- Royce Lewis
Nothing has changed here; Royce Lewis is a phenomenally talented shortstop on the mend with his second ACL tear. All we can do is hope he’ll return quickly enough next season to impact the team meaningfully.
- Brooks Lee
It’s a miracle that Brooks Lee fell to the Twins at 8. We should thank the Cubs and Mets every day—the former for reaching on a pop-up college arm; the latter for turning their noses at Kumar Rocker in 2021, allowing the Rangers to snag him, re-creating the Vanderbilt 1-2 punch. Lee is a great prospect, checking all the offensive boxes with a pedigree as a coach’s son. Sure, he may not stick at shortstop, but people have said that about every infielder ever drafted; only time will prove whether he will have to switch positions. Until then, we can cherish having a guy who slashed .357/.462/.664 in 2022.
Guys I love:
- Noah Miller
I don’t like placing Noah Miller this high; either Austin Martin or Jordan Balazovic should be here, but they have underperformed so drastically that I can’t, in good conscience, continue to act like nothing is wrong with them. Miller’s defense remains elite, but his bat has lost its early-season thunder; he slugged .270 in July. I don’t know when I saw a slugging percent that low. Nick Punto slugged .323 over his career. Miller cut down on the Ks, but he’ll need to re-find his power before this placement reflects his ability instead of needing someone to be here.
- Emmanuel Rodriguez
Emmanuel Rodriguez hasn’t played since his brutal injury, but not playing means he couldn’t tank his value by performing poorly. It’s funny how prospect evaluation can work like that; he’s like Schrödinger's baseball player. His strikeouts were still high, but we’re talking about a 19-year-old who walked 28.6% of the time while slugging .551 during his first stint at A-ball; beggars can’t be choosers.
- Connor Prielipp
The pessimist would point out that a freshly-drafted pitcher being the best pitching prospect in the Twins system is a bad sign, but I choose to look at it in another way: Connor Prielipp had a legitimate claim to go first overall before undergoing Tommy John surgery. The procedure is still a severe setback, but modern health advancements have prettied up its boogeyman face, and all reports point towards his stuff returning to previous levels. I’m incredibly excited to see what Prielipp can do in the Twins organization.
Guys I like with reservations:
- Austin Martin
Checking Austin Martin’s slash line is like learning that a childhood hero is a scumbag; it’s depressing, and a harsh reminder that the world sucks. Martin’s strikeout rate has plummeted to an impressive rate (13.8%), but he has 11 extra-base hits on the year. 11. It’s August. Martin hasn’t played since the month’s opening game—perhaps the Twins have him locked away deep in the chasms of Fort Myers until he builds more than Jamey Carrollian power—but maybe the reset helps him find his old groove. Until that happens, I have to drop him down the list.
- Simeon Woods Richardson
Simeon Woods Richardson quietly slid to the IL in June—the Wind Surge never announced the move, which I thought was odd—but has finally returned. I remain a skeptic; his high walk rate, low BABIP, and low home run rate all scream vicious regression, but Woods Richardson has avoided that trap, and given that every other top pitching arm has capitulated, he’ll remain here by default. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team calls him up out of desperation for somebody, anybody who can save this pitching staff.
- Jordan Balazovic
Jordan Balazovic’s AAA numbers don’t even make sense, and not in a good way; he’s walking a batter every two innings, and his HR/FB rate is a cartoonish 38.9%. Let me put it in another way: over 34 ⅔ innings, Balazovic has allowed 14 home runs. It’s clear that he isn’t healthy, and I have little clue as to why the team continues to let him die on the mound when he can’t net outs in his current state. I’ll keep Balazovic at this spot because he has dominated hitters in a way I have not seen in a post-José Berríos landscape.
- Marco Raya
The Twins still refuse to let Marco Raya pitch longer than four innings in a game—yes, I know that’s how teams deal with young pitchers these days, but it still feels ridiculous, especially since no research exists that proves this strategy works—but he has crushed his competition. Raya struck out 24.3% of batters he faced in July, and he has been almost untouchable since mid-June. I don’t anticipate a promotion soon, but Raya is well-positioned for a big 2023 if he can stay healthy.
- Edouard Julien
Edouard Julien keeps chugging, taking walks, and putting up impressive slash lines. Julien hit .287/.443/.517 in July, a healthy line that will play in any environment. He also walked as much as he struck out. The worry with Julien is still this: where is his position, and will he have enough power to sustain production there? If he’s a second baseman, that answer becomes more straightforward, but we will have to wait and see. He should be in St. Paul soon.
- Matt Wallner
I previously said that a player needs to have legendary power to offset a strikeout rate like Matt Wallner’s, and he may have that jolt. Wallner’s homer in the Future Games was comical, and it’s easy to imagine his exit velocities translating well in the major leagues. AAA has not been kind to Wallner, but he struggled during his first taste of AA also, so that could just be how the big guy operates. Is he Joey Gallo 2.0? Is that something the Twins want? We shall see.
- David Festa
David Festa is holding his own at A+ ball; the righty is 3rd in the system in innings and owns an ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line of 2.24/2.83/3.39. He struggled with command in July, walking 11.8% of batters, but I believe that to be a blip, not a worrisome trend. He also picked off three straight baserunners during a game in July, which I’ve never seen before in a baseball match.
Guys I’m intrigued by:
- Louie Varland
I’ve been one of the low-men on Louie Varland for a while. His peripherals weren’t great last season, and he’s continued that trend at AA ball in 2022. Varland’s July was good (3.91 ERA, 18.6 K-BB%), but those numbers are inflated by an eight-strikeout performance at the end of the month; the rest of his starts were inconsistent and a little sloppy.
- Blayne Enlow
I’m still cutting Blayne Enlow an enormous amount of slack. The righty is trying to pitch his first mostly-full season since 2019, and getting him accustomed to pitching again is the goal for 2022. July was remarkable for his ERA—he allowed two runs over 13 innings—but the walk rate was elevated, and, well, it was just a 13-inning sample. Hopefully, we can see more dominant performances, like his three-inning, five strikeout relief outing to conclude the month.
- Brent Headrick
Brent Headrick crushed A+ ball and earned a promotion to AAin July. He made one disastrous outing—seriously, don’t look it up—but I can chalk that up to jitters around making his first AA appearance. Headrick has the potential to fly up this list even further as the season continues, and he’s now undoubtedly the best left-handed pitching prospect in the system after Cade Povich and Steve Hajjar found new homes.
- Cole Sands
Given the Twins’ inability to pitch at even a watchable level, I’m surprised that Cole Sands hasn’t earned an extended leash in the majors. He sometimes struggles with command, but his sweeper is deadly enough to coax an extra strikeout or two when he really needs it. Sands struck out 30.4% of batters at AAA in July; I think the team could use that.
- Ronny Henriquez
In July, Ronny Henriquez secretly turned a corner; the newly acquired ex-Ranger farmhand put up an ERA of 3.05 with a healthy K-BB% of 20.9. Henriquez had struggled—and I mean struggled—at AAA to begin the season, but this great month could prove to be the launching point for the 22-year-old. Add him to the list of arms the team could look to in their pursuit of pitching.
- Matt Canterino
Matt Canterino is a reliever who can’t stay healthy. I don’t care about stuff or anything else; a pitcher with a James Paxton-level of durability should not rank highly on any prospect list. If Canterino returns to AA and throws strikes, the team should move him to the major league bullpen before August ends.
Possible diamonds in the rough:
- Yasser Mercedes
It’s typically unwise to rank DSL players, but Yasser Mercedes commanded a signing bonus of $1.7 million; we aren’t dealing with a random Joe here. As a 17-year-old, Mercedes is hitting well during his first stint in professional baseball; he’s currently good for a .324/.394/.532 slash line.
- Chris Williams
Missing Chris Williams was the most glaring mistake in my previous ranking. I’ve had my eye on Williams since he put together some powerful stretches in 2019, but his play has been dreadfully inconsistent. The 25-year-old slumped during an injury-plagued 2021 season, but he’s evolved into the Terminator recently, slugging a truly absurd .708 in July. He may be somewhat positionless, but you’ll move heaven and earth to find a place for that bat.
- Noah Cardenas
Noah Cardenas is walking 18.2% of the time at A ball, and I feel like no one has mentioned it. Cardenas can already field the position well, so the newfound offensive boost could give his game a new, exciting wrinkle. I would suggest keeping your eye on him.
- Cesar Lares
Cesar Lares is striking out 44.2% of hitters faced at the DSL. This concludes fun facts with Cesar Lares.
- Misael Urbina
Misael Urbina had a late start to the season—visa issues limited his movement—but it seems like that problem is far behind Urbina. The talented outfielder slugged .589 at A ball in July, a good sign considering that power was his most prominent issue in 2021. Urbina could quickly move up a tier or two if he continues to smoke the ball well.
- Alerick Soularie
Alerick Soularie shed the strike-out problems that clouded his prospect status; he punched out in just 19.8% of plate appearances in July while hitting for a solid 123 wRC+. His power output is still low, but that feels like a nitpick in an otherwise excellent hitting package.
- Yunior Severino
Post-post-hype can still exist for a ballplayer; a statement never more true than with Yunior Severino. After the Twins snagged the infielder when the Braves got caught with their hand in the cookie jar, it seemed that Severino had greatness in his future. That timeline branched off into a far more boring story, but Severino did slug .690 in July, so he may still have a chance.
- Aaron Sabato
The first spot in my “guys” list goes to one of the more frustrating prospects in the Twins’ system. Aaron Sabato has not yet put together an extended period of excellent performance–at least not in my eyes—but he did slug .709 in July while bringing home a Midwest League Hitter of the Week award. Is this a hot streak or a sign of things to come? I’m pessimistic, but we will see.
- Keoni Cavaco
Keoni Cavaco remaining on this list is the baseball equivalent of the lifetime achievement award; he hasn’t impressed since the team took him in the 1st round in 2019, and he’s only here because of that pedigree. He did crawl above a league-average hitting line in July (110 wRC+), but his strikeout problem is still critical.
- Michael Helman
Is Michael Helman just a feel-good story? Maybe. He’s 26 and is just holding his own at AAA, not dominating. No one attribute sticks out about Helman, but there’s a slight chance he’s called up in a pinch and proves enough to stick around.
- Kala’i Rosario
Kala’i Rosario’s hitting peripherals—walks and strikeouts especially—look gross and not in a good way: a 5.8% walk rate compared to a 35.8% K rate. Still, the young, athletic outfielder has serious power potential, which could lead him to future success.
- Brayan Medina
I still don’t know what to make of Brayan Medina, and he’s walking a small village in the low minors. He has almost no professional innings to his name, though, so I’m willing to wait before critically analyzing him.
This group of names looked a lot better a few days ago when I started this writeup; of course, the team was always going to lose crucial players if they wanted to buy enough to offset their major league weaknesses. Still, I don’t feel like they lost major foundational pieces; Spencer Steer hurts, but he had no immediate fit on the Twins’ roster; Cade Povich is the primary, painful loss in my eyes. I think Povich will continue to evolve and become a valuable starting pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. I’m lower than a lot on Christian Encarnacion-Strand—he’s a butcher on the field, and that’s difficult for a major league team to hide—Steve Hajjar has command and shoulder issues, and Sawyer Gipson-Long feels replaceable. This system still isn’t great, but I think it’s in a better spot than it was last month—and that’s while considering the players they lost at the deadline.