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Roster Repercussions from Randy Dobnak’s Injury


Twins Daily Contributor

Minnesota expected Randy Dobnak to provide rotational depth this season, but his lingering finger issues led him to the 60-day IL. What will be the roster repercussions from Dobnak’s injury?

 

Minnesota already decided to move Griffin Jax and Lewis Thorpe to bullpen roles, which makes sense when looking at their pitching flaws. Last season, Jax was excellent the first time through the order, and he may be a strong candidate to serve in an opener role. Thorpe is out of minor league options, and the team needs to see if he can find success as a reliever. Either pitcher may shift to starting games as part of bullpen games in Dobnak’s absence. 

Signing a different back-end starting pitcher is also on the table. Rumors surrounding Johnny Cueto coming to the Twins circulated earlier in the week, and he’d be a natural Dobnak replacement. Cueto is coming off a 2021 season where he posted a 4.08 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 114 2/3 innings, but he hadn’t pitched more than 65 innings in three prior seasons. Cueto doesn’t seem to offer a ton of upside, and maybe the Twins are rethinking their back of the rotation options. 

Another option is to allow other young pitchers to start. Many of the team’s top pitching prospects missed time last season due to injury. Pitchers will be on an innings limit, so when and where do the Twins want those innings? If players start in the minors, those are innings that don’t help the 2022 Twins. 

Someone like Jhoan Duran can help bolster the team’s bullpen, but Minnesota may not be ready to shift him from starting. Jordan Balazovic is on the 40-man roster, and he pitched nearly 100 innings at Double-A last season. As a 23-year-old, would the Twins start him in the big-league rotation? Nothing stops the team from moving him up and down from Triple-A throughout the 2022 season. 

Other prospects on the 40-man roster include Josh Winder and Drew Strotman. Winder, like Balazovic, is projected to debut in 2022, but he dealt with a right shoulder impingement that limited him to 72 innings. Winder may be ahead of Balazovic on the depth chart because he made multiple Triple-A starts and is a couple of years older. Last summer, Strotman was acquired as part of the Nelson Cruz trade, and scouts view him as big-league ready. This year, he will start games for the Twins, and Dobnak’s injury may push him into the team’s Opening Day plans. 

Veteran players like Jharel Cotton, Chi Chi Gonzalez, and Dereck Rodriguez have been brought in this winter to provide organizational depth. Cotton projects to be part of the bullpen, but he can bounce back in 2022, including shifting back to being a starter. Gonzalez started 18 games for the Rockies last season but posted a 6.46 ERA with a 1.53 WHIP. There’s a chance that leaving Coors Field will help some of his numbers. Rodriguez also provides rotational depth as he looks to get back to the pitcher he was in 2018

After signing his extension last winter, Dobnak’s career has undoubtedly followed a challenging path. Minnesota tried him as a reliever last season, and it didn’t work. From there, his finger injury started bothering him, and he is still dealing with the issue. Over the next three seasons, he is guaranteed $7.75 million, so Minnesota wants him to solve his finger issue and get back on the field. 

What path do you think the Twins will follow because of Dobnak’s injury? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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If this article doesn't show the sad state of affairs regarding the starting staff nothing does.  Dobnak injury affecting starting staff?  Get serious.  With all the additions to other parts of the roster, we must assume FO will get a starter SOON.  As currently constructed the starting staff is not major league proven with maybe one or two exceptions.  If we somehow add a starter or two we will be solid contenders.  

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10 minutes ago, Whitey333 said:

If this article doesn't show the sad state of affairs regarding the starting staff nothing does.  Dobnak injury affecting starting staff?  Get serious.  With all the additions to other parts of the roster, we must assume FO will get a starter SOON.  As currently constructed the starting staff is not major league proven with maybe one or two exceptions.  If we somehow add a starter or two we will be solid contenders.  

Couldn't agree more.  Trying to decide which minor league pitchers should be on the major league roster, whether it be instead of Dobs or not, is frightening.  Can any of them start?  Or do we try them in the pen?  And how many times can we shuffle them back and forth from St. Paul?  Where does it end?  I remember an old saying "Spahn and Sain, and pray for rain".  Do we have more than 2?

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Looks like Oakland hasn't found a deal they like for Manea or Montas and the Twins are kind of an arm short at the top of the rotation.  The four young pitchers we have that seem most likely to succeed at the MLB level would be in order Winder, Canterino, and maybe Balazovich and the new guy Henriquez.  I say Maybe to Balazovich because of his control issues last year as his WHIP seems to high to move to MLB right now.  I say Maybe to Henriquez as he looks good to go with a solid K rate and good WHIP but he has been homer prone and that only gets tougher to suppress at the MLB level.

I wish there were some better options than Cueto to get out there as it looks pretty risky to go with the young guys.  So far I am not a believer in Strotman or Sands as they have been too hittable and I like Durans arm but still see him as a pen arm.  Maybe he proves me wrong but he hasn't been truly dominant at any level above A ball IMO.  So hard to bank on him doing it at the MLB level right out of the gates.

The dark horse here not mentioned is Smeltzer.  He has looked good this spring so far and if I were the Twins I would have him starting spring games while the good hitters from the other team are in and see how he does.  While I don't love crafty lefties he has had success before he started giving up tons of HR's.  He is not on the 40 man but might need to be the Dobnak replacement unless the Twins can find something better on the FA market.

I honestly feel like Winder is ready for the MLB challenge and that he could be successful right away. He could be the Twins Montas of the future.  Still rookie pitchers generally have a tough time adjusting to just how perfect they have to be against MLB hitters.  Experience takes time so it is hard to say how he might do at first.

Spring training isn't over yet and I would guess the Twins have a move or two left so I will hope for the best.

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2 hours ago, Whitey333 said:

If this article doesn't show the sad state of affairs regarding the starting staff nothing does.  Dobnak injury affecting starting staff?  Get serious.  With all the additions to other parts of the roster, we must assume FO will get a starter SOON.  As currently constructed the starting staff is not major league proven with maybe one or two exceptions.  If we somehow add a starter or two we will be solid contenders.  

If we can see it, Falvine can see it.

They're obviously working on it, and clearly the asking price is too high (Royce Lewis & Luis Arraez for Frankie Montas, for example). Are you saying the Twins should literally give up the farm for a guy like Montas - a 29 year-old who has only played 1 true full season as a starter and only had 1 decent year?

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The problem I see with the "opener" strategy is that it requires you to put a lot of work on your bullpen during that game.  In order to be successful using this strategy as more than a stop-gap for a single game, you need to both have quality bullpen depth and a couple of other quality workhorse type starters to protect your bullpen in other games.  If you top four starters only average five innings and you are trying to use your "opener" as your fifth starter, you would be relying on your bullpen to go about 5 innings per game.  I don't believe the Twins (or many other teams, for that matter) have the bullpen depth to do this for 162 games.

The question I have is are we better off having two pitchers (say, Jax and Thorpe) give us five innings of work or sign someone like Cueto who might also be able to give you five quality innings?  For the record, unless Cueto is dirt cheap, I don't think he has enough of an upside to make it worth signing him.  Also, this FO doesn't really have a great track record when it comes to picking starting pitchers out of another team's trash bin.  The Twins also seem to have a lot of near MLB ready starting pitchers.  Could the fifth spot be a combination of these options mainly to see if we have a diamond in the rough somewhere in our organization?  Maybe Thorpe or Jax surprises everyone and is dominant and shows they are a legitimate starter.  I doubt this will happen but you never know, stranger things have happened in baseball.

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So it's Sands, Winder, Strotman, then Balazovic, most likely? Didn't realize Smeltzer wasn't on the 40 man because he'd probably be decent enough to get through an order once or twice. Yikes. 

Isn't Chris Archer still out there too?

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1 hour ago, minman1982 said:

The problem I see with the "opener" strategy is that it requires you to put a lot of work on your bullpen during that game.  In order to be successful using this strategy as more than a stop-gap for a single game, you need to both have quality bullpen depth and a couple of other quality workhorse type starters to protect your bullpen in other games.  If you top four starters only average five innings and you are trying to use your "opener" as your fifth starter, you would be relying on your bullpen to go about 5 innings per game.  I don't believe the Twins (or many other teams, for that matter) have the bullpen depth to do this for 162 games.

The question I have is are we better off having two pitchers (say, Jax and Thorpe) give us five innings of work or sign someone like Cueto who might also be able to give you five quality innings?  For the record, unless Cueto is dirt cheap, I don't think he has enough of an upside to make it worth signing him.  Also, this FO doesn't really have a great track record when it comes to picking starting pitchers out of another team's trash bin.  The Twins also seem to have a lot of near MLB ready starting pitchers.  Could the fifth spot be a combination of these options mainly to see if we have a diamond in the rough somewhere in our organization?  Maybe Thorpe or Jax surprises everyone and is dominant and shows they are a legitimate starter.  I doubt this will happen but you never know, stranger things have happened in baseball.

Yeah, Cueto hasn't pitched a regular starter workload in 5 years. I don't think he gives us anything that say, Drew Strotman couldn't, except there's more depth if you sign Cueto. 

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6 hours ago, The Mad King said:

What's the Twins record on "opener" games the past few seasons? Off the top of my head it seems like they haven't had much success with it. I could be wrong. I'd like to see them give the ball to over of the prospects and give him a couple months to see what he can do.

IIRC, the Twins had a good record when Clippard and Wisler opened in a year they won the AL Central by 1 game.

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24 minutes ago, beckmt said:

Winder should be with the Twins in a starting role and Duran in the pen.  Don't waste their bullets in St paul.

You are perhaps right on Winder. We have spring training to find out. I would be reluctant to include him in a Montas deal.

It's not necessarily wasting bullets in St. Paul to groom Duran as a starter in St. Paul.

I don't think the Twins will be wasting bullets in St. Paul, given that their competitive window is very much open and seeing what they gave up to get Correa and Gray.

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5 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

Go young or trade for  young and established.  Something has to change and I would like Balazovic, Winder and Duran all with the major league team this year. 

What has to change is that guys have to stay healthy. If they do stay healthy and don't stink, the only way Balazovic, Winder and Duran don't pitch with the Twins this year is if one or more are traded for established pitching, hopefully relatively young.

I think the Twins like Montas because of his front-line potential, 180+ inings, 2 years of team control, and maybe the possibility of extending him for less than Berrios' deal. Then again, the Rays want him for everything but possibly extending him and they have more to offer.

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All these issues dovetail together.  You use Winder, Balazovic, Duran, Enlow, Strotman, early in the season, you are maximizing their major league innings but push them into a place they may not be ready for.  You sign Cueto or Archer, those next-man-up players are going to use up their innings in the minors.  Under both scenarios, they aren't available later in the season, as none of them has a sufficient workload track record to produce an entire season of starting pitching.  Do you rely on other teams fading, and other pitchers becoming available (and affordable) later in the season? 

We might not like it, but I think the team views the combination of a 28-man roster and the additional off-days through the first month to avoid having to make any decision at all (unless something falls into their laps).  Just hope that they are still competitive and don't get off to a 2021-like start and their season is finished in the first month.

I see them using Jax, Cotton, Stashak, and Thorpe to open or fill in innings in the early part of the season, when fewer spot starts are needed.  Then they promote one of Balazovic, Duran, Strotman, Winder or Enlow (or others) or rotate some combination of those guys.  Given that each one can be sent back down 5 times, it appears you can rotate five guys five times each every five days gives you 125+ days of baseball even if each guy only starts one game.  You would like to think that some of them will do well enough as a 5th starter to justify multiple starts before being rotated back out again.

With careful management of their innings in the minors (2-3 inning starts, 50-60 pitch limits) that might stretch an entire season.  These things do have a way of working themselves out - someone from the minors elevates into a clear starter (Canterino, Varland, Henriquez, Sands, Woods Richardson), or Winder, Balazovic, Duran, Enlow, Strotman levels up successfully.  We're going to need some of that to happen in almost any set of circumstances.

 

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1 hour ago, South Dakota Tom said:

All these issues dovetail together.  You use Winder, Balazovic, Duran, Enlow, Strotman, early in the season, you are maximizing their major league innings but push them into a place they may not be ready for.  You sign Cueto or Archer, those next-man-up players are going to use up their innings in the minors.  Under both scenarios, they aren't available later in the season, as none of them has a sufficient workload track record to produce an entire season of starting pitching.  Do you rely on other teams fading, and other pitchers becoming available (and affordable) later in the season? 

We might not like it, but I think the team views the combination of a 28-man roster and the additional off-days through the first month to avoid having to make any decision at all (unless something falls into their laps).  Just hope that they are still competitive and don't get off to a 2021-like start and their season is finished in the first month.

I see them using Jax, Cotton, Stashak, and Thorpe to open or fill in innings in the early part of the season, when fewer spot starts are needed.  Then they promote one of Balazovic, Duran, Strotman, Winder or Enlow (or others) or rotate some combination of those guys.  Given that each one can be sent back down 5 times, it appears you can rotate five guys five times each every five days gives you 125+ days of baseball even if each guy only starts one game.  You would like to think that some of them will do well enough as a 5th starter to justify multiple starts before being rotated back out again.

With careful management of their innings in the minors (2-3 inning starts, 50-60 pitch limits) that might stretch an entire season.  These things do have a way of working themselves out - someone from the minors elevates into a clear starter (Canterino, Varland, Henriquez, Sands, Woods Richardson), or Winder, Balazovic, Duran, Enlow, Strotman levels up successfully.  We're going to need some of that to happen in almost any set of circumstances.

 

I agree with the you about the 28 man Roster, it will allow the Twins to essentially have a bullpen game once a week as the 5th starter.  Once they have to go back to 26 then hopefully someone has established themselves enough as a 5th starter.  At the deadline or maybe slightly before the deadline they can make a trade if needed for more depth as well.  Will be interesting to see what there approach ends up being.

 

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7 hours ago, dex8425 said:

So it's Sands, Winder, Strotman, then Balazovic, most likely? Didn't realize Smeltzer wasn't on the 40 man because he'd probably be decent enough to get through an order once or twice. Yikes. 

Isn't Chris Archer still out there too?

I think Smeltzer's not even really a consideration anymore. Had a shot, impressed a bit his first season but wasn't blowing anyone away in the metrics department. Didn't make the team out of ST last year, got recalled and then was put on the 60-day DL in May of 2021. Got outrighted off the 40-man over the winter and is now pretty much just trying to hang on to his professional career. Sounds rough but that's the way the cookie crumbles for 90% of professional baseball players.

I'd be totally happy if the Twins gave any of the other 4 guys you mentioned a shot. The Twins may be forced to play their hand if they don't come up with anyone via trade of FA soon. I'm all for it, frankly. Let's see 'em.

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