Minnesota Twins 2021 Top MLB Prospects Chat
We're talks Twins prospects below following the release of their brand new 2021 Top 10.
Carlos Collazo: Hey everyone! Thanks for joining me in today's Twins chat. This is my first year doing the system for BA and it was a blast to dive into it all at an in-depth level. Have to say I like this group a lot, both the impact types at the top of the list and the general depth Minnesota has gathered and developed over the years. With that said, let's dive into your questions!
Carlos Collazo: Oh yeah, if you haven't pre-ordered your 2021 Prospect Handbook yet, you can do that here. It makes a great Christmas gift if you are still looking for ideas on Cyber Monday: https://store.baseballamerica.com/collections/books/products/2021-baseball-america-prospect-handbook
Alex Kirilloff (Top 20 overall prospect?):
- Hi Carlos, thank you for chatting with us today! What changed in a season with no minor league games to bump up both my hit and power tools by half to a full grade from the past? I was previously seen as a 60 hit/55 power guy. Were the Twins alternate site staff that impressed with me throughout the summer? Do you think I start the 2021 season as a starter either in RF or 1st or do you think the Twins keep me down a few weeks to gain an additional year of control before letting me loose?
Carlos Collazo: Thanks for stopping by! There are a lot of questions about Kirilloff and understandably so as the new top player on the list. I’ll try and address a few of these right off the bat because it’s a fascinating conversation and he’s an exciting player.
Carlos Collazo: The answer to your tools question could be as simple as chalking it up to the fact that I’m doing the list this year, where last year JJ and Josh were responsible for the chapter. But if you look in-depth at the scouting report from a year ago, we still wrote that AK had the potential for “double-plus” hitting ability, which is a 70. When I was doing my own reporting, pretty much all the feedback I got led me to putting a 70 on his hit tool. He simply checks all of the boxes I would need to put that lofty grade on a hitter. He has good bat speed, strong hands and quick wrists, a clean bat path and perhaps most importantly the ability to make adjustments at an extremely advanced level. That ability to adjust is key at the major league level, both mentally and physically. The last player who I specifically wrote about in the handbook with that sort of adjustability was Juan Soto back in (I believe) 2017. Not saying Kirilloff will be Juan Soto, but those are the sort of elite hitter traits that are encouraging to me.
Carlos Collazo: In terms of the power grade increase, I think Kirilloff has more than enough strength and the barrel accuracy to make the most of the natural power he has. I think he can be the sort of hitter who hits for power if he chooses to or he could sacrifice some of that pop for a higher average. It’ll just depend on what the Twins are looking for and how he’s doing at the dish. His exit velocities are loud, but he’ll probably need to improve his launch angle to get to that projection. I think he’s more than capable of doing that.
- Alex Kirilloff has consistently played second fiddle to Royce Lewis as the #2 man in the Twins order since Lewis was drafted in 2017. What changed in a year with no minor league ball to flip the two? Was it a combination of growing conviction on Kirilloff's bat (both hit/power) and weariness if Lewis will ever make enough consistent contact to utilize his top of the scale bat speed and tap into his plus power? After a breakout 2018 season, Alex Kirilloff was seen as a borderline top 10 prospect in all of baseball; is he now firmly back in the top 20 conversation?
Carlos Collazo: For me it was a combination of the conviction in Kirilloff’s hitting ability and the fact that almost all of the Twins people I talked with preferred AK to Lewis at this point. I think they are still close—and they were the clear 1-2 in the system—but the gap in their current hitting ability and future projected hitting ability was too much for it not to be AK, for me. Lewis is a fantastic athlete and has a chance to provide value at a much more premium defensive position, but at the end of the day the hit tool trumps everything else.
Carlos Collazo: I wouldn’t say it’s weariness with Lewis, just more elements of his game that need to be refined. You need to do more projecting with him than a player like AK, who is fairly polished right now.
Carlos Collazo: I would guess that Kirilloff is near that top 20 range based on the feedback we got on him this year, his overall grade and his toolset.
Andy (Best Kirilloff Comp):
- With Alex Kirilloff now sporting a 70 hit/60 power combination, who's the best comp for him that is currently playing in the majors? With his combination of elite hand eye coordination, barrel control, and left-handed power, isn't Juan Soto the first name that comes to mind? Granted Kirilloff will never draw walks like Soto, but the combination of elite traits to hit for average and plus power should provide the foundation for a future middle of the order thumper, starting in 2021. Agree?
Carlos Collazo: I know this guy just won an MVP award but my first thought was a Freddie Freeman type player. I am not a huge comp guy, but that is the sort of player I kept coming back to while writing up his report and having conversations with people about him. Their minor league numbers are reasonably similar, though Freeman hit Double-A a few years younger (which matters) and we will have to see what AK does against Triple-A if he ever spends much time there. Freeman or Michael Conforto—if you don’t want to overhype yourself—seem like better comps to me than Soto at the moment. Soto is a different breed.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- In the scouting report on Kirilloff it says "he plays with such a low pulse". Help me out - what does this mean?
Carlos Collazo: Sure thing. What I mean by low pulse is that mentally he never seems to get too excited or too down on himself. Whether he’s on a hitting streak or slumping, coaches and scouts see him go out and do things the same way. It’s a stereotypical “Professional approach,” if you will. Additionally, you don’t see him get fazed by the big moment. I’m sure this is less rare for big league players in general than you would think—all of these guys have to be unfazed by big moments. But it’s still something nice to hear and should help his consistency in the bigs.
Carlos Collazo: OK. A lot of talk about Kirilloff. Let’s try and get into some other names.
- What’s the latest on Keoni Cavaco? Where does he fall in your rankings? Is he someone the Twins are high on and who would you compare his game to?
Carlos Collazo: He is likely going to fall somewhere in the 12-16 range. The Twins still like his upside, but there is some serious rawness to his game at the moment. He’s a player I would expect gets moved along pretty slowly because of the areas he needs to refine. Missing this season could really hurt a player like that, or alternatively maybe it's a low-pressure environment where he can really focus on some of the basic things Minnesota wants him to establish. Who knows? This isn’t a comp I got directly, but I thought of Austin Beck for Keoni. Both were preps with outstanding raw tools who got into pro ball and really struggled initially. Too early to quit on both of those guys but there are plenty of questions to be answered.
- Thanks for the chat. Were there any new reports on Keoni Cavaco? I know he had a tough start in 2019, but was wondering if there was anything new that people saw from him?
Carlos Collazo: I think there’s a lot of foundational stuff being worked on with Cavaco at the moment. On top of working to get him to a better, more direct and consistent swing path and lower half setup the organization is really looking for him to add some strength and develop physically. There are real swing and miss concerns with Cavaco but I think there’s some reason to be cautiously optimistic about the progress in that area based on his work this summer. Still, he has a lot to prove and a long way to go.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- In the Twins minors St.Paul replaces Rochester, AA team Chattanooga is on the contraction list, and rookie Elizabethton is eliminated. What is your best guess on how the Twins farm system shakes out for 2021?
Carlos Collazo: Sorry we’re not going to make guesses. As soon as we have credible confirmed information we will report. That should be pretty soon we believe.
- What happened to Wander Javier? Have the twins moved on?
Carlos Collazo: I’m a bit confused by this one. Did you expect him to crack the top 10? It’s a tough path for Javier considering his 2018 and 2019 seasons and what he needed to prove in 2020. He lost the 2018 season due to shoulder surgery, then really struggled offensively in 2019 while dealing with a leg injury and then didn’t have a chance to show anything given how 2020 unfolded.
Carlos Collazo: It’s hard to give up on a 21-year-old who commanded a $4 million bonus out of the DR already given what he’s dealt with but he has plenty to prove now. He has just missed so many reps. It sounds like the focus his year was getting him to be a bit more aggressive early in the count and to stay on his backside a bit to avoid lunging. We’ll have to see if that translates to games whenever those happen again.
- Was it necessarily a knock on Balazovic or are you just really high on Jeffers and Duran? Also, Do you expect the Twins to have a competitive balance A or B pick? When will the Competitive balance picks be announced? thanks dude ur awesome
Carlos Collazo: Not at all a knock on Balazovich at all! For me the tiers of the Twins list were 1A/1B with AK and Lewis, then a second tier of 3-6 that includes Larnach, Jeffers, Duran, Balazovich. The third tier for me would start at 7 and extend outside the top 10.
Carlos Collazo: I am extremely high on Jeffers after what he showed in the big leagues, especially considering his receiving skill. He went from a 50/High to a 55/Medium in one year because of that for me. I seriously entertained putting Jeffers third in the system. When it came down to Duran vs. Balazovich, for me I went with the higher upside that Duran offers while acknowledging Balazovich has higher odds to start.
Carlos Collazo: Duran’s swinging strike rate was top 10 in the Florida State League among pitchers with 50 innings and it was second in the Southern League among pitchers with at least 20 innings in 2019. Those rates seem promising and his unorthodox pitch-mix could baffle hitters in the bigs.
Carlos Collazo: I believe they will have a comp A pick in 2021. They had one in 2019 and a comp B in 2020 but traded it to the Dodgers (which was used to draft Texas Tech RHP Clayton Beeter) when the team acquired Kenta Maeda and sent Brusdar Graterol to LA. Not sure exactly when that will be announced.
- I have heard good things about Sands, Vallimont, and Winder. Will they be the middle of the 30?
Carlos Collazo: All of those guys should check in somewhere in the 11-30 range on the list, yes.
Carlos Collazo: Sands was a lot close to cracking the top 10 than you might think. He already has great feel for his FB and CH, but the Twins really are excited about the potential of his curveball. It’s a high spin rate pitch that has pretty good depth already and could become a real weapon if he can land it in the zone a bit. That specifically has been a focus for him this year.
Carlos Collazo: Winder might have been one of the most improved players for the Twins this summer. All the feedback on him has been pretty eye-opening. He improved his body, improved his fastball velocity and made progress with all of his secondaries as well. Hard to do much better in terms of overall growth, though showing that in real game situations would have been the cherry on top.
Carlos Collazo: Vallimont will probably be the last of those three on the list. His FB has exceptional carry and he’s been working on his changeup a lot this year to pair with it.
- With Kiriloff likely winding up at first, where does that leave Sabato? Thanks!
Carlos Collazo: Sabato is solidly a 1B only defender at the moment and I don’t see much that would change moving forward to give him much defensive versatility. That’s exactly why there’s so much pressure on his bat and power. It’s 1B or DH for him.
- Do the Twins still view Kirilloff as a OF/1B player or do you think they'll have him start in the OF full-time in the future?
Carlos Collazo: I think they are confident putting him in either spot, so it'll just depend on what the team need is for the Twins. If there's a hole in an outfield corner I believe they would be fine with him out there because he'll be adequate. He's a better defender at first and I would guess he plays there more the older he gets.
Mark (St. Paul):
- It was a pleasant surprise to see that the Twins Front Office felt so good about Alex Kirilloff's development that they inserted him into the starting lineup of an elimination game. I assume he was back to full health this summer and showed 2018 was the real deal? In today's game, wouldn't a 70 hit/60 power equate to something along of lines of a .320-.330 hitter with 30+ HRs?
Carlos Collazo: That's about right on the HR numbers. For the hit tool in today's game I think a 70 would be more in the .295-.315 range. That's the scale we are using at least.
- Sabato has tremendous power. Do you think he was worth passing on some of the college pitching that was still available to the Twins at that spot?
Carlos Collazo: We had Sabato at No. 35 in our draft rankings and the Twins popped him at No. 27 for a slightly overslot deal there. So I think that's roughly the right range. You could make an argument for any of the arms still available there. Guys like Bobby Miller, Carmen Mlodzinski, Slade Cecconi, Tanner Burns and even going on to guys like CJ Van Eyk, Chris McMahom and Christian Roa who went a little bit further down. However, you weren't going to find another player with the sort of power Sabato has in the second round, where you could find comparable stuff on the mound with the players remaining. I think it's a fine strategy for the Twins to take a shot on his offensive upside.
Justin (Tucson, AZ):
- Over/under on Ryan Jeffers playing 50% of the Twins games behind the plate in 2021?
Carlos Collazo: Much of this just depends on how well Mitch Garver is able to bounce back from a disappointing 2020 season, right? I think the Twins REALLY like everything Jeffers does though, so I think he'll get every opportunity to get regular playing time. There's nothing wrong with a two-catcher tandem these days. If I had to guess I would go with Jeffers getting the bulk of the time, though. He was in the 90th percentile of catcher framing this year according to Baseball Savant. Minnesota puts plenty of value on that. He was also the more trusted backstop during the playoffs, which should tell you something.
- Jeffers performance was a nice surprise given his lack of experience above A ball. Do the Twins believe it was real entropy give him the starting job over Garver?
Carlos Collazo: I am not exactly sure what your question is here. But the Twins love everything Jeffers does. He has a chance to be a plus defender and solid-average hitter as a backstop which would make him an extremely valuable MLB player. It's a great success story by the organization to draft and develop him and a great pick for area scout Matt Williams.
- Will Royce Lewis ever hit enough to be a MLB regular SS?
Carlos Collazo: Him hitting enough isn't what will keep him from being a regular shortstop. That will depend on the consistency of his glove work and throwing ability at the position. His speed, lateral mobility and natural athleticism could make him a pretty exciting defender there but he needs a bit more refinement. The reports of his defensive work this summer were encouraging and it sounds like he is doing a better job throwing from a low slot—which is necessary for a big league shortstop.
- Rooker had a nice MLB and has a similar profile to Sabato. How much further back will Rooker rank? How does he profile and do you see him having a chance at a full time job in 2021? Thanks.
Carlos Collazo: Yep, Rooker and Sabato are in a similar tier for me on the list even though Sabato is currently inside the top 10 and Rooker isn't. It's a tiny big league sample but he handled the zone a bit better that you might have expected and has real power to do damage. I don't know that he has the defensive home to become an everyday guy on a first-division team, so his ceiling is a bit lower because of that, but he should be a contributor in some capacity.
- What are your thoughts on Misael Urbina? Is he in the next tier of prospects after the Top 10, and what do you think of his upside?
Carlos Collazo: He's exciting. Urbina was one of several players who was considered for the top 10 and he will probably rank right around Keoni Cavaco for similar reasons. The tools are exciting but he is young without a ton of pro time under his belt. It sounds like the Twins are impressed with his baseball IQ and he still seems like a player who could become a top-of-the-lineup bat who handles center field. Some of the better pure upside of of system outside of the elite bats at the top.
- Rooker looked very good in his brief call up. The Twins have other better ranked corner prospects. Where does he fit in with the Twins? What kind of upside does he have?
Carlos Collazo: Just getting to this one after a previous Rooker comment. I think that is going to be the question for Rooker, where does he get his ABs? As you mentioned, there are a lot of corner players in the system and currently on the team. So where does Rooker get his ABs? I could see him being a player who gets traded to a team that needs some corner power and has a more clear path to playing time. Fourth outfield/pinch hit upside or a tick more on a second-division team is what I would guess.
Rob (Franklin TN):
- Is there a #1 or #2 MLB starter in the Twins system?
Carlos Collazo: Duran is the best bet but I see him more as a No. 3 upside type than a No. 2. For context, I graded Braves righthander Ian Anderson as a 60/Medium and think of him as a No. 3 who could pitch to the No. 2 level in stretches at times. Both Duran and Balazovic are 55/Highs. So the short answer is no, I don't see that sort of arm in the system right now.
Carlos Collazo: OK guys, we've been at it for about an hour so I think I'm going to have to call it. I've got to get back to actually, you know, finishing the Twins top 30! Thanks again for stopping in and taking the time to ask question. I hope I've been able to answer a few and shed some more light on the system. As I say all the time, our subscribers are the lifeblood of everything we do here at Baseball America—so sincerely, thank you all.