This is the next segment in the 2018 Twins top 60 prospect list. You
can find the introductory segment that discusses qualifications to be on
this list and presents the players who were on the 2017 list but are
not in this list here. You can find the list of the previous rankings here: 56-60, 55-51, 46-50 , 41-45, 36-40, 31-35, 26-30, 21-25, 16-20, 11-15. You can find all segments in this series here.
Here are players 6-10 in reverse order with their 2017 ranking in
parenthesis. Players not in the 2017 top 60 list are indicated by (--)
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. In 2016 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. 2017 was his first time in full season ball at Cedar Rapids. He hit .292/.329/.444 with a .344 wOBA, 114 wRC+, 4.9 BB%, and 15.7 K%, in 122 games (508 PA/ 466 AB.)
The strikeout number was a career best for Diaz, who however had a Stateside career worst of .152 IsoP. In Cedar Rapids he focus on making contact and hitting the ball in all fields, vs hitting for power. Home run power will definitely come: He is a .7 ground ball to fly ball hitter, and his HR/FB dropped to 6.1% from 15% the previous season. In other words, if the fly balls were leaving the park at the rate they did for him in 2016, it would translate to 30 HRs. But that's on paper, and they don't play the game on paper. His glove has been suspect, but has been improving every year. Last year both his footwork and range improved and he is getting better instincts for the position to make his glove about average, with room for even more improvement. It is unlikely that he will be an elite glove at first, but also unlikely to be a liability on the field in that position.
Likely 2018 path: Starting first baseman at Fort Myers
Note: The next 3 players are very close, and practically interchangeable in their rankings from number 7 to number 9.
9. Stephen Gonsalves (6) DOB: 7/8/1994; Age: 23 Positions: LHP Bats: L, Throws: L Height: 6'5", Weight: 213 lbs Acquired: Drafted in the 4th round in 2013 Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: AAA (2017) ETA: 2018
Gonsalves was drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 draft from Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego and paid an over slot ($700K vs $468K slot) bonus. Gonsalves has been playing in 2 levels every season in the pros so far with a lot of success, and marked improvement the second time with a team, other than his second season in Elizabethton. In 2013 he slit time between GLC and Elizabethton, in 2014 between Cedar Rapids and Elizabethton, 2015 between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers, and last season between Fort Myers and Chattanooga. In 2015 in Cedar Rapids he started 9 games (55 IP) walking 15 (2.4 BB/9, 29.7 K-BB%) and striking out 77 (12.6 K/9 and 36.8 % K%) with a 1.15 ERA (2.10 FIP) and 0.80 WHIP (.243 BABIP.) In Fort Myers he started 15 games (79.3 IP) walking 38 (4.3 BB/9, 5.1 K-BB%) and striking out 55 (6.2 K/9 and 16.5 % K%) with a 2.61 ERA (3.58 FIP) and 1.31 WHIP (.270 BABIP.) In 2016 he improved considerably at Fort Myers (11 GS, 65-2/3 IP, 66 K, 9.1 K/9,26.1 K%, 20 BB, 2.7 BB/9, 18.2 K-BB%, 2.33 ERA, 2.55 FIP, 0.96 WHIP, .249 BABIP) and did not lose a beat at Chattanooga (13 GS, 74-1/3 IP, 89 K, 10.8 K/9, 30.1 K%, 37 BB, 4.5 BB/9, 17.6 K-BB%, 1.82 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, .255 BABIP.) He made 4 starts at the Arizona fall league for a career high 148-2/3 innings that season and was named the Twins' minor league pitcher of the year, an award whose recipients seems to be cursed. And, following suit, Gonsalves was shut down in Spring Training with shoulder issues. Those issues were resolved and joined the AA Chattanooga team in late May. He made 15 starts (87-1/3 IP), striking out 96 (9.9 K/9, 27.3 K%) and walking 23 (2.4 BB/9, 20.7 BB-K%). He had a 2.68 ERA, 2.88 FIP and 1.03 WHIP (.270 BABIP). He was promoted to AAA Rochester in August and he lost steam. He pitched in 5 games (4 starts) for 22-1/3 inning, striking out 22 (8.7 K/9, 21.8 K%) and walking 8 (3.2 BB/9, 13.9 K-BB%) , with a 5.56 ERA, 4.75 FIP, and 1.54 WHIP (.343 BABIP). In addition to the increased BABIP in Rochester, his HR/FB rate that been traditionally at 6% or lower, jumped to close to 14%. Hard to use those 5 games at the end of the season to make predictions, but they are just data points.
Gonslaves is a pitcher with a high floor, that of a number 5 starter or late inning reliever, and a low ceiling, that of a number 3 starter. There are questions about how his stuff will translate in the majors: Gonsalves has an above average to plus low to mid 90s fastball with good command and control, which has a high spin rate making it hard to hit up in the zone, generating a lot of swings and misses. I am not sure that this tactic can generate as many outs in the majors. His changeup is a plus plus pitch and very effective, especially against RHBs. He throws two breaking balls: an average to below average slow curve, and a work in progress slurvy sliders. Command of his breaking balls is occasional at this point. His delivery is a bit worrisome, in light of the shoulder issue last season, as he cocks his shoulder behind his body. After that part, he is all arms and legs and throws from a 3/4 position and causes deception to the batters. He has some difficulties in repeating his delivery which results in occasional loss of command and that is translated with an increase in walks and decrease in strikeouts. When that happens, Gonsalves has been successful so far by inducing weak movement. Pitching to weak contact and needed to paint the corners to succeed is a risky recipe for success and despite Gonsalves doing it in every level, there is a feeling that it will just take him that far, especially when he has a long frame and with the difficulties in repeating his delivery, which results in the up and down command issue, not to mention the shoulder considerations. Gonsalves was added to the Twins 40-man roster this off-season.
Likely 2018 Path: Depending on health and on transactions, fighting for a spot in the Twins' rotation. Likely in the majors in 2018, barring injuries, trades etc.
8. Zack Littell (--) DOB: 10/5/1995; Age: 22 Positions: RHP Bats: R, Throws: R Height: 6'4", Weight: 220 lbs Acquired: Traded by the Yankees Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: AA (2017) ETA: 2018
Zack Littell was selected by Mariners in 11th round of 2013 draft from the Eastern Alamance, NC, High School. He spent his first pro-season in the Mariners' Arizona League Rookie squad where he pitched in 10 games, making 7 starts, for 33-1/3 innings, striking out 28 (7.6 K/9, 18.4 K%) and walking 13 (3.5 BB/9, 9.9 K-BB%), finishing with a 5.94 ERA, 4.37 FIP, and 1.56 WHIP (.343 BABIP). That was the starting point of his professional career and he has improved pretty much every season. In 2014 he played for the Appalachian League Pulaski Mariners where he started 13 games for 69-2/3 IP, striking out 64 (8.3 K/9, 21.6 K%) and walking 12 (1.6 BB/9, 17.5 K-BB), with a 4.52 ERA, 3.15 FIP, and 1.25 WHIP (.343 BABIP). He started 2015 with the full season A Clinton LumberKings of the Midwest League where he made 21 starts for 112-2/3 innings, striking out 84 (6.7 K/9, 17.4 K%), walking 30 (2.4 BB/9, 11.2 K-BB%), with a 3.91 ERA, 3.27 FIP, and 1.34 WHIP (.324 BABIP). He repeated A ball in 2016 making 16 starts (97-2/3 IP, 2.76 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 8.8 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 24.2 K%, 18.8 K-BB%, 1.18 WHIP, .332 BABIP) before he was promoted to high A California League Bakersfield Blaze where he continued his success (12 G, 11 GS, 68 IP, 2.51 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 8.1 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, 22.1 K%, 17.4 K-BB%, and 1.13 WHIP/.311 BABIP.) He logged a total of 165-2/3 innings in the 2016 season and was traded to Yankees for LHP James Pazos, on November of 2016. He started last season for the Yankees in High A Tampa (13 G, 11 GS, 1.77 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 7.2 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 20.2 K%, 14.9 K-BB%, 1.12 WHIP, .302 BABIP) and moved to Eastern League AA Trenton (7 GS, 44 IP, 2.05 ERA, 2.29 FIP, 10.6 K/9, 29.7 K%, 1.6 BB/9, 25.1 K-BB%, 1.02 WHIP, .304 BABIP.) He was traded with LHP Dietrich Enns to Twins for LHP Jaime Garcia at the trade deadline and jumped into the Twins AA Chattanooga team where he started 7 more games (41.2 IP, 2.81 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 7.1 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 19 K%, 8.6 K-BB%, 1.22 WHIP, .274 BABIP.) He regressed a bit at Chattanooga, likely running out of steam after 157 innings, but he assembled an excellent 19-1 win/loss record for the season in all 3 steps.
Littell was listed at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds at high school, and gained an inch and 30 pounds as he grew. He has a two-seam fastball that sits at 89-91 and has a cutter like movement, a four-seamer that he throws at 92-93, which plays up because of high spin rate and advanced command. His main secondary offering is a true plus curveball. He also has an above average changeup that works well against LHBs. Littell is a student of the game and he spends a lot of time in advanced preparation before each start studying the opponents' hitters, a practice that will serve him well in the bigs. He has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter with the possibility of seasons better than that. A young Phil Hughes is a good comparable for Littell, as far as the size and type of pitcher he is, as well as his potential. Littell was added to the Twins 40-man roster this off-season.
Likely 2018 Path: Depending on further transactions, fighting for a spot in the Twins' rotation during Spring Training. Likely in AAA Rochester most of the season with a potential trip to the majors in September or before, depending on the Twins' needs and their record
7. Blayne Enlow (--) DOB: 3/21/1999; Age: 18 Positions: RHP Bats: R, Throws: R Height: 6'3", Weight: 170 lbs Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd round in 2017 Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: GCL (2017) ETA: 2020
Enlow was drafted by the Twins in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft from St. Amant, LA, and signed for $2 million, well above slot, in order to forfeit his commitment to LSU. He started his pro career in the GCL where he pitched in 6 games (1 GS) for 20-1/3 innings, striking out 19 (8.4 K/9, 24.7 K/%), walking 4 (1.8 BB/9, 19.5 K-BB%), with a 1.33 ERA, 3.08 FIP, and 0.69 WHIP/.177 BABIP. He is very polished for a prep pitcher and he is very projectable. Has a easy repeatable delivery, with a close to plus fastball that he throws at 92-94 and the potential to grow a few ticks as he gets more muscle, a true plus curveball that flashes plus plus, and an average changeup with potential for improvement. He added a high 80s cutter as a pro, that is a work in progress. Still lots of ways to go, but Enlow has front of the rotation potential and already what a lot of people think the best curveball in the system.
Likely 2018 Path: Extended Spring Training, then at the Elizabethton rotation.
6. Rainis Silva (32) DOB: 3/20/1996; Age: 21 Positions: C Bats: R, Throws: R Height: 6'1", Weight: 185 lbs Acquired: International Free Agent signing 2012 Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: A (2016) ETA: 2020
Who is Rainis Silva and why do I have him ranked this high? This is what I wrote about him last off-season when he was ranked 32nd:
Rainis Silva was signed by the Twins as an international free agent from Venezuela on July 9, 2012. The Barquisimeto, Venezuela native received an $175,000 bonus. He has been in my top prospect lists for the third time in a row and this is his worst ranking. Silva is an exceptional catcher with the skills to catch in the majors right now, with a great game calling capacity, excellent defense and strong arm, averaging 35-40% CS. His problem has been his bat, which in 4 seasons now has been consistently bad. His career slash line is .238/.295/.293 and his OPS variation (.539 in DSL in 2013, .636 in the GCL in 2014, .635 in Elizabethton and .572 in Cedar Rapids in 2015, and .551 in Cedar Rapids in 2016) were driven by his isoP that has varied from .024 to .097.
Why is Rainis Silva even in the list, no matter how good his fielding is, since he has no power and he is hitting so lightly? First of all he is still 20 years old. Secondly, he actually hits LHP very well now and he improved. Here are his OPS against LHP by year and league: .539 in DSL in 2013, .521 in the GCL in 2014, .940 in Elizabethton and .889 in Cedar Rapids in 2015, and .754 in Cedar Rapids in 2016. So something clicked for him in 2015 and continued to work in 2016. Those OPS numbers are more than acceptable for a catcher, albeit in a platoon if necessary. The hope is that something will click for the 20 year old when facing RHPs as well and reach his potential as solid every day bat with elite defense in the C position, otherwise his ceiling would be that of a platoon player.
So what happened for Silva in 2017? The Twins took a step back and kept him in Extending Spring Training to address his hitting, before he moved to Elizabethton for the rest of the season, and he arrived with a bang: He hit .356/.446/.446 with a .416 wOBA and 147 wRC+, with a career high 13.8 BB%, and career low 6.5 K%, as well as a career high 32.5% line drive percentage. There were concerns regarding his ability to face RHP. He hit righties at a .433/.532/.567 rate (60 AB) in Elizabethton, which was remarkable. In addition he had his best defensive season behind the plate with just 1 error and 2 passed balls, and threw out a career best 43% of the runners. It will be interesting to see how the improvements in his hitting will translate to full season ball, but I am confident that they will. His potential is that of an elite glove and above average bat in the majors now, thus the ranking. Catchers blossom later, so there is no reason for the Twins to rush him, other than the fact that he will be Rule 5 draft eligible next off-season.
Likely 2018 path: Catching at Fort Myers or Cedar Rapids, depending on his spring.
This blog contains eclectic musings about baseball, mainly centering on the Minnesota Twins and are mainly numbers-driven. I anticipate a few Vikings tidbits here and there, a bunch of historical statistical analysis, some emphasis on minor leagues and prediction of prospect development and production in the majors... just a place to place some thoughts.
I am a Twin Cities expat and SABR member, living on the right coast and have good access to both Twins' AAA and AA teams, albeit not necessarily their home fields.
Feel free to commend in the blog or email me at thetenthinningstretch at gmail.com