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  • Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2022: Part 3 (6-10)


    Nick Nelson

    Continuing our rankings of the most valuable player assets in the Minnesota Twins organization, we share our picks for six through 10.

    This list attempts to answer a simple question: Which 20 players and prospects are most indispensable in the team's quest to win a championship?

    Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

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    Before getting started, you can get up to speed on the ground rules, which were covered in the first installment, and also read up on our picks for #11-15. 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

    From there, we crack into the top 10.

    Top 20 Twins Assets of 2022: 6 through 10

    10. Ryan Jeffers, C
    2021 Ranking: 7

    Two-way catchers are among the most valuable commodities in baseball. It's not yet clear that Jeffers will be one, but his young major-league career has offered promising signs.

    Defensively, Jeffers established himself as a strong pitcher framer and good overall backstop. His instincts and reaction speed enable him to make special plays. He seems to have the confidence of the pitching staff – no small feat for a 24-year-old who went from college to the majors in two years.

    Offensively, his rushed development has been evident. After an impressive rookie showing in 2020, Jeffers saw his OPS drop by 120 points as lacking plate discipline derailed his production. But while the .199 average and .270 on-base percentage were tough to stomach, Jeffers kept bringing the power with 14 home runs in 85 games. 

    At worst, Jeffers looks like a good defensive catcher who can take one deep here and there. (A poor man's Salvador Perez, perhaps?) If he can evolve a bit in the batter's box, he'll become a highly coveted asset – the heralded two-way catcher. 

    It's important to keep in mind Jeffers' age and experience; when Mitch Garver was 24, he was posting a .688 OPS in Single-A.

    9. Max Kepler, RF
    2021 Ranking: 3

    Kepler is an average hitter and an elite defensive right fielder with a very favorable contract. That combination would have more value to a lot of other teams than it does to the Twins, who wouldn't mind spending on an outfielder and already have a top-notch defender in center. 

    A persistent inability to turn the corner offensively – outside of a short-lived breakout in 2019 – has made Kepler a frustrating player to follow. But when you look past that, he's an excellent athlete and quality regular, still a year short of 30 and under team control at reasonable rates for the next two seasons, with a $10M option in 2024. 

    8. Mitch Garver, C
    2021 Ranking: 8

    Garver's struggles with the bat in 2020 carried over into the beginning of 2021, where he slashed .151/.196/.321 through 17 games while striking out half the time. As the catcher's incredible 2019 faded further from view, many began to wonder if his approach was broken. Maybe it was, but Garver fixed it in a hurry.

    He homered twice in his last game of April, and pretty much never looked back, hitting .292/.406/.584 with 11 homers and 12 doubles in 51 games the rest of the way. Garver rediscovered his plate discipline, and as soon as that happened, he got back to dominating and basically out-homering the world (on a per-rate basis).

    It was a second consecutive season for Garver that was cut short by injuries. The punishment he's taken behind the plate, along with the increasingly evident need to have his bat in the lineup, could compel the Twins to start shifting Garver to different positions more. 

    But that needs to be weighed against the tremendous advantage gained by writing him in at catcher. Since 2019 Garver ranks second among all MLB backstops in wOBA (min. 500 PA). He'd be higher on this list if not for his waning team control, with free agency only two seasons away.

    7. Joe Ryan, RHP
    2021 Ranking: NR

    Managing to secure Ryan in exchange for Nelson Cruz ahead of the trade deadline was a nifty bit of work by the front office, and one that probably doesn't get talked about often enough. 

    As a 40-year-old designated hitter approaching free agency, Cruz had limited value, but the Twins leveraged Tampa's situation and were able to add an asset that immediately becomes a key part of their plans. 

    The 25-year-old Ryan dominated at Triple-A this year, and translated his performance to the majors. In five starts for the Twins, he struck out six times as many batters as he walked, and allowed only 16 hits in 26 ⅓ innings. 

    The right-hander cemented his spot in a needy rotation, and he's lined up to be an inexpensive fixture for years to come. All in return for an aging and expensive DH who didn't really help the Rays that much, and is now a free agent. In terms of asset upgrades, it doesn't get much better than what the Twins pulled off here.

    6. Bailey Ober, RHP
    2021 Ranking: NR

    Like Ryan, Ober is a newcomer to the rankings and finds himself near the top. But unlike Ryan, he's not a newcomer to the system. The former 12th-round draft pick boosted his stock immensely over the past couple years by significantly increasing his velocity to shed the "soft-tossing" label. 

    Aided by a more effective fastball, which plays up from his 6-foot-9 frame, Ober was highly impressive as a rookie. There was nothing particularly fluky about his performance for the Twins, although home runs were a bit of a recurring issue. He looks the part of a mid-rotation staple, and a guy you'd feel okay about starting in the playoffs. 

    We've seen how difficult it is for the Twins to acquire impact pitching via free agency. Developing cost-controlled arms is instrumental to this front office's vision for success. That's why Ober and Ryan rank so highly on this list: the team's fate (especially in the short-term) is tied to them. 

    Check back in on Wednesday when we wrap up these rankings with our picks for the top 5!

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    12 minutes ago, mikelink45 said:

    It is my hope that Ryan and Ober do not hit the wall of that sophomore jinx that is all too real. If either one is going to fall flat I projected it is Ober. 

    It's a risk that exists with any pitcher, of course. I'd be more anxious about it with these two if there were clear signs of over-performing. But these guys both dominated throughout the minors, and they both had spectacular K/BB rates, which to me is one of the most straightforward indicators of sustainable effectiveness.

    Both Ober and Ryan were homer-prone and I could see that getting out of control. That's the biggest red flag for me. But it's true of many pitchers today, and not just young ones.

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    1 hour ago, swendel1970 said:

    Lewis, Martin, Kirilof, Polanco, Buxton in some order

    Let's see, how would I order that list...

    5. Martin. Least familiar, supposedly ranked up there with Lewis. Sounds like a star defensively, hoping he develops more pop with the bat. Who's a better 4th OF, Martin or Celestino? Can Martin play SS?

    4. Lewis. For all I've heard about his limitless potential, I've only seen a few clips of him swinging the bat. So much missed time...! Twins need to get him up early, see what he needs to work on.

    3. Polanco. The top three are huge here, but Polanco has the most prospects that could take his place: Lewis, Palacio, Martin, 

    2. Kirilloff. Twins gotta have that bat in the lineup to compete. Hoping he sticks at 1B. Sano could be going bye-bye with his 300k's and so-so defense. I'll take that same defense at 1B with a guy that bangs it off all walls and hits about .285. What was Killer's KO percentage with runners on base? I figure he'll drive in a few more runs with fly balls instead of K's. 

    1. Buck. With him, they won. Without him, they lost. That was pretty important in 2021. 

    If nothing else, the Saints should have one hell of a team this year.

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    1 hour ago, ToddlerHarmon said:

    I think you're right, but interesting that that leaves Donaldson, Maeda, Sano, and Rogers off the list

    Old, or past prime - Rogers may bounce back, but the other 3 are past their "best by" date.

    Doesn't mean they might still contribute, but, ahh, you know what I mean.

    Not pieces to build around.

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    8 hours ago, ToddlerHarmon said:

    I think you're right, but interesting that that leaves Donaldson, Maeda, Sano, and Rogers off the list

    Donaldson has negative value.  Sano has no excess value.  His 2023 option includes a $2.75M buyout so a team looking to trade would consider his current salary to include that buyout.  $12M total.  Maeda won't pitch in 2022 and it a FA after 2023.  There is a lot of uncertainty the year after TJ so his value is minimal.  Rogers salary negates his value but I would think he would still bring back a decent prospect in trade.   

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    Two catchers in the top ten?

    Trying to remember.... didn't the Twins have one of the worst hitting catching combos in all of MLB for quite a spell last year?

    I like both Garver and Jeffers, no need to worry about catching, but, it does go to show that you still have to play the games and see what happens.

     

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    I can't decide if Garver ranks too high for me here or not; he's getting older and has injuries, and he's only got two more years of team control left...but at the same time there's such a dearth of MLB catchers who can also hit that someone who can mash like Garver still has significant value, either on the field or in trade. Tough one to rate for me. But it also explains why Jeffers lands this high on the list too: catchers that give you anything on offense are so hard to find that a guy with an OPS+ of 83 last year still added positive value beyond their defense.

    I'm really excited about Ober and Ryan and look forward to watching their continued development.

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    Let's wait to see how Ryan pans out before we say we ripped off the Rays.  Last summer we traded our best pitcher, and, at the time, one of our best hitters.  All we have to show for it is prospects that teams were willing to give up on.  I sure hope a couple of these prospects turn out good.  Not just make the team, but very good.  So at the moment we have a non major league starting pitching staff and a very suspect bullpen.

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    Was thinking you had Jeffers too high, until reading the last sentence.  I believe Rortvedt has a future on this team, but it makes a ton of sense to keep Jeffers around for at least another year.  At some point the Twins are gonna have to move on from either Garver or Jeffers, unless Garver sees a lot of time at first base.

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    I like the informative analysis of the Twins assets. I’m wondering why Miranda is so low?

    We’ll see how those Twin .345 batting averages and 30 homers translate to MLB.

    My OOTP baseball experiment saw him hit ~ .285 with 14 HR and 82 RBIs. I’m actually optimistic that he can be a big boost for the Twins in 2022. The jury is out!

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    I personally believe SWR, Petty, Balazovic and maybe Steve Hajjar are too low. It usually seems that project able pitchers, that haven't proven they aren't what others hope bring the biggest returns. For example Lewis and SWR seemed like a great return at the time of the trade, but after a few months of play, it seems like a pretty good trade.

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