Jake Reed, John Curtiss, and Luke Bard, RHP
There could be more names here as well, but some of the other names are hurt and these are really the top guys that have either a decision to be made this offseason about their Rule 5 eligibility or are forcing their way through performance.
Followers of the minor league system for some time have known about Jake Reed for a bit as he’s been on the Twins prospect radar for a few years after being drafted in the 5th round out of the University of Oregon in 2014. He moved quickly in his first two years, reaching AA by the end of his first full season, showing a big fastball and a devastating breaking ball that worked out of the back of the bullpen.
After an impressive 2016, when Reed put up a combined 3.57 ERA and 1.18 WHIP and struck out 72 over 70 2/3 relief innings between AA and AAA1, he was expected to be a strong candidate for the major league bullpen, but injuries delayed the start of his season. His 2017 has certainly shown that he’s ready, with a 1.73 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 26 relief innings with AA and AAA now that he’s been healthy.
Just two rounds after selecting Reed, the Minnesota Twins selected John Curtiss out of the University of Texas. He moved more slowly, initially working as a starter. He moved to the bullpen in 2016, and things drastically changed as he moved up both “A” levels in 2016, throwing 61 relief innings, striking out 85 batters. He went to the Arizona Fall League against some of the best prospects in the game and looked right at home, posting a 2.84 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and struck out 18 over 12 2/3 innings.
Curtiss opened the year with AA Chattanooga this season, moving up to AAA after 20 appearances. Overall on the year, he’s put up an outstanding line of a 1.33 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and a 19/57 BB/K ratio over 40 2/3 innings. He’s also been very comfortable as a closer, and many have pointed to Curtiss as a guy who has the mentality and “stuff” to be a future big league closer, a job that will be open for the 2018 Twins.
Luke Bard was drafted as a compensatory first round pick (42nd overall) in the 2012 draft out of Georgia Tech. Bard struggled with injury his first two seasons before undergoing elbow surgery that cost him all of the 2014 season and definitively ensured he would be a reliever, not a starter.
Bard has moved quickly as a reliever, impressing with dominant stuff that is incredibly difficult for opponents to square up, but this year, he’s taken things to another level, with a 2.31 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and a 19/75 BB/K ratio over 50 2/3 innings at AA. Bard is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this season, and his explosive arm would be a likely pick in that draft if he’s left unprotected, so it could be a good thing for the Twins to see how he could handle the big league bullpen work.
Next: Towering Righty