Minnesota Twins: The Twins have found an unlikely trio of Bullpen Arms for the Future
By Nate Palmer
The Minnesota Twins have surprised experts and fans throughout 2017. That is no truer than with the bullpen and performances from three unlikely arms.
The Minnesota Twins‘ bullpen had a multitude of questions surrounding it coming into the 2017 season. It was always clear that the bullpen would need reinforcements from the minors in order to find success this season. Success has been found – it just hasn’t been found in the places it was expected to be found.
Here is a closer look at three players who are propelling the Twins towards the playoffs and forming a foundation for the 2018 version of the Minnesota Twins bullpen.
Taylor Rogers got his start with the Twins last season, but this season at the age of 26 he has really turned heads as a late inning, left-handed option. Prior to the trade deadline, most close wins were secured by a Rogers 8th inning and a Brandon Kintzler 9th inning save. It seemed impossible for the two to hold up again and again in high-leverage opportunities, but both did.
Rogers has pitched to a 3.31 ERA with 44 strikeouts over 51.2 innings. As a left-hander, he has obvious value as a lefty specialist and this season left-handed batters are only batting .179/.257/.328 when facing Rogers. He has also had enough success against right-handed bats to become more than a lefty specialist, giving manager Paul Molitor the confidence to leave Rogers in for full innings of relief.
It was on June 23rd that Trevor Hildenberger and his deceptive delivery made his debut with the Twins. He did nothing other than pitch a solid inning of relief against the Cleveland Indians. Since then, Hildenberger has continued to succeed and has even been mentioned as a potential closer post-Kintzler trade as he has gone on to post a 2.43 ERA and to strike out 35 batters over 33.1 innings.
His fastball hangs around 92-93 mph most of the time but has also clocked in upwards of 94 mph. It also has good movement on it which helps to set up his secondary pitches. Hildenberger mixes in a slider and a changeup. Said changeup drops in velocity by about 15 mph keeping hitters off balance as they try to distinguish between his fastball and changeup.
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As the Ricky Nolasco trade is looking like a loss at this point for the Twins, Alan Busenitz is doing his best to even out that evaluation. As a 27-year-old this season, Busenitz debuted for the Twins on June 17th. His first two outings were a little rough, but since then he has been very good pitching to an ERA of 1.88 over 24 innings. Many of his appearances have been late in games developing into a setup option for Molitor alongside Rogers.
One of the aspects of Busenitz’s game that likely caught the Twins’ attention as they traded for him was the velocity of his fastball. His fastball averages almost 96 mph and is clearly his best pitch as he also mixes in a curveball and changeup.
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While the bullpen may have some of the most variance from year to year of any position in baseball, the Twins have continually been simply bad. That makes the success of the bullpen this year especially exciting. Only 2018 will tell us if these three will continue to build on the performances they have turned in for 2017. The nice thing is the bullpen won’t be completely empty this offseason as the front office puts together next year’s team.