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Last Year’s Twins List

The State of the System: : Graduations have taken their toll on the system over the last few years, and their highly-drafted arms haven’t quite worked out as well—or at least as quickly—as they hoped.

The Top Ten

  1. SS Nick Gordon
  2. LHP Tyler Jay
  3. RHP Fernando Romero
  4. OF Alex Kirilloff
  5. LHP Stephen Gonsalves
  6. SS Wander Javier
  7. RHP Kohl Stewart
  8. LHP Adalberto Mejia
  9. C Ben Rortvedt
  10. OF Zach Granite

The Big Question: And you may ask yourself…How do I work this?

At first glance, the 2016 Minnesota Twins certainly did not appear to be a team on the downturn. An 83-79 record the year prior only had them 3 games back of the second wild card position. Their Pythagorean W-L record didn’t suggest they were awfully lucky either, as it predicted an 81-81 record. Sure, some players played over their heads (Eddie Rosario, Tyler Duffey, Tommy Milone) and crashed back down. But this was a team on the verge of contention. The talent on the team was homegrown, a farm system we ranked seventh going into the season, Byron Buxton, the number two prospect in baseball was going to play the full season in the bigs. Jose Berrios, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Byung-Ho Park were going to be contributors to the team that season.

But, unfortunately it all came crashing down with a major-league worst 59-103 record, which was the worst in Minnesota Twins history (based on W-L%). Matthew Trueblood opined on the factors that could go wrong heading into 2016.

“The twins penchant for pitching to contact is one of the most consistent organizational philosophies in baseball. For the last five years, the Twins have had the lowest team strikeout rate in the American League, every year.”

As discussed there, the organization was beginning to make strides towards improving that through trades and in the draft. They acquired young, power arms in the draft (Nick Burdi, J.T. Chargois, Jake Reed, and Tyler Jay) and had some successful bullpen arms (Michael Tonkin and Trevor May) but it wasn’t enough. Only four qualified Twins relievers had strikeout rates higher than the league average (8.7) in 2016. Exactly zero qualified Twins starters had a strikeout rate higher than the league average (7.8). So this team would have to put the ball in play and hope their defense helps them out in order to have success heading into 2016. But, every pitcher who started a game (not named Ervin Santana) averaged over a hit per inning, well above the 8.8 average in 2016.

In that piece, Matthew boldly predicted…

“When you look up the AL’s team strikeout rates at the end of the season, there’s a decent chance the Twins will have escaped the cellar.”

Matthew was correct…they finished 28th. Matthew, again:

“We had better talk about another thing that has sunk the Twins’ efforts to prevent runs over the past handful of seasons—their crummy defense.”

The defense was not looking rosy heading into 2016. Yes, Buxton was going to man center field full-time and, in a short 2015 sample, was worth 6.5 FRAA. He and Eddie Rosario would be nice, but the Twins decided to have Miguel Sano play right field, who was worth -2.3 FRAA in 2016. Combine that with an infield defense that produced below average fielding marks across the board, and you get a team that finished third to last in BABIP, third to last in PADE, and last in H/9 (allowed). Add all that to the pitching staff’s inability to miss bats and you get a team that allowed the second most runs in baseball (Arizona gave up one more).

You might have noticed that I quoted Talking Heads one-hit wonder “Once in a Lifetime” from the beginning, and to continue quoting them, “And you may ask yourself, where does that highway go?”

The new administration is in a tough position. The most tradeable asset, Brian Dozier, is still a Twin after negotiations with the Dodgers stalled and they shopped elsewhere. Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana and Glen Perkins are all on the wrong side of 30 and contracts all guaranteed through 2018.

Signing Jason Castro, and his exceptional framing ability are major upgrades over prior catchers Kurt Suzuki, Josmil Pinto, and Juan Centeno. I still believe in Jose Berrios as a potential middle-of-the-rotation-to-better arm. I still believe in all the tools coming together for Byron Buxton. Miguel Sano will play third now, where he could be an average defender. The Twins will have the first pick in the draft, and the largest pool to go with it. Perhaps they can get a bigger return on Dozier mid-season when there are more (or at least more motivated) shoppers than what they could have gotten in the winter. The division outside of Cleveland isn’t very competitive. We haven’t seen the new regime as active as some others have been, but a new direction is what is needed in Minnesota. —Steve Givarz

***

1. Nick Gordon, SS
DOB: 10/24/1995
Height/Weight: 6’2” 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted fifth overall in the 2014 MLB Draft from Olympia HS (Orlando, FL); signed for $3,851,000
Previous Ranking(s): #4 (Org.), #62 (Overall)
2016 Stats: .291/.335/.386, 3 HR 19 SB in 116 games at High-A Fort Myers

The Good: A quality athlete, Gordon has the natural instincts and reactions one likes to see at shortstop. Being a plus runner gives Gordon plus range in the field. Mix in steady hands, a plus arm, and quick transfers, and Gordon projects to be at least an above-average defender at short. At the plate he combines above-average bat speed with a short stroke, quick hands, and and an ability to use the whole field.

The Bad: There isn’t much game power to speak of. While he has average raw power with some loft, his swing generates a lot of ground balls and low line drives, playing below-average at present. A plus runner, his base-running skills are quite raw and he gets poor jumps which led to a high amount of caught stealings (13). He has a tendency to chase and while he can make contact with most pitches, it is of the weaker variety.

The Irrelevant: You might have heard of his brother Dee and his father Tom.

The Role:

OFP 60—Quality everyday shortstop
Likely 55—Above-average regular

The Risks: His speed doesn’t help him on the basepaths, mitigating some stolen base value. His power plays further down against major-league arms, leading to some weak overall contact. He starts to expand the zone more and chase for weak contact rather than working overall counts.

Major league ETA: 2019 —Steve Givarz

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: You’ve had ham and cheese sandwiches on white bread that were more exciting than Gordon, but hey, ham and cheese sandwiches get the job done when you’re hungry. Gordon is the type of prospect who’ll probably never earn a top-10 spot at his position, but who’ll probably be a top-20 or top-25 option for a decade. The big drawback here is that a ton of his fantasy value will be derived from his average. In years in which he hits .300, you’ll want to own him. If he hits .270? Not so much, at least not unless he ups his baserunning acumen.

2. Tyler Jay, LHP
DOB: 04/19/1994
Height/Weight: 6’1” 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted sixth overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, University of Illinois; signed for $3.889 million
Previous Ranking(s): #5 (Org.)
2016 Stats: 2.84 ERA, 2.82 DRA, 69.2 IP, 64 H, 21 BB, 68 K in 13 games at High-A Fort Myers, 5.79 ERA, 5.33 DRA, 14 IP, 13 H, 5 BB, 9 K in 5 games at Double-A Chattanooga

The Good: Jay has two plus offerings in his fastball and the slider, and both will flash 70-grade at their best. The fastball features natural cut from Jay’s three-quarters slot, and can get up into the mid 90s from the left side. The slider shows hard, late run in the upper 80s, although it can lack two-plane break at times. Jay already has advanced command of the offering.

The Bad: Amateur scouts weren’t thrilled that Illinois made Jay the closer in 2015, limiting their looks at him. However, Dan Hartleb might have been onto something. Jay is slightly-framed—the uniform literally hangs off of him—and he didn’t consistently have the same mid-90s velo as a starter that he showed in short bursts. The changeup is a barrier to starting as well. It shows short, arm-side run, but Jay has trouble getting it over the plate or down in the zone. Crossfire delivery and slingy arm action may limit any further command gains

The Irrelevant: The Chattanooga Lookouts were named for Lookout Mountain, from where you can allegedly see seven different states fromt the same spot.

The Role:

OFP 55—No. 3/4 starter or poor man’s Andrew Miller
Likely 50—8th-inning arm

The Risks: He’s a skinny lefty with questions about his ability to start. There’s command/change concerns. Oh, and he’s a pitcher

Major league ETA: Late 2017 as a reliever, 2018 as a starter

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Jay might be a reliever, but if he’s a starter he should miss bats. Remember how you viewed (or how you should have viewed, at least) Sean Newcomb at this time last year? That’s about how you should view Jay now, just with the ceiling dialed down about 20 percent.

3. Fernando Romero, RHP
DOB: 12/24/1994
Height/Weight: 6’0” 215 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Signed November 2011 from the Dominican Republic as an International Free Agent; signed for $260,000
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: 1.93 ERA 2.76 DRA 28 IP, 18 H, 5 BB, 25K in 5 games at Low-A Cedar Rapids; 1.88 ERA 1.48 DRA, 62.1IP, 48 H, 10 BB, 65 K in 11 games at High-A Fort Myers

The Good: With a large, broad-shouldered frame, Romero has the build to take the ball every fifth day. His double-plus fastball is explosive life in the zone with arm-side run, making it a difficult pitch to square up. He pairs this with a hard (87-90) power slider with late tilt, and can bury it against right-handers. His changeup isn’t far behind, showing quality arm speed and late tumbling action.

The Bad: Romero has missed a lot of time with injuries, including Tommy John in 2014 which wiped out his 2014 and 2015 season. The slider flashes plus, but is inconsistent at present as he is still regaining feel for the offering. His change is mainly projection, flashing average but still sparsely used in games.

The Irrelevant: Fort Myers is named for Confederate Colonel Abraham Myers, who served as quartermaster general during the Civil War.

The Role:

OFP 55—No. 3 starter
Likely 50—No. 4 starter/late-inning reliever

The Risks: Romero doesn’t have many innings under his belt as he’s missed time with injuries. He could be a really good bullpen arm if the change doesn’t develop. Body has potential to add bad weight. He’s a pitcher with a Tommy John on his resume.

Major league ETA: 2019 —Steve Givarz

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: As impressive as his 2016 stats are, Romero scares the crap out of me. I’d wait until he has a big league job to gamble; he’s not necessarily the type of player you need to buy now or you’ll miss out on. I’m tired of just saying “add him to your watch list,” but…

4. Alex Kirilloff, OF
DOB: 11/9/1997
Height/Weight: 6’2” 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 15th overall in 2016 MLB Draft, Plum HS (Pittsburgh, PA); signed for $2.8 million
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: .306/.341/.454, 7 HR, 0 SB in 55 games at short-season Elizabethton

The Good: Kirilloff is a strong kid who already shows power to all fields in games. It’s mostly doubles right now, but there is the potential for plus over-the-fence power as he physically matures. There’s going to be swing-and-miss here, but he has decent barrel control and should get most of his raw power into games. It’s not just a boom-or-bust offensive profile. He’s an above-average runner at present, although he will likely slow down in his twenties.

The Bad: Kirilloff is playing all over the grass at present, but will likely settle into right field as he matures, putting additional pressure on the offensive tools. He has some northeast amateur rawness to his game generally, and the power in the swing at present comes from length. There’s going to be questions about the ultimate hit tool ceiling until we see him at higher levels.

The Irrelevant: The color plum’s hex triplet is #8E4585. The fruit plum was first called such by Pliny the Elder, who you may only know from the beer but was also a Roman naturalist. “Plum” was a nickname for British writer P.G. Wodehouse.

The Role:

OFP 60—Above-average corner outfielder
Likely 45—Fourth outfielder/second-division starter with pop

The Risks: He’s a cold weather prep bat with a rookie-ball resume and questions about the hit tool. There’s a lot of risk here.

Major league ETA: 2020

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Kirilloff is the second-best fantasy prospect in this system and is already flirting with top-101 status. He’s got the potential hit tool/power combo we want to see from an outfielder, and while the Northeast stuff means he might take awhile to get going, his ultimate upside is as an OF3.

5. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
DOB: 7/8/1994
Height/Weight: 6’5” 213 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted in the fourth round in the 2013 MLB Draft from Cathedral Catholic HS (San Diego, CA); signed for $700,000
Previous Ranking(s): #8 (Org.)
2016 Stats: 2.33 ERA, 2.26 DRA, 65.2 IP, 43 H, 20 BB, 66K in 11 games at High-A Fort Myers; 1.82 ERA, 3.56 DRA, 74.1 IP, 43 H, 37 BB, 89 K, in 13 games at Double-A Chattanooga

The Good: Built with a frame to eat innings, Gonsalves still has some wiry-ness and physical projection remaining in his body. He employs a low-effort delivery with a three-quarters slot, and a long arm stroke, so the ball jumps on hitters as they struggle to see it out of hand, helping it play up from his average velocity. His changeup is a plus offering with split-like action thrown with arm speed, and its velo difference (76-78) makes it a swing-and-miss offering. His curve shows average potential with fair depth and action.

The Bad: While his delivery is low-effort, it features moving pieces and the long arm stroke could cause some release point issues. His lack of a quality breaking ball could make it tough to reliably get out lefties at the highest level. While he has average-to-better control of his arsenal, his command is behind as he can get loose in the zone with his change.

The Irrelevant: Is it too late to mention that there hasn’t been another Gonsalves to make the majors?

The Role:

OFP 55—No. 3 starter
Likely 45—No. 4 starter

The Risks: His lack of a quality breaking ball could be an issue as he turns over lineups as a starter. While he has run somewhat high ground-ball percentages in his career, his BABIP this past year was .251 which could mean he’s due for regression.

Major league ETA: 2018 —Steve Givarz

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: The MiLB strikeout numbers are pretty, but Gonsalves doesn’t profile to miss as many bats in the majors. That places him among the massive glut of back-end fantasy starters who are about a season away, though I admit I like him more than many others in that group. He’s probably a top-200 guy.

6. Wander Javier, SS
DOB: 12/29/1998
Height/Weight: 6’1” 165 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Signed July 2015 out of the Dominican Republic for $4 million
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: .308/.400/.654, 2 HR, 0 SB in 9 games in the Dominican Summer League

The Good: Javier is a potential five-tool shortstop. He has the arm and athleticism to stay on the left side of the infield even if he grows off the 6, and the power potential here would play at either spot on the left side as well.

The Bad: The summer when I was seventeen I worked a crappy job at a now-defunct Northeast retail chain. After a closing shift I would decamp with my high school friends to the local 24-hour-diner where we would discuss our future wildly successful lives outside of our sleepy Connecticut suburb. I would always have a basket of mozzarella sticks, still a comfort food for me to this day, cholesterol be damned. My prospects—heh—laid in writing I was sure. A novelist combining the vaguely autobiographical psychoanalysis of Roth with the quirky postmodernism of Heller. I was writing a novella at the time that was unceremoniously rejected by publishers my Freshman year of college.

This is all to say that certainly, without a doubt, Wander Javier is closer to helping a major league baseball team at seventeen than I was. But the distance from the majors becomes best expressed on a logarithmic scale the further away you get. And in that case, he isn’t that much closer.

The Irrelevant: When Javier was born, Garth Brooks Double Live was atop the Billboard charts for the fourth straight week, having unseated Alanis Morissette’s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie earlier that month.

The Role:

OFP 60—First-division shortstop or infielder of some sort, I mean he was seventeen
Likely 45—Something a grade-and-a-half lower than that

The Risks: The tools here are very exciting, but he’s a teenager with nine professional games, soooooooooooooo (also he isn’t a lock to stick at shortstop which would put more pressure on the bat which is already all projection at this point).

Major league ETA: 2022

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Tools you can dream on with an ETA you should dread. Whether you should bother with Javier at this point in his career depends more on your league setup and where you are in your contention cycle than it does Javier himself, because it’s clear he’s a lottery ticket. If you have deep MiLB rosters, go for it. If not, I’d suggest gambling on someone closer to the majors. Keep an eye on him, though.

7. Kohl Stewart, RHP
DOB: 10/07/1994
Height/Weight: 6’3” 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted fourth overall by Minnesota in the 2013 MLB Draft, St. Pius X HS (Houston, TX); signed for $4.544 million
Previous Ranking(s): #7 (Org.)
2016 Stats: 2.61 ERA, 3.52 DRA, 51.2 IP, 39 H, 19 BB, 44 K in 9 games at High-A Fort Myers, 3.03 ERA, 8.77 DRA, 92 IP, 91 H, 44 BB, 47 K in 16 games at Double-A Chattanooga

The Good: It just so happened that the Twins list shook out so Stewart ended up seventh again, but his season was more of the same in 2016. The stuff is still quite good. His four-seamer can get up to 95 and has some cut, his low-90s sinker has wicked late movement arm-side and down, there’s feel for two breaking balls, a hard slider, and a 12-6 curve. There’s also a developing changeup. The delivery is pretty easy and he has the body to start.

The Bad: It just so happened that the Twins list shook out so Stewart ended up seventh again, but his season was more of the same in 2016. He still doesn’t miss at many bats as you’d think he would given the arsenal. The two-seamer has so much run at times he has trouble commanding it, or even getting it into the zone. The curve can get a little lazy and loose, the change still needs more development. The profile is in danger of becoming a Twins pitcher. I mean, he’s already a Twins pitcher, but he’s in danger of becoming a “Twins pitcher.”

The Irrelevant: Stewart was also recruited as a football player at Texas A&M, where he may have taken over at QB for Johnny Manziel

The Role:

OFP 55—No. 3/4 starter
Likely 45—Back-end starter or solid pen arm

The Risks: He’s a pitcher without an out pitch at the moment. He’s also a pitcher (with a shoulder issue in his recent past).

Major league ETA: 2018

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Stewart still has some fantasy upside thanks to swing-and-miss stuff, but his walk issues and injury history detract some of his value. He could be a high-strikeout, high-WHIP SP5/6, but the odds of him reaching that modest but useful ceiling don’t seem great. He’d probably fall somewhere in the 150-175 range among dynasty prospects.

8. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
DOB: 6/20/1993
Height/Weight: 6’3” 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: Signed February 2011 out of the Dominican Republic for $350,000; acquired from San Francisco for Eduardo Nunez
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: 7.71 ERA, 5.95 DRA, 2.1 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 0 K in 1 game at major league level, 1.94 ERA, 2.37 DRA, 65 IP, 48 H, 16 BB, 58 K in 11 games at Double-A Richmond, 4.20 ERA, 2.33 DRA, 40.2 IP, 42 H, 11 BB, 43 K in 7 games at Triple-A Sacramento, 3.76 ERA, 2.51 DRA, 26.1 IP, 28 H, 3 BB, 25 K in 4 games at Triple-A Rochester

The Good: He may have just become a Twin this summer, but Adalberto Mejia has been a Twins Pitcher in spirit for some time now. You know the drill: low-90s with the one, good fastball command, a couple usable offspeed pitches, decent durability and MILB performance. He’s close to ready to being able to get MLB hitters out, if not already there. That’s a pretty good get for Eduardo Nunez.

The Bad: The downside of the Twins Pitcher profile is lack of obvious upside. The fastball’s fine, but there’s no real out pitch in the profile, with neither the slider nor the change firmly establishing themselves as a consistently above-average offering. There are a few concerns off the mound as well; Mejia missed the early part of 2015 serving a suspension for a banned stimulant, and it’s been quite a few years since he’s seen anything remotely close to his listed weight.

The Irrelevant: Mejia is from Bonao in the Dominican Republic, which was originally established as a Spanish colonial fort by Christopher Columbus in 1495.

The Role:

OFP 50—4th starter
OFP 45—5th starter/lefty reliever

The Risks: Mejia looks pretty well developed, so there’s less positive or negative risk than with most pitchers. Sometimes Twins Pitcher types can lose it at the MLB level and sometimes a secondary pitch develops late, but he probably is what he is. But, he is a pitcher.

Major league ETA: Debuted in 2016 —Jarrett Seidler

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: I forgot Adalberto Mejia was a thing. For dynasty purposes, it doesn’t really matter that I now remember. Mejia is a fine fantasy spot starter, but that’s about the extend of his utility.

Major League ETA: 2017

9. Ben Rortvedt, C
DOB: 9/25/1997
Height/Weight: 5’10” 190 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 56th overall in 2016 MLB Draft, Verona HS (Verona, WI); signed for $900,000
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: .203/.277/.254, 0 HR, 0 SB in 20 games at GCL Twins, .250/.348/.250, 0 HR, 0 SB in 13 games at short-season Elizabethton

The Good: Rortvedt’s a catcher with a potential plus power tool. That’ll get you on a top ten list. He has a strong arm. He is young enough there is still plenty of time for him to develop his skills behind the plate.

The Bad: And he’ll need to because the “catch” part of “catch-and-throw” is rough at present. His receiving skills are raw, and he can be a bit stiff in general. The length in his swing portends a below-average hit tool.

The Irrelevant: Rortvedt is the highest draft pick the Twins have used on a catcher since Joe Mauer.

The Role:

OFP 50—Average catcher whose pop carries the profile
Likely 40—A less playable version of Evan Gattis maybe? Stuff can happen with prep catchers.

The Risks: He’s a prep catcher. Catchers are weird, prep catchers often aren’t catchers, and Rortvedt isn’t exactly starting out with a surefire backstop projection.

Major league ETA: 2021

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: If I told you to get in on Tom Murphy four years ago and the only payoff was current-day Tom Murphy, you wouldn’t be very happy with me. Wait until Rortvedt is closer.

10. Zach Granite, CF
DOB: 9/17/1992
Height/Weight: 6’1” 175 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 14th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Seton Hall University (South Orange, NJ); signed for $75,000.
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: .295/.347/.382, 4 HR, 56 SB in 127 games at Double-A Chattanooga

The Good: A double-plus run paired with a plus glove is a good place to start with any profile, especially in the middle of diamond. Granite can make contact, but it’s not as rock-solid (sorry) as you’d like it to be, though he does well to use the whole field in his approach. A top-end outcome could see him as a sparkplug type hitting atop the lineup. He can use his speed plenty well on the bases.

The Bad: There’s not much power to be had here, and there’s a good chance it limits the overall profile to a fourth outfielder role at best, despite the superlative defense. Even if there’s a chance for power in his build, his swing isn’t geared to take advantage of it, which imperils his hit tool.

The Irrelevant: Seton Hall's motto is Hazard Zet Forward, translated from Norman as "Despite Hazards, move forward."

The Role:

OFP 50—Billy Burns/Sam Fuld’s good seasons
Likely 40—All their other seasons

The Risks: Given the lack of power, pitchers at the upper levels are going to attack the zone and dare Granite to punish them. Until he proves he can, there’s a fair amount of volatility in the profile. If Billy Burns/Sam Fuld types get it done for you, this is the prospect for you.

Major league ETA: 2018 —Craig Goldstein

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Speed and proximity make Granite worthy of some fantasy attention, but the likelihood that he’s just a bench player means you can forget him unless you play in very deep AL-only formats. Sort of like if C.J. Cron was a speedy reserve outfielder.

#11

Felix Jorge, RHP
Jorge is the kind of backend arm with solid-average velo and a full array of average-ish secondary pitches that usually settles in towards the back of these top ten lists. The fastball lacks wiggle, but gets some plane even out of Jorge’s six-foot-two frame due to his higher slot and how tall he stays throughout his delivery. The curve will flash 55, the change is fairly advanced, but he may lack an out pitch—Double-A hitters had far less trouble squaring him than A-ball ones. The delivery doesn’t use his legs much, which is ironic because his thin frame is about 70 percent legs, but the mechanics and arm action are relatively low effort. He’s a back-end guy with some physical projection left. Jorge’s an interesting prospect, but not quite a top ten one until he the stuff plays a little better in the upper minors.

Keeping it 💯

Nick Burdi, RHP
We could just C+P his brother Zack’s entry from the White Sox list and it would be close enough because we’ve done thirty of these now and our brain is the consistency of Ruhlman’s soft scrambled eggs. We could also just C+P his entry from last year since he only threw three innings this year before being sidelined with a bone bruise near his elbow. This is one of the few elbow injuries that doesn’t scare us all that much, but Burdi’s continued command issues scare us a little more. A healthy Burdi could be up sometime in 2017 as a late-inning reliever with a 80 fastball/60 slider combo. That’s not as recherché as it used to be, but still sounds pretty good to us. We don’t know why we have lapsed in the first-person plural. It’s been a long four months.

The factor on the farm

Daniel Palka, OF
Most organizations have a Daniel Palka. He’s a lefty corner guy with platoon issues, good raw pop, and a below-average hit tool that might not make that pop play enough in major league games. It’s thin margins for this role. You can make a lot of money in the majors, or you can be riding very long buses from Rochester to Durham for a few years. You’d think Palka would be in the right org to get some big league per diems, as the Twins don’t look to be very good for a while, but Minnesota is trying to sort through a glut of corner bats as is. You’d think Palka’s immense pull side power would find a major league home eventually. He’s more left-handed than the Brad Eldreds and Mike Hessmen that litter the upper minors. But Matt Clark spent the last 18 months thumbing it from the Dominican to Mexico to Japan. And none of those dudes are even C.J. Cron. And I can finally promise you that is the last C.J. Cron mention on these lists.

Worthy of the hullabadoo (it’s my last list, you guys)

Akil Badoo, OF
Badoo is your typical post-first-round, high-six-figure prep pick. He’s got his flaws. There won’t be much in the way of power coming, and he needs to get physically stronger so he can handle better velocity as he moves up the organizational ranks, but he’s got the speed and instincts to play center and some feel for hitting. He might just be Zach Granite in five years, but there are far worse fates and far worse prospects.

Or he might be LaMonte Wade

LaMonte Wade, OF
Wade is turning into a bit of a steal for the Twins in the ninth round of last year’s draft. His junior year at Maryland was marred by a broken hamate, but more than a year away from the injury he started to show more power than you’d expect this season. That might just be an advanced college bat stinging A-ball pitching, and I’d expect his eye-popping K/BB rates to moderate a bit in Double-A as well, but he’s a good athlete who can hit a bit, run a bit, and can play center field once a week. There are far worse fates and far worse prospects, and maybe a bit more upside here than the others ranking would suggest.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/91 or later)

  1. Byron Buxton
  2. Miguel Sano
  3. Jose Berrios
  4. Max Kepler
  5. Jorge Polanco
  6. Nick Gordon
  7. Tyler Jay
  8. Fernando Romero
  9. Alex Kirilloff
  10. Stephen Gonsalves

Much like the awkward in-between state that 20th century American poet Britney Jean Spears spoke of in “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” from her classic Britney collection, the Twins’ best long-term building blocks are not prospects, but not yet established stars.

Minnesota’s farm system is mediocre at best. However, more than any other team, the Twins show the flaws in evaluating an organization’s young talent strictly by prospect-eligible players. Despite losing prospect eligibility Buxton, Berrios, and Polanco are still just 23, making them the same age or younger than one quarter of BP’s top 101 prospects. Even Sano and Kepler, at 24, are no older than a dozen top 101 prospects. Minnesota has tumbled down prospect rankings, but the overall collection of young talent remains among the best in baseball and that’s evident by the first five names on the 25-and-under list already graduating out of prospect-dom.

Buxton cracked BP’s top 10 prospects four times, including ranking first in both 2014 and 2015 before placing second to Corey Seager in 2016. He was rushed to the majors at 21 in a move ex-general manager Terry Ryan has said he regrets, and Buxton’s extreme struggles to make contact led to hideous early results followed by endless tinkering by coaches and several trips back to the minors. He never ceased crushing Double-A and Triple-A pitching, and in returning to Minnesota as a September call-up last year it finally clicked. Buxton hit .287/.357/.653 with nine homers, showing upper-deck thump to go with what has always been blazing speed.

Buxton is already a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder, totaling 11.2 Fielding Runs Above Average in 138 games, and his limitless range combined with 20-homer power is enough to make him a very good regular (PECOTA projects him as a top-10 center fielder, with 3.2 WARP). Smoothing out his approach and simply putting bat to ball more often is a key to unlocking greatness. I was a believer before his monster September and I’m certainly a believer now, but Buxton has lots to prove. And he’s not alone, as Berrios looked lost in his debut and Sano followed up an excellent rookie year with a disappointing second season that cast some doubt on his being more than a Three True Outcomes designated hitter.

Kepler can be a very strong all-around player and Polanco has solid regular written all over him if the Twins find him a defensive home, but the Buxton/Sano/Berrios trio will tell the story of the rebuild. It’s been a long six years in Minnesota and it’s time for all of the expensive international signings and high draft picks the Twins have accumulated throughout the prolonged ineptitude to start paying dividends beyond lofty prospect rankings. —Aaron Gleeman

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tupelodylan
2/10
No Travis Blankenhorn? Doesn't his future look a little brighter now that he's shifted to 2B?
lowguppy
2/10
One Q - Trey Cabbage: Man or Vegetable?
Shauncore
2/10
I'm surprised Cabbage didn't garner any mention. Crawford had him as #10 in the org last year in a stronger system (included Buxton, Berrios, Kepler, Polanco). Could be a 50/50 hit/power guy at 3B (though it's also possible he moves to 1B).
WoodyS
2/10
I'd be a lot happier if you took the time you used to write: "Much like the awkward in-between state that 20th century American poet Britney Jean Spears spoke of in “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” from her classic Britney collection, the Twins’ best long-term building blocks are not prospects, but not yet established stars." and instead analyzed the players. Is it possible to pay extra to filter out the jokes and distracting references to songs and movies?
LeafontheWind
2/10
When I go to the grocery store, it's ridiculous that there's all this food I won't eat. Can't I just pay a little more for my Hungry-Man dinners so I don't have to see all the fruit and vegetables when I walk in?
collins
2/10
Can I pay extra to filter out troll comments?
tearecrules
2/10
Since you can't comment or give -1 without a paying membership you are paying extra so the non-paying folks get the comments filtered out.
SansRig
2/11
When I go to the grocery store, it's ridiculous when the shelves are filled with saxophones. I like the article, but I do think that the criticism that it gets self-indulgent is fair. I haven’t been bothered by it as much in this series, but I can think of examples elsewhere that have been challenging to read. I think that it’s fair to bring attention to that.
TwinsfanTravis
2/13
It is definitely not fair to criticize writers for want to put some personal flair into their writing. The vast majority of this article is dedicated to player and system analyzation but the writer throws in one joke and everyone is up in arms "why is there a joke in muh article?!" If that is something that bothers you so much, maybe you should look else where. There are plenty of free sites that offer scouting reports and analysis personality free. Or better yet, start your own player analysis site and open yourself up to inane criticism like "there's too much personal voice in your writing."
SansRig
2/13
I have conflicting feelings regarding this series: I like most of the content and appreciate the effort that was put into the articles, but I also think that they could be better by making some minor changes. At times, the writers have been receptive to feedback, whereas at other times they seem to disregard what is being said to them and/or respond with smug comments. I have stated a few times not that the “excursions of personality,” as Bret Sayer aptly calls them, are not really a big deal for me. I have read or skimmed through them in the past and I will continue to do so. I do want a dense prospect report, though. So I can understand why someone would be frustrated by these excursions in the absence of perceived important information. What is wrong with pointing that out if the intention is to provide feedback? As far as using other internet resources, I have increase the number of sites that I pay to read. This includes a new subscription this year because I felt like I wanted to supplement what I have read here.
Junts1
2/11
You probably read the Julio Urias player comment in BP2017 and don't laugh, either.
lfkjr1
2/10
I, for one, always enjoy the pop-culture references (even though I don't always "get" them all). This is supposed to be fun. However, Talking Heads were not a one-hit wonder. "Once in a Lifetime" wasn't even their biggest hit. In fact, you could've continued the motif by describing the Twins' 25 and under list as, "Cool babies, strange but not a stranger."
TheArtfulDodger
2/10
That falls on me as editor for not catching. I admit my Talking Heads knowledge isn't where it needs to be.
BobcatBaseball
2/10
I admit, Once In a Lifetime is on the music playlist at my job, so I didn't know much about Talking Heads until I shazamed the song.
jnossal
2/11
Kids walking around, deeply ignorant that their every contemporary pop culture reference isn't something their generation invented. Same as it ever was.
lowguppy
2/10
I mean, it's not that surprising given that it was the only Talking Heads song they referenced, despite it being kinda the theme of the whole series. I'll take it, but there were a lot of missed opportunities for more Talking Heads references.
jpaternostro
2/11
As someone who cites Fear of Music as a desert island disc and has strong opinions about David Byrne's solo work, this is the most valid critcism of these lists thus far.
dianagramr
2/11
Matt Wieters has to .... find a city .... find a city to live (and play) in ....
jnossal
2/11
You start a conversation you can't even finish.
Shauncore
2/10
Would you rather have taken Baddoo or Khalil Lee (assuming he's an OF) in a re-draft?
jpaternostro
2/11
Lee, but they are both so far away at this point my opinion on this will change a half dozen times back and forth before either sniff the majors.
cristo69
2/10
Guys. Thanks for the series. Great work as usual !!
huztlers
2/10
You literally wrote a paragraph about yourself for Wander Javier. I know that some flack has already been dispersed above, but... yeah. That is what filler looks like I guess.
LeafontheWind
2/10
Congrats on reaching -300 on your lifetime comment rating huztlers!
jnossal
2/11
He's right though. Not every player comment will be a pithy nugget of wit, but that one misses the mark by a wide margin. All the rating system does is encourage conformity of opinion. I don't why anyone thinks a large positive or negative score means anything at all. Are your really witty or smart, or just a boor? A devil's advocate, challenging untested assumptions? A boot licking sycophant? Plenty of them are just, "your comment was great! I agree 100%!" and that guy gives a plus and the guy whose comment he praised pluses him back as if that circular waste of time has some kind of larger meaning.
TheArtfulDodger
2/11
At this point I'm unclear on how you might know what goes into the process of a comment receiving a plus.
jnossal
2/11
Neither would you, Craig, since you are exempt from the system. Right? A bit ironic that my lifetime scores is a bit higher than you zero, as if that meant anything. I never thought the purpose of the comment section was to accumulate the most points. Plenty of people apparently do, including, I guess, you.
jpaternostro
2/11
My conversation with Craig about that went Iike this: "People are going to hate it but I like it and I don't care." And here we are.
fawkesmulder
2/11
You are on point. Snark can be fun at times but BP is flirting dangerously close with annoying its customer base. On an unrelated note, Ben Carsley, we get it, you are a TINSTAAP faithful and you don't want anyone to mistake you for anything other than that...
BenC22
2/13
I'd argue it's a bit more nuanced than that. I just really hate backend starters in fantasy, and unfortunately a lot of SP prospects are backend starters. Plenty of MLB value, but utterly replaceable in most leagues.
fawkesmulder
2/14
Yeah, I understand your tepidness to backend starters. However, IMO, #4 type starters can have fantasy value, especially in deep leagues. It just struck me like you are tailoring your advice to shallower leagues, when most of the people reading baseball prospectus are probably in deeper leagues. A difference in philosophy I suppose! Anyways, going back to the topic of this article, I think Fernando Romero has exciting upside. He's way more than a watch list guy in a deep league, he's a guy that has some risk but could be really big impact arm if it pans out. I've seen as high as #2 starter kind of upside from Keith Law and BA, even if BP is more tepid with their #3 pegging.
kiper90
2/11
Was Lewin Diaz discussed for consideration to make the Others of Note section?
peterhun
2/11
My premium subscription to Baseball Prospectus will expire next month. I've been a member since the website's inception and before that, an avid reader and purchaser of each annual. Sadly, I will not renew my subscription or purchase the book. I feel the current product quality the Prospects team produces to be well-below the high standards established by their predecessors. Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks set a very high level of quality. Their reports were informative, had tool grades, projections. The reports felt like what actual major league teams would receive. The current product... not so much. Instead of tool grades/projections, we have a single stat OFP. For fantasy purposes, that number is meaningless. What is a 60 OFP outfielder? Is the expected production a plus hit, plus-plus run, or extreme power? You can't tell from the OFP. I understand there's Ben's fantasy take, but why not list the tool grades anyways? Instead of actual detail, the current reports have filler, as if trying to appease a high school essay minimum word count, anecdotes about being a teenager and bad attempts at humor. Kevin and Jason had humor in their reports, but it was woven in. There was actual scouting content in the reports. Would these current reports be passable or well-received by major league teams? I think they would laughed off. Even when there is scouting content, it seems off-basis or so conservative that it is rendered useless (like California's Prop 65 hazardous notices - the notices are everywhere, but lack what the actual danger is or the concentration). The report for Alex Kirilloff states "He’s a cold weather prep bat with a rookie-ball resume and questions about the hit tool." Two other prospect sites project Kirilloff to have a plus hit tool. Kirilloff was also a pitcher in high school, but the Twins (and other teams) liked his hit tool so much to draft him as an outfielder. For Prospectus report, Kirilloff is a cold-weather prep bat and in rookie-ball, ergo, his best tool, the tool that got him drafted in the first round, is questionable. Does Prospectus know something about Kirilloff that other publications don't know? You can state that rookie-ball hitters have questionable hit tools since they hasn't proved it at the higher levels. And you wouldn't be necessarily wrong. It wouldn't be terribly informative and just feels like lazy scouting. I hate to be the voice of criticism. However, change for the good doesn't happen unless voices speak up. For those who disagree with me, please read the earlier reports from Jason Parks and Kevin Goldstein. Compare those to the current reports. Which ones would you prefer? I hope this spurs change in the Prospect team. For them to product high-quality content, content that would make their predecessors proud, content that is worthy of BP's subscribers.
bretsayre
2/11
We're sorry to hear that, and we always do appreciate feedback. From my perspective, I think that Jeff and the prospect team have done a tremendous job in putting together these lists. It's an extraordinary task and one that works best when it's a combination of information and personality, just as it's almost always been. Their predecessors are proud and they should be. We also get a group of commenters who like to talk about Kevin/Jason as the era(s) when our prospect coverage was ideal. This isn't limited to one or two people. And I'm certainly not going to stand here and say that they weren't both incredible in their own way—I adored both of their work, and I still do. It's no surprise at all that they've both become really successful in their front office roles. But Jeff (and team) have packed these lists full of more information than Kevin did when he was writing them. And we've gotten far fewer complaints about Jeff's excursions of personality than we got about Jason when he was writing them. Of course, Kevin and Jason set an extremely high bar for quality when they were here. Just like Christina Karhl did. And Steven Goldman did. And Ben Lindbergh did. And Sam Miller. And R.J. Anderson. And literally hundreds of others did. That's the beauty and the curse of working at Baseball Prospectus. We are constantly striving to live up to the people who came before us because they were incredible. And I'm proud to work side-by-side with our entire staff as we do just that, and create high-quality work in the process. So when we say we want to hear constructive criticism, we mean it. That's how we make a forever imperfect product better. But reminding us how great our predecessors were and how difficult it is to follow in their footsteps? We're two steps ahead of you there.
SansRig
2/11
I believe you when you say that you enjoy constructive criticism, but I do not believe that this is necessarily the attitude at BP. I say this because about five comments above, there is a writer stating that he knew that his readers would dislike elements of the content before he published, continued to publish it, and then felt compelled to share that with people attempting to give him constructive criticism. As I said before, I don’t really care that much about the actual words that appeared in this article, but my observations (his comment included) and your comment do not correspond.
tearecrules
2/12
Undoubtedly it's a huge amount of work for the prospect team. It's, what, write-ups on 15ish players for 32 teams, 480ish players? And a significant minority of those players will never reach the majors, and even more won't make more than a minor contribution. It's an incredible undertaking and I see how the last few teams wind up becoming a blur. But the "Prospect Top 10" is a major feature; if you're a fan of that team this might be the article that gets you to pay for access (It's a reason I've done so in the past). How does that Twins fan who just found BP and drops $12 for a membership feel when the reporting of their team becomes a venue for some writer to make in-jokes about themselves? If the Fantasy Outlook for 2/3rd of the prospects you're writing about (position players who are going to be replacement-level players and 4/5th starters) is so gloomy and basically interchangeable with 200 other prospects maybe it's not a value-added part of the feature and it needs to be relooked.
TheArtfulDodger
2/13
The Twins list was free for everyone, first of all. If one section of one of 15 writeups is different enough to ruin a whole list for someone, I'd suggest they're perhaps overreacting. The reality is that we are responsive in the comments when people ask for clarification, we are available by email, and available on social media. If this product falls short in any way, it's then there are many avenues for clarification. All of which is to say, the section of Wander Javier that everyone is upset about serves a purpose. It might meander its way there, but it's a creative way of saying that the player has a long way to make an impact on the Twins. If you don't like the meandering route, that's certainly your prerogative and you're more than welcome to voice it here. I read all the comments and I reflect on them even if I disagree in the short-term. I would suggest that the segment of the public than can only handle a dry report and would be upset at some creative license taken in making a point is smaller than the audience that either a) appreciates the jokes or b) is understanding that not literally every aspect of every article is going to be for them.
Junts1
2/11
I've been around BP for a long time as well and I admit I don't agree. Its undoubtedly true that Kevin and Jason did an outstanding job with their prospect articles, and I think it's equally true that there are weaknesses in how they did it. If you reviewed their explainations of grading in advance, this year's series in my opinion was much easier to parse and probably much easier to use. the tool-specific information is still present in many evaluations, especially for higher ranked prospects, and you could easily convert it to numerical grades if you want. Grading the prospect overall instead of by tools may not be as helpful for fantasy owners, but is more relevant for actual baseball evaluation. Many of the comments also reflect a more realistic understanding of prospect development. Your criticism re: Kirilloff doesn't hold water for me. We know that most organizations recognize that the path to continued contention is young, cost-controlled, quality position players. Given that pitchers are pitchers, if everything is equal I would expect a 2-way player to be drafted as a position player. This wasn't always true. Regardless of whether Kirilloff's bat has the potential to be big-league caliber someday (and being drafted as a position player in the 1st round suggests almost by default that it has that potential), he's literal years away. The move towards teams prioritizing athleticism and tools means that 95% of young prospects are years away from the majors and attempting to predict what they'll do there is, in most cases, an exercise in futility. Kirilloff is a common profile we saw a lot of times in this series: a young man who has the potential to hit the ball well and hasn't really played any significant organized baseball. Pretending to be more specific about his long-term outlook is just blowing wind. For every one of those players who turns into even a major-league bench bat, a lot of them never go anywhere. Trying to identify them at that level when they aren't superlative (Julio Urias) is quite simply a waste of time and text. As someone who is NOT a fantasy player and consumes BP content in order to learn about what will actually happen on the field, the overall potential and likely grades are far more useful than assessing individual tool grades to make a judgment about the player. It doesn't matter if a player is going to be a second-division corner outfielder because he's got quality power and a 40-grade hit tool, or whether he's going to be a second-division corner outfielder because he has a 60 hit tool but lacks average power for the position. Those things (assuming the defense is equal) are of the same value to a team - they could start but they can't carry your team. It doesn't matter which skill breakdown you describe creates an OFP 60 outfielder: all versions of that player are someone you'd be glad to have starting on a team intending to contend. And it doesn't matter how the breakdown is in an OFP 45 player: you don't want them to do anything but come off the bench, regardless. I understand fantasy players might like more information about being able to parse which categories the player has the potential to contribute in, but having a simple and 2-phased overall rating score has significantly contributed to my retention of information about prospects, especially prospects who have little potential to be breakout stars. You can recognize high floor, low ceiling players who often only have a 5 point gap between their OFP and likely, and highly variable prospects with a 15 point gap between them. Lastly, even if you disagree that the quality is similar, it's unrealistic to expect an organization like BP to be able to consistently employ someone of Kevin Goldstein's caliber. Not every major league team is employing someone of Kevin Goldstein's caliber. The man is Director of Pro Scouting for a team that is doing a great job at that. BP isn't always going to be able to employ one of the 20 best scouts in the world as their prospects expert. But I also wouldn't be surprised to see someone on this BP prospects team end up in a front office someday, because by doing exactly what they're doing they are honing their craft and improving. Kevin was an established expert when BP hired him - people with his skillset aren't sitting around looking for jobs at BP anymore, because teams are much better at hiring them. The Kevin Goldstein era is not sustainable!
jarrettseidler
2/11
Apropos of nothing, six of my colleagues covering prospects here did get team jobs within the last five or six months, and they all either directly or indirectly contributed to these lists and writeups.
Muboshgu
2/11
At least your criticism was constructive, unlike so many other commenters.
jfranco77
2/13
I thought this was one of the most enjoyable lists to read. Both informative and funny. Overall, I enjoyed the series this year. I'll give you 2 more irrelevants for our friend Alex Kirilloff. He was home schooled, but played baseball at Plum HS anyway. Also, Plum is a suburb of Pittsburgh. So is Cranberry. But they are nowhere near each other. Figure that one out.
danrnelson
2/13
It's really funny to me that people still complain about the writing styles of BP writers; especially when many of these same people hail Jason's work as the "glory days" of BP (I loved Jason's work, too). Jason got a ton of flack for his humor style and the off-beat articles he wrote. This is nothing new for BP. Some people just don't like it, and that's fine. But I don't understand complaining about it, when it's always been the style of BP, even with a constantly changing staff. It's part of the product. If you have constructive criticism or disagree with a player evaluation, go for it. But when you're complaining about writing style, I'm not sure what you are expecting. The style has never really changed all that much and it probably isn't going to. As for the quality of the work, as long as BP contributors keep getting hired by teams, I'm going to keep on reading.
delatopia
2/24
J.T. Chargois worth getting excited about?