|Original Published Date: November 4, 2014|
Despite little help from their stacked minor league system, the Twins played quite well, showing the ability to score runs with the big boys. Their 715 runs ranked seventh in the major leagues. The pitching is another story…
For their minor league system, it was one of those years. The Twins lost Miguel Sano for the year when he reported to Spring Training with a hurt elbow and Eddie Rosario was suspended for 50 games to start the season due to a PED violation. Byron Buxton could do no wrong in 2013 but the injury bug caught up to him during the 2014 season and he managed only 124 at-bats before being shut down in August. The Twins also expected Alex Meyer to help them at some point during the year but 64 walks in 130.1 innings in Triple-A will keep you stuck in the minors.
While the year was a development setback, the talent is still elite and assuming Buxton and Sano come back healthy, the Twins could be a force for years to come; provided they can get some pitching.
|2015 Age: 21||Ceiling: All-star
|Ht:6-2 Weight: 190||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015-16|
It’s was a tough year for Byron Buxton.
He sprained his left wrist early in spring training and started the year on the disabled list. After rest and rehab, he returned in early May for five games when he reinjured the wrist and was placed back on the disabled list. He returned for the last time in July and just started getting his legs under him when he had a gruesome collision in the outfield and missed the rest of the season recovering a concussion.
It’s hard to learn anything from Buxton based on his performance this year. However, I did get a chance to see him in early August in High-A and maybe his timing was still off, but he looked overmatched. He was reaching for breaking pitches out of the zone and just didn’t look right. Candidly, it reminded me of what I saw last year. You can clearly see the talent in everything he does. From his plus-plus speed to the ground he’s able to cover in the outfield. It’s game changing.
I saw the same profile in the Arizona Fall League but with more batting practice power – which was to be expected in the dry Arizona climate. He still looks overmatched at the plate and a little late on plus velocity and still being fooled by quality breaking pitches. In talking with scouts, they told me not to worry about what I’ve seen as the fundamentals are there – it’s just rust and youth. I get it, I see it, but I also saw what I saw; now three separate times.
Fantasy Impact: Buxton has impact tools and it would be disappointing if he weren’t a perennial first round talent. If it weren’t for the injuries, there was a chance Buxton would have seen Minnesota for a September call-up. He’ll likely start 2015 back in Double-A with a chance to see Minnesota later in the year. The upside for me is still Andrew McCutchen with more speed. 20 home runs and 40 plus stolen bases with an above-average hit tool is still the ceiling. Let’s hope he stays healthy so we can see it.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: All-star
|Ht:6-4 Weight: 235||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
The season ended before it got started for Miguel Sano as he became yet another victim of ulnar collateral elbow ligament surgery (aka, Tommy John Surgery). Since the recovery time for the surgery is much less for a positional player, I was hoping that Sano would have played in the Arizona Fall League or one of the Latin winter leagues. However, the Twins decided to play it safe with their young power hitting third baseman and wait until the 2015 season to start him up again.
When healthy, Miguel Sano has the type of raw power that rivals Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo – well, maybe not Gallo as that’s just stupid power. The power 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.
Don’t expect the Twins to automatically start Sano back in Double-A. There will be rust and the Twins are likely to be very careful with him. He could easily split time in April between Low-A and High-A before working his way to New Britain. The performance will dictate how fast he’ll move and there is precedent for the Twins promoting power hitting prospects directly from Double-A (see Kennys Vargas). At this juncture, it’s impossible to predict.
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.
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 195||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2017|
During the lead up to the 2013 first year player draft, I was so taken by the upside of Kohl Stewart I speculated that he might ultimately be the best player from the draft. Of course, that was before Kris Bryant demonstrated he was…well, crazy good at baseball. However, my enthusiasm for the right-hander from Texas is still sky high.
Stewart combines an electric arm with tremendous athleticism to bring an enticing ceiling to the 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 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. His four-seamer has natural run but he also throws a two-seamer that has even more tailing action. He also throws a slider and change-up that have both improved since being drafted but are still not sharp enough to miss a ton of bats.
Stewart’s pitching mechanics have smoothed out since high school. His balance and posture have improved and therefore, he’s able to better repeat his delivery and throw quality strikes. This can be seen in his impressive 2.48 walk-per-nine rate that he showed in 87 innings in Low-A. He also has the classic athletic look on the mound with great momentum and body control. He also throws from a traditional three-quarters delivery and therefore get good plane on his pitches with the ability to pitch down in the zone.
There’s a lot to like with Stewart and while I thought it might take a while for him to translate his athleticism to pitching ability, that’s happening more quickly than I would have thought. The Twins will likely start him in High-A to start the 2015 but he could easily end the season pitching in Double-A provided he stays healthy.
Fantasy Impact: I traditionally bet on elite athletes and therefore I’m all in on Kohl Stewart. He’s quickly transforming from a thrower to a pitcher and the upside is a number two starter, if not more. If his secondary pitches continue to improve, he could strikeout close to a batter an inning with excellent control and lots of ground balls. This off season could be the last time you’re able to get Stewart for any level of discount. This time next year, he could be talked about as a Top three pitcher in the minors.
|2015 Age: 19||Ceiling: All-star
|Ht:6-0 Weight: 160||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2017-18|
Taken fifth overall in the 2014 first year player draft, Nick Gordon has the type of exciting all around skills and makeup that should see him manning shortstop in Minnesota in few years.
Depending on your age, you can either identify Nick from his father, right-handed pitcher Tom Gordon or his now famous brother, Dee Gordon. Tom played for 21 years in the big leagues as a small, hard throwing, maximum delivery pitcher. It was a successful career highlighted by an all-star appearance in 1998 and a second place finish in the AL Rookie of the year in 1989. Nick also has a strong arm and many thought he could be drafted as a pitcher. The arm strength and plus athleticism will allow Nick to stay at shortstop with the ceiling of an above-average defender, if not more.
While he doesn’t have the speed profile of Dee, Nick has above-average speed and great instincts on the base paths that should translate into 20 plus stolen bases at the highest level. In 56 games in rookie ball, he stole 11 of 17 bases.
Where Nick separates himself from his father and brother is in his hit-tool, particularly his ability to barrel the ball. He has a compact swing with good bat speed that allows him to produce better than average pop from a body that stands 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds. His body is more like his father and therefore, there’s a good chance he’ll continue to add weight and therefore the chance to add power.
The stories of Nick Gordon’s makeup and confidence have been well reported. One story that I heard that was quite comical was during Dee Gordon’s club tryouts. At the ripe age of 12, Nick Gordon reportedly went up to several scouts and told them that while his brother was great, he would be better. While Dee has turned into quite a nice player after gaining strength, Nick definitely has the upside to move past him.
Fantasy Impact: While I’m a big fan of Nick Gordon, I go back and forth on how much fantasy impact he’ll have. The upside is a .280 batting average with 15 to 20 home runs and 15 to 20 stolen bases batting at the top of a very good future Twins lineup. Holding my optimism back is the power – you still have to dream quite a lot and believe that he’ll add strength and leverage to his swing. For now, I’m bullish.
|2015 Age: 25||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-9 Weight: 220||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
Based on what I saw in the Arizona Fall League last year, I thought that Alex Meyer would be pitching in Minnesota by the all-star break. However, the Twins decided to keep Meyer in Triple-A and pitch the likes of Yohan Pino, Kris Johnson, and Logan Darnell throughout the season.
I do understand the calculus: the Twins lost their two prized prospects for the entire season and promoting one of their top pitching prospects might not be the most prudent thing to do. Also, while Meyer struck out over ten per nine, he also walked over four per nine and you can easily argue that he wasn’t ready.
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 can induce a ton of ground balls. The ground ball rate did back-up in 2014 but was still strong at a 1.83 G/F ratio.
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. However, it will improve from his 4.42 he showed in 2014.
Fantasy Impact: Meyer will turn 25-years-old in January, so it’s time for the Twins to take off the handcuffs and let Meyer pitch at the big league level. While it would be good to have him start the year in Minnesota, the Twins could hold him back for four to six weeks in order to add an additional year of control. He should be an immediate impact to a fantasy team in search of strikeouts, but the walks will likely cause his ratios to also be high. Over time this will improve but it could take a few years. Wily Peralta is a good benchmark in terms of statistical projection as the profile and upside are similar. In short, it didn’t happen instantly and he’s still showing inconsistency but you can clearly see the finish product starting to take shape.
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-0 Weight: 185||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015-16|
Jose Berrios was dominating in 96.1 innings in the Florida State League. He posted a 1.96 ERA in 16 starts while striking out 109 and walking only 23. With nothing else to prove, the Twins promoted him to New Britain and while the sledding got a little harder, he still pitched very effectively.
Berrios was rewarded for his great first half and appeared in the Futures game where he also pitched well. During the game, his fastball sat 95-96 MPH with two promising secondary pitches in his 81 MPH curveball and a harder 86 MPH change-up. He only threw two change-ups, one bad but one very deceptive offering that showed that the pitch is there. When pitching only one inning, pitchers typically amp things up and Berrios was no exception. His fastball typically sits 93-94 MPH while topping out at 95.
While Berrios is moving quickly, reports on his command are still spotty. It’s not showing up in his stat line as he’s got very good control and his hit rate is well below a hit per inning. I wanted to confirm the reports and went to see him in an early August tilt against Yankees right-hander hurler Luis Severino but he exited after only three batters with a minor injury and I wasn’t able to form an opinion.
The biggest knock against Berrios is his size. At 6-foot and 190 pounds, he doesn’t have the size you like to see at the top-of-the-rotation. While he pitches from a traditional three-quarters slot, he is a fly ball pitcher but has not been homer-prone to-date. Target Field will help keep this concern in check but it’s a risk that could make his stuff less effective over time and push him to the bullpen.
Fantasy Impact: Berrios is a talented pitcher that is moving quickly and could see Minnesota as early as next year, although 2016 is more likely. The ceiling is a solid mid rotation starter, striking out 7.0 to 7.5 per nine with good ratios (although with risk on the ERA given his fly ball tendency). While the Twins will keep him as a starter, there is a risk he could move to the bullpen. However, if that happens, the stuff could play as a late inning reliever or closer.
|2015 Age: 19||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 160||Bats: Right Throws: Left||ETA: 2016-17|
At only 18-years-old, Australian Lewis Thorpe pitched very well in 67.1 innings for Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League. He posted a 3.72 ERA while striking out 76 and walking 32. The 10.11 strikeout-per-nine rate was the 27th best in the league. His season did end on a downer as he sprained his ulnar collateral ligament while warming up for a Midwest League playoff game. With a full season of rest, the hope is that Thorpe will start the 2015 season healthy.
Thorpe’s stuff starts with a plus fastball that sits 90-92 MPH but plays up give the natural movement he gets on the pitch. By itself, it’s a swing and miss pitch but really sets up his secondary pitches. He throws two breaking pitches with his slider ahead of his curve ball, but both have a chance to be at least average pitches. His change-up is already a weapon and partially contributed to his high strikeout rate. In general, Low-A hitters don’t see quality change-ups with the fad that Thorpe gets.
Thorpe’s pitching mechanics are solid with a high leg kick on his delivery and good momentum to the plate. He does need to work on his alignment as he can sometimes land his plant leg too far to the first base side. This does allow him to throw across his body creating deception but is harder to close-off his pitches.
Fantasy Impact: Thorpe is somewhat unknown and that makes the young Aussie a buying opportunity. Based on his age and resume, he has a long way to go. However, based on the growth he showed in 2014, he might close the gap faster than anybody thought. Lefties with his fastball/change-up combination can make it and make it big in the majors. Add in that half of his games will be played in Target Field and it’s time to run out and make him part of your team.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: Solid-Reg
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 180||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2015-16|
Eddie Rosario was another Twins farm-hand that missed significant time in 2014 but his was not due to injury but was instead a 50-game suspension for drug of abuse. When he returned, there was clearly rust as he slashed .243/.286/.387 in 87 games across High and Double-A. A big part of his difference in performance from 2013 was a .280 BABIP vs. a .355 BABIP over virtually the same number of at-bats. When Rosario is right, he makes hard contact to all fields and with average future power potential. The swing is built for contact and he could project an above-average future hit tool. Rosario has moved full-time to the outfield and could see Minnesota sometime in 2015 if he can keep his head on straight and stop breaking MLB rules.
Fantasy Impact: While the luster came off Eddie Rosario in 2015, he still has significant fantasy upside with the potential to steal 15 bases and hit 15 plus home runs while batting .280. That’s not a fantasy stud but a solid fourth outfielder on you fantasy team.
|2015 Age: 20||Ceiling: 2nd Div
|Ht: 5-11 Weight: 165||Bats: Both Throws: Right||ETA: 2014|
Jorge Polanco got a surprise call to the majors in mid June from the Florida State League and promptly slugged 1.000. Granted it was in five at-bats, but hey, the stat line looked awfully impressive. Polanco is best known for his glove and has the ceiling as an above average second baseman and an average shortstop. Offensive, he has a nice approach with the ability to make contact to all fields with above-average plate discipline. He doesn’t have much power and has at best average speed on the base path. His defensive and ability to hit should give him a long career as a second division starter or a utility player.
Fantasy Impact: Polanco doesn’t have huge upside as a fantasy asset but his ability to hit could give him short-term value during the year as a fill-in player for a fantasy team. Of course if he’s a utility player, than he’ll only be relevant in deep only league formats.
|2015 Age: 22||Ceiling: Closer|
|Ht: 6-5 Weight: 215||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
With their second pick in the 2014 first year player draft, the Twins selected a potential closer in Nick Burdi out of the University of Louisville. He’s a flame thrower who can routinely hit triple-digits and a hard slider with tons of movement that is only enhanced by Burdi’s low three-quarters delivery. He’ll move fast but Glen Perkins is an excellent closer is his own right and still has three years left on his team friendly deal.
Fantasy Impact: Future closer alert! If it weren’t for Glen Perkins I would be more excited about Burdi but it’s tough to roster “closers in waiting” for two or more years in a Dynasty League. If you have room, by all means, grab him. Just realize it could be a while before you see a return on your investment.
2015 Emerging Prospect
Amaurys Minier was one of the big international signings in 2012 based on his premium bat speed and the potential for future plus power. He’s held his on in the GCL in 2013 as a 17-year-old but really shined this past year with an OPS of .925 while hitting eight home runs. The swing can get long and this will produce some swing and miss in his game (25% strike out rate in 2014) but he is already demonstrating some strike zone awareness. Minier will likely see the Appalachian League in 2015 with a chance to also see some time in the Midwest League.