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Matt's Top Prospect List (July) + Writeups


Matt Braun

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Studs:

  1. 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.             

  1. 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.                                                                           

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Guys I love:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

  1. 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. 

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Guys I like with reservations:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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Guys I’m intrigued by:

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.                                                                         

  1. 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.

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Possible diamonds in the rough:

  1.  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. 

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. Cesar Lares

Cesar Lares is striking out 44.2% of hitters faced at the DSL. This concludes fun facts with Cesar Lares.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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Guys:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

 

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Wow! That list doesn't show well for 2022 help from the minors.

1 Royce Lewis - out for 2022

2 Brooks Lee - draftee

3 Noah Miller - project, needs to develop offense

4 E Rodriguez - out for 2022

Prielipp - draftee

6 A Martin - huge regression

7 SW Richardson - maybe can help this season?

8 Balazovich - huge regression

9 Marco Raya - looks great, in low minors

10 Edouard Julien - hopeful, but not at a position of need (currently)

And these are the top ten on the list. 

Trading away the splendid 2021 draft class looks potentially devastating to this list. I sure hope the 2022 Brooks Lee, Connor Prielipp class is as good as advertised!

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2 hours ago, Morneau for Gov said:

Trading away the splendid 2021 draft class looks potentially devastating to this list. I sure hope the 2022 Brooks Lee, Connor Prielipp class is as good as advertised!

They got 2 years of Gray (with the first option to extend), Just over a year of Mahle (with the first option to extend), and over 2 years of Lopez (with the first option to extend). That is close to 6 years of big league play.

Going by the odds it is not very likely they other teams get over 6 years total from those guys, going into next year two the three recently traded guys will be 22, 23 and 23, not old by any means but if they aren't in the big leagues in the next year or so, they odds of them being stars aren't that great either.

Don't know this to be true, but guessing in most drafts a teams first 5 picks don't usually all make the big leagues, lets hope in this case the one that doesn't make it is the one the Twins kept. You can't make these kind of trades all the time or probably even often but it also shouldn't destroy the future either doing it a couple of times here and there.

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I was hoping they were going to go a bit more pitcher heavy in the 2022 draft.  Other than Prielipp I don't see anything that really pops out.  Hopefully Morris is worth his 4th round slot money.  Other than possibly Lewis it looks more like bullpen arms than starters so pitching could be a challenge in the future.  I am betting they go pitcher heavy in 2023.

For next year the Twins are really going to be banking on Sands, SWR, Canterino, Balazovich, Enlow and Henriquez to have bounce back seasons or they have nothing worth while at the top of the farm system.  Varland has been solid but far from elite IMO and Headrick has yet to adjust to AA.  Festa looks great against righties but he needs to find something more for lefties and while he has been a rock on the mound with his slight frame I wonder if he is better as a reliever.  

You have to drop down to A ball and below to get excited about Raya and maybe Nowlin. We haven't seen what MacCleod can do yet but hoping his arm comes back strong from TJ.  Laras looks like he could be something but is still in the DSL.  The Twins need the pitchers at the top to step up and start knocking on the big league door otherwise it looks like there will be a gap in the pitching pipeline.

Hitting prospects still looks good me.  I think you have Miller too high. Rodriquez is way better all the way around. Not even close IMO.  I like Miller just not that high but could you imagine a future infield with three switch hitters in Miller, Severino and Lee?  That could be pretty cool.  

I think some guys that could be on this list our Isola who has been forgotten due to injury but was having a really good year with the bat until then.  Aquiar is similar to Rosario with power, almost no walks and ton of K's but better contact skills with an OPS of .884 at low A where average OPS is in the 700's. Rucker has been on fire although in SSS at high A but definitely someone to watch. Jose Rodriguez who currently has a 1.007 OPS in the DSL is another bat to watch not to mention a pretty bat heavy draft with 4 of the first 6 picks going to hitters.  With two interesting hitting catchers at picks 11 and 12.  

We'll have to wait and see what the 2022 class can do but we could use some diamonds in the rough now that the top of the 2021 draft has been picked over.

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45 minutes ago, Dman said:

I was hoping they were going to go a bit more pitcher heavy in the 2022 draft.  Other than Prielipp I don't see anything that really pops out.  Hopefully Morris is worth his 4th round slot money.  Other than possibly Lewis it looks more like bullpen arms than starters so pitching could be a challenge in the future.  I am betting they go pitcher heavy in 2023.

For next year the Twins are really going to be banking on Sands, SWR, Canterino, Balazovich, Enlow and Henriquez to have bounce back seasons or they have nothing worth while at the top of the farm system.  Varland has been solid but far from elite IMO and Headrick has yet to adjust to AA.  Festa looks great against righties but he needs to find something more for lefties and while he has been a rock on the mound with his slight frame I wonder if he is better as a reliever.  

You have to drop down to A ball and below to get excited about Raya and maybe Nowlin. We haven't seen what MacCleod can do yet but hoping his arm comes back strong from TJ.  Laras looks like he could be something but is still in the DSL.  The Twins need the pitchers at the top to step up and start knocking on the big league door otherwise it looks like there will be a gap in the pitching pipeline.

Hitting prospects still looks good me.  I think you have Miller too high. Rodriquez is way better all the way around. Not even close IMO.  I like Miller just not that high but could you imagine a future infield with three switch hitters in Miller, Severino and Lee?  That could be pretty cool.  

I think some guys that could be on this list our Isola who has been forgotten due to injury but was having a really good year with the bat until then.  Aquiar is similar to Rosario with power, almost no walks and ton of K's but better contact skills with an OPS of .884 at low A where average OPS is in the 700's. Rucker has been on fire although in SSS at high A but definitely someone to watch. Jose Rodriguez who currently has a 1.007 OPS in the DSL is another bat to watch not to mention a pretty bat heavy draft with 4 of the first 6 picks going to hitters.  With two interesting hitting catchers at picks 11 and 12.  

We'll have to wait and see what the 2022 class can do but we could use some diamonds in the rough now that the top of the 2021 draft has been picked over.

I feel like the Twins may have been a dark horse for Rocker in an attempt to replace Petty. I don't know why I felt that way, I just really did.

I think there are a couple reasons the Twins drafted the way they did. First, I think there's no way they could pass by Brooks Lee. I mean, that was a gift to a club like the Twins who value everything Lee brings to the table. After that, elite pitching is just going to be very hard to find. Second, the front office has definitely had a trend of drafting lower ranked pitchers and trying to transform them into legitimate high end prospects through mechanical changes. They seem to believe there is a opportunity there.

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8 minutes ago, bean5302 said:

I feel like the Twins may have been a dark horse for Rocker in an attempt to replace Petty. I don't know why I felt that way, I just really did.

I think there are a couple reasons the Twins drafted the way they did. First, I think there's no way they could pass by Brooks Lee. I mean, that was a gift to a club like the Twins who value everything Lee brings to the table. After that, elite pitching is just going to be very hard to find. Second, the front office has definitely had a trend of drafting lower ranked pitchers and trying to transform them into legitimate high end prospects through mechanical changes. They seem to believe there is a opportunity there.

Yeah I don't disagree that their strategy is to take arms later but other than Winder has there been much success there?  Certainly no top of the order success.  The interesting thing to me is the one year 2021 when they take a pitcher in rounds 1-3 they all became important pieces in the trades they made.  While I get picking pitchers is risky they have enough bats that they should take more risk early on in the draft.  If not to develop then to at least trade based on the greater potential those arms have.

Not having that third round pick kind of hurt this draft IMO but I didn't see all these trades coming either.  It is just hard not to see much mid to top rotation starters in the system right now.

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6 hours ago, Dman said:

Yeah I don't disagree that their strategy is to take arms later but other than Winder has there been much success there?  Certainly no top of the order success.  The interesting thing to me is the one year 2021 when they take a pitcher in rounds 1-3 they all became important pieces in the trades they made.  While I get picking pitchers is risky they have enough bats that they should take more risk early on in the draft.  If not to develop then to at least trade based on the greater potential those arms have.

Not having that third round pick kind of hurt this draft IMO but I didn't see all these trades coming either.  It is just hard not to see much mid to top rotation starters in the system right now.

I didn't say the strategy works, lol. It's what Falvey has seemingly been banking on, though. It really feels like Falvey has a viewpoint that pitchers are nothing more than mechanics. Gives me hope I could throw a 90mph fastball and an 80mph slider on that fast pitch booth setup outside baseball stadiums with a couple mechanical adjustments lol.

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“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.”

I’m not sure I disagree. But I’m pretty sure Matt Braun disagrees…he ranked a lefty 10 slots higher than Headrick. :) 

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On 8/3/2022 at 11:23 PM, bean5302 said:

Nice writeup. I'm more bullish on Woods-Richardson and Wallner and a little less so on Miller, but it feels like the Twins system is now a "depth" system where differences between #5 and #15 can be negligible.

Yeah the stats don't jump off the page for SWR but when I dig into them a bit more he looks a lot better.

First off the Texas League is a tough place to pitch; when you compare him to other pitchers in the league his FIP is 6th and his ERA is 8th (minimum 50 innings).  He's doing it as a 21 year old too, still one of the youngest pitchers in the league.

I can see where someone could say that he's gotten lucky to have such a low HR/FB rate and BABIP in a high offense league, but I think there is reason for encouragement there too.  He's had a 33% infield fly ball rate.  With a 42% FB rate in general that's 14% of his balls in play that are basically automatic outs, essentially as good as strikeouts.  I think if you looked at his HR to outfield fly ball rate that would look maybe a bit lucky still but would be a lot closer to normal.

I'm also pretty sure I remember hearing third hand (probably on this site) that his "mysterious" injury was COVID, so probably not anything to worry about long-term health wise.

Anyway, I'm actually pretty encouraged by his season so far. 

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18 hours ago, jkcarew said:

“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.”

I’m not sure I disagree. But I’m pretty sure Matt Braun disagrees…he ranked a lefty 10 slots higher than Headrick. :) 

Aha! But Prielipp hasn't pitched yet, so I don't count him as "in the system." No, I'm not making up bs excuses for my sloppiness.

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