With the deadline to add players onto the 40 man roster affording them protection from being exposed in the Rule 5 draft, the Twins had four locks: Royce Lewis, Jose Miranda, Cole Sands, and Josh Winder. From there, the next most logical addition was Blayne Enlow. His case was an uncertain one, however, as he underwent Tommy John surgery this past summer.
Enlow didn’t pitch in 2020 due to the minor league shut down, and he got in just 14 2/3 innings in 2021 before the arm surgery. Having topped out at High-A Cedar Rapids, the 22-year-old is plenty far from the majors as well. Don’t let that fool you, though, as this is an arm Minnesota should’ve had a chance at seeing this year. That would’ve been a monumental leap from Iowa to St. Paul and eventually Minneapolis across one season, but it also highlights this organization's belief in the kid.
Minnesota’s front office selected Enlow in the third round of the 2017 Major League Baseball draft, their first with the organization. After taking Royce Lewis first overall, the Twins went with Landon Leach in round two with the hopes of saving slot value and spending more on Enlow. Ultimately agreeing to a $2 million bonus that checked in as the highest mark of the third round and was $600 thousand more than Minnesota gave to the pick before. Steering him away from a commitment to Louisiana State University, the Twins liked the right-handed prep arm.
To this point in his professional career, Enlow has proven the Twins front office right. He posted a 3.26 ERA in his first full professional season as a 19-year-old and combined for a 3.82 ERA in 2019 as a 20-year-old. Spending the time working, getting bigger, and fine-tuning his stuff, there was no minor league pitcher I was higher on making a big jump in 2021 than Enlow. The first 14 2/3 innings of work this year came in to the tune of a 1.84 ERA and 23 strikeouts. Enlow’s command has always been the area that could use work, and seeing strikeouts jump up because of it was the expectation. A strong fastball with a plus-bender, Enlow looked the part of someone that could pitch in the top half of a Major League rotation.
After going under the knife, we’ll need to see how he responds. The Twins likely won’t see Enlow in action for much of the 2022 season, but he can continue to rehab and do so while being placed on the 60-day Injured List and not occupying a 40-man roster spot. Being able to stash him like this allows Minnesota to reap the rewards of a fully healthy player in 2023. If Enlow’s trends out of the shutdown were anything to be believed, it’s worth getting excited for a kid that could undoubtedly join the ranks of the top organizational arms.
Unlike Baddoo before him, no team selecting Enlow in the Rule 5 Draft would’ve been immediately able to see what they had on a big-league field. They could utilize the same Injured List designation, though, and would have added a big talent to the organization at next to no cost. Thankfully Minnesota didn’t pass on the opportunity to protect him solely to save a roster spot for what amounts to a handful of weeks. This is a long-term play that has a chance to pay big dividends.
Here’s to hoping Enlow’s rehab continues to go smoothly, he returns quickly, and the results are every bit as enticing as they once looked.