Born: March 15, 1994
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 205
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Drafted: 19th Round, 573rd overall pick, 2016 (Twins)
How Acquired: Waiver Claim (from Twins)
College: Harvard University
Agent: Madden Sports Group


Poppen was a late-round draft pick and has never appeared on top prospect lists.  He moved up steadily through the Twins’ system, pitching mostly as a starter.  He generally had good walk and K rates, but didn’t dominate.  He reached the majors in his fourth season, making a handful of relief appearances in 2019-20.  He throws about 94 mph as a reliever and relies heavily on a slider.  He occasionally throws a change.  A ground ball pitcher, Poppen has had some very large platoon splits in the minors, possibly due to the slider.  The Pirates claimed him off waivers at the end of the 2020 season.

R+:  2-3-0, 2.97 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 36.1 IP, 4.5 BB/9, 9.4 K/9
A:  1-1-0, 2.12 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 17.0 IP, 3.2 BB/9, 10.1 K/9

Poppen went initially to advanced rookie ball and made eight starts.  He wasn’t as effective as his ERA suggests, as a third of the runs he allowed were unearned.  He moved up to low A for four appearances and pitched better.  He had good K rates at both stops.

A:  6-2-0, 2.90 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 87.0 IP, 1.8 BB/9, 8.4 K/9
A+:  3-2-0, 3.63 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 52.0 IP, 1.4 BB/9, 7.1 K/9

Poppen split the season between low and high A.  He did reasonably well, with lower K rates but very low walk rates.  He had a significant platoon split, with left-handed hitters posting an OPS of .728 against him and right-handed hitters just .543.

A+:  1-2-1, 2.41 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 33.2 IP, 2.9 BB/9, 11.8 K/9
AA:  5-7-0, 3.83 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 94.0 IP, 2.7 BB/9, 7.6 K/9

The Twins sent Poppen back to high A at the start of the season, but promoted him to AA after six starts and two relief appearances.  He had little trouble in class A but a bit more in AA, as he had a lower K rate and gave up 11 home runs.  Poppen again had a big platoon split, allowing an OPS of .800 to left-handed hitters and .577 to right-handed hitters.

AA:  2-3-0, 4.40 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 28.2 IP, 5.3 BB/9, 12.2 K/9
AAA:  5-1-0, 3.84 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 61.0 IP, 4.0 BB/9, 10.0 K/9
MLB:  0-0-0, 7.56 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 8.1 IP, 5.4 BB/9, 9.7 K/9

The Twins sent Poppen to AAA initially, but after one start he went down to AA, where he didn’t pitch very well due to control issues.  The Twins promoted him back to AAA in late May and he pitched better there than in AA, especially considering the offensive explosion in AAA in 2019.  Poppen made one major league relief appearance in June and three more in July, then missed the rest of the season after early August due to a bruised elbow.  At all levels he missed a lot of bats but had problems with walks.

MLB:  0-0-0, 4.70 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 7.2 IP, 4.7 BB/9, 11.7 K/9

Poppen shuttled back and forth between the Twins and their training site.  He made six relief appearances and wasn’t very effective, with opponents batting .290 against him with a lot of walks, although he did strike out a lot.  The Twins designated him for assignment at the end of the season and the Pirates claimed him.  He did not see action with them.

Poppen looks like a depth guy, although the Pirates may think he could have a higher ceiling in relief due to the slider.  It’s possible they’ll try to slip him through waivers at some point.  He had a chance to win a job in spring training, but was optioned at an early stage.

UPDATE:  Poppen didn’t pitch especially well in early 2021, either for the Pirates or Indianapolis.  The Pirates designated him for assignment in May when they needed a roster spot.

2021: Major League Minimum
Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2016
MLB Debut: 6/19/2019
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2026
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 6/19/2019
Options Remaining: 1 (USED:  2019, 2020)
MLB Service Time: 0.038
June 11, 2016: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 19th round, 573rd overall pick; signed on June 18.
June 19, 2019:
Contract purchased by the Minnesota Twins.
September 29, 2020: Designated for assignment by the Minnesota Twins.
October 1, 2020: Claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Twins by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
May 13, 2021: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates.