Twins tab No. 6 prospect Ryan for MLB debut

September 1st, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- The rotation help is on its way.

Right-hander Joe Ryan will be called up from Triple-A St. Paul to make his Major League debut as the Twins' starting pitcher in Wednesday night's game against the Cubs at Target Field, manager Rocco Baldelli announced Tuesday. Ryan, ranked the No. 6 prospect in the organization by MLB Pipeline, will be the first of Minnesota's next wave of top pitching prospects to arrive in the big leagues.

A depleted rotation scrambling to cover innings through the end of the season could certainly use Ryan's help, and the 25-year-old's arrival should provide a welcome jolt to Minnesota's pitching staff.

"We’re looking forward to watching him show up and do his thing," Baldelli said. "He's been throwing the ball very well. He’s been throwing the ball well all year long, everywhere he’s been."

It took a while for the Twins to get their first look at Ryan with Triple-A St. Paul following his arrival in the organization as the headliner of the July 22 trade that sent Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay. The right-hander needed to finish out his stint as the ace of Team USA during the team's silver-medal run at the Tokyo Olympics and build back up to a full workload.

He made it worth the wait, striking out each of the first six batters he faced as part of his new organization, collecting 17 strikeouts and two walks in nine innings across two starts with the Saints. Now fully built back up, the Twins anticipate he'll be able to make a normal-length start in his debut against the Cubs.

What should Twins fans expect to see from the new face in the clubhouse?

Fastballs. Lots of fastballs. To the naked eye, the numbers regarding Ryan's fastball don't pop -- it sits in the 92-96 mph range -- but hitters have always struggled to pick it up when he throws it at the top of the zone. That deceptive, tough-to-see offering has been the bread-and-butter offering for Ryan's 326 strikeouts in 226 career Minor League innings since the Rays took him in the seventh round of the 2018 MLB Draft out of Cal State Stanislaus.

"I think this has been very well discussed, but the fastball that he brings to the table is a very unique pitch," Baldelli said. "Hitters just consistently do not get good looks and swings against this pitch. I think that’s obviously his biggest strength, but his other pitches play off that pitch well, and probably play up because of the difficulty hitting the fastball."

The effectiveness of that fastball will help his secondary stuff -- a slider, changeup and curveball -- play well, but make no mistake: that fastball will be the foundation for his Major League success.

"He has that 'Invisi-Ball,'" said Twins right-hander Randy Dobnak, who watched Ryan pitch in the Minors several years ago. "I've seen videos of him pitching. It's almost like the fastball just doesn't exist. It's just blowing guys up."

It would be in the Twins' best interest to get as many looks at Ryan as they can before the end of this season, likely with enough time for the right-hander to get six starts in a Minnesota uniform.

With Kenta Maeda slated to undergo a season-ending procedure Wednesday that could cost him all of next season if it ends up being Tommy John surgery, Ryan's performance could better educate the Twins' front office as to what they might expect from him as part of a 2022 starting rotation that could be completely different, one through five, from the group they opened with this year.

There's likely a wave of fellow top prospects slated to join him next season, including No. 5 prospect Jhoan Duran, No. 9 prospect Josh Winder, and, later on, No. 3 prospect Jordan Balazovic and No. 4 prospect Simeon Woods Richardson. The future of the starting rotation could grow far more clear quite quickly over the course of the 2022 season.

The Twins will get a sneak peek at the first taste of that future, starting Wednesday -- and his manager can't wait for the show to begin.

"We know what his strengths are," Baldelli said. "We know he’s gone out there and been able to pitch with that really good fastball and there’s a lot of different reasons, probably, why he has success with the fastball, but we know that’s been his strength. There’s also a lot that we’re going to learn about this young man as time goes on."