Twins

Josh Stamount's Resurgence Has Solidified Minnesota's Bullpen

Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Twins fans waited patiently over the winter for the team to make any sort of offseason roster move. In late December, the Twins answered those wishes when they reached a deal with former Kansas City Royals setup man Josh Staumont. The fanbase wasn’t exactly waiting for a near veteran minimum (1-year, $950,000) bullpen signing for a reliever with almost no production in the last two seasons. Still, it was the team’s first major league signing of the winter, and Staumont was the only free-agent pitcher the team added in the offseason.

At worst, adding Staumont gives the Twins more veteran depth in the bullpen. However, if everything goes right, he will set up another solid high-leverage arm if he can recapture the magic he had in 2020 and 2021. He had a combined 2.76 ERA and a .192 opponent batting average in those seasons. It’s similar to the Twins adding Brock Stewart a season ago, another oft-injured reliever they felt they could develop into a productive bullpen arm.

Knee and neck injuries have held Staumont back to 56.2 innings over the last two seasons. The injuries still took their toll when he could pitch; Staumont racked up a 6.19 ERA with a .244 opponent average. A left calf strain kept Staumont out of the first month of the season, and he didn’t make his Twins debut until May 9.

Minnesota’s quiet addition of Staumont in December has quietly made a great first impression. Through his first 14 appearances, he has not allowed a run, recorded a 0.72 WHIP, and has a .120 opponent batting average through 15.1 innings in 2024. His 2.56 FIP is another great sign that his success will surpass the small sample size this season. Staumont has re-invented himself in Minnesota. His turnaround has revived his career, and his success is essential for the Twins in rounding out a bullpen that needs depth.

There are a few reasons why Staumont has had a resurgence in Minnesota; chief among them is the reworking of his pitch repertoire. In Kansas City, Staumont was a flamethrowing arm with a 96.7 MPH average on his four-seam fastball, which he threw 66 percent of the time. He also mixed in a curveball, which he threw 31.6 percent of the time.

However, he has made some adjustments since arriving in the Twin Cities. Despite his heavy use of the 4-seamer throughout his career, he’s thrown that pitch just 11.1 percent of the time in Minnesota. Instead, Kansas City’s 2015 second-round pick has leaned into the slider he added in 2022 and his sinker. According to Baseball Savant, Staumont’s slider has become his best pitch, with a +7 rating.

Here is the full breakdown of Staumont’s pitch percentages in 2024 compared to a season ago:

A new pitch plan has kept hitters guessing at the plate. It hasn’t led to many strikeouts with his 21.8 percent strikeout rate, the second-worst of his career. However, that could swing back around with a 29.2 percent whiff rate, the second-best in his six-season career. Staumont’s new pitch arsenal is creating plenty of weak contact. His 87.2 MPH average exit velocity is his career best and better than the 88.5 MPH league average. The same goes for his career-best 34.2 hard-hit percentage, which is greater than the 36.4 percent league average.

Staumont’s new pitch mix and soft contact are great signs for the 30-year-old. He’s also producing on the mound without reaching full velocity on the fastball. His 93.8 MPH average fastball speed is the slowest Staumont has recorded in his six major league seasons. It may be why he hasn’t been throwing the pitch as often recently as he tries to ramp himself back into mid-season form. Either way, Staumont becomes much more lethal and earns more spots in big moments if he can add the high-octane fastball to complement his success with the slider and sinker.

Staumont’s ceiling is a Stewart-like ascension in Minnesota. A season ago, Stewart logged a career-best 0.65 ERA and 35.8 percent strikeout rate in 27.2 innings. The Twins also changed his pitch mix, and Stewart successfully threw more fastballs and added a sweeper. He shot up Minnesota’s bullpen hierarchy last year, and now Staumont can do that in 2024.

Minnesota added Justin Topa in the Jorge Polanco trade to load up on high-leverage arms at the top of the bullpen and pair them with Griffin Jax and Jhoan Duran. However, a patellar tendon injury in his left knee has kept Topa on the injured list, and his chances to pitch in 2024 are in doubt. Stewart was another high-leverage option until he hit the IL on May 3 with right shoulder tendinitis. Therefore, the Twins needed another setup man to cover late innings in a close game. Staumont has experience in that role from his time in Kansas City, where he recorded 24 holds in 2020 and 2021.

However, Staumont still needs to make up more ground to secure a setup-man spot in Minnesota. While he may have been a primary setup man in Kansas City, the Twins have brought him along slowly, with few high-leverage opportunities. Whether they have made that decision based on being careful with Staumont’s injuries or establishing trust, he has a 0.35 leverage index. In addition to that low figure, he also has a 0.42 win probability added so far in 2024.

The Twins have given him fewer high-leverage opportunities compared to Stewart in 2023, where he had a 1.65 leverage index and currently has a 1.48 leverage index in 2024. If he stays healthy and continues to produce in the smaller moments, Staumont will get more high-leverage opportunities in Minnesota. It will boost Jax and Duran significantly, who could use another high-leverage option to lean on and prevent them from wearing down in the regular season.

The Twins added Josh Staumont as a depth signing who could have the potential to solidify Minnesota’s impressive bullpen. Injuries delayed the start of his season, but he hasn’t allowed a run in his first 14 appearances of 2024. Staumont’s success through retooling his pitch mix and soft contact will allow him to have more high-leverage opportunities at a time when another setup man is needed until Stewart returns.

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