Right now, the Minnesota Twins starting rotation is completely turned over. The group that started the 2021 season is gone, and the anchors intended for 2022 are no longer realistic options. So where does the team go from here?
Derek Falvey and Thad Levine already had their work cut out for them going into the winter. The bullpen was nothing short of a disaster this season, and the starting rotation has been lackluster in plenty of different instances. Now faced with the reality that Jose Berrios is gone, and Kenta Maeda is injured, the uphill battle has grown substantially.
Of course, dollars have to, and will be, spent. Before considering the options on the open market, and they are relatively plentiful, looking at who can be an option internally on Opening Day is where we should start. Unfortunately, the names are more plentiful than the logical options you’d hope to ink in.
If there’s a guy that’s earned a role among the five openings to kick off 2022 it’s Ober. He’s been lights out of late and now has a sub-4.00 ERA. Ober owns a 2.45 ERA over his last seven starts and he’s posted a 9.3 K/9. The home run bit him hard early, and a 1.8 HR/9 still isn’t great, but that only leaves further opportunity for heightened levels of success. He’s not an ace but pitching himself into the top half of a rotation would hardly be a shock.
It’s still surprising the Twins got this type of return for Nelson Cruz, but Ryan has seemed every bit as exciting as you’d hope. Across 66.0 IP at Triple-A this season Ryan owns a 3.41 ERA and has punched out 12.5 K/9. He needs to make his next turn in Minnesota, but regardless, you could do a lot worse than this type of arm as a 5th starter to open the next campaign.
Dobnak has put himself in an interesting situation given the lack of effectiveness and injury issues he’s dealt with this season. Still probably a 4th starter at best, the ceiling really isn’t there in comparison to the two aforementioned arms, and the prospects behind him could close the gap quickly. He’s a great depth guy, but Minnesota can’t afford to fill the rotation with options of this caliber.
There’s probably a decent chance that Thorpe is dropped from the 40-man roster this offseason. The Twins were granted an additional year of control, but the Aussie hasn’t done anything with it. The velocity has continued to be lackluster, and nothing about the upside that was once there has reappeared. It’s been a disappointing fall through health and personal complications. Either way, this isn’t a viable option.
A really great story this season, and one worth keeping in the organization, Jax is a rotational depth piece in my mind. He’s shown that there’s a capable level of stuff to get big leaguers out but relying on him for 30 turns a season could expose Minnesota in a bad way. Jax doesn’t have the high end velocity or strikeout stuff to dominate, but he is a big league arm that can eat innings when necessary.
Of the fringe arms to debut this season for Minnesota, Barnes has been the most underwhelming. His strikeout numbers have never really been anything to write home about and that makes the margin for error at the highest level very slight. Barnes is 25 and hasn’t ever had much in the form of prospect status, but that doesn’t negate the fact he could be a nice depth piece. That’s probably still to be determined, but it won’t be realized in an Opening Day rotation.
The Prospects (Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Matt Canterino, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Drew Strotman, Josh Winder)
Outside of the Ober and Ryan pairing at the top, this is the group the Twins are dreaming on developing some high level arms from. Unfortunately, the majority have either been hurt or are not yet in a place where they’re kicking down the door for a big league promotion. Getting each back to health has to be the chief concern, but beyond that, they’ll need to force their way in. Assuming Minnesota wants to compete, or at the very least be respectable next season, they’ll need to sign a starter for the top of the rotation. Hoping one or more of these arms can then challenge that status sooner rather than later would be the goal.