February 11, 2015

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2015: 30, 29, 28, 27, 26

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

30. Jason Wheeler | Starter | DOB: 10/90 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2011-8

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     A-     27     27     3.45     156.2     170     12     115     43
2013     A+     26     26     3.70     143.1     156     16      91     58
2014     A+     13     13     2.51      79.0      77      2      57     19
         AA     12     12     2.78      74.1      69      9      55     16

Jason Wheeler was the Twins' eighth-round pick in 2011 out of Loyola Marymount and skipped rookie-ball, debuting at low Single-A in 2012. He moved up to high Single-A in 2013 and returned to high Single-A to begin last year before moving up to Double-A around midseason. He's proven to be an innings eater, leading all Twins minor leaguers with 158 total innings last season after ranking fifth in 2013 and second in 2012.

Durability combined with a bulky 6-foot-6 frame and nice-looking 3.26 career ERA were enough to get Wheeler added to the 40-man roster in November, but dig a little deeper and the left-hander's numbers aren't as encouraging. He often works in the high-80s with his fastball and has managed just 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings while allowing 477 hits in 458 frames. His control is improved but still mediocre and he doesn't induce many ground balls.

Wheeler also shows extreme platoon splits, frequently struggling with right-handed hitters, which would make it tough for him to be an innings-eater against big-league lineups. He shuts down lefties pretty well and could perhaps add some velocity in a bullpen role, but right now it's hard to project Wheeler as more than a potential back-of-the-rotation starter or middle reliever. Yet by virtue of being on the 40-man roster his odds of reaching the majors in 2015 are relatively high.

29. Tyler Jones | Reliever | DOB: 9/89 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2011-11

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     A-     18     16     4.67      86.2      90      5     102     35
2013     A-     24      0     1.93      37.1      19      0      44     16
         A+     12      0     4.20      15.0      18      0      22      4
2014     A+     40      0     3.73      50.2      49      2      53     23

Tyler Jones was mediocre as a starter in college and in the pros after the Twins drafted him in the 11th round out of LSU in 2011, but he switched to the bullpen full time in 2013 and thrived with 66 strikeouts in 52 innings and a .196 opponents' batting average. He finished that season at high Single-A and that's where Jones spent all of last year as well, but the results weren't as impressive the second time around.

Jones' strikeout rate fell from 11.4 to 9.4 per nine innings and his already poor control took a step backward with 23 walks in 51 innings. He allowed just two homers after serving up zero long balls in 2013, but a 24-year-old reliever with a mid-90s fastball and sharp slider shouldn't be putting 73 runners on base in 51 innings against Single-A competition and lefties hit .301 off the 6-foot-4 right-hander.

He'll be 26 years old before the end of the season and has yet to throw a pitch above Single-A, so Jones' prospect status hinges on getting on the fast track as a potential late-inning reliever and he'll get a chance to do that at Double-A. He needs to either resume missing tons of bats or slash his walk rate dramatically after handing out 3.7 free passes per nine innings so far, but a mid-90s fastball buys a little more patience than usual.

28. Stuart Turner | Catcher | DOB: 12/91 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2013-3

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2013     RK+    142     .264     .340     .380      3      8     12     22
2014     A+     364     .249     .322     .375      7     25     31     61

Selected by the Twins in the third round of the 2013 draft, Stuart Turner was billed as a strong defensive catcher with an iffy bat despite hitting .374/.444/.518 during his lone season at the University of Mississippi. In fact, Baseball America's pre-draft scouting report noted that "scouts don't like his swing and question his ability to sting the ball consistently." So far those questions about his offense have proven accurate.

Turner debuted for rookie-level Elizabethton after signing, hitting .264/.340/.380 in 34 games against younger competition, and continued to struggle last year when the Twins jumped him to high Single-A. He started 92 of the team's 139 games at catcher, but hit just .249/.322/.375 with seven homers and a 61/31 K/BB ratio. He threw out 32 percent of steal attempts, which failed to stand out in a league where the average throw-out rate was 32 percent.

Turner's defense received positive reviews, but at this point evaluating catcher defense is more and more about pitch-framing ability and it's nearly impossible to judge that reliably for minor leaguers. Assuming he's a good all-around defensive catcher rather than merely a good catch-and-throw guy Turner won't have to hit much to reach the majors, but that would still require stepping things up a bit.

27. 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

Selected by the Twins out Wichita State in the 13th round of the 2013 draft, Minnesota native Brandon Peterson had a strong rookie-ball debut after signing and then dominated two levels of Single-A last year in his first full season. Peterson began the season Cedar Rapids and was quickly promoted after allowing one run in 13 innings with a 19/2 K/BB ratio. He continued to thrive in Fort Myers, posting a 1.80 ERA with 65 strikeouts and zero homers in 45 innings.

Overall he has a 2.01 ERA and 124/28 K/BB ratio in 85 innings as a pro, striking out 13.1 batters per nine innings while holding opponents to a .195 batting average and three homers in 338 plate appearances. Peterson's raw stuff isn't quite as impressive as those incredible numbers suggest, but he tops out in the mid-90s with his fastball and has generated tons of swinging strikes and strikeouts with his slider.

Rarely are low-minors relievers viewed as promising prospects and Peterson has to prove himself against more experienced competition before potentially finding a place in the Twins' long-term plans, but what he's done so far shouldn't be ignored. Given how aggressively the Twins promoted Peterson in his first full season he has a chance to reach Triple-A and perhaps even the majors by the end of 2015.

26. Max Murphy | Center Field | DOB: 10/92 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2014-9

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2014     RK+    151     .378     .483     .723     10     19     22     34
         A-     137     .242     .314     .395      4     11      8     40

Max Murphy had a big junior season at Bradley University, hitting .314/.414/.598 in 51 games while ranking second in the Missouri Valley Conference with 12 homers. Drafted by the Twins in the ninth round, Murphy had a monstrous pro debut, leading the rookie-level Appalachian League in batting average (.378), on-base percentage (.483), and slugging percentage (.723). Murphy had the league's highest OPS (1.206) by 300 points. Seriously.

In the past decade the only other Twins prospects to top a 1.000 OPS for Elizabethton are Rory Jimenez in 2012, Eddie Rosario in 2011, Oswaldo Arcia in 2010, and Angel Morales in 2008, so it's a mixed bag. Murphy also finished second in the league with 10 homers despite playing just 35 of a possible 68 games, because the Twins decided they'd seen enough dominance and sent the 21-year-old up to low Single-A for the final month of the season.

Once there he struggled, hitting .242/.314/.395 with a 40/8 K/BB ratio in 32 games to take some of the shine off his incredible rookie-ball showing. Murphy figures to begin this season back at low Single-A and will try to prove he can knock around similarly experienced competition. He played mostly center field last season, but long term projects as a corner outfielder with decent speed and a good arm.


For a discussion of which pitching prospects have a chance to crack the Twins' starting rotation at some point in 2015 check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

January 31, 2013

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2013: 35, 34, 33, 32, 31

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

35. Pedro Hernandez | Starter | DOB: 4/89 | Throws: Left | Trade: White Sox

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2010     A-     29     13     4.04     100.1     122      6      79     17
2011     A+     15      6     2.70      56.2      52      3      44      6
         AA      9      8     3.48      41.1      39      4      43     10
         AAA     4      4     6.00      18.0      28      3       7      6
2012     AA     12     12     2.75      68.2      68      6      37     18
         AAA     7      6     4.46      34.1      43      2      28      4
         MLB     1      1    18.00       4.0      12      3       2      1

Pedro Hernandez was signed by the Padres out of Venezuela as a 17-year-old in 2006, traded to the White Sox as part of the package for Carlos Quentin in 2011, and acquired by the Twins along with Eduardo Escobar in the Francisco Liriano deal. He appeared in one game for the White Sox last season, getting clobbered for eight runs in four innings on July 18 against the Red Sox, and spent the rest of the year at Double-A and Triple-A.

He throws in the low-90s with more fly balls than ground balls and struggled to miss bats after advancing beyond Single-A, producing just 65 strikeouts in 103 innings last season. In the minors at least he's been able to offset all that somewhat with very good control, walking just 1.6 batters per nine innings for his career, but the left-hander has limited upside despite not yet turning 24 years old.

Hernandez has little chance to make the team out of spring training, but he has a spot on the 40-man roster and that means when the Twins need pitching reinforcements during the season he'll jump to the front of the line with any sort of decent work in Rochester. If things go well he could wind up as a useful back-of-the-rotation starter, but Hernandez struggled against right-handed hitters last year and a shift to the bullpen may be his best path to the majors.

34. Jason Wheeler | Starter | DOB: 10/90 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2011-8

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     A-     27     27     3.45     156.2     170     12     115     43

Jason Wheeler was a mess in his first two college seasons, but put together a solid junior year at Loyola Marymount in 2011 and was drafted by the Twins in the eighth round. He signed too late to debut, so the 6-foot-8, 250-pound left-hander began his pro career last season at low Single-A by going 14-6 with a 3.45 ERA in 27 starts. Meanwhile his brother, third base prospect and 2009 fifth-round pick Ryan Wheeler, made his MLB debut for the Diamondbacks.

Wheeler's nice-looking ERA and win-loss record overstate how well he pitched for Beloit, as he got a ton of run support from a stacked, Miguel Sano-led lineup and managed just 115 strikeouts in 157 innings. He did a decent job limiting homers, but Wheeler induced a modest number of ground balls, allowed opponents to hit .281 off him, and showed mediocre control with 2.5 walks per nine innings.

Physically he's among the largest pitchers in baseball, minors or majors, but Wheeler works in the high-80s and low-90s with his fastball. If the Twins' coaches can somehow figure out how to turn his massive frame into added velocity at age 22 he could be a breakout candidate, but short of that Wheeler looks like a potential back-of-the-rotation starter who does most things reasonably well without any standout skill.

33. Adrian Salcedo | Starter | DOB: 4/91 | Throws: Right | Sign: Dominican

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2010     RK+    16      8     3.27      66.0      55      3      65     10
         A+      6      6     6.26      27.1      42      3      16      8
2011     A-     29     20     2.93     135.0     131      4      92     27
2012     A+      8      7     6.39      25.1      33      1      14     15

In the low minors Adrian Salcedo looked like a high-upside prospect, but his stock dropped along with his strikeout rate against more experienced competition and he missed most of last season after being hit in the face by a line drive. He threw just 31 ineffective innings, wasn't picked in the Rule 5 draft after being left off the 40-man roster, and will be 22 years old by the time he throws his first pitch above Single-A.

Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2007 as a 16-year-old, Salcedo has just 72 walks in 386 innings for a rate of 1.7 per nine frames. Brad Radke's career walk rate was 1.6 per nine innings, so for Salcedo to show that type of pinpoint control so early in his career is extremely impressive. Unfortunately his strikeouts per nine innings fell from 8.6 in rookie-ball to 6.1 at low Single-A to 5.1 at high Single-A, where Salcedo has a 6.32 ERA in 53 innings.

Salcedo's low-90s fastball and overall raw stuff have always gotten positive reviews, but even before the injury the 6-foot-4 right-hander was trending in the wrong direction. Being a control artist in the majors is one thing, but most successful low-strikeout, low-walk starters actually managed decent strikeout rates in the minors. He's still young enough to bounce back from the lost year of development time, but Salcedo's status as a quality prospect is shaky.

32. Tyler Robertson | Reliever | DOB: 12/87 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2006-3

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2010     AA     27     27     5.41     144.2     181     17      91     57
2011     AA     55      0     3.61      89.2      87      6      88     29
2012     AAA    33      0     3.77      28.2      26      2      33     13
         MLB    40      0     5.40      25.0      21      4      26     14

Once upon a time Tyler Robertson ranked among the Twins' best pitching prospects, but his strikeout rate deteriorated as his climbed the organizational ladder and injuries kept him from maintaining peak velocity. After an ugly 2010 season at Double-A the Twins decided they'd seen enough of Robertson as a starter, shifting the 6-foot-5 left-hander to the bullpen. He fared well there with a 3.65 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 118 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

That earned him a June call-up and Robertson struck out the first four big leaguers he faced, but he struggled to consistently throw strikes and finished with a 5.40 ERA in 25 innings. He actually dominated lefties with a .190 batting average and 22-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but righties hit .290 with more walks than strikeouts. His splits were similarly extreme at Triple-A, so Robertson needs to show that he can avoid being a liability against righties.

His high-80s fastball is reason for skepticism in that area, although the off-speed repertoire from his days as a starter should come in handy. If he can improve versus righties Robertson has a chance to be a ground ball-getting setup man, but if not he'll likely be limited to a southpaw specialist role. Either way, this season will be key for Robertson because at age 25 he may not get a particularly long leash.

31. Madison Boer | Starter | DOB: 12/89 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2011-2

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2011     RK+    15      0     2.60      17.1      13      1      31      2
         A-      8      0     6.75       8.0      12      0      12      1
2012     A-      5      5     3.58      27.2      26      1      20     10
         A+     22     19     6.41     111.0     147     15      66     32

Picked out of Oregon in the second round of the 2011 draft, Madison Boer posted a ridiculous 43-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his 25-inning debut that year. Unfortunately none of that carried over to his first full season, as the 6-foot-4 right-hander from Eden Prairie got knocked around for a 5.84 ERA in 139 innings between two levels of Single-A, allowing opponents to hit .309 while managing just 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings.

Boer's lack of missed bats isn't a total shock after he struck out just 74 batters in 99 innings during his final college season and Baseball America noted before the draft that his velocity fell from the mid-90s as a reliever to the low-90s as a starter. Still, there's no way a 22-year-old top-100 pick with big-time college experience should struggle that much at Single-A, particularly after toying with rookie-ball hitters.

Boer is already 23 years old, so if he continues to struggle as a starter it'll be interesting to see how long the Twins wait to shift him to the bullpen. That's certainly not a guaranteed fix, but it would allow him to focus on the fastball-slider combo that drew pre-draft praise and would likely provide a much quicker path to the majors. At this point, though, Boer simply needs to get back to pitching well again regardless of the role.

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