Minnesota Twins: Four Questions to Answer during Spring Training

A general view of the exterior of Hammond Stadium prior to a spring training game. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
A general view of the exterior of Hammond Stadium prior to a spring training game. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Twins
Starting pitcher Randy Dobnak of the Minnesota Twins delivers the ball against the Chicago White Sox. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Who is the Minnesota Twins’ fifth starter in 2021?

When you let Jake Odorizzi, Homer Bailey, and Rich Hill walk in the same season, you’re letting 25% of your team’s starts from the year before leave with them. The team has to find a way to replace all those innings.

The first move the team made was adding J.A. Happ on a one-year deal, while he’s not an a-list addition, he brings reliability and solid performance, essentially holding a roster spot for Jordan Balazovic or Jhoan Duran in 2022. It’s a good deal.

The issue is that there wasn’t a second one. The Twins didn’t add a guy to pitch fourth in the rotation, and while there was some hope that the team might bring back Odorizzi, the addition of Colome and Odorizzi’s high asking price make that seem very unlikely.

This means that once again, we’re looking at an option from within. Similar to left field, I like to believe this is another placeholder situation. Balazovic and Duran are the clear future at this position barring a trade, and thus far it seems like the Twins aren’t inclined to trade either one.

The Twins have several options that will be at Spring Training and looking to win this spot. Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, and Bailey Ober will all be given a shot to win this job, especially if no one new is brought in.

Smeltzer and Thorpe have the most upside, but it seems very unlikely that either will meet their potential in 2021 (or beyond) given recent performance. And while Bailey Ober is a fun thought, that’s not the rookie you want in your rotation when competing for the playoffs. That leaves Dobnak.

Dobnak started off his Twins career very hot, giving up only seven runs in his first 13 games. Unfortunately, he gave up 19 runs in the next nine games, sending him down to the minors and out of the Twins rotation.

Opposing teams seemed to figure him out, which is never a good sign. If he is given the chance to start again, he would need to change up his pitching style greatly to make it work. I don’t really see him holding the spot for long.

Lastly, the Twins like bullpen games. 10% of the games from 2020 came from the bullpen, and with the way the team built their 40-Man roster, they’re expecting the bullpen to have a big year yet again.

Prediction: Randy Dobnak is used as a primary long reliever for the bullpen games until a prospect or a trade arrival steps in for the Minnesota Twins.