2017 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 51-55

You can find the introductory segment in this series, including my criteria for eligibility to be a prospect and the list of the 2016 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

This is the countdown for players ranked 51-55th in the system. You can find players 56-60 here and all segments in the series here.

55. Cody Stashak (--)
DOB: 6/4/1994; Age: 22
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 169 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 13th round in 2015
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A+ (2016)
ETA: 2019

Cody Stashak was drafted by the Twins in the 13th round of the 2015 draft from St. Johns University.  The New Jersey native majored in Criminology and St. John's was his second College, transfering there in 2015 from Cumberland (NJ) County (Junior) College, where he was a two way player, starting pitcher and outfielder.  His pitching record was 16-5 with a 2.92 ERA, including 7 complete games and 130 Ks in 129-1/3 innings.  He was very good as a position player as well, hitting .359 with 23 2B, 7 3B, 7 HR, and 91 RBI in 104 games, helping his team reach number 1 in national NJCAA Division III ranking and second in the 2014 NJCAA Division III World Series. In St. Johns he made 16 starts (85-2/3 IP), struck out 69 (7.3 K/9) and walked 24 (2.9 BB/9), ending up with a 3.57 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. He begun his professional career at Elizabethton in 2015, where he started 10 games (44-2/3 IP), struck out 53 (10.7 K/9, 29% K%) and walked 11 (2.2 BB/9, 23 K-BB%) and finished with a 5-2 record, 3.43 ERA, 3.18 FIP, and 1.119 WHIP (.310 BABIP).  He begun last season at EST and moved up to A Midwest League Cedar Rapids where he appeared in 18 games (17 starts and a 4 IP relief appearance) pitching 105-1/3 innings, striking out 80 (6.8 K/9, 18.8 K%) walking 30 (2.6 BB/9, 11.8 K-BB%), finishing with a 3.16 ERA, 3.39 WHIP and 1.139 WHIP (.279 BABIP).  He was promoted to the A+ Florida State League Fort Myers in August where he pitched 3 games for 16-2/3 innings, with 10K and 3 BB, 0.54 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 0.960 WHIP (.260  BABIP), before going to the disable list with "shoulder discomfort" for the rest of the season.

Shoulder injury whose severity is unknown aside, Stashak has been a very steady pitcher, pitching several innings (130-1/3 in 2015 between College and Rookie ball and 122 in 2016 before his injury) with good results.  The strikeout to walk ratio, other that his short Elizabethton stint in 2015, is a tad lower than optimal, allowing more contact than necessary, which combined with the fact that he is a fly ball pitcher (about 2 fly outs per ground out) make one worry whether Stashak will have success in higher levels of professional ball.  He throws an above average 88-92 mph fastball that he commands well complements with an above average curveball.  He has been also working on a changeup and a slider/cutter. Stashak is a player who can move though a system fast if a couple of his pitches develop to a plus level and his control improve.  As mentioned previously the shoulder is a concern.

Likely 2017 Path: Starting the season with Fort Myers Miracle, pending his shoulder health.

54. Tyler Wells (--)
DOB: 8/26/1994; Age: 22
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'8", Weight: 265 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 15th round in 2016
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: Rookie/Elizabethton (2016)
ETA: 2020

Tyler Wells was drafted by the Twins in the 15th round of the 2016 draft from California State San Bernandino.  The California native was a starter there for 3 seasons, pitching in 38 games (35 starts) for a total of 204 innings, striking out 191 (8.4 K/9), walking 90 (4.0 K/9), with a 3.84 ERA and 1.37 WHIP.  His last (junior) season he had better results (2.84 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 15 games, 92 IP) while his peripherals remained pretty much constant (8.7 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9) which indicates that he got a better feel in pitching.  He continued as a pro to Elizabethton where he started 10 games (47-1/3 IP), striking out 59 (11.2 K/9, 29.2 K%) and walking 17 (3.2 BB/9, 20.8% K-BB%) finishing with a 3.23 ERA, 2.50 FIP, 1.20 WHIP (.328 BABIP).  In total 2016 has been a good year for Wells, starting 25 games for 149-1/3 IP between college and rookie league.  Wells is a very durable starter and has the physique of a football lineman.  As a high school senior he was listed at 6'7" and 212 lbs. At San Bernandino he grew an inch and filled up his frame to 265 lbs, without being overweight.

As a collegiate his strikeouts were in bursts.  He had games where his strike outs were in double digits and games where there were few.  His results in Elizabethton show a gleam of hope that he can consistently keep his strikeout high by getting a better feel for his stuff from start to start.  His mechanics are very good and consistent for his size and there is a lot of potential for improvement of his pitches, which in combination with his durability, makes Wells an interesting prospect

Likely 2017 Path: Starting the season with Cedar Rapids

53. Zander Wiel (--)
DOB: 1/11/1994; Age: 24
Positions: 1B
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'3", Weight: 232 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 12th round in 2015
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A (2016)
ETA: 2019

Zander Wiel  was drafted by the Twins in the 12th round of the 2015 draft from Vanderbilt University.  The Tennessee native had an excellent last season there in 2015 highlighted by a .316/.406/.571 slash line and 15 HR in 275 AB (18.3 AB/HR).  Making the transition to a wooden bat is sometimes tricky for power hitters, but Wiel hit .265/.323/.494 with 5 HR in 83 AB (16.6 AB/HR) at the Cape Code League the previous summer, so it seems that his power would translate in the professional level.  He played 16 games (36 AB) in Elizabethton last season and his first small sample of professional baseball was not stellar (.194/.333/.333 ; 1 HR and missed most of the season with an injured wrist due to a HBP) but inconclusive. He played the full 2016 season in A League Cedar Rapids.  He played for 128 games (501) and hit .259/.336/.459 with 19 HRs (26.4 AB/HR.)  He started 123 of those games at 1B where he made 17 errors.

Wiel has power which is his best tool, but is not quite elite like Kennys Vargas (14.0 AB/HR at the same level,) Miguel Sano (16.3 AB/HR at the same level), or Adam Brett Walker (18.8 AB/HR at the same level.)  His fielding is a work in process.  The critical component for Wiel will be the amount of progress he makes making contact.  His batting average (.259) is pretty similar to what he had at the Cape Cod league (.265), which means that there might still be an adjustment period to the wooden bat.  His strikeouts (22%) are not bad for a power hitter and they were better than his highly regarded (but 3 years younger) teammate Travis Blackenhorn's (27.5%.)  There is a lot of potential here, but improvements in power, contact, and fielding need to be made for already 24-year old Wiel to realize it.

Likely 2017 Path: Opening day first baseman with Fort Myers.

52. Andrew Vasquez (--)
DOB: 9/14/1994; Age: 23
Positions: LHP
Bats: S, Throws: L
Height: 6'5", Weight: 210 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 32nd round in 2015
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A (2016)
ETA: 2019

Andrew Vasquez was drafted by the Twins in the 32nd round of the 2015 draft from Westmont College where he transferred as a senior from University of California Santa Barbara where he pitched his first 3 collegiate seasons.  The California native was Highly recruited out of High School after finishing 5-1 with 1.54 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 52-1/3 IP and being a switch hitting first baseman.  His freshman season he started 15 games (88-2/3 IP) had 106 strikeouts (10.6 K/9) and 63 BB (6.4 BB/9) with a 1.93 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.  The next 2 seasons the wheels fell off and his ERA ballooned to mid 4s, before dropping to 3.06 after his transfer.  The problem?  Andrew Vasquez is an unusual pitcher.  One has to think of him as a knuckleballer, but unlike a knuckleballer, Vasquez bread and butter pitch is his curveball that he throws most of the time.  And it is a beautiful slow curveball that sits at the high 60s low 70s, which most of the time is a plus plus pitch that misses bats and induces very weak contact when it does.  He occasionally throws a mid 80s fastball that was just a step above a playground pitch at college but improving.  Missing bats is what Vasquez does, but when he misses the plate with his curveball and the hitters are sitting on his fastball, the results have been disastrous.  All of his collegiate career he was given more walks than hits. His strikeout numbers (13.1 K/9) and hits (4.8 hits per 9 innings) have been stellar his senior year, but walks were the problem (5.7 BB/9).  In his first pro-season with the Twins, Vasquez transitioned to the pen in the Gulf Coast League where the trent continued.  He pitched 12-1/3 innings in 12 games, striking out 22 (16.1 K/9) allowing 10 hits (7.3 H/9) but walking 15 (11 BB/9).  He started 2016 in extended spring training and looks like something clicked for Vasquez.  He moved to Elizabethton for 4 games, pitched 10 innings striking out 15 (13.5 K/9, 38.5 K%) allowing 6 hits (5.4 H/9) and walking only 4 hitters (3.6 BB/9, 28.2 K-BB%) ending up with an 0.90 ERA,  2.46 FIP, and 1.00 WHIP (.333 BABIP.)  He was promoted to Cedar Rapids where the success continued: He came of the pen in 13 games for 28-1/3 innings, with 36 K (11.4 K/9, 31.6% K%), 12 BB (3.8 BB/9, 21.1 K-BB%) and 13 H (4.1 H/9) translating into a 1.59 ERA, 2.63 FIP and 0.88 WHIP (.210 BABIP).

It has to be mentioned that Vasquez has not allowed a home run as a pro player.  As mentioned earlier, even though a secondary pitch, his fastball has improved this season and he has been also toying with a slurve that sits at high 70s to low 80s.  He is lethal against LHBs. In Cedar Rapids he faced 36 lefties allowing 3 hits and 3 walks and had 18K.  He is a very interesting prospect who will live and die with the control and command of his curveball and if that holds up in higher levels, he might be a fast riser.  The benefit he has as a reliever that he did not have as a starter is that he can reduce his exposure when his command and control is not there.

Likely 2017 Path: In the Fort Myers bullpen

51. Jason Wheeler (--)
DOB: 10/27/1990; Age: 26
Positions: LHP
Bats: l, Throws: L
Height: 6'6", Weight: 255 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 8th round in 2011
Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: AAA (2014, 2015, 2016)
ETA: 2017

Jason Wheeler was drafted by the Twins in the 8th round of 2011 from Loyola Marymount University.  The California native has been in the Twins system since 2012, starting his professional career with the A Midwest League Beloit Snappers, starting from 25-28 games every seasons and pitching from 137-2/3 to 169-1/3 innings every season.  Wheeler was placed on the Twins' 40 man roster after the 2014 season to be protected from the Rule 5 draft, but was removed after the 2015 season.  He has been the poster boy of durability and consistency and has also suffered by the Twins' practice to block prospects at the high levels by singing aging veterans with little hope to contribute to the Twins to minor league contracts, blocking rising prospects.  Due to this, he started both the last seasons in AA and moved to AAA in the season and was bypassed by the likes of Andrew Albers in pitching for the Twins.  In 2016 Wheeler started 4 games in AA Chattanooga and 24 in AAA Rochester.  He pitched 169-1/3 innings striking out 135 (7.3 K/9, 19.1 K% ) and walked 40 (2.1 BB/9, 12.9 K-BB%) with a 3.30 ERA, 3.41 FIP and 1.163 WHIP (.283 BABIP).

Wheeler is a major league ready pitcher who is not flashy, entering his prime at 26, but can contribute at the end of a rotation.  He has a 88-90 mph fastball that he commands very well and generates soft contact.  He is also throwing an above average cutter/slider and change up.  He is about equally effective against lefties and righties and the last time he came out of a bullpen was as a college sophomore in 2010, so his future as a potential reliever is unknown.

Likely 2017 Path: Starting for Rochester, potential September or injury call up for the Twins.

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