Which Overlooked Twins Prospect Is the Next Edouard Julien?

Photo Credit: Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins have been graced with some exciting performances from relatively-unknown prospects in recent years. José Miranda was a new man coming out of the pandemic. Louie Varland thrived at each level since 2019 and dazzled at the highest levels of the minor leagues. The newest hot name to watch is infielder Edouard Julien, who opened eyes with his stellar performance in Double-A. Then he popped those eyes right out of their sockets with his blazing-hot bat in the World Baseball Classic.

But going into last season, the young slugger from Quebec was more of an afterthought when discussing young prospect talent in the Twins organization. Fangraphs’ pre-season ranking had Julien pegged as the system’s No. 18 prospect. They certainly liked his offensive upside more than anything else. “Patient bordering on passive, Julien’s bat is what will carry him to the big leagues,” they said. “Julien has played first, second, third, and in left field, and projects as a bat-first platoon role player.”

After that modest projection, the young infielder went on to slash a brilliant .300/.441/.490, good for 44% better than league average. His walk rate remained sky-high (19.3%) and he scaled back his strikeouts by almost five percent while doing substantially more damage when making contact.

That unexpected show from Julien propelled him to a debut on Fangraphs’ Top 100 prospect list for 2023, landing at the No. 75 spot. It’s a welcome development that few saw coming. With that said, is there anyone in Minnesota’s system who could make an equally-unexpected, dare I say Julienesque jump in prospect rankings? Here are a few names to keep an eye on.

Bryan Acuña

You’ve probably seen this last name before. Bryan’s older brother is none other than Atlanta Braves’ superstar Ronald Acuña Jr., who is widely regarded as a top-20 talent in all of baseball. The Twins signed the younger brother of the three-time All-Star as an international free agent when he was only 16 years old last off-season. While they can’t rely on him being as good as his prodigious older brother, the Twins were happy to land Acuña for $869,000.

In his first season in professional ball, the shortstop hit a respectable .310/.409/.393 with the Rookie League Twins. At that level, he was almost two years younger than the average player at that stage. Still, he mustered an offensive output that was 26% better than league average. Sure, it was only 46 games, but that first sample of what Acuña can bring to the table was really encouraging.

“You only have to see Acuña swing once to realize he’s the younger brother of Braves star Ronald Acuña Jr., and that he has a similar setup and swing path,” said in their 2023 prospect preview. “He has looked solid and athletic at shortstop, with excellent hands and a strong arm, and he could even be a plus defender at second should he move to the right side of the infield.”

Look for Acuña to make a splash at Low-A at some point this year. He’s still only 17, meaning he still has a ways to go before even sniffing the big leagues. In no way should he be likened to Julien, who is near-MLB ready. But if Acuña can develop even some of his older brother’s power as he matures, he should shoot up Minnesota’s prospect list in relatively short order.

Jaylen Nowlin

Minnesota’s 19th-round pick in 2021, Nowlin didn’t get much use in rookie ball that year. But last season, the 6’1″ lefty started to show what makes him an interesting down-list prospect. Nowlin split the year between Low-A and High-A ball, finishing the year with a 3.80 ERA across 22 games (14 starts). He flashed high-strikeout capabilities at both levels, punching out roughly 36% of batters faced at each stop. To put that in perspective, Twins ace-reliever Jhoan Durán had a 33.5% strikeout rate last year. Obviously, Nowlin has a long way to go before he can say that he boasts similar numbers to Minnesota’s rookie sensation. But his 20% swinging-strike rate definitely opened some eyes for the time being.

“His fastball averaged around 92 mph and topped out at 95-96 with high spin and good arm side life, with the potential for more consistent velocity as he gets more physical,” said “Nowlin is going to have to refine his command…especially as he moves up the ladder and faces hitters less likely to chase out of the zone. If he does that, he has the chance to start. If not, his stuff could play well as a lefty reliever in a big league bullpen.”

Chances are, the only way Nowlin makes a major jump in prospect rankings is if he remains a starting pitcher. If he can do that and rein in his walks allowed, he could start to gain some steam as an arm to watch in the system.

David Festa

Speaking of electric arms, Festa was one of the best starting pitchers in the entire Twins organization last year. The tall righty also split time at Low-A and High-A in 2022. But unlike Nowlin, Minnesota used him almost exclusively as a starter (21 games, 18 starts). Looking forward, Festa will almost surely get every opportunity to remain in the rotation. The former Seton Hall star showed a strong pitch mix, mixing mid-to-upper 90s heat on his fastball, with an efficient slider and usable changeup that actually missed a lot of bats despite its modest scouting grade. He is also working to add a curveball to his repertoire, which would absolutely play into the mold of a starting pitcher.

Festa’s fastball is his best tool at the moment, and he’s worked behind the scenes to add more velocity to that offering. He averaged 90-91 mph on his heater in college, but is now said to be sitting mid-90s and topping out around 98 mph. “In addition to his stuff ticking up, Festa’s command of his repertoire has improved” said’s prospect write-up for the 23-year-old. “He’s throwing a lot more strikes than he did with Seton Hall and he’s trending upward overall, looking like yet another Twins late-round pitching find in the draft.”

While he’s already known as one of the best arms in Minnesota’s system, another breakout year could propel him to a national spotlight. If he continues to dominate at Double-A when he gets there, expect him to be knocking on the door as an organization top-five prospect at this time next year.

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