Prospects come in all shapes and sizes, and players develop at different paces. This list shows that. The player in this group of five that has been around the longest is still very young, but because he signed at 16, he may seem older than he is. In fact, that player is actually younger than players drafted out of college the last couple of seasons. Brent Rooker went to Mississippi State and red-shirted as a freshman. He wasn't yet ready at that time. At 20, he was certainly ready for the SEC and became a top pick, drafted at 22-years-old.
That really brings up two points about age and prospects. First, age in important to consider when looking at level of competition and stats. However, age really isn't that important when it comes to a potential big leaguer. If he's ready at 22, great. If he's ready at 26, that's OK too. Of course, with the lost 2020 season due to the pandemic, age becomes less important relative to both points.
With that in mind, this group of five prospects has a few players who signed at 16 or 17 years old, and a couple of powerful college draft picks. Continue reading to see who made today's list.
#15 SS Wander Javier
2021 STATS: .225/.280/.413, 15 2B, 10 3B, 12 HR, 53 RBI, 34.3 K%, 6.1 BB%, 1/4 SB
It’s been discussed before, but the Twins prospect most hurt by a lost 2020 season may have been Wander Javier. Signed to the largest international free agent contract in team history in July 2015, he began the trek up the ladder. Unfortunately, He missed much of the DSL season in 2016 with injury. He played well for Elizabethton in 2017. Then a shoulder injury cost him the 2018 season and the first half of the 2019 season. He struggled in Low-A Cedar Rapids, hitting just .177 in 80 games. Then came the missed 2020 season. In 2020, he spent the season with High-A Cedar Rapids. The positive is that he remained healthy until the final weeks of the season. He certainly showed flashes of offensive potential, but overall the batting average was low, and so was the on-base percentage. He continued to strike out a lot. There are still several positives that make me (and many) unwilling to give up on him. Javier is a really good athlete. He is quick and he has good strength. He had 37 extra base hits, showing home run power and triples speed. On the positive is Javier’s shortstop defense. Similar to Jermaine Palacios defensively. He has good range. He’s got a big arm. He just sometimes struggles with routine plays, so he will need to continue working on being more consistent. Javier has one more season in the Twins organization before he can become a minor league free agent. He just turned 23 in late December, so being patient is wise.
#14 3B Christian Encarnacion-Strand
2021 STATS: .391/.424/.598, 2 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 28.3 K%, 5.4 BB%, 2/2 SB
The Twins drafted Christian Encarnacion-Strand in the fourth round of the 2021 draft, and it’s fair to say he made a great first impression. As you can see above, he hit for average and showed some of the power that made him intriguing in the draft. He played in 22 games for Ft. Myers and had at least one hit in 21 games. He had at least one hit in the first 20 games. At one point, he had three hits in three straight games and four out of five games. Big and strong, he has a lot of power potential. He didn’t walk a lot with the Mighty Mussels, but he has shown a good approach at the plate. In his one season at Oklahoma State, he hit .361/.442/.661 (1.103) with 17 doubles and 15 home runs in 56 games. The California native had previously been drafted in 2019 in the 34th round when he was playing at Yavapai College in Arizona. In college, he played almost exclusively at third base. In Ft. Myers, with Jesus Feliz and fellow-2021 draft pick Jake Rucker playing third base, Encarnacion-Strand played 17 games at first base. He will be 22 years old throughout the 2022 season. There is a chance that this ranking is a little high simply due to his first impression on me, so it will be interesting to see what he does in 2022.
#13 SS Keoni Cavaco
2021 STATS: .233/.296/.302, 7 2B, 2 HR, 26 RBI, 34.1 K%, 7.0 BB%, 6/8 SB
Javier is the player likely hurt most by the missed 2020 season. It was also unfortunate for Keoni Cavaco. He was the Twins first-round draft pick in the 2019 draft and struggled in 25 games in the GCL that season. Despite limited pro time, the Twins pushed him to Ft. Myers despite having just turned 20 in early June. He started out well and showed glimpses of his immense potential. Unfortunately, he had some rough patches too. He also missed time with a couple of injuries including a concussion. We have seen how playing in Ft. Myers can (and does) negatively impact offense, so despite his numbers, it is far too early to be too worried yet. He is big, strong and quick and should develop doubles and home run power in time. While he played third base in high school because his Eastlake teammate was shortstop Marcelo Mayer who was the fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft. However, he has the size, speed, hands and arm strength to potentially play shortstop so that’s where the Twins played him in 2021 and will continue to do so. He certainly needs to be more consistent, but the tools are there. He won’t be able to legally drink until early June.
#12 OF Misael Urbina
2021 STATS: .191/.299/.286, 12 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR,52 RBI, 18.7 K%, 12.3 BB%, 16/22 SB
Back in July 2018, the Twins signed a 16-year-old Misael Urbina from Venezuela to a $2.75 million signing bonus. He made his professional debut in the DSL where he hit .279/.382/.443 (.825) with 14 doubles, five triples and two homers over 50 games. He also stole 19 bases and walked more than he struck out. After missing the 2020 season, he was set to begin the 2021 season in Extended Spring Training at the Complex. However, less than a week later, he was moved up to the Mighty Mussels and put right into their lineup. As you can see from his stat line, it was a struggle for him. However, he was more than two years younger than league average. He had a low batting average, but he took a lot of walks, showing an ability to control the strike zone (in a league with an electronic strike zone). He also was a good base stealer. He is generally a solid young outfielder who split his time between center field and left field. Urbina would benefit from another season in Ft. Myers to help his tools develop and he can find more success, even if it’s just for a half-season. He won’t even turn 20 until the end of April.
#11 OF Matt Wallner
2021 STATS: .265/.350/.504, 14 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 47 RBI, 33.3 K%, 9.3 BB%, 0/1 SB
In 2016, Matt Wallner was Mr. Minnesota in baseball and the Twins drafted him in the 32nd round as a pitcher. He didn’t sign and instead headed south to play at Southern Mississippi where he developed into one of the best power hitters in college baseball. In 2019, the Twins drafted him again, this time with the 39th overall pick. He spent that summer in Elizabethton before ending the season in Cedar Rapids. After a lost 2020 season, Wallner returned to Cedar Rapids, now the Twins High-A affiliate. In his first 17 games, he hit .333/.384/.621 (1.005) with nine extra base hits. Unfortunately, he hurt his wrist and ended up having surgery on a broken hamate bone. Two months later, he returned to the Kernels for another 54 games. In that time, he hit just .220, but he walked 10% of the time and hit 11 doubles and 11 home runs. Following the season, he went to the Arizona Fall League where he hit .303 with two doubles and six homers in just 18 games. When he has control of the strike zone, Wallner can be immensely productive. If he can do that, he should hit for average. And when he makes contact, he has as much power as anyone in the Twins system, power to all fields. He’s tall and strong and a pretty good athlete with decent speed once he gets going. Defensively, he is a solid corner outfielder. Since he spent time in college as a closer, you might know that he has a cannon for an arm. He will likely spend most of the 2022 season with the Wichita Wind Surge. He will be 24 throughout the season.
I think this is a really interesting group of prospects. There are three very high-ceiling, multi-tooled prospects in this group who signed at a very young age. Javier has struggled on the field and staying on the field in his time. Cavaco and Urbina have all the tools, but they struggled. Both would have benefited from being able to play in a league between the Complex League and Low-A. Wallner and Encarnacion-Strand are college draft picks with big-time power potential who could move up the ladder more quickly.
It should be a fun list to discuss. Discuss these players, their rankings and feel free to ask questions.