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Matt's Top Prospect List (August) + Writeups


Matt Braun

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Before hopping into the list, I wanted to say a few things about this process: I started these writeups to kill time, but I’ve found them fun to write, and the community has responded with great support. My system lacks the professionalism of scouts, but I want to strive toward respectability; this edition is the one I’m most proud of. Previous write-ups lacked consistency, and I failed to consider crucial aspects of a player’s performance. Reminder: tier matters more than specific ranking.

  1. Royce Lewis (Prev: 1)

I think Royce Lewis is a legitimate franchise-altering player with a greater potential influence than any other prospect. He still has questions—his ability at shortstop remains in flux—but no one can deny his aura, a baseball and personal sense innate in his spirit. He also hit like a machine before suffering his injury in 2022. 

  1. Brooks Lee (Prev: 2)

Brooks Lee could fall out of bed and hit. Since the last writeup, the 2022 1st round pick packed his bags for Cedar Rapids and—while still being younger than the average hitter at the level—has continued to hit. The switch-hitter is walking 9.3% of the time while striking out in just 17.3% of plate appearances. Is Lee a shortstop long-term? Probably not; his clumsiness at the position has already shown, but the bat is such a lock that his position barely matters. Lee could legitimately start at 3rd base for the Twins in 2023 if they desire to push him.                                                                  

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  1. Noah Miller (Prev: 3)

Noah Miller’s numbers have declined since his white-hot start, but I remain high on the 19-year-old for two reasons: he’s a virtual lock to play shortstop, which is rare and vital, and his hitting peripherals remain solid. The extra-base authority isn’t there, but his elite 15.8% walk rate and stomachable 23.5% strikeout rate reflect a deep understanding of the strike zone. The power should come later, but even if it doesn’t, Miller could stick around for a while as a glove-first shortstop; that’s a piece many teams could use. 

  1. Emmanuel Rodriguez (Prev: 4)   

You could flip-flop Emmanuel Rodriguez and Miller without hearing a peep from me; the young outfielder steamrolled low-A with an athletic force unique amongst Twins prospects at that level. Naturally, he suffered a brutal knee injury that curtailed his season, but I don’t anticipate a drop-off for Rodriguez when he returns in 2023. Expect big things from him once he’s healthy.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

  1. Connor Prielipp (Prev: 5)

Professional baseball has still not yet seen Connor Prielipp on the mound, but that barely affects his prospect stock; the college lefty possesses immense “boom” ability if he can return from Tommy John surgery. He owns arguably the best slider of anyone drafted in 2022; his fastball is a plus pitch as well. There have been whispers—a tweet here and there—about Prielipp pitching before the season ends, but nothing is official yet. He will be a name to remember for 2023.

  1. Simeon Woods Richardson (Prev: 7)

This is where I admit a past error in these lists: I failed to consider Simeon Woods Richardson’s league while evaluating him. The Texas League tilts towards hitters, so while Woods Richardson’s numbers looked fine, they reflected an impressive ability to thrive in a competitive context built to suffocate him. His play with St. Paul since his promotion proves this; the young righty made two excellent starts, showcasing an elevated strikeout rate of 34.3%. Woods Richardson should impact the Twins soon, and he may become a rotation staple for years.

  1. Edouard Julien (Prev: 10)

The lack of support for Edouard Julien as a genuine top prospect is baffling to me; the French-Canadian is a walking machine with pop; do people understand how rare that is? August was another dominant month, as he slashed .290/.426/.473 with three stolen bases (and three caught attempts). Sure, he’s a defender in name only, but the Twins could stomach merely passable defense at 2nd base to go with a tremendous bat—they’re already doing that with Jorge Polanco. I earnestly think Julien could be the starting 2nd baseman sooner than later—or at least he should be.

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  1. Marco Raya (Prev: 9)

Marco Raya only pitched twice in August—probably due to injury, but I couldn’t confirm this—yet, he remains a marvel through his raw stuff. “Electric” is the only word that can accurately describe him; his slider, curveball, and fastball possess desirable traits; whether he can put it all together is the big question. The Twins treated the youngster with kid gloves, so he will end 2022 with fewer innings than other, older prospects. Still, Raya remains a talented and intriguing arm. 

  1. Matt Wallner (Prev: 11)

I was low on Matt Wallner to start the season—even while he crushed the ball, his strikeouts always caused me to hesitate when considering his prospect status. What changed? Wallner has shaved points of his strikeout rate—it now sits at 26.9% in August, which I can live with. He’s still an on-base wizard and owns a bazooka out in right field; these tools add up to a volatile player, but one with more impact than I gave him credit for earlier in the season. If it all clicks, we’re looking at a consistent ~3-win player who could crack a few All-Star games.

  1. Louie Varland (Prev: 13)

Like Woods Richardson, my failure to consider the context of Louie Varland’s league caused me to rank him far too low on these lists. Varland isn’t just a cute hometown kid story; the righty owns a deadly fastball that overpowers hitters and sets a strong foundation from which his other pitches can grow. Those secondary offerings remain iffy, but Joe Ryan has proved that a great fastball can lead to success early in one’s major league career while other pitches develop in the background. Varland has struck out 27.5% of hitters at AAA. 

  1. Yasser Mercedes (Prev: 19)

Of all the young players on this list, Yasser Mercedes possess the best chance of becoming a dynamic star; the 17-year-old—yes, he still needs an adult in the car while driving in the United States—lit the DSL on fire, stealing 30 bags while slashing .355/.420/.555. He played 41 games. If that’s a sign of things to come—and that’s a major “if” given his age—the Twins could have a future superstar. 

  1. Misael Urbina (Prev: 23)

Misael Urbina is growing into some power and looks like a much finer prospect because of it. In 2021, the athletic outfielder couldn’t find a double if someone pointed it out on a map, but he’s now slugging .506 with a slightly worse BB/K rate; I think both he and the Twins are ok with that. There’s still a lot of development in front of Urbina, but 2022 is an excellent step in the right direction.

  1. Austin Martin (Prev: 6)

I’ve been downright mean to Austin Martin on these lists, and I think that needs a slight correction. He’s not a shortstop, and his lack of power still scares me, but you don’t see guys who walk about as often as they strike out every day, and he could carve out a niche as a super-utility guy in the mold of Nick Gordon. Such a role represents a step-down from his potential when coming out of Vanderbilt, but that type of player is still valuable for a major-league team. His drop on my list results from other players rising, not necessarily him falling.

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  1. Brent Headrick (Prev: 15)

Brent Headrick spent all of August at AA and posted impressive numbers; he struck out 36.8% of batters against just a 6.3% walk rate. The lefty is creeping up on 100 innings pitched in 2022, and I imagine the Twins will strongly consider protecting him from the rule 5 draft after the season.

  1. Jordan Balazovic (Prev: 8 )

Jordan Balazovic might be the hardest player to rank in the system; the righty crushed his competition in previous years, but AAA batters have taken him to town, and I have no clue what to make of it. August was another rough month for Balazovic, and I’m left wondering if his stuff fell off a cliff or if the team is forcing him to pitch through an obviously debilitating injury; batters have hit 16 homers against him in just 49 ⅔ innings.

  1. Cole Sands (Prev: 16)

I have a soft spot for Cole Sands; the righty commands one of the finest sweeping breaking balls in the system, and his new split-change could aid him against left-handed batters. Unfortunately, a right elbow contusion halted his great run in the majors, but he’s set to start a rehab assignment soon. The timing of his injury could not have been worse as Sands had pitched seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts since re-joining the Twins in August. 

  1. Ronny Henriquez (Prev: 17)

On the surface, Ronny Henriquez’s 2022 season looks like a disaster; the righty owns a 5.79 ERA after all, but promising signs are hiding underneath the surface; he’s a 22-year-old with very little professional experience coming off a month where he punched out 28% of batters. I think the Twins will sit on him for a while, instead choosing to let Henriquez develop at AAA for most of 2023 before giving him the call.

  1. Noah Cardenas (Prev: 21)

Much like his Noah brethren—the one with “Miller” as his surname—Noah Cardenas represents my favorite kind of position-playing prospect: a lock at a demanding defensive position with a chance to provide above-average value through their bat. Cardenas is smoking A ball as an old-for-the-level hitter—he’s walking more than he’s striking out—so the real challenge will begin once he sees more advanced pitching. For now, he’s a great piece to dream on.

  1. Jose Rodriguez (Prev: Unranked)

As a 17-year-old, Jose Rodriguez bashed 13 homers in 55 games in the DSL. Yes, we should all be wary of hyping up literal teenagers, but that total led the league, and Rodriguez did it as a well-touted prospect who also batted .289 with a palatable strikeout rate of 23.7%. Like Mercedes, Rodriguez’s development will be a slow burn, but his initial impression has been excellent.

  1. David Festa (Prev: 12)

David Festa has cooled significantly since his excellent start to the season, enough, in fact, that it raises questions about whether he was playing over his head. The college arm had a great ERA in August (1.15), but a dreadful FIP (5.27) thanks to a mediocre strikeout rate and an inflated walk rate (20.6% and 11.8%, respectively). I believe he can turn it around—he’s younger than the average A+ pitcher—but September will be crucial for Festa.

  1. Blayne Enlow (Prev: 14)

August was a fine month for Blayne Enlow; he worked almost entirely in relief, striking out 20.5% of hitters against a high but still palatable 9.5% walk rate. The move to the pen raises some eyebrows—is this a long-term move or perhaps a play to shuffle him upwards towards the majors quickly? I believe in the latter, so Enlow remains a well-regarded prospect. 

  1. Chris Williams (Prev: 20)

Hiding behind the word “interesting” is a soft move, but I’m not sure any other word can more precisely describe what Chris Williams is. The 25-year-old popped out of his bed one day earlier in the season, started mashing, and hasn’t slowed down since. A promotion to AAA has only fueled his fire as he’s slashing .241/.368/.667 since joining the Saints and has hit seven homers in 17 games.

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  1. Cody Laweryson (Prev: Unranked)

There’s something irresistibly intriguing about Cody Laweryson; the righty doesn’t throw hard and has never impacted major prospect lists, but his equal parts graceful and aggressive delivery has befuddled AA hitters. Laweryson carried a 2.13 FIP in August, buoyed by a monstrous 31.9% K rate; he split time as a starter and a reliever. It’s low-hanging fruit, but one is reminded of Joe Ryan when Laweryson is at his best.

  1. Alex Isola (Prev: Unranked)

29th-round picks don’t usually stick around as Alex Isola has; the righty has more than held his own at AA and could find himself in promotion conversations soon. You don’t see catchers with a 12.3% walk rate and a sub-20% K rate too often.

  1. Yunior Severino (Prev: 25)

Yunior Severino brewed as a prospect for years before annihilating A+ ball to start 2022; the Twins were so impressed that they promoted him to AA a few days after the start of August. The higher competition level has stifled Severino—the walks and strikeouts have each trended in directions hitters don’t like—but the sample is so small that I’m willing to overlook it for now. September will be an important month for Severino.

  1. Alerick Soularie (Prev: 24)

Alerick Soularie was in the process of melting A+ ball pitchers in August before the Kernels suddenly stopped playing him halfway through the month. If he’s injured—and I don’t see another answer—then I hope it doesn’t steal too much playing time; Soularie is already an old-for-his-level hitter with serious strikeout problems; he needs at-bats.

  1. Tanner Schobel (Prev: Unranked)

The Twins drafted Tanner Schobel in the 2nd round of the 2022 draft. He has all of 81 plate appearances, so judging him off his stats is unwise; he’ll need more time to marinate before his prospect picture becomes clearer.

  1. Cesar Lares (Prev: 22)

Cesar Lares is a DSL statistical outlier to whom I attached myself and will refuse to ignore. He led the DSL in K% amongst pitchers with at least 40 innings (37.6%) and, I mean, that’s an impressive number! Lares just turned 19, so his early dominance is an encouraging sign; next season will be important for the lefty.

  1. Aaron Sabato (Prev: 26)

I’ve been harsh on Sabato—perhaps unfairly; maybe justified—but I may need to change my tune; he has now twice bounced back from dreadful starts at a level to match expectations drawn from his 1st round pedigree. It’s been no different at Wichita; the righty’s slash line is unsightly, but he’s walked a hearty amount since his promotion (11.3%), and his BABIP is dirt-low. There’s a good chance he turns it around in September.    

  1. Jair Camargo (Prev: Unranked)

A number of players could have claimed this spot, but I chose Jair Camargo, the hitting machine. Camargo has slashed a lopsided .275/.320/.514 throughout a few levels of the minors in 2022, perhaps revealing legitimate power from the catching position. He’s still younger than the average AA hitter.

 

 

Edited by Matt Braun

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Enlow hasn't pitched in a few years due to injury and COVID.  I suspect moving him to the pen is more about him finishing the season as he is likely on an innings limit.  

Its good to see we still have a stable of prospects after all the promotions, injuries, ineffectiveness, and trades.  We are definitely not as deep as in years past, but I think we can make that up over the next 2 years with good drafts.  

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Prielipp too hign, Varland and Wallner too low.  The last ten are just names to me.  And the second 10 are really a lot of disappointments and question marks. Truly a list that lacks what we are used to, but hopefully they will light things up and suddenly grab attention.  Balazovic is the biggest disappointment on the list along with Sabato ranking so low on a list that has so many unknowns.

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I really like your list I could let that stand pretty easily and I like that you took chances on Williams and Isola.  Personally I think you have Miller to high but that is just me.  I love the writeups.  Thanks for the list!

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Twins keeping Julien at AA hoping he will escape the Rule 5.

Shows the Twins system is pretty darn rich. Canterino isn't even shown here (albeit he is out, now, for a season). 

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