Monday, November 16, 2015

Twins Best Pen Arms Could Be In Arizona

Photo Credit: S D Buhr/Knuckleballs Blog
Last season, the Minnesota Twins had one of the worst bullpens in all of Major League Baseball. Despite the front office's cry for calm prior to the season, the inevitable reality that the talent just wasn't there came to fruition. Once Glen Perkins broke down in the second half, the lone bright spot was now gone. In 2016, the goal will be to change the course, and it's possible two of the best additions may currently be pitching in Arizona.

For what the Twins have in pitching depth throughout their organization, there's also some key contributors who should be very close to their big league debut. Both drafted early in the 2014 draft, Jake Reed and Nicky Burdi are taking the Arizona Fall League by storm.

A month or so ago, I wrote a primer on what the focus needed to be for each of the Twins inclusions in the Fall League. For Burdi, the focus was no doubt going to be on his command, in that piece I said, "Burdi throws gas, but his command was non-existent in 2015. Owning a 6.6 BB/9 mark, pounding the zone will be a major focus in the Arizona Fall League." Often connected due to their path and pedigree, I touched on Reed as well. In talking about the former Duck I said, "Reed is repeating the Fall League this season. In 2014, Reed owned a 0.71 ERA in 12.2 IP for the Salt River Rafters. Another strong performance, with improved command, should have his arrow pointing right back up." We now find ourselves at a point of evaluation.

With just four games left in Arizona Fall League action, both Burdi and Reed have the bulk of their action behind them. To show for it, each pitcher has been nothing short of spectacular. For Burdi, he's pitched 7.0 innings allowing just two hits and zero runs while striking out nine and walking none. Reed has followed suit going 8.1 IP surrendering just four hits, no earned runs, and owning an 8/3 K/BB rate. In the ERA column, both pitchers have a flawless mark.

It's probably a certainty that the Twins will look through the free agency market and trade offerings for options to improve upon the pen. For both Burdi and Reed however, it looks as though they once again should have a very strong possibility of surfacing, and contributing, for the Twins this upcoming season.

During the fall, Burdi has regularly pushed the radar gun into the triple digits. He's notched 1-2-3 innings, and he's struck out sides. Reed has picked up saves, he's been used in high leverage situations, and he's gotten some very strong hitters out. Against competition that would rank among the best either player has seen on a consistent basis, both Twins prospects have excelled considerably.

With turnover needing to happen for Paul Molitor's relief help, a decision to go younger may not be a bad idea at all. Although both Reed and Burdi will need to continue the success out of the gate in the upcoming season, they should (and likely will) be given some time during big league spring training. If both players can show that the Fall League is what should be expected, and the hiccups of 2015 were just that, Molitor may have two really good arms ready to make a splash.

Affiliated during the Fall League with the Twins, Scottsdale owns a league best record and is in position to take the title. Helping them to get there no doubt has been both Jake Reed and Nick Burdi. The next contribution they make could come at a much higher level.