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2021 Prospect Rankings: 1-8

Posted by Danchat , 06 February 2021 · 4,746 views

lewis danchat larnach kiriloff balazovic
#8 - Matt Wallner OF (1st Round 2019, Southern Miss)
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Another bat-first prospect, Wallner has some serious power behind his bat after hitting 58 HRs at Southern Mississippi (in just 872 PAs!). He did alright at Elizabethton, and his main concern as a hitter will be limiting the strikeouts. Defensively he's a subpar runner and will be limited to corner OF, if not 1B. He also pitched part-time in college, which means he's got the arm to throw out runners.
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#7 - Brent Rooker 1B (1st Round 2017, Miss State)
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Rooker's very similar to Sabato and Wallner, but unlike them, he's ready to play in the majors. He did well in his first week of games in the majors before fracturing his wrist on a pitch, and we saw a glimpse into his upside. He's got the power to hit 25+ HRs a season and his batting average did not suffer much in the minors. Strikeouts will be a concern, as he had a dangerously high 33.8% strikeout rate at AAA. Despite that he still hit .928 OPS with a super strong .399 OBP. Defensively, he really shouldn't be playing in the outfield. He hasn't played a ton of 1B, but hopefully he's given plenty of practice there because that would be an ideal place to end up. Otherwise he'll be a DH his whole career.
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#6 - Jordan Balazovic RHP (5th Round 2016, HS)
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The Twins have gone through a drought of starting pitcher prospects for at least 10 years, and have been desperate to get a guy like Balazovic up and going. He mowed through Fort Myers A+ in 2019 with a strong 2.84 ERA, a phenomenal K/9 rate (11.8) without a bad BB/9 rate (2.6). He uses a strong mix of a 94-95 MPH fastball that acts a sinker, and sprinkles in similar-looking curveballs and sliders. He needs to get more innings under his belt and I don't think he profiles as a #1 or #2 starter, but he has a clean injury history and he'll likely be starting in AA at the young age of 21. Balazovic has a bright future in the big leagues if he continues down the path he's headed.
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#5 - Jhoan Duran RHP (International from Dominican Republic, acquired in 2018 trade)
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The top pitching prospect, Duran turned his career around once arriving in the Twins organization, going from a #20-30 prospect in Arizona to top-tier prospect. Duran's fastball has sped up the past couple season, sitting in the upper 90s and he'll hit 100 every once in a while. His secondary pitch is a splitter that can hit 94, and consistently fool hitters with its fastball-speed. His command can be a bit shaky at times, but that's even been a huge problem for him. Duran does have the toolset to be a dynamite reliever, but he's successfully pitched a starter's workload in the minors and should land in the rotation. Perhaps he pitches in the Twins' bullpen down the stretch in 2021 as his first dip into the MLB pool.
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#4 - Royce Lewis SS (1st Round 2017, HS)
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Most prospect rankers won't agree with this, but I'm not as high on Lewis as most are. The first overall draft pick in 2017, Lewis had very strong 2017 and 2018 seasons, but he hit poorly in 2019 at A+ and AA. He was promoted to AA despite hitting .665 OPS, and proceeded to hit .649 OPS there. Critics have pointed out that Lewis' swing does not look good and his approach at the plate needs heavy refinement, and his pitch recognition is currently poor. He's still young, turning 22 this summer, but I don't think he's particularly close to being MLB-ready. There has also been debate about whether he will end up at SS or CF, as he has the raw speed to handle both. This ranking has mostly been negative, but Royce has the potential to become a talented hitter with 60-65 power potential and has the highest ceiling of any prospect on this team. I just get the sense that Lewis will become a hitter whose approach at the plate won't click until Year 4 or 5 of his career.
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#3 - Alex Kiriloff OF (1st Round 2016, HS)
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The Twins are poised to make Kiriloff their starting LF in 2021, and it's not hard to see why. He has a career .317 batting average in the minors, and that's no fluke. Scouts rave about his ability to make consistent contact on tough pitches, he has has some serious power behind his swing, with the potential for 20+ HRs a year. Kiriloff's focus on contact has kept the number of walks low, but that's not a big concern if he hits > .300. He's had a couple of wrist injuries and missed the entire 2017 season. Defensively Kiriloff is one of the lower prospects on this list, and while he has a good glove and a great arm, he may end up at 1B. Hopefully his bat will end up somehwere in the #2-4 spot in the lineup one day.
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#2 - Ryan Jeffers C (2nd Round 2018, UNC Wilmington)
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This is probably the highest you've ever seen Jeffers on a prospect ranking, but I am comfortable putting him this high. Good catching prospects are rare, and Jeffers is the entire package. He was yet another 'questionable draft pick' in the 2nd round, but the Twins organization sculpted him into one of the best defensive backstops in the minor leagues after initial scouting reports claimed he wouldn't be able to stay at catcher. He ranked as a top-notch pitch framer, and showed as much in his 26 game debut in 2020. His bat was always his calling card, and it didn't disappoint in the minors with a very strong (.296/.383/.453 .836 OPS). He'll take a lot of walks and has the potential for more power. Jeffers is ready to graduate off this list and will push for the starting role as the Twins' catcher.
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#1 - Trevor Larnach OF (1st Round 2018, Oregon State)
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I conclude with another bat-first position player, of whom has the best minor league track record to this point. Larnach covered 4 levels of the minor leagues through only two years (2018-19) and held his own at every level, never dipping below a .295 batting average or .840 OPS. In total he's recorded a (.307/.385/.468) triple slash, and that's even with only 18 HRs in that stretch. He's got more power in that bat, no doubt. Larnach will take plenty of walks too, as his K/BB ratio was very healthy too. Defensively he's a bit on the slower side, but I think he will work as a RF with a decent glove and strong arm. Once he figures out the big leagues, Larnach is a hitter whose name should be penned into the #3 spot in the lineup and be let loose to rake to his heart's content.
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I will add one more blog post soon going over my formula of how these rankings were calculated. Until then, let me know what you think!

  • Oldgoat_MN, Hosken Bombo Disco, dbminn and 2 others like this



Not sure I can agree with you on Lewis.None of the players ahead of him have 5 tool potential he is the only one and prospect lists are based on potential not stats. I agree his hit tool is suspect and he might not be a 5 tool player in the end but he is only 22 with only one bad year so far.I think it is too early to have him that low.  

 

Surprised by your Kirilloff, Larnach switch but I can get behind it.I know Kirilloff's bat is "special" but having a good eye and making pitchers work is a very important if underrated skill to have and Larnach has it.I think I still like Kirilloff slightly better as I think he has the better power profile but I can see your point.

 

No one has put Jeffers that high mainly based on potential but I agree catchers who can hit and defend are rare and should be treated as the special commodity they are.Two is a little high for me but again I can see it so not that big of a deal for me.

 

I was more disappointed than you with Wallner.Granted he hasn't had much time to prove himself but I am questioning the bat a bit right now.I wouldn't have him this high yet but it is such a small sample size I could be wrong.He has the arm for right but is still a bit of liability defensively there since he doesn't run that well so that brings him down some for me.Power is his calling card but the bat needs to be special to be in this territory IMO and I am not sure it is just yet.

    • Doctor Gast likes this

 

Not sure I can agree with you on Lewis.None of the players ahead of him have 5 tool potential he is the only one and prospect lists are based on potential not stats. I agree his hit tool is suspect and he might not be a 5 tool player in the end but he is only 22 with only one bad year so far.I think it is too early to have him that low.  

 

Surprised by your Kirilloff, Larnach switch but I can get behind it.I know Kirilloff's bat is "special" but having a good eye and making pitchers work is a very important if underrated skill to have and Larnach has it.I think I still like Kirilloff slightly better as I think he has the better power profile but I can see your point.

 

No one has put Jeffers that high mainly based on potential but I agree catchers who can hit and defend are rare and should be treated as the special commodity they are.Two is a little high for me but again I can see it so not that big of a deal for me.

 

I was more disappointed than you with Wallner.Granted he hasn't had much time to prove himself but I am questioning the bat a bit right now.I wouldn't have him this high yet but it is such a small sample size I could be wrong.He has the arm for right but is still a bit of liability defensively there since he doesn't run that well so that brings him down some for me.Power is his calling card but the bat needs to be special to be in this territory IMO and I am not sure it is just yet.

Maybe it's just me sensing that Lewis' career is going to go like Carlos Gomez's or Aaron Hicks'. Perhaps I am overreacting a bit to a single year of his minor league career, but I see a lot of red flags. Other prospect rankings don't seem to factor in risk as much as I did - that's not to say they're wrong to do so, I'm just looking at things from a more mathematical standpoint.

 

The top 3 are very close and could be interchanged. Kiriloff and Larnach have their differences, but they're both the same level of prospect. 

 

I'll need to see more of Wallner to know where to better rank him, as he might end up in the 'teens' range.

    • Dman likes this
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Doctor Gast
Feb 07 2021 07:49 AM

Not sure I can agree with you on Lewis.None of the players ahead of him have 5 tool potential he is the only one and prospect lists are based on potential not stats. I agree his hit tool is suspect and he might not be a 5 tool player in the end but he is only 22 with only one bad year so far.I think it is too early to have him that low.  
 
Surprised by your Kirilloff, Larnach switch but I can get behind it.I know Kirilloff's bat is "special" but having a good eye and making pitchers work is a very important if underrated skill to have and Larnach has it.I think I still like Kirilloff slightly better as I think he has the better power profile but I can see your point.
 
No one has put Jeffers that high mainly based on potential but I agree catchers who can hit and defend are rare and should be treated as the special commodity they are.Two is a little high for me but again I can see it so not that big of a deal for me.
 
I was more disappointed than you with Wallner.Granted he hasn't had much time to prove himself but I am questioning the bat a bit right now.I wouldn't have him this high yet but it is such a small sample size I could be wrong.He has the arm for right but is still a bit of liability defensively there since he doesn't run that well so that brings him down some for me.Power is his calling card but the bat needs to be special to be in this territory IMO and I am not sure it is just yet.

My thoughts also
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Doctor Gast
Feb 07 2021 11:05 AM

Maybe it's just me sensing that Lewis' career is going to go like Carlos Gomez's or Aaron Hicks'. Perhaps I am overreacting a bit to a single year of his minor league career, but I see a lot of red flags. Other prospect rankings don't seem to factor in risk as much as I did - that's not to say they're wrong to do so, I'm just looking at things from a more mathematical standpoint.

The top 3 are very close and could be interchanged. Kiriloff and Larnach have their differences, but they're both the same level of prospect.

I'll need to see more of Wallner to know where to better rank him, as he might end up in the 'teens' range.


I like your bold ratings but I differ in opinion with especially the top 4.
I liked Hicks a lot when he came up. He was a strong 5 tool player. My later assumption of him was that he wasn't a student of the game and not driven. I don't think he studied the opposing pitchers or adjusted
his swing. At NYY they did everything for him. That's where Lewis is different. He is driven and a student of the game, he's hungry to better himself. He had a poor 2019 which he addressed as mental, he corrected it by gaining the cream of the prospects AFL's MVP and noted as the best hitter at St. Paul in 2020. Some don't like his high leg kick, many didn't like Puckett or Donaldson's high leg kick also. With his 5 tool talent and the Twins need, I place him #1.
Jeffers and Larnach are out of college that's why they pass through the minors so quickly, some college prospects go right into the pros.
Larnach and Kiriloff are close but I rate Kiriloff ahead. Most ratings go by potential. Jeffers has a very high floor but his ceiling isn't much higher but I agree with you he could be ranked higher.
How many of the top prospects will make significant contributions to winning the AL central? I'd love to have Rocco get the top 6-8 guys together and put a little pressure on them to take a big step forward in 2021. They will all be playing in midway or downtown...

I would rate Kiriloff's bat above Larnach's and their gloves as probably similar so I would Kiriloff ahead of him.I would also drop Lewis even further down the list.At best a slightly below average defense at shortstop and he still hasn't proven he can be a solid hitter in the minors which doesn't project very well to the majors.Right now I would think he projects as a utilty guy who can play multiple positions and will hit .240......that isn't a top 10 prospect......

 

If I am reading this right, you are listing 6 "sure thing" hitters, mostly with power, and 2 pitchers that are expected to be relievers.Some lucky team that is willing to part with a decent young pitcher will be very fortunate to make a trade with us.:)

 

If I am reading this right, you are listing 6 "sure thing" hitters, mostly with power, and 2 pitchers that are expected to be relievers.Some lucky team that is willing to part with a decent young pitcher will be very fortunate to make a trade with us.:)

Both of the pitchers listed project to be starters, Duran is just more likely to start out in the bullpen at the end of the 2021 season, like many top pitching prospects. They wouldn't be ranked so high if they were likely to end up in the bullpen.

 

I wouldn't call the hitters sure things, though I think Larnach, Kiriloff, and Jeffers are close to that.

 

How many of the top prospects will make significant contributions to winning the AL central? I'd love to have Rocco get the top 6-8 guys together and put a little pressure on them to take a big step forward in 2021. They will all be playing in midway or downtown...

Jeffers and Kiriloff should, Rooker will likely too. Wallner and Balazovic aren't close enough yet to help, and I don't think Lewis will be ready to contribute this year. Larnach definitely could this year. Maybe Duran breaks into the rotation at some point, but landing in the bullpen in September is a possibility too, and then he competes for a rotation spot in 2022.

    • Dman likes this