What a difference a year makes. While I feel like I say this every time I look back at older lists, this is the year where those words have never been more accurate. There were many graduations from the previous list due to varying circumstances, and there’s also been a lot of fluctuation within the rankings process. Overall, it was a tumultuous year that ultimately brought about promise and speculation.
Entering last year, the organization was in a mode of rebuilding its farm system, since they were unloading players from their future in order to stock up for the present. Now the Twins find themselves taking a step back in their direction, as they’ve spent less time and money building a roster to compete in 2023. Instead, it feels like they’re going to give the players that they’ve harnessed over the years a chance to prove their weight and be quality baseball players. It’s an interesting approach, but one that should reflect the hard work that is done at the Minor League level.
Twins MiLB affiliates:
St. Paul Saints (@StPaulSaints) – Triple-A
Wichita Wind Surge (@WindSurgeICT) – Double-A
Cedar Rapids Kernels (@CRKernels) – High-A
Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (@MightyMussels) – Single-A
Florida Complex League Twins – Rookie
Dominican Summer League Twins – Rookie
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 the player reached in 2022
1. Royce Lewis, SS/OF, 23, Double-A
One of the organization’s top prospects for many years, Lewis is forced to play the waiting game yet again, as he suffered a re-tearing of his ACL last season. While he isn’t expected back until June or July, he’s already begun running the basepaths and changing his direction while moving. He is expected to start swinging a bat early this month, but for him, it’s all about being patient. A lot of his potential playing career has been wiped out due to having to wait for the world and his body to heal. One of these days we will see just what he is made of, though his brief tenure with the Twins last year gave a glimpse into his brilliance. It’s not about if he will be great, but when.
2. Brooks Lee, SS, 21, Double-A
Coming out of the 2022 MLB draft, the team immediately put Lee to work as he flourished through three Minor League levels in his first professional season. While he won’t blow anyone away with his power and speed at the plate, his bat-to-ball skills are highly regarded. Still, while he has a long way to go and a lot of experience to accrue, he could very well be the Twins’ starting shortstop a year from now. There has been some talk about giving him some reps at third base too, but some of that is dependent on where the aforementioned Royce Lewis will ultimately end up after his recovery.
Twins first rounder Brooks Lee with his third homer in 17 High-A games. This is an absurdly impressive swing.
— Aram Leighton (@AramLeighton8) September 2, 2022
3. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF, 19, Single-A
A true breakout prospect, Rodriguez’s ceiling was raised this season with tremendous plate discipline and a combination of both power and speed. With 57 walks and eleven steals over 47 games, he broke out in a big way before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Heading into next year, it remains to be seen if he can recapture this magic by maintaining a solid approach and utilizing it into long-term power and average gains, but he remains an interesting prospect to monitor. He is someone that shot up these rankings in a big way, and one that we should all believe in.
4. Edouard Julien, 2B, 21, Double-A
Julien took a big step forward in 2022, as he not only maintained his patience at the plate but also increased his batting average by over 50 points and produced elite five-category stats in the process. He played most of his games at second base this year, and could make his way to the Twins at some point in 2023, should this progression continue. He’s an impact player whose value at the plate increases because of his ability to get on base. He projects as a future second baseman with the possibility of transitioning over to first base.
5. Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP, 22, MLB
Woods Richardson made a surprising Major League debut to end the 2022 season in stunning fashion. He has a four-pitch arsenal that gives him many weapons from which to use. Still, his progress has been monitored carefully, so as to not be overworked at any juncture of his Minor League career. He’s likely to be used sparingly by the Twins this season until late in the year when a call-up should be expected. He’s a big part of the team’s future, so expect a slow and gradual lead-up to his long-standing promotion.
6. Connor Prielipp, LHP, 21, College
Taken in the second round of the 2022 Amateur Draft, Prielipp has first-round talent with the potential to be an ace for the Twins. This upcoming season will be one that is taken slowly, as it will be his first back since having had Tommy John surgery. Equipped with a 70-grade slider and a 60-grade fastball, he also gives the team something that has been lacking within the organization for years: a left-handed pitcher with tremendous upside. He has the potential to elevate himself on these rankings next year, but for now, it’s dependent on how he recovers.
7. Austin Martin, SS/OF, 23, Double-A
There will be a few players on this list whose stock has taken a considerable slide, and Martin is one of those. Any power that was thought to have been in that bat is all but gone, but he does have a knack for getting on base. Despite a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League, Martin looks like he’ll turn into another player within the organization that can get on base, play all over the field and rack up steals. There’s value in that profile, but for now, the ceiling is limited.
8. Marco Raya, RHP, 19, Single-A
Raya came into his first professional season with high hopes for the future, and for the most part, he held his own. Despite being small in stature and young, he managed to do well against batters older than him, finishing the year with a 28.9% strikeout rate. Next year will be a big year for the young pitcher who has moderate ace potential. He has four pitches graded 50 or higher, giving way to the substantial potential for the future.
9. Matt Wallner, OF, 25, MLB
Wallner made his Major League debut late in the season, more so due to necessity over anything else. Regardless of why he played, examining how he played is the more important path to take. His entire 2022 season showed an increase in his patience at the plate, and despite struggling to maintain that with the Twins, he still managed to hit two towering home runs. Look for him to get a chance to compete in Spring Training, but is likely to begin in Triple-A and work on keeping his strikeouts down.
10. Louie Varland, RHP, 25, MLB
Varland made his debut in 2022 and proved that he was worthy of being named the Twins’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in both 2021 and 2022. When he finally debuted for the Twins in September, he had already logged over 120 innings but held his own to end the season. He will come into next year looking to refine his pitches and be used as a spot starter to begin the year, with the possibility of being at the end of their rotation.
Louie Varland gets Aaron Judge swinging for his first career strikeout, with his family cheering at Yankee Stadium. pic.twitter.com/HMzf9MSu93
— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) September 7, 2022
11. Matt Canterino, RHP, 25, RHP, Double-A
One of the team’s most promising pitchers is unfortunately injured for most of the 2022 season due to last year’s Tommy John surgery. While this is a major setback, he comes with too much promise to knock him down very far. With a career 13.8 K/9 ratio and a WHIP well below one, there’s a ton to like here, but how far he goes is dependent on how he recovers.
12. Yasser Mercedes, OF, 17, Rookie (DSL)
This ranking might be a bit much, but there was a lot to like about this profile. He possesses raw power and speed while having an uncanny ability to cover a lot of ground in the outfield. He finished this season with 30 stolen bases and a .355/.421/.555/.975 slash line. As he continues to grow into his body and develop his swing and power, he could be an everyday piece in the outfield. For now, this is speculative but very optimistic.
13. Noah Miller, SS, 20, Single-A
Despite struggling at the plate this season, Miller remains a part of the Twins’ long-term plans. His fielding instincts are incredible and he possesses a strong enough arm to remain at shortstop. Should his bat catch up to his glove, he can be a stalwart in the infield and perhaps a staple in the Twins’ lineup for years to come.
Here’s that play by #MNTwins prospect Noah Miller (@NoahMiller_21). He played a great SS today. https://t.co/Hwg6XCtlKG pic.twitter.com/YzQXrH8clJ
— Ted (@tlschwerz) April 2, 2022
14. Jordan Balazovic, RHP, 24, Triple-A
No Twins’ prospect had a more disappointing season as Balazovic who failed to build upon his 2021 success story. While he did suffer a back injury early in the year, he still struggled all year to keep batters off the bases and the ball in the ballpark. His final month of the season showed some glimmer of hope, and the chance that he was pitching through an injury is possible, but if he fails to get back to where he was in 2023, it might be time to re-evaluate him going forward.
15. David Festa, RHP, 22, High-A
Festa struggled to finish his 2022 season after being promoted to Single-A but fixed his mistakes with a solid rebound to begin this year. His strikeout rate increased by 12.5% before getting the nod to High-A, where he held his own. Next year will be a big year for him as he continues to rise in the rankings while trying to prove his worth to the organization.
16. Misael Urbina, OF, 20, Single-A
Here begins the “Trust the Process” part of the tier, with two names that were once considered the core of their future. After some time of development, it seems like Urbina is the best of the duo, but none have really broken out. As for Urbina, he has failed to replicate his first professional season success, but he’s still just twenty years old with a lot of potential. That being said, next season will be a big one to see if he can finally take that next step forward.
17. Keoni Cavaco, 3B/SS, 21, Single-A
Time might be running out on Cavaco, who will be 22 in a year’s time and he has yet to strike out less than 30% of the time at a given level. While his fielding instincts and glove might be elite, his bat remains a big work in progress. He did increase his power this season, so there could be something there for next year, but for now, time is ticking on him to finally show what he’s capable of doing.
18. Blayne Enlow, RHP, 23, Double-A
In a make-or-break season, next year Enlow will be one year removed from his own Tommy John surgery, giving him a chance to hopefully develop into the pitcher everyone thought he could be. It’s likely that he makes his Twins debut at some point this year, but he’ll need to get his control and command back to where they both were. He has a moderate ceiling as it is, but there’s potential for more with some refinement and work.
19. Jose Rodriguez, OF, 17, Rookie (FCL)
20. Aaron Sabato, 1B, 23, Double-A
21. Yunior Severino, 2B/3B/OF, 23, Double-A
22. Ricardo Olivar, C/OF, 21, Single-A
23. Rafael Cruz, 1B/3B, 19, Rookie (FCL)
24. Sean Mooney, RHP, 24, High-A
25. Kala’i Rosario, OF, 21, Single-A
26. Tanner Schobel, 2B, 21, Single-A
27. Ronny Henriquez, RHP, 22, MLB
28. Cole Sands, RHP, 25, MLB
29. Brent Headrick, LHP, 25, Double-A
30. Cody Laweryson, RHP, 24, Double-A
31. Danny De Andrade, SS/3B, 18, Rookie (FCL)
32. Steven Cruz, RHP, 23, Double-A
33. Alejandro Hidalgo, RHP, 19, Single-A
34. Jake Rucker, 3B/2B/1B, 23, Triple-A
35. Evan Sisk, LHP, 25, Triple-A
36. Michael Helman, 2B/OF, 26, Triple-A
37. Austin Schulfer, RHP, 27, Triple-A
Rodriguez burst onto the scene to hit almost .300 as a seventeen-year-old. Olivar is someone to keep an eye on next year because of his summer surge and promotion. Rosario is running out of time to prove that he can be a player worth rostering. Henriquez did more good than bad in his early call to the big leagues. Helman‘s promotion to Triple-A proved to be profitable as he didn’t miss a beat. Sisk struck out 76 batters over 63 innings and two minor league levels and could be a left-handed force in the Twins’ bullpen next season. Schulfer might be an option for the Twins’ bullpen in low-leverage situations at some point in 2023 after posting a solid season.
38. Chris Williams, 1B/C, 26, Triple-A
39. Bryan Acuna, SS, 17, Rookie (FCL)
40. Denny Bentley, LHP, 24, Double-A
41. Anderson Nova, OF, 17, Rookie (FCL)
42. Alex Isola, C/1B, 24, Double-A
43. Anthony Prato, SS/2B/OF, 24, Double-A
44. Kody Funderburk, LHP, 26, Double-A
45. Pierson Ohl, RHP, 23, Single-A
46. Malik Barrington, RHP, 25, High-A
47. Alexander Pena, 1B/3B/OF, 20, Rookie (FCL)
48. Alerick Soularie, OF/2B, 23, High-A
49. Will Holland, SS/OF/2B, 24, Double-A
50. Jaylen Nowlin, OF/2B, LHP, 21, High-A
Acuna held his own in his first year of professional baseball as he hit .310 in 2022. Prato got the promotion to Double-A and continued to make solid contact while running on the basepaths. Funderburk regressed a bit in 2022 while staying in Double-A but still had himself a solid season. Ohl struck out 101 batters in 91.2 innings in 2022. Soularie hit ten home runs and had eighteen steals for Cedar Rapids.
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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