The Twins certainly struggled out of the bullpen for most of the 2017 season, but they found something special in the last two months of the year, and perhaps someone in that group could be a guy to step into that closer’s role. There are also a host of high-quality relievers in the upper minors ready for an opportunity.
Curtiss had an impressive minor league season in 2017, making 39 appearances, throwing 49 1/3 innings, with a 1.28 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and a 22/68 BB/K ratio between AA Chattanooga and AAA Rochester. In late August, he was called up to the major leagues to fill into the bullpen. He flashed his upper 90s velocity with excellent movement on his fastball, a change that sits in the upper 80s to lower 90s and a slider that has excellent bite. Curtiss had two nasty games where he totaled 2/3 innings pitched, 5 hits allowed, 6 runs allowed, 2 walks, and a strikeout. Outside of that, he only allowed a run in one other game in his 7 other appearances. Curtiss also had a strikeout in all but one of his 9 appearances with the big league club to close out the year. When you take out those two blow up games, Curtiss had a 2.25 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, and a 0/9 BB/K ratio over the 8 innings in those 7 other appearances, a pretty dominant line. Even with the blowup games added in, he still had a 1.27 WHIP, which shows just how well he threw overall.
Moya had an incredible season in AA as the closer for Arizona’s AA team until he was acquired by the Twins, where he actually improved on a season where he had a sub-1 ERA. Overall, his minor league line on the season was 47 games, 58 1/3 innings, 24 saves, a 0.77 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and a 15/87 BB/K ratio. In the majors, Moya didn’t have that level of success, but still showed well in a September debut, with a 4.26 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and a 2/5 BB/K over 6 1/3 inning. Moya doesn’t come with an elite fastball, averaging around 90 MPH, usually topping out around 93, but his change is one of the most wicked offspeed pitches in the entire Twins system, and that two-pitch combination could make for an elite LOOGY, but add in a slider that he struggled with in the majors but has upside to be a swing and miss pitch, and Moya could be a guy to be an important part of the length of the 2018 bullpen.
While not your traditional closer in velocity, Hildenberger has the stuff and arm angle to be a premier piece in a dominant overall bullpen. You see guys likeDarren O’Day
, andAlex Claudio
have success and even close for periods of time due to how difficult it is to hit a guy who is coming from that sidearm angle. Trevor’s fastball may average around 89 with a frisbee slider that comes in around 75, but the angles those pitches get because of his sidearm delivery can allow him to be effective as long as he can control the pitches.
One of the more underreported things with the 2017 Twins was the heat coming from the right hand of Busenitz. Acquired by the Twins in the deal that sentRicky Nolasco
to the Angels and broughtHector Santiago
as well to the Twins, Busenitz was an unknown reliever. He made 24 appearances in the minor leagues this season, with a 1.78 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, and 10/39 BB/K over 35 1/3 innings. He threw 31 2/3 innings at the major league level, with a 1.99 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 9/23 BB/K ratio. He averaged 95.7 MPH with his fastball, reaching 98-99 frequently in games, pairing that with a spike curve at 83 MPH that had hitters drilling the ball into the ground. Busenitz may not be a young guy at 27 years old already, but he has the raw stuff to play well at the back end of a bullpen, even if he isn’t a name guy.
The move of Tyler Jay to the bullpen was supposed to allow for him to move quickly to the major leagues, but instead, he missed most of the season with issues initially diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, but later found to not require surgery. He is throwing extremely well at the Arizona Fall League, and he should be able to move quickly with health to the major leagues as a lefty that can get swing and miss from both sides of the plate with a mid-90s fastball and a hard-biting slider.
The Twins could call up some of their minor league options to be used in the major league bullpen, and that could be a way to use 1-2 spots in the bullpen to possibly find a guy who breaks through in 2018. Guys like Jake Reed, Mason Melotakis, Randy Rosario, J.T. Chargois, and Michael Tonkin have all been guys that have been known about by the team for quite some time and haven’t made it for one reason or another, but the talent is there, and 2018 could be that breakthrough year.
In the minors, however, the Twins have little else with as much depth as they do high-end relief arms. Guys like Andrew Vasquez, Nick Anderson, Luke Bard, Sam Clay, Alex Robinson, Thomas Hackimer, and Ryan Eades have all been at the upper levels of the minors to some degree, and they will enter 2018 in a similar position to where guys like Curtiss and Moya were in 2017.