2017 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 1-5

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, 26-30 here, 21-25 here, 16-20 here, 11-15 here, 6-10 here and all segments in the series here.

5. Nick Gordon (9)
DOB: 10/14/1995; Age: 21
Positions: SS
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (2016)
ETA: 2018

Nick Gordon was drafted by the Twins as the 5th overall player in the 2014 draft from Olympia High School in Orlando, FL.   He started his pro career in 2014 playing for Elizabethton hitting .294/.333/.366 (101 wRC+) with 11 BB and 45 K (17.6 %), and 11/18 SB (61%).  In 2015 for Cedar Rapids, he hit .277/.336/.360 (104 wRC+) with 39 BB and 88 K (16.5 %), 25/33 SB (76%).  There was incremental improvement on the base paths, but in general similar results.  At this point he exhibited some gap power (23 doubles, 7 triples and 1 HRs in 535 PAs, 0.083 isoP), but it does get neutralized against LHPs (.264/.325/.291; only extra base hits were 3 doubles in 110 PAs against LHPs.)  He started the 2016 season in Fort Myers, where he made a leap forward hitting .291/.335/.386 (112 wRC+) in 116 games (493 PAs), with 17,6 K% and 0.095 isoP, stealing 19/32 bases.  His BABIP (.353) was close to his .333 and .352 of the previous 2 seasons, which means that a BABIP around .350s is not out of question.  He continued in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit a very impressive .346/.418/.444 (144 wRC+) in 21 games (91 PA), but inflated due to an unsustainable .475 BABIP.

Gordon's glove is about average at SS, and he projects to stay in the position.  His bat still projects as a major league average, however he was again neutralized against LHPs (.220/.276/.254 in 118 AB in Fort Myers last season.)   He had good speed, but not great base stealing instincts that need a lot of work.  His season at Fort Myers and his success in Arizona are promising, but the ones who were hoping for a star with the 5th overall pick would be disappointed at Gordon, because he does not project as one. Gordon is a non-roster invitee in the Twins Spring Traning, but not MLB-ready at this point.

Likely 2017 path: Starting AA Chattanooga shortstop

4. Fernando Romero (34)
DOB: 12/24/1994; Age: 22
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 215 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent
Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: A+ (2016)
ETA: 2018

Fernando Romero was singed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from the Dominican Republic for on November 4th, 2011 with a $260K bonus.  The San Juan de la Maguana native spending his age 17 2012 season in the Dominican Summer League where he pitched in 14 games, 6 starts, for 31 innings, striking out 27 (7.8 K/9, 20.2 K%), walking 14 (4.1 BB/9, 9.7 K-BB%), with a 4.94 ERA, 3.05 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP (.289 BABIP).  He made the jump to the Gulf Coast League in 2013.  He pitched in 12 games (6 GS) for 45 innings to a 1.60 ERA (2.44 FIP) and 1.00 WHIP (.271 BABIP) and had 47 strikeouts (9.4 K/9, 26 K%) and 13 walks (2.6 BB/9, 18.8 K-BB%.)  After only 4 games in single A Cedar Rapids in 2014 he required Tommy John surgery, missing the rest of 2014 and the whole 2015 season.  Last season he returned to Cedar Rapids where he started 5 games (28 IP) had 25 K (8.0 K/9, 24.3 K%) and 5 BB (1.6 BB/9, 19.4 K-BB%) with a 1.93 ERA, 2.33 FIP, and 0.82 WHIP (.250 BABIP).  He moved to high A Fort Myers late in June where he started 11 games (62-1/3 IP) had 65 K (9.4 K/9, 26.9 K%) and 10 BB (1.4 BB/9, 22.7 K-BB%) with a 1.88 ERA, 2.00 FIP, and 0.93 WHIP (.288 BABIP), improving on his already great Cedar Rapids performance.

Romero has a plus plus fastball that sits at 95-97 mph and has a nasty sinking movement, a plus plus slider that sits 88-92 mph and an average changeup.  After his surgery, Romero came in better shape and he improved his command and control by leaps and bounds, pounding the strike zone and cutting down on walks.  His stuff can already play in a major league pen, but Romero has top of the rotation potential and the Twins will explore that. Romero was added to the Twins' 40-man roster this November, so he will appear in the Twins' Spring Training camp; however he will need to pitch more innings before he makes it to the majors.  In addition to the innings, he would need to develop that changeup, because it will be difficult to make it long as a starter with only 2 pitches, even though both are plus plus.

Likely 2017 path: In AA Chattanooga Rotation

3. Lewin Diaz (5)
DOB: 11/19/1996; Age: 20
Positions: 1B
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'3", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: Rookie/Elizabethton (2015, 2016)
ETA: 2020

Lewin Diaz was singed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from the Dominican Republic for $1.4 million bonus on July 2nd, 2013.   The Santiago native made the transition to the US, after a hitting .257/.385/.451 (.411 wOBA, 142 wRC+, 13.8 K%) in the DSL in 2014, his age 17 season.  His first season in the US, he had a few difficulties with the transition, hitting .261/.354/.369 (.357 wOBA, 123 wRC+, 18.9 K%) in 33 games in the GCL and finishing the last 14 games of the season hitting .167/.245/.375 (.285 wOBA, 70 wRC+, 32.1 K%) in Elizabethton.   This was mainly a season of adjustment for Diaz, who would have not earned the promotion had he not hit .522/.607/.696 for August in the GCL, and likely would have served better not making the trip to Elizabethton.  One interesting thing that the numbers do not show about Elizabethton is that those 14 games there were the only night games Diaz has played as a professional, since both the DSL and GCL play day games only.   Last season he repeated Elizabethton after extended spring training, playing in 46 games (187 PA) hitting .310/.353/.575 (.409 wOBA, 149 wRC+, 18.7 K%, with a career best .264 isoP and his BABIP at .344, close to his .326 in the GCL the previous season.  There is room for improvement in pitch recognition and the twenty year old just started to realize his tremendous power.  More like Miguel Sano with the bat (minus some power and some strikeouts, plus some plate discipline) than Kennys Vargas, but more like Vargas with the glove, Diaz is a player who can be a workable first baseman.  Listed very generously at 6'3" and 180 lbs, likely has the highest LHB power potential in the organization, with .264 isoP as a teenager, and still is learning how to swing the bat.  It will be interesting to see how he does next season in full-season ball, but he has scary potential, even though only as a first baseman or DH.

Likely 2017 path: Starting first baseman at Cedar Rapids

2. Tyler Jay (2)
DOB: 4/19/1994; Age: 22
Positions: LHP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'1", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round in 2015
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: AA (2016)
ETA: 2017

Tyler Jay was drafted by the Twins 6th overall in 2015 from University of Illinois.  The Lemont, IL native was mainly the closer in College appearing in 30 games (2 starts) in his Junior season pitching for 66.7 innings, walking 7 (0.9 BB/9) and striking out 77  (10.3 K/9) with a 1.08 ERA and 0.70 WHIP.  He moved on to the Fort Myers' bullpen with the Twins to appear in an additional 19 games (18.2 IP) where he walked 8 (3.9 BB/9, 17.3 K-BB%) and struck out 22 (10.8 K/9, 27.2 K%) for a 3.93 ERA (2.07 FIP) and 1.42 WHIP (.353 BABIP).  The Twins view Jay as a starter and he made the transition to the Miracle rotation this season where he started 13 games (69-2/3 IP) struck out 68 (8.8 K/9, 23.6 K%), walked 21 (2.7 BB/9, 16.3 K-BB%) and finished with a 2.84 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and 1.22 WHIP (.311 BABIP).  He moved to Chattanooga in July, where he pitched in 5 games (2 starts) before ending his season on the disabled list because of a sore neck. He pitched only 14 innings (9 K, 5.8 K/9, 5 BB, 3.2 BB/9, 6.9 K-BB%, 5.79 ERA, 4.96 FIP, 1.29 WHIP, .262 BABIP).  Jay has the stuff to be a starter but not yet proven that he can be a starter and it is unknown how his stuff will be as a starter in the long run.  He has received some comparisons with David Price (which I am not sure that I buy) basically because of their fastballs. He has a plus to plus plus fastball that sits at 95 and peaks and 97-98 (not bad at all for a lefty) which he complements with a plus slider, an above average curve ball and an average changeup that has flashed some potential.   I think that this ranking is fair, because if a reliever, he is likely (but close) the best reliever in the system who could potentially help the Twins in 2017 (thus the ETA.)  But the Twins will like to see what he can do as a starter for a second season and whether he could become a top of the rotation starter.  As a starter, he likely has more potential than anyone in the organization but he is not there now and would need more that 15 career starts to be considered for a major league job.

Likely 2017 path: Likely starting the season at Chattanooga with a potential promotion to Rochester mid-season, depending on needs and performance

1. Wander Javier (7) SS
DOB: 12/29/1998; Age: 18
Positions: SS
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 165 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 7/2/2015
Professional Experience: 0; Highest level: N/A
ETA: 2020

Wander Javier was signed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from the Dominican Republic last summer and has yet to play a single professional game.  His $4 million signing bonus topped what the Twins gave Miguel Sano, and any other amateur player ever for signing with them other than Joe Mauer, Kohl Stewart and Byron Buxton.  I have not seen Javier play professionally in person, but I have seen plenty of video to be confident about this ranking.   At this point, he has 5 above average or better tools, with his arm,  fielding and power at above average and contact and speed approaching plus.   Javier started his pro career last season in the DSL with a bang, playing in 9 games (30 PA), hitting .308/.400/.654 (199 wRC+, .498 wOBA), with 13.3 BB% and 16.7 K% in a league dominated by pitching, as a 17 year old, before he was shut down with a hamstring injury.

Unlike Sano who was signed as shortstop, the Bonao native projects to stay in the position as a professional.  He has very smooth hands and confident footwork and body control.  Highest upside of any player in the Twins' organization, his toolset is similar to Byron Buxton's at that age, but with higher power and less speed, and he is a true shortstop.

Likely 2017 path: Extending Spring Training and then Starting SS for the GCL or Elizabethton Twins
depending on health and the Twins' draft.

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