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Louie Varland Earns Attention



Like a lot of teams, the Twins have a tradition of holding a last-look workout with the radar technology in their big league ballpark, just to make sure they haven’t missed something.

“Normally, they’re a little silly, because we have so much information on (draft prospects) by that time. You don’t really learn very much,” Twins assistant general managers Daniel Adler said.

“But when we invited Louie Varland (to a three-player workout in 2019), we learned some things we didn’t know.”

Things like, that slider the righthander was using to whiff batters for Division II Concordia, just down the road in St. Paul?

“When he throws it hard, it’s a really good pitch, an advanced pitch,” Adler said. “Our movement (scouting) team thought it was a usable pitch (at the) upper levels.”

And his fastball? “He could hit 99 (mph), we knew that, but he sits at 95 or so, and he has really decent carry at that speed,” Adler said. “Again, this was information we didn’t have.”

That’s because Concordia doesn’t have much of a baseball heritage and has never produced a big leaguer.

But that may change, thanks to that three-player Target Field workout in 2019, which convinced the Twins to draft Varland in the 15th round. The Athletics had drafted his brother Gus the year before in the 14th round out of Concordia.

The pandemic has delayed Louie Varland's progress, but the early signs were positive for the 23-year-old. After getting just eight Rookie-level innings in 2019 and then sitting out the pandemic season of 2020, Varland has finally earned attention.

He opened 2021 at Low-A Fort Myers, where he struck out 76 in 47.1 innings and especially impressed the Twins by walking just 16 batters in a league using automated ball-strike technology.

“Walk rates are way up in Florida, but he’s at 8%,” Adler said. “And his walk rate went down when we moved him to (High-A) Cedar Rapids.”

Through 16 starts, Varland had allowed more than three earned runs only once, and his 1.98 ERA in 91 innings was the best in the Twins’ system.

“We don’t have a lot of (advanced) data from his college career, but he has sharpened everything,” Adler said. “Yeah, we’re glad we held that workout.”

TWIN KILLINGS

— Righthander Joe Ryan’s first two starts in the Twins’ system helped expedite his major league debut. Ryan, a who was acquired from the Rays in the trade for Nelson Cruz, struck out 17 batters in his first nine innings for Triple-A St. Paul after he returned from the Tokyo Olympics. The 25-year-old Ryan debuted at home versus the Cubs on Sept. 1, throwing five innings of three-run ball.

— After hitting just two home runs in 55 Double-A games in the Blue Jays’ system before being traded to Minnesota in the Jose Berrios swap, Austin Martin slugged three homers in his first 25 games for Double-A Wichita, while maintaining his on-base percentage over .400. Martin, who was drafted fifth overall out of Vanderbilt in 2020, was splitting his time between center field and shortstop.

Austin Martin Mikejanesfourseam

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