2/16/18

Anibal ad portas: 10 reasons why the Anibal Sanchez signing makes sense for the Twins.

The Twins have signed free agent RHP Anibal Sanchez, formerly of the Detroit Tigers to an 1 year contract that is for about $2.5 million with the same amount in incentives.  The deal is not guaranteed so there is no down side for the Twins.  Looking at Sanchez's 2017 in a traditional way (starting in the pen, being demoted, moving into the rotation and finishing with a 3-7 record, 6.41 ERA and 1.59 WHIP,) makes this signing borderline nonsensical, and even more so given the verbal assurances by the new Twins' front office that improving the front of the rotation was a priority.

All that aside, I believe that this is a good signing for the Twins.  Here are 10 reasons why:

  1. The Twins will likely still sign a top of the rotation starter.  Sanchez's signing has more to do about what they think the ability of Phil Hughes and Adalberto Mejia is at this point than about filling the top of the Twins rotation
  2. Sanchez's signing will give another year for Stephen Gonsalves & Fernando Romero to work on their deficiencies (fastball location, command and movement & endurance, respectively) before they are forced to be parts of the Twins' rotation
  3. Even if  Sanchez frizzles during Spring Training or even in April or May and gets released, the Twins are left with what they had before they signed him and the fact that his contract is non-guaranteed makes the financial risk also very small.  In other words:  He is just another arm to compete for a spot.  If he makes the team great, if he does not, the Twins did not gain or lose anything.  In yet another words, this is like Sanchez coming in to fight for a position.  If he gets it good, if he does not, no harm.
  4. The Tigers had him start the season in the pen and transitioned him to the rotation later in the year, pretty much messing him up. Starting the season in the rotation, he might be much better. Despite that, his average game score in 17 starts was 46 (50 is MLB average), and this includes an game that he pitched one scoreless inning as a starter and a game with an 8 game score, in which he should had departed earlier
  5. He pitched in post season games in 3 different seasons with a 2.79 ERA, 26.7 K%, 18.0 K-BB%, and 1.16 WHIP, bringing something that the Twins could value down the road.
  6. His traditional 2017 numbers were an abberration.  His .354 BABIP, 19.3 HR/FB, and 67.1% LOB are due for a huge possitive regression 
  7. His 21.6 K% in 2017 was bettered only by Jose Berrios from all the 2017 starters
  8. His and 15.6 K-BB% in 2017 would have been better that that of each and every 2017 Twins' starter
  9. His 4.16 SIERA in 2017would have been better that that of each and every 2017 Twins' starter
  10. He is not a pitch to a contact guy.  His 9.8 SwStr% in 2017 was just higher that Berrios's (9.5)

2018 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 16-20

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.  You can find all segments in this series here.


Here are players 16-20 in reverse order with their 2017 ranking in parenthesis. Players not in the 2017 top 60 list are indicated by (--)

20. Jermaine Palacios (31) SS/3B, 2020
DOB: 7/19/1996; Age: 21
Positions: SS
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 145 lbs
Acquired:   International Free Agent signing 2013
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: A+ (2017)
ETA: 2019

Jermaine Palacios was signed by the Twins as an international free agent from Barquisimeto, Venezuela on July 7, 2013.  In 2014, as a 17 year old he hit .270/.404/.399 in 225 PAs in the DSL (league average OPS: .671), as an 18 year old the first half of 2015 he hit .421/.472/.589 in 106 PAs in the GCL (league average OPS: .649) and .336/.345/.507 in 149 PAs as 2.5 year younger than the average Appalachian League Player (league average OPS: .731).  In 2016 he was promoted to Cedar Rapids, started very cold (.471 OPS in April and .514 OPS in May) and started warming up (.613 OPS in June and .714 OPS in July) as the weather did, before his season ended on July 17 with a fractured left (glove) hand.  His overall slash line was .222/.276/.287 and .306/.346/.367 for July.  He does not walk much or strikeout much, but for some reason in addition not to making much contact early in the season, his isoP dropped from .171 and .168 in his two 2015 stops to 0.065, and his BABIP took an about 200 point tumble to .253 from the .375 and .464 in his 2015 stops (it was .333 in 2014.)  He repeated Cedar Rapids in 2016 where he excelled in 62 games (276 PA) hitting .320/.362/.544 with a .404 wOBA and 154 wRC+.  His BABIP moved up to .356.  Mid-season he moved to Fort Myers as a 20 year old and he cooled up considerably.  He hit .269/.303/.359 with a .306 wOBA and 92 wRC+, but he was close to 3 years younger than the league.

Palacios had wrist issues in 2016 that seem behind him, based on the Cedar Rapids performance.  His BABIP at Fort Myers was at .322, which is where he has been when good.  His K% rose to 20.2 from the 16.7 in Cedar Rapids and his BB% dropped to a career low 3.8 from 4.3 at Cedar Rapids. He was 20/35 at stolen bases between both stops.  Hard to tell the root cause of his problems at Fort Myers, but he had reverse splits, hitting righties at a respectable .280/.316/.390 rate and lefties at only .238/.265/.270.  It could be pitch recognition.  Palacios will likely stay as a short stop, since his glove plays at the position and he has improved.  It would be beneficiary for the 21-year old to repeat Fort Myers starting in the season, but he might be pushed up because of the numbers: Twins top prospects Royce Lewis and Wander Javier are both shortstops, in need of a full-season ball home and likely will start at Fort Myers and Cedar Rapids, respectively, which will push Palacios to Chattanooga, ready or not.

Likely 2018 path:  Starting shortstop at Fort Myers or Chattanooga, depending on his and other players' health.

19. Jean Carlos Arias (36)
DOB: 1/14/1998; Age: 20
Positions: CF
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 5'11", Weight: 170 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 7/2/2014
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: GCL (2016, 2017)
ETA: 2020

Jean Carlos Arias was signed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from  Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic the summer of 2014.  In his first professional season in the DSL he hit .311/.378/.537 with 18 BB, 30 K, 13 2B, 9 3B and 2 HRs in 189 PAs.  He was 11/17 in stolen bases.  That .914 OPS is not quite at Miguel Sano level (Sano hit .344/.463/.547 at age 17 in the DSL), but cannot be ignored in a league where the average OPS is .680.  His wOBA was .425 and wRC+ 151, which are also on the ridiculous level. Arias destroyed RHPs at the rate of .330/.390/.568. Reports from the Dominican have the 17 year old Arias, who batted at the number 3 spot for the DSL Twins, is a true 5-tool Centerfielder.  In 2016 he moved to the United States for Extended Spring Training and later to the GCL where he played an error-less OF in all 3 outfield positions and struggled with the bat hitting .202/.265/.266 with 10 BB and 28 K, stealing 7/10 bases and only 6 xBH / 25 H in 45 games (124 AB.)  He repeated the GCL last season with much better results:  .298/.359/.476,  .393 wOBA and     138 wRC+ in 185 AB in 48 games.  His IsoP increased to .179 and BABIP to .372, close to his first professional season in the Dominican.  The strikeouts were a tad high at 22.7% compared to 7.6 BB%. He made the Post-season GCL All Star team.  Arias has a plus glove at centerfield with excellent range and sure-handedness.  As far his bat goes, he still needs a bit of work against LHP (.255/.345/.255) but he destroys RHP (.316/.365/.573).

Likely 2018 path: Extended Spring Training and the Elizabethton starting centerfielder.  Outside chance of moving to Cedar Rapids, depending on the Twins' draft and his Spring Training.

18. Jose Miranda (--)
DOB: 6/29/1998; Age: 20
Positions: IF
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the second supplementary round of 2016
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: ELZ (2017)
ETA: 2021

Jose Miranda was drafted by the Twins in the second supplementary round of 2016 from Leadership Christian High School at Guaynobo, PR.  His hit tool was his best tool, but in his first season as a pro in 2016 in the GCL, Miranda struggled.  He hit .227/.308/.292 with a .291 wOBA and a 83 wRC+.  Upon moving to Elizabethton last season, he showed why he was a 2nd round pick.  He hit .283/.340/.484 with a .367 wOBA and a 117 wRC+.  He had a .202 IsoP, 6.5 BB% and only 9.7 K%, in 55 games (247 PA).  He played mostly second base in 2017, and a mix of second, short, and third in 2016. His footwork and instincts are below average at this point, and his arm is just average, which indicates that second, first, or left field might be his future home.  He utilizes all fields and was tied for the lead in HRs in the Appalachian League with 11. He was a post season Appy League All-Star and received the MiLB.com organization All Star Award, both last season.  Miranda hit .299/.344/.521 off RHP and .232/.32/.375 off LHP, which might indicate a slight difficulty in off-speed ball recognition from lefties.   His bat is ahead of his glove, but his glove is not horrible.

Likely 2018 path: Somewhere in the Cedar Rapids outfield.

17. Tyler Wells (54), RHP  2020
DOB: 8/26/1994; Age: 23
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'8", Weight: 265 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 15th round in 2016
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A (2017)
ETA: 2020

Tyler Wells was drafted by the Twins in the 15th round of the 2016 draft from California State San Bernandino.  The Oklahoma native was a starter there for 3 seasons, pitching in 38 games (35 starts) for a total of 204 innings, striking out 191 (8.4 K/9), walking 90 (4.0 K/9), with a 3.84 ERA and 1.37 WHIP.  His last (junior) season he had better results (2.84 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 15 games, 92 IP) while his peripherals remained pretty much constant (8.7 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9) which indicates that he got a better feel in pitching.  He continued as a pro to Elizabethton where he started 10 games (47-1/3 IP), striking out 59 (11.2 K/9, 29.2 K%) and walking 17 (3.2 BB/9, 20.8% K-BB%) finishing with a 3.23 ERA, 2.50 FIP, 1.20 WHIP (.328 BABIP).  In total 2016 has been a good year for Wells, starting 25 games for 149-1/3 IP between college and rookie league.  In the 2017 season Wells made 14 starts for Cedar Rapids, pitching 75-1/3 innings, striking out 92 (11.0 K/9, 29.6 K%) and walking 22 (2.6 BB/9, 22.5 K-BB%).  He had a 3.11 ERA, 3.05 FIP, and 1.13 WHIP (.302 BABIP.)  He missed some time last season with elbow strain, and also played in 4 rehab games in the GCL.

Wells is a very durable starter and has the physique of a football tight end.  As a high school senior he was listed at 6'7" and 212 lbs. At San Bernandino he grew an inch and filled up his frame to 265 lbs, without being overweight.  As a collegiate his strikeouts were in bursts.  He had games where his strike outs were in double digits and games where there were few.  His results as a pro show hope that he can consistently keep his strikeout high by getting a better feel for his stuff from start to start.  Wells throws an above average fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup. His plus slider is a true out pitch.  His mechanics are very good and consistent for his size and there is a lot of potential for improvement of his pitches, which in combination with his durability, makes Wells an interesting prospect

Likely 2018 Path: In the Fort Myers rotation.

16. Nick Gordon (5)
DOB: 10/14/1995; Age: 21
Positions: IF
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round in 2014
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AA (2017)
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.  Last season he played at Chattanooga, where he hit a career best .270/.341/.408 with a .344 wOBA and 117 wRC+.  He also had career bests with 9.2 BB% and .139 IsoP as well as career worst 23.2 K%.

Gordon's glove is about average at SS but the footwork and lateral movement is not there to believe that he can be a first tier major league shortstop.  His bat still projects as a major league average, however he was again neutralized against LHPs (.174/.273/.240 in 121 AB in AA last season.)   He had good speed, but not great base stealing instincts that need a lot of work.  This season was his greatest work load with 578 PA and Gordon showed that his his 6-0/160 lb frame might just not be durable enough for a full season.  He hit a robust .315/.376/.504 in the first half, and he followed by a lackluster .221/.304/.305    the second half.  His last two seasons overall 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. In addition, there seem to be make up issues, because instead of focusing on working on his baseball weaknesses this off-season, Gordon chose to produce music videos, including one in which he was wearing clothing with another MLB team's insignia.  With Polanco as the Twins SS of the present, and Palacios, Lewis, and Javier right behind Gordon, at shortstop and Arraez and Miranda at second base, maybe the Twins' best way of dealing with Gordon is to use him as a center piece for a trade for pitching, as long as he still is highly ranked in the National prospect lists.

Likely 2018 path: Starting AAA Rochester shortstop 

Next: 11-15


2/14/18

Slim starting pitcher pickings? Pick your poison: The list of all 31 free agent SP available to the Twins and the rest of the MLB

Here is the list of the starting pitchers (or pitchers who both started are relieved) that are free agents as of today, alphabetically.   I will keep updating the list thought out the spring as they sign:

Brett Anderson
Jake Arrieta
Clay Buchholz
Trevor Cahill
Andrew Cashner Agreed to a 2yr/ $16M contract with the Orioles 2/15
Jesse Chavez
Alex Cobb
Josh Collmenter
Jorge de la Rosa Signed a minor league contract with the Diamondbacks 2/16
R.A. Dickey
Scott Feldman
Jaime Garcia Agreed to an 1yr/$8M contract with the Blue Jays 2/15
Matt Garza
A.J. Griffin
Jeremy Hellickson
Drew Hutchison Signed a minor league contract with the Philies; 2/15
Ubaldo Jimenez
John Lackey
Tim Lincecum
Francisco Liriano
Lance Lynn
Wade Miley Signed a minor league contract with the Brewers; 2/16
Ricky Nolasco
Jake Peavy
Anibal Sanchez Singed a non-guaranteed 1y/$2.5M contract with the Twins 2/16
Hector Santiago Signed a minor league contract with the White Sox; 2/14
Chris Smith
Josh Smith
Chris Tillman
Cesar Valdez
Jason Vargas Signed to a 2yr/ $16M contract with the Mets 2/16
Edinson Volquez Signed a minor league contract with the Rangers 2/16

2018 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 21-25

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.  You can find all segments in this series here.


Here are players 21-25 in reverse order with their 2017 ranking in parenthesis. Players no in the 2017 top 60 list are indicated by (--)

 This edition includes an extra player who came on board the Twins' organization after these rankings were finished.

 25. Landon Leach (--)
DOB: 7/12/1999; Age: 18
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'4", Weight: 220 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 2nd round in 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: GCL (2017)
ETA: 2021

Landon Leach was drafted by the Twins in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft from Pickering High School in the Toronto, ON area of Canada.  He started his pro career in his age 17 season pitching 13-1/3 innings in the GCL in 5 games striking out 10 and walking 4, with a total of 3.38 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 1.28 WHIP (.268 BABIP), 16.4 K%, and 9.8 BB%.  Very small sample size aside, Leach is a very intriguing player.  He has not pitched for that long and his body has filled in (already at 6-4/220 as a 17 year old) so his command is yet not that consistent, despite having good mechanics and easy repetitive 3/4 arm slot delivery.  He as a fastball and slurve that both flash plus.  His fastball sits at mid 90s with excellent sink, and his mid 80s slurve has late movement and bite.  He needs to develop at least one more pitch to be regarded as a starter in the future, but he looks that part.  A still very young prospect with a potentially big future but also big questions in front of him.

Likely 2018 path: Extended Spring Training then depending on the Twins' draft either at the GCL or Elizabethton.

 24. Chris Paul (--)
DOB: 10/12/1992; Age: 25
Positions: UT
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 200 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 6th round in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (2016, 2017)
ETA: 2018

Chris Paul was drafted by the Twins in the 6th round of the 2015 draft as a Senior from University of California Berkley.  The Laguna Beach native has never been in this list before, but there are good reasons to believe that he will be a major league player.  He spend his first 3 seasons at Berckeley playing pretty unremarkable (.644, .666, and .643 OPS;) however he had a major breakthrough his senior season hitting     .325/.404/.562 with a .237 isoP, 11.1 BB% and 18 K% in 235 PA.  He continued his success after switching to wood in Elizabethton where he hit .302/.375/.488, .396 wOBA, 141wRC+ with 4.2 BB% and 15.6 K% and .186 isoP in 94 PA (21 games), but fell off the map upon moving to Cedar Rapids and hitting just .244/.277/.356 with .294 wOBA and 82 wRC+.  He repeated Cedar Rapids in 2016 and just 7 games of hitting .346/.414/.462 with .406 wOBA and 160 wRC+ was enough to earn him a promotion to high A Fort Myers, where he tanked, in a league were he was pretty much the average age.  He hit .219/.273/.296 with a  .269 wOBA and 66 wRC+.  Last season (other than a rehab assignment due to a non-throwing wrist sprain that kept him in the DL for a couple of months or so) he repeated Fort Myers where he hit .328/.380/.471 with .390 wOBA and 149 wRC in 61 games (264 PA).  He followed to the Arizona Fall League where he had an additional 76 PA in 18 games slashing .292/.329/.444.

Paul has made major strides with his ability to make contact.  he still does not walk much (5.7%) and his strikeouts are average (16.7%), but his ability to play all corner infield and outfield positions make him valuable as a hitter. He will not hit for power or steal a bunch of bases but he will make solid productive contact.

Likely 2018 path:  Starting at Chattanooga, potential to move up to Rochester or even to the bigs, as circumstances necessitate.

 23a Yunior Severino (--)
DOB: 10/3/1999; Age: 18
Positions: IF
Bats: S, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired:  Signed as an international free agent on December 8th, 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: GCL (2017)
ETA: 2022

The Twins signed the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native, Yunior Severino on December 8th of 2017 for a $2.5 million bonus.  Severino was signed by the Braves on July 2, 2016 for $1.9 million bonus, but became a free agent on November 21, 2017 by the MLB as a punishment for Braves' mismanagement of their international money allowance pool.  Severino played 10 games in the DSL in 2017 before he moved Stateside at the GCL.  There he played in 48 games (206 PA) hitting .286/.345/.444 with an .373 wOBA and 125 wRC+.  He walked 7.8% of the time and struck out 29.6%.

His glove is a work in progress. He played second base last season but both his footwork and glove suffered.  He is a power hitter (.159 IsoP) with a long swing that makes him strike out prone. The switch hitter is much better as a left handed hitter (.303/.365/.451).  He is still very young and a man without position and his development and physical growth will likely dictate where he will end up, but the bat is here, and will a few adjustments to his swing his contact tool will improve as well.

Likely 2018 path:  At Extended Spring Training and then to the GCL or Elizabethton, depending the Twins draft.

23. LaMonte Wade (22)
DOB: 1/1/1994; Age: 24
Positions: OF
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'1", Weight: 189 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 9th round in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: AA (2017)
ETA: 2018

LaMonte Wade was drafted by the Twins in the 9th round of the 2015 draft from the University of Maryland as a Junior.  The Baltimore native  hit .335/.453/.468 in his Junior season with 30 walks and 20 strikeouts in 42 games (158 AB).  He continued to his first pro season in Elizabethton, where he hit .312/.432/.506 in 64 games (284 PAs) with 8 doubles, 5 triples, 8 HRs, 12/13 SBs, 46 BB and 34 K.  He played 4 more games in Cedar Rapids.  He started 2016 in Cedar Rapids where he hit  .280/.410/.396, walking 44 times and striking out 27.  He also had 4 HRs, 3 3B and was 5/8 in SB in 56 games.  He was promoted to A+ Fort Myers in June after was was named a starting outfielder in the  2016 Midwest League All-Star game.  There he improved hitting .318/.386/.518 in 32 games (110 ABs) despite losing most of August in the disabled list.  Wade played all the 2017 season (117 games and 519 PA) in AA Chattanooga.  He hit .292/.397/.408 with a .370 wOBA and 135 wRC+.  He continued to the Arizona Fall League, where he played in 19 more games (77 PA) where he hit .238/.351/.413 and, in a collision with a teammate, he suffered a concussion serious enough to require hospitalization    

Wade has quick wrists, excellent eye, decent power and speed.  He can play all 3 outfield positions with Left and Center being his best as a defender.  He is hitting equally well left hand (.794 OPS in AA) nad right hand pitching (.809 OPS in AA.)   With Buxton and Granite ahead of him at the majors, Wade might potentially move to a corner spot.  There has been some discussion on moving him to second base; however throwing left-handed might put an end to that thought.  Wade was invited to the Twins' major league camp this Spring. With Buxton, Rosario, Kepler, Grossman, and Granite in the majors, and with several outfield prospects ranked higher than him with an ETA of 2020, Wade might serve as trade bait for the Twins.  The concussion is worrisome, as is, but to a lesser degree, his drop of performance in the AFL, and part of the reason that Wade is ranked here.  The other part is that the Twins 2018 system is better than the 2017.

Likely 2018 path:  Will start the season as the starting Centerfielder for Rochester, potentially in the majors if there is need. 

22. Lewis Thorpe (30)
DOB: 11/23/1995; Age: 22
Positions: LHP
Bats: R, Throws: L
Height: 6'1", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired:  International Free Agent
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: AA (2017)
ETA: 2019

Thorpe was signed on July 12th of 2012 by the Twins to the largest bonus ever given for an Australian player, $500,000.  His 2014 season in Cedar Rapids was somewhat of a disappointment compared to his 2013 season in Elizabethton (12 G, 8 GS, 44 IP, 64 K, 13.1 K/9, 38.1 K%, 6 BB, 1.2 BB/9, 34.5 K-BB%, 2.05 ERA, 1.43 FIP, 0.86 WHIP, .319 BABIP), showing considerable control issues (a career high 4.5 BB/9) and was fairly ineffective (4.24 FIP). Before this season, the Melbourne native had not pitched since September of 2014 resting and rehabilitating his left UCL, which eventually required Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2015.  He lost all of 2016 with mononucleosis. Twins personnel and fans highly anticipated to see how Thorpe will do in 2017 after 2 seasons of hiatus.  He spent all the season with Fort Myers (other than a single six inning start at Chattanooga.)  At Fort Myers he pitched in 16 games (15 GS) for 77 innings, striking out 84 (9.8 K/9, 26.8 K%), walking 31 (3.6 BB/9, 16.9 K-BB%,) hitting 2 and throwing 12 wild pitches.  He finished with a 2.69 ERA, 2.92 FIP, and 1.21 WHIP (.304 BABIP.)   

Thorpe has 4 pitches, including a plus mid 90s fastball, a plus change up and curveball and an improving cutter. His command and control suffered during his return.  Part of this is his self-admitted difficulties throwing the cutter and change up. It might take a while to get the feeling of these two pitches back, but once that is done, it will reduce his wildness.  Still difficult to project, but at 22 years old, there is still plenty of time for Thorpe.  He was added to the Twins' 40-man roster this winter.

Likely 2018 path:  Will start the season in the Rochester rotation with an outside chance to make it to the Twins, but he is still not stretched out enough to be a regular MLB starter.

 21. Jovani Moran (--), LHRP, 2020
DOB: 4/24/1997; Age: 20
Positions: LHP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'1", Weight: 167 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 7th round of 2015 draft
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: ELZ (2017)
ETA: 2020

The Twins drafted Jovani Moran in the 7th round of 2015 draft from the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico.  The Mayaguez, PR native started his professional career in the GCL Twins' rotation that year, pitching 19-2/3 innings in 6 starts.  He struck out 17 (7.8 K/9, 20.2 K%) and walked 9 (4.1 BB/9, 9.5 K-BB%) hit a batter and had 2 wild pitches.  He finished with a 4.12 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 1.27 WHIP and .281 BABIP.  Likely he was bothered by his elbow and had surgery to remove bone chips.  He missed the whole 2016 season recuperating, but came back the 2017 season on fire. He pitched out of the Elizabethton pen for 11 games (23-2/3 IP) striking out 45 (16.4 K/9, 50 K%, which means that every other batter he faced he struck out), walking 6 (2.2 BB/9, 43.3 K-BB%), and threw 4 wild pitches.  He finished with a 0.36 ERA, 1.51 FIP, and 0.73 WHIP (.290 BABIP.)

Moran is equally effective against lefties (.141 OBA) and righties (.111) and his future is likely in the rotation.  He has a low 90s fastball that he commands and controls very well, a plus slider with late biting action, a good changeup and he has been working on a curve.  He has very polished mechanics and an easy 3/4 delivery.  Because of his elbow situation, the Twins have been bringing him along slowly.  Moran is one of these prospects that has a top-5 prospect potential.  2018 will be an interesting season for Moran and will be telling how the Twins treat him after Spring Training.

Likely 2018 path:  At the Cedar Rapids rotation at some point depending his Spring Training health.  Could start the season there or join later after partial EST.

Next: 16-20

2/12/18

2018 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 26-30

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.  You can find all segments in this series here.


Here are players 26-30 in reverse order with their 2017 ranking in parenthesis. Players no in the 2017 top 60 list are indicated by (--)

30. David Banuelos (--)
DOB: 10/1/1998; Age: 21
Positions: C
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 200 lbs
Acquired:  Traded by Seattle
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: A- (2017)
ETA: 2020

David Banuelos was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 5th round of the 2017 draft from Long Beach State as a Junior and traded to the Twins for international pool money.  The Ontario, CA native played 3 years as a catcher and was named the best defensive catcher in the country by the American Baseball Coaches Association and Rawlings.  In his senior year he hit .289/.368/.468, with a career best .179 IsoP, and a 17:45 BB:K ratio, in 234 PA.  As a pro he was assigned to short season A Everett of the Northwest league.   He hit .236/.331/.394 with a .340 wOBA and 109 wRC+, 11% BB%, and a concerning 27.4  K%.  His IsoP was .157 and the transition to the wood seemingly did not rob him of power.

His glove is very advanced and his arm is strong and accurate.  He threw out 38% of runners.  Banuelos had a very interesting split between home (.339/.453/.565) and away (.138/.200/.231) games, which might be meaningful or not.  It will be interesting to see how the competition between Banuelos and the Twins number 31 prospect Rortvedt plays in the future.  Banuelos is a year older, more advanced with the bat and at least equal, if not better, with the glove.  I admit that I might have ranked Banuelos a bit lower than where he should be, but I have not yet to see him play.  He can shoot up this list next season.

Likely 2018 path:  At Fort Myers. 

29. Tyler Watson (--)
DOB: 5/22/1997; Age: 20
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: L
Height: 6'5", Weight: 200 lbs
Acquired:  Traded by Nationals
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A (2016, 2017)
ETA: 2020

Tyler Watson was drafted in the 34th round of the 2015 draft by the Washington Nationals from Perry Gilbert (AZ) High School.  He was traded to the Twins for Brandon Kintzler in the July trade deadline of 2017.  He started his pro career in 2015 in the Nats' GCL team pitching 13.1 scoreless innings in 5 games (4 starts).  The next season he started in Extended Spring Training and continued in short season A Auburn, where he started 9 games (43 IP) striking out 48 (10.1 K/9, 28.2 K%) and walking 9 (1.9 BB/9, 23 K-BB%), with a 1.88 ERA, 2.05 FIP, 0.91 WHIP and .261 BABIP.  That gained him a promotion to Full A South Atlantic League for the last 3 games of the season.  In 2017 he started the season with the Hagerstown Suns (A) where he pitched in 18 games (17 starts) for 93 innings striking out 98 (9.5 K/9, 25 K%) and walking 24 (2.3 K/9, 18.9 K%) with a 4.35 ERA, 3.36 FIP, and 1.25 WHIP (.331 BABIP).  After the trade he moved A leagues from the South Atlantic to Midwest where he started 5 games for the Kernels.  He pitched 27-1/3 innings , striking out 18 (5.9 K/9, 15.7 K%) and walking 8 (2.6 BB/9, 8.7 K-BB%), with a 4.28 ERA, 5.07 FIP, and 1.32 WHIP (.286 BABIP.) 

Watson is fastball/curveball pitcher who is trying to develop a changeup.  His fastball sits from 87-90, and has good movement.  The hope is that it will gain a few ticks when Watson gains some muscle. Also that will help his endurance, since he ran out of stream in Cedar Rapids.  He has been playing with a changeup that is a work in progress.  His delivery is deceptive, yet non-mechanically solid, and he might have to simplify that at some point.  He is a comparable pitcher to Stephen Gonslaves, but has a long ways to go to get there.

Likely 2018 path:  At the Fort Myers rotation.

28. Charlie Barnes (--)
DOB: 10/1/1995; Age: 22
Positions: LHP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'2", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 4th round in 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: A (2017)
ETA: 2020

Charlie Barnes was drafted by the Twins in the 4th round of the 2017 draft from Clemson University as a Junior.  The lefty from Sumpter, SC had a very good Junior season starting in 16 games, pitching 101-1/3 innings, walking 22 (2.0 BB/9) and striking out 113 (10.0 K/9).  He had a 3.20 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.  He won the Stowe Award given to the best Clemson pitcher.  Another remarkable thing that Barnes achieved at Clemson is that he graduated on May of 2017 with a degree in Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management in only three years.  He started pro ball at Elizabethton, pitching 6 games (5 starts) walking 10 (4.0 BB/9, 13.5 K-BB%) and striking out 23 (9.1 K/9, 24 K%) with a 1.19 ERA, 3.90 FIP and 1.06 WHIP.  He moved to single A Cedar Rapids, where he was about a year younger than the league average, and started 6 games for 25-2/3 innings striking out 23 (8.1 K/9, 21.1 K%), walking 8 (2.8 BB/9, 13.8 K-BB%) with a 3.86 ERA, 4.78 FIP, 1.21 WHIP and .260 BABIP.  When all was said and done, Barnes pitched 149-2/3 innings between College and the pros in 2017.

Barnes is what a lot of people would call the "prototypical Twins' pitcher".  He has an average fastball that sits at 87-90, but on occasion can reach higher, which he commands and controls excellently, "painting the corners" and inducing a lot of ground balls. At Cedar Rapids he has 2.4 times as many ground balls as fly balls.  At Elizabethton 1.6 times.  His mid 70s changeup is plus with plus plus flashes and it is a true out pitch.  He also has a high 70s hard curve that is average as well as an above average low 80s slider.  As the Clemson top starter, he matched often with ACC top starters and he did well because of his poise and control.  Hard to tell what his ceiling will be, because there is a lot of development that needs to be done, but it will depend on whether he can get a couple of ticks on his fastball. At 6-2 and 160, there is the probability that he can get a bit of meat on his bones to accomplish this.

Likely 2018 path:  At the Cedar Rapids rotation with a mid-season move to the Fort Myers rotation.

27. Travis Blankenhorn (15), 3B/1B, 2020
DOB: 8/3/1996; Age: 21
Positions: 1B/3B/OF
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 208 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 3rd round in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A (2016,2017)
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, and he has been on the prospect list elevator. Right now he is on a down phase, esp. due to a change of position to a corner infielder and likely outfielder, as he matures. 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. In 2016 he moved to second base, but spend more than half of his time back at third base in 2017 where his glove was exposed, making 12 errors in 143 chances and not showing much range.  His bat also regressed.  He hit .251/.343/.441 with a .354 wOBA and 121 wRC+, with a .189 IsoP, which is fine for a good fielding second baseman, but not for a below average fielding corner position player or DH.

Blankenhorn will go as far as his glove will let him.  His bat was still neutralized by left hand pitching (.228/.320/.346) while he can hit righties okay (.260/.353/.479.)  A very similar player to Travis Harrison on both sides of the ball.  Hopefully something will click for Blankenhorn, who is still very young, but with a suspect glove and unable to hit left hand pitching, his ceiling is that of a platoon DH/PH, which this day and age is a luxury in major league ball.  There are a lot of scouts who are tantalized by his potential and he (still) is a top-10 and top-20 prospect in many lists.  However, based on his flaws just mentioned, I just could not rank him that high.

Likely 2018 path: At Fort Myers, hopefully finding a defensive home.

26. Andrew Bechtold (--)
DOB: 4/18/1996; Age: 21
Positions: 3B
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 185 lbs
Acquired:  Drafted in the 5th round in 2017
Professional Experience: 1; Highest level: ELZ (2017)
ETA: 2020

The Twins drafted Andrew Bechtold from Chipola Junior College in Florida.  The Chadds Ford, PA native transferred there after two futile seasons at Maryland University where he managed a .221/.339/.241 slash line.  It could be the weather, but Bechtold blossomed in Florida hitting .419/.532/.676 with 12 HRs, 29/88 extra base hits, 49 BB and 44 strikeouts and stealing 24/48 bases, in 265 plate appearances.   JUCO or not, these numbers are more than draftworthy and Bechtold continued his success when he had to change his bat to wood in Elizabethton.  In 175 PA he hit .299/.406/.424,     .387 wOBA, 129 wRC+.  He walked 27 times, struck out 40, had 13/43 extra base hits and no SB attempts, while playing an above average third base.

Likely 2018 path: Starting third baseman at Cedar Rapids.

Next: 21-25

2/11/18

Et Yu Brute? Darvish signs with the Cubs. Now what do the Twins do?

On a cold and gray Chicago morning, as the snow flied, four days before Valentine's Day Ken Rosenthal, broke the hearts of plenty of Twins' fans by reporting that Yu Darvish signed a 6 year deal with the Cubs.   Darvish was considered by many not only the missing piece in a potential Twins' success story in 2018, but a statement acquisition by the new and improved front office, especially after another top of the rotation Japanese free agent, Shohei Otani, shunned the Twins and the frozen tundra for the California sun earlier this off-season.  A top free agent signing that would had put the Twin Cities on the map of the desirable places to go in the majors...

What are the Twins going to do about it, especially given the fact that Ervin Santana might not be ready until May? 

To me they are four options, listed here in order of what I believe makes sense:

  1. Work out a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for Chris Archer.  A package based on Max Kepler, Nick Gordon, and one of Stephen Gonsalves, Adalberto Mejia, or Zach Littell, should be in discussion.  If necessary, someone like Alex Kirilloff could be added, with a minor leaguer from the Rays' system to balance the trade.  In this case the Twins get a top of the rotation pitcher who will be their opening day pitcher and might be the piece they need to contend for the division and deep into the post-season, which should be their goal at this point. If a trade like this happens, the Twins can sign a free agent outfielder, like Carlos Gomez to replace Kepler's bat and glove, to an one year contract.  This is the best case scenario for the Twins, because unless they acquire someone like Archer, they will not content, which brings us to the second-best scenario:
  2. Do nothing and see what Gonsalves, Littell, and Fernando Romero have in the final 2 spots of the rotation, before Santana, and Trevor May are back in May.  The Twins really need to find a top of the rotation pitcher and with Jose Berrios improving with another year under his belt, he might be it.  Trevor May had excellent promise as a starter and might slot in the middle of the rotation ahead of Santana.  Can Romero be that number two that is his potential this season?  The Twins better find out, instead of doing the second worse scenario:
  3. Sign third grade, end of the rotation free agents to fill in the blanks.  Jason Vargas (a Terry Ryan, and I suspect of his administration's leftovers, darling,) Jaime Garcia, Edinson Volquez, Chris Tillman, Andrew Cashner, and the former true but mostly tried Twins Ricky Nolasco, and Hector Santiago, as well as every other pitcher you don't want the Twins to sign, belong in this category.  Trading for a mid-rotation starter, albeit with future potential, like Jake Odorizzi while better than the other choices listed here, falls in this category.  The future should be now for the Twins.  If they don't feel that this is the case, they should go with the kids.  Still this is not the worst case scenario; that would be:
  4. Signing one of the three "top" free agents left:  Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, or Lancy Lynne (in alphabetical order) and especially to a contract more than a year.  None of those pitchers will be an improvement to (let's say) Kyle Gibson's 2017 second half or to what a combination of Gonzalves/Littell/Romero/Dietriech Enns can potentially provide...   Arrieta and Cobb had played in the American League and were mid to end of the rotation types.  Lynne has never played in the AL and has had the luxury of facing pitchers, thus inflated K% and SwStr% numbers.  To add insult to injury, the Twins will have to give up a high draft pick for the privilege to sign any of these mid of the rotation types.  
Unfortunately, I have a hunch  that the Twins' priorities are in reverse order that my preference in this case...