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2/7/16

The state of the Twins rotation, and the opening day starter, according to Molitor

Last week, Paul Molitor had an interview with Darren Wolfson discussing several items on the state of the Twins.  The link is here, 12 minutes long video and very worthwhile.   In that video Molitor was asked about the Twins' 2016 rotation, and he practically said that:

Ervin Santana, Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes (in that order) will be part of the Twins' rotation.  Additionally, Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Milone were not "promised" a spot, and will have to earn that spot in Spring Training, in a battle that will include Tyler Duffey, Trevor May and Jose Berrios.

A few thoughts out of those statements:

  • It seems that the Twins will have a new opening day starter, Ervin Santana in 2016.  Here is a list of the Twins' opening day starter, since the last time they had a person fulfill that role in two consecutive seasons:
    • 2015 - Phil Hughes
    • 2014 - Ricky Nolasco
    • 2013 - Vance Worley
    • 2012 - Carl Pavano
    • 2011 - Carl Pavano
  • My impression for the rotation would be that the Twins will "follow the money", i.e.  the players who make the most (Nolasco and Milone) would be given a spot just to justify the spend.  This has been the usual Twins' mode of operations.  Whether there will really be a battle for those 2 spots on the field, instead of paper, is yet to be seen.
  • It seems that for some unfortunate reason, the pitcher with the higher upside in the Twins' organization, and arguably (I have not see Tyler Jay as a starter) the only with Ace stuff and potential, Alex Meyer, is not considered for a position in the rotation at this point.  I will probably have to write a whole article about it, but 2015 was not that much worse than 2014 for Meyer, mechanics and consistency were the biggest issues (translated into command and control on the mound,) and the pitching coach who could not help him paid with his job.
  • The rotation will definitely be an interesting side story to check out this Spring for the Twins, since a lot of it, will affect how the bullpen (which looks as Abad as that of 2015) will end up looking.

1/29/16

Complete List of the Twins 2016 Diamond Awards

Last night, in the eve of Twinsfest, the Minnesota Twins announced the 2016 Diamond Awards for the 2015 season.  The recipients were:

Calvin R. Griffith Award - Twins' MVP: Miguel Sano
Bill Boni Award - Twins' Most Outstanding Rookie: Miguel Sano
Bob Allison Award - Twins' player who exemplifies determination, hustle, tenacity, competitive spirit and leadership both on and off the field: Torii Hunter
Mike Augustin "Media Good Guy" Award: Torii Hunter
Joseph W. Haynes Award - Twins' Pitcher of the Year: Kyle Gibson
Jim Kaat Award- Twins' Defensive Player of the Year: Eddie Rosario
Charles O. Johnson Award- Twins' Most Improved Player: Aaron Hicks
Dick Siebert Award - Upper Midwest Player of the Year: Tony Watson (Pirates)
Carl R. Pohlad Community Service Award: Brian Dozier
Sherry Robertson Award - Twins' Minor League Player of the Year:  Max Kepler
Jim Rantz Award  - Twins' Minor League Pitcher of the Year: Jose Berrios
Herb Carneal- Lifetime Achievement Award: Tom Kelly
Kirby Puckett - Alumni Community Service Award: Julio Becquer (Oldest living former Major Leaguer at 100 years old; broke in the majors with the Senators in 1955)

1/28/16

The Twins just gave fans a great reason to watch home games on Fridays

The Minnesota Twins today announced new Red alternate home jerseys and caps that will be worn on every Friday at  Target Field.   Long overdue, really sharp red uniforms, are much better than the 1997 single year Red Alternate uniform that was identical to the co-existing then Blue Alternate in a different color.

Here is what the New Uniforms will look like, from the Twins' official website.

And here is the Twins' official video with Paul Molitor and Joe Mauer wearing them.


The website shows a totally red hat, but in the video, the hat has a blue bill.  We shall see the final version of the hat soon. 

The hope is that Starting Pitchers will opt for this uniform more days than Fridays over the regular home tidy whities... 

1/21/16

2016 Twins offseason top 40 prospects: Summary and Meta Analysis

I am trying something new this year.  Instead of summarizing the top 40 Twins' prospects list,  I am doing some actual analysis as well, which I believe might be telling for the system.

This is the last segment in this series.  You can find the introductory segment in this series, including my criteria for eligibility to be a prospect and the list of the 2015 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the systemhere.  Here is my 2015 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

You can find players 36-40 here, players 31-35 hereplayers 26-30 hereplayers 21-25 hereplayers 16-20 here, players 11-15 here,  players 6-10 hereand players 1-5 here


Here are the top 40 with position indicated and 2015 rank in parenthesis, along with Estimated Time of Arrival :

1. Jose Berrios RHSP (5), 2016
2. Tyler Jay (--) LHSP, 2017
3. Nick Burdi (6) RHRP, 2016
4. Stephen Gonsalves (13) LHSP, 2018
5. Lewin Diaz (9) 1B/DH, 2019
6. JT Chargois (--) RHRP, 2016
7. Wander Javier (--) SS, 2020+
8. Jermaine Palacios (36) SS/3B, 2020
9. Nick Gordon (12) SS, 2019
10. Mitch Garver (17) C, 2017
11. Levi Michael (22), 2B, 2016
12. Mason Melotakis (--), LHRP, 2016
13. Kohl Stewart RHSP (7), 2017
14. Travis Harrison (14), OF/1B, 2017
15. Amaurys Minier (6) OF/1B, 2019
16. Jake Reed (16) RHRP, 2017
17. Lewis Thorpe (11) LHSP, 2019
18. Daniel Palka (--) OF, 2017
19. Adam Walker (21), OF, 2016
20. Felix Jorge (29), RHSP, 2018
21. Rainis Silva (24), C, 2018
22. Jean Carlos Arias (--), CF, 2020
23. Engelb Vielma SS (20), 2017
24. Luis Arraez IF (40), 2019
25. Ryan Eades RHSP (30), 2017
26. Lachlan Wells (--), LHSP, 2020
27. Huascar Ynoa (--), RHSP, 2020
28. Brusdar Graterol (--), RHSP, 2020+
29. Brandon Peterson (27), RHRP, 2017
30. Taylor Rogers (--), LHR/SP, 2016
31. LaMonte Wade (--), CF, 2018
32. Kolton Kendrick (--), 1B/DH, 2020+
33. Chris Paul (--) IF/OF, 2018
34. Fernardo Romero (37), RHSP, 2019
35. Yorman Landa (--), RHRP, 2018
36. Kuo Hua Lo (--), RHRP, 2018
37. Niko Goodrum (--), CF/IF, 2017
38. Travis Blankenhorn (--), 3B/1B, 2020
39. Trey Cabbage (--), IF/OF, 2020+
40. Emmanuel Morel (--) IF, 2020+


Here is a full list of subtractions from the 2014 off-season list (that ranking in parenthesis) :

Graduated: Miguel Sano 3B (1), Jorge Polanco SS (2), Byron Buxton OF (3), Alex Meyer RHP (4), Eddie Rosario OF (8), Max Kepler OF/1B (12)

Traded: Chih-Wei Hu RHP (18),  Alexis Tapia RHP (25)

Released: Tyler Kuresa 1B (38)

Retired: Mat Batts LHP (35)

Dropped: Jorge Fernandez C (19),  Mike Cederoth RHP (23), Max Murphy OF (26), Stuart Turner C (28) , Aaron Slegers RHP (31), Randy Rosario  RHP (32), Zach Larson OF (33), Todd Van Steensen RHP (34), Moises Gomez RHP (39)

For a total of 19 players, so a good 47.5% turnover from last season


Here is the list by position:

 1. Jose Berrios RHSP (5), 2016
13. Kohl Stewart RHSP (7), 2017
20. Felix Jorge  (29), RHSP, 2018
25. Ryan Eades RHSP (30), 2017
27. Huascar Ynoa (--), RHSP, 2020
28. Brusdar Graterol (--), RHSP, 2020+
29. Brandon Peterson (27), RHRP, 2017
34. Fernardo Romero (37), RHSP, 2019

2. Tyler Jay (--) LHSP, 2017
4. Stephen Gonsalves (13) LHSP, 2018
17. Lewis Thorpe (11) LHSP, 2019
26. Lachlan Wells (--), LHSP, 2020
30. Taylor Rogers (--), LHR/SP, 2016

3. Nick Burdi (6) RHRP, 2016
6. JT Chargois (--) RHRP, 2016
16. Jake Reed (16) RHRP, 2017
35. Yorman Landa (--), RHRP, 2018
36. Kuo Hua Lo (--), RHRP, 2018

12. Mason Melotakis (--), LHRP, 2016

10. Mitch Garver (17) C, 2017
21. Rainis Silva (24), C, 2018

5. Lewin Diaz (9) 1B/DH, 2019
32. Kolton Kendrick (--), 1B/DH, 2020+
33. Chris Paul (--) IF/OF, 2018
38. Travis Blankenhorn (--), 3B/1B, 2020
39. Trey Cabbage (--), IF/OF, 2020+

11. Levi Michael (22), 2B, 2016
24. Luis Arraez IF (40), 2019
40. Emmanuel Morel (--) IF, 2020+

7. Wander Javier (--) SS, 2020+
8. Jermaine Palacios (36) SS/3B, 2020
9. Nick Gordon (12) SS, 2019
23. Engelb Vielma SS (20), 2017

14. Travis Harrison (14), OF/1B, 2017
15. Amaurys Minier (6) OF/1B, 2019
18. Daniel Palka (--) OF, 2017
19. Adam Walker (21), OF, 2016
22. Jean Carlos Arias (--),  CF, 2020
31. LaMonte Wade (--), CF, 2018
37. Niko Goodrum (--), CF/IF, 2017

Clearly Catcher and LHRP are the weakest positions as far as quality prospects go.  As far as LHRPs, some of the starters in this list, primarily Taylor Rogers and Lachlan Wells, could end up as relievers.  As far as catchers go, John Hicks, who is ineligible for this list, will likely be the first one called up if need arises.  Stuart Turner, who dropped from the list, is about a season or two away and Carlos Paulino, who did not make this list, can also help this season if needed.   Definitely Catcher is a position in need and one the Twins should probably target at some point.

Here is the list broken down by ETA:

1. Jose Berrios RHSP (5), 2016
3. Nick Burdi (6) RHRP, 2016
6. JT Chargois (--) RHRP, 2016
11. Levi Michael (22), 2B, 2016
12. Mason Melotakis (--), LHRP, 2016
19. Adam Walker (21), OF, 2016
30. Taylor Rogers (--), LHR/SP, 2016

2. Tyler Jay (--) LHSP, 2017
10. Mitch Garver (17) C, 2017
13. Kohl Stewart RHSP (7), 2017
14. Travis Harrison (14), OF/1B, 2017
16. Jake Reed (16) RHRP, 2017
18. Daniel Palka (--) OF, 2017
23. Engelb Vielma SS (20), 2017
25. Ryan Eades RHSP (30), 2017
29. Brandon Peterson (27), RHRP, 2017
37. Niko Goodrum (--), CF/IF, 2017

4. Stephen Gonsalves (13) LHSP, 2018
20. Felix Jorge  (29), RHSP, 2018
21. Rainis Silva (24), C, 2018
31. LaMonte Wade (--), CF, 2018
33. Chris Paul (--) IF/OF, 2018
35. Yorman Landa (--), RHRP, 2018
36. Kuo Hua Lo (--), RHRP, 2018

5. Lewin Diaz (9) 1B/DH, 2019
9. Nick Gordon (12) SS, 2019
17. Lewis Thorpe (11) LHSP, 2019
15. Amaurys Minier (6) OF/1B, 2019
24. Luis Arraez IF (40), 2019
34. Fernardo Romero (37), RHSP, 2019

7. Wander Javier (--) SS, 2020+
8. Jermaine Palacios (36) SS/3B, 2020
22. Jean Carlos Arias (--),  CF, 2020
26. Lachlan Wells (--), LHSP, 2020
27. Huascar Ynoa (--), RHSP, 2020
28. Brusdar Graterol (--), RHSP, 2020+
32. Kolton Kendrick (--), 1B/DH, 2020+
38. Travis Blankenhorn (--), 3B/1B, 2020
39. Trey Cabbage (--), IF/OF, 2020+
40. Emmanuel Morel (--) IF, 2020+

Even though six out of the top 12 prospects from the 2014 list have already graduated, it is great to see that there is a good pipeline of top 15 talent MLB-ready (ETA 2016) and close to MLB-ready (ETA 2017) in a variety of positions.  The Long Term (ETA 2018, 2019-2020+) is sure to change and some of those players might move up the ranks and might arrive faster than it is thought.   It is also certain that additional players not on the list (or even in the organization) today, will be able to be top contributors from 2018-2020.   Another impressive and even serendipitous situation is that the Twins' weakest point, the bullpen, likely has the strongest immediate and short term pipeline.

Looking forward to see these prospects play this Spring and throughout the season.  It has been some work, but very enjoyable work for me to do these lists.



 

1/19/16

2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list: 1-5

You can find the introductory segment in this series, including my criteria for eligibility to be a prospect and the list of the 2015 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2015 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

You can find players 36-40 here, players 31-35 here, players 26-30 here, players 21-25 here, players 16-20 here, players 11-15 here, and players 6-10 here

5 Lewin Diaz (9)
DOB: 11/19/1996; Age: 19
Positions: 1B/DH
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'3", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 7/2/2013
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: Rookie/Elizabethton (2015)

Lewin Diaz was singed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from the Dominican Republic for $1.4 million bonus in 2013.   He made the transition to the US, after a hitting .257/.385/.451 in the DSL in 2014, his age 17 season.  This season he hit .261/.354/.369 in 33 games in the GCL and finished the last 14 games of the season hitting .167/.245/.375 in Elizabethton.   This was mainly a season of adjustment for Diaz, who would have not earned the promotion had he not hit .522/.607/.696 for August in the GCL, and likely would have served better not making the trip to Elizabethton.  One interesting thing that the numbers do not show about Elizabethton is that those 14 games there were the only night games Diaz has played as a professional, since both the DSL and GCL play day games only.

Diaz is the highest ranked position player in this list, and this speaks as much for Diaz as it does for the number of prospects who graduated this list.  More like Miguel Sano with the bat (minus some power and some strikeouts, plus some plate discipline) than Kennys Vargas, but more like Vargas with the glove, Diaz is a player who can be a workable first baseman.  Listed very generously at 6'3" and 180 lbs, likely has the highest LHB power potential in the organization, with close to .200 isoP as a teenager, and he still is learning how to swing the bat.  It will be interesting to see how he does next season and in full-season ball when he gets into his twenties.

Likely 2016 path: Extending Spring Training and then starting first baseman for the Elizabethton Twins

ETA: 2019

4 Stephen Gonsalves (13)
DOB: 7/8/1994; Age: 21
Positions: LHP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'5", Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired: 4th Round Draft Pick 2013
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (2015)

Gonsalves was drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 draft from Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, and has been playing in 2 levels every season in the pros so far.  And he has been successful in each of those levels.   In 2013 he slit time between GLC and Elizabethton, in 2014 between Cedar Rapids and Elizabethton and last season between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers.   In Cedar Rapids he started 9 games (55 IP) walking 15 (2.4 BB/9) and striking out 77 (12.6 K/9 and 36.8 % K%) with a 1.15 ERA (2.10 FIP) and 0.80 WHIP (.243 BABIP.)  In Fort Myers he started 15 games (79.3 IP) walking 38 (4.3 BB/9) and striking out 55 (6.2 K/9 and 16.5 % K%) with a 2.61 ERA (3.58 FIP) and 1.31 WHIP (.270 BABIP.)

From the Department of Statistics that Do not Matter, he finished the season between both levels with a cumulative 13-3 record and a 2.01 ERA, which albeit mostly irrelevant is equally eye opening.  Getting into more meaningful albeit more banal measurements, he was 2 years younger than average in the Midwest League and 3 years younger than average in the Florida State League, making that drop in strikeouts and increase in walks in Fort Myers a tad more palatable.  To add, this season he pitched a career high 134.3 innings more than doubling the 65.7 he pitched in 2014.  If someone thinks that his Fort Myers' record is because he possibly ran out of gas, this is not the case.  In his first 3 starts with the Miracle he pitched 14 innings walking 10, striking out 6, surrendering 13 hits and 8 ERs  for a 5.14 ERA and 1.64 WHIP.  He made adjustments after that,  allowing him to pitch 65.3 innings in his last 12 starts walking 28 and striking out 49 (still not that optimal) for a 2.07 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.

Gosalves is a prototypical middle of the rotation type of potential talent who can flash top of the rotation moments.  Good command and control most of the time, ability to make adjustments and a good feel for the game.  Mid 90s fastball that approaches plus, a fully plus changeup and a two years old slurvy breaking ball that is improving is his pitch arsenal.

Likely 2016 path: In the Miracle rotation moving up to Chattanooga mid-season; or even starting at Chattanooga.

ETA: 2018


3 Nick Burdi (6)
DOB: 1/19/1993; Age: 23 (Happy Birthday!)
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'5", Weight: 215 lbs
Acquired: 2nd Round Draft Pick 2013
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: AA (2015)

Nick Burdi was drafted by the Twins in the second round of the 2014 draft from Louiville and from the point he signed his contract with the Twins he became the right hand reliever with the most dominating stuff in the organization regardless the level.  Burdi was major league ready last season and he is this season.  He and Jake Reed and JT Chargois, will all tell you that there must be something in the water (or the coaching) in Chattanooga, since their sustained inability to find the strike zone there.  In 2015 Burdi pitched 30 games in AA (43.7 IP) walked 32 (6.6 BB/9) and struck out 54 (11.1 K/9 and 26.3 K%) with a 4.53 ERA (3.99 FIP) and 1.65 WHIP (3.22 BABIP). In 13 games at Fort Myers (20 IP) he walked 3 (1.4 BB/9) and struck out 29 (13.1 K/9, 39.7 K%) for a 2.25 ERA (1.37 FIP) and 0.75 WHIP (.275 BABIP).  He finished the season in the Arizona Fall League, in a truly dominating fashion, when he pitched in 8 games (8 IP) walking 1 and striking out 11, allowing no earned or unearned runs and only 2 hits with a .380 WHIP.

Burdi is throwing a high 90s plus plus fastball that tops in three digits and supplements it with a plus slider that sits at 89-90, creeping into the low 90s.  He is also throwing a changeup.  Were it an isolated incident, his numbers in AA could be of some concern; looking at the facts that other top relief prospects, like Reed and Chargois suffered there and that Burdi dominated in the AFL, the concern is alleviated, but points out to a more systematic issue at Chattanooga that might need an expedited solution by the organization.  Burdi is invited in the MLB Spring Training as a non-roster invitee and has a chance to make the Twins' bullpen this season.

Likely 2016 path: (As with JT Chargois) Depending on his and others' Spring Training performances and Free Agent signings, a part of the Twins bullpen or in the closer mix for Rochester and Chattanooga.   The Twins bullpen will be very fluid this Spring.

ETA: 2016


2 Tyler Jay (--)
DOB: 4/19/1994; Age: 21
Positions: LHP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'1", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: 1st Round Draft Pick 2015
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: A+ (2015)

Tyler Jay was drafted by the Twins 6th overall in 2015 from University of Illinois (his native State.)   He was mainly the closer there appearing in 30 games (2 starts) last season pitching for 66.7 innings, walking 7 (0.9 BB/9) and striking out 77  (10.3 K/9) with a 1.08 ERA and 0.70 WHIP.  He moved on to the Fort Myers' bullpen with the Twins to appear in an additiona 19 games (18.2 IP) where he walked 8 (3.9 BB/9) and struck out 22 (10.8 K/9, 27.2 K%) for a 3.93 ERA (2.07 FIP) and 1.42 WHIP (.353 BABIP).

Jay is very similar with the pitcher who I ranked number 1 in my list for 2016 and it could have really been a tossup.  He is about a month older than Jose Berrios, they are about the same size (and have received similar size-based criticism,) they have similar stuff (even though Jay's is likely a tad better than Berrios') but the reason that Jay comes second in this comparison is that Berrios has been a pro for a while, has been a starter for a while and I have seen him pitch.  Jay has not yet proven that he can be a starter and it is unknown how his stuff will be as a starter.  He has received some comparisons with David Price (which I am not sure that I buy) basically because of their fastballs.

He has a plus to plus plus fastball that sits at 95 and peaks and 97-98 (not bad at all for a lefty) which he complements with a plus slider, an above average curve ball and an average changeup that has flashed some potential.   I think that this ranking is fair, because if a reliever, he is likely (but close) the best reliever in the system who could potentially help the Twins in 2016.  But the Twins will like to see what he can do as a starter and whether he could become a top of the rotation starter.  As a starter, he likely has more potential than Berrios, but he is not there now.  This time next season, things might look different.

Likely 2016 path: Assuming that he will be a starter:  Likely starting the season at Fort Myers with a potential promotion to Chattanooga mid-season, depending on needs and performance

ETA: 2017


1 Jose Berrios RHP (5)
DOB: 5/27/1994; Age: 21
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 185 lbs
Acquired: 1st Round Draft Pick 2012
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: AAA (2014, 2015)

Jose Berrios was drafted 32nd overall in the 2012 draft from Papa Juan High School in Puerto Rico.  Since he has joined the Twins he has been the poster boy of hard work and has rapidly risen the organizational ladder going all the way from the Gulf Coast League in 2012 to Rochester in 2014 (for just a game, but still...)  And Berrios had to fight criticism on each step about whether he is tall or strong enough to have the endurance to be a starter.  Berrios is as tall as some guy named Greg Maddux and an inch taller than another guy named Pedro Martinez. Other than his height, he does not belong in the same sentence as they do (and he may never do,) but his size will not be the reason for that.

He started the 2015 season in Chattanooga starting in 15 games (90.7 IP) and walked 24 (2.4 BB/9) while striking out 92 (9.1 K/9, 25.1 K%), for a 3.08 ERA (3.09 FIP) and a 1.11 WHIP (.296 BABIP).  He finished the season in Rochester where he started 12 games (75.7 IP) walked 14 (1.7 BB/9) and struck out 83 (9.9 K/9 and 27.7 K%) for a 2.62 ERA (2.79 FIP) and 0.96 WHIP (.278 BABIP.)  Berrios is one of the many pitchers who had problems with walks in Chattanooga (albeit his problems were lesser than the rest) in this top 40 list, compared to other places they pitched last season.  This surely looks significant enough to take a closer look this off-season (but I am digressing.)

Berrios deserves this ranking.  He started his pro career with a lot of us thinking of him as back-end of the rotation potential pitcher, then the next season mid to back of the rotation pitcher, then the season after that, mid to top of the rotation pitcher.  And that's where he is right now.  Like Jay he has four pitches:  A plus plus fastball that sits at 94-96 and tops at 98 mph, a close to plus slow curve, an above average slider and an average to above average changeup.  He uses his slow curve morer against LHBs and gets them to ground out more than righties.  As a matter of fact, he has been even or close to better against LHBs than RHBs.  He should throw his slow curve more against RHBs potentially.  He is a non-roster invitee and will fight for a job in the Twins' rotation in Spring Training.

Likely 2016 path: May win a spot in the Twins' rotation this Spring.  Likely will anchor the Rochester rotation and might see some action with the Twins as the rosters expand; not on the 40-man roster.

ETA: 2016









1/18/16

2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list: 6-10

You can find the introductory segment in this series, including my criteria for eligibility to be a prospect and the list of the 2015 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2015 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

You can find players 36-40 here, players 31-35 here, players 26-30 here, players 21-25 here, players 16-20 here, and players 11-15 here.


10. Mitch Garver (17)

DOB: 1/15/1991; Age: 25
Positions: C
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 220 lbs
Acquired: 9th Round Draft Pick 2013
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (2015)

Mitch Garver was drafted by the Twins in the 9th round of 2013 draft from University of New Mexico.  The New Mexico native arrived in the pros as a fairly polished receiver who has opened eyes with his bat last season hitting .298/.399/.481 in 502 PAs walking 61 times and striking out 65 and being good behind the plate, throwing out 32% of runners and allowing 8 passed balls (which are the exact numbers in those categories that the Twins' defensive catcher darling, Stuart Turner achieved that same season; off course Garver's OPS was .182 higher.)    


At first sight, 2015 looks a bit trying for Garver at the plate, hitting .245/.356/.333 in 520 PAs with 69 BB and 82 K for the Miracle.  This includes a .164/.287/.205 April and a .210/.350/.226 May, which makes me think that he was fighting something, including a potential adjustment.  He ended up hitting .252/.354/.372 for the second half of the season, which does not include a .330/.416/.420 June.   He was invited to the Arizona Fall League, where he bested all the Twins' prospects with .317/.404/.512.    His defense behind the plate improved in 2015, catching 38% of the runners and allowing fewer passed balls (6 vs 8) in more chances than 2014.  Garver was invited in the MLB camp in this Spring Training, but with Kurt Suzuki under contract for one more season and John Ryan Murphy as the starting catcher for 2016, and John Hicks ahead of him in the depth charts, Garver will stay in the minors for at least one more season.

Likely 2016 path: Starting Catcher at Chattanooga

ETA: 2017


9. Nick Gordon (12)
DOB: 10/14/1995; Age: 20
Positions: SS
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: 1st Round Draft Pick 2014
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A (2015)


Nick Gordon was drafted by the Twins as the 5th overall player in the 2014 draft.   Part of the frustration with Gordon is not about his potential, but about the position he was drafted in a draft that included established major leaguers like Aaron Nola, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Finnegan (among others,) being selected after him.   Gordon started his pro career in 2014 playing for Elizabethton hitting .294/.333/.366 with 11 BB and 45 K (17.6 %), 11/18 SB (61%).  In 2015 for Cedar Rapids, he hit .277/.336/.360 with 39 BB and 88 K (16.5 %), 25/33 SB (76%).  There was incremental improvement on the base paths, but in general similar results.  At this point he has gap power (23 doubles, 7 triples and 1 HRs in 535 PAs), but it does get neutralized against LHPs (.264/.325/.291; only extra base hits were 3 doubles in 110 PAs against LHPs.)

Gordon's glove is better than average at SS, and he projects to stay in the position.  The biggest issue with Gordon is that I am not sure how his bat projects at this point.  He yet has not have a season of .700 OPS in professional ball and even though his best tool is his speed; his "speed-related" hitting numbers have slightly decreased this season compared to last (76  vs 64 PA/3B and .333 vs .352 BABIP).  I know that Gordon has been ranked high by many people, and I tend to believe that the reasons are a. bloodlines and b. overall selection, which are just not enough for me to rank him higher.   Have to see a good season of hitting to do so, basically because there are better prospects (even as shortstop) ahead of him at this point, including the next two players in the list.

Likely 2016 path: Starting SS at Fort Myers

ETA: 2019



8. Jermaine Palacios (36)
DOB: 7/19/1996; Age: 19
Positions: SS/3B
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 145 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 7/2/2013
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: Rookie/Elizabethton (2015)

Palacios was signed as an International Free Agent from Venezuela in 2013 and has not stopped hitting, since he became a professional player with the Twins.  In 2014, as a 17 year old he hit .270/.404/.399    in 225 PAs in the DSL (league average OPS: .671), as an 18 year old the first half of 2015 he hit .421/.472/.589 in 106 PAs in the GCL (league average OPS: .649) and .336/.345/.507 in 149 PAs as 2.5 year younger than the average Appalachian League Player (league average OPS: .731).   Palacios last season did not walk much (BB% 8.5 in GCL and 2.1 in Appy) and did not strike out much (10.4% & 13.8%.)  He did make meaningful contact (.421 and .336 batting average.)  

Still a teenager, there are issues with his glove.  Mainly a shortstop, has played some third base in the Dominican, but this season he was a SS in all but 5 games (shared in 1B, 2B, 3B, DH and LF.)  His play in Shortstop is erratic (.918 fielding percentage in both Rookie teams for the season,) but his glove is for real.  If you compare his .336/.345/.507 this season in Elizabethton, to Gordon's .294/.333/.366 at the same age at the same league last season, you see where these players are ranked where they are ranked in this list.  Time will tell whether Palacios will remain at SS, but the Twins will try to see how long that can be. 

Likely 2016 path: Starting SS at Cedar Rapids

ETA: 2020


7. Wander Javier (--) 
DOB: 12/29/1998; Age: 17
Positions: SS
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 165 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 7/2/2015
Professional Experience: 0; Highest level: N/A


Wander Javier was signed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from the Dominican Republic last summer and has yet to play a single professional game.  His $4 million signing bonus topped what the Twins gave Miguel Sano, and any other amateur player ever for signing with them other than Joe Mauer, Kohl Stewart and Byron Buxton.  I have not seen Javier play professionally, since he has not, but I have seen plenty of video to be confident about this ranking.   At this point, he has 5 average or above average tools, with his arm and fielding above average and contact approaching plus.  Power and speed are average, but Javier who just turned 17 a month ago has room to grow.  Unlike Sano who was signed as shortstop, Javier projects to stay in the position as a professional.

Likely 2016 path: Extending Spring Training and then Starting SS for the GCL Twins

ETA: 2020+


6. JT Chargois (--) 
DOB: 12/3/1990; Age: 25
Positions: RHP
Bats: S, Throws: R
Height: 6'3", Weight: 200 lbs
Acquired: 2nd Round Draft Pick 2012
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AA (2015)


 JT Chargois was drafted by the Twins in the second round of the 2012 Draft from Rice.  The Louisiana native started his professional career that season as the Elizabethton closer, pitching 16 innings in 12 games walking 5 (2.8 BB/9) and striking out 22 (12.4 K/9 and 36.1 K%) with a 1.69 ERA (1.89 FIP) and 0.94 WHIP (.294 BABIP.)  The reason that this is the first time he appears in this list is that he missed the next 2 seasons.  After the 2012 season he has issues with his UCL, which the Twins' doctors treated by resting him.  He appeared for Extended Spring Training in 2013 but the issues resurfaced.  After another round of R&R, he finally had Tommy John Surgery on September of 2013.  In 2014 he was pitching at the Instructional League and was assigned to Fort Myers to begin 2015.

He was a Florida State League All-Star as the Miracle closer,  pitching 15 innings in 16 games walking 5 (3.8 BB/9) and striking out 19 (11.4 K/9 and 28.8 K%) with a 2.40 ERA (1.63 FIP) and 1.13 WHIP (.286 BABIP.)  He earned a promotion to Chattanooga on May 27th, where he eventually displaced Zach Jones as the closer.  He pitched 33 innings in 32 games walking 20 (5.4 BB/9) and striking out 34 (9.3 K/9 and 24.1 K%) with a 2.73 ERA (3.64 FIP) and 1.39 WHIP (.298 BABIP).  Those AA numbers seem a bit sub-par, and out of context they are.   However, Chargois, pitched 64 innings after missing 2 seasons dealing with his elbow and came back with a plus plus fastball that often topped 100 mph supplemented by a 87-88 mph plus slider that hits low 90s on occasion, but it hard to command at the higher velocities, which is what led to the increase of walks in AA.  In addition to the strikeouts, Chargois tend to produce twice as many ground balls as fly balls and is especially lethal against LHBs in that regard with the ratio up to about 2.8 last season.  What happened in Chattanooga against better competition, was that he threw more of his bat-breaking ground ball inducing fast ball than the hard to command strikeout inducing slider, which resulted into that 28.8 to 24.1 K% decrease, but in a 1.5 to 2.3 ground out to fly out increase.   Chargois has been added to the Twins 40-man roster and will have a chance to make the Twins out of Spring Traning this season, but he will have to compete with some veterans as well as with other top prospects.

Likely 2016 path: Depending on his and others' Spring Training performances and Free Agent signings, a part of the Twins bullpen or in the closer mix for Rochester and Chattanooga.   The Twins bullpen will be very fluid this Spring.

ETA: 2016


 
 

1/13/16

2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list: 11-15

You can find the introductory segment in this series, including my criteria for eligibility to be a prospect and the list of the 2015 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2015 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

You can find players 36-40 here, players 31-35 here, players 26-30 here, players 21-25 here, and players 16-20 here.

15. Amaurys Minier (6)
DOB: 1/30/1996; Age: 19
Positions: OF/1B
Bats: S, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 7/2/2012
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: Rookie/Elizabethton (2015)


The Twins signed the Dominican as a 16 year old Shortstop on July 2012 for a $1.4 million bonus.  There was no intention of keeping Minier at that position.  After off-season shoulder surgery in 2013, he returned to the GCL as an 18 year old in 2014, where he punished pitchers in average 2 years older to the rate of .292/.405/.520 with 11 doubles, 2 triples and 8 home runs.  Clearly the shoulder was healed and the 18 year old who can generate power from both sides of the plate and hit equally well lefties and righties was well on his way towards the top of the prospect rankings.  

Then 2015 happened.  A promotion in Elizabethton resulted in a .194/.279/.280 slash line. Still a year and a half younger than the league average player in the Appalachian league, and reportedly having to fight nagging injuries last season, the potential is still there, but Minier's stock nose-dove in the rankings.


Likely 2016 path: Extended Spring Training and repeating Elizabethton in July

ETA: 2019

14. Travis Harrison (14)
DOB: 10/17/1992; Age: 23
Positions: RF/LF/1B
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 215 lbs
Acquired: 1st (S) Round Draft Pick 2012
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AA (2015)

Travis Harrison has been climbing a step in the organization each year since he was drafted, and there are sings and hope and expectation that every next season it will be his break through season, but it has not happened yet. Unfortunately, Harrison has been doing just a bit worse every season than the previous season. Could it be that he was in his third full time position on the field in 4 seasons?   He was drafted and started his first 2 professional season at Third Base, moved to Left Field two seasons ago at Fort Myers and to Right Field Last season in Chattanooga.

For the season he hit .240/.363/.356 and his OBP was pretty close to his career average (.366), his slugging percentage and batting average took hits.  His biggest issue was that his performance dropped to .200/.348/.291 in the second part of the season.  He did hit lefties better (.257/.416/.443 for the full season,) and started the season well (.268/.375/.403) , which indicates that he was either fighting something (His drop started after he returned from a DL stint because of stomach inflammation) or the league adjusted to him.  Let's hope that it was the former and next season will actually be the break through season for Harrison

Likely 2016 path: Starting outfielder at Chattanooga

ETA: 2017


13. Kohl Stewart RHP (7)
DOB: 10/7/1994; Age: 21
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'3", Weight: 195 lbs
Acquired: 1st Round Draft Pick 2013
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (2015)

The Twins made Kohl Steward the 5th overall selected player in the 2013 draft and a year agon MLB.com ranked him 36th best prospect in Baseball, and the Baseball Prospectus ranked him 28th.  Stewart had a somewhat dissapointing season in 2015 for the Miracle.  He started 22 games (129.3 IP) had 45 BB (3.1 K/9) and 71 K (12.8% and 4.9 K/9) for a 3.20 ERA (3.45 FIP) and 1.38 WHIP (.308 BABIP)  The hope was that the 5th overall pick will miss a lot of bats, as he did in 2013 where in 24 IP in both Rookie teams he walked 4 and struck out 24.
Steward has a plus fourseamer that hits 96, which is alternates with a close to plus 2 seamer in the low 90s and supplements it with an average hard slider in the low-mid 80s and an also average change up.  In 2014 in Cedar Rapids he started working on a slow (high 70s) curve.  Also, his 2014 season was cut short with shoulder issues and his 2015 season start was delayed for 3 weeks with throwing "elbow inflamation".  Not sure whether it is injury-related or throwing too many works in progress pitches, but he has transformed himself from a potential top of the rotation strikeout flamethrower to a pitch to contact mid to back of the rotation pitcher and this is reflected in these rankings.  The potential is there.  Maybe he needs to pitch to his strengths instead of trying to improve his weaknesses.

Likely 2016 path: In the Chattanooga rotation, depending on health.

ETA: 2017


12. Mason Melotakis (--)
DOB: 6/28/1991; Age: 24
Positions: LHP
Bats: R, Throws: L
Height: 6'2", Weight: 205 lbs
Acquired: 2nd Round Draft Pick 2012
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: AA (2014)

Mason Melotakis was one of the 4 hard throwing College Closers the Twins drafted in 2012 with the hope to turn them into Starters in the pro leagues; one of them (5th Round Pick, Tyler Duffey) made the transition and the other three (Melotakis, 1st round pick Luke Bard, and fellow 2nd round pick JT Chargois) ended up with arm problems resulting in Tommy John surgeries and return to the bullpen.  Melotakis has had his operation on October of 2014 and based on all reports his arm healed well and has been throwing hard this fall in Fort Myers.  The return to the pen in 2014 in New Britain (even though hurt) resulted in a good increase of strikeouts to 9.6 K/9 and 25.4% K%.  It also produced a nice 1.64 GO/FO ratio.

Melotakis' fastball gets up to 96-97 mph and his once suspect slider has improved.  He has been toying with a change up as a starter, but I suspect that with the new focus as a late inning reliever, he will abandon that. Melotakis was added to the Twins' 40-man roster and spend Spring Training with the Big club.


Likely 2016 path: Depending on LHRP acquisitions by the Twins this off-season and his performance in Spring Training might start the season in Minnesota, but likely will be the Chattanooga closer.

ETA: 2016


11. Levi Michael (22)
DOB: 2/9/1991; Age: 24
Positions: 2B
Bats: S, Throws: R
Height: 5'10", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: 1st Round Draft Pick 2011
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AA (2014, 2015)

Michael was drafted by the Twins in the first round of the 2011 draft (30th overall) as a Shortstop from the University of North Carolina. Michael is one of those players whom the Twins fans might think he under-performed unless they look closer at some facts:


  • In his four years as a pro, Michael played in exactly 2 levels: High A and AA.  Starting someone's career with the wooden bat in high A is placing a lot of expectations on him; Michael has proven to be a slow climber.
  • He missed a lot of time with injuries, including 5 weeks in 2015 due to a left angle issue and also last season 10 days due to illness.  This makes his cumulative stats (like doubles and HRs) plummet in comparison, and he steal stole 18/21 bases.  Add this to his .167 isoP, and (very quietly) Michael has developed a nice speed and power combination.  This plays really well at second base, which is much more suited to him, both with the glove and the arm
  • He has really improved his hitting the last 2 seasons with two back-to-back seasons with greater than .800 OPS in AA (.803 in 2014 and .804 in 2015)
  • And here is something that most people do not realize about Michael (because he has been very quiet) :  The switch-hitter might be the best hitter in the whole organization, if you are looking for one hitter to face a LHP.  His splits against LHPs the last 2 seasons are:  
    • 2015 AA: .385/.448/.673; 
    • 2014 AA: .409/.500/.455; 
    • 2014 A+: .366/.449/.463.  
    • He is not an automatic out against RHP as well, hitting .231/.347/.361 this season in Chattanooga.  


Why Michael is not on my top 10 list?  The answer is durability.  He missed about a month and a half each of the last 2 seasons.  This is the only reason.  I think if Michael plays a full season healthy, he will open some eyes.

Likely 2016 path: Michael is MLB-ready right now with both the bat and glove.  He will likely be the starting second baseman in Rochester and depending on trades and/or injuries and needs up in Minnesota by mid-season.  Would potentially make a great in-house replacement for Brian Dozier, both as a second baseman and number 2 or even number 1 hitter, if the Twins are looking to sell high on Dozier.



ETA: 2016

The Top Ten Next Week.



1/11/16

2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list: 16-20

You can find the introductory segment in this series, including my criteria for eligibility to be a prospect and the list of the 2015 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2015 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

You can find players 36-40 here, players 31-35 here, players 26-30 here, and players 21-25 here.

20 Felix Jorge RHP (29)
DOB: 1/2/1994; Age: 22
Positions:RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 170 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 2/21/2011
Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: A (2014, 2015)

Felix Jorge was signed as an amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2011 for $250,000.  He has been moving along the Twins organization, about a step a season, until 2014 where he had major issues in Cedar Rapids and had to return in Elizabetheton.  He started 2015 agains in Cedar Rapids and was the Kernels' best pitcher, pitching 23 games (22 GS) a team tops 142 IP, had 32 BB (2.03 BB/9) and 114 Ks (7.3 K/9 and 20.3%,) for a 2.79 ERA (3.54 FIP) and 1.056 WHIP (2.67 BABIP).  Jorge came in the organization as a 16 year old with a rare 3 above average pitch mix.   He has a low 90s fastball with good downward movement, which the hitters have a hard time picking up.  Above average slurvy curveball and change up.  He commands all three pitches well, has good control and he mixes pitches well.  One might see his 2015 results and think that Jorge had a break-through season, but his biggest issue surfaced again: endurance.

In the first 11 starts Jorge pitched 70 innings resulting in 2.44 ERA, .195 OBA and 0.90 WHIP; the second half of the season (12 games, 11 starts) pitched 72 innings with considerable drop in performance:  3.13 ERA, .253 OBA and 1.21 WHIP.   Not that his second half was bad, but it was not as good as his first.  He does have mid-rotation potential, but time will tell whether he will have the endurance to be in a major league rotation.

Likely 2016 path: In the Miracle Rotation

ETA: 2018


19 Adam Walker OF (21)
DOB: 10/18/1991; Age: 24
Positions: LF/ RF
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'4", Weight: 225 lbs
Acquired: 3th Round Draft Pick 2012
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AA (2015)

There probably is a lot of dissapointment with this ranking, especially by the ones who count the quality of a baseball player based on home runs and RBIs, because those at the things that Walker excells.  His career minor league slash line has been .254/.311/.488 and has been mirrored every season at a new level.  In 2015 in AA Chattanooga, Walker hit .239/.309/.498 with a career high 31 HRs and 106 RBIs, but also career high 34.8 % K% and career low batting average. He did show an improvement in the base paths hitting in a career low for full season ball 8 double plays and stealing a career high 13 bases. 

Another issue with Walker is that he has problems in the field and a relatively weak arm.  To see whether his fielding improves, the Twins switched him last season to Left Field instead of Right, with very similar results.  Walker is a single tool player and it is a good tool; the Twins were afraid that someone might be intrigued by it to select him in the Rule 5 draft that they added him to the 40-man roster.   He really needs work on the plate and on the field to take the next step.  Maybe First Base or DH is where he should be, but those two positions are spoken for in the organization for a while...  It is not out of the question that he will not have a break through season if something "clicks", but it has not clicked yet.  If it doesn't his ceiling will be Steve Balboni, and that is if he cuts down considerably on the strikeouts.

Likely 2016 path: In the Rochester OF mix, might make a September call up or earlier depending on injuries and performance. 

ETA: 2016

18 Daniel Palka OF (--)
DOB: 10/28/1991; Age: 24
Positions: RF/1B
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'2", Weight: 225 lbs
Acquired: Trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (2015)

Daniel Palka was acquired by the Twins from the Arizona Diamondbacks this off-season for C/OF Chris Herrmann.  Palka was the Diamondbacks' third round pick in the 2013 draft.  If the Twins' fans want a comparable, that would be Adam Walker.  Palka is 10 days younger than Walker, has been climbing a step a year in the organization and power is his best tool.  Drafted a season after Walker, his highest level was high A instead of double A, and he hits and throws left.  Palka is a converted first baseman and he is still learning to play the outfield.  Last season in the high A Visalia he hit .280/.352/.532 with 29 HRs, 90 RBI, 24 SB, 56 BB and 164 K (28.5 K%) in 576 PAs. 

Going back to the 1980s, never a Twins' prospect has a season with 29 or more home runs and 24 or more stolen bases.  Palka is a very interesting prospect who might be ranked a bit too low, but I have not seen him play in person, and I am concerned about his strikeouts, which are not as bad as Walker's but definitely a concern point.  An additional concern is that LHPs neutralized him (.213/.285/.352  against LHPs; but he destroyed RHPs .301/.374/.589) which may indicate that there is a possibility that Palka might end up in the strong side of a platoon at some point.

Likely 2016 path:  In the Chattanooga outfield or first base conversation, likely both.

ETA: 2017

17 Lewis Thorpe (11)
DOB: 11/23/1995; Age: 20
Positions: LHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: Signed as an International Free Agent on 7/12/2012
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A (2014)

Thorpe was signed on July of 2012 by the Twins to the largest bonus ever given for an Australian player, $500,000.   He spend half of 2014 resting and rehabilitating his left UCL, which eventually required Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2015.  Thorpe has 4 pitches, including a plus mid 90s fastball and a plus change up, but 2014, even before the injury was somewhat of a disappointment, showing considerable control issues (a career high 4.5 BB/9) and was fairly ineffective (4.52 FIP).   Not much to say about Thorpe at this point, other than wait and see how his elbow turns out, but there is high enough raw staff and potential to be included in the top 20 prospect list at this point, regardless the many question marks. 

Likely 2016 path:  In the Cedar Rapids rotation, with an outside chance to make the Fort Myers rotation, depending on the elbow and performance

ETA: 2019

16 Jake Reed (16)
DOB: 9/29/1992; Age: 23
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired: 5th Round Draft Pick 2014
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: AA (2015)

Reed's 2015 season was a take of two halves:  First 35 games in Chattanooga where he pitched 47 innings with 21 BB (4 BB/9) and 39 K (7.5 K/9, 17.6 K%) resulting in a 6.32 ERA (4.20 FIP) and 1.617 WHIP (.340 BABIP) and his last 10 games in Fort Myers and 10 more in the Arizona Fall League.  where he regained his control (0.7 BB/9 in Fort Myers, 3.4 in AFL) and got hitters out (0.730 and 0.938 WHIP) but still had strikeout issues (5.1 and 8.4 K/9).   Part of his dominance in 2014 and his gain in command and control was due to simplification in his mechanics in comparison to his College days'.  Reed has a dominant fastball, but not much else.  Maybe part of the reason of his numbers' decline was that he was working on improving his change up and breaking ball.  Maybe those are pitchers he will never command.  

Hard to tell where Reed will be this time next season, and it all depends on the development of at least one above average secondary pitch that he can command well.  He was invited in the MLB Spring Training as a non-roster player this Spring.

Likely 2016 path:  Repeat Chattanooga, potential to break into the majors' bullpen depending on development of secondary pitch(es) and the Twins' needs.

ETA: 2017