While the Twins don’t have much in the way of elite prospects at the moment, they do have a lot of depth and a few prospects who have some very high ceilings but have dealt with injury or a totally unexpected down year. That being the case, the Twins could see elite prospects reemerge and the farm system rise substantially next year. As with the previous list, I'm using MLB.com's prospect list for the update.
#6 – Simeon Woods Richardson - a22 - St. Paul Saints (AAA), Starter - 6.79 ERA, 5.46 FIP, 7.58 K/9, 5.21 BB/9, 1.79 WHIP
Richardson may be listed as the #6 prospect for the Twins at MLB.com, but similar to Balazovic last year, Woods-Richardson has cratered so hard in AAA this year, it’s tough to consider him worthy of following closely. Though Woods-Richardson is still very young (he’s only 22), this is his 5th year in professional baseball. Drafted by the Mets at age 17, he was promoted quickly and found himself in A+ at age 18 with the expected trajectory of elite starter. Unfortunately, the expectations for mid-upper 90s fastballs never materialized and after a trade to Toronto and a blistering start at AA in 2021, it was all downhill. After acquiring Woods-Richardson in the exchange for Jose Berrios, then waiting for the Olympics in Tokyo to end, the Twins were apparently quite surprised when they saw their new pitcher in person. Rather than placing Woods-Richardson in Wichita, the front office instead assigned the young hurler to the developmental league. An ominous sign leaving fans baffled as to why they weren’t seeing the new prospect. It turns out Woods-Richardson’s limited use in the Olympics, long time off were accompanied by mechanical issues which were also robbing velocity. Even into last year the young pitcher is reported to have struggled repeating his mechanics and maintaining velocity. Woods-Richardson sits at 90-91mph on good days with his fastball now making it critical his command is top notch and it’s just not there. It looked like things were working out in AAA last year, but that appears to have been a flash in the pan. This is a long write up for a prospect who’s fallen so far, but only because of the enticing potential and winding road to this point. Still just 22yrs old there is time left to develop, Woods-Richardson is a true 4 pitch starting pitcher. Obviously, it will put the Twins in a tough position if his performance doesn’t improve dramatically in the 2nd half as I don’t think the Twins could get him through the rule 5 draft should they leave him off the roster.
#7 – Jose Salas – a20, SS/2B – Cedar Rapids Kernels (A+) - .175/.267/.259, ISO .083, OPS .526, wRC+ 57
Acquired from Miami as part of the Arraez trade (yes it was for more than just Lopez), Jose Salas has a very interesting history. Born and raised in Orlando, FL, Salas moved to Venezuela in his teens before being signed as an international free agent by the Marlins. Salas is a natural SS moved to primarily 2B while Twins CBA (1st round) pick, Noah Miller, puts the majority of time in at short for the Kernels this year. To be frank, I expect the switch hitting Salas to drop further down into the depths for the Twins prospect list as the coaches haven’t been able to get Salas to choose better pitches (stop me if you’ve heard of this issue for the Twins this year…) and the 8.3% BB and 26.5% K rates are both trending backwards from last year in A+ ball for Miami’s Beloit Snappers (I remember those guys!). There is hope the pop develops for Salas’ bat, but it feels like Salas is overmatched at A+ and might benefit from a trip down to Fort Myers to gain confidence. Just hanging him out there to dry doesn’t seem like it’s going to help.
#8 – David Festa – a23, SP – Wichita Wind Surge (AA) – 5.21 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 11.21 K/9, 3.79 BB/9, 1.44 WHIP
Festa’s been a bit of a Sabermetrics darling (Fangraphs had Festa as #94 in MLB), Festa’s 6’6" frame added a couple ticks to the baseball before his 13th round draft by the Twins in 2021, up to 91ish. The Twins continued to help Festa make huge strides in velocity and Festa now sits in the mid 90s with upper 90s possible. Festa’s improved velocity saw him dominate Ft. Myers in 2022, earning him a promotion to Cedar Rapids where the numbers tapered off, but showed promise. The Twins decided Festa’s skill was ready for real testing at AA in Wichita this year where Festa’s run into a lot more trouble. Festa’s still striking out tons of hitters (28.7%), but opponents have been laying off many of Festa’s offerings out of the zone to take free passes at a much too high clip (9.7%). On top of that, the BABIP of .356 is accompanied by a slightly elevated 14.3% HR/FB rate. When it comes to the big show, BABIP is pretty stable, but in the minors it often just points to pitches which are easy to square up. The elevated home run rate lines up with the BABIP being elevated and is not a desirable sign. It’s worth noting that Festa is currently developing a curveball and his changeup is a work in progress as well so results aren’t as important as progress on developing a 3rd and 4th offering. If Festa is able to get his alternates working well, his floor rises dramatically. As it is right now, Festa’s probably more a bullpen piece than a starter IMHO. He’s only gone 5 innings once in his past 8 starts.
#9 – Austin Martin – a24, 2B – St. Paul Saints (AAA) – .125/.250/.208, ISO .083, OPS .458 wRC+ 19
Keep in mind, Martin has been moved to 2B and only has 28 plate appearances in St. Paul after the Twins decided on the rest and rehab approach to Martin’s sprained UCL in Spring Training. Martin’s just gotten back to St. Paul as of July 3rd so you can pretty well ignore the numbers. Martin’s days as a shortstop are likely over and that’s just as well since he was badly overtaxed at the position to begin with. Hopefully, the rest and rehab approach will prove enough to avoid TJ long term and Martin can get back on track at the plate this year. As many fans know, the Twins experimented with Martin’s swing by trying to get him to lift and drive the ball better last year, but it resulted in trading line drives for soft fly balls and the mediocre-light pop in the prospects bat dwindled to slap singles territory. This year, it’s expected Martin will return to the higher contact swing which made him a top prospect. Martin’s tools are still highly respected in the scouting community and avoiding surgery has given him the opportunity to push his stock way back up. Most scouts were already pegging him as a second baseman to begin with so the position swap shouldn’t dissuade anybody from being excited for his future. At the very least, we can all be excited he’s back playing baseball!
#10 – Noah Miller – a20, SS – Cedar Rapids Kernels (A+) - .217/.285/.312 ISO .094, OPS .597, wRC+ 73
Yeah, so MLB.com has Matt Canterino at #10. I just can’t do it. So I’m going to end this list on a higher note. If you’re looking at Miller’s triple slash, I’m sure you’re thinking "that’s the high note?" but you’d be missing how the season has progressed. Miller playing elite level SS defense (RF/9 = 4.40). If you care to dig into the numbers like I did with Brooks Lee, Miller’s surface stats hold up. Miller’s the best defensive shortstop in the league, and by a pretty solid margin, IMHO. Keeping in mind he’s only 20, the pop in the bat has improved and he’s dropped his K rate to 20.3% vs. 23.5% last season at Low A in Ft. Myers. But it gets better. Over Miller’s last 20 games (since 6/15), his slash is .264/.316/.431 OPS .747 wRC+ 110 with the help of a couple 5-7 game hot streaks. I like there being multiple hot streaks and Miller has homered in his last two games after homering only twice during the entire season before now. Noah Miller’s showing some real promise lately despite being not only young for the league overall, but young for a high level prospect in the league. It’s exciting to have some positive results for a prospect who was falling down the charts a bit. Of course, it could just be a flash in the pan like Cavaco showed a couple times, but I’d rather choose to be optimistic due to Miller’s excellent defense not requiring him to rake to have a place.
Tanner Schobel – a22, 3B/Infield – Cedar Rapids Kernels (A+) - .283/.360/.483, ISO .200, OPS .842 wRC+ 138
Tanner Schobel’s been playing 3B almost exclusively for the Twins in Cedar Rapids this year, and 2B last year after being drafted in the second round. While scouts have Schobel pegged as a potential shortstop with mixed reviews on his arm and speed, the Twins haven’t played Schobel at short with top prospects entrenched. Schobel’s game power took a big step forward this year and he’s shown better discipline at the plate over the last 20 games, where his K rate has been 15.4%, reducing his season numbers to 19.0%. That reduced K rate has come with more contact and a .293/.363/.634 triple slash for an OPS of .997 which translates to wRC+ 175 despite the lower BABIP of just .267. With the leap forward at the plate, Schobel’s stock should be on the rise soon. A promotion to Wichita is possible, but the roster is awfully tight there for the moment.