5. Jhoan Duran, RHP
2019 MiLB Stats: 5-12, 3.76 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 136 K, 40 BB, 115.0 IP
The Twins might have stolen Duran from the Diamondback organization as part of the Eduardo Escobar trade. Escobar was never going to be part of the long-term solution in Minnesota and Duran could be one of the answers to some of Minnesota’s pitching woes. Duran throws multiple fastballs with a four-seamer that can reach triple digits and consistently sits in the high-90s and a two-seamer that acts like a splitter which hits over 90 mph.
Last season, Duran really put himself on the prospect map by showing plus velocity and multiple pitches as a starter. He was almost two year younger than the average age of the competition in the FSL and that number jumped to 3.3 years younger in the Southern League. Even with the age gap, he struck out 10.6 batters per nine innings and his walk rate dropped from 3.6 BB/9 to 2.2 BB/9 after his promotion.
4. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
2019 MiLB Stats (A, A+): 8-6, 2.69 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 129 K, 25 BB, 93.2 IP
Balazovic is good. Like, really good. He has the chance to be better than any pitcher in the current Twins rotation and that’s something the Twins have struggled to produce from the farm system for many years. The kicker is… He was a fifth-round draft pick under the previous front office regime. Talk about a going away present.
He can hit the high 90s with his fastball and there is some sinking action on the pitch to induce groundballs. Add in a change-up in the mid-80s and that’s a recipe for disaster as a hitter. He made hitters look foolish in the MWL last season as he struck out 33 batters in just over 20 innings. Yes, that is over 14 strikeouts per nine innings. He took the jump to the FSL in stride and struck out nearly 12 batters per nine innings. In some organizations, he’d be the top prospect and that tells you how good the players are ahead of him.
3. Trevor Larnach, OF
2019 MiLB Stats (A+, AA): .309/.384/.458, 13 HR, 30 2B, 124 K, 57 BB, 127 G
In his second professional season, Larnach destroyed the baseball across two levels and an argument could be made for him to be the best prospect in the Twins organization. He’s had success in college and as a pro and that could help him to advance through the Twins system. Last season he was named the Twins Minor League Player of the Year and the Florida State League named him their Player of the Year.
His 147 hits were the most in the Twins system and he seemed to get better as the season progressed. From August 2 through the season’s end, he had a .969 OPS with nine extra-base hits in 28 games. He’s added a lot of weight throughout college and his professional career and this will only help with his power numbers in the future. On the defensive side, he’s slotted in to be a corner outfielder and he seems likely to play that position throughout his professional career.
2. Alex Kirilloff, OF
2019 MiLB Stats (AA): .283/.343/.413, 9 HR, 18 2B, 76 K, 29 BB, 94 G
Any prospect would have a tough time living up to the numbers compiled by Kirilloff in 2018. He dominated two levels of the minor leagues by hitting .348/.392/.578 with 71 extra-base hits in 130 games. The 2019 season was a different story as he missed time at season’s start with a wrist injury and then ended up back on the injured list with the same injury. From that point forward, he made his presence felt in the Southern League.
In August, Kirilloff crushed the ball to the tune of a .311/.351/.500 slash-line with five home runs in and five doubles in 26 games. He really found his stride in the playoffs as he hit home runs in the Blue Wahoo’s first four playoff games and posted a 1.435 OPS during the team’s semifinal appearance. He and Larnach have been compared to each other but Kirilloff is younger and it’s scary to think about the outfield these two could occupy in the years ahead.
1. Royce Lewis, SS
2019 MiLB Stats (A+, AA): .236/.290/.371, 12 HR, 26 2B, 123 K, 38 BB, 127 G
An argument can be made for any of the Twins top three prospects to be the best in the system. Lewis was the number one overall pick back in 2017 so it is going to be hard to ignore his prospect status no matter what he does in the minor leagues. Some might question the mechanics of his swing and some might question his eventual defensive position. His athleticism and skills are hard to ignore no matter what scouts might say about him.
Even with a down season, the Twins sent Lewis to the Arizona Fall League and he dominated over the course of 95 plate appearances. He hit .353/.411/.565 with 12 extra-base hits in 22 games. Because of other players on the roster, he was asked to play positions besides shortstop, and he lived up to the challenge. Kirilloff and Larnach might beat him to the big-leagues, but Lewis could be a once-in-a-generation talent.
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