MINNEAPOLIS -- Connor Prielipp is sidelined for the time being with some inflammation and soreness in his pitching arm, but as the Twins exercise caution with their second-round pick (No. 48 overall) in the 2022 MLB Draft, they’re already beyond excited about the glimpses they’ve seen of the left-hander, who carries the upside of a true front-of-rotation starter.
“Man, he was outstanding in Spring Training,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “The fastball-slider combo looked like it was much more advanced than we thought it was even when we drafted him.”
Prielipp, ranked as the club's No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline and assigned to High-A Cedar Rapids, was a bit of a mystery when the Twins selected him last summer. That's because he didn’t throw a competitive pitch in 2022 during his recovery from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent his sophomore season at Alabama. That is why the Twins were able to snag the 22-year-old much later in the Draft than he was originally projected to land.
But Prielipp thrilled the Twins when they saw him in short stints during instructs last fall, with his fastball over 95 mph to combine with a lethal slider described by MLB Pipeline as perhaps the best single pitch in his Draft class.
And this spring, it was impossible to escape the rave reviews coming from the back fields whenever Prielipp took the mound. The Twins were curious about a few things: Could he land both the fastball and slider for strikes? Could they tweak the fastball a little bit to add more efficiency and carry?
Yes, and yes.
“What it showed was that coming out of the rehab, some of the work they were able to do in the fall, some of the small adjustments they wanted him to make -- not a ton, some grip stuff and some things that created a little more efficiency to his fastball -- all those things took,” Falvey said. “It was really interesting.”
The Twins will be very careful with Prielipp due to his arm history as he remains shut down, and they’ll be deliberate with his progress -- even considering his advanced stuff -- as they build him as a starter and prioritize health.
“While you'd love to see him up here, you want to see him up here when he's right and ready,” Falvey said. “We don't want to rush anything. It's exciting. It's a great thing.”
Triple-A St. Paul: Wallner gets grand
It’s been a good week for the Triple-A St. Paul outfield, with Ryan LaMarre, Andrew Stevenson and Alex Kirilloff all hitting well. But Matt Wallner took the biggest swing with a grand slam against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday that didn’t have a recorded distance, but it left the bat at 110.3 mph and planted itself on the roof of a building adjacent to the ballpark beyond the right-field porch.
Wallner, the Twins’ No. 7 prospect, also has 11 walks against seven strikeouts since being optioned back to St. Paul on April 15. Kirilloff is 4-for-9 with a double, two walks and a stolen base in his rehab assignment with the Saints.
Double-A Wichita: Festa feasting
The latest in the line of unheralded but quickly rising pitching prospects in the Twins’ organization could be David Festa, who soared to No. 11 in the organization’s prospect rankings this preseason. Minnesota has made the most of other relatively mid-level Draft picks like Josh Winder, Bailey Ober and Brent Headrick in the recent past, and Festa’s steadily improving fastball has given him a 3.07 ERA with 20 strikeouts and four walks in his first three starts.
Cedar Rapids: Rosario can rake
It’s been a tough start to the season for the Kernels, who have lost eight in a row entering Sunday, but Kala'i Rosario, the club’s fifth-round pick (No. 158 overall) in the 2020 MLB Draft, went 6-for-15 this week with three doubles and a triple. Club No. 3 prospect Emmanuel Rodríguez was placed on the injured list on Tuesday with a left abdominal strain after starting the season 5-for-27 with three homers.
Low-A Fort Myers: The knuckleball lives!
When the Twins selected right-hander Cory Lewis from UC Santa Barbara in the ninth round of last season’s MLB Draft, they were intrigued to see if the knuckleball he uses as a bona fide secondary pitch would translate to professional baseball. And so far, so good. Lewis owns a 3.77 ERA through three starts, and in his Thursday outing against Jupiter, he threw 10 knucklers with spin rates spanning from 138-254 rpm -- and he logged two of his six strikeouts with the pitch.