2019 ALDS Preview: The Twins Starting Rotation

    Your reigning American League East champion New York Yankees are set to square off against the Minnesota Twins in the AL Division Series begging this Friday, October 4, 2019. In preparation for the opening round duel, the Pinstriped Prospects staff will give you a background and analytical analysis of the AL Central champs roster, beginning with the projected starting rotation.

    Starting pitching is by far the biggest internal challenge the Twins have to overcome if they want any chance at advancing past the first round (and beyond) this October. The rotation, which is the most glaring weakness on the club’s roster, has a 4.77 ERA since the All-Star break.

    Just like the Yankees, Minnesota will have four days off following the conclusion of the regular season on Sunday before entering battle in the Bronx. The biggest question Twins manager Rocco Baldelli faces is who will start game one since he and the front office have the time to plan the rotation as they desire.

    My bet is on Jake Odorizzi starting game one and five (if necessary), Jose Berrios toeing the slab in game two, Randy Dobnak getting the call-in game three, and Martin Perez starting game four (if necessary). This is assuming an ‘opener’ isn’t used in games three or four (if necessary).

    Former Yankee Michael Pineda would have all but been a shoo-in to start game three, however, the big Dominican right-hander was suspended for 60 games after he tested positive for Hydrochlorothiazide, a substance that is banned under Major League Baseball’s Drug and Prevention Program.

    Former Twins starter Kyle Gibson, who has made 188 starts for the organization, was just moved to the bullpen last Wednesday for the first time in his career. This was following a torrid stretch where Gibson posted a 7.14 ERA since August 1st as a starter. It is important to note that Gibson has been attempting to overcome his fight with ulcerative colitis.

    Minnesota Twins pitcher Jake Odorizzi throws a warm-up pitch against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

    Jake Odorizzi

    Earlier on this season, Odorizzi held New York to two hits over six scoreless innings of work at Yankee Stadium, then was tagged for 9 earned runs across four innings pitched by the Yankees at Target Field in July.

    His success earlier this season wasn’t a fluke, as he carried a no-hitter against the Bronx Bombers into the eighth inning just a year ago.

    Overall, this season Odorizzi is 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. Across 159 innings pitched, the righty has struck out 178 opponents and walked 53.

    Arsenal (with a breakdown of average velocity, pitch usage percentage, and spin rate):      

    • Four Seamer – 92.9 mph – 57.9% – 2236 rpm
    • Cutter – 85.4 mph – 18.5% -2161 rpm
    • Split finger – 85.2 mph – 17.1% – 1489 rpm
    • Curveball – 75.4 mph – 6.5% – 2253 rpm

    Fun Facts:

    • Edwin Encarnacion is slashing .186/.265/.395 against Odorizzi over 43 at bats which is the most appearances that any Yankees batter has faced the right hander
    • Encarnacion, Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, DJ LeMahieu, and Gleyber Torres are all batting under .200 when facing the Illinois native
    • Luke Voit is the only Yankee to not record a hit against the former Tampa Bay Ray, going 0-for-5 with two strikeouts
    • In 11 at bats, Cameron Maybin has reached base six times against Odorizzi while recording five hits
    • Aaron Judge has enjoyed some success against the 29-year old, batting .300 in 10 plate appearances, however, he has struck out a whopping five times against the pitcher
    Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Jose Berrios delivers to a Kansas City Royals batter during the first inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

    Jose Berrios

    Berrios started the 2019 season strong, only to follow the first four months of encouraging work with a 7.57 ERA in August. Since August 1st, Berrios has allowed five or more runs in five outings. This has inflated his second-half ERA to 4.77.

    The 25-year old is 13-8 with a 3.70 ERA and 1.22 WHIP this season. He has recorded 186 strikeouts in comparison to 49 walks across 194.1 innings pitched in 2019.

    An important statistic to know is that the native from Puerto Rico ranks higher than the 81st percentile in both exit velocity and hard-hit percentage in all of MLB, according to Statcast.

    Arsenal (with a breakdown of average velocity, pitch usage percentage, and spin rate):      

    • Four Seamer – 93.1 mph – 30.7% – 2196 rpm
    • Sinker – 92.1 mph – 29.2% -2110 rpm
    • Curveball – 81.2 mph – 24.5% – 2335 rpm
    • Changeup – 82.5 – 15.7% – 1710 rpm

    Fun Facts:


    Minnesota Twins pitcher Randy Dobnak throws against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

    Randy Dobnak

    Haven’t heard of Dobnak? You are probably not alone as the 24-year old has only made five starts and nine total career Major League appearances.

    Hailing from South Park, PA, Dobnak has never been a top prospect and has had to fight for everything he’s earned. In 45 minor league starts, he has pitched to a 2.53 ERA over 228 innings pitched.

    According to Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com, “Five months ago, Randy Dobnak threw his first pitch of the season in Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Only two years ago, he was pitching for the Utica Unicorns in the obscure United Shore Professional Baseball League, which had never before produced a Major League player”.

    Arsenal (with a breakdown of average velocity, pitch usage percentage, and spin rate):      

    • Sinker – 92.2 mph – 36.5% – 1944 rpm
    • Curveball – 84.1 mph – 27.9% – 2392 rpm
    • Four Seamer – 93.4 mph – 22.7% – 2051 rpm
    • Changeup – 85.7 mph – 12.9% – 1653 rpm

    Fun Facts:

    • The rookie has never faced a single Yankee batter in the big leagues
    • Signed with Minnesota as an undrafted free agent of July 28, 2017
    • He is an Uber driver with a 4.9 rating
    • Dobnak won the International League (Triple-A) Pitcher of the Week for the week ending on July 28, 2019, after making two starts, going 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA across 12.1 innings pitched.
    Minnesota Twins pitcher Martin Perez throws against the Chicago White Sox in the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

    Martin Perez

    Perez is 10-7 in his 2019 campaign with an inflated 5.13 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. In 159.2 innings pitched, he has struck out just 130 batters and has issued 64 free passes.

    The 28-year old faced the Yankees on July 22nd at Target Field, pitching four innings and permitted five earned runs on seven hits and four walks. The Twins ended up winning the game 8-6, despite the non-quality start turned in by Perez.

    His numbers have been trending the wrong way if you are a Minnesota fan. Since August, Perez has made 10 starts. He has permitted five or more earned runs in half of them. His last three appearances he has lasted five innings or less and allowed a combined 24 hits.

    Arsenal (with a breakdown of average velocity, pitch usage percentage, and spin rate):

    • Cutter – 88.5 mph – 31.2% – 2307
    • Sinker – 93.9 mph – 24.8% – 2052
    • Changeup – 85.4 mph – 22% – 1796
    • Four Seamer – 94.2 mph – 17.2% – 2133
    • Curve – 79.3 mph – 4.9% – 2637

    Fun Facts:

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