2017 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 1-60 Summary and System Strengths and Weaknesses.

You can find the introductory segment in this series, including my criteria for eligibility to be a prospect and the list of the 2016 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

This is the countdown for players ranked 51-55th in the system. You can find players 56-60 here, players 51-55 here, 46-50 here, 41-45 here, 36-40 here, 31-35 here, 26-30 here, 21-25 here, 16-20 here, 11-15 here, 6-10 here, 1-5 here, and all segments in the series here.  There are detailed profiles, scouting reports and analysis about each player, so if you are interested in a particular player in the list, they might be useful.

The 2017 off-season Twins' top 60 prospect list looks like this (in parenthesis the 2016 ranking, followed by position and the ETA) :

    1. Wander Javier (7) SS, 2020
    2. Tyler Jay (2) LHP, 2017
    3. Lewin Diaz (5) 1B/DH, 2019
    4. Fernardo Romero (34), RHP, 2018
    5. Nick Gordon (9) SS, 2018
    6. Stephen Gonsalves (4) LHSP, 2018
    7. Daniel Palka (18) OF, 2017
    8. Alex Kirilloff (--) OF, 2020
    9. Adalbelto Mejia (--) LHP, 2016
    10. Mitch Garver (10) C, 2017
    11. Luis Arraez IF (24), 2019
    12. Nick Burdi (3) RHRP, 2017
    13. Brusdar Graterol (28), RHSP, 2020+
    14. Engelb Vielma SS (23), 2017
    15. Travis Blankenhorn (38), 3B/1B, 2020 10 BA
    16. Ben Rortvedt (--) C, 2020
    17. Kohl Stewart RHSP (13), 2018
    18. Mason Melotakis (12), LHRP, 2017
    19. Amaurys Minier (15) OF/1B, 2019
    20. Huascar Ynoa (27), RHSP, 2020
    21. Justin Haley (--) RHP, 2017
    22. LaMonte Wade (31), CF, 2018
    23. Felix Jorge (20), RHSP, 2018
    24. Akil Baddoo (--) OF , 2020
    25. Jake Reed (16) RHRP, 2017
    26 Niko Goodrum (37), CF/IF, 2017
    27 Trevor Hildenberger (--) RHP 2018
    28 D.J. Baxendale, (--) RHP; 2017
    29 Lachlan Wells (26), LHSP, 2020
    30 Lewis Thorpe (17) LHSP, 2019
    31 Jermaine Palacios (8) SS/3B, 2020
    32 Rainis Silva (21), C, 2019
    33 Michael Theophanopoulos, LHP, 2018
    34 Dereck Rodriguez - 24 – RHP – 2019
    35 John Curtiss, RHP; 2018
    36 Jean Carlos Arias (22), CF, 2020
    37 Travis Harrison (14), OF/1B, 2018
    38 Aaron Slegers (--), RHP 2018
    39 Jaylin Davis, (--) OF 2019
    40 Levi Michael (11), 2B, 2016
    41 Brandon Lopez (--) SS, 2020
    42 Brandon Peterson (29), RHRP, 2017
    43 Zach Granite, (--) OF, 2017
    44 Humberto Maldonado (--) OF, 2020+
    45 Pedro Garcia (--) RHP 2020 +
    46 Tyler Benninghoff, (--) RHP 2020 +
    47 Nelson Molina, INF 2020
    48 Taylor Clemensia  (--)  LHP 2020
    49 Eduardo Del Rosario (--) RHP  2019
    50 Jordan Balazovic, (--) RHP, 2020+
    51 Jason Wheeler (--) LHP, 2017
    52 Andrew Vasquez (--) LHP 2019
    53 Zander Wiel, (--) 1B 2019
    54 Tyler Wells (--) RHP  2020
    55 Cody Stashak -(--) RHP 2019
    56 Colton Davis (--)  RHP 2019
    57 Williams Ramirez (--) 2019
    58 Tanner English (--) OF 2018
    59 Aaron Whitefield  (--) IF/OF 2020
    60 Michael Cederoth (--) RHP 2018

Players who were on the 2016 list (then a top 40) and are not in the 2017 are:

Emmanuel Morel (40) IF
Trey Cabbage (39), IF/OF
Chris Paul (33) IF/OF
Kolton Kendrick (32), 1B/DH
Ryan Eades RHP (25)
Adam Walker OF (19)

Players who graduated from the 2016 list are:

Jose Berrios (1) RHP
JT Chargois (6) RHP

Too good to exclude, but I had to, because of his circumstances:

Griffin Jax RHP.  His stuff is there to merit inclusion in this list, and likely within the top 40.  However his commitment to the US Air Force, which already resulted in him missing professional baseball commitments, including the whole 2017 Spring Training, is a big unknown, regarding his career as a baseball player.  Unless this conflict is resolved, I will have a hard time including him in a prospect list.   His  Air Force assignment starts in late May after graduation and it is at the Eglin Air Force Base in Pensacola, FL.

Organizational Strengths:

Shortstop/middle infield:  The Twins have 3 players on the top 15 of the organization that are about a year away from each other as far as readiness go, in addition to former number 2 prospect, Jorge Polanco in the majors with 4 more seasons of team control, which will bridge with the ETA of the current number 1 prospect Wander Javier,  while players like Nick Gordon (5th , ETA 2018) and Engelb Vielma (14th, ERA 2017) could be stopgaps if necessary, slide over to second base, or be trade bait.  Jermaine Palacios (31, ETA 2020) and Brandon Lopez (41, ETA 2020) are two additional players that can stick at shortstop and make quick gains. Luis Arraez (11, ETA 2019) looks like the Twins' second baseman of the future, estimated to be ready when Brian Dozier's contract expires, so there is also a nice bridge there.  If Dozier is traded, current major leaguers Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza, in addition to Polanco and Vielma will battle out for his replacement and the starting SS position, with Gordon added to the list in 2018.  All in all, middle infield is a strength in the organization allowing for potential trades down the road to plug other holes.

Relief Pitching: There are 32 pitchers in the list, several with ETA of 2017 and 2018 and only two, LHPs Stephen Gonsalves (6, ETA 2018) and Adalberto Mejia (9, 2016), are unquestionably starters.  Pitchers like LHP Tyler Jay (2, ETA 2017 as a reliever)  and RHP Fernando Romero (5, ETA 2018), the only 2 pitchers in the organization who are potentially top of the rotation starters, can help the Twins' pen soon, in addition to RHP Nick Burdi (12, 2017) who has closer potential and the best pure stuff in the organization, LHP Mason Melotakis (18, 2017), Rule 5 draft pick RHP Justin Haley (21, 2017) and RHPs Jake Reed (25, 2017) and D.J. Baxendale (28, 2017).   Former 6th overall prospect JT Chargois is in the majors, along with his college co-closer Tyler Duffey, who has had setbacks as a starter and belongs to the pen, and along with the current pipeline, supplemented by another half dozen pitchers who are projected to be ready in 2018, they can anchor a strong bullpen for the Twins for the years to come.

Organizational Weaknesses: 

Catcher:  The only major-league ready catcher in the list is Mitch Garver (10, ETA 2017) who projects as a two way major league average catcher at this point, and will battle for a back up to defensive wizard but light hitting, especially against lefties, Jason Castro.   There are only 2 more catchers in the list, Ben Rortvedt (16, ETA 2020) and Rainis Silva (21, ETA 2019) who have as much promise as they have question marks.  Former 28th best prospect in the 2015 list Stuart Turner was selected on the Rule 5 draft and might return,  however he is a glove first catcher who profiles as a defensive back up in the majors at best at this point.  This is a position that there is practically no pipeline and the Twins should address at the draft and/or with trades

Starting pitching:  As mentioned only LHP Tyler Jay (2, ETA 2017 as a reliever)  and RHP Fernando Romero (5, ETA 2018), are the only two prospects with top of the rotation projections, but they both bring a lot of unanswered questions about durability and whether they can transition to starters in the majors.  Add to this the fact that the current Twins starters in the majors are at best number 3s or 4s in a competitive team, and the situation looks a bit dire. RHP  Brusdar Graterol (13, 2020+) and LHP Lewis Thorpe (30, 2019), could be part of the discussion, if proven healthy, but they are at least 2 seasons away.  LHPs Stephen Gonsalves (6, ETA 2018) and Adalberto Mejia (9, 2016), are close to ready or ready, but project as a mid to bottom of the rotation starters.  So do RHPs Kohl Stewart (17, 2018) and Huascar Ynoa (20, 2020).  The rest of the pitchers in this list project as relievers.  The Twins will have to address this problem with the draft where they have the number 1 overall selection as well as with trades, and potentially free agency down the road, in order to compete.


Twins' off-season moves and rumors report: 2/14/2017

This is the latest installment of the Twins 2016-2017 off-season rumors and moves report.  You can find the previous here and all the previous installments in this series here.

With Spring Training starting this week, this will be the last installment in the series.  I will include news on Twins rumors and moves in regular Spring Training reports.

I will be bringing news for Twins moves and rumored interest as they come periodically, leaving the names of interesting parties as are unless something changes about their status, adding new information as it comes.  As previously, this is actually reported interest, and not "who fits where" hypothetical interest.  I will be adding information about former Twins as it happens, but not rumors, as well.  This is what has happened or rumored to have happened so far:
  • The Twins are interested in 1B/3B/DH Pedro Alvarez (2/9).  However only if the can sign him for an inexpensive one year deal (2/12)
  • The Twins have signed OF Quintin Berry to a minor league contract (2/10)
  • Twins RHP Pat Light was traded to the Pirates for cash considerations (2/9)
  • Twins 1B/DH Byung Ho Park has cleared waivers and was outrighted to AAA Rochester (2/9) 
  • The Twins have attended the work out by free agent RHP Seth Maness who is coming back from UCL repair surgury, along with 15 more teams (2/7)
  • The Rays are interested in recently DFA'd Twins' 1B/DH Byungho Park (2/7).
  • The Twins are interested in RHP Joe Blanton (1/30)
  • The Twins are interested in 1B and former Twin Justin Morneau (1/29), however there seems to be no room on their roster (1/30)
  • There is interest by unnamed teams on Twins RHP Ervin Santana and the Twins have indicated that nobody is "untouchable" (12/16)
  • The Twins could have interest in Red Sox'  P Drew Pomeranz, but have not discussed them yet with Boston (12/6); However are not listed among the teams that were interested in Red Sox' pitchers per Boston sources (12/7)
  • The Twins have talked to the Diamondbacks about their young pitching.  No particular names were mentioned and nothing is imminent (11/29)
  • The Twins might be interested in RHP Justin Masterson (11/23) as a minor league free agent signing (11/29)
From the former Twins' news department:
  • Former Twins' RHP Kevin Jepsen has agreed to a minor league contract with the Diamondbacks (2/13)
  • Former Twins' RHP Omar Bencomo  has agreed to a minor league contract with the Marlins (2/10)
  • The Angels designated former Twins' RHP Deolis Guerra for assignment (2/10)


2017 Twins Off-Season top 60 Prospect List: 1-5

You can find the introductory segment in this series, including my criteria for eligibility to be a prospect and the list of the 2016 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

This is the countdown for players ranked 51-55th in the system. You can find players 56-60 here, players 51-55 here, 46-50 here, 41-45 here, 36-40 here, 31-35 here, 26-30 here, 21-25 here, 16-20 here, 11-15 here, 6-10 here and all segments in the series here.

5. Nick Gordon (9)
DOB: 10/14/1995; Age: 21
Positions: SS
Bats: L, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (2016)
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.

Gordon's glove is about average at SS, and he projects to stay in the position.  His bat still projects as a major league average, however he was again neutralized against LHPs (.220/.276/.254 in 118 AB in Fort Myers last season.)   He had good speed, but not great base stealing instincts that need a lot of work.  His season at Fort Myers and his success in Arizona 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. Gordon is a non-roster invitee in the Twins Spring Traning, but not MLB-ready at this point.

Likely 2017 path: Starting AA Chattanooga shortstop

4. Fernando Romero (34)
DOB: 12/24/1994; Age: 22
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'0", Weight: 215 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent
Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: A+ (2016)
ETA: 2018

Fernando Romero was singed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from the Dominican Republic for on November 4th, 2011 with a $260K bonus.  The San Juan de la Maguana native spending his age 17 2012 season in the Dominican Summer League where he pitched in 14 games, 6 starts, for 31 innings, striking out 27 (7.8 K/9, 20.2 K%), walking 14 (4.1 BB/9, 9.7 K-BB%), with a 4.94 ERA, 3.05 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP (.289 BABIP).  He made the jump to the Gulf Coast League in 2013.  He pitched in 12 games (6 GS) for 45 innings to a 1.60 ERA (2.44 FIP) and 1.00 WHIP (.271 BABIP) and had 47 strikeouts (9.4 K/9, 26 K%) and 13 walks (2.6 BB/9, 18.8 K-BB%.)  After only 4 games in single A Cedar Rapids in 2014 he required Tommy John surgery, missing the rest of 2014 and the whole 2015 season.  Last season he returned to Cedar Rapids where he started 5 games (28 IP) had 25 K (8.0 K/9, 24.3 K%) and 5 BB (1.6 BB/9, 19.4 K-BB%) with a 1.93 ERA, 2.33 FIP, and 0.82 WHIP (.250 BABIP).  He moved to high A Fort Myers late in June where he started 11 games (62-1/3 IP) had 65 K (9.4 K/9, 26.9 K%) and 10 BB (1.4 BB/9, 22.7 K-BB%) with a 1.88 ERA, 2.00 FIP, and 0.93 WHIP (.288 BABIP), improving on his already great Cedar Rapids performance.

Romero has a plus plus fastball that sits at 95-97 mph and has a nasty sinking movement, a plus plus slider that sits 88-92 mph and an average changeup.  After his surgery, Romero came in better shape and he improved his command and control by leaps and bounds, pounding the strike zone and cutting down on walks.  His stuff can already play in a major league pen, but Romero has top of the rotation potential and the Twins will explore that. Romero was added to the Twins' 40-man roster this November, so he will appear in the Twins' Spring Training camp; however he will need to pitch more innings before he makes it to the majors.  In addition to the innings, he would need to develop that changeup, because it will be difficult to make it long as a starter with only 2 pitches, even though both are plus plus.

Likely 2017 path: In AA Chattanooga Rotation

3. Lewin Diaz (5)
DOB: 11/19/1996; Age: 20
Positions: 1B
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'3", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: Rookie/Elizabethton (2015, 2016)
ETA: 2020

Lewin Diaz was singed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from the Dominican Republic for $1.4 million bonus on July 2nd, 2013.   The Santiago native made the transition to the US, after a hitting .257/.385/.451 (.411 wOBA, 142 wRC+, 13.8 K%) in the DSL in 2014, his age 17 season.  His first season in the US, he had a few difficulties with the transition, hitting .261/.354/.369 (.357 wOBA, 123 wRC+, 18.9 K%) in 33 games in the GCL and finishing the last 14 games of the season hitting .167/.245/.375 (.285 wOBA, 70 wRC+, 32.1 K%) in Elizabethton.   This was mainly a season of adjustment for Diaz, who would have not earned the promotion had he not hit .522/.607/.696 for August in the GCL, and likely would have served better not making the trip to Elizabethton.  One interesting thing that the numbers do not show about Elizabethton is that those 14 games there were the only night games Diaz has played as a professional, since both the DSL and GCL play day games only.   Last season he repeated Elizabethton after extended spring training, playing in 46 games (187 PA) hitting .310/.353/.575 (.409 wOBA, 149 wRC+, 18.7 K%, with a career best .264 isoP and his BABIP at .344, close to his .326 in the GCL the previous season.  There is room for improvement in pitch recognition and the twenty year old just started to realize his tremendous power.  More like Miguel Sano with the bat (minus some power and some strikeouts, plus some plate discipline) than Kennys Vargas, but more like Vargas with the glove, Diaz is a player who can be a workable first baseman.  Listed very generously at 6'3" and 180 lbs, likely has the highest LHB power potential in the organization, with .264 isoP as a teenager, and still is learning how to swing the bat.  It will be interesting to see how he does next season in full-season ball, but he has scary potential, even though only as a first baseman or DH.

Likely 2017 path: Starting first baseman at Cedar Rapids

2. Tyler Jay (2)
DOB: 4/19/1994; Age: 22
Positions: LHP
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'1", Weight: 180 lbs
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round in 2015
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: AA (2016)
ETA: 2017

Tyler Jay was drafted by the Twins 6th overall in 2015 from University of Illinois.  The Lemont, IL native was mainly the closer in College appearing in 30 games (2 starts) in his Junior season pitching for 66.7 innings, walking 7 (0.9 BB/9) and striking out 77  (10.3 K/9) with a 1.08 ERA and 0.70 WHIP.  He moved on to the Fort Myers' bullpen with the Twins to appear in an additional 19 games (18.2 IP) where he walked 8 (3.9 BB/9, 17.3 K-BB%) and struck out 22 (10.8 K/9, 27.2 K%) for a 3.93 ERA (2.07 FIP) and 1.42 WHIP (.353 BABIP).  The Twins view Jay as a starter and he made the transition to the Miracle rotation this season where he started 13 games (69-2/3 IP) struck out 68 (8.8 K/9, 23.6 K%), walked 21 (2.7 BB/9, 16.3 K-BB%) and finished with a 2.84 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and 1.22 WHIP (.311 BABIP).  He moved to Chattanooga in July, where he pitched in 5 games (2 starts) before ending his season on the disabled list because of a sore neck. He pitched only 14 innings (9 K, 5.8 K/9, 5 BB, 3.2 BB/9, 6.9 K-BB%, 5.79 ERA, 4.96 FIP, 1.29 WHIP, .262 BABIP).  Jay has the stuff to be a starter but not yet proven that he can be a starter and it is unknown how his stuff will be as a starter in the long run.  He has received some comparisons with David Price (which I am not sure that I buy) basically because of their fastballs. He has a plus to plus plus fastball that sits at 95 and peaks and 97-98 (not bad at all for a lefty) which he complements with a plus slider, an above average curve ball and an average changeup that has flashed some potential.   I think that this ranking is fair, because if a reliever, he is likely (but close) the best reliever in the system who could potentially help the Twins in 2017 (thus the ETA.)  But the Twins will like to see what he can do as a starter for a second season and whether he could become a top of the rotation starter.  As a starter, he likely has more potential than anyone in the organization but he is not there now and would need more that 15 career starts to be considered for a major league job.

Likely 2017 path: Likely starting the season at Chattanooga with a potential promotion to Rochester mid-season, depending on needs and performance

1. Wander Javier (7) SS
DOB: 12/29/1998; Age: 18
Positions: SS
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 165 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 7/2/2015
Professional Experience: 0; Highest level: N/A
ETA: 2020

Wander Javier was signed by the Twins as an International Free Agent from the Dominican Republic last summer and has yet to play a single professional game.  His $4 million signing bonus topped what the Twins gave Miguel Sano, and any other amateur player ever for signing with them other than Joe Mauer, Kohl Stewart and Byron Buxton.  I have not seen Javier play professionally in person, but I have seen plenty of video to be confident about this ranking.   At this point, he has 5 above average or better tools, with his arm,  fielding and power at above average and contact and speed approaching plus.   Javier started his pro career last season in the DSL with a bang, playing in 9 games (30 PA), hitting .308/.400/.654 (199 wRC+, .498 wOBA), with 13.3 BB% and 16.7 K% in a league dominated by pitching, as a 17 year old, before he was shut down with a hamstring injury.

Unlike Sano who was signed as shortstop, the Bonao native projects to stay in the position as a professional.  He has very smooth hands and confident footwork and body control.  Highest upside of any player in the Twins' organization, his toolset is similar to Byron Buxton's at that age, but with higher power and less speed, and he is a true shortstop.

Likely 2017 path: Extending Spring Training and then Starting SS for the GCL or Elizabethton Twins
depending on health and the Twins' draft.