Welcome to my choices as the Minnesota Twins top five hitting prospects. There may be some interesting ratings as you proceed down this list, and I’m guessing there will be plenty of good discussion. The exciting thing, in my opinion, is that the top three hitters on this list all have huge potential and high ceilings. All three have defensive versatility. All three are very exciting. And my choices for prospects four and five are very young and have a world of potential, but a lot of runs to move up the organizational ladder yet.
Enjoy this final installment of my Top 30 Twins hitting prospects, and then let’s discuss.
#5 OF Emmanuel Rodriguez
2021 STATS: .214/.346/.524, 5 2B, 2 3B, 10 HR, 23 RBI, 36.6 K%, 15.0 BB%, 9/13 SB
The Twins signed Emmanuel Rodriguez in July 2019 out of the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately there was no 2020 season so 2021 marked the professional debut for the talented young outfielder. He remained in Ft. Myers for Extended Spring Training and then spent the remainder of the season with the FCL Twins. He is a really good athlete. He played centerfield most of the season, but as he grows, he is more likely to play in the corners. He has a good arm. But as you can see from the numbers, it is his bat that will get people excited… at least when he makes contact. A 37% strikeout rate is obviously not ideal, but the 15% walk rate is obviously very impressive. Is he being too passive? Is his swing simply too big at this point? However, he certainly has immense power and power potential. Talking to people who played with him in the FCL or were around him at Instructional League saw what he is capable of and pointed out that his future is very bright. If he can improve his contact rate, he could spend time with the Mighty Mussels. He will turn 19 at the end of February, so it might make most sense to spend time with the FCL Twins again. Just two of his 2021 plate appearances came against a younger pitcher.
#4 SS Noah Miller
2021 STATS: .238/.316/.369, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 27.1 K%, 9.4% BB%, 1/2 SB
The Twins were very excited to get Noah Miller, a high school shortstop from Wisconsin, with the 36th overall pick in the 2021 draft. The Twins not only loved his makeup, but they feel that he will be able to hit and hit for power from both sides of the plate. They also think that he has the soft hands, strong arms and quick feet to handle shortstop as he gets stronger and moves up. His older brother Owen made his MLB debut for Cleveland in 2021. Noah was there. Cleveland put his photo on the big scoreboard, congratulating him on his high school graduation as he was missing the ceremony. Unfortunately, Noah didn’t see it as he was in the concourse getting food. Noah mentioned that he has always worked with his brother and done the drills that Owen was doing while in college and Noah was still in middle school. Noah made his pro debut in the FCL and certainly held his own. He had one 5-for-5 game. He showed a little bit of power. He struck out a bit much, but that will improve with time and he showed a good, mature approach at the plate. Miller will be just 19 throughout the 2022 season. I would guess he will spend most of the season with the Mighty Mussels.
#3 SS/CF Austin Martin
2021 STATS: .254/.399/.381, 8 2B, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 17.9 K%, 13.7 BB%, 5/6 SB
Cleveland drafted Austin Martin out of his Florida high school in 2017. However, he enrolled at Vanderbilt and became one of the best, most all-around players in college baseball. He hit .338 as a freshman with a .452 on-base percentage. As a sophomore in 2019, he hit .392/.486/.604 (1.091) with 19 doubles, four triples, 10 homers and 18 steals. He also walked more than he struck out. In 2020, he played in 16 games before the season was shut down. He hit .377/.507/.660 (1.168) with six doubles and three home runs. He had 10 walks and just two strikeouts. Some considered him the best available player in the 2020 draft, but he fell to the Blue Jays with the fifth overall pick. The Jays pushed him. He started his pro career in Double-A New Hampshire. In 56 games, he hit .281/.424/.383 (.807) with 10 doubles and two homers. He represented the Jays in the 2021 Futures Game. Then to acquire Jose Berrios at the trade deadline, the Jays finally gave in and dealt Martin to the Twins. After joining the Wind Surge, he hit .254/.399/.381 (.779) with eight doubles and three homers. So, what’s to like? A lot. First and foremost, Austin Martin is an on-base machine. Not only does he control the plate and take walks but he appears happy to be hit by pitches to get on base. Some worry about the power developing, and like most, I think that he will. I think he can be a 20-25 homer per year guy. He could also potentially steal 20 bases if the opportunity presents itself. He is a great athlete. Obviously there are questions about if he can play shortstop. I think he could. That said, he played third base at Vanderbilt, and with Wichita, he played over half of his time in centerfield. He can likely play all three outfield spots and all four infield spots. However, most important, he is a guy that you want at or near the top of the batting order. He may spend a little time in Wichita to start the 2022 season, if only to start him with his Team USA 15U teammate and roommate Royce Lewis, but he should spend most of his season with the Saints. There is a pretty strong chance that he will make his major-league debut in 2022. He turns 23 in late March.
#2 IF Jose Miranda
2021 STATS: .344/.401/.572, 32 2B, 30 HR, 94 RBI, 12.5 K%, 7.1 BB%, 4/8 SB
Twins fans have read a ton about Jose Miranda in 2022, and for the reasons that was true, he made the biggest jump of any Twins prospect in 2021. It was a huge season for the former Twins 2nd round pick from Puerto Rico in 2016. I mean, just look at those numbers! OK, now look at them again. He earned the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year Award, and the Sherry Robertson Twins Minor League Player of the Year award. He was a first team all minor league baseball guy for most of the national publications. But what about his 2021 performance may lead us to believe that it is sustainable? For me, there are a few things. First, his statistics were just as good, if not even better, after being promoted to the Saints. Second, he has always had great bat-to-ball skills and puts a lot of pitches in play. It was a focus for him to avoid swinging at bad pitches, and in doing so, he was able to do much more damage on pitches he could really drive. That fundamental change in approach is incredibly difficult to make, and he did it for the full season. He won’t be one to take a ton of walks. He wants to crush the baseball, but now he’s got a plan. Defensively, he won’t win Gold Gloves anyway, but he can be a decent second baseman and average or better at both corner infield spots. He was drafted as a shortstop, though that is certainly a stretch for him. He did get games there for both Wichita and St. Paul in 2021. Following the season, the Twins added him to the 40-man roster. And while he may not make the opening day roster, Twins fans are likely to continue asking for him to be called up until he is. He will turn 24 in late June, and his offensive potential is as high as anyone in the organization.
#1 SS Royce Lewis
2021 STATS: Did Not Play—Injured
And some may have been surprised by my choice of #1 Twins pitching prospect, and I would guess that many will be surprised by this choice. I’m sticking with Royce Lewis. Understandably, there are questions. The only way to answer those questions is to get on the field, so hopefully he will be able to do that soon (please, MLB and MLBPA!). Since being the Arizona Fall League MVP after the 2019 season, Lewis has not played a competitive game. Like most, he missed the 2020 season. That said, he certainly impressed coaches and teammates with his work and performance at the Twins alternate site that summer. And as excited as he was about getting to spring training a year ago, he had to be disappointed when he learned that he had a torn ACL and needed season-ending surgery. But Lewis, the #1 overall pick of the 2017 draft, handled the adversity in style. He came to work every day and remained positive throughout. At season’s end, he was able to get some at bats in the final two Instructional League games. There’s no doubt that an extended lockout would hurt Lewis. He needs to play and get back into the swing of things. However, the tools remain. Lewis is strong and has 30-homer potential. He is still one of the fastest players in the Twins organization, so a 30-30 season is certainly possible. Sure, there are questions about whether or not he will stick at shortstop, but he has good range and a strong arm. He sometimes struggles with routine plays, but he can make any play a shortstop needs to make. Lewis will turn 23 in early March, so he remains young. I would suspect that following spring training, he will go to Wichita and play up to half of the season there. At that point, he will presumably move up to St. Paul for the second half of the season. Of course, if healthy, and if he’s producing and playing well, he certainly could make his MLB debut in 2022.
So there you have it. The top three prospects are all at Double-A or Triple-A and could see big-league time in 2022. All three have huge ceilings and potential to be long-term answers in the big leagues. Noah Miller and Emmanuel Rodriguez are very young and haven’t even played for a full-season team yet. That said, both have big potential as well.
This is a pretty solid group, and while I think it’s fair to say that the pitching in the organization may be deeper than the hitting, but let’s not forget that Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Nick Gordon, Brent Rooker and Ben Rortvedt are no longer “prospects,” and Luis Arraez is still very young.
But what do you think? How would you rank the top five or the top ten Twins hitting prospects?
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
Hitters Part 6: 1-5
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
Pitchers Part 6: 1-5