2/18/18

From the horse's mouth: Why Jake Odorizzi stunk last season but trading for him does not stink for the Twins

The Minnesota Twins announced that they traded their 20th prospect Jermaine Palacios to the Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Jake Odorizzi.  This is the second recent "buy low" acquisition of a pitcher who had a rough 2017, but all signs point to an improvement in 2018.  I have discussed why the acquisition of Anibal Sanchez makes sense for the Twins here; the reasons that Odorizzi will improve are slightly different.

Today (2/18/18) the Front Office show on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette had an exclusive interview with Odorizzi.   In that Odorizzi mentioned that hamstring and back issues in 2017, impacted him "quite a bit" last season.  Especially his back bothered him since Spring Training.  As a result he made mechanical adjustments to compensate for the pain, which created "back habits" cutting his extension point short when finishing pitches and became more of a "side to side" vs "up and down" pitcher.  He was "constantly tinkering" until he went to the DL got enough rest and came back feeling the way he "should feel."  It took him "a bit" to fix his mechanics, but felt good at the end of the season.

And the numbers support this.

After he returned from the DL in August, for the rest of the season, his pitching line looked like this:

3.51 ERA, 48-2/3 IP, 26 BB, 45 K, .186 OBA, average Game Score 53

In September, when his mechanics cleared up his line looked like this:

1.03 ERA, 26-1/3 IP, 9 BB, 30 K,  .116 OBA, average Game Score 64

The Twins will be thrilled if they get the September Odorizzi.  These are Ace numbers, but they will not mind getting the August to September Odorizzi.  And all of that for their number 20 prospect who was behind 3 other shortstops (Nick Gordon, Wander Javier, and Royce Lewis, alphabetically) in the Twins' shortstop prospect depth.   This is a great trade for the Twins and they will reap the benefits in 2018.

2/16/18

Anibal ad portas: 10 reasons why the Anibal Sanchez signing makes sense for the Twins.

The Twins have signed free agent RHP Anibal Sanchez, formerly of the Detroit Tigers to an 1 year contract that is for about $2.5 million with the same amount in incentives.  The deal is not guaranteed so there is no down side for the Twins.  Looking at Sanchez's 2017 in a traditional way (starting in the pen, being demoted, moving into the rotation and finishing with a 3-7 record, 6.41 ERA and 1.59 WHIP,) makes this signing borderline nonsensical, and even more so given the verbal assurances by the new Twins' front office that improving the front of the rotation was a priority.

All that aside, I believe that this is a good signing for the Twins.  Here are 10 reasons why:

  1. The Twins will likely still sign a top of the rotation starter.  Sanchez's signing has more to do about what they think the ability of Phil Hughes and Adalberto Mejia is at this point than about filling the top of the Twins rotation
  2. Sanchez's signing will give another year for Stephen Gonsalves & Fernando Romero to work on their deficiencies (fastball location, command and movement & endurance, respectively) before they are forced to be parts of the Twins' rotation
  3. Even if  Sanchez frizzles during Spring Training or even in April or May and gets released, the Twins are left with what they had before they signed him and the fact that his contract is non-guaranteed makes the financial risk also very small.  In other words:  He is just another arm to compete for a spot.  If he makes the team great, if he does not, the Twins did not gain or lose anything.  In yet another words, this is like Sanchez coming in to fight for a position.  If he gets it good, if he does not, no harm.
  4. The Tigers had him start the season in the pen and transitioned him to the rotation later in the year, pretty much messing him up. Starting the season in the rotation, he might be much better. Despite that, his average game score in 17 starts was 46 (50 is MLB average), and this includes an game that he pitched one scoreless inning as a starter and a game with an 8 game score, in which he should had departed earlier
  5. He pitched in post season games in 3 different seasons with a 2.79 ERA, 26.7 K%, 18.0 K-BB%, and 1.16 WHIP, bringing something that the Twins could value down the road.
  6. His traditional 2017 numbers were an abberration.  His .354 BABIP, 19.3 HR/FB, and 67.1% LOB are due for a huge possitive regression 
  7. His 21.6 K% in 2017 was bettered only by Jose Berrios from all the 2017 starters
  8. His and 15.6 K-BB% in 2017 would have been better that that of each and every 2017 Twins' starter
  9. His 4.16 SIERA in 2017would have been better that that of each and every 2017 Twins' starter
  10. He is not a pitch to a contact guy.  His 9.8 SwStr% in 2017 was just higher that Berrios's (9.5)

2018 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 16-20

This is the next segment in the 2018 Twins top 60 prospect list.  You can find the introductory segment that discusses qualifications to be on this list and presents the players who were on the 2017 list but are not in this list here.  You can find the list of the previous rankings here:  56-60, 55-51, 46-50 , 41-45, 36-40, 31-35, 26-30, 21-25.  You can find all segments in this series here.


Here are players 16-20 in reverse order with their 2017 ranking in parenthesis. Players not in the 2017 top 60 list are indicated by (--)

20. Jermaine Palacios (31) SS/3B, 2020
DOB: 7/19/1996; Age: 21
Positions: SS
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 145 lbs
Acquired:   International Free Agent signing 2013
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: A+ (2017)
ETA: 2019

Jermaine Palacios was signed by the Twins as an international free agent from Barquisimeto, Venezuela on July 7, 2013.  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).  In 2016 he was promoted to Cedar Rapids, started very cold (.471 OPS in April and .514 OPS in May) and started warming up (.613 OPS in June and .714 OPS in July) as the weather did, before his season ended on July 17 with a fractured left (glove) hand.  His overall slash line was .222/.276/.287 and .306/.346/.367 for July.  He does not walk much or strikeout much, but for some reason in addition not to making much contact early in the season, his isoP dropped from .171 and .168 in his two 2015 stops to 0.065, and his BABIP took an about 200 point tumble to .253 from the .375 and .464 in his 2015 stops (it was .333 in 2014.)  He repeated Cedar Rapids in 2016 where he excelled in 62 games (276 PA) hitting .320/.362/.544 with a .404 wOBA and 154 wRC+.  His BABIP moved up to .356.  Mid-season he moved to Fort Myers as a 20 year old and he cooled up considerably.  He hit .269/.303/.359 with a .306 wOBA and 92 wRC+, but he was close to 3 years younger than the league.

Palacios had wrist issues in 2016 that seem behind him, based on the Cedar Rapids performance.  His BABIP at Fort Myers was at .322, which is where he has been when good.  His K% rose to 20.2 from the 16.7 in Cedar Rapids and his BB% dropped to a career low 3.8 from 4.3 at Cedar Rapids. He was 20/35 at stolen bases between both stops.  Hard to tell the root cause of his problems at Fort Myers, but he had reverse splits, hitting righties at a respectable .280/.316/.390 rate and lefties at only .238/.265/.270.  It could be pitch recognition.  Palacios will likely stay as a short stop, since his glove plays at the position and he has improved.  It would be beneficiary for the 21-year old to repeat Fort Myers starting in the season, but he might be pushed up because of the numbers: Twins top prospects Royce Lewis and Wander Javier are both shortstops, in need of a full-season ball home and likely will start at Fort Myers and Cedar Rapids, respectively, which will push Palacios to Chattanooga, ready or not.

Likely 2018 path:  Starting shortstop at Fort Myers or Chattanooga, depending on his and other players' health.

19. Jean Carlos Arias (36)
DOB: 1/14/1998; Age: 20
Positions: CF
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 5'11", Weight: 170 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 7/2/2014
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: GCL (2016, 2017)
ETA: 2020

Jean Carlos Arias was signed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from  Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic the summer of 2014.  In his first professional season in the DSL he hit .311/.378/.537 with 18 BB, 30 K, 13 2B, 9 3B and 2 HRs in 189 PAs.  He was 11/17 in stolen bases.  That .914 OPS is not quite at Miguel Sano level (Sano hit .344/.463/.547 at age 17 in the DSL), but cannot be ignored in a league where the average OPS is .680.  His wOBA was .425 and wRC+ 151, which are also on the ridiculous level. Arias destroyed RHPs at the rate of .330/.390/.568. Reports from the Dominican have the 17 year old Arias, who batted at the number 3 spot for the DSL Twins, is a true 5-tool Centerfielder.  In 2016 he moved to the United States for Extended Spring Training and later to the GCL where he played an error-less OF in all 3 outfield positions and struggled with the bat hitting .202/.265/.266 with 10 BB and 28 K, stealing 7/10 bases and only 6 xBH / 25 H in 45 games (124 AB.)  He repeated the GCL last season with much better results:  .298/.359/.476,  .393 wOBA and     138 wRC+ in 185 AB in 48 games.  His IsoP increased to .179 and BABIP to .372, close to his first professional season in the Dominican.  The strikeouts were a tad high at 22.7% compared to 7.6 BB%. He made the Post-season GCL All Star team.  Arias has a plus glove at centerfield with excellent range and sure-handedness.  As far his bat goes, he still needs a bit of work against LHP (.255/.345/.255) but he destroys RHP (.316/.365/.573).

Likely 2018 path: Extended Spring Training and the Elizabethton starting centerfielder.  Outside chance of moving to Cedar Rapids, depending on the Twins' draft and his Spring Training.

18. Jose Miranda (--)
DOB: 6/29/1998; Age: 20
Positions: IF
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the second supplementary round of 2016
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: ELZ (2017)
ETA: 2021

Jose Miranda was drafted by the Twins in the second supplementary round of 2016 from Leadership Christian High School at Guaynobo, PR.  His hit tool was his best tool, but in his first season as a pro in 2016 in the GCL, Miranda struggled.  He hit .227/.308/.292 with a .291 wOBA and a 83 wRC+.  Upon moving to Elizabethton last season, he showed why he was a 2nd round pick.  He hit .283/.340/.484 with a .367 wOBA and a 117 wRC+.  He had a .202 IsoP, 6.5 BB% and only 9.7 K%, in 55 games (247 PA).  He played mostly second base in 2017, and a mix of second, short, and third in 2016. His footwork and instincts are below average at this point, and his arm is just average, which indicates that second, first, or left field might be his future home.  He utilizes all fields and was tied for the lead in HRs in the Appalachian League with 11. He was a post season Appy League All-Star and received the MiLB.com organization All Star Award, both last season.  Miranda hit .299/.344/.521 off RHP and .232/.32/.375 off LHP, which might indicate a slight difficulty in off-speed ball recognition from lefties.   His bat is ahead of his glove, but his glove is not horrible.

Likely 2018 path: Somewhere in the Cedar Rapids outfield.

17. Tyler Wells (54), RHP  2020
DOB: 8/26/1994; Age: 23
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'8", Weight: 265 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 15th round in 2016
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A (2017)
ETA: 2020

Tyler Wells was drafted by the Twins in the 15th round of the 2016 draft from California State San Bernandino.  The Oklahoma native was a starter there for 3 seasons, pitching in 38 games (35 starts) for a total of 204 innings, striking out 191 (8.4 K/9), walking 90 (4.0 K/9), with a 3.84 ERA and 1.37 WHIP.  His last (junior) season he had better results (2.84 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 15 games, 92 IP) while his peripherals remained pretty much constant (8.7 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9) which indicates that he got a better feel in pitching.  He continued as a pro to Elizabethton where he started 10 games (47-1/3 IP), striking out 59 (11.2 K/9, 29.2 K%) and walking 17 (3.2 BB/9, 20.8% K-BB%) finishing with a 3.23 ERA, 2.50 FIP, 1.20 WHIP (.328 BABIP).  In total 2016 has been a good year for Wells, starting 25 games for 149-1/3 IP between college and rookie league.  In the 2017 season Wells made 14 starts for Cedar Rapids, pitching 75-1/3 innings, striking out 92 (11.0 K/9, 29.6 K%) and walking 22 (2.6 BB/9, 22.5 K-BB%).  He had a 3.11 ERA, 3.05 FIP, and 1.13 WHIP (.302 BABIP.)  He missed some time last season with elbow strain, and also played in 4 rehab games in the GCL.

Wells is a very durable starter and has the physique of a football tight end.  As a high school senior he was listed at 6'7" and 212 lbs. At San Bernandino he grew an inch and filled up his frame to 265 lbs, without being overweight.  As a collegiate his strikeouts were in bursts.  He had games where his strike outs were in double digits and games where there were few.  His results as a pro show hope that he can consistently keep his strikeout high by getting a better feel for his stuff from start to start.  Wells throws an above average fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup. His plus slider is a true out pitch.  His mechanics are very good and consistent for his size and there is a lot of potential for improvement of his pitches, which in combination with his durability, makes Wells an interesting prospect

Likely 2018 Path: In the Fort Myers rotation.

16. Nick Gordon (5)
DOB: 10/14/1995; Age: 21
Positions: IF
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round in 2014
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AA (2017)
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.  Last season he played at Chattanooga, where he hit a career best .270/.341/.408 with a .344 wOBA and 117 wRC+.  He also had career bests with 9.2 BB% and .139 IsoP as well as career worst 23.2 K%.

Gordon's glove is about average at SS but the footwork and lateral movement is not there to believe that he can be a first tier major league shortstop.  His bat still projects as a major league average, however he was again neutralized against LHPs (.174/.273/.240 in 121 AB in AA last season.)   He had good speed, but not great base stealing instincts that need a lot of work.  This season was his greatest work load with 578 PA and Gordon showed that his his 6-0/160 lb frame might just not be durable enough for a full season.  He hit a robust .315/.376/.504 in the first half, and he followed by a lackluster .221/.304/.305    the second half.  His last two seasons overall 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. In addition, there seem to be make up issues, because instead of focusing on working on his baseball weaknesses this off-season, Gordon chose to produce music videos, including one in which he was wearing clothing with another MLB team's insignia.  With Polanco as the Twins SS of the present, and Palacios, Lewis, and Javier right behind Gordon, at shortstop and Arraez and Miranda at second base, maybe the Twins' best way of dealing with Gordon is to use him as a center piece for a trade for pitching, as long as he still is highly ranked in the National prospect lists.

Likely 2018 path: Starting AAA Rochester shortstop 

Next: 11-15


2/14/18

Slim starting pitcher pickings? Pick your poison: The list of all 31 free agent SP available to the Twins and the rest of the MLB

Here is the list of the starting pitchers (or pitchers who both started are relieved) that are free agents as of today, alphabetically.   I will keep updating the list thought out the spring as they sign:

Brett Anderson
Jake Arrieta
Clay Buchholz
Trevor Cahill
Andrew Cashner Agreed to a 2yr/ $16M contract with the Orioles 2/15
Jesse Chavez
Alex Cobb
Josh Collmenter
Jorge de la Rosa Signed a minor league contract with the Diamondbacks 2/16
R.A. Dickey
Scott Feldman
Jaime Garcia Agreed to an 1yr/$8M contract with the Blue Jays 2/15
Matt Garza
A.J. Griffin
Jeremy Hellickson
Drew Hutchison Signed a minor league contract with the Philies; 2/15
Ubaldo Jimenez
John Lackey
Tim Lincecum
Francisco Liriano
Lance Lynn
Wade Miley Signed a minor league contract with the Brewers; 2/16
Ricky Nolasco
Jake Peavy
Anibal Sanchez Singed a non-guaranteed 1y/$2.5M contract with the Twins 2/16
Hector Santiago Signed a minor league contract with the White Sox; 2/14
Chris Smith
Josh Smith
Chris Tillman
Cesar Valdez
Jason Vargas Signed to a 2yr/ $16M contract with the Mets 2/16
Edinson Volquez Signed a minor league contract with the Rangers 2/16

2018 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 21-25

This is the next segment in the 2018 Twins top 60 prospect list.  You can find the introductory segment that discusses qualifications to be on this list and presents the players who were on the 2017 list but are not in this list here.  You can find the list of the previous rankings here:  56-60, 55-51, 46-50 , 41-45, 36-40, 31-35, 26-30.  You can find all segments in this series here.


Here are players 21-25 in reverse order with their 2017 ranking in parenthesis. Players no in the 2017 top 60 list are indicated by (--)

 This edition includes an extra player who came on board the Twins' organization after these rankings were finished.

 25. Landon Leach (--)
DOB: 7/12/1999; Age: 18
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'4", Weight: 220 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 2nd round in 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: GCL (2017)
ETA: 2021

Landon Leach was drafted by the Twins in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft from Pickering High School in the Toronto, ON area of Canada.  He started his pro career in his age 17 season pitching 13-1/3 innings in the GCL in 5 games striking out 10 and walking 4, with a total of 3.38 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 1.28 WHIP (.268 BABIP), 16.4 K%, and 9.8 BB%.  Very small sample size aside, Leach is a very intriguing player.  He has not pitched for that long and his body has filled in (already at 6-4/220 as a 17 year old) so his command is yet not that consistent, despite having good mechanics and easy repetitive 3/4 arm slot delivery.  He as a fastball and slurve that both flash plus.  His fastball sits at mid 90s with excellent sink, and his mid 80s slurve has late movement and bite.  He needs to develop at least one more pitch to be regarded as a starter in the future, but he looks that part.  A still very young prospect with a potentially big future but also big questions in front of him.

Likely 2018 path: Extended Spring Training then depending on the Twins' draft either at the GCL or Elizabethton.

 24. Chris Paul (--)
DOB: 10/12/1992; Age: 25
Positions: UT
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 200 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 6th round in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (2016, 2017)
ETA: 2018

Chris Paul was drafted by the Twins in the 6th round of the 2015 draft as a Senior from University of California Berkley.  The Laguna Beach native has never been in this list before, but there are good reasons to believe that he will be a major league player.  He spend his first 3 seasons at Berckeley playing pretty unremarkable (.644, .666, and .643 OPS;) however he had a major breakthrough his senior season hitting     .325/.404/.562 with a .237 isoP, 11.1 BB% and 18 K% in 235 PA.  He continued his success after switching to wood in Elizabethton where he hit .302/.375/.488, .396 wOBA, 141wRC+ with 4.2 BB% and 15.6 K% and .186 isoP in 94 PA (21 games), but fell off the map upon moving to Cedar Rapids and hitting just .244/.277/.356 with .294 wOBA and 82 wRC+.  He repeated Cedar Rapids in 2016 and just 7 games of hitting .346/.414/.462 with .406 wOBA and 160 wRC+ was enough to earn him a promotion to high A Fort Myers, where he tanked, in a league were he was pretty much the average age.  He hit .219/.273/.296 with a  .269 wOBA and 66 wRC+.  Last season (other than a rehab assignment due to a non-throwing wrist sprain that kept him in the DL for a couple of months or so) he repeated Fort Myers where he hit .328/.380/.471 with .390 wOBA and 149 wRC in 61 games (264 PA).  He followed to the Arizona Fall League where he had an additional 76 PA in 18 games slashing .292/.329/.444.

Paul has made major strides with his ability to make contact.  he still does not walk much (5.7%) and his strikeouts are average (16.7%), but his ability to play all corner infield and outfield positions make him valuable as a hitter. He will not hit for power or steal a bunch of bases but he will make solid productive contact.

Likely 2018 path:  Starting at Chattanooga, potential to move up to Rochester or even to the bigs, as circumstances necessitate.

 23a Yunior Severino (--)
DOB: 10/3/1999; Age: 18
Positions: IF
Bats: S, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired:  Signed as an international free agent on December 8th, 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: GCL (2017)
ETA: 2022

The Twins signed the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native, Yunior Severino on December 8th of 2017 for a $2.5 million bonus.  Severino was signed by the Braves on July 2, 2016 for $1.9 million bonus, but became a free agent on November 21, 2017 by the MLB as a punishment for Braves' mismanagement of their international money allowance pool.  Severino played 10 games in the DSL in 2017 before he moved Stateside at the GCL.  There he played in 48 games (206 PA) hitting .286/.345/.444 with an .373 wOBA and 125 wRC+.  He walked 7.8% of the time and struck out 29.6%.

His glove is a work in progress. He played second base last season but both his footwork and glove suffered.  He is a power hitter (.159 IsoP) with a long swing that makes him strike out prone. The switch hitter is much better as a left handed hitter (.303/.365/.451).  He is still very young and a man without position and his development and physical growth will likely dictate where he will end up, but the bat is here, and will a few adjustments to his swing his contact tool will improve as well.

Likely 2018 path:  At Extended Spring Training and then to the GCL or Elizabethton, depending the Twins draft.

23. LaMonte Wade (22)
DOB: 1/1/1994; Age: 24
Positions: OF
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'1", Weight: 189 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 9th round in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: AA (2017)
ETA: 2018

LaMonte Wade was drafted by the Twins in the 9th round of the 2015 draft from the University of Maryland as a Junior.  The Baltimore native  hit .335/.453/.468 in his Junior season with 30 walks and 20 strikeouts in 42 games (158 AB).  He continued to his first pro season in Elizabethton, where he hit .312/.432/.506 in 64 games (284 PAs) with 8 doubles, 5 triples, 8 HRs, 12/13 SBs, 46 BB and 34 K.  He played 4 more games in Cedar Rapids.  He started 2016 in Cedar Rapids where he hit  .280/.410/.396, walking 44 times and striking out 27.  He also had 4 HRs, 3 3B and was 5/8 in SB in 56 games.  He was promoted to A+ Fort Myers in June after was was named a starting outfielder in the  2016 Midwest League All-Star game.  There he improved hitting .318/.386/.518 in 32 games (110 ABs) despite losing most of August in the disabled list.  Wade played all the 2017 season (117 games and 519 PA) in AA Chattanooga.  He hit .292/.397/.408 with a .370 wOBA and 135 wRC+.  He continued to the Arizona Fall League, where he played in 19 more games (77 PA) where he hit .238/.351/.413 and, in a collision with a teammate, he suffered a concussion serious enough to require hospitalization    

Wade has quick wrists, excellent eye, decent power and speed.  He can play all 3 outfield positions with Left and Center being his best as a defender.  He is hitting equally well left hand (.794 OPS in AA) nad right hand pitching (.809 OPS in AA.)   With Buxton and Granite ahead of him at the majors, Wade might potentially move to a corner spot.  There has been some discussion on moving him to second base; however throwing left-handed might put an end to that thought.  Wade was invited to the Twins' major league camp this Spring. With Buxton, Rosario, Kepler, Grossman, and Granite in the majors, and with several outfield prospects ranked higher than him with an ETA of 2020, Wade might serve as trade bait for the Twins.  The concussion is worrisome, as is, but to a lesser degree, his drop of performance in the AFL, and part of the reason that Wade is ranked here.  The other part is that the Twins 2018 system is better than the 2017.

Likely 2018 path:  Will start the season as the starting Centerfielder for Rochester, potentially in the majors if there is need. 

22. Lewis Thorpe (30)
DOB: 11/23/1995; Age: 22
Positions: LHP
Bats: R, Throws: L
Height: 6'1", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired:  International Free Agent
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: AA (2017)
ETA: 2019

Thorpe was signed on July 12th of 2012 by the Twins to the largest bonus ever given for an Australian player, $500,000.  His 2014 season in Cedar Rapids was somewhat of a disappointment compared to his 2013 season in Elizabethton (12 G, 8 GS, 44 IP, 64 K, 13.1 K/9, 38.1 K%, 6 BB, 1.2 BB/9, 34.5 K-BB%, 2.05 ERA, 1.43 FIP, 0.86 WHIP, .319 BABIP), showing considerable control issues (a career high 4.5 BB/9) and was fairly ineffective (4.24 FIP). Before this season, the Melbourne native had not pitched since September of 2014 resting and rehabilitating his left UCL, which eventually required Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2015.  He lost all of 2016 with mononucleosis. Twins personnel and fans highly anticipated to see how Thorpe will do in 2017 after 2 seasons of hiatus.  He spent all the season with Fort Myers (other than a single six inning start at Chattanooga.)  At Fort Myers he pitched in 16 games (15 GS) for 77 innings, striking out 84 (9.8 K/9, 26.8 K%), walking 31 (3.6 BB/9, 16.9 K-BB%,) hitting 2 and throwing 12 wild pitches.  He finished with a 2.69 ERA, 2.92 FIP, and 1.21 WHIP (.304 BABIP.)   

Thorpe has 4 pitches, including a plus mid 90s fastball, a plus change up and curveball and an improving cutter. His command and control suffered during his return.  Part of this is his self-admitted difficulties throwing the cutter and change up. It might take a while to get the feeling of these two pitches back, but once that is done, it will reduce his wildness.  Still difficult to project, but at 22 years old, there is still plenty of time for Thorpe.  He was added to the Twins' 40-man roster this winter.

Likely 2018 path:  Will start the season in the Rochester rotation with an outside chance to make it to the Twins, but he is still not stretched out enough to be a regular MLB starter.

 21. Jovani Moran (--), LHRP, 2020
DOB: 4/24/1997; Age: 20
Positions: LHP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'1", Weight: 167 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 7th round of 2015 draft
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: ELZ (2017)
ETA: 2020

The Twins drafted Jovani Moran in the 7th round of 2015 draft from the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico.  The Mayaguez, PR native started his professional career in the GCL Twins' rotation that year, pitching 19-2/3 innings in 6 starts.  He struck out 17 (7.8 K/9, 20.2 K%) and walked 9 (4.1 BB/9, 9.5 K-BB%) hit a batter and had 2 wild pitches.  He finished with a 4.12 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 1.27 WHIP and .281 BABIP.  Likely he was bothered by his elbow and had surgery to remove bone chips.  He missed the whole 2016 season recuperating, but came back the 2017 season on fire. He pitched out of the Elizabethton pen for 11 games (23-2/3 IP) striking out 45 (16.4 K/9, 50 K%, which means that every other batter he faced he struck out), walking 6 (2.2 BB/9, 43.3 K-BB%), and threw 4 wild pitches.  He finished with a 0.36 ERA, 1.51 FIP, and 0.73 WHIP (.290 BABIP.)

Moran is equally effective against lefties (.141 OBA) and righties (.111) and his future is likely in the rotation.  He has a low 90s fastball that he commands and controls very well, a plus slider with late biting action, a good changeup and he has been working on a curve.  He has very polished mechanics and an easy 3/4 delivery.  Because of his elbow situation, the Twins have been bringing him along slowly.  Moran is one of these prospects that has a top-5 prospect potential.  2018 will be an interesting season for Moran and will be telling how the Twins treat him after Spring Training.

Likely 2018 path:  At the Cedar Rapids rotation at some point depending his Spring Training health.  Could start the season there or join later after partial EST.

Next: 16-20

2/12/18

2018 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 26-30

This is the next segment in the 2018 Twins top 60 prospect list.  You can find the introductory segment that discusses qualifications to be on this list and presents the players who were on the 2017 list but are not in this list here.  You can find the list of the previous rankings here:  56-60, 55-51, 46-50 , 41-45, 36-40, 31-35.  You can find all segments in this series here.


Here are players 26-30 in reverse order with their 2017 ranking in parenthesis. Players no in the 2017 top 60 list are indicated by (--)

30. David Banuelos (--)
DOB: 10/1/1998; Age: 21
Positions: C
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 200 lbs
Acquired:  Traded by Seattle
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: A- (2017)
ETA: 2020

David Banuelos was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 5th round of the 2017 draft from Long Beach State as a Junior and traded to the Twins for international pool money.  The Ontario, CA native played 3 years as a catcher and was named the best defensive catcher in the country by the American Baseball Coaches Association and Rawlings.  In his senior year he hit .289/.368/.468, with a career best .179 IsoP, and a 17:45 BB:K ratio, in 234 PA.  As a pro he was assigned to short season A Everett of the Northwest league.   He hit .236/.331/.394 with a .340 wOBA and 109 wRC+, 11% BB%, and a concerning 27.4  K%.  His IsoP was .157 and the transition to the wood seemingly did not rob him of power.

His glove is very advanced and his arm is strong and accurate.  He threw out 38% of runners.  Banuelos had a very interesting split between home (.339/.453/.565) and away (.138/.200/.231) games, which might be meaningful or not.  It will be interesting to see how the competition between Banuelos and the Twins number 31 prospect Rortvedt plays in the future.  Banuelos is a year older, more advanced with the bat and at least equal, if not better, with the glove.  I admit that I might have ranked Banuelos a bit lower than where he should be, but I have not yet to see him play.  He can shoot up this list next season.

Likely 2018 path:  At Fort Myers. 

29. Tyler Watson (--)
DOB: 5/22/1997; Age: 20
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: L
Height: 6'5", Weight: 200 lbs
Acquired:  Traded by Nationals
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A (2016, 2017)
ETA: 2020

Tyler Watson was drafted in the 34th round of the 2015 draft by the Washington Nationals from Perry Gilbert (AZ) High School.  He was traded to the Twins for Brandon Kintzler in the July trade deadline of 2017.  He started his pro career in 2015 in the Nats' GCL team pitching 13.1 scoreless innings in 5 games (4 starts).  The next season he started in Extended Spring Training and continued in short season A Auburn, where he started 9 games (43 IP) striking out 48 (10.1 K/9, 28.2 K%) and walking 9 (1.9 BB/9, 23 K-BB%), with a 1.88 ERA, 2.05 FIP, 0.91 WHIP and .261 BABIP.  That gained him a promotion to Full A South Atlantic League for the last 3 games of the season.  In 2017 he started the season with the Hagerstown Suns (A) where he pitched in 18 games (17 starts) for 93 innings striking out 98 (9.5 K/9, 25 K%) and walking 24 (2.3 K/9, 18.9 K%) with a 4.35 ERA, 3.36 FIP, and 1.25 WHIP (.331 BABIP).  After the trade he moved A leagues from the South Atlantic to Midwest where he started 5 games for the Kernels.  He pitched 27-1/3 innings , striking out 18 (5.9 K/9, 15.7 K%) and walking 8 (2.6 BB/9, 8.7 K-BB%), with a 4.28 ERA, 5.07 FIP, and 1.32 WHIP (.286 BABIP.) 

Watson is fastball/curveball pitcher who is trying to develop a changeup.  His fastball sits from 87-90, and has good movement.  The hope is that it will gain a few ticks when Watson gains some muscle. Also that will help his endurance, since he ran out of stream in Cedar Rapids.  He has been playing with a changeup that is a work in progress.  His delivery is deceptive, yet non-mechanically solid, and he might have to simplify that at some point.  He is a comparable pitcher to Stephen Gonslaves, but has a long ways to go to get there.

Likely 2018 path:  At the Fort Myers rotation.

28. Charlie Barnes (--)
DOB: 10/1/1995; Age: 22
Positions: LHP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'2", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 4th round in 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: A (2017)
ETA: 2020

Charlie Barnes was drafted by the Twins in the 4th round of the 2017 draft from Clemson University as a Junior.  The lefty from Sumpter, SC had a very good Junior season starting in 16 games, pitching 101-1/3 innings, walking 22 (2.0 BB/9) and striking out 113 (10.0 K/9).  He had a 3.20 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.  He won the Stowe Award given to the best Clemson pitcher.  Another remarkable thing that Barnes achieved at Clemson is that he graduated on May of 2017 with a degree in Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management in only three years.  He started pro ball at Elizabethton, pitching 6 games (5 starts) walking 10 (4.0 BB/9, 13.5 K-BB%) and striking out 23 (9.1 K/9, 24 K%) with a 1.19 ERA, 3.90 FIP and 1.06 WHIP.  He moved to single A Cedar Rapids, where he was about a year younger than the league average, and started 6 games for 25-2/3 innings striking out 23 (8.1 K/9, 21.1 K%), walking 8 (2.8 BB/9, 13.8 K-BB%) with a 3.86 ERA, 4.78 FIP, 1.21 WHIP and .260 BABIP.  When all was said and done, Barnes pitched 149-2/3 innings between College and the pros in 2017.

Barnes is what a lot of people would call the "prototypical Twins' pitcher".  He has an average fastball that sits at 87-90, but on occasion can reach higher, which he commands and controls excellently, "painting the corners" and inducing a lot of ground balls. At Cedar Rapids he has 2.4 times as many ground balls as fly balls.  At Elizabethton 1.6 times.  His mid 70s changeup is plus with plus plus flashes and it is a true out pitch.  He also has a high 70s hard curve that is average as well as an above average low 80s slider.  As the Clemson top starter, he matched often with ACC top starters and he did well because of his poise and control.  Hard to tell what his ceiling will be, because there is a lot of development that needs to be done, but it will depend on whether he can get a couple of ticks on his fastball. At 6-2 and 160, there is the probability that he can get a bit of meat on his bones to accomplish this.

Likely 2018 path:  At the Cedar Rapids rotation with a mid-season move to the Fort Myers rotation.

27. Travis Blankenhorn (15), 3B/1B, 2020
DOB: 8/3/1996; Age: 21
Positions: 1B/3B/OF
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 208 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 3rd round in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A (2016,2017)
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, and he has been on the prospect list elevator. Right now he is on a down phase, esp. due to a change of position to a corner infielder and likely outfielder, as he matures. 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. In 2016 he moved to second base, but spend more than half of his time back at third base in 2017 where his glove was exposed, making 12 errors in 143 chances and not showing much range.  His bat also regressed.  He hit .251/.343/.441 with a .354 wOBA and 121 wRC+, with a .189 IsoP, which is fine for a good fielding second baseman, but not for a below average fielding corner position player or DH.

Blankenhorn will go as far as his glove will let him.  His bat was still neutralized by left hand pitching (.228/.320/.346) while he can hit righties okay (.260/.353/.479.)  A very similar player to Travis Harrison on both sides of the ball.  Hopefully something will click for Blankenhorn, who is still very young, but with a suspect glove and unable to hit left hand pitching, his ceiling is that of a platoon DH/PH, which this day and age is a luxury in major league ball.  There are a lot of scouts who are tantalized by his potential and he (still) is a top-10 and top-20 prospect in many lists.  However, based on his flaws just mentioned, I just could not rank him that high.

Likely 2018 path: At Fort Myers, hopefully finding a defensive home.

26. Andrew Bechtold (--)
DOB: 4/18/1996; Age: 21
Positions: 3B
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 185 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 5th round in 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: ELZ (2017)
ETA: 2020

The Twins drafted Andrew Bechtold from Chipola Junior College in Florida.  The Chadds Ford, PA native transferred there after two futile seasons at Maryland University where he managed a .221/.339/.241 slash line.  It could be the weather, but Bechtold blossomed in Florida hitting .419/.532/.676 with 12 HRs, 29/88 extra base hits, 49 BB and 44 strikeouts and stealing 24/48 bases, in 265 plate appearances.   JUCO or not, these numbers are more than draftworthy and Bechtold continued his success when he had to change his bat to wood in Elizabethton.  In 175 PA he hit .299/.406/.424,     .387 wOBA, 129 wRC+.  He walked 27 times, struck out 40, had 13/43 extra base hits and no SB attempts, while playing an above average third base.

Likely 2018 path: Starting third baseman at Cedar Rapids.

Next: 21-25

2/11/18

Et Yu Brute? Darvish signs with the Cubs. Now what do the Twins do?

On a cold and gray Chicago morning, as the snow flied, four days before Valentine's Day Ken Rosenthal, broke the hearts of plenty of Twins' fans by reporting that Yu Darvish signed a 6 year deal with the Cubs.   Darvish was considered by many not only the missing piece in a potential Twins' success story in 2018, but a statement acquisition by the new and improved front office, especially after another top of the rotation Japanese free agent, Shohei Otani, shunned the Twins and the frozen tundra for the California sun earlier this off-season.  A top free agent signing that would had put the Twin Cities on the map of the desirable places to go in the majors...

What are the Twins going to do about it, especially given the fact that Ervin Santana might not be ready until May? 

To me they are four options, listed here in order of what I believe makes sense:

  1. Work out a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for Chris Archer.  A package based on Max Kepler, Nick Gordon, and one of Stephen Gonsalves, Adalberto Mejia, or Zach Littell, should be in discussion.  If necessary, someone like Alex Kirilloff could be added, with a minor leaguer from the Rays' system to balance the trade.  In this case the Twins get a top of the rotation pitcher who will be their opening day pitcher and might be the piece they need to contend for the division and deep into the post-season, which should be their goal at this point. If a trade like this happens, the Twins can sign a free agent outfielder, like Carlos Gomez to replace Kepler's bat and glove, to an one year contract.  This is the best case scenario for the Twins, because unless they acquire someone like Archer, they will not content, which brings us to the second-best scenario:
  2. Do nothing and see what Gonsalves, Littell, and Fernando Romero have in the final 2 spots of the rotation, before Santana, and Trevor May are back in May.  The Twins really need to find a top of the rotation pitcher and with Jose Berrios improving with another year under his belt, he might be it.  Trevor May had excellent promise as a starter and might slot in the middle of the rotation ahead of Santana.  Can Romero be that number two that is his potential this season?  The Twins better find out, instead of doing the second worse scenario:
  3. Sign third grade, end of the rotation free agents to fill in the blanks.  Jason Vargas (a Terry Ryan, and I suspect of his administration's leftovers, darling,) Jaime Garcia, Edinson Volquez, Chris Tillman, Andrew Cashner, and the former true but mostly tried Twins Ricky Nolasco, and Hector Santiago, as well as every other pitcher you don't want the Twins to sign, belong in this category.  Trading for a mid-rotation starter, albeit with future potential, like Jake Odorizzi while better than the other choices listed here, falls in this category.  The future should be now for the Twins.  If they don't feel that this is the case, they should go with the kids.  Still this is not the worst case scenario; that would be:
  4. Signing one of the three "top" free agents left:  Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, or Lancy Lynne (in alphabetical order) and especially to a contract more than a year.  None of those pitchers will be an improvement to (let's say) Kyle Gibson's 2017 second half or to what a combination of Gonzalves/Littell/Romero/Dietriech Enns can potentially provide...   Arrieta and Cobb had played in the American League and were mid to end of the rotation types.  Lynne has never played in the AL and has had the luxury of facing pitchers, thus inflated K% and SwStr% numbers.  To add insult to injury, the Twins will have to give up a high draft pick for the privilege to sign any of these mid of the rotation types.  
Unfortunately, I have a hunch  that the Twins' priorities are in reverse order that my preference in this case...

2/9/18

2018 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 31-35

This is the next segment in the 2018 Twins top 60 prospect list.  You can find the introductory segment that discusses qualifications to be on this list and presents the players who were on the 2017 list but are not in this list here.  You can find the list of the previous rankings here:  56-60, 55-51, 46-50 , 41-45, 36-40.  You can find all segments in this series here.

Here are players 31-35 in reverse order with their 2017 ranking in parenthesis. Players no in the 2017 top 60 list are indicated by (--)

35. Bryan Sammons (--)
DOB: 4/27/1995; Age: 22
Positions: LHP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'4", Weight: 235 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 8th round in 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: A (2017)
ETA: 2020

Bryan Sammons was drafted in the 8th round of the 2017 draft by the Twins as a Senior from Western Carolina University.  The Wilmington, NC native have had an unremarkable College career until he appeared in the Cape Cod league the summer of 2016, winning the title game and going 1-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 10 games (4 starts.)  He pitched 29-1/3 innings, with a 1.36 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and 7.1 K/9.  His senior year he pitched in 16 games (15 GS) for 104-1/3 innings, wiht a 1.20 WHIP, 11.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9.  He started his pro career at Elizabethton, where he pitched in 7 games (3 starts) for 24-2/3 innings, striking out 31 (11.3 K/9, 32.3 K%), walking 7 (2.6 BB/9, 25 K-BB%) with a 1.46 ERA, 2.76 FIP, and 0.85 WHIP (.228 BABIP).  Mid-season after dominating Appalachian League hitters, he moved to the Midwest League Cedar Rapids and continued his successful seasona pitching in 6 games (5 starts) for 25-2/3 innings with 35 strikeouts (12.3 K/9, 31.5 K%) walking 11 (3.9 BB/9, 21.6 K-BB%) with a 3.51 ERA, 3.07 FIP and 1.29 WHIP (.318 BABIP).

The big lefty pitched 154-1/3 innings between college and pros, and has the looks of a rotation workhorse.  He held lefties to a .143 batting average and righties to a .235 at Cedar Rapids. His fastball sits at 88-91 and has the ability to change velocities.  Also has a curve, slider/cutter, and an changeup that are average but improving.

Likely 2018 path: Starting in the Cedar Rapids rotation, with an outside possibility of moving to Fort Myers based on Spring Training.

34. Derek Molina (--)
DOB: 7/27/1997; Age: 20
Positions: RHP
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6'3", Weight: 195 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 14th round in 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: GCL (2017)
ETA: 2021

Derek Molina was drafted in the 14th round of the 2017 draft by the Twins as a draft eligible Sophomore from Merced College.  The Turlock, CA native transferred there from Cal State Northridge, with the intend of being a two way player, pitcher and shortstop.  Even though he hit .356/.456/.550 in 160 AB, the Twins drafted him as a pitcher.  In his Sophomore season he pitched for 15 games (1 start) for 28-1/3 IP with a 0.95 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 13.7 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9.  He was assigned to the GCL as a pro and continued his success pitching in 10 games (2 starts) for 16-2/3 innings striking out 21 (11.3 K/9, 33.3 K%), walking 3 (1.6 BB/9, 28.6 K-BB%) with an 1.08 ERA, 1.44 FIP, and 0.90 WHIP (.308 BABIP).

The converted shortstop has a plus mid 90s fastball with a lot of movement, and an above average changeup with a good feel, complemented by a work in progress breaking ball.  He has excellent command of all his pitches.  Still very raw, but with very high potential and the mentality to close games, if needed (Between College and the GCL he amassed 8 saves in 2017).  However the Twins will likely see what he can do as a starter the more accustomed he gets with pitching.  He is a player that might jump up these ranking really quickly, in the manner of Brusdal Graterol.

Likely 2018 path:  In extended Spring Training and then in the Elizabethton rotation, or pen, depending on the Twins' draft.

33. Alberoni Nunez (--)
DOB: 2/17/1999; Age: 18
Positions: OF
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent on July 2, 2016
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: DSL (2017)
ETA: 2021

Alberoni Nunez was signed as an international free agent on July 2, 2016 by the Twins from San Domingo, Dominican Republic.  His first pro season was in the DSL where he was a monster with the bat (.352/.420/.545, .457 wOBA, 172    wRC+) and played CF and RF.  For comparison purposes, Miguel Sano's numbers at the DSL were .344/.463/.547,    .485 wOBA and 191 wRC+.  Nunez walked 10.4% of the time and struck out only 18.1%, which is really optimistic of someone with a .194 IsoP as an 18 year old.  Nunez has some speed as well, stealing 11/19 bases and harvesting 7 triples.  An interesting player to follow when he comes Stateside.

Likely 2018 path:  In extended Spring Training and then in the GCL outfield

32. Kohl Stewart (17)
DOB: 10/7/1994; Age: 23
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'3", Weight: 195 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 1st round in 2013
Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: AAA (2017)
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.  Other than a game at Rochester, Stewart spent all last season in Chattanooga starting in 16 games, pitching 77 innings striking out 52 (6.1 K/9, 15.5 K-BB%), walking 45 (5.3 BB/9, 2.1 K-BB%,) hitting 4 and throwing 13 wild pitches.  Ended with ta 4.09 ERA, 4.35 FIP, 1.52 WHIP and .296 BABIP. He spent good chunks of the season in the DL with left knee tendonitis.

Here is what I wrote last season about Stewart:

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 23 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...

I feel more that ever that this is a make or break season for him.  He was left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft and was not selected; that must have been a wake up call.  The Twins just need to do the right thing and try to fix his mechanics, before throwing him out there an having yet another disappointing season, his last before he becomes a minor league free agent...

Likely 2018 path: In the Rochester rotation, depending on health.

31. Ben Rortvedt (16)
DOB: 9/25/1997; Age: 20
Positions: C
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 5'10", Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 2nd round in 2016
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A (2017)
ETA: 2021

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.  He was rushed to Cedar Rapids last season, which was forgettable for him.  He hit .224/.284/.315 with a .279 wOBA, and 71 wRC+.  He also had career worsts in walks (6.5%) and Strikeouts (17.9%).  He had reverse splits hitting LHPs remarkably (.311/.400/.393) but neutralized against RHPs (.202/.253/.296). His OPS by month was .229, .510, .953, .575, .711, .364, which indicated that other than a hot spell in June, he was unremarkable the whole season.   

He has a good feel in the catcher position which he played in 86 of his 89 total games (he was the DH for 3 games.)  Good arm with 36% CS, few issues blocking the ball (15 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. His hitting tool is just not there, and I am not sure the that Twins did him a favor rushing him to full season ball.  There are questions at this point whether his hitting will be good enough for him to have a shot in the majors.  Catchers develop later, and maybe slowing down will help the former second round draft pick.

Likely 2018 path:  Repeating Cedar Rapids.

Next: 26-30

2/7/18

2018 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 36-40

This is the next segment in the 2018 Twins top 60 prospect list.  You can find the introductory segment that discusses qualifications to be on this list and presents the players who were on the 2017 list but are not in this list here.  You can find the list of the previous rankings here:  56-60, 55-51, 46-50 , 41-45.  You can find all segments in this series here.

Here are players 36-40 in reverse order with their 2017 ranking in parenthesis. Players no in the 2017 top 60 list are indicated by (--)

40. Aaron Whitefield  (59)
DOB: 9/2/1996; Age: 21
Positions: CF
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'4", Weight: 200 lbs
Acquired: Signed as international free agent by Twins on May 19, 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A (2017)
ETA: 2020

Aaron Whitefield was signed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from Brisbain, Australia on May 19, 2015. 2016 was his second professional season (he played 7 games in the GCL in 2015) and it highlighted Whitefield's versatility and steady hitting.  He played 51 games in the Rookie Gulf Coast League, starting 17 at CF, 8 at RF, 2 at LF, 5 at 3B and 18 at 1B.    He hit .298/.370/.366 with 2 HR, 7 2B, in 217 PA. Struck out 47 times and walked 19, stole 31 bases and was caught 9 times. In addition to the 19 BB, he had 48 singles, which means he attempted to steal 40 of the 67 times he reached first base, which is a very high rate.  Last season he moved up to Cedar Rapids and he hit
.262/.318/.414, .330 wOBA, 104 wRC+, had 6.7 BB% and 25.7 K%, and went 33/42 in stolen bases, while playing exclusively at Center field.  During the off-season he is still playing in the ABL hitting  .292/.364/.425 with 10/31 extra base hits and 10/17 SB.

His bat is advanced for someone with only few years of playing baseball (Whitefield is a converted softball player) and improving.  As most converted softball players, he is hitting RHP better that LHP.  His slash line against RHP at Cedar Rapids was .276/.333/.415 vs .227/.280/.412 against LHP. 
Whitefield is still very raw, but has good instincts both with the glove and the bat.  The bat will continue to improve the more he gets adjusted to baseball from softball, and right now it is much ahead of his peers.  He is one of the players who might make considerable jumps in prospect lists, since he has all the makings of a five-tool player if his power further (his isoP is up to .158 from .063 last season) improves and his contact tool, esp. vs LHPs also improves.  Strikeouts are a concern.  He made it all the way to number 40 from 59 in these rankings last year.  Still very raw and surviving (and thriving) due to his athleticism, but definitely a player to follow as he is playing against higher competition.

Likely 2018 path:  The starting centerfielder at Fort Myers.

39. Wander Valdez, (--) 
DOB: 11/22/1999; Age: 18
Positions: 3B
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 200 lbs
Acquired: Signed as international free agent by Twins on July 2, 2016
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: DSL (2017)
ETA: 2022

Wander Valdez was signed as international free agent by Twins on July 2, 2016 for a $495,000 bonus.  His only professional season was last season at the DSL where he hit .263/.347/.401, with a .364 wOBA, 117 wRC+, 10.9 BB%, 19.2 K%, and .138 isoP, while playing both corner infield positions.  He does have a considerable power for a 17 year old, and his arm is plus.  Will likely stay at third base, unless he grows considerably.  Very good sense for the strike zone and decent speed for his size.

Likely 2018 path: Starting at extended Spring Training and then at the GCL.

38. Lachlan Wells (29), LHSP, 2020
DOB: 2/27/1997; Age: 20
Positions: LHP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'1", Weight: 185 lbs
Acquired:  Signed as international free agent by Twins on November 21, 2014
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (17)
ETA: 2019

The Twins signed Lachlan Wells as an international free agent from  Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia on November 21, 2014 for $400,000.  Wells made his debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2015.   He played in 10 games (9 GS) and pitched 47.3 innings, walking 11 (2.1 BB/9, 20.5 K-BB%) and striking out 49 (9.3 K/9, 26.5% K%) for a 2.09 ERA (3.22 FIP) and 0.97 WHIP (.263 BABIP).  Last season he bypassed Elizabethton to play for Cedar Rapids in late June after Extented Spring Training.  For the Kernals he made 12 starts for 71-1/3 IP, walking 16 (2.0 BB/9, 16.7 K-BB%) and striking out 63 (8.0 K/9, 16.7% K%) for a 1.77 ERA (3.28 FIP) and 1.02 WHIP (.272 BABIP).  Wells moved all the way to Fort Myers in 2017 where he took a step back. He appeared in 16 games (14 GS) for 81-1/3 IP, striking out 68 (7.5 K/9, 20.1 K%) and walking 19 (2.1 BB/9, 14.5 K-BB%), with a 3.98 ERA, 4.17 FIP, and 1.17 WHIP (.272 BABIP.)  All his rate measures were career worst.  He missed missed all of July and most of August with an elbow flexor muscle strain, a situation that is concerning, because muscle elbow issues could very easily lead to ligament issues and Tommy John surgery.

Wells throws an above average 90-93 mph fastball, a solid average curveball and a changeup that is close to plus and is his out pitch.  His mechanics and complex delivery is a concern regarding durability, and a double concern now that he has elbow issues.  So far his spits against lefties and righties are about similar with only one big difference:  He produces much more ground balls against lefties that he does against righties.  It could be the more frequent use of the changeup, but it is an interesting data point.  The Twins have kept Wells as a starter thus far, but the bullpen might be a more realistic place for him in the future, especially given the fact that he has not pitched in triple digit innings yet.

Likely 2018 path: In the Fort Myers rotation, pending health; moving to Chattanooga mid season.

37. Pedro Garcia (45)
DOB: 7/21/1995; Age: 22
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent on October 11, 2015
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: GCL (2017)
ETA: 2021

The Twins signed Pedro Garcia as an international free agent from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on October 11, 2015. Garcia had his first professional season in the Dominican Summer Rookie League in 2016 and he was the ace of that team, starting 14 games (62-1/3 IP), striking out 69 (10.0 K/9, 28.2 K%), and walking 24 (3.5 BB/9, 18.4 K-BB%).  He finished the season with a 5-1 record, 2.17 ERA, 2.50 FIP, 1.01 WHIP (.260 BABIP).  Opponents had a very hard time making contact (.181 OBA), especially when hitting from the right side (.155 OBA).  In 2017 he move Stateside and joined the GCL after Spring Training.  He pitched in 10 games (3 starts) for 48-2/3 innings, striking out 41 (7.6 K/9, 20.7 K%) and walking 17 (3.1 BB/9, 12.1 K-BB%), with a 2.59 ERA, 3.55 FIP, and 0.88 WHIP (.191 BABIP).

Garcia has 3 pitches, a low to mid 90s two seamer fastball with good action, a workable changeup and an above average breaking ball.  There is wildness there (he also hit 8 batters and had 7 wild pitches). His ground ball to fly ball rate is 1.3, his mechanics good and his frame projectable.  Working on that fastball command will help him take the next step.

Likely 2018 path:  Extended Spring Training then GCL or Elizabethton, depending his adjustment to commanding the fastball and the Twins 2017 draft.

 36. Bailey Ober (--)
DOB: 7/12/1995; Age: 22
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'8", Weight: 215 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 12th round in 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: ELZ (2017)
ETA: 2020

Bailey Ober was drafted in the 12th round of the 2017 draft as a Senior out of College of Charleston (SC.)  The Huntersville, NC native missed all his Sophomore season with Tommy John surgery, had a trying Junior season but finished his Senior season strong, pitching 56 innings in 10 starts with a 3.21 ERA, 1.77 BB/9, 11.7 K/9, and 1.20 WHIP. He started his first season as a pro in Elizabethton where he pitched in 6 games (4 GS) and 28 innings, striking out 35 (11.3 K/9, 31.5 K%) and walking 2 (1.0 K/9. 28.8 K-BB%), for a 3.21 ERA, 2.86 FIP, and 0.96 WHIP (.319 BABIP).

Ober at 6-8 is very tall and gives a different look than most hitters are used.  He has a 91-93 fastball that he commands very well, a close to plus changeup, a slider and a curve that are average but have potential. He dominated his opponents at Elizabethton, but it will be interesting to see what happens against better competition.

Likely 2018 path: Starting in the Cedar Rapids rotation

Next: 31-35

2/5/18

2018 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 41-45

This is the next segment in the 2018 Twins top 60 prospect list.  You can find the introductory segment that discusses qualifications to be on this list and presents the players who were on the 2017 list but are not in this list here.  You can find the list of the previous rankings here:  56-60, 55-51, 46-50.  You can find all segments in this series here.

Here are players 41-45 in reverse order with their 2017 ranking in parenthesis. Players no in the 2017 top 60 list are indicated by (--)

45. Ryley Widell
DOB: 6/1/1997; Age: 20
Positions: LHP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'3", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 7th round in 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: ELZ (2017)
ETA: 2022

The Haiku, HI native was drafted in the 7th round of 2017 by the Twins from Central Arizona College as a draft-eligible Sophomore. He transferred there after an unfortunate Freshman season at Washington State (14 G, 3 GS, 20.1 IP, 8.85 ERA, 2.31 WHIP, 8.4 BB/9, 8.0 K/9).  He improved vastly at JuCo pitching in 17 games (16 GS) for 95-2/3 IP, with a 1.98 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 10.8 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9.  As a pro he started in Elizabethton pitching in 8 games (7 GS) for 29-2/3 IP striking out 41 (12.4 K/9, 30.6 K%) and walking 20 (6.1 BB/9, 15.7 K-BB%).  He also had 4 wild pitches. He finished with a 2.43 ERA, 4.10 FIP amd 1.52 WHIP (.358 BABIP)

At 6-3/180 Widell is projectible and the hope is that he will add a couple of ticks to his 90-92 mph fastball.  He as an above average changeup and has been working with a curveball in Elizabethton.  Command and control can be lacking some days;  Focusing on commanding the fastball and then working on secondary stuff will be a must for Widell.  There is a lot of potential here, but the floor is very low as well.

Likely 2018 Path: Extended Spring Training to work on command and then in the Elizabethton or even Cedar Rapids rotation depending on the Twins' draft.

44. Yeltsin Encarnacion (--) 
DOB: 6/28/1998; Age:19
Positions: IF
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 5'11", Weight: 170 lbs
Acquired: Signed as international free agent by Twins on September 2014
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: DSL (2017)
ETA: 2023

Encarnacion who is from Azua, Dominican Republic, was signed as international free agent by Twins on September 2014.  His first pro season in the DSL he hit an encouraging .286/.384/.333,    .363 wOBA,    114 wRC+ as a 17 year old, with 12.5 BB% and 15.5 K%.  He repeated the DSL in 2016 and regressed, other in the K%, hitting .220/.330/.270 with .310 wOBA, 86 wRC+, 12.4 BB% and 9.1 K%.  In 2017, back in the DSL as a 19 year old he had a breakthrough season, both as far as contact and power goes: He hit .318/.408/.523, .445 wOBA, 165 wRC+, with 12.4 BB/9, and 11.3 K/9.

Encarnacion has played all infield positions but 2B is likely his best position.  He has a strong enough arm to play the left size of the infield, but his defensive instincts and surehandedness are not that developed.  This .205 IsoP last season is impressive in any league, and especially by a 5-11, 170 lbs 19 year old infielder.  For example the 5-10, 185 lbs Eduardo Escobar who as a 28 year old had a power break through for the Twins had a .195 isoP last season.  Encarnacion is a contact machine who does not mind taking a walk here and there.  If that contact results in hits like it did last season when facing tougher competition, the future will be bright for him, even though his glove will be dragging behind.  Likely 2018 Path: Extended String Training .

Likely 2018 Path: Extended Spring Training and then at the GCL

43. Jacob Pearson (--) 
DOB: 6/28/1998; Age:19
Positions: OF
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 185 lbs
Acquired: Traded by the Angels
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: AZL (2017)
ETA: 2023

Jacob Pearson was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft by the Angels from West Monroe (LA) High School and was signed for an over-spot bonus.  He was traded to the Twins for IFA allowance.  In his first pro appearance in the Angels' Rookie Arizona League (the equivalent of the GCL) he hit .226/.302/.284 with a .286 wOBA and 69 wRC+ in 176 PA.  He had an 8.5 BB% and 21 K%.  Stole 5/8 bases and had 8/27 extra base hits (no HRs).  

Pearson was the top prep player from Louisiana and can play all OF positions including CF.  He has played first base as well.  He has good game speed, excellent feel for the game, hustle, and doubles power.  His arm is one of his weaknesses, and depending on how much he grows, the right side of the infield might be his future.  Played exclusively at the OF with the Angels, but this might change in the Twins' organization.

Likely 2018 Path: Extended Spring Training and then at Elizabethton, depending on the Twins' draft.

42. Jake Reed (25) RHRP
DOB: 9/29/1992; Age: 25
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 5th round in 2014
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AAA (2016, 2017)
ETA: 2018

Jake Reed was drafted by the Twins in the 5th round of the 2014 draft from the University of Oregon as a Junior.  The Tuscon, AZ native was a starter both of his first collegiate seasons and was converted to a closer in his junior season where he excelled pitching in 31 games (37 IP), striking out 34 (8.3 K/9), walking 15 (3.7 BB/9) finishing with 1.95 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 13 saves.  He continued the season in Elizabethton where he over-matched the opposition (4 G, 6 IP, 8 K, 0 BB, 1 H, 0 R, 3 SV) to a degree that the Twins moved him all the way to A level Cedar Rapids where he appeared in 16 games, pitching 25 innings with 31 K (11.2 K/9, 34.4 K%), 3 BB (1.1 BB/9, 31.1 K-BB%), for a 0.36 ERA, 1.48 FIP, 0.52 WHIP (.182 BABIP), and 5 saves.  Were that not enough, the Twins send him to the Arizona Fall League his first professional season, where among family and friends he pitched in 10 games for another 12-2/3 innings with good results (10 K, 7.1 K/9, 20.0 K%, 3 BB, 2.1 BB/9, 14 K-BB%, 2.05 ERA, 1.43 FIP, 1.03 WHIP, .270 BABIP.  So between all of his stops from Oregon to Tennessee to Iowa and to Arizona, in 2014 Reed pitched 61 games and 80-2/3 innings, a load that seems appropriate for a major league level reliever, but hardly for a first year professional, but Reed responded.  His strikeouts were down and walks up in Arizona, but that was more than expected from a pitcher who was overused by they usually cautious Twins.  In 2015 the Twins had Reed skip the high A Fort Myers and play all the way up to AA Chattanooga in his second season as a pro after a first season that was overused with the expected results:  Reed tanked.  He appeared in 35 games, pitching 47 innings, striking out 39 (7.5 K/9, 17.6%) and walking (career high 4.0 BB/9, and career low 8.1 K-BB% ), with a 6.32 ERA (inflated by a very low 50.1 LOB%), 4.20 FIP, 1.62 WHIP (.340 BABIP). To salvage his season in the begining of August Reed was sent to Fort Myers where we pitched better, finding his control, but not his strikeouts (9 G, 12-1/3 IP, 7 K, 5.1 K/9, 16.3 K%, 1 BB, 0.7 BB/9, 13.9 K-BB%, 0.00 ERA, 2.27 FIP, 0.73 WHIP, .229 BABIP).  To add to the 44 games and 59-1/3 innings, the Twins re-sent him to the AFL after the season where the appeared in 10 more games for a total of 10-2/3 innings (season totals 54 games, 70 innings), pitching well (10 K, 8.4 K/9, 25.6 K%, 4 BB, 3.4 BB/9, 15.4 K-BB%, 0.00 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 0.94 WHIP, .240 BABIP).  He started 2016 in Chattanooga, with better results  (41 G, 60 IP, 64 K, 9.6 K/9, 25.6 K%, 22 BB, 3.3 BB/9, 16.8 K-BB%, 3.90 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 1.22 WHIP, .314 BABIP).  He moved to Rochester for the final 9 games of the season doing well (9 G, 10-2/3 IP, 8 K, 6.7 K/9, 19.1 K%, 2 BB, 1.7 BB/9, 14.3 K-BB%, 3.90 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 0.94 WHIP, .258 BABIP.) For the season Reed pitched in 50 games for 70-2/3 innings.  Last season he also started at Chattanooga, but stayed only 5 games before he moved to Rochester, where he pitched in 22 games for 30-2/3 innings striking out 25 (7.3 K/9, 20.7 K%), walking 11 (3.2 BB/9, 11.6 K-BB%) with a 2.05 ERA, 3.40 FIP, and 1.14 WHIP (.281 BABIP)

Overused his first season and rushed both his first two seasons, Reed turned from an elite reliever to a below average to an above average reliever who has been a workhorse in the pen, already carrying MLB-level loads and more, each of his first professional seasons.  Last season he regressed a bit and this off-season, even though, unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, unlike two of his teammates he was not selected.  He has a plus fastball that sits from 93-95, an above average slider that flashes plus, and an average to above average change up.  Reed at this point has been passed by several other RHRPs, but all it will take is an opportunity to get a major league job, do well and hold into it.  Reed was ranked as the Twins' 16th best prospect in 2015 and 2016, dropped to 25th last season and to  42nd now, to reflect his status in the Twins' RHRP pecking order.

Likely 2018 path: At the Rochester pen with a potential call to the majors, depending on performance and needs.

41. Ricky De La Torre (--) 
DOB: 4/21/1999; Age: 19
Positions: SS
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 175 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 6th round in 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: GCL (2017)
ETA: 2023

The Juana Diaz, PR, native, Ricky De La Torre was selected by the Twins in the 6th round of the 2017 draft from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.  As a 17 year old in his first pro season at the GCL he did well.  He hit .268/.341/.359 with a .339 wOBA, 104 wRC+, 9.4 BB%, and 22.9 K%.  He was 5/11 in stolen bases, a number that should be improved.  His .092 IsoP and 9/34 extra base hits, including 3 home runs is very hopeful.  So it his power projectibility and his strong arm and potential ability to stay at SS.

He played at short, second, and third, but does project as a (yet another) shortstop with moderate to high ceiling.  Tools and projection is there, but he needs improvement in contact, defensive instincts and concentration, in general.  At just 18, there is no reason that this will not happen.

Likely 2018 path: Starting at extended Spring Training and then either repeating GCL or at Elizabethton depending on the Twins' draft.

Next: 36-40

2/3/18

Fixing the MLB Free Acency and CBA issues

It is very obvious with the way that this off-season has been as far as free agent signings, that there is something seriously broken with the was that the player compensation situation has been at the MLB.

Up until very recently the MLB players were compensated for what they did, vs. what they were expected to do in their future contracts.  This has led to monster 10 year contracts for 30+ year old players who were impossible to live to the expectations.  It has also led to poverty-level wages for a whole bunch of players, in the minor leagues, with no minimum minor league contract levels, a five- to six-year control of players as minor leaguers, and an additional 6 years of team control (the last through arbitration) at the major league level.  So a player who was drafted as a 21 year old in college, could be after 5 years of control in the minors making a pittance, and 3 years of control in the majors making the minimum (which is a pretty nice $600K or so), before hoping to increase that in his age 29 through 31 seasons via an arbitration, and then hitting it big via free agency.  

However, with the increase of analytically-based GMs and Front Offices, there is the realization that ages 32+ usually represent the declining seasons of a player (esp. post the steroid era) and teams do not want to play that much.  And nobody should blame them.  Players should be paid when they produce the most, which is a the peak of their careers.

The system is broken both ways.

I think that the following changes will help, come the new CBA, to create a more fair situation for everyone and for the fans to see a more competitive sport:

  • Establish a salary cap and a salary floor at 1.5x and .5x the previous season's MLB average.  Based on the opening day of 2017 that would be between  $207M and $69M in 2018.
  • Going over would mean forfeiting draft picks:  $10M  = 1st round, $5M = 2nd round, $2.5M = 3rd round for multiple seasons (i.e if you go over by $25M you would lose next seasons' top 3 rounds and the following round 1 picks)
  • Going under the floor will result to a. forfeit the league subsidies by the same amount of dollar a team is under, plus b.forfeiting draft picks at the same rate as going over.  So no more "tanking" for draft picks.
  • Establish a minimum salary of $15 (EST, Rk, ssA), $20 (A), $25 (A+), $30 (AA), $35 AAA per hour, for minor league players.  Based on 1500 hrs (9 months), those salaries become: $22.5K, $30K, $37.5K, $45K, and $52.5K a season at the different levels.
  • Unless extended, everyone hits free agency after his age 25 season, with the age based on player's age on opening day.
Holy cow!  This sounds like a player's dream. And so far it is; however: 
  • The concept of arbitration ceases to exist.  25 year old free agents who are entering their primes will be getting into contracts that will reward what they expected to gain during their primes.  
  • Maximum guaranteed contracts should be 5 years.  Options are allowed if the two parties agree.  "No trade" clauses go away (and they have been pretty much irrelevant recently.)
  • There will be no international free agents.  Everyone, including Asian and Cuban professional players will have to go through the draft, like in the NBA, with minimum age of signing 17 (the equivalent of a High School senior).  This will stop the Latin American children from taking advantage by "trainers" and sold to the highest bidder.  It will also stop teams from getting the best players from the Asian leagues or the Cuban league, just because they have more money.
  • The salary cap and floor will be based on all the $ spend by a team to players' salaries, both in the MLB and MiLB.  Most teams had about 300 minor and major leaguers last season.  The total minor league investment according to this proposal would have been about $10-11 million annually.   
  • Draft picks can be traded.  
  • The concepts of "International Allowance", "Qualifying offer", "Supplementary picks" etc cease to exist.
  • A first three round draft pick who is not willing to sign with the team that selected him, will not be eligible for the following years' draft.
The last few measures are more favorable to the owners.

I think that these measures will establish better competitive balance among teams, will pay the most to players who perform the best in their primes, pay the minor league players living wages, and stop unethical trainers from taking advantage of impoverished children.

What do you all think?

2/2/18

2018 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 46-50

This is the next segment in the 2018 Twins top 60 prospect list.  You can find the introductory segment that discusses qualifications to be on this list and presents the players who were on the 2017 list but are not in this list here.  You can find the list of the previous rankings here:  56-60, 55-51.  You can find all segments in this series here.

Here are players 46-50 in reverse order with their 2017 ranking in parenthesis. Players no in the 2017 top 60 list are indicated by (--)

50. Colton Burns (--)
DOB: 10/19/1995; Age: 22
Positions: OF
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 195 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 18th round in 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: GCL (2017)
ETA: 2021

Colton Burns was drafted by the Twins in the 18th round of the 2017 draft as a Junior from the University of California Santa Barbara.  The Palmdale, CA native transferred there from the JuCo College of the Canyons.  As a junior he played the OF and filled in at second base because of injuries.  He hit .308/.422/.389 with 9/57 extra base hits and 5/10 SB.  His first season as a pro was at the GCL where he hit .282/.423/.385, .393 wOBA, 138 wRC+, and had 16.3 BB% and 23.5 K% and was 8/11 in SB.

Burns is very raw but has a true 70 speed and excellent plate discipline.  He had some issues with contract his first time around with wooden bat, but this will be a matter of adjustment.  He projects as a left fielder or centerfielder in the future.  He is a player with tools similar to current Twins' OF Zack Granite.

Likely 2018 Path: Extended Spring Training and then Elizabethton.

 49. Hector Lujan (--) 
DOB: 8/23/1994; Age: 23
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'3", Weight: 220 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 35th round in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (2016)
ETA: 2020


Hector Lujan was drafted by the Twins in the 35th round of the 2015 draft from Westmont College as a junior.  The Corona, CA native went to University of California Santa Barbara as a freshman and sophomore but decided to transfer to get more opportunities to pitch.  In his Junior year he pitched 23 innings in 20 games out of the pen with a 4.30 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 9.8 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9.  A mechanical change in the pros reduced the walks (2.5/9 at GCL in 2015 and 2.6/9 in Elizabethton in 2016), but previously to last season, he was fairly ineffective:  in 2015 at GCL he pitched in 15 games (18 IP) with 16 K (8 K/9, 20.8 K%), 5 BB (2.5 BB/9, 14.3 K-BB%), with a 5.00 ERA, 2.70 FIP and 1.39 WHIP.  In 2016 he appeared in 19 games with Elizabethton pitching for 35-1/3 innings and had 30 K (7.6 K/9, 18.8 K%), 10 BB (2.6 BB/9, 12.5 K-BB) and a 5.35 ERA, 4.99 FIP and 1.39 WHIP.  That season he pitched a game for the Miracle (1 IP, 1 ER, 1 HR, 1 K).  Last season a different Hector showed up in Cedar Rapids and dominated as the closer for most of the season.  He appeared in 42 games (54 IP), stuck out 54 (9 K/9, 26.5 K%) walked only 8 (1.3 BB/9, 22.5 K%) and finished with 1.33 ERA, 2.79 FIP and 0.91 WHIP (.277 BABIP).

Two things happened for Lujan that helped those results:  His fastball gained a couple of ticks to 96-97 mph and he learn how to command and control it better.  It has a lot of movement and it is a plus pitch at this point.  Add a hard slider with plus flashes but solidly at above average and an average to above average changeup and Lujan might be on the fast track if he starts producing at higher levels.

Likely 2018 Path: Closer at the Fort Myers Miracle.

 48. Kerby Camacho (--) C, 2021
DOB: 11/23/1997; Age: 20
Positions: C
Bats: S, Throws: R
Height: 5'10", Weight: 175 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 11th round in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: GCL (2015, 2017)
ETA: 2023

The Twins drafted the Arecibo, PR native in the 11th round of the 2015 draft from the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy.  His first professional season in the DSL was disappointing (.093/.169/.167, .176 wOBA, 9 wRC+.  He lost all of his second season to a 60 day suspension testing positive for the anabolic steroid Nandrolone.  He return to the GCL in 2017 where he was much improved: .246/.378/.328 slash line with a  .349 wOBA and a 111 wRC+ in 74 PA.

He projects to stay at Catcher where he is pretty good with the glove cutting down 29% of the would be base stealers. He is good at calling games and pretty sure-handed as a backstop making no errors last season.  He is a switch hitting catcher, which is not a small feat by itself.  Still pretty raw and still question marks, and not only because he is another steroid strike away from major consequences on his development, but he is one to keep your eye on.

Likely 2018 Path: Catching at Elizabethton.

47. Tom Hackimer (--) RHP
DOB: 6/28/1994; Age: 20
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 5'11", Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 4th round in 2016
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A+ (2017)
ETA: 2019

The New Hyde Park, NY Native was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 4th round of the 2016 draft from St. John's University as a Senior.  He was a Physics majors with a 3.62 GPA and decided to go back to finish after being drafted by the Mets as a Junior.  In his senior year at the Big East conference he pitched in 28 games (53-2/3 IP) striking out 71 (11.9 K/9) and walking 19 (3.2 BB/9).  He finished with 8 saves, 1.17 ERA and 0.800 WHIP.  As a pro that season (2016) he was assigned to Cedar Rapids where he pitched in 21 games (26-1/3 IP), struck out 26 (8.9 K/9, 22.8 K%), walked 12 (4.1 BB/9, 12.3 K-BB%) and hit 7 batters.  He  had a 2.39 ERA, 4.16 FIP and 1.25 BABIP.  He repeated Cedar Rapids to start the 2017 season, pitching 16 games (24 IP), striking out 28 (10.5 K/9, 30.8 K%), walking 3 (1.1 BB/9, 27.5 K-BB%) and hitting 4 batters.  His ERA was 1.50, FIP 2.04 and WHIP 0.58 (.196 BABIP).  He moved up to Fort Myers where he pitched in 27 games (37-1/3 IP) stuck out 43 (10.4 K/9), walked 19 () and hit 7 batters.  He finished with a 1.93 ERA, 3.10 FIP, and 1.02 WHIP (.221 BABIP).  He followed with an appearance in the Arizona Fall League where he pitched 11-2/3 innings in 10 games with 7.7 K/9, 5.4 BB/9, 2.31 ERA and 1.29 WHIP.

Hackimer did not allow a HR this season.  He allowed 1 at Cedar Rapids in 2016 and none in 4 NCAA seasons.  He is an extreme ground ball pitcher, allowing 2-4 as many time ground balls as fly balls.  He is a submarine pitcher with a fastball that runs 89-92 and moves a lot (thus the walks and HBPs) and has a good Frisbee slider.  Control will make or break Hackimer, but he is fast tracked to the majors.

Likely 2018 Path: In the Fort Myers' pen with a move to Chattanooga mid-season.

46. Andrew Vasquez (52) LHP, 2019  
DOB: 9/14/1994; Age: 24
Positions: LHP
Bats: S, Throws: L
Height: 6'6", Weight: 228 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 32nd round in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (2017)
ETA: 2019

Andrew Vasquez was drafted by the Twins in the 32nd round of the 2015 draft from Westmont College where he transferred as a senior from University of California Santa Barbara where he pitched his first 3 collegiate seasons.  The California native was Highly recruited out of High School after finishing 5-1 with 1.54 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 52-1/3 IP and being a switch hitting first baseman.  His freshman season he started 15 games (88-2/3 IP) had 106 strikeouts (10.6 K/9) and 63 BB (6.4 BB/9) with a 1.93 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.  The next 2 seasons the wheels fell off and his ERA ballooned to mid 4s, before dropping to 3.06 after his transfer.  The problem?  Andrew Vasquez is an unusual pitcher.  One has to think of him as a knuckleballer, but unlike a knuckleballer, Vasquez bread and butter pitch is his curveball that he throws most of the time.  And it is a beautiful slow curveball that sits at the high 60s low 70s, which most of the time is a plus plus pitch that misses bats and induces very weak contact when it does.  He occasionally throws a mid 80s fastball that was just a step above a playground pitch at college but improving.  Missing bats is what Vasquez does, but when he misses the plate with his curveball and the hitters are sitting on his fastball, the results have been disastrous.  All of his collegiate career he was given more walks than hits. His strikeout numbers (13.1 K/9) and hits (4.8 hits per 9 innings) have been stellar his senior year, but walks were the problem (5.7 BB/9).  In his first pro-season with the Twins, Vasquez transitioned to the pen in the Gulf Coast League where the trent continued.  He pitched 12-1/3 innings in 12 games, striking out 22 (16.1 K/9) allowing 10 hits (7.3 H/9) but walking 15 (11 BB/9).  He started 2016 in extended spring training and looks like something clicked for Vasquez.  He moved to Elizabethton for 4 games, pitched 10 innings striking out 15 (13.5 K/9, 38.5 K%) allowing 6 hits (5.4 H/9) and walking only 4 hitters (3.6 BB/9, 28.2 K-BB%) ending up with an 0.90 ERA,  2.46 FIP, and 1.00 WHIP (.333 BABIP.)  He was promoted to Cedar Rapids where the success continued: He came of the pen in 13 games for 28-1/3 innings, with 36 K (11.4 K/9, 31.6% K%), 12 BB (3.8 BB/9, 21.1 K-BB%) and 13 H (4.1 H/9) translating into a 1.59 ERA, 2.63 FIP and 0.88 WHIP (.210 BABIP).   He begun last season at Cedar Rapids for 14 games (22-1/3 IP), striking out 33 (13.30 K/9, 36.7 K%) and walking 10 (4.0 BB/9, 25.6 K-BB%), with an 1.61 ERA, 2.02 FIP and 1.12 WHIP (.326 BABIP).  He moved up to Fort Myers, pitching in 23 games for 35-2/3 inning, striking out 52 (13.1 K/9, 34.4 K%) and walking 11 (2.8 BB/9, 27.2 K-BB%.) He finished with and 1.51 ERA, 1.82 FIP and 1.21 WHIP (.390 BABIP.)  He moved on to the Arizona Fall Leauge where he pitched in 11 Games, 12-2/3 IP, 1.38 ERA, 9.7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and 1.11 WHIP.

It has to be mentioned that Vasquez has not allowed a home run as a pro player.  As mentioned earlier, even though a secondary pitch, his 88-90 mph fastball has improved this season and he has been also toying with a slurve that sits at high 70s to low 80s and has improved to above average.  He is lethal against LHBs. He is a very interesting prospect who will live and die with the control and command of his curveball and if that holds up in higher levels, he might be a fast riser.  The benefit he has as a reliever that he did not have as a starter is that he can reduce his exposure when his command and control is not there.

Likely 2018 Path: In the Fort Myers' pen with a move to Chattanooga mid-season; aggressively, could start the season in AA.

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