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  1. Meanwhile, in St. Paul...

    The St. Paul Saints are the defending champions of the American Association. However, they are starting their 2020 season by playing their home games in Sioux Falls.

    The Twins were able to use the Saints’ home ballpark, beautiful CHS Field, for their ‘taxi squad’, the players in the 60-player pool not on the active roster. The group is far enough away and in a separate location to keep the number of people in a stadium at any given time at a minimum. The group is close enough to Target Field that if the Twins have an injury or a positive COVID test, they can easily promote a player from this group to help out during the season without shipping him on a plane across the country. .

    On Sunday, a day after he addressed the group at Target Field, Rocco Baldelli traveled across the Mississippi River to briefly address the group of players who make up the taxi squad, or the remainder of the 60-man player pool not on the active roster.

    The Message?

    Be ready. You never know.

    Later on Sunday night, Baldelli told media, “The talk went very well. I think the message is that our group in St. Paul is going to be a huge part of our season. (That) is important to know. We know the situation we’re in. We know that these are uncertain times. We also know that if we are playing in September, or hopefully even after that in October, there’s going to be one or more or many of those players on our team, and potentially contributing in a big way.”

    He continued, “There’s no way to ever know who those guys are going to be. But I would bet on that happening. We always want to think that things are going to work out in an optimal way. Everyone’s always going to be healthy. Everyone’s always going to perform. We hope for that. But we also know that we’re always going to have to adjust and part of our adjustments is going to be looking at our group in St. Paul, calling those names, bringing those guys in. And not just having them there as bystanders. Not just there as a support group, but actually counting on them for production and helping us win.”

    Baldelli noted that during this “Summer Camp” there will likely be around 20 players working out in St. Paul. That number is subject to change from day to day with guys occasionally spending time at Target Field. When the Twins regular season begins, they will have a 30-player active roster, so the others on the 60-player roster will be in St. Paul.

    The group was told not to be surprised if five to ten of them get MLB time this season. They were also told not to be surprised if two or three of them wind up starting games in the playoffs in the Twins make it.

    And like the big leaguers, they were told to follow the protocols presented to them. Follow them for yourself. Follow them for your teammates. Follow them because “we” believe that this is a special team and a special year, a year that anything, including the World Series championship can happen.

    Baldelli said later on Sunday, “They’ll be over there working on different things. It mainly will be just workouts because it’s hard to do much else, play competitive games and such with a number like that.”

    JP Martinez is leading the group in St. Paul. Martinez was drafted by the Twins in 2004 and spent four seasons pitching in the system, reaching AAA. He rejoined the organization as a pitching coach at the facilities in Ft. Myers. He spent a season as pitching coach in Cedar Rapids. Last year, he became the assistant minor league pitching coordinator, a role he really enjoyed. With Pete Maki moving up to the big league bullpen coach job for the 2020 season, Martinez is going to be given a lot of responsibility.

    Baldelli said, “JP will be organizing and coordinating the workouts. We’ll be talking to him a lot. We already have to get everything lined up. I will also note that it will not be a situation where we hand the schedule over to them and ask JP to simply follow a schedule. They have to make it work. Every day you’ll have to make a with the group that you have. The group is going to change obviously when we’ve got guys here with us. So JP’s going to be, not just following what we send over. When I say organizing, he’s truly going to be organizing and coordinating.”

    But Martinez certainly isn’t doing it on his own. Martinez’s background is in pitching, but he’ll be working with Cibney Bello and Mike McCarthy.

    Bello was set to be the Rochester Red Wings pitching coach in 2020. He pitched for five seasons in the Mariners organization and three more seasons of independent baseball. He’s in his fifth season in the organization and has been a pitching coach in the GCL, in Cedar Rapids and in Pensacola. McCarthy pitched six seasons in the Red Sox organization before joining the Red Wings as their bullpen coach in 2018.

    The position players will also be getting plenty of attention.
    Donegal Fergus was hired as the Twins minor league hitting coordinator this offseason, highly recommended out of UC-Santa Barbara. Billy Boyer is in his second season as the Twins minor league infield and base running coordinator. Matt Borgschulte was scheduled to be the hitting coach for Rochester in 2020. This is his third season in the organization.

    As far as what the players will be doing, it’s a lot like what’s happening at Target Field, just without cameras and media. The first workout there was last Thursday, but it was only for those players who had already received the results of their COVID tests. Some players were first tested last Monday, others on Tuesday, so results came in on Thursday or Friday.

    Most of the players walk to the ballpark. They are usually split into groups of four or five players and have different scheduled activities from hitting, to working out in the weight room, bullpens and other activities. The are using the visitor’s clubhouse, but as with the players at Target Field, they only get about five minutes to get ready and get outside.

    Some of the Twins top prospects are in St.Paul, but there is a lot of talent there. As mentioned, this list is subject to change. These are the players not on the 40-man roster,and some of the younger guys on the 40-man roster. Some of them are currently working at Target Field.

    Pitchers
    Jhoulys Chacin
    Sam Clay
    Edwar Colina
    Danny Coulombe
    Ryan Garton
    Cory Gearrin
    Caleb Thielbar
    Dakota Chalmers (40)
    Jhoan Duran (40)

    In his press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson said that the team would be stretching out ten pitchers who are currently at Target Field. They will also be stretching out Chalmers and Duran, building up their arm strength with the hopes of them being starters down the line.

    Catchers
    Juan Graterol
    Ryan Jeffers
    Tomas Telis

    Infielders
    Royce Lewis
    Drew Maggi
    Jack Reinheimer
    Wilfredo Tovar
    Zander Wiel
    Travis Blankenhorn (40)

    Outfielders
    Lane Adams
    Alex Kirilloff
    Trevor Larnach
    Brent Rooker
    Gilberto Celestino (40)

    • Jul 07 2020 09:25 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  2. Twins Roster Decisions and Player Development

    The Twins 60-man player pool includes the 38 members of the 40-man roster (including Michael Pineda and Fernando Romero who are both on the restricted list). The ‘taxi squad’ includes some of the organization’s top prospects, at least those who are playing at the upper levels of the minor leagues such as Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Brent Rooker and Jhoan Duran. The group also includes several of the minor league veterans that were still in big league spring training in March.

    My initial thought after looking at the roster was that there are some very talented top prospects included, but several others (including RHP Jordan Balazovic) are not on the roster at this time. There are also a lot of replacement level minor league veterans with MLB service time that are included. What does that tell me? That this organization wants to win right now. While some other organizations are filling their roster with prospects, the Twins are going with veterans who can fill in if needed right now. Those guys are also the type of player that can be utilized, then DFAd and you won’t have to worry about losing them.

    But, rather than just trusting my own opinions, let’s find out what Derek Falvey and Rocco Baldelli had to say.

    Falvey began by saying that the first step was simply to read and fully understand the rules of the 60-man roster. Since this is new concept, it is important for the team to know the rules, especially those that are different from a “normal” season. How do you add or remove someone from the 60-man roster? How does the addition of a COVID-IL affect their ability to alter the roster?

    With that in mind, Falvey explained, “We focused on the group we had at the end of major league camp in Spring Training. I think every team has a different reason or rationale for bringing in this subset of players. We felt like our focus had to be on this Major League team. Making sure that we had the right depth. Making sure that we have development opportunities for our top prospects as well. We just happen to have quite a few of our upper tier prospects, as noted by several publications, that happen to be in the upper levels and were in spring training with us.”

    Baldelli added, “From a process standpoint, our focus is how do we fill it with guys that we think will help support the major league team in the event that we have issues at the major league level during the course of the year.”

    He accentuated those thoughts later by saying, “I think what we’re learning is that depth is going to be very important in a lot of different ways. The best ways that we can back up our major league group is to have quality, ready and able, upper level advanced guys, guys that have had big league time. Guys that we can rely on, not just for game action, but also for some prep work too.”

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Twins 60-man roster includes several players from my personal updated (post-draft) Twins prospect rankings:

    Royce Lewis (1), Alex Kirilloff (2), Trevor Larnach (3), Jhoan Duran (5), Ryan Jeffers (6), Gilberto Celestino (11), Edwar Colina (12), Lewis Thorpe (13), Brent Rooker (14), Travis Blankenhorn (20), Dakota Chalmers (22), Randy Dobnak (23), Devin Smeltzer (26), LaMonte Wade, Jr. (29), Nick Gordon (34), Sean Poppen (38), Jorge Alcala (39).

    Again, the biggest name that is missing would be Jordan Balazovic (4). However, starting pitching prospects such as Blayne Enlow (10), Cole Sands (16), and 2019 second-round draft pick Matt Canterino (8) are not on the list either. Neither is 2020 first-round pick, 1B Aaron Sabato (9) or 2019 first-round pick Keoni Cavaco (7) and 2019 Competitive Balance pick Matt Wallner (15)

    A case could have been easily made for including Sabato and Wallner, two very powerful bats, and Canterino. However, none were added at this time.

    “We didn’t focus on anyone from this year’s draft, or even last year’s draft. We hope there are some development opportunities for them down the line,” said Falvey.

    Those players will continue to receive some remote coaching as available. Other than that, the players are responsible for finding time to get their work in.

    When news of positive COVID-19 tests were found at team complexes in Clearwater and Dunedin last week, MLB shut down all team’s spring training facilities.

    According to Derek Falvey, “Two specific things came out of that. Shut everything down from a workout standpoint. Do a deep clean, making sure everything is in a good place. Reopen the facilities after those things are done. We’ve done all of those bits and pieces, gone through the testing protocols.”

    So the Twins now have some players that are rehabbing at their Ft. Myers facilities. Also, there are still players from Venezuela that couldn’t go home in March that remain at the Twins academy. The team has staff there providing meals and such.

    However, the Twins (and all MLB organizations) can’t have minor league workouts or activities, so the teams wait for that to be allowed. Players wait and keep trying to work on their games.

    Falvey noted that the team doesn’t currently have plans for the short term return of player development, but there’s no question they understand its importance and hope it can return to normalcy soon.

    “We obviously are focused on developing all of our minor leaguers throughout the course of this year. We are just limited in what we can do at present. It’s my hope, if we can continue to proceed down the path at the major league level, we can at some point focus on how we can potentially (provided) some further development on some other players who aren’t part of the 60”

    Which presents a great opportunity to the prospects on the 40-man roster or on the ‘taxi squad”

    Baldelli said, “I think there are a lot of positives about having good, young prospects involved and keeping them active and doing things. Every team is doing things with different objectives in mind. We spent a lot of time on it. We also have a couple of spots that are still available that we can still work with as we continue to see how this plays out and see what we need to do.”

    That’s important to remember. For instance, on Monday the Miami Marlins officially signed former Gophers righty and #3 overall pick in the 2020 draft Max Meyer and added him to their 60 player pool. Maybe Jordan Balazovic will get a call in the coming days or weeks.

    Regarding the likes of Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff, Royce Lewis, Ryan Jeffers and other prospects, Derek Falvey hopes that this is a great spot for them to develop and improve.

    “We felt that putting them in this environment and being around guys who are going to continue to develop to the major leagues, that was the best way to advance their development this year given the circumstances and the absence of games. It was better for them to be playing and be around our coaches and getting a little more hands-on instruction. The short-term answer is they’re part of the group. They’re going to continue to go through the workouts. They’ll intrasquad just like everybody else. Hopefully we can use this time to advance their overall development.”

    While there will be larger groups of players and staff at Target Field than at CHS Field, there will likely be five to six coaches in St. Paul at any given time. (The team will announce the staffs for spring training 2.0 after they get back the results of COVID testing in case they need to alter their current staffing plans)

    According to Falvey, ““We bring our hitting coordinators, our pitching coordinators, and make sure we have everything covered where we’re not missing anything as that group of 20 some players starts their workouts.”

    And what will those players be doing in St. Paul besides just practicing and working out? Rocco Baldelli laid out some of the plan and in doing so highlighted why this is such a great opportunity for these prospects. It could be a great opportunity to grow as a player.

    “The sim games and the intrasquading, we’ll allow for a competitive environment once everyone gets up and going. And truthfully, this could be one of the better learning experiences for some of these guys. It’s something they really couldn’t get during a season. A lot of times during the season you’re spending your time on performing, not taking chances, not trying something new and really learning and growing. This could be an opportunity for some of our guys to make some adjustments that they wouldn't normally be able to make.”

    The primary goal of the taxi squad is to provide depth to the big-league roster as needed throughout the summer. For many of the prospects, the odds of getting ‘called up’ may be low, but the opportunity to develop is potentially immeasurable.


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    • Jun 29 2020 11:49 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  3. Chances for Each Twins Top Prospect Impacting the 2020 Roster

    Each prospect below was ranked on a scale from Unlikely to Possibly to Probably to Definitely. Things considered were inclusion on the 40-man roster, prospect status, and 2019 performance.

    Royce Lewis, SS
    Twins Prospect Ranking: 1
    Lewis is widely considered the team’s top prospect and he is coming off a season with some mixed results. He might have redeemed himself with a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League. Overall, he’s only played 33 games above High-A, so the Twins might have to be in a pinch to call him up. His speed is elite so he could be an intriguing pinch running option if the team needed him for that role.
    2020 Impact: Unlikely

    Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B
    Twins Prospect Ranking: 2
    If the 2020 season had played out as planned, Kirilloff seemed like a lock to make his big-league debut even if it came as a September call-up. He dealt with a wrist injury last season, but he was still able to play over 90 games, all at Double-A. With a healed wrist, he should be back to mashing like he did in 2018 when he was the team’s minor league hitter of the year.
    2020 Impact: Possibly

    Trevor Larnach, OF
    Twins Prospect Ranking: 3
    Larnach is coming off a tremendous first full season in the Twins organization. He relied on his college experience to mash the ball at High- and Double-A. Unfortunately for him, there are quite a few players standing in the way of him making his debut. Players like Alex Kirilloff and Brent Rooker seem more likely to get a chance before Larnach.
    2020 Impact: Unlikely

    Jordan Balazovic, RHP
    Twins Prospect Ranking: 4
    Balazovic is the team’s best starting pitching prospect, but he has only thrown 73 innings above the Low-A level. He had a tremendous 2019 season with a 2.69 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP, but it was probably a stretch for him to make his debut in 2020 even if there were 162 games. If the Twins need him as a starter this season, that might be bad news for the big-league squad.
    2020 Impact: Unlikely

    Jhoan Duran, RHP
    Twins Prospect Ranking: 5
    Duran takes Brusdar Graterol’s role as the big flame thrower in the Twins system. However, many believe Duran has a better shot to stick as a starting pitcher. For the 2020 season, Duran could be used in a similar role to Graterol last year. Enter late and throw gas out of the bullpen.
    2020 Impact: Probably

    Ryan Jeffers, C
    Twins Prospect Ranking: 6
    Jeffers is coming off a tremendous 2019 season where he established himself as not only the top catching prospect in the Twins system, but also one of the team’s best overall prospects. Minnesota already has Mitch Garver, Alex Avila and Willian Astudillo penciled into the 30-man roster, but an injury could mean he debuts this season.
    2020 Impact: Possibly

    Lewis Thorpe, LHP
    Twins Prospect Ranking: 8
    Heading into spring, Thorpe had a chance to make the Twins starting rotation. The only thing that prevented that was some time away from camp as he dealt with some personal issues. He is the best left-handed starting pitching prospect in the organization and he already has big-league experience so it’s a no brainer that he will impact this year’s team.
    2020 Impact: Definitely

    Gilberto Celestino, OF
    Twins Prospect Ranking: 9
    Celestino is an elite defensive outfielder and that might be his best chance at impacting the Twins this year. He’s already on the team’s 40-man roster so that could put him ahead of players like Kirilloff, Larnach and Rooker. His offensive skills set might not be big-league ready, but there’s no question he could impact the game on the defensive side of the ball.
    2020 Impact: Possibly

    Other Pitching Prospects 2020 Impacts
    Dakota Chalmers, RHP: Possibly
    Randy Dobnak, RHP: Definitely
    Sean Poppen, RHP: Possibly
    Fernando Romero, RHP: Possibly
    Devin Smeltzer, RHP: Definitely
    Cody Stashak, RHP: Definitely

    Other Hitting Prospects 2020 Impacts
    Travis Blankenhorn, UTL: Probably
    Nick Gordon, SS/2B: Possibly
    LaMonte Wade Jr, OF: Probably
    Brent Rooker, OF: Probably

    Which top prospect will have the biggest impact on the Twins this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Jun 29 2020 01:34 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  4. ZiPS Predicts the Best Team From the Twins Daily Minor League Draft

    A few notes on the numbers below, these are career numbers and not a single season total because many of the prospects are very early in their professional careers. It was intriguing to see each writer’s strategy play out over the course of the draft as team’s had to balance prospect status and future value. Szymborski doesn’t typically like to do individual player profiles when things are this uncertain because it’s hard to look past just the numbers.

    Below you will see the team total for fWAR from ZiPS projected over the course of their careers. It also showcases one standout performer on each team. ZiPS loves pitchers as evident by the top-four team’s best player being a pitcher and this didn’t even include the top two pitching prospects in the Twins system.

    6. Seth Stohs
    Top Player: Royce Lewis- 9.8 WAR
    Overall WAR: 20.7
    Top Picks: Brent Rooker, Matt Wallner, Dakota Chalmers
    Other Players: Taylor Grzelakowski, Parker Phillips, Michael Helman, Wander Valdez, DaShawn Keirsey, Carlos Aguiar, Luis Rijo, Bailey Ober, Sean Poppen, Derek Molina, Javani Moran, Charlie Barnes

    Seth’s Thoughts: Drafting first is tough because, yes, you get the top player, but then you have to sit and watch as ten more players get taken before you can pick again. That said, I feel quite comfortable taking my chances with Royce. As you know, I am a bit of a prospect guy, so while the 2020 ranking may not look great for me, I will certainly take my chances with the prospects that I picked throughout the draft, and by about 2025, we are going to be really good!

    5. Cody Christie
    Top Player: Trevor Larnach- 6.2 WAR
    Overall WAR: 33.2
    Top Picks: Blayne Enlow, Ben Rortvedt, Misael Urbina
    Other Players: Victor Heredia, Charles Mack, Spencer, Steer, Wander Javier, Jacob Pearson, Ricky De La Torre, Jorge Alcala, Tyler Wells, Anthony Escobar, Steven Cruz, Evan Gillespie, Tyler Watson

    Cody’s Thoughts: I had the lowest overall top player but looking at the other top players and it’s easy to see why. If Trevor Larnach finishes his career with a lower overall WAR than Griffin Jax, the Twins have a long-term position player problem on their hands. Enlow has a chance to be one of the best pitchers in the organization and Rortvedt is the best catcher outside of Jeffers. If Larnach and Urbina hit their potential, watch out for my squad.

    4. Ted Schwerzler
    Top Player: Griffin Jax- 9.9 WAR
    Overall WAR: 41.9
    Top Picks: Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, Keoni Cavaco
    Other Players: Chris Williams, Trey Cabbage, Travis Blankenhorn, Edouard Juilien, Max Smith, Ernie De La Trinidad, Jimmy Kerrigan, Trevor Casanova, Cody Stashak, Ryan Mason, Ben Gross, Jake Reed

    Ted’s Thoughts: I actually love that Jax projects as the highest contributor among my team. I was somewhat surprised he wasn't selected in the Rule 5 draft this winter as I think he can hold down a rotation spot for a big-league club right now. Balazovic is the flashy arm with upside, but Jax is probably among the safest picks I made. At just shy of 42 total WAR, I feel good about my squad having solid long-term development opportunities and a bit less volatility than Seth could experience.

    3. Jeremy Nygaard
    Top Player: Devin Smeltzer- 15.4 WAR
    Overall WAR: 48.4
    Top Picks: Jhoan Duran, Gilberto Celestino, LaMonte Wade Jr.
    Other Players: Kidany Salva, Zander Wiel, Anthony Prato, Drew Maggi, Will Holland, Emmanuel Rodriguez, Jared Akins, Chris Vallimont, Yennier Cano, Zach Neff, Benjamin Dum, Austin Schulfer

    Jeremy’s Thoughts: No surprise that Smeltzer is my top-projected player as he already has had some MLB success. Also, no surprise that I'm higher than Ted, Cody and Seth because, well...

    2. Matt Braun
    Top Player: Lewis Thorpe- 14.9 WAR
    Overall WAR: 52.1 WAR
    Top Picks: Ryan Jeffers, Jose Miranda, Cole Sands
    Other Players: Gabe Snyder, Yunior Severino, Yeltsin Encarnacion, Gabriel Maciel, Willie Joe Garry Jr., Tyler Webb, Luis Baez, Bryan Sammons, Hector Lujan, Ryan Shreve, Adam Bray, Cody Laweryson

    Matt’s Thoughts: I’m quite happy with my placement. I can now say that I fully support Dan and his projection system because it must be well done if it liked me so much! I’m a big Thorpe fan especially so it’s nice to know that more advanced systems than my own feelings agree in his potential in MLB.

    1. Steve Lein
    Top Player: Randy Dobnak-18.2 WAR
    Overall WAR: 53.7
    Top Picks: Alex Kirilloff, Edwar Colina, Nick Gordon
    Other Players: Caleb Hamilton, Albee Weiss, Seth Gray, Jordan Gore, Akil Baddoo, Mark Contreras, Andrew Bechtold, Josh Winder, Moises Gomez, Tom Hackimer, Andrew Vasquez, Alex Phillips

    Steve’s Thoughts: When's my championship belt arrive? Hah. In all seriousness though, I tried to place a bit of a premium on proximity to the majors when making my picks, even taking a few guys who have already made their debut, and that may have helped me with ZIPS projections. Also rewarding for me to see the top overall player was Randy Dobnak, who I said when I picked him in the second round that it may have been a surprise to some. It was not for me, because I know just how good he's been rising to the majors.

    What do you think of the ZiPS results? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Jun 24 2020 06:10 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  5. Minnesota Twins Post-Draft Top-20 Prospects: 1-5

    5. Jhoan Duran, RHP
    2019 MiLB Stats: 5-12, 3.76 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 136 K, 40 BB, 115.0 IP
    The Twins might have stolen Duran from the Diamondback organization as part of the Eduardo Escobar trade. Escobar was never going to be part of the long-term solution in Minnesota and Duran could be one of the answers to some of Minnesota’s pitching woes. Duran throws multiple fastballs with a four-seamer that can reach triple digits and consistently sits in the high-90s and a two-seamer that acts like a splitter which hits over 90 mph.

    Last season, Duran really put himself on the prospect map by showing plus velocity and multiple pitches as a starter. He was almost two year younger than the average age of the competition in the FSL and that number jumped to 3.3 years younger in the Southern League. Even with the age gap, he struck out 10.6 batters per nine innings and his walk rate dropped from 3.6 BB/9 to 2.2 BB/9 after his promotion.

    4. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
    2019 MiLB Stats (A, A+): 8-6, 2.69 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 129 K, 25 BB, 93.2 IP
    Balazovic is good. Like, really good. He has the chance to be better than any pitcher in the current Twins rotation and that’s something the Twins have struggled to produce from the farm system for many years. The kicker is… He was a fifth-round draft pick under the previous front office regime. Talk about a going away present.

    He can hit the high 90s with his fastball and there is some sinking action on the pitch to induce groundballs. Add in a change-up in the mid-80s and that’s a recipe for disaster as a hitter. He made hitters look foolish in the MWL last season as he struck out 33 batters in just over 20 innings. Yes, that is over 14 strikeouts per nine innings. He took the jump to the FSL in stride and struck out nearly 12 batters per nine innings. In some organizations, he’d be the top prospect and that tells you how good the players are ahead of him.

    3. Trevor Larnach, OF
    2019 MiLB Stats (A+, AA): .309/.384/.458, 13 HR, 30 2B, 124 K, 57 BB, 127 G
    In his second professional season, Larnach destroyed the baseball across two levels and an argument could be made for him to be the best prospect in the Twins organization. He’s had success in college and as a pro and that could help him to advance through the Twins system. Last season he was named the Twins Minor League Player of the Year and the Florida State League named him their Player of the Year.

    His 147 hits were the most in the Twins system and he seemed to get better as the season progressed. From August 2 through the season’s end, he had a .969 OPS with nine extra-base hits in 28 games. He’s added a lot of weight throughout college and his professional career and this will only help with his power numbers in the future. On the defensive side, he’s slotted in to be a corner outfielder and he seems likely to play that position throughout his professional career.

    2. Alex Kirilloff, OF
    2019 MiLB Stats (AA): .283/.343/.413, 9 HR, 18 2B, 76 K, 29 BB, 94 G
    Any prospect would have a tough time living up to the numbers compiled by Kirilloff in 2018. He dominated two levels of the minor leagues by hitting .348/.392/.578 with 71 extra-base hits in 130 games. The 2019 season was a different story as he missed time at season’s start with a wrist injury and then ended up back on the injured list with the same injury. From that point forward, he made his presence felt in the Southern League.

    In August, Kirilloff crushed the ball to the tune of a .311/.351/.500 slash-line with five home runs in and five doubles in 26 games. He really found his stride in the playoffs as he hit home runs in the Blue Wahoo’s first four playoff games and posted a 1.435 OPS during the team’s semifinal appearance. He and Larnach have been compared to each other but Kirilloff is younger and it’s scary to think about the outfield these two could occupy in the years ahead.

    1. Royce Lewis, SS
    2019 MiLB Stats (A+, AA): .236/.290/.371, 12 HR, 26 2B, 123 K, 38 BB, 127 G
    An argument can be made for any of the Twins top three prospects to be the best in the system. Lewis was the number one overall pick back in 2017 so it is going to be hard to ignore his prospect status no matter what he does in the minor leagues. Some might question the mechanics of his swing and some might question his eventual defensive position. His athleticism and skills are hard to ignore no matter what scouts might say about him.

    Even with a down season, the Twins sent Lewis to the Arizona Fall League and he dominated over the course of 95 plate appearances. He hit .353/.411/.565 with 12 extra-base hits in 22 games. Because of other players on the roster, he was asked to play positions besides shortstop, and he lived up to the challenge. Kirilloff and Larnach might beat him to the big-leagues, but Lewis could be a once-in-a-generation talent.

    PREVIOUS TOP-20 POSTS
    Prospects 16-20
    Prospects 11-15
    Prospects 6-10

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    • Jun 17 2020 05:44 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  6. Reviewing Minnesota's Recent First Round Picks

    2019: Keoni Cavaco, SS (13th overall)
    Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospect Ranking: 8
    2019 Season (Rookie): .172/.217/.253 (.470 OPS), HR, 4 2B, 35 K
    Cavaco flew up draft boards in the weeks and months leading up to the draft and the Twins saw enough in him to make him their first-round pick. He clearly had some struggles in his first professional season as he struck out in over 40% of his at-bats. His athleticism and other tools are hard to ignore, so Twins fans might have to be patient with him as he moves through the system.

    2018: Trevor Larnach, OF (20th overall)
    Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospect Ranking: 3
    2019 Season (A+/AA): .309/.384/.458 (.842 OPS), 13 HR, 30 2B, 124 K
    Larnach was drafted in the midst of a tremendous College World Series run that saw him hit a walk-off home run that helped Oregon State win the championship. Last season was a breakout campaign for the former first rounder. The Twins named him their Minor League Player of the Year and he took home the same honors from Twins Daily. He would also be named the Florida State League Player of the Year and he led the Twins organization in hits (147).

    2017: Royce Lewis, SS (1st overall)
    Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospect Ranking: 1
    2019 Season (A+/AA): .236/.290/.371 (.661 OPS), 12 HR, 26 2B, 123 K
    When a team has the number one pick, it’s imperative not to miss on the player. Lewis had some struggles last season with his swing and there are questions about his long-term defensive position. Following the season, he went to the Arizona Fall League and put some of those concerns to rest as he was named the league’s MVP. He is almost unanimously considered the team’s best prospect and all three major prospect rankings have him as a top-30 prospect in all of baseball.

    2016: Alex Kirilloff (15th overall)
    Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospect Ranking: 2
    2019 Season (AA): .283/.343/.413 (.756 OPS), 9 HR, 18 2B, 76 K
    It was going to be hard for any player to live up to the season compiled by Kirilloff back in 2018. He was arguably one of the best hitters in all the minors that season. His 2019 campaign included multiple stints on the DL with a wrist injury and this can be a tough injury to overcome in the middle of a season. He ended the year on a tear by hitting .319/.371/.496 (.867) and he crack home runs in Pensacola’s first four playoff games.

    2015: Tyler Jay (6th overall)
    Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospect Ranking: No longer in the organization
    The previous front office regime had hopes for Jay by taking him this high in the draft. As a hard throwing college arm, the Twins hoped to be able to turn Jay from a reliever into a starter. This experiment didn’t exactly go as planned and the Twins traded Jay last June to the Cincinnati Reds for cash. It was just announced this week that Jay was one of the players released from the Reds organization, so he is currently searching for a new organization.

    What do you think of Minnesota’s recent first round picks? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Jun 05 2020 09:29 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  7. Episode 19: Get to Know Royce Lewis

    First of all, Happy Birthday to Twins top prospect Royce Lewis. He hits that 21st Birthday milestone on Friday. And like Ryan Jeffers, who turned 23 on Wednesday, he will be celebrating his birthday a little differently this year. Because of COVID-19 and suspension of the season, they are able to be home celebrating, rather than at the ballpark. Certainly both would prefer to be playing.



    Recently, I caught up with Royce Lewis and discussed a number of topics including:

    • His memories from when he was drafted first overall three years ago.
    • His 2019, including his Arizona Fall League performance and experience.
    • His experiences with Team USA.
    • How winning baseball just seems to happen on teams he plays on.
    • Turning 21.
    • Moving to Texas.
    • His second big league spring training.
    • How he's been spending his time since being sent home.
    • What he's been researching online to keep bettering himself.
    • And starting his new YouTube channel. (By the way, check out one of his videos below and be sure to subscribe)




    As he notes, broadcast journalism is a big interest for him, and you can tell he's going to be very good at it... after his playing career... which hopefully is a long time into the future.

    Please take a listen to this interview. Join me in wishing Royce a Happy 21st Birthday, and as you have time, listen back to previous episodes of the Get to Know 'Em podcast.


    You can subscribe to the Get to Know 'Em podcast on iTunes. or follow Libsyn for new episodes here as well. Please leave ratings or feedback.
    And did you know that you can listen to the Get To Know 'Em podcast by asking Alexa to "Listen to the Get To Know 'Em Podcast."

    PAST EPISODES

    Episode 1: Get to know Niko Guardado (Actor and son of Eddie Guardado)
    Episode 2: Get to know Pat Dean, Brent Rooker
    Episode 3: Get to know Royce Lewis, AJ Achter
    Episode 4: Get to know Devin Smeltzer
    Episode 5: Get to know Jaylin Davis, Tyler Wells
    Episode 6: Get to know: Travis Blankenhorn, LaMonte Wade
    Episode 7: Get to know: Matt Wallner (and Ten Minutes with Tyler Wells)
    Episode 8: Get to know: Caleb Hamilton, Austin Schulfer, Nick Anderson
    Episode 9: Get to know: Andy Young, Billy Boyer (and Ten Minutes with Tyler)
    Episode 10: Get to know: Wesley Wright (Twins Pro Scout)
    Episode 11: Get to know: John Manuel(Twins Pro Scout)
    Episode 12: Get to know: Marshall Kelner(Mighty Mussels broadcaster)
    Episode 13: Get to know: Dick Bremer (Twins broadcaster, author)
    Episode 14: Get to know: Anthony Slama (former Twins pitcher, entrepreneur)
    Episode 15: Get to Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona)
    Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse)
    Episode 17: Get to Know the 1980s Twins (with Howard Sinker)
    Episode 18: Get to Know Ryan Jeffers
    Episode 19: Get to Know Royce Lewis


    Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily n Twitter and Facebook.

    • Jun 04 2020 10:53 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  8. Twins Daily Minor League Draft: Rounds 1-4

    Here is some background on the draft rules before getting into the results. There were 16 rounds in the draft with the draft order being randomly selected prior to starting. Players had to be picked at their primary position but if a player had 15 or more games at a position, they could be selected for that position as well. All players must have “prospect” or “rookie” status to be draft eligible.

    Positions on each team included: Catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, three outfielders, a bench player/hitter, three starting pitchers, three relief pitchers, and an extra pitcher.

    (Please note that comments under the picks were made by the person making the selection. After reading this, be sure to also click on some of the available links on each player for more on each.)

    Round 1

    Seth Stohs - Royce Lewis, SS
    #1 spot, have to go with the #1 prospect, right? Teams want to be strong up the middle, and whether Lewis plays shortstop or center field, I feel good about having him on this roster. He’ll likely hit first, second or third for me too. (The Defensive Future of Royce Lewis) (Royce Lewis Is Putting It All On Display)

    Steve Lein - Alex Kirilloff, 1B
    I'll start with the best pure hitter in the organization, and also likely one of the best in the minor leagues. I'm going to play him at 1B for now because I think impact outfielders will be easier to come by. (Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Learning From Past Mistakes) (Alex Kirilloff Should Make his Twins Debut in 2020)

    Ted Schwerzler - Jordan Balazovic, RHSP
    Although I like that a clone of the second pick is available here, I think anchoring the rotation with a potential ace works out. (Have The Twins Fixed Their Velocity Problem?) (How MLB’s Delayed Start Could Impact Minnesota’s Rotation)

    Cody Christie - Trevor Larnach, OF
    I think I have the easiest pick in the draft. I’m happy with whomever Ted left for me. But please, let it be the player I want. Alex Kirilloff’s clone is available. I’ll take Trevor Larnach as the player that I think could have been the first pick in this draft and he could be the Twins best position player over the next 10 years. (Pending Prospects: Which Outfielder Will Be Called up First?) (Trevor Larnach Homers in First MLB Spring At-Bat)

    Jeremy Nygaard - Jhoan Duran, RHSP
    For me, there were five prospects in the top tier, and I was going to take whichever one fell. Getting arguably the top pitching prospect at this point is fine with me as I feel there is more position player depth than frontline pitching. (Get to Know Twins RHP Prospect Jhoan Duran) (Jhoan Duran Headlines Twins Roster Additions)

    Matt Braun - Ryan Jeffers, C
    A bit annoyed that I missed out on the guys who I believed to be truly elite, but Jeffers is no slouch. Not only will he be by far the best catching prospect available, his offense and defense both have trended upward since being drafted and he’ll look to potentially grow in the future. (Get to Know Ryan Jeffers)

    Round 2

    Matt Braun - Lewis Thorpe, LHSP
    While there were a few other solid pitching options, Thorpe provides the immediate upside that few can match. His strikeout potential appears to be immense and the fact that he held his own at the major league level gives me great hope. (5 Questions with Twins Pitcher Lewis Thorpe) (What’s Next for Lewis Thorpe?)

    Jeremy Nygaard - Gilberto Celestino, OF
    I hoped that Jeffers would fall, and maybe that would have been the wiser pick at #5 considering Matt may not have taken two pitchers, but I stuck to my board. This pick was more difficult because there were a number of different trains of thought: Do I take the best prospect? Do I take the best player at a position of scarcity? At the end, though, I thought it would be smartest to take someone who could fill premium defensive (CF) and offensive (leadoff) positions. (Could Gilberto Celestino or Royce Lewis Cover Center if Byron Buxton Gets Injured?)

    Cody Christie - Blayne Enlow, RHSP
    I wanted a starting pitcher with this pick, and I’ve been high on Enlow for multiple years. I think he has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter. The Twins don’t have a ton of players that fit that mold and I wanted to make sure I had a player that could anchor my pitching rotation. (For Enlow and Other Minor Leaguers, “No One Is Safe” At Trade Deadline)

    Ted Schwerzler - Matt Canterino, RHSP
    Might as well stick with pitching here. Canterino was a 2nd round pick in 2019 and immediately made an impact on the pro mound. He’s got a quirky delivery, but there’s a bunch of strikeouts on the way and I think the ceiling is very high. (Matt Canterino: Pitcher and Problem Solver) (Q&A with Matt Canterino)

    Steve Lein - Randy Dobnak, SP
    This may be the first pick that surprises, but it shouldn't. Dobnak has been the most consistent starter in the Twins organization since May 16th...of 2018. In that time he has a near 2.00 ERA and hasn't given up more than 4 runs in ANY outing, from A-ball to the majors. (5 Questions with Twins Pitcher Randy Dobnak) (Randy Dobnak Is Better Than You Think)

    Seth Stohs - Brent Rooker, OF
    You love getting to draft first, but then it’s a long wait while a lot of great players and prospects are taken. I thought I would take some pitching here, but instead, I’m going to just mash. Rooker put up some great numbers for nearly two months in Rochester in 2019 (May/June) before his season came to an early end. He’s also nearly big-league ready. (5 Questions with Twins Prospect Brent Rooker) (Brent Rooker Is ‘Ready to Go’ For a ‘Big’ Year)

    Round 3

    Seth Stohs - Matt Wallner, OF
    Continuing the theme, I’ll take a Minnesota kid who was the Twins Competitive Balance pick in 2019. Wallner was Mr. Minnesota, drafted by the Twins as a pitcher (2016), went to Southern Mississippi, became an All-American outfielder with great power. (Get to know Matt Wallner)

    Steve Lein - Edwar Colina SP
    I may regret not taking a position player at this point, but after taking a rock for the rotation I'll go upside here. I watched Colina hit 100 MPH on the gun at Spring Training before baseball got shut down, and he has a good slider as well. (Triple-Digit Shoes to Fill)

    Ted Schwerzler - Keoni Cavaco SS
    This feels like a steal at where we are in the draft. Cavaco didn’t debut well in his first pro season, but he’s both young and raw while having immense tools. I’ll gamble on the upside here. (Cali Connection Jumps Draft Boards: Q&A with Keoni Cavaco)

    Cody Christie - Ben Rortvedt, C
    Catcher is a tough position to fill and I thought it was a great time to get the second-best catcher in the system. His AFL experience from last year will help him in the years ahead. Some might think it was a reach at this point, but I wanted to fill an up the middle position with one of the team’s top prospects. (Prospect Spotlight Video: Ben Rortvedt)

    Jeremy Nygaard - Devin Smeltzer LHSP
    My target list for this spot was wiped out with the previous picks, with the exception of Smeltzer. So I'll stick with my theme of 2018 Deadline acquisitions and complete my 1-2 Righty/Lefty punch. (Get to know Devin Smeltzer and his story)

    Matt Braun - Jose Miranda 3B
    This is kind of a weird portion of the draft now where I have to go with my gut. I love Miranda’s offensive upside and the fact that there are a limited number of other great third baseman available in the Twins’ system. (Get to Know Jose Miranda)

    Round 4

    Matt Braun - Cole Sands RHSP
    Much like Miranda, there are a number of other great choices for a pitcher with solid upside. Sands is still somewhat of an unknown but he was a strike-throwing machine when healthy and could move quicklybecause of his status as a college arm.

    Jeremy Nygaard - LaMonte Wade Jr LF
    Had a hard time deciding what direction I wanted to go here. With Celestino and Wade locked into two outfield spots, I know I'm going to be giving up a power position, but Wade's ability to get on base was too much to pass on. Not sure with one of my outfielders will lead off now, but really like both of their ability to impact the game from the top of the lineup. (Get to Know LaMonte Wade, Jr.)

    Cody Christie - Misael Urbina, CF
    Much like my catcher pick earlier in the draft, I’m going for an up-the-middle player with this pick. Adding him with Larnach in the outfield could be a fun pair to watch. Urbina might have some of the highest upside of any player in the organization and he has all the tools to be an impact player. (Twins Tied to Misael Urbina, Expected to be “Aggressive” Internationally)

    Ted Schwerzler - Travis Blankenhorn 2B
    Up the middle should now be covered on my team by adding a guy that could debut for the Twins in 2020. Blankenhorn has positional flexibility, good bat skills, and should hit for doubles power at worst. (Get to Know Travis Blankenhorn) (5 Questions with Travis Blankenhorn)

    Steve Lein - Nick Gordon SS
    I was focusing on Gordon or Blankenhorn here, happy to get the one that can play SS. When healthy, he's also been a good hitter I can have set the table from the top of the lineup.

    Seth Stohs - Dakota Chalmers RH SP
    Chalmers completed his Tommy John rehab after coming to the Twins in an August 2018 deal. He possesses a big arm with upper-90s velocity. He's also got the makings of a couple of plus secondary pitches. Needs innings and time, but he has a high ceiling. (Get to Know Dakota Chalmers)

    We are hoping to do some fun things with the finalized rosters in the weeks ahead. After four rounds, who has the best roster so far? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Jun 04 2020 08:23 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  9. Twins Positioned Well for Short Draft

    Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over the top of the front office prior to the 2017 season. While a substantial part of the scouting and draft focused contingent remained in the organization, the overall infrastructure has changed. Falvey and Levine have instituted a significant expansion of analytical models, as well as people to cultivate those initiatives. Developmental staff has been brought in across the farm, and voices through the system seem more aligned than ever.

    Although the post-draft process of skill development and progression remains the most vital piece in generating a big leaguer, it’s also very much about nailing the makeup and tools of each guy selected. With just five rounds to get it right this year, it’s worth looking at how the last three tries in that same space have gone.

    2017 Picks: Royce Lewis (1, 1), Brent Rooker (1, 35), Landon Leach (2, 37), Blayne Enlow (3, 76), Charlie Barnes (4, 106), Andrew Bechtold (5, 136)

    In their very first draft Falvine went big on upside. Royce Lewis was selected over players like Hunter Greene and Kyle Wright. He’s got the makeup of a star player and still trends towards being a difference maker up the middle for the Twins. Rooker was a bat only prospect, but it’s played as expected at every level thus far. The power is real and he’s near Major League ready.

    In going after Leach, Minnesota was able to bank some money to entice Enlow. Landon hasn’t established himself much in pro ball yet, but Enlow looks to be one of the better arms in the entire system. Barnes has been a consistent lefty without much flash. He reached Triple-A last year and could project as a back-end starter. While Bechtold was seen as a very nice JUCO get he’s still waiting to establish himself. The Appy League debut was a good one but a .738 OPS at Single-A, where he was old for both leagues, didn’t light the world on fire.

    Overall, this group looks to have two guaranteed Major League talents, and one that could absolutely be a star. Throw in Enlow’s upside and another potential lottery pick on one of the remaining to call it a very solid first showing for the front office.

    2018 Picks: Trevor Larnach (1, 20), Ryan Jeffers (2, 59), DaShawn Keirsey (4, 124), Cole Sands (5, 154)

    Just four picks in the top five rounds this year, Minnesota had to do more with less. Larnach was a College World Series star and brings exit velocity in spades. He’s since become a very similar comp to another Twins prospect, Alex Kirilloff. That’s great company and there’s a significant ceiling to be fulfilled. Jeffers is the best catching prospect in the organization, and while touted for his offense, he’s transformed into more of a complete player.

    Until now Keirsey hasn’t yet taken hold. He posted a .798 OPS in his pro debut but owned just a .436 OPS last year playing 43 games. Cole Sands looked like a gem when he did debut last year. He made it all the way to Double-A and dominated to the tune of a 2.68 ERA with a 10.0 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9.

    Once again, this looks like a strong core group. Larnach and Jeffers are great headliners with Sands trending way upwards. Keirsey could be a miss, but three of four looking like Major League assets this early is a solid set of circumstances. A smaller group, but a good one here.

    2019 Picks: Keoni Cavaco (1, 13), Matt Wallner (1, 39), Matt Canterino (2, 54), Spencer Steer (3, 90), Seth Gray (4, 119), Will Holland (5, 149)

    The Twins went with the helium to start last year’s draft. Cavaco vaulted up boards but was not necessarily expected to go this high. He really struggled from the get-go but showed up to Spring Training looking very strong. Wallner is a local product and was a standout at Southern Miss. Both he and Matt Canterino looked like tested amateurs that can contribute at a very high level.

    Adding infield talent was the theme of a run in rounds three through five. Steer made quick work of the Appy League and held his own for the Kernels. Gray showed well for Elizabethton and made a brief cameo with Cedar Rapids. Holland was the pride of a very good Auburn squad and is seen as a very good defender. The bat didn’t play in year one but it’s far too early to make assessments there.

    Lots of uncertainty in regards to trend lines for this group at an early stage, but I think it’s fair to say both Wallner and Canterino impressed.

    Looking back at the last three drafts Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have shown there’s people in all of the right places across the Twins organization. It’s hard not to be excited about the top of any of these groups, and even moreso considering the futility the previous regime showed in regards to recent top picks. Minnesota only has four picks (27, 59, 99, and 125) to make in June and they’ll need to supplement the system as best they can. With an unlimited number of undrafted signees also on the docket, enticing amateurs with the revamped development infrastructure should be a selling point as well.

    Before we’ll get any live action in 2020 the draft is going to take place, and thankfully for Twins fans, there’s a group in place capable of hitting a home run.

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    • May 19 2020 08:41 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  10. Seth's Spring Training Standouts: 2020 Edition

    I feel the need to say a few things before getting to the three players that most jumped out at me when watching them.

    First, every single player in Twins minor league spring training is really, really good at baseball .They are all impressive.

    There are top prospects that usually jump out even from just watching them practice, field, run or take batting practice. There is often a presence about them. I don’t include the top prospects in these just because I already know a lot about them. They get a lot of words written about them. Watching guys like Balazovic, Enlow, Canterino and Ober throw bullpens is impressive, but I knew that they probably would be. Seeing Keoni Cavaco and watching him take a couple of rounds of batting practice, it’s easy to see why he was drafted in the first half of the first round last June. Same with Matt Wallner, the Twins pick in the Competitive Balance A round, who showed good all-around hitting skill and the ability to hit the ball a long way. Those players will continue to have a ton of words written about them. But be honest, you like coming back to Twins Daily because we talk about all prospects, not just the top guys. That makes this article a fun one for me every year.

    I do have to point out one other thing. We talk a lot about Small Sample Size. Hey, I could go to Cedar Rapids for a full week of games, and even then what I saw would be considered a Small Sample. So, seeing players for parts of five days of pre-official workouts has to fall into the VERY small sample size category. Of course, another part of that is that I didn’t see players in game situations. I didn’t see more than maybe 30 to 40 pitchers throw bullpens, when there are likely 80 to 100 pitchers in minor league spring training.

    The players below are guys that were outside of my Top 50 prospects who, after watching them in an admittedly very, very small sample size that this year didn’t even include spring training games, had me intrigued. April 9th was supposed to be Opening Day in the minor leagues, but whenever the minor league season starts, these are players that I will be watching.

    Who knows? Maybe it’s just a way for me to try to show off some amateur scouting skills. In previous years, I’ve been right a few times. In one case, I wrote about a player impressing me a lot during spring training, and he was released by June. Last year, one of the players that stood out to me was Willie Joe Garry, Jr., and he had a nice season of development. And I got to interview him for a story this spring.

    OK, let’s get to it. He is my list of players who stood out in spring training this year.


    3B Wander Valdez

    When I landed in Florida, I quickly grabbed my bags, got my rental car and went straight to Hammond Stadium to see if there were any minor leaguers still practicing.The first field I walked up to had a group of seven or eight guys taking batting practice. The first hitter I saw was Wander Valdez, and he stood out. He is barely over 20, but he is big and strong. I know he ended the 2019 season at about 225-230 pounds. He looks like he may have gained even more strength this offseason. He is big and strong and quite impressive.

    Throughout the week I was there, I saw him take some batting practice hacks at least three or four times. From that, he just looks like a solid all-around hitter, and he has a ton of power potential. He also looked fairly solid in fielding ground balls at third base. He had a real strong State-side debut in 2019 in the GCL. He hit .323/.382/.516 (898) with six doubles and four home runs which was good for #2 in the Twins Daily Short-Season Hitter of the Year voting.

    Posted Image


    OF Carlos Aguiar

    Aguiar was signed to a seven-figure bonus in September 2017, less than a month after he turned 16. It made him one of the youngest players in that international class. After a year in the DSL, Aguiar spent the 2019 season as a 17-year-old in the GCL. It came with struggles and injuries. He had just one hit in 18 at-bats, and he struck out 11 times.

    I got to spring training a week before minor league spring training officially opened. About 98% of the minor leaguers were already there. However, they were practicing in Twins workout gear, shorts and t-shirts. They weren’t wearing uniforms, so it wasn’t easy to identify players. Aguiar was a player who stood out instantly. He’s tall (about 6-3) and really strong. After he stood out to me for a couple of days, I finally asked a coach who he was. It was Aguiar… and now I fully understand why scouts would have been excited about him. He’s big. He’s strong. He has a ton of power potential. One of the days, I watched batting practice in which two pitching machines were used. One threw fastballs. The other threw breaking balls. The BP pitcher raised both arms and then dropped a ball into one of the two machines. The hitter had to quickly determine what pitch was coming and then try to hit it. It isn’t easy. The 17-year-old had some ups and downs, but I saw him hit some of the longest batting practice homers I’ve seen. He’s very young, and he’s very raw. He will likely go back to the GCL in 2020. And he may not even get to Cedar Rapids until 2022, but he is definitely one to watch.

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    RHP Jon Olsen

    I fully admit that I didn’t watch a lot of bullpens. I saw a bunch of pitchers throw, but generally just saw one bullpen. As I mentioned above, I saw Balazovic and Enlow a couple of times. Canterino working in the bullpen is really impressive. Sawyer Gipson-Long was impressive working in the bullpen as well.

    I saw Jon Olsen work a bullpen, and he looked really good. He will turn 23 in mid-May, and he is yet to throw his first pitching in a professional baseball game. After three seasons at UCLA, the Twins made him their 12th round pick in 2018. He had undergone Tommy John surgery earlier that year. He signed and immediately jumped into the Twins rehab program. He hoped to be ready sometime in 2019, but he had a setback.

    With that, he threw pretty hard. He seemed to have good control and a good breaking ball. Obviously you can’t tell everything from a bullpen, but he looks healthy.k And, just from observing, he seems like the kind of pitcher and has the kind of stuff that could make him a guy who pitches at three levels in 2020, if healthy. Innings will certainly be kept monitored in 2020 after not pitching for two years, but he could move quickly.

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    Honorable Mention: SS Calten Daal

    I normally don’t include minor league free agents in this category, but there was one that stood out to me. The Twins signed 26-year-old Calten Daal to a minor league deal. He didn’t get an invite to big league spring training, though he has played in four big league games. The Curacao native signed with the Reds in 2012 and remained in that organization through the end of 2019. He played 122 games at AA between 2016 and 2019. He hurt his shoulder in June 2016. After rehabbing, he tore a shoulder and missed all of 2017 and all but four games in 2018.

    Way back in 2011, I went to see Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and AJ Petterson play for the Beloit Snappers. In one of the series, I watched them play against West Michigan, a team led by Nick Castellanos. He played third base. Dixon Machado played shortstop. To this date, I hadn’t seen another shortstop that I enjoyed watching play defense as much as I enjoyed watching Machado field the position in batting practice, infield practice and games. At least not until I saw Calten Daal take ground balls and infield practice. He looked smooth. He showed good range, soft hands. Again, it stood out enough that I had to ask who it was. Compared to others at the position, Daal is taller, and he’s got the long, lanky build that screams big league shortstop. I didn’t see him hit, and based on his track record, he probably won’t hit. Because of that, he may never get to the big leagues, but he can play shortstop any day, and that can help the Twins minor league pitchers and their development.

    Posted Image


    So there you have it, four Twins minor leaguers who stood out to me while watching minor league spring training for a week this spring. Take it for what it is. Maybe parts of five workouts. No game action.

    Another observation… even with Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Brent Rooker, Gilberto Celestino and Ryan Jeffers working in big-league spring training, it was still clear that the minor league fields were filled with talent too.

    • Mar 27 2020 09:46 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  11. Royce Lewis Is Putting It All On Display

    Although not all minor league players develop at the same rate, it’s become clear that Lewis is knocking on the door to the big leagues. He’s not a realistic shot to crack the major league roster for 2020, but a debut this season is trending more towards a possibility.

    Having enjoyed plenty of run in big league camp thanks to an injury sustained by starter Jorge Polanco, Lewis has been provided ample opportunity to show what he’s capable of. More than in any other instance, the results on Tuesday in Clearwater provide a strong depiction of what’s currently taking place.

    In his first at-bat Lewis stepped in and cranked a homer way out to left field. The wind was blowing in that direction, but with a distracted focus, my immediate reaction was to drop a four-letter word in simply saying, “Holy s***.” He got every bit of the pitch and cranked in over the Tiki bar down the line, eventually leaving the stadium. Although not seen as a hulking power threat, it was in that swing that Lewis displayed his advanced ability to send the pill on a ride.



    Not long after his exploits at the dish, Lewis was making an impact in the field. Over the course of his day in the field it appeared there was a level of comfort between he and second baseman Luis Arraez (and a nice heads up prior to his home run). Fluid double plays were turned, and a level of communication seemed apparent. It was on a grounder deep in the hole, inducing a throw that Hall of Famer Derek Jeter would’ve been proud of, that we saw Royce’s defensive skill on display.



    Plenty has been made about both his leg kick at the dish and the ability to stick at shortstop. It’s in instances like the two big contributions made against the Phillies that should give pause to any concerns. His home run came against big ticket free-agent acquisition Zack Wheeler, and the defensive effort was put up against a respectable runner in Adam Haseley. If we dream on an extrapolation of those results, it’s easy to see why he’s touted as one of baseball’s best prospects.

    The flip side introduces us to the potential pitfalls of Lewis’ projection. He played a sound game defensively so there was nothing to be concerned with there. However, it was at the dish that we saw the negative effects of timing induced by a pronounced leg kick. There were not any strikeouts today, but his third at-bat included a lunge I’m sure he’d rather not replicate.



    When utilizing a leg kick to work through rhythm and timing, a heavy emphasis must be put on getting that foot back down. If there’s a guess made to the pitch selection then any sort of incorrect thought process will likely result in a substantial weight transfer, wider base, and lack of impact at the point of contact. You’re certainly going to be fooled at times as a hitter, but the door left open for a pitcher to exploit it more often can be opened wider with a leg kick or moving hands at the plate.

    Overall, this game was a very good representation of where Lewis is right now. The athleticism and talent are legit, he’s got the ability to be a bona fide star. There are a couple of refinements still be added however, and that will dictate his timeline to the big leagues, and his eventual impact when he arrives in Twins Territory.

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    • Mar 11 2020 07:36 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  12. Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Shortstop

    Projected Starter: Jorge Polanco
    Likely Backup: Ehire Adrianza

    Depth: Luis Arraez, Marwin Gonzalez
    Prospects: Royce Lewis, Wander Javier

    THE GOOD

    When I counted down the top assets in the Minnesota Twins organization a couple months back, I had Polanco at No. 1, mainly because of that wonderfully favorable contract: The 26-year-old is controlled through 2025 at reasonable rates (around $7 million on average).

    Fresh off inking his new deal, Polanco burst out of the gates with a ridiculously strong start in 2019. At the end of May his OPS checked in at an even 1.000, and he hung near the top of the AL batting race throughout the first half, earning himself a starting nod on the All-Star team.

    Even with a second-half cooldown, Polanco still ended up logging excellent numbers across the board. Overall, he slashed .295/.356/.485 with 20 home runs, 44 doubles, seven triples, and 107 runs scored. A reliable everyday fixture, Polanco made 704 plate appearances – 108 more than the next-highest finisher on the team (Max Kepler at 596).

    Every single one of Polanco's 150 starts came in either the first, second, or third spot in the batting order, reflecting how highly he was regarded by Rocco Baldelli as an offensive factor.

    Polanco delivered this outstanding production at shortstop, where quality hitters tend to be at a premium. And there's a decent chance he's only getting started. It can be easy to lose sight because he's been around so long now, but Polanco doesn't turn 27 until July. He's still just entering the age range where skills generally peak.

    In his early-to-mid 20s, he set himself a solid baseline as a big-leaguer, slashing .271/.327/.418 from 2016 through 2018 for a 100 OPS+ that was exactly average. Last year he shattered all previous benchmarks and reached new levels of performance, slashing ropes from both sides while ranking as the team's most valuable player per Baseball Reference's WAR calculation.

    The Twins have the ability to keep him around through age 31.

    THE BAD

    Polanco's red-hot start at the plate in 2019 was offset somewhat by a late decline. After starting in the All-Star Game, he slashed .273/.341/.447 in the second half, gravitating back toward his previous career norms (.272/.329/.420). In September he posted a mere .706 OPS with six walks and eight extra-base hits over 102 plate appearances, though he rallied with a strong showing in the ALDS.

    Polanco underwent ankle surgery in November "to address a chronic impingement injury stemming from repetitive stress" after taking on an intensive season-long workload, so it's very possible he simply wore down on a bum wheel. Something to watch.

    Defense is the real concern.

    Statcast recently unveiled a new metric, Infield Outs Above Average, which seeks to measure the defensive contributions of infielders. The initial rankings for 2019 included 139 players, and pegged Polanco at... 138. The Twins shortstop was in front of only Toronto's Vladimir Guerrero Jr., a bulky 20-year-old rookie third basemen best known for his bat.

    Granted, it's only one stat, but the IOAA assessment speaks to an undeniable reality: Polanco has mostly been a defensive liability at shortstop, stretched beyond his means with an erratic arm that is constantly manifesting in troublesome ways.

    Among all MLB players, only White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson (26) committed more errors last year than Polanco, and nobody had more throwing errors. In all likelihood, this problem will be magnified in 2020, because C.J. Cron – who led all American League first basemen in Scoops with 31 in 2019 – is being replaced by the inexperienced Miguel Sano.

    The Twins smartly do what they can to minimize Polanco's defensive shortcomings, shifting him all around the diamond relentlessly and signing Josh Donaldson to bolster the left side, but he's barely tenable all the same. There's not a simple solution, though. Even if Polanco could be moved elsewhere in the infield (second and third are pretty well spoken for), Minnesota lacks standout gloves that might represent an upgrade at short.

    Ehire Adrianza, who slots as Polanco's top backup, might be the best defensive shortstop in the organization at present, which isn't saying much because he's just okay there. Marwin Gonzalez is no more than an emergency option, and the same should be true of Luis Arraez, who played a handful of games at short as a rookie.

    The minors offer nothing approaching a sure thing. Nick Gordon has all but fallen out of the shortstop conversation (always borderline, he was starting primarily at second in Rochester by the time he got hurt last year). Royce Lewis, the organization's top prospect, could stick at short, but the jury is very much out. Wander Javier is probably the best bet among upper-tier prospects to play shortstop long-term, but he's coming off a disastrous season at Low-A.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    Locked in long-term with no obvious place to move, and no one necessarily coming up behind him, Polanco isn't going anywhere soon. So the team will just have to work around his defensive deficiencies, while hoping that his offensive output from the first half of 2019 was no mirage.

    Given that he's still on the front end of his prime with a sturdy track record, odds of continued improvement or at least sustained excellence are pretty good.

    Polanco was playing second base exclusively at Rochester before being called up in 2016, and has been worth negative-31 runs as a big-league shortstop (per DRS). His viability at this position is in doubt. The Twins have nevertheless run him out there for nearly 3,500 innings, and they don't seem inclined – or able, really – to change course.

    If the long-tenured stalwart hits like he's capable of, we can live with a few extra runs sacrificed to the opponent, which is more or less the mantra of this Twins team as a whole.



    ~~~


    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Catcher
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: First Base
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Second Base
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Third Base

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    • Mar 09 2020 10:46 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  13. Are Twins Top Prospects Being Held Back by Loaded MLB Roster?

    Trio of Top Prospects
    Most outlets, including Twins Daily, have some combination of Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach as the to -three prospects in the Twins organization. All three players finished last season at Double-A which usually means a player is getting close to making his big-league debut. Of the trio, Larnach is coming off the best season as he was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year.

    A wrinkle in that plan is the fact that none of the players are on the 40-man roster. Not like a spot couldn’t be opened for him if it was needed. Larnach is actually the oldest member of the trio and his college experience could help him to move up quickly. Kirilloff needs to be added to the 40-man roster next off-season so it wouldn’t be a stretch for him to be added at some point this season.

    If everything is going well for the Twins, none of their top-3 trio will debut until September or later.

    Pitching Options
    Lewis Thorpe is going to be a key contributor to the 2020 Twins roster and other pitching options have an opportunity to make their mark. Randy Dobnak already started a playoff game for the Twins but the club added multiple other playoff- caliber starters. Players in the ilk of Donbak, Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer have already gotten big-league opportunities on a 101-win team and this season could also provide opportunities on a team destined for less than 100 wins.

    Outside of the trio vying for the fifth starter spot, the Twins have other prospects attempting to make the roster. Sean Poppen could be a breakout candidate for the club and his stuff could be more than capable at the big-league level. Other top prospects like Jhoan Duran, Blayne Enlow, and Edwar Colina also have a shot at making an impact, but it will be tough in a loaded MLB bullpen.

    40-Man Roster Options
    Last season, few people would have expected the impact Luis Arraez made on the big-league roster. One season later and the Twins are relying on Arraez to be a regular in the team’s batting order. Like Arraez, there are other members of the 40-man roster that could impact the 2020 version of the Twins.

    Travis Blakenhorn has a chance to play a significant nubber of games for the Twins and be an impact player throughout the 2020 season. That’s why this spring with Josh Donaldson is so important. He could impact Minnesota’s roster throughout Donaldson’s tenure with the club. Other prospects like Brent Rooker have a shot at impacting the team’s roster.

    Do you think prospects are being held back? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Mar 04 2020 10:15 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  14. 3 Twins Prospects Josh Donaldson Can Help the Most

    Travis Blankenhorn, 2B/LF
    TD Prospect Ranking: 18

    Blankenhorn is an intriguing name because he has been in the Twins organization for five seasons and he’s seen his name move up and down their prospect rankings. He climbed all the way to Pensacola last season where he was almost two years younger than the average age of players at that level. His home run swing showed up in 2019 as he clubbed a career high 19 longballs with 18 coming in a Blue Wahoos jersey.

    While Blankenhorn isn’t necessarily a late-bloomer like Donaldson, there are things the pair could work on together. Offensively, Donaldson has basically made and remade his own swing throughout his career. Blankenhorn has been following Donaldson and working with him in the batting cage. Could he help Blankenhorn to unlock even more power potential?


    Nick Gordon, 2B/SS
    TD Prospect Ranking: HM

    Gordon has seen other players pass him by in the organization’s depth chart, but he’s still on the 40-man roster and he’s been young for every level he has played. Jorge Polanco and Luis Arraez will be manning the big-league infield and that puts Gordon back in Rochester where he has already played 169 games. Last season, he was limited to 70 games due to acute gastritis and a left abductor strain. He still put up strong numbers by hitting .298/.342/.459 with 29 doubles.

    One area where Donaldson could help Gordon is dealing with challenges. Donaldson has dealt with adversity throughout his entire life and he’s molded himself into one of baseball’s best players. Gordon grew up in a baseball family and was a first-round pick, but it is going to be a challenge for him to crack the big-league roster.

    Royce Lewis, SS/2B/OF
    TD Prospect Ranking: 1

    While Lewis is still considered the Twins top prospect, the 2019 season wasn’t exactly perfect. There are questions surrounding his future defensive position and his swing has some flaws that could be fixed. Even with the concerns, he ended the year on a high not by being named the Arizona Fall League MVP. Reports out of spring training have him weighing in at 205 pounds after adding 25 pounds this off-season.

    Lewis might be the most important prospect for Donaldson to impact, especially since their time in Minnesota will likely overlap. Lewis might not debut in 2020, but there is a good chance Lewis will play for the Twins at some point during the life of Donaldson’s four-year deal. Donaldson has tutored Lewis and Blankenhorn on both sides of the ball and now he will have multiple years to make an impact on Minnesota’s top prospects.

    Which prospect will Donaldson impact the most? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Feb 24 2020 12:03 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  15. Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospects: Recap

    Twins Daily's Top 20 Twins Prospects of 2020

    20. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B: Strong infield D and contact swing keep him on Top 20 radar.
    19. Cole Sands, RHP: Tremendous pro debut in 2019 with 5-to-1 K/BB ratio in A-ball.
    18. Travis Blankenhorn, 2B/LF: The innate power is finally starting to show up in games.
    17. Misael Urbina, OF: Standout athlete flashing every tool as an unrefined teenager.
    16. Edwar Colina, RHP: Big arm, wicked slider. If he keeps sharpening control, watch out.
    15. Matt Canterino, RHP: Freshly drafted righty shows big potential with funky delivery.
    14. Matt Wallner, OF: Former MN prep star fared well during first exposure to pro ranks.
    13. Wander Javier, SS: Disastrous 2019 season doesn't fully diminish shortstop's shine.
    12. Gilberto Celestino, OF: Skills came together during spectacular second half in A-ball.
    11. Lewis Thorpe, LHP: Keeps missing bats at the highest levels. His upside endures.
    10. Blayne Enlow, RHP: Progression has been gradual, but steady. Could turn a corner.
    9. Brent Rooker, OF: Immense power just might offset K's and lack of defensive value.
    8. Keoni Cavaco, SS: All projection at this point, but toolsy teen offers plenty to dream on.
    7. Ryan Jeffers, C: Two-way standout at catcher has impressed at every stop through AA.
    6. Jhoan Duran, RHP: Hard-throwing whiff machine could impact 2020 Twins as a reliever.
    5. Jordan Balazovic, RHP: Sturdily built sterling performer has makings of a long-term SP.
    4: Brusdar Graterol, RHP: The now-departed young flamethrower was an ultra-rare talent.
    3. Trevor Larnach, OF: Hits for average and power, shaping up as prototypical star RF.
    2. Alex Kirilloff, OF: Remains one of the best pure hitters in the minors. Handled AA at 21.
    1. Royce Lewis, SS: Pure ability too blinding to look past, but there is work to be done.

    POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN

    C: 1
    IF: 5
    OF: 6
    RHP: 7
    LHP: 1

    Two obvious areas of deficiency in the breakdown above: catcher and left-handed pitching. That's not by coincidence – they are notoriously tough spots to amass impact talent – but I don't see these scarcities as particularly alarming for the Twins.

    Pitching is pitching. Yeah, it might be nice to have a few more southpaws in the mix, but a righty-heavy staff isn't such a detriment right now for the Twins, and the MLB-ready Thorpe looms large as a lefty threat.

    As for the catcher position, Ben Rortvedt is right on the fringe of this list in our honorable mentions, and in the Graterol trade, the Twins acquired a 20-year-old catcher named Jair Camargo who is at least kind of intriguing.



    Oh, yeah... Graterol.

    THE LOSS OF GRATEROL

    After tabulating votes two weeks ago, we had our Top 20 list fully compiled and finalized. Rollout on the site was already underway when news of the Kenta Maeda trade surfaced. At that point, our options were to reset on the fly, or just run the rankings as planned. We chose the latter, because it seemed valuable to provide context as to what the Twins gave up for Maeda. Graterol was, from our panel's view, the organization's No. 1 pitching prospect before departing.

    But those rankings didn't necessarily reflect a future in the bullpen, which now seems firmer than ever. And even with all the noise filtered out, Graterol wasn't separated from Balazovic or Duran by much. The Twins have developed three upper-echelon – albeit not quite elite – pitching prospects, giving them the luxury to part with an undeniably stellar talent like Graterol.

    And, if you're wondering which player now slides into our Top 20, with everyone else bumping up a spot in his absence? It's Rortvedt, who was just mentioned.

    FEELING THE DRAFT

    Graterol wasn't the only valuable asset Minnesota lost in the Maeda trade. The Twins also forfeited their Comp B pick in the coming MLB Draft (67th overall), and based on how they've drafted as of late, this could deprive them of a pretty special player. Scouting director Sean Johnson is running a ridiculously effective unit for Minnesota.

    The top three players on our prospect list (Lewis, Kirilloff, Larnach) are first-round picks from successive years (2016-2018). All are consensus Top 100 guys. That says a lot. The Twins have also shown some ability to unearth gems beyond the first wave, like prospect No. 10 Enlow (76th overall), No. 9 Rooker (39th), and No. 7 Jeffers (59th).

    Add in the fact that signing Josh Donaldson cost the Twins their third-round pick (99th overall), and the toll taken on this year's draft class by these win-now moves is considerable. You won't find me complaining, but it's something to keep in mind.

    WATCH THE THRONE

    The top two spots on our list remain unchanged from last year, but Lewis and Kirilloff have definitely loosened their grips – especially Lewis at No. 1.

    His youth, athleticism, pedigree, and makeup were enough to keep the shortstop locked in as the leader and our list, and he's still in a healthy position on most national rankings. But between the scant production last year – .236/.290/.371 with poor plate discipline – and the echoing questions concerning defense and swing mechanics, there's vulnerability here.

    Any number of players from the list could plausibly take over that top billing a year from now. Kirilloff, Larnach, Balazovic, and Jeffers feel most viable to me, if Lewis were to slip. Of course, there's also a plenty good chance Lewis rebounds in a huge way to re-stake his claim among the game's elite young talents.

    WHERE THEY STAND

    Baseball America released its ranking of MLB farm systems last week and had the Twins eighth. Bleacher Report has them sixth. By just about any measure, Minnesota boasts a top-10 system in the game, with a majority of its best talents rapidly approaching MLB-readiness. With the Twins bursting through their contention window, the timing could not be better.

    Strap in folks. Fun times are ahead.

    On a final note, I'd like to say that while I was researching and compiling entries for this series, two of my most invaluable resources were Tom Froemming's YouTube channel and Twitter page. If you enjoy Twins minor-league coverage and aren't following both, I highly recommend doing so. Tom puts together so much awesome video content and analysis.

    PAST TWINS DAILY TOP PROSPECT LISTS:

    TD 2019 Minnesota Twins Top Prospects
    TD 2018 Minnesota Twins Top Prospects
    TD 2017 Minnesota Twins Top Prospects
    TD 2016 Minnesota Twins Top Prospects
    TD 2015 Minnesota Twins Top Prospects

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    • Feb 20 2020 06:47 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  16. Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospects: #1 SS Royce Lewis

    Age: 20 (DOB: 6-5-1999)
    2019 Stats (GCL): 566 PA, .236/.290/.371, 26-2B, 4-3B, 12 HR, 49 RBI
    ETA: 2021
    2019 Ranking: 1

    National Top 100 Rankings
    BA: 26 |MLB: 9 | ATH: 15 |BP: 21


    What’s To Like
    A lot.

    Oh, you want more than that. OK, there’s plenty.



    For the third straight year, Royce Lewis is the top Twins prospect according to Twins Daily, and most other Twins prospect rankings. And for Lewis, who doesn’t turn 21 until June, it’s still about the tools. In fact, among Twins prospects Baseball America ranked Lewis the Best Athlete, Fastest Baserunner and Best Power Hitter. That’s a pretty good starting point.

    The surprise might be the Best Power Hitter, and yet Lewis has always had good strength. He’s got an approach and a swing that could be conducive to providing a lot of power. And, as Dan Hayes tweeted on Sunday afternoon, Lewis said he gained 25 pounds over the offseason. He ended the 2019 season at about 190 pounds. So, if he’s able to spend most of the 2020 season north of 200 pounds on his 6-2 frame, it should keep him strong throughout the season.



    As impressive, he hasn’t lost any speed with his increased power. He remains one of the fastest players in the organization. More importantly, from a baseball standpoint, he also runs the bases well. He has been successful on 76% of his base stealing attempts. He goes from first to third, or to home, really well. It’s instinctive.


    On defense, he has good range at shortstop. Due to the logistics of the Arizona Fall League rosters, Lewis had the opportunity to play other positions beyond shortstop. He had played a lot of third base in high school, and plays it well. He got some time at second base. He also showed really good range in center field as well. While he got nearly 1000 innings at shortstop during the season with a fielding percentage of 95%. He is capable of making the great play, though sometimes he has struggled with more routine plays. Having that versatility will be important for Lewis and the Twins as we don’t know where the Twins will have a need when Lewis is deemed ready.




    What’s Left To Work On
    There is no denying that 2019 was a disappointing season offensively for the Twins top prospect. He hit just .236 across two levels and got on base just 29% of his 566 plate appearances. He struck out 123 times and walked just 38 times. He will have to control the strike zone better. Many also continue to question the big leg kick that he employs.

    There are also still questions (or at least varying opinions) on whether or not he can stay at shortstop. While I think that he can, at this stage it may simply depend on Jorge Polanco’s continued development at shortstop, or Byron Buxton’s ability to stay on the field, or Luis Arraez’s ability to avoid a sophomore slump. Consistency will be the key for Lewis, and then about opportunity.


    What’s Next
    After playing 94 games for the Miracle last year, he moved up to Double-A Pensacola where he played 33 more games (and a couple of playoff series). He will begin the 2020 season with the Blue Wahoos, likely with many of the other Twins top prospects who also ended 2019 there. In fact, it is likely that the Twins updated Top 6 prospects will all begin the season in Florida’s panhandle.


    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
    4. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
    3. Trevor Larnach, OF
    2. Alex Kirilloff, OF
    1. Royce Lewis, SS

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    Get to know more about Royce Lewis and about another 170 minor league players including each of our Top 20 Prospects (and two Dodgers prospects) in the 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook.

    ORDER NOW: 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (paperback, $14.99)

    ORDER NOW: 2019 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (eBook, $9.99)

    The 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook goes in-depth and provides player bios, scouting reports, statistics and much more on about 170 Twins minor leaguers.

    • Feb 19 2020 11:36 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  17. Humble Varela Excited to Work with Twins Hitters

    Edgar Varela grew up in Southern California. He was drafted by the Tigers out of high school but chose to head to college. Four years later (2002), he was the 31st- round pick of the Chicago White Sox out of Long Beach State. He spent parts of five seasons playing for three organizations.

    In 2008, he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates organization where he spent a decade in a variety of coaching roles. He was a hitting coach at several levels. He spent three seasons as a minor league manager. He also spent a year as the organization’s Latin American hitting coordinator. The variety of responsibilities may have made him an ideal candidate for his next job.

    The Twins hired him before the 2018 season to be the Minor League Field Coordinator, a role he held the last two years.

    “It wasn’t something I saw myself doing when I was with the Pittsburgh organization because I had a hitting background and did some managing. When it came about, it was an opportunity to move forward and help create development opportunities for staff, but also putting a vision together with Jeremy (Zoll) and Alex (Hassan) in moving the organization forward. What we were looking for and how we could continue to combine those processes and how it can lead to the major leagues.”

    In the role, he was also responsible for minor league spring training, a remarkable task when you consider that involves more than 170 minor league players at more than a half-dozen affiliates. “My goal was to have a functional spring training where everybody was getting an opportunity to develop, not only on the player side, but on the staff side as well. That starts with building relationships.”

    Success! The Twins saw several players throughout the minor league system take big steps forward in 2019. Several of those players even got to the big leagues, and they contributed when they got there.

    In addition, minor league catching coordinator Tanner Swanson (Yankees) and minor league hitting coordinator Peter Fatse (Red Sox) got major-league jobs this past offseason.

    Varela is the third Twins minor league coordinator to get a big-league job.

    “I’m a people-first person. Everybody has dreams, so when I’m given an opportunity, I want to do the same for others as well.”

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    Shortly after Rowson left for Miami, Varela received a phone call from Twins Chief Baseball Operator Derek Falvey. “He said they wanted to give me an opportunity to interview for the position. It was truly humbling in itself after what they did last year.”

    He then went through the interview process. On a Sunday afternoon, he was outside of his house doing some yard work. He had just turned on his air blower when he received a phone call. He looked at his phone and saw that it was from Rocco Baldelli.

    He answered the phone, and then realized he’d better turn off the blower. Baldelli told him that he wanted him on his coaching staff. Water began welling up in his eyes.

    At that time, Varela’s wife came out of the garage door. “I had woken up our daughter from having the blower on. She was kind of mad at me.”

    That anger dissipated pretty quickly when Varela mouthed, “It’s Rocco!” and pointed to his phone.

    “She started crying. It was a special moment.”

    It was a great moment for the 39-year-old Varela. It was a long-time goal.

    “It’s always been a dream of mine. As you’re in a system in player development, it’s about being able to make an impact at the highest level. It became the dream and then a goal. Coming over here two years ago, Jeremy Zoll and Alex Hassan gave me an opportunity to be with a special group.”

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Shortly after the Twins announced Varela as the new hitting coach, they also announced that they were removing the word “assistant” from Rudy Hernandez’s “assistant hitting coach” title. So, the two of them will work together. They started having conversations shortly after Varela was hired.

    “I’ve been picking his brain on what they’ve done in the past. I want to be prepared, and make it as seamless a transition as possible.”

    They will work with a very talented group of hitters. The 2019 Twins hit an MLB record 307 home runs and were clearly one of the top lineups in all of baseball. DH Nelson Cruz and catcher Mitch Garver won Silver Slugger Awards. Cruz, Garver, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler all hit more than 30 homers.Jorge Polanco was the starting shortstop for the American League in the All Star game. Luis Arraez hit .334 in 92 games as a rookie.

    And they added Josh Donaldson to the mix this offseason.

    “What an opportunity!” Varela continued, “I’m excited and humbled to be here. I’m going to be able to learn from these guys as well. I think J-Row and Rudy did a (great) job last year, obviously, setting all the records that they did. I`m here to continue that. I’m not here to switch it all up. It’s not about me. I’m here to be there for them. They’re the ones that are playing. As best we can, continue the philosophies that J-Row and Rudy put together last year. There’s going to be little tweaks here and there. It’s not going to be major stuff. Communication with Rocco has been tremendous. Even last year, being able to communicate with him and Shelty (former bench coach and new Pirates manager Derek Shelton) throughout the course of the year was great.”

    In addition, his two years in the Twins minor leagues system could be helpful to him, but also to the players. He can be somewhat of a liaison between the minor leagues and the big leagues. He has worked in the last couple of seasons with the likes of Royce Lewis, Brent Rooker, Alex Kiriilloff and Ryan Jeffers.

    “I relate that to something we’ve done really well in the organization over the past couple of years. We send our coordinator group and coaches to the Dominican so that when our young Latin players come to the States, I know this guy. I do know these guys, so I relate it to that. When these guys do come up and help us in the big leagues, it’s more of a comfort level. They already know who's there. He knows who I am. He knows what makes me tick. All the little intricacies that, not just the swing.”

    Baseball is hard enough to play, so making the other aspects of the big leagues easier helps.

    He also understands that he has veterans on this roster who can help as well. “I think some of the older, veteran guys, the Nelson Cruz’s, and you’ve heard Josh Donaldson say it already. He wants to help out the younger players, stuff like that. When it’s peer to peer, it’s extremely valuable.”

    As you can tell from his answers, Edgar Varela is very humble and excited to work hard with the Twins hitters.

    • Feb 17 2020 10:21 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  18. Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospects: #8 SS Keoni Cavaco

    Age: 18 (DOB: 6-2-2001)
    2019 Stats (GCL): 92 PA, .172/.217/.253, 4-2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI
    ETA: 2025
    2019 Ranking: NR

    National Top 100 Rankings
    BA: NR |MLB: NR | ATH: NR |BP: NR


    What’s To Like
    There’s no hiding the reality that the Twins have had a history of drafting, signing and developing many toolsy, talented high school athletes with early-round picks. Torii Hunter. Michael Cuddyer. Joe Mauer, Denard Span. Ben Revere. Joe Benson. Byron Buxton and Royce Lewis in recent years. When it comes to tools and athleticism, Keoni Cavaco can match up with any of these players.

    Cavaco was drafted from Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, California. The school has several players go Division I every year as well as get drafted. Cavaco only played infield his final two years of high school and wasn’t a known commodity on the national scene until after the summer of his junior year. Like several others from his school, he was committed to San Diego State.

    Cavaco has a very strong, athletic build. He’s already 6-2 and hovers around 200 pounds. He’s got quick hands and has the potential to hit a lot of home runs, in time. He also has speed that can match up with most anyone in the organization. In fact, he was clocked at 3.9 seconds to first base from the right-hand batters box.

    Right now, his defense is ahead of his offense. The Twins had him play shortstop through the short-season following the draft, but he had spent most of his high school career playing third base. His team’s shortstop was hurt during the season so Cavaco had an opportunity to show scouts that he could play the position as well. Reports from Ft. Myers indicate that he’s got great footwork, soft hands, good range and a strong arm.


    What’s Left To Work On
    When Cavaco came to Target Field to sign his contract, FSN’s Marney Gellner interviewed him on the TV broadcast. He said that he wanted to be in the major leagues in “four years or less.” Well, Twins fans, and Cavaco himself, will need to have more patience than that. The tools are all there, but many of them are quite raw.



    First and foremost, Cavaco’s “hit” tool is going to take some time. It’s all there. He’s got the size and strength. He’s got the quick hands. He’s got good vision. In his professional debut, he missed some time with some minor injuries which kept him from getting into a groove. He also had a lot of swing-and-miss, striking out in 35 of his 92 plate appearances (38%) while walking just four times.

    And as you would expect from any player that is just 18 years old, he’s got a lot of work to do across the board. His swing is just one of those things. He’s got work to do in terms of base running, and defense, and control of the strike zone. He’s also learning how to work properly in the gym, and before games, and dietary, and more.




    What’s Next
    After just 25 games and his struggles in the GCL following the draft, expect that Cavaco will spend the first half of the season in Ft. Myers at extended spring training continuing to work on his all-around game.

    At that point, it will be interesting to see if Cavaco is pushed up to Elizabethton (likely) or starts the short season in the GCL again. It’s also possible, if he picks things up quickly, he could spend some time in the second half of the season with the Cedar Rapids Kernels.


    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
    Stop by tomorrow for prospect #7!

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    Get to know more about Keoni Cavaco and about another 170 minor league players (and two Dodgers prospects too - Graterol and Raley) in the 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook.

    ORDER NOW: 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (paperback, $17.99)

    ORDER NOW: 2019 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (eBook, $12.99)

    The 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook goes in-depth and provides player bios, scouting reports, statistics and much more on about 170 Twins minor leaguers.

    • Feb 10 2020 06:52 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  19. Twins Trade Suggests More Pieces to Move

    Right now, much of the Graterol swap for Kenta Maeda remains up in the air. The Boston Red Sox are holding up the deal after seemingly being the only people in the room unaware that Minnesota’s hurler had Tommy John and was likely ticketed for relief work. Assuming newly appoint GM Chaim Bloom finds his own feet, things will work out as planned.

    The Twins clearly didn’t see Graterol as their best pitching prospect, or their third best overall. That should be a reminder the national lists are for public consumption and not utilized in negotiations. With other redundancies on the farm, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine should have near-immediate opportunity to make similar decisions this summer should they so choose.

    Graterol was tabbed as expendable over the likes of Jhoan Duran or Jordan Balazovic. How they evaluate outfielders and first basemen could ultimately swing moves as well.

    Right now, both Brent Rooker and Alex Kirilloff look destined to play a first base role at the major league level. Plenty has been made regarding concerns about Rooker’s footwork or adaptation to first, but it’s probably an initiative they’ll heavily push this year. He’s an older prospect at 25, and while he’s always been bat-first, being a DH exclusively would be suboptimal.

    We’ve seen Kirilloff’s stock slide some over the last year, and despite a down 2019 due to wrist issues, that’s more due to the assumed positional switch as well. First base makes him less impactful than corner outfield, and also puts him in a spot where Minnesota is currently flush with options. I’d certainly be shocked to see him move, but if there’s a big fish to acquire, that’s a nice centerpiece in Minnesota’s back pocket.

    The outfield is another area in which Minnesota could look to shed pieces. I’d imagine if there was any legitimate interest in Eddie Rosario this offseason, we would’ve seen something take place there. However, Royce Lewis could still be ticketed for the grass, and Byron Buxton’s name has come up in previous discussions. Also, 2019 competitive-balance round, 39th overall, pick Matt Wallner could be an option in a year or two, and the duo of Akil Baddoo or Gilberto Celestino may emerge. The next few months of evaluation should provide clarity.

    It’s unquestionable that Graterol was a very good asset for Minnesota. Their evaluation determined his future contributions were capped though, and it will be that line of thinking that ultimately determines the next set of decisions. Acquiring a top-three starter like the Twins did in Kenta Maeda is a great move. If there’s another addition that pushes a club this good into a true World Series contender role though, they’ll have bullets to fire from a top-10 farm system.

    It appears Falvey and Levine have their gun cocked and loaded. They won’t be afraid to pull the trigger.

    MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
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    • Feb 06 2020 08:20 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  20. Twins Announce Non-Roster Spring Training Invites

    Let’s start with the veterans brought in on minor-league contracts:

    Left-Handed Pitchers

    • Blaine Hardy: The lefty has spent parts of each of the past six seasons with the Detroit Tigers. In 233 games (13 starts), he tossed 289 2/3 innings and has a career ERA of 3.87 despite missing time in 2019 with injury.
    • Daniel Coulombe: The 30-year-old southpaw pitched in 153 games between the Dodgers and A’s between 2014 and 2018, including 72 games for the A’s in 2017. He split 2019 between the AAA affiliates of the Brewers and Yankees.
    • Caleb Thielbar: The soon-to-be-32-year-old from Randolph, Minnesota, was the Twins Most Outstanding Rookie in 2013 and played parts of three seasons with the Twins. After spending 2016 and 2017 with the St. Paul Saints, he has pitched well in AAA for the Tigers and Braves the last two years and was throwing harder for Team USA in the Premier12 tournament last fall.
    Right-Handed Pitchers
    • Ryan Garton: The hard-throwing, 30-year-old right-hander has pitched in 59 big-league games for the Rays and Mariners between 2016, 2017 and 2019.
    • Jhoulys Chacin: Initial plan for the veteran hurler is likely to fill Michael Pineda's rotation spot until his suspension ends. Read more about him here.
    Catchers
    • Tomas Telis: The 28-year-old Venezuelan played parts of five seasons (2014-2018) in the big leagues with the Rangers and Marlins. He hit .330 last season with the Rochester Red Wings but didn’t get a promotion to the Twins.
    • Juan Graterol: The 30-year-old, also from Venezuela, has spent parts of each of the past four seasons in the big leagues, with the Angels (2016-2018) and the Reds in 2019. He also played three games for the Twins in 2018. As you recall, he started the final game of that 2018 season for the Twins behind the plate, and was replaced in the ninth inning by Joe Mauer.
    Infielders
    • Wilfredo Tovar: The 28-year-old infielder returns to the Twins organization. He spent the 2016 season with the Red Wings. He had played nine games for the Mets between 2013 and 2014. He returned to the big-leagues in 2019 and played in 31 games for the Angels (.193 with 5 doubles).
    • Jack Reinheimer: The 27-year-old played two games for the Diamondbacks in 2017 and then 21 games for the Mets in 2018. He played for the Orioles’ AAA affiliate in 2019. He can play all three non-first base infield positions as well as in the outfield if needed.
    The Prospects

    We continue with the list of Twins minor league prospects who have been invited to spring training. These players are deemed relatively close to the big leagues and will be given an opportunity to spend the first three or four weeks learning from the big-league coaching staff and being seen by the big-league coaching staff. It’s a good chance to make an impression while also seeing how the current big leaguers, especially the veterans like Nelson Cruz, get themselves ready for a season.
    • Royce Lewis, SS: For the second straight year, the Twins top prospect will get to start camp with the big-league club. Last year, he missed time due to injury, but talked about what a great learning experience it was. He’s looking to put together a strong 2020 season.
    • Alex Kirilloff, OF: Before the Donaldson signing, Kirilloff may have been a contender for some time at first base for the Twins. He should continue to play the corner outfield spots and first base in 2019. This is his second invitation to big-league camp.
    • Brent Rooker, OF: This is the second big-league spring training for Rooker as well. The powerful outfielder may have arrived in Minnesota in 2019 if not for a late-season injury. After a slow start in AAA, Rooker mashed until the injury, showing the elite power he possesses.
    • Ben Rortvedt, C: He was the Twins second-round pick in 2016. He reached AA in 2019. Unfortunately his season ended with a knee surgery during the Arizona Fall League. His defense can be very strong, which is why this is the 22-year-olds second big league camp.
    • Ryan Jeffers, C: Drafted in the second round in 2018, Jeffers has already rocketed to Double-A and positioned himself for a big-league call-up in the near future. His offense has been outstanding, but the high marks he earns on the defensive side might be even more encouraging.
    • Trevor Larnach, OF: The outfielder was the Twins first-round pick in the 2018 draft from Oregon State. He began the season in Ft. Myers where he was a midseason and postseason All-Star and the league’s most valuable player despite moving up to Pensacola in the second half where more of his power potential played. Like Kirilloff, Larnach has a chance to be a special hitter.
    • Edwar Colina, RHP: The right-hander from Venezuela may be the least known name on this list, but that won’t be for long. Colina is a starting pitcher. The 22-year-old hit triple digits pretty much every game. He made ten starts in Ft. Myers, made seven appearances (4 starts, 3 “primary” appearances) in Pensacola and pitched twice for Rochester. This is his first big-league spring training.
    • Griffin Jax, RHP: The right-handed pitcher was a third-round draft pick in 2016 and has posted a 3.18 ERA across four minor-league seasons. Worked his way up to Class-AA Pensacola last year, where he was outstanding with a 2.67 ERA in 20 starts.
    • Charlie Barnes, LHP: The southpaw, known for his standout changeup, has been durable and mostly effective in 300 pro innings since coming aboard in the fourth round of the 2017 draft.
    • Jake Reed, RHP: The hard-throwing veteran reliever is back for the fifth straight year as a non-roster invite. He was the Twins fifth-round pick in 2015 from Oregon. He moved up quickly and has spent the past four years in Rochester, awaiting a call to make his MLB debut.
    • Sam Clay, LHP: The lefty was the Twins fourth-round pick in 2014 from Georgia Tech. He split the 2019 season between Pensacola and Rochester. He has remarkably allowed just one home run over the past three seasons.
    Who among these players has the best chance to make the team? Who are you excited to follow when spring training gets underway in just a couple short weeks?

    • Feb 04 2020 05:09 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  21. Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2020: Part 4 (1-5)

    First, to reiterate the parameters and stipulations:

    • Things that are factored into these rankings: production, age, upside, pedigree, health, length of team control, favorability of contract, positional scarcity (within the system, and generally).
    • Players are people. Their value to the organization, and its fans, goes well beyond the strictly business-like scope we're using here. But for the purposes of this list, we're analyzing solely in terms of asset evaluation. Intangible qualities and popularity are not factors. (Sorry Willians.)
    • The idea is to assess their importance to the future of the Minnesota Twins. In this regard, it's not exactly a ranking in terms of trade value, because that's dependent on another team's situation and needs. (For instance, Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade Jr. would be more valuable to many other teams than they are to the Twins, who are rich with short-term and long-term corner outfield depth.)
    • This is a snapshot in time. Rankings are heavily influenced by recent trends and where things stood as of the end of 2019.
    • Current major-leaguers and prospects are all eligible. The ultimate goal here to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion?
    Any questions or quibbles, holler in the comments. Let's continue the countdown.

    TOP 20 MINNESOTA TWINS ASSETS OF 2020 (1-5)

    5. Royce Lewis, SS
    2019 Ranking: 1

    It was a trying year for Lewis. He slumped frequently and finished with a .236/.290/.371 slash line, striking out three times for every walk. The exaggerated leg lift in his swing came under greater scrutiny as he struggled against higher-level pitching. His defensive work at shortstop caused some analysts to harden in their stances that he's destined to switch positions. Even his trademark confidence was framed as a negative in one postseason Baseball America report.

    Through all this, the fact remains: He started the year as a 19-year-old and finished it at Double-A, punctuating his pedestrian regular season with an MVP performance in the Arizona Fall League. Lewis's elite physical tools haven't wavered, and most of his present shortcomings seem like the correctable flaws of a raw young talent. He still looks like a star in the making, even if that path is a bit less straight and short than initially hoped.

    4. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
    2019 Ranking: 5

    Health was the big caveat attached to Graterol a year ago, as he vaulted into the national baseball consciousness with his triple-digit heater. His (in)ability to hold up rose to the forefront again this year, as the right-hander missed nearly two months with a shoulder impingement. But upon returning as a reliever in August, he did enough to restore all confidence – and then some.

    Ticketed for a late-inning impact on a contending club at age 20, Graterol made quick stops at Double-A and Triple-A before joining the Twins in September, where he was extremely impressive as a rookie. The 4.66 ERA is inflated by one poor outing against Cleveland – three earned runs, zero outs recorded – but the righty otherwise allowed two runs in 9 2/3 innings (1.86 ERA) with 10 strikeouts and only one walk. He added a perfect inning of work against New York in the ALDS, with two strikeouts.

    Durability remains a pre-eminent sticking point, as does the uncertainty around his future role, but the battle-tested Graterol is one of the most valuable arms in the game right now.

    3. Jose Berrios, RHP
    2019 Ranking: 2

    Whereas Graterol is a poster child for the volatile health of pro pitchers, Berrios lives on the opposite end of the spectrum: a model of durability. He hasn't missed a start since joining the Twins rotation, and that's basically been the case ever since he was drafted. The right-hander checked off another accomplishment last year, reaching 200 innings for the first time, but for the most part he was his usual self: steadily excellent, just short of elite.

    Since being called up for good in May of 2017, Berrios ranks ninth among American League pitchers in fWAR. He's not quite an ace but looks the part at times, and as a 25-year-old he still has plenty of time to find another gear. As the only Twins starting pitcher under control beyond next year, he's the glue of the rotation. But with arbitration now upon him, Berrios is going to start getting expensive quickly and is three years from free agency. A sensible extension would move him to the top of this list.

    2. Max Kepler, OF
    2019 Ranking: 9

    Pretty much the best thing a team can do to increase a player's asset valuation is lock him up with a long-term deal at an established baseline, only to have the player immediately reset that baseline. This is what happened with Kepler, who broke a three-year trend of good-not-great performance by taking a star turn in 2019, fresh off signing a team-friendly five-year contract.

    Despite missing the final two weeks as a shoulder injury plagued him, Kepler shattered career highs across the board and launched 36 homers. He's a top-shelf defensive right fielder and perfectly capable in center, which is especially valuable to the Twins given Buxton's frequent unavailability. Kepler's new contract, which can keep him under control through 2024 at bargain rates, gives Minnesota plenty of flexibility to continually build around the stud outfielder.

    1. Jorge Polanco, SS
    2019 Ranking: 7

    At the end of the day, these rankings are about the big picture. When you take a step back, which players are most indispensable, when factoring in risk and contract value? As core players that signed favorable extensions just before immediately breaking out and achieving upper-echelon status, Kepler and Polanco naturally rose to the top under this framework. Between the two, I give Polanco a slight edge.

    First, he plays an extremely valuable defensive position – one that is otherwise not well accounted for in the system, especially with Lewis's question marks. Polanco doesn't play shortstop all that well but he can handle it. Second, he's even cheaper than Kepler with an even more favorable contract; Polanco is controlled through 2023 for just $17 million total, and has an additional two team options. All this, as a switch-hitting 25-year-old All-Star who received MVP votes in 2019.

    At this point, I see Polanco as he most valuable player to the organization, but he's not a superstar. Nor is Kepler, or Berrios. Getting a true premium player in this spot – whether because one of these three takes another step forward, or Buxton pulls it all together, or someone like Lewis emerges in a big way, OR the Twins swing a trade for a centerpiece-type asset (leveraging some of these assets to do so) – will be instrumental in this franchise turning the corner. They're definitely in good shape and on the right track, just not quite there.

    RECAPPING THE TOP 20

    20. Ryan Jeffers, C
    19. Eddie Rosario, OF
    18. Michael Pineda, RHP
    17. Nelson Cruz, DH
    16. Tyler Duffey, RHP
    15. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
    14. Trevor Larnach, OF
    13. Jhoan Duran, RHP
    12. Taylor Rogers, LHP
    11. Miguel Sano, 3B
    10. Luis Arraez, 2B
    9. Alex Kirilloff, OF
    8. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
    7. Byron Buxton OF
    6. Mitch Garver, C
    5. Royce Lewis, SS
    4. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
    3. Jose Berrios, RHP
    2. Max Kepler, OF
    1. Jorge Polanco, SS

    • Jan 09 2020 09:30 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  22. Top Ten Twins Prospects of the Decade

    While I am still working toward completing the 2020 Twins Prospect Handbook, I am putting together my official 2020 Twins preseason Top 50 prospect rankings. In the Handbook, you can see my official prospect rankings dating back over 15 years.

    But I thought it might be fun to look back at the past decade and try to rank the top Twins prospects of the decade. To do so, I considered several sources. First and foremost, I looked at my Top 30 Twins prospect rankings from the last ten years. I also considered how the players ranked nationally. And then, I tossed in some opinion too.

    I hope you enjoy the rankings, and just as much, I hope you have some good memories as you think back to prospects past, guys who made it and guys who didn’t. Let’s start with some guys who just missed the list:

    Honorable Mention

    • Max Kepler - Baseball America ranked him #30 before the 2016 season. One of the best European players of all-time already, Kepler signed in 2009. His 2015 season was one of the best that I can recall.
    • Wander Javier - Signed to a $4 million signing bonus in 2015, he has shown talent and athleticism. He just hasn’t had the ability to stay on the field much. Baseball America ranked him #95 prior to the 2018 season.
    • Jorge Polanco - Another international signing from 2009, Polanco is the longest-tenured player in the Twins organization, a few days longer than Max Kepler. Polanco was signed as a smooth infielder, but when he reached Cedar Rapids, it was his bat that took off. Before the 2016 season, he ranked #99 by Baseball America.
    • Fernando Romero - Before the 2018, MLB.com ranked Romero the #68 prospect in baseball. He made his debut that season. He missed two years of development due to Tommy John surgery or it’s quite possible that he would have had more time to rank high nationally.
    • Brusdar Graterol - Like Romero, Graterol missed about two seasons due to Tommy John surgery, but when he came back, he was hitting triple digits and people noticed. After staying healthy throughout the 2018 season, he ranked #33 by Baseball Prospectus and #55 by Baseball America. He should rank high again in 2020.
    • Oswaldo Arcia - The Twins signed Arcia early. He put up huge numbers in the lower levels and then flew up the ladder. Baseball America ranked him #43 before the 2013 season. He hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2016. He’s just 28 years old.
    • Brent Rooker - The Twins liked Rooker enough to draft him twice. Since the 2017 draft, he has moved up the ladder very quickly and is at the cusp of the big leagues.Baseball America ranked him #92 before the 2018 season. He spent 2019 in Rochester.
    • Eddie Rosario - Rosario was the Twins fourth-round draft pick in 2010 and he has been hitting ever since. While Baseball American never put him in their Top 100, Baseball Prospectus ranked him #87 in 2012 and #60 before 2014.
    • Kohl Stewart - The fourth-overall pick in the 2014 draft was a Top 100 prospect by Baseball America, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus before the 2014 and/or 2015 season, ranking 28th on BP’s pre-2015 rankings. He struggled to get strikeouts but limited damage. He signed with the Orioles earlier this week.
    • Joe Benson - Benson was the Twins 2nd round pick in 2006. A great athlete, he had great speed and power potential. He ranked 100th by Baseball American before the 2011 season and 99th before the 2012 season. He spent that September with the Twins and never got back to the big leagues.
    • Lewis Thorpe - The Twins signed him from Australia. Baseball Prospectus ranked him #101 in 2014 and #91 before the 2015 season. He missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to Tommy John surgery. Since his return, he has pitched well and debuted in 2019.
    ---------------------------------------------------------

    #10 - Stephen Gonsalves

    The Twins selected Gonsalves from his southern California high school in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. While he wasn’t a flamethrower, Gonsalves simply put up numbers. In Low A, he went 8-4 with a 1.96 ERA. He had 121 strikeouts in 91 2/3 innings. In Ft. Myers, he went 12-6 with a 2.48 ERA. In 145 innings, he struck out 121 batters. In AA, he went 19-4 with a 2.35 ERA. He had 213 strikeouts in 184 innings. In AAA, he went 10-6 with a 3.46 ERA. He had 119 strikeouts in 125 innings. He went 2-2 with the Twins late in the 2018 season. He missed most of 2019 with forearm and elbow issues. The Twins tried to sneak him through waivers after the season, but the New York Mets claimed him. Before the 2017 season, he ranked #99 by Baseball America. A year later, he ranked #97. MLB.com ranked him #78 before the 2018 season.

    Seth Rankings: 2014 (13), 2015 (15), 2016 (6), 2017 (1), 2018 (2), 2019 (10)


    #9 - Nick Gordon

    Gordon was the Twins top pick, fifth overall, in the 2014 draft. Along with genetics, he has a lot of talent. He’s got a smooth, line-drive swing and uses the whole field well. He’s athletic. He’s not as fast as his brother Dee, but he does have a little more power (though not much). He had a solid season in Rochester in 2019. Unfortunately he missed a lot of time with a knee injury. Prospect rankings love him. He was a Top 100 prospect before the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons. He ranked #33 by MLB.com before the 2015 season. He ranked #35 by Baseball Prospectus before the 2018 season.

    Seth Rankings: 2015 (4), 2016 (4), 2017 (4), 2018 (3), 2019 (12)


    #8 - Kyle Gibson

    Gibson was the Twins first-round draft pick in 2009 (21st overall) out of Missouri. He made his pro debut in 2010 and pitched in Ft. Myers, New Britain and Rochester. He was on the verge of his big league debut. Before the 2011 season, Baseball America ranked him as the #34 prospect in baseball. Unfortunately, in late 2011, he had Tommy John surgery. He returned late in 2012. Before the 2013 season, Baseball America ranked him #68. Baseball Prospectus ranked him #64 and MLB.com had him ranked #49.

    Seth Rankings: 2010 (5), 2011 (1), 2012 (7), 2013 (6)


    #7 - Aaron Hicks

    Hicks was the 14th overall pick in 2008. He began appearing on prospect rankings in 2009. His prospect status peaked before the 2010 season when Baseball America ranked him #19 and Baseball Prospectus ranked #26. While he dropped out of the Top 100 before the 2012 season, he jumped back in before the 2013 season when he made his MLB debut. His combination of power and speed with a big arm and great centerfield defense made him intriguing to the Twins and scouts around the game. It took a little time for it to come together, but it certainly did.

    Seth Rankings: 2010 (1), 2011 (3), 2012 (4), 2013 (5)


    #6 - Alex Meyer

    It was well known that the Nationals really wanted Denard Span from the Twins, enough that they were willing to deal former first-round pick Alex Meyer straight-up for him following the 2012 season. At the time, Meyer was a consensus Top 100 prospect. At 6-9 with a fastball in the upper-90s, teams knew he was raw but had potential to become a top-of-rotation starter. A year later, he ranked even higher, and before the 2015 season, he was the 14th prospect (overall) by Baseball Prospectus. He pitched in four games for the Twins before being traded at the July 2016 deadline. He retired from baseball after a series of shoulder injuries after the 2019 season .

    Seth Rankings: 2013 (4), 2014 (3), 2015 (6), 2016 (14)


    #5 - Alex Kirilloff

    Kirilloff was the Twins top pick in 2016 (15th overall) out of high school. MLB.come ranked him #98 after that season, but he missed the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2018 and put together one of the best minor league seasons you’ll ever see, splitting his season in half between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers. He hit for average (.348) and power (44 doubles, 7 triples and 20 home runs). Before the 2019 season, MLB.com ranked him #9 while Baseball America ranked him at #15.

    Seth Rankings: 2017 (3), 2018 (5), 2019 (2),


    #4 - Jose Berrios

    Berrios was the Twins supplemental first-round draft pick (#32 overall) in the 2012 draft. While he was a high draft choice, he was seen as a very raw prospect. Some saw him as a back-of-rotation starter. But as Berrios continued to put up strong numbers throughout the minor leagues, and his workouts became well known, his prospect status rose. He was Top 100 by MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus. Before the 2015 season, all three national sites put him in their Top 50 prospects and kept him there before the 2016 season too. MLB.com and BP ranked him in their Top 20 before 2016.

    Seth Rankings: 2013 (8), 2014 (7), 2015 (3), 2016 (2)

    Posted Image
    photo by Steve Buhr


    #3 - Royce Lewis

    Lewis was the first overall pick in the 2017 draft out of JSerra High School. He put up strong numbers that summer between the GCL and Cedar Rapids. Before the 2018 season, he ranked between #20 and #27 in the three national rankings. In 2018, he put together a strong season between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers, helping both to the playoffs and the Miracle to a Florida State League title. He showed he can play shortstop, hit and hit for power. Before the 2019 season, he was Top 10 in each. MLB.com ranked him highest at #5. He struggled with the bat in 2019, so he’ll likely drop some in the rankings, but he will still be in the Top 50 and should be much higher.

    Seth Rankings: 2018 (1), 2019 (1)


    #2 - Miguel Sano

    The Twins signed Sano in October 2009 from the Dominican. He was already the star of a documentary telling his unusual story and making him a known commodity around the baseball world. Before even playing a game as a pro, Baseball Prospectus ranked him #35. Even after missing the 2014 season with Tommy John surgery, Sano remained one of baseball’s top prospects. Baseball America ranked him in their Top 100 each year from 2010 through 2015. Four of those years he was Top 20, and twice he was in their Top 10. Baseball Prospectus also ranked him six straight seasons. He never got into their Top 10, but three of the years he ranked between 12 and 14. Lowest they ranked him was #31. MLB.com didn’t add him to their Top 100 until before the 2012 season. At that time, he ranked #23. Before the 2014 season, he reached #4 in their rankings. What made Sano so intriguing was his power potential, and we certainly have seen that!

    Seth Rankings: 2010 (3), 2011 (2), 2012 (1), 2013 (1), 2014 (2), 2015 (2)


    #1 - Byron Buxton

    Byron Buxton was the second overall pick in the 2012 draft out of high school in Georgia. Buxton was as toolsy as any player or prospect. He hit. He had some power. He played elite defense and had a strong, powerful arm. Not only did he have all the tools, but he put up huge numbers. In 2013, he hit .334 with 19 doubles, 17 triples and 12 homers between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers. He also stole 55 bases. Baseball America named him the minor league player of the year. Before the 2014 season, he was the consensus #1 prospect in baseball. He continued to impress as he climbed the ladder. Before the 2015 season, he ranked #1 by MLB.com and BP while Baseball American ranked him #2. Before the 2016, he ranked #2 across the board. In 2017, he won the American League Platinum Glove Award. In 2019, we saw him put it all together for the first half of the season. When he is healthy, he is as talented and impactful as any player in baseball … not named Mike Trout, of course.

    Seth Twins Rankings: 2013 (2), 2014 (1), 2015 (1), 2016 (1)


    --------------------------------------------------------

    So there you have it… My Top 10 Twins Prospects of the Decade. What do you think? It really is an impressive group of prospects and many of them (and some of the Honorable Mentions too) have achieved success in the big leagues.

    Another theme is that the Twins have seen injuries affect so many of these players’ careers. Tommy John for pitchers and hitters. But the Twins have had a lot of talent and still more talent on the way.

    How would you rank these prospects? Did I miss anyone?

    • Dec 31 2019 09:34 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  23. Projecting Minnesota's 2023 Line-Up

    C: Mitch Garver
    Garver has been my pick for starting catcher in each of the last three years (see links below) and he did nothing to change those projections this season. By 2023, he will be 32-years old, so it will be interesting to see how his body handles the rigors of catching. The Twins are in search of a first baseman and there’s a chance Garver could spend more time at this position. This would keep Garver in the line-up on a more regular basis and it could help him keep his legs fresh.

    First Base: Alex Kirilloff
    Kirilloff started playing more time at first base last season. This will give him more defensive flexibility and allow him to reach the big leagues sooner. He has one of the best hit tools in the Twins system, but he saw his numbers dip a little last season after putting together a monster 2018 campaign. He has a good chance to make his big-league debut in 2020 and by 2023 he should be well entrenched as a regular in the Twins line-up.

    Second Base: Luis Arraez
    Arraez is one of the easiest picks for any future Twins line-up. The 22-year old burst on the scene last year and hit .334/.399/.439 (.838) across 92 games. He was a revelation in the batter’s box as he seemed to know the strike zone like a 10-year veteran. One of his most memorable at-bats came after he was a pinch hitter and entered the game with an 0-2 count. Arraez is never going to have huge power numbers, but he has been able to hit at every level where he has played.

    Third Base: Royce Lewis
    Royce Lewis was drafted by the Twins as a shortstop, but there are some that question whether he will be able to stick at that position long-term. To move to third base, Lewis is going to have to make some changes on the offensive side of the ball. He has a big leg kick and a lot of unnecessary movement with his hands. Minnesota has some time to tweak his swing before he debuts, and Lewis is athletic enough to make the changes.

    Shortstop: Jorge Polanco
    Polanco was the starting shortstop for the American League in the All-Star Game and he is under contract through at least 2023. That being said, he had a negative ranking according to SABR’s Defensive Index, which ranked him eighth among qualifying AL shortstops. He made improvements last year, but he will be 29-years old in 2023. Will he have lost a step by that point? Would the Twins be able to move him to another defensive position?

    Left Field: Trevor Larnach
    Larnach had one of the strongest seasons among Twins top prospects. Between High-A and Double-A, he hit .309/.384/.458 (.842) with 44 extra-base hits. Because of his college experience, he is actually older than Alex Kirilloff and he is the same age as Luis Arraez. Like Kirilloff, he has an opportunity to debut in 2020, but it would likely have to be the result of an injury to one of the regular outfielders.

    Center Field: Byron Buxton
    Buxton will be in an interesting spot by 2023. Can he find a way to stay healthy for an entire season? Will last year’s offensive improvements continue? He has a lot to prove during the 2020 season, but fans can hope he clears up any doubts before 2023. He would be entering his age-29 season, which should put him at the peak of his value. Speed is a big part of his game and he will need to show that he can adjust as Father Time starts to slow him down.

    Right Field: Max Kepler
    Kepler was given the opportunity to be the Twins lead-off hitter last season and he certainly proved the team made the right choice. He compiled an .855 OPS on the way to cracking 36 home runs and 32 doubles. By 2023, Kepler could be one of the team’s leaders on and off the field especially after the team signed him to an extension last off-season. His contract does have a team option for 2024, so Kepler could be amid a contract year in the 2023 season.

    Designated Hitter: Miguel Sano
    Sano has seen some ups and downs throughout his Twins tenure and it’s interesting to think about what the future could hold for the burly third baseman. There’s a chance the 2020 season will be his last season on the defensive side of the ball. Nelson Cruz is under contract for one more year and then Sano is the likely choice to take over the DH role. There is no guarantee he will be with the Twins in 2023 since he can be a free agent in 2022. Could someone like Polanco take over this spot if Sano doesn’t re-sign with the club?

    What do you think the 2023 line-up will look like in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Dec 23 2019 01:36 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  24. Can the Twins Fix Royce Lewis’s Swing?

    Lewis spent time at High- and Double-A last season before ending the year in the Arizona Fall League. During the regular season, there were some ups and downs as he combined for a .661 OPS and 123 strikeouts in 127 games. He performed much better in the AFL by hitting .353/.411/.565 (.975) with 12 extra-base hits in 22 games.

    Here is a slow-motion view of Lewis’s swing during the AFL Fall Stars game.


    He starts with a high leg kick and then moves into a long stride. FanGraphs released their top Twins prospect list this week and they had plenty to say about Lewis's swing even though he is still their top Twins prospect.

    "Lewis still clearly had issues. His swing is cacophonous — the big leg kick, the messy, excessive movement in his hands — and it negatively impacts Lewis’ timing. He needs to start several elements of the swing early just to catch fastballs, and he’s often late anyway. This also causes him to lunge at breaking balls, which Lewis doesn’t seem to recognize very well, and after the advanced hit tool was a huge driver of his amateur profile, Lewis now looks like a guess hitter."

    In recent years, Minnesota has tried to work with Byron Buxton to adjust the leg kick he used in his swing. Buxton has gone through multiple swing renditions and last season he had almost no leg kick. For Buxton, there were positive results last season when he was on the field and healthy.

    In a recent chat, ESPN’s Keith Law was not optimistic about the performance put together by Lewis in the Arizona Fall League. When asked about Lewis’s swing adjustments, he said, “What swing adjustments? He looked exactly the same – huge leg kick, big hit – and did not hit at all during the regular season. Nothing is wrong with him physically, but I don’t think there’s a big leaguer who hits for average with a noisy approach like Lewis’s.”

    Besides his swing concerns, there are also concerns about Lewis’s defensive future. His bat is more important to his prospect stock because some see him below-average on defense as a shortstop. This could result in him moving to third base or even to the outfield. He played most of the AFL season at third base and even made a highlight reel catch in the outfield.

    "I think it's easy to forget how young he is," Twins director of Minor League operations Jeremy Zoll said during the AFL. "There were a number of hitters at Fort Myers that started slow. It's pretty well known that the [Florida State League] is a pitchers' league. But I think everyone came out of that slump at different speeds and anytime you're missing playing time in spring training, it's obviously something you think about -- the impact you may or may not be having. But it was good to see him work his way out of it and continue to make strides with his swing and produce nicely down the stretch."

    Minnesota is going to have to hope there are coaches that can work with some of his mechanics early in the spring. This would give him all of 2020 to work on his offensive approach to reduce some holes in his swing. The Twins have already been able to work with Buxton on adjusting his approach, so one can hope that Lewis will be the next player to alter his swing.

    What are your thoughts on Lewis’s approach at the plate? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Dec 16 2019 02:36 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  25. "Robot Umpires" Coming to Some Affiliated Parks Next Season

    Calling balls and strikes is no easy task, especially with more pitchers throwing in the high-90s or adding in the task of tracking the pitch’s movement. Fans sitting at home get a first-hand look at every pitch as it crosses the plate. Most of the time there can be multiple replays and the benefits of watching in slow-motion on a high definition screen. Fans know if a pitch is a ball or strike and they take to social media to berate the man behind the plate.

    Evidence also points to just how much umpires are missing calls. Following the 2018 season, Boston University did a study and found that an average of 14 ball-strike calls per game. For the entire 2018 season, MLB umpires missed 34,294 calls and those calls resulted in some other findings. Umpires have a two-strike bias and there are strike-zone blind spots. Clearly, baseball needs to find a solution to this problem.

    During the 2019 Arizona Fall League, MLB experimented with an automated ball-strike system (ABS). The technology was only present at one AFL field and it is similar to one used in the Atlantic League this season. With this system, the home-plate umpire wears an earpiece and is sent the “ball” or “strike” call. It’s obviously more complicated than that and there are some kinks to work out. Players are forced to figure out how the computer calls pitches at the different edges of the zone. There is also less pressure on catchers to frame a pitch because they can’t “steal” strikes from the computer.

    Minnesota’s top prospect Royce Lewis was in the AFL and got to see the ABS in action. “It kind of changes the whole game,” said Lewis. “It’s still tough, but anyone can catch it back there with electronic. I’d rather have the guys that are working hard and framing and building an element of their game to better themselves.”

    MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently told MLB Network that ABS will come to the minors in 2020 "in some ballparks."The league is continuing to find ways to improve the technology. He went on to say, "I only would go to an automated strike zone when we were sure that it was absolutely the best it can be."

    ABS likely will go through multiple trials in the minors before it will be big-league ready. It will be interesting to see what leagues will use the technology during the 2020 season. Technology is there and it seems inevitable for “robot umpires” to become part of America’s pastime.

    • Nov 06 2019 06:44 AM
    • by Cody Christie