This will be my 6th annual top 15 Twins prospect
update. As was the case with the midseason edition back in June, we’re dealing
with an unprecedented scenario here. Having not played any minor league
baseball action in 2020, movement is based more on what I heard out of the
alternate site and what took place from prospects appearing at Target Field.
The hope would be that a level of normalcy is restored in
2021. While I’m optimistic we see something closer to what we’ve come accustomed
to, changes are still in store. Major League Baseball booted just over 40
affiliates, and the regular season is still looking like there may be a delay
in getting things underway. I’m hopeful that the yearly trip to Fort Myers
happens, but that all remains in flux currently.
Here’s where players checked in during previous seasons:
2016 Top 15 Prospects
2017 Top 15 Prospects
2018 Top 15 Prospects
2019 Top 15 Prospects
2020 Top 15 Prospects
Now, let’s get to it!
15. Akil Baddoo OF
Taking over this spot from Wander Javier, Baddoo has had
somewhat of a similar professional trajectory. He’s been hurt plenty and there’s
still much more projection than actual results. However, he’ll play 2021 at
22-years-old and has already reached High-A. Growing into his body more and
increasing muscle mass, there’s an exciting combination of strength and speed.
He needs to begin producing on the field, but the ceiling is one to get excited
14. Gilberto Celestino OF
Celestino is on the 40-man roster and could play in the big
leagues right now from a defensive standpoint. It was good for him to be at CHS
Field in 2020 and get additional coaching in what could’ve been a lost year.
The Twins are still looking for the additional come-up on the Ryan Pressly
trade, and it’s this kid that could end up providing it.
13. Matt Wallner OF
The Minnesota native will be 23 when he gets back into a
professional game having lost his age-22 season. However, Wallner is an advanced
bat that has a plus arm. He’s probably more Trevor Larnach than he is Brent
Rooker when it comes to athleticism, and that’s a good thing. Reaching Cedar
Rapids in his first pro season was a nice showing, and he could be pushed
through the system quickly if everything continues to go according to plan.
12. Matt Canterino RHP
On the outside of my top 10 but looking in, I wouldn’t be
shocked to see Canterino as a top-5 Twins prospect a year from now. He’s got a great
arm and was nothing short of dominant in his first seven professional outings.
He’ll be 23 in 2021 and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Twins look to get him
extended time at Double-A Wichita. He could be a part of the next wave behind
the likes of Balazovic and Duran.
11. Lewis Thorpe LHP
Seeing somewhat of a slip for the Aussie in 2020 was a
disappointing reality. Thorpe has always looked like the lefty to bet on in the
Twins system, and I really thought he was in for a breakout. Initially dealing
with some personal issues during Spring Training, and then fighting
ineffectiveness when he was out there, 2020 was as forgettable for Lewis as it
was anyone. The talent is all there, and so is the stuff, but it’ll be on him
to close the gap between the ears.
10. Aaron Sabato 1B
I struggled with where to put Sabato as I think what happens
and what could go wrong are both pretty straightforward. The former Tar Heel’s
bat is beyond legit, but so too is his limit when it comes to impact. He’s
never going to move off first base and may ultimately be a designated hitter. There’s
less swing and miss than Rooker here, and the floor is probably a bit safer.
Without him having played a professional game though, this feels right.
9. Keoni Cavaco SS
Entirely projection is what you’ve got to go off on Cavaco.
He was an extreme helium pick and only got in 20 games before his professional
career was put on hold. He’s 19-years-old and will start 2021 at that age.
Likely destined to play for the newly designated Low-A Mighty Mussels, Cavaco
will have to prove he can stick at shortstop. Playing third base during his
prep career, the hope is that the bat develops power, and his 35/4 K/BB was
just part of the acclimation process.
8. Brent Rooker OF/1B
If you were waiting on Brent Rooker’s bat to play in the big
leagues before believing, the seven-game sample size certainly didn’t do
anything to calm your excitement. It was a short debut, but he crushed the
baseball, posted a .960 OPS, and launched his first Major League home run. A
fractured forearm ended his season, but he’s all systems go and should be
looking at an Opening Day roster spot in 2021.
7. Blayne Enlow RHP
I might be a bit higher on Enlow than most, but I think this
is the next Twins pitching prospect to take a big leap. The front office
prioritized him in a draft a couple of years ago, and he’s flashed great stuff
since. Enlow will be 22 in 2021, but he’s already reached High-A. The
strikeouts need to keep rising, but he’s got some electricity to his arm and
has done a good job of avoiding substantial damage. Another step forwards and
he’ll make another leap on this list.
6. Ryan Jeffers C
Like Rooker, Jeffers made his Major League debut in 2020.
With Mitch Garver fighting both injury and ineffectiveness the Twins needed to
turn to their rising prospect. In 26 games he posted a .791 OPS and did a fine
job behind the plate. When drafted the narrative was that the bat would play but
uncertainty remained about whether he could hack it behind the plate. Minnesota
believed he could, and while that remains a work in progress, a pairing with
Garver should give Rocco Baldelli two solid options.
5. Jhoan Duran RHP
There were a couple of different points that a Duran
promotion seemed like a good bet during 2020, but the Twins ultimately never
went that direction. He’s got a near triple-digit fastball and I heard plenty
of great reports from the people I checked on him with. He probably has a
higher ceiling than the pitching prospect ranked higher than him on this list,
but the floor is more volatile as well.
4. Trevor Larnach OF
For the duration they’ve been in the system together it’s
been hard to separate Larnach and Kirilloff. They are virtually the same player
with the former having had some college seasoning and the latter having a bit
of youth on his side. I’d give Larnach the edge when it comes to athleticism,
but both should be seen as advanced bats with unmatched upside especially at
3. Jordan Balazovic RHP
Hailing from Canada, Balazovic has entrenched himself as the
Twins top pitching prospect. He has the right mix of high ceiling ability with
a very projectable and safe floor. I’d be pretty shocked if he ends up flaming
out and working as a reliever. There may not be ace potential here but expecting
him to be a two or three is hardly a lofty expectation.
2. Royce Lewis SS
Minnesota’s top prospect for the past two years drops a spot
for me, but only because I think the year without game action leaves some
uncertainty. I’ve been bullish on Lewis, and even if he doesn’t stick at
shortstop, I think he’s an All-Star caliber talent. While his ceiling is
unquestionably higher than Kirilloff’s, there’s also a more volatile floor
here. I really wanted to see how Royce would bounce back in 2020, and despite
glowing reports from the alternate site, we didn’t get actual evaluation
opportunity. I’m not betting against him by any means.
1. Alex Kirilloff OF/1B
Talk about being thrown into the fire as Kirilloff was asked
to make his Major League debut during an elimination game in the Postseason. He
could be ticketed for the starting left field role on Opening Day in 2021, and
there’s no reason he shouldn’t be expected to at least match Eddie Rosario’s
production level. Kirilloff’s bat is the real deal, and while his arm won’t
play quite as high, there’s no reason not to get excited about his prognosis as