After giving up leads in five of six losses to the Dodgers and Athletics last week, the Twins traded their best relief pitcher, All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler, to the Nationals.
So why would the bullpen-starved Twins trade their best reliever? The answer is simple:
Kintzler was set to become a free agent and the Twins have a nice stable of hard-throwing relief prospects in the upper levels of the minor leagues.
According to MLB.com's 2017 Prospect Rankings, these are the best Twins pitching prospects based on their fastball grades (using the 20-80 scale).
- J.T. Chargois, AAA, 100 mph (80 grade)
- Nick Burdi, AA, high 90's mph (80 grade)
- Brusdar Graterol, Rookie League, 95-98 mph (70 grade)
- Fernando Romero, AA, 95-98 mph (70 grade)
- Tyler Jay, AA, mid-90's mph (65-70 grade)
- John Curtiss, AAA, 94-98 mph (65 grade)
- Jake Reed, AAA, 94-96 mph (65 grade)
Chargois, Burdi, Jay and Curtis all have closer-like stuff, according to MLB Pipeline.
The problem is that Chargois, who was supposed to be a fixture in the bullpen this season, and Burdi are out for the season with arm injuries and Jay is all too familiar with the disabled list.
While Chargois and Burdi can touch 100 mph, Jay, the Twins' first-round draft pick two years ago, could develop into a late-inning lefty with a strong fastball and wipeout slider.
Reed and Curtiss have controlled the late innings at AAA Rochester this season, with Curtiss being especially dominant with 22 strikeouts and only five walks in 14 innings.
All of them, if they can stay healthy, could be part of a revamped Twins bullpen in 2018.
As for hard-throwing starters in the minors, the Twins have pair of promising right-handers in Graterol and Romero.
The 18-year-old Graterol is just getting started in the rookie league but Romero has made a case to get the call to AAA Rochester, or perhaps even a shot with the Twins this season.
The 22-year-old Romero is 10-6 with a 2.64 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 105 2/3 innings this season. And he's not just highly rated because of his fastball. He's actually Minnesota's second-highest rated pitching prospect overall, trailing only AA left-handed starter Stephen Gonsalves.
Compared to Jose Berrios' career numbers at AA, Romero is actually a little bit better.
- Berrios: 3.22 ERA, 120 SO, 36 BB, 131.2 IP, opponents average .230
- Romero: 2.65 ERA, 112 SO, 41 BB, 105.2 IP, opponents average .231
The Twins have arms waiting in the minors. They just need to stay healthy.