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  • Reassessing Our Rankings of the Top 20 Twins Assets of 2023


    Nick Nelson

    At the turn of the new year, I took a shot at ranking the top 20 assets in the Twins organization, in an attempt to contextualize the players and prospects most vital to fulfilling a championship vision.

    Some major developments have since taken place, so it feels appropriate to try and update the list.

    Image courtesy of Michael McLoone, Tommy Gilligan, Tim Heitman–USA Today Sports

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    When I published these rankings for the sixth time this year, I mentioned how much more challenging I found the exercise than in the past. 

    "For one thing," I wrote, "it feels like we're in the midst of a slow-developing offseason journey with big twists still ahead. I have a strong feeling there will be noticeable changes to this list by March 30th."

    Sure enough, we've seen plenty of upheaval since, and it's not even January 30th yet.

    The blockbuster moves that took place within the past two weeks have shaken up the franchise's talent layout in profound ways, to the extent that it feels worthwhile to revisit those rankings. 

    The Twins shattered their precedent by signing Carlos Correa to a $200 million deal. They traded an controllable young All-Star and batting champ in Luis Arraez for a new pitcher. How do these additions fit into the overall hierarchy of talent in the organization?

    Let's take a look.

    The Original Top 20 Twins Assets of 2023

    The idea of these rankings was to provide a relative view of Twins players and prospects by appraising their big-picture value to the organization. The goal was to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion?

    I published my latest annual rankings at the beginning of January. You can read the explanations for each in that four-part series of articles ... 

    ... But to summarize, here are the original 2023 rankings as I had them laid out:

    1. Byron Buxton, CF
    2. Brooks Lee, SS
    3. Joe Ryan, RHP
    4. Jorge Polanco, 2B
    5. Royce Lewis, SS
    6. Bailey Ober, RHP
    7. Jhoan Durán, RHP
    8. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF
    9. José Miranda, 3B
    10. Luis Arraez, IF
    11. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP
    12. Connor Prielipp, LHP
    13. Austin Martin, OF
    14. Trevor Larnach, OF
    15. Ryan Jeffers, C
    16. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B
    17. Jorge López, RHP
    18. Sonny Gray, RHP
    19. Louie Varland, RHP
    20. Matt Wallner, OF

    Now the Twins have re-signed their reigning team MVP to a six-year contract, and traded the player previously ranked #10 for a pitcher and two prospects. How do these game-changing moves affect the big picture? I took a shot at updating my rankings and here's where I landed:

    The Revised Top 20 Twins Assets of 2023

    1. Byron Buxton, CF
    2. Carlos Correa, SS
    3. Brooks Lee, SS
    4. Joe Ryan, RHP
    5. Jorge Polanco, 2B
    6. Royce Lewis, SS
    7. Bailey Ober, RHP
    8. Jhoan Durán, RHP
    9. Pablo López, RHP
    10. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF
    11. José Miranda, 3B
    12. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP
    13. Connor Prielipp, LHP
    14. Austin Martin, OF
    15. Trevor Larnach, OF
    16. Ryan Jeffers, C
    17. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B
    18. Jorge López, RH
    19. Louie Varland, RHP
    20. Matt Wallner, OF

    There are a few significant changes in this update, including a shakeup in the top 10. Here's a look at the additions and subtractions, and how the thought process played out:

    • Correa is in at #2. Locking up a superstar player for six years at age 28 on a contract like this, with team-friendly terms at the back end, can't be viewed as anything more than a huge win. I contemplated putting him ahead of Buxton but Correa has his own unique heightened injury risk attached and his deal isn't quite so favorable to the team as Buck's. Either way, these are clearly their two foundational assets going forward.
    • Pablo López is in at #9. This felt like the right spot to me. He's got two years of control remaining compared to five apiece for Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober, so I don't view him as quite the same level of value even if he's probably a cut above in terms of talent. Still, a big addition for a franchise that really needed more controllable starting pitching. Previously I had Arraez ranked as the #10 asset, so this looks like a winning trade through that lens even before you account for prospects Jose Salas and Byron Chourio, who would likely fall in the 25-35 range.
    • Gray drops out from #18. The addition of Lopez also makes Sonny Gray a bit less indispensable, in my mind. I had him 18th in the original rankings because, "As things currently stand, Gray is the only pitcher in the organization who can credibly be looked at as a dependable frontline starter for 2023." That's no longer the case. With López aboard, and under control for an additional year, I actually think the Twins could feasibly trade Gray if the right offer came along, which wasn't much of an option before. (That's not to say I would advise it.)

    When I assembled these rankings the first time around, I was feeling pretty decent about the state of the Twins franchise both today and going forward. Needless to say, I'm feeling even better now. While the loss of a top-10 asset in Arraez hurts, the Twins recouped that value and then some by acquiring López and a pair of high-upside teenaged prospects. 

    Meanwhile, the stunning Correa signing reshapes this franchise's future, embedding another true MVP-caliber talent in his prime alongside Buxton to lead the way. Simply put, the Twins are in a significantly better place now than they were a month ago.

    Catch up on past editions of the top 20 Twins asset rankings:

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    Emmanuel wants that top spot. I'm looking forward to how some of the young guys develop this year, both with the Twins (Kirilloff, Lewis, Miranda, Larnach) and in the minors (Martin, Julien, Lee, Rodriguez). That is just the position side. The pitchers will also be fun to watch. Royce Lewis was the #1 pick. Sometimes i wonder if he could be as good or better than Bobby Witt Jr. Wouldn't that be something?

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    While I absolutely hated losing Arraez I'm slowly starting to feel like it was a good move. With Lewis, Lee, Rodriguez and Martin on the cusp of being ready for the show I think at least one of them, can make up for the loss of the batting champ. I don't see any pitcher being almost ready to fill the shoes of a Pablo Lopez. What would really make the deal sweet is if the Twins can extend Lopez for another 2 or 3 years and he stays a solid #2 arm going forward.

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    I believe Duran might be undervalued after watching Pagan blowing saves last year. Duran was, for the most part, lights out after taking over the closer role. I would argue if the switch was made after Pagans 3rd or 4th blown save that came by mid May they may have held on to win the Central. Duran may be #3 or 4 on my list. 

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    3 hours ago, Fatbat said:

    If things go sideways (i doubt it) Gray will be for sale to a contender. What do you think would be a good return for him? A late 1st rd draft pick? 

    If they trade the a prospect from a perennial contender there would be a chance he was a late first round pick. If the season is such a disaster early enough in the year the Mariners or Brewers might give up a competitive balance pick as part of the package if they were in contention.

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    I'm looking forward to the season. I mostly agree with your rankings and appreciate the year-by-year  breakdown. Good work. I'd actually rank Correa a little lower because I think his ankle is a big deal, though he might play on it without major problems for 10 years. The other anomaly is the oddity of trading a batting champion. That might still come back to haunt the team, but Lopez could become an ace if the cards land right and he avoids major injury. It's sad to see how Kepler lost his way, buying into vax denial and generally losing his focus offensively during the pandemic years. I'd like to see the Twins hold on to him one more year, since he can't be worth too much in trade, and I see comeback tattooed on his backside if he can change his approach at the plate. I like the fact that the Twins are all potential right now, with veteran leadership to accelerate development and work ethic. I expect to see the team in the playoffs. 

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    I saw somebody commented on Duran’s location on the list. My assumption is that if we offered up Duran as a trade piece we could get back almost anything we asked for in an everyday player. He’s lights out & maybe 25 yrs old at most - 4 more years of control. Pretty valuable!!

    The only real thought I have on the list is what is, in my opinion, a big slight change n Nick Gordon.

    Gordon’s health has been messed up since he got drafted 5-6 years ago. Last year he gained 25lb from January to June. His health is good and he’s getting stronger. He came up as a SS but is limited there - he became our Utility Guy. All good.

    Due to injuries to our outfielders he was forced to move & start in LF every day. He then became the best option in CF He hadn’t played OF in pro ball.

    2022:

    65 starts in LF & 33 other starts in CF. 1st year as an outfielder!

    405 AB’s - .272 BA ………9 HR ………28 doubles.

    With 575 AB’s in ‘23 he has a respectable BA - 40 doubles - 12 HR…………he’s gotta be in the Top 20 assets. 

    Larnach - Walner - Kiriloff haven’t combined for a year that good yet. Gordon is in Left everyday this year unless he’s in CF filling in for Buxton - he’s earned it!!

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