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  1. Minnesota saw some solid performances from rookie players this season. However, their current value might not match up perfectly with their long-term value. 5. Bailey Ober, SP Ober was one of the most critical rookies for the 2021 Twins. In fact, earlier this week he was named the team's Best Rookie by Twins Daily. He stepped into the rotation that saw multiple players dealt away at the trade deadline. Ober has never ranked as one of the team’s top prospects, but his 2021 performance proves he can be a back-end of the rotation starter for multiple years. This provides value to the club, especially since the 2022 Twins have many rotational holes to fill. 4. Ryan Jeffers, C Like many Twins players, Jeffers had a disappointing 2021 season, but he is a prime candidate to rebound in 2022. Minnesota drafted Jeffers as a hit-first catcher with defensive skills that the Twins scouts believed in more than national publications. His defense has vastly improved since joining the Twins organization. Also, Jeffers is only 24-years-old, and he won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2024. There is a lot of defensive value associated with catchers, and Jeffers has to be average at the plate to provide long-term value. 3. Joe Ryan, SP Ryan was the top pitching prospect acquired from the Rays for Nelson Cruz, and he was impressive during his first taste of the big leagues. He pitched five innings or more in four of his five starts and allowed three runs or fewer. His most impressive start came in Chicago, where Ryan struck out 11 Cubs batters in five innings. Like Ober, Minnesota likely has Ryan penciled into the back-end of the rotation for 2022, but he has the chance to be a top-half of the rotation starter. 2. Trevor Larnach, OF In his rookie season, things didn’t go perfectly for Larnach. After a strong start, the team demoted him after some mid-season struggles. Things didn’t go much better in St. Paul where he hit .176/.323/.373 (.695) in 14 games. Larnach was a first-round pick for a reason, and he showcased his high-ceiling during the 2019 season when he posted an .842 OPS between High-A and Double-A. That performance led him to be named the 2019 Twins Daily Minor League Player of the Year. He can get back to that level and hit in the middle of the line-up for most of the next decade. 1. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Kirilloff was impressive in the middle months of the season as he posted an OPS of .760 or higher in May and June. In July, a wrist injury sapped some of his power, and he underwent season-ending wrist surgery. MLB Pipeline thinks Kirilloff has one of the highest long-term values among all 2021 rookies. Unfortunately, injuries have been part of his professional career. If Minnesota moves him to first base, he will be an above-average hitter and defender for the majority of his big-league career. How would you rank this year’s rookies when it comes to future value? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. EARLY CALL-UP When the season began, Larnach wasn't expected to be a significant contributor during the 2021 campaign. There was certainly a hope that he would make his big-league debut in the season's second half, but like many parts of the Twins season, things didn't go exactly to plan. Minnesota's mounting names on the IL meant Larnach made his debut in May. Larnach certainly looked like he would hold his own during his first taste of the big leagues. Through his first 32 games, he hit .273/.390/.434 (.824) with 10 extra-base hits in 99 at-bats. There may have been some luck associated with his numbers as he had a .387 BAbip, and he was striking out more than once per game. His powerful swing was certainly legitimate as he hit some of the team’s longest home runs of the year, but the league figured him out, and he struggled to adjust. Larnach got stuck in an offensive rut in the middle of June, and he has yet to recover. He slashed .193/.279/.298 (.577) with 70 strikeouts in 47 games while also accumulating a -1.83 WPA. Also, he has the fifth-lowest SDI total among AL left fielders. Bad defense can be made up at the plate, but he struggled in both areas, which makes a demotion nearly inevitable. If opposing pitchers could avoid throwing Larnach fastballs, there was a good chance he would get himself out. When facing fastballs this year, he has a .294 BA and a .508 SLG, which resulted in him having a maximum exit velocity in the 97th percentile. He posted a slugging percentage of .218 when facing breaking pitches and a .179 slugging percentage versus offspeed pitches. According to Baseball Savant, he has a K% and Whiff% in the 1st percentile. Like all minor leaguers, Larnach didn't get a single inning of competitive action in 2020. He had limited high minors experience because of the pandemic. Back in 2019, he played 43 games at Double-A to end the season. This year, he essentially skipped Triple-A (three games) because the Twins needed him. "There is that added anxiety that comes along with trying to compete at this level, and going through ups and downs," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "I think that's clearly something that everyone has, even if it's not becoming an overwhelming-type thing. So, yeah. Being able to breathe, being able to relax and not have that added burden, I think, can help." There is no doubt that Larnach is part of the Twins' future, and this demotion is part of the learning process. He can rediscover his swing in St. Paul in at-bats that may have a little less pressure. Ups and downs are part of many players' careers, so hopefully, Larnach can look back on this as a great learning opportunity at the end of his rookie campaign. What have you thought about Larnach’s rookie season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  3. We still have a ways to go, and while there is no August waiver trade period in 2021, Rocco Baldelli’s roster should continue to get a shake-up over the next few weeks. Cycling in different hitters and pitchers when attempting to find future opportunities, this club can also look back on what has been and begin making assessments for 2022 and beyond. While not all the biggest storylines, here are five key takeaways from what we’ve seen to this point: Miguel Sano is inconsistently consistent Through 21 games to start the year, Sano owned a .119/.280/.209 slash line. Over his next 38 games from May 15 through June 30, he held a .233/.280/.549 slash line. Then, in July, he’s owned a .246/.325/.478 slash line across 20 games. He’s got a .737 OPS in 79 games this year and has paired that with 17 homers and a .291 OBP. If you’re looking for Miguel Sano to be the mega-prospect he once was considered, that’s probably on you at this point. The slash line still leaves plenty to be desired, but he’s got a 103 OPS+ and has not wavered on a solid sense of plate discipline. Timing continues to elude him for frustrating stretches, but he’s also capable of going on an absolute power tear. Should the Twins find themselves back in a position of strength throughout their lineup, a bat like that in the bottom half is hardly something to scoff at. He’s owed $9.25 million in 2022, and that’s an overpay but not to the extent of being ultimately damaging and acting as a primary designated hitter; that may be the role he’s always been destined for anyways. Nick Gordon has utility I was convinced that opportunity had passed the Twins former first-round pick by for quite a while. I knew he could play at the big-league level but wasn’t sure it would happen in a Minnesota uniform. Now I’m more convinced that it needs to continue. He’s still the same player he’s been throughout the minors. A soft-hitting speedster that will occasionally run into one, this is a singles hitter that has the instincts to swipe bases. Add in the utility he’s provided by learning centerfield on the fly, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be on the Opening Day roster in 2022. Gordon may find a bit more success in year two when it comes to batting average; he’s made a career out of taking steps forward after acclimating to a level. Even if he doesn’t, though, speed on the bench is something Minnesota hasn’t had, and the combination of being a lighter version of Chris Taylor is a good thing for any roster to have. Mitch Garver can still mash To say that 2020 was disastrous for Mitch Garver would be putting it lightly. The Twins Silver Slugger winning catcher posted a terrible .511 OPS and hit just two homers in 23 games. Things started slow for him in 2021, with a .517 OPS being toted through 17 games. In his last 29 games since April 28, with a severe injury mixed in there, Garver has slashed .299/.449/.740 with nine homers and a 20/19 K/BB. The life-altering foul tip he took was incredibly scary, but as rehab progressed and healing took place, he’s been back behind the dish and picked up where he left off. Even after being plunked by a pitch on his hand recently, it’s fair to dream of the production that will soon return. Garver is a late-blooming prospect, so he’s going to age relatively quickly, but this is the anchor of a tandem behind the dish that Twins fans were hoping for. The pitching staff needs an overhaul Minnesota owns the fourth-worst pitching staff in baseball by fWAR in 2021. The starters rank 24th, and the relievers are 25th. The entire unit has been a complete abomination. With the uncertain status of Jose Berrios’ future and veterans like J.A. Happ and Michael Pineda being done this offseason, the rotation will be in flux. Taylor Rogers sapped his trade value with a finger injury just days ago, but whether he was dealt or not, the rest of the bullpen remains a complete question mark. None of the signings made by the front office have worked out, and while they were short-term pacts, a re-do is less exciting when considering just how many times they missed over the winter. Derek Falvey has long been lauded for his ability to develop and identify pitching. Minnesota has a farm system rich with names attached to arms, but none have begun to bear fruit, and plenty are currently injured. For this organization to thrive at the highest level, it’s going to need to start on the mound once again, and they’re going to be doing so from next to nothing for 2022. Corner rookies are real In a season where winning takes a back seat, the best way to prevent it from becoming lost is by watching your youth thrive. Alex Kirilloff is done for the year after having wrist surgery, but it’s pretty realistic to call his rookie campaign a success. The top prospect came up early and handled his own. He’s not an ideal fit in the outfield, but he’ll play at first base, and the bat is every bit as advertised. Trevor Larnach joined Kirilloff sooner than expected, but it’s hard to pick apart much of what he’s done this season. Even while slumping of late, the 24-year-old owns a .322 OBP and has shown plenty of power potential. He’ll run into more baseballs as his career progresses, and the discipline in the box has been a sight to behold. These are both pillar players that Minnesota needs to see as foundational cornerstones of future lineups, and early returns should suggest they are both capable of doing just that. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  4. Organization’s prospect depth helps to keep team’s competitive window open as long as possible. Minnesota has built up a strong farm system but that means the team hasn’t been able to hang on to some of their depth in recent years. Players like Akil Baddoo and LaMonte Wade have gone on to find success with other organizations because the Twins didn’t project them as part of the long-term plan. Brent Rooker seems like another player that doesn’t fit into the team’s long-term plan. During the 2020 season, he impressed during his big- league debut although it was limited to seven games and 21 plate appearances. During that time, he hit .316/.381/.579 with three extra-base hits and five strikeouts. His season was cut short due to a fractured forearm, but it wasn’t hard to envision him fitting on the team’s roster moving forward. Entering the 2021 season, Rooker was fighting for a roster spot. However, it became clear that the team wasn’t keen to use him as a defensive outfielder, because he is below average in a corner outfield spot. First base is a position where he is not as much of a defensive liability, but the team has other options at that position. Minnesota was forced to make a choice and Kyle Garlick earned the final roster spot. Rooker was going to have to slug his way back to the Twins. Rooker has certainly been making his presence known in the Saints roster this season. His season started on a slow note as he was limited to a .375 OPS during the team’s eight April games. He posted an .836 OPS in May, but June was when he really turned it on as he hit .275/.420/.675 (1.095) with nine home runs. He was one of the best hitters in the minors and the Twins didn’t have a roster spot for him even though they were struggling. One of the biggest reasons the Twins didn’t give Rooker the call was because two other outfield prospects have passed him up on the depth chart. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach are considered better prospects than Rooker, but he has always been playing at a higher level in Minnesota’s farm system. Losing the 2020 minor league season likely cost Rooker a chance to play his way into the team’s long-term plans. Kirilloff went on the IL earlier this week, but Rooker still wasn’t called up to take his spot. Now Nelson Cruz has been traded, so Rooker might get an opportunity to slide into a DH role with the Twins. However, trading him to another organization might be his best chance at finding a permanent big-league role. Because of his college experience, he is already 26-years old. He has dominated Triple-A pitching in parts of two different seasons and the Twins don’t seem to have a spot for him. Like Badoo and Wade, he may find success in another organization, but he at least deserves to have a chance to prove he belongs at the MLB level. Do you think the Twins should trade Rooker? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. Every year leading into the trade deadline, FanGraphs ranks the top 50 players in baseball according to their trade value. Some of items taken into consideration are performance, age, and years remaining of team control. According to their explanation, “the central question we considered boils down to this: how much value could a team expect to get in a trade for each player on the list?” One Twins player’s ranking may come as a surprise. Max Kepler ranks as baseball’s 45th most valuable trade asset and this comes a year after being ranked 39th overall. He is under team control through 2024 when he will be in his age-31 season. Over the next three seasons, he is projected to be worth 8.8 WAR while earning a max (no pun intended) of $25.3 million. Kepler’s name hasn’t been out there in trade discussions as much as players like Nelson Cruz, Jose Berrios, and Andrelton Simmons. That doesn’t mean a Kepler deal is out of the question. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach emerging as valuable corner outfield options makes it easier to part with Kepler. Minnesota is also talking to Byron Buxton about a potential contract extension and that might leave the Twins even more willing to part with Kepler. So, how does Kepler enter the discussion as one of the most valuable trade assets? He is a good, but not great player that has multiple years of control on a team friendly deal. For his career, he has hit .234/.317/.442 (.760) and been worth 11.7 WAR, which FanGraphs values at $93.9 million. He has also shown the ability be a strong defensive corner outfielder while being capable of being an average defensive center fielder. During the 2021 season, Kepler is posting career highs in average exit velocity and hard hit %. For instance, his average exit velocity in 2019, when he hit 36 homers, was in the 61st percentile. Fast-forward to 2021 and he’s in the 76th percentile for average exit velocity. Minnesota has also seen some of Kepler’s flaws since his breakout 2019 campaign. According to some defensive metrics, he’s in the midst of his worst defensive season of his career. His hamstring issues have certainly slowed him down. That being said, he still ranks in the 78th percentile for outs above average and he’s outfield jump is one of baseball’s best (97th percentile). Offensively, it has been hard to live up to 2019. He consistently posts BABIP totals under .250 because he pops the ball up so frequently. This season, he is also striking out at a higher rate than any other season as his chase rate is in the 89th percentile. He’s hitting the ball harder, but the results haven’t been there. Teams know what they are getting with Kepler and organizations find value in having a known cost. How much value that brings as a trade asset is yet to be seen. Do you think Kepler is one of baseball’s most valuable trade assets? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. In 2020’s aftermath, organizations are going to attempt to get their prospects back on track to eventually have big-league success. Missing all the 2020 season forced teams to get creative with plans for prospect development as many players were relegated to home workout plans. Minnesota was lucky enough to have room at their alternate site for top prospects like Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach and they have reaped the benefits so far this season. Kirilloff struggled this spring and was left off the Opening Day roster, but he has put together some strong numbers since the Twins called him up. He ended the first half with a .765 OPS and a 113 OPS+ including 20 extra-base hits. Larnach isn’t that far behind as he has compiled a .755 OPS and a 113 OPS+ with 16 extra-base hits. While these players have succeeded, other top prospects have struggled so far in their first taste of the big leagues. Tampa’s Wander Franco entered the season as baseball’s consensus top prospect, but things haven’t been easy for him so far. In his first 15 games, he has hit .197/.258/.328 and combined for a 67 OPS+. He just turned 20-years old in March so there is plenty of time for him to find his groove. Tampa likely hopes he finds it sooner rather than later as they are part of a tight race in the AL East. Seattle’s Jarred Kelenic started the year ranked as baseball’s number four prospect by Baseball America and MLB.com. He got 23 games under his belt and the results were bad enough that Seattle sent him back to Triple-A. He hit .096/.185/.193 with 26 strikeouts in 83 at-bats. He is still part of the long-term plan in Seattle and his bat seems to be getting back on track in the minors. Atlanta’s Cristian Pache ranked as a top-20 prospect by all three national top-100 lists. But like Franco and Kelenic, he has struggled to find his stroke in the majors. In 22 games, he has hit .111/.152/.206 with 25 strikeouts in 63 at-bats. Ronald Acuna’s season ending injury might allow him to get some more at-bats as the season progresses, but he there are some obvious areas of improvement. The 2021 season has been dreadful for the Twins as well as some of baseball’s top prospects. Thankfully, Kirilloff and Larnach have been forced into some situations that will be learning experiences moving forward. Even with some recent struggles, Larnach has been consistently hitting in the middle of the line-up. Kirilloff has come up with some big hits and important defensive plays. It’s a small positive in the middle of a terrible Twins campaign. Franco, Kelenic, and Pache may all be better players than Minnesota’s duo, but it’s clear that Kirilloff and Larnach have more than lived up to their scouting reports in the season’s first half. Now they need to continue to make adjustments to stay ahead of the rest of baseball’s top prospects. What have your impressions been of Minnesota’s rookie duo? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. All of those players were mentioned in this preview after a lengthy delay to the start of the MLB season, and you’ll see quite a few of the same other names in this year’s version. As an immense fan of the minor leagues due to my experiences in those ballparks as a kid, top prospect lists and scouting reports have always been must-read material for me during the winter months as we wait for Spring. There are numerous websites and lists dedicated to this these days, including some of the best you will find about your hometown team right here at Twins Daily. I have certainly made plenty such lists over the years and have been a Minor League Report contributor here since the site’s inception, but because of the depth provided elsewhere I like to put out my own version of a list every year that instead talks about prospects you might see in the majors during the upcoming season. While 2020 was beyond weird when making this list, this season is perhaps even harder as there is no MiLB data from the prior season to rely on. I expect this list to either be woefully inaccurate or right on the nose, as assumptions from the prior season carry over. So, who are the next Minnesota Twins that could make their debut during the 2021 season? ON THE 40-MAN ROSTER: The number of names in this section is a testament to the maturity of the Twins minor league system going into the 2021 season. Six of the eight names are on Twins Daily’s Top Prospect List and the other two have appeared there in the past. With this many heralded prospects knocking on the major league’s door and an already established MLB roster, it could lead to some interesting roster moves during the 2021 season. Jhoan Duran (23 years old on opening day), RHP – TD’s #5 Prospect There is a lot to like with Duran. He has size, triple-digit velocity, and a unique pitch that can give hitters fits if they are sitting on his fastball. Like many young hurlers, development of his off-speed or breaking pitches will determine whether he remains a starter in the majors or gets transitioned to the bullpen. While he spent time at the alternate site in 2020, he has only pitched 37 innings at the double-A level with inconsistent results. It is not out of the question he starts the MiLB season back in double-A, pushing any potential debut timeline out to later in the summer, which also could come as a reliever much like Brusdar Graterol in 2019. Nick Gordon (25), IF (Gordon made his MLB debut on 5/6, and went 1-for-2 with a BB and 2 SB) I have had Gordon on this list for several years now, and the 2021 season may be the make-it-or-break-it campaign for the Twins first round pick from the 2014 draft. The stat lines have not been flashy but improvement year-to-year at each level has been noticeable. He followed up a 2017 season in double-A where he hit .270/.341/.408 by hitting .333/.381/.525 to earn a promotion to triple-A in 2018. He hit only .212/.262/.283 after moving up, but the next season improved to .298/.342/.459 at the same level and it may have been a hard choice between him and Luis Arreaz for a promotion if he had not been injured at the time. I think Gordon can find an infield utility role, but whether that comes with the Twins or not is what the 2021 season may be all about for him. Jordan Balazovic (22), RHP – TD’s #6 Prospect Hype around Balazovic, much like Duran, is also warranted. He may not have the same level of raw stuff as Duran, but the performance has been better in comparison. The only caveat there is Balazovic has not pitched above single-A yet, though he did end up at the alternate site late in the 2020 season. I would be surprised if he began anywhere but double-A Wichita to start the year, and he is certainly going to be on an innings limit. These things work against him in terms of debuting in 2021 but being on the 40-man roster also places him high on any depth charts for promotion. He also has far less risk of being transitioned to a reliever in the future due to his above average control of all of his pitches. Ben Rortvedt (23), C – TD’s #17 Prospect (Rortvedt made his MLB debut on 4/30, going 1-for-3 with an RBI, R, and BB) Rortvedt was added to the 40-man roster after the 2020 season to make sure he was not lost in the Rule 5 draft. This is mainly due to his defensive chops as a catcher, but potential with the bat still remains as a 23-year-old with good plate discipline likely to play at triple-A for the first time this year. The defense will get him to the majors, but it depends on if his bat is unlocked enough to become a regular in an organization already boasting two strong bats at the position in Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers. He is basically an ideal emergency catcher as is and I can envision a career much like former Twins catcher Drew Butera as a good floor. Dakota Chalmers (24), RHP Chalmers has only pitched around 60 recorded innings since having Tommy John surgery during the 2018 season, and less than 200 total innings in six years as a professional, but that has not stopped him from getting close to the majors. That is because of strong raw stuff that includes a mid-90’s fastball and bat missing sliders and changeups as his secondary offerings. Control of these pitches has always been the issue as he has walked 6.6 per nine innings pitched over his professional career. This was especially evident in his time in the Arizona Fall League after the 2019 season, where he was all over the board from terrible to dominant in his outings there, depending on that control. He started the AFL Championship game that the Twins prospects went on to win (with help from other prospects, of course). Gilberto Celestino (22), OF – TD’s #11 Prospect (Celestino made his MLB debut on 6/2, starting in CF and going 0-for-2 with a K) Celestino is an interesting case study on 40-man protection situations, as he is a player who has yet to play any games above A-ball, and only eight of them in the advanced Florida State League at that. As is the case with all these guys, you can blame that on a lost 2020 MiLB season, but his apparent rise in those circumstances is noteworthy as he did spend 2020 at the alternate site in St. Paul. Celestino’s bat came alive with Cedar Rapids in the latter half of the 2019 season where from July onward he hit .348/.413/.532. If the bat has continued to come around there is an exciting prospect here as he has always been a fantastic outfielder, including in center. Someone on the MLB roster could learn something about playing walls from him, too: Bailey Ober (25), RHP – TD’s #20 Prospect (Ober made his MLB debut on 5/18, starting the game and going 4.0 IP , allowing 4 ER on 5 H, 1 BB, and struck out 4 in a win against the Chicago White Sox) You will not find a better statistical performer as a starting pitcher in the Twins system from the 2019 season, where Ober posted eye opening numbers including a 0.69 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and K/9 rate of 11.4 at Fort Myers and Pensacola. You might expect such numbers to warrant a higher ranking on prospect lists, but he is a bit of a unicorn in the tool aspects as a 6’9” hurler whose fastball *might* touch 90 MPH on a good day. What he does have however, is perhaps some of the best control you will find in all of the minor leagues. While striking out 100 hitters in 78 2/3 innings in 2019, he walked just nine for a rate of 1.0/9IP. Pitches will always play up when you can locate them like he does, especially from his frame, and Ober is one I am particularly looking forward to following again in the 2021 season. TOP PROSPECTS: It is disappointing I had to remove one of the entries who would be in this section before Spring Training even started, but it is still worth mentioning Royce Lewis’ name. His 2019 campaign in the Arizona Fall League that resulted in an MVP award does not seem to get the credit it should. It was the best performance by a Twins prospect by far since I have been following that league with a keen eye for more years than I care to admit. His knee injury is a major bummer for the 2021 season (I guess welcome to the torn ACL club, Royce!), just like the cancelling of 2020’s minor league season was. We are going to have to wait even longer for the former #1 overall pick to arrive in the majors, but I have no doubts it will be well worth the wait. I consider each of the players in this section to be on equal footing when it comes to their maturity in the Twins system as the 40-man roster players above. They just have not needed to be added to that list yet. Trevor Larnach (24), OF – TD’s #3 Prospect (Larnach made his debut on 5/8, playing LF and going 0-for-4 but reaching base on a HBP) Twins Daily’s 2019 MiLB Hitter of the Year gets less accolades than fellow outfielder Alex Kirilloff, but I would not argue with you if you put them on equal footing as hitters. Larnach has comparable power to all fields and a bit better plate discipline to make up for any lag in hitting that skill evaluators might perceive. With the glut of corner outfield talent in the upper portions of the Twins system, having Larnach start the 2021 season back in double-A is logical, but his bat is one that could force the issue as the MLB season wears on. Blayne Enlow (22), RHP – TD’s #10 Prospect (Update: Enlow hit the disabled list in early June, and was later determined to need Tommy John surgery and will mist the rest of the 2021 season) When drafted in 2017, Enlow was said to have one of the best curveballs available, which was an even more impressive statement as he was a high school pitcher. But that pitch took a step back when he became a pro, leading to relatively unimpressive strikeout numbers. That tide could be changing as he continues to grow into any adjustments made by coaches, as reports from instructs last fall included added velocity (mid 90’s) and a reinvigorated breaking ball. Losing the 2020 season was especially detrimental to evaluating someone like Enlow, but youth is still on his side as the youngest player to appear on this list. I would envision 2022 as a more likely MLB debut year for him, but you never know. Matt Canterino (23), RHP – TD’s #9 Prospect Canterino is another prospect where the loss of a 2020 season looms large. As an advanced college draftee in 2019 he spent time with Cedar Rapids in his first professional season and could have been fast-tracked to the upper levels in 2020. Instead of impressing on the diamond, he did so off of it, earning a late addition to the alternate site in St. Paul where he demonstrated some added velocity and also got some notice for touching 99 MPH in throwing sessions over the winter. Because his delivery has a lot of moving parts, there are some questions about if he can remain a starter long-term, but he has answered them positively in every way he can so far. If he is ticketed for double-A Wichita early in the season (or to start it?), take notice. MINOR LEAGUE DEPTH: While these players are not necessarily top prospects, they are at or near the top of the system and have performed well to get themselves there. It could be a thing where a pitcher is lined up to pitch on the right day the Twins need a spot-start across the river at Target Field, or an injury leads to needing a specific position covered and there is no other ready replacement available. Maybe something new has clicked and they have improved their stock from internal evaluators. No matter how it happens, players like these are always needed at some point during the MLB season. Griffin Jax (26), RHP (Jax made his MLB debut on 6/8 against the New York Yankees, in relief. He pitched 1 inning, allowing 3 ER on 3 H, and striking out 1) Jax reached triple-A for three starts during the 2019 season due to a stellar campaign at Pensacola where he posted a sub 3.00 ERA in 111 1/3 innings and earned an All-Star nod. He is not a strikeout artist but has limited walks and hard contact as a pro. Ryan Mason (26), RHP Mason was not able to pitch as much as he would have liked during the 2019 season due to an ulnar nerve injury that cut it short after just 23 innings with Pensacola. But those innings were fantastic as he closed out seven games for saves with a 2.35 ERA with 28 K’s and earned Twins Daily’s MiLB Relief Pitcher of the Month award for April. Zander Wiel (28), 1B/OF Wiel has been a favorite follow of mine since the Twins took him in the 12th round of the 2015 draft out of College World Series champion Vanderbilt. He may not have any loud tools, but has been productive throughout his MiLB career, leading the International League in doubles with 40, and all Twins minor leaguers with 86 runs scored with Rochester in 2019. DARK HORSES: There always seems to be a player or two who comes out nowhere to make a surprise debut for me. They might be a known name but are not that far up the ladder at the season’s outset, returning from an injury so they have been forgotten some, or have a unique skillset or background I find intriguing that could pay big dividends. These are my shots in the dark at guys who that could be in 2021. Tom Hackimer (26), RHP (Hackimer was promoted to triple-A in mid-May but had some struggles and was released in June) A pure reliever prospect who could remind fans of Pat Neshek when it is all said and done. A sidewinder who missed most of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury returned in 2019 to post a 2.54 ERA and 75 K’s in 56 2/3 innings between Fort Myers and Pensacola, earning a FSL All-Star selection in the process. Matt Wallner (23), OF – TD’s #13 Prospect A native Minnesotan and another advanced hitter out of the Brent Rooker/Trevor Larnach mold from college, Wallner could move quickly if he is hitting bombs like he did at this spring training game I was fortunate enough to attend last year: Cole Sands (23), RHP – TD’s #15 Prospect Another victim of no 2020 season, Sands was fantastic in 2019 pitching at three levels in his first taste of professional ball, ending the year with a start in double-A. He was especially dominant with Fort Myers, posting a 2.25 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in nine starts. His changeup has been rated as the best in the Twins system by Baseball America. Yennier Cano (27), RHP An international signing in 2019, Cano has flown a little under the radar despite being rated as one of the top arms available in that market up to that point. A standout from Cuba that played on their national teams, Cano boasts high-90’s velocity and a full repertoire that could be culled to play to his strengths out of the bullpen. Chris Vallimont (24), RHP Vallimont was the prospect addition in the deal with the Miami Marlins for Sergio Romo during the 2019 season and impressed with Fort Myers after the trade. He has been a starter with a full repertoire including a fastball with movement and slider that gets swings and misses, especially against same-sided hitters. The Twins want him to throw that slider more, which could be an interesting development to follow this season as the organization has taken a particular interest in slider heavy relievers recently. These are (some of) the players I think could make their MLB dreams come true during the 2021 season and don a Minnesota Twins jersey for the first time. When do you think any of them will show up at Target Field? Who are you looking forward to the most? Who are the prospects I’ve missed that you believe could do so this year?
  8. The 2020 season was unique in more ways than one. For rookies making their big-league debut, this certainly had to be true as they stepped into a strange environment with no fans and a multitude of COVID protocols. In spite of these barriers, Brent Rooker was able to make his debut and find success at the plate, but have other prospects passed him by in 2021? Last year, Rooker was called up after Max Kepler was sent to the IL. He played in seven games and hit .316/.381/.579 with a home run and two doubles. Unfortunately, he was hit by a pitch and fractured his forearm which ended his season. His strong performance wasn’t limited to the big-league level either. He had posted a .928 OPS during the 2019 season and the majority of his games that year were at Triple-A. Spring training had to be an exciting time for Rooker. For the first time in his career, he had a good chance at making the big-league roster and those odds only increased after Alex Kirilloff’s rough spring saw him sent to the minor league side. However, Rocco Baldelli stressed the importance of defense and Rooker has little defensive value, so he was optioned to the alternate site. The team quickly needed Rooker at the big-league level after Josh Donaldson injured his hamstring. He played in three games and went 1-for-11 without an extra-base hit. He suffered a neck injury and didn’t hit much better after he returned from the IL. For the year, he has gone 3-for-29 with two extra-base hits and a 13-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. His time in St. Paul has seen some good and some bad as he has hit .227/.366/.470 with five home runs and a double in 66 at-bats. What might be most encouraging is the fact that he has drawn 15 walks. Recently, he missed a few games with an injury, but it didn’t seem to bother him in the team’s weekend series. He finished the four-game set going 6-for-19 with two homers and a double. It’s a good to see some life in his bat, but he has plenty left to prove. Rooker and the Twins might have missed out on an opportunity to see what he can do with a regular role at the big-league level. Trevor Larnach and Kirilloff have been getting regular at-bats while Rooker continues to play at Triple-A. Those two players have always been seen as better prospects, but Rooker is already 26-years old, and he has been limited to less than 50 at-bats at baseball’s highest level. Entering the season, he was considered one of the top, if not the best, power hitting prospects in the Twins organization. His college experience and success in the minor leagues certainly prove his power hitting prowess. Now, he needs to find his swing again at Triple-A before more prospects continue to pass him by for opportunities with the Twins. Do you think the Rooker has become a forgotten prospect? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  9. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/24 through Sun, 5/30 *** Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 21-31) Run Differential Last Week: +2 (Overall: -22) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (11.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 47 | MIN 8, BAL 3: Rare Late-game Surge Pushes Twins Past O's Game 48 | MIN 7, BAL 4: Lineup Comes Through Again with Seven Runs Game 49 | MIN 3, BAL 2: Michael and Miguel Lead Minnesota to First Sweep Game 50 | KC 8, MIN 3: Royals Cool Off Twins in Deflating Loss Game 51 | MIN 6, KC 5: Twins Fend Off KC Rally and Hold On Game 52 | KC 6, MIN 3: Fading Twins Drop Another Home Series NEWS & NOTES This is the ninth Week in Review column we've filed this season, and it's the first since Week 1 – when the Twins won their season-opening series in Milwaukee, two games to one – that we're reviewing a winning week. As winning weeks ago, however, this one was remarkably uninspiring and unfulfilling. They really needed to go 5-1 at least in these six games at home against bad teams, but instead came away with just four wins, and might've been lucky to get that. The Twins required a late-game rally to beat Baltimore on Monday, and barely eked out a one-run victory on Wednesday to clinch the sweep. In a three-game weekend series against the Royals, Minnesota was twice beaten handily, and scraped out a one-run win in the other. This is not a great team dominating bad competition. This is a bottom-dweller with its hands full facing the same. On the health front, it was another week of bad news and foreboding developments for the Twins. They lost two more key pieces to the Injured List, with Luis Arraez (shoulder) and Max Kepler (hamstring) hitting the shelf after trying to play through their respective ailments. There's a belief that Kepler could return soon after his 10-day window expires, but Arraez is looking at a lengthier absence, as his shoulder injury appears to be more serious than initially thought. Meanwhile, Kenta Maeda is also facing an extended period of unavailability. Rocco Baldelli said on Sunday that the right-hander's groin issue has been resolved, but the team wants to give Maeda extra time off due to "general arm soreness," which may help explain his extremely lackluster results up to this point. Adding to the fun (not): Byron Buxton was not able to start a rehab assignment as hoped this past weekend, because he's still not moving around at 100%. Three weeks removed from suffering his hip strain, Buxton's timetable remains in limbo. On the bright side, the Twins did get Michael Pineda back from IL, and as we'll cover below, he looked great. In the bullpen, Cody Stashak was swapped out for Juan Minaya. Dakota Chalmers was DFA'ed to make room on the 40-man roster for Minaya. HIGHLIGHTS The return of Pineda was more than welcome for a rotation that's been receiving some uneven performances and is now missing Maeda. Pineda's been the underrated steady rock of this unit, and looked the part again on Wednesday. In a series finale against Baltimore where the offense didn't quite show up the way it had in the first two, Minnesota needed a high-quality pitching performance. Pineda delivered, firing six innings of one-run ball. He allowed three hits and a walk while striking out eight. Pineda's 16-7 record with the Twins stacks up as the best winning percentage in franchise history, and it's reflective of the reality that he gives them a good chance to win just about every time he takes the mound. In all but one start this year, he has pitched five or more innings and allowed three or fewer runs. The lineup is getting help from some unlikely sources. Hardly just a novelty act, Rob Refsnyder has been a key contributor; last week he went 7-for-22 with a homer and four RBIs to deliver some much-needed production at the bottom of the order. With Kepler and Buxton both sidelined, Refsnyder is essentially the only center fielder on the roster. Baldelli's made no secret of the fact that he'll be riding Refsnyder hard in the short-term, and the manager will have to hope his opportunistic 30-year-old can stay hot (and healthy). Refsnyder's recent success bodes well in the short-term. But the breakout performance of Trevor Larnach alongside him in the outfield bodes much better for the long-term. He's looking every bit the advanced, impact hitter that his minor-league numbers and top-prospect accolades suggested. Larnach went 5-for-14 with two home runs and five RBIs last week, and while he's shown the ability to absolutely obliterate baseballs, his plate discipline might be the most promising aspect of his early play. Larnach presents a challenging match-up for opposing pitchers because he doesn't chase much outside the zone, and can capitalize once he gets his pitch. As Aaron Gleeman notes, Larnach is tied for third-most walks in Twins history through his first 20 games. His five walks (vs. four strikeouts) last week included one with the bases loaded, forcing in a key run. Alex Kirilloff continues to rake (8-for-23 with two doubles last week), and Jorge Polanco is showing some pop despite the bad wheel (two doubles and a homer in his five starts). But the biggest bright spot on offense right now has got to be Mitch Garver, who suddenly looks like his old Silver Slugger self. Taking on a more regular workload with Ryan Jeffers and (until Sunday) Ben Rortvedt in Triple-A, Garver has rediscovered his rhythm at the plate. In four starts last week and one late-game sub appearance last week, he went 5-for-13 with four doubles, a home run, four walks, and just two strikeouts. Garver was slashing .151/.196/.321 with a 25-to-3 K/BB ratio through his first 17 games before a breakout two-homer night in Cleveland on April 28th. Since then, he is slashing .300/.432/.683 with 18 strikeouts and 14 walks. In 2019, he slashed .273/.365/.630. LOWLIGHTS While young bucks like Larnach and Kirilloff have been stepping up to carry much of the load offensively, the highly-paid veterans that Minnesota depends upon are coming up short. Nelson Cruz is wrapping up perhaps his most underwhelming month in a Twins uniform. Following a 2-for-14 week, he's slashing .232/.315/.378 in May with three home runs and just six RBIs in 23 games. Is age finally catching up with Cruz? He started the season on a scorching tear, but has looked like a very ordinary player for the last five weeks or so. Then again he's still hitting the ball hard as hell, so maybe it's just a matter of time before he catches fire again. Here's hoping so, because the Twins will at the very least be reliant on Cruz as a key trade chip in July. Even more concerning are the ongoing struggles of Josh Donaldson, who for better or worse is going to be around for a while The Twins spent big on Donaldson two offseasons ago, envisioning him is the final puzzle piece for a power-laden lineup with championship aspirations. Donaldson was largely a non-factor in 2020 due to injury, and while he's been able to stay on the field this year, he's making more headlines for his drama-stirring tweets than for his standout play. Last week Donaldson went 3-for-21, dropping his slash line for the season to .226/.325/.394. His double off the right field wall on Sunday was his first extra-base hit in 12 days, and he hasn't had a multi-hit game since May 8th. Donaldson is still taking good ABs and drawing walks at a solid clip, but there's only so much value in having one of the slowest dudes in baseball putting himself on first base a handful of times per week. They need JD crushing drives all over the field. He's mostly just hitting pop-ups when he makes contact, and is on pace to finish with 15 home runs. And then there is the ever-streaky Miguel Sanó, who flipped the switch back from red-hot to ice-cold with a 2-for-21 week that included one walk and 11 strikeouts. Granted, one of those two hits was tremendously impactful – a sixth-inning three-run homer on Wednesday that essentially turned a loss into a win – but he was a black hole otherwise. Between that trio – Cruz, Donaldson, and Sanó – you've got three critical cornerstones of the lineup, all hitting in key spots and providing almost nothing. They're killing rallies, rather than powering the offense with clutch knocks and dramatic blasts (with one exception). The pitching hasn't been very good but ultimately this team is built to outslug opponents and should be mauling staffs like Baltimore and Kansas City. To score only three runs in three of these six games, at home, is reflective of a dysfunctional lineup being let down by its supposed leaders. When I look back on this incredibly disappointing season, I will very likely zero in on this past week, when the Twins desperately needed to go on a run against bad teams to salvage their contention hopes and the three highest-paid players on the roster – Cruz, Donaldson and Sanó make a combined $50 million, accounting for more than a third of the total payroll – went 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position. TRENDING STORYLINE In happier news, the arms are cooking down on the farm. Last week in this space we celebrated the sterling debut of Jhoan Duran for the Saints; in his second start on Thursday, Duran tossed four shutout innings with one hit allowed and eight strikeouts. He's on the fast track and could be a real difference-maker for the Twins' staff this year. But he's not the only pitching prospect making a strong early impression. Josh Winder, whose ascending velocity has opened eyes and earned him a spring training invite, struck out seven over five innings of two-run ball for Wichita on Saturday. He owns a 1.48 ERA and 30-to-6 K/BB ratio through 24 ⅓ frames in his first stint at Double-A. Matt Canterino is currently pitching at Cedar Rapids, but could soon join Winder in Wichita because he's putting up flat-out silly numbers against Single-A hitters. After striking out 10 in four innings on Friday, Canterino has a 1.50 ERA and 35-to-3 K/BB ratio in 18 innings for the Kernels. In another bit of encouraging news pertaining to the pitcher pipeline, Jordan Balazovic plans to throw in Fort Myers on Monday. If that goes well, it sounds like he'll be heading to Double-A, where the rotation could soon feature him, Winder, and Canterino. More like Pitch-ita, amirite. Duran is closest out of these names, but any of them are realistic possibilities to pitch for the Twins this season. LOOKING AHEAD The "Or-royals" segment of the schedule rolls on in the coming week, as the Twins will travel to play both clubs on the road after going 4-2 against them at Target Field. If Minnesota can't find a way to go 6-1 or 7-0 in the upcoming games, they're going to look back at these two weeks as an unaffordable missed opportunity to make up crucial ground. They'll be returning home to face the Yankees and Astros afterward. If they play those opponents the same way they played this past week and, really, for most of the season, it's going to get ugly. MONDAY, 5/31: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Jose Berríos v. RHP Jorge Lopez TUESDAY, 6/1: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Michael Pineda v. LHP Bruce Zimmermann WEDNESDAY, 6/2: TWINS @ ORIOLES – RHP Randy Dobnak v. RHP Matt Harvey THURSDAY, 6/3: TWINS @ ROYALS – LHP J.A. Happ v. LHP Kris Bubic FRIDAY, 6/4: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Matt Shoemaker v. TBD SATURDAY, 6/5: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Brad Keller SUNDAY, 6/6: TWINS @ ROYALS – RHP Michael Pineda v. LHP Mike Minor
  10. Triple-A: Trevor Larnach, OF Larnach sometimes feels like the forgotten prospect with names like Alex Kirilloff and Royce Lewis in the organization. He projects to be a very good big-league regular and his timetable made have changed over the last couple days with news that Kirilloff might miss time due to a wrist injury. The Twins have been getting very little production from their corner outfield spots and fans have started to get frustrated watching Jake Cave take uncompetitive at-bats. Larnach was likely on pace to debut in 2021 and now he might be needed in Minnesota sooner rather than later. Double-A: Gilberto Celestino, OF Celestino was originally acquired by the Twins in the Ryan Pressly trade along with Jorge Alcala. He was part of the team’s 60-man player pool last season, which meant he spent of the bulk of the year at the team’s alternate training site. Back in 2019, he spent nearly the entire the year at Cedar Rapids, and he finished by hitting .277/.349/.410 (.759) with 41 extra-base hits in 125 games. He’s a very strong defender in the outfield, so it will be interesting to see if his bat can continue to develop. Byron Buxton is only under contract through next season and Celestino might be his heir apparent. High-A: Matt Canterino, RHP Even amidst a pandemic, Canterino was able to see his prospect stock rise significantly because of reports that came out throughout last year. The velocity on his fastball rose more than a couple miles per hour as he can now hit in the mid-90s on a consistent basis. He should easily be able to stick as a starter when you add in a slider and a changeup that both project to be plus pitches. He was a second round pick out of college in 2019, but he’s only pitched 25 innings as a profession due to last year’s minor league cancellation. Now, he needs to prove his rising stock is legitimate and that might be dangerous for opposing batters in the Midwest League. Low-A: Aaron Sabato, 1B/DH Sabato was Minnesota’s first round pick in 2020, so he will be making his professional debut in 2021. There’s one reason the Twins drafted Sabato and that’s because of his powerful bat. Entering the season, he projected as one of the team’s top power prospects. In two seasons at North Carolina, he hit .332/.459/.698 with 25 home runs and 31 doubles in 83 games. He is going to need to show he can adjust to professional baseball, but he is expected to be a quick riser if he can continue to show plus power at the plate. What are your thoughts on these players? Are there others you will keep an eye on? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  11. Baddoo was a second-round pick back in the 2016 MLB Draft out of high school in Georgia. He was actually Minnesota’s fourth pick in that draft behind Alex Kirilloff, Ben Rortvedt, and Jose Miranda. All of those players are still in the Twins organization, but Baddoo was left unprotected in this year’s Rule 5 Draft. Baddoo and the Tigers are showing exactly why the Rule 5 Draft was put in place. When a player is close to big-league ready, an organization can’t stash that player in the minor leagues without putting them on the 40-man roster. Baddoo’s hot start is great, but he will need to prove that he is part of the solution in Detroit, who isn’t expected to win too many games this season. During his time in the Twins organization, Baddoo played four professional seasons and reached as high as High-A. In the minors, he combined to hit .249/.357/.422 with 86 extra-base hits in 233 games. There were some clear offensive skills including a tremendous ability to draw walks along with some good power potential. This might all sound good, but there are reasons why the Twins left him unprotected this past winter. He’s been limited to under 115 games in every professional season including only 29 games back in 2019. Also, Baddoo struck out in nearly 24% of his plate appearance in 2018 and that number rose to 29.8% in 2019. So far in his brief big-league career, he has two strikeouts and no walks yet to his credit. He can play defensively in all three outfield positions, so it will be interesting to see what his long-term position will be at the big-league level. At one point, Baddoo was a borderline top-10 prospect in the Twins organization. In the last published Twins Prospect Handbook following the 2019 season, Tom had Baddoo ranked the highest as the 16th best Twins prospect. Seth had him ranked at 17 and I had him ranked as the 23rd best future Twin. Baddoo was certainly viewed as having potential, but the Twins and the Tigers are in very different places. Detroit is in rebuild mold and they can afford to take a flyer on a player like Baddoo. They aren’t expected to win for multiple seasons, so the Tigers can take the ups and downs that come with a younger player that has no experience at Double- or Triple-A. Moving forward, Baddoo’s outlook hasn’t changed significantly. The Twins have a ton of top-tier outfield prospects that were ahead of Baddoo on the team’s organizational depth chart. Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Gilberto Celestino, Brent Rooker, and Matt Wallner are just a few of the outfield prospects that would rank ahead of Baddoo for the Twins. That takes nothing away from what Baddoo might be able to do in his career, but he wasn’t in Minnesota’s long-term plans. What are your thoughts on Baddoo and the storybook start to his big-league career? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  12. 5. Alerick Soularie, OF Current/Future Hit Tool: 35/50 Scouts have differing views when it comes to Soularie and his hitting skills. In parts of two seasons at Tennessee, he hit .336/.448/.586 with 31 extra-base hits and more walks than strikeouts. These numbers were compiled in what is considered the toughest college baseball conference after starting his collegiate career at a community college. His short, compact swing can help him adjust to different hitting environments and he has enough raw athleticism to make adjustments throughout his career. There’s also a chance his swing can’t adjust to the higher levels of the minors and he fizzles out. 4. Gilberto Celestino, OF Current/Future Hit Tool: 35/55 Celestino was part of the Twins return in the Ryan Pressly trade and his stock has been rising in recent years. He puts the bat on the ball, and he hits it hard on a consistent basis and that trait is only going to improve as he moves up the organizational ladder. Celestino can be the heir apparent to Byron Buxton in centerfield, especially since Buxton only has two years left of team control. On his current path, Celestino projects to a terrific defender in center field and his hitting skills should be more than enough to make him a regular in the Twins outfield. 3. Travis Blankenhorn, 2B Current/Future Hit Tool: 45/50 Blankenhorn is entering his seventh professional season and he is trying to solidify a role at the big-league level. Last year, he appeared in one game and went 1-for-3 with a double. There’s a potential for him to get more use this season, but it will take an injury or two to get him regular at-bats. In the minors, he’s shown the ability to hit at every level and he’s more advanced than other’s below him on this list. He’s on the fringes of being part of the Twins roster, but he might need to shift to another organization to get more regular playing time. 2. Trevor Larnach, OF Current/Future Hit Tool: 45/55 Larnach might not be as advanced as the number one hitter on this list, but he has the potential to be an above average MLB hitter. Some powerful hitters need to swing with max effort to generate their swing, but Larnach isn’t one of those players. His naturally smooth swing allows him to spray balls to all fields. Also, Larnach isn’t afraid to tinker with his swing by watching video and asking questions to coaches and players. “I tease him about being a psychopath in terms of his pursuit of perfection,” Twins minor-league hitting coordinator Donegal Fergus said. “He wants good conversation, and honest feedback and ideas.” https://twitter.com/NoDakTwinsFan/status/1369318691142332422?s=20 1. Alex Kirilloff, OF Current/Future Hit Tool: 50/60 As Minnesota’s top prospect, Kirilloff’s known for his offensive prowess. He already projects as a league average hitter with a chance to be above average before all things are said and done. He has great plate coverage, and like Larnach, he can spray the ball to all fields. The Twins were confident in him last season and he showed his professional approach while debuting in one of the highest-pressure situations, an elimination game. He hits lefties. He hits righties. He just plain out hits. Fans can hope that he showcases a rare combination of hitting and hitting for power that can make him a generational talent. How would you rank these players? Does someone else make the list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. OTHER POSTS IN THIS SERIES -Power Tool Prospects MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  13. 5. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Current/Future Power: 55/60 Kirilloff has the potential to be on of the best Twins prospects in quite some time. He can power the ball to all fields, and some think he can hit upwards of 30 home runs. He might be the best pure hitter in the Twins system and there will certainly be power with his smooth swinging approach. His power comes from a swing that has a scooping motion that creates line drives and a better launch angle. Twins fans hope Kirilloff is hitting near the top of the line-up for most of the next decade. 4. Matt Wallner, OF Current/Future Power: 55/65 Wallner, a Minnesota native, is a big boy at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds and he fits the mold of players drafted by the current regime. He hit for power in all three years of college as he posted a .652 SLG and a 1.113 OPS. Because of these numbers, scouts ranked him as one of the best power bats in the 2019 MLB Draft with some giving him 70 or 80 grades. What’s crazy to consider is the fact that he was still being used as a pitcher in college. In 65 games during his pro debut, he collected 31 extra-base hits and posted an ISO of .194. 3. Trevor Larnach, OF Current/Future Power: 55/65 For some fans, Larnach almost feels like a forgotten prospect because of the presence of Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. Since being draft, Larnach has been a half step behind Kirilloff, but that takes nothing away from what Larnach can mean to the Twins line-up in the up-coming years. He’s the organization’s reigning Minor League Player of the Year. As a left-handed power hitter, Larnach has connected with Justin Morneau to be his hitting mentor. It’s clear that Larnach loves to work on his swing and he’s going to make sure Twins fans don’t forget about him after he makes his big-league debut at some point in 2021. 2. Aaron Sabato, 1B/DH Current/Future Power: 60/65 Sabato is trying to buck a trend, because right-handed hitting college players with limited defense haven’t found much professional success. There’s one reason the Twins drafted Aaron Sabato and it was because of his powerful bat. As a college freshman, he won ACC Rookie of the Year after knocking 18 home runs. He has a rare combination of exceptional strength, bat speed, and launch angle that led to off the charts raw power. Scouts were confident in Sabato’s ability to hit throughout the upper-minors especially with his track-record against elite college pitching. 1. Brent Rooker, OF/1B Current/Future Power: 60/65 Rooker spent his college years putting up impressive power numbers in the college baseball’s best conferences, the SEC. In his junior season, he hit .287/.496/.810 with 23 home runs. Scouts saw some him post some of the best exit velocities in the 2017 draft class and his raw power was off the charts. Minnesota has been aggressive with him as he spent his entire second full professional season at Triple-A where he posted a .928 OPS. Since he is already 26-years old, there’s a good chance he breaks camp on the big-league roster, and this should give him the opportunity to prove his powerful swing translates to baseball’s highest level. How would you rank these players? Does someone else make the list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  14. As per usual, the team’s non-roster invitations are an interesting combination of veterans competing for jobs at Triple-A and to make an impression should a need come later in the season, and prospects, who are getting seen by the big-league coaches and trying to just make an impression. Some of the players will be participating in what's being called the Depth Camp. Because there is MLB camp and the MLB and AAA seasons will be starting in about six weeks and Double-A and down won't start their spring training until MLB camp is over, they are bringing in extra players. (At the end of each profile, we will point out if the player is a Non-Roster Invite (NRI) or a minor league Depth player (Depth).) THE MINOR LEAGUE VETERANS C Tomás Telis (29) - Telis has played in 122 games in the big leagues for the Rangers and Marlins between 2014 and 2018. With the Rochester Red Wings in 2019, he hit .330/.3364/.490 (.854) with 21 doubles and eight homers. He spent the 2020 season in St. Paul. (NRI) SS Tzu-Wei Lin (27) - Lin signed with the Red Sox out of Taiwan in June of 2012 and played in 101 games for Boston from 2017-2020. He hit just .223/.298/.316 (.614) with nine doubles, three triples and a home run over 2018 plate appearances. He is known for his defense at shortstop. (NRI) IF Drew Maggi (31) - 2019 was Maggi's tenth season in pro baseball. Between Pensacola and Rochester, he hit .258/.380/.407 (.788) with 23 doubles and 11 homers. He was a non-roster invite of the Twins in 2020 as well. (Depth) IF JT Riddle (29) - The slick-fielding infielder debuted with the Marlins in 2017 and played in 223 games for them over the next three seasons. In 2020, he played in 23 games for the Pirates. He has hit a combined .222/.261/.355 (.616) with 31 doubles and 19 homers in his MLB time. He is tremendous with the glove at shortstop, something the Twins brass clearly has prioritized this offseason. (NRI) OF Keon Broxton (30) - The speedy centerfielder has played in 376 big league games between 2015 when he debuted with seven games with the Pirates and 2019 with Seattle. In between, he played with the Mets, Orioles and 269 games with the Brewers. In 2017, he played in 143 games in Milwaukee and hit .220 with 15 doubles, 20 homers and 21 stolen bases. (NRI) OF Rob Refsnyder (29) - Refsnyder has played in 181 games over parts of five MLB seasons between 2015 and 2020. He has played at least 30 games at second base, left field, first base and right field. He has played in the big leagues for the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays and Rangers (2020). (NRI) LHP Andrew Albers (35) - The Twins signed Andrew Albers way back in 2012 out of independent league baseball. He made his MLB debut in 2013 and tossed 17 ⅓ scoreless innings to start his career. He pitched in Korea in 2014. Then he pitched in a game for Toronto in 2015. He returned to the Twins in 2016 and pitched in six games. In 2017, he went 5-1 with a 3.51 ERA in nine games with the Mariners. He has now spent the past three years pitching in Japan. He signed back with the Twins last week. (NRI) LHP Danny Coulombe (31) - Coulombe made his MLB debut in 2014 with the Dodgers and spent part of 2015 with them too. He was traded to the A’s and pitched out of their bullpen through the 2018 season. He was injured and didn’t pitch in 2019. The Twins signed him before the 2020 season and he pitched in two games (2.2 scoreless innings) for the team last summer. (NRI) LHP Brandon Waddell (26) - Waddell was the Pirates fifth round draft pick from the U of Virginia in 2015. He made his MLB debut in 2020, pitching 3 1/3 innings over two games. The Twins claimed him shortly after the end of the 2020 season and DFAd him last week. He cleared waivers and will remain in the organization. (NRI) RHP Luke Farrell (29) - Farrell is the son of former Blue Jays and Red Sox manager John Farrell. He has pitched for the Royals, Reds, Cubs and Rangers over the past five seasons. He has pitched in 63 innings and 43 games in the big leagues. (NRI) RHP Ian Hamilton (25) - Hamilton was the White Sox 11th round pick in 2015 from Washington State. He debuted with ten games in 2018, and then after some injury and bad luck in 2019, he pitched in four games for Chicago in 2020. Since the end of the season, he has been DFAd by the White Sox and claimed by the Mariners, DFAd by the Mariners and claimed by the Phillies, DFAd by the Phillies and claimed by the Twins, DFAd by the Twins, cleared waivers and will stay in the Twins organization. RHP Derek Law (30) - Law did not pitch in the big leagues in 2020, but he was a frequently-used bullpen arm the previous four seasons. In 2016, he debuted with 61 games for the Giants. He pitched in 41 games the following year. He pitched just seven games in 2018, but then he went to the Blue Jays in 2019 and pitched in 58 games. He has 164 career strikeouts in 166 1/3 innings. (NRI) RHP Robinson Leyer (27) - Leyer made his MLB debut with the Red Sox in 2020. He gave up 11 runs on 12 hits, eight walks and nine strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. (Depth) RHP Juan Minaya (30) - Minaya pitched in 125 games for the White Sox between 2016 and 2019. He has 142 strikeouts over 128 1/3 innings in his MLB career. He even has ten saves. He signed with the Twins before the 2020 season and spent the summer at the Twins alternate site in St. Paul. In fact, he was called up to the Twins active roster once, but he didn’t get into a game. He re-signed with the team. (NRI) RHP Chandler Shepherd (28) - Shepherd worked 19 innings in 2019 for the Baltimore Orioles and posted a 6.63 ERA. (Depth) RHP Glenn Sparkman (28) - Another veteran pitcher, half of Sparkman’s 52 career MLB games have been starts. Most of them came in 2019 when he went 4-11 with a 6.02 ERA in 31 games (23 starts). He pitched in four games out of the Royals bullpen in 2020. (NRI) THE PROSPECTS C David Banuelos (24) - Banuelos came to the Twins from the Mariners for international spending dollars in late 2017. A very strong defensive catcher, he split 2019 between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers. (NRI) C Caleb Hamilton (26) - The Twins 23rd round pick in 2016 from Oregon State, he transitioned to the catcher position, though he can also play all around the diamond. He spent 2019 with the Blue Wahoos, though he also played 11 games in Rochester. He was invited to big-league camp a year ago and participated throughout the summer in St. Paul. (NRI) C Alex Isola (22) - Isola was the Twins 29th round pick in 2019 out of Texas Christian University. He split that summer between Elizabethton (7 games) and Cedar Rapids (18 games) and hit a combined .309 with five doubles and three homers. (Depth) C Kyle Schmidt (23) - Schmidt was the Twins 33rd round pick in 2019 from the U. of Richmond. He played that summer in the GCL, at Elizabethton and in Cedar Rapids. He is a defense-first catcher. (Depth) C/1B Chris Williams (24) - Williams was the Twins eight-round pick in 2018 out of Clemson. He was the Twins Daily short-season Minor League Hitter of the Year that year. In 2019, he split time between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers and hit 11 homers. He went to Twins Instructional League in 2020. (Depth) SS Royce Lewis (21) - The top pick in the 2017 draft, Lewis finished the 2019 season at Double-A Pensacola and then was the Arizona Fall League MVP. He spent 2020 in St. Paul at the Twins alternate site. This is his third big league spring training. (NRI) IF Jose Miranda (22) - Miranda was the Twins second, second-round pick in 2016 out of high school in Puerto Rico. He has consistently moved up one level each year. In 2019, he played in Ft. Myers before going 3-for-5 in his one game at Pensacola. He went to Instructional League in 2020 and then hit .302/.377/.472 (.849) with six doubles and a homer in Puerto Rico this winter and participated in the Caribbean Series. (Depth) 1B Aaron Sabato (21) - The Twins top pick a year ago from North Carolina can mash. In his 83 college games over the past two seasons, he hit a combined .332/.459/.698 (1.158) with 31 doubles and 25 homers. (Depth) 1B Zander Wiel (28) - Wiel was the Twins 12th round pick in 2015 from Vanderbilt. In 2019 at AAA Rochester, he hit .254 with 40 doubles, five triples and 24 home runs. He earned an invitation to Twins spring training last year and participated in the Twins alternate site in St. Paul. (Depth) OF Trevor Larnach (23) - The Twins first-round pick in 2018 from Oregon State, Larnach also spent 2020 working at CHS Field, the Twins alternate site. In 2019, he was the Twins (and Twins Daily) Minor League Hitter of the Year. He also was the Florida State League MVP. This is his second spring training at big-league camp. (NRI) LHP Charlie Barnes (25) - The southpaw was the Twins 4th round pick in 2017 out of Clemson. In 2019, he pitched at Ft. Myers, Pensacola and Rochester. He earned an invitation to big-league camp a year ago and ended 2020 with a couple of weeks at the alternate site in St. Paul. (NRI) LHP Andrew Vasquez (27) - Vasquez was the Twins 32nd round pick in 2015 out of Westmont College. He had an incredible 2018 season, pitching at four levels and ending the season with five innings in the big leagues. He made one appearance in 2019 before being DFAd. (Depth) RHP Matt Canterino (23) - Canterino was the Twins second-round pick in 2019 out of Rice University. He debuted with two games in the GCL before making five starts in Cedar Rapids (1-1, 1.35 ERA in 20 innings). He participated in St. Paul last summer for a couple of weeks before going to Ft. Myers for Instructional League. (Depth) RHP Griffin Jax (26) - Jax was the Twins third-round pick in 2016 out of the Air Force Academy. His story has been well chronicled. He pitched in Pensacola in 2019 and also made three starts in Rochester. Combined, he posted a 2.90 ERA in 127 1/3 innings. He was invited to big-league camp in 2020. (NRI) RHP Tom Hackimer (26) - Hackimer was the Twins fourth-round pick in 2016 out of St. John’s. After missing much of the 2018 season with biceps surgery, he returned in 2019 and went 6-2 with a 2.54 ERA in 36 games between Ft. Myers and Pensacola. He went to Instructional League in 2020. Depth) RHP Ryan Mason (26) - Mason was the Twins 13th round pick in 2016 out of Cal-Berkeley. In 2018, between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers, he went 10-3 with seven saves and a 2.77 ERA. In 2019, he pitched in just 15 games for Double-A Pensacola. He went 2-0 with seven saves and a 2.35 ERA, but missed time due to some injury. (Depth) RHP Josh Winder (24) - Winder was the Twins seventh-round pick in 2018 from Virginia Military Institute. He made 21 starts in Cedar Rapids in 2019 and went 7-2 with a 2.65 ERA in 125 2/3 innings. He impressed at Instructional League last year, flashing a 97 mph fastball. (Depth) Combining the 40-man roster players with the invites, here are the players who will be participating in Twins Spring Training. https://twitter.com/Nashwalker9/status/1361365233395097600
  15. In a season without minor league games, it is hard to know what happened on the back fields at spring training, at the alternate site in St. Paul, or in instructional leagues this fall. For better or for worse, the names on this list will form the core of the Minnesota Twins for the majority of the next decade. 5. Jhoan Duran- RHP (23-years old) Acquired: Along with Gabriel Maciel and Ernie De La Trinidad in the Eduard Escobar trade ETA: 2021 Duran can pump it across the plate with a triple-digit fastball that regularly sits in the high 90s. He combines that with a very good pitch that is a cross between a splitter and a sinker. His off-speed pitches include a curveball and a changeup that he can use to keep hitters off balance. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, his frame continues to fill out. His command continues to improve and his ability to triple-digit velocity and other sinking pitches will make it tough for big league hitters to make consistent contact. 4. Ryan Jeffers- C (23-years old) Acquired: 2018 2nd Round Pick ETA: 2020 When the Twins drafted Jeffers, he was seen as a bat-only player as many scouts felt like he would be a hindrance behind the plate. Things certainly have changed as MLB.com just named him the organization’s best defensive prospect. He burst onto the scene last year and he is the highest riser on this list. Minnesota is projected to use Jeffers and Mitch Garver in a two-catcher system for 2021. Last season, he hit .273/.355/.436, so there could be some expected regression, but he will continue to have strong defensive value. 3. Trevor Larnach- OF (23-years old) Acquired: 2018 1st Round Pick ETA: 2021 In some other organizations, Larnach would have a shot at being the team’s top prospect, but Minnesota has some bigger names ahead of him. His polished swing is going to make him a home run threat at the big-league level. He’s a large man and that prevents him from adding much value on the defensive side of the ball. During the 2019 campaign, he was the organization’s choice for Twins Minor League Player of the Year. He should start 2021 in St. Paul before making his big-league debut sometime next season. 2. Royce Lewis- SS (21-years old) Acquired: 2017 1st Round Pick ETA: 2022 Since the Twins drafted him, Lewis has been considered the top prospect in the Twins organization. Within the industry, there seems to be a shift this winter as more national outlets are putting Kirilloff at the top of the list. There are questions with Lewis about his swing mechanics and his future defensive position and this makes it tough to know what the future might hold. He is making changes to his swing, but some of the flaws are still present. Likely, he has a higher ceiling than Kirilloff, but his floor is also lower and that’s why I have a new number one prospect on my list. 1. Alex Kirilloff- OF/1B (23-years old) Acquired: 2016 1st Round Pick ETA: 2020 In the last draft under Terry Ryan, the Twins took a high school outfielder known for his advanced swing and a tremendous make-up. He has a tremendous plate coverage, and he uses a free-swinging approach to drive balls to all parts of the field. Defensively, he will end up playing right field, first base or designated hitter so that will decrease some of his value. However, he has proven that he is a hitter, and he is projected to hit for power. Minnesota is going to be able to rely on him in the middle of their batting order for the majority of the next decade. How would you rank the top five prospects? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES — Prospects 16-20 — Prospects 11-15 — Prospects 6-10 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  16. First, you can get up to speed on the 'why and how' behind these rankings by reading Monday's introductory post. If you're already hip, proceed to find my choices (and reasoning) for the 11th-through-15th most valuable player assets currently under Minnesota's control as 2021 gets underway. Read Part 1 (16-20) Read Part 2 (11-15) 10. Trevor Larnach, OF 2020 Ranking: 14 Ranked as Twins Daily's No. 3 prospect coming into the season, Larnach didn't have a chance to raise his stock in 2020. He spent his summer practicing and scrimmaging in St. Paul, and never seemed to be in serious consideration for a call-up (unlike fellow top prospect Alex Kirilloff, who debuted in a playoff elimination game). With that said, it's not as if Larnach forgot how to play. The former first-rounder had already established himself as a polished hitter ready to make an impact. Turning 24 next month, he's a plug-and-play corner outfield bat with a solid floor and real upside, controllable through much of his prime. The main thing holding him back on this list is redundancy. As a corner outfielder he's stuck behind Kirilloff and Max Kepler indefinitely, and while first base is a possible destination, Larnach has yet to play the position professionally. He's the prime example of a player who'd have much more value to another team than to the Twins, making him a trade candidate. 9: Byron Buxton, CF 2020 Ranking: 7 The 2020 season was much like the 2019 season for Buxton and his valuation. He showed signs of being an elite difference-maker, but was unavailable often – including at the end when the Twins needed him most. Buxton's health struggles have been so chronic and unshakable that they've defined his career more than anything else up to this point. Which is a real shame because when you take them out of the equation, he's one of the most valuable assets in all of baseball. Unparalleled speed, transformative defensive impact, and high-end power: all offered by a 27-year-old who will earn around $15 million in his final two years of team control. If he can stay on the field, Buxton could be the single most vital key to a championship for this franchise. But he continually hasn't been able to, and now the clock is ticking on his opportunity to fulfill all that potential as a Twin. 8: Mitch Garver, C 2020 Ranking: 6 Garver's drop-off in 2020 was dramatic to say the least, but I'm inclined to mostly write it off. He got hurt in spring training, missed tons of time with a strained oblique, and never appeared fully comfortable at the plate. His brutal stats – .167 average, .511 OPS, and an eye-popping 46% K rate – were vastly out of line with any prior benchmarks. Still, the question remains whether Garver is capable of sustaining anything close to the MVP-caliber level of performance shown over 93 games in 2019. Is he a star or merely a quality rotational piece behind the plate, as he appeared in 2018? The uncertainty, combined with a price tag that's beginning to rise as he progresses into arbitration, places Garver just one peg below the meteoric riser up next on the list. 7: Ryan Jeffers, C 2020 Ranking: 20 Last year, when Jeffers edged into these rankings at the No. 20 spot as a relative unknown, I wrote that "Folks in the know rave about his defensive skills, and pitch-framing especially ... Thus far Jeffers has done nothing but validate the team's belief in him. A catcher who shines both ways is among the game's most coveted assets." Affirming those beliefs in 2020 caused Jeffers to make a huge leap in these rankings. No longer is his impact theoretical; at age 23, his rookie contributions were crucial, coming in cold from the alternate site and filling in admirably for the injured Garver. All the strengths we'd heard about in those glowing reports – powerful bat, unusual poise behind the plate, natural instincts for pitch-framing, arm strong enough to deliver a bullet to second from his knees – were on display, under incredibly difficult circumstances. When I started putting these rankings together, catcher was a clear point of organizational weakness. In 2018 Jason Castro was the highest-ranked backstop at No. 17. Now, we've got two proven commodities, both under the age of 30 and controllable for several years, in the top 10. What a turnaround. 6: Jorge Polanco, SS 2020 Ranking: 1 From No. 1 to outside of the top five: how did it happen? The main thing is that 2020 reinforced some of the concerns that shrouded Polanco even when he sat atop this list. Namely: that his second-half production in 2019 (.788 OPS) was more representative than his All-Star first half (.882); that his balky ankle – now requiring surgery for a second straight winter – was no isolated issue; and that he doesn't really have the defensive chops to play short. That last one is most glaring, and is reflected by the front office's apparent pursuit of a new shortstop this winter. Polanco remains a fixture-type building block with a highly favorable contract – controlled for three years at a total of $18 million, with multiple team options on the back end. But it's becoming clearer that he'll play out these remaining years as either a utility man or a blatant defensive liability at short, which is a far cry from the American League's starting SS in the 2019 All-Star Game. THE TOP 20 TWINS ASSETS OF 2021 20. Keoni Cavaco, SS 19. Brent Rooker, OF/1B 18. Josh Donaldson, 3B 17. Taylor Rogers, LHP 16. Jorge Alcala, RHP 15. Miguel Sanó, 1B 14. Tyler Duffey, RHP 13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP 12. Jhoan Duran, RHP 11. Luis Arráez, 2B 10. Trevor Larnach, OF 9. Byron Buxton, CF 8. Mitch Garver, C 7. Ryan Jeffers, C 6. Jorge Polanco, SS 1-5: Coming tomorrow!MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. Catcher: Ryan Jeffers Mitch Garver can be a free agent following the 2023 season, so it seems most likely for the Twins to turn over catching duties to Ryan Jeffers. The 2021 campaign will see Garver and Jeffers splitting time behind the plate. Jeffers is six years younger than Garver and he is a defensive upgrade behind the plate. Another name to consider is Ben Rortvedt who was added to the 40-man roster this winter. He has a chance to join Jeffers on the 2024 squad to be the team’s new catching duo. First Base: Alex Kirilloff Miguel Sano transitioned to first base in 2020, but he might be relegated to the role of designated hitter by 2024. Kirilloff has experience as an outfielder or as a first baseman and his bat is ready for the big leagues. He will likely take over for Eddie Rosario in the Twins outfield for 2021, but first base might end up being his long-term home. Minnesota has other big bats like Brent Rooker and Aaron Sabato that will need a line-up spot too, so it will be interesting to see how all these players progress in the years ahead. Second Base: Luis Arraez Arraez didn’t have a perfect 2020 season as he dealt with knee issues, but he was still able to post an impressive .321 batting average with nine doubles in 32 games. His defense is never going to be fantastic at second, but the Twins might help him improve by working on his defensive positioning or getting better defenders around him in the infield. Also, none of the second base options behind him in the organization will be pushing him out of the way. His bat is his ticket to a long-term big-league job and the Twins will still be happy to have him in the line-up in 2024. Shortstop: Jorge Polanco There is no guarantee that Polanco will even be the Twins starting shortstop in 2021, let alone still be playing the position in 2024. It seems more likely for the Twins to have another option at shortstop over the next couple seasons, which would allow Polanco to shift to a utility role. At this point, there are options in the minors like Royce Lewis, Wander Javier, and eventually, Keoni Cavaco. No, I don’t believe Polanco can stick at shortstop, but I also don’t think the team’s 2024 shortstop is in the organization yet. Third Base: Josh Donaldson Minnesota would need to pick up Donaldson’s 2024 option for him to make it into this line-up and that might be questionable in his age-38 season. It is a $16 million option, but the buyout is $8 million, which means the Twins will have an $8 million decision to make following the 2023 season. The Twins have some third base options in the minors and there is always a chance the team moves Royce Lewis from shortstop to third base. Left Field: Trevor Larnach Larnach doesn’t get as much hype as Kirilloff and Lewis, but he would be the top hitting prospect for other organizations. Also, he’s older than Kirilloff and the same age as Jeffers and Arraez. Back in 2019, the Twins named him their Minor League Player of the Year after he hit .309/.384/.458 with 44 extra-base hits. There’s a good chance he makes his debut in 2021 and he has a chance to be part of the Twins line-up for the better part of the next decade. Center Field: Royce Lewis Byron Buxton is a free agent following the 2023 season, so there a few different ways the team can go by 2024. Lewis has had questions about his defensive future since the Twins drafted him and he showed some positive signs when playing outfield in the 2019 Arizona Fall League. Minnesota is committed to him as a shortstop for now, but the story might be different in four years. Few question his athletic ability and playing another up-the-middle defensive position might be his long-term ticket to the big leagues. Right Field: Max Kepler Kepler, along with Sano, can fill the role the aging veteran on the 2024 Twins as they will both be in their age-31 seasons. The Twins would need to pick-up Kepler’s $10 million option for the 2024 season or work out a different extension to keep him on the roster. Since the start of the 2019 season, he has an .831 OPS and a 119 OPS+ while being a strong defender in the outfield. He seems like the type of player that can fill a veteran leadership role as younger pieces start to join the core that is already in place. Designated Hitter: Miguel Sano I was tempted to pencil in a 43-year-old Nelson Cruz as the team’s designated hitter with how ageless he has seemed during his Twins tenure. Sano is the logical choice to be the team’s DH by 2024, especially with his move to first base last year. Minnesota will have better defensive options at first and Sano can concentrate on doing what he does best, hitting monster home runs. Sano is only under team control through 2023, so the Twins will have the option to turn to one of the other big bats (Rooker, Sabato) in the organization as well. What do you think the 2024 line-up will look like in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. PREVIOUS YEAR’S PREDICTIONS — 2021 Line-Up — 2022 Line-Up — 2023 Line-Up MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  18. Current Corner Outfielders: Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff Minnesota locked up Max Kepler at the right time as the 27-year-old is under team control for four more seasons with a team-friendly deal. Over the last two seasons, he has hit .246/.332/.499 with 45 home runs and 41 doubles in 182 games. Not to mention, he represented MLB in Germany last winter by “promoting baseball and inspiring the next generation of players.” Kirilloff’s 2020 debut was well documented because he became the first player in league history to make his debut by starting a playoff game. He went 1-for-4 in the game as the Twins were swept by the Astros. Kirilloff has been one of the team’s top prospects since he was drafted in the first round back in 2016. Entering last season, he was a consensus top-100 prospect with MLB.com and Baseball America having him ranked in the top 32. 40-Man Options While Kirilloff is expected play the majority of the team’s games in the outfield, Jake Cave has a chance to start the year in left field so they Twins can control Kirilloff’s service time. Since joining the Twins, Cave has hit .254/.321/.451 while showing the ability to play all three outfield positions. He does a good job of fitting into the fourth outfielder role, but some of the younger players mentioned below might start encroaching on his playing time in the coming year. Brent Rooker made a strong impression last year as he hit .316/.381/.579 with three extra-base hits. Unfortunately, his season only last seven games as he suffered a fractured forearm on a hit by pitch. LaMonte Wade Jr. has played 42 big-league games over the last two seasons and he has compiled a .684 OPS. Defensively, the Twins have used him at all three outfield positions, and he has even seen some time at first base. On the Farm Options Outside of the options mentioned above, there are other corner options in the minor leagues including some strong prospects. Trevor Larnach is actually older than Kirilloff and he has been right behind him when it comes to prospect rankings in the organization. He spent the 2020 season with Kirilloff at the alternate training site after coming off a 2019 season where he was the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year. Larnach likely fits into the team’s long-term plans in the outfield which allows Kirilloff to switch to first base in the years to come. Kerrigan showed some up in the upper levels of the minor leagues last season as he accumulated 31 extra-base hits in just 98 games. He adds to the organizational depth and he can play all three outfield positions. Wallner was drafted out of college in 2019 and saw time in Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids in his professional debut. He posted an .810 OPS with 31 extra-base hits in 65 games with all his defensive innings coming in right field. Soularie and Rosario joined the Twins as part of the 2020 draft class. Soularie was the team’s second round pick out of the University of Tennessee. In his two collegiate seasons, he hit .336/.448/.586 with more walks (49) than strikeouts (47). Rosario was Minnesota’s final draft pick in the 2020 draft since it was shortened to five rounds. He has a lot of raw power and impressive exit velocities for a prep player. Aguiar, a native of Venezuelan, has been in the Twins system for two years. In 2019, he was limited to seven games, but he was the youngest player on the GCL Twins. What do you think about the future of corner outfielders in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. OTHER POSTS IN THE SERIES -Catcher -Second Base -First Base -Third Base -Shortstop MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  19. On Thursday night's episode of Offseason Live, I was joined by Tom Froemming and Nash Walker as we exchanged and dissected Twins trade proposals that we view as plausible and sensible. You can watch that below to see the specific ideas and discussions: I won't relitigate the debates. Each Armchair GM can speak for himself above (also available via podcast). But what I will do is lay out the three different high-level categories that all of our proposals – or any realistic Twins trade to be made this offseason – fall into. MODEL 1: TWINS TAKE ON MONEY I think this route is probably the odds-on favorite heading in. Ken Rosenthal reported recently that rival executives expect Minnesota to be aggressive in a market where many are scaling back. If the ownership and front office are ready to keep pushing, they stand to gain a very real advantage. This could manifest in free agency, with the Twins outbidding other lukewarm suitors for top talent. But a willingness to spend might be even more valuable on the trade market. Certain clubs will be desperate to unload burdensome contracts, under a mandate to get leaner for the economic uncertainty to come. In our Offseason Live episode, we looked at a couple such examples. Francisco Lindor is essentially a lock to be traded by Cleveland, and while an intra-division trade is unlikely, I gave my pitch for what might get it done. Nash stumped for Trevor Story of the Rockies on a similar basis. None of these superstar players are coming for free, but with a lack of aggressive contenders to pit against one another, teams like Cleveland and Colorado will be limited in their ability to drive up returns for expensive one-year rentals. At the same time, their front offices are likely feeling unique pressure to get SOMETHING done. It's not often you have opportunities to pry loose top-tier talents in their prime, much less without giving up a painful haul. The Twins are very much in a position to do so – IF ownership is prepared to capitalize on a winning window by taking a bold financial risk. MODEL 2: TWINS FREE UP MONEY Then again, maybe the Pohlads are much like the vast majority of ownership groups: prepared to take a conservative wait-and-see approach this offseason. To be honest, I couldn't fault them for it, so long as they're not making extreme cuts with baffling implications. There aren't many guaranteed contracts on the 2021 books that could be viewed as unfavorable for the Twins, even in this environment. Their highest-paid player Josh Donaldson would qualify, but there's nothing to be done about his $21 million commitment. The next-biggest guaranteed salary belongs to Miguel Sanó, at $11 million. Here the Twins may have a viable trade chip. The downsides of Sanó's game go without saying, and he's relatively replaceable in the scope of Minnesota's organizational depth. An argument could be made that the $11 million he's owed could better spent elsewhere. But this is a 27-year-old former top prospect with elite power, controlled for two more years. The Twins aren't giving him up for nothing, or even close. For those reasons, they wouldn't need to. It's tricky, but not impossible, to envision a Sanó trade that works for both sides, with the Twins saving a bit of money and getting back immediate impact talent. Tom took a shot at actualizing such this with his seven-player, three-way hypothetical trade shared on Offseason Live. I'm not even gonna try to explain it. MODEL 3: PONY UP A TOP PROSPECT With Model 1, the Twins would likely need to relinquish at least one very good prospect. Nash and I had them surrendering Jhoan Duran or Jordan Balazovic, respectively, to acquire Lindor or Story. Those are the best arms in Minnesota's system. But I don't think either could objectively be described as a "top prospect" in the big picture. In this sense, the Twins have exactly three players in their system who – based on aggregated rankings across industry publications – could be considered true top prospects: Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach. In an offseason environment where high-upside, cost-controlled, near-ready talent will be coveted like perhaps never before, the Twins have an opportunity to make hay. This third model – not ENTIRELY distinct from the first one – is represented by Tom's suggestion in Offseason Live of trading Kirilloff for Rays ace Blake Snell, or by Nash posing a Larnach-led package for Milwaukee's two best pitchers. Such give-and-get scenarios invoke a veritable cocktail of emotions: exhilarating energy mixed with nauseating FOMO. It's a scenario, and feeling, that Twins fans know all too well. Because we literally just experienced it. In February, Minnesota gave up Brusdar Graterol – a bona fide "TOP PROSPECT" by anyone's definition (other than Boston) – in order to acquire Kenta Maeda. It was the epitome of a trade that, at least so far, has worked out brilliantly for both sides. Maeda leveled up in Minnesota and instantly became the Twins' most valuable player (in our eyes), and a Cy Young runner-up. He was the ace this franchise has long coveted. Meanwhile, Graterol was every bit the late inning weapon Los Angeles envisioned. He helped propel the Dodgers to a long-awaited championship, and remains under their control for five more years – a cost-effective successor for Kenley Jansen. Hey, it hurts to lose Graterol. It'd hurt to lose Lewis, or Kirilloff, or Larnach too. But Maeda has been a transformative difference-maker for the Twins. And his presence only bolsters their position as a front-running pennant contender in 2021, furthering the case for another move in the Model 3 vein. The time is now. Let us know in the comments which model(s) you'd prefer to adopt this winter. And by all means, share your own outlandish trade in the comments section. In the meantime, check out previous episodes of Offseason Live and be ready for the final planned installment: Ep 1: (Thurs, 10/8) Ep 2: (Tues, 10/13) Ep 3: (Thurs, 10/15) Ep 4: (Tues, 10/20) Ep 5: (Thurs, 10/22) Ep 6: (Tues, 10/27) Ep 7: (Thurs, 10/29) Ep 8: (Thurs, 11/5) Ep 9: (Thurs, 11/12) Ep 10: Offseason Blueprints (Coming Soon) MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. The trade deadline is just around the corner. While many of us thought it may ultimately be a quiet deadline there have already been some deals struck. Most notably may be Taijuan Walker being dealt to the Blue Jays from the Mariners. Across Twins Daily there have recently been several good write ups about some targets the Twins could try and acquire. Here I will explore the players who have value as trade chips for the Twins during trade talks. This year's trade deadline guidelines read that only players in the 60-man player pool can be traded. That has created speculation that the most traded player this deadline may be the “PTBNL” creating a loophole and expanding teams tradable assets. Simply for ease of speculation, here is a list of the five most valuable and/or tradable assets in the Twins 60-man player pool. Eddie Rosario Rosario’s name is no stranger to lists like these. There is also no denying that Rosario has been very valuable to the Twins in many ways this season. Time and time again we have seen him use his cannon to catch runners on the basepaths. He has also hit .241/.307/.457 with 7 home runs while bumping his walk rate up from 3.7% in 2019 to 8.7% in 2020. If the Twins want to go get someone of higher impact at the deadline they will need to give up something of value. Rosario may represent the most replaceable piece on this squad as it stands currently. He would also be available to the team receiving him through next season as long as they want to pay his arbitration number. Speaking of Rosario being replaceable... The Big 3 Prospect Bats: Alex Kiriloff, Trevor Larnach, Brent Rooker I am going to go ahead and treat these three prospects as a group. We as fans have already wondered out loud if Alex Kiriloff and Brent Rooker should be looked at to help jump start the Twins offense this season. They also represent players other teams would certainly be interested in. Because Larnach and Kiriloff are widely regarded as the better two prospects, Rooker is the player that would be the easiest from the Twins stand point to let go. That is not a knock on what he has done since last season at Rochester he hit .281/.398/.535 with a .933 OPS in 65 games. For the right return, I am guessing any of these three can at least be discussed. Lewis Thorpe Something has happened to Thorpe. After looking like someone heading on the right track and the pick by many to be a breakout candidate for 2020. Things have not gone well for Thorpe. In 14.2 innings this season, the Australian has a 6.14 ERA and has been hurt by the long ball boasting a 2.45 HR/9. While all the raw tools seem to be there for Thorpe there is just something missing and maybe another team sees the value and believes they can unlock it. While at the same time the Twins bolstering their roster for a playoff run. Edwar Colina I personally would be very shocked if Jhoan Duran or Jordan Balazovic (not in the 60-man pool) were traded at this deadline. Mainly because I just don’t know if there is going to be a big enough fish out there worth their value. Colina could be another arm that would entice teams. Not much unlike Brusdar Graterol this winter did. Colina is big and thick and can pump the ball into home plate with triple digit velocity. Ultimately I hope he sticks around, but his velocity along with his 2.96 ERA and 9.4 K/9 may be something other teams would like in a trade package come the deadline. Also, since he seems to be slated to be a relief pitcher it makes seeing him go a bit easier to absorb. The Back-end of the Roster Welcome to the “not so sexy” portion of the list. My personal feeling is that there will be more trades like this than anything throughout this year’s deadline. These are all guys that can simply fill out the end of a major league team’s bench. Of course that is also fully based on the Twins also being fully healthy. Ehire Adrianza has been valuable to the Twins over the past couple years, but with his ability to hit free agency coming up and with Marwin Gonzalez and Ildemaro Vargas on the roster if it fetches something he could be expendable. Nick Gordon has been in COVID limbo but he either could be one of the possible replacements for Adrianza on the Twins roster or even the trade market. Jake Cave would fit mold as well. Not much different than when the Twins acquired him, Cave represents good defense (even with some glaringly bad ones mixed in) with a bat that can get real hot real quick. Depending on how depleted rosters become I even wonder if AAAA guys like Juan Graterol and Drew Maggi could even get asked about in cash deals like the Twins when they acquired Vargas. What are some names you would be dangling that didn’t get mentioned? Do you even think the trade deadline will be an active one? Love to hear your thoughts and don’t forget to check out some of the pieces written about who the Twins could target. 4 Right-Handed Relievers to Target 4 Left-Handed Relievers to Target The Case For and Against Lance Lynn 3 Bats to Target Former Twins to look at
  21. Derek Falvey talked to media members on a Zoom call on Tuesday afternoon about a variety of topics including the upcoming trade deadline and how the prospects in St. Paul could develop and contribute as soon as needed. He also reiterated that the Twins goal for the 2020 season remains the same as it was when they arrived in Ft. Myers in February. ““They’re going out there to compete every night to win this World Series. That’s the goal. That hasn’t changed from the day we showed up in Ft. Myers to the day we restarted here in Summer Camp.” The trade deadline is obviously different in this 2020 season in which so many things are different. There was no July 31st trade deadline as the season wasn’t even a week old at that time. There is, however, a trade deadline on August 31st. At Twins Daily and elsewhere, you will find articles on who the Twins should consider adding or not, which positions do the Twins need help and more. While many believe that the trade deadline will be quieter than normal, in large part due to more teams being in some sort of contention still, there will be players that could be dealt in the right deal. Falvey noted, “If there are ways to help our club and opportunities that present, certainly, but we are going to do it on the backs of a lot of the people that are already in the organization.” Now, as you know, the only players who can be traded are players on the 60-player pools. Of course, the Player To Be Named Later could very possibly be a popular name heard over the next week. Teams are not going to want to trade their top prospects for an impending free agent. One of those things that teams, front office members, media types say or write each year is that getting Player X or Pitcher Y back is as good as making a trade. A lot of fans hate that, but this year in particular, it is true for the Twins. Consider this group of players could also return within the next couple of weeks: Michael Pineda’s suspension is complete and he should be inserted into the Twins rotation. He’s been progressing nicely in St. Paul, working in simulated or intrasquad games the past month. We may easily forget that when his suspension kicked in late last year, he was clearly the Twins top starting pitcher. If he can come back near that form, that is going to be impactful. Falvey said that he was hitting 94 this past weekend. Josh Donaldson should be returning, potentially as early as the next homestand sometime. He has now been getting at bats in intrasquad games in St. Paul and still getting his ground ball work in at Target Field too. Falvey acknowledged that they have been “slightly conservative” but for good reason. “He has had a history with calf issues in the past. He has had a history at one point in time maybe rushing it back a bit to try to get back on the field as quickly as possible.” Byron Buxton is feeling “much improved” according to Falvey. “He’s on a good track. He’s on a good course.” Mitch Garver - He’s been getting treatment and improving, but his return will not be in ten days. “He’s focused more on the recovery part right now than he is on the rehab exercises.” Cody Stashak - According to Falvey, he was feeling good through rehab, but did experience some not-unexpected soreness. Jake Odorizzi - He is with the team. He is feeling better, but there is still bruising and soreness. Reports to Falvey indicate that he is getting better day-by-day, but he’s not able to let loose at 100% yet. Zack Littell - He’s had his forearm and elbow checked out. Falvey noted that if not for a need in the bullpen at the time, he may have just been able to miss three or four games. That said, there are several teams that are going to be looking to trade, and they will be asking for the Twins top prospects, so what are they up to? MINOR LEAGUERS KEEP WORKING, PROGRESSING Let’s start with some good news. Derek Falvey announced yesterday that Nick Gordon has cleared COVID testing protocol and the Orlando native will soon head to Ft. Myers to begin the rehab process. “We’ll anticipate seeing him progress from a strength and conditioning standpoint first, and then we’ll go into baseball activities. That could take a few weeks.” At that point, he can head to St. Paul and be added into the 60-player pool. The players in St. Paul have been there for about six weeks. Aside from those who have been called up to the Twins or took a road trip with the team on the taxi squad, things can get a big monotonous. Derek Falvey said he spoke this week with the coaching staff and some of the players and it isn’t necessarily easy. “It feels quite a bit like Groundhog Day. There’s no way around that. They don’t play another team. They face each other every day. We’re trying to come up with some fun ideas to have some interesting competitions which our guys have really adapted to.” In talking with some of the players, they have worked to avoid boredom away from the ballpark with going on some hikes, playing video games and streaming television and movies. But the important stuff is that they are working and able to improve under a structured system. They are really able to focus on areas of their game. “We spend some days focused on individual skill development, in a way that we normally wouldn't over the course of the regular season.” Falvey continued, “I’ve always wanted that to some degree. Our minor league seasons, they play a game every night. Sometimes you can’t focus as much on the individual skill development.” But they are playing games. Yes, intra-squad games or simulated games for pitchers. And, although to this point we can’t watch those games anywhere on TV or online, we do know there are some very talented prospects there. Let’s start with the hitters. Falvey said they are all doing well. “In terms of the games, really a lot of our guys have looked good. Ryan Jeffers, before he came over, was swinging the bat well. I think Trevor Larnach has continued to progress. Alex Kirilloff. Royce Lewis. All of these guys on the offensive side, some of our premium prospects, have really swung the bat well.“ In addition, Travis Blankenhorn provides some versatility and power. With such a left-handed heavy lineup, Brent Rooker and maybe Zander Wiel and their power potential could be options as well. Speaking of Royce Lewis, since Byron Buxton’s injury, I have heard many people ask if Royce Lewis is getting any time in center field in St. Paul. Since he went to the Arizona Fall League last year (where he was named league MVP) and played centerfield and third base and second base, Twins fans are curious about his future position. A source in the state’s capital city tells me that Lewis has only practiced and played shortstop at CHS Field and has been told there is no plan to alter that any time soon. There are several really exciting arms in St. Paul too. Falvey went into some detail on two pitchers who are on the 40-man roster and made a strong impression at Summer Camp. “Jhoan Duran has thrown the ball well for a good portion of camp. We’ve been really careful with him just to make sure, for all the pitchers, and for a lot of reasons as we look at challenges for pitchers with the second restart across the game, making sure that we’re being particularly careful. Dakota Chalmers’ stuff has looked really good. Command still remains an area of focus for him.” In addition, when discussing players that may be able to contribute to a September run, he mentioned a name the Twins fans are starting to hear more and more often. “Edwar Colina came back and he’s throwing the ball well, as well.” Of course, aside from rehab players and some hardship cases such as international players unable to travel, the Twins minor league facilities in Ft. Myers are not yet open. That’s true across MLB organizations. At this point, there still aren’t any official plans for fall or winter leagues or the option for teams to bring in players for camps. There is no timeline. There are, however, discussions on if, when and how something can happen for all those minor league players who are currently at their homes working out, trying to remain ready when needed. Falvey said, ““I hope we’ll be doing something for them toward the end of this year. To this point, we’ve had some conversations with Major League Baseball about the potential for what the Fall can look like. There have been rumors about the Arizona Fall League and the Instructional League and different things that we can do for those players.” Right now, the only players that teams are allowed to work with (except rehab players) are guys in the 60-player pools. They can’t bring in players to do anything, or even allow players who want to just be there to work out in Ft. Myers. For those players, at this time, they are doing some work remotely. Falvey said that they have and are “building some developmental plans and training plans throughout our system for players who aren’t here.” Until they are allowed to do more, their hands are tied. Lewis Thorpe has joined RHP Juan Minaya and UT Willians Astudillo on the Twins taxi squad in Cleveland in case there is a need. The rest of the players, those in St. Paul, will get up and go to work at CHS Field again tomorrow, and the next day, trying to avoid boredom, and more importantly, trying to improve and be ready when called upon. So to summarize, the Twins will take and make phone calls with other MLB teams over the next week. They will listen. If there are deals that make sense for the Twins in 2020 and beyond, a deal could be consummated. If not, the Twins have some talented veteran hitters and pitchers who could return from injury or suspension in the very near future and contribute mightily. They also have some great hitting and pitching prospects who are ready, or nearly ready, if an opportunity presents itself. It should be an exciting week, but more important, it should be an exciting next month, or hopefully two, for the Twins and their fans!
  22. For anyone new to this site, I have been helping to write our Minor League Reports since 2014 (man, I’m going to miss them this year…), and for years before that wrote about the Twins and their minor league system elsewhere. I’ve always been fascinated by the minor leagues as I went to many games as a kid when we visited family in Wisconsin, home to a few Midwest League teams. Back then we saw the Appleton Foxes, now known as the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. I don’t recall an exact number on how many future major leaguers I may have seen back then, but the one who stands out was Alex Rodriguez. He played for the Foxes as an 18-year-old the same year he made his MLB debut. My favorite thing to look forward to in the baseball offseason is all the top 100 prospect and team lists that come out. While I certainly make my own such lists, there are so many websites and other publications dedicated solely to the minors these days (some of the best of those are right here at Twins Daily) that I like to put a slightly different spin on my own list going into a new season. It comes from those minor league games I watched as a kid where those prospects had the same dreams I did—to become a major leaguer. During the 2019 season, 261 players across Major League Baseball fulfilled those dreams and made their debut. The Minnesota Twins accounted for 12 of those players which included pitchers Ryne Harper, Lewis Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak, Brusdar Graterol, Cody Stashak, Sean Poppen, Ryan Eades, and Jorge Alcala, along with position players Luis Arraez, LaMonte Wade Jr., and Ian Miller. Quite frankly, that was a lot of debuts for a team that won 101 games and speaks to the amount of depth that has been developed and how willing the front office has been to utilize it. Of those 12, seven of them were players I identified in this column before the season. For the upcoming season we now know that Dobnak, Smeltzer, Thorpe, Arraez, and Wade have made the 30-man roster and Alcala finds himself on the taxi-squad. Another wrinkle for 2020 is that the Twins will not have the entirety of their system potentially available, relying instead on a limited 60-player pool from which they can draw. That makes this year’s list below a little easier to determine. With the shortened season and the veteran and young depth this roster has, I would not expect major contributions from any of these guys outside of injuries, but it will be interesting to see what happens when a particular need does arise. So, who are the potential Next Minnesota Twins for the 2020 sprint of a season? ON THE 30-MAN ACTIVE ROSTER: Aaron Whitefield (23 years old on opening day) – OF The first player on this list is also perhaps the biggest surprise for the opening day roster. Whitefield hasn’t hit much over the past two seasons with Fort Myers and Pensacola with an OPS well under .600, but that is not the reason he’s here. He has played primarily center field and possesses a good arm and speed, swiping 50 bases in those two seasons despite the hitting deficiencies. I envision this as Byron Buxton insurance for now and a pinch-running weapon late in games, a luxury afforded with the expanded rosters. ON THE 40-MAN ROSTER: Dakota Chalmers (23) – RHP The right-hander was acquired in 2018 for Fernando Rodney while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Known for good velocity, Chalmers returned to action in July of last year and was impressive with Fort Myers before making an appearance in the playoffs with Pensacola. He then pitched as a starter in the Arizona Fall League and was tabbed for the championship game for the Salt River Rafters, which they went on to win. His repertoire includes mid 90’s heat he can reach back for a little more of, a good slider, and a developing changeup. As with many young pitchers, consistency is key for him moving forward, as he can get a bit wild. Here are some of his pitches courtesy of Parker Hageman: https://twitter.com/HagemanParker/status/1284955121277964296 Travis Blankenhorn (23) – IF (TD’s #18 Prospect) Blankenhorn reclaimed a bit of his prospect luster during the 2019 season, as the former 3rd round pick OPS’d near .800 at Fort Myers and Pensacola, playing primarily 2B with some looks in left field. His 19 home runs on the season were a career high and he added in 22 doubles for good measure. He has also played a good amount of third base in his career thus far, so his versatility as a good athlete is something the Twins can take advantage of if needed. Nick Gordon (24) – IF To everyone who has forgotten about Nick Gordon—I think that’s a mistake. I would agree there’s not potential star power here anymore, but Gordon is going to have a long MLB career. He hits, can handle shortstop, and has sneaky speed that helped him collect 29 doubles and 14 stolen bases last year in just 70 games at triple-A. If he were not injured at the time, I do believe he would have been the name called up instead of Luis Arraez last season. We’re all glad it worked out like it did, but that statement speaks to what many are missing with Gordon. Don’t be surprised if and when he becomes a nice contributor to Minnesota’s lineup. Gilberto Celestino (21) – OF (TD’s #12 Prospect) Celestino is the first long shot on my list, as I don’t think it makes sense to call him up at any point in the 2020 season unless some things have gone seriously wrong with injuries to outfielders. Just 21-years-old and only eight games of experience above the Midwest League, he would likely be in over his head in the batter’s box. But one thing I do believe he could handle just fine in the majors at this point is playing defense at a high level in the outfield, center field included. 60-MAN PLAYER POOL DEPTH: Sam Clay (27) – LHP Clay has missed plenty of bats and kept the ball in the yard at an incredible rate (one home run allowed in last three seasons and 188+ innings pitched). He lowered his walk rate in 2019 but free passes are still something he is working on. Edwar Colina (23) - RHP (TD’s #16 Prospect) Colina is one of my personal favorites, and he has the potential to make fans forget about trading away a similar pitcher in Brusdar Graterol. Colina has made impressive strides since being in the system and can now consistently hit 100-mph when he wants to and pairs that heat with a good slider. https://twitter.com/HangingSL/status/1234937411488100352 https://twitter.com/HangingSL/status/1236032641130024961 Drew Maggi (31) - IF Maggi is by no means a prospect, but brings a lot of experience and is a solid type of backup option to have around that can play multiple positions, including shortstop in a pinch. Hit .258/.384/.405 with Rochester in 108 games last season. Zander Wiel (27) – 1B/OF Another one of my favorite guys to follow in the system, Wiel’s production is often overlooked when it shouldn’t be. He led the International League with 40 doubles last year and also clubbed 24 home runs. His 86 runs scored also led all Twins minor leaguers. TOP PROSPECTS: Brent Rooker (25) – 1B/DH/OF (TD’s #9 Prospect) If the Twins are in need of a masher at designated hitter, first base, or a corner outfield spot at any point, Rooker is not a bad place to start. His power is for real, as he slugged .535 with 14 home runs in 67 games with Rochester last season. The caveat is that he strikes out a lot, but I have a hard time with that argument as a catch-all from people when his on-base percentage was also .399 on the year. Don’t let those strikeout numbers fool you—he’s a masher and on-base asset. Ryan Jeffers (23) – C (TD’s #7 Prospect) A good way to describe Jeffers for me is to look at the current starting catcher on the MLB team. Like Garver, Jeffers has been known more for his bat in the minors than his catching ability—but that appears to be much improved since he’s been in the system, to the point he may be a great asset there in the future. If the Twins catching depth is stressed beyond the top three at any point there’s a good chance the Twins could go to Jeffers, but I think he’s on the 60-man squad more to keep his momentum gained last season under the watchful eye of the Twins’ top brass. That’s also true for the rest of the players below on this list. I think the Twins would be ecstatic to not have to reach down to them at any point, and simply continue their development in this short season. Jhoan Duran (22) – RHP (TD’s #6 Prospect) There aren’t many pitching prospects in the Twins system you can put the label “potential ace” on (or in any system, if we’re being honest), but Duran is one. He has the size and repertoire, able to reach back for 100-mph if he wants to, and a two-seam fastball that will remind you a lot of pitches you’ve seen from Jose Berrios and Brusdar Graterol. He continues to work on his off-speed pitches but gets plenty of swings and misses with a hard slider, and if he can find any more consistency with those secondary offerings you have the makings of a stud. Trevor Larnach (23) – OF (TD’s #3 Prospect) The first of two similar hitters the Twins continue to be impressed by is Larnach. He was the Twins and Twins Daily’s choice for Minor League hitter of the year during the 2019 season that saw him reach double-A for his final 43 games. He was consistent all season, posting an identical .842 OPS at both stops and a .380+ on-base percentage. Due to being a little older and his experience in college, I’d think the Twins may go to him first over the next guy if they have to reach down this far, but it’s a tough roster to crack right now for a corner outfielder. https://twitter.com/HangingSL/status/1236025089189203968 Alex Kirilloff (22) – 1B/OF (TD’s #2 Prospect) When returning from Tommy John surgery for the 2018 season, Kirilloff shot up prospect lists everywhere after hitting .348/.392/.578 at Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers. He spent the entirety of the 2019 season with Pensacola and didn’t replicate those numbers, but much of that can be attributed to wrist and other injuries he sustained before and during the season. When he finally got near 100%, the numbers followed as he hit .311 in the month of August and was a monster in the playoffs, hitting home runs in four straight games. Royce Lewis (21) – SS/OF (TD’s #1 Prospect) I’m sure you’ve heard plenty about the Twins #1 prospect by this point, and perhaps about how he struggled some during the 2019 season. Well, any concerns you and I had about that should have been squashed by how he performed in the Arizona Fall League last year, where he took home the league MVP trophy. It’s a league I’ve paid close attention to for a long time, and it was without a doubt the best performance from a Twins prospect I have seen. Even more interesting about his time there was he was not given one of the coveted shortstop positions on the roster, instead spending most of his time at third base and some in center field, looking impressive at both spots. There’s also burgeoning power here, more than expected when drafted, so go ahead and be excited for Lewis’ future. If it wasn’t a short sprint, I’d rate his MLB debut potential quite highly, but believe it more likely 2021 at this point. As far as the current 60-man player pool goes, these are all the players in the Minnesota Twins system that could make their ML debut this year. Who do you think will don the uniform for the first time in 2020, and who do you think could also be added at some point to do so? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  23. Each prospect below was ranked on a scale from Unlikely to Possibly to Probably to Definitely. Things considered were inclusion on the 40-man roster, prospect status, and 2019 performance. Royce Lewis, SS Twins Prospect Ranking: 1 Lewis is widely considered the team’s top prospect and he is coming off a season with some mixed results. He might have redeemed himself with a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League. Overall, he’s only played 33 games above High-A, so the Twins might have to be in a pinch to call him up. His speed is elite so he could be an intriguing pinch running option if the team needed him for that role. 2020 Impact: Unlikely Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Twins Prospect Ranking: 2 If the 2020 season had played out as planned, Kirilloff seemed like a lock to make his big-league debut even if it came as a September call-up. He dealt with a wrist injury last season, but he was still able to play over 90 games, all at Double-A. With a healed wrist, he should be back to mashing like he did in 2018 when he was the team’s minor league hitter of the year. 2020 Impact: Possibly Trevor Larnach, OF Twins Prospect Ranking: 3 Larnach is coming off a tremendous first full season in the Twins organization. He relied on his college experience to mash the ball at High- and Double-A. Unfortunately for him, there are quite a few players standing in the way of him making his debut. Players like Alex Kirilloff and Brent Rooker seem more likely to get a chance before Larnach. 2020 Impact: Unlikely Jordan Balazovic, RHP Twins Prospect Ranking: 4 Balazovic is the team’s best starting pitching prospect, but he has only thrown 73 innings above the Low-A level. He had a tremendous 2019 season with a 2.69 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP, but it was probably a stretch for him to make his debut in 2020 even if there were 162 games. If the Twins need him as a starter this season, that might be bad news for the big-league squad. 2020 Impact: Unlikely Jhoan Duran, RHP Twins Prospect Ranking: 5 Duran takes Brusdar Graterol’s role as the big flame thrower in the Twins system. However, many believe Duran has a better shot to stick as a starting pitcher. For the 2020 season, Duran could be used in a similar role to Graterol last year. Enter late and throw gas out of the bullpen. 2020 Impact: Probably Ryan Jeffers, C Twins Prospect Ranking: 6 Jeffers is coming off a tremendous 2019 season where he established himself as not only the top catching prospect in the Twins system, but also one of the team’s best overall prospects. Minnesota already has Mitch Garver, Alex Avila and Willian Astudillo penciled into the 30-man roster, but an injury could mean he debuts this season. 2020 Impact: Possibly Lewis Thorpe, LHP Twins Prospect Ranking: 8 Heading into spring, Thorpe had a chance to make the Twins starting rotation. The only thing that prevented that was some time away from camp as he dealt with some personal issues. He is the best left-handed starting pitching prospect in the organization and he already has big-league experience so it’s a no brainer that he will impact this year’s team. 2020 Impact: Definitely Gilberto Celestino, OF Twins Prospect Ranking: 9 Celestino is an elite defensive outfielder and that might be his best chance at impacting the Twins this year. He’s already on the team’s 40-man roster so that could put him ahead of players like Kirilloff, Larnach and Rooker. His offensive skills set might not be big-league ready, but there’s no question he could impact the game on the defensive side of the ball. 2020 Impact: Possibly Other Pitching Prospects 2020 Impacts Dakota Chalmers, RHP: Possibly Randy Dobnak, RHP: Definitely Sean Poppen, RHP: Possibly Fernando Romero, RHP: Possibly Devin Smeltzer, RHP: Definitely Cody Stashak, RHP: Definitely Other Hitting Prospects 2020 Impacts Travis Blankenhorn, UTL: Probably Nick Gordon, SS/2B: Possibly LaMonte Wade Jr, OF: Probably Brent Rooker, OF: Probably Which top prospect will have the biggest impact on the Twins this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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