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  • 3 Sleepers for the 2022 Twins


    Nash Walker

    A “sleeper” in sports is a player who is often overlooked but has the upside to contribute in a meaningful way. Who are three sleeper candidates for the 2022 Twins?

    Image courtesy of Denny Medley, USA TODAY Sports

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    3. Randy Dobnak
    2021: 50 2/3 IP, 7.64 ERA (56 ERA+), 5.70 ERA, 12% K, 5% BB, -1.3 WAR

    It feels like centuries ago, but Dobnak was once a terrific pitcher for the Twins. Bursting onto the scene in 2019, Dobnak produced a sterling 2.25 ERA over his first 68 Major League innings. While José Berríos struggled and Michael Pineda was suspended over the first month of 2020, Dobnak and Kenta Maeda carried the rotation. 

    It hasn’t been pretty since. Dobnak owns an 8.12 ERA over his last 57 2/3 innings, with declining strikeout and exorbitant hard-hit rates. Since signing his five-year contract extension, Dobnak has allowed 43 runs in just 50 2/3 innings. Add in a season-ending finger injury and the word ‘disaster’ seems fitting for Dobnak’s 2021 season. 

    Despite recent results, there are reasons to believe in a bounce back. The horizontal movement on Dobnak’s signature sinker is still elite, with a top-six finish in 2021 (min. 250 pitches). Middle-finger strains can impact command, and sinkers are often reliant on pressure from that finger. If Dobnak can get healthy, that simple change could turn him back into a sturdy rotation member in 2022. 

    2. Ryan Jeffers
    2021: 85 G, 293 PA, .199/.270/.401 (83 OPS+), 10 2B, 3B, 14 HR, 0.6 WAR

    The Twins put Jeffers in a difficult role last summer. They made sure to start lefty-masher Mitch Garver against southpaws, with Nelson Cruz entrenched at DH and Miguel Sanó at first base. That left Jeffers facing exclusively tough right-handed starters. That’s a tall task for a rookie catcher.

    With Cruz’s departure, Jeffers will undoubtedly receive more playing time against left-handed pitching in 2021. That adjustment alone should boost his offensive output1840043462_ScreenShot2022-01-09at4_38_14PM.png.2f0669642dace726513c0c665b24ed2d.png

    Jeffers also showed a propensity to punish the ball in 2021. Among 37 catchers with at least 150 Batted Ball Events, Jeffers ranked 9th in hard-hit rate (44%), ahead of Travis d’Arnaud, Will Smith, and Gary Sánchez. Jeffers also caught a barrel in 7.8% of his plate appearances, ranking 5th and beating out Yasmani Grandal. 

    A better role combined with hopefully improved contact rates could propel Jeffers to a breakout in 2022. At the very least, many are underestimating his potential impact. 

    1. Jorge Alcala
    2021: 59 2/3 IP, 3.92 ERA (109 ERA+), 4.06 FIP, 27% K, 6% BB, 0.3 WAR

    Alcala wasn’t exempt from criticism for the Twins’ early-season collapse. He was mainly bad for his first 40 appearances, posting a 5.73 ERA and 5.35 FIP with just a 22% strikeout rate. As TwinsDaily’s JD Cameron pointed out, Alcala made some critical adjustments late in the season and flipped his results. 

    Alcala allowed two runs over his last 22 innings (0.82 ERA). He struck out 27 of the 77 batters he faced (35%) and allowed just a .420 OPS. Alcala was incredibly dominant, combining his wipeout slider and 100 MPH fastball with an improved changeup. 

    Now entering his age-26 season and with the Twins likely ramping up his role, a full-on Alcala emergence is bubbling. There is no pitcher on the Twins’ roster with better stuff or higher upside. 

    COMMENT BELOW!
    Who are your sleeper candidates for the 2022 Twins?

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    Duran is the only guy with top of the rotation stuff and could contribute next yr.  

     

    Sano having a complete season like his second half.  He has been totally written off by most.
     

    I like the 3 guy you wrote about.  Get back to having 2 really good Catchers would be a huge addition.

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    These might not be just sleepers, they might be in a coma.  I see Jeffers coming back and I think Alcala could straighten things out, but I had to write my opening sentence.  Dobnak  I do not see and I would love to be wrong.

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    2 hours ago, High heat said:

    Duran is the only guy with top of the rotation stuff and could contribute next yr.  

     

    Sano having a complete season like his second half.  He has been totally written off by most.
     

    I like the 3 guy you wrote about.  Get back to having 2 really good Catchers would be a huge addition.

    Sano took off after the league broke down on pitchers doctoring baseballs.  

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    Reverse order:

    3] Alcala has the stuff, has shown the ability, and he finished strong. The strong finish is key to me. It shows development and confidence. I think he's arrived or is about to.

    2] Jeffers has power and has hit in college, in the system, and hit in 2020 SSS. He was drafted, much like Garver, as a bat first catcher with power. And his defense has improved tremendously. (Same as Garver). 2021 did him no favors, nor did Rocco. He was a ML sophomore and we know adjustments have to be made in your 2nd year. And that takes time and adjustments. Being stuck hitting ONLY against RH pitching didn't help his confidence I'm sure. Just letting he and Garver share the spot, with Garver getting some DH time, and just allowing for a natural split of playing time vs boxing anyone in, plus Jeffers just growing, should give the Twins a great duo and Jeffers should continue to grow.

    1] Going to admit I'm confused on Dobnak. He is smart, determined, a bulldog, and has some decent stuff. He FLEW through the system and contributed in 2019 and was really good through most of 2020. His slider was changed in ST 2021 so he could be a bit more wicked and K more batters, potentially. ST doesn't always prove anything. But instead of being in the rotation, he was sent to the BP, which he hasn't done before. He stunk, got set down, came back up, then got hurt and was done. 

    But you can't ignore his early returns. Healthy, finding the right approach and grips, etc...and this is also on Johnson...he could be a big "sleeper" as a quality SP in 2022 as a back end SP. He's gone from a solid and surprising SP option to a "nothing" due to a bad and injured 2021? Hmmm....OK. I'm not expecting anything great from him, but shouldn't we allow him to be healthy again and get on the mound and be allowed to prove himself? I think he hasthe smarts and the stuff to be a ML SP if he can control and contain that elusive slider grip. Probably only a back end SP, but we'll see. I just don't want to to dismiss him this early.

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    9 hours ago, 4twinsJA said:

    My sleepers- Kirilloff, Winder, and Moran. Coming off wrist surgery Kirilloff may start slow but look for him to put it together next year. Winder could be 2022s Ober. Moran ready to take the next step.

    I'm not sure I'd qualify Kirilloff or Winder as "sleepers"; Kirilloff is a top prospect who hit well in his rookie campaign before getting injured. Expectations are high for him. Winder was the Twins representative in the Futures Game and is being touted as a top pitching prospect who is ready to step into the rotation if healthy. I think the expectations are too high for what these guys can do to qualify them as sleepers, really.

    Moran on the other hand...I'm a big fan and I do think people are sleeping on him. He's still got some things to work on in terms of his command, but that changeup is filthy and will make him effective against righties and lefties and he's going to be a weapon early, IMHO.

    I kinda think people are sleeping on Duffy at this point: there seems to be this growing consensus that he's tailing off as a player and won't be counted on for the back end of the bullpen any longer, that his velocity is down, blah blah blah. I think he's primed for the bounceback season and while I don't expect him to have some insane strand rate again, I do think he could be a critical set-up man again and have a terrific season.

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    16 hours ago, High heat said:

    Duran is the only guy with top of the rotation stuff and could contribute next yr.  

     

    Sano having a complete season like his second half.  He has been totally written off by most.
     

    I like the 3 guy you wrote about.  Get back to having 2 really good Catchers would be a huge addition.

     

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    If the Twins are to be a competent team, as the roster stands today, all three of these guys will need to produce.  I'm not sure I'd consider them sleepers for that reason.  They're being relied upon at this point.  

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    Twins catching defense has gone from 2nd best in 2007, to 5th to 19th to 11th to 7th in 2011 to 16th to 8th to 19th to 24th in 2015, to 13th to 11th to 19th to 12th to 19th to 19th again this year.

    Jeffers is a liability not an asset.

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    I expect Dobnak to be the biggest surprise positive contributor for most Twins fans in 2022, provided he is given a fair opportunity by management.

    It's important to keep in mind that Dobnak is only a few months older than Bailey Ober. Despite horrid production in an injury plagued 2021, where he was also jacked around by management in order to get Shoemaker and Happ more starts (joke's on me though as that obviously turned out well), Dobnak has nearly identical predictive stats to Ober for their respective careers, essentially splitting the lead on FIP, SIERA, etc. 

    Steamer projects those two for similar 2022 season production as well. 

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