Monday, March 11, 2019

Contemplating the bullpen

The Twins made their first camp cuts at the start of the weekend. Sent down the road to the minor league complex were a collection of prospects -- some on the 40, some not -- who came to camp with little realistic chance of making the opening roster unless a wave of injuries hit.

We are less than three weeks from opening day, and it's time for big league camp to focus at-bats and innings on the guys who will be going north. And its time for this corner to go through out annual exercise of projecting bullpen roles.

Which, this spring, is well-neigh impossible. There is no established closer in camp. There is a manager who has never managed at any level before and a pitching coach who has not been in professional baseball before, so we can't look at what they've done in the past. And pitcher usage patterns in exhibition games are meaningless.

There have been suggestions that Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson won't base the bullpen on set roles, meaning no specific closer, no specific eighth-inning guy.

But they must have some sort for framework in mind. Let's try to work one out on our own.

Roster locks

Taylor Rogers. He might be emerging as one of the better lefty relievers in the game.
Blake Parker. A couple good years with the Angels, and if the Twins do go with a set closer a genuine candidate for the job.
Trevor May. My choice for closer if the role exists. Out of options.

Depending on health

Addison Reed. If he's healthy, he's a lock. But he wasn't sound last season and it's unclear if he can go two days in a row, and that's pretty much a necessity for bullpen arms. One year and more than $8 million left on his contract.
Gabriel Moya.  Lefty has been limited in camp. Probably the preferred second lefty.

More than likely

Trevor Hildenberger. Had a rough end to an up-and-down season. He and the Twins seem to think the issues are solvable.
Aldaberto Mejia. Lefty, out of options. As a starter has struggled to go five innings, and there is no obvious opening in the rotation anyway.

Is there room?

Matt Magill. Spent most of 2018 with the big club, appearing in 40 games and working 56 innings. The big drawback: 11 homers allowed. Not sure of his option status.
Tyler Duffey. Less time in the majors than I expected last year, and a horrid 7.20 ERA when he was up. His stock has certainly diminished.
Fernando Romero. Eleven games in the bigs in 2018, all starts. Supposedly a reliever now. He may not open 2019 with the Twins, but he'll be there at some point, and may well wind up with a major role.

Already down

Andrew Vasquez. Shipped out with the first wave of camp cuts. Lefty whose early departure suggests the decision makers are satisfied with Mejia and Moya behind Rogers.

So ... I make the top three the most likely late-inning choices, although if Hildenberger and Romero are capable of wedging their way in. Reed, with the biggest paycheck of the group, is a big question mark. I wonder how likely the Twins are to eat his salary if he's limited early on.

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