10 Names You Need To Know – Minnesota Twins

Alright folks, it’s the middle of summer, and we are all hopefully enjoying the heat. With the warm weather too comes baseball, and, despite it being a shortened 2020 season, it still should be a good one. The Minnesota Twins, known for their 2019 surge as they became one of the best teams, are also known for having one of baseball’s best farm systems. Ripe with young talent on the mound and at the plate, it can be overwhelming to see so many names and not knowing which ones are better. While some prospect lists deal with just the best of the best, this list will look at names throughout the system of people who are either really good now, will be good later, or need to be good soon. Essentially, it’s ten names you need to know. Enjoy.

1. Gilberto Celestino, OF
Highest Level: A+

Acquired through the Ryan Pressly trade, the young outfielder thrived in the second half of 2019, as he batted .369 in July and .320 in August. As I noted earlier in the year, something clicked, as he was putting consistent contact on the ball and showed more discipline at the plate too.

As I said in my Summer Camp article earlier this month, he’s on the 40-man roster and has a decent chance of seeing some major league pitching in 2020. I’m not expecting him to take the world by storm, because, in a perfect world, he’s still at least another year away from being fully ready. Still, keep an eye on him, as he’s someone who is definitely on the right path.

2. Ryan Jeffers, C
Highest Level: AA

Jeffers has come a long way in such a short time. When I did my first Top 50 Rankings in 2019, I had him listed at 33rd overall, well behind another catcher, Ben Rortvedt. I mentioned then that Jeffers’ bat needed to improve. In 2019, he mashed 14 home runs and batted .264 over two levels in the minors. What helped his improvement was his ability to hit fewer ground balls and spread the ball all over the field. He’s becoming more comfortable behind the plate as the Twins have introduced some framing techniques to help him compensate for his big, tall body. What’s more, while it makes him a better catcher, it makes the pitchers even better as they get more strikes called. It’s a win-win so far, and the Twins might be better off in the near future with Jeffers up in Minnesota.

3. Misael Urbina, OF
Highest Level: Rookie

Here’s someone that I wasn’t overly high on, but I knew the talent was there. He’s someone, at the age of 17 in 2019, came into the Dominican Summer League, and demonstrated his strengths: patience and speed. With an incredible K% – BB% of -4.1%, he’s never one to shy away from waiting for the perfect pitch or make contact on one that he likes. Don’t just take my word for it:

Definitely keep an eye on him and his development for years to come. The tools are there to be developed. Much like Urbina at the plate, patience is a virtue.

4. Chris Vallimont, SP
Highest Level: A+

Acquired from the Marlins alongside Sergio Romo, Vallimont made a smooth transition from the Midwest League to the Florida State League posting similarly great numbers. When he moved up to A+ later that year, he remained strong with a strikeout rate over 10.0/9 and an ERA well under 4. Overall, he finished the year with 127 innings pitched and seemed primed and ready for a steady dose of action before the pandemic hit. He could have used a season in 2020 to work on his command. That said, don’t let his exclusion from the 60-man Player Pool fool you….he will be trending upward when baseball resumes.

5. Aaron Sabato, 1B
Highest Level: NCAA

Selected 27th overall in the 2020 MLB Draft, the Twins‘ first round pick is all about power. Named the 2019 Collegiate Baseball Co-National Freshman of the Year, Sabato was also a member of the First-Team All-America and Freshman All-American teams as well, where he batted .343 with 18 home runs. Within two weeks after the draft, he was then signed for $2.75 million, and seems like a nice fit on the corner of the infield. He shows nice patience and discipline at the plate. With no minor league baseball in 2020, his start within the system will have to be delayed.

6. Matt Wallner, OF
Highest Level: A

Despite a pedestrian .258 batting average in 2019, Wallner still had a great season for the Twins‘ organization. By the end of July, he was batting .288, but struggled late in the year, especially when he made the jump to A-Ball. Still, Wallner is a power bat that has excelled during his time in the NCAA, and is another example of the Twins going through the collegiate route for talent.

7. Alerick Soularie, OF/1B/2B
Highest Level: NCAA

The Twins‘ second round pick in the 2020 Draft, Soulaire recently signed with the club for $900,000. His 2019 season was a huge success for the Tennessee Volunteers, as he racked up 11 home runs while batting .357 for the year. In 2020, he dropped down a bit, but still remained a solid contributor. Fun fact, Volunteers’ head coach Tony Vitello said that one hit by Soulaire, which he calls “the homer” was:

“It was the loudest I’ve heard a bat. Every one of us talked about how it sounded like a buck shot,” Vitello said. “When he first got here, he wasn’t a no-doubt starter for us. And in Pensacola, when he hit that home run, that was the moment. He never left the lineup again. We put him in the middle of the lineup. Really, from that point on, he was arguably our best hitter.”

8. LaMonte Wade Jr., OF
Highest Level: MLB

For 2020 Fantasy purposes, keep an eye on Wade. I’ve said before that I’m not the biggest fan of his, but I’ll do my best to keep it positive. Over a lot his minor league career, he’s been able to walk more than he’s struck out, which includes last season’s 16.4% walk rate over four levels. And while he does strike out a lot, getting on base is the way to lead to his strength: speed. With a 77th percentile Sprint Speed, Wade might be a late game substitution for a stolen base opportunity for the Twins this season. Then again, who really knows? After all, Wade did take Kenta Maeda deep into the upper deck during an intrasquad game, so maybe there is some pop after all.

9. Devin Smeltzer, SP
Highest Level: MLB

A new development for Smeltzer is news that he’s been working on his slider this offseason, trying to improve his spin rate, spin axis and velocity. It’s this combination that keep batters guessing. He says that he’s finally found a grip that works for him, though it’s rather unconventional.

It will be interesting to see if this yields different results in 2020. With a slow moving fastball, Smeltzer needs movement to keep batters off their game. Having a pitch with a unique grip is something that could help him a lot.

10. Zander Wiel, 1B
Highest Level: AAA

Lost in the shuffle for the Twins and their prospects is the unheralded Zander Wiel, who in 2019, broke out with 24 home runs for Rochester. With first base being so deep within the organization (Alex Kirilloff looking to being groomed for this position), Wiel’s success went seemingly unnoticed last season. He does strike out a ton, but being in the Taxi Squad is a good thing for his development. Hopefully he learns a lot and can work on his contact skills and plate discipline for 2021 and beyond.

Dave Funnell covers the Minnesota Twins minor leagues for Prospects1500. Located just south of Toronto in the city of Hamilton, he's an hour away from Buffalo (and the Bisons). He's been a fan of baseball his entire life and doesn't have a favorite team, which hopefully gives way for objectivty in analysis. Dave is in multiple keeper fantasy baseball leagues and is active on Twitter at @sportz_nutt51.

1 Comment

  1. A nice choice of players, I think. They are interesting for different reasons. I might argue that Zander Wiel isn’t all that interesting, though. If he makes it to the Twins, it will be as a reward for being a helpful organization guy when there’s a temporary opening in the 40-man, then DFA’d when they need the spot. I might have chosen instead someone like Bailey Ober, who posted video game numbers and still gets almost zero prospect respect. Perhaps I need to read your prospect list to see how you’ve treated him! Cheers.

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