Crystal Ball: Predicting free agent starting pitcher performance for 2014.

A crystal ball is for baseball front offices what the philosophers' stone was for medieval alchemists: probably the single most desirable tool out there.   And there have been a lot of predictive tools, including tools that can spit out a whole slash line of MLB future for a 19 year old prospect in high A.   I think that some of them, at least at that level, are borderline silly. 

I took a look at potentially creating at a tool that was a bit more complicated that ERA/FIP or xFIP differential that can tell a couple of things at the same time:  a. how good has someone been and b. how good is someone going to be in the near future.   I did not want to predict W-L, ERA, IP and such.  That is silly in my book.   So I run the thing through 2009 to 2010, 2010 to 2011, 2011 to 2012 season differentials of individual pitchers to look for accuracy as far as improvement and decline went, and I got about 80% accuracy for pitchers who started a baseline of 100 innings the previous season. 

Not that bad, but the algorithm still needs refinement for the lower inning pitchers; ideally I would like it to work at 50, so one could be able to potentially extrapolate September call up performances for the next season.    Also, there is one thing that math cannot do, and that is take into account whether a young pitcher improves a particular pitch or learns another before the next season.  At this point, I would say that it is not really great to predict young pitchers' performance.   So it is not ready for release.   One thing that I feel pretty confident about is that it is pretty good to predict mid-late career pitchers' performance.  Free agents do fall into this category, so with the winter meetings coming up, I felt that I could present the predictions about starting pitcher performance in 2014.  This includes Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, the two Twins' free agent signees.  

Mainly a bookmark, so I can check again after the season to see how it did vs. actual performance, but I thought that it might be fun to share.  

Here is the list (with a lot of incompletes, as I indicated)

I am indicating the Twins' signees in bold and potentially good targets yet unsigned in italics and underlined. According this crystal ball the Twins did pretty well...

Alfredo Aceves (31) - not enough in 2013
Bronson Arroyo (37)  - mid rotation - Consistent Decline
Scott Baker (32) - not enough in 2013
Erik Bedard (35) - end of rotation - Consistent Improvement
Travis Blackley (31) - not enough in 2013
A.J. Burnett (37) - top rotation - Consistent Improvement
Chris Capuano (35) - mid rotation - Consistent Improvement

Chris Carpenter (39)  - not enough in 2013
Bruce Chen (37) - end of rotation - Consistent Decline
Bartolo Colon (41) - mid rotation - Consistent Decline
Scott Feldman (30) - end of rotation - Consistent Decline
Gavin Floyd (31)   - not enough in 2013
Jeff Francis (33) - not enough in 2013
Freddy Garcia (37) - not enough in 2013
Jon Garland (34) - not enough in 2013
Matt Garza (30) - mid rotation - Consistent stay the same
Chad Gaudin (31) - not enough in 2013
Roy Halladay (37) - not enough in 2013
Jason Hammel (31) - end of rotation - conflict: same or improvement
Aaron Harang (36) - mid rotation - conflict: decline or improvement
Dan Haren (33) - top rotation - Consistent Improvement
Roberto Hernandez (33) - mid rotation - Consistent Improvement
Phil Hughes (28)  - mid rotation - Consistent Improvement
Ubaldo Jimenez (30) - mid rotation - conflict: decline or improvement
Josh Johnson (30)  - not enough in 2013
Jair Jurrjens (28)  - not enough in 2013
Jeff Karstens (31)  - not enough in 2013
Scott Kazmir (30) - top rotation - Consistent Improvement
Hiroki Kuroda (39) - mid rotation - Consistent Decline
John Lannan (29) - not enough in 2013
Colby Lewis (34)  - not enough in 2013
Ted Lilly (38) - not enough in 2013
Paul Maholm (32) - end of rotation - Consistent Improvement
Shaun Marcum (32)- not enough in 2013
Jason Marquis (35) - replacement level - Consistent Decline
Daisuke Matsuzaka (33) - not enough in 2013
James McDonald (29) - not enough in 2013
Jeff Niemann (31) - not enough in 2013
Ricky Nolasco (31)  - mid rotation - Consistent Improvement
Sean O'Sullivan (26)- not enough in 2013
Roy Oswalt (35)- not enough in 2013
Mike Pelfrey (30)  - end of rotation - Consistent Improvement
Greg Reynolds (28) - not enough in 2013
Clayton Richard (30) - not enough in 2013
Ervin Santana (31)  - mid rotation - Consistent Decline
Johan Santana (34) - not enough in 2013
Joe Saunders (33)  - replacement level - Consistent Improvement
Kevin Slowey (30)- not enough in 2013
Masahiro Tanaka (25) - not enough in 2013
Jason Vargas (31)  - mid rotation - Consistent Improvement
Ryan Vogelsong (36)  - not enough in 2013
Edinson Volquez (30) - mid rotation - Consistent Improvement
Tsuyoshi Wada (33)  - not enough in 2013
P.J. Walters (29)  - not enough in 2013
Jake Westbrook (36)  - not enough in 2013
Chien-Ming Wang (34) - not enough in 2013
Suk-Min Yoon (27) - not enough in 2013
Barry Zito (36)   - replacement level - Consistent Improvement


2014 off-season Minnesota Twins top 40 prospect countdown: 16-20

This is the fifth segment of the 2014 off-season Twins top 40 prospects, counting down prospects 31 to 35.  Prospects 36-40 are here, 31-35 here, 26-30 here , 21-25 here and you can find all segments in reverse order here.

The number 16 to 20 off-season 2014 Minnesota Twins prospects are:

20. Brian Gilbert, RHRP, DOB: 8/12/1992, 6'1", 215 lbs.

The Twins selected Brian Gilbert in the 7th round of the 2013 draft from Seton Hall University.  Gilbert was the closer at Seton Hall and continued his 2013 season in Elizabethton, where he pitched in just 5 games (6 IP) allowing a single hit before was promoted to Cedar Rapids.  All in all he pitched in 18 games (23 Innings) in his pro career with a 0.78 ERA, 0.609 WHIP, walking just that one batter in E-town and striking out 14.

Gilbert's weapons are a plus fastball that hits up to 96 mph, a plus slider that he commands very well and he throws at any count, and an "attack the hitter", 'bulldog' mentality.  Gilbert will likely start the season as the Fort Myers closer.  He has the stuff, approach and mentality to move fast in the organization, potentially reaching the majors in 2015.  He will not start, but has MLB closer potential.

19. Zach Jones, RHRP, DOB: 12/4/1990, 6'1", 185 lbs.

Zach Jones was selected by the Twins in the 4th round of the 2012 draft from San Jose State University.  Another hard throwing reliever to be selected in that draft, Jones will not be converted to a starter, unlike some of his draft mates.   After he was drafted, Jones made 2 stops last summer, in Elizabethon for 6 games and at Beloit for 12.  He finished the season with 20 IP in both levels, 2.25 ERA, 1.1 WHIP, 34 Ks and 11 BBs.  He spend the whole 2013 season as the primary closer at Fort Myers, pitching in 39 games (48.7 IP) to a 1.85 ERA (2.71 FIP) and 1.151 WHIP.  He struck out 70 and walked 28.  He was rewarded with an AFL representation where he had a very short but unremarkable performace this Fall (7G, 6IP, 9BB, 9K, 3HR, 18 ERA).

A couple of fun, little known facts about Zach Jones: He did play as a DH for 3 years in San Jose State where he accumulated a .300/.378/.453 slash line with 2 HR in 136 ABs.  Also, a certain statistics web site  suggests that he played for the independent Nortwest League Yakima Bears as a Catcher during his college years.  That was another Zach Jones

His best tool is his fastball, which is the best in the organization according to BA and it is truly a plus plus pitch.  It sits between 96-98 and touches triple digits.  His delivery is very deceptive, but there is some effort to it.  He complements his fastball with a curve that is above average.  Control has been his biggest issue.  If he simplifies his delivery, improves his control and develops a third pitch (change?) he is an All-star closer material.  That is 3 ifs in a row, but his floor is higher than Jimmy Hoey.  He will likely start 2014 as the New Britain closer with a fast track to Rochester and a potential September call up.  Will not be surprised if he is invited to the big club's Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.

18. Lewis Thorpe LHSP, DOB: 11/23/1995, 6'1", 160 lbs.

Lewis Thorpe is the second youngest player in this top 40 list and just turned 18.  He was signed on July of 2012 to the largest bonus ever given for an Australian player  , $500,000.  He played his first professional season in the Gulf Coast League last summer, pitching 44 innings between 8 starts and 4 relief appearances.  He had a 2.05 ERA (1.43 FIP) striking out 64 and walking just 6.  His 38% K% and 10.7 K/BB are just phenomenal at any level, especially if you are 17 and still growing.

He has 3 pitches and are all above average:  A fastball that sits in the low 90s (that is up about 5 mph in a year), a curve and a changeup.  Also has a very good feel for the game, an effortless delivery, and is still growing.  He is one of the top leftie talents in the Twins' organization and will likely start 2014 in Elizabethton.

17. Adam Walker, RH, OF, DOB: 10/18/1991,  6'5", 225 lbs

Adam Walker by the Minnesota Twins in the 3rd round of the 2012 Draft from Jacksonville University.  He started his pro career that season in Elizabethton, making a seamless transition to the wooden bat, hitting .250/.310/.496 with 14 HRs in 58 games.  In the 2013 season he was promoted to Cedar Rapids where he stayed the whole season.  In 129 games (553 PA) he hit .278/.319/.526 with 27 HR and 109 RBI.  

Power is Walker's most obvious tool (.246 and .248 IsoP in the last two seasons, age 20 and 21) and will likely increase. He played mostly first base in college and made the transition to full time OF (RF) in the pros. Walker is an adequate corner outfielder, even though his arm is weak, and has some speed.   His contact and selectiveness tools need work; his K% drop from 30.2% in 2012 to 20.8 % is encouraging.  If he improves his contact he can be an All-Star corner outfielder (likely left fielder) in the majors.  Will likely start the 2014 (age 22) season in Fort Myers.

16. Max Kepler LH, OF/1B, DOB: 2/10/1993, 6'4", 180 lbs

Max Kepler was singed by the Twins as an amateur free agent from Germany in 2009.  He received a $800,000 bonus, the highest ever for a European baseball player.  Kepler is one of those prospects who is well known by people who follow the Twins, so I will not get into an in depth introduction, but I will talk move about his ranking here. 

A lot of people have Kepler as a top 10 prospect, based on pure potential, but this season he took a step back.  He is still ranked as a top 20 prospect, which is a pretty big thing in this rich system.  After 4 years as a pro, to be a top prospect you have to be close to reach this potential and Kepler other than his repeat season in Elizabethton in 2012 has not.  An elbow injury held him back this season allowing him to play only 61 games with Cedar Rapids (the most in his 4 year pro career) and of those 24 at first base and 7 as a DH.  He hit an anemic .237/.312/.424 with 9 HRs and 40 RBI with a 24/43 ration.  He played at the Arizona Fall League as a first baseman where he was totally overmatched (.234/.306/.313).  He was added to the 40 man roster this fall before the Rule 5 draft.

His young age (20) and flashing of power (and he is still growing) is what kept him this high in the prospect list.  Unless he comes out in Spring Training bashing, he will likely repeat the Midwest League with an early promotion to Fort Myers in 2014.

Next: 11-15


Weekly summary of the Twins moves and targets: 12/6/2013

Here is the summary of the moves the Minnesota Twins did and the players they expressed interest in this week (the links will take you to reports).  As far as "targets" go, I am listing players that the Twins reportedly expressed interest in and not players who baseball writers and other thought that they would be a good fit or may fill a need.  The targets identified past weeks are still in the list unless they signed elsewhere.

As a reminder, you can see all the Twins' weekly transactions and targets in reverse chronological order here.


Designated RHP Liam Hendriks for Assignment (12/5)
Signed 3B Brandon Waring to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training (12/4)
Signed LHP Matthew Hoffman to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training (12/4)
Signed RHP Jon Velasquez to a minor league contract (12/2)
Singed FA RHP Phil Hughes to a 3 year, 24 million contract with an additional $1 million a year in performance bonuses, distributed as follows each season: $250,000 after each 180 and 195 IP and $500,000 after 210 IP.  Hughes passed the physical and the signing became official on 12/5. (11/30)

The current Twins' 40-man roster is here and contains 20 pitchers and 20 position players for a total of 39 spots; this does not include Ricky Nolasco, because his signing is not yet official

LHP Brett Anderson (Athletics)
Free Agent:
SS Erisbel Arruebarruena (Cuban defector)


And here is the awkward spot when Phil Hughes and Liam Hendriks meet at the Twins roster

Screen shot of the Twins' forty man roster at their official site about 6:45 PM ET on 12/5/2013

2014 off-season Minnesota Twins top 40 prospect countdown: 21-25

This is the fourth segment of the 2014 off-season Twins top 40 prospects, counting down prospects 31 to 35.  Prospects 36-40 are here, 31-35 here, 26-30 here and you can find all segments in reverse order here.

The number 21 to 25 off-season 2014 Minnesota Twins prospects are:

25. J.D. Williams, SH, OF, DOB: 11/20/1990, 5'11", 183 lbs

J.D. (aka JaDamion) Williams was the Twins' 10th round pick of the 2010 draft from  Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate HS in Tampa, FL.  He is the son of former major leaguer Reggie Williams .  J.D. Williams was drafted as a middle infielder (he pitched as well in High School) but other than his first pro season in the GCL, he has been an outfield in the Twins' organization.  Up to before this season, he was just another prospect moving from the GCL to the Appalachian League to the Midwest League annually with limited success, namely his promising 50 game season in Elizabethton in 2011 where he hit .324/.406/.465 swiping 10 bases in 15 tries.  His full pro season in Beloit (2012, age 21) was a trial.  He did not make much contract (.234/.311/.340) and his base-stealing (23/32 SB,) excellent range and defense were the only tools he flashed.

2013 was the season the put Williams on the map as a prospect.  Repeating the Midwest League, in Cedar Rapids this time, he hit .281/.391/.461 in 80 games.  Compared to his 2012 in the same league, he improved his BB/K rate from 39/115 to 47/67, his IsoP from .106 to .180, while continuing swiping bases and playing excellent OF defense, mainly at LF due to teammates named Buxton and Walker.  He was promoted to Fort Myers where he finished the season hitting .236/.333/.293 in 42 games, which was likely fatigue related, since the 122 games he played this season was the most of his pro career by 30 or so.  Likely starts the season in Fort Myers and moves to New Britain. Has a potential for 20/20/20 season (2B/HR/BB). Because of the depth in the Twins' OF, could potentially return to second base.

24. D.J. Hicks, LH, 1B, DOB: 4/2/1990, 6'5", 228 lbs

D.J. (aka Dalton) Hicks was the Twins 17th round pick in the 2012 draft  out of University of Central Florida.  Hicks started his pro career last season in Elizabethton where he made a seamless transition to the wooden bat (.270/.382/.453, 4 HRs, 25 RBI, 19 BB, 37 K in 31 games (136 PAs).  He started 2013 in Cedar Rapids where he hit .297/.355/.494 with 13 HR and 82 RBI in 89 games (400 PA) and finished in Fort Myers (42 games, .270/.364/.405, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 176 PA).  He accumulated 110 RBI this season and this figure led the Twins' organization, ahead of Adam Walker (109) and Miguel Sano (103.)

This might sound like a blasphemy, but at similar points in their professional career (albeit Hicks at older age) Hicks as a player is similar to a young Justin Morneau.  In addition to the physical similarities and defensive challenges at this point, Hicks' age 23 season split between the Midwest and Florida State League resulted in a combined .289/.358/.468, 17 HR, 110 RBI production, while Morneau's age 20 season (2001) split between those leagues, with 10 addition games in the Eastern League, resulted in a combined .314/.389/.497, 16 HR, 97 RBI production.  Morneau is clearly the better player here but Hicks is in the area code...  His power tool is his best.  He has already shown signs of improved pitch recognition and with improvement of fielding and contact, he can be a major league first baseman.  One little known fact about D.J Hicks:  In addition to playing first base, Hicks was a pitcher in College, pitching a total of 66 innings in 3 seasons awfully. 

Hicks will likely start 2014 at Fort Myers, if Kennys Vargas mans first base in New Britain.  If Kennys Vargas starts at Rochester, Hicks will likely start in New Britain.  Potentially they can both spit 1B/DH duties at New Britain.

23. Jose Abreu RHSP, DOB: 6/13/1992, 5'11", 170 lbs.

Jose Alexi Abreu (not to be confused with the Cuban First Baseman) Signed by the Minnesota Twins as a non-drafted free agent on Sept. 2, 2010 out of the Dominican Republic.  After 2 seasons in the DSL, he made the transition to the GCL last summer  where he served as the main closer of the team pitching 28 innings in 18 games striking out 30 and walking 5 for an 1.61 ERA and 0.821 WHIP.  

He has a nice fastball with a lot of movement and a small statute and reminds some of another diminutive Dominican  in pitching style, especially attacking hitters.  He does have a decent curveball that has fooled the GCL hitters, but it needs improvement, as does his change up.  Will likely start the season as a swing man in Elizabethton.

22. Matthew Koch RH, C, DOB: 11/21/1988, 6'0", 219 lbs

Matthew Koch was the Twins' 12th round pick of the 2011 draft out of Loyola Marymount University.   He finished that summer in Elizabethton (12 games, 51 PA, .273/.333/.545, 2 HR, 9 RBI)  moved up to Beloit in 2012 and Fort Myers in 2013.  He had solid and nearly identical seasons as a catcher in both A and high A (.253/.349/.421, 8 HR, 23 2B, 39 RBI in 89 games Beloit in 2012) and (.278/.346/.401, 7 HR, 20 2B, 40 RBI in 98 games in Fort Myers in 2013.  Likely, he will put a similar line next season in New Britain.  This season he improved on the BB/K ratio from 35/106 in 2012 to 35/75 in 2013, which is always nice to see in a developing prospect.

He calls a good game behind the plate and is a sure handed, if not flashy catcher.  He threw out 30% of the would be base stealers.  As indicated, he would likely start the 2014 season in New Britain.  His could be a solid backup catcher in the majors, with the potential of a solid starter depending on his development.

21. Alexis Tapia RHSP, DOB: 8/10/1995, 6'2", 195 lbs

Alexis Tapia was signed by the Minnesota Twins from Venezuela on Sept of 2012 and 2013 was his first professional season.   He spent last season (his age 17 season) in the DSL where he playing in 11 games (7 as a starter) pitching 42.3 innings, striking out 31 and walking 5.  His ERA was 2.13 and his WHIP a miniscule 0.874.

The 3 things that you hear about Tapia are: that he is "projectable", with a growing 6'2" frame, that he has a "good feel for the game", and that he is "throwing strikes".  Beyond those cliches, he is working with 3 pitches (fastball, curve, change) which, other than his fastball that approaches plus, are still works in progress, but he is 17.  Depending on how his English is, he will likely move to the Gulf Coast League in 2014.

Next: 16-20


2014 off-season Minnesota Twins top 40 prospect countdown: 26-30

This is the third segment of the 2014 off-season Twins top 40 prospects, counting down prospects 31 to 35.  Prospects 36-40 are here, 31-35 here, and you can find all segments in reverse order here

The number 26 to 30 off-season 2014 Minnesota Twins prospects are:

 30. Danny Santana, SH, SS, DOB: 11/7/1990, 5'11", 160 lbs

Danny Santana was signed as a free agent by the Twins in December of 2007 out of the Dominican Republic and made his pro debut in the DSL the following summer as a 17 year old, hitting a career best .274/.343/.426 in 51 games.  Santana made stops at every level of the organization up to New Britain last season.  He is a steady hitter with mid .650s to low 700s OPS, which is above average for a middle infielder but not spectacular. 

He does have plus speed that he harvested in New Britain last season with career highs in SB (30), triples (10) and doubles (22).  He can occasionally hit the ball out of the park (has 25 career HRs in 6 seasons), but he is mostly a gap hitter.  He is still very young and has room to grow. In his age 22 season in New Britain, in addition to the aforementioned numbers, he hit .297/.333/.386 in 131 games (588 PAs) with a 24/94 BB/K ratio.   His fielding is a lot like Pedro Florimon's at shortstop:  He can make unbelievable plays, but he can also make errors in easy plays. He has steadily been improving with the glove especially on routine situations.

His presence on the Twins 40 man roster (added last off-season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft) is more of an indication of the system depth in middle infield in higher levels, than his major-league readiness at age 22.   Santana will likely begin his age 23 season as Rochester's starting SS, pending Jason Barlett's future with the Twins.  With work on plate discipline and pitch recognition and on making the easy plays on defense, Santana can be a starting MLB SS or at worse a utility player.

29. Josh Burris, RHSP, DOB: 11/28/1991, 5'10", 183 lbs.

Josh Burris was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 17th round of the 2011 draft out of Lousiana State University at Eunice.  Burris made his pro debut in 2012 in Elizabethton where he went 7-0 with 1.75 ERA and 1.250 WHIP in 18 games (36 IP) in relief.  He struck out 40 and walked 21 batters.  Last season was a tale of two cities for Burris.  He started the season in Cedar Rapids' pen, where he pitched 10 innings in 8 games, could not find the strike zone (9/8 BB/K), could not strand anyone on the bases (46.5 LOB%) and had a miserable time in general.  He returned to Elizabethton, where he made the transition to a starter and that went much nicer.  In 12 games (8 GS) and 41.3 IP he had a 4-2 record, 3.70 ERA, 48 Ks and 32 BBs (26.0 K% and 1.5 K/BB.)  He has some shoulder issues in Spring Training and maybe those effected his performance in Cedar Rapids.

So why am I so high on a guy who looks like he can barely make a single A pen?  Because of his stuff, especially his curveball.   BA said that he has the best curveball in the Twins' system last season, but I would not be surprised, if it is one of the best curveballs in baseball right now.  A devastating plus plus pitch that he can throw in the zone for looking strikes or in the dirt for swinging strikes as needed.  The problem is with his fastball that is an average high 80s, low 90s pitch that he has trouble controlling on occasion and his change up that he is still learning.  Development of even an above average to plus FB and an average third pitch, can make him a MLB starter, his curveball is THAT good.

Depending on how Spring Training goes, he will likely spend the season in the Cedar Rapids rotation.

28. Stuart Turner, RH, C, DOB: 12/27/1991, 6'2", 220 lbs

Stuart Turner was drafted by the Twins in the third round of the 2013 draft from the University of Mississippi.   He spend all his season (but one game he filled in for the Rock Cats) for the Elizabethton Twins, where he played at 35 games (146 PAs) and hit .272/.345/.384 with 3 HRs and 19 RBI.  He walked 12 times, struck out 23 and hit by a pitch 4.  Turner has been always described as an excellent defensive catcher with a great feel for the game, but he made the transition to the wooden bat well, which means a great deal for his potential as a prospect. 

Turner has a large frame and projectable power that will come as he grows.  He will likely start his age 22 season in Cedar Rapids.  Potentially, he can be a combination of Drew Butera with the glove and Josmil Pinto with the bat, which would make a nice starting major league catcher, but bat development (even though there are good signs) is crucial. 

27. Niko Goodrum, SH, SS, DOB: 2/28/1992, 6'3", 170 lbs

Niko Goodrum was drafted by the Twins in the second round of the 2010 draft  from Fayette County (GA) High School.  "Potential" has always been the word to describe Goodrum, but he has yet to reach it or ever flash most of it consistently.  His career slash line in 4 years of pro ball through the GCL, Elizabethtown (twice) and Cedar Rapids has been .246/.340/.362 and other than his first season with a wooden bat at GCL (.161/.219/.195) has reflected each season's performance.  He has a lot of athletic ability and a compact swing that is projected to generate power in the future. He has decent plate discipline (128 BB/251 K career) and good speed that will translate to doubles, triples and stolen bases. 

A lot of his future will depend on his position and this is still very up for grabs.  He has been primarily a shortstop all his career and can field the position about average, which is an improvement from previous seasons.  While a projected OPS in the mid to high .700s will get him a middle infield or utility job in the majors, if he switches positions to the corner infield or even outfield, it will not.  He would need to develop power, which can happen since he is 6'3" and only 170 lbs.  Any sign of power development will be an excellent sign for Goodrum and will bump him up in prospect lists to the position where he was when he was drafted.

Goodrum will likely spend 2014 as the starting shortstop of the Fort Myers Miracle.

26. Tyler Duffey RHSP, DOB: 12/27/1990, 6'3", 225 lbs.

Tyler Duffey was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 5th round of the 2012 draft from Rice University.  After he overpowered his rookie competition in Elizabethton last season (1.42 ERA, 1.36 FIP 19.1 IP, 27 K, 2 BB, 0.632 WHIP) he moved as a starter now to Cedar Rapids for the first half of 2013, and to Fort Myers for the second half.  He started 9 games at Cedar Rapids, pitching 58.3 innings, striking out 47 and walking just 6.  His ERA was 2.78 (3.06 FIP) and WHIP 0.943.  At Fort Myers in 15 games (9 starts) he pitched to a 4.45 ERA (but 3.42 FIP), striking out 44 and walking 17 in 62.7 IP.  His WHIP was 1.35, inflated by a .315 BABIP.  His K/BB ratio drop at A+ compared to A and Rookie is somewhat concerning, but could be a matter of fatigue in his first full professional season.   Also his K% dropped from a phenomenal 40.3% at Elizabethton's pen to 20.5% and 16.2% in the Kernels and Miracle Rotations respectively.

Duffey is another one of the class of 2012 hard throwing college relievers the Twins drafted to transform to starters.  Duffey's fastball (low to mid 90s) is not quite as electric as his draftmates', but his secondary stuff (an above average slider and plus change up) are much better.   He has excellent control with all his pitches.  Will likely start his age 23 2014 season in the Fort Myers rotation with a possible promotion to New Britain mid season, depending on performance.  Definite mid-rotation or late inning reliever ceiling depending on keeping the K% high as a starter.

Next: 21-25


2014 off-season Minnesota Twins top 40 prospect countdown: 31-35

This is the second segment of the 2014 off-season Twins top 40 prospects, counting down prospects 31 to 35.  Prospects 36-40 are here and you can find all segments in reverse order here

I feel I need to make a couple of clarifications about this list (which is a bit different that others.)  First of all, I consider players who have played in the majors, as "graduating" from prospect status.  You made big league money, you are not going to be in this list.  Andrew Albers, Oswaldo Arcia, Chris Colabello, Chris Herrmann, Aaron Hicks, Kyle Gibson, Ryan Pressly, Caleb Thielbar and Michael Tonkin belong in this category.   Secondly (and thirdly) my criteria are slightly different that others' (e.g I value actual results at a higher competition level more than most) and the Twins have such a deep system, that some players who are listed in other lists and/or have been drafted in early rounds recently or have received large international signing bonuses will be conspicuously absent from this list.  I am also more open to include international players who have not played in the US yet more than others.  I am open to discussion about why and how, with the idea that it is just a point of view that is up to debate and not something that is either "right" or "wrong".

Here are the number 31 to 35 off-season 2014 Minnesota Twins prospects:

35. Adrian Salcedo, RHSP, DOB: 2/5/1991. 6'4", 175 lbs.

Adrian Salcedo was signed by the Twins as a 16 year old out of the Dominican Republic in July of 2007.  There are some parallels between Salcedo's and Wimmers' career with the Twins, which took both from being top prospects to being unprotected for this December's rule 5 draft due to injuries.  Adrian moved to the States and the GCL in 2009 after a single DSL season in 2008 and established himself as one of the top rotation arms in an arm-depleted Twins system.  

His best season was in Beloit in 2011, where in 135 IP, he accumulated a 2.93 ERA, walking 27 and striking out 92. His WHIP was 1.17.  He was set for a great age 21 season in Fort Myers, but he was an injury magnet: He was hit on the face by a ball and broke his nose, he developed finger blisters, has elbow tenderness and went to the DL and while trying to rehab the elbow in the GCL, he developed shoulder pain and was shut down.   He returned to Fort Myers in 2013 where he was used exclusively as a reliever pitching 58.3 innings in 34 games with a 3.70 ERA, striking out 54 and walking 15. 

Salcedo is at the crossroads of his career, but he is still young.  His main weapon is his mid 90s fastball with a lot of movement and great command.  He has an average slider and a work-in-progress changeup.  He is very lanky.  I suspect that he will stay at Fort Myers as a starter for the beginning of the 2014 season (his age 23 season) with a mid-season promotion to New Britain, if everything goes well.  His injuries and the influx of a lot of good arms in the Twins system, has dropped him in the prospect lists.

34. Fernando Romero, RHSP, DOB: 12/24/1994. 6'0", 215 lbs

Fernando Romero was signed to an Amateur Free Agent contract by the Twins on October of 2011 with a $260,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic.  After spending the 2012 season in the Dominican Summer League, 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 and had 47 strikeouts and only 13 bases on balls.  His WHIP was 1.00 and K% a very impressive 26, while his K/BB was 3.62. 

Romero is a big guy and an extreme ground ball pitcher.  That compared to his striking out pretty much every fourth batter he faced, is very promising.  His heavy fastball is in the low 90s but he is still very young and can pick velocity. He has a slider and changeup that are works in progress.  A former Twins' comparable would be Carlos Silva at his best.  Romero does have mid rotation potential, depending on development of his secondary pitches and staying healthy.  He will likely begin 2014, his age 19 season, in Elizabethton where he will alternate between the rotation and pen until extended.

 33. Miguel Gonzalez, RHSP, DOB: 10/12/1994. 6'1", 180 lbs

Miguel Antonio Gonzalez was signed by the Twins on July 2, 2011 (to a $650,000 bonus) from the Dominican Republic and was on the top on his international free agent class as far as pitchers were concerned. Very young and still growing (was 5'11" when signed) he has a lot of potential, mainly because he has a good feeling of the art of pitching.  Not to be confused with the 26 year old Cuban defector RHP Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez or the Orioles Mexican RHP Miguel Gonzalez.

Gonzalez pitched in the same teams that Romero did, DSL Twins in 2012 and GCL Twins in 2013.  He was used exclusively in the pen in the GCL (but started in the DSL) where he accumulated a 1.05 ERA in 20 games, striking out 33 and walking 9 in 25.7 innings (31.1 K% and 3.67 K/BB) with only a 1.13 WHIP despite a .328 BABIP.  Gonzalez has an plus fastball, average slider and above average changeup.  He really mixes his pitches well and has great command.  A lot of room to develop still and the potential for a top half of the rotation arm. He will likely begin 2014, his age 19 season, in Elizabethton where he will alternate between the rotation and pen until extended.   

32. Deibinson Romero, RH, 3B/1B, DOB: 9/24/1986. 6'1", 215 lbs

Romero at 27 is the oldest player in this list and he is about to enter his prime, and many can argue that he too old to be a prospect.  He was signed by the Twins in early 2006 as a 19 year old out of the Dominican Republic.  Romero quickly moved up the Twins system and showed enough promise to be added to the 40 man roster after the 2009 season (his 4th pro season) to be protected from the 40-man draft, but was removed a year later after an average .252/.348/.363 6 HR, 54 RBI repeat season at Fort Myers as a 23 year old. 

His breakthrough season was 2012 where he hit .267/.356/.441 with 19 HRs and 78 RBI in AA New Britain.  This earned him a non-roster invite to the 2013 Spring Training and a potential challenge to Trevor Plouffe for the Twins' starting 3B position.   However luck did not want that to happen:  His work Visa to the US was delayed until the end of April because a storm damaged his town's courthouse destroying birth records, including his.   He stayed at Fort Myers for extended Spring Training and moved to Rochester with a stop of eight games at New Britain, where he hit the cover off the ball (.355/.429/.710; 3 HR).  In Rochester he hit a respectable .266/.369/.421 with 10 HRs and 50 RBI in 86 games; continuing to put better than average power numbers.  He is an average third baseman with somewhat limited range, but his hands have been improving. 

Romero is entering his prime and has earned a 2014 Spring Training invitation where he would likely battle Chris Colabello, Chris Parmelee, Jason Bartlett and others for a spot on the Twins' bench, where he could be a spot starter at the corner infield positions, esp. third base and a bat off the bench.  Otherwise he will provide depth in Rochester.  He is not on the 40-man roster and thus he is eligible for the 40-man draft with some likelihood of being selected by a team that needs corner IF depth.   

31. Mason Melotakis, LHSP, DOB: 6/28/1991. 6'2", 206 lbs

Mason Melotakis was drafted by the Twins in the second round of the 2012 draft from the Northwestern State University of Lousiana.  He was one of the power relief arms the Twins selected in that draft with the intention of converting them into starters.  He split the 2012 season between Elizabethton and Beloit, where he pitched in 20 games (24 innings) in relief to a 4-2 record, with an 1.88 ERA striking out 34, walking only 6 and having a miniscule 0.958 BABIP. 

2013 in Cedar Rapids was his first season as a starter and it was a major disappointment, if you ingore ERA and W-L record.  He pitched in 24 games (18 as a starter) for 111 innings to a 11-4 record with a 3.16 ERA.  However he had only 84 strikeouts and walked 39; his WHIP was 1.31 with normal BABIP (.293).  His K/BB ratio decreased to 2.15 from the 5.67 the previous season and his K% decreased from a remarkable 37.5% to an unremarkable (unless you are an MLB Twins' starter) 17.7%.

His relative ineffectiveness as a starter likely came because his secondary pitches are raw.  He has an excellent mid 90s fastball that spikes up to 98 and it is a weapon late in the game when the starter has not been throwing that hard.  His curveball is at best average and his changeup is a work in progress; if you have only one plus pitch, no matter how good it is, hitters will be able to time it, especially as one moves up in a system.   2014 will be a crucial year for Melotakis.  I think that he would be given the opportunity to start at Fort Myers for his age 23 season.  Depending how he performs (and how his secondary pitches have developed) he will continue the season as a starter or move to the pen. 

Next: 26-30


2014 off-season Minnesota Twins top 40 prospect countdown: 36-40.

I have not attempted a full detailed one of those, but I think that with the Twins getting better this off-season and the possibility of trades of prospects for established players being a true possibility, I thought that it might be a good idea.   There are a lot of prospect lists out there and they are all slightly different because different people value different qualities in a player, but they all serve a great singular purpose:  to get to know the minor league players in an organization who otherwise would just be names in old draft boards and rarely seen box scores. 

My list will be long, forty names long and I will be presenting profiles of the players in fives pretty much every work day starting this week.  I will be done in time for the Rule 5 draft on December 12th.  I also do include recent international players who have not made the trip to the United States, so there will be a few new names there.

You can see all the segments, in reverse chronological order here.

There are the number 36 to 40 off-season 2014 Minnesota Twins prospects:

40. Alex Wimmers, RHSP, DOB: 11/1/1988.  6'2", 195 lbs.

Wimmers was the Twins' first round pick (21st overall) in the 2010 draft out of Ohio State University. He missed all but 5 innings in 2012 and 15 rehab innings in the Gulf Coast League in 2013, due to elbow issues and Tommy John surgery.  Additionally, he had further surgery to decompress the nerve in the same elbow this off-season.   There are a lot of expectations for a first round pick, but Wimmers has effectively not pitched (other than 4.3 innings in 2012) above the high A Florida State League, where he amassed a 4-3 record, with a 3.20 ERA (4.20 FIP), 1.08 WHIP (.211 BABIP), 9.9 K/9 and 2.3 K/BB in 56.3 innings spread along 2 seasons. 

His stuff before his elbow troubles was a plus two seamer with excellent movement in the low 90s, complemented by a plus changeup and an plus plus breaking ball, which he needs to command better.  I watched Wimmers during the 2012 Spring Training before his injury and you can read the report here .

Wimmers is a big enigma in the organization that left him unprotected for the Rule 5 draft.  2014, his age 25 season will be a make or break season for him.  Depending on the elbow, he will start either at extended Spring Training or at New Britain with a potential call up to Rochester later in the season depending on health and performance.

39. Tyler Jones, RHRP, DOB: 9/5/1989. 6'4", 215 lbs.

Tyler is the older of the two Jones' (the other one is Zach) at Fort Myers the second half of the 2013 season.  He was drafted by the Twins at the 11th round of the 2011 draft out of Louisiana State University.  In 2011 and 2012 he was primarily a starter at Elizabethton and at Beloit, with mixed results (5-5, 4.67 ERA, 2.91 FIP, 1.442 WHIP, .357 BABIP. 10.6 K/9, 26.6 K% and 2.91 K/BB in 86.7 Midwest League innings.)  This season the Twins transitioned him to the pen, where his high strikeout rate as a starter really increased to a strikeout machine level.

At high A Fort Myers, this season he struck out 33.3% of the batters he faced, while at Cedar Rapids, where he started the season, he strick out 29.9%.  His FIP was 1.27 and 2.21 at A+ and A levels, respectively.  When a third of the batters you face strike out, you have a serious advantage as a pitcher and belong in a top prospect list.   Unlike his namesake who has an impressive fastball, Tyler Jones fastball sits in the low 90s and touches 95, but has a tremendous movement and he complements it well with above average changeup and slider.   Command of his fastball had been an issue, but he seems to have improved last season.

He will likely start 2014 at Fort Myers (maybe taking over the closer duties) and end the season in New Britain.  Will be interesting to see how his stuff looks against tougher competition next season and if the strikeout rate holds up at AA.  I expect him to be a big mover in this list next year this time.

38. Tyler Grimes, RH, C, DOB: 7/3/1990. 5'10", 187 lbs.

Tyler Grimes was drafted by the Minnesota Twins at the 5th round of the 2011 draft from Wichita State University as a Shortstop.  At 5'10 and 187 lbs (in actuality closer to 200), he does not have the optimal body for a shortstop and it showed at his limited range and error-proneness on the field.  Last off-season the Twins transitioned him into a Catcher role.  He did also spend some time at second base (13 games) and at shortstop (1 game) but middle infield is not in his future. 

Grimes played all of his pro seasons in the Midwest League (Beloit and Cedar Rapids) so far and he has shown a steady improvement the last season on the plate, hitting .256/.377/.382 with 6 HRs and a 45/87 BB/K ratio in 356 plate appearances.  He is still learning how to call a game, but his strong SS arm translated into C where he threw out 44% of the would be base stealers.

Grimes would likely spend (his age 23) 2014 season in Fort Myers.

37. Logan Wade, SH, IF, DOB: 11/13/1991. 6'1", 190 lbs.

Logan Wade was an international (Brisbane, Australia) signee of the Twins in the Spring of 2012 and he reminds me of a fellow Australian with the Twins, Luke Hughes.  He started his professional career as a middle infielder with the Gulf Coast League Twins in 2012 where he hit .234/.301/.371 in 138 PAs as a 20 year old.  This season he played in Elizabethton where he hit .303/.333/.455 in 106 PAs.  His power (IsoP) for a young middle infielder (.137 in 2012 and .152 in 2013) are very impressive and his hit tool improved last season. 

His pitch recognition needs work (5/33 BB/K in 2013) but he potentially has future as a utility player or better, especially if he can keep the power numbers at higher levels and improves his pitch recognition and glove.  His glove plays better at 2B than SS, but he has played both corner infield positions and LF.   He will likely spend the 2014 season at Cedar Rapids.

36. Zach Larson RH, OF, DOB: 10/8/1993.  6'2", 185 lbs

Zach was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 20th round of the 2012 draft out of Lakewood Ranch High School in Bradenton FL.  He played only in 15 GCL games in 2012 and his transition to the wooden bat was unremarkable (.250/.318/.325)  However, 2013 was a great season for him.  He started the season repeating the Gulf Coast League where he hit .317/.382/.467 in 137 plate appearances and moved up to Elizabethton without slowing down (.301/.407/.438 in 86 PA)

He can play all 3 OF positions and he played exclusively at CF in high school, but his arm plays better at LF.  He does make good contact, has gap power, is pretty selective (19/39 BB/K last season,) and his 19 year old frame will fill.  Has decent range and speed as well, even though the last has not translated much into stolen bases.  Depending on his Spring Training, he will likely start 2014 in Cedar Rapids.   

Next: 31-35


If you don't think that the Twins pulled a coup to sign Phil Hughes, you should look at this

The Minnesota Twins, according to La Velle Neal, have agreed with RHP Phil Hughes to a 3 year 24 million contract.

Here is Hughes' Twitter page as of this morning:

Last time I checked, Minnesota was not on the West Coast, so the third year the Twins included, might have pulled them ahead of the competition.

More analysis to follow, but all in all a great signing for a solid number 3 pitcher, who has top of the rotation upside away from Yankee stadium.  The Twins are buying his prime years with a Willingham-like contract.