NEW YORK -- On Thursday, MLB Pipeline unveiled its midseason prospect rankings of baseball’s farm systems and the Twins landed three players on the Top 100 overall prospects list. Shortstop Royce Lewis and outfielder/shortstop Austin Martin made the top half -- back to back, in fact, at Nos. 37 and 38 -- while right-handed pitcher Jordan Balazovic clocked in at No. 88.
Each member of the trio is 22 years old and currently at Double-A Wichita. All are projected to debut in the Major Leagues next season. Lewis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, is out for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee that he sustained in February. His last action at the Double-A level came in ‘19 -- before the pandemic-induced cancellation of the '20 Minor League season -- and he posted a .231/.291/.358 slash line in 33 games.
Martin, who was acquired at the July 30 Trade Deadline from the Blue Jays in the package for José Berríos, has hit .245 with a .815 OPS in 14 games so far for Wichita. Prior to that, he was batting .281 with 14 extra-base hits and 16 RBIs in 55 games for Toronto’s Double-A affiliate. Balazovic, meanwhile, is 4-2 with a 3.74 ERA in 14 outings (all starts) for Wichita.
The Twins’ own Top 30 prospects list was also updated for the first time since March. The biggest jump came from infielder Jose Miranda, who leaped to No. 8 after his breakout campaign across Double-A and Triple-A this season. In 91 combined games, he has posted a .342/.405/.594 slash line.
On the flip side, first baseman Aaron Sabato -- last year’s first-round Draft pick -- fell to No. 16 after struggling in his first season of pro ball with Low-A Tampa. Three of the Twins’ 2021 Draft picks, however, joined the fray at Nos. 7, 13 and 22: right-hander Chase Petty (first round, No. 26 overall), shortstop Noah Miller (Competitive Balance Round A, No. 36) and left-hander Steve Hajjar (second round, No. 61).
Buxton set for rehab assignment
The Twins announced Thursday that Byron Buxton will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A St. Paul on Friday. The center fielder, who has been on the 10-day injured list since June 22 with a left hand fracture, will be playing seven innings in the field for the Saints against Iowa.
Buxton had his first live batting practice session at St. Paul on Thursday and saw about 25 pitches, per manager Rocco Baldelli. That encouraged Minnesota enough to move forward with the next stage of his rehab process, though Baldelli cautioned that there isn’t certainty regarding when Buxton might be able to return to action for the Twins.
“I don't want to put any timeline right now on how many at-bats or how many games that we think [Buxton] will need,” Baldelli said. “I think we're going to learn a lot by allowing him to get out on the field and start playing again. There's only so many things you can simulate. He is coming back from a broken hand that took a little time to get his strength back. It's going to come down to, in some ways, how he feels and how he responds.
“I do think he's going to get multiple games’ worth of at-bats, that's for sure. That's a very vague beginning spot for this discussion. We're going to let his health dictate where we're at.”
Given that this is Buxton’s second stint on the IL this season -- he missed about six weeks in May and June with a right hip strain -- the Twins are exercising caution in his recovery process. He played in just three rehab games while nursing that injury, hitting .556 (5-for-9) with two home runs and seven RBIs for the Saints before being activated.
“Obviously, last time, Buck was very eager to get back on the field,” Baldelli said. “He'd been waiting very patiently. He'd done everything he needed to do. Getting through the rehab games cleanly, allowing him to do it in a confident manner where everything goes well, that's important. I do think making sure everything goes as smooth as possible will certainly be on our priority list.”