Most publications will herald Joe Ryan as the primary chip returning to the Twins - MLB Pipeline lists him as the team's No. 6 prospect - though he wasn't always a high-level prospect.
Ryan was the Rays' seventh-round selection out of Cal State, Stanislaus in 2018, though we could not confirm if Cal State, Stanislaus is an actual university. Ryan boasted a 1.65 ERA in 98 ⅓ innings while posting a ridiculous 127/13 K:BB ratio, which was more than enough to get him on MLB teams' radar. Ryan never posted a FIP higher than 3.24 while in the Rays' system, and his strikeout and walk rates remained near the top in the organization replete with pitching talent.
At first glance, Ryan's stuff doesn't appear to be all that electric. His fastball touches the mid-90s but most often sits 91-93 with a good ride.
His changeup isn't particularly exciting, and his curveball, while good, is not going to draw out batters' swords over and over again, at least not right now.
And yet, he has never posted a K/9 rate lower than 11.84 nor a WHIP higher than 1.13 in his minor league career.
What makes Ryan such an exciting prospect is his command, which is instantly the most prolific in the Twins' system.
Ryan can place the ball, particularly his fastball, which primarily resides at the top of the zone, with pinpoint accuracy, allowing him to nibble at the corners without issuing free passes. His pitch mix - which also includes a pretty mediocre cutter at the moment when viewed in isolation - plays exceptionally well off of each other, with all his offerings featuring the same arm slot.
Essentially, the complete package that is Joe Ryan is greater than the sum of his parts. He doesn't have a glaring weakness like many of the pitching prospects in the Twins' system. Instead, the only question is whether or not his stuff will play at the MLB level, and there isn't a ton of evidence at the moment to suggest it won't.
However, while simply securing a pitcher of Ryan's caliber would have been enough to consider the trade of Cruz as a win for the Twins, he wasn't the only pitching prospect the team brought back.
Drew Strotman similarly hailed from humble beginnings before rising towards the top of the Rays' farm system. He was the team's fourth-round pick in 2017 out of St. Mary's College, where he owned a career 5.26 ERA in 59 appearances, with only 14 coming as starts.
However, unlike with Ryan, it becomes apparent why the Rays' coveted him when looking at film. Strotman's stuff is truly electric.
His fastball sits 91-94 mph, and, like Ryan, he likes to keep it up in the zone.
His changeup plays well off the fastball and features significant tailing action.
He also owns a good curveball and a slider or cutter, depending on which publication you read.
Strotman owns a legit four-pitch mix; however, for what he boasts in offerings, he lacks significantly in command and strikeout numbers.
If Strotman can figure out how to throw more strikes, he'll find himself in the Twins' starting rotation for years to come. If he can't, he'll likely find a home in the bullpen where he may experience an uptick in fastball velocity and likely rely more heavily on his curveball.
All in all, the Twins picked up two athletes in exchange for Nelson Cruz that are similar in prospect pedigree to that of, say, Matt Canterino and Chris Vallimont. That's a haul for a 41-year-old designated hitter who may or may not re-sign following the 2021 season. Regardless of how the trade ultimately plays out, the Twins would have been crazy not to accept the Rays' offer.
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