For some fans, getting used to the idea of the St. Paul Saints being the Twins' Triple-A affiliate still takes a little. The 2023 season marks the third year of an affiliation between the crosstown teams. Pros and cons of this affiliation have been evident since the organizations joined forces, and it will be interesting to see how the relationship continues to evolve in the years to come. However, the most significant positive for the Saints this season is the caliber of players on the field on any given night.
Last season, the Twins had to dig into the team's Triple-A depth quite regularly because of the vast number of injuries at the big-league level. The Saints finished the season with a 74-75 record, which placed them 17 games back in the International League West Division. Mark Contreras and Jermaine Palacios were the lone position players to play over 100 games for the club. At the same time, Ronny Henriquez, Dereck Rodriguez, and Mario Sanchez were the only pitchers to toss over 90 innings. Some of the team's top prospects appeared on the club, but it was a roster full of veterans looking for another shot at the big-league level.
Minnesota's front office focused on adding depth to the big-league roster for the 2023 season. These moves naturally added more talent to the Saints' roster because the Twins pushed players down the organizational depth chart. Many big-league teams would be forced to use players like Matt Wallner, Trevor Larnach, Jose Miranda, and Edouard Julien. Luckily, the team has allowed these players to find their footing at the Triple-A level, no matter if they are playing well or struggling when they get called up.
This depth has helped the Saints to start the season at the top of their division. Through Sunday's game, St. Paul had a 32-23 record with a +42 run differential. The Saints rank in the top 10 in runs per game, home runs, and OPS in the International League. St. Paul's pitchers have fared even better, ranking in the top-5 in ERA, strikeouts, and K/9. The top seven teams in the IL West Division are only separated by 4.5 games, so the Saints must continue to rely on organization depth to qualify for the playoffs.
Saints fans can also look to Double-A for players that can reinforce the roster in the second half. Yunior Severino has started the year on a tear for Wichita with 12 home runs and an .899 OPS in his first 44 games. Brooks Lee is considered by many to be the organization's top prospect, and he's holding his own (.756 OPS) during his first full professional season. Alex Isola and DaShawn Keirsey have an OPS higher than .800 and can provide different defensive skills at Triple-A. Those are just some offensive weapons that could be in a Saints uniform later this year.
On the mound, Blayne Enlow seems like a lock to enter St. Paul's rotation in the second half. The Twins removed him from the 40-man roster this winter, but he's out to prove he belongs. He has been terrific with a 3.30 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, and a 61-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first 49 innings. David Festa is another pitcher to watch at Double-A, but he's had a slower start to the 2023 campaign. The Wind Surge have been giving many late-inning opportunities to Alex Scherff, and he has posted a 12.13 K/9 that might translate well to the Saints bullpen.
Injuries have started to impact the Twins, but it has yet to deplete the Saints' rosters. Fans in the Twin Cities can head to CHS Field and watch some impact players working toward Target Field. Minnesota's depth is substantial, and the Saints will continue to benefit throughout 2023.
Do you think the Saints will continue to stay in the division race? Which players will significantly impact the Triple-A roster most in the second half? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.