2019-20 MLB International Reviews: Minnesota Twins
The Twins won 101 games and finished first in the American League Central in 2019 thanks in large part to contributions from their homegrown international players. Shortstop Jorge Polanco, third baseman Miguel Sano and outfielder Max Kepler—all Twins signings from their 2009 international class—posted 3-WAR or better seasons, per Baseball-Reference.com, with a combined 12.8 WAR between them. Second baseman Luis Arraez, signed out of Venezuela in 2013, hit .344/.399/.439 in 92 games as a 22-year-old rookie. Righthander Brusdar Graterol, a 2014 signing from Venezuela, made his major league debut and is Minnesota's top pitching prospect as well as a Top 100 prospect in the game.
In 2019, the Twins' top bonus went to Emmanuel Rodriguez, a 16-year-old Dominican outfielder who signed for $2.5 million. Rodriguez has a simple, low maintenance swing from the left side, with quiet hands and a direct cut to the ball. As an amateur, Rodriguez would at times get pull-heavy trying to swing for the fences, but he's done a better job staying through the ball and using the whole field since then, driving the ball well to the left-center field gap during batting practice and even hitting an opposite field home run during a game in the Dominican instructional league. At 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, Rodriguez has packed on significant strength since teams scouted him as an amateur, with his power increasing to flash above-average now. He ran well at his best as an amateur, but he has slowed to average and will probably settle in as a below-average runner as he gets bigger. For now, the Twins will develop him as a center fielder, but he figures to move to a corner spot, with an above-average arm that would fit in right field to go with good instincts for his age. The Twins have been starting all of their players in the Dominican Summer League, so Rodriguez is expected to debut there in 2020. Rodriguez trained with Chico Fana, whose program in 2017 had shortstop Jelfry Marte, who signed with the Rays after the Twins voided their $3 million deal with him due to an issue with Marte's vision.
The Twins signed another Dominican outfielder, Malfrin Sosa, for $900,000. Sosa, 17, is a physical, power-hitting corner outfielder with loud thunder when he connects, though it comes with high swing-and-miss risk. At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Sosa has the strength to punish the balls he barrels with 60 raw power that could still tick up. The power Sosa shows in batting practice is among the best in the 2019 class, but his swing gets long as he bars his arm at times, with an aggressive, pull-conscious approach that leaves him with holes. He will probably always have a high strikeout rate, so making adjustments to get enough contact and drawing enough walks to help offset those whiffs will be important for Sosa. He's a below-average runner whose athleticism and defensive skills fit best in left field, with some first base risk depending how big he gets. Sosa trained with William Valdez.
The top pitcher the Twins added in 2019 is Venezuelan righthander Joseph Yabbour. He's a cousin of Ronald Acuña (their mothers are twin sisters), so Yabbour is part of one of baseball's biggest families that includes Kelvim and Alcides Escobar as well. He has the frame and three-pitch mix to project as a starter, with a fastball that has climbed since signing. When Yabbour joined the Twins, he reached 91 mph, but by the end of the Dominican instructional league in November, his fastball touched 94 mph. As a 16-year-old with more physical projection remaining in his 6-foot, 175-pound frame and in a family where seemingly everyone has a big arm, Yabbour should be able to add more velocity in the next few years. He mixes in a slider and a changeup, with his slider ahead right now and showing the ability to miss bats. Yabbour was an erratic strike-thrower as an amateur, but since signing he has shown better control. He trained with Carlos Guillen.
Argenis Jimenez is an athletic Venezuelan outfielder who trained with Francisco Ortiz and signed with the Twins. Jimenez, 16, is a center fielder with above-average speed underway and an average arm. At 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, Jimenez impressed the Twins with his instincts for the game and ability to put the ball in play from the right side. He's still learning to take a more selective hitting approach, with gap power that could tick up as he gets stronger.
The Twins spent $550,000 to sign 16-year-old Dominican infielder Yonardy Soto, who trained with Jaime Ramos. Soto (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) impressed the Twins with his swing and feel for hitting from the left side of the plate, staying inside the ball well with gap power, though with up-and-down game performance. Soto signed as a shortstop, though he probably will spend more time at second or third base. His arm is average, but he's a below-average runner who will need to clean up his defensive actions to avoid moving to a corner outfield position.
Dominican third baseman Breilin Ramirez signed with the Twins for $400,000 after training with Alfredo Arias. Ramirez, 17, has a big frame (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) and his best tool is his raw power. It comes more from strength than pure bat speed, and his power will probably come with some swing-and-miss. A below-average runner, Ramirez has the arm strength for third base, but he will need to improve his agility and clean up his infield actions to avoid a move to the outfield.
On June 15, the final day of the 2018-19 signing period, the Twins still had money left in their bonus pool, so they spent $750,000 to sign Cuban righthander Yennier Cano at the buzzer. Cano is 25 and pitched briefly out of the bullpen for high Class A Fort Myers, where he posted a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings with 13 strikeouts and 10 walks. Cano can run his fastball into the mid-90s at his best, with inconsistent secondaries between his slider and changeup.