Twins

3 Twins Prospects Off To Sneaky Good Starts

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There’s no doubt that even casual Minnesota Twins fans have heard about the likes of Walker Jenkins, Brooks Lee, and Emmanuel Rodriguez. They’re the consensus top-three prospects in the Twins system and are generally viewed in the top 50 of the game on almost every notable ranking. And while each of those three superstar youngsters has impressed in their brief 2024 campaigns, a few other minor leaguers have had notable starts to their respective seasons.

Who knows? If their success continues, they could find themselves atop the Twins’ organizational rankings in the coming years and even in the national spotlight. But for now, get acquainted with these three prospects before their hype train leaves the station.

CJ Culpepper

While the 22-year-old righty can find his name on the back end of many top-10 organizational prospect lists for the Twins, he doesn’t have the same notoriety as someone like David Festa, Marco Raya, or Charlee Soto.

Yet.

As a 13th-round pick in 2022, draft pundits didn’t see Culpepper as some crown jewel of that class. Yet, he has done nothing but impress since starting his pro career, and his 2024 campaign has been right in line with his output since joining the organization. He boasts a 3.26 ERA across seven starts at High-A ball, which aligns well with his overall since the beginning of last season. (He only made one appearance in 2022 after the Twins drafted him, as is the case for many college pitchers).

Culpepper’s strikeout numbers have increased this year, with a rate that sits at a rock-solid 26%. With a five-pitch repertoire that he has continued to develop since transitioning to a starter, Culpepper has the makings to be an impact starter for the Twins at some point in the coming years.

“As Culpepper progresses, he’ll need to show he can maintain his better stuff over a full season’s workload after his velocity dropped as his first year wore on,” said MLB Pipeline in their preseason write-up. “He’s trending in the right direction, with the chance to be a workhorse-like starting pitcher in the big leagues.”

Yasser Mercedes

One of the youngest players on the organization’s top prospect list, the lofty outfielder from the Dominican Republic has rebounded stupendously from a brutal 2023 campaign in which he had a .196 batting average and a .629 OPS. His 2024 season has been much more in tune with his impressive 2022 debut, as he carries a .316 average and a tantalizing .915 OPS.

He was signed to a sizable bonus as an amateur in 2022 and was seen as a speedy outfielder with a really good arm who might grow into some power. However, he may lack a true-hit tool in the early going.

Mercedes’ in-game power has started to emerge this season, with 11 extra-base hits in his first 29 games. However, with only two home runs, the hope is that he can start putting it over the fence more consistently as he continues to grow and refine his pitch recognition. Still, given his age, he’s certainly taken the Florida Complex League by storm, and he will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Mercedes sits at the No. 18 spot on the MLB Pipeline prospect rankings for the Twins, and a full season of this type of production could propel him into the top 10 in the offseason.

“As he matures, the 6-foot-2 outfielder should grow into a whole lot of home run power, especially if he can get back to a solid gameplan at the plate, having shown better pitch recognition and swing decisions in the Dominican,” MLB Pipeline wrote. “Assuming his shoulder bounces back, he has the kind of hose that could fit well there and could grow into the corner outfield run-producing offensive profile as well.”

Andrew Morris

Another standout from Minnesota’s 2022 draft class, Morris has been an unsung hero of the organization’s ability to identify talent from lesser-known college programs. While he pitched his senior season at powerhouse Texas Tech, he played three seasons at Colorado Mesa University before that, and he got plenty of eyes before the transfer. He was taken in the fourth round two years ago and has opened many eyes since joining pro ball.

Morris started with High-A this year, where he had a 2.15 in seven games. However, they promoted him to Double-A, where he’s had even more success. He has an electric 1.61 ERA in four games for Wichita, and his control continues to be his strength. While his strikeout rate has gone down in his small sample size at Double-A, Morris still manages to avoid damage on the basepaths.

He has three really good pitches that represent a good starting point as a young hurler with starting pitcher aspirations. “With an over-the-top delivery, Morris has a unique angle with his fastball, which he cranked up to 97 mph with riding life,” MLB Pipeline explains. “He’s improved and firmed up his slider, and it’s now a bat-misser that’s up into the upper-80s with depth. His curve, now in the upper-70s, has good downer movement, and while his changeup is too firm at times, it can be effective with good fade.”

Look for him to be grouped with exciting starters whose stock has erupted recently, including Culpepper and Zebby Matthews.

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