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  1. The Twins have a Jhoan Duran problem. Or, at least, they are about to have one. The stud prospect possesses a triple-digit fastball, nasty breaking stuff, and the coolest name in the entire farm system, but injuries (and a non-existent minor league season in 2020) have limited him to just 16 innings over the last two seasons. Let's get him back on track. The team has not yet announced that Duran will miss the rest of 2021, but, given the nature of elbow strains, I find it difficult to see him returning to the mound in any meaningful way. There's just no decent reason to push him. Now, 2022 will be about rebuilding (essentially) two years of missed time while juggling playing time at both the AAA and major league levels. That sounds like quite a challenge. Fortunately, there is another player that the Twins can mimic in how they build Duran back up. Unfortunately, that player is on a rival squad. Michael Kopech; you probably know him. The White Sox brought him over with Yoán Moncada when they traded scissors-enthusiast Chris Sale to Boston as a kick-start to their rebuild. Kopech debuted in 2018 with mild success-barely any walks, but a ton of homers-and emerged as something of a budding ace. The following two years were less kind. Kopech missed all of 2019 with Tommy John surgery, and then he opted out of the 2020 season for 'personal reasons'. Kopech was still more-or-less as talented as when he debuted, but he faced an uphill climb in 2021 to build back the stamina needed to be a successful starter. What has been the plan? Use him as a reliever, of course. Kopech has started just three games against 27 relief appearances as of August 23rd. Oddly enough, Chicago immediately threw Kopech into the heat of battle-eight of his first ten appearances lasted longer than one inning-before reining him in afterward. Since May 18th, he has thrown multiple innings just three times, with none of those outings lasting longer than two innings. Perhaps part of that is caution. MLB teams are notorious for treating young pitchers like buried treasure, but I think there's a somewhat different philosophy at play here. Yes, the White Sox want to be careful with Kopech, but they want to get him cheap playing time. Relief pitchers are much easier to command because the manager can control the situations they find themselves in. Do you want to avoid using a guy in a high-leverage context? Then don't. Do you want to get him multiple innings? Go right ahead. The reliever moniker allows the team to be flexible in a way that starters cannot be. I believe that the Twins should follow suit with Duran. His lack of innings perfectly mirrors the situation Kopech was in, and the 2021 season has been fantastic for Chicago's righty (I wrote this sentence before he gave up five earned runs in one inning, whoops.) The team should use Duran as a sort of swingman or as a piggybacker at the major league level as soon as they can. Forcing Duran to burn time at AAA in a vain effort to build back his stamina will only cause the team to avoid utilizing one of their most exciting pitching prospects. "But Matt," you say, "why not just keep him as a starter in AAA? Why force him into the bullpen? What difference does it make?" These are fair questions. The Twins will strongly limit Duran in 2022. My guess is 80 innings-it could be more but likely not by much. Why, then, should Duran waste innings at AAA when he could instead get accustomed to major league talent while also building back his innings? The team will not be competitive in 2022, so Duran taking his occasional licks will hurt no one. Keep in mind that Duran will be 24 when the 2022 season begins, and if they keep him as a starter that season, he likely will not be up in any significant fashion until 2023, when he's 25. That's far from old, but he's getting to the point where his prospect status needs to become actual tangible major league ability. The Twins should be looking solely to prep Duran for 2023, and I see a spot in the major league bullpen as a better alternative than more time at AAA. View full article
  2. The team has not yet announced that Duran will miss the rest of 2021, but, given the nature of elbow strains, I find it difficult to see him returning to the mound in any meaningful way. There's just no decent reason to push him. Now, 2022 will be about rebuilding (essentially) two years of missed time while juggling playing time at both the AAA and major league levels. That sounds like quite a challenge. Fortunately, there is another player that the Twins can mimic in how they build Duran back up. Unfortunately, that player is on a rival squad. Michael Kopech; you probably know him. The White Sox brought him over with Yoán Moncada when they traded scissors-enthusiast Chris Sale to Boston as a kick-start to their rebuild. Kopech debuted in 2018 with mild success-barely any walks, but a ton of homers-and emerged as something of a budding ace. The following two years were less kind. Kopech missed all of 2019 with Tommy John surgery, and then he opted out of the 2020 season for 'personal reasons'. Kopech was still more-or-less as talented as when he debuted, but he faced an uphill climb in 2021 to build back the stamina needed to be a successful starter. What has been the plan? Use him as a reliever, of course. Kopech has started just three games against 27 relief appearances as of August 23rd. Oddly enough, Chicago immediately threw Kopech into the heat of battle-eight of his first ten appearances lasted longer than one inning-before reining him in afterward. Since May 18th, he has thrown multiple innings just three times, with none of those outings lasting longer than two innings. Perhaps part of that is caution. MLB teams are notorious for treating young pitchers like buried treasure, but I think there's a somewhat different philosophy at play here. Yes, the White Sox want to be careful with Kopech, but they want to get him cheap playing time. Relief pitchers are much easier to command because the manager can control the situations they find themselves in. Do you want to avoid using a guy in a high-leverage context? Then don't. Do you want to get him multiple innings? Go right ahead. The reliever moniker allows the team to be flexible in a way that starters cannot be. I believe that the Twins should follow suit with Duran. His lack of innings perfectly mirrors the situation Kopech was in, and the 2021 season has been fantastic for Chicago's righty (I wrote this sentence before he gave up five earned runs in one inning, whoops.) The team should use Duran as a sort of swingman or as a piggybacker at the major league level as soon as they can. Forcing Duran to burn time at AAA in a vain effort to build back his stamina will only cause the team to avoid utilizing one of their most exciting pitching prospects. "But Matt," you say, "why not just keep him as a starter in AAA? Why force him into the bullpen? What difference does it make?" These are fair questions. The Twins will strongly limit Duran in 2022. My guess is 80 innings-it could be more but likely not by much. Why, then, should Duran waste innings at AAA when he could instead get accustomed to major league talent while also building back his innings? The team will not be competitive in 2022, so Duran taking his occasional licks will hurt no one. Keep in mind that Duran will be 24 when the 2022 season begins, and if they keep him as a starter that season, he likely will not be up in any significant fashion until 2023, when he's 25. That's far from old, but he's getting to the point where his prospect status needs to become actual tangible major league ability. The Twins should be looking solely to prep Duran for 2023, and I see a spot in the major league bullpen as a better alternative than more time at AAA.
  3. Austin Martin is the shiny new prospect. Royce Lewis is a name that is familiar to fans. Which player will be named the team’s top prospect? 5. RHP Jhoan Duran (23 years old) Season Stats (AAA): 16.0 IP (5 G), 5.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 12.4 K/9. 7.3 BB/9 Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 2, 2021 Preseason: 5 Duran is one of the most exciting pitching prospects to come through the Twins system in quite some time. He can consistently hit triple digits with his fastball while mixing in a splitter, curveball, and changeup. One of his pitches sometimes referred to as a splinker, is similar to another big-leaguer. His biggest concerns are control and staying healthy. Currently, he is out with an elbow strain, and he also dealt with a trapezius issue earlier in the year. When he went on the IL at the end of June, the recommendation was for him to be shut down for 5-6 weeks, and surgery will not be needed for the time being. Minnesota can hold its collective breath and hope Duran doesn’t need to go under the knife and miss significant time in 2022. 4. RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson (20 years old) Season Stats (AA): 45.1 IP (11 G), 5.76 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 13.3 K/9, 5.2 BB/9 Previous Rankings: Joined organization at the trade deadline There are probably plenty of things you don’t know about Woods-Richardson as he was acquired as part of the José Berríos trade. He showcases a traditional mix of pitches, including a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. According to MLB Pipeline, all four pitches already grade at a 55 (20-80 scale) or higher. Toronto was aggressive with sending him to Double-A as a 20-year old, and the Twins have assigned him to the same level as he returned from the Olympics. Minnesota will be his third organization since being drafted in 2018, and it should be the organization where he will make his big-league debut. 3. RHP Jordan Balazovic (22 years old) Season Stats (AA): 63.1 IP (13 G), 3.84 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 10.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 3, 2021 Preseason: 6 Minnesota snagged Balazovic back in 2016 in the fifth round out of Canada. Balazovic started the year on the IL, so his first game action didn’t come until the beginning of June. After shaking some dust off, he had a terrific month of July as he posted a 2.86 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP and 31 strikeouts. In nine of his 13 appearances, he has allowed three runs or fewer, including seven appearances with no runs allowed. His strikeout rate is higher than his career mark, and he faces older batters over 80% of the time. Will he get a shot at Triple-A before the season’s done? 2. SS/CF Austin Martin (22 years old) Season Stats (AA): 62 G, .291/.438/.391 (.829), 2 HR, 12 2B, 2 3B,19.4 K%, 15.2 BB% Previous Rankings: Joined organization at the trade deadline While most will have Martin in the #1 spot among Twins prospects, he slots in at #2 here as the organization might have bought low on him. There are a lot of similarities between Lewis and Martin which means they both have immense potential. Since he is new to the organization, here are a few things to learn about him. Martin may be able to play shortstop, but he can also play other infield and outfield positions as needed. He played a lot of third base in college, but the Twins will have him focus on center field. He will hit for average and get on base. The remaining question is how much power he’ll be able to provide. 1. SS Royce Lewis (22 years old) Season Stats: Out for the season after ACL surgery Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 1, 2021 Preseason: 2 Eight out of ten Twins Daily Minor League Writers agree, Royce Lewis returns to the #1 spot in our Twins Top Prospect rankings. He made strides in 2020 at the alternate site. He’s begun some baseball activities recently after spring training ACL reconstruction. Lewis has power. He has speed. He has the potential to stick at shortstop but can be versatile. Other players taken in the 2017 MLB Draft have started to perform, so some might question whether Lewis was the right choice. Martin might have a higher floor than Lewis, but Lewis has one of the highest ceilings of any prospect in baseball. PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SERIES -Prospects 6-10 -Prospects 11-15 -Prospects 16-20 -Prospects 21-25 -Prospects 26-30 View full article
  4. 5. RHP Jhoan Duran (23 years old) Season Stats (AAA): 16.0 IP (5 G), 5.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 12.4 K/9. 7.3 BB/9 Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 2, 2021 Preseason: 5 Duran is one of the most exciting pitching prospects to come through the Twins system in quite some time. He can consistently hit triple digits with his fastball while mixing in a splitter, curveball, and changeup. One of his pitches sometimes referred to as a splinker, is similar to another big-leaguer. His biggest concerns are control and staying healthy. Currently, he is out with an elbow strain, and he also dealt with a trapezius issue earlier in the year. When he went on the IL at the end of June, the recommendation was for him to be shut down for 5-6 weeks, and surgery will not be needed for the time being. Minnesota can hold its collective breath and hope Duran doesn’t need to go under the knife and miss significant time in 2022. 4. RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson (20 years old) Season Stats (AA): 45.1 IP (11 G), 5.76 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 13.3 K/9, 5.2 BB/9 Previous Rankings: Joined organization at the trade deadline There are probably plenty of things you don’t know about Woods-Richardson as he was acquired as part of the José Berríos trade. He showcases a traditional mix of pitches, including a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. According to MLB Pipeline, all four pitches already grade at a 55 (20-80 scale) or higher. Toronto was aggressive with sending him to Double-A as a 20-year old, and the Twins have assigned him to the same level as he returned from the Olympics. Minnesota will be his third organization since being drafted in 2018, and it should be the organization where he will make his big-league debut. 3. RHP Jordan Balazovic (22 years old) Season Stats (AA): 63.1 IP (13 G), 3.84 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 10.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 3, 2021 Preseason: 6 Minnesota snagged Balazovic back in 2016 in the fifth round out of Canada. Balazovic started the year on the IL, so his first game action didn’t come until the beginning of June. After shaking some dust off, he had a terrific month of July as he posted a 2.86 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP and 31 strikeouts. In nine of his 13 appearances, he has allowed three runs or fewer, including seven appearances with no runs allowed. His strikeout rate is higher than his career mark, and he faces older batters over 80% of the time. Will he get a shot at Triple-A before the season’s done? 2. SS/CF Austin Martin (22 years old) Season Stats (AA): 62 G, .291/.438/.391 (.829), 2 HR, 12 2B, 2 3B,19.4 K%, 15.2 BB% Previous Rankings: Joined organization at the trade deadline While most will have Martin in the #1 spot among Twins prospects, he slots in at #2 here as the organization might have bought low on him. There are a lot of similarities between Lewis and Martin which means they both have immense potential. Since he is new to the organization, here are a few things to learn about him. Martin may be able to play shortstop, but he can also play other infield and outfield positions as needed. He played a lot of third base in college, but the Twins will have him focus on center field. He will hit for average and get on base. The remaining question is how much power he’ll be able to provide. 1. SS Royce Lewis (22 years old) Season Stats: Out for the season after ACL surgery Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 1, 2021 Preseason: 2 Eight out of ten Twins Daily Minor League Writers agree, Royce Lewis returns to the #1 spot in our Twins Top Prospect rankings. He made strides in 2020 at the alternate site. He’s begun some baseball activities recently after spring training ACL reconstruction. Lewis has power. He has speed. He has the potential to stick at shortstop but can be versatile. Other players taken in the 2017 MLB Draft have started to perform, so some might question whether Lewis was the right choice. Martin might have a higher floor than Lewis, but Lewis has one of the highest ceilings of any prospect in baseball. PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SERIES -Prospects 6-10 -Prospects 11-15 -Prospects 16-20 -Prospects 21-25 -Prospects 26-30
  5. With former top prospects like Alex Kirilloff (#1 on our preseason list), Trevor Larnach (#3) and Ryan Jeffers (#4) graduating from prospect status, several new names enter the top five in our midseason update. These promising young players all have a chance to play a significant role as the Twins aim to retool and rebound. 5. Jose Miranda, 3B/2B Age: 23 ETA: 2022 2021 Stats (AA/AAA): .350 AVG, .409 OBP, .614 SLG, 16 HR, 46 RBI 2021 Ranking: 19 When we ranked him No. 19 on our preseason top prospects list, the short synopsis on Miranda was a familiar one: "High-contract righty-swinging infielder needs to find power stroke." The former second-round draft pick has long sat on the fringes of our top-20 rankings because of his many intriguing traits, but the production just wasn't there to justify ranking him much higher. Through his first 379 games in the minors, he slugged .394 with 37 home runs. This year, he found his power stroke. Miranda came out of the gates red-hot at Double-A, opening with a seven-game hitting streak that included three home runs, and he never really slowed down. Miranda slashed .345/.408/.588 with 13 home runs in two months at Wichita, then earned a late-June promotion to St. Paul, where he put together an unforgettable Triple-A debut: 5-6, 3 HR, 6 RBIs. It all came together in a hurry for Miranda and there's not much reason to think his breakthrough isn't legit. He's got a smooth, compact swing from the right side that was always produced high contact rates, and he's clearly turned a corner with his ability to drive the ball. He projects as a third baseman in the big leagues, and perhaps pretty soon, depending on what happens with Josh Donaldson. 4. Matt Canterino, RHSP Age: 23 ETA: 2022 2021 Stats (A+): 18 IP, 1.00 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 1.14 FIP, 51.5 K%, 4.4 BB% 2021 Ranking: 9 Canterino drew considerable hype coming into this season after reports emerged of him touching 100 MPH in a side session. A second-rounder out of Rice University in 2019, he made a strong impression by dominating in his first stint as a pro (1.44 ERA, 11.2 K/9 between rookie and A-ball), but plenty of highly-drafted collegiate players have done that. Taking the next step is the differentiator. Canterino's velo jump, and the behind-the-scenes work it reflected, were seemingly positive indicators. The righty needed to show it on the field. He has. Canterino was brilliant through four starts for Cedar Rapids, now the Twins' High-A affiliate. I mean, we're talking stupid good numbers. Thirty-five strikeouts in 18 innings? A 17.5 K/9 rate?? Canterino was striking out literally more than half the batters he faced. Beyond overpowering. He was likely in line for an imminent promotion to Double-A, but unfortunately the 23-year-old developed a sore elbow and hasn't pitched since May. He is currently on the comeback trail and the Twins hope he'll be able to return to the mound soon – probably in Wichita once he's fully back on track. 3. Jordan Balazovic, RHSP Age: 22 ETA: 2022 2021 Stats (AA): 21 1/3 IP, 4.44 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 3.86 FIP, 29.5 K%, 7.1 BB% 2021 Ranking: 6 After getting a late start to his season while healing from injury, Balazovic's results through six starts at Double-A have been ... uneven. His 4.44 ERA is nothing to write home about, and he has yet to get through six innings in an outing. With that said, he's been building up – his best, and longest, start was also his most recent – and the signs of that big potential have been on display. In 24 ⅓ innings, he has piled up 33 strikeouts with a 14% swing-and-miss rate. While hitters have had success against him at times, they haven't hit for much power (3 HR and 7 XBH total) and Balazovic's control hasn't really eluded him at any point. For now the key is to continually advance his workload and consistency. 2. Jhoan Duran, RHSP Age: 23 ETA: 2022 2021 Stats (A/AA): 34 1/3 IP, 3.41 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.64 FIP, 38.2 K%, 9.0 BB% 2021 Ranking: n/a Like Balazovic, Duran's start to the 2021 campaign was delayed by injury following a lost pandemic season. When he took the mound on May 22nd at CHS Field, it was Duran's first time pitching in a minor-league game since August 29th of 2019. He was worth the wait. Unleashing triple-digit heat, Duran dazzled, striking out six over three innings of one-run ball. His next time out he allowed only one hit while fanning eight over four scoreless frames. However, things took a downward turn at this point, as Duran was tagged with losses in his next three appearances (one a long-relief outing), surrendering 8 earned runs with an 8-to-12 K/BB ratio in nine innings. Then, he went on the Injured List with an elbow strain. For now, the Twins hope and believe he'll avoid surgery. Duran has the best stuff in Minnesota's system and some of the best in the minors. He's the real deal talent-wise and the Twins have done a stellar job in targeting, acquiring, and developing him. His biggest barriers are control and health, and we've seen both fully presented this year, with the latter currently sidelining him indefinitely. He's as boom-or-bust as they come, but the ceiling is game-changing and within reach. 1. Royce Lewis, SS Age: 22 ETA: 2022 2021 Stats: n/a 2021 Ranking: 2 Losing two consecutive full seasons – one to a global pandemic and the next to a torn ACL – in the very crux of one's development is an ordeal many baseball prospects would be unable to overcome. I'd bet on Royce Lewis not being one of them. His much-lauded character and makeup have always positively affected the view and evaluation of Lewis, in certain intangible ways, but these qualities can have a very real impact in how he responds to this challenge. He'll be more than two years removed from playing competitively when he takes the field next spring – or maybe this winter – but has the natural talent to get back up to speed quickly. And "speed" really is the key word: even after knee surgery, he'll be one of the fastest and most athletic prospects in the game. Lewis is a dynamic talent who will likely end up at one of the most important defensive positions on the field – shortstop or center – and should be relatively productive at one of those spots even if his offensive shortcomings are not fully resolved. If the Twins do hope to rebound back into contention next year, they may need to ask quite a bit of their No. 1 prospect, as well as the other four we just profiled. One commonality you will notice among this reshaped top five: They're all 22 or 23 years old, with ETAs of 2022. These players are all verging on big-league ready and in most cases, health is the only significant barrier to surpass. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  6. 5. Jose Miranda, 3B/2B Age: 23 ETA: 2022 2021 Stats (AA/AAA): .350 AVG, .409 OBP, .614 SLG, 16 HR, 46 RBI 2021 Ranking: 19 When we ranked him No. 19 on our preseason top prospects list, the short synopsis on Miranda was a familiar one: "High-contract righty-swinging infielder needs to find power stroke." The former second-round draft pick has long sat on the fringes of our top-20 rankings because of his many intriguing traits, but the production just wasn't there to justify ranking him much higher. Through his first 379 games in the minors, he slugged .394 with 37 home runs. This year, he found his power stroke. Miranda came out of the gates red-hot at Double-A, opening with a seven-game hitting streak that included three home runs, and he never really slowed down. Miranda slashed .345/.408/.588 with 13 home runs in two months at Wichita, then earned a late-June promotion to St. Paul, where he put together an unforgettable Triple-A debut: 5-6, 3 HR, 6 RBIs. It all came together in a hurry for Miranda and there's not much reason to think his breakthrough isn't legit. He's got a smooth, compact swing from the right side that was always produced high contact rates, and he's clearly turned a corner with his ability to drive the ball. He projects as a third baseman in the big leagues, and perhaps pretty soon, depending on what happens with Josh Donaldson. 4. Matt Canterino, RHSP Age: 23 ETA: 2022 2021 Stats (A+): 18 IP, 1.00 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 1.14 FIP, 51.5 K%, 4.4 BB% 2021 Ranking: 9 Canterino drew considerable hype coming into this season after reports emerged of him touching 100 MPH in a side session. A second-rounder out of Rice University in 2019, he made a strong impression by dominating in his first stint as a pro (1.44 ERA, 11.2 K/9 between rookie and A-ball), but plenty of highly-drafted collegiate players have done that. Taking the next step is the differentiator. Canterino's velo jump, and the behind-the-scenes work it reflected, were seemingly positive indicators. The righty needed to show it on the field. He has. Canterino was brilliant through four starts for Cedar Rapids, now the Twins' High-A affiliate. I mean, we're talking stupid good numbers. Thirty-five strikeouts in 18 innings? A 17.5 K/9 rate?? Canterino was striking out literally more than half the batters he faced. Beyond overpowering. He was likely in line for an imminent promotion to Double-A, but unfortunately the 23-year-old developed a sore elbow and hasn't pitched since May. He is currently on the comeback trail and the Twins hope he'll be able to return to the mound soon – probably in Wichita once he's fully back on track. 3. Jordan Balazovic, RHSP Age: 22 ETA: 2022 2021 Stats (AA): 21 1/3 IP, 4.44 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 3.86 FIP, 29.5 K%, 7.1 BB% 2021 Ranking: 6 After getting a late start to his season while healing from injury, Balazovic's results through six starts at Double-A have been ... uneven. His 4.44 ERA is nothing to write home about, and he has yet to get through six innings in an outing. With that said, he's been building up – his best, and longest, start was also his most recent – and the signs of that big potential have been on display. In 24 ⅓ innings, he has piled up 33 strikeouts with a 14% swing-and-miss rate. While hitters have had success against him at times, they haven't hit for much power (3 HR and 7 XBH total) and Balazovic's control hasn't really eluded him at any point. For now the key is to continually advance his workload and consistency. 2. Jhoan Duran, RHSP Age: 23 ETA: 2022 2021 Stats (A/AA): 34 1/3 IP, 3.41 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.64 FIP, 38.2 K%, 9.0 BB% 2021 Ranking: n/a Like Balazovic, Duran's start to the 2021 campaign was delayed by injury following a lost pandemic season. When he took the mound on May 22nd at CHS Field, it was Duran's first time pitching in a minor-league game since August 29th of 2019. He was worth the wait. Unleashing triple-digit heat, Duran dazzled, striking out six over three innings of one-run ball. His next time out he allowed only one hit while fanning eight over four scoreless frames. However, things took a downward turn at this point, as Duran was tagged with losses in his next three appearances (one a long-relief outing), surrendering 8 earned runs with an 8-to-12 K/BB ratio in nine innings. Then, he went on the Injured List with an elbow strain. For now, the Twins hope and believe he'll avoid surgery. Duran has the best stuff in Minnesota's system and some of the best in the minors. He's the real deal talent-wise and the Twins have done a stellar job in targeting, acquiring, and developing him. His biggest barriers are control and health, and we've seen both fully presented this year, with the latter currently sidelining him indefinitely. He's as boom-or-bust as they come, but the ceiling is game-changing and within reach. 1. Royce Lewis, SS Age: 22 ETA: 2022 2021 Stats: n/a 2021 Ranking: 2 Losing two consecutive full seasons – one to a global pandemic and the next to a torn ACL – in the very crux of one's development is an ordeal many baseball prospects would be unable to overcome. I'd bet on Royce Lewis not being one of them. His much-lauded character and makeup have always positively affected the view and evaluation of Lewis, in certain intangible ways, but these qualities can have a very real impact in how he responds to this challenge. He'll be more than two years removed from playing competitively when he takes the field next spring – or maybe this winter – but has the natural talent to get back up to speed quickly. And "speed" really is the key word: even after knee surgery, he'll be one of the fastest and most athletic prospects in the game. Lewis is a dynamic talent who will likely end up at one of the most important defensive positions on the field – shortstop or center – and should be relatively productive at one of those spots even if his offensive shortcomings are not fully resolved. If the Twins do hope to rebound back into contention next year, they may need to ask quite a bit of their No. 1 prospect, as well as the other four we just profiled. One commonality you will notice among this reshaped top five: They're all 22 or 23 years old, with ETAs of 2022. These players are all verging on big-league ready and in most cases, health is the only significant barrier to surpass. 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. Remember when a global pandemic killed off an entire Minor League Baseball season? That was unfortunate, and it’s been great to have an affiliated season back in full swing, but the Twins have taken their lumps injury wise on the farm too. I have consistently been of the mindset that this Twins team is an outlier when it comes to performance. There’s too much talent on this team for them to be as bad as they’ve been. With that reality, expecting a resurgent turnaround in 2022 is hardly far-fetched. The front office will have the opportunity to supplement the existing core once again. The problem is that depth and development from the farm may not bear the fruit it was expected to. Royce Lewis tore his ACL before even playing a game in 2021. As things stand now, top pitching prospects are all over the IL. Edwar Colina and Blayne Enlow have both had surgery. Jhoan Duran has now been shut down and Matt Canterino is set to return but remains a question mark. Hitting prospect Matt Wallner is still shelved and we still have three months left of the season to make it through. For Minnesota, the chief problem in 2021 has been pitching. The rotation wasn’t expected to have many holdovers a year from now, and both Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda were thought to be awaiting stable mates from the farm. Now that could be less likely than ever, and this current core may find themselves misaligned with the next wave of talent. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will be tasked with the decision of whether a rebuild is necessary. Their long-term futures with the organization impact that choice, and how quickly they’d like to rid themselves of this taste will probably be part of the equation. Their hand becomes a bit less fruitful given the development that their cheap and controllable assets are now less reliable than they may have been had things gone differently. It was important for minor league guys to get back in games in order to showcase what they’d done in the time off. The hope would be that some of the top talents could be accelerated and challenged this season. Instead, much of the top 20 is shelved for one reason or another, and there’s more questions than answers in Twins Territory both now, and in the future. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  8. It feels good to be able to write about actual minor league baseball action again. After it being shelved in 2020 and the only updates coming from unattended alternate site workouts, real games taking place is a welcomed reality. For Minnesota, there’s been lots of graduations from the farm, and even more shifting. Traditionally this top 15 update has come after the Major League Baseball draft. With the timing of that event being shifted into July, I wanted to keep things consistent. Coincidentally, it was this exact date last year that the previous midseason update dropped. If you’d like to take a look at where I had guys coming into 2021, you can find all archived rankings below. Let’s get into it! 2016 Top 15 Prospects 2017 Top 15 Prospects 2018 Top 15 Prospects 2019 Top 15 Prospects 2020 Top 15 Prospects 2021 Top 15 Prospects 15. Jose Miranda IF While he’s never made a top 15 for me before, Miranda has consistently been a “just missed” type. That doesn’t happen when you’ve got a .919 OPS in your first 37 games at Double-A. Lots of hype for Jose has been built around his bat and the work he did last year during the downtime. Looks like that was right. 14. Cole Sands RHP A 5th round pick back in 2018, Sands is now nearly 24 and at Double-A. He’s got 31.2 innings under his belt thus far for Wichita and owns a dazzling 2.84 ERA. The 5.1 BB/9 isn’t a great look, but the 11.9 K/9 continues his strength of being able to punch batters out. He was impressive when I saw him during Spring Training in 2020, and the arrow continues to point up. 13. Misael Urbina OF Signed out of Venezuela, Urbina has made his stateside debut in 2021. He’s struggled in Low-A thus far, but there’s speed and defensive ability here. He also may run into a good amount of pop and he’s just 19 years old. 12. Gilberto Celestino OF Forced into action for the Twins this year due to outfield injuries, Celestino is up ahead of schedule. He’s played just 21 games at the Double-A level for Minnesota, and the bat still has a ways to go. He’s a plus defender with good speed, and if he can hit at all, there’s a fourth outfielder at worst here. 11. Matt Wallner OF One of the most athletic Twins prospects, Wallner has hit everywhere he’s gone in the system. He owns a 1.005 OPS in his first 17 games at High-A but has been shelved with a wrist injury. Would not be shocked to see him be a solid corner outfielder with a plus arm and plus bat. Just need to get him healthy and back on the field. 10. Brent Rooker OF/1B It continues to be tough sledding for Rooker when looking for big league playing time. He’s a liability in the field and that bat absolutely has to play. It has again at Triple-A this season, where he’s got an .861 OPS for the Saints. If the Twins need bodies though, it’s been in the outfield, and he just can’t really help there. Should they choose a more rotation DH situation going forward, Rooker will factor in nicely. 9. Josh Winder RHP Another 2018 draft pick, Winder has impressed coming out of the Virginia Military Institute. Now 24 and at Double-A, he’s arguably been the best arm on the farm. He’s got a 2.16 ERA across 41.2 IP and his 10.8 K/9 pairs well with a 1.7 BB/9. He’ll be a Triple-A option soon and pitching 125 innings back in 2019 should work in his favor as far as workloads go. 8. Blayne Enlow RHP This one hurts, because Enlow could’ve found himself even higher on this list had his year gone differently. After 14.2 IP and a 1.84 ERA, Enlow underwent Tommy John surgery and will be out well into 2022. He’s still just 22, but it would’ve been great to see him at Double-A this season. 7. Matt Canterino RHP Another arm of concern here, Canterino is currently shelved and it’s murky as to when he’ll return. He owns a 1.00 ERA and 35/3 K/BB at High-A in 18 innings this year. It’s clear he’s ready for a step up in competition, and maybe should’ve even started at Double-A, but again, health is the chief concern. 6. Aaron Sabato 1B Do I love that Sabato has just a .668 OPS at Low-A in his first 36 professional games? No. Do I love that he has a 22% walk rate in those games? Yes. He’s got an advanced eye in a league where plenty of pitchers are fighting command. The power is real and should eventually play. 5. Keoni Cavaco SS Recently having turned 20, Cavaco is getting acclimated at Low-A. He has just a .673 OPS but seemed to be putting some positive developments together prior to a concussion related injury stint. This is a big year of growth for him and seeing some of the tools that had him shooting up draft boards would be exciting. 4. Jhoan Duran RHP A late start to the year set the timetable back some, but Duran should still be expected to reach the majors in 2021. He’s been both lights out and wild at times for the Saints, but it’s clear why there’s so much to like with him. A triple-digit fastball that he does have good command of is going to play. 3. Trevor Larnach OF It won’t be long and Larnach will have graduated from this list. He isn’t higher because I’m not sold on him being a perennial All-Star type, but there’s nothing to suggest he’s not a starting corner outfielder for a long time. The bat has contact and power, and the eye has quickly established itself. The kid is good. 2. Jordan Balazovic RHP Starting the year on the IL wasn’t ideal, but Balazovic has now taken three turns in the Double-A Wichita rotation. He’s racked up 16 strikeouts in his first 9.2 IP, and this may be the Twins next best shot at developing an ace. There’s an outside chance he could make a start in Minnesota later in 2021. 1. Royce Lewis SS Done for 2021 before he started, Royce Lewis tore his ACL, and it was discovered on intake. The year of development being missed after a lost 2020 and tough 2019 isn’t ideal. His character continues to suggest he’ll dominate rehab, and the ceiling remains as high as anyone within the organization. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  9. To say that 2021 has not gone as expected for the Minnesota Twins would be putting it lightly. After winning back-to-back AL Central Division titles, this team wasn’t supposed to flop so hard. Now that they have, here’s how they should use the rest of the season. Unfortunately, a series loss against the Baltimore Orioles after the one-third mark of the season should be the proverbial nail in the coffin for this team. Injuries have piled up, and Rocco Baldelli has been tasked with finding enough beating hearts to compile lineups on a nightly basis. With that as the new reality, making sure that 2021 is used productively to set up 2022 now must be the goal. Both Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach have debuted for the Twins. They represent the organization's two best pure hitting prospects, and neither should be sent back to the minors the rest of the way. Getting them regular reps is a must and making sure they’re comfortable to contribute out of the gate next year has to be the focus. Who should join them though? Jhoan Duran Pitching prospect number one, Duran got off to a late start this year dealing with a minor injury. He’s now taken a couple of turns at Triple-A St. Paul and looks every bit the dominant piece that the Twins have been waiting on. Maybe he’s not an ace, but he throws triple-digits and has strikeout stuff. Getting him something like 10 starts at the major-league level this season makes too much sense. Allocate the workload expected for Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ to other guys, this being the number one option. Matt Canterino Starting at High-A never made sense for Canterino. He’ll soon be 24 and is clearly advanced well beyond that level. He should be at Double-A already, and Triple-A by the end of the summer. I don’t know if Canterino necessarily needs big league starts, but there’s no reason for him not to throw major-league innings this year. He’s got dominant strikeout stuff and could be usable in both a starting and relief role. Expecting him to contribute in 2022 makes a lot of sense, so getting the jitters out now needs to happen. Jordan Balazovic This one is a bit trickier given the injury situation. He’ll begin at Double-A Wichita this weekend, but as the Twins top pitching prospect, the stuff could push him along quickly. Balazovic has as high of an upside as anyone in the system. If Derek Falvey is going to develop his own Jose Berrios or better, this is the kid. I’d like to see him get at least one or two starts for Minnesota before the year is over. Josh Winder Another arm in the vein of Canterino, Winder was given more of an aggressive starting point. Having dominated Double-A over his first five outings, it’s time for a step up. He should spend a couple of months with the Saints at Triple-A, and then a 40-man addition along with a big league promotion makes sense. A 7th round pick in 2018, Winder will be 25 by 2022 and could certainly be an arm that the Twins look at when filling out the rotation. Cole Sands A 5th round pick back in 2018, the former Florida State Seminole has done nothing but impress in pro ball. He’ll turn 24 next month and has started strong at Double-A Wichita. There’s been a bit less command in 2021 than previous seasons, but the strikeout stuff plays. Getting him to Triple-A by mid-summer with an end-of-year promotion to the big leagues seems like the right timetable. Another guy that could be called upon in the rotation for '22, there’s no reason not to get his feet wet. Jose Miranda Losing Travis Blankenhorn over a middling reliever wasn’t ideal, but it’s Miranda that likely made him dispensable. The 2nd round pick in 2016 was Rule 5 eligible this winter but went undrafted. He’s crushed Double-A to start the year and owns a .920 OPS. There’s not much reason to keep him down longer, and he could quickly emerge as the next utility option with a bit stronger bat. He’s not a shortstop, but he can play third base, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Minnesota pushes for some outfield flexibility. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  10. Unfortunately, a series loss against the Baltimore Orioles after the one-third mark of the season should be the proverbial nail in the coffin for this team. Injuries have piled up, and Rocco Baldelli has been tasked with finding enough beating hearts to compile lineups on a nightly basis. With that as the new reality, making sure that 2021 is used productively to set up 2022 now must be the goal. Both Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach have debuted for the Twins. They represent the organization's two best pure hitting prospects, and neither should be sent back to the minors the rest of the way. Getting them regular reps is a must and making sure they’re comfortable to contribute out of the gate next year has to be the focus. Who should join them though? Jhoan Duran Pitching prospect number one, Duran got off to a late start this year dealing with a minor injury. He’s now taken a couple of turns at Triple-A St. Paul and looks every bit the dominant piece that the Twins have been waiting on. Maybe he’s not an ace, but he throws triple-digits and has strikeout stuff. Getting him something like 10 starts at the major-league level this season makes too much sense. Allocate the workload expected for Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ to other guys, this being the number one option. Matt Canterino Starting at High-A never made sense for Canterino. He’ll soon be 24 and is clearly advanced well beyond that level. He should be at Double-A already, and Triple-A by the end of the summer. I don’t know if Canterino necessarily needs big league starts, but there’s no reason for him not to throw major-league innings this year. He’s got dominant strikeout stuff and could be usable in both a starting and relief role. Expecting him to contribute in 2022 makes a lot of sense, so getting the jitters out now needs to happen. Jordan Balazovic This one is a bit trickier given the injury situation. He’ll begin at Double-A Wichita this weekend, but as the Twins top pitching prospect, the stuff could push him along quickly. Balazovic has as high of an upside as anyone in the system. If Derek Falvey is going to develop his own Jose Berrios or better, this is the kid. I’d like to see him get at least one or two starts for Minnesota before the year is over. Josh Winder Another arm in the vein of Canterino, Winder was given more of an aggressive starting point. Having dominated Double-A over his first five outings, it’s time for a step up. He should spend a couple of months with the Saints at Triple-A, and then a 40-man addition along with a big league promotion makes sense. A 7th round pick in 2018, Winder will be 25 by 2022 and could certainly be an arm that the Twins look at when filling out the rotation. Cole Sands A 5th round pick back in 2018, the former Florida State Seminole has done nothing but impress in pro ball. He’ll turn 24 next month and has started strong at Double-A Wichita. There’s been a bit less command in 2021 than previous seasons, but the strikeout stuff plays. Getting him to Triple-A by mid-summer with an end-of-year promotion to the big leagues seems like the right timetable. Another guy that could be called upon in the rotation for '22, there’s no reason not to get his feet wet. Jose Miranda Losing Travis Blankenhorn over a middling reliever wasn’t ideal, but it’s Miranda that likely made him dispensable. The 2nd round pick in 2016 was Rule 5 eligible this winter but went undrafted. He’s crushed Double-A to start the year and owns a .920 OPS. There’s not much reason to keep him down longer, and he could quickly emerge as the next utility option with a bit stronger bat. He’s not a shortstop, but he can play third base, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Minnesota pushes for some outfield flexibility. 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. 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?
  12. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/17 through Sun, 5/23 *** Record Last Week: 4-4 (Overall: 17-29) Run Differential Last Week: -4 (Overall: -24) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (9.5 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 39 | CWS 16, MIN 4: Sox Decimate Twins in Dispiriting Blowout Game 40 | MIN 5, CWS 4: Sanó's 3 HR Spark Rare Comeback Win Game 41 | CWS 2, MIN 1: Twins Bats Come Up Empty Against Giolito Game 42 | LAA 7, MIN 1: Halos Bury Twins to Kick Off Makeup Doubleheader Game 43 | MIN 6, LAA 3: Another Big Blast from Sanó Lifts Twins in Nightcap Game 44 | MIN 10, 0: Cleveland Rocked as Dobnak Cruises Game 45 | CLE 5, MIN 3: Twins Fall in 10th Inning Yet Again Game 46 | MIN 8, CLE 5: Hex in Extras Snapped by Garlick's Heroics NEWS & NOTES The Twins played eight games last week. They won four and lost four. They snapped their winless records in both double-headers and extra innings. They were outscored by four runs over the course of a week that included a 10-0 victory, large because it also included a 16-4 loss. There is much to cover. As always, we begin with a quick rundown of roster moves and injury updates over the past week. Heading out: Ben Rortvedt, who went 4-for-25 (.160) with 10 strikeouts and zero extra-base hits in his first turn of the majors, was optioned to Triple-A. Lewis Thorpe came and went, again, giving up four runs (just one earned) in an unimpressive spot start on Thursday before being sent back to St. Paul. Bailey Ober struggled in a spot start of his own on Tuesday (4 IP, 4 ER) and was returned to the Saints shortly thereafter. Derek Law was outrighted from the 40-man roster after posting an 8.53 ERA through 6 ⅓ innings for the Twins. He passed through waivers and made it back to St. Paul, where he coughed up a couple runs on Saturday night Michael Pineda went on the Injured List due to a minor surgical procedure. He's due to return in the coming week. Reliever Shaun Anderson also was placed on IL, with a left quad strain. Ahead of Sunday's game, the Twins placed Kenta Maeda on the shelf with a groin/adductor injury that has been bothering him for some time. Coming in: Alex Kirilloff is back! The outfielder was activated for the weekend series in Cleveland after a brief rehab stint at CHS Field. And while he's apparently playing through a wrist issue that will later require surgery, he shows no real signs of being limited. Randy Dobnak joined the rotation, starting in place of a sidelined Pineda on Friday. His outstanding return is detailed in the Highlights section below. Cody Stashak was recalled and made two scoreless appearances. Luke Farrell also joined the bullpen, hurling two shutout frames on Friday. Taking Maeda's roster spot on Sunday was Nick Gordon, who may have a shot at some decently regular playing time during this stint with both Luis Arraez (shoulder) and Jorge Polanco (ankle) banged up. HIGHLIGHTS This team shows signs of getting on track. Getting Kirilloff back in the lineup is a real difference-maker and it was felt on Friday night, when he batted cleanup in his return and the Twins scored 10 runs, as well as the next day when he came through with a clutch game-tying hit. Having both him and Trevor Larnach in the lineup is fun and exciting. Even if Larnach hasn't quite turned a corner production-wise like Kirilloff, he looks similarly comfortable and natural at the major-league level. You get the sense both of these guys are here to stay. Other hitters like Max Kepler, Mitch Garver, Kyle Garlick, and Rob Refsnyder and also had good weeks and big moments. But the star of the show, without question, was Miguel Sanó. The dam finally broke, and six weeks worth of pent-up offensive production burst forth within a ridiculous eight-game span. In 33 plate appearances dating back to last Monday, Sanó slashed .300/.364/.900 with five home runs, three doubles and 10 RBIs. His slugging percentage, which was all the way down to .209 as little as 10 days ago, is now up to .442 – well above the league average. His theatrics included a three-homer game, two four-RBI games, and a blast off Shane Bieber. Not only is he delivering big hits, he's delivering them in pivotal situations. The Twins have won five of their past 15 games and you can make a strong case that three of those victories were almost entirely because of Sanó: On May 15th, they beat Oakland 5-4 after his three-run blast in the eighth turned a two-run deficit into a one-run lead. On May 18th, he homered three times and drove in four in a 5-4 win over Chicago. In the second half of May 20th's doubleheader, Sanó's grand slam proved to be the difference in a 6-3 win. It bears noting that in 2019, Sanó slumped in June and saw his batting average sink to .195 before he flipped the switch and played at an MVP level the rest of the way, posting a .994 OPS with 25 homers and 64 RBIs in 74 games. So, let's see where he goes from here. On the pitching side, it was awesome to see Dobnak return to the rotation and look much more like the version that flashed back in the spring. The righty worked six scoreless innings in Cleveland on Friday, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out five. He was inducing grounders and weak contact, executing his pitches, and generally looking to be in control. With Maeda now on the shelf, back-end starters Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ looking quite shaky, and Thorpe failing to step up, the Twins vitally needed Dobnak to find his footing. Friday's start was an excellent first step. LOWLIGHTS The Twins may be showing some signs of life, but still played .500 ball last week at a time where they desperately need to be making up ground. Even with a few things turning around, it feels like two steps forward are constantly being matched by two steps back, and some of their issues are so structurally fundamental they make it extremely hard to believe a sustained run of winning baseball is possible. Saturday's game was a perfect example of how this team just can't shake its woes. First, you've got Maeda's continued inability to make it click. The Twins have lost six of his last seven starts, and he's frequently been a prime culprit. Saturday's outing against Cleveland was the seventh straight in which he failed to complete six innings; he has one quality start in nine tries this year after going 8-for-12 in 2020. When your fourth or fifth starter aren't getting it done, you can adapt and adjust. Guys like Dobnak step in, and keep the rotation intact. But when the reigning Cy Young runner-up – a pitcher you invested heavily to acquire, and were absolutely counting on to be one of your frontline horses – turns into a pumpkin, that's an exceedingly difficult problem to fix. We'll have to hope some time off to rest of his bothersome groin proves to be the elixir Maeda needs to rediscover his game. But even with Maeda giving up an early 3-0 lead on Saturday, the Twins were in position to take the game and series. They rallied back to tie it, and sent the contest to extra innings. There, an all-too-familiar script played out. In the top of the 10th, the Twins once again failed to score their lead runner from second. In the bottom half, Alex Colomé entered, and on the second pitch he threw... I mean, look at the location of that pitch. Once again Colomé, who formed a reputation over many years as one of the most effective late-inning relievers in the game because he didn't flop in crunch time, offered up an absolute cookie in a critical spot, with the winning run in scoring position. We've seen it time and time again this year. It's particularly disappointing in this instance because Colomé really seemed to be figuring things out. Pitching in a reduced-leverage role, he'd worked seven scoreless appearances in May, allowing only two hits (both singles) and legitimately getting back to the things he's done well – namely, placing his cutter on the edges of the zone rather than right down the middle. Then, he gets another chance in a key late-game spot and immediately goes back to pulling the same crap from April. This is an enormous problem because, for better or worse, Colomé is a crux in this bullpen – especially since their other top right-hander has also been a mess. In more ways than one. On that note... In a season that's spun off the rails so early, leaving contention as an unlikely scenario for the summer, you look for other things to cheer for as a fan. You want to root for good stories. You want to connect emotionally with the squad as they grind and grow together through a tough year. You want to invest in the character of your club. All of which made Tuesday's embarrassing antics the lowlight of the week, and maybe even the season, for me. To recap: On Monday the Twins got blown out by Chicago at Target Field, to the point where Willians Astudillo was called in to chuck some 45-MPH eephus balls in the ninth. With the White Sox leading 15-4, Astudillo fell behind Yermin Mercedes 3-0. The next non-competitive offering from Tortuga found its way into the zone, and then Mercedes made sure it found its way over the fence. The Twins announcers were displeased. Evidently some Twins players were too. The next day, in a close game, Tyler Duffey decided to exact revenge, throwing behind Mercedes with Minnesota trailing by only two runs in the seventh. Yuck. As a result, Duffey was ejected along with his manager Rocco Baldelli. Each served a short suspension later in the week. Now, Mercedes ignoring a take sign from his coaches is one thing. That's not great, but it's an issue for the White Sox to take care of on their own accord. For the Twins to be so pissy that Chicago had the gall to keep trying, and for "respecting the game" to be sanctimoniously lectured about by anyone in a situation where Minnesota had its backup catcher on the mound throwing beer-league softball pitches in a major-league game ... it's too much. It's too much from a team, and a player, who need to be worrying about their own issues before getting involved in another team's, and putting people in harm's way in the process. Chicago's shortstop Tim Anderson said later that the actions were "Definitely a sign of weakness from Duffey and the Twins.” As a Twins fan who generally despises the Sox, it absolutely crushes me that I can't argue with his conclusion one bit. TRENDING STORYLINE On Saturday night at CHS Field, Jhoan Duran made his first start in a minor-league game since August of 2019. He got a bit of a late start this season due to a trapezius issue, but the organization's No. 5 prospect was worth the wait. Lucas Seehafer was on hand to cover Duran's season debut for Twins Daily, and you can find his detailed account here. The short version is this: Duran touched 103 MPH on the gun multiple times (granted, the CHS gun seems to be a little hot, but still, the guy was pumping triple digits). He struck out six over three shutout innings. A month ago, I suggested that this Twins season might go one of two ways: a 2006-style turnaround or a 2016-style meltdown. A critical factor in replicating the '06 formula was getting an impact performance from a young phenom in the rotation. In that case it was Francisco Liriano, who led the team to an 11-2 record in his first 13 starts and energized the roster with his mere presence. When you look at players in the current system capable of doing anything similar in 2021, Duran tops the list, and on Saturday we saw why. He needs to build up his pitch count but if the 23-year-old continues to show this type of dominance, and the Twins can get on any kind of run to get back to the fringe of relevance, we could see Duran enter the fray. Let's talk a little bit about that (seemingly outlandish) latter caveat. LOOKING AHEAD If you were looking for a glimpse of hope, a glimmer of promise, a glint of optimism ... this is it. The Twins have escaped the meat-grinder portion of their schedule and now enter a soft patch, with 13 consecutive games against the Orioles and Royals. Baltimore is in last place and Kansas City has plummeted since opening the season 16-9. If the Twins can REALLY make hay during this two-week stretch – say, going 11-2 or 10-3 – they would suddenly be back in the range of .500, with Byron Buxton probably close to returning (if he hasn't already). It's hard to expect that kind of success against any competition, but then, it's hard to play as poorly as Minnesota has over the past many weeks. The pendulum is due for a swing. It all starts this week with six games at Target Field. MONDAY, 5/24: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP John Means v. RHP Matt Shoemaker TUESDAY, 5/25: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Dean Kremer v. RHP Jose Berrios WEDNESDAY, 5/26: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Jorge Lopez v. RHP Michael Pineda FRIDAY, 5/28: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Kris Bubic v. RHP Randy Dobnak SATURDAY, 5/29: ROYALS @ TWINS – TBD v. LHP J.A. Happ SUNDAY, 5/30: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Brad Keller v. RHP Matt Shoemaker
  13. A jam-packed week of baseball for the Twins featured exhilarating highs, bucked trends, obnoxious drama, and the awakening of a sleeping giant. There are positive signs, but this team is not doing enough to chip away at its immense deficit as the end of May approaches. And yet, for the optimist, palpable cause for hope is there for the grasping. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 5/17 through Sun, 5/23 *** Record Last Week: 4-4 (Overall: 17-29) Run Differential Last Week: -4 (Overall: -24) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (9.5 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 39 | CWS 16, MIN 4: Sox Decimate Twins in Dispiriting Blowout Game 40 | MIN 5, CWS 4: Sanó's 3 HR Spark Rare Comeback Win Game 41 | CWS 2, MIN 1: Twins Bats Come Up Empty Against Giolito Game 42 | LAA 7, MIN 1: Halos Bury Twins to Kick Off Makeup Doubleheader Game 43 | MIN 6, LAA 3: Another Big Blast from Sanó Lifts Twins in Nightcap Game 44 | MIN 10, 0: Cleveland Rocked as Dobnak Cruises Game 45 | CLE 5, MIN 3: Twins Fall in 10th Inning Yet Again Game 46 | MIN 8, CLE 5: Hex in Extras Snapped by Garlick's Heroics NEWS & NOTES The Twins played eight games last week. They won four and lost four. They snapped their winless records in both double-headers and extra innings. They were outscored by four runs over the course of a week that included a 10-0 victory, large because it also included a 16-4 loss. There is much to cover. As always, we begin with a quick rundown of roster moves and injury updates over the past week. Heading out: Ben Rortvedt, who went 4-for-25 (.160) with 10 strikeouts and zero extra-base hits in his first turn of the majors, was optioned to Triple-A. Lewis Thorpe came and went, again, giving up four runs (just one earned) in an unimpressive spot start on Thursday before being sent back to St. Paul. Bailey Ober struggled in a spot start of his own on Tuesday (4 IP, 4 ER) and was returned to the Saints shortly thereafter. Derek Law was outrighted from the 40-man roster after posting an 8.53 ERA through 6 ⅓ innings for the Twins. He passed through waivers and made it back to St. Paul, where he coughed up a couple runs on Saturday night Michael Pineda went on the Injured List due to a minor surgical procedure. He's due to return in the coming week. Reliever Shaun Anderson also was placed on IL, with a left quad strain. Ahead of Sunday's game, the Twins placed Kenta Maeda on the shelf with a groin/adductor injury that has been bothering him for some time. Coming in: Alex Kirilloff is back! The outfielder was activated for the weekend series in Cleveland after a brief rehab stint at CHS Field. And while he's apparently playing through a wrist issue that will later require surgery, he shows no real signs of being limited. Randy Dobnak joined the rotation, starting in place of a sidelined Pineda on Friday. His outstanding return is detailed in the Highlights section below. Cody Stashak was recalled and made two scoreless appearances. Luke Farrell also joined the bullpen, hurling two shutout frames on Friday. Taking Maeda's roster spot on Sunday was Nick Gordon, who may have a shot at some decently regular playing time during this stint with both Luis Arraez (shoulder) and Jorge Polanco (ankle) banged up. HIGHLIGHTS This team shows signs of getting on track. Getting Kirilloff back in the lineup is a real difference-maker and it was felt on Friday night, when he batted cleanup in his return and the Twins scored 10 runs, as well as the next day when he came through with a clutch game-tying hit. Having both him and Trevor Larnach in the lineup is fun and exciting. Even if Larnach hasn't quite turned a corner production-wise like Kirilloff, he looks similarly comfortable and natural at the major-league level. You get the sense both of these guys are here to stay. Other hitters like Max Kepler, Mitch Garver, Kyle Garlick, and Rob Refsnyder and also had good weeks and big moments. But the star of the show, without question, was Miguel Sanó. The dam finally broke, and six weeks worth of pent-up offensive production burst forth within a ridiculous eight-game span. In 33 plate appearances dating back to last Monday, Sanó slashed .300/.364/.900 with five home runs, three doubles and 10 RBIs. His slugging percentage, which was all the way down to .209 as little as 10 days ago, is now up to .442 – well above the league average. His theatrics included a three-homer game, two four-RBI games, and a blast off Shane Bieber. Not only is he delivering big hits, he's delivering them in pivotal situations. The Twins have won five of their past 15 games and you can make a strong case that three of those victories were almost entirely because of Sanó: On May 15th, they beat Oakland 5-4 after his three-run blast in the eighth turned a two-run deficit into a one-run lead. On May 18th, he homered three times and drove in four in a 5-4 win over Chicago. In the second half of May 20th's doubleheader, Sanó's grand slam proved to be the difference in a 6-3 win. It bears noting that in 2019, Sanó slumped in June and saw his batting average sink to .195 before he flipped the switch and played at an MVP level the rest of the way, posting a .994 OPS with 25 homers and 64 RBIs in 74 games. So, let's see where he goes from here. On the pitching side, it was awesome to see Dobnak return to the rotation and look much more like the version that flashed back in the spring. The righty worked six scoreless innings in Cleveland on Friday, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out five. He was inducing grounders and weak contact, executing his pitches, and generally looking to be in control. With Maeda now on the shelf, back-end starters Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ looking quite shaky, and Thorpe failing to step up, the Twins vitally needed Dobnak to find his footing. Friday's start was an excellent first step. LOWLIGHTS The Twins may be showing some signs of life, but still played .500 ball last week at a time where they desperately need to be making up ground. Even with a few things turning around, it feels like two steps forward are constantly being matched by two steps back, and some of their issues are so structurally fundamental they make it extremely hard to believe a sustained run of winning baseball is possible. Saturday's game was a perfect example of how this team just can't shake its woes. First, you've got Maeda's continued inability to make it click. The Twins have lost six of his last seven starts, and he's frequently been a prime culprit. Saturday's outing against Cleveland was the seventh straight in which he failed to complete six innings; he has one quality start in nine tries this year after going 8-for-12 in 2020. When your fourth or fifth starter aren't getting it done, you can adapt and adjust. Guys like Dobnak step in, and keep the rotation intact. But when the reigning Cy Young runner-up – a pitcher you invested heavily to acquire, and were absolutely counting on to be one of your frontline horses – turns into a pumpkin, that's an exceedingly difficult problem to fix. We'll have to hope some time off to rest of his bothersome groin proves to be the elixir Maeda needs to rediscover his game. But even with Maeda giving up an early 3-0 lead on Saturday, the Twins were in position to take the game and series. They rallied back to tie it, and sent the contest to extra innings. There, an all-too-familiar script played out. In the top of the 10th, the Twins once again failed to score their lead runner from second. In the bottom half, Alex Colomé entered, and on the second pitch he threw... I mean, look at the location of that pitch. Once again Colomé, who formed a reputation over many years as one of the most effective late-inning relievers in the game because he didn't flop in crunch time, offered up an absolute cookie in a critical spot, with the winning run in scoring position. We've seen it time and time again this year. It's particularly disappointing in this instance because Colomé really seemed to be figuring things out. Pitching in a reduced-leverage role, he'd worked seven scoreless appearances in May, allowing only two hits (both singles) and legitimately getting back to the things he's done well – namely, placing his cutter on the edges of the zone rather than right down the middle. Then, he gets another chance in a key late-game spot and immediately goes back to pulling the same crap from April. This is an enormous problem because, for better or worse, Colomé is a crux in this bullpen – especially since their other top right-hander has also been a mess. In more ways than one. On that note... In a season that's spun off the rails so early, leaving contention as an unlikely scenario for the summer, you look for other things to cheer for as a fan. You want to root for good stories. You want to connect emotionally with the squad as they grind and grow together through a tough year. You want to invest in the character of your club. All of which made Tuesday's embarrassing antics the lowlight of the week, and maybe even the season, for me. To recap: On Monday the Twins got blown out by Chicago at Target Field, to the point where Willians Astudillo was called in to chuck some 45-MPH eephus balls in the ninth. With the White Sox leading 15-4, Astudillo fell behind Yermin Mercedes 3-0. The next non-competitive offering from Tortuga found its way into the zone, and then Mercedes made sure it found its way over the fence. The Twins announcers were displeased. Evidently some Twins players were too. The next day, in a close game, Tyler Duffey decided to exact revenge, throwing behind Mercedes with Minnesota trailing by only two runs in the seventh. Yuck. As a result, Duffey was ejected along with his manager Rocco Baldelli. Each served a short suspension later in the week. Now, Mercedes ignoring a take sign from his coaches is one thing. That's not great, but it's an issue for the White Sox to take care of on their own accord. For the Twins to be so pissy that Chicago had the gall to keep trying, and for "respecting the game" to be sanctimoniously lectured about by anyone in a situation where Minnesota had its backup catcher on the mound throwing beer-league softball pitches in a major-league game ... it's too much. It's too much from a team, and a player, who need to be worrying about their own issues before getting involved in another team's, and putting people in harm's way in the process. Chicago's shortstop Tim Anderson said later that the actions were "Definitely a sign of weakness from Duffey and the Twins.” As a Twins fan who generally despises the Sox, it absolutely crushes me that I can't argue with his conclusion one bit. TRENDING STORYLINE On Saturday night at CHS Field, Jhoan Duran made his first start in a minor-league game since August of 2019. He got a bit of a late start this season due to a trapezius issue, but the organization's No. 5 prospect was worth the wait. Lucas Seehafer was on hand to cover Duran's season debut for Twins Daily, and you can find his detailed account here. The short version is this: Duran touched 103 MPH on the gun multiple times (granted, the CHS gun seems to be a little hot, but still, the guy was pumping triple digits). He struck out six over three shutout innings. A month ago, I suggested that this Twins season might go one of two ways: a 2006-style turnaround or a 2016-style meltdown. A critical factor in replicating the '06 formula was getting an impact performance from a young phenom in the rotation. In that case it was Francisco Liriano, who led the team to an 11-2 record in his first 13 starts and energized the roster with his mere presence. When you look at players in the current system capable of doing anything similar in 2021, Duran tops the list, and on Saturday we saw why. He needs to build up his pitch count but if the 23-year-old continues to show this type of dominance, and the Twins can get on any kind of run to get back to the fringe of relevance, we could see Duran enter the fray. Let's talk a little bit about that (seemingly outlandish) latter caveat. LOOKING AHEAD If you were looking for a glimpse of hope, a glimmer of promise, a glint of optimism ... this is it. The Twins have escaped the meat-grinder portion of their schedule and now enter a soft patch, with 13 consecutive games against the Orioles and Royals. Baltimore is in last place and Kansas City has plummeted since opening the season 16-9. If the Twins can REALLY make hay during this two-week stretch – say, going 11-2 or 10-3 – they would suddenly be back in the range of .500, with Byron Buxton probably close to returning (if he hasn't already). It's hard to expect that kind of success against any competition, but then, it's hard to play as poorly as Minnesota has over the past many weeks. The pendulum is due for a swing. It all starts this week with six games at Target Field. MONDAY, 5/24: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP John Means v. RHP Matt Shoemaker TUESDAY, 5/25: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Dean Kremer v. RHP Jose Berrios WEDNESDAY, 5/26: ORIOLES @ TWINS – RHP Jorge Lopez v. RHP Michael Pineda FRIDAY, 5/28: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Kris Bubic v. RHP Randy Dobnak SATURDAY, 5/29: ROYALS @ TWINS – TBD v. LHP J.A. Happ SUNDAY, 5/30: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Brad Keller v. RHP Matt Shoemaker View full article
  14. Across all of Major League Baseball, 212 players made their MLB debut during the short sprint of the 2020 season. The Minnesota Twins accounted for six of those players –hitters Aaron Whitefield, Travis Blankenhorn, Brent Rooker, Ryan Jeffers, playoff surprise Alex Kirilloff, and pitcher Edwar Colina. 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? View full article
  15. 5. Cole Sands, RHP Current/Future Fastball: 50/55 Sands gets a lot of life in the upper half of the strike zone. Typically, he is in the low-90s, but he has the ability to hit 95-96 mph. According to FanGraphs, “his fastball will creep into the mid-90s with big time tail, the kind that can run off the hip of left-handed hitters and back over the plate.” His control has improved during his professional career and there is still room for him to make improvements moving forward. 4. Jordan Balazovic, RHP Current/Future Fastball: 55/55 Outside of Jhoan Duran (see below), Balazovic is the other pitcher in contention for being the team’s top pitching prospect. His fastball doesn’t have quite the velocity as others on this list, but he typically sits in the low- to mid-90s while topping out at 96 mph. His fastball plays up because hitters have a tough time picking it up out of his hand. He uses it a lot at the top of the zone and that means that the strikeouts will continue to pile up. 3. Josh Winder, RHP Current/Future Fastball: 60/60 During last year’s shutdown, Winder might have earned the award for most improved pitcher in the Twins organization. During the 2019 season, his fastball sat in the low-90s, but he can now hit 98 mph consistently and he proved this during instructs. There is good movement on the pitch too, which helps his off-speed pitches to play up. During the 2021 season, he needs to prove his 2020 development is for real. If he does, fans better be prepared for how fast Winder will fly up prospect lists next off-season. 2. Edwar Colina, RHP Current/Future Fastball: 65/65 Colina might not be as well known as some of the other names on this list, because he is destined for a role in the bullpen. His fastball consistently sits in the mid- to upper-90s and he can touch 100 mph. Even with this big velocity, his fastball doesn’t have a ton of movement, so hitters have a better chance of putting it in play. There’s a good chance he is part of the Twins bullpen at some point in 2021 and he can fill a late inning role in the years to come. 1. Jhoan Duran, RHP Current/Future Fastball: 70/70 Minnesota acquired Duran as part of the Eduardo Escobar trade and now he is considered one of the team’s best pitching prospects. He has grown into his frame throughout his time in the Twins organization as he now sits at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds. His fastball consistently hits in the high 90’s and he can hit triple digits on a regular basis. His four-seam fastball might not even be his best fastball as he has a hybrid “splinker” pitch that can also reach into the mid-90s. His velocity is elite, and the Twins hope he can mix-in more strikeouts as he gets closer to the big leagues this season. How would you rank these players? Does someone else make the list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. OTHER POSTS IN THIS SERIES -Speed Tool Prospects -Hit Tool Prospects -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
  16. MLB.com tried to identify the top players under 25 under an interesting premise. “If you were starting a team today, and you were able to choose only from players under 25 years old -- that’s Major League stars and Minor League prospects, just so long as they aren’t past their age-24 season in 2021 -- who would you pick?” It can be a tough exercise, especially with Minnesota’s deep farm system. 5. Royce Lewis, SS (21-years old) Lewis might be the team’s second-best prospect, but his recently announced knee surgery puts a hold on his development. There were already questions about his swing and his long-term defensive position. Those questions will remain, especially after not playing a professional game in 2020 or 2021. The potential is there, the work ethic is there, and he projects to be a building block piece in the future. For now, the Twins are going to be left looking for other shortstop options as they wait for Lewis to return to the field. 4. Jhoan Duran, RHP (23-years old) Minnesota’s front office was confident Duran would debut in 2020, but then the pandemic shortened the season. He worked at the Twins alternate site last season and reports continue to be positive. Here at Twins Daily, Duran is the organization’s highest ranked pitching prospect. With a fastball that hits triple-digits and a unique splinker pitch, Duran is one of the most intriguing prospects to come through the Twins organization. He has the making of four above average pitches and the Twins hope he is a pitcher they can build their rotation around for years to come. 3. Ryan Jeffers, C (23-years old) Jeffers is half of one of baseball’s best catching duos and he’s six and a half years younger than Mitch Garver. Because Garver was a late bloomer, the Twins have team control of both players for multiple seasons. Jeffers was Twins Daily’s number four overall prospect and it’s clear to see why people should be excited about him. He has some of the best catch framing skills in baseball and it is going to be intriguing to see how his numbers play over the course of 162-games. Jeffers needs to prove his offensive numbers weren’t a fluke from 2020, but he was known as a hitter out of college. 2. Luis Arraez, UTL (24-years old) Arraez is moving to a utility role for 2021, but there’s no question that Rocco Baldelli will find way to insert him into the line-up on a regular basis. Even though he was hobbled in 2020, he still managed to post a .321 batting average, which means he has a career .331 batting average in 124 big-league games. On many other teams, Arraez would be in the everyday starting line-up, but he’s only one injury away from finding himself back in a fulltime role. FanGraph’s ZiPS projects him to win the AL batting title and it will be Baldelli’s job to make sure he gets enough plate appearances to qualify. 1. Alex Kirilloff, OF (23-years old) Kirilloff is the type of player any team would like to build their franchise around. He had tremendous make-up and a sweet swing that is hard to ignore. MLB.com will likely include him on their top-25 list entering next season after baseball gets a longer look at Minnesota’s top prospect. One of the few questions that remains is whether or not Kirilloff will be on the Opening Day roster. Minnesota’s winning window is open and that’s one of the strongest reasons to have Kirilloff be in the line-up from day one. How good can he be in his age-23 campaign? Other Potential Names (Ages): Jordan Balazovic (22), Trevor Larnach (24), Aaron Sabato (21), Gilberto Celestino (22), Matt Canterino (23), Edwar Colina (23) Would you put any of these other names on the list? Should Lewis drop off because of his injury? 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
  17. Jorge Alcala, RHP Alcala has 18 big league games under his belt, but the 2021 season can be an opportunity to prove he belongs in Minnesota’s long-term relief plans. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli already showed confidence in Alcala by using him in the seventh inning or later in every September appearance last season. Minnesota’s bullpen looks different for 2021 and this can allow Alcala to take on an even more important role. When the Twins acquired Alcala, he was still being used as a starter, but his transition to reliever has come with excellent results. Minnesota’s bullpen pecking order will likely fluctuate throughout the 2021 season with players serving in different roles depending on the situation. Can Alcala move up the depth chart throughout the season? Jhoan Duran, RHP Last winter, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said that he expected Jordan Balazovic and Jhoan Duran to both make their MLB debuts in 2020. Obviously, the shortened season stopped that from happening, but both players seem primed for a debut in 2021. Here at Twins Daily, Duran is the highest ranked pitcher in our annual top-20 prospect list and there is plenty to be excited about when thinking about what he can add to the Twins starting staff. He might be the most exciting starting pitching prospect to come through the Twins system in quite some time. With an electric fastball and improving off-speed offerings, Duran can provide a mid-season boost for the Twins, especially if the White Sox are hot on their tails. The question is, how high is his ceiling? Shaun Anderson, RHP Matt Wisler was a breakout pitcher for the Twins last season after the team brought him in and told him to concentrate even more on throwing his slider. He threw it over 83% of the time and found remarkable success. Minnesota felt comfortable enough with finding a Wisler replacement that they let him walk this winter. This season, Shaun Anderson hopes to follow a similar trajectory as Wisler. In 2020, Anderson threw his slider 53% of the time, so there is certainly room for him to use this pitch on a more consistent basis. However, there is a major difference between Wisler and Anderson as Anderson’s fastball averages 94 mph. He also ranks in the 92nd percentile when it comes to fastball spin. Working with Wes Johnson might allow Anderson to find the right mixture of these two pitches. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B While Duran moved up our rankings to the number one pitching spot, Kirilloff and Royce Lewis both can make a claim as the team’s top overall prospect. At some point in 2021, he is going to take over as a starting outfielder and the Twins hope he stays there for most of the next decade. Back in 2018, he was one of the best hitting prospects in all of baseball, but the 2019 season saw injuries take a toll. He was able to homer four times in five playoff games that season, so the power potential is there. His hit tool separates him from the crowd as he can spray the ball to all fields. As I have previously written, his minor league spray charts should be hung in a museum. His advanced approach at the plate should help him to transition to the big-league level. Kirilloff avoids swings and misses and he should pencil into the middle of Minnesota’s line-up for years to come. Who do you think will breakout for the Twins in 2021? 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
  18. An argument can be made that Jordan Balazovic is the best pitching prospect in the Twins organization even though he doesn’t rank as the top pitcher on the Twins Daily list. So, what’s changed with Balazovic over the last year?Position: RHP Age: 22 (DOB: 9-17-1998) 2019 Stats (Low-A/High-A): 93.2 IP, 2.69 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 12.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 ETA: 2022 2020 Ranking: 5 2019 Ranking: NA National Top 100 Rankings BA: NR | MLB: 97 | ATH: 63 |BP: NR What’s To Like Canada hasn’t exactly been a hotbed of MLB pitching talent, but Balazovic looks to buck that trend in the years to come. Last year, he was added to the organization’s alternate site in St. Paul before ending the year in the team’s instructional league. By season’s end, he was added to Minnesota’s 40-man roster and that leaves him even closer to making his big-league debut even though he has yet to make an appearance above the High-A level. One positive to come out of last year’s pandemic was Balazovic was able to concentrate on adding weight to his lanky frame. When Minnesota selected him in the fifth round, he was a long and lean 17-year-old that was listed at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds. Since then, he has added two inches in height and bulked up to 217 pounds. This has helped his fastball move from the high-80s into the mid-90s. Many scouting reports praise him for his pitching deception as hitters can’t pick up the ball well out of his hand. Typically, he uses his fastball at the top of the zone, and it has helped him to post SO/9 totals north of 11.0 over the last two seasons. He throws strikes and he has four pitches that he isn’t afraid to throw in any situation, which make him a very projectable big-league arm. What’s Left To Work On Like many budding pitching prospects, Balazovic continues to refine his secondary pitches. His change-up is the biggest work in progress, but he has made significant strides since joining the organization and it has a chance to be an above average pitch. This pitch will help him to attack left-handed hitters, but he might already be able to do that since lefties only hit .189/.232/.269 against him in 2019. Currently, his slider is his out pitch although he uses his curveball to get strikes as well. He has yet to pitch over 100 innings in any professional season, so that will be an important milestone for 2021. His violent delivery helps to add some deception, but this can also be a concern. Some pitchers with violent deliveries suffer from health or control issues, but neither of these have been a concern so far in Balazovic’s career (knock on wood). What’s Next Last season, Balazovic worked hard to make sure he got invited to the alternate site before the season ended. This allowed the coaching staff to work closely with him and for the front office to get a better idea of how ready he was to take the next step. As mentioned last week, he is good friends with Blayne Enlow, another Twins top pitching prospect, and they keep pushing each other up the organizational ladder. How aggressive will the Twins be with Balazovic this season? It seems most likely that he would spend the majority of the season at Double-A with an outside chance of appearing with St. Paul before the season is complete. Last winter, president of baseball operation Derek Falvey said that he expected Balazovic and Jhoan Duran to make their MLB debuts. It didn’t happen in 2020, so the time might be right in 2021. Do you think Balazovic should be the Twins top pitching prospect? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Twins Daily 2021 Top 20 Prospects Honorable Mentions 20. Bailey Ober, RHP 19. Jose Miranda, INF 18. Alerick Soularie, OF 17. Ben Rortvedt, C 16. Edwar Colina, RHP 15. Cole Sands, RHP 14. Misael Urbina, OF 13. Matt Wallner, OF 12. Brent Rooker, OF/1B 11. Gilberto Celestino, OF 10. Blayne Enlow, RHP 9. Matt Canterino, RHP 8. Aaron Sabato, 1B 7. Keoni Cavaco, SS 6. Jordan Balazovic, RHP Stop by tomorrow for prospect #5! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  19. Position: RHP Age: 22 (DOB: 9-17-1998) 2019 Stats (Low-A/High-A): 93.2 IP, 2.69 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 12.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 ETA: 2022 2020 Ranking: 5 2019 Ranking: NA National Top 100 Rankings BA: NR | MLB: 97 | ATH: 63 |BP: NR What’s To Like Canada hasn’t exactly been a hotbed of MLB pitching talent, but Balazovic looks to buck that trend in the years to come. Last year, he was added to the organization’s alternate site in St. Paul before ending the year in the team’s instructional league. By season’s end, he was added to Minnesota’s 40-man roster and that leaves him even closer to making his big-league debut even though he has yet to make an appearance above the High-A level. One positive to come out of last year’s pandemic was Balazovic was able to concentrate on adding weight to his lanky frame. When Minnesota selected him in the fifth round, he was a long and lean 17-year-old that was listed at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds. Since then, he has added two inches in height and bulked up to 217 pounds. This has helped his fastball move from the high-80s into the mid-90s. Many scouting reports praise him for his pitching deception as hitters can’t pick up the ball well out of his hand. Typically, he uses his fastball at the top of the zone, and it has helped him to post SO/9 totals north of 11.0 over the last two seasons. He throws strikes and he has four pitches that he isn’t afraid to throw in any situation, which make him a very projectable big-league arm. What’s Left To Work On Like many budding pitching prospects, Balazovic continues to refine his secondary pitches. His change-up is the biggest work in progress, but he has made significant strides since joining the organization and it has a chance to be an above average pitch. This pitch will help him to attack left-handed hitters, but he might already be able to do that since lefties only hit .189/.232/.269 against him in 2019. Currently, his slider is his out pitch although he uses his curveball to get strikes as well. He has yet to pitch over 100 innings in any professional season, so that will be an important milestone for 2021. His violent delivery helps to add some deception, but this can also be a concern. Some pitchers with violent deliveries suffer from health or control issues, but neither of these have been a concern so far in Balazovic’s career (knock on wood). What’s Next Last season, Balazovic worked hard to make sure he got invited to the alternate site before the season ended. This allowed the coaching staff to work closely with him and for the front office to get a better idea of how ready he was to take the next step. As mentioned last week, he is good friends with Blayne Enlow, another Twins top pitching prospect, and they keep pushing each other up the organizational ladder. How aggressive will the Twins be with Balazovic this season? It seems most likely that he would spend the majority of the season at Double-A with an outside chance of appearing with St. Paul before the season is complete. Last winter, president of baseball operation Derek Falvey said that he expected Balazovic and Jhoan Duran to make their MLB debuts. It didn’t happen in 2020, so the time might be right in 2021. Do you think Balazovic should be the Twins top pitching prospect? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Twins Daily 2021 Top 20 Prospects Honorable Mentions 20. Bailey Ober, RHP 19. Jose Miranda, INF 18. Alerick Soularie, OF 17. Ben Rortvedt, C 16. Edwar Colina, RHP 15. Cole Sands, RHP 14. Misael Urbina, OF 13. Matt Wallner, OF 12. Brent Rooker, OF/1B 11. Gilberto Celestino, OF 10. Blayne Enlow, RHP 9. Matt Canterino, RHP 8. Aaron Sabato, 1B 7. Keoni Cavaco, SS 6. Jordan Balazovic, RHP Stop by tomorrow for prospect #5! 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. 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
  21. Recently the Minnesota Twins signed veteran starting pitcher J.A. Happ to bolster their rotation. He’d slot in as the 4th starter with where things stand currently, and Randy Dobnak would be the clubhouse favorite to round out the group. It remains to be seen whether or not another move is coming, but there’s a dark horse to eat someone’s lunch. At the risk of sounding too punny, maybe he’s a dark kangaroo. Lewis Thorpe recently turned 25-years-old and is a former top-100 prospect. He couldn’t be further from that stature right now, but talent shouldn’t be the question. After battling back from Tommy John surgery, and then an extended bout of pneumonia, he put together impressive seasons on the farm. The past two years have been anything but, however he’s worth believing in under one key condition. I liked Thorpe as a potential contributor to the big-league club when 2020 Spring Training kicked off. He was coming off a 4.76 ERA in just shy of 100 Triple-A innings, but it was largely reflective of the home run ball and his 11.1 K/9 paired with a 2.3 BB/9 was still plenty enticing. Then Florida happened. No, for Thorpe, it wasn’t the Covid-19 related shutdown. Without divulging too many specifics or risking secondary information, what is publicly known is that he took an extended leave of absence from the team. His parents flew in from Australia and he needed to undergo a mental reset. Ultimately, he didn’t appear in a Major League game until July 26 and contributed just 16.1 innings for the Twins. His 6.06 ERA was ugly and giving up a homer in roughly 25-percent of his innings pitched was not going to play. Again though, the stuff has always been there. Observing the offseason without having directly communicated with Thorpe, things appear to be trending in a different direction. The Twitter account has been dormant since his birthday in 2020, and his workouts have been shared on different forms of social media. What was at least an erratic presence a year ago has once again subdued as was the case previously. Whether by his own doing, or a helping hand from the organization, if Thorpe has recalibrated himself, he can certainly be a difference maker on the bump. I was uncertain as to his place within the organization during periods of roster trimming, and there were times that his inclusion in a trade may have even made sense. The pitcher that forced his way into the big leagues in 2019 is a force to be reckoned with however, and Rocco Baldelli can make use of that. Physically we saw Thorpe’s velocity diminish in 2020. He posted just an average of 90 mph on his fastball. It’s never that he’s been a hard thrower but losing nearly 2 mph at such a young age wasn’t a great development. It was clear that the lack of carry made a difference last season, and Wes Johnson unlocking the tank would be a great step forward for the Southpaw. The Twins ratcheted up his slider usage last season, and that trend could continue for 2021. Looking to regain the whiff and chase rates from 2019 form, tinkering will certainly be valuable as more data is collected. There’s not reason to believe an ace is in the making here, but right now it’s not Dobnak or bust when it comes to the back end of the Twins rotation. Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic may force themselves in eventually, but don’t count out the best version of Thorpe to make noise before the dust settles. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  22. Which players and prospects are most essential to the front office's vision of building a World Series champion in Minnesota? As we move into the top 15, we find a trio of established mainstays along with two rising top arms.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) 15. Miguel Sanó, 1B 2020 Ranking: 11 This is the deepest placement yet in these rankings for Sanó, and with good reason. He moved from third base to first. He is coming off a disappointing year, marred by a ridiculous strikeout total. He is currently lined up as the team's second-highest paid player in 2021, with his $11 million commitment trailing only Donaldson's $21 million. With all this in mind, I think it's important to remember the qualities that have kept Sanó on this list year after year – all still on display in the abbreviated 2020 campaign. He is an incredibly gifted athlete who hits baseballs as hard as anyone in the world. He acclimated quickly to first base, with his natural skill and instincts shining through. He's only 27 years old, at the heart of his physical prime, and still quite athletic for his prodigious size. While he'll be somewhat highly paid in 2021, the Twins also control him in 2022 at $9.25 million, which will be an amazing bargain if he pulls it together. They also have a $14 million option for his age-30 season. Focus on Sanó's flaws all you want – it's valid. But don't lose sight of his strengths. They are in some ways unparalleled. 14. Tyler Duffey, RHP 2020 Ranking: 16 If he hadn't claimed it already, Duffey firmly took hold of the team's "bullpen ace" title in 2020. He was among the league's most dominant relievers, allowing only 19 baserunners via hit or walk in 24 innings, nearly all high-leverage. And because of his sparse previous track record, Duffey remains quite inexpensive in his second turn at arbitration. He's set to earn $2.2 million in 2020. In some ways, he epitomizes the volatility and unpredictability of relief arms. Duffey was not present in these rankings two years ago, and in fact was probably on the verge of moving on from the organization at that point. He has since harnessed his full potential out of the bullpen to become an elite force in the late innings. How long will it last? That remains to be seen. But the Twins are more than happy to control him affordably for the next two seasons. 13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP 2020 Ranking: 8 The lost minor-league season in 2020 was especially unfortunate for a guy like Balazovic. He entered the year as a fast-rising and highly promising young arm, ready to take on advanced levels for the first time and make a statement. But because he hadn't yet taken this step, and wasn't really within range of a call-up, he was left off the alternate site roster, leaving him to progress on his own, without the benefit of competition or direct coaching. (He did get added to the alternate group late in the season.) None of this means Balazovic's outlook has dropped off, especially in a relative context (all prospects just lost a year). But he was at such a pivotal crux in his development – 21 years old, three years removed from being drafted out of high school, set to reach Double-A for the first time – that the disruption weighs a bit harder in his case. With that said, he's clearly one of the organization's top pitching prospects – virtually deadlocked with the next guy, from my view – and that makes him one of Minnesota's most valuable assets. Huge year ahead for Balazovic. 12. Jhoan Duran, RHP 2020 Ranking: 13 The Twins acquired the Dominican right-hander from Arizona as part of the Eduardo Escobar deal in July of 2018. At the time, Duran was a middling Single-A starter with big stuff and lackluster results. Upon coming switching organizations, he immediately turned a corner. Since the trade, Duran has posted a 3.38 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 10.7 K/9 rate in 151 innings. His whiff rates are among the best in the system. He's been dominating. He's also just about big-league ready. Duran reached Double-A in 2019 and spent 2020 at the alternate site in St. Paul, where he gained consideration for a call-up. His proximity to the majors and proven performance in the upper minors gives him a slight edge over Balazovic in these rankings but as I said, they're practically even in my eyes. 11. Luis Arráez, 2B 2020 Ranking: 10 The strengths and positives that Arráez brings to the table are no secret. He's one of the game's best contact hitters and the definition of a spark plug, with a .331 average and .390 on-base percentage through nearly 500 major-league plate appearances. All this before turning 24. But Arráez also has his limitations. He's not a speedy runner, nor a strong defender, and it's dubious whether he'll ever develop enough power to become a well-rounded offensive threat. Overshadowing these shortcomings, all of which he's been able to rise above as a huge difference-maker in his first two seasons, is the one issue that has actually held him back: his health. The second baseman missed all of 2017 in the minors after tearing the ACL in one knee, and in 2020 he was bothered all year by tendinitis in the other. Arráez was clearly hobbled most of the time and spent much of September on the Injured List. No surgery was planned for this offseason, so he'll focus on strengthening his lower body and shaking off the creeping "injury-prone" rep that threatens to further tarnish his otherwise impeccable asset value as a cheap young core player with five remaining years of team control. 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 6-10: 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 Click here to view the article
  23. 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) 15. Miguel Sanó, 1B 2020 Ranking: 11 This is the deepest placement yet in these rankings for Sanó, and with good reason. He moved from third base to first. He is coming off a disappointing year, marred by a ridiculous strikeout total. He is currently lined up as the team's second-highest paid player in 2021, with his $11 million commitment trailing only Donaldson's $21 million. With all this in mind, I think it's important to remember the qualities that have kept Sanó on this list year after year – all still on display in the abbreviated 2020 campaign. He is an incredibly gifted athlete who hits baseballs as hard as anyone in the world. He acclimated quickly to first base, with his natural skill and instincts shining through. He's only 27 years old, at the heart of his physical prime, and still quite athletic for his prodigious size. While he'll be somewhat highly paid in 2021, the Twins also control him in 2022 at $9.25 million, which will be an amazing bargain if he pulls it together. They also have a $14 million option for his age-30 season. Focus on Sanó's flaws all you want – it's valid. But don't lose sight of his strengths. They are in some ways unparalleled. 14. Tyler Duffey, RHP 2020 Ranking: 16 If he hadn't claimed it already, Duffey firmly took hold of the team's "bullpen ace" title in 2020. He was among the league's most dominant relievers, allowing only 19 baserunners via hit or walk in 24 innings, nearly all high-leverage. And because of his sparse previous track record, Duffey remains quite inexpensive in his second turn at arbitration. He's set to earn $2.2 million in 2020. In some ways, he epitomizes the volatility and unpredictability of relief arms. Duffey was not present in these rankings two years ago, and in fact was probably on the verge of moving on from the organization at that point. He has since harnessed his full potential out of the bullpen to become an elite force in the late innings. How long will it last? That remains to be seen. But the Twins are more than happy to control him affordably for the next two seasons. 13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP 2020 Ranking: 8 The lost minor-league season in 2020 was especially unfortunate for a guy like Balazovic. He entered the year as a fast-rising and highly promising young arm, ready to take on advanced levels for the first time and make a statement. But because he hadn't yet taken this step, and wasn't really within range of a call-up, he was left off the alternate site roster, leaving him to progress on his own, without the benefit of competition or direct coaching. (He did get added to the alternate group late in the season.) None of this means Balazovic's outlook has dropped off, especially in a relative context (all prospects just lost a year). But he was at such a pivotal crux in his development – 21 years old, three years removed from being drafted out of high school, set to reach Double-A for the first time – that the disruption weighs a bit harder in his case. With that said, he's clearly one of the organization's top pitching prospects – virtually deadlocked with the next guy, from my view – and that makes him one of Minnesota's most valuable assets. Huge year ahead for Balazovic. 12. Jhoan Duran, RHP 2020 Ranking: 13 The Twins acquired the Dominican right-hander from Arizona as part of the Eduardo Escobar deal in July of 2018. At the time, Duran was a middling Single-A starter with big stuff and lackluster results. Upon coming switching organizations, he immediately turned a corner. Since the trade, Duran has posted a 3.38 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 10.7 K/9 rate in 151 innings. His whiff rates are among the best in the system. He's been dominating. He's also just about big-league ready. Duran reached Double-A in 2019 and spent 2020 at the alternate site in St. Paul, where he gained consideration for a call-up. His proximity to the majors and proven performance in the upper minors gives him a slight edge over Balazovic in these rankings but as I said, they're practically even in my eyes. 11. Luis Arráez, 2B 2020 Ranking: 10 The strengths and positives that Arráez brings to the table are no secret. He's one of the game's best contact hitters and the definition of a spark plug, with a .331 average and .390 on-base percentage through nearly 500 major-league plate appearances. All this before turning 24. But Arráez also has his limitations. He's not a speedy runner, nor a strong defender, and it's dubious whether he'll ever develop enough power to become a well-rounded offensive threat. Overshadowing these shortcomings, all of which he's been able to rise above as a huge difference-maker in his first two seasons, is the one issue that has actually held him back: his health. The second baseman missed all of 2017 in the minors after tearing the ACL in one knee, and in 2020 he was bothered all year by tendinitis in the other. Arráez was clearly hobbled most of the time and spent much of September on the Injured List. No surgery was planned for this offseason, so he'll focus on strengthening his lower body and shaking off the creeping "injury-prone" rep that threatens to further tarnish his otherwise impeccable asset value as a cheap young core player with five remaining years of team control. 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 6-10: 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
  24. Initial Deal: November 14, 2003 Joe Mauer was waiting in the wings to talk over as the team’s full-time catcher. During the previous minor league season, Mauer posted an .832 OPS with 37 extra-base hits while making it all the way to Double-A. He was widely considered baseball’s best prospect and Baseball America had awarded him their Minor League Player of the Year. Pierzynski was no slouch either as he was an All-Star in 2002 and he was coming off a season where he posted an .824 OPS with 49 extra-base hits. The three players acquired from the Giants were Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan. Nathan became one of the baseball’s best closers on the way to being inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame. Liriano was electric in the minor leagues and he went on to pitch part of seven seasons for the Twins. Even Bonser pitched nearly 400 innings in Minnesota and he became the next branch in this transaction tree. Bonser Trade: December 10, 2009 As a 28-year old, Bonser was on his way out in Minnesota after the Twins designated him for assignment. Carl Pavano agreed to go to arbitration with the club and this made Bonser expendable. Also, Bonser missed the entire 2009 campaign following shoulder surgery, so it was a surprise the team was able to get anything for him. Bonser was dealt for a player to be named later that turned out to be Chris Province, a 2007 fourth round pick. He pitched well in the Arizona Fall League that season as a 25-year old, but his time in the Twins organization would be short-lived. In 2010, he pitched most of the season at Double-A where he posted a 5.58 ERA with a 1.65 WHIP. He made a few Triple-A appearances, but his career was done after a brief stint in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Liriano Trade: July 28, 2012 Joe Nathan would leave the Twins after the 2011 season as the team declined to pick up his $12.5 million option but paid him a $2 million buyout. This ended his part of the transaction tree, but the Twins were able to leverage Liriano to add some pieces to the organization. At the 2012 trade deadline, Minnesota dealt Liriano to the White Sox for Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez. Hernandez pitched just under 57 innings for the Twins and posted a 6.83 ERA with a 1.82 WHIP. He would only make one more big-league appearance and that came in 2014 with Colorado. Escobar was the key pick-up as he had 671 games in a Twins uniform while playing nearly every defensive position. At the plate, he posted a .729 OPS while getting on base 30.8% of the time. He was a solid contributor, but he was heading to free agency after the 2018 season. Escobar Trade: July 27, 2018 Minnesota was out of contention during the 2018 campaign, so the front office made multiple moves with the trade deadline approaching. Arizona sent three prospects to Minnesota in return for what could have been less than 200 at-bats from Escobar. He eventually resigned with the D-Backs, but that wasn’t a guarantee at the time of the deal. As I wrote about last week, Jhoan Duran was the biggest return for Escobar as he is considered one of the Twins top two starting pitching prospects. Ernie De La Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel have also added depth to the organization. When it comes to Duran, pitching prospects are never a sure thing. That being said, his ceiling seems to be a solid regular starting pitcher and if that doesn’t work, he projects to be a very good relief option. More than two and a half decades after taking Pierzynski in the 1994 MLB Draft, the Twins organization is still feeling the ramifications of his transaction tree. What are your thoughts on these deals? 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
  25. Most Twins fans know about the trade that sent AJ Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants for a trio of players. In fact, it might be one of the greatest trades in Twins history. Minnesota made that deal back in November 2003 and the ripple effects of that trade are still being felt in the organization. Let’s examine the “AJ Pierzynski Transaction Tree.”Initial Deal: November 14, 2003 Joe Mauer was waiting in the wings to talk over as the team’s full-time catcher. During the previous minor league season, Mauer posted an .832 OPS with 37 extra-base hits while making it all the way to Double-A. He was widely considered baseball’s best prospect and Baseball America had awarded him their Minor League Player of the Year. Pierzynski was no slouch either as he was an All-Star in 2002 and he was coming off a season where he posted an .824 OPS with 49 extra-base hits. The three players acquired from the Giants were Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan. Nathan became one of the baseball’s best closers on the way to being inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame. Liriano was electric in the minor leagues and he went on to pitch part of seven seasons for the Twins. Even Bonser pitched nearly 400 innings in Minnesota and he became the next branch in this transaction tree. Bonser Trade: December 10, 2009 As a 28-year old, Bonser was on his way out in Minnesota after the Twins designated him for assignment. Carl Pavano agreed to go to arbitration with the club and this made Bonser expendable. Also, Bonser missed the entire 2009 campaign following shoulder surgery, so it was a surprise the team was able to get anything for him. Bonser was dealt for a player to be named later that turned out to be Chris Province, a 2007 fourth round pick. He pitched well in the Arizona Fall League that season as a 25-year old, but his time in the Twins organization would be short-lived. In 2010, he pitched most of the season at Double-A where he posted a 5.58 ERA with a 1.65 WHIP. He made a few Triple-A appearances, but his career was done after a brief stint in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Liriano Trade: July 28, 2012 Joe Nathan would leave the Twins after the 2011 season as the team declined to pick up his $12.5 million option but paid him a $2 million buyout. This ended his part of the transaction tree, but the Twins were able to leverage Liriano to add some pieces to the organization. At the 2012 trade deadline, Minnesota dealt Liriano to the White Sox for Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez. Hernandez pitched just under 57 innings for the Twins and posted a 6.83 ERA with a 1.82 WHIP. He would only make one more big-league appearance and that came in 2014 with Colorado. Escobar was the key pick-up as he had 671 games in a Twins uniform while playing nearly every defensive position. At the plate, he posted a .729 OPS while getting on base 30.8% of the time. He was a solid contributor, but he was heading to free agency after the 2018 season. Escobar Trade: July 27, 2018 Minnesota was out of contention during the 2018 campaign, so the front office made multiple moves with the trade deadline approaching. Arizona sent three prospects to Minnesota in return for what could have been less than 200 at-bats from Escobar. He eventually resigned with the D-Backs, but that wasn’t a guarantee at the time of the deal. As I wrote about last week, Jhoan Duran was the biggest return for Escobar as he is considered one of the Twins top two starting pitching prospects. Ernie De La Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel have also added depth to the organization. When it comes to Duran, pitching prospects are never a sure thing. That being said, his ceiling seems to be a solid regular starting pitcher and if that doesn’t work, he projects to be a very good relief option. Download attachment: Transaction Tree.jpg More than two and a half decades after taking Pierzynski in the 1994 MLB Draft, the Twins organization is still feeling the ramifications of his transaction tree. What are your thoughts on these deals? 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 Click here to view the article
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