2017 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 11-15

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, and all segments in the series here.

15. Travis Blankenhorn (38)
DOB: 8/3/1996; Age: 20
Positions: 2B
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 208 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 2nd round in 2015
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A (2016)
ETA: 2020

Travis Blankenhorn was drafted by the Twins in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft from the Pottsville, PA Area High School as a third baseman.  He started his pro career in the GCL where he played in 14 games (49 AB) hitting .245/.362/.408 with 7 BBs and 11 Ks, before he moved up to Elizabethton for the last 39 games of the season where in 144 AB he hit .243/.306/.326    with 11 BB, and 32 K.  He started last season in Extended Spring Training before moving to Elizabethton where in 34 games (138 AB) he hit a robust .297/.342/.558 with 9 HRs, 7 2Bs, 1 3B, 8 BB and 33 K.  He finished the season in class A Cedar Rapids where in 25 games (91 AB) he hit .286/.356/.418 with 1 HR, 5 2B, 2 3B, 8 BB and 28 K.  Blankenhorn who moved to second base, a position that he is playing better than third, adjusted to the wooden bat much better in his second professional season.  He has decent game speed, but will not steal many bases.  His contact tool improved this season (.330 BABIP in Elizabethton and .403 at Cedar Rapids) and there is potential for further power that was realized with a .261 isoP in Elizabethton (.132 in Cedar Rapids.)   The positional change to second base, along with the improvement in defense from his previous corner OF and IF positions, made him jump in the ratings as well.  His bat might or might not play at corner positions and his glove is very suspect there.  However at second base he has the potential to be a Todd Walker type of player, esp. if he curtails his strikeouts (27.5 % K% in Cedar Rapids and 22.1 in Elizabethton.)  Better pitch recognition will help with selectivity, and Blankenhorn is young enough for one to believe that he will get there.    Part of the problem is that LHPs make him practically worthless (.472 OPS and 54.2 K% against them in Elizabethton and .593 and 25 K% in Cedar Rapids, vs a star-like 1.107 and .832 OPS against RHPs in those stops)  

Likely 2017 path: Starting 2B at Cedar Rapids.

14. Engelb Vielma (23)
DOB: 6/22/1994; Age: 22
Positions: SS
Bats: S, Throws: R
Height: 5'11", Weight: 155 lbs
Acquired:   International Free Agent signing 2011
Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: AA (2016)
ETA: 2017

Engelb Vielma was signed by the Twins as an international free agent from the Venezuela on September 8, 2012 for a $90,000 bonus.  The Maracaibo native has been moving really quickly through the Twins organization, mainly because of his glove appears ahead of what looks from afar as an average bat (career minor league .264/.327/.309 slash line.)   Vielma had a highly quiet and mostly invisible break-through season with the bat in 2015 at high A Fort Myers. He hit .270/.321/.306, which at first sight is about the same .266/.313/.323, if not worse, than he did in Cedar Rapids in 2014, until someone looks below the slash lines:  Vielma was the youngest position player at the Miracle team and the Miracle team slash line was .246/.319/.318, so he made better contact than the average. Power is not his strong suit, so looking at SLG% is misleading.  If you look at component numbers, like wRC+, he had 93 in 2015 vs 84 in 2014.   He is also maturing as a player taking advantage of his speed. He will not walk (7% BB%) or strikeout (14.2% K%) but will make contact and run.  He had 24 sacrifices that season, and most of them (18) on the ground. He stole a career high 35 bases (but was caught 12 times).  He started his first 8 games last season at Fort Myers rehabbing from an oblique strain before he moved to AA Chattanooga.   There here played 90 games (314 AB), hit .271/.345/.318, striking out 62 times and walking 34.  He went 10/18 in stolen bases as well.  His wRC+ improved to a career best and close to a league average 97, while his K% dropped to 16.9%.  His BABIP was .333, a couple of ticks above his career average in .310s.  For some unfortunate reason, the improvement in Vielma's bat is invisible to the outside, which drives unfortunate characterizations like "punchless leatherwizard with a bat so light he may not even profile as a utility man despite an acrobatic brand of plus defense at short" from national writers who likely have not seen him play.

This cannot be any further from the truth.  A 97 wRC+ at AA with a plus defense projects as Ozzie Smith (career .666 OPS and 90 wRC+ in the majors with career best 119 wRC+ ) material.  Vielma's detractors will also need to look at his  .338/.407/.416 line in 2016 (and .301/.343/.341 in 2015) as a right hand hitter, which are exceptional.  Vielma is the poster boy for stopping switch hitting.  Why would someone with All-Star SS potential is ranked so low?  For one single reason:  Concentration lapses both on the field and the base paths make Vielma less effective than he should be.  He is still 22, so there is a lot of time for him to mature (and learn how to hit right handers as a right.)  When that happens, watch out.   

Likely 2017 path: On the 40-man roster with the Twins, likely starting SS at AAA Rochester with a potential trip to the majors.

13. Brusdar Graterol (28)
DOB: 8/26/1998; Age: 18
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired:   International Free Agent signing 2014
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: Rookie/DSL (2015)
ETA: 2020+

Brusdar Graterol was signed by the Twins as an international free agent from the Venezuela on August 29, 2014, three days after his 16th birthday, for $150,000.  The Calobozo native made only 4 career starts in the DSL before he required Tommy John surgery and moved statewide the summer of 2015.  His numbers in those 4 games, as a 16 year old, fully 3 years younger than the league, were video-game like: 11 IP, 17 K, 13.9 K/9, 36.2 K%, 1 BB, 0.8 BB/9, 34 K-BB%, 2.45 ERA, 1.19 FIP, 1.18 WHIP (.444 BABIP.)  He made my 2016 off-season prospect list at number 28 (http://tenthinningstretch.blogspot.com/search/label/2016%20Prospect%20List).   He returned from the surgery well, throwing his plus to plus plus fastball at 94-97 mph, supplementing it with a crisp slurve at the 85-87 mph range and a work in progress changeup.  He is throwing from a 3/4 delivery that causes deception between his pitches.  Graterol is one of the few pitchers in the Twins' organization with top of the rotation stuff, but he will need a lot of work.  Reports from Fort Myers say that he added about 40 lbs to his DSL weight the past season and a half. Definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Likely 2017 path: EST and the GCL or Elizabethton rotations depending the Twins' draft.

12. Nick Burdi (3)
DOB: 8/3/1996; Age: 24
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'5", Weight: 220 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 2nd round in 2014
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: AA (2015, 2016)
ETA: 2017

Nick Burdi was drafted by the Twins in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft from Louisville as a Junior.  The Hinsdale, IL was the Louisville closer his last 2 seasons and finished his Junior season with ridiculous numbers: 32 games, 37 IP, 18 H, 2 ER, 10 BB (2.4 BB/9), 65 K (15.8 K/9,) for 0.49 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 18 saves.  Burdi had the arm to bypass the minors and pitch directly at the Twins' pen in 2014, but he started the season in A Cedar Rapids (13 G, 13 IP, 26 K, 18.0 K/9, 48.2 K%, 8 BB, 5.5 BB/9, 33.3 K-BB%, 4.15 ERA, 1.33 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, .400 BABIP) and finished in high A Fort Myers (7 G, 7-1/3 IP, 12 K, 14.7 K/9, 42.9 K%, 2 BB, 2.5 BB/9, 35.7 K-BB%, 0.00 ERA, 1.35 FIP, 0.95 WHIP, .385 BABIP).  Burdi started the Next season in AA Chattanooga, demoted to Fort Myers for inconsistency in the end of June and returned mid August.  For the season Burdi pitched 30 games in AA (43.7 IP) walked 32 (6.6 BB/9, 10.7 K-BB%) and struck out 54 (11.1 K/9 and 26.3 K%) with a 4.53 ERA (3.99 FIP) and 1.65 WHIP (3.22 BABIP). In 13 games at Fort Myers (20 IP) he walked 3 (1.4 BB/9, 35.6 K-BB%) and struck out 29 (13.1 K/9, 39.7 K%) for a 2.25 ERA (1.37 FIP) and 0.75 WHIP (.275 BABIP).  He finished the season in the Arizona Fall League, in a truly dominating fashion, when he pitched in 8 games (8 IP) walking 1 and striking out 11 (42.3K%, 38.5 K-BB%,) allowing no earned or unearned runs and only 2 hits with a .380 WHIP.  Were it an isolated incident, his numbers in AA in 2015 could be of some concern; looking at the facts that a. other top relief prospects, like Reed and Chargois suffered there that season, and b. that Burdi dominated in the AFL, the concern is alleviated.  Burdi was invited in the MLB Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, but quickly shut down with elbow concerns that were diagnosed as a bruised humerus.  He pitched only 3 innings in Chattanooga last season for that reason, and has changed his delivery in order to help his healthy.

Burdi is throwing a high 90s plus plus fastball that tops in three digits and supplements it with a plus to plus plus slider that sits at 89-90, creeping into the low 90s.  He is also throwing a changeup.  Burdi had has a violent delivery and his mechanics are concern both as far as his health and his command goes.   Hopefully his recent changes in his delivery will address this, without taking away his effectiveness.   Pitchers with high 30s K-BB% are rare to find and Burdi has closer potential, but he has to get healthy, stay healthy and keep command of his fastball, which has done at several levels so far.  2017 will be a rebuilding and cautionary season for him, as he is not invited to the Twins' Spring Training

Likely 2017 path: Depending on health, Rochester or Chattanooga pen with a potential MLB call up this season.

11. Luis Arraez IF (24)
DOB: 4/9/1997; Age: 19
Positions: 2B
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 5'10", Weight: 155 lbs
Acquired:   International Free Agent signing 2013
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A (2016)
ETA: 2019

Luis Arraez was signed by the Twins as an international free agent from the Venezuela on November 3rd, 2013.  The San Felipe native opened some eyes in his first professional season in the DSL hitting  .348/.433/.400 (147 wRC+) in 31 games (135 PA).  The next season he moved to the GCL where he continued his success hitting .309/.377/.391 (133 wRC+) in 57 games (233 PA).  Last season he played for class A Cedar Rapids where he was the fifth youngest player in the Midwest League.  He hit .347/.386/.444 (146 wRC+) in 114 games (514 PA).  He continued the season in the Venezuelan Winter League where he hit .335/.382/.445 with 15 BB and 15 K this in 45 games (182 AB.)  Other than Cedar Rapids where he was 31:51, Arraez has had at least equal strikeouts to walks, and his K% was never higher than 9.9%.  His splits last season was pretty equal for the lefty hitting Arraez: .333/.378/.422 vs LHP and .351/.388/.450 vs RHPs.  He finished the season with a .374/.398/.457    slash line the second half that included a very impressive .425/.444/.487 performance in August.  His swing is compact with great bat control and plus bat speed, quick wrists and the ability to hit the opposite way. His power has been improving (0.052 to 0.082 to 0.097 isoP), his contact has remained fairly high (.374, .323, and .382 BABIP) and he has decent speed but not good base stealing instincts (career 21/37 SB).  His play at second base has been improvin every season and he was +13 DRS last season in Cedar Rapids.  Arraez is starting to look more and more like a two way player with All-Star bat potential, but he is still very young.  It will be interesting to see how he will fare against higher level competition, but his VWL results are extremely promising.

 Likely 2017 path: Starting 2B at Fort Myers

1 comment:

Marv said...

Really nice to read that Luis Arraez has good bat speed. I was wondering if his hitting might be sustainable or if he was a guy who had reached his peak. If you can park a bat like that at 2B that is a treat.

Awfully high to rate a 16 year old, but those numbers Brusdar Graterol put up were comical.

Fun stuff. Thanks