2014 off-season Minnesota Twins top 40 prospect countdown: 6-10

This is the seventh segment of the 2014 off-season Twins top 40 prospects, and we entered the top 10.  Prospects 36-40 are here, 31-35 here, 26-30 here , 21-25 here, 16-20 here, 11-15 here, and you can find all segments in reverse order here.

The number 6 to 10 off-season 2014 Minnesota Twins prospects are:

10. Stephen Gonsalves LHSP, DOB: 7/8/1994, 6'5", 190 lbs.

Stephen Gonsalves was drafted by the Twins in the fourth round of the 2013 draft.  He dominated pro ball, after he joined the team pitching 14 innings in each of the Twins Rookie League teams (GCL Twins and Elizabethton Twins) and finished the season with cumulative 28.3 IP in 8 games (5 start) striking out 39 and walking 11.  His ERA was 0.95 and WHIP 1.024.  His dominating K% (32.1 in the GCL and 38.1 in Elizabethton) bodes well for the tall lefty.

His fastball is at 89-91 mph with good action and touches 93 mph.  Its velocity is projected to increase as he grows and it is a plus pitch.  He also does have a plus mid 70s changeup already, but his sbreaking balls are a work in progress and below average at this point.  He is throwing a soft high 60s curve, which is the better of the two and a high 70s slider/slurve.  Last season was his age 18 season and he still has room to grow.  Depending on development of his breaking ball, he will either start his age 19, 2014 season at EST and then at Elizabethton or at Cedar Rapids.  He is slated to move fast in the organization and does have top of the rotation potential, especially if his fastball picks a couple of notches.

9. Trevor May RHSP, DOB: 9/23/1989, 6'5", 215 lbs

Trevor May was drafted by the Philadelphia Philies in the 4th round of the 2008 draft out of Keslo (WA) High School.  He came to the Twins, along with Vance Worley in the winter of 2012 for Ben Revere.  He was rated 69th prospect in baseball by Baseball American and 54th by MLB.com before the 2012 season.  May's stock was low when the Twins got him after 2012 because his production fell that season, his first at AA.  He pitched 149.7 innings (28 GS), struck out 151, walked 78, allowed 22 HRs (1.32 HR/9) had a 4.87 ERA (4.88 FIP) and 1.44 WHIP (.292 BABIP).  The main concern was that his K% fell from his usual high 20s and 30s a career low 22.9% and his BB% ever though it improved, it was still high at 11.8%.  He pitched 9 innings in the Arizona Fall League before he moved to the Twins organization last Fall.  He was added to the Twins 40-man roster then.

May repeated the Eastern League in 2013, now in New Britain.  Not reflected by his W-L record (9-9) or his ERA (4.51, similar to 2012), his repeat trip in AA resulted in small but significant improvement.  His K% increased to 24.1%, BB% decreased to 10.2%, HR/9 regressed to a still high but better 0.83.  His WHIP remained at 1.42, but with .329 BABIP this season (reflective to the bad defense at New Britain). All in all resulted in a full point drop plus on his FIP to 3.79 from 4.88 in 2012.  He has 3 good pitches:  A 92-94 mph plus sinker, a plus low 80s hammer curve that is an out pitch and an above average straight change that is his weaker pitch. 

There are concerns about both his command and control, and frankly they are the reason he is still in the minors.  His mechanics are inconsistent and likely the source of his issues.  Improved concentration and more focus on baseball instead of music production , will go long ways towards fixing these.  His ceiling is mid to top of the rotation pitcher, but unless his control improves and his changeup improves a bit or he adds another pitch, a major league bullpen may be in his future.  May will likely start the 2014 (his age 24 season) in Rochester and will be called up in September to the Twins.  

 8. Jose Berrios  RHSP, DOB: 5/27/1994, 6'1", 185 lbs

Jose Berrios was drafted by the Twins in the supplemental first round of the 2012 draft from Papa Juan (PR) High School .  He finished that season blazing through both Twins' rookie leagues, turning heads on the way.  In the Gulf Coast League he appeared in 8 games, starting one, pitched 16.7 innings, struck out 27 and walked 3.  His WHIP was 0.600, ERA 1.08 and FIP 0.50.  In the Appalachian League he started 3 games for 14 innings, striking out 22 and walking just one with a 0.643 WHIP, 1.29 ERA and 1.41 FIP.  In 2013, his age 19 season, he was a starting pitcher in Cedar Rapids and fell back to earth.  He started 19 games (103.7 innings) striking out 100 and walking 40, with a 3.99 ERA (3.44 FIP) and a 1.40 WHIP (.330 BABIP-driven).

The biggest disappointments in his first full season was the decrease of his K% from 43% or so to 22% and the increase of his BB% from 2-5% to 8.8%.  Not certain whether those changes were fatigue-driven, but Berrios will just be 20 in 2014, so there is still a lot ways to go.  Berrios has a plus fastball that sits at 92-93 and can get up to 96-97, an above average change and a work in progress slurve.  The command of his off-speed pitches has been the issue for him in Cedar Rapids, which probably is dues to inconsistent mechanics.  He does have a 3/4 arm release point that is inconsistent.  He does have top of the rotation potential, but he needs to develop better breaking pitches and have more consistent mechanics to reach it.  Otherwise he will be a relief pitcher.  Depending on how he shows up in Spring Training, he will start the 2014 season (his age 20) in the Fort Myers rotation, with a small possibility of repeating the Midwest League for part of the season if his mechanics are not there.

7. Kennys Vargas SH, 1B, DOB: 8/1/1990, 6'5", 255 lbs

Kennys Vargas was signed by the Minnesota Twins as an undrafted free agent in February of 2009.  As a Puerto Rican he was eligible for the 2008 MLB Draft but he was passed by all teams in all 50 rounds of the draft as a 17 year old high school senior. Vargas started at the Twins system at  the GCL his age 18 season (2009) hitting .257/.369/.404, 3 HR, 7 2B, 17/34 BB/K, in 35 games. He repeated the GCL his age 19 season .324/.388/.507, 3 HR, 15 2B, 13/40 BB/K in 39 games, exhibiting both good contact skills and gap power.   Next season he was in Elizabethton where he continued his dominance with the bat, hitting .322/.377/.489 with 6 HRs and 11 doubles and 15/50 BB/K in 44 games.  Unfortunately, that off-season he tested positive for a banned in the US diet pill that contained ephedrine and he had to serve a 50 day suspension losing half of the 2012 season.

But that second half of the 2012 season put him on the map as one of the Twins' top prospects. He playing in Beloit and made the transition from a doubles hitter to a home run hitter and improved his plate discipline skills.  In only 41 games (186 PAs) he hit .318/.419/.610 with 11 HRs and 10 doubles walking 28 times and striking out 41.  Those numbers were better than his Uber-prospect teammate's Miguel Sano's.   That season, the now expectant father, received the nickname "Baby Papi", referring to his similarity in statute and in punishing the ball to David Ortiz.   In 2013 he was promoted to Fort Myers where he hit .267/.344/.468 with 19 HRs and 93 RBI 50/105 BB/K in the longest campaign in his pro career (125 games, 520 PA) running out of gas later in the season. 

Vargas has phenomenal power and his power tool is up there with Sano's.  He needs conditioning.  His contact tool has been good (but regressed the second half at Fort Myers, likely because of fatigue) and his plate discipline has been improving.  His play at first base has also been improving but it is at Big Papi territory.  Next season, his age 23 season, he will likely start in New Britain and share DH/1B duties with DJ Hicks.  He has power from both sides of the plate but is a better LHB.  He was added to the Twins 40-man roster a few weeks ago and will be there in Spring Training.  A September call-up, and a mid-season promotion to Rochester, if all goes well in New Britain, might be in Vargas' near future.

6. Jorge Polanco, SH, SS/2B, DOB: 7/5/1993, 5'11", 165 lbs.

Jorge Polanco was signed by the Minnesota Twins on July of 2009 from the Dominican Republic for a $750,000 bonus.  He is in the same international class as fellow Twins' prospects Miguel Sano and Max Kepler, but his classmates stole the lime light until this season.  Much like Sano, Polanco started 2010 (his age 16 season) in the DSL and move to the states to the GCL mid-season.  But, unlike Sano, he had a hard time.  He hit .233/.303/.294 with 1 HR, but 18 BBs and 18 Ks, combined in 42 games (187 PAs) in 2010 between the 2 rookie leagues.   In 2011, his age 17 season, he repeated the GCL with similar results: .250/.319/.349 15/24 K/BB in 51 games (193 PAs).  A seventeen year old cannot be a bust, especially one with such a good eye as Polanco and he indeed broke through the next season in Elizabethton, where as an 18 year old he hit .318/.388/.514  with 20/26 K/BB in 51 games (204 PA.)  Once his contact tool met his plate discipline tool, the switch hitter entered the top prospect map. 

He continued to improve in 2013 as a 19 year old in Cedar Rapids where he hit .308/.362/.452 with 32 doubles, 42 walks and 59 strikeouts in 115 games (523 PAs) in his first full pro season.  He got contact and discipline before, but last season he started to exhibit gap power that was translated to doubles.  As of this writing Polanco is hitting .331/.396/.444 in 38 games (133 PAs) with 17 BB and 20 K, at the Dominican Winter League, which is a great performance for a 20 year old.  At 5'11" and 165 lbs he will never be a home run hitter, but seeing line drives and doubles is great.  In his career he played an equal amount of games at 2B and SS and a handful at the OF, but his future in this franchise is at SS, because it is the biggest position of need.  He does have the range and the hands to play SS, but he needs to get a better feel for the position, and the way a 20 year old does that is with more reps.  I think that Polanco will start his age 20 2014 season as the starting SS for the Fort Myers Miracle, pushing Nico Goodrum to third base and Travis Harrison to OF or 1B.  He will likely earn a promotion to New Britain mid season and could even be a surprise September call up for the Twins, since he is on the 40 man roster, depending on performance.

Next: the top 5.



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