After opening the season in near flawless fashion, the Twins bullpen showed some significant imperfections in the form of late blown runs in particular. Help seemed to be on the way in the form of Jorge Alcala before his rehab stay was cut short due to recurring elbow pain. Matt Canterino’s pipe dream coming to save the bullpen is also on hold as he was recently placed on the IL with elbow issues. What we are left with is that Jhoan Duran appears to be the one and only high leverage option we can trust with little insider help along the way. The Twins do have a few pitchers, however, who could change that belief.
Once one of the top starting pitching prospects, Cotton suffered a plethora of injuries before taking off in the Rangers bullpen in 2021 to be DFAed despite posting strong results. The Twins saw an opportunity and bounced him on and off the 40-man in 2022, recently adding him back on Wednesday. Unlike his earlier stints in the Twins bullpen, this time he has ample opportunity to stick it out.
Cotton has an unspectacular profile for a reliever with his low 90s fastball and shift as the main off-speed. Unlike most changes though, Cotton is relatively effective against both right-handed and left-handed hitters. The pitch is good enough to carry his entire repertoire with his 44% smell rate, and neither his fastball nor his changeout has given batters a chance for success in his 10.2 innings until here. He may not be a closer or even waiting man, but Cotton came out and played when the Twins needed him most during the Toronto series. We saw DJ LeMahieu hit him for a homer on Thursday after a limit call that could have ended the bat, but Cotton looked like one of the best relievers in this game and his peripherals still look great.
Many were quick to call for Thielbar’s release after four poor outings to start the year despite his massive contributions to the Twins’ bullpen in past seasons. Unsurprisingly, the 35-year-old appeared to lack feel in those appearances following shortened spring training which resulted in some unusual walks. Since then, Thielbar has been amazing.
Thielbar can currently hold the “left-handed specialist role” to some extent due to his devastating numbers against left-handed hitters (.154/.313/.154). That being said, he is far from your typical fastball/slider southpaw. It mixes a curveball with different velocities and an occasional change to help even out right-handed hitters. He doesn’t have a single pitch that allows for a batting average over .240 or a slugging percentage over .400 despite the fact that 63% of his opposing hitters are right-handed. With the current state of the bullpen, Thielbar’s stuff may be too good to classify him in southpaw vs southpaw matchups. As we saw early in Taylor Rogers’ relief career, if the opportunity and the talent are there, being left-handed doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be used as a game relief.
Perhaps the favorite of this group, Moran could rightfully find himself climbing the depth chart with just a few successful outings. The southpaw simply topped the miners last year with a K rate of around 40% between AA and AAA. After taking his bits on his 2021 debut, his incredible stuff has been on full display in his 8+ innings so far in 2022.
Walks will always be a part of Moran’s game and he’s walked 17% of batters so far this year. That being said, he still has limited home runs and tough contacts to undo it. Plus, its 37% K-rate so far shows that its raw material should be good enough for it to work despite the free baserunners. Regardless of the small sample, Moran has a smell rate of over 44% on his fastball and change that he uses to give opposing hitters absolute fits. He rarely uses his slider, but so far all opposing batters who have swung have gone empty. While such dominance simply can’t hold to this extent, stretches like this don’t happen by accident. Jovani Moran is absolutely wicked.
It’s possible the Twins have a big move in them to give the bullpen a huge boost. I would say such a move is a must. That being said, the team has over a month of games to play before even considering such an addition. We’ve tried Tyler Duffey, we’ve tried Pagan, maybe it’s time to vet some unlikely candidates to land a high-leverage job. Do you think one of those arms can grab the job and run with it?