Taylor Rogers making a case to be Twins’ MVP

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 17: Taylor Rogers (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 17: Taylor Rogers (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Twins have surprised the baseball world more than half way through the MLB season and reliever Taylor Rogers is one of the biggest reasons why.

After posting an MLB-worst 59-103 record last season, not many expected the Minnesota Twins to be in playoff contention at this point in the season. Yet, behind All-Stars Ervin Santana, Miguel Sano and Brandon Kintzler, the team is second place in the AL Central at 47-45. While a strong case can be made that any one of the Twins’ All-Star will be the team’s MVP, there’s one more name worth mentioning in the discussion. That is set-up man Taylor Rogers.

Rogers, 26, was called up last season to help a struggling bullpen. Mainly a starter in the minors, the left-hander transitioned well to a relief role with the Twins posting a 3-1 record and 3.96 ERA in 57 games. Not boasting filthy stuff, Rogers seemed destined to be a middle reliever with the ability to fill a situational role against lefties.

Some weren’t even optimistic that he’d amount to that. Here’s what was said of Rogers in the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:

"Taylor Rogers, LHP, Minnesota TwinsBats: L Throws: L HT: 6-3 WT: 180 DOB: December 17, 19902013: Grade C; 2014: Grade C; 2015: Grade CAn 11th round pick in 2012 from the University of Kentucky, Rogers has been a solid inning-eater and could get a major league opportunity soon. An archetypical finesse lefty, he tops out at 94 but is usually in the 88-92 range. Neither his breaking ball nor his change-up are considered excellent, but he mixes his pitches well and throws strikes without fear. He’s hittable and there’s concern that his stuff may be a bit too short for consistent major league success, but with a little luck and a good defense behind him he could surprise. Grade C."

This season, he’s been anything but that description. He’s been much, much more.

He has become arguably the Twins’ top reliever and the main set-up man for manager Paul Molitor.

Just how good has Rogers been? Well, he leads the league in holds with 22, has a sub-2.00 ERA (1.93) and is largely responsible for the bullpen’s positive wins probability added (WPA) rating. In fact, the bullpen is tenth in the MLB with a WPA of 1.47. This statistic means that the Twins’ bullpen gives them a better chance to win than most.

If you’ve watched any Twins baseball, you know that every time a reliever outside of Rogers or Kintzler steps on the mound with a lead, the chances feel slim that they will hold it. A few days ago, Aaron Gleeman tweeted just how true that assertion is:

The rest of the Twins’ bullpen is dismal and if it weren’t for Rogers, it’d be absolutely awful.

Getting back to WPA, Rogers has the fourth best individual WPA in the AL at 1.78. The only relievers with a better such rating are All-Stars Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel and Kintzler, pretty darn good company.

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Additionally, Rogers has an AL sixth-best 90.2 left on base percentage, showing he is comfortable in high pressure situations. With runners in scoring position, he allows an insane .069 average, giving up a total of three runs. Even better, all three of his home runs allowed have come with no one on base. He also has allowed more than one run just once. That’s exactly what you want to see from a reliever, someone that can limit or prevent damage.

In all likelihood, one of Sano, Santana or Kintzler will end up with team MVP honors. But, without Rogers, this team is not where they are right now. He has given them all they could ask for and more. He has defied all expectations coming out of the minors and has become one of the best set-up men in the game this year.

Rogers deserves the attention and is clearly one of the most valuable members on this team. If they make the playoffs, his ability to hold leads and give way to Kintzler may be the biggest reason why.

Next: Bullpen help should be top priority for Twins!

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