next. Next: Using LI to see how Baldelli is trusting individual pitchers. Click here to view the article
  2. Perhaps it was matchups. Perhaps it was the depth of the bullpen. Or perhaps it was just coincidence. But last year’s Twins’ bullpen spread around the pressure inherent to holding close leads like almost no other Major League team, steering away from the closer-dominated hierarchy we talked about in Part 1. And you can see it using the sabrmetric stat Leverage Index (LI) that we detailed in Part 2. Here are the Twins’ qualified relievers, the average Leverage Index they faced when entering a game, and where they ranked in LI in MLB overall. Name gmLI MLB Rank Taylor Rogers 1.69 19 Sergio Romo 1.62 24 Tyler Duffey 1.61 25 Trevor May 1.36 53 Tyler Clippard 1.24 73 Caleb Thielbar 1.04 100 Jorge Alcala 0.65 146 What are you looking at? As we saw yesterday, any LI over one indicates a more-dangerous-than-average situation. Six of the Twins qualified relievers had an LI greater than one. No other team in MLB had that many. In fact, the Twins actually had eight relievers. Matt Wisler (1.11) and Cody Stashak (1.05) both also had LI over one, but just missed the “qualified” designation by a couple of innings. Baldelli shared his high leverage situations throughout the bullpen, not relying on a couple of guys to carry the load, like other teams. Alternately, you can see that the Twins look like they mostly protected rookie Jorge Alcala from those situations. Now look at how bunched together those top three relievers are, and how high up they rank compared to all MLB qualified relievers. There are 30 teams, but the Twins had three relievers in the top 25 in average LI? Yep. Toronto is the only other team that had three relievers in the top 35. Toronto is also the only other team that had four pitchers in the top 55, like the Twins did. They’re also the only team to have five pitchers in the top 75, like the Twins did. The bunching of the Twins becomes more obvious when you look at the average LI each of the Twins top relievers faced, compared to the average LI the same pitcher faced on other teams. Name gmLI Ave MLB gmLI Taylor Rogers 1.69 1.70 Sergio Romo 1.62 1.37 Tyler Duffey 1.61 1.22 Trevor May 1.36 1.03 Tyler Clippard 1.24 0.86 Caleb Thielbar 1.04 0.77 Jorge Alcala 0.65 0.69 Rogers faced about average situations for the #1 ranked person in the bullpen compared to other teams. And Alcala faced about the same as the sixth ranked guy in the bullpen. But Romo, Duffey, May, Clippard and even Thielbar all were brought into games at significantly more crucial moments than their peers on other teams. In short, Baldelli spread the wealth among the relievers in his bullpen. He is finding spots to use even the fourth and fifth best relievers that impact a game, and likely help them grow, and you can see that using LI. You can also see that using LI if you take a look at individual pitchers’ game logs. So we’ll do that next. Next: Using LI to see how Baldelli is trusting individual pitchers.
  3. LA’s Superstars In baseball, superstar players can’t impact the game in the same way as some of the other major sports, but it certainly helps to have top tier players performing at their best. The Dodger outfield is anchored by two former MVPs in Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw has been one of this generation’s best starting pitchers. Betts has been good throughout his career, but he has used this year’s World Series to put himself in the conversation as quite possibly the best player in baseball. Few teams have players in the same category as the names above, including Minnesota. The Twins signed Josh Donaldson, a former MVP winner, to help change that narrative. However, he was hurt for the majority of the 2020 season and the prime of his career might be behind him. Other players like Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton were touted as future superstars and both have suffered through some ups and downs in their career. Buxton might have the best chance to be Minnesota’s superstar player, but he will need to prove it again in 2021. Tampa’s Bullpen Well this is awkward. Two key members of the Rays bullpen, Nick Anderson and John Curtiss, were both drafted by the Minnesota Twins and neither was given much of an opportunity with the big-league club. Curtiss pitched 15 innings for the Twins and posted a 7.20 ERA while Anderson never made it out of Triple-A. Bullpen usage continues to increase as starters are asked to get fewer outs. Tampa Bay is in their current position because of a heavy reliance on their relief arms and other teams can follow this trend in the years ahead. The Twins have some tough choices with their own bullpen during the coming offseason. Taylor Rogers can make as much as $7 million through arbitration, but he is coming off his worst big-league season. Sergio Romo has a team option for $4.75 million, but he turns 38 in March. Other players like Tyler Clippard and Trevor May are free agents in what is expected to be an offseason where all team’s cut payroll. Minnesota might be able to find someone like Matt Wisler or Caleb Thielbar, but that might be even tougher following a year where there was no minor league season. Both Team’s Starting Pitching Depth Even with bullpens getting more usage, starting pitching is still such an important part of any extended playoff run. LA’s one-two punch of Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw allow other pitchers to take on relief roles for the postseason. Add in the likes of Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, and Dustin May and it’s easy to see why the Dodgers were willing to part with Kenta Maeda. Tampa might not have some of the big names like LA, but many teams would love to have their top-4 pitchers (Tyler Glasnow, Ryan Yarbrough, Blake Snell, Charlie Morton). Minnesota is entering their second straight offseason with multiple openings in their starting rotation. Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, and Kenta Maeda are penciled into the top-3 spots, so how can the Twins find a way to complete their rotation. Trevor Bauer will be the biggest free agent starter this winter, but he is going to have multiple suitors and the Twins are unlikely to spend the money it takes to add him. Does it make sense to bring back someone like Jake Odorizzi or Rich Hill? Would those names put the Twins in the same territory as the Dodgers and the Rays? What do the Twins need to do to get to the same level as the Dodgers and the Rays? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  4. Overreaction 1: The Twins can’t score with runners in scoring position. The first inning was rough as the Twins loaded the bases with one out in the frame. Eddie Rosario hit a scalding line drive at over 100 mph that happened to find the glove of the first baseman. With two outs, Miguel Sano hit a slow roller and nearly beat it out for an infield hit. His sprint speed on the play was 28.9 ft/sec which is 1.5 ft/sec fast than his average this season. The Twins didn’t score, but the club made Greinke throw 30 pitches in the frame. Even though Minnesota didn’t capitalize, the Twins got Greinke out of the game early enough to give them time to strike against the bullpen. Overreaction 2: Kenta Maeda is the Twins best playoff pitcher since Jack Morris. Kenta Maeda wasn’t perfect on Tuesday with three walks and five strikeouts over five shutout innings. He got out of one bases loaded jam to keep a zero on the board, but many fans might have forgotten about how good a former pitcher was in October. Johan Santana was outstanding during the playoffs near the end of his Twins tenure. In his last three postseason starts, he allowed three earned runs over 20 innings with 20 strikeouts and five walks. The Twins only won one of those games and it was the team’s last postseason win. Overreaction 3: Rocco Baldelli overmanaged his catchers. Ryan Jeffers was the correct choice to start the game and he put together two solid at-bats that both resulted in line outs at over 100 mph. Overall, this sounds great, but Baldelli turned to Mitch Garver as a pinch hitter for Jeffers in the bottom of the 7th. Garver struggled mightily down the stretch after returning from injury. He promptly struck out on four pitches and then he was replaced behind the plate by Alex Avila. Last season, Garver had an offensive season for the ages when it came to catchers, but that isn’t the player he has been this year. Jeffers should have stayed in the game to get the at-bat and this might be the easiest decision to question. Overreaction 4: Minnesota’s bullpen is broken. Tyler Duffey has been outstanding for most of the last two seasons and he gave up the Twins first run of the game. Sergio Romo allowed back-to-back singles to start the top of the ninth inning. He saw the Twins middle infield botch the final out of the inning on an easy throw to second base. Romo ran the next count full before walking in the go-ahead run. Caleb Thielbar came into a no-win situation with the lead already gone and Houston’s best hitters coming up with the bases loaded. Minnesota used their best arms in the appropriate spots and it just didn’t work out. Overreaction 5: Jorge Polanco is a bad defensive shortstop. No one can argue that Polanco’s error wasn’t a turning point in the game. On a play that looked very routine, the Twins middle infield duo messed up the play. While fans are going to remember this play, Polanco was remarkably better on the defensive side of the ball. He committed only two errors the entire season and FanGraphs Defensive Runs Above Average had him ranked as the fourth best shortstop in the AL. Polanco is never going to win a Gold Glove at shortstop, but he made positive strides this season and it’s disappointing that one play could define his season. What are some of your reactions to the first game against the Astros? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. October is going to look different this season with no off days in scheduled in each of the first three rounds. There is some time off between each round, but bullpens are going to be even more important in this tight schedule. These power rankings aren’t about who should be used in a specific spot because the manager can be creative in the playoffs. The rankings below are about who is pitching well and who has the best stuff to succeed in October. 10. Sean Poppen (4.70 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 10 K, 7 2/3 IP) Poppen has seen limited time for the Twins this year and it seems unlikely that he would be called on in October. His lone role might be to eat some innings if there was a blowout. He also hasn’t pitched in a game in nearly two weeks. Twins fans don’t want to see him on the mound in the playoffs, because that likely means something went wrong in the game. 9. Caleb Thielbar (1.69 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 20 K, 16 IP) Thielbar has been a feel-good story for the Twins this season as his pitching performance certainly has matched a player that hasn’t pitching in the big leagues since 2015. If you take out his first appearance, he has a 0.66 ERA while holding batters to a .149/.259/.149 (.408) slash-line. Also, he has been asked to get more than three outs four of his fourteen games, which is likely something he wouldn’t be asked to do in the postseason. On other teams, he’d rank much higher. 8. Cody Stashak (3.09 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 15 K, 11 2/3 IP) Stashak has been really good and him being this low shows the depth of the Twins bullpen. He’s only allowed runs in two of his nine appearances and he has multiple strikeouts in over half of his outings. His one bad appearance was an inning where he allowed three runs to Kansas City. Rocco Baldelli has shown faith in using him in the late innings of close games. With few off days in each series, Stashak might be needed for some big outs. 7. Jorge Alcala (2.91 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 27 K, 21 2/3 IP) Alcala might have helped Twins fans to forget about Brusdar Graterol since he is basically filling the same role on the team. He’s also been better than Graterol this season. His fastball will certainly play in October and he’s used his slider nearly as often. His Baseball Savant page is also the thing of dreams as he ranks as ranks higher than the 80th percentile in all but one category. He could be the team’s closer of the future and October could be his month to shine on the big stage. 6. Matt Wisler (1.11 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 34 K, 24 1/3 IP) Wilser has been the Twins diamond in the rough this year. Claimed off waivers, the Twins have helped him to morph into one of the American League’s best relief pitchers. According to Baseball Reference, he is tied with Jose Berrios for the fourth highest WAR on the team behind Byron Buxton, Kenta Maeda, and Nelson Cruz. He’s been used as an opener, earned a save, and has five holds to his name. His versatility could be useful with how effective he continues to be. 5. Tyler Clippard (2.78 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 22 K, 22 2/3 IP) Minnesota saw plenty of Clippard last year in Cleveland and he’s been nearly as good so far this year. He could actually move down this list with some recent poor performances. In three of his last four appearances, runs have been scored against him, so his worst stretch of the season might be coming at the wrong time. Baldelli will likely continue to turn to him because he is a 14-year veteran with 14 playoff appearances during his career. 4. Sergio Romo (2.89 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 22 K, 18 2/3 IP) Since the Twins acquired him last year, Romo has been getting plenty of late inning opportunities out of the Twins bullpen. Taylor Rogers has struggled at times this year and this has led the Twins to continue to use Romo in late inning situations. Fans saw this as recently as Sunday night in Chicago with Rogers getting the eighth and Romo getting the ninth. Things got a little shaky in that game, but he has a long playoff track record and he’s going to be trusted to get outs in the eighth and ninth inning. 3. Taylor Rogers (4.58 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 22 K, 17 2/3 IP) Rogers and his struggles have been well documented throughout this season. In such a small sample size, luck might be accounting for some of his poor performance. His BABIP is one of the highest among all relief pitchers and his 4.58 ERA comes with a 2.84 FIP. Some of his issues this year might also be tied to the use of his breaking pitches. As Nick wrote about last week, his curve spin rate has flattened out and this could be one reason for more solid contact against him. Whether it’s luck or a poor breaking ball, the Twins need Rogers to be in peak form by the start of next week. 2. Trevor May (4.35 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 34 K, 20 2/3 IP) Back on September 6, May blew up in a loss to Detroit as he allowed three runs on four hits and saw his ERA rise to 5.74. In his last five appearances, he has been nearly unhittable with opponents limited to two hits, both singles. He has struck out eight in five innings and nearly 60% of his WPA for the season has come during this recent stretch. Even though his season hasn’t been perfect, he’s been Minnesota’s hottest reliever to end the season. 1. Tyler Duffey (1.69 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 28 K, 21 1/3 IP) Duffey is the Twins best relief pitcher and it might not be close. If an opponent’s heart of the line-up is coming up in a key spot, Duffey gets the call in the bullpen. These types of situations will only be more amplified in the upcoming postseason. So far this season, he has pitched in any inning from the fourth to the eighth, because Baldelli trusts him in any situation. He isn’t the Twins closer, because he is better than any of the closing options for the Twins. How would you rank the Twins bullpen? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. Let’s face it, trading for a high-leverage reliever is risky business. Not to mention, it comes with a high price tag. The trade rumors have swirled for some time in Milwaukee regarding Brewers closer Josh Hader. Earlier in the week, MLB Network discussed a fake trade in which the Minnesota Twins would send Royce Lewis, Ryan Jeffers and Brent Rooker to the Brewers for Hader. A Hader trade would require quite the return or as an executive told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic a “bananas price.” The 2020 trade deadline is Monday and from the Rosenthal report it wouldn’t be surprise to see the Brewers trade some bullpen arms. If the team did in fact trade Hader, who is under team control through 2023, past deadline deals have shown a package of Lewis, Jeffers and Rooker may be bananas but not unrealistic. If Hader was a rental and set to become a free agent this winter, then Jeffers and Rooker at the very least might still be the asking price for Hader. Just last season the Brewers traded top-10 prospect Mauricio Duban to the San Francisco Giants for Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black. Furthermore, Pomeranz wasn’t a full-time reliever until acquired by the Brewers. It says a lot about how much value the team with the reliever can get from another. For a player who pitches at most every other day, the risk isn’t always worth it. Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps Since 2010, the Twins have made traded for four relievers before the July deadline and have traded one away. Somehow it’s this one that fans talk about the most. The Twins went for it in 2010 and acquired Capps, a closer who rarely walked anyone, to help with its playoff push. To his credit, Capps allowed six earned runs and struck out 21 in 27 innings as the Twins closer. Unfortunately for Capps though, the next two seasons were marred with injuries and the lack of strikeout ability caught up to him. Ultimately, both caused his downfall. In 2011 and 2012, Capps allowed 43 earned runs, gave up 15 home runs and struck out just 52 in a combined 95 innings of work. Ramos had just seven games to his name in the big leagues when the Twins traded him to the Washington Nationals. He was originally thought to be the heir to Joe Mauer. In 2011, Ramos was named to Baseball America Major League All-Rookie Team. Based on what Ramos has done since the trade and the collapse of Capps, it’s why the trade has such a negative association. Yet, for the 2010 season, it did work. Chih-Wei Hu for Kevin Jepson The playoff hopes the Twins had and the aftermath of this trade arguably could be worse than the Capps deal. Jepsen, who had control issues in the past, actually helped the Twins bullpen. His debut did not go well though. He walked the first two batters he faced, threw a wild pitch, and then struck out Nelson Cruz. He was replaced after that, but both batters he walked later came around to score in what was a 3-run 11th inning for the Mariners. OK, first impression aside, Jepsen turned it around. In his next 15 1/3 innings, he struck out 13, walked three, allowed seven hits and no runs. Altogether, Jepsen was good with the Twins. He kept his walks to a minimum (seven in 28 innings) while opponents were batting .176. Even though Jepsen wasn’t an elite reliever, the Twins gave up Hu. He started the season ranked 24 in the Twins prospect list and ended the season at 15 in the Rays system. Despite Jepsen’s performance, which was much better than anticipated, the Twins missed the playoffs. He pitched terrible in 2016, battled injuries, then released in July with a .333 batting average against. For a pitcher with known control problems, giving up a top-30 prospect stings a little. Especially when the pitcher the Twins traded for didn’t even spend a full calendar year with the team. Lewin Diaz for Sergio Romo It would be extremely hard to find someone who wouldn’t pull the trigger on this trade. In hindsight, it still is benefitting the Twins. Romo gave the Twins bullpen some help in the late innings. He allowed only eight runs in 22 2/3 innings and struck out 27. His attitude, along with how he pitched, is why the Twins resigned for 2020. Diaz, who was quickly gaining attention in the Twins system, wasn’t ranked in the top-30 to start the season but by season’s end ranked 12 among Marlins prospects. Again, all in hindsight, this trade seems to have benefitted the Twins. However, they did give up a top-20 prospect for what was at the time, a 36-year-old rental. Jaylin Davis for Sam Dyson All things considered, Dyson was having a terrific 2019 with the Giants. Opponents were hitting .213 against him. He was pitching effectively late in games and would have strengthened any team’s bullpen. The Twins traded three players, the main piece being Davis, to get Dyson. Right away there were issues. It seemed as though Dyson was pitching hurt and after allowing nine earned runs in 11 1/3 innings, he had surgery. He hasn’t pitched since. Davis, on the other hand, didn’t rank in the top-30 prospects with the Giants in 2019. This season he was ranked 13. Kei-Wei Tang, another prospect in the trade, started the season ranked 22. Chalk this one up as a trade that didn’t go well given the cost to get Dyson and the results of the trade. What's left to do As exhausting as it may be to read, or skim, through it all, it takes top-30 prospects to get quality relief pitching before the deadline. It took two top-30 prospects, Jorge Alcala and Gilberto Celestino, for the Houston Astros to land Ryan Pressly in 2018. Hader is by far one of the best in the game currently and would require a massive return package. The Twins could look for cheaper options. Heck, the Brewers could be a trade partner on that front with left-handed Alex Claudio. Or the Twins could go a different route and pursue a major league ready, but still a work-in-progress pitcher. Should the Twins go after a reliever; past trades have shown it takes “more” than what might be perceived to acquire a reliever in the midst of a good season. The only thing left to determine is if there are bargain deals elsewhere, or the team control of someone like Hader is worth trading away top prospects.
  7. From the start of the 2017 season to the end of the 2019 season, Taylor Rogers had been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. Over that timespan, Rogers ranked 15th in baseball in ERA (2.75) and 15th in fWAR (4.3). In what had been rollercoaster season for the Twins’ various relief groups, Rogers had been the steady force who could be counted on in the highest of leverage situations. Down the stretch run of 2019 and into the 2020 season, though, there have been some chinks in the armor. After an outstanding first half of the 2019 season (1.82 ERA), Taylor Rogers stumbled a bit down the stretch, posting a second half ERA of 3.68. Rogers has continued that poor stretch into the 2020 season as he now owns a 4.82 ERA through the first third of the season, while batters own a batting average north of .300 against him. Thus far in the 2020 season, the biggest difference in Taylor Rogers struggles have been the ability for opposing batters to square up and make hard contact on his pitches. In 2018 and 2019, Rogers ranked in the top 25% of baseball in limiting hard contact for opposing batters. Thus far in 2020, though, Rogers ranks in the bottom third in baseball in limiting hard contact, allowing a hard hit percentage of 40.7. The hard hits have led to some tough outings for Rogers, who has allowed runs in three of his 10 outings, two of them resulting in multiple runs, and all three of them blowing a tie or a lead. In addition to the runs allowed, Rogers has seemingly had to work his way through every outing. In 2019, Taylor Rogers got through 42% of his appearances without allowing a hit, while in 2020 he has allowed a hit in seven of his 10 outings. While Taylor Rogers has taken a small step back from his "eliteness" over the past 13 months, there have been several other arms in the Minnesota Twins bullpen that have made the leap forward to being outstanding relief options. https://twitter.com/MatthewTaylorMN/status/1296527817153421313?s=20 As you can see above, Taylor Rogers still has a very respectable 3.82 ERA since last July, but other arms have simply been better — namely, Trevor May and Tyler Duffey. Trevor May has the best pure “stuff” of anyone on the Minnesota Twins bullpen, utilizing a 98 MPH fastball and a slider that completely fools batters at the plate. Tyler Duffey, in the meantime, has developed into one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball, becoming practically unhittable every time he takes the mound. May and Duffey both tout right handedness in an American League where the majority of the best hitters come from the right side of the plate. Taylor Rogers still has the command and the stuff to work his way back up the bullpen pecking order, but Trevor May and Tyler Duffey have done enough over what has worked out to be a half-season sample size to become the high leverage arms in this relief group. In a shortened season in which every game (theoretically) means 2.7 times more than it normally would, it’s time for the pecking order to be rearranged and for the Twins bullpen stars to get their time to shine. Do you think Taylor Rogers should be moved down the bullpen pecking order? Would you rather see Trevor May or Tyler Duffey as the “highest” leverage arm? Leave a comment below and start the conversation! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  8. So far in his two seasons as manager, Rocco Baldelli has shown a preference for giving players time off and allowing pitchers to throw in situations that best fit their role. He adjusted his bullpen usage last season because the team’s relief core was struggling through parts of the first half. In fact, that was one of the team’s biggest needs at the trade deadline last season (See the team’s trade for Sam Dyson and Sergio Romo). Luckily for the Twins players like Tyler Duffey and Trevor May have emerged and the team went out and signed a veteran arm like Tyler Clippard while resigning Romo. This leaves the Twins with one of the baseball’s best bullpens, but their second-year manager could approach the team’s bullpen usage in a different way than he has through the team’s first third of the season. There are two different ways to rank the bullpen when it comes to effectiveness and how the manager views the hierarchy. Taylor Rogers is clearly at the back end of any bullpen configuration for the Twins. From there, things get a little dicey. Baldelli is inclined to use Romo as the team’s alternate closer, but it can be argued that he is the team’s fifth best relief option. The players that should be ahead of Romo in the bullpen pecking order are Tyler Duffey, Trevor May and Tyler Clippard. Duffey has turned himself into one of the most dominant right-handed relief pitchers in the American League. He might be even better than Taylor Rogers, the team’s closer, and that’s quite the honor. May tends to allow some home runs and Clippard is on the backend of his career. So, how could the Twins do a better job of using these pitchers? Minnesota’s offense hasn’t been performing at the same level as the 2019 team and it would be hard to live up to the same level as the record-setting “Bomba Squad.” Still, the trend so far this season has been to turn to less established relief arms when the team is trailing in a game. The names mentioned above are saved for if/when the team takes the lead and other players like Cody Stashak, Matt Wisler and Caleb Theilbar are trusted to keep the team in the game. https://twitter.com/AaronGleeman/status/1292951071556374530?s=20 Twins manager Rocco Baldelli seems to be in the frame of mind that using his best pitchers in deficit games is will have negative results. This seems like a logical response for a manager if the season is 162-games. Unfortunately, the team isn’t in the midst of a season that long. Even the best teams this season will only win around 35 games. This is going to force managers with good bullpens, like Baldelli, to use his good relief arms when the team is trailing. Unless a starting pitcher is pulled after three innings, there is little chance to use Rogers, Duffey, May, Clippard and Romo all in the same game. If the Twins go on a winning streak, this type of bullpen usage could help the team. The team could have a better chance to win by spreading the team’s five best relief pitchers over the course of multiple games. There has also been a plethora of pitching injuries so far this year so allowing pitchers to rest could help the team to stay healthy down the stretch. Out of bullpen arms, Clippard and Wisler have the most innings and that includes Clippard making multiple starts as an opener. Romo, Duffey, Stashak and May have all pitched more than Rogers. In fact, Rogers has barely pitched more than rookie Jorge Alcala. In the grand scheme of a shortened schedule, bullpen usage might not matter until the games count in the playoffs. It is still perplexing to consider the way Baldelli has approached his relief options so far in 2020. Are you concerned with the team’s bullpen usage so far this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  9. It took until the fifth game of the season for Twins closer Taylor Rogers to get into a game. In the team’s first eight games, he has now pitched three times and recorded three saves for the Twins. He has a pretty well defined role on this team, but the roles of the rest of the bullpen appear to be ever-changing.Going back a decade or more, the concept of Closer-by-Committee was met with disdain by many inside baseball circles. Meanwhile, the concept behind it was certainly sound. Use your best bullpen arms in the best positions for them to succeed. In other words, if your opponent has Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton coming up to start the eighth inning, you might want to use your closer in that situation, especially if you’ve got a closer that dominates right-handed hitters. Get through that situation, and bring in the most logical next reliever for that ninth-inning save. It has also always been tradition that the better bullpens have a ninth inning guy, an eighth inning guy and maybe even a seventh inning guy. That is their role in a game that the team is winning. The role is based on the inning, not necessarily on the matchups coming during that inning. Through admittedly just eight games this season, it appears that Rocco Baldelli, Wes Johnson and the Twins have decided not to give pitcher roles by innings but instead by situation. Here is a quick breakdown of which innings the relievers have been used in so far. Taylor Rogers: 9th/Save (3) Sergio Romo: 7th (1), 8th (1), 9th/Save (1), Trevor May: 5th (1),7th (1), 8th (1), Tyler Duffey: 6th (1), 7th (2), Tyler Clippard: 6th (3), 8th (1), Cody Stashak: 8th and 9th (1), 7th (1), 8th (1) Zack Littell: 5th (1), 6th and 7th (1), Devin Smeltzer: 6th and 7th (1), Matt Wisler: 8th (1), 8th and 9th (1) Lewis Thorpe: 6th, 7th and 8th (1), 8th and 9th (1) Kenta Maeda became the first Twins starting pitcher to throw a pitch in the six innings. In games that the Twins have won, we have seen Clippard, Duffey, May, Romo, Stashak and Rogers. As interesting, pitchers have been used in a variety of roles. Trevor May has pitched in the fifth inning and in the eighth inning. On Sunday, Tyler Clippard will be used as an Opener after being used in either the sixth or eighth innings previously. Tyler Duffey has pitched in the sixth and seventh innings. Duffey said on Saturday afternoon that Baldelli has been up front with the relievers about their roles. “Rocco did a good job. Before we got started, he kind of made the rounds and talked to guys. He said, ‘Hey, situations are gonna call for guys to pitch. Just be ready.’” Earlier in the week, Sergio Romo hesitated when asked about reliever roles, but said, “We all have an ability to get hitters out in a unique way, in a different way from each other. The situations that Rocco’s been putting us in is a compliment to that, to each one of our strengths. Each one of us has been put in situations where I feel Rocco - maybe beyond 100% - knows we’re going to succeed. I think you’ll see more of that.” And succeed they have. Duffey (3 IP), Rogers (3 IP), Romo (3 IP), Stashak (4 IP), Thorpe (4 ⅔ IP) and Wisler (2 ⅓ IP) have combined to throw 20 innings with a combined 0.00 ERA. Clippard (4 IP) and May (3 IP) have each given up just one earned run. Zack Littell threw two scoreless innings in his most recent outing after giving up four runs in his first inning. Devin Smeltzer gave up five earned run in two innings in his lone outing. Combined, the bullpen has pitched 32 innings and has a 3.09 ERA. If you remove Littell’s and Smeltzer’s first outings, the bullpen has thrown 29 innings and has a 0.62 ERA. In short, outside of one game, this bullpen has been remarkable! We knew coming into the season that the bullpen was expected to be a strength of for the Twins. Many national sports media sites ranked the Twins bullpen among the Top 5 in MLB. There is talent. There are veterans like Romo and Clippard who have performed over their dozen-plus big league seasons. Taylor Rogers emerged the last two seasons as one of the best left-handed relievers in the game, if not one of the best relievers period. Trevor May and Tyler Duffey each have electric stuff and seemingly put it together in 2019s second half. Both are much more confident early this season. Zack Littell and Cody Stashak were rookies last year who were a big boost to the late-season improvements of the Twins bullpen. Stashak has been terrific early this year. Stashak said, “It (bullpen’s confidence) is pretty high. I’m sure the word’s gone around that we’ve got a solid ‘pen.” Littell struggled in his first outing, then threw two scoreless innings on Thursday night. He has now been put on the Injured List with a hamstring injury. Baldelli said of Littell, “Zack came out of his last outing with just a little bit of a hamstring tightness. You could call it an injury. You could call it just a minor incident. Really, what it comes down to, is you probably don't want to have to put a guy on the IL for something like this, but it probably would have been a couple of days before he would have seen game action again. So, does he need the full 10 days to feel better and be able to get out there on the mound? I don't know. Probably not. But to have a spot in the bullpen where you're not going to pitch a guy for a handful of days right now is also not a place where we really want to be. ” That gives Jorge Alcala, whose stuff the team has been raving about throughout summer camp, an opportunity. Before Saturday’s game, Baldelli noted, “We had some videos of him throwing at home, and he looked really, really impressive. The velocity was good and was up from what we saw in the big leagues last year. We know he has a big arm and some added depth to the breaking ball was apparent. More than anything, I think his confidence in what he's doing when he steps on the mound against hitters, against big league hitters, even against his own teammates in some of these outings and Summer Camp sessions.” So now maybe Alcala assumes the role and gets the situations that Littell had pitched. With the innings not being the determining factor for when a pitcher comes in, how does a pitcher know, or anticipate, when he might be called upon? In Saturday’s pre-game Zoom Meetings, I asked Duffey if he just needs to start getting ready earlier or if it causes him to pay attention to things like the opponent’s batting order and such. He said, “Obviously we’re not locked in for nine innings, but you kind of look at the lineup and say, ‘OK, there are some righties, or I’ve done well against that lefty in the past, or maybe we need to turn this switch-hitter around,’ something like that. Those are thoughts that go through your mind.” Duffey added, “You can’t really expect anything, and I think that’s good. It keeps everyone on their toes and mentally ready. I can’t say it enough, this is a really, really good group of guys. A lot of talent, a lot of different looks, especially out of our bullpen. I think that’s why we’re gonna have a lot of success.” Sergio Romo agrees, and is looking forward to seeing how it plays out. “It’s going to be fun to see the combinations that Rocco puts together with us. Again, it’s more of a compliment to us when he has so many different ways to use us and is so willing to do it confidently. It’s fun to be a part of again.” While the starters will, hopefully, continue to eat more innings as the season moves on, Baldelli and Johnson have to feel really good about their bullpen, knowing whoever they put into a game is fully capable of shutting the door. And having one of the top closers in the game certainly doesn’t hurt either. Click here to view the article
  10. Going back a decade or more, the concept of Closer-by-Committee was met with disdain by many inside baseball circles. Meanwhile, the concept behind it was certainly sound. Use your best bullpen arms in the best positions for them to succeed. In other words, if your opponent has Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton coming up to start the eighth inning, you might want to use your closer in that situation, especially if you’ve got a closer that dominates right-handed hitters. Get through that situation, and bring in the most logical next reliever for that ninth-inning save. It has also always been tradition that the better bullpens have a ninth inning guy, an eighth inning guy and maybe even a seventh inning guy. That is their role in a game that the team is winning. The role is based on the inning, not necessarily on the matchups coming during that inning. Through admittedly just eight games this season, it appears that Rocco Baldelli, Wes Johnson and the Twins have decided not to give pitcher roles by innings but instead by situation. Here is a quick breakdown of which innings the relievers have been used in so far. Taylor Rogers: 9th/Save (3) Sergio Romo: 7th (1), 8th (1), 9th/Save (1), Trevor May: 5th (1),7th (1), 8th (1), Tyler Duffey: 6th (1), 7th (2), Tyler Clippard: 6th (3), 8th (1), Cody Stashak: 8th and 9th (1), 7th (1), 8th (1) Zack Littell: 5th (1), 6th and 7th (1), Devin Smeltzer: 6th and 7th (1), Matt Wisler: 8th (1), 8th and 9th (1) Lewis Thorpe: 6th, 7th and 8th (1), 8th and 9th (1) Kenta Maeda became the first Twins starting pitcher to throw a pitch in the six innings. In games that the Twins have won, we have seen Clippard, Duffey, May, Romo, Stashak and Rogers. As interesting, pitchers have been used in a variety of roles. Trevor May has pitched in the fifth inning and in the eighth inning. On Sunday, Tyler Clippard will be used as an Opener after being used in either the sixth or eighth innings previously. Tyler Duffey has pitched in the sixth and seventh innings. Duffey said on Saturday afternoon that Baldelli has been up front with the relievers about their roles. “Rocco did a good job. Before we got started, he kind of made the rounds and talked to guys. He said, ‘Hey, situations are gonna call for guys to pitch. Just be ready.’” Earlier in the week, Sergio Romo hesitated when asked about reliever roles, but said, “We all have an ability to get hitters out in a unique way, in a different way from each other. The situations that Rocco’s been putting us in is a compliment to that, to each one of our strengths. Each one of us has been put in situations where I feel Rocco - maybe beyond 100% - knows we’re going to succeed. I think you’ll see more of that.” And succeed they have. Duffey (3 IP), Rogers (3 IP), Romo (3 IP), Stashak (4 IP), Thorpe (4 ⅔ IP) and Wisler (2 ⅓ IP) have combined to throw 20 innings with a combined 0.00 ERA. Clippard (4 IP) and May (3 IP) have each given up just one earned run. Zack Littell threw two scoreless innings in his most recent outing after giving up four runs in his first inning. Devin Smeltzer gave up five earned run in two innings in his lone outing. Combined, the bullpen has pitched 32 innings and has a 3.09 ERA. If you remove Littell’s and Smeltzer’s first outings, the bullpen has thrown 29 innings and has a 0.62 ERA. In short, outside of one game, this bullpen has been remarkable! We knew coming into the season that the bullpen was expected to be a strength of for the Twins. Many national sports media sites ranked the Twins bullpen among the Top 5 in MLB. There is talent. There are veterans like Romo and Clippard who have performed over their dozen-plus big league seasons. Taylor Rogers emerged the last two seasons as one of the best left-handed relievers in the game, if not one of the best relievers period. Trevor May and Tyler Duffey each have electric stuff and seemingly put it together in 2019s second half. Both are much more confident early this season. Zack Littell and Cody Stashak were rookies last year who were a big boost to the late-season improvements of the Twins bullpen. Stashak has been terrific early this year. Stashak said, “It (bullpen’s confidence) is pretty high. I’m sure the word’s gone around that we’ve got a solid ‘pen.” Littell struggled in his first outing, then threw two scoreless innings on Thursday night. He has now been put on the Injured List with a hamstring injury. Baldelli said of Littell, “Zack came out of his last outing with just a little bit of a hamstring tightness. You could call it an injury. You could call it just a minor incident. Really, what it comes down to, is you probably don't want to have to put a guy on the IL for something like this, but it probably would have been a couple of days before he would have seen game action again. So, does he need the full 10 days to feel better and be able to get out there on the mound? I don't know. Probably not. But to have a spot in the bullpen where you're not going to pitch a guy for a handful of days right now is also not a place where we really want to be. ” That gives Jorge Alcala, whose stuff the team has been raving about throughout summer camp, an opportunity. Before Saturday’s game, Baldelli noted, “We had some videos of him throwing at home, and he looked really, really impressive. The velocity was good and was up from what we saw in the big leagues last year. We know he has a big arm and some added depth to the breaking ball was apparent. More than anything, I think his confidence in what he's doing when he steps on the mound against hitters, against big league hitters, even against his own teammates in some of these outings and Summer Camp sessions.” So now maybe Alcala assumes the role and gets the situations that Littell had pitched. With the innings not being the determining factor for when a pitcher comes in, how does a pitcher know, or anticipate, when he might be called upon? In Saturday’s pre-game Zoom Meetings, I asked Duffey if he just needs to start getting ready earlier or if it causes him to pay attention to things like the opponent’s batting order and such. He said, “Obviously we’re not locked in for nine innings, but you kind of look at the lineup and say, ‘OK, there are some righties, or I’ve done well against that lefty in the past, or maybe we need to turn this switch-hitter around,’ something like that. Those are thoughts that go through your mind.” Duffey added, “You can’t really expect anything, and I think that’s good. It keeps everyone on their toes and mentally ready. I can’t say it enough, this is a really, really good group of guys. A lot of talent, a lot of different looks, especially out of our bullpen. I think that’s why we’re gonna have a lot of success.” Sergio Romo agrees, and is looking forward to seeing how it plays out. “It’s going to be fun to see the combinations that Rocco puts together with us. Again, it’s more of a compliment to us when he has so many different ways to use us and is so willing to do it confidently. It’s fun to be a part of again.” While the starters will, hopefully, continue to eat more innings as the season moves on, Baldelli and Johnson have to feel really good about their bullpen, knowing whoever they put into a game is fully capable of shutting the door. And having one of the top closers in the game certainly doesn’t hurt either.
  11. When a team acquires a pitcher, via free agency or trade, it is because they believe that pitcher can get batters out with regularity. However, when the team signed Tyler Clippard and re-signed Sergio Romo this offseason, they were getting two pitchers with a ton of experience. Experience that can help develop the Twins young, talented bullpen arms.37-year-old Sergio Romo has pitched in 708 major-league games over the past 12 seasons. He has once been an All Star. He was an important piece in three Giants World Series championships (2010, 2012, 2014). Tyler Clippard is 35 years old. He has pitched in 751 games over his 13 seasons in the big leagues. He is a two-time All Star, and has been a part of two World Series teams. Only side-winding Joe Smith has pitched more games than Clippard among active players. Romo is fourth among active players in games pitched. Active MLB Leaders in Games Pitched 782 - Joe Smith 751 - Tyler Clippard 710 - Joakim Soria 708 - Sergio Romo 705 - Combined MLB games pitched by Taylor Rogers (258), Trevor May (191), Tyler Duffey (169), Zack Littell (37), Cody Stashak (18), Lewis Thorpe (12), Devin Smeltzer (11), Randy Dobnak (9). Sure, you can add Matt Wisler’s 129 MLB games to the list, but then the list above doesn’t look quite as cool. That said, the point is certainly clear. The Twins have two relievers who come with a ton of major-league experience. The 2020 Twins bullpen should be strong, but these two have many experiences and tips and tricks that they can share with the younger pitchers to help them improve. Some of it is simply accepting and thriving in the reality that they are now at a different phase in their careers. Tyler Clippard credited lefty Ron Villone and right-hander Brad Lidge for being guys that he looked up to and learned a lot from when he was new to the league. Now he is taking on that role as veteran leader, and happy to do so. He said, “That perspective that I had as a younger player, looking up to those veteran guys and knowing that I’m on that side of it now. Respecting that and recognizing that is very important to me and something I enjoy the heck out of every day. Hopefully they get something out of it, but I truly enjoy it. ” In his career, Sergio Romo has had some great experiences. For instance, he was the closer for a World Series championship team. He’s been a great set up man too. And he clearly sees the talent in the guys that the Twins are projected to pitch in those late innings. We know that Taylor Rogers would love to be the guy on the mound if and when the Twins win the World Series, as Romo was when he struck out Miguel Cabrera to end the 2012 World Series. It’s something that he and the other Twins pitchers can talk to Romo about. To hear a guy with Romo’s track record acknowledge how great Rogers is has to be meaningful. But Romo and Clippard aren’t just there to lead those late-inning relievers. They are there to get outs, and some big outs in key situations. They can also instill confidence in the rest of the bullpen too Romo said, “There are guys that haven’t had their coming out party yet, and I think this short spring could be something of that sort for a couple of guys in our bullpen.” He specifically mentioned Cody Stashak and Zack Littell. “These guys are going to come out with a bang, and they’re going to be so consistent in this short sprint that it’s going to be so dang hard to not talk about them in the long run.” Littell has appreciated the leadership shown by Romo and Clippard. He said recently, “I think the biggest thing they bring to the table aside from the obvious experience they have, is the ability to show that everybody needs to just be themselves. Sergio and Clippard are two very different personality guys, but each of them is able to go out and get outs everyday and have both been doing it a long time. And there’s something to be said for being comfortable in your own skin especially when you get into these big moments in games and they both are just examples of that.” Littell had transitioned from being a starting pitcher prospect into the bullpen and was such a key cog in the bullpen’s resurgence over the final two months of the season. In 29 games on the season, he went 6-0 with a 2.68 ERA. But with Romo on the roster in August and September, Littell must have felt much more comfortable. He gave up just one earned run over 18 2/3 innings covering 15 games. Stashak made his debut in late July last year. The cool, calm right-hander walked just one batter and struck out 25 batters over 25 innings (18 games). Stashak rejoined the Twins “Summer Camp” a little bit late as he was with his wife when she gave birth to the couple’s first child. He told Twins Daily recently that he hasn’t had as much time with Clippard, but he was a locker mate with Romo throughout his time in the big leagues last August and September. Of Romo, Stashak said, “He is a guy that will answer any question even if it is not about baseball. We talked a lot during my time up there. He was more of a mentor for me as I was still trying to get comfortable up in the big leagues. He is funny, energetic and everyone loves the guy. It’s hard not to like a guy like Serg.” But Stashak was quick to compliment other veterans on the Twins roster such as Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson and Alex Avila. He added, “The atmosphere around the clubhouse is great and everyone gets along which makes it such a fun group to be around. From a pitching side there are two guys who you mentioned who have experienced it all, like being a World Series contender and even a champion. Hopefully they can help guide us to a World Series and help us win it!” While Romo is the more boisterous of the two veteran relievers, he points out that Clippard not only has experience, but that he is able to communicate well with his teammates. “The experience that he has... The communication skills that he has that I’ve already seen... Being able to share his experiences and share his thoughts, and thought-process on the mound, and when what he’s trying to accomplish in his practice, in his bullpen sessions, his flat grounds, and even his normal play-catch sessions. It’s awesome how he can simplify it all.” Clippard has relished the opportunity to lead and be an ear and an example for younger pitchers. “That’s been one of the coolest parts of my career over the last three or four years, has been being a veteran guy and being a guy that (younger) guys look to for answers, whether it be it baseball-related, off the field stuff, anything or everything. I love talking to the younger guys. I love talking about pitching. I learn a lot of the times as much from them as they might learn from me.” I have talked to several former Twins recently for some upcoming stories, and each has taken time to point out how much ‘character’ has mattered when drafting, signing or otherwise acquiring players. It is clear that trait is still very important as Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard have not only had tremendous, long-laster careers on the mound, but they clearly have had a very positive effect on younger players and teammates as well. Click here to view the article
  12. 37-year-old Sergio Romo has pitched in 708 major-league games over the past 12 seasons. He has once been an All Star. He was an important piece in three Giants World Series championships (2010, 2012, 2014). Tyler Clippard is 35 years old. He has pitched in 751 games over his 13 seasons in the big leagues. He is a two-time All Star, and has been a part of two World Series teams. Only side-winding Joe Smith has pitched more games than Clippard among active players. Romo is fourth among active players in games pitched. Active MLB Leaders in Games Pitched 782 - Joe Smith 751 - Tyler Clippard 710 - Joakim Soria 708 - Sergio Romo 705 - Combined MLB games pitched by Taylor Rogers (258), Trevor May (191), Tyler Duffey (169), Zack Littell (37), Cody Stashak (18), Lewis Thorpe (12), Devin Smeltzer (11), Randy Dobnak (9). Sure, you can add Matt Wisler’s 129 MLB games to the list, but then the list above doesn’t look quite as cool. That said, the point is certainly clear. The Twins have two relievers who come with a ton of major-league experience. The 2020 Twins bullpen should be strong, but these two have many experiences and tips and tricks that they can share with the younger pitchers to help them improve. Some of it is simply accepting and thriving in the reality that they are now at a different phase in their careers. Tyler Clippard credited lefty Ron Villone and right-hander Brad Lidge for being guys that he looked up to and learned a lot from when he was new to the league. Now he is taking on that role as veteran leader, and happy to do so. He said, “That perspective that I had as a younger player, looking up to those veteran guys and knowing that I’m on that side of it now. Respecting that and recognizing that is very important to me and something I enjoy the heck out of every day. Hopefully they get something out of it, but I truly enjoy it. ” In his career, Sergio Romo has had some great experiences. For instance, he was the closer for a World Series championship team. He’s been a great set up man too. And he clearly sees the talent in the guys that the Twins are projected to pitch in those late innings. https://twitter.com/SethTweets/status/1282780542178664448 We know that Taylor Rogers would love to be the guy on the mound if and when the Twins win the World Series, as Romo was when he struck out Miguel Cabrera to end the 2012 World Series. It’s something that he and the other Twins pitchers can talk to Romo about. To hear a guy with Romo’s track record acknowledge how great Rogers is has to be meaningful. But Romo and Clippard aren’t just there to lead those late-inning relievers. They are there to get outs, and some big outs in key situations. They can also instill confidence in the rest of the bullpen too Romo said, “There are guys that haven’t had their coming out party yet, and I think this short spring could be something of that sort for a couple of guys in our bullpen.” He specifically mentioned Cody Stashak and Zack Littell. “These guys are going to come out with a bang, and they’re going to be so consistent in this short sprint that it’s going to be so dang hard to not talk about them in the long run.” Littell has appreciated the leadership shown by Romo and Clippard. He said recently, “I think the biggest thing they bring to the table aside from the obvious experience they have, is the ability to show that everybody needs to just be themselves. Sergio and Clippard are two very different personality guys, but each of them is able to go out and get outs everyday and have both been doing it a long time. And there’s something to be said for being comfortable in your own skin especially when you get into these big moments in games and they both are just examples of that.” Littell had transitioned from being a starting pitcher prospect into the bullpen and was such a key cog in the bullpen’s resurgence over the final two months of the season. In 29 games on the season, he went 6-0 with a 2.68 ERA. But with Romo on the roster in August and September, Littell must have felt much more comfortable. He gave up just one earned run over 18 2/3 innings covering 15 games. Stashak made his debut in late July last year. The cool, calm right-hander walked just one batter and struck out 25 batters over 25 innings (18 games). Stashak rejoined the Twins “Summer Camp” a little bit late as he was with his wife when she gave birth to the couple’s first child. He told Twins Daily recently that he hasn’t had as much time with Clippard, but he was a locker mate with Romo throughout his time in the big leagues last August and September. Of Romo, Stashak said, “He is a guy that will answer any question even if it is not about baseball. We talked a lot during my time up there. He was more of a mentor for me as I was still trying to get comfortable up in the big leagues. He is funny, energetic and everyone loves the guy. It’s hard not to like a guy like Serg.” But Stashak was quick to compliment other veterans on the Twins roster such as Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson and Alex Avila. He added, “The atmosphere around the clubhouse is great and everyone gets along which makes it such a fun group to be around. From a pitching side there are two guys who you mentioned who have experienced it all, like being a World Series contender and even a champion. Hopefully they can help guide us to a World Series and help us win it!” While Romo is the more boisterous of the two veteran relievers, he points out that Clippard not only has experience, but that he is able to communicate well with his teammates. “The experience that he has... The communication skills that he has that I’ve already seen... Being able to share his experiences and share his thoughts, and thought-process on the mound, and when what he’s trying to accomplish in his practice, in his bullpen sessions, his flat grounds, and even his normal play-catch sessions. It’s awesome how he can simplify it all.” Clippard has relished the opportunity to lead and be an ear and an example for younger pitchers. “That’s been one of the coolest parts of my career over the last three or four years, has been being a veteran guy and being a guy that (younger) guys look to for answers, whether it be it baseball-related, off the field stuff, anything or everything. I love talking to the younger guys. I love talking about pitching. I learn a lot of the times as much from them as they might learn from me.” I have talked to several former Twins recently for some upcoming stories, and each has taken time to point out how much ‘character’ has mattered when drafting, signing or otherwise acquiring players. It is clear that trait is still very important as Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard have not only had tremendous, long-laster careers on the mound, but they clearly have had a very positive effect on younger players and teammates as well.
  13. Major League Baseball has not even gotten underway in 2020 and yet we’re just two months from the trade deadline. When the season does start, that date will be little more than a month away. After winning the deadline last year, will Minnesota make a deal? Last July I wrote high praise for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine in regards to how the executed the trade deadline. They got the best reliever swapped (although he was a disaster and hurt), picked up Sergio Romo, and provided a small jolt to the farm system. Over the course of their tenure in Twins Territory, Falvey and Levine have proven adept at swinging deals. We have no idea what things will look like on August 31, and right now the greatest hope is that the 2020 season is still being played. When Opening Day does come to fruition Rocco Baldelli should have the services of the previously expected to be shelved Rich Hill. The bullpen is already one of the best in baseball, and a fearsome lineup added Josh Donaldson. The other wrinkle to a later deadline and 60-game season is that Minnesota will receive a boost with 19 to play when Michael Pineda is eligible to be reinstated. Still on the hook to serve 39 games due to a failed drug test from a weight loss supplement, he returns for the final third. How the rotation looks at that point will be uncertain, and it will definitely come after the deadline has passed. If there’s somewhere the Twins can afford to bulk up, it is at the top half of their starters. Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, and Kenta Maeda are all quality arms. None of them match the caliber of a true proven ace however, and in series where three men take continuous turns, they could be behind the eight ball from the jump. You’d probably be fair in assessing that the Twins were destined to add at the 2020 trade deadline under normal circumstances. I think the assumption that good teams can use that as an opportunity to get better is relatively basic. With the parameters in play for 2020 however, things are all a bit more complicated. Does another organization want a lower prospect that isn’t in the player pool and therefore missed out on a year of development? Are you acquiring to fill an immediate hole, or do you have to prioritize an empty place of production due to a player hitting the COVID-related Injured List? I’d wager the Twins could utilize the trade deadline in 2020 as an opportunity to get a jumpstart on free agency. This winter could be a cold one for guys without teams, and while acquiring them may be doable at depressed costs, dealing for long term assets in a window of contention seems like a worthy endeavor. Minnesota is being impacted by a goofy season at the worst time but salvaging a run doesn’t mean being boom or bust. Right now, I think the only given is that there is a trade deadline on the calendar. We have no idea what the roster construction will be at the end of August, or whether the season will still be going at that time. What is safe to say is that Minnesota enters the year with more talent than they’ve had maybe ever, and when acquiring more, it’s really just icing on the cake. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  14. FORT MYERS - Baseball is back, baby. Ok, it was back two days ago when the Twins faced the Gophers, but that was kind of a buzzkill. And it was back yesterday, but it was a road game two hours away, and not even the players wanted to travel that far. But today it was at – as the Hammond Stadium announcer belted out – “the southern tip of Twins Territory.” It was a home game, in Fort Myers, and the crowded concourses a full hour before first pitch validates the urge you feel right now: to hear everything about it.It also means I’m breaking a vow. A couple of years ago, I swore I would forever go through an entire spring training visit without reporting individual results of games. Why? Because by reporting on them, it lends credence to them meaning something, and they don’t. None of them. And especially not early spring training games. But I also get it: we’re hungry for baseball. So here are a few notes about the Twins 5-5 tie with the Blue Jays. Berrios looked awfully good. He gave up a lead-off hit and the next batter hit a line drive, but it went right to second baseman Travis Blankenhorn, who caught it and turned an easy double-play. After that, he got his last four outs on strikeouts, and there is plenty of excitement about Berrios’ age-25 season. If Berrios can maintain his early season success over the whole season, the sky’s the limit. Miguel Sano spent the second inning taking the extra bases available to him. He got on base with a sawed off blooper. Advanced to second base on a ground ball to left field. Tagged up and took third on a fly ball to center field. Then tagged up again on a medium fly ball to left field. He didn’t look especially fast in any of those events, but he was easily safe on all of them. I don’t think it means anything, but it’s sure fun to see. Sergio Romo looked like he got a strikeout on a changeup to a right-handed batter in his third-inning appearance. It also looked like he got a called strike on a changeup to a right-handed batter two batters later. Romo threw a changeup 16% of the time last year – the highest rates in his career – but usually that pitch would be used against opposite-sided hitters as changeups tend to move toward the pitcher’s arm side. He could be experimenting with that pitch early in camp – or I could be wrong about the pitch. Either I or someone else from Twins Daily will ask him about it later this week. Lineup Stuff My theory on getting some idea of Twins manager Rocco Baldlli’s initial thoughts regarding batting order for this game looks … um … stupid, despite what we saw last year. The Twins only started three expected regulars for their home opener and they all hit right-handed, and so they batted second, third and fourth in the lineup. There’s not a lot we can glean from that. However, that meant we got to see Josh Donaldson hitting second, which could end up being his spot during the regular season. That’s the spot Donaldson has hit most often in his career, though he spent most of last year hitting cleanup for the Braves. The Twins leadoff hitter is likely Max Kepler or Luis Arraez, both of whom hit left-handed, so batting the right-handed hitting Donaldson in that spot would protect against a manager bringing in a left-handed reliever (or an opener) to attempt to neutralize the top two spots in the order. Last year’s #2 hitter, Jorge Polanco, is a switch-hitter, but he profiles as a left-hander with the bat: he posted a .891 OPS versus right-handers last year, and just a 728 OPS versus southpaws. It’s worth noting that the Twins may not see things the same way. Twins Daily followers on Twitter didn’t. They voted Polanco over Donaldson in the second spot, 46% to 41% in our poll on Friday. (Donaldson won the third spot in the lineup on Saturday.) You can add your two cents the rest of the week by following TwinsDaily on Twitter. For what it’s worth, the other two regulars in today’s lineup were Mitch Garver hitting third and Miguel Sano hitting fourth. One could make a pretty good case that Garver could hit third for a few MLB teams, but I expect him to be much further down the lineup for the Twins – perhaps as low as seventh or eighth. That shows just how deep this lineup is, especially with right-handed hitters. Prospects Getting Featured The Twins have been showcasing their prospects in these early games. Six of their top prospects started against the Gophers on Friday night’s game. Yesterday, top prospect Royce Lewis started at shortstop and number three prospect Trevor Larnach hit cleanup versus the Pirates. Today the Twins had Ryan Jeffers leading off in front of Donaldson, Garver and Sano. No pressure, kid. There’s a lot of buzz around Jeffers at camp this year. He’s a second-round pick of the Twins in 2018. He profiled as a bat-first player who had played catcher a bit in college but wasn’t expected to stick there. But Jeffers has worked hard to improve his defense while continuing to hit, including posting an .856 OPS in a limited stint (24 games) in AA last year. Twins Daily ranked the 22-year-old as our seventh best Twins prospect this month, and with Brusdar Graterol being traded to the Dodgers, he’s currently at number six. The Twins also started another top-20 prospect, 23-year-old second baseman Travis Blankenhorn, in today’s lineup, batting seventh. We ranked Blankenhorn as the Twins’ 18th best prospect this year, but he’s been bouncing around our prospect lists for four years. Last year he showed additional power, also at AA, and though he missed a good chunk of the season with an injury, the Twins added him to the 40-man roster this fall to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Repeating his early success last year could go a long way toward re-establishing him as a top 10 prospect or even late season contributor for the Twins. He’s certainly being treated like a potential contributor with some early preseason playing time. He went 0-2 today, but drove in two runs with his efforts. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  15. It also means I’m breaking a vow. A couple of years ago, I swore I would forever go through an entire spring training visit without reporting individual results of games. Why? Because by reporting on them, it lends credence to them meaning something, and they don’t. None of them. And especially not early spring training games. But I also get it: we’re hungry for baseball. So here are a few notes about the Twins 5-5 tie with the Blue Jays. Berrios looked awfully good. He gave up a lead-off hit and the next batter hit a line drive, but it went right to second baseman Travis Blankenhorn, who caught it and turned an easy double-play. After that, he got his last four outs on strikeouts, and there is plenty of excitement about Berrios’ age-25 season. If Berrios can maintain his early season success over the whole season, the sky’s the limit. Miguel Sano spent the second inning taking the extra bases available to him. He got on base with a sawed off blooper. Advanced to second base on a ground ball to left field. Tagged up and took third on a fly ball to center field. Then tagged up again on a medium fly ball to left field. He didn’t look especially fast in any of those events, but he was easily safe on all of them. I don’t think it means anything, but it’s sure fun to see. Sergio Romo looked like he got a strikeout on a changeup to a right-handed batter in his third-inning appearance. It also looked like he got a called strike on a changeup to a right-handed batter two batters later. Romo threw a changeup 16% of the time last year – the highest rates in his career – but usually that pitch would be used against opposite-sided hitters as changeups tend to move toward the pitcher’s arm side. He could be experimenting with that pitch early in camp – or I could be wrong about the pitch. Either I or someone else from Twins Daily will ask him about it later this week. Lineup Stuff My theory on getting some idea of Twins manager Rocco Baldlli’s initial thoughts regarding batting order for this game looks … um … stupid, despite what we saw last year. The Twins only started three expected regulars for their home opener and they all hit right-handed, and so they batted second, third and fourth in the lineup. There’s not a lot we can glean from that. However, that meant we got to see Josh Donaldson hitting second, which could end up being his spot during the regular season. That’s the spot Donaldson has hit most often in his career, though he spent most of last year hitting cleanup for the Braves. The Twins leadoff hitter is likely Max Kepler or Luis Arraez, both of whom hit left-handed, so batting the right-handed hitting Donaldson in that spot would protect against a manager bringing in a left-handed reliever (or an opener) to attempt to neutralize the top two spots in the order. Last year’s #2 hitter, Jorge Polanco, is a switch-hitter, but he profiles as a left-hander with the bat: he posted a .891 OPS versus right-handers last year, and just a 728 OPS versus southpaws. It’s worth noting that the Twins may not see things the same way. Twins Daily followers on Twitter didn’t. They voted Polanco over Donaldson in the second spot, 46% to 41% in our poll on Friday. (Donaldson won the third spot in the lineup on Saturday.) You can add your two cents the rest of the week by following TwinsDaily on Twitter. For what it’s worth, the other two regulars in today’s lineup were Mitch Garver hitting third and Miguel Sano hitting fourth. One could make a pretty good case that Garver could hit third for a few MLB teams, but I expect him to be much further down the lineup for the Twins – perhaps as low as seventh or eighth. That shows just how deep this lineup is, especially with right-handed hitters. Prospects Getting Featured The Twins have been showcasing their prospects in these early games. Six of their top prospects started against the Gophers on Friday night’s game. Yesterday, top prospect Royce Lewis started at shortstop and number three prospect Trevor Larnach hit cleanup versus the Pirates. Today the Twins had Ryan Jeffers leading off in front of Donaldson, Garver and Sano. No pressure, kid. There’s a lot of buzz around Jeffers at camp this year. He’s a second-round pick of the Twins in 2018. He profiled as a bat-first player who had played catcher a bit in college but wasn’t expected to stick there. But Jeffers has worked hard to improve his defense while continuing to hit, including posting an .856 OPS in a limited stint (24 games) in AA last year. Twins Daily ranked the 22-year-old as our seventh best Twins prospect this month, and with Brusdar Graterol being traded to the Dodgers, he’s currently at number six. The Twins also started another top-20 prospect, 23-year-old second baseman Travis Blankenhorn, in today’s lineup, batting seventh. We ranked Blankenhorn as the Twins’ 18th best prospect this year, but he’s been bouncing around our prospect lists for four years. Last year he showed additional power, also at AA, and though he missed a good chunk of the season with an injury, the Twins added him to the 40-man roster this fall to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Repeating his early success last year could go a long way toward re-establishing him as a top 10 prospect or even late season contributor for the Twins. He’s certainly being treated like a potential contributor with some early preseason playing time. He went 0-2 today, but drove in two runs with his efforts. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  16. Going into the offseason Derek Falvey and Thad Levine used the word impact. Specifically, they were talking about pitching. When that market went sideways on them, the refrain turned to making an impact on the roster overall, and it was the Bringer of Rain that saved their grade.Thad Levine has gone on record noting the Twins interest in Zack Wheeler. They were reportedly in on Hyun-Jin Ryu, and there was question about a few other arms that may make sense. Ultimately though, Minnesota never landed that big fish pitcher. When they decided that Plan A was no longer the preferred route, a shift in focus became necessary. In doing so, it cemented everything else they did, and helped to establish an offseason of success with 2020 square in their sights. Instead of giving just a singular grade to the work as a whole, let’s break things down individually: Backup Catcher- Alex Avila replaces Jason Castro In 2019 Mitch Garver emerged as one of the game’s best. He took massive steps forward behind the dish and was unquestionably the best with the bat. Needing a new battery mate, the decision was made to move on from Castro. Alex Avila posted a .775 OPS and was exactly average by OPS+ standards last year. He is an adequate defender and is just two years removed from a career season with the divisional for Tigers. This wasn’t flashy by any means, but it’s a fair swap by all measures. Grade C Corner Infielder- Josh Donaldson replaces C.J. Cron With Cron being non-tendered by Minnesota, it was time to decide if first or third base was the position being addressed. Once the pitching market shifted, the Twins best opportunity for impact came from one of the best players to hit the open market. Josh Donaldson significantly elevates the infield defense, Miguel Sano could arguably be better suited for first base, and Rocco Baldelli will now write out a lineup card that features the best nine in baseball. Donaldson is a star, and the richest Twins' free agent deal in history was more than well deserved. This one was as much a bomba as those he’ll hit this year at Target Field. Grade A+ Starting Pitcher- Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda retained. Homer Bailey and Rich Hill replace Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez These moves received plenty of consternation in the scope of the offseason as a whole, but viewed individually, they seem pretty great. Odorizzi was arguably Minnesota’s best pitcher last season, and Pineda was lights out down the stretch. Getting that duo back at what equates to less than market value is a good deal. Grade B Bailey isn’t a sexy name, but neither was Kyle Gibson. The longtime Reds ace posted a 4.57 ERA last year but had a 3.65 FIP with Oakland in his final 73.1 IP. As a third or fourth starter with an assist from Wes Johnson, I think you could do a lot worse. Grade C- Arguably the biggest win here is in the form of a guy who could definitely be considered “impact.” Despite a 15-year major league pitching career, Rich Hill has accumulated only 937 innings while making 156 starts. The bad is that he’s a 40-year-old with an extensive injury history. The good news though, is essentially everything else. Hill hasn’t seen a dip in his stuff, he mows down opposing hitters, and he’s got 12 postseason starts under his belt. The 4.10 FIP last year is reason for pause, but if he can go back to limiting the long ball, he’ll be great down the stretch. Grade B+ Relief Pitching- Sergio Romo retained. Tyler Clippard replaced Sam Dyson. At the trade deadline Minnesota made a swap with the Miami Marlins for the veteran righty. Now a slider specialist, Romo was having a plenty fine year for the fish. After producing to the tune of a 3.35 FIP and 10.7 K/9 in 22.2 IP, his presence in the clubhouse was one that made sense to welcome back. He gets a slight bump in pay with a team option for 2022. He’ll be 39, but he still looks the part of a guy that can contribute high-leverage innings. Grade C+ Coming over from a division rival in Cleveland, Clippard had his best year since 2014. The 2.90 ERA is sparkly, and the 3.89 FIP suggests it’s at least somewhat for real. He can rack up strikeouts, limits hits, and actually saw a slight decrease in the long ball a year ago. Sam Dyson was supposed to be a bit better based on his Giants numbers, but that blew up and his shoulder is done. Clippard provides plenty of reason to believe in a similar or better level of success. Grade C Overall: Minnesota needed pitching this offseason, and while they didn’t get the top-of-the-rotation arm, they did take steps forward. On top of that, the team found a way to improve an already lethal lineup and adding further run support is another avenue to success. Minnesota looked pretty dead in the water up until the Donaldson signing, even if it was enough to hold serve in the division. That should be a reminder that situations are consistently fluid, and the front office is actively trying to get better. They are soon closing the door on an opportunity to spend dollars, but they remain incredibly rich in prospect capital. Before the leaves fall and October baseball begins, the Twins have more work to do. Not only is there a need to win games and position themselves for postseason baseball, they’ll need a reinforcement or two in order to stack up. The top-tier pitcher is what holds the grade back, but it’s hard to be anything less than pleased by the overall result. Grade B+ MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  17. Thad Levine has gone on record noting the Twins interest in Zack Wheeler. They were reportedly in on Hyun-Jin Ryu, and there was question about a few other arms that may make sense. Ultimately though, Minnesota never landed that big fish pitcher. When they decided that Plan A was no longer the preferred route, a shift in focus became necessary. In doing so, it cemented everything else they did, and helped to establish an offseason of success with 2020 square in their sights. Instead of giving just a singular grade to the work as a whole, let’s break things down individually: Backup Catcher- Alex Avila replaces Jason Castro In 2019 Mitch Garver emerged as one of the game’s best. He took massive steps forward behind the dish and was unquestionably the best with the bat. Needing a new battery mate, the decision was made to move on from Castro. Alex Avila posted a .775 OPS and was exactly average by OPS+ standards last year. He is an adequate defender and is just two years removed from a career season with the divisional for Tigers. This wasn’t flashy by any means, but it’s a fair swap by all measures. Grade C Corner Infielder- Josh Donaldson replaces C.J. Cron With Cron being non-tendered by Minnesota, it was time to decide if first or third base was the position being addressed. Once the pitching market shifted, the Twins best opportunity for impact came from one of the best players to hit the open market. Josh Donaldson significantly elevates the infield defense, Miguel Sano could arguably be better suited for first base, and Rocco Baldelli will now write out a lineup card that features the best nine in baseball. Donaldson is a star, and the richest Twins' free agent deal in history was more than well deserved. This one was as much a bomba as those he’ll hit this year at Target Field. Grade A+ Starting Pitcher- Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda retained. Homer Bailey and Rich Hill replace Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez These moves received plenty of consternation in the scope of the offseason as a whole, but viewed individually, they seem pretty great. Odorizzi was arguably Minnesota’s best pitcher last season, and Pineda was lights out down the stretch. Getting that duo back at what equates to less than market value is a good deal. Grade B Bailey isn’t a sexy name, but neither was Kyle Gibson. The longtime Reds ace posted a 4.57 ERA last year but had a 3.65 FIP with Oakland in his final 73.1 IP. As a third or fourth starter with an assist from Wes Johnson, I think you could do a lot worse. Grade C- Arguably the biggest win here is in the form of a guy who could definitely be considered “impact.” Despite a 15-year major league pitching career, Rich Hill has accumulated only 937 innings while making 156 starts. The bad is that he’s a 40-year-old with an extensive injury history. The good news though, is essentially everything else. Hill hasn’t seen a dip in his stuff, he mows down opposing hitters, and he’s got 12 postseason starts under his belt. The 4.10 FIP last year is reason for pause, but if he can go back to limiting the long ball, he’ll be great down the stretch. Grade B+ Relief Pitching- Sergio Romo retained. Tyler Clippard replaced Sam Dyson. At the trade deadline Minnesota made a swap with the Miami Marlins for the veteran righty. Now a slider specialist, Romo was having a plenty fine year for the fish. After producing to the tune of a 3.35 FIP and 10.7 K/9 in 22.2 IP, his presence in the clubhouse was one that made sense to welcome back. He gets a slight bump in pay with a team option for 2022. He’ll be 39, but he still looks the part of a guy that can contribute high-leverage innings. Grade C+ Coming over from a division rival in Cleveland, Clippard had his best year since 2014. The 2.90 ERA is sparkly, and the 3.89 FIP suggests it’s at least somewhat for real. He can rack up strikeouts, limits hits, and actually saw a slight decrease in the long ball a year ago. Sam Dyson was supposed to be a bit better based on his Giants numbers, but that blew up and his shoulder is done. Clippard provides plenty of reason to believe in a similar or better level of success. Grade C Overall: Minnesota needed pitching this offseason, and while they didn’t get the top-of-the-rotation arm, they did take steps forward. On top of that, the team found a way to improve an already lethal lineup and adding further run support is another avenue to success. Minnesota looked pretty dead in the water up until the Donaldson signing, even if it was enough to hold serve in the division. That should be a reminder that situations are consistently fluid, and the front office is actively trying to get better. They are soon closing the door on an opportunity to spend dollars, but they remain incredibly rich in prospect capital. Before the leaves fall and October baseball begins, the Twins have more work to do. Not only is there a need to win games and position themselves for postseason baseball, they’ll need a reinforcement or two in order to stack up. The top-tier pitcher is what holds the grade back, but it’s hard to be anything less than pleased by the overall result. Grade B+ MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  18. So far this offseason the Twins have been unable to bring in an impact starting pitcher. But there might be an impact pitcher ready to begin his career with the Twins. Could the Twins become creative to get Brusdar Graterol some impact innings?Gerrit Cole. He was always going to the Yankees. Stephen Strasburg. He was always going to stay with the Nationals. Zack Wheeler. The Twins wanted to give him $100 million, but he wanted to stay in the east. Madison Bumgarner. He wanted to hang out in Phoenix with his horses. Hyun-Jin Ryu. He wanted a fourth year. So now the Twins option for acquiring a proven impact pitcher comes down to the trade market, and there are options available. If the season opened today (and it doesn’t until late March…), the Twins starting rotation would include Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda (after 40 games), and two open spots. Randy Dobnak should definitely get an opportunity to earn one of them. Lewis Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer deserve to be in the conversation for a rotation spot in 2020. But if you’re looking for “impact,” then Brusdar Graterol has to be a consideration. We saw him hit triple digits often. He made throwing 98 and 99 mph look almost effortless. As he relaxed, the velocity increased, and his slider got sharper. He also has a changeup that he can be effective with. Those are the pieces that give teams and their fans hope of developing a true ace, a potential impact starter. However, we have to acknowledge Graterol’s injury history. He missed nearly two seasons after Tommy John surgery. He missed about three months in 2019 with a shoulder injury. He ended up just over 70 innings pitched in 2019 after reaching 102 innings in 2018. With such a high-potential arm, the Twins would be wise to take care of him. They need to. It’s possible he could be limited to maybe 120 or 130 innings in 2020. Do the Twins want to have him eat a bunch of those innings in Rochester? Or could they be creative in getting him those innings and that development in the big leagues? Here is an idea that I would present. It’s probably a little outside the box, and yet, the Twins front office speaks often about how they like their staff (front office and on-field) to ask questions, to challenge norms. What if the Twins went with an opener and then use Graterol has the primary pitcher? The Opener concept was a huge conversation piece in baseball two years ago when Tampa utilized it. They had two pitchers that they planned on being in their rotation get hurt and really did it out of necessity. The Twins utilized the strategy that September when they were out of playoff contention and got a chance to get innings from several young starters. It nearly disappeared in 2019. It’s not ideal. Teams would much prefer to have five starting pitchers who make 32 starts a season and reach 200 innings. But sometimes a strategy might necessitate creative thinking in this light. So why might this strategy work, in my mind, for Brusdar Graterol in 2020? Stratify a plan for keeping Graterol at a certain pitch count and inning count in an attempt to a.) keep him healthy and b.) make sure he’s strong in September and hopefully through October.Why not just have him start? Well, if you’re limiting him to three or four innings per outing, at least early in the year, he can only be the losing pitcher. He can’t get wins. And while we all now know that pitcher wins and losses are immensely overrated as stats, it is something that a player can't help but notice. No need to put the extra stress on the young pitcher.Have him start the season by throwing 50 pitches per outing, whether that’s three innings or four innings. Gradually increase that number. Maybe it’s 65 pitches once the calendar turns to May. Maybe it’s 75 when the calendar turns to June, and 85 in July. Ideally, that would give him 30 to 32 appearances and he should be reaching around 120 innings.The Twins developed a bullpen that became a strength late in the 2019 season. They brought back Sergio Romo and added underrated Tyler Clippard. Taylor Rogers became one of the best relievers in baseball. Tyler Duffey and Trevor May dominated late in the season. Young guys like Zack Littell and Cody Stashak showed what they can be already and there is room for both of them to grow. Thorpe, Smeltzer and others could be the guys who move up and down as arms are needed. The Twins bullpen should be a strength in 2020, deep with reliable guys. Sergio Romo made a lot of “starts” (opener appearances) for the Rays in 2018, when Rocco Baldelli was one of their coaches. They are certainly both very familiar with the concept. Zack Littell could be a two-inning opener if needed. There are options for opener opportunities and there is enough depth to make it work. We don't yet know, at least in practice, how Wes Johnson might feel about using an opener, or if he has another philosophy on preventative care. In 2019, we did see the Twins put Michael Pineda on the injured list a couple of times to keep him fresh throughout the season. Maybe that's a better strategy? Would it be a long-term plan? No. In 2021, the hope would be that Graterol could make 32 starts and hit 160 or more impact innings. But 160 or more innings is likely not be the plan for Graterol in 2020. And Twins fans shouldn’t want to see him using up too many of his (probably) predetermined innings in Rochester. And, with Graterol being a league-minimum arm for the next three-plus years, they could use “impact starter allocated money” on a big bat (like Josh Donaldson). It also wouldn’t stop them from pursuing other ‘impact” starters in trades. Again, please note that this is just me thinking out loud. There is no inside information in this article or in the development of this plan. But I think we are all aware of how detail-oriented and analytical this front office is. “What to do with Brusdar Graterol?” has to have been a highlighted discussion topic in the Twins offseason planning. So what would you do? How would you plan out the 2020 season for Brusdar Graterol? These would seem to be the options: Starter, developing in RochesterStarter, developing in Minnesota“Primary” pitcher in MinnesotaBullpen arm in MinnesotaBullpen arm in Rochester (likely not a preferred method)Let the discussion begin. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY -- Twins Daily 2019 Top Prospects: #3 Brusdar Graterol -- Brusdar Graterol Hits 103+, Promoted to AAA — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  19. Gerrit Cole. He was always going to the Yankees. Stephen Strasburg. He was always going to stay with the Nationals. Zack Wheeler. The Twins wanted to give him $100 million, but he wanted to stay in the east. Madison Bumgarner. He wanted to hang out in Phoenix with his horses. Hyun-Jin Ryu. He wanted a fourth year. So now the Twins option for acquiring a proven impact pitcher comes down to the trade market, and there are options available. If the season opened today (and it doesn’t until late March…), the Twins starting rotation would include Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda (after 40 games), and two open spots. Randy Dobnak should definitely get an opportunity to earn one of them. Lewis Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer deserve to be in the conversation for a rotation spot in 2020. But if you’re looking for “impact,” then Brusdar Graterol has to be a consideration. We saw him hit triple digits often. He made throwing 98 and 99 mph look almost effortless. As he relaxed, the velocity increased, and his slider got sharper. He also has a changeup that he can be effective with. Those are the pieces that give teams and their fans hope of developing a true ace, a potential impact starter. However, we have to acknowledge Graterol’s injury history. He missed nearly two seasons after Tommy John surgery. He missed about three months in 2019 with a shoulder injury. He ended up just over 70 innings pitched in 2019 after reaching 102 innings in 2018. With such a high-potential arm, the Twins would be wise to take care of him. They need to. It’s possible he could be limited to maybe 120 or 130 innings in 2020. Do the Twins want to have him eat a bunch of those innings in Rochester? Or could they be creative in getting him those innings and that development in the big leagues? Here is an idea that I would present. It’s probably a little outside the box, and yet, the Twins front office speaks often about how they like their staff (front office and on-field) to ask questions, to challenge norms. What if the Twins went with an opener and then use Graterol has the primary pitcher? The Opener concept was a huge conversation piece in baseball two years ago when Tampa utilized it. They had two pitchers that they planned on being in their rotation get hurt and really did it out of necessity. The Twins utilized the strategy that September when they were out of playoff contention and got a chance to get innings from several young starters. It nearly disappeared in 2019. It’s not ideal. Teams would much prefer to have five starting pitchers who make 32 starts a season and reach 200 innings. But sometimes a strategy might necessitate creative thinking in this light. So why might this strategy work, in my mind, for Brusdar Graterol in 2020? Stratify a plan for keeping Graterol at a certain pitch count and inning count in an attempt to a.) keep him healthy and b.) make sure he’s strong in September and hopefully through October. Why not just have him start? Well, if you’re limiting him to three or four innings per outing, at least early in the year, he can only be the losing pitcher. He can’t get wins. And while we all now know that pitcher wins and losses are immensely overrated as stats, it is something that a player can't help but notice. No need to put the extra stress on the young pitcher. Have him start the season by throwing 50 pitches per outing, whether that’s three innings or four innings. Gradually increase that number. Maybe it’s 65 pitches once the calendar turns to May. Maybe it’s 75 when the calendar turns to June, and 85 in July. Ideally, that would give him 30 to 32 appearances and he should be reaching around 120 innings. The Twins developed a bullpen that became a strength late in the 2019 season. They brought back Sergio Romo and added underrated Tyler Clippard. Taylor Rogers became one of the best relievers in baseball. Tyler Duffey and Trevor May dominated late in the season. Young guys like Zack Littell and Cody Stashak showed what they can be already and there is room for both of them to grow. Thorpe, Smeltzer and others could be the guys who move up and down as arms are needed. The Twins bullpen should be a strength in 2020, deep with reliable guys. Sergio Romo made a lot of “starts” (opener appearances) for the Rays in 2018, when Rocco Baldelli was one of their coaches. They are certainly both very familiar with the concept. Zack Littell could be a two-inning opener if needed. There are options for opener opportunities and there is enough depth to make it work. We don't yet know, at least in practice, how Wes Johnson might feel about using an opener, or if he has another philosophy on preventative care. In 2019, we did see the Twins put Michael Pineda on the injured list a couple of times to keep him fresh throughout the season. Maybe that's a better strategy? Would it be a long-term plan? No. In 2021, the hope would be that Graterol could make 32 starts and hit 160 or more impact innings. But 160 or more innings is likely not be the plan for Graterol in 2020. And Twins fans shouldn’t want to see him using up too many of his (probably) predetermined innings in Rochester. And, with Graterol being a league-minimum arm for the next three-plus years, they could use “impact starter allocated money” on a big bat (like Josh Donaldson). It also wouldn’t stop them from pursuing other ‘impact” starters in trades. Again, please note that this is just me thinking out loud. There is no inside information in this article or in the development of this plan. But I think we are all aware of how detail-oriented and analytical this front office is. “What to do with Brusdar Graterol?” has to have been a highlighted discussion topic in the Twins offseason planning. So what would you do? How would you plan out the 2020 season for Brusdar Graterol? These would seem to be the options: Starter, developing in Rochester Starter, developing in Minnesota “Primary” pitcher in Minnesota Bullpen arm in Minnesota Bullpen arm in Rochester (likely not a preferred method) Let the discussion begin. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY -- Twins Daily 2019 Top Prospects: #3 Brusdar Graterol -- Brusdar Graterol Hits 103+, Promoted to AAA — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. Going into 2019 one of the biggest storylines was that of the Minnesota Twins bullpen. New manager Rocco Baldelli had a rag tag group of arms, and there were more question marks than anyone would have liked. Fast forward a year and Wes Johnson transformed that narrative allowing 2020 to keep the unit entirely off the radar. When the team broke from Spring Training down in Fort Myers last year, only six players were truly relievers. The group consisted of Taylor Rogers, Trevor Mayer, Blake Parker, Adalberto Mejia, Trevor Hildenberger, and Ryne Harper. Of those, only three remain. Over the course of 2019 that unit took on a considerably different feeling. From one of uncertainty to a relative strength, new faces were added, and steps forward were taken. When the dust settled, Minnesota’s unit posted the 3rd highest fWAR in baseball, and were on par with the vaunted Yankees relief corps. The 3.92 FIP was the best in baseball, and while they didn’t have the best strikeout rate, a 2.9 BB/9 led the sport as well. Fast forward to today and the bullpen is all but settled. The Twins have some pieces to add on the roster, but this isn’t an area that needs work. With a 26-man roster for 2020, an eight-man staff to start out the year makes a good amount of sense. The names that make the most sense are Rogers, May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffey, Tyler Clippard, Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, and Matt Wisler. As a holdover from 2019, Ryne Harper could also push to eek his way in. This configuration includes hard throwers, bat missers, and guys with a strong ability to hit their spots. Breaking balls are present in the arms of Romo, Duffey, and Wisler. Littell and May can both shove, while arms like Rogers, Clippard, and Stashak are well rounded overall. This group doesn’t have names like Chapman or Britton, but you can bet that on performance alone, there’s household contributors to be utilized. After needing to replace four-fifths of the starting rotation from last year, it’s there that the Twins will find the most question marks for the year ahead. Give credit to Wes Johnson stepping in and immediately establishing himself as a viable and impressive pitching coach at the Major League level. The rotation is now buoyed mainly by veterans, but the supplementation of younger arms will need to be positioned with opportunity for success. Last season there was a good deal of changes made on the fly in the pen and being able to successfully navigate those waters provides a blueprint for the year ahead. No team will ever have enough pitching, and while Minnesota has flip-flopped the avenue in which they are needy, an infrastructure that fosters success is clearly in place. We don’t yet know how the Twins relievers will perform in the year ahead, and volatility on that part of the roster is to be expected. Given where the narrative was just a season ago however, the development and change are to be celebrated. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  21. The Twins continued to address their bullpen on Friday with the announcement that they have signed veteran right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard to a one-year deal. In addition, the Sergio Romo signing was confirmed.While we all wait for the big, "impact" move, the Twins announced a couple of moves that will hopefully solidify their 2020 bullpen. 34-year-old Tyler Clippard was signed to a one-year deal. He pitched in 53 games for Cleveland in 2019 and went 1-0 with a 2.90 ERA in 62 innings. He has been in pro ball for 17 years, starting in 2003 when he was a ninth-round pick of the Yankees. Since then, he has played in 13 big-league seasons and played in two All-Star Games. He has spent time with the Yankees, Nationals, A's, Mets, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Astros, Blue Jays and Indians. The team also confirmed the signing of Sergio Romo to a one-year contract with a 2021 option. The Twins 40-man roster is now at 38. And no, a $2.75 million contract for a reliever has no effect on their pursuit of the likes of Josh Donaldson or Hyun-Jin Ryu. A potential Twins bullpen could now include: Taylor Rogers Tyler Duffey Trevor May Sergio Romo Tyler Clippard Zack Littell Cody Stashak Fernando Romero Matt Wisler Jorge Alcala (and guys like Dobnak, Smeltzer, Thorpe, Graterol) Click here to view the article
  22. While we all wait for the big, "impact" move, the Twins announced a couple of moves that will hopefully solidify their 2020 bullpen. 34-year-old Tyler Clippard was signed to a one-year deal. He pitched in 53 games for Cleveland in 2019 and went 1-0 with a 2.90 ERA in 62 innings. He has been in pro ball for 17 years, starting in 2003 when he was a ninth-round pick of the Yankees. Since then, he has played in 13 big-league seasons and played in two All-Star Games. He has spent time with the Yankees, Nationals, A's, Mets, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Astros, Blue Jays and Indians. The team also confirmed the signing of Sergio Romo to a one-year contract with a 2021 option. The Twins 40-man roster is now at 38. And no, a $2.75 million contract for a reliever has no effect on their pursuit of the likes of Josh Donaldson or Hyun-Jin Ryu. A potential Twins bullpen could now include: Taylor Rogers Tyler Duffey Trevor May Sergio Romo Tyler Clippard Zack Littell Cody Stashak Fernando Romero Matt Wisler Jorge Alcala (and guys like Dobnak, Smeltzer, Thorpe, Graterol)
  23. Aaron and John talk about the Twins shooting their final shots for Hyun-Jin Ryu and Josh Donaldson, beefing up the bullpen with fan favorite Sergio Romo and BABIP god Tyler Clippard, losing out on Madison Bumgarner, whether the Indians or the White Sox are scarier, and a bonus clip of our patreon-only interview with Dustin Morse. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click this link. http://traffic.libsy...3?dest-id=74590 Click here to view the article
  24. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/Ep_458.mp3?dest-id=74590
  25. According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, the Minnesota Twins are finalizing an agreement with veteran reliever Sergio Romo, who came over ahead of the 2019 trade deadline. It's reportedly a one-year deal with an option. A reunion between Romo and the Twins has seemed likely all offseason, with both sides openly expressing interest. This qualifies more as another "stabilizing move" than an upgrade, but it's a welcome one nevertheless. The right-hander was a tremendous clubhouse fit and stellar performer after coming over from Miami in exchange for 1B prospect Lewin Diaz in July, posting a 3.18 ERA and 27-to-4 K/BB ratio in 22.2 IP for Minnesota. He'll turn 37 in spring training but doesn't seem especially prone to aging decline as a slider-slinging righty with an upper-80s fastball. Your thoughts on the signing? Click here to view the article
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