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Article: Twins Daily 2019 Midseason Top 40 Prospects: Recap

royce lewis alex kirilloff brusdar graterol jordan balazovic brent rooker
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 08:22 PM

While the first half of the season has gone swimmingly for Minnesota's big-league club, things were less rosy in the minors. The highest end of the prospect pool has been plagued by injuries, stagnation, and regression.

How much do you weigh these developments, spanning only a few months? And conversely, how much do you let impressive short-term showings from some players lower on the list bolster their rankings?

There was significant dissent around these matters on the ol' Twins Daily prospect editorial board, which manifested in our midseason rankings over the past couple weeks. But the aggregated list you'll find below is, I think, a reasonable snapshot of where things stand heading into the second half.Twins Daily's Midseason 2019 Top 40 Prospects:

40. Sean Poppen, RHP
39. Zander Wiel, OF
38. Bailey Ober, RHP
37. Kohl Stewart, RHP
36. Gabriel Maciel, OF
35. Jaylin Davis, OF
34. Cole Sands, RHP
33. Tyler Wells, RHP
32. Griffin Jax, RHP
31. LaMonte Wade Jr., OF
30. Lewin Diaz, 1B
29. Devin Smeltzer, LHP
28. Matt Canterino, LHP
27. Luke Raley, OF
26. Gilberto Celestino, OF
25. Yunior Severino, IF
24. Edwar Colina, RHP
23. Jose Miranda, IF
22. Zack Littell, RHP
21. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
20. Travis Blankenhorn, IF
19. Misael Urbina, OF
18. Jorge Alcala, RHP
17. Akil Baddoo, OF
16. Ben Rortvedt, C
15. Matt Wallner, OF
14. Luis Arraez, IF
13. Ryan Jeffers, C
12. Nick Gordon, SS
11. Lewis Thorpe, LHP
10. Blayne Enlow, RHP
9. Jhoan Duran, RHP
8. Brent Rooker, OF
7. Keoni Cavaco, IF
6. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
5. Wander Javier, SS
4. Trevor Larnach, OF
3. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
2. Alex Kirilloff, OF
1. Royce Lewis, SS

TOP 3 LOCKED IN

Let's be honest, it hasn't been an especially encouraging first half for any of Minnesota's vaunted top three prospects.

Royce Lewis has struggled to find any kind of offensive rhythm at the plate, plagued by long slumps and major lapses in plate discipline. Alex Kirilloff has been bothered by lingering wrist issues, and (perhaps not unrelated) his bat has been far less potent. Kirilloff has managed just two home runs through 41 games with a .749 OPS at Pensacola (though he has been heating up lately). Brusdar Graterol was off to a spectacular start in Double-A, but hasn't pitched in six weeks due to a shoulder impingement, and his return doesn't appear imminent.

Having said all that, none of these three budged from our preseason rankings, for multiple reasons:

1: They had all built up enough equity through past performance that their positions are quite solid.
2: All three are VERY young for their respective levels, facing much older and more experienced competition. (As for Graterol, who dominated his elevated competition, there's no particular reason to panic about this one injury, although it's obviously concerning.)
3: No one behind them quite made a strong enough case to leapfrog into the top three, although – as we'll now cover – there are plenty of up-and-comers in the system.

GOING UP

Florida is more than just a steamy summer wedding destination. It's also where the mercury's rising in the Twins' system. The biggest upward movement in our rankings was Jordan Balazovic, who was unranked in our preseason top 20 and now lands in the No. 6 spot. I noted back then we might end up looking silly for not having the big Fort Myers righty on our list, and now we sure do. We've corrected our error by vaulting Balazovic to his rightful place as the organization's second-best pitching prospect. The former fifth-round draft pick has been divine at two levels of A-ball this year, posting an incredible 91-to-19 K/BB ratio in 66 innings as a 20-year-old.

Travis Blankenhorn (No. 20) and Lewin Diaz (No. 30) also caught fire in southwest Florida before graduating to Pensacola, where both continue to rake. Blankenhorn and Diaz were former fixtures in the TD top prospect rankings before fading in recent years. Their resurgences are good reminders not to give up on young talent.

Speaking of underrated young talent, Luis Arraez jumped into the Top 20 (at No. 14) after failing to make the preseason cut. He appeared as an honorable mention, labeled a "hit machine."

GOING DOWN

For the most part, our Top 20 remained intact with little movement, aside from a few guys bumped by new arrivals. One significant dropoff came from Akil Baddoo, who slid from No. 10 to No. 17. The athletic outfielder slashed .214/.290/.393 with a decline in his signature walk rate over 29 games at Fort Myers before succumbing to Tommy John surgery, which will keep him out into next year. We still have plenty of hope for the 20-year-old, but it's impossible to deny the toll this takes on his outlook and timeline.

Yunior Severino is down 10 spots from No. 15 to No. 25, as a broken thumb has prevented him from being able to show anything. LaMonte Wade Jr. dropped from No. 18 to No. 31 while failing to show any pop at Triple-A. Stephen Gonsalves fell from No. 12 to No. 21, limited by arm problems to two total innings.

Gilberto Celestino dropped 10 spots from his placement at No. 16 in our preseason rankings. The toolsy young center fielder hasn't adjusted well to competition in full-season ball, posting a .631 OPS thus far at Cedar Rapids. His lack of emergence hurts in combination with the languishing Jorge Alcala, who curiously moved up a spot to No. 18 despite posting a 5.81 ERA and 1.51 WHIP for Pensacola. Clearly, there's still belief in that big arm. The Twins would love to see some progress from him and/or Celestino in the second half, as they watch Ryan Pressly – whom they traded him for the duo last summer – tear it up in the Astros bullpen. Pressly was named to the All-Star team over the weekend.

STRONG RETURNS

The Pressly deal isn't looking great right now. No two ways about it. However, the Twins appear to have done well in their other sell moves at the 2018 deadline. Jhoan Duran, acquired in the Eduardo Escobar trade, finds himself at No. 9 and has been untouchable for Florida State League hitters in his last five starts (30 IP, 1.80 ERA, 45-12 K/BB). He's keeping opponents off the board like a goaltender in soccer. Gabriel Maciel, who came over alongside Duran, is at No. 36, having batted .305 with a .392 OBP between two levels of A-ball. Luke Raley and Devin Smeltzer, who came over from the Dodgers in exchange for three crummy months of Brian Dozier, both made the Top 30, and Smeltzer of course had a very nice MLB debut in May.

NEWCOMERS

Minnesota's top three selections in last month's draft all made entry. Highest, of course, is first-rounder Keoni Cavaco, whose massive upside compelled us to slot him No. 7, above the excelling Brent Rooker and Duran. Outfielder (and local product) Matt Wallner slides in at No. 15, and right-hander Matt Canterino – the Rice University right-hander who became the team's first pitcher selected – claims a spot at No. 28.

DAZZLING DEBUTS

We saw two members of this Top 20 debut in the first half: Lewis Thorpe (No. 11) fired five innings of two-run ball on Sunday, and Arraez (No. 14) is batting .411 as a rookie in the big leagues. Smeltzer (No. 29) also had an excellent debut. Wade Jr. (No. 31) and Sean Poppen (No. 40) made brief Twins appearances as well. It's promising to see so many players from outside the Top 10 transitioning smoothly to the big leagues, and speaks well to the development system in place. The best is yet to come.

On that note, who will be the next player from this Top 40 list to make his major-league debut? I welcome your guesses in the comments. Smart money right now is on Rooker, who is mashing to the tune of a .980 OPS at Triple-A (.350/.511/.641 since the start of June), and unleashed this ridiculous bomb the other night:



He'll fit right in.

Click here to view the article
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#2 tboltz34

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 09:29 PM

I always look forward to prospect rankings from this website. I feel like they are considerably better than the national publications. I have started to create my own rankings over the last few years. This list was made right after the draft.

1. Royce Lewis
2. Alex Kiriloff
3. Brusdar Graterol
4. Jordan Balazovic
5. Jhoan Duran
6. Trevor Larnach
7. Wander Javier
8. Keoni Cavaco
9. Brent Rooker
10. Ben Rortvedt
11. Blayne Enlow
12. Ryan Jeffers
13. Misael Urbina
14. Travis Blankenhorn
15. Akil Baddoo
16. Jorge Alcala
17. Lewis Thorpe
18. Luis Arraez
19. Nick Gordon
20. Lewin Diaz
21. Matt Wallner
22. Cole Sands
23. Stephen Gonsalves
24. Yunior Severino
25. Edwar Colina

A few notes after comparing my list to Twin’s Daily. I value position, defense, and upside. I’m not as high on the Larnach, Rooker, and Wallner trio. I believe their upside is limited being below average defenders with strikeout concerns (not so much Larnach). I value the high upside pitchers and have Duran ranked higher than most. Rortvedt is ranked higher than Jeffers because I believe his defense will be considerably better at a premium position. Looking back, I probably have Blankenhorn and Lewin DIaz a little high because of recent performances. I probably have Gordon and Thorpe too low because of prospect fatigue. Lastly, for some reason I view Arráez and Astudillo as similar players and think MLB pitchers will adjust to Arráez similar to what we have seen with Astudillo. Both are high contact players, with limited power, and don’t field any position well. But if you are going to have one tool, it might as well be the hit tool.

Overall, it’s always a fun exercise to do. I will brag that I did have Mitch Garver ranked 5-10 spots higher than most, in the past! As always, thanks for the awesome content.
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#3 Jaykay

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 09:43 PM

Balazovic is still underrated. 

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#4 clutterheart

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 04:44 AM

I am having a difficult time remembering a worse half a season for MN prospects.

Injuries and poor performances have taken their toll.
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#5 birdwatcher

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 05:56 AM

 

I am having a difficult time remembering a worse half a season for MN prospects.

Injuries and poor performances have taken their toll.

 

 

Geez, how old are you, ten?;)

 

Heck, I remember a time when Doug Deeds made the top 10 and the best we could do was WISH he was abysmal due to injury.

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#6 clutterheart

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 06:53 AM

 

Geez, how old are you, ten?;)

 

Heck, I remember a time when Doug Deeds made the top 10 and the best we could do was WISH he was abysmal due to injury.

When Doug Deeds was a prospect the org had some great performances from prospects like a pre-injury Jason Kubel, Baker, Liriano, Jesse Crain, Bartlett.

 

Those were the salad days

 

 

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#7 birdwatcher

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 07:07 AM

 

When Doug Deeds was a prospect the org had some great performances from prospects like a pre-injury Jason Kubel, Baker, Liriano, Jesse Crain, Bartlett.

 

Those were the salad days

 

 

Really?

 

When I look down this current list, I see a dozen or so who are having absolutely stellar years. And Doug Deeds wouldn't make this list if you doubled the number of top prospects, wouldn't you agree?

Edited by birdwatcher, 03 July 2019 - 07:07 AM.

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#8 dbminn

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 07:12 AM

The TD staff has put together a fine list. The prospect depth is remarkable.

 

For me, the most surprising story of the first half has been the AAA prospects.

  • The 40th prospect, Sean Poppen, has two major league pitches. He'll get plenty of MLB chances as a RP before his career is over.
  • JDavis is having a breakout type of year for a lower-ranked prospect. He could be a viable backup OF next season. He could be AAAA too, but his outlook is a lot brighter than it was in April.
  • Littell can throw 96 out of the bullpen. Didn't see that coming.
  • Arraez could end up an everyday 2B before his career is done (50 FV). 
  • Thorpe looked good in his first start. Not a lot of power but he can pitch.
  • Rooker has scary power and he's getting to it.

That's a lot of positive results from what is arguably the weakest part of the Twins system.

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#9 ashbury

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 07:17 AM

And Doug Deeds wouldn't make this list if you doubled the number of top prospects, wouldn't you agree?

A ninth-rounder from 2002 is a benchmark for anything?

 

I literally did not remember the name. He wasn't touted, was he?

 

If you're doing some kind of RandBall's Stu satire, ya got me.

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#10 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 07:51 AM

 

The TD staff has put together a fine list. The prospect depth is remarkable.

 

For me, the most surprising story of the first half has been the AAA prospects.

  • The 40th prospect, Sean Poppen, has two major league pitches. He'll get plenty of MLB chances as a RP before his career is over.
  • JDavis is having a breakout type of year for a lower-ranked prospect. He could be a viable backup OF next season. He could be AAAA too, but his outlook is a lot brighter than it was in April.
  • Littell can throw 96 out of the bullpen. Didn't see that coming.
  • Arraez could end up an everyday 2B before his career is done (50 FV). 
  • Thorpe looked good in his first start. Not a lot of power but he can pitch.
  • Rooker has scary power and he's getting to it.

That's a lot of positive results from what is arguably the weakest part of the Twins system.

Yeah this... This system is scary deep.. It's also why I'm looking forward to the deadline. The team broke out at the right time b/c there's going to be a lot of guys needing to hit the 40 man over the next season or two... May as well trade some of them and get some upgrades on the 25 man. 

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#11 Seth Stohs

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 09:46 AM

 

The TD staff has put together a fine list. The prospect depth is remarkable.

 

For me, the most surprising story of the first half has been the AAA prospects.

  • The 40th prospect, Sean Poppen, has two major league pitches. He'll get plenty of MLB chances as a RP before his career is over.
  • JDavis is having a breakout type of year for a lower-ranked prospect. He could be a viable backup OF next season. He could be AAAA too, but his outlook is a lot brighter than it was in April.
  • Littell can throw 96 out of the bullpen. Didn't see that coming.
  • Arraez could end up an everyday 2B before his career is done (50 FV). 
  • Thorpe looked good in his first start. Not a lot of power but he can pitch.
  • Rooker has scary power and he's getting to it.

That's a lot of positive results from what is arguably the weakest part of the Twins system.

 

I'd point out too that while we started the articles two weeks ago, we did the vote closer to 4 weeks ago. A lot has happened even since then that could alter the vote if we did it right now. You''d like to think not too much shifting, but there could be some. 

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#12 Seth Stohs

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 09:47 AM

 

A ninth-rounder from 2002 is a benchmark for anything?

 

I literally did not remember the name. He wasn't touted, was he?

 

If you're doing some kind of RandBall's Stu satire, ya got me.

 

No, but he and Nick Swisher played together at Ohio State. Swisher was the first rounder. Deeds was the 9th rounder. Deeds had as good or better numbers on their rise up the minors. Swisher got a shot and had a solid career. Deeds topped out in AAA and never got a shot. 

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#13 dbminn

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 10:20 AM

 

I'd point out too that while we started the articles two weeks ago, we did the vote closer to 4 weeks ago. A lot has happened even since then that could alter the vote if we did it right now. You''d like to think not too much shifting, but there could be some. 

 

I think the list holds up quite well! 

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#14 ashbury

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 11:01 AM

No, but he and Nick Swisher played together at Ohio State. Swisher was the first rounder. Deeds was the 9th rounder. Deeds had as good or better numbers on their rise up the minors. Swisher got a shot and had a solid career. Deeds topped out in AAA and never got a shot. 

Soooo, baseball teams, collectively, guessed right? :)

We laugh at gypsies, fortune tellers, and horoscopes, yet we trust baseball prospect lists.


#15 Tom Froemming

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 11:09 AM

 

I'd point out too that while we started the articles two weeks ago, we did the vote closer to 4 weeks ago. A lot has happened even since then that could alter the vote if we did it right now. You''d like to think not too much shifting, but there could be some. 

I'll say that my postseason list for the Prospect Handbook will likely be much different. That's not so much because of what happens between now and then, I'll just have a lot more time to invest in it.

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#16 jkcarew

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 11:46 AM

I'll admit that watching the very top of this list, so far this year, has been a little like watching paint dry. But that's why I love the top-20 and the top-40 lists that the staff puts together. It's always easy to find several examples of guys over-performing to get excited about. To that end...

 

Happy 25th birthday to Jaylin Davis! I love seeing guys like this...getting a little long in the tooth (prospect-wise)...taking significant steps, and starting to knock on the door of realizing their dream...if not with the Twins, maybe as a minor-league FA with another team, etc.


#17 mikelink45

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 12:53 PM

 

Balazovic is still underrated. 

wasn't he a surprise high ranking prospect in Keith Laws preseason listing?


#18 Jaykay

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 01:36 PM

 

wasn't he a surprise high ranking prospect in Keith Laws preseason listing?

 

Yes, I'm not a big Klaw fan but he nailed that one. 

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#19 Rosterman

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 02:41 PM

I would be happy if 12-15 of these names actually played a game with the Twins in the majors. Maybe another 10 or so will play elsewhere in the majors (overlapping with those the Twins bring up). That leaves a good portion of guys to identify as being depth and tradable as assets to the team in the next couple of years. 

 

That is what is so difficult about running a major league organization. Who to advance. Who gets delayed. What are the weaknesses. How to exploit those weaknesses for curent needs.

 

But overall, this is one wonderful batch of 40 names, with at least two depth at every position and twice as many pitching prospects as the Twins will ever need to call from the minors in the next three seasons.

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#20 nater79a

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 02:44 PM

Jordan Balazovic obviously gets this years' "Meteoric Rise Award".

 

Next year at this time? I'm going Cole Sands. Top-15 at least.Like his future a lot (health permitting).




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