FORT MYERS, FLA. – The Twins' top 10 prospect lists are volatile from year to year as players move up and down the rankings based on development, success and health.
This particular list stands out because of who is not on it.
Austin Martin is not on the list. A key component in the Jose Berrios trade with Toronto in 2021, the infielder struggled adjusting his swing before suffering a UCL sprain last season. Now a setback with his elbow has delayed his spring for six to eight weeks as he recovers.
Righthander Matt Canterino is not on the list. He has struck out 13.8 batters per nine innings in the minors but is sidelined following Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery.
Righthander Jordan Balazovic, a former top-five prospect, is not on the list. He suffered a knee injury early last season and struggled mightily at Class AAA St. Paul once he was healthy. This season has been delayed after suffering a broken jaw during an altercation in Fort Myers. He's throwing a live bullpen on Tuesday and is close to pitching in games.
Even Matt Wallner is not in this top 10. The power-hitting, strong-armed outfielder made it to the majors last season and his future will be determined on how he handles breaking pitches. On this list, he was edged out by someone with exciting upside.
The players who did crack this hack's top 10 definitely have upside. Most are opening eyes wider here at Twins spring training. And a handful of them should/could contribute to the major league team this season.
1. Brooks Lee, 22, SS. Carlos Correa said during camp he wouldn't be surprised if Lee, last year's first-round pick, contributes on the major league level this season. High praise, but Lee has earned it. The switch-hitter batted .303 on three different levels in his debut season and impressed in camp before being sent out. Good thing he's a shortstop, because he can be moved anywhere if the bat warrants it.
2. Royce Lewis, 23, SS. Just when we wondered about his top prospect status, Lewis was called up to the majors last season and hit .300 in 12 games before suffering a knee injury for the second consecutive season. He should be ready to contribute sometime after the All-Star break and in position to flash his exciting potential once again.
3. Emmanuel Rodriguez, 20, OF. The Twins signed him for $2.5 million during the 2019-20 international window and watched him explode last year with a 1.044 OPS at Class A Fort Myers before a knee injury ended his season in June. He's healthy and has gotten a couple at-bats this spring as an extra player. His power-speed potential is intriguing, although he might slow down some as he fills out.
4. Connor Prielipp, 22, LHP. The Twins actually have a lefthanded starting pitching prospect. Tommy John surgery in May 2021 ended his career at Alabama, but he did enough in a bullpen session and at the combine for the Twins to take him in the second round in 2022. On Saturday, he consistently hit 94 miles per hour during a minor league game (some say he can touch 97) and scouts said his slider is a legitimate out pitch. Needs to learn how to change speeds.
5. Edouard Julien, 23, 2B. He would be higher on this list if his defense was stronger, but he joined the organization with his best position in question. His bat looks major league-ready. He hit .300 with 17 homers and 67 RBI last season at Class AA Wichita. He has walked more than 200 times the past two minor league seasons combined. He hit .400 in the Arizona Fall League. And he impressed in camp before being cut. You will see him in the majors this season.
6. Marco Raya, 20, RHP. Raya is listed at 170 pounds. He needs to get stronger and build his endurance because he threw just 65 innings over 19 appearances and 17 starts at Fort Myers last season. The potential is tantalizing. He uses four pitches — a mid-90s fastball, a slider and curve that are out pitches and an improving changeup. He did leave his outing early on Saturday as a precaution due to shoulder tightness.
7. Simeon Woods-Richardson, 22, RHP. Woods-Richardson made his MLB debut last season, so he will be in the pecking order to be called up in 2023 when the Twins need a starter. He throws four pitches and is successful when he's painting the fastball, then using his above average changeup to keep hitters off-balance.
8. Jose Salas, 19, IF. The Twins weren't going to trade Luis Arraez for Pablo Lopez unless they received a sweetener. The Marlins threw in two prospects, one being Salas, a toolsy switch hitter who could explode once he grows into his 6-2, 191-pound frame and taps into his power potential. He should be a good base stealer as well.
9. Louie Varland, 25, RHP. The former North St. Paul and Concordia (St. Paul) player went 1-2 with a 3.81 ERA over five starts last season. He throws a mid-90s fastball, slider and changeup. The Twins rotation is full at the moment. But if Varland maintains the work ethic that got him from Division II to the majors, the Twins will be forced to find a spot for him.
10. Yasser Mercedes, 18, OF. Mercedes is coming to America after hitting .355 in the Dominican League last summer. Already one of the toolsiest outfielders in the organization, Mercedes is projected to develop power as he fills out and gains experience. And he stole 30 bases 41 games last season. The Twins, who signed him last year for $1.7 million, are excited to see what he will do.