February 13, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


This week's blog content is sponsored by Harry's Razors, where you can get discounted razors and shaving supplies delivered to your door by entering in the code "gleeman" at Harrys.com.

February 11, 2015

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2015: 30, 29, 28, 27, 26

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

30. Jason Wheeler | Starter | DOB: 10/90 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2011-8

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     A-     27     27     3.45     156.2     170     12     115     43
2013     A+     26     26     3.70     143.1     156     16      91     58
2014     A+     13     13     2.51      79.0      77      2      57     19
         AA     12     12     2.78      74.1      69      9      55     16

Jason Wheeler was the Twins' eighth-round pick in 2011 out of Loyola Marymount and skipped rookie-ball, debuting at low Single-A in 2012. He moved up to high Single-A in 2013 and returned to high Single-A to begin last year before moving up to Double-A around midseason. He's proven to be an innings eater, leading all Twins minor leaguers with 158 total innings last season after ranking fifth in 2013 and second in 2012.

Durability combined with a bulky 6-foot-6 frame and nice-looking 3.26 career ERA were enough to get Wheeler added to the 40-man roster in November, but dig a little deeper and the left-hander's numbers aren't as encouraging. He often works in the high-80s with his fastball and has managed just 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings while allowing 477 hits in 458 frames. His control is improved but still mediocre and he doesn't induce many ground balls.

Wheeler also shows extreme platoon splits, frequently struggling with right-handed hitters, which would make it tough for him to be an innings-eater against big-league lineups. He shuts down lefties pretty well and could perhaps add some velocity in a bullpen role, but right now it's hard to project Wheeler as more than a potential back-of-the-rotation starter or middle reliever. Yet by virtue of being on the 40-man roster his odds of reaching the majors in 2015 are relatively high.

29. Tyler Jones | Reliever | DOB: 9/89 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2011-11

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     A-     18     16     4.67      86.2      90      5     102     35
2013     A-     24      0     1.93      37.1      19      0      44     16
         A+     12      0     4.20      15.0      18      0      22      4
2014     A+     40      0     3.73      50.2      49      2      53     23

Tyler Jones was mediocre as a starter in college and in the pros after the Twins drafted him in the 11th round out of LSU in 2011, but he switched to the bullpen full time in 2013 and thrived with 66 strikeouts in 52 innings and a .196 opponents' batting average. He finished that season at high Single-A and that's where Jones spent all of last year as well, but the results weren't as impressive the second time around.

Jones' strikeout rate fell from 11.4 to 9.4 per nine innings and his already poor control took a step backward with 23 walks in 51 innings. He allowed just two homers after serving up zero long balls in 2013, but a 24-year-old reliever with a mid-90s fastball and sharp slider shouldn't be putting 73 runners on base in 51 innings against Single-A competition and lefties hit .301 off the 6-foot-4 right-hander.

He'll be 26 years old before the end of the season and has yet to throw a pitch above Single-A, so Jones' prospect status hinges on getting on the fast track as a potential late-inning reliever and he'll get a chance to do that at Double-A. He needs to either resume missing tons of bats or slash his walk rate dramatically after handing out 3.7 free passes per nine innings so far, but a mid-90s fastball buys a little more patience than usual.

28. 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

Selected by the Twins in the third round of the 2013 draft, Stuart Turner was billed as a strong defensive catcher with an iffy bat despite hitting .374/.444/.518 during his lone season at the University of Mississippi. In fact, Baseball America's pre-draft scouting report noted that "scouts don't like his swing and question his ability to sting the ball consistently." So far those questions about his offense have proven accurate.

Turner debuted for rookie-level Elizabethton after signing, hitting .264/.340/.380 in 34 games against younger competition, and continued to struggle last year when the Twins jumped him to high Single-A. He started 92 of the team's 139 games at catcher, but hit just .249/.322/.375 with seven homers and a 61/31 K/BB ratio. He threw out 32 percent of steal attempts, which failed to stand out in a league where the average throw-out rate was 32 percent.

Turner's defense received positive reviews, but at this point evaluating catcher defense is more and more about pitch-framing ability and it's nearly impossible to judge that reliably for minor leaguers. Assuming he's a good all-around defensive catcher rather than merely a good catch-and-throw guy Turner won't have to hit much to reach the majors, but that would still require stepping things up a bit.

27. Brandon Peterson | Reliever | DOB: 9/91 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2013-13

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     RK+    19      0     2.96      27.1      22      3      40      9
2014     A-      9      0     0.71      12.2       9      0      19      2
         A+     31      1     1.80      45.0      28      0      65     17

Selected by the Twins out Wichita State in the 13th round of the 2013 draft, Minnesota native Brandon Peterson had a strong rookie-ball debut after signing and then dominated two levels of Single-A last year in his first full season. Peterson began the season Cedar Rapids and was quickly promoted after allowing one run in 13 innings with a 19/2 K/BB ratio. He continued to thrive in Fort Myers, posting a 1.80 ERA with 65 strikeouts and zero homers in 45 innings.

Overall he has a 2.01 ERA and 124/28 K/BB ratio in 85 innings as a pro, striking out 13.1 batters per nine innings while holding opponents to a .195 batting average and three homers in 338 plate appearances. Peterson's raw stuff isn't quite as impressive as those incredible numbers suggest, but he tops out in the mid-90s with his fastball and has generated tons of swinging strikes and strikeouts with his slider.

Rarely are low-minors relievers viewed as promising prospects and Peterson has to prove himself against more experienced competition before potentially finding a place in the Twins' long-term plans, but what he's done so far shouldn't be ignored. Given how aggressively the Twins promoted Peterson in his first full season he has a chance to reach Triple-A and perhaps even the majors by the end of 2015.

26. Max Murphy | Center Field | DOB: 10/92 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2014-9

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2014     RK+    151     .378     .483     .723     10     19     22     34
         A-     137     .242     .314     .395      4     11      8     40

Max Murphy had a big junior season at Bradley University, hitting .314/.414/.598 in 51 games while ranking second in the Missouri Valley Conference with 12 homers. Drafted by the Twins in the ninth round, Murphy had a monstrous pro debut, leading the rookie-level Appalachian League in batting average (.378), on-base percentage (.483), and slugging percentage (.723). Murphy had the league's highest OPS (1.206) by 300 points. Seriously.

In the past decade the only other Twins prospects to top a 1.000 OPS for Elizabethton are Rory Jimenez in 2012, Eddie Rosario in 2011, Oswaldo Arcia in 2010, and Angel Morales in 2008, so it's a mixed bag. Murphy also finished second in the league with 10 homers despite playing just 35 of a possible 68 games, because the Twins decided they'd seen enough dominance and sent the 21-year-old up to low Single-A for the final month of the season.

Once there he struggled, hitting .242/.314/.395 with a 40/8 K/BB ratio in 32 games to take some of the shine off his incredible rookie-ball showing. Murphy figures to begin this season back at low Single-A and will try to prove he can knock around similarly experienced competition. He played mostly center field last season, but long term projects as a corner outfielder with decent speed and a good arm.


For a discussion of which pitching prospects have a chance to crack the Twins' starting rotation at some point in 2015 check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

February 9, 2015

Gleeman and The Geek #180: Pitching, Fatherhood, and Drunken Rappers

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included projecting the Twins' rotation and bullpen, Parker Hageman fathering another human, whether the Twins could have and/or should have signed James Shields, getting razors delivered from Harrys.com, burning cars, betting millions on Tommy Milone, baby-making and baby-sleeping, and almost getting into a fight with a drunk guy next to us (who later fell asleep and was kicked out).

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 180

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

Note: About two-thirds through the show John Bonnes got hungry. His wife told him not to order the garlic shrimp from Stella's because he'd smell later. He ordered it, it arrived, and then before taking a bite he ordered a second one. This is a picture of him enjoying both orders at once:

Bonnes eats garlic shrimp


This week's blog content is sponsored by Harry's Razors, where you can get discounted razors and shaving supplies delivered to your door by entering in the code "gleeman" at Harrys.com.

February 6, 2015

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2015: 35, 34, 33, 32, 31

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

35. J.R. Graham | Starter | DOB: 1/90 | Throws: Right | Rule 5: Braves

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     A+     17     17     2.63     102.2      88      6      68     17
         AA      9      9     3.18      45.1      35      2      42     17
2013     AA      8      8     4.04      35.2      39      0      28     10
2014     AA     27     19     5.55      71.1      79      2      50     26

Selected by the Twins in the Rule 5 draft, J.R. Graham is a one-time top prospect whose career has been derailed by shoulder problems. Graham was the Braves' fourth-round draft pick in 2011 out of Santa Clara and moved quickly through their system, advancing to Double-A in his second pro season. He fared well there at age 22 and that offseason Baseball America ranked Graham as a top-100 prospect, praising his mid-90s fastball and ability to generate ground balls.

However, the diminutive right-hander broke down in 2013, making just eight starts, and last year Graham posted a 5.55 ERA while being limited to 71 innings back at Double-A due to more arm issues. Once on the fast track, Graham is now 25 years old and has yet to advance past Double-A, spending three years there with increasingly poor results. His fastball has dipped into the low-90s and the Braves thought so little of Graham's upside that they left him off the 40-man roster.

Rule 5 picks must remain in the majors for the entire season or be offered back to their original team. Graham has been a starter throughout his career, but shifted to the bullpen last year and could be stashed by the Twins in a middle relief role pretty easily. They did that with Rule 5 pick Ryan Pressly in 2013, giving him 49 low-leverage appearances, and shifting to the bullpen full time could help Graham stay healthy too.

34. 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

Ryan Eades was the Twins' second-round draft pick in 2013, selected 43rd overall, and the right-hander from LSU signed for $1.3 million. Yet from the moment he was drafted no one seemed to think much of Eades as a prospect. Quotes about him from team employees were tepid, Baseball America didn't include him in their annual top-10 Twins prospects list which often includes top-50 picks from the previous year, and in general he seemed like an afterthought.

It was odd, because Eades was widely viewed as a top-50 talent within the 2013 draft class and while second-round picks are far from guaranteed to succeed teams don't generally throw them away on players they view as marginal prospects. But sure enough he struggled last year in his full-season pro debut, posting a 5.14 ERA in 133 innings as a 22-year-old at low Single-A facing younger, less experienced competition.

Eades struck out just 6.6 batters per nine innings with poor control and allowed opponents to hit .285 with an .800 OPS against him in a pitcher-friendly league where the average OPS was below .700. Less than two years ago Baseball America wrote that Eades "looked the part of a front-line starter" and the cost for the Twins to acquire him was a top-50 draft pick and $1.3 million, but 150 innings later he looks in danger of being a completely wasted selection.

33. 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

Tanner English didn't hit much in college, batting .289 with two homers in three years at South Carolina, but the Twins liked his defense, speed, and athleticism enough to draft him in the 11th round. And then he batted .316/.439/.474 in his pro debut at rookie-level Elizabethton, surpassing his 185-game college total with three homers in 32 games and also showing more plate discipline than he displayed against SEC pitching.

College players thriving in rookie-ball isn't really noteworthy, but in this case it stands out a little more than usual because English is good enough defensively in center field that he could make it to the big leagues without hitting much. In their pre-draft scouting report Baseball America called English "one of the better athletes in the college game" and noted that "some evaluators think he could handle center field in the big leagues right now."

English has elite center field range with a very strong arm, and between college and rookie-ball he stole 26 bases in 94 games while being caught just four times last season. If he hits even a little bit English will be a major leaguer, so rookie-ball or not his early showing was worth getting excited about. We should have a much better idea of his overall prospect status after he faces full-season competition for the first time at Single-A this year.

32. Sam Clay | Reliever | DOB: 7/93 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2014-4

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2014     RK+    19      0     5.59      29.0      35      0      44     17

As has become their custom of late the Twins went heavy on college relievers in last year's draft, including Georgia Tech sophomore Sam Clay in the fourth round. Clay had a sparkling 1.26 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 57 innings as a college closer, but the lefty walked 4.6 per nine innings after being a mess as a freshman. He averaged nearly two innings per relief appearance and Baseball America's pre-draft scouting report noted that he "could move into the rotation as a pro."

Clay stayed in the bullpen after signing with the Twins for $400,000 and was awful early on for rookie-level Elizabethton, but finished his pro debut with 16 straight scoreless innings. Even that great stretch lowered his overall ERA to a still-ugly 5.59 and Clay walked 17 batters and uncorked 10 wild pitches in 29 innings while allowing opponents to hit .285. College closers aren't supposed to pitch like that against rookie-ball hitters.

On the other hand, the 16-inning scoreless streak suggests the coaching staff got Clay to address some mechanical issues and within the overall problems he whiffed 44 of the 144 batters he faced for an average of 13.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Clay also allowed zero home runs, so he was hardly being knocked around. He works in the low-90s with his fastball and his curveball gets the most positive reviews. If they can get him to throw strikes the Twins might have something here.

31. Tyler Duffey | Starter | DOB: 12/90 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2012-5

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     RK+    12      0     1.42      19.0      10      1      27      2
2013     A-      9      9     2.78      58.1      49      5      47      6
         A+     15      9     4.45      62.2      67      3      44     17
2014     A+      4      4     2.82      22.1      22      0      13      5
         AA     18     18     3.80     111.1     104     14      84     19
         AAA     3      3     3.94      16.0      16      3      16      6

Rice University had co-closers in 2012 and the Twins drafted both of them, taking J.T. Chargois in the second round and Tyler Duffey in the fifth round. Chargois stayed in the bullpen and is currently making his way back from Tommy John elbow surgery, whereas Duffey shifted to the rotation and reached Triple-A last season at age 23. He pitched for Fort Myers, New Britain, and Rochester last year, making 25 total starts with a 13-3 record and 3.68 ERA.

Duffey has shown excellent control as a pro, walking just 1.7 batters per nine innings, but he's struggled to generate strikeouts. In fact, he barely has more strikeouts (196) in 259 innings as a pro starter than he had (189) in 153 innings as a college reliever. Duffey shut down right-handed hitters last season, but allowed an OPS that was 200 points higher versus lefties, suggesting that his off-speed stuff needs some work.

Duffey's low-90s fastball also limits his upside, but the Twins certainly value starters who pound the strike zone with mediocre raw stuff and occasionally those guys have decent runs of success. Going heavy on college relievers in the 2012 draft with plans to turn them into pro starters has been a bust for the Twins thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness, but Duffey has stayed healthy and shown the potential to contribute in the back of a rotation.


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."

February 4, 2015

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2015: 40, 39, 38, 37, 36

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

40. A.J. Achter | Reliever | DOB: 8/88 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2010-46

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     A-     18      1     2.48      40.0      33      5      49     12
         A+     19      0     0.79      34.1      21      0      37      3
2013     AA     25      0     2.21      36.2      28      3      36     19
         AAA    16      0     3.04      23.2      17      4      20     14
2014     AAA    40      0     2.38      72.0      44      4      69     24

A.J. Achter was a 46th-round draft pick out of Michigan State in 2010 and posted a 4.52 ERA in 2011 as a starter at low Single-A, but he shifted to the bullpen in 2012 and has a combined 2.10 ERA in 213 innings as a reliever since then. That includes a 2.17 ERA and 80/25 K/BB ratio in 79 innings last season, mostly at Triple-A, which was enough to get him added to the 40-man roster as a September call-up.

However, his shiny ERAs come with good but not exceptional strikeout rates and Achter's control is mediocre. He's done an amazing job limiting hits, including a .173 opponents' batting average last season, but that was driven by an unsustainably great .228 batting average on balls in play. Toss in underwhelming velocity and his odds of sticking in the big leagues don't seem particularly good, but at age 26 he warrants a "why not?" look.

Achter got into seven games for the Twins as a reliever and posted another nice-looking 3.27 ERA, but he managed just five strikeouts in 11 innings, opponents hit .304/.347/.522 off him, and his average fastball clocked in at 90.2 miles per hour. Middle relief is Achter's upside and the Twins' bullpen depth chart is pretty crowded, but the fact that they kept him on the 40-man roster all offseason suggests they're interested in giving him another shot at some point.

39. Logan Darnell | Starter | DOB: 2/89 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2010-6

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     AA     28     28     5.08     156.0     193     22      98     47
2013     AA     15     15     2.61      96.2      96      4      77     23
        AAA     12     11     4.26      57.0      63      5      43     22
2014    AAA     23     19     3.60     115.0     108     16      90     49
        MLB      7      4     7.13      24.0      31      5      22      8

A solid 2013 season between Double-A and Triple-A got Logan Darnell added to the 40-man roster, but the 2010 sixth-round pick spent most of last year back at Triple-A and managed just 90 strikeouts in 115 innings while walking 3.8 batters per nine frames. That poor strikeout rate matches his high-80s fastball velocity and Darnell has an underwhelming 3.81 ERA and 133/71 K/BB ratio in 172 career innings at Triple-A.

He also got knocked around in his first taste of the majors, allowing 20 runs in 24 innings for the Twins at age 25. Given his sub par velocity, mediocre control, and inability to hold right-handed hitters in check it's hard to imagine Darnell having sustained success as a starter in the majors, but the left-hander could find a home in the bullpen as a southpaw specialist. Of course, that role is such that the same can be said for nearly every decent lefty in the minors.

In the minors during the past two seasons Darnell held lefties to a combined .228 batting average and 74/18 K/BB ratio, whereas righties batted .285 off him over that same span. Regardless of the role Darnell is behind a lot of names on the Twins' pitching depth chart heading into 2015 and seems like a candidate to be removed from the 40-man roster if space is needed early, but if given a chance he could carve out a useful niche in middle relief.

38. Levi Michael | Second Base | DOB: 2/91 | Bats: Switch | Draft: 2011-1

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2012     A+     512     .246     .339     .311      2     20     56     82
2013     A+     375     .229     .331     .340      4     23     49     67
2014     A+     201     .305     .375     .395      1     12     19     25
         AA      63     .340     .444     .358      0      1      7     11

Levi Michael was billed as being close to MLB-ready when the Twins drafted the North Carolina shortstop in the first round in 2011 and the pick made sense for a team that had long struggled to develop capable middle infielders. They showed their faith in his readiness by sending him directly to high Single-A, but three years later Michael was still stuck there. Nagging injuries repeatedly derailed Michael's development and the solid power he showed in college disappeared.

Last season, in his third go-around at Fort Myers, he finally showed some promise by hitting .305 in 45 games to earn a promotion to Double-A, where he hit .340 in 15 games. Those lofty batting averages are misleading because he managed just one home run, but Michael controlled the strike zone well. Even within the overall struggles Michael always made plenty of contact and drew some walks, suggesting the switch-hitter could have value even if the power is gone for good.

Unfortunately he's no longer a shortstop. Dating back to college there were questions about his ability to stick at shortstop long term and last season Michael played almost exclusively second base at both levels. Not only does that raise the bar for his offensive production, it makes it much harder for Michael to potentially stick in the majors as a utility infielder. At age 24 and with just 15 career games above Single-A it's time for Michael to sink or swim.

37. Stephen Pryor | Reliever | DOB: 7/89 | Throws: Right | Trade: Mariners

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     AA     11      0     1.12      16.0       7      0      24      5
         AAA    16      0     0.00      20.0      11      0      20     11
         MLB    26      0     3.91      23.0      22      5      27     13
2013
2014     AAA    38      0     3.16      51.1      32      6      49     34

Acquired from the Mariners on July 24 as the Twins' return in the Kendrys Morales salary dump, Stephen Pryor was one of the few players on the 40-man roster not to get a September call-up to Minnesota. However, he remained on the 40-man roster all offseason and presumably the front office has enough patience in the 25-year-old right-hander to see if he can get healthy and regain his old velocity after missing most of 2013 and part of 2014 following shoulder surgery.

Before the injury Pryor looked destined for a late-inning bullpen role in Seattle. As a 22-year-old in 2012 he blitzed through the minors, going from Single-A to Double-A to Triple-A before debuting with the Mariners in June. Overall that season Pryor posted a 0.93 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 39 innings as a minor leaguer and then racked up 27 strikeouts in 23 innings for the Mariners while averaging 96.3 miles per hour with his fastball.

His arm gave out in 2013 and while Pryor returned last season to log 55 innings in the minors and make two appearances for the Mariners he was a shell of his former self, throwing in the low-90s with less than one strikeout per inning. Pryor has always struggled to consistently throw strikes and control problems that can be overlooked when attached to a high-90s fastball may be tough to overcome if that velocity is gone for good.

36. Lester Oliveros | Reliever | DOB: 5/88 | Throws: Right | Trade: Tigers

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     AA     13      0     1.42      19.0      10      0      16      7
         AAA    19      0     3.07      29.1      24      2      35      8
2013
2014     AA     26      0     0.89      30.1      17      0      36     14
         AAA    24      0     2.29      35.1      27      0      52     13

Lester Oliveros was acquired from the Tigers in the 2011 trade for Delmon Young and missed most of 2013 recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery. He returned last year and was better than ever between Double-A and Triple-A with a 1.64 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 66 innings while holding opponents to a .187 opponents' batting average with zero home runs. And then naturally Oliveros served up a homer to the first batter he faced as a September call-up.

Oliveras has always had a big fastball, averaging 94 miles per hour as a big leaguer before and after elbow surgery. He's also always had iffy control, with nearly four walks per nine innings in the minors. He made some minor strides with his control last season when a lot of pitchers see their walk rate rise after surgery, but there's still plenty of work to be done in terms of harnessing his raw stuff.

As a 27-year-old reliever Oliveros is stretching the definition of "prospect" and expectations should certainly be modest, but when someone with a mid-90s fastball averages more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings at Double-A and Triple-A he's generally worth an extended look. Unfortunately for Oliveros, because the Twins decided against overhauling their bullpen this offseason he faces an uphill battle for an Opening Day roster spot.


For a lengthy discussion about projecting the Opening Day roster, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

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