No. 5 prospect's maturation clear in 1st half (2024)

July 7th, 2024

No. 5 prospect's maturation clear in 1st half (1)

Do-Hyoung Park

@dohyoungpark

This story was excerpted from Do-Hyoung Park’s Twins Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Luke Keaschall pondered for a while, then he hemmed and hawed for a bit longer when asked if there were any players he particularly admired or wanted to model his game after growing up, before naming Dustin Pedroia.

It figures that Keaschall (the Twins' No. 5 prospect and No. 94 overall, according to MLB Pipeline) would ultimately settle on another hard-nosed infielder from Arizona State. And while a Pedroia-like path is obviously a difficult one for any prospect to aspire to, the exemplary start to Keaschall’s professional career has made him the easy choice to highlight as the top first-half standout in the Minnesota farm system.

With Keaschall adding more damage to an athletic contact-oriented skill set from college, he’s hitting .314/.431/.482 in 81 games this season between High-A Cedar Rapids and Double-A Wichita. On May 27, he became the first player from Minnesota's 2023 Draft class to be promoted to Double-A. Entering Sunday, his 159 wRC+ ranked fourth among all Minor Leaguers with at least 300 plate appearances this season.

“I work my tail off in the weight room,” Keaschall said. “At the end of the day, I'm still growing, I'm still maturing, I'm still getting bigger and stronger and better at the game and refining my swing and mechanics. I think just over time, becoming a better baseball player, maturing a little bit more.”

On Sunday, Keaschall was selected to represent the Twins in the 2024 All-Star Futures Game, which is set for Saturday in Arlington. He will take over as Minnesota's representative for Brooks Lee, following Lee's promotion to the Major Leagues on Wednesday.

Lee stoked after logging first hits, RBI in 'super special' MLB debut

Swing decisions have been Keaschall's priority early in his professional career since he was selected in the second round (49th overall) of the 2023 MLB Draft. The 21-year-old has tried to look for better pitches to damage hard and into the air with his “A” swing -- and some power has followed. He has hit nine homers this half-season as his body also continues to strengthen.

Not only has Keaschall's line-drive approach and better swing decision-making led to the homers, but he also has 19 stolen bases and nearly as many walks (51) as strikeouts (66).

That development -- and the proof of concept in his skills as a professional -- has boosted him into MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list at No. 94 in the midseason update. The Twins are one of two teams in the American League with five or more prospects in the top 100, along with the Mariners.

“I'm excited to play all of the games this year and I'm having a great time doing it,” Keaschall said. “It's important to remember that this game is fun and remember that there's good times, and to keep a level head during the bad times. Just [being] the same guy every day is the big thing for me.”

There haven’t been many of those bad times at all, because Keaschall just keeps hitting.

Honorable mention: Double-A Wichita RHP Zebby Matthews (No. 19 prospect)
It wouldn’t be right to talk about the Twins' best Minor League players of the first half without mentioning Matthews. The 24-year-old has put up stunning numbers on the mound while adding velocity in the mid-90s to his pinpoint control.

Matthews has a 1.80 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) with Cedar Rapids and Wichita, with 87 strikeouts and only four walks in 75 innings. His track record is growing increasingly difficult to ignore.

Triple-A St. Paul: RHP David Festa (Twins' No. 4 prospect, No. 89 overall)
Festa’s first taste of the Majors didn’t go as the Twins had hoped; the organization's top pitching prospect allowed 12 runs on 16 hits in 10 innings across two starts. But signs of promise were also there. Festa's four-seam fastball maintained zip at a 95.5 mph average, and his eight strikeouts with only one walk showed an aggression in the strike zone that will serve him well.

High-A Cedar Rapids: C Ricardo Olivar (No. 20 prospect)
The Twins love defensive flexibility, and Olivar is in that up-and-coming organizational mold of catchers who can play elsewhere -- in this case, the outfield. Olivar’s bat has also come along with much better swing decisions and an improved overall approach, helping him slash .306/.416/.520 with a team-leading 11 homers and 46 walks in 67 games.

Single-A Fort Myers: RHP Spencer Bengard
There’s a handful of pitchers deep in the Twins’ mid- to late-round pipeline who could slot in here, but let’s highlight Bengard, Minnesota's 2023 15th-round Draft pick. The 22-year-old is only averaging 91.7 mph with his four-seam fastball, but he throws a ton of strikes with six pitches at various points this season. Bengard has a 1.32 ERA in 10 games (five starts) this season, with 52 strikeouts and only seven walks in 47 2/3 innings.

No. 5 prospect's maturation clear in 1st half (2024)

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