Minnesota Twins: Four Keys for How the Twins Build a Bullpen

Taylor Rogers of the Minnesota Twins pitches during game one of the Wild Card Series between the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
Taylor Rogers of the Minnesota Twins pitches during game one of the Wild Card Series between the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Twins
Tyler Duffey of the Minnesota Twins looks on against the Detroit Tigers. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Twins Bullpen Key No. 2: Relying on Homegrown Talent

Outside of the Rays, the Twins are one of the teams in baseball that is most well-known teams for relying on their own prospects and young players to build their rosters. Whether it be hitting or pitching, the Twins often don’t have the assets to bring in big stars. This has been especially true for this version of the Twins bullpen.

When you think of the leaders of the bullpen from previous seasons, you think of arms like Taylor Rodgers, Trevor May, and Tyler Duffey, all guys the Twins developed. Heck, even Caleb Thielbar spent most of his career in the Twins system before going to play with the St. Paul Saints.

Taylor Rodgers may have had an up and down 2020, but there is no denying that when he is in a groove, he is one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball. Relying almost solely on his fastball and slider, the 11th round pick from 2012 worked his way up through the Twins system and broke into the big leagues in 2016.

He was very good from 2016-2018, but 2019 was the year he really started earning recognition as one of baseball’s top lefty relievers. He earned career highs with 69 innings, 90 strikeouts, and a 2.61 ERA while locking up 30 saves as the team’s full-time closer.

Trevor May, wasn’t drafted by the Twins, instead coming over to the Twins from the Phillies for Ben Revere after the 2012 season. Initially thought of as a starter, the Twins saw that role wasn’t working and transitioned him to a role as a high-leverage reliever.

May’s arsenal includes a good amount of fastballs, changeups, curveballs, and sliders but he relies largely on the fastball that has hit triple digits. He became one of the Twins’ top relievers in 2019 and had another solid year in 2020.

This offseason, he signed with the New York Mets to reunite with former Twins’ bullpen coach Jeremy Hefner, so the Twins will have to look elsewhere to replace his innings in 2021. He wouldn’t have been such a hot commodity if the Twins hadn’t helped him turn his career around, so this counts as a win.

Tyler Duffey has snuck up on everyone and become one of the most productive relievers in all of baseball. He came into the league in 2015 and was another pitcher that was hoping to be a starter, but after making several trips up and down between the majors and AAA, the Twins helped revolutionize his career by moving him to the bullpen.

Duffey flourished in that role in 2019 and was even better in 2020. Relying mainly on his fastball and curveball, (maybe a little more on his curve in 2020) Duffey’s tremendous 1.88 ERA and 31 strikeouts in high-leverage innings helped make him one of the most underrated relievers in the league in addition to productive.

It’s clear that the team has showed a great strength in building home-grown guys into high-leverage studs, and it looks like the team is positioning to do it again with Jorge Alcala. Since coming over from the Astros in 2018 as part of the Ryan Pressley trade, Alcala has shown a lot of potential.

Once considered a starter, Alcala made his big league debut in 2019 and got his first “full” season of work in 2020. The 25 year old has recorded a 2.45 ERA, a WHIP of 1.208 in with 28 strikeouts in just over 25 innings pitched featuring a high 90s fastball and a changeup with some good movement.

He’s still a little raw but there’s not denying that he has the potential to become an elite reliever (and maybe even closer down the line). Working out homegrown talent has worked well for the Twins thus far, and I don’t see that changing.