The Twins already have reigning American League batting champion Luis Arraez set to anchor the top of their lineup for years to come. Pretty soon, the God of Walks might be joining him.
That’s how I’ve seen Twins No. 14 prospect Edouard Julien referred to in some corners of the internet, anyway. Coming off an all-time performance in the Arizona Fall League, Julien should finish Tuesday on Minnesota's 40-man roster, capping his year of continued evolution and meteoric rise from outside MLB Pipeline’s organizational top 30 to the cusp of the top 10.
"He had a heck of a fall, oh, gosh,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “I would say this: He really took major steps forward this year. He's always been a pretty good hitter. We always knew he had good plate discipline, he could walk, he knew the strike zone, all those things. I think he learned how to effectively get to a little bit more power, get his bat to ball as consistently as possible this year.”
Julien has had a fascinating player profile since the Twins took him in the 18th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, coupling solid power and strong baserunning skills with truly elite plate discipline that all combined for a spectacular showing in the 2022 AFL, the annual prospect showcase to which teams send players who could benefit from additional work and a higher level of competition.
The 23-year-old was in the running for AFL MVP (eventually won by Orioles prospect Heston Kjerstad), and he led the AFL in hitting (.400), on-base percentage (.563), OPS (1.249) and, of course, walks (23), while also finishing top three in hits (28) and homers (5) as part of an all-around masterclass that turned heads and took Glendale to the AFL Championship Game.
Julien’s .563 OBP was the third highest in AFL history, behind only Dustin Ackley (.581 in 2010) and Nate Roberts (.565 in '12).
It’s not just the ability to sit back and take the walk when it presents itself -- because that can sometimes lead to a too-passive approach in which too many hittable pitches go by. It’s also the newfound aggression to identify that hittable pitch early and get to his natural power, Julien says, which further accentuates the already-mature and advanced approach at the plate.
“I’ve worked on it this whole year. My main plan was to be able to attack pitches early in the count, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do,” Julien said to MLB.com in October. “Put a good swing and win the at-bat under three pitches. And if not, I just take my walk. Trust my eyes and be aggressive in the box.”
It’s funny to hear a player say, “If not, I just take my walk,” so matter-of-factly, as if that’s so easy. But to Julien, it really is. His 208 walks across the 2021-22 seasons led the Minors and were far ahead of the pack (second place had 178 walks in that span). He has coupled that with 35 homers, 53 steals and a .922 OPS up to Double-A.
One problem is that Julien doesn’t have a natural defensive home -- he focused mainly at second base in 2022 -- but if he keeps hitting this way into Triple-A, the Twins could be forced to make room sooner rather than later.
“I think he easily could factor into our plans next year, at some point during the course of the year,” Falvey said.