With the Minnesota Twins season about to begin and everyone bracing themselves for a 60-game sprint, it is the perfect time to review the top prospects for the organization. The Minnesota Twins have a deep and high quality farm system to work with. Thanks, in large part, to a slew of abysmal years in the 2010s which landed them high draft picks. But also in part due to their revamp in player development and coaching under the new regime. Thanks Falvey and Levine!
A traditional ranking of prospects focuses on the potential each player could achieve. This ranking is based off each player’s ability and likelihood to contribute to the team in 2020.
It isn’t perfect. There are quite a few options to slot in at nearly every rank. Also, it is up to interpretation with what one considers a prospect. Hopefully though, this will give you a sense of who you could see gracing the diamond in the coming months.
#10 – RYAN JEFFERS (C)
Kicking off the list is the future catcher for the Minnesota Twins. At least at the moment. Although Jeffers had an atrocious spring, batting a horrific .067 with seven strikeouts, he has performed well in the minors.
Hitting 10 dingers and 40 RBI with a .256/.330/.402 slash in Double-A action last year. Far from MLB-ready, he is still the best option the team has at catcher if the worst case scenario happens to Garver, Avila, Telis, and Astudillo.
#9 – AARON WHITEFIELD (OF)
Honestly, I was temped to leave Whitefield off this list entirely. But, he makes it solely due to his positioning on the 30-man roster. Which came as a surprise. His bat is nothing to write home about, but his speed puts him on the roster. He was often used as a pinch runner during the Summer Camp scrimmages. If he is going to make an impact in 2020, it’ll be on the base paths.
How fast is Aaron Whitefield?— Pensacola Blue Wahoos (@BlueWahoosBBall) July 23, 2020
Our cameras could barely keep up with him as he stole EVERY base in this clip.
Congrats to the fastest Blue Wahoo on his call-up to the Major Leagues! pic.twitter.com/O9h7YMxofS
#8 – TREVOR LARNACH (RF)
Larnach could’ve been higher on this list if Blankenhorn didn’t place so high and we needed outfield depth. But, expect great things from Larnach in the future. Although Alex Kirilloff rightfully gets most of the hype for outfield prospects, Larnach has quietly gone under the radar as one of the best outfield prospects in the game…at least in my opinion.
He was a consistent force at the plate since his time at Oregon State, where he won a national championship. 2019 was a breakout year for him in the minors. He hit .309 at both high-A and double-A ball. This lead him to totals of 13 bombs and driving in 66 runs. His OPS is pretty admirable too at .842. The strikeouts are something he will need to work on, but with him not on the roster, that is doable.
He even had a good Spring Training, going 8 for 24 in 13 games while hitting three more homers. He could become a cornerstone in the outfield for years to come.
#7 – CODY STASHAK (RHP)
Stashak could also have placed higher on this list, but I have to draw a line somewhere. Last year we saw glimpses of what we could see from him out of the bullpen. Throwing 25 innings and striking out 25, posting an ERA of 3.24 in 18 games.
Although currently used as a bullpen arm, Stashak has been used as an opener in the past. If Baldelli wants to mess around a bit, Stashak could be the man he goes with.
#6 – LEWIS THORPE (LHP)
Thorpe was a tricky player to slot into this list. With good upside, he has the potential to become a back of the rotation guy in the coming years. But he has yet to show it on a consistent basis. His numbers weren’t eye-popping in 2019 for the Minnesota Twins, going 3-2 with a 6.18 ERA in 12 games (27.2 IP). He also allowed 19 runs and ten walks and having a sub-par 75 ERA+.
Lewis Thorpe fed up w/ these strike zones too.. pic.twitter.com/XjerkMrUvI— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) August 20, 2019
However, he has the tools. Striking out 31 batters in his brief 2019 stint. Yet it never really took hold entering 2020, as he was cut from Spring Training in one of the first rounds of cuts. While he hopefully was able to settle into a groove during the hiatus, he will likely be utilized solely as a reliever this year. He may even come and go as the season goes on.
#5 – DEVIN SMELTZER (LHP)
The second of the three-headed rookie-pitcher dragon, Smeltzer is typically a starting pitcher. While that should be his long-term outlook with the team, 2020 will mostly bring long-relief work. Though, he may find a few spot starts potentially sprinkled in.
Smeltzer isn’t quite at the point Dobnak is, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t valuable. He posted a 0.8 WAR in 11 games in 2019, going 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 49.0 innings. He is also the first of the three starters to reach rookie eligibility.
His home run rate is a bit worrisome, giving up eight last year, while also giving up three long balls in only 9.1 innings in Spring Training. But pitching coach Wes Johnson wouldn’t have suggested adding him to the 30-man roster if he couldn’t perform out of the pen. Luckily, he has shown spurts of consistency in Summer Camp.
Unofficial final line on Devin Smeltzer:— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) July 20, 2020
3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 3 K
37 pitches, 26 strikes
#4 – LAMONTE WADE JR. (OF)
Probably the most well-known name on this list, outside of Dobnak, is Wade. He has become the outfield depth player-of-choice for Baldelli. Wade appeared in 26 games in 2019.
He only has 69 plate appearances (nice) and has yet to prove himself offensively (.196/.348/.375 in 2019). Impressively, he did draw 11 walks last year and saw an uptick in his progression during Spring Training, where he hit .286/.423/.381 in 11 games. He even showed some pop in his bat, something we all know has become the M.O. of the Minnesota Twins.
His selection to the 30-man roster seems to be linked to his success earlier this year, and being a known entity to Baldelli. He should come in handy in providing off days to Rosario, Kepler, or Buxton (or if he is injured…again).
#3 – TRAVIS BLANKENHORN (2B)
This may make me look crazy. Placing a guy in the top three who didn’t even make the 30-man roster, let alone the taxi squad. But the talent is there and Summer Camp proved it. Reaching base a ridiculous amount against the Minnesota Twins’ big leaguers in their intrasquad games.
Trevor Larnach has reached in 5 of his last 6 plate appearances: single, single, strikeout, walk, single, hit-by-pitch— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) July 17, 2020
Travis Blankenhorn has reached in each of his last 4 PAs: double, walk, walk, walk
Blankenhorn likely would have made the roster or taxi squad if it weren’t for Aaron Whitefield’s blazing speed that Baldelli will utilize in pinch runner situations. Even though Whitefield got the nod over him, I would anticipate him being next in line for a call up to bolster the infield depth.
He will also bring something to the table offensively. Blankenhorn hit 18 bombas and drove in 51 runs with a .278/.312/.474 slash at Double-A last year. He likely will become a fixture in the lineup sooner than later.
#2 – JORGE ALCALA (RHP)
Although it was a shock when we saw Alcala‘s name make the taxi squad, it actually makes sense when we dive deeper. The near-25-year old from the Dominican Republic has the goods to be a shutdown reliever in the bigs.
With a four-seam fastball that registered in the mid-90s in 2019 and a nasty slider, Alcala has only gotten better during the pandemic-induced hiatus. He lit up the radar gun with a 99 mph fastball in Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Cubs.
This progress was not seen during Spring Training in February and March. he threw only five innings in five games and gave up four earned runs, a 7.20 ERA and 2.0 WHIP. The progression under pitching coach Wes Johnson has elevated Alcala to a prospect that will likely see time in relief in 2020. This possibility is more likely considering Baldelli’s desire to keep his bullpen arms rested.
While we have only seen him throw 1.2 innings in the big leagues, the moxie he showed on Wednesday and through Summer Camp shot him up this list. He likely wasn’t even going to crack the top-five for me prior.
Some of the biggest positives in the #MNTwins final tune up tonight:— Ted (@tlschwerz) July 23, 2020
Miguel Sano at 1B
#1 – RANDY DOBNACK (RHP)
First on this list is Randy Dobnak. The Fu Manchu wielding, goggles-wearing, Uber driver extraordinaire shouldn’t come as a surprise. Dobnak is still technically a prospect/rookie, since he pitched only 28.1 innings in 2019. The league maximum innings to lose a player’s rookie status is 50 innings pitched.
This sits favorably for both the Minnesota Twins and Dobnak. During his brief stint with the team in 2019 he posted some ridiculous numbers. In only nine games, including five starts, he went 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA and a 23-5 strikeout to walk ratio. He even had an absurd 291 ERA+, meaning he rated 191% better than the average pitcher. That should be tempered some due to such a small sample size, but impressive nonetheless.
Even though he was knocked around in Game 2 of the ALDS in Yankee Stadium last year, not many rookies would come out of that unscathed.
This is still enough to place him atop these rankings. Though it may be tough for him to break into the starting rotation due to the additions of Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, and Homer Bailey; Dobnak still has a huge role to play. He will likely be utilized as a long-relief option out of the bullpen. He will also likely be the first option as an emergency starter, which will happen the first time through the rotation due to Jake Odorizzi starting the season on the injured list.
With the ability to deceive batters with filthy breaking balls, expect him to become a staple in the Twins organization for years to come.
Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan