The Twins poor season prompted them to trade several of their older stars in July. While it was a tough pill to swallow, they added some much-needed depth and athleticism to their minor league system. First and foremost, they added Austin Martin, the seventh pick in the 2020 draft. He has All-Star potential as a dynamic leadoff hitter. They also added Joe Ryan, who already has pitched in the Major Leagues, and pitched well. Two other good arms that were added were Simeon Woods-Richardson and Drew Strotman. Both had control problems this season, but both have Major League upside. When you combine these players with the likes of Royce Lewis, Jordan Balazovic, Josh Winder, and my new favorite prospect, Jose Miranda, it’s easy to get excited about the Twins competing once again.
Prospect Quick Shot
- Top Prospect: Austin Martin
- Biggest Mover: Jose Miranda
- Emerging Prospect: Spencer Steer
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
- Tools Summary: Plus hitter with solid-average speed. He’s not driving the ball though, so there are questions about his future power
Austin Martin was my top player coming out of the draft in 2020. I saw a complete player who could hit with 15 to 20 stolen bases and a similar home run total. After seeing him play live, he’s going to hit and there’s plus speed, but the swing is more geared for contact. The stats back it up. In 93 games in Double-A, he struck out 20% of the time while walking 14% of the time. He did hit .270 but only slugged .382 because he was rolling over on many pitches. He just wasn’t driving the ball. That will tap down not only his home run pop but will result in more outs made as he’ll be a ground ball hitter. This was not my understanding of the player in college. Also, there are questions about where he will play on defense. Most believe he’ll wind up in centerfield. I saw him play short and he look ok, although without a strong arm
- Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS
- Tools Summary: Athleticism with plus makeup. However, a change to his swing has given pause to his ultimate ceiling
Royce Lewis missed the entire season with an ACL tear in his right knee. Below is the capsule that was written before last season.
Royce Lewis has all the tools to be an all-star. He’s got great bat speed, is a double-plus runner with instincts for the game. He did change his swing in 2019 and I did not like the change. He added a hitch, likely to add more power and for me, the change didn’t work well. He looked great in the AFL in 2019 but long term I would prefer he moves back to his original swing. The ceiling continues to be a 15-30 performer. My one concern is will he hit enough.
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
- Tools Summary: Plus stuff with improving command. His change-up is still a work-in-progress and needs more fade to consistently get glove-side batters out
The Twins continue to take things slow with Jordan Balazovic. He spent the entire 2021 season in Double-A pitching to a 3.62 ERA, striking out 9.5 per nine and walking 3.5 per nine. He’ll show a mid-90s fastball and is still working on getting a feel for his change-up. As we wrote last year, the control and command continue to improve. He’s a good pitcher, not an ace, but a high-end number three pitcher with upside if the change-up and fastball command develop.
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B or Top 15 1B
- Tools Summary: Outstanding season where he showed a plus hit-tool with 30 home runs. I hear that his lack of bat speed might be a problem at the Major League level, but he deserves a shot
Jose Miranda had a great season in 2021. Across Double and Triple-A, he slashed .344/.401/.572 with 30 home runs. He also only struck out 74 times in 127 games, walking 42 times. While I’ve not seen him play, I will say I’ve heard the same whispers about him being a tweener that I’ve heard about Eddy Oliveres. But, the data doesn’t lie. He’s always shown an elite contact rate with enough walks to post a .300 batting average. The power is new, but you can argue that he’s now 23 and just by filling out, he’s able to hit more balls out of the park. The concern and we won’t know this till he gets there, does he have enough bat speed to handle inside velocity from pitchers with plus command? Time will tell.
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
- Tools Summary: He doesn’t have plus stuff, but the fastball is good enough when combined with plus control and command to be effective and pitch as a number three starter
Joey Ryan had done nothing but shove-it since being drafted in the 7th round in 2018. His career minor league stat line reads like an ace – 226 IP, 2.67 ERA, 12.98 K/9, and 2.11 BB/9. Yet, at age 25, he was still toiling in the minor leagues with the Rays. Then at the deadline, he got traded to the Twins for Nelson Cruz. Two starts later, he made his Major League debut and well, pitched great. In digging into his statcast data, he doesn’t have great stuff. The fastball sits 91.5 and doesn’t have a high spin. His breaking pitches also look average. But, he pounds the strike zone, commands all of his pitches and everything plays up. At this point, putting his ceiling as a number three-four starter seems reasonable.
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP with upside
- Tools Summary: One of the pop-up pitchers in the minor leagues who throws strikes with an improved arsenal
Drafted in the 7th round in 2018 out of VMI (Virginia Military Institute), Josh Winder had a strong season across Double and Triple-A. In 14 starts, he posted a 2.63 ERA striking out 80 and walking only 13. He wasn’t a high draft pick, partially because of his average-at-best fastball. However, this year, I have reports that he’s hit 98 MPH on the gun with a plus slider. That changes the calculus and makes me more interested. It’s a great story too. You hear of so many players who regressed due to Covid, Winder seems to have gotten better.
- Highest Level: Complex League ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
- Tools Summary: Intriguing power-speed potential with an emphasis on the power. Swing is sound but pitch recognition skills are well below-average. If he can address this, he has star potential
Emmanuel Rodriguez was one of the big bonus babies in the 2019 international signing period. He showed power and speed in his first exposure to professional ball in 2021, slugging .524 with 10 home runs and nine stolen bases. He also struck out 37% of the time. He’s got a great compact swing but as with many kids, chased balls out of the strike zone far too often. Evaluators who have seen him play live, believe he’ll hit and will reduce his chase rate. He also really filled out (in a good way), so he’s just tapping into his potential power, but the speed will likely diminish over time.
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 SP or Closer
- Tools Summary: Hard thrower with a plus cutter. The lack of a third pitch and delivery concerns might point to a bullpen role
Jhoan Duran’s season was cut short with a strained elbow. Before that, the rust was evident as he struggled to find the plate in 16 innings in Triple-A walking 13. But, that’s the definition of a small sample size. Duran still has the great cutter with a fastball that he can run-up to the upper 90s, although it lacks spin and is straight. Assuming health, he’s got the size and fastball/cutter to pitch at the top of the rotation, but a lack of a third pitch and some delivery concerns might push him to the bullpen.
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
- Tools Summary: He’s always been a strike-thrower but his control disappeared in 2021 casting doubt on his ultimate ceiling
Woods-Richardson is on his third team. Drafted by the Mets, traded to the Blue Jays, and then to the Twins at the deadline. Until this season, it looked like he was rounding into a shape to be at least a number four starter, if not more. But, he lost his release point, and for a kid who’s not a power pitcher and relies on his plus change-up and command, it’s a concern.
- Highest Level: Complex League ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP or Closer with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: 80-grade fastball but concerns about his violent delivery might push him to the bullpen
Picking in the 26th hole last June (remember, the Twins won their division in 2020), they went with pure upside in Chase Petty. He has a big arm and can run his fastball up to triple-digits. He also has a great feel for a slider and missed plenty of bats in high school. In looking at video, the delivery is violent, and you must wonder if the violence in the delivery and high velocity are related. It’s hard to believe his delivery is one for a starter, but time will tell.
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 SS with upside
- Tools Summary: Walks more than he strikes out with great contact skills. Hit with big power in 2021 with a little bit of speed
Steer was a third-round pick in 2019 pick and had a solid season in 2021. In 110 games across High and Double-A, he hit .254 with a .348 OBP, 24 home runs, and 8 stolen bases. I haven’t seen him play live but looked at some video and the swing looks ok and he has an idea of the strike zone. Where he made his biggest strides this season was in his power. Assuming that is a skill change, he has a chance to be a full-time regular.
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 SP or Reliever
- Tools Summary: Big arm but missed considerable time with an elbow strain
Matt Canterino was the Twins’ second-round pick in 2019. He has significant swing and miss stuff and showed that again in his limited mound time in 2021. In 21 innings in High-A, he struck out 45 and walked four. Unfortunately, he strained his elbow and missed time, only to come back to pitch in late August and miss more time because of the same injury. We’ve all seen this movie before and are hoping for the best. Assuming health, it’s at least a number three-four starter profile.
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP or Reliever
- Tools Summary: Solid stuff and was beginning to repeat his delivery. Blew out his elbow and had season-ending TJS
A lot of anticipation for Blayne Enlow taking the next step was dashed when he blew out his elbow and had TJS in June. He’s got a solid pitch arsenal and was starting to repeat his delivery. Now, we need to wait to see how the rehab process goes.
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
- Tools Summary: Plus fastball-slider but with well below-average control
Strotman was part of the return when the Twins sent Nelson Cruz to the Rays in July. He throws hard, up to 98 MPH with a hard slider. His control is below-average as he demonstrated in Triple-A, walking nearly five per nine. He’s already 25, so I would expect the Twins to move him to the bullpen next season so that they can start to extract some value during the 2022 season.
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Corner Infielder
- Tools Summary: Big raw power that if he can hit enough, could develop into a full-time regular
Encarnacion-Strand was drafted last June out of Yavapai Ar, Junior College which has become somewhat of a factory of Major League baseball players including Kole Calhoun, Willie Calhoun, Ken Giles, and Chance Adams. He has 70-grade raw and demonstrated that in a brief appearance in Low-A to begin his professional career. He’s not a big kid at 6-feet tall and might eventually move to a corner outfield position or even first base, but he’s going to have big power and might just hit enough to get to it. Cowboy Cole Calhoun might be an interesting comp for him.