April 10, 2015

To catch a prospect: Where to find the Twins’ top minor leaguers

Carmen Sandiego

One of the ways Twins fans can attempt to avoid losing their minds during what looks likely to be a fifth straight forgettable season at Target Field is to keep tabs on what's happening down on the farm. Thanks to high draft picks and veteran-for-prospect trades the Twins have amassed one of MLB's two or three best farm systems and Rule 5 pick J.R. Graham is the lone player from my annual top-40 prospects list to crack the Twins' frustratingly veteran-filled Opening Day roster.

All of which means the Twins' minor-league rosters are jam-packed with quality prospects, so in an effort to help the daily perusal of boxscores here's a breakdown of which top-40 prospects can be found on the season-opening rosters for Triple-A Rochester, Double-A Chattanooga, Single-A Fort Myers, and Single-A Cedar Rapids. Two top-40 prospects, 19-year-old Amaurys Minier and 18-year-old Lewin Diaz, have not been assigned to full-season teams. Here's everyone else.

Rochester Red Wings, Triple-A:

 #4 Alex Meyer
#10 Eddie Rosario
#11 Trevor May
#16 Michael Tonkin
#18 Taylor Rogers
#30 Jason Wheeler
#36 Lester Oliveros
#37 Stephen Pryor
#39 Logan Darnell
#40 A.J. Achter
MLB Aaron Hicks
MLB Josmil Pinto
MLB Caleb Thielbar
MLB Ryan Pressly

Rochester's rotation features four top-40 prospects in Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, and Jason Wheeler, plus a fifth starter in Mark Hamburger who's intriguing despite being too old for prospect status at 28. Rochester's bullpen has five top-40 prospects in Michael Tonkin, Lester Oliveros, Stephen Pryor, Logan Darnell, and A.J. Achter, plus two experienced big leaguers who had strong cases to make the Twins' roster in Caleb Thielbar and Ryan Pressly.

In all 11 of the 13 pitchers on Rochester's roster are either current top-40 prospects or former top-40 prospects who've spent too much time in the majors to be considered prospects, with the lone exceptions being Hamburger and 2010 third-round draft pick Pat Dean. If you set aside Phil Hughes and Glen Perkins it's not that tough to make a case for Rochester's pitching staff--or at minimum the bullpen--having more upside than their counterparts with the Twins.

Offensively the Red Wings aren't quite as stocked with prospects, placing only Eddie Rosario in this year's top 40. However, he'll share an outfield with former top-40 regular Aaron Hicks and Rochester will use Josmil Pinto as a catcher/designated hitter. Eric Fryer, Argenis Diaz, Eric Farris, Brock Peterson, and Doug Bernier are also on the roster after all previously getting cups of coffee in the majors. Rochester is managed by former Cubs manager Mike Quade.

Chattanooga Lookouts, Double-A:

 #1 Byron Buxton
 #2 Miguel Sano
 #3 Jose Berrios
 #7 Jorge Polanco
 #9 Nick Burdi
#15 Max Kepler
#17 Adam Walker
#21 Jake Reed
#22 Travis Harrison
#23 Zack Jones
#28 Stuart Turner
#31 Tyler Duffey
#38 Levi Michael

In their first year with Chattanooga as the Double-A affiliate the Twins sent the Lookouts perhaps the most stacked collection of prospects in team history. No. 1 prospect Byron Buxton and No. 2 prospect Miguel Sano alone would be enough to make Chattanooga a prospect haven and they're joined in the lineup by six other top-40 prospects in Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, Adam Walker, Travis Harrison, Stuart Turner, and Levi Michael.

It can't compare to that incredibly stacked lineup, but in any other circumstance the Lookouts' pitching staff would be considered loaded with prospects. No. 3 prospect Jose Berrios headlines the rotation and No. 9 prospect Nick Burdi leads the bullpen. And there are three other pitchers from the top 40 in Jake Reed, Zack Jones, and Tyler Duffey, plus former top-40 regulars Alex Wimmers and Adrian Salcedo trying to resurrect their prospect status.

Chattanooga is home to the Twins' top three prospects and five of the system's top 10 prospects, including an MLB-wide top-three prospect in Buxton, a second consensus top-20 prospect in Sano, and a third consensus top-50 prospect in Berrios. In all the Lookouts have 13 prospects in the top 40, including 10 of the top 25. Oh, and if that wasn't enough to make keeping tabs on their games interesting Chattanooga is managed by Doug Mientkiewicz.

Fort Myers Miracle, Single-A:

 #5 Kohl Stewart
#19 Chin-Wei Hu
#24 Mitch Garver
#25 Aaron Slegers
#27 Brandon Peterson
#34 Ryan Eades

Fort Myers' roster is a barren prospect wasteland compared to Rochester and Chattanooga, but it will be home to the No. 4 pick in last year's draft, right-hander Kohl Stewart, who ranks as the Twins' fifth-best prospect and would be the top prospect in several organizations. Fellow top-40 prospects Chih-Wei Hu, Aaron Slegers, and Ryan Eades join him in the rotation and will throw to a top-40 prospect in catcher Mitch Garver. For a typical Single-A team this is lots of talent.

Cedar Rapids Kernels, Single-A:

 #6 Nick Gordon
 #8 Lewis Thorpe
#12 Stephen Gonsalves
#14 Michael Cederoth
#26 Max Murphy
#32 Sam Clay
#33 Tanner English

Cedar Rapids has another well-stocked collection of prospects, although instead of beginning his season in the Kernels' rotation No. 8 prospect Lewis Thorpe will miss the entire season following Tommy John elbow surgery. Even without Thorpe the rotation includes a pair of top-15 prospects in Stephen Gonsalves and Michael Cederoth, plus last year's fourth-round draft pick Sam Clay in the bullpen and several top-40 near misses in assorted roles.

The headliner at Cedar Rapids is the No. 5 pick in last year's draft, shortstop Nick Gordon, and Cedar Rapids' outfield has a pair of intriguing top-40 prospects who're coming off excellent 2014 pro debuts in Max Murphy and Tanner English. If the rosters weren't so stacked at Double-A and Triple-A the collection of talent playing for manager Jake Mauer at low Single-A would be getting more attention.

This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

March 18, 2015

When should the Twins call up Buxton, Sano, and Berrios?

Sano and Buxton

Putting an early end to all the "will they make the Opening Day roster?" questions, the Twins sent top prospects Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Jose Berrios to the minor-league side of camp. All three players are expected to begin the season at Double-A, where they'll likely be joined by fellow top-15 prospects Jorge Polanco, Nick Burdi, and Max Kepler, so Chattanooga Lookouts fans should enjoy their first season as a Twins affiliate.

After years of hearing about their upside it's understandable that many fans are clamoring to see Buxton, Sano, and Berrios at Target Field as soon as possible, but a little more patience is needed. For one thing, none of them look ready for the majors. Buxton was limited to just 31 games last season due to significant injuries and didn't play very well when in the lineup. Sano missed the entire season following elbow surgery. Berrios has pitched all of 43 innings above Single-A.

There have certainly been instances in which the Twins have kept prospects in the minors too long and in fact 25-year-old Alex Meyer may be a current example, but Buxton, Sano, and Berrios don't fit the description. Buxton and Sano are 21 years old, Berrios turns 21 in May, and all three are on track to reach the majors at some point this season. Opening Day jobs would short-change their development and short-change the Twins' team control of three building block talents.

By waiting as little as a few weeks to promote a prospect to the majors the Twins gain an entire additional year of pre-free agency team control over that player. In other words, if Buxton were in the majors for Opening Day and stayed there for good he would become a free agent following the 2020 season. However, if the Twins waited to call up Buxton until May he would become a free agent following the 2021 season. For better or worse, service time is an important consideration.

Even if you think Buxton, Sano, and Berrios are ready to thrive in the majors--and there's little evidence that's the case--why would a team prefer one month of them at age 21 over an entire season of them at age 28? If the Chattanooga Lookouts are destroying the Southern League in June and the Twins still haven't moved their stud prospects up the ladder there will be plenty of reason to complain, but for now their patience is better for everyone involved.

In the meantime the Twins need to evaluate whether Trevor Plouffe is part of their future plans, either at third base if Sano is forced to shift down the defensive spectrum or at another position. And if he's not, then his first-half performance will help determine if he's able to fetch something via trade or looks more like an offseason non-tender candidate. Similarly, the Twins need to figure out whether Aaron Hicks is a lost cause and could let him keep center field warm for Buxton.

Berrios is somewhat different in that the pitcher keeping his rotation spot warm is likely Tommy Milone or Mike Pelfrey, neither of whom have any real upside, but Meyer is still likely ahead of Berrios on the call-up list by virtue of being four years older with 160 more Double-A and Triple-A innings. Plus, it's a mere 14-hour drive from Minneapolis to Chattanooga and after watching the Twins' future on one field you can stop by the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame.

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 11, 2015

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2015: System Overview

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


My annual series ranking and profiling the Twins' top prospects concluded last 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. Jake Reed, RP
 2. Miguel Sano, 3B                22. Travis Harrison, LF
 3. Jose Berrios, SP               23. Zack Jones, RP
 4. Alex Meyer, SP                 24. Mitch Garver, C
 5. Kohl Stewart, SP               25. Aaron Slegers, SP
 6. Nick Gordon, SS                26. Max Murphy, CF
 7. Jorge Polanco, SS              27. Brandon Peterson, RP
 8. Lewis Thorpe, SP               28. Stuart Turner, C
 9. Nick Burdi, RP                 29. Tyler Jones, RP
10. Eddie Rosario, CF              30. Jason Wheeler, SP
11. Trevor May, SP                 31. Tyler Duffey, SP
12. Stephen Gonsalves, SP          32. Sam Clay, RP
13. Amaurys Minier, LF             33. Tanner English, CF
14. Michael Cederoth, SP           34. Ryan Eades, SP
15. Max Kepler, CF                 35. J.R. Graham, RP
16. Michael Tonkin, RP             36. Lester Oliveros, RP
17. Adam Walker, RF                37. Stephen Pryor, RP
18. Taylor Rogers, SP              38. Levi Michael, 2B
19. Chih-Wei Hu, SP                39. Logan Darnell, SP
20. Lewin Diaz, 1B                 40. A.J. Achter, RP

This time last year the Twins' farm system was widely regarded as baseball's best. And then the injuries struck. Elbow surgery knocked out Miguel Sano for the entire season and wrist problems followed by a concussion cost Byron Buxton most of the year. Four of the system's top pitching prospects--Alex Meyer, Jose Berrios, Kohl Stewart, and Lewis Thorpe--all experienced some arm issues. And while not an injury, Eddie Rosario missed 50 games on a suspension.

All the injuries put a dent in the system's overall standing, but it remains one of the two or three best in baseball thanks largely to Buxton and Sano retaining their elite-prospect status. Adding a third consecutive top-five draft pick in high school shortstop Nick Gordon also helped prop up the group and second-round pick Nick Burdi's impressive pro debut combined with perceived MLB readiness put him squarely on the prospect map right away.

In most years several of the Twins' top prospects graduate to the majors--Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, and Kyle Gibson all did so in 2013, for instance--but Josmil Pinto was the only member of the 2014 top 10 to spend enough time in Minnesota to lose his prospect eligibility. Retaining or losing "prospect" status doesn't change a player's long-term value, but it does greatly impact how a farm system is perceived and the lack of 2014 graduates gives the system a boost for 2015.

Last season also showed the importance of depth beyond the big names and top-100 list regulars, as Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas emerged as potential building blocks for the Twins after being relative afterthoughts coming into 2014. Jorge Polanco also took a sizable step forward, which combined with Santana's shockingly impressive debut and the addition of Gordon gives the Twins some young middle infield talent to get excited about for the first time in a long time.

Buxton and Sano remain the crown jewels of the farm system, but pitching dominates the rest of the top 40 and that makes sense given the Twins' multi-year focus on adding arms via trades and high-round draft picks after the cupboard was left alarmingly bare. In years past the Twins were typically overflowing with back-of-the-rotation starters, but now even after the high-upside quartet of Berrios, Meyer, Stewart, and Thorpe they have several intriguing mid-rotation types.

They also have an assortment of hard-throwing, bat-missing relievers approaching MLB readiness in Burdi, Michael Tonkin, Jake Reed, Zack Jones, Brandon Peterson, and Tyler Jones. It may not fully come together in 2015, but there are finally power arms on the way to Minnesota and in general the farm system looks nearly ready to start making a significant MLB impact after years of stockpiling talent in the minors.

Of the top 11 prospects all but Stewart, Gordon, and Thorpe have a realistic shot of playing in the majors this season, led by Buxton, Sano, and Meyer potentially playing big roles. That means next year's farm system may plummet in the MLB-wide rankings, but far more importantly it means this could be the year fans stop hearing about the trade pickups, high draft picks, and big-money international signings rising through the minors and start actually seeing them at Target Field.

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 4, 2015

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2015: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

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

5. 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

Considered the top high school prospect in the 2013 draft, the Twins selected Texas right-hander Kohl Stewart fourth overall after college stars went 1-2-3. On draft day scouting director Deron Johnson described Stewart's ceiling as "unlimited" and he signed for $4.5 million, bypassing a chance to follow in Johnny Manziel's footstep as Texas A&M's quarterback. Stewart had a great pro debut with a 1.35 ERA and 24/4 K/BB ratio in 20 rookie-ball innings.

He moved up to low Single-A last season and on the surface Stewart had similar success, posting a 2.59 ERA in 19 starts and holding opponents to a .233 batting average. However, he managed just 62 strikeouts in 87 innings, struggled to maintain peak fastball velocity, and was shut down with shoulder problems. High school pitchers make risky top-10 picks for a reason and Stewart failed to crack Baseball America's annual top-100 prospects list after placing 52nd last year.

Along with the sub par strikeout rate he did induce plenty of ground balls and allow just 17 total extra-base hits in 360 plate appearances, so if the shoulder issues prove minor Stewart's first full season was hardly a disaster. If not for the hype attached with being a top-five pick simply holding his own against low Single-A hitters as an 19-year-old with 20 post-high school innings under his belt would be very encouraging.

4. Alex Meyer | Starter | DOB: 1/90 | Throws: Right | Trade: Nationals

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     A-     18     18     3.10      90.0      68      4     107     34
         A+      7      7     2.31      39.0      29      2      32     11
2013     AA     13     13     3.21      70.0      60      3      84     29
2014     AAA    27     27     3.52     130.1     116     10     153     64

Acquired from the Nationals in exchange for Denard Span two offseasons ago, Alex Meyer was the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft out of the University of Kentucky and the 6-foot-9 right-hander with a mid-90s fastball has a 3.14 ERA with 420 strikeouts in 364 innings as a pro. Last year he made 27 starts at Triple-A and struck out 153 in 130 innings, leading the International League in strikeouts and strikeout rate. Yet he's already 25 years old and hasn't debuted in the majors.

Poor control and some nagging arm issues have certainly delayed Meyer's arrival to the majors, but when a last-place team has a top-50 prospect make 27 starts at Triple-A as a 24-year-old that rightfully raises eyebrows. For some context: In the majors last season 750 games were started by a pitcher younger than Meyer and he's less than six months older than Madison Bumgarner. Meyer is a very good prospect who's almost too old to be considered a very good prospect.

Meyer has an overpowering fastball that approaches triple-digits, his slider and knuckle-curveball receive praise, and his changeup is said to be improving. And coming from a 6-foot-9 frame adds a little extra to every pitch. If he can stay healthy and harness his dominant raw stuff Meyer has top-of-the-rotation potential, but shifting to the bullpen to unleash his fastball even further gives him a late-inning relief role to fall back on if needed.

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

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     RK-     8      1     1.08      16.2       7      0      27      3
         RK+     3      3     1.29      14.0       8      1      22      1
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

Jose Berrios was the Twins' "other" 2012 first-round pick, going 30 spots after Byron Buxton in the compensatory slot received for losing Michael Cuddyer via free agency. He's six-foot-nothing on a good day, but Berrios regularly works in the mid-90s with his fastball and complements it with a good curveball and changeup. Not yet 21 years old, he spent much of 2014 at Double-A, made a cameo at Triple-A, and was named the Twins' minor league pitcher of the year.

Berrios dominated high Single-A hitters to begin last season, starting 16 games with a 1.96 ERA and 109/23 K/BB ratio in 96 innings while holding opponents to a .218 batting average. He was one of just three 20-year-olds to make at least 15 starts in the Florida State League and then in July he moved up to Double-A, where he was the youngest pitcher in the Eastern League to throw more than 40 innings.

Even with a poor season-ending start at Triple-A included his overall numbers were brilliant for a 20-year-old, with a 2.77 ERA and 140/38 K/BB ratio in 140 innings. Berrios is often overshadowed within the Twins' system, but he'd be the No. 1 prospect for a lot of teams and could be knocking on the door to the majors in the second half. It's subjective, of course, but Berrios' mix of upside and polish makes him arguably the Twins' top pitching prospect since Matt Garza in 2007.

2. Miguel Sano | Third Base | DOB: 5/93 | Bats: Right | Sign: Dominican

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2012     A-     553     .258     .373     .521     28     60     80    144
2013     A+     243     .330     .424     .655     16     33     29     61
         AA     276     .236     .344     .571     19     37     36     81

As a 20-year-old Miguel Sano destroyed Single-A and was one of the best hitters at Double-A in 2013, hitting .280/.382/.610 with 35 homers and 65 walks. Last spring he arrived in Fort Myers on the verge of the majors, but elbow problems that first popped up during winter ball worsened early in camp and Sano underwent Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire season, losing a crucial year of development at age 21, and must now re-establish himself as an elite prospect.

Sano's chances of sticking at third base always seemed iffy given his 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame and now his arm strength, which had been his main asset defensively, may be diminished by the elbow surgery. The good news is that Sano's upside offensively is high enough that even being forced to move from third base to right field or first base would leave plenty of room for stardom, although he certainly also has lots to prove at the plate following a lost year.

You won't find prospects with more power potential than Sano, but his .268 batting average and 286 strikeouts in 252 games above rookie-ball are possible red flags. Or at least reasons to pause dreams about Sano turning into the next Miguel Cabrera. There are only six active right-handed hitters with a batting average below .270 and an OPS above .800: Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, Carlos Quentin, and Mike Napoli.

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

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2012     RK-    102     .216     .324     .466      4     11     11     26
         RK+     87     .286     .368     .429      1      8      8     15
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

This time last year Byron Buxton was MLB's consensus No. 1 prospect after hitting .334 with 49 extra-base hits, 55 steals, and 76 walks between two levels of Single-A as a 19-year-old. Then a spring training wrist injury that was supposed to be minor knocked him out for most of the first half. He returned to Single-A for 30 games and hit just .240, at which point the Twins promoted him to Double-A and he suffered a concussion from a brutal outfield collision in his first game.

While not a totally lost season like Miguel Sano experienced, Buxton played poorly when not sidelined by two significant injuries and now faces the same post-concussion question marks that loomed over Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Denard Span. The good news is Buxton is still just 21 years old. He'll begin this season as one of the youngest players at Double-A or Triple-A and could be the first 21-year-old with 100 plate appearances for the Twins since Mauer in 2004.

Thanks to the rough 2014 he's no longer MLB's consensus No. 1 prospect, but Buxton still claims the top spot on several prominent lists and holds a top-three spot everywhere. Upsides simply do not get much higher than a Gold Glove center fielder with a middle-of-the-order bat and 50-steal speed, and before the injuries he showed more plate discipline and power than expected in the early stages of his development. He has franchise-lifting talent if he can just stay healthy.

For a lengthy discussion about what to expect from Miguel Sano following a lost season, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

February 27, 2015

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2015: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6

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

10. Eddie Rosario | Center Field | DOB: 9/91 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2010-4

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2012     A-     429     .296     .345     .490     12     48     31     69
2013     A+     231     .329     .377     .527      6     24     17     29
         AA     313     .284     .330     .412      4     26     21     67
2014     A+      34     .300     .382     .300      0      0      4      5
         AA     336     .237     .277     .396      8     31     17     68

After a strong 2013 it took less than one week for things to get ugly for Eddie Rosario in 2014. In early January he was suspended 50 games for a second positive marijuana test, causing him to sit out until late May. When he returned the Twins demoted him back to high Single-A despite his playing 70 games at Double-A the previous season. And then when a promotion pushed him up to Double-A again in June he hit .237/.277/.396 with an ugly 68/17 K/BB ratio in 79 games there.

Oh, and after two years trying to convert him to second base the Twins basically gave up on that project and played Rosario mostly in the outfield. Because of his limited center field defense and Byron Buxton's presence he's never going to be the Twins' long-term starter there, which means Rosario will have to put his plus speed to good use in a corner spot and prove that his bat can be an asset in a place often home to sluggers.

So far he hasn't done that, hitting .260/.302/.403 with 12 homers and a 135/38 K/BB ratio in 149 games at Double-A. Rosario is still just 23 years old, so there's time for his power and/or plate discipline to develop further, but right now his offensive game revolves around batting average. Starting strong could get Rosario called up to the Twins by midseason and the good news is that being added to the 40-man roster means he's no longer subject to testing for marijuana usage.

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

In recent years the Twins have gone very heavy on drafting hard-throwing college relievers and the returns have been underwhelming so far. That could change with Nick Burdi, their hardest-throwing college reliever yet. His college numbers at Louisville were video game-level ridiculous, with a 0.62 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 73 innings for 2013/2014, and Baseball America's pre-draft scouting report unequivocally called him "the hardest thrower in college baseball."

He was originally drafted by the Twins in the 24th round out of high school and they picked him again last year, this time 46th overall. He signed for $1.2 million and skipped rookie-ball, starting his pro career at low Single-A and quickly moving up to high Single-A. Between the two levels the 6-foot-5 right-hander racked up an incredible 38 strikeouts in 20 innings while regularly cracking 100 miles per hour. His low-90s slider (yes, low-90s slider) is considered a plus pitch too.

College relievers in other organizations tend to move quickly through the minors and while the Twins in general tend to hold back their draft picks Burdi making it to Fort Myers already is a sign they have him on the fast track. As you might expect from a triple-digit thrower his control needs a lot of work, but his walk rate is merely bad and not disastrous. Burdi could be the first pitcher to truly usher the Twins into the modern era of high-velocity arms and he could do it in 2015.

8. 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

Lewis Thorpe was signed out of Australia by the Twins for $500,000 as a 16-year-old and one year later he dominated rookie-ball hitters in his pro debut, racking up 64 strikeouts versus six walks in 44 innings. Convinced he was ready for full-season competition, the Twins had Thorpe skip advanced rookie-ball and sent him to low Single-A as an 18-year-old. Not surprisingly he got off to a rough start, allowing 13 runs in his first 18 innings.

Thorpe turned things around quickly and finished the season with a 12-start stretch in which he posted a 2.52 ERA and 73/26 K/BB ratio in 54 innings while holding opponents to a .213 batting average. Those great numbers become spectacular numbers when you consider he was the only 18-year-old in the entire Midwest League to throw at least 70 innings and the average age of the hitters he faced was 22.

Things came to a screeching halt in September when Thorpe was diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, which can often lead to Tommy John surgery. He skipped pitching winter ball in Australia and is expected to be ready for Opening Day, but given the Twins' recent history with such things it's hard not to be pessimistic. If healthy Thorpe has top-of-the-rotation upside and his performance at such a young age really stands out.

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

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2012     RK+    204     .318     .388     .514      5     22     20     26
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

When the Twins needed emergency infield depth they surprisingly called up Jorge Polanco from Single-A one week before his 21st birthday, making him the youngest position player to debut for the team since Joe Mauer in 2004 and just the second to do so before turning 21 since 1980. He ended up starting just one game for the Twins, spending most of the season at Single-A before moving up to Double-A for the final six weeks.

Polanco did his usual thing in Fort Myers, hitting for a strong batting average and modest power while controlling the strike zone. He hit .281 following the promotion to Double-A, but it came with very little power and a poor 28/9 K/BB ratio in 37 games. He was one of the youngest players in the Eastern League, so simply holding his own for New Britain was an accomplishment. Polanco also resumed playing mostly shortstop after playing more second base than shortstop in 2013.

His raw numbers aren't eye-popping, but Polanco has moved quickly through the system while faring well and moving him back to shortstop is a positive long-term sign for his defensive value regardless of which position he ends up calling home. He projects as a solid player on both sides of the ball and that hasn't been said about many Twins middle infield prospects for a long time. Despite his early debut Polanco may not factor into the Twins' plans until 2016.

6. 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

For the third time in three years the Twins had a top-five pick and used it on a high school player, taking Florida shortstop Nick Gordon. His father, Tom Gordon, was a three-time All-Star pitcher with 21 seasons in the majors and his brother, Dee Gordon, led the majors in stolen bases last season and is currently the Marlins' starting second baseman. Nick Gordon signed for $3.85 million as the fifth overall pick and made his pro debut in advanced rookie-ball.

He got off to a fast start and then cooled down, finishing at .294/.333/.366 with one homer in 57 games. His lack of power was expected, although Baseball America's pre-draft scouting report was convinced his swing has the potential to develop more pop. Gordon was raw at the plate, striking out 45 times compared to 11 walks, and he was successful on just 11 of 18 steal attempts while showing speed that's several notches below his brother.

By drafting Gordon at No. 5 despite a lack of big-time offensive upside the Twins clearly think he has a chance to be a plus defensive shortstop with a solid bat, which is a tough combo to find as Twins fans know all too well. However, outside the organization opinions on his long-term ability to play shortstop seem mixed and as a second baseman Gordon's skill set is far less promising. Last time the Twins used a top-10 pick on a high school shortstop: Michael Cuddyer in 1997.

For a lengthy discussion of the Twins' top 10 prospects, including all five players listed above, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

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