The MiLB season started just a few short weeks ago, and while some say it’s a long season, I say there’s never enough baseball!
It’s a fascinating time when the season begins, because, like on a first date, you always want to make a good first impression. Similar to dating, if you hear or read about how great someone is, or that they’re funny, smart, have a good job or are good looking, you want the initial meeting in person to be just as positive as the notes that prefaced the date. The same goes here, as we can chime in with stats and praise and tell you why prospects are good, but if they don’t start off strong, it can leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Here are some news and notes about the first impressions left upon a few of the Top 50 Twins prospects. I will stick to hitters for the most part because pitchers will not have had many outings with which to use for impressions.
Note: The stats used were as of games completed on Friday April 19, 2019.
Royce Lewis (#1): Lewis struggled out of the gate with his new team in A+, as he went 4 for 19 after 6 games, but didn’t lose any confidence. Batting second in the lineup, he’s fought his way to post a pedestrian .196/.354/.275 line, but he remains confident. In fact, he claims that he is seeing the ball incredibly well and already has two multi hit games. Hopefully he can fix a few things so that a promotion is in the works by the end of the season. First Impression: C+
Alex Kirilloff (#2): He injured his wrist during Spring Training, but is expected back before May. There is an interesting development though as he is going to start seeing time at 1B, which could and should increase his value in fantasy, because there is an influx of OF possibilities for the Twins within their system. First Impression: C+
Trevor Larnach (#5): A .267/.313/.333 isn’t anything that’s overly amazing, but the fact that 4 of his 16 hits have gone for doubles is encouraging. For someone with raw power potential, only time will tell if he will be able to turn some of those two baggers into home runs. First Impression: B
Lewin Diaz (#21): If he can continue the tear that he is on, he will be promoted in no time. He’s started the year with a .381/.426/.429 line after 31 at bats in Fort Myers. My #21 prospect is hitting the ball all over the field and is impressing many. First Impression: A
Travis Blankenhorn (#18): Recently the winner of the Twins’ Minor League player of the week, he sports a nifty .293/.439/.515 line all while lowering his strikeout totals. I know it’s early, but it’s a great start to the season for a promising prospect who is playing in his second year for Fort Myers A+. First Impression: A
Ben Rortvedt (#19): I consider catcher to be a weak position within the franchise, so seeing this out of Rortvedt is most definitely a positive and welcomed surprise. He’s taking walks, he’s putting good contact on the ball, and he’s gaining some solid experience. Hitting .283 is a good way to keep yourself in the lineup (competing against my #33 prospect Ryan Jeffers who is scuffling at .209) and harness your craft behind the plate. First Impression: B+
Brusdar Graterol (#3): Welcome to AA my friend! In 17.1 innings pitched, he’s already struck out 18 batters and surrendered only 7 hits and 6 walks. His 0.52 ERA and his 0.75 WHIP are very encouraging, and my #3 prospect is looking quite comfortable after his promotion. In his most previous outing, Graterol retired the first 11 batters he faced and threw 55 of his 80 pitches for strikes. First Impression: A+
Stephen Gonsalves (#7): Uh oh, better get Maaco! Doesn’t sound too promising as he has been diagnosed with left elbow flexor/pronator strain. It’s never a good sign when pitchers have any pain in their elbows. Hopefully he can get back to it soon. First Impression: F
Jordan Balazovic (#35): He’s come on strong out of the gate, recently going 5 strong innings and striking out 8 batters. Now, with a 2.45 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, the hard throwing righty has 26 strikeouts over 14.2 innings and looks comfortably poised and ready in A-ball. In fact, he’s thrown at least 8 strikeouts in all of his 3 outings in 2019. First Impression: A
Once a first impression has been established, it’s important to realize that it’s not the be all and end all to overall assessment. While these numbers may leave a good (or bad) taste in our mouths, we need to remember that it is a very long season. These impressions are listed here to get a good base for what could be to come. Prospects that get off to hot starts are important because they give that player the confidence to continue as well as a path for playing time, which is key to skill development. It will be interesting to see which of these trends can continue going forward.
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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