2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list: 36-40

You can find the introductory segment in this series, including my criteria for eligibility to be a prospect and the list of the 2015 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2015 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

Without further ado, here is the 2016 countdown of prospects, with their ranking in the 2015 list in parenthesis :

40. Emmanuel Morel (--)
DOB: 5/4/1997; Age: 18
Positions: SS/2B
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 5'10", Weight: 150 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 4/8/2013
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: Rookie/DSL (2014, 2015)

Every season in this prospect list, I include prospects who are traditionally bypassed by many (because they have not played games in the US) and ended up picked up by the mainstream media a season or two afterwards. Last season it was Jermaine Palacios at 36; This season is Emmanuel Morel at 40, who has already 2 professional seasons under his belt before his 19th birthday.  In 2015 he alternated games between the 2 middle infield positions with 17 year old Yeltsin Encarnacion for the Dominican Summer League  Twins.   In a league dominated by pitchers he hit  .282/.428/.370 (.798 OPS), had 51 singles, 6 doubles, 5 triples in 230 plate appearances.  He struck out 43 times and walked 46 times.  He also stole 24 bases in 35 attempts.    In other words, he reached base 43% of the time, walking more than striking out, he attempted a stole base in about 41% of his opportunities and he was successful 69% of the time.  This is pretty impressive at any level of professional ball at any age in the twenty first century.  You cannot teach plate selectivity and you have to have the guts to be aggressive.   If Morel continues those traits when he will cross the Tropic of Cancer, and he shows signs of reliability with the glove, the Twins will have another good middle infield prospect from Latin America in their pipeline.

Likely 2016 path:  Will start the season in Extended Spring Training, get used to live in the US in the Twins' Fort Myers Complex and join the Gulf Coast League Twins when they start playing games after the 2016 draft

ETA: 2020+

39. Trey Cabbage (--)

DOB: 5/3/1997; Age: 18
Positions: SS/3B/LF/RF
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6' 3", Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired: 4th Round Draft Pick 2015
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: Rookie/GCL (2015)

Trey Cabbage was the Twins' fourth round draft pick in the past draft from Grainger (TN) High School and is a day older from the number 40 prospect, Emmanuel Morel.  Mostly a shortstop in High School, he moved all over the field in his first pro season with the Gulf Coast League.  He was projected to play third base, but it will still be a work in progress, because his first try in the position (6 errors in 21 games) was not as smooth as hoped.   His transition to the wooden bat has been painful as well, hitting .252/.302/.269 with only 2 doubles as extra base hits, 7 walks and 37 strikeouts in 129 PAs.  Stole one base and was caught 5 times.   A small sample size ray of hope:  He hit He hit .350/.435/.350 overall in 20 ABs against LHPs and finished the season .321/.310/.321 in 28 August ABs.    The transition to the wooden bat is not a small feat for an 18 year old and Cabbage does get the benefit of the double.  Will likely work several positions in the low minor leagues to find a position that he is a good fit defensively.  Before the draft he was touted as one of the "sweetest" left hand swings, since you know who, but still have to see this.  Cabbage was a multi-sport player (Football and Basketball) and also pitched in High School, and some focus and taking time off this winter might help him a lot.

Likely 2016 path:  Starting in Extended Spring Training and focusing of figuring out which position might be the best fit for him and then playing there in the GCL.

ETA: 2020+

38. Travis Blankenhorn (--)
DOB: 8/3/1996; Age: 19
Positions: 3B/1B
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6' 1", Weight: 195 lbs
Acquired: 3th Round Draft Pick 2015
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: Rookie/Elizabethton (2015)

Travis Blakenhorn, was drafted in the third round of the 2015 draft from Pottstown (PA) High School, and like Trey Cabbage, is a left hitting third baseman who started the season and his professional career in the GCL.  Unlike Cabbage he has some success with the bat, .245/.362/.408, 4 doubles, 2 triples, 7 walks and 11 strikeouts in 58 PAs, allowing the Twins to move him up a level at Elizabethton in the middle of July.  In Elizabethton, he started on fire hitting .321/.387/.482  for July, and then leveled off, ending up the season in the Appalachian League hitting .243/.306/.326 with 3 doubles, 3 HRs, 11 BBs and 32 Ks in 158 PAs.  Was effectively neutralized by LHP (.172/.250/.310,) but, again, the transition from aluminum to wood is not an easy one.   Blakenhorn projects as a power hitter and he flashed some.  Has a solid powerful build that would allow him to play at either infield corner, but his strong arm has him a better fit at third or at a corner outfield position.   Blakenhorn picked up some Alex Gordon comparisons, but that is a bit of reaching at this point.  Fellow Twins' prospects, Travis Harrison and the gentleman whose profile follows, might be better comparables for now...

Likely 2016 path: Starting at Extended Spring Training, then the starting third baseman in Elizabethton as soon as Appalachian League play starts in June.

ETA: 2020

37. Niko Goodrum (--)

DOB: 2/28/1992; Age: 23
Positions: 3B/SS/CF
Bats: S, Throws: R
Height: 6' 3", Weight: 198 lbs
Acquired: 2nd Round Draft Pick 2010
Professional Experience: 6; Highest level: AA (2015)

 I have to admit, Niko Goodrum frustrates me.  Has a ton of potential and never put it together in six professional seasons.  As a matter of fact, he has been in an out in my top 40 prospect list for the last 3 years.  Why is he in again?  In a second, bit of history first: Niko Goodrum was drafted 71nd overall in the 2010 draft (a spot after Braves', and now Angels', Andrelton Simmons who has 4 seasons in the majors and a couple gold gloves.)  That was the Alex Wimmers draft.   Goodrum's career slash line is .244/.337/.357 and he has not been deviating by more that 0.30 or so in any of its components in his six seasons as a pro (other than his short first season of .414 OPS.)     In other words he has been pretty average, or below average, at any level, which does not a good prospect make.  So why is he back here again?  Three reasons:

  • When he moved to Chatanooga in the middle of the season, he improved his approach as a hitter.  He hit .244/.332/.392 with 6 doubles, 5 triples, 5 HRs, 28 BBs, and 51 K in 238 PAs, in a league where .700 OPS is the average.
  • Sustained improvement in base running and base stealing and considerable jump in power:  Goodrum stole 20, 35 and 29 bases the last 3 seasons.  He was 18 for 22 in Chatanooga this season.  In addition, he hit a career high 9 HRs, more than doubling his previous best (4).
  • He might have actually found a position he can play and be above average.  He was drafted as a shortstop, and played most of his first 3 seasons there very erratically.  He was transferred to third base the last 3 seasons with similar results.  However, Doug Mientkiewitz and serendipity (not many OFs in the organization) had him at Centerfield for 15 games, in which he was a good centerfielder and better with the bat when played there.  Maybe the game slowed down enough at OF for him.
So there is enough potential and intrigue to believer that Niko Goodrum might actually make a major league centerfielder some day, if the Twins continue using him there, which they should.  So Goodrum makes the list as an outfielder.

Likely 2016 path:  Depending on where Byron Buxton ends up, likely the starting Centerfielder for Chatanooga.

ETA: 2017

36. Kuo Hua Lo (--)
DOB: 10/28/1992; Age: 23
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 5' 10", Weight: 195 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 6/10/2011
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: Rookie/Elizabethton (2013-2015)

Lo was signed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from Taiwan at age 18, 4 seasons ago and has shown steady improvement to be regarded as a top 40 prospect, with a near breakout 2015 season.  He pitched 31.3 innings with a 1.44 ERA (2.75 FIP) allowing 15 hits, 8 walks (0.734 WHIP) and had 43 strikeouts (12.4 K/9 and 36.4 K%) and was the primary closer for Elizabethton.  On the downside he was a year and a tad older than the league average, his BABIP was .213, and he was threepeating Elizabethton, but BABIP does not affect the strikeouts, he made the transition from Taiwan to the US as a teenager and that 36.4% K is impressive at any level, making me think that he actually got "it".  What is "it"?   A second above average pitch. Lo has had an above average to plus fastball with good downward movement, which can reach 94 mph or so, but the rest of his repertoire was hit and miss.  Reports out of Elizabethton have him throwing a "filthy" off-speed pitch, which sounds like an above average change up or slurve, but regardless, it is apparently effective.   Still have to see it in person, so I reserve judgement, but there is a lot of potential there to worth inclusion in this list.

Likely 2016 path:  Cedar Rapids Kernels' bullpen and co-closer

ETA: 2018

No comments: