Prospect Discovery For Twins In Moldova

MINNEAPOLIS—Minnesota Twins scout Cary Broder wasn’t paying much attention when Vadim Balan stepped on the mound at a baseball academy in the Czech Republic last May. Broder had watched Balan a year earlier in Italy, and barely made note of the righthander’s 89-mph pitches.

This time was different.

“He looked much more athletic as he starts throwing. 91 (mph). OK. Then 93. That’s pretty good. Don’t see that much in Europe,” Broder said. “Then 95. Whoa—95? And 96, 96, 95, 96. You get the idea.”

Broder had an idea, too. After watching Balan throw a few sliders, pitches “with a wicked tilt to them, impressive,” he contacted Minnesota. A day later, Balan had a $15,000 contract and the Twins had their first player ever from Moldova, a small former Soviet republic of fewer than 3 million people that sits between Ukraine and Romania.

“He’s really raw and his command was non-existent the first time I saw him,” Broder said. “Pitchability will be his obvious issue. But it’s a tiny investment, and he’s an awesome kid who deserves a chance.”

He’ll get it in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2016, a 22-year-old rookie from an Eastern European town called Tiraspol.

“He’s got a big league arm,” Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff said. “His baseball skills are crude, but he’s got a hard, very heavy fastball. You like taking chances with those guys.”

Being Moldovan presents extra challenges. Balan was supposed to pitch in the GCL last year, but the U.S. visa process for Moldovans is complex. By the time his paperwork was approved, it was late August. So on Aug. 26, Balan made his only pro appearance, facing six batters against the GCL Rays. He struck out four of them, but hit one, too.

“I’m excited for him,” Broder said. “And he’s got a twin brother I’d like to sign, too. A lefthander.”


• The Twins signed a handful of free agents to minor league contracts, including infielders Buck Britton and James Beresford.

Miguel Sano cut short his Dominican League season after just 15 games when the Twins asked him to rest for the upcoming season. Sano has yet to play in the outfield, where the Twins project him next year.

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