Friday, July 24, 2015

Bullpen strikeout rates and the farm system

Tyler Duffey, college
reliever and minor
league starter, might
be next on the bullpen
I alluded the other day to the low strikeout rates in the Twins bullpen. Going down the list of Minnesota relievers with more than 20 appearances by games pitched, and remembering that the average relief pitcher in the American League strikes out more than eight men per nine innings:

  • Blaine Boyer: 4.1 strikeouts per nine innings
  • Aaron Thompson (demoted): 4.7
  • Glen Perkins: 8.5
  • Brian Duensing: 5.3
  • Casey Fien: 4.9
  • Ryan Pressly (disabled list): 7.2
  • J.R. Graham: 7.1

Perkins is barely above league average and even his K rate has been in decline over the years. Nobody else is within one strikeout of the average.

Mike Berardino tweeted Thursday that the Twins were cool on the notion of trading for Miami's Steve Cishek, citing his declining strikeout rate. This, he added in another tweet, is an indication that the front office is taking K/9 seriously.

I had expected that by this time some of the collegiate relievers the Twins have been drafting of late in their emphasis on power arms would be ready to emerge. But they have largely been injured or ineffective.

Nick Burdi, the 2014 second rounder who wowed me last season when I saw him pitch for Cedar Rapids, opened the year at Double A and stunk (5.93 ERA with 22 walks in 30.1 innings). He was moved down to High A and has pitched well there (no walks in 13 innings), and I expect he'll be moved back up to Chattanooga soon, but he shouldn't be viewed as a 2015 answer.

J.T. Chargois, a 2012 second rounder who was seen at the time as a possible quick riser, was derailed by injury, He has a 4.93 ERA at Chattanooga with 16 walks in 13 innings but has better numbers at Fort Myers. Again, not a 2015 answer.

Jake Reed, a 2014 draftee who opened eyes by allowing just two earned runs at three levels last year (Appy League, Midwest League, Arizona Fall League), has spent the whole season at Double A and has compiled a 5.71 ERA.

Zach Jones has a 6.00 ERA at Double A. Lefty Mason Melotakis had Tommy John surgery, Luke Bard is finally pitching at Cedar Rapids after multiple surgeries. We saw Alex Meyer's frightening two-game audition.

OK, that all looks grim. Here's an interesting one: Tyler Duffey.

Duffey is another member of the 2012 draft (which brought in Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, Bard, Melotakis and Chargois as well.) He shared the closer duties at Rice with Chargois, but the Twins made him a starter and he took well to the role.

Now 24, Duffey has a 2.29 ERA at Triple A Rochester. Given the current depth in starters on the roster and the rising Berrios, I don't see him getting a rotation shot anytime soon, But given his college background in the bullpen, he might be next to get a call to shore up a bullpen that can use a power arm.

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