Welcome back to the 2022 Dynasty Baseball Prospects Spotlight series! There are plenty of things to look forward to, especially if you are a Minnesota Twins fan.
Today is the big day, as the Major League Baseball regular season is finally upon us. Not just that though, the Minor League Baseball season begins tomorrow too (and has already began at the Triple-A level).
The Twins have a promising group of young talent leading the way, such as Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober, plus some elite veterans like Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton. They have a shot to make the Postseason this year, and the fun is just beginning.
Minnesota has an intriguing crop of prospects making their way to The Show. My buddy Eric and I actually spotlighted this system on our podcast, the Florida Prospect Report, with great insight from Twins writer Seth Stohs. You can find the episode here.
I was in Fort Myers this past Sunday to see the Twins play in Spring Training, and before the MLB game, I was able to catch a Twins prospects intrasquad game. In this article, I will be highlighting what I saw from each of the top players.
2022 Dynasty Baseball Minnesota Twins Prospects Spotlight
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Royce Lewis, Shortstop
Royce Lewis was the first overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. He put up great numbers in Low-A and High-A in 2018, which made prospect sites across the board rank him as a Top 10 overall prospect in the sport.
Then in 2019, he had what most people would view as a "down year," as across Low-A and Double-A, he put up a .290 OBP and a sub-100 wRC+. The positives were that he had 12 HR and 22 SB.
Furthermore, he rebounded in a big way in the Arizona Fall League, posting a .975 OPS, and winning Most Valuable Player. The list of former AFL MVPs is littered with MLB stars, including Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Gleyber Torres, and Ronald Acuña Jr. Things were pointing in the right direction again for Lewis.
However, his 2020 season was over before it began, as he, unfortunately, tore his ACL at the beginning of Spring Training. After undergoing surgery, he missed the entirety of the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Still just 22 years old, Lewis is back in action in Fort Myers, as he begins what will be a pivotal season for his career. In Sunday's intrasquad game, he certainly looked like a prospect with elite pedigree. He walked in his first two plate appearances, as the pitchers were seemingly pitching around him. And then in his final at bat, he laced a single into centerfield. It is also worth noting that it appears he toned down his signature leg kick as part of a swing change. Perhaps it will help him fare better against upper-level pitching.
With Correa manning shortstop at the Major League level, Lewis has time to grow in Triple-A. He will almost certainly see time in the outfield too. Overall, I was as impressed with Lewis on Sunday as I was in my multiple viewings of him in 2018, and I still believe he is one of the game's elite prospects.
Austin Martin, Shortstop
Austin Martin helped lead Vanderbilt to their College World Series victory in 2019, as he posted a .503 OBP. That is right, he got on base more than half of the time. The hype only grew, as he was viewed as the "best pure hitter" in the 2020 MLB Draft, and the top overall prospect by some too. He ended up falling to the Toronto Blue Jays at fifth overall, where he signed for $7 million.
Martin made his pro debut in 2021 with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The elite on-base skills were certainly present, as he posted a .424 OBP. His power was lacking a bit though, as he had just 2 home runs in 250 PA, resulting in a .102 ISO. Still, he was easily an above-average hitter and played in the MLB All-Stars Futures Game in Colorado.
He was then the headliner of the Jose Berrios trade, as he and teammate Simeon Woods-Richardson were traded to Minnesota at the deadline. Martin finished the season in Double-A Wichita, where he put up identical numbers to his stats in New Hampshire.
Sunday was the first time I saw Martin play, and I was impressed. Defensively, he made a phenomenal diving stop at shortstop to hold Jose Miranda to a single. Then at the plate, he was seeing the ball well. In his final at-bat of the game, he got ahead in the count 1-0, fouled off five pitches in a row, and then got caught looking.
Although the at bat resulted in an out, I was impressed by how well he was timing up the pitches. Martin is unquestionably an elite hitter, so the hype in that regard is absolutely warranted. What will determine if he becomes a superstar or not is how much power he can grow into. The optimist in me expects him to have a big season in that department.
Trevor Larnach, Outfielder
Not technically a prospect anymore, Trevor Larnach was in the lineup for Sunday's intrasquad game. Something interesting is that, besides being teammates, Larnach has two big things in common with Austin Martin: A.) Both are former first-round draft picks, and B.) Both are former College World Series Champions. Larnach led Oregon State to victory in 2018, with the help of his teammates Adley Rutschman, Nick Madrigal, and Steven Kwan. Man, that roster was loaded.
Larnach's first full professional season was in 2019, and it was incredible. He posted a .382 OBP and 148 wRC+ in the Florida State League and then did not miss a beat when he finished the season in Double-A, posting nearly identical stats, including a 148 wRC+ again. At the end of 2019, he was an FSL mid-season All-Star, post-season All-Star, and the league's MVP. Not bad for his first full season.
Larnach spent 2020 honing his craft at the Twins' alternate training site, as the Minor League season was canceled. In 2021, he began the season in Triple-A, and then quickly earned a promotion to the Big Leagues.
In 54 MLB ABs in the month of March, Larnach posted a .389 OBP and hit three home runs. I was all aboard the "Larnach Breakout Bandwagon," but it came to a halt pretty quickly, as he had a .301 OBP the rest of the MLB season.
This was still a promising start to Larnach's MLB career, and the 25-year old should be back in the Majors as soon as May of this year.
On the practice fields last Sunday, it was evident that Larnach is vying for a role at the MLB level, as he continually made hard contact. Even his foul balls were scorched. The top highlight from him was when he torched a single into right field, which my buddy Eric (shoutout again) got a great slo-mo video of. I have always been high on Larnach, and my opinion has yet to waver.
Jose Miranda, Third Baseman
Jose Miranda was the 73rd overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. In 2017 and 2018, he put up above-average numbers in the lower levels of the Minor Leagues. In 2019, he played 118 of his 119 games in High-A Fort Myers, where he struggled a bit, indicated by his 98 wRC+ and .663 OPS.
Although this took him off of some people's radars, the talent was still there for Miranda. Following the lost season in 2020, Miranda broke out in a big way in 2021.
He split time between Double-A and Triple-A, where he blasted 30 HR, posted a .401 OBP, and a .344 AVG. He even improved his walk rate from 11.5% to 13.1% when he got promoted to Triple-A.
I believe this breakout was absolutely legit, and Miranda is going to be a force to be reckoned with at the Major League level. The one "knock" on Miranda (if you even want to call it that) would be his defense. This brings me to my live look from Sunday.
If I were to give out a "Defensive Play of the Game Award," Miranda easily secured it when he quickly charged a Wander Javier ground ball and threw him out at first. It definitely looked to me like he can play third base just fine.
With Josh Donaldson out of the picture, Miranda is poised to play the hot corner for years to come. The Twins are going to give him time to develop a little more in Triple-A to start the season while Gio Urshela holds down the fort. But make no mistake, Miranda is the third baseman of the future in the Twin Cities and said future may arrive quite soon.
Matt Canterino, Right-Handed Pitcher
As exciting as all of the hitters were, the player who left the most positive impression on me on Sunday was Matt Canterino. For background, he was a second-round pick out of Rice in 2019. He made seven starts (25 IP) between the GCL and Low-A that year, where he posted a 0.64 WHIP, 1.44 ERA, and 11.2 K/9. Quite the way to start a career.
Then in 2021, he got off to a hot start again, as in four starts in May, he pitched 18 innings, allowing just two runs, ten hits, and three walks. He also struck out 35 batters in that span. Those stats are wild, a sub-one WHIP, an ERA of exactly 1.00, and nearly 18 K/9.
Unfortunately, following his fourth start, Canterino went down with an elbow injury and did not return to the mound until August. But when he returned, he was lights out again.
In two starts in August, he pitched five scoreless innings, allowing zero hits, one walk, and striking out ten batters. His stats from the 2021 season were incredibly good and makes me excited to see what he can do over a full season.
In the intrasquad game, he pitched two lights-out innings. I wish I got more footage of it, but I was too focused on simply watching him pitch. His last matchup was a beauty, as he froze the batter on a breaking ball for strike three.
It was especially fun watching him pitch because he was so energetic, especially for it being a scrimmage. He ran on and off the field, and had a smile on his face. Reminded me of players like Brett Phillips and Joey Votto, who are fan favorites on their respective teams because they play the game with such a fun spirit.
Canterino is slated to be the Opening Day starter for Double-A Wichita tomorrow, and if he can string together some good starts in the early months of the Minor League season, a Major League debut in 2022 can certainly be in the cards. Whenever he arrives in Minneapolis, he is sure to be loved by the fans.
Others of Note
There were plenty of other players to get excited about from the scrimmage. Aaron Sabato, Edouard Julien, Spencer Steer, and Wander Javier were all in the lineup, to name a few. Those are four guys with widely different career paths thus far, but one thing they share in common is that they can separate themselves from the pack with a strong season in 2022.
On the other corner of the cloverleaf fields, the Twins lower-level prospects were also having an intrasquad scrimmage. I was not watching that one as closely, but some notable players like Keoni Cavaco and Kala'i Rosario were in the lineup. In fact, these two will begin the season in Low-A Fort Myers and have a chance to vault up to High-A and even Double-A if they hit the ground running at the start of the season.
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