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Twins Minor League Week In Review (6/14-20): Wallner Continues to Rake


Twins Daily Contributor

Minor league divisions across the country are finishing up their first-half schedules. If you didn’t know, teams outside of AAA can win their division during the first half of the season and clinch a seed in the playoffs; a handy link to the breakdown can be found here. If you still don’t fully understand, we’ll go over that and more in the following week in review.

With short-season teams starting play recently, player names and teams can be somewhat overwhelming. When writing about Rookie Ball and the DSL, I can admit to having to click on a player’s name in the box score to remember their first name; you know you’re digging deep when the players don’t have a photo on MiLB.com. But those games are just as important; the Twins of the future have to start humbly, and they’ll make their way to the upper levels with hard work.

TRANSACTIONS
The Twins traded veteran infielder Daniel Robertson to the Phillies for Cash considerations. He has been rehabbing with the FCL Twins for the past two-plus weeks. 

RESULTS
Previous Week in Review (6/7-6/13): Saints Sweep Red Wings
Tuesday: Alex Kirilloff Does It Again
Wednesday: Rucker walks it off, Varland Double-Header Split Highlight Wednesday in the Twins System
Thursday: Wallner Blasts on Tough Night for Twins Farm
Friday: Cedar Rapids Throws A Shutout, Wichita *is* Shutout
Saturday: Kernels Clinch Division Title, Playoff Berth
Sunday: Walk-off in Cedar Rapids, Saints Blister Bats

MORE TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE CONTENT
Minnesota Twins 2014 Draft Retrospective: Swings and Misses
TwinsDaily 2022 Draft Coverage, June 16
This season, MLB Fining Parent Clubs for Minor-League Brawls

MONDAY’S SHORT SEASON RESULTS

FCL Twins 11, FCL Orioles 9 (10 innings)  
Box Score

Starting Pitcher: Juan Rojas (4 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K)
Multi-Hit Games: Danny De Andrade (2-for-4, BB, R, 2 RBI), Alexander Pena (2-for-5, 2 R, RBI, 2 K), Yonardy Soto (3-for-5, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 K), Jefferson De La Cruz (2-for-4, 2 RBI, K, SB), Ricardo Olivar (3-for-4, RBI)
2B: Alexander Pena (5), Ricardo Olivar (2)
HR: Alexander Pena (2), Yonardy Soto 2 (2), Gregory Duran (1) 
Rehab Players: Daniel Robertson (0-for-2, K) 
Top Prospects: Danny De Andrade (2-for-4, BB, R, 2 RBI), Fredy Michel (0-for-6, R, 4 K). 

Summary: What a wild and wacky game! Going into the 9th inning, the Twins held a 4-0 lead. They added another run in the top of the 9th to go ahead 5-0, but the Orioles scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings. The Twins scored six runs in the top of the inning to take a big league. They gave up four runs in the bottom of the 10th inning and barely held on. 

DSL Twins 6, DSL Guardians Blue 14
Box Score

Starting Pitcher: Jose Betancourt (0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K)
Multi-Hit Games: Isaac Pena (2-for-3, 2 BB. 2 R, 2 SB), Jose Rodriguez (3-for-4)
XBH: None 

WEEK IN REVIEW
Triple-A: St. Paul Saints
Week: 3-3, playing in Columbus
Season: 33-32 overall

The Saints treaded water this week, but sometimes that’s all a team needs to do. The Columbus Clippers, the AAA affiliate for the Cleveland Guardians, are no pushovers either; they ended the week with a 38-28 season record. These were close affairs; just one run was the difference in five of the six games, including Sunday’s 11-10 thrilling win by the Saints. Manager Toby Gardenhire remained on paternity leave, but the team still gifted him a fine Father’s Day present with his 100th win as St. Paul’s skipper. 

  • Alex Kirilloff earned his promotion to the Twins on Friday after collecting four more hits this week.
  • Kyle Garlick began a rehab assignment on Wednesday. The outfielder is hitting .300 over 21 plate appearances but has also struck out eight times.
  • Josh Winder continued his rehab assignment, allowing one run over 3 innings with a strikeout.
  • Curtis Terry hit a blistering .368/.429/.842 with a pair of homers and just one strikeout the entire week.
  • Michael Helman slashed .400/.455/.600 and captured the most hits on the week for the Saints.
  • Spencer Steer returned to orbit as he slashed .179/.200/.321 with 10 strikeouts. Hopefully, this is just a blip on his otherwise outstanding season.
  • Recent signee, Aaron Sanchez, struck out six over 7 1/3 IP but also allowed five earned runs, including a pair of homers.
  • Jordan Balazovic worked in relief this week, allowing two runs over 2 2/3 innings.

What’s Next? The Saints are off to Buffalo to play in what was technically a major league ballpark for a year and some change. 

Pitching Probables (RHP Ronny Henriquez, RHP Josh Winder, RHP Jordan Balazovic, TBD, TBD, TBD)   

Double-A: Wichita Wind Surge
Week: 1-6, @ Tulsa
Season: 33-29 overall

Things could have gone better for Wichita. The team has cooled off tremendously, and the result was an ugly 1-6 week, although five of those losses were by one run, so things may not be as bad as they seem.

  • Matt Wallner obliterated the ball and walked away with a hilarious .313/.621/.750 slash line. Even more impressive, he walked more than he struck out (11 to eight).
  • Edouard Julien did well also, hitting .280/.400/.560 with a pair of homers.

 

 

  • Casey Legumina carried the torch on the mound, allowing only three earned runs over 10 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts. 
  • Daniel Gossett impressed in his first start with Wichita, tossing five shutout innings.
  • Sawyer Gipson-Long finally earned a promotion to AA but was touched up for five earned runs over 4 2/3 innings. Let’s hope he can brush that off and find his footing with the Wind Surge.
  • Andrew Cabezas threw four shutout innings in relief this week, striking out six while allowing just one hit.

What’s Next? Wichita returns home to host the San Antonio Missions. Hopefully, some home cooking will help get them back on track.

Pitching Probables (RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long, LHP Kody Funderburk, RHP Blayne Enlow, RHP Casey Legumina, RHP Louie Varland, TBD)   

High-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels
Week: 4-2, hosting Dayton
Season: 41-22 overall

The Kernels were one of the teams that clinched a playoff spot this week. The team’s win on Saturday secured the first-half division crown, and the team can rest easy knowing that they will have a spot reserved for them in the post-season. In the meantime, there are ballgames to win.

  • Yunior Severino smoked the ball all week, picking up seven hits, including two homers with eight RBIs.
  • Alerick Soularie continued his season turn-around, hitting .368/.478/.632 with a pair of stolen bases.
  • Cody Laweryson spearheaded the pitching effort with 5 2/3 scoreless innings and an incredible 11 strikeouts.
  • Cade Povich wasn’t far behind, as he punched out 11 over 5 innings in his lone start of the week.
  • Aaron Rozek walked away from this week unscathed, as he pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings as part of Cedar Rapids’ shutout on Friday.

What’s Next? The Kernels will remain at home and host the West Michigan Whitecaps.

Pitching Probables (RHP David Festa, LHP Brent Headrick, LHP Aaron Rozek, LHP Cade Povich, RHP Sean Mooney, RHP John Stankiewicz

Low-A: Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels
Week: 4-1
Season: 39-22 overall

The Mighty Mussels were the other team that clinched a playoff spot this week. Their win on Wednesday ensured that no team in their division could catch them, and their spot in the post-season is now set in stone.

  • Rubel Cespedes burst out of nowhere and dropped nine hits in just 17 at-bats.
  • Kala’i Rosario launched a pair of homers while slugging .857 overall for the week.
  • Luis Baez hit a scorching .500/.579/.563 while striking out as often as he walked (three to three)
  • Noah Miller had just two hits but also walked five times
  • Matt Mullenbach was elite in relief, punching out eight over 5 ⅓ innings devoid of an earned run
  • Malik Barrington followed suit as he tossed 3 shutout innings with six strikeouts.
  • Jordan Carr allowed one earned run in his 5-inning start 

What’s Next? The Mighty Mussels will head out to Lakeland to take on the Flying Tigers

Pitching Probables (RHP Jordan Carr, RHP Travis Adams, RHP Pierson Ohl, TBD, TBD, LHP Jaylen Nowlin)   

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Hitter of the Week: OF Matt Wallner, Wichita Wind Surge
Matt Wallner might be turning a corner. The hometown talent has always been a slugger—power was never a question—but this week, he showed off an incredible talent for OBP on top of his already legendary ball-crushing ability. His eight strikeouts were still a touch high, but it feels nitpicky to call out when he walked 11 times while slugging .750. His OBP for the week starts with a .6. Enough said.

 

 

At 24 years old, Wallner appears to be rounding into form at the right time. The lefty battled an assortment of injuries over his first few years in the minors—a bruise here and a nick there—and they added up to sap Wallner of consistency. His power kept him afloat, despite many (including I) questioning whether he could offset the large strikeout totals he racked up.

Those strikeouts may never go away, but figuring out how to walk a bunch is an excellent way to even them out. His OBP on the year sits at a massive .408, thanks partly to a (probably) surprising batting average of .270. And, in case you weren’t convinced that his game is more well-rounded than before, he’s even stolen eight bases. It’s hard to see Wallner staying at AA for much longer.

Pitcher of the Week: RHP Cody Laweryson, Cedar Rapids Kernels
It’s rare to see a reliever win this distinction, but when you have the kind of week Cody Laweryson had, it’s easy to hand it to him. Laweryson made two relief outings; on June 14th, he struck out six over 3 ⅓ scoreless innings, while on June 17th, he struck out five over 2 ⅓ scoreless innings. That’ll play.

Laweryson is under the radar, if not entirely off the grid, but that might not be fair to his ability. The righty made noise in 2019 by dominating Rookie-Ball as a 20-year-old, culminating in a monster 15 strikeout performance on August 26th of that season. His road has been bumpier since that breakout, but he could have a nice niche as a long reliever out of the bullpen. Given the breakdown of pitching barriers, that role can be valuable to a team.

For a scouting report, Eric Longenhagen described him as a “How the hell is this guy doing this?” style of pitcher, sitting 89 MPH and crushing his competition with it. We’ve seen that work for Joe Ryan; perhaps it will serve Laweryson also.

 

 

 

 


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Let me just say given the Matt Wallner I have seen the last three years I would have never guessed he would ever walk more than  strike out for the week.  If he keeps his approach balanced he could be a monster bat.  Still needs to prove he can take those walks pitchers give power hitters.  If he does look out because he swings a mean bat.  13 Home runs on the year already with an outside chance for 30 on the year but fairly likely at least 25.  I was down on him for a long time but he is finally changing my mind.

With Steer gone and Isola out it seems like Wichita's offense just isn't as productive.  Jullien is trying to be Steer 2.0 and has been close to as productive but not quite elite level yet.  Isola was a tough out as was Helman so AA could use some reinforcements on the bats.  Pitching hasn't been quite as good either so hopefully they can turn things around with what they have.

I don't remember much about Rubel Cespedes but he caught my eye right away in the box scores.  I kind of thought his numbers would go down but he just keeps getting hits game after game.  He could stand to take more walks but with an OPS of 950 maybe just let him use the CES method of aggressive swings that keep your OPS high regardless.  Should be a fun bat to follow.  Hoping Baez can keep his bat hot as well we can always use more centerfield talent.

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With any reliever, small sample size is the unrelenting killer, but maybe Laweryson has something with his movement/deception in delivery to make this work. He's been enough of a K-hunter to think that it might be real, but the fact that the twins had him repeat high-A after the AFL experience rather than start the year at AA makes me wonder a little. The WHIP is impressive, the K/9 is excellent, and he's never been homer-happy. He definitely looks ready to be at AA if nothing else.

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Not crazy about Wallner's proclivity for SO. But for the most part, I think you generally accept a certain amount of SO for a power hitter. But as Dman alludes to, there is a difference between SO vs also "accepting" the BB a pitcher offers you. In other words, don't swing at stuff out of the zone when being pitched around. As much as we question Wallner's SO and contact ability, he has a career OB of .370 before his .408 thus far in 2022. Career AVG is .264 vs .270 so far this year. 

I'm OK with the SO if he keeps walking when the BB is offered. I think the bat plays, and the power is certainly there. It's not so much the SO, but to keep hitting and still maintain the BB to the degree where you take what's offered and not flail. (Hello Mr. Sano). I confess to never having been able to watch him live or see his defense. I know from all reports he's got a gun for an arm, as a former pitcher. A large individual, I just don't know his range. And routes and reads are about as important as range. But even with pitchers not holding runners well at AA, or lesser arms from catchers, if a man as big as he is can steal/sneak 7 SB, I'd like to think he can move well enough to play the OF to an acceptable degree. He doesn't have to  be Kepler to be a solid RF. He needs to read and react and move decently and use his arm as needed. 

Personally, I think Wallner is a part time OF and DH as Larnach will EVENTUALLY move to RF and Martin, or potentially someone else, will take over LF with AK being the primary 1B. But that's all so very fluid and at least one year away, if not two. But Twins or someone else, he's going to be a regular in a lineup by 2024.

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