Before I get started with recapping our preseason top 20 prospect list, I'm very excited to unveil a brand-new feature here at Twins Daily which will enable you to keep up with the system's best and brightest all year long, like never before.
Introducing: The Twins Daily Top Prospect Tracker
Brock's been hard at work on this great addition to the site, and now it's live for all to access. The prospect tracker is a regularly-updated interactive tool that keeps you up to speed on fluctuations in the rankings throughout the season, showcasing each player's latest monthly splits so you can track performances as the season plays out.
Bookmark it and check in regularly. You'll also notice the widget popping up around the site. Okay, on with the breakdown.
Minnesota Twins 2022 Top 20 Prospects
20. Steve Hajjar, LHP: Big 6-foot-5 southpaw drafted in the 2nd round last year, touted for his changeup.
19. Edouard Julien, INF: Versatile fielder drew 101 BB in 112 G last year at Single-A, good for a .434 OBP.
18. Spencer Steer, INF: Mashed 24 homers in a breakthrough power season, playing mostly 2B and 3B.
17. Blayne Enlow, RHP: Looked to be clicking last year before TJ surgery, which will cost him '22 season.
16. Emmanuel Rodríguez, OF: Extreme contact woes marred otherwise highly encouraging rookie-ball debut.
15. Louie Varland, RHP: Honored as the org's top minor-league pitcher in '21 thanks to dazzling A-ball performance.
14. Cole Sands, RHP: Polished righty has posted a 2.53 ERA, 10.3 K/9 in two seasons since joining Twins system.
13. Matt Wallner, OF: Huge raw power will play if he can shore up his plate discipline and whiffing tendency.
12. Gilberto Celestino, OF: Was overwhelmed during rushed MLB debut, but the skills are undeniable.
11. Noah Miller, SS: 38th pick in '21 draft out of HS swings from both sides with legit chance to stick at short.
10. Josh Winder, RHP: Absurdly dominant between AA/AAA last year, and is basically ready to go at 25.
9. Chase Petty, RHP: Team's top draft pick from last summer was a high-school phenom with 100-MPH heat.
8. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP: Mechanics and control hold back premium arsenal, but he's still young.
7. Jhoan Duran, RHP: Imposing flamethrower has makeup to dominate but must get past scary elbow issues.
6. Matt Canterino, RHP: His 1.13 ERA and 76 Ks in 48 IP since being drafted in 2019 say it all, good and bad.
5. Joe Ryan, RHP: Amazing numbers in minors were made to look legit during 5-start run with Twins.
4. Jordan Balazovic, RHP: Safest combination of ceiling, floor, and proven durability among arms in the system.
3. José Miranda, 2B/3B: Perennial breakthrough candidate broke through with minor-league season for the ages.
2. Royce Lewis, SS: Missed 2 straight years, but has the elite skills, athleticism, and drive to catch up fast.
1. Austin Martin, SS/OF: Headliner of 2022 deadline sell-off is a worthy top prize, with evident star qualities.
Top 20 Prospects Positional Breakdown
- C : 0
- IF: 6
- OF: 3
- RHP: 10
- LHP: 1
The Right Stuff
The positional imbalance above is stark. Before we talk about some of the scarcities and what they mean, let's talk about the area of abundance: right-handed pitching. In our rankings, the top three prospects (Martin, Lewis, Miranda) are followed by seven straight right-handed pitchers, and there are three more in the back half.
What's more, the majority of pitchers among these 10 are viable candidates to debut in 2022 (one already has). The Twins desperately need an infusion of impact arms and the system is poised to provide it. Six years after the new front office took over with a directive to develop pitching, they've got a pipeline bursting at the seams.
Now, it's proving time. There's a whole lot riding on this group – especially if the Twins continue to take a relatively passive approach on the veteran pitching market. The team's fortunes over the next couple seasons may be dictated largely by this group.
The lopsided ratio of RHP vs. LHP in these rankings definitely stands out – it's something I also remarked on when doing the organizational asset rankings, which included zero lefties.
I'm not sure exactly what to make of this, or how much it matters. But it's definitely a thing.
Emerging Areas of Scarcity
Beyond their glut of pitching, the Twins are looking solid in the infield, although there's a lot of redundancy within that group – nearly all of the six are second/third base types, with only Lewis and Miller having any real shot to play shortstop in the majors.
The scarce pipeline supplies in the outfield (3) and catcher (0) are not quite what they seem though.
The past season saw Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Ryan Jeffers all graduate from prospect status. A year ago, those players ranked first, third, and fourth on this list. So yeah, that'll put a dent in the positional depth. Moreover, several of the players listed as infielders currently could easily end up in the outfield.
Having said that, it would be nice to see some more catching talent emerge in the system. Mitch Garver is suddenly only two years from free agency, and the jury is out on Jeffers as a long-term solution. Ben Rortvedt, who also graduated from prospect status last year, has the makings of a solid backup.
Do We Have a Shortstop?
The Twins have an abundance of depth in the system to support their clear present need for pitching. Solutions at the shortstop position are less clear.
Although we have three players listed (at least partially) as shortstops in these rankings, only two have a legit chance to play there in the majors: Miller, who is still probably four or five years away, and Lewis, who's gone two years without action on the field. The latter's viability at the position is in doubt.
Keith Law of The Athletic recently reiterated his view on that matter: "Lewis is not a shortstop." Law is far from alone in his skepticism, although many others seem to more open-minded, including the Twins themselves who seem intent to keep pushing him at short for the time being.
For his part, Lewis has his sights set on the big-league shortstop job. As he told Ted Schwerzler recently, "There’s an opening at short, and then the team looks very exciting. I’m just so ready to be a Minnesota Twin."
At present, he might be the club's best present option at shortstop, which is to say they really have no options. Presumably that'll be addressed once the lockout ends. With the assumption that a short-term fix will be acquired, Lewis is seemingly being primed to take over in the not-too-distant future. (Otherwise, what IS the plan?)
An Uneven Playing Field
Before he can even be considered as a legitimate option to play shortstop in the majors, Lewis badly needs reps, and lots of 'em. Lamentably, with his presence on the 40-man roster, he's subject to the lockout, meaning he's unable to participate in spring training now, or minor leagues games when they start.
Lewis isn't alone, although I feel his situation is more unfortunate than most. He's part of a group of nine players from our list, including six of the top 10, who will be unable to play so long as the lockout persists:
- Royce Lewis
- José Miranda
- Jordan Balazovic
- Joe Ryan
- Jhoan Duran
- Josh Winder
- Gilberto Celestino
- Cole Sands
- Blayne Enlow
Should the lockout claim a chunk of the season, it will create a weird imbalance in development between these prospects and all the others, who will be able to proceed as usual with all the coaching, resources, and reps of a minor-league operation.
Who's Your Pick to Click in 2022?
Let's hear from y'all in the comments. If you had to pick a prospect who will enjoy a Miranda-like ascent in 2022, which is the first name that comes to mind? Ideally someone toward the back or outside of our Top 20 – either in the Honorable Mentions or entirely absent from our discussion. Maybe later on we can come back and see who made the best calls. For my part, I think I'm gonna go with right-handed pitcher Marco Raya.
- Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects
- Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospects
- Twins Daily 2019 Top Prospects
- Twins Daily 2018 Top Prospects
- Twins Daily 2017 Top Prospects
- Twins Daily 2016 Top Prospects
- Twins Daily 2015 Top Prospects