Over the past few months, certain websites have ranked Minor League Baseball farm systems, and most of them have been quite positive for the Twins. Here are some examples:
MiLB.com – 9th overall
Quote: On talent alone, however, there’s enough here to keep the good times rolling.
MLB.com – 7th overall
Quote: More often than not, the Twins have had a Top 10 system, and this year is no different, with a trio of first-round bats creeping closer to the big leagues and some exciting arms in back of them.
Bleacher Report – 11th overall
Quote: Balazovic is now the top pitching prospect in the Minnesota system after a breakout 2019 season. The 21-year-old was a fifth-round pick in 2016, and he turned potential into production last year with a 2.69 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 129 strikeouts in 93.2 innings between Single-A and High-A.
PitcherList.com – 7th overall
Quote: Their closest impact pitcher might be Lewis Thorpe, who should begin the season in Triple-A but has looked good this spring.
There are plenty of publications out there, some of which are mentioned here. The consensus that I have gathered is that the Twins have done a tremendous job of not only stockpiling very good players within their farm system, but have done so collaboratively and made their system one of the best in all of baseball. Sure, trading Brusdar Graterol took a toll on their overall rankings, but they are currently in contention for a title, and they need to trade away prospects for pieces to win it all.
That said, sometimes it’s important to not just look at what pieces they have, but analyze how they got those pieces, and even play a bit of “what could have been” as well. I am going to look at the trades that the Twins have made over the past couple of seasons and see how their minor league system was built. I’ll offer an overall grade, however, potential will be a key component.
For reference, please see my Twins Top 50 Prospects column from earlier this year as there will be a more detailed analysis of each prospect discussed.
July 27, 2018:
Since then: Escobar has been incredibly stellar for the Diamondbacks since the trade, as he broke out in 2019. However, the Twins were trading away a potential free agent for future pieces. In return they got back my #7 ranked Twins prospect in Duran. In 2019, he compiled a 3.76 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP over 23 games in A+ and AA ball. Here were some encouraging numbers from his time in A+ and AA in 2019:
BB% GB% K% – BB%
A+ – 9.7 A+ – 53.2 A+ – 19.9
AA – 5.9 AA – 64.0 AA – 20.9
Both he and Jordan Balazovic are pitchers to watch and are arguably the next big things within this system. My #38 ranked Gabriel Maciel had a fine start to his 2019 in A ball, but stumbled a bit upon arriving at AA. That said, he makes good contact and worked on his swing in the off season to hopefully tap into some power.
Overall Return: B+
While losing Escobar can be a tough pill to swallow given that his breakout happened after the trade, the Twins did receive two nice pieces in return. Duran has the potential to be an SP 2-3 for the Twins if he can continue his momentum, while Maciel could be a nice lead off hitter with a bit of power. Things have worked out in that Twins have done a nice job of developing these prospects thus far.
July 27, 2018:
Since then: Pressly became one of, if not the best setup men in all of baseball, as he has record 42 holds for the Astros over one and a half seasons in their bullpen. He’s become Mr. Reliability for a team in contention, so they must be happy with their trade. That said, you know that the Twins are happy with theirs. Celestino had a quiet breakthrough in 2019, which I outlined recently on Twitter….please excuse my rankings error.
My #16 rated prospect: Gilberto Celestino
Something clicked in 2019…..
2016-2018: 11 HR
2019: 10 HR
K% went down about 5% from its highest point
BB% went up about 3% from its lowest point
All even when promoted to A pic.twitter.com/iaqcEwDdwR
— Davey Lou (@sportz_nutt51) May 3, 2020
If you scroll through (or just read here), his power also went up, his ability to spread the ball around the field improved and his speed has remained constant. He was my 15th ranked Twins prospect back in January, and someone that will shoot up my rankings if he continues what he did to finish 2019. As for Alcala, he may be someone that replaces what they lost in Pressly. With a fastball averaging 94 mph (which tops out at 97 mph), he needs to develop his secondary pitch, the slider, by getting more movement. Until then, I expect him to struggle somewhat.
Overall Return: A
I like Celestino a lot more than I do Alcala. I think if he can mold himself into more power, he’s a threat to possibly hit 20/20 at his peak, and be a valuable asset in fantasy. While Pressly is a dominant force for the Astros, he is a bullpen arm, so I feel that the Twins got a nice return for a bullpen arm that could quite possibly be replaced to an extent with Alcala.
July 30, 2018:
Since then: Lynn didn’t necessarily return solid value with the Yankees, but he did manage to turn things around with the Rangers in 2019. Luis Rijo, on the other hand, finished off a very successful 2019, which included a 10-strikeout game. Though he’s only been to A ball (within the Twins’ system), he’s made quite the impression thus far.
#MNTwins 2019 MiLB Strike% leaders (min. 90 IP)
74.7 Bailey Ober
68.3 Luis Rijo
68.1 Devin Smeltzer
66.8 Josh Winder
66.4 Jordan Balazovic
66.1 Lewis Thorpe
— Tom Froemming (@TFTwins) February 1, 2020
The Twins must like what they saw when they traded for him. He was dropped back a level to A ball, but stretched out to 107.0 IP, which was almost 40 more than 2018 with the Yankees. The overall return yielded some solid results.
Overall Return: C+
The Twins weren’t contending and had an older name they wanted to get a return on. As such, they got a pitcher who could end up being at the back of their rotation in a few years, if he progresses like they think. However, it will take some time.
August 9, 2018:
Since then: At the time, the Twins had a pitcher in his forties who had a surprisingly decent first half. What did they do? They did what any good owner would do, and that’s flip him for a prospect! He went onto struggle with Oakland and not match his first half output. As for Chalmers, he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018 and has since returned healthy enough to warrant the Twins to add him to their 40-man roster.
— Mike Rosenbaum (@GoldenSombrero) February 28, 2020
Overall Return: B-
It’s unfortunate because Tommy John takes almost two full years from which to completely recover. That said, he certainly has the stuff to be in the bullpen, if he can remain healthy. If he struggles out of the gate, then this trade is a wash. That said, trading away Fernando Rodney for a gamble on a healthy return from a promising pitcher is a savvy move by the Twins.
July 27, 2019:
Since then: Listed at #10 over at the Miami Marlins‘ Top 50 prospects, Stoffer Cochran described him as “the type of bat that Miami could use now but looks like he needs a little more seasoning in the minors.” He’s rising up lists, and I think he’ll end up producing well too. That said, the was the first trade on this list where the Twins weren’t selling….they were buying. Sergio Romo was added bullpen depth that they needed, but it was the “throw in,” Vallimont, that could really be the surprising winner here. His numbers over every level have dramatically improved. For instance, in A- ball, his K%-BB% was at -2.2%. By the time he reached A+, it was at 23.7%! He was stretched out in 2019 and pitched 127.2 innings, but struck out 150 batters while walking only 41. I’m not the only fan either:
Here's the list of 22-year-old pitchers to post a 30% K%, a 5.5% to 7.5% BB% in the Florida State League:
Quate did it as a reliever.
— Joseph Werner (@JoltinJoey) February 4, 2020
Really impressive stuff. He’s someone who would have really benefited from a regular length season, because there is some sneaky potential here.
Overall return: A-
While losing Diaz could hurt, the Twins got their man in Romo and may have a back of the rotation arm in a few years. He’ll need some seasoning and another year (at least) of improvement to prove that 2019 was no fluke. That being said, I love where he’s possibly headed.
There you have it, there are some of the biggest trades that the Twins have made over the past few years that have built up their overwhelmingly positive farm system. Do you agree with my grades? Was I easily impressed or did I nail it? Let me know what you think.
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.