2014 off-season Minnesota Twins top 40 prospect countdown: 16-20

This is the fifth 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 , 21-25 here and you can find all segments in reverse order here.

The number 16 to 20 off-season 2014 Minnesota Twins prospects are:

20. Brian Gilbert, RHRP, DOB: 8/12/1992, 6'1", 215 lbs.

The Twins selected Brian Gilbert in the 7th round of the 2013 draft from Seton Hall University.  Gilbert was the closer at Seton Hall and continued his 2013 season in Elizabethton, where he pitched in just 5 games (6 IP) allowing a single hit before was promoted to Cedar Rapids.  All in all he pitched in 18 games (23 Innings) in his pro career with a 0.78 ERA, 0.609 WHIP, walking just that one batter in E-town and striking out 14.

Gilbert's weapons are a plus fastball that hits up to 96 mph, a plus slider that he commands very well and he throws at any count, and an "attack the hitter", 'bulldog' mentality.  Gilbert will likely start the season as the Fort Myers closer.  He has the stuff, approach and mentality to move fast in the organization, potentially reaching the majors in 2015.  He will not start, but has MLB closer potential.

19. Zach Jones, RHRP, DOB: 12/4/1990, 6'1", 185 lbs.

Zach Jones was selected by the Twins in the 4th round of the 2012 draft from San Jose State University.  Another hard throwing reliever to be selected in that draft, Jones will not be converted to a starter, unlike some of his draft mates.   After he was drafted, Jones made 2 stops last summer, in Elizabethon for 6 games and at Beloit for 12.  He finished the season with 20 IP in both levels, 2.25 ERA, 1.1 WHIP, 34 Ks and 11 BBs.  He spend the whole 2013 season as the primary closer at Fort Myers, pitching in 39 games (48.7 IP) to a 1.85 ERA (2.71 FIP) and 1.151 WHIP.  He struck out 70 and walked 28.  He was rewarded with an AFL representation where he had a very short but unremarkable performace this Fall (7G, 6IP, 9BB, 9K, 3HR, 18 ERA).

A couple of fun, little known facts about Zach Jones: He did play as a DH for 3 years in San Jose State where he accumulated a .300/.378/.453 slash line with 2 HR in 136 ABs.  Also, a certain statistics web site  suggests that he played for the independent Nortwest League Yakima Bears as a Catcher during his college years.  That was another Zach Jones

His best tool is his fastball, which is the best in the organization according to BA and it is truly a plus plus pitch.  It sits between 96-98 and touches triple digits.  His delivery is very deceptive, but there is some effort to it.  He complements his fastball with a curve that is above average.  Control has been his biggest issue.  If he simplifies his delivery, improves his control and develops a third pitch (change?) he is an All-star closer material.  That is 3 ifs in a row, but his floor is higher than Jimmy Hoey.  He will likely start 2014 as the New Britain closer with a fast track to Rochester and a potential September call up.  Will not be surprised if he is invited to the big club's Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.

18. Lewis Thorpe LHSP, DOB: 11/23/1995, 6'1", 160 lbs.

Lewis Thorpe is the second youngest player in this top 40 list and just turned 18.  He was signed on July of 2012 to the largest bonus ever given for an Australian player  , $500,000.  He played his first professional season in the Gulf Coast League last summer, pitching 44 innings between 8 starts and 4 relief appearances.  He had a 2.05 ERA (1.43 FIP) striking out 64 and walking just 6.  His 38% K% and 10.7 K/BB are just phenomenal at any level, especially if you are 17 and still growing.

He has 3 pitches and are all above average:  A fastball that sits in the low 90s (that is up about 5 mph in a year), a curve and a changeup.  Also has a very good feel for the game, an effortless delivery, and is still growing.  He is one of the top leftie talents in the Twins' organization and will likely start 2014 in Elizabethton.

17. Adam Walker, RH, OF, DOB: 10/18/1991,  6'5", 225 lbs

Adam Walker by the Minnesota Twins in the 3rd round of the 2012 Draft from Jacksonville University.  He started his pro career that season in Elizabethton, making a seamless transition to the wooden bat, hitting .250/.310/.496 with 14 HRs in 58 games.  In the 2013 season he was promoted to Cedar Rapids where he stayed the whole season.  In 129 games (553 PA) he hit .278/.319/.526 with 27 HR and 109 RBI.  

Power is Walker's most obvious tool (.246 and .248 IsoP in the last two seasons, age 20 and 21) and will likely increase. He played mostly first base in college and made the transition to full time OF (RF) in the pros. Walker is an adequate corner outfielder, even though his arm is weak, and has some speed.   His contact and selectiveness tools need work; his K% drop from 30.2% in 2012 to 20.8 % is encouraging.  If he improves his contact he can be an All-Star corner outfielder (likely left fielder) in the majors.  Will likely start the 2014 (age 22) season in Fort Myers.

16. Max Kepler LH, OF/1B, DOB: 2/10/1993, 6'4", 180 lbs

Max Kepler was singed by the Twins as an amateur free agent from Germany in 2009.  He received a $800,000 bonus, the highest ever for a European baseball player.  Kepler is one of those prospects who is well known by people who follow the Twins, so I will not get into an in depth introduction, but I will talk move about his ranking here. 

A lot of people have Kepler as a top 10 prospect, based on pure potential, but this season he took a step back.  He is still ranked as a top 20 prospect, which is a pretty big thing in this rich system.  After 4 years as a pro, to be a top prospect you have to be close to reach this potential and Kepler other than his repeat season in Elizabethton in 2012 has not.  An elbow injury held him back this season allowing him to play only 61 games with Cedar Rapids (the most in his 4 year pro career) and of those 24 at first base and 7 as a DH.  He hit an anemic .237/.312/.424 with 9 HRs and 40 RBI with a 24/43 ration.  He played at the Arizona Fall League as a first baseman where he was totally overmatched (.234/.306/.313).  He was added to the 40 man roster this fall before the Rule 5 draft.

His young age (20) and flashing of power (and he is still growing) is what kept him this high in the prospect list.  Unless he comes out in Spring Training bashing, he will likely repeat the Midwest League with an early promotion to Fort Myers in 2014.

Next: 11-15


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