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  • St. Paul Saints Pitching Reports: Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe

    Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe threw for the St. Paul Saints on Sunday afternoon. This is how they've looked for the team thus far this spring.

    Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson | 2021 Apr 13

    I witnessed the St. Paul Saints lose in Twinsian fashion live and in person Sunday afternoon after Ian Gibaut allowed eight earned runs to cross the plate in the ninth inning, but, thankfully, that’s not what this article is about. This article is about Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe.

    Randy Dobnak made his third start for the Saints after being optioned off the Twins’ roster on May 3 with the intent of being stretched out and looked much more like his early 2020 self than he did during his previous outing. 

    He sat 92-93 mph with his sinker on Sunday and touched as high as 96 mph with his four-seam according to the in-stadium gun, though there’s been plenty of evidence to suggest that CHS Field is running 1-2 mph hot thus far. His slider and changeup were consistently in the low- to mid-80s, which is commensurate with that he’s shown at the major league level.

    Dobnak’s command was much more precise on Sunday, something he struggled with mightily during the home opener. His second start of the season saw his sinker engage in its usual ridiculous movement pattern, but constantly dove down and out of the zone. Dobnak was unable to adjust and wasn’t able to locate his off-speed stuff, either, which resulted in five walks.

    During his third start, however, Dobnak was better able to start his sinker middle-out, allowing it to dive down and in across the plate to right handed batters. For the majority of the game, the Iowa Cubs batters appeared completely confused as to what to do with Dobnak’s sinker. This resulted in five strikeouts and five groundouts, though it could have been as many as seven, for Dobnak. (His first start for the Saints - his line is provided in the second tweet below - was nearly identical to his third.)

    If Dobnak can continue to locate his sinker and develop his slider, it won’t be long before he is back up with the Minnesota Twins, particularly if the team continues to lose and Matt Shoemaker continues to perform poorly. It would be nice to see Dobnak pitch further than five innings by tightening up his command even more, but two of his three starts with the Saints have shown why the Twins invested in him long-term.

    As for Lewis Thorpe, he remains a bit of an enigma in my eyes. 

    His three appearances and two starts for the Twins, in which he combined for five strikeouts, five earned runs and two walks across 10 innings of work, were admirable, but largely unimpressive. His fastball averaged 89.7 mph and induced a meager 19.2% Whiff%, according to Baseball Savant, and while Thorpe is never going to be a strikeout king, one would like to see better numbers than that moving forward.

    While the Twins have primarily used Thorpe as a starter, the Saints have used him out of the bullpen, which may be of interest. He’s only thrown 78 pitches across five innings in his two appearances, striking out three and walking two. 

    Thorpe’s first appearance for the Saints earlier in the week was extremely encouraging. He sat 92-93 mph with his fastball and relied heavily on his off-speed stuff during his second inning to keep batters off-guard. He was also able to locate his fastball, which is imperative for a lefty with his level of velocity.

    However, his second appearance, while not bad, per se, was less encouraging. 

    Thorpe threw 32 pitches, 21 for strikes, across two innings, striking out and walking one. His fastball topped out at 91 mph, sitting at 90 (and remember the gun is likely fast), and frequently missed up and out of the zone. His command was much more iffy and likely would have been taken advantage of by better (i.e. major league) hitters.

    When it comes to his future with the Twins, Thorpe’s command of his fastball is of utter importance. Pitching coaches and front offices can live with some erraticism from their pitchers - whether they be starters or relievers - if the velocity and strikeout numbers are there, which hasn’t been the case with Thorpe above the Triple-A level. He doesn’t have the type of secondary stuff that can bail him out consistently if he can’t locate his fastball.

    Thorpe remains an intriguing prospect, but his stock may drop to that of, say, Devin Smeltzer if his command doesn’t improve and/or if his velo continues to hover closer to 88 mph than 93 mph.

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    The Twins need to give them both a significant shot in the majors this year. Happ and Shoemaker are not part of the future and they aren’t going to turn this team around in the present. 

    I hope they don’t wait until August before giving Thorpe and Dobnak a regular turn in the rotation. 

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    Maybe it's hopefull naivete, but I still like Dobnak based on the majority of his work thus far...a rookie who has flashed but had some bad days...and his new, still developing, slider. He needs to continue to get innings and be stretched out and get a shot. In a lost season Happ and Shoemaker aren't part of 2022 and beyond. I think he has a shot to be a solid bulldog back end SP who MIGHT rise to #3 status if he can truly harness that slider.

    Thorpe is more of an enigma. He WAS projectable his entire milb season even after 2 missed seasons. There was enough velocity, stuff and numbers including K numbers, to indicate he had a future as a SP. Then came 2020. However, he came in to 2021 with a better frame of mind and a body that was in great shape to match his new attitude. His first start with the Twins was solid. He seemed even better in his 2nd start and it was unfortunate he was credited with 3R as 2 inherited runs scored when the pen couldn't come through.

    After it was reported his velocity was in the high 80's after being in the 90's in ST, he stated he had a "dead arm" despite pitching solidly. Now, it's not uncommon for any pitcher early in the season to have a short stretch where his arm feels that way. It happens. You've been ramping up, pitching, lose a little velocity, and then the arm just recovers like any part of the body does/can and suddenly the velocity comes back again. Again, not uncommon. 

    But why isn't he starting for St Paul? If they still believe he has a real shot, and want to bring him up as a SP as they have done twice already, then why isn't he in the Saints rotation? This perplexes me to no end.

    IF the Twins want him in the pen, then fine. Move him there and let him cut loose with velocity and be the best RP he can be whether it's for one inning or two. But until you make that final determination...and I wouldn't at this point...put him in the rotation and ride him. The Saints rotation, by mid-season hopefully, will have a couple live arms joining them with big upside. But who does Thorpe block at this point? Nobody. Let him start!


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