Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospects: #5 Jordan Balazovic
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
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.
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
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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