Every year, the Minnesota Twins announce two players, one batter and one pitcher as their Minor League Hitter and Minor League Pitcher of the year. It’s fun to break down who wins each year as these players end up in the majors sooner rather than later.
In 2019, Trevor Larnach and Randy Dobnak were named the Minor League Player and Pitcher of the year, and within a year and a half both were in the majors. In 2018, it was Alex Kirilloff and Lewis Thorpe. In 2017, it was Brent Rooker and Stephen Gonsalves. All six of those players have already seen the majors.
Louie Varland and Jose Miranda were named the Minnesota Twins minor league pitcher and hitter of the year
This year the awards were handed out to Louie Varland (as the minor league pitcher of the year) and Jose Miranda (the minor league hitter of the year), and both were extremely well deserved. We break down each player’s dominance and who else was in the running for the award, starting with Miranda.
Minnesota Twins Minor League Player of the Year: Jose Miranda
Miranda has long been the frontrunner for this award and it’s easy to see why. Just look at his stat line across Double-AA and Triple-AAA:
122 G, 514 AB, .342/.400/.568, 93 R, 58 XBH (29 HR), 92 RBI, 4 SB, 41-73 BB-K
The Twins’ second round pick from 2016, Miranda turned in what was easily the best season of his career at the age of 23. Prior to 2021, Miranda’s best slash line was .283/.340/.484 in 2017 (at Rookie Ball), so it was easy to see why he wasn’t a top prospect before this year. This season has changed all of that, as the Twins’ current No. 8 prospect will be a big player for the team in 2022.
There are a few other hitting prospects who turned in good years, even if they were nowhere near Miranda’s level. BJ Boyd slashed .294/.352/.491 with 16 homers, 71 RBI, and 11 steals between Double-AA and Triple-AAA. Trey Cabbage posted a .264/.346/.535 line with 27 home runs and 82 RBI in 99 games at Double-AA and High-A.
My personal choice for runner-up to Miranda was Edouard Julien. Julien showed some of the best 20/20 potential in the system this year with 18 home runs and 34 steals in 112 games across Low and High-A in his professional debut.
The 2019 18th Round pick out of Canada also earned a .434 OBP as he averaged almost a walk-per-game. Add on 72 RBI, and the utility man is a prospect to watch going forward as a quick riser through the system.
Minnesota Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year: Louie Varland
On the pitching side Louie Varland was also pretty much an easy selection for the Twins to make. Varland started more games than almost every other pitcher in the organization and he made the most of them:
Varland went 10-4 and earned an excellent 2.10 ERA while striking out 12.4 batters per nine innings. His ability to go deep into games was notable as well, as he averaged 5.15 innings per game.
The St. Paul native went to Concordia University in St. Paul and likely will start the 2022 season in his hometown after cruising through High-A pitching. Varland is already almost 24 despite being in the minors for only two years, but his experience will make him a fast riser. The current No. 29 prospect appears to have all the makings of an MLB starting pitcher if he keeps this up.
As for the other pitchers in the organization, Josh Winder and Cole Sands both were in the conversation for this award. The No. 9 and No. 14 prospects respectively were dominant this year at Double-AA (and solid at Triple-AAA in Winder’s case).
- Winder: 14 G (14 GS), 72 IP, 4-0, 2.63 ERA, 0.944 WHIP, 80-13 K-BB ratio
- Sands: 19 G (18 GS), 80.1 IP, 4-2, 2.46 ERA, 1.170 WHIP, 96-35 K-BB ratio
Despite solid challengers, both Miranda and Varland were well deserving as the Minnesota Twins Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year. It’s clear that the team has a lot of solid prospect talent and I’m very excited to see what comes of it.