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  • Minor League Report (5/7): Top Pitching Prospects Galore

    Matt Braun

    One important pitching prospect made his first start in a while, another made his AAA debut, and yet another one looked to continue his dominant beginning of the season. Read all about that and more in this edition of the minor league report.

    Image courtesy of Theo Tollefson



    RHP Jordan Balazovic activated from the IL for the St. Paul Saints
    RHP Cole Sands optioned to the St. Paul Saints from the Minnesota Twins
    RHP Blayne Enlow assigned to Low-A Fort Myers on minor league rehab
    RHP Dylan Thomas was reinstated from the 7-day IL and released 

    Saints Sentinel
    St. Paul 9, Iowa 2
    Box Score
    Jordan Balazovic: 3 2/3 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
    HR: Kevin Merrell (1), Derek Fisher (3)
    Multi-hit games: Jermaine Palacios (2-for-5, RBI)

    A top prospect made his AAA debut on Saturday. 

    Jordan Balazovic, one of the team’s top pitching young arms, returned from the injured list on Saturday, tossing 3 2/3 scoreless innings for the Saints. Other exciting pitching prospects have overshadowed Balazovic with their major-league performances, but no one should forget just how dominant Balazovic can be when healthy.

    Of course, one should never lose themselves in a pitcher when St. Paul’s offense scored nine runs. It was a group effort on Saturday; every player got on base at least once, and the only player without a hit (Curtis Terry) walked four times. In fact, the team ended up walking more often than they struck out (11 to 10).

    The Cubs suffered death by a thousand paper cuts. Outside of the Kevin Merrell homer above, Derek Fisher and Cole Sturgeon provided the only other extra-base hits of the game. One final offensive note: every RBI came from the 5-9 hitters. 

    Mario Sanchez allowed two runs over 3 1/3  innings in relief of Balazovic; Wladimir Pinto shut out Iowa over the final two innings with an impressive five strikeouts.

    Wind Surge Wisdom
    Wichita 5, Tulsa 4
    Box Score
    Simeon Woods Richardson: 5 1/3 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
    HR: Spencer Steer 2 (3, 4)
    Multi-hit games: Spencer Steer (3-for-5, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 HR)

    Wichita walked off their opponent on Saturday.

    Simeon Woods Richardson proved he was human, allowing his first earned runs of the year in a decidedly middling start. The Drillers, full of classically tough Dodgers prospects, ambushed Woods Richardson in the third inning with three hits and an HBP, ultimately netting three runs in the frame.

    Wichita would not stand around quietly, though. Or, Spencer Steer specifically, would not stand around quietly. Steer was a train engine, doubling home a run in the first before homering in the third and fourth innings. One must assume that Tulsa pitchers were on the verge of an outright revolt if their coaches forced them to pitch to Steer.

    Of course, one man an offense does not make. Alex Isola reached base three times, Michael Helman singled home a run, and Matt Wallner brought home the walk-off run in the 9th inning. Don’t look now, but Wallner now owns an .897 OPS at AA despite his dreadful start to the season. 

    We all sometimes Need A Little Help From Our Friends, and the wind smiled favorably onto Wichita.

    Oh, and Wallner also threw a missile to nail a runner at home.

    Kernels Nuggets
    Cedar Rapids 6, Quad Cities 2
    Box Score
    Cade Povich: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
    HR: Anthony Prato (4), Will Holland (1), Aaron Sabato (4)
    Multi-hit games: Jeferson Morales (3-for-4, 2 R)

    The Kernels won on Saturday. Water is wet.

    Cade Povich continued his utterly brilliant introduction to the full minor-league season by punching out eight batters without allowing an earned run. Don’t look now, but the Twins may already have the second wave of arms in the wings waiting for the first group to graduate. 

    Cedar Rapids’ offense started with a bang. Anthony Prato hit a lead-off homer and Charles Mack doubled home another run in the first to give Povich a 2-0 lead before his second inning of work. Will Holland extended the lead in the second with a solo shot before Aaron Sabato blasted away, giving the Kernels a six-run lead before anyone knew what hit them.

    Bobby Milacki and Denny Bentley combined for four innings with just one run allowed to end the game. Kernels pitchers struck out 15 batters in total. 

    Mussel Matters
    Fort Myers 7, Lakeland 12
    Box Score
    Blayne Enlow: 1 2/3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
    HR: None
    Multi-hit games: Jake Rucker (2-for-3, R, RBI, 2B, BB), Noah Miller (2-for-4, R, RBI, BB), Noah Cardenas (2-for-4, 2 RBI), Daniel Ozoria (2-for-4, 2 R)

    The Mighty Mussels lost a high scorer on Saturday.

    Blayne Enlow made his much-anticipated return from Tommy John surgery. The young righty was tagged as the Lance McCullers of the Twins’ 2017 draft when they went over-slot to pick him in the third round after drafting Royce Lewis with the first overall pick. His career hasn’t been straightforward since, but the Twins saw enough potential to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, and this year will go a long way to proving whether that decision was wise.

    Baseball is far too cruel to carry a storybook tale, though. Even after Fort Myers jumped out to a 6-0 lead, Lakeland harassed Enlow in the second inning, taking advantage of poor defense to take a 7-6 lead after the dust had settled. Mike Parades tried in vain to put the effort to a stop, but Lakeland’s bats were in an evil mood, and all he gained was a higher ERA.

    The game wasn’t all bad; Fort Myers reached base 16 times as Noah Miller and Emmanuel Rodriguez continued to flash their on-base potential with three and two times reaching base respectively. Keoni Cavaco was not so fortunate, striking out three times in the loss.

    Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Cade Povich
    Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Spencer Steer

    Here’s a look at how the Twins Daily Top 20 Twins Prospects performed:
    #1 – Austin Martin (Wichita) - 0-for-5, R
    #2 – Royce Lewis (Minnesota) - 1-for-3, 2B, K
    #3 – Jose Miranda (Minnesota) - 0-for-2, BB
    #4 – Jordan Balazovic (St. Paul) - 3 2/3 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
    #7 – Jhoan Duran (Minnesota) - 2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
    #10 – Noah Miller (Fort Myers) - 2-for-4, R, RBI, BB, K
    #11 – Gilberto Celestino (Minnesota) - 0-for-1
    #12 – Matt Wallner (Wichita) - 1-for-4, RBI, 2B, BB, 2 K
    #15 – Emmanuel Rodriguez (Fort Myers) - 0-for-3, R, 2 BB, K
    #17 – Blayne Enlow (Fort Myers) - 1 2/3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
    #18 – Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 3-for-5, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 HR, 2B

    Iowa @ St. Paul (2:07 PM) - RHP Dereck Rodriguez
    Tulsa @ Wichita (12:05 PM) - RHP Chris Vallimont
    Quad Cities @ Cedar Rapids (2:05 PM) - RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long
    Fort Myers @ Lakeland (12:00 PM) - LHP Steve Hajjar


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    So happy to get Balazovic back out on the mound. He's really talented, but needs the innings. One to prove he can stay healthy, and two to settle on that 3rd pitch he needs to deal with lefties. Glad he had a strong first start in Saint Paul (I still dislike the Saints unis that look like they're the flippin' Dodgers, though. bah.)

    I'm not going to worry much about results for Enlow for a while; after that surgery it's going to take a while. Where he ends the season will be much more significant than where he starts it.

    Wonderful start for Steer, and hope he can follow the Jose Miranda path: destroy AA for a while, then come up and destroy AAA after that. I'm going to feel very positive about him if he can maintain this BB/K ratio. Speaking of which, Wallner is rolling right now. I hope that early slump was just one of those early season flukes. The current version of Wallner is the one who can make it to MLB and have success, but he was struggling so hard early on that he still has a stomach-churning K ratio. I don't see any way for him to have long-term success if nearly 50% of his ABs end in a K at AA, because it only gets tougher. We'll see where he gets to this season in terms of making enough contact, but it's good to see him rolling right now.

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    Excited for Steer to get promoted at some point. That guy can hit and I hope he's ready for the next challenge. I'll admit to not knowing a ton about his def prowess, but I'd rather see him playing in STP at 3rd over Palacios.  Palacios feels like he's a utility guy at best. Good def, suspect hitter.  

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    2 hours ago, Alex Schieferdecker said:

    Sabato and Cavaco are looking like missed first round picks, although obviously the latter still has time to become a good player. But maybe he was selected too early.

    That Wallner put-out did not look out at all. I can see why the Drillers complained!

    I hated the Cavaco pick.  I was watching the draft and was stoked Corbin Carroll was still available.  He is a top 20 prospect at AA and  that ranking is probably moving up the way he has been playing.   He is a CFer with 70 grade speed but plenty of bat to play a corner OF.  Of course, he could move over to CF when needed and can you imagine Buxton / Lewis and Carroll with that type of speed at the top of a lineup not to mention the defense.  Cavaco was a terrible pick.

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    Don’t know who I was more excited to see pitching yesterday, Balazovic or Enlow.  Like the above comment, Balazovic may have kept any runners from scoring, but there were a lot of guys on base.  As for Enlow, was he expected back this soon?

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    Just now, roger said:

    Don’t know who I was more excited to see pitching yesterday, Balazovic or Enlow.  Like the above comment, Balazovic may have kept any runners from scoring, but there were a lot of guys on base.  As for Enlow, was he expected back this soon?

    From the time he was optioned, the Twins were saying that he was on track to pitch in games in May. 

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    8 hours ago, jmlease1 said:

     (I still dislike the Saints unis that look like they're the flippin' Dodgers, though. bah.)

    Wonderful start for Steer, and hope he can follow the Jose Miranda path: destroy AA for a while, then come up and destroy AAA after that. 

    As a pre-Twins affiliation Saints fan, those uniforms look like real Saints uniforms. Guess it's a matter of perspective as the powder blue ones make me gag (don't like the Twins version either), though ultimately you are right; the Saints were long-time Dodger affiliates and the independent league versions kept the color schemes.

    Agree on Steer; especially if Miranda sticks in St Paul, it probably is about time to move Steer up to AAA. (And maybe match that with moving Encarnacion-Strand to AA.) 

    Enlow will be interesting to watch. For sure I would have waived Vallimont off the 40-man at the start of May, and probably would have put Enlow on the 60 day IL to open a 40-man spot (delaying his return to early June), because it sure looked like the Twins needed relief help. That option is gone now, though upside is the 'pen has been better lately.

    A 40-man roster crunch is coming, though. Every single position player on the 40-man is either playing for the Twins right now or is on the 10-day IL. So any help needed due to poor play or injury means somebody has to get bounced of the 40-man (or put on the 60-day IL; Sano might be a candidate for that depending on his recovery time).

    That means cuts at the MLB level, or marginal pitchers at the MiLB level, and Vallimont, Strotman, and maybe Enlow look like the ones most likely to slip through waivers right now. (The June deadline for reducing MLB pitchers to a max of 13 might be the next best time to try to sneak pitchers through waivers.)

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    Hell yeah! Enlow’s back. He was dealing when he got hurt last year. It would be such a boon to see him get back on track as a high pick. 

    I feel like Sabato, Wallner, and Cavaco are all non prospects. Maybe one or two of them sniffs the majors, but I guarantee not one is an impact. Really too bad. 

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    2 hours ago, Alex Schieferdecker said:

    Sabato and Cavaco are looking like missed first round picks, although obviously the latter still has time to become a good player. But maybe he was selected too early.

    That Wallner put-out did not look out at all. I can see why the Drillers complained!

    I don't know why you are so down on Sabato.  He looks like the second coming of Sano!!! 🤣

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    Saints Reel In Sturgeon From Wichita, Yake From Fort Myers

    May 5, 2022

    ST. PAUL, MN (May 5, 2022) - For the first time this season the St. Paul Saints are getting reinforcements from the crop of talent throughout the organization. Outfielder Cole Sturgeon, in his first season with the Minnesota Twins organization, has been assigned to the Saints from Double-A Wichita, and infielder Ernie Yake, in his second professional season, joins the team from Single-A Fort Myers.

    The 30-year-old left-hand hitting Sturgeon is hitting .266 with three home runs and 17 RBI in 16 games. Sturgeon has scored 13 runs, has two doubles, two stolen bases, a .342 on base percentage, and .438 slugging percentage.

    Sturgeon spent the last two seasons in Independent Professional Baseball. During the pandemic year in 2020 he played in the Constellation League for the Sugar Land Skeeters and last season he began the year with the Atlantic League’s Lexington Legends before being traded to the American Association’s Milwaukee Milkmen. He hit a combined .300 with 12 homers and 58 RBI in 2021.

    In 2014, Sturgeon was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 10th round out of the University of Louisville. He spent six years with the Red Sox organization from 2014-19, spending all of 2019 at Triple-A Pawtucket. Sturgeon had a solid season hitting .277 with 10 home runs and 43 RBI in 99 games. He scored 43 runs, roped 17 doubles, two triples, stole six bags, had a .334 on base percentage, and a .426 slugging percentage.

    At the University of Louisville, Sturgeon reached the College World Series as a junior and a senior in 2013 and 2014.

    The 24-year-old Yake returns to the Saints after playing in one game in 2021. This season he’s hitting .257 with four RBI in 13 games with the Mighty Mussels.


    Last season Yake hit .238 with three RBI in seven games at the GCL Twins. He went 0-1 in his lone game with the Saints.

    Yake spent five years at Gonzaga University from 2017-21, redshirting in 2017. During his redshirt freshman year in 2018 he was selected as a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American Team, WCC All-Freshman Team, and All-WCC Second Team. In 2019 he was an All-WCC Second Team selection. As a redshirt senior Yake was selected to the NCAA Tournament All-Eugene Team.

    In order to make room for Sturgeon and Yake, the Saints placed outfielder Jake Cave on the temporary inactive list (paternal leave).

    The Saints roster stands at 32 players with one Major League rehab player, Alex Kirilloff. The Saints have a total of 2

    12 position players. The Triple-A maximum roster is 33 with 28 active during any given game.

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    Saints’ Derek Fisher, a World Series winner, keeps his focus on future


    By Dean Spiros | Special to the Pioneer Press
    PUBLISHED: May 6, 2022 at 9:50 p.m. | UPDATED: May 7, 2022 at 10:16 a.m.

    "One of the great observations about baseball is that it’s the only sport where you can fail 70 percent of the time and still be considered a success.

    Saints outfielder Derek Fisher is among the many who can relate. Talented enough to be a first-round draft pick in 2014 and to reach the major leagues three years later, Fisher finds himself at the age of 28 still trying to gain a foothold in the major leagues.

    “I think everything happens for a reason,” Fisher said prior to the Saints’ 6-2 loss to Iowa on Friday night at CHS Field. “This game is extremely humbling for everybody at different ages and different stages. I think what makes baseball players appreciate the game the most is that we appreciate the people before us and what they’ve done, because we know how hard the game is.”

    Fisher spent at least part of the past five seasons in the major leagues, including four games with the Milwaukee Brewers last season. The Twins signed him as a minor-league free agent in December.

    While Fisher said he was able to stay relatively injury free early in his professional career, the past two years have been a different story. Included was a bout with COVID-19.

    “It’s made me appreciate the game more,” he said, “and appreciate the days you can be on the field.”

    The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Fisher, drafted by Houston in 2014, was on Astros’ World Series roster in 2017. He scored the winning run in Game 5 as a pinch-runner.

    “I got to play with guys who I had watched on TV,” Fisher said of the experience. “Guys I can definitely thank for the things I have learned. I was roommates with (Astros third baseman Alex) Bregman coming up all the way through (the minors), and we’re still friends.”

    The Astros claimed the world championship that season, and while Fisher cherishes his World Series ring, he’s more inclined right now to think about the future than the past.

    “We all have high expectations, and we’re all hard on ourselves,” Fisher said. “As we play we just want to keep getting better, and don’t look back at those moments. There will be a time and place for that, but for me that’s not right now.

    “I feel like I’ve played for so long, but I’m only 28. I still have plenty of time left.”

    A big man who can also run, Fisher said he can still do the things that made him a first-round pick. But he’s not the same player.

    “The mental side of the game has gotten really big for me,” he said. “Early in my career I was really honed in on mechanics. Now it’s just the feeling of competing when the lights go on instead of trying to be perfect.

    “This year has been a lot of fun, and I’m excited to see what happens.”


    With shortstop Royce Lewis being called up to the Twins, infielder Kevin Merrell has joined the Saints from Double-A Wichita. Merrell signed as a minor-league free agent in January."

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