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  • Part 5: Seth's Top 30 Twins Hitting Prospects (6-10)

    Seth Stohs

    Today we jump into the Top 10 Minnesota Twins hitting prospects (according to me). Another interesting group, and when you have read it, you can start speculating on the Top 5! 

    Image courtesy of William Parmeter (Rosario, Julien, Sabato), Seth Stohs (Steer, Celestino)

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    In today’s rankings, there are some interesting names. There are a few college draft picks that had some ups and downs throughout the season, but their tool set remains quality and clear. There is a former highly ranked international free agent who came to the team in a trade and made his unexpected debut in 2021. And there is a young player that hasn’t spent a lot of time in the organization yet but who is really exciting. 

    Here are my choices for the 6-10 hitting prospects in the Minnesota Twins organization. 

    #10 1B Aaron Sabato
    2021 STATS: .202/.373/.410, 18 2B, 19 HR, 57 RBI, 32.1 K%, 19.8 BB%, 1/1 SB

    Aaron Sabato was the Twins first-round draft pick (27th overall) out of the University of North Carolina in 2020. Over 83 college games, he hit .332/.459/.698 (1.158) with 31 doubles and 25 homers. He was added to the Twins depth camp at 2021 spring training and then began the season with Low-A Ft. Myers. It was certainly a struggle for him, especially in the first half of the season. Only one player in all of minor league baseball had more walks than Sabato, but he also struck out a lot more than was expected. However, late in the summer he started showing a little more power. In 85 games with the Mussels, he hit .189/.365/.357 (.722) with 15 doubles and 11 homers. He was promoted to Cedar Rapids and played in 22 games. He hit .253/.402/.613 (1.015) with eight homers. He had 92 walks and 149 strikeouts on the season, certainly more than was expected from a strong college bat. But, getting out of the former Florida State League and experiencing the success in Iowa reminds us of the immense power potential that he does have. 

    #9 IF Edouard Julien 
    2021 STATS: .266/.434/.480, 28 2B, 1 3B, 18 HR, 72 RBI, 28.0 K%, 21.4 BB%, 34/39 SB

    Edouard Julien grew up in Quebec. Out of high school, the Phillies drafted him in the 37th round in 2017. He declined and went to Auburn where he (and teammate Will Holland) led Auburn to the 2019 College World Series. The Twins took him in the 18th round of the 2019 draft. While he really wanted to go back to Auburn, the Twins gave up fourth-round money and he decided to sign. Unfortunately, he went to Peru for the Can-Am Games but hurt his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. He likely would have missed at least half of a 2020 season either way. So, his professional debut came in May in Ft. Myers. He played 47 games and hit .299/490/.456 (.946) with 12 doubles, three homers and 21 steals (in 23 attempts). Yes, a .490 on-base percentage. He moved up to Cedar Rapids for 65 more games. He hit .247/.397/.494 (.891) with 16 doubles, 15 home runs and 13 more stolen bases. On the season, he struck out 144 times, but he led minor league baseball with 110 walks. In college, he was a power hitter and upon joining the Kernels, he showed that again. But he added the speed dimension back to his game. He’s got a great eye and with those things combined, he becomes a very intriguing prospect. We just don’t know where he is going to play. 

    #8 IF Spencer Steer 
    2021 STATS: .254/.348/.484, 18 2B, 3 3B, 24 HR, 66 RBI, 21.5 K%, 11.3 BB%, 8/12 SB

    A southern California native, Spencer Steer headed north to the University of Oregon despite being drafted by Cleveland in the 29th round of the 2016 draft. He was a starter all three years in Eugene. He hit .349/.456/.502 (.958) with 20 extra base hits as a junior, and the Twins selected him with their third round pick. He played 20 games in Elizabethton before ending with 44 games in Cedar Rapids. Following the lost 2020 season, Steer was a late addition to the Twins depth camp during spring training in 2021. He homered in a game against the Atlanta Braves. It was a sign of things to come. In an interview with Twins Daily following the 2019 season, Steer said, “I’m not the most powerful guy, but I think I can be a guy who drives in runs. For that reason you can stick me at the top of the order and I’ll find ways on base and draw a lot of walks. I think at this level, I’m more of a top of the order guy, but that can always change as I get older and put on more weight.” He began the season with High-A Cedar Rapids and hit .274/.409/.506 (.915) with seven doubles and ten home runs in 45 games. He was promoted to Wichita where he hit .241/.304/.470 (.773) with 11 doubles and 14 more homers. As Torii Hunter would have said, his man-muscles arrived. Defensively, he played 46 games at second base, 38 games at third base and 15 games at shortstop. Asked early in the year if Steer was a future utility player, Kernels manager Brian Dinkelman said no. He thinks he can be an everyday second baseman, but they will continue playing him around the infield. Steer should start 2022 with the Wind Surge, but he could get a chance to play in St. Paul in the season’s second half. He just turned 24 in December.  

    #7 OF Gilberto Celestino 
    2021 STATS: .277/.371/.423, 18 2B, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 21.8 K%, 11.4 BB%, 4/5 SB
    2021 MLB STATS: .136/.177/.288, 3 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 22.2 K%, 4.8 BB%, 0/0 SB

    First and foremost, Twins fans need to realize that what they saw from Gilberto Celestino isn’t necessarily the player that he is or certainly will become. Frankly, the 22-year-old looked like a guy who had only played eight games of High-A baseball in 2019, missed all of 2020 and had just 21 games in Double-A before being called up to the big leagues. What we saw late in the year in St. Paul. We saw a guy who takes good plate appearances and is willing to walk. He can hit for some average, and he does have a little pop in his bat. Defensively, despite some nervous issues in his first stint with the Twins, he is a plus defensive outfielder, fully capable of play centerfield well. He has good (though not great) speed. He typically takes good routes, and he has a strong and generally accurate arm. Expect that he will spend most of the 2022 season at age 23 and in St. Paul. He should mostly play in centerfield, but with Byron Buxton locked in, he really should play all three outfield spots and be ready when needed. 

    #6 OF Kala’i Rosario 
    2021 STATS: .277/.341/.452, 10 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR, 40 RBI, 31.7 K%, 9.1 BB%, 4/4 SB

    There were just five rounds in the 2020 draft due to the lockout. The Twins drafted Kala’i Rosario from Waiakea High School in Hawaii with their fifth round pick. It was noted that, along with Red Sox early pick Blaze Jordan, Rosario had as much power as any prep player from that draft. He signed, but of course, there was no season for him to report to Ft. Myers. In 2021, he stayed at the complex and then played most everyday for the FCL Twins once their season. With solid all-around offensive numbers, Rosario was named the Twins Daily short-season Minor League Hitter of the Year. He played in 51 games and showed off the extra base power. He also walked at a decent clip. Clearly he will need to keep working and try to reduce that strikeout rate, but the bat is legit and the power is legit. Defensively, he will be a corner outfielder. He spent about 75% of his innings in right field and the rest in left field. He also still has work to do with the glove and arm, but he does have the potential to an average corner outfielder. Obviously he has several levels to work through on his way up the organizational ladder. He’s going to be fun to watch. Presumably, he will spend the majority of the 2022 season in Ft. Myers again, this time with the Mighty Mussels. If he is able to show much power in that league (he’ll turn 20 in July) next year, his prospect status should go up even further. And if he doesn’t, but he shows an improved eye and produces more contact, it will be very exciting to see how he does when he moves up to Cedar Rapids. 

    I think this is another interesting group. The first three listed above are college bats. Sabato certainly had his struggles early, but he came on late and his power is legit. Julien showed off all of his skills, his ability to know the strike zone and get on base, use his speed and also hit for a lot of power. Steer’s power certainly arrived and has moved up quickly. Celestino remains really young, and certainly was not at all ready for the big leagues when he was called up, but he has upside both offensively and defensively. Finally, Rosario is very young, and a long way from the big leagues, but he has a lot of potential with his bat that will be fun to watch. 

    So there are hitting prospects 6-10. What do you think of this group? Please feel free to discuss and ask questions. And also try to guess how the Top 5 will be ranked when that is posted later this week. 

    Previous Rankings
    Hitters Part 1: 26-30
    Hitters Part 2: 21-25
    Hitters Part 3: 16-20 
    Hitters Part 4: 11-15 
    Hitters Part 5: 6-10 

    Pitchers Part 1: 26-30  
    Pitchers Part 2: 21-25
    Pitchers Part 3: 16-20 
    Pitchers Part 4: 11-15 
    Pitchers Part 5: 6-10 


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    My usual comments - Sabato has not looked better than Wallner as far as I can see.  Rosario has not played enough for me to think of him as number 6, but the other three are excellent, movement them up one number.  I like Celestino and he would be a great fit back in the Twins OF by the second half of the season.  

    I do not know where Steer will play for the Twins with Polanco locked in at second and Arraez, Miranda, Donaldson at 3B.  It is one of those good problems.  Then Julien will push the same group.  By that time Donaldson is gone and who knows which guys get traded.

    I like those three.  Thanks again for the list.  I am not even speculating on the top five except to say Miranda must lead the list.

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    Thanks for doing these again, Seth.  Julien is probably the one from this list that I look forward to seeing the most.  He seems to be a top of the order sparkplug that can do it all in the batter's box and on the basepaths.  

    It will be interesting to see which top 30 overall Twins prospect from MLB's list doesn't make the top 30 (let alone top 5) hitters on this list.

    I'll guess:

    5) Rodriguez

    4) Miller

    3) Miranda

    2) Martin

    1) Lewis

    De Andrade gets the womp, womp, womp.

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    I hope Sabato's Contact issues are behind him if not the walk rate could help him find the fastball's he needs to be successful.  Very up and down season so very hard to say how he will do moving forward.

    Jullien was impressive to watch last year IMO. I know the BABIP was high but the eye at the plate was outstanding with an almost 500 OBP which is crazy town if you ask me.  His ability to steal bases was a surprise given the scouting report on him.  He could still stand to work on the power stroke and make more contact but he was a steal at number 18 and the Twins deserve some credit for getting him to sign.

    OK I might be biased but I really like Spencer Steer.  I got to see him play in Beloit in 2019 and while he didn't have a great game that night he sure looked good in his at bats.  This season as noted he really showed his power and with that I feel cemented himself as a legit MLB bat.  Still needs to face those wily AAA arms but with the good eye at the plate, the new found power and ability to play multiple positions Nick Gordon better be looking over his shoulder.  Feels like the Twins are pretty stacked with 2nd baseman with Polanco, Arraez, Gordon, Steer, Jullien and Severino and possibly even Miranda there is no shortage of 2nd base\utility players in the system.

    We really need Celestino to work out as there isn't much center field help in the system right now.  It is basically Celestino and then looking all the way down to Urbina who is pretty far away.  It is possible Lewis and or Martin can play there but Lewis is needed at short and Martin isn't an ideal fit in center IMO.  So I do hope Celestino continues to hit and play well.  We will need a solid backup for Buxton as well as the corners.

    Surprised to see Rosario this high with power basically his only plus tool at this point.  I don't know too much about him other than the draft analysis on him.  He had a great start to his MiLB career and MLB.COM has him in the Twins top 30. Hopefully his Defense become as good as his offense.  Power hitters are exciting to watch it just feels like he is bit high on the list to me but obviously Seth know a lot more than I do.

    Not quite as solid a group as I was hoping for this high up but all 5 could be MLB players. Will be curious to see how well they do this coming year.

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    Have to be impressed with the season Celestino had at AAA after his MLB struggles and very little AA and A+ experience. Despite his struggles, it was good to see him keep his strikeout rate in check. Has he also shown the reverse splits that he did in the Majors or was that just SSS?

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    For reasons unrelated to their quality of play, here is why I hope to see two of these players make it to Target Field:

    1. Best New Promotion:   Kalai’i Rosario Umbrella Drink Night.   It’s the perfect promotion in the era of craft cocktails.  MLB can loosen it’s uptight tie a bit and celebrate our Hawaiian player with tropical drinks at Target Field and free souvenir mini-umbrellas.  More pineapple! 
    2.  Best New Walk-Up Song: For Edouard Julien, from Quebec - written on the scoreboards - “Oui Will - Oui Will - Rock You.”

    Not listed 6-10, but I’m looking forward to  the crowd singing “Valderi-Valdera” as home-run music for any player named Wander (that song being “The Happy Wanderer”).  

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    I'm a big fan of Celestino and I think he could be the ideal 4th OF for the Twins, possibly even this season. RH bat is great with guys like Kirilloff, Kepler, and Larnach around and his ability to play any OF spot could be really useful, especially with Buxton's injury history. Really liked how well he played in AAA after getting thrown into the deep end of the pool in MLB well before he was ready. Says some things about his mental toughness, I think. I do believe in his defense, I just think he was overthinking it when he got called up so early. He's a nice player, I'm excited to see what he can do.

    Sabato is the guy I'm less excited about. While I appreciate his understanding of the strike zone and ability and willingness to take a walk, I'm still very concerned about his ability to make contact. When he does it goes a long damn way, but a college bat with his eye should have been able to do better in low-A, even if it is the FSL. I hope the Cedar Rapids stint is more representative of his ability, but that wasn't a terribly long stretch and he could have just been on a hot stretch. We'll see. I'll be interested to see where he starts the season: Cedar Rapids or Wichita? As we've seen with Rooker, you have to make contact for that power to play and Sabato has little positional flexibility to improve his standing. I can see why someone would pick him over Wallner right now (the walks and power projection are appealing) but I'm not one of them. They look like similar hitters right now and Wallner can at least play in the OF (might not cover a ton of ground, but he's got a fine arm out there) and Sabato looks like a DH who can function at 1B. Maybe the Cedar Rapids Sabato is who he really is (I hope so), but I just have trouble minimizing how brutal he was in Ft. Myers.

    Julien is really intriguing. I'm not worried about where he'll play if he can keep raking like this; you find a position for a guy if he gets on base and smacks the ball around like this. The K's are worrisome, though. You can get away with it in A-ball when pitchers will give you free ones because they simply can't put the ball in the zone consistently, but the more you advance the less it works. You have to be able to make contact when the ball is in the zone. If Julien can get his K rate down in the 20-25% range, he's going to be a player to watch who will rise quickly. If he can't, I think that BA is going to plummet.

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    1 hour ago, strumdatjag said:

    For reasons unrelated to their quality of play, here is why I hope to see two of these players make it to Target Field:

    1. Best New Promotion:   Kalai’i Rosario Umbrella Drink Night.   It’s the perfect promotion in the era of craft cocktails.  MLB can loosen it’s uptight tie a bit and celebrate our Hawaiian player with tropical drinks at Target Field and free souvenir mini-umbrellas.  More pineapple! 
    2.  Best New Walk-Up Song: For Edouard Julien, from Quebec - written on the scoreboards - “Oui Will - Oui Will - Rock You.”

    Not listed 6-10, but I’m looking forward to  the crowd singing “Valderi-Valdera” as home-run music for any player named Wander (that song being “The Happy Wanderer”).  

    Confused Little Girl GIF

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    Interesting list.  I confess I am most hesitant about Sabato given his performance last year.  Yes, he does walk a lot, but my goodness he whiffs a lot as well.  In younger players, like Rosario, I am less concerned, but with a guy who came out of college and whiffs this much at the A level, what is going to happen when he reaches AA, AAA and the majors?  And, if he is currently slow on fastballs, as some suggest, that is really a concern.  BUT, Seth, I trust your judgment so I am going to be patient, and maybe he will break out this year.  He may be a Joey Gallo type but without as much defensive upside.  Nice summaries, as usual.

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    Seth, The 6-10 hitters are not nearly as exciting as the 6-10 flame throwing pitchers you named.  I'm still in awe of those 6-10 pitching prospects.  If your top 1-5 pitchers turn out to be better than those 6-10 pitching prospects are going to be, then no wonder Falvine has not signed FA pitching.  I wonder how several of the better  prospect rating systems  are rating the Twins pitching prospects.

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    Was really excited about Sabato.  

    im hoping the Twins we’re trying to make some swing or stance adjustments with him early in last season and that accounted for the early struggles.  With the high walk rate and strike out hoping he was just missing pitches due to adjustment.  

    Steers reminds me of Brian Dozier.  

    the 2020 high school picks are very interesting, the lack of scouting and competitive ball makes there draft locations almost irrelevant.  We’ll see how Rosario develops. 

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    I have taken a strong interest in tracking Sabato over last season.  I personally was not happy with the pick overall by the Twins, as I am not a fan of bat only guys in first round, unless they are super elite.  I had a couple of questions about Sabato in FCL time that numbers could not answer.  

    When you looked at the numbers his low slugging and low average but high OBP with huge k and walk numbers stuck out, with clear questions.  First, was he being passive working counts for specific pitches to attack and never got there?  Was he taking good strikes, or where pitchers really just nibbling?  Second, was the league, which is known for not being a power hitting league, sapping some of his power?  Meaning was he hitting wall scrappers that in other leagues would be HR or off the wall doubles?  

    When he jumps to the higher league and starts to hit with the power expected, it suggests to me the league had a lot to do with his struggles and not his approach.  Maybe his approach got adjusted some too.  I will be interested to see this year if the SSS numbers in Iowa were just a fluke or not.  I hope he comes out crushing and proves people like me wrong that he was not a bad pick. 

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    Boy, I find it really difficult to swallow Rosario being a better hitting prospect than Celestino.  It seems there's a pretty wide gap in the other direction.  Look at Celestino's walk and K rates in the high minors compared to Rosario's in the complex league.  Plus, Celestino is a quality defender.  It's not close, if you ask me.  And Celestino has seen breaking balls.

    Why are ages not included in these things?  Otherwise, thanks!

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