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  1. Minor League starting pitching was a beacon of light in a roller-coaster year for the Twins organization. It is only fitting that a product of the Land of 10,000 Lakes serves as the crowned jewel amongst a talented crop of pitching prospects. Louie Varland spent his childhood on the dirt of ballfields across the northeast sector of the Twin Cities. The Maplewood native turned his successful tenure at North St. Paul High School into an even better pitching career at Concordia-St. Paul. After that? A 15th round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft by his hometown Minnesota Twins. And after a sprinkle of 2019 games in rookie ball and just one full season of pro ball, Varland has distinguished himself as one of the most prolific pitchers in the entire Twins organization. For that, he's been voted as our 2021 Starting Pitcher of the Month. Varland started the 2021 season with Low-A Fort Myers where he posted a 4-2 record and 2.09 ERA in ten appearances (eight starts). In that span he struck out 76 men and opposing batters hit a meager .208 against Varland. Those numbers earned him a promotion to High-A Cedar Rapids, just four hours from home. With his family able to finally attend games, Varland did not disappoint, going 6-2 with a 2.10 ERA in ten starts with the Kernels. While he didn't post as many strikeouts as he did in Fort Myers, Varland was more efficient, posting a stellar 0.99 WHIP and only 14 walks while holding opponents to just a .202 batting average. Varland joined a talented Cedar Rapids rotation of Ben Gross and company upon being called up. That rotation was amplified towards the end of the season with Sawyer Gipson-Long, Cody Lawyerson, and Casey Legumina joining the rotation. Yet despite the addition of talented arms, Varland was the clear choice to start Game 1 of the High-A Central Championship Series against Quad Cities. Following a career-high 11 strikeout performance against Peoria on September 16, Varland dazzled in his postseason debut, tossing seven innings of six-hit, one-run ball while striking out four and walking one en route to a 2-1 Cedar Rapids victory. There's no doubt that Varland's 2021 stat line makes him a clear-cut selection for this award. A 10-4 record and 2.10 ERA is pretty darn great at any level. For a pitcher to tally those numbers in his first full season? Unbelievable. Prior to this season Varland only had three professional baseball appearances, all with the Elizabethton Twins in 2019. Varland only started one of those games and compiled a slim 8 2/3 innings in that three game span. With the 2020 minor league season scrapped due to COVID-19, it's truly incredible that Varland was able to trailblaze such an incredible 2021 season. Congrats, Louie! THE TOP SIX Varland wasn't the only pitcher in the Twins' farm system to have a standout season. In addition to Varland, these five pitchers round out the top six starting pitchers in 2021 per the Twins Daily Minor League staff. 1. RHP Louie Varland, Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids (18 GS, 10-4, 2.10 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 103 IP, 82 H, 24 ER, 30 BB, 142 K) Check out Seth Stohs' interview with Louie prior to his electric season and other Twins Daily content on Varland! St Paul to Stardom: Louie Varland is the Real Deal Twins Prospect Varland Won't Stop at Pretty Good 2. RHP Cole Sands, Wichita (18 GS, 4-2, 2.46 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 80.1 IP, 59 H, 22 ER, 35 BB, 96 K) Despite loads of movement in the organization, Cole Sands was an absolute workhorse for the Wind Surge all season. While many of his starts did not surpass five innings, it wasn't because of poor performance. Sands was as efficient as could be, holding opposing hitters to a .203 average on the year and touting seven scoreless starts. Ironically enough, one of Sands' two losses came on August 14 against Tulsa in a start where he recorded a season-high ten strikeouts. 3. RHP Jordan Balazovic, Wichita (20 GS, 5-4, 3.62 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 97 IP, 98 H, 39 ER, 38 BB, 102 K) Arguably the most notable pitching prospect in the organization, Jordan Balazovic had a season full of ups and downs. When he's on, the 2016 5th round pick is unstoppable with his blazing fastball and deceptive off-speed pitches. We saw that on July 15th when the Ontario-native lit up the Tulsa Drillers with 11 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball. On the flipside, Balazovic has struggled with control, command, and pitch selection at times leading to a few bad outings that have deflated his stat line. It's clear that the talent is there, Balazovic will continue to hone in on consistency as he reflects on his first season of Double-A ball. 4. RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long, Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids (19 GS, 8-8, 4.55 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 97 IP, 99 H, 49 ER, 27 BB, 137 K) After a rocky month of May with Fort Myers, Sawyer Gipson-Long flipped a switch and was rock-solid through the summer, posting a combined 2.76 ERA in June, July, and August. That stellar summer in the Sunshine State earned Gipson-Long a promotion to High-A Cedar Rapids on August 9th. Gipson-Long has qualities that resemble both Balazovic and Varland. Similar to Balazovic, Gipson-Long had some incredible outings this season but also saw a few outings get out of hand. Like Varland, Gipson-Long was drafted in 2019 out of Mercer and had just a few opportunities to get his feet wet in pro ball that year. After his first full-season of pro ball, Gipson-Long should be happy with his quality performance. Yet like any other young pitcher, experience and innings on the mound will help garner the young pitcher's consistency. 5. RHP Josh Winder, Wichita/St. Paul (14 GS, 4-0, 2.63 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 72 IP, 55 H, 21 ER, 13 BB, 80 K) If it were not for injuries and bad luck, there's a good chance that Josh Winder would be higher on this list. After an amazing two months in Wichita, Winder was promoted to Triple-A St. Paul on June 28th. Winder dazzled in his first start with the Saints, throwing 5 2/3 innings of eight-strikeout ball while giving up one run. With all the momentum stacked his way, Winder was struck by a line drive in his next outing that removed him from the game. Two starts later, he was placed on the 7-Day IL for a shoulder injury and has not pitched since. It's likely that the Twins are taking the safe route when it comes to Winder's rehab. And why shouldn't they? The 2018 draft pick has been impressive each season since signing and will only continue to improve. If Winder continues his progress once healthy it wouldn't be shocking to see him at Target Field at some point next season. 6. RHP Ben Gross, Cedar Rapids/Wichita (17 GS, 5-4, 4.06 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 95.1 IP, 99 H, 43 ER, 32 BB, 122 K) Ben Gross closes out a talented crop of 2019 draft picks on this list. Gross was the heart and soul of the Kernels rotation prior to his late-summer promotion to Wichita. The 10th round pick has shown versatility on the mound with his pitch arsenal but also through how he retires hitters. Most of Gross' starts feature 4-8 strikeouts and a plethora of groundouts and pop flies. However, the 24-year-old diced on August 11th against Peoria when he struck out a career-high 13 batters. While there's certainly work to be done, Gross has shown that he can be a consistent starter day in and day out. If things continue the way they are, he'll have the opportunity to showcase that consistency at a higher level. HONORABLE MENTION RHP Tyler Beck, Cedar Rapids/Wichita (13 GS, 3-4, 3.00 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 84 IP, 64 H, 28 ER, 30 BB, 91 K) LHP Charlie Barnes, St. Paul (16 GS, 6-4, 3.79 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 76 IP, 73 H, 32 ER, 24 BB, 62 K) LHP Andrew Albers, St. Paul (16 GS, 7-4, 3.75 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 96 IP, 113 H, 40 ER, 11 BB, 85 K) RHP Austin Schulfer, Wichita (24 GS, 6-8, 4.34 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 110 IP, 109 H, 53 ER, 49 BB, 105 K) LHP Kody Funderburk, Cedar Rapids/Wichita (10 GS, 4-3, 2.55 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 67 IP, 46 H, 19 ER, 28 BB, 82 K) RHP Sean Mooney, Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids (12 GS, 0-2, 2.79 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 42 IP, 22 H, 13 ER, 23 BB, 71 K) Previous Starting Pitcher of the Year Winners: 2019 winner- Randy Dobnak 2018 winner - Tyler Wells 2017 winner - Stephen Gonsalves 2016 winner - Stephen Gonsalves 2015 winner - Jose Berrios 2014 winner - Jose Berrios 2013 winner - Taylor Rogers 2012 winner - BJ Hermsen Congrats to all those mentioned! Comment your thoughts below! View full article
  2. Louie Varland spent his childhood on the dirt of ballfields across the northeast sector of the Twin Cities. The Maplewood native turned his successful tenure at North St. Paul High School into an even better pitching career at Concordia-St. Paul. After that? A 15th round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft by his hometown Minnesota Twins. And after a sprinkle of 2019 games in rookie ball and just one full season of pro ball, Varland has distinguished himself as one of the most prolific pitchers in the entire Twins organization. For that, he's been voted as our 2021 Starting Pitcher of the Month. Varland started the 2021 season with Low-A Fort Myers where he posted a 4-2 record and 2.09 ERA in ten appearances (eight starts). In that span he struck out 76 men and opposing batters hit a meager .208 against Varland. Those numbers earned him a promotion to High-A Cedar Rapids, just four hours from home. With his family able to finally attend games, Varland did not disappoint, going 6-2 with a 2.10 ERA in ten starts with the Kernels. While he didn't post as many strikeouts as he did in Fort Myers, Varland was more efficient, posting a stellar 0.99 WHIP and only 14 walks while holding opponents to just a .202 batting average. Varland joined a talented Cedar Rapids rotation of Ben Gross and company upon being called up. That rotation was amplified towards the end of the season with Sawyer Gipson-Long, Cody Lawyerson, and Casey Legumina joining the rotation. Yet despite the addition of talented arms, Varland was the clear choice to start Game 1 of the High-A Central Championship Series against Quad Cities. Following a career-high 11 strikeout performance against Peoria on September 16, Varland dazzled in his postseason debut, tossing seven innings of six-hit, one-run ball while striking out four and walking one en route to a 2-1 Cedar Rapids victory. There's no doubt that Varland's 2021 stat line makes him a clear-cut selection for this award. A 10-4 record and 2.10 ERA is pretty darn great at any level. For a pitcher to tally those numbers in his first full season? Unbelievable. Prior to this season Varland only had three professional baseball appearances, all with the Elizabethton Twins in 2019. Varland only started one of those games and compiled a slim 8 2/3 innings in that three game span. With the 2020 minor league season scrapped due to COVID-19, it's truly incredible that Varland was able to trailblaze such an incredible 2021 season. Congrats, Louie! THE TOP SIX Varland wasn't the only pitcher in the Twins' farm system to have a standout season. In addition to Varland, these five pitchers round out the top six starting pitchers in 2021 per the Twins Daily Minor League staff. 1. RHP Louie Varland, Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids (18 GS, 10-4, 2.10 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 103 IP, 82 H, 24 ER, 30 BB, 142 K) Check out Seth Stohs' interview with Louie prior to his electric season and other Twins Daily content on Varland! St Paul to Stardom: Louie Varland is the Real Deal Twins Prospect Varland Won't Stop at Pretty Good 2. RHP Cole Sands, Wichita (18 GS, 4-2, 2.46 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 80.1 IP, 59 H, 22 ER, 35 BB, 96 K) Despite loads of movement in the organization, Cole Sands was an absolute workhorse for the Wind Surge all season. While many of his starts did not surpass five innings, it wasn't because of poor performance. Sands was as efficient as could be, holding opposing hitters to a .203 average on the year and touting seven scoreless starts. Ironically enough, one of Sands' two losses came on August 14 against Tulsa in a start where he recorded a season-high ten strikeouts. 3. RHP Jordan Balazovic, Wichita (20 GS, 5-4, 3.62 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 97 IP, 98 H, 39 ER, 38 BB, 102 K) Arguably the most notable pitching prospect in the organization, Jordan Balazovic had a season full of ups and downs. When he's on, the 2016 5th round pick is unstoppable with his blazing fastball and deceptive off-speed pitches. We saw that on July 15th when the Ontario-native lit up the Tulsa Drillers with 11 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball. On the flipside, Balazovic has struggled with control, command, and pitch selection at times leading to a few bad outings that have deflated his stat line. It's clear that the talent is there, Balazovic will continue to hone in on consistency as he reflects on his first season of Double-A ball. 4. RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long, Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids (19 GS, 8-8, 4.55 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 97 IP, 99 H, 49 ER, 27 BB, 137 K) After a rocky month of May with Fort Myers, Sawyer Gipson-Long flipped a switch and was rock-solid through the summer, posting a combined 2.76 ERA in June, July, and August. That stellar summer in the Sunshine State earned Gipson-Long a promotion to High-A Cedar Rapids on August 9th. Gipson-Long has qualities that resemble both Balazovic and Varland. Similar to Balazovic, Gipson-Long had some incredible outings this season but also saw a few outings get out of hand. Like Varland, Gipson-Long was drafted in 2019 out of Mercer and had just a few opportunities to get his feet wet in pro ball that year. After his first full-season of pro ball, Gipson-Long should be happy with his quality performance. Yet like any other young pitcher, experience and innings on the mound will help garner the young pitcher's consistency. 5. RHP Josh Winder, Wichita/St. Paul (14 GS, 4-0, 2.63 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 72 IP, 55 H, 21 ER, 13 BB, 80 K) If it were not for injuries and bad luck, there's a good chance that Josh Winder would be higher on this list. After an amazing two months in Wichita, Winder was promoted to Triple-A St. Paul on June 28th. Winder dazzled in his first start with the Saints, throwing 5 2/3 innings of eight-strikeout ball while giving up one run. With all the momentum stacked his way, Winder was struck by a line drive in his next outing that removed him from the game. Two starts later, he was placed on the 7-Day IL for a shoulder injury and has not pitched since. It's likely that the Twins are taking the safe route when it comes to Winder's rehab. And why shouldn't they? The 2018 draft pick has been impressive each season since signing and will only continue to improve. If Winder continues his progress once healthy it wouldn't be shocking to see him at Target Field at some point next season. 6. RHP Ben Gross, Cedar Rapids/Wichita (17 GS, 5-4, 4.06 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 95.1 IP, 99 H, 43 ER, 32 BB, 122 K) Ben Gross closes out a talented crop of 2019 draft picks on this list. Gross was the heart and soul of the Kernels rotation prior to his late-summer promotion to Wichita. The 10th round pick has shown versatility on the mound with his pitch arsenal but also through how he retires hitters. Most of Gross' starts feature 4-8 strikeouts and a plethora of groundouts and pop flies. However, the 24-year-old diced on August 11th against Peoria when he struck out a career-high 13 batters. While there's certainly work to be done, Gross has shown that he can be a consistent starter day in and day out. If things continue the way they are, he'll have the opportunity to showcase that consistency at a higher level. HONORABLE MENTION RHP Tyler Beck, Cedar Rapids/Wichita (13 GS, 3-4, 3.00 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 84 IP, 64 H, 28 ER, 30 BB, 91 K) LHP Charlie Barnes, St. Paul (16 GS, 6-4, 3.79 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 76 IP, 73 H, 32 ER, 24 BB, 62 K) LHP Andrew Albers, St. Paul (16 GS, 7-4, 3.75 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 96 IP, 113 H, 40 ER, 11 BB, 85 K) RHP Austin Schulfer, Wichita (24 GS, 6-8, 4.34 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 110 IP, 109 H, 53 ER, 49 BB, 105 K) LHP Kody Funderburk, Cedar Rapids/Wichita (10 GS, 4-3, 2.55 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 67 IP, 46 H, 19 ER, 28 BB, 82 K) RHP Sean Mooney, Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids (12 GS, 0-2, 2.79 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 42 IP, 22 H, 13 ER, 23 BB, 71 K) Previous Starting Pitcher of the Year Winners: 2019 winner- Randy Dobnak 2018 winner - Tyler Wells 2017 winner - Stephen Gonsalves 2016 winner - Stephen Gonsalves 2015 winner - Jose Berrios 2014 winner - Jose Berrios 2013 winner - Taylor Rogers 2012 winner - BJ Hermsen Congrats to all those mentioned! Comment your thoughts below!
  3. TRANSACTIONS RHP Luke Farrell activated from 60-day IL, sent to Twins LHP Andrew Albers optioned to St. Paul RHP Derek Law DFA SAINTS SENTINEL Game 1: Columbus 9, St. Paul 8 Game 2: St. Paul 1, Columbus 0 The Saints dropped their first game of the day against the Clippers in … unfortunate fashion. They took a 8-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh when Columbus promptly scored five runs against Ian Hamilton and the newly-signed Vinny Nittoli to pick up the win. Jason Garcia started the bullpen game for St. Paul and allowed four runs in two innings. Yennier Cano and Kyle Barraclough combined to pitch four scoreless innings, striking out six, walking two, and allowing two hits. The Saints picked up 15 hits as a team, including four from Tomas Telis alone. Caleb Hamilton crushed a home run and went 2-for-4 in his first game at Triple-A. Gilberto Celestino and J.T. Riddle also contributed two hits apiece. Charlie Barnes started the second game for the Saints and pitched five innings of shutout ball. He struck out three, walked one, and gave up only two hits. Nick Vincent pitched a scoreless sixth inning after loading the bases by striking out three. Edgar Garcia solidified the shutout and earned the save. Offensively, David Bañuelos went 2-for-2, while Drew Maggi drove in the Saints’ lone run. WIND SURGE WISDOM Arkansas 2, Wichita 1 Box Score The Wind Surge dropped a low-scoring affair to the Travelers on Sunday, though, at least that means that Jordan Balazovic pitched well. Balazovic struggled during the month of August — “struggle” being relative to his usual dominance — posting a 3.72 ERA with a 22:13 K:BB ratio in 29 innings. Encouragingly, the Canadian pitched a gem against Arkansas as he struck out six and did not allow a walk in 5 ⅔ innings of work. It was the first time since August 10 and only the fourth time all season that Balazovic did not issue a free pass. Although he missed some time earlier in the season with an injury, Balazovic has put together a truly encouraging season. His strikeout numbers are down (92 vs. 129) and his walk numbers up slightly (32 vs. 25) compared to his 2019 season split between Low- and High-A, but overall Balazovic has been one of the more consistent starting pitchers in the Twins farm system. His performance in 2021 should have him on track to debut at some point next summer, which will be his age 23 campaign. However, despite picking up seven hits collectively, Wichita was unable to bring home more than a single run. Roy Morales was the lone Wind Surge player to contribute more than one hit, going 2-for-4 with a double. Trey Cabbage also clobbered a double and rose his OPS to .874 at the Double-A level. Austin Martin, Spencer Steer, Leobaldo Cabrera, and Ernie De La Trinidad all hit singles. Zach Neff and Erik Manoah Jr. pitched 2 ⅓ innings of hitless ball in relief. KERNELS NUGGETS Quad Cities 6, Cedar Rapids 4 Box Score The Kernels stuck tight to the River Bandits all afternoon, though, in the end, the Quad Cities offense was simply too much to overcome. Cedar Rapids rallied with three runs across the sixth and seventh innings to tie the game at 4-4. However, Quad Cities scored two runs in the top of the ninth off the typically robust Zach Featherstone to claim the win. Tyler Watson started on the mound for the Kernels and tossed five innings, striking out four, walking three, and allowing four earned runs. Denny Bentely — who has put together a quietly great season out of the pen — tossed the next 2 2/3 innings, striking out five. Featherstone was ultimately handed the loss after striking out two and allowing two earned runs in 1 ⅔ innings. The Kernels mustered only four total hits at the plate, one of each coming off the bat of Edouard Julien (single), Yunior Severino (single), Jeferson Morales (double), and Aaron Sabato (home run). MUSSEL MATTERS Fort Myers 10, Daytona 2 Box score The Mighty Mussels crushed the Tortugas on Sunday to improve their record to .500 (52-52). Fort Myers threw five pitchers — Regi Grace, Zaquiel Puentes, Logan Campbell, Bradley Hanner, and A.J. Labas — who combined to strike out 14 Daytona batters and only walk three. No Tortuga athlete had more than a single hit. Conversely, the Mighty Mussels had three athletes contribute multi-hit games. Christian Encarnacion-Strand led the way with three hits, including his fourth home run of the season. Willie Joe Garry Jr. — who picked up two hits — also hit a dinger, his third, while Will Holland crushed his ninth. Kyler Fedko went 2-for-5. FCL COMPLEX REPORT FCL Twins off day TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE DAY Pitcher of the Day — Jordan Balazovic, Wichita: 5 ⅔ IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K Hitter of the Day — Tomas Telis, St. Paul: 5-for-8, 3B PROSPECT SUMMARY #1 - Royce Lewis (rehab) - Out for season (torn ACL) #2 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 1-for-4 #3 - Jordan Balazovic (Wichita) - 5 ⅔ IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K #4 - Simeon Woods Richardson (Wichita) - Did not pitch #5 - Jhoan Duran (St. Paul) - Injured List (elbow strain) #6 - Jose Miranda (St. Paul) - 1-for-6, RBI, BB #7 - Joe Ryan (Minnesota) - Did not pitch #8 - Matt Canterino (Cedar Rapids) - Injured List (right elbow strain) #9 - Chase Petty (Complex) - No game #10 - Keoni Cavaco (Fort Myers) - Did not play #11 - Josh Winder (St. Paul) - Injured List (right shoulder impingement) #12 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-3, BB #13 - Gilberto Celestino (St. Paul) - 2-for-5 #14 - Drew Strotman (St. Paul) - Did not pitch #15 - Noah Miller (Complex) - No game #16 - Brent Rooker (Minnesota) - Did not play #17 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) - Out for season (Tommy John surgery) #18 - Misael Urbina (Fort Myers) - 0-for-2, 3 BB #19 - Cole Sands (Wichita) - Did not pitch #20 - Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 1-for-4 MONDAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS FCL Twins at FCL Braves — 11 a.m. CST, TBD
  4. The Mighty Mussels clobbered the Tortugas, but the remainder of the games were decided by four runs combined. TRANSACTIONS RHP Luke Farrell activated from 60-day IL, sent to Twins LHP Andrew Albers optioned to St. Paul RHP Derek Law DFA SAINTS SENTINEL Game 1: Columbus 9, St. Paul 8 Game 2: St. Paul 1, Columbus 0 The Saints dropped their first game of the day against the Clippers in … unfortunate fashion. They took a 8-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh when Columbus promptly scored five runs against Ian Hamilton and the newly-signed Vinny Nittoli to pick up the win. Jason Garcia started the bullpen game for St. Paul and allowed four runs in two innings. Yennier Cano and Kyle Barraclough combined to pitch four scoreless innings, striking out six, walking two, and allowing two hits. The Saints picked up 15 hits as a team, including four from Tomas Telis alone. Caleb Hamilton crushed a home run and went 2-for-4 in his first game at Triple-A. Gilberto Celestino and J.T. Riddle also contributed two hits apiece. Charlie Barnes started the second game for the Saints and pitched five innings of shutout ball. He struck out three, walked one, and gave up only two hits. Nick Vincent pitched a scoreless sixth inning after loading the bases by striking out three. Edgar Garcia solidified the shutout and earned the save. Offensively, David Bañuelos went 2-for-2, while Drew Maggi drove in the Saints’ lone run. WIND SURGE WISDOM Arkansas 2, Wichita 1 Box Score The Wind Surge dropped a low-scoring affair to the Travelers on Sunday, though, at least that means that Jordan Balazovic pitched well. Balazovic struggled during the month of August — “struggle” being relative to his usual dominance — posting a 3.72 ERA with a 22:13 K:BB ratio in 29 innings. Encouragingly, the Canadian pitched a gem against Arkansas as he struck out six and did not allow a walk in 5 ⅔ innings of work. It was the first time since August 10 and only the fourth time all season that Balazovic did not issue a free pass. Although he missed some time earlier in the season with an injury, Balazovic has put together a truly encouraging season. His strikeout numbers are down (92 vs. 129) and his walk numbers up slightly (32 vs. 25) compared to his 2019 season split between Low- and High-A, but overall Balazovic has been one of the more consistent starting pitchers in the Twins farm system. His performance in 2021 should have him on track to debut at some point next summer, which will be his age 23 campaign. However, despite picking up seven hits collectively, Wichita was unable to bring home more than a single run. Roy Morales was the lone Wind Surge player to contribute more than one hit, going 2-for-4 with a double. Trey Cabbage also clobbered a double and rose his OPS to .874 at the Double-A level. Austin Martin, Spencer Steer, Leobaldo Cabrera, and Ernie De La Trinidad all hit singles. Zach Neff and Erik Manoah Jr. pitched 2 ⅓ innings of hitless ball in relief. KERNELS NUGGETS Quad Cities 6, Cedar Rapids 4 Box Score The Kernels stuck tight to the River Bandits all afternoon, though, in the end, the Quad Cities offense was simply too much to overcome. Cedar Rapids rallied with three runs across the sixth and seventh innings to tie the game at 4-4. However, Quad Cities scored two runs in the top of the ninth off the typically robust Zach Featherstone to claim the win. Tyler Watson started on the mound for the Kernels and tossed five innings, striking out four, walking three, and allowing four earned runs. Denny Bentely — who has put together a quietly great season out of the pen — tossed the next 2 2/3 innings, striking out five. Featherstone was ultimately handed the loss after striking out two and allowing two earned runs in 1 ⅔ innings. The Kernels mustered only four total hits at the plate, one of each coming off the bat of Edouard Julien (single), Yunior Severino (single), Jeferson Morales (double), and Aaron Sabato (home run). MUSSEL MATTERS Fort Myers 10, Daytona 2 Box score The Mighty Mussels crushed the Tortugas on Sunday to improve their record to .500 (52-52). Fort Myers threw five pitchers — Regi Grace, Zaquiel Puentes, Logan Campbell, Bradley Hanner, and A.J. Labas — who combined to strike out 14 Daytona batters and only walk three. No Tortuga athlete had more than a single hit. Conversely, the Mighty Mussels had three athletes contribute multi-hit games. Christian Encarnacion-Strand led the way with three hits, including his fourth home run of the season. Willie Joe Garry Jr. — who picked up two hits — also hit a dinger, his third, while Will Holland crushed his ninth. Kyler Fedko went 2-for-5. FCL COMPLEX REPORT FCL Twins off day TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE DAY Pitcher of the Day — Jordan Balazovic, Wichita: 5 ⅔ IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K Hitter of the Day — Tomas Telis, St. Paul: 5-for-8, 3B PROSPECT SUMMARY #1 - Royce Lewis (rehab) - Out for season (torn ACL) #2 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 1-for-4 #3 - Jordan Balazovic (Wichita) - 5 ⅔ IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K #4 - Simeon Woods Richardson (Wichita) - Did not pitch #5 - Jhoan Duran (St. Paul) - Injured List (elbow strain) #6 - Jose Miranda (St. Paul) - 1-for-6, RBI, BB #7 - Joe Ryan (Minnesota) - Did not pitch #8 - Matt Canterino (Cedar Rapids) - Injured List (right elbow strain) #9 - Chase Petty (Complex) - No game #10 - Keoni Cavaco (Fort Myers) - Did not play #11 - Josh Winder (St. Paul) - Injured List (right shoulder impingement) #12 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) - 1-for-3, BB #13 - Gilberto Celestino (St. Paul) - 2-for-5 #14 - Drew Strotman (St. Paul) - Did not pitch #15 - Noah Miller (Complex) - No game #16 - Brent Rooker (Minnesota) - Did not play #17 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) - Out for season (Tommy John surgery) #18 - Misael Urbina (Fort Myers) - 0-for-2, 3 BB #19 - Cole Sands (Wichita) - Did not pitch #20 - Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 1-for-4 MONDAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS FCL Twins at FCL Braves — 11 a.m. CST, TBD View full article
  5. 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
  6. As a reminder, the purpose of prospect rankings is really just to create discussion. Below you will find my personal rankings of Twins pitchers, and I certainly welcome your thoughts and opinions on the players and their rankings. As we prepare for the season, be sure to check out the Opening Day roster previews of the four Twins full-season affiliates: Triple-A: Rochester Red Wings Double-A: Pensacola Blue Wahoos High-A: Ft. Myers Miracle Low-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels Top 20 Twins Pitching Prospects #20 - Charlie Barnes LHP (Ft. Myers Miracle) Drafted in the fourth round out of Clemson in 2017, Barnes spent the 2018 season in Ft. Myers where he went 6-6 with a 2.81 ERA. He ended the season strong. In his final 13 starts, he went 5-2 with a 1.84 ERA. He doesn’t throw real hard, topping out just over 90 mph, but he has a plus changeup and mixes well. #19 - Bailey Ober RHP (Ft. Myers Miracle) Ober was the Twins 12th-round pick in 2017 out of the College of Charleston. In his first start last year with the Kernels, he gave up six earned runs in 2/3 of an inning. He gave up four or more runs in five of his first six starts. Then over his next six starts, he went 6-0 with a 1.66 ERA. He also struck out 63 batters in 48 2/3 innings in that stretch. However, he left that final game in late July with an elbow issue that was deemed minor. Injury has been a big part of his pitching career but when healthy, he has been really good. #18 - Landon Leach RHP (Extended Spring Training) The Twins took the right-hander from Canada in the second round of the 2017 draft. He is still pretty new to pitching and the Twins are being incredibly patient with him and his development. But watching him throw bullpens is impressive. He throws hard. He had onlookers to his bullpen asking who he was and how soon he would be in the big leagues. Well, it’s going to be a while, but when healthy and ready to go, he could be impressive. But, at this point, we just don’t know yet. But he’s got the big size and strength to be one to watch. #17 - Jovani Moran LH RP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos) Jovani Moran has been really good the last couple of years. The Twins seventh-round pick in 2015 out of Puerto Rico. He missed 2016 after having bone chips removed from his elbow. He dominated in Elizabethton in 2017. In 2018, he was really good in both Cedar Rapids and in Ft. Myers. Combined, he went 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA. He had 107 strikeouts in 76 innings. Many that watch him wonder “What is that pitch?” He’s got a few pitches and gets a lot of movement. #16 - Cole Sands RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels) When Sands makes his first Kernels start this year, on Saturday, it will be his professional debut. After his 2018 season at Florida State, he was just shut down and didn’t pitch after being the Twins fifth-round pick last year. I saw him pitch a couple of times in Ft. Myers this spring and came away impressed. He’s big and strong and can throw pretty hard, but there appears to be room for more which is what’s really exciting. #15 - Josh Winder RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels) Winder was the Twins seventh-round pick last year out of Virginia Military Institute. He’s also tall and built quite strong, but like Sands, there is room for some growth and increased velocity. He went 3-1 with a 3.72 ERA in nine starts for the E-Twins. In 38 2/3 innings, he walked just six and struck out 42 batters. #14 - Zack Littell RHP (Rochester Red Wings) Littell came to the Twins from the Yankees at the July 2017 deadline for Jaime Garcia. He reached the big leagues earlier in 2018 and made one start. Later, he got a relief appearance. Neither went well, but he was called back up in September and showed well in his final appearances. Littell is strong and he has three good pitches and pitchability. #13 - Luis Rijo RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels) Rijo came to the Twins at the July trade deadline with Tyler Austin in exchange for Lance Lynn. He was pitching for the Yankees Appalachian League team in Pulaski at the time of the trade and was 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA in five starts. He made five starts for E-Town and went 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA. He has shown good control and struck out a little less than a batter per inning. Rijo stands just over 6-feet tall and is stocky, but he does know how to pitch. #12 - Kohl Stewart RHP (Rochester Red Wings) It was a bit of a surprise last year when it was Stewart that was called up first in mid-August. He held his own in the big leagues, pitching well at times - particularly against the Tigers - and also struggling, as you would expect a guy in his first month or so in the big leagues. He begins this season with the Red Wings. He has really matured, but he’s also got good stuff. He has good movement on his one-seam fastball which induces weak contact. His other secondary pitches will need to continue to be more crisp but have some potential. #11 - Regi Grace RHP (Extended Spring Training) Grace was the Twins 10th-round pick a year ago out of high school in Mississippi. He is physically impressive. He stands tall and is built very strong. He’s got the Graterol-like lower half with strong legs and back side. He really drives off the mound and despite his youth has a big fastball. He has a world of potential and time to continue developing his secondary stuff and learn how to pitch. #10 - Griffin Jax RHP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos) Jax is tall and thin but very strong. In April of last year, he learned that he would be able to put his efforts to baseball. He did well with the Miracle and then was able to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. He is making the jump to Double-A this year. He’s got a good fastball and an improving slider. He’s got good pitchabilty. #9 - Tyler Wells RHP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos) Wells was the Twins Daily choice for 2018 Starting Pitcher of the Year when he went a combined 10-6 with a 2.49 ERA between Ft. Myers - where he was a Florida State League All Star -and Chattanooga. In 119 1/3 innings, he struck out 121 batters. Wells stands 6-8 and has really worked hard since becoming a pro, losing about 50 pounds. He’s got a good fastball and the secondary pitches have really improved. He starts the season on the injured list, but he should be just a couple of weeks behind. #8 - Jorge Alcala RHP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos) Alcala came to the Twins in the Ryan Pressly deal from the Astros. He’s got a big fastball, sitting in the upper-90s and occasionally hitting triple figures. Questions remain with his secondary pitches, but the arm should play in the bullpen even if he isn’t able to develop a third pitch. #7 - Edwar Colina RHP (Ft. Myers Miracle) Colina has quietly become one of the best pitching prospects in the organization. He isn’t real tall and has a stocky build and is very strong. He was really good in Cedar Rapids last year and earned a promotion to Ft. Myers where he pitched a huge game late in their season and then was the starter in the FSL championship game. This spring, he was hitting 97-98 mph with his fastball and still has the secondary pitches that have potential. #6 - Stephen Gonsalves LHP (Rochester Red Wings) While his MLB debut late last season didn’t go as well as hoped, Gonsalves still possesses a plus changeup. He has a much-improved curveball and a cutter. His fastball velocity last year was down under 90 and he seemed to lose his control and command. There were reports of increased velocity shown at spring training, and if he throws more strikes, he can be successful in the big leagues. He expects to miss the first two or three weeks of this season. #5 - Jordan Balazovic RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels) Balazovic’s name became much more talked about after Keith Law named him the Twins #3 prospect this winter. But Balazovic has been an intriguing prospect since the Twins made him their fifth-round pick in 2016 out of a high school near Toronto. He had a nice debut, but he really struggled in the GCL in 2017. Things really came together for him in 2018. Drafted for his size (tall, thin) and pitchability, he gained a lot of velocity since being drafted and now sits in the 93-95 range. He still has the good secondary pitches too. He had a nice showing when he went 7-3 with a 3.94 ERA in 12 games (11 starts). In 61 2/3 innings, he walked just 18 and struck out 78 batters. #4 - Blayne Enlow RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels) Enlow was the Twins third-round pick out of high school in Louisiana in 2017. He pitched well in Cedar Rapids in 2018. He went 3-5 with a 3.26 ERA in 94 innings. He’s got good velocity, hitting 93 and even 94 at times, but he’s best known for his spin and his breaking ball. He returns to the Kernels - where his Opening Night start didn’t go great. But that’s one start and Enlow has the size, athleticism and willingness to learn to be really good. #3 - Lewis Thorpe LHP (Rochester Red Wings) Thorpe was the Twins choice for pitcher of the year last year. After missing two seasons after Tommy John surgery and disease, he returned for a half-season in 2017. He worked 129 2/3 innings in 2018, mostly at Chattanooga, but he ended the season with four starts in Rochester. Thorpe sits in the low-to-mid 90s with a good curveball and a good changeup. He should debut in 2019. #2 - Jhoan Duran RHP (Ft. Myers Miracle) Duran came to the Twins last July from Arizona in the Eduardo Escobar deal. In his first start with the Kernels, he threw seven no-hit innings. He was flashing a fastball in the 95-96 range and showed what potentially could be really good breaking pitches and a changeup. He gets good movement as he will. I’m sure you saw LaVelle Neal’s tweet saying that Duran hit 102 last week in Ft. Myers. More consistently he’s been hitting 97-98 mph. #1 - Brusdar Graterol RHP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos) Graterol missed nearly two seasons with Tommy John surgery, but he returned in 2017 and was very strong. He had gained about 60 pounds and his velocity shot up to nearly triple digits. In 2018 in Cedar Rapids, he hit 100 many times and usually had a 102 a few times each game. Watching him in the bullpen, he has the makings of a plus changeup and a plus-plus, wipe out slider. Development of those pitches will be the key in determining his future (starter or reliever). With his aggressive promotion to AA to start this season, don’t be surprised if he finds himself in the Twins bullpen late in the season. Again, these are my personal choices as Top 20 Minnesota Twins pitching prospects. Certainly this list can and will likely cause some discussion and questions, which I welcome below.
  7. In Part 1 yesterday, I ranked the Top 20 position player prospects in the Twins system. These rankings were done after I returned from Ft. Myers for a week of spring training, conversations with several people in and around the organization and other factors. In Part 2 today, I will add my rankings of the Top 20 Twins pitching prospects, so be sure to come back and ask as many questions as you would like.As a reminder, the purpose of prospect rankings is really just to create discussion. Below you will find my personal rankings of Twins pitchers, and I certainly welcome your thoughts and opinions on the players and their rankings. As we prepare for the season, be sure to check out the Opening Day roster previews of the four Twins full-season affiliates: Triple-A: Rochester Red Wings Double-A: Pensacola Blue Wahoos High-A: Ft. Myers Miracle Low-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels Top 20 Twins Pitching Prospects #20 - Charlie Barnes LHP (Ft. Myers Miracle) Drafted in the fourth round out of Clemson in 2017, Barnes spent the 2018 season in Ft. Myers where he went 6-6 with a 2.81 ERA. He ended the season strong. In his final 13 starts, he went 5-2 with a 1.84 ERA. He doesn’t throw real hard, topping out just over 90 mph, but he has a plus changeup and mixes well. #19 - Bailey Ober RHP (Ft. Myers Miracle) Ober was the Twins 12th-round pick in 2017 out of the College of Charleston. In his first start last year with the Kernels, he gave up six earned runs in 2/3 of an inning. He gave up four or more runs in five of his first six starts. Then over his next six starts, he went 6-0 with a 1.66 ERA. He also struck out 63 batters in 48 2/3 innings in that stretch. However, he left that final game in late July with an elbow issue that was deemed minor. Injury has been a big part of his pitching career but when healthy, he has been really good. #18 - Landon Leach RHP (Extended Spring Training) The Twins took the right-hander from Canada in the second round of the 2017 draft. He is still pretty new to pitching and the Twins are being incredibly patient with him and his development. But watching him throw bullpens is impressive. He throws hard. He had onlookers to his bullpen asking who he was and how soon he would be in the big leagues. Well, it’s going to be a while, but when healthy and ready to go, he could be impressive. But, at this point, we just don’t know yet. But he’s got the big size and strength to be one to watch. #17 - Jovani Moran LH RP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos) Jovani Moran has been really good the last couple of years. The Twins seventh-round pick in 2015 out of Puerto Rico. He missed 2016 after having bone chips removed from his elbow. He dominated in Elizabethton in 2017. In 2018, he was really good in both Cedar Rapids and in Ft. Myers. Combined, he went 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA. He had 107 strikeouts in 76 innings. Many that watch him wonder “What is that pitch?” He’s got a few pitches and gets a lot of movement. #16 - Cole Sands RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels) When Sands makes his first Kernels start this year, on Saturday, it will be his professional debut. After his 2018 season at Florida State, he was just shut down and didn’t pitch after being the Twins fifth-round pick last year. I saw him pitch a couple of times in Ft. Myers this spring and came away impressed. He’s big and strong and can throw pretty hard, but there appears to be room for more which is what’s really exciting. #15 - Josh Winder RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels) Winder was the Twins seventh-round pick last year out of Virginia Military Institute. He’s also tall and built quite strong, but like Sands, there is room for some growth and increased velocity. He went 3-1 with a 3.72 ERA in nine starts for the E-Twins. In 38 2/3 innings, he walked just six and struck out 42 batters. #14 - Zack Littell RHP (Rochester Red Wings) Littell came to the Twins from the Yankees at the July 2017 deadline for Jaime Garcia. He reached the big leagues earlier in 2018 and made one start. Later, he got a relief appearance. Neither went well, but he was called back up in September and showed well in his final appearances. Littell is strong and he has three good pitches and pitchability. #13 - Luis Rijo RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels) Rijo came to the Twins at the July trade deadline with Tyler Austin in exchange for Lance Lynn. He was pitching for the Yankees Appalachian League team in Pulaski at the time of the trade and was 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA in five starts. He made five starts for E-Town and went 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA. He has shown good control and struck out a little less than a batter per inning. Rijo stands just over 6-feet tall and is stocky, but he does know how to pitch. #12 - Kohl Stewart RHP (Rochester Red Wings) It was a bit of a surprise last year when it was Stewart that was called up first in mid-August. He held his own in the big leagues, pitching well at times - particularly against the Tigers - and also struggling, as you would expect a guy in his first month or so in the big leagues. He begins this season with the Red Wings. He has really matured, but he’s also got good stuff. He has good movement on his one-seam fastball which induces weak contact. His other secondary pitches will need to continue to be more crisp but have some potential. #11 - Regi Grace RHP (Extended Spring Training) Grace was the Twins 10th-round pick a year ago out of high school in Mississippi. He is physically impressive. He stands tall and is built very strong. He’s got the Graterol-like lower half with strong legs and back side. He really drives off the mound and despite his youth has a big fastball. He has a world of potential and time to continue developing his secondary stuff and learn how to pitch. #10 - Griffin Jax RHP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos) Jax is tall and thin but very strong. In April of last year, he learned that he would be able to put his efforts to baseball. He did well with the Miracle and then was able to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. He is making the jump to Double-A this year. He’s got a good fastball and an improving slider. He’s got good pitchabilty. #9 - Tyler Wells RHP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos) Wells was the Twins Daily choice for 2018 Starting Pitcher of the Year when he went a combined 10-6 with a 2.49 ERA between Ft. Myers - where he was a Florida State League All Star -and Chattanooga. In 119 1/3 innings, he struck out 121 batters. Wells stands 6-8 and has really worked hard since becoming a pro, losing about 50 pounds. He’s got a good fastball and the secondary pitches have really improved. He starts the season on the injured list, but he should be just a couple of weeks behind. #8 - Jorge Alcala RHP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos) Alcala came to the Twins in the Ryan Pressly deal from the Astros. He’s got a big fastball, sitting in the upper-90s and occasionally hitting triple figures. Questions remain with his secondary pitches, but the arm should play in the bullpen even if he isn’t able to develop a third pitch. #7 - Edwar Colina RHP (Ft. Myers Miracle) Colina has quietly become one of the best pitching prospects in the organization. He isn’t real tall and has a stocky build and is very strong. He was really good in Cedar Rapids last year and earned a promotion to Ft. Myers where he pitched a huge game late in their season and then was the starter in the FSL championship game. This spring, he was hitting 97-98 mph with his fastball and still has the secondary pitches that have potential. #6 - Stephen Gonsalves LHP (Rochester Red Wings) While his MLB debut late last season didn’t go as well as hoped, Gonsalves still possesses a plus changeup. He has a much-improved curveball and a cutter. His fastball velocity last year was down under 90 and he seemed to lose his control and command. There were reports of increased velocity shown at spring training, and if he throws more strikes, he can be successful in the big leagues. He expects to miss the first two or three weeks of this season. #5 - Jordan Balazovic RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels) Balazovic’s name became much more talked about after Keith Law named him the Twins #3 prospect this winter. But Balazovic has been an intriguing prospect since the Twins made him their fifth-round pick in 2016 out of a high school near Toronto. He had a nice debut, but he really struggled in the GCL in 2017. Things really came together for him in 2018. Drafted for his size (tall, thin) and pitchability, he gained a lot of velocity since being drafted and now sits in the 93-95 range. He still has the good secondary pitches too. He had a nice showing when he went 7-3 with a 3.94 ERA in 12 games (11 starts). In 61 2/3 innings, he walked just 18 and struck out 78 batters. #4 - Blayne Enlow RHP (Cedar Rapids Kernels) Enlow was the Twins third-round pick out of high school in Louisiana in 2017. He pitched well in Cedar Rapids in 2018. He went 3-5 with a 3.26 ERA in 94 innings. He’s got good velocity, hitting 93 and even 94 at times, but he’s best known for his spin and his breaking ball. He returns to the Kernels - where his Opening Night start didn’t go great. But that’s one start and Enlow has the size, athleticism and willingness to learn to be really good. #3 - Lewis Thorpe LHP (Rochester Red Wings) Thorpe was the Twins choice for pitcher of the year last year. After missing two seasons after Tommy John surgery and disease, he returned for a half-season in 2017. He worked 129 2/3 innings in 2018, mostly at Chattanooga, but he ended the season with four starts in Rochester. Thorpe sits in the low-to-mid 90s with a good curveball and a good changeup. He should debut in 2019. #2 - Jhoan Duran RHP (Ft. Myers Miracle) Duran came to the Twins last July from Arizona in the Eduardo Escobar deal. In his first start with the Kernels, he threw seven no-hit innings. He was flashing a fastball in the 95-96 range and showed what potentially could be really good breaking pitches and a changeup. He gets good movement as he will. I’m sure you saw LaVelle Neal’s tweet saying that Duran hit 102 last week in Ft. Myers. More consistently he’s been hitting 97-98 mph. #1 - Brusdar Graterol RHP (Pensacola Blue Wahoos) Graterol missed nearly two seasons with Tommy John surgery, but he returned in 2017 and was very strong. He had gained about 60 pounds and his velocity shot up to nearly triple digits. In 2018 in Cedar Rapids, he hit 100 many times and usually had a 102 a few times each game. Watching him in the bullpen, he has the makings of a plus changeup and a plus-plus, wipe out slider. Development of those pitches will be the key in determining his future (starter or reliever). With his aggressive promotion to AA to start this season, don’t be surprised if he finds himself in the Twins bullpen late in the season. Again, these are my personal choices as Top 20 Minnesota Twins pitching prospects. Certainly this list can and will likely cause some discussion and questions, which I welcome below. Click here to view the article
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