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  1. Twins right-handed pitcher Louie Varland was arguably one of the most dominant pitchers in all of minor league baseball last year. His brother Gus is a talented righty pitching at Double-A for the Dodgers organization. Catch the action from their appearance on Twins Spotlight with Seth Stohs. "He may have been a 15th rounder but he's a first rounder in my book." In a world of challenges and turmoil, nothing draws a smile like the sight of brotherly love. Poking back and forth with grins and banter, it's safe to say the connection is tightly-wound between the Varland brothers. Sons of North St. Paul and alumni of Concordia-St. Paul, Louie and Gus have emerged as rising stars in their respective organizations. WATCH TWINS SPOTLIGHT WITH GUS AND LOUIE VARLAND Louie Varland started the 2021 season in Low-A Fort Myers and finished a bulk of the season with High-A Cedar Rapids, throttling the competition at both levels. The younger brother finished the season with a 10-4 record and 2.10 ERA in addition to being named Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year in his first professional season. Not a bad first rodeo. Older brother Gus has cemented himself as a staple in the Dodgers organization just a year after receiving Tommy John surgery. Despite what some would call a setback, the Dodgers had so much faith in Varland that they placed him at the Double-A level in 2021 despite his injury-riddled season at High-A in 2020. Just 24 and 25 years old, the road ahead looks bright for two of the most exciting prospects to come out of the Land of 10,000 Lakes in recent history. Twins Daily's Seth Stohs had a chance to chat with the two on Wednesday night, here's what you need to know. 1. College, Man As mentioned, both Gus and Louie pitched at Concordia University in St. Paul, etching themselves as two of the most dominant players in Golden Bear history. Yet playing with his older brother for the DII school wasn't initially the plan for Louie. Like many younger siblings, Louie wanted to go anywhere besides the school that his brother was pitching for. "I just wanted to go to a place where I could pitch against him and beat him," Louie chuckled. That didn't stop Gus from putting on his recruiting shoes and doing everything possible to get another member of the family in a navy blue and gold jersey. "I was encouraging him through the entire process to come and sign at Concordia," Gus said. "I was talking to the coaches, we had him throw a bullpen in front of us, and I was trying my hardest to get him there. He fought it off for the longest time but ended up signing in the end, and it was the best thing ever." "It worked out the absolute best way that it could have, and I really enjoyed those two seasons that I had with him," Louie responded. Both brothers experienced immense individual success on the mound but cited underdog team performances as their favorite memories from CSP. Gus recalls his freshman season when the Golden Bears went into the season unranked and ended up mounting an incredible run that landed the team in the NSIC conference championship game. Louie's favorite moment came two years later when the Golden Bears rallied another incredible run before falling to eventual national champion Augustana (SD) in the conference championship. On paper you'd assume that the two spent three seasons together given that they're only one year and school grade apart. They only spent two. The reason? Gus was drafted after his junior year by the Oakland Athletics in the 14th round of the 2018 Draft; not a bad reason to leave! 2. Scouting Reports Gus spent 2021 with the Tulsa Drillers, a team that frequently plays the Twins' Double-A affiliate Wichita Wind Surge. Throughout the course of the season he would hear scouting reports on how his younger brother was pitching in Low and High-A. "I was in Tulsa running foul poles right around when Louie was called up to High-A and I remember chatting with (Wichita pitcher) Cole Sands and him saying 'He's tearing it up, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets called up (to Double-A).'" Louie stayed in High-A Cedar Rapids for the rest of the year, cementing himself as the team's ace. He credits his success to the talented crop of arms pitching alongside him and fellow 2019 Twins draft picks, including names like Tyler Beck, Casey Legumina, and Sawyer-Gipson Long. "It's a really supportive relationship with those guys, we're always bouncing ideas off of each other," Louie said "Yes, we're competing against each other but at the end of the day it's very friendly and great to work with them." Could the two face off at the Double-A level in 2022? There's a fairly high probability; you betcha, wouldn't that be awesome! 3. Life After Baseball Perspective is huge in life and in baseball. And while the Varland's both have an excellent shot at making the show, they haven't forgotten about the over-arching 'life after baseball question.' Both brothers completed their degrees from Concordia-St. Paul in 2020. Gus finished his mathematics degree and would love to one day teach math or work in the baseball industry in data analytics. Louie earned a degree in Sports Management and Marketing. Will Louie serve as his own agent? Probably not. Still, the fact that both men have taken the extra step to prioritize their education is impressive. On the topic of analytics, both men spoke volumes on the technology and data analysis used in their respective organizations. This has been echoed by many if not most Twins prospects that have appeared on Twins Spotlight, yet it was awesome to hear Gus' perspective on the Dodger's organization. Traded from Oakland, he appreciates the investment that Los Angeles has made in being as 'cutting edge' as possible. Organizations like the Dodgers are nationally-recognized for their emphasis in staying 'on top of the modern edge,' it seems like the Twins are working their way into that silo as well. 4. Respective Arsenals The 2022 season presents opportunities to hone in on successes and foster new pitches for both Louie and Gus. Louie's arsenal consists of a strong fastball, changeup, and slider. "I have to keep my fastball at the top of the zone because that's where it works best, my changeup is a work in progress but has come a long way, and I need to get my slider to move more horizontally while keeping the same velocity," he said. That slider is something the the Twins have worked on with him and that he hones in on when throwing bullpens with his brother in the offseason. Similar to his brother, Gus relies on a high-riding fastball, changeup, and slider. He has also begun to add a cutter to his skillset and plans to make that an emphasis in his '22 campaign. Extra Innings Gus received a non-roster invite to Dodgers spring training in 2021 and struck out Fernando Tatis Jr! In addition to playing baseball at North St. Paul, Louie wrestled and played football. Gus played basketball through his junior year. Similar to Drew Strotman (who was featured on Twins Spotlight earlier this week), Gus describes being traded as a mixed bundle of emotions. Luckily for him, the Dodgers and A's both call Arizona their home for spring training so he gets to catch up with his old friends and teammates from Oakland each year. In addition to being named Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Louie was the unanimous winner of our Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year Award. Past winners of the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year award include Jose Berrios, Johan Santana, and Brad Radke. Feel free to discuss this impressive brother tandem below. View full article
  2. Who are the Minnesota Twins' top pitching prospects? Here's a discussion on the top hurlers in the minor league system, as well as a look into how Seth Stohs of Twins Daily, Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic and I have them ranked. Matt Canterino and Louie Varland were among the many pitchers highlighted. These are some highlights from a live stream from earlier this week. If you'd like to join in on the conversation, I'm live streaming on my YouTube channel every Wednesday at 8:30 m CT.
  3. Who are the Minnesota Twins' top pitching prospects? Here's a discussion on the top hurlers in the minor league system, as well as a look into how Seth Stohs of Twins Daily, Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic and I have them ranked. Matt Canterino and Louie Varland were among the many pitchers highlighted. These are some highlights from a live stream from earlier this week. If you'd like to join in on the conversation, I'm live streaming on my YouTube channel every Wednesday at 8:30 m CT. View full video
  4. Who are the Minnesota Twins' top pitching prospects? Here's a discussion on the top hurlers in the minor league system, as well as a look into how Seth Stohs of Twins Daily, Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic and I have them ranked. Matt Canterino and Louie Varland were among the many pitchers highlighted. These are some highlights from a live stream from earlier this week. If you'd like to join in on the conversation, I'm live streaming on my YouTube channel every Wednesday at 8:30 m CT. View full video
  5. "He may have been a 15th rounder but he's a first rounder in my book." In a world of challenges and turmoil, nothing draws a smile like the sight of brotherly love. Poking back and forth with grins and banter, it's safe to say the connection is tightly-wound between the Varland brothers. Sons of North St. Paul and alumni of Concordia-St. Paul, Louie and Gus have emerged as rising stars in their respective organizations. WATCH TWINS SPOTLIGHT WITH GUS AND LOUIE VARLAND Louie Varland started the 2021 season in Low-A Fort Myers and finished a bulk of the season with High-A Cedar Rapids, throttling the competition at both levels. The younger brother finished the season with a 10-4 record and 2.10 ERA in addition to being named Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year in his first professional season. Not a bad first rodeo. Older brother Gus has cemented himself as a staple in the Dodgers organization just a year after receiving Tommy John surgery. Despite what some would call a setback, the Dodgers had so much faith in Varland that they placed him at the Double-A level in 2021 despite his injury-riddled season at High-A in 2020. Just 24 and 25 years old, the road ahead looks bright for two of the most exciting prospects to come out of the Land of 10,000 Lakes in recent history. Twins Daily's Seth Stohs had a chance to chat with the two on Wednesday night, here's what you need to know. 1. College, Man As mentioned, both Gus and Louie pitched at Concordia University in St. Paul, etching themselves as two of the most dominant players in Golden Bear history. Yet playing with his older brother for the DII school wasn't initially the plan for Louie. Like many younger siblings, Louie wanted to go anywhere besides the school that his brother was pitching for. "I just wanted to go to a place where I could pitch against him and beat him," Louie chuckled. That didn't stop Gus from putting on his recruiting shoes and doing everything possible to get another member of the family in a navy blue and gold jersey. "I was encouraging him through the entire process to come and sign at Concordia," Gus said. "I was talking to the coaches, we had him throw a bullpen in front of us, and I was trying my hardest to get him there. He fought it off for the longest time but ended up signing in the end, and it was the best thing ever." "It worked out the absolute best way that it could have, and I really enjoyed those two seasons that I had with him," Louie responded. Both brothers experienced immense individual success on the mound but cited underdog team performances as their favorite memories from CSP. Gus recalls his freshman season when the Golden Bears went into the season unranked and ended up mounting an incredible run that landed the team in the NSIC conference championship game. Louie's favorite moment came two years later when the Golden Bears rallied another incredible run before falling to eventual national champion Augustana (SD) in the conference championship. On paper you'd assume that the two spent three seasons together given that they're only one year and school grade apart. They only spent two. The reason? Gus was drafted after his junior year by the Oakland Athletics in the 14th round of the 2018 Draft; not a bad reason to leave! 2. Scouting Reports Gus spent 2021 with the Tulsa Drillers, a team that frequently plays the Twins' Double-A affiliate Wichita Wind Surge. Throughout the course of the season he would hear scouting reports on how his younger brother was pitching in Low and High-A. "I was in Tulsa running foul poles right around when Louie was called up to High-A and I remember chatting with (Wichita pitcher) Cole Sands and him saying 'He's tearing it up, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets called up (to Double-A).'" Louie stayed in High-A Cedar Rapids for the rest of the year, cementing himself as the team's ace. He credits his success to the talented crop of arms pitching alongside him and fellow 2019 Twins draft picks, including names like Tyler Beck, Casey Legumina, and Sawyer-Gipson Long. "It's a really supportive relationship with those guys, we're always bouncing ideas off of each other," Louie said "Yes, we're competing against each other but at the end of the day it's very friendly and great to work with them." Could the two face off at the Double-A level in 2022? There's a fairly high probability; you betcha, wouldn't that be awesome! 3. Life After Baseball Perspective is huge in life and in baseball. And while the Varland's both have an excellent shot at making the show, they haven't forgotten about the over-arching 'life after baseball question.' Both brothers completed their degrees from Concordia-St. Paul in 2020. Gus finished his mathematics degree and would love to one day teach math or work in the baseball industry in data analytics. Louie earned a degree in Sports Management and Marketing. Will Louie serve as his own agent? Probably not. Still, the fact that both men have taken the extra step to prioritize their education is impressive. On the topic of analytics, both men spoke volumes on the technology and data analysis used in their respective organizations. This has been echoed by many if not most Twins prospects that have appeared on Twins Spotlight, yet it was awesome to hear Gus' perspective on the Dodger's organization. Traded from Oakland, he appreciates the investment that Los Angeles has made in being as 'cutting edge' as possible. Organizations like the Dodgers are nationally-recognized for their emphasis in staying 'on top of the modern edge,' it seems like the Twins are working their way into that silo as well. 4. Respective Arsenals The 2022 season presents opportunities to hone in on successes and foster new pitches for both Louie and Gus. Louie's arsenal consists of a strong fastball, changeup, and slider. "I have to keep my fastball at the top of the zone because that's where it works best, my changeup is a work in progress but has come a long way, and I need to get my slider to move more horizontally while keeping the same velocity," he said. That slider is something the the Twins have worked on with him and that he hones in on when throwing bullpens with his brother in the offseason. Similar to his brother, Gus relies on a high-riding fastball, changeup, and slider. He has also begun to add a cutter to his skillset and plans to make that an emphasis in his '22 campaign. Extra Innings Gus received a non-roster invite to Dodgers spring training in 2021 and struck out Fernando Tatis Jr! In addition to playing baseball at North St. Paul, Louie wrestled and played football. Gus played basketball through his junior year. Similar to Drew Strotman (who was featured on Twins Spotlight earlier this week), Gus describes being traded as a mixed bundle of emotions. Luckily for him, the Dodgers and A's both call Arizona their home for spring training so he gets to catch up with his old friends and teammates from Oakland each year. In addition to being named Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Louie was the unanimous winner of our Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year Award. Past winners of the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year award include Jose Berrios, Johan Santana, and Brad Radke. Feel free to discuss this impressive brother tandem below.
  6. Seth chats with the Varland brothers. Gus Varland is a pitching prospect who spent 2021 with the Dodgers AA affiliate. Louie Varland was the Twins minor league pitcher of the year in 2021, splitting time between Low-A and High-A. We'll see how the brothers have helped each other since their young days through today when they work together toward their goal of pitching in the big leagues. View full video
  7. Seth chats with the Varland brothers. Gus Varland is a pitching prospect who spent 2021 with the Dodgers AA affiliate. Louie Varland was the Twins minor league pitcher of the year in 2021, splitting time between Low-A and High-A. We'll see how the brothers have helped each other since their young days through today when they work together toward their goal of pitching in the big leagues.
  8. As we continue to countdown the top Minnesota Twins pitching prospects, we have five pitchers with high ceilings and some question marks. When looking at starting pitchers, you would like to see a consistent third or fourth pitch. There are injuries and rehab. It's not easy to get to the big leagues as a pitcher, but I believe all five of these pitchers can be big leaguers. In today’s list of five Twins pitching prospects, you’ve got five pitchers that have big potential, high ceilings, but also may have a question mark or two. That may be the need to add a third (or fourth) pitch, gain better control or command, or return from injury and continue to improve. #15 - RHP Drew Strotman 2021 STATS: 3-3, 7.33 ERA, 12/12 G/GS, 1.76 WHIP, 42/30 K/BB, 54.0 IP Drew Strotman was the Rays fourth-round pick in 2017 out of St. Mary’s College (California). He had Tommy John surgery in June 2018. He returned to the mound with nine games and 24 innings. He got some extra time playing with Twins prospects in the Arizona Fall League after the season. The Rays added him to the 40-man roster after the season, but he didn’t pitch in a game in 2020. In 2021, he had been 7-2 with a 3.39 ERA for Triple-A Durham. Then in late July, he came to the Twins with Joe Ryan in the trade for Nelson Cruz. He struggled with the Saints. Overall on the season, he threw 112 1/3 innings> He struck out 104 but walked 63 batters. Obviously after Tommy John, he will need to regain control and command, but the velocity is certainly back. He was sitting in the mid-90s with the Saints and touched 99 mph with the fastball. He has secondary pitches that can be really good at times. He will be 25 throughout the 2022 season. If he can find control, he has a chance to be a big-league starter. But with his fastball and a good slider, he could be a big bullpen arm for a long time. #14 - RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long 2021 STATS: 8-8, 4.55 ERA, 20/19 G/GS, 1.30 WHIP, 134/27 K/BB, 97.0 IP The Twins drafted Sawyer Gipson-Long in the 6th round of the 2019 draft out of Mercer University in his home state of Georgia.He made six starts that summer in Elizabethton. After the missed 2020 season, the Twins had him start with the Mighty Mussels. He made 13 starts and went 5-5 with a 4.54 ERA in 67 1/3 innings. He ended the season with six starts for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. And went 3-3 with a 4.55 ERA. Overall, he worked 97 innings. He walked just 27 and struck out 134 batters (12.4 K/9). Gipson-Long looks the part of a big-league pitcher, standing tall and strong. He’s got a really good fastball and as you can see, he has the ability to miss a lot of bats. Like all pitchers, there are areas he can keep improving upon and the big thing may be consistency with his secondary pitches. But if you’re looking for a breakout pitcher in the Twins system for 2022, just-turned-24-year-old Gipson-Long just might be it. #13 - RHP Cole Sands 2021 STATS: 4-2, 2.46 ERA, 19/18 G/GS, 1.17 WHIP, 96/35 K/BB, 80.1 IP In November, Cole Sands was added to the Twins 40-man roster, and it was likely an easy decision. In 19 games (18 starts) for Double-A Wichita, Sands was really good when he was on the mound. He has arguably the best curveball in the organization and his fastball is in the low-90s, touching 94-95 mph. Unfortunately, he missed time a couple of times on the Injured List for short stints. The 24-year-old spent three seasons playing in his hometown, for Florida State, before the Twins drafted him in the fifth round of the 2018 draft. He made his professional debut in 2019 and pitched at Ft. Myers, Cedar Rapids and Double-A Pensacola. He didn’t pitch in 2020. #12 - RHP Louie Varland 2021 STATS: 10-4, 2.10 ERA, 20/18 G/GS, 1.09 WHIP, 142/30 K/BB, 103.0 IP Louie Varland, a North St. Paul High School grad, chose to join his older brother Gus at Concordia University in St. Paul. The two were on the team for two seasons before Gus was drafted by the A’s in 2018. A year later, Louie was the 15th round pick of the Twins. He made three appearances for Elizabethton that season and then did not pitch in 2020. So while most Twins that don’t follow Twins Daily didn’t know about him before the season, he had a monster breakout season in 2021. He pitched in ten games for the Mighty Mussels and went 4-2 with a 2.09 ERA. He moved up to Cedar Rapids in the second half and was 6-2 with a 2.10 ERA. In 103 innings, he struck out 142 batters (12.4 K/9) and walked just 30. He was the easy choice for Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. Varland made a name for himself last offseason when video of him hitting 100 mph on the radar gun surfaced on Twitter. In games, he generally sat between 94 and 96 mph with the fastball. He also has a slider that at times can be really, really sharp. The pitch that will determine his future is the changeup. At times this year, it was really good. I mean, look at his numbers. He was on all year, but that is his third pitch and one he will continue to develop. The next challenge for Varland will be Double-A in 2022. He will be 24-years-old throughout the season. #11 - RHP Blayne Enlow 2021 STATS: 1-1, 1.84 ERA, 3/3 G/GS, 1.30 WHIP, 23/6 K/BB, 14.2 IP Blayne Enlow has been in the Twins organization for a long-time already. He was the Twins third-round draft pick in 2017 out of high school in Louisiana. The Twins were able to meet his signing bonus request, and he gave up his scholarship to LSU. He slowly worked up the system, ending the 2019 season at High-A Ft. Myers. That is where he began the 2021 season, this time in Cedar Rapids. He made three starts for the Kernels and was throwing hard and missing a lot of bats. In those games, he worked 14 2/3 innings and struck out 23 batters. Unfortunately, in a between-starts bullpen session, he didn’t feel right. In June, he had Tommy John surgery. After some time off, he has been rehabbing in Ft. Myers. The Twins had a tough decision, but chose to add him to the 40-man roster because of his upside. Unfortunately, when the lockdown started, he was no longer able to work at the Twins complex or talk with people with the Twins. He has been working in Arizona and hopes to be ready for the start of the season. The Twins will be patient with such a talent. When healthy, Enlow was pitching in the mid-90s, having added velocity in the lost-2020 season. He’s always been known for his spin and throws both a curveball and a slider. He also had a much-improved changeup. Just as important, he is in a good frame of mind and has full confidence. In summary, this is a really exciting group of pitchers. They fit into the mold of this front office. These guys can spin the ball. Four of the five were drafted out of college. Each of them has had a big increase in velocity. And, each of them has a real chance to pitch in the big leagues. Feel free to discuss these pitchers and ask questions below. Previous Rankings Hitters Part 1: 26-30 Hitters Part 2: 21-25 Hitters Part 3: 16-20 Pitchers Part 1: 26-30 Pitchers Part 2: 21-25 Pitchers Part 3: 16-20 Pitchers Part 4: 11-15 View full article
  9. In his three season as Twins manager, Rocco Baldelli is yet to name a closer, and that likely won't change anytime soon. But, we know which relievers get the highest-leverage situations and most of the ninth innings. It's hard to predict which pitchers will fill that role, especially in the future. However, today we consider which Twins minor leaguers mighty be strong candidates. Although most pitching prospects begin their minor league careers as starters, many of them eventually wind up in the bullpen at the MLB level. The Minnesota Twins are very familiar with how this transition can lead to a fruitful career with the likes of Joe Nathan, Glen Perkins, and, more recently, Tyler Duffey doing so under their watch. The Twins currently have a multitude of pitching prospects who are knocking on the door to the majors, but it is unlikely that all of them will stick as starters. Below are five names who could not only make the switch to the pen, but may ultimately perform well in the closer role. RHP JHOAN DURAN 2021 stats (Triple-A): 5 G, 4 GS, 16 IP, 5.06 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 22 K, 13 BB, 16.7% HR/FB Duran has, without a doubt, the most electric raw stuff in the Twins' farm system. He regularly hits 100 mph with his 4-seam fastball, which pairs well with his splitter-sinker hybrid (low-90s) and curveball (mid-80s). However, his poor command and right upper-extremity injury history may limit the overall height of his ceiling; he’s only ever thrown more than 70 innings in a season once. There are many similarities between Duran and former Twin Brusdar Graterol, so it would not be surprising to see their careers take indistinguishable paths. Graterol was solid out of the pen for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021, though he functioned more as a set-up man than a closer. A shift to the bullpen may be in Duran — and the Twins' — best interests in the short and long-term. RHP LOUIE VARLAND 2021 stats (Low-/High-A): 20 G, 18 GS, 103 IP, 2.10 ERA, 2.34/3.20 FIP, 142 K, 30 BB, 6.9%/5.8% HR/FB The Twins' 2021 Minor League Pitcher of the Year burst forth out of obscurity this past summer on the back of a fastball that jumped in average velocity from the low-90s while at Division II Concordia University, St. Paul to the mid- to upper-90s with above average spin. He also owns a biting curveball that plays well down in the zone, feeding off the dominance of his fastball up. However, he lacks a third pitch and, despite low walk numbers, occasionally struggles with command, particularly that of his breaking ball. Varland will likely stick in a starting role as he advances through the minor leagues, but unless he develops a third offering or cleans up his curveball, his future may be as a back of the bullpen ace. The Twins have had previous success with closers from St. Paul, after all. RHP OSIRIS GERMAN 2021 stats (Low-/High-A): 38 G, 0 GS, 4 SV, 59 1/3 IP, 3.34 ERA, 3.14/2.69 FIP, 90 K, 24 BB, 12.5%/4.5% HR/FB At just 23 years old, German is still at least a couple of years away from sniffing the majors, but it’s easy to see why he is highly thought of after watching just a couple of pitches. German has that undefinable, yet important electricity that many of the game’s best bullpen arms possess. While his fastball pops out of the hand and plays well up in the zone, it’s his breaking ball that is the star of his show. What may prevent German from reaching his potential, however, is his erraticism and high-effort delivery. German doesn’t possess good command of either his fastball or curve, often overthrowing both. From a mechanics perspective, doesn’t get enough push off from his lower extremity which causes him to rely on the whipping action of his core and shoulder to produce torque and velocity German is the perfect candidate for a tweak in his delivery as well as the development of a third pitch (perhaps a cutter?). If he can hone his command, his stuff is good enough to reach the majors. RHP COLE SANDS 2021 stats (Double-A): 19 G, 18 GS, 80 1/3 IP, 2.46 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 96 K, 35 BB, 7.2% HR/FB Sands was among the Twins’ most steady minor league starting pitchers in 2021. He consistently pitched until at least the fifth inning and racked up strikeouts with the best in the system, ranking ninth overall. The former Florida State Seminole has a three pitch mix consisting of a fastball, curve, and changeup, though only his breaking ball is currently an above average offering. (His fastball is close, and may already be there, depending on whose opinion you seek.) In many respects, Sands is a carbon copy of current Twins’ reliever Tyler Duffey, who has been among the team's more consistent bullpen arms over the past couple of seasons. Sands currently may lack an electric fastball — which is often a requirement among back of the bullpen arms — but his curveball and punch out pedigree is intriguing. HIBERNATION CANDIDATE: LHP AARON ROZEK 2021 stats (Rookie Ball through Double-A): 16 G, 7 GS, 56 1/3 IP, 2.40 ERA, 0.81/2.48/4.40/2.15 FIP, 74 K, 7 BB, 0.0%/14.3%/18.2%/0.0% HR/FB Rozek came out of nowhere during the 2021 season. The Burnsville native and Minnesota State University, Mankato alum signed with the Twins on a minor league deal in late June before proceeding to pitch to great success across four levels of play. (He had never played in the minors prior to his signing, though he did play Indy Ball during 2019.) Rozek possesses two breaking pitches — a slider and a loopier slurve — which he uses primarily as his out pitches as well as a a fastball, though it is rather mediocre. At age 26 with less than one season of MiLB experience under his belt, the likelihood Rozek ever makes it to the parent squad is slim. Add in the fact that he is left-handed and doesn’t possess an elite fastball, and the odds of him ever being a closer are nearly nil. But for an undrafted free agent from an NCAA Division II school, he displayed plenty of talent that should pique the interest of Twins’ fans. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Read more of Lucas's minor league prospect coverage here View full article
  10. In today’s list of five Twins pitching prospects, you’ve got five pitchers that have big potential, high ceilings, but also may have a question mark or two. That may be the need to add a third (or fourth) pitch, gain better control or command, or return from injury and continue to improve. #15 - RHP Drew Strotman 2021 STATS: 3-3, 7.33 ERA, 12/12 G/GS, 1.76 WHIP, 42/30 K/BB, 54.0 IP Drew Strotman was the Rays fourth-round pick in 2017 out of St. Mary’s College (California). He had Tommy John surgery in June 2018. He returned to the mound with nine games and 24 innings. He got some extra time playing with Twins prospects in the Arizona Fall League after the season. The Rays added him to the 40-man roster after the season, but he didn’t pitch in a game in 2020. In 2021, he had been 7-2 with a 3.39 ERA for Triple-A Durham. Then in late July, he came to the Twins with Joe Ryan in the trade for Nelson Cruz. He struggled with the Saints. Overall on the season, he threw 112 1/3 innings> He struck out 104 but walked 63 batters. Obviously after Tommy John, he will need to regain control and command, but the velocity is certainly back. He was sitting in the mid-90s with the Saints and touched 99 mph with the fastball. He has secondary pitches that can be really good at times. He will be 25 throughout the 2022 season. If he can find control, he has a chance to be a big-league starter. But with his fastball and a good slider, he could be a big bullpen arm for a long time. #14 - RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long 2021 STATS: 8-8, 4.55 ERA, 20/19 G/GS, 1.30 WHIP, 134/27 K/BB, 97.0 IP The Twins drafted Sawyer Gipson-Long in the 6th round of the 2019 draft out of Mercer University in his home state of Georgia.He made six starts that summer in Elizabethton. After the missed 2020 season, the Twins had him start with the Mighty Mussels. He made 13 starts and went 5-5 with a 4.54 ERA in 67 1/3 innings. He ended the season with six starts for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. And went 3-3 with a 4.55 ERA. Overall, he worked 97 innings. He walked just 27 and struck out 134 batters (12.4 K/9). Gipson-Long looks the part of a big-league pitcher, standing tall and strong. He’s got a really good fastball and as you can see, he has the ability to miss a lot of bats. Like all pitchers, there are areas he can keep improving upon and the big thing may be consistency with his secondary pitches. But if you’re looking for a breakout pitcher in the Twins system for 2022, just-turned-24-year-old Gipson-Long just might be it. #13 - RHP Cole Sands 2021 STATS: 4-2, 2.46 ERA, 19/18 G/GS, 1.17 WHIP, 96/35 K/BB, 80.1 IP In November, Cole Sands was added to the Twins 40-man roster, and it was likely an easy decision. In 19 games (18 starts) for Double-A Wichita, Sands was really good when he was on the mound. He has arguably the best curveball in the organization and his fastball is in the low-90s, touching 94-95 mph. Unfortunately, he missed time a couple of times on the Injured List for short stints. The 24-year-old spent three seasons playing in his hometown, for Florida State, before the Twins drafted him in the fifth round of the 2018 draft. He made his professional debut in 2019 and pitched at Ft. Myers, Cedar Rapids and Double-A Pensacola. He didn’t pitch in 2020. #12 - RHP Louie Varland 2021 STATS: 10-4, 2.10 ERA, 20/18 G/GS, 1.09 WHIP, 142/30 K/BB, 103.0 IP Louie Varland, a North St. Paul High School grad, chose to join his older brother Gus at Concordia University in St. Paul. The two were on the team for two seasons before Gus was drafted by the A’s in 2018. A year later, Louie was the 15th round pick of the Twins. He made three appearances for Elizabethton that season and then did not pitch in 2020. So while most Twins that don’t follow Twins Daily didn’t know about him before the season, he had a monster breakout season in 2021. He pitched in ten games for the Mighty Mussels and went 4-2 with a 2.09 ERA. He moved up to Cedar Rapids in the second half and was 6-2 with a 2.10 ERA. In 103 innings, he struck out 142 batters (12.4 K/9) and walked just 30. He was the easy choice for Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. Varland made a name for himself last offseason when video of him hitting 100 mph on the radar gun surfaced on Twitter. In games, he generally sat between 94 and 96 mph with the fastball. He also has a slider that at times can be really, really sharp. The pitch that will determine his future is the changeup. At times this year, it was really good. I mean, look at his numbers. He was on all year, but that is his third pitch and one he will continue to develop. The next challenge for Varland will be Double-A in 2022. He will be 24-years-old throughout the season. #11 - RHP Blayne Enlow 2021 STATS: 1-1, 1.84 ERA, 3/3 G/GS, 1.30 WHIP, 23/6 K/BB, 14.2 IP Blayne Enlow has been in the Twins organization for a long-time already. He was the Twins third-round draft pick in 2017 out of high school in Louisiana. The Twins were able to meet his signing bonus request, and he gave up his scholarship to LSU. He slowly worked up the system, ending the 2019 season at High-A Ft. Myers. That is where he began the 2021 season, this time in Cedar Rapids. He made three starts for the Kernels and was throwing hard and missing a lot of bats. In those games, he worked 14 2/3 innings and struck out 23 batters. Unfortunately, in a between-starts bullpen session, he didn’t feel right. In June, he had Tommy John surgery. After some time off, he has been rehabbing in Ft. Myers. The Twins had a tough decision, but chose to add him to the 40-man roster because of his upside. Unfortunately, when the lockdown started, he was no longer able to work at the Twins complex or talk with people with the Twins. He has been working in Arizona and hopes to be ready for the start of the season. The Twins will be patient with such a talent. When healthy, Enlow was pitching in the mid-90s, having added velocity in the lost-2020 season. He’s always been known for his spin and throws both a curveball and a slider. He also had a much-improved changeup. Just as important, he is in a good frame of mind and has full confidence. In summary, this is a really exciting group of pitchers. They fit into the mold of this front office. These guys can spin the ball. Four of the five were drafted out of college. Each of them has had a big increase in velocity. And, each of them has a real chance to pitch in the big leagues. Feel free to discuss these pitchers and ask questions below. Previous Rankings Hitters Part 1: 26-30 Hitters Part 2: 21-25 Hitters Part 3: 16-20 Pitchers Part 1: 26-30 Pitchers Part 2: 21-25 Pitchers Part 3: 16-20 Pitchers Part 4: 11-15
  11. Although most pitching prospects begin their minor league careers as starters, many of them eventually wind up in the bullpen at the MLB level. The Minnesota Twins are very familiar with how this transition can lead to a fruitful career with the likes of Joe Nathan, Glen Perkins, and, more recently, Tyler Duffey doing so under their watch. The Twins currently have a multitude of pitching prospects who are knocking on the door to the majors, but it is unlikely that all of them will stick as starters. Below are five names who could not only make the switch to the pen, but may ultimately perform well in the closer role. RHP JHOAN DURAN 2021 stats (Triple-A): 5 G, 4 GS, 16 IP, 5.06 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 22 K, 13 BB, 16.7% HR/FB Duran has, without a doubt, the most electric raw stuff in the Twins' farm system. He regularly hits 100 mph with his 4-seam fastball, which pairs well with his splitter-sinker hybrid (low-90s) and curveball (mid-80s). However, his poor command and right upper-extremity injury history may limit the overall height of his ceiling; he’s only ever thrown more than 70 innings in a season once. There are many similarities between Duran and former Twin Brusdar Graterol, so it would not be surprising to see their careers take indistinguishable paths. Graterol was solid out of the pen for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021, though he functioned more as a set-up man than a closer. A shift to the bullpen may be in Duran — and the Twins' — best interests in the short and long-term. RHP LOUIE VARLAND 2021 stats (Low-/High-A): 20 G, 18 GS, 103 IP, 2.10 ERA, 2.34/3.20 FIP, 142 K, 30 BB, 6.9%/5.8% HR/FB The Twins' 2021 Minor League Pitcher of the Year burst forth out of obscurity this past summer on the back of a fastball that jumped in average velocity from the low-90s while at Division II Concordia University, St. Paul to the mid- to upper-90s with above average spin. He also owns a biting curveball that plays well down in the zone, feeding off the dominance of his fastball up. However, he lacks a third pitch and, despite low walk numbers, occasionally struggles with command, particularly that of his breaking ball. Varland will likely stick in a starting role as he advances through the minor leagues, but unless he develops a third offering or cleans up his curveball, his future may be as a back of the bullpen ace. The Twins have had previous success with closers from St. Paul, after all. RHP OSIRIS GERMAN 2021 stats (Low-/High-A): 38 G, 0 GS, 4 SV, 59 1/3 IP, 3.34 ERA, 3.14/2.69 FIP, 90 K, 24 BB, 12.5%/4.5% HR/FB At just 23 years old, German is still at least a couple of years away from sniffing the majors, but it’s easy to see why he is highly thought of after watching just a couple of pitches. German has that undefinable, yet important electricity that many of the game’s best bullpen arms possess. While his fastball pops out of the hand and plays well up in the zone, it’s his breaking ball that is the star of his show. What may prevent German from reaching his potential, however, is his erraticism and high-effort delivery. German doesn’t possess good command of either his fastball or curve, often overthrowing both. From a mechanics perspective, doesn’t get enough push off from his lower extremity which causes him to rely on the whipping action of his core and shoulder to produce torque and velocity German is the perfect candidate for a tweak in his delivery as well as the development of a third pitch (perhaps a cutter?). If he can hone his command, his stuff is good enough to reach the majors. RHP COLE SANDS 2021 stats (Double-A): 19 G, 18 GS, 80 1/3 IP, 2.46 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 96 K, 35 BB, 7.2% HR/FB Sands was among the Twins’ most steady minor league starting pitchers in 2021. He consistently pitched until at least the fifth inning and racked up strikeouts with the best in the system, ranking ninth overall. The former Florida State Seminole has a three pitch mix consisting of a fastball, curve, and changeup, though only his breaking ball is currently an above average offering. (His fastball is close, and may already be there, depending on whose opinion you seek.) In many respects, Sands is a carbon copy of current Twins’ reliever Tyler Duffey, who has been among the team's more consistent bullpen arms over the past couple of seasons. Sands currently may lack an electric fastball — which is often a requirement among back of the bullpen arms — but his curveball and punch out pedigree is intriguing. HIBERNATION CANDIDATE: LHP AARON ROZEK 2021 stats (Rookie Ball through Double-A): 16 G, 7 GS, 56 1/3 IP, 2.40 ERA, 0.81/2.48/4.40/2.15 FIP, 74 K, 7 BB, 0.0%/14.3%/18.2%/0.0% HR/FB Rozek came out of nowhere during the 2021 season. The Burnsville native and Minnesota State University, Mankato alum signed with the Twins on a minor league deal in late June before proceeding to pitch to great success across four levels of play. (He had never played in the minors prior to his signing, though he did play Indy Ball during 2019.) Rozek possesses two breaking pitches — a slider and a loopier slurve — which he uses primarily as his out pitches as well as a a fastball, though it is rather mediocre. At age 26 with less than one season of MiLB experience under his belt, the likelihood Rozek ever makes it to the parent squad is slim. Add in the fact that he is left-handed and doesn’t possess an elite fastball, and the odds of him ever being a closer are nearly nil. But for an undrafted free agent from an NCAA Division II school, he displayed plenty of talent that should pique the interest of Twins’ fans. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Read more of Lucas's minor league prospect coverage here
  12. Today, we would like to announce our choices for 2021 Minnesota Twins All-Stars. Our Twins Daily minor league report writers were asked to vote for a catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, three outfielders, a DH, four starting pitchers, a left-handed reliever and a right-handed reliever. The player at each position who received the most votes takes the spots. Read through our choices for each position. Check out how each of our writers voted. And then discuss and cast your votes as well. Let’s get started. The Twins Daily 2021 Minnesota Twins Minor League All Star Team Catcher: Jeferson Morales - Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels, Cedar Rapids Kernels Acquired: international free agent signing in October 2016 from Venezuela. 2021 Stats: .255/.370/.438 (.808) with 24 doubles, 12 home runs and 53 RBI. Just 5-8, Jeferson Morales is a really good athlete, especially for a catcher. He also played a lot in the outfield. He began the season with 71 games in Ft. Myers where he displayed a strong approach at the plate, but he also showed some power with 19 doubles and seven homers in the hot and humid conditions in Florida. He ended the season with 25 games in Cedar Rapids where he hit .301 with five doubles and five homers. Combined, he had 12 stolen bases too. ETA - May 2023 First Base: Alex Isola, Cedar Rapids Kernels Acquired: 29th round pick in 2019 from TCU 2021 Stats: .243/.342/.425 (.767) with 15 doubles, 17 home runs and 52 RBI. Alex Isola began the season with an invitation to Twins big-league spring training. A strong defensive catcher, Isola had a really good season. Early in the year, he produced by drawing a lot of walks and getting on base, but as the season continued, he started really driving the ball well. Because of that, and some injuries, he played a lot of first base when he wasn’t catching. He was also just recently named the Cedar Rapids recipient of the Harmon Killebrew Award for Community Service. ETA - July 2023 Second Base: Spencer Steer - Cedar Rapids Kernels, Wichita Wind Surge Acquired: Twins 3rd round pick in 2019 out of U of Oregon 2021 Stats:.254/.348/.484 (.832) with 18 doubles, 3 triples, 24 home runs and 66 RBI The Twins have clearly made versatility a priority throughout the organization, and Spencer Steer certainly is an example of that. He played a lot at second base, third base and shortstop and does a nice job at each spot. He was a late addition to the Twins spring training development camp and played in several games. He even hit a homer in a spring game against Atlanta. It was a sign of things to come. With Cedar Rapids, he hit 10 homers in 45 games and then added 14 more in 65 games for Wichita. ETA: May 2023 Third Base: Jose Miranda - Wichita Wind Surge, St. Paul Saints Acquired: Twins Competitive Balance Pick in 2016 from HS in Puerto Rico 2021 Stats: .344/.401/.572 (.973) with 32 doubles, 30 home runs and 94 RBI. Always full of potential, Jose Miranda put together one of the most impressive seasons in recent minor league history. He hit for average. He had 62 extra base hits including 30 home runs. He drove in runs. The 23-year-old always had great bat-to-ball skills, but by working to avoid swinging at pitches outside the zone, he was able to make himself into one of the team’s top prospects and a big-league debut should be coming soon. Miranda’s rankings among all minor league (full season) players: Batting Average: 1st (.343) Slugging Percentage: 15th (.563) OPS: 8th (.960) Hits: 1st (184… 19 more than #2 on the list!) HR: Tied 11th (30) Total Bases: 1st (306… 20 more than #2 on the list!) Runs: 5th (97) RBI: 5th (94) ETA: May 2022 Shortstop: Drew Maggi - St. Paul Saints Acquired: signed as minor league free agent. 2021 Stats: .252/.354/.456 (.810) with 13 doubles, 2 triples, 16 homers and 50 RBI Drew Maggi returned to the Twins for a third straight season. The 32-year-old put together one of his best seasons as a pro, including his career-high 16 homers. Over the years, he has played all over the infield (and some outfield). This year, he played in 50 games at shortstop. He earned a September call-up to the big leagues, his first after 11 seasons in the big leagues. He spent two days on the Twins active roster, and inexplicably did not get into either of them before being optioned back to St. Paul. ETA: September 2021 Outfielder: Trey Cabbage - Cedar Rapids, Wichita Wind Surge Acquired: Twins 4th-round draft pick in 2015 out of HS in Tennessee. 2021 Stats: .264/.346/.535 (.881) with 20 doubles, 27 home runs, 82 RBI. Trey Cabbage has long been filled with power potential, and in 2021, it was on full display. He combined to hit 27 home runs (9 in Cedar Rapids and 18 in Wichita), which ranked in the Top 25 in minor league ball. Cabbage becomes a free agent when the World Series ends and should have several options available to him as the Tennessee native is still just 24-years-old. I’m certain the Twins would like to bring him back and see him take yet another step forward. ETA: August 2022 Outfielder: BJ Boyd - Wichita Wind Surge, St. Paul Saints Acquired: signed as minor league free agent in May 2021 2021 Stats: ..291/.349/.484 (.830) with 16 doubles, 16 home runs and 73 RBI. A former draft pick of the A’s, Boyd reached Triple-A in 2018. However, he decided to turn to football. He spent a year playing running back at a junior college and had scholarship offers from some Power 5 programs, but then came the pandemic. He began 2021 working with an independent team, but the Twins signed him in May, and he quickly joined Wichita’s roster. After hitting .319 with 13 doubles and 15 home runs in 66 games. He moved up and spent 26 more games with St. Paul. The 28-year-old is also now a free agent. ETA: August 2022 Outfielder - Mark Contreras - Wichita Wind Surge, St. Paul Saints Acquired: Twins 9th-round draft pick in 2017 out of UC-Riverside 2021 Stats: .251/.338/.485 (.824), with 30 doubles, 3 triples, 20 home runs and 74 RBI. Mark Contreras struggled with the bat in 2019. He hit just .186, but in his time in Double-A Pensacola, he started showing some power. After a missed 2020 season, Contreras came back strong in 2021. He started the season in Double-A with 19 games before finishing with 95 games in St. Paul where he hit 26 doubles and 18 home runs. He won a minor league Gold Glove Award in 2019, and continued to play strong defense in 2021. At 26, could he get a big-league shot in 2022? ETA: June 2022 Designated Hitter: Edouard Julien - Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels, Cedar Rapids Kernels Acquired: Twins 18th-round draft pick in 2019 out of Auburn 2021 Stats: 266/.434/.480 (.914) with 28 doubles, 1 triple, 18 home runs and 72 RBI Though he was drafted in 2019 after playing in the College World Series, Edouard Julien made his professional debut in 2021 because he had Tommy John surgery that summer. Even after a missed season in 2020, the 22-year-old from Canada immediately produced in Ft. Myers. In 47 games, he hit .299 with an incredible .490 on-base percentage. He moved up to Cedar Rapids for another 65 games where he continued to get on base but added 15 home runs. He combined to steal 34 bases in 39 attempts. His 110 walks led all of minor league baseball, finishing 18 walks ahead of #2 on the list, Aaron Sabato. ETA: August 2023 Starting Pitcher: Louie Varland - Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels, Cedar Rapids Kernels Acquired: Twins 15th-round draft pick in 2019 out of Concordia-St. Paul 2021 Stats: 10-4, 2.10 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 103.0 IP, 2.6 BB/9, 12.4 K/9 After being drafted, Louie Varland pitched in just three games at Elizabethton.So coming into 2021, there was no way to know what Varland would do. It didn’t take long for Varland to show out. In 10 games for Ft. Myers, he went 4-2 with a 2.09 ERA and had 76 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings. He moved up to Cedar Rapids and was 6-2 with a 2.10 ERA. In 55 2/3 innings, he struck out 66 batters. He showed a big fastball and a strong slider throughout the year. He was the Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. ETA: June 2023 Starting Pitcher: Cole Sands - Wichita Wind Surge Acquired: Twins 5th-round draft pick in 2018 out of Florida State 2021 Stats: 4-2, 2.46 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 80.1 IP, 3.9 BB/9, 10.8 K/9 Cole Sands pitched at three levels in 2019, ending the season with one start in Pensacola. After a lost 2020, he began 2021 with the Wind Surge. While he missed time twice with injury-list time, when he pitched, he pitched really well. He struck out 96 batters in his 80 1/3 innings. He’s got a good fastball that reaches into the mid-90s, but he has a very good curveball. ETA: August 2022 Starting Pitcher: Josh Winder - Wichita Wind Surge, St. Paul Saints Acquired: Twins 7th round draft pick in 2018 out of Virginia Military Institute 2021 Stats: 4-0, 2.63 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 72.0 IP, 1.6 BB/9, 10.0 K/9 After going 7-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 21 starts in Cedar Rapids in 2019, Josh Winder did not pitch in 2020. Then he went to Instructional League and was throwing 97 mph, and his name was on the radar. He was invited to big-league spring training and then skipped High-A ball, jumping straight to Double-A Wichita. He dominated the level. In 10 starts, he went 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA. He had 65 strikeouts and just 10 walks over 54 2/3 innings. On July 1, he was promoted to St. Paul with Jose Miranda. His first Triple-A start started with a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He then pitched at the Futures Game. When he came back, he wasn’t the same and his season ended early with a shoulder issue. Winder is definitely on the radar for the 2022 Twins. ETA: June 2022 Starting Pitcher: Jordan Balazovic - Wichita Wind Surge Acquired: Twins 5th-round draft pick in 2016 out of high school in Ontario. 2021 Stats: 5-4, 3.62 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 97.0 IP, 3.5 BB/9, 9.5 K/9 After a fantastic 2019 between Low-A and High-A, Jordan Balazovic solidified him as a top pitching prospect in the organization. He spent the final month of the 2020 season working at the Twins alternate site in St. Paul. He was added to the 40-man roster soon after. He went to big-league spring training but his season was delayed a few weeks by an oblique strain. He had a streaky season. It took him a couple of starts to get adjusted, but soon after, he had a stretch of four starts in which he did not allow a run. That was followed with some struggles, but he ended strong. ETA: July 2022 Right-Handed Relief Pitcher: Jordan Gore - Cedar Rapids Kernels, Wichita Wind Surge Acquired: Twins 19th-round draft pick in 2017 out of Coastal Carolina 2021 Stats: 8-2, 7 saves, 2.39 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 3.7 BB/9, 11.7 K/9 For the first three years of his pro career, Jordan Gore played primarily shortstop. In 2019, he spent the first half of the season as the Pensacola shortstop. Late that season, after Royce Lewis arrived, Gore was a utility infielder until the decision was made for him to become a pitcher. Blessed with a big arm, he was able to work throughout 2020 on how to be a pitcher and on developing secondary pitches. He began 2021 at Cedar Rapids where he went 5-1 with a save and a 2.95 ERA. He had 58 strikeouts and 17 walks in 39 2/3 innings. He moved up to Wichita and was even better. He went 3-1 with six saves and a 1.61 ERA. He consistently showed a mid-90s fastball, but he also had developed a solid slider and a changeup. He is now a sleeper pick for a spot on the Twins 40-man roster this offseason. ETA: August 2022 Left-Handed Relief Pitcher: Jovani Moran - Wichita Wind Surge, St. Paul Saints Acquired: Twins 7th-round pick in 2015 out of high school in Puerto Rico 2021 MiLB Stats: 4-2, 3 saves, 2.54 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 4.3 BB/9, 14.6 K/9 We know where his season ended, with a spot on the Minnesota Twins roster. But Jovani Moran had a terrific season in the minor leagues to earn that spot. He began the season in Wichita where he dominated. In 37 2/3 innings, he posted a 1.91 ERA and had 64 strikeouts to go with just 14 walks. He was promoted to St. Paul where he still pitched well, despite some control issues. In 29 2/3 innings, he had a 3.03 ERA and 45 strikeouts. However, he also had 18 walks. However, since he signed in 2015, he would have become a minor league free agent at the end of the World Series if not added to the 40-man roster. He has a future with the Twins, so getting him some innings in the big leagues will be beneficial. He was the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. ETA: September 2021 ------------------------------------------------------------------ PREVIOUS Twins Daily Minor League All Stars Looking Back: 2016 Twins Daily Minor League All Stars C : Mitch Garver, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Luis Arraez, 3B: Nelson Molina, SS: Nick Gordon, OF: LaMonte Wade, Zack Granite, Daniel Palka, DH: Adam Brett Walker, RH SP: Fernando Romero, LH SP: Stephen Gonsalves, RH RP: Trevor Hildenberger, LH RP: Michael Theofanopoulos. Looking Back: 2017 Twins Daily Minor League All Stars C :Mitch Garver, 1B: Jonathan Rodriguez, 2B: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B: TJ White, SS: Jermaine Palacios, OF:LaMonte Wade, Zack Granite, Akil Baddoo, DH: Brent Rooker, RH SP: Clark Beeker, LH SP: Stephen Gonsalves, RH RP: John Curtiss, LH RP: Andrew Vasquez. Looking Back: 2018 Twins Daily Minor League All Stars C :Taylor Grzelakowski, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Luis Arraez, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Royce Lewis, OF: Alex Kirilloff, Jaylin Davis, Akil Baddoo, DH: Brent Rooker, RH SP: Tyler Wells, LH SP: Stephen Gonsalves, RH RP: Cody Stashak, LH RP: Andrew Vasquez. Looking Back: 2019 Twins Daily Minor League All Stars C :Ryan Jeffers, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B: Spencer Steer, SS: Nick Gordon, OF: Trevor Larnach, Jaylin Davis, Brent Rooker, DH: Gabe Snyder, RH SP: Randy Dobnak, LH SP: Devin Smeltzer, RH RP: Moises Gomez, LH RP: Zach Neff ---------------------------------------------------------------- The Votes So there you have it. The fifth annual Twins Daily Minor League All Star team, though obviously we skipped a year with no 2020 season. What would your ballot look like? Below are the votes/selections of our 2021 Twins Daily minor league writers: Seth: C :Alex Isola, 1B: Tomas Telis, 2B: Spencer Steer, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Jermaine Palacios, OF: Trey Cabbage, Mark Contreras, BJ Boyd, DH: Edouard Julien. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic, RH RP Jordan Gore, LH RP: Jovani Moran. Nash: C :Tomas Telis, 1B: Alex Isola, 2B: Spencer Steer, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Drew Maggi, OF: BJ Boyd, Jimmy Kerrigan, Matt Wallner, DH Brent Rooker. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic. RH RP: Ian Hamilton, LH RP: Zach Featherstone. Lucas: C :Jeferson Morales, 1B: Alex Isola, 2B: Edouard Julien, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS, Drew Maggi, OF: Gilberto Celestino, Mark Contreras, BJ Boyd, DH: Trey Cabbage, SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Sawyer Gipson-Long, Jordan Balazovic, RH RP: Jordan Gore, LHP: Jovani Moran. Cody: C :Jeferson Morales, 1B: Alex Isola, 2B: Spencer Steer, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Jermaine Palacios, OF: Trey Cabbage, Brent Rooker, Gilberto Celestino, DH: BJ Boyd. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic. RH RP: Jordan Gore, LH RP: Jovani Moran. Tom: C :Alex Isola, 1B: Edouard Julien, 2B: Spencer Steer, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Drew Maggi, OF: Trey Cabbage, Mark Contreras, Jeferson Morales, DH: Yunior Severino. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Tyler Beck, Austin Schulfer. RH RP: Jordan Gore, LH RP: Jovani Moran. Ted: C :Roy Morales, 1B: Andrew Bechtold, 2B: Edouard Julien, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Jermaine Palacios, OF: Trey Cabbage, Mark Contreras, Jimmy Kerrigan, DH: Matt Wallner. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Kody Funderburk, Jordan Balazovic. RH RP: Ryan Mason, LH RP: Jovani Moran. Steve: C :Alex Isola, 1B: Aaron Sabato, 2B: Edouard Julien, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Jermaine Palacios, OF: Trey Cabbage, Mark Contreras, Brent Rooker, DH: Spencer Steer. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic. RH RP: Jordan Gore, LH RP: Jovani Moran. Matt: C :Jeferson Morales, 1B: Aaron Sabato, 2B: Edouard Julien, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Drew Maggi, OF: Trey Cabbage, Matt Wallner, Gilberto Celestino, DH: Brent Rooker. SP: Louie Varland, Sawyer Gipson-Long, Ben Gross, Andrew Albers. RH RP: Jordan Gore, LH RP: Jovani Moran. David: C :Jeferson Morales, 1B: Aaron Sabato, 2B: Edouard Julien, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Drew Maggi, OF: Gilberto Celestino, Aaron Whitefield, BJ Boyd, DH: Trey Cabbage. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Sawyer Gipson-Long, Jordan Balazovic. RH RP: Jordan Gore, LH RP: Jovani Moran. Allen: C :Tomas Telis, 1B: Aaron Sabato, 2B: Jose Miranda, 3B: Spencer Steer, SS: Drew Maggi, OF: Jimmy Kerrigan, BJ Boyd, Brent Rooker, DH: Trey Cabbage. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Ben Gross, Jordan Balazovic. RH RP: Ryan Mason, LH RP: Jovani Moran. View full article
  13. Read through our choices for each position. Check out how each of our writers voted. And then discuss and cast your votes as well. Let’s get started. The Twins Daily 2021 Minnesota Twins Minor League All Star Team Catcher: Jeferson Morales - Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels, Cedar Rapids Kernels Acquired: international free agent signing in October 2016 from Venezuela. 2021 Stats: .255/.370/.438 (.808) with 24 doubles, 12 home runs and 53 RBI. Just 5-8, Jeferson Morales is a really good athlete, especially for a catcher. He also played a lot in the outfield. He began the season with 71 games in Ft. Myers where he displayed a strong approach at the plate, but he also showed some power with 19 doubles and seven homers in the hot and humid conditions in Florida. He ended the season with 25 games in Cedar Rapids where he hit .301 with five doubles and five homers. Combined, he had 12 stolen bases too. ETA - May 2023 First Base: Alex Isola, Cedar Rapids Kernels Acquired: 29th round pick in 2019 from TCU 2021 Stats: .243/.342/.425 (.767) with 15 doubles, 17 home runs and 52 RBI. Alex Isola began the season with an invitation to Twins big-league spring training. A strong defensive catcher, Isola had a really good season. Early in the year, he produced by drawing a lot of walks and getting on base, but as the season continued, he started really driving the ball well. Because of that, and some injuries, he played a lot of first base when he wasn’t catching. He was also just recently named the Cedar Rapids recipient of the Harmon Killebrew Award for Community Service. ETA - July 2023 Second Base: Spencer Steer - Cedar Rapids Kernels, Wichita Wind Surge Acquired: Twins 3rd round pick in 2019 out of U of Oregon 2021 Stats:.254/.348/.484 (.832) with 18 doubles, 3 triples, 24 home runs and 66 RBI The Twins have clearly made versatility a priority throughout the organization, and Spencer Steer certainly is an example of that. He played a lot at second base, third base and shortstop and does a nice job at each spot. He was a late addition to the Twins spring training development camp and played in several games. He even hit a homer in a spring game against Atlanta. It was a sign of things to come. With Cedar Rapids, he hit 10 homers in 45 games and then added 14 more in 65 games for Wichita. ETA: May 2023 Third Base: Jose Miranda - Wichita Wind Surge, St. Paul Saints Acquired: Twins Competitive Balance Pick in 2016 from HS in Puerto Rico 2021 Stats: .344/.401/.572 (.973) with 32 doubles, 30 home runs and 94 RBI. Always full of potential, Jose Miranda put together one of the most impressive seasons in recent minor league history. He hit for average. He had 62 extra base hits including 30 home runs. He drove in runs. The 23-year-old always had great bat-to-ball skills, but by working to avoid swinging at pitches outside the zone, he was able to make himself into one of the team’s top prospects and a big-league debut should be coming soon. Miranda’s rankings among all minor league (full season) players: Batting Average: 1st (.343) Slugging Percentage: 15th (.563) OPS: 8th (.960) Hits: 1st (184… 19 more than #2 on the list!) HR: Tied 11th (30) Total Bases: 1st (306… 20 more than #2 on the list!) Runs: 5th (97) RBI: 5th (94) ETA: May 2022 Shortstop: Drew Maggi - St. Paul Saints Acquired: signed as minor league free agent. 2021 Stats: .252/.354/.456 (.810) with 13 doubles, 2 triples, 16 homers and 50 RBI Drew Maggi returned to the Twins for a third straight season. The 32-year-old put together one of his best seasons as a pro, including his career-high 16 homers. Over the years, he has played all over the infield (and some outfield). This year, he played in 50 games at shortstop. He earned a September call-up to the big leagues, his first after 11 seasons in the big leagues. He spent two days on the Twins active roster, and inexplicably did not get into either of them before being optioned back to St. Paul. ETA: September 2021 Outfielder: Trey Cabbage - Cedar Rapids, Wichita Wind Surge Acquired: Twins 4th-round draft pick in 2015 out of HS in Tennessee. 2021 Stats: .264/.346/.535 (.881) with 20 doubles, 27 home runs, 82 RBI. Trey Cabbage has long been filled with power potential, and in 2021, it was on full display. He combined to hit 27 home runs (9 in Cedar Rapids and 18 in Wichita), which ranked in the Top 25 in minor league ball. Cabbage becomes a free agent when the World Series ends and should have several options available to him as the Tennessee native is still just 24-years-old. I’m certain the Twins would like to bring him back and see him take yet another step forward. ETA: August 2022 Outfielder: BJ Boyd - Wichita Wind Surge, St. Paul Saints Acquired: signed as minor league free agent in May 2021 2021 Stats: ..291/.349/.484 (.830) with 16 doubles, 16 home runs and 73 RBI. A former draft pick of the A’s, Boyd reached Triple-A in 2018. However, he decided to turn to football. He spent a year playing running back at a junior college and had scholarship offers from some Power 5 programs, but then came the pandemic. He began 2021 working with an independent team, but the Twins signed him in May, and he quickly joined Wichita’s roster. After hitting .319 with 13 doubles and 15 home runs in 66 games. He moved up and spent 26 more games with St. Paul. The 28-year-old is also now a free agent. ETA: August 2022 Outfielder - Mark Contreras - Wichita Wind Surge, St. Paul Saints Acquired: Twins 9th-round draft pick in 2017 out of UC-Riverside 2021 Stats: .251/.338/.485 (.824), with 30 doubles, 3 triples, 20 home runs and 74 RBI. Mark Contreras struggled with the bat in 2019. He hit just .186, but in his time in Double-A Pensacola, he started showing some power. After a missed 2020 season, Contreras came back strong in 2021. He started the season in Double-A with 19 games before finishing with 95 games in St. Paul where he hit 26 doubles and 18 home runs. He won a minor league Gold Glove Award in 2019, and continued to play strong defense in 2021. At 26, could he get a big-league shot in 2022? ETA: June 2022 Designated Hitter: Edouard Julien - Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels, Cedar Rapids Kernels Acquired: Twins 18th-round draft pick in 2019 out of Auburn 2021 Stats: 266/.434/.480 (.914) with 28 doubles, 1 triple, 18 home runs and 72 RBI Though he was drafted in 2019 after playing in the College World Series, Edouard Julien made his professional debut in 2021 because he had Tommy John surgery that summer. Even after a missed season in 2020, the 22-year-old from Canada immediately produced in Ft. Myers. In 47 games, he hit .299 with an incredible .490 on-base percentage. He moved up to Cedar Rapids for another 65 games where he continued to get on base but added 15 home runs. He combined to steal 34 bases in 39 attempts. His 110 walks led all of minor league baseball, finishing 18 walks ahead of #2 on the list, Aaron Sabato. ETA: August 2023 Starting Pitcher: Louie Varland - Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels, Cedar Rapids Kernels Acquired: Twins 15th-round draft pick in 2019 out of Concordia-St. Paul 2021 Stats: 10-4, 2.10 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 103.0 IP, 2.6 BB/9, 12.4 K/9 After being drafted, Louie Varland pitched in just three games at Elizabethton.So coming into 2021, there was no way to know what Varland would do. It didn’t take long for Varland to show out. In 10 games for Ft. Myers, he went 4-2 with a 2.09 ERA and had 76 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings. He moved up to Cedar Rapids and was 6-2 with a 2.10 ERA. In 55 2/3 innings, he struck out 66 batters. He showed a big fastball and a strong slider throughout the year. He was the Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. ETA: June 2023 Starting Pitcher: Cole Sands - Wichita Wind Surge Acquired: Twins 5th-round draft pick in 2018 out of Florida State 2021 Stats: 4-2, 2.46 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 80.1 IP, 3.9 BB/9, 10.8 K/9 Cole Sands pitched at three levels in 2019, ending the season with one start in Pensacola. After a lost 2020, he began 2021 with the Wind Surge. While he missed time twice with injury-list time, when he pitched, he pitched really well. He struck out 96 batters in his 80 1/3 innings. He’s got a good fastball that reaches into the mid-90s, but he has a very good curveball. ETA: August 2022 Starting Pitcher: Josh Winder - Wichita Wind Surge, St. Paul Saints Acquired: Twins 7th round draft pick in 2018 out of Virginia Military Institute 2021 Stats: 4-0, 2.63 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 72.0 IP, 1.6 BB/9, 10.0 K/9 After going 7-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 21 starts in Cedar Rapids in 2019, Josh Winder did not pitch in 2020. Then he went to Instructional League and was throwing 97 mph, and his name was on the radar. He was invited to big-league spring training and then skipped High-A ball, jumping straight to Double-A Wichita. He dominated the level. In 10 starts, he went 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA. He had 65 strikeouts and just 10 walks over 54 2/3 innings. On July 1, he was promoted to St. Paul with Jose Miranda. His first Triple-A start started with a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He then pitched at the Futures Game. When he came back, he wasn’t the same and his season ended early with a shoulder issue. Winder is definitely on the radar for the 2022 Twins. ETA: June 2022 Starting Pitcher: Jordan Balazovic - Wichita Wind Surge Acquired: Twins 5th-round draft pick in 2016 out of high school in Ontario. 2021 Stats: 5-4, 3.62 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 97.0 IP, 3.5 BB/9, 9.5 K/9 After a fantastic 2019 between Low-A and High-A, Jordan Balazovic solidified him as a top pitching prospect in the organization. He spent the final month of the 2020 season working at the Twins alternate site in St. Paul. He was added to the 40-man roster soon after. He went to big-league spring training but his season was delayed a few weeks by an oblique strain. He had a streaky season. It took him a couple of starts to get adjusted, but soon after, he had a stretch of four starts in which he did not allow a run. That was followed with some struggles, but he ended strong. ETA: July 2022 Right-Handed Relief Pitcher: Jordan Gore - Cedar Rapids Kernels, Wichita Wind Surge Acquired: Twins 19th-round draft pick in 2017 out of Coastal Carolina 2021 Stats: 8-2, 7 saves, 2.39 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 3.7 BB/9, 11.7 K/9 For the first three years of his pro career, Jordan Gore played primarily shortstop. In 2019, he spent the first half of the season as the Pensacola shortstop. Late that season, after Royce Lewis arrived, Gore was a utility infielder until the decision was made for him to become a pitcher. Blessed with a big arm, he was able to work throughout 2020 on how to be a pitcher and on developing secondary pitches. He began 2021 at Cedar Rapids where he went 5-1 with a save and a 2.95 ERA. He had 58 strikeouts and 17 walks in 39 2/3 innings. He moved up to Wichita and was even better. He went 3-1 with six saves and a 1.61 ERA. He consistently showed a mid-90s fastball, but he also had developed a solid slider and a changeup. He is now a sleeper pick for a spot on the Twins 40-man roster this offseason. ETA: August 2022 Left-Handed Relief Pitcher: Jovani Moran - Wichita Wind Surge, St. Paul Saints Acquired: Twins 7th-round pick in 2015 out of high school in Puerto Rico 2021 MiLB Stats: 4-2, 3 saves, 2.54 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 4.3 BB/9, 14.6 K/9 We know where his season ended, with a spot on the Minnesota Twins roster. But Jovani Moran had a terrific season in the minor leagues to earn that spot. He began the season in Wichita where he dominated. In 37 2/3 innings, he posted a 1.91 ERA and had 64 strikeouts to go with just 14 walks. He was promoted to St. Paul where he still pitched well, despite some control issues. In 29 2/3 innings, he had a 3.03 ERA and 45 strikeouts. However, he also had 18 walks. However, since he signed in 2015, he would have become a minor league free agent at the end of the World Series if not added to the 40-man roster. He has a future with the Twins, so getting him some innings in the big leagues will be beneficial. He was the Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. ETA: September 2021 ------------------------------------------------------------------ PREVIOUS Twins Daily Minor League All Stars Looking Back: 2016 Twins Daily Minor League All Stars C : Mitch Garver, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Luis Arraez, 3B: Nelson Molina, SS: Nick Gordon, OF: LaMonte Wade, Zack Granite, Daniel Palka, DH: Adam Brett Walker, RH SP: Fernando Romero, LH SP: Stephen Gonsalves, RH RP: Trevor Hildenberger, LH RP: Michael Theofanopoulos. Looking Back: 2017 Twins Daily Minor League All Stars C :Mitch Garver, 1B: Jonathan Rodriguez, 2B: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B: TJ White, SS: Jermaine Palacios, OF:LaMonte Wade, Zack Granite, Akil Baddoo, DH: Brent Rooker, RH SP: Clark Beeker, LH SP: Stephen Gonsalves, RH RP: John Curtiss, LH RP: Andrew Vasquez. Looking Back: 2018 Twins Daily Minor League All Stars C :Taylor Grzelakowski, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Luis Arraez, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Royce Lewis, OF: Alex Kirilloff, Jaylin Davis, Akil Baddoo, DH: Brent Rooker, RH SP: Tyler Wells, LH SP: Stephen Gonsalves, RH RP: Cody Stashak, LH RP: Andrew Vasquez. Looking Back: 2019 Twins Daily Minor League All Stars C :Ryan Jeffers, 1B: Zander Wiel, 2B: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B: Spencer Steer, SS: Nick Gordon, OF: Trevor Larnach, Jaylin Davis, Brent Rooker, DH: Gabe Snyder, RH SP: Randy Dobnak, LH SP: Devin Smeltzer, RH RP: Moises Gomez, LH RP: Zach Neff ---------------------------------------------------------------- The Votes So there you have it. The fifth annual Twins Daily Minor League All Star team, though obviously we skipped a year with no 2020 season. What would your ballot look like? Below are the votes/selections of our 2021 Twins Daily minor league writers: Seth: C :Alex Isola, 1B: Tomas Telis, 2B: Spencer Steer, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Jermaine Palacios, OF: Trey Cabbage, Mark Contreras, BJ Boyd, DH: Edouard Julien. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic, RH RP Jordan Gore, LH RP: Jovani Moran. Nash: C :Tomas Telis, 1B: Alex Isola, 2B: Spencer Steer, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Drew Maggi, OF: BJ Boyd, Jimmy Kerrigan, Matt Wallner, DH Brent Rooker. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic. RH RP: Ian Hamilton, LH RP: Zach Featherstone. Lucas: C :Jeferson Morales, 1B: Alex Isola, 2B: Edouard Julien, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS, Drew Maggi, OF: Gilberto Celestino, Mark Contreras, BJ Boyd, DH: Trey Cabbage, SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Sawyer Gipson-Long, Jordan Balazovic, RH RP: Jordan Gore, LHP: Jovani Moran. Cody: C :Jeferson Morales, 1B: Alex Isola, 2B: Spencer Steer, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Jermaine Palacios, OF: Trey Cabbage, Brent Rooker, Gilberto Celestino, DH: BJ Boyd. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic. RH RP: Jordan Gore, LH RP: Jovani Moran. Tom: C :Alex Isola, 1B: Edouard Julien, 2B: Spencer Steer, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Drew Maggi, OF: Trey Cabbage, Mark Contreras, Jeferson Morales, DH: Yunior Severino. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Tyler Beck, Austin Schulfer. RH RP: Jordan Gore, LH RP: Jovani Moran. Ted: C :Roy Morales, 1B: Andrew Bechtold, 2B: Edouard Julien, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Jermaine Palacios, OF: Trey Cabbage, Mark Contreras, Jimmy Kerrigan, DH: Matt Wallner. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Kody Funderburk, Jordan Balazovic. RH RP: Ryan Mason, LH RP: Jovani Moran. Steve: C :Alex Isola, 1B: Aaron Sabato, 2B: Edouard Julien, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Jermaine Palacios, OF: Trey Cabbage, Mark Contreras, Brent Rooker, DH: Spencer Steer. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Josh Winder, Jordan Balazovic. RH RP: Jordan Gore, LH RP: Jovani Moran. Matt: C :Jeferson Morales, 1B: Aaron Sabato, 2B: Edouard Julien, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Drew Maggi, OF: Trey Cabbage, Matt Wallner, Gilberto Celestino, DH: Brent Rooker. SP: Louie Varland, Sawyer Gipson-Long, Ben Gross, Andrew Albers. RH RP: Jordan Gore, LH RP: Jovani Moran. David: C :Jeferson Morales, 1B: Aaron Sabato, 2B: Edouard Julien, 3B: Jose Miranda, SS: Drew Maggi, OF: Gilberto Celestino, Aaron Whitefield, BJ Boyd, DH: Trey Cabbage. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Sawyer Gipson-Long, Jordan Balazovic. RH RP: Jordan Gore, LH RP: Jovani Moran. Allen: C :Tomas Telis, 1B: Aaron Sabato, 2B: Jose Miranda, 3B: Spencer Steer, SS: Drew Maggi, OF: Jimmy Kerrigan, BJ Boyd, Brent Rooker, DH: Trey Cabbage. SP: Louie Varland, Cole Sands, Ben Gross, Jordan Balazovic. RH RP: Ryan Mason, LH RP: Jovani Moran.
  14. Coming off his best season as a professional, Louie Varland has picked up awards, including the Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Year and the Twins' Jim Rantz Award for Minor League Pitcher of the Year. I caught up with him to reflect on the year that was. Varland was selected in the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft, and after just a brief debut in that season, he showed out in a big way this year. Putting in a ton of work during the shutdown for minor league baseball in 2020, results showed in a big way for the up-and-coming pitcher. I checked in with him to see why he thought there was so much success this season, talk baseball, the offseason, and pick his brain. Here’s what he had to say: Twins Daily: You didn't get much of a debut for Elizabethton following your selection in the 2019 draft. With minor league baseball shut down last season, how did you go about improving and gearing up for the season? Louie Varland: After pitching 8 2/3 innings and the season getting canceled, I really did exactly what the Twins asked of me, and it spiraled into improving my mechanics and staying healthy. I threw pretty much all COVID year with two short shutdown periods. When I was throwing, I was working on stuff, whether it was mechanics or pitch development. I worked with Richard Salazar, Mark Moriarty, Martijn Verhoeven, the Twins coordinators, and Kevin Walsh with Starters. TD: With the dust settled in 2021, you were among the best minor league pitchers in baseball. What was your focus, and what did you feel helped you take the most significant step forwards? LV: My focus was getting outs and putting my team in a position to win. In order to do that, I had to throw my pitches in my strikeout zones; Fastball top of the zone, changeup bottom right and slider bottom left. What really helped me take that next step and making it easy for me was an arm path fix. Working a lot with Martijn, Zach Bove, and my pitching coaches, I was able to clean it up and make it more efficient and easily repeatable. TD: Having pitched at two levels this season, you saw equal success in both places. What did you feel was the most significant difference at Low-A and High-A? LV: The biggest difference that I noticed was the batters not swinging at balls out of the zone as much. I got away with more balls out of the zone being swung at in Low-A than High-A. Batters also had a better approach looking for specific pitches during different innings depending on what pitches I have working. A little more patience, I would say. They barreled more balls as well. TD: You've now picked up a few different Pitcher of the Year awards, both from the Twins and Twins Daily. What do those mean to you? LV: It’s always nice to get awards. I look at them as a reward for my hard work. I do have to give credit to my fielders making great plays behind me. Nonetheless, it is a satisfying feeling even though I have a lot more work to do and more to prove. TD: As someone from Minnesota and played their college career at Concordia in St. Paul, what would it mean for you to make the big leagues with your hometown team? What steps do you need to take in preparation for Double and Triple-A next season? LV: It would mean a lot. It was a dream come true to be drafted by the Twins, but it would be more of a dream come true to make the big leagues with them. I need to fine-tune some pitches and continue to improve my pitching in general. Like I said earlier, I need to dial in my pitches and throw them in the strike-out zones when I want. Consistency with my three pitches. TD: How much of the Major League Baseball postseason are you tuning into? Is there a guy or two you like to key in on and try to learn from their stuff? LV: I need to be watching more, but I’ve tuned in a little here and there. I always love watching (Gerrit) Cole, (Max) Scherzer, (Liam) Hendriks, and (Josh) Hader. TD: Although the offseason doesn't mean the work ends, what are you most looking forward to in terms of recharging and relaxation? LV: I like to fish, so I will be fishing around Minnesota. Also, a little hunting. I took a couple of weeks off, and I’m back to training now, but I will enjoy the outdoors in the weekends to come before the snow flies. Then I’ll be ice fishing. 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
  15. Varland was selected in the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft, and after just a brief debut in that season, he showed out in a big way this year. Putting in a ton of work during the shutdown for minor league baseball in 2020, results showed in a big way for the up-and-coming pitcher. I checked in with him to see why he thought there was so much success this season, talk baseball, the offseason, and pick his brain. Here’s what he had to say: Twins Daily: You didn't get much of a debut for Elizabethton following your selection in the 2019 draft. With minor league baseball shut down last season, how did you go about improving and gearing up for the season? Louie Varland: After pitching 8 2/3 innings and the season getting canceled, I really did exactly what the Twins asked of me, and it spiraled into improving my mechanics and staying healthy. I threw pretty much all COVID year with two short shutdown periods. When I was throwing, I was working on stuff, whether it was mechanics or pitch development. I worked with Richard Salazar, Mark Moriarty, Martijn Verhoeven, the Twins coordinators, and Kevin Walsh with Starters. TD: With the dust settled in 2021, you were among the best minor league pitchers in baseball. What was your focus, and what did you feel helped you take the most significant step forwards? LV: My focus was getting outs and putting my team in a position to win. In order to do that, I had to throw my pitches in my strikeout zones; Fastball top of the zone, changeup bottom right and slider bottom left. What really helped me take that next step and making it easy for me was an arm path fix. Working a lot with Martijn, Zach Bove, and my pitching coaches, I was able to clean it up and make it more efficient and easily repeatable. TD: Having pitched at two levels this season, you saw equal success in both places. What did you feel was the most significant difference at Low-A and High-A? LV: The biggest difference that I noticed was the batters not swinging at balls out of the zone as much. I got away with more balls out of the zone being swung at in Low-A than High-A. Batters also had a better approach looking for specific pitches during different innings depending on what pitches I have working. A little more patience, I would say. They barreled more balls as well. TD: You've now picked up a few different Pitcher of the Year awards, both from the Twins and Twins Daily. What do those mean to you? LV: It’s always nice to get awards. I look at them as a reward for my hard work. I do have to give credit to my fielders making great plays behind me. Nonetheless, it is a satisfying feeling even though I have a lot more work to do and more to prove. TD: As someone from Minnesota and played their college career at Concordia in St. Paul, what would it mean for you to make the big leagues with your hometown team? What steps do you need to take in preparation for Double and Triple-A next season? LV: It would mean a lot. It was a dream come true to be drafted by the Twins, but it would be more of a dream come true to make the big leagues with them. I need to fine-tune some pitches and continue to improve my pitching in general. Like I said earlier, I need to dial in my pitches and throw them in the strike-out zones when I want. Consistency with my three pitches. TD: How much of the Major League Baseball postseason are you tuning into? Is there a guy or two you like to key in on and try to learn from their stuff? LV: I need to be watching more, but I’ve tuned in a little here and there. I always love watching (Gerrit) Cole, (Max) Scherzer, (Liam) Hendriks, and (Josh) Hader. TD: Although the offseason doesn't mean the work ends, what are you most looking forward to in terms of recharging and relaxation? LV: I like to fish, so I will be fishing around Minnesota. Also, a little hunting. I took a couple of weeks off, and I’m back to training now, but I will enjoy the outdoors in the weekends to come before the snow flies. Then I’ll be ice fishing. 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. Minor League Baseball returned in 2021 after being sidelined the previous summer due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many prospects and farm systems around the league were either seen for the first time or analyzed with fresh eyes. Here is what the collective we learned about the Minnesota Twins system this past summer. 1. Pitching Depth is the Strength... For years, the Twins were known for producing soft-tossing pitchers and preaching a pitch-to-contact approach. However, if one needs an example to display that is no longer the case, it would be challenging to produce a more blatant example than the 2021 season. Partially due to the natural evolution of the game as well as the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine regime's propensity to select hard-throwing high schoolers and college arms with solid reputations, the Twins farm system is currently replete with pitching talent. Jhoan Duran and Chase Petty are among those who sit in the upper 90s and touch 100 mph with regularity. Sawyer Gipson-Long, Matt Canterino, and Louie Varland all boasted K% north of 30%. There's so much talent in the system that top prospects Jordan Balazovic, Josh Winder, Cole Sands, and Simeon Woods Richardson couldn't even be bothered to pop up until the fifth paragraph of this article! And the talent doesn't stop at the backend of the starting rotation. While Jovani Moran and his 42% strikeout rate earned a promotion to the big league club by the end of the season, he was only one of a handful of genuine bullpen arms that excelled over the summer. Zach Featherstone, Jordan Gore, Osiris German, Aaron Rozek, Yennier Cano, and Denny Bentley put up huge strikeout numbers across various levels, and all boasted ERAs below 3.40. Ian Hamilton, a former top prospect in the White Sox system, put together a strong season at Triple-A, and it could be argued that he deserved a call-up at multiple points this season. In short, this is no longer your Dad's Twins farm system. Their approach to acquiring and developing pitching is night and day from 5-10 years ago. In short order, the team will be reaping the benefits of what they sowed, whether by advancing critical pieces to the majors or by swapping prospects for MLB-ready talent. 2. …, However, Offensive Depth is Lacking It's well known at this point that infield prospect Jose Miranda had one of the best seasons in all of MiLB this past summer. The 23-year-old slashed .344/.401/.572 to go along with 30 home runs, 32 doubles, and a 158 wRC+ across Double- and Triple-A en route to garnering numerous awards. Besides Miranda, who could play a prominent role on the Twins as early as next spring, the system lacks definite MLB-caliber offensive talent, particularly up the middle. Top prospects Royce Lewis and Austin Martin possess the raw talent to succeed at the MLB level for years to come. However, Lewis has not played organized baseball for nearly two years due to COVID and injury, and neither are guaranteed to stick at shortstop. (In fact, Martin played the majority of his innings in centerfield after coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays in the Jose Berrios trade.) Utility guy Edouard Julien put together arguably the most potent offensive season besides Miranda — he posted a 154 wRC+ due largely to his absurd 21.4% walk rate. He also showed more pop (18 home runs, 28 doubles) and base stealing ability (34 in 39 attempts) at Low- and High-A than he did while at Auburn University. However, he lacks a true defensive home, having appeared all over the diamond this past summer, though he is most robust at second base. Beyond the two, the Twins top offensive performers, according to FanGraphs, were a who’s-who of borderline top 30 prospects and minor league veterans. Luckily for the Twins, the majority of their offense at the big league level comprises established athletes who are under contract, so the need for prospects to reach the majors next summer is at a minimum. However, beyond the summer of 2022, the lack of offensive depth in the system may begin to rear its head unless key pieces are retained or a few of the borderline prospects breakout. 3. Watching Minor League Ball was a Good Distraction Perhaps distraction isn't the correct term here. The Twins were terrible this year and, at many points, virtually unwatchable. But their minor league teams all performed well this year and served as an excellent alternative for the baseball hungry. There are many issues with minor league baseball — the players are poorly compensated, the life is a grind, the production value of non-Twins streams was often pretty bad, etc. — but baseball is baseball at the end of the day. Few teams across MLB put forth a better minor league product than the Twins, which made the summer much more enjoyable. 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
  17. 1. Pitching Depth is the Strength... For years, the Twins were known for producing soft-tossing pitchers and preaching a pitch-to-contact approach. However, if one needs an example to display that is no longer the case, it would be challenging to produce a more blatant example than the 2021 season. Partially due to the natural evolution of the game as well as the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine regime's propensity to select hard-throwing high schoolers and college arms with solid reputations, the Twins farm system is currently replete with pitching talent. Jhoan Duran and Chase Petty are among those who sit in the upper 90s and touch 100 mph with regularity. Sawyer Gipson-Long, Matt Canterino, and Louie Varland all boasted K% north of 30%. There's so much talent in the system that top prospects Jordan Balazovic, Josh Winder, Cole Sands, and Simeon Woods Richardson couldn't even be bothered to pop up until the fifth paragraph of this article! And the talent doesn't stop at the backend of the starting rotation. While Jovani Moran and his 42% strikeout rate earned a promotion to the big league club by the end of the season, he was only one of a handful of genuine bullpen arms that excelled over the summer. Zach Featherstone, Jordan Gore, Osiris German, Aaron Rozek, Yennier Cano, and Denny Bentley put up huge strikeout numbers across various levels, and all boasted ERAs below 3.40. Ian Hamilton, a former top prospect in the White Sox system, put together a strong season at Triple-A, and it could be argued that he deserved a call-up at multiple points this season. In short, this is no longer your Dad's Twins farm system. Their approach to acquiring and developing pitching is night and day from 5-10 years ago. In short order, the team will be reaping the benefits of what they sowed, whether by advancing critical pieces to the majors or by swapping prospects for MLB-ready talent. 2. …, However, Offensive Depth is Lacking It's well known at this point that infield prospect Jose Miranda had one of the best seasons in all of MiLB this past summer. The 23-year-old slashed .344/.401/.572 to go along with 30 home runs, 32 doubles, and a 158 wRC+ across Double- and Triple-A en route to garnering numerous awards. Besides Miranda, who could play a prominent role on the Twins as early as next spring, the system lacks definite MLB-caliber offensive talent, particularly up the middle. Top prospects Royce Lewis and Austin Martin possess the raw talent to succeed at the MLB level for years to come. However, Lewis has not played organized baseball for nearly two years due to COVID and injury, and neither are guaranteed to stick at shortstop. (In fact, Martin played the majority of his innings in centerfield after coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays in the Jose Berrios trade.) Utility guy Edouard Julien put together arguably the most potent offensive season besides Miranda — he posted a 154 wRC+ due largely to his absurd 21.4% walk rate. He also showed more pop (18 home runs, 28 doubles) and base stealing ability (34 in 39 attempts) at Low- and High-A than he did while at Auburn University. However, he lacks a true defensive home, having appeared all over the diamond this past summer, though he is most robust at second base. Beyond the two, the Twins top offensive performers, according to FanGraphs, were a who’s-who of borderline top 30 prospects and minor league veterans. Luckily for the Twins, the majority of their offense at the big league level comprises established athletes who are under contract, so the need for prospects to reach the majors next summer is at a minimum. However, beyond the summer of 2022, the lack of offensive depth in the system may begin to rear its head unless key pieces are retained or a few of the borderline prospects breakout. 3. Watching Minor League Ball was a Good Distraction Perhaps distraction isn't the correct term here. The Twins were terrible this year and, at many points, virtually unwatchable. But their minor league teams all performed well this year and served as an excellent alternative for the baseball hungry. There are many issues with minor league baseball — the players are poorly compensated, the life is a grind, the production value of non-Twins streams was often pretty bad, etc. — but baseball is baseball at the end of the day. Few teams across MLB put forth a better minor league product than the Twins, which made the summer much more enjoyable. 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. 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
  19. 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!
  20. While many of the Twins' top starting pitching prospects struggled or were injured (or both) this season, St Paul native Louie Varland dominated hitters across Low A and High A all season, earning him the Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year award.
  21. While many of the Twins' top starting pitching prospects struggled or were injured (or both) this season, St Paul native Louie Varland dominated hitters across Low A and High A all season, earning him the Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year award. View full video
  22. We have come to the final week of the MLB schedule and the minor league schedule. The St. Paul Saints have five more games to play, their final Final Stretch. They concluded their home schedule last week. Meanwhile, both the Wichita Wind Surge and Cedar Rapids Kernels ended their seasons by playing in their leagues’ championship series. If you missed it, read Nick's Twins Week in Review after you've read about the minor league week. With that, let's look at Week 21 in the Twins minor leagues: RESULTS Triple-A: St. Paul Saints: Week (4-1, hosting Iowa), overall (65-60) Double-A: Wichita Wind Surge: Regular Season (69-51) Week (0-3 vs NW Arkansas in the Double-A Central League championship series) High-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels: Regular Season (67-53) Week (2-3 vs Quad Cities in the High-A Central League championship series) Low-A: Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels: Regular Season (60-54) Complex League FCL Twins: Regular Season (21-38) In Case You Missed It... Here are the week's Twins minor league-related articles. Twins Minor League Week in Review: Playoff Time for Wind Surge, Kernels Tuesday: Playoffs?! Yes, We’re Talking About Playoffs! Unsung Heroes of Lowertown: The St. Paul Saints Grounds Crew Wednesday: Game Twos and an 0-fer Thursday: Saints Ride the High of the Long Ball Prospect Retrospective: Justin Morneau Friday: Wind Surge Swept, Kernels Take Control Saturday: River Bandits Force Decisive Game 5, Saints Beat Cubs Sunday: Eliminated Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year: Jose Miranda Highlights St. Paul Saints The Saints played their final home series of the season. CHS Field and the Saints hosted the Iowa Cubs in the first of two Final Stretch weeks in Triple-A. The Saints won four of the five games. BJ Boyd went 4-for-10 (.400) with three walks, a triple, a homer and three RBI. Ben Rortvedt played in four games. He went 5-for-12 (.417) with three walks, a double, a homer and four RBI. Of course, Jose Miranda had another terrific week. In five games, he went 9-for-20 (.450) with two walks, a double, a homer and six RBI. Finally, David Banuelos played in just one game, but in that game, he went 2-for-4 with a walk, a double, a homer and three RBI. That’s a solid 2.100 OPS day! On the mound, Beau Burrows pitched the fifth through ninth innings. In five scoreless innings, he gave up just two hits, walked one and struck out six batters. Edgar Garcia had a four-inning outing. He gave up no runs on just one hit and one walk. Ian Gibaut pitched twice in the five-game set. He struck out four batters over two perfect innings. Lefty Chris Nunn struck out three batters over three scoreless innings. He gave up just one hit. Chandler Shepherd struck out four batters over 3 2/3 scoreless frames. He gave up just one hit and one walk. Andrew Albers had another strong start. He gave up one run on four hits and two walks over five innings. He struck out seven batters. Wichita Wind Surge The Wind Surge went into the championship series as the #1 see which meant the first two games on the road. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of positives in their three-game sweep at the hands of NW Arkansas. But there were a couple… Austin Martin went 6-for-12 (.500) with two walks. He had two-hit games in all three games. Likewise, Jermaine Palacios had three multi-hit games. All told, he was 7-11 (.636) with a walk, a double and two home runs. Cedar Rapids Kernels The Kernels jumped out to a 2-1 lead after three games, but the River Bandits won games four and five. As you would expect, there were a few more positives. Sawyer Gipson-Long gave up one run and struck out nine batters over 4 2/3 innings in his start. Louie Varland continued to throw well. He gave up just one run on six hits over seven innings in Game 1. Osiris German pitched twice out of the bullpen. He pitched a perfect inning in Game 1 and was credited with the Win. In Game four, he gave up just one hit over three scoreless innings. No walks. Five strikeouts. Zach Featherstone struck out three batters in the ninth inning to record the save in Game 1. In Game 1, Jair Camargo was the hitting star. He went 2-for-3 with a double and a late-inning homer to give the Kernels a lead. After going 0-for-7 in the first two games, Edouard Julien went 2-for-4 with a walk and two home runs in Game 3. He had two more hits in Game 4. In the series, Alex Isola had four walks, two doubles and a three-run homer. DaShawn Keirsey had two doubles and a homer in the series. PROSPECT SUMMARY This Prospect Summary shows our updated Twins Top 20 Prospect Rankings. #1 - Royce Lewis (Wichita) - Out for Season (torn ACL) #2 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 37 games, .254/.399/.381 (.779) with 8 doubles, 3 home runs, 19 RBI, 23 BB, 30 K. #3 - Jordan Balazovic (Wichita) – 20 GS, 97.0 IP, 98 H, 38 BB, 102 K, 3.62 ERA, 1.40 WHIP #4 - Simeon Woods-Richardson (Wichita) - 4 G, 3 GS, 8.0 IP, 6 H, 8 BB, 10 K, 6.75 ERA, 1.75 WHIP. #5 - Jhoan Duran (St. Paul) – 5 G, 4 GS, 16.0 IP, 16 H, 13 BB, 22 K, 5.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP (on IL with a right forearm strain) #6 - Jose Miranda (St. Paul) – 122 games, .342/.400/.568 (.968) with 29 doubles, 29 homers, 92 RBI, 41 BB, 73 K #7 - Joe Ryan (Minnesota) - St. Paul (2 GS, 9.0 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 17 K, 2.00 ERA, 0.78 WHIP), Minnesota (4 GS, 22.0 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 25 K, 2.45 ERA, 0.59 WHIP) #8 - Matt Canterino (Cedar Rapids) – 5 GS, 21.0 IP, 10 H, 4 BB, 43 K, 0.86 ERA, 0.67 WHIP (IL, elbow strain) #9 - Chase Petty (Complex) - 2 G, 1 GS, 5.0 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 5.40 ERA, 1.40 WHIP. #10 - Keoni Cavaco (Ft. Myers) – 60 games, .233/.296/.301 (.597) with 6 doubles, 2 triples, 2 homers, 24 RBI, 18 BB, 89 K, 5 SB (Temporary Inactive List) #11 - Josh Winder (St. Paul) - 14 GS, 72.0 IP, 55 H, 13 BB, 80 K, 2.63 ERA, 0.94 WHIP (IL, shoulder impingement) #12 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) – 66 games, .264/.350/.508 (.858) with 14 doubles, 2 triples, 15 homers, 47 RBI, 28 BB, 98 K. #13 - Gilberto Celestino (St. Paul) – Wichita (21 games, .250/.344/.381 (.725) with 5 doubles, 2 homers. 11 BB, 24 K), St. Paul (44 games, .296/.397/.457 (.854) with 11 doubles, 5 homers, 24 RBI, 23 BB, 38 K), Minnesota (22 games, .140/.183/.298 (.482) with 3 BB, 13 K) #14 - Drew Strotman (St. Paul) - 11 GS, 53.0 IP, 63 H, 26 BB, 41 K, 6.96 ERA, 1.68 WHIP. #15 - Noah Miller (Complex) - 22 games, .238/.316/.369 (.685) with 3 doubles, 1 triple, 2 homers, 14 RBI, 9 BB, 26 K #16 - Brent Rooker (Minnesota) – St. Paul (58 games, .239/.368/.566 (.934) with 8 doubles, 1 triple, 19 homers, 37 BB, 74 K), Minnesota (52 games, .201/.294/.397 (.691) with 10 doubles, 8 homers, 15 RBI, 15 BB, 64 K) #17 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) – 3 GS, 14.2 IP, 13 H, 6 BB, 23 K, 1.84 ERA, 1.30 WHIP (underwent Tommy John surgery on June 9th) #18 - Misael Urbina (Ft. Myers) – 101 games, .191/.299/.286 (.585) with 12 doubles, 4 triples, 5 homers, 52 RBI, 54 BB, 82 K, 16 SB) #19 - Cole Sands (Wichita) – 19 G, 18 GS, 80.1 IP, 59 H, 35 BB, 96 K, 2.46 ERA, 1.17 WHIP #20 - Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 110 games, .254/.348/.484 (.833) with 18 doubles, 3 triples, 24 homers, 66 RBI, 55 BB, 105 K) LOOKING AHEAD FCL Twins Season is Complete. Ft. Myers Season is Complete. Cedar Rapids Season is Complete. Wichita Season is Complete. St. Paul @ Toledo: (Jason Garcia, Derek Law, Beau Burrows, Drew Strotman, Andrew Albers): Also, Instructional League/camp began last Tuesday. Feel free to ask any questions you like. View full article
  23. If you missed it, read Nick's Twins Week in Review after you've read about the minor league week. With that, let's look at Week 21 in the Twins minor leagues: RESULTS Triple-A: St. Paul Saints: Week (4-1, hosting Iowa), overall (65-60) Double-A: Wichita Wind Surge: Regular Season (69-51) Week (0-3 vs NW Arkansas in the Double-A Central League championship series) High-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels: Regular Season (67-53) Week (2-3 vs Quad Cities in the High-A Central League championship series) Low-A: Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels: Regular Season (60-54) Complex League FCL Twins: Regular Season (21-38) In Case You Missed It... Here are the week's Twins minor league-related articles. Twins Minor League Week in Review: Playoff Time for Wind Surge, Kernels Tuesday: Playoffs?! Yes, We’re Talking About Playoffs! Unsung Heroes of Lowertown: The St. Paul Saints Grounds Crew Wednesday: Game Twos and an 0-fer Thursday: Saints Ride the High of the Long Ball Prospect Retrospective: Justin Morneau Friday: Wind Surge Swept, Kernels Take Control Saturday: River Bandits Force Decisive Game 5, Saints Beat Cubs Sunday: Eliminated Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year: Jose Miranda Highlights St. Paul Saints The Saints played their final home series of the season. CHS Field and the Saints hosted the Iowa Cubs in the first of two Final Stretch weeks in Triple-A. The Saints won four of the five games. BJ Boyd went 4-for-10 (.400) with three walks, a triple, a homer and three RBI. Ben Rortvedt played in four games. He went 5-for-12 (.417) with three walks, a double, a homer and four RBI. Of course, Jose Miranda had another terrific week. In five games, he went 9-for-20 (.450) with two walks, a double, a homer and six RBI. Finally, David Banuelos played in just one game, but in that game, he went 2-for-4 with a walk, a double, a homer and three RBI. That’s a solid 2.100 OPS day! On the mound, Beau Burrows pitched the fifth through ninth innings. In five scoreless innings, he gave up just two hits, walked one and struck out six batters. Edgar Garcia had a four-inning outing. He gave up no runs on just one hit and one walk. Ian Gibaut pitched twice in the five-game set. He struck out four batters over two perfect innings. Lefty Chris Nunn struck out three batters over three scoreless innings. He gave up just one hit. Chandler Shepherd struck out four batters over 3 2/3 scoreless frames. He gave up just one hit and one walk. Andrew Albers had another strong start. He gave up one run on four hits and two walks over five innings. He struck out seven batters. Wichita Wind Surge The Wind Surge went into the championship series as the #1 see which meant the first two games on the road. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of positives in their three-game sweep at the hands of NW Arkansas. But there were a couple… Austin Martin went 6-for-12 (.500) with two walks. He had two-hit games in all three games. Likewise, Jermaine Palacios had three multi-hit games. All told, he was 7-11 (.636) with a walk, a double and two home runs. Cedar Rapids Kernels The Kernels jumped out to a 2-1 lead after three games, but the River Bandits won games four and five. As you would expect, there were a few more positives. Sawyer Gipson-Long gave up one run and struck out nine batters over 4 2/3 innings in his start. Louie Varland continued to throw well. He gave up just one run on six hits over seven innings in Game 1. Osiris German pitched twice out of the bullpen. He pitched a perfect inning in Game 1 and was credited with the Win. In Game four, he gave up just one hit over three scoreless innings. No walks. Five strikeouts. Zach Featherstone struck out three batters in the ninth inning to record the save in Game 1. In Game 1, Jair Camargo was the hitting star. He went 2-for-3 with a double and a late-inning homer to give the Kernels a lead. After going 0-for-7 in the first two games, Edouard Julien went 2-for-4 with a walk and two home runs in Game 3. He had two more hits in Game 4. In the series, Alex Isola had four walks, two doubles and a three-run homer. DaShawn Keirsey had two doubles and a homer in the series. PROSPECT SUMMARY This Prospect Summary shows our updated Twins Top 20 Prospect Rankings. #1 - Royce Lewis (Wichita) - Out for Season (torn ACL) #2 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 37 games, .254/.399/.381 (.779) with 8 doubles, 3 home runs, 19 RBI, 23 BB, 30 K. #3 - Jordan Balazovic (Wichita) – 20 GS, 97.0 IP, 98 H, 38 BB, 102 K, 3.62 ERA, 1.40 WHIP #4 - Simeon Woods-Richardson (Wichita) - 4 G, 3 GS, 8.0 IP, 6 H, 8 BB, 10 K, 6.75 ERA, 1.75 WHIP. #5 - Jhoan Duran (St. Paul) – 5 G, 4 GS, 16.0 IP, 16 H, 13 BB, 22 K, 5.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP (on IL with a right forearm strain) #6 - Jose Miranda (St. Paul) – 122 games, .342/.400/.568 (.968) with 29 doubles, 29 homers, 92 RBI, 41 BB, 73 K #7 - Joe Ryan (Minnesota) - St. Paul (2 GS, 9.0 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 17 K, 2.00 ERA, 0.78 WHIP), Minnesota (4 GS, 22.0 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 25 K, 2.45 ERA, 0.59 WHIP) #8 - Matt Canterino (Cedar Rapids) – 5 GS, 21.0 IP, 10 H, 4 BB, 43 K, 0.86 ERA, 0.67 WHIP (IL, elbow strain) #9 - Chase Petty (Complex) - 2 G, 1 GS, 5.0 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 5.40 ERA, 1.40 WHIP. #10 - Keoni Cavaco (Ft. Myers) – 60 games, .233/.296/.301 (.597) with 6 doubles, 2 triples, 2 homers, 24 RBI, 18 BB, 89 K, 5 SB (Temporary Inactive List) #11 - Josh Winder (St. Paul) - 14 GS, 72.0 IP, 55 H, 13 BB, 80 K, 2.63 ERA, 0.94 WHIP (IL, shoulder impingement) #12 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) – 66 games, .264/.350/.508 (.858) with 14 doubles, 2 triples, 15 homers, 47 RBI, 28 BB, 98 K. #13 - Gilberto Celestino (St. Paul) – Wichita (21 games, .250/.344/.381 (.725) with 5 doubles, 2 homers. 11 BB, 24 K), St. Paul (44 games, .296/.397/.457 (.854) with 11 doubles, 5 homers, 24 RBI, 23 BB, 38 K), Minnesota (22 games, .140/.183/.298 (.482) with 3 BB, 13 K) #14 - Drew Strotman (St. Paul) - 11 GS, 53.0 IP, 63 H, 26 BB, 41 K, 6.96 ERA, 1.68 WHIP. #15 - Noah Miller (Complex) - 22 games, .238/.316/.369 (.685) with 3 doubles, 1 triple, 2 homers, 14 RBI, 9 BB, 26 K #16 - Brent Rooker (Minnesota) – St. Paul (58 games, .239/.368/.566 (.934) with 8 doubles, 1 triple, 19 homers, 37 BB, 74 K), Minnesota (52 games, .201/.294/.397 (.691) with 10 doubles, 8 homers, 15 RBI, 15 BB, 64 K) #17 - Blayne Enlow (Cedar Rapids) – 3 GS, 14.2 IP, 13 H, 6 BB, 23 K, 1.84 ERA, 1.30 WHIP (underwent Tommy John surgery on June 9th) #18 - Misael Urbina (Ft. Myers) – 101 games, .191/.299/.286 (.585) with 12 doubles, 4 triples, 5 homers, 52 RBI, 54 BB, 82 K, 16 SB) #19 - Cole Sands (Wichita) – 19 G, 18 GS, 80.1 IP, 59 H, 35 BB, 96 K, 2.46 ERA, 1.17 WHIP #20 - Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 110 games, .254/.348/.484 (.833) with 18 doubles, 3 triples, 24 homers, 66 RBI, 55 BB, 105 K) LOOKING AHEAD FCL Twins Season is Complete. Ft. Myers Season is Complete. Cedar Rapids Season is Complete. Wichita Season is Complete. St. Paul @ Toledo: (Jason Garcia, Derek Law, Beau Burrows, Drew Strotman, Andrew Albers): Also, Instructional League/camp began last Tuesday. Feel free to ask any questions you like.
  24. The Wichita Wind Surge and Cedar Rapids Kernels began their championship playoff series on Tuesday, each with their top pitcher Jordan Balazovic and Louie Varland taking the mound. Would either of them be able to lead their team to victory? Keep reading to find out! TRANSACTIONS There were no transactions in the system in advance of the Cedar Rapids Kernels and Wichita Wind Surge starting their league championship series on Tuesday. SAINTS SENTINEL Scheduled Day Off The Saints got an extra day off on their schedule, as they begin the Final Stretch of games happening across the Triple-A level to end the season. They will play five games against the Iowa Cubs at home starting on Wednesday, and then five on the road against Toledo next week. WIND SURGE WISDOM Game 1: Wichita 5, NW Arkansas 7 Box Score The Wichita Wind Surge had to feel good about themselves heading into game one against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, with top prospect Jordan Balazovic lined up to start. It didn’t go as well as they hoped, but was a back and forth affair throughout with several lead changes and big plays on both sides. Wichita had a two-out threat in the top of the first after singles from Roy Morales and Spencer Steer put runners on the corners, but Jermaine Palacios grounded out to keep them off the scoreboard in the opening frame. That changed in the second inning when Leobaldo Cabrera clubbed a home run to left field for a 1-0 lead. Balazovic got two quick outs in the bottom of the frame, but the Naturals struck back with a single followed by a triple to tie the game at one. In the third inning, it was a D.J. Burt homer that put the Wind Surge back out front, but another two-out rally from the Naturals brought in two runs of their own that made the score 3-2 after three innings. The fourth inning was much of the same as the teams again traded single runs, with Wichita getting an RBI double from Cabrera in the top half before the Naturals chased Balazovic in the bottom half after a pair of two-out walks loaded the bases. Melvi Acosta was summoned from the bullpen and issued a walk of his own that made the score 4-3 for Northwest Arkansas. The fifth inning was finally a scoreless frame on both sides, though the Wind Surge had a chance as Austin Martin doubled to lead off the inning, but he was stranded on third base. In the sixth inning, it was one swing of the bat from Palacios that again tied the game at four. With two outs in the top of the seventh and Spencer Steer at-bat, a pivotal play was made that may have finally swung the momentum of the game one way. Steer laced a 2-1 pitch deep into the gap in left-center, but the Naturals left fielder tracked it down at full speed before crashing hard into the wall, likely saving a run. That same fielder, Brewer Hicklen, of course was up the next inning, and with that adrenaline still running through his veins, took Erik Manoah Jr. deep to center for a 5-4 lead. The home team added two insurance runs in the eighth for a 7-4 lead that would turn out to be enough for the Naturals to take game one. Wichita threatened in the ninth with three singles that scored one run, but couldn’t get the big hit to bring them all the way back. On the pitching front, Balazovic went 3 2/3 innings in the start, allowing four runs on six hits and four walks while picking up three strikeouts. Acosta went the next 1 1/3 innings, allowing no runs of his own on one hit and one walk. Kody Funderburk went 2/3 of an inning and allowed a hit and walk. Manoah Jr. was tagged with the loss by allowing the go-ahead home run in the seventh. He pitched one inning, allowed two hits, and struck out one. Evan Sisk and Adam Lau each recording two outs, with Sisk allowing two insurance runs on two hits while striking out one. Lau allowed one hit, walked two, and struck out one. The Wind Surge got multiple hits on the night from Martin (2-for-4, 2B, BB), Morales (2-for-5, RBI), Palacios (2-for-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, K), and Cabrera (2-for-4, R, 2B, HR) and the team's three home runs on the night were not enough. Wichita will look to even the series at one with Cole Sands taking the hill tomorrow before heading back home to the ICT to finish off the series. KERNELS NUGGETS Cedar Rapids 2, Quad Cities 1 Box Score The Kernels were able to fend off the teams on their heels to grab their league’s final playoff spot, and they sent a big reason why in Louie Varland to the mound in game one. He didn’t disappoint, though it looked shaky for a minute in the second inning. After picking up a groundout for the first out of the frame, Varland allowed a double and the game’s first run on a single that followed. He then walked a batter and surrendered another single to load the bases before a mound visit was in order to get him back in rhythm. After that, he got a grounder to first that forced the runner out at home, then a pop out to escape that jam. His lineup got that run back for him in the bottom of the inning, as consecutive two-out doubles from Jair Camargo and DaShawn Keirsey tied the game at one. That mound visit was definitely what the doctor ordered, as Varland was locked in from then on. He retired nine in a row from the third through the sixth inning, and gave up just two singles to bookend that streak. In all, he finished seven fantastic innings, tying his mark for longest outing of the season, and allowed just the one run on six total hits and one walk. He struck out four River Bandits in the outing and of his 98 pitches, 68 went for strikes (69.4%), along with getting 14 swinging strikes. Varland was matched, however, by the pitching staff of Quad Cities. The game remained tied while he was on the mound. The Kernels were unable to cash in any of their scoring chances, including a bases-loaded opportunity in the sixth. In the seventh inning, the Kernels struck out four times, but nonetheless had an opportunity as one of those K’s resulted in a wild pitch that allowed Edouard Julien to reach base. Another wild pitch moved him to second before the River Bandits played the percentages and intentionally walked Aaron Sabato to get the lefty-lefty matchup against Matt Wallner. It worked, as the pitcher got his fourth K of the inning and kept the game tied at 1-1. In the top of the eighth, the Kernels went to reliever Osiris German, and he delivered a one-two-three inning to bring his team back into the dugout looking to finally break through. Jair Camargo did just that, sending a two-out home run over the wall in right field to give the Kernels the lead. With the lead in hand, Cedar Rapids called on one of the best relievers in the system this year in Zach Featherstone to close out the game. He allowed a one-out single but like he had all season, also racked up the strikeouts, getting three of them to pick up the save and take game one for the Kernels. Camargo (2-for-3, 2 R, 2B, HR, RBI, BB, K) was the only batter in the lineup with multiple hits on the night while Sabato and Julien each reached base twice. They were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position compared to 2-for-4 for the River Bandits, but it was enough behind Varland. It’s worth noting that the Kernels were just 7-17 against the River Bandits during the regular season, but that means nothing in a playoff series they now lead 1-0 with Sean Mooney taking the mound in game two tomorrow night. TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE DAY Pitcher of the Day - Louie Varland, Cedar Rapids Kernels (7 IP, 6 H, ER, BB, 4 K) Hitter of the Day - Jair Camargo, Cedar Rapids Kernels (2-for-3, 2 R, 2B, HR, RBI, BB, K) PROSPECT SUMMARY #2 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 2-for-4, 2B #3 - Jordan Balazovic (Wichita) - 3.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K #12 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) - 0-for-4, 2 K #16 - Brent Rooker (Minnesota) - 0-for-1 (pinch hit appearance) #20 - Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 1-for-5, K WEDNESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS Iowa @ St. Paul (7:05 PM CST) - RHP Derek Law (1-0, 2.66 ERA) Wichita @ NW Arkansas (6:30 PM CST) - RHP Cole Sands (4-2, 2.46 ERA) Quad Cities @ Cedar Rapids (6:35 PM CST) - RHP Sean Mooney (0-1, 6.23 ERA) Please feel free to ask questions and discuss the playoff games from Tuesday! View full article
  25. TRANSACTIONS There were no transactions in the system in advance of the Cedar Rapids Kernels and Wichita Wind Surge starting their league championship series on Tuesday. SAINTS SENTINEL Scheduled Day Off The Saints got an extra day off on their schedule, as they begin the Final Stretch of games happening across the Triple-A level to end the season. They will play five games against the Iowa Cubs at home starting on Wednesday, and then five on the road against Toledo next week. WIND SURGE WISDOM Game 1: Wichita 5, NW Arkansas 7 Box Score The Wichita Wind Surge had to feel good about themselves heading into game one against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, with top prospect Jordan Balazovic lined up to start. It didn’t go as well as they hoped, but was a back and forth affair throughout with several lead changes and big plays on both sides. Wichita had a two-out threat in the top of the first after singles from Roy Morales and Spencer Steer put runners on the corners, but Jermaine Palacios grounded out to keep them off the scoreboard in the opening frame. That changed in the second inning when Leobaldo Cabrera clubbed a home run to left field for a 1-0 lead. Balazovic got two quick outs in the bottom of the frame, but the Naturals struck back with a single followed by a triple to tie the game at one. In the third inning, it was a D.J. Burt homer that put the Wind Surge back out front, but another two-out rally from the Naturals brought in two runs of their own that made the score 3-2 after three innings. The fourth inning was much of the same as the teams again traded single runs, with Wichita getting an RBI double from Cabrera in the top half before the Naturals chased Balazovic in the bottom half after a pair of two-out walks loaded the bases. Melvi Acosta was summoned from the bullpen and issued a walk of his own that made the score 4-3 for Northwest Arkansas. The fifth inning was finally a scoreless frame on both sides, though the Wind Surge had a chance as Austin Martin doubled to lead off the inning, but he was stranded on third base. In the sixth inning, it was one swing of the bat from Palacios that again tied the game at four. With two outs in the top of the seventh and Spencer Steer at-bat, a pivotal play was made that may have finally swung the momentum of the game one way. Steer laced a 2-1 pitch deep into the gap in left-center, but the Naturals left fielder tracked it down at full speed before crashing hard into the wall, likely saving a run. That same fielder, Brewer Hicklen, of course was up the next inning, and with that adrenaline still running through his veins, took Erik Manoah Jr. deep to center for a 5-4 lead. The home team added two insurance runs in the eighth for a 7-4 lead that would turn out to be enough for the Naturals to take game one. Wichita threatened in the ninth with three singles that scored one run, but couldn’t get the big hit to bring them all the way back. On the pitching front, Balazovic went 3 2/3 innings in the start, allowing four runs on six hits and four walks while picking up three strikeouts. Acosta went the next 1 1/3 innings, allowing no runs of his own on one hit and one walk. Kody Funderburk went 2/3 of an inning and allowed a hit and walk. Manoah Jr. was tagged with the loss by allowing the go-ahead home run in the seventh. He pitched one inning, allowed two hits, and struck out one. Evan Sisk and Adam Lau each recording two outs, with Sisk allowing two insurance runs on two hits while striking out one. Lau allowed one hit, walked two, and struck out one. The Wind Surge got multiple hits on the night from Martin (2-for-4, 2B, BB), Morales (2-for-5, RBI), Palacios (2-for-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, K), and Cabrera (2-for-4, R, 2B, HR) and the team's three home runs on the night were not enough. Wichita will look to even the series at one with Cole Sands taking the hill tomorrow before heading back home to the ICT to finish off the series. KERNELS NUGGETS Cedar Rapids 2, Quad Cities 1 Box Score The Kernels were able to fend off the teams on their heels to grab their league’s final playoff spot, and they sent a big reason why in Louie Varland to the mound in game one. He didn’t disappoint, though it looked shaky for a minute in the second inning. After picking up a groundout for the first out of the frame, Varland allowed a double and the game’s first run on a single that followed. He then walked a batter and surrendered another single to load the bases before a mound visit was in order to get him back in rhythm. After that, he got a grounder to first that forced the runner out at home, then a pop out to escape that jam. His lineup got that run back for him in the bottom of the inning, as consecutive two-out doubles from Jair Camargo and DaShawn Keirsey tied the game at one. That mound visit was definitely what the doctor ordered, as Varland was locked in from then on. He retired nine in a row from the third through the sixth inning, and gave up just two singles to bookend that streak. In all, he finished seven fantastic innings, tying his mark for longest outing of the season, and allowed just the one run on six total hits and one walk. He struck out four River Bandits in the outing and of his 98 pitches, 68 went for strikes (69.4%), along with getting 14 swinging strikes. Varland was matched, however, by the pitching staff of Quad Cities. The game remained tied while he was on the mound. The Kernels were unable to cash in any of their scoring chances, including a bases-loaded opportunity in the sixth. In the seventh inning, the Kernels struck out four times, but nonetheless had an opportunity as one of those K’s resulted in a wild pitch that allowed Edouard Julien to reach base. Another wild pitch moved him to second before the River Bandits played the percentages and intentionally walked Aaron Sabato to get the lefty-lefty matchup against Matt Wallner. It worked, as the pitcher got his fourth K of the inning and kept the game tied at 1-1. In the top of the eighth, the Kernels went to reliever Osiris German, and he delivered a one-two-three inning to bring his team back into the dugout looking to finally break through. Jair Camargo did just that, sending a two-out home run over the wall in right field to give the Kernels the lead. With the lead in hand, Cedar Rapids called on one of the best relievers in the system this year in Zach Featherstone to close out the game. He allowed a one-out single but like he had all season, also racked up the strikeouts, getting three of them to pick up the save and take game one for the Kernels. Camargo (2-for-3, 2 R, 2B, HR, RBI, BB, K) was the only batter in the lineup with multiple hits on the night while Sabato and Julien each reached base twice. They were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position compared to 2-for-4 for the River Bandits, but it was enough behind Varland. It’s worth noting that the Kernels were just 7-17 against the River Bandits during the regular season, but that means nothing in a playoff series they now lead 1-0 with Sean Mooney taking the mound in game two tomorrow night. TWINS DAILY MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS OF THE DAY Pitcher of the Day - Louie Varland, Cedar Rapids Kernels (7 IP, 6 H, ER, BB, 4 K) Hitter of the Day - Jair Camargo, Cedar Rapids Kernels (2-for-3, 2 R, 2B, HR, RBI, BB, K) PROSPECT SUMMARY #2 - Austin Martin (Wichita) - 2-for-4, 2B #3 - Jordan Balazovic (Wichita) - 3.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K #12 - Matt Wallner (Cedar Rapids) - 0-for-4, 2 K #16 - Brent Rooker (Minnesota) - 0-for-1 (pinch hit appearance) #20 - Spencer Steer (Wichita) - 1-for-5, K WEDNESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS Iowa @ St. Paul (7:05 PM CST) - RHP Derek Law (1-0, 2.66 ERA) Wichita @ NW Arkansas (6:30 PM CST) - RHP Cole Sands (4-2, 2.46 ERA) Quad Cities @ Cedar Rapids (6:35 PM CST) - RHP Sean Mooney (0-1, 6.23 ERA) Please feel free to ask questions and discuss the playoff games from Tuesday!
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