Written By: Wrenzie
Follow him on Twitter: @GiantProspectiv
Follow Prospects Worldwide on Twitter: @ProspectsWorldW
Before we get to the specifics of the Twins Draft analysis, you are probably scratching your eyes just to double-check who wrote this analysis. Yes, it’s me Giant Prospective, a Giants fan doing a Twins draft analysis. But this time, I’m peeling back my Giants fandom and put on my MLB draft cap and give Twins fans a justifiable analysis of the players selected. I’m piggybacking with Jake Tillinghast a.k.a. The Real Mr. Worldwide (I coined it to him) by combining our reports while I give my unbiased opinion on the Twins draft class in general.
Based on the historic Twins season last year, whatever grooming the Twins coaches are doing with their hitters in the Majors that is trickling down to their minor league affiliates in terms of drafting and developing powerful men is working. They are looking to continue that trend by drafting yet another draft class of powerful men.
Even though the Twins lost a third-round pick because of the Josh Donaldson trade, I still feel that the Twins did well in the draft. They stuck to what is working for them and they are looking to continue to feed their farm system that has good-looking bats leading the way in Lewis and Kirilloff with better depth and even more muscle.
There are several traits that I noticed in this Twins draft class. First and foremost is their fetish towards drafting impact bats while not caring about their ultimate position in the field. Guys like Kirilloff and Brett Rooker come to mind in recent years. Now add Sabato and Soularie to the mix. Next of course, is their fetish on power, as proven by Sabato, Rosario and if the small sample size of 2020 holds, Soularie. Next is their love for the metrics, as Sabato and Rosario post very strong exit velocities and Raya possesses some of the best spin rates in the class. The final point that is very obvious is their age, as all of their draftees are young for the class. (Sabato and Soularie are just 21 years old, Raya and Soularie have yet to turn 18)
It’s a very progressive train of thought that is to be expected from the Twins front office and even though their selections are not exactly fan favorites, it’s very akin to the current regime’s style and approach.
1.27: 1B/DH Aaron Sabato – University of North Carolina (NC)
Age: 21 – Bats: R – Throws: R -6’2″ – 230 lbs – ETA: 2022
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In the weeks before the MLB Draft, the Tar Heel is getting some serious steam in the middle of the first round. Lucky for the Twins, the draft went as bonkers as usual and landed quite possibly the best source of in-game power remaining in the draft. The Twins are very grateful for Nelson Cruz last season in terms of providing great value at the DH spot and is aging like a fine wine. However, nobody has ever beaten Father Time and Cruz is entering his age-41 season (actually turning 41 this week) and the Twins are staring at the barrel of replacing Cruz with Sabato.
The first thing that you will see from Sabato is his size. And boy, he is huge. You will not miss out on Sabato if you are going to look for him in a crowd. His forearms and thighs are massive, his torso is bulked up and he is muscular. The cement is dry on the body but his overall thickness does scream close to 75 raw power and he does put it on display in BP. For a guy as big as him, he is not a bad athlete as he does show some quick-twitch in his actions in the box and in the dirt.
Don’t expect a lot from Sabato defensively as he is currently and stays to be a below-average defender in first base. His side-to-side movement is below average, not going more than a step or two to his right, but he has pretty soft hands to pick balls in first base. His flexibility however in terms of stretching out his legs on bang-bang plays is a question as well.
Because Sabato projects to be a DH at the Major League level, he must hit to plow his way through the Minors. If there’ is one thing that Sabato does well and that’s to hit for power. As one of the best hitters in all of college baseball in the second half of last season that included him hitting for the cycle against NC State, Sabato puts some serious dent to the ball. For such a bulky guy, Sabato has a quiet swing.
Employing a wide and a bit closed stance on the box, Sabato loads his backside very well and ends up even wider at the front foot plant. The bat that’s parallel to the ground in his set-up but as he works with his leg kick, the bat knob drops, and points to the catcher and loads his back elbow high. His swing most of the time starts as soon as his metatarsals drop to the ground. He keeps his upper half quiet, giving him plenty of stability and vision. As soon as the front foot plants, his hips start to fire but his bat stays back very well. The high back elbow set up gives him plenty of natural loft in the swing and his explosive hip rotation and recoil results to tremendous power to all fields.
The bat looks to hunt balls down to punish for homers, so don’t be surprised if pitchers try to attack Sabato with a high fastball-low curveball approach. However, Sabato has a good approach at the plate to back up his power. He looks for pitches that he can drive, not afraid to lay off tough pitches and get on base via balls. He does not pull the ball a whole lot and has improved his strikeout rate in the early stages of the 2020 season with the expense of his batting average.
The shift to a more three-true-outcomes power masher could be Sabato’s likely role in a Major League roster, a guy who can deliver plenty of home runs and drive in a lot of runs, take his walks and post a decent batting average. However, his defense is lacking and there are better defenders at first base in the Twins system right now, but only Kirilloff is capable of pumping the power that Sabato has. Drafting a bat-heavy prospect is not Jake’s favorite flavor so he is not a big fan of the selection. However, in my opinion, this kind of bat that should move through the Minors quickly and augment the already powerful Twins lineup that is looking to win now is a sensible pick with the club already took a risk last year with Keoni Cavaco.
2.59: OF/2B Alerick Soularie – University of Tennessee (TN)
Age: 21 – Bats: R – Throws: R – 6’0″ – 175 lbs – ETA: 2022
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The Twins took a dip in the second round to take the standout outfielder from the University of Tennessee. The former Volunteer is going to join a farm system that if he capable of playing in the dirt, as he tried to last fall, will possess the second-best bat that is in their farm system after Royce Lewis. The selection came a round earlier than expected, but Soularie’s track record of hitting caught the eyes of the Twins scouting staff.
Soularie’s best position on the field is the batter’s box, just like Sabato but Soularie has a better chance to stick in the field. Defensively, Soularie is kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. His arm strength and raw speed are fringy at best so he will move out of center field and switch to a corner, most likely to left field where his range and hit-over-power approach best fits. Soularie did get some reps in second base so it will be an interesting dynamic if the Twins coaches add more value to his profile by having him play there.
Since transferring from San Jac, Soularie’s done nothing but hit. Soularie has the tools and the track record to show for. Soularie added more muscle to his frame, giving him average raw power. Also, even though his speed is not great, Soularie possesses plenty of quick-twitch that he displays on the batter’s box and posts a pretty good sprint speed when he’s hustling from home to first.
When early on in the count, Soularie has a closed, tall, and narrow stance with his hands up and his bat parallel to the ground. He then loads his backside, ends up in a wider stance when he lands his front foot, and loads his back elbow high and points the bat knob to the catcher that gives loft to the swing. It’s noticeable that Soularie employs more of a lead leg drag and a double toe tap approach, similar to Giancarlo Stanton in his Marlins days and current Brewer Keston Hiura, instead of a leg kick to generate energy to his backside. He also had a variation of not employing the toe tap and only drags his lead leg forward.
In two-strike counts, Soularie has a different batting stance. Like a completely new player, Soularie stands wide in the box with his front foot placed on where its located at front foot plant in early strike counts. He employs a leg kick instead of a lead leg drag but the quiet upper half remains the same.
Soularie’s swing starts as soon as his left metatarsal drops. Soularie’s bat travels through the zone well with good bat speed and an even greater bat control, with the ability to adjust his swing depending on the pitch location. He can work the count, spit off borderline pitches, and employ great strike zone control. The power is currently more on the pull side at the moment but he’s shown the ability to make contact to all fields with gap power.
Soularie went bonkers last year for the Vols, posting an impressive triple slash line. However, 2020 has shown a bit of a shift in his line, as he’s posted a worse batting average but has hit for more power while keeping his walk rate healthy and more importantly, improved his strikeout rate. That numbers in an abbreviated season might be a sign that Soularie’s transitioning to a more power-over-hit approach because Jake noted that he’s sacrificing power to produce better contact in his looks. Based on what I see, he’s shedding off some power because his front leg is not anchored to the ground once the swing starts, as it’s flexing throughout his swing and not stiff and not exactly driving the ball with authority.
What will the Twins do with Soularie is a pretty interesting thought exercise. Based on his small sample size this year, are the Twins buying that Soularie can transition fully to a power-over-hit approach, and try to take advantage of his fantastic bat-to-ball skills and have him do adjustments to his swing to gear up for more power?
Defensively, where will he end up? Will it be second base, left field, center field, or even catcher where he’s had reps in his prep days? Jake thinks that the bat profiles best in LF but I think that if Soularie shows that the power approach is for real, I think he has a shot to stick at second base and be an offensively-minded second baseman. Nonetheless, it’s the bat that will carry Soularie through the Minors.
4.128: RHP Marco Raya – United South HS (TX)
Age: 17.9 – Bats: R – Throws: R – 6’0″ – 165 lbs – ETA: 2024
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It’s a bit of a shock that Raya was popped by the Twins this early in terms of the gap between where he is selected and where national publications have him on their board. However, there are things that Raya does that is very favorable in the progressive pitching community (metrics and mechanics-wise) that will make a progressive organization like the Twins to select him even though he’s better suited to get bypassed and head to college.
Listed at 165 lbs., Raya is already pretty physical for his age, with a muscular torso and biceps, although I see that his lower half can still gain a bit of muscle as his hips and butt are big enough the mass that he will ever add to his thighs. Raya has great athleticism on the mound as he has shown flashes of repeating his delivery pretty consistently.
Standing on the first base side of the rubber, Raya does a lot of things that will make you think that he’s a prospect from the Indians organization. As he starts to drive forward to the plate, Raya does a similar thing that current Indians pitchers Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber does: close off his backside, drives hard off his back leg, straightens his lead leg without getting stiff with his left heel pointing towards the batter. Raya’s right arm reaches back but stays rather loose and is in a powerful position once his front foot lands. His lead leg has a bit of rotation but his upper half stays quiet throughout until front foot landing and he does generate tremendous extension off his powerful leg drive.
Raya lands with his front foot pointing to the plate but he keeps his front leg closed and with arm action reaching back, he generates tremendous hip-shoulder separation. The rest happens in a blink of an eye as his whippy arm hurls the ball in a high 3/4 release point with great arm speed and he drives off his front leg very well. Overall, Raya’s mechanics is intense exhibiting plenty of effort and uses all of his body to deliver the ball to the catcher’s mitt.
The stuff that Raya has currently is also a darling for the metrics-loving community. His fastball currently sits at the low-90s range with a plus 2500 RPM and the effect of the spin shows as he generates tremendous lateral movement on his fastball. There’s quite a head whack in his mechanics last year and he does fancy incorporating some Johnny Cueto shenanigans to his mechanics and those results to him having inconsistency in terms of control. However, his head whack looked better in bullpen sessions based on recent clips and has shown the ability to command the ball to the lower third of the plate better. Jake sees the potential for Raya to touch 97 and sit in the mid-90s if he adds more muscle.
After his fastball, Raya’s slider might be his best pitch overall but his best off-speed pitch if not the best. Thrown in the high-70s range and thrown in the 2600 RPM to up to 3000 RPM range, his slider has wicked, two-plane break that is reminiscent of a Yu Darvish offering in terms of the plane and the hard bite that it has. However, the pitch is currently very inconsistent in terms of locating it although his recent videos show him executing the pitch pretty well, locating off the plate down in the zone.
Raya’s other two offerings currently have average potential, with his low-80s changeup with an RPM of 1900 being more of an average offering to his curveball, that flashed some quality, although it can be mistaken at times for his slider. Like most prep pitchers, Raya suffers from consistency in terms of finding the zone but his fastball did improve in terms of locating the pitch for strikes but I would like to see his off-speed pitches become more competitive offerings.
Raya has starting pitching traits with his spin rates, mechanics, and potential control. However, there will always be knocks with his frame and whether his body will hold up as he gets older due to the explosiveness and stress that is exerted by his body. Tim Lincecum only had a career in his 20s as his body broke down even though he has tremendous athleticism. On the other hand, I like Raya’s mechanics in general for the same reason as explosiveness, athleticism, and tempo.
If Raya makes significant progress with his third pitch, leaning on his changeup, and his command, he will be given all the chances to start in the Majors. If not, however, Raya could enjoy a career as a fastball-slider reliever at the highest level.
5.158: OF Kala’i Rosario – Waiakea HS (HI)
Age: 18 – Bats: R – Throws: R – 6’1″ – 205 lbs – ETA: 2024
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With their final selection, the Twins stayed true to what they hunt down on their hitters: Hulks with tremendous pop on their bat. Rosario is the best prospect that came out of Hawaii since Kodi Medeiros got drafted in the first round by the Brewers in 2014.
Rosario’s raw power is what makes him stand out above the rest. There’s already plenty of strength on his pretty wide frame, and he could very well add more muscle as he gets older, giving him potentially 80 raw power. His exit velocity of 105 MPH in the PG National event last year is eye-popping for a prep player and he beat out an already known power hitter in Blaze Jordan in the Area Code Games HR Derby.
Already a big guy in his age, Rosario figures to lose a step or two once he gets even stronger and mature to his frame, where his already fringy speed will end up as a below-average tool. That speed will have him stuck in the corners, but his only fringy velocity from the OF could limit him to LF or even have him try out in 1B.
On the box, Rosario does things that both Sabato and Soularie in their loading phase. Standing in a slightly wide, slightly open set-up with the bat parallel to the ground, Rosario closes his front leg as he drives forward to the plate with his shoulders to his back elbow staying parallel to ground as opposed to a more high back elbow set-up at front foot landing. Jake noted that Rosario primarily hits off his front leg, shifts his weight very early that will likely have him be susceptible to better breaking balls. With his current mechanics, Jake also noted that Rosario will have a very hard time hitting the ball out in front.
I am not exactly a big fan of his current swing plane either, as there are times that his bat path is still dragging downwards beyond the halfway point of his swing. However, if he ever barrels the ball, his sheer strength shows and he’s capable of launching baseballs from foul pole to foul pole with relative ease. Aside from being a masher, Rosario also has a pretty advanced approach at the plate, as he’s shown the ability to lay off borderline calls but will still whiff because of the nature of his hitting approach.
Jake summed up Rosario’s swing as “BP HR Derby”-type swing, and it’s accurate. The swing is not friendly towards having good bat control and he’s not that athletic enough from what I’ve seen to have success with his current approach. The Twins coaches have their work cut out for them as they try to tame down Rosario’s swing to extract the most of his raw power and his pretty advanced plate discipline.
He’s not quite Bryce Harper to reach the Majors with his front leg-heavy approach but if they can start towards a more consistent bat path along with a better balance on the box, Rosario will be an offensive force in the corner outfield even if he will not provide much value defensively. However, if he stays with his current approach, he will have a hard time reaching the Majors. I am betting that Rosario will utilize his skills and intangibles to reach the Majors.