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  • Twins Organizational Depth Chart - Relief Pitchers

    In January, we reviewed the catchers, the first basemen, third basemen, middle infielders and outfielders in the Minnesota Twins organization. Last week, we took a look at the starting pitchers. Today, we conclude the series by discussing the relief pitchers in the Twins system. Obviously the Twins find themselves in a situation where some starting pitchers could move into a bullpen role, but for this exercise, we’ll take a look at guys who have been relievers.

    The Big Leaguers


    The Twins bullpen was one of the few bright spots for the 2013 team. Yet, they were about league average, so there is room for improvement. Glen Perkins has proven himself one of the best relievers in baseball. Jared Burton and Casey Fien gave the Twins two right-handers late in games. Brian Duensing had a six-week rough patch, but he’s been a solid lefty in the bullpen for a few years now. Caleb Thielbar came up and was terrific. Anthony Swarzak pitched a ton of innings and was an unsung hero on last year’s team. Ryan Pressly was very good in his Rule 5 season, holding his own throughout the year.

    We did get our first glimpse of Michael Tonkin. He struggled in the big leagues, as well as at Rochester, so patience will be needed. However, the tall right-hander has a chance to be very good at the back-end of the bullpen. He will see more time in 2014.

    Late in the offseason, the Twins signed Matt Guerrier to a minor league contract. He spent six-plus years in the organization and was a very solid contributor for five of those years. He had forearm muscle surgery late last year, so it will be interesting to see when he will be ready.

    Prospect Rankings


    As those who have read me for years know, I tend to rank relief pitchers well lower than starting pitchers. That's not because I don’t think the role is important to a team. Think about it, nearly 1/3 of a major league roster is comprised of relief pitchers. For me, it only comes down to potential innings pitched in a season, starters vs. the bullpen. Here is a look at some of the top bullpen prospects in the Twins' farm system.

    Hard-throwing right-hander Zack Jones was my choice as the #22 Twins prospect and top reliever. In Ft. Meyers, he was consistently throwing fastballs above 95 mph and frequently hitting 99. He struggled in the Arizona Fall League and was shut down late due to cold fingers. On Monday, Feb. 24th, he will have surgery to repair an aneurysm that was found in his right shoulder which was cutting off circulation. He’ll miss the start of the season, but he should be able to return to form by midseason.

    Luke Bard came in at #23 in my rankings. If 100% healthy, Bard will likely get an opportunity to start, though he may be a reliever down the road. His stuff is described as “filthy” so he could be a fast mover.

    Michael Tonkin ranked #26 for me. He is 6'-7" and throws in the mid-to-upper 90s. After slow movement early in his career, he flew up the Twins ranks over the last two seasons. He began 2013 by dominating at AA. He moved up to AAA and eventually had a couple stints with the Twins. He really has had little success above AA so far, but he does have a big future.

    Tyler Jones was just outside my top 30. He was my choice for Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year last year. He dominated between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers. Formerly a starter, Jones made the transition to the bullpen smoothly. He has a fastball that touches 97 mph with an improving slider.

    Edgar Ibarra was added to the Twins 40 man roster this offseason after a strong year between AA and AAA. From June 4 through August 22, he gave up zero earned runs. In that time, he worked 31.1 innings over 26 games. He gave up just 13 hits, walked eight and struck out 27. The left-hander throws fastballs into the mid-90s with a very sharp slider. He should surface with the Twins at some time this season.

    Roster
    Projections

    In each of these installments, I have been making my roster projections. There could still be additional signings, and injuries will affect all of this. That’s why it is important to have more than just seven relievers at each level. In some cases, there will be even more. There are also always players put on the disabled lists. This just gives an idea of who could be at each affiliate at the start of the season.


    • Minnesota: Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Brian Duensing, Casey Fien, Caleb Thielbar, Anthony Swarzak, Ryan Pressly.
    • Rochester: Michael Tonkin, AJ Achter, Aaron Thompson, Edgar Ibarra, Brooks Raley, Matt Hoffman, Yohan Pino, Virgil Vazquez, Lester Oliveros, Matt Guerrier
    • New Britain: Zack Jones (injured), Corey Williams, Adrian Salcedo, Deolis Guerra, Dakota Watts, Ryan O’Rourke, Matt Hauser, Cole Johnson, Kevin Thomas, Chad Rodgers
    • Fort Myers: Tyler Jones, Luke Bard, Steven Gruver, Madison Boer, David Hurlbut, Matt Tomshaw, Alex Muren, Jim Fuller, Dallas Gallant (50 game suspension), JT Chargois (injured)
    • Cedar Rapids: Josh Burris, Josue Montanez, Brandon Bixler, Chris Mazza, Hein Robb, Kuo-Hua Lo, Christian Powell, Austin Malinowski, Brandon Peterson, CK Irby, Carson Goldsmith, Tanner Mendonca, Andrew Ferreira, Brandon Easton, Jared Wilson, Todd Van Steensel
    • Extended Spring Training: Josh Guyer, Sam Gibbons, Andre Martinez, Seth Wagner, Damion Defrank, Leonel Zazueta, Reyson Zoquiel, Jose Abreu, Derrick Penilla, Zach Hayden, Cameron Booser, Tyler Stirewalt, Chih-wei Hu


    Feel free to discuss the players and the roster.
    Comments 18 Comments
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      It seems like about the only sure thing is that there will be those not on your "Minnesota" list who will get an opportunity at some point in the season.

      It also seems like the Twins can usually develop an average to above-average bullpen even when everything else is a disaster.

      Note that says "usually" not "always".
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Minnesota: Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Brian Duensing, Casey Fien, Caleb Thielbar, Anthony Swarzak, Ryan Pressly.
      with Deduno, Worley and Diamond out of options and the guys not in bold with options, a lot can happen. I seriously would be surprised if Thielbar and Pressly make the Twins this season.

      It is hard to separate pitchers between starters and relievers because starters who do not make the rotation can be relievers in a pinch.

      Also, IIRC you listed 6-7 starters in each minor league roster. Now there are 10-11 relievers there too. Soon will run out of space for position players

      I expect that several of these guys will get cut the coming month...
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      I agree, there are a lot of pitchers. In addition to Thrylos's points, I think there are several guys, if they are going to be around at all, belong at a level higher. Still, it will likely work itself out. There will be guys on the disabled list, and while I don't know who they are, there are guys who are on their last chance to remain in the organization. It does seem like there are more pitchers around than normal, though.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      As each of the org depth charts have noted, there are extra names at each position and for each team. 1.) It shows that some guys won't make a certain team and why. 2.) some of those guys may be an age where they will be let go at the end of spring training. 3.) It's a look at everyone.
    1. jimv2's Avatar
      jimv2 -
      Three guys I expected to see either here or on the starters list (more likely here) and didn't, but maybe I missed them. Thoughts?

      Adrian Salcedo
      Tyler Stirewalt
      Chih-wei Hu

      Another guy is Tim Wood. I think he's technically still with the Twins org, but don't know what happened with his rehab, or if he's in their plans as opposed to they're just waiting for a time when they're allowed to release him.

      Echoing a theme from above, I count about 85 guys who should be with the Twins or the full season minor league teams. (That excludes the guys Seth already indicated were injured, but includes a few that Seth has at EST because I think it's time for them to sink or swim--and I'm not positive they'd even be allowed back on a rookie league team. It does not include all the really good starters that Seth thought would start at EST--I too think they'll start at EST.)

      If you figure 12 pitchers per roster--that may be wrong; I don't know what the roster limits are--that's 60 guys. If nobody else gets disabled (fat chance), that's 25 getting released. I can't find 25--or even 20 if you figure 5 more get disabled in spring training--that I'm ready to give up on.
    1. highlander's Avatar
      highlander -
      we can leave burton and his gas can behind. i know arsonists that are jealous!!
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      The Twins should be looking at carrying 6 bullpen guys, considering they're expecting significantly better pitching from the starters, but with guys like Diamond & Worley out of options they're more likely to carry 13 pitchers than 11! (Even though you'd hope there'd be barely enough work for 11)

      The relief corps for the franchise looks good; there are solid options for the MLB club and it seems like the team is learning that you can put together a good bullpen without spending huge sums of money on limited role-players. The club is still less than optimal in its bullpen deployment in games, but that's because of managing, not talent.
    1. oldguy10's Avatar
      oldguy10 -
      From reading various things on the web it appears 13 pitchers is what the roster will look like and I vehemently oppose that approach as it makes the rest of bench almost useless as far as pinch hitters being available. With the relative lack of a solid hitting starting lineup isn't this approach foolhardy at best? I sure think so.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimv2 View Post
      Three guys I expected to see either here or on the starters list (more likely here) and didn't, but maybe I missed them. Thoughts?

      Adrian Salcedo
      Tyler Stirewalt
      Chih-wei Hu

      Another guy is Tim Wood. I think he's technically still with the Twins org, but don't know what happened with his rehab, or if he's in their plans as opposed to they're just waiting for a time when they're allowed to release him.
      I added those three names... Not sure how or why I missed them. Each is worth noting and has some upside. Wood was released. Not with the organization.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      Tim Wood was officially released by the Twins in late August.

      Yes, the Twins have to make decisions on Worley, Diamond and Dedunco. I always take myself that you should bring the best 25 north. But I'm sure the Twins will want to see if they can play and get value out of some folks, thus the option shuffle that will see Thielbar and Pressley at Rochester will most likely happen.

      There;s so much unnecessary chafe on the Rochester roster: Hoffman, Raley, Guerrier, Thompson, Pino. We don't know if Achter is the real thing. Who will close games, Tonkin? Oliveros is a sweet spot possibly. Guerra is still in the mix. Ibarra is a darkhorse, and if you are on the 40-man, you'll more than likely get the call before others. Who are the closers for each level?

      Vasquez? What's his story?

      There's like 10 too many relievers in the minors, not to mention the starters that need to find a home, possibly in the bullpen.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      But the Twins love their veteran chaffe....AAA is clogged up with it, as is the bullpen. A team that limits its spending should use more cheap relievers, and less cheap position players. The Twins seem to have that backward (and not just now, imo).

      And the 40 man point is a good one, it's why many of us want the bad players off the 40 man, so that roster decisions are about the best players being up, not about service time (especially for relievers) and not about options left.
    1. DJL44's Avatar
      DJL44 -
      10 too many relievers? Injuries should sort out that many.
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rosterman View Post
      ...
      We don't know if Achter is the real thing. Who will close games, Tonkin? Oliveros is a sweet spot possibly. Guerra is still in the mix. Ibarra is a darkhorse, and if you are on the 40-man, you'll more than likely get the call before others. Who are the closers for each level?

      ...

      There's like 10 too many relievers in the minors, not to mention the starters that need to find a home, possibly in the bullpen.
      I don't know much about Achter's "stuff" but his statistics have been pretty darn good since he was moved to the pen in 2012. He's moved 4 levels in 2 years. His highest ERA has been the 3.08 he posted in AAA last year and he has had a K rate of one per inning at every stop. Last year he was a little too wild though as his walk rate increased sharply.

      Closers should be:
      Twins- Perkins
      AAA- Tonkin
      AA- Zach Jones (when he comes back), I'd guess Corey Williams until he is healthy. They split time at closer in FM last season before Williams imploded.
      A+- Tyler Jones
      A- Don't know here...Malinowski maybe. Brandon Peterson?

      If they decide that Luke Bard has just lost too much time to injuries to become a starter he might challenge for a back of the bullpen spot as will Chargois if he can ever get healthy.
    1. jimv2's Avatar
      jimv2 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post

      Closers should be:
      Twins- Perkins
      AAA- Tonkin
      AA- Zach Jones (when he comes back), I'd guess Corey Williams until he is healthy. They split time at closer in FM last season before Williams imploded.
      A+- Tyler Jones
      A- Don't know here...Malinowski maybe. Brandon Peterson?
      Two others to consider are:

      Dakota Watts. Finally seemed to put it together last year at AA (although he was a bit old.) 28 games, 36 innings, 31 hits, 31k, 10 walks, 0.74 ERA. I thought he might get an invite to the major league camp this year, but I guess not. Guys w/ 100mph fastballs don't grow on trees. I would think he'll be at AAA and maybe split closer duties with Tonkin.

      Brian Gilbert. Drafted out of college last year, assigned to Etown but was quickly promoted to A- in July last year and dominated. Sort of. 13 games, 17 innings, 12 hits, no walks, 1.04 ERA. But only 7 ks. Pretty small sample size. Does he go back to A- to work on ks or go to A+? Or, Seth interviewed him last month and he indicated that he preferred to close, but I guess some are talking about him starting. Seth has him as a starter. I don't know enough about his stuff to see if he really profiles as a starter. OF course sometimes they have people start just so they get more innings and can work on developing a secondary pitch that they'll need to be a ML reliever.
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimv2 View Post
      Two others to consider are:

      Dakota Watts. Finally seemed to put it together last year at AA (although he was a bit old.) 28 games, 36 innings, 31 hits, 31k, 10 walks, 0.74 ERA. I thought he might get an invite to the major league camp this year, but I guess not. Guys w/ 100mph fastballs don't grow on trees. I would think he'll be at AAA and maybe split closer duties with Tonkin.

      Brian Gilbert. Drafted out of college last year, assigned to Etown but was quickly promoted to A- in July last year and dominated. Sort of. 13 games, 17 innings, 12 hits, no walks, 1.04 ERA. But only 7 ks. Pretty small sample size. Does he go back to A- to work on ks or go to A+? Or, Seth interviewed him last month and he indicated that he preferred to close, but I guess some are talking about him starting. Seth has him as a starter. I don't know enough about his stuff to see if he really profiles as a starter. OF course sometimes they have people start just so they get more innings and can work on developing a secondary pitch that they'll need to be a ML reliever.
      Yeah I thought about Gilbert and Brandon Bixler as well. It's tough to know yet what either of them are. They were both college guys pitching in a rookie league and then at A-ball. We'll find out more this year.

      Watts is a possibility, though he's already 26. As you said he kind of put things together last year, and even 2012 was good. However it was his 2nd and 3rd seasons pitching in the same league.... Definitely a possibility though.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I think Gilbert will be in the bullpen. So will Bixler.

      Why do we care so much about the age of relievers? So Watts is 26. If he comes up in July this year, the Twins could control his ages 27-33... what's possibly wrong with that?
    1. jimv2's Avatar
      jimv2 -
      Nothing wrong with that at all. The only question is how much of his success in AA can be attributed to be older, more experienced than most of the hitters, and whther that success will carry over to higher leagues. But hopefully they'll put him in AAA and we'll find out.

      ANd I think--again, Seth, you probably know better than me, that he's fought some injuries and that's one of the reasons he's older.

      I don't know much about Bixler--lefty 16th round pick is about all.
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      I think Gilbert will be in the bullpen. So will Bixler.

      Why do we care so much about the age of relievers? So Watts is 26. If he comes up in July this year, the Twins could control his ages 27-33... what's possibly wrong with that?
      As Jimv2 said, there is no reason his age in itself will prevent Watts from taking a closing role. My point was that at 26 he is physically mature and there is little projection left. He is what he is. Is that enough? I certainly don't know. His stats have been very good the last 2 seasons. We'll have to see as he advances. It would be great if he turned out like Thielbar.
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