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Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospects: #5 Jordan Balazovic

Who is the best pitching prospect in the Twins system? That answer has changed several times over the past few years as promising arms have jockeyed for top billing on this list and others. From Jose Berrios to Fernando Romero to Brusdar Graterol...

Now, a new contender emerges.
Position: RHP
Age: 21 (DOB: 9/17/1998)
2019 Stats (A/A+): 93.2 IP, 2.69 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 12.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9
ETA: 2022
2019 Ranking: NA

National Top 100 Rankings
BA: 95 | MLB: 86 | ATH: 61 | BP: NA

What's To Like

The numbers speak for themselves. You can see above, his sterling results from 2019, adding to a pro career in which Balazovic has compiled a 3.32 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 10.0 K/9, and 2.7 BB/9 rate with 16 homers allowed in 227.2 IP. Those are immaculate numbers for a guy who turned 21 last September and has always been young for his level.

He dominates in the most straightforward and reliable of fashions: attacking the zone and making hitters miss. Among players to throw 20+ innings in the Midwest League, Balazovic's 39.8% K-rate in four starts there ranked third (the two higher numbers were from players three and four years older). After a very quick promotion to the Florida State League, Balazovic's K-rate dropped a bit to 32.8%, but that was good for third among pitchers with 50+ IP.

He achieves this level of domination in the most straightforward and reliable of fashions: commanding a mid-90s fastball and mixing it expertly with the offspeeds. Balazovic is a technician, riding a consistent delivery and deep release point to keep opponents from finding any kind of rhythm. His slider and developing changeup aren't viewed as especially great pitches on their own, but the 6-foot-5 righty plays them up significantly with his power fastball and tunneling technique.

In this video, Twins Daily's Tom Froemming shares highlights from one of Balazovic's better 2019 performances – a four-frame outing fresh off his appearance in the Futures Game – and Tom breaks down his deceptive pitch sequences in action.



While this outing came in relief, due to a disruption in his normal schedule, all but three of the former fifth-rounder's 31 appearances since reaching full-season ball have been starts. And this is a key factor that differentiates Balazovic from other big arms like Jhoan Duran at the top end our prospect list: he seems more likely than any other to remain a starting pitcher long-term.

It's apparent enough from his build: a big and sturdy guy with broad shoulders and smooth mechanics. His changeup is coming along well enough to project as a viable MLB offering. For these reasons and more, Patrick Reusse recently wrote in a Star Tribune profile that Balazovic "has starter written all over him."

Starter with colossal upside. A crucial asset indeed.

What's Left To Work On

A huge year lies ahead for Balazovic. While all signs have mostly been good since he joined the organization as a 17-year-old out of high school in 2016, he's got a couple big hurdles left to clear.

First, there's the high minors. According to Reusse's column, the Twins are gearing up to start Balazovic at Class-AA Pensacola this season, and he'll find the competition there much stiffer after mowing down Single-A batters last summer. Sharpening his breaking-ball command and refining the changeup will be essential to maintaining his results in the upper tiers.

Secondly, there's proving his durability. While he possesses the aforementioned qualities of a starting pitcher, Balazovic needs to make good on the field. He missed time in 2018 due to nerve irritation in his elbow, limiting him to 62 innings at Cedar Rapids, and in 2019 he totaled just 94 innings as his workload was stringently managed. (After May 25th, Balazovic had only one start where he pitched into the sixth or threw even 90 pitches.)

For comparison, Berrios threw 103 and 140 innings in his first two full pro seasons, at the same ages.

It's smart to be cautious with such a critical young arm, but at some point – probably this year – the Twins are going to need to loosen the reins and stretch Balavovic out, with deeper outings and a program that puts him on track for 150 innings at least.

What's Next

If Reusse's projection is accurate, Balazovic will open in Double-A at age 21, which is a fairly aggressive but well-warranted assignment. Last year only four pitchers 21 or younger logged 100+ innings in the Southern League, which is the realistic aspiration for Balazovic.

His workload baseline doesn't really set up for him to be pitching past August, so the idea of Balazovic impacting the big-league club down the stretch may not be feasible, barring a scenario like Graterol's last year where early missed time leaves Balazovic with innings left to throw toward the end.

Of course, that'd hardly be ideal, in the sense that his durability remains an open question. The best-case scenario for Balazovic this year would seem to be a fully healthy, productive, and convincing summer in the Pensacola rotation, perhaps punctuated by a late promotion to Triple-A cementing his readiness to contend for an MLB job in 2021.

Twins Daily 2020 Top 20 Prospects
Honorable Mentions
20. Jose Miranda, 3B/2B
19. Cole Sands, RHP
18. Travis Blankenhorn, 2B/LF
17. Misael Urbina, OF
16. Edwar Colina, RP
15. Matt Canterino, RHP
14. Matt Wallner, OF
13. Wander Javier, SS
12. Gilberto Celestino, OF
11. Lewis Thorpe, LHP
10. Blayne Enlow, RHP
9. Brent Rooker, OF
8. Keoni Cavaco, SS
7. Ryan Jeffers, C
6. Jhoan Duran, RHP
5. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
Check back tomorrow for #4!

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28 Comments

I would love to see him in MLB before the end of the year.Real talent rises quickly.

    • rdehring likes this

He is my #1...premium player who looks to stick at a premium position.

 

Absolutely think Kirilloff is the real deal too but SP is just sooooo important. 

 

I remain very concerned about Lewis

    • mikelink45, JoshDungan1 and bobs like this

He may be #5, which I expect is really #4 with Graterol gone.But, to me he is the most important player in the minor league system.Why?He is the one pitcher that seems to have the potential to be not only a #1 starter, but perhaps a real ACE.Could he be so good?Could the Twins be so fortunate?Heck yes!

    • SarasotaBill, mikelink45, Dman and 7 others like this

 

He is my #1...premium player who looks to stick at a premium position.

 

Absolutely think Kirilloff is the real deal too but SP is just sooooo important. 

 

I remain very concerned about Lewis

Agree on all

This is the kid I'm most excited about.Mid-90's without a max effort delivery.Even at 21, he's a "pitcher", not just a thrower.Tom lays it out pretty clearly what makes this kid good and why that makes him a top prospect.

    • DocBauer, gagu and rdehring like this

He looks to be very calm and confident on the mound.AA is always the big test though.can he stay healthy and effective at AA for a complete season.We probably wont see him in 2020 at the MLB level which is probably for the best. Hopefully in 2021 he is ready to take over a starting spot. 

 

It appears is delivery is smooth and his deception comes from all his pitching coming out of the same arm angle.kid looks to have big potential.

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LA VIkes Fan
Feb 13 2020 01:10 AM
I think even an early season 2021 MLB rotation spot is a stretch. He's 21. Let's see him throw 120-130 innings at AA, and another 20 at AAA this year. If he dominates, he starts 2021 in AAA as the 6th or 7th starter behind Berrios, Odorizzi ( I think the Twins extend him), Maeda, Pineda and Thorpe/Dobnak. And that's assuming Bailey and Hill aren't part of the 2021 rotatuon. He can get a couple of MLB starts in 2021 as injury replacement and IF he's effective, can get his MLB chance in 2022. No need to rush him.
    • birdwatcher, DocBauer, gagu and 2 others like this
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howieramone2
Feb 13 2020 07:36 AM
Agree. I'm looking for him to stick in 2022. Also, I'm starting to think Enlow will be the one to follow.

The Twins are stretching out their 21 year-old Canadian right hander in AA this season....bold move indeed.

 

Meanwhile, the Braves were letting their 21 year-old Canadian right hander pitch in the majors for the 2nd straight year in 2019. He went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA and made the All-Star team.

 

I love the team the Twins have on the field in 2020. But someone needs to tell this team that nobody cares about Pensacola winning a league title. When you find an elite player like Balazovic, have the cajones to get the guy up to the bigs and stop wasting his arm down on the farm.

 

    • Mike Sixel, Dantes929, Musk21 and 4 others like this
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Doctor Gast
Feb 13 2020 08:31 AM

The future pitching have looked pretty good, hope for the best!

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Aerodeliria
Feb 13 2020 08:33 AM
His delivery looks great already. The skies the limit!
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ScooterDance
Feb 13 2020 08:44 AM

I love the team the Twins have on the field in 2020. But someone needs to tell this team that nobody cares about Pensacola winning a league title. When you find an elite player like Balazovic, have the cajones to get the guy up to the bigs and stop wasting his arm down on the farm.


Bad take imo. Last year only 4 SPs pitchers his age pitched in the southern league. It’s not like they’re coddling him along.
    • Steve Lein, birdwatcher, Twins33 and 11 others like this

I'm a big fan of Balazovic. My one concern is whether or not his slider and/or changeup are going to be sharp enough to be significant weapons for him as he ascends into tougher competition. The command is good, which is great to see at this age; that and a good fastball will mow down single A pretty effectively. But he's going to need the secondary offerings to continue to develop to keep finishing off batters efficiently.

 

I really hope they look to get him to 120-130 innings this year. Physically, he's developed enough to handle that kind of load and we need to know if he can manage it.

 

The peripherals on this guy look fantastic. Plenty of Ks, solid control (which could improve if his slider/change improve and allow him to end ABs faster), keeps the ball in the park, looks hard to square up on...all signs are that he's on the path to be a top of the rotation guy. I love that he's done so well at low & high A ball at such a young age.

    • birdwatcher, gagu and wabene like this

Our Rankings:

 

Seth: 4

Nick: 6

Tom: 6

Cody: 5

    • Mike Frasier Law likes this

The Twins are stretching out their 21 year-old Canadian right hander in AA this season....bold move indeed.
 
Meanwhile, the Braves were letting their 21 year-old Canadian right hander pitch in the majors for the 2nd straight year in 2019. He went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA and made the All-Star team.


Braves are a bit more liberal than our Twins when it comes to bringing up top prospects. And I admire that about them. They know guys can help them now, so they use them. They’re going to be great for a long while.
    • bighat, wabene and the_brute_squad like this

I don't think Balazovic will throw more than 130-140 innings this season. That will be enough to set him up for 2021.

 

There should be no expectation he'll make the big league club this year. He spent the entire 2019 regular season at A+, followed by one AA playoff game. If he blows up AA the first half, then great - bring him up if he's needed. In the meantime, I'll trust the Twins FO on pitcher development.

    • Mike Frasier Law, DocBauer, gagu and 2 others like this

 

I'll trust the Twins FO on pitcher development.

 

Completely agree.Every time I've shrugged at a move or decision by our front office, I have had to retract it.Still bitter about Brusdar not even getting a chance to be a starter any longer, but he's been shipped out.We have some good eggs in that high rise in left field.I trust them.

    • birdwatcher, Mike Frasier Law and gagu like this
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Harrison Greeley III
Feb 13 2020 10:54 AM

I really like the freeze frame on the pitch tunnel in the overlay video. I might want a freeze frame on the release points too in the future. 

Would be surprised if got more than a spot start or a couple of weeks in BP to get some exposure to MLB this year. If does well this year, will be set up for next year to make move to MLB. With all the additions and Dobnak, Smeltzer, Thorpe, and Duran, starting rotation 8-9 deep already.

 

The Twins are stretching out their 21 year-old Canadian right hander in AA this season....bold move indeed.

 

Meanwhile, the Braves were letting their 21 year-old Canadian right hander pitch in the majors for the 2nd straight year in 2019. He went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA and made the All-Star team.

 

I love the team the Twins have on the field in 2020. But someone needs to tell this team that nobody cares about Pensacola winning a league title. When you find an elite player like Balazovic, have the cajones to get the guy up to the bigs and stop wasting his arm down on the farm.

One was drafted 28th overall and threw 372.2 innings in 3+ minor league seasons. He threw more innings in the minors than the bigs in 2018. Has one real major league season under his belt.

 

The other was a 5th round pick who has thrown 227.2 innings in 4 minor league seasons. He's 21. If he makes the roster next year at 22 I think we will be just fine.

    • birdwatcher, 70charger, Dman and 7 others like this

 

I think even an early season 2021 MLB rotation spot is a stretch. He's 21. Let's see him throw 120-130 innings at AA, and another 20 at AAA this year. If he dominates, he starts 2021 in AAA as the 6th or 7th starter behind Berrios, Odorizzi ( I think the Twins extend him), Maeda, Pineda and Thorpe/Dobnak. And that's assuming Bailey and Hill aren't part of the 2021 rotatuon. He can get a couple of MLB starts in 2021 as injury replacement and IF he's effective, can get his MLB chance in 2022. No need to rush him.

Why are we stuck with the old paradigm - too young, give him innings in all the minor leagues (even baseball does not really believe in it and they are trying to get rid of a big chunk of minor leagues. 

 

Rafeal Devers, Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna are just some of the young players that are being pushed to the majors.Even Graterol is a good example. I have no idea if Balazovic has that talent, but this baseball reference page https://www.baseball...t_leagues.shtml is enough for me to say - get them up before their arms fall off, not after.  

    • Mike Sixel and bighat like this

 

The Twins are stretching out their 21 year-old Canadian right hander in AA this season....bold move indeed.

 

Meanwhile, the Braves were letting their 21 year-old Canadian right hander pitch in the majors for the 2nd straight year in 2019. He went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA and made the All-Star team.

 

I love the team the Twins have on the field in 2020. But someone needs to tell this team that nobody cares about Pensacola winning a league title. When you find an elite player like Balazovic, have the cajones to get the guy up to the bigs and stop wasting his arm down on the farm.

Soroka threw 140+ innings not once, but twice in back-to-back minor league seasons...and then the following year, he still didn't break camp with the major league club. Balazovic has reach 93 innings (last year). I think the challenge with thinking/wanting Balazovic to be like Soroka...is that that has to happen at age 18. Unfortunately, there's probably not any amount of wishing at this point that can somehow make Balazovic prepared to do what Soraka did at age 21. I would think/hope the Twins will push his innings this year (pending health).

    • birdwatcher, LA VIkes Fan, mikelink45 and 3 others like this

 

Why are we stuck with the old paradigm - too young, give him innings in all the minor leagues (even baseball does not really believe in it and they are trying to get rid of a big chunk of minor leagues. 

 

Rafeal Devers, Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna are just some of the young players that are being pushed to the majors.Even Graterol is a good example. I have no idea if Balazovic has that talent, but this baseball reference page https://www.baseball...t_leagues.shtml is enough for me to say - get them up before their arms fall off, not after.  

I'm pretty sure if Royce Lewis hit .360 in just about every level like Juan Soto than he would be with the Twins right now. Hey, the Twins promoted Arraez straight from AA and that worked pretty well. Arraez is younger than Devers.

    • birdwatcher, Twins33, mikelink45 and 4 others like this
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MMMordabito
Feb 13 2020 02:58 PM

 

One was drafted 28th overall and threw 372.2 innings in 3+ minor league seasons. He threw more innings in the minors than the bigs in 2018. Has one real major league season under his belt.

 

The other was a 5th round pick who has thrown 227.2 innings in 4 minor league seasons. He's 21. If he makes the roster next year at 22 I think we will be just fine.

 

Yeah ... It wasn't an apples to apples comparison ... They are both just fruit from north of the border.

 

While I'd like to see Nick's ETA of 2022 end up looking conservative, I think Balazovic will need to dominate AA for at least a couple months while things go very poorly as the rotation comes together at the same time at the big league level for him to get a chance. 

 

With that said, if he puts up video game numbers in AA and is being allowed to go deep into games while doing so, I would certainly put him in the rear-view mirror of anyone in the rotation not performing as a playoff team starter should this season.

    • mikelink45 likes this

 

I don't think Balazovic will throw more than 130-140 innings this season. That will be enough to set him up for 2021.

 

There should be no expectation he'll make the big league club this year. He spent the entire 2019 regular season at A+, followed by one AA playoff game. If he blows up AA the first half, then great - bring him up if he's needed. In the meantime, I'll trust the Twins FO on pitcher development.

 

I'm curious why. We have no real data, one way or the other, about pitching development for this FO. It's much too early, imo, to draw any conclusions.


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