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Looking Ahead: The 2022 Starting Rotation

Who is gonna pitch for the Twins in 2022?

MLB: Game One-Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Jose Berrios is gone. Kenta Maeda will likely miss most of the 2022 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Who is going to start games for the Twins in 2022?

The Locks

Joe Ryan

Nelson Cruz is just the gift that keeps on giving. The beloved slugger even helped out the team in leaving, as the Twins netted the promising starter in the trade that sent Nelly to the Rays. Ryan has been more than impressive in big league action so far, and could be an anchor of the rotation for years.

Bailey Ober

Never a highly-regarded prospect, Ober has superseded expectations at every level. Sporting a low walk rate and a 2.41 ERA over four seasons in the minors, but not having very exciting “stuff”, Ober has always been a tough pitcher to evaluate. However, his 4.34 ERA in 87 innings pitched in the bigs, along with the fairly consistent improvement he’s shown, will earn him a shot to start the season next year. His strikeout totals (9.3/9 innings) may be the reason he sticks.

System Chances

Randy Dobnak

The Twins bought out Dirty Randy’s remaining pre-arbitration years by signing him to a cost-controlled extension. Unfortunately, Dobnak has simply not been healthy or good since his revelatory start in 2019. He gave up 43 earned runs in 50.2 innings this year before a season-ending injury. Upon further review, he was actually decent in 2020, with a 4.05 ERA, but even this was disappointing following the exciting (lucky) start to his career. I’d expect him to be in the mix as a starter, especially if the Twins lean into a rebuild.

John Gant

Gant has always been something of a swingman in his 5-year career, starting 47 games and appearing in 171. He’s shown the ability to be a good pitcher either as a starter or reliever. Coming over in the J.A. Happ trade (somehow), I would expect the Twins to give Gant a shot at the rotation to see what they have in a low-expectations year. However, Gant does have the stuff to be a very good back-of-the-bullpen tool, so they could go that direction with him as well (see: Trevor May, Tyler Duffey).

Lewis Thorpe

The team just never seems to lose faith in Thorpe, although I can’t recall him ever being good in the Majors. It seems like he gets chance after chance and always flops on his face. Maybe 2022 will be the year he puts it together (I’m certain he’ll get a look in Spring Training, at least).

Josh Winder and Jhoan Duran

Winder, like Ober, just keeps pitching well. In his third year in the minors, the 24-year-old is at AAA St. Paul, and has a career 2.82 ERA, including 2.63 in 2021.

Duran is one of the jewels of the Twins’ system, highly-regarded with a big arm.

Both of them have lost most their 2021 season to injury, which leads me to believe that we could see them in 2022, but likely not to start the season.

Free Agent Options

I (optimistically) think that this season has finally gotten Falvey and Levine to learn their lesson about only signing lottery ticket free agent pitchers. On the other hand, with Maeda already out for most of next season, they may lean into the rebuild for the 2022 season. I’m going to go with the latter assumption.

Michael Pineda

By all accounts, Big Mike and the Twins love each other, and he’ll be a cheap option to eat innings at a slightly above-average performance level. He has pitched well enough, but hasn’t been healthy enough to earn a pay raise from another team. Pineda is the most likely free agent starter to be signed by the Twins, no matter which way they go this off-season.

Dylan Bundy

This would be the classic Falvine signing. In six years, Bundy was good twice, average twice, and bad twice. He’s 28, and the important thing is he is bad this year, which subjects him to the classic Twins buy-low bargain-bin free agent pitcher strategy. I actually am more intrigued by Bundy than I am with these types of signings usually, and I think it would make sense in a rebuilding year, given his likely price for his age.

Jon Gray

Gray would be a bigger splash than I expect the Twins to make, but it’s a possibility. There has been rumors for years about the Twins eyeing him in trades, but you could say that about a lot of teams. Gray had a bad 2020, but generally has hovered between average and good in his 7 years. The reason this attracts teams? He has done it at the worst pitchers’ park in the league, in Colorado. It’s hard to predict a price for Gray, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Twins were in the mix for the 29-year-old’s services.

Way-too-early Prediction:

  1. Joe Ryan
  2. Michael Pineda
  3. Bailey Ober
  4. Dylan Bundy
  5. Randy Dobnak

I’m obviously just spit-balling here, but I could live with this rotation for a team that doesn’t have title aspirations. I went with Dobnak over Gant because Gant’s stuff plays better out of the bullpen than Dobnak’s, and I think the Twins will try to see out that vision- especially considering the contractual commitment they already made to Dobnak. Add Maeda to that group later in the season, and get a bounce-back from Bundy, and it’s actually probably one of the better Twins rotations of the last decade (sadly).