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Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2021: Part 4 (1-5)

The Twins are aiming to build a World Series champion. Among all players currently in the organization, which ones are most critical to achieving this goal? We've been counting down our picks all week, and here we wrap it up with a look at the top five.
Image courtesy of David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports
First, you can get up to speed on the 'why and how' behind these rankings by reading Monday's introductory post. If you're already hip, proceed to find my choices (and reasoning) for the 1st-through-5th most valuable player assets currently under Minnesota's control as 2021 gets underway.


5: Royce Lewis, SS
2020 Ranking: 5

After landing atop our 2019 rankings, Lewis followed with an uneven campaign that caused him to slide to No. 5 last year. Since then, not much has changed. He spent his 2020 season at the alternate site, giving him little opportunity to counteract the narrative of a '19 season that saw him post a .661 OPS and ugly 123-to-38 K/BB ratio between two levels while his clunky swing mechanics drew heat from analysts.

Although the former No. 1 overall pick's true ceiling is in question, there's little doubt he will be an impact player in the big leagues, whether as an infielder or out in center as Byron Buxton's eventual successor. He's not the premier asset he once was, but Lewis holds steady in these rankings until further notice.

4: José Berríos, RHP
2020 Ranking: 3

As I mentioned in the intro post for this series, Berríos is a model of consistency: unlike so many others, he hasn't faltered in these rankings due to performance or injury. He has stayed remarkably steady and durable as a fixture atop the Twins rotation and roster.

But, he also hasn't quite taken the step forward necessary to elevate. Berríos remains a "borderline ace" – not quite meeting the standard against which he is constantly measured, but always coming close. His most recent season was technically a downturn, but one that's easily attributed to disruption for a creature of routine. His numbers in the second half (and playoffs) were excellent.

The only thing bumping Berríos from his customary top-three perch – albeit ever so slightly – is the looming specter of free agency, now only two years away. The righty is poised to hit the open market following the 2022 season, at age 28. That's good news for him but bad news for the Twins if they can't find a way to extend him. Locking Berríos up is an utmost priority; by this time next year, the front office's leverage will be mostly gone.

3: Max Kepler, RF
2020 Ranking: 2

Kepler definitely took a step back following his breakout 2019 campaign, but it wasn't as alarming a drop-off as it might seem on the surface. Yes, his OPS dropped by almost 100 points, but his peripherals and underlying metrics were steady. He remains a high-quality overall piece: a strong defensive outfielder who's capable in center, and an outstanding hitter combining patience, power and speed.

There were some familiar warts marring Kepler's performance in 2020, however. Once again his production was stifled by a brutally low BABIP (.236), and he fell back into a pit of utter ineptitude against left-handed pitching (.128/.208/.170). These developments cast doubt on the superstar potential Kepler seemed to scratch in the prior season, but nevertheless, he was an above-average hitter and critical cornerstone for the first-place Twins.

Most importantly, he's under control for the next three years at a total of $21.75 million, with an ultra-reasonable team option for $10 million in 2024. At this point Kepler is probably Minnesota's sturdiest building block.

2: Alex Kirilloff, RF
2020 Ranking: 9

While most prospects were essentially out of sight and out of mind in 2020, Kirilloff is a bit of an exception. His work at the alternate in St. Paul garnered a noticeable and consistent buzz, even with a lack of official games being played. This culminated with the Twins making a very bold move at season's end, calling Kirilloff up to make his major-league debut in a postseason elimination game.

Despite the extraordinary circumstances, Kirilloff handled the challenge in stride, showing no signs of shrinking in the moment. As a former first-round pick who's slashed .317/.365/.498 in the minors, conquered Double-A, and now made a heck of first impression in the majors, Kirilloff has made a convincing case that he's ready to step in as an above-average MLB corner outfielder right now, with very plausible All-Star potential.

The Twins will probably wait until at least late May to call him up for good, buying an extra year of control in 2027, but it's clear they are lining Kirilloff up to roam the outfield for many years to come.

1: Kenta Maeda, RHP
2020 Ranking: NR

The Twins took a big gamble last February, trading their No. 4 ranked asset in Brusdar Graterol to Los Angeles in efforts to bolster the rotation. When you're giving up such an immensely valuable asset, you'd better get something awfully good in return. Turns out, the front office did just fine.

One of the biggest appeals in acquiring Maeda was his incredibly team-friendly contract – he's guaranteed only $3.125 million in each of the next three seasons, with the rest of his money tied into incentives. This means very little outright risk for a whole lot of upside, which we saw on full display in his first season as a Twin. In a career year, Maeda emerged as a true ace and finished as the Cy Young runner-up.

It's hard to overstate just how impactful his addition to this organization is. Maeda is everything the Twins needed, and has quickly separated himself as their most prized asset.


THE TOP 20 TWINS ASSETS OF 2021

20. Keoni Cavaco, SS

19. Brent Rooker, OF/1B

18. Josh Donaldson, 3B

17. Taylor Rogers, LHP

16. Jorge Alcala, RHP

15. Miguel Sanó, 1B

14. Tyler Duffey, RHP

13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP

12. Jhoan Duran, RHP

11. Luis Arráez, 2B

10. Trevor Larnach, OF

9. Byron Buxton, CF

8. Mitch Garver, C

7. Ryan Jeffers, C

6. Jorge Polanco, SS

5. Royce Lewis, SS

4. José Berríos, RHP

3. Max Kepler, RF

2. Alex Kirilloff, RF

1. Kenta Maeda, RHP



Now that we've got the full list rolled out, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Any outrageous omissions? Who's too high? Who's too low? Where would Nelson Cruz fit in (if at all) were he to sign, say, a one-year $10 million deal?

As a final note, I've gotta give some props to the three commenters who tried their hand at predicting the rankings back on Monday, especially Seansy who correctly guessed 17 out of the 20 names and had SIX in the exact right placements (Maeda #1, Polanco #6, Jeffers #7, Larnach #10, Duffey #14, Sanó #15)! Super close on the most of the rest too, very nicely done.

Very nice work also by Shs_2 who also got 17 names right (3 correct placements) and whosafraidofluigirussolo who had 18 of the names (2 correct placements).

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25 Comments

We've come to my first major disagreement with your rankings. On the open market I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Berrios would get more in return than Kepler. If we fast forward a year when Jose's service time is cut in half and we still have 3 or 4 more years of Kep, that might change, but I can't get on board with 2 years of Jose being less valuable than (insert any number here) years of Kepler

And I like Kep

Also, I think there should be a little "spiff" in your rankings for the fact that the team has exclusive negotiating rights with a player while he's still in arb



 

    • denarded, mikelink45, tarheeltwinsfan and 3 others like this
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Nick Nelson
Jan 07 2021 11:21 PM

I went back and forth on Berrios and Kepler. They are the stable rocks of the lineup and pitching staff, and you laid out a good argument. Ultimately, this was the reasoning that steered me to put Kepler in front:

 

 

  • He's owed $21.75 million through 2023, which might be the cost of Berrios in 2023 alone. (If they can keep him around via QO or extension.)
  • Kepler can play a solid CF which is essential given the Buxton situation. He's the only player in the corner OF mix right now with that capability. It's a big differentiating factor. If Buxton goes down, Kepler gives them the ability to go Kirilloff-Kep-Larnach. (Or Rooker or whichever of the many good corner OF options you like.)
  • I mean, the Twins control Kepler for his age 28, 29, and 30 seasons, for 20 million bucks total. That contract is crazy. I realize this one's a repeat.

 

 

 

    • denarded, Oxtung, Major League Ready and 3 others like this
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SarasotaBill
Jan 08 2021 07:21 AM

No disrespect but it's not close.

1. Maeda

2. Berrios

 

If Berrios is hurt the Twins have no shot on winning a playoff series. If Kepler is hurt then sub in Larnach/Cave/.....

 

Trade value: nothing is more valuable than a top starting pitcher being paid less than the market (see Rays).

    • mikelink45, tarheeltwinsfan, Vanimal46 and 3 others like this

The list looks about right to me. I might quibble a little with some of the individual positions, but the reality is there's not much difference between a guy being ranked 8 or 10.

 

Garver is probably the toughest call on the whole list, I think. His value is higher if he's 2019 Garv. If he's 2020 Garv, he doesn't make the list at all. If he's 2018ish Garv...this is pretty close? And we just don't know who he is, if 2019 was a fluke or not. If 2020 should just be written off as a fluky, injury pandemic year. It's a really tough call.

 

I'm excited to see Kirilloff in MLB this year.

    • tarheeltwinsfan, wabene and arby58 like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Jan 08 2021 08:17 AM

Greatarticles and analysis. Thanks Nick. 

I agree with Berrios and Maeda as the top two, Kiriloff and his potential is number three - but just extend him and get him in the lineup.With market for catcher being what we see across MLB I move Jeffers to number three.I drop Cavaco and put in Celestino since Buxton's injury issues could make a replacement CF very important. I also move Kepler out of the top five - I have no faith he will be better. 

 

I move Garver down to 19 and move Rooker way up - he could be our DH at this point. 

 

I will not go into all my rankings, but really enjoyed your posts and the efforts you put in.A good article is not about agreement, but about stimulating thoughts and responses so you rank right at the top with this list. Thank you.

 

First, I want to thank you Nick for doing this series. What an interesting and different way of looking at the Twins roster and prospects.

 

Will disagree a bit on several of your comments. I don't think Lewis ceiling is any lower than ever. Although I understand that his trade value may be a bit lower. His numbers weren't what we expected two years ago, but then he went on to be the AFL MVP. Then last year happened and he didn't have the opportunity to show us who he is, unless you are of the belief that his not getting called up told us something. 

 

As for Berrios, we probably need to begin understanding that he may not ever be that legit ACE we all have been hoping for. Doesn't mean he isn't one heck of a pitcher who is very valuable to the Twins. Won't quibble with you about your placement at #4, just want to see the Twins get this kid extended...which probably won't happen this winter.

 

Much of what you wrote about Kepler is as good as I have seen, thanks. Don't know if he should be #2, but agree that Kirilloff is going to be an absolute star. Just doubt that much of it will be in right field. Personally think we are going to see him a lot at first base. Also expect to see him on their roster on opening day in April, May or whenever.

 

For all of us who are anxious to hear about the FO next moves, the Maeda deal should remind us to be patient...as the FO certainly is. When you take the contract into consideration, what a trade. Now lets hope like hell he repeats that performance in 2021.

 

 

    • wabene likes this
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BrianBuchanan
Jan 08 2021 10:16 AM

Loved the whole series, Nick.Thanks for providing some much-needed offseason content to get me by until opening day.

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Aerodeliria
Jan 08 2021 10:44 AM
Nothing left on the table. Well-done!

I can't really consider most prospects to be on this list. My feeling about prospects has always been that, if they are valuable, they should be up in the majors. Of course, there are some who are of value and should not be traded so could be considered. 

My list would be 1- Maeda 2- Berrios 3- Buxton 4-Donaldson 5- Arreaz 6- Kirilloff (the lone minor leaguer in the top 10) 7- Duffy 8- Kepler (not really as valuable as some have him) 9- Alcala 10- Rogers (our only proven closer). Garver would be just outside this list as would Larnach and Dhuran. I would have included Cruz at #3 and Odorizzi at #6 and back everyone else up if they were on the team. Just my opinion.

Agree with the list, but I absolutely hate this sentiment that Alex Kiriloff wont be up until May and were ok with it.If he's the best option in a playoff elimination game, than he's the best option to win games in April.If we want him around in 2027 than pay him what he'll be worth.  

    • Heiny likes this

 

Agree with the list, but I absolutely hate this sentiment that Alex Kiriloff wont be up until May and were ok with it.If he's the best option in a playoff elimination game, than he's the best option to win games in April.If we want him around in 2027 than pay him what he'll be worth.  

With this CBA expiring after 2021, I expect this is the last season we will see these particular shenanigans employed.

    • wabene likes this

This list is so much fun Nick. Thank you.

 

My only substantial point of disagreement, which has been pointed out by many others already, is the ranking of Arraez. You seem so low on him, it's borderline shocking.

He is projected to have the 2nd most WAR on the roster in 2021 by ZiPS. Steamer has him as the best two bagger in the AL per 600PAs.

Add in that Arraez is essentially the same age as Jeffers and Larnach, only a half year older than Kirilloff, under team control for five more years, vs six with those guys, and I feel like you have a more valuable asset than either Jeffers or Larnach, one that is much closer to Kirilloff. 

Just my two cents. Thanks again Nick. Keep doing the things. Appreciate you.

    • rdehring and LoveMyPug like this
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ScrapTheNickname
Jan 08 2021 03:04 PM

Yikes.

 

If that's the top 5 we're in trouble.

 

Kepler at #3, is a 28-year-old with a lifetime OPS of .763 and a bad habit of grounding out to second.

 

Lewis is a prospect who has spent less than a year at AA; his ceiling is questionable at best.

 

Berrios is a 27-year-old #3 or #4 starter.

 

Kirilloff is exciting ... mainly because we haven't seen him fail yet? We'll see. I'm excited!

 

Maeda: Legit!

Thanks for the work put into this. I would have to disagree with some of the placings though. IMO Maeda and Berrios would have to be #1 and #2. I fully and wholeheartedly disagree with Kepler at #3. He's a career .237 hitting corner outfielder. So what if he can play CF as a backup. I think you value that aspect way too much. A defensive upgrade on the bench to cover CF such as a Pillar is easily attainable. I suspect/expect the hitting of Kirilloff and Larnach (when given the chance) will make us forget Kepler. Sorry, I just don't understand the love for a .237 hitter. I would put Arraez at #3. I like .330 hitters better than .230 hitters. Donaldson #4, because he means so much to the team due to his contract. Jeffers #5 since Garver is a mystery at this point and catcher is such an important position. I'd round out my top 10 with Buxton, Polanco, Pineda, Kirilloff and Sano. Only reason why I'm including Kirilloff is because I fully expect him to fill Rosario's shoes in LF. I can't place Lewis or Larnach in the top 10 when we don't even know if they will be on the big league club in 2021. This is about 2021 right?

 

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Major League Ready
Jan 08 2021 03:36 PM

 

 

I went back and forth on Berrios and Kepler. They are the stable rocks of the lineup and pitching staff, and you laid out a good argument. Ultimately, this was the reasoning that steered me to put Kepler in front:

 

 

  • He's owed $21.75 million through 2023, which might be the cost of Berrios in 2023 alone. (If they can keep him around via QO or extension.)
  • Kepler can play a solid CF which is essential given the Buxton situation. He's the only player in the corner OF mix right now with that capability. It's a big differentiating factor. If Buxton goes down, Kepler gives them the ability to go Kirilloff-Kep-Larnach. (Or Rooker or whichever of the many good corner OF options you like.)
  • I mean, the Twins control Kepler for his age 28, 29, and 30 seasons, for 20 million bucks total. That contract is crazy. I realize this one's a repeat.

 

The team option at $10M for his age 31 season has value as well.

 

    • wabene likes this
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SgtSchmidt11
Jan 08 2021 04:37 PM

 

Berrios is a 27-year-old #3 or #4 starter.

Hot Take Here! Get You're Hot Take!

 

Berrios ranks 21st among pitchers with at least 150 IP between 2019-2020 in FWAR.While's he isn't an Ace, he's also among the top 30 pitchers in baseball.You don't get there by being a #4 pitcher.He's a borderline #1-2, which is exactly as he's described.

 

WAR might be flawed, but it isn't that flawed.

    • Major League Ready, DocBauer, gagu and 2 others like this

*Takes a bow*

"Thank you! Thank you very much! I'd like to thank my family, friends, parents and the good Lord above for which none of this would otherwise be possible!"

In all seriousness though I must confess I worked off of Aaron's list he posted and made adjustments based on how I would value them. The last 5 were definitely the hardest but I feel pretty good about my picks.

Cheers Nick!

 

Thanks for the work put into this. I would have to disagree with some of the placings though. IMO Maeda and Berrios would have to be #1 and #2. I fully and wholeheartedly disagree with Kepler at #3. He's a career .237 hitting corner outfielder. So what if he can play CF as a backup. I think you value that aspect way too much. A defensive upgrade on the bench to cover CF such as a Pillar is easily attainable. I suspect/expect the hitting of Kirilloff and Larnach (when given the chance) will make us forget Kepler. Sorry, I just don't understand the love for a .237 hitter. I would put Arraez at #3. I like .330 hitters better than .230 hitters. Donaldson #4, because he means so much to the team due to his contract. Jeffers #5 since Garver is a mystery at this point and catcher is such an important position. I'd round out my top 10 with Buxton, Polanco, Pineda, Kirilloff and Sano. Only reason why I'm including Kirilloff is because I fully expect him to fill Rosario's shoes in LF. I can't place Lewis or Larnach in the top 10 when we don't even know if they will be on the big league club in 2021. This is about 2021 right?

 

No, this isn't about 2021, though that's a huge part of it.

From Nick's intro:

"The idea is to assess players' importance to the future of the Minnesota Twins."

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railmarshalljon
Jan 09 2021 12:10 AM

 

At this point Kepler is probably Minnesota's sturdiest building block.

 

Probably in nitpicky territory but when I think sturdiest of building blocks, I think Arraez. He's got such a great approach to the plate that I think most teams in the league would ask for him in trade package. But I'd also put Kepler at #2 due to what he achieved in 19 and his defensive abilities.

 

Lastly, have you seen Royce's smile? Maybe I'm delirious from the vaccine #2 but that grin alone is top 3 by any metric.

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railmarshalljon
Jan 09 2021 12:16 AM

 

Agree with the list, but I absolutely hate this sentiment that Alex Kiriloff wont be up until May and were ok with it.If he's the best option in a playoff elimination game, than he's the best option to win games in April.If we want him around in 2027 than pay him what he'll be worth.  

 

Agreed, service manipulation is such a joke. Invest in players and they might stick around for a bit longer than they have to.

Do you really think Maeda is going to pitch as well as he did last year for a whole season? It seems most are just assuming 2020 is what he will be from here on out, when, so far, it is a bit of an outlier. If this team is going be a World Series Team, the pitching better be a lot better than it is now. Or was last year. 

Hot Take Here! Get You're Hot Take!
 
Berrios ranks 21st among pitchers with at least 150 IP between 2019-2020 in FWAR.While's he isn't an Ace, he's also among the top 30 pitchers in baseball.You don't get there by being a #4 pitcher.He's a borderline #1-2, which is exactly as he's described.
 
WAR might be flawed, but it isn't that flawed.

With 30 teams top 30 equals #1 starter. There are only a half dozen Aces® at any time. Twins fans get caught up in the fact the Berrios hasn't made the leap to ace, which I think clouds their ability to see that he already is elite. Maeda, Berrios? You could argue that we already have 2 #1's. Add in Pineda and (I hope) Odo? Nothing to see here time to worry about the lineup.
    • SgtSchmidt11 likes this

In the Athletic today they asked teams about underrated prospects - this was the Twins entry.

 

Matt Canterino, RHP
Age: 23 B: L T: R HT: 6-2 WT: 223

 

 

Scouting grades:
FB: 55 SLI: 65 CB: 55 CH: 45 CTL: 55 CMND: 50

 

 

Canterino was the Twins’ second-round pick (54th overall) out of Rice University in 2019. Canterino has the full arsenal of four major-league pitches with a fastball in the mid-90s coming from a deceptive angle that results in above-average life. He throws an above-average 12-6 curveball and a four-seam fastball, and his slider is a wipeout pitch when it’s working. He throws a decent change to left-handed hitters, but it could be softer with better fade. His delivery has effort but actually benefits him in terms of deception and timing issues to opposing batters. He’ll be in the middle of the Twins’ rotation sooner rather than later.

    • Melissa likes this
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Major League Ready
Jan 09 2021 06:17 PM

 

In the Athletic today they asked teams about underrated prospects - this was the Twins entry.

 

Matt Canterino, RHP
Age: 23 B: L T: R HT: 6-2 WT: 223

 

 

Scouting grades:
FB: 55 SLI: 65 CB: 55 CH: 45 CTL: 55 CMND: 50

 

 

Canterino was the Twins’ second-round pick (54th overall) out of Rice University in 2019. Canterino has the full arsenal of four major-league pitches with a fastball in the mid-90s coming from a deceptive angle that results in above-average life. He throws an above-average 12-6 curveball and a four-seam fastball, and his slider is a wipeout pitch when it’s working. He throws a decent change to left-handed hitters, but it could be softer with better fade. His delivery has effort but actually benefits him in terms of deception and timing issues to opposing batters. He’ll be in the middle of the Twins’ rotation sooner rather than later.

 

Thanks for this info. This is encouraging. There has been crumbs of info suggesting Canterino's stuffimproved during the Covid break. It would really help the cause if a SP prospect or two stepped up to join Balazovic and Duran as high ceiling prospects.

    • mikelink45 and wabene like this

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