2014 off-season Minnesota Twins top 40 prospect countdown: 21-25

This is the fourth segment of the 2014 off-season Twins top 40 prospects, counting down prospects 31 to 35.  Prospects 36-40 are here, 31-35 here, 26-30 here and you can find all segments in reverse order here.

The number 21 to 25 off-season 2014 Minnesota Twins prospects are:

25. J.D. Williams, SH, OF, DOB: 11/20/1990, 5'11", 183 lbs

J.D. (aka JaDamion) Williams was the Twins' 10th round pick of the 2010 draft from  Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate HS in Tampa, FL.  He is the son of former major leaguer Reggie Williams .  J.D. Williams was drafted as a middle infielder (he pitched as well in High School) but other than his first pro season in the GCL, he has been an outfield in the Twins' organization.  Up to before this season, he was just another prospect moving from the GCL to the Appalachian League to the Midwest League annually with limited success, namely his promising 50 game season in Elizabethton in 2011 where he hit .324/.406/.465 swiping 10 bases in 15 tries.  His full pro season in Beloit (2012, age 21) was a trial.  He did not make much contract (.234/.311/.340) and his base-stealing (23/32 SB,) excellent range and defense were the only tools he flashed.

2013 was the season the put Williams on the map as a prospect.  Repeating the Midwest League, in Cedar Rapids this time, he hit .281/.391/.461 in 80 games.  Compared to his 2012 in the same league, he improved his BB/K rate from 39/115 to 47/67, his IsoP from .106 to .180, while continuing swiping bases and playing excellent OF defense, mainly at LF due to teammates named Buxton and Walker.  He was promoted to Fort Myers where he finished the season hitting .236/.333/.293 in 42 games, which was likely fatigue related, since the 122 games he played this season was the most of his pro career by 30 or so.  Likely starts the season in Fort Myers and moves to New Britain. Has a potential for 20/20/20 season (2B/HR/BB). Because of the depth in the Twins' OF, could potentially return to second base.

24. D.J. Hicks, LH, 1B, DOB: 4/2/1990, 6'5", 228 lbs

D.J. (aka Dalton) Hicks was the Twins 17th round pick in the 2012 draft  out of University of Central Florida.  Hicks started his pro career last season in Elizabethton where he made a seamless transition to the wooden bat (.270/.382/.453, 4 HRs, 25 RBI, 19 BB, 37 K in 31 games (136 PAs).  He started 2013 in Cedar Rapids where he hit .297/.355/.494 with 13 HR and 82 RBI in 89 games (400 PA) and finished in Fort Myers (42 games, .270/.364/.405, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 176 PA).  He accumulated 110 RBI this season and this figure led the Twins' organization, ahead of Adam Walker (109) and Miguel Sano (103.)

This might sound like a blasphemy, but at similar points in their professional career (albeit Hicks at older age) Hicks as a player is similar to a young Justin Morneau.  In addition to the physical similarities and defensive challenges at this point, Hicks' age 23 season split between the Midwest and Florida State League resulted in a combined .289/.358/.468, 17 HR, 110 RBI production, while Morneau's age 20 season (2001) split between those leagues, with 10 addition games in the Eastern League, resulted in a combined .314/.389/.497, 16 HR, 97 RBI production.  Morneau is clearly the better player here but Hicks is in the area code...  His power tool is his best.  He has already shown signs of improved pitch recognition and with improvement of fielding and contact, he can be a major league first baseman.  One little known fact about D.J Hicks:  In addition to playing first base, Hicks was a pitcher in College, pitching a total of 66 innings in 3 seasons awfully. 

Hicks will likely start 2014 at Fort Myers, if Kennys Vargas mans first base in New Britain.  If Kennys Vargas starts at Rochester, Hicks will likely start in New Britain.  Potentially they can both spit 1B/DH duties at New Britain.

23. Jose Abreu RHSP, DOB: 6/13/1992, 5'11", 170 lbs.

Jose Alexi Abreu (not to be confused with the Cuban First Baseman) Signed by the Minnesota Twins as a non-drafted free agent on Sept. 2, 2010 out of the Dominican Republic.  After 2 seasons in the DSL, he made the transition to the GCL last summer  where he served as the main closer of the team pitching 28 innings in 18 games striking out 30 and walking 5 for an 1.61 ERA and 0.821 WHIP.  

He has a nice fastball with a lot of movement and a small statute and reminds some of another diminutive Dominican  in pitching style, especially attacking hitters.  He does have a decent curveball that has fooled the GCL hitters, but it needs improvement, as does his change up.  Will likely start the season as a swing man in Elizabethton.

22. Matthew Koch RH, C, DOB: 11/21/1988, 6'0", 219 lbs

Matthew Koch was the Twins' 12th round pick of the 2011 draft out of Loyola Marymount University.   He finished that summer in Elizabethton (12 games, 51 PA, .273/.333/.545, 2 HR, 9 RBI)  moved up to Beloit in 2012 and Fort Myers in 2013.  He had solid and nearly identical seasons as a catcher in both A and high A (.253/.349/.421, 8 HR, 23 2B, 39 RBI in 89 games Beloit in 2012) and (.278/.346/.401, 7 HR, 20 2B, 40 RBI in 98 games in Fort Myers in 2013.  Likely, he will put a similar line next season in New Britain.  This season he improved on the BB/K ratio from 35/106 in 2012 to 35/75 in 2013, which is always nice to see in a developing prospect.

He calls a good game behind the plate and is a sure handed, if not flashy catcher.  He threw out 30% of the would be base stealers.  As indicated, he would likely start the 2014 season in New Britain.  His could be a solid backup catcher in the majors, with the potential of a solid starter depending on his development.

21. Alexis Tapia RHSP, DOB: 8/10/1995, 6'2", 195 lbs

Alexis Tapia was signed by the Minnesota Twins from Venezuela on Sept of 2012 and 2013 was his first professional season.   He spent last season (his age 17 season) in the DSL where he playing in 11 games (7 as a starter) pitching 42.3 innings, striking out 31 and walking 5.  His ERA was 2.13 and his WHIP a miniscule 0.874.

The 3 things that you hear about Tapia are: that he is "projectable", with a growing 6'2" frame, that he has a "good feel for the game", and that he is "throwing strikes".  Beyond those cliches, he is working with 3 pitches (fastball, curve, change) which, other than his fastball that approaches plus, are still works in progress, but he is 17.  Depending on how his English is, he will likely move to the Gulf Coast League in 2014.

Next: 16-20

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