February 10, 2016

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2016: 35, 34, 33, 32, 31

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

35. Travis Harrison | Right Field | DOB: 10/92 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2011-1

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2013     A-     537     .253     .366     .416     15     43     68    125
2014     A+     537     .269     .361     .365      3     37     64     86
2015     AA     479     .240     .363     .356      5     32     65    102

Travis Harrison was touted as a power-hitting third baseman when the Twins selected him 50th overall in the 2011 draft with the compensatory pick they received for losing Orlando Hudson to free agency, but neither of those descriptions have been accurate as a pro. He showed modest power in the low minors, but then managed just three homers in 129 games at high Single-A in 2014 and five homers in 115 games at Double-A last year.

His lack of pop is especially troubling because Harrison was quickly moved away from third base and played exclusively right field last season, raising the bar for his offensive output. To get a sense for how little power he's shown, consider that Harrison's combined isolated power for 2014 and 2015 was .106. Denard Span's career isolated power is .108 and Kurt Suzuki's is .114. You get the idea.

Harrison narrowly clings to a spot on this list for two reasons. One is that he's still very young, playing last season at Double-A as a 22-year-old. He certainly wouldn't be the first prospect who needed some time to turn power potential into actual power. Beyond that, within his poor overall production Harrison has drawn 60-plus walks in each of his three full seasons while keeping his strikeouts in check.

34. Yorman Landa | Reliever | DOB: 6/94 | Throws: Right | Sign: Venezuela

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     RK+    12     12     2.78      55.0      46      1      46     29
2014     A-     13      0     2.88      25.0      18      1      30     13
2015     RK      7      0     0.00       9.0       3      0       9      2
         A-     15      0     1.67      27.0      18      1      31     14

Yorman Landa signed with the Twins out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old in 2010 and has yet to pitch above low Single-A, but the right-hander was added to the 40-man roster in November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Landa's numbers have been good at every stop, including a 2.53 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 181 career innings, but he's thrown more than 40 innings in a season just once thanks to injuries.

Shoulder surgery ended his 2014 season and sidelined Landa for the first two months of 2015, but he returned to throw 36 innings with a 1.25 ERA and 40/16 K/BB ratio while holding opponents to a .167 batting average and one homer. Keeping the ball in the ballpark has been a major strength for Landa, a ground-ball machine who's allowed just four homers in 784 plate appearances as a pro. Last season opponents slugged .228 off Landa, including zero extra-base hits by lefties.

Landa works in the mid-90s with his fastball and generates strikeouts with his slider. His control definitely needs work, as he's issued 104 walks in 181 innings and has never walked fewer than 4.0 batters per nine innings in a season. Based on a typical promotion schedule Landa wouldn't be in the Twins' plans until mid-2017 at the earliest, but since he's already on the 40-man roster a quicker call-up is always possible.

33. 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
2015     AA     379     .223     .322     .306      4     18     45     69

Despite a big 2013 season at the University of Mississippi most pre-draft scouting reports called Stuart Turner's offensive upside into question, with Baseball America noting that "scouts don't like his swing and question his ability to sting the ball consistently." Three years later Turner has hit just .242/.326/.347 in 226 pro games while getting progressively worse as he moves up the organizational ladder.

Turner was a third-round draft pick with a good defensive reputation and various Twins officials have said some complimentary things about him over the years, which has convinced a segment of the fan base that he's locked in as the team's catcher of the future regardless of how poorly he actually performs. However, while good defense behind the plate may get Turner to the majors at some point his lack of production is a huge red flag.

Last season at Double-A he batted just .223 with four homers and 18 total extra-base hits in 98 games, with the only bright spot being a good walk rate. There were 73 hitters in the Southern League with at least 300 plate appearances and only nine had a lower OPS than Turner. This may be a make-or-break season, because at age 24 he needs to show that he's capable of developing into more than a strong-armed, weak-hitting backup catcher.

32. Mason Melotakis | Reliever | DOB: 6/91 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2012-2

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     A-     24     18     3.16     111.0     106      6      84     39
2014     A+     25      2     3.45      47.0      50      3      45     23
         AA     13      0     2.25      16.0      17      0      17      3

One of several college relievers selected by the Twins in the early rounds of the 2012 draft and turned into pro starters, left-hander Mason Melotakis fared reasonably well as a starter in the low minors before being moved back to the bullpen in 2014. He began the season at high Single-A and ended it at Double-A, throwing a total of 63 innings with a 3.14 ERA and 62/27 K/BB ratio to possibly put him in the mix for a 2015 call-up to the Twins.

And then he underwent Tommy John elbow surgery, knocking him out for all of 2015. After a year of rest and rehab the Twins deemed Melotakis recovered enough to add him to the 40-man roster and protect him from the Rule 5 draft, which is a sign that he could re-enter their plans pretty quickly with a strong start this year. His last action came in late 2014 at Double-A, where he posted a 17/3 K/BB ratio in 16 innings.

As a starter Melotakis didn't miss enough bats to be viewed as having much upside, but shifting back to the bullpen boosted his fastball from the low-90s to the mid-90s and when combined with a quality breaking ball gives him late-inning potential. He'll be racing fellow top-40 prospects Jose Berrios, Adam Walker, Taylor Rogers, and J.T. Chargois to join Byron Buxton and Tyler Duffey as the third member of the 2012 draft class to reach the majors.

31. Mitch Garver | Catcher | DOB: 1/91 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2013-9

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2013     RK+    225     .243     .313     .366      2     19     19     31
2014     A-     504     .298     .399     .481     16     46     61     65
2015     A+     520     .245     .356     .333      4     29     69     82

Mitch Garver and Stuart Turner were competing to see who'll emerge as the Twins' catcher of the future and the answer last year at least was neither, which perhaps played a part in the team trading for 24-year-old catcher John Ryan Murphy. Garver was a ninth-round draft pick out of the University of New Mexico in 2013 and had a fantastic season at low Single-A in 2014, but his production fell off a cliff at high Single-A last year.

Garver had a horrible first two months and even after getting somewhat back on track in June, July, and August his overall numbers included losing 53 points of batting average and 148 points of slugging percentage compared to 2014. The good news is that he continued to draw a bunch of walks and control the strike zone well, but 24-year-olds who struggle at Single-A generally need to have their prospect stock re-calibrated.

He's always been able to draw walks, control the strike zone, and throw out runners, which is a combination that could get him to the big leagues as a backup even if the rest of his offensive game stagnates. Whatever the case it's time for Garver to sink or swim against a higher level of competition, because he's actually slightly older than Murphy and dangerously close to "too old for a prospect" status despite never playing a game above Single-A.


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February 13, 2015

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2015: 25, 24, 23, 22, 21

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

25. Aaron Slegers | Starter | DOB: 9/92 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2013-5

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     RK+     9      0     0.47      19.0      16      0      18      2
2014     A-     20     20     4.53     113.1     118      7      90     20
         A+      3      3     3.32      19.0      14      2      12      4

Aaron Slegers battled multiple injuries in high school and early in his college career at Indiana, but the 6-foot-10 right-hander got healthy in 2013 and was drafted by the Twins in the fifth round after a strong sophomore year. He signed for $380,000 and debuted at rookie-level Elizabethton by allowing just one run in 19 innings with an 18/2 K/BB ratio, looking good following concerns about his tiring down the stretch for the Hoosiers amid a career-high workload.

Slegers moved up to low Single-A last year and posted a poor 4.53 ERA in 20 starts, but his 90/20 K/BB ratio in 113 innings was solid and he allowed just seven homers. He missed very few bats in college, so even a modest strikeout rate of 7.2 per nine innings was a step in the right direction. Slegers then finished the year with a three-start promotion to high Single-A, faring well there at age 21.

Slegers' velocity doesn't match his intimating 6-foot-10 frame, but he throws in the low-90s and induces lots of ground balls. For a pitcher that size avoiding nagging injuries and maintaining consistent mechanics are always question marks, but Slegers seems to have gotten past his previous health issues and his control has been fantastic with just 1.5 walks per nine innings. He's not going to be the next Randy Johnson, but Slegers is an intriguing prospect.

24. Mitch Garver | Catcher | DOB: 1/91 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2013-9

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2013     RK+    225     .243     .313     .366      2     19     19     31
2014     A-     504     .298     .399     .481     16     46     61     65

Mitch Garver put up huge college numbers in a very hitter-friendly environment at New Mexico, batting .383 with 72 extra-base hits in 120 games during his junior and senior years. Considered by many to be a low-upside "senior sign" in the 2013 draft, he fell to the Twins in the ninth round and agreed to a $40,000 signing bonus well below slot value. And then Garver struggled in his pro debut at rookie-ball, hitting just .243/.313/.366 with two homers in 56 games.

Tossed onto the non-prospect pile, Garver bounced back in a big way last season at low Single-A, batting .298/.399/.481 with 16 homers, 46 total extra-base hits, and nearly as many walks (61) as strikeouts (65) in 120 games. Among all Midwest League hitters he ranked fourth in batting average, third in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, and third in OPS, producing an .880 mark that was 27 percent better than the league average.

Reviews of his defense behind the plate are mixed and Garver saw about half of his 2014 action at designated hitter, but he threw out a respectable 32 percent of steal attempts. At age 23 he was old for the Midwest League, so it's possible Garver was just beating up on inexperienced pitching after playing four seasons of college ball. Either way, when a catcher puts up big numbers in the minors after putting up big numbers in college he's worth keeping an eye on.

23. Zack Jones | Reliever | DOB: 12/90 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2012-4

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     RK+     6      0     0.00       6.0       2      0       9      4
         A-     12      0     3.21      14.0       9      1      25      7
2013     A+     39      0     1.85      48.2      28      2      70     28
2014     RK-     6      1     3.38       5.1       3      0       9      4
         A+      5      0     0.00       5.0       3      0       5      2

After middling results as a college starter Zack Jones shifted to the bullpen full time when the Twins took him in the fourth round of the 2012 draft and posted video game-like numbers through two pro seasons with a 1.97 ERA, .165 opponents' batting average, and 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings. And he had the raw stuff to match, consistently working in the mid-90s with his fastball and topping out in the triple digits.

While pitching in the Arizona Fall League he experienced finger numbness and was shut down, eventually undergoing surgery for an aneurysm in his shoulder. Jones missed the entire first half of last season before rehabbing in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and then rejoined the high Single-A bullpen to make a handful of appearances down the stretch. And to tie a nice bow on his comeback, he returned to the Arizona Fall League and allowed zero runs in 11 games.

Reports on Jones' velocity were more or less in line with his outstanding pre-surgery heat, but including the AFL he walked 18 batters in 21 innings to show that he may not have cleared every hurdle yet. His control has always been a red flag, with more than 5.0 walks per nine innings in each of his three pro campaigns. Before the career-threatening injury Jones was on the fast track and he's capable of reaching the majors in 2015, but he needs to stay healthy and throw strikes.

22. Travis Harrison | Left Field | DOB: 10/92 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2011-1

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2012     RK+    253     .301     .383     .461      5     21     24     51
2013     A-     537     .253     .366     .416     15     43     68    125
2014     A+     537     .269     .361     .365      3     37     64     86

When the Twins made Travis Harrison the 50th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of a California high school he was billed as one of the best power-hitting prospects in the class, but that has not translated to the pros yet. Harrison hit 20 homers in 189 games through his first two seasons and then his power disappeared in 2014, as he went deep just three times in 129 games and slugged .365 at high Single-A.

Three homers in 537 plate appearances is hard to ignore, but it's worth noting the Florida State League is a tough place to hit for power and Harrison was among the youngest regulars at 21. He also ranked second in the league with 33 doubles, suggesting he was making hard contact even if it didn't result in fly balls going over fences, and Harrison cut way down on his strikeouts while maintaining a strong walk rate on the way to a nice 86/64 K/BB ratio.

There's some stuff to like within Harrison's offensive skill set, but the lack of power is troubling and doubly so because he's already shifted from third base to left field defensively. Any further moves down the defensive spectrum would leave Harrison with zero defensive value and at that point he'd need to develop into a slugger to work his way into the Twins' plans. Even getting back to 15 homers while keeping his strikeouts down would make 2015 a success for Harrison.

21. Jake Reed | Reliever | DOB: 9/92 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2014-5

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2014     RK+     4      0     0.00       6.0       1      0       8      0
         A-     16      0     0.36      25.0      10      0      31      3

After two mediocre seasons in Oregon's rotation Jake Reed shifted to the bullpen last year and went 4-1 with 13 saves and a 1.95 ERA in 31 appearances. His secondary numbers weren't as impressive, with 34 strikeouts versus 15 walks in 37 innings, but Reed had no such issues with secondary numbers in his pro debut. Drafted in the fifth round, he signed for $350,000 and made quick work of rookie-ball before a promotion to low Single-A.

Between the two levels Reed allowed one run in 20 appearances, racking up a 39/3 K/BB ratio in 31 innings while limiting opponents to a .105 batting average and zero homers. It'd be tough to dominate any more than that, even accounting for the fact that college pitchers are supposed to dominate low-minors hitters. Twins pitching draftees often beat up on inexperienced competition, but Reed actually has the impressive raw stuff to match his numbers.

He works in the mid-90s with his fastball and his slider also gets positive reviews, leading to ground balls in bunches. Righties hit .085 with 12 strikeouts per walk and lefties hit .130 with 15 strikeouts per walk. Assuming that the Twins don't try to move him back in the rotation Reed has a chance to move quickly through the system and could join fellow hard-throwing 2014 draftee Nick Burdi in the big-league bullpen by 2016.


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