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.


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