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Twins end of June Minor League Update

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Some good and some bad, like always

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Triple-A: Rochester Red Wings

Pitching:

After an absolute great month of May in Triple-A, Kohl Stewart has been god awful in the month of June, posting a 9.67 ERA through 22.1 innings and a .340 batting average against. No wonder other pitchers have been called up instead of him recently.

Speaking of one of those pitchers, Lewis Thorpe earned his first cup of coffee with the big league team and did quite well in 5 innings. In Triple-A in the month of June he posted a 4.08 ERA with a 26/8 K/BB ratio in 17.2 innings.

Devin Smeltzer was so hot to begin the year that he earned his time on the big league club, and since coming back down he has still been rolling. The 3.60 ERA over 20 innings in June doesn’t look so great, but considering the increased offense in Triple-A this year those are actually pretty good numbers. He has also struck out 30 while walking just 3 in that span.

Chase De Jong’s 6.75 ERA in 22.2 June innings is both miserable but also his best month of the season.

Sean Poppen has struggled a bit in his most recent outings, but has still posted a very strong month of June, posting a 2.33 ERA in 27 innings with a 34/8 K/BB rate. He also ate some important innings for the big league team before being shuttled back quickly to Rochester.

Fernando Romero started the month strong, with a 3.18 ERA being a massive upgrade over his previous few months. He now finds himself on the 7-day IL, along with Trevor Hildenberger. Gabriel Moya was outrighted off the 40-man roster but made it through waivers having posted a 6.48 ERA in the month of June. Andrew Vasquez spent most of June on the IL, and has given up 2 ER in the 4.1 innings since his return with a 9/5 K/BB rate. Jake Reed continues to be the guy we want to see called up, but he always seems to pitch the day before the Twins need to call someone up. He posted a 3.86 ERA in June with an impressive 22/7 K/BB rate in 16.1 innings. Ryan Eades has been impressive after his return from a brief stint in the majors, with a 3.09 ERA and a 16/4 K/BB rate in 11.2 innings for Rochester in June. Zack Littell almost gave me a heart attack when I saw him hitting 97mph for the big league club, and that increase in velocity shows in his 15/3 K/BB rate in 9.2 June innings for the Red Wings. He did get touched up a bit in his first outing back from the bigs, giving up 3 ER in 2 innings on the 29th.

Hitting:

After hitting .303/.338/.485 in 17 May games, Nick Gordon has hit just .259/.297/.389 in 25 June contests. The biggest worry is that he has a 30/7 K/BB rate in June and has 18 K’s to 1 BB in his last ten games. Hopefully this is a short slump that he hits himself out of and not the same sort of mid-season spiral that has sunk his prospect stock in 2017 and 2018.

Brent Rooker is proving his worth in Triple-A. In 30 games in the month of June the slugger hit .337/.507/.612 with 6 homers, 28 RB, and a 39/27 K/BB rate. Yes, he strikes out a lot (82 K in 54 games on the season), but when he is on he is also taking walks and hitting the ball hard. He has struggled a bit as a of late, as a 3 game hitless streak last week as dropped his average in the last 10 games to just .229. He still has not played 1B for Rochester this year, which is either a good sign for his outfield defense or a bad sign for his ability to play 1B.

Lamont Wade got a single at bat in the majors before being sent back down. But his impressive June (.288/.427/.438) has helped make up a bit for a god-awful May (.182/.333/.307). Wade’s stock is probably hurt more by the ascent of Luis Arraez (and his ability to play an okay LF) than Wade’s own performance.

Jake Cave is also back down in Rochester, giving the Red Wings three super hot outfielders. While Cave hasn’t fared so well in the bigs this year, he has hit .406/.442/.739 in 17 June games in Rochester.

Zander Wiel started June on a cold streak but has hit well as of late (.366 average in his last ten games with 2 homers. He is striking out a lot (35/7 K/BB rate in 26 June games), but that is what he does.

Jaylin Davis earned himself a callup to Triple-A once Cave and Wade were called up, and is proving his worth at the elvel, hitting .250/.321/.604 in 13 games with 4 homers and 15 RBI.

Luke Raley is still on the IL.

Double-A: Pensacola Blue Wahoos

Pitching:

Brusdar Graterol remains on the IL with a shoulder impingement, an injury that has him out “indefinitely” which could easily mean for the rest of the year.

That sort of injury leaves a space for other prospects to step up, but unfortunately Jorge Alcala has been unable to do so. After a solid May, the wheels have fallen off for Alcala in June, posting an 8.44 ERA in 21.1 innings.

Griffin Jax has returned from the IL and has played to his strengths, posting a 1.40 ERA in 19.1 inninigs in June despite striking out only 11.

Randy Dobnak is back in Double-A and throwing well, with a 2.89 ERA in 18.2 innings with a 15/1 K/BB rate in June.

Charlie Barnes was roughed up a bit in June, posting a 4.74 ERA for the month overall. His last outing was impressive, though, going 6 innings with 6 Ks while only giving up 2 runs off 6 hits and a walk. Bryan Sammons has been off and on during his short time in Double-A, with a 5.47 ERA in June but giving up just 2 ER in his last 11 innings with a 14/2 K/BB rate

Tom Hackimer was hit hard in June, with a 5.25 ERA in 12 innings and just a 11/8 K/BB rate.

Jovani Moran remains on the IL.

Hitting:

Alex Kirilloff is back! Again! And hopefully I won’t have to write about him being hurt again this year, although the wrist injury that has been bugging him may take time to heal fully and may need more (hopefully shorter) planned IL stints. He is hitting .268/.348/.390 since returning, and while that line isn’t impressive he has gone 5-11 in his last three games. Hopefully Kiriloff gets back on track for real and stays healthy this time.

Travis Blankenhorn is finally starting to slow down a bit after a meteoric start since joining the Blue Wahoos earlier this year. He has hit .259/.308/.491 (with 6 homers) in June and just .231 in his last ten games. But he has already hit 15 homers this year (both levels of play combined) which is a career high.

Ben Rortvedt is also slowing down quite a bit, having hit only .193/.299/.253 in the month of June after a great stint in May. That sort of slump is expectable for someone who is young for the level (doesn’t turn 22 until late September) and is known more for his defense.

Lewin Diaz finally got his well-earned call up to Double-A and has continued to hit. In 11 games at this level he is smashing a .319/.319/.638 line with 7 doubles, a triple, and 2 homers out of his 15 hits and a 10/0 K/BB rate. He has never been a guy to take a lot of walks, but he will need to even that out a bit, even if he keeps smashing like this.

High-A: Fort Myers Miracle

Pitching:

For the first time this year, Jordan Balazovic has struggled a bit in his last three outings— throwing 14 innings and giving up 8 ER while striking out 16 but walking 9. For context, he has only given up 20 ER and 19 BB on the entire year, so this stretch has been uncharacteristically bad. But that is to be expected for the young pitcher. With 13 starts on the year, he is already past his previous high (12 games pitched in 2018) having started both 2017 and 2018 in Extended Spring Training. He will likely get himself back on track, after earning himself a spot on the All Star Futures Game.

Jhoan Duran hasn’t improved his stock as much as Balazovic (who is now on Baseball America’s and MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospect lists), but he has still improved his stock quite a bit. The big righty was already having a solid year before posting a 1.88 ERA and 31/10 K/BB rate in 24 innings in the month of June.

Blayne Enlow has pitched quite well so far in High-A, posting a 2.01 ERA in 31.1 innings at the level. The only thing to worry about is a mediocre 25/8 K/BB Rate. The control is solid, but you’d hope for more K’s from a guy signed overslot in the 3rd round in 2017.

Edwar Colina continues pitching well, with a 2.63 ERA in the month of June. He is also failing to strike guys out, with just 17 K’s in 24 innings in June, but he only walked 6 in that span. That is a huge improvement given he walked 53 guys in 109 innings in 2018

Cole Sands missed a few starts in the middle of this month—likely a scheduled rest more than a true injury, although I can’t be sure. He returned on the 23rd of June with his second hitless outing of the year, going 5 innings with 6 Ks and a walk. He had 5 hitless innings in his debut in April as well.

Tyler Watson had a rough June, posting a 5.40 ERA in 20 innings during the month.

Derek Molina posted an absurd 46/9 K/BB rate in 29 innings at Cedar Rapids, and has started hot in Fort Myers with a 8/1 K/BB in his first 5 innings there. The righty only turns 22 in late July.

Hitting:

In the last update I wrote that Royce Lewis continues to be confusing, and that is even more amplified after a weird month. Coming back from the Florida State League All Star break, Lewis looked to have everything figured out, going 9-29 with 3 homers in his first 7 games back. Then he had an 0-9 stretch, and he still only has 1 walk in the 13 games since the break (a stretch where he is hitting .241/.250/.463 overall with 2 2B and 4 homers). This is a kid who had a 21/13 K/BB rate (quite good) in April even though he wasn’t hitting well overall. He is clearly trying to be aggressive and hit the ball hard. I would rather he focus a bit more on his average and let the power come naturally.

Trevor Larnach continues to have a great season. He had a “down” month of June, hitting .304/.360/.424 with only a single home run and 8 doubles. I’m surprised he isn’t in Pensacola already.

Ryan Jeffers has seen his average cool off a bit but his power rise, hitting just .246 in June but with 5 homers (he hit 5 homers in April and May combined), and a great 12/8 K/BB rate. The only thing I find really worrisome is that he is only throwing out 24 percent of baserunners, which is worse than it looks given he started off the year around 35 percent or so.

Jose Miranda has also seemed to trade average for power, hitting just .213 in June but posting his highest monthly OPS because he hit 5 doubles and 3 homers (had just 1 homer in May and none in April). This might be an adjustment to the big parks in the Florida State League.

Trey Cabbage has struggled since his return from suspenstion, hitting just .182/.206/.333 after the All Star break.

Gabriel Maciel earned his way up to High-A and has continued to be himself, hitting .278/.381/.306. with 4 stolen bases.

Andrew Bechtold got himself called up to the Miracle after posting a .333/.456/.511 line in 15 games in June for Cedar Rapids. In 10 games in Florida he has only hit 241/.313/.241 so far

Akil Baddoo is out for the year with TJ surgery.

Low-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels

Pitching

Josh Winder became the ace of the Kernels staff after the promotion of Balazovic, Enlow, and Sands, but he has truly pitched like a number 1 since. He posted a 1.32 ERA over 34 innings (almost 7 innings a start) in June with a 28/6 K/BB rate. Move him to Florida. Austin Schulfer has continued a strong year, with a 2.14 ERA in June and a 23/5 K/BB rate in 21 innings across the month. Kody Funderburk was pitching well before finding himself on the IL, with a 22/4 K/BB rate and a 2.08 ERA in 17.1 innings in Cedar Rapids. Kai-Wei Teng is only 20 for the rest of the year and has been impressive in his first 4 starts in Single-A ball: 2.57 ERA with a 23/7 K/BB rate in 21 innings. Luis Rijo has given up a single earned run in his last 19.2 innings (4 appearances), striking out 18 and walking 7 in that span.

Hitting:

You are going to ask about Wander Javier and you are going to be disappointed. After a pretty decent start to his season, Javier has struggled mightily as of late, posting a .163/.247/.263 line in June and hitting just .088 in his last ten games. Had he started the year off strong he would have been key trade bait this July.

Much like Royce Lewis a level up, Gilberto Celestino continues to get hot only to cool right back down just a few games later. His June line of .240/.308/.385 is by far his best of the season, hitting more XBH (8 doubles and 2 homers) this month than the entire rest of his season. He is also hitting .278/.366/.389 since the Midwest League All Star Break, and continuing in that vein will help him salvage his year (and his prospect stock). Jacob Pearson is hitting .263/.300/.447 in the second half to help reclaim a pretty bad June overall (.239/.280/.364). Jared Akins hit 143/.179/.275 in June after posting a 1.052 OPS in May.

Yeltsin Encarnacion had a great May but hit just 218/.259/.308 in June. Hopefully his recent birthday (21 years old) will help him get back on track.

Ricky De La Torre was a 6th round pick in 2017 and finally got his first shot in Single-A earlier this month. He hit .276/.364/.552 with 2 homers in his first 9 games but quickly saw himself hit the IL.

Yunior Severino remains on the Injured List.

Rookie-Ball

Both Rookie-Ball leagues are up and running. I would love to post full lists for these teams but honestly, almost everyone on those rosters is a recent draft pick or young international signing worth keeping an eye on. I could write 3000 words on these teams alone. Here are the big names to keep an eye on:

Keoni Cavaco, the Twins’ first round pick in this year’s draft, has 2 hits in 14 at bats in his first 4 games for the GCL Twins.

Matt Wallner was taken in the CBA round by the Twins this year. He is hitting .289/.386/.368 but with 14 strikeouts in 9 games for Elizabethton.

Spencer Steer was the Twins’ 3rd round pick this year. He has hit .353/.450/.529 so far in Elizabethton.

Prelander Berroa is the big pitcher to keep an eye on at this point. He is 19 years old out of the Dominican, and while he is only 5’11 he can really pitch. In 8.2 innings so far he has a 1.04 ERA with 14 Ks, but 6 walks.

Thoughts

This season has proven the depth of our farm system, especially with the recent injuries at the Major League level. Even with slow starts from Lewis and Kirilloff and a significat injury to Brusdar Graterol, our other prospects simply rise to the occasion.

Offensively, strong seasons by Brent Rooker, Lewin Diaz, Travis Blankenhorn, and Trevor Larnach have mitigated some of the worry about Lewis and Kirilloff (who could still finish out the year on a high note). Since Lewis and Kirilloff are considered by many to be untouchable in trade negotiations, the strong seasons by these other prospects help improve our ability to trade for a start or reliever come the trade deadline.

The real impressive seasons by Twins prospects have been on the mound. Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Blayne Enlow, Cole Sands, and Josh Winder have been outstanding. MLB Pipeline moved Balazovic from our 19th best prospect overall, to our 5th (and our 5th prospect on Pipeline’s top 100 list). I don’t think Dhuran will be far behind, and Enlow has only gotten better as the year goes on. Sands and Winder are likely more back-of-the-rotation guys, but having two of those prospects firing on all cylanders is never a bad spot to be in.

It will be interesting to see what pieces start getting mentioned in trade rumors before July 31st.