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  • Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: Recap

    Nick Nelson

    What did we learn while updating our annual Twins top prospect rankings after a year that offered no minor-league games, and very little new information to influence our analysis? Maybe more than you'd expect.


    Find the new list and some key takeaways below.

    Image courtesy of Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports (Graphic by Brock Beauchamp)

    Minnesota Twins 2021 Top 20 Prospects


    20. Bailey Ober, RHP: Upside may not stack up to 6'9" frame, but he's almost ready to help.

    19. José Miranda, 3B/2B: High-contract righty-swinging infielder needs to find power stroke.

    18. Alerick Soularie, UTIL: Versatile defender with intriguing bat, drafted in 2020 second round.

    17. Ben Rortvedt, C: Terrific defense behind the plate virtually assures he'll play a role in MLB.

    16. Edwar Colina, RHP: Huge raw stuff, but command issues on display in rocky Twins debut.

    15. Cole Sands, RHP: Dazzled in first pro stint. Now needs to back it up and ramp workload.

    14. Misael Urbina, OF: Athletic CF with a leadoff man's offensive profile. Still unrefined at 18.

    13. Matt Wallner, OF: Quality left-handed corner bat. The MN native is poised to move fast.

    12. Brent Rooker, OF: Brings tons of power and strikeouts from the right side. Ready for bigs.

    11. Gilberto Celestino, OF: Best CF in the org behind Buxton, was on the rise pre-pandemic.

    10. Blayne Enlow, RHP: Owns 3.36 ERA in minors, but when will heralded curve lead to Ks?

    9. Matt Canterino, RHP: Excelled in 2019, reportedly hit 99 MPH in recent throwing session.

    8. Aaron Sabato, 1B: Last year's first-rounder does one thing, and does it very well: MASH.

    7. Keoni Cavaco, SS: Seeking to shake off rough pro debut and let considerable talent shine.

    6. Jordan Balazovic, RHP: Lanky righty has shredded hitters in minors with balanced arsenal.

    5. Jhoan Duran, RHP: An intimidating force on the mound with high-90s heat. Will he start?

    4. Ryan Jeffers, C: Showed his value as a polished two-way asset in MLB breakthrough.

    3. Trevor Larnach, OF: Looks the part of a near-ready, well-rounded bat for heart of order.

    2. Royce Lewis, SS: Twins believe he'll stick at short. Stardom easy to envision. Born leader.

    1. Alex Kirilloff, OF: Prolific bat is big-league ready. High ceiling seems imminently reachable.






    For obvious reasons, there wasn't a ton of movement in our rankings compared to last year. The most noteworthy development is Alex Kirilloff overtaking Royce Lewis for the No. 1 spot after ranking second behind him in each of the past two years. How can the top dog be supplanted in a season where they both practiced all summer in a private camp?


    It's a question that raised some spirited debate as our panelists tried to work through a gridlocked decision. As someone who favored Kirilloff at No. 1, here's the argument that won out, from my view:


    1: Although we had Lewis ahead of Kirilloff last year, it was very close. A virtual tie. Royce's tough 2019 at the plate had raised flags about his hitchy swing mechanics and lack of discipline, while Kirilloff acclimated impressively to Double-A at 21, closing the gap. The bottom line is that they're both extremely good prospects.


    2: That said, even without playing official games, Kirilloff had the louder 2020. Praise for his daily work in St. Paul traveled routinely across the river. The decision to call him up for an elimination game proved there was substance behind the buzz. And Kirilloff's ability to handle such a situation unphased, looking like a natural under extreme pressure, speaks volumes.


    3: Lewis didn't do anything to lower his own stock. Reports on him from the alternate were plenty positive. But it's fair to say that a player in his position – unfinished product with real question marks to resolve before breaking through – is more hurt by the disrupted year of development than Kirilloff. And now we've learned the disruption will continue for Lewis after suffering an ACL tear, which didn't factor into our rankings since we all learned of it two days ago. He'll miss all of 2021.


    Lewis has the higher ceiling, with the tools to become a dynamic two-way star at a premium position, but he still has a considerable path ahead of him, made steeper by his new setback. Kirilloff's skill set is narrower, but his offensive talents are immense and – by all appearances – fully developed. That gave him a slight edge this year.




    As mentioned earlier, there weren't a whole lot of jumps or drops. Most players are within a spot or two of where we had them last year. Risers included Matt Canterino, who went from No. 15 to No. 9 thanks in part to reports of throwing 99. Ryan Jeffers, who excelled in a 26-game major-league debut, rose from No. 7 to No. 4.


    The biggest individual change this year was a slide. Wander Javier went from 13th in 2019 to outside the Top 20. It's not so much that he did anything to lose ground in 2020, but he's now 22 with 80 games played and a .600 OPS above rookie ball. He's been passed up twice in the Rule 5 draft. Javier has gone from presumed shortstop of the future to longshot.



    • C: 2
    • IF: 4
    • OF: 7
    • RHP: 7
    • LHP: 0


    The Twins are a bit thin on high-level infield talent, especially with Lewis now sidelined, but the clearest deficiency is left-handed pitching. In past years, Lewis Thorpe was a steady presence in that category, but he graduated out of prospect status in 2020 (and frankly might not have made the Top 20 anyway). Minnesota has seen past promising southpaws like Stephen Gonsalves and Tyler Jay fizzle out, and Thorpe's in danger of joining them. This year is make-or-break, as far as his Twins future is concerned.


    The scarcity of left-handers runs pretty deep in the Twins' system. Of the five pitchers we named in the Honorable Mentions, all are righties. As to how big of a problem this is, your mileage may vary. It bears noting that the Twins have only one left-hander in their rotation, and he's 38, although the presence of Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer does provide some short-term balance.



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    Agreed. Good depth/numbers regarding quality it seems...but not balanced across positions. I guess that’s where making the right trades...at the right time...come into play.


    Certainly a unique exercise in ranking coming off a cancelled season. I’d agree with Javier’s slide and the flip at the top. Cavaco too high.

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    I think this would also be a good idea:


    Prospects who should graduate in 2021:

    OF Brent Rooker
    C Ryan Jeffers
    OF Alex Kiriloff

    Prospects who might graduate in 2021:

    OF Trevor Larnach
    RP Edwar Colina


    If the first three do graduate, the 2022 initial standings:


    That leaves the new top 10 at:

    10 OF Matt Wallner
    9 CF Gilberto Celestino
    8 RP Blayne Enlow
    7 RP Matt Canterino
    6 1B Aaron Sabato
    5 SS Keoni Cavaco
    4 RP Jordan Balazovic
    3 RP Jhoan Duran
    2 OF Trevor Larnach
    1 SS Royce Lewis


    And if you go by fangraphs' ETA, 8 of these 10 should debut sometime in 2022. 

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    Thanks guys for completing this exercise, it is fun to see all your work and to agree or disagree with certain rankings. It is appreciated!


    Must say the player I am most excited about is Canterino. Noticed the same items you talked about as I read through this, ie, the organization is heavy on outfielders and thin in the infield and lefties. Assuming you have Sabato as an infielder and he could end up as a DH, the infield really is very thin.


    Thanks again Nick, and all.

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    I'm curious why Blankenhorn was left off. Is he no longer a "prospect"?

    He's outside the top 20, and in the honorable mentions. He only played one game in the MLB, so he's still a prospect.

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