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Let the Kids Play - Starting Pitchers


Mill1634

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The Minnesota Twins find themselves doubled up in the loss column at the time of this post, at 13-26, and the biggest controversy is whether Yermin Mercedes should be able to swing 3-0 against Willians Astudillo. If that doesn't tell you how this season has gone, I'm not sure what will. I've already wrote about players that we could see traded, as well as ranked all the Twins MLB roster by trade value. I expect many of those moves to be made in July, although some could roll in earlier, especially with all of the injuries around Major League Baseball. When all of these expected moves come around, the Twins are going to have to fill these holes with players from the minor leagues, or possibly by players coming in from the trades. This series will take a look at the players the Twins front office will want to take a longer look at come late July, August, and September in order to put themselves in a position to succeed in 2022.

 

RHP Randy Dobnak

 

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Dobnak came into the Twins organization as a feel good story, and even started a playoff game for the Twins. He also signed a 5 year extension this past offseason, which locked in financial security for the former Uber driver, and gave the Twins a cheap depth option for the foreseeable future. However, there is questions around Twins territory on whether Dobnak is an MLB starter, or more of a long man. With expected trades of JA Happ and Michael Pineda, and the likely DFA or move to the bullpen for Matt Shoemaker, the Twins will have plenty of chances to evaluate some of the AAA starters. Dobnak should, and likely will be, the first option to fill the hole. Dobnak relies on pinpoint control over his sinker, and a very good slider to pair with the sinker. In order to be an effective MLB starter, Dobnak will have to develop a reliable third pitch, with the changeup being the most likely. Even if Dobnak isn't a long term starter, he will be on the opening day roster in 2022.

 

LHP Lewis Thorpe

Lewis Thorpe is a former top prospect out of Australia, but certainly hasn't met those expectations thus far. The key to Thorpe being a useful arm in the major leagues all rely on his fastball velocity. Last season we saw Thorpe's velocity fall below 90, which was not the norm for him, and unsurprisingly, he got shelled. However, there were signs of hope for the southpaw during spring training, where he said he "refocused mentally and physically" and the results backed it up. Thorpe was sitting in the low 90's during spring training, but that has suddenly disappeared. During Thorpe's two spot starts thus far, he's once again sitting 89.7 MPH on the fastball, and shared that he's going through a dead arm phase. If Thorpe snaps out of his dead arm, and regains his velo, he has a chance at a starter to pair with his very good slider. However, if the fastball velo is only sustainable in short stints, a move to the pen seems inevitable. We'll get an answer on this question during the dog days of the 2021 summer. 

 

RHP Bailey Ober

As I'm writing this article, Bailey Ober is pitching the first inning of his MLB debut. Ober is a big, right handed arm who stands at 6 feet 9 inches, but doesn't have the velo that matches the body. The Twins drafted Ober in the 12th round in 2017, which is the same draft where Royce Lewis was the #1 pick. The fact that Ober has already made his MLB debut, despite being a 12th round pick, means he's outperformed expectations. Bailey was added to the 40 man roster this past offseason, despite not throwing in a live game since 2019. Ober has four quality pitches, with the fastball sitting in the upper 80's, and the lower 90's on occasion. His best putaway pitch is a changeup, which moves with a lot of armside run. He also features a slider and curveball, but neither project as anything more than an average pitch. Despite the fastball not cracking 90, it has a lot of carry on it which allows him to successfully pitch in the upper part of the zone. With the next wave of top arms coming to Target Field soon in Johan Duran and Jordan Balazovic, Ober will have to perform well to stay apart of Minnesota's long term plans, as he is a starter or bust.  

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A well thought out piece but I would disagree somewhat here and there.

I agree Dobnak needs to work on control, and this is just my opinion, but I think his stuff almost moves too much at times. But the secret to him is getting that slider to be consistent. I watched him a little in ST and that slider looked wicked! He harnesses that, and can reign in the break of his fastball, he has everything  needed to be a solid SP.

We are in agreement on Thorpe. A "dead arm" for a week or two early in the season is not unusual. You build up, you lose a little, and then you "muscle" back up. A LH with control, a change, a solid breaking ball, can succeed with high 80's velocity. A LH who can throw in the low 90's with the aforementioned can be pretty good. So who is Thorpe? I'm not sure right now. But I'm confused and kind of upset the Twins aren't just letting him pitch as a starter right now.

Ober surprised me tonight. I expected the worst. I saw a decent, solid performance from a rookie starter with limited experience who threw some great pitches and maybe got squeezed a bit. But his change killed him. But I saw some good things I wasn't sure I was going to see.

But I am just if not more excited for the second half of the season.

Happ and Shormaker will be gone. Personally, I am hoping Pineda is not only kept but is re-signed as our 4th rotation piece for 2022 with another addition to the rotation next year, however it happens.

And I'm 100% with you on letting the prospects play/pitch at this point.

But what I'm waiting for is Duran, Chalmers, Winder, Balazovic and Celestino and a few others to climb the latter the second half and audition and get themselves ready for the second half of 2021 and 2022.

 

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3 hours ago, DocBauer said:

 

But what I'm waiting for is Duran, Chalmers, Winder, Balazovic and Celestino and a few others to climb the latter the second half and audition and get themselves ready for the second half of 2021 and 2022.

 

Agreed on this point. A few of those guys will be features in other sections of this piece. I think Chalmers is probably a reliever with his control issues, and he's probably up as a reliever at some point this season. Duran may be up this year, but I'm not 100% confident in that. Balazovic I would be somewhat shocked to see unless they think he plays a major role in the rotation for 2022. 

 

As for your Dobnak point, I do agree that sometimes the sinker does seem to have too much movement on it, where it would be on the edge of the zone if it broke just like a normal sinker, but instead has extra movements and comes back into a hitters bat path. Either way, I expect to see a ton of Dobnak in the second half of the season (and maybe sooner) as you don't extend a guy with no clear plan. If this season continues to go off the rails, figuring out what you have in Dobnak should be fairly up the priority list. 

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A most depressing set of 3 pitchers to have hope invested in. These are all losers. The new Smeltzer/Stashak/Theilbar bad news. We already know what we have in these guys, and is bottom of the barrel waiver wire fodder before the DFAs. I would feel different if we were talking Balazovic/Duran/Enlow, but that is not close (injuries or level) it seems. The OP is a most depressing set of pitchers and will be a waste of time until they are no longer in the system. Place holders taking up space. Nothing more. When will the great pitching identifiers and develpers that is the calling card of the FO actually deliver real depth that a team can be proud to be fielding?

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3 hours ago, h2oface said:

A most depressing set of 3 pitchers to have hope invested in. These are all losers. The new Smeltzer/Stashak/Theilbar bad news. We already know what we have in these guys, and is bottom of the barrel waiver wire fodder before the DFAs. I would feel different if we were talking Balazovic/Duran/Enlow, but that is not close (injuries or level) it seems. The OP is a most depressing set of pitchers and will be a waste of time until they are no longer in the system. Place holders taking up space. Nothing more. When will the great pitching identifiers and develpers that is the calling card of the FO actually deliver real depth that a team can be proud to be fielding?

I do agree that the ceiling on all 3 of these pitchers being fairly limited. However, you don’t need a staff full of number one or number twos in order to be successful. Having a handful of mid rotation starters from within saves you money from having to bring in JA Happ, Matt Shoemaker, Rich Hill, etc. and allows you to go spend on more premium positions. I don’t think it’s out of the question for Dobnak, or even Thorpe, to be that. As for Ober, I’m not high on him and questioned him being added to the 40-man, but since he’s here there’s zero reason not to give him a look in the what appears to be a lost season. The key to the twins future does weigh heavily on one of Jordan or Duran being a top of rotation starter, very much so. I just think it’s a year too early to expect too much impact from either at the MLB level, although Duran will likely be up this season. 

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