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.

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