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Minnesota Twins

Original Published Date: Oct. 29, 2013

I know it’s been a long couple of season for the Minnesota Twins, but help is finally on the way!

At the top of the Farm system is the top prospect in all of baseball in Byron Buxton.  Buxton is a legitimate five-tool player that is making quick work of the minor leagues.  While some whisper Mike Trout when talking about Buxton, I tend to whisper Andrew McCutchen.  Either way, he’s going to be very good.  Almost as an after-thought is Miguel Sano – a Top 10 prospect in all of baseball and with plus-plus future power potential.

The 2013 draft yielded the Twins the top high school pitcher in the draft in right-hander Kohl Stewart.  He has top-of-the-rotation potential but it could take several years before he makes it through the system.  Closer to the show is 6-foot-7 Alex Meyer, another big arm with a ceiling of a #2 starter.

Other interesting prospects for the Twins include: Eddie Rosario, an offensive minded middle infielder, Adam Brett Walker, who’s 27 home runs led the Midwest League and Australian teenager Lewis Thorpe, who had a 64K/6BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 44 innings as a 17-year-old in the Midwest League.

The system is not only stacked at the top with Buxton and Sano but has depth throughout in both positional players and pitchers.  The wave of promotions should start late in 2014, but will begin in earnest in 2015.

1. Byron Buxton (OF)

2014 Age: 20 Ceiling: Role 7-8
Ht:6-2 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014-15
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2013 A-+A+ 488 109 12 77 55 .334 .424 78.5 15.6 .403

It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s…Byron Buxton.

There have been dozens upon dozens of articles written about the 19-year-old Georgian phenom, that candidly, it’s hard to write yet more superlatives about the kid.  Yep, he’s good, in fact, he’s really good!

It’s funny, the first time I got a chance to see Buxton live was during the Futures Game.  While he looked the part, he was really overmatched at the plate.  Granted it was two plate appearances against pitchers that were several years his senior, but the truth was, he was overmatched.  Even in batting practice, he did not demonstrate the raw power I was hoping to see.  While he looked better in several games that I saw him during the Arizona Fall League, he still was a bit overmatched.

The athleticism is clearly evident when you see him play.  He’s a great height at 6-foot-2 and while listed at 190 pounds, he looked a little heavier than that.  The bat speed is elite with a short compact swing.  While you hear it all the time, the ball truly jumps off his bat.  In fact, the explosion reminded me of when I first saw Oscar Tavares two years ago in Arizona.  While he only hit eight home runs across Low-A and High-A in 2013, he has above-average future power potential; capable of hitting 20+ home runs once he fully matures.

The speed is a true 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.  While the 55 stolen bases are real, the speed really shows up as he patrols the outfield.  The range and jump on the ball is impressive.  His routes could use some improvement, but that is nitpicking as his athleticism will allow him to make up for some of those route mistakes.  The outfield play is going to be worthy of a nightly highlight reels.

The biggest concern that evaluators had when Buxton was drafted was his ability to hit.  The fear stemmed from growing up in rural Georgia, where he lacked the exposure to advanced pitching.  So far in the lower minors, that has not been the case and in fact, he’s thriving.  His 102K/76BB in 488 at-bats is indeed impressive, particularly when considering he did this as a teenager.

The future is bright for Buxton and he should start 2014 in Double-A with an outside chance to see Minnesota by the end of the year.  That timing is eerily familiar to how Mike Trout progressed during his second year of professional baseball.  Speaking of Trout, some have compared Buxton to Trout.  I don’t see it.  Trout grew into his “man-strength” early and at 22-years-old, already looks like a linebacker.  I don’t see Buxton ever having those physical characteristics.  In fact, I’ve drawn the physical comp to Andrew McCutchen – which is a pretty impressive comparison.

Fantasy Impact:  Buxton is the number one prospect in all of baseball and while I believe 2012’s top prospect, Jurickson Profar, could be an all-star, Buxton is a cut above that – a potential game-changing fantasy asset.  He’s nearly untradeable in a Dynasty League.

2. Miguel Sano (3B)

2014 Age: 20 Ceiling: Role 6-7
Ht:6-3 Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014-15
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2013 A-AA 439 86 35 103 11 .280 .382 67.7 14.8 .330

I almost feel bad for Miguel Sano.  With all the attention given to Byron Buxton, Sano is not getting the attention that the talent deserves.  While Buxton brings all-around goodness to the equation, Sano brings one premium tool – massive 80-grade raw power with a hit-tool that should play at least average at the highest level.

One of the most impressive batting practices at the Futures Game this summer belonged to Miguel Sano.  He showed power to all fields and hit some of the longest bombs of the afternoon.  The power is legit and is born out of bat speed, raw strength, and leverage.  As with many power hitters, particularly right-handed power hitters, there is length in the swing.  With length comes swing-and-miss and Sano showed a lot of this during 2013 with a contact rate of 68%.  The batting average was really ugly in his 233 at-bats in New Britain, but that was partially fueled by a .265 BABIP.

Am I worried about the swing and miss?  Yes, but it does come with a couple of caveats.

  • While a 68% contact rate is poor, remember Sano was only 20-years-old in his first exposure to advanced pitching, and
  • he hits the ball with extreme force and his .265 BABIP will correct to something north of .300.

All put together, I think Sano will bat .250-.260 with plus-plus power which could yield 40 plus home runs at the highest level.  That’s a Mike Stanton type of player at a corner infield position.

Expect Sano to start 2014 back in Double-A with a potential cup-of-coffee in Minnesota in 2014.   Also, don’t be surprised, nor worried, if Buxton beats him to the majors.  The future is very bright for the 20-year-old Dominican.

Fantasy Impact:  Because of his plus-plus power potential, the fantasy impact for Sano is massive. In a few years, he could be putting up 35/90/120 in a very good Minnesota Twins lineup.  The current comp is probably Pedro Alvarez but I ultimately believe he’ll hit for more average and be a superior fantasy player than the third baseman from Pittsburgh.

3. Kohl Stewart (RHP)

2014 Age: 19 Ceiling: #1 starter
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016-17
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2013 R 20 13 3 0 1.80 10.80 1.35 0.85

While picking fourth in the 2013 draft, the Twins were not able to select a college player that could help them at the major league level in 2013 or 2014, but they might have picked up the player with the highest ceiling in the draft in Kohl Stewart.

Stewart combines an electric arm with tremendous athleticism to bring an enticing ceiling to the Minnesota Twins organization.  At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, he also has the great projectable body that scouts love to see join the professional ranks out of the high-school.  He currently has a nice three pitch arsenal that consists of a fastball that he throws 91-94 MPH but can touch higher with the physical potential to add another grade on the pitch.  He also throws a slider that shows a lot of promise and could be a real weapon down the road as well as a change-up that could also be an above-average offering.

From a pitching mechanics standpoint, he has the classic “thrower” look as opposed to a pitcher.  The arm action is very quick, which is where he’s getting his plus velocity, but he just reaches back and throws.  Because of this, he has terrific momentum to the plate but that’s about it.  The balance and posture are poor.  However, as a kid he spent as much time of the football field as he did on the baseball diamond.  Therefore, to expect a polished product is not reasonable.

Stewart has top-of-the-rotation potential but it could take some time to develop.  I doubt you’ll see him in Double-A by the end of 2014, instead, he could spend the entire season in Cedar Rapids working on his mechanics and refining his pitches.  Then in 2015, he could be off to the races with a projected 2016-17 Minnesota debut.  Remember as a high-school draftee, that will put him in the big leagues at 21-years-old.

Fantasy Impact:  Kohl Stewart reminds me a lot of Archie Bradley and Taijuan Walker – extremely athletic but unpolished talents.  Both Bradley and Walker came out of the shoot slowly and then picked it up in their sophomore year to become two of the top pitchers in the minor leagues.  Stewart could follow a similar path.  He’s a must own in a Dynasty League, particularly if you are rebuilding and could pay extreme benefits in a few years.  Invest!

4. Alex Meyer (RHP)

2014 Age: 24 Ceiling: #2 starter
Ht: 6-9 Weight: 220 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2013 R-AA 78.1 67 26 3 3.68 11.49 2.99 1.26

Alex Meyer was traded straight-up from the Nationals for center fielder Denard Span in a late November 2012 trade.  There were mixed reviews at the time the trade went down given Span’s 5.1 WAR that he posted in 2012, but it demonstrated how high the Twins were on the 6-foot-9 right-hander.

Meyer’s arsenal is impressive with a fastball that sits in the mid 90’s, a plus slider that really gets a lot of swing and misses, and a change-up that looks pretty good as well.  Given his size, he throws with tremendous downward plane and that is inducing a ton of ground balls.  That was evident with his 3.04 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio over 70 innings in Double-A.

You would think given his size, Meyer’s would struggle to maintain a consistent release point.  While the delivery is far from easy, his pitching mechanics are actually pretty good with nice balance and posture. Over time, his control should improve as well as his ability to spot his fastball.  That said, I doubt he’ll ever have a walk rate less than three as his length will always be difficult for him to control.

Meyer did miss considerable time in 2013 with a shoulder issue but came back in August and pitched well in 17.1 innings with a 37K/5BB strikeout-to-walk ratio.  While nearly half on those innings were thrown in the GCL, it does show the kind of upside that has the Twins management so excited.

Meyer should log about 30 innings in the AFL and be poised to start the year in Triple-A with a call-up to the majors sometime over the summer.  While he could initially be erratic, I think he has the upside of a number 2-3 starter at the highest level.

Fantasy Impact:  Meyer will turn 24-years-old in January, so time is starting to tick for him.  I fully expect him to log significant innings in Minnesota in 2014 and would be targeting him late in NFBC draft-and-hold leagues.  In traditional fantasy leagues, he’s only draftable in AL-only, but would definitely take a flyer in the later rounds.

5. Eddie Rosario (2B)

2014 Age: 22 Ceiling: Role 5-6
Ht:6-0 Weight: 170 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2014-15
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2013 A-AA 496 80 10 73 10 .302 .350 80.6 7.7 .353

Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft from Puerto Rico, Eddie Rosario is another toolsy player in a stacked Twins farm system.

Rosario carrying tool is his premium bat speed that produces hard contact with a slash line of .302/.350/.460 across High-A and Double-A.  He does have nice bat-to-ball skills and posted an 81% contact rate in those 496 at-bats.

While Rosario makes hard contact, his hitting mechanics aren’t great. First his setup is pretty noisy but it does seem to help his timing.  He also does not have a long stride in his swing but has a definitive upper-cut approach.  Usually, you see a long stride and a leveraged swing that ultimately produces power but Rosario doesn’t do that.  I would prefer he have a more level swing and use his natural bat speed to carry balls out of the park.  However, the results speak for themselves and I don’t think the Twins will change anything as long as he continues to make progress.

He does have above average speed but that his not translating into stolen base success as he stole 10 bases but also got thrown out 10 times.  I think this will improve and Rosario could turn into a 15+ stolen bases threat annually.

The biggest concern about Rosario is where he will play defensively.  He’s not a great second baseman and might ultimately be pushed to the outfield.  While I’ve never seen him play there, I’m not sure he has the athleticism to play an above average corner spot.  In the end, I don’t believe his lack of a defensive position will limit him because the bat should be enough to make him a solid regular at the highest level.

Fantasy Impact: Rosario will not be a fantasy stud but could be a very useful fantasy contributor.  Expect 15/15 production with a .270+ batting average.  His location in the batting order will depend on his on-base percentage, which will then drive his value in runs and RBI’s.   Currently, he profiles as a number seven or eight hitter but that could change as his approach matures.

6. Jose Berrios (RHP)

2014 Age: 19 Ceiling: #3 starter
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2013 Low-A 103.2 105 46 6 3.47 8.68 3.99 1.40

Selected in the supplemental first round of the 2012 draft from Puerto Rico, 6-foot Jose Berrios adds another solid arm to the Twins farm system.  While there’s not a lot of physical projection with Berrios, he has a nice three pitch mix with a four-seamer that sits 91-93 MPH and a slider and change-up that both show a lot of promise.

Pitching as a teenager and the fifth youngest pitcher in the Midwest League, Berrios put up good numbers with a 3.99 ERA and a 8.68 K/9 and a 3.47 BB/9.  He did struggle in the second half of the year where he saw his ERA inflate by a run and his strikeout rate drop.  It could have been just the normal wear and tear of a long season or perhaps, the league started to catch-up to him as the weather warmed.

In looking at the total package: his arsenal, mechanics, and pitchability, I lean towards him tiring in the second half.  While the stuff doesn’t scream top-of-the-rotation, it’s very good and he has very good mechanics that allow him to repeat his delivery.  As a “smallish pitcher”, he could get labeled as a reliever given the concern about…well…tiring as the season wears-on.  The Twins don’t seem keen on doing that yet given his live arm and their lack of high-end pitching prospects.

Fantasy Impact:  Berrios is definitely ownable in a Dynasty League and will flirt with making our Top 100 list.  His ceiling is a solid mid-rotation starter with a 7-7.5 K/9 rate.  He could be homer-prone and if so, that will increase his ERA.

7. Adam Brett Walker (OF)

2014 Age: 22 Ceiling: Role 5
Ht:6-4 Weight: 225 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015-16
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2013 Low-A 508 83 27 109 10 .278 .319 77.4 6.1 .304

In general, the Twins have a slow-and-grow development philosophy and that was clearly demonstrated with Adam Brett Walker.

Drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft out of Jacksonville University, Walker’s carrying tool is plus raw power; raw power that produced a Midwest League leading 27 home runs.  At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Walker produces his power with a long and leveraged swing that could have a lot of swing and miss as he moves up the chain.  However, in Low-A, his 77% contact rate was ok and helped produced a decent .278 batting average.

We should know a lot more about Walker by June of 2014 as he’ll surely start the season in the Florida State League – a league with bigger ballparks and guys who can command their arsenal much more than those in the Midwest League.  Based on his swing mechanics, Walker could struggle and you could see his contact rate drop to the low 70’s.  The power should still be there but he might eventually have to alter his swing plane to improve contactability in order to tap into that power.

Fantasy Impact:  Walker is a sell high candidate for me.  Yes, the power is interesting and given the state of the game, very valuable.  However, there is a lot of buzz with his 27 home runs, which I don’t believe is sustainable.  As with Major League players, there is definitely the game of buy-low and sell-high and Adam Walker fits perfectly in that equation.

8. Max Kepler (OF)

2014 Age: 21 Ceiling: Role 5
Ht:6-4 Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2016
Year Class AB R HR RBI SB AVG OBP CT% BB% BABIP
2013 Low-A 236 35 9 40 2 .237 .312 81.8 10.2 .254

Max Kepler has a great story.  Both of his parents were professional ballerinas who met in Germany and had little Maximilian Kepler.  Blessed with great natural athleticism, Kepler started playing baseball and rose to prominence in Germany club leagues where he was scouted and signed by the Twins in 2009.

It’s a great story that I ultimately think will have a happy ending in the Major Leagues, but based on his performance to-date, I’ll admit, it seems like a stretch.  In 236 at-bats in the Midwest League, he posted a .237/.312/.424 slash line.  However, digging a little deeper, he made very good contact at 82% with an approach that yielded 24 walks, or one every 10 at-bats.

The scouting report continues to be bullish though.  He has a smooth lefty swing, showing plus bat-speed that when combined with his size, should provide future plus power.  His plate awareness improved as the season progressed which should eventually lead to an above-average hit tool and a better BABIP.  Early in the season, he was lunging for bad pitches, making weak contact that resulted in a .254 BABIP.

Fantasy Impact: I’ve tied my wagon to Kepler, partially because of this background but also I believe the power and hit-tool will eventually play to make him a solid regular contributor at the highest level.  With his lack of speed, he ceiling is a fifth outfielder type in a 12 to 15-team league.  Think of a Luke Scott type of a player – 23/75/.260

9. Lewis Thorpe (LHP)
You’ve got to give the Twins and “A” in diversity.  In the their Top 10, they’ve got players from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Germany, and with Lewis Thorpe, Australia.  Signed in 2012 for $500,000 as a thin 6-foot, 160 pound 16-year-old, he finished the year at 6-foot-1 and 210 pound.  Talk about physical projection – this is it!  The arsenal looks promising as he throws a 91-93 MPH four-seamer with great late action and a plus change-up.  He’s also showing signs of being able to spin a curve.

Not only is his arsenal advanced for a teenager, he has very good pitching mechanics.  He has a high leg kick that produces great momentum to the plate and thus the late life on his fastball with solid balance and posture.  It’s no wonder he only walked six in 44 innings.

10. Trevor May (RHP)
I’ve never been a huge fan of Trevor May.  While I like the size at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds and the fastball velocity, I’ve never been enamored with the pitching mechanics.  In 2013, May posted a respectable line while repeating Double-A of a 4.51 ERA, striking out more than a batter an inning but also walking nearly four per nine.  He also gave up 14 home runs.  Ehh…it’s ok, but that’s the profile of a number five starter or a long man out of the bullpen.  I expect May to arrive in Minnesota sometime in 2014.

2014 Emerging Prospect:

Michael Tonkin (RHP)
Tonkin is a strange guy to list as an emerging prospect as he’s already pitched in the major leagues in 2013.  However, he throws a hard sinker in the mid-90’s with an 82-84 MPH slider and with some funk in his delivery, is really hard to pick-up.  He has 36 career minor league saves and could be the closer of the future for the Twins.  If you’re in a fantasy league, he might be an interesting guy to speculate on for next year.

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16 comments on “Minnesota Twins

  1. Oh no! Sorry, should’ve been more clear: 2nd pick after our keeper rounds. We keep 5 players as our first-fifth round picks (although I traded to get a 6th). So really it’s the 2nd pick of the 6th round in a 16 team league. Not sure who the other options are yet, but for sure Buxton, Tanaka, and Abreu are available. I have good keepers so I want to win this year, but I also don’t want to pass up the next Mike Trout. What’s Buxton’s upside?

    • It’s hard to say he’s Mike Trout but if you read my write-up, I do say he could be McCutchen. Tons of speed with potential power. He has a chance to be a superstar. 2015 debut though. I’d do anything to get him on my team.

  2. Got another question. I have the second pick in my keeper league. Would I be stupid to pass up Buxton if he’s still there? Will i be the guy regretting he passed on Trout in a couple years?

    • Second overall pick? Like Trout #1 and Buxton #2, over Miggy, Harper, etc… Yeah, that’s too early. But for minor league guys, he’s the top pick. Give me a little more context though, so I don’t lead you astray.

  3. Am I crazy to hold on to Sano in a 16 team keeper league where I can keep 6? With 3B looking so shallow this year, can I pass on having a top 10 3B on my bench all year if he has surgery?

    • Tough call…what is your other option? Plus, only speculation and it’s simply rumor at this point on how bad his elbow it. Sano’s power is for real…won’t help you in the BA but could be a 30+ 100+ guy…maybe even 40+.

      • Other option is Shelby Miller or Aramis Ramirez maybe. Sano’s elbow looks good now, right? Thanks for the reply, I love your podcast!

  4. Word is that Sano might need TJ surgery on his throwing arm. How would this impact your long-range projections for him from a tools/hitting standpoint? Would the Twins consider moving him from 3B to reduce the risks to his arm?

  5. I prefer Walker to Polanco…split on May and Polanco. Just not a huge fan of May.

  6. Felix Jorge is my emerging prospect for the Twins this year. Gonsalves is another guy to watch this season.

    Walker and May are in the same tier as Polanco but I like him more than those two.

  7. I was shocked to see AB Walker in the Top 10, but think that it is well deserved. Had this kid been taken in the 1st round like he was 1st thought to be – No one would have thought otherwise about him being a Top 10 selection. Love his make up and love his ability to drop bombs over the fence. A league leader two years in a row. Any kid who can lead the league in home runs and rbi as well as rank in the top 2 for runs scored is a special talent. I will take a low OBP guy who finishes 2nd in the league in runs scored any day. He took the leadership / production role for CR after Buxton left and took CR to the best record in the Minor Leagues. What will he be able to do when he is surrounded by the talents of Buxton – Sano – Rosario and others in the near future? It should only make his contact rate better and OBP. I’m on his band wagon moving forward. You heard it here first…………….

  8. I’ve seen him play a bunch and while he could have a year or two where he hits .270 plus just based on how hard he hits the ball and therefore an inflated BABIP. However, I think he’s more likely a .250 batter but with 30-40 HR upside. Beltre makes a lot of contact, doesn’t walk much, so I don’t see the comp there. Still like the Alvarez comp and hey, that’s a really good player. A 3.1 WAR or if you play fantasy, a $20 player.

  9. Today Jim Callis posted an MLB Pipeline article in which he stated about Sano “There’s no reason to think he can’t replicate his .280/.382/.610 numbers from this season during his prime in Minnesota.”
    If that’s true, Sano is an absolute monster. Most comps I see are to Alvarez or Stanton, but I’ve also heard Adrian Beltre more than a few times. If he can hit .280 while slugging .600, that’s one of the best players in the game. Is that unrealistic based on what you’ve seen and heard?

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