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Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospects: Recap

royce lewis alex kirilloff trevor larnach brusdar graterol jordan balazovic
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 19 February 2020 - 10:17 PM

We've spent the past couple weeks profiling our picks for the Top 20 (and beyond) prospects in the Minnesota Twins organization. Now, as spring training gets underway in earnest, these exciting young talents will bring the team's minor-league complex to life.

Let's step back and take stock of the Twins' system as it stands entering the 2020 season.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

MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email

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#2 dxpavelka

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Posted 19 February 2020 - 10:58 PM

Would love to see 3 of the top 6 contributing before the end of the Summer and coming north next March / April. 


#3 Brandon

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Posted 19 February 2020 - 11:29 PM

That 2015 prospect list has 9 highly contributing Twins in 2019 with Gordon and Thorpe still top prospects.
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#4 Blackjack

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 07:18 AM

Looking at your 2019 list, where is Luis Arráez??How can he make it to the big league team and not even be ranked?? Who will be the 2020 surprise??

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#5 Blackjack

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 07:21 AM

The list seems short of true defensive centerfielders, who is in line to come up when Buxton hurts himself by trying to run thru a wall again?

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#6 mikelink45

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 08:02 AM

Nice summary that brought in lots of factors from the comments during the ratings.I would love to see Lewis regain the production that makes all of us feel good about keeping him number 1. 

 

The same with Wander who I have no expectations for at this time.I would like him to perform to his prospect level and I sure hope Cavaco lives up to this very high rating. 


#7 Seth Stohs

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 08:37 AM

 

Looking at your 2019 list, where is Luis Arráez??How can he make it to the big league team and not even be ranked?? Who will be the 2020 surprise??

 

Arraez was in the honorable mention category last year. Probably just after 20. 

 

Everyone has always liked the hit tool, but little power, little speed, defensive concerns. 

 

Prospect rankings aren't scientific. They are about tools and ceiling.

 

His ability to control the strike zone isn't a "tool" but he does that so well, and his bat control and ability to place the ball is amazing. 

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#8 Dman

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 08:53 AM

Wave two is on its way to the big club.AA is stacked with high end talent and there are some AAA pitchers waiting in the wings for opportunities.I am hoping that within that AA pitching group of Balazovic, Duran, Sands, Colina and maybe Ober that they have the stuff to be impact pitchers.We still need starters and having cheap controllable ones would be even more beneficial for this club as they try to optimize their financial commitments.

 

Very excited about this years top 20.After some wave two graduations though it looks like the farm might take a dip in the rankings.Hopefully they manage to draft and develop well.


#9 nicksaviking

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 08:54 AM

 

Looking at your 2019 list, where is Luis Arráez??How can he make it to the big league team and not even be ranked?? Who will be the 2020 surprise??

 

The bullpen looks much more locked down this year than last year, but I could see Bailey Ober, Bryan Sammons or Sean Poppen open some eyes if they get moved to the pen a la Zack Littell.

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#10 gunnarthor

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 09:28 AM

I like this system but I don't love it like I loved the Sano/Buxton/Berrios group when they were coming up. The 2014 Twins system had 6 guys in pipeline's top 37. That year or the next, they had 11 in BP top 101. What's interesting is seeing that some of the highly regarded guys in those years - Meyer, Stewart, - failed but some other guys - Kepler, Rosario, Polanco - became pretty solid MLers.

 

I think this year will tell us a lot about the pitchers in the system. Duran seems to me the only one who could end up as a #3 or better type but Balazovic could have a solid career, sorta like Scott Baker had.

 

I'm way more confident in the bats. I think Lewis, Kiriloff, Rooker, Wallner, Larnich, Blankenhorn and Jeffers will all play multiple seasons in the majors. 

 

 

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#11 Nick Nelson

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 09:45 AM

 

I like this system but I don't love it like I loved the Sano/Buxton/Berrios group when they were coming up. The 2014 Twins system had 6 guys in pipeline's top 37. That year or the next, they had 11 in BP top 101. What's interesting is seeing that some of the highly regarded guys in those years - Meyer, Stewart, - failed but some other guys - Kepler, Rosario, Polanco - became pretty solid MLers.

 

I think this year will tell us a lot about the pitchers in the system. Duran seems to me the only one who could end up as a #3 or better type but Balazovic could have a solid career, sorta like Scott Baker had.

 

I'm way more confident in the bats. I think Lewis, Kiriloff, Rooker, Wallner, Larnich, Blankenhorn and Jeffers will all play multiple seasons in the majors. 

It's a valid point but one big difference-maker is the advancements this organization has made in terms of development. Even if the talent isn't quite as strong on the surface, I feel much more confident in these guys reaching their potential.

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#12 gunnarthor

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 10:13 AM

 

It's a valid point but one big difference-maker is the advancements this organization has made in terms of development. Even if the talent isn't quite as strong on the surface, I feel much more confident in these guys reaching their potential.

Actually, this is one of the things I disagree with the most. Falvine have been in charge for three drafts and two deadlines where we traded for prospects. Yet, coming into this season, we had as many top 100 prospects in our system from the old regime as we did from the new. (Trading Graterol changed that number).

 

We were told that Enlow was the equivalent of a first round pick but he's struggled enough that our hopes on him should be lowered. Some of the trades are too early to judge but Celestino and Duran are the only two in our top 20 (apologies if I missed someone). Duran looks really promising but Celestino has over 650 PA in A ball and doesn't look great. And this FO has also been willing to lose draft picks at a pretty alarming rate. 

 

The Twins development group has always been good and I expect it to remain good but I'm not as convinced that our FO is as capable of identifying talent or at least some talent. Again, I'm way more confident of our hitters abilities than our pitching group. 


#13 howieramone2

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 10:38 AM

Yup. Board scapegoat TR laid the foundation.
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#14 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 10:40 AM

Actually, this is one of the things I disagree with the most. Falvine have been in charge for three drafts and two deadlines where we traded for prospects. Yet, coming into this season, we had as many top 100 prospects in our system from the old regime as we did from the new. (Trading Graterol changed that number).

We were told that Enlow was the equivalent of a first round pick but he's struggled enough that our hopes on him should be lowered. Some of the trades are too early to judge but Celestino and Duran are the only two in our top 20 (apologies if I missed someone). Duran looks really promising but Celestino has over 650 PA in A ball and doesn't look great. And this FO has also been willing to lose draft picks at a pretty alarming rate.

The Twins development group has always been good and I expect it to remain good but I'm not as convinced that our FO is as capable of identifying talent or at least some talent. Again, I'm way more confident of our hitters abilities than our pitching group.


No, the Twins development group has not always been good.
That's why they were the worst team in baseball for most of a decade, and Ryan got fired. They were awful on the development side.
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#15 saviking

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 10:42 AM

How about this for our 2020 hitting lineup to start 2022 ..

 

Outfield

 

Kepler

Buxton

Larnach 

Kiriloff(OF/1B)

 

Infield

 

Donaldson

Sano

Palanco

Arraez

 

Utility 

 

Lewis

Gordon

 

DH

 

Rooker

 

Cather

 

Garver

Jeffries


#16 howieramone2

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 10:52 AM

Few teams have done better than us in IFA for over 10 years. You spot them when they're 14, sign them when they're 16, then the development begins. Few do it better on a consistent basis.
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#17 Nick Nelson

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 11:09 AM

 

The Twins development group has always been good and I expect it to remain good but I'm not as convinced that our FO is as capable of identifying talent or at least some talent. Again, I'm way more confident of our hitters abilities than our pitching group. 

Huh. This doesn't seem to be evidenced by reality. With the exception of 2012 (Buxton and Berrios) the Twins had 9 straight first-round picks basically fail to amount to anything from 2009 through 2015 (Bashore, Wimmers, Michael, Harrison, Boyd, Bard, Stewart, Gordon, Jay). 

 

I also think you're deeply underselling the impact of prospects acquired via trade from the new front office. Devin Smeltzer was a difference-maker out of nowhere last year and the Twins got him for basically nothing. Luke Raley, added in the same deal, helped them complete the Maeda trade. Zack Littell is now a key bullpen fixture. Jake Cave is a proven big-leaguer and quality OF piece. The team is taking fringe talents (on the surface) and turning them into legitimately useful MLB assets. How often did that happen with the last regime? 

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#18 gunnarthor

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 11:32 AM

 

Huh. This doesn't seem to be evidenced by reality. With the exception of 2012 (Buxton and Berrios) the Twins had 9 straight first-round picks basically fail to amount to anything from 2009 through 2015 (Bashore, Wimmers, Michael, Harrison, Boyd, Bard, Stewart, Gordon, Jay). 

 

I also think you're deeply underselling the impact of prospects acquired via trade from the new front office. Devin Smeltzer was a difference-maker out of nowhere last year and the Twins got him for basically nothing. Luke Raley, added in the same deal, helped them complete the Maeda trade. Zack Littell is now a key bullpen fixture. Jake Cave is a proven big-leaguer and quality OF piece. The team is taking fringe talents (on the surface) and turning them into legitimately useful MLB assets. How often did that happen with the last regime? 

Other than the Odo trade, we haven't traded for one player who amassed 1 WAR in a season for us. We've let several players walk who have managed that with their new teams which is a mark against the new FO. The fact that you're happy with Smeltzer probably suggests you're still drinking the cool-aid a bit much. 


#19 nicksaviking

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 12:02 PM

 

Other than the Odo trade, we haven't traded for one player who amassed 1 WAR in a season for us. We've let several players walk who have managed that with their new teams which is a mark against the new FO. The fact that you're happy with Smeltzer probably suggests you're still drinking the cool-aid a bit much. 

 

They haven't been in a position to trade for MLB players until this year. Minor leaguers aren't going to get you any WAR.

 

Smeltzer does very little for me, but getting him as a throw in player and identifying him as a guy who can pitch in majors seemed to be a mark in the Pro column.

 

But regardless of development or drafting, the decisiveness when it comes to these young guys is absolutely a boon to the club. There's no more wasting roster spots for former prospects; much to our chagrin we lose guys unexpectedly like Gonsalves, Burdi, Chargois or Jay. Sorry Kohl Stewart. I wouldn't feel too comfortable if I was Nick Gordon, Fernando Romero or LaMonte Wade either, if we need a 40-man spot, it's time to sweat.

 

But even more so than not hanging on too long to busted prospects is how decisive they are with the pitching roles. Zack Litell, go to Rochester, you're a reliever now. There has been zero waffling on the roles of Rogers, May and Duffey from the second the new crew got here. To our dismay our high hopes for Romero becoming a front line starter evaporated without warning when they advertised he was moving to the pen last winter. It was going to happen again this winter with Graterol as well, the guy we were probably foolishly pinning our future ace hopes on. The criteria, tools and metrics they use to evaluate how to use these pitchers is vastly improved over the last group. You aren't going to get your full six years of control to show that you can improve the command, off-speed pitch or physical health needed to be a starter or stick with this club, and the roster is better and deeper because of it.

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#20 Nick Nelson

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 12:02 PM

 

Other than the Odo trade, we haven't traded for one player who amassed 1 WAR in a season for us. We've let several players walk who have managed that with their new teams which is a mark against the new FO. The fact that you're happy with Smeltzer probably suggests you're still drinking the cool-aid a bit much. 

Drinking the kool-aid?? Smeltzer came over as a partial return for two (bad) months of Brian Dozier, and contributed a 3.86 ERA + 0.5 WAR in 50 innings as a rookie last year. I'm not sure why anyone would not be happy with that or view it as a big success.

 

Again, I'd love to hear examples of development success stories from the previous regime. How many prospects did they trade for that eventually turned into outstanding big-league contributors? To suggest the development group has "always been pretty good" runs contrary to all the reasons Minnesota struggled for six years and made a complete infrastructural overhaul, not to mention all the positive impacts we've seen since. 

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