Minor-league game returned in 2021 and each Thursday, Bally Sports North took a closer look at some specific young players in the Minnesota Twins’ farm system -- as well as noting others who might be stepping up -- measuring, highlighting and evaluating their progress.
For our 19th and final edition of this year's Young Twins Tracker, we offer our MVPs for Minnesota’s minor-league teams as well as some notable players. For our purposes, we'll limit our picks to players who might still be considered a prospect.
Player of the Year: Jose Miranda (Round 2, 2016), 3B, Wichita/St. Paul
It’s Miranda, and it’s unanimous. The 23-year-old entered the season as the Twins’ No. 18 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline. By the end of the year, he was No. 8. Miranda batted .345/.408/.588 in 47 games with Double-A Wichita, was promoted to Triple-A in late June, and went on to hit .343/.397/.563 in 80 contests with the St. Paul Saints. He collected 184 hits -- 19 more than any other player in the minors. Miranda also led the Twins organization in batting average (.344), doubles (32), home runs (30), runs scored (97), RBI (94), slugging percentage (.572) and OPS (.973). We’ve run out of categories. His MLB debut can’t be far away.
Pitcher of the Year: Cole Sands (Round 5, 2018), RHP, Wichita
Selected No. 154 overall in the 2018 draft, Sans soared through the Twins organization in 2019 and finished the year at Double-A. Picking back up where he left off after the nonexistent 2020 minor-league campaign, Sands appeared in 19 games (18 starts) for Double-A Wichita. He logged a 4-2 record, 2.46 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings. Sands held opponents scoreless in seven starts, including two in which he went six full frames. Opponents batted just .203 against Sands, who now owns an 11-5 record, 2.58 ERA and 1.09 WHIP over his professional career.
Trey Cabbage (Round 4, 2015), OF, Cedar Rapids/Wichita
Cabbage hit just 14 homers over his first 223 minor-league games. He showed his first flash of power in 2019 with 15 dingers in 99 contests, and then broke onto the scene this summer by swatting 27 big flies in 108 matchups. Those 27 home runs -- nine for Cedar Rapids, 18 at Wichita -- were the second-most among Twins minor-leaguers. He was also one of three Twins prospects to notch 20+ doubles and 20+ home runs this summer (Miranda and Mark Contreras).
Matt Canterino (Round 2, 2019), RHP, Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids
When Canterino was healthy, he was unhittable. The 23-year-old made six starts and tallied a 0.78 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 23 innings. He walked just four hitters and allowed a mere 10 hits. Canterino whiffed 10 hitters in two different outings -- including one time when pitching four innings. The only problem, of course, is the right-hander struggled to stay off the injured list. An elbow injury limited Canterino to five innings of work after May 28. In 48 career professional innings, Canterino has allowed just five extra-base hits. It’s fun to imagine what he could be over a full, healthy season.
Gilberto Celestino, OF, Wichita/St. Paul
Celestino made his MLB debut June 2 and struggled in the big leagues, slashing .136/.177/.288 with 14 strikeouts in 23 games (20 starts). However, he had a fantastic campaign in the minors. Celestino batted .290/.384/.443 in 49 contests for the Triple-A Saints, tallying 27 runs scored, 24 RBI, 13 doubles and five homers along the way. The outfielder posted a season-best .891 OPS in August, boosting his chances to get back into Minnesota’s future plans.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand (Round 4, 2021), 3B, Fort Myers
Selected No. 128 overall out of Oklahoma State, Encarnacion-Strand tallied a hit in his first professional game Aug. 25 and never cooled off. In 22 contests with Low-A Fort Myers, the third baseman batted .391/.424/.598 (1.022 OPS) with two doubles, two triples and four homers. He notched at least one hit in all but one game. Twenty-two games is a small sample size, but it’s enough where we can’t wait to watch Encarnacion-Strand’s encore next summer.
Edouard Julian (Round 18, 2019), 2B, Fort Myers/Cedar Rapids
Julian had to wait two years to finally play minor-league baseball after he was selected in the 18th round in 2019. He didn’t waste any time getting started. The infielder was promoted to Cedar Rapids on June 28 after logging a .299/.490/.456 slash line in 47 contests for Fort Myers. At the next level, Julian found his power. He hit just three homers for the Mighty Mussels but 15 in 65 games with Cedar Rapids, including eight in the month of September. Julian logged a 1.019 OPS in the final month of the season. He might be ready for Double-A come spring training.
Austin Martin, SS/CF, Wichita
The No. 5 overall pick in 2020 out of Vanderbilt was acquired from Toronto in the Jose Berrios trade and quickly jumped to the top of Minnesota’s prospect list (No. 2 on MLB Pipeline behind just Royce Lewis). Martin showed off his versatility – splitting his time between the infield and outfield – as well as a propensity to get on base. His overall slash line in 37 games with the Wind Surge was .254/.399/.381 (he hit .281/.424/.383 with New Hampshire before being dealt) with five steals (14 combined over 93 games). Remember, this was Martin’s first pro season after there were no minor-league games last year. Turning 23 in March, it’s not hard to imagine him wearing a Minnesota uniform at some point in 2022.
Jovani Moran (7th round, 2015), LHP, Wichita/St. Paul
Moran’s steady climb up the Twins’ minor-league ladder saw him end up in Minnesota at the end of the year, seeing limited action. The recall was well deserved. Moran posted a 1.91 ERA, 0.743 WHIP and 15.3 K/9 at Wichita in 37 2/3 innings and 3.03, 1.079 and 13.7 in 29 2/3 innings with St. Paul. His combined totals: 67 1/3 innings and 108 strikeouts, with only 28 hits allowed, a .124 opponent batting average.
Endy Rodriguez (FA, 2019), 2B/SS, FCL Twins
The 18-year-old native Dominican made his pro debut in 2021 in the Florida Complex League. He played in only 21 games but showed good eye at the plate and some power, slashing .229/.415/.417, while playing mainly at second base, where he committed just one error in 88 innings.
Spencer Steer (3rd round, 2019), IF, Cedar Rapids/Wichita
It’s hard not to like an infielder with power and Steer displayed that in 2021. Starting out the year at High-A Cedar Rapids he hit .274/.409/.506 over 45 games. Promoted in late June to Double-A Wichita, he slugged .470. Overall, Steer hit 24 homers in 110 games (488 plate appearances), third most among Twins minor leaguers. He mainly played second base with the Kernels, with a sprinkling of games at second and short. With the Wind Surge, he started 33 games at third, 18 at second and eight at short. A versatile power hitter who can play all over the infield? What’s not to like.
Matt Wallner (CBA, 2019), OF, Cedar Rapids
Injuries limited Wallner to just 68 games (which includes two in a rehab assignment in rookie ball) but he displayed the power which made him a compensatory first-round draft pick. He was hitting .333/.374/621 with four homers in 17 games before an injury in late May sidelined him until July. He returned and hit .324/.375/.784 in nine games that month. Wallner finished this season in Cedar Rapids slashing .264/.350/.508 with 15 homers in 66 games.
Josh Winder (2nd round, 2018), RHP, Wichita/St. Paul
A right shoulder impingement ended Winder’s season early. He showcased his talent, especially in Wichita, and represented the Twins on the MLB Futures Game roster. Coming off a solid 2019 with Cedar Rapids (2.65 ERA, 0.98 WHP), the year off didn’t seem to affect Winder, who recorded a 1.98 ERA an 0.93 WHIP with 65 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings for the Wind Surge. He pitched well in his first start with St. Paul (5 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K) before stumbling a bit and being shut down after compiling a 4.67 ERA with an 0.98 WHIP in 17 1/3 innings over four starts.