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Pick Your Pitcher: Who Should Get the Twins' 5th Rotation Spot?


In what looks like a three team race for the AL Central crown, every game matters. Michael Pineda will return on May 10th and Rich Hill not too long after, but who should hold down the fifth rotation spot until then?The front-runners

 

Randy Dobnak

 

The Dobber was the Twins’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year after posting an incredible 2.07 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 135 innings at three different levels in 2019. Dobnak futher impressed for the Twins, holding a 1.59 ERA in 28 1/3 innings with 23 strikeouts and five walks. Dobnak started game two of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium, and while depth was a major issue, Rocco and company had a relatively easy decision handing him the ball. Dobnak has continued his excellence this spring.

 

 

Dobnak relies mostly on his “one-seamer,” a variation of a diving sinker that generated an expected .659 OPS in 2019. Batters whiffed on 46% of his curveballs and his four-seam fastball averaged a not-too-shabby 93.4 MPH. His 54% ground ball rate was nearly 10% above league average (45.4%), and the addition of Josh Donaldson should only help him in that regard. Dobnak has proven that he can get major leaguers out consistently with his unique and effective repertoire.

 

 

Jhoulys Chacín

 

Once a highly efficient front-end arm, Chacín joins the Twins in Fort Myers following a disastrous 2019 season. From 2010 to 2018, Chacín ranked 37th in ERA (3.86) and 30th in OPS against (.704) among starters with at least 1,000 innings pitched. Chacín pitched for the Brewers in the 2018 postseason and didn’t allow a run until his 11th inning pitched.

 

 

In 2019, he was the seventh worst starting pitcher who threw at least 100 innings with a 6.01 ERA. The key question for Chacín is: What the heck happened?

 

Chacín lost command of his sinker and was forced to throw more sliders, thus becoming more predictable and hittable. His sinker was ineffective and his slider, while still nasty, was hit much harder (.215/.292/.379) than it was in 2018 (.158/.222/.270). The focus seems to be throwing more strikes with his sinker, a pitch that he commanded well up until 2019. As was referenced on Gleeman and the Geek, the only way to keep all four of these pitchers in the organization is to choose Chacín, who is in Fort Myers on a minor-league deal with no options.

 

 

The dark horses:

 

Devin Smeltzer

 

The one dubbed as “Alka-Smeltzer” on Twitter has exuberant resiliency and grit. He gets batters out with less-than-stellar stuff and an insane spin rate that could potentially give him some more upside. Smeltzer pitched more innings for the Twins in 2019 than anyone on this list. He posted a 3.86 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 49 innings, starting six games and relieving in five. He could potentially fill a long relief role in 2020 if he doesn’t land the starting job. Smeltzer is a great story and a really solid pitcher.

 

Lewis Thorpe

 

Returning to camp after tending to personal matters, Thorpe is perhaps the longest shot to win the job. He arguably has the best stuff and highest upside of these four, but his struggles with the Twins last year (6.18 ERA), and slow start to spring training will likely land him in Rochester to begin 2020. However, the Twins are high on him and view him as a building block for their future rotation. His outstanding strikeout numbers and impressive arsenal make him a potential X-factor for the Twins.

 

What do you think? Who should get the fifth spot in the Opening Day rotation?

 

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I believe Thorpe is going to be part of the Twins rotation and fairly soon. I eliminate him from the #5 spot right now simply because I think he's too far behind with the time he missed.

 

Love Smeltzer, his guts, his story, and I think he can be solid. A return to form by Chacin could be a huge steal. But I'm rooting for Dobnak. He's got a chance to be pretty good and around for a while. It would be nice if "a while" began now.

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Dobnak has pretty clearly been the better pitcher both last season and in Spring training, so going by merit alone he would get the spot. Unfortunately, I think it will come down to how much faith the organization has that Chacin will be able to bounce back, even with limited evidence of that happening.

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This is really a frustrating issue for the FO. I am concerned with our rotation and its lack of depth. Any regression, injury or other problems could create a big hole for the team that should win the AL Central.  That being said my choice for temporary fifth starter is weather postponements. We have had a relatively mild winter, lets hope there is retribution in the spring, and very well timed, so we only use 4 pitchers well into May. 

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Based on last years results and the results so far in spring training it should be Dobnak’s nod to loose and he would be my choice. That being said, due to the fact that they would loose him if they don’t give him the spot, I think it will take very little for Chacín to win the spot. If he does, and Johnson can help him regain his previous form, this would be a steal. I see it as a two way race at this point. The time Thorpe lost will put him at AAA to start the season. Smeltzer, while doing ok so far, is just behind those two.

Isn’t it nice to have a battle for the 5th spot between what could have been pitchers 1-4 in the rotation from a few years ago. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but not a huge one.

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Although Chacin should get the benefit of the doubt (I hope he does get it), Dobnak has proven himself that he deserves it. That being said I think maybe all the rotation pitchers except Berrios will have difficulty going long & could use help in long relief or be used w/ openers. So I`d be in favor keeping at least 2 of them up & rotate the others up when needed.

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If all things are equal it should be Chacin, but if he is beat out by some time, Dobnak at this point, then he should start. Right now I see Dobnak as the 5th starter. Smeltzer seems a great fit for a long reliever who can spot start and go 4 innings or 1....

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Based on last years results and the results so far in spring training it should be Dobnak’s nod to loose and he would be my choice. That being said, due to the fact that they would loose him if they don’t give him the spot, I think it will take very little for Chacín to win the spot. If he does, and Johnson can help him regain his previous form, this would be a steal. I see it as a two way race at this point. The time Thorpe lost will put him at AAA to start the season. Smeltzer, while doing ok so far, is just behind those two.

Isn’t it nice to have a battle for the 5th spot between what could have been pitchers 1-4 in the rotation from a few years ago. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but not a huge one.

I think Chacon would have to show something in the way of ability to regain said form for him to get the nod over Dobnak
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To me to give a starting spot to somebody besides Dobnak would be a mistake, unless of course he would have came to spring training all out of sorts, which it doesn't seem like he did.

I said all off season, they had Berrios and Dobnak and the need for three more starters better than Dobnak, they resigned Odo and Pineda and went out and got Maeda. Bailey should take Pineda's early starts, and when he gets back the worst of Dobnak, Bailey and Maeda should go to the pen.

At this point Smelzer and Thorpe are depth and bullpen options.

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