As the MLB Winter Meetings carry on in Orlando, Twins fans wait (im)patiently for the team’s front office to make a move. After missing out on Shohei Ohtani, their attention turns elsewhere as they’re checking in with various free agents that can fortify the pitching staff.
Meanwhile, an interesting tidbit came from general manager Thad Levine.
Twins GM Thad Levine said he believes the Twins have a future closer on their roster. But it sounds like they'd be more comfortable with a veteran closer to at least open the year.— Rhett Bollinger (@RhettBollinger) December 11, 2017
While they are checking in on Matt Belisle, Brandon Kintzler, and apparently Fernando Rodney, it’s entirely possible that the Twins already employ their long-term solution. Thus, who could possibly fit the bill?
I feel we have to start with the best reliever on the roster. Despite possessing the slowest fastball in the bullpen, Hildenberger’s sidearm delivery and pinpoint accuracy induces plenty of grounders while limiting the walks and home runs. He’s not a prototypical closer, but the Twins haven’t really employed a prototypical closer since Glen Perkins or even as far back as Good Joe Nathan.
Also a good hurler in the Twins bullpen, Rogers also wouldn’t exactly fit the mold of what you look for in a shutdown reliever. Unfortunately, Rogers isn’t very good against righthanded hitters (career .288/.355/.435 allowed) and the Twins started to take notice as he appeared in 69 ballgames last year but didn’t even crack 56 innings pitched.
Some of you might not want to hear this, but when I saw Levine’s comment for the first time, Pressly was the first pitcher that came to mind. His numbers don’t blow you away, but his stuff certainly would. A Rule 5 pick prior to the 2013 season, he’s already a success story with his career 3.85 ERA. However, what makes him most attractive is that his 4-seamer averaged 96 MPH last year while his slider was just under 90. Toss in a Corey Kluber/Jose Berrios curveball and you’ve got a reliever that projects to be a closer. Unless he gets pushed into a middle relief role, Pressly should likely be the top righthanded reliever after Hildenberger.
Like Pressly, Busenitz throws hard (95.7 MPH fastball velocity in 2017) and also has a sharp curveball, but he struggled to rack up strikeouts despite his shiny ERA. Busenitz had far more Ks in the minors, but he looks like a flyball Brandon Kintzler at the moment (read: few strikeouts, still tough to hit).
Utterly dominant in the minors (has posted K-rates at and above 30% at multiple levels - major league average last year was 21.6%), Moya had his first taste of the majors in late September. He only averages 90 MPH with his fastball, but he has deception in his delivery and an excellent change-up. Additionally, while I cannot find it, I swear I read a tweet from a Twins beat writer a few months ago that said Moya’s plan of attack on the mound is to “devour” the hitter. I simultaneously hope that nothing and everything was lost in translation there.
While his first full-time foray as a reliever was a bit rocky, it was still promising as May struck out nearly a third of the batters he faced during the 2016 season. Armed with a fastball that was reaching the mid-90s, he certainly looked like he a future closer at times. However, much like Berrios, while he could be a dominant reliever, his true future likely lies in a starting rotation.
J.T. Chargois/John Curtiss/Nick Burdi/Jake Reed/etc.
I’m lumping these guys together because they’re all copies of each other: hard-throwing righthanded relievers with some control issues. Some of these guys probably aren’t in the closer discussion in 2018 anyway, but they all have the fastballs.