5. Jose Miranda, 3B/2B
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
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
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
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
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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