Byron Buxton. Miguel Sano. Alex Meyer. Kohl Stewart. Eddie Rosario.
This is how 2013/2014’s offseason preview for the Minnesota Twins opened, and with good reason. It seemed like a fait accompli that most or all of these prospects would begin their promising big league futures with the Twins at some point in 2014. As we know now with the benefit of sweet, delicious hindsight, it didn’t work out that way. Every one of these future studs hit a bump in the road, and not one of the Twins vaunted five put up a single MLB at-bat or inning pitched in 2014.
The future still looks bright for both these prospects and the Twins, but 2014 reminded us that if you want to make God laugh, show him a well-defined prospect timetable. With the exception of Stewart, all of these prospects could still make an impact in 2015 but 2014 reminds us to temper our expectations. Given the Twins fantasy outlook otherwise, for the most part we will be the same position in 2015 that we were in 2014: shying away from most of this roster in shallower formats while waiting for better days, both in the real world as well as in our fantasy realm.
[A note for our readers. While informative, since we are still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, these previews are far from definitive or complete. Free agent signings, trades, and other offseason news will change the landscape for most if not all teams. For any moves that take place after a team preview is written, please look to our Transaction Analysis coverage for instant reactions, and then check back on the Team Previews for more detailed updates (including lineups, rotations, bullpens, etc.) as we get closer to Opening Day.]
[Another note for our readers. The characterizations below (for example, “stud”) are designed to be taken in context for each team. Not every team has a Mike Trout or Giancarlo Stanton, so the “stud” category represents the best player or players on each team, not necessarily in comparison to the league.)
Brian Dozier – 2B
Dozier was a top-40 hitter in mixed formats last year and a top-five second baseman, but narrowly misses the top tier due to his subpar batting average. Some will point to his low BABIP and his age and speak to a breakout, but it is safer to bet on a repeat of 2014 than to overpay in the hopes of an elite year.
Phil Hughes – SP
Freed from the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, Hughes pounded the strike zone and had one of his best years in the majors and likely his best year as a starting pitcher. 2014 is likely his ceiling, but there is no reason that Hughes can’t repeat or come close to repeating last year’s performance. The Twins defense was a liability in 2014, but Hughes’ relatively high strikeout rate shields him from this more than it does other members of the staff.
Danny Santana – SS/OF
Santana should stick in the majors due to his broad base of skills, but you don’t need a degree in advanced mathematics to tell you that a .405 BABIP is not sustainable. If Santana “only” hits .260 next year, he suddenly becomes more of a deep mixed option, as opposed to a player worth starting in all formats.
Kyle Gibson – SP
Someone is going to overpay for Gibson’s potential, but a low strikeout pitcher combined with the Twins’ poor defense is an awful fantasy proposition. It is great that Gibson keeps the ball in the park, but his batted ball variability would serve him (and his fantasy owners) better on a team with better defense. I’d leave him out on the wire in mixed leagues until he shows a little more than he did last year.
What You See Is What You Get
Trevor Plouffe – 3B
A few years ago, Plouffe’s numbers would have been regarded as subpar for a mixed league third baseman, but the depressed offensive landscape turns him into a solid if boring option at the hot corner. Plouffe’s 40 doubles make him more valuable in SLG or points leagues, but in Roto he was still a $10 mixed-league earner and the 11th-best hitter at the position in 2014. If he holds off Miguel Sano for another year, expect more of the same.
Glen Perkins – CL
Perkins stumbled down the stretch in September, but it turned out he was battling a nerve issue in his elbow. Assuming full health in spring training, Perkins should be locked in as the Twins closer again in 2015. He’s not a top-tier option but has been consistent in the role for the last few years and should remain so in 2015.
Joe Mauer – 1B
Can Mauer bounce back to a respectable level of performance in 2015 and beyond, or will chronic injuries mar the rest of his career? It might be moot. Even if Mauer returns to his 2012-2013 levels and hit 10-12 home runs with a .300 batting average, his fantasy value drops significantly with no catcher eligibility going forward. In standard mixed formats, he’s a third corner infielder.
Kennys Vargas – DH
Vargas feels like one of those hitters who could either provide big time power (25-30 home runs) or fall off the map entirely once pitchers get another look at him. The projection models are probably going to give him something like 20 home runs with a .250 batting average, but his youth combined with his upside are going to make some draft him expecting more than that.
Oswaldo Arcia – OF
Arcia is an even greater risk/reward proposition than Vargas. Fantasy owners are drooling over his 15 home runs in 221 second-half plate appearances, but are hoping that Arcia can produce a tolerable .240 batting average as opposed to a nauseating .200. Arcia’s free/hard-swinging approach is likely going to need some tweaking if he is going to have any kind of sustained success, but it is impossible not to be tantalized by 35-40 home-run potential, bad batting average or not.
Jordan Schafer – OF
The value of the stolen base is one of the most misunderstood concepts in fantasy baseball. Schafer will be miscast by some as an only-league player—if he is even mentioned at all by some fantasy websites—but his 30 steals made him one of the top 168 hitters in mixed league Roto even though he contributed virtually nothing anywhere else. Regardless of what the depth chart says, it is unlikely that Schafer is a starter for the Twins in 2015, but even if he manages to put together 350-400 plate appearances, he could be a sneaky fantasy force.
Kurt Suzuki – C
Josmil Pinto – C
Pinto is the guy with fantasy upside, but with the Twins locking Suzuki up through 2016 it’s likely that a job sharing arrangement is the best-case scenario for Pinto. This is the equivalent of fantasy kryptonite, and not just the bad kind from Superman III that made Superman kind of bad for a while before he eventually became a top tier performer by the end of the movie thus ending this horrible metaphor that we shall never speak of again. In a two-catcher deep mixed league, Suzuki is the boring guy you take if your roster is strong, while Pinto is the upside gamble you take if you feel you need to take some risks.
Eduardo Escobar – SS/3B
With the Twins talking about moving Santana to center field, Escobar is penciled in as the Twins shortstop entering 2015. If the Twins don’t make a move, he will be keeping the position warm for Jorge Polanco. If Escobar does this all year, his upside is $8-10 worth of value in AL-only, but he’s the kind of guy you want to pay $3-4 at most and hope for profit.
Tom Milone – SP
Ricky Nolasco – SP
Mike Pelfrey – SP
I’m including Pelfrey here because in AL-only almost any starting pitcher with a pulse is worthy of at least streamer consideration. On the other hand, yuck. I’d like Milone better with a better outfield defense behind him, as he has some of the same issues noted above with Gibson. Nolasco could bounce back, but with one solid season in the last 3-4 years he is not a place where I’d put more than a buck or two in AL-only as an endgame flier.
Prospects for 2015
Byron Buxton – OF
A chronic wrist injury and a concussion put Buxton’s rapid ascent to the majors on a slower track, but the talent here is so immense that he could change the conversation about his ETA at a moment’s notice. The likely progression for Buxton would suggest a promotion in August 2015 at the earliest, but studs have a way of making timetables moot. In a redraft league (the only place where Buxton won’t be owned), a conservative bid or draft slot is in order. He’s worth stashing on a deep mixed reserve list with 6-7 slots or a $2-3 flier in AL-only, but keep in mind that in the short term you’re mostly looking at a one-category player. The across-the-board goodness won’t come until later.
Miguel Sano – 3B
He is listed here because some believe he is a possibility for the majors in 2015. However, he hasn’t seen any game action yet and it’s impossible to speculate on his recovery in any responsible manner whatsoever. If he does bounce all the way back, he is one of the best power hitting prospects in the game. Watch the health reports. If I had to draft now for in a one-and-done league, I wouldn’t touch him, but that could change in a big hurry. The Twins are likely to be very cautious with his timetable.
Eddie Rosario – OF
There is a wide range of opinions floating around on Rosario, but he’s intriguing from a fantasy perspective because it is possible that he could garner a decent amount of major league playing time in 2015. Rosario has been moved to center field, and that’s where his path to Minnesota lies. He was young for his level in 2014, but even accounting for that he had a bad season that included a 50-game drug suspension. Rosario’s ceiling isn’t nearly as high as Buxton or Sano’s, but he is closer to the majors than those guys and the obstacles in the Twins lineup aren’t significant.
Jorge Polanco – SS
Polanco has the lowest ceiling of the hitting prospects listed here but might be the most likely to contribute in 2015. Escobar and Eduardo Nunez are not significant obstacles if Polanco gets off to a fast start in the minors. The problem is that Polanco is stretched defensively as a shortstop and is blocked at second base by Dozier. His future might be as a utility infielder. He’s a deep league play even if he does start. The speed might not translate to the majors and Polanco is more of a gap-to-gap doubles hitter than an over-the-fence hitter.
Alex Meyer – SP
Many project Meyer to be a future reliever, but the Twins are committed to trying to see if he can work as a starting pitcher. He throws a dominant, mid-90s fastball and a plus slider but still needs some refinement on his change-up. Meyer is likely the first pitcher called up for the Twins if they need reinforcements for their thin staff so is worth an early reserve or farm pick. His short-term ceiling is a mid-tier starter, though a no. 4 or no. 5 would be a more realistic expectation out of the gate. His high walk rate in the high minors is a red flag for fantasy and makes Meyer a potential WHIP risk.
Sean Gilmartin – SP
Crafty lefty seldom equals “fantasy gold” and Gilmartin’s low ceiling fits this mold. He is here because he throws three pitches for strikes and the Twins could potentially have multiple rotation needs in 2015. Gilmartin has been mediocre at best in three tries at Triple-A but could be one of those weird pitchers who survives his first time through the majors. For now, Gilmartin is AL-only at best, and not worthy of a reserve pick unless you play Ultra.
Jason Adam – RP
Adam has mostly started in the minors, but is likely to be used in relief for Minnesota. A thin bullpen behind Perkins makes Adam worth monitoring in leagues that use holds and in AL-only.