Minnesota Twins: Ryan Pressly still has closer stuff even amidst his struggles

The Minnesota Twins still need help in their bullpen. One of their original pieces for the 2017 bullpen, Ryan Pressly, could still be an answer.

This past offseason it was clear the Minnesota Twins needed to improve their bullpen. The team added Craig Breslow and Matt Belisle which felt underwhelming for many based on the team’s need at that position. Moves or lack of moves aside, every conversation surrounding the Twins’ bullpen this offseason included time focused on how Ryan Pressly should continue to progress into a solid late inning bullpen arm.

That hasn’t quite been the road for Pressly in 2017. Due to early struggles, his season numbers are not the type you want to see from one of your major bullpen pieces. Currently, Pressly holds a 5.87 ERA. To give an idea of just how bad the early part of his season was, through June 16th before he was optioned to AAA Rochester Pressly had an 8.18 ERA.

Now the second half of 2017 has been much better for Pressly. Since July 1 he has appeared in 12 games, holding down a 2.76 ERA and striking out about one batter an inning. The question remains what caused first half Pressly to go from potential closing candidate to demoted to Rochester?

Unfortunately for Pressly, it may be as simple of an answer as results. Some of the numbers around his pitching performance suggest that he has actually pitched fairly well. His season long xFIP of 3.33 is much better than the results of his 5.87 ERA.

Some of that inflated ERA has been helped out by a .309 BABIP from batters that have faced Pressly. In that awful first half, Pressly’s BABIP was up to .327. Along with that BABIP, Pressly’s home run rate has been high as well sitting at 1.64 HR/9.

More perspective on just how good some of the secondary numbers look, out of qualified relief pitchers on FanGraphs Pressly sits 30th in xFIP. That puts him ahead of former Twins’ closer Brandon Kintzler (4.07) and current setup man Taylor Rogers (4.26). Doing the math, 30th means he should be the best pitcher on some MLB team and the Twins would appear the perfect candidate from a needs perspective.

What is also interesting is Pressly’s velocity is as high as it has ever been. His average fastball velocity sits at 95.8 mph. That is over 2 mph faster than when he entered the league. His swinging strike rate is also the highest of his career at 14.1%.

With all those positives there is a lot of reason to hope that Pressly’s start to 2017 was really some “bad luck.” With his xFIP where it is and his continued ability to get swings and misses, it looks like he still has closer potential somewhere in him. If this stretch since July 1 says anything about the Pressly the Twins currently have in their bullpen. He will be very helpful as the team tries to disprove the “selling” label and still compete post deadline for a playoff spot. Even after dealing their closer.

Beyond this season, there is no question the Twins could use Pressly’s arm in the bullpen. That has to be the team’s hope since he is under team control until the 2020 season. If all things break right, he could be eyeing the unclaimed 2018 closer role. What do you think of Pressly’s season? Where should the team be looking for bullpen help for 2017 and into 2018?

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