This is a series of evaluations that will be done this offseason on every player that closed the season on the 40-man roster for the Minnesota Twins, with one appearing every weekday from now until each player has been evaluated. The plan is to start with Mr. Albers and move all the way through the pitchers, then to the catchers, infielders, outfielders and finally those listed as designated hitters on the club’s official MLB.com roster. That means we’ll wrap it up with Miguel Sano sometime in the first week of December.
- Name: Andrew Albers
- 2016 Role: Late-season swingman, making six appearances (two starts)
- Expected 2017 Role: Triple-A rotation filler
- MLB Stats: 5.82 ERA (6.15 FIP) in 17 IP, 8.5 K/9, 1.94 WHIP, 47.6 percent GB rate, minus-0.2 fWAR
- MiLB Stats: 3.69 ERA (3.68 FIP) in 124.1 IP, 6.1 K/9, 2.2 BB/9
- Contract Status: Not MLB free-agent eligible until after 2018, but will be a minor league free agent if/when outrighted.
It’s probably fairly safe to assume that Albers starting a pair of games with the big-league club wasn’t appearing in even the wildest dreams of those in charge of the club when they broke camp this past spring. Albers, who was surprisingly effective in 2013 in a brief stretch with the Twins, had seen just 2.2 innings in the big leagues since — with Toronto last year — and it appeared his chances at pitching in the bigs again were incredibly slim. And if you’d pegged Albers as somewhere like maybe No. 10 on the organization’s totem pole for pitchers to make starts this year coming into the season, you’d have actually nailed it.
Nine pitchers started more games for the Twins than Albers this year:
- Ervin Santana (30)
- Tyler Duffey (26)
- Kyle Gibson (25)
- Ricky Nolasco (21)
- Jose Berrios (14)
- Tommy Milone (12)
- Hector Santiago (11)
- Phil Hughes (11)
- Pat Dean (nine)
….and just one — Alex Meyer (one) — made fewer starts among those to take the ball to begin the game than Albers. What conspired to give Albers the chance was frankly myriad issues. Hughes got hurt, Berrios got rocked, Nolasco got traded and surrounding the whole thing was that the Twins had the worst rotation in all of baseball. And as a result, the Twins basically blitzed through the entire non-Jason Wheeler portion of the Rochester rotation, looking for answers and failing that, sacrificial lambs.
Enter Albers, who made two starts and one six-inning relief appearance around the time the Twins were trying to figure out what the heck to do with Berrios, and around the time Milone was rather ineffective and eventually went on the disabled list.
What you see is what you get with Albers, a soft-tossing lefty who actually saw the best velocity of his career with the Twins this season — his age-30 campaign (he turns 31 on Thursday). Even then, he was still spinning it up there at 88.2 mph on average, mixing in five pitches to keep guys off balance as much as possible (sinker, four-seamer, slider, curve and change, in order of usage).
Finding some strikeouts was an interesting new wrinkle for Albers, though it’s hard to gauge with any sort of accuracy what it really means — especially since he still wasn’t really striking anyone out at Rochester. When he was getting swings and misses, it was on his slider, but that was still a modest 11 percent whiff rate. That’s not exactly beating down the door, and even if it was, he’s really only suited for a long relief role in the future. The expectation here is that he’ll be on the first wave of players outrighted off the 40-man roster here in the next few days, with the potential to re-sign on a minor-league deal — perhaps after shopping his wares on the free market a little while. He won’t find a big-league deal, however.
Grade: D. It wasn’t his fault he was thrust into a role where he was throwing big-league innings in 2016, and he didn’t do enough with the few he was given to make an impression. Don’t be surprised if you see him in Rochester’s rotation next year again.