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Randy Dobnak - 2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper


When searching for a potential fantasy baseball pitching breakout or sleeper, we generally look at top prospects or players that were high picks in their draft year. Usually, these are high-velocity arms who have dominated opponents since high school or international sensations that have been under tutelage from a major-league club since getting signed as a teenager.

If you were excited to read about a player that meets the criteria above, you may find it disappointing that Randy Dobnak does not fit this mold. That's not to say he doesn't have sleeper appeal, but his path to the big leagues was more unorthodox than most after going undrafted in 2017. After signing with the Minnesota Twins in August of the same year, Dobnak quietly cruised through the minors and was pitching in the bigs nearly two years to the day later, eventually earning the nod in Game 2 of the ALDS.

For a hurler who began the 2019 campaign pitching in High-A, this was an extraordinary feat, especially for a player with a relatively unknown pedigree. Let's break down his game so you won't miss out in 2020 like the other 29 MLB teams already have.

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Randy Is Dandy

Dobnak doesn't rely on a triple-digit heater to overpower hitters but finds his success by pitching to weak contact with effective command of the strike zone. With power arms becoming increasingly common, softer tossing hurlers like Dobnak find success by being different than the "norm" and use it to their advantage. He leans on his 92.2 MPH sinker to induce ground balls while mixing in his sharp-breaking curveball to generate swings-and-misses, an approach that has worked wonders throughout his professional career.

Dobnak achieved his quick ascent to the majors by posting an ERA of 3.11 or fewer across every minor league stop, including a 2.15 mark in 46.0 Triple-A innings. His 18.0% career K-rate in the minors doesn't overwhelm anybody, but his 5.0% walk rate helped keep his WHIP hovering around the 1.00 mark at every stop. Dobnak maintained this trend going during his 28.1-inning stint with the Twins, and the results were just as appealing.

The right-hander made nine appearances (five starts) for the team's stretch run, earning a 1.59 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and a 4.2% walk rate. For reference, this number would have finished as a top-five mark among all starters last season, but it wasn't only his ability to limit the free pass that impressed people. Dobnak limited major league hitters to just two barrelled balls on 87 events (2.3%), with would-be top-10 marks in weak contact (5.7%) and ground-ball rate (54.0%). These feats led to an impressive one home run allowed in the bigs after surrendering a measly six long balls over 135.0 minor league innings in 2019 (0.4 HR/9).

 

2020 Projection

Heading into the 2020 season, the Twins have signed some pitching depth that Dobnak will compete with for a spot in the starting rotation. The good news is Homer Bailey and Rich Hill aren't exactly models of perfect health by any stretch of the imagination, and Michael Pineda still has five weeks worth of games left to serve on his 2019 PED suspension. Providing the 25-year-old doesn't absolutely implode during spring training, he appears primed for a rotation spot on one of the league's top-scoring teams.

Dobnak won't net you a significant strikeout total, but he did post whiff and chase rates above the league average with the Twins, including an elite 46.3% Whiff% with his curve during his small sample size. Keeping the ball on the ground and limiting the free pass will remain the essential ingredient to his success, and it seems destined to continue after finding the same results at every professional stop. Dobnak profiles as a Kyle Hendricks or Marcus Stroman-light, and at an ADP of 483.6, his next to no cost is an appealing option for fantasy managers looking to lower their ratio totals.

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