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Twins Minor League Report (6/21): Matt Wallner is Surging


Twins Daily Contributor

There were close games that went both ways for Minnesota Twins affiliates in their series openers on Tuesday, but it was a slugger in double-A that stole the show with a pair of home runs. This continued a torrid stretch that you need to start paying attention to, if you haven’t been already.

TRANSACTIONS
There were no transactions in the system heading into Tuesday’s games.

SAINTS SENTINEL
St. Paul 7, Buffalo 8
Box Score

The Saints jumped out to a big lead with a five-run third inning, but the bullpen wasn’t able to hold it late as they fell back to .500 on the season in their series opener with the Bisons.

On the mound for St. Paul was right-hander Ronny Henriquez, and he pitched into the sixth inning. As has been the knock on him in his minor league career, the home run ball was an issue, as he allowed two in his 5 1/3 innings. Luckily for him, they were both of the solo variety and were the only runs given up. In total he allowed four hits, walked two, and struck out five in his outing.

In their big third inning, the Saints got a bases-clearing double from Tim Beckham, then later a two-run double from Jermaine Palacios to go out front. Palacios was robbed of a grand slam in the fifth, and instead had to settle for a sac fly that made the score 6-1, before he learned his lesson and muscled one further out in the seventh for a solo homer that made it 7-2.

The bottom of the seventh is where it started to fall apart. Tyler Viza had come on in relief of Henriquez in the sixth after he walked two consecutive batters and escaped the jam, but very quickly got himself into one in the seventh. Two hit batters and a walk loaded the bases, then a sac fly and single scored two runs before St. Paul had anyone warmed up. Hunter Wood prevented any further damage that inning, but the lead was now 7-4.

In the eighth it was Jovani Moran’s turn to shut the Bisons down and he got the first two hitters he faced, but a pair of walks around an RBI double ended his outing in favor of Yennier Cano. Who promptly allowed a go-ahead three-run homer to complete the Buffalo comeback.

The Saints went down quietly in the bottom of the ninth, and will look to get back on track with Josh Winder on the mound tomorrow, continuing his rehab assignment. 

Beckham (2-for-5, 2 R, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 K) and Palacios (2-for-3, R, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, K) led the way for the offense with multiple hits, and Spencer Steer finished 1-for-3 with a pair of walks and run scored out of the leadoff spot. 

WIND SURGE WISDOM
San Antonio 2, Wichita 9
Box Score

We need to talk about Matt Wallner.

The slugger out of Southern Mississippi got off to a slow start this year, hitting just .200 in the season's first month. But as the weather has warmed up down in the Texas League, so has he. In the month of May he posted a .287/.410/.575 batting line, and after his two home run game tonight, is hitting .345(!)/.500(!!!)/.690(!!!!!) in the month of June. He’s been so good, and getting on-base so often, that he’s been batting in the leadoff spot for the Wind Surge in the last week.

That was the case again tonight in the series opener with the San Antonio Missions, and it didn’t take long for him to show up. It was the fourth pitch of the bottom of the first inning to be exact. 

That blast tied the game at one, and in his second at-bat in the third inning, he put the Wind Surge in the lead with an RBI single. He later scored on a single from Edouard Julien and the home team took a 3-1 lead.

The offense broke the game open in the fifth with four-run inning, though Wallner didn’t factor into the outburst this time. A three-run homer from Cole Sturgeon did most of the damage, but Julien tacked on another RBI single and their lead was now 7-2.

Wallner was back at it in the eighth, delivering his third hit and a second home run, when he demolished the first pitch of his at-bat for a two-run blast. 

I’d imagine he’ll be up with St. Paul soon.

Making the start for Wichita was Sawyer Gipson-Long, and he picked up his first win in double-A with a five-inning effort. He allowed two runs on six hits, walked zero, and struck out three. Relievers Melvi Acosta (2 IP, H, BB, K), Steven Cruz (1 IP, H, K), and Osiris German (1 IP, 2 H) finished off the final four scoreless innings in the 9-2 win.

Joining Wallner in the multi-hit parade for the Wind Surge were Julien (2-for-3, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Anthony Prato (2-for-4, R), and Leobaldo Cabrera (2-for-3, 2 R, 2B).

KERNELS NUGGETS
West Michigan 1, Cedar Rapids 2
Box Score

The Kernels matchup with the Whitecaps on Tuesday was a good old-fashioned pitchers duel, as the starting pitchers battled each other for the first half of the game, allowing only two hits each in their time on the mound. There were just seven hits total in the game between both teams, and the Kernels did not have a runner advance past second base until the eighth inning.

But they finally made it count when they did.

Right-hander David Festa got the start and while he didn’t rack up strikeouts like he has been known to this season, kept the Whitecaps off balance in his six innings. He allowed two hits, walked four, and struck out three in allowing just one run. He was sitting mid-90’s all game and topped out at 97 MPH while I was listening to the broadcast.

Bradley Hanner delivered two scoreless innings out of the bullpen, allowing one hit, and gets credited with his fourth win of the season, as the lineup came through late.

They finally got a runner in scoring position after a one-out single from Kennie Taylor was followed by a walk from Alerick Soularie, bringing up Christian Encarnacion-Strand, who has proven to be born for these situations.

He delivered an RBI double down the first base line that tied the game at one, and put the go-ahead runner 90-feet away. After an intentional walk to Aaron Sabato, Seth Gray drove a fly ball deep enough into right field to give the Kernels the lead with a sac fly. 

Derek Molina came on for the bottom of the ninth, and retired the Whitecaps one-two-three, picking up his third save of the season, and punctuating the comeback with a strikeout to end it.

MUSSEL MATTERS
Fort Myers 3, Lakeland 2
Box Score

The Mighty Mussels got a solid start from left-hander Jordan Carr, and the bullpen finished off the battle of pitching staffs to collect their 40th win of the season against the Flying Tigers.

Carr picked up his second win with five innings of one-run ball. He allowed five hits, two walks, and struck out five. His lone run allowed came in the fifth inning, which made the score 3-1 in favor of Fort Myers.

The lineup had put single runs on the scoreboard in each of the second, fourth, and fifth innings to that point. In the second it was a triple from Keoni Cavaco to score Rubel Cespedes, who had led off the inning with a double. In the fourth, a groundout from Cespedes scored Noah Miller from third, who had led off the inning with a walk. Their run in the fifth came courtesy of an errant throw from the catcher that allowed Mikey Perez to score from second.

Those three runs would hold up as the bullpen trio of Jackson Hicks (1 IP, H, BB, K), Anthony Escobar (1 IP, 2 H, 2 K), and Hunter McMahon (2 IP, H, ER, BB, K) kept Lakeland at bay over the final four innings. McMahon’s run allowed came on a solo home run in the eighth, but he set the opposition down in order in the bottom of the ninth for his fifth save.

The Mighty Mussels were outhit 9-to-6 and drew only one walk as a team, but got enough to steal a win behind their pitching. They were just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, and left only one man on base for the game. 

COMPLEX CHRONICLES
FCL Orioles 3, FCL Twins 15
Box Score

The FCL Twins knocked out twelve hits and drew ten walks in blowing out the FCL Orioles. They scored multiple runs in each of the first, fourth, fifth, and seventh innings, led by three hits, including a home run, and five RBI from Yonardy Soto. Andres Centeno also drove in five with a pair of singles and two sacrifice flies. Brayan Medina got the win, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits and three walks in four innings pitched. He struck out two. Miguelangel Boadas added three innings of scoreless relief, allowing two hits, walking two, and striking out four.

DOMINICAN DAILIES
DSL Angels 4, DSL Twins 5
Box Score

The DSL Twins held off a comeback attempt from the DSL Angels to even their record at 6-6 on the season. Shortstop Yilber Herrera led the way on offense with a 2-for-3 effort, including a double and a triple, and drove in three runs. Rafael Cruz and Denyerbe Gervis also added triples to the effort. Miguel Olivares made the start and went the first four innings, allowing no runs on two hits and two walks, while striking out six. 

TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE DAY

Pitcher of the Day - David Festa, Cedar Rapids Kernels (6 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 4 BB, 3 K)
Hitter of the Day - Matt Wallner, Wichita Wind Surge (3-for-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI)

PROSPECT SUMMARY

#2 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 1-for-4, R
#3 - Jose Miranda (Minnesota) - 0-for-2
#5 - Simeon Woods Richardson (Wichita) -
#7 - Spencer Steer (St. Paul) - 1-for-3, R, 2 BB
#9 - Noah Miller (Fort Myers) - 1-for-3, R, BB, 2 K
#13 - Ronny Henriquez (St. Paul) - 5 1/3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
#15 - Matt Wallner (Wichita) - 3-for-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI
#16 - Edouard Julien (Wichita) - 2-for-3, R, 2 RBI
#18 - Christian Encarnacion-Strand (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-4, 2B, RBI, K
#20 - David Festa (Cedar Rapids) - 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 3 K

WEDNESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS

St. Paul @ Buffalo (6:05 PM CDT) - RHP Josh Winder (0-0, 6.75 ERA)
San Antonio @ Wichita (7:05 PM CDT) - LHP Kody Funderburk (6-2, 2.41 ERA)
West Michigan @ Cedar Rapids (12:05 PM CDT) - LHP Brent Headrick (6-2, 2.55 ERA)
Fort Myers @ Lakeland (5:30 PM CDT) - RHP Travis Adams (4-2, 2.94 ERA)
DSL Braves @ DSL Twins (10:00 AM CDT) - TBD

Please feel free to ask questions and discuss Tuesday’s games!

 

 


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So Steer has clearly moved ahead of Martin in the Twins MI prospect pecking order;  it might be time to start wondering if the same is true for Julien.  He’s younger (by about 5 weeks), and is significantly outperforming Martin at the same level.  Better average, OBP, and SLG, along with way more walks (although also way more k’s).  If there was a team who wanted one of those three in a trade, and let me choose which one to give up, I’d be very tempted to give up Martin.

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Should have been an incredible 6-0 night for our minor league teams but Moran and Cano blew the Saints game. Bad news as these are guys we would like to be pushing to come back up and push guys out of the Twins bullpen.

Wallner needs to move up to St. Paul. After a horrid start, this is a long, great run he is having. As for Austin Martin, we have had multiple questions about why he played only one game last week and no answer that I know of. I'm not ready to give up on him, especially if he's battling through an injury.

Nice pitching last night. Henriquez had a decent game, something we never say about Strotman. Gipson-Long, Festa, Carr all also had decent games as well as some good outings from the relief pitchers on their teams. Fun to look at minor league teams this season.

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It's great to see Wallner having so much success in his first experience at AA. The Ks will always be a concern with him, but the increasing number of walks he's taking is encouraging. I'm fine with him moving up to Saint Paul at any time. I'm sure his power will continue to play and we'll see if he continues to make enough contact. Is he Brent Rooker or is he more? Lot of similarities in their profiles, unfortunately.

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18 minutes ago, Eris said:

On Matt Wallner. It is hard for me to get excited about someone who has similar to slightly worse K% in the minors than Brent Rooker.  Wallner is striking out about 34% of the time this year. For comparison, Kirilloff fanned about 20% of the time in the minors. 
 

I hope Matt Wallner does well, but for now am skeptical. 

Yeah his K rate has always been brutal and it generally doesn't translate to MLB that well unless the walk rate is good as well.  The Rooker comparison is a scary one.  Right now Rooker is tearing up AAA with 385 OBP and .992 OPS. That is a slightly higher OPS than Wallner has at AA.  Even with those number the Padres haven't called Rooker up but that may have more to do with defense than his bat.  He is not a good left fielder and with Hosmer at 1st and I assume DH spoken for there might be no place to safely play him.  Also with his K rate still at 30% and his known difficulty with breaking balls maybe they don't see his bat as ready either. 

So yeah I agree Wallner has some things to prove yet.  Mainly that he can hit breaking pitches because Rooker didn't seem to be able to and Kirilloff and Larnach struggled with that transition as well.  It will be interesting to see if he can make the jump.  He has the arm for right but can play left as well.  Not a ton of speed but I think better than Rooker.  With his walks rising hopefully he can move forward with a more balanced approach and get better pitches to hit or at least on base with a walk.  Wallner started the first month of the year with 45% K rate so he has gotten better but I agree that it would be nice to see that number around 25% or so with walks in the 10 to 15% range as that would give him a better chance once he moves up.

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Nice to see Henriquez not implode and give up a crooked number in the early innings.  Still he did give up 2 Home Runs and a homer prone pitcher is never a good thing.  They don't make it to the Majors so he has work to do.

Was happy to see SGL bounce back after a tough AA debut.  Gave up a bit too much contact but I think he has the stuff to make it.  This is an important stretch for him in a hitters league.

For a 13th round pick Festa has been impressive.  If he keeps this up I have to believe he gets some looks at the AA level yet this year.

Glad to see Anthony Escobar continuing to K guys after coming back from TJ surgery. I wonder if he is completely a pen arm moving forward or if they will give him another shot in the rotation.  Still if he can regain his dominant form he cold be a good future arm.  

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Eris said:

On Matt Wallner. It is hard for me to get excited about someone who has similar to slightly worse K% in the minors than Brent Rooker.  Wallner is striking out about 34% of the time this year. For comparison, Kirilloff fanned about 20% of the time in the minors. 
 

I hope Matt Wallner does well, but for now am skeptical. 

No doubt this is still something to watch, but he has been improving.

April: 39.2% K-rate, 16.2% walk rate.

May: 37.9%/18.4%

June: 32.9%/21.1%

As an avid MiLB.tv and Wichita watcher this season, I can tell you despite the number of them, he is consistently having really good to great at-bats. It feels different to me, than watching Rooker did, if that makes any sense. He is hitting pitches all over the plate, breaking balls, fastballs... His first HR tonight was on a low breaking ball he golfed, second one was a high-outside fastball he destroyed. It doesn't seem to matter. And he is absolutely demolishing the ball when he hits it. There absolutely is a reason he's now batting in the leadoff spot.

He had a single last week that probably had a launch angle of 1 degree, and it hit off the top of the fence in right field. Probably the hardest hit ball I've seen this year, anywhere. I hope we're seeing some of this in the majors in 2023, or heck, 2022 if he keeps this up at triple-A.

 

Edited by Steve Lein
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8 hours ago, Cap'n Piranha said:

So Steer has clearly moved ahead of Martin in the Twins MI prospect pecking order;  it might be time to start wondering if the same is true for Julien.  He’s younger (by about 5 weeks), and is significantly outperforming Martin at the same level.  Better average, OBP, and SLG, along with way more walks (although also way more k’s).  If there was a team who wanted one of those three in a trade, and let me choose which one to give up, I’d be very tempted to give up Martin.

That's probably a fair assessment of Martin this year (at least as far as Julien and Steer having better seasons thus far to date).  Although to play Devil's advocate, Martin does have a MUCH higher prospect pedigree and thus will probably have a longer leash than Steer and Julien (that is by no means any knock on the talent of either of the other two at all though).

Given how he has performed (offensively) at every level, I have to wonder if he isn't a little dinged up this year.  Also, what little I have watched from his games this year, he seems to be "pressing" a bit and that could be affecting him more than we realize. 

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2 hours ago, jmlease1 said:

It's great to see Wallner having so much success in his first experience at AA. The Ks will always be a concern with him, but the increasing number of walks he's taking is encouraging. I'm fine with him moving up to Saint Paul at any time. I'm sure his power will continue to play and we'll see if he continues to make enough contact. Is he Brent Rooker or is he more? Lot of similarities in their profiles, unfortunately.

This is very true, and there are many others like them.  They are AAAA players.  You see the minor league numbers and hope, but it never translates at the MLB level.  That is one reason to never trust minor league numbers, but trust the organization to see what is really there.  We see poor numbers and feel the player is a bust, and see great numbers and think they are on their way to stardom.  However, there are reasons they get ranked where they are, and why they get moved up or not.  

Personally, I would not be surprised if Wallner gets dealt in a deadline deal.  He is very redundant in our system.  Left handed hitting bat first defense last corner outfielder.  He does not have poor splits as many expect from lefty hitters, However, I think that is pretty common for good hitters in the minors and the splits really do not rise up until MLB level when they are facing the best of the best. 

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2 hours ago, Dman said:

So yeah I agree Wallner has some things to prove yet.  Mainly that he can hit breaking pitches because Rooker didn't seem to be able to and Kirilloff and Larnach struggled with that transition as well.  It will be interesting to see if he can make the jump.  He has the arm for right but can play left as well.  Not a ton of speed but I think better than Rooker.  With his walks rising hopefully he can move forward with a more balanced approach and get better pitches to hit or at least on base with a walk.  Wallner started the first month of the year with 45% K rate so he has gotten better but I agree that it would be nice to see that number around 25% or so with walks in the 10 to 15% range as that would give him a better chance once he moves up.

Wallner seems kind of like Larnach defensively to me.  He's maybe not quite as slow as he seems, but at the very least he moves pretty well and has a good enough arm to make up for a lack of range.  That's based off a fairly small sample of watching, but I don't think he'll be the kind of defensive liability that made it that much harder to give Rooker the opportunity to adjust in the majors.

It seems Wallner will have to get his chance in the majors at some point.  One thing that has been true in his minor league career is that despite the strikeouts and cold stretches at every level, he still manages to produce big numbers in the end.  While I've never been a huge believer, he's made it hard to just dismiss him.  I don't really think we'll learn too much more from the rest of his minor league career, so I'm just going to wait until he gets his chance and see if he can continue to defy the skepticism.

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8 hours ago, HrbieFan said:

Is there an international prospect list of Twins prospects somewhere? We see these guys sign and then they disappear for 3-4 years, so hard to keep track of them 

This is the first year we have been doing the DSL Twins box scores and games to try to help with that. 

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10 hours ago, FlyingFinn said:

As for Austin Martin, we have had multiple questions about why he played only one game last week and no answer that I know of. I'm not ready to give up on him, especially if he's battling through an injury.

Martin hurt his index finger diving for a ball. He's been kinda day-to-day the whole time, but from what I've heard today he should be good to go at this point. He may get a little time here and there still, but for the most part, he should be back. 

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So keep Wallner at AA and NOT put him on the 40-man. Play him all of 2023 at St. Paul and see if you feel the need to advance him as the heir, let's say, to Max Kepler? Or send him to AAA now and use Kepler as mid-season tradebait knowing Matt is in the wings for 2023?

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On 6/22/2022 at 11:31 AM, stringer bell said:

Is there enough belief in Kirilloff and Larnach that the Twins would trade Max Kepler?

I think there's a lot of belief in Kirilloff for sure, and Larnach isn't that far behind. But I also expect Kirilloff to be our starting 1B next season, so I don't expect him to be particularly in consideration for one of the corner OF spots.

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16 hours ago, Rosterman said:

So keep Wallner at AA and NOT put him on the 40-man. Play him all of 2023 at St. Paul and see if you feel the need to advance him as the heir, let's say, to Max Kepler? Or send him to AAA now and use Kepler as mid-season tradebait knowing Matt is in the wings for 2023?

He has to go on the 40 man at the end of the year or be subject to the rule 5 draft.

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