The Twins announced Wednesday that they’ve added left-handers Tim Collins and Justin Nicolino on a pair of minor league contracts with invitations to Major League Spring Training. Beyond that, recently designated right-hander Chase De Jong cleared waivers and will remain in the organization. De Jong, like Collins and Nicolino, will be in Major League camp as a non-roster invitee.
Now 29 years old, Collins was once a key member of the bullpen for the division-rival Royals, but a pair of Tommy John surgeries kept him off the field from 2015-17. The diminutive southpaw returned to the Show this past season with the Nationals, however, totaling 22 2/3 innings with a 4.37 ERA and a 21-to-12 K/BB ratio. Collins’ 92.5 mph average fastball was only narrowly south of his pre-surgery velocity, and he posted a solid 11.6 percent swinging-strike rate to go along with a 31.7 percent chase rate on pitches out of the strike zone. Control has long been an issue for Collins, but he notched a solid 3.54 ERA with 9.4 K/9 in 211 innings prior to his injury troubles.
As for Nicolino, the former second-round pick (Blue Jays, 2010) was once viewed as a Top 100 prospect but has never lived up to that potential. He’s amassed 201 1/3 MLB innings, all with the Marlins, but turned in a pedestrian 4.65 ERA with just 3.8 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9 in that time. He spent the 2018 season with the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate, where he was knocked around for a 4.69 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 134 1/3 innings.
Presently, Taylor Rogers and Adalberto Mejia are the Twins’ top two left-handed relief options. Rogers finished out the year as one of the game’s most effective relievers after adopting a slider partway through the season and didn’t allow a run in his final 28 appearances. Mejia, meanwhile, is out of minor league options. Both seem quite likely to make it to the club’s Opening Day roster, barring injury. Meanwhile, southpaws Gabriel Moya and Andrew Vasquez are likely ticketed for Triple-A to open the season. That presents both Collins with quite a bit of competition in vying for a roster spot, and the rotation picture for Nicolino (if he’s still to be used as a starter), is all the more crowded.