Infernal Options For The Minnesota Twins: Juan Morillo
With the non-waiver trade deadline now far enough past that teams can no longer fudge the timing of their deals, the Minnesota Twins are going to have to be creative if they want to patch the holes on their team.
Guessing which players may or may not pass through waivers, or at least make it all the way to the Twins is a rather difficult process not only for outsiders to gage, but even for teams to navigate with any certainty. Naturally, they've got better info, but if there is any processing baseball prone to surprises, its the waiver-trade process.
So, while looking at the Twins' probable targets and whether or not they'd pass waivers is a process worth engaging in, the better bet is to look at the Twins' immediate options.
As you may have guessed from the title, I'm not exactly bullish on this proposition; there is no Pat Neshek circa 2006 or Craig Breslow and Jose Mijares circa 2008 waiting in the wings.
Last season, when it became apparent that Juan Rincon was no longer a player worth having, the Twins let him go and days later acquired Craig Breslow.
This season, when Breslow struggled early, the Twins moved away from him and picked up Juan Morillo, a flamethrower released by the Rockies for his lack of control.
Morillo took a tour with the Twins, giving up five runs in two innings over the course of three games, and was unsurprisingly shipped to Rochester to work on his control.
His numbers in Rochester are better—they could hardly be worse—but he's still the same pitcher he ever was: huge fastball (97+ MPH) and dodgy control (30 walks in 46.1 IP). His WHIP of 1.42 isn't awe-inspiring, nor is his 3.57 ERA, but those numbers are inflated by a few poor games coming out of the All-Star break.
A few things lead me to believe that Morillo might be an improvement over some of the pitchers currently flailing away in the major league bullpen.
First, his batting average on balls in play (things a pitcher can't really control) is unsustainably high. An average BABIP is about .290; Morillo's is .373. As that rate falls, Morillo should see fewer baserunners and give up fewer runs as a result.
Second, Morillo strikes out a lot of hitters. Bobby Keppel and R.A. Dickey, two of the primary architechts of the bullpen's collapse, rely heavily on getting hitters to hit their pitches into the dirt and hoping that they're hit at someone. Plenty of guys do this effectively, usually by a sinking two-seam fastball that hitters swing over.
The problem for those two is that when hitters don't swing over the ball, they are hit and hit hard.
Morillo isn't going to have that problem as he relies on hitters missing his pitches entirely. Yes, big league hitters are going to be better able to catch up to his fastball or track his mid-80s slider, but at some level, 99 MPH is 99 MPH and the hitters that can hit that consistently are few and far between at any level.
He's more effective against lefties than righties, but Jose Mijares has the LOOGY spot in the 'pen, pretty well locked down, but that doesn't mean Morillo wouldn't be effective in a similar role, especially as Ron Gardenhire has a knack for needing Mijares on back-to-back nights, but not really having him available.
Ultimately, Morillo can be what the Twins always hoped Jesse Crain would be, a power arm that can come on, get a strike out, and defuse a tough situation. The problem is that Morillo's lack of control leads to situations where he has to throw a strike and hitters are sitting dead red against him.
Hopes aside, Morillo can't and won't be Jesse Crain circa 2005; he is simply too inconsistent. Of course, even Jesse Crain can't be the Jesse Crain of 2005 or even of 2008, so perhaps the drop off isn't that bad.
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