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  • Martin, Julien Lead Twins Prospects Heading to the Arizona Fall League


    Steve Lein

    Major League Baseball has released the initial full rosters of prospects heading to the Arizona Fall League, which starts this year on October 3rd. Headlining the Minnesota Twins prospects are Austin Martin and Edouard Julien.

    Image courtesy of Ed Bailey (Wichita Wind Surge), Steve Buhr (Cedar Rapids Kernels)

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    Joining infielders Austin Martin and Edouard Julien on the roster of the Glendale Desert Dogs will be catcher Alex Isola, and pitchers Denny Bentley (LHP), Jon Olsen, Francis Peguero, and Ryan Shreve.

    Countless numbers of top prospects have gone through the Arizona Fall League, which is often used as a proving ground for those near the top of their team’s system looking to make their jump to the majors. It’s also a mechanism utilized to help make 40-man roster decisions heading into the next season and to make up for lost development time among players.

    Last season, for example, the Twins were represented by pitchers Kody Funderburk, Cody Laweryson, Evan Sisk, and Zach Featherstone as well as hitters Matt Wallner, Andrew Bechtold, and Michael Helman. Almost all of these players took that experience and ran with it in 2022, pushing themselves up the organizational ladder and having great seasons in many different ways.

    So who are the players for the 2022 season?

    IF/OF Austin Martin (Twins Daily’s #4 prospect
    Austin Martin came to the Twins from the Toronto Blue Jays in the Jose Berrios trade, after being drafted fifth overall in the 2020 MLB Draft. His elite contact ability and athleticism had him in the running for the first overall pick and was widely considered as perhaps the best overall hitter in the class after hitting .368/.474/.532 in his career at Vanderbilt.

    It hasn’t necessarily played out that way so far for Martin as a professional, but the potential still remains. Martin missed over a month this season with a wrist injury, so he’s in the AFL both looking to make up for lost time, and attempting to recapture some of that “top prospect” status.

    His inclusion reminds me a lot of Royce Lewis’ during the 2019 season, where he had struggled in High-A and Double-A, but went on to win the AFL’s Most Valuable Player award while playing all over the diamond.

    For more Twins Daily content on Austin Martin, click here

    IF/OF Edouard Julien (TD’s #14 prospect)
    Julien continues to fly a bit under the radar as a prospect despite owning a career OPS over .900 in two minor league seasons, spending all of this season at Double-A Wichita. Known primarily for his ability to draw a walk, Julien has also demonstrated some pop and speed since turning pro, slugging 35 home runs, and stealing 51 bases in his career thus far.

    The Twins took him in the 18th round of the 2019 draft out of Auburn, and they have to be ecstatic about the return they’ve received thus far. He may not have a defined defensive position at this point, but he has played second base exclusively during the 2022 season, after splitting time in the infield and outfield in 2021. His time in the AFL will likely be spent proving his hitting prowess is no fluke, and perhaps seeing if he can handle multiple positions.

    For more Twins Daily content on Edouard Julien, click here

    C Alex Isola
    Isola joined the Twins organization in the 2019 draft, being selected in the 29th round out of Texas Christian University. He’s spent his career in the minors splitting time between catcher, first base, and designated hitter.

    His bat has continued to develop since turning pro, improving a .243/.342/.425 line with Cedar Rapids in 2021, to .286/.384/.473 line with Wichita this season. He will likely continue to work on his receiving skills once a week in the desert, while also getting plugged in at first base or designated hitter. He also missed two months of the 2022 season with an injury, so he’s getting the opportunity to make up for missed at-bats as well.

    We've written several articles on Alex Isola at Twins Daily. Check them out here.  

    RHP Jon Olsen
    Projected to go much higher in the 2018 draft initially, Olsen fell to the Twins in the 12th round due to undergoing Tommy John surgery, and then later had a Thoracic Outlet procedure. Because of that and the COVID pandemic, Olsen has pitched less than 100 innings in four seasons since being drafted.

    Olsen is the most likely of the four pitchers the Twins are sending to the league to start games for the Desert Dogs, but it’s all about simply getting on the mound and throwing innings for the right-hander. He’s pitched just over 20 innings for the Cedar Rapids Kernels this season, and it will be interesting to follow if he can keep his strikeout rate up against the improved competition.

    For more Twins Daily content on Jon Olsen, click here.  

    LHP Denny Bentley
    Bentley was drafted by the Twins in the 33rd round of the 2018 draft out of Howard Community College, a well-known JUCO program in Texas. He’s been purely a reliever since then, posting excellent strikeout rates as well as high walk rates, while pitching at five different levels thus far, including a brief jump to Rochester in 2019. He’s spent the 2022 season split between Cedar Rapids and Wichita, accumulating a 3.52 ERA, three saves, and 71 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings (11.9K/9IP) thanks in large part to an improving slider. He was Twins Daily’s choice for MiLB Relief Pitcher of the Month in June after being promoted to Wichita.

    Like several relievers before him (think Jovani Moran), Bentley will look to keep his strikeouts up and bring his walks down against the better competition in the AFL, and perhaps improve his stock in the system.

    Bentley has frequently been mentioned and a strong candidate for Relief Pitcher of the Month. For more, click here.  

    RHP Ryan Shreve
    Shreve made his mark on the Twins system during the 2021 season, after being taken in the 16th round of the 2019 draft from Pacific University. He accumulated 73 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings, a drastic increase from his college days, that was good for a 3.62 ERA at three levels, holding hitters to a .167 average in the Midwest League. 

    He suffered a shoulder impingement early in the 2022 season, and upon his return, the strikeouts didn’t come back right away. He got stronger as the season wore on, however, and since the start of July owns a 1.26 ERA over 28 2/3 innings, striking out 32 and walking just 8. For those efforts, he took home Twins Daily’s Relief Pitcher of the Month award for August. In the AFL he will look to keep up that momentum heading into the 2023 season, adding innings to his ledger after the missed time.

    For more Twins Daily content on Ryan Shreve, click here.  

    RHP Francis Peguero
    Peguero came to the organization just before the 2022 season started, as part of the trade package that netted the Twins Sonny Gray from the Cincinnati Reds. He was signed by the Reds in the 2017 international signing period and has since made it to Double-A, appearing in 15 games for the Wind Surge this year. 

    He did not appear in games until July as he dealt with an injury, so his time in the AFL is also about making up innings and allowing the Twins to get a better idea of what they have with the 25-year-old right-hander. He boasts a mid-90s fastball, doesn’t walk anybody, and can pick up strikeouts in bunches at times, but has had trouble limiting contact, allowing well over a hit per inning in his career. He will likely use the AFL to work on his secondary offerings with a plethora of new coaching voices, to see if he can unlock any new tricks.

    He hasn't been in the organization long, but Peguero has been mentioned in a few Twins Daily articles. Click here for more

    What do you think of the contingent the Minnesota Twins are sending to the Arizona Fall League? What are you looking for out of the prospects above? 

     

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    Figured Martin was a 100% lock. 

    I think when there was an article a couple weeks ago concerning AFL speculation, pretty sure I listed Julien as a possible in order to work on defense and get ready for a possible Twins promotion in 2023.

    I also stated they absolutely had to send at least one catcher as they need to figure our Carmago, Isola, Williams, etc. Just interesting it's Isola of the various possibilities.

    But before I pat myself on the back too much, I struck out on the possible arms completely! Really thought Enlow would get some time to continue to get his "feel" back and log some additional innings. Looks like they just want rest before instructs.

    The arms they're sending make sense though. They all really just need more innings to see what they really have.

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    Martin definitely just going for the added playing time. Julien will be interesting if he's being sent there for defensive play. It's no guarantee he'd be playing positions the Twins would like him to get more experience playing.

    Having Isola take some steps forward would be huge for the organization so thin at catcher.

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    As an aside that time constraints robbed me of while at work, I should have added in my previous post that it will be very interesting as to how our AFL prospects are used.

    I know that much like normal milb, players tend to be used in different manners. Very few are only used in one way, or one position. But does Martin play mostly OF? Julien has played 1B/2B/3B/LF previously. Does he concentrate on 2B/LF? Do we see a surprise? Does Isola concentrate on catching? (Hoping so).

    Olsen is one of those mid round fliers you take based on potential but injured. Not dissimilar to Priellip this past draft. But THEN, he has TOS surgery and THEN misses all of 2020! I mean, at that point, you're talking about the potential end of a career/dream. After an OK 2021 he spent most of 2022 in the pen. At age 25, with all the time he's missed, there must be SOMETHING in his STUFF the Twins still like to send him to the AFL because I can think of other arms I'd like to see get the opportunity. 

    Bentley is LH and breathing. The Twins are short handed on LH pitching, especially post trade this year. Thielbar is very good, but needs help, and is on the wrong side of 30, despite his results. Moran and Sisk at AAA offer some potential immediate help.  And Hendrick and Funderburk and the injured Featherstone at AA offer possibilities. But a good AFL could catapult Bentley in to AAA and potential Twins discussion for 2023. I don't want to say the Twins are desperate for a 2nd LHRP option....but the Twins are desperate for a 2nd LHRP option to add to Thielbar and then have 1 or 2 guys knocking at the door! Possibilities are there! Who steps through the open doorway? This, IMO, is a big, open and important doorway. 

    Despite following the system closely, I have to admit I know next to nothing about Shreve or Peguero. Shreve is tall and long and pitched in rookie ball 2019 before sitting out 2020. I can only assume he's projectible after his 2nd half of 2022 as listed in the OP. And I also confess that I didn't even remember Peguero as being part of the Sonny Gray trade. (Shame on me, lol). So they both seem to have velocity and potential secondary pitches and have K results. Great! So do a lot of A and AA arms.

    The FO knows a hell of a lot more than I do about the talent and potential of position players and arms in the system than I do. But I thought the AFL was about AA and above talent that was "close" to making an appearance and a mark. So we sent ONE catching prospect when we might have sent two. And we are sending a group of A arms hoping for a jump start? I mean, it kinda makes sense in a way, offering a challenge. But aren't there some higher profile arms that are closer to reaching the ML level that could really use this springboard and let the other arms work through the instructional league? 

    I like the player choices, though I might have chosen a 2nd catcher potentially. But I'm a little confused about some of the pitching choices.

     

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    11 minutes ago, DocBauer said:

    But aren't there some higher profile arms that are closer to reaching the ML level that could really use this springboard and let the other arms work through the instructional league?

    Seth said in an earlier post that it is rare for AAA players to go to the AFL. The Twins must think that Headrick and Enlow have pitched enough innings this year as well. 

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    I'm higher than most on both Martin and Julien. Love them both. I know Martin's bat is struggling but he can still take a walk, he looks like he absolutely knows the strike zone. Those are my favorite type of hitting prospects. The hits will come, as will the power. Julien was a nice steal. He'll be a solid MLer.

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    9 minutes ago, gunnarthor said:

    ... I know Martin's bat is struggling but he can still take a walk, he looks like he absolutely knows the strike zone...

    Nothing wrong with a Nick Punto as a utility guy, but Nick Punto could pay defense.

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    I am always fascinated by the players chosen by the FO (of any team) to go to the AFL.  I can see why Julien (who looks like a real prospect) and Martin (needs to work on some stuff) were chosen, but I am usually unsure why particular pitchers were chosen.  You did a great job of explaining each selection, Steve, thank you for the back stories on each player.  I am not making a trip this year, but with Julien and Martin there, I wish I was.  If anyone does go, post some thoughts as you watch.

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