The Minnesota Twins are 20-12 and sit atop the American League Central division. They find themselves there because of their devastating lineup. They also find themselves there because of a very good bullpen that has Taylor Rogers, Tyler Clippard, Trevor May, Tyler Duffy, and Sergio Romo. With a fairly solid starting rotation, the Twins are a serious World Series contender. Is there something that might put them over the top? How about a bullpen that shuts down every game where the Twins have the lead after six innings? To do that, the Twins need a truly elite reliever, and the best is Josh Hader.
If the Twins had Josh Hader at the back of their bullpen, they would possess a super bullpen that would rival any in baseball. If Minnesota were to pull off a trade for Hader, the assets coming back to Milwaukee likely would come from Minnesota’s loaded prospect group.
With four prospects in the top 100, one or more of these four players plus would likely be included in a trade for Josh Hader.
Royce Lewis is the 9th ranked prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline. Drafted number one overall in 2017, the Twins’ organization would be very reluctant to trade Lewis and for good reason. He has an amazing tool kit that could potentially make him a MLB star at a premium position whether it be shortstop or centerfield.
MLB Pipeline grades Lewis’ tools like this
Hit - 60
Field - 55
Power - 55
Arm - 55
Overall - 60
MLB Pipeline goes on to say:
Lewis is an exciting combination of impressive tools and high baseball IQ...He uses a high leg kick at the plate with a busy swing and his timing can be off at times, something that happened during his 2019 regular season. He made some adjustments in the second half and while his regular-season numbers don’t reflect that, it did help him regain his timing in Arizona. He can make hard contact to all fields and there’s plenty more power to come as he continues to mature. One of the fastest players in the Minors with excellent instincts, he should also continue to be a basestealing threat.
The swing is noisy and needs refining, but Lewis has the physical ability for superstardom...We’re betting big on Lewis’ makeup and physical talent. His BP’s were the best in the entire Fall League. He is an exceptional teammate, leader, and worker, who did more early infield work than anyone else Eric saw in the AFL, willing himself to become a viable left side infield defender even though he lacks the traditional grace and fluidity for those positions. We don’t think the swing works as currently constituted — it’s a mechanical departure from when Lewis was successful in high school — but we think it’ll get dialed in eventually because of his athleticism and work habits. Even if some of the pitch recognition stuff proves to be a long-term issue, we still think Lewis will be a versatile defender who plays several premium positions (we have him listed in center field because if we had to pick one spot where we think he’ll eventually be best, that’s it) and hits for considerable power. There may be an adjustment period similar to the one Javier Báez experienced early in his career because of the approach issues, but the star-level talent will eventually shine through.
Getting this caliber of player/prospect in return for Josh Hader might be enough if Minnesota is willing. That would be especially true if another prospect were included.
Alex Kirilloff is the 32nd ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Kirilloff’s calling card is the ability to hit. CBSSports.com R.J. Anderson actually rated Kirilloff above Lewis in his rankings. Right now he is an outfielder, but he might need to move to first base. I think the Brewers have a need there. MLB Pipeline scouting grades look as follows:
Hit - 60
Field - 50
Power - 55
Arm - 50
Overall - 55
Eric Longenhagen qualitatively describes Kirilloff:
Healthy Kirilloff is going to hit and hit for power. He can turn on balls most hitters are jammed by because of the way he strides open and clears his hips, but he still has the plate coverage and swing path to lift contact the other way when pitchers work away from him. A thickening build has slowed Kirilloff down, and he’s now begun seeing a lot of time at first base. This, combined with a pretty aggressive approach, makes him somewhat risky from some teams’ perspectives, who see a first baseman with below-average plate discipline, but we think he’s a safe bet to be a .340 to .360 wOBA guy even with how swing-happy he can be.
Kirilloff has had wrist injuries twice now. That is a bit concerning for a bat first prospect, but up to this point, he has hit. Coming off the wrist injury in 2019 while playing at AA level, he posted a .756 OPS. That isn’t great, but he did play hurt. In the previous season across two minor league levels he posted a .970 OPS at just 20 years old.
Larnach was a first round draft pick by Minnesota in 2018. He is another outfield prospect that has a strong hit tool. MLB Pipeline grades him out:
Hit - 55
Field - 50
Power - 55
Arm - 55
Overall - 55
Across two levels in 2019, Larnach posted a .842 OPS. He helped lead Oregon State to the 2018 College World Series. MLB Pipeline describes his ability to hit:
Larnach has always been able to hit from the left side of the plate — hitting for average as a sophomore and in the Cape Cod League. He added power as a junior after he adjusted his swing and he showed the ability to drive the ball to all fields during his first full season as a pro. He can easily use the opposite field, both for extra bases and home runs and was starting to improve turning on the ball to his pull side, all while maintaining his approach and drawing walks.
Balazovic is a bit right handed pitcher. He stands 6’5” with room to add weight to an already 215 lb. frame. His fastball consistently sits at 95-97 mph. MLB Pipeline grades Balazovic as follows:
Fastball - 65
Slider - 55
Control - 55
Overall - 55
Eric Longenhangen describes Balazovic:
He throws strikes with four pitches, several of which either project to miss bats or do so right now. Chief among them is his fastball, which is tough for hitters to pick up out of Balazovic’s hand as they’re misdirected by his limbs flying all over the place during the delivery. Even with a somewhat lower arm slot, Balazovic’s heater plays at the top of the zone. He can vary the shape of his breaking balls — the slider is the out pitch, the curveball gets dropped in for strikes — and both play up against righties because of the mechanics. And while Balazovic’s glove-side slider command should be enough for him to deal with lefties eventually anyway, his change improved in 2019. He throws an unusually high number of strikes for such a young, lanky, cold-weather arm with a somewhat violent delivery, and he’s had no health or control issues thus far. He pretty firmly projects as a No. 4 starter right now.
What was interesting as I have been writing this article, I’ve had MLB Network on in the background. A Josh Hader trade discussion took place between Mark DeRosa and Dan O’Dowd. The team the two TV personalities had Milwaukee trading with was the Minnesota Twins. The player they had headlining the trade from Minnesota was Royce Lewis. Maybe there is something there? There were also two other players listed in their trade scenario.
Ryan Jeffers is a catching prospect that ranks 6th in Minnesota’s system. MLB Pipeline describes Jeffers as such:
At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Jeffers is a big and physical backstop. A combination of plate discipline and juice in his bat has allowed him to get to his power as a pro more consistently than some thought he would as he was entering the Draft. It’s more strength than bat speed and he’s likely to always be a bit more power over hit, but he doesn’t strike out a ton and draws some walks. One of the best in the system in terms of driving the ball in the air, his selectivity should allow him to continue to get to that power.
Jeffers grades out as a 60 defender. That means he projects to be a very good behind the plate. Again from MLB Pipeline
The Twins feel he’s become an elite receiver and framer behind the plate. His plus makeup provides confidence that he’ll maximize his tools and become a big league regular, possibly faster than anyone would have anticipated.
Rooker is 25 years old and MLB ready. He is just blocked by a loaded Twins lineup. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the Twins #12 prospect. MLB Pipeline’s description of Rooker:
Rooker’s calling card remains his bat, though he has become much more power over hit than when he first entered the Twins system. The right-handed hitter has tremendous raw power with the ability to get to it regularly in games. While he sees a lot of pitches and draws walks, the strikeouts have become an issue and his K rate spiked to 34.7 percent in 2019. If he can mitigate the swing and miss enough with better pitch selection, he has the chance to be a very dangerous big league hitter.
Mark DeRosa/Dan O’Dowd Trade Hypothetical
Getting Royce Lewis COULD be akin to the Yankees acquiring Gleyber Torres. In fact O’Dowd suggested that might be the case. The other two players they mentioned look like they would be pretty good additions in a trade package. Is this the “bananas” price tag the Brewers’ front office is looking for. I have no idea, but this might not be far off of what could come back if Hader is really on the trading block. Then again, it still might not be enough.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference