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Game 55: Twins at Blue Jays

An old friend is the foe for this Saturday matinee in Toronto

Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Time: 2:07 Central

Weather: Sunny, mid-to-upper 60s, wind gusts up to 20 MPH (but they have a roof if needed!)

Opponent’s SB site: Bluebird Banter

TV: BS North. Radio: Treasure Island Baseball Network

Yesterday: Twins 9, Blue Jays 3 (snapping Toronto’s 8-game winning streak)

Dylan Bundy and the short-handed Twins will continue this 8-game road trip against former Twin José Berríos and the Blue Jays later today. Bundy’s last start was Monday in Detroit. He was not particularly sharp or effective (9 hits, 4 runs), but kept the Twins in a game they would eventually lose. He survived six innings by working ahead at a time when the Twins desperately needed a competent start.

Berríos’ will be looking to rebound. His last time out was against the Angels last Sunday and it did not go well — 2.1 IP, 6 ER, 2HR, 1K.

Starting Pitcher Matchup

2022 Stats Bundy Berríos
2022 Stats Bundy Berríos
IP 39.2 49.2
ERA 4.76 5.67
FIP 4.08 5.02
K% 19.9% 16.2%
BB% 4.7% 6.3%
CSW% 27.3% 27.0%
fWAR 0.5 0.1
Tempo - Empty (secs) 15.9 15.4
Tempo - Runners On (secs) 21.9 21.1

This will be Berríos’ third time facing Minnesota since he was traded at the deadline last season. Last September he drew the Twins in back-to-back starts, pitching a quality start both times while winning one and losing one.

As most of you remember, Berríos’ was acquired by Toronto (and later signed to a reasonable extension that the Twins had evidently decided they were not going to do) in exchange for their second and third-ranked prospects at the time (by FanGraphs)— infielder/outfielder Austin Martin and right-hander Simeon Woods-Richardson. The deal was consistently viewed as a win for Minnesota at the time and probably still is, although maybe not quite as definitively.

The Twins could certainly use a pitcher like Berríos in their rotation this season even with some of the concerns brought about by his rocky start. His numbers shown above don’t look much better in the eyes of the advanced analytics and his 16.2% strikeout rate represents an alarming drop from his career norms (23.4%). A lot of Berríos’ struggles might be attributable to poor and inconsistent command of his usually outstanding breaking ball. That is a story that Twins fans are no doubt quite familiar with and the outlook for today is as you would expect: If Twins hitters chase out of the zone after La Makina’s curveballs, he’ll likely have a good outing. If they can lay off and force him to come into the zone with hittable fastballs, he might not.

At any rate, it’s far too early to do the final accounting of the trade. But, a Berríos start against the Twins in early June makes for a convenient reason to check in on how the two prospects are faring in their journey to the majors.

Martin, the former Vanderbilt Commodore and the 5th-overall draft pick in his 2020 class, was considered the Twins' top prospect by evaluators at FanGraphs and 2nd-best by MLB Pipeline coming into this season. He’s played this season for AA Wichita, moving around the diamond defensively, while slashing .251 /.362 / .331 over 44 games. Some of the shine is coming off his prospect apple as the questions about his power at the plate and ultimate defensive home continue to remain open. Martin has outstanding contact and on-base skills, but his power numbers have decreased with each stop up the minor league ladder. He has just 10 extra-base hits (1 homer) this season and his current 88 wRC+ mark shows that he’s been solidly below-average at the plate for the level so far.

Not unlike Royce Lewis, Martin was primarily a shortstop as an amateur, but many have doubts about his ability to stay on the infield defensively and see an eventual home in center or left fields (or as a multi-position utility guy) thanks to his good speed and instincts. On the plus side, Martin has drawn nearly as many walks (22) as strikeouts (27) and brought his strikeout rate down (13.0%) this season after seeing it spike up (21.2%) some last year. He’s also stolen 20 bases in 22 attempts.

Woods-Richardson was a second-round pick in the 2018 draft and was placed 10th and 6th on Fangraphs’ and MLBpipeline’s prospect lists, respectively, coming into the season. He’s been a teammate of Martin’s in Wichita this year, his second-straight season in AA. Over 43 innings (9 starts), SWR has strong 2.93 ERA / 3.56 FIP marks that are improvements over his numbers last season (5.91 ERA). He’s held opponents to a .201 average and cut his walk rate down to a more tolerable 8.8%. Prospect evaluators have long anticipated a velocity bump to come as Woods-Richardson got older and stronger, but that hasn’t really come to pass yet. Last year his velocity was even down at various points, but many still believe an increase remains in there.

Because he was drafted young and has been a highly-regarded arm for several years, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Woods-Richardson is pitching this season as a 21-year-old at AA, which is about 3 and a half years below the average age for that level. He’s fallen down some of the prospect lists over time, probably more because of the expectations placed on his development curve than any major change in his ability. He’s still a viable and promising starting pitching prospect thanks to his athleticism, strike-throwing ability, and four-pitch mix. Whether the additional velocity consistently comes will be the major determining factor in his ceiling.

It’s probably unlikely that either Martin or Woods-Richardson will be factors for the Twins this season, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility as the system depth gets relentlessly tested as the season goes on.

Back at the major league level, here’s how the Twins will line up today against their former ace:

Toronto will line up this way as they try to start another winning streak:

Please come join us in the comments and enjoy the game!