Minnesota Twins positional recap and predictions, part 7: Starting rotation

msmith4
OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: Kyle Gibson #44 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the first inning at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on September 23, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: Kyle Gibson #44 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the first inning at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on September 23, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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MINNEAPOLIS, MN – AUGUST 26: Jose Berrios #17 of the Minnesota Twins delivers a pitch against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning of the game on August 26, 2018 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. All players across MLB will wear nicknames on their backs as well as colorful, non-traditional uniforms featuring alternate designs inspired by youth-league uniforms during Players Weekend. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – AUGUST 26: Jose Berrios #17 of the Minnesota Twins delivers a pitch against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning of the game on August 26, 2018 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. All players across MLB will wear nicknames on their backs as well as colorful, non-traditional uniforms featuring alternate designs inspired by youth-league uniforms during Players Weekend. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Looking forward

All in all, the Twins starters posted a 4.54 ERA this season, good for 9th in the AL and 22nd in the MLB. That may not sound all that impressive, but considering the team is just 2 years removed from totaling a league-worst 5.39 ERA from their starters in 2016, things are clearly moving in the right direction, which is the biggest point I want to highlight here. With Berrios and Gibson both taking big steps forward, the addition of a solid veteran in Odorizzi, getting rid of some excess weight in Lynn, Santana, and Hughes, plus introducing the world to some talented youth, the Minnesota Twins’ pitching is going the right way.

Let’s talk about a few individual players again. Berrios will be looking to take another step forward and become the true #1 pitcher that he has the talent to be. His ERA sat at 3.56 heading into August before 2 poor months would raise his final ERA by about 0.30. Berrios will be 25 early on in the 2019 season, and this is where I think he can really accelerate and become one of the best pitchers in the league. He now has about 2 full season’s worth of experience in the MLB and has shown improvements each year. As he continues to make adjustments and cut out some poor starts here and there, I think he could be even better in 2019.

Gibson took a huge step forward as well. It might be optimistic to expect a repeat of his 2018 performance next year, but he certainly has the skills to do so. He’s been brilliant at times since just about day 1 in his MLB career, his problem has just simply been consistency. He finally found that this season, and if he can keep it under control, he could be another solid option for the team again next year.

Odorizzi is someone that I expect will improve next year. He wasn’t horrendously behind his career averages, but he was enough so that I think there should be some inherent improvement just through the form of regression to his mean next year. Odorizzi doesn’t really have the upside of a #1 or a #2, but he doesn’t need to on this team. As a #3 or #4, he’ll be great even with just a slight improvement from his 2018 numbers.

After those three, the Twins have a lot of options in house. Just about all the young starters that got a few innings in 2018 will be competing for a spot in the rotation out of spring training- Romero, Gonsalves, Stewart, Mejia, Littell, and others will all get their shot. Michael Pineda will also be back in action after missing the 2018 season rehabbing from surgery. Even for the guys that don’t make the initial cut, there will inevitably be the need for spot starts and short term solutions after injuries and the like throughout the year.

There’s so much in quantity here that the Twins shouldn’t be worried about the ability to cover the number of innings. The bigger thing will be allowing this many young pitchers to keep getting reps that will continue their development. Given how many options the Minnesota Twins already have in the majors, some guys will be forced to get their work in at AA or AAA. But again, I would expect most all of the guys listed in this section to get at least a few starts in the big leagues over the course of the season.

With all that said, the Twins could also look to improve their rotation through trades or free agency. I personally think that the lineup actually needs more work than the rotation does at this point, but as any Twins fan that has watched the team in the 2010s knows, too much pitching is never a bad thing. However, there aren’t a ton of good matches for the Twins this year, in my mind. There’s not really any true, safe aces out there this season, and that’s really all that this team needs.

It doesn’t do the team any good to add another back half of the rotation guy since there are already so many back half guys in the organization. Gibson should probably be a #3, and Odorizzi should probably be a #3 or #4, and Romero, Gonsalves, Stewart, Mejia, Littell, Pineda, and so on all fit the mold of a #3 to #5 starter at this time. A few guys, namely Romero, have #2ish potential, but for the time being are probably realistically closer to a #4.

My point here is that unless the Minnesota Twins are able to add a true #1 or #2 to the team, it really doesn’t do a whole lot of good. There is already a minimum of 6 guys competing for 2 slots in the rotation (Berrios, Gibson, and Odorizzi are all pretty safe bets already). Between those 6, we should be able to get solid production out of the #4 and #5 slots in the rotation. It may not be the first or second guys, but with so many options, odds are that we have a few guys that can pitch well enough to cover it.

So what good does it do to add another arm or two to that mess? Although starting pitching has long been an Achilles’ heel to the Minnesota Twins franchise, this appears to be one offseason where the front office should either go big and acquire a true front-line starter, or just go home and be content with what we already have.

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