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Matt's Top Prospect List (June) + Explanations


Matt Braun

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  1. Royce Lewis

Royce Lewis is still the best prospect in the Twins’ system, but the soul refuses to accept that truth. Lewis will now miss extended time with another ACL surgery, and it’s impossible to feel anything but grief and sympathy for the man; he’s an elite talent that life continues to deal poor hands to maniacally. His major league performance proved that he’s capable of great things, and all we can do is hope that he’ll come back without missing a beat as he did before.                                                                                     

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  1. Austin Martin 

.311. That number represents a crappy rock band from the 90s and Austin Martin’s season slugging percentage as of June 29th. It will be impossible for Martin to fulfill his destiny as a high-level number 2 hitter unless he—at the very least—finds his .380s slugging mark from last season. I’m not sure why he’s suddenly trying to put the ball in play with no regard for extra-base damage, but it is failing; he has 11 extra-base hits in 60 games. We knew Martin would never become Sammy Sosa at the plate, but he desperately needs a buoyant power level from which his excellent OBP skills can consistently launch upwards. Martin is also not a shortstop.

  1. Noah Miller     

Now we get to the messy part of the system. I like Noah Miller, but he has cooled off tremendously since his blistering May; this is the danger in trying to rank recently-drafted high school players. I’ll stick with my guns and say that he’s a future star—his defense and on-base abilities are still undeniably elite—but that statement carries less oomph than it did just a month ago. I believe he’ll grow into some power, but he probably will never be Fernando Tatís Jr. out there; instead, I see him as a jack-of-all-trades type of quality shortstop.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

  1. Emmanuel Rodriguez   

Have you ever heard about the tragedy of Emmanuel Rodriguez the wise? Rodriguez was laying waste to low-A pitchers before he tore up his knee, costing him at least the rest of this season. Knee injuries for athletic marvels like Rodriguez are still scary, but Lewis’ success in returning from one proved that it might not be worrisome. It’s a shame, Rodriguez’s play was cartoonishly dominant, but we’ll have to wait a while before seeing him on the field again. The long-term outlook remains sturdy, but the short-term playing time loss hurts.

  1. Jordan Balazovic

Aaron Gleeman recently noted that Jordan Balazovic is dealing with a knee issue that has curtailed his effectiveness this season. Maybe it’s weird to say this, but knowing that fact improves my opinion on Balazovic; his under-performance has to do with injury, not a sudden loss in ability. Still, he’s walking far too many hitters at AAA and gives up contact loud enough to break the sound barrier. I’ve knocked him down a few spots already, and the slide will continue unless he changes something quick.

  1. Spencer Steer

Is Spencer Steer the only top name here with an unimpeachable performance in 2022? The Oregon product is slaying the ball, slashing .277/.360/.577 between AA and AAA with only a slight drop-off in production since his promotion; a low BABIP may be the culprit. He’s no defensive whizz, but he doesn’t need to be with that bat, and he should be firmly implanted in the Twins’ future infield plans. I debated placing him above Balazovic, but since Steer has less overall time as an elite player, I gave the nod to the pitcher for now.

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  1. Simeon Woods Richardson

Simeon Woods Richardson was pitching well, and then he got injured because of course he did. I was still deeply suspicious of his performance—4.87 xFIP and all—but he at least had a nice ERA, and that’s better than nothing. I don’t think he has unquestionably shed the narrative that he can’t pitch at AA; Woods Richardson is striking out fewer batters than he did at every other level in the minors before this season. Yet, he’s still just 21 years old, so it would be foolish to write him off yet. It’s strange that that team placed him on the IL with no explanation or announcement. 

  1. Edouard Julien

I’m uncomfortable placing Edouard Julien this high on the list, but I also don’t know who would reasonably overtake him. Julien is positionless, but who cares about that when you walk 20% of the time. He has had a suspicious drop-off in power (.138 ISO this season), which could be an ominous sign of future disappointment; until that shoe drops, he’ll remain a top-10 prospect on my list.

  1. Cade Povich

Cade Povich is probably my new favorite Twins pitching prospect. The lefty has been dominant, striking out hitters at a 32.7% clip with an average walk rate and few homers; that’s a great combination, by the way. Povich has little left to prove at A+ and will be pitching in Wichita sooner than later. Just pray that his arm doesn’t fall off.

  1. Marco Raya

I think the hype train on Marco Raya has accelerated a touch too quickly, but I can understand why. Raya combines the top-dog mentality needed in an ace with top-tier stuff; that’s an excellent combination for a pitching prospect. The drawback remains: Raya has 36 innings over 10 appearances and just recently left a start after netting two outs. Are the Twins using kid gloves to handle him? Probably, but I need a nice, unquestionably dominant run from Raya before I move him up any further; TINSTAAP and all that jazz. 

  1. Cole Sands

Yeah, I’m still too high on Cole Sands. His command needs tweaks that may be beyond his abilities—how many players suddenly drastically improve in their fourth year with a team—but that sweeper is what keeps Sands up here. His breaking ball is ridiculous, mimicking the great American migration of the early 1900s in how it moves from East to West with great efficiency. The rest of his profile is meh, but he’ll always have potential thanks to his vicious breaking ball.

  1. David Festa

David Festa is the most pop-up-y pitching prospect in the system; as a 13th-round pick, he’s punching out hitters at a 30.4% mark over 54 ⅔ innings split between A and A+ ball. His status as an “un-prospect” may benefit him, as the team is less likely to baby him, instead throwing him to the wolves where he can prove his ability. Festa may reach AA this season—he’s pitched that well—and we should know more about him once he does.

  1. Christian Encarnacion-Strand

It’s been a while since CES went berserk in April to the tune of a billion RBIs (at least that’s what it felt like). No, he’s not that good, but he is a solid hitter. Encarnacion-Strand’s beautiful slash line is .291/.357/.567, which will play in any league, which is good because he cannot field even a little bit. Errors are far from the end-all stat they used to be, but he has 21 of them in just over 400 innings at 3rd base this season; that’s bad. Being a future 1st base/DH type player curtails his upside, so his entire prospect pedigree rests on the power of his bat.

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  1. Matt Wallner

I think I was too harsh on Matt Wallner last month. I emphatically stated that a player with his strikeout numbers would need to be otherworldly in other aspects to offset the K. His response? Walk a lot. I still hold those reservations, but if his new monstrous walk rate (21.4% in June) is even slightly sticky, he has a solid shot at becoming a major league contributor. Also, he owns an absolute cannon in right field.

  1. Blayne Enlow

Blayne Enlow is dipping his toes into the minor league waters after a missed year, so I find it difficult to evaluate him too harshly. The numbers aren’t great, but that barely matters; him just being on the mound is good enough for the moment. At some point, slack will no longer exist, but I’m okay with punting on criticizing him for now. 

  1. Louie Varland

In a season that has been chaotic for so many players, Louie Varland chugs along like nothing is wrong. The Minnesota native’s under-the-hood stats aren’t the best—he’s walking more batters than he did in his stellar 2021 campaign—but the rest of his profile appears solid. His 68 ⅓ innings leads the entire Twins minor league system.

  1. Brent Headrick

Brent Headrick might be the biggest under-the-radar name in the Twins system. As a late-blooming 24-year-old in A+ ball, Headrick has utterly dominated with a 2.40 ERA and a strikeout rate above 30%. It’s hard to scout prospects in this vein; I give Headrick the benefit of the doubt until/if his numbers reverse.

  1. Ronny Henriquez

What do we make of Ronny Henriquez? Sure, he’s still just 22 years old, but there’s little to latch onto regarding his AAA play so far. It seems that the Twins are okay with letting him die at that level, given that his ERA is 6.95 and his FIP isn’t far behind (6.07). At some point, I need performance to outweigh pedigree; that needs to change soon for Henriquez.                                                                          

  1. Matt Canterino     

I’ll try to be as diplomatic as possible: Matt Canterino has not yet shown the ability to be a consistent, innings-eating top-level arm. He recently set his single-season record for innings pitched as a professional (34 ⅓) before another elbow injury sidelined him for a significant time. I don’t see real reasons for optimism; the Rice background combined with these injuries leaves little faith in him ever becoming the big front-of-the-rotation starter we expected of him. 

  1. Steve Hajjar

Steve Hajjar was following in the Cade Povich breakout mold until a shoulder injury in the middle of June stopped him in his tracks. Shoulder problems are not the death sentence they once were, but that ailment is still something to keep an eye on for the future.

  1. Sawyer Gipson-Long

Sawyer Gipon-Long is shockingly similar to Brent Headrick; he is also an old-for-his-level breakout prospect looking to prove that he isn’t a fluke. The process is farther along for Gipson-Long as he recently enjoyed a promotion to AA Wichita; he has one clunker and two solid starts. The rest of the season will be essential to understand Gipson-Long more as a prospect.

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  1. Kala’i Rosario

Kala’i Rosario dropped three points off his strikeout rate since I last wrote about him, but that still leaves him at 36.0%. My view on players with a penchant for whiffing is well known; you must do something extraordinary to offset the Ks. Rosario has good power (.204 ISO) and is still just a teenager, so he still possesses the rare chance to evolve into an elite power threat.

  1. Michael Helman

Not mentioning Michael Helman was probably my last ranking’s worst mistake. The 26-year-old has quietly hit well at every level in the minors and is now knocking on the Major’s door thanks to his 125 wRC+ at AAA. Is this just Brian Dinkelman 2.0? Maybe, and that’s not just because of how similar their last names are. Helman could debut soon if the Twins desperately smash the “break in case of emergency” glass if a few too many infielders suffer injuries.

  1. Brayan Medina

Brayan Medina finally pitched in the Twins system for the first time this month. He’s thrown fewer than 10 innings, so who knows where he’s at in his development, but the stuff descriptions are good, so he’ll stay here until further notice.

  1. Aaron Sabato

Aaron Sabato’s slash line is still not optimal for a great 1st base prospect. The walks are good (14.2%), but he doesn’t neutralize his strikeout tendencies with overwhelming power (.171 ISO). I remain skeptical that Sabato will develop into the type of player the Twins expected when they drafted him.

  1. Alerick Soularie

I didn’t rank Alerick Soularie in my last write-up, but the guy put up a 144 wRC+ in June, and now here he is. His play rounded more into form; he struck out a little less, walked a little more, and ballooned his ISO from .114 to .167. If he’s genuinely backing his elite athletic ability with a more sound game, Soularie could rocket up this list.

  1. Misael Urbina

Misael Urbina just recently popped back up in the Twins system after dealing with visa issues earlier in the year. He’s played a few games in the DSL; he’ll likely rejoin Fort Myers when he’s back in the groove. 

  1. Keoni Cavaco

Keoni Cavaco rebounded a little bit in June (101 wRC+), but his walk and strikeout rates remain heavily lopsided, and his power does not make up for it (.151 ISO). Maybe the play improvement will aid his confidence; he needs to improve his performance before people buy back into his prospect stock.

  1. Jake Rucker

Jake Rucker recently earned a promotion to A+ ball after holding his own with Fort Myers (100 wRC+). He’s 22 years old, so the Twins might accelerate his movement through the system; keep an eye on him in the Michael Helman under-the-radar vein. 

  1. Travis Adams

All Travis Adams has done this season is pitch well for Fort Myers. The former 6th-round pick is crushing with a 3.10 ERA and peripherals to match. There’s still an unknown factor to his game that will only clear once he plays in A+ ball and beyond, which should be soon.

 

Edited by Matt Braun

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If Balazovic is hurting why is he still active? This team has such a history of being protective with there prospects especially pitchers, it surprises me that they are letting him play.

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Josh Winder isn’t in the majors, therefore he hasn’t “graduated”, shouldn’t he be on this list?

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On 7/2/2022 at 7:57 PM, ScottyB said:

Josh Winder isn’t in the majors, therefore he hasn’t “graduated”, shouldn’t he be on this list?

He hit the roster time threshold a while ago

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Like you said Martin isn't a SS but is he still playing there? and why? Why isn't he playing CF? I won't mind if Martin becomes an Arraez w/ a glove and still believe eventually his power will come.

I'm also getting a little impatient with Balazovich.

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Nice list and really enjoyed your descriptions of how players were performing.  Also nice to see a list out of the mainstream.  I would have had Rodriguez a head of Miller mainly because his bat played so much better and looks to have star potential.  While I think Millers hit tool is going to be good he has been struggling for a while now.  Still a fun read.  Thanks!

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I can appreciate how many hours went into this write up. Posts like this take a lot of time, but I really would have liked to see some performance figures mixed in. That said, it's not necessary for a quick ranking like this.

I seem to recall the Twins re-thinking Martin at shortstop, but apparently, they decided to keep him there after all. 
Apr - 6 errors 8 games at SS
May - 6 errors 16 games at SS
Jun+ - 3 errors 20 games at SS

This will be just a guesstimate, but let me try to extrapolate his RF/9 per month. 8.45 innings per game. 0.36 chances per inning based on his season numbers assuming 44 games started at SS.
Apr - 67.2 innings, 24 chances 18 PO + Assists, 6 E = RF/9 = 2.39 and .750 FP
May - 135.0 innings, 49 chances 43 PO + Assists, 6 E = RF/9 = 2.87 and .878 FP
Jun+ - 169.0 innings, 61 chances 58 PO + Assists, 3 E = RF/9 = 3.09 and .950 FP

Martin has brought his fielding percentage up to poor, but not unplayable for the minors. The rate of chances likely hasn't stabilized, but here are the individual team numbers for the most common SS.

Travelers = 3.53 & .992
Missions = 4.48 & .990
Sod Poodles = 3.64 & .950 (yes, that's the team name)
Drillers = 3.20 & .969
Naturals = 3.42 & .971
Rough Riders = 4.24 & .967
Cardinals = 3.18 & .923
RockHounds = 4.08 & .950
Hooks = 3.29 & .952

The extrapolated performance for the last month on Austin Martin would still be arguably the worst SS in the league with only 1 team's top SS having any stat worse than Martin's performance. Since we're talking about everything in the same league, playable balls should be relatively similar. In my opinion, these are some general-ish guidelines. 
4.00 & .990 Plus SS
3.75 & .980 mediocre
3.50 & .970 borderline

Martin has a long row to hoe. Either the Twins see something they really like at SS or they see something they really, really don't like at the plate.

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A good list, and good arguements.

Rodriguez should be ahead of Miller, despite him being a CF/OF. Roughly the same age but was killing it before his knee injury and should be more dynamic of a bat/player.

Giving Balazovic ALL THE CREDIT for his arm and potential based on a couple nagging injuries. The ability and potential hasn't gone away.

Sands is getting untracked and looking good again. His future might be in the pen, we'll see. I'd keep he and the young Raya where you have them. Same with Festa for now. Festa may warrant being higher when the year is done. SWR is fair based on age and experience. Tons of potential, but very young and his "schedule" has been advanced and weird.

Not exactly where I'd place him, but I'd place Wallner higher. Looks like the bat may be for real and he should be at least OK in the OF.

Sorry, can't give Balazovic allowances, and Enlow...deservedly so IMO...and then downgrade Canterino. He's never been hurt until last year and now, but neither injury seems surgical. May just mean, unfortunately, he's a RP and not a starter. Disappointing if true. But he could be as good as Duran in the pen and maybe that's just, reluctantly, where he ends up. But he could be a stud there!

Shouldn't Varland be higher? Not sure who he'd bump, but I think he's better than where you have him.

HUGE fan of Povich. Is Hajjar just behind him if healthy again soon and his BB looking better?

Soularie is on the upswing and very talented, but where he should be for now. Same with Rosario. Helamn is probably right for a super-utility player. Don't apologize for Julien being fairly high and being another super-utility type at this point. The skills and talent are there!

But Sabato is out of my top 30. Cavaco is near the bottom until he sparks at some point.

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21 hours ago, Doctor Gast said:

Like you said Martin isn't a SS but is he still playing there? and why? Why isn't he playing CF? I won't mind if Martin becomes an Arraez w/ a glove and still believe eventually his power will come.

I'm also getting a little impatient with Balazovich.

I actually think Martin will be a better second baseman than outfielder so still getting reps at SS isn't a bad thing for that eventual move.

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I think I've been less down on Martin than others, but I think there's a pretty good argument that Steer should be viewed as more valuable than Martin at this point.

Both are guys who's biggest plus is the ability to make lots of contact.  Steer has managed to turn the contact into solid power while Martin hasn't, and has maybe struggled with the quality of contact while trying to add power too.  Defensively, Martin still has better tools but with his inconsistency their overall defensive values seem pretty equivalent right now.

Martin has speed and age on his side, but he's only a bit more than a year younger than Steer, so there's not a ton of time to catch up.

I'd sort the others between them a bit different too, but given the relative similarity in their likely MLB positions and closeness of their development developmental timelines I think they make good guide posts for whatever mental valuation model you want to make.  At this point, I think Steer comes out on top by a bit.

It's more a testament to Steer's positive development than anything else, but I think I'd be more reluctant giving him up in a trade than Martin.

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Could Sands move to the. bullpen and have a similar increase in velocity as Jax?  His slider/curveball could certainly be nasty coming out of the pen for an inning or two, but it sure would be nice to increase the velocity.......

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