Minnesota’s Farm System is Key to Sustainable Contention
Image courtesy of © Jeff Curry-USA TODAY SportsBack in 2016, the Twins revamped their front office by hiring Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. One of their biggest tasks in their first year on the job was preparing to have the number one overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. That draft was just the start of how they were able to add to Minnesota’s well stocked farm system.
Minnesota’s current crop of regulars was moving through the system back in 2015-16 and that’s why the farm system ranked so highly. The new front office crew saw some of their impact after the 2017 MLB Draft and that continued into the following year’s draft. The results of their time at the helm are already being felt at the big-league level.
There were multiple options with the top overall pick back in 2017 with names like Hunter Greene, MacKenzie Gore, Brendan McKay and Kyle Wright all in the discussion. Minnesota decided Royce Lewis was the best option and he has been the organization’s highest-ranking prospect since he was drafted. Last season, Lewis finished at Double-A and under normal circumstances, he might have made his big-league debut this season.
Lewis wasn’t the only strong pick in this draft. Brent Rooker was recently called up and he has been contributing to a team in the middle of a pennant race. Time will tell if he can develop into a big league regular, but his powerful swing should keep him on the roster. In the same draft, Minnesota had to offer Blayne Enlow a big signing bonus to lure him away from LSU and now he is one of the organization’s top pitching prospects. He might be a couple years away from debuting, but he add to the depth of the farm system.
Coming off a surprise run to the playoffs, the Twins had a much lower draft pick in 2018, but that didn’t stop them from finding players to restock the farm. Trevor Larnach was the team’s first round selection and he has developed into one of the best hitting prospects in the organization. He was the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year and the Florida State League Player of the Year. He finished last year at Double-A and now he has been part of the team’s 60-man roster that is working out in St. Paul.
Another player from this draft, Ryan Jeffers, has played a pivotal role with the club due to Mitch Garver’s injury. When he was drafted, he was seen as a bat-only catcher, but he was given very little coaching on his catching defense throughout his collegiate career. Now, his 51.2% strike rate has him in the top-20 among all MLB backstops when it comes to catcher framing.
Trades Add Depth
Making trades is another way to stock a farm system and the Twins front office has already seen some of the rewards of those trades. Zack Littell was acquired back at the 2017 trade deadline as part of the Jaime Garcia trade and he has fit nicely into the Twins bullpen when healthy. At that same deadline, Minnesota added LHP Tyler Watson who pitched all last season at High-A with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP.
The 2018 trade deadline was where Minnesota was able to revamp the farm. Trading Eduardo Escobar to the Diamondbacks got the Twins back a trio of prospects including RHP Jhoan Duran, who is considered one of the team’s top pitching prospects. Also, Minnesota traded away Ryan Pressly for RHP Jorge Alcala and OF Gilberto Celestino. Alcala has shown electric stuff out of the Twins bullpen this year and Celestino could become a regular at the big-league level in the years ahead. For the Twins, this trade could pay dividends for multiple years into the future.
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