The Minnesota Twins bullpen had many surprises in it in 2017. After several additions, the Twins bullpen looks ready to rock in 2018.
The Minnesota Twins have spring training underway and even a few games with real box scores under their belts as well. As they get ready for the season it seems only appropriate to start giving our best guesses at who will be making the team for Opening Day and in what roles. To this point, we have gone through the starting lineup, the bench, and the starting rotation. That leaves us the group with the most changes, the bullpen.
If we are completely honest, the Twins 2017 bullpen was supposed to be awful. When looking over the group that was assembled there were a lot of question marks. Even among the questions, the group continued to surprise and do enough to help the Twins secure the second Wild Card position at season’s end and an appearance in the 2017 playoffs.
It all started with closer Brandon Kintzler. Even though Kintzler doesn’t profile as the type of pitcher you would normally turn to close out games, he just got the job done. Even though his K/9 was only 5.4, Kintzler still saved 28 games, had a 2.78 ERA, and a 159 ERA+ before his July trade deadline move to the Washington Nationals.
The Twins “big” offseason addition to the bullpen last offseason was Matt Belisle. He got off to quite the rough start in 2017 which caused many to heavily question the front office’s thought process and lack of moves to address such a weak bullpen. The veteran regained his usual steady form in the second half and recorded a 1.71 ERA and after assuming the closer role after Kintzler’s departure recorded 9 saves.
While those two veterans truly helped provide a base for the bullpen in 2017. It was the emergence of young relievers like Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger, and Alan Busenitz that helped the Twins compete down the stretch. Without those three relievers’ performances, the Twins may not have had the storied season that they did.
Even with the successes the Twins had, there is plenty of room for improvement. The Twins bullpen finished 22nd in the major leagues with a 4.40 ERA. The Twins were also 26th in strikeouts and 29th (only ahead of Baltimore) with a 7.66 K/9. The front office made plenty of moves this offseason to try to address the bullpen. Let’s now take a look and see how it may shape up come Opening Day.