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  • Anticipating a Breakout for One Twins Prospect


    Cody Christie

    Unfortunately, the pandemic impacted multiple highly ranked prospects, who were forced to spend a season training away from team facilities. One former top prospect is attempting to live up to his lofty expectations and put himself back on the prospect map.

    Image courtesy of William Parmeter / Mighty Mussels

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    Some teams are better than others when it comes to evaluating and signing players from the international market. These players can be as young as 16 years old when they sign, and it takes a long-term development approach for them to reach their full potential. On the Twins' current 40-man roster, there are multiple players the Twins signed from the international market, including Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, and Max Kepler. One prospect attempts to follow those players' footsteps to the big-league level. 

    The Twins signed Misael Urbina on July 2, 2018. At the time, he was considered one of the best prospects in the signing class, and Minnesota gave him a $2.75 million signing bonus. At the time, scouts called him an advanced hitter with an above-average hit tool and plus speed. MLB.com ranked him as the third overall prospect in his international class, and they have plenty of positive things to say about him. He is a "line-drive hitter with a high baseball IQ." They said, "he's already an advanced defender for his age." They praised his instincts and makeup.

    Urbina showcased many tools during his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League. In 50 games, he hit .279/.383/.443 (.825) with 14 doubles, five triples, and two home runs. He went 19-for-27 in stolen base attempts and had more walks (23) than strikeouts (14). He was showcasing all of the tools the Twins saw in him as an amateur. It was a tremendous start to his career, but things have not gone as smoothly since that point. 

    Coming out of the pandemic, the Twins were aggressive with Urbina by sending him to Fort Myers. The 19-year-old struggled in his first taste of full-season ball by hitting .191/.299/.286 (.585) with 82 strikeouts in 101 games. All but four of his plate appearances came against older pitchers, so Minnesota was attempting to see if he could play up to the competition level.  

    It seemed likely for Urbina to start the 2022 season at Fort Myers before hopefully being promoted later in the season. Unfortunately, visa issues delayed his debut until late June. There were some positive signs, even though his season started late. Reports are that his offseason regimen added more weight to his frame, resulting in a .730 OPS, which was 145 points higher than the previous season. He dropped his strikeout rate to 18.7% and collected 26 extra-base hits in 60 games. 

    Two-thirds of his defensive innings have come in center field, but he has played over 500 innings in left field. If he bulks up and loses a step in the outfield, he might be destined for a corner outfield spot. Urbina's offensive improvements last year make it exciting to project what he might be able to accomplish in Cedar Rapids this year, especially since he is still only 21 years old. 

    There was some question about whether or not the Twins would add Urbina to the 40-man roster leading into the 2022 Rule 5 Draft. Minnesota left him unprotected, but no other teams selected him because he was unlikely to stick on a big-league roster for an entire season. MLB Pipeline is still high on Urbina by ranking him the 8th-best prospect in the Twins organization. Twins Daily currently has Urbina ranked 17th. His two seasons in Fort Myers could have been better, but he still has a ton of upside, and he may be destined for a breakout campaign. 

    What are your thoughts on Urbina? Can he take the next step in 2023? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

     

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    I think the pandemic year really hurt Urbina.  He had a good first year, and then had to sit for a year before he was aggressively placed in Fort Myers by the Twins.  Then, last year, he was late getting started and only had part of the year.  Development isn't linear, especially under these circumstances, so I would not be surprised at all if he did have a breakout year.  Like all of baseball, the Twins are depending more and more on international players, and by the look of the top 20-40 prospect lists, we have a lot of young guys that will soon be joining Polanco, Correa, Miranda, Arraez and others in the bigs.  

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    I don't know what to think of Urbina just yet.  There seems to be a fair bit of work to do.  Until last year his K rate was under 20% and even last year it was only 23% so he is making contact just not solid contact.  It feels like he might have a bit of Jose Miranda syndrome.  Miranda was good at making contact, so good in fact he was able to hit balls outside the zone.  The problem was he needed to swing at better pitches to increase his odds of better contact.  Once he started walking more and being more choosey at the plate he had his breakout.

    I don't think that Urbina will ever have the power that Miranda has but I think if he wants to break out the solution would be to follow the Miranda plan.  Make pitchers work and try and force them to give you your pitch. Urbina needs to be good in two strike counts.  If Urbina can harness plate discipline I think he can be more Arraez like in that he has great contact skills always had and always will. By being patient he should find his way to solid contact and barrel more balls up.  I think to breakout that is what it is going to take. Easier said than done.  We will see if this is the year it all comes together. It seems like it took Miranda a while to get there so it might not be this year just yet.

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    Urbina, Severino and really other minor leaguers need break out seasons.  The Twins traded some of their top prospects in 2022, more need to progress or find others.

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    Based on his performance, development to-date, and potential, he’s probably ranked 9th on the current list of Twins’ 2024/2025 possible outfielders (note, Kepler, Gallo, and any additional RH bat acquired are absent):

    1. Buxton. 
    2. Gordon. 
    3. Larnach. 
    4. Kiriloff. 
    5. Wallner. 
    6. Martin. 
    7. Rodriguez. 
    8. Celestino. 
    9. Urbina.  

    The bad news for Urbina is that he’s ninth. The good news for Urbina is that not a single one of those players can be counted on to be an everyday player because of injury risk and/or proof of development.

    So there is a lot for him to play for re his future with the Twins. And as for the Twins, he is certainly still one of their bets they have out there to fill one of the four available projected OF slots behind Buxton. Let’s see how ‘23 goes for him. 

     

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    1 hour ago, MABB1959 said:

    Let Kepler go and get him out there to see what he has.  If he has it great if not let him go.

    Dump Kepler and throw a 21 year old who hasn’t played above A ball out there and say sink or swim. If he sinks, dump him too. Hmmm. 
    Seems as if every other MLB team has already weighed in on that option. Any team could have had him for next to nothing in the Rule 5 draft. All they had to do was keep him on the 26 man roster for the year. No mandate to put him out there as a starter or ever even play him. That no one claimed him says he is a long way from that level. Doesn’t mean he is a bust or bad player, just still developing. Remember that the same situation occurred with Miranda with no one claiming him. It will be interesting to see if he is protected in next years Rule 5, and if not, will anyone claim him. 

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    1 hour ago, RJA said:

    I think the pandemic year really hurt Urbina.  He had a good first year, and then had to sit for a year before he was aggressively placed in Fort Myers by the Twins.  Then, last year, he was late getting started and only had part of the year.  Development isn't linear, especially under these circumstances, so I would not be surprised at all if he did have a breakout year.  Like all of baseball, the Twins are depending more and more on international players, and by the look of the top 20-40 prospect lists, we have a lot of young guys that will soon be joining Polanco, Correa, Miranda, Arraez and others in the bigs.  

    I think this is a key point: the loss of a minor league season due to the pandemic really hurt Urbina's development schedule. (He's not the only one who got pinged there. a lot of these young players need game time and competition to measure where they are and to see how their skills are applying in order to determine what they really need to work on to improve, but also to just improve skills generally)

    I'm glad he slipped through the Rule 5, though I'm not that surprised. It's tough to take a position player who has never played above A-ball and stash him on the MLB roster for a full season unless they are already MLB-quality defenders at CF, SS, or C because they're almost certainly not ready to hit in MLB or they would have been protected in the first place. If Urbina might be slipping down on the defensive scale already then he doesn't fit that profile.

    A strong hitting year from him could jump him back up on this lists quickly and he's still quite young.

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    It's strange with Urbina potential that he's only at A. But besides covid, it's a big step for a boy from possibly a poor family, totally different culture that don't speak English to play pro ball here in the US, experiencing homesickness & culture shock all at the same time. I'm not sure Urbina is from DR, but playing there initially there wasn't as much of a culture shock.

     Hopefully all that is in the past & he's a young man ready to explore his dreams. I suggest the Twins not to force him into that power corner OF but let his body dictate when he's ready or if he stays at a more natural line driving CF is better yet. Wish him luck!

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