Before getting started, you can get up to speed on the ground rules, which were covered in the first installment. Here are the players we've ranked so far:
20. Matt Canterino, RHP
19. Josh Winder, RHP
18. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP
17. Gilberto Celestino, CF
16. Chase Petty, RHP
15. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B
14. Jhoan Duran, RHP
13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
12. Trevor Larnach, OF
11. Luis Arraez, UTIL
10. Ryan Jeffers, C
9. Max Kepler, RF
8. Mitch Garver, C
7. Joe Ryan, RHP
6. Bailey Ober, RHP
From there, we round it out with the top five. If you haven't yet, be sure to check out the writeups on #6 through #20:
- Top 20 Twins Assets of 2022: 16-20
- Top 20 Twins Assets of 2022: 11-15
- Top 20 Twins Assets of 2022: 6-10
Top 20 Twins Assets of 2022: 1 through 5
5. Austin Martin, OF
2021 Ranking: NR
Since I started putting these rankings together after the 2017 season, here's where José Berríos has ranked: #3, #2, #3, #4. Ideally you keep an asset like that, but as it became clear the Twins were not going to be able to extend their two-time All-Star, they opted for the next-best thing: recouping value.
By taking advantage of deadline urgency, as well as Berríos' additional year of team control, the Twins were able to extract a premium talent package from Toronto, including Simeon Woods Richardson (#18 on this list) but headlined by Austin Martin.
The 22-year-old was one year removed from being the #5 overall draft pick, and recipient of a $7M signing bonus from Toronto. He was unanimously ranked as a Top 25 prospect in the game ahead of 2021, and appeared in the Futures Game in July.
An athletic on-base machine who is nearly ready for The Show, Martin is one of baseball's premier young talents. His high floor – reflected by a .414 OBP through 93 minor-league games, all played at Double-A – offsets a ceiling that's uncertain due to his lack of established power or a clear defensive home. There is very realistic star potential here, and that's known around the league.
Which is why some folks are wondering if the Twins might look to flip him in a trade for pitching when action resumes this offseason. Although he's played a lot of shortstop in the minors, no one really expects him to end up there. Martin's most valuable positions are likely center field and second base, where the Twins happen to be well set.
4. Royce Lewis, SS
2021 Ranking: 5
Here's an example of the Twins' needs outweighing a neutral assessment of player value. In a vacuum, I would probably rate Martin as a better prospect and player asset than Royce Lewis, who is an unknown commodity after struggling in 2019 and then missing two straight years.
In spite of this, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Lewis was a #1 overall draft pick who has been a regular on the top end of prospect rankings since joining the pro ranks. His high character and innate physical gifts lead many to believe he'll find his footing quickly and re-establish himself as an electric difference-maker across multiple phases of the game.
Most importantly, for the purposes of this list, you'll notice that Lewis is the only player on it listed as "SS." He's hardly a lock to stick at short, but he's got a better chance than any other player or prospect in the system currently. The Twins seem to firmly believe he can remain there, which may have guided them away from pursuing a free agent on a long-term deal.
Unless the situation changes, Minnesota is putting the future of a vital position in Lewis' hands, which makes him one of the organization's most critical players. Here's hoping he can rise to the occasion after a lengthy dormant period.
3. Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF
2021 Ranking: 2
Long viewed as one of the most advanced and explosive bats in the minor leagues, Alex Kirilloff arrived in 2021 and affirmed his rep. The overall numbers – .251/.299/.423 with eight homers and 34 RBIs in 59 games – were perfectly solid for a 23-year-old rookie. They also undersell his performance, which was hampered by a flukishly bad 0-for-15 start and then a serious wrist injury he played through for weeks before shutting it down in mid-July.
Kirilloff underwent surgery around that time, and is expected to be back at full strength for spring training (whenever it starts). Hopefully he'll pick up where he left off: straight mashing. Kirilloff's xSLG as a rookie, according to Statcast, was .541 – same as Josh Donaldson (who was in the Top 8% of all qualified MLB hitters).
With superb plate coverage, Kirilloff drives the ball to all fields and tortures opposing pitchers. Having watched him, I have little doubt he is going to be an offensive force (maybe even an MVP-caliber hitter) so long as he can keep future bouts with injury at bay.
Defensively, he was serviceable in left but looked like a natural at first base, with instincts and movements that point to Gold Glove potential. For the time being, he's blocked there by Miguel Sanó, and given the team's current needs, Kirilloff's ability to play in the corners is quite helpful.
The Twins still control him for six years (through age 29) after slightly delaying his arrival in 2021.
2. Jorge Polanco, 2B
2021 Ranking: 6
It's been quite the roller coaster for Jorge Polanco over the past few years. Coming off a breakthrough season where he was an All-Star shortstop and credible MVP candidate at age 25, he and his team-friendly contract reached the #1 spot in our rankings heading into 2020.
Then, Polanco's performance nosedived in a shortened campaign marred by ankle issues. He dropped back to #6 last year – his more customary range prior to the 2019 glow-up. Unlike Max Kepler, however, Polanco rebounded to prove his star turn with the Bomba Squad was no outlier.
In 2021, following a move to second base, Polanco regained his peak offensive form, shaking off a slow start to launch 33 homers and 35 doubles while setting career highs in SLG (.503) and OPS+ (125). He was a consistent centerpiece of the lineup, mashing from both sides of the plate as a switch-hitter.
His transition to a new position was rocky at times, but Polanco seemed to get more comfortable as the season went on and showed all the skills to excel. Shifting down the defensive spectrum is theoretically a ding to his value, but sub-par play at shortstop limited his benefit there.
He can offer plenty of value as a top-tier offensive second baseman in his prime, with two years of inexpensive team control followed by a pair of reasonable team options.
1. Byron Buxton, CF
2021 Ranking: 9
Byron Buxton's durability issues were hardly erased in 2021, another season cut short by long absences. But while he was on the field for 61 games, the center fielder's brilliance and MVP-caliber impact was more evident than ever before.
He won AL Player of the Month in April, and had a 1.180 OPS in early May before back-to-back major injuries (a strained hip and broken hand) cost him nearly four months. When he was able to play, Buxton was a remarkable difference-maker, producing an absurd 4.2 fWAR in less than half a season. But while he was out, the team struggled to counteract his absence.
Buxton's reliable unreliability will remain a reality until it's not. But his newly-minted contract extension accounts for that.
The stunningly favorable terms of Buxton's deal make him an easy choice for #1 on this list. It's essentially unheard of to be able to lock up an elite talent throughout his prime while largely paying him based on rate of production. Buck's recurring base salary of $15M/year is an absolute bargain for a franchise centerpiece and premier player in the game. His unique contract, driven heavily by MVP voting incentives, is a perpetual self-motivator.
Any other team in the league would be thrilled to have this contract. But a no-trade clause ensures none of them can have it. Buxton's here for the long haul, and now the Twins can fully focus on building a championship team around him.
With our countdown complete, here's a look at the full list of the top 20 Twins assets of 2022:
- Byron Buxton, CF
- Jorge Polanco, 2B
- Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF
- Royce Lewis, SS
- Austin Martin, OF
- Bailey Ober, RHP
- Joe Ryan, RHP
- Mitch Garver, C
- Max Kepler, RF
- Ryan Jeffers, C
- Luis Arraez, UTIL
- Trevor Larnach, OF
- Jordan Balazovic, RHP
- Jhoan Duran, RHP
- Jose Miranda, 2B/3B
- Chase Petty, RHP
- Gilberto Celestino, CF
- Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP
- Josh Winder, RHP
- Matt Canterino, RHP
Check back next week for a full recap of the list, featuring analysis, takeaways, and more. Thanks for reading, and feel free to share your thoughts on these rankings in the comments below.