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Twins End of July Minor League Update

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If you are in Pensacola, go see a game

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Triple-A: Rochester Red Wings

Pitching:

Kohl Stewart was very bad in the month of June, with a 9.67 ERA over 22.1 innings, and he was worse in July, with a 12.27 ERA over 7.1 innings, although he did okay in mop up work at the big league level.

Devin Smeltzer had a great June in Triple-A with a 3.60 ERA over 20 innings, but struggled a little in July with a 5.50 ERA over 18 innings with a 15/7 K/BB rate. His year has still been very impressive overall, and he will likely see more time in the bigs before all is said and done.

Randy Dobnak has been all over the damn place this year. He had a 0.40 ERA in 22.1 games in Fort Myers, a 2.57 ERA in 66.2 innings in Pensacola, and now has a 2.10 ERA in 30 innings in Rochester. In 119 total innings he has a 2.04 ERA and a 100/23 K/BB rate. He turns 25 in January but might see himself with the big league team in September.

Zach Littell has found a way to throw 97 mph and I think he should be on the big league roster. As a reliever at Triple-A he has a 3.66 ERA over 19.2 innings with 25 strikeouts. If you take away that mop-up appearance in the big leagues back on May 30th where he gave up 8 runs because we didn’t have any other pitchers, Littell has given up just 2 runs over 14.1 innings in the bigs this year, with a 14/5 K/BB rate in that span.

Fernando Romero posted a 4.38 ERA in 12.1 innings in July with a 16/6 K/BB rate. He turns 25 in December. Jake Reed had a great June (3.65 ERA in 14 innings) but fell off hard in July with a 9.42 ERA in 14.1 innings. Ryan Eades spend a good chunk of the month on the IL, and has two scoreless innings since his return.

Stephen Gonsalves and Trevor Hildenberger remain on the IL.

Hitting:

In his 6th season in the minors, Nick Gordon is finally hitting like a 5th overall pick should be hitting. He is carrying a .304/.347/.469 line in 68 games in Triple-A, with 29 doubles, 3 triples, and 4 homers along with a 64/18 K/BB rate and 14 stolen bases in 18 tries. He hit .348/.402/.536 in 26 July games, hopefully a sign that he is no longer so weak that he suffers a major second half slump every season. Gordon turns 24 in October but is finally ready to contribute at the big league level, although Luis Arraez has already made himself a key piece of the big league team.

Jake Cave has been on the call-up carousel all year and continues to mash Triple-A pitching. In his last 5 games at the level since his most recent demotion, he has gone 10 for 20 with 3 doubles, a triple, and a homer. He is hitting .346/.388/.574 at the level on the year to combat a .621 OPS in the bigs.

Brent Rooker hasn’t played a game since July 13th, which is an absolute shame considering he posted a 1.024 OPS in 30 June games and a solid .801 OPS in his 11 July games.

Lamont Wade is technically still on the IL for the Twins.

Zander Wiel started the year off hot thanks to the new ball, but hit just .200/.243/.484 in July, mashing what he could touch (10 doubles, a triple, and 5 homers out of 19 hits) but striking out far too often (29/5 K/BB rate in 25 games).

Luke Raley is still on the IL.

Double-A: Pensacola Blue Wahoos

Pitching:

Brusdar Graterol isn’t back on the Wahoos yet but had a rehab stint with the GCL Twins and struckout 2 in 1 inning. Maybe, just maybe, we could see him on the big league squad in September in relief.

Jorge Alcala has been garbage. He posted a 8.44 ERA in June and a 7.78 ERA in 19.2 July innings. He was considered the prize of the Ryan Pressly trade so it is tough to see him struggle. He turns 24 in the offseason and will require a 40-man spot this winter.

Griffin Jax has been phenomenal all year, but has had an up and down July. He posted the worst monthly ERA for his year, with a 3.73 mark in 31.1 innings, but he also struckout 28 in that span while walking 8, a much better K% considering he has 70 Ks in 96 innings this year. Jax turns 25 this November.

Jhoan Duran earned himself a call up to the Wahoos after posting a 3.23 ERA in 78 innings in Fort Myers. In his first game in Double-A he threw 5 scoreless innings while striking out 3 and walking 1. He has shot up prospect rankings this year and is among the Twins top ten according to most evaluators.

Edwar Colina actually preceded Duran in the call up to the Wahoos, and in 16.2 innings so far he has a 1.08 ERA and a 19/6 K/BB rate. On the season through 78.1 inning between both levels he has a 2.07 ERA and a 80/21 K/BB rate. He turns 23 in May.

Charlie Barnes was very good in July after a rough June, with a 2.04 ERA through 35.1 innings with a 35/11 K/BB rate.

Tom Hackimer was hit hard in June but through 5.2 scoreless innings in July. He didn’t walk anyone... but he hit 6 batters.

Jovani Moran is back after missing all of June. He posted a 7.71 ERA in 4.2 July innings with a 6/5 K/BB rate.

After losing his 40-man roster spot, Gabriel Moya found himself demoted to Double-A, and he struck out 3 over 2.1 innings in his first game after the demotion. He is still just 25 all of next year.

Hitting:

You were worried about Royce Lewis, and that’s fair. Some prospect evaluators like Keith Law and Baseball America dropped Lewis heavily in their mid-season rankings updates. Others, like MLB Pipelines and Fangraphs kept the faith. Lewis rewarded those with faith in the month of July. The former first overall pick hit .273/.341/.481 in the month of July during 19 games in Fort Myers, with 4 doubles, 4 homers, and an improved 18/7 K/BB rate. Since the High-A All-Star break, a total of 32 games, he hit a solid .260/.306/.473 with 8 homers. His hot month earned his promotion to Double-A at the age of 20 (turning 21 in June of 2020), and he has gone 4 for 17 with two doubles in 4 games since the promotion (2/1 K/BB rate). The kid is doing fine. There are likely some mechanical issues to work out still, but he is correcting a bit on his own and that is what you want to see.

Wrist injuries are very tricky for hitters, often failing to fully heal until after a season. Alex Kirilloff’s wrist is probably still bugging him a bit, which might explain a so-so season. In 27 July games, the lefty hit .277/.308/.357 with just a double, a triple, and 2 homers of his 31 hits. The 25/4 K/BB rate in 27 games is the thing that worries me most. He has always been an aggressive hitter, but he needs to sit back a bit more and make sure he is challenging pitchers to throw strikes instead of swinging at the first fastball he sees.

Trevor Larnach destroyed the Florida State League with a .842 OPS over 84 games. He earned that promotion to Pensacola in mid-July and has been taking a bit to get used to the new league, with a .250/.328/.327 line over his first 14 games with a double, a homer, and a 19/5 K/BB rate. He started slow in Fort Myers too, believe it or not, so I expect him to rebound in the dog days of August. He turns 23 in February.

Ryan Jeffers was an aggressive call up from the Miracle. He hit great in May and June but slumped in July in Fort Myers, with a .507 OPS in 16 July games there. Being reunited with Larnach (and leaving the pitcher-friendly FSL) helped him get back on track, though. In his first 4 games in Double-A he is 6 for 16 with a double and two homers.

Travis Blankenhorn started July off super hot, hitting .354/.380/.583 in his first 11 games of the month, but a trip to the IL has stunted the continuation of a great season.

Ben Rortvedt posted just a .552 OPS in 24 June games after starting off hot with a 1.049 OPS in 11 games at the level in May. He has rebounded slightly in July, hitting .237/.286/.373 in July. Rortvedt has always been glove first—he has thrown out 17 of 38 baserunners at Double-A— but you would really love to see him find another gear with the bat. He turns 22 in late September.

High-A: Fort Myers Miracle

Pitching:

Jordan Balazovic has returned to earth a bit, but is still pitching at a very solid level for a 20 year old in High-A. He has pitched sparingly in the month of July for the Twins affiliate due to the Futures Game and now pitching for Canada in the PanAmerican Games. In his two appearances in affiliated ball this month, he has thrown 8.2 innings with a 3.12 ERA and a 10/1 K/BB rate for Fort Myers. He has a 101/20 K/BB rate on the year.

Blayne Enlow has been roughed up a bit in July, struggling to a 7.31 ERA in 16 innings over 4 games with just a 9/5 K/BB rate. He is getting close to his inning total from last season, so hopefully he can push through the struggles into a solid second wind to end the season.

Cole Sands on the other hand, has been pitching great since his promotion to the Miracle. In 7 starts overall he has a 2.41 ERA and a 42/4 K/BB rate in 41 innings. He only walked two batters in 24.2 innings in July while striking out 23 and producing a 2.55 ERA over 4 starts. He doesn’t turn 23 until July of 2020 and it isn’t unreasonable for him to start at Double-A next spring if his success continues.

Tyler Watson has found himself acting as a piggyback pitcher occasionally, with the Miracle’s rotation so stacked. He has pitched well for the month of July. In 4 games (2 starts) he has a 1.66 ERA over 21.2 innings, but with a so-so 13/4 K/BB rate (good control, bad K%).

Lachlan Wells has returned after missing all of 2018 with Tommy John. It’s not uncommon to see people returning from surgery have some up and down outings and Wells is no different. He has a 5.25 ERA so far in 5 appearances for the Miracle, but did have a 6 inning, shutout performance on July 20th. He has only given up 5 walks in his 29 innings that include a rehab appearance in the GCL.

Yennier Cano is the 25 year old righty from Cuba we signed a few months ago. He hasn’t pitched for the Miracle yet but was recently promoted. He had two appearances in the GCL as a tune up. In his first game he walked 4 and gave up a hit on 17 pitches. Yes, his only strike was a hit. His second appearance was much better, striking out two over two hitless innings. He could move quickly next year.

Hitting:

The Miracle lineup was once the big ticket to watch for the Twins farm system, now it is a shadow of its former self.

Jose Miranda still can’t seem to figure it out at a difficult level to hit, posting a .645 OPS in the month of July even though he only struck out 6 times.

Trey Cabbage, on the other hand, struck out 26 times in 23 July games and managed a .708 OPS thanks to 6 doubles, 2 triples, and 2 homers.

Gabriel Maciel started hot in Fort Myers, and had a good month overall with a .280/.343/.366 line, but he has only hit .171 in his last ten games. The slight speedster even hit two homers this month!

Jacob Pearson is another outfielder who “earned” his call up a level but has actually fared well so far. He posted a .634 OPS in Cedar Rapids but in 12 games in Florida he has a .293/.341/.439 line so far.

Andrew Bechtold has been slowly turning his season around. He struggled to a .554 OPS in his first 10 games at this level, but in 23 July games he hit .267/.337/.387 in a pitching-friendly environment.

Yeltsin Encarsion turned 21 at the end of June and has had an interesting month of July. He was an emergency call up to Triple-A Rochester and had a three hit night, and then was sent to the Miracle, where in 5 games so far he has gone 2 for 16.

Akil Baddoo is out for the year with TJ surgery.

Low-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels

Pitching

Josh Winder didn’t have a solid month, with a 5.60 ERA over 17 innings, but his peripherals were still solid with a 20/4 K/BB rate in that time. Austin Schulfer has a similar story, posting a miserable 6.84 ERA in 25 innings in July but a pretty decent 28/11 K/BB rate. Kody Funderburk has struggled a bit after returning from the IL, giving up 4 runs in his first 2.1 innings back and then walking 4 over 3 innings in his second appearance of the month.

Luis Rijo has been absolutely thriving in Cedar Rapids. He posted a 4.20 ERA in 15 innings in April, then a 2.95 ERA over 21.1 innings in May, a 0.61 ERA!!! over 14.2 June innings, and has come back in July with a 2.36 ERA over 26.2 innings in July, where he also had an insane 27-3 K/BB rate. He turns 21 in early September, and came over in the Lance Lynn deal in 2018.

Hitting:

The new hotness taking over Cedar Rapids is Spencer Steer, the third round pick by the Twins in this year’s draft out of Oregon. Steer was a bit of an unheralded pick, unranked by MLBPipeline with relatively low rankings by Baseball America and Fangraphs compared to where he was taken. But the dude has been on absolute fire since turning pro. In 20 games in Elizabethton he hit .325/.442/.506 with a 5/15 K/BB rate (insane). He obviously earned his promotion to Cedar Rapids and has continued to hit, posting a .328/.412/.483 line in Single-A with a 6/7 K/BB rate. He has played mostly third and second base in Cedar Rapids (deferring to Wander Javier at SS) and could continue his quick move up the system next year, where he doesn’t turn 22 until July.

Speaking of Wander Javier... he still sucks. He has a terrible 42/8 K/BB rate in 25 July games and has hit for an exact .163 average each of the last two months. He did hit 4 homers in July so yay.

Gilberto Celestino has flirted with the idea of turning it on all season, usually teetering back into a slump quickly after a string of good games. But in July he finally turned it around and hasn’t looked back. In 26 games in the month of July, the outfielder hit .369/.430/.563 with 7 doubles, 2 triples, 3 homers, and a 18/10 K/BB rate. Since the Single-A All Star Game he is hitting .345/.413/.518. Considering Celestino was a big part of the Ryan Pressly deal, it is great to see him turn his season around, and he doesn’t turn 21 until February.

Ricky De La Torre started the season well, but has really struggled as of late, hitting for a .401 OPS in the month of July.

Trevor Casanova was drafted as a catcher in the 13th round last year, but has moved to the outfield this season and has spent most of his time at DH. In his 27 games this year at Single-A (he also had 3 emergency call up games in Fort Myers earlier this year) he has hit for a .239/.330/.420 line with 4 homers.

Alex Isola is another quick moving draftee from this years draft. Picked in the 29th round out of TCU, the catcher hit .400 in 7 rookie ball games before promotion, and has hit .261/.327/.457 in 14 games in Cedar Rapids. He doesn’t turn 22 until July of 2020.

Yunior Severino has mashed so far during a 4 game rehab stint in the GCL, hitting .286 and has a single, double, triple, and home run among his 4 hits. He might go straight to Fort Myers when he gets back from his rehab assignment.

Rookie-Ball

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 was drafted with patience in mind, so don’t freak out. He is hitting .169/.234/.237 so far in 17 games in the GCL with 23 Ks and 4 walks in that span. He has been at SS for all of his games in the field and has 2 errors in 13 games. He could easily spend another season in rookie ball next year as the Twins help hone his swing. He only turns 19 in June.

Matt Wallner should hopefully see some time in Cedar Rapids soon after a strong transition to pro ball. In 37 games so far he has hi .289/.392/.465 with 14 doubles, a triple, and 3 homers to go along with a Rooker-esque 50/14 K/BB rate.

Will Holland was a big over-slot sign from the 5th round this year. We took him knowing we would have to rework his swing to untap his bat-to-ball skills and his power. He has been hitting for power so far, but also striking out a lot. In 19 games he is hitting .164/.282/.328 with 3 homers but a 25/7 K/BB rate. In his last 5 games, though, he is 6 for 17 with 2 homers, and a 3/2 K/BB rate. If we can figure out his swing, he will be an absolute steal.

Willie Joe Garry Jr. has a great name and we took him with an over-slot deal in the 9th round in 2018. He struggled in rookie ball last year but is doing better so far this year, with a .269/.356/.429 line and a 41/12 K/BB rate. He doesn’t turn 20 until May 29th of 2020.

Charles Mack was another over-slot sign from 2018, taken in the 6th round. He hasn’t started too hot this year, with a .220/.308/.362 line overall with a 44/14 K/BB rate in 33 games, but he has hit 5 homers in that span and in his last ten games has hit .300 with a 6/1 K/BB rate. He turns 20 in November.

Matt Cantarino was our second round pick this June, and in two outings this month he has given up one run over 5 innings, striking out 6 while walking one. He was a true workhorse in his time at Rice, so I don’t think we will see him throw much the rest of the year. He could still start in Cedar Rapids next year, like Cole Sands did in April.

Thoughts

The trade deadline has come and gone, with Lewin Diaz, Jaylin Davis, Kai-Wei Teng, and Prelander Berroa leaving the system. We did pick up Chris Vallimont and Marcos Diplan to add to our minor league pitching depth.

If you are anywhere near Pensacola, please go watch the Blue Wahoos. Upon the return of Brusdar Graterol the team will feature four Top 100 prospects (according to MLB Pipeline) as well as guys like Ryan Jeffers, Ben Rortvedt, and Jorge Alcala. No one is truly happy with the seasons of Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff, but Lewis has turned it around a bit and is still on an aggressive track. Kirilloff likely needs some time off to heal that wrist completely but is still putting the bat to the ball.

Our pitching depth continues to improve its stock. Cole Sands was a bit of a sleeper pick last year and has been phenomenal this year. So too has Edwar Colina, who could see time in the big league pen next year. And these guys aren’t even Jordan Balazovic or Joan Dhuran, who are both on national radars now.

The draftee stock is looking okay so far, with Matt Wallner and Spencer Steer leading the way. Steer can absolutely hit and is greatly improving his prospect stock, which hardly existed previously. Patience is needed with Keoni Cavaco, Will Holland, and even Matt Cantarino to an extent, but they will be solid chips in the system.

Things are bright in our farm system, having kept most of our deep system intact while still improving the big league team in July.