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  • Twins Minor League Report (4/19-25): Pitching, Pitching, Everywhere Pitching

    Seth Stohs

    Week 3 of the minor-league season is complete. Two of the Twins affiliates, both Class A squads, currently lead their division. It definitely was a mixed bag of performances at each level. 

    Image courtesy of Ed Bailey, Wichita Wind Surge (photo of Michael Helman), William Parmeter (photo of Marco Raya)

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    Most of the Twins affiliates have played 15 games now while the St. Paul Saints have played 18 games. Top prospects are reaching 50-60 plate appearances. That's not enough to make any grand stances on players, but we'll get there. Starting pitchers will be making their third and fourth starts. Pitch counts may increase, and we might soon be able to find tendencies for players. and we will be here to cover it all. Let's take a look back at Week 3 in the Twins minor leagues. 

    If you missed it, read Nick's Twins Week in Review after you've read about the minor league week.

    Please note that the hyperlinks on player names will show you past articles in which that player has been tagged. Click around a bit and see how much some of these players have been written about over the years. 




    Triple-A: St. Paul Saints: 
    Week: 2-4 at Toledo
    Season: 10-7 overall, 3rd place in the International League West. They are 2 1/2 games behind Nashville. 

    The Saints scored nine runs in one game last week. In their other five games, they scored a combined ten runs. In the first game of the week, they lost 11-0. That’s not to say that there weren’t some highlights. 

    Ten Saints pitchers worked and did not give up an earned run. Sure, that includes catcher David Banuelos who retired the only batter he faced. 

    • The highlight was Ronny Henriquez. He made his first appearance of the season, his first appearance in the Twins organization, and his first Triple-A appearance. It went quite well. He worked three scoreless, hitless innings. He walked one and struck out four batters. 
    • Yennier Cano worked three scoreless innings over two appearances. He gave up two hits and hit a batter, and he struck out three batters. 
    • Dereck Rodriguez returned to the Saints after one appearance with the Twins. He gave up two unearned runs on two hits over three innings. He struck out five batters without issuing a walk. 
    • As you’d expect, it wasn’t all good. As terrific as Cole Sands was in his first two Triple-A starts, this wasn’t a good week. Combined, he gave up ten runs on ten hits in just 2 2/3 innings. He walked three and didn’t have a strikeout. He had a short start early in the week and came out of the bullpen on Sunday. 

    No surprise that the Saints didn’t have any hitting standouts in such a frustrating week. 

    • Jose Miranda led the offense, hitting .250/.321/.458 (.779) with five doubles and three walks. 
    • Royce Lewis hit just .190 over six games. He had five walks, a double, and an absolutely mammoth home run.

    What’s Next? The Saints come home to host the Nashville Sound, the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. (Go to SaintsBaseball.com for tickets!) 

    Pitching Probables: (RHP Dereck Rodriguez, LHP Devin Smeltzer, RHP Ronny Henriquez, RHP Jake Faria, TBD, TBD) 

    Double-A: Wichita Wind Surge 
    Week: 4-2 at home vs. Midland 
    Season: 8-7 overall, tied for 2nd place in the Texas League South Division. They are 2.0 games behind Tulsa. 

    The Surge had a fantastic week offensively. In six games, they scored 52 runs. That includes a 15-1 win on Thursday, but they also had games with 10, nine, and eight runs. However, it was a rough week for their pitching staff. They gave up 45 runs. They had games in which they gave up 15, 10, eight, and seven runs. 

    With that as the background, let’s start with the hitters. Six Wichita hitters posted an OPS over 1.000 for the week.  

    • Andrew Bechtold had a really nice week. In four games, he hit .364/.556/.727 (1.283). He had a double and a home run. He also walked six times with just two strikeouts. 
    • Kevin Merrell also played in four games. He hit .313/.333/.938 (1.271) with a double and three home runs. 
    • Michael Helman played all six games and hit .348/.429/.783 (1.212) with two doubles, a triple, two home runs and eight RBI. He also walked four times. 
    • Spencer Steer also played all six games. He hit .409/.567/.591 (1.158) with four doubles. He had eight walks to go with just three strikeouts. Steer was the Twins Minor League Player of the Week. Was he also Twins Daily's hitter of the week? 
    • Edouard Julien returned the second half of the week from the Injured List. He went 4-for-11 with a double and a triple. He also stole two bases in three games. 
    • Dennis Ortega signed with the Twins late in spring training. He played last year with the Triple-A affiliate of the Cardinals, the organization he began with in 2014. In five games last week, he hit .478/.500/.696 (1.196) with three doubles, a triple, and seven RBI. Despite his years of professional experience, he is still just 24 years old. 
    • On the other side of the spectrum, Leobaldo Cabrera went 0-for-15 during the week. Matt Wallner had two hits on Sunday, but he was 2-for-14 (.143) for the week. 

    For the Wind Surge pitching staff, there were certainly extremes. 

    • Matt Canterino started on both Monday and Sunday. Combined, he threw six scoreless, hitless innings. He walked two batters and struck out nine. After missing most of the 2021 season with elbow issues, the Twins will be immensely cautious with Canterino this year, likely putting him on a plan similar to what the team did with Bailey Ober a year ago. 
    • Simeon Woods Richardson was incredible again in his start this week. The right-hander tossed six scoreless innings. He gave up two singles, walked no one, and struck out six batters. 
    • Austin Schulfer tossed four scoreless innings over his two appearances. He gave up three hits, walked none and struck out five batters. He recorded one save. 
    • While it wasn’t a great outing, Chris Vallimont had a nice, bounce-back start. He gave up one run in four innings. He gave up three hits, hit a batter, and walked three batters. He had six strikeouts. 
    • On the other side, Brandon Lawson gave up six earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. Steven Cruz pitched twice. In 1 2/3 innings, he gave up six runs on four hits, a hit batter, and four walks. All of that came in the ninth inning when he came in with a 7-0 lead. Zach Featherstone also pitched twice. He gave up seven runs on four hits (2 homers), and three walks in two innings. Bryan Sammons gave up four runs on four hits and three walks in two innings. 

    What’s Next? The Wind Surge will be traveling to Arkansas for the week. 

    Pitching Probables: (RHP Chris Vallimont, RHP Louie Varland, RHP Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP Matt Canterino, TBD, TBD)   

    High-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels: 
    Week: 5-1 at home vs Peoria)
    Season: 12-3 overall, 1st place in the Midwest League, 1.0 game ahead of Wisconsin. 

    The Kernels won five of six games despite leading the run differential just 25-23. The first three games of the week were one-run games. They were postponed on Wednesday and then won both games of a doubleheader in walk-off fashion. The Kernels week (and season so far) has been largely successful due to some great work out of the bullpen.  

    • Eight relievers combined for 20 innings of zero unearned runs. Melvi Acosta, Denny Bentley, Osiris German, Bradley Hanner, and Bobby Milacki each pitched twice during the week and worked between 2 2/3 and 3 2/3 innings. Hanner was given the Win in both of his games. He walked and batter and hit a batter, but he did not give up a run or a hit during the week. 
    • Sean Mooney went five innings in his start. He gave up one run on four hits. 
    • Lefty Cade Povich gave up two runs (1 earned) on five hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out nine batters. Casey Legumina also worked 4 2/3 innings and gave up two runs. 

    The Kernels got several solid performances from their hitters last week against Peoria. 

    • After a middling first full week of the season (after an amazing first weekend), Christian Encarnacion-Strand had another strong week against Peoria. Over six games, he hit .400/.400/.560 (.960) with two doubles and a triple. The only blemish was nine strikeouts in 25 plate appearances. 
    • Will Holland played in five games. He hit .375/.474/.438 (.912) with a double. 
    • In five games, Jeferson Morales hit .313/.429/.438 (.867) with two doubles. 
    • Outfielder Willie Joe Garry hit .294/.333/.529 (.862) with two doubles and a triple. 

    What’s Next? The Kernels will be traveling to southeast Wisconsin to take on the Beloit Sky Carp. 

    Pitching Probables: (RHP Cody Laweryson, RHP Casey Legumina, LHP Brent Headrick, RHP Sean Mooney, RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long/LHP Aaron Rozek, LHP Cade Povich)   

    Low-A: Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels
    Week: 3-3 at Dunedin
    Season: 10-5 overall, 1st place in the Florida State League West, 2.0 games ahead of Bradenton. 

    The Mighty Mussels scored 20 runs over their six-game week. Fortunately, their pitching staff only allowed just 18 runs on the week. No surprise, it was a tightly-contested week. Three of the six games were settled by one run. There was also a two-run game, a three-run game, and a four-run game. No laughers in Florida this week, at least not in Dunedin. 

    The Mighty Mussels starters continued to pitch really well. The six starters worked a combined 28 1/3 innings and gave up just four runs (2 earned) on 11 hits and eight walks. They struck out 39 batters. 

    • John Stankiewicz had another great start last week. He struck out nine batters over five scoreless innings. He gave up one hit and walked two batters. 
    • Marco Raya’s second professional start was pretty incredible. He struck out 10 batters over six innings. He gave up one hit and struck out none. 
    • Steve Hajjar was good in his second pro start. He struck out 10 batters over 4 1/3 innings. He gave up an unearned run on two walks and a hit batter. No hits. 
    • David Festa also went four scoreless frames in his start. He gave up three hits, walked two, and struck out four batters. The big news to come out of this start was that he hit 98.6 mph with a fastball. 
    • On Sunday, Travis Adams gave up one run on one hit over five one-run innings. 
    • Two relievers worked twice and got at least 12 outs. Hunter McMahon walked one and struck out one over four hitless innings. Mike Paredes gave up just one hit over 4 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out five batters. 

    It was a good week for a few 2022 draft picks.  

    • Eighth round pick from UCLA, catcher Noah Cardenas played in four games. He hit .273/.471/.545 (1.016) with a homer and three walks. 
    • Dylan Neuse was the Twins 17th round pick from Texas Tech. He also played in four games and hit .273/.385/.545 (.930) with his first professional home run. 
    • 12th round pick Kyler Fedko, an outfielder from U Conn had another solid week. Over six games, he hit .286/.407/.476 (.883) with a double and a home run. 

    What’s Next? The Mighty Mussels are back at Hammond Stadium this coming week to face Clearwater. 

    Pitching Probables: (LHP Steve Hajjar, RHP Pierson Ohl, RHP John Stankiewicz, TBD, RHP Travis Adams, TBD) 


    This Prospect Summary shows our current Twins Top 20 Prospect Rankings and how they performed last week (April 19-24). 

    #1 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 6 G, 7-for-24 (.292), 2-2B, 2 RBI, 5 BB, 4 K (Season: 15 G, .262/.392/.344 (.736), 5-2B, 15 R, 4 RBI, 10 BB, 12 K)

    #2 - Royce Lewis (St. Paul) - 6 G, 4-for-21 (.190), 3-2B, 3B, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 3 K (Season: 16 G, .288/.394/.542 (.937), 7-2B, 1-3B, 2-HR, 15 R, 9 RBI, 9 BB, 15 K)

    #3 - Jose Miranda (St. Paul) - 5 G, 5-for-19 (.263), 3-2B, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K (Season: 16 G, .235/.280/.397 (.677), 8-2B, 1-HR, 8 R, 10 RBI, 4 BB, 13 K)

    #4 - Jordan Balazovic (St. Paul) - IL (knee)

    #5 - Joe Ryan (Minnesota) - 1 GS, 6 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 5 K (Season: 3 GS, 16 IP, 3 R, 9 H, 5 BB, 16 K, 2-1, 1.69 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 9.0 K/9)

    #6 - Matt Canterino (Wichita) - 2 GS, 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 2 BB, 9 K (Season: 4 GS, 9.2 IP, 3 R, 5 H, 8 BB, 14 K, 0-1, 2.79 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.4 BB/9, 13.0 K/9)

    #7 - Jhoan Duran (Minnesota) - 2 G, 3.0 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 4 K  (Season: 6 G, 9.0 IP, 4 R, 8 H, 2 BB, 15 K, 0-0, 4.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, 15.0 K/9)

    #8 - Simeon Woods Richardson (Wichita) - 1 GS, 6 IP,  0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 6 K (Season: 3 GS, 16.2 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 5 H, 4 BB, 14 K, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.54 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, 7.6 K/9)

    #9 - Josh Winder (Minnesota) - 1 G, 4.0 IP, 2 R, 5 H, 0 BB, 4 K  (Season: 3 G, 10.1 IP, 4 R, 7 H, 3 BB, 5 K, 0-0, 3.48 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, 4.4 K/9)

    #10 - Noah Miller (Ft. Myers) - 6 G, 5-for-21 (.238), 1-2B, 5 BB, 6 K (Season: 14 G, .200/.353/.218 (.571), 1-2B, 8 R, 1 RBI, 12 BB, 20 K)

    #11 - Gilberto Celestino (Minnesota) - 5 G, 0-for-3 (.000), 0 BB, 0 K (Season: 9 G, .100/.250/.100 (.350), 2 R, 0 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K)

    #12 - Matt Wallner (Wichita) - 4 G, 2-for-14 (.143), 5 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K.(Season: 12 G, .111/.222/.178 (.400), 1-HR, 4 R, 7 RBI, 7 BB, 24 K)

    #13 - Cole Sands (St. Paul) - 2 G, 1 GS, 2.2 IP, 10 ER, 10 H, 1 BB, 0 K (Season: 4 G, 3 GS, 12.2 IP, 11 R, 14 H, 4 BB, 12 K, 0-3, 7.82 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 8.5 K/9)

    #14 - Louie Varland (Wichita) - 1 GS, 5.0 IP, 6 R, 3 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 4 K  (Season: 3 G, 2 GS, 15.1 IP, 10 R, 7 ER, 11 H, 8 BB, 18 K, 1-1, 4.11 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 4.7 BB/9, 10.6 K/9)

    #15 - Emmanuel Rodriguez (Ft. Myers) - 6 G, 3-for-20 (.150) , 2-2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 11 K (Season: 14 G, .267/.469/.667 (1.136), 3-2B, 5-HR, 12 R, 8 RBI, 16 BB, 17 K)

    #16 - Ronny Henriquez (St. Paul) -  (Week/Season: 1 G, 3 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.33 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 12.0 K/9)

    #17 - Blayne Enlow (Wichita) - IL (elbow)

    #18 - Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 6 G, 9-for-22 (.409), 4-2B, 6 RBI, 8 BB, 3 K (Season: 15 G, .322/.429/.542 (.971), 8-2B, 1-3B, 1-HR, 12 R, 12 RBI, 9 BB, 12 K)

    #19 - Edouard Julien (Wichita) - 3 G, 4-for-11 (.364), 1 BB, 2 K, 2 SB (Season: 7 G, .318/.385/.455 (.839), 1-2B, 1-3B, 4 R, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K)

    #20 - Steve Hajjar (Ft. Myers) - 1 GS, 4.1 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 H, 2 BB, 10 K.  (Season: 2 GS, 7.1 IP, 5 R, 4 ER, 4 H, 4 BB, 16 K, 0-0, 4.91 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 4.9 BB/9, 19.6 K/9)


    Hitter of the Week: Super Utility, Michael Helman, Wichita Wind Surge  

    Last week, Michael Helman played in all six games for Wichita. He hit .348/.429/.783 (1.212) with two doubles, a triple, two home runs and eight RBI. He also walked four times. In 15 games on the season, he has hit .286/.379/.554 (.933) with two doubles, two triples, and three home runs. As important in his development, he has nine walks to just six strikeouts on the season. He is also 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts. 

    The Twins drafted Helman in the 11th round of the 2018 draft as a second baseman out of Texas A&M. That is the position he played most of the time pre-pandemic. When he returned to the field in 2021, versatility became a huge part of Helman’s game. In fact, I think it is a trait that will help him get a shot in the big leagues at some point. Last year, he played 42 games in left field, 27 games in right field, 26 games in center field, 16 games at second base and four games at shortstop. He went to the Arizona Fall League where he played eight games in center but also played games in left, second and third base. This season, Helman has started ten games in center, four games at third base, and one game at second base. 

    After struggling offensively in Ft. Myers in 2019, hitting just .197 before an injury ended his season. It was in Cedar Rapids in 2021 where his bat, and specifically his power arrived. In 111 games, he hit 21 doubles, four triples and 19 home runs (50% more than previously as a pro). He always took quality at-bats and knows the strike zone well, but after being a top of the order or bottom of the order hitter, he has become a middle of the order hitter in a very strong Wichita Wind Surge lineup in 2021. 

    Pitcher of the Week: Marco Raya, Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels 

    In just his second professional start, Raya shut down the Dunedin Blue Jays for six innings. He faced the minimum of 18 batters. He gave up one hit, walked none, and struck out ten batters. The one batter who got a hit was soon thrown out attempting to steal a base. It was a nice jump forward after his first start in which he gave up three runs (2 earned) on seven hits, a walk, and a hit batter. 

    Raya was the Twins' fourth-round draft pick in 2020 out of United South High School in Laredo, Texas. Of course, there wasn’t a season for him to begin his career then. He made a strong showing in the instructional league that fall. He was excited to begin in 2021 but a minor injury cost him the season. However, reports from last year’s instructional league had him hitting 96-97 mph with a fastball. That’s especially impressive when he was selected as a prep pitcher with four quality pitches and good control. Add in the big fastball and Raya has a chance to be really good.

    What were your favorite storylines from the past week, and what will you be following in the coming week. 

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    This may be your best, most detailed summary yet, Seth.  The highlight for me was Raya's performance.  This kid could be special, methinks.  I have three thoughts overall.  First, having watched a lot of MiLB tv games, I continue to be impressed with the depth and quality of the Twins minor league pitchers.  It certainly bodes well for the future.  Second, I am curious why Cano seems stuck at St. Paul.  I like his stuff, but it must be the inconsistent control that worries the Twins.  Third, what is your take on Henriquez?  The fact that he is in St. Paul would seem to indicate the Twins think he is close to ready.  With a nice slider and a nice change up, he could be a good bullpen piece as well as a potential starter.  On a related note, it was great to see Rosenthal's piece about Correa being interested in staying, and how much he likes the area and the team.  While the money won't work I am sure, if nothing else, it may help us recruit other players in the future.

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    The number of great pitching performances is REALLY encouraging.  I was very interested to follow Raya this year.  He is kind of a Berrios clone with perhaps even more upside.  Gibson-Long is the other guy that looks like he has a high ceiling.  All of these other guys who are looking so good are making these weekly reports a real day brightener.

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    Christian Encarnation-Strand is a bit of an enigma to me.  Since he started pro ball he has maintained a .500 BABIP and K rate around 28%.  His walk rate is super low.  I am all for aggressive contact but isn't there a point where pitchers won't throw him strikes and let him get himself out? Is he Rosario version 2 where he can hit pretty much anything even pitches that are not strikes but unable to control the strike zone?  My concern is that like Rosario that there is a point where pitchers use his aggressiveness against him.  I assume at that point he finally works the Strike zone?  Or is he doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past?  I love the swing.  I love the contact but remain concerned there will be a point where he won't get good pitches to hit because pitchers will get him to get himself out. At any rate he has been unbelievable to this point.

    Simeon Woods Richardson with no runs allowed in a league that tends to have very good hitters is impressive.  His K-9 is down but his stuff must be tough to square up because he has been efficient getting guys out.  Those hittablity and control problems we were worried about appear to be non-existent so far as his WHIP is .59.  It is very early but so far so good if he wants to join the big club this year.

    For such a little guy Henriquez has really good movement on his pitches almost Berrios like.  I have no idea what to expect from him but his delivery looked silky smooth and he looked confident on the mound.  Hopefully he keeps the ball in the park as home run suppression will make or break him from what I can tell.  He could be a good relief option if needed for the Twins as he is already added to the 40 man.  Only 21 and knocking on the door he might be the best young pitcher in the system right now.  He'll have to battle it out with SWR I guess.

    Loving that lineup of pitchers at A ball.  Stankiewicz, Raya, Hajjar, Festa, Adams.  All of them have looked good so far.  I am intrigued by Festa who was taken in the 12th round I believe.  His college stats weren't bad but his velocity seemed low.  Not sure how he is hitting 96-97 now at times.  I figured he would be a slow starter kind of like Pierson Ohl but he has looked good so far.  Hard to believe how the Twins find arms so far down the board.

    Those are the four guys I am going to highlight but there are lot's of guys off to good starts this year.

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    I have not seen Encarnasio-Strand hit yet.  He is putting up crazy numbers when he makes contact.  That is most likely not sustainable, but not sure if he is getting lucky sometimes or everything he hits he just hits hard.  The question is how will he adjust as teams adjust to him over the season.  Is he a Rosarrio type that will swing at everything but still make decent contact or will he just start whiff as more and more breaking pitches are thrown his way out of the zone. 

    I have a strong feeling he will start to struggle as teams make him show he will take out of the zone.  Maybe not, but he is at just A ball right now. I am excited of what he could bring, but until he does it at higher levels and for a long stretch I will just keep wondering.  

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    Thanks for the summary, Seth, love it.

    Recall your writing about Helman when he was drafted, or sometime around there.  If memory serves, he has hit very well at every step of his development, probably all the way back to Little League.  So there is no reason not to expect him to hit well at AA and hopefully, beyond.

    Will double down on the above comments about Raya.  Am so excited to see him pitching in games, finally.  Hopefully, he has a full, productive season and can be on the fast track to Minnesota.

    How do you maintain winning team's year, after year, after year?  With pitching, pitching, and more pitching!  Sure looks like the FO is well on their way to developing that throughout the organization.

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    Nice report - Is Faria starting because Balazovic is IL?  It seems like we have better arms for the AAA rotation.  Looking at the lines for Wallner and Sabato - it bears resemblance to Miguel Sano - not good.  

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    Seth you writing fool, you. NIce job.

    Willie Joe Garry. I kind of thought he might be a washout due to very low batting average so far. He must have some nice tools for the Twins to stick with him? The scouts must have been on extended outreach to find a player from Pascagoula, Mississippi. 🙂

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    SWR is a pitcher I really like. I just want him to get consistent starts in AA until May/June and then we can assess and think about moving him up. Even if he continues to dominate at AA, I fell like he should stick there in May. Let him get a routine. Let him build confidence as he continues to refine his pitches and approach. Let him have a normal year. he's really talented and just needs the innings and not to get messed with, IMHO. He got traded at 18 and immediately bucked up to high A, then lost a season of development to the pandemic where he didn't pitch competitive baseball at all, then got bumped to AA, then sent to the Olympics (where he didn't pitch), then traded again...he's still only 21. That's a perfectly fine age to be kicking ass in AA, so I have no problem with him repeating a level...for the first time in his career.

    Austin Martin was the big piece in the Berrios deal, but I think Toronto sold low on SWR, and I'm looking forward to his development this year. I don't think we see him MLB this year (again, I think the twins realized that him getting bounced around too much has hurt his development and aren't going to rush him), but I think he's contending for a rotation spot in 2023. 

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    The Florida State League is one of two minor leagues that have public statcast data available (along with Triple A West). Jesse Roche wrote an article a couple days ago in BPro, and two of the four featured Florida State pitchers were Marco Raya: "precocious command of his fastball", an "advanced four pitch repertoire".

    The other is David Festa:  post draft pop up prospect that now sits comfortably in the mid-90s and may sit higher as he fills out his 6 foot 6 frame.  Hard power slider, above average secondaries, change up with 11 mph separation and good depth. Strong command of each pitch and confident usage. Among the notable watch list pitchers was Chase Petty.


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