Twins Try To Unlock Tyler Kinley’s Pitch Potential

When Twins scouts pooled their information ahead of the Rule 5 draft last fall, there wasn’t much enthusiasm for righthander Tyler Kinley, a reliever whose two-year ERA above Class A was an unimpressive 4.74.

“His numbers were middling through the Miami system, and our reports said the same,” vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. “We didn’t have scouts clamoring to take him.”

Then the scouts met with Minnesota’s burgeoning new baseball operations department, and suddenly, enthusiasm for the 27-year-old Kinley grew.

“Digging into the analytics of his pitches, we saw a real opportunity with Tyler,” Radcliff said. “He’s got two dynamic pitches that our (analysis) says should work better than they do. We think with some mechanical and mental adjustment, there’s a chance it plays out a lot more successfully.”

Right on cue, Kinley embarked on a winter league stint in the Dominican Republic that cinched the decision. Using a fastball that occasionally reached 100 mph, he struck out 32 batters in 19 innings and recorded an 0.47 ERA that convinced the Twins to send two scouts to re-evaluate him.

Then when Minnesota’s turn came on Rule 5 day, they made Kinley a Twin. The Marlins originally drafted him in the 16th round in 2013 out of Barry (Fla.)

“He’s throwing hard. He’s throwing 99 (mph) consistently, and his slider is a power pitch, too,” Radcliff said. “But beyond that, he’s an interesting project, a real collaborative decision of all our departments. We have some specific ideas about how to develop him beyond where he is now.”

Because Kinley is a Rule 5 pick, the Twins have only the month of March to work with him before deciding whether to offer him back to the Marlins or keep him in the majors. Because the Twins consider themselves postseason contenders, they can’t carry a Rule 5 pick who isn’t contributing.

“That’s the challenge. He is going to have to have value and pull his weight, because wins are important now,” Radcliff said. “It was impressed upon him, ‘You’ve got to make the team.’ I expect this guy to be in the mix. He has a real shot at forcing us to keep him.”

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