2017 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 56-60

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.

Without further ado, here is the 2017 countdown of prospects, with their ranking in the 2016 list in parenthesis:

60. Mike Cederoth (--)
DOB: 11/25/1992; Age: 24
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'6", Weight: 195 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd round in 2014
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A (2015, 2016)
ETA: 2018

Mike Cederoth was drafted by the Twins in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft from San Diego State University.  The San Diego native started in his first years at SDSU and he was their closer his last year, dropping his ERA to about half (2.29 vs 4.26) and saving 20 games. In 2012 Cederoth was hit  on the face by a comebacker, suffered a fractured jaw and had to have it wired shut for seven weeks.  He was one of several College closers that the Twins have drafted that season with the intent to convert to starters but failed.  Cederoth was ranked as the Twins' 23rd best prospect in my 2015 off-season list, after an unfortunate season in Elizabethton, and disappeared from my rankings in 2016, after a more unfortunate season in Cedar Rapids, both as a starter.  This season the Twins converted him back to a reliever and he repeated the A level Cedar Rapids assignment with promising results: He appeared in 30 games, pitched 47-2/3 innings, striking out 61 (11.5 K/9, 29.2% K%), walking 33 (6.23 BB/9, 13.4% K%-BB%) for a 1.43 WHIP (.288 BABIP, 88.3% LOB%), 2.45 ERA and 3.87 FIP.  His strikeout rate against RHBs was phenomenal (he faced 86 RHBs total and struck out 37).  A major difference from his previous seasons was that his first two seasons as a starter he had averaged 2 ground ball outs to all other outs where last season the ration was 0.84, which indicates a major difference in his approach.

Even out of college Cederoth had two ready pitches: a plus plus fastball that sits in the high 90s and touches triple digits and a plus slider.  He has been playing with a curveball and changeup in the minors that are workable, but not above average.  His curveball has had flashes of above average.   His problem has always been his delivery and mechanics and this has translated into more than optimal walks, which is his barrier to excellence and the one thing that he needs to overcome to become a major league pitcher, because his fastball and slider are major league ready.  Full transition to the bullpen and a program geared towards improving his mechanics may do wonders for Cederoth, as the abandonment of his two lesser pitches.  But he has a long way to go.

Likely 2017 path:  Will start the season in the A+ Fort Myers bullpen and depending on his success will move to AA Chattanooga.

59. Aaron Whitefield (--)
DOB: 9/2/1996; Age: 20
Positions: IF/OF
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'4", Weight: 200 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent from Australia
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: Rookie/GCL (2015, 2016)
ETA: 2020

Aaron Whitefield was signed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from Australia.  2016 was his second professional season (he played 7 games in the GCL in 2015) and it highlighted Whitefield's versatility and steady hitting.  He played 51 games in the Rookie Gulf Coast League, starting 17 at CF, 8 at RF, 2 at LF, 5 at 3B and 18 at 1B.  Outfield is probably his best position, but at 6'4" and growing, having the versatility to play first base might help his career.  He is an excellent fielder thoughout.  He also played shortstop in the Australian Baseball League.  He hit .298/.370/.366 with 2 HR, 7 2B, in 217 PA. Struck out 47 times and walked 19, stole 31 bases and was caught 9 times. In addition to the 19 BBs, he had 48 singles, which means he attempted to steal 40 of the 67 times he reached first base, which is a very high rate.   His bat is advanced for someone with only few years of playing baseball (Whitefield is a converted softball player) and improving.  As most converted softball players, he is hitting RHP better that LHP.  His slash line against RHP was .325/.366/.423 vs .250/.378/.265 against LHP.   This off-season Whitefield is playing for his hometown Brisbane in the Australian League and hitting .342/.387/.541 (.349/.407/.566 against RHPs) with 4 HRs and 12/14 SB in 118 PA in 28 games.  The competition in the ABL is much higher than that at the GCL, which is very encouraging.

Whitefield is still very raw, but has good instincts both with the glove and the bat.  The bat will continue to improve the more he gets adjusted to baseball from softball, and right now it is much ahead of his peers.  He is one of the players who might make considerable jumps in prospect lists, since he has all the makings of a five-tool player if his power improves.  Definitely a player to follow.

Likely 2017 path:  Based on his ABL progress, I am bullish on Whitefield.  I think that he will start the season in Cedar Rapids and skip Elizabethton

58. Tanner English (--)
DOB: 3/11/1993; Age: 23
Positions: CF
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 5'10", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 11th round in 2014
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: AAA (2016)
ETA: 2018

Tanner English was drafted by the Twins in the 11th round of the 2014 draft from the University of South Carolina.  The Pittsburgh, PA, native is one of the purest centerfielders in the Twins' system with a plus glove.  He played 7 games in AAA last season out of need, however he spent most of the season in A+ Florida State League Fort Myers with the Miracle, and about three months of it in the disabled list because of a concussion.  English's career minor league numbers (.270/.372/.425, 13 HR, 31 2B, 14 3B, 54/62 SB in 756 PA in 177 games) added to a plus glove would make one think that he should be ranked maybe in the top 30 of the organization, but his problem has been staying on the field.  He plays the game relentlessly, since his days with the South Carolina Gamecocks, and gets hurt. A lot. Those 177 professional games came in three seasons.  In addition his hit tool was challenged this season This season in 33 games with the A+ Miracle, English hit .235/.348/.429 and struck out 47 times in 142 PAs (33.1%).  He played in the Arizona Fall League for 22 games, where he hit .239/.333/.338 with 25 K in 81 PAs (30.9%).    Those strikeout rates, in addition to problems with making contact demonstrated by the .230s batting average against better pitching this season question his potential as a major leaguer.  

His numbers (.417/.548/.750, 7 BB, 7K) in a super small sample of 31 PAs against LHP this season at Fort Myers, offer a glimmer of hope.  However, returning from a concussion is not an easy accomplishment and English will have an uphill battle. 

Likely 2017 path:  Will start the season in AA Chattanooga

57. Williams Ramirez (--)
DOB: 8/8/1992; Age: 24
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 200 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent from the Dominican Republic
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: A (2016)
ETA: 2019

Williams Ramirez was signed as a 20 year old from the Dominican Republic on December of 2012 and spend his first two professional seasons in the Dominican Summer League, coming stateside in the 2015 season.  He is a late bloomer.  In his first season stateside he pitched for the GCL Twins in 11 games (9 starts) for 47-1/3 innings, walking 19 and striking out 54 (29.2%).  He had a miniscule 1.14 ERA, 2.82 FIP, 0.908 WHIP (.211 BABIP).  Last season he jumped two levels to the A Midwest League Cedar Rapids where he moved permanently to the pen and had a similarly good season: 29 games, 55 innings, walking 34 and striking out 66 (29.7%).  2.62 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 1.055 WHIP (.197 BABIP).   His BABIP is bothersome as are his bases on balls.  However the reason for walking is not mechanics, but inconsistency of his secondary pitches.  He has a plus fastball with good movement that sits in the mid 90s and touches 96, a curve ball that flashes plus on occasion, but is out of control and a below average change up.  He participated in the instructional league this off-season.  

Ramirez is lethal against RHBs, allowing them to hit only .111 and striking out 39 of the 87 he faced, which may indicate that if he attends to his control issues he could potentially be a valuable arm out a pen.  Still at 24, he will be a bit older than most leagues he pitches.

Likely 2017 path:  Will start the season in A+ Fort Myers and maybe move up to Chattanooga depending on results and need.

56. Colton Davis (--)
DOB: 1/5/1994; Age: 23
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 25th round in 2016
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: A (2016)
ETA: 2019

Colton Davis was drafted by the Twins in the 25th round of last July's draft as a Senior from Western Carolina University.   The Commerce, GA native was assigned to Rookie Appalachian League Elizabethton Twins and he pitched in 13 games before moving to A Midwest League Cedar Rapids Kernels for 2 games in September because of need.   Davis was an all conference Academic Criminology major and his career numbers (90 games, 9 starts, 146-1/3 IP, 169 H, 98 BB, 177 K, .291 OBA, 33 WP, 12 HBP, 5.84 ERA, 1.907 WHIP) from far suggest that the likelihood to get a pro contract was small, however looking closely there is potential:  In his senior 2016 season Davis pitched in 31 games (1 start) for 67-1/3 innings he stuck out 89 batters of whom 34 looking and he had a 7 strikout relief appearance.  The previous summer in the New England Collegiate League Davis appeared in 6 games (9-2/3 IP) he had 18 strikeouts (16.8 K/9) and 4 walks (3.7 BB/9) with a 0.93 ERA and 0.930 WHIP.  Thus when his walks were controlled, there was a potential for good things.   And good things happened to him this season. In 13 games for Elizabethton (19-1/4 IP) he struck out 23 (10.71 K/9, 30.7% K%) walked 8 (3.72 BB/9, 20.0 K-BB%) had a 3.26 ERA, 2.83 FIP and 0.98 WHIP (.262 BABIP) as the Twins' closer.

Consistency and secondary pitches are the name of the game for Davis.  He has a low 90s fastball with terrific movement that he can spot around the plate; however his secondary staff leave a lot to be desired.  There is a lot of potential there, but also a lot of work to come close to realizing it.

Likely 2017 path:  Will start the season in the Cedar Rapids bullpen.

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