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  • Get Ready for More 2021 Twins Debuts


    Ted Schwerzler

    To say that 2021 has not gone as expected for the Minnesota Twins would be putting it lightly. After winning back-to-back AL Central Division titles, this team wasn’t supposed to flop so hard. Now that they have, here’s how they should use the rest of the season.

    Image courtesy of © Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

    Unfortunately, a series loss against the Baltimore Orioles after the one-third mark of the season should be the proverbial nail in the coffin for this team. Injuries have piled up, and Rocco Baldelli has been tasked with finding enough beating hearts to compile lineups on a nightly basis. With that as the new reality, making sure that 2021 is used productively to set up 2022 now must be the goal.

    Both Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach have debuted for the Twins. They represent the organization's two best pure hitting prospects, and neither should be sent back to the minors the rest of the way. Getting them regular reps is a must and making sure they’re comfortable to contribute out of the gate next year has to be the focus. Who should join them though?

    Jhoan Duran

    Pitching prospect number one, Duran got off to a late start this year dealing with a minor injury. He’s now taken a couple of turns at Triple-A St. Paul and looks every bit the dominant piece that the Twins have been waiting on. Maybe he’s not an ace, but he throws triple-digits and has strikeout stuff. Getting him something like 10 starts at the major-league level this season makes too much sense. Allocate the workload expected for Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ to other guys, this being the number one option.

    Matt Canterino

    Starting at High-A never made sense for Canterino. He’ll soon be 24 and is clearly advanced well beyond that level. He should be at Double-A already, and Triple-A by the end of the summer. I don’t know if Canterino necessarily needs big league starts, but there’s no reason for him not to throw major-league innings this year. He’s got dominant strikeout stuff and could be usable in both a starting and relief role. Expecting him to contribute in 2022 makes a lot of sense, so getting the jitters out now needs to happen.

    Jordan Balazovic

    This one is a bit trickier given the injury situation. He’ll begin at Double-A Wichita this weekend, but as the Twins top pitching prospect, the stuff could push him along quickly. Balazovic has as high of an upside as anyone in the system. If Derek Falvey is going to develop his own Jose Berrios or better, this is the kid. I’d like to see him get at least one or two starts for Minnesota before the year is over.

    Josh Winder

    Another arm in the vein of Canterino, Winder was given more of an aggressive starting point. Having dominated Double-A over his first five outings, it’s time for a step up. He should spend a couple of months with the Saints at Triple-A, and then a 40-man addition along with a big league promotion makes sense. A 7th round pick in 2018, Winder will be 25 by 2022 and could certainly be an arm that the Twins look at when filling out the rotation.

    Cole Sands

    A 5th round pick back in 2018, the former Florida State Seminole has done nothing but impress in pro ball. He’ll turn 24 next month and has started strong at Double-A Wichita. There’s been a bit less command in 2021 than previous seasons, but the strikeout stuff plays. Getting him to Triple-A by mid-summer with an end-of-year promotion to the big leagues seems like the right timetable. Another guy that could be called upon in the rotation for '22, there’s no reason not to get his feet wet.

    Jose Miranda

    Losing Travis Blankenhorn over a middling reliever wasn’t ideal, but it’s Miranda that likely made him dispensable. The 2nd round pick in 2016 was Rule 5 eligible this winter but went undrafted. He’s crushed Double-A to start the year and owns a .920 OPS. There’s not much reason to keep him down longer, and he could quickly emerge as the next utility option with a bit stronger bat. He’s not a shortstop, but he can play third base, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Minnesota pushes for some outfield flexibility.

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    Let's hope that all of the injuries around the league create an opportunity to trade our FA SPs well in advance of the deadline.  Trades this time of year are somewhat unusual but this is an unusual year with all of the injuries.  That would accelerate the process.  It would be interesting to know how the FDO office sees the various prospects in terms of readiness.

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    Duran should be up at some point the 2nd half of the season. As a SP, PERIOD.  Even if the Twins SOMEHOW go on a June tear, let him start. Hell, if the team did go on a tear, he might be part of the reason.

    Winder needs to be up to AAA SOON! ML promotion is somewhat debatable, but let it ride.

    Canterino, IMO, should have started the season at Wichita. There is value in protecting his arm due to IP, but only because he missed 2020 and not because of his college use. We are beyond that now after sitting most of last year.

    I can absolutely see Sands and Enlow at St Paul the second half of the year as well. Maybe not a potential ML debut that Duran should have, maybe Winder, but them closer and ready.

    Balazovic is frustrating only because of his late start. DON'T blow it by over burdening him, but don't be afraid to at least give him a couple weeks at AAA if he's healthy and doing what he can do.

    Promote Miranda soon. 

    The Twins invested heavily on INF a couple years ago and we are generally seeing very positive results so far. Promote them soon.

    You can't be afraid of prospects playing well after a lost year. You need to adjust timeliness.  Get Julian and Steer and others up to the level they deserve to be at.

    There is a lot to like with what is happening at the milb level right now. Please don't be passive. 

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    My thoughts on the guy's mentioned: 

    Duran: If he stays healthy, throws strikes and has that second (and preferably third) pitch, he'll be up in another month. Odds: About 95% or higher. 

    Canterino: Should he have started in Wichita? Maybe, but I have no problem with him starting in Cedar Rapids. There's no rush. He'll be up there soon, and he'll likely end the year St. Paul. Odds: about 20% 

    Balazovic: Let's see how he does in Wichita. Again, he's young. He's on his first option. No rush at all. No need to push him if he's not ready. Odds: 50/50

    Winder: I'd say 3-4 more starts like he's had and he could move up to St. Paul, but again, no rush to get him to the big leagues. Can definitely see him in the big leagues this year sometime, but he's an arm to be cautious. Maybe keep him starting in the minors. Odds: 50/50. 

    Sands: He can move up to St. Paul if he keeps improving, but after Winder. And St. Paul has others, so I think it's more important for all of these pitchers to just keep getting innings. I'm not worried about whether it's with the Wind Surge, Saints  or later Twins. 40-man add after the season if he pitches well all year.  Odds: 10%

    Miranda: This one will be about opportunity. Donaldson's not going anywhere. Sano will likely stick around. Kiriloff isn't going anywhere. I think Gordon needs an opportunity. Polanco's not going anywhere. Arraez is still around. Miranda needs to just keep playing every day. He now has a total of 4-5 weeks in Double-A, so no rush to move him up because he's not going to the big leagues any time soon. Also, we saw with the Celestino situation just how quickly a guy can get from AA to AAA to the big leagues. Keep him playing every day. Add him to the 40-man roster after the season. Odds: 10-20%

    Maeda isn't going anywhere. Berrios, I'd still guess it's unlikely he gets traded. Pineda, Shoemaker and Happ could all be dealt. Dobnak should keep starting. We think Duran will probably move up there. Ober's on the 40, so he should get more opportunities. Barnes and Jax aren't on the 40-man roster, so they might want to add them and see what they can do. 

    Looking by position other than pitchers (because there are a bunch just mentioned above). 

    Catcher: Garver, Jeffers, Rortvedt. 

    Infield: Donaldson, Sano, Kirilloff, Polanco, Simmons, Arraez, Gordon. 

    Outfield: Larnach, Celestino, Kirilloff, with Buxton, Kepler, Arraez, Rooker and Garlick. 

    My point is just that there is a 26-man roster limit and a lot of those spots are spoken for, until they're not (trade, release)... and the fact that they can't add unlimited players in September, the number of debuts will be down. 

    Man, this is long... Sorry. 

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    7 hours ago, Seth Stohs said:

    My thoughts on the guy's mentioned: 

    Duran: If he stays healthy, throws strikes and has that second (and preferably third) pitch, he'll be up in another month. Odds: About 95% or higher. 

    Canterino: Should he have started in Wichita? Maybe, but I have no problem with him starting in Cedar Rapids. There's no rush. He'll be up there soon, and he'll likely end the year St. Paul. Odds: about 20% 

    Balazovic: Let's see how he does in Wichita. Again, he's young. He's on his first option. No rush at all. No need to push him if he's not ready. Odds: 50/50

    Winder: I'd say 3-4 more starts like he's had and he could move up to St. Paul, but again, no rush to get him to the big leagues. Can definitely see him in the big leagues this year sometime, but he's an arm to be cautious. Maybe keep him starting in the minors. Odds: 50/50. 

    Sands: He can move up to St. Paul if he keeps improving, but after Winder. And St. Paul has others, so I think it's more important for all of these pitchers to just keep getting innings. I'm not worried about whether it's with the Wind Surge, Saints  or later Twins. 40-man add after the season if he pitches well all year.  Odds: 10%

    Miranda: This one will be about opportunity. Donaldson's not going anywhere. Sano will likely stick around. Kiriloff isn't going anywhere. I think Gordon needs an opportunity. Polanco's not going anywhere. Arraez is still around. Miranda needs to just keep playing every day. He now has a total of 4-5 weeks in Double-A, so no rush to move him up because he's not going to the big leagues any time soon. Also, we saw with the Celestino situation just how quickly a guy can get from AA to AAA to the big leagues. Keep him playing every day. Add him to the 40-man roster after the season. Odds: 10-20%

    Maeda isn't going anywhere. Berrios, I'd still guess it's unlikely he gets traded. Pineda, Shoemaker and Happ could all be dealt. Dobnak should keep starting. We think Duran will probably move up there. Ober's on the 40, so he should get more opportunities. Barnes and Jax aren't on the 40-man roster, so they might want to add them and see what they can do. 

    Looking by position other than pitchers (because there are a bunch just mentioned above). 

    Catcher: Garver, Jeffers, Rortvedt. 

    Infield: Donaldson, Sano, Kirilloff, Polanco, Simmons, Arraez, Gordon. 

    Outfield: Larnach, Celestino, Kirilloff, with Buxton, Kepler, Arraez, Rooker and Garlick. 

    My point is just that there is a 26-man roster limit and a lot of those spots are spoken for, until they're not (trade, release)... and the fact that they can't add unlimited players in September, the number of debuts will be down. 

    Man, this is long... Sorry. 

    Well said Seth. :)

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    Few teams would want to throw in the towel on the season in early June, but leaders of the Twins need to be realists. Injuries have created space for young players to get playing time in the field. Soon it will likely be prudent to push Happ and Shoemaker aside for starts by the likes of Duran, Canterino, Winder et al.

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    If Twins do not have a winning June, time to trade any expiring contract and play any prospect to see if they have anything for next season.  The amount of injuries this year is a little crazy, and I am sure some players had been playing through some issues in hopes of helping the team.  I am not sure why this has happened so much this year.  Does the team need to look at training staff change up? 

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    I would hope we would take a look at Palacios at AAA. Relievers Cano & Moran should be promoted to see how they do against better competition. 

    It would be frustrating to continue to add to the list of relievers that we simply gave away such as Nick Anderson, Curtiss, Chargois, Littell, etc.  It stands in stark contrast to the “has beens” such as Colome, Robles, Minaya, Waddell, Law, etc. that populate our bullpen annually.  We somehow seem to have roster space as well as perceive (imagine) some upside for these type of reclamation projects.  
     

    It would be refreshing to see the organization actually vet more of their own young relievers.  They would be cheap, controllable, and still have some upside projection.  It can’t be worse than the annual squander of $10-$12mm on retreads to try to fill out a bullpen that has become a winter tradition with this front office.

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    7 minutes ago, Wizard11 said:

    I would hope we would take a look at Palacios at AAA. Relievers Cano & Moran should be promoted to see how they do against better competition. 

    It would be frustrating to continue to add to the list of relievers that we simply gave away such as Nick Anderson, Curtiss, Chargois, Littell, etc.  It stands in stark contrast to the “has beens” such as Colome, Robles, Minaya, Waddell, Law, etc. that populate our bullpen annually.  We somehow seem to have roster space as well as perceive (imagine) some upside for these reclamation projects.  
     

    It would be refreshing to see the organization actually vet more of their own young relievers.  They would be cheap, controllable, and still have some upside projection.  It can’t be worse than the annual squander of $10-$12mm on retreads to try to fill out a bullpen that has become a winter tradition with this front office.

    Every team retreads BP arms.  The biggest squander of dollars has been high-end relievers.  They fail more often than they succeed.  They money is better spent elsewhere or even on 3 or 4 guys instead of one.  I also don't understand where you are coming from on guys we cut other than Anderson.  Guys like Littell / Chargois / Curtiss are not even remotely the answer to our BP issues.

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    A bunch of the arms should get some innings this year. If they continue to impress. The idea that the Twins should call them up just because they're prospects and "the future" isn't a sound strategy. Calling them up "to see what we have for the next couple years" isn't a sound strategy. Calling up a guy who isn't ready doesn't show you what you have for the future or give you any sort of idea of what you need to sign during the offseason. It shows you you called up a guy that wasn't ready and let them get their brains bashed in. 

    Miranda looks like he'll be a 40 man add this offseason, but it's hard to find a place for him on this roster right now. Trading Simmons opens up a spot, but Donaldson, Polanco, Arraez, Kirilloff is still your starting IF with Gordon backing up the middle. Miranda can be the backup on the corners, but I'd be shocked if they trade Donaldson, and even trading Sano just leads to Kirilloff being everyday 1B. 

    There are very few arms on the big league roster worthy of blocking prospects who are ready. Maeda and Berrios are probably the only 2. Dobnak and Thorpe get the first shots (whether you personally like them or not that's the truth). Dobnak is likely penciled into the 5th rotation spot next year (otherwise that extension, while not huge money, doesn't look great). Thorpe really will be out of options next year and he is someone they actually do need to see what they have. He'll get his chance to sink or swim as Happ, Shoemaker, Pineda(?) get traded or released. If Pineda isn't traded the rotation post-trade deadline is Berrios, Maeda, Pineda, Dobnak, Thorpe. Injuries will continue to happen and the bullpen is wide open so there will be innings to be had from the prospects. Duran looks to be on track to debut as the team moves on from veterans and if he dominates for the next month or 2 in St Paul he may push Thorpe out of the way for 10-12 starts (depending on inning numbers). Canterino and Winders feel like guys who will get tossed into the bullpen in August or September to snag a few innings and get their feet wet, with a shot to get some starts if injuries are a problem. Hoping Balazovic gets his feet under him and can make a steady climb that leads to a September call up and a few starts. I think beyond those 4 the rest of the prospect arms can hope for bullpen inning scraps. 

    A pitching staff of nearly all rookies in August and September is exciting, but a pitching staff of a bunch of rookies who aren't ready is a nightmare. It doesn't help them and doesn't tell us about the future. If they're ready get them innings so they can see what adjustments they'll need to make and have a good idea of how to succeed in the bigs next year and the future. But putting guys out there who aren't ready is bad prospect development. Celestino isn't ready and having him be overwhelmed at the plate then be part of a game costing error isn't telling us anything about his future (he's a stud defender in center), but it is hurting his confidence now. No reason to think he doesn't bounce back and continue to develop once he gets sent back to an appropriate level, but him being in the bigs while he isn't ready isn't telling us that we don't have our future CFer, it's telling us he should still be in AA like he would be if not for a crazy string of injuries.

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    15 hours ago, D.C Twins said:

    Gordon....Gordon...GORDON!

    For the Love of Lombardozzi play him (almost) every day at MLB level. We need to know what we have so  as not to lose something good, or feel good about losing something not worth keeping.

    PLEASE FO......figure it out!

    I think Nick Gordon is a pretty known commodity at this point. He doesn't have the arm to play anywhere but 2B, and his bat probably is average at best there. I'd still play him a ton this year, and maybe see if you can develop some outfield ability. He falls short of being a utility guy though with no SS/3B reliability, and having a pinch runner type isn't really a thing anymore.

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    9 hours ago, Mike Sixel said:

    If you want those pitchers to contribute early in Minnesota next year, they should be in Minnesota part of this year. 

    This is my point with almost everyone mentioned in this article. 2022 is not a rebuild unless the evaluation of Sano, Kepler, Polanco, and Buxton is all way off. Get guys ready the rest of the way so you aren't dealing with a Kirilloff type situation on Opening Day. Sure, they won't be guaranteed or consistent, but they'll be acclimated.

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    How many of these pitchers are on innings limits and a high risk to get shut down by September? I’d like to see some aggressive moves for bullpen arms since they are always the king of SSS. But others like Balazovic, Winder, etc. who are expected to be starters? That may be too aggressive to push them on higher levels and innings. 

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    1 hour ago, Major League Ready said:

    Every team retreads BP arms.  The biggest squander of dollars has been high-end relievers.  They fail more often than they succeed.  They money is better spent elsewhere or even on 3 or 4 guys instead of one.  I also don't understand where you are coming from on guys we cut other than Anderson.  Guys like Littell / Chargois / Curtiss are not even remotely the answer to our BP issues.

    I'd take the Wells kid from Baltimore who shut us down for 3 innings the other night. He belonged to us last year. 

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    1 minute ago, In My La Z boy said:

    I'd take the Wells kid from Baltimore who shut us down for 3 innings the other night. He belonged to us last year. 

    I was just thinking the same thing.  It looked like he could spot his fastball and we have a lot of guys that do not have adequate command.  I don't like the way the 40 man was managed.  I can't blame them for Baddoo because I too did not believe someone would take him.  However, I did not believe Thorpe or Smeltzer were ML pitchers.

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    32 minutes ago, Vanimal46 said:

    How many of these pitchers are on innings limits and a high risk to get shut down by September? I’d like to see some aggressive moves for bullpen arms since they are always the king of SSS. But others like Balazovic, Winder, etc. who are expected to be starters? That may be too aggressive to push them on higher levels and innings. 

    With the minor league season starting a month late and most starters going 5/6 innings and in the 80 pitch range, I doubt there will be many/any innings limits in September.

    As for the bullpen, I wonder if we could see Yennier Cano and Jovani Moran get chances late in the season.

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    Some have mentioned a "winning June."  I feel that ship might have already sailed with 3 loses (to the Orioles and Royals) to open the month and the Yankees and Astros on the horizon.

    That coupled with all the injuries and they way they played the first two months this season leaves for little optimism that June will be any different.

    I hope I'm wrong...

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    This season will hurt the Twins just based upon the fact that there is no roster expansion to 40 when September rolls around. That is usually a decent time to give some of these prospects their "cup of coffee". Especially if we are going to have a season like the current one that we have. 

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