Projecting a player’s performance can be volatile, especially for prospects who experts predict will make their major league debut in the coming season.
For the Twins, MLB.com projects nine of their top 30 prospects to make their debut with the big league club in 2021. However, take that with a grain of salt. Among the names included is Blayne Enlow (No. 15), who is set to miss virtually the entire season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Also included are Royce Lewis (No. 1) and Chris Vallimont (No. 21), but steamer projects them to make one plate appearance and one inning pitched, respectively. While it is totally within the realm of possibility that they can debut this year, their Steamer projection tells us very little.
Steamer is a projection system that has a reputation as being one of the most accurate models for predicting individual player performances in the coming year. They use the player’s scouting grades, age, stage of development, and various other factors to determine a reasonable outcome. While it certainly isn’t gospel, these projections paint a pretty interesting picture for the incoming class of Twins prospects.
Some come off as unexciting for an eager fanbase, but there’s a handful who have optimistic outlooks and some fascinating comparisons to current big leaguers.
(No. 3): Age 23, 5.11 ERA, 46 IP, 8 starts, 7.2 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.36 WHIP.
The program seems bullish on him based on some of the trends that appeared with his last two promotions. His K/9 went from 14.3 to 11.8 to 9.5 as he went from Single-A to High-A to Double-A. However, his 2021 performance was coming off of a lost 2020 and a slow start as he rehabbed from injury. His fastball has strong velocity and spin rates, improving secondary pitches and command.
If he can get a good, healthy start in 2022, his outlook could look similar to Josiah Gray, a starter prospect with tons of promise who takes his lumps in his rookie year while he figures out MLB hitting.
Josiah Gray 2021: Age 23, 5.48 ERA, 70 IP, 13 starts, 9.7 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 1.36 WHIP
(No. 5): Age 24, 3.92 ERA, 22 IP, 0 starts, 9.6 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 1.36 WHIP.
Steamer likes Duran’s blistering fastball and splitter combo (currently a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale), making it likely that he could find success as a reliever with two strong offerings. His ability to start hinges on his health and the development of his breaking ball and changeup. A reasonable outcome seems to compare to Jorge Alcala when he broke out with the Twins in 2020 and had a 2.63 ERA out of the bullpen. Steamer projects Duran to have similar strikeout numbers and probably more walks.
Jorge Alcala 2020: Age 24, 24 IP, 0 starts, 10.1 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 1.21 WHIP
(No. 8): Age 24, 102 games, 414 PA, 15 HR, .282/.329/.459 (.788 OPS,113 wRC+).
Steamer thinks Miranda will be a major contributor to the big league club in 2022, at least on the offensive side of the game. Based on their projection, he would be an early-season call-up with ample opportunity when it comes to playing time. His projected .329 OBP would rank sixth on the team in 2021 and just ahead of team MVP Jorge Polanco.
His 15 bombs in 102 games would represent the emergence of a perennial 25-35 home run per year hitter — a welcome combination of on-base skills with considerable pop. A solid recent comparison would be Avisail Garcia in 2021, who hit .262/.330/.490 with 29 homers in 135 games. However, he played an above-average right field, and the jury is still out on Miranda’s defensive capability.
Avisail Garcia 2021: Age 30, 135 games, 515 PA, 29 HR, .262/.330/.490 (.820 OPS, 115 wRC+)
(No. 9): Age 25, 92 IP, 16 starts, 7.3 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 1.41 WHIP.
Steamer projects Winder to get the most starts out of this crop of pitching prospects. Steamer projects him to get about a half season’s worth of starts at the big league level, but the results in this forecast look somewhat spotty. They foresee him having a 5.13 ERA in 96 innings pitched and roughly 16 starts. His 7.3 K/9 comes off on the low end, probably because of the dip it took when he got promoted to Triple-A (10.7 K/9 in 10 Double-A starts, 7.8 K/9 in four Triple-A starts).
It seems like a likelier scenario that his rate in 2021 will bounce back up, especially given the gains he appeared to make behind the scenes in 2020. A decent comp could be Domingo German of the New York Yankees, who had a much better 4.25 ERA with an 8.7 K/9, which would align with Winder’s reputation in the minors.
Domingo German 2021 (as starter): Age 28, 91 IP, 18 starts, 8.7 K/9, 2.47 BB/9, 1.16 WHIP
(No. 17): Age 25, 5.49 ERA, 18 IP, 3 starts, 6.7 K/9, 4.6 BB/9 1.61 WHIP.
Based on the steamer projections for Strotman, the basepaths will be pretty busy when he makes a few spot starts at the big league level. A secondary piece in the Nelson Cruz trade, his ultimate calling could be in the bullpen. But he’s projected to be a depth starter for now.
Scouts seem to appreciate his fastball and curveball (both ranked 50 on the 20-80 scout scale, and his cutter could be an excellent addition to his repertoire (55 on the scouting scale). However, his command is still a work in progress, as made evident in his projected 4.55 BB/9, an area where he struggled in 2021. His work could look similar to that of former Twin Kohl Stewart, who made a handful of spot starts for the Chicago Cubs in 2021 but probably isn’t penciled in as a rotation mainstay.
Kohl Stewart 2021: 5.27 ERA, 13.2 IP, 3 starts, 7.2 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 1.68 WHIP
(No. 19): Age 24, 5.19 ERA, 2 starts, 9 IP, 7.8 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 1.46 WHIP.
Another spot starter option if the Twins are in a pinch, Sands is coming off of a promising year at Double-A, where he had a 2.46 ERA in 18 starts. Hopefully, some more refinement at that level and Triple-A will improve his future outlook, as the steamer predicts a pretty sharp downturn if Minnesota calls him up to the majors.
His only plus pitch is his curveball (55 ranking), but if he can develop some more velocity with his fastball (currently a 50, future value of 55), he could be in business as an MLB contributor. His WHIP has never been above 1.26, so if he can continue to keep guys off the bases, then perhaps his results would be a little rosier than his preseason projections. Picture performance in line with Adalberto Mejia when he was in the league, but slightly fewer walks.
Adalberto Mejia: Age 23-26, 4.70 ERA, 25 starts, 154 IP, 7.5 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 1.56 WHIP