March 14, 2016

Gleeman and The Geek #239: AL East Over/Under

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and the Geek" episode included the Twins giving Byron Buxton every chance to win the center field job, American League East division over/under predictions, roster battles being few and far between, Carlos Quentin's bad timing, Byung Ho Park's power show, betting on Miguel Sano, and winning a 20-game Twins season ticket package from the Minnesota Corn Growers.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 239

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.

March 7, 2016

Gleeman and The Geek #238: Silver Bullets and No Juice

On this week's "Gleeman and the Geek" episode special guest co-hosts Parker Hageman and Dan Anderson of the on-hiatus "No Juice" podcast join me to discuss John Bonnes' sickness in Florida, an early over/under 78.5 for the Twins, Tyler Duffey in the rotation, batting order choices, banning hoverboards, Phil Hughes' bounce back odds, and giving away a 20-game Twins season ticket package.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 238

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.

March 3, 2016

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2016: System Overview

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40.

Byron Buxton and Max Kepler Twins

My annual series ranking and profiling the Twins' top prospects concluded this week, so here's the complete list of 40 players along with links to each individual write-up and an overview of the farm system as a whole:

 1. Byron Buxton, CF               21. Aaron Slegers, SP
 2. Jose Berrios, SP               22. Taylor Rogers, SP
 3. Max Kepler, RF                 23. Travis Blankenhorn, 3B
 4. Byung Ho Park, 1B              24. Jake Reed, RP
 5. Nick Gordon, SS                25. Trevor Hildenberger, RP
 6. Jorge Polanco, SS              26. Luke Bard, RP
 7. Tyler Jay, SP                  27. Lewin Diaz, 1B
 8. Stephen Gonsalves, SP          28. Felix Jorge, SP
 9. Nick Burdi, RP                 29. LaMonte Wade, CF
10. Wander Javier, SS              30. Ryan Eades, SP
11. Lewis Thorpe, SP               31. Mitch Garver, C
12. Kohl Stewart, SP               32. Mason Melotakis, RP
13. Adam Walker, LF                33. Stuart Turner, C
14. Alex Meyer, RP                 34. Yorman Landa, RP
15. Brandon Peterson, RP           35. Travis Harrison, RF
16. Jermaine Palacios, SS          36. Lachlan Wells, SP
17. J.T. Chargois, RP              37. Daniel Palka, RF
18. Engelb Vielma, SS              38. Ryan O'Rourke, RP
19. Michael Cederoth, SP           39. Chris Paul, LF
20. Tanner English, CF             40. Pat Dean, SP

Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Trevor May, and Tyler Duffey graduating to the majors takes a huge dent out of the Twins' farm system, but their prospect stockpile remains one of the best in baseball thanks to Byron Buxton retaining his rookie eligibility by exactly one at-bat and Max Kepler breaking through with an MVP season at Double-A. Toss in Jose Berrios cementing his status as one of the game's best pitching prospects and the headlining trio is second-to-none.

In addition to the four key graduations last year Alex Meyer saw his stock plummet, Lewis Thorpe missed the entire season following elbow surgery, and recent top-10 picks Nick Gordon and Kohl Stewart had up-and-down years, but the Twins added significant new talent in top-10 pick Tyler Jay and international signings Byung Ho Park and Wander Javier. Even beyond the three potential stars the Twins' farm system is deep with quality hitting and pitching prospects.

Offensively they're particularly deep in shortstops, although only light-hitting defensive wizard Engelb Vielma is a lock to remain at the position long term, only Jorge Polanco is close to the majors, and Gordon, Javier, and Jermaine Palacios are all very raw. They're also fairly deep in outfielders, but lacking in catchers and power potential past Park and Adam Walker. Of course, the 23-year-old Sano and 24-year-old Rosario are also part of the organization's young power.

On the pitching side Berrios stands out as the rotation's long-term anchor, but beyond that there are no starters close to the majors with top-of-the-rotation upside and the best low-minors arms like Jay, Thorpe, Stewart, and Stephen Gonsalves all have question marks. There's no shortage of hard-throwing relievers in the system and most of them could be a couple good months away from Minnesota, which no doubt motivated the Twins' lack of bullpen acquisitions this offseason.

Each of the Twins' top four prospects (Buxton, Berrios, Kepler, Park) figure to graduate this year, which is atypical and speaks to the next wave of upside set to join Sano and Rosario in Minnesota. However, the rest of the Twins' top 20 skews pretty young and no one else is a lock to stick in the majors for good this season. This time next year the Twins' farm system will likely be rated middle of the pack or worse, but fans will be too distracted by the young talent at Target Field to care.

March 1, 2016

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2016: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Also in this series: 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40.

5. Nick Gordon | Shortstop | DOB: 10/95 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2014-1

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2014     RK+    255     .294     .333     .366      1     11     11     45
2015     A-     535     .277     .336     .360      1     31     39     88

Selected fifth overall in the 2014 draft out of a Florida high school and signed for $3.85 million, shortstop Nick Gordon followed up a solid pro debut at rookie-ball with an up-and-down first full season at low Single-A. Gordon got off to a rough start, hitting .230 in 45 games through the end of May. He played well from then on, hitting .304 in 75 games after June 1. His overall .696 OPS looks modest, but was actually above the Midwest League average of .682 as a 19-year-old.

Through two seasons Gordon has shown his natural ability with a .282 batting average, but has shown his inexperience with a 133/50 K/BB ratio and his iffy power potential with two homers in 177 games. Also of note is that Gordon grounded into 29 double plays--including a league-leading 20 last season--which is an incredibly high total for a speedy 19-year-old left-handed hitter who stole 36 bases during that same time. He's putting the ball on the ground a lot.

Simply holding his own offensively as a teenage shortstop at low Single-A is an accomplishment for Gordon, whose father Tom Gordon and brother Dee Gordon have both been All-Stars in the majors. He was named the best defensive shortstop by Midwest League managers, although some reviews wonder if he'll be able to handle the position long term or will need to shift to second base eventually like his brother did. He'll take on high Single-A this year.

4. Byung Ho Park | First Base | DOB: 7/86 | Bats: Right | Sign: Korea

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2013     KBO    556     .318     .437     .602     37     54     92     96
2014     KBO    571     .303     .433     .686     52     70     96    142
2015     KBO    622     .343     .436     .714     53     89     78    161

As a 29-year-old with two MVP awards and four home run titles in Korea he's far from a standard prospect, but Byung Ho Park is technically an MLB rookie and thus qualifies for this list. Signed to a four-year, $12 million contract after the Twins won the bidding for his exclusive negotiating rights for an additional $12.85 million, Park is slated to be the Opening Day designated hitter and occasional first baseman. And hopefully a middle-of-the-order bat.

Park's numbers in Korea were incredible, including hitting .343/.436/.714 with 53 homers in 140 games last season to top a 1.000 OPS for the third straight year. His power potential is massive and his spray chart suggests he's capable of going deep from foul pole to foul pole. Park also hit for big batting averages in Korea, but in doing so he struck out a ton and because of that it'd be tough to expect that to continue for the Twins without a change in approach.

Numbers-based projections for Park are highly encouraging, viewing him as a legit slugger who draws enough walks to offset a poor batting average, but because there are so few KBO-to-MLB or MLB-to-KBO data points on which to rely the confidence levels are low. Given the Twins' relatively modest investment Park simply being an average hitter would pay big dividends and the potential is there for him to be much more.

3. Max Kepler | Right Field | DOB: 2/93 | Bats: Left | Sign: Germany

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2013     A-     263     .237     .312     .424      9     23     24     43
2014     A+     407     .264     .333     .393      5     31     34     62
2015     AA     482     .322     .416     .531      9     54     67     63

Max Kepler's raw talent has rarely been in question since the Twins signed him out of Germany for $800,000 as a 16-year-old, but injuries and underwhelming on-field production kept him from emerging as a top prospect. That all changed in a huge way last year, as he hit .322/.416/.531 in 112 games at Double-A to lead the Southern League in OPS and be named MVP as a 22-year-old. He debuted with the Twins in late September, collecting his first career hit off Johnny Cueto.

Kepler's performance was nearly flawless. He hit .323 off righties and .318 off lefties, walked more than he struck out, went 18-of-22 stealing bases, and did all that while facing pitchers older than him 90 percent of the time. His homer total was modest, but Kepler smacked 54 extra-base hits in fewer than 500 at-bats and his solid 6-foot-4 frame should lead to more bombs. While they were Chattanooga teammates Kepler had a .947 OPS and Miguel Sano had a .918 OPS.

Kepler has been primarily a center fielder in the minors, which speaks to his athleticism, but long term he projects as a corner outfielder with plus range. If the power develops Kepler has a chance to be a star and even if he tops out at 10-15 homers per season his all-around skill set is enough to make him a very good everyday player. He'll begin this season at Triple-A and could force his way to Minnesota by the All-Star break. Kepler would be the No. 1 prospect for a lot of teams.

2. Jose Berrios | Starter | DOB: 5/94 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2012-1

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     A-     19     19     3.99     103.2     105      6     100     40
2014     A+     16     16     1.96      96.1      78      4     109     23
         AA      8      8     3.54      40.2      33      2      28     12
2015     AA     15     15     3.08      90.2      77      6      92     24
         AAA    12     12     2.62      75.2      59      6      83     14

Jose Berrios was selected by the Twins out of a Puerto Rico high school with the 30th pick in the 2012 draft--28 spots after they snagged Byron Buxton--and four years later he's on the verge of the majors. Actually, he seemed on the verge of the majors this time last year, but the Twins took an extremely conservative approach to handling Berrios by sending him back to Double-A for the first half and then citing workload limits for a lack of August or September call-up to Minnesota.

Instead of making his MLB debut Berrios logged 166 innings at Double-A and Triple-A with a 3.03 ERA and 175/38 K/BB ratio as a 21-year-old, leading all of minor-league baseball in strikeouts while facing hitters older than him in 655 of 667 plate appearances. Despite a slight frame Berrios has mid-90s velocity, plus a pair of quality off-speed pitches that allowed the right-hander to fare better versus lefties than righties in 2015.

Berrios has improved his strikeout rate, walk rate, and durability on an annual basis while moving up the organizational ladder and from both a statistical and raw stuff standpoint he shines as the best Twins pitching prospect since Matt Garza in 2006. Many teams would have called up Berrios last year, but the Twins will send him back to Triple-A for even more seasoning while delaying the start of his service time. If he's not one of the Twins' best starters by June something went wrong.

1. Byron Buxton | Center Field | DOB: 12/93 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2012-1

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2013     A-     321     .341     .431     .559      8     33     44     56
         A+     253     .326     .415     .472      4     16     32     49
2014     A+     134     .240     .313     .405      4     10     10     33
2015     AA     268     .283     .351     .489      6     25     26     51
         AAA     59     .400     .441     .545      1      5      4     12
         MLB    138     .209     .250     .326      2     10      6     44

Because he struggled and got injured in his MLB debut a too-large segment of Twins fans soured on Byron Buxton, but soon enough he'll make those same people impossible to find. There's no disputing that Buxton had a rough first taste of the majors and has had trouble staying healthy, making him an imperfect prospect. However, hitting .305/.367/.500 at Double-A and Triple-A as a 21-year-old center fielder with jaw-dropping speed also solidified his status as a great prospect.

Buxton's inability to control the strike zone led to an ugly 44/6 K/BB ratio with the Twins, but his plate discipline wasn't awful so much as misguided. He actually showed decent patience, but too often laid off hittable pitches only to chase two-strike junk. It's a common problem for rookies and Buxton's track record shows he's anything but an undisciplined hacker. It may take a little more time, but if Buxton controls the strike zone the rest of his skill set screams superstar.

His range is spectacular, his arm is well above average, and he's one of MLB's fastest players. All of which means he doesn't need to be an impact bat to have huge value, but Buxton might be an impact bat too. In the minors he's hit .301 with a solid walk rate and once his lanky frame fills out 20 homers per year is doable along with tons of triples. Don't let a lack of current polish fool you into thinking Buxton is anything but an elite prospect with massive all-around upside.

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.

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