Coming into the season the one real glaring area of weakness for the Minnesota Twins was their relief corps. Relying on unproven commodities like Matt Magill and Ryne Harper seemed lofty, and the high leverage arms came in the form of Blake Parker and Taylor Rogers. Fast forward to today and the pitching staff has performed admirably with the bullpen significantly surpassing fan expectations. If there’s a call to be made though, it may come from further down the ladder.
Today the Twins promoted Devin Smeltzer to make his major league debut against the Milwaukee Brewers. Smeltzer was acquired from the Dodgers last season in the deal that sent Brian Dozier to Los Angeles. After working solely as a reliever in Double-A last season for Minnesota, Smeltzer made five starts in Pensacola this year before four turns at Triple-A. He’s just 23 years old, and the promotion schedule has been an aggressive one.
In calling up Smeltzer to replace Michael Pineda in the starting rotation the wheels should begin spinning on who could be next. So far, we’ve seen both Kohl Stewart and Zack Littell from Rochester this season, but that’s about where the options end right now. Lewis Thorpe doesn’t have strong numbers and Stephen Gonsalves twirled just two innings before landing back on the Injured List. Given the aggressiveness shown by the Twins front office, and circumstance regarding available options, the next man up could currently be at Double-A.
Jorge Alcala was acquired as the key piece in exchange for Ryan Pressly. Pumping a triple-digit fastball, he’s put together a season that’s been significantly better than some of his surface numbers. Through 48 innings he owns a 4.69 ERA with a 10.3 K/9 and a 3.3 BB/9. Where things look even more promising is that he’s been bit by a .357 BABIP and his FIP stands at 2.95 with a 3.27 xFIP. In short, there’s a good deal of bad luck going on, and much better peripherals than the gaudy ERA suggests.
Recently on the Twins radio broadcast, Derek Falvey offered up Alcala’s name as one the Twins may end up seeing as soon as this year. He’s 23 years old and has certainly advanced his prospect stock this season. Whether in a spot start or for some firepower out of the pen, it may be the Dominican native that emerges as the next most likely option.
Certainly, it’d be great for Minnesota if some of the relief arms at Triple-A Rochester got back on track, or guys like Gonsalves and Brusdar Graterol returned to a clean bill of health. As contingency plans though, we’ve seen the aggressive movement of players like Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak, and others. The Twins will need to rely on some depth as the season goes along, and Alcala is providing that despite not being on the immediate doorstep.