2023 Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects Chat

JJ Cooper hosted a chat to discuss the Twins system. You can read the transcript here.

Brendan (Boston, MA):

     6 months after the draft, how does Brooks Lee compare to the other top college bats he was being drafted around? Have any of the tier 1 college hitters significantly changed their value in that short time?

J.J. Cooper: It’s hard to make many adjustments to how we perceive the college bats when so few of these players have gotten enough PAs to consider it significant. None of these players has had 200 pro PAs yet. The only hitter who could be argued to have changed the perception so far is maybe Zach Neto, because he went straight to Double-A and hit very well in a relatively small sample. I would the overall perceptions pretty much remains what it was around the time of the draft. We didn’t expect Lee would get to where the Twins picked. The Kumar Rocker and Cade Horton picks meant he felt. That could end up being a fortunate turn of events for the Twins.

Danny (Texas):

     Cody Laweryson had a great year. Was he in the top 10 conversation? Could you give us your favorite sleeper prospect to follow?

J.J. Cooper: He was not in Top 10 consideration. Laweryson had a great year, but he did so with a whole lot of funk, good control and arguably no plus pitch. That didn’t come into consideration for the top 10 range. I would say Alejandro Hidalgo, the recent Twins pickup for Gio Urshela, is an interesting sleeper. His changeup is really good.

Kevin (St Cloud):

     Why are the Twins so obsessed by players from Minnesota?

J.J. Cooper: This is something a few teams do. The Braves have long fished heavily in drafting Georgia players. They figure they will know their area better than anyone else, which is a reasonable assumption. And for a team whose weather can be a turn-off to free agents at times, there may be a little bit of advantage of acquiring local players. But it’s not like the Twins are drafting all the Minnesotans who go in the top 3 rounds. The Twins last drafted a Minnesotan in the top 100 picks in 2004 (Glen Perkins). Since then there have been 10 Minnesotans who have been drafted in the top 100 picks by other teams.

Zac (NYC):

     Obviously we’d never compare someone to Soto, but the write-up on Rodriguez sounds very similar. Is he the closest prospect you’ve seen to Soto’s profile in recent years? Any other “on-base machine” types in the Twins system?

J.J. Cooper: You picked up on that huh? Rodriguez had an outstanding season last year, but it also is one inadvertently perfectly constructed to both make him fascinating and leave a lot of questions unanswered. When he played, he did everything you could hope to see from a young outfielder. He hit for power, he got on base, he was pickier swinging at balls out of the zone than a 2-year-old at a salad bar. And here’s the but. He had 200 PAs. If he had begun the season with exactly what he did last year, but then saw all of those numbers back up a little after a promotion to High-A, it would add info and maybe cool the heat just a little. Right now he’s a clear top 100 prospect in my mind. If you want to be incredibly aggressive, you could say he’s top 25 prospect, but I think it’s more judicious to say that he could be that in another 6 months. Other OBP machines (other than Julien, since that’s obvious) are Tanner Schoebel , Austin Martin and potentially Danny De Adrade.

Sam (NYC):

     Hi JJ – Thanks for the chat – Based on the write-up, it looks like Prielipp has #2 starter upside – is that a fair assessment? Thanks –

J.J. Cooper: That’s the upside, if you accept that there are a whole lot of steps Prielipp will have to cover to get from where he is now to there. There’s big upside and a lot of risk.

Al (NC):

     How good is Lee’s defense, and how likely is it that it will improve. Also, what’s his MLB ETA? Thanks!

J.J. Cooper: It’s hard to find a whole lot of expectations he’ll stick at shortstop long term, but he’s also a pretty safe bet to stay in the infield. As the writeup notes, he’s most likely a very good 3B long term, although he could probably handle 2B if needed. As far as defensive improvement, I think trying to stay at shortstop could be somewhat limiting for Lee’s offense potentially, as it would force him to potentially trade size and strength and power for mobility. If it all breaks right, a late 2024 or 2025 arrival seems to make the most sense.

Micheal (South Dakota):

     Would any of Spencer Steer, Chase Petty, Cade Povich or Christian Encarcion-Strand have been in the top 10?

J.J. Cooper: If any one of them was still a Twin, I would say 3 of the 4 (Steer/Petty/Encarnacion-Strand) would have been definite Top 10 guys and Povich would have maybe slotted at 10. If all 4 were still Twins, then no, 2-3 would have slotted on the top 10 and the other 2 would have been just off the list.

MikeR (Lockport, NY):

     What is the word on Jose Rodriguez ? Is he a prototype RF; any concerns about his swing ? Hit for power it appears in the DSL.

J.J. Cooper: Having finished the Twins 11-30 for the Prospect Handbook I can tell you that you won’t have to read for very long past the 10 to find his name. As concerns go, I would say it’s more about approach, as he can be a little overaggressive. Prototype RF may be a little strong, as he could outgrow the position.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     Of the pitchers the Orioles received (Cade Povich, Yennier Cano, Juan Nunez, and Juan Rojas) for Jorge Lopez – which of those four hurlers, if any, do you think it was a mistake for the Twins to trade away?

J.J. Cooper: Povich would have easily ranked the highest of the 4, but Nunez and Rojas are both good guys to keep an eye on. They are just so far away that there is a whole lot of risk and variance in their outcomes. There’s a general reason that complex level pitchers are great additional pieces in trades, but very rarely are the centerpiece of a trade.

Warren (New London):

     How would you compare Emmanuel Rodriguez to Jasson Dominguez and George Valera?

J.J. Cooper: Way more risk because of less of a resume, but I’d probably rank him over both of them at this point.

Micheal (South Dakota):

     The Twins have several former to 10 players that have been slowed by injuries, Balozovic, Canterino, Enlow, Martin, Cavaco. If all those players return to form, would the Twins have one of the top farms in the league?

J.J. Cooper: No. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but some of these guys aren’t stars who were derailed by injury. Most of the players you listed are the types that can be found in pretty much any and all organizations. Keoni Cavaco is a .622 OPS hitter in 700 MiLB PAs while moving down the defensive spectrum. There’s not a whole lot of realistic ways Cavaco becomes a top prospect. Balazovic took a big step back last year. There is hope he will bounce back, but even if he does, his massive struggles in 2022 would remain a cause for concern. Enlow is kind of what he is at this point. He’s a likely big leaguer, but unlikely to be an impactful big leaguer. I’ll cover Austin Martin in another question in more depth, but it’s unlikely at this point that he can play SS or hit for power, which is why he used to be a top 50 prospect. Canterino, now that’s a player who could climb back up with health, but even in that case, I’d say a Jhoan Duran type impact reliever is more likely than a front-line starter.

Chris (IL):

     Safe to say faith in Austin Martin is at an all-time low at BA? Will not be fooled by the way he finished the season or AFL?

J.J. Cooper: He will rank on the 11-30, but no, his Fall League and less than 100 PAs against what from many scouts we talked to was really weak AFL pitching is not something to massively alter assessments. I would say it’s more than at this point it’s logical to reassess what Martin is. If you write off the idea that Martin is a shortstop and write off him hitting for power, then you can assess him for what he does do well. He gets on-base. If he focuses on hitting for average and making contact he can be a useful top/bottom of the order bat whose value is largely based on on-base percentage and batting average. If you think of him as more of a high-contact, slap hitter, that’s probably the best outcome. Defensively, he’s fine in the outfield and he may be OK at second base if he can focus on playing him there. Second base may depend more on range with the new shift rules, and he is rangy, it’s the arm that is a concern.

Brian (Long Island, NY):

     How much playing time do you expect from Royce Lewis this season and at what position(s)?

J.J. Cooper: As we sit here right now with Kyle Farmer, starting Twins shortstop, I would have to say shortstop is his primary position because that’s what they need. 50 games as he likely gets back midseason at best.

Jonah (Waltham):

     Would you please cover Austin Martin more in depth?

J.J. Cooper: I hope the answer I just gave, which is admittedly later in the chat, covers it. If you have other questions, feel free to follow up.

Warren (New London):

     I haven’t heard much about Yasser Mercedes, but he seems really intriguing. How close was he to the top 10? Is there any chance he could jump to full season ball next year?

J.J. Cooper: If I was going to pick a non top 10 Twins prospect who cracks the Twins Top 5 a year from now, it’s Yasser Mercedes. He’s not far from the top 10 already and I gave it solid consideration. He’s a very, very interesting but far away prospect.

Tyler (NJ):

     It looks like the Twins had a strong international signing class in 2022. Of Bryan Acuna, Yasser Mercedes, and Jose Rodriguez, who’s looking like the best young bat behind Emmanuel Rodriguez?

J.J. Cooper: All 3 are in the top 30, but I’d choose Yasser as the best of the bunch.

Warren (New London):

     Owen Miller hit well in the minor leagues but couldn’t stick at shortstop. So far Noah Miller seems like the opposite of that, though he had a nice walk rate. I’m guessing he’s still in the 30. Do you think the bat will come along?

J.J. Cooper: Absolutely he’s still in the 30. He’s a great glove shortstop. There are concerns about the bat, but he also was a cold-weather high school hitter making a very big jump. Concerns? Sure. Great glove? Absolutely. But he is going to have to put in a lot of work in the cage to improve the swing.

Bill B (Glen Allen, VA):

     The cupboard seems barren… in terms of current prospects as well as former top prospects (Alex Kiriloff and others) who just haven’t performed as well as planned. Bad luck? Too many injuries? Bad management of farm system? Looks like a few lean years ahead for twins fans. Thanks

J.J. Cooper: Lean years are possible, but it’s also a sign of the higher expectations of the Twins that this seems like lean years when the Twins will have a solid rotation (Gray-Maeda-Ryan-Mahle-Ober, etc), a good pen (Duran-Lopez) and a decent lineup if everyone remains healthy. That puts them in better shape than at least half of the AL Central if not more… Kiriloff and Kepler haven’t developed as hoped, that is a big issue for the Twins. The Twins have whiffed on some first rounders but has done pretty well drafting and developing after the first round. But the farm system is thinned out because of trades. The Twins have traded their first, second, third and fourth round picks from the 2021 draft. That’s going to leave a mark.

Don (Tampa FL):

     Yasser Mercedes, what’s to like what not to like?

J.J. Cooper: A lot to like (see above answer). Not much not to like except he has a lot of development ahead.

Tyler (NJ):

     When looking at Marco Raya I can’t help but wonder why he isn’t getting top 100 consideration when compared to Tink Hence. Both pitchers were drafted before their 18th birthday, missed the majority of 2021, then were exceptional in the FSL at 19. However, they both did it in shorter starts and in less than 70 total innings. What does Raya need to do to make that leap?

J.J. Cooper: I do think Hence’s stuff is a little better than Raya. But it’s a very reasonable question. They aren’t all that different, and like Hence, the biggest thing Raya needs to do is show he can handle a bigger workload if he’s going to be a starter.

J.J. Cooper: I do think Hence’s stuff is a little better than Raya. But it’s a very reasonable question. They aren’t all that different, and like Hence, the biggest thing Raya needs to do is show he can handle a bigger workload if he’s going to be a starter.

Toy (New York):

     Who is a sleeper pick to rocket up the organizational chart this year?

J.J. Cooper: Bryan Acuna could climb significantly in the next year. If you’re looking for a deeper sleeper maybe Brayan Medina.

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