Triple-A: Rochester Red Wings
Stephen Gonsalves has finally come off the IL, only to find himself plagued in his first start by the same issue he dealt with last year—poor control and command. He walked five through two innings and gave up a single earned run. When Gonsalves was a prospect cruising through the low minors he was always said to have better numbers than stuff, meaning he knew how to pitch well enough to get guys out even if he didn’t have any plus pitches. But now he is on the door of the big leagues and guys know how to hit that mediocre stuff. He walked 22 in 24.2 big league innings last year, and will need to vastly improve to be more than a Quad-A guy moving forward, which would be a big letdown considering his prospect hype just a few years ago. Turning 25 in July, Gonsalves is no youngin’, and needs to provide value this year or next to be worth his 40-man spot.
Kohl Stewart continues to limbo between leagues as the Twins’ defacto 6th starter. He has two minor league appearances since the last update: a 2 inning, 5 strikeout performance that was a warmup for his major league start in the Twins double-header, and then a 5.2 inning start where he gave up 2 runs on 6 hits and 4 walks with 6 strikeouts. I think some consistency would be good for Stewart, even if it means being the 13th pitcher in Minnesota and learning to get big leaguers out in mop-up games instead of pitching every 5th day in Rochester.
Lewis Thorpe, man. On May 4th he gave up 5 earned runs in one inning. On the 12th he went 7 innings, giving up 3 earned while striking out 7 and not walking anyone. On the 18th, he gave up a run over 5 innings with a 8/1 K/BB rate. He has made 8 starts so far this year, with 4 being absolute garbage and the other 4 being great (2.45 ERA over 25.2 innings and a 39/2 K/BB[!!!!!] ratio). If we get more of the good Thorpe, he could be useful down the stretch in Minnesota. Zach Littell’s season numbers aren’t great, but considering the increase of offense in Triple-A this year with the introduction of the Major League baseball, Littell has been the teams best starter. He had one clunker since the last update but two good starts sandwiched around that one, and a 4.19 ERA on the year with a solid 45/16 K/BB rate in 43 innings. Devin Smeltzer remains one of my favorite players to keep an eye on this year, but finally got touched up in his last start, giving up 4 earned runs on 8 hits in a start that lasted 4.2 innings (3/2 K/BB rate). His previous start was an excellent 8 shutout innings where he struck out six and walked just 1, so his Triple-A ERA is still a solid 1.83. If Mejia can’t figure it out, I want to see Smeltzer added to the 40-man and brought up as a long-inning lefty. Chase De Jong is on the IL, and I’m not sure if he is actually hurt or if it is just a mercy move, as the righty has posted a 15.43 ERA in 14 innings in Triple-A
For a man with such amazing stuff, Fernando Romero has been dreadful in Triple-A, giving up 5 homers and a 5.73 ERA in 11 innings despite a solid 14/5 K/BB rate. Trevor Hildenberger’s woes have continued so far in his first appearances for the Redwings, giving up 7 earned runs in his first 3 innings. Gabriel Moya is also struggling, with a 9.35 ERA in Rochester through 8.2 innings. Andrew Vasquez went five appearances without giving up a run, but gave up 3 earned over 0.1 innings in his last game. Jake Reed has a 6.41 ERA over 19.2 innings with a 23/11 K/BB rate.
Nick Gordon had such a hot start through 8 games, only to get hurt again and miss another week, striking out 2 times in 5 at bats in his return on May 21st.
Luke Raley has probably earned himself a callup if the Twins were to need an outfielder. The big left-handed hitter has hit .385/.429/.596 in the month of May with three homers in 13 games. Those numbers are in comparison to Jake Cave , who has hit just .206/.263/.412 in his time in Triple-A this year, although he has two homers in 8 games.
Randy Cesar has cooled a bit in May, with a .703 OPS in the month after posting a .932 OPS in April. LaMonte Wade has really struggled as of late, hitting just .158 in his last ten, and just .169 in May after a very solid April. Brent Rooker had missed about a week at the end of April/early May and then came back to hit .316 in the 4 games after his return, only to find himself on the IL again a week later. Zander Wiel keeps hitting, with a .324 average in his last ten games, although he hasn’t hit for as much power in May (1 HR) as he did in April (6 HR).
Double-A: Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Brusdar Graterol has been a model of consistency all year, throwing at least 5 innings in his last 8 starts. He has a 1.89 ERA on the year to go along with a 46/19 K/BB rate in 47.2 innings. He is one of the youngest pitchers at this level and his stuff is clearly too good for the hitters there (he has allowed a batting average against of .188 on the year). But I’m not as impressed as I want to be, or maybe I am over-cautious. He has a pitch limit around 80 (with 89 pitches being his season high) so it makes sense that he has only made it out of the 6th inning once this season, but since no one is hitting him hard he should be making it farther into games. With just 46 K’s in 47.2 innings, I worry that his excellent stuff is masking an inability to hit his spots and “pitch” instead of just “throw.” Jorge Alcala is basically the opposite, with a stellar 53/13 K/BB rate this year in 44 innings being undermined by a .259 average against, leading to a 4.09 ERA. That number has been far better in May (2.21 in 20.1 innings, 24/7 K/BB rate).
Griffin Jax is a human after all, giving up 7 ER in his last 11.1 innings pitched (although he didn’t walk anyone in that same span). Randy Dobnak finally gets a mention after earning one earlier this season, having split the year between Fort Myers and Pensacola thus far. The 24 year old has a stellar 23/3 K/BB rate in 20.1 innings in Pensacola along with a solid 3.10 ERA.
In his last 9.2 innings Tyler Jay has given up just 2 earned runs while striking out 12 and walking 4. Jovani Moran remains on the IL.
The excitement around Alex Kirilloff’s return to the lineup has faded as have his numbers, with the lefty hitting just .154 in his last ten games and bringing his OPS down to .598 for the season. Evaluators have noticed that Kirilloff seems rusty and is just a hair off with his timing, which makes sense considering he missed the first half of the season.
Travis Blankenhorn continues to mash in Double-A, hitting .350 over his last ten games including three home runs. He has 6 homers at this level in just 24 games, and is hitting .305/.356/.526 since his promotion, getting him back on track after a rough 2018.
After posting a .778 OPS through 24 games in Fort Myers, Ben Rortvedt earned himself a promotion to Double-A in mid-May. In five games at the new level Rortvedt has hit .222/.333/.222 but with a 3/3 K/BB rate. He has also thrown out 1 of the 2 base stealers against him... which actually brings his season total rate down to 63%, which is absolutely insane.
One guy I have failed to mention so far for Pensacola is Jaylin Davis, a right-handed right fielder who was taken in the 24th round of the 2015 draft. Davis has been a solid, if unspectacular hitter at every level since being drafted and has been the most consistent hitter in Double-A outside of the recently (double) promoted Luis Arraez. He has a .283/.359/.417 line in 33 games, but he turns 25 on July 1st and is blocked by a full outfield in Rochester.
High-A: Fort Myers Miracle
Jordan Balazovic has returned to earth a little bit, giving up 6 earned runs in his last 10 innings over two starts. Still, he has struck out 20 in that span compared to 4 walks—that’s a 63/8 K/BB ratio over 37.2 innings so far this year.
Jhoan Duran has struggled heavily in his last two starts, managing just 7 innings (although one start was shortened due to a rain delay) and giving up 5 earned runs with a 8/5 K/BB ratio. Bryan Sammons is 24, was a senior sign in 2017, and probably isn’t a prospect, but he has a 1.11 ERA through 32.1 innings this year ana 38-13 K/BB ratio. Tyler Watson turned in his best performance of the year on May 17th going 7.1 innings and giving up just 1 run. He has a 4.66 ERA through 38.2 innings this year, and turned 23 on the day this post was published. Edwar Colina has calmed down after a rough first outing of the year, throwing 12 innings of 1 run ball in his last two starts with an impressive 15/4 K/BB ratio in that span.
Tom Hackimer has struck out 5 in his first 5.1 innings at Double-A, and has a 0.44 ERA through 20.2 innings across two levels this season.
Royce Lewis really started hitting early in the month, and has been so-so in his last little stretch (.244 in his last ten games). He has hit .273/.317/.455 in the month of May so far but has seen his BB rate drop heavily. He has also hit to a .964 OPS against lefties this year, for what that is worth. Ryan Jeffers continues to hit well, with a .289 average in his last ten games along with a 9/4 K/BB ratio. He has a respectable .781 OPS on the year and is throwing out 28% of baserunners on the season. Trevor Larnach hit two home runs on the day the last update was published, and while he hasn’t hit one since, he has been hitting well overall. He has a crazy .343/.436/.552 line in May so far with a stellar 15/11 K/BB rate after a 21/7 rate (and .619 OPS) in April. Jose Miranda is still without a homerun but continues hitting well overall, with a .282 average in his last ten and a .308/.352/.385 line in May. The power will come.
Lewin Diaz continues to be the popup prospect to watch in Fort Myers. He has hit .350 in his last ten games and had 3 homers in a game on the 16th. He is hitting an excellent .326/.360/.574 this season with a crazy 1.159 OPS and 8 homers in his 17 games so far in May. He is never going to walk much, which I dislike, but if he keeps hitting he could rebuild the prospect status he lost after a dreadful year in Fort Myers last year. He is 22 all season and could see himself in Pensacola soon.
Trey Cabbage has cooled off a bit as of late with a .250 average in his last ten games but still has a solid .275/.351/.412 linee through his first 14 games at this level.
David Banuelos got promoted when Ben Rortvedt moved up to Pensacola. He will spell Jeffers a bit here and there and not hit much: he is 1 for 12 in his first 3 games, although he has thrown out 40% of base stealers on the year at both levels.
Akil Baddoo has been on the IL since May 11th.
Low-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels
Blayne Enlow has performed well since the last update, allowing 2 earned runs in 13 innings with a 12/2 K/BB ratio and only allowing 10 hits. His season ERA is still at a heavy 4.95 but most of those runs game from two bad starts of his 7 so far. Cole Sands continues to throw well overall. While he gave up 4 runs in 5.1 innings on May 11th, he came back with 10 strikeouts and just a run allowed through 5 innings on the 18th. He has a 46/10 K/BB ratio through 36.1 innings and a 2.48 ERA so far this year. Josh Winder has been roughed up a little in his last two stars, giving up 8 earned runs through 12 innings with a pedestrian 6/5 K/BB ratio.. Luis Rijo has had three starts since the last update and was lackluster in the first two—10.1 innings while giving up 6 ER with a 6/5 K/BB—before turning in a good start on the 20th (5 innings, 1 hit, 6 K’s, 3 BB’s). In the month of May Andrew Cabezas has been lights out, allowing just 2 earned runs in 19.2 innings with a 17/4 K/BB ratio. Cabezas turns 23 in December.
Gilberto Celestino is finally starting to turn it on, hitting .306 in his last 10 games with a 8/5 K/BB ratio, his first homerun of the season, and 2 SB. Better late than never since he was a big piece of the Ryan Pressly trade. Gabriel Maciel continues to hit well, but with an asterisk. Hitting .333 in his last 10 games, Maciel has a solid .294 average on the season, and an impressive 23/16 K/BB ratio has his OBP at a great .390. But the slight switch hitter from Brazil has no power to speak of, with just a double and two triples to his name, meaning that despite his elite OBP, he is managing just a .733 OPS due to a .343 SLG. Jacob Pearson has his numbers “up” to .192/.277/.277 thanks to hitting .242/.351/.333 so far in May. DaShawn Kiersey got himself on the IL again, and now has a .127/.222/.127 line on the season. A new foil to the outfield logjam is Jared Akins, the 13th round pick from the 2017 draft. Still just 22, Akins has hit 3 homers in his first 23 at bats and has a 1.072 OPS so far.
Yeltsin Encarnacion has been raising his season numbers slowly but surely, hitting .275 in his last 10 games, but like Maciel has just 3 extra base hits through 101 at bats. Andrew Bechtold has started hitting a bit better overall but has struckout 52 times in 41 games and is already 23.
With David Banuelos in Fort Myers, the Kernels now find themselves without a legimate defensive catcher. Chris Williams has slumped as of late, with a .167 in his last 10 games, and he has thrown out just 3 of 14 base stealers this season. Ben Rodriguez has fared a bit better, throwing out 5 of 16 thieves, but is hitting for just a .501 OPS on the season, although he’s been on a .608 OPS clip in the month of May.
Yunior Severino remains on the Injured List.
The big news is Luis Arraez being promoted to the big leagues due to the injury to Nelson Cruz. Arraez hit .342/.415/.397 in 38 games at Double-A and then was in Triple-A for a whole 3 games (where he hit .357/.400/.357) before coming up to the Twins. The guy just hits. They might be singles, but he just flat out hits.
I’m not too worried at this point about Royce Lewis or Alex Kirilloff. Kirilloff will get it going once he shakes off some rust and gets his timing down, and Lewis has had a decent May after a very poor April. Other than these two, the Twins’ hitting prospects have mostly been injured (Gordon, Rooker, Baddoo, Severino, and Wander Javier) or have been starting to get it together. The resurgence of Blankenhorn and Diaz is huge, and Jeffers and Larnach are proving worthy of their high draft picks a year ago.
The pitchers in the system have shown more promise than reason to worry, in my opinion. Balazovic and Smeltzer have been the guys to watch of course, but Graterol is doing well despite my worries, and Dhuran, Thorpe, Enlow, and Alcala have all had positive streaks to go with their negative ones.