Top prospects like Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker, Trevor Larnach and Jhoan Duran are part the Twins training camp this second time around. It’s an opportunity for them to continue their development while putting themselves in the pecking order if they are needed during the season.
But for the majority of top Twins prospects — such as pitchers Jordan Balazovic and Blayne Enlow, or position players Matt Wallner, Wander Javier and Keoni Cavaco — it’s looking like a lost season of development.
While Major League Baseball attempts to hold a 60-game season, the minor league season has been officially canceled, affecting thousands of players.
Teams now are trying to figure out how their prospects can salvage some sort of development. The Twins in recent years have had skill development camps for groups of prospects during the offseason. Heading to Fort Myers is up in the air right now as the state of Florida deals with a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“We obviously are focused on developing all of our minor leaguers throughout the course of this year, we just are limited by what we can do at present,” said Derek Falvey, Twins president of baseball operations. “It’s my hope, if we can continue to proceed down the path at the major league level, to at some point focus a little bit more on how we could potentially utilize our spring training locations on occasion, for even some further development of other players who aren’t part of the 60.”
Some teams will allow their prospects to play in independent leagues. The Twins are open to the idea, but health and safety will be a priority.
“If a player reaches out to express interest in an independent professional league, we will evaluate it based on our review of the player’s readiness, the opportunity being offered, and conditions surrounding the league with respect to COVID-19 spread in the location and their plans for keeping players tested and healthy,” Falvey said.
The Twins normally bring in a slew of former players as special instructors to training camp. For this shortened camp, in which health is paramount, they will have just one involved with coaching — former reliever LaTroy Hawkins.
“I’ve seen the impact that LaTroy has on everyone here,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think we’re really fortunate, too, because hearing from LaTroy and spending time around him talking with him, he’s at a point in his life and his baseball journey where he’s excited about being back on the field and he’s excited about diving in headfirst. For someone that has had the career that LaTroy has had, that has the respect that LaTroy has from everybody here and throughout the league, to have him as a resource and as a member of our group, it’s extraordinarily valuable.”
Hawkins was hired in 2016 as a special assistant to baseball operations, which has allowed him to provide input in several areas, such as pitching development and draft preparation.
A clarification needs to be made in the case of suspended righthander Michael Pineda.
Pineda was suspended 80 games after failing a drug test during the second half of last season. The suspension was reduced to 60 games after he proved that the drug he took was for weight loss only. He sat out the remaining 21 games of the regular season, and the belief was that he had 39 games left.
Not so fast. A Twins official on Thursday confirmed that the three American League Division Series games against the Yankees — all won by New York — also counted toward his punishment. So Pineda’s remaining suspension is 36 games, not 39.