Twins Spring Training Report from Fort Myers: 3/15/14: Top prospects galore take the back fields.

The (big) boys were out of town today and this left only the two A-level squads in action at the Lee County Sports Complex fields playing the A and Advanced A level Orioles' squads.   One of the things that need to be noted, is that these squads do not see each other in regular season competition.  The Twins' Advanced A team, the Fort Myers Miracle, is in the Florida State League, whereas the Orioles' Advance A team, the Frederick Keys, is in the Carolina League.  The Twins' A team, the Cedar Rapids Kernels, is in the Midwest League and the O's A team, the Delmarva Shorebirds, is in the Southern Atlantic League.  Even their higher level short season teams are in different leagues:  The Elizabethton Twins are in the Rookie Appalachian League, whereas as the Aberdeen IronBirds are in the Short-Season A, New York-Pennsylvania League.  So the players (and the coaches) are not really familiar with each other.

Another fun thing about today was that there were 9 of my top 40 Twins' prospects playing today and at least 3 more players who will receive consideration for next season: Numbers 8 (Berrios), 10 (Gonsalves), 11 (Eades), 12 (Jorge), 13 (Harrison), 16 (Kepler), 18 (Walker), 24 (DJ Hicks) and 26 (Duffey.)  Here is what I saw from them today:

Jose Berrios, was on top of his game.  He probably gained a couple on inches of height from last season and his fastball gained a few notches.  He was throwing easy 94-96 mph four seamers, his curveball was its usual plus pitch (but probably the third best curve by a Twins' pitcher today; more on that later) and his changeup is improving.  He struck out the side first inning and cruised afterwards.  A solid pitcher for that number 8 ranking, who might move a bit higher if he shows some endurance and pitches a bunch of innings at Fort Myers this season.

Stephen Gonsalves, my 10th ranked prospect, threw the single nastiest pitch on both fields today:  His 12-6 slow 69-73 mph curveball is a devastating pitch.  And coming from a tall lanky lefty who is all arms and lengths, is even more harder to hit.  Solid 89-91 mph two seamer and a good high 70s changeup complement his offerings.  I have Gonsalves ranked as the highest ranked LHP prospect in the Twins' system, and unless I get really flabbergasted by Luis Thorpe, it will still be the case.  That curveball (or any plus plus secondary "out" pitch) is very hard to develop, while adding mph on one's fastball is easier.

I admit that I also got a bit of heat when I ranked Ryan Eades as the Twins'  11th best prospect.  And the reasons I did, are the same reasons that today I think that the ranking is pretty good:  He is a very polished pitcher with at least 4 above average pitches:  His bread and butter is a 89-92 mph two seamer with crazy movement.  Think Deduno, but with better control.  Today, the results were not good, because he had to throw it up the zone because the home plate umpire did not call the low strike at all, but this is a plus pitch at that level.  Add above average to plus slow curve, cutter/slider and change, and you got a complete pitcher.

Felix Jorge (my number 12 prospect) is a guy who a lot of people think that he is throwing high 90s heat because of the sound of the ball when it hits the glove, plus he has this nice frame and fluid delivery and looks like he can throw fast.  Here is my mini scouting report in the prospect rankings (go to number 12.)  His fastball touched 92 today, but it is a really heavy sinker.  This guy is a warm killer.  Great downward movement and good horizontal tailing.  The breaking ball (called it a slurve back then, still stand with it) is tight. Second best breaking ball today.  Very easy delivery.  I think that the change up with improve, and I bet that he has a four-seamer in his back pocket.  Really.

Keeping with the pitchers and skipping up to number 26:  It was good to see Tyler Duffey pitch and I have this feeling in the back of my head that he will be a reliever again.  His fastball was up to 95; and this is about 4 mph more than his average last season. And that was a very effective pitch.  He is also throwing a slider and change, which both are above average.

As far as the position players go:

These two guys (who were first and second on one of the most meaningless stats - RBIs - in the Twins' organization last season)  look even bigger this season.  Florida State League beware.

Travis Harrison is in incredible shape. The last couple seasons, he was the prototypical slow power hitter guy, even as a teenager, making people think that he is a corner OF/1B/DH type.  This season the Fort Myers' (and likely New Britain) fans will be in for a treat.  Today he legged out a triple, he has much better range at the field.  A total delight to see.  Dark horse to shoot up the prospect rankings big time.  And he hit in the second hole tonight.

Speaking of people who will shoot up the rankings (at least mine) here are 3:

Engelb Vielma.  This is the single one most unknown superstar in the making in the Twins' organization.  He turned two unassisted double plays (one a line out/throw out the other a step on second throw at first) today and he made them seem so easy.  Like it is an everyday kind of thing.  Looks like his contact tool is getting better.  He has crazy nutty speed and as a cutoff guy, he almost threw a guy out at third on a easy triple. Very strong arm.  And he has room to grow.  I think that he will move into second in my SS rankings after 6th overall ranked Jorge Polanco.

The other two guys are catchers who just look like ball players: Brian Navarreto (pictured below) and Mitch Garver.  All of a sudden, I think that the Twins are alright in catcher depth in the organization.

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