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.

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 17, 2016

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2016: 25, 24, 23, 22, 21

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

25. Trevor Hildenberger | Reliever | DOB: 12/90 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2014-22

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2014     RK     23      0     2.57      28.0      27      1      30      5
2015     A-     28      0     0.80      45.0      24      0      59      5
         A+     13      0     3.32      19.0      15      0      21      2

After a strong senior season at the University of California in 2014 the Twins drafted right-hander Trevor Hildenberger in the 22nd round. He had a great debut in rookie-ball, but that's the case with most experienced college pitchers and his low draft position led to little attention going his way. That changed last season, as Hildenberger moved up to full-season competition and pitched so well that Midwest League managers and coaches named him the league's best reliever.

Serving as the closer at low Single-A, he saved 14 games with a 0.80 ERA and 59/5 K/BB ratio in 45 innings before a midseason promotion to high Single-A, where Hildenberger posted a 3.32 ERA and 21/2 K/BB ratio in 19 innings. Combined between the two levels he tossed 64 innings with a 1.55 ERA and 80/7 K/BB ratio while holding opponents to a .176 batting average and zero home runs. And then he went to the Arizona Fall League, throwing 13 innings with a 12/0 K/BB ratio.

It's tough to pitch any better than Hildenberger did at three different stops in 2015, although it's worth noting that he was a 24-year-old facing Single-A hitters. There should be a healthy amount of skepticism attached to Hildenberger's performance, but 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings paired with 1.0 walks per nine innings and zero home runs are video game-type numbers. He'll get a chance to prove himself against more advanced competition this year.

24. 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
2015     A+      9      0     0.00      12.1       8      0       7      1
         AA     35      0     6.32      47.0      55      3      39     21

Jake Reed is one of many hard-throwing college relievers drafted by the Twins in recent years who was supposed to move quickly through the minors and then didn't. Reed had an incredible pro debut after signing in 2014, predictably dominating rookie-ball and low Single-A hitters as a fifth-round draft pick out of the University of Oregon. That convinced the Twins to have him skip high Single-A and begin last season at Double-A, where he got knocked around.

Reed posted a 6.32 ERA in 35 appearances at Double-A, striking out just 39 batters and issuing 21 walks in 47 innings. He was demoted to high Single-A late in the season and allowed zero earned runs in 12 innings to end on a high note, although his strikeout rate remained sub par. Through two seasons Reed's rookie-ball and Single-A numbers are absurd, with a grand total of one earned run allowed in 43 innings. But he's 23 years old and has yet to succeed above Single-A.

With a mid-90s fastball Reed certainly has the raw stuff to succeed in the majors, but his slider and changeup aren't polished enough to keep left-handed hitters in check. Lefties hit .292 with nearly as many walks as strikeouts against Reed in 2015. Turning velocity into strikeouts and hard-throwers into quality major leaguers has been a long-term struggle for the Twins and Reed is a prime example of a prospect whose future depends on good development.

23. Travis Blankenhorn | Third Base | DOB: 8/96 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2015-3

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2015     RK      58     .245     .362     .408      0      6      7     11
         RK+    158     .243     .306     .326      3      6     11     32

In recent years the Twins have frequently drafted University of Kentucky players and last year they used a third-round pick on Kentucky recruit Travis Blankenhorn, luring the Pennsylvania high school hitter away from college with a $650,000 signing bonus. Baseball America's pre-draft scouting report described Blankenhorn as having "a pretty left-handed swing" and "good feel for hitting." He played shortstop in high school, but moved to third base for his pro debut.

Blankenhorn played 53 games between two levels of rookie ball, hitting .244/.321/.347 with three homers and a 43/18 K/BB ratio overall. Modest production, but the Twins knew he'd be a project when they drafted him and Blankenhorn certainly held his own well enough for an 18-year-old. In fact, Baseball America noted that rookie-ball scouts were impressed by Blankenhorn's debut and felt he "flashed above-average raw power" despite just three home runs.

If things go well for Blankenhorn he could develop into an above-average third baseman with a solid glove and good bat, but he's a long way from that point and may not rise above Single-A for a couple more seasons. At the time of the draft Twins scouting director Deron Johnson described Blankenhorn as "a strong, powerful kid" and said "we really like his swing and think he has chance for power."

22. Taylor Rogers | Starter | DOB: 12/90 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2012-11

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     A-      3      3     7.20      10.0      14      1      10      4
         A+     22     21     2.55     130.2     119      5      83     32
2014     AA     24     24     3.29     145.0     150      4     113     37
2015     AAA    28     27     3.98     174.0     190      9     126     44

Taylor Rogers has moved slowly but surely through the Twins' farm system since being an 11th-round draft pick out of the University of Kentucky in 2012, but now at age 25 he faces a potential career crossroads. He's had some decent success in the minors, including logging 174 innings with a 3.98 ERA at Triple-A last season, but he's never been able to generate many strikeouts and has always struggled against right-handed hitters.

Last year he totaled just 126 strikeouts in 174 innings, which along with a low-90s fastball is enough to cast doubt on his ability to be a viable starter. He also allowed right-handed hitters to bat .326/.374/.457 off him, which suggests he'd have a rough time maneuvering through MLB lineups stacked with righties. Rogers' splits weren't quite as extreme in 2013 or 2014, but he's basically never been very good at handling right-handed hitters.

The good news is that he's been great at shutting down lefties, holding them to batting averages of .214 in 2013, .217 in 2014, and .177 in 2015. During those three seasons he had a combined 127/17 K/BB ratio versus lefties, showing the potential to be a southpaw specialist if moved to the bullpen. For now he'll keep working to become a back-of-the-rotation starter, but Rogers' best chance to stick in the big leagues may be as a reliever.

21. 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
2015     A+     19     19     2.87     119.1     103      4      80     21
         AA      6      6     4.91      36.2      40      3      24     12

Aaron Slegers looks the part of an intimidating flame-thrower at 6-foot-10, but the former fifth-round draft pick from Indiana University is actually a control pitcher with a low-90s fastball. After being sidelined by multiple injuries in high school and college Slegers has stayed healthy as a pro, reaching Double-A in his second full season at age 22 and logging the fourth-most innings of any Twins minor leaguer in 2015.

Slegers made 19 starts at high Single-A and had the fifth-lowest walk rate in the Florida State League at 1.6 per nine innings, which matches his career mark of 1.7 per nine innings. For some context, Brad Radke issued 1.6 walks per nine innings for his Twins career. Slegers also induces lots of ground balls and has allowed just 16 home runs in 307 total innings as a pro. Last season he had fairly even platoon splits, handling both righties and lefties well.

However, unless Slegers can up his strikeout rate his upside likely tops out at back-of-the-rotation starter. He's averaged just 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings for his pro career, including 6.0 at high Single-A and 5.9 in a brief Double-A stint. Given his size there's perhaps more room for projection than with most pitchers who share Slegers' skill set and track record, but either way he's a decent prospect within range of the majors.

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 12, 2016

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2016: 30, 29, 28, 27, 26

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

30. Ryan Eades | Starter | DOB: 12/91 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2013-2

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     RK+    10      0     4.60      15.2      13      0      13     12
2014     A-     26     25     5.14     133.0     147     11      98     50
2015     A+     20     20     3.11     118.2     109      5      80     38

Ryan Eades was the 43rd overall pick in the 2013 draft out of LSU and the Twins gave him a $1.3 million bonus to sign, at which point they seemingly regretted the pick immediately. Early quotes from team officials lacked any semblance of enthusiasm and Baseball America, which relies partly on opinions from within an organization to rank that team's prospects, showed him no love. And then Eades flopped in his full-season debut at low Single-A, posting a 5.14 ERA in 133 innings.

Seemingly an afterthought 18 months after being a second-round draft pick, Eades bounced back somewhat at high Single-A last year with a 3.11 ERA and just five homers allowed in 119 innings. However, his strikeout rate fell even further to 6.1 per nine innings and his control remained sub par. For an experienced college starter and consensus top-100 draft prospect to post a 4.21 ERA with 6.4 strikeouts per nine innings versus rookie-ball and Single-A hitters is very discouraging.

Not so long ago Baseball America wrote that Eades "looked the part of a front-line starter" and on some level the Twins must have agreed to invest a top-50 pick and $1.3 million in him, but at this point there's nothing special about his performance or raw stuff. And at 24 years old it's time for Eades to sink or swim beyond Single-A. As a fly-ball pitcher with shaky control and a mediocre strikeout rate the odds are stacked against him. What a weird pick.

29. LaMonte Wade | Center Field | DOB: 1/94 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2015-9

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2015     RK+    284     .312     .428     .506      9     22     46     34

Ninth-round draft picks from major college conferences who fare well in rookie-ball after signing generally shouldn't be given much attention, but LaMonte Wade is worth watching as a possible late bloomer. He didn't hit much in his first two seasons at the University of Maryland, but batted .335/.453/.468 with more walks than strikeouts as a junior to get the Twins' attention and then upped his production even further in his pro debut.

Wade hit .312/.428/.506 in 64 games in Elizabethton, going 12-of-13 stealing bases, drawing 46 walks compared to 34 strikeouts, and smacking nine homers after totaling seven homers in three college seasons. He ranked second in walks and third in on-base percentage among Appalachian League hitters and was impressive enough that the Twins gave Wade a season-ending promotion to low Single-A.

He's unlikely to stick in center field defensively, so for Wade to emerge as a legitimate prospect he'll need to maintain his offensive production against more experienced competition. His power development is particularly important if he profiles as a corner outfielder long term. For now he's merely a low-minors center fielder with good speed, excellent plate discipline, and more intrigue than most ninth-round picks.

28. Felix Jorge | Starter | DOB: 1/94 | Throws: Right | Sign: Dominican

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     RK+    12     12     2.95      61.0      56      2      72     18
2014     RK+    12     12     2.73      66.0      58      2      61     14
         A-     12      8     9.00      39.0      57      9      23     20
2015     A-     23     22     2.79     142.0     118     11     114     32

Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $250,000 as a 16-year-old in 2011, right-hander Felix Jorge emerged as a prospect worth watching on the strength of 12 rookie-ball starts in 2013. He was promoted to full-season competition at low Single-A to begin 2014 and got clobbered, giving up 40 runs in 39 innings before a demotion back to rookie-ball. Jorge got back on track there and took a second crack at low Single-A last year.

His second go-around in the Midwest League went far better, as Jorge tossed 142 innings with a 2.79 ERA and 114/32 K/BB ratio while holding opponents to a .225 batting average. Among all Midwest League pitchers with 100-plus innings Jorge ranked in the top dozen in ERA, walk rate, and K/BB ratio. Jorge certainly pitched well enough to warrant a second-half promotion to high Single-A, but the Twins may have decided to take things slowly for a while.

Jorge works with a low-90s fastball and gets positive reviews for his off-speed stuff, which helps explain how he was more effective versus lefties than righties in 2015. His upside doesn't appear to be huge and whenever a young prospect gets demoted backward it takes a big dent out of his perceived stock, but if not for the ugly 39-inning stint at low Single-A he'd be looking pretty good right now.

27. Lewin Diaz | First Base | DOB: 9/96 | Bats: Left | Sign: Dominican

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2014     DSL    174     .257     .385     .451      5     18     26     24
2015     RK     127     .261     .354     .369      1      9     14     24
         RK+     53     .167     .245     .375      3      4      3     17

Signed by the Twins out of the Dominican Republic for a $1.4 million bonus as a 16-year-old in 2013, first baseman Lewin Diaz drew attention for his long-term power potential and massive 6-foot-4 frame. He had a strong pro debut in the Dominican summer league in 2014, batting .257/.385/.451 with 18 extra-base hits and 26 walks in 43 games, and then made his American pro debut last season between two levels of rookie-ball.

Diaz fared pretty well in the pitcher-friendly Gulf Coast League, batting .261/.354/.369 with nine extra-base hits and 14 walks in 33 games for an OPS that was 75 points better than the league average. He struggled following a promotion to the Appalachian League. As an 18-year-old facing lots of college pitchers Diaz hit just .167 with a 17/3 K/BB ratio in 14 games, although he did manage three homers.

At some point it ceases making sense to parse through small samples of games across multiple levels for an 18-year-old, but Diaz has batted .244/.353/.409 with 30 extra-base hits and 43 walks through 90 career games overall. Those aren't jaw-dropping numbers, particularly from a big-ticket signing who'll need to drop jaws offensively to make an impact, but so far he's been an above-average professional hitter at an age when many prospects are in high school.

26. Luke Bard | Reliever | DOB: 11/90 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2012-1

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     RK+     7      2     1.08       8.1       2      0       6      6
2015     A-     28      0     2.41      52.1      45      1      47     15

In the 2012 draft the Twins took Byron Buxton at No. 2 overall, Jose Berrios at No. 32 overall, and then went heavy on college relievers. Luke Bard was the first college arm targeted at No. 42 overall following a great career at Georgia Tech. Initially the Twins planned to turn Bard into a starter, but constant shoulder and elbow injuries pushed that notion aside and simply made it nearly impossible for him to stay on the mound regardless of role.

Bard's final college season was cut short by an injury and after turning pro he threw seven innings in 2012 and 12 innings in 2013 before missing all of 2014. At age 24 and heading into his fourth season he'd thrown a total of one inning above rookie-ball, so the Twins sent him to low Single-A and he had an encouraging bounceback campaign. Working about twice per week and never with fewer than two days off, Bard logged 52 innings with a 2.58 ERA and 47/15 K/BB ratio.

He was a 24-year-old facing much younger competition, but in terms of lacking actual on-field experience he more or less fit in with the rest of the Midwest League. Not only did he pitch well, holding opponents to a .234 batting average and one home run, Bard's velocity returned to the mid-90s and he did his best work in August and September with a 21/5 K/BB ratio. He needs to handle the workload and make up for lost time, but Bard is at least back on the prospect radar.

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 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.

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: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 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 Boston College, 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 Rochester 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.

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