February 10, 2016

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

Also in this series: 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.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Postmates, where you can use the promo code "wtrq" for $10 off fast, on-demand, hassle-free food delivery from your favorite restaurants.

February 5, 2016

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2016: 40, 39, 38, 37, 36

Also in this series: 31-35.

40. Pat Dean | Starter | DOB: 5/89 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2010-3

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     AA     22     22     4.68     125.0     151     12      61     17
         AAA     6      6     2.02      40.0      38      0      22      5
2014     AA     26     26     4.81     144.0     192     20      83     31
2015     AAA    27     27     2.82     179.0     170     10      98     36

Pat Dean was the Twins' third-round draft pick in 2010 out of the University of Kentucky, but after posting a 4.30 ERA in 600 innings through his first five pro seasons he appeared to have little chance of reaching the big leagues. Dean changed that last season at Triple-A by throwing 179 innings with a 2.82 ERA, which convinced the Twins to add him to the 40-man roster for the first time at age 26.

Unfortunately a deeper look at Dean's performance shows that not much actually changed. He managed just 4.9 strikeouts per nine innings, which is an absurdly low total and worse than his career mark of 5.3. He allowed just 10 homers in 715 plate appearances, but that screams fluke given that Dean has always been a fly-ball pitcher. There's no doubting that he had a nice 2015 season, but there's also no real reason to be optimistic about his future.

He's a soft-tossing left-hander with good control and no ability to miss bats. For whatever reason that player type always seems to intrigue the Twins, but translating that skill set into getting MLB hitters out is a tall order to say the least. Dean has a decent chance of reaching the majors this season simply by virtue of being on the 40-man roster and readily available for a call-up, but he'll be 27 years old in May and profiles as a fifth starter or long reliever.

39. Chris Paul | Left Field | DOB: 10/92 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2015-6

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2015     RK+     96     .302     .375     .488      3     10      4     15
         A-      47     .244     .277     .356      0      4      0     13

Picked in the sixth round of last year's draft out of the University of California as a "senior sign" who required a modest $50,000 bonus, Chris Paul debuted in rookie-ball and then moved up to low Single-A to finish the year. He hit .282/.343/.443 with three homers in 33 games overall, but that came with an ugly 28/4 K/BB ratio that can often be a red flag for experienced college players facing low-minors competition.

Paul's college career was an odd one. He struggled for three seasons, failing to crack a .700 OPS in any year while playing sporadically, and then broke out as a senior by hitting .325/.404/.562 with nine home runs in 54 games. However, even his senior success included a 43/26 K/BB ratio that's poor by college star standards and in total he struck out 112 times compared to 46 walks in four years at California.

Being the best hitter on a good Pac-12 team is definitely nothing to sneeze at and Paul predictably knocked around rookie-ball pitchers, but it's hard to envision him continuing to fare well against more experienced competition without a dramatic change in approach. Double-A or Triple-A arms tend to slice up undisciplined hackers and as a left fielder/first baseman who's already 23 years old Paul will need to hit his way into the Twins' plans.

38. Ryan O'Rourke | Reliever | DOB: 4/88 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2010-13

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     A+     17      0     2.22      28.1      19      3      21      8
         AA     17      0     4.67      17.1      15      0      19      7
2014     AA     50      0     3.98      40.2      36      5      52     16
2015     AAA    20      0     5.93      13.2      13      1      22      7
         MLB    28      0     6.14      22.0      16      3      24     15

Ryan O'Rourke was a surprise call-up when the Twins promoted him from Triple-A in July. The former 13th-round draft pick had never appeared on any top prospect lists, went unpicked in the Rule 5 draft, and had a 4.70 career ERA at age 27, including a 5.93 ERA for Rochester at the time of his call-up. He got the unexpected chance because the Twins wanted a new left-handed option in the bullpen and O'Rourke has one truly standout skill: He's death on left-handed hitters.

O'Rourke moved to the bullpen full time in 2012 and from that point until his call-up to the Twins he struck out 47 percent of the left-handed hitters he faced while holding them to a .151 batting average and .199 slugging percentage. Last year at Triple-A he faced 36 lefties and struck out 20 of them while allowing five hits. Two years ago at Double-A he faced 74 lefties and struck out 42 of them while allowing eight hits. During that same two-year span righties hit .340 off O'Rourke.

He appeared in 28 games for the Twins and struggled overall, but when asked to simply face one or two left-handed hitters he thrived. O'Rourke struck out 19 of the 49 lefties he faced with the Twins, holding them to a .171 batting average and .268 slugging percentage. He can absolutely, without question shut down lefties in the majors, but it's unclear if he's capable of being usable versus righties and the Twins may not want to devote a spot to a pure southpaw specialist.

37. Daniel Palka | Right Field | DOB: 10/91 | Bats: Left | Trade: Diamondbacks

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2013     RK     241     .302     .386     .502      7     27     29     45
         A-      55     .340     .418     .574      2      5      7     16
2014     A-     521     .248     .332     .466     22     50     56    129
2015     A+     576     .280     .352     .532     29     68     56    164

Chris Herrmann is a 28-year-old catcher with a poor defensive reputation and a .181 batting average as a major leaguer, so sending him to the Diamondbacks in November was one of those "good trade, who'd we get?" type of deals. For the Twins to get a player with some semblance of upside in return is a minor miracle and 24-year-old former third-round draft pick Daniel Palka certainly qualifies.

Palka put up big power numbers in college at Georgia Tech and that's continued as a pro with 22 homers in 118 games at low Single-A and 29 homers in 129 games at high Single-A. He was old for the level of competition and the environment was hitter-friendly, but last season Palka ranked fourth among California League hitters in homers and was the league's only 20-20 player while hitting .280 with an .885 OPS that was 150 points above average.

He also struck out 164 times in 129 games, which is a scary amount for a 23-year-old former college star facing Single-A pitching and suggests maintaining a decent batting average will be difficult. Palka has power and that typically goes hand-in-hand with strikeouts, but as a corner outfielder/first baseman without an outstanding walk rate he'll need to improve his contact skills to emerge as more than a quasi-prospect.

36. Lachlan Wells | Starter | DOB: 2/97 | Throws: Left | Sign: Australia

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2015     RK     10      9     2.09      47.1      35      4      49     11

For the past decade the Twins have frequently signed teenage prospects from Australia, investing millions into a country they view as an underutilized source of talent. So far the payoff has been modest, with Grant Balfour, Liam Hendriks, and Luke Hughes qualifying as the best of the bunch to reach the majors as Twins. Lewis Thorpe has a chance to top that list if his return from elbow surgery goes well and Lachlan Wells is the latest Australian signee on the prospect radar.

Signed as a 17-year-old for $300,000 in 2014, the diminutive left-hander made his America pro debut last season in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and impressed with a 2.09 ERA and 49/11 K/BB ratio in 47 innings. He's grown a lot physically and added some velocity since signing with the Twins, but Wells' fastball still tops out in the low-90s. His changeup is viewed as a plus pitch and at just 19 years old there's still plenty more room for projection.

Wells' twin bother, left-hander Alexander Wells, opted not to sign with the Twins last year and instead took the same $300,000 offer from the Orioles. He's yet to officially begin his American pro career. As for Lachlan Wells, he's likely several years from entering the Twins' plans even if everything goes well and may not even face full-season competition until 2017. So far so good, though, and as usual the Twins have intriguing Australian prospects in the farm system.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Postmates, where you can use the promo code "wtrq" for $10 off fast, on-demand, hassle-free food delivery from your favorite restaurants.

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 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.

Sano-Buxton

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
2014

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.

Older Posts »