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Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: #9 RHP Matt Canterino


This former second-round draft pick dazzled during his brief debut as a pro, and has generated buzz lately for reportedly touching 99 on the radar gun during offseason workouts.Position: RHP

Age: 23 (DOB: 12/14/1997)

2019 Stats (Rookie/A): 25 IP, 1.44 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 11.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9

ETA: 2022

2020 Ranking: 15

 

National Top 100 Rankings

BA: NR | MLB: NR | ATH: NR | BP: NR

 

What's To Like

 

Well, let's not bury the lede. KSTP's Darren Wolfson recently tweeted a video of Canterino in an offseason throwing session, reporting that the right-hander was touching 99 MPH.

 

 

That's an awfully good sign from the 54th overall draft pick in 2019, referred to by Baseball America at the time as "one of the better high-floor options among the college arms." He backed up that assessment with a strong performance in his 25-inning pro debut, and now, it's getting tough not to dream on his ceiling.

 

In retrospect, it only makes sense the Twins liked the Rice University product enough to use a second-rounder on him. Canterino is very much their type of pitcher: a righty who pairs high heat with good breaking stuff, and – most importantly – upside that they feel they can analytically unlock.

 

Last June, David Laurila of FanGraphs posted a Q&A with Canterino, in which the righty shared details of his experiences joining the Twins organization, and having his eyes opened to a new world of optimization.

 

I found these tidbits particularly interesting:

 

“Up to that point I’d never been familiarized with the type of technology the Twins use, the analytics type of stuff. It was basically to help me get to know myself better as a pitcher. For instance, there are things I do well and we were able to put a number to [them]; we could kind of reinforce those things, and also see if there were things I could get more out of.

...

In college, I always knew that my fastball played well up in the zone. To see [data] showing that I’m getting a lot of carry on my fastball kind of clicked for me. Also, I’d shifted away from my curveball a little bit in my junior year. I was throwing my slider more, but [the data] put to paper that my curveball paired better with my fastball than my slider did. It’s not as though I’m scrapping my slider — I’m not — but I maybe want to use the curveball more than I did in college."

 

Helping pitchers tweak their pitch mixes to greater effect is something the Twins have specialized in, and Canterino wasn't exactly a reclamation project to begin with. He starred at Rice, with double-digit K/9 rates in each of his three seasons. The Twins were perhaps lucky get him at No. 54 overall, given he was ranked 34th on BA's board.

 

If Canterino is actually pumping high-90s that could be a game-changer, given that he was already viewed as a pretty great prospect coming out of college as a low-to-mid-90s guy.

 

What's Left to Work On

 

Performance-wise, there's not much to quibble with, and all evidence suggests Canterino is keeping up on the necessary work to grow and improve. One thing to keep an eye on, though, is his delivery mechanics.

 

You'll notice from watching his highlights that Canterino has a very distinct, herky-jerky leg lift sequence, giving his delivery a bit of a frenetic feel.

 

 

When profiling Canterino as a prospect after he was drafted, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs noted that the righty carried some "relief risk" due to "some effort and violence to the delivery" (perhaps helping explain why he slid to the Twins). When Laurila interviewed Canterino a few months later, he asked the pitcher about it directly.

 

“I’m always trying to throw hard, obviously, but I’ve never thought of myself as being out of control," Canterino said. "I am a little herky-jerky, but that kind of just evolved to help give me cues for where I need in each part of my delivery. They’re kind of like checkpoints to keep myself on time between my arm and my body, and feel like I’m in sync. At that point I’m just trying to line everything up and throw hard. So I don’t feel like I’m super high-effort. I understand why it might look like that, but I feel I’m always in control and know where the ball is going. I haven’t had any issues up to this point.”

 

Hard to argue with him on that last point, and as you watch the highlight clip above, one thing you'll notice is that Canterino's quirky mechanics don't seem to be negatively affecting his command. Certainly not his results thus far.

 

With that said, it's also tough to argue with Longenhagen's assessment in his more recent Twins prospect rankings: "Canterino sure looks like a reliever. He doesn’t have the usual trim starter’s build, nor the statuesque posture, nor the mechanical ease and grace of a typical starter’s delivery."

 

None of these characteristics preclude Canterino from sticking as a starter, but they are question marks for him to overcome if he wants to fulfill his highest potential as a rotation-fronter. More importantly, he'll need to get his workload on track; Canterino is now 23 and has yet to throw more than 125 innings in a season.

 

What's Next

 

Canterino will presumably start his season at Cedar Rapids – where he left off in 2019, except back then it was Minnesota's Low-A affiliate. With the minor-league realignment, the Kernels are now High-A, which seems a suitable level for him to reacclimate against pro competition.

 

Given the quality of his stuff, Canterino will be poised to move quickly, but his progression will greatly depend on the Twins' plans for him. If they want to bring him along as a reliever he could rise in a hurry and theoretically gain consideration for a late-season call-up. If they're committed to seeing him through as a starter, they'll need to focus on building his stamina and endurance, which will mean slowing down the timeline a bit.

 

One way or another, we'll probably know a lot more about Canterino and his future this time next year.

 

Twins 2021 Top 20 Prospects

Honorable Mentions

20. Bailey Ober, RHP

19. José Miranda, 3B/2B

18. Alerick Soularie, UTIL

17. Ben Rortvedt, C

16. Edwar Colina, RHP

15. Cole Sands, RHP

14. Misael Urbina, OF

13. Matt Wallner, OF

12. Brent Rooker, OF/1B

11. Gilberto Celestino, OF

10. Blayne Enlow, RHP

9. Matt Canterino, RHP

8. Coming tomorrow!

 

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With the pitch mix he has he looks good to be a starter.  Max effort deliveries usually lead to TJ at some point though so definitely concerned.  Every guy is different every build is different.  He handled the workload in College with out issues so he must be doing something right.  Guy looks like he could make it to AAA this year if he can stay healthy and live up to the hype.

 

I gotta believe the Twins staff would know or try to tweak his delivery if they felt like it was dangerous or problematic but maybe you just can't know from one arm to the next what each pitcher can handle.

 

He hasn't pitched much in MiLB ball so it is very hard to know where he is at but all signs point to him being a good to great pitcher moving forward.  I sure hope he reaches his ceiling. 

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I'd be entertained to watch him throw a change-up with that motion, I think.

 

Not sure that pirouette at the end is optimal to field his position, but at least it's 360 and not just 180.

Yeah, I was going to ask about that too- hopefully it's just a thing that happened on a max effort pitch on an indoor mound. Otherwise he might have a liner into an unprotected kidney in his future. Ouch.

 

It will be fun to see how he progresses! Lots of opportunity. He didn't actually look as heavy as I expected, given the comments I've read about him.

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I'd be entertained to watch him throw a change-up with that motion, I think.

 

Not sure that pirouette at the end is optimal to field his position, but at least it's 360 and not just 180.

I don't think that he actually does that pirouette in a game. At least he didn't do it in any highlight video I've ever seen of him, including Tom's above. And as pointed out, he didn't do it in the 97 mph video either. So I think the video of 99 mph was more of a "Let's disregard proper pitching motions for once and see how fast I can go" instead of a serious pitch.

 

But really, that's one prospect I am really excited about. I liked the picked even when he was drafted. Back then he seemed more of a solid high floor guy with his four solid pitches and good command but it sure seems like everything has gone right for him in the time since then. The higher velo, the apparently vastly improved changeup... It's easy to dream on what he can one day become for the Twins.

 

In fact, the only knock on him you ever read is his delivery. Remains to be seen how big of a problem that actually is. But it's certainly encouraging that he himself feels comfortable with it and the Twins seem to be okay with it too since they apparently never tried to change it. So maybe it actually works for him? Then again, I never played baseball myself, so I am really not an expert on things like pitching mechanics.

 

But it will for sure be interesting to follow his season. I hope he gets some televised action in spring training.

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If he shows good enough command and not just rely on the high velo I bet he moves quickly this year and if needed may get a call.  This FO is not afraid of moving guys quickly if they feel they have the stuff.  He will be one I will be checking in on in minor league reports. 

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Am perhaps more excited about this young man than any other prospect in the organization. Could Twins fans be so fortunate to learn that the FO is calling him up when a replacement is needed for an injured starter this July or August? The Twins really need some of that Cleveland magic from their minor league pitching pipeline. Why can't it be Canterino this summer?

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This Twitter link shows Canterino throwing another fastball at 97 with no pirouette. I hope he can manage 93-95 as a starter. That's plenty if his off-speed stuff is good.

 

Presumably the velocity uptick corresponded to some mechanical adjustments. Maybe easing off the quirkiness killed two birds with one stone.

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"max effort delivery" feels like a buzzword that doesn't have enough context and real research behind it yet. How many supposed "max effort" guys have actually had TJ in relationship to the total number, and how do you quantify who qualifies? This is like Verducci's theory that guys who increase their inning totals too much from year to year are more likely to get injured: it sounds good, it makes intuitive sense...but is there actual data to support it, or are we living in the land of anecdotal evidence?

 

Until he actually gets hurt or his mechanics fall apart consistently, I'm not going to worry about it for him. I'm excited that he's added velocity on the fastball and honing his secondary offerings and seems to like working with the Twins on some analytics. Him missing a year really stinks, because he was likely to have risen pretty quickly, and I'd really rather he be starting at AA, working against more advanced hitters and so forth.

 

If he can work consistently in the mid-90's with the fastball and pair it off with a sharp curve, that's a great basis to be mixing with. Looking forward to seeing what he can do, and really hope he can stick as a starter.

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I'm with JLease on this. I don't even pretend to be an expert on a pitcher's motion and whether or not it's "max effort", which has always been a bit of a misnomer to me because aren't pitchers usually looking for max delivery/effort? I quibble over semantics deliberately merely to make a point.

 

Yes, he has a herky-jerky movement initially, but then there is a brief pause before he delivers. And while some don't like what appears to me as a 3/4 delivery, it appears his motion is fluid once he gets past that brief pause. He himself has stated it's part of his timing mechanism. And while arm injuries can happen to any pitcher, at any time, in their career, it also happens for position players. For something that has worked so well for him so far...and seems smooth to me past that initial leg kick...I can't find myself concerned at this point.

 

I think he has a chance to be a fast-riser and I will be disappointed if he doesn't spend at least a half year at Wichita after beginning the season at Cedar Rapids. With all due respect, hope and optimism to Duran and Jordy Blaze, I wouldn't be shocked if he was our top pitching prospect going in to next season.

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I'm with JLease on this. I don't even pretend to be an expert on a pitcher's motion and whether or not it's "max effort", which has always been a bit of a misnomer to me because aren't pitchers usually looking for max delivery/effort? I quibble over semantics deliberately merely to make a point.

Yes, he has a herky-jerky movement initially, but then there is a brief pause before he delivers. And while some don't like what appears to me as a 3/4 delivery, it appears his motion is fluid once he gets past that brief pause. He himself has stated it's part of his timing mechanism. And while arm injuries can happen to any pitcher, at any time, in their career, it also happens for position players. For something that has worked so well for him so far...and seems smooth to me past that initial leg kick...I can't find myself concerned at this point.

I think he has a chance to be a fast-riser and I will be disappointed if he doesn't spend at least a half year at Wichita after beginning the season at Cedar Rapids. With all due respect, hope and optimism to Duran and Jordy Blaze, I wouldn't be shocked if he was our top pitching prospect going in to next season.

Your mentioning starting in Cedar Rapids this spring, Doc, got me thinking about minor league schedules.

 

Does anyone know what the schedules are going be this summer? Will AAA begin around April 1 along with MLB? Will the minor league players not in big league spring training not report until after April 1 when big league camp is over? If so, can't see AA and the lower leagues beginning until May. Read somewhere several months ago that the minor league seasons will be extended into or thru September. 

 

Does anyone have actual reports if these decisions have been made?

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