The Twins bullpen was full of question marks heading into 2012 and now, one year later, nothing appears to have changed. Do they even have a set closer to open the year? Who offers long-term potential? Is this bound to be nothing more than a committee?
Let’s take a look at how things currently stand:
The Likely Closer – Glen Perkins
Initially a starter, Perkins transitioned to the bullpen in 2010. Spending the past two seasons solely as a reliever, Perkins has posted the following lines:
- 2011 – 2.48 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 9.49 K/9, 3.06 BB/9
- 2012 – 2.56 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 9.98 K/9, 2.05 BB/9
Even as a starting pitcher he had always shown great control (2.40 career BB/9 over 435.1 innings). One of the issues was his strikeout stuff, though working in short relief appears to have corrected that. His fastball has jumped from around 90 mph as a starter to averaging 94.0 and 94.9 mph the past two seasons.
Throw in a solid groundball rate (49.7% and 42.5%) in a pitchers park and there is a lot to like.
Of course, he is left-handed, something that could ultimately work against him. He will be 30-years old at the start of the season, so it is not that he can’t be a piece of a competitive team in a few years. However, given what the team did to its outfield this offseason, would it be a real surprise to see him traded to a contender for prospects? That may be our biggest concern at this point.
Next in Line – Jared Burton
We want to think of Burton as a youngster, but the truth is he is actually 31 (he will turn 32 in June). In other words, he is no more of a long-term answer to the bullpen needs than Perkins is (Perkins, you can argue, has significant more appeal as a lefty).
With a 2.18 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, it was a tremendous year for Burton. However, there is a lot to be skeptical about. First of all was his control, which sat at a 2.32 B/9. Over his minor league career he posted a 3.35 BB/9, so it is a number that is hard to buy into.
He also lacks the strikeout potential (7.98 K/9 in 2012). It’s not a bad number, but it is probably his ceiling and not as impressive as some other relief options.
Finally, he benefitted from a lot of luck in 2012, with a .220 BABIP. That’s a hard number to replicate.
While he will open the year contending for the closing job (though we would expect him to setup), there is a lot of room for error here. He may be next in line for now, bt it likely won’t last.
Sleeper – Casey Fien
This may not be a name you know…yet anyways. He has a chance to move up the ladder quickly, however.
The 29-year old has a minor league career 8.87 K/9 and 2.12 BB/9. Those numbers carried into 2012 for the Twins, as he posted an 8.23 K/9 and 2.31 BB/9. It came together for a 2.06 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over 35.0 innings of work.
Of course, he was also hit extremely hard (24.7% line drive rate), yet managed a .229 BABIP and 84.4% strand rate. In other words, it is going to take a lot of luck for him to excel (or a significant improvement in his line drive rate).
Deep Sleeper – Ryan Pressly
Selected from the Red Sox in the Rule 5 draft, Pressly transitioned to the bullpen last season and after doing so posted a 2.93 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 21 K over 27.2 in is at Double-A. The good times continued in the AFL, where he registered 18 K vs. 1 BB over 14.0 innings.
According to mlb.com, who ranked him as the team’s 17th best prospect:
“Pressly has a big arm that throws above-average fastballs that can touch plus. He throws both a power curve and a slider, and even his changeup has the chance to be average. Command had been an issue as a starter, but he threw more strikes in relief, particularly in the AFL, giving the Twins faith that he could potentially stick in their big league bullpen all year.”
As a Rule 5 pick, he needs to stay on the roster all year or be offered back to Boston. He seems to have taken to relieving well and, at 24-years old, could be a nice long-term solution. He definitely is a name to watch.
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