Twins Bullpen Battle Royale
By Editorial Staff
Have you noticed how many relief pitchers the Twins have acquired lately? By my count, there are at least 24 pitchers who have a chance to make the Twins bullpen in 2012. There are only seven job openings, and three or four of those are already filled, so the competition in the Twins ‘pen should pretty fun to watch in Spring Training.
Let’s see who is in the running:
GUARANTEED TO MAKE THE BULLPEN
Matt Capps (RHP) – Like it or not, he’s back, and he’ll be pitching in a significant role next year. Let’s hope he’s more like the Matt Capps of 2010 than the Matt Capps of 2009 or 2011.
Brian Duensing (LHP) -Duensing is a shoo-in for a bullpen slot, unless he ends up in the starting rotation again. He pitched well in relief in 2009 and 2010, with a combined 3.18 ERA in 76.1 innings.
Jose Mijares (LHP) – Like most of the Twins, Mijares would like to forget 2011. He was a pretty effective lefty setup guy in 2009 and 2010, so there is hope he can pitch well.
Glen Perkins (LHP) – Rather than forget about 2011, Perkins needs to build on it. In his first year in the ‘pen, he put up a 2.48 ERA and 9.49 K/9. Perkins enters 2012 as perhaps the only bright spot among Twins relievers.
GOOD SHOT TO MAKE IT
Jason Bulger (RHP) – As recently as 2009, Bulger was a very effective setup man for the Angels. But he has battled injuries since. If healthy, he could pile up the strikeouts, something that has been in short supply for Twins pitchers recently.
Alex Burnett (RHP) – The 24 year old has good stuff, but needs a lot of polishing. In a perfect world, he would have spent 2011 in AAA. Instead, he struggled to a 5.51 ERA. Perhaps that full year of experience will benefit him in 2012.
Terry Doyle (RHP) – Doyle is a pitch-to-contact guy, which makes him a poor fit for the bullpen. But he’s a Rule 5 pick, so he needs to stay in the Big Leagues all year if the Twins want to keep him. I doubt he’ll make the rotation, so he might fill a ‘pen slot.
Jim Hoey (RHP) – The exact opposite of Doyle, Hoey can throw fireballs (averaged 95.3 mph with his fastball in 2011), but he can’t place them very well, and his offspeed pitches need work. At 29 years old, 2012 will be a make or break year for Hoey.
Lester Oliveros (RHP) – Received from Detroit in the Delmon Young trade, Oliveros is only 23 years old, and he can throw hard (93.9 mph fastball). His minor league strikeout rates have been great, so he could profile as a setup man in MLB, with a little more experience.
Anthony Swarzak (RHP) – There are a lot of pitchers like Swarzak on this list – guys who would make serviceable #4 or #5 starters, but who wouldn’t be useful in the ‘pen other than in long relief. Of those guys, Swarzak is probably the best, and he’ll likely occupy that role.
Esmerling Vasquez (RHP) – Vasquez is a lot like Hoey, except that he has developed his cutter and changeup. Like Hoey, he walks too many batters, and like Hoey, 2012 could be a critical year for his career.
MINOR LEAGUERS WHO COULD IMPRESS
Deolis Guerra (RHP) – The Twins liked this guy enough to trade Johan Santana for him four years ago. He spent the next three seasons pitching horribly in the minors, but after being converted to relief in 2011 he made some major strides.
Carlos Gutierrez (RHP) – Gutierrez boasts an unusual combination of high velocity and high ground ball rates, but he is yet to really put it all together stat-wise. Still, his stuff is good enough that the team thinks he could be a closer one day.
Chuck James (LHP) – This crafty lefty had great numbers at AAA last year, but he was passed over for promotion to the Majors several times because the Twins already had enough lefties. If he’s back in 2012, he’ll probably face the same problem again.
Matt Maloney (LHP) – Another lefty, Maloney is primarily a starter. His likely role in 2012 will be to try to win some games for Rochester, but he could see some time with the Twins as a reliever.
Jeff Manship (RHP) – Yet another pitcher who would make a better starter, Manship doesn’t seem to have enough velocity or craftiness to become a dominant reliever.
Anthony Slama (RHP) – Slama doesn’t throw fast, but he has a deceptive sidearm delivery and a decent slider. He has had great numbers in the minors at every stop, including K rates well over 10 per nine innings.
Sam Deduno (RHP) – Deduno is a 27 year old minor league journeyman. He can strike out minor league hitters, but no team has ever really been confident enough in his abilities to keep him in the Majors.
Phil Dumatrait (LHP) – The Twins re-signed Dumatrait to a minor league deal. Unless they were somehow enamored of his career -1.4 WAR, the move was probably made with Rochester in mind. He could be a competent set up man for the Red Wings, but if he’s ever on the Twins’ 25 man roster, that’s a very bad sign.
Jeff Gray (RHP) – Gray can induce grounders, but I’ll repeat my pitching rule of thumb: If his strikeout rate isn’t higher than his ERA, keep him off your team. In 2011, Gray had a 4.28 rate for each.
Luis Perdomo (RHP) – Perdomo spent one season as a reliever for the Padres in 2009, then he was banished to the minors for 2010 and 2011. Last year, he was 0-8 at AAA with an ERA of 5.40.
Tyler Robertson (LHP) – Robertson is another one of those guys who would make a better starter. He’s on the 40 man roster, so he may try to compete for a slot, but he won’t make it.
Daniel Turpen (RHP) – Turpen may become an effective reliever one day, but he is much more likely to spend the season in AAA.