Pitching was a focal point of the Twins' offseason as they upgraded a staff that got off to a strong start in 2019 but faded down the stretch. After a slow start to the winter, things picked up and with the trade to bring Kenta Maeda to Minnesota now official, we can take a look at who could make up the pitching staff in 2020.
The position players roster projection will include 13 players, so that leaves 13 spots for pitchers on the 2020 roster.
RHP Jose Berrios, RHP Jake Odorizzi, RHP Kenta Maeda, RHP Homer Bailey, LHP Devin Smeltzer
In previous years, the Twins have been fortunate to not need a fifth starter until midway through the month of April. However, with Minnesota starting the season with trips to Oakland and Seattle, they'll hop right into a five-man rotation, which can be paired down when they deal with inclement weather and early season postponements.
Berrios projects to be the Twins' Opening Day starter for the second straight season and he put together a gem in his 2019 assignment, shutting out the Cleveland Indians for 7.2 innings while striking out 10. The issue hasn't been his early season performances, however, as he tends to fade down the stretch. The Twins will need him to find consistency to achieve true ace status.
Consistency will also be pivotal for Odorizzi, who took the one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer from the Twins during the offseason. The 1.92 ERA he posted in his first 13 starts likely isn't the pitcher he is, but if he doesn't have another month like July 2019 (7.43 ERA in five starts), he can be a solid No. 2 starter to begin the season.
Maeda is the latest addition to the staff and his job will be to stabilize the staff while the Twins wait for Michael Pineda (suspension) and Rich Hill (elbow surgery) to make their return to the rotation. While he's been known to miss bats, his March/April numbers aren't great (4.41 ERA in 32.2 innings), but he usually gets going in May with a 4-0 record and 2.73 ERA in five career starts.
Bailey is next in line and while his overall numbers (13-9, 4.57 ERA) aren't jaw-dropping, but if his final eight starts of 2020 (4-1, 2.25 ERA) were indication, the Twins might be getting a player firing on all cylinders.
This leaves a battle for the final spot in the rotation, but will mostly be used as a bullpen piece. For the sake of this projection, we slot Smeltzer in due to his extended role as a starter last season and the potential as a third left-hander in the bullpen.
LHP Taylor Rogers, RHP Trevor May, LHP Tyler Clippard, RHP Sergio Romo, RHP Tyler Duffey, RHP Zack Littell, RHP Randy Dobnak
The bullpen is where the 26th roster spot will become a great asset for the Twins as last season they routinely called pitchers up from Triple-A, flew them to Minnesota, had them pitch four innings, threw them back on a plane to Rochester and then repeated the process 10 days later.
Here, the battle for that final spot could come down to Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe. Dobnak's side-hustle as a past Uber driver has gotten more notoriety than his pitching throughout the winter, but he pitched well before getting thrown into the ALDS crucible last October.
Thorpe also has promise with a 10.1 K/9 rate, but Dobnak has seen success at the major-league level and could piggyback as the fifth starter with Smeltzer in the same fashion that Pineda and Martin Perez did in the opening month of last season.
But unlike last year, the rest of the bullpen seems pretty set in stone with the same cogs that thrived in August and September. Rogers will begin his first full season as a Twins closer after racking up 30 saves last season and the path to him should be more secure with a full season of Romo and new addition Clippard.
The real key to success will be the returning players as Duffey, May and Littell all broke out as key components in 2019. If they can duplicate that performance and the new pieces come together, the bullpen should at least avoid the mid-season crisis it endured a year ago.