Let’s dream a bit. Why not? These are top prospects for a reason. Using size, handedness, ability, and intangibles, who could the Twins’ young bucks develop to be?
1. SS Royce Lewis
Top Comp: SS/2B Javier Báez, Chicago Cubs
Back in 2013, when Byron Buxton and Miguel Sanó were ranked as the No.1 and No.3 prospects in baseball, Báez wasn’t far back at No.9. Lewis is now the No.9 prospect in baseball at the same age and the same position. Both Lewis and Báez are lauded for their athleticism. Let’s compare their age-19 seasons in the minors:
Báez had a much better age-20 season in 2013 than Lewis did in 2020, but their profiles were almost identical. Lewis walked at a 6.7% rate last year, and Báez walked at a 6.9% rate in his age-20 season. Báez struck out more than Lewis, but only by 3.7%. Lewis’ MVP campaign in the Arizona Fall League looked a lot like Báez’s numbers in his full 2013 season. Báez has become a superstar in the league with elite power and defense. While the jury remains out on Lewis’ future at shortstop, Báez was similarly criticized for his defense and was almost moved to third base in the minors. Lewis gained 25 pounds this offseason and his power looked Báez-esque in Fort Myers:
2. OF/1B Alex Kirilloff
Top Comp: DH/LF J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox
Martinez, like Josh Donaldson, is a hitting guru. He reshaped his swing after a brutal start to his career in Houston and is now one of the best hitters in baseball. In 2018, Kirilloff led the minors in hits, doubles, and total bases. He ranked second to only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in home runs. Both Kirilloff and Martinez hit and hit for power. Kirilloff owns a .317 average in the minors and Martinez has hit .317 since 2018.
They do, however, have a difference. Martinez hits from the right side and Kirilloff slugs from the left. Kirilloff could also follow the DH path if Nelson Cruz departs and the Twins want his bat in the lineup. The pure hit tool is uncanny and this comparison just feels right. We’d be elated if it became true.
3. SP Jhoan Duran
Top Comp: SP Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers
Duran is much bigger than Buehler, but their profiles are very comparable. Both players have big time fastballs that frequently reach the upper 90s. Both have hard-biting sliders and developing secondary stuff. Duran has his trademarked splinker and generally gets good sink on his fastball.
Lining up MLB numbers with results at High-A is ill-advised, but let’s do it anyway. Duran posted a 3.23 ERA in Fort Myers last year with 11 strikeouts per nine. Buehler had a 3.26 ERA with 10.6 strikeouts per nine last year for the Dodgers. Many believe Duran could have a future in the bullpen, but Buehler has shown us that a Cy Young caliber starter can be made with middling secondary stuff.
4. OF Trevor Larnach
Top Comp: OF Michael Conforto, New York Mets
Hailing from the same school at Oregon State University, Larnach and Conforto look like spitting images of one another. In 2015, Conforto split time between High-A and Double-A and hit .297 with an .854 OPS and 12 homers. Last year, between High-A and Double-A, Larnach hit .309 with an .842 OPS and 13 homers. Both were in their age-22 season.
Conforto has been a top 10-15 outfielder in the league since 2017. He ranks 9th among qualified outfielders in homers (88), 11th in RBI (242), 9th in OPS (.855), and 12th in bWAR (9.7) during that span. I think the Twins would happily take that same production from their own big left-handed masher in Larnach.
5. Jordan Balazovic
Top Comp: RHP Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies
Taken two picks after the Twins selected Nick Gordon in the 2014 Draft, Nola has the fourth most bWAR (18.5) among starting pitchers since 2017. He relies on a mid-90s fastball, similiar to Balazovic, and struck out a hefty 10.2 per nine last year. Unlike Balazovic, Nola was a seasoned college pitcher at LSU when drafted.
Balazovic and Nola both have outstanding command of their pitches. Now ranked as the No.76 prospect in baseball, Balazovic is picking up steam and hopes to put up similar numbers to Nola in his first three years in the majors. The potential is there, and these two look a lot alike.
What do you think? Who are the best comps for the Twins top 5 prospects?
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