Minnesota Twins Bullpen has a Bright Future


The Twins moved to 30-19 Sunday after a ridiculously hot 20-7 record in May. The Twins offense has continued to produce. The trifecta of Brian Dozier, Tori Hunter and Trevor Plouffe have been particularly impressive, combining for a .303/.371/.571 line with 17 HR and 57 RBI entering Sunday’s game. While Minnesota’s starting pitching has dramatically improved to post number in line with the league average (an indicating of just how bad it has been in recent years). One of the more under-appreciated elements of the Twins success has been a steady bullpen; specifically, the Twins front offices ability to find diamonds in the rough.

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With Glen Perkins requesting a day off Saturday after struggling Friday night, Blaine Boyer stepped in to earn the save for the Twins. He continued his impressive streak in relief and now owns a 2.19 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, whilst striking out just 3.6/9. Boyer’s success should come as no surprise to Twins fans as the club has a strong history with free agent relievers, particularly those who have been passed over by other clubs. Jared Burton, Casey Fien, Caleb Thielbar and going back further Matt Guerrier, Dennys Reyes and Jose Mijares have all enjoyed degrees of success with the Twins, while incumbents Ryan Pressley and J.R Graham were acquired by the Twins in the Rule 5 Draft.

The Twins success has been impossible to ignore, even garnering national attention.

Despite the bullpen’s back end success it is not without its issues. Signed to a Major League contract this offseason Tim Stauffer has been an unmitigated disaster so far. The traditionally solid Stauffer owns a 8.10 ERA on the season so far with a WHIP of 2.20. Stauffer is currently issuing 14.4 H/9, 5.4 BB/9, 1.8 SO/9 with opponents’ batting .364 against him. Stauffer has been saved thus far by a guaranteed contract (2.2 million on the year), his previous experience as a starter (ability to pitch multiple innings) and his historical success. As the Twins keep on winning, one wonders how long a leash he will be extended by the Twins brass.

If Stauffer does continue to struggle the Twins will have no shortage of options at AAA. Michael Tonkin (recently demoted), A.J Achter and Lester Oliveros have all been dominant at Rochester. One wonders what Achter has to do to get an opportunity this season. Through Saturday he had pitched 21.2 innings, saved 7 games, posted a 2.08 ERA with 0.60 WHIP and struck out 20. Oliveros would provide an overpowering arm, through 22.2 innings he hold a 2.38 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and has struck out 34. Admittedly none of them fill the role the Twins intended Stauffer to fill when they signed him, an Anthony Swarzak type mop-up, spot start guy. All remain intriguing options.

If the Twins current bullpen isn’t full of overpowering arms, that may not remain the case for long. After taking SS Nick Gordon with the 5th overall pick in the 2014 draft, the Twins went out and drafted its future bullpen. The Twins next 7 picks were pitchers. Most of them profile as relievers. Most of them throw extremely hard. The first group, Nick Burdi (2nd round) and Jake Reed (5th round) are already part of an extremely talented Chattanooga bullpen. Despite control issues Burdi frequently hits triple digits, whilst Reed’s typically sits in the mid 90s. The Twins other significant picks, Michael Cederoth (3rd round), Samuel Clay (4th round) and John Curtiss (6th round) are all currently at A Cedar Rapids. With this interesting shift in drafting philosophy towards high ceiling, outstanding stuff based pitchers (if only for a year), the Twins bullpen appears to have a bright future.