The Twins have always been a team that has leaned on it’s farm system for continued success, and the current MLB roster has reaped the benefits. Unfortunately that has left the system relatively barren of top-end talent, outside of a few names (i.e. Alex Kiriloff).
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some high upside prospects, some of which face big years in 2020. Who could emerge and take the next step in their progression? Who is all flash and little substance? Let’s take a look:
1) Alex Kiriloff – Outfielder
ETA – 2020
Grade – B+
It wasn’t a spectacular 2019 campaign at Double-A, but a wrist injury that limited him to 411 PA may be the explanation. He hit .283 with 9 HR and 7 SB, though he had his best month to close the year as he hit .311 with 5 HR over 106 AB in August. In 2018 he had 44 doubles, 7 triples and 20 HR and despite the injury and moving against more advanced pitching he improved his SwStr%:
- 2018 – 10.9%
- 2019 – 10.1%
His 2018 shows that there’s more power for him to tap into, and he did add 18 doubles and 2 triples last season. He’ll play the year at 22-years old and still has time for it to develop, and would it be surprising if a healthy Kiriloff starts to show it at Triple-A (and potentially the Majors)? This may be the last chance to buy him, as this could be the year he puts it all together.
2) Royce Lewis – Shortstop
ETA – 2021
Grade – B
The first overall selection in 2017 spent time at High-A (418 PA) and Double-A (148 PA), but took a step backwards in his approach (Strikeout Rate // SwStr%):
- High-A – 21.5% // 11.1%
- Double-A – 22.3% // 12.5%
There’s clearly some power (26 doubles, 4 triples and 12 HR), which continues to develop, and speed (22-for-32 on SB attempts), but suddenly facing questions about his swing/approach there are concerns that he won’t live up his potential. As it is he doesn’t draw enough walks (6.7% in ’19) and the strikeout rate could continue to rise against more advanced pitching. He’ll likely open the year at Double-A and he could either rebuild his stock or see his value completely plummet.
3) Jordan Balazovic – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2021
Grade – B
Drafted in the fifth round in 2016, Balazovic will play the year at 21-years old and could put himself on the map. The Twins have been cautious in his usage, having been drafted at such a young age, as he hasn’t thrown more than 93.2 innings in a season (split between Single-A and High-A in 2019). However the stuff is clear with three solid offerings, including a fastball that he can run up into the upper 90s. Listed at 6’5” and 215 lbs he has the size teams look for from a pitcher, and his 12.40 K/9 (courtesy of a 12.4% SwStr%) and 2.40 BB/9 are going to open some eyes.
There are going to be questions as to whether or not he’ll generate enough groundballs (42.9% at High-A over 73.0 IP), but it’s not enough of a red flag. It could be time for the Twins to accelerate his progression, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him arrive in the Majors late in ’20 (likely out of the bullpen, as the team has done with it’s top pitching prospects in the past).
4) Gilberto Celestino – Outfielder
ETA – 2022
Grade – B-
When you look at the Twins’ system Celestino doesn’t get the most attention, but he has the potential to be a dynamic top-of-the-order centerfielder in the not too distant future. Speed is his strongest skill, and while he needs to improve his efficiency (he went 14-for-22 last season) he was far better in the lower levels (22-for-24 in ’18) and with more experience it should come together.
There are going to be questions about his power, though he had 28 doubles, 3 triples and 10 HR last year (mostly at Single-A) and could develop into a 15/25 type player in time. He also has shown a strong command of the strike zone, with a 15.9% strikeout rate and 9.3% walk rate over 536 PA last season. Considering his 9.1% SwStr% there’s hope that he can maintain that against more advanced pitching, further strengthening the outlook.
5) Trevor Larnach – Outfielder
Grade – C+
Larnach split time between High-A (361 PA) and Double-A (181 PA), hitting .309 in the process. While the power isn’t fully there yet he should continue to develop, with 30 doubles, 1 triple and 13 HR last season. The problem is his ability to make consistent contact, with an overall 12.4% SwStr% (and it rose to 13.0% at Double-A). His average was buoyed by a .390 BABIP, so there’s a likely regression coming quickly. If he taps into the power the upside will be there, and that should continue even as he advances.
The Next Five:
6) Misael Urbina – Outfielder (Grade – C+) – Signed as an international free agent in 2018, Urbina won’t turn 18 until April so it will be interesting to watch how he matures and develops. He’s never expected to have extreme power, instead developing into a top of the order bat with speed and a solid approach. Considering he played the season at 17-years old his 12.1% SwStr% is impressive, even coming in Rookie Ball, and his speed was already on display (19-for-27 on stolen bases). It’s going to take time and patience, but it’ll be interesting to see how quickly it all comes together.
7) Jhoan Duran – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+) – Can Duran develop his full arsenal? That’s the question, because if he does there’s upside. In 115.0 innings he posted a 10.64 K/9 (courtesy of an impressive 16.4% SwStr%), 3.13 BB/9 and 56.5% groundball rate, and he was even better in his 37.0 innings at Double-A (2.19 BB/9, 63.3% groundball rate). If the arsenal doesn’t come around fully the stuff could create a dominant late inning reliever, with closer of the future potential. This will be a key year in his development and will give us a good idea of where his future lies.
8) Ryan Jeffers – Catcher (Grade – C+) – Will he stick at catcher or could he be moved to another position? Time will tell, but he’s coming quickly and is currently blocked at the highest level. Splitting time between High-A and Double-A he hit .264 with 14 HR over 414 PA, and adding 16 doubles and showing a strong approach (8.8% SwStr%) is promising. He has proven to be adept at the position defensively and does have the ability to mature into a solid option, especially if the power continues to develop.
9) Blayne Enlow – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C) – While he didn’t post a massive strikeout rate (7.73 K/9), a 13.3% SwStr% shows more upside. He needs to learn how to utilize his arsenal even better, though, as his control is viewed as his strength at this point. He has an extensive arsenal (reports have him at five pitches), but the ultimate upside may not be more than a back-end starter.
10) Brent Rooker – Outfielder (Grade – C) – Rooker has power (14 HR in 281 PA last season), but he also has swing and miss (33.8% strikeout rate, 16.9% SwStr%). He can get on base via the walk, but he turned 25-years old in November and with the gaudy strikeout numbers at Triple-A it’s easy to envision them getting even worse in the Majors.
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings: