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Future of Twins starting pitching prospects is promising

The Twins rotation is struggling but help is on the way ... eventually.
Jhoan Duran

In the summer of 2013, it was a nightly occurrence at Target Field. Whether it was Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey or Scott Diamond on the mound, a Minnesota Twins starter would cruise through the first five innings before running into trouble in the sixth.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire would walk to the mound and signal to the bullpen and Twins fans would stand up and give a standing ovation for a less-than-quality start.

Two months into the 2021 season, the Twins are dangerously close to becoming a throwback team. With Kenta Maeda (5.27), J.A. Happ (5.61) and Matt Shoemaker (7.28) carrying ERA's north of 5.00 the sixth-inning ovation has made a comeback at Target Field.

But reinforcements could be on the way in Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic and Matt Canterino. This trio of Twins prospects is something that should give fans hope for the future.

The group starts with Duran, who is currently pitching with Triple-A St. Paul. A key piece of the 2018 trade that sent Eduardo Escobar to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Duran has snuffed out hitters with a fastball that's reached over 100 mph and a strikeout pitch that nobody knows what to call it.

Duran's start to the season was delayed by a shoulder injury but he's bounced back to allow a 3.27 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 11 innings (three starts). While he's on the Twins' 40-man roster, his 2021 stats are the only appearances he has over High-A ball. That could make a late-season promotion to the majors unlikely.

Balazovic and Canterino are prospects that will make their debut in 2022 at the earliest but have also shown promise.

Balazovic was a fifth-round pick but the Twins in the 2016 MLB Draft and made his debut for Double-A Wichita on Saturday night. In 3.1 scoreless innings of work, Balazovic struck out five batters but also had control issues with two hit batters and a wild pitch.

The control could be some rust after dealing with a back injury but Balazovic has the tools to be a long-term starter. In 2019, Balazovic had a 5.16 strikeout-to-walk ratio between Low-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers and a fastball that tops out at 96 mph. With a slider that checks in at 85 mph, Balazovic has strikeout ability and control to go with it.

In Canterino, the Twins have a prospect that could become a fan favorite. On the mound, the Rice product has a unique delivery that generates a fastball between 94-95 mph. He also has a plethora of strong secondary pitches including a changeup, curveball and slider.

But that's not why Twins fans will fall in love with him. When Canterino strikes out a batter to end the inning, he breaks into a full-blown sprint, hurdling over the third base line and into the dugout.

Canterino's season was going well in his first four starts at High-A Cedar Rapids, compiling a 35-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 18 innings this season. Unfortunately, Canterino was placed on the injured list with a strained right elbow.

Even with the injury woes, Duran, Balazovic and Canterino should provide a solid future for the Twins rotation. If everything pans out Derek Falvey could have a group similar to the one he had with the Cleveland Indians with Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale and Zach Pleasac at the top of the rotation.

Perhaps this group doesn't have a Cy Young Award winner but it should be able to get the Twins out of the sixth inning.

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