Did You See How Hard Joe Ryan is Throwing Now?

Joe Ryan, Minnesota Twins
Nick Wosika-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

When the Minnesota Twins sent a near nursing home version of Nelson Cruz to the Tampa Bay Rays and received Joe Ryan in return, it was puzzling. Traditionally Tampa Bay doesn’t make knee jerk moves, but needing thump for the lineup, they were willing to part with a pitcher that had ascended their own prospect ranks.

When originally landing Joe Ryan, the Minnesota Twins were in something of a holding pattern. He was pitching for Team USA in the Olympics, at the time, so they had to wait to get their hands on him until weeks after making the deal. But as soon as Joe arrived, he and their pitcher development team got to work.

Developing prospects is not a linear process. Ryan came to Minnesota in 2021 with back-end (maybe middle-rotation) starter potential, but he was MLB ready, only starting two games in Triple A before getting the call.

Minnesota Twins and Joe Ryan’s ramp up the heat

Joe Ryan, Minnesota Twins
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Joe’s fastball has always played well up in the zone, thanks to a high spin rate. For ball guys out there, his heater has always “snuck up on” batters, even if it didn’t always register at the top of radar guns.

Since the trade, Ryan has become a mainstay in the Twins’ rotation, pitching a combined 308 2/3 innings in 56 starts, easily standing out as one of the most durable arms on the roster.

Prior to 2024, though, Joe Ryan’s lower-velocity fastball (with spin) that he likes to throw up in the zone has left him a bit susceptible to the longball, allowing 1.8 HR/9 in 2023. That’s 14th highest in the MLB among starters (Fangraphs) who pitched at least 100 innings. It was the key bugaboo he has needed to improve upon.

To fix that problem, Joe Ryan has been focused on one thing. More heat. In 2024, Joe Ryan’s velocity has hit in an eye-popping level, thanks to a slow build he and the Twins have intentionally focused on since his arrival three years ago. Back then, he was throwing just 91.2 MPH on average.

The Twins, with this Derek Falvey-led regime, has become known as an organization where pitchers can go to add velocity. If you want to throw harder, they know how to make you do it. And Joe, a guy who takes the science of pitching very seriously, has been intent on doing just that.

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That couldn’t be more evident for Ryan. Averaging just 91.2 MPH on his fastball when joining the organization, it has been an incremental build that now has the Twins starter sitting near 94 MPH. Against the Kansas City Royals on Monday, he pumped in five fastballs that topped 96 MPH.

Courtesy: Baseball Savant

What Ryan has turned into for the Twins is nothing short of exceptional. With a 2.0 fWAR to his credit, he ranks fifth among major league starting pitchers, and third among those in the American League.

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In a year where depth was going to be questionable for Rocco Baldelli’s squad, and the franchise was looking for Pablo Lopez to be their Cy Young candidate, it has been the best version of Ryan that continues to get things done.

For the guy that rides his bike to the ballpark, and is something of a Californian free spirit, nothing should surprise us about his fashion sense. Then again, maybe the tears in his postgame attire were simply due to the heat generated from a fastball that he’s spent years in the lab crafting.

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