MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins added three prospects to their 40-man roster on Friday ahead of the 5 p.m. CT deadline to protect players from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, headlined by right-hander Jordan Balazovic, the top pitching prospect in the organization. Catcher Ben Rortvedt and right-hander Bailey Ober were also
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins added three prospects to their 40-man roster on Friday ahead of the 5 p.m. CT deadline to protect players from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, headlined by right-hander Jordan Balazovic, the top pitching prospect in the organization. Catcher Ben Rortvedt and right-hander Bailey Ober were also selected, bringing Minnesota's 40-man roster to 37.
There weren't any surprise additions or omissions for the Twins among this crop of players. Balazovic was widely considered to be a shoo-in for inclusion on the roster, and Rortvedt's defensive ability could soon impact the Majors behind Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers. Ober has struggled with injury, but he has posted gaudy Minor League numbers throughout his career.
Balazovic, 22, is the No. 4 prospect in the organization and No. 81 overall, per MLB Pipeline. The former fifth-round pick out of Canada rocketed up prospect boards in 2019, thanks to continued physical development and maturation of his secondary pitches. This has led to his sustained success across three Minor League levels since turning pro in '16, and it culminated in a 2.69 ERA with 129 strikeouts in 93 2/3 innings at Class A and Class A Advanced in '19.
The right-hander was expected to continue his development and surface with the Twins at some point in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancelation of the Minor League season. He was a late addition to Minnesota's alternate training site in September before continuing his development after the season in Fort Myers, Fla., as part of instructional league play.
"He’s put on some weight," Twins farm director Alex Hassan said to MLB Pipeline's Jonathan Mayo earlier this offseason. "The extra work in the weight room has benefited him. His velocity is up a tick. He already threw in the low- to mid-90s. He’s now comfortably in the mid-90s, and he’s locating his fastball well."
Rortvedt gives the Twins a fourth catcher on the 40-man roster behind Garver, Jeffers and Willians Astudillo. The 23-year-old Wisconsin native hasn't been a force at the plate in the Minors, but he gives Minnesota another solid defensive option among its receiving depth, and he could play a more prominent role depending on Astudillo's future. He posted a .713 OPS from the left side with seven homers and 16 doubles in 79 games across Class A Advanced and Double-A in 2019.
Ober was among a handful of unranked pitchers that could have factored into the 40-man picture (also including Tyler Wells and Luis Rijo), and his inclusion will bring another fascinating look into the Twins' pitching group for 2021. Despite Ober's 6-foot-9, 260-pound frame, he's a soft thrower but excels with his command, with 223 strikeouts and 21 walks to his name in 181 2/3 innings across three Minor League seasons.
The 25-year-old Ober was a 12th-round Draft pick out of the College of Charleston in 2017, and he is 17-3 with a 2.38 ERA in his career despite struggling with injuries. There's no arguing with his 2019 numbers: 8-0, 0.69 ERA, 100 strikeouts and 9 walks in 78 2/3 innings, peaking in four Double-A starts.
The two highest-ranked Twins prospects left unprotected were shortstop Wander Javier (No. 9) and outfielder Akil Baddoo (No. 13), who carry strong prospect pedigrees but come with risk for any claiming teams. Javier entered the organization as a highly touted physical talent, but he hasn't seen that translate to results at the plate in Class A and went unclaimed in last year's Rule 5 Draft.
Baddoo was on track for a rise to the high Minors based on his strong eye at the plate and well-rounded skillset, but he lost most of his 2019 season to Tommy John surgery, and he didn't factor into the Twins' '20 plans. He hasn't played above Class A Advanced.
Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.