While we wait for the 2020 MLB season to get underway, it’s time to take a closer look at players who could one day be on opening day rosters. For the next month or two, we’ll be examining each team’s farm system, which will contain several prospects that will either one day be contributors for them, or could be used to acquire impact major leaguers.
Since we’ll be going in alphabetical order by city, our 17th farm system overview will be of the Minnesota Twins. We’ll rank their top ten prospects, discuss some of their other notable minor leaguers, and then analyze the overall state of the farm system.
#1: RHP Jhoan Duran
Height: 6’5″ Weight: 230 lbs
Signed: February 11th, 2015- ARI
Fastball: 67.5 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 47.5 Command: 50
Overall Grade: 54.875
The Twins may be one of the top teams in the MLB right now, but as recently as 2018, they acted as “sellers” at the trade deadline; they traded veteran third baseman Eduardo Escobar to the Diamondbacks for multiple prospects, including young pitcher Jhoan Duran. Escobar, a rental at the time, has had multiple productive seasons with Arizona, but right now, Minnesota clearly got the better end of the deal, in my opinion. With a fastball that reaches 100 MPH and a strong breaking ball, he should miss bats at a very high level, and to his credit, his command has steadily improved. Simply put, he has the upside of an ace, and although this isn’t a common take, I see him as the team’s best prospect at the moment.
#2: RHP Jordan Balazovic
Height: 6’5″ Weight: 215 lbs
Drafted: 5th Round- 2016
Fastball: 55 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 55
Overall Grade: 54.5
Ironically, Jordan Balazovic is a very different pitcher than Duran. He doesn’t have an overpowering fastball, nor a consistent breaking ball or changeup, but nevertheless, he’s able to more than get the job done. Over the past two seasons in Single-A and High-A, the 21-year-old has been magnificent, as he’s had an xFIP of 3.03 or below, as well as a K-BB ratio of 4.33 or higher. A lot of that comes with his ability to command the strike zone tremendously, but to this credit, his overall “stuff” has definitely seen an uptick. Per MLB Pipeline, his sinking fastball now sits in the 95-97 MPH range, and he’s just now filling out into his frame. Right now, he’s a pitcher with the ability to strike hitters out and limits walks, which should project well to the next level. Though he just reached High-A this past season, I think he may actually be nearing his major-league debut, and although he doesn’t have the upside Duran has, he’s a good bet to be a #2 or #3 starter for years to come.
#3: OF Alex Kirilloff
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 195 lbs
Drafted: 15th Overall- 2016
Hit: 55 Power: 55 Field: 50 Arm: 55 Speed: 40
Coming off an incredible 2018 season between Single-A and High-A, in which he posted a .392 on-base percentage and a .970 OPS, Alex Kirilloff was considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball. However, although he still posted a 121 weighted-runs-created plus (wrc+) in Double-A, his .756 OPS and .343 on-base-percentage were definitely underwhelming, and hint at his overall flaws. He’s a tremendous pure hitter, but he’s a free swinger who doesn’t walk much. Plus, though he does have some raw power, he remains a ground ball-heavy type of hitter, and that’s not the approach he should be employing. Regardless, the 22-year-old needs to prove himself as a potent offensive producer, as with his poor athleticism, he’s slowly trending towards being a first base/designated hitter type. Even if he maximizes his offensive abilities, I’m not sure it’s enough for him to be more than a consistently replaceable player in that type of role, and because of that, I don’t see Kirilloff as a clear-cut top-100 prospect at the moment. Could he stick in the outfield and improve his overall approach? Absolutely, but his margin of error is so little, that’s he far more riskier of a prospect as one would think.
#4: SS Royce Lewis
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 200 lbs
Drafted: 1st Overall- 2017
Hit: 50 Power: 55 Field: 50 Arm: 52.5 Speed: 65
Overall Grade: 52.5
With the first overall pick in the 2017 draft, the Twins were expected to pick between Hunter Greene and Brendan McKay, who were the most accomplish high-school and college prospects at the time. Instead, they went for more of a surprise pick- they drafted high-school shortstop Royce Lewis, and signed him to an under-slot deal. With players in the top five such as McKay and McKenzie Gore expected to make impacts to their respective teams at the big-league level, you have to wonder if they’re starting to regret that decision. Lewis is a terrific athlete, but he’ll never be able to show it off on the bases if he can’t improve his on-base skills in a hurry, while his power has yet to translate into on-field production yet. Then, when you add in the fact that he’s an average defensive shortstop who still looks destined for the outfield, and all of a sudden, you’re looking at a potential bust, which is extremely alarming. At the same time, he’s still just 20-years-old, and performed well at the Arizona Fall League, but then again, if you’re an elite prospect, the age excuse doesn’t exactly fly. Lewis still has a decent chance to end up being an everyday player down the road, but I don’t see him becoming a star at this point, and he’ll need to be much better in the 2020 season. No matter what he ends up being, I’m not sure he’ll ever justify being the top pick in the draft, considering the players he was drafted over.
#5: OF Trevor Larnach
Height: 6’4″ Weight: 223 lbs
Drafted: 20th Overall- 2018
Hit: 52.5 Power: 57.5 Field: 47.5 Arm: 55 Speed: 40
Overall Grade: 52.225
Nick Madrigal and Adley Rutschman were the most famous players on the Oregon State team that won the 2018 College World Series, but they weren’t the only players to be drafted in the first round- their cleanup hitter, Trevor Larnach, was drafted 20th overall by the Twins in 2018. The 23-year-old doesn’t have the offensive upside that Kirilloff or Lewis have, but what he does have is a much better approach- his on-base ability is far more refined. Additionally, he also has plus raw power, though it may be the highest of the three, and even as a pure hitter, he has an extremely smooth swing. His defense will never be great, but he projects well as a high on-base lefty corner outfielder, similar in the mold to Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. I’m not sure he’ll ever be an All-Star talent like those two, which is why he’s ranked as Minnesota’s third-best position player prospect, but in a way, he’s the one player the front office can count on to be a productive major leaguer, which is worth something.
#6: OF Matt Wallner
Height: 6’5″ Weight: 220 lbs
Drafted: CBA (39th Overall)- 2019
Hit: 45 Power: 57.5 Field: 50 Arm: 62.5 Speed: 40
Overall Grade: 51.925
The Twins clearly have an affection for lefty bat-first outfielders, as not have they drafted Larnach and Kirilloff in recent years, but with the 39th overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, they drafted Southern Mississippi slugger Matt Wallner. With tremendous raw power, in addition to the patience to draw his walks, there’s a lot to like about his offensive potential. Yet, the elephant in the room is his lackluster production in his junior year of college, which caused him to fall in the draft; does he have the pure hitting ability needed to thrive at the next level? With his elite arm strength, he definitely has the best chance to end up being a quality defensive outfielder, though right now, it’s hard to gauge reasonable expectations for the 22-year-old.
#7: SS/3B Keoni Cavaco
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 195 lbs
Drafted: 13th Overall- 2019
Hit: 45 Power: 55 Field: 50 Arm: 57.5 Speed: 60
Overall Grade: 51.25
In the same draft in which they landed Wallner, the Twins made a very interesting selection with the 13th overall pick- they drafted high-school infielder Keoni Cavaco. The 18-year-old was a very late riser in the draft process, as he didn’t even participate in summer showcases, but obviously, he did enough in Minnesota’s eyes to be worthy of a top-15 selection. Honestly, I wasn’t quite on board with his late draft hype, as his hit tool is a 45 at best with his swing-and-miss concerns, while his defense is a work in progress. Then again, it’s very understandable that a team fell in love his upside, as he’s started to grow into his frame and tap into his raw power, while his athleticism and arm strength should allow him to improve defensively at shortstop or third base. He’s a major development project, which is why I didn’t see him as a first-round prospect, but then again, I’m not putting it past him to ultimately be a successful everyday infielder- it’ll just require a lot of development and patience from the front office.
#8: SS Wander Javier
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 165 lbs
Signed: July 2, 2015
Hit: 50 Power: 47.5 Field: 52.5 Arm: 60 Speed: 55
Overall Grade: 51.125
Royce Lewis isn’t the only young shortstop that the Twins have made a massive investment in; during the 2015 international signing period, they signed Wander Javier to a $4 million bonus. At the time, landing the Dominican shortstop appeared to be a massive win for Minnesota, but due to injuries, that may no longer be the case. He’s suffered injuries in 2016, 2018, and 2019, and with that, has only played in a 130 career games in professional ball. Plus, in 80 games this season, he posted a miserable 80 wrc+ and 33.9% strikeout rate, and although that came with a solid (10.2%), his lack of contact meant that he had a sub .280 on-base percentage (.277). He’s a good athlete and a plus defender at shortstop, but right now, he clearly has shown enough in terms of his hitting ability and power to be a future everyday shortstop. Considering that he was in the same international signing class as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Jordan Alvarez, that’s disappointing, to say the least.
#9: C Ryan Jeffers
Height: 6’4″ Weight: 230 lbs
Drafted: 2nd Round- 2018
Hit: 47.5 Power: 55 Field: 50 Arm: 55 Speed: 35
Overall Grade: 51.1
Quality catchers are always very difficult to find, which is probably why the Twins surprised many by selecting UNC-Wilmington catcher Ryan Jeffers with the 59th overall pick in the 2018 draft, even though he wasn’t considered a Top-200 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. The 22-year-old has a strange build for a catcher at 6’4″ and 230 pounds, and not surprisingly, it’s his raw power that is his calling card. Plus, although he’s still working on his overall approach, he doesn’t strikeout much, and has a high launch angle swing, so he’s making progress in that regard. Meanwhile, Fangraphs reported that his overall framing metrics are strong, so if that’s the case, I don’t see any reason why he can’t be at least average in that regard as well. At the very least, Jeffers is a high-end backup/low-end starting catcher. Yet, I could very well see him emerging as a starting catcher, and if that ends up being the case, he’ll be turn out to be a steal given his draft position.
#10: 2B Jose Miranda
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 210 lbs
Drafted: CBB (73th Overall)- 2016
Hit: 52.5 Power: 47.5 Field: 47.5 Arm: 52.5 Speed: 45
Overall Grade: 49.735
When the 2020 MLB regular season eventually kicks off, the Twins will be starting a very unique player in Luis Arraez, who doesn’t hit for any power and isn’t a good athlete, but has elite contact skills. It appears they’ve found a player in that similar mold in Jose Miranda, who could very well end up being a carbon copy of their current starting baseman. The 21-year-old’s limitations are massive- he currently doesn’t walk much, doesn’t hit for power, and isn’t a good defender at second base. Yet, if we’ve learned anything from these bat control prototypes, it’s that they’re consistently able to overachieve, and if Miranda can start walking at a higher rate, perhaps he could have a role in the big leagues. It’s safe to say he has plenty of room to grow, especially since his minor-league production has been very underwhelming, but he’s at least a fascinating prospect.
Best of the Rest
- Brent Rooker has loads of power and walks at a very high rate, but his high strikeout rates and massive defensive limitations – he’s probably a designated hitter only – are serious red flags that he might not be able overcome.
- Yunior Severino was supposed to be a powerful second baseman, but that hasn’t turned out to be the case, while his on-base abilities and defense are both definitely below average.
Farm System Overview
The overall consensus is that the Twins have a top-ten farm system, but after trading Brusdar Graterol, I don’t see that to be the case at all. In fact, they’re currently ranked in the bottom-ten in my rankings, as I’m much lower on Kirilloff and Lewis than others are. Yet, it’s not all doom and gloom, as Duran and Balazovic should be at the front of their rotation in the near future, while Lewis, Kirilloff, Larnach, and even Cavaco and Wallner all have tremendous upside. Minnesota is in a great position based on the amount of young talent on their current big-league roster, but right now, the farm system is filled with a lot of high-risk prospects, which isn’t ideal.