Prospect Report: Twins 2023 Imminent Big Leaguers

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Below is an evaluation of the prospects in the Minnesota Twins farm system who readers should consider “imminent big leaguers,” players who might reasonably be expected to play in the majors at some point this year. This includes all prospects on the 40-man roster as well as those who have already established themselves in the upper levels of the minors but aren’t yet rostered. I tend to be more inclusive with pitchers and players at premium positions since their timelines are usually the ones accelerated by injuries and scarcity. Any Top 100 prospects, regardless of their ETA, are also included on this list. Reports, tool grades, and scouting information for all of the prospects below can also be found on The Board.

This is not a top-to-bottom evaluation of the Twins farm system. I like to include what’s happening in minor league and extended spring training in my reports as much as possible, since scouting high concentrations of players in Arizona and Florida allows me to incorporate real-time, first-person information into the org lists. However, this approach has led to some situations where outdated analysis (or no analysis at all) was all that existed for players who had already debuted in the majors. Skimming the imminent big leaguers off the top of a farm system will allow this time-sensitive information to make its way onto the site more quickly, better preparing readers for the upcoming season, helping fantasy players as they draft, and building site literature on relevant prospects to facilitate transaction analysis in the event that trades or injuries foist these players into major league roles. There will still be a Twins prospect list that includes Emmanuel Rodriguez, Marco Raya and all of the other prospects in the system who appear to be at least another season away. As such, today’s list includes no ordinal rankings. Readers are instead encouraged to focus on the players’ Future Value (FV) grades.

Let’s revisit what FV means before I offer some specific thoughts on this org. Future Value (FV) is a subjective valuation metric derived from the traditional 20-80 scouting scale (where 50 is average and each integer of 10 away from 50 represents one standard deviation) that uses WAR production to set the scale. For instance, an average regular (meaning the 15th-best guy at a given position, give or take) generally produces about 2 WAR annually, so a 50 FV prospect projects as an everyday player who will generate about that much annual WAR during his pre-free agency big league seasons.

Why not just use projected WAR as the valuation metric, then? For one, it creates a false sense of precision. This isn’t a model. While a lot of data goes into my decision-making process, a lot of subjectivity does too, in the form of my own visual evaluations, as well as other information related to the players’ careers and baseball backgrounds. A player can have a strong evaluation (emphasis on the “e”) but might be a great distance from the big leagues, or could be injury prone, or a superlative athlete, and context like that might cause one to augment the player’s valuation (no “e”). Using something more subjective like Future Value allows me to dial up and down how I’m interpreting that context.

There are also many valuable part-time players who can only generate so much WAR due to their lack of playing time. As such, FV grades below 50 tend to describe a role more than they do a particular WAR output; you can glean the projected roles from the players’ reports. In short, anyone who is a 40+ FV player or above projects as an integral big league role player or better.

Now some Twins thoughts. The Twins have recently begun to alter how they scout, track, and pursue players on the international market. You can kind of see why when you glance at the group of near-ready prospects and realize there isn’t a homegrown international player among them. There are good international prospects lower in the system, but the Wander Javiers and Misael Urbinas of the world haven’t worked out, and so things are changing.

Injuries and an unreliable bullpen were largely to blame for the Twins’ frustrating down-the-stretch swoon in 2022. Here they have a deep contingent of optionable pitching on the 40-man roster, lurking at St. Paul should one of the big league starters go down. In addition to the many starters in this cross section of the system, Bailey Ober is also currently stashed down at Triple-A. Unfortunately, many key components of the team are already injured, as the Twins currently have 10 players on the IL. Josh Winder (not a “prospect” anymore, but a talented young hurler currently out with a shoulder strain) and Chris Paddack (his TJ was last May, so we’re creeping up on that 12 month post-op mark that usually indicates that rehab outings loom) should both pitch in at some point during the 2023 season but are currently shelved. This mini list is also a glorified injury update for Lewis and Martin, who each have defensive question marks they can only answer by playing.

Twins Imminent Big Leaguers and Top 100 Prospects
Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
Brooks Lee 22.2 AA SS 2024 55
Royce Lewis 23.9 MLB SS 2023 50
Edouard Julien 24.0 MLB 2B 2023 50
Louie Varland 25.3 MLB SP 2023 50
David Festa 23.1 AA SP 2024 50
Matt Wallner 25.3 MLB RF 2023 45
Austin Martin 24.1 AA LF 2023 45
Simeon Woods Richardson 22.5 MLB SP 2023 45
Connor Prielipp 22.3 A+ SIRP 2024 45
Ronny Henriquez 22.8 MLB MIRP 2023 40+
Brent Headrick 25.3 AAA SP 2023 40
Travis Adams 23.2 AA SP 2024 40
Cole Sands 25.7 MLB MIRP 2023 40
Jordan Brink 30.1 AAA SIRP 2023 35+
Jordan Balazovic 24.6 AAA SP 2023 35+
Francis Peguero 25.7 AA SIRP 2023 35+
Cody Laweryson 24.9 AAA MIRP 2023 35+
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55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2022 from Cal Poly (MIN)
Age 22.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr S / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 55/55 40/50 40/40 45/50 55

Our 36th-ranked draft prospect as a high schooler in 2019, Lee was a coveted prospect as a prep player, but his strong commitment to Cal Poly, where his dad coaches, and some general concerns about his physical longevity due to a back issue pushed the industry’s assessment of him down, so he went to school. Knee and hamstring surgery effectively knocked him out for the 2020 season, then Lee hit .341/.384/.626 in 2021 and had a huge summer on Cape Cod, with six homers in just 21 games. He continued to play well as a junior, when he showed better barrel feel from the left side than he did as a sophomore and walked nearly twice as much as he struck out. Before the 2022 draft there was again buzz that some teams were off Lee because of his medical, and also that Lee and his family preferred that he stay as close to home as possible by joining a team that trains in Arizona. He fell deep enough in the draft’s top 10 that the Twins, who were otherwise on Cam Collier, felt compelled to pop him even though they weren’t a fit in this regard. Minnesota sent Lee to High-A almost immediately and he raked there, blowing scouts away and solidifying his place among the game’s top 20 prospects.

Lee has fantastic breaking ball recognition, and he can let pitches travel deep before deciding whether to swing. Even when he has to shorten up to protect, the strength in his hands enables him to do extra-base damage. He is much more adept at doing this from the left side; his righty swing is relatively grooved. When Lee does take a comfortable hack, he shows you plus raw power, but his style of hitting is very balanced, and he doesn’t sell out for huge pop all the time.

This sort of offensive player would be a good everyday third baseman and a star shortstop. Lee played short at Poly, but based on his size (Brad Miller is a fair body comp), straight line speed (he’s heavy-footed from home to first, in the 4.5s) and his medical, clubs tend to have him projected to third base. This projection is a little more bullish about him staying at short, at least for a while, largely based on Lee’s feel for the position. He has quick actions and his lateral agility is better than his long speed on the bases. He’s also adept at positioning his body to be ready to throw as he fields the baseball, his transfer is quick, and his internal clock is well-calibrated. He finds creative ways to make timely, accurate throws, and even though it sometimes looks awkward and like Lee is making the play harder than it needs to be, he makes a lot of flashy plays for a bigger dude. It’s tough to account for what sort of long-term impact Lee’s injury history might have on his defense, and Carlos Correa‘s presence is also a factor, but in a vacuum he projects as an above-average everyday shortstop who does everything well except run.

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from JSerra HS (CA) (MIN)
Age 23.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 60/70 50/55 60/55 40/45 50

Lewis’ career has been marred by persistent injury. He missed a chunk of 2019 with an injury before losing all of 2020 to the pandemic. He returned in the spring of 2021, but tore his ACL and missed all of that season as well. He was back in 2022 long enough to make his major league debut, but re-tore his ACL in late May and had surgery in late June. Lewis told TwinsDaily.com that the tentative plan is for him to spend all of April rehabbing in Fort Myers (he’s currently hitting and has progressed from straight-ahead running to lateral agility drills) before heading to an affiliate in mid-May.

His performance in 2022 offered a brief reminder of why Lewis is such an exciting prospect: over 34 games at Triple-A, he slashed .313/.405/.534 with nearly 12% walks and just over 20% strikeouts, while in 12 big league games, he slashed .300/.317/.550 with two home runs, four triples, and just five strikeouts. Pair his statistical performance with his reputation as a clubhouse favorite, his superlative athleticism and natural leadership abilities, and Lewis remained on our offseason Top 100 list despite the persistent injuries. There are still plenty of variables to be keyed in on as Lewis returns. Remember his swing was often morphing to try to keep him on time without detracting too much from his athleticism. Also remember that he was not a lock to remain at shortstop. The Twins stubbornly had him playing only shortstop until 2022, when he was suddenly thrust into three other positions (left field, center field, third base), then pressed him into big league duty in center after he had played just two minor league games there. He re-tore his ACL making a play at the wall in his third big league inning. He is expected to again concentrate on shortstop upon his return, but Carlos Correa is in place ahead of him and Lewis’ more direct path to impacting the Twins would be in a multi-positional role.

Drafted: 18th Round, 2019 from Auburn (MIN)
Age 24.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/40 60/60 50/60 40/40 30/30 40

Julien hit 17 dingers and slashed .278/.398/.556 as a freshman at Auburn, then was ruled draft-eligible as a 20-year-old sophomore not because of his age, but because he had attended a year of secondary school in Canada before heading to college, which made him three years removed from high school. He was suddenly a young-for-the-class college bat who might have gone very high in the draft if he’d hit like he had the year before and gotten better at second base. Unfortunately, he did neither. Julien’s stock fell early during the 2019 college season as he struggled badly, then he got hot during a tumultuous postseason run; the Twins drafted him on Day Three. Julien tweeted he was going back to school, then went to the Cape and had a great two weeks, after which the Twins’ offer rose to just shy of $500,000, inspiring him to sign. He had Tommy John in August of 2019 and rehabbed during a 2020 season that he would have missed anyway.

Julien finally got underway in pro ball in 2021 and since then, he’s had two good seasons en route to a 40-man roster spot and placement on the Top 100 prospects list. He’s as patient as any hitter in the minors and has walked at a 19% career rate; he has a .437 career OBP in the minors. When Julien does swing, he does so with bad intentions, taking a high-effort rip capable of putting balls out to all fields. He’s going to reach base a ton and hit for power. It’s enough that Julien comfortably projects as an everyday second baseman if it turns out he can stay there, and even though he has experience at other positions, second base is the only one he played in 2022. Julien has been without a true defensive home since college and didn’t look great at the keystone during a prolonged look in the 2022 Arizona Fall League. He may just be a DH, which would obviously make it tougher for him to profile, but there may be elite on-base ability here, and that plus the power might be enough for Julien to make an impact that way, too.

Drafted: 15th Round, 2019 from Concordia (MIN)
Age 25.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/55 50/55 50/50 55/60 94-96 / 98

Varland, whose brother Gus is a Brewers pitcher, played college ball at Division II Concordia, where he topped out at 92 mph. He made adjustments to his arm path to address what he described to FanGraphs’ David Laurila as “a severe case of elbow climb,” allowing him to add a few ticks of velocity to his fastball, which averaged 95 mph in 2022 and has been up to 98 early in 2023. While Louie’s delivery looks like it hurts, he’s never had trouble throwing starter-quality strikes and has maintained his velo boost across multiple seasons, reaching Minnesota for 26 innings in 2022. Mechanical look is a component in our starter/reliever projections, but Varland’s consistency merits a sort of override, and his long-term projection has shifted from that of a single-inning reliever to a nasty, four- or five-pitch starter.

Most remarkable is Varland’s slider feel in the wake of his mechanical violence. Everything finishes to his glove side, usually off the plate or below the zone where hitters can’t do damage. There is a wide velo range and shape variability to Varland’s cutters and sliders, which is maddening when you’re trying to decipher how many different breakers he has but ultimately effective for keeping the baseball off of hitters’ barrels. Every pitch plays like an average or better offering, and Varland throws them all for strikes at a high clip. He certainly has more long-term relief risk than an identically talented pitcher with a lovely, effortless delivery, but his stuff is comparable to lots of the relief-risk prospects on the Top 100 (guys like Drey Jameson and Wilmer Flores) and Varland has performed better from a strike-throwing standpoint than many of that cohort, so he slots in at the head of a cluster that includes those sorts of prospects.

Drafted: 13th Round, 2021 from Seton Hall (MIN)
Age 23.1 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 55/60 50/55 50/60 95-97 / 98

In the draft, the Twins have targeted big-framed, projectable college pitching — like Festa and the recently-traded Cade Povich — from mid-tier schools that don’t tend to max out their pitchers. Since turning pro, the 6-foot-6 Festa’s velocity has grown, year over year, for the last two years without compromising his ability to throw strikes. Festa averaged 91-93 mph and was up to 96 at Seton Hall, then sat 92-95 in his early post-draft pro outings. The 2022 season was Festa’s first full campaign and he posted a 1.11 WHIP across 103.2 innings at mostly High-A while his velocity again took a leap, as his heater averaged 95-96 across the entire campaign.

Festa’s early 2023 look indicates that he has, again, taken a step forward. He’s sitting 96 while routinely touching 98, his slider also has premium velocity in the upper-80s, and Festa is great at killing the spin on his mid-80s changeup. He hammers the zone (especially with his fastball) with stuff that has enough movement to stay off barrels in there and enough to miss bats entirely when he’s locating in enticing, chase-inducing locations. Again, this is a (fairly) small school arm with just one full season under his belt and he’s already reached (and has the stuff to dominate) Double-A. He has freaky feel for strikes for a 6-foot-6 guy and his velocity keeps climbing and climbing without detracting from that ability. He’s a powerful on-mound athlete who generates plus extension, helping his stuff jump on opposing hitters, and even though they’re more average-to-above average pitches from a visual evaluation standpoint, both Festa’s slider and changeup played like plus pitches in 2022. Less than two years ago he was a late draft pick who signed for just $125,000, but now Festa is in the upper levels of the minors with three above-average pitches, an inning-eater’s frame, and plus strike-throwing ability. An offseason Pick to Click, Festa’s early-season look is strong enough to move him into the Top 100 prospects list. The Twins’ glut of optionable young pitchers on their 40-man ultimately makes it unlikely Festa debuts this year, but the club’s current rash of injuries puts that outcome in play.

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Southern Mississippi (MIN)
Age 25.3 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 70/70 50/60 40/40 30/30 60

Wallner hit for power during all three years of his college career at Southern Mississippi, even while pitching part-time as a freshman and sophomore. While some scouts thought he had pro potential as a hurler, an arm injury kept him off the mound during his junior year and Wallner’s huge raw power carried most of the water for his draft profile. He had some of the most explosive raw thump in the 2019 draft class, drawing 70 or 80 grades from scouts.

The 2021 season was Wallner’s first full pro campaign, and he hit 15 homers in just 66 games (slashing .264/.350/.508) as an old-for-the-level 23-year-old at High-A. His season was interrupted by a broken hamate, which can sometimes sap power output for many months after surgery to remove the broken bone, but Wallner slugged .465 in the 50-ish games he played after returning from surgery and kept on hitting for power against Fall League pitching. He then proceeded to lead the entire minor leagues in hard-hit rate in 2022. By a lot. Wallner had a 60% hard-hit rate last year, nearly eight percentage points better than Rays prospect Curtis Mead, who was second. Wallner was at or near the top of every measurable power category in the minors last year and slashed .277/.412/.542 with 27 homers in a season split between Double- and Triple-A. He tallied 63 extra-base hits in just 128 games.

Why isn’t this guy just a top 100 prospect? Well, Wallner is a liability on defense and his hit tool is pretty flimsy. While he has thunderous, impact power, there are fair questions about whether or not he’ll get to it against big league stuff because of how often he swings and misses. He is often underneath high fastballs and over the top of offspeed stuff, even when both are finishing in the zone. His 70% Z-contact% last year would have comfortably ranked last among qualified big league hitters — Josh Donaldson’s 75% mark was dead last in 2022. A below-average athlete with poor body control, Wallner is a bumbling outfielder and baserunner. It’s possible he’ll experience late growth in these areas because, after all, we’re talking about a former two-way player who has missed significant time due to the pandemic and injury, but these will likely be long-term flaws in Wallner’s game. Still, there is so much playable power here that Wallner is likely to be a strong-side platoon option as a RF/DH who has some years with 25-30 bombs.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Vanderbilt (TOR)
Age 24.1 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 45/45 30/35 50/50 40/50 45

The fifth overall pick in the 2020 draft, Martin was seen by many teams as the best pure hitter in the class, but his position and power projection were both questions that went unanswered during his draft spring, which was shortened by the pandemic. A contact machine, he struck out just two times over 69 plate appearances during his COVID-shortened 2020 college season, but Martin struggled at shortstop and only had a few games in center field before the shutdown, not enough for teams to know whether or not he could actually play there. The Blue Jays drafted him and sent him directly to Double-A in 2021, and amid a trade to Minnesota as part of the José Berríos deal, that is where Martin spent both 2021 and 2022.

While his strikeout rates trended back into a superlative place during his two seasons at Double-A, Martin still doesn’t have a clear position, and injuries and many swing tweaks continue to make it tough to project how much power he’s going to have, and whether it will be enough for him to profile as an impact player at the positions he’s capable of playing. The Twins initially tried him in center field after acquiring him in 2021, but he spent most of 2022 at shortstop, which he doesn’t have the range, hands, or actions to play. Martin is an average runner, so center field isn’t likely in the cards, either. Instead, a combination of second base and left field makes the most sense based on his physical ability. He played second base during 2023 big league spring games until a sprained UCL sidelined him for the rest of Grapefruit League action and kept him shelved early in the year. Martin also dealt with a wrist issue in 2022, which may have masked his power output during that campaign.

While several aspects of his profile are either middling or murky, Martin is going to hit. He tracks pitches well, his swing is compact, he can move the barrel around most of the zone, and Martin has lovely inside-out feel that allows him to pepper the oppo gap. Martin doesn’t look like an impact player, but he’ll hit for lots of contact and projects to be a versatile enough defender to play a core two- or three-position role.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Kempner HS (TX) (NYM)
Age 22.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/45 50/50 50/50 45/50 55/60 90-94 / 97

Woods Richardson came to the Twins at the 2021 deadline as part of the José Berríos deal with Toronto. His fastball lost a couple of ticks in 2021 and has settled into the 90-93 mph range across the last few seasons. Luckily, Woods Richardson’s command and the ride and deception created by his perfectly overhand trebuchet delivery help his fastball punch a little bit above its weight class. It also pairs nicely with his mid-70s overhand curveball, which Woods Richardson uses in concert with his fastball to get ahead of hitters before trying to finish them with either his slider or changeup. It’s pretty curt for an upper-70s slider, which is slow by today’s standards, but again Woods Richardson’s command enables it to play like an average pitch.

If there’s a concerning regression here it’s that SWR’s changeup, once projected as a plus pitch, has looked pretty generic coming out of the gate in 2023. It lacks the powerful tailing action it has shown at peak. It’s usually hard for pitchers with a due north arm slot like Woods Richardson’s to turn over their changeup, and as his velocity and the whip and looseness of his arm action have slipped, so too has the pure quality of his cambio. A rebound in this area will be a key for him to hit his ceiling. There’s no plus pitch here, but there are four viable offerings that all diverge in different directions as well as sentient command of them all, so SWR continues to project like a no. 4/5 starter.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2022 from Alabama (MIN)
Age 22.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 70/70 40/50 30/40 92-94 / 95

It is bold (and arguably stupid) to predict that Prielipp will make his big league debut in 2023 or 2024 since he has barely pitched in a normal baseball setting since 2021. However, some of the planets that would need to align for such an outcome to occur are already orbiting around this situation. First and foremost, Prielipp looks positively nasty. That’s not new. As a wild freshman at Alabama, Prielipp looked like a potential eventual top five pick because of the quality of his stuff, primarily an upper-90s fastball and devastating slider. He dealt with a couple periods of injury culminating in Tommy John surgery late in May of 2021, which kept him out for the entire 2022 college season. He threw a bullpen for scouts near the end of the college calendar and then threw again at the 2022 Combine, in both instances sitting 92-94 mph (regularly 94 and up to 95 at the Combine) with a more consistently short arm action than he showed before he blew out. Prielipp’s slider was arguably the best pitch in the whole draft, but he came with more relief risk than most of the other college pitchers projected to go in the first two rounds, and he ultimately went in the second.

Prielipp did not pitch at an affiliate after signing with the Twins but was nails during 2023 spring training. Specifically, his slider is spinning with its usual 3,000-ish rpm, but it has added a few ticks of velocity and now resides in the upper-80s, which is rare for a pitch that spins that fast. Here’s why a fast track debut timeline arguably makes sense. Injuries and a mediocre bullpen were the cause of Minnesota’s 2022 swoon. Prielipp is likely to be on a strict and conservative innings limit this year due to his prolonged absence such that he’ll likely end up pitching a reliever-y load of innings during the 2023 season. If his slider is nasty enough right now for him to be a bullpen weapon (it is) and he’s only going to throw 70 innings (give or take) anyway, the Twins can have their big league lefty reliever cake and eat Prielipp’s long-term starter development too by shifting him into the bullpen late in the season. He can be added to the big league roster near the end so that they don’t use any of his options, and then resume starter-focused development in 2024 during his first option year.

One ironic barrier here is that Prielipp’s changeup looks better now than it did in college, and limiting his role at any point in 2023 would likely curtail its development. The shorter arm action has helped him sell his cambio better than he was able to at ‘Bama, arguably giving Prielipp a greater chance to start than was perceived just a year ago. If you thought Prielipp was likely to wind up as a reliever anyway (which, pre-arm action change, was the overwhelming sense here at FanGraphs), then a fast track scenario makes more sense. If the Twins think Prielipp can be Blake Snell or something like that, then it does not. While there’s been no indication from the org that the former will take place, the player’s innings situation and the club’s needs align enough to ballpark Prielipp as having a 10% shot to debut this year and more like a 50% chance to do so in 2024.

40+ FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (TEX)
Age 22.8 Height 5′ 8″ Weight 155 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/55 55/55 45/45 93-95 / 97

Henriquez was part of the 2022 Mitch Garver trade, coming over from Texas along with Isiah Kiner-Falefa in March. Assigned to Triple-A St. Paul, he had his second straight season with an ERA just over 5.00 (and FIP just over 4.00) before getting his first big league cup of coffee at the very end of the 2022 campaign. Injured during 2023 spring training (right elbow inflammation — he was prescribed a PRP injection and rehab), Henriquez begins the season on the IL with no timetable for return. It’s the first ever IL stint for the diminutive Henriquez, who has long faced durability questions because of his size, but who had maintained 93-95 mph velocity across about 100 innings for each of the last couple of years without medical incident.

Henriquez’s delivery is well-balanced and controlled over his landing leg, and it isn’t especially violent. His looseness and athleticism, combined with his perfectly reasonable walk rates, helped drive starter projection here at FanGraphs despite his size while Henriquez was in the low- and mid-minors. His current injury, the Twins’ roster makeup (they have many optionable starters at St. Paul), and Henriquez’s recent struggles to throw his fastball for strikes might move him into a long relief role if/when he returns from this elbow issue. Henriquez began to take a slider-first approach to pitching in 2022, throwing the mid-80s offering 41% of the time, and for strikes 70% of the time. Contrast that with his middling 63% strike% with his fastball. His upper-80s split/change has sinking, fading action and is aided by Henriquez’s consistent arm speed, though it doesn’t always finish with sink and can sometimes sail on him. He will double and triple up on both his slider and changeup pretty frequently. These details point to an eventual relief role for Henriquez, and his stuff is good enough that it won’t just be in a low-leverage one, but a more meaningful multi-inning job.

40 FV Prospects

Drafted: 9th Round, 2019 from Illinois State (MIN)
Age 25.3 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
40/45 45/50 45/45 55/60 87-92 / 93

Headrick isn’t going to blow you away with stuff, but he has remarkably consistent command of his three-pitch mix, especially of his fastball and changeup, which both pepper the arm side of the plate almost exclusively. His size creates weird shape and angle on his fastball, which helps it to play despite 30-grade velocity. He’s carved up the lower minors and was added to the Twins’ 40-man during the offseason, where he should act as injury depth initially and has a chance to carve out a stable fifth starter role down the line.

Drafted: 9th Round, 2021 from Sacramento State (MIN)
Age 23.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 197 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
50/50 40/45 50/55 50/50 50/50 92-94 / 96

The Twins have pushed Adams pretty quickly, assigning him to Double-A Wichita at the start of the 2023 slate, his second full season. He’s added a couple ticks to his fastball since his draft spring with Sac State and now sits 92-94 mph. Formerly a fastball/changeup guy almost exclusively, Adams has also emphasized a mid-80s cutter that has become his go-to secondary pitch, more as a way of inducing weak contact that missing bats. The changeup, which Adams commands at or below the very bottom of the strike zone, is still his best long-term weapon for inducing whiffs. He’s moving fast as a backend starter prospect, a quick turnaround and solid outcome for a Day Two pick.

Cole Sands, MIRP

Drafted: 5th Round, 2018 from Florida State (MIN)
Age 25.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Splitter Cutter Command Sits/Tops
50/50 55/55 55/55 45/50 40/40 92-96 / 97

Sands has a four- or five-pitch mix and a quick-paced, short-armed delivery that disrupts timing. A lack of fastball movement and command and an inability to build a starter’s innings foundation (due to mostly non-arm injuries) push him to the bullpen, but Sands’ breaking ball has big bend and his splitter really dives. While it looks pretty, Sands’ slider has been hittable in the zone and he may prioritize a harder, cuttery breaking ball over time. Sands is likely destined for a long relief role in which he pitches heavily off of all his secondaries.

35+ FV Prospects

Jordan Brink, SIRP

Drafted: 11th Round, 2014 from Fresno State (CHC)
Age 30.1 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
60/60 45/50 30/30 95-97 / 99

Brink was drafted by the Cubs in 2014, released in 2017, then pitched in Independent ball until the end of 2019 when he signed with the Brewers. Then Brink was a minor league Rule 5 pick in consecutive years by St. Louis (just months after Brink signed with Milwaukee) and Tampa Bay. He didn’t pitch in affiliated ball in 2017, 2018, or 2020, then went straight to Double-A in 2021 with the Rays, and pitched at Double- and Triple-A in 2022 on a minor league deal with the Padres. He was sitting 94-97 mph and touching 99 throughout 2022 and, now that he’s with Minnesota, his fastball appears to have added more riding life and carry based on spring pitch data, which could give the wild Brink the in-zone margin for error he needs to survive in a big league role. Mechanical inconsistency impacts his fastball command, as well as the shape and quality of Brink’s slider. At best, it’s a plus mid-80s bender with two-plane wipe; at worst, it’s nowhere near the zone. He’s a likely up/down reliever whose epic journey merits a big league cup of coffee.

Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from St. Martin HS (ON) (MIN)
Age 24.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Splitter Command Sits/Tops
40/40 40/45 50/50 50/50 40/45 93-96 / 97

Balazovic has been a little out of sorts since minor league play resumed after the 2020 shutdown. His strikeout and walk rates have trended in the wrong direction since their incredible 2019 peaks, and opposing hitters absolutely tee’d off on all of Balazovic’s pitches but his curveball in 2022. He seems to have been moved to the bullpen at the onset of 2023, where he hasn’t really had a velo spike, still sitting 93-95 mph and topping out at 97. Again, for whatever reason, Balazovic’s fastball wasn’t remotely effective at that velocity in 2022. Mixing and matching more secondary pitches one inning at a time may help keep hitters off it. Still on the Twins’ 40-man roster, the former top 100 prospect now looks like an up/down single-inning reliever whose best days are several years in the rearview mirror.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (CIN)
Age 25.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
55/55 55/55 40/40 94-96 / 97

Peguero hung around the bottom of Reds prospects lists for several years with the hope that the lanky young righty would add velocity. That finally arrived in 2021, with Peguero experiencing a three-tick velo bump, sitting 96 mph. He was traded to Minnesota prior to the 2022 season along with Sonny Gray and it looked as though he’d make his big league debut, but lower back issues stymied his season and are again the reason Peguero is on the shelf to start 2023. His fastball doesn’t have great angle or movement and relies entirely on velocity, while his slider’s shape is inconsistent and sometimes just floats toward the zone and backs up on Peguero. His fit as an up/down reliever is dependent on him having his peak velocity, a key variable to assess once Peguero returns.

Drafted: 14th Round, 2019 from Maine (MIN)
Age 24.9 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/40 40/40 40/40 70/70 88-91 / 94

Laweryson has carved through the minors even though his fastball resides in the upper-80s. He’s reached Triple-A with a career ERA around 2.60 and a WHIP just above 1.00 with 30-grade fastball velo because of his command and the “round-up” elements his heater enjoys, mostly its uphill angle. None of his pitches are especially nasty, not his upper-70s slider nor his low-80s changeup, but all three of Laweryson’s offerings pepper the strike zone with extreme regularity. He threw each of them for strikes about 70% of the time in 2022. It will be tough for him to seize a consistent big league job due to lack of stuff, but if you need someone to come up and throw strikes in a spot start capacity or give you multiple innings out of the bullpen, Laweryson is a great option.





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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sadtrombonemember
10 months ago

Pitching is hard to predict, isn’t it? Much more so than hitting. Jordan Balazovic and Simeon Woods-Richardson and Jhoan Duran and Matt Canterino were Top 100 prospects not too long ago. Duran is now a reliever (although he was good last year), and Balazovic and Woods-Richardson and Canterino look rather iffy. But now Louie Varland looks like a strike-throwing machine who will pitch in the big leagues and David Festa seems to have come out of nowhere.