Wes Johnson to Leave the Minnesota Twins

Wes Johnson
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Wes Johnson is leaving the Minnesota Twins. This is a surprising move, and his final game as the Twins’ pitching coach will be on Thursday against the Cleveland Guardians. Johnson just accepted the pitching coach job with the LSU Tigers. He starts immediately.

One of the Better Coaches

Johnson is seen as one of the better pitching coaches in baseball. He has been with the Twins since 2019 when Rocco Baldelli hired him out of the University of Arkansas.

In his brief time with the organization, he earned a lot of admiration from his pitchers and others around the league. He brought a new approach to analytics, biomechanics, and communication as well as a pitching game plan.

Wes Johnson Changed Twins’ Pitching

Johnson’s guidance and influence on this staff was apparent from the start. With his guidance, the 2019 Twins pitching staff set a single season record with 1,463 strikeouts. During the COVID-shortened 2020 season, they set a single-season club record with 9.38 strikeouts-per-nine-innings. This season, the Twins have a 3.76 ERA, seventh best in the American League.

Veterans such as starters Chris Archer, Sonny Gray, and reliever Joe Smith have mentioned that Johnson is one of the best pitching coaches they have had the privilege of working with in their careers. His communication and laid-back approach are calming, and he knows how to challenge in a professional manner.

Twins Face Quandary Without Wes Johnson 

The Twins find themselves in a quandary. Replacing one’s pitching coach at midseason is not ideal, especially when the team is in the midst of a division race with the Guardians. The Twins are in first place in the AL Central, due in part to their pitching.  They now face the second half of the season without Johnson. It will be difficult to say how much of an impact this will have on the team.

The Twins are expected to announce coaching staff updates in the coming days. Current chatter has bullpen coach Pete Maki in line to take over most of the pitching coach duties for the rest of the season. They also have assistant pitching Coach Luis Ramirez, but he has only been with the Twins since the beginning of the year.

Who is Pete Maki?

Wes Johnson is leaving the Minnesota Twins and the most likely choice to replace him is Pete Maki. Maki has been with the organization since 2017 when he was hired as the team’s minor league pitching coach. He has worked with Johnson the past two years as the team’s bullpen coach. As such, he has worked with some of the current pitchers on the MLB staff.

Trade Deadline

Losing Johnson during the middle of the season also brings up another situation. The trade deadline is approaching. Though planning has already started, we are sure that Johnson’s advice and scouting on opposing pitchers to possibly trade for will be missed.

We know there will be some pitchers available, including relievers. With Johnson’s expertise, knowledge, and experience with his pitching staff, he would have been able to advise the organization who could not only step in, but fit in, to be an impact pitcher that could help the team clinch the AL Central.

Outlook

Pitching has been a reason behind the Twins’ current 42–34 record, and the first-place spot they’ve held most of the season. Pitching will also be a big part of where the team will end up. If Maki does indeed get the job, he has big shoes to fill. However, if he is successful and the Twins do win the division and get their first playoff victory since 2004, it would make a lot of sense to have him continue on in the role past 2022. The next few weeks are going to be interesting to watch as the impact of Johnson’s leaving unfolds.

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Players/Managers/Coaches Mentioned:

Wes Johnson, Rocco Baldelli, Chris Archer, Sonny Gray, Joe Smith