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  • TD Midseason Top 20 Twins Prospect Rankings: 1-5

    Nick Nelson

    With former top prospects like Alex Kirilloff (#1 on our preseason list), Trevor Larnach (#3) and Ryan Jeffers (#4) graduating from prospect status, several new names enter the top five in our midseason update.

    These promising young players all have a chance to play a significant role as the Twins aim to retool and rebound.

    Image courtesy of Rob Thompson, St. Paul Saints

    5. Jose Miranda, 3B/2B
    Age: 23
    ETA: 2022
    2021 Stats (AA/AAA): .350 AVG, .409 OBP, .614 SLG, 16 HR, 46 RBI
    2021 Ranking: 19

    When we ranked him No. 19 on our preseason top prospects list, the short synopsis on Miranda was a familiar one: "High-contract righty-swinging infielder needs to find power stroke." The former second-round draft pick has long sat on the fringes of our top-20 rankings because of his many intriguing traits, but the production just wasn't there to justify ranking him much higher. Through his first 379 games in the minors, he slugged .394 with 37 home runs.

    This year, he found his power stroke. Miranda came out of the gates red-hot at Double-A, opening with a seven-game hitting streak that included three home runs, and he never really slowed down. Miranda slashed .345/.408/.588 with 13 home runs in two months at Wichita, then earned a late-June promotion to St. Paul, where he put together an unforgettable Triple-A debut: 5-6, 3 HR, 6 RBIs.

    It all came together in a hurry for Miranda and there's not much reason to think his breakthrough isn't legit. He's got a smooth, compact swing from the right side that was always produced high contact rates, and he's clearly turned a corner with his ability to drive the ball. He projects as a third baseman in the big leagues, and perhaps pretty soon, depending on what happens with Josh Donaldson.

    4. Matt Canterino, RHSP
    Age: 23
    ETA: 2022
    2021 Stats (A+): 18 IP, 1.00 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 1.14 FIP, 51.5 K%, 4.4 BB%
    2021 Ranking: 9

    Canterino drew considerable hype coming into this season after reports emerged of him touching 100 MPH in a side session. A second-rounder out of Rice University in 2019, he made a strong impression by dominating in his first stint as a pro (1.44 ERA, 11.2 K/9 between rookie and A-ball), but plenty of highly-drafted collegiate players have done that. Taking the next step is the differentiator. Canterino's velo jump, and the behind-the-scenes work it reflected, were seemingly positive indicators. The righty needed to show it on the field.

    He has. Canterino was brilliant through four starts for Cedar Rapids, now the Twins' High-A affiliate. I mean, we're talking stupid good numbers. Thirty-five strikeouts in 18 innings? A 17.5 K/9 rate?? Canterino was striking out literally more than half the batters he faced. Beyond overpowering.

    He was likely in line for an imminent promotion to Double-A, but unfortunately the 23-year-old developed a sore elbow and hasn't pitched since May. He is currently on the comeback trail and the Twins hope he'll be able to return to the mound soon – probably in Wichita once he's fully back on track.

    3. Jordan Balazovic, RHSP
    Age: 22
    ETA: 2022
    2021 Stats (AA): 21 1/3 IP, 4.44 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 3.86 FIP, 29.5 K%, 7.1 BB%
    2021 Ranking: 6

    After getting a late start to his season while healing from injury, Balazovic's results through six starts at Double-A have been ... uneven. His 4.44 ERA is nothing to write home about, and he has yet to get through six innings in an outing. With that said, he's been building up – his best, and longest, start was also his most recent – and the signs of that big potential have been on display.

    In 24 ⅓ innings, he has piled up 33 strikeouts with a 14% swing-and-miss rate. While hitters have had success against him at times, they haven't hit for much power (3 HR and 7 XBH total) and Balazovic's control hasn't really eluded him at any point. For now the key is to continually advance his workload and consistency.

    2. Jhoan Duran, RHSP
    Age: 23
    ETA: 2022
    2021 Stats (A/AA): 34 1/3 IP, 3.41 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.64 FIP, 38.2 K%, 9.0 BB%
    2021 Ranking: n/a

    Like Balazovic, Duran's start to the 2021 campaign was delayed by injury following a lost pandemic season. When he took the mound on May 22nd at CHS Field, it was Duran's first time pitching in a minor-league game since August 29th of 2019. He was worth the wait. 

    Unleashing triple-digit heat, Duran dazzled, striking out six over three innings of one-run ball. His next time out he allowed only one hit while fanning eight over four scoreless frames. However, things took a downward turn at this point, as Duran was tagged with losses in his next three appearances (one a long-relief outing), surrendering 8 earned runs with an 8-to-12 K/BB ratio in nine innings. Then, he went on the Injured List with an elbow strain. For now, the Twins hope and believe he'll avoid surgery.

    Duran has the best stuff in Minnesota's system and some of the best in the minors. He's the real deal talent-wise and the Twins have done a stellar job in targeting, acquiring, and developing him. His biggest barriers are control and health, and we've seen both fully presented this year, with the latter currently sidelining him indefinitely. He's as boom-or-bust as they come, but the ceiling is game-changing and within reach.

    1. Royce Lewis, SS
    Age: 22
    ETA: 2022
    2021 Stats: n/a
    2021 Ranking: 2

    Losing two consecutive full seasons – one to a global pandemic and the next to a torn ACL – in the very crux of one's development is an ordeal many baseball prospects would be unable to overcome. I'd bet on Royce Lewis not being one of them.

    His much-lauded character and makeup have always positively affected the view and evaluation of Lewis, in certain intangible ways, but these qualities can have a very real impact in how he responds to this challenge. He'll be more than two years removed from playing competitively when he takes the field next spring – or maybe this winter – but has the natural talent to get back up to speed quickly. And "speed" really is the key word: even after knee surgery, he'll be one of the fastest and most athletic prospects in the game.

    Lewis is a dynamic talent who will likely end up at one of the most important defensive positions on the field – shortstop or center – and should be relatively productive at one of those spots even if his offensive shortcomings are not fully resolved. 

    If the Twins do hope to rebound back into contention next year, they may need to ask quite a bit of their No. 1 prospect, as well as the other four we just profiled. One commonality you will notice among this reshaped top five: They're all 22 or 23 years old, with ETAs of 2022. These players are all verging on big-league ready and in most cases, health is the only significant barrier to surpass. 


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    That is a pretty nice top 5.  I still have my doubts about Duran as a starter as he looks more like a two pitch pitcher.  He can get hit hard at times and I don't see him carrying that heat late into games but hopefully I am dead wrong and he becomes the real deal.  I like Canterino a lot as well.  Bummer that he is hurt but he has done nothing but pitch well throughout his minors career.  I think he maintains that at the pro level.  Hopefully his arm holds out.

    Miranda has been amazing this year.  I mean the numbers are eye popping.  His K rate is rock solid and although he doesn't walk much his BABIP is normalized at 340 so this looks like who he is now.  A contact hitter with power that hopefully can play a strong third base.  He has given us stat watchers just what we needed.  Hopefully the Twins add him early and see how he does in a lost season.

    I think Lewis will do well enough with the bat and should be a versatile player for the Twins in the future.  They sould use his speed and he might need to be Buxton's replacement depending on how Celestino develops.

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    I’m not thrilled with the recap after reading the series… Lewis is probably still a top 100 prospect heading into 2022 but trending down, obviously, after the ACL surgery. Maybe Balazovic or Duran with a hot 2nd half. Canterino is too far away right now for me at this point. The pre-season top prospects Kirilloff and Larnach are in MN getting nearly everyday at bats. 

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    1 hour ago, Vanimal46 said:

    I’m not thrilled with the recap after reading the series… Lewis is probably still a top 100 prospect heading into 2022 but trending down, obviously, after the ACL surgery. Maybe Balazovic or Duran with a hot 2nd half. Canterino is too far away right now for me at this point. The pre-season top prospects Kirilloff and Larnach are in MN getting nearly everyday at bats. 

    Yeah, the organization will certainly fall in organizational rankings after Kirilloff (1), Larnach (3), Jeffers (4-6), Rortvedt (17-20) and Nick Gordon 'graduated." Bailey Ober should soon graduate as well. Likely, Griffin Jax will graduate this year. 

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    Is great seeing three pitchers among your Top 5, especially after several years of almost no pitching this high in your rankings.  The bad side of the news, however, is #1, out injured, #2, out injured, #3, late start to his season because of an injury, #4, out injured.  

    Personally, I believe what he is accomplishing on the field puts Winder into the discussion to be included in this group.  Maybe part of that is that he is pitching every fifth day and most of the above are doing rehab.  The fact is, however, that he is pitching as well as any pitcher in all of minor league baseball.  Doesn't that count for anything any more?

    Am I happy with the status of the Twins organization and their top players?  No way.  Would I be happy if all these guys were out there playing?  Probably, assuming they were all playing at or near their best abilities, which we know ain't gonna happen.

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    As others have noted, its nice to see several top-rated pitchers here, but I think that if the Twins wish to contend again in 2022, they cannot count on any of these guys to contribute significantly next year.  Injuries, uneven performances,  and frankly, long term pitching development problems in this organization, even under the pitching gurus running the FO for the past 4+ years, would seem to mitigate against any such significant help next year.  I would like to see them push Winder to the Twins sooner(by Aug. 1st at the latest) rather than as a September callup.  He really looks like a potential #3 or 4 starter but we should find out if his minors success can translate to the big leagues.

    So, unless they opt for a full rebuild, they better keep Berrios, Maeda and Pineda if they hope to be relevant again as soon as next year.  Sign or trade for an established starter and hope either Ober or Winder can fill the #5 spot better than Happ or the Shoe and we might have the makings of a solid rotation.

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    1 hour ago, Don't Feed the Greed Guy said:

    Balazovic last pitched on June 30th and isn't scheduled to pitch again until July 10th.

    Thoughts, ideas, questions, concerns?

    I haven't heard anything specifically worrisome. My guess is they're just giving him a little extra time to manage his workload.

    In fact, there's a part of me that wonders if the litany of injuries and IL stints throughout the system are due in some part to an extremely conservative approach because the Twins are trying to be super careful easing guys in after the lost year. Maybe that's just hopeful thinking.

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    3 of the top 4 are injured. Yuck. That's the worst news for this group and the Twins prospects.

    There's huge talent here, but the Twins desperately need one of the three starters on the list to show out as the next Berrios and sooner rather than later. Right now...not sure you can pencil any of these guys in for 2022: Duran has shown issues with control & health, Balazovic hasn't been consistent, and Canterino hasn't pitched above A-ball. They could all be the core of the Twins rotation in 2023 or 2024, but none of them are likely to pitch in MLB in 2021, which makes it hard to be certain of them for 2022.

    Love Jose Miranda. Boy, he's risen fast, but he's proving it at every step. Sure seems like he's found an approach that works, and he might be getting a taste this season if Donaldson is traded.

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    Miranda jump in power raises my eyebrow a little.  It sucks that our top 3 pitching prospects are all dealing with injury issues.  That being said if they can stay healthy the future of our pitching does look good, even outside of those top 3 there are others on the rise. That will be a nice change over the terrible vets we signed this year. 

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    It's a good top five, but I'm not sure if Canterino and Duran will end up as starters, and their injury concerns are a big worry.

    Then again, it wouldn't be the end of the world if the Twins end up with those two coming out of the bullpen and the likes of Balazovic and Winder starting games.

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    I'm definitely excited to follow Miranda's career. I was fortunate enough to be at CHS field for his AAA debut, and I can honestly say that it was the most electric night of baseball I've ever experienced. Went home with a big goofy grin on my face. I went from dreading the trade deadline, when we're sure to lose some of my favorite veterans, to anxious for the old-timers to get out and make way.

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