Dynasty Baseball

2021 Minnesota Twins Diamonds in the Rough

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Welcome to the seventeenth installment of my series, 2021 Diamonds in the Rough as we discuss the Minnesota Twins.

In this article, I will break down four prospects–two hitting and two pitching–from the Minnesota Twins farm system. Further, in this article, I get the chance to talk about one of my favorite prospects in all of baseball.

Last time out, I took a look at some of the Milwaukee Brewers prospects.

In deep dynasty leagues, the ability to spot high-upside lower-ranked prospects before they become household names in the fantasy baseball community can make a big difference to the long-term success of your team.

To qualify as a diamond in the rough for this series, a player must be currently ranked lower than No. 15 on their team’s latest MLB Pipeline Prospect Rankings.

Check out our 2021 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Rankings to help you dominate your leagues.

2021 Minnesota Twins Diamonds in the Rough

Hitters

Spencer Steer, 2B (#30)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 50 Hit | 40 Power | 50 Run | 50 Field | 50 Arm
Age: 23
Highest Level: High-A
ETA: 2023

The Twins drafted Spencer Steer out of the University of Oregon in the 3rd round (90 overall) of the 2019 MLB Draft.

Spoiler Alert: Spencer Steer is one of my favorite players in all of baseball. That is not to say that I think Steer has one of the highest ceilings in the minors, but that he is a fantastic all around player. In the words of MLB Pipeline, “[t]he kind of player who is more than the sum of his parts, Steer doesn’t have any huge tools, but can do a lot of things well.” However, that is a recipe for great success under the right circumstances, which I think are present here with Steer.

Steer was a three-year starter for Oregon, where he posted an OBP over .400 in 163 games. While Steer was solid during his first two years at Oregon, he turned heads in the 2018 Cape Cod League before his junior year. In the Cape Cod League, Steer slashed .304/.351/.481 over 149 plate appearances and played excellent defense at both second and third base on his way to being voted co-MVP by his Orleans teammates (along with then-Vanderbilt and now-Marlins outfielder, J.J. Bleday).

During his junior season at Oregon in 2018, Steer picked up where he left off in the Cape Cod League. As a junior, Steer hit .349 with an eye-popping .456 OBP and six homers, 40 runs, 57 RBI and six steals over 261 plate appearances. In addition, Steer displayed excellent plate discipline, with a 30/33 walk-to-strikeout ratio.

Steer has carried the momentum into his professional debut, where he has raked across three levels over two full seasons. In his 2019 debut (across Rookie ball at Class A), Steer hit a solid .280 with an excellent .385 OBP and four homers, five steals, 40 runs and 33 RBI over 296 plate appearances. Moreover, Steer’s signature plate discipline was on full display, as he collected more walks (34) than strikeouts (33). That stat always gets me giddy about a prospect.

After a solid 2019 debut, Steer is continuing the breakout tour at High-A in 2021. Over 141 plate appearances, Steer is hitting .270 with an elite .394 OBP. In addition, Steer has had a power surge. In 2021, Steer has hit seven homers after only hitting four in double the number of plate appearances in 2019 (296). Further, Steer has demonstrated increased base running aggressiveness, swiping four bags, nearly the amount he swiped in double the time in 2019.

Lastly (you guessed it), Steer’s signature plate discipline has once again been on fully display. Steer has collected more walks (28) than strikeouts (18). Moreover, Steer has posted an excellent 16.3 percent walk percentage and a great 12.8 percent strikeout percentage.

In the field, Steer is a natural defender with supreme versatility. Per MLB Pipeline, “Steer has already shown the ability to play three infield positions capably with solid footwork and instincts to go along with an average arm that works from any spot.” After playing primarily third base and shortstop in college, Steer has played most of his games in 2021 at second base.

Though many project Steer as a future super-utility player, I think that he has the potential to be much, much more. He has a very solid bat with an advanced approach and top-tier plate discipline. While Steer lacks prominent power, he has a good feel for the barrel and some pop for his size. Moreover, while Steer lacks standout speed, he is at least an average runner and has shown the ability to swipe some bags. He has also shown significant strides in the power department and running the bases in 2021.

Add elite defensive versatility and at already 23 years old this is a profile screaming rapid rise through the minors. That sentiment has been echoed by Twins’ scouting director Sean Johnson. Further, after a recent promotion to the Twins top-30 on June 5 and hitting two homers on June 6 and June 9, Steer is a name on the rise.

As I stated in the intro, Steer is one of my favorite players in the minor leagues (perhaps second only to Phillies Johan Rojas). I have aggressively added Steer coming into the season and suggest that he at the very least be on all watch lists going forward.

Though I may be the high man on Steer, I think that he is a special talent with underrated upside and serious breakout potential. I absolutely love this kid and firmly believe that is a true supersteer in the making.

Fear the Steer.

Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF (#19)

Bats: L | Throws: L
Tools: 50 Hit | 50 Power | 55 Run | 55 Field | 55 Arm
Age: 18
Highest Level: N/A
ETA: 2024

The Twins signed Emmanuel Rodriguez out of the Dominican Republic during the 2019 international signing period.

Rodriguez was the eighth ranked international prospect by MLB Pipeline at the start of the 2019 signing period. He participated at instructs in 2019, but his professional debut was delayed by the pandemic and cancelled minor league season. In addition, Rodriguez participated at instructs in 2020, but missed some time rehabbing a hand injury.

Though Rodriguez is a ways away from his debut, he is a certified toolshed with oodles of upside. The first thing you notice when watching tape of Rodriguez is his silky smooth left-handed swing. His swing is quick, direct to the ball and features natural loft conducive to more power down the road.

In addition, Rodriguez has added significant muscle since signing, which makes his power potential even more intriguing. Standing at 5-foot-11, Rodriguez weighed approximately 165 pounds when he signed in 2019. However, some reports have Rodriguez currently weighing in at a much bulkier 200 pounds (see above).

In the words of Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs, though Rodriguez previously “had a tweener build and speed…in the last year he has developed relevant bulk and power. This is not a tweener anymore. Indeed, Rodriguez has become kind of a beast.”



Moreover, scouts have praised Rodriguez’ advanced approach at the plate and command of the strike zone, unique for his age. According to MLB.com, Rodriguez “has an efficient swing that creates lots of backspin and generates power to all fields. He also has natural instincts and a real feel for the game, specifically hitting.”

In the field, Rodriguez is a very solid outfielder with good athleticism and a strong arm. He has played primarily center field but could shift to right field if he loses a step with added strength. Per Baseball America, “[f]or now, the Twins will develop [Rodriguez] as a center fielder, but he figures to move to a corner spot, with an above-average arm that would fit in with good instincts for his age.”

At only 18 years old and yet to make his professional debut, we will not likely see Rodriguez in the majors for quite some time (until 2024 or so). But with tools across the board graded over 50 and a sense that there is more power to come, Rodriguez has intriguing upside and all the ingredients to have a massive breakout in 2021.

Consider investing in Rodriguez before he makes his professional debut in 2021. Once he hits the field stateside and has more eyes on him, his stock may soar.

Pitchers

Chris Vallimont, RHPย  (#20)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 55 FB | 50 CB | 55 SL | 50 CH | 45 CNTRL
Age: 24
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2021

The Marlins drafted Chris Vallimont out of Mercyhust University (Erie, PA) in the 5th round (147 overall) of the 2018 MLB draft. The Twins acquired Vallimont from Miami as part of the Sergio Romo deal at the 2019 trade deadline.

Vallimont struggled during his professional debut at Low-A in 2018. He pitched to the tune of a 6.21 ERA and 1.586 WHIP over 29 innings. Despite his struggles, the big righty held opposing hitters to a weak .215 average against.

However, Vallimont displayed significant improvements in first full season across Class A and High A in 2019. In 23 starts (127.2 innings), Vallimont posted a clean 3.24 ERA and 1.057 WHIP. Further, Vallimont posted an excellent 150/41 strikeout-to-walk-ratio to go along with an excellent 29.8 percent strikeout percentage. That strikeout percentage represented a 14 percent improvement from 2018. Though Vallimont’s 8.1 percent walk percentage was not overly impressive, it represented an over 9 percent improvement from 2018.

Notably, Vallimont played his best ball of the season after being traded to the Twins at the 2019 trade deadline. Across four starts (22.1 innings) at High-A for the Twins, Vallimont compiled an excellent 0.85 WHIP and held hitters to a paltry .185 average against. Moreover, Vallimont induced a 32.9 percent strikeout percentage and posted a career best 4.7 percent walk percentage. Vallimont continued to impress Twins brass with a standout showing during 2020 instructs.

After starting 2021 on the injured list for an undisclosed reason, Vallimont only needed one rehab start at Class A before his promotion to AA. In his 2021 debut, Vallimont tossed three scoreless innings while racking up six strikeouts. He allowed only two hits and no walks.

Though Vallimont has a 5.63 ERA and 1.56 WHIP over four starts in AA, he has shown some flashes that lead me to believe better days are ahead. Vallimont allowed only one run in two of his four starts. In addition, he has racked up at least six strikeouts in all but one start. Further, while Vallimont has had some struggles with control, he has also struck out a third of the batters he has faced in AA.

According to MLB Pipeline, “[w]hile Vallimont is 6-foot-5, he’s more about his complete repertoire than he is about power.” That being said, Vallimont can still pump the heater at 95-96 mph and the pitch possesses impressive movement. In fact, Vallimont’s fastball hit 98 mph in short stints in college.

Vallimont has an intriguing four-pitch mix. In addition to his 55 grade fastball, his arsenal features a 55 grade slider, a 50 grade curveball and a 50 grade changeup. His plus slider looks to be a true putout pitch, sitting in the mid-80s mph with big sweeping action. Further, Vallimont has shown at least average potential on his powerย  curveball and changeup, giving him four solid offerings. Vallimont does have some reliever risk due to his history of mediocre control and increase in velocity in shorter stints. However, I think that his versatile four-pitch mix will keep him as a starter for the Twins.

If Vallimont can continue his success with the Twins and cut down on walks, he can develop into a quality middle of the rotation starter, with the upside for more. Further, Vallimont could be a quick riser through the Twins system. Despite only playing in five games at AA, Vallimont is already 24 years old. Interestingly, MLB Pipeline has an ETA of 2021 and Fangraphs has an ETA of 2023 for Vallimont.

Regardless, I think Vallimont is a good bet to outperform his current prospect status and rise up prospect rankings.

Marco Raya, RHPย  (#24)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 55 FB | 50 CB | 50 SL | 50 CH | 50 CNTRL
Age: 18
Highest Level: N/A
ETA: 2024

The Twins drafted Marco Raya out of United South High School (Laredo, TX) in the 4th round (120 overall) of the 2020 MLB draft.

After two middle of the road seasons in high school, Raya exploded to start his senior year in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the high school season. Over 18 innings without allowing an earned run, Raya yielded only three hits and three walks, while racking up 36 strikeouts. Raya did not make MLB Pipeline’s Top 200 Draft prospects list, but that performance was enough for the Twins to draft the Texas Tech commit in the fourth round of the 2020 MLB draft.

Though Raya is only 18 years old, he already possesses an impressive four pitch mix. Make that five if you separate his four-seam and two-seam fastballs. Raya’s fastball sits 92-93 mph and can get up to 95-96 mph. According to Raya’s Perfect Game profile, his fastball was in the 99th percentile of the 2020 high school class. Moreover, Raya’s fastball plays up due to its above-average 2,400 rpm spin rate.

In addition to his fastball(s), Raya also possesses a solid changeup and two breaking balls with plus potential. Per MLB Pipeline, “[t]he Twins liked that Raya entered pro ball with two distinct breaking balls, a tight curve that touches the upper-70s and a sweeping mid-80s slider. His changeup, another future average pitch, has good fade and sink.” Moreover, Raya also generates above average spin on his curveball and slider, which maximizes the effectiveness of his breaking stuff.

While Raya is a bit undersized at 6-foot and 165 pounds, he has stated that his favorite pitcher is Marcus Stroman. Some scouts have also compared Raya’s delivery to Stroman’s. Though Stroman is a bit shorter than Raya (5-foot-7), according to Raya, “[f]or years, I’ve loved the way [Stroman] pitches. I’ve studied his game and the intensity he brings to the mound. That mentality is definitely a big part of it. I’m a great competitor and I’m ready for anything that comes my way.” You have to love that mindset from a young pitcher.

Raya has excellent balance and repeatable delivery, which are conducive to throwing strikes. According to Twins scouting director Sean Johnson “[w]e really love his mechanics, his delivery, his arm action. He checks a lot of boxes for us. For a high school pitcher, great foundation to evolve into a starter. Johnson also referred to Raya as a “great piece of clay for [the Twins] player development to mold and build.”

At only 18 years old, Raya possesses a lot of traits that one looks for in a young pitching prospect. He has an impressive four pitch mix (five if you count the two-seamer) and possesses above average spin on multiple offerings. In addition, Raya is also known for his work ethic and competitiveness on the mound. A bit Stroman-esque if I do say so myself.

As Johnson indicated, Raya is a great starting point for major league development because of his clean mechanics.ย The only thing standing in between Raya and a breakout is playing time and the playing time is coming soon.



To uncover more high-upside lower-ranked prospects, you can access all of the articles for other teams in my 2021 Diamonds in the Rough series here.


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About Matt Wiener

Matt is based in New York and is passionate about fantasy baseball and New York sports. He is a fan of the Yankees, Giants, Rangers, Knicks, St. John's, and Ohio State. You can follow Matt on twitter at @mattydubbz13.

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