MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins selected the contracts of five prospects to their 40-man roster ahead of the 7 p.m. CT deadline on Wednesday night in order to protect them from next month's Rule 5 Draft.
Right-hander Jhoan Duran, ranked No. 9 in the Twins' organization by MLB Pipeline, headlined the group that was added to the 40-man roster, joined by outfielder Gilberto Celestino (No. 20) and versatile infielder/outfielder Travis Blankenhorn (No. 23). Right-hander Dakota Chalmers and outfielder Luke Raley rounded out the Twins' additions, which increased the 40-man roster to 37 players.
One common theme of those additions? The Twins clearly value the prospects that they received in their fire sale at the 2018 Trade Deadline. Of the five players whom the Twins protected on Wednesday, four arrived in transactions that summer: Duran (Eduardo Escobar trade), Celestino (Ryan Pressly trade), Raley (Brian Dozier trade) and Chalmers (Fernando Rodney trade).
That trade season already started to pay off for the Twins before Wednesday's roster moves, as both Jorge Alcala (Pressly trade) and Devin Smeltzer (Dozier trade) made their Major League debuts in 2019, with Smeltzer in particular impressing at the Major League level and likely to figure into the Twins' 2020 rotation picture in some capacity.
Shortstop Wander Javier (No. 7) and right-hander Griffin Jax (No. 21) headlined the Twins' eligible prospects who were left unprotected, and thus, at risk of being lost at the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 12 during the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
While there did not appear to be any relatively sure 40-man decisions in the high Minors beyond Duran, the Twins' moves encompassed two other players who could make an immediate impact in 2020 in Raley and Blankenhorn, and a pair in Chalmers and Celestino who are still relatively far from the Majors but have intriguing tools.
It came as no surprise that Duran headlined the Twins' 40-man additions after the 21-year-old right-hander posted a 3.76 ERA with 136 strikeouts in 115 innings for Class A Advanced Fort Myers and Double-A Pensacola this season. Even at his relatively young age, Duran already stands at a commanding 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, and his fastball velocity was reportedly clocked in the upper 90s in '19 as he continued to refine his breaking pitches in a career-high 112 innings.
Blankenhorn's versatility could have provided him value for a claiming team in the Rule 5 Draft; instead, he could serve as insurance in both the infield and outfield for the Twins if needed, especially with Marwin Gonzalez's contract set to expire after the 2020 season. The 23-year-old provided solid power (19 homers, 22 doubles) and speed (11 steals) as he topped out in Double-A last season while playing second base, third base and left field.
Raley could be the first of the bunch to debut in the Major Leagues, as he posted solid numbers in Triple-A Rochester in 2019 (.310/.361/.517, eight homers) despite poor strikeout numbers and being limited to 33 games by a left ankle injury. Raley played some first base in '17 and '18, a potential position of need for the Twins, but did not appear there last season.
Neither Celestino nor Chalmers has appeared in the high Minors yet, but the Twins appear to value their upside enough to dedicate 40-man roster spots to them.
Celestino combined increased power (10 homers) and solid plate discipline (50 walks vs. 85 strikeouts) with his strong center-field defense in Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Advanced Fort Myers, while Chalmers returned from Tommy John surgery in July and flashed a strong fastball with 48 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings for Fort Myers before posting more gaudy strikeout numbers in the Arizona Fall League despite shaky command.
Javier, a 20-year-old shortstop, was the highest-ranked prospect of them all after he was signed to a club record $4 million signing bonus in 2015, but prolonged injury struggles and a difficult 2019 in Cedar Rapids (.601 OPS) could make it difficult for a team to stash the toolsy infielder on its Major League roster for a full season. Jax has a career 3.18 ERA in the Minor Leagues and topped out at Triple-A in 2019 but has never posted strong strikeout numbers.