Brooks Lee wins round 1, narrowly beating out Royce Lewis to take the top spot.
- Brooks Lee 49.7% (Lewis 41.9%, Rodriguez 8.4%)
For the second round, I’ll add in two players who rose from Double A all the way to the major league squad. Vote below or on Twitter (or both if you want to stuff the ballots).
Royce Lewis, SS
2023 Age: 24
2022 Stats (MLB/AAA): 46 G, .310/.397/.538, 7 HR, 12 SB
The No. 1 pick in the 2017 Draft, out of the Southern California high school ranks, Lewis played up to advanced billing in his first year-plus of pro ball, with a .292/.352/.451 slash line across two levels of A ball in his first full season. He struggled in ‘19, though he went to the Futures Game and reached Double-A. He seemed to right the ship with an MVP performance in the Arizona Fall League, but he didn’t play a competitive game for two years because of the pandemic and a torn ACL suffered in Spring Training of ‘21. He made a triumphant return to competitive play in ‘22, earning his first callup to the big leagues, only to tear the same ACL when he crashed into the center-field wall in his second Major League stint.
Lewis has tremendous upside when he’s healthy. He had close to top-of-the-scale speed before he hurt his knee that made him a dangerous baserunner. With a lot of moving parts to his swing and a big leg kick, Lewis got out of sync in 2019, but he seemed to get his timing back in the AFL and at the Twins’ alternate training site in ‘20. He’s worked to quiet his setup and smooth out his swing, and losing the leg kick helped his timing before his second knee injury. He is capable of driving the ball to all fields and there’s plenty of raw power for him to tap into.
Drafted as a shortstop, Lewis has mostly played the premium position as a pro, and had made enough improvements for most to believe he and his above-average arm can stick there in the big leagues. He also showed off positional flexibility in the AFL, including some plus defensive ability in center field. He was added to the 40-man roster this past offseason, but now Lewis and the Twins will have to wait 12 months from his June surgery to get him back into action again.
Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF
2023 Age: 20
2022 Stats (A): 47 G, .272/.492/.551, 9 HR, 57 BB, 11 SB
Rodriguez was a top 10 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 international prospects list for 2019-20 when the signing period opened up in July of 2019. The Twins were all in, giving the toolsy outfielder $2.75 million to sign, then had to wait a bit to see what he could do in a real competitive setting. He participated in instructs the fall after he signed and rehabbed a hand injury there a year later. When he finally made his pro debut, it was stateside, and he showed off his raw power by hitting 10 homers in 37 games in the Florida Complex League. He was making another big step forward during his full-season debut in 2022 when a torn meniscus required surgery and ended his season in June.
There aren’t many in the Twins organization who have more raw power than Rodriguez does and he has the chance to be an impact left-handed hitter with bat speed. His swing can get a little funky, with a tendency to get a little steep. For him to get to his power, he has to catch the ball out front, so it’s mostly shown up to the pull side thus far, and the Twins have worked with him to get his bat in the zone a little longer to reduce the swing-and-miss that showed up during his debut. He tends not to miss strikes, but does chase a good amount, though a willingness to draw walks is a foundation for a solid approach.
Rodriguez has good speed and solid instincts in the outfield, but it’s unclear if he’ll be able to stick in center field long-term. The good news is he has a plus arm that would work well in right field and there’s confidence he’ll make the adjustments to have the power profile teams covet from a corner spot.
Matt Wallner, OF
2023 Age: 25
2022 Stats (MLB/AAA/AA): 146 G, .272/.403/.524, 29 HR, 105 RBI, 195 SO
As a three-year starter at Southern Miss, Wallner hit for power consistently, even when pitching his first two years. He set the school’s career home run mark when he hit 23 out as a junior, leading to him being taken in the Compeititive Balance Round A by the Twins. The pop has shown up as a pro, along with the swing-and-miss concerns, even despite missing a good chunk of 2021 with a broken hamate. He made up for lost time and showed off his carrying tool in the Arizona Fall League.
While it’s possible Wallner came back too soon from the hamate fracture, thus impacting his hit tool, the power did come back and he slugged .606 in the AFL. He has as much raw pop as anyone in the system and despite some swing issues, he’s shown he can get to it. There will likely always be high strikeout rates, but he has shown a better hit tool in the lower part of the strike zone, and the Twins have worked with him to tone down his swing so he can be more consistent at the top of the zone.
Wallner has a plus arm that fired mid-90s fastballs as a reliever in college that works well in right field, though he’s a fringy, at best, defender. If he can continue to shrink the zone in order to increase the damage he can do when he puts the ball in play, he does have a Joey Gallo-esque offensive ceiling. (Twinkie Town editor’s note: lmao)
Louie Varland, SP
2023 Age: 25
2023 Stats (MLB/AAA/AA): 152.1 IP, 3.20 ERA/3.67 RA9, 1.256 WHIP, 9.9 K/9
There have been a grand total of four players ever drafted from Division II Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn., and two of them are named Varland. Gus went in round 14 in 2018 and is now with the Dodgers, while younger brother Louie went a year, and one round, later. He was a revelation in his first full season in 2021, showing improved stuff and dominating across two levels of A ball en route to being named the organization’s Minor League pitcher of the year, then has followed that up by pitching his way to Triple-A in 2022. (TT Editors Note: this was before his MLB debut)
A focus on changing his arm action to reduce joint stress led to increased velocity and movement on his fastball, not to mention nastier secondary stuff. Varland entered pro ball maxing out at 92 mph, but averaged 94 mph in 2021 and touched 98 mph. His changeup is his best secondary offering, thrown with really good action to it, but his slider might be catching up. He throws it in the mid-80s and will continue to work on adding side-to-side movement in order to miss bats with it. He can still fold in a get-me-over slower curve to give hitters a different look.
Even with the increased velocity and action, Varland did a very nice job of filling up the strike zone with all of his offerings. He was the fastest riser in the system in 2021 and the Twins are excited about what he’s done for an encore.
2023 Twins Prospect Vote Round 2
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