Some of baseball's best prospects head to Arizona every year to showcase their skills against other top players. Throughout the AFL's history, some of the league's biggest stars have gotten their careers boosted by a strong AFL performance. AFL Games started this week, and the Twins are sending some of their top prospects with something to prove.
Can Austin Martin Have a Wallner-Type Breakout?
Last year, the Twins sent Matt Wallner to the AFL because he missed time during the season with an injury. In 18 games, he hit .303/.405/.606 (1.011) with two doubles and six home runs. Wallner carried that performance over to the 2022 season, where he posted a .953 OPS between Double- and Triple-A. Also, he was recently named the TD Minor League Hitter of the Year. Martin dealt with a wrist injury during the 2022 season, but he ended the year strongly. Now, Minnesota hopes Martin can follow the same path as Wallner from the AFL to making his big-league debut.
Is Edouard Julien the Twins' Second Baseman of the Future?
Julien is coming off a breakout season at Double-A, where the 23-year-old was over a year younger than the average age of the competition. In 113 games, he hit .300/.441/.490 (.931) with 19 doubles, three triples, and 17 home runs. Defensively, the Twins had moved Julien around during his first two professional seasons, but he played the entire 2022 season at second base. Jorge Polanco has one guaranteed year left on his contract with the Twins controlling the next two seasons as well. If Julien continues to develop, he has a chance to become the heir apparent to Polanco in the Twins infield.
Can Denny Bentley Become a Dominant Reliever?
Minnesota's front office hasn't spent a lot on bullpen arms in recent years, instead relying on the farm system to produce cheaper relief options. During the 2022 season, the Twins used younger organizational arms like Jhoan Duran, Jovani Moran, and Griffin Jax to impact the bullpen. Bentley spent the majority of the 2022 season at Double-A and posted an 11.8 K/9 across 55 2/3 innings. His WHIP has been high during his first two professional seasons because he allows more than 7.0 H/9 and close to 5.0 BB/9. Bentley will need to improve in both of those areas if he wants to become a dominant reliever at the big-league level.
What Do the Twins Have in Francis Peguero?
The Twins acquired Peguero as part of the Sonny Gray trade, and his professional career has seen some ups and downs. His debut in the Twins system was delayed because of an injury, and then he made 17 appearances out of the Wind Surge bullpen. In August, he posted a 3.65 ERA with a 0.89 WHIP in nine appearances, but his strikeout totals have remained low. He can hit in the mid-90s with his fastball, so the AFL will allow him the opportunity to work on his secondary pitches. Can one of his secondary offerings improve enough for him to limit hits and start collecting more strikeouts?
Check out the TD AFL Preview to read more about the other Twins prospects participating in the 2022 AFL. Which of the prospects above has the most to prove? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.