Twins Prospects: Where Fantasy Meets Reality

Royce Lewis, Fort Myers Miracle, Florida State League, April 4, 2019 - photo credit Bryan Green on Flickr

Keith Law recently revealed his Top 100 Prospects over at The Athletic, which raised a few eyebrows. His rankings were questionable to some, in that fans didn’t necessarily believe in the validity of his positioning of certain players. For instance, he rates Atlanta Braves’ prospect Christian Pache as his #3 overall prospect for many reasons, such as his big bat potential and his defensive abilities in center field. While nobody has ever questioned Pache’s Gold Glove potential, I don’t know many who believe that he has the ability to one day hit 25 home runs in a season, such as Law stated. However, one important thing to remember here is that Law values the real-life baseball player abilities of his players, taking into account how important someone will be to their respective teams once they eventually make their big league debut. Thus, deciphering through reality into one conjoined list is the secret to Law’s final product.

Switching gears, however, I would like to look through his opinions on the Twins and his real life thoughts on those within his list. While fantasy value is very important to us, the fantasy baseball community, the real-life value a player has to a team is quite predominant as well. In knowing what each player brings to the table, we may be able to dive inside the minds of the executives that are building these teams and understand what their thinking is with regards to the team’s future plans. For instance, if a player is defensively stout, there is a chance that they will see a bump in playing time because it’s those defensive efforts that help keep runs off the board. Essentially, if two players profile similarly with the bat, it could be the glove that is the deciding factor with regards to additional playing time.

Please note, that while I will be revealing only some of the information that Law states on each of the Twins’ players, I will be respecting the paywall of both he and The Athletic. They do wonderful work there and I strongly recommend anyone to subscribe. I will not be revealing anything detailed outside of the Twins prospects as a result.

Alex Kirilloff, OF – Law rank #7
“He’s among the very best hitting prospects in baseball, thanks to a beautiful left-handed swing, an advanced approach to the strike zone, and all-fields power… look for a big power spike from him in 2021, whether he does so in Triple A or in the majors.”
Just before:
Adley Rutschmann, C, Baltimore
Just after: CJ Abrams, SS, San Diego

It’s no secret that I absolutely love Alex Kirilloff. The fact that he lists him before CJ Abrams is a testament to how valuable he can be on the field for the Twins. He should be debuting for them, as early as Spring Training, despite the fact that Minnesota brought in Nelson Cruz. Much like Law stated, I believe that his swing is something to behold due to his advanced approach at the plate, as taught to him by his father at such a young age. This placement, though, is misleading if you forget that it is not fantasy based. There are many other prospects that have a more major fantasy related impact that can and should be ahead of Kirilloff. While I do love this future Twin, he is not someone you should build your fantasy team around. Realistically speaking, do not go out of your way to trade multiple, proven assets and build around Kirilloff. He is, however, a very nice piece of the puzzle, who could hit 20+ home runs in a season with a very nice batting average.

Royce Lewis, SS – Law rank #46
“Lewis is a plus-plus runner who projected to hit for average without a ton of power… I see Lewis as a leadoff hitter with huge speed and plus defense in center, different from the player he was in high school but still a valuable player on both sides of the ball.
Just before:
 Randy Arozarena, OF, Tampa Bay
Just after: Logan Gilbert, RHP, Seattle

He’s listed as my number two prospect within the system overall, and would probably crack my Top 25 overall, but here he is down to 46, due to some uncertainty all over the place. While I touched upon it in my Top 50 piece, Keith goes into greater detail here, explaining the mechanics issue with his swing. It sounds like he was experimenting with something that went horribly wrong. In fact, it looks as if 2019 was a horrible year for Lewis all around, as in the field too, he appears to be a raw talent. The idea of him playing in centre field is intriguing to me, in that he has the speed and the glove to make it work. However, given that the Twins recently signed Andrelton Simmons and will likely use Luis Arraez all over the field, it seems very unlikely that Minnesota promotes Royce Lewis at all in 2021. The fact remains that 2021 is a big year for Lewis to turn it around, despite having a reportedly successful Summer Camp in 2020.

Jordan Balazovic, RHP, OF – Law rank #63
“He’s a strike-thrower who has already shown a willingness to pitch in to hitters, and gets good deception from his delivery thanks to where he holds his glove… If he picks up more velocity or turns either of those secondary pitches into plus offerings, he could end up a No. 2 or better.”
Just before:
Spencer Howard, RHP, Philadelphia
Just after: Braden Shewmake, SS, Atlanta

There may be no greater emphasis on how Law ranks prospects here, as Spencer Howard is arguably a Top 40 fantasy prospect, while Balazovic is a fringe Top 100. Yet here we see them back to back in the rankings. Some of that is due to the ETA of both, but it’s also a testament of how talented the Canadian pitcher really is. Similar to what I’ve said in the past, Law backs the statement that while Balazovic has been good, he has the ability to bee even better. It’s promising that he’s filled out in the weight room over the summer, but we’ll have to wait and see how that translates on the mound. Hopefully it adds a bit more velocity to his already scorching fastball. While he probably won’t make his major league debut until 2022, he remains the team’s best prospect pitcher, and Law’s designation of a possible SP2 gives me hope that he will be well within the Top 100 prospects by the end of 2021.

Jhoan Duran, RHP – Law rank #83
“Duran is best known for his unusual out pitch, a splitter-sinker hybrid that carries the awkward “splinker” moniker, but he’s got enough of a complete arsenal that he’s more than just a one-pitch guy who’ll have to go to the bullpen.”
Just before:
Ryan Rolison, RHP, Colorado
Just after: A.J. Puk, LHP, Oakland

Listed as my number five prospect, I’ve discussed Duran’s pitch before, and it’s truly a wonder to behold. That said, according to Law, he’ll be Major League ready sooner than the aforementioned Balazovic because of his swing and miss potential. Since he’s listed further down the list, I would guess too that he has a cap of SP3 potential, maybe even less. Nonetheless, with the Twins recently signing J.A. Happ, it seems probable that the Twins will keep Duran down in the Minors to work on the command Law referenced, as well as developing his Breaking Ball. There doesn’t seem to be a rush to have him called up in the immediate future. Could we see a rotation of Jose Berrios, Balazovic and Duran come 2022?

Surprising omission:
Trevor Larnach, OF

I’m disappointed that Larnach didn’t make this Top 100 list, because I do believe in him and his on field talents. I think he has the eye and the patience at the plate to wait for his pitch and turn on it when need be. He apparently mashed the heck out of the baseball last summer, but my beliefs that he could use some more seasoning in the minors seem to be coming true. He only has 181 Double-A plate appearances, so there is no need to rush him whatsoever. Listed at number 100 on this list was Nick Lodolo from the Cincinnati Reds, who is someone Law projected to be close to ready for the Major Leagues. Larnach is not ready, so another year to work on his approach is definitely only going to help him for when he eventually debuts.

What are your thoughts on this list from Law? How does it compare to your ideas on your Top 100 and your top Twins prospects?

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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