Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Contemplating Tyler Kinley

Tyler Kinley's outing Monday elicted these competing viewpoints from the Star Tribune's LaVelle E. Neal III and Baseball America's J.J. Cooper:

Tyler Kinley is 27 with an ERA
in two Double-A seasons of 4.97,
but he has great stuff.
Presumably Neal meant "how the Twins leave Fort Myers without him," not "who," but there is a "who" factor in keeping Kinley, as I'll expound later in this post.

The Twins took Kinley in the Rule 5 draft out of the Miami organization, where last year he had imposing numbers in High A ball and poor results in Double A, then followed that up with a dominating 14 games in the Dominican Winter League. Rule 5 means the Twins have to keep him on the active roster or return him to the Marlins.

There has already been a opportunity cost to Kinley: The Twins lost, among others, Randy Rosario on waivers to create openings on the 40-man roster before the draft, and lost Nick Burdi and Luke Bard in the Rule 5 draft themselves. They couldn't keep all three by passing on Kinley, but they could have kept one by foregoing the draft.

I suggested in a Monday print column a couple weeks ago that the Twins bullpen lacks a reliable power arm. I didn't list Kinley as a possibility for that role, but perhaps he's worth considering. Let's imagine a possible bullpen, eight men as Paul Molitor is apparently leaning to open the season (with four starters, so a 12-man staff).

We have, in my estimation, five givens: closer Fernando Rodney, right-handed setup men Addison Reed and Tyler Hildenberger, and left-handed setup men Zach Duke and Taylor Rogers.

Most observers appear to consider Ryan Pressly a sure thing as well. I don't believe Pressly has earned the benefit of the doubt, but let's pencil him in as No. 6. (He's the closest thing to an established power arm in this bullpen,)

We don't know who the fourth starter is yet, but let's say it's Aldaberto Mejia (the only lefty in what I've dubbed Tier One in the competition.) If so, Phil Hughes goes to the bullpen, since he has some $26 million left on his contract and the Twins are unlikely to pull the plug on him with that much on the table. (And if Mejia is out of options, he might wind up in the 'pen if Hughes wins the rotation spot.)  That's seven.

My presumed eighth is Tyler Duffey, who was a pretty reliable multi-inning reliever in the early going until Molitor started overusing him.

Upshot: I agree with Cooper. It's difficult to see how Kinley sticks. The Twins could trade for his Rule 5 rights, which would allow them to option Kinley out and would also increase the opportunity cost.

Or they could decide they like Kinley's power stuff more than they like Pressly's. I don't have a problem with that, but I've learned over time to be suspicious of my inclination to favor bright shiny objects. The Twins spent this offseason trying to minimize their bullpen risks; dropping Pressly for Kinley would be increasing them, and I doubt that's going to happen.

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