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  1. TRANSACTIONS None Saints Sentinel St. Paul 3, Omaha 1 Box Score Randy Dobnak: 4 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K HR: None Multi-hit games: Nash Knight (2-for-4, 2B, R, RBI) The Saints won their final game of the season on Wednesday. It had been an inconsistent and bumpy year—one similar to the season their parent franchise underwent—but the team gathered their ability and sent the fans home happy with a triumphant ending. Randy Dobnak manned the mound; the righty sinkerball specialist—so used to harvesting command at will—found success through unpredictable chaos; he walked three but allowed a single hit against seven strikeouts. Dobnak missed a quality start by an out. The man known for his tremendous mustache may no longer reside on the 40-man roster, but he has an entire off-season to iron out deficiencies, and he could contribute positively to a future Twins team. St. Paul’s offense remained as dormant as their enemy; Saints batters continuously walked back to the dugout, befuddled at Alec Marsh’s stuff for inning after inning until the 5th frame. There—Nash Knight ripped a double down the right-field line, scoring Andrew Bechtold. The game remained quiet until Knight—yet again a thorn in Omaha’s side—dashed home on a wild pitch, adding a run to the lead. The inning did not end there, however; St. Paul nabbed a third and final run when Cole Sturgeon singled in Frank Nigro. Mario Sanchez worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Dobnak, striking out three while allowing a pair of hits and walks. The Saints end the year 74-75, tied for 4th in the IL West division; a slight step down from their 67-63 record in 2021, although in a different divisional context. TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Randy Dobnak Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Nash Knight PROSPECT SUMMARY Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed: #9 - Matt Wallner (Minnesota) - 2-3, 2B, 3 RBI, BB, K THURSDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS None! FEEDBACK Thank you for always being so supportive of the minor league report, as well as your participation in some great discussions in the comments. As you know, there will be a lot of minor league coverage here throughout the offseason. Next week, Twins Spotlight will return for its third Off(season). Let us know what more you would like to see.
  2. TRANSACTIONS INF Brooks Lee promoted to Wichita C Dillon Datum placed on development list (Wichita) INF Wander Javier promoted to St. Paul INF Jake Rucker promoted to St. Paul C Roy Morales activated from IL (St. Paul) OF Matt Wallner contract selected by Minnesota RHP Louie Varland recalled by Minnesota (29th man) RHP Drew Strotman designated for assignment RHP Trevor Megill placed on COVID-IL list RHP Dereck Rodriguez contract selected from St. Paul. Saints Sentinel St. Paul 4, Louisville 3 Box Score Randy Dobnak: 4 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K HR: Jake Rucker (1) Multi-hit games: Jake Rucker (2-for-3, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI), Dalton Shuffield (2-for-3) St. Paul won on a walk-off Saturday. The new guys made bold impressions; Jake Rucker announced his presence with a two-run homer, while Wander Javier singled in a run in the 5th inning. With a runner on third in the 9th, Rucker connected with a fly-ball sent deep enough to score the winning run. Randy Dobnak—making his first start since his recent DFA—was erratic, walking three batters in a rust-filled outing. The sinkerballer still struck out four and didn’t allow a run—perhaps proving he still has something in the tank—but the Twins will likely desire to see more command in future starts. Trevor Larnach started in left field and played seven innings. Mike Siani—the Bats’ centerfielder and lead-off man—is the team’s best prospect; he homered and singled in five at-bats. Longtime major-leaguer, Stephen Piscotty, hit 6th for the Bats and DH’d. Wind Surge Wisdom Game One: Wichita 3, Midland 4 Box Score Cody Laweryson: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K HR: Alex Isola (10) Multi-hit games: Alex Isola (2-for-4, HR, 2 R, RBI) Wichita lost the first game of their doubleheader on Saturday. Cody Laweryson pitched effectively—although not dominantly—in his five innings of work, striking out five batters while allowing two runs. His Wichita ERA sits at 1.06. Alex Isola spearheaded the offensive performance; the catcher homered and singled, netting two runs in an otherwise dry day for Wind Surge batters. Anthony Prato’s 2nd inning double was the only other extra-base hit in the game. The issue? Wichita grounded into three double plays in the game; Yunior Severino accounted for two of them. Tyler Soderstrom is Midland’s top prospect according to MLB.com. The first baseman singled twice in three at-bats. Game Two: Wichita 1, Midland 9 Box Score Osiris German: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K HR: None Multi-hit games: None Wichita lost a clunker in game two on Saturday. Midland sandwiched a one-run 4th inning with four-run frames before and afterward, ensuring that Wichita would face an uphill battle in their attempt to win; Hunter McMahon and Michael Boyle walked away with battered ERAs. The lone offensive bright spot came when Austin Martin doubled home a run in the 6th inning, but—fitting for a game like this—Midland threw him out trying to stretch the play to a triple. Brooks Lee went hitless with a strikeout in three at-bats during his AA debut. Soderstrom improved off his first game, homering and driving in three to cement his prospect status. Mussel Matters Fort Myers 1, Dunedin 3 Box Score Jordan Carr: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K HR: None Multi-hit games: Tanner Schobel (2-for-4, RBI) Fort Myers lost on Saturday, ending their playoff run in the opening round. All arms were on deck; Fort Myers called upon four pitchers to help lead them, and their combined effort was impressive. Andrew Morris—a 2022 draft pick—lead the way with a trio of scoreless innings, holding the Blue Jays at bay during the crucial switch from the middle innings to the late frames. The staff allowed a high hit total—11, to be precise—but only three runs. The Achilles heel proved to be the offense, as the bats mustered just four hits in the match; Tanner Schobel alone accounted for half of them. Without an extra-base hit, the team could plate only a single run, forcing the pitchers to be perfect, which they were not. The Mighty Mussels’ season is now over. Josh Kasevich and Cade Doughty are Dunedin’s top prospects according to MLB.com; Doughty singled twice and both hitters nabbed an RBI. TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Randy Dobnak Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Jake Rucker PROSPECT SUMMARY Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed: #2 - Brooks Lee (Wichita) - 0-3, K #4 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 1-6, 2B, RBI #7 - Noah Miller (Ft. Myers) - 0-4 #9 - Matt Wallner (Minnesota) - 1-3, HR, R, RBI, K (Major League debut) #12 - Louie Varland (Minnesota) - 5 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K #14 - Edouard Julien (Wichita) - 1-5, BB, K #15 - Blayne Enlow (Wichita) - 1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K #17 - Cole Sands (St. Paul) - 2 ⅔ IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K #18 - Tanner Schobel (Ft. Myers) - 2-for-4, RBI #20 - Kala’i Rosario (Ft. Myers) - 1-4, K SUNDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS Louisville @ St. Paul (12:07 PM) - RHP Ronny Henriquez Wichita @ Midland (2:00 PM) - LHP Kody Funderburk
  3. TRANSACTIONS LHP Jovani Moran recalled by Minnesota Twins RHP Ben Heller released by organization RHP Juan Minaya released by organization RHP Tyler Thornburg released by organization SAINTS SENTINEL Omaha 4, St. Paul 2 Box Score Josh Winder continues his return from the injured list now pitching for the Saints. He’s said to be in play for a bullpen role this month with Minnesota, and he was letting it fly knowing the outing would be shorter. His fastball sat 95-96 mph throughout his outing, and he touched 97 mph as well. Winder finished four innings allowing just a single hit and an unearned run. He struck out three. The Saints got on the board first, scoring in the 2nd inning on a pair of back-to-back jacks. John Andreoli nearly wore a pitch and then went way out to left center for his 12th of the season. Braden Bishop followed with a blast to left as well, and St. Paul was up 2-0. After an unearned run brought Omaha within one, a solo shot off Randy Dobnak in the 5th inning tied it up. Dobnak touched 94 mph with his fastball, and did get a nice strikeout on his offspeed to the second batter he saw. The Saints and Storm Chasers were knotted at two with two hits apiece when rehabbing Twins pitcher Cole Sands took over in the 7th inning. Omaha was able to manufacture a run in the 8th inning to take the lead and then tagged Sands for another in the 9th inning to double up the Saints. Down to their final at bat, St. Paul sent Chris Williams, Andreoli, and pinch hitter Michael Helman to the dish. Unfortunately they went down in order and that's how this one ended. WIND SURGE WISDOM Springfield 4, Wichita 3 (F/10) Box Score The Wind Surge had Daniel Gossett up tonight. He was great going five scoreless innings allowing just two hits and three walks. Gossett also struck out a trio of batters. After two scoreless frames to begin the game, Wichita got on the board with a three-run 3rd inning. Jair Camargo stepped in and blasted a three-run shot to centerfield. It was his 11th of the season and brought in both Austin Martin and Edouard Julien. Neither side could push anything else across through the 5th inning and the score stayed close. After Gossett exited in the 6th inning, Springfield immediately came to life. Three runs scored and the game was all tied heading to the 7th inning. Neither side could push across the go-ahead tally until extra. Springfield scored their runner from second base and completed the walk-off comeback. KERNELS NUGGETS Game 1: Dayton 8 Cedar Rapids 7 (F/7) Box Score Playing a twin bill today, Cedar Rapids began the afternoon starting Jaylen Nowlin. He went 3 1/3 innings allowing three runs on six hits. Bowling also struck out five while walking three. Cedar Rapids raced out to an early lead scoring three in the 1st inning. Brooks Lee scored on a fielder’s choice from Kyler Fedko before a Seth Gray single drove in Pat Winkel. Wander Javier capped off the three-run inning with a sacrifice fly to plate Fedko. After giving two back in the bottom of the 1st inning, Cedar Rapids let in another four in the 4th inning, and two more in the 5th inning. Facing a five run deficit, they looked to rally in the top of the 7th inning. Jake Rucker roped his 15th double to drive in Dylan Neuse, and Lee then crushed his 4th homer for the Kernels. Gray hit his 16th home run of the season a few batters later, but the one run deficit still remained and was where this one ended. Game 2: Dayton 7, Cedar Rapids 0 Box Score Jon Olsen took the ball for Cedar Rapids in game two but was chased after just 1 1/3 innings. He allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits. Olsen fanned one and allowed one free pass. Both teams matched zeroes during the 1st inning during the nightcap, but the Dragons exploded for five runs in the 2nd inning. A pair of singles and a double gave them all the run production they’d need, despite adding a two-run blast in the 6th inning for good measure. Former Twins prospect Chase Petty made the start for Dayton in game two and went five scoreless allowing just two hits and striking out two. MUSSEL MATTERS Fort Myers 11, Bradenton 2 Box Score The Mighty Mussels turned to righty Jordan Carr this afternoon and he turned in five scoreless innings. Carr allowed just three hits and a walk while striking out four Marauders. Fort Myers didn’t wait long to get on the board this afternoon. In the 2nd inning Keoni Cavaco roped his 18th double to score Rubel Cespedes. He then came home on Dillon Tatum’s 6th dinger of the season. In the 3rd inning Carlos Aguiar recorded his 9th double of the season, plating both Noah Cardenas and Ben Ross. The lead extended to 5-0 now, Fort Myers went scoreless in the 4th inning. They weren’t done adding however, and in the 5th inning Cespedes drove in Cardenas with a sacrifice fly. Looking to continue the run scoring, Kala’i Rosario stayed hot and singled in the top of the 6th inning with Tanner Schobel racing home. Cardenas then recorded his 17th double to drive in Rosario from third base. Misael Urbina got into the action with a 7th inning sacrifice fly before Daniel Ozoria hit his first homer in the 9th inning. The two run shot erased runs by Bradenton in the bottom of the 8th inning. Ozoria was playing in his 299th professional game, and the dinger was just the third of his career. TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE DAY Pitcher of the Day – Josh Winder (St. Paul) - 4.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K Hitter of the Day – Brooks Lee (Cedar Rapids) - 3-7, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2B, HR(4) PROSPECT SUMMARY We will again keep tabs on the Twins top prospects. You’ll probably read about them in the team sections, but if they aren’t there, you’ll see how they did here. Here’s a look at how the current Twins Daily Top 20 performed: #2 - Brooks Lee (Cedar Rapids) - 3-7, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2B, HR(4) #4 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 1-3, R, 3 BB, 2B #9 - Matt Wallner (St. Paul) - 0-1, BB, 2 K #14 - Edouard Julien (Wichita) - 1-3, R, 2 BB, K #17 - Cole Sands (Minnesota) - Rehab with St. Paul - 2.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2K #18 - Tanner Schobel (Fort Myers) - 1-4, 2 R, 2 BB #19 - Alerick Soularie (Cedar Rapids) - 0-3 #20 - Kala’i Rosario (Fort Myers) - 2-4, R, RBI TUESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS St. Paul @ Toledo (5:35PM CST) - RHP Ariel Jurado NW Arkansas @ Wichita (7:05PM CST) - TBD South Bend @ Cedar Rapids (6:35PM CST) - TBD St. Lucie @ Fort Myers (6:00PM CST) - TBD Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Sunday’s games! It sure is exciting to have all four Twins full-season affiliates back and playing.
  4. Some people have been calling for a long reliever to be added to the roster for much of the season. It made sense, after all, considering the way the Twins have chosen to construct their pitching staff. Between Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer, and even Joe Ryan, the Twins don’t have many pitchers that can be pushed into the late innings. As a result, Cole Sands was called up to avoid having to use 4-5 relievers every time one of these starters takes the mound. Through a week and a half, however, the Twins aren’t using Sands in the way we expected. Sands’ first outing back in Minnesota was impressive and just what we had in mind. Spinning three innings of shutout ball, Sands was able to save the bullpen. Since that first outing back on August 7th, however, Sands has pitched twice, both in one-inning stints. Perhaps a long relief opportunity hasn’t presented itself, but his recent usage may say the bullpen hierarchy isn’t what it probably should be at this point. In his last outing, the Twins led 9-0 against Kansas City in the 9th inning and Sands was called upon for mop-up duty. Rather than deploying Emilio Pagan who two outings prior gave up a walk-off home run and had yet another longball pulled back by Nick Gordon in his most recent appearance, the Twins turned to their so-called “long reliever.” Nobody will blame the Twins for not being able to tell the future, but the very next day Tyler Mahle left in the third inning and the Twins turned to Emilio Pagan in the role Sands was supposedly brought up to fill. The game was ultimately filled out later by several high-leverage relievers just as we’ve seen in short starts all season. Pagan was less than dominant but got the job done. The outcome here is inconsequential with the day off Thursday, but it raises questions about the Twins bullpen management, particularly in regards to long relievers. In years past the Twins have not only had rosters that a traditional long reliever would have helped, but they’ve also had respectable options to fill such a role. From Randy Dobnak in 2021 to Cole Sands and Josh Winder this year, the Twins have a history of rostering these players and not setting them up for success in a long relief role. In all three cases, these pitchers have been used inconsistently in regards to the frequency they pitch as well as the situations they’re used in. Not only does this usage not provide the team with the bullpen support they so badly need, but the pitchers themselves often suffer without the structure they’d grown accustomed to as starting pitchers. Unless the front office simply views Sands as a traditional relief pitcher at this point in his career, there’s no reason for him to be on the Major League roster filling one-inning stints. He clearly won’t be allowed to pitch on back-to-back days, so unless he’s the #1 option to come in and fill multiple innings, there are several relievers in AAA who can come up and better fill such a role. Perhaps Mahle’s short start was a wake-up call, but Cole Sands simply isn’t being used in the way he should be. It’s disappointing to see considering how much of an impact a true long reliever could have in this final month-plus of the season. Furthermore, it hasn’t been encouraging to see that the Twins prefer to use their so-called “long reliever” in mop-up duty over Emilio Pagan who still appears to have the Twins complete trust despite the seismic shift he’s made in their season with some of the ugliest blow-ups in Twins Territory since Ron Davis was closing out games. It’s impossible to say whether the Twins feel the same way, but they should be staring down two options moving forward. Either schedule out “piggyback” scenarios with Cole Sands to use him in a way that will maximize his ability to fill innings, or replace him with a traditional reliever that doesn’t need time off after a one-inning stint. Anywhere in between these two options would be doing a disservice to themselves. The Twins need a long reliever and now they have one in Cole Sands. It’s time to start using him as one.
  5. Major League Baseball recently announced that teams will be able to carry 28-player rosters until May 1. The lockout forced a shortened spring training, and baseball was worried about an increased chance of injuries. Players listed below with the ** are on the bubble for the final roster spots. Catchers (2): Ryan Jeffers, Gary Sanchez One of the biggest remaining questions is whether or not the Twins will carry a third catcher. Jeffers can't start every game behind the plate, and Sanchez is known as one of baseball's worst defenders. Minnesota's only other catcher on the 40-man roster is José Godoy, but it seems more likely for him to stay in St. Paul until there is a need at the big-league level. If Jeffers or Sanchez struggles behind the plate, Godoy is one phone call away from Target Field. Infielders (7): Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Gio Urshela, Carlos Correa, Nick Gordon, Brent Rooker** Correa's addition undoubtedly changes the face of the infield, including solidifying the team's up-the-middle defense. Minnesota has made it clear that Arraez won't be getting regular playing time in the outfield, leaving him as a backup infield option at multiple positions. Last season, Arraez's defense was significantly improved at third base, so maybe he and Urshella will be fighting for playing time at the hot corner. Barring injury, Gordon and Rooker fill out the bench, but neither has a path to a consistent starting job. Outfielders (4): Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach** With three corner outfielders, the Twins will need to be strategic about getting at-bats for each player. Larnach isn't a true fourth outfielder, so the team may want him in St. Paul to get regular at-bats. Kirilloff can spend time at first base, which is his best defensive position. Rooker is also on the roster, but the team is hesitant to play him defensively in the outfield. Gilberto Celestino is the lone outfielder on the 40-man roster left off this projected Opening Day roster. He was terrific in St. Paul last year, and he's one injury away from taking over a big-league role. Rotation (5): Sonny Gray, Dylan Bundy, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Chris Archer Randy Dobnak's injury took him out of contention for an Opening Day roster spot. Minnesota signed Archer to serve as Dobnak's replacement at the rotation's backend. Archer's deal is a low-risk option for the Twins as it is highly incentive-based, but he has a chance to prove he is healthy. Also, it's important to consider that the Twins won't need a fifth starter very regularly at the beginning of the season. In some years, off-days and weather delays can push back the need for a fifth starter, but that won't be the case this season. Bullpen (10): Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala, Caleb Thielbar, Joe Smith, Cody Stashak, Jharel Cotton, Jovani Moran**, Griffin Jax**, Jhon Romero** This spring, Rogers has looked strong, which is a good sign for the bullpen's backend. Smith was the team's most significant offseason addition to the bullpen. He comes with over 13 years of big-league experience. Minnesota needed another right-handed relief option, and Smith filled that role. Cotton and Stashak have started in the past, so they can pitch multiple innings when needed. If there were a 26-man roster, the last three names would be fighting for a job. All three could enjoy a big-league paycheck for the season's first month with expanded rosters. What changes will happen to the team's roster before Opening Day? Which on the bubble players will miss the cut? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  6. Minnesota already decided to move Griffin Jax and Lewis Thorpe to bullpen roles, which makes sense when looking at their pitching flaws. Last season, Jax was excellent the first time through the order, and he may be a strong candidate to serve in an opener role. Thorpe is out of minor league options, and the team needs to see if he can find success as a reliever. Either pitcher may shift to starting games as part of bullpen games in Dobnak’s absence. Signing a different back-end starting pitcher is also on the table. Rumors surrounding Johnny Cueto coming to the Twins circulated earlier in the week, and he’d be a natural Dobnak replacement. Cueto is coming off a 2021 season where he posted a 4.08 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 114 2/3 innings, but he hadn’t pitched more than 65 innings in three prior seasons. Cueto doesn’t seem to offer a ton of upside, and maybe the Twins are rethinking their back of the rotation options. Another option is to allow other young pitchers to start. Many of the team’s top pitching prospects missed time last season due to injury. Pitchers will be on an innings limit, so when and where do the Twins want those innings? If players start in the minors, those are innings that don’t help the 2022 Twins. Someone like Jhoan Duran can help bolster the team’s bullpen, but Minnesota may not be ready to shift him from starting. Jordan Balazovic is on the 40-man roster, and he pitched nearly 100 innings at Double-A last season. As a 23-year-old, would the Twins start him in the big-league rotation? Nothing stops the team from moving him up and down from Triple-A throughout the 2022 season. Other prospects on the 40-man roster include Josh Winder and Drew Strotman. Winder, like Balazovic, is projected to debut in 2022, but he dealt with a right shoulder impingement that limited him to 72 innings. Winder may be ahead of Balazovic on the depth chart because he made multiple Triple-A starts and is a couple of years older. Last summer, Strotman was acquired as part of the Nelson Cruz trade, and scouts view him as big-league ready. This year, he will start games for the Twins, and Dobnak’s injury may push him into the team’s Opening Day plans. Veteran players like Jharel Cotton, Chi Chi Gonzalez, and Dereck Rodriguez have been brought in this winter to provide organizational depth. Cotton projects to be part of the bullpen, but he can bounce back in 2022, including shifting back to being a starter. Gonzalez started 18 games for the Rockies last season but posted a 6.46 ERA with a 1.53 WHIP. There’s a chance that leaving Coors Field will help some of his numbers. Rodriguez also provides rotational depth as he looks to get back to the pitcher he was in 2018. After signing his extension last winter, Dobnak’s career has undoubtedly followed a challenging path. Minnesota tried him as a reliever last season, and it didn’t work. From there, his finger injury started bothering him, and he is still dealing with the issue. Over the next three seasons, he is guaranteed $7.75 million, so Minnesota wants him to solve his finger issue and get back on the field. What path do you think the Twins will follow because of Dobnak’s injury? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. Over the weekend, we learned that Randy Dobnak has continued to experience pain in his finger this spring. The injury cut his 2021 season in half. The right-middle finger has been an issue for him since last season. Jhon Romero is 27-years-old from Colombia. A late-bloomer, he debuted with the Nationals on September 24, 2021, and posted a 4.50 ERA in five games, four innings. He split the 2021 season between Double-A Harrisburg (33 G) and the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings (5 G). He went 2-4 with a 2.62 ERA in 38 games out of the bullpen. In 55 innings, he walked 11 and struck out 69 batters. Romero had originally signed in May of 2015 with the Cubs. He was already 20-years-old. He joined the Nationals organization during the 2018 season. Romero has a good fastball that averaged 94.5 mph in his big-league stint. He has a mid-80s slider and a changeup that can be a plus pitch. He also can do these things really well.
  8. Catchers (2): Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers Last season, the Twins started with Garver, Jeffers, and Astudillo on the Opening Day roster. Astudillo rarely saw time at catcher, and he is no longer in the organization. Minnesota hopes Garver and Jeffers can turn into the dynamic catching duo projected for the 2021 campaign. There is also a chance the Twins trade one of these players for starting pitching, which would mean Ben Rortvedt shifts into a backup role. Infielders (6): Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Josh Donaldson, Miguel Sano, Nick Gordon, Brent Rooker Minnesota would pivot and move Polanco back to his previous position with no clear shortstop on the roster. This would result in Arraez taking over at second base and the team’s middle infield defense suffering. Donaldson and Sano will see time as the team’s designated hitter, while Gordon becomes a full-time utility player off the bench. Rooker can be a powerful bat off the bench even though he may not offer much defensively. Jose Miranda is the wild-card here after his breakout 2021 season. Will there be enough at-bats for him to be in the big leagues for Opening Day? Outfielders (4): Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach This is another group where it will be interesting to see how the team divides up at-bats. Kirilloff might be the best defensive first baseman on the roster, and he will get time at that position. Larnach doesn’t exactly fit the traditional fourth outfielder role, so the team might leave him at Triple-A and add a more veteran player. Much like with the catchers, there is a chance Minnesota includes an outfielder in a deal for starting pitching. Gilberto Celestino is an intriguing option for a backup outfielder role, especially if Buxton is on the IL at some point in 2022. Rotation (5): Dylan Bundy, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Randy Dobnak, Lewis Thorpe Starting pitching is where things get rough, and a lot will depend on what the team adds in the weeks after the lockout ends. Dobnak and Thorpe can help the pitching staff next season, but forcing them into the rotation to start the year may be a recipe for disaster. Minnesota has confidence in Ryan and Ober to repeat what they accomplished in 2021, but expectations need to be tempered for both players. It’s becoming clear that the front office is high on the organization’s pitching prospects, so the team can turn to one of those arms to fill out the rotation. Jordan Balazovic, Josh Winder, and Jhoan Duran all project to be in the Triple-A rotation, and they should all debut in 2022. Drew Strotman, acquired with Ryan for Nelson Cruz, is 25-years-old and big-league ready. Bullpen (9): Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Jorge Alcala, Caleb Thielbar, Ralph Garza Jr., Cody Stashak, Jovani Moran, Jharel Cotton, Griffin Jax If the rotation looks like above, the bullpen will take on an even more critical role, and it will be critical to have a nine-man bullpen to cover innings. Rogers is one of the biggest keys to this bullpen’s success. While this core group improved last season, Rogers missed time due to a left middle finger sprain at the end of the season. Duffey struggled for the first time since switching to a bullpen role, so it will be vital to rediscover his previous form. Alcala might have finally figured it out, and he has the potential to take the next step in 2022. With the rotation’s composition, it might also be necessary to utilize an opener on a more regular basis. Cotton has a chance to bounce back next season, and there’s a chance he may shift to a starting role. Moran has a devastating changeup, and he may develop into a critical late-inning option in the years ahead. What changes do you predict to the team’s roster before Opening Day? 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
  9. Not all of these players are going to play at an All-Star level, but the amount of talent on this roster is hard to ignore. From hitters to pitchers, the 2018 Kernels had it all. 2018 Kernels Hitting Prospects Many top position players on the 2018 Kernels have made their big-league debuts in the last two seasons. Players included on that list are Akil Baddoo, Ryan Jeffers, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Ben Rortvedt. Baddoo's big-league success has come in a Tigers uniform after being selected in last winter's Rule 5 Draft. Last season, the outfielder hit .259/.330/.436 (.766) with 40 extra-base hits and a 113 OPS+ in 124 games. Luckily, the other names on the list are still in the organization. Jeffers has proven his defensive value over the last two seasons, even when his bat struggled at times. During the 2020 season, his framing skills ranked in the 90th percentile. Kirilloff exhibited his strong hitting talent in his rookie season, but a wrist injury sapped his power. He had surgery, but he should return to form in 2022. Larnach had an up and down rookie campaign, and many still believe he can develop into an above-average big-league hitter. Like Jeffers, Rortvedt has some solid defensive skills that can make him a surprising help to the team moving forward. Two of the team's top prospects also spent time with the 2018 Kernels. Jose Miranda is coming off a breakout season where his stock is rising more than any other Twins prospect. The former number one overall pick, Royce Lewis, had knee surgery last spring and missed the entire 2021 season. Many national rankings have dropped him from their top-100 lists because of the development time he has missed the previous two seasons. On that 2018 team, Miranda and Kirilloff tied for the team lead with 13 home runs. Lewis had 23 doubles, and Baddoo added an eye-popping 11 triples. As 19-year olds, Baddoo and Lewis both added 22 or more steals. Kirilloff had a team-best .999 OPS, and Baddoo led the team with 183 total bases. Baddoo's final numbers were truly impressive. He hit .243/.352/.419 (.770) with 44 extra-base hits, 83 runs, and 24 stolen bases. 2018 Kernels Pitching Prospects There have been six pitchers from the 2018 Kernels that have already made their big-league debuts on the mound. Bailey Ober and Randy Dobnak are the two that figure to most prominently help the 2022 Twins. Ober is penciled into the starting rotation on the heels of a tremendous rookie season. Ober's expectations are high, but there might be some sophomore struggles to overcome. Dobnak signed an extension last winter and produced his worst professional season as he tried to pitch through an injury. Jovani Moran figures to get an opportunity in Minnesota's bullpen, especially with his dominant change-up. Brusdar Graterol, a teenager at the time, was still a starter in 2018. Minnesota traded Graterol to the Dodgers for Kenta Maeda, and he has transitioned to a reliever role at the big-league level. The Rangers claimed Edwar Colina off waivers from the Twins earlier this offseason. He had multiple procedures on his elbow last year, and Minnesota took him off their 40-man roster. Johan Quezada made three appearances with the Marlins in 2020, and he is currently on the Cardinals' 40-man roster. Two of Minnesota's top pitching prospects, Jhoan Duran and Blayne Enlow, also pitched for the 2018 Kernels. Duran was limited to 16 innings last season before being shut down with a strained elbow. Now, he needs to prove he can be healthy and get back on track in 2022. Enlow had Tommy John surgery in June, which has pushed him down Minnesota's prospect rankings. Dobnak led the team in innings pitched, and games started while posting a 3.14 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. Colina was still a starter, and he had a 2.48 ERA with team-high 95 strikeouts in 98 innings. Moran led the team with a 14.2 SO/9, but he also struggled with 5.5 BB/9. Dobnak won 10 games, while Balazovic, Ober, and Colina were all credited with seven wins. Cedar Rapids made it to the semifinals of the Midwest League playoffs in 2018 before falling to the Cardinals MWL affiliate. However, this roster will have long-lasting impacts at the big-league level. Which former Kernel is going to have the best MLB career? 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. Two of the names below struggled mightily last season, and the other pitcher missed multiple seasons throughout his career. All three have something to prove in 2022, which can be exciting for a team like the Twins that need big-league pitching depth. Dylan Bundy Bundy was Minnesota's lone free-agent signing before the lockout, but there might be some reasons to hope he can bounce back in 2022. Bundy surprised many during the pandemic shortened 2020 season with a resurgent year, including finishing in the top-10 for the AL Cy Young. He posted a 3.29 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP and 72 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings. It looked like Bundy was finally reaching the ceiling many thought he had as one of baseball's top prospects. Last season, Bundy couldn't replicate his 2020 numbers, and that's one of the main reasons the Twins were able to sign him for such a relatively cheap contract. One of Bundy's most prominent issues in 2021 was his inability to strand runners. Bundy has a 70.8 LOB% for his career, but last season that number dipped to 64.0%. Another change last season was he doubled his sinker usage, and batters posted a .609 SLG against it. Minnesota likely pushes Bundy to throw more sliders and batters combined for a .494 SLG versus that pitch in 2021. Randy Dobnak Dobnak's name will be featured on multiple bounce back lists this winter because he can't be as bad as he was in 2021. Last season, Dobnak was pushed out of the rotation coming out of spring training, but it was clear that he wasn't a reliever. In 14 big-league appearances, he allowed 43 earned runs in 50 2/3 innings. At Triple-A, he made four starts and posted a 3.00 ERA with a 1.39 WHIP. A finger injury caused him issues throughout the season, and he was eventually put on the 60-day IL. His terrible, no good, very bad season came to an end, so things can't go much worse for him in 2022. Minnesota doesn't need Dobnak to be a frontline starter, but he needs to fit into the backend of the rotation. Last season, his slider got plenty of hype during spring training as he looked like a whole new pitcher. Then during the season, his slider was his worst pitch as batters posted an .815 SLG against it. Dobnak needs to prove he is healthy, and then he can be relied on to be more than rotational depth. Fans are understandably low on him, but a healthy Dobnak will be a welcome addition to the team's rotation next year. Jharel Cotton Minnesota claimed Cotton off of waivers from Texas this winter, and he certainly offers some intrigue for a pitcher-hungry team. Previously, Cotton was a top-100 prospect in the Oakland organization, and they gave him opportunities to stick as a starter. Last season, he pitched in the big leagues for the first time since 2017 and compiled a 3.52 ERA with a 1.40 WHIP. All his appearances came as a reliever in 2021, but some believe he might provide some valuable innings for the Twins in 2022. One of the reasons for this optimism is the amount of spin Cotton has added to his fastball. According to FanGraphs, his fastball had the second-highest amount of vertical movement in baseball last year among pitchers with at least 30 innings. He also utilizes a changeup with a lot of movement that is more than 10-mph slower than his fastball. By adding in his average slider and it's easy to see how he might fit into the rotation when needed next season. Minnesota will have starting opportunities, and Cotton has a chance to prove he can be more than a reliever. Which pitcher is most likely to bounce back? 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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?
  15. 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!
  16. 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
  17. 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.
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. 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
  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
  25. 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
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