Ober (hip) to miss remainder of '21 season 

September 29th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- The last time threw a full, pain-free season was a half-decade ago, in 2016. For the 26-year-old, getting back to feeling like himself and performing at his best on the mound would have been enough in 2021.

He got far more than that.

Ober has pitched out of the Twins' starting rotation since June while posting a 4.19 ERA through 20 big league starts as a rookie, putting him on a clear path for a spot in the 2022 starting rotation. And, most important, his arm still feels great -- even as he's headed to the 10-day IL with a right hip strain that will end his season.

"It definitely exceeds what I expected," Ober said. "I didn’t think I was going to be up for this large of a body [of work] up here. I thought maybe it could have came later in the season, maybe help the team get into September, make a playoff push, something like that. Yeah, it’s definitely been unreal to be able to stay up here as long as I have been and have some of the success that I had."

Even though Ober was added to the 40-man roster before the season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, question marks still abounded for the 6-foot-9 right-hander, who had struggled with health throughout the Minors and achieved career-long success despite pitching through pain and relying on a fastball that barely touched 90 mph.

But after working with the Twins to adjust his mechanics to better utilize his body, he was excited to find that he was newly able to pitch without pain. Furthermore, his first pitch in the big leagues clocked in at 93.1 mph on May 18 -- and soon enough he was off to the races.

He took over a consistent rotation spot in June when Matt Shoemaker lost his starting role, and though he was held to a pitch count of around 85 in each of his starts due to his prior history, he made the most of all of those starts and allowed more than four earned runs in only one of his 20 appearances.

"It’s kind of just what the groundwork was for this year for me and we kind of knew that early on," Ober said. "They talked to me saying, ‘Hey, this is how it’s going to be.’ Obviously, each time whenever they come and take me out and I’m at that pitch limit, it kind of bugs me a little bit, as you can maybe see, but I understand and I respect their decisions on trying to protect me, and everything [they've] been doing is for my best interest."

As far as he and the Twins are concerned, that plan worked out, with Ober throwing 108 1/3 innings across two levels to far exceed his previous career high of 78 2/3 innings and ease him back into action after he threw zero innings last season.

The 4.19 ERA will play, as will the pinpoint command that stayed with his changed mechanics. His 96 strikeouts and 19 walks give him the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in a season among rookies to throw at least 80 innings in Twins history.

And come next year, he'll hope to build all that out even more -- and with the Twins having plenty of starting spots to fill, he should be in a good place.

"In a season that was dying for some silver linings, I think Bailey Ober presents as one of the more prominent silver linings for the season, and goes into this offseason in a really good position relative to factoring into our starting rotation for next year," general manager Thad Levine said.

Miranda, Varland are Twins' Minors Player, Pitcher of Year
One's a hometown kid, and the other was one of the best hitters in the entire Minor Leagues this season -- and they're both being honored by their organization for their performance.

On Monday, the Twins awarded infielder the 2021 Sherry Robertson Award as the Twins' Minor League Player of the Year, while right-handed pitcher earned the 2021 Jim Rantz Award as the Twins' Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Miranda has been on everyone's radar all season due to his thorough dominance of both the Double-A and Triple-A levels, shooting up to the No. 8 spot in Minnesota's prospect rankings per MLB Pipeline with a .342/.400/.568 line, 29 homers and 29 doubles in 122 games -- including 16 homers and a .950 OPS with Triple-A St. Paul.

In a different season, he would have very likely been with the Twins by now -- but with the Twins emphasizing the consistency of at-bats coming off a lost season, Miranda came up in conversations, but will be in strong position to compete for a spot on the 2022 roster.

"I think this was a player who, the scouts who signed him and some of the coaches who worked with him, had always spoken of this potential," Levine said. "We're trying to get as many plate appearances, as many innings pitched as we can for players. And so just the concept of bringing him to the big leagues in a secondary role is far less appealing in a year like this."

Varland, a St. Paul native who attended Concordia University in St. Paul, wasn't previously on the radar, but worked hard after attending the Twins' Minor League velocity camp before the 2020 season and showed up with added velocity to his fastball that helped him to a 2.10 ERA, 142 strikeouts and 30 walks in 103 innings with Class A Fort Myers and High-A Cedar Rapids. He's now ranked the No. 29 prospect in the organization.

"I think Louie Varland is a tremendous success story of our entire organization," Levine added. "We have this stable of starting pitchers who are coming. A year ago, I don't know that we would have put him in that stable. Now, he's in that stable. Not only is he in that stable, but he's in a leadership position in that stable."