The Twins will need all of their starting pitching depth, and then some more than likely. Even the healthiest teams use 6-7 starters over the course of a full season. Factoring in recent injury woes for Twins pitchers and one thinks the Twins will use 6-7 starters easily this year. But lets assume the Twins keep a 5 man rotation. With the Twins most likely using 6-7, there will still be 4-5 “Primary starters”. and 2-3 that will either be short term starters, sporadic starters, or spot starters.
We have some obvious Primary Starters locked in. Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, and Pablo Lopez are locks.
Lets go ahead and assume that Tyler Mahle is fully healthy and will be good to go. that is a 4th no brainer. So who is, or better yet who SHOULD be #5?
I can tell you right who IS, or WILL be #5, and that is Kenta Maeda. The Twins will be banking on Maeda being the All Star level pitcher he was in 11 games in the Covid shortened 2020 season. Where in 11 games he went 66 innings, good for a 6+ inning average with 80K against 10 BB a 2.70 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP.
But… SHOULD he be th e5th starter? and is it reasonable to expect that after a year+ off? His career averages are a 3.87 ERA just under a 4:1 K:BB rate, a 9.85K/9 and a 1.14 WHIP. Those are still very good numbers anyone would love to have in the rotation.
That being said, in albeit a much shorter sample size, Ober has career numbers of 3.82 ERA, just under a 5:1 K rate, a 9K/9IP and a 1.15 WHIP..
If we go by the numbers, it says they are both equally effective starting pitchers. And the question you must ask then is… “IF they are both equal, and both interchangeable for each other, then who should be the 5th starter?”
“Common sense” or maybe more accurately “traditional thinking” says it should be Maeda, as Ober still has options. But should he???
I would argue we need to look longer term. Any player CAN be resigned this offseason, so in theory ANY of our starters could be back, BUT… in reality we will not resign everyone, and we actually have only Randy Dobnak and Chris Paddack under contract for next year. Of course Joe Gray will be here, and will still have rights to Lopez, BUT the only sure things are Dobnak and Paddack. Most likely Sonny Gray and Maeda will be gone.
With that in mind, I think the correct way to look at things, assuming both pitchers should give roughly the same results is to go with the pitcher who will still be here going forward and continue to give him the experience and build up he will need for next year. This way next year is not his first “full year” in the rotation and is not as much of a question mark.
Secondly while predominately a starter in LA, Maeda did also show he can be very successful out of the bullpen, and if you are a cheapskate you can save millions in bonuses paid to Maeda with him in a relief/PT starter situation.
The clear way of thinking screams the 5th starter needs to be Ober vs Maeda.