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Twins Pitching Prospects That Could See 2023 Rotation


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These are three prospects that have the potential to be a part of the long-term solution for the Twins rotation very soon. 

 

Image courtesy of Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

 

The Twins pitching rotation struggled on and off this season from starters to the bullpen. Injuries early on created a lack of starting pitching for the Club, putting lots of pressure on the bullpen to perform; they also suffered a significant loss with Pitching Coach Wes Johnson leaving mid-way through the season. Because of the pitching woes, Twins fans got a glimpse of what the farm system has in store by bringing up players such as Louie Varland, Simeon Woods-Richardson, and Jordan Balazovic. The arms in the farm system give hope that the Twin's pitching could match the Guardian's deep farm pitching model.
 

Brayan Medina 
He is focused and driven but has components that will need to improve if he wants to make his appearance in 2023. He was the top Venezuelan pitching prospect in the 2019-20 international class. Medina initially signed with the Padres for $700,000 on July 2, 2019. The Twins acquired him as the player to be named later in the deal that sent Taylor Rogers and Brent Rooker to the Padres. The pandemic canceled the 2020 season, so Medina spent some time in San Diego's fall instructional camp. He had his professional debut in 2021 with the Dominican Summer League and the Arizona Fall League. 

He has three pitches: slider, fastball, and changeup. His pitches already have good velocity, and as he grows from his 6'1", 180-pound frame, he should be able to add a bit more velocity in the future. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and touches the upper-90s on occasion. He also throws an above-average slider, and his slider continues to improve.

Medina has focused delivery and the ability to be aggressive with hitters. In seven starts, he struck out 24 in 23 2/3 innings in 2022 with the FCL Twins. Medina never saw over three innings a game in 2022. For every one strike out, he allowed two walks. He posted a 6.46 ERA, 17 earned runs, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was 24-to-20. Medina is only 20 years old and has plenty of room to grow in size and craft. The concern with Medina is the high pitch count, working himself out of the game sooner putting more pressure on the bullpen. If Medina can garner control of these pitches and perfect them, he is equipped with the proper elements but needs to work heavily on his plate command to bring his ERA and walk down.

Steven Cruz 
If Cruz can harness his control and improve on his strike zone, there is potential for him to make an appearance in 2023. The Twins signed Cruz back in March 2017 for just $30,000 as an international free agent. He spent his first two seasons playing with the Gulf Coast League and Appalachian League, Elizabethton Twins. In 2021 he started in Single-A Fort Myers and, late in the season, was promoted to High-A Kernels. 

After two starts with the Kernels, he struggled to harness his control, posting an 8.10 ERA in 3 1/3 innings; the Twins sent him back down to focus on improving. He finished the 2021 season with Fort Myers and, in 2022, was sent to AA Wichita Surge posting a 5.14 ERA and 72-to-35 Strikeout to Walk ratio.

Finding the strike zone has been Cruz back; the right-hander walked more than six batters per nine innings early in his Minor League career. The 6-foot-7 Cruz has a ton of power and throws his fastball in the 95-101 mph range, and it's a pitch with some riding life. He also has a hard slider, thrown around 89 mph, a potential out pitch that can miss a lot of bats. 

His walk rate continues to trend down each year, and his strike count over nine innings continues to increase. How much he can refine his control and strike zone will determine whether he can handle a high-leverage role in the future. 

Marco Raya
The 2022 season was the first time Raya pitched in affiliated games since the Twins selected him in the fourth round of the 2020 Draft due to a shoulder strain that sidelined him for most of the 2021 season. Raya returned more robust and better after his injury and didn't disappoint, throwing extremely well with Single-A Fort Myers with three wins, two losses.

At 6-foot, 165-pound, what right-handed pitcher lacks in size; he makes up for with athleticism. He's got a few pitches in his arsenal that rely on a big four-seamer alongside three high-quality curveballs, a slider, and a changeup with great pitch profiles. The Twins feel like there's only a little work needed on those. His fastball continued to sit in the high 90's in the 2022 season, hitting 98. 

If Raya can stay healthy, he will be one of the system's best pitchers. At 19 years old, in his first season with Fort Myers in 2022, he posted a 3.05 ERA and had a 76-to-23 Strikeout-to-Walk ratio over 65 innings. With less than four walks per nine innings and over ten strikeouts, Raya doesn't hold back.

Raya pitches with a chip on his shoulder. The chip on his shoulder may have helped him make significant strides in his mental development toward the close of 2021. Like many young pitchers, the Twins hope he'll simplify and attack the strike zone with his quality stuff, which he's done in the past. Moving to AA would be a big jump, and with a small sample size, inviting him to spring training would give the organization an opportunity to see if he has the tenacity to jump directly over the Kernels.

Do you think these prospects could see action with the Twins in 2023, or are they more suited for High-A?


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Thanks for the write up Sherry, appreciate the work.  Big fan of what Raya brings to the game, love his pure stuff.  Also really interested in what Festa will do next year as I thought he really shoved this year :).

I'm with Lew on the picture though.  Jet Blue is an awesome stadium and complex (my son has played a lot of games there), but shouldn't we show an even better looking complex? ;).

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Interesting article.  Have liked Raya since they drafted him, liked him alot.  Looking forward to his making a big move next year, probably beginning with the Kernels with an early promotion to Wichita. 

Knew almost nothing about the other two.  Both look like interesting bullpen candidates, if they cut the number of walks, cut them a lot.  If not, AAAA may be their ceiling.

 

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Sorry, but have to echo comments about Jet Blue vs Hammond. Really?

Medina is years away. I'm not dismissing him, but he tops out at high A CR this year if it starts to come together. He's just not on my radar right now.

Cruz is one of those guys who is "older" at 23 who has amazing stuff and really didn't deserve to be promoted to AA for 2022. But STUFF...and I'm guessing a solid Instructional League...got him to Wichita for 2022. And I applaud that move! Pure arm talent rivals Duran and Alcala. The rest of his results do not. But a repeat of AA MIGHT have him finding control finally. He's a 2nd half of the year candidate for AAA, with a possible ETA of 2024.

Now, in Raya, we might have something! I didn't like the 2020 draft and still don't. But I liked Raya. From day one I felt they found another "Berrios-like" pitcher with stuff and attitude on the mound. He's so young, barely thrown in 2yrs, and had himself a really good 2022. The IL will tell a lot, but I wouldn't be shocked if he he jumped to CR. And I wouldn't be disappointed if he started at Ft Myers and jumped quickly to CR. I just think this kid is going to surprise people really soon.

Why was Festa not part of the article? Because he flashed enough? I would have placed him ahead of Medina.

And if you really want to look at a potential breakout candidate, look at late round 2021 pick Jaylen Nowlin, a LHP who is WAY under the radar right now. ONE awful 2021 appearance.  And then a promotion to A and A÷. 14K per 9. 1.40 WHIP, .230 AVG. Jumped to A and A÷. M ight be a RP eventually,  but he's higher on my list than other. He's a sneaky good prospect that deserves mention and following. 

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On 11/1/2022 at 8:40 AM, MN_ExPat said:

Thanks for the write up Sherry, appreciate the work.  Big fan of what Raya brings to the game, love his pure stuff.  Also really interested in what Festa will do next year as I thought he really shoved this year :).

I'm with Lew on the picture though.  Jet Blue is an awesome stadium and complex (my son has played a lot of games there), but shouldn't we show an even better looking complex? ;).

It SOUNDS weird, but When I went to pull Twins Spring Training, this is the picture it gave me. I have to use USA Today pictures and they didn't have ones I could find of Hammond :( This was from one of their spring training games tho!

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On 11/2/2022 at 9:05 AM, TopGunn#22 said:

Raya is the guy to keep an eye on but he's at least a couple years away.  I agree about Festa, could have/should have been mentioned.  he's a little closer than the others.

What is the latest on Matt Canterino.  I still have high hopes for him but he's got to overcome the injury bug.

I LOVE RAYA!!!! I absolutely enjoyed learning and writing about him!!

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On 11/1/2022 at 11:15 PM, DocBauer said:

Sorry, but have to echo comments about Jet Blue vs Hammond. Really?

Medina is years away. I'm not dismissing him, but he tops out at high A CR this year if it starts to come together. He's just not on my radar right now.

Cruz is one of those guys who is "older" at 23 who has amazing stuff and really didn't deserve to be promoted to AA for 2022. But STUFF...and I'm guessing a solid Instructional League...got him to Wichita for 2022. And I applaud that move! Pure arm talent rivals Duran and Alcala. The rest of his results do not. But a repeat of AA MIGHT have him finding control finally. He's a 2nd half of the year candidate for AAA, with a possible ETA of 2024.

Now, in Raya, we might have something! I didn't like the 2020 draft and still don't. But I liked Raya. From day one I felt they found another "Berrios-like" pitcher with stuff and attitude on the mound. He's so young, barely thrown in 2yrs, and had himself a really good 2022. The IL will tell a lot, but I wouldn't be shocked if he he jumped to CR. And I wouldn't be disappointed if he started at Ft Myers and jumped quickly to CR. I just think this kid is going to surprise people really soon.

Why was Festa not part of the article? Because he flashed enough? I would have placed him ahead of Medina.

And if you really want to look at a potential breakout candidate, look at late round 2021 pick Jaylen Nowlin, a LHP who is WAY under the radar right now. ONE awful 2021 appearance.  And then a promotion to A and A÷. 14K per 9. 1.40 WHIP, .230 AVG. Jumped to A and A÷. M ight be a RP eventually,  but he's higher on my list than other. He's a sneaky good prospect that deserves mention and following. 

I am keeping this post in my back pocket. Festa never showed up for me because I didn't have as much knowledge of him. But, I do now. I am still learning the minor leagues - there are a lot of guys down there and information like this is super helpful!!! :)

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On 11/1/2022 at 7:20 AM, LewFordLives said:

Why is there a picture of the Red Sox spring training facility?

I will be interested to see how Raya's stuff plays as he moves up the ladder.

Because it came up under Twins Spring training and I couldn't find any photos of Hammond. I will be taking note of this for next time! :)

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On 11/1/2022 at 7:22 PM, roger said:

Interesting article.  Have liked Raya since they drafted him, liked him alot.  Looking forward to his making a big move next year, probably beginning with the Kernels with an early promotion to Wichita. 

Knew almost nothing about the other two.  Both look like interesting bullpen candidates, if they cut the number of walks, cut them a lot.  If not, AAAA may be their ceiling.

 

Glad I could bring you a little something you didn't know! I am enjoying learning about these guys! They are hard workers and a lot of fun!

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