What a difference a year can make for a farm system. At this time last year, this list would have featured players like Jhoan Duran, Joe Ryan, Jose Miranda, Spencer Steer, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand. All of those players have either graduated from prospect status or been traded away for major-league talent. And yet, even with all of this turnover, the Twins still have plenty of exciting players in the system.
The only hindrance for fantasy managers is that there really isn’t a ton of room for the young guns to break the Major League roster as it currently stands. The Twins expect to compete for a division title in 2023 and won’t have a lot of patience or freedom to allow a young rookie like Matt Wallner or Simeon Woods Richardson to develop in the big leagues.
However, if we look beyond 2023, some spots start to open up. Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, Joey Gallo, and Max Kepler are all potential free agents after the 2023 season. It’s possible that the team looks again to free agency or trades to fill the gaps, but they will have plenty of internal options for the remaining holes come 2024.
Minnesota Twins Top Fantasy Baseball Prospects
1. Royce Lewis, SS/OF
2022 Stats (AAA): 131 AB/.313 AVG/.405 OBP/.534 SLG/5 HR/12 SB/30 R/14 RBI
MLB: 40 AB/.300 AVG/.317 OBP/.550 SLG/2 HR/0 SB/5 R/5RBI
Royce Lewis was the first overall pick in 2017 out of high school. It feels like we’ve been on the cusp of watching Lewis in the majors forever and just when it finally happened, he tore his ACL. He absolutely would have graduated from this list had it not been for the injury, but here we are, (not-so) patiently waiting for June or July when he’s assumed to be ready to return.
Here’s what you can remind yourself of to avoid prospect fatigue: In AAA in 2022, he was on a 600 PA pace of 20 HR/47 SB. In 32 batted balls in the major leagues, he registered a 114 mph Max EV (94th percentile), 5.7% barrel rate, and a 40% hard-hit rate. The barrel rate could use some work but it was potentially caused by an extremely skyward launch angle. We love to see the balls lifted off the ground, but a 48.6% fly ball rate and 20.0% line drive rate isn’t quite the right distribution. There’s clear room to regress to the mean, improve the barrel rate, and then slug and sprint his way to fantasy success.
2. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF
2022 Stats (A): 136 AB/.272 AVG/.492 OBP/.551 SLG/9 HR/11 SB/35 R/25 RBI
Emmanuel Rodriguez was signed out of the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2019. I will admit, it seems a bit unbelievable to rank a 19-year-old this high when he’s only registered 199 plate appearances above rookie ball. But Rodriguez could be a top-10 prospect in baseball in the next calendar year. He was in the middle of a breakout season at Low-A when he tore his meniscus and he would have almost certainly gotten a chance at least at High-A had he stayed healthy.
During his 2022 breakout he registered a 196 wRC+, a .279 ISO, and he walked more than he struck out. That last stat comes with a small asterisk, however, because he struck out at an above-average 26.1% clip. He works very deep into his at-bats and is extremely selective, which could be working against him because it leaves him vulnerable to a pitcher’s full repertoire. Look for him to get a little more aggressive as he continues to learn the strike zone and work to put himself in favorable counts.
His swing has natural loft that enables him to keep the ball off the ground, as exemplified by his comically low 27.7% ground ball rate in Low-A. He also doesn’t waste much of his power by spraying the ball to the opposite field. After more development, we could see an extremely efficient and poised hitter that punishes mistakes and consistently finds ways to reach base.
3. Brooks Lee, SS
2022 Stats (CPX/A+/AA): 152 AB/.322 AVG/.394 OBP/.461 SLG/4 HR/0 SB/22 R/17 RBI
Brooks Lee was chosen 8th overall in the 2022 draft out of Cal Poly San Louis Obispo, where he was a career .351 hitter in 459 at-bats. After his initiation to pro ball in the complex league, he skipped right past Low-A and went to High-A to begin his climb to the majors. He put up a 140 wRC+ in 114 plate appearances before getting another promotion to AA for the last two games of the season. He’ll likely get close to a full season at AA next year, but it seems like the Twins are ultra-confident in his bat and he could see major-league action as soon as the latter half of the 2024 season.
Lee profiles as a player with an elite hit tool with serviceable raw power that could develop more in the minors. I view him pretty similarly to his potential future teammate, Jose Miranda, with just a bit more speed. It’s hard to predict if he will stick at short with the competition being pretty high moving forward. Both Carlos Correa and Royce Lewis lay claim to the position, but Lewis has shown the ability to play in the outfield (it might even be better for his knee) and Correa was just about to sign as a third baseman for the Mets. Shortstop is definitely still a possibility for him.
4. Edouard Julien, 2B
2022 Stats (AA): 400 AB/.300 AVG/.441 OBP/.490 SLG/17 HR/19 SB/77 R/67 RBI
Edouard Julien was one of the most exciting players at the 2022 Arizona Fall League and it drew plenty of attention to his increasingly impressive resume. In 1,022 plate appearances between Low-A, High-A, and Double-A, Julien has carried a 20.4% walk rate and 26.3% strikeout rate, while not carrying a wRC+ below 144 at any level. He improved the strikeout rate by just under five percentage points from High-A to Double-A (29% -> 24.6%) while maintaining a walk rate above 19%. He’s shown good extra-base power while also being an efficient base-stealer.
He was chosen in the 18th round (539th overall) of the 2019 amateur draft, and he’ll likely be competing for a spot on the 2024 Opening Day roster for the Twins.
5. Connor Prielipp, SP
2022 Stats: N/A
Connor Prielipp looked to be well on his way to a potential first overall selection in the 2022 Amateur draft before he had to undergo Tommy John surgery in May of 2021. He was the 2019 Gatorade Player of the Year in Wisconsin and then was drafted in the 37th round by the Red Sox that same year. He elected to attend the University of Alabama, where he became the first Freshman pitcher since 2012 to get the Opening Day start for the Crimson Tide. He didn’t give up an earned run in 21 innings pitched his freshman year and went on to win accolades like First-Team All-American, National Freshman Player of the Year, and Impact Freshman of the year. He also led the SEC in WHIP and opponents’ batting average and was tied for third in strikeouts.
It will be super exciting to see him get the first taste of professional competition in the spring, as he should be fully healthy and recovered from his Tommy John surgery. His ceiling is as high as any pitcher in his draft class, but his health and small collegiate sample sizes offer a fair amount of risk.
6. Simeon Woods Richardson, SP
2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 112.2 IP/2.72 ERA/1.05 WHIP/118 SO
MLB: 5.0 IP/3.60 ERA/ WHIP/3 SO
Simeon Woods Richardson was acquired from the Blue Jays in the deal that sent José Berríos north of the border. The former second-round pick for the Mets offers a pretty solid floor. His strikeout rates don’t pop off of the page, but they’ve been consistent across levels since Low-A ball in 2018. He’s also never really struggled with his walk rates, outside of a weird 2021 where everything seemed to go wrong.
He’s a really solid bet to eat some innings and post solid ratios with a K/9 just below 9.0 once he gets a chance to crack the rotation. His fastball velocity won’t blow anyone away, but he uses a cutter more often than his four-seam and he could use it to tunnel better with his off-speed and breaking pitches. If he can nail down an effective pitch mix and lean into tunneling and commanding his pitches, he could realize SP3 upside.
7. Matt Wallner, OF
2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 512 AB/.273 AVG/.404 OBP/.527 SLG/29 HR/10 SB/94 R/105 RBI
MLB: 57 AB/.228 AVG/.323 OBP/.386 SLG/2 HR/1 SB/4 R/10 RBI
Matt Wallner first caught my eye when he launched this 116 mph home run off of a left-hander during the 2022 Futures Game.
Matt Wallner with a SCORCHER!
116 mph exit velocity! pic.twitter.com/llzcqBe8MK
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 17, 2022
Wallner has some of the best raw power in the minors, but it comes with the pretty big caveat that he’s struck out more than 30% of the time for most of his minor league career. He did get his strikeout rate below 30% first the first time during his 2022 stint at Triple-A, but after he was promoted to the big leagues he carried a 38.5% strikeout rate. Even though he likely won’t be that bad at making contact in the majors, his upside strikeout rate likely sits north of 26% and that can severely limit his batting average upside.
The good news is that he draws a good number of walks, which will keep him afloat in OBP and points leagues. His short stint with the Twins in September also gives us a small, but intriguing, Statcast sample to look at. He registered a Max EV of 113.8, which lands him in the 93rd percentile of all major-leaguers last season. In 32 batted balls, he carried a 9.4% barrel rate and a 53.1% hard-hit rate. He’ll get a good shot to make the Twins’ roster out of Spring Training, but the Twins will likely be much healthier and more competitive than they were at the end of last season.
8. Austin Martin, SS/OF
2022 Stats (AA): 336 AB/.241 AVG/.367 OBP/.315 SLG/2 HR/34 SB/59 R/32 RBI
Austin Martin was the second half of the trade package that the Twins received for Berrios. He was the 5th overall pick in the 2020 draft and started his career in AA in 2021 but hasn’t been able to earn a promotion in his two seasons. He’s shown some good plate discipline, contact ability, spray angles, and launch angles, but the biggest thing he’s lacking is power. He’s only hit 7 home runs in 824 AA plate appearances. Yikes. It’s becoming likely that his profile imitates guys like Nicky Lopez or Nick Madrigal with a bit more strikeouts.
9. Yasser Mercedes, OF
2022 Stats (DSL): 155 AB/.355 AVG/.420 OBP/.555 SLG/4 HR/30 SB/34 R/20 RBI
Yasser Mercedes was signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in January of 2022 and he seems to have a profile that could develop to impact all facets of the game. He showed off in his first taste of Rookie Ball in 2022, carrying a 155 wRC+ in 176 plate appearances in the Dominican Summer League. He was 30/35 in stolen base attempts, struck out just under 20% of the time, and walked a bit higher than 10% of the time. While he didn’t hit a ton of balls over the fence, he did hit 13 doubles and it’s easy to see more power develop as he ages.
10. Louie Varland, SP
2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 126.1 IP/3.06 ERA/1.26 WHIP/146 SO
MLB: 26.0 IP/3.81 ERA/1.23 WHIP/21 SO
Louie Varland was a 15th-round pick in the 2019 Amateur Draft, which is a draft class that seems to have returned a great amount of late-round talent for the Twins. He rose pretty quickly through the Twins’ system after the lost 2020 season, showing an ability both to strike guys out and to avoid walks at each level. He earned a promotion to the majors late in the 2022 season and performed pretty well in five starts.
His 19.8% MLB strikeout rate looks to be a bit more realistic than the lofty numbers he posted at some of his minor league stops. This is evident when looking at Eno Sarris’ Pitching+ model, which aims to judge pitcher skill based solely on the shapes, profiles, and locations of individual pitches, regardless of what the batter does to those pitches. Pitching+ is the combination of Stuff+ and Location+, and a score of 100 is league-average for each metric. Pitching+ stabilizes after about 400 pitches thrown, and Varland conveniently threw 411 pitches in the majors in 2022.
His Stuff+ was 94.1, Location+ was 104, and Pitching+ was 101.1. While it doesn’t look like he can be relied on for strikeouts as of right now, the command that he’s shown in his short stint has been extremely impressive. Out of the 518 pitchers who threw at least 400 pitches in 2022, Varland had the 67th-best Location+. His number was similar to established pitchers like Jeffrey Springs, Yu Darvish, and Martín Pérez.
11. Matt Canterino, SP
2022 Stats (AA): 34.1 IP/1.83 ERA/1.14 WHIP/50 SO
Matt Canterino was a 2nd-round pick in the 2019 draft out of Rice University. He shined in his Low-A debut and was then quickly promoted to High-A after the start of the 2021 season. A right elbow strain ended his 2021 season early, and then his 2022 season was cut short by Tommy John Surgery. He will likely be ready to go by the start of Spring Training in 2024, but he’s never pitched more than 37 innings in a professional season so the Twins will likely take their time in getting him up to speed. It’s likely that we won’t see him get the chance to crack the Major League rotation until 2025, when he will be 27 years old.
The upside is still there, and you won’t want to forget his name in the meantime. He has a career minor-league strikeout rate above 33% and carries respectable walk rates and xFIPs. Stay tuned to see what he can do in a full season.
12. Marco Raya, SP
2022 Stats (A): 65.0 IP/3.05 ERA/1.08 WHIP/76 SO
Marco Raya posted a 20.2 K-BB% in Low-A as a 19-year-old while limiting opponents to a .198 batting average. The 2020 fourth-round pick established himself very quickly in 2022 after a shoulder strain prevented him from throwing a professional pitch in 2020 or 2021. His 3.05 ERA was backed up by a 3.45 xFIP and he struck out 28.9% of the batters he faced. He throws a fastball in the mid-90s and complements it with secondary offerings that have major league upside.
13. Ben Ross, SS/OF
2022 Stats (A): 74 AB/.257 AVG/.371 OBP/.446 SLG/3 HR/6 SB/17 R/13 RBI
Ben Ross was a fifth-round pick for the Twins in the 2022 Amateur Draft and started his professional career strong in 89 Low-A plate appearances. He showed really solid plate discipline, posted a 134 wRC+, and teased the potential development of a modest power/speed combo. He pulled the ball more than 60% of the time, which tends to augment power while sacrificing some batting average. If he can build off this initial season and continue to keep the ball off the ground, we could see a breakout in ’23 or ’24. He’s a solid late-round flier in FYPDs if you have the roster space to stash him.
14. David Festa, SP
2022 Stats (A/A+): 103.2 IP/2.43 ERA/1.09 WHIP/108 SO
David Festa is yet another late round draft pick on this list. He was chosen in the 13th round of the 2021 Amateur Draft and dominated in his first full season of pro ball in 2022. It was definitely influenced by favorable BABIPs and HR/FB ratios, and his 14.5% K-BB ratio in High-A left a bit to be desired. Let me see another season of 100+ IP with improved peripherals to back up the ratios before I jump to invest in him in dynasty.
15. Rafael Cruz, 1B/3B
2022 Stats (DSL/CPX): 166 AB/.295 AVG/.396 OBP/.554 SLG/9 HR/5 SB/35 R/38 RBI
Rafael Cruz was signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in January of 2021. He posted a 180 wRC+ in 128 plate appearances in the 2022 Dominican Summer League before moving to the Arizona Complex League and cooling off significantly. His strikeout rates in rookie ball suggest he might run into a problem with making contact in A-ball, but he also has plenty of time to develop. He’s probably not worth rostering as it stands right now in most dynasty leagues, but he’s absolutely someone to monitor in 2023.
Featured graphic by Kurt Wasemiller (@KUwasemiller on Twitter and @kurt_player02 on Instagram)