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Minnesota Twins End of Season Prospect Report: Pitchers in Fort Myers, Cedar Rapids, and Rookie Ball

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How did our guys pitch on the lower levels of the farm?

BASEBALL-CLASSIC-JPN-AUS Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images

Today we come to the end of our review of the 2019 season for the Twins best prospects. We’ve looked at hitters in majors and upper minors, as well those a the lower levels. Yesterday we looked at the pitchers who threw at or above Double-A. And today we end things with the pitchers in Single-A and Rookie-Ball.

And yes, the picture of Lachlan Wells pitching for Australia in the WBC was the only pitcher of any of these guys that we have access to.

Fort Myers

Blayne Enlow

As the 3rd round pick of the Twins in the 2017 MLB Draft, Enlow has always had a lot of eye on him due to his $2 million signing bonus, which was well over slot value for his pick. Enlow has done well in his career but never really “wow”ed anyone, a trend that continued in 2019.

He started the year in Cedar Rapids and pitched better than his 4.57 ERA would suggest through 8 starts and 41.1 innings with a 44/15 K/BB rate. He had better results upon his promotion to Fort Myers despite a far worse strikeout rate, posting a 3.38 ERA in 69.1 innings with a 51/23 K/BB ratio.

For a highly touted prospect, a 6.6 K/9 in High-A is a bit of a let down, and a negative trend that Twins fans would recognize if they watched Kohl Stewart’s minor league career closely. I think Enlow will adjust and improve. he posted a similar K/9 rate in a full season at Cedar Rapids in 2018 and then posted a 9.58 K/9 rate in 41.1 innings at that level this season. SO he improves with familiarity which is a good sign. Overall he is pitching well, but not great, with no major red flags.

He will pitch all of 2020 as a 21 year old and it will be a big year for him to prove his worth, with getting to and succeeding in Pensacola likely the biggest goal.

Chris Vallimont

Vallimont came over in the same deal that brought Sergio Romo to the Twins. At the time I thought the deal was a steal since we got a major leaguer and a pitching prospect for a single Double-A first base prospect. Since then, Romo has helped turn around the Twins bullpen and Vallimont made a solid first impression in Fort Myers.

In his first start with his new team he struggled, giving up 6 earned runs over 2.2 innings. But in his next three starts, his final three of the year, he gave up just 3 earned runs over 19.2 innings with a 25/4 K/BB ratio.

For the entire season, Vallimont posted a 3.24 ERA with a 150/41 K/BB ratio over 127.2 innings. While one of the major concerns with Vallimont is his control, he posted a solid 2.31 BB/9 rate in High-A, an improvement over his 3.38 BB/9 rate in Low-A this season.

Vallimont will be 23 for all of 2020 and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Twins push him aggressively or start him in Double-A.

Lachlan Wells

For a time, Wells was known a very short yet promising Australian lefty who had a twin brother in the Orioles system. While he eventually grew into a 6’1” frame, he lost a season in 2018 to Tommy John surgery which took any amount of his prospect status with it. He came back midway through the 2019 season and did about as you expect for someone coming back from a missed season.

In 49 innings that includes 5 from a GCL rehab assignment, the lefty posted a 4.22 ERA with a 39/12 K/BB rate.

Having thrown 125.1 innings at High-A between the 2017 and 2019 seasons, it would make sense for Wells to start in Double-A next season even as the organization helps ease him back. He will be 23 for the entire season.

Yennier Cano

Cano was signed this summer as an international free agent out of Cuba, formerly considered one of the best prospects in the 2018 international pool who delayed to sign.

Cano will be 26 for all of 2020, so he is no spring chicken, but he is an experienced pro from the Cuban leagues and could move quickly if he pitches up to his potential. His mix includes a fastball that sits 94-96 and can reach higher as well as a bevy of secondary pitches.

Cano’s 2019 was an interesting one. He walked 4 and gave up 1 hit in his first appearance in the GCL without recording an out. He threw 17 pitches and the only strike was the pitch that got hit. In his next game a few days later he threw 2 perfect inning with 2 strikeouts and 10 of 10 pitches for strikes.

He was moved to Fort Myers a few days later and in 13 innings he managed relative success despite issues with command. He had a 13/10 K/BB rate and a 2.77 ERA with 2 saves.

If Cano can find consistency he could shoot up the minors and be a useful bullpen arm for the Twins in the near future.

Cedar Rapids

Matt Cantarino

Cantarino was the Twins second round pick this year out of Rice. Because of his high usage in college the last three years, I thought the Twins would have shut him down early like they did when Cole Sands didn’t throw a professional pitch last year.

Instead, they moved Cantarino fairly aggressively. He made two starts in the GCL and then 5 in Cedar Rapids. In 25 total innings he posted a 1.44 ERA with a 31/8 K/BB rate and only gave up 8 hits.

That sort of domination is what you expect out of a veteran college pitcher in Rookie-Ball and Low-A.

It makes sense to have Canterino return to Cedar Rapids next spring for a few starts, but maybe Falvine are aggressive with Canterino like they were with Trevor Larnach this year, starting him in Fort Myers after clear success against younger competition in Low-A.

Canterino will be 22 for all of 2020, and it will be an important year to prove if he can be a successful starter with his funky delivery.

Luis Rijo

Remember when Lance Lynn was really bad for the Twins in 2018 and we managed to get two players in return for him when we traded him to the Yankees?

You probably remember Tyler Austin, who technically was a member of the Bomba Squad early this season and is now a member of the Giants organization.

You probably forgot about Luis Rijo, who was the true prize of the trade. In 107 innings in Cedar Rapids this year, Rijo posted an impressive 2.86 ERA with a 99/23 K/BB rate.

While the number are solid overall, the true strength of Rijo’s season lies in his steady progression throughout the year. In 41.1 innings in the first half of the season he posted a 3.05 ERA with just 33 strikeouts in 41.1 innings to go with 14 walks. That is a 7.23 K/9 rate with a 3.07 BB/9 rate, which isn’t exactly a great combo. But in 65.2 innings in the second half, he posted a 2.74 ERA with a 66/9 K/BB rate, which equal out to a 9.05 K/9 and 1.24 BB/9, which are truly great.

Rijo is fairly small for a starter at 6’1” 200 lbs, without much projection to add to his fastball that sits 90-94mph. But if he can increase his velocity a bit, his potentially plus curveball and control could make him a very solid pitcher as a back-end start or a reliever.

Rijo turned 21 on September 4th, so he will be 21 for all of 2020 except the minor league playoffs, and he is poised to start the season in Fort Myers.

Josh Winder

Winder was a 7th round pick by the Twins in 2018 out of the Virginia Military Institute. I haven’t seen any media regarding any military commitments for him, so he doesn’t seem to be another Griffin Jax, whose baseball career has been halted at times because of his military one.

Winder pitched incredibly well for the Kernels this year, providing a level of consistency for a rotation that lost Jordan Balazovic, then Blayne Enlow, and then Cole Sands to promotion.

In 21 starts and 125.2 innings, Winder posted a 2.65 ERA with a 118/30 K/BB ratio and a 0.98 WHIP. He simply dominated the level. I’m not sure why he was there for the entire season— the only reasons I could think of is that he was blocked by a stacked rotation in Fort Myers.

Winder will be 23 all of next season, surely starting the year in Fort Myers. He is a guy with a low 90s fastball and the normal secondary pitches in a breaking ball and a changeup that are so-so. He is the kind of guy who could, if things go right, easily become the next Cody Stashak or even Randy Dobnak and be a useful player despite lacking elite stuff or an elite pedigree.

Andrew Cabezas

An 18th round pick in 2018 out of Miami, Cabezas is sort of a lesser version of Winder having had a solid season across an entire season in Cedar Rapids.

In 23 games he threw 114.1 innings with a 3.54 ERA and a 90/40 K/BB rate.

His numbers aren’t quite as promising as Winder’s, but with a slight 5’10 frame Cabezas is likely headed to a relief role sooner rather than later, especially since he is known as a guy who will alter the timing of his delivery to mess with batters.

Cabezas will also be 23 for all of 2020.

Elizabethton

Cody Laweryson

When you hear someone is a 14th round pick out of Maine, you don’t necessarily expect much from them. As much as I love Maine, it isn’t exactly known as a baseball powerhouse.

But Cody Laweryson absolutely dominated in his pro debut.

In 41 innings in Elizabethton he posted a 1.76 ERA with a 59/9 K/BB rate. He also got an emergency start in Cedar Rapids in mid-August where he threw 4 shutout frames.

Laweryson sat 87-92 this season, but has the frame (listed at 6’4” 205lbs) to add some more consistent velocity.

Laweryson was a young college junior, meaning he will only be 21 for all of 2020.

Laweryson will likely be given a big chunk of innings in Cedar Rapids in 2020. If he dominates the way he did this year, he won’t be in Cedar Rapids for long.

GCL Twins

Donny Breek

You know how the Twins signed Max Kepler out of Germany way back in 2009, and now he is this super stud outfielder? The final two pitchers we will talk about in our review are two more European signings for the Twins.

Breek was signed out of the Netherlands back in 2017. And when I say the Netherlands, I don’t mean Curacao, the home of Jonathan Schoop and Andruw Jones, among others. No, when I saw Breek came from the Netherlands, I mean Amsterdam. Stroopwafels and dikes and shit like that.

Breek pitched well in the GCL in 2018 with a 2.89 ERA over 37.1 innings, but he pitched far better in 2019. In 36.1 innings he posted a stellar 0.74 ERA with a 38/19 K/BB rate. Obviously he needs to improve his control a bit, but he will only be 20 years old for all of 2020 with a solid pitchers body (6’2” 205lbs). It makes sense for him to move up a level to Elizabethton next year before getting time in full season ball in 2021.

Niklas Rimmel

Rimmel is a countryman of Max Kepler, who also calls Berlin home.

Rimmel threw just 14 innings in 2018 with a 3.86 ERA and a 6/3 K/BB rate.

He clearly improved quite a bit over the course of this year. In 37.2 innings he posted a 2.15 ERA with a 34/8 K/BB rate. He is 6’3” 200 lbs and turns 21 in July.

Thoughts

The Twins front office regime has clearly prioritized drafting position players over pitchers, making this report relatively bare compared to our other ones.

But the Twins still have a solid core of good young pitchers in the low minors. The Fort Myers starting rotation is going to be absolutely stacked all year, as I’m sure Enlow, Vallimont, Winder, Cabezas, Rijo, and Cantarino will all see time there before the season ends.

Cedar Rapids will get a host of college draftees from 2019 hoping to find the next Winder. I easily could have mentioned another 4 or 5 guys for each Rookie-Ball team who could end up filling those roles, but the truth is, its far too hard to know the guys from the bodies at that low of a level until they show it in full-season ball. Still, those European pitchers are fun reason to pay attention to Rookie-Ball next year even though we will won’t have our first draft pick until the 27th pick in 2020.

And so we end our review of the Twins farm system in 2019. There were a lot of injuries and mediocre years on the offensive ball, but a lot of very strong campaigns by the pitchers.

By the time the minor league season starts next year, I wouldn’t be surprised to be down a few prospects in the search for a starting pitchers. It’ll be interesting to see who remains.