Monday, September 21, 2015

Twins 2015 Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year - Trevor Hildenberger

Relief pitchers can get a tough rap with one bad outing resulting in inflated numbers that they have to work to improve for the rest of the season. With a limited amount of appearances to leave their mark, relievers need to show their stuff in short appearances in order to continue their path to the major leagues.

The Twins Minor League Report authors each voted for the five awards being handed out this week. Today, we'll take a look at the top relief pitchers in the Twins minor league system for 2015. We each voted for out top six performers in this category.

You'll see short profiles of our Top 6, but first, here are some honorable mentions.

Honorable Mention
  • Michael Theofanopoulos - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 37 G, 5-3, 3.82 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 68.1 IP, 68 H, 29 BB, 74 K 
  • Cameron Booser - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 32 G, 1-2, 3.72 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 46.0 IP, 31 H, 40 BB, 64 K
  • Nick Burdi - Chattanooga Lookouts/Fort Myers Miracle - 43 G, 5-6, 3.82 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 63.2 IP, 52 H, 35 BB, 83 K
  • Alex Muren - Chattanooga Lookouts/Fort Myers Miracle - 44 G, 3-3, 3.03 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 71.1 IP, 62 H, 24 BB, 54 K  
  • Randy LeBlanc - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 33 G, 9-5, 3.03 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 89.0 IP, 78 H, 28 BB, 69 K
  • Luke Bard - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 28 G, 7-1, 2.41 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 52.1 IP, 45 H, 15 BB, 47 K


Here are the top six vote-getters for the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year.

#6 - JT Chargois - Chattanooga Lookouts/Fort Myers Miracle - 48 G, 2-1, 2.63 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 48.0 IP, 38 H, 25 BB, 53 K
In his first professional action since the Appalachian League in 2012, Chargois made a strong impression back on the mound. He underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2013 and he enter the season with a lot of buzz out of the Instructional League. In his second appearance back on the mound, he was lit up for four earned runs on five hits while only recording one out. Over his next 14 appearances with Fort Myers, Chargois wouldn't allow an eanred run while holding opponents to a .137/.214/.196 batting line. His streak continued after being promoted to Chattanooga and it only came to an end after two months and 20 appearances. He'd end the year with another impressive run as he gave up one earned run on 11 hits over his last 19.2 innings with 24 strikeouts.

#5 - Todd Van Steensel - Fort Myers Miracle - 46 G, 2-4, 2.32 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 66.0 IP, 53 H, 32 BB, 81 K
Van Steensel started back in the Florida State League after finishing the 2014 campaign with the Miracle. Fort Myers relied a lot on the Australian native throughout the year as he compiled the best professional numbers of his career. He got off to a strong start in the month of April with a 1.35 ERA and 22 strikeouts in just over 13 innings. June would also be a good month as he held opponents to a 0.796 WHIP and 20 strikeouts in 16.1 innings. Right-handed batters actually hit worse against the righty as their OPS was 17 points lower. He led the Miracle in saves, games finished, appearances, and he finished second on the team in strikeouts even though he never made a start.

#4 - AJ Achter - Rochester Red Wings - 43 G, 4-2, 2.63 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 48.0 IP, 28 H, 13 BB, 47 K
The Twins have gotten quite the run out of the 46th round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. Achter has made appearances with the big league club in each of the last two seasons and he continued to improve himself in the minor leagues. Throughout the entire season, he only allowed opponents to hit over .190 against him in one month (June) and that was the month he made his fewest amount of appearances. Achter put up some crazy numbers in May (12 appearances) with a 0.75 ERA and a 0.42 WHIP while opponents hit .103/.125/.179 against him. He tied for Rochester's team lead with 14 saves and lead the relief pitching core with 48 total innings.

#3 - Brandon Peterson - Chattanooga Lookouts/Fort Myers Miracle - 41 G, 2.07 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 61.0 IP, 44 H, 28 BB, 77 K
After some up and down appearances through the first month of the season, Peterson hit a nice groove near the beginning of May and stretched it all the way to July. During that time he didn't allow a run over 26.0 innings while striking out 33 and holding opponents to a .103/.161/.115 batting line. During that stretch he was promoted from Fort Myers to Chattanooga where he'd finish the season. His time in the Florida State League was outstanding as he posted a 0.85 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. The jump to the Southern League saw his ERA jump to 3.38 and his WHIP bump up 55 points. Peterson was almost a year and a half younger than the other pitchers at Double-A so it was an overall very impressive season.

#2 - Michael Tonkin - Rochester Red Wings - 33 G, 2-1, 1.10 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 41.0 IP, 25 H, 5 BB, 46 K
Tonkin hasn't been able to stick at the big league level over the last handful of years but he showed that he can thoroughly dominate hitters at the Triple-A level. Tonkin changed rosters nine different times this year including one stretch where four straight appearances on different teams between Rochester and Minnesota. From June 30 to August 29, he allowed two earned runs in 28.0 innings with 28 strikeouts and two walks. Opponents hit .160/.186/.202 against him during that stretch and Rochester handed over the closer role to him to end the year. Even with all the trips to Minnesota, Tonkin stilled tied Achter for the Rochester team lead with 14 saves and he had the best ERA of any pitcher on the staff. Tonkin doesn't have much left to prove at Triple-A so it will be up to the Twins to find him a big league role for 2016.

Relief Pitcher of the Year - Trevor Hildenberger - Cedar Rapids Kernels/Fort Myers Miracle - 41 G, 3-2, 1.55 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 64.0 IP, 39 H, 7 BB, 80 K
Hildenberger, a 22nd round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, spent all of his debut season pitching for the Twins two rookie league affiliates. His numbers were good but that can be expected for an experienced college pitcher going against younger hitters. He finished the 2014 season with a 2.48 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP with 32 strikeouts in 29 innings. This year would be a test as he would be asked to make the jump to the full season leagues and test his stuff against some older competition.

He wasted very little time making his mark in Cedar Rapids. In the month of April, he allowed one earned run on six hits in ten innings with 13 strikeouts. He continued his masterful mound performance into May as he didn't allow a run for the entire month while striking out 23 in 18.2 innings. In fact, Hildenberger had a stretch from April 19 to June 21 (31.1 IP) where he allowed one run on 11 hits with 40 strikeouts and four walks. Batters could only compile a .107/.148/.117 line against him and he struck out 36% of hitters during this impressive run.

Hildenberger's numbers jumped up a little during his 13 appearances in the Florida State League and he has been older than the competition at every stop along the way. Next year will be huge for him as he will likely spend some time back in the Florida State League before making a jump to the higher levels of the minors. It was a very impressive season but there's still room for him to grow in the coming years.

In an attempt to be transparent, here are the ballots from our Twins Daily minor league writers.

  • Seth Stohs - 1.) Trevor Hildenberger, 2.) Michael Tonkin, 4.) AJ Achter, 4.) Brandon Peterson, 5.) Todd Van Steensel, 6.) JT Chargois 
  • Jeremy Nygaard - 1.) Trevor Hildenberger, 2.) Michael Tonkin, 3.) AJ Achter, 4.) Todd Van Steensel, 5.) JT Chargois, 6.) Nick Burdi
  • Cody Christie - 1.) Trevor Hildenberger, 2.) AJ Achter, 3.) Brandon Peterson, 4.) Todd Van Steensel, 5.) Cameron Booser, 6.) JT. Chargois
  • Steve Lien - 1.) Trevor Hildenberger, 2.) Michael Tonkin, 3.) Brandon Peterson, 4.) AJ Achter, 5.) JT Chargois, 6.) Todd Van Steensel
  • Eric Pleiss - 1.) Trevor Hildenberger, 2.) Brandon Peterson, 3.) Michael Tonkin, 4.) Michael Theofanopoulos, 5.) JT Chargois, 6.) Todd Van Steensel

Feel free to start the discussion and explain who you think should be on the ballot

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