I’m a Numbers Guy: 5 Twins Prospect Facts from 2019

I love baseball. I love numbers. Fantasy baseball is the perfect mesh of both of my loves, since fantasy baseball is predominantly based on statistics and the projection of the future based on current numbers.

As we move further into 2020 with no Major or Minor League Baseball, it gives people a time to dig deeper into those stats in order to look for something that’s prevalent and important. I love patterns, short bursts of greatness, extended patches of quality and more. With that, here are some interesting stats from 2019 with regards to the Twins‘ farm system and their players.

1. Jhoan Duran posted an absurd 64% ground ball rate in Double A ball in 2019.

An extreme ground ball pitcher, Duran gets batters to commit to weak contact and has a nice Swinging Strike rate as well. What he’s able to do is use a type of hybrid pitch, where he blends a two-seam fastball alongside a sinker. Here’s what Baseball-America had to say about it:

“What hitters were saying about it is, they don’t know what that pitch is. They were asking us,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “There are times when guys come back to the dugout and say, ‘I don’t know what that was, but it was hard and it just disappeared.’ “

“You think of a typical splitter these days, and you think of an offspeed pitch like a changeup—the break does most of the work to fool hitters”, Falvey said. “This is not like that. This is hard. It’s a fastball, and it has some of that diving action that just confuses you (because) it has such depth to it. It’s no changeup.”

For those needing a visual representation, here it is:

It’s pretty amazing, actually. Keep an eye on Duran because his stock is rising. Once he’s able to get back on the mound, he’s got the potential to be one of, if not the best, pitcher within the Twins’ system.

2. Zander Wiel and Wilin Rosario hit a combined 44 home runs for the Rochester Red Wings in 2019.

Both came as a surprise to me, and I’m sure that it will to many others. Zander Wiel struggled mightily upon getting called up to AAA in 2018, but, looking at his numbers, he’s been pretty decent over his career in the minors. He led the International League with extra-base hits and set a career-high with 24 home runs last season.

Rosario, on the other hand, signed a minor league deal after having played all around the world since his days as a member of the Colorado Rockies almost ten years ago. Finishing with 20 home runs and a .300 batting average over 445 plate appearances is nothing to sneeze at.

Both Wiel (27) and Rosario (31) have caught my eye to see if another year of this pushed them into some sort of backup role with the Twins at some point.

3. Royce Lewis’s K% – BB% got worse in 2019.

One would think that a top prospect would know how to take a pitch and recognize what’s coming. The fact that he struggled mightily in 2019 is a bit concerning as he struck out more often than he had base hits. Added to that, his swing needs refinement as there’s a lot going on with his body every time he attacks a pitch.

As the Twins’ farm director Alex Hassan said in an interview with FanGraphs:

“There are some characteristics that are unique to Royce,” said Hassan. “What’s interesting is that leg-kick piece. Last year, I went back and looked at some of his GCL video from right after he signed, and there are plenty of pitches where his leg kick goes right up to his belt, and he executes his swing from there. It’s something he’s tinkered with. It can be a big leg kick, somewhat of a medium leg kick, and at times he’ll try to get his foot down a little earlier. But the kick has been there since he came into the system. It’s simply a feature of Royce, as opposed to some kind of bug that’s popped up.”

While I believe he’s smart and talented enough to overcome these flaws, there’s certainly some cause for concern: a) he had himself an incredible Arizona Fall League and b) there might not be any chance for him to improve in 2020. Maybe I’m a being a Debbie Downer here, or maybe I’m not counting my chickens before they’re hatched. I was just alarmed when I actually dug deeper into his stats in 2019.

4. The Top 3 pitchers in terms of strikeouts recorded in the Twins’ minor league system in 2019 were:

1. Jhoan Duran – 136 in 115.0 IP
2. Jordan Balazovic – 129 in 93.1 IP
3. Austin Schulfer – 124 in 97.2 IP

That’s some good company for Austin Schulfer, who pitched pretty well for the Cedar Rapids A Ball affiliate. Drafted 574th overall in the 19th round of the 2018 Amateur Draft out of Milwaukee, Schulfer set a strikeout record for his alma-mater just a couple of years ago:

In 2019, over a mixed bag of starts and multi-relief appearances in 2019, he held batters to a .208 batting average and gave up only nine home runs all year.

I’m not saying go out and pick him up in all of your Dynasty leagues. There is significant risk here as he had some disastrous outings. He gave up three or more runs in eight of his appearances last year, and was brutal in July. I just found it interesting that he, someone who is seemingly unknown in the fantasy world, was third in strikeouts for this franchise in 2019. If he does it again, then my eyes are opened.

5. Nick Gordon actually had significant, yet insignificant, improvement in 2019.

Nick Gordon is one player that needed to take a huge step forward in 2019. While I wouldn’t say it was an overly positive leap, he still went forward nonetheless.

The thing I’m looking at most here are the differences from AAA 2018 and AAA 2019. So much improvement. Looking from left to right, it’s encouraging: he made better contact, he got himself on base, there was more power in his swing…..and then the progression stopped. Both his walk rate and his strikeout rate remained stagnant and his downfall. If he can somehow figure out when to swing and when to lay off, he could be a nice Utility player for the Twins and put up numbers somewhat similar to Elvis Andrus (speed, batting average, not a lot of power). Until those adjustments get made, though, he may forever be a Quad-A ballplayer.

Featured Image: Photo by Tom Hagerty/MiLB, and on Flickr (lakelandlocal)




About Dave Funnell 21 Articles
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.

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