After trading from strength to shore up the major league roster and graduating Jose Miranda, this system looks thinner than usual. Royce Lewis brings a nice big name to the top, but he’s kind of a prospect in name only at this point. Would have graduated long ago if healthy. I like a lot of the guys they have. It’s just: they’ve missed a lot in the first round. Keoni Cavaco, Aaron Sabato, and I kind of want to throw Austin Martin in here, too, because if you’re missing on your big evaluations, you’re not likely to thrive for long. To their credit and savior, Minnesota has made some shrewd plays on the market, flipping a couple months of Nelson Cruz for Joe Ryan chief among them, and have built an impressive core group of under-the-radar, homegrown talents like Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez, Max Kepler, Jose Miranda and of course, Byron Buxton. They’re not all good all the time, but they’re pretty great when they’re good, especially for cost-controlled (gag me with a sock full of dimes for using the lingo) young veterans. The club has a knack for zeroing in on the hit tool to unearth the Astudillos of the baseball world, and while not every Astudillio is an Arraez or a Miranda, some of them can be, and godspeed to the Twins for trying to find them. I love the player type. Hardest thing in the world is to barrel up a big-league-level pitch. Could do much worse on the scouting front than separating guys who can do that someday from guys who can’t.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/23 | Highest Level Played | ETA
1. SS Royce Lewis | 23 | MLB | 2022
Correa’s signing clutters the road before Lewis, but he’s talented enough to play left, third, second or right. When he cracked the lineup last year, the excitement was palpable. He’d hit five home runs and stolen 12 bases in 34 Triple-A games, slashing .313/.405/.534 with a 20.9 percent strikeout rate. In 41 plate appearances as a major leaguer, Lewis hit two home runs and slashed .300/.317/.550. Then he tore an ACL for the second time. That’s not what you want. Just about everything else points to fantasy success for Lewis. Now feels like a good time to buy.
2. SS Brooks Lee | 22 | AA | 2024
The adverbial form of doing something the way a person named Brooks would do it, Lee had an outstanding debut season after being selected 8th overall in 2022, slashing .289/.395/.454 with four home runs in 25 High-A games. Even finished up with two games at Double-A. A switch-hitter at 6’2” 205 lbs, Lee looks like a high-probability major leaguer even if his position outlook is cloudy in Minnesota.
3. OF Emmanuel Rodriguez | 20 | A | 2025
Rodriguez is not an easy prospect to peg. People running him up into their top tiers are pretty early for me, but I can understand the excitement. I’m always leery of an extreme-patience profile in the lower minors, but it’s certainly not a bad thing to walk in 28.6 percent of your plate appearances and get on base 49 percent of the time as a 19-year-old playing 47 games in Low-A. It’s not a bad thing to strike out 26.1 percent of the time or hit nine home runs or steal 11 bases. Bear with me, I’m trying to talk myself through the reasons I don’t love Rodriguez, but this bear in the room keeps distracting me. Also I’m grasping at straws a little because I’ve been out on the extreme patience player type for so long it’s hard to rewire my brain to embrace the possibilities. It wouldn’t be fair to call this kid passive. He slugged .551 by picking his spots and looking to do damage. All the same, I think he’s an easy sell wherever someone is giving him the benefit of the doubt as a top 25 type prospect,
4. 2B Edouard Julien | 23 | AA | 2023
I wound up seeing Julien quite a bit in 2021. He’s listed at 6’2” 195 lbs but never looked that big to me, not that it matters. Julien makes the most of every pitch, riding that third rail between passive and selective. I just dinged Rodriguez for the same, but Julien walks about ten percent less often than Rodriguez (19.3 percent in 113 games). Strikes out less, too. He lacks the eye-catching upside to pass the top two on this list, but I toggled him back and forth with Rodriguez in the rankings. Julien is much more likely to help in the near term after posting a 144 wRC+ in a full Double-A season, but Rodriguez can be traded for more today (I think), and I’m a bit skeptical about the bat speed on Julien.
5. SS Bryan Acuña | 17 | DSL | 2027
Would be kind of foolish to leave this guy off the list. At 6’0” 176 lbs, Bryan is closer to Ronald’s frame than LuisAngel’s, but the game more closely resembles little brother’s so far, if only because none of Bryan’s 12 extra base hits across 43 Dominican Summer League games left the park. He slashed .310/.409/.393 with nine stolen bases and will supercharge his dynasty value with any kind of power jump during his stateside debut which figures to happen later in 2023.
6. OF Yasser Mercedes | 18 | DSL | 2027
Mercedes is a better fantasy prospect than Acuña today. He’s got an inside lane on being the club’s number one guy in 2024. Takes a lot of future-casting to get there, but this guy just stole 30 bases in 41 DSL games while slashing .355/.420/.555 with a 19.9 percent strikeout rate. Gotta wash those stats away from the mind heading into this season. Reality begins in the states, statistically speaking, especially for a 17-year-old who’s already 6’2” 175 lbs of wiry muscle. Hard to know how much of the success is just physical dominance over developing youngsters and how much is baseball skill he’ll carry up the chain. Great pick in deep First-Year-Player Drafts this year. He’s quite a bit more valuable today than just about any new J2 guy (non-Celestin division) or newly drafted pitcher outside of the top group.
7. OF Matt Wallner | 25 | MLB | 2022
He had a good year in 2022, climbing from Double-A to the big leagues, but Wallner teeters on becoming another early draft miss to me. He’s a 6’5” 220 lb left-handed hitter with negative defensive value wherever you put him. He’s got a shot as a corner bat and DH type, but this is where the ignore-defense plan fails, I think. If a guy has bat-to-ball skills with borderline infield hands, by all means, ignore the lack of defensive value. If he’s a Rooker-ian behemoth who strikes out all the time, take that into account. From Rooker (35th overall in 2017) to Wallner (39th overall in 2019) to Sabato (27th overall in 2020), the plan appears to involve making the same shaped mistake over and over and over again. Big power, lotta strikeouts, no defensive home, no thank you.
8. LHP Connor Prielipp | 22 | NA | 2025
Prielipp brings a lot of shine into FYPD season for someone who’s never thrown a pro inning and only threw 28 innings in his injury-shortened career at Alabama. The hope here is that the 6’2” 205 lb lefty with three plus pitches and balance throughout his delivery will dominate in the lower minors and warp the timeline. If not, we’re looking at a 22-year-old with pretty close to zero experience over the last half decade. Takes a lot of topside to look past all that, and while I don’t disagree that it’s in here, I’m just not likely to be the one rostering Prielipp while we await the big breakout. How many innings can he realistically expect this year? 50? And where do they happen? Maybe 20 in Low-A and 30 in High-A if everything goes great. Interesting player. Just not my type for dynasty.
9. OF Anderson Nova | 18 | DSL | 2027
Nova features the profile that’s been working best in Minnesota these past few cycles. He controls the strike zone well (14.1% BB, 17.4% K) as a 6’0” 165 lb left-handed hitter without much thump or speed to speak for him. In 40 games, Nova hit one home run and stole one base, but he slashed .355/.456/.476 and should open 2023 in a stateside setting.
10. OF Austin Martin | 24 | AA | 2026
Mostly putting Martin at ten because there’s no rush to get anyone else into this spot, and I suspect I’d get a question or two if I left him off, even though he’s a non-prospect to me at this point. I’ve never been wild about him, but nobody could have predicted the kind of outcomes he’s posted so far. A 23-year-old with questionable defensive value who slugs .315 in 90 games at Double-A is a non-prospect right now. Things can change for anyone with the willpower to fight for what they want, I suppose. You could point to the OBP or wRC+ outcomes in 2021 or say he shouldn’t have been sent straight to Double-A, and that’s valid, but major league arms aren’t just going to let him earn walks if he’s slugging .300. See Straw, Myles, an elite defender at a premium position who probably shouldn’t be an everyday player.
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