2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list: 11-15

You can find the introductory segment in this series, including my criteria for eligibility to be a prospect and the list of the 2015 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2015 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

You can find players 36-40 here, players 31-35 here, players 26-30 here, players 21-25 here, and players 16-20 here.

15. Amaurys Minier (6)
DOB: 1/30/1996; Age: 19
Positions: OF/1B
Bats: S, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 7/2/2012
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: Rookie/Elizabethton (2015)

The Twins signed the Dominican as a 16 year old Shortstop on July 2012 for a $1.4 million bonus.  There was no intention of keeping Minier at that position.  After off-season shoulder surgery in 2013, he returned to the GCL as an 18 year old in 2014, where he punished pitchers in average 2 years older to the rate of .292/.405/.520 with 11 doubles, 2 triples and 8 home runs.  Clearly the shoulder was healed and the 18 year old who can generate power from both sides of the plate and hit equally well lefties and righties was well on his way towards the top of the prospect rankings.  

Then 2015 happened.  A promotion in Elizabethton resulted in a .194/.279/.280 slash line. Still a year and a half younger than the league average player in the Appalachian league, and reportedly having to fight nagging injuries last season, the potential is still there, but Minier's stock nose-dove in the rankings.

Likely 2016 path: Extended Spring Training and repeating Elizabethton in July

ETA: 2019

14. Travis Harrison (14)
DOB: 10/17/1992; Age: 23
Positions: RF/LF/1B
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 215 lbs
Acquired: 1st (S) Round Draft Pick 2012
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AA (2015)

Travis Harrison has been climbing a step in the organization each year since he was drafted, and there are sings and hope and expectation that every next season it will be his break through season, but it has not happened yet. Unfortunately, Harrison has been doing just a bit worse every season than the previous season. Could it be that he was in his third full time position on the field in 4 seasons?   He was drafted and started his first 2 professional season at Third Base, moved to Left Field two seasons ago at Fort Myers and to Right Field Last season in Chattanooga.

For the season he hit .240/.363/.356 and his OBP was pretty close to his career average (.366), his slugging percentage and batting average took hits.  His biggest issue was that his performance dropped to .200/.348/.291 in the second part of the season.  He did hit lefties better (.257/.416/.443 for the full season,) and started the season well (.268/.375/.403) , which indicates that he was either fighting something (His drop started after he returned from a DL stint because of stomach inflammation) or the league adjusted to him.  Let's hope that it was the former and next season will actually be the break through season for Harrison

Likely 2016 path: Starting outfielder at Chattanooga

ETA: 2017

13. Kohl Stewart RHP (7)
DOB: 10/7/1994; Age: 21
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'3", Weight: 195 lbs
Acquired: 1st Round Draft Pick 2013
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (2015)

The Twins made Kohl Steward the 5th overall selected player in the 2013 draft and a year agon MLB.com ranked him 36th best prospect in Baseball, and the Baseball Prospectus ranked him 28th.  Stewart had a somewhat dissapointing season in 2015 for the Miracle.  He started 22 games (129.3 IP) had 45 BB (3.1 K/9) and 71 K (12.8% and 4.9 K/9) for a 3.20 ERA (3.45 FIP) and 1.38 WHIP (.308 BABIP)  The hope was that the 5th overall pick will miss a lot of bats, as he did in 2013 where in 24 IP in both Rookie teams he walked 4 and struck out 24.
Steward has a plus fourseamer that hits 96, which is alternates with a close to plus 2 seamer in the low 90s and supplements it with an average hard slider in the low-mid 80s and an also average change up.  In 2014 in Cedar Rapids he started working on a slow (high 70s) curve.  Also, his 2014 season was cut short with shoulder issues and his 2015 season start was delayed for 3 weeks with throwing "elbow inflamation".  Not sure whether it is injury-related or throwing too many works in progress pitches, but he has transformed himself from a potential top of the rotation strikeout flamethrower to a pitch to contact mid to back of the rotation pitcher and this is reflected in these rankings.  The potential is there.  Maybe he needs to pitch to his strengths instead of trying to improve his weaknesses.

Likely 2016 path: In the Chattanooga rotation, depending on health.

ETA: 2017

12. Mason Melotakis (--)
DOB: 6/28/1991; Age: 24
Positions: LHP
Bats: R, Throws: L
Height: 6'2", Weight: 205 lbs
Acquired: 2nd Round Draft Pick 2012
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: AA (2014)

Mason Melotakis was one of the 4 hard throwing College Closers the Twins drafted in 2012 with the hope to turn them into Starters in the pro leagues; one of them (5th Round Pick, Tyler Duffey) made the transition and the other three (Melotakis, 1st round pick Luke Bard, and fellow 2nd round pick JT Chargois) ended up with arm problems resulting in Tommy John surgeries and return to the bullpen.  Melotakis has had his operation on October of 2014 and based on all reports his arm healed well and has been throwing hard this fall in Fort Myers.  The return to the pen in 2014 in New Britain (even though hurt) resulted in a good increase of strikeouts to 9.6 K/9 and 25.4% K%.  It also produced a nice 1.64 GO/FO ratio.

Melotakis' fastball gets up to 96-97 mph and his once suspect slider has improved.  He has been toying with a change up as a starter, but I suspect that with the new focus as a late inning reliever, he will abandon that. Melotakis was added to the Twins' 40-man roster and spend Spring Training with the Big club.

Likely 2016 path: Depending on LHRP acquisitions by the Twins this off-season and his performance in Spring Training might start the season in Minnesota, but likely will be the Chattanooga closer.

ETA: 2016

11. Levi Michael (22)
DOB: 2/9/1991; Age: 24
Positions: 2B
Bats: S, Throws: R
Height: 5'10", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: 1st Round Draft Pick 2011
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AA (2014, 2015)

Michael was drafted by the Twins in the first round of the 2011 draft (30th overall) as a Shortstop from the University of North Carolina. Michael is one of those players whom the Twins fans might think he under-performed unless they look closer at some facts:

  • In his four years as a pro, Michael played in exactly 2 levels: High A and AA.  Starting someone's career with the wooden bat in high A is placing a lot of expectations on him; Michael has proven to be a slow climber.
  • He missed a lot of time with injuries, including 5 weeks in 2015 due to a left angle issue and also last season 10 days due to illness.  This makes his cumulative stats (like doubles and HRs) plummet in comparison, and he steal stole 18/21 bases.  Add this to his .167 isoP, and (very quietly) Michael has developed a nice speed and power combination.  This plays really well at second base, which is much more suited to him, both with the glove and the arm
  • He has really improved his hitting the last 2 seasons with two back-to-back seasons with greater than .800 OPS in AA (.803 in 2014 and .804 in 2015)
  • And here is something that most people do not realize about Michael (because he has been very quiet) :  The switch-hitter might be the best hitter in the whole organization, if you are looking for one hitter to face a LHP.  His splits against LHPs the last 2 seasons are:  
    • 2015 AA: .385/.448/.673; 
    • 2014 AA: .409/.500/.455; 
    • 2014 A+: .366/.449/.463.  
    • He is not an automatic out against RHP as well, hitting .231/.347/.361 this season in Chattanooga.  

Why Michael is not on my top 10 list?  The answer is durability.  He missed about a month and a half each of the last 2 seasons.  This is the only reason.  I think if Michael plays a full season healthy, he will open some eyes.

Likely 2016 path: Michael is MLB-ready right now with both the bat and glove.  He will likely be the starting second baseman in Rochester and depending on trades and/or injuries and needs up in Minnesota by mid-season.  Would potentially make a great in-house replacement for Brian Dozier, both as a second baseman and number 2 or even number 1 hitter, if the Twins are looking to sell high on Dozier.

ETA: 2016

The Top Ten Next Week.


2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list: 16-20

You can find the introductory segment in this series, including my criteria for eligibility to be a prospect and the list of the 2015 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2015 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

You can find players 36-40 here, players 31-35 here, players 26-30 here, and players 21-25 here.

20 Felix Jorge RHP (29)
DOB: 1/2/1994; Age: 22
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 170 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 2/21/2011
Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: A (2014, 2015)

Felix Jorge was signed as an amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2011 for $250,000.  He has been moving along the Twins organization, about a step a season, until 2014 where he had major issues in Cedar Rapids and had to return in Elizabetheton.  He started 2015 agains in Cedar Rapids and was the Kernels' best pitcher, pitching 23 games (22 GS) a team tops 142 IP, had 32 BB (2.03 BB/9) and 114 Ks (7.3 K/9 and 20.3%,) for a 2.79 ERA (3.54 FIP) and 1.056 WHIP (2.67 BABIP).  Jorge came in the organization as a 16 year old with a rare 3 above average pitch mix.   He has a low 90s fastball with good downward movement, which the hitters have a hard time picking up.  Above average slurvy curveball and change up.  He commands all three pitches well, has good control and he mixes pitches well.  One might see his 2015 results and think that Jorge had a break-through season, but his biggest issue surfaced again: endurance.

In the first 11 starts Jorge pitched 70 innings resulting in 2.44 ERA, .195 OBA and 0.90 WHIP; the second half of the season (12 games, 11 starts) pitched 72 innings with considerable drop in performance:  3.13 ERA, .253 OBA and 1.21 WHIP.   Not that his second half was bad, but it was not as good as his first.  He does have mid-rotation potential, but time will tell whether he will have the endurance to be in a major league rotation.

Likely 2016 path: In the Miracle Rotation

ETA: 2018

19 Adam Walker OF (21)
DOB: 10/18/1991; Age: 24
Positions: LF/ RF
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'4", Weight: 225 lbs
Acquired: 3th Round Draft Pick 2012
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AA (2015)

There probably is a lot of dissapointment with this ranking, especially by the ones who count the quality of a baseball player based on home runs and RBIs, because those at the things that Walker excells.  His career minor league slash line has been .254/.311/.488 and has been mirrored every season at a new level.  In 2015 in AA Chattanooga, Walker hit .239/.309/.498 with a career high 31 HRs and 106 RBIs, but also career high 34.8 % K% and career low batting average. He did show an improvement in the base paths hitting in a career low for full season ball 8 double plays and stealing a career high 13 bases. 

Another issue with Walker is that he has problems in the field and a relatively weak arm.  To see whether his fielding improves, the Twins switched him last season to Left Field instead of Right, with very similar results.  Walker is a single tool player and it is a good tool; the Twins were afraid that someone might be intrigued by it to select him in the Rule 5 draft that they added him to the 40-man roster.   He really needs work on the plate and on the field to take the next step.  Maybe First Base or DH is where he should be, but those two positions are spoken for in the organization for a while...  It is not out of the question that he will not have a break through season if something "clicks", but it has not clicked yet.  If it doesn't his ceiling will be Steve Balboni, and that is if he cuts down considerably on the strikeouts.

Likely 2016 path: In the Rochester OF mix, might make a September call up or earlier depending on injuries and performance. 

ETA: 2016

18 Daniel Palka OF (--)
DOB: 10/28/1991; Age: 24
Positions: RF/1B
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'2", Weight: 225 lbs
Acquired: Trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (2015)

Daniel Palka was acquired by the Twins from the Arizona Diamondbacks this off-season for C/OF Chris Herrmann.  Palka was the Diamondbacks' third round pick in the 2013 draft.  If the Twins' fans want a comparable, that would be Adam Walker.  Palka is 10 days younger than Walker, has been climbing a step a year in the organization and power is his best tool.  Drafted a season after Walker, his highest level was high A instead of double A, and he hits and throws left.  Palka is a converted first baseman and he is still learning to play the outfield.  Last season in the high A Visalia he hit .280/.352/.532 with 29 HRs, 90 RBI, 24 SB, 56 BB and 164 K (28.5 K%) in 576 PAs. 

Going back to the 1980s, never a Twins' prospect has a season with 29 or more home runs and 24 or more stolen bases.  Palka is a very interesting prospect who might be ranked a bit too low, but I have not seen him play in person, and I am concerned about his strikeouts, which are not as bad as Walker's but definitely a concern point.  An additional concern is that LHPs neutralized him (.213/.285/.352  against LHPs; but he destroyed RHPs .301/.374/.589) which may indicate that there is a possibility that Palka might end up in the strong side of a platoon at some point.

Likely 2016 path:  In the Chattanooga outfield or first base conversation, likely both.

ETA: 2017

17 Lewis Thorpe (11)
DOB: 11/23/1995; Age: 20
Positions: LHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: Signed as an International Free Agent on 7/12/2012
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A (2014)

Thorpe was signed on July of 2012 by the Twins to the largest bonus ever given for an Australian player, $500,000.   He spend half of 2014 resting and rehabilitating his left UCL, which eventually required Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2015.  Thorpe has 4 pitches, including a plus mid 90s fastball and a plus change up, but 2014, even before the injury was somewhat of a disappointment, showing considerable control issues (a career high 4.5 BB/9) and was fairly ineffective (4.52 FIP).   Not much to say about Thorpe at this point, other than wait and see how his elbow turns out, but there is high enough raw staff and potential to be included in the top 20 prospect list at this point, regardless the many question marks. 

Likely 2016 path:  In the Cedar Rapids rotation, with an outside chance to make the Fort Myers rotation, depending on the elbow and performance

ETA: 2019

16 Jake Reed (16)
DOB: 9/29/1992; Age: 23
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired: 5th Round Draft Pick 2014
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: AA (2015)

Reed's 2015 season was a take of two halves:  First 35 games in Chattanooga where he pitched 47 innings with 21 BB (4 BB/9) and 39 K (7.5 K/9, 17.6 K%) resulting in a 6.32 ERA (4.20 FIP) and 1.617 WHIP (.340 BABIP) and his last 10 games in Fort Myers and 10 more in the Arizona Fall League.  where he regained his control (0.7 BB/9 in Fort Myers, 3.4 in AFL) and got hitters out (0.730 and 0.938 WHIP) but still had strikeout issues (5.1 and 8.4 K/9).   Part of his dominance in 2014 and his gain in command and control was due to simplification in his mechanics in comparison to his College days'.  Reed has a dominant fastball, but not much else.  Maybe part of the reason of his numbers' decline was that he was working on improving his change up and breaking ball.  Maybe those are pitchers he will never command.  

Hard to tell where Reed will be this time next season, and it all depends on the development of at least one above average secondary pitch that he can command well.  He was invited in the MLB Spring Training as a non-roster player this Spring.

Likely 2016 path:  Repeat Chattanooga, potential to break into the majors' bullpen depending on development of secondary pitch(es) and the Twins' needs.

ETA: 2017