As the Minnesota Twins try to usurp the Cleveland Indians this season, these five prospects could provide a boost.
The Minnesota Twins earned a Wild Card spot in 2017, then fell back down to 78-84 last year. A new manager is in place, Rocco Baldelli, with a new vision likely to be aligned with a fairly new front office led by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine.
Local fans like to call ownership cheap, but the Twins had a pretty active offseason, notably signing Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, C.J. Cron and Blake Parker to be pieces of a broader winning equation. The Cleveland Indians look vulnerable as the reigning AL Central champions, due to offseason losses and early-season injuries, so the Twins could be quite active at the trade deadline if they’re in the race. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano being healthy and figuring it out would also go a long way to Minnesota making a legit run at the division title this year.
But outside of trades, a farm system currently ranked No. 8 in baseball by MLB.com could yield major league contributors this year as well as in the future.
With that in mind, these five prospects could very well help the Twins as the 2019 season goes along.
5. RHP Zack Littell
Littell made eight appearances for the Twins last year, including two starts, with a 6.20 ERA, a 6.2 K/9 and a 4.9 BB/9 over 20.1 innings. He has mostly been a starter in the minors, with an uptick in K/9 between Double and Triple-A last year (9.1; 8.1 K/9 for his minor league career to this point).
Littell brings four solid pitches to the table, with his low-90’s fastball and curveball rated as a little above average. His upside is an innings-eating back-end-of-the-rotation starter with good command, since his fit as a bullpen arm is sure to be strained.
The Twins are hoping to have Michael Pineda and Martin Perez fill the last two spots in the starting rotation when it comes time to need five starters. But those spots after Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson should be rooted in merit, and if there’s any prolonged struggles or injury problems for Pineda and/or Perez that will open the door for others. If Littell pitches well again in Triple-A (3.57 ERA, 8.3 K/9 last year), he’ll enter the conversation.