Earlier in the week, Baseball America discussed some of baseball’s top prospects looking to return from injury in 2022. It was tough to gauge prospects from an evaluation standpoint, especially on the heels of a nonexistent 2020 minor league season. There are some prominent names in the Twins’ system, and the three names below have a lot riding on how they look next season.
Royce Lewis, SS/OF
2021 Injury: Torn ACL
Lewis is widely considered one of Minnesota’s top prospects, as he was the top pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. However, he hasn’t appeared in a minor league game since November 2019, and that’s a long time in the prospect development world. When Lewis was last on the field, he won the MVP of the Arizona Fall League while getting an extended look in the outfield. Lewis was sent to the AFL that year on the heels of a sub-par 2019 regular season where he hit .236/.290/.371 (.661) at High- and Double-A.
All signs point to Lewis being on pace to start the 2022 season with the chance to begin the year at Triple-A. However, it’s hard to know what he will look like and how long it will take to shake off the rust. A significant knee injury can impact his best tools like his speed and athletic ability. His long-term defensive position and swing have been questioned in the past. There is a lot for Lewis to prove in 2022.
Matt Canterino, RHP
2021 Injury: Strained Elbow
Minnesota initially selected Canterino from Rice in the second round of the 2019 MLB Draft. Based on his college experience, his pro debut put him on the prospect map as he posted a 1.44 ERA and a 0.64 WHIP in the low minors. With no 2020 minor league campaign, Canterino worked on his changeup, and reports had this as a dangerous pitch coming out of the shutdown. All signs pointed to Canterino having a breakout 2021 season, but injuries eventually played a factor.
Canterino dominated hitters at Cedar Rapids to start 2021 as he struck out 45 batters in 23 innings and only allowed two earned runs. His elbow began bothering him from there, and he was limited to five innings the rest of the season. Canterino’s time at Rice may point to some of his injury issues. Rice University is notoriously known for overworking its pitchers, with many of its graduates having injuries during their professional careers. Canterino has the potential to be Minnesota’s top pitching prospect, but he needs to prove he can get past his 2021 injuries.
Jhoan Duran, RHP
2021 Injury: Strained Elbow
Duran joined the Twins organization as part of the Eduardo Escobar trade back at the 2018 trade deadline. At the time, he was a teenager in the low minors, but the Twins believed he had a high ceiling. Since the trade, he has established himself as one of the organization’s top pitching prospects with a fastball that can hit triple-digits and various off-speed offerings. He got plenty of attention to start 2021 as radar guns had his fastball clocked at over 100 mph. Already at Triple-A, it looked like Duran was knocking on the door to the big leagues.
Unfortunately, that was the highlight of his 2021 season. He was limited to 16 innings before being shut down with a strained elbow. There was some hope he would be back on the mound after six weeks on the IL, but he didn’t make another appearance last year. So far, he has avoided surgery, and this recent injury has some believing Duran may be heading for a bullpen role. Earlier this month, he turned 24 years old, so there is still time to prove that he can stick as a starter.
Which player do you feel has the most to prove? Can they all avoid injury in 2022? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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