2018 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 1-5

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, 6-10. 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 (--)

5. Fernardo Romero (4)
DOB: 12/24/1994; Age: 22
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 215 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent
Professional Experience: 6; Highest level: AA (2017)
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.  Last season he pitched in 24 games (23 starts) at AA Chattanooga for a career high 125 innings.  He had a 3.53 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 8.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 22 K%, 13.8 K-BB%, and 1.35 WHIP (.328) BABIP.  He was shut down in early August due to shoulder impingement.  Previously he had a 5 inning limit on his last 5 starts because of the arm. His numbers are deflated because of 8 August starts that he pitched hurt, where he got a 8.38 ERA, 1.86 WHIP and allowed a .372 OBA.

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 a close to plus now 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 the November of 2016, so he will appear in the Twins' Spring Training camp.  The shoulder is not much of a concern, and he has a chance to make the team out of Spring Training.

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.

4. Brent Rooker (--)
DOB: 11/1/1994; Age: 23
Positions: 1B/LF
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'3", Weight: 215 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1s Round of 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: A+ (2017)
ETA: 2018

Brent Rooker (whose first name is Terry) was drafted by the Twins in the supplemental 1st Round of the 2017 draft as a Junior from Mississippi State. The Germantown, TN native, tore up the Southeast NCCA Conferance last season hitting: .387/.495/.810 with 23 HR (and 18/23 SB) in 248 AB (10.78 AB/HR.)  He had 48 walks and struck out 58 times.  As a pro he moved to Elizabethton, where he did not loose a beat with the wooden bat, hitting .282/.364/.588 with a .413 wOBA and 145 wRC+ in 99 PA in 22 games.  That was enough for a promotion all the way to A+ Fort Myers where, in a league that usually bats come to die, he improved upon his E-town production hitting .280/.364/.552 with a .415 wOBA and 166 wRC+ in 40 games and 162 PA, as a 22 year old, about a full year younger than the average player.  And this was the first time he hit with a wooden bat.  Rooker played mostly LF at both Elizabethton and Fort Myers, with 11 games at 1B in Florida.  His throwing arm does not play outside those two positions, but he is a capable defender in both positions.  Strikeouts have been a issue in the pros (21.2% at Elizabethton and 29% at Fort Myers,) but playing a full season and further adjusting with the wood, will help him improve. A player with a great work ethic and makeup, Rooker will be a leader for every team he plays.  My impression is that the Twins will fast track him as the heir-apparent to Joe Mauer at first base, thus the aggressive ETA estimate. If he continues to hit at that rate, he might force the Twins' hand ahead of time, since they can use a power RHB in the majors right now.

Likely 2018 path: Starting 1B/LF at Chattanooga with potential promotion to the majors based on necessity or a September cup of coffee with the Twins.

3. Brusdar Graterol (13)
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: ELZ (2017)
ETA: 2020

This is the third time that Brusdar Graterol has been in this list and every season he has made serious leaps.  He was ranked 28th in my 2016 list well before the National media and most of the local media even knew him from Adam.  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 returned from the surgery well, adding considerable muscle to his frame and surprised everyone when he added several miles per hour to his fastball when he hit the mount.  In 2017 he started the season in the GCL where he pitched 19-1/3 innings in 5 games (2 starts) with a 1.40 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 9.8 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 29.2 K%, 23.6 K-BB%, and 0.72 WHIP (.205 BABIP).  He moved to Elizabethton mid-season where he started in 5 games (20-2/3 IP) with a 3.92 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 10.5 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 28.2 K%, 17.7 K-BB%, and a 1.21 WHIP (.300 BABIP.) 

Graterol is throwing his plus to plus plus fastball at 96-98 mph deep into the games and he can dial it up to triple digits if necessary, supplementing it with a crisp slurve at the 85-87 mph range and a changeup that has improved the last season, but he still needs to command better.  He is throwing from a 3/4 delivery that causes deception.  Graterol is one of the few pitchers in the Twins' organization with top of the rotation stuff, and his ceiling is higher than any other pitcher in the organization, but he still needs work on command and control, esp. with his secondary offering. The 40 innings he pitched last season were Graterol's career high and he will need to be stretched, potentially slowly because of the elbow.

Likely 2018 path: At the Cedar Rapids rotation, potentially after some EST, depending on how the Twins feel about his elbow and the temperatures in the Midwest in April.

 Note:  The next two players are very close, and I could have ranked either at the top spot.

2. Wander Javier (1) SS, 2020
DOB: 12/29/1998; Age: 19
Positions: SS
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 165 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 7/2/2015
Professional Experience:2; Highest level: ELZ (2017)
ETA: 2020

Wander Javier was signed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from the Dominican Republic last summer and had yet to play a single professional game, before this season.  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. 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.  In 2017 he moved to Elizabethton where he hit .299/.383/.471    with a .390 wOBA and 131 wRC+, in a league where the average player was 2.5 years older.  His K% increased to 27.2%, which is more of a data point, than even a slight concern at this point of his career.    

Javier has the highest upside of any position player in the Twins' organization; his tool-set is similar to Byron Buxton's at that age, but with more power and less speed.  At this point, he has 5 above average or better tools, with his arm, and power at above average and fielding, contact and speed approaching plus.  Great work ethic, he gives 100% even at drills at Fort Myers and back field spectators are always impressed by his tendency to try to win all race drills. Unlike Miguel Sano who was also signed as shortstop, Javier projects to stay in the position as a professional.  He has very smooth hands and confident footwork and body control.  Power will come as he fills in.  He had an .172 IsoP at 6-1/165 lbs, which will shoot up as he bulks up.

Likely 2018 path: Starting SS at Cedar Rapids.

1. Royce Lewis (--)
DOB: 12/29/1998; Age: 18
Positions: SS/OF
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 188 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round (1st overall) in 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: N/A
ETA: 2020

Royce Lewis was taken first overall by the Twins in the 2017 draft from J. Serra High School in San Juan Capistrano, CA.  The Aliso Viejo, CA, native started his professional career in the GCL.  There he hit  .271/.390/.414 with a .391 wOBA and 136 wRC+ with 11.9 BB% and 10.7 K% in 36 games and 159 PA.  He moved for the final 18 games of the season (80 PA) all the way to Cedar Rapids where he hit .296/.363/.394 with a .348 wOBA and 117 wRC+, and had 7.5 BB% and 20 K%.  All that in a league in which the average player was 3.2 years older. 

Lewis is a five tool player, with his contact, power, and arm slightly trailing the other 2 tools that are plus, with his speed being close to plus plus.  Already at 6-2/188 as an 18 year old, he might have to shift position from shortstop to centerfield, or even potentially to third base, a position he played early in High School, if he grows more.  His make up, affect, personality, and, workout ethic is off the charts.  The Twins have a great to have difficult decision in where to play Lewis and Javier, if they want to keep both as everyday shortstops in full-season leagues.  Lewis, who is about half a year younger, has been at a higher level, and I expect him to stay this way as long as he stays at SS.  As I indicated earlier Lewis and Javier are very close and either can be ranked as number one at this point.  Javier's ceiling is a bit higher with the bat and he is the better shortstop, but Lewis' speed, charisma, and the fact that was notched ahead of Javier by the Twins, give him the nod in these rankings.  But they are close.

Likely 2018 path: Starting SS at Fort Myers, unless the Twins are willing to have Lewis and Javier play in other positions; in this case, they will both be at Cedar Rapids.

Next: Summary 1-60 and Organizational Overview


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