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MLB.com Top 30 Twins Prospects

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Recent Blogs


Minnesota’s Next Luis Arraez Emergence

The Minnesota Twins set the major league single-season record for home runs by a team in 2019. They earned the nickname “Bomba Squad,” and were propelled by big time bats like Miguel Sano and Nelson Cruz. Rocco Badelli’s club bashed their way into the Postseason, but there was one guy who broke the mold. Enter Luis Arraez.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily
At 22-years-old Arraez had played in 329 minor league games. He was not a top 100 prospect, and though he appeared on the fringes of all top Twins lists, his game was focused heavily around a single skill. His ability to hit for average by combining strong pitch recognition with impeccable plate discipline had pushed his career slash line to .331/.385/.414. Starting the year at Double-A Pensacola, he made a three-game pit stop in Rochester and then it happened.



In the early morning hours of May 17, Mariana Guzman of Twins Latinos reported that Arraez was on his way to the big leagues. He quickly proved that his strong bat to ball skills would work at the big-league level and began a full court campaign on taking over the starting second base role for Minnesota. Expecting anyone else to jump from nondescript prospect to the second coming of Tony Gwynn in 2020 is lofty at best, but we can take a stab at a similar success story.

Given the depth employed by Minnesota on the farm, projecting another emergence isn’t necessarily groundbreaking. If there’s a player positioned to fulfill the role however, it’s Travis Blankenhorn in my eyes.

A third-round pick back in 2015, Blankenhorn was grabbed out of Pottsville High School. He’s now 23-years-old and coming off a strong Double-A debut. After posting an .850 OPS in his second pro season, he trended downwards at both Low and High-A the next two seasons. Reaching Pensacola, he re-established himself and earned a spot on the 40-man roster this winter.

Blankenhorn couldn’t be more different from Arraez when comparing skillsets. He’s got some swing and miss to his profile and the .325 on-base percentage across 462 games isn’t earth-shattering by any means. He’s clubbed 56 career dingers, 19 of which came last season. The pop should play at multiple positions, and that’s where a good deal of his value lies. After splitting time between second and third to start his career, he ventured to the outfield a good amount last season. This isn’t a super utility player, but he’s not going to be stretched by moving around the diamond.

When trying to nail down someone that looks the part of an unexpected riser, something that would seemingly need to be present is opportunity. The path created by a 40-man roster spot blazes that trail, and the flames are fanned by the prospect of additional utility. Given the 26th spot on 2020 major league rosters, and the fringe utility types that the Twins may employ, Blankenhorn represents a strong backup plan. It was Jonathan Schoop and Ehire Adrianza that presented holes for Arraez to fill last season, and the latter could once again offer up an opening.

The largest wrench in any sort of continued steam for Blankenhorn would be his strikeout rate. After a .343 OBP at Cedar Rapids two seasons ago, he’s posted a .299 mark at Fort Myers and just a .312 tally in Pensacola. The power is nice to see, but his promotion will come on the back of an expectation that he can hold his own against big league pitching. If that takes another step forward, and the defensive utility remains strong, then the only thing holding him back should be playing time.

Andrew Vasquez was the first selection from the 2015 draft to make the majors, and LaMonte Wade Jr joined him last season. Jaylin Davis debuted for the San Francisco Giants, but it’s Blankenhorn that could be the first (maybe only) top five selection to accomplish that feat. He’s a name to watch in the year ahead, and another Arraez-type breakthrough would certainly be a great development in Twins Territory.

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16 Comments

Not even close, but I would still love to see him force his way on to the 26 man squad.

Under the radar player who has done nothing but done well. Edwar Colina comes up.

    • Steve Lein, Dman, DocBauer and 3 others like this

I hate to say players like Arraez don't show up that often for any team. There is also nothing saying that Arraez will be able to maintain what he has done so far.

 

It's going to be a race to see if Arraez can continue to stay 1 step ahead of the opposing pitchers.

 

Under the radar player who has done nothing but done well. Edwar Colina comes up.

 

I agree about Colina. He could be up as a RP this season or a starter next year. He made a few relief appearances at the end of last season but I don't think that was a permanent move. The Twins were searching for hard throwing playoff RP at that point. I hope they let him start to begin the year.

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twinstalker
Dec 20 2019 08:45 AM

Nothing in Blankenship's profile amounts to anything other than fringe major leaguer. The Twins will have to have a true breakthrough player, unlike Arraez, to surprise in MLB like Arraez. And therefore, I don't see it on the roster.

 

As far as a guy who could provide some initial excitement like Arraez (who I believe is the real deal), Brent Rooker might fool us for a while.

 

 

    • jrod23 likes this

 

I agree about Colina. He could be up as a RP this season or a starter next year. He made a few relief appearances at the end of last season but I don't think that was a permanent move. The Twins were searching for hard throwing playoff RP at that point. I hope they let him start to begin the year.

The five young pitchers Alcal Duran, Graterol, Balazovic and Colina have thrown about 100 innings in a year. Not quite ready for starters for a full big league season. An optimistic outlook is for 3 of them to develop their pitches and ability to use them develop over the year for a lights out bullpen for the playoffs.

    • dbminn likes this

The second to last paragraph has the key point on Blankenhorn's future: getting his OBP up. If he can't get it back above .350 in AA/AAA, then he's not going to be a real prospect with much of an MLB future. He's got enough pop in his bat to be a useful player, especially if he can be average (or better) at 3 positions, but he's got to get the OBP up.

 

There's just not much room for a guy who only draws 30 BBs a year with that many Ks, especially if he's only slugging .450-.475, unless he's a superior defensive player...which Blankenhorn is not.

 

I'm rooting for him; he did enough last season to make himself a prospect again. But after a mediocre 2017 and a bad 2018 he's still a "now or never" kind of guy, I'm afraid.

    • birdwatcher and DocBauer like this

Blankenhorn looked like a different man this Spring when I saw him at Fort Myers.He gained a good twenty pounds of muscle during the offseason and gained some pop.Still has pretty decent issues as far as pitch recognition, contact, and OBP go, which is exactly the opposite of Arraez.A high contact, high OBP player, like Arraez, can make the transition to the majors pretty fast because pitch recognition is a skill that translates.The trick there is catching up to the fastball and laying off good stuff out of the zone, which is much more difficult to do in the majors.

 

Back to Blackenhorne:He used to look a lot like Levi Michael, now he looks more like Travis Harrison, and unless he fixes his issues, his career will mirror that of these two...He projects as a corner OF now btw (still awful with the glove) and the logjam there is huge in the organization.

    • Oldgoat_MN and JLease like this

I hate to say players like Arraez don't show up that often for any team. There is also nothing saying that Arraez will be able to maintain what he has done so far.

It's going to be a race to see if Arraez can continue to stay 1 step ahead of the opposing pitchers.

They show up all the time when given the opportunity. From Altuve to Muncy to Santander to Goodrum to Aristides Aquino to Edman to Voit to Danny Santana.

The lack of opportunity is what makes it seem like they don't happen very often, they are often blocked by Vets who are allowed to fluctuate, perhaps more than the possible fluctuation that yoy say is possible from Arraez. And you are right Arraez isn't a lock to repeat his performance.

When he gets the call. Give him AB's, If he performs let him continue.
    • DocBauer and MN_ExPat like this

How can you doubt Arraez at all? Dude has hit everywhere & tore up major league pitching at 22. He also had big hits in crucial spots. He isn't afraid of the moment. He may not hit .350 but he will hit over .300 as easily as anyone in baseball. Kid is a stud & instead of negging him (I know its easy when ur a twins fan) lets be optimistic about him.

    • birddog, jrod23 and etwink like this

How can you doubt Arraez at all? Dude has hit everywhere & tore up major league pitching at 22. He also had big hits in crucial spots. He isn't afraid of the moment. He may not hit .350 but he will hit over .300 as easily as anyone in baseball. Kid is a stud & instead of negging him (I know its easy when ur a twins fan) lets be optimistic about him.


Where are you seeing any criticism of Arraez in this article or thread of comments?

I like Blankenhorn a lot, for a lot of reasons...

 

I've asked myself this questions at various times this offseason. Like Arraez, Blankenhorn wasn't a given to be added to the 40-man, but close to it...

 

Going into 2019, I don't think there was a natural fit for where Arraez would play... I think that's the same with Blankenhorn in 2020. Maybe if Arraez got hurt, he'd get a shot... 

 

I like the Colina idea in this topic too. 

I like Blankenhorn overall and think he's got a real shot. I feel he's a half year to year away just because of the SO issues, but we all know that can change quickly at times for a prospect.

Want to echo Colina as a possible surprise. People overlook him, maybe because he's on the shorter side. (No pun intended but made me chuckle when I typed it). Kid is strong and throws hard. Profiles to a nice pen arm if the rotation doesn't work out.

The guy I have my eye on, and mentioned it yesterday in another thread, is Raley. I think he's the closest to being ready to contribute and he could do so at 1B or either corner OF spot.

Sorry, but literally the only thing that Luis Arraez and Travis Blankenhorn have in common is that they are both discussed in this article.  Luis Arraez didn’t succeed because people got hurt or there was an extra roster position; he got it by being a professional hitter at every phase of his minor league career and then translated the same to the majors.  As well, his high OBP and secondary skills allowed him to ride though his (very short) slumps.  Blankenhorn has about one good MiLB season under his belt, doesn’t get on base, doesn’t have a position, and has the kind of game that generally isn’t successful unless he can get consistent ABs.  I wish the kid all the luck in the world, but he’s no Luis Arraez.

 

Now if you want to have a discussion about who out of a list of guy might be a surprise candidate to make the team in 2020, TB might make that list, but let’s not get carried away....

    • birdwatcher, JLease, jrod23 and 1 other like this

I enjoyed the article, but in a way "the next" Arraez will by definition be a surprise, so super difficult to predict.

    • birdwatcher likes this
The next rookie who will slide in and be successful while being under the radar is Tyler Wells. Who remembers him from a year ago?
    • Danchat, jrod23 and wabene like this

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