FORT MYERS, FLA. – The Twins do not have an abundance of eye-catching pitching prospects in the minor leagues. The next two starters to arrive in Minnesota with high expectations are supposed to be Jordan Balazovic and Jhoan Duran, both 22 and due in 2021 (perhaps).
There is a starter with numbers that are tough to ignore, even though he’s not finding appreciation on the various lists of top prospects. That’s because Bailey Ober is 24 and hits around 90 miles per hour with a fastball.
Then again: Ober pitched a total of 78⅔ innings at three levels — rookie while rehabbing, then high-A and Class AA — in 2019, with a combined 0.69 ERA, and 100 strikeouts in contrast to nine walks.
According to Twins research, this made him the first pitcher to allow six runs or fewer in as many as 78⅔ innings in the history of the Minnesota organization (majors and minors).
Ober stands 6-9 and with a right arm extension in his delivery that makes 90 mph get on a hitter quickly.
“I started changing my pitching approach in 2018 — more fastballs up in the zone,’’ Ober said Saturday. “The curve has become my best breaking pitch, and the changeup keeps getting better.’’
Ober was 10-3 with a 1.52 ERA as a freshman for a 2014 College of Charleston team that upset Florida (No. 2 overall seed) in an NCAA regional. The Cougars lost 1-0 twice at Texas Tech in a super regional, with Ober pitching eight outstanding innings in the second game.
He was named the nation’s top freshman pitcher by the college baseball writers. In January 2015, Ober blew out his right elbow in preseason workouts, underwent Tommy John surgery, and wound up being a 12th-round choice for the Twins as a redshirt junior in 2017.
Last season was interrupted by elbow inflammation. “Nothing to do with the ligament,’’ Ober said. “Some rest and rehab and now I’m good. The Twins have given me a great plan for pitching and I’m looking forward to a healthy season.’’
One hundred strikeouts, nine walks and six earned runs in 78⅔ innings indicate the Twins also will be looking.
• Ober trained this offseason at Peak Performance in Colorado, in a group with Twins closer Taylor Rogers. “Big man, and a hard worker, as is everyone at that facility,’’ Taylor said.
• Taylor’s twin, Tyler, a sidearming righthander, finally got a shot with the Giants late last season, pitching in 17 games. He’s now on the big-league roster.
• Taylor Clarke started ahead of Ober on Charleston’s 2014 team. Clarke, a third-round draftee, made 15 starts for Arizona as a rookie last season.
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