It’s quite clear that the Twins haven’t done much, if anything, to address the 2018 rotation yet this off-season. With a previous regime that was reluctant to make splashy moves, and the promise to make an about face this winter, expectations were high for something different, and to date, the 2018 rotation looks like it will resemble the 2017 rotation pretty closely. We’ve looked at the team’s bullpen moving forward if there were no changes this offseason, and while I don’t expect it will look like this in early April, I think it’s worth looking at what the rotation would be right this moment, if for no other reason than to recognize that it’s not the end of the world if additional changes aren’t made.
There will be two pitchers that will occupy the role of veteran stabilizers, in Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson. A lot of faith will be placed in Santana, for better or worse, thanks to a great season in 2017, in which he pitched to a 3.28 ERA. Much of his success can be lent to a career low BABIP, which is something he will be able to lean on again, more than likely, in 2018, since the outfield isn’t going to be changing. Gibson struggled early in the season, but his second half was just as good as Santana’s. In September/October, he also had a 3.28 ERA, but with better peripherals than Santana. If he can avoid an abortive spring and early summer, then he will be a valuable piece towards the back end of the rotation.
The star of the rotation will likely be Jose Berrios, the player with the most raw talent of any Twins projected starter. Berrios was head and shoulders beyond the veterans in terms of raw stuff. He strikes out more and walks fewer batters than either Santana or Gibson. In the most painful of ironies, he is the most frustrating of ironies, he is more prone to fly balls of the three, but more batted balls against Berrios seem to drop. What does all this mean? Expect Berrios to be even better next year, to the point that he would be regarded as a front of the rotation starter on almost any team in the league this year.
Unless they add two significantly above average starters, Adalberto Mejia will be in the opening day rotation next year, and there aren’t many issues with that, either. Mejia’s biggest flaw is an inefficiency that borders on sadism. He walks too many players, and he takes a long time on the mound. He SEEMS like he isn’t great pitcher, because it takes so long to get out of innings, but there is plenty of talent there. With questions in the bullpen, it would be nice if he could be a 6-7 inning regular, rather than 5 innings every start, but he brings value.
The 5th spot is a wild card. In 2017, it was filled mostly by Hector Santiago and Bartolo Colon, who don’t appear to be options in 2018. Roster resource has Aaron Slegers in the 5th spot in 2018, but really, it could be Slegers to start, followed by Stephen Gonsalves, Zach Littell, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Dietrich Enns, Fernando Rivero or Phil Hughes at any point during the course of the season. That’s not a bad list. Hughes has been good with the Twins, and any of those other names could qualify as a prospect, to some degree.
Minnesota will certainly improve their rotation via a trade or through free agency at some point this winter. We’ll likely see some desirable candidates go to other teams before hand, as we’ve already seen a few players venture elsewhere. Don’t panic, though. The Twins are going to be fine in 2018.