It has been about one month since the 2022 Minor League season began, which is plenty of time in the baseball world to understand the ongoings. For the Minnesota Twins and their Minor League affiliates, it has been a time to assess what has happened, fix any wrongdoings that they see, and prepare their young players for success. Here’s a look at some early season standouts within the Twins’ organization. All stats listed are of games played through April 29, 2022.
St. Paul Saints
There was a concern entering the year by some (and most certainly myself) that coming off of a major injury such as a torn ACL would prolong Lewis’ recovery and make it harder for him to get back to the ways scouts believed he could play. Well, here in the early going, he is proving me wrong. Lews has had an incredible first month of baseball, as he has been every bit the five-category player we have wanted him to be for years. He’s also showing patience at the plate with an improved walk rate while spreading the ball all over the field.
Royce Lewis status: 🔥🔥🔥
He *just* missed a homer with this double, his third extra-base hit of the day. pic.twitter.com/rQLX3u1JXc
— Tom Froemming (@TFTwins) April 16, 2022
While his numbers are encouraging, Lewis still has a long way to go to prove that he’s ready for the Twins. Health is still a major concern here, as the ability to play 162 games is key. Furthermore, he has only played games at SS this season, and that spot is currently occupied by Carlos Correa. Unless they plan to play him elsewhere this year, don’t expect an immediate call-up as they probably want to see the length of his health.
*As of press date May 6, Correa injured his finger and could be out for an undetermined amount of time, opening up a roster spot for Lewis.
— DanHayesMLB (@DanHayesMLB) May 6, 2022
Last season’s prospect breakout has gotten off to a slow start in 2022, but part of that could be due to high expectations heading into the season. While he’s not tearing the cover off of the ball like he did last year, he’s still making good enough contact to get on base, as he’s hit safely in fourteen games this month, with five of those games being of the multi-hit variety.
Second XBH of the day for @MLB‘s No. 94 prospect.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 27, 2022
Looking under the hood, he has been pulling the ball more and has increased his fly-ball rate, which could mean that he’s trying to add a bit more power to his game. That said, it’s early enough in the year where it could also be a timing issue and something that could be easily corrected with practice. It’s also interesting to note that he has started five games at first base this month, which could indicate yet another position to his already versatile profile. There are no worries here at all, as he is just waiting for an opportunity, though improvement in the field with the glove in an effort to solidify a position of strength couldn’t hurt either. If and when we do see Miranda up with the Twins, it will likely be due to injury (*and indeed with Miguel Sano’s knee surgery, it’s opened the door for Miranda, who was called up earlier this week).
Wichita Wind Surge
After struggling upon getting the call to Double-A last season, Steer has come flying out of the gate in 2022 with a batting average over .300 and a much-improved walk rate. He’s seeing the ball better and spreading it all over the field. And while the power is almost non-existent this year, he still managed to hit 24 over two levels last year. We could be seeing a breakout here, but it’s too early in the season to tell either way.
Spencer Steer rips a double into the left field corner pic.twitter.com/BTkj1oqdXS
— Lucas Seehafer (@seehafer_) April 24, 2022
His 2021 season was plagued with injuries, as he found himself on the Injured List multiple times for elbow problems. Still, he entered the season looking to improve, and so far he has done just that. The team is managing his workload, but you wouldn’t know it based on his numbers, as he has maintained a high strikeout rate while keeping the ball in the yard. His high walk rate and high flyball rate are a bit concerning, but he’s talented enough to fix that as he gets more comfortable returning from an injury-shortened season last year. His development is one to watch due to his high upside.
Matt Canterino had this hitter so twisted up that he swung at a pitch that bounced about two feet in front of home plate.
He threw three no-hit innings and tallied four strikeouts. pic.twitter.com/Pr2ZLeBcIU
— Tom Froemming (@TFTwins) April 30, 2022
Cedar Rapids Kernels
We are just more than one full season into his Minor League career, and he’s got a career batting average of .398, which is outstanding. All this guy does is hit the baseball, and his potential is seemingly on the rise. He started the season off with an incredible run where he was almost unstoppable and has continued trending upwards. If he can lower the strikeouts, he has some big home run upside, but he still projects to be a power hitter and more of an asset with the bat rather than the glove. That being said, if he can continue hitting the way that he is, there’s no telling what 2023 and beyond will hold for him.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand… 😱😱😱
Game 1: 4-for-5, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 2 R
Game 2: 5-for-5, HR, 2B, 5 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB pic.twitter.com/qn7X4vtOAD
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) April 9, 2022
I was admittedly unaware of Headrick until I began writing and looking up and down the stats of the Kernels, and I saw his standout numbers. Already this season, Headrick has posted 28 strikeouts in just over 17 innings of work, while only walking four batters. With incredibly impressive stats, he is someone to monitor going forward, as he is a left-handed starter, which is a rare commodity within this organization. At 24 years old, the Kernels will likely push him to pitch as much as he can in order to see how far he can go this year, making AAA a possibility by the end of the season if all goes right.
Rhino alumni Brent Headrick dominating so far in High A.
9IP, only 3 hits, 16K and 0 walks.
16k to 0BB! Pretty good ratio right there. https://t.co/1pb2jm4j0U
— Rhino Baseball (@RhinoBaseball) April 16, 2022
Fort Myers Mighty Mussels
There was a lot of buzz regarding Raya when he was drafted, but injuries have prevented him from pitching until this season. Thus far in 2022, he has been every bit of what the Twins had hoped. Armed with a scouted above-average changeup and two other average pitches, which includes a mid-90s fastball, all Raya needs is time in order to fulfill his potential, and 14:1 K:BB ratio to start the year is evidence that well on his way.
Rodriguez has flashed his power this season, as he has hit five home runs so far this year. While his bat-to-ball skills haven’t always been his calling card, his lowered strikeout rate and much-improved walk rate indicate quite the growth in this short season. While it remains to be seen if he can maintain these developments, the short-term answer is that he is a much better player now than he was last year.
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.