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.


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February 23, 2015

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2015: 15, 14, 13, 12, 11

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

15. Max Kepler | Center Field | DOB: 2/93 | Bats: Left | Sign: Germany

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2012     RK+    269     .297     .387     .539     10     31     27     33
2013     A-     263     .237     .312     .424      9     23     24     43
2014     A+     407     .264     .333     .393      5     31     34     62

As a 16-year-old Max Kepler was big and fast with lots of tools and a unique background that included his parents meeting as performers in the German ballet, so when the Twins signed him out of Germany for $800,000 he was viewed as an intriguing, high-upside prospect. Five seasons later some of that intrigue and upside have vanished, in part because Kepler has struggled to stay healthy and in part because his performance beyond rookie-ball has underwhelmed.

Kepler played 163 games at Single-A during the past two seasons, hitting .253/.325/.405 with 14 homers. He also seems less and less likely to stick in center field, playing quite a bit of right field and first base. On the other hand Kepler was one of the Florida State League's youngest regulars last season at age 21, so even holding his own there is a positive sign. And after a bad first three months Kepler finished the year on a high note by hitting .303/.359/.442 in July and August.

Kepler is no longer incredibly young and no longer oozes upside, so now he simply needs to start hitting and in particular turn his 6-foot-4 frame and power potential into actual homers. Despite not playing above Single-A he was added to the 40-man roster, which means the clock is ticking on Kepler showing he belongs in the majors and the door is open for him to reach Minnesota at some point this season if he plays well.

14. 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

In their ongoing effort to add more high-end velocity to the organization the Twins picked San Diego State right-hander Michael Cederoth in the third round last year. Cederoth was a starter in 2012 and 2013, but shifted to the bullpen in 2014 and topped out at 100 miles per hour while racking up 20 saves with a 2.28 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 52 innings. Despite that relief success Cederoth made his pro debut as a starter and fared pretty well for rookie-level Elizabethton.

Making the abbreviated outings that are common for rookie-ball starters, he posted a 3.55 ERA with just one homer allowed and a 42/18 K/BB ratio in 46 innings. His fastball predictably wasn't able to reach triple-digits as a starter, but Cederoth worked in the mid-90s and his control was encouraging. He walked 3.5 per nine innings, which is a lot, but in college Cederoth walked 5.2 per nine innings.

Converting hard-throwing college relievers into pro starters has repeatedly gone poorly for the Twins in recent years and Cederoth's mediocre results as a college starter leave even less room for optimism, but he's 6-foot-6 with an equally big fastball and there's always a role in the majors for that profile even if it's yet to be determined. This year he'll make the jump up to full-season competition at Single-A and try to develop his secondary pitches.

13. Amaurys Minier | Left Field | DOB: 1/96 | Bats: Switch | Sign: Dominican

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2013     RK-    119     .214     .252     .455      6     13      6     29
2014     RK-    205     .292     .405     .520      8     21     29     52

When the Twins signed Amaurys Minier for $1.4 million as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic there were immediate comparisons to Miguel Sano, but those quieted down when he hit .214 at rookie-ball in his pro debut. However, within the ugly batting average Minier showed a ton of power and last season he made it clear why the Twins were so high on him by crushing the Gulf Coast League in his second go-around.

Minier hit .292/.405/.520 with eight homers, 21 total extra-base hits, and 29 walks in 53 games, leading the GCL in homers and ranking third in both slugging percentage and OPS. And he did so while playing the entire season at age 18. He was signed as a shortstop, debuted at third base, and played left field and first base last season, but his eventual defensive home is secondary to Minier's offensive upside as a switch-hitting slugger.

Rookie-ball numbers should be viewed skeptically because the level of competition is inconsistent and the sample size is small, but Minier's production was special. He posted a .925 OPS, which is the highest by any Twins prospect in the Gulf Coast League during the past decade. And the only Twins prospects in the Gulf Coast League within 30 points of his OPS from 2005-2014 were Chris Parmelee (.901 in 2006), Aaron Hicks (.900 in 2008), and Kennys Vargas (.895 in 2010).

12. 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

Stephen Gonsalves was viewed as a first-round talent in 2013, but fell to the Twins in the fourth round following a suspension during his senior year of high school in California and then signed for second-round money at $700,000. His pro debut was impressive, as the 6-foot-5 lefty logged 28 rookie-ball innings with a 0.95 ERA and 39/11 K/BB ratio without allowing a homer. He stayed in rookie-ball to begin last season and then moved up to low Single-A, where he thrived at age 19.

Despite being younger than around 90 percent of the pitchers in the Midwest League he started eight games for Cedar Rapids with a 3.19 ERA and 44/11 K/BB ratio in 37 innings, striking out 30 percent of the batters he faced while opponents hit .228 with one homer. Toss in his rookie-ball numbers and through two pro seasons Gonsalves has a combined 2.39 ERA with 109 strikeouts and two homers allowed in 94 innings.

His control still needs work and Gonsalves' off-speed pitches generally receive mediocre reviews, both of which may need to change for his success to continue against tougher competition if his fastball stays in the low-90s. He also needs to handle a full-season workload for the first time at age 20, so expectations should be held in check, but Gonsalves looks like a potential mid-rotation starter down the road if things go well.

11. Trevor May | Starter | DOB: 9/89 | Throws: Right | Trade: Phillies

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     AA     28     28     4.87     149.2     139     22     151     78
2013     AA     27     27     4.51     151.2     149     14     159     67
2014     AAA    18     18     2.84      98.1      75      4      94     39
         MLB    10      9     7.88      45.2      59      7      44     22

When the Twins acquired Trevor May from the Phillies along with Vance Worley in exchange for Ben Revere he was coming off an underwhelming 2012 season at Double-A. They had him repeat the level in 2013 with similarly mediocre results, but May moved up to Triple-A last year and took a big step forward. He posted a 2.84 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 98 innings, cut his walk rate by 15 percent, and allowed just four homers after previously struggling to limit long balls.

That earned May an August call-up to the majors, where everything unraveled. His debut was a mess, as he issued seven walks in two innings and 10 of 15 batters reached base. He continued to struggle for the next few starts and finished with a hideous 7.88 ERA, but May actually showed signs of progress down the stretch. He posted a strong 41/9 K/BB ratio in his final 37 innings, averaged 92 miles per hour with his fastball, and generated a solid number of swinging strikes.

There's no doubt that it was a sour first taste of the majors, but May at least showed glimpses of his potential to match the 18 good starts at Triple-A. He'll likely be a part of the Twins' rotation at some point in 2015 and if May can throw strikes he's capable of being a mid-rotation starter. At age 25 and with 400 innings between Double-A and Triple-A his leash may not be particularly long considering the Twins were so hesitant to promote him in the first place.


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