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  1. 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 output 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? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. The Minnesota Twins pitching staff was 24th in baseball when combining all arms, and the starters alone were a spot lower at 25th. There’s no denying that the group needs to be much better, and right now, the group is made up of three arms. There’s more depth behind them, and there’s a man in charge that once led a strong rotation. That’s where much of this focus should come. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober These two need to establish that they are solid major-league starters. They looked the part a year ago, and continuing that growth in 2022 is a must. Ryan made just a handful of starts but held his own, even looking dominant at times. Ober saw teams multiple times and was able to make adjustments. When looking at the farm last winter, both would have been unexpected contributors, and that’s the kind of breakouts any organization loves to have. Dylan Bundy Proving he’s not 2021 bad would be a great start. The former top prospect is not the 3.29 ERA he posted in 2020, but he’s also not the 6.06 ERA he had a season ago. For what Minnesota paid him, and where the Twins need him in the rotation, Bundy being a low 4.00 ERA guy is a must. The strikeouts need to move back up over one per inning and allowing two longballs per nine can’t continue to be a thing. There’s a solid pitcher here and maybe a very good one in terms of a mid-rotation arm. Find that. Wes Johnson Back to the overall numbers of this starting staff. Johnson coached his group last season to the fifth-worst finish in baseball. In 2020, the Twins staff was the third-best. In 2019, the rotation came in fourth. Johnson has shown an ability to work with pitchers and get the most out of them. Michael Pineda became arguably the best version of himself, Kenta Maeda took steps forward, and something was made out of nothing in a couple of situations. Johnson is seen as a velocity savant but can impact much more than that. Minnesota may have the least talented group they’ve had during his tenure when 2022 starts, but Wes getting more out of each of them remains a must. Randy Dobnak You don’t make it to the majors by mistake, and you certainly don’t start a Postseason game by luck. Dobnak’s 7.64 ERA last season was as much his ineffectiveness as it was Minnesota’s indecisiveness. Having worked entirely as a starter during 2020, Dobnak was used as one in less than half his appearances a year ago. The talk of velocity boosts and missed bats in Spring Training was never present, and I’d imagine his confidence was consistently shaken with no set role. Work him back as a starter, implore him to get the job done, and utilize him the same way that bore fruit previously. Stay tuned for the next installment, where the bullpen comes under fire. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. Cody Pirkl

    Reboundin' Randy

    The Twins offseason did not leave a great taste in the mouths of the fanbase before the CBA lockout commenced. The only addition to a rotation in need of at least three more reliable options was rebound-candidate Dylan Bundy with few high-end free agent options left. As a result, it sounds like the Twins could lean heavily on internal options. Much attention is rightfully drawn to the shiny prospects we haven’t seen yet, but people seem to be forgetting about Randy Dobnak. Dobnak’s popularity comes from more than his entertaining story and killer ‘stache. He was leaned on heavily down the stretch in 2019 en route to a surprising division title. He posted a 1.59 ERA in 28 1/3 innings as a whole and got off to a similar start in 2020. After a miserable 2021 where his ERA neared 8, however, why is Dobnak first in line for an opportunity? For starters, his 2021 needs to be taken with a grain of salt. His grip on the slider was reportedly changed before the season, and it just never really took. His expected batting average on the pitch rose from .204 to .356. Before he could attempt to make the necessary adjustments, he injured his right middle finger, a pivotal body part in executing a pitch. Baseball being a game of adjustments, it’s safe to assume Dobnak will spend this offseason trying to figure out what went wrong. He’ll surely continue to tweak his signature whiff pitch and could always pivot back to his previous grip on the slider if all else fails. Health is also a factor, as it’s easy to see how a new slider could end up finding inopportune parts of the strike zone more often when the finger used to guide it is in pain. The Twins shut Dobnak down rather than having him continue to fight through it, so the hope is that the extra time he was given has him fully healthy and ready to compete pain-free in 2022. Dobnak has also already earned the trust of the organization, and for good reason. He was thrust into a Game 2 playoff start in Yankee Stadium during his rookie season. Despite the results, paired with how much he helped the Twins rotation in 2019 and 2020 far outweighs his struggles during a 2021 season where it seemed like nobody lived up to expectation. The approximate $9m invested into the contract that will keep Dobnak in Minnesota through 2026 isn’t incredibly high, but the Twins surely won’t call that a sunk cost just yet. The fact of the matter is Dobnak is probably somewhere in between the sub 2.00 ERA pitcher we saw when he debuted and the one that posted a near 8.00 ERA in 2021. He won’t be the savior that shores up the front of the rotation, but profiling him behind Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan isn’t absurd. He’s a groundball artist who limits home runs and walks which is more than enough for a pitcher to settle into a solid career on a good baseball team. The pitching pipeline does grow ever closer to the Major Leagues with pitchers like Jhoan Duran and Josh Winder finally having reached AAA. It appears there will almost certainly be rotation spots to contend for during Spring Training, however, and Randy Dobnak would be my odds on favorite to get some run early in the year. It’s easy to forget after a miserable 2021, but if handed a rotation spot, there’s a chance Randy Dobnak simply doesn’t give it back. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  4. Bullpens have become the most overworked position in baseball in the last five years, and the Twins bullpen was a perfect example of overworked relievers in 2021. Of the 1,419 1/3 innings pitched from the Twins pitching staff in 2021, Twins relievers pitched approximately 617 2/3 innings pitched, or 43.5% of innings pitched. Relief pitchers making up around 40% of an MLB team's innings pitched is not uncommon in baseball today. However, it depends on who is in each team's bullpen which sets the postseason competitors, the tanking teams, and those in-between apart. The 2021 Twins bullpen falls into the in-between category, and how the front office decides to gear up the bullpen for 2022 post-lockout may be a deciding factor for how they sit in the AL Central for 2022. The Closer The Twins bullpen is far from being the worst in baseball. They have an all-star high-leverage reliever with Taylor Rogers. Rogers did miss the final two months of the season due to his finger injury in August, but he expects to be ready to go by the season's start (whenever that may be). Rogers was not the consistent closer for the Twins last season, as many remember the shuffling between him, Alex Colome, and Hansel Robles. Before his thumb injury, Rogers was beginning to see more save opportunities in games than he had earlier in the season, having three of them in his final six appearances. Suppose the Twins front office does not intend to check in on free-agent closers, such as Ian Kennedy or Richard Rodriguez, after the lockout then Rogers will likely get the nod to be the closer again in 2022. Reliable Veterans The Twins had two reliable veteran relievers in 2021 that will carry over into the same roles for 2022. Those pitchers are Tyler Duffey and Caleb Thielbar. Both Duffey and Thielbar posted solid numbers in 2021, even with some shaky outings at the start of the season. Duffey ended the season with a 3.18 ERA, .216 opponents batting average, and 8.8 K per 9. Going into his age-31 season, Duffey still looks to be one of the primary setup men for the Twins bullpen to start the 2022 season. Thielbar was the most reliable left-handed reliever for the Twins throughout the 2021 season and will likely maintain that role alongside Rogers for 2022. Thielbar's return to the big leagues full-time in 2020 was one of the best feel-good stories in a season that was really needed in the year that was. And thanks to his 3.23 ERA, 10.8 K per 9, and 1.17 WHIP from 2021.Thielbar will likely be the go-to lefty for the Twins bullpen in 2022 depending on Rogers’ role.. Bounceback Players If there's one Twins pitcher who would like to put 2021 behind him above all the rest, it would be Randy Dobnak. Dobnak's injuries throughout 2021 were already keeping him off the field. And when he was healthy, Dobnak was not the same pitcher Twins fans became accustomed to seeing from their homes in 2020. As the Twins rotation currently sits, Dobnak is more likely to see time as a starter than a reliever with only one rotation addition in Dylan Bundy. Still, Dobnak could see some time in the bullpen whether the Twins decided to add another starter or not. If he does, it's not only a matter of getting more appearances out of the bullpen when healthy but also proving his 2021 numbers were a temporary fork in the road. Dobnak is not the only pitcher in the Twins bullpen looking for a bounceback in 2022. One of the Twins' new additions, Jharel Cotton, fits into this category too. Cotton returned to the Majors for the first time since 2017, getting time with the Texas Rangers in 2021. Cotton had not pitched back-to-back seasons professionally since 2016-17 because he had Tommy John surgery in 2018 and missed all of 2020 with no minor league season. Cotton's return to MLB in 2021 was not too bad. Cotton posted a 3.52 ERA and 8.8 K/9 in 23 relief appearances with the Rangers. The big question is if he can repeat and improve upon his 2021 numbers in 2022? The Twins claimed him off waivers, believing that he can, and willing to provide him the opportunity. Young Faces Wanting to Prove Themselves Two younger relievers in the Twins bullpen are still wanting to prove themselves as big-league relievers. They are Jorge Alcala and Ralph Garza Jr. Alcala has accumulated just over two years of MLB service time . In that time, he has pitched in 77 games over parts of three seasons. 2021 was Alcala's first full season, and he was streaky. There were times when Alcala was an excellent option for the Twins, and there were others where he struggled. At season’s end, Alcala had 9.2 K/9, a .214 opponents batting average, and 0.97 WHIP. Alcala has the talent to improve in 2022 to become one of the more reliable Twins relievers. Garza Jr. was an unexpected contributor last season who showed moments when he could be a reliable option for the Twins as the 2021 season dwindled. He had nine relief appearances with the Astros before the Twins claimed him off waivers on August 4th. Garza totaled 18 relief appearances as a Twin, putting together a 3.26 ERA, a .186 opponents batting average, and a 1.03 WHIP. Garza Jr. hopes to have his first full season in the majors for 2022 and show that his brief time with the Twins so far won't just be a flash in the pan. Minor League Options Three notable players signed to minor league deals with the Twins are likely to be seen in their bullpen sometime in 2022. Those three players are Danny Coulombe, Jake Faria, and Trevor Megill. All three have an invitation to spring training with the hopes of making the Twins Opening Day roster. If Coulombe pitches in a game for them in 2022, it will be his third season in a row with appearances for the Twins. Coulombe had two relief appearances in 2020 and made 29 more in 2021. He posted a 3.67 ERA and 8.7 K/9 in 2021.. Hours before the lockout, the Twins signed Jake Faria. Faria missed the 2020 season and pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2021, making three starts and 20 relief appearances. In 2021, he had a 5.51 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, and 2.46 K/BB ratio. However, Faria is still a no-risk, high-rewarded signing for the Twins. Finally, there's Trevor Megill. Megill's time with the Twins started oddly as the Twins released him hours after claiming him off waivers from the Chicago Cubs. A few days later, on Megill's birthday, the Twins re-signed him to a minor-league deal. The burly right-hander made his MLB debut in 2021 and struggled in his 28 relief appearances. Megill is big and strong. He throws hard and has a good slider. The Twins will work with him, presumably, on his mechanics and possibly his pitch mix and hope he can make a breakthrough in 2022. How does the Twins Bullpen Stand as of today for 2022? Grading the Twins bullpen as it is right now, they are an average bullpen, and that is assuming health and that generally everyone in their bullpen will be at their peak performance in 2022. Realistically, they're more of a C- bullpen without any further additions after the lockout. As mentioned earlier and in other Twins Daily articles, Richard Rodriguez would be a fine addition to the Twins bullpen. Other names in the reliever free-agent market that might be worth pursuing include Brad Boxberger, Joe Smith, and Joe Kelly. Any reliever who has had postseason experience would be a great addition for the Twins, even if they don't compete in 2022. But having another reliever with that experience with a different to mentor Twins relievers who will be around after 2022 will pay off for the future. So if the season started today, how do you think the Twins bullpen as currently constructed?
  5. Randy Dobnak was thankful for beans, rice, Jesus Christ, and Byron Who? BYRON! Byron Buxton surprised us with the best early-Christmas gift No one thought the Twins could get it done. Byron Buxton will remain a Twin for a very long time with his 7-year extension. That means we’ll have some of this in our future: And definitely a little bit of this: Buxton’s athleticism is like a perfectly crafted Thanksgiving plate, with the perfect amount of turkey, stuffing, and a heaping side of taters. Josh Donaldson celebrated his 36th birthday The Bringer of Rain celebrated the big 3-6 presumably in style yesterday. The entire staff of Twins Daily celebrated his birthday by joining hands and watching one of his best moments from last season. Happy birthday Josh! Eduardo Escobar broke ground at Citi Field Despite moving on to his third team after the Twins, Eduardo Escobar remains one of the most beloved Twins of all time. We wish him nothing by the best as he moves on to the NL East. Fogo Power, baby! Miguel Sano Took No Days Off Thanksgiving, shmanksgiving. Sano said no to giving up on his quest to prepping for the year ahead. Lewis Thorpe took his horse to the Old Town Road Max Kepler Continues to Live the Good Life We have no idea where Max Kepler spends most of his days. Wherever he is, there will be no grainy photos with poor lighting for Max. Kepler continues to be, what the kids say, ~*a vibe*~ Don’t ask us what that means. Which other players would you like to hear from in the offseason? Comment below!
  6. Earlier this week, Dan Hayes of The Athletic penned a piece sizing up the monumental challenge ahead of the Twins as they seek to fill the top three spots in their rotation from the outside. The end of the piece includes this quote from the Twins GM, which really caught my attention: “I think with the challenge comes opportunity,” Levine said. “We’re going to be as creative as we can be in terms of not being necessarily hemmed into the notion of it has to look exactly the way it has always looked. We may end up looking at this from the lens of how many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff and how far does that take us?” While Levine's allusion is not overly specific, one could take it to mean the Twins are envisioning a staff filled with "hybrid" pitchers – not quite starters, but not traditional one-inning relievers either – stringing together nine-inning games, without the expectation of one guy throwing six or seven. This is, in some respects, the direction baseball is trending, and it's been very noticeable in recent postseasons. For a team in Minnesota's position, embracing this revolution fully would make a lot of sense. Here are some reasons why: Free agent starting pitchers are expensive and hazardous. Mid-market teams like the Twins rarely play at the highest level because it's tough to be outbid resource-intensive (not to mention more appealing) heavy hitters, and because getting it wrong on a guy you commit $100+ million to can really set you back. As Hayes notes in his article, the Twins face an especially tough challenge because the two "sure things" in their rotation, Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, are young and inexperienced starters who threw about 100 innings apiece this season. They'll surely have workload limits in place next year, and the model we're discussing would help accommodate that, while reducing a need to compensate by going out and finding proven durable workhorses on the open market (far and few between, highly expensive). Theoretically this could be a way to maximize effectiveness for a multitude of pitchers. We've seen many failing starters reinvent themselves as outstanding relievers, and this would be a pivot in the same vein. Guys can let loose more in shorter stints, rely on a two- or three-pitch mix, and avoid going through the lineup multiple times. In the not-too-distant past, it would've been difficult if not impossible to facilitate a system like this, but the expansion of rosters and the ability to continually carry 13-14 pitchers makes it feasible. You might ask, what types of pitchers would fit under an approach like this? There are a few names on the free agent market that catch my eye, but first, let's discuss some internal candidates to thrive under such an arrangement. Randy Dobnak: He's not really built up to a starter's full workload after throwing 46 and 70 innings in the last two seasons. As a multi-inning reliever or "extended opener" type starter, he'd be able to stretch out without pushing too hard. Griffin Jax: I wrote a while ago about why I like Jax as a candidate to level-up in a relief role: he's got one really good pitch (his slider), and he held opponents to a .597 OPS the first time through the lineup this year. Limiting him to two- or three-inning stints could help unlock his peak form. Lewis Thorpe: I'm not sure if the Twins will continue to try and see things through with Thorpe, and it wouldn't surprise me if he's dumped from the 40-man roster in the near future. That said, if they are committed to giving him one more shot to get healthy and show his stuff, this seems like the way to do it. Full-time starter is out the window at this point. Upcoming Prospects: The Twins have a wealth of near-ready prospects in the minors, but most of them have been plagued by injury issues and nearly all will need to be carefully managed and monitored. This approach helps here, just as it does with managing young MLB starters like Ober and Ryan. Of course, the Twins can't do it all with what they have on hand. They'll need to bring in some talent. The downside of this model is that established MLB starters are probably not going to want to sign on for such unconventional and reduced usage. The upside is that you can possibly make savvy and cost-effective moves, signing down-and-out guys and turning them around. To be clear, the kinds of pitchers who would likely to be signed to support this framework are NOT going to excite anyone. As you look at some of the names I'll throw out below, it's important to think of them not as they are, but as what they could be. Surely no one in Seattle was excited when they signed downtrodden starter Kendall Graveman for $1.25M last year, but now he's suddenly a hot commodity after posting a 1.77 ERA as a reliever. Here are a few pitchers from the current free agent class who strike me as fits in the hybrid mold: Garrett Richards: Struggled as a starter for Boston this year, but moved to the bullpen in mid-August and posted a 3.42 ERA with one homer allowed in 18 appearances the rest of the way. He threw two or more innings in five of those appearances. Jordan Lyles: Been terrible the past two years while mostly pitching out of the rotation. But he's still only 31 and had some success as a multi-inning RP/swing-man type as recently as 2018. Vince Velasquez: I don't have a specific reason for identifying Velasquez in this mix other than he's always had good stuff that has never really played as a starter. Why not try something else? He'll be extremely cheap despite a career 9.9 K/9 rate. Trevor Cahill: Sort of the same deal here as above. Cahill has a good repertoire but has struggled to sustainably harness it. He has plenty of experience as both starter and reliever, so the shift to a role like this could be relatively natural for him. Josh Tomlin: There's nothing very interesting or exciting about Tomlin; I just think he'd be a likely target if the Twins were to take an approach like this. He's an experienced veteran who spent the past three years in Atlanta pitching in such a capacity – frequent multi-inning relief appearances with the occasional start mixed in – and he has Derek Falvey ties from his days in Cleveland. I'm sure much of the response to names like these, or even to an overall experimental approach like the one being proposed, will be some variation of "Cheap Pohlads." But I'd submit that the cost efficiencies of this approach enable the team to invest heavily elsewhere – say, a star shortstop, or a high-end closer, or putting all of their chips on one workhorse type starter while using the shorter-duration usage patterns otherwise. Will the Twins actually lean into a radically innovative pitching staff model like this? I don't know. Would I personally advise it? I'm not sure. But you don't have to read between the lines much to see they're considering something along these lines, and you don't have to squint too hard to see the logic and potential value in it. "How many multi-inning guys can we add to a staff and how far does that take us?” Maybe we're about to find out. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. Taylor Rogers watched Tyler Rogers Pitch for the First Time Despite a heartbreaking Game 5 loss to the Dodgers, the silver lining was that Taylor finally got to watch Tyler pitch in person for the first time. There’s nothing quite as heartwarming as one brother trolling another. Taylor also had fun playing the Parent Trap on Giants fans by pretending to be Tyler in the stands during Game 1. We knew that we had a talented lefty on our hands, but who knew that Taylor was also a comedian by night. Eddie Rosario was a Postseason Darling There is no question about it: Eddie Rosario has been the star of the NLCS. He’s currently batting .400 in the postseason with a .864 OPS. This is a different Rosario than even the one we saw in the postseason with the Twins. Minnesota’s beloved Eddie has, as they say, “leveled up”. There may be something else to it though. Baseball players, such as Rosario, are just like us. Minnesota may not have a horse in this NLCS race, but this entire state is behind Eddie on his World Series quest. Max Kepler sat on some logs ….and ate some candy Randy Dobnak had some questions Matt Wallner, Zach Featherstone, Michael Helman, Andrew Bechtold, Evan Sisk, Cody Laweryson, and Kody Funderburk, all played for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League The 2021 Arizona Fall League opened last week. Although the Scottsdale Scorpions have started slowly, each prospect has been exciting to watch. We’ve got you on all of the coverage and recaps from the first week that you need on the AFL season.
  8. Yesterday, I looked at some of the arms from the bullpen that could survive an impending roster shakeup and, knowing there will be turnover, guys that the front office should want to keep. When looking more at the rotation, a handful of arms were expected to elevate the club in 2021 that suffered injuries or setbacks and now have a murkier future. When considering both the 26-man and 40-man rosters, where do these guys fit? Randy Dobnak Signed to an extension this offseason, Dobnak watched 2021 go about as poorly as it possibly could. He owned a 7.64 ERA and was optioned back to Triple-A at one point. Getting in just over 50 innings due to a finger injury was nothing short of a disaster. Under team control through 2025, his deal was more about being earned as a self-made big-leaguer rather than necessary to lock down a future cornerstone. Still, if he returns with a clean bill of health, his status as a 5th or 6th starter with swingman abilities should remain intact. Lewis Thorpe Arguably the most disappointing arm from 2021, considering what the expectations may have been, was Thorpe. His velocity was reported to have ticked up all spring, but that never carried over to games that count. He pitched just 15 innings at the big league level and showed no ability to strike batters out. After being a former high-ceiling prospect, he appears to have been deterred by Tommy John, time missed, and his own personal setbacks. With just shy of 60 innings since debuting in 2019, I’d be far from shocked if Thorpe isn’t jettisoned from the 40-man this offseason. Devin Smeltzer The last injury update on Smeltzer came back in July. He was transferred to the 60-day Injured List with left elbow inflammation. Pitching in just one game for the Twins this season, his year was over before it ever got started. Minnesota has been quiet as to what is next for Smeltzer, but elbow injuries are always scary. He’s certainly not an option for the Opening Day rotation in 2022, and at best, would be rotational depth. Smeltzer gave the 2019 Bomba Squad some really good innings but has largely been an afterthought since. Cody Stashak Each of the past two seasons, Stashak had been one of the Twins more dominant relievers. Although utilized in scarce innings, he racked up strikeouts and limited walks. That wasn’t so much the case in 2021. While the strikeouts saw a nice jump, he allowed ten free passes in 15 2/3 innings. Hitting the Injured List with a back issue, Stashak was transferred to the 60-day IL at the end of June. Ideally, he’d be a factor for Minnesota’s revamped bullpen next season. He’ll be just 28-years-old and has looked the part of a quality arm when healthy. Griffin Jax The first of two fringe arms discussed here, Jax wasn’t injured and has gotten run for Minnesota in the season's second half. He earned a promotion with a 3.76 ERA at Triple-A St. Paul this year. In 72 innings for the Twins, he owns a 6.75 ERA but has a near-identical strikeout and walk rate compared to his minor league numbers. Jax’s bugaboo has been the longball, and 21 of them burn him far too often. However, there have been instances where he looks like the stuff can play, so keeping him on the 40-man as rotational depth makes a good deal of sense. Charlie Barnes Another one of St. Paul’s strong starting arms this year, Barnes earned his call with a 3.88 ERA across 15 turns in the Triple-A rotation. Results haven’t followed at the big league level to the tune of a 6.61 ERA in 31 1/3 innings. He’s struggling by being too hittable with a H/9 north of 10, and his strikeout rate has fallen from 7.3 at Triple-A to 4.3 in the big leagues. Being able to miss bats is a must at the highest level, and the crafty lefty will need to go back to the drawing board this offseason. The former 4th round pick will be 26 next year and should remain in the organization as rotational depth. John Gant Netting Gant for what J.A. Happ was to the Twins remains a coup. I don’t know that I have a preference for where the former Cardinals arm finds his future in Minnesota, but under team control for another year, he’ll be on the roster. His 4.73 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, but the 3.46 FIP suggests there’s more to be had here. Gant is striking out 10.8 per nine with the Twins and has worked in a starting and bullpen role. He’ll be cheap and just 29-years-old, there’s no reason Minnesota shouldn’t keep him around for a second year. The Twins won’t be able to go into 2022, thinking their depth can produce as this year's case. It should be expected to help bolster what the frontline guys are capable of, but between injuries and ineffectiveness, there’s so much volatility once you get beyond that top tier. A learning year for the front office and the manager, working out who fits where in the year ahead is a must. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  9. Baseball is a challenging game, and even the all-time greats can have a down season. Players fight through injuries, work on swing adjustments, and fight against extensive data compiled on their every weakness. This is a tough environment for any player to find success. Here are three Twins players that underperformed in 2021 that should return to form next season. Randy Dobnak, SP Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Dobnak after signing his extension last spring. Beginning the season as a reliever and multiple IL stints meant his season could never get off the ground. There were brief glimpses of the old Dobnak this season, but he ended up being worth -1.3 WAR. Only J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker posted a lower WAR total for the team this season. Dobnak is also under contract through 2025. In next year's starting rotation, Minnesota will have plenty of opportunities, and Dobnak is better than his numbers from 2021. Alex Colome, RP Like Dobnak, not much went right for Colome at the start of the year. His disastrous April helped put the Twins in a hole that made it nearly impossible to dig out. He has already shown improved performance in the second half with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. He's held batters to a .214/.277/.359 slash line in his last 27 games. One of Minnesota's biggest questions this winter will be whether or not to pick up Colome's mutual option. With Taylor Rogers injured, could that make the team want to keep Colome around? Ryan Jeffers, C Minnesota started the year with what looked like one of baseball's best catching duos. Both Ryan Jeffers and Mitch Garver struggled offensively before Jeffers was eventually demoted. Keep in mind that Jeffers had never played at Triple-A in his professional career. In 24 games, he got on base over 34% of the time and posted a .786 OPS. Defensively, he has still provided value as he has been worth four defensive runs saved and ranks in the 72nd percentile for framing. Jeffers doesn't turn 25 until next June, and he is still the future of catching for the Twins. Which Twins player do you feel is the most likely to bounce back in 2022? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  10. Randy Dobnak had to be feeling pretty good about himself entering spring training this year. The Twins had given him some financial certainty by signing him to a five-year extension worth a guaranteed $9.25 million and a chance to earn close to $30 million if the team picks up his three option years. His spring performance also stood out as he unveiled a new pitch. Minnesota’s front office worked with Dobnak in the spring to adjust his slider. By moving his hand position, he can get more break on his pitch to allow it to dip out of the zone. The results were tremendous as he posted a 0.57 ERA and a 0.38 WHIP while striking out 19 batters in 15 2/3 innings. Dobnak seemed poised for a breakout season. The Twins had signed two veteran pitchers, JA Happ and Matt Shoemaker, to fill out the rotation, and this meant Dobnak moved to the bullpen for Opening Day. Unfortunately, this is where his trouble began. He made eight appearances as a reliever and posted a 10.47 ERA and 1.71 WHIP with 13 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings. It was pretty that Dobnak wasn’t a reliever, and by early May, he was headed to St. Paul to be stretched out as a starter. Dobnak returned to the big leagues a couple of weeks later and had his most impressive start of the year. Over six shutout innings, he scattered three hits and struck out five Cleveland batters. In his next five appearances (23 1/3 innings), he allowed 25 earned runs, including seven home runs with a 9 to 7 strikeout to walk ratio. He pitched with a fake fingernail against the Yankees, and they tagged him for eight earned runs. Dobnak tried to pitch through a finger injury by the middle of June, but he ended up on the IL. At the time, it was listed as a right middle finger strain. In early July, there were reports of a setback in his rehab as he felt discomfort while attempting to throw. He slowly ramped it back up and made a couple of rehab starts before returning to the Twins in September. Remember that new and improved slider from spring training? Opponents have posted a .333 BA and a .815 SLG when facing that pitch. He has thrown the pitch over a third of the time, posting a healthy 37.3 Whiff%. However, he has given up 11 extra-base hits, including seven home runs in 54 at-bats using his slider. The magic he showed this spring just hasn’t materialized with the pitch. Dobnak has been a feel-good story over the last two years with the Twins. He took an unconventional route to the big leagues, and the Twins rewarded his performance with a long-term contract. Minnesota needs as much rotation help as possible for 2022, so the Twins can hope Dobnak helps the cause next season. For now, Dobnak can hope his last few starts show a glimmer of hope. That way, he can end his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad season on a high note. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  11. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/30 thru Sun, 9/5 *** Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 59-77) Run Differential Last Week: -12 (Overall: -111) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (20.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 131 | MIN 3, DET 2: Twins Take Makeup Game Behind Ober Game 132 | CHC 3, MIN 1: Offense Comes Up Short in Key Spots Game 133 | CHC 3, MIN 0: Ryan Bitten by 3-R HR, Lack of Run Support in Debut Game 134 | TB 5, MIN 3: Dobnak Digs Deep Early Hole in Return to Rotation Game 135 | TB 11, MIN 4: Rays Annihilate Albers, Blow Out Twins Game 136 | MIN 6, TB 5: Offense Snaps Slump with 13 Hits NEWS & NOTES When rosters expanded on September 1st, the Twins called up two starters from the minors – one a new face in pitching prospect Joe Ryan, who came over in the Nelson Cruz deal, and one a familiar face in Randy Dobnak, who had wrapped up a rehab stint in St. Paul. Both pitchers joined the rotation right away, and you can read about their performances below. To make room on the 40-man roster for the new additions, Edgar García was outrighted and Kenta Maeda – who underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday – was moved to the 60-day IL. In a bit of an odd and surprising trade, the Twins dealt minor-league reliever Andrew Vasquez to the Dodgers for minor-league catcher Stevie Berman. Vasquez was called up immediately by Los Angeles, and appeared in Friday's game against the Giants. We've seen Vasquez in brief stints for the Twins before, in 2019 and 2018, and they did not go well. He is what he is – a lefty specialist who has been incredibly effective in that capacity in the minors but also struggles to throw strikes. People around here weren't exactly clamoring for him to promoted, and I'll admit he hasn't been on my radar lately. Still, for a team like the Twins that is desperate for any kind of pitching help – now and going forward – to never even take a look at a pitcher who was deemed immediately valuable by the reigning champs, vying for a ninth straight division title? I dunno. Strikes me as weird. In other news, Trevor Larnach was placed on the IL at Triple-A with a hand contusion, and it sounds like Michael Pineda's return is imminent. The big righty's oblique has healed quickly and he's set to rejoin the Twins rotation this week without a rehab assignment. On Sunday, Luke Farrell was activated from IL, supplanting Andrew Albers, who was utterly clobbered by Tampa on Saturday night. Derek Law was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man. HIGHLIGHTS With Maeda out of the picture, can the Twins realistically build a rotation capable of contending in 2022? I made the case for it here a few days ago, while acknowledging that such an outcome would require multiple savvy offseason moves from the front office, and for things to break right with a few returning arms that are – at best – uncertainties right now. The past week brought much-needed encouraging signs for a few of those arms. Things opened up with yet another excellent outing from Bailey Ober, who delivered six innings of two-run ball in a makeup game at Detroit on Monday. The right-hander struck out five and walked none while allowing five hits in his second big-league win. One thing that I think gets lost in Ober's performance – due to the Twins carefully managing his pitch counts and workload – is that he's showing the potential to provide length once the team loosens up his restrictions a bit. In five August starts, Ober completed at least five innings each time, and got through six twice, despite never throwing more than 82 pitches. If he can continue to pitch this way in 2022, Ober looks like a guy who could give you six or seven innings on a pretty regular basis. We haven't had quite as much time to get a read on Ryan, who made his major-league debut against the Cubs on Wednesday night, but our first glimpse was a promising one. After spending a few months carving Triple-A hitters to shreds, Ryan took his game to Target Field and delivered a pretty good approximation, striking out five over five frames with 14 swinging strikes on 60 pitches (23%). He allowed only three hits and one walk, but his otherwise strong outing was marred by a three-run homer. (Ober can relate on this one.) As for Dobnak ... I don't think a start where the pitcher gives up five earned runs could be described as "good," but there was certainly some optimism to be drawn from his outing on Friday. All of the damage came early against Dobnak, who was likely shaking off some rust after a two-month absence from the rotation. He gave up three straight hits – including back-to-back RBI singles – to open the third, and then settled in to retire 15 straight batters. The last seven all came on groundouts and in total, Dobnak induced 17 grounders over his seven innings of work. He became the first Minnesota starter to complete seven innings since José Berríos in his last Twins start, all the way back on July 24th. Even some of the peripheral arms on the staff had solid showings. John Gant looked about as good as we've seen him in his start against the Cubs on Tuesday, tossing five innings of two-run ball with five strikeouts and no walks. He was spinning the ball around the lower regions of the zone and inducing some fairly ugly swings. Like Griffin Jax, there's evidence Gant could be a useful swingman or long reliever on the 2022 staff. Also deserving of note is Ralph Garza Jr., who tossed three scoreless and hitless innings. The 27-year-old has fared out much better as a Twin than García, claimed off waivers around the same time. Garza Jr. now has a 1.46 ERA with just six hits allowed in 12 ⅓ innings since being acquired. LOWLIGHTS While the pitching staff (sans Albers) held its own, the offense provided little support. Since scoring nine runs in consecutive games in Boston a couple weeks ago, the bats have gone into hibernation, batting just .214 with 29 runs scored in their past 10 games. Conspicuously, the slump in production coincides closely with Byron Buxton's return, which has thus far had the opposite of its intended impact. The center fielder has been playing daily since being activated from IL, but can't find much rhythm at the plate. Last week he went 4-for-21, and overall he's 4-for-35 (.114) with 10 strikeouts and two walks since coming back. I don't think Buxton's struggles are super concerning – ample rust is to be expected following his prolonged absence, and he's not striking out an inordinate amount or anything – but they're definitely threatening the narrative of a breakout season. Is Buxton truly a bona fide MVP-caliber hitter, like we saw back an April and in frequent bursts over the past few years, or is he more of a great but streaky offensive player? The final month should offer a bit more clarity, and could heavily impact the dynamics of any offseason extension talks as Buxton heads into his walk year. Hopefully Sunday's two-hit game is a sign that the 27-year-old is ready to get rolling again. Other players contributing to the lineup's run-scoring scarcity: Luis Arraez is finding the hits uncharacteristically difficult to come by of late. In six games (five starts) last week, Arraez went just 5-for-22, and in fact he's got only five hits in his past 10 games. I'm not sure this qualifies as anything more than regression to the mean for a player who'd previously been hitting nearly .400 since the All-Star break, but it does go to show how much the offense relies on his contributions to spark rallies. Miguel Sanó probably fell into some regression of his own. After posting a 1.005 OPS in his previous 10 games, Sanó went just 2-for-16 with nine strikeouts and two walks. Coming into the week, the first baseman had struck out 3+ times in a game just once in the previous month (a notable feat for him) but he did so twice last week. Sanó got a day off on Sunday; we'll see if this is a mere hiccup or the start of another mega-slump. Meanwhile, Andrelton Simmons' season has basically been one long mega-slump. While continuing to draw almost everyday starts due to a lack of compelling alternatives, Simmons was customarily awful at the plate, going 2-for-12 with zero extra-base hits, zero RBIs, and zero runs scored. He now sports a .216 slugging percentage and .468 OPS since the All-Star break. Simmons' consistently meager contact produces almost no chance for successful results, and the 32-year-old (as of Saturday) really does look cooked as a big-league hitter. Alas, the Twins appear committed to running out the string. TRENDING STORYLINE All eyes are on the rotation right now. It'd be nice to see the offense pick up its pace again, but there are no deep concerns about the state of the lineup going forward. Meanwhile, everyone currently slotted into the rotation – Ober, Dobnak, Jax, Ryan, and even the returning Pineda – is making their case for a role on the 2022 staff. Presently I'd say Ober is the only one who could safely be viewed as having a spot carved out, but matters could change over the final four weeks. No storyline looms larger, in my eyes. LOOKING AHEAD A full week of match-ups against fellow AL Central also-rans lies ahead, with the Twins set to play four games in Cleveland followed by three against the Royals at Target Field. Minnesota is amidst a run of 13 straight days of games with no break. Who will start on Friday against the Royals, with Albers now out of the equation? That is the question. Charlie Barnes would seem to be the most likely option at present, if not a bullpen game. The Twins will be operating for a short while without their manager, as Rocco Baldelli departed the team on Sunday for the birth of his first child. (Congrats Rocco and Allie!!) Bill Evers, who announced he'll be retiring at season's end, will take over as interim skipper. MONDAY, 9/6: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP Bailey Ober v. LHP Sam Hentges TUESDAY, 9/7: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP John Gant v. RHP Triston McKenzie WEDNESDAY, 9/8: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP Joe Ryan v. RHP Cal Quantrill THURSDAY, 9/9: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP Randy Dobnak v. RHP Eli Morgan FRIDAY, 9/10: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Daniel Lynch v. TBD SATURDAY, 9/11: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Brady Singer v. RHP Griffin Jax SUNDAY, 9/12: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Jackson Kowar v. RHP Bailey Ober MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  12. Box Score SP: Randy Dobnak: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (88 pitches, 53 strikes (60.2%)) Home Runs: Jorge Polanco (25), Ryan Jeffers (12) Bottom 3 WPA: Randy Dobnak (-0.287), Josh Donaldson (-0.084), Byron Buxton (-0.067) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Hip... Hip... Jorge Polanco gave the Twins a 1-0 lead in the first inning with his 25th home run of the season. Polanco cut the Twins deficit to just two runs (5-3) with a two-out bloop double that scored Luis Arraez in the 8th inning. In between, Ryan Jeffers launched his 12th homer with the Twins this season. The Fu Manchu Returns For the first time since June 19th, Randy Dobnak took the mound for the Twins. While it may be impossible to make a start in which one gives up five runs a good start, Dobnak did figure things out and provided the Twins with seven innings. Yes, he gave up five runs before recording the first out of the third inning. However, he retired the next 15 batters he faced. He got weak contact. He induced ground balls. He recorded 17 of his 21 outs on ground balls. He worked efficiently, and gave the bullpen a second straight day off... well, except for the eight-pitch outing from Ralph Garza. It's hard not to wonder if things might have been different that Miguel Sano simply recorded the out at first bases on the Randy Arozarena broken-bat grounder to first. Obviously it's impossible to know, but Arozarena wouldn't have scored on Kevin Keirmeier's double that followed. Maybe that means one less run. Maybe two? Who knows, but the tone of the game sure changed at that point. Here are some of Dobnak's postgame thoughts: Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Colomé 23 0 0 0 0 23 Thielbar 0 26 0 0 0 26 Minaya 0 24 11 0 0 35 Alcalá 25 0 0 0 0 25 Gibaut 0 0 24 0 0 24 Garza Jr. 0 17 0 0 8 25 Duffey 0 16 0 0 0 16 Coulombe 0 0 10 0 0 10
  13. Below I will outline a plausible path to a good Twins rotation in 2022. Not an elite rotation – that's probably a bridge too far at this point – but a good one with five solid-or-better starters, capable of competing for a postseason spot and maybe more. There is inherently some optimistic thinking involved here, but I don't think any of these scenarios are out of question. 1. Bailey Ober proves to be the real deal Among starting pitchers currently controlled by the Twins, Ober is the only stable fixture looking ahead to 2022. But he's establishing himself as a pretty viable building block. How did the big right-hander go from relative unknown to indispensable rotation cornerstone in one year's time? By adding 3-4 MPH to his fastball and shedding his label as a "soft-tosser." A few extra ticks of velocity have made a world of difference for the rookie, who is now sneaking heaters past MLB hitters and playing up his lesser offspeed stuff. Toss in excellent command, and you've got a good recipe for success. As we've seen. Ober's overall numbers with the Twins this year are good – 3.98 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 77-to-17 K/BB ratio in 74 ⅔ innings – but even better when you break them down to parse out his progression. His K/BB ratio in the latter sample is legitimately elite (only two qualified MLB starters are averaging more than six strikeouts per walk, and they are Cy Young candidates Corbin Burnes and Gerrit Cole). When you're missing bats, limiting walks, and keeping the hits in check, you're in line for good outcomes. Ober has shown the ability to do all these things, and he's only getting better at each of them. Home runs will be something to monitor, and could sidetrack him if they re-emerge as a weakness, but at this point there's no reason to think a healthy Ober won't be at least a quality #3 or 4 starter in 2022. 2. Twins sign a #2/3 starter in free agency No, they're not going to sign Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer. Probably not Noah Syndergaard either. Even someone like Marcus Stroman or Justin Verlander may be a tad too ambitious. But with ample flexibility (should they choose to keep payroll steady or raise it slightly), there are several names in the next tier that should be within range, and it's not that hard to see one of them settling in as a mid-rotation caliber starter or better. Names in this category include Corey Kluber, Charlie Morton, Alex Cobb, Andrew Heaney, and others. 3. Acquire a #2/3 starter via trade Last year, the Twins acquired Maeda and watched him blossom into a Cy Young caliber performer. This year, their division rivals have done the same with Lance Lynn. We don't need to set our sights that high, though it'd be nice. Jameson Taillon is a less idealistic example. He wasn't a star for Pittsburgh, and the Yankees didn't have to part with top-tier prospect talent to acquire him. But he has served as a very solid mid-rotation arm for New York, at a low price and with multiple years of control remaining. The Twins didn't trade away any of their system's depth last winter, and have only added to it this year by selling at the deadline. Additionally, they have a few semi-redundant pieces at the major-league level that could have value to other clubs (Max Kepler, Mitch Garver ... Luis Arraez?) The front office will have assets to deal for pitching if they are so inclined. 4. Re-sign Michael Pineda The door definitely seems wide open for a reunion, as each side has openly expressed affinity for the other, and with Pineda's challenges this year, he should be pretty affordable – maybe $4-5 million. Given those challenges, I'm sure most Twins fans aren't enthused about the idea of bringing back Pineda. But let's look at the big picture here: the 32-year-old has posted a 3.98 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 during his time with the Twins. That includes his recent struggles, which can likely be attributed somewhat to health. In his first 36 starts with Minnesota, the team went 24-12. His circumstances, and a theoretical desire to return here, could enable the Twins to score Pineda at the cost of a back-end starter, while hoping an offseason of rest and strengthening returns him to his previous state or close to it. 5. Get Randy Dobnak back on track As with Pineda, it's easy to get caught up in Dobnak's recent struggles while losing sight of his previous success. In fact, it's a lot easier, because Dobnak does not have nearly the track record of Pineda. But through the first 14 outings of his MLB career, the Dobber was simply phenomenal, posting a 1.69 ERA with four home runs allowed over 58 ⅔ innings. This after a tremendous minor-league career that saw him perform well at every level. Dobnak's effectiveness was no accident – the bottom simply fell out on his pitches, making them excruciatingly difficult to lift, and he consistently threw them in the zone. Things went south late in the 2020 season, but Dobnak rebounded with a dominant spring that compelled the Twins to invest with a modest long-term contract. And then the bottom fell out on Dobnak. We all know this season has been a complete and total disaster for the right-hander, but it's unclear to what it extent that owes to injury issues. When you're a slider-reliant sinkerballer who goes from allowing four homers in your first two seasons to allowing 11 in your third, before going on IL for multiple months with a strain in the middle finger that is so crucial in creating that sink ... Well, it points to a natural explanation. There's no guarantee that time off will correct this issue, but we'll at least start to get an idea when Dobnak returns to the rotation on Friday. Regardless of how things go for the rest of this season, he'll most likely get a crack at the 2022 rotation given that he's under guaranteed contract. If he gets back on track and is anywhere close to the version we saw early on in his big-league career, well that's a hell of a good fifth starter. 6. The minors provide depth and jolts Above, we've accounted for all five season-opening rotation spots. And we haven't yet tapped into the impressive minor-league pipeline this front office has built up. Between Joe Ryan, Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Matt Canterino and Josh Winder, you have a bevy of high-upside arms that are all verging on MLB-ready, if not already there. Granted, it's tough to depend on any of these prospects short-term, given that none have yet appeared in the majors (save Ryan, who debuted impressively on Wednesday) and the group is riddled with significant injury concerns. But that's why I'm not penciling them into any of the top five spots. We can account for those otherwise and keep these exciting arms in reserve, while knowing that just about any one of them has the potential to be a game-changing force for the Twins pitching staff if things break right. Look, I get that it's hard to envision multiple positive scenarios playing out in this fashion, especially with the way faith has been understandably eroded in the this front office over the past year. But one thing I find myself frequently reminding others – and myself – is that things change fast in this game. In 2016 and 2018, nobody was foreseeing good things on the near horizon. The Twins made some mistakes last offseason, but have also been the victims of absolutely horrible luck. This front office and coaching staff have proven their mettle in the past. If they can learn from those mistakes and the pendulum of fortune swings in the other direction, it's not all that difficult to envision a pitching staff capable of supporting what could be a very strong offense to push Minnesota back into contender status. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  14. I have been a big proponent of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine looking at the year ahead as an opportunity to right the ship that sunk in 2021. Unfortunately, the Maeda injury is the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Replacing the entirety of a rotation, needing to overhaul the bullpen, and still being uncertain of what to do with Byron Buxton, this club has its hands full. It will be a busy winter but if we want the team to tackle one thing first, then starting on the bump is an excellent place to begin. Here is how I’m currently handicapping the odds for Rocco Baldelli’s starter on Opening Day this coming season. Bailey Ober 10% Ober has made 16 starts for the Twins in what has been a lost season, but he’s fully entrenched himself as a legitimate big-league arm. The sub-4.00 ERA includes a couple of rough turns, and he’s competed to the tune of a 9.3 K/9 while owning just a 2.0 BB/9 rate. The home run has been his bugaboo, and that can be something of a focus as he continues to learn the competition. I like Ober a lot. He’s got a shot to be a top-3 arm in Minnesota’s future rotation, but I don’t think this club wants to run him out as the ace after just getting his feet wet. Joe Ryan 5% He’s here, and he’s beautiful! That’s how this works, right? Ryan was acquired from the Rays in exchange for Nelson Cruz. I’m still baffled about how Minnesota pulled that off, but either way, the Olympic hurler has been great since joining the organization. His big-league debut went fine, with not much to be drawn from a lackluster Cubs lineup. It remains to be seen how the fastball will play at the highest level, lacking velocity, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t be a productive member of a good rotation. Unfortunately, Ryan is someone you likely want on the back half of the unit in 2022. The Prospects 2% It would’ve been great to see someone emerge from this group in a year that didn't feature much big league positivity. Ober was an outsider who made it, but Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Matt Canterino, Blayne Enlow, and Josh Winder all spent time on the shelf. Only two of them took turns at Triple-A, and all of them remain distant from any immediate plans. You can make a case that each has seen their prospect status take a hit, and while there’s plenty of reason to believe an impact arm or two will emerge here, none of them are going to be in the equation when the season kicks off. The Suspects 3% The additional one percent afforded to this group comes from the fact that they’ve already made it. Hello to Randy Dobnak, Griffin Jax, Charlie Barnes, and Lewis Thorpe. This foursome has taken turns for the Twins this year, but none of them have faired particularly well, and none of them should be considered beyond starting depth. Dobnak’s future is the clearest given his contract situation. There’s a real possibility the Australian (Thorpe) may be out of the organization in a couple of months, and while both Barnes and Jax have gotten their feet wet, it’s not fair to expect a substantial leap for either. This group isn’t producing your first starter of the season. The Field 80% Take your pick as to who the Twins will sign; they’re going to need at least three starters not presently with the club. Michael Pineda is a good bet to return, but if that’s your Opening Day starter, then you can imagine how the season will go. I’m less inclined to believe a long-term deal with Marcus Stroman or Noah Syndergaard makes sense when it could be a rebuilding year. Maybe an older veteran on a one-year deal happens depending on where the price tag lands. This winter, how Minnesota spends will hinge heavily on what happens with Buxton and the expectations for the returning core. Either way, I’d bet a reasonable sum that the man Baldelli gives the ball to on Opening Day is not currently in the organization. If you’re the manager, who is it that you’re going to? Put on your GM hat and share which arm you think gets plucked and tasked with kicking off 2022. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  15. TRANSACTIONS RHP Hector Lujan was activated from the Wichita IL. 1B Gabe Snyder assigned to Wichita Wind Surge from Cedar Rapids Kernels SAINTS SENTINEL Toledo 9, St. Paul 8 (11 innings) Box Score Despite a solid rehab outing from Randy Dobnak and a total team performance from the St. Paul offense, the Saints dropped a tightly contested game in the Buckeye State on Thursday night. After giving up an early run in the third inning the Saints pounced back with a three runs in the fourth frame. Gilberto Celestino punched a double to right that scored Mark Contreras to put St. Paul on the board. Sherman Johnson followed suit with a single that scored Celestino from second. The most impressive hit of the inning and arguably the game came when Dreg Maggi crushed a triple to centerfield that scored Johnson all the way from first to put the Saints up 3-1. St. Paul punched two more runs in the fifth inning when Jimmy Kerrigan smacked a two-out single to score Jose Miranda and Trevor Larnach. Larnach tallied an RBI single of his own in the sixth inning that drove in JT Riddle. On his rehab journey back to the Twins, Randy Dobnak was solid on the bump against the Mud Hens. Dobnak pitched 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball while giving up five hits, four walks, and striking out two. The start marked Dobnak's second rehab start. The fan-favorite struck out five batters over three perfect frames at Low-A Fort Myers this past weekend. It's only a matter of time before he is back with the parent club! After Dobnak left the game, Ian Hamilton gave up three runs in 2/3 of an inning. Yet when it looked like Toledo would mount a comeback, Ryan Mason stepped in and shut down the Mud Hens, tossing 1 2/3 innings of one-hit scoreless baseball. Chandler Shepherd followed that with a perfect inning on the mound to put the Saints in a position to hold a 6-4 lead in the ninth. That didn't happen, as Toledo plated two runs in the inning to tie the game despite a valiant effort from reliver Nick Vincent. The Saints and Kernels played a game of cat and mouse in the 10th and 11th innings, with both teams scoring runs thanks to the extra-innings rule that puts a runner at second to start the inning. Unfortunately for St. Paul, Toledo managed to squeak out two runs in the 11th to secure the win. Despite the loss, every single player in the Saints starting lineup tallied a hit. Drew Maggi, Tomas Telis, and Gilberto Celestino all tallied two-hit games. Sherman Johnson had an impressive three-hit game with a run and RBI for the Saints. WIND SURGE WISDOM Tulsa 4, Wichita 2 Box Score A late-inning power display wasn't enough for the Wind Surge to push past a dominant pitching performance from Tulsa on Thursday at Riverfront Stadium. A team known for their offense, Wichita was only able to manage four hits on the night. Wichita failed to put any runs on the board until the bottom of the ninth inning. The dynamic duo of Trey Cabbage and Spencer Steer mounted a final-inning comeback attempt for the Surge. After Steer drew a walk, Cabbage launched his 16th homer with the Wind Surge (25th overall) over the wall to bring Wichita within two runs. Jordan Balazovic didn't have his strongest night of the year, giving up four runs on nine hits over six innings. However, the Wichita bullpen tandem of Mitchell Osnowitz and Adam Lau were rock-solid, tossing a combined three innings of scoreless ball. The two didn't give up any runs and surrendered only one walk while striking out three batters. KERNELS NUGGETS Cedar Rapids 8, Beloit 0 Box Score The Cedar Rapids Kernels have had moments of brilliance on both sides of the ball so far this season. Tonight, they combined all five tools of the game for a dominant 8-0 win over regional rival Beloit. The Kernels punched their first five runs thanks to the long ball. After Yunior Severino led off the inning with a single Wander Javier launched a home run (12) over the left field wall to give the Kernels a 2-0 lead. Two innings later the Kernels found themselves with runners on base thanks to a walk from Seth Gray and a single from Javier. Michael Helman followed with a three-run shot over the left field wall to break the game open for Cedar Rapids. Helman continued his stellar night in the seventh inning by leading off with a triple to the right field gap. He later scored thanks to an RBI single from Edouard Julien. That wasn't the final run of the inning. Following a Matt Wallner single and a pair of walks, Julien scored lucky number seven for Cedar Rapids. The offensive performance was one of the most dominant on the season for Cedar Rapids, who now have a +52 run differential overall. Cedar Rapids starter Sawyer Gipson-Long was absolutely brilliant in this one, posting arguably his best outing of the year. Gipson-Long (W, 2-1) tossed six scoreless innings while giving up six hits and striking out nine batters. It was the third time that the Lithia Springs, GA, native's has hit nine strikeouts this season, second to his season-best 11 K's on July 21. And while Gipson-Long's performance was incredible, reliever Tyler Palm was just as effective. Palm tossed two innings of one-hit ball while striking out three batters. The appearance was a well-needed cleanser for Palm, who gave up two runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings on last week against Wisconsin. Osiris German sealed the deal for the Kernels with a scoreless ninth inning to secure an important win for Cedar Rapids in the playoff race. The Kernels are now 55-44 are sit a full 2.5 games ahead of Great Lakes for second place in the High-A Central League. MUSSEL MATTERS Fort Myers 4, Bradenton 2 Box Score Despite an early deficit, the Mighty Mussels used dominant pitching and timely hitting to grind out a close game in the Sunshine State. After Bradenton scored two runs in the third inning, the Mussels responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning. After walking and stealing a base Jake Rucker scored courtesy of a Willie Joe Garry Jr. single. Rucker's momentum carried into the fourth inning. With runners on first and second, Rucker laced an RBI triple to right field to give Fort Myers a 3-2 lead. That lead would expand 4-2 when Rucker scored during the next at-bat thanks to a wild pitch. Fort Myers starter Sean Mooney was absolutely outstanding on the evening. Mooney tossed 4 2/3 innings of 10-strikeout ball, only surrendering a pair of runs on three hits and two walks. RHP Logan Campbell was just as dominant in his Mussels debut, throwing 2 2/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts and one hit. Zaquiel Puentes sealed the deal with his first save of the year, tossing 2 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball. COMPLEX CHRONICLES FCL Pirates Black 6, FCL Twins 3 Box Score A multi-hit game from Kala'i Rosario wasn't enough to push the FCL Twins to a victory against the Pirates on Thursday afternoon. The Pirates jumped on Twins' starter Giovahniey German early, plating four runs in the first three innings. German (L, 2-2) pitched three innings, giving up seven hits, four runs, and a walk while striking out five. Rosario's first hit was a single in the second inning. He followed that with a leadoff double in the sixth inning and was later driven in on an RBI single from Argenis Jimenez. 2021 Competitive Balance round pick and Twins Daily Top 20 Prospect Noah Miller knocked an RBI double (2) in the third inning to score the Twins' first run. Miller and Rosario are both having excellent seasons at the plate. Miller touts a .269 batting average and Rosario has a .290 average. After reliever Jordan Carr gave up three runs, LHP Elpidio Perez was excellent. Perez pitched three scoreless innings for the FCL Twins, giving up only one hit and two walks while striking out four. Despite the loss, the Twins' pitching staff managed to strike out 15 batters on the day. TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE DAY YOU decide! PROSPECT SUMMARY Our most recent (post deadline and draft) prospect rankings are up! Check them out here. #1 - Royce Lewis (rehab) - Out for season (torn ACL) #2 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 0-for-4, 2 K #3 - Jordan Balazovic (Wichita) - 6 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, BB, 5 K #4 - Simeon Woods Richardson (Wichita) - Did not pitch #5 - Jhoan Duran (St. Paul) - Injured List (elbow strain) #6 - Jose Miranda (St. Paul) - 1-for-6, R, 3 K #7 - Joe Ryan (St. Paul) - Did not pitch #8 - Matt Canterino (Cedar Rapids) - Did not pitch #9 - Chase Petty (Complex) - Did not pitch #10 - Keoni Cavaco (Fort Myers) - 0-for-4, 4 K #11 - Josh Winder (St. Paul) - Injured List (shoulder) #12 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-5, 3 K #13 - Gilberto Celestino (St. Paul) - 2-for-4, 2B R, RBI, BB, K #14 - Drew Strotman (St. Paul) - Did not pitch #15 - Noah Miller (Complex) - 1-for-5, 2B, RBI, 2 K #16 - Brent Rooker (Minnesota) - 0-for-2, 2 BB, K #17 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) - Out for season (Tommy John surgery) #18 - Misael Urbina (Fort Myers) - 1-for-4, R #19 - Cole Sands (Wichita) - Did not pitch #20 - Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 1-for-5, R, 2B, BB FRIDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS St. Paul @ Toledo (6:05PM CST) – LHP Bryan Sammons (0-1, 5.32 ERA) Tulsa @ Wichita (7:05PM CST) – RHP Chris Vallimont (5-5, 6.08 ERA) Cedar Rapids @ Beloit (6:35PM CST) – RHP Cody Lawyerson (1-4, 5.15 ERA) Bradenton @ Fort Myers Game One: (3:30PM CST) – RHP John Stankiewicz (0-0, 3.86 ERA) Game Two: (30 minutes after game one) - LHP Zarion Sharpe (4-2, 3.59 ERA)
  16. The 60-Day IL allows teams to stash an injured player away without holding a 40 man spot. The Twins have utilized this six times this season in the way of four pitchers and two hitters. With young players needing 40 man roster spots to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this winter, it’s worth revisiting these players on a case-by-case basis. Alex Kirilloff This is probably the easiest one. The Twins former top prospect should be back with a healthy wrist by Opening Day and likely penciled in at first base. There isn’t anything that would change the Twins minds. Randy Dobnak Despite a nightmare season in which Dobnak put up a 7.83 ERA in 43 innings, he’s an easy add after the Twins extended him through 2026 on a very team-friendly deal. Regarding his role, it’s anyone’s guess at this point how the Twins plan to use him, but he’s been throwing bullpens recently and could even return from a finger injury before the end of 2021. The Twins can’t cut Dobnak loose given their commitment, not to mention his recent success in the MLB. Devin Smeltzer Smeltzer only threw 4 2/3 innings without allowing a run before being put on the IL with an elbow injury. His 2022 may largely depend on the nature of his injury and whether his health can be counted on. Perhaps his lack of ceiling may give the Twins pause, but he has shown to be a competent Major League pitcher and perhaps deserves a little bit of run in a bullpen role. If he’s ready to pitch for opening day in 2022, I’d expect to see Smeltzer get one more look. Edwar Colina Colina got shelled in his lone MLB appearance in 2020 but boasts what some call the best slider in the Twins system to go along with his high-90s fastball. Colina was an arm many were excited to see get some real run this year before he underwent elbow surgery which ended his season before it began. As the Twins look to rebuild a bullpen in 2022, it’s hard to imagine them not gambling on the upside of Edwar Colina assuming his injury appears to be recovering as expected. Cody Stashak It’s possible Stashak was dealing with his back injury longer than the Twins knew, but it was a bit surprising to see him get as much of an opportunity as he did in 2021. With a 91 mph fastball, Stashak’s skillset revolved around his ability to limit walks when he debuted in 2019 which made his 13.3% walk rate this year all the more unacceptable. He upped his strikeout rate to nearly 35% at the expense of every other skill a pitcher could have as he finished with a 6.89 ERA. Stashak will be 28 next year and his ceiling is probably just an okay middle reliever which may make him an easy roster spot to dedicate to protecting another player from the Rule 5 draft. Kyle Garlick Garlick looked like the Twins best offseason acquisition for awhile and slashed .232/.280/.465 before being shut down with a sports hernia. Garlick does one thing well and that’s mash lefties, something the Twins were unable to set him up for consistently as injuries piled up. Unfortunately for Garlick, the Twins just don’t have a lot to gain from keeping a defensively-challenged 30-year-old with such a niche skillset. It’s hard to see the Twins not parting ways with Garlick unfortunately. It’s easy to look at this list of players who haven’t been contributing for quite some time and forget about them, but the Twins do have some solid players coming back off injury next year. The tricky part is trying to balance the roster on who is worthy of a return as they try and protect the necessary players to avoid another Akil Baddoo situation. Should any more of these six be definitively kept or let go this winter? Let us know below. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  17. Injuries are obviously impacting multiple players listed below. In a perfect world, the Twins would be able to trade away all their veterans for valuable pieces, but almost nothing has gone perfectly for the Twins in 2021. That being said, here’s some of the roster shuffle that will occur over the next month. DH: Miguel Sano Replaces Nelson Cruz Miguel Sano seems destined to be the team’s DH throughout the remaining years on his contract. There are only a handful of contending teams that need help at DH, but the most logical choice might be the AL’s best team. Brent Rooker is another possibility to get some DH at-bats in the season’s second half. At Triple-A this year, he has an .861 OPS with 10 home runs and three doubles and it seems like he’s become Minnesota’s forgotten prospect. Moving Sano off first base also allows Alex Kirilloff to start getting more consistent reps at first, which is his expected long-term defensive position. SS: Jorge Polanco Replaces Andrelton Simmons Minnesota is likely hesitant to move Polanco back to shortstop, but the team’s other options are limited. Royce Lewis was supposed to be the heir apparent, but he’s out for the year. He likely won’t be ready at the beginning of 2022, so the Twins will be players in the best free agent shortstop class in baseball history. There are some benefits to moving Polanco back to short. This allows the team to get a longer look at Nick Gordon as the team has kept him on the active roster over Gilberto Celestino and Willians Astudillo. At Triple-A, J.T. Riddle has gotten most defensive starts at shortstop, but he only has .675 OPS and he’s not part of the team’s long-term plans. SP: [Break In Case of Emergency] Replaces Michael Pineda This is going to be the toughest spot to replace, because Twins pitching has be historically bad this season. Minnesota has already added Randy Dobnak and Bailey Ober to the rotation, but where does the team turn to next? Top pitching prospect Jhoan Duran was put on the IL this week with a strained right elbow, so it doesn’t seem likely for him to pitch bulk innings at the big-league level this season. Jordan Balazovic, the team’s other top pitching prospect, has allowed 10 earned runs in 14 innings so far in 2021. Charlie Barnes and Griffin Jax can be given longer looks as rotational options, but these aren’t the exciting prospects fans have eagerly been waiting to see. RP: Jorge Alcala Replaces Hansel Robles Outside of Taylor Rogers, Robles has been the team’s most consistent reliever. To take over his late inning role, I’m all on board the Jorge Alcala train. He’s been working on increasing his changeup usage so he can be more effective versus left-handed batters. He has the potential to be a late-inning shutdown arm and the team needs to give him the opportunity to prove if he can sink or swim in this role. Minnesota’s bullpen will need an overhaul for 2022, but the team can use the rest of 2021 as a tryout for players in different roles. Can these play better than the players they are replacing? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  18. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/7 through Sun, 6/13 *** Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 26-39) Run Differential Last Week: -15 (Overall: -50) Standing: T-4th Place in AL Central (15.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 60 | NYY 8, MIN 4: New York Pulls Away Late, Wins Series Opener Game 61 | NYY 9, MIN 6: Yankees Tee Off on Dobnak in Victory Game 62 | MIN 7, NYY 5: Donaldson, Cruz Power Dramatic Comeback vs. Chapman Game 63 | HOU 6, MIN 4: Shoemaker's Late Lapse Leads to Loss Game 64 | MIN 5, HOU 2: Twins Win Behind Strong Effort from Berríos Game 65 | HOU 14, MIN 3: Astros Destroy Twins Pitching in Blowout NEWS & NOTES Relatively speaking, it was a pretty quiet week in terms of roster moves and injury updates. Byron Buxton, Kenta Maeda, Luis Arraez, and Max Kepler all embarked on rehab assignments in St. Paul, so the Twins figure to get back these important fixtures in the near future. Gilberto Celestino was optioned to Triple-A, then quickly recalled, as Kyle Garlick went on the shelf with a sports hernia. Rob Refsnyder is back. (He started in right field and batted cleanup on Sunday, which says a lot about the state of this roster.) HIGHLIGHTS The biggest highlight of the week, and the season, came in the ninth inning of Thursday's series finale against the Yankees. With the Twins trailing by two runs and facing a sweep, Aroldis Chapman came to the mound, carrying a 0.39 ERA, 4-0 record, and 12-for-13 save conversion rate. He'd been lights-out, and was going up against a Twins team that has constantly shrunk in big spots. All of which made the ensuing sequence of events astonishingly improbable. If you turned away from the TV, you might've missed one of the most exhilarating comeback wins in recent franchise history. It all happened so quickly. Jorge Polanco led off with a single. In stepped Josh Donaldson, who took ball one and then launched a mammoth game-tying home run to left-center. Willians Astudillo, pinch-hitting for Nick Gordon, followed with a first-pitch single of his own. And then came Nelson Cruz, who basically replicated what Donaldson did two ABs earlier by drilling a 1-0 pitch deep to center for the walk-off winner. Within a span of nine pitches, the Twins grasped victory from the jaws of defeat. For Twins fans, the feeling was bittersweet, because it was hard not to think about how much more epic and energizing that win would've been if the Twins hadn't cast themselves hopelessly out of contention. In anticipation of this season, we dreamed about Cruz and Donaldson coming through with game-changing jolts like this all year long, but instead, such marquee moments have been far and few between, which is part of the reason the team finds itself buried in last place. With that said, Cruz's bat has been showing some life at the plate again lately and that's good to see now matter how you slice it. He went 6-for-16 with three home runs and six RBIs on the week, equaling his totals in those categories from the entire month of May. He might not find himself leading the Twins on a pennant chase in August and September, but maybe he can do it for someone else, and score Minnesota a prospect or two in the process. Donaldson's clutch bomb was also part of a power-hitting rejuvenation, as he followed the next day by going deep twice against Houston – his second two-homer game in an eight-day span. His slugging percentage, which had sagged to .408 by the end of the Baltimore series in early June, is back up to .475. As I noted last week, Donaldson's been remarkably healthy and durable since his season-opening IL sint, leading the team in games played and plate appearances since returning. He's also been doing some very nice work with the glove. Polanco, whose single set up the dramatic finish against New York, has generally stayed hot at the plate. He went 6-for-21 with three homers and six RBIs last week. His left-handed swing is actually doing damage again and that's huge. Other standout offensive performances included Miguel Sanó (8-for-24 with two homers and four RBIs) and Alex Kirilloff (5-for-13 with just one strikeout in five games). There weren't many positives on the pitching side, but José Berríos certainly qualifies. He was masterful against the Astros on Saturday night, spinning seven innings of two-run ball. The righty allowed only five hits and two walks while striking out eight. Berríos has won five straight decisions and the Twins are 7-1 in his last seven starts dating back to the beginning of May. The other noteworthy pitching bright spot was a strong showing from Bailey Ober on Friday night, when he made a spot start in place of Matt Shoemaker. Going against an elite Houston offense, Ober tossed five innings and allowed just two runs, striking out seven with one walk. He continues to pump 92-93 MPH with his four-seamer, which is immensely encouraging. Ober looks like he could be a legitimate factor on a pitching staff that desperately needs help, both now and moving forward. LOWLIGHTS Even after being bumped from the rotation, Shoemaker continues to cost the Twins with his staggeringly poor play. He appeared in relief on Friday night against the Astros and took the loss, giving up two runs in the ninth to break a tie. (The decision by Rocco Baldelli to use him in this situation was ... questionable to say the least.) He came out of the bullpen again on Sunday and looked customarily awful, coughing up three runs on four hits and two walks in two innings of work. Shoemaker has the worst ERA in the league, he's been tagged with eight losses in 13 appearances, and seems to look worse every time he takes the mound. It's past time for the Twins to move on. Roster crunches and depth issues be damned: you can't justify continuing to run a guy like this out in major-league games. The same can also be said for Alex Colomé, whose brief stretch of effectiveness in May is now a distant memory. He gave up two runs on three hits in his one inning of work on Sunday, and has a 5.48 ERA on the season to go along with his league-worst (by a mile) negative-2.34 Win Probability Added. Colomé's departure is probably less imminent than Shoemaker's, because they're paying him three times as much and are so direly short-handed in the bullpen, but in both cases it's only a matter of time. These guys were complete free agent busts and wherever the Twins go from here, they aren't going to be part of it. The situation with Randy Dobnak is a bit more complicated. He's looked every bit as bad as Shoemaker, with his ERA inflating to 8.38 after allowing 14 earned runs in 6 ⅔ innings over the past week. Dobnak gave up five home runs in two appearances, with four coming against his reinvented slider which has changed from a powerful asset to a glaring weakness for him. That begs the question why he or the Twins thought it would be a good idea to tinker with that pitch in the first place. It's not pleasant to watch Dobnak pitch right now, but the solution isn't as simple as cutting bait like it is with Shoemaker. The Twins just signed Dobnak to a five-year contract extension on the heels of an outstanding spring training, and while the monetary commitment isn't huge, they are invested in him for better or worse. It behooves them to help him work through his issues because he's currently one of their few figments of long-term stability in the rotation picture. Fixing the pitching staff has become a primary crux for the Twins and their future outlook. The work is cut out for them here. Michael Pineda looks to be headed for the Injured List. Shoemaker is unusable and J.A. Happ hasn't been much better. Berríos is under contract for one more year after this and Maeda two more. It's tough to have much confidence in the front office filling tons of holes and constructing a quality unit from scratch during the offseason given how poorly all of their moves this year fared. As such, you can see why it's critically important for Ober to build on his early success and for Dobnak to get straightened out. The Twins need some things to break right with young pitchers or they simply won't be equipped to contend next year, in which case, why not just trade Berríos at the upcoming deadline? TRENDING STORYLINE For what it's worth, the Twins are about to get a lot closer to full strength. Maeda, Buxton, and Arraez have completed their rehab stints and will be traveling to Seattle for the upcoming road trip. Maeda is scheduled to start against the Mariners on Monday, and the other two will presumably be activated for that game as well. Kepler is be a bit further behind, given that he played his first rehab game in St. Paul on Sunday (and was the DH), but we could see him up before week's end. Those are some pretty key cogs the Twins have been playing without. We'll see if their returns, along with a softening of the schedule, can help this team get on a bit of a winning run here in the back half of June. So far, sustained hot streaks have eluded them. LOOKING AHEAD Get ready for some late-night baseball as the Twins head to Seattle for a showdown against the Mariners in Pacific Time. Then, following an off day, Minnesota heads down to Texas for a weekend series against the last-place Rangers. MONDAY, 6/13: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. LHP Marco Gonzales TUESDAY, 6/14: TWINS @ MARINERS – LHP J.A. Happ vs. RHP Chris Flexen WEDNESDAY, 6/15: TWINS @ MARINERS – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Justus Sheffield FRIDAY, 6/17: TWINS @ RANGERS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Mike Foltynewicz SATURDAY, 6/18: TWINS @ RANGERS – TBD v. LHP Kolby Allard SUNDAY, 6/19: TWINS @ RANGERS – RHP Kenta Maeda v. RHP Dane Dunning
  19. Randy Dobnak Using Randy Dobnak as a reliever didn’t exactly go as planned at season’s start and he was sent to St. Paul to get stretched out as soon as the Triple-A season began. In the last couple weeks, Michael Pineda and Kenta Maeda have both ended up on the injured list so Dobnak’s spot in the rotation looks to be safe. In his first start, he pitched six shutout innings with a five to two strikeout to walk ratio. What might be the most encouraging sign is his 12 groundball outs including inducing a double play. When Dobnak is at his best, he is working quickly and using his sinker to get batters to hit the ball on the ground. Minnesota’s improved defense can certainly help Dobnak especially since he is using his sinker almost 50% of the time, which is a 6% jump from 2020. J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker both have ERAs north of 5.40, so Dobnak has the opportunity to take a rotation spot and run with it. Rob Refsnyder Entering the 2020 season, Refsnyder was an afterthought that bounced around through four different organizations. He was a career .217/.205/.297 (.602) hitter with nearly twice as many strikeouts as walks. The Twins signed him to a minor league deal this winter, but injuries to Byron Buxton and Jake Cave made it necessary for Refsnyder to be added to the roster and he’s taking full advantage of the opportunity. Entering play on Monday, Refsnyder is hitting .375/.429/.542 (.970) in nine games with the Twins. Kyle Garlick has been dealing with a groin injury that may continue to hamper him and this means even more time for Refsnyder. He’s 30-years old and doesn’t exactly fit into the team’s long-term plans, but there’s hope the team can ride his hot streaks as long as possible. Maybe he can turn into the 2004 version of Lew Ford? Luke Farrell Minnesota’s bullpen has struggled through most of the season and Farrell shouldn’t be seen as a savior, but he can certainly add depth. He is being used exclusively as a reliever for the first time in his career and there have been some positive signs. With St. Paul, he pitched 4 2/3 innings and allowed one run on two hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. He needs to prove he can translate those strikeout numbers to the big-league level. Guess what Wes Johnson has done with Ferrell? If you said increase his slider usage, you are correct. His slider usage has been increasing each year, but he took a big jump from 41.2% in 2020 to nearly 60% in 2021. His curveball has hardly been used at all as he almost exclusively uses his fastball and slider. His walk rate has been high throughout his big-league career so that will be something to keep an eye on moving forward. Do you think these three players can help the Twins through their recent rash of injuries? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. Entering the offseason, it seemed likely for Dobnak to be penciled into the back end of the Twins’ starting rotation. Minnesota had three pitchers slated to begin the year as starters and Dobnak seemed to be at least guaranteed a shot at the fifth rotational spot. That plan was altered after the club signed J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker. Then the question was raised about whether Dobnak should be pitching out of the bullpen or be sent to the alternate site to continue to be stretched out as a starter. The Twins’ brass felt like Dobnak and his newly signed contract were a better fit as the bullpen’s long man, but the numbers point to this being a poor decision. Entering play on Wednesday, Dobnak had appeared in 22 big-league games with 15 coming as a starter and seven coming in relief. As a starter, he has a 3.41 ERA with a 43 to 18 strikeout to walk ratio while holding batters to a .645 OPS. His relief appearances have resulted in a 4.20 ERA with batters compiling an .870 OPS in almost 70 plate appearances. This isn’t exactly a large sample size, but his numbers as a starter are clearly better. Also, Minnesota has been using Dobnak in situations where he can continue to stay stretched out. He has been limited to just three appearances this year, because the Twins have only seen three of their games decided by more than two runs. This doesn’t exactly lend itself to naturally using a long man out of the bullpen, because Rocco Baldelli has turned to more of his high leverage arms in close and late game scenarios. https://twitter.com/MatthewTaylorMN/status/1382323416234086407?s=20 Having Dobnak stretched out will be useful since the team has 11 games over the next 10 days and the current starters won’t be able to make all of those starts. On the TV broadcast, Justin Morneau alluded to the fact that Dobnak will make a start during the next week. That being said, it’s hard to imagine him being able to pitch deep into a game since he hasn’t started since early in spring training. For Dobnak to get more relief opportunities, it might be beneficial for the Twins to separate Happ and Shoemaker in the rotation. Those two starters are the ones he is most likely going to piggyback with since neither are expected to pitch deep into games on a regular basis. Currently, they pitch on back-to-back days and that doesn’t allow Dobnak to piggyback for both of them Teams are using a variety of strategies this year to cover innings and piggybacking those two starters might be a strategy the Twins will need to start using. There’s likely going to be a time this season where Dobnak is going to be needed in the rotation. For now, his role in the bullpen needs to be altered so he can find more success. Do you think Dobnak should continue to be used as a reliver? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  21. Traditional Five-Man Rotation Minnesota is going with a traditional five-man pitching staff to start the 2021 season and they are expected to stick with a five-man rotation for the majority of the season. That doesn’t mean the same five pitchers will occupy the rotation as the innings start to add up. Minnesota signed Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ to add rotational depth, and this is only going to help in a season like the current one. The Twins can use multiple strategies throughout the season to keep the starting staff rested. One option is to have a player skip a start. In this situation, the team can call-up a starter from St. Paul or the team can go with a bullpen game, which has become more common in recent years. There’s also a good chance a starter will need some time on the injured list at some point, so this allows the team to utilize some of their pitching depth. Rotating Relievers After signing an extension this spring, Randy Dobnak has struggled to start the 2021 season by allowing five earned runs in three innings. Obviously, this is a very small sample size, and the Twins are confident in Dobnak finding success this season. He is the natural choice to be the team’s sixth starter if needed, but he isn’t the only reliever that will eat innings this season. Last year, only two Twins relievers threw more than 25 innings and both of those players, Matt Wisler and Tyler Clippard, are no longer with the team. Minnesota has used Alex Colomé for multiple innings this year and that might hint at some of Rocco Baldelli’s strategy this season. The team has also switched to a 14-man pitching staff with the addition of Brandon Waddell, who will help cover more innings. He can also occupy a spot that is sent back and forth between Triple-A and the big-leagues. Options Outside the 26-Man Roster Outside the names mentioned above, there is certainly other options not currently on the 26-man roster. Lewis Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer are stretched out to be starters and they can be called on to take over a starting role. Top pitching prospects like Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic are also expected to make their debuts in 2021. Hopefully, they aren’t needed for extended innings, but they are waiting in the wings. Other names on the 40-man roster include Shaun Anderson, Dakota Chalmers and Bailey Ober. Each of these arms can fit into the bullpen picture at some point this season. There are also other options outside the 40-man roster including this year’s Sire of Fort Myers, Derek Law. The Twins have liked to use a steady stream of players from the minors to supplement the big-league relief core in recent years and that trend will likely continue in 2021. Other Teams’ Strategies Last week, MLB.com ran through the different strategies teams will utilize in 2021. Teams like the Angels, Mariners, and Pirates are all planning on using six-man rotations, but none of these clubs are expected to be fighting for a World Series title. Some teams, like the Dodgers, Rangers, and Tigers are going to use a piggybacking strategy where some starters are used in a traditional manner and other appearances they use multiple starters that follow one another. The Rays utilize openers and bullpen games quite often and that expects to be the case again, especially with Blake Snell and Charlie Morton no longer part of the rotation. A lot of teams will be using a revolving five-man rotation which will include skipped starts and other pitchers filling into the rotation’s fifth spot. Minnesota is penciled into another large group of 10 teams that will use a traditional five-man rotation for as long as it will last, but it’s clear the team will be open to using multiple pitching strategies this year. What strategies will the Twins use to cover 1,458 innings this year? Leave COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  22. At first blush, Dobnak's new contract seems absurdly team-friendly. The Twins are locking up a proven young pitcher, with a 3.12 ERA through 75 MLB innings, to a five-year deal guaranteeing him less money than Michael Pineda or J.A. Happ will earn this year alone. https://twitter.com/JeffPassan/status/1376254481659232259 With three club option years on the back end, this deal gives Minnesota plenty of flexibility down the line. The ability to buy Dobnak's would-be free agent seasons at bargain prices will be useful if he merely stays the course as a groundball-inducing fourth starter, and extremely valuable if he takes a step forward to No. 2/3 status. (Say, if this much-ballyhooed new slider proves legit.) https://twitter.com/PitchingNinja/status/1373044556288122882 https://twitter.com/PitchingNinja/status/1375224556714127360 The value upside in Dobnak's contract is monumental. If the Twins activate all three options they'll control him for the next eight years for around $30 million, which is less than the Astros are paying Justin Verlander NOT to pitch in 2021 ($33 million). And if Dobnak's amazing ascent, from undrafted indy-ball pitcher and Uber driver to certified MLB starter, ultimately ends up being a flash in the pan? There's simply no risk. If the Twins need to cut bait at any point, the $9 million they'll pay Dobnak is trivial for them, life-changing for him. That last part helps explain why a deal like this can even come to fruition. It's certainly not the first time we've seen teams use their leverage over a young pitcher with limited service time to secure this sort of affordable long-term stability. In fact, Cleveland's front office was quite savvy in this regard while Derek Falvey was assistant GM. In 2015, Cleveland signed Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco – both a long way from free agency – to lengthy extensions with multiple team options. One year earlier, Chris Archer signed a five-year contract with Rocco Baldelli's Rays, despite having made just 27 career major-league starts. Archer's deal, like Kluber's and Carrasco's, included club options on two free agent years. Compared to those contracts, Dobnak's includes significantly less money, both in terms of guarantees and max payout. It also gives Minnesota a longer window of control than any of the other examples, with options extending through Dobnak's age-33 season in 2028. That makes sense. Dobnak lacks the big-league bona fides of Kluber and Carrasco when they signed, or the top-prospect luster of Archer when he did. The implications of Dobnak's background in this decision are apparent from the outside – given where he was at a few short years ago, it's gotta be hard to pass up $9 million in guaranteed money, especially when the "worst case scenario" means you pitch really well and earn $30+ million while staying in the same place for the next eight years. The Twins, for their part, will happily take the stability in exchange for a modest financial commitment. Prior to extending Dobnak, Minnesota had no starters (sans prospects and fringe rotation options like Lewis Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer) under control beyond 2023. The graphic below show just how much his extension changes that picture. The Twins will have plenty of flexibility in building their rotation going forward. Dobnak is now firmly entrenched as a sturdy building block to serve as their bedrock. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  23. Catchers (3): Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers, Willians Astudillo Odd Man Out: None Garver and Jeffers have been locks to make the Opening Day roster since the 2020 season ended. Barring injury, Minnesota will rotate these two players throughout much of the season. Willians Astudillo hasn’t been on any previous version of the projected Opening Day roster, but the Twins have been hinting at him making the team. This includes signing Roberto Pena, a veteran catcher, to be a second catcher at Triple-A. Infielders (5): Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons Odd Man Out: None Like the catching group, the infielders have been virtually set since the Twins signed Andrelton Simmons. Polanco, Arraez, and even Sano can be used at multiple defensive positions, so it’s going to be interesting to see how creative Baldelli will be with his line-up construction. Astudillo can also fit into this group as he has shown plenty of defensive versatility throughout his Twins tenure. Outfield (4): Jake Cave, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Brent Rooker Odd Men Out: Kyle Garlick, Alex Kirilloff The biggest Twins news of the week was that Alex Kirilloff was sent to the alternate site after he had a rough spring at the plate. This leaves the Twins with one decision to make as far as the last outfielder to make the club. In recent spring line-ups, Baldelli has been using the trio of Buxton, Kepler, and Rooker as his starting outfield. This leaves Cave as the fourth outfielder and Garlick on the outside looking in. Garlick has been impressive this spring, but he has an option left and the Twins can use him as depth at Triple-A. Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz Boomstick will be bashing homers into his 40s and Twins fans are along for the ride. Rotation (5): Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker Odd Man Out: Randy Dobnak Dobnak isn’t going to be in the rotation to start the season, but that might not last for long. With his new and improved slider, Dobnak might be on track to be one of the AL’s biggest sleepers this season. Berrios may have made some adjustments to his fastball and that can be a scary proposition for hitters in the AL Central. Kenta Maeda will start on Opening Day in Milwaukee as he looks to build off his runner-up finish for the AL Cy Young. Bullpen (8): Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Alex Colome, Jorge Alcala, Hansel Robles, Caleb Thielbar, Randy Dobnak, Derek Law Odd Men Out: Shaun Anderson, Cody Stashak, Devin Smeltzer Anderson seemed like the type of player that might be able to fill the Matt Wisler type role on the club, but he was optioned to the minor league side. Smeltzer can fill multiple roles at Triple-A before being needed at the big-league level. Stashak and Law were vying for the last spot and Law’s strikeout filled spring put him over the top. Minnesota will also have the opportunity to use 14 pitchers at different times during the season, so some of the players at the bullpen’s back end will be shuffled back and forth between CHS Field and Target Field. Who do you think makes the Opening Day roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  24. Minnesota’s front office noticed some with Dobnak’s slider and suggest a small change. By keeping his hand in a more supinated position, he can get more break on his slider and keep hitters off balanced. Over the weekend, he threw three scoreless innings and struck out six of the 10 batters he faced. “It plays really well off my sinker, so we’re just trying to kind of get more break in between it,” Dobnak told reporters after the game. “Trying to create the tunnel and have it break apart more. But I threw it pretty well today, so I’m pretty satisfied with where I am with that.” Dobnak had been working on the tweak for a little over a week and batters were clearly not prepared for the pitch (even against last year’s AL pennant winners). He’s used it in two games so far and he has yet to allow a run in either appearance. While he has been pitching well this spring, Minnesota’s rotation seems to be full to start the year and this leaves Dobnak’s role up in the air. The five starters slated to be in Minnesota’s Opening Day rotation are Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, Matt Shoemaker, and J.A. Happ. Out of those names, Happ is a little behind the others as he missed the beginning of camp after testing positive for COVID-19. Dobnak can follow Happ in his starts at the beginning of the year as he increases his workload, but even Twins manager Rocco Baldelli doesn’t quite know what role Dobnak will fill. “[Dobnak] has established himself as a quality member of our pitching staff,” Baldelli said. “One way or the other, wherever he slots in, however he gets his innings, I’m pretty sure we are going to find a way to get him involved and let him pitch us to some wins. Exactly how that’s going to go from Opening Day on, I couldn’t tell you at this moment.” Another wrinkle in the Dobnak’s roster spot is the yet to be decided fourth option for Lewis Thorpe. If Thorpe is out of options, the team may need to keep him on the 26-man roster to avoid losing him for on waivers. Dobnak has multiple options remaining and this would allow him to continue to be stretched out as a starter if an injury were to arise in the season’s early games. In the last Twins Daily roster projection, Dobnak made the Opening Day roster and Thorpe was left off, because it had been widely reported that he would be granted a fourth option. Dobnak and Thorpe can easily swap places as the bullpen’s long man. Caleb Thielbar, who appeared in his first spring game on Monday, has also been dealing with a back injury, so there’s a chance he starts the year on the IL. If that happened, Dobnak and Thorpe can both have bullpen spots. Over the course of the 2021 campaign, Dobnak’s role will likely take on multiple forms. Shoemaker is going to have to prove he deserves to stay in the rotation, because the Twins don’t have a ton invested in him. Dobnak will relieve and start at different parts of the season, but his new slider might make it tough to keep him in the bullpen for very long. What do you think Dobnak’s role will be in 2021? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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