This Twins prospect has tons of potential

June 4th, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- Slowly but surely, in bits and pieces, the Twins are finally getting the chance to see Marco Raya pitching like the young starting prospect with polish they’ve been so thrilled about.

Next week will mark exactly three years since the Twins selected Raya in the fourth round of the 2020 MLB Draft, a rare high school pitcher selected early by an organization that traditionally hasn’t dabbled in that space. The pandemic year and injuries have limited Raya to 85 2/3 innings in those three years -- but now, the Twins are hoping he’s finally at a place where they can build him up normally.

“You just kind of have to be patient with young players,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “You go through the ups and downs. They're natural. The health stuff plays a role in that journey for all these guys. I just think that every time he's been on the mound, you see the ingredients for what you hope will be a really good starter in the future. We just want to make sure he's fully prepared to do so from a health standpoint, from a body standpoint.”

Now 20 years old, Raya has pushed his way up to become the No. 6 prospect in the organization, per MLB Pipeline, despite all the developmental hurdles that began his career. The 2020 season was obviously a total loss. Then, a shoulder strain prevented him from throwing any competitive innings in ‘21, and the Twins carefully monitored his workload in ‘22, when he threw 65 innings.

Along the way, though, there were glimpses of his potential. The Twins were thrilled about how much polish he had on his four-pitch mix for such a young pitcher, with a high-spin fastball complemented by a strong slider and curveball and a still-developing changeup. In his longest start of ‘22 for Single-A Fort Myers, a six-inning outing against Dunedin on April 19, he allowed one hit in six scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts.

Raya once again began the ‘23 season slowly due to a right shoulder issue, and the Twins have capped him at three-inning stints through his first seven appearances for High-A Cedar Rapids. He’s made the most of those limited opportunities, as he went all of May without giving up a run, combining for 12 scoreless innings with 14 strikeouts, one walk and four hits allowed across four starts of three innings each.

He built on that with another sparkling outing on Friday, giving up one run on two hits in three innings, striking out four without a walk. He has a 2.61 ERA, 24 strikeouts and five walks this season.

Raya went pro quite young for a domestic pitcher, as he was 17 when he joined the organization. Considering that, his relatively small stature, the pandemic chaos at the start of his career and the injury history, there hasn’t been a clear roadmap in his buildup -- but considering his potential, the Twins have been treating him carefully.

“That's the hardest part,” Falvey said. “I hate to say this, but I think we're even still dealing with some of the pandemic Minor League season realities of not having had full buildup for those guys. Hopefully, he's on the back end of that now and progressing toward more traditional year-to-year buildup.”

It’s been a slow burn for Raya, and the changeup remains a work in progress -- and though he’s behind where a typical 2020 draftee would have been, the patience looks like it’s paying off.

Triple-A St. Paul
The Twins’ highest-level affiliate swept the organization’s Minor League Player of the Week awards, with and  being named the pitcher and hitter of the week, respectively. Wallner reached base in his last eight plate appearances with the Twins before he was optioned back down on May 29, and since then, he has gone 9-for-21 (.429) with three homers, two doubles, eight RBIs and even a home run robbery on defense for the Saints.

Double-A Wichita
isn’t ranked among the club’s top 30 prospects, but the third baseman’s productive season continued this week with two more homers, raising his total to 12, most in the organization. The 65 strikeouts in 190 plate appearances are still a bit of a concern, but Severino has continued to build off a breakout ‘22 in which he showcased much more power than he’d previously shown as a prospect.