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I also added in a few prospects with extreme statistical profiles, just for fun. 

Image courtesy of Andrew West/The News-Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

 

Noah Cardenas

For my life, I can’t figure out why Noah Cardenas isn’t well-regarded as a prospect. Catchers who can hit are rare; catchers who can hit and field well are unique, and Cardenas might be that kind of player. Let’s start with the bat: his .302/.407/.426 line at UCLA has translated well to a .261/.421/.413 one over his first full season in professional ball, 99 games with the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels. Despite a hitting environment that favors pitchers, Cardenas rode his excellent feel for the plate to an 18.2% walk rate, good for 3rd in the Florida League; his .421 OBP placed him 4th.

Fielding is more difficult to analyze—even major league stats remain shaky these days—but Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin refer to him as a “glove-driven” catcher, and the Pac-12 honored Cardenas with an honorable mention on their All-Defensive Team in 2019. 

He’s a touch older than your typical A-ball player—he celebrated his 23rd birthday on September 10th—but Cardenas should remain firmly on your radar over the next few years.

Cody Laweryson

“Fun” is seldom a word that describes a prospect, but the word fits Cody Laweryson’s bill perfectly. A 14th-round pick out of Maine in 2019, Laweryson shocked with a monstrous 15-strikeout performance to end his time in rookie ball but entered a hiatus thanks to the canceled minor league season in 2020. His 2021 season was forgettable, but he returned with a dominating 2022 campaign. Laweryson silenced bats with a 1.62 ERA, flipping between starting and relief, striking out 30.2% of hitters while walking just 7.2%. He even stepped up his game at AA, holding a 1.06 ERA over 59 ⅔ innings in a hitter-friendly environment.

Laweryson’s secret sauce is deception, a crane-like delivery with slanted arms and raised elbows that would fit perfectly next to Michael Jackson in the Thriller music video. Hitters can barely see the ball as a barrage of limbs fly toward the plate, masking Laweryson’s pitches until too late. The Twins chose not to protect Laweryson in the upcoming Rule 5 draft, opening up the chance for another team to poach him.

 

Brent Headrick

In May, Matthew Lenz told us we should start noticing Brent Headrick. He was on to something.

After struggling with command in 2021, Headrick shifted into high gear in 2022, punching out batters at an elite rate—31%, to be exact—while limiting walks with Joe Musgrove-esque control. Even a promotion into a hitters' lion's den—the Texas League—couldn’t slow down Headrick’s reign; his K-BB% barely budged after joining the Wind Surge. While not a velocity expert, Headrick works with a deceptive delivery, placing pitches in their proper location before punching out the batter with a high fastball or a diving breaking ball.

The Twins agree that Headrick is fascinating; the team chose to protect him in the upcoming Rule 5 draft, perhaps paving a path for the Illinois State product to pitch for the major league club in 2023. 

Others

Prospect evaluation is far from perfect, but one can often parse through the noise, instead focusing on the statistical freak shows who have become major league stars in recent seasons. Steven Kwan rode an elite contact profile to a 4.4 fWAR season; our own Luis Arraez broke out and won a silver slugger in 2022; Cristian Javier’s absurd minor league K numbers have translated to a career 30.9% K rate in the majors. These players were dinged for other drawbacks, but their outlier abilities have carried them to major league success. Here are a few guys in the Twins organization who stick out:

Jaylen Nowlin

Jaylen Nowlin struck out 35.9% of hitters in 2022. His command was dreadful enough to omit from this paragraph—his walk rate could scare the less courageous among us—but that punch-out rate will keep him around, maybe translating to major league playing time.

Austin Schulfer

The nearly 27-year-old Austin Schulfer is knocking loud enough on the Twins’ door that the neighbors are starting to get irritated. His strikeout and walk rates moved in the wrong direction in 2022, but his groundball rate jumped from average to 58.3%, good for tops in the system amongst all pitchers with 50 innings. Only seven qualified MLB relievers could claim a better penchant for grounders in 2022.

Noah Miller

19-year-olds aren’t supposed to walk 16.2% of the time in their first full season in professional baseball, especially when they play in an offensively stunted environment. Noah Miller’s extra-base authority lagged, but his feel for the zone is already elite.


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Noah Miller was a first round pick, not sure he qualifies as underrated. Laweryson was also sent to the AFL last year and had a notable season where he moved up to AA and slid back into a starting role. Had a lot of discussion on this site as well, so again...is he really underrated?

Cardenas is definitely one that was not on my radar and I want to know more about. 23 years old in A ball is definitely old for the level, but If he moves up by midseason to AA he won't be doing too badly for a catcher. His arm doesn't look all that great, but just peeking at the Passed Balls he seems like he blocks the plate pretty well? His power production has fluctuated quite a bit, but a SLG over .400 in the FSL is solid enough. Catching depth in the system has seemed thin, so if Cardenas emerges that would be a big deal.

 

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Cody laweryson probably will get selected by another team in the rule 5 draft  ...

We need catching  and no catcher is rated in the top 30 prospects  ... 

Headricks a lefthander was protected and equal to laweryson as a right handed   ...

Nowlin might be a sleeper , schulfer is quite old to be a prospect  ...

 

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At 27 Schulfer is not a prospect, but he could be depth for the roster.  Headricks is intriguing, but Lawyerson is probably gone.  I am most impressed by Cardenas - nice profile.  Thanks for bringing him to our attention. Will he make the prospect list and if not, why?   Nowlin can not be discussed until he has some control, we do not need a young Pagan. 

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I can see why Cardenas was overlooked.  He was 8th round pick.  He had a great freshman season in college, but then lost 2020, and drop off in 2021 by a bit compared to 2019.  In 2022 with us, he looked more like his 2019 college version.  It will be interesting to see if he regresses like in college, or maybe the off year affected him a lot more than we would have liked.  

He also hit more HR in Low A than his whole college career, so he was not known for power coming out.  His college numbers were mostly built on his ability to walk, and get hit by pitches.  Unless his power continues to build, I could see him as one of those pesky long at bat walker kind of guy at the bottom of the order.  If he can defend well enough, that should be fine for a good backup fringe starter, but if he can build some power, then he could be a clear starter. 

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A catcher and a shortstop. What is the difference. Cardenas is a promising prospect at catcher.  But unfortunately he may be the only one in the Twins system.  Noah Miller is an interesting prospect at shortstop, and he is one of four really highly ranked Twins prospect shortstops (Lewis, Lee, Martin and Miller). I posted earlier that the lack of catching prospects may be intentional by the FO. The FO may feel the catchers are too injury prone  or unpredictable to waste high draft picks on them. I feel sure that the wealth of shortstop prospects is intentional by the FO.  Possibly the Twins lack of catching prospects is not a coincident. Perhaps it is intentional.  If a player can be a good SS, then he can play other, less demanding positions, such as 3B, 2B, 1B and probably OF. So it is good to have lots of SS prospects. But it is rare for a catcher to be able to play other positions, with Josh Donaldson and Justin Morneau coming to mind as rare exceptions.

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1 hour ago, tarheeltwinsfan said:

A catcher and a shortstop. What is the difference. Cardenas is a promising prospect at catcher.  But unfortunately he may be the only one in the Twins system.  Noah Miller is an interesting prospect at shortstop, and he is one of four really highly ranked Twins prospect shortstops (Lewis, Lee, Martin and Miller). I posted earlier that the lack of catching prospects may be intentional by the FO. The FO may feel the catchers are too injury prone  or unpredictable to waste high draft picks on them. I feel sure that the wealth of shortstop prospects is intentional by the FO.  Possibly the Twins lack of catching prospects is not a coincident. Perhaps it is intentional.  If a player can be a good SS, then he can play other, less demanding positions, such as 3B, 2B, 1B and probably OF. So it is good to have lots of SS prospects. But it is rare for a catcher to be able to play other positions, with Josh Donaldson and Justin Morneau coming to mind as rare exceptions.

It's a shame and strange about the lack of depth at catcher. We'll be hurting for a long time, IMO shows lack of insight. I think there's a shift of catchers are able to play more than one position like 1B, 3B, corner OF & even Dalton Varsho (AR- C) has been playing mainly CF. Personally I'd like them focus on catching.

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For the most part, being old for your level makes you a non-prospect, and it's rare that evaluators are wrong there.  If Cardenas put up those numbers as a 19 yr old (see EmRod), there would be a lot of hype.  You may get a Garver now and then out of the hundreds of late-drafted (3rd rd or later) hitters putting up decent stats at a league they're too old for.

I'd be more hyped for that catcher we got from the Dodgers along with Maeda.  I think he's the same age and two levels ahead.  He had a .778 OPS at Wichita.

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8 hours ago, twinstalker said:

For the most part, being old for your level makes you a non-prospect, and it's rare that evaluators are wrong there.  If Cardenas put up those numbers as a 19 yr old (see EmRod), there would be a lot of hype.  You may get a Garver now and then out of the hundreds of late-drafted (3rd rd or later) hitters putting up decent stats at a league they're too old for.

I'd be more hyped for that catcher we got from the Dodgers along with Maeda.  I think he's the same age and two levels ahead.  He had a .778 OPS at Wichita.

The main thing to push back on is that Cardenas was a college kid and in his first full year of pro ball this year.  The catcher we got from Dodgers was international kid that have been in pro ball for many years and actually is rule 5 available.  Cardenas did put similar numbers at 19 at UCLA.  Also, the catcher you point to in AA, which is more of hitter league than low A, had OBP of .306, Cardenas had OBP of .421.  Yes, Camargo, had a bit higher slugging overall, but that is a huge difference in OBP.  Sure Camargo may have a little more power, but he is either HR or out, and he struck out 33% about with K to walk ration of 66 to 13, if you go by full minor league season it is 107 to 20.  Cardenas walked 73 times only struck out 70.  I will take the guy that walks more than strikes out, because the guy that strikes out 5 to 1, and 33% in minors most likely will be much worse at majors. 

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