It’s truly incredible how things can change over such a short period of time. Just a few years ago, the Twins were seemingly on an upswing, as they had quite the successful 2019 season and were considered a team on the rise. They had a team filled with youth and potential within all levels of their organization. Then, the shortened 2020 season hit and their massive decline in 2021 has led many to believe that a rebuild is the next step on the road to recovery.
Looking back myself, this team and this list are very different than in years past because so many players have been given the opportunity to prove their worth. This puts the Twins in a unique position since essentially their entire organization from top to bottom is in some sort of rebuild state and has a long way to go. That said, there are some interesting names here with a lot of potential. When I do look at players, I try to consider the past, the present and the future. What this means is that with the past, I try to mix in the actual results with where they took place (with regards to which level of baseball). When I look at the present, I try to figure out a player’s current situation and where they are within the organization. And finally, when I look into the future, I try to take the estimated time of arrival alongside need within the organization for that particular player.
Here is the Prospects1500 tier system explained.
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above-average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have a high likelihood of making the majors but provide minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players of interest, worth keeping an eye on, who have an outside chance of making their team’s 40-man roster
Levels listed for each player are the highest levels player reached in 2021
1. Austin Martin, SS/OF, 22, AA
Acquired mid-season as a part of the Jose Berrios deal, Martin is slotted in as my number one prospect within the organization. He has the potential to be great, given his ability to get on base with consistency as well as the versatility to play all over the field. If he can ever tap into his power potential (only two home runs in 2021), he could be a mainstay on the Twins for years to come. At only age 22, there’s plenty to like about him.
2. Royce Lewis, SS, 22, AA
Recovering from a torn ACL in 2021 and extensive injury history to boot, Lewis has apparently recovered quite nicely at the team’s alternate site and is looking stronger than ever. As someone who has elite power and speed, he has the tools to be a five-category stud and even a franchise player. That said, he comes with a ton of inherent risk, as even the Twins seemingly made a deal for Austin Martin due to the uncertainty of Lewis in the back of their head. While the ceiling on Lewis is phenomenal, we need to remember that there’s still a lot of work to be done.
3. Jordan Balazovic, RHP, 23, AA
Balazovic is the organization’s prized pitcher. After returning from a back injury to start the year, Balazovic dazzled more often than not against older and tougher competition in AA Ball this year. With great command and a mid 90’s fastball, he also has a breaking pitch with a ton of movement that keeps batters guessing. He’s undoubtedly going to get a shot in AAA this year and possibly even get the call to Minnesota at some point.
4. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP, 21, AA
The other half of the package that sent Berrios to the Blue Jays, Richardson is a hard-throwing pitcher who has good command of the strike zone and can mix it up with deceptively slower pitches. Don’t let his 2021 struggles fool you, there’s something special there for the taking, and, at such a young age, give him some time within the Twins’ system to do what they believe he can do. There’s a new level here that’s just waiting to be discovered.
5. Jhoan Duran, RHP, 23, AA
The only thing holding Duran down in this list is how he will be once he returns from injury. After missing most of 2021 with an elbow strain, one has to wonder if they’ll limit his appearances and role when he does return in 2022. Will they take it slowly with him and give him small increments of innings? He’s someone with a potentially high floor and some really good secondary pitches. There should be no rush to bring him up to the Twins since they are in a rebuild.
6. Joe Ryan, RHP, 25, MLB
Acquired from the Rays for Nelson Cruz, Ryan had an immediate impact on the Twins and finished the year with an ERA just over four and a WHIP well under one, all but solidifying a spot for him in their rotation for next year. Very reliant on his fastball, which doesn’t have a ton of velocity in the low 90’s, but does deceive hitters due to his arm angle, hence confusing batters as to the type of drop it will have. That said, his command is incredible and he has the potential to be the Twins’ top pitcher by the end of next season, which isn’t necessarily the greatest of compliments. Regardless of the state of the team, Ryan will undoubtedly graduate from this list with flying colors.
7. Jose Miranda, 3B, Age: 23, AAA
What else can I say about him that hasn’t already been said? Well, now that you ask, here’s an interesting note: of the games played positionally in AAA during the 2021 season, Miranda played 13 at first base, 20 at second base, 39 at third base and 3 in left field. When I think about players under contract for the Twins, Josh Donaldson gets paid too much to sit, so he’ll have third base locked up, while Alex Kirilloff has been groomed for first base for years now. That could leave an opening at second base, should the Twins want to continue to use Luis Arraez as their utility player in 2022.
8. Matt Canterino, RHP, 24, High-A
With stuff as ridiculous as the stats to back it up, Canterino has three legitimate pitches in his arsenal that he uses with regularity to generate a ton of whiffs. The only thing really holding him back is the risk of injury, as twice in 2021 he went on the Injured List for difficulties with his right elbow. Keep that in mind for him going forward, because he is otherwise a solid mainstay in their pitching plans for the future. Given what he can do and how fast he throws, he has the possibility of starter or closer written all over him.
Matt Canterino’s first three pitches of today’s start: pic.twitter.com/XjFxJhaEWj
— Tom Froemming (@TFTwins) August 15, 2021
9. Josh Winder, RHP, 25, AAA
As I stated back in the summer, he was one of the fastest rising prospects within the entire Twins’ system, and since that comment, Winder didn’t disappoint. When he made the switch to AAA to finish the year, he did fall victim to the long ball with four of his nine total home runs allowed happening in those final four games. That said, he maintained his solid command of the strike zone as he limited his opponents to just three walks in those four games. Overall, he’s an underrated prospect within the Twins’ system and someone to remember, as after some seasoning to start the 2022 season, he could get the call and prove that he’s every bit as good as promised. Pitched in the 2021 Futures Game!
10. Aaron Sabato, 1B, 22, High-A
Domo arigato, Mr. Sabato! The first baseman struggled to start the year and couldn’t really get things going. That said, his second half definitely showed why he was sought after as a first round pick for the Twins, as he smashed fifteen home runs in the months of August and September to close the year all while getting promoted to High-A as well. Still, he has a long way to go as he doesn’t hit well for average and his fielding metrics aren’t exactly rosy. If things continue along the way they could be headed, a DH-first/Brent Rooker vibe could be more than a looming comparison.
11. Jovani Moran, LHP, 24, MLB
Here’s someone that had a tremendous 2021 season, which was highlighted by a small taste of MLB action. Moran throws a low 90’s fastball, and a very good changeup with his left hand. While the first two points are important, it’s the third one that might give him an edge over others to push through, since left handed pitching is at a premium within the organization. If he can somehow develop a third pitch….watch out.
Jovani Moran and his devastating changeup finally got the call for his first big league game today.
The changeup was comfortably around 12-15 inches of armside run with an induced vertical break was 6 inches or less.
— Jeremy Maschino (@JMaschino_56) September 12, 2021
12. Spencer Steer, 2B, 24, AA
I’m being a bit aggressive here in my rankings, but I’ve loved the progression that he has made over the past year. He’s a powerful bat who walks at a decent rate and has the flexibility to play anywhere on the field. He struggled a bit when he moved up a level, but he still managed to hit fourteen of his twenty-four home runs in 2021 while in AA ball. However, I was wrong about Miranda, so I’m trying to learn from my past mistake here.
13. Misael Urbina, OF, 19, A
Here begins a mini-run of players that are destined to be great due to the prospect pedigree. Overall, Urbina has got a great feel for the game with instincts that allow his great base running skills come into play. In 2021 he gave us all a taste of what to expect with 16 stolen bases (albeit with 6 times caught stealing) and a 12.3% walk rate. Still just 19 years of age, there will be plenty of time for him to grow into his body and develop into the player we all hope he can be.
14. Keoni Cavaco, SS, 20, A
While the stats don’t show it, Cavaco actually had himself a transitional 2021 season within the Twins’ organization. He put on some muscle heading into the year, worked on changing his swing a bit, and could transition towards either position of the left side of the infield. He’s a work in progress who just needs to play in order to harness the skills that its believed that he has. His 2022 season could define who he may eventually be.
15. Chase Petty, RHP, 18, Rookie (FCL)
The Twins took him as their first pick in the 2021 draft who can hit the mid 90’s on his fastball, while also delivering a great changeup and a slider. Despite this three-pitch mix, there are some command concerns that lead some to believe that he has reliever written all over him. That being said, the overall talent is enough to warrant him being the first pitcher taken in the first round by the Twins in more than half a decade.
2021 RHP Chase Petty was up to his usual antics in his senior season opener.
CG, 1 H, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 13 K
94-99 T102, touched 97 in the 7th inning. SL showed plus consistently, CH flashed. Retired 11 straight at one point. #MLBDraft
— Ian Smith (@FlaSmitty) April 20, 2021
16. Matt Wallner, OF, 24, High-A
At age 24, Wallner can be characterized as a high power, high strikeout batter who can also get on base due to his patience at the plate. While he did struggle a bit down the stretch during the regular minor league season, he did showcase his power at the Arizona Fall League, clubbing six home runs and batting .303 for the tournament. Still, it remains to be seen what exactly his ceiling is at this time, as his older age leads some to believe this may about it.
17. Cole Sands, RHP, 24, AA
As I said last year, Sands leveled up with his 2021 campaign, due to his mix of three pitches and his ability to get weak contact. That being said, his inability keep batters off the bases due to walks could limit his potential. However, due to the current state of the Twins’ pitching at the major league eleven, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Sands get a chance to prove himself at some point in 2022, but he needs some refinement first.
18. Blayne Enlow, RHP, 22, High-A
19. Noah Miller, SS, 19, Rookie (FCL)
20. Alerick Soularie, 2B/OF, 22, A
21. Kala’i Rosario, OF, 19, Rookie (FCL)
22. Chris Vallimont, RHP, 24, AA
23. Drew Strotman, 25, MLB
24. Marco Raya, RHP, 19, N/A
25. Steve Hajjar, RHP, 21, College
26. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF, 18, Rookie (FCL)
27. Yunior Severino, 2B/3B, 22, High-A
28. Yennier Cano, RHP, 27, AAA
29. Louie Varland, RHP, 24, High-A
30. Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B, 22, A
31. Edouard Julien, 1B/2B/3B, 22, High-A
32. Wander Javier, SS, 22, High-A
33. Danny De Andrade, SS, 17, Rookie (DOSL)
34. Samuel Perez, LHP, 22, Rookie (FCL)
Enlow is recovering from Tommy-John, so his position within the rankings is anything but stable…..Soularie struggled upon getting the call from Rookie to A Ball, but the talent is most Rosario is slowly coming into his own and could level up in 2022…..I’m willing to give Vallimont a mulligan for last year, but it’s do or die for him this year…..Raya is too talented a pitcher to be held down for long, look for him to excel in 2022…..Varland was named Twins’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2021…..Encarnacion-Strand breezed through A level in his introduction to professional baseball…..Julien impressed with a .914 OPS and 34 SB between Low-A and High-A in 2021…..Javier continues to be better known for what we thought he could do, rather than for what he has been doing.
35. Zach Featherstone, RHP, 26, High-A
36. Sawyer Gipson-Long, RHP, 24, High-A
37. Cody Laweryson, RHP, 22, High-A
38. Gabe Snyder, 1B/OF, 26, AA
39. Andrew Bechtold, 3B, 25, AA
40. Jermaine Palacios, SS, 25, AA
41. Will Holland, SS, 23, Low-A
42. Freddy La Flor, SS, 16, N/A
43. Jair Camargo, C, 22, High-A
44. Austin Schulfer, RHP, 25, AA
45. Christian MacLeod, LHP, 21, Rookie (FCL)
46. Willie Joe Garry, OF, 21, A
47. Ben Gross, RHP, 25, AA
48. Daniel Ozoria, SS, 20, AAA
49. Derek Molina, RHP, 24, High-A
50. Tyler Beck, RHP, 26, AA
Featherstone and Lawyerson both excelled this season, with the former having a much better season than the latter; Featherstone struggled mightily at the Arizona Fall League, whereas Lawyerson held his own…..Palacios and Holland may profile to be the same sort of speedy player, but it’s Palacios who is seemingly on the upswing while Holland remains in neutral…..Camargo is a name to watch for the future at a position of need for the Twins…..MacLeod is someone to watch, as he was the Twins’ 5th round pick in 2021…..Ozoria is an interesting profile, as he is only 20 years old, yet he has played in AAA Ball and threw 6.0 innings this year as well. I’ll be keeping my eyes on him.
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.