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.