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The Road to The Show™: Twins’ Festa

Club’s No. 5 prospect emerges as big league rotation option
David Festa made his final three starts of the 2023 season with Triple-A St. Paul. (St. Paul Saints)
April 2, 2024

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at fifth-ranked Twins prospect David Festa. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. David Festa has had an interesting journey through the

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at fifth-ranked Twins prospect David Festa. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.

David Festa has had an interesting journey through the Minor Leagues.

The 2021 13th-rounder, who has emerged as a depth option for the Twins' big league rotation, has just 15 1/3 total innings at Triple-A St. Paul under his belt – three of which came in his 2024 season debut Saturday. But a jump in fastball velocity as part of a well-rounded arsenal has put him on the big league radar.

When the Twins' No. 5 prospect does reach the Majors, he can look back on a Minor League career that included a no-hitter, a Futures Game appearance and a start in which he recorded three consecutive outs via pickoff. That’s not to mention his three punchouts in his Spring Breakout start, being in the dugout for Cedar Rapids during the Field of Dreams Game and his participation in the inaugural MLB Draft Combine.

The 6-foot-6, 185-pound righty has worked this offseason to add strength to be able to pitch more innings and help his lanky frame sustain his newfound velocity. His fastball, which hovered in the low 90s when he was a Draft prospect at Seton Hall University, has consistently been a 95-96 mph heater that can nearly reach triple digits.

Festa’s high-spinning slider generates a lot of swing and miss and his fading changeup is viewed by some as his best secondary offering. He’s also worked to develop another distinct breaking ball from his over-the-top delivery.

“I think we felt like he's in the best position, just physically, this season, kind of going into the year that he's ever been. That's really exciting,” Twins player development director Drew MacPhail told in March. “There's a world where hopefully [Festa is] pitching in October if everything goes ideally for the Twins and David.”

The Verona, New Jersey, native did not pitch until his senior year of high school at Seton Hall Prep.

In fact, he had actually committed to play shortstop at a Division III school entering his final prep season. But when Seton Hall Prep ran out of pitchers during a tournament, Festa offered to pitch for the first time. He continued to play most of his senior year at shortstop, but also went 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 44 strikeouts over 30 innings. Eventually, he chose to walk on at the nearby Division I program as a full-time pitcher.

Besides the geographical convenience, the Seton Hall University baseball program has been helmed by Rob Sheppard, the brother of Festa’s high school coach Mike Sheppard Jr., since 2004. Not only were there fairly decent odds Festa would make the club, he was an immediate contributor as well.

Festa was Seton Hall’s Sunday starter in his first year in the program in 2019 and was eventually named as the school’s Freshman Male Athlete of the Year. He posted a 4.42 ERA with 58 strikeouts and 25 walks in 53 innings during his first season as a pitcher only.

He had a rough go during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, allowing 12 runs in his first 14 ⅓ innings before the season was shut down. He made just two appearances for Tulsa in the Texas Collegiate League that summer and the results didn’t get much better.

But Festa was able to bounce back when he returned to campus, producing the best season of his college career and solidifying his status as a 2021 Draft prospect. He posted a 2.00 ERA while striking out 67 in 72 frames, during which he registered three complete games during a five-start stretch in conference play. Opposing batters hit just .175 against him and he was named to the All-Big East first team.

Festa earned a spot in the first MLB Draft combine, and he had the attention of a few clubs, including the Twins, who selected him in the 13th round. Festa eventually signed for a $125,000 bonus. He made his first professional appearance in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League before finishing the season with Single-A Fort Myers, logging two outings at each stop, totaling 8 ⅓ innings.

Festa returned to Fort Myers to open the 2022 season and was brilliant over his first five starts, posting a 1.50 ERA with 33 punchouts in 24 innings. In his final start with the Mighty Mussels, he punched out 11 over the first six frames of a combined no-hitter.

On the heels of the no-hitter, Festa was promoted to Cedar Rapids, where he finished out the season with a 2.71 ERA in 16 outings, including 13 starts. He struck out 75 batters in 79 2/3 innings while his walk rate crept up to 3.16 per nine innings.

Festa pitched almost all of the 2023 season with Double-A Wichita, posting a 4.39 ERA over 21 appearances, including 19 starts. He was able to rack up an impressive strikeout rate (11.70 K/9), but he continued to have some issues with the free passes (3.71 BB/9).

His 2023 season included a stop at the All-Star Futures Game in Seattle, where Festa worked a scoreless inning that included a strikeout of MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 overall prospect Jackson Chourio.

Festa made his final three starts of the season with St. Paul, striking out 15 batters over 12 ⅓ total innings.

After working to add strength and improve his endurance in the offseason, Festa made just one Cactus League appearance this spring and started the Twins’ Spring Breakout game against the Rays, allowing a run while striking out three in 1 ⅔ innings.

In his first outing of 2024, he struck out four and walked three in three one-hit innings. He’ll pitch alongside right-handers Randy Dobnak and Simeon Woods-Richardson, both of whom have Major League experience, in the St. Paul rotation.

Though he may not be the first man up when the Twins eventually have to dip into the Minors for pitching help, he’s put himself in a position to permanently claim a spot in the Minnesota rotation as soon as this season.

Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for