The Top Ten
- CF Byron Buxton
- 3B Miguel Sano
- RHP Alex Meyer
- RHP Kohl Stewart
- RHP Jose Berrios
- SS Nick Gordon
- LHP Lewis Thorpe
- RHP Nick Burdi
- 2B Jorge Polanco
- LHP Stephen Gonsalves
1. Byron Buxton
Height/Weight: 6’2” 189 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, Appling County HS (Baxley, GA)
Previous Ranking: #1 (Org), #1 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: .240/.313/.405 at High-A Fort Myers (30 games)
The Tools: 8 run; 6 arm; 7 potential glove; 6 potential power; 6 potential hit
What Happened in 2014: A wrist injury put a major dent in the season of the crown jewel of the system. The 21-year-old was limited to just 31 games and then had his time in the Arizona Fall League come to a crashing halt due to a concussion and a dislocated finger.
Strengths: Well above-average athlete; elite run; endless range; superb instincts; gracefully moves from gap to gap; right-fielder’s arm; advanced feel for hitting; lets balls travel deep into the zone; explosive hands; plus-plus bat speed; barrels offerings with authority; well above-average raw; advanced approach at the plate.
Weaknesses: Still transitioning from raw athlete to skilled player; presently plays on ability; needs to learn to further slow the game down; swing at present more geared towards line-drive contact; can stand to create more lift and post-contact extension for power to play to full potential; has struggled against high-quality breaking stuff; tends to lunge and overcommit hands; will guess with some frequency.
Overall Future Potential: 8; elite major leaguer
Realistic Role: High 6; first-division player/occasional all star
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; limited upper-level experience; wrist injury/concussion (2014).
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: It’s really very hard to undersell Buxton’s fantasy potential, and he’s one of the few players in baseball with the potential to supplant Mike Trout as the overall #1 pick one day. The rough 2014 and push back in his ETA is the only thing keeping him from being the top fantasy prospect in the game, and he could be a 25-homer, 50-steal roto monster if it all comes to pass.
The Year Ahead: Despite essentially a lost season in 2014 and delay in development time, Buxton remains the headliner of this system and the premier prospect in all of the minor leagues. This is a true five-tool talent that oozes naturalness and the type of ability that makes even the most conservative of evaluators drop lofty projections for what the future holds. This space could be filled with superlatives and flowing language waxing poetically about the Georgia native, but it really boils down to one word: “easy.” That’s the way the 21-year-old makes this game look, which is a testament to the talent and the way it has come together so quickly since signing. This season will see Buxton return to the field, where a string of good health should lead to an uninterrupted foray into the upper levels and can very well culminate in a big-league debut during the latter stages of the season. We should expect that the uber-prospect will likely need to shake some off rust in the early going, but once he hits his stride look for the train to continue barreling down the tracks on a collision course for stardom at the highest level in the not-so distant future.
Major league ETA: Late 2015
2. Miguel Sano
Height/Weight: 6’3” 195 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2009, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #2 (Org), #14 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: Did Not Play – Injury
The Tools: 8 potential power; 7 potential arm; 5+ potential glove; 5 run
What Happened in 2014: The dreaded Tommy John struck the budding slugger, turning the year into a rehabilitation exercise instead of return to Double-A to attempt to iron out key developmental needs.
Strengths: Massive man; extremely strong body; moves well for size; elite raw power; generates excellent extension and lift; drives offerings with loft to all fields; punishes stuff middle-away; can get out of box well; double-plus arm prior to surgery; charges balls well at third; aptitude for the game.
Weaknesses: Long, leveraged swing; will overextend with frequency; tendency to get tied up against good velocity on inner third; has swing and miss in the zone; easily fooled against off-speed stuff; needs work staying back; hit tool may ultimately play below average; defensive fundamentals and consistency needs work; on the slow side laterally; arm strength may not fully return.
Overall Future Potential: 7; all-star player
Realistic Role: 6; first-division player
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; 67 games at Double-A; Tommy John surgery (2014); handing of secondary stuff.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The year missed really hurt fantasy owners who were hoping he’d be in the majors in 2015 and hitting bombs left and right. But it did little to quiet his 40-homer potential. Of course, that power is likely to come with a batting average that hurts (think .250-.260 at the high end), but in an OBP league, he reverses course (think .340-.350 at the low end) given his eye at the plate.
The Year Ahead: There’s never a good time for a major injury during the course of any player’s career, but the hit to Sano’s development time came at a critical juncture during his transition into the upper levels and put a hard stop on any type of traction the prospect could have made after the initial test at Double-A. The Dominican’s massive power and potential impact in the middle of a lineup have been well documented around here, as has the big need for tightening things up when it comes to handling high-quality secondary stuff. The theme remains the same heading into this season, with the added task of having to navigate back up to speed after a year off from game action. It should stand as a highly interesting case study to evaluate whether there are signs of progress after the initial rust has dusted off. There isn’t much doubt that the power is going to translate in some shape or form, but whether Sano rounds into the true middle-of-the-order monster the potential indicates will be directly tied into learning how to control plate appearances better. The belief here is that said ability indeed does reside inside of the player, ready to be unlocked with continued experience, and that a first look at the highest level should come by the end of the summer.
Major league ETA: Late 2015
3. Alex Meyer
Height/Weight: 6’9” 220 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
Previous Ranking: #3 (Org), #32 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: 3.52 ERA (130.1 IP, 116 H, 153 K, 64 BB) at Triple-A Rochester
The Tools: 8 potential FB; 6+ SL; 5+ potential CH
What Happened in 2014: The University of Kentucky product proved he could handle a full workload in the upper levels, where he flashed the stuff to miss advanced bats and now sits on the cusp of The Show.
Strengths: Long limbed and extreme length; good athlete for size; coordinated; elite arm strength; fastball routinely works 94-96 with downward plane; can reach for more when needs to (97-100); explosive offering; snaps slider with loose wrist; wipeout break in mid-80s; throws from same angle as heater; bat-misser; change can flash quality arm-side fade.
Weaknesses: Lot of body to control; inconsistent with mechanics—loses delivery for stretches; command plays down as a result (below to fringe average); slider will sweep when arm slot drops to mid-three quarters; tends to drift toward first base during landing; can slow body on secondary offerings; change typically on the firm side.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2/3 starter
Realistic Role: 6; late-innings reliever (closer)
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; 27 starts at Triple-A; shoulder weakness (2013); emergence of consistent third offering.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: It was surprising to some dynasty leaguers that Meyer was not called up in 2014 to hone his craft a bit at the major-league level, but barring something catastrophic, we should see that happen in 2015. Don’t expect high performance out of the gate with Meyer, who is likely to struggle with his WHIP and win potential (due to racking up high pitch counts), but there’s also a real chance he ends up in the bullpen—where he could be a dominant closer with big strikeout totals.
The Year Ahead: An imposing figure on the mound, the 6-foot-9 right-hander continues to take strides forward toward rounding into a legit major-league power arm that can be downright nasty on opposing batters. The fastball and slider stand out in the front of this package, while the changeup has made tangible improvement since turning pro. However, evaluators are mixed on the ultimate role. Some see further growth with the change, and point to improving body control as leading factors that things can work as a starter in the long term. Others feel the two-pitch nature and maintenance in the delivery indicate short bursts out of the back of a bullpen will be a better fit. The latter seems more likely over the long haul given the overall composition of the package, though Meyer should get an extended shot to prove otherwise as early as this season. The ingredients are here for an impact arm no matter which way you slice it. This year should serve as a chance for the prospect to put his minor-league career in the rearview mirror and begin putting a foothold as a long-term fixture on Minnesota’s pitching staff.
Major league ETA: 2015
4. Kohl Stewart
Height/Weight: 6’3” 195 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2013 draft, St. Pius X HS (Houston, TX)
Previous Ranking: #4 (Org), #54 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: 2.59 ERA (87 IP, 75 H, 62 K, 24 BB) at Low-A Cedar Rapids
The Tools: 7 potential FB; 7 potential SL; 5+ potential CB; 5+ potential CH
What Happened in 2014: The highly regarded Texas native flashed the type of stuff and promise that made him the fourth overall pick in 2013, but some shoulder issues prevented Stewart from logging a full workload in his full-season debut.
Strengths: Athletic build; easy delivery; fast arm; fastball sits 92-95, with arm-side run; creates good downward angle; velocity has potential to tick up a bit; hard bite to slider in mid-80s; bat-missing potential; curveball flashes tight two-plane break; changes eye levels well with offering; turns over change with arm-side fade and some drop; plus command profile; high competitive nature.
Weaknesses: Body is on the mature side for age; physical gains likely to be more limited; still learning how to throw secondary stuff for strikes; tends to consistently try to bury curveball and slider; will cast curve; can get too soft and lose teeth; change is presently more like a fastball pitcher is taking something off of; too firm and lacks finish at times.
Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter
Realistic Role: High 5ighH; no. 3/4 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; yet to reach upper levels; health concerns (type 1 diabetes/shoulder impingement in 2014); command progression.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Stewart has the highest fantasy upside of any starting pitcher in this system, including the closer name ahead of him and the younger guys behind him. At peak, he could come close to 200 strikeouts with that fastball/slider combination and with a strong control profile, could throw a ton of innings to boot. If the shoulder soreness is nothing major, Stewart could pitch himself into a top-five fantasy pitching prospect by season’s end.
The Year Ahead: Stewart did little to disappoint during his debut season, outside of offer some mild durability concerns after missing some time in the middle of the season due to a shoulder impingement and having things shut down early in mid-August after having trouble getting loose in a start. All indications were the organization was taking precautionary measures with one of their prized assets and that the 20-year-old is at full health heading into this season. This right-hander features four pitches that all flash the potential to round to better than average, with both the fastball and slider already consistently playing right around plus. Toss in extremely easy arm action with a high level of athleticism and the peak payout can be of the front-line variety. The near term for Stewart resides with improving his command, which has a good chance to take steps forward with repetition due to his overall looseness and ease. An assignment in the Florida State League to start the season will be a challenge for the young arm, but the present quality of the stuff points to him being able to adjust and assimilate quickly. Don’t rule out the possibility of the prospect finishing out 2015 in Double-A, and in the process, showing that the gap to the on-paper potential is quickly closing.
Major league ETA: Late 2016
5. Jose Berrios
Height/Weight: 6’0” 187 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, Papa Juan HS (Bayamon, PR)
Previous Ranking: #6 (Org), #75 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: 3.54 ERA (40.2 IP, 33 H, 28 K, 12 BB) at Double-A New Britain, 1.96 ERA (96.1 IP, 78 H, 109 K, 23 BB) at High-A Fort Myers
The Tools: 6 FB; 6 potential CB; 6+ potential CH
What Happened in 2014: The 20-year-old right-hander took a strong step forward, where his electric stuff led to a quick mastery of High-A, and pushed him into the upper levels a bit earlier than expected.
Strengths: Extremely fast arm; athletic delivery; fastball comfortably works 92-95; good life when thrown in lower tier of strike zone; snaps curveball with tight rotation and strong depth; hard downward break through zone; future out-pitch; turns over quality changeup; flashes arm-side fade and occasional bottom-out action; throws with arm speed in sync with fastball; shows as present plus offering; likes to come after hitters on the mound; competitive nature; excellent makeup.
Weaknesses: Has to consistently work in the lower tier to create angle on hitters; limited size; fastball gets flat when from middle of thighs and up; prone to hard contact when stuff is elevated; wraps wrist when delivering curveball at times; can roll and sweep; still learning how to throw good strikes; can struggle spotting heater to glove side.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Realistic Role: 5; late-innings reliever (setup)
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; limited Double-A experience; command progression.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There isn’t ace potential here, despite how good his lower minors’ stats were, but Berrios can be a strong contributor in all four categories at the major-league level. Of course, he’ll have to prove he can throw 200 innings in a season, but he keeps getting closer to doing so. If it happens, he can have a future as a solid SP3 who can strikeout 170 batters and keep his ratios strong.
The Year Ahead: Berrios certainly made some noise this past season as a rising arm within this system, where the right-hander showed tangible developmental progress, continuing to refine his arsenal and sharpen the overall package. The stuff can be downright electric in outings, and the right-hander flashed much more consistency over the course of the long season as well. The road will get tougher for the native of Puerto Rico this year in the upper levels, with how well he can consistently spot in the lower tier of the strike zone with the heater and change the eye levels of hitters in conjunction as key aspects to look for. While the realistic role lists a late-innings reliever—and there are sentiments from evaluators that the profile may fit the best there over the long-haul—the view here sees Berrios having a good chance to make things work in the rotation and push up close to the overall future potential. This is a prospect with the mentality, work ethic, and feel for his craft to continue to make the necessary improvements. If adjustments click quickly for Berrios in this full tour in Double-A, there’s a good chance he’s going to roll to a major-league debut at some point before season’s end, and have a legit chance to win spot in 2016.
Major league ETA: Late 2015
6. Nick Gordon
Height/Weight: 6’0” 160 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2014 draft, Olympia HS (Orlando, FL)
Previous Ranking: NA
2014 Stats: .294/.333/.366 at short-season Elizabethton (57 games)
The Tools: 6 arm; 6 potential hit; 6 potential glove; 5+ run
What Happened in 2014: Considered the top infield talent in this past year’s draft, the Florida native was quickly snatched up at fourth overall, and proceeded to get a solid introduction to professional ball in the Appalachian League in preparation for ramping into the developmental journey.
Strengths: Above-average athlete; good feel for the game; shows fluid overall actions; quick hands; compact stroke from left side; barrels offerings well into both gaps; looks foul line to foul line; can put a charge into ball when turning on fastballs; soft glove; gets feet and body in position well; arm for left side of the infield; high potential to stick up the middle; gets out of box well; high baseball IQ.
Weaknesses: Limited physical projection; swing is more line-drive orientated; power likely to play below to fringe average; will need to learn when to take chances to make pitchers pay; can lunge and reach at off-speed stuff; in early stages of developing understanding of strike zone; can struggle with reads in field; will get caught flat footed, limiting range; needs to reign arm in.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Realistic Role: 5; major-league regular
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; short-season resume; hit tool progression.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The ability to stick at shortstop, while a nice bonus in fantasy, isn’t as important as it is for the Twins. The combination of a distant ETA and the lack of a carrying fantasy tool (despite a potentially strong contribution in batting average), leaves Gordon on the outside looking in at the first round in most dynasty drafts this year.
The Year Ahead: Gordon represents yet another front-of-the-draft talent procured by the Twins in recent years, which speaks volumes to both the stock pile of top prospects in this system and plights of the big club. The 19-year-old is a natural defender at shortstop, with a projectable hit tool highlighted by quick hands and a compact stroke. Despite the young age and inexperience as a pro, this prospect offers a higher floor and less (to a certain extent) variability in the overall outcome given the value in a legit up-the-middle defender, where things can comfortably play as a first-division player for a long stretch of his career. Gordon is likely set for an assignment in the Midwest League this season, with the objective to be heavily focused on building the offensive foundation and getting ample reps in the field to begin smoothing out the rough edges with his reads. There’s strong feel for the game here, with the belief that strides and improvements will begin to take as the experience grows. A massive acceleration with the skillset during 2015 is a low probability expectation, but by season’s end the shortstop should be showing tangible progress forward and offering the promise that he can join the headliner of this list as a strong up-the-middle backbone for future seasons to come.
Major league ETA: Late 2018
7. Lewis Thorpe
Height/Weight: 6’1” 160 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2012, Australia
Previous Ranking: #8 (Org), #101 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: 3.52 ERA (71.2 IP, 62 H, 80 K, 36 BB) at Low-A Cedar Rapids
The Tools: 7 potential FB; 6+ potential CH; 6 potential CB; 5+ potential SL
What Happened in 2014: The young Aussie left-hander hit full-season ball earlier than expected, where he more than held his own during a half a season of action and showed an overall package that is beginning to take the initial steps forward.
Strengths: Very projectable body; delivery is loose, easy, and repeatable; keeps arm in slot well; fastball works 91-94 with arm-side run; potential for more velocity gains; spins curve with good snap; flashes tight rotation and knee-bending depth; will change shape; can turn over changeup with high-quality action; flashes feel for slider with short, tight break; plus overall command profile; advanced pitchability for age.
Weaknesses: Still maturing physically; needs more strength to handle rigors of position; mechanics can get loose deeper into outings; velocity will dip at times; in the process of building arm strength; curve will get soft and big; fastball tends to flatten out in upper tier; will need to sharpen ability to spot east/west in lower tier; slider least mature of secondary offerings; tends to sweep more than dart.
Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter
Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; limited full-season experience; 19-years-old; ability to withstand workload.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Thorpe is a very exciting arm in our circles, as he has the potential for three bat-missing pitches—which gives him the potential for elite strikeout numbers. The control and command are things to watch as it affects his overall upside, but with reasonable steps forward there, he could work his way to SP2 standing.
The Year Ahead: This past season shouldn’t be considered a full-fledged breakout for Thorpe, but it’s definitely the early signs that this arm is starting to gain developmental traction and that a larger outburst can be achieved in the not-so-distant future. While the 19-year-old left-hander is still on the raw side and has a ways to go, the arm has shown progress tightening up his stuff in the last twelve months and has begun to experience physical gains that are helping to push advancements quicker. There really isn’t any rush here with the prospect, so a return to the Midwest League in 2015 to build more innings before being bumped up to the next level shouldn’t be seen as a negative development. One area of unknown for Thorpe is how well the stuff is going to play over the course of a full season. The Aussie has seen an uptick in velocity, but it hasn’t been tested as to whether it is something that can be maintained. This season will be about establishing a full year of workload, where there’s a good chance that this arm can take a legit jump forward.
Major league ETA: Late 2017
8. Nick Burdi
Height/Weight: 6’5” 215 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2014 draft, University of Louisville (Louisville, KY)
Previous Ranking: NA
2014 Stats: 0.00 ERA (7.1 IP, 5 H, 12 K, 2 BB) at High-A Fort Myers, 4.15 ERA (13 IP, 8 H, 26 K, 8 BB) at Low-A Cedar Rapids
The Tools: 8 FB; 6 SL; 5 CH
What Happened in 2014: The fire baller out of the University of Louisville didn’t disappoint with the radar gun readings after signing with the organization and continued to add fuel to the thoughts during his initial transition to professional ball that a fast track to the majors is all but likely.
Strengths: Elite arm strength; sturdy build; can use body to advantage; fastball easily operates 96-100; capable of touching higher; explosive offering; hitters must gear up; generates late swings; can be very overpowering; snaps slider with loose wrist; hard, off-the-table break with downward action; bat-misser; turns over changeup with arm-side fade; competitor; likes to come right after hitters.
Weaknesses: Effort in delivery; landing can be inconsistent; not the cleanest of footwork; rushes at times; command and control can come and go; fastball will work too elevated and in the middle of the plate; will need to spot more against advanced bats; change can be too firm and blend in with slider; needs to throw more strikes overall.
Overall Future Potential: 6; late-innings reliever (top-tier closer)
Realistic Role: High 5; late-innings reliever (closer/setup)
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; mature arsenal; command consistency.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The thought of having a future closer in your farm team is certainly an admirable one, but with the historical inconsistencies of “safe” college relievers and difficulty in predicting role outcomes, Burdi remains a difficult sell to dynasty leaguers. He should not be taken in the first thirty picks of drafts this offseason.
The Year Ahead: When it comes to high-octane fastballs and lighting up the radar gun at or near triple digits consistently, Burdi has the market corned. But this right-hander isn’t just all about the heater as he can snap off a mid-to-upper 80s slider with wipeout break and sprinkle in a fading changeup when needed. Make no mistakes about the profile here as this is a reliever all the way, but one who can provide considerable impact at the back of a bullpen and take ownership of the ninth inning. This is more of a finished product, though Burdi can stand to fine tune his fastball command and throw more strikes overall. There’s also a tendency to work a bit too elevated, but he can challenge often due to the quality of the fastball. The soon-to-be 22-year-old should start the season in the upper levels, where the power stuff will likely overmatch opposing hitters in short order. It’ll be a good sign to see the righty tightening up on the aforementioned needs, which will point to a smoother assimilation into the majors and go a long way towards solidifying himself as a top-flight closer over the long haul.
Major league ETA: 2015
9. Jorge Polanco
Height/Weight: 5’11” 165 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2009, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #10 (Org)
2014 Stats: .333/.500/.833 at major-league level (5 games), .281/.323/.342 at Double-A New Britain (37 games), .291/.364/.415 at High-A Fort Myers (94 games)
The Tools: 6 potential hit; 6 run; 5+ glove
What Happened in 2014: The smooth-swinging infielder created a lot of contact across two levels of the minors, with a brief call-up to The Show sandwiched between, serving as a taste of life with the big club.
Strengths: Quick hands; type that easily stay inside of ball; gets barrel on offerings consistently from both sides of the plate; line-drive stroke; gap power; all-fields approach—consistently looks up the middle; easy-plus runner; soft hands; quick first step; good glove technique; intelligent player.
Weaknesses: Body can stand to add strength to handle grind of long season; lacks arm strength to make play from deep in the hole; better fit for second base; defense can be on the loose side; power is more doubles than over the fence; could stand to look to muscle up more to keep arms honest; offensive profile hinges on hit tool playing to full utility; runs well, but jumps need work to round into stolen base threat.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; solid-average regular
Realistic Role: 5; average major leaguer
Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; limited Double-A experience; hit tool will need to carry the profile.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: In a system of enormous upside, Polanco is an exception—though as a potential .290 hitter who could steal 20 bases (despite the minor-league totals), there’s some heat to the profile. Of course, he’s more of a MI play even at best.
The Year Ahead: Polanco’s brief call to the majors from High-A last year was a move made more out of necessity, but spoke to the belief in the 21-year-old’s makeup to be able to handle such a transition. The mind is also an asset for the Dominican when it comes to his offensive approach. The switch-hitter is more than willing to use the whole field, take what is given to him from opposing arms, and rarely tries to sellout or over-swing. These attributes allow his quick hands and plus bat speed do the rest. A full go-around in Double-A this season should further test Polanco’s ability to make consistent contact and begin to challenge him as a hitter to do a little bit more damage in situations that dictate it. While the actions and glove in the field have been getting better, the arm isn’t really suited for the left side of the infield and second base is the likely home at the major-league level. There’s a utility floor in the profile, with the translation of the hit tool as the leading factor to achieving status as a regular.
Major league ETA: Made debut in 2014
10. Stephen Gonsalves
Height/Weight: 6’5” 190 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 4th round, 2013 draft, Cathedral Catholic HS (San Diego, CA)
Previous Ranking: On The Rise
2014 Stats: 3.19 ERA (36.2 IP, 31 H, 44 K, 11 BB) at Low-A Cedar Rapids, 2.79 ERA (29 IP, 23 H, 26 K, 10 BB) at short-season Elizabethton
The Tools: 6+ potential FB; 6+ potential CH; 5+ potential CB
What Happened in 2014: The young left-hander impressed during his first full professional season, where the shine and early feel for the raw stuff pushed him to a one-month stint in full-season ball to close out the year.
Strengths: Very projectable arm; frame to grow into; feel for craft; easy, repeatable delivery; capable of creating good angle and plane; fastball works 91-93 with late arm-side life; touches up higher in short spurts (95); potential to add sitting velocity with physical maturation; turns over quality changeup; present plus offering; excellent parachuting action; swing-and-miss offering; flashes feel for spinning curveball; spike break; high potential for command growth.
Weaknesses: On the lean and wiry side; body is immature; needs added strength to enhance overall package and hold up over long run; delivery can come and go in stretches; not a great present finisher; fastball command is below average; will work in dangerous spots elevated; curve is inconsistent; often gets loose and slurvy; still learning how to create consistent snap; at times deliberate delivering change.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2/3 starter
Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; limited pro experience; large gap between present and future.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Sure, the Twins really need another big upside arm. Gonsalves is a name that is likely unowned in plenty of leagues that roster 250-plus prospects, but shouldn’t be. The fastball/change combo from the left side is one that can be fantasy friendly from a strikeout perspective.
The Year Ahead: Gonsalves is one of those arms to really dream on, with both the raw stuff and size to round into a highly effective starter down the line. The left-hander gave a glimpse of how things can look during a brief taste of full-season ball in the month of August, where both the quality of the fastball and changeup stood at the forefront. Each offering shows the promise to evolve into legit weapons at his disposal. While the curveball is on the inconsistent side, there’s already been good progress since signing, with one evaluator spoken to when putting this list together expressing the belief that it is only a matter of time before the offering is on a similar level as the other two. The potential for three above-average-to-better pitches speaks loudly to what this arm can become. At the center of Gonsalves’ near-term development is the need for added strength and more consistency finishing his delivery, which will serve as a strong jolt for really pushing this package forward. Expect some ebb and flow during the season at A-Ball, mainly in regards to holding his stamina over the grind of the year and working to lock in the delivery, but it’s a prospect who can be really starting to make waves at this time next offseason and pushing as yet another riser in this deep system.
Major league ETA: 2018
Prospects on the Rise:
1. RHP Michael Cederoth: When the Twins took this right-hander out of San Diego State in the third round, it gave them the nod for landing the two hardest throwers in this year’s draft. Like new system-mate Nick Burdi, Cederoth routinely dials his heater up to the triple digits and served as a closer in college this past season. The 22-year-old still does possess the depth of a starter’s arsenal (converted to the bullpen this season), where he’ll also feature a slider, changeup, and curve into sequences. The slider and change are regarded as the lead secondary pieces, though the curve will flash solid depth at times. Look for the righty to keep getting stretched out in a starter’s role to help smooth out the delivery more and further sharpen the secondary stuff in 2015. The smart money says the end outcome is a high-leverage reliever, but don’t rule out that chance the organization lets it marinade for a bit as a starter to see if some adjustments take.
2. 1B Lewin Diaz: The 2013 international signee out of the Dominican Republic brings plus-plus raw power to the diamond, where the strength level and already filled-out nature of the body stand out considerably for an 18-year-old. There’s very little projection needed for drawing a physical conclusion with this prospect. Chatter from sources during this year’s Fall Instructional League all highlighted the ease in which Diaz creates power and the natural loft in his swing. Each source spoken to also was quick to point out the “five o’clock” nature of his hit tool presently and unevenness with the speed of the game. Both of which are aspects to be expected from a player with this experience level, but signs that point to a more modest early-career translation. The first-base-only nature always brings pause, but the power here can play and end up playing big. A stateside debut in 2015 should be in the cards, and a showing that proves the hit tool is more in line with the competition will start pushing the stock considerably in short order. You have been warned.
3. LHP Cameron Booser: Injuries have been a reoccurring theme on the 22-year-old left-hander’s resume since high school, dealing with the likes of Tommy John, a torn ACL, and other elbow discomforts along the way, before finding himself signed into the organization as an undrafted free agent in 2013. This arm is a deep sleeper in a thick system, but an extended clean bill of health and opportunity to throw consistently may just prove there’s more than initially met the eye. Reports from sources highlighted a fastball that was up to 96-99 mph by late season, paired with a hard-breaking slider and change he can turn over with some feel. One evaluator spoken to expressed strong thoughts that this may just be the type of late-blooming arm that seems to come out of nowhere to cement himself on the map. The ability to stay healthy is obviously a concern and will be closely watched this season, along with whether the uptick in stuff is just a short-term mirage, but don’t rule out that further traction can make this more of a known name at this point next year.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2015)
1. RHP Jake Reed: If it seems like a theme here, it is. The fifth-round pick out of Oregon is another freshly acquired arm that can track quickly through the system and potentially reach the bigs this coming year. Like his peers, Reed is a power arm with an aggressive mentality and the ability to get nasty in short spurts. The lively mid-90s fastball and hard breaking ball headline this package. The 22-year-old also comes from more of a low-to-mid three-quarters look that creates an uncomfortable angle and solid run with the heater. The advanced stuff should carve hitters up into the upper levels, where if Reed continues to hit little resistance, he can get a look as a seventh/eighth-inning arm and start bridging innings as the summer months heat up.
2. RHP Trevor May: The overall output has never really lined up with the talent, but the right-hander did put together a solid 2014 in Triple-A, albeit the call-up to The Show did leave a lot to be desired. May should get a chance to put his name into the hat for a look in the rotation this year, where if he can place his fastball down in the zone more and stay out of the thick of the plate, the results can be indicative of a back-end starter over the long-run. It’s a big-league arm, and one who can help in some capacity if called upon and gain legs as a late-bloomer.
3. 2B/OF Eddie Rosario: After missing time to start the year (suspension for a drug of abuse), inconsistency plagued the left-handed hitter before a strong run in the Arizona Fall League, where he ended up second in the league in batting average. Rosario certainly has talent with the stick as he flashes a smooth stroke with some leverage and the ability to impact offerings with backspin. Too often, though, the 23-year-old loses his identity as a hitter and tries to play the over-the-fence masher role instead of the gap-to-gap hitter with some pop. There’s a good chance Rosario gets a look in 2015 if the late-season momentum keeps going, where adjustments with his mindset will need to be a reality versus tease for this profile to maintain status as a regular as opposed to an up-and-down type filling spots on a roster as needed over the long run.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/89 or later)
- Byron Buxton
- Miguel Sano
- Alex Meyer
- Kennys Vargas
- Kohl Stewart
- Jose Berrios
- Nick Gordon
- Nick Burdi
- Oswaldo Arcia
- Danny Santana
How you feel about this particular collection of 25 and under talent probably depends on your feelings for flawed, young players who are currently getting away with terrible plate discipline. After all, it seems as though the Twins major-league roster has that particular market cornered.
Kennys Vargas got his career off to a nice start, and an earlier one than many expected, serving as the Twins designated hitter for the final third of the season and handling the challenge well. Still, it remains to be seen how he will handle the adjustments the league is bound to make towards him and offers nothing defensively as long as Joe Mauer is around. The combination of proximity and ceiling put Vargas ahead of the prospect contingent that makes up the middle portion of this list. Kohl Stewart and Jose Berrios are neck and neck, but neither can offer the certainty of Vargas, who should hit 20 home runs in the big leagues next season.
Oswaldo Arcia has already managed a 20-homer season in the big leagues, accomplishing the feat in just 103 games in 2014 as a 23-year-old. Still, his 31 percent strikeout rate is frightening, as are his lefty-righty splits, which feature a drop of almost 200 points in OPS against same-side pitching. There are still questions about just how close he gets to his ceiling.
Danny Santana was the surprise of the season, not only for the Twins, but perhaps in the American League, inserting himself into the AL Rookie of the Year race while playing two up-the-middle positions. Unfortunately, much of his success was driven by an incredible .405 BABIP, and despite his spot up the middle of the field, he’s not particularly adept at either position. He does, however, offer base-running value that serves as much more of a certainty than the remainder of his game.
The prospect talent in the system is among the best in the game, and the Twins got strong performances from young players in some places they didn’t anticipate this season. Still, all of the pieces already in place in the majors come with at least one significant question mark, leaving them with something to prove and a big year coming for the organization in 2015. –Jeff Moore
A Parting Thought: A run of drafting early in rounds and finding the right fit of international players, combined with the knack for identifying the right developmental buttons to push, has this system overflowing with talent and in a boom or bust situation for providing a wave of impact talent to help change the recent fortunes of the parent club around.