While Minnesota Twins fans wait around for the team to make a big addition this winter, it’s starting to look more and more like internal growth is going to be what improves the roster in 2024.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. While Minnesota’s pitching got a boost after acquiring Pablo Lopez last January, it was a youth movement led by Royce Lewis and Edouard Julien that truly powered the roster late in the year.
Pitching was a strength, but offensively the Twins struggled to get things going. The bats of Lewis and Julien sparked things, though, and the combination of it all helped end a 19-year postseason losing streak.
Wih the payroll reduced, Minnesota is unlikely to make a splashy move to replace Sonny Gray but the strength of the youth movement gives some hope that big moves might not be necessary to putting the right pieces in place.
MLB.com predicts Twins breakout prospect in 2024
MLB.com's Jim Callis and Sam Dykstra broke down one prospect primed to breakout for every team in baseball, and believe Marco Raya will be that guy for the Twins this year.
"Raya is the Twins best pitching prospect, though he flies under the radar because they’ve handled him with extreme care and he has totaled just 127 2/3 pro innings since signing as a 2020 fourth-rounder out of a Texas high school. He misses bats with a mid-90s fastball, a high-spin slider and a downer curveball, compiling a 4.02 ERA, .197 opponent average and 65/22 K/BB ratio in 62 2/3 frames between High-A and Double-A."- Jim Callis & Sam Dykstra, MLB.com
Raya is the Twins No. 4 prospect who tends to get lost in the shuffle of the other top guys in the farm system. So much is made about Brooks Lee, Emmanuel Rodriguez, and now Walker Jenkins that it’s easy to lose sight of Raya — but that might not be the case for much longer.
If all goes well, the only folks losing sight of Raya will be batters trying to locate his pitches. He has an elite-level slider thrown mostly in the 82-83 mph range, and his fastball has topped out near 100 mph. He also has a curveball and change up that still needs some developing but Raya has the potential for a four pitch mix that could either turn him into a clutch piece of the rotation or an excellent addition to the bullpen.
Last year at Double-A, Raya finished the year with 76 strikeouts, a 1.08 WHIP and a 1.99 opponent batting average. He trended hard in the right direction last season at Fort Meyer, and if he takes the kind of leap forward that Callis and Dykstra are predicting, it could benefit the Twins in a few different ways.
Pitching was a strength last year and it appears the development of young arms is going to be a huge part of the youth movement next season. Raya doesn’t figure to make the Majors until 2025, but he’ll either project as a top young arm for promotion or become a valuable trade chip for the Twins to flip.
Either way, hearing this sort of praise for Raya is a massive endorsement of the future in Minnesota.