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  1. Something went wrong with Minnesota’s offseason blueprint in 2021. There is plenty of blame to be shared, but here are the Twins top three offseason mistakes. 3. Trusting the Bullpen Castoffs Wes Johnson has done some amazing things with bullpen arms in the past and the Twins entered 2021 thinking that he would be able to replicate these results with a new group of bullpen castoffs. Now it’s the beginning of June and Minnesota has rotated through Shaun Anderson, Derek Law, Juan Minaya, and Brandon Waddell. There were some big shoes to fill in the bullpen (see below), but all these new additions faced struggles. From season’s start, almost nothing seemed to work when it came to the bullpen. It’s also tough to adequately assess relievers when they have such a small sample size of work. It also didn’t help that Randy Dobnak was pushed from the rotation and didn’t really find success in a relief role. One light at the end of the tunnel might be Luke Farrell as he is the lone bullpen castoff that has found success. However, it might be too little, too late for Minnesota this year. 2. Signing Alex Colome Minnesota lost multiple bullpen arms during the winter and there needed to be some replacements found for Tyler Clippard, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, and Matt Wisler. None of these players have shined with their new teams. Clippard is on the 60-day injured list with a shoulder issue. Both Romo and Wisler have ERAs north of 5.80. May’s strikeout numbers have dropped, and he has the highest WHIP since his rookie season. Needless to say, relief pitchers can be fickle especially on the heels of a shortened 2020 campaign. Colome looked like a savvy signing at the time as he was coming off two tremendous seasons in Chicago. In 83 1/3 innings, he had a 2.27 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP and 42 saves. Overall, the results were certainly there since he moved to the bullpen fulltime in 2016. Maybe the White Sox knew a little bit more about Colome’s current situation as they let him go after two tremendous seasons. Minnesota certainly hasn’t seen the previous version of Colome this season. He has a -2.24 win probability added (WPA), which means he’s cost the Twins over two wins so far this season. Also, he has the lowest WAR in baseball among relief pitchers. Things have gone better recently as he has posted a 3.09 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings since the start of May. During that stretch, he has still provided negative WPA and it’s not like the Twins have a lot of other bullpen options. 1. Signing Matt Shoemaker The Matt Shoemaker experience has been a rough one and it seems likely that his time with the Twins will quickly be coming to an end. He leads the American League in losses and earned runs. Among AL starters with more than 50 innings pitched, he is the only pitcher with a negative WAR total for the year. Unfortunately, the Twins have six pitchers currently on the IL including starters like Kenta Maeda, Lewis Thorpe, and Devin Smeltzer so the club has to keep him around for depth. Entering the season, he had a 3.86 career ERA, but he had been limited to 18 starts since the end of 2017. His list of injuries including multiple forearm injuries, a torn ACL, shoulder inflammation, and a fractured skull from a line drive off his head. Injuries haven’t been the issue this year as he already pitched more innings than his totals in each of the last three years. It’s not as if a lot was expected from Shoemaker. He was signed for $2 million and was coming of a string of significant injury issues over the last several years. There were signs of hope as his fastball velocity increased last year and his sinker and splitter were improving. Obviously, those things haven’t worked out like the front office had planned. How would you rank the Twins offseason mistakes? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  2. 3. Trusting the Bullpen Castoffs Wes Johnson has done some amazing things with bullpen arms in the past and the Twins entered 2021 thinking that he would be able to replicate these results with a new group of bullpen castoffs. Now it’s the beginning of June and Minnesota has rotated through Shaun Anderson, Derek Law, Juan Minaya, and Brandon Waddell. There were some big shoes to fill in the bullpen (see below), but all these new additions faced struggles. From season’s start, almost nothing seemed to work when it came to the bullpen. It’s also tough to adequately assess relievers when they have such a small sample size of work. It also didn’t help that Randy Dobnak was pushed from the rotation and didn’t really find success in a relief role. One light at the end of the tunnel might be Luke Farrell as he is the lone bullpen castoff that has found success. However, it might be too little, too late for Minnesota this year. 2. Signing Alex Colome Minnesota lost multiple bullpen arms during the winter and there needed to be some replacements found for Tyler Clippard, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, and Matt Wisler. None of these players have shined with their new teams. Clippard is on the 60-day injured list with a shoulder issue. Both Romo and Wisler have ERAs north of 5.80. May’s strikeout numbers have dropped, and he has the highest WHIP since his rookie season. Needless to say, relief pitchers can be fickle especially on the heels of a shortened 2020 campaign. Colome looked like a savvy signing at the time as he was coming off two tremendous seasons in Chicago. In 83 1/3 innings, he had a 2.27 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP and 42 saves. Overall, the results were certainly there since he moved to the bullpen fulltime in 2016. Maybe the White Sox knew a little bit more about Colome’s current situation as they let him go after two tremendous seasons. Minnesota certainly hasn’t seen the previous version of Colome this season. He has a -2.24 win probability added (WPA), which means he’s cost the Twins over two wins so far this season. Also, he has the lowest WAR in baseball among relief pitchers. Things have gone better recently as he has posted a 3.09 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings since the start of May. During that stretch, he has still provided negative WPA and it’s not like the Twins have a lot of other bullpen options. 1. Signing Matt Shoemaker The Matt Shoemaker experience has been a rough one and it seems likely that his time with the Twins will quickly be coming to an end. He leads the American League in losses and earned runs. Among AL starters with more than 50 innings pitched, he is the only pitcher with a negative WAR total for the year. Unfortunately, the Twins have six pitchers currently on the IL including starters like Kenta Maeda, Lewis Thorpe, and Devin Smeltzer so the club has to keep him around for depth. Entering the season, he had a 3.86 career ERA, but he had been limited to 18 starts since the end of 2017. His list of injuries including multiple forearm injuries, a torn ACL, shoulder inflammation, and a fractured skull from a line drive off his head. Injuries haven’t been the issue this year as he already pitched more innings than his totals in each of the last three years. It’s not as if a lot was expected from Shoemaker. He was signed for $2 million and was coming of a string of significant injury issues over the last several years. There were signs of hope as his fastball velocity increased last year and his sinker and splitter were improving. Obviously, those things haven’t worked out like the front office had planned. How would you rank the Twins offseason mistakes? 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
  3. Earlier this offseason the Minnesota Twins started to reconstruct their bullpen. Losing Trevor May was always going to be a big blow, and there hasn’t been much in the form of names yet, but it’s a process the front office has earned trust in. A pair of big-name free agents with Minnesota ties have already come off the board but deals for either Liam Hendriks or Brad Hand always seemed far-fetched for the Twins. It’s not that they don’t have the money to spend, or need in relief, but nothing about either of those players fits the process of what this organization has done of late. Hendriks got $54 million from the White Sox over three years, while Hand got $10.5 million from the Washington Nationals. The last time Minnesota paid big on a reliever was Addison Reed, and it went up in smoke. It would be silly to suggest that every reliever be viewed through the same lens as the failed Reed deal, but more realistically there’s the reality of what Minnesota has done with less. Look at some of the names from recent seasons, and the ERA’s posted by players on deals all at $2.75 million or less. It’s not that the Twins purposely set out to be bargain shoppers, but instead identify outliers very well and get the most out of castoffs from elsewhere. This season Ian Gibault and Brandon Waddell were both claimed off of waivers at the end of October. They each claim a current 40-man spot and feature a slider. It’s a pitch that Wes Johnson and the coaching staff has targeted for some time, and it’s sensible to believe both are currently penciled into the bullpen. Hansel Robles is the lone larger expense thus far, and the former Angels closer was inked to a one-year deal paying him just $2 million. There’s probably at least one more spot open, and you can bet that Minnesota has a type rather than a name in mind. From my vantage point Trevor Rosenthal looks like the best option remaining, and I loved the fit last year as he returned from injury. He’s going to come with a price tag near the upper levels of single digits however, so that may not be the way they go. There should be a solid grouping of guys like Tyler Clippard and Alex Colome left at the end however, and those pacts should fall within the same range as the Colome deal. Dating back to 2015 Major League Baseball has shifted a pitching philosophy to a construction of an elite bullpen. How teams get there or create that though, are all made differently. The reality is that often times the mega deals for relievers go up in smoke (hello Wade Davis), and understanding how to best utilize what’s in front of you is the easiest path to success. There’s no denying that a group including Hand or Hendriks has a safer floor on paper, but it all comes down to execution. On their own the Twins organization has turned Tyler Duffey into one of the best relievers in baseball. Taylor Rogers has looked the part of a lock down piece, and it was his recent seasons in the pen that got Trevor May paid. Edwar Colina could join this group, and Jorge Alcala has already flashed that promise. Sure, Minnesota hasn’t made any big splashes for their bullpen, but it’s probably more about what’s going on behind the scenes and the execution of who the tab, rather than the exciting names, that get the job done. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  4. The 2020 season did not go well for plenty of players as the Twins saw with Jake Odorizzi. With many unique circumstances surrounding a shortened season, it’s going to be tough for teams to evaluate starters on 8-12 appearances. Gray certainly fits that mold as he was limited to eight starts and had a 6.69 ERA and a 5.1 SO/9, both totals were the worst of his career. Gray’s season was cut short after suffering right shoulder inflammation and then he didn’t have time to build back up before season’s end. His 2020 struggles might be tied to him pitching through this injury. Over the last four seasons, he has posted a 4.50 ERA with 1.34 WHIP and 8.9 SO/9, so there have been ups and downs in recent years. Looking into his contract situation, Gray is arbitration eligible for the final time this winter. He made $5.6 million through arbitration last year and MLB Trade Rumors projects him to be in roughly that same range for the coming season ($5.6-6.5 million). To put that in perspective, the Twins paid two members of their rotation more than that last season (Jake Odorizzi, $17.8 million; Michael Pineda, $10 million). Pitching in Coors Field for 50% of a player’s starts can be tough on the overall numbers by the end of multiple seasons. Against Gray, opponents have hit .268/.320/.435 (.755), but within those numbers is a .327 BAbip which means a certain amount of luck might be involved for hitters. His second most starts have come at Petco Park, a pitcher friendly ballpark, and batter’s OPS is over 120 points lower. Putting Gray at Target Field for half his starts likely puts him somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Another area to consider with Gray is his pitch selection and the possibility of unlocking even more potential. The Twins did this with Kenta Maeda this past season as he saw increased use in his slider and changeup which meant he was using his four seamer less often. Fans saw those positive results as Maeda was the team’s most consistent starting pitcher for the entire season. Gray relies on five pitches, a four seamer (48.3%), a slider (29.2%), a changeup (13.1%), a curve (8.4%) and a sinker (1.1%). His biggest change last season was an increased use of his changeup which increased by over 10% from the 2019 season. His fastball velocity consistently ranks high, but there isn’t a lot of movement on this pitch. Could Wes Johnson work some of his magic and get Gray to rely more on his secondary pitches? Everything with Gray is going to come down to the health of his throwing shoulder. He might be worth the risk if the Twins get a look at his medicals and everything checks out. The cost likely wouldn’t be very high with one arbitration year left and his poor performance in 2020. Do you think the Twins should make a play for Jon Gray? 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. When headed to Spring Training prior to the 2019 season, the Twins were coming off of two years in which they finished 24th and 18th as a bullpen respectively. Garvin Alston had been shown the door, and so too had skipper Paul Molitor. In an age where rotations had become simply a means to an end, it was the power bullpens that reigned supreme. Breaking camp to head north Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson took a relief corps that included Taylor Rogers, Adlaberto Mejia, Trevor May, Blake Parker, Trevor Hildenberger, and Ryne Harper. Just two of those names remain for the 2020 squad, and they’ve now been developed into absolute studs. Coming out of the 2019 season, Johnson and Baldelli had orchestrated a relief group that posted the third best fWAR (7.3) across baseball. Rogers and May were joined by Tyler Duffey in hitting career marks, and Zack Littell was groomed into a solid back end arm. Though this group may not have the names of some other top units, their creating household numbers on their own. Johnson helped Rogers to produce the 11th best single season reliever fWAR (2.1) in Twins history. It was the best single-season performance since 2006 when Joe Nathan recorded the second-best mark (3.1) in club history, and it was a step up from Taylor’s already impressive 2018 season. It isn’t just about what Johnson got out of an already good arm, however. Acquired in the Ben Revere trade with the Philadelphia Phillies, Trevor May never worked out as a starter. Injuries mounted, and after sorting out his back issues, relief work became the way to go. He posted a career best FIP in 2018 and ratcheted up the strikeout numbers. Last year though, he became a true shutdown type while posting 11.1 K/9, and career lows in both H/9 (6.0) and HR/9 (1.1). Joining May in taking a step forward was Tyler Duffey. The former Rice closer went down the starting path and we nearly cast aside after a disastrous 7.20 ERA in 2018. Over 57.2 IP a year ago, he turned in a 2.50 ERA, 12.8 K/9 (nearly double the 2018 number), and a 3.06 FIP. With one of the best curveballs on the staff, the guy known as Doof certainly can mow 'em down in big moments. Minnesota identified Sergio Romo in an astute trade during last year’s deadline, and the fan favorite was brought back this year after posting a 146 ERA+ and 10.6 K/9. Looking great in Cleveland a year ago, 35-year-old Tyler Clippard and his strong career numbers over 13 years were added to the veteran presence. Being able to add Littell, who posted a 0.88 ERA and 27/8 K/BB over his final 30.2 IP, was one of the Twins great accomplishments a season ago. Matt Wisler is a former Top-100 prospect that hasn’t seen big league success, but there’s no denying Johnson sees something he likes there. Minnesota gave him a guaranteed contract, and the slider is a pitch to work with. Then there’s phenom Brusdar Graterol. It’s hardly a death sentence to send a 21-year-old kid to the bullpen (ask Johan Santana). Still looking to develop a complete repertoire, Graterol’s triple-digit heater should be plenty useful when attacking the opposition. Baldelli being able to go there in earlier innings is something a luxury only a pen this good could afford. Maybe his role is tweaked down the line, but there’s something to be said about adding arguably the best available relief arm by simply picking from your own organization. Things never go according to plan, so being able to rest on depth like Cody Stashak and his nutty 25/1 debut K/BB, or Jorge Alcala and his big fastball are certainly realities new to the organization. When hired from the Indians organization it was consistently noted that Derek Falvey’s calling card was developing pitching. It’s not hard to see how powerful the infrastructure he’s blueprinted now is, and the fruit that it continues to bear. Minnesota was topped by the Rays (7.6 fWAR) and Yankees (7.5) last year. Jumping to that top spot isn't at all unlikely. This ain’t your grandad’s Minnesota Twins bullpen. They have to go out and perform, but this is a unit that is going to be an absolute problem in the best way possible. 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. Rewind a year and the talk around this time was how poor the Minnesota Twins bullpen looked going into 2019. The team was coming off a down year, and relievers looked capable of ceding leads. New pitching coach, new manager, many similar faces, then. The narrative is entirely different for 2020.When headed to Spring Training prior to the 2019 season, the Twins were coming off of two years in which they finished 24th and 18th as a bullpen respectively. Garvin Alston had been shown the door, and so too had skipper Paul Molitor. In an age where rotations had become simply a means to an end, it was the power bullpens that reigned supreme. Breaking camp to head north Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson took a relief corps that included Taylor Rogers, Adlaberto Mejia, Trevor May, Blake Parker, Trevor Hildenberger, and Ryne Harper. Just two of those names remain for the 2020 squad, and they’ve now been developed into absolute studs. Coming out of the 2019 season, Johnson and Baldelli had orchestrated a relief group that posted the third best fWAR (7.3) across baseball. Rogers and May were joined by Tyler Duffey in hitting career marks, and Zack Littell was groomed into a solid back end arm. Though this group may not have the names of some other top units, their creating household numbers on their own. Johnson helped Rogers to produce the 11th best single season reliever fWAR (2.1) in Twins history. It was the best single-season performance since 2006 when Joe Nathan recorded the second-best mark (3.1) in club history, and it was a step up from Taylor’s already impressive 2018 season. It isn’t just about what Johnson got out of an already good arm, however. Acquired in the Ben Revere trade with the Philadelphia Phillies, Trevor May never worked out as a starter. Injuries mounted, and after sorting out his back issues, relief work became the way to go. He posted a career best FIP in 2018 and ratcheted up the strikeout numbers. Last year though, he became a true shutdown type while posting 11.1 K/9, and career lows in both H/9 (6.0) and HR/9 (1.1). Joining May in taking a step forward was Tyler Duffey. The former Rice closer went down the starting path and we nearly cast aside after a disastrous 7.20 ERA in 2018. Over 57.2 IP a year ago, he turned in a 2.50 ERA, 12.8 K/9 (nearly double the 2018 number), and a 3.06 FIP. With one of the best curveballs on the staff, the guy known as Doof certainly can mow 'em down in big moments. Minnesota identified Sergio Romo in an astute trade during last year’s deadline, and the fan favorite was brought back this year after posting a 146 ERA+ and 10.6 K/9. Looking great in Cleveland a year ago, 35-year-old Tyler Clippard and his strong career numbers over 13 years were added to the veteran presence. Being able to add Littell, who posted a 0.88 ERA and 27/8 K/BB over his final 30.2 IP, was one of the Twins great accomplishments a season ago. Matt Wisler is a former Top-100 prospect that hasn’t seen big league success, but there’s no denying Johnson sees something he likes there. Minnesota gave him a guaranteed contract, and the slider is a pitch to work with. Then there’s phenom Brusdar Graterol. It’s hardly a death sentence to send a 21-year-old kid to the bullpen (ask Johan Santana). Still looking to develop a complete repertoire, Graterol’s triple-digit heater should be plenty useful when attacking the opposition. Baldelli being able to go there in earlier innings is something a luxury only a pen this good could afford. Maybe his role is tweaked down the line, but there’s something to be said about adding arguably the best available relief arm by simply picking from your own organization. Things never go according to plan, so being able to rest on depth like Cody Stashak and his nutty 25/1 debut K/BB, or Jorge Alcala and his big fastball are certainly realities new to the organization. When hired from the Indians organization it was consistently noted that Derek Falvey’s calling card was developing pitching. It’s not hard to see how powerful the infrastructure he’s blueprinted now is, and the fruit that it continues to bear. Minnesota was topped by the Rays (7.6 fWAR) and Yankees (7.5) last year. Jumping to that top spot isn't at all unlikely. This ain’t your grandad’s Minnesota Twins bullpen. They have to go out and perform, but this is a unit that is going to be an absolute problem in the best way possible. 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
  7. If you watched Sunday afternoon’s Minnesota Twins intra-squad game, you got to see two innings on the mound for two of the team’s top pitching prospects. And, I think it is fair to say that they both impressed!Before we get too deep into things, let’s step back for a quick reminder of how the Twins acquired pitching prospects Jhoan Duran and Dakota Chalmers. JHOAN DURAN The 22-year-old Duran is from the Dominican Republic. He signed with the Diamondbacks in December 2014 and worked his way up the ladder. In late July of 2018, he came to the Twins organization with outfielders Ernie de la Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel as part of the Eduardo Escobar deal. Twins Bench Coach Mike Bell was the Diamondbacks’ Vice President of Player Development for eight years. He said of trading Duran, “It was a painful trade, being on that side of it, watching him go. I was definitely in the room. I think it was a good trade for both teams. Escy’s a very good player, and a good teammate. I’ll tell you what, Duran is an incredible talent. I think he’s going to do a lot of good things here in the organization.” Get to know Jhoan Duran from this story from January, shortly after he was added to the Twins 40-man roster. At that time, he spoke of his best pitches. ““Obviously I feel most comfortable with my fastball, but I also have another pitch that I really like to use and feel really comfortable with, and that’s my sinker.” DAKOTA CHALMERS Dakota Chalmers was the 3rd round draft pick of the Oakland A’s in 2015 out of high school in Georgia. The highly-touted, hard-throwing prospect showed great stuff, but early in 2018, he had Tommy John surgery. In August of 2018, the Twins traded veteran closer Fernando Rodney to the A’s for Chalmers, knowing he would not be able to pitch until at least the second half of the 2019 season. He began making rehab appearances last July, and on July 30th, he debuted with the Ft. Myers Miracle. After a rough first start, he was really good in his final four starts before the end of the regular season. He then went up to Pensacola and pitched for them in the playoffs. And after that, he went to the Arizona Fall League where he struck out 25 batters in 17 2/3 innings. Like Duran, Chalmers became an easy choice to add to the 40-man roster after the season. We caught up with the 23-year-old at Twins Fest as well for this Get to Know him story. --------------------------------------- Now, back to their performances on Sunday. For each, it was their first appearance in Summer Camp intra-squad games. Hard to know what to expect. As pitching coach Wes Johnson pointed out, they weren’t necessarily looking for results. “I told those guys that it wasn’t, for me, as much about balls and strikes - as crazy as that sounds - it was How was their presence? We gave them some different situations. We started their second innings with runners on.” But it was hard not to notice that they each threw two scoreless innings, despite those situations. Also, Johnson added, “Both of those guys had to go through the heart of our order. That’s not easy. In my opinion, we have the best offense in baseball.” While it is OK to question the plate discipline of Eddie Rosario, just watch the movement of that Jhoan Duran pitch from Sunday again. That’s not a pitch that can be hit, certainly not with any authority. The future is bright for the Twins, and specifically for these high-upside Twins pitchers. Remember that Jordan Balazovic isn’t even in the current Twins 60-player pool. Baldelli thinks this group is going to be special, and more importantly, it really continues to enforce just how much depth the Twins have on the mound. Baldelli noted, "What we're watching is not typical. You could watch some really good major league baseball and not see some of the stuff those guys threw out there today." So while Dakota Chalmers and Jhoan Duran are unlikely to make starts for the Twins in 2020, it’s not impossible to think that they could contribute out of the bullpen for stints if needed. And, it’s exciting to think of what they can become - and what it means for the health of the Twins organization - if they continue to develop and gain consistency moving forward. Their futures are quite bright. Click here to view the article
  8. Before we get too deep into things, let’s step back for a quick reminder of how the Twins acquired pitching prospects Jhoan Duran and Dakota Chalmers. JHOAN DURAN The 22-year-old Duran is from the Dominican Republic. He signed with the Diamondbacks in December 2014 and worked his way up the ladder. In late July of 2018, he came to the Twins organization with outfielders Ernie de la Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel as part of the Eduardo Escobar deal. Twins Bench Coach Mike Bell was the Diamondbacks’ Vice President of Player Development for eight years. He said of trading Duran, “It was a painful trade, being on that side of it, watching him go. I was definitely in the room. I think it was a good trade for both teams. Escy’s a very good player, and a good teammate. I’ll tell you what, Duran is an incredible talent. I think he’s going to do a lot of good things here in the organization.” Get to know Jhoan Duran from this story from January, shortly after he was added to the Twins 40-man roster. At that time, he spoke of his best pitches. ““Obviously I feel most comfortable with my fastball, but I also have another pitch that I really like to use and feel really comfortable with, and that’s my sinker.” DAKOTA CHALMERS Dakota Chalmers was the 3rd round draft pick of the Oakland A’s in 2015 out of high school in Georgia. The highly-touted, hard-throwing prospect showed great stuff, but early in 2018, he had Tommy John surgery. In August of 2018, the Twins traded veteran closer Fernando Rodney to the A’s for Chalmers, knowing he would not be able to pitch until at least the second half of the 2019 season. He began making rehab appearances last July, and on July 30th, he debuted with the Ft. Myers Miracle. After a rough first start, he was really good in his final four starts before the end of the regular season. He then went up to Pensacola and pitched for them in the playoffs. And after that, he went to the Arizona Fall League where he struck out 25 batters in 17 2/3 innings. Like Duran, Chalmers became an easy choice to add to the 40-man roster after the season. We caught up with the 23-year-old at Twins Fest as well for this Get to Know him story. --------------------------------------- Now, back to their performances on Sunday. For each, it was their first appearance in Summer Camp intra-squad games. Hard to know what to expect. As pitching coach Wes Johnson pointed out, they weren’t necessarily looking for results. “I told those guys that it wasn’t, for me, as much about balls and strikes - as crazy as that sounds - it was How was their presence? We gave them some different situations. We started their second innings with runners on.” But it was hard not to notice that they each threw two scoreless innings, despite those situations. Also, Johnson added, “Both of those guys had to go through the heart of our order. That’s not easy. In my opinion, we have the best offense in baseball.” https://twitter.com/HagemanParker/status/1284955121277964296 Johnson said that Nelson Cruz provided the biggest compliment, “Nelson Cruz came up to me and said ‘Hey, both of those guys who just threw, they impressed me. They looked like they belonged, and they were in control.’ And I 100% agree with Nelson obviously.” Following Sunday’s game, Rocco Baldelli excitedly discussed Duran, Chalmers, and also hard-throwing reliever Jorge Alcala. He said, "I think all three of those guys are going to be impacting us at the big league level, and probably soon... The type of stuff we're talking about is the type of stuff that impacts major league games." Duran hit triple digits multiple times in 2019 in Ft. Myers and Pensacola. Chalmers has reached 97 at times. Alcala works 94 to 97 too. But for each of them, they have multiple pitches that could become, and maybe soon, plus pitches. Will that happen in 2020? While Duran and Chalmers have the stuff and the potential to be big league, impact starters, they are young. Also, in 2020, it becomes about opportunity. The Twins have a veteran pitching staff. Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill and Homer Bailey would appear to be the starting five at the beginning of the season. In addition, Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe all showed something in 2019 in the big leagues and give the team major-league-ready starting pitcher depth. So for 2020, especially the shortened 2020 season, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which they get the call to start this year. However, as Wes Johnson pointed out, “Crazy things happen, as you guys know. It’s crazy times. It’s going to be tough to answer that question. There’s always that possibility. We wouldn't have them here if we didn’t think that if we needed to we could call on them and bring them up.” Maybe even more important, these pitchers indicate that the Twins player development, and specifically, their pitcher development has come a long way. It also speaks to their pro scouting department to tout these guys as targets in that large group of late 2018 trades. Baldelli is excited about what they can be. “Those guys are going to help us win for a very long time.They don't just have pretty good stuff. They don't just have pretty good ability. They have elite traits that are going to allow them to get a lot of outs, a lot of swings and misses.” The reigning AL Manager of the Year specifically mentioned one of Duran’s pitches that he thinks can be great. “I don't even know what anyone wants to call the pitch Duran throws, as well, the splinker pitch, or I don't even know what to call it, but it's coming in hot. It moves and just kind of disappears.” https://twitter.com/SethTweets/status/1284997265300566018 While it is OK to question the plate discipline of Eddie Rosario, just watch the movement of that Jhoan Duran pitch from Sunday again. That’s not a pitch that can be hit, certainly not with any authority. The future is bright for the Twins, and specifically for these high-upside Twins pitchers. Remember that Jordan Balazovic isn’t even in the current Twins 60-player pool. Baldelli thinks this group is going to be special, and more importantly, it really continues to enforce just how much depth the Twins have on the mound. Baldelli noted, "What we're watching is not typical. You could watch some really good major league baseball and not see some of the stuff those guys threw out there today." So while Dakota Chalmers and Jhoan Duran are unlikely to make starts for the Twins in 2020, it’s not impossible to think that they could contribute out of the bullpen for stints if needed. And, it’s exciting to think of what they can become - and what it means for the health of the Twins organization - if they continue to develop and gain consistency moving forward. Their futures are quite bright.
  9. The Minnesota Twins are loaded with the latest gadgets and technology. They have the capability of measuring foot pressure into the mound, hip speed, chest speed, arm speed, arm path, release height, release speed, breakdown which fingertip touched the ball last, spin rate, spin direction, velocity and on and on. They have a team dedicated to biomechanical science to sniff out inefficiencies. They have what amounts to a world class pitching lab to isolate the root cause of any abnormalities. There are times, however, when a player requires more than metrics. There are times when a player needs not to be told what is wrong. They need to hear what they did right. This past November Wes Johnson was a presenter at an ABCA pitching clinic. There, the Twins pitching coach shared a story about Berrios’ late season issues and how they addressed them. “He was struggling a little bit,” Johnson said of Berrios. “Struggling mentally, struggling physically. I said ‘Jose that’s it, you are meeting me in the video room today at 2 and we’re gonna go over some stuff.’” As Berrios hit a rough patch, the pitching coach took his star pitcher and showed him a supercut of all his strikeouts. No mechanical talk. No pitch selection talk. It was simply a session for Berrios to be reminded of how dominating he can be. “It spurs the conversation,” Johnson tells the crowd about the video session. “What happened was his own perception of his own potential had fallen because he was struggling. All I did was show him was no, no, you are still pretty good. I didn’t do anything.” Berrios returned to the mound. The loud contact subsided, the walks decreased, and the strikeouts returned. Velocity was ticking northward and he began to execute his pitches with more precision. He had improved. And yet Wes Johnson claimed he did not do anything. He told the coaches at the conference that in the aftermath, reporters would bombard him with questions. They wanted to know what he did with Jose Berrios to get him back on track. What was the secret? “He just got back to who he was,” said Johnson. “Knew that he was pretty good. He watched himself execute pitches. I didn’t do anything with his delivery, I didn’t do anything with his throwing.” Of course Johnson did something. What he is saying is that he didn’t do anything conventional. There were no changes to his weighted ball routine. No messing with his pitch arsenal. No additional pregame hours working through movements on the mound. Nothing that a pitching coach traditionally does. It was all about the headspace. In Trevor Moawad’s book, It Takes What It Takes, the mental skills coach detailed some accomplishments he had with some professional athletes and how they achieved those victories. One of Moawad’s main clients is Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson. When the Seahawks went to Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX, Moawad compiled a video of Wilson’s extraordinary plays to help him prepare. “We started by giving Russell examples of the times when he has been at his most commanding,” Moawad wrote. “As he watched, he allowed himself to relive incredible moments when he was at his best.” The film included some of Wilson’s memorable moments in his college and professional career. It zeroed in on his posture before and after big plays. It captured the language he used on the sidelines to describe how he felt about the execution. Moawad goes further, adding that he included a song from the band The Head & The Heart that would remind Wilson that he is home in these moments. Johnson’s film session likely didn’t include a soundtrack set to an indie folk rock band but the overall intent mirrors what the mental performance coach was trying to accomplish with Russell Wilson: remind Jose Berrios that he is an elite performer. As we know, Wilson went out and threw the game-losing interception that Super Bowl. Berrios had more shaky outings later in the season. It’s not a magic elixir. Studies suggest that reviewing positive imagery before competition has helped athletes elevate their game. Researchers found that using imagery can stimulate various parts of an athletes’ brain, activating recall of a feel. By watching some performance clips the same athletes can experience those moments in great vividness. What’s more, if those images are overwhelmingly positive, such as Berrios throwing a dirty ass hook against one of the league’s better hitters, he may increase his self-confidence which can affect his future performance. He may also trigger the portion of his brain that remembers exactly how that pitch felt. So when Wes Johnson says he did nothing for Berrios, he’s simply being modest. It doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. After all, the Twins have given him a new offseason workout routine, a new shape to his curveball, and have tried to get him to sit in his heel more again this spring. They hope they can continue to build him into the pitcher who can last throughout an entire season -- be it 162 or 60 games. But while there are things to work on physically, sometimes it’s best to have someone in the clubhouse reminding him what he can do right.
  10. Minnesota Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson assigned homework to the local media this week. 'I’ll challenge you with this, then,' he told no one specifically in the media scrum. 'Go back and watch what [Dakota] Chalmers did. He didn't throw one over 96. We've had a couple other guys hit 100. There's one big, distinct difference between those three guys. I'll let y'all find that one out.' Here’s what we found.First, some background. The “couple other guys” Johnson referenced were Jorge Alcala and Jhoan Duran. All three were optioned to the minor league side this week but all are highly touted arms in the organization. Chalmers, who was acquired in the Fernando Rodney trade in 2018, impressed in the Arizona Fall League. He flashed a mid-90s fastball and, what one American League scout told Baseball America, the best curveball in the fall league. He has swing-and-miss stuff, the critical lifeblood to becoming a successful modern pitcher. In 17.2 innings facing the game’s most promising prospects, Chalmers struck out 25. That said, he also walked 12 in that same time. Johnson referenced velocity when comparing Chalmers to Alcala and Duran. The latter two have seen their fastballs touch triple-digit territory while Chalmers has not. Johnson says there is a mechanical reason for this. Here are the three pitchers from their 2019 season: Download attachment: FSFrameGIFImage (2).gif Chalmers differs in his delivery in the use of his lower half, beginning with his feet. This is the critical component of a pitcher’s mechanics as pitchers who have the tendency to get to their toes limit their velocity ceilings. This is something that Jose Berrios' has wrestled with last season using quad-dominant mechanics. Johnson spoke extensively about the subject last spring, noting how having contact into the ground through the heel (but really the entire foot) aids in creating additional hip speed by engaging the gluteus muscle along with the quadriceps muscle. Here are shots of the pitchers’ feet. Notice that Chalmers’ foot is entirely on his toe while Alcala and Duran maintain more contact throughout. Chalmers gets quad dominant quickly. This leads to reduced hip speed which leads to lower peak velocity. Velocity, it is said, comes from the ground up. Download attachment: IMG_5412.jpg More issues can spring from these mechanics. When using predominately the quad muscle, less velocity and more stress is put on the arm. It may be one of the reasons Chalmers required Tommy John surgery in April 2018 while with Oakland, placing additional strain on the UCL. Another factor is command. When rotating from a stable full-foot, there is consistency in the mechanics. The Twins aren’t guessing on all this either. Sure, they can look at the video or watch a bullpen session and see this happening, but with the various array technological devices at their disposal, they can break down exactly what these movements mean to the pitcher. Starting with the release and working backwards, the Twins have available to them the standard pitch flight data systems available, like Trackman and Rapsodo devices, which measure the velocity and spin rates. They can track release point consistency as well. They have a legion of Edgertronic cameras which isolate all or small portions of the delivery, including how the ball comes out of the hand. These programs have now been widely utilized throughout baseball. Even some high school programs have invested in that equipment. Here is where things start getting advanced. From the ground up, the Twins recently invested in Newtforce ground plates. These data-collect mounds allows the Twins to capture how much pressure and where during the delivery process it is being created or applied. They can tell a pitcher just how much force they are generating from their back leg. On the field, the Twins have a Simi Motion system installed at Target Field and now at Hammond Stadium. This system can feed the team’s analysts information on components like hip speed, the driving factor in velocity, or valgus stress applied on the elbow (which could be an indicator of potential injury risk). In short, the Twins are no longer just visually assessing pitchers and telling them to make changes. They come armed with more data than NASA. The Twins players themselves are not necessarily diving into all the data after every pitch or every outing. Taylor Rogers says that he does not look at the information unless a coach notices something is off. Others have used the numbers to improve. Trevor May spent last season adding to his velocity and cited hip speed as a factor. The key has been having a coaching staff and analytic department that has worked together to identify and deliver the message to the player in ways that can help them understand how it will help them on the field. The other aspect is implementing the plan that the Twins create for their pitchers. Chalmers, for example, could be told exactly what he needs to do -- i.e. stay in his heel more and engage his glute more -- and be on board with the plan, but that specific movement may require additional physical preparation on Chalmers’ part. A pitcher could lack some hip mobility that would restrict his movements. The Twins training staff assesses all their players to figure out how their bodies move and then creates a plan to help them reach optimal movements. Chalmers told Twins Daily’s Seth Stohs that he had spent the off-season working on strengthening his core and lower half to stabilize his delivery. Still, given Johnson’s quotes this spring, the Twins haven’t seen Chalmers incorporate those changes in his mechanics just yet. Furthermore, Chalmers will be on an innings restriction so his work this spring has been varied from that of Alcala and Duran. If he does, we may see an uptick in his velocity, command and health this season. When contemplating the immediate potential of the three arms just sent down to the minor league camp, Johnson says the Twins are looking for swing-and-misses to add to the big league staff. “Those are the guys that impact your bullpen. We don't need ground ball guys coming in out of the 'pen.” Swings and misses can come from breaking balls, such as on Chalmers’ impressive bender, but velocity always helps play it up. 96 is cool but 99 is really cool. While this is a story of just one minor league pitcher’s journey, the real takeaway is how impressive the Twins development system has become in a short period of time. With numerous tools and minds at their disposal, the Minnesota Twins could soon be a pitcher development factory unrivaled in the game. Click here to view the article
  11. First, some background. The “couple other guys” Johnson referenced were Jorge Alcala and Jhoan Duran. All three were optioned to the minor league side this week but all are highly touted arms in the organization. Chalmers, who was acquired in the Fernando Rodney trade in 2018, impressed in the Arizona Fall League. He flashed a mid-90s fastball and, what one American League scout told Baseball America, the best curveball in the fall league. He has swing-and-miss stuff, the critical lifeblood to becoming a successful modern pitcher. In 17.2 innings facing the game’s most promising prospects, Chalmers struck out 25. That said, he also walked 12 in that same time. Johnson referenced velocity when comparing Chalmers to Alcala and Duran. The latter two have seen their fastballs touch triple-digit territory while Chalmers has not. Johnson says there is a mechanical reason for this. Here are the three pitchers from their 2019 season: Chalmers differs in his delivery in the use of his lower half, beginning with his feet. This is the critical component of a pitcher’s mechanics as pitchers who have the tendency to get to their toes limit their velocity ceilings. This is something that Jose Berrios' has wrestled with last season using quad-dominant mechanics. Johnson spoke extensively about the subject last spring, noting how having contact into the ground through the heel (but really the entire foot) aids in creating additional hip speed by engaging the gluteus muscle along with the quadriceps muscle. Here are shots of the pitchers’ feet. Notice that Chalmers’ foot is entirely on his toe while Alcala and Duran maintain more contact throughout. Chalmers gets quad dominant quickly. This leads to reduced hip speed which leads to lower peak velocity. Velocity, it is said, comes from the ground up. More issues can spring from these mechanics. When using predominately the quad muscle, less velocity and more stress is put on the arm. It may be one of the reasons Chalmers required Tommy John surgery in April 2018 while with Oakland, placing additional strain on the UCL. Another factor is command. When rotating from a stable full-foot, there is consistency in the mechanics. The Twins aren’t guessing on all this either. Sure, they can look at the video or watch a bullpen session and see this happening, but with the various array technological devices at their disposal, they can break down exactly what these movements mean to the pitcher. Starting with the release and working backwards, the Twins have available to them the standard pitch flight data systems available, like Trackman and Rapsodo devices, which measure the velocity and spin rates. They can track release point consistency as well. They have a legion of Edgertronic cameras which isolate all or small portions of the delivery, including how the ball comes out of the hand. These programs have now been widely utilized throughout baseball. Even some high school programs have invested in that equipment. Here is where things start getting advanced. From the ground up, the Twins recently invested in Newtforce ground plates. These data-collect mounds allows the Twins to capture how much pressure and where during the delivery process it is being created or applied. They can tell a pitcher just how much force they are generating from their back leg. On the field, the Twins have a Simi Motion system installed at Target Field and now at Hammond Stadium. This system can feed the team’s analysts information on components like hip speed, the driving factor in velocity, or valgus stress applied on the elbow (which could be an indicator of potential injury risk). In short, the Twins are no longer just visually assessing pitchers and telling them to make changes. They come armed with more data than NASA. The Twins players themselves are not necessarily diving into all the data after every pitch or every outing. Taylor Rogers says that he does not look at the information unless a coach notices something is off. Others have used the numbers to improve. Trevor May spent last season adding to his velocity and cited hip speed as a factor. The key has been having a coaching staff and analytic department that has worked together to identify and deliver the message to the player in ways that can help them understand how it will help them on the field. The other aspect is implementing the plan that the Twins create for their pitchers. Chalmers, for example, could be told exactly what he needs to do -- i.e. stay in his heel more and engage his glute more -- and be on board with the plan, but that specific movement may require additional physical preparation on Chalmers’ part. A pitcher could lack some hip mobility that would restrict his movements. The Twins training staff assesses all their players to figure out how their bodies move and then creates a plan to help them reach optimal movements. Chalmers told Twins Daily’s Seth Stohs that he had spent the off-season working on strengthening his core and lower half to stabilize his delivery. Still, given Johnson’s quotes this spring, the Twins haven’t seen Chalmers incorporate those changes in his mechanics just yet. Furthermore, Chalmers will be on an innings restriction so his work this spring has been varied from that of Alcala and Duran. If he does, we may see an uptick in his velocity, command and health this season. When contemplating the immediate potential of the three arms just sent down to the minor league camp, Johnson says the Twins are looking for swing-and-misses to add to the big league staff. “Those are the guys that impact your bullpen. We don't need ground ball guys coming in out of the 'pen.” Swings and misses can come from breaking balls, such as on Chalmers’ impressive bender, but velocity always helps play it up. 96 is cool but 99 is really cool. While this is a story of just one minor league pitcher’s journey, the real takeaway is how impressive the Twins development system has become in a short period of time. With numerous tools and minds at their disposal, the Minnesota Twins could soon be a pitcher development factory unrivaled in the game.
  12. 1. Alter His Workout Routine According to the Star Tribune, Berrios altered some of his workout routines between starts at the end of last season and he saw some positive results. He worked throughout the offseason to develop his stamina and the Twins are hoping this stamina carries throughout the 2020 campaign. Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson was influential in this end-of-season metamorphosis. In his six starts from August 6 through September 4, he got knocked around to the tune of a .971 OPS and an 8.07 ERA. After his meeting of the minds with Johnson, he pitched six innings or more in his final five starts with a 3.08 ERA and opponents being held to a .631 OPS. 2. Extra Rest in the Second Half There was talk throughout last season of giving Jose Berrios extra rest in the second half, which could include skipping his spot in the rotation or being strategic in his second-half usage. In the second half, his ERA was over a run and a half higher than the first half with opponents posting a .268/.328/.428 batting line. There were still some positive signs in those poor second-half numbers. His 9.8 SO/9 was a full strikeout higher than his career mark and he might have been unlucky with a .335 BAbip. Also, Minnesota’s perceived rotational depth could make it easier for Berrios to get extra rest. Rich Hill and Michael Pineda won’t start the year in the rotation and younger players like Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe will want an opportunity. 3. Add an Early Season Innings Limit Innings limits are usually associated with younger prospects or players coming back from injury, but it could be a strategy utilized by the Twins to save Berrios for the second half. This could allow him to pitch more innings in the second half and keep him fresh. If his entire season as a tube of toothpaste, you don’t want everything squeezed out by the end of July. https://twitter.com/ParkerHageman/status/1229868843738243072?s=20 Historically, August and September have been his worst months. His ERA in August is nearly 6.00 for his career with batters hitting .279/.355/.456 with 42 extra base hits in 21 games. His September ERA is a more respectable 4.64, but that’s still over half a run higher than his next highest month. 4. Throw More Pitches Out of the Zone This might seem like a counterproductive option for a player if you want to be pitching better in the second half, but Berrios threw 50% of his pitches in the zone last season, a career high. His 33.4% chase rate was also a career high, but batters were making solid contact when they weren’t chasing the ball. When it comes to his four-pitch mix, could any of his pitches be thrown out of the zone on a more regular basis? Being in the zone also likely caused Berrios to post a 6.5% Barrel % and an 86.5 mph Exit Velocity, which were both the highest since his rookie season. Granted the juiced-up baseball might have helped increase the exit velocity for all players. His 36.3% Hard Hit rate was the highest of his career and it was 8.4% higher than his career best mark in 2017. What do you think the Twins need to do with Berrios? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  13. In the now-delayed deal, the Twins acquired starting pitcher Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers in exchange for sending Graterol to the Red Sox. The surprising trade was announced Tuesday night, and Twins fans’ evaluation of the deal tended to vary depending on this very question: just how much upside does Graterol have? The other side of the trade is easier to evaluate. Maeda’s talent is considerable, and his team-friendly contract makes him even more valuable. But as recently as a month ago, the assumption was that the 100-mph-throwing Graterol would begin the season in the minors as a starting pitcher, keeping him on the path of becoming a rotational ace. That narrative was reversed when Twins coach Wes Johnson revealed that Graterol was preparing for a bullpen role a few weeks ago. Graterol served in that role in September and in the postseason for the Twins, but had been a starting pitcher to begin the season, before a shoulder impingement shelved him for three months. If he started the season in a relief role, it was unlikely he would ever return to the starter role for two reasons. First, he was expected to have tremendous success as a late-inning reliever with a triple-digit fastball and a plus-plus slider. But he also had never made more than 19 starts as a pitcher in any year, or pitcher more than 102 innings. His arm had never shown it could withstand a starter’s workload. “Value” is a tricky term, as it can mean a lot of things. The value to a team of a fire-throwing reliever versus a top-of-the-rotation starter can be debated. Because relievers are used more often, and especially because they are inserted into games in critical moments, they can impact more games in more meaningful ways than a starting pitcher. But starting pitchers pitch more innings, thus suppressing more runs. Those two values are depicted differently by different statistics. Wins Over Replacement (WAR) values innings pitched, and starting pitchers lead relievers in it every year. But Win Probability Added (WPA) values how much a player increased the probability of their team winning a game. High-impact relievers often lead pitching staffs in that metric. However, there is another meaning of value: rarity. It is usually harder to find starting pitchers than relievers. This has been especially true for the Twins, as their top-tier bullpen includes lots of reclamation projects, while they spent their offseason futilely begging “impact” starting pitchers to take their six-figure deals. So when the Twins, who are hungry for impact pitching and flush with relief arms, decided to move potential ace Graterol to the bullpen, it probably should have told us something. It probably should have told the Red Sox something too. Apparently it is now, and it’s significant enough that it is jeopardizing their signature offseason deal, including shedding over $40M in payroll this year.
  14. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic is reporting that the Red Sox’ examination of Twins pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol may have raised concerns before the deal is finalized. The Red Sox “evidently agree that he is not suited for a 150- to 170-inning workload” and, the trade could require an adjustment before the deal can be completed. The new twist highlights how teams (and fans) value relievers versus starting pitchers.In the now-delayed deal, the Twins acquired starting pitcher Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers in exchange for sending Graterol to the Red Sox. The surprising trade was announced Tuesday night, and Twins fans’ evaluation of the deal tended to vary depending on this very question: just how much upside does Graterol have? The other side of the trade is easier to evaluate. Maeda’s talent is considerable, and his team-friendly contract makes him even more valuable. But as recently as a month ago, the assumption was that the 100-mph-throwing Graterol would begin the season in the minors as a starting pitcher, keeping him on the path of becoming a rotational ace. That narrative was reversed when Twins coach Wes Johnson revealed that Graterol was preparing for a bullpen role a few weeks ago. Graterol served in that role in September and in the postseason for the Twins, but had been a starting pitcher to begin the season, before a shoulder impingement shelved him for three months. If he started the season in a relief role, it was unlikely he would ever return to the starter role for two reasons. First, he was expected to have tremendous success as a late-inning reliever with a triple-digit fastball and a plus-plus slider. But he also had never made more than 19 starts as a pitcher in any year, or pitcher more than 102 innings. His arm had never shown it could withstand a starter’s workload. “Value” is a tricky term, as it can mean a lot of things. The value to a team of a fire-throwing reliever versus a top-of-the-rotation starter can be debated. Because relievers are used more often, and especially because they are inserted into games in critical moments, they can impact more games in more meaningful ways than a starting pitcher. But starting pitchers pitch more innings, thus suppressing more runs. Those two values are depicted differently by different statistics. Wins Over Replacement (WAR) values innings pitched, and starting pitchers lead relievers in it every year. But Win Probability Added (WPA) values how much a player increased the probability of their team winning a game. High-impact relievers often lead pitching staffs in that metric. However, there is another meaning of value: rarity. It is usually harder to find starting pitchers than relievers. This has been especially true for the Twins, as their top-tier bullpen includes lots of reclamation projects, while they spent their offseason futilely begging “impact” starting pitchers to take their six-figure deals. So when the Twins, who are hungry for impact pitching and flush with relief arms, decided to move potential ace Graterol to the bullpen, it probably should have told us something. It probably should have told the Red Sox something too. Apparently it is now, and it’s significant enough that it is jeopardizing their signature offseason deal, including shedding over $40M in payroll this year. Click here to view the article
  15. For more precise discussion I decided to open this blog. I have great hopes for Graterol! What we need most is starting pitching, we need him to work on what needs to be worked on thru spring training & minors until he`s ready. Then take him slow, maybe use him as an opener & gradually increase his innings. He has pretty good spin rate. Seems like most of the top pitchers both SP & RP have high spin rates. All top pitching teams are going after (Astros, Indians & Rays) high spin pitchers. Can high spin rate be taught? High strike zone pitchers like ODO do well w/ high spin rate it seems. Don`t you think that the go after high spin rate pitchers? Chris Stratton, Pirates has very high spin rates & isn`t pursued. Any issues he may have can be worked on. I`m anxious to hear from others in what you think!
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. According to D1 Baseball's Kendall Rogers, the Yankees have made "college pitching coaches a high priority" for the position. Rogers says that the Yankees have interviewed Michigan's Chris Fetter and Johnson's replacement at Arkansas, Matt Hobbes. The Yankees also inquired about Arizona's Nate Yeskie (a Driveline favorite) and TCU's Kirk Saarloos but both coaches turned them down. This past spring, I asked Johnson what he thought were the key differences between the college game and professional ball and what made that appealing for teams. "I think the college game, we have the resources, we have a smaller number of players, so we are able to go in and do a lot of research with biomechanics and Trackman and write those individual plans," Johnson said. "As you’re seeing that’s just where the game is going and so these guys have the experience doing it, so it makes it easier. You look, basketball, in the NBA and the NFL, that’s not uncommon but for some reason it is uncommon in baseball. In the NFL you have great head coaches who never played a day of college football or anything of that nature, and they are phenomenal. Same way in basketball." That's a huge factor for major league teams. College ball is where the forefront of development lies and the technology aspect was embraced heavily. Major league teams were late to utilize and some teams recognized that they didn't have the coaching infrastructure to incorporate the changes. Pitching coaches like Rothchild, while unbelievably knowledgeable about the craft, lacked the experience working with the advancements. "I think that college baseball has been slightly ahead of professional baseball in some regard," said the Twins' minor league catching instructor Tanner Swanson. "I think from an educational standpoint there’s just more people in that space who understand how this stuff works and we’re seeing how it is utilized now and implement it in a professional environment." As this continues to unfold and more college coaches are picked from the amateur ranks, keep in mind that this was Derek Falvey vision all along when he assumed the position of Chief Baseball Officer with the Minnesota Twins. “When I came here, one of the things I thought about over my career in baseball was where are the people learning and growing and developing as coaches," Falvey told me. "I found when I was in different positions I would go to different conventions, college conventions or off-sites or these events, and I met these different people from college and thought wow, these people really have curious minds, they are high character individuals, they care about baseball deeply." You may be surprised by the amount of money college pitching coaches at large universities make. Before leaving Arkansas, Johnson was making $250,000 a year and the Twins reportedly offered him a deal that is "well north" of $350,000 per year. The Yankees obviously have the biggest pocketbook so they could throw money at whoever they feel is the top coach but, for many teams, they typically pay between $150,000 to $300,000 for a pitching coach. Not everyone is as bold as the Twins when it comes to handing out money to unproven coaches. So you can see why some coaches, like Nate Yeskie who is earning “elite SEC school range” income, might turn down the opportunity. After all, most SEC head coaches make over a million a year and pitching coaches have a payday of half of that. Beyond just income, the time dedicated to the job is significantly different and could favor a switch to the professional ranks. While pro baseball coaches have higher scrutiny (although you could argue SEC coaches are constantly under the microscope), college coaching requires a year-round commitment and does not have the luxury of regrouping during the offseason. The Twins hired their Gulf Coast League pitching coach, Zach Bove, out of the College of Central Florida (you can read more about him in my article in the Offseason Handbook). Bove noted that the main difference between pro and college ball for coaches is the extra downtime pro coaches receive. “In college you have practices and games and then you are going out on the weekends to recruit or have phone calls to make,” said Bove. “People ask me how my time’s been and you have no idea,” said Johnson. “It’s 365 days a year in college. You’re on the phone with advisers, agents, parents and kids. Then you got your guys. You put it all into a funnel and let it come out on a calendar and you definitely have more free time in professional baseball than coaching in the SEC.” It is odd to live in a world where the Minnesota Twins are the trend-setters and organization like the New York Yankees are trying to follow suit. The Twins did well in capitalizing on a market inefficiency but that avenue might be closing soon as other teams pillage college programs.
  19. When the Twins hired Wes Johnson last November, it was a rare move in which a Major League Baseball team tapped a college coach to join the big league staff. Outside of the industry, the hiring was a curiosity considering the lack of experience in handling professional pitchers but those following closely knew that Johnson was viewed as one of the sharpest teachers anywhere in the game. We're far from anointing the decision as an all-out success but everything is trending in the right direction. The Yankees, who parted ways with pitching coach Larry Rothschild last week, are now trying to follow the Twins down the collegiate path.According to D1 Baseball's Kendall Rogers, the Yankees have made "college pitching coaches a high priority" for the position. Rogers says that the Yankees have interviewed Michigan's Chris Fetter and Johnson's replacement at Arkansas, Matt Hobbes. The Yankees also inquired about Arizona's Nate Yeskie (a Driveline favorite) and TCU's Kirk Saarloos but both coaches turned them down. This past spring, I asked Johnson what he thought were the key differences between the college game and professional ball and what made that appealing for teams. "I think the college game, we have the resources, we have a smaller number of players, so we are able to go in and do a lot of research with biomechanics and Trackman and write those individual plans," Johnson said. "As you’re seeing that’s just where the game is going and so these guys have the experience doing it, so it makes it easier. You look, basketball, in the NBA and the NFL, that’s not uncommon but for some reason it is uncommon in baseball. In the NFL you have great head coaches who never played a day of college football or anything of that nature, and they are phenomenal. Same way in basketball." That's a huge factor for major league teams. College ball is where the forefront of development lies and the technology aspect was embraced heavily. Major league teams were late to utilize and some teams recognized that they didn't have the coaching infrastructure to incorporate the changes. Pitching coaches like Rothchild, while unbelievably knowledgeable about the craft, lacked the experience working with the advancements. "I think that college baseball has been slightly ahead of professional baseball in some regard," said the Twins' minor league catching instructor Tanner Swanson. "I think from an educational standpoint there’s just more people in that space who understand how this stuff works and we’re seeing how it is utilized now and implement it in a professional environment." As this continues to unfold and more college coaches are picked from the amateur ranks, keep in mind that this was Derek Falvey vision all along when he assumed the position of Chief Baseball Officer with the Minnesota Twins. “When I came here, one of the things I thought about over my career in baseball was where are the people learning and growing and developing as coaches," Falvey told me. "I found when I was in different positions I would go to different conventions, college conventions or off-sites or these events, and I met these different people from college and thought wow, these people really have curious minds, they are high character individuals, they care about baseball deeply." You may be surprised by the amount of money college pitching coaches at large universities make. Before leaving Arkansas, Johnson was making $250,000 a year and the Twins reportedly offered him a deal that is "well north" of $350,000 per year. The Yankees obviously have the biggest pocketbook so they could throw money at whoever they feel is the top coach but, for many teams, they typically pay between $150,000 to $300,000 for a pitching coach. Not everyone is as bold as the Twins when it comes to handing out money to unproven coaches. So you can see why some coaches, like Nate Yeskie who is earning “elite SEC school range” income, might turn down the opportunity. After all, most SEC head coaches make over a million a year and pitching coaches have a payday of half of that. Beyond just income, the time dedicated to the job is significantly different and could favor a switch to the professional ranks. While pro baseball coaches have higher scrutiny (although you could argue SEC coaches are constantly under the microscope), college coaching requires a year-round commitment and does not have the luxury of regrouping during the offseason. The Twins hired their Gulf Coast League pitching coach, Zach Bove, out of the College of Central Florida (you can read more about him in my article in the Offseason Handbook). Bove noted that the main difference between pro and college ball for coaches is the extra downtime pro coaches receive. “In college you have practices and games and then you are going out on the weekends to recruit or have phone calls to make,” said Bove. “People ask me how my time’s been and you have no idea,” said Johnson. “It’s 365 days a year in college. You’re on the phone with advisers, agents, parents and kids. Then you got your guys. You put it all into a funnel and let it come out on a calendar and you definitely have more free time in professional baseball than coaching in the SEC.” It is odd to live in a world where the Minnesota Twins are the trend-setters and organization like the New York Yankees are trying to follow suit. The Twins did well in capitalizing on a market inefficiency but that avenue might be closing soon as other teams pillage college programs. Click here to view the article
  20. After recently reading both Ben Reiter’s Astroball and The MVP Machine by Ben Lindbergh and Travis Shawchik, both highly recommended, I found many similarities between the Houston Astros and our Minnesota Twins. In order to get a better idea of how the Twins plan mirrors the Astros’, let’s look at several areas in which the teams exhibit similarities. This is the first of a three-part series.Embracing Analytics and Technology After Jeff Luhnow became the top dog in Houston prior to the 2012 season, Houston infamously tanked for the 2012-14 seasons, while not even pretending to try. Although it was undoubtably an unenjoyable experience for Astros fans, the organization was able to rebuild by gaining top draft pics and completely overhauling the organization. Luhnow and his hand-picked staffers like Sag Mejdal were famous in baseball circles for their success in drafting by using and developing advanced analytic tools while working in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. They continued to be very analytically minded in Houston, also getting a leg up on the competition by being one of the first organizations to heavily invest in using new technology for player development. The MVP Machine goes into detail about how the Astros immediately took pitchers like Justin Verlander and Ryan Pressly (and more recently Aaron Sanchez) whom they acquired through trades, and met with them, presenting a plan as to how they could best use their pitches. It basically boils down to having the pitchers throw their best pitches. Pressly talked about how having seen how a future Hall of Famer like Verlander succeed with Houston made him more open to a new approach. The authors went to explain how Pressly’s pitch use evolved with his new team: “With the Twins from 2017 to 2018, Pressly had thrown his sinker 13 percent of the time against lefties. Only once in that span had a southpaw swung at it and missed. With the Astros, he threw the sinker to lefties less than 1 percent of the time. With the Twins in 2018, Pressly had thrown the curve 24 percent of the time. As an Astro, he threw it 39 percent of the time. With Houston, he also elevated his four-seamer and threw his slider slightly more often.” To be fair, Minnesota’s new front office was already in place starting in 2017, so if they had similar revelations as the Astros, the message did not get to Pressly. Thad Levine acknowledged that the Twins had an opportunity to learn from the Pressly situation in an article from the Washington Post: “We had uncovered some of what Houston implemented,” Levine said. “I think the biggest difference was their execution of a plan. … Certainly, that was something we reflected upon. Not unlike any other move we make, we try to assess what transpired, good, bad and indifferent, from every move. There was a lot to be learned from that one.” Prior to the 2019 season the Twins made a big change in their pitching philosophy by going down to the college level to hire pitching coach Wes Johnson out of the University of Arkansas. Johnson champions biomechanics and the use of Trackman data to improve pitchers. No other MLB team had hired directly from the college ranks and the results have been great so far, with an emphasis on increased velocity and strikeouts. Anyone who has followed the Twins can see just how much the Twins have changed since the Terry Ryan regime. “Small ball” and “pitch to contact” have been replaced by bombas and strikeouts. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have greatly expanded the analytics department and the Twins are incorporating technology like Trackman, Rapsodo, and Blast motion sensors throughout the minor leagues and in spring training as was documented by Twins Daily’s Parker Hageman here. They have also revamped the minor league coaching staffs and implemented better communication throughout the system to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to player development. Communication Enhancing communication throughout the system was important to Falvey and Levine, and not only through the minor league levels. Strong communication and a shared vision between the front office and the manager also seems to be a commonality between Houston and Minnesota. After coming to Houston Luhnow initially hired Bo Porter to lead the team, but after not seeing eye-to-eye, Porter was fired and A.J. Hinch took over, leading the Astros to the postseason in his first season with the team and a 2017 World Series title. Houston wanted a manager who would match their vision and they found him in Hinch. Hinch is a new-school style manger, who is a former player and had experience both coaching and working in a front office. His openness to analytics and more unconventional game tactics fit perfectly with Luhnow and the Astros, and Hinch was instrumental in getting the players to buy in. Sound familiar? Twins first year manager, Rocco Baldelli is another former player who is young and had front office experience before coming over from Tampa Bay. Baldelli seems to be in line with Falvey and Levine and has been praised for his open communication with his players. This year’s team seems to gel together really well, and while it is never completely clear whether winning leads to better team chemistry or vice versa, Baldelli has done an admirable job of keeping the team loose and it’s hard to argue with the results. Paul Molitor wasn’t hand-picked by the current FO, and similar to Porter in Houston, he never really felt like a good fit for the direction in which Minnesota was moving. Baldelli, on the other hand, fits perfectly with the Twins more modern and analytic style of operation. Click here to view the article
  21. Embracing Analytics and Technology After Jeff Luhnow became the top dog in Houston prior to the 2012 season, Houston infamously tanked for the 2012-14 seasons, while not even pretending to try. Although it was undoubtably an unenjoyable experience for Astros fans, the organization was able to rebuild by gaining top draft pics and completely overhauling the organization. Luhnow and his hand-picked staffers like Sag Mejdal were famous in baseball circles for their success in drafting by using and developing advanced analytic tools while working in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. They continued to be very analytically minded in Houston, also getting a leg up on the competition by being one of the first organizations to heavily invest in using new technology for player development. The MVP Machine goes into detail about how the Astros immediately took pitchers like Justin Verlander and Ryan Pressly (and more recently Aaron Sanchez) whom they acquired through trades, and met with them, presenting a plan as to how they could best use their pitches. It basically boils down to having the pitchers throw their best pitches. Pressly talked about how having seen how a future Hall of Famer like Verlander succeed with Houston made him more open to a new approach. The authors went to explain how Pressly’s pitch use evolved with his new team: “With the Twins from 2017 to 2018, Pressly had thrown his sinker 13 percent of the time against lefties. Only once in that span had a southpaw swung at it and missed. With the Astros, he threw the sinker to lefties less than 1 percent of the time. With the Twins in 2018, Pressly had thrown the curve 24 percent of the time. As an Astro, he threw it 39 percent of the time. With Houston, he also elevated his four-seamer and threw his slider slightly more often.” To be fair, Minnesota’s new front office was already in place starting in 2017, so if they had similar revelations as the Astros, the message did not get to Pressly. Thad Levine acknowledged that the Twins had an opportunity to learn from the Pressly situation in an article from the Washington Post: “We had uncovered some of what Houston implemented,” Levine said. “I think the biggest difference was their execution of a plan. … Certainly, that was something we reflected upon. Not unlike any other move we make, we try to assess what transpired, good, bad and indifferent, from every move. There was a lot to be learned from that one.” Prior to the 2019 season the Twins made a big change in their pitching philosophy by going down to the college level to hire pitching coach Wes Johnson out of the University of Arkansas. Johnson champions biomechanics and the use of Trackman data to improve pitchers. No other MLB team had hired directly from the college ranks and the results have been great so far, with an emphasis on increased velocity and strikeouts. Anyone who has followed the Twins can see just how much the Twins have changed since the Terry Ryan regime. “Small ball” and “pitch to contact” have been replaced by bombas and strikeouts. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have greatly expanded the analytics department and the Twins are incorporating technology like Trackman, Rapsodo, and Blast motion sensors throughout the minor leagues and in spring training as was documented by Twins Daily’s Parker Hageman here. They have also revamped the minor league coaching staffs and implemented better communication throughout the system to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to player development. Communication Enhancing communication throughout the system was important to Falvey and Levine, and not only through the minor league levels. Strong communication and a shared vision between the front office and the manager also seems to be a commonality between Houston and Minnesota. After coming to Houston Luhnow initially hired Bo Porter to lead the team, but after not seeing eye-to-eye, Porter was fired and A.J. Hinch took over, leading the Astros to the postseason in his first season with the team and a 2017 World Series title. Houston wanted a manager who would match their vision and they found him in Hinch. Hinch is a new-school style manger, who is a former player and had experience both coaching and working in a front office. His openness to analytics and more unconventional game tactics fit perfectly with Luhnow and the Astros, and Hinch was instrumental in getting the players to buy in. Sound familiar? Twins first year manager, Rocco Baldelli is another former player who is young and had front office experience before coming over from Tampa Bay. Baldelli seems to be in line with Falvey and Levine and has been praised for his open communication with his players. This year’s team seems to gel together really well, and while it is never completely clear whether winning leads to better team chemistry or vice versa, Baldelli has done an admirable job of keeping the team loose and it’s hard to argue with the results. Paul Molitor wasn’t hand-picked by the current FO, and similar to Porter in Houston, he never really felt like a good fit for the direction in which Minnesota was moving. Baldelli, on the other hand, fits perfectly with the Twins more modern and analytic style of operation.
  22. In 2015, the Royals pioneered the strategy of five-and-dive starters, and allowed the pen to handle the rest. The merits of relievers now rests in the seventh through ninth innings, and given the Twins recent playoff demons that should bring nightmarish flashbacks. Bullpens are a focal point of postseason success. In the 2017 wildcard game, Ervin Santana was yanked three innings into his start. Luis Severino, the Yankees starter was also removed on a much shorter hook after just 1/3 of an inning with three runs already allowed. It's no safe assumption a starter will go five innings or 100 pitches. Shutdown starters and unhittable closers get all the glory, but the unsung heroes of the past season, such as Josh Hader, are much more valuable than they get credit for. Trevor May has received his fair share of criticism. Saturday night’s display of pure dominance predicated on fastball command would be a welcomed sight in the postseason. More breaking ball usage and less dependence on a flat changeup could perhaps be enough for May. A much smoother finish with his mechanics, and not leaving as many pitches in the whomping zone of hitters have been helpful for Trevor. Since his bad stretch of home runs he has lost all trust in his curve, which could fuel more good fortune. May has had the year of his life in 2019. He had a promising end to his 2018 campaign that saw him flash the truly elite stuff that he flashed as a middling fourth/fifth starter in the dawn of his career. He’s bumped his velocity up considerably, and lately has sliced his pitch assortment, providing a better directive to his mound mindset. Taylor Rogers might be the most underrated pitcher, perhaps even player, in baseball thanks to his above average fastball and frisbee slider. A bullpen absent the invincible Aroldis Chapman fireball, or the radioactive cutter of Kenley Jansen, or the capital C-declared closer, might be an assembly of relief pitchers as effective, or more so, than any other in baseball. If there was one point of criticism for Rogers, I would point to the curveball and slider blending together. But that in no way detracts from the set of weapons that he has, and that the Twins have, that their playoff success could hinge on. Tyler Duffey might be the most remarkable story of the entire season for the Twins. He flamed-out as a starter in 2016 and followed with a pair of enigmatic seasons. At the tipping point of his career, he took on a complete overhaul, reinvention and refinement of his mechanics and approach under the tutelage of Wes Johnson. Duffey was taught sinkers inside and low, during the Rick Anderson, Neil Allen and Garvin Alston regimes. Jace Frederick of the Pioneer Press recently wrote an article that delved into Duffey's progress that included some illuminating quotes. Duffey spoke to how different Wes Johnson's mentality is. “Obviously I had the potential to be good, but it was seeing why I could be, understanding why I could be, and then doing it and repeating was the last piece of that. I think for me, personally, it’s just been trusting the whole plan that’s been set and going with it. “Pitching with conviction is the name of the game. Hitters can tell when you’re not convicted in what you’re doing. I think I’m trusting it, I feel good doing it and the results are speaking for themselves.” “He can be a strikeout guy, and he’s learned that,” Johnson said. “When we started back in spring training, our goal was to strike out more hitters than we ever have. We’re getting there, incrementally. And Tyler is someone you’re seeing make progress really fast.” The intuitive and tailored recipe for success spearheaded with the ongoing trend of elevating, decelerating and spiking. Fastballs up, sliders and curves down and away, and toggling with the velocity of those breakers has paved the way to a 2.35 ERA and a 1.0 WAR during this 2019 run to the postseason. A truly remarkable achievement for a pitcher once on the bubble. For the Twins to succeed in the postseason, a strong back-end of the bullpen must complement a competent starting staff. It could be a feasible plan, given that the trio of Trevor May, Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers has arrived and they are here to stay.
  23. The Twins bullpen has been among the best in the entire league. Still, many Twins fans don’t seem to like the team’s chances against the American League’s powerhouses in the postseason. With the inevitable arrival of the most-hyped Twins pitching prospect in the last decade, however, there’s an argument to be made that the depth of the Twins bullpen matches up with anybody.Since the All-Star break, the Twins have baseball’s best SIERRA (a better or more comprehensive branch of FIP), and K-BB% a very good indicator of sustainably- sterling pitching, even while posting baseball’s highest zone per pitch%. We expected Wes Johnson to initiate some velocity increases, but he’s also helped a few relievers unleash some more bite on their breaking pitches. Download attachment: RogersDuffeyMay.png Velocity has risen, the sharpness of break along with the tunneling of those pitches in relation to fastball location has improved, and in turn that’s led to more strikeouts and weaker contact. Tyler Duffey is an interesting experiment, and they’ve built a rapport with using the fastball as a catalyst to set up the wipeout slider, a new pitch he believes is just a harder thrown version of his former knucklecurve. With improved control, Trevor May has been an appealing seventh-inning guy to watch. Taylor Rogers, once was a generic LOOGY, is now perhaps the most impactful left-handed reliever in baseball excluding Felipe Vazquez. A 1.9 WAR is absolutely insane! Do you remember the old Rogers, Duffey, and May? They all relied on softer secondary stuff to get away with the weaker fastballs they had previously. Now armed and loaded with fastball velocity, they still haven’t ventured too far (apart from May) from their old plan of attack. What’s important to note is the current assembly of Twins pitchers is perfectly able at proving capable in the postseason. In Extra Innings, a book by Baseball Prospectus, Ben Lindbergh advocated for relievers to be picked at the margins or be groomed through the system once failing as starting pitchers. It’s an interesting proposal. Don’t ever buy a reliever because he'll often turn out to be a poor investment. Instead, build your bullpen with roster casualties and scuffling relievers that good teams feel they can’t wait to get better. Download attachment: FA contract WAR.png The Twins haven’t been the most hardcore adherents to this system of thinking. They jettisoned Nick Anderson, Nick Burdi, JT Chargois and others for guys that may or may not have been past their primes on the free-agent market. That Addison Reed, Matt Belisle, Dillon Gee and Craig Breslow were all acquired under the Falvine regime, might be the result of fan pressure than actual thorough analysis on the makings of on-the-margin acquisitions. Guys like Tanner Rainey, Nick Anderson, Brendan Brennan, Austin Adams and Ty Buttrey were all traded in low-profile deals and turned out to be dynamic relievers. The Twins found innovative ways to hire intuitive and introspective thinkers to take on these projects in Duffey, May, Rogers and others. This bullpen is stacked with assorted gadgets and analytical fireman. So here’s my postseason bullpen predictions…. Multi Inning Firemen; Brusdar Graterol (RHP) / Taylor Rogers (LHP) Set Up; Sam Dyson (RHP) / Trevor May (RHP) Situational; Tyler Duffey (RHP) / Trevor Hildenberger (RHP) / Sergio Romo (RHP) Swiss Army Knife; 1 OF EITHER Martin Perez (LHP) / Zack Littell (RHP) Not included on the postseason roster: Randy Dobnak (RHP), Sean Poppen (RHP), Cody Stashak (RHP), Lewis Thorpe (LHP), Ryan Harper (RHP), Devin Smetlzer (LHP). Click here to view the article
  24. Since the All-Star break, the Twins have baseball’s best SIERRA (a better or more comprehensive branch of FIP), and K-BB% a very good indicator of sustainably- sterling pitching, even while posting baseball’s highest zone per pitch%. We expected Wes Johnson to initiate some velocity increases, but he’s also helped a few relievers unleash some more bite on their breaking pitches. Velocity has risen, the sharpness of break along with the tunneling of those pitches in relation to fastball location has improved, and in turn that’s led to more strikeouts and weaker contact. Tyler Duffey is an interesting experiment, and they’ve built a rapport with using the fastball as a catalyst to set up the wipeout slider, a new pitch he believes is just a harder thrown version of his former knucklecurve. With improved control, Trevor May has been an appealing seventh-inning guy to watch. Taylor Rogers, once was a generic LOOGY, is now perhaps the most impactful left-handed reliever in baseball excluding Felipe Vazquez. A 1.9 WAR is absolutely insane! Do you remember the old Rogers, Duffey, and May? They all relied on softer secondary stuff to get away with the weaker fastballs they had previously. Now armed and loaded with fastball velocity, they still haven’t ventured too far (apart from May) from their old plan of attack. What’s important to note is the current assembly of Twins pitchers is perfectly able at proving capable in the postseason. In Extra Innings, a book by Baseball Prospectus, Ben Lindbergh advocated for relievers to be picked at the margins or be groomed through the system once failing as starting pitchers. It’s an interesting proposal. Don’t ever buy a reliever because he'll often turn out to be a poor investment. Instead, build your bullpen with roster casualties and scuffling relievers that good teams feel they can’t wait to get better. The Twins haven’t been the most hardcore adherents to this system of thinking. They jettisoned Nick Anderson, Nick Burdi, JT Chargois and others for guys that may or may not have been past their primes on the free-agent market. That Addison Reed, Matt Belisle, Dillon Gee and Craig Breslow were all acquired under the Falvine regime, might be the result of fan pressure than actual thorough analysis on the makings of on-the-margin acquisitions. Guys like Tanner Rainey, Nick Anderson, Brendan Brennan, Austin Adams and Ty Buttrey were all traded in low-profile deals and turned out to be dynamic relievers. The Twins found innovative ways to hire intuitive and introspective thinkers to take on these projects in Duffey, May, Rogers and others. This bullpen is stacked with assorted gadgets and analytical fireman. So here’s my postseason bullpen predictions…. Multi Inning Firemen; Brusdar Graterol (RHP) / Taylor Rogers (LHP) Set Up; Sam Dyson (RHP) / Trevor May (RHP) Situational; Tyler Duffey (RHP) / Trevor Hildenberger (RHP) / Sergio Romo (RHP) Swiss Army Knife; 1 OF EITHER Martin Perez (LHP) / Zack Littell (RHP) Not included on the postseason roster: Randy Dobnak (RHP), Sean Poppen (RHP), Cody Stashak (RHP), Lewis Thorpe (LHP), Ryan Harper (RHP), Devin Smetlzer (LHP).
  25. Needing a starting pitcher, the Minnesota Twins front office send minor leaguer Jermaine Palacios to the Tampa Bay Rays for Jake Odorizzi. Palacios had some hype but was never a top prospect, while Odorizzi had been largely mediocre and was set to turn 28. It’s hard not to see more upside in a big-league starter under team control, but this leap forward has been immense for the former Tampa starter. Odorizzi was often chided for his efforts by Twins fans last season. He posted a 4.49 ERA backed by a 4.20 FIP. The 8.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 were right in line with career norms. On a bad team he was hardly a large issue and generally pitched better than the surface level numbers suggested. In 2019 he’s gone gangbusters though, and he’s made his first All Star game to show for it. Cooling off some over the last few weeks, Odorizzi still owns a 2.73 ERA and 9.9 K/9 across 85.2 IP. His FIP and xFIP suggest a bit more regression could be coming, but there’s a visible change that’s been made by the pitcher Minnesota trots out as their number two starter. Having been a low 90’s guy his whole big-league career, Odorizzi has added two mph of velocity under the tutelage of Wes Johnson and is now averaging 93.1 mph on the pitch this season. Not only is he throwing harder, but Odorizzi has shifted his repertoire to flip a career high number of sinkers, taking away from both his cutter and splitter. This new version of Odorizzi is giving up a career high percentage of hard-hit balls, but he’s missing bats at record marks as well. The 12.4% whiff rate is a new high-water mark, while his contact rate is down to just 74.3% and the zone contact rate stands under 80% (78.5%) for the first time in his career. A slight jump in hard hit rate could be explainable through the increased velocity, but even still with that development, missing more barrels is the key component here. Over the course of his career Odorizzi has averaged 1.2 HR/9 and has never been below the 1.0 mark. Through his first 16 starts he’s allowed just eight homers and is at 0.8 HR/9 on the season. Shedding hits and walks as well, the 1.074 WHIP stands out on its own. Having been integrated into the Twins system a year ago, and now working with a pitching thinktank that’s been overhauled, he’s reaping the rewards. Next season Odorizzi will find himself on the open market for the first time in his career. The Twins have a couple of holes in their rotation that they’ll need to commit arms to. We don’t yet know how the club will navigate the trade market but extending a guy they already have in house may certainly make some sense. Last season Jake Odorizzi was getting his feet wet with Minnesota and simply going through the motions he had always practiced to compete. This season he’s been given a few new tools that have taken his game to the next level and everyone involved has benefitted from it. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
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