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What a difference a year can make

Things may be looking up on the young pitching front

Los Angeles Dodgers v Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Roughly a year ago, I was mad. We’re talking metro area traffic, losing Madden football games to your siblings, Peter Finch-in-Network mad. After a Matt Shoemaker start in Kansas City where the embattled hurler couldn’t make it out of the first inning before 9 opposing runners touched the dish, I absolutely went off on the Twins organization.

Many of you commented how I might have been jumping the gun a bit on throwing around phrases like “institutional failure” when it came to the Twins organization and its pitching. Truth be told, I was far too engrossed in my Shoemaker-and-Happ inspired tantrum at that moment to give those thoughts much credence.

What a difference a year can make. Some 365 days later, the future of Twins pitching—especially the youngsters—looks a bit rosier. Consider (stats pre-Yankees series)…

-Joe Ryan (26 years old): 43.1 IP, 163 ERA+. Looks like a legitimate ace-or-close-to-it.

-Baily Ober (26): 33.2 IP, 93 ERA+. Ceiling TBD, but certainly seems like a rotation lock at least.

-Devin Smeltzer (26): 28 IP, 194 ERA+. Has come out of nowhere to save the rotation’s bacon of late.

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers - Game One
He who Smelt it, dealt it
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

-Josh Winder (25): 29.1 IP, 102 ERA+. Thriving since being installed in a starter role.

-Jhoan Duran (24): 25.1 IP, 176 ERA+. Doing his best Aroldis Chapman impersonation—the type of blow-‘em-away stuff out of the pen this team has been needing for years.

-Griffin Jax (27): 26.1 IP, 122 ERA+. Removed from the rotation, the Captain has been solid in relief.

Even the young arms still in the “small sample size” portion of their 2022 campaigns have shown promise: Cody Stashak (28, 16.1 IP, 93 ERA+), Trevor Megill (28, 8.2 IP, 372 ERA+), and Jovani Moran (25, 6.2 IP, yet to allow an ER). Jorge Alcala (26) hasn’t contributed much (2.1 IP) due to injury and his promise was readily apparent in portions of ‘20 & ‘21.

Kansas City Royals v Minnesota Twins
“Slippin’” Trevor Megill
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Truth be told, it has largely been the pitching staff veterans and free agent acquisitions—guys like Dylan Bundy, Emilio Pagan, Tyler Duffey, & Caleb Thielbar—that have turned some hairs grey thus far in ’22.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the optimism above will translate into on-field success. Pitcher injuries seem to abound—granted, that is the case across MLB—and admittedly a sample-size issue makes long-term projection shaky. The stats and “feel” of the matter may also vary considerably post-Yankees.

But compared to this time last year, I’m in a calmer place regarding the Twins organization’s young pitching prospects.