The Twins selected Balazovic in the fifth round of the 2016 Draft. The Canadian right-hander was just a thin 17 year old with projectable growth. After the draft, he made a solid first impression, pitching to a 1.97 ERA in 32 innings for the GCL Twins. Even with reasonably good numbers through his first two seasons, Balazovic struck out just 45 of the first 316 batters he faced while walking 25.
There wasn’t a ton of reason for excitement. Balazovic posted a 4.91 ERA in the GCL in 2017, again with modest strikeout numbers. Gaining strength and more experience, “Jordy Blaze” took a big step forward in 2018.
Balazovic pitched for Cedar Rapids alongside Brusdar Graterol, Jhoan Duran, Randy Dobnak, and Bailey Ober. Balazovic wasn’t the shining star of the staff, but he started gaining legitimate steam as a prospect because of how he was getting outs.
His strikeout rate jumped 16.5% from his first two years in the GCL, and the stuff was developing at an encouraging rate. Balazovic posted his first sub-four ERA at Low-A, pitching to older hitters in 240 out of 254 plate appearances.
Balazovic dominated right-handed hitters with sharper stuff and an increased feel. Righties hit .188/.245/.316 and struck out over 40% of the time. Balazovic finally appeared on the Twins’ Top-30 at MLB Pipeline.
His 2019 breakout felt inevitable. Spending most of his time at High-A, Balazovic was excellent. He posted a 2.69 ERA in a career-high 93 ⅔ innings with 129 strikeouts and 25 walks. Perhaps most encouragingly, lefties hit just .189 with a .501 OPS in 185 plate appearances.
Balazovic throws a fastball that averages 94-97 MPH with a sharp breaking ball and an underrated changeup. He has a unique delivery with noted deception.
His teammate in Wichita, Spencer Steer calls Balazovic’s stuff “absolutely electric.”
“It’s really fun to watch him overpower guys.”
Balazovic has had an up-and-down season at Double-A, with flashes of brilliance and stretches of poor command. He had a four-start period of 25 2/3 innings where he didn’t allow a run. Then he allowed 15 runs over his next three starts. Then he gave up zero earned runs in 13 2/3 innings before another tough outing Thursday. Overall, he has a solid 3.62 ERA with a 24% strikeout rate and a 9% walk rate.
A strong finish could help Balazovic reach St. Paul before the season’s end, with a call-up to the Twins looming in 2022. He’ll turn 23 in September.
Prospect progression is seldom linear, and that is doubly true for pitching prospects. While the Twins have stockpiled some intriguing arms, Balazovic has emerged as the best among them, increasing the stakes for his development.
The Twins will be defined by how Balazovic and his pitching counterparts pan out and how soon that takes place.