Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: 11-15
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (Graphic by Brock Beauchamp)15. Cole Sands, RHP
Age: 23 (DOB: 7/17/1997)
2019 Stats (A/AA): 97.1 IP, 2.68 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 10.0 K/9, 1.8 BB/9
2020 Ranking: 19
The lack of a minor-league season in 2020 hurt many prospects, and Sands is certainly among them. He was just beginning to ramp up his workload – from 75 ⅓ innings during his final year at Florida State to 97 ⅓ in his first year with the Twins – and then it all got shut down. Now, the former fifth-round draft pick will try to pick up where he left off.
Prior to the pandemic, he had quite a bit of momentum going. Sands was extremely impressive during his first professional season in 2019, posting a 2.68 ERA along with a brilliant 108-to-19 K/BB over 18 starts. He started out at Low-A and ended in Double-A. Solidly built at 6-foot-3 and 215 lbs, Sands brings a fastball in the mid-90s and his changeup is rated by Baseball America as the best in the Twins system.
The mission for Sands in 2021 is to rebuild his workload and get back on track toward a full starter's regimen, while also translating his early success into the high minors. It's a tall task, but all signs suggest the right-hander is up to it. He's a sleeper candidate to debut in the majors this year.
14. Misael Urbina, OF
Age: 18 (DOB: 4/26/02)
2019 Stats (Rookie): 217 PA, .279/.382/.443 , 2 HR, 26 RBI
2020 Ranking: 17
Urbina was considered one of the best international prospects available in 2018 when the Twins landed him with a $2.75 million signing bonus. The toolsy outfielder arrived with an exceptional pro debut the following year, slashing .279/.382/.443 over 50 games in the Dominican Summer League. In 217 plate appearances, Urbina showed excellent plate discipline (23 walks, 14 strikeouts), hit for power (21 extra-base hits), and flashed standout speed (19 steals and five triples). He also played a very sharp center field defensively.
The Twins signed Urbina as a scrawny 16-year-old, and now he's going to be challenged to grow up in a hurry. He's still young, but turns 19 in April and hasn't been exposed to a full-season league. That'll happen now. If the uber-athletic teenager can come anywhere close to replicating his 2019 performance as he presumably graduates to A-ball, he'll climb these rankings quickly.
13. Matt Wallner, OF
Age: 23 (DOB: 12/12/1997)
2019 Stats (Rookie/A): 291 PA, .258/.357/.452, 8 HR, 34 RBI
2020 Ranking: 14
Like Urbina, Wallner was a highly touted young outfielder who made an impressive debut in 2019, posting an .810 OPS in 65 games between Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids after being selected in the supplemental first round of June's draft. But unlike Urbina, time is not on Wallner's side.
The Twins took him out of the University of Southern Mississippi with the 39th overall pick, valuing the Forest Lake native as a polished and potentially fast-moving collegiate lefty bat. Now, after the lost 2020 season, he's 23 and has played 12 games above rookie ball.
To put that in context: Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler were all established as full-time major-league outfielders at 23, and Alex Kirillloff will probably do so for himself this year at the same age. None of this is damning for Wallner, who faces the same need to make up for lost time as his minor-league peers, but it leaves him with little margin for error. If he struggles at all to acclimate in A-ball, he'll quickly fall behind the curve. Conversely, if he hits the ground running, Wallner is in line to move quickly as a relatively advanced hitter.
12. Brent Rooker, OF/1B
Age: 26 (DOB: 11/1/1994)
2020 Stats (MLB): 21 PA, .316/.381/.579, 1 HR, 5 RBI
2020 Ranking: 9
Rooker is different from almost every other prospect we'll rank on this list, in that he gave us some actual, concrete performance to evaluate in 2020. Granted, it was an absurdly small sample: 21 plate appearances with the Twins before a fractured forearm ended his season in mid-September. But what we saw mostly confirmed what we've come to believe about Rooker: he's a quality right-handed bat with real power potential, and ready for the big leagues.
The Twins called up Rooker in early September after Kepler went down with a groin strain. He wasted no time at the plate, collecting six hits including a home run and two doubles. "I don’t want to say he’s got Miguel Sanó power, but it’s that type of power to the big part of the field,” said hitting coach Edgar Varela of the slugger.
Rooker's defensive limitations were also on display during brief action in right and left field, and while he is ostensibly an option at first base, he hasn't played it since 2018.
With Nelson Cruz returning in 2021, Rooker doesn't have much of a path to regular playing time at the moment, but he's useful as a rotational righty bench bat. To become more than that, he'll need to cut down the strikeouts, prove his defensive viability, and above all, find an opportunity.
11. Gilberto Celestino, OF
Age: 21 (DOB: 2/13/99)
2019 Stats (A): 536 PA, .277/.349/.410, 10 HR, 54 RBI
2020 Ranking: 12
Celestino was on a roll before his 2020 season got wiped out.
After a slow start at Cedar Rapids in 2019, the outfielder pressed the pedal to the medal, slashing .357/.427/.550 in 43 games after July 1st and earning a late-season call-up to Ft. Myers. After the season, Minnesota added him to the 40-man roster, fearing that another club might try to snap him up in the Rule 5 draft. For a 20-year-old who had barely skimmed High-A, it was a rather extraordinary move, setting Celestino's options clock in motion at a very early stage.
Clearly, the Twins like this kid, and with good reason. He was seeing plenty of early action in spring training last year before the shutdown.
Celestino was on Minnesota's extended 60-man roster last summer, and got his work in daily at the alternate site in St. Paul, so his development was impeded less than many ohter prospects who weren't so lucky. That might give him a leg up heading into the coming season.
He's probably the best center fielder in the system after Byron Buxton, which is noteworthy given Buxton's proneness to injury. Although Celestino is not a candidate to be called up early in the 2021 season, he could quickly enter the conversation with a fast start and a major-league opening. The combination of speed and power, combined with improving discipline and strong defense in center, makes him a multi-dimensional prospect with big impact potential.
Although Ryan Pressly became an All-Star after the Twins traded him to Houston, it's still looking like the Twins – with young fireballer Jorge Alcala penned into their bullpen and Celestino fast on the rise – might end up getting the best of that 2018 trade.
Twins 2021 Top 20 Prospects
20. Bailey Ober, RHP
19. José Miranda, 3B/2B
18. Alerick Soularie, UTIL
17. Ben Rortvedt, C
16. Edwar Colina, RHP
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