Seth's Preseason Top 20 Minnesota Twins Pitching Prospects
As a reminder, the purpose of prospect rankings is really just to create discussion. Below you will find my personal rankings of Twins pitchers, and I certainly welcome your thoughts and opinions on the players and their rankings.
As we prepare for the season, be sure to check out the Opening Day roster previews of the four Twins full-season affiliates:
Triple-A: Rochester Red Wings
Double-A: Pensacola Blue Wahoos
High-A: Ft. Myers Miracle
Low-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels
Top 20 Twins Pitching Prospects
#20 - Charlie Barnes LHP (Ft. Myers Miracle)
Drafted in the fourth round out of Clemson in 2017, Barnes spent the 2018 season in Ft. Myers where he went 6-6 with a 2.81 ERA. He ended the season strong. In his final 13 starts, he went 5-2 with a 1.84 ERA. He doesn’t throw real hard, topping out just over 90 mph, but he has a plus changeup and mixes well.
#19 - Bailey Ober RHP (Ft. Myers Miracle)
Ober was the Twins 12th-round pick in 2017 out of the College of Charleston. In his first start last year with the Kernels, he gave up six earned runs in 2/3 of an inning. He gave up four or more runs in five of his first six starts. Then over his next six starts, he went 6-0 with a 1.66 ERA. He also struck out 63 batters in 48 2/3 innings in that stretch. However, he left that final game in late July with an elbow issue that was deemed minor. Injury has been a big part of his pitching career but when healthy, he has been really good.
#18 - Landon Leach RHP (Extended Spring Training)
The Twins took the right-hander from Canada in the second round of the 2017 draft. He is still pretty new to pitching and the Twins are being incredibly patient with him and his development. But watching him throw bullpens is impressive. He throws hard. He had onlookers to his bullpen asking who he was and how soon he would be in the big leagues. Well, it’s going to be a while, but when healthy and ready to go, he could be impressive. But, at this point, we just don’t know yet. But he’s got the big size and strength to be one to watch.
#17 - Jovani Moran LH RP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
Jovani Moran has been really good the last couple of years. The Twins seventh-round pick in 2015 out of Puerto Rico. He missed 2016 after having bone chips removed from his elbow. He dominated in Elizabethton in 2017. In 2018, he was really good in both Cedar Rapids and in Ft. Myers. Combined, he went 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA. He had 107 strikeouts in 76 innings. Many that watch him wonder “What is that pitch?” He’s got a few pitches and gets a lot of movement.
#16 - Cole Sands RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels)
When Sands makes his first Kernels start this year, on Saturday, it will be his professional debut. After his 2018 season at Florida State, he was just shut down and didn’t pitch after being the Twins fifth-round pick last year. I saw him pitch a couple of times in Ft. Myers this spring and came away impressed. He’s big and strong and can throw pretty hard, but there appears to be room for more which is what’s really exciting.
#15 - Josh Winder RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels)
Winder was the Twins seventh-round pick last year out of Virginia Military Institute. He’s also tall and built quite strong, but like Sands, there is room for some growth and increased velocity. He went 3-1 with a 3.72 ERA in nine starts for the E-Twins. In 38 2/3 innings, he walked just six and struck out 42 batters.
#14 - Zack Littell RHP (Rochester Red Wings)
Littell came to the Twins from the Yankees at the July 2017 deadline for Jaime Garcia. He reached the big leagues earlier in 2018 and made one start. Later, he got a relief appearance. Neither went well, but he was called back up in September and showed well in his final appearances. Littell is strong and he has three good pitches and pitchability.
#13 - Luis Rijo RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels)
Rijo came to the Twins at the July trade deadline with Tyler Austin in exchange for Lance Lynn. He was pitching for the Yankees Appalachian League team in Pulaski at the time of the trade and was 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA in five starts. He made five starts for E-Town and went 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA. He has shown good control and struck out a little less than a batter per inning. Rijo stands just over 6-feet tall and is stocky, but he does know how to pitch.
#12 - Kohl Stewart RHP (Rochester Red Wings)
It was a bit of a surprise last year when it was Stewart that was called up first in mid-August. He held his own in the big leagues, pitching well at times - particularly against the Tigers - and also struggling, as you would expect a guy in his first month or so in the big leagues. He begins this season with the Red Wings. He has really matured, but he’s also got good stuff. He has good movement on his one-seam fastball which induces weak contact. His other secondary pitches will need to continue to be more crisp but have some potential.
#11 - Regi Grace RHP (Extended Spring Training)
Grace was the Twins 10th-round pick a year ago out of high school in Mississippi. He is physically impressive. He stands tall and is built very strong. He’s got the Graterol-like lower half with strong legs and back side. He really drives off the mound and despite his youth has a big fastball. He has a world of potential and time to continue developing his secondary stuff and learn how to pitch.
#10 - Griffin Jax RHP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
Jax is tall and thin but very strong. In April of last year, he learned that he would be able to put his efforts to baseball. He did well with the Miracle and then was able to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. He is making the jump to Double-A this year. He’s got a good fastball and an improving slider. He’s got good pitchabilty.
#9 - Tyler Wells RHP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
Wells was the Twins Daily choice for 2018 Starting Pitcher of the Year when he went a combined 10-6 with a 2.49 ERA between Ft. Myers - where he was a Florida State League All Star -and Chattanooga. In 119 1/3 innings, he struck out 121 batters. Wells stands 6-8 and has really worked hard since becoming a pro, losing about 50 pounds. He’s got a good fastball and the secondary pitches have really improved. He starts the season on the injured list, but he should be just a couple of weeks behind.
#8 - Jorge Alcala RHP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
Alcala came to the Twins in the Ryan Pressly deal from the Astros. He’s got a big fastball, sitting in the upper-90s and occasionally hitting triple figures. Questions remain with his secondary pitches, but the arm should play in the bullpen even if he isn’t able to develop a third pitch.
#7 - Edwar Colina RHP (Ft. Myers Miracle)
Colina has quietly become one of the best pitching prospects in the organization. He isn’t real tall and has a stocky build and is very strong. He was really good in Cedar Rapids last year and earned a promotion to Ft. Myers where he pitched a huge game late in their season and then was the starter in the FSL championship game. This spring, he was hitting 97-98 mph with his fastball and still has the secondary pitches that have potential.
#6 - Stephen Gonsalves LHP (Rochester Red Wings)
While his MLB debut late last season didn’t go as well as hoped, Gonsalves still possesses a plus changeup. He has a much-improved curveball and a cutter. His fastball velocity last year was down under 90 and he seemed to lose his control and command. There were reports of increased velocity shown at spring training, and if he throws more strikes, he can be successful in the big leagues. He expects to miss the first two or three weeks of this season.
#5 - Jordan Balazovic RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels)
Balazovic’s name became much more talked about after Keith Law named him the Twins #3 prospect this winter. But Balazovic has been an intriguing prospect since the Twins made him their fifth-round pick in 2016 out of a high school near Toronto. He had a nice debut, but he really struggled in the GCL in 2017. Things really came together for him in 2018. Drafted for his size (tall, thin) and pitchability, he gained a lot of velocity since being drafted and now sits in the 93-95 range. He still has the good secondary pitches too. He had a nice showing when he went 7-3 with a 3.94 ERA in 12 games (11 starts). In 61 2/3 innings, he walked just 18 and struck out 78 batters.
#4 - Blayne Enlow RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels)
Enlow was the Twins third-round pick out of high school in Louisiana in 2017. He pitched well in Cedar Rapids in 2018. He went 3-5 with a 3.26 ERA in 94 innings. He’s got good velocity, hitting 93 and even 94 at times, but he’s best known for his spin and his breaking ball. He returns to the Kernels - where his Opening Night start didn’t go great. But that’s one start and Enlow has the size, athleticism and willingness to learn to be really good.
#3 - Lewis Thorpe LHP (Rochester Red Wings)
Thorpe was the Twins choice for pitcher of the year last year. After missing two seasons after Tommy John surgery and disease, he returned for a half-season in 2017. He worked 129 2/3 innings in 2018, mostly at Chattanooga, but he ended the season with four starts in Rochester. Thorpe sits in the low-to-mid 90s with a good curveball and a good changeup. He should debut in 2019.
#2 - Jhoan Duran RHP (Ft. Myers Miracle)
Duran came to the Twins last July from Arizona in the Eduardo Escobar deal. In his first start with the Kernels, he threw seven no-hit innings. He was flashing a fastball in the 95-96 range and showed what potentially could be really good breaking pitches and a changeup. He gets good movement as he will. I’m sure you saw LaVelle Neal’s tweet saying that Duran hit 102 last week in Ft. Myers. More consistently he’s been hitting 97-98 mph.
#1 - Brusdar Graterol RHP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
Graterol missed nearly two seasons with Tommy John surgery, but he returned in 2017 and was very strong. He had gained about 60 pounds and his velocity shot up to nearly triple digits. In 2018 in Cedar Rapids, he hit 100 many times and usually had a 102 a few times each game. Watching him in the bullpen, he has the makings of a plus changeup and a plus-plus, wipe out slider. Development of those pitches will be the key in determining his future (starter or reliever). With his aggressive promotion to AA to start this season, don’t be surprised if he finds himself in the Twins bullpen late in the season.
Again, these are my personal choices as Top 20 Minnesota Twins pitching prospects. Certainly this list can and will likely cause some discussion and questions, which I welcome below.
- Steve Lein, mikelink45, Tibs and 3 others like this