2017 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 26-30

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, players 51-55 here, 46-50 here, 41-45 here, 36-40 here, 31-35 here, and all segments in the series here.

30. Lewis Thorpe (17)
DOB: 11/23/1995; Age: 21
Positions: LHP
Bats: R, Throws: L
Height: 6'1", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired:  International Free Agent
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A (2015,2016)
ETA: 2019

Thorpe was signed on July 12th of 2012 by the Twins to the largest bonus ever given for an Australian player, $500,000.  The Melbourne native He has not pitched since September of 2014 resting and rehabilitating his left UCL, which eventually required Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2015.  He lost all of 2016 with mononucleosis.

Thorpe has 4 pitches, including a plus mid 90s fastball, a plus change up and curveball and an improving slider/cutter. His 2014 season in Cedar Rapids, even before the injury was somewhat of a disappointment compared to his 2013 season in Elizabethton (12 G, 8 GS, 44 IP, 64 K, 13.1 K/9, 38.1 K%, 6 BB, 1.2 BB/9, 34.5 K-BB%, 2.05 ERA, 1.43 FIP, 0.86 WHIP, .319 BABIP), showing considerable control issues (a career high 4.5 BB/9) and was fairly ineffective (4.24 FIP). He was a lefty strikeout pitcher, which means that there is a lot of potential, but losing two seasons has certainly set him back.  There are several questions about Thorpe, in addition to the obvious that is how his elbow procedure will impact his stuff: his durability in a game and during the season has been a bit of a concern.  A huge question mark right now, thus the drop from 11th in 2015 to 30th now.

Likely 2017 path:  In the Cedar Rapids rotation, with an outside chance to make the Fort Myers rotation, depending on the elbow and performance

29. Lachlan Wells (26)
DOB: 2/27/1997; Age: 19
Positions: LHP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 5'8", Weight: 165 lbs
Acquired:  International Free Agent
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A (2015,2016)
ETA: 2019

The Twins signed Lachlan Wells as an international free agent from  Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia on November 21, 2014 for $400,000.  The diminutive Australian made his debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2015.   He played in 10 games (9 GS) and pitched 47.3 innings, walking 11 (2.1 BB/9, 20.5 K-BB%) and striking out 49 (9.3 K/9, 26.5% K%) for a 2.09 ERA (3.22 FIP) and 0.97 WHIP (.263 BABIP).  Last season he bypassed Elizabethton to play for Cedar Rapids in late June after Extented Spring Training.  For the Kernals he made 12 starts for 71-1/3 IP, walking 16 (2.0 BB/9, 16.7 K-BB%) and striking out 63 (8.0 K/9, 16.7% K%) for a 1.77 ERA (3.28 FIP) and 1.02 WHIP (.272 BABIP).  Other than the drop in strikeouts, his results have been very similar to his 2015, two levels of competition higher where he was about 3 years younger than the average player, which is encouraging.

Size is a concern with 5'8" Wells. He is just 19, but has not grown any more the past 3 seasons.  He throws an above average 90-93 mph fastball, a work in progress but solid average curveball and a changeup that is close to plus and is his out pitch.  His mechanics and complex delivery is a concern regarding durability.  So far his spits against lefties and righties are about similar with only one big difference:  He produces much more ground balls against lefties that he does against righties.  It could be the more frequent use of the changeup, but it is an interesting data point.  The Twins have kept Wells as a starter thus far, but the bullpen might be a more realistic place for him in the future

Likely 2017 path: In the Fort Myers rotation

28. D.J. Baxendale (--)
DOB: 12/8/1990; Age: 26
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 10th round in 2012
Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: AAA (2016)
ETA: 2017

D.J. Baxendale was drafted by the Twins in the 10th round of the 2012 draft from the University of Arkansas as a Junior.  The Jacksonville, AR native was the Razorbacks' most dependable starter in his senior year starting 20 games, pitching 107 innings, striking out 96 (8.1 K/9) walking 29 (2.4 BB/9) for a 3.11 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.  He led his team in starts, wins and strikeouts.  He continued 2012 as a pro in the pen dominating the Rookie Appalachian League in Elizabethton (6 G, 7-2/3 IP, 16 K, 18.8 K/9, 64.0 K%, 1 BB, 1.1 BB/9, 60 K-BB%, 0.00 ERA, -0.06 FIP, 0.26 WHIP, .125 BABIP) and A Midwest League in Beloit (11 G, 11 IP, 16 K, 12.3 K/9, 33.3 K%, 1 BB, 0.8 BB/9, 31.1 K-BB%, 1.64 ERA, 0.90 FIP, 1.18 WHIP, .414 BABIP,) albeit in relative small samples.  The Twins have seen enough of him, including this incredible Spring Training performance that I was lucky to witness and decribe, that they placed him in the A+ Florida State League Fort Myers Miracle rotation, where he pitched like an Ace:  (9 GS, 57-1/3 IP, 48 K, 7.5 K/9, 22.4 K%, 11 BB, 2.1 BB/9, 17.3 K-BB%, 1.10 ERA, 0.78 FIP, 0.26 WHIP, .212 BABIP, 7-0 record,) moving to AA New Britain in late May when he suffered an arm injury in his first game pitched and eventually landed on the DL mid-June until the All-Star break. His numbers in New Britain left a lot to be desired  (16 GS, 92-2/3 IP, 64 K, 6.2 K/9, 15.7 K%, 22 BB, 2.1 BB/9, 10.3 K-BB%, 5.63 ERA, 4.54 FIP, 1.42 WHIP, .317 BABIP, 5-7 record.) Both his ERA and FIP were bloated because of the 13 HRs he allowed, a sign that he was leaving his Fastball high in the zone, potentially due to his arm issues.  Still, in 2013 Baxendale lead the Twins organization in wins and was one of very few Twins prospects to ever make it to AA in their second professional season.  2014 was an even more frustrating season for Baxendale, starting again at AA New Britain where he was placed in the DL in April, was back to Fort Myers in June, making a rehab start for the GCL Twins in August and pitching a few more games for the Miracle in late August.  That was a season totally lost in injuries.  He pitched a total 90-1/3 innings that season hurt most of the time, and would have been better served rehabilitating his injuries instead of aggravating them.  In 2015 the Twins moved their AA team to the Southern League Chattanooga, and Baxendale got the opportunity to pitch closer to home and had a better season (23 G, 21 GS, 118-1/3 IP, 92 K, 7.0 K/9, 17.9 K%, 40 BB, 3.0 BB/9, 10.1 K-BB%, 3.80 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 1.40 WHIP, .317 BABIP) but most importantly a healthy season.  Last season he was caught in the numbers and started the season for the 4th year in a row in the AA rotation with results improved from 2015 (14 GS, 81 IP, 59 K, 6.5 K/9, 17.7 K%, 16 BB, 1.8 BB/9, 12.9 K-BB%, 3.44 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, .308 BABIP) but not dramatically.  At this point at his age 25 Baxendale looked like organizational depth pitcher, until he moved to the AAA Rochester pen last June, where he excelled.  He appeared in 23 games, pitching 35 innings, striking out 40 K (10.3 K/9, 28.4 K%,) and walking 8 (2.1 BB/9, 22.7 K-BB%), finishing with 1.29 ERA, 2.03 FIP, and 1.03 WHIP (.297 BABIP) picking up where he left Fort Myers in 2013.  But one cannot ignore 2014 and 2015

Baxendale has a 91-92 fastball with great sinking action, which jumps up to 93-94 from the pen.  He has a plus slow (low 70s) curve and as a starter has been throwing an above average mid 80s slider/cutter and an average changeup.  His command and control is excellent, especially when healthy.  If his fastball is down the zone, it is pretty much unhittable.  Supplementing it with a plus curveball as an out pitch makes Baxendale a potentially very effective reliever.  He is equally effective against both lefties and righties, inducing massive strikeouts to lefties (he struck out 20 of the 58 lefties he faced in Rochester for 38.5 K%), and decent strikeouts (22.5 K%) and ground outs 1.7 GO/AO to righties.  A comparable pitcher is current Twins' reliever Brandon Kintzler, but Baxendale will produce more strikeouts and be better against lefties.   Health is a consideration here, and Baxendale has to prove that his second half in 2016 was not a mirage.

Likely 2017 path: In the Rochester pen and depending on performance in Minnesota by mid-season

27. Trevor Hildenberger (--)
DOB: 12/15/1990; Age: 26
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 211 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 22nd round in 2014
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: AA (2016)
ETA: 2018

Trevor Hildenberger was drafted by the Twins in the 22nd round of the 2014 draft from the University of California Berkeley as a Senior. The San Fransisco area native was Twins' Michael Theofanopoulos roommate and the Golden Bears' closer.  In his senior year he appeared in 28 games (47-2/3 IP) striking out 48 (9.1 K/9,) walking 11 (2.1 BB/9) and finishing with 2.83 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 10 saves. He continued his season and started his pro career at the GCL where he was the Twins' closer pitching in 23 games (28 IP), allowing 30 K (9.6, 25.2 K%) and 5 BB (1.6, 21 K-BB%) finishing with 2.57 ERA, 2.40 FIP, and 1.14 WHIP (.317 BABIP), and another 10 saves.  He also pitched a single inning that season in Elizabethton striking out 2 hitters and allowing neither hits nor walks.  Hildenberger moved to A class Cedar Rapids in the beginning of next season, putting career-best numbers (28 G, 45 IP, 59 K, 11.8 K/9, 35.5 K%, 5 BB, 1.0 BB/9, 32.5 K-BB%, 0.80 ERA, 1.17 FIP, 0.64 WHIP, .238 BABIP, 10 SV).  He moved up to A+ Fort Myers on late July pitching also successfully (13 G, 19 IP, 21 K, 10.0 K/9, 29.2 K%, 2 BB, 1.0 BB/9, 26.4 K-BB%, 3.32 ERA, 1.43 FIP, 0.89 WHIP, .313 BABIP, 3 SV). He earned a selection in the Arizona Fall League where he appeared for 8 games. Last season he stayed in Fort Myers for the beginning continuing his success (6 G, 9-1/3 IP, 8 K, 7.7 K/9, 20.5 K%, 0 BB, 0.0 BB/9, 20.5 K-BB%, 0.96 ERA, 1.54 FIP, 1.18 WHIP, .355 BABIP, 3 SV) earning an early promotion to AA Chattanooga in late April.  Again, another level for Hildenberger and he did not miss a beat (32 G, 38-2/3 IP, 45 K, 10.5 K/9, 31.3 K%, 6 BB, 1.4 BB/9, 27.1 K-BB%, 0.70 ERA, 2.21 FIP, 0.70 WHIP, .211 BABIP, 3 SV) until his season was ended on July 20 with right elbow tendinitis.

Hildenberger has a deceptive low slot delivery.  He has a plus fastball with a lot of sink at 91-93 mph.  Against righties he throws a very effective frisbee slider, and against lefties a plus change up.  Plus plus command and control, he barely walks hitters and can throw all his pitches for strikes despite his funky delivery.  He induces 2.5 times ground outs as fly outs against righties. His control and strikeout numbers give him almost elite K-BB% numbers.  He has end of the bullpen potential, but, even though his UCL ligament is said to be okay, elbow injuries are always of concern.  At 26, he has always been 1-3 years older than the competition at every step of his professional career.

Likely 2017 path:  Depending on the elbow health, starting at the Chattanooga pen with a promotion to Rochester mid season

26. Niko Goodrum (37)
DOB: 2/28/1992; Age: 24
Positions: IF/CF
Bats: S, Throws: R
Height: 6'3", Weight: 198 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 2nd round in 2010
Professional Experience: 7; Highest level: AA (2015, 2016)
ETA: 2017

Niko Goodrum was drafted by the Twins in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft from Fayette County (GA) High School.  It is hard to believe that Goodrum has already spent seven seasons in the Twins' organization and he is just 24 years old, turning 25 during the coming Spring Training.  Goodrum was drafted early as a shortstop with five tool potential, but until this past season, other than his speed, he has been somewhat disappointing for a high level draft pick with a $514,800 signing bonus.  Other than his glove that was atrocious at SS early in his career and necessitated a move to third base at Fort Myers in 2014, he has not been outright bad, with wRC+ hovering from 97-114 every season, but he did not fulfill the high expectations, and advanced slowly, making two stops at Elizabethton, one at Cedar Rapids, three at Fort Myers and two in Chattanooga.  2016 was an interesting season for Goodrum.  He missed the first half with a stress fracture on his foot, but came back and had a breakthrough season.  In 6 rehab games at Fort Myers (26 AB), he hit .280/.308/.560 with 149 wRC+ before he moved to Chattanooga where he finished the season with .275/.357/.451, 22 BB and 52 K, in 49 games (207 AB) with a 133 wRC+.  He hit 7 HRs and was 9/11 in SB for the season.  He stole 29 bases in 2015, but for half season and with a foot fracture, his 2016 total was expected.  To get the additional AB, Goodrum played in the Venezuela League, where he hit .284/.354/.431 with 13 BB and 29 K in 116 AB.  All in all Goodrum has 349 AB in 2016 with very promising results. 

Goodrum is a switch hitter that hits equally well from each side of the plate.  He played at every infield position and centerfield.  As indicated, his defense turned him from a shortstop to a third baseman earlier, but he has proven inadequate in that position.  However the last two seasons, his play back at shortstop as well as centerfield, has been above average, reducing his errors by a lot.  This positional versatility and a potential sustainability of his success with the bat last season, may indicate that Goodrum might have a major league future as a utility player.

Likely 2017 path:  Invited to the Twins' spring training with the potential to win a spot depending on performance and whether Dozier will still be with the Twins.  Likely at the MLB-level at some point in the season depending on performance and injuries.

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