The Minnesota Twins have their Opening Day lineup pretty much set in stone, and there isn’t much action from the starters at this point in spring training. Therefore, we’re naturally going to focus on Minnesota’s prospects. Last year, everyone was focused on Royce Lewis, Austin Martin, and José Miranda. Lewis got hurt, and Martin had an off year, but Miranda made an impact in the majors. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach similarly dominated prospect talk in 2021. However, they battled injuries last year.
Almost all of the top prospects in camp usually get sent down sooner rather than later in spring training. Furthermore, the Twins have structured this year’s team in a way that will make it difficult for rookie position players to make the Opening Day roster. Utility infielders Kyle Farmer and Donovan Solano deepen the depth pool. That may be the case this spring too, even for former top prospects like Kirilloff or Larnach.
Edouard Julien and Brooks Lee have demanded the prospect spotlight this year. MLB.com has ranked these prospects ranked top-15 in Minnesota’s farm system, and Lee is their top prospect. Making the Opening Day roster seemed impossible just a week ago, but now there is an outside chance one of them makes the team. Injuries have delayed Jorge Polanco’s return, sidelining Nick Gordon. It’s also uncertain if Miranda starts the season at third base or as the designated hitter. First base or DH are still relatively uncertain with manager Rocco Baldelli saying that these positions will be more of a platoon to start the season.
Maybe all of these injuries sort themselves out, and the Twins open the season without any prospects on the active roster. Still, Minnesota will inevitably need to fill a roster space, and one of the two prospects might be their best option.
So which one between Lee and Julien has the best path to big-league callup?
The Twins took Julien in the 18th round of the 2019 draft after a two-year stint at Auburn. In 2022, Julien spent the season in Double-A slashing .300/.441/.490 with 17 home runs in 113 games. However, he only has one season of Double-A ball and is still 23 years old. With the depth they already added, Julien is looking like he’ll start the season with the St. Paul Saints.
However, Julien has more raw power than Lee. Add that to his excellent ability to get on base, and it might force Minnesota’s hand for a call-up. Julien had a 19 percent walk rate in Double-A last season., and Minnesota has too many left-handed hitting corner outfielders, but they need more lefties in the infield. There are no other left-handed infielders on the Twins besides Kirilloff, Gordon, or the switch-hitting Polanco.
Julien can make a good case for a call-up through his ability to play multiple positions in the infield. The best path to the big leagues for Julien is probably similar to Miranda’s last year. Miranda was an infielder with some prospect hype who got a chance. However, the Twins sent him down once before fully establishing himself as a big-leaguer.
Lee is a bigger name because of his quick rise through the Twins pipeline. As the eighth overall pick in 2022, Lee showed up to his first pro season last year and crushed pitching in low minors. Last year, Lee hit for an .839 OPS in 31 Single-A games. Lee, 23, makes up for his lack of experience because he played four years of college ball for his dad at Cal Poly.
Lee’s best path to the majors would probably be Lewis’ last year. Carlos Correa fractured his finger [date], and the Twins turned to their former first-overall pick to fill in for him. Lewis did so with aplomb, but he got injured after Minnesota moved him to center field after Correa returned.
The primary reason the Twins called up Lewis was that he was their most talented option at shortstop on the 40-man roster. Lewis provided a spark with an .867 OPS and recorded a 0.5 WAR in just 12 games last season. Like Lee, Lewis also didn’t have a lot of experience in the high minors. He only logged 57 games between Double-A and Triple-A since 2019. Therefore, the Twins may be willing to call Lee up in the right situation if he has a highly productive stretch.
Lewis’ 12-game stint gave the Twins confidence in their prospect and motivated him with the opportunity. They eventually called Lewis up again and used him as a utility player, but he tore his ACL for the second-straight season and is still rehabbing to start the season. Lee’s earliest path to the big leagues would likely involve an injury that could keep Correa out for multiple weeks. It also means other shortstop options like Farmer or Gordon are injured or underperform to not be trusted with consistent playing time for a long stretch of the season.
Ironically, Lee’s high prospect status may hurt his chances. The Twins will likely be careful with him and not want to bring him up unless it’s an ideal situation. This gives the advantage to Julien, who is a nice prospect but isn’t the same kind of prospect as Lee is.
Positionally, both prospects have roughly the same defensive flexibility and can play all over the infield. Lee has the advantage of profiling as a higher-ceiling shortstop, but that won’t really matter unless Correa has to miss time. Julien has the experience of playing multiple positions already through the minors, and Twins management seems to value that ability more than ever. As a shortstop, it wouldn’t be too hard for Lee to move to another position. But Julien seems to have the advantage as a fielder because he’s more flexible. Playing at first, second, or third base can theoretically fill more holes than Lee could.
The Twins 2023 Opening Day roster seems to be as good as set for the position players. Brooks Lee and Ed Julien are this year’s fresh top prospects to keep an eye on with a path to reaching the major leagues through the 2023 season. Lee is close to a big league callup and has the higher ceiling of the two players. However, Julien has more professional at-bats through the high minors and not as high of expectations initially from the fanbase.