2015 Twins offseason top 40 prospects list: 16-20

Today is the fifth installment in the top 40 Twins' Off-season prospects countdown, getting into the top 20 so the descriptions of the player and their rankings are a bit more detailes.  You can find all installments here in reverse chronological order.  Previous rankings: 36-40, 31-35 , 26-30 and 21-25.  You can find the 2014 off-season summary list here   In these listings in parenthesis, I am including their ranking in the last prospect list, which was the 2014 mid-season list, with "--" if not ranked.  You can find that list here.   This list has 3 prospects that were not featured in my top 40 lists before:

20. Engelb Vielma SS (21) SHB, DOB: 6/22/1994, 5'11", 155 lbs

Vielma was signed by the Twins as a 17 year old International Free Agent from Venezuela.  Before last season he played professional baseball for 2 seasons, starting in the DSL at 2012 and moving to the GCL and Elizabethton in 2013.  Once he moved to the States, he captured the eye of the scouts with his ability on the field, with some of them proclaiming him a top 10 Twins' prospect.  As usually, I do not buy into hype, unless I see someone play or results of play and his combined .234/.318/.253 in the Twins' Rookie League teams in 2013, left me enough lukewarm feeling about him to be included in my top 2014 off-season list.   I had the opportunity to have a good look at Vielma last Spring Training and wrote the following :

Engelb Vielma.  This is the single one most unknown superstar in the making in the Twins' organization.  He turned two unassisted double plays (one a line out/throw out the other a step on second throw at first) today and he made them seem so easy.  Like it is an everyday kind of thing.  Looks like his contact tool is getting better.  He has crazy nutty speed and as a cutoff guy, he almost threw a guy out at third on a easy triple. Very strong arm.  And he has room to grow.  I think that he will move into second in my SS rankings after 6th overall ranked Jorge Polanco.  

Indeed, he would have been second in my SS rankings in my 2014 mid-season list , had the Twins not drafted a SS on the first round of the 2014 draft.   Vielma moved to Cedar Rapids this season and hit .266/.313/.323 in 112 games, while continuing his solid SS play.  At first, that slash line seems a bit disappointing; however subtracting a record cold Midwest April when he hit .187/.247/.227, he hit .283/.326/.391 for the season, very respectable for a player who is a year and a half younger than the league.  Furthermore, this included his .231/.268/.282 July when he was shaking out a concussion.   

How good is Vielma with the glove?  I will let the numbers speak for themselves and the number I would like to use as a criterion of a good SS is the percentage of Put Outs that were double plays.  Omar Visquel, the perennial AL gold glove winner, had a 40% of his Put Outs being double plays, in average of his gold glove years 1994-2001.  Last season for Vielma 39.6% of Put Outs were Double Plays.  In other words, four out of ten outs were in double plays.  I know that defensive metrics like RZR, RangeF, UZR etc are not believable by some people, because it involves a lot of math, but % POs that were double plays, is a very tangible concept.  For comparison's purpose, here are these numbers for the 2014 Twins with more than 50 POs: Escobar 49/130, 37.7%  and Santana 15/53, 28.3% - (Santana's MiLB career numbers are 209/622, 33.6%). Vielma will likely begin 2015 in Fort Myers as a 22 year old.  If he continues to improve with the bat, he will fly through the Twins' system, but do not expect any power numbers, other than doubles and triples from him.

19. Jorge Fernandez C (--) SHB, DOB: 3/30/1994, 6'3", 188 lbs.

Fernandez was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 7th round of the 2012  Draft from International Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico.  In 2012 and 2013 seasons he played in the GCL, where he put lack luster numbers with the bat (.263/.288/.293 and .236/.276/.398 respectively) as a younger than the league player.  In 2014 he moved up to Elizabethton at a league average age and had a breakthrough season hitting .321/.361/.440 to produce the second highest OPS for a Catcher in the Twins' organization (Hint: read on to find out who had the highest).  Was that enought to propel him in the top 20 of the Twins' prospect rankings?  No. Fernandez is an interesting prospect.  He has very good approach and mechanics at the plate and as a switch hitter, he is lethal against RHP (.341/.367/.462 as a LHB vs .222/.333/.333 as a RHB.)

The Twins might see him as a 1B/OF because of his tall, slender build, but he has made improvements as a Catcher and I think that he can stick at the position.  Biggest problems right now with the glove are a. his ability to block passed balls, but this will come with time, and b. his ability to throw out runners, which I think it is more of a learning than arm strength issue and this is also something that he can develop into.   I foresee at least Pinto-like numbers with the bat from the Left side, as he fills in, with a better glove than Pinto, as his catching insticts develop, as long as the Twins allow him to be a Catcher.  That's the reason he is in my Twins' top 20 prospects list.

18. Chih-Wei Hu RHP (--) RHSP, DOB: 11/4/1993, 6'1", 209 lbs.

Chih-Wei Hu was singed from Taiwan by Twins for $220,000 in 2012.  Last season he played for the Gulf League Twins, sometimes starting, sometimes relieving, pitching 36.7 innings, striking out 39 and walking 8. (0.982 WHIP, 2.45 ERA, 1.99 FIP.)  As a young pitcher in Taiwan he had the opportunity to represent his country in International Tournaments and was more polished that hitters his age who were touching wooden bats for the firs time, so, even though impressive, his 2013 numbers had a huge grain of salt attached them.  However his season he started in Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids and both his numbers and stuff improved.  He always had 4 pitches:  Fastball (low 90s), Curve and 2 changes (one a slow palmball).

This season, his fastball improved both in velocity (up to mid 90s) and movement and has been commanding his off-speed stuff better.  In 71 IP between Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids, the 20 year old had 64 Ks and 15 BBs, for a 2.15 ERA, 0.873 WHIP and 2.33 FIP.  What you don't see in those numbers are a 62:36 (or 1.72) Ground Out to Fly Out ratio, which is a result of his ground ball inducing FB, hammer curve and palmball. One thing to consider is that his BABIP was .243, which was the result of all those ground balls.  He was 2 years young for the Midwest League, but his K% was not stellar (22.2%)  Add to the considerations the way he is built (think a young Carlos Silva,) and there are some considerations about his future.  A Carlos Silva is a good comparable for his potential (mid of rotation starter) and, like Carlos Silva, to reach it, Hu needs to have impeccable control and induce many ground balls.  So, even though, a lot of people will see his numbers and rank him even higher, I do have serious concerns. 

17. Mitch Garver C (17), RHB, DOB: 1/15/1991, 6'1", 220 lbs

Mitch was the Twins' 9th round pick in the 2013 draft from the University of New Mexica and was not much on the radar last off-season after a .243/.313/.366 performance in Elizabethton, while 1.5 years older than the league average.  Garver really impressed me last Spring Break with his bat, his athleticism and his ability to handle pitchers, thus he was my highest ranked catching prospect in the Twins' organization in my mid-season list as he is in this list.  Puting the highest OPS for a Catcher in the organization .289/.399/.481, does not hurt. He was also 1.5 years too old for the Midwest League, but displayed great selectivity (61:65 BB:K ratio, that translated to an OBP a hair below .400) which is not really related to level of play.  He has excellent power (hit 16 HR in 430 AB and .183 IsoP.)

Mitch looks like a catcher and has good insticts behind the plate.  He did spent time as a DH but the Twins rotate their catchers to DH in the low level leagues.  Mitch will start 2015 at Fort Myers and might finish in Chattanooga, depending on performance and health and how his bat responds to higher level of play, potentially reaching the majors for a cup of coffee in 2016 and maybe as the Twins starting catcher in 2017.  Further improving his ability to call a game, will be critical for his development.  His 17th overall ranking is quite conservative and a reflection of Garver being older for the league.  He has four tools (and average speed) so with a good showing in 2015, I expect him to break into the Twins' top ten prospect list.

16. Jake Reed RHP (--) RHRP, DOB: 9/29/1992, 6'2", 190 lbs.

Jake Reed was drafted by the Twins in the 5th round of the 2014 draft from the University of Oregon and has raised eyebrows from the first to his last pitch in his first season as a pro.  He started his career at Elizabethton (0.5 years older than the league) where he pitched 6 innings in 4 games, allowing a single hit, striking out 8 batters (0.00 ERA, 0.167 WHIP.)  He moved up to Cedar Rapids, where a year younger than league average, he pitched 25 innings, had 31 Ks and 3 BBs (0.36 ERA and 0.520 WHIP).  His pro season was not over, as he represented the Twins in the Arizona Fall League, pitching 12.7 innings, striking out 10 and walking 3 (0.71 ERA, 1.03 WHIP.)  Jake started his 2014 season as a junior in Oregon, pitching 31 innings, striking out 34 and walking 15 (1.95 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.)  His full 2014 season in all of his 4 stops, he pitched 80.7 innings in 61 games, accumulating 22 saves, striking out 83 and walking 22 (and most of those in College) while pitching at an ERA close to 1.00 and WHIP under 1.00.  His 0.452 WHIP and 0.29 ERA with Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids were the lowest for any pitcher in the Twins organization.

Reed has two pitches:  a plus plus fastball with a lot of movement that sits in the mid 90s and touches 97-98, and an above average slider in the low 80s.  The biggest change he made from Oregon to the pros was to change his high effort delivery to a simple delivery.  This increased his command and control (15 BB in 31 IP in College vs 7 BBs in 49.7 IP in the Pros.)  Also the changes in his mechanics added about 2-3 mph to his FB compared to College.  With additional work on the slider and the development of a third pitch (changeup?)  Reed will be well on his way to being a late innings reliever for the Twins.  Will likely start 2015 in Fort Myers with a promotion to Chattanooga mid season.  Both in these rankings and in the organization, there is only one reliever ranked higher than Reed.


My 2015 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot

Members of the BBWAA have until today to send in their annual HOF ballots (via fax or snail mail only.)   The results will be announced in two days, so I decided to post my fictional ballot.  A couple of notes:

  •  I explain this more in depth here, but I believe that entry to the Hall of Fame should be restricted to the very few select players.   It is ok to have displays on Jack Morris' game 7, as a great game in baseball and a great appearance, but it is not ok to induct the player, just for this.  The same with Mark McGwire and Samy Sosa and their HR title contest.  Thus, my cut offs are more stringent than others.  The Hall has 306 members, some of the players have an under .700 career OPS.  This is not right, unless you want it to be the Hall of Very Good.
  • I am going with performance and not proven or suspected PED use.   This witch hunt has to stop.  If someone wants a "clean Hall", Hank Aaron should be kicked out, since he publicly admitted to using "greenies" that are now banned from baseball. A position of not voting for modern PED suspects, but wanting to keep already enshrined PED users, is a hypocritical position.  So is, celebrating Tony LaRussa's induction while not voting for Mark McGwire because of steroid use.   Unless LaRussa was blind or absent, he at least knew what was going on in the Canseco/McGwire/Giambi clubhouse.

With those things in mind, my 2015 HOF ballot would have been:

Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Randy Johnson
Pedro Martinez
Mike Mussina
Jeff Bagwell
Curt Schilling

2015 Twins offseason top 40 prospects list: 21-25

Today is the fourth installment in the top 40 Twins' Off-season prospects countdown.  You can find all installments here in reverse chronological order.  Previous rankings: 36-40, 31-35 and 26-30.  You can find the 2014 off-season summary list here   In these listings in parenthesis, I am including their ranking in the last prospect list, which was the 2014 mid-season list, with "--" if not ranked.  You can find that list here.

 25. Alexis Tapia RHP (30) 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 that 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.  Last season we moved on to the Gulf Coast league, where as an 18 year old (2.5 years younger than the league average) he pitched 45 innings allowing 6 BBs and 36 Ks, for a 3.20 ERA (3.22 FIP) and 1.044 WHIP.

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".  His fastball is plus with plus control, his change is above average, and breaking ball is a work in progress.  Tapia will likely start in the Elizabethton rotation.  The Twins do have a lot of young good arms, but count Tapia as a sleeper, especially if he develops his secondary stuff and increases his 19.3% K%.

24. Rainis Silva C (--) RHB, DOB: 3/20/1996, 6'1", 185 lbs

Rainis Silva is an international free agent classmate of Amaurys Minier and Lewis Thorpe, signed by the Twins as a 16 year old in 2012 for $175,000.  He has been known as a defense first catcher and has represented Venezuela in several international youth under 16 tournaments.  Like Tapia, he made the transition from the DSL to the GCL and improved with the bat from .223/.289/.250 to .270/.294/.342, adding 2 inches and some bulk.  He is strikeout prone (6:25 BB:K in 160 PA) and his bat is a work in progress. 

He is ranked that high because of his defense and game calling skills that they are much more advanced than his 18 years of age.  He is probably the most polished receiver in the Twins' organization (and that includes everyone from the majors down, thus the ranking.)  About a year and a half younger than the GCL average, he will likely move in the Appalachian League in 2015.   The development of his bat will determine his future with the organization, but he is very young right now.

23. Mike Cederoth RHP (18) RHSP, DOB: 11/25/1992, 6'6", 195 lbs

Mike Cederoth was signed by the Twins in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft from San Diego State University.  Cederoth started in his first years at SDSU and he was their closer last year, dropping his ERA to about half (2.29 vs 4.26) and saving 20 games.  The Twins look at him as a starter and he started 10 games (45.7 IP) in Elizabethton where he struck out 42 and walked 18, with a 3.52 ERA, 3.65 FIP and 1.28 WHIP.  Cederoth's command and control are problematic and the source of the issue is his mechanics and large frame.  His fastball is a plus to plus plus ranging from mid to high 90s, but his secondary stuff needs work.  His mid 80s slider is average and a workable pitch, but his mid 80s change and high 70s 12-6 curve are works in progress and ineffective.

He was a half year older than the average in the Appalachian League. Will likely start in Cedar Rapids in 2015 and the Twins will be patient for his development as a starter.  Depending on whether he develops an above average third and/or a fourth pitch, his future could range from a mid to top of the rotation starter or a late inning reliever.  Either way, the next couple of years will be critical for his development, because unless he manages and improves his mechanics, he will not reach his potential.

22. Levi Michael 2B (38) SHB, DOB: 2/9/1991, 5'10", 180 lbs.

Levi Michael was drafted in the first round (30th overall) of the 2011 MLB draft from the University of North Carolina.   His 2012 and 2013 seasons at Fort Myers were lackadaisical (.246/.339/.311 and .229/.331/.340 with erratic play at SS) and Michael was flirting with being added to the list of First Round Busts for the Twins; however his 2014 play established him again as a prospect.  He started the season in Fort Meyers at a league average age now and the third time was the charm: he hit .305/.375/.395, played exclusively at second base and his glove showed major improvement. He moved to New Britain, where he was 1.7 years younger than the league and improved his hitting to .340/.444/.358 and played well at second.

What changed this season?  He finally got accustomed to making contact with the wooden bat.  His discipline has always been fine with a K:BB ratio south of 1.5 in pro ball. However his batting average dropped from .290 and .346 and .289 in college to .246 and .249 in the pros.  Those numbers are similar to his average with the wooden bat as a collegiate in the Cape Code league in 2009 and 2010 (.247 and .252.)   His glove is improving with full time play at second and I do foresee his bat improving.  Will likely start the 2015 season in New Britain.  The Twins did not protect him from the rule 5 draft this off-season, but will likely have to, next off-season.  If he repeats his 2014 performance at the higher levels, he will be knocking at the Twins door by September and might be even thought as a potential Brian Dozier replacement a year from now.  Why is he then not a top 15 prospect?  Because this is a deep organization and because he just had one good season.  Depending on how he starts 2015, he might skyrocket (or drop) in this list...

21. Adam Walker OF (13) RH,  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.  I wrote the following about Walker in the 2014 off-season prospect list:

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 [selectivity] 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.

He did start this season at Fort Myers and unless one is looking at HRs (25) or RBIs (94), 2014 was a major disappointment for Walker, regressing at every aspect of the game.  His K% increased to 28.2%, his batting average decreased to .246 and, even his strong suit, his IsoP decreased to .190, dropping .058 points from 2013. Walker needs to improve in all of those numbers in 2015 at get back to at least 2013 levels in AA, to be considered as a top 20 prospect in this organization.  There are major concerns about his ability to make contact and hit for average as well as about his plate discipline.  If those are not addressed, his ceiling will be Steve Balboni...