Nothing has been officially announced, but the Minnesota Twins are purchasing the contract of right-handed pitcher Randy Dobnak prior to Thursday’s game.
Dobnak, 24, will replace Kohl Stewart on the 25-man roster after Stewart was demoted to Rochester following throwing 46 pitches in Wednesday afternoon’s 11-7 loss in the series finale against the Atlanta Braves.
The Twins have cycled arms throughout the seventh spot of a seven-man bullpen in recent days, with Cody Stashak, Lewis Thorpe, Sean Poppen and Stewart all seeing action in various stints, but this time they’ll go to the well for a guy not on the 40-man roster.
The 40-man roster sat at 39 after the trade deadline acquisitions of Marcos Diplan, Sam Dyson and Sergio Romo, so no further move will need to be made to make room for Dobnak.
It’s possible Dobnak could be part of a longer-term solution with the Twins, especially if they ultimately find it necessary to remove Martin Perez from the rotation — even temporarily — after his recent run of trouble.
But for now, it appears Dobnak will come up and be expected to cover lower-leverage spots — at least in the short term.
The Player: Randy Dobnak
The Situation: The Rochester Reliever Express needs another rider, and some of them aren’t eligible to come back up yet or have pitched too much recently. For what it’s worth, Dobnak (2.02 ERA in 125 innings across three stops) has also pitched well enough for the chance as well.
The Numbers: 0.40 ERA, 5.6 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 0.99 WHIP in 22.1 innings at Fort Myers (High-A); 2.57 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 0.8 BB/9, 0.96 WHIP in 66.2 innings at Pensacola (Double-A); 2.00 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.00 WHIP in 36 innings at Rochester (Triple-A)
Quirks: You mean other than the rec specs and the quasi-Fu Manchu/handlebar mustache combo? Dobnak will be the first player from Alderson-Broaddus College (Phillippi, W.Va.) to make the big leagues, and according to his Twitter profile, Dobnak has a 4.99 driver rating on Uber.
The Lowdown: This marks the second year in a row that a Twins pitcher has ascended all the way from High-A Fort Myers to the big leagues in the same season. Last year it was lefty Andrew Vasquez, and this year it’s Dobnak.
Do yourself a favor and read Patrick Reusse’s terrific feature on Dobnak from this past weekend, by the way. It’s chock full of interesting biographical information on Dobnak, who went undrafted as a Division II baseball player and turned up in the United Shore League in Michigan, of all places.
The United Shore League website lists 32 players who’ve signed deals with MLB organizations since 2016, but as of now, it appears as though Dobnak is the first one to break through to the major leagues. It also feels like the Twins have signed a disparate number of the players who’ve ascended out of this league, as over the last four years they’ve inked Dobnak, Taylor Grzelakowski, Kevin Marnon, Tanner Kiest, Tyler Palm and this year, Alec Craig.
Dobnak’s numbers as Alderson-Broaddus are very good, but don’t necessarily jump off the page when considering it was a Division II school: 2.95 ERA, 102-24 K/BB ratio in 124.1 innings and 0.98 WHIP.
Dobnak pitched well in the USBL, but again, the numbers didn’t necessarily jump off the page. He posted a 2.31 ERA in 35 innings with 29 strikeouts, six walks and a WHIP of 0.80 for the Utica Unicorns, and that was enough for the Twins to offer him a contract and send him to Elizabethton for a quick stint to get him up to speed before finishing the season at Cedar Rapids.
A little over two years to the day of his first appearance with Elizabethton — four innings, three earned runs and five strikeouts on Aug. 4, 2017 — Dobnak will walk into the clubhouse at Target Field as a member of the Minnesota Twins in the big leagues.
Talk about a rapid ascent.
As for what Dobnak can do on the mound, this video from Prospects Live gives a pretty good indication:
Dobnak sits in the lower 90s with his fastball, mid 80s with a split and a slider that is in that range as well.
All three of them seem to profile as pitches that can get grounders — Dobnak’s speciality — but the fastball seems to be the main attraction there, as it appears to have significant arm-side run. Dobnak’s arm slot appears to be a 3/4 — maybe even lower 3/4, but I’m no expert — but again, it gives his fastball considerable run and his slider, when right, has nice two-plane break.
The strikeout numbers may look pedestrian (7.3 K/9 across all three levels this season) but they come with a healthy swinging-strike rate of 13 percent and a groundball rate of 59 percent, which is well, well above what league average looks like in the big leagues.
Dobnak also walks nobody, and his lefty-righty splits are really, really good. Lefties have a .562 OPS against him this season, and righties are faring even worse (.555). In fact, he’s never really had a discernible split, so that should allow him to eat up some innings early but also maybe work himself into bigger spots if he proves he can handle it.
None of that is to say people need to get ahead of themselves, since this could just be another one-off situation like Stewart was on Wednesday, but there are some intriguing parts of Dobnak’s game that might not typically be fleshed out by simply reading a stat line.
The strikeouts have come and gone, but he’s basically posted a 50 percent or better groundball rate wherever he’s been, and for the most part he’s kept the ball in the ballpark at all three stops this season (0.4 HR/9).
He’s not the sexiest prospect — outside of the beard, obviously — but he’s more interesting than people will give him credit for right away.
Also: here’s him hitting at four years old. How cute is that?
The Scout’s Take: We are still waiting to hear back from our scouting contact about Dobnak, and will update when that happens.
The Verdict: Dobnak is a fun story, but it doesn’t have to end there. He offers an intriguing repertoire combined with the ability to induce grounders — and those almost never leave the infield for extra-base hits. The odds of him blowing up in the big leagues are fairly slim, but he can definitely carve out a role in middle relief, if nothing else.