Big Hype Prospects returns in time for a big Twins-themed update. Let’s eschew the ado.
Five Big Hype Prospects
Royce Lewis, 22, SS, MIN (AAA)
107 PA, 3 HR, 8 SB, .310/.430/.563
A former first overall prospect who flirted with the “bust” label for a few moments, Lewis chewed through Triple-A and should have a chance to stick for good if he performs. The proximate need is an injury to Carlos Correa which is expected to require a stint on the injured list. There’s still plenty of opportunity elsewhere in the infield if and when Correa returns. Neither Gio Urshela nor Jose Miranda (more on him in a moment) have staked strong claims to a job.
COVID and an ACL injury wiped out Lewis’ 2020 and 2021 seasons. However, this 2022 rebound was widely anticipated – he had shown considerable growth last spring prior to the knee injury. Lewis has an exciting combination of athleticism not seen in Minnesota since the arrival of Byron Buxton. While his three home runs in 107 plate appearances aren’t indicative of an elite power hitter, it’s worth noting he hit 11 doubles and a triple too. Overall, that’s 15 extra-base hits and 12 singles, a ratio which portends productivity if he stays healthy and continues making contact.
Keep an eye on his walk rate and plate discipline in the Majors. He’s long been an aggressive hitter, yet he managed a 15.9 percent walk rate this season. I don’t have any information on this apparent discipline breakout. Swing decisions are the cutting edge of hitter analytics right now so we’ll want to learn if his walks are a small sample fluke, the result of teams pitching around him, or a new aspect of his game.
Jose Miranda, 23, CI, MIN (MLB)
17 PA, .118/.118/.176
Prospect watchers had their eye on Miranda this spring. That’s because, last season, he hit 30 home runs with a .344 batting average in 591 plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A. Scouts don’t love Miranda from a defensive perspective. Though he’s capable of manning second or third base, he’s better-suited to first base or designated hitter. He’s a free swinger with a knack for making contact and above average pop. Personally, I’m getting vague Maikel Franco flashbacks, albeit with less swing-and-miss. He ends fewer than 20 percent of plate appearances with a walk or strikeout, a rarity in today’s game. The FanGraphs prospect crew offer Ty France as a loose comp, though it’s important to remember the current iteration of France has exceeded the expectations of nearly every scout and evaluator.
Miguel Sano is expected to miss a significant amount of time so Miranda should have ample opportunity to build upon both this slow start, and a tepid .256/.295/.442 batting line he posted in 95 Triple-A plate appearances. His internal competition for starts are Urshela and outfielders like Alex Kirilloff (once healthy).
Josh Winder, 25, SP, MIN (MLB)
16.1 IP, 2.20 ERA, 6.61 K/9, 2.20 BB/9
Winder earned a spot in the Opening Day bullpen after crafting an epic Spring Training. While the actual recorded stats appeared ordinary, evaluators raved about the quality of his stuff. Winder has a four-pitch repertoire of 50-grade offerings – league average in scouting parlance. They play up due to above-average command. A variety of injuries in the rotation have gifted him with an opportunity to start. His debut start came on May 1 when he worked six innings against the Rays. He allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out seven batters. Winder has undeniable swing-and-miss stuff (12.2% SwStr%), but he’s yet to show consistency with inducing strikeouts.
MJ Melendez, 23, C, KC (MLB)
(AAA) 91 PA, 2 HR, 3 SB, .167/.286/.295
Between stomping upper minors pitching for 41 home runs in 531 plate appearances last season and an equally impressive Spring Training, Melendez would have made most Opening Day rosters. Instead, the positionally deep Royals sent him to Triple-A where he scuffled in part due to a .204 BABIP. A need for a backup catcher opened a brief opportunity for him earlier this week. In seven plate appearances, he’s shown how he terrorized minor league pitching last season via loud contact. Of his six batted ball events, four are “hard” with a 95.6-mph average exit velocity. For now, he’s mostly competing with Hunter Dozier for designated hitter reps.
Max Meyer, 23, SP, MIA (AAA)
26.1 IP, 1.71 ERA, 11.28 K/9, 2.05 BB/9
Elieser Hernandez has posted a devilish 6.66 ERA in five starts (24.1 IP). Meyer, meanwhile, is steamrolling Triple-A hitters. He’s rumored to be in consideration to take Hernandez’s next turn in the rotation. Meyer isn’t exactly a traditional scout’s dream – he’s small and mostly leans on a two-pitch repertoire. His fastball and slider are elite offerings that play well off each other. His changeup lags behind but is considered usable. His stuff is sufficiently electric to make up for below-average command. He doesn’t issue many free passes which he achieves by missing in the zone and trusting his stuff to carry the day. He could produce ace-like numbers. However, we should expect a short-burst role similar to early-career Lance McCullers.
Kyle Bradish (25): Bradish has made two starts since we discussed him last week. I noted we should “monitor his ability to generate called and swinging strikes.” Thus far, his 13.9 percent called and 9.3 percent swinging strike rates are slightly below league average. Incidentally, he’s managed 4.50 K/9 in 10 innings. We’ll keep watching.
Matt Brash (24): In early April, Brash sizzled in his debut start during which I wondered if big league hitters might stop bailing him out by swinging at his unhittable breaking ball. It was never in the zone. They proceeded to do just that. Brash was recently demoted to Triple-A where he’ll serve as a reliever. Many expect this to be a permanent role reassignment. He could be an elite stopper.
George Kirby (24): The Mariners have progressed slowly with Kirby’s development due to a history of injury issues. With Brash exiting the rotation, Kirby has an outside chance to double-jump to the Majors. One of the top pitching prospects in the game, he’s produced a 1.82 ERA with 11.68 K/9 and 1.82 BB/9 in 24.2 Double-A innings. A gradual ascent through Triple-A is likelier.
Adley Rutschman (24): Rutschman is basically on a rehab assignment. He’ll be in the Majors soon. Since our last update, he hit .526/.591/.737 in 22 plate appearances. He also posted three walks and only one strikeout.
Roansy Contreras (22): The Pirates are still carefully managing Contreras’ workload. While many of us hoped he was demoted to Triple-A to build his pitch count, he faced 15 batters on April 24 and only 13 batters on April 30. He’s due for another start. Look for more batters faced.