2/25/17

News and Notes from the Twins Spring Training: 2/25/17

This is the latest report of the happenings in the Twins' Spring training.   The previous one is here, and can find all 2017 Twins Spring Training related posts here.  I will be describing events of interesting in the Twins' camp as well as happenings with former Twins.  For two weeks these reports will be live from Fort Myers and will be indicated in the title.

  • Twins LHP Craig Breslow decided to focus in the Twins' Spring Training and making the team, and will not pitch for Israel in the WBC 
  • Similarly former Twins RHP Liam Hendricks, now with the A's will not participate in the WBC team Australia.
  • The Twins who had the worst record last season in the majors, are ranked ahead of several other teams in the Sports Illustrated Power Rankings by Jonah Keri.
  • The Twins played their first game hosting the Rays on Friday.  Some highlights:
    • Kyle Gibson threw 30 pitches and almost got 2 innings of work, if it were not for a throwing error charged to SS Jorge Polanco on a throw that 1B Kennys Vargas could not get from the dirt.  Gibson struck out 2 in the first inning and he induced ground balls with his 90-91 mph two-seamer.  The news is that he has been throwing his four-seamer up in the zone up to 94 and that missed bats.  Also threw off-speed pitches at 80-81 mph.
    • Byungho Park, who was the DH, got the first hit for the Twins in the second inning as a single and got a double (that was a missed HR) in the 4th inning.
    • Brandon Kintzler and Justin Haley had a few problems and allowed a run each.
    • Brian Buxton stole third base, something he should try to do more.
  • Wayne Krivsky, 63 years old, was demoted from "Special Assistant to the GM" to "Scout." Expect him to retire. Also, the Twins have hired former Chicago Cubs advance scout Keith Stohr and Earl Frishman was promoted to special assignment scout.
  • The Twins went across town to Jet Blue to play the Red Sox on Saturday.
    • There was not a radar in the stadium but Phil Hughes did not look ready, with his velocity approximately in the high 80s.  He fell behind every batter he faced and was saved by a double play at the end.  His command was just not there and the ball was all over the plate.   
    • Tyler Duffey who followed Hughes was sharper and pitched for one inning.  Ryan Vogelsong followed for 2/3s of an inning and got rocked.  He was very inconsistent, had a wild pitch, among the 32 pitches he threw, and ended up having to throw fastballs down the middle when fell behind the count, which, of course, did not work.  Lefty Randy Rosario who followed was impressive striking out Xander Bogards.  Adalberto Mejia followed in the fifth and was tested against Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland, Chris Young, and Pablo Santoval. His breaking ball looked great and fastball was mostly effective; allowing a double to Betts, grounding out Ramirez, and striking out Moreland, walking Young and got Santoval to fly out, however Grossman botched the play.
    • Byungho Park continued being of fire with a HR, followed by a sacrifice fly; Drew Stubbs struck out twice and hit a long HR on dead centerfield against Matt Barnes, and lost a couple of balls in the sun.
    • Interesting substitution that might indicate their relative position in the Twins' depth charts: J.B. Shuck came in to play Centerfield while Zach Granite played Right Field.  Also, C Chris Gimenez who is battling for the back up spot, played first base as a sub, showing his versatility.

2/24/17

News and Notes from the Twins Spring Training: 2/24/17

This is the latest report of the happenings in the Twins' Spring training.   The previous one is here, and can find all 2017 Twins Spring Training related posts here.  I will be describing events of interesting in the Twins' camp as well as happenings with former Twins.  For two weeks these reports will be live from Fort Myers and will be indicated in the title.
  •  According to a study by Eno Sarris at Fangraphs, a Twins' pitcher had the 7th "unluckiest" change up in the majors last season.  However, the semantic line between "unlucky" and "unfortunate" is a very thin one.
  • Twins RHP JT Chargois has worked with pitching coach Neil Allen and LHP Glen Perkins to change his baseball grip on his slider, to compensate for the differences between the major league and minor league balls.
  • Former Twins RHP Josh Roenicke has signed a contract with Pericos de Puebla of the Mexican League
  • Twins LHP Glen Perkins finished his third bullpen of 15 pitches each, with "no issues".  Still it is likely that he will start the season in the Disabled List.  No reports of his velocity yet. 
  • The Twins' off-season get a final grade of a C-, according to a particular national baseball reporter.
  • It looks like LHP Hector Santiago will have 6 days rest and RHP Jose Berrios a full 9 days before they start their first games for Puerto Rico in the WBC.  This is unfortunate for their preparation, especially for Berrios, while fighting for a spot in the Twins' rotation.
  • Former Twins' RHP Matt Capps will audition for teams in Marietta, GA this coming Sunday February 26th.
  • The Twins are playing their first Spring Training game at 7:05 PM EST, hosting the Tampa Bay Rays.  The game is available via gameday audio to the mlb.tv subscribers.

2/23/17

Predicting the Twins 25-man Roster - version 1.0

Tomorrow Friday the 24th is the first Spring Training game for the Twins at Fort Myers against the Tampa Bay Rays.  There is a lot of Spring Training left, but here is my first cut at a prediction of the Twins' 25 man roster, with commentary on each position.  Note:  This is not what I would do, this is predicting what the Twins will do. Lefties are noted by an asterisk (*) and switch hitters by a hash (#)

Starting Pitchers (5)

Ervin Santana
Kyle Gibson
Phil Hughes
Trevor May
Ryan Vogelsong

I see this as a battle for  2 spots among several pitchers, including in addition to the predicted winners, Jose Berrios, Justin Haley, Hector Santiago, and Nick Tepesch.   Based on the planned order of pitching Hector Santiago might be ahead of Ryan Vogelson right now; however the fact that he, like Jose Berrios, will be missing from the Twins camp, joining the Puerto Rico team in the WBC, decreases his probabilities to win a battle, like Berrios.

Relievers (7)

Brandon Kintzler
Ryan Pressly
J.T. Chargois
Matt Belisle
Craig Breslow (*)
Justin Haley
Hector Santiago (*)

Kintzler, Pressly, and Belisle are locks, pending injuries.  Haley and Santiago will be the two long men and spot starters, if necessary.  With Santiago being a lefty there is likely one more spot and based on what he brings to the table (and despite the fact that he will be pitching for the Israel WBC team that, unlike Puerto Rico, is not slated to go far,) Craig Breslow will win that spot.  The last spot will go to the most talented pitcher from the group, J.T. Chargois who will win it over former starter Tyler Duffey who will be optioned to Rochester to transition as a full time reliever.

Catchers (2)

Jason Castro (*)
Chris Gimenez 

The battle for the second catcher is three-way, between veteran Chris Gimenez and younger players J.R. Murphy and Mitch Garver.  I see Gimenez winning the battle because of the praise he has received as being able to help younger pitchers, as well as hitting lefties ok, something that the projected started Jason Castro does not.

Infielders (6)

Joe Mauer (*)
Brian Dozier
Jorge Polanco (#)
Miguel Sano
Eduardo Escobar (#)
Ehire Adrianza (#)

Outfielders (5)

Byron Buxton
Max Kepler (*)
Robbie Grossman  (#)
Drew Stubbs
J.B. Shuck (*)

A few surprises here.  I suspect that the Twins will go with experience over youth, and, like Santiago and Berrios, Kennys Vargas and Eddie Rosario, both of whom have one remaining option, will not make the team because of their choice to leave camp and join team Puerto Rico in the WBC.  The last cut was Danny Santana, who is out of options.  JB. Shuck wins over Santana because of the better glove at the OF and the fact that Ehire Andrianza's presence makes Santana unnecessary as an infielder.   I foresee a rotation at the DH spot with the primary DH being Grossman, and Mauer, Sano, Polanco, Kepler, and Stubbs rotating.   When Mauer is the DH, Max Kepler and/or Ehire Adrianza can man 1B in this configuration.

This is the first version of a predicted Twins' 25 man roster, and my predictions will likely change when they start playing games.  My view is that they Twins at this point will value veteran clubhouse presence and defense.

2/22/17

News and Notes from the Twins Spring Training: 2/22/17

This is the latest report of the happenings in the Twins' Spring training.   The previous one is here, and can find all 2017 Spring Training related posts here.

  • Paul Molitor finally made a public admission that the Twins have  mishandled SS Jorge Polanco's development as a shortstop.   I have been discussing this unfortunate situation for a while now.   Hopefully the new Twins' regime is starting to hold people accountable for mis-developing players with star potential.  Good to see many people now in the Polanco bandwagon. Was lonely for a while ;) 
  • Former Twins prospect C Stuart Turner who was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the last Rule 5 draft, has a good possibility of returning to the Twins' system, because to make the Reds they will have to carry 3 catchers
  • It is still very early in the Spring Training, but it appears that that the Twins are pairing C Chris Gimenez who has a good reputation in helping develop young pitchers with young RHP Jose Berrios.  This might have implications in the back up catcher battle, esp. if Berrios starts next season in Rochester.  
  • David Schoenfield, ESPN Senior Writer, indicates that the Twins' LF was the 4th weakest position in the majors since 2007.
  • The Twins are linked to 16 year old Dominican switch hitting SS Jelfrey Marte who will demand a bonus close to $3M.
  • The Twins are looking at High Schoolers, in addition to SS/RHP Hunter Greene for the first overall pick of the 2017 draft the coming June, including IF/OF Royce Lewis
  • SS Ehire Adrianza has been taking ground balls at third base.  It will be interesting to see if there is future for him as a utility player in the 2017 Twins' roster.
  • Twins' General Manager Thad Levine has indicated that Brandon Kintzler will be given every opportunity to start 2017 as the Twins' closer.
  • The Twins have signed LHP Evan Sanders  as an undrafted free agent to a minor league contract.
  • The Twins have signed RHP David Fischer to a minor league contact. The 26 year old has played in the Nationals organization and in the Independent Leagues for the last two seasons.

2/21/17

Complete List of the Twins' Ballpark Giveaways for 2017

The Minnesota Twins have announced their ballpark giveaways for 2017.  Here is the complete list along with the sponsors and the target audience, to help you select the games you attend this season at Target Field, if collecting bobbleheads and/or DQ caps is your thing:

April 3, Twins Long Sleeve Hooded T-Shirt in adult M or XL (all, 30,000) / Northland Ford Dealers
April 15, Twins Fur Trapper Hat (all, 10,000) / Pepsi
April 17, Twins Photo Magnet Schedule (all, 10,000) / Star Tribune
April 18, Twins Photo Magnet Schedule (all, 10,000) / Star Tribune
April 19, Twins Photo Magnet Schedule (all, 10,000) / Star Tribune
April 20, Twins Photo Magnet Schedule (all, 10,000) / Star Tribune
April 22, Twins Red Cap (all, 20,000) / DQ
April 23, Twins customizible T-shirt in Youth M or XL, (kids, 5,000)

May 2, MLB Network Bag (all, 10,000) / MLB Network
May 3, MLB Network Bag (all, 10,000) / MLB Network
May 6, Twins Rocket Raccoom Bobblehead (all, 10,000) / MARVEL
May 7, Twins Beach Tote (all, 5,000) / The beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel
May 20, Twins Batting Practice Pullover in adult M or XL (all, 10,000)  /  CenturyLink
May 29, Brian Dozier T-Shirt in adult M or XL (all, 10,000) 

June 14, LED Energy Efficient Light Bulb (all, postgame) / Xcel Energy
June 18, Twins Father's day socks (male 18+, 10,000) / Sheboygan Sausage Company
June 21, Twins Star Wars T-Shirt in adult M or XL (all, 10,000)

July 8, Twins Cap (all, 20,000) / DQ
July 9, Twins Bat and Ball Set (kids 14-, 10,000) / Play Ball
July 18, Twins Beach Towell (all, 7,500) / Pentair
July 22, Twins 1987 World Championship Stein (21+, 10,000) / Budweiser

August 3, Twins Diversity Day Item (all, 5,000) / Treasure Island Resort & Casino
August 4, National Baseball Day Commemorative Day Trading Card Pack (all) / Topps
August 5, Twins Back to School Item (14-, 5,000) / Target
August 6, T.C. Bear Bobblehead (all, 10,000) / US Bank
August 18, Rod Carew Bobblehead (all, 10,000)
August 19, Michael Cuddyer Twins HOF Bobblehead (all, 10,000) / Delta Airlines
August 20, Michael Cuddyer and Any MacPhail HOF Pins (all, 5,000) / Coordinated Business Systems

September 29, Twins Stocking Cap (all, 30,000) / Target
September 30, Twins Stocking Cap (all, 30,000) / Target
October 1, Twins Stocking Cap (14-, 10,000) / Target

2/20/17

News and Notes from the Twins Spring Training: 2/20/17

As every Spring, I will be following the Twins and providing news and notes.  For about 10 days I will be in Fort Myers providing live coverage from the Twins' Spring Training.  Those post will be noted as such.  Otherwise I will be providing summaries of the team's activities and individual posts on certain subjects relating to the Twins' preparation for 2017.  You can find all 2017 Spring Training related posts here.

  • The Twins have signed 28 year old journeyman and former Gophers RHP Seth Rosin to a minor league contract.  The Arden Hills, MN native was drafted by the Twins in the 28th round of the 2007 draft, but decided to go to the Univesity of Minnesota instead.  He projects as a Rochester pen depth signing. 
  • RHPs Kyle Gibson Nick Burdi, and Jose Berrios have been changing their deliveries, the first two to keep their shoulder and elbow healthy, and Berrios to hid his pitches better and avoid tipping them.  So has done LHP Craig Breslow, with his motivation being to re-invent himself.
  • 1B/DH Kennys Vargas has worked out with Manny Ramirez this winter.  Ramirez has been fellow Dominican's Miguel Sano's winter training partner, but Sano decided to work out for former third baseman Fernando Tatis, to include some fielding work this winter.  In an interesting confession, Vargas indicated that the Twins' coaches wanted him "for years to cut down his swing and use the whole field, as [they did with] Ortiz", something that Ramirez and him worked to fix last winter.
  • LHP Hector Santiago, changed his number to 53 from 66 last season.  He wore 53 both with the Angels and the White Sox previously.  The number became available when RHP Pat Light was traded to the Pirates a couple weeks ago.  Santiago will fight about 10 other candidates for a position to the Twins' rotation this Spring, something he will not be handed, as he decided to take off the Twins' camp and pitch for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in the WBC.  Jose Berrios, another pitcher fighting for a rotation sport for the Twins, will be in the same disadvantage because he made the same choice.
  • 2B Brian Dozier is surprised to be back with the team.  His and the Twins' wish might come true by next off-season, now the Mets will have an opening in the position.
  • LHP Glen Perkins who is recuperating from a torn labrum surgery, pitch twice from the mound in bullpens without any problem.  It was indicated that he was pitching at "75%", but no velocities were mentioned.  Something will definitely keep and eye on and report live when in Fort Myers, as with RHP Phil Hughes' recovery from TOS surgery.  Hughes sounds ahead of Perkins, as far as recovery goes, and, unlike Perkins, who will likely start the season in the DL, is planning to start the season with the big club.  For both, return of velocity is essential to be effective, and will keep an eye on that.  During his recovery Perkins used an electronic muscle simulator, instead of icing after workouts.
  • LHP Mason Melotakis is the only other injured player in the camp, recovering from an oblique strain and not throwing.
  • The Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said the following in an interview by Mackey and Judd:
    • He would like information to be shared throughout the organization, making more informed decisions through collaboration, bringing different ideas from different departments.
    • He wants his staff to check their egos in the door and share ideas.  Will abolish the "we've always done it this way" mentality, and explore the "whys' of doing something.
    • Being patient with changes in order to make good informed decisions that will be happening as the time passes
    • C Jason Castro can impact the game, in addition to pitch framing, with his game calling abilities, as well as with his bat that "has upside".
    • There is not "an one size fits all approach" with the pitchers.  They will try to leverage each pitcher's strengths .
    • Was imperative to spend 5-10 minutes with each players to make sure that everyone understands the expectations as well as that the management is accessibly for the players.
    • He believes that the team can "take a step forward" this year with the players the team has, by giving them more resources to succeed. 

2/15/17

2017 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 1-60 Summary and System Strengths and Weaknesses.

You can find the introductory segment in this series, including my criteria for eligibility to be a prospect and the list of the 2016 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

This is the countdown for players ranked 51-55th in the system. You can find players 56-60 here, players 51-55 here, 46-50 here, 41-45 here, 36-40 here, 31-35 here, 26-30 here, 21-25 here, 16-20 here, 11-15 here, 6-10 here, 1-5 here, and all segments in the series here.  There are detailed profiles, scouting reports and analysis about each player, so if you are interested in a particular player in the list, they might be useful.

The 2017 off-season Twins' top 60 prospect list looks like this (in parenthesis the 2016 ranking, followed by position and the ETA) :

    1. Wander Javier (7) SS, 2020
    2. Tyler Jay (2) LHP, 2017
    3. Lewin Diaz (5) 1B/DH, 2019
    4. Fernardo Romero (34), RHP, 2018
    5. Nick Gordon (9) SS, 2018
    6. Stephen Gonsalves (4) LHSP, 2018
    7. Daniel Palka (18) OF, 2017
    8. Alex Kirilloff (--) OF, 2020
    9. Adalbelto Mejia (--) LHP, 2016
    10. Mitch Garver (10) C, 2017
    11. Luis Arraez IF (24), 2019
    12. Nick Burdi (3) RHRP, 2017
    13. Brusdar Graterol (28), RHSP, 2020+
    14. Engelb Vielma SS (23), 2017
    15. Travis Blankenhorn (38), 3B/1B, 2020 10 BA
    16. Ben Rortvedt (--) C, 2020
    17. Kohl Stewart RHSP (13), 2018
    18. Mason Melotakis (12), LHRP, 2017
    19. Amaurys Minier (15) OF/1B, 2019
    20. Huascar Ynoa (27), RHSP, 2020
    21. Justin Haley (--) RHP, 2017
    22. LaMonte Wade (31), CF, 2018
    23. Felix Jorge (20), RHSP, 2018
    24. Akil Baddoo (--) OF , 2020
    25. Jake Reed (16) RHRP, 2017
    26 Niko Goodrum (37), CF/IF, 2017
    27 Trevor Hildenberger (--) RHP 2018
    28 D.J. Baxendale, (--) RHP; 2017
    29 Lachlan Wells (26), LHSP, 2020
    30 Lewis Thorpe (17) LHSP, 2019
    31 Jermaine Palacios (8) SS/3B, 2020
    32 Rainis Silva (21), C, 2019
    33 Michael Theophanopoulos, LHP, 2018
    34 Dereck Rodriguez - 24 – RHP – 2019
    35 John Curtiss, RHP; 2018
    36 Jean Carlos Arias (22), CF, 2020
    37 Travis Harrison (14), OF/1B, 2018
    38 Aaron Slegers (--), RHP 2018
    39 Jaylin Davis, (--) OF 2019
    40 Levi Michael (11), 2B, 2016
    41 Brandon Lopez (--) SS, 2020
    42 Brandon Peterson (29), RHRP, 2017
    43 Zach Granite, (--) OF, 2017
    44 Humberto Maldonado (--) OF, 2020+
    45 Pedro Garcia (--) RHP 2020 +
    46 Tyler Benninghoff, (--) RHP 2020 +
    47 Nelson Molina, INF 2020
    48 Taylor Clemensia  (--)  LHP 2020
    49 Eduardo Del Rosario (--) RHP  2019
    50 Jordan Balazovic, (--) RHP, 2020+
    51 Jason Wheeler (--) LHP, 2017
    52 Andrew Vasquez (--) LHP 2019
    53 Zander Wiel, (--) 1B 2019
    54 Tyler Wells (--) RHP  2020
    55 Cody Stashak -(--) RHP 2019
    56 Colton Davis (--)  RHP 2019
    57 Williams Ramirez (--) 2019
    58 Tanner English (--) OF 2018
    59 Aaron Whitefield  (--) IF/OF 2020
    60 Michael Cederoth (--) RHP 2018

Players who were on the 2016 list (then a top 40) and are not in the 2017 are:

Emmanuel Morel (40) IF
Trey Cabbage (39), IF/OF
Chris Paul (33) IF/OF
Kolton Kendrick (32), 1B/DH
Ryan Eades RHP (25)
Adam Walker OF (19)

Players who graduated from the 2016 list are:

Jose Berrios (1) RHP
JT Chargois (6) RHP

Too good to exclude, but I had to, because of his circumstances:

Griffin Jax RHP.  His stuff is there to merit inclusion in this list, and likely within the top 40.  However his commitment to the US Air Force, which already resulted in him missing professional baseball commitments, including the whole 2017 Spring Training, is a big unknown, regarding his career as a baseball player.  Unless this conflict is resolved, I will have a hard time including him in a prospect list.   His  Air Force assignment starts in late May after graduation and it is at the Eglin Air Force Base in Pensacola, FL.

Organizational Strengths:

Shortstop/middle infield:  The Twins have 3 players on the top 15 of the organization that are about a year away from each other as far as readiness go, in addition to former number 2 prospect, Jorge Polanco in the majors with 4 more seasons of team control, which will bridge with the ETA of the current number 1 prospect Wander Javier,  while players like Nick Gordon (5th , ETA 2018) and Engelb Vielma (14th, ERA 2017) could be stopgaps if necessary, slide over to second base, or be trade bait.  Jermaine Palacios (31, ETA 2020) and Brandon Lopez (41, ETA 2020) are two additional players that can stick at shortstop and make quick gains. Luis Arraez (11, ETA 2019) looks like the Twins' second baseman of the future, estimated to be ready when Brian Dozier's contract expires, so there is also a nice bridge there.  If Dozier is traded, current major leaguers Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza, in addition to Polanco and Vielma will battle out for his replacement and the starting SS position, with Gordon added to the list in 2018.  All in all, middle infield is a strength in the organization allowing for potential trades down the road to plug other holes.

Relief Pitching: There are 32 pitchers in the list, several with ETA of 2017 and 2018 and only two, LHPs Stephen Gonsalves (6, ETA 2018) and Adalberto Mejia (9, 2016), are unquestionably starters.  Pitchers like LHP Tyler Jay (2, ETA 2017 as a reliever)  and RHP Fernando Romero (5, ETA 2018), the only 2 pitchers in the organization who are potentially top of the rotation starters, can help the Twins' pen soon, in addition to RHP Nick Burdi (12, 2017) who has closer potential and the best pure stuff in the organization, LHP Mason Melotakis (18, 2017), Rule 5 draft pick RHP Justin Haley (21, 2017) and RHPs Jake Reed (25, 2017) and D.J. Baxendale (28, 2017).   Former 6th overall prospect JT Chargois is in the majors, along with his college co-closer Tyler Duffey, who has had setbacks as a starter and belongs to the pen, and along with the current pipeline, supplemented by another half dozen pitchers who are projected to be ready in 2018, they can anchor a strong bullpen for the Twins for the years to come.

Organizational Weaknesses: 

Catcher:  The only major-league ready catcher in the list is Mitch Garver (10, ETA 2017) who projects as a two way major league average catcher at this point, and will battle for a back up to defensive wizard but light hitting, especially against lefties, Jason Castro.   There are only 2 more catchers in the list, Ben Rortvedt (16, ETA 2020) and Rainis Silva (21, ETA 2019) who have as much promise as they have question marks.  Former 28th best prospect in the 2015 list Stuart Turner was selected on the Rule 5 draft and might return,  however he is a glove first catcher who profiles as a defensive back up in the majors at best at this point.  This is a position that there is practically no pipeline and the Twins should address at the draft and/or with trades

Starting pitching:  As mentioned only LHP Tyler Jay (2, ETA 2017 as a reliever)  and RHP Fernando Romero (5, ETA 2018), are the only two prospects with top of the rotation projections, but they both bring a lot of unanswered questions about durability and whether they can transition to starters in the majors.  Add to this the fact that the current Twins starters in the majors are at best number 3s or 4s in a competitive team, and the situation looks a bit dire. RHP  Brusdar Graterol (13, 2020+) and LHP Lewis Thorpe (30, 2019), could be part of the discussion, if proven healthy, but they are at least 2 seasons away.  LHPs Stephen Gonsalves (6, ETA 2018) and Adalberto Mejia (9, 2016), are close to ready or ready, but project as a mid to bottom of the rotation starters.  So do RHPs Kohl Stewart (17, 2018) and Huascar Ynoa (20, 2020).  The rest of the pitchers in this list project as relievers.  The Twins will have to address this problem with the draft where they have the number 1 overall selection as well as with trades, and potentially free agency down the road, in order to compete.

2/14/17

Twins' off-season moves and rumors report: 2/14/2017

This is the latest installment of the Twins 2016-2017 off-season rumors and moves report.  You can find the previous here and all the previous installments in this series here.

With Spring Training starting this week, this will be the last installment in the series.  I will include news on Twins rumors and moves in regular Spring Training reports.

I will be bringing news for Twins moves and rumored interest as they come periodically, leaving the names of interesting parties as are unless something changes about their status, adding new information as it comes.  As previously, this is actually reported interest, and not "who fits where" hypothetical interest.  I will be adding information about former Twins as it happens, but not rumors, as well.  This is what has happened or rumored to have happened so far:
  • The Twins are interested in 1B/3B/DH Pedro Alvarez (2/9).  However only if the can sign him for an inexpensive one year deal (2/12)
  • The Twins have signed OF Quintin Berry to a minor league contract (2/10)
  • Twins RHP Pat Light was traded to the Pirates for cash considerations (2/9)
  • Twins 1B/DH Byung Ho Park has cleared waivers and was outrighted to AAA Rochester (2/9) 
  • The Twins have attended the work out by free agent RHP Seth Maness who is coming back from UCL repair surgury, along with 15 more teams (2/7)
  • The Rays are interested in recently DFA'd Twins' 1B/DH Byungho Park (2/7).
  • The Twins are interested in RHP Joe Blanton (1/30)
  • The Twins are interested in 1B and former Twin Justin Morneau (1/29), however there seems to be no room on their roster (1/30)
  • There is interest by unnamed teams on Twins RHP Ervin Santana and the Twins have indicated that nobody is "untouchable" (12/16)
  • The Twins could have interest in Red Sox'  P Drew Pomeranz, but have not discussed them yet with Boston (12/6); However are not listed among the teams that were interested in Red Sox' pitchers per Boston sources (12/7)
  • The Twins have talked to the Diamondbacks about their young pitching.  No particular names were mentioned and nothing is imminent (11/29)
  • The Twins might be interested in RHP Justin Masterson (11/23) as a minor league free agent signing (11/29)
From the former Twins' news department:
  • Former Twins' RHP Kevin Jepsen has agreed to a minor league contract with the Diamondbacks (2/13)
  • Former Twins' RHP Omar Bencomo  has agreed to a minor league contract with the Marlins (2/10)
  • The Angels designated former Twins' RHP Deolis Guerra for assignment (2/10)

2/13/17

2017 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect 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 2016 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

This is the countdown for players ranked 51-55th in the system. You can find players 56-60 here, players 51-55 here, 46-50 here, 41-45 here, 36-40 here, 31-35 here, 26-30 here, 21-25 here, 16-20 here, 11-15 here, 6-10 here and all segments in the series here.

5. Nick Gordon (9)
DOB: 10/14/1995; Age: 21
Positions: SS
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (2016)
ETA: 2018

Nick Gordon was drafted by the Twins as the 5th overall player in the 2014 draft from Olympia High School in Orlando, FL.   He started his pro career in 2014 playing for Elizabethton hitting .294/.333/.366 (101 wRC+) with 11 BB and 45 K (17.6 %), and 11/18 SB (61%).  In 2015 for Cedar Rapids, he hit .277/.336/.360 (104 wRC+) 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 exhibited some gap power (23 doubles, 7 triples and 1 HRs in 535 PAs, 0.083 isoP), but it does get neutralized against LHPs (.264/.325/.291; only extra base hits were 3 doubles in 110 PAs against LHPs.)  He started the 2016 season in Fort Myers, where he made a leap forward hitting .291/.335/.386 (112 wRC+) in 116 games (493 PAs), with 17,6 K% and 0.095 isoP, stealing 19/32 bases.  His BABIP (.353) was close to his .333 and .352 of the previous 2 seasons, which means that a BABIP around .350s is not out of question.  He continued in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit a very impressive .346/.418/.444 (144 wRC+) in 21 games (91 PA), but inflated due to an unsustainable .475 BABIP.

Gordon's glove is about average at SS, and he projects to stay in the position.  His bat still projects as a major league average, however he was again neutralized against LHPs (.220/.276/.254 in 118 AB in Fort Myers last season.)   He had good speed, but not great base stealing instincts that need a lot of work.  His season at Fort Myers and his success in Arizona are promising, but the ones who were hoping for a star with the 5th overall pick would be disappointed at Gordon, because he does not project as one. Gordon is a non-roster invitee in the Twins Spring Traning, but not MLB-ready at this point.

Likely 2017 path: Starting AA Chattanooga shortstop

4. Fernando Romero (34)
DOB: 12/24/1994; Age: 22
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 215 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent
Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: A+ (2016)
ETA: 2018

Fernando Romero was singed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from the Dominican Republic for on November 4th, 2011 with a $260K bonus.  The San Juan de la Maguana native spending his age 17 2012 season in the Dominican Summer League where he pitched in 14 games, 6 starts, for 31 innings, striking out 27 (7.8 K/9, 20.2 K%), walking 14 (4.1 BB/9, 9.7 K-BB%), with a 4.94 ERA, 3.05 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP (.289 BABIP).  He made the jump to the Gulf Coast League in 2013.  He pitched in 12 games (6 GS) for 45 innings to a 1.60 ERA (2.44 FIP) and 1.00 WHIP (.271 BABIP) and had 47 strikeouts (9.4 K/9, 26 K%) and 13 walks (2.6 BB/9, 18.8 K-BB%.)  After only 4 games in single A Cedar Rapids in 2014 he required Tommy John surgery, missing the rest of 2014 and the whole 2015 season.  Last season he returned to Cedar Rapids where he started 5 games (28 IP) had 25 K (8.0 K/9, 24.3 K%) and 5 BB (1.6 BB/9, 19.4 K-BB%) with a 1.93 ERA, 2.33 FIP, and 0.82 WHIP (.250 BABIP).  He moved to high A Fort Myers late in June where he started 11 games (62-1/3 IP) had 65 K (9.4 K/9, 26.9 K%) and 10 BB (1.4 BB/9, 22.7 K-BB%) with a 1.88 ERA, 2.00 FIP, and 0.93 WHIP (.288 BABIP), improving on his already great Cedar Rapids performance.

Romero has a plus plus fastball that sits at 95-97 mph and has a nasty sinking movement, a plus plus slider that sits 88-92 mph and an average changeup.  After his surgery, Romero came in better shape and he improved his command and control by leaps and bounds, pounding the strike zone and cutting down on walks.  His stuff can already play in a major league pen, but Romero has top of the rotation potential and the Twins will explore that. Romero was added to the Twins' 40-man roster this November, so he will appear in the Twins' Spring Training camp; however he will need to pitch more innings before he makes it to the majors.  In addition to the innings, he would need to develop that changeup, because it will be difficult to make it long as a starter with only 2 pitches, even though both are plus plus.

Likely 2017 path: In AA Chattanooga Rotation


3. Lewin Diaz (5)
DOB: 11/19/1996; Age: 20
Positions: 1B
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'3", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: Rookie/Elizabethton (2015, 2016)
ETA: 2020

Lewin Diaz was singed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from the Dominican Republic for $1.4 million bonus on July 2nd, 2013.   The Santiago native made the transition to the US, after a hitting .257/.385/.451 (.411 wOBA, 142 wRC+, 13.8 K%) in the DSL in 2014, his age 17 season.  His first season in the US, he had a few difficulties with the transition, hitting .261/.354/.369 (.357 wOBA, 123 wRC+, 18.9 K%) in 33 games in the GCL and finishing the last 14 games of the season hitting .167/.245/.375 (.285 wOBA, 70 wRC+, 32.1 K%) 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.   Last season he repeated Elizabethton after extended spring training, playing in 46 games (187 PA) hitting .310/.353/.575 (.409 wOBA, 149 wRC+, 18.7 K%, with a career best .264 isoP and his BABIP at .344, close to his .326 in the GCL the previous season.  There is room for improvement in pitch recognition and the twenty year old just started to realize his tremendous power.  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 .264 isoP as a teenager, and still is learning how to swing the bat.  It will be interesting to see how he does next season in full-season ball, but he has scary potential, even though only as a first baseman or DH.

Likely 2017 path: Starting first baseman at Cedar Rapids


2. Tyler Jay (2)
DOB: 4/19/1994; Age: 22
Positions: LHP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'1", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round in 2015
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: AA (2016)
ETA: 2017

Tyler Jay was drafted by the Twins 6th overall in 2015 from University of Illinois.  The Lemont, IL native was mainly the closer in College appearing in 30 games (2 starts) in his Junior 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 additional 19 games (18.2 IP) where he walked 8 (3.9 BB/9, 17.3 K-BB%) 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).  The Twins view Jay as a starter and he made the transition to the Miracle rotation this season where he started 13 games (69-2/3 IP) struck out 68 (8.8 K/9, 23.6 K%), walked 21 (2.7 BB/9, 16.3 K-BB%) and finished with a 2.84 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and 1.22 WHIP (.311 BABIP).  He moved to Chattanooga in July, where he pitched in 5 games (2 starts) before ending his season on the disabled list because of a sore neck. He pitched only 14 innings (9 K, 5.8 K/9, 5 BB, 3.2 BB/9, 6.9 K-BB%, 5.79 ERA, 4.96 FIP, 1.29 WHIP, .262 BABIP).  Jay has the stuff to be a starter but not yet proven that he can be a starter and it is unknown how his stuff will be as a starter in the long run.  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 2017 (thus the ETA.)  But the Twins will like to see what he can do as a starter for a second season and whether he could become a top of the rotation starter.  As a starter, he likely has more potential than anyone in the organization but he is not there now and would need more that 15 career starts to be considered for a major league job.

Likely 2017 path: Likely starting the season at Chattanooga with a potential promotion to Rochester mid-season, depending on needs and performance


1. Wander Javier (7) SS
DOB: 12/29/1998; Age: 18
Positions: SS
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 165 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 7/2/2015
Professional Experience: 0; Highest level: N/A
ETA: 2020

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 in person, but I have seen plenty of video to be confident about this ranking.   At this point, he has 5 above average or better tools, with his arm,  fielding and power at above average and contact and speed approaching plus.   Javier started his pro career last season in the DSL with a bang, playing in 9 games (30 PA), hitting .308/.400/.654 (199 wRC+, .498 wOBA), with 13.3 BB% and 16.7 K% in a league dominated by pitching, as a 17 year old, before he was shut down with a hamstring injury.

Unlike Sano who was signed as shortstop, the Bonao native projects to stay in the position as a professional.  He has very smooth hands and confident footwork and body control.  Highest upside of any player in the Twins' organization, his toolset is similar to Byron Buxton's at that age, but with higher power and less speed, and he is a true shortstop.

Likely 2017 path: Extending Spring Training and then Starting SS for the GCL or Elizabethton Twins
depending on health and the Twins' draft.




2/10/17

2017 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect 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 2016 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

This is the countdown for players ranked 51-55th in the system. You can find players 56-60 here, players 51-55 here, 46-50 here, 41-45 here, 36-40 here, 31-35 here, 26-30 here, 21-25 here, 16-20 here, 11-15 here, and all segments in the series here.
 
10. Mitch Garver (10)
DOB: 1/15/1991; Age: 26
Positions: C
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 220 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 9th round in 2013
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AAA (2016)
ETA: 2017

Mitch Garver was drafted by the Twins in the 9th round of 2013 draft from University of New Mexico as a Senior.  The Albuquerque native arrived in the pros as a fairly polished receiver who has opened eyes with his bat in his second pro season in 2014 in single A Cedar Rapids, hitting .298/.399/.481 (154 wRC+) 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.  This was a marked improvement over his .243/.313/.366 line in 202 ABs his first season as a pro in Elizabethton, that followed a .390/.458/.589 start of the season in 246 AB in New Mexico.  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.  The caught stealing number improved to 48% this season that Garver split between AA Chattanooga and AAA Rochester.  He started the season in Chattanooga hitting .257/.334/.419 (118 wRC+) with 11 HRs in 95 games (497 PA) and finished in Rochester hitting .329/.381/.434 (136 wRC+) in 22 games (84 PA).  Once again he played in the Arizona Fall League, appearing in 19 games (77 PA) hitting .229/.299/.457 (106 wRC+).  He was added to the Twins' 40-man roster this off-season.

Garver is an above average defensive catcher in blocking balls and throwing out runners. His framing numbers are also positive.  He has been hitting lefties better all his career (other than an unlikely first half reverse split in Chattanooga last season.)  His BABIP looks to stabilize a bit above .300, which with an about 10-15% BB rate and .100-150 isoP, could give him a line of .275/.325/.425 or so at the next level, which will be boosted when he faces LHPs.  These numbers are good for Garver to project as an average or above average starting Catcher in the majors.  With Jason Castro signing a new 3-year contract, Garver will be in a three-way battle with J.R. Murphy and Chris Gimenez for the Twins' back up spot.  Castro cannot hit LHPs, so Garver's ability to do so might put him half a step ahead of the competition at this point.

Likely 2017 Path:  Fighting for the Twins' backup Catcher spot.

9. Adalbelto Mejia (--)
DOB: 1/15/1991; Age: 26
Positions: LHP
Bats: R, Throws: L
Height: 6'3", Weight: 195 lbs
Acquired:  Traded by the San Fransisco Giants for Eduardo Núñez in 2016
Professional Experience: 6; Highest level: MLB (2016)
ETA: 2016

The Twins acquired LHP Adalberto Mejia, from the San Fransisco Giants, in exchange for Eduardo Núñez last Summer.  Mejia was signed as international free agent from the Dominican Republic by the Giants in 2011.  The Bonao native was a late bloomer signing by the Giants as an eighteen year old.  That season in the Dominican Summer League he impressed, starting 13 games for 76 innings with 71 K (8.4 K/9, 23.8 K%) and only 8 BB (1.0 BB/9, 21.1 K-BB%), with a 0.868 WHIP (.272 BABIP), 1.42 ERA and 1.75 FIP.  This was enough for him to skip the Giants' US-based Rookie leagues, jumping right on full season A in 2012, playing for the Augusta GreenJackets of the Southern Atlantic League. He participated in 30 games, among them 14 starts. His final numbers for that season were:  106.7 IP  with 79 K (6.7 K/9, 17.1 K%) 21 BB (1.8 BB/9, 12.5 K-BB%), with a 1.341 WHIP (.332 BABIP), 3.97 ERA and 3.29 FIP.  He started the season in the pen, with limited success and moved into the rotation in June, where he found success, finishing the season with a 6-3 record, 3.00 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, post All Star break. The next season he moved up to the San Jose Giants of the High A California League.  He started 16 games (87 IP) with 89 K (9.2 K/9, 25.1 K%) and 23 BB (2.4 BB/9, 18.6 K-BB%) for a 3.31 ERA,  4.20 FIP and 1.126 WHIP (.277 BABIP).  He missed 48 games that season in May and June with shoulder issues, but came back okay.  He was called to AAA Fresno to start a single game (5 IP, 5 H, 2 HR, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) and participated in the Arizona Fall League playing in 7 games, 3 as a starter for 8.47 ERA, 1.529 WHIP, 7.4 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 17 innings.  In 2014 he moved up to AA Richmond Flying Squirrels (Eastern League) where he started 21 games and relieved in one, pitching 108 innings with 82 K (6.8 K/9, 17.9 K%) and 31 BB (2.6 BB/9, 11.1 K-BB% ), for a 1.389 WHIP (3.26 BABIP), 4.67 ERA and 3.78 FIP. He went to the DL three times for 6 days with a leg bruise after a ball hit him in April and for 8- and 12-days in July with finger blisters.   His weight that season went up to 240 lbs (he is 6'3") and needed to be reduced.  Unfortunately he took a banned weight loss supplement that contained stimulants and tested positive, receiving a 50 day suspension, very much like current Twins' DH/1B Kennys Vargas. He repeated AA in 2015 after he served his suspension. He appeared in 12 games (9 GS), pitching 51.3 innings with 38 K (6.7 K/9, K%) and 18 BB (3.2 BB/9, K-BB%), for a 1.091 WHIP (.238 BABIP), 2.45 ERA and 3.41 FIP.  Despite the nice performance, he needed innings so he returned to the AFL (7 GS, 31 IP , 1.258 WHIP, 3.48 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 4.1 K/BB) and also appeared in the Dominican Winter League (playing for the Gigantes, coinsidentally: 5 GS, 18.3 IP , 1.091 WHIP, 3.44 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 1.5 K/BB).  After he was invited to his first MLB spring training as part of the Giants' 40-man roster, he was caught in the numbers games and started against at AA Richmond where he excelled after he trimmed down this season (11 GS, 65 IP , 0.985 WHIP, 1.94 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 22.8 K%, 2.2 K/BB, 16.5 K-BB%) forcing his promotion to AAA in his age 23 season (he was 22 at the time.)  His numbers (7 GS, 40.7 IP , 1.303 WHIP, 4.20 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 25.0 K%, 2.4 K/BB, 18.6 K-BB%) were fairly impressive, especially for the Pacific Coast League.  Once in the Twins organization he made 4 starts for Rochester (26-1/3 IP, WHIP (.329 BABIP), 3.76 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 8.5 K/9, 23.2 K%, 1.0 BB/9, 20.4 K-BB%), and pitched 2-1/3 innings for the Twins in a single appearance.

He has an above average to borderline plus fastball that has increased in velocity this season, sitting at 92-94 and touching 95 as a starter.  Average to above average command and improving and the pitch is projecting to be plus pitch in the near future.  Natural cutting action on the pitch.  His slider is his best pitch.  Siting at 83-84 mph and up to 86.  Nice biting motion, great command and above average control.  This is a pitch that he throws anywhere on the count, pretty much like current Twins' starter Tyler Duffey does with his curve ball.   He also throws a changeup that is an average to above average pitch that can improve, and a fringe average slow curve.  Nice fluid mechanics. Weight is a consideration for him, and it currently is under control, listed at 195 lbs.  His ceiling is that of a number 3 or 4 starter, but he has a high floor. His floor is of a 8th inning reliever.  He held lefties to a .216/.273/.275 slash line and had 11.3 K/9 against them, which is pretty impressive for the PCL.

Likely 2017 Path:  Fighting for a spot in the Twins rotation in Spring Training

8. Alex Kirilloff (--)
DOB: 11/9/1997; Age: 19
Positions: OF
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'2", Weight: 195 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 1st round in 2016
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: Rookie/Elizabethton (2016)
ETA: 2020

Alex Kirilloff was drafted by the Twins in the 1st round (15th overall) of the 2016 draft from Plum High School in the Pittsburgh area, where he played baseball while being Home-Schooled.  His father who used to be in the Pirates' organization as a scout and coach, is a professional hitting coach, offering both facilities and instruction to amateurs, including his son.  In High School Alex Kirilloff was a two way player.  As a pitcher he has a 89-92 mph fastball that was good enough to go 5-1 in limited competition, but was not going to get him to the next level.  Power and arm strength are Kirilloff's best tools and he projects as a rightfielder.  The transition to wood bat was seamless for him, hitting .306/.341/.454 in 55 games (232 PAs) in Elizabethton.  He has 9 2Bs, 1 3B, and 7 HRs, walking 11 (4.7%) and striking out 13.8%.  He was 0/1 in stolen bases.  He was named the Appalachian League’s player of the year.

There is definitely some power potential with his .148 isoP likely doubling at some point.  He has good judgement of the strike zone and makes contact that is successful (.328 BABIP.)   His swing is a bit complicated both with leg and shoulder action, but so far it works. It will be interesting to see how this will translate in the next levels when he will be looking at more off-speed and breaking balls. It might require some rework to quieten it up and shorten it.

2017 Likely path:  Starting the season in single A Cedar Rapids

7. Daniel Palka (18) (--)
DOB: 10/28/1991; Age: 25
Positions: OF
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'2", Weight: 220 lbs
Acquired:  Traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks for Chris Herrmann in the 2016 off-season
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AAA (2016)
ETA: 2017

Daniel Palka was traded to the Twins by the Arizona Diamondbacks for C/OF Chris Herrmann before the 2016 season.  The Greenville, SC native was Arizona's 3rd round pick in the 2013 draft from Georgia Tech as a Junior.  In his Junior season he hit .342/.436/.637 with 17 HR in 237 AB (13.9 AB/HR) walking 60 times and striking out 60.  He also went 2-1 with a 0.69 ERA in eight games as a pitcher He moved to Missoula Osprey of the advanced Rookie Pioneer League, where he hit .302/.386/.502 (126 wRC+) with 7 HRs in 56 games (241 PA) and ended his first professional season in short season A Northwest League Hillsboro Hops, hitting .340/.418/.574 (182 wRC+) with 2 HRs in 12 games (55 PA), showing no sign of slowing down even after playing a total of 130 games and had 489 ABs.  His HR rate slowed down his first season with the wood bat, but his isoP was at his College levels (.200 and .234.)  Next season he moved into single A Midwest League South Bend Silver Hawks, where he hit .248/.332/.466 (125 wRC+) with 22 HRs (20.7 AB/HR) and had a .218 isoP.  His BABIP was a career low .294.  In 2015, his last season in the Diamondbacks' organization, he advanced to the high A California League Visalia Rawhide where he hit .280/.352/.532 (135 wRC+) with 29 HR and 24/31 SB in 129 games, 576 PA.  His isoP was a professional high .252, but so were his strikeout percentage (28.5%).  He played an additional 22 games in the Arizona Fall League (100 PA, giving him 676 PA for the season) where he hit .278/.330/.444 with 3 HR and 4/5 SB.  He started his Twins' career in 2016 in Chattanooga, hitting .270/.348/.547 (155 wRC+) in 79 games (345 PA).  He had 21 HR (14.3 AB/HR) and increased his isoP to .277, but was only 7/11 in SB. He moved to AAA Rochester in early July where he hit .232/.296/.483 (120 wRC+) with 13 HRs in 54 games (223 PA). Despite his BABIP being at .324 in both steps, his contact at Rochester suffered and his strikeout rate increased to a very high 38.6% from 29% in Chattanooga.  His issue at Rochester was mostly over committing with his swing early, which is repairable.  Palka has 35+ HR and 20+ SB potential and a very strong plus arm at the outfield.  His contact issues in Rochester are of some concern, but Palka projects as a two way average to above average major league outfielder with plus HR power, in other words what the Twins' hope their 2016 first round draft pick becomes, but with better speed.  He was added to the Twins' 40-man roster this off-season.

Likely 2017 Path: Battle for a position with the Twins during Spring Training, likely starting the season in AAA Rochester and moving up mid-season

6. Stephen Gonsalves (4)
DOB: 7/4/1991; Age: 22
Positions: LHP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'5", Weight: 213 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 4th round in 2013
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AA (2016)
ETA: 2018

Gonsalves was drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 draft from Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego and paid an over slot ($700K vs $468K slot) bonus.  He was considered a potential first round pick but dropped because of character questions due a suspention at High School his senior year because of smoking or being with teammates who were smoking marijuana and lying about it to cover them. Gonsalves has been playing in 2 levels every season in the pros so far with a lot of success, and marked improvement the second time with a team, other than his second season in Elizabethton.  In 2013 he slit time between GLC and Elizabethton, in 2014 between Cedar Rapids and Elizabethton, 2015 between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers, and last season between Fort Myers and Chattanooga.   In 2015 in  Cedar Rapids he started 9 games (55 IP) walking 15 (2.4 BB/9, 29.7 K-BB%) 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, 5.1 K-BB%) 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.)  This season he improved considerably at Fort Myers (11 GS, 65-2/3 IP, 66 K, 9.1 K/9,26.1  K%, 20 BB, 2.7 BB/9, 18.2 K-BB%, 2.33 ERA, 2.55 FIP, 0.96 WHIP, .249 BABIP) and did not lose a beat at Chattanooga (13 GS, 74-1/3 IP, 89 K, 10.8 K/9, 30.1  K%, 37 BB, 4.5 BB/9, 17.6 K-BB%, 1.82 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, .255 BABIP.)  He made 4 starts at the Arizona fall league for a career high 148-2/3 innings this season and was named the Twins' minor league pitcher of the year, an award whose recipients seems to be cursed.

Gonsalves is ranked as the Twins 2nd best prospect by Baseball America, and 3rd by MLB.com and Fangraphs. He is a prototypical middle of the rotation type of potential talent who can occasionally 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.  Low to Mid 90s fastball that is average but has a high spin rate making it hard to hit up in the zone, a fully plus changeup and a slurvy breaking ball that is improving, is his pitch arsenal.  His changeup is effective against RHBs and his curve ball against LHBs.  Command occasionally is off and that is translated with an increase in walks and decrease in strikeouts.  When that happens, Gonsalves has been successful by inducing weak movement.  Pitching to weak contact and needed to paint the corners to succeed is a risky recipe for success and despite Gonsalves doing it in every level, there is a feeling that it will just take him that far, especially when he has a long frame and difficulties in repeating his delivery, which results in the up and down command issue.  But the end of his success is not in sight yet.


Likely 2017 Path:  Was invited to the Twins' Spring Training, but it is likely that the Twins will like him to build his innings in AAA Rochester this season.  Likely in the majors in 2018, barring injuries, trades etc.

2/9/17

Twins' off-season moves and rumors report: 2/9/2017

This is the latest installment of the Twins 2016-2017 off-season rumors and moves report.  You can find the previous here and all the previous installments in this series here.

I will be bringing news for Twins moves and rumored interest as they come periodically, leaving the names of interesting parties as are unless something changes about their status, adding new information as it comes.  As previously, this is actually reported interest, and not "who fits where" hypothetical interest.  I will be adding information about former Twins as it happens, but not rumors, as well.  This is what has happened or rumored to have happened so far:
  • The Twins have signed  former Twins' LHP Craig Breslow to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training (2/8)
  • The Twins have signed OF Drew Stubbs to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training (2/7)
  • The Twins have attended the work out by free agent RHP Seth Maness who is coming back from UCL repair surgury, along with 15 more teams (2/7)
  • The Rays are interested in recently DFA'd Twins' 1B/DH Byungho Park (2/7).
  • The Twins are interested in RHP Joe Blanton (1/30)
  • The Twins are interested in 1B and former Twin Justin Morneau (1/29), however there seems to be no room on their roster (1/30)
  • The Twins are "strong on" LHP and former Twin Craig Breslow (1/28)
  • There is interest by unnamed teams on Twins RHP Ervin Santana and the Twins have indicated that nobody is "untouchable" (12/16)
  • The Twins could have interest in Red Sox'  P Drew Pomeranz, but have not discussed them yet with Boston (12/6); However are not listed among the teams that were interested in Red Sox' pitchers per Boston sources (12/7)
  • The Twins have talked to the Diamondbacks about their young pitching.  No particular names were mentioned and nothing is imminent (11/29)
  • The Twins might be interested in RHP Justin Masterson (11/23) as a minor league free agent signing (11/29)
From the former Twins' news department:
  • Former Twins OF Carlos Quentin has agreed with the Red Sox on a minor league deal (2/8)
  • Former Twins OF Rene Tosoni was re-signed by Independent Atlantic League Sugar Land Skeeters (2/8)
  • Former Twins 3B Gary Gaetti was re-signed to on-year contract as the manager of  the Independent Atlantic League Sugar Land Skeeters (2/7)

2/8/17

2017 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect 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 2016 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

This is the countdown for players ranked 51-55th in the system. You can find players 56-60 here, players 51-55 here, 46-50 here, 41-45 here, 36-40 here, 31-35 here, 26-30 here, 21-25 here, 16-20 here, and all segments in the series here.

15. Travis Blankenhorn (38)
DOB: 8/3/1996; Age: 20
Positions: 2B
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 208 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 2nd round in 2015
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A (2016)
ETA: 2020

Travis Blankenhorn was drafted by the Twins in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft from the Pottsville, PA Area High School as a third baseman.  He started his pro career in the GCL where he played in 14 games (49 AB) hitting .245/.362/.408 with 7 BBs and 11 Ks, before he moved up to Elizabethton for the last 39 games of the season where in 144 AB he hit .243/.306/.326    with 11 BB, and 32 K.  He started last season in Extended Spring Training before moving to Elizabethton where in 34 games (138 AB) he hit a robust .297/.342/.558 with 9 HRs, 7 2Bs, 1 3B, 8 BB and 33 K.  He finished the season in class A Cedar Rapids where in 25 games (91 AB) he hit .286/.356/.418 with 1 HR, 5 2B, 2 3B, 8 BB and 28 K.  Blankenhorn who moved to second base, a position that he is playing better than third, adjusted to the wooden bat much better in his second professional season.  He has decent game speed, but will not steal many bases.  His contact tool improved this season (.330 BABIP in Elizabethton and .403 at Cedar Rapids) and there is potential for further power that was realized with a .261 isoP in Elizabethton (.132 in Cedar Rapids.)   The positional change to second base, along with the improvement in defense from his previous corner OF and IF positions, made him jump in the ratings as well.  His bat might or might not play at corner positions and his glove is very suspect there.  However at second base he has the potential to be a Todd Walker type of player, esp. if he curtails his strikeouts (27.5 % K% in Cedar Rapids and 22.1 in Elizabethton.)  Better pitch recognition will help with selectivity, and Blankenhorn is young enough for one to believe that he will get there.    Part of the problem is that LHPs make him practically worthless (.472 OPS and 54.2 K% against them in Elizabethton and .593 and 25 K% in Cedar Rapids, vs a star-like 1.107 and .832 OPS against RHPs in those stops)  

Likely 2017 path: Starting 2B at Cedar Rapids.

14. Engelb Vielma (23)
DOB: 6/22/1994; Age: 22
Positions: SS
Bats: S, Throws: R
Height: 5'11", Weight: 155 lbs
Acquired:   International Free Agent signing 2011
Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: AA (2016)
ETA: 2017

Engelb Vielma was signed by the Twins as an international free agent from the Venezuela on September 8, 2012 for a $90,000 bonus.  The Maracaibo native has been moving really quickly through the Twins organization, mainly because of his glove appears ahead of what looks from afar as an average bat (career minor league .264/.327/.309 slash line.)   Vielma had a highly quiet and mostly invisible break-through season with the bat in 2015 at high A Fort Myers. He hit .270/.321/.306, which at first sight is about the same .266/.313/.323, if not worse, than he did in Cedar Rapids in 2014, until someone looks below the slash lines:  Vielma was the youngest position player at the Miracle team and the Miracle team slash line was .246/.319/.318, so he made better contact than the average. Power is not his strong suit, so looking at SLG% is misleading.  If you look at component numbers, like wRC+, he had 93 in 2015 vs 84 in 2014.   He is also maturing as a player taking advantage of his speed. He will not walk (7% BB%) or strikeout (14.2% K%) but will make contact and run.  He had 24 sacrifices that season, and most of them (18) on the ground. He stole a career high 35 bases (but was caught 12 times).  He started his first 8 games last season at Fort Myers rehabbing from an oblique strain before he moved to AA Chattanooga.   There here played 90 games (314 AB), hit .271/.345/.318, striking out 62 times and walking 34.  He went 10/18 in stolen bases as well.  His wRC+ improved to a career best and close to a league average 97, while his K% dropped to 16.9%.  His BABIP was .333, a couple of ticks above his career average in .310s.  For some unfortunate reason, the improvement in Vielma's bat is invisible to the outside, which drives unfortunate characterizations like "punchless leatherwizard with a bat so light he may not even profile as a utility man despite an acrobatic brand of plus defense at short" from national writers who likely have not seen him play.

This cannot be any further from the truth.  A 97 wRC+ at AA with a plus defense projects as Ozzie Smith (career .666 OPS and 90 wRC+ in the majors with career best 119 wRC+ ) material.  Vielma's detractors will also need to look at his  .338/.407/.416 line in 2016 (and .301/.343/.341 in 2015) as a right hand hitter, which are exceptional.  Vielma is the poster boy for stopping switch hitting.  Why would someone with All-Star SS potential is ranked so low?  For one single reason:  Concentration lapses both on the field and the base paths make Vielma less effective than he should be.  He is still 22, so there is a lot of time for him to mature (and learn how to hit right handers as a right.)  When that happens, watch out.   

Likely 2017 path: On the 40-man roster with the Twins, likely starting SS at AAA Rochester with a potential trip to the majors.

13. Brusdar Graterol (28)
DOB: 8/26/1998; Age: 18
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired:   International Free Agent signing 2014
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: Rookie/DSL (2015)
ETA: 2020+

Brusdar Graterol was signed by the Twins as an international free agent from the Venezuela on August 29, 2014, three days after his 16th birthday, for $150,000.  The Calobozo native made only 4 career starts in the DSL before he required Tommy John surgery and moved statewide the summer of 2015.  His numbers in those 4 games, as a 16 year old, fully 3 years younger than the league, were video-game like: 11 IP, 17 K, 13.9 K/9, 36.2 K%, 1 BB, 0.8 BB/9, 34 K-BB%, 2.45 ERA, 1.19 FIP, 1.18 WHIP (.444 BABIP.)  He made my 2016 off-season prospect list at number 28 (http://tenthinningstretch.blogspot.com/search/label/2016%20Prospect%20List).   He returned from the surgery well, throwing his plus to plus plus fastball at 94-97 mph, supplementing it with a crisp slurve at the 85-87 mph range and a work in progress changeup.  He is throwing from a 3/4 delivery that causes deception between his pitches.  Graterol is one of the few pitchers in the Twins' organization with top of the rotation stuff, but he will need a lot of work.  Reports from Fort Myers say that he added about 40 lbs to his DSL weight the past season and a half. Definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Likely 2017 path: EST and the GCL or Elizabethton rotations depending the Twins' draft.

12. Nick Burdi (3)
DOB: 8/3/1996; Age: 24
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'5", Weight: 220 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 2nd round in 2014
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: AA (2015, 2016)
ETA: 2017

Nick Burdi was drafted by the Twins in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft from Louisville as a Junior.  The Hinsdale, IL was the Louisville closer his last 2 seasons and finished his Junior season with ridiculous numbers: 32 games, 37 IP, 18 H, 2 ER, 10 BB (2.4 BB/9), 65 K (15.8 K/9,) for 0.49 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 18 saves.  Burdi had the arm to bypass the minors and pitch directly at the Twins' pen in 2014, but he started the season in A Cedar Rapids (13 G, 13 IP, 26 K, 18.0 K/9, 48.2 K%, 8 BB, 5.5 BB/9, 33.3 K-BB%, 4.15 ERA, 1.33 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, .400 BABIP) and finished in high A Fort Myers (7 G, 7-1/3 IP, 12 K, 14.7 K/9, 42.9 K%, 2 BB, 2.5 BB/9, 35.7 K-BB%, 0.00 ERA, 1.35 FIP, 0.95 WHIP, .385 BABIP).  Burdi started the Next season in AA Chattanooga, demoted to Fort Myers for inconsistency in the end of June and returned mid August.  For the season Burdi pitched 30 games in AA (43.7 IP) walked 32 (6.6 BB/9, 10.7 K-BB%) 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, 35.6 K-BB%) 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 (42.3K%, 38.5 K-BB%,) allowing no earned or unearned runs and only 2 hits with a .380 WHIP.  Were it an isolated incident, his numbers in AA in 2015 could be of some concern; looking at the facts that a. other top relief prospects, like Reed and Chargois suffered there that season, and b. that Burdi dominated in the AFL, the concern is alleviated.  Burdi was invited in the MLB Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, but quickly shut down with elbow concerns that were diagnosed as a bruised humerus.  He pitched only 3 innings in Chattanooga last season for that reason, and has changed his delivery in order to help his healthy.

Burdi is throwing a high 90s plus plus fastball that tops in three digits and supplements it with a plus to plus plus slider that sits at 89-90, creeping into the low 90s.  He is also throwing a changeup.  Burdi had has a violent delivery and his mechanics are concern both as far as his health and his command goes.   Hopefully his recent changes in his delivery will address this, without taking away his effectiveness.   Pitchers with high 30s K-BB% are rare to find and Burdi has closer potential, but he has to get healthy, stay healthy and keep command of his fastball, which has done at several levels so far.  2017 will be a rebuilding and cautionary season for him, as he is not invited to the Twins' Spring Training

Likely 2017 path: Depending on health, Rochester or Chattanooga pen with a potential MLB call up this season.

11. Luis Arraez IF (24)
DOB: 4/9/1997; Age: 19
Positions: 2B
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 5'10", Weight: 155 lbs
Acquired:   International Free Agent signing 2013
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A (2016)
ETA: 2019

Luis Arraez was signed by the Twins as an international free agent from the Venezuela on November 3rd, 2013.  The San Felipe native opened some eyes in his first professional season in the DSL hitting  .348/.433/.400 (147 wRC+) in 31 games (135 PA).  The next season he moved to the GCL where he continued his success hitting .309/.377/.391 (133 wRC+) in 57 games (233 PA).  Last season he played for class A Cedar Rapids where he was the fifth youngest player in the Midwest League.  He hit .347/.386/.444 (146 wRC+) in 114 games (514 PA).  He continued the season in the Venezuelan Winter League where he hit .335/.382/.445 with 15 BB and 15 K this in 45 games (182 AB.)  Other than Cedar Rapids where he was 31:51, Arraez has had at least equal strikeouts to walks, and his K% was never higher than 9.9%.  His splits last season was pretty equal for the lefty hitting Arraez: .333/.378/.422 vs LHP and .351/.388/.450 vs RHPs.  He finished the season with a .374/.398/.457    slash line the second half that included a very impressive .425/.444/.487 performance in August.  His swing is compact with great bat control and plus bat speed, quick wrists and the ability to hit the opposite way. His power has been improving (0.052 to 0.082 to 0.097 isoP), his contact has remained fairly high (.374, .323, and .382 BABIP) and he has decent speed but not good base stealing instincts (career 21/37 SB).  His play at second base has been improvin every season and he was +13 DRS last season in Cedar Rapids.  Arraez is starting to look more and more like a two way player with All-Star bat potential, but he is still very young.  It will be interesting to see how he will fare against higher level competition, but his VWL results are extremely promising.

 Likely 2017 path: Starting 2B at Fort Myers

2/7/17

Twins' off-season moves and rumors report: 2/7/2017

This is the latest installment of the Twins 2016-2017 off-season rumors and moves report.  You can find the previous here and all the previous installments in this series here.

I will be bringing news for Twins moves and rumored interest as they come periodically, leaving the names of interesting parties as are unless something changes about their status, adding new information as it comes.  As previously, this is actually reported interest, and not "who fits where" hypothetical interest.  I will be adding information about former Twins as it happens, but not rumors, as well.  This is what has happened or rumored to have happened so far:
  • The Twins claimed SS Ehire Adrianza from the Brewers (2/6)
  • The Twins designated RHP Pat Light for assignment (2/6)
  • The Twins signed OF Josh Romanski to a minor league contract (2/5)
  • The Twins signed 3B Tom Belza to a minor league contract (2/5)
  • The Twins signed C Jose Gonzalez to a minor league contract (2/3)
  • The Twins designated 1B/DH Byung ho Park for assignment (2/3)
  • The Twins are interested in RHP Joe Blanton (1/30)
  • The Twins are interested in 1B and former Twin Justin Morneau (1/29), however there seems to be no room on their roster (1/30)
  • The Twins are interested in DH/1B Mike Napoli (1/24).  It was reported that Napoli was not a fit (1/29)
  • The Twins are "strong on" LHP and former Twin Craig Breslow (1/28)
  • There is interest by unnamed teams on Twins RHP Ervin Santana and the Twins have indicated that nobody is "untouchable" (12/16)
  • The Twins could have interest in Red Sox'  P Drew Pomeranz, but have not discussed them yet with Boston (12/6); However are not listed among the teams that were interested in Red Sox' pitchers per Boston sources (12/7)
  • The Twins have talked to the Diamondbacks about their young pitching.  No particular names were mentioned and nothing is imminent (11/29)
  • The Twins might be interested in RHP Justin Masterson (11/23) as a minor league free agent signing (11/29)
From the former Twins' news department:

No news this period.

2/6/17

2017 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect 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 2016 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

This is the countdown for players ranked 51-55th in the system. You can find players 56-60 here, players 51-55 here, 46-50 here, 41-45 here, 36-40 here, 31-35 here, 26-30 here, 21-25 here, and all segments in the series here.

20. Huascar Ynoa (27)
DOB: 5/28/1998; Age: 18
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'3", Weight: 175 lbs
Acquired:   International Free Agent signing 2014
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: Rookie, GCL (2016)
ETA: 2020

The Twins signed Huascar Ynoa to an $800,000 bonus on July 2 of 2014 and had his first professional season in DSL in 2015 as a starter.  He started 14 games (56.7 IP) walked 30 (4.7 BB/9) and struck out 47 (7.5 K/9 and 19.2% K%) with a 2.70 ERA (3.84 FIP) and 1.29 WHIP (.258 BABIP).  Like his 7 year older and 5 inch taller brother Michael, who at some point was the baseball number 20 prospect according to baseball prospectus and now is in the White Sox' organization, consistency was the biggest issue with Huascar Ynoa.  He has 3 pitches (fastball, curve, slider) which all flash above average to potentially plus, but he did not throw them consistently, thus the walks.  He does have a good feel for all his pitches, which suggests that mechanics might be an issue here that can be correctable.  Additional data pointing out to a mechanics issue were his numbers in full wind up when pitching with nobody on:  20.7 IP, 26 H, 24 BB, 15 K for a 2.42 WHIP.  Subtract those from his totals and his numbers when pitching from the stretch position ended up like this: 36 IP, 17 H, 6 BB (1.5 BB/9) , 32 K (8 K/9) and 0.639 WHIP, which are absolutely impressive under any and all circumstances.   Last season in the GCL, also as a starter at age 18, he made considerable improvements (11 GS, 51 IP, 51 K, 9 K/9, 24.3 K%, 12 BB, 2.1 BB/9, 18.6 K-BB%, 3.18 ERA, 2.52 FIP, 1.10 WHIP, .303 BABIP.  Between the 2 seasons, in similar number of innings he reduced his walks from 30 to 12 and his wild pitches from 10 to 3, while increasing his strikeouts, indicating that he is on his way to achieve consistency.   This season he improved his curveball to near plus, and added an above average changeup, while gaining a couple of ticks on his fastball that now hits 94.  His changeup is an effective weapon against lefties who he kept to an .167 OBA (vs to a .270 OBA against RHB).  The reverse splits are a good thing to see from a young pitcher, whose effectiveness against righties will come with command and maturity.

Likely 2017 path:  Extended Spring Training and move to the Elizabethton rotation in June

19. Amaurys Minier (15)
DOB: 1/30/1996; Age: 21
Positions: OF/1B
Bats: S, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired:   International Free Agent signing 2012
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: Rookie, Elizabethton (2015,2016)
ETA: 2019

Amaurys Minier was signed by the Twins as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic on July 2, 2012 for a $1.4 million bonus.  The San Cristobal native was signed as shortstop but here was no intention of keeping him at that position.  After off-season shoulder surgery in 2013, a season he his .214/.252/.455 in the GCL, 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 (.228 isoP), even after he broke his hand during extended spring training.  Clearly the shoulder and hand were 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, while his isoP dropped to .086. Still a year and a half younger than the league average player in the Appalachian league, and reportedly having to fight nagging injuries that season, the potential is still there, but Minier's stock nose-dove in the rankings. That season he made the transition from the OF to 1B.  Last season he repeated in Elizabethton, still about half a year younger than the league, where he hit .222/.318/.449, returning his isoP to .228.  His BABIP in 2016 was .281, which is very similar to his disasterous 2015 (.288) and much unlike his 2014 (.375.)  He was on a tear in July (.235/.388/.559) while cooling off considerably in August (.218/.271/.423) but the power was still there.   Power is his best tool, and he has tons from both sides of the plate, but it appoaches elite from the right side (.317 isoP as RHH in 2016).  He is a man without a position who will likely end up either at first base or at DH at the higher levels, but the Twins will try to keep him on the field as much as possible.  He can play the field, just not consistently.  As a former SS, the instincts and hands are there.  It is a matter of learning a position and getting a ton of repetitions.  There is a lot of potential, but his contact needs to improve and his BABIP to return to mid 300s, pushing his batting average closer to high 200s, and for that to happen he needs to improve his pitch recognition, something that "clicks" for different players at different times in their development.

Likely 2017 path:  Cedar Rapid Kernels' starting first baseman and potentially corner outfielder.\

18. Mason Melotakis (12)
DOB: 6/28/1991; Age: 25
Positions: LHP
Bats: R, Throws: L
Height: 6'2", Weight: 220 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 2nd round in 2012
Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: AA (2014, 2016)
ETA: 2017

Mason Melotakis was drafted by the Twins in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft from Northwestern State University (LA.)  The Grapevine, TX native 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 game; one of them (5th Round Pick, Tyler Duffey) made the transition, albeit it looks like he is mostly suited for the pen, 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.  The return to the pen in 2014 in AA 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.  After his surgery and rehab, Melotakis' plus to plus plus fastball gets up to 96-97 mph and his once suspect slurve has improved to an above average pitch that flashes plus.  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, but was optioned to AA for the season.  At Chattanooga he appeared in 36 games (33-1/3 IP), had 42 Ks (11.3 K/9, 29.2 K%) and 12 BB (3.2 BB/9, 20.8 K-BB%), with a 2.97 FIP, 3.14 ERA, and 1.44 WHIP (.384 BABIP).   He appeared in 11 games (11 IP) in the AFL where he dominated (11 K, 1 BB, 1.64 ERA, 1.18 WHIP.)  His splits are considerably better against LHBs, but his slurve is an out pitch also against RHBs who he strikes out to a 1.5:1 ratio more than lefties; he is anything but a liability against RHBs, so his ceiling is higher than a LOOGY.Melotakis' stuff is a lot like that of Glen Perkins' in his prime and he belongs to a major league pen now.  The Twins have been cautious after his surgery, and he had a couple sort stints in the DL last season because of a stiff back, but he is MLB-ready now.

Likely 2017 path: Will fight for a position in the Twins' pen in this Spring Training, if caught in the numbers will start the season in AAA and likely called up later.

17. Kohl Stewart (13)
DOB: 10/7/1994; Age: 22
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'3", Weight: 195 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 1st round in 2013
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AA (2016)
ETA: 2018

Kohl Stewart was drafted by the Twins in the 1st round (4th overall) of the 2013 draft from St Pius X High School in Houston, TX.  Stewart is one of those players that elicit a lot of conflicting emotions when evaluated, because of the high expectations based on his potential and drafting position, which he apparently has not come close to fulfilling.  He started his professional career in the GCL the year he was drafted and pitched in 6 games, 3 starts, for 16 innings, striking out 16, walking 3, for a 1.69 ERA, and 0.938 WHIP.  He also made a start in Elizabethton that season for 4 innings, striking out 8, allowing a hit and a walk, after he recovered from a foot injury he suffered while stepping on a sea shell on the beach.   The next season (2014) he moved to single A Cedar Rapids, where, about 3 years younger than the league, he started 19 games (87 IP), struck out 62 (6.4 K/9, 17.2 K%) and walked 24 (2.5 BB/9, 10.5 K-BB%) and finished the season with 2.59 ERA, 3.73 FIP, and 1.138 WHIP (.270 BABIP), while fight shoulder tenderness.  After that season MLB.com ranked him 36th best prospect in Baseball, and the Baseball Prospectus ranked him 28th.  Stewart had a somewhat disappointing following season in 2015 for the Miracle.  He started 22 games after losing about a month in the DL because of elbow inflammation.  He pitched 129-1/3 innings had 45 BB (3.1 BB/9, 4.7 K-BB%) and 71 K (12.8 K% and 4.9 K/9) for a 3.20 ERA, 3.45 FIP, and 1.38 WHIP (.308 BABIP)  The hope was that the 4th 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, but he did not.  Potentially his injury was to blame, but that was not a very good season for him.  Last season he repeated in the high A Miracle where he improved enough (9 GS, 51-2/3 IP, 44 K, 7.7 K/9, 20.7 K%, 19 B, 3.3 BB/9, 11.7 K-BB%, 2.61 ERA, 3.27 FIP, 1.12 WHIP, .253 BABIP) to be promoted to AA Chattanooga the end of May.  There, his numbers flattened out again (16 GS, 92 IP, 47 K, 4.6 K/9, 11.8 K%, 44 B, 4.3 BB/9, 0.8 K-BB%, 3.03 ERA, 4.49 FIP, 1.47 WHIP, .291 BABIP) before finishing the season in the DL with right biceps tendonitis.

It appears that Stewart's ceiling moved after each of his seasons, from a top of the rotation flamethrower, compared to fellow Texan Roger Clemens when drafted to a bottom of the rotation pitch to contact pitcher who will utilize his ground outs (about 1.8 as many as fly outs for his career) to get bats out.  I think that the true is somewhat in between.  There are a few things that have stalled Stewart's development:  First and foremost Stewart is still learning how to pitch at 22 years old.  He was primary football player who was on his way to be a College quarterback before the Twins drafted him and he used to throw the ball past high schoolers in the Houston Catholic School circuit.  His stuff is excellent.  He has a plus to plus plus four seamer that hits 96, which he alternates with a plus 2 seamer in the low 90s and supplements it with a close to plus hard slider/cutter in the low-mid 80s, an above average high 70s curveball and an average change up.  His command is about average at this point and the primary reason of his declining K/BB ratio.  The issue with his command is his mechanics that are not smooth.  This issue has also caused him the nagging injuries (other than the seashell one) which he has been battling with all his pro career.  At this point the Twins and Stewart will be better served by taking a step back and re-examining his mechanics, working on a consistent, repeatable delivery that will help him be successful, instead of rushing him again.  If it were up to me, I would have him start 2017 in Extended Spring Training to do this, instead of a league that is 3 years older than him, and move him to AA with a new delivery and confidence and a way to excel, avoid injuries, and reach his potential.  Not sure that the Twins will do so...

Likely 2017 path: In the Chattanooga rotation, depending on health.

16. Ben Rortvedt (--)
DOB: 9/25/1997; Age: 19
Positions: C
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 5'10", Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 2nd round in 2016
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: Rookie/Elizabethton (2016)
ETA: 2020

Ben Rortvedt  was drafted by the Twins in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft from the Verona, WI Area High School.  He started his pro career in the GCL where he played in 20 games (59 AB) hitting  .203/.277/.254 with 5 BBs and 8 Ks, before he moved up to Elizabethton for the last 13 games of the season where in 40 AB he hit .250/.348/.250 with 5 BB, and 2 K.  He mostly batter third, fifth and sixth in the GCL and on the 7th spot in Elizabethton.  His splits were not significantly different against lefties or righties.  Good eye and pitch selectivity overall, still lack of contact in his first few games making the transition from aluminum to wood and this was reflected on his BABIP (.235 in GCL and .263 in Elizabethton,) which has room to move upwards and trended so nicely, improving in the harder league, as he spent more time with the wood.  He has a good feel in the catcher position which he played in 30 of his 33 total games (he was the DH for 3 games.)  Good arm with 28% CS, few issues blocking the ball (9 PB for the season,)  but overall a lot of promise, but a lot of youth and development ahead of him to reach his potential that is that of an above average two ways MLB-regular catcher.    

Likely 2017 path:  EST and Elizabethton or Cedar Rapids depending on the Twins' draft; outside chance to start at Cedar Rapids.