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  • Part 4: Seth's Top 30 Twins Hitting Prospects (11-15)


    Seth Stohs

    Our countdown continues today as we get to know five more Minnesota Twins hitting prospects. This is an interesting, intriguing grouping of hitters. Find out who are my choices for the 11-15 ranked Twins hitting prospects. 

    Image courtesy of William Parmeter, Mighty Mussels (Urbina and Encarnacion-Strand), Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (Wallner, Cavaco, Javier)

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    Prospects come in all shapes and sizes, and players develop at different paces. This list shows that. The player in this group of five that has been around the longest is still very young, but because he signed at 16, he may seem older than he is. In fact, that player is actually younger than players drafted out of college the last couple of seasons. Brent Rooker went to Mississippi State and red-shirted as a freshman. He wasn't yet ready at that time. At 20, he was certainly ready for the SEC and became a top pick, drafted at 22-years-old. 

    That really brings up two points about age and prospects. First, age in important to consider when looking at level of competition and stats. However, age really isn't that important when it comes to a potential big leaguer. If he's ready at 22, great. If he's ready at 26, that's OK too. Of course, with the lost 2020 season due to the pandemic, age becomes less important relative to both points. 

    With that in mind, this group of five prospects has a few players who signed at 16 or 17 years old, and a couple of powerful college draft picks. Continue reading to see who made today's list. 

    #15 SS Wander Javier 
    2021 STATS: .225/.280/.413, 15 2B, 10 3B, 12 HR, 53 RBI, 34.3 K%, 6.1 BB%, 1/4 SB

    It’s been discussed before, but the Twins prospect most hurt by a lost 2020 season may have been Wander Javier. Signed to the largest international free agent contract in team history in July 2015, he began the trek up the ladder. Unfortunately, He missed much of the DSL season in 2016 with injury. He played well for Elizabethton in 2017. Then a shoulder injury cost him the 2018 season and the first half of the 2019 season. He struggled in Low-A Cedar Rapids, hitting just .177 in 80 games. Then came the missed 2020 season. In 2020, he spent the season with High-A Cedar Rapids. The positive is that he remained healthy until the final weeks of the season. He certainly showed flashes of offensive potential, but overall the batting average was low, and so was the on-base percentage. He continued to strike out a lot. There are still several positives that make me (and many) unwilling to give up on him. Javier is a really good athlete. He is quick and he has good strength. He had 37 extra base hits, showing home run power and triples speed. On the positive is Javier’s shortstop defense. Similar to Jermaine Palacios defensively. He has good range. He’s got a big arm. He just sometimes struggles with routine plays, so he will need to continue working on being more consistent. Javier has one more season in the Twins organization before he can become a minor league free agent. He just turned 23 in late December, so being patient is wise. 

    #14 3B Christian Encarnacion-Strand 
    2021 STATS: .391/.424/.598, 2 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 28.3 K%, 5.4 BB%, 2/2 SB

    The Twins drafted Christian Encarnacion-Strand in the fourth round of the 2021 draft, and it’s fair to say he made a great first impression. As you can see above, he hit for average and showed some of the power that made him intriguing in the draft. He played in 22 games for Ft. Myers and had at least one hit in 21 games. He had at least one hit in the first 20 games. At one point, he had three hits in three straight games and four out of five games. Big and strong, he has a lot of power potential. He didn’t walk a lot with the Mighty Mussels, but he has shown a good approach at the plate.  In his one season at Oklahoma State, he hit .361/.442/.661 (1.103) with 17 doubles and 15 home runs in 56 games. The California native had previously been drafted in 2019 in the 34th round when he was playing at Yavapai College in Arizona. In college, he played almost exclusively at third base. In Ft. Myers, with Jesus Feliz and fellow-2021 draft pick Jake Rucker playing third base, Encarnacion-Strand played 17 games at first base. He will be 22 years old throughout the 2022 season. There is a chance that this ranking is a little high simply due to his first impression on me, so it will be interesting to see what he does in 2022.  

    #13 SS Keoni Cavaco 
    2021 STATS: .233/.296/.302, 7 2B, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 34.1 K%, 7.0 BB%, 6/8 SB

    Javier is the player likely hurt most by the missed 2020 season. It was also unfortunate for Keoni Cavaco. He was the Twins first-round draft pick in the 2019 draft and struggled in 25 games in the GCL that season. Despite limited pro time, the Twins pushed him to Ft. Myers despite having just turned 20 in early June. He started out well and showed glimpses of his immense potential. Unfortunately, he had some rough patches too. He also missed time with a couple of injuries including a concussion. We have seen how playing in Ft. Myers can (and does) negatively impact offense, so despite his numbers, it is far too early to be too worried yet. He is big, strong and quick and should develop doubles and home run power in time. While he played third base in high school because his Eastlake teammate was shortstop Marcelo Mayer who was the fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft. However, he has the size, speed, hands and arm strength to potentially play shortstop so that’s where the Twins played him in 2021 and will continue to do so. He certainly needs to be more consistent, but the tools are there. He won’t be able to legally drink until early June. 

    #12 OF Misael Urbina  
    2021 STATS: .191/.299/.286, 12 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR,52 RBI, 18.7 K%, 12.3 BB%, 16/22 SB

    Back in July 2018, the Twins signed a 16-year-old Misael Urbina from Venezuela to a $2.75 million signing bonus. He made his professional debut in the DSL where he hit .279/.382/.443 (.825) with 14 doubles, five triples and two homers over 50 games. He also stole 19 bases and walked more than he struck out. After missing the 2020 season, he was set to begin the 2021 season in Extended Spring Training at the Complex. However, less than a week later, he was moved up to the Mighty Mussels and put right into their lineup. As you can see from his stat line, it was a struggle for him. However, he was more than two years younger than league average. He had a low batting average, but he took a lot of walks, showing an ability to control the strike zone (in a league with an electronic strike zone). He also was a good base stealer. He is generally a solid young outfielder who split his time between center field and left field. Urbina would benefit from another season in Ft. Myers to help his tools develop and he can find more success, even if it’s just for a half-season. He won’t even turn 20 until the end of April. 

    #11 OF Matt Wallner 
    2021 STATS: .265/.350/.504, 14 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 47 RBI, 33.3 K%, 9.3 BB%, 0/1 SB

    In 2016, Matt Wallner was Mr. Minnesota in baseball and the Twins drafted him in the 32nd round as a pitcher. He didn’t sign and instead headed south to play at Southern Mississippi where he developed into one of the best power hitters in college baseball. In 2019, the Twins drafted him again, this time with the 39th overall pick. He spent that summer in Elizabethton before ending the season in Cedar Rapids. After a lost 2020 season, Wallner returned to Cedar Rapids, now the Twins High-A affiliate. In his first 17 games, he hit .333/.384/.621 (1.005) with nine extra base hits. Unfortunately, he hurt his wrist and ended up having surgery on a broken hamate bone. Two months later, he returned to the Kernels for another 54 games. In that time, he hit just .220, but he walked 10% of the time and hit 11 doubles and 11 home runs. Following the season, he went to the Arizona Fall League where he hit .303 with two doubles and six homers in just 18 games. When he has control of the strike zone, Wallner can be immensely productive. If he can do that, he should hit for average. And when he makes contact, he has as much power as anyone in the Twins system, power to all fields. He’s tall and strong and a pretty good athlete with decent speed once he gets going. Defensively, he is a solid corner outfielder. Since he spent time in college as a closer, you might know that he has a cannon for an arm. He will likely spend most of the 2022 season with the Wichita Wind Surge. He will be 24 throughout the season. 

    I think this is a really interesting group of prospects. There are three very high-ceiling, multi-tooled prospects in this group who signed at a very young age. Javier has struggled on the field and staying on the field in his time. Cavaco and Urbina have all the tools, but they struggled. Both would have benefited from being able to play in a league between the Complex League and Low-A. Wallner and Encarnacion-Strand are college draft picks with big-time power potential who could move up the ladder more quickly.   

    It should be a fun list to discuss. Discuss these players, their rankings and feel free to ask questions. 

    Previous Rankings
    Hitters Part 1: 26-30
    Hitters Part 2: 21-25
    Hitters Part 3: 16-20 
    Hitters Part 4: 11-15 

    Pitchers Part 1: 26-30  
    Pitchers Part 2: 21-25
    Pitchers Part 3: 16-20 
    Pitchers Part 4: 11-15

     

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    I like that you are being bold with Encarnation-Strand.  He reminds me of Miranda some in that he seems to be on the ball making contact.  It is a very SSS though and his BABIP was 500 so there is likely going to be regression there unless he improves that K rate.  It is probably too early to have him at 14 but unless his K rate climbs I think he could climb into the top 5 before he makes the jump to MLB ball.  Maybe I am being fooled by the SSS but he has hit those same numbers his entire college career so I think the higher ranking is justified until he proves it isn't.

    For Wander it could be late bloomer syndrome but he has had professional help for a lot of years now.  Personally I wouldn't have him ranked this high and I think MLB dropped him off their list altogether. Never say never to highly athletic players as things can click at any time but given what he has shown to this point it seems pretty unlikely he makes it.

    I agree Cavaco looked like maybe the top hitter at FT Meyers to start the season but after he was injured was never quite the same.  Hopefully time off and a better idea of what he needs to work on will help him.  I was glad the Twins were aggressive and gave him A ball starts he needs them.  I think next year will be a better year for him.

    Have to say I was a little bummed with Urbina.  I guess I thought he would have a bit better year.  FT Meyers was a tough place for hitters all year.  I didn't watch him enough to know but looking at the numbers he only has an 18% K rate so he was making contact but given his slugging was 286 it was mainly weak contact.  He is young and maybe needs to develop some man muscle but the underlying numbers still look pretty good. He could be a breakout candidate for next year. 

    I have been the low man on Wallner mainly because of the high BABIP and K rate.  He kind of looks like fools gold to me. That being said the power is for real and the average speed and plus arm make him a possible Kepler replacement.  I hope the eye catches up and helps move the K rate down and then I am onboard with this ranking.

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    Very interesting group, Seth, especially including the three young kids.  I guess Javier is no longer all that young, but understand your sticking with him based on his raw talent.  Was encouraged last year when he had several short streaks of hitting well, unlike previous seasons in which he was either out all year or didn't hit a lick.

    Haven't been that high on Wallner, but am warming to his being a better version of Rooker/Sabato.  His play in the AFL was encouraging, very encouraging.  You said he is solid defensively, is his speed good or just good for a power guy?  Unlike some, I am not concerned with Urbina's bat last summer.  The kid went from the DSL to an off year to the Miracle/Mighty whatever.  That's a heck of a jump with a year of doing nothing in between.

     

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    There are things to like about all of these hitters, but all of them have serious questions too. (pitchers still seem to be charting ahead of hitters to me; I like the pitcher set from 11-15 better than the hitters)

    Javier has talent, but we're getting to a point where the production has to catch back up. His cup of coffee at 17 was great, his first real season in MiLB was excellent, and since then...he's had a seat on the struggle bus. Brutal year coming off injury (and a missed development year) in low A, missed another development year due to COVID, and then was just decent in high A. He's not making anywhere near enough contact. I think he's this high based on scholarship, not production. I'm rooting for him to have the breakthrough, but this is basically a make-or-break year for him to stay any kind of prospect as opposed to being minor league depth.

    Cavaco has some similar issues: tools are there, production is not. He's got the advantage of being younger, but for a high draft pick, you would hope to see better signs that he can excel. The missed minor league season in 2020 hurt him as much as any player in the system to be sure, but he needs to start showing what that athletic ability can translate to. I expect him to repeat at Ft. Myers, frankly and if he can't beat up on some of these pitchers he's going to start hearing "bust" associated with his name.

    Urbina is really hard for the layman to evaluate. He's going to repeat a level as well, and if he can't hit this time around, I'm not sure I care how many walks he takes. It's great to have a good eye at the plate, but at this level you also have to be able to make contact in the zone, and Urbina is showing a deficit on that metric. Because as soon as you advance to higher levels of competition you're not going to get the free passes because guys can actually get it in the zone more consistently.

    Encarnacion-Strand and Wallner are the better options here so far. I'll want to watch Christian E-C's K's, but he has a chance to advance quickly if he continues to smack the ball. Small sample size, but he did what he was supposed to do and I think you have to credit that. I tend to rate production over tools. Wallner has a big K issue to watch, but the power is for real and he's performed everywhere. Did great at the AFL, which hopefully kick-starts his season. I do think he's got to make more contact in order for him to stick as he rises, but he'll be interesting to watch in AA.

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    Thanks, Seth.  I saw Wallner at AFL and his power raw power was very impressive, but his whiff rate (35% there) was also a concern.  This will be a big year for him.  I like your patient approach to these young players.  Development doesn't always follow a straight line.  Sometimes players can have great skills--like these 5--and look ordinary for a couple of years but then suddenly take a giant step forward in one season like Miranda.  I remember that Torii Hunter was inconsistent in the minors until he really put it all together in AAA in 2000.  Before that, many people were thinking he might not ever realize his potential, but of course we know how that turned out!

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    I would guess Javier and E-Strand will be ticketed for Cedar Rapids, Wallner for Wichita and the youngins for some more Mussel development.  They all have stuff to prove and should be in the right place for that opportunity.

    Question on qualifiers.  Did Celestino (62) and Rortvedt (98) accumulate enough PAs to no longer be considered prospects?

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    I am very high on Wallner &E-Strand. I have seen E-Strand play several games and he could play the game &improve at the same time. Wallner seems to be bringing it all together. The other 3 will need to make adjustments more quickly or be left in the dust but maturity may help them too.  The most important thing to me is they all don’t play the same position, the difference in age of the group. 

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    Love this series. Thank you.

    I will take the bait on Wallner and CES. Along with Severino, Palacios and possibly Cavaco, plus our top 10, I’d say that gives us 15 (18 if Celestino, Larnach and Rortvedt don’t qualify for the top 10 list) legit looking prospects at this point in time. I’m sure a few more will develop and a few will fall by the wayside. 
     

    Not a bad list, but I agree with an above poster that the pitching list seems a bit more robust. 

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    1 hour ago, MMMordabito said:

    I would guess Javier and E-Strand will be ticketed for Cedar Rapids, Wallner for Wichita and the youngins for some more Mussel development.  They all have stuff to prove and should be in the right place for that opportunity.

    Question on qualifiers.  Did Celestino (62) and Rortvedt (98) accumulate enough PAs to no longer be considered prospects?

    I agree with those projections... 

    Celestino remains a rookie. The limit for hitters is 130 ABs... Rortvedt didn't meet that, but there is also a Service Time limit, and Rortvedt is beyond that. He was up quite a bit last season. 

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    I'm actually pretty excited about this group but echo previous thoughts that the similarly ranked pitchers are probably a nose ahead of the hitters in this range.

    My $.02 FWIW:

    Javier: 2022 is going to be his most important year thus far. He's healthy and the glove reportedly plays, minus hiccups on routine plays that should iron out with repetition. I was encouraged by streaks of decent hitting last year and the power. At age 23 and with time missed, he's still the equivalent of a college drafted going in to his 2nd yr. Time to start putting the bat on the ball. I don't think I would have placed him quite this high, but again, the tools are there and he's not old in any way.

    Encarnacion-Strand: He had a great debut. AL he has done his entire college career is hit and provide power and runs. He did the same thing as a rookie. I was a little disappointed how little 3B he played. Scouting reports I've read were that he has the arm for 3B. Don't recall ever hearing he didn't have the hands for the position. What I've heard is a possible range issue. But a big arm can compensate with good positioning and fielding everything you can get to. Gaetti once had hands of stone and Koskie was a large man, with decent athleticism, who was too stiff. Time took care of those things in a big way. I'd keep him at 3B for as long as possible.

    Cavaco: Absolutely he was player #2 hurt by the missed 2020. By all reports he has the tools to be at least a decent SS with time and development. But a poor half season debut, then a lost season, and then injuries in his first full season did him no favors. Still, the talent is there and his 2021 start brings optimism. The fact that he was pushed to Ft Myers seems to speak of the organization's belief in his potential. I'm wondering if he performs even OK early in 2022 if they might move him to Cedar Rapids fairly early, or mid-season at the latest. Sure seems like if you can hit even decently in the FSL, you might take a jump in Iowa.

    Urbina: Tremendous tools. All the potential in the world and seems to have an eye. He and Rodriguez, IMO, are very much the same player. Both very young, very talented, huge upside, just need time. I wouldn't be surprised if he spent his whole season at Ft Myers. But like Cavaco, maybe a promotion if he shows something?

    Wallner: I appreciate the comparisons to Rooker, and they are similar, but Wallner is reportedly already a better defensive OF with a great arm. That gives him a leg up prospect and future-wise. (Not a shot at Rooker who still has a shot to be a solid player/contributor). Personally, I don't view Sabato in the conversation either as he's a 1B/DH period but seems to have been blessed with a great eye and bat control. Wallner can offer real success with quality defense while being a 3 outcome kind of batter. But his value skyrockets if he can find better zone control and can hit at least. 250-ish, if not better, with a .300+ plus OB. 

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