February 29, 2016

Gleeman and The Geek #237: Dog Day Afternoon

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and the Geek" episode included Miguel Sano being outfield only, Byron Buxton's expectations, Jose Berrios' service time considerations, counting down the Twins' top 10 prospects, barking it up at Northgate Brewery, Jimmy Rollins coming to the AL Central, last call on qualifying offer free agents, and giving away a 20-game Twins season ticket package.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 237

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.


This week's blog content is sponsored by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, which is hosting a Twins season ticket giveaway contest on their website, MNFarmTeam.com.

February 26, 2016

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2016: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6

Also in this series: 1-5, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40.

10. Wander Javier | Shortstop | DOB: 12/98 | Bats: Right | Sign: Dominican

Wander Javier cracks the top 10 despite being a 17-year-old with zero professional experience because just six months ago the Twins signed him out of the Dominican Republic for $4 million, breaking the organization's previous record for an international prospect signing of $3.15 million for Miguel Sano in 2009. Javier is a long way from the majors, but based on publicly available scouting reports he's the type of player around which a farm system could be built.

Baseball America ranked Javier as the ninth-best international prospect eligible to sign last July, noting his "wide range of tools that are plus or project to be plus in the future." He's currently a six-foot, 175-pound shortstop with some chance to remain at the position long term. MLB.com ranked Javier as the eighth-best international prospect of 2015, noting his "potential to be the best all-around player in the class."

Of course, he's not without massive risk. For one thing projecting the future of a 17-year-old is incredibly difficult bordering on impossible (he was born in 1998!). Beyond that, Baseball America says there's a "widespread question" about Javier's offensive upside because his approach at the plate can be shaky. Similarly, according to MLB.com some scouts tracking Javier wanted "to see him display his talents more consistently." He's a $4 million mix of big-time upside and risk.

9. Nick Burdi | Reliever | DOB: 1/93 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2014-2

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2014     A-     13      0     4.15      13.0       8      0      26      8
         A+      7      0     0.00       7.1       5      0      12      2
2015     A+     13      0     2.25      20.0      12      1      29      3
         AA     30      0     4.53      43.2      40      3      54     32

Nick Burdi received a lot of hype heading into last year because he throws 100 miles per hour and seemed likely to make a midseason impact for the Twins within 12 months of being drafted in the second round out of Louisville. Instead he struggled at Double-A to begin the season, posting a 5.93 ERA with 22 walks in 30 innings, and was demoted back to Single-A in July. He failed to reach Minnesota and it took a great stretch at Single-A just to finish the year back at Double-A.

It was a disappointing first full season for the right-hander Baseball America called "the hardest thrower in college baseball" going into the 2014 draft, but Burdi still showed the high upside he displayed while posting a 0.62 ERA in college. From July 1 through the end of the season he had a 1.89 ERA and 50/13 K/BB ratio in 33 innings, holding opponents to a .174 batting average. If he'd pitched that way to begin the season he'd likely have been in the Twins' bullpen by June.

Burdi had 15.7 strikeouts per nine innings for Louisville in 2013-2014 and has 13.0 strikeouts per nine innings as a pro, including at least 11.0 per nine innings at all three levels. He looks the part of a flame-thrower at 6-foot-5 and has the triple-digit fastball and low-90s slider to match. If he can simply throw strikes on a somewhat consistent basis Burdi has a chance to be a late-inning stud and he heads into 2016 just as he headed into 2015: On the verge of the big leagues.

8. Stephen Gonsalves | Starter | DOB: 7/94 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2013-4

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     RK-     5      2     0.63      14.1       8      0      18      7
         RK+     3      3     1.29      14.0      10      0      21      4
2014     RK+     6      6     2.79      29.0      23      1      26     10
         A-      8      8     3.19      36.2      31      1      44     11
2015     A-      9      9     1.15      55.0      29      2      77     15
         A+     15     15     2.61      79.1      66      2      55     38

Stephen Gonsalves fell to the Twins in the fourth round of the 2013 draft due to a high school suspension and has lived up to the billing of being a first-round talent. Signed for an above-slot bonus of $700,000, the 6-foot-5 left-hander has a 2.17 ERA in 228 innings as a pro but the Twins have been conservative with his promotion timetable. Gonsalves spent parts of three seasons in rookie-ball and began last year at low Single-A despite already thriving there to end 2014.

He made 17 total starts at low Single-A with a 1.96 ERA and 121/26 K/BB ratio in 92 innings. His numbers ceased being video game-like following a midseason promotion to high Single-A last year--his strikeouts dipped and his walks rose--but Gonsalves still managed to be very tough to hit with a 2.61 ERA and .225 opponents' batting average while allowing just two homers in 79 innings. He was one of six 20-year-olds to throw 75 or more innings in the Florida State League.

Gonsalves' control definitely needs plenty of work, but for all the talk about the effectiveness of his off-speed pitches lagging behind his low-90s fastball he's a rare lefty with consistently better numbers versus righties. It's possible that high Single-A and Double-A hitters could expose some of Gonsalves' flaws this season, but if not he has a chance to be a consensus top-100 prospect across MLB this time next year.

7. Tyler Jay | Reliever | DOB: 4/94 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2015-1

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2015     A+     19      0     3.93      18.1      18      0      22      8

College relievers drafted with top-10 picks have a very poor track record, but in taking University of Illinois left-hander Tyler Jay sixth overall the Twins made it clear they believe he can develop into a starter. Baseball America ranked Jay as the 13th-best prospect in the draft and suggested he could be the first from the class to reach the majors if used as a reliever, but instead the Twins sent him to high Single-A and left him there to make 19 appearances out of the bullpen.

Jay's college numbers were great with a 0.60 ERA and 70/7 K/BB ratio in 60 innings last season and after a rough first few outings he pitched well in his pro debut, showing the mid-90s fastball and power slider that dominated Big Ten hitters. In question is how much velocity he'll lose as a starter, how he'll hold up physically, and how effective his changeup can be. For the Twins turning college relievers into pro starters has mostly been a struggle, but it certainly can be done.

Most college stars who're top-10 picks move very quickly through the minors, but since the Twins are trying to teach Jay to do something he's basically never done it may take a while. "Late-inning reliever" is a nice fallback plan that can always be put in motion to get Jay back on the fast track, although the history of college relievers suggests that's also far from a sure thing. Either way, the Twins went out on a limb picking Jay and now they need to get value from player development.

6. Jorge Polanco | Shortstop | DOB: 7/93 | Bats: Switch | Sign: Dominican

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2013     A-     523     .308     .362     .452      5     47     42     59
2014     A+     432     .291     .364     .415      6     29     46     60
         AA     157     .281     .323     .342      1      7      9     28
2015     AA     431     .289     .346     .393      6     26     35     63
         AAA     94     .284     .309     .352      0      6      4     10

Two years ago Jorge Polanco became the youngest position player to debut for the Twins since Joe Mauer in 2004 and last year he again received a brief call-up, but he spent most of 2015 at Double-A. He played well there, hitting .289/.346/.393 with modest power and a decent walk rate in 95 games. He also played 22 games at Triple-A, hitting .284 with less power and fewer walks. And given that Polanco did all of it at age 21 it was an impressive season.

Polanco played mostly shortstop for the second straight year after splitting time between second base and shortstop in the low minors, but reviews of his defense there are mixed. He's committed a lot of errors at shortstop in the minors and his arm strength appears somewhat lacking, but the Twins insist they think he can stick at the position. Given his offensive skill set that could be key, because as a passable defensive shortstop Polanco has a chance to be an impact player.

If instead Polanco winds up at second base his limited power and unspectacular plate discipline lower his upside considerably, not to mention the Twins have Brian Dozier signed through 2018. It's unclear where Polanco fits into the Twins' plans and because of that--plus his impending MLB readiness--the speedy switch-hitter is the top-10 prospect most likely to be trade bait. He's set to arrive at one of the few times in two decades the Twins may not need middle infield help.

February 24, 2016

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2016: 15, 14, 13, 12, 11

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40.

15. Brandon Peterson | Reliever | DOB: 9/91 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2013-13

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     RK+    19      0     2.96      27.1      22      3      40      9
2014     A-      9      0     0.71      12.2       9      0      19      2
         A+     31      1     1.80      45.0      28      0      65     17
2015     A+     21      0     0.85      31.2      14      0      44     15
         AA     20      0     3.38      29.1      30      1      33     13

He's largely flown under the radar in a Twins farm system filled with several high-profile reliever prospects, but none have performed better than right-hander Brandon Peterson since his pro debut in 2013. Drafted in the 13th round out of Wichita State, the Minnesota native dominated rookie-ball in 2013, overpowered hitters at two levels of Single-A in 2014, and kept cruising to Double-A last season at age 23.

Overall he's got a 2.04 ERA in three pro seasons, racking up an incredible 201 strikeouts in 146 innings. In his two full seasons above rookie-ball Peterson has held opponents to a .191 batting average and one home run in 479 plate appearances, striking out more than one-third of the batters he faced. Peterson was also no slouch at Wichita State, posting a 1.13 ERA and 42/15 K/BB ratio with zero homers in 40 innings.

His raw stuff can't match those numbers because short of maybe Aroldis Chapman no one's can, but Peterson works in the low-90s with his fastball and also has a swing-and-miss slider. He's not just a bunch of great numbers, he's a legitimate prospect. At age 24 and with a half-season of success at Double-A already under his belt it's hard to imagine Peterson not reaching the majors this year if his performance is anywhere near 2014/2015 levels.

14. Alex Meyer | Reliever | DOB: 1/90 | Throws: Right | Trade: Nationals

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     AA     13     13     3.21      70.0      60      3      84     29
2014     AAA    27     27     3.52     130.1     116     10     153     64
2015     AAA    38      8     4.79      92.0     101      4     100     48

Last year at this time Alex Meyer seemed to be on the verge of joining the Twins' rotation and many people had visions of the 6-foot-9 right-hander with a mid-90s fastball developing into an ace starter. One year later there's a chance Meyer will never make a start for the Twins, let alone emerge as a top-of-the-rotation anchor. He was a mess at Triple-A early on last year, got shifted to the bullpen in mid-May, and stayed there for the remainder of the season.

Meyer has always had shaky command, which isn't unexpected with a flame-throwing giant, but his control vanished last year and even after being demoted to the bullpen he issued 4.4 walks per nine innings. He got rocked during his brief MLB debut in late June, coughing up two homers and five runs in three innings, and was not called back up. There's no doubt that Meyer's rough 2015 took a big chunk out of his prospect status, but he still has late-inning bullpen potential.

He consistently works in the mid-90s with his fastball--averaging 96 mph in his two-game Twins stint--and Meyer racked up 62 strikeouts in 55 innings as a reliever. For now the Twins haven't abandoned the idea of Meyer as a starter, but throwing 20 pitches at maximum effort a few times per week seems like his best bet to stick in the majors. And at 26 years old there's no reason for the Twins to hold him back if Meyer shows any sort of consistency as a reliever in the minors.

13. Adam Walker | Left Field | DOB: 10/91 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2012-3

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2013     A-     553     .278     .319     .526     27     65     31    115
2014     A+     555     .246     .307     .436     25     45     44    156
2015     AA     560     .239     .309     .498     31     65     51    195

There's a tendency to compare low-average, high-strikeout minor leaguers like Adam Walker to successful low-average, high-strikeout major leaguers. However, that's flawed because successful low-average, high-strikeout hitters typically weren't that way in the minors. In other words, if you strike out a ton and hit .239 at Double-A like Walker did last season the expectation wouldn't be that you'd hit .239 in the majors. It'd be a lot worse.

Adam Dunn, Chris Davis, and Ryan Howard hit above .300 as minor leaguers, so expecting Walker to follow in their footsteps because his numbers in the minors look like their numbers in the majors requires a leap of faith. None of which means Walker isn't an intriguing prospect. His power potential is massive. Walker has played four pro seasons and led all four leagues in home runs, averaging 32 per 150 games. However, his strikeout rate is beyond "high."

Consider that as Double-A hitters Walker struck out 30 percent more often than Miguel Sano, whose strikeout rate is viewed as extreme. Walker also does a much worse job controlling the strike zone, drawing 51 walks compared to 195 strikeouts in 560 plate appearances last season. And those 51 walks were a career-high. Toss in iffy corner outfield defense and Walker's future essentially revolves around his ability to bash 30 homers per season off big-league pitchers.

12. Kohl Stewart | Starter | DOB: 10/94 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2013-1

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     RK      6      3     1.69      16.0      12      0      16      3
         RK+     1      1     0.00       4.0       1      0       8      1
2014     A-     19     19     2.59      87.0      75      4      62     24
2015     A+     22     22     3.20     129.1     134      2      71     45

Things have not gone according to plan for Kohl Stewart since the Twins selected him with the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft and signed him away from a Texas A&M football scholarship for $4.5 million. He's missed time with arm problems in each of his three seasons and displayed no ability to miss bats while facing low-minors competition, showing why using top-10 draft picks on high school pitchers has such a spotty track record throughout MLB.

Stewart averaged 6.4 strikeouts per nine innings at low Single-A in 2014 and saw that dip to 4.9 strikeouts per nine innings at high Single-A last season. He was young for both levels and is still learning to pitch, but high school phenom top-five picks are supposed to rack up strikeouts and Stewart has failed to do so. Last year at Fort Myers he totaled 71 strikeouts and 45 walks in 129 innings, which would have sent Stewart plummeting down this list if not for his pedigree.

His poor strikeout rate is a major red flag, but Stewart has shown the ability to generate tons of ground balls and that skill alone contains plenty of upside. He allowed just two home runs in 553 plate appearances last year despite facing hitters older than him 90 percent of the time. Stewart's raw stuff translating to ground balls instead of strikeouts isn't what the Twins had in mind, but it still puts him on the path to long-term success if his control and durability improve.

11. Lewis Thorpe | Starter | DOB: 12/95 | Throws: Left | Sign: Australia

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     RK-    12      8     2.05      44.0      32      2      64      6
2014     A-     16     16     3.52      71.2      62      7      80     36

Thanks to an impressive mix of youth, raw stuff, and production in the low minors Australian left-hander Lewis Thorpe's prospect stock rose rapidly in 2014 only to come to a screeching halt when September elbow problems led to Tommy John surgery. He went under the knife at the end of spring training and missed the entire 2015 season, meaning he'll likely be somewhat limited in 2016 as well. At age 20 there's no need to rush his recovery timetable.

Prior to blowing out his elbow Thorpe dominated rookie-ball hitters in 2013 and then moved up to full-season competition as an 18-year-old, posting a 3.52 ERA with 80 strikeouts in 72 innings at low Single-A in 2014. He was the youngest pitcher in the Midwest League and the average hitter he faced was 22, making his already strong numbers stand out further. Even after missing an entire year Thorpe will still be among the youngest pitchers at Single-A in 2016.

Thorpe signed with the Twins for $500,000 as a 16-year-old, so his outstanding pre-surgery play matched expectations. He was on track to perhaps reach Double-A as a 19-year-old last season, but this season will be all about getting Thorpe back on track despite his no longer being on the fast track. After all, even after a totally lost season Thorpe is still two years younger than the Twins' first-round draft pick last year.

February 22, 2016

Gleeman and The Geek #236: The Worst Shape Of Their Lives

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and the Geek" episode included Kurt Suzuki vs. John Ryan Murphy, Ricky Nolasco being the fly in the rotation ointment, Miguel Sano's non-weight loss, giving away Twins season tickets thanks to the Minnesota Corn Growers, Baseball Prospectus projections, comparing cat pictures at Iron Door Pub, Brian Duensing going to Kansas City, and tons of mailbag questions from listeners.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 236

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.


This week's blog content is sponsored by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, which is hosting a Twins season ticket giveaway contest on their website, MNFarmTeam.com.

February 19, 2016

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2016: 20, 19, 18, 17, 16

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40.

20. Tanner English | Center Field | DOB: 3/93 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2014-11

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2014     RK+    141     .316     .439     .474      3     10     18     27
2015     A-     443     .265     .359     .406      5     35     48     87

Tanner English was drafted in the middle rounds for his speed and range in center field despite not doing much hitting in college at South Carolina, but he's shown a lot more offensive promise than expected as a pro. He hit .316/.439/.474 in 32 rookie-ball games after signing in 2014 and then bounced back from a poor start last year to hit .298/.369/.456 in 59 games at low Single-A after June 1.

Last season's overall numbers were nothing special for a 22-year-old in the Midwest League, but English drew lots of walks without striking out a ton, showed much more power than he ever did in college, and swiped 37 bases in 104 games at an 84 percent success rate while continuing to draw positive reviews defensively. None of which makes him a top prospect, but he's certainly an intriguing player just two years after being a 11th-round draft pick.

If things go well this season English should be able to advance to Double-A, where the question will be whether he can keep hitting enough to potentially be a starting center fielder rather than profiling more as a speedy, athletic backup. Because of his varied skill set English won't have to hit much to reach the majors and another good season at the plate could plant him firmly in the Twins' plans.

19. Michael Cederoth | Starter | DOB: 11/92 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2014-3

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2014     RK+    11     10     3.55      45.2      41      1      42     18
2015     A-     11      6     4.08      35.1      33      2      37     18

Michael Cederoth was a standout closer for San Diego State in 2014, saving 20 games with a 2.28 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 52 innings while hitting triple-digits with his fastball. Many draft analysts felt he had a chance to move very quickly through the minors and perhaps make his MLB debut within a year, but the Twins picked him in the third round with the intention of making him a starter and he's yet to pitch beyond Single-A.

Cederoth had a strong rookie-ball debut after being drafted and moved up to low Single-A last year, but he struggled early on and was shifted to the bullpen in mid-May. He made five relief appearances and then was shut down with an undisclosed illness, missing the final three months of the season. He declined to give any details, saying only that it was "a personal illness I've had over the years" and "now it's completely taken care of."

Cederoth is 6-foot-6 with an equally big fastball, but through two pro seasons he's had a difficult time consistently throwing strikes and hasn't missed a ton of bats. Toss in the lost development time and this season looks to be pretty huge for his long-term outlook. If nothing else, the Twins should have a much clearer picture of whether he's better off continuing to develop as a starter or trying to get back on the bullpen fast track.

18. Engelb Vielma | Shortstop | DOB: 6/94 | Bats: Switch | Sign: Venezuela

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2013     RK     152     .237     .320     .260      0      3     15     23
2014     A-     459     .266     .313     .323      1     18     28     71
2015     A+     501     .270     .321     .306      1     12     35     71

He makes Ben Revere look like a hulking slugger, but put Engelb Vielma at shortstop and eyes light up in a hurry. Widely regarded as one of baseball's best defensive minor leaguers regardless of position, Vielma is without question the premier defensive shortstop in the Twins' farm system despite not yet playing a game above Single-A. He draws rave reviews for his range, arm, and sure-handedness, making spectacular plays while also keeping his error count relatively low.

Vielma has also made strides offensively, although it's hard to imagine him ever developing into more than a bottom-of-the-order bat. His walk rate is low, but that has a lot to do with pitchers simply not fearing him and Vielma's strikeout-to-walk ratio suggests he's not undisciplined. Last season he hit .270 compared to the Florida State League average of .248 and in 2014 he hit .266 compared to the Midwest League average of .252. He also stole 35 bases in 120 games last year.

Make no mistake, Vielma's future depends on his defense. If he's a truly elite, Gold Glove-caliber shortstop then hitting .250 with zero power and a few walks would make him a viable starter. If instead his defense proves to be good rather than great or his bat fails to clear that very low bar then his future figures to be as a utility infielder. Whatever the case, in an organization that has struggled for decades to develop homegrown shortstops Vielma is already in the Twins' plans.

17. J.T. Chargois | Reliever | DOB: 12/90 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2012-2

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2015     A+     16      0     2.40      15.0      12      0      19      5
         AA     32      0     2.73      33.0      26      1      34     20

Rice University had co-closers in 2012 and the Twins drafted both of them, picking J.T. Chargois in the second round and Tyler Duffey in the fifth round. Duffey reached the majors last season as a starter and now looks likely to be in the Twins' long-term rotation plans, but Chargois spent the season coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery after missing all of 2013 and 2014. And it was a helluva comeback.

Chargois struggled with his control, which was an issue for him before blowing out his elbow and is a common post-surgery problem for pitchers in general, but his raw stuff was electric. Nearly every appearance at high Single-A and Double-A had reports of triple-digit fastballs and Chargois totaled 53 strikeouts in 48 innings while holding opponents to a .212 batting average and one homer. And he got stronger as the year went on, dominating in August and September.

Chargois is 25 years old and has just 64 career innings under his belt thanks to all the missed time, so expectations should be held somewhat in check. However, his fastball velocity is truly elite and putting together a month or two of good work in the minors to begin this season could thrust Chargois into the mix for a call-up to the Twins given that he's already been added to the 40-man roster.

16. Jermaine Palacios | Shortstop | DOB: 6/96 | Bats: Right | Sign: Venezuela

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2015     RK     106     .421     .472     .589      1     12      9     11
         RK+    145     .336     .345     .507      2     18      3     20

Jermaine Palacios signed with the Twins out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old in 2013 and made his pro debut the next season, hitting .270/.404/.399 with 14 steals and nearly as many walks (35) as strikeouts (37) in 49 games in the Dominican summer league. That convinced the Twins he was ready for more at age 18, so he started last season in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and hit .421 in 26 games to force a promotion.

Bumped up to the Twins' advanced rookie-ball team in the Appalachian League, he batted .336 with 18 extra-base hits in 31 games. Add it together and Palacios batted .370 with 30 extra-base hits in 57 games of rookie-ball competition as an 18-year-old shortstop. Baseball America rated him as the third-best prospect in the Appalachian League, praising his "plus bat speed and calm, controlled at-bats."

Reviews of his defense aren't as positive and he committed a bunch of errors last year, although there seems to be some hope that Palacios can play shortstop for at least a while. Most standout rookie-ball performances come and go without meaning a whole lot, but Palacios is a very young middle infielder with a .327/.401/.489 hitting line through 106 career games and the skill set is there to develop into a major leaguer.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Postmates, where you can use the promo code "wtrq" for $10 off fast, on-demand, hassle-free food delivery from your favorite restaurants.

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