Baseball development is not a linear path. Prospects can look great one month and then spiral downward later in the same year. Organizations with the greatest success level can minimize slumps and help their prospects improve before reaching their ultimate goal.
The Twins drafted Jordan Balazovic in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He was a high school pitcher from Ontario, Canada, which isn’t exactly a hotbed of MLB talent. Minnesota liked his frame and projectability, and those scouting reports looked true as he began his professional career.
Since he was 17 years old, Minnesota kept Balazovic in the GCL for two seasons to start acclimating to the professional ranks. He posted a 3.61 ERA with a 1.35 WHIP, but he was adding to his frame and making adjustments to help him as he moved up the organizational ladder. His first full season came in 2018 at Cedar Rapids, where he posted an 11.4 K/9 with a 1.17 WHIP and a 3.94 ERA. At the time, he was nearly three years younger than the average age of the competition in the Midwest League.
The 2019 season put Balazovic on the prospect map as he continued to be young for his level. In 18 appearances (93 2/3 innings), he posted a 2.69 ERA with a 0.98 WHIP and a 129-to-25 strikeout to walk ratio. He represented the Twins at the 2019 Futures Game, and it looked like the Twins had developed a top-of-the-rotation starter. Baseball America and MLB.com placed him in their top-100 lists entering the 2020 season.
Coming out of the lost COVID season, Minnesota sent Balazovic to Double-A, and he made 20 starts in the Wind Surge rotation. He continued to strike out more than a batter per inning (9.5 K/9), but he also started giving up more hits (9.1 H/9) and walks (3.5 BB/9). By the season’s end, he had a 3.62 ERA with a 1.40 WHIP as over 81% of his at-bats came against older batters. The 2022 season was setting up to be a critical turning point in Balazovic’s development.
Balazovic entered the 2022 season as a borderline top-100 prospect, with Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus including him on their list. At Twins Daily, he was the fourth overall prospect in the Twins organization and the highest-rated pitcher. He had success in the upper minors and was projected to make his big-league debut, but that plan didn’t work out.
During spring training, Balazovic suffered a back injury that forced him to begin the 2022 season on the injured list. His first appearance came in May for Fort Myers as he worked his way back. By May 7th, he was in the Saints rotation, but there were struggles to start the year. Through his first nine starts, he posted a 9.24 ERA as batters accumulated a 1.141 OPS with eight home runs against him. His next eight starts slightly improved as his ERA dropped to 8.88, but he continued to surrender too many home runs. It looked like a lost season for Balazovic, but something clicked near the season’s end.
During September, Balazovic had his best month of the season. He posted a 3.43 ERA in five starts with 30 strikeouts and ten walks in 21 innings. Batters still hit four home runs, but two of those home runs came in the same game. For the month, batters hit .247/.330/.469 (.799) as he filled the strike zone with a 62% strike rate. It had to be a satisfying end to a season that didn’t go as planned for Balazovic.
Entering 2023, Balazovic won’t make any top-100 lists, and he will drop on Twins prospect rankings. However, he has something to build off of for 2023. Sometimes struggles are part of the development process, and Minnesota hopes Balazovic can learn from a rough 2022 season.
What are your thoughts on Balazovic’s 2022 season? What is his ceiling? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.