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?