With the bomba record wrapped up and the season finished, any and all focus advances to the ALDS. And winning that series might require hitting some more bombas, scoring a lot of runs, and covering 45 innings on the mound.
How will the Twins do it? Well, the bombas seem to come naturally at this point. The runs follow. The pitching? That’s another matter. With no Michael Pineda to turn to, and two starters with recent results that leave something to be desired, the Twins are in a tight spot.
Six months ago if you would have said that Randy Dobnak would be getting legitimate consideration for those innings, you would have been called a dreamer. Now, Dobnak is an inspirational figure for anybody playing professional baseball who hasn’t gotten the breaks they’ve so desperately wanted. He signed into the Twins system, skyrocketed up the minor league ladder and kicked the door in to break into a pitching staff that now might turn to him to get outs in October.
Dobnak was named Twins minor league pitcher of the year over the weekend. Trevor Larnach earned the Twins’ honors among position players.
A few years ago, Dobnak was a college pitcher for that famed baseball powerhouse Alderson-Broaddus College of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. Then he was pitching in Independent Baseball. But eventually he signed on with the Twins on a minor league deal.
Dobnak, 24, began the 2019 season at High-A Fort Myers. He dominated and got promoted to Double-A. By the time he arrived in Pensacola, he was committed to the trademark fu manchu mustache and rec specs. There, too, he dominated. He punched out 61 hitters and walked only 6 of them, and he earned a promotion to the Triple-A Rochester.
Once at Rochester he was officially on the radar for MLB innings if they were needed, and you probably know how that chapter unfolded. In 135 combined innings in the minors this year, the fast-rising hero of every right-handed Indy Ball pitcher out there posted a 2.07 ERA with 109 strikeouts and 28 walks. (His 9 appearances in the big leagues were pretty good, too; he’s got a 1.59 ERA to go along with a 23:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.)
Now, he’s fresh off his wedding, delaying his honeymoon until the Twins are done playing October baseball, and he’s likely to pitch in a game either in Yankee Stadium or at Target Field in the ALDS.
Trevor Larnach was Minnesota’s first-round pick last summer — and then went on to power Oregon State to a College World Series.
He quickly began his late-start 2018 pro campaign in rookie ball and was promoted to the Midwest League before too long. His offensive stats made him look like one of the more advanced college bats in the country in large part because, well, he was. The Twins and scouting director Sean Johnson picked this guy for a reason, and his bat looked solid in his debut.
Zoom ahead to the 2019 season, which Larnach started in High-A Fort Myers as a 22-year-old, apparently hitting his way out of the lower leagues in short order. Larnach hit .316/.382/.459 for the Miracle in a league that some consider to be pitcher-friendly. Even then he wasn’t getting the prospect hype because of his top-prospect teammate, Royce Lewis.
But he earned the bump to Double-A Pensacola (where he joined Alex Kirilloff) right around the time of the MLB All-Star break in mid-July. (He earned Florida State League MVP despite the mid-year promotion out of the league.)
Once in Double-A, he kept hitting for average and power, and actually got on base at a better rate in the higher league. Larnach hit .295/.387/.455 for the Blue Wahoos and now has earned Twins position player of the year.