Jump to content
Sorry for the server instability, we're seeing some growing pains while migrating to a new platform. We will resolve this as soon as possible, thank you for your patience. ×
Twins Daily
  • Create Account

Matt's Top Prospect List (January) + Writeups


Matt Braun

862 views

 Share

Twins Video


It's prospect season again. Pitchers and catchers will soon report, so our effort at Twinsdaily to cover the minor leagues will fire up once again, and that includes our prospect rankings.

The system looks surprisingly strong. Despite a flurry of trades over the last 18 months or so, the Twins still have a top nucleus of elite talent, and the franchise enjoys solid upper-level pitching depth. They're a little low on gamechangers at the elite positions—centerfield and shortstop—but so is basically every system, and Minnesota could easily cover that deficiency with a healthy season from Emmanuel Rodriguez and continued development from their two DSL stars. Remember: tier matters more than ranking.

  1. Royce Lewis 6’2” / 200 (Prev: 1)

Age: 23

Position: SS

Highest level reached: MLB

Nothing has changed my view of Royce Lewis since I last updated my list. He’s a potentially franchise-altering talent with a frustrating lack of baseball in his recent resume. Lewis’ short playing time in 2022 was a revelation, as he checked significant boxes—his ability to play shortstop and his hitting prowess—before the brutal knee injury cut off his time playing baseball. A much quieter batting stance appears to have unlocked his hitting potential. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do when he is healthy again.

  1. Brooks Lee 6’2” / 205 (Prev: 2)

Age: 21

Position: SS/3B

Highest level reached: AA

If you think Brooks Lee deserves to be in the one spot, I can’t argue with you; Lee is an incredibly safe bet to hit well, no matter where his defensive home is. Despite being drafted just seven months ago, Lee reached AA, playing in a handful of games for Wichita before calling it a season; he smoked A+ ball with a 140 wRC+. His immense hitting pedigree, combined with his lineage as a coach’s son indeed points towards an ideal makeup package that should serve him well as he transitions to big leaguer. He’ll probably impact the 2023 Twins and will undoubtedly affect the team in 2024.                                                        

-------------------------       

  1. Emmanuel Rodriguez 5’10” / 210 (Prev: 4)

Age: 19

Position: OF

Highest level reached: A

Potentially the most dynamic prospect in Minnesota’s system, Emmanuel Rodriguez’s nuclear 2022 fell violently when he tore his ACL in June. Still, Rodriguez walked an absurd 28.6% of the time while slugging .551 in a league that favors pitchers. Granted, it was just a 199 plate appearance sample. Still, I’m excited to see Rodriguez return to action healthy, and he could quickly become the Twins’ best prospect sometime next season.

  1. Noah Miller 6’1” / 190 (Prev: 3)   

Age: 20

Position: SS

Highest level reached: A

I am too high on Noah Miller; I will remain too high on Noah Miller until his hitting falls entirely off a cliff. Prospects who are locks to play shortstop do not grow on trees—at least none that I know—and Miller’s bat is just good enough to keep him a valuable contributor at the position. If it clicks offensively—and his strike zone awareness is already elite—we’re looking at a potential successor to Carlos Correa in a few years; he’ll need to gain more power, though.

  1. Marco Raya 6’1” / 170 (Prev: 8)

Age: 20

Position: RHP

Highest level reached: A

“[Marco] Raya’s slider is Charon, come to ferry batters back to the dugout,” wrote Jeffery Paternostro for Baseball Prospectus in November—a perfect sentence. Raya carries the same risk all pitchers do—injury potential, a future in the bullpen—compounded by his smaller frame. But if he can stay healthy, Raya could vault into the top of the Twins rotation, dominating hitters with a compelling four-pitch mix and a bulldog mentality. Raya struck out 28.9% of batters over 65 innings with Fort Myers in 2022. 

  1. Jose Salas 6’2” / 191 (Prev: n/a)

Age: 19

Position: SS

Highest level reached: A+

A new name! A critical, underrated addition to the Pablo López trade, Jose Salas adds another intriguing infield wrinkle to a system bursting with “people who can play shortstop,” not necessarily “shortstops.” A super young 19 in A+, Salas hit like an overwhelmed prospect, but some AFL seasoning plus an off-season of recovery could cleanse him anew. Salas hit .267/.355/.421 in A ball before his promotion in 2022. 

  1. Edouard Julien 6’2” / 195 (Prev: 7)

Age: 23

Position: 2B

Highest level reached: AA

If this were a list of favorite prospects, Edouard Julien would be top three, potentially sitting at the top spot. What’s not to love? The lefty smoked AA Wichita with a .300/.441/.490 line and then hit—and I’m not kidding here—.400/.563/.686 in the Arizona Fall League before ending his terror on pitchers for the season. He lacks a defensive home, but a team would move Heaven and Earth to find a spot for that bat somewhere. Minnesota added him to the 40-man roster this past season; we will probably see Julien in the majors soon.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

  1. Connor Prielipp 6’2” / 210 (Prev: 5)

Age: 22

Position: LHP

Highest level reached: n/a

Who is John Galt Connor Prielipp? The baseball world has seen startlingly little from Prielipp, as injuries limited his time with Alabama to seven starts. Still, he owns a mid-90s fastball and a power slider when healthy; 2023 will illuminate his prospect status.

  1. Simeon Woods Richardson 6’3” / 210 (Prev: 6)

Age: 22

Position: RHP

Highest level reached: MLB

Maybe one of the more crucial cogs in Minnesota’s 2023 pitching machine, Simeon Woods Richardson appears well-set to impact the major league roster soon. Armed with unique fastball traits, Woods Richardson held his own in a harsh Texas League environment in 2022, then torched AAA at the end of the year for fun. He earned enough respect to make his first Twins start—a five-inning outing notable in that he’ll never have to debut again; the nerves are behind him. Still somehow just 22, Woods Richardson struck out 27% of batters in the minors last season.

-------------------------

  1. Louie Varland 6’1” / 205 (Prev: 10)

Age: 25

Position: RHP

Highest level reached: MLB

Louie Varland should rank higher on this list, but something in his profile doesn’t fully click for me. His fastball is excellent—a real jumper he can use in any count because of his low angle. But none of his other pitches stood out as difference makers, turning Varland into a one-pitch pitcher. His slider and changeup command was non-existent, and batters brutalized his cutter. That’s a negative paragraph for the supposed 10th-best prospect on the team, but that’s what I’ve seen from Varland, and until it changes, I remain bearish on his starting capabilities. 

  1. Austin Martin 6’0” / 185 (Prev: 13)

Age: 23

Position: SS/OF

Highest level reached: AA

Austin Martin’s wild 2022 bounced him more than any other player around this list. After slugging a dreadful .315 in a hitter’s league, Martin crushed in the Arizona Fall League, showcasing his older, successful mechanics in a dramatic redemption arc. He’s not a shortstop—that much is obvious now, but if his bat is back, then the Twins could have a quality 3-win utility player capable of playing a variety of positions. 2023 will be a crucial test. 

  1. Matt Wallner 6’5” / 220 (Prev: 9)

Age: 25

Position: OF

Highest level reached: MLB

It’s hard to hold 18 major league games against a guy, but Matt Wallner’s Adventures in the Outfield stunk enough to deeply sour me on any notions of him replacing Max Kepler soon. The Twins appear to agree. With approximately 30,000 outfielders ahead of him, it would take a series of great tragedies before Wallner earns significant MLB playing time soon. Still, he shaved points off his strikeout rate in 2022—the biggest knock against him—and he could ride his outstanding power stroke to an elongated playing career. 

  1. Yasser Mercedes 6’2” / 175 (Prev: 11)

Age: 18

Position: OF

Highest level reached: DSL

Yasser Mercedes did things as a 17-year-old that teenagers aren’t supposed to do. Yes, it was in the noisy environment that is the DSL, but 30 steals with a .555 slugging percentage is impressive, no matter the level. Mercedes will likely play in rookie ball in 2023, and I imagine his prospect package will become much more apparent in 2024 when he’ll still be just 19. 

  1. David Festa 6’6” / 185 (Prev: 20)

Age: 22

Position: RHP

Highest level reached: A+

One of the most “pop-uppiest” prospect in the Twins system in 2022, David Festa commands a tremendous fastball/slider combo that torched hitters in the low minors. Although his numbers dropped following a promotion to A+ ball, Festa punctuated his season with a 10-strikeout performance over six shutout innings in a playoff game against the Cubs. We will see how Festa pitches in a tougher environment in 2023.

  1. Misael Urbina 6’0” / 190 (Prev: 12)

Age: 20

Position: OF

Highest level reached: A

Misael Urbina is an excellent example of why prospect evaluations are a snapshot in time, not the law in written form: he couldn’t hit for any power in 2021 but re-played A ball again in 2022 and showcased a much-improved power stroke. Soon to be 21, Urbina should unleash even more strength this year, potentially shooting him further up the list. 

-------------------------

  1. Brent Headrick 6’6” / 235 (Prev: 14)

Age: 25

Position: LHP

Highest level reached: AA

A surprise 40-man addition, Brent Headrick’s numbers are perhaps more impressive than his raw tools. His breaker is a bit of a looping pitch, which MLB hitters–especially righties—could lay off of, but his fastball lands perfectly at the top of the zone, and his command is good enough that the breaker shape may not matter. He will probably impact the Twins in 2023—though it’s unclear in what capacity—and he could become a regular, reliable lefty swingman. 

  1. Jordan Balazovic 6’5” / 215 (Prev: 15)

Age: 24

Position: RHP

Highest level reached: AAA

How do you rank Jordan Balazovic? Long considered the promised arm, delivered by our wonderful friends Up North, Balazovic faced a nightmare 2022 season, one so hideous that I don’t even want to post any stats from it. The Twins claimed he was healthy, but such a shocking drop-off in performance is almost unbelievable; hopefully 2023 will be a kinder year for Balazovic.

  1. Ronny Henriquez 5’10” / 155 (Prev: 17)

Age: 22

Position: RHP

Highest level reached: MLB

One of the more exciting arms in Minnesota’s system, Ronny Henriquez spent a few months getting bullied by AAA hitters before turning around and delivering an adequate July through end-of-season performance. Armed with a fastball, slider, and changeup, Henriquez will pepper well-commanded off-speed pitches around the zone, hopefully enticing the hitter to bite before the end of the at-bat. His issue? A fastball that ends up either 1. In the heart of the strike zone 2. In the gap (if he’s lucky) 3. In the hands of a fan sitting in right-center field. Whether Henriquez can improve his heater will determine his success at the major league level. 

  1. Noah Cardenas 6’1” / 195 (Prev: 18)

Age: 23

Position: C

Highest level reached: A

I am still trying to understand why Noah Cardenas is not more well-regarded as a prospect. Catchers who hit for a 146 wRC+ aren’t common, and while he was older than your average A-ball hitter, I feel confident that Cardenas should continue to hit as he elevates through the system. Although catcher development is often strange, so he may run into weird pitfalls and unusual traps that keep him from improving linearly. 

  1. Jose Rodriguez 6’2” / 196 (Prev: Unranked)

Age: 17

Position: OF

Highest level reached: DSL

Like Yasser Mercedes, Jose Rodriguez is a 17-year-old whose only time in professional baseball is in the DSL—a sign that all hype should involve grains of salt and the such. Still, as a player even younger than most DSL hitters, Rodriguez pounded 13 homers and slugged over .600. He’s about as far away from the majors as possible. Still, you should keep his name in mind over the next few years as a potential big-league powerhouse. 

  1. Cody Laweryson 6’4” / 205 (Prev: 23)

Age: 24

Position: RHP

Highest level reached: AA

A personal favorite, Cody Laweryson prefers to trick hitters with his pitching motion: a lanky, swan-like delivery that combines the sudden violence of Carter Capps with the grace of Joe Ryan. Lawyerson crushed AA, striking out over 30% of hitters while holding an ERA just over 1.00. The Twins left him unprotected in the rule 5 draft, and no other team claimed him, giving Laweryson another year to prove that his play isn’t a fluke.

  1. Cole Sands 6’3” / 215 (Prev: 16)

Age: 25

Position: RHP

Highest level reached: MLB

Cole Sands owns one of the nastiest pitches in Minnesota’s system: a whirling breaking ball, here to alter planes and send batters home wondering if they even saw the pitch. The issue? The offering moves so much that Sands has difficulty commanding the pitch. He mixes in an effective splitter—which actually outperformed his breaker by xwOBA during his time in the majors—but his fastball drags down his profile. Sands might be a kitchen sink reliever if he doesn’t improve his heater. 

  1. Blayne Enlow 6’3” / 170 (Prev: 14)

Age: 23

Position: RHP

Highest level reached: AA

Blayne Enlow pitched in an entire season for the first time since 2019, and his results were mixed. He struck out 24.8% of hitters—which is good—but walked 11.6% of them—which is not good. The Twins DFA’d him earlier in the offseason, but after no team claimed him, Enlow will have another year in the system to prove he was worth his high draft pick. 

  1. Tanner Schobel 5’10” / 170 (Prev: 27)

Age: 21

Position: 2B

Highest level reached: A

The Twins sent Tanner Schobel on the fast track, pushing their 2022 2nd-round pick to A Ball, where he held his own. Although lacking in power, Schobel could carve out a career as a contact/OBP/defense threat capable of putting together a 3 WAR season if everything works out; many teams could use a player like that. 

-------------------------

  1. Alejandro Hidalgo 6’1” / 160 (Prev: n/a)

Age: 19

Position: RHP

Highest level reached: A

A newcomer, Alexander Hidalgo joined the Twins in the Gio Urshela trade. The Angels handled him with kid gloves, as he didn’t touch 40 innings despite making 10 starts. The owner of a plus changeup, Hidalgo’s pitch mix is otherwise unimpressive, but he could grow into an off-speed specialist if he finds more consistency with his curveball; his fastball lacks crucial characteristics. 

  1. Matt Canterino 6’2” / 222 (Prev: Unranked)

Age: 25

Position: RHP

Highest level reached: AA

I highly doubt that Matt Canterino will even become an effective starter for the Twins. His minor league innings total is barren, and the righty looks to be standing in a long line of Rice products driven into the ground by an indifferent coaching staff. Still—and this is the only thing keeping him on the list—his electric stuff could allow him to live as a 1-2 inning reliever.

  1. Alex Isola 6’1” / 215 (Prev: 24)

Age: 24

Position: C/1B

Highest level reached: AA

A 29th-round pick, Alex Isola has hit well at every step in his minor league journey. He owns a well-rounded hitting package, trading off a touch of power for excellent plate control (13.0% walk rate vs. 18.2% K rate at AA), and could find himself playing some first base for the Twins if a few injuries take out key players. 

  1. Cesar Lares 6’0” / 155 (Prev: 28)

Age: 19

Position: LHP

Highest level reached: DSL

Another DSL prospect, Cesar Lares crushed his competition in 2022, holding an impressive 2.23 FIP over 46 innings. Again, he’s literally a teenager; we don’t know much about how he’ll perform against older, tougher competition, but he appears to be on the right track. Keep his name in mind. 

  1. Aaron Sabato 6’2” / 230 (Prev: 29)

Age: 23

Position: 1B

Highest level reached: AA

For two years now, Aaron Sabato has done just enough to keep his name in these prospect conversations, but time is running out for the former 1st-round pick. After hitting well at A+ ball, AA smacked into Sabato like a truck; whether he can recover in 2023 will potentially define his time as a Twins prospect.

  1. Yunior Severino 6’1” / 189 (Prev: 25)

Age: 23

Position: 2B/3B

Highest level reached: AA

A post-hype prospect received after the Braves got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, Yunior Severino broke out with big numbers at A+ ball before falling back to earth at AA. We will see if he can rebound at a higher level.

Honorable mentions:

Brayan Medina, RHP:

Brayan Medina came over in the Chris Paddack trade and struggled to throw strikes in his time at Rookie Ball. He can touch the mid-90s and works well off a curveball.

Danny De Andrade, 3B/SS:

Danny De Andrade is an all-around player, lacking in one elite category but doing everything mostly well. He has yet to break out of rookie ball and could burst with his first (probable) playing time in full-season ball. 

Kala’i Rosario, OF:

Kala’i Rosario strikes out far too much, but he has good power for a 20-year-old and could improve with extra seasoning.

Michael Helman, 2B/OF:

Michael Helman hasn’t exploded with an overwhelming season yet, but he’s snuck his way into AAA, and his overall package could serve him well if the Twins need to call him up.

Alerick Soularie, 2B/OF:

Alerick Soularie still hasn’t tapped into his power potential, which makes his high strikeout rate hard to stomach. Still, he could figure it out any day now and shoot back up this list.

 

Edited by Matt Braun

 Share

4 Comments


Recommended Comments

Great reviews Matt. I have the same feelings about Varland. I just can't put my finger on what seems to be lacking. You and I may be the only ones who have Noah Miller ranked so high among Twin's prospects. His fielding is a joy to watch. If his hitting improves, I can see a bright future for him at SS.  Frankly that is a big if, but Noah is still young. I could not, however, find any stats for the prospect you mentioned named John Galt. So I ask, "Who is John Galt?"  I asked my sports writer friend, Atlas Jones, and Atlas shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't know.

Link to comment

I always love reading prospect lists as they are entertaining, provide conversation, and at times I go "oh yeah! I forgot about this DSL kid!". The problem with such lists is giving greater weight to potential, despite someone being so young and at a lower level and further away, VS, someone who is older, closer, but maybe not quite as "talented". And while the Twins have traded away...and graduated...some good talent, I firmly agree/believe this system is not exactly barren of talent. But there is a bit of discrepancy between the top and bottom levels, with the middle suffering a bit.

A really good list, and debates about such remain subjective. Nevertheless, I've got to offer up a few thoughts/opinions.

NOAH MILLER: Sorry, the glove and eye play. But even as young as he is, and maybe because of that, but until I see a better hit tool and a little more power, I just can't rank him as high as you do.

MARCO RAYA: He was the ONLY 2020 draft selection I really liked. From stuff to attitude, I've always seen him as Berrios-esque, but with maybe a better breaker at a similar age. But despite his limited college IP, and coming off his surgery, I just have to slot him behind Priellip. The equally great breaker, similar velocity, better length, what he DID DO at the college level, apparently fully recovered but obviously needing work and IP, I've just got to rank Priellip ahead of Raya right now.

EDOUARD JULIEN: I'm 100% with you on this kid! I don't think a lot of people understand who he is or what he's done thus far. He was a later pick due to signing issues. IIRC, that was partially due to a down season. And he got big $ of a much higher pick to sign, but way too late to play in 2019. And then he had to sit out 2020. His 2021 "rookie" season was great. His 2022 was even better. And while the AFL is known as an offensive league as few top pitching prospects usually attend, he put up RIDICULOUS numbers all the same. He won the "BREAKOUT PLAYER" award, which is nice, but also silly. I can't recall all the numbers, but he was basically top 3 in EVERY offensive category except HR and RBI, which the eventual MVP held. (Head shake on that one still). 

Julien played all over the field in 2021. The Twins had him concentrate on 2B in 2022. Professionally speaking, he's young. Despite being a good athlete, he might just never be great at any position. But you DO MAKE ROOM for a hitter like him. I've stated previously he's an Arraez-like player. He might K more, and never hit for a high an AVG, but he's got more power, more speed, probably have a higher OB, and should be as good, or better, of a table setter EVENTUALLY. But is a 2B option to move on from Polanco? Or does 2B belong to Lee or Lewis? Like Arraez, I think he needs to be a DH/utility player who can be OK at a couple different spots.

LOUIE VARLAND: Not sure where your angst comes from, but you may have watched more of him than I got to see. So I can't argue with your debate placing him this high. His milb numbers pretty much rock, and his 5 GS at the end of 2022 look pretty good for a rookie debut. And I'm sure he still, has things to work on, as all rookies do. But he sure wasn't destroyed in his brief 2022 debut. Are you certain you just weren't looking for more?

SWR: Yeah. Wasn't a big fan of his despite recognizing the kid has had one of the strangest early careers I've ever seen. Despite being a top draftee and on various top prospect lists, he's been traded twice already. And he's also been placed VERY EARLY at high levels. And then he has the whole Olympics experience where he doesn't appear, but has his season and development interrupted. But I've championed the kid despite conflicting reports he has this, but doesn't have this, and it made me wonder just who the hell this kid was actually supposed to be? And in 2022, I think we started to see something. I now agree with his ranking. The very best that could happen for him is to spend most, or all, of 2023 ar St Paul, work on his game, let the game "come to him" and figure it out. He's still so damn young.

AUSTIN MARTIN: Move to the OF, find an approach at the plate and be comfortable. He can still cover 2B/3B, which he knows, but quit messing around with him. His late 2022 production and AFL performance notwithstanding, he's out of my top 10 until I see the bat fully start to develop.

JORDON BALAZOVIC: Sorry Twins, I don't buy he was healthy. I think his mechanics were botched up due to his knee, compensating, and mechanics and confidence were shot. He was better his last few turns. I get your rating, and it's probably fair at this point. But he might also be the biggest riser once the season starts and he proves to be 100%.

LASTLY....

MATT CANTERINO: Along with AK, Lewis, and Larnach, Canterino is the most disappointing injury frustration in the entire system. He might be at the front of the rotation to begin 2023 if his arm was healthy. The biggest BITE to all of this is he didn't have any significant injuries in college and the Twins were careful with his debut. Considering the results of recovery from TJ surgery, even with time to get control back, I still wouldn't place him 26 on your list. He's either going to be a "late" arriving SP with great stuff and potential to carry it in his late 20's and early 30's, OR, he's going to transition to being a real BP weapon. I'd be betting on pure talent and not place him this low.

NOTES:

Severino was still good at AA. He might be about to fully break out. The Twins have the potential of Carmago at AA and have drafted 5 catchers in the past 2 drafts and Cardenas might be the best of them all at this point. Hopefully, a year from now, we might be looking at 2-4 catchers in the system that are worthy of top 30 prospect lists.

 

Link to comment
Guest
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...