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Twins 2019 Minor League Hitter of the Year

Throughout this week, Twins Daily has handed out our 2019 minor league awards. Today we continue the series by looking at the top hitters in the Twins organization this season. There were a lot of strong performances, and unlike last year, the vote was not unanimous. In fact, it was closer than you probably think and has a chance to create a lot of discussion.

Previous 2019 Awards
Short-Season Minor League Hitter of the Year: Matt Wallner
Short-Season Minor League Hitter of the Year: Cody Laweryson
Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year: Anthony Vizcaya
Today: Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year: Randy Dobnak
Minor League Hitter of the Year: See below…

Previous Twins Daily Minor League Hitters of the Year:
2012 - Oswaldo Arcia
2013 - Miguel Sano
2014 - Mitch Garver
2015 - Max Kepler
2016 - Daniel Palka
2017 - Mitch Garver
2018 - Alex Kirilloff
Image courtesy of Daniel Venn, Pensacola Blue Wahoos (graphics by Finn Pearson)
Before we get to the Top Eight, let’s take a look at the others who received votes. This year’s group is interesting. You’ll see players who spent time at a couple of levels. You’ll see a couple of players who finished the season elsewhere. We have some minor league veterans who signed, looking for an opportunity, and there are a few of the top prospects.

The six Twins Daily Minor League writers were asked to vote for the various awards. For the hitter of the year, we each voted for eight players. The player who was voted as #1 received eight points, #2 received seven points and so on with the #8 vote receiving one point. Results were tabulated and can be found below.

Short profiles of our top eight are to follow, but first, some players worthy of honorable mention. These players also received votes.


Honorable Mention
  • Tomas Telis - Rochester Red Wings - 82 games, 101-306, .330/.364/.490 (.946), 21-2B, 2-3B, 8 HR, 44 R, 46 RBI
  • Travis Blankenhorn - Ft. Myers Miracle/Pensacola Blue Wahoos - 108 games, 122-440, .277/.321/.466 (.787) with 22-2B, 2-3B, 19 HR, 56 R, 54 RBI
  • Luis Arraez - Rochester Red Wings - 54 games, 73-212, .344/.409/.401 (.810) with 10-2B, 1-3B, 0 HR, 26 R, 22 RBI.
  • Jake Cave - Rochester Red Wings, 48 games, 69-146, .352/.393/.592 (.984) with 18-2B, 4-3B, 7 HR, 37 R, 39 RBI
  • Spencer Steer - Elizabethton Twins/Cedar Rapids Kernels, 64 games, 70-250, .280/.385/.424 (.809) with 18-2B, 3-3B, 4 HR, 40 R, 33 RBI
  • Nick Gordon - Rochester Red Wings, 70 games, 87-292, .298/.342/.459 (.801) with 29-2B, 3-3B, 4 HR, 49 R, 40 RBI
  • Gilberto Celestino - Cedar Rapids Kernels/Ft. Myers Miracle, 125 games, 133-480, .277/.349/.410 (.759) with 28-2B, 3-3B, 10 HR, 58 R, 54 RBI.
Minor League Hitter of the Year

Here are the top eight vote getters for Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year:

8. Gabe Snyder – Cedar Rapids Kernels - 114 games, 110-424, .259/.338/.462 (.800), 21-2B, 4-3B, 19 HR, 63 R, 58 RBI

Snyder really had an impressive season. He was a Midwest League All-Star at the midseason and for the postseason. The burly first baseman was relatively consistent and quite productive at the top of in the middle of the Kernels lineup most of the year, but he was not on the team’s opening-day roster. That said, he was called up very quickly and made his debut on April 11th, the team’s eighth game. At 6-5 and 235 pounds, Snyder looks the part at first base and has the power to hit the ball a long way. The 24-year-old was the #MNTwins 21st-round pick in 2018 out of Wright State.

7. Ryan Jeffers – Ft. Myers Miracle/Pensacola Blue Wahoos – 103 games, 97-368, .264/.341/.421 (.762) with 16-2B, 14 HR, 48 R, 49 RBI.

Jeffers was a surprise (to many) second-round pick for the Twins in 2018 out of UNC-Wilmington. He dominated at Elizabethton before ending his 2018 with 36 games in Cedar Rapids. Despite limited time in the Midwest League, Jeffers made the jump to Ft. Myers to start the 2019 season. After a slow start, he really got things going. In 79 games with the Miracle, he hit .256/.330/.402 (.732) with 11 doubles and ten homers. He earned a promotion to Double-A Pensacola where he hit .287/.374/.483 (.856) with five doubles and four homers in 24 games. The night that he was promoted to Pensacola, he didn’t start, but in the 14-inning game, he hit a walk-off double.



6. Wilin Rosario – Rochester Red Wings – 105 games, 124-413, .300/.339/.504 (.843) with 24-2B, 20 HR, 71 R, 91 RBI

From 2011 through 2015, Rosario hit 71 home runs for the Colorado Rockies. He hit 28 homers in 2012 and another 21 homers in 2013. He spent some time in Korea and then in Japan. This past offseason, he wanted to get back to playing in affiliated ball and the Twins gave him an opportunity. He made the best of it by putting up fantastic numbers in Rochester. He hit for average. He hit for power. The Red Wings named him their team MVP this season. He did some catching early in the season, but he was mostly the team's DH.

5. Brent Rooker – Rochester Red Wings – 65 games, 64-228, .281/.398/.535 (.933) with 16-2B, 14 HR

After a strong showing at Double-A Chattanooga in 2018, Rooker got his first big league spring training invitation and started the season at Triple-A Rochester, just one step away from the big leagues. It is fair to say that things started slowly for the slugger. In 16 April games, he hit just .214 and struck out 28 times in 56 at bats. After that, things changed. In 49 games from May 1st on, he hit .302/.432/.558 (.990) with 14 doubles and 10 homers. Along with the improved hitting, walk rate and power, he also reduced his strikeout rate from 45.9% in that first month to just 31.5% the rest of the season. Unfortunately, a mid-July injury prematurely ended his season.

4. Lewin Diaz – Ft. Myers Miracle/Pensacola Blue Wahoos – 90 games, 100-340, .294/.336/.553 (.889) with 27-2B, 2-3B, 19 HR, 46 R, 62 RBI

2018 was a frustrating year for Diaz. He had worked really hard and lost some weight, but he struggled in Ft. Myers until his season ended with a wrist injury. In 2019, he came to camp in even better shape and the work paid off. He returned to the Miracle where he hit .290/.333/.533 (.860) with 11 doubles and 13 homers in 57 games. He was again named a Florida State League All-Star and soon moved up to Pensacola. In 33 games, he hit .302/.341/.587 (.928) with 16 doubles and six homers. Then came the trade deadline and he was dealt to the Miami Marlins in exchange for RH RP Sergio Romo, RHP Chris Vallimont and Cash. In 31 more games for Jacksonville, he added six doubles and eight home runs.

3. Zander Wiel - Rochester Red Wings – 126 games, 119-469, .254/.320/.514 (.834) with 40-2B, 5-3B, 24 HR, 86 R, 78 RBI

Zander Wiel has quietly put together a strong resume, moving up one level each year. While he ended the 2018 season with a few games with the Red Wings, he was a very productive hitting in their lineup in 2019. As you can see, the Vanderbilt product (12th-round pick in 2015) was an extra-base machine. He plays a good first base and generally puts together good at-bats, though he will strike out a lot.

2. Jaylin Davis - Pensacola Blue Wahoos/Rochester Red Wings – 99 games, 109-366, .298/.391/.563 (.954) with 20-2B, 1-3B, 25 HR, 73 R, 67 RBI

Jaylin Davis had an incredible 2019 season, and it will continue through the end of the MLB season. His season began in Pensacola with the Blue Wahoos. In 58 games, he hit .274/.382/.458 (.840) with nine doubles and ten home runs. He was promoted to Rochester and just took off. In 41 games, he hit .331/.405/.708 (1.112) with 11 doubles, a triple and 15 home runs. The Twins wanted to add bullpen, and Davis headlined a trade in which the Twins sent three prospects to the Giants for Sam Dyson. He went to AAA Sacramento where he hit .333/.419/.686 (1.105) with six doubles and ten homers in just 27 games. And then, he got The Call. He joined the Giants in St. Louis and singled in his first at-bat. Obviously for this Twins award, only his numbers with the Twins were to be considered, and those numbers were incredible. Davis was the Twins 24th-round draft pick in 2015.

Hitter of the Year

Trevor Larnach – Ft. Myers/Pensacola Blue Wahoos – 127 games, 147-476, .309/.384, 458 (.842) with 30-2B, 1-3B, 13 HR, 59 R, 66 RBI.

Trevor Larnach was named the Florida State League Player of the Year last week. As we end our week of Twins Daily Minor League awards, he has now been named the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year by our panel. I’m sure the honor are pretty equivalent. But it is very deserved.

Trevor Larnach grew up in California. Following his high school career, he was the 40th-round pick in the 2015 draft by the Padres by chose to attend Oregon State. It was a decision that proved wise for him. Three years later, he had the opportunity to play hero and win a College World Series title.

In June 2018, he was also the 20th overall draft pick of the Minnesota Twins. He split the remainder of that season between the Elizabethton Twins and Cedar Rapids Kernels.

Despite just 24 games with the Kernels, he began 2019 with the Ft. Myers Miracle. Larnach put together a strong season. In 84 games with Ft. Myers, he hit .316/.382/.459 (842) with 26 doubles, a triple and six home runs. He was promoted to the Blue Wahoos where he hit .295/.387/.455 (.842) with four doubles and seven homers in 43 games.

His 147 hits led the organization, as did his .309 batting average (for anyone with over 300 plate appearances).

The Ballots

In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily minor league writers:
  • Seth Stohs – 1) Jaylin Davis, 2) Trevor Larnach, 3) Zander Wiel, 4) Lewin Diaz, 5) Wilin Rosario, 6) Brent Rooker, 7) Spencer Steer, 8) Travis Blankenhorn
  • Matt Braun - 1) Jaylin Davis, 2) Lewin Diaz, 3) Trevor Larnach, 4) Luis Arraez, 5) Jake Cave, 6) Brent Rooker, 7) Ryan Jeffers, 8) Travis Blankenhorn
  • Cody Christie – 1) Jaylin Davis, 2) Trevor Larnach, 3) Zander Wiel, 4) Wilin Rosario, 5) Lewin Diaz, 6) Brent Rooker, 7) Tomas Telis, 8) Gabe Snyder
  • Tom Froemming – 1) Jaylin Davis, 2) Trevor Larnach, 3) Lewin Diaz, 4) Ryan Jeffers, 5) Gabe Snyder, 6) Zander Wiel, 7) Wilin Rosario, 8) Travis Blankenhorn
  • Steve Lein – 1) Trevor Larnach, 2) Jaylin Davis, 3) Zander Wiel, 4) Lewin Diaz, 5) Brent Rooker, 6) Gabe Snyder, 7) Travis Blankenhorn, 8) Gilberto Celestino
  • Ted Schwerzler – 1) Brent Rooker, 2) Zander Wiel, 3) Wilin Rosario, 4) Tomas Telis, 5) Travor Larnach, 6) Ryan Jeffers, 7) Nick Gordon, 8) Gabe Snyder
Feel free to discuss. What do you think? Do you agree with our rankings? How would your ballot look?

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31 Comments

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AlwaysinModeration
Sep 13 2019 03:34 AM
I think you misspelled the hitter of the year, it’s spelled J-A-Y-L-I-N. Or at least that’s what the voting (and performance) indicates. I’m guessing you didn’t want to give the award to a player no longer in the Twins system, which is fair.

Thanks for putting together the article. Not as strong a set of performances as the pitchers, but then again, the big league club needs pitching a lot more than hitting. (And note the conspicuous absences of Kiriloff and Lewis...)
    • dbminn, bighat and jkcarew like this
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AlwaysinModeration
Sep 13 2019 04:13 AM
(I’m doing the math, I see that Davis and Larnach tie with 39 points each, but shouldn’t 4 out of 6 first place votes pretty clearly break the tie?)

What a great year from Larnach.Will we see him in Minnesota next September?

 

A bit surprised Kirilloff wasn't included with your Honorable Mention group.His late season hitting was very good after putting his wrist injury behind him.And his bat in the playoffs was something else.Had also forgotten how well Rooker was playing before going out with the injury.

 

What may be most interesting to me is how Arraez has about the same numbers with the Twins as he had in Rochester...or are they even better?

 

(I’m doing the math, I see that Davis and Larnach tie with 39 points each, but shouldn’t 4 out of 6 first place votes pretty clearly break the tie?)

 

You are correct... and I have no idea why you would want to do the math.. Ha!

 

For me the tie-breaker was going to be the first-place votes, but I went to the various voters and a couple of other TD writers and asked for their thoughts/opinions on how to break the tie. I got some good responses both ways. 

 

For me personally, the choice was very easy. Jaylin Davis, despite not even being in the organization for the final 5 weeks of the minor league season, put up the best numbers. Not even close. But, a couple of people pointed out that He did a ton of damage in AAA, with the MLB ball and his numbers (compared to league) weren't quite what Larnach's was in FM and Pens...

 

So, I took all the comments and ultimately made the choice. But yes, I certainly won't disagree if some say it should have been Davis... But I also think that Larnach was much better than I realized once I started digging into the numbers (which is why I put him at #2).  

 

I do want to point this out... When I sent out the ballots, I did very specifically write this when sending out the voting instructions:

 

 

Minor League Hitter of the Year: Please vote/rank you top 8. (consider things you find important, but please consider only time spent in the Twins minor league system... In other words, Lewin Diaz and Jaylin Davis are eligible, but only use their Twins Minor League numbers)

 

    • Steve Lein and glunn like this

 

What a great year from Larnach.Will we see him in Minnesota next September?

 

A bit surprised Kirilloff wasn't included with your Honorable Mention group.His late season hitting was very good after putting his wrist injury behind him.And his bat in the playoffs was something else.Had also forgotten how well Rooker was playing before going out with the injury.

 

What may be most interesting to me is how Arraez has about the same numbers with the Twins as he had in Rochester...or are they even better?

 

Honorable Mention is simply anyone outside the Top 8 who also received votes. Kirilloff wasn't included because he didn't receive any votes. 

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Tom Froemming
Sep 13 2019 07:23 AM

Hmmm ... we may want to assess our scoring system for these. 

 

Hats off to Larnach, who was the best hitter this year in a notorious pitcher's league. His .316 average is the second highest for a qualified hitter in the FSL over the past five seasons. His OPS ranks eighth over that same time.

    • glunn, Oldgoat_MN, Danchat and 3 others like this
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NoCryingInBaseball
Sep 13 2019 07:30 AM

I enjoy reading about the top hitters and pitchers, great articles. Little surprised that Kirilloffdidn’t make the hitters list.

I always enjoy the year-end awards. I would've voted for Jaylin Davis as hitter of the year. No big deal. Larnach was impressive too. 

 

Random thoughts:

 

I like to look for players that break out during the season. This year, two players impressed me. The first is Ryan Jeffers. It's great to see a catcher jump a level and improve his hitting stats, especially at AA. The second is Gilberto Celestino. The lights turned on in the second half. He slashed .348/.413/.532 from July 1 to the end of the season. Both play key defensive positions, which makes their late-season performances something to get excited about.

 

Alex Kirilloff took a big dive in most of the national rankings by mid-season. I'm not worried after his late season success. He finally shook off the injuries and rust to slash .309/.358/.491 in August, following with 4 HR in the playoffs. I really hope he can stay healthy next year.

    • Steve Lein, glunn, DocBauer and 2 others like this
Been saying it all year, Jeffers will be a Twin as early as next year.

Sure would have been nice if Gordon had been healthy all year.....
    • DocBauer and dbminn like this

 

Honorable Mention is simply anyone outside the Top 8 who also received votes. Kirilloff wasn't included because he didn't receive any votes. 

I understand that's how it works, Seth. 

 

My surprise was that no one included him on their ballots.Albeit his games played was lower than most on this list, his numbers are similar to several of the Honorable Mention as well as the bottom two of the top 8.Considering how his play was affected by playing with the injury early in his season, to me he belonged on at least a couple of these ballots.And had anyone included his playoff hitting (was his playoff OPS over 1.000?), his numbers would have been noticeably better.

 

I had forgotten that Garver won this award twice.I guess we could have known what type of hitter he would become.

    • DocBauer and tarheeltwinsfan like this

Love these articles of our top prospects for the future. Even more fun to read about the future with the present looking good for the Twins--other than all the injuries and starting pitching conundrum. It's a little tough to see that two of our top minor league hitters have been traded until you see the results we got from the two relievers we received in exchange.

 

I know we had 40-man issues with Davis and Diaz and this makes it easier to protect the guys we need to, but more importantly we found that using our prospects to improve the MLB team is a great way to go. 

 

 

    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this

I'll tease Ted a bit...

 

Ted is to Jaylin Davis as LaVelle was to Pedro Martinez... 

    • Steve Lein, tarheeltwinsfan and Ted Schwerzler like this

How much do you guys take into account age/level? Because I look at Gabe Snyder clocking in at #8 and I just don't see it. He's 24 in low-A ball and was...fine? I'm much more impressed with Travis Blankenhorn who had a fairly similar batting line against better competition in tougher environments and at a younger age.

 

 

    • Oldgoat_MN and DocBauer like this

 

How much do you guys take into account age/level? Because I look at Gabe Snyder clocking in at #8 and I just don't see it. He's 24 in low-A ball and was...fine? I'm much more impressed with Travis Blankenhorn who had a fairly similar batting line against better competition in tougher environments and at a younger age.

 

For me, this isn't a prospect ranking at all. Blankenhorn is a top 20ish prospect. Snyder isn't... 

 

I mean, I have Blankenhorn 8, and though I don't have my stuff in front of me, I think Snyder would have been 9 or 10... 

 

I can't say it's not a factor, at least as a tie-breaker. 

 

And with six people voting, you'll probably hear 6 (or more) opinions. 

    • DocBauer, tarheeltwinsfan and Tom Froemming like this

This was really a tough choice for me at #1. Saying that, If Davis had stayed in the organization and done all that extra damage he did in the PCL (which was already a hitters league before the "juiced ball") with the Red Wings, he would have been #1. The idea only to consider their Twins numbers loomed large for me here.

 

I give a lot of credit to Larnach for being named the FSL PotY, only qualified hitter to bat .300+, and one of only two qualified hitters to OPS over .800 in the league. 

 

I also was one of those curious as to how Davis compared to some of his peers when he got to triple-A, and that research was was eye-opening to me. I was going to include a list of comparable names here until I got to my 30th name...

 

My point is that Davis has a lot of company in similar performance (rate-wise) in triple-A, and there's not many for Larnach in the FSL so that became more impressive for me. Larnach was also just as good as Davis in the Southern League. 

 

Incredible seasons from both of them, however. Certainly would be nice to still have Jaylin Davis here right now!

 

    • 70charger, DocBauer, tarheeltwinsfan and 1 other like this

I also just noticed Zander Wiel appears twice in my rankings. Gabe Snyder should be #6 :)

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tarheeltwinsfan
Sep 13 2019 10:20 AM

Really great job voters. These rankings are so much fun for us readers. I especially enjoy reading the voters comments. I love this website !

    • Steve Lein likes this
I like that all of the Twins Minor League hitters of the year from 2012 through 2017 have all hit at least 20+ HRs in a Major League season. 2018 hitter of the year is pending.
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Ted Schwerzler
Sep 13 2019 10:56 AM

I'll tease Ted a bit...
 
Ted is to Jaylin Davis as LaVelle was to Pedro Martinez...


Seth reached out to me after seeing my ballot. He likely thought I was crazy, and there’s probably no denying that. My thought process was to leave both Davis and Diaz off in an attempt to award someone still within the organization. Unquestionably though, Davis has the best year among hitters that player on the Twins farm IMO.

My goal wasn’t to slight Jaylin or Lewin by any means.
    • Oldgoat_MN, DocBauer and tarheeltwinsfan like this
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Tom Froemming
Sep 13 2019 11:09 AM

 

How much do you guys take into account age/level? Because I look at Gabe Snyder clocking in at #8 and I just don't see it. He's 24 in low-A ball and was...fine? I'm much more impressed with Travis Blankenhorn who had a fairly similar batting line against better competition in tougher environments and at a younger age.

For these awards, not at all. Performance vs. league average/scoring environment I do try to account for somewhat, but not age. Can't fault a guy for where the Twins put him.

 

When it comes to prospect rankings, however, stuff like age/level plays a massive role.

    • Dman, DocBauer and dbminn like this

Let's not rip Ted for leaving the two best hitting season in the organization (even Larnach wasn't that close) completely off his ballot.

 

Let's instead rip Ted for his first two choices: 65 games worth of Rooker...and Wiel, who ranked 9th on his own team in OPS (players with at least 100 PA). 3rd on his own team if you want the threshold to be 300PA...but that would easily eliminate Rooker :)

Just my opinion but Jaylin Davis should not have even been eligible for the voting as he did not finish the year as a Twins prospect.

 

I think it was great for him though as he got his call up to the show.Jumping to 35 minor league home runs and a AAA OPS > 1.000 was a great year. 

 

Also, Luis Arraez should be the minor league hitter of the year.  All of those minor league statistics are great, but he has a .412 OBP with the Twins in over 300 PA. 

Is Rooker okay? He took a line-drive to the groin in the OF, right? If he's not been heard from since July, I worry something terrible happened...

 

Is Rooker okay? He took a line-drive to the groin in the OF, right? If he's not been heard from since July, I worry something terrible happened...

 

I am not sure... but he played in 2 games in the GCL before that season was cancelled due to Hurricane Dorian. 

 

Just my opinion but Jaylin Davis should not have even been eligible for the voting as he did not finish the year as a Twins prospect.

 

I think it was great for him though as he got his call up to the show.Jumping to 35 minor league home runs and a AAA OPS > 1.000 was a great year. 

 

Also, Luis Arraez should be the minor league hitter of the year.  All of those minor league statistics are great, but he has a .412 OBP with the Twins in over 300 PA. 

 

Major League numbers were not to be used in the vote consideration as well. 


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