Player Profiles 2020: Minnesota Twins Starting Pitchers

Pitch breakdowns, projections, and nicknames included.

Throughout the winter months of the offseason, the Pitcher List staff will be creating profiles for every fantasy-relevant player for 2020. Players will be broken up by team and role through starting pitchers, bullpen, lineup, and prospects. You can access every article as it comes out in our Player Profiles 2020 hub here.

These profiles will also be featured as an eBook exclusively for those signed up for PL+.

 

Twins At A Glance

 

The Twins took a really interesting approach to fill out their rotation, letting Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez go in favor of Homer BaileyJhoulys Chacin, and Rich Hill. They have reinforcements in Michael Pineda and Lewis Thorpe, and a solid one-two punch in Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. This will probably be a rotation that is below league-average, but they did a nice job in finding value in guys like Bailey and Chacin, and Hill should provide quality innings if he can get on the mound.

 

Jose BerriosLocked Starter

Nickname: Aaron

 

2019 In Review

People don’t like Berrios because he’s not sexy. He’s posted a 3.80 ERA over the past three seasons, along with a 1.20 WHIP and 23.8 K%, but apparently steady isn’t good enough.

Fastball (55% usage)

Berrios has a solid fastball. His 10.7% swinging-strike percentage was a (slight) career-high. Perhaps because he used it less while using his changeup more, or throwing it a touch higher in the zone (on average). I don’t know, but it has a decent active spin rate, paired with a ton of run that makes it play really well when thrown to his arm-side and up in the zone. It gets barreled a fair amount, but with a .393 xwOBAcon in 2019, it’s not like it’s a Dylan Bundy fastball.

Over his career, his four-seam fastball and sinker have accumulated 12.0 and 20.1 pVALs, respectively. But if you ignore his 2017, which is an outlier, then his four-seam fastball has been slightly more effective, by pitch value, since 2017. His sinker just creates such weak contact, and it’s sustained a .325 xwOBAcon over three years. Berrios is a pretty good example of a pitcher who doesn’t need to move away from his sinker just because he has a good four-seam fastball.

 

Curveball (29% usage)

Berrio’s deuce falls just short of every Money Pitch category over his career, but it’s close. With a 36.9% O-Swing rate, 41.1% zone rate, and 12.2% swinging-strike rate, its dreams of being a Money Pitch came closer to fruition, but alas…its dreams succumbed to the cruel reality of not being an amazing pitch.

By CSW, it’s a pretty good pitch, as its 33.6% CSW ties Sonny Gray and Adam Wainwright, and ranks in the 68th percentile. By contact, it’s almost exactly league average, and by swinging-strike percentage, it’s a touch above-average, so no wonder it has a -0.8 pVAL and 0.0 pVAL/C over his career.

 

Changeup (16% usage)

By CSW, Berrios ranks in the 46th percentile with a 24.1% CSW. Although he got hitters to chase quite a bit (43.1% O-Swing rate), his 29.0% zone rate was rather low, and his 14.7% swinging-strike percentage was good, but perhaps not great for a pitch so infrequently thrown in the zone. Unsurprisingly then, it accrued a pVAL of 0.2 in 2019.

It’s a little surprising that it’s not a more dominant pitch, given that it has a velocity differential (from his fastball) of over 10 mph, as well as good horizontal and vertical separation. As I’ve cited in the past, perhaps it’s too much of two good things.

 

2020 Outlook

Poor Jose Berrios is always going to be underappreciated. I don’t see much changing, other than his infield defense getting a little better. I’m down with O.P.P, as well as a 3.80 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 24 K%.

 

Realistic worst-case projection: 4.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 22% K rate in 170 IP

Realistic best-case projection: 3.30 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 27% K rate in 190 IP

 

Nick’s reluctant Jose Berrios 2020 projection:

3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 24% K rate in 195 IP

 

 

Jake OdorizziLocked Starter

Nickname: Rizzi

 

2019 In Review

Cue Charles Bradley, because Jake Odorizzi is going through changes. His 75 ERA-, 73 FIP-, and 95 xFIP, and 27.1 K% are all easily career-bests.

 

Fastball (58% usage)

Odorizzi threw more fastballs than he has since 2013. That’s because of some offseason work he did that resulted in career-high fastball velocity, as well as a career-high 14.9% swinging-strike percentage. That’s reliever-esque dominance with his fastball, and only trails Gerrit Cole in terms of swinging-strike percentage, while besting Justin Verlander and Lance Lynn.

The funny thing is, it’s not like Odorizzi has overpowering velocity. Even now. He ranks in the 23th and 40th percentiles in fastball velocity and spin, respectively. What gives? I’d say it’s his 91.4% active spin rate, which ranks in the 86th percentile, but there may be other factors at play (e.g., pitch tunneling or deception).

Given that this bump in velocity is from some offseason work, I’m inclined to believe he can maintain it. I wouldn’t bet my life on it, but it’s nice that there’s a reason for his velocity increase, and it’s likely that Odorizzi is doing the same offseason regimen that helped him take a step forward.

His 17.4 fastball pVAL in 2019 seems legitimate, if he holds his velocity.

 

Cutter (19% usage)

Although he had a slider and cutter as recently as last year, Odorizzi dropped a tick off his cutter and added both horizontal and vertical movement (or perhaps more likely added velocity to his slider). Either way, he split the difference between his cutter and slider and has a new pitch.

Here’s how it compares to his old offerings:

Cutter, 2015-2018: .297 wOBAcon, .384 xwOBAcon, 8.6% swinging-strike percentage

Slider, 2015-2018: .334 wOBAcon, .383 xwOBAcon, 9.4% swinging-strike percentage

New cutter, 2019: .336 wOBAcon, .381 xwOBAcon, 8.4% swinging-strike percentage

It’s remarkably consistent, and relatively unchanged, although it’s a much more groundball-heavy pitch now. It’s also lost about two percent from his slider/cutter CSW in the past two years. Pitching classification is a pain in the neck, but it seems like, in looking at his scatter charts, that he’s just throwing his cutter and slider harder than before, and it’s lumping them together now. Nothing to see here.

 

Splitter (17% usage)

Odorizzi’s splitter is easily his best secondary offering by plate discipline metrics, with a 36.3% O-Swing rate, 32.1% zone rate, and 13.6% swinging-strike percentage. But his fastball gets more whiffs than it, and its -12.4 career pVAL isn’t good. That’s due in part to his 20.8% CSW, which is one of the lower splitter CSWs for starters. It’s a sad day when a splitter — by average, the best pitch in baseball by wOBAcon and swinging-strike percentage — isn’t actually a good pitch.

 

Curveball (7% usage)

His curveball isn’t awful! Its 28.2% CSW ranks in the 43rd percentile in curveball CSW for starters. It’s best used as a get-me-over pitch, considering it almost never misses any bats.

 

2020 Outlook

I think Odorizzi has taken a legitimate step forward. He didn’t change much, he just got a bump in velocity. Funny how two added ticks to your fastball can make it better, huh? The projections systems don’t believe in him being improved (even ATC!), but they don’t know what we know. I’m betting on a 3.70 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 27 K% — and the former two are on the conservative side.

 

Realistic worst case projection: 4.50 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 21% K rate in 140 IP

Realistic best-case projection: 3.50 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 27% K rate in 180 IP

 

Nick’s reluctant Jake Odorizzi 2020 projection:

3.90 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 24% K rate in 160 IP

 

Kenta MaedaLocked Starter

Nickname: Mr. One Day

 

2019 In Review

Kenta Maeda may finally be set free in Minnesota. He’s currently slotted as their third starter, and with the team pushing for another AL Central and money earned in the deal for Maeda, the 4.14 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 26.2 K% he posted as a starter for the Dodgers in 2019 may take a step forward across a legit season in the Twins rotation.

 

Fastball (38% usage)

Maeda’s fastball used to get more swinging strikes, which is perhaps not surprising since he has featured fewer pitches at the top of the zone, and more to his glove-side and off the plate. He was a little misfortunate with his fastball in 2019, with a .419 wOBAcon and .386 xwOBAcon. For Maeda to get back to having a good fastball, he’s going to need to start elevating it. It’s been substantially worse from 2016 and 2017 to 2018 and 2019. He’s done it before. He can do it again.

I should note that his 29.4% CSW in 2019 is the highest it’s been since 2016.

 

Slider (32% usage)

Maeda’s slider is incredible. His 41.8% O-Swing, 44.4% zone rate, and 21.8% swinging-strike percentage is backed up with a 31.3% CSW as a starter in 2019.

Perhaps even more impressive than its strike-getting ability is that it induces such favorable contact. Relative to the league average .365 wOBAcon, Maeda’s .328 wOBAcon and .316 xwOBAcon are incredibly manageable — he has sustained a .257 BABIP since 2015 too. This is why his slider pVAL is 19.1 — he can miss bats, but he can also induce weak contact and get hitters out that way too. pVAL doesn’t discriminate! (Except, well, by average run expectancy.)

 

Changeup (24% usage)

Maeda’s 22.9% CSW is much lower than his 26.6% from 2018. As I see it, that’s because he threw it out of the zone much more in 2018. That’s not a sustainable approach for everyone, but considering his 50.0% and 47.6% O-Swing rates in 2018 and 2019, respectively, Maeda can afford to throw his changeup out of the zone, since hitters will chase.

Maeda’s zone rate increased from 23.3% to 30.9%. Normally, I would think this would be good, but given the drop in CSW, he should probably throw it out of the zone more.

 

2020 Outlook

It’s hard not to get a bit excited about watching Maeda finally stretch his arms in Minnesota, though there is still a slight chance that the Twins slow him down by the end given that his contract still contains the inning incentives. I am slightly optimistic about Maeda, and let’s hope he avoids the pen all year.

 

Realistic worst-case projection: 4.20 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 25% K rate in 140 IP

Realistic best-case projection: 3.50 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 30% K rate in 180 IP

 

Nick’s reluctant Kenta Maeda 2020 projection:

3.80 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 27% K rate in 165 IP

 

Homer BaileyLocked Starter

Nickname: Homer Bale

 

2019 In Review

Homer Bailey posted his highest K% since 2013 by throwing his four-seam fastball and splitter more, and his sinker less — fantastic ideas! Bailey posted a 4.57 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 21.4 K%.

 

Fastball (48% usage)

Bailey’s fastball had a positive pVAL for the first time since 2013. Unfortunately, it’s basically due to his .352 wOBAcon overperforming his .405 xwOBAcon. The good news is that his fastball isn’t where his increase in swinging strikes came from. The bad news is that we already have an example of a pitch potentially due for regression, and we’ve got three to go.

 

Splitter (26% usage)

Despite a -4.4 career pVAL, Bailey’s splitter saw an increase in swinging-strike percentage, and it was also had a 5.8 pVAL — a career-best. This improvement appears to come from a dip in splitter velocity. As a result, he also started getting more drop on his splitter, which created a wider velocity differential between his fastball and splitter. The end result is a pitch with a 41.3% O-Swing rate, 34.0% zone rate, and 20.1% swinging-strike rate. It could return even better results in the future, too, since his .342 xwOBAcon is a fair amount higher than his .316 xwOBAcon.

 

Slider (14% usage)

There was a point in time when Homer Bailey had a good slider. That time has passed, but that doesn’t mean his slider can’t be decent. It pairs a 30.1% O-Swing rate, 41.9% zone rate, 11.2% swinging-strike percentage with a .344 wOBAcon, .360 xwOBAcon, and 26.1% CSW.

 

Curveball (9% usage)

Bailey’s curveball is his worst pitch. It’s always been a get-me-over pitch, and it always will be. He pretty much only uses it in first-pitch counts.

 

2020 Outlook

Who would have thought that all Homer Bailey had to do to be relevant again is throw his splitter slower, and more often? Not me! I can see him basically repeating his line, with a 4.50 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and 21 K%.

 

Realistic worst-case projection: 5.00+ ERA, 1.50+ WHIP, 17% K rate in 100 IP

Realistic best-case projection: 4.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 22% K rate in 180 IP

 

Nick’s reluctant Homer Bailey 2020 projection:

4.50 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 20% K rate in 160 IP

 

 

Jhoulys ChacinQuestionable Starter

Nickname: Mr. Surprise

 

2019 In Review

Chacin had an awful 2019, with a 6.01 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, and 21.5 K%.

 

Slider (50% usage)

I’ll admit that something I did know about Jhoulys Chacin before today is that he has accumulated an absolutely insane pVAL on his slider. I need you to take a seat and put down any hot drink you may be holding.

114.3.

Aside from an otherwise pitiful repertoire, Chacin’s slider has been amazing regardless. Over his career, it’s been a Money Pitch, with a 39.6% O-Swing rate, 47.0% zone rate, and 16.0% swinging-strike percentage. (Okay, I know he falls short in O-Swing rate…but he probably didn’t before his awful 2019!) He dealt with some back luck with his slider — its .380 wOBAcon far exceeded his .338 xwOBAcon. But that was only part of the issue: his swinging-strike rate fell from 13.0% to 10.8%. His pVAL dropped from 21.1 in 2017 and 25.9 in 2018 to 7.9 in 2019.

Given the fact that he increased his slider usage from 44.8% to 49.5%, you would think that hitters would begin sitting on his slider.

But that doesn’t explain what happened to his fastballs.

 

Fastball (44% usage)

In 2018, Chacin gave up seven home runs on his fastballs. In 2019, Chacin gave up 17 home runs on his fastballs.

It doesn’t make sense, his actual fastball velocity and perceived fastball velocity are both essentially the same as 2018. The pitches themselves didn’t change outside of that. It’s a mystery, and I can’t get to the bottom of it. But also, this is Jhoulys Chacin, and I don’t need to get to the bottom of it.

 

Changeup (6% usage)

His offspeed offering gets misclassified between a changeup and splitter, but it’s a pitch that he barely throws and doesn’t do much for him.

 

2020 Outlook

The Twins are a smart organization, and I trust that they know what they’re doing here. I imagine that Chacin is more starting pitching depth than someone they envision being in the rotation for the entire year. That, or they think the home runs will go away. After all, they weren’t an issue until 2019. Nevertheless, I’m going to go ahead and say Chacin will toss a 4.75 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and 21 K% season campaign. I wonder if he would be any good in the bullpen…

 

Realistic worst-case projection: 5.00+ ERA, 1.50+ WHIP, 18% K rate in 80 IP

Realistic best-case projection: 3.90 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 22% K rate in 180 IP

 

Nick’s reluctant Jhoulys Chacin 2020 projection:

4.75 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 20% K rate in 120 IP

 

 

Michael PinedaQuestionable Starter

Nickname: Captain Obvious

 

2019 In Review

In his first season with the Twins, Pineda posted a career-best ERA-, and his best WHIP since 2011 with the Mariners. He was just as frustrating as ever, though, with a 1.42 HR/9 that see,s to be the norm for him nowadays.

 

Fastball (53% usage)

For whatever reason, Pineda posted a 9.2% swinging-strike percentage — his best since 2011. That’s interesting, considering, if anything, his perceived velocity is declining. Perhaps it’s his vertical release point, which is higher than ever? I truly haven’t the slightest clue, since there’s not that much that’s changed with Pineda compared to past versions of himself.

My best guess is that it’s an interaction between his fastball and slider, which I’ll get to…now.

 

Slider (32% usage)

If you look at Pineda’s slider over the years, you’ll notice that his slider has been losing horizontal movement since 2014. In 2014, it got 4.51 inches of horizontal movement, and that number has been basically halving itself every year. Well, in 2018, his slider averaged 0.05 inches of horizontal movement. For the first time (according to Brooks Baseball), Pineda’s slider averaged a negative value in 2019.

Before, Pineda’s slider would get glove-side movement, meaning it would break out of his hand and toward left-handed hitters. In 2019, though, this ceased to be true. Instead, it was getting more true 12-6 movement, but, if anything, it was breaking every so slightly towards right-handed hitters. The issue with this theory is that Baseball Savant has Pineda’s slider breaking to his arm-side beginning in 2017. So, the best theory I’ve got at this point is that his fastball and changeup’s slight decrease in arm-side movement has made all of his pitches look more similar.

 

Changeup (15% usage)

Pineda’s changeup also saw an increase in swinging-strike percentage, which I suppose helps substantiate my theory. This is all pure conjecture, all though I’m trying my damndest to base it on logic, and not hindsight bias.

 

 

2020 Outlook

Despite all of this weirdness happening with Pineda, all of his numbers ended up being somewhere around his career averages. I’m interested to see if his fastball continues missing bats, but if it doesn’t we know that he’ll probably be fine anyways. I’m going with a 4.25 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 23 K%.

 

Realistic worst-case projection: 4.80 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 21% K rate in 70 IP

Realistic best-case projection: 4.00 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 25% K rate in 100 IP

 

Nick’s reluctant Michael Pineda 2020 projection:

4.20 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 23% K rate in 90 IP

 

 

Rich HillFringe Starter

Nickname: The Mountain

2020 Outlook

This was a great signing by the Twins. You cross your fingers and hope that Hill can give you a dozen or so starts, and if he doesn’t, no sweat off your back. The old lefty still has plenty in him, but he needs to stay healthy, per usual.

 

 

Randy DobnakFringe Starter

Nickname: The Driver

2020 Outlook

From what I can see, Dobnak has an alright fastball and a filthy slider. Dobnak has shown up on peripheral prospect lists, so he’s worth keeping an eye on. His minor league numbers are great, but they’re also reliant on contact management.

 

 

Lewis Thorpe – Fringe Starter

Nickname: Thorpedo

2020 Outlook

People are rather divided about Thorpe, but he’s got a really good slider, and his curveball and changeup are supposed to be solid as well. He put up monster numbers in the minor leagues, but his were based less on contact management, as Dobnak’s were. He’s a lefty, but he only threw 91 mph out of the bullpen.

 

 

Nickname explanations:

Jose BerriosAaron. Burr-e-ohs. How did he do that to Hamilton?!

Jake OdorizziRizzi. How could it not be?

Homer BaileyHomer Bale. He looks like Christian Bale. It’s really apparent.

Jhoulys ChacinMr. Surprise. After all, Chacin will do well when Jhoulyst expects it. Nope, just found it Jhoulys = “Joe Liss”. I’m so embarrassed. HE’S A MAN OF SURPRISES.

Michael PinedaCaptain Obvious. He was very non-discrete about pitching with pine tar. Also, too many homers, bud.

Rich HillThe Mountain. I’m not saying the first part.

Robert Dobank: The Driver. He famously drove Ubers last year.

Lewis Thorpe: Thorpedo. It was Ian Thorpe’s nickname and I dig it.

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Michael Ajeto

Michael co-founded Sounding Off Blog, where he wrote about the Mariners. Now he writes Going Deep articles here. You can follow Michael on Twitter @mikeyajetoPL, or you can not.

Account / Login
>