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The Twins quietly built an excellent bullpen

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Rogers, Duffey, May, Romo, Littell, and Stashak make an excellent bullpen.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The off season is in full force and the main topic among Twins fans is starting pitching. Today I’m looking back at the focus of the 2018 off season by looking at the bullpen. The Twins have quietly built an excellent bullpen with guys like Tyler Duffey and Trevor May, who are getting close to the level of Taylor Rogers to make a scary back end for any team to face. With Sergio Romo back on the team, where does this bullpen stand?

Well, how about we look at the much improved unit from about a year ago. Only two of the players from opening day last year still have a clear spot on the team.

2019 Opening Day bullpen:

  • Taylor Rogers
  • Trevor May
  • Blake Parker
  • Trevor Hildenberger
  • Adalberto Mejia
  • Ryne Harper
  • Martin Perez

2019 Playoffs/current day bullpen

  • Taylor Rogers
  • Trevor May
  • Tyler Duffey
  • Sergio Romo
  • Zack Littell
  • Cody Stashak
  • Fernando Romero

The 2019 Twins finished the season with one of the best bullpens in baseball. They began the year with a bunch of question marks and slowly throughout the 2019 season filled out every single spot with a reliable guy. The team left spots open so someone like Tyler Duffey could get an opportunity to show what he can do.

Sometimes this worked really well, like with Duffey, but other times it was a way of testing how much effectiveness they could get out of a reliever. For example, Ryne Harper was a Spring Training invitee who was given a shot and was the second best reliever for half the year, before he fell apart in the second half. They got everything they could out of him.

This idea really started to take form in the second half.

  • 1st half: 4.30 ERA, 4.25 FIP, 23.7 K%, 8.9 BB%, 1.37 WHIP, 2.9 WAR
  • 2nd half: 4.03 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 26.6 K%, 5.9 BB%, 1.27 WHIP, 4.8 WAR(!)

The Twins bullpen had a 4.8 WAR in the second half. This was 1.1 points higher than the second best team and was higher than the WAR for 24 teams over a full season. As the bullpen solidified, it became one of the best units in baseball, if not the best. Now I’ll go over the seven players I believe will make up a great 2020 bullpen for the Twins.

Taylor Rogers, LHP, 28-years old.

Everyone in Minnesota knows Rogers by now. He is one of the best relievers in the game and he is improving every season. His 11.74 K/9 and 1.43 BB/9 were both easily career best stats in a year he gave up career low hard hit% and a career high BABIP. That average on balls in play despite a low hard hit rate point to an even better year coming up.

Tyler Duffey, RHP, 28-years old.

Duffey was one of the most pleasant surprises in Twins Territory last season. After a devastating 2018 where everything seemed to go wrong, he bounced back in a huge way to rise to the level of Taylor Rogers last season. In 57 23 innings he had a 2.50 ERA with a 12.80 K/9. According to Statcast he became pretty much a two-pitch pitcher last season. He increased his fastball by 15% to throw it 51.4% of the time. His slider was his second pitch and both allowed an average under .200.

Trevor May, RHP, 30-years old.

May is coming off a great season and is the second-oldest member of the bullpen and the closest to free agency. His peripherals were a bit concerning with a 3.73 FIP and career high BB% at 9.8%, but he proved he can be effective out of this bullpen. Like Duffey, he had an elite fastball—except May’s was faster at 95.5 MPH on average. He threw the fastball 61.8% of the time and hitters had an average of just .150 against it.

Sergio Romo, RHP, 36-years old.

The Twins recently re-signed Romo to a 1-year deal with a 2021 option. After being acquired from Miami at the 2019 deadline, Romo instantly became a fan favorite for his exciting antics on the field. He was also great in his limited time with the Twins throwing 22 23 innings and having a 3.18 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 0.926 WHIP, 10.7 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9. He is an excellent change of pace from the first three as he threw his slider 60% and fastball 10% of the time last season.

Zack Littell, RHP, 24-year old.

Littell was another excellent surprise for the Twins bullpen last season. He had a rough major league debut in 2018, but after being transitioned from the rotation to the bullpen he seemed to turn a corner. In 37.0 innings Littell had a 2.68 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 7.78 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, and 1.16 WHIP. Ideally, the strikeout rate will go up next season if he sticks in the bullpen if he can get more swings and misses on his slider.

Cody Stashak, RHP, 25-years old.

Stashak is actually very interesting because he showed up late but he was still very good down the stretch. Over 25.0 total innings, he walked only one batter (1.0 BB%) and had a 3.24 ERA with a 3.01 FIP. When he came up he basically told reporters he was here to throw strikes. He threw strikes. I expect to see him back here in 2020 after performing well at all three levels last season (AA, AAA, MLB).

Fernando Romero, other internal option, or a free agent?

The seventh spot for this bullpen is wide open. The Twins could let internal guys like Matt Wisler, Fernando Romero, or Ryne Harper fill the spot or they could go sign a free agent. They have been briefly linked to Dellin Betances and Daniel Hudson, but my best guess would be they use the same approach as last season to battle it out to see who sticks. What do you hope they do?

Overall I think the Twins are set up to have another solid season from their bullpen in 2020. Starting Pitching obviously still has a hole or two to be filled, so it is good that the Twins have built up this unit. Do you think the bullpen will be good, or do they need to make another splash to make sure it will be a solid group? Comment below and start a discussion.