|Original Published Date: November 6, 2018|
After years of picking early in the draft, the Minnesota Twins have assembled a cadre of elite prospects. It should be noted that picking early is not an automatic recipe for success. You have to pick the right guy. That’s sometimes easier said than done.
Over the last two years, they have selected two of the best prospects in the game in Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. Lewis has five-tool potential and while Kirilloff lacks speed, can hit with plus power. The best pitching performance I saw in my travels in 2018 was Brusdar Graterol. If you’ve never heard of him, it’s time to start to get familiar. The kid can really bring it. The system doesn’t end there as I also like Brent Rooker, Trevor Larnach and Gilberto Celestino very much as well.
The major league is young and talented and with these kids on there way, the Twins have a chance to be very competitive over the next ten years.
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1. Royce Lewis (SS)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 5 OF
When you are drafted number one overall, the expectations are significant. So much so, many of the top overall picks, just don’t make it. Starting in 2013, we had a run of Mark Appel, Brady Aiken, Dansby Swanson, and Mickey Moniak. While Swanson is a major leaguer, Appel likely will not, Aiken is on the bubble, and while it’s still very earlier, Moniak might profile as a fourth outfielder. In fact, you can even argue that Swanson, while a nice player will not see a lot of all-star games.
I think that trend changes with Royce Lewis.
He’s a five-tool talent with every tool being at least a 50. He’s a double-plus runner and given what he’s shown to date, he’s going to have an above-average hit tool if not a plus tool. Across Low and High-A, he posted a 16% strikeout rate and a 9% walk rate. The power is also developing quite nicely as well as he slugged .485 in Low-A and .399 in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.
The ceiling is an impact fantasy player with a chance to see a .290/.360/.470 slash line with 30 plus stolen bases and 20 home runs annually. As I said at the beginning, I think he breaks the trend of underperforming 1:1’s.
2. Alex Kirilloff (OF)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 OF
After missing the entire 2017 season recovering from Tommy John reconstructive surgery, Alex Kirilloff made up for lost time in 2018. Across Low and High-A, he hit .348 with a .578 SLG with 20 home runs. He made excellent contact (15% strikeout rate) but was also very aggressive at the plate (6.7% BB/9).
From a scouting standpoint, the skills back up the stats. He’s got plus raw power that has already started to show in games. While he’s not a .348 hitter, he does have excellent bat-to-ball skills and despite a low walk rate, I think that even improves over time. The only thing he will not do is steal many bases. He’s not void of speed but just has never incorporated that into his game.
If you add it, I think the ceiling is a .280/.340 hitter with 25 plus home runs with a handful of stolen bases. I’ve put him as a top 20 outfielder and a lot of this will have to do with how many bases he eventually steals. Again, he has a little speed but has yet to use it on the base paths.
3. Brusdar Graterol (RHP)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 SP
I can’t believe how lucky I am to be able to scout players all summer long, at all levels and in different parts of the country. It’s a blast, but inherently, I watch a lot of bad baseball. There’s just not enough good ball players to make every game a “scouting bonanza”. But, sometimes you get lucky. You get to see a player that you’ve never seen with only limited knowledge and you get blown away.
That’s what happened to me when I saw Brusdar Graterol. Sure, I had heard of him and knew he was a modest Latin sign back in 2014. I also knew he missed most of two seasons recovering from Tommy John Surgery. What I didn’t expect to see was one of the best pitchers in the minor leagues.
In the first inning, he hit 100 three times and maintained most of that velocity threw six innings. The fastball had late tailing action and by itself, gave batters fits. His primary breaking pitch was a 91 to 92 MPH slider with tight spin that had batters flailing The change-up was ok, but who cared. The stuff was electric and best of all, he threw strikes.
The stat line backed up the arsenal I saw. In 19 starts, he pitched to a 2.74 ERA with a 9.4 K/9 and a 2.5 BB/9. Despite only being 6-foot-1, he only gave up three home runs for the season. Assuming he stays healthy, the stuff I saw said, front-line starter potential. I’m not sure I’m ready to go there yet, but he’s a Top 50 prospect for me…and rising.
4. Brent Rooker (OF/1B)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 OF
The twins drafted Brent Rooker in 2017 in the Supplemental first round (pick 35) out of Mississippi State. His signature tool was his double-plus power and he immediately showed that off by hitting 18 home runs in 62 games across the Appy and Florida State League. He also struck out 26% of the time while walking 10% of the time. His inability to make consistent contact gave me pause and I wanted to see more.
In 2018, it was more of the same. Literally, in Double-A, he put up nearly the same stat line. The only difference was a lower BABIP which normalized his batting average. So, we have the stat line that is complementing the scouting. Therefore, I would put his ceiling at a .250/.330 with 30 plus home run potential and a handful of stolen bases. With a couple of high BABIP induced seasons, there’s a chance he sees some all-star games.
5. Trevor Larnach (OF)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
The Twins selected Trevor Larnach is the first round (pick 20) last June His carrying tool is his plus raw power but based on the early returns in his first pro season, he also showed an ability to control the strike zone. In 177 plate appearances, he only struck out 16% of the time while walking 12% of the time. If he can repeat that as he moves up through the system, he’s going to be an all-star as he has 30 home run power potential.
Defensively, Larnach will be limited to left field as he’s a 30-grade runner. In fact, he might be moved to first in the long run. Both left field and first base will put pressure on him to produce offensively. While he showed a plus hit-tool in his debut, he struck out more in college so I’m going to downshift on the hit-tool and put him at a .260/.340 average with a chance to pop 30 home runs annually. That’s a nice player in the mold of Jay Bruce.
6. Akil Baddoo (OF)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
After a great debut in 2017, I was anxious to see what kind of growth Akil Baddoo would have in 2018. Well, unfortunately, it wasn’t good. While he showed great contactability in 2017, he struck out 24% of the time in Low-A last season. He did walk 14% of the time, but I would like to see him get more aggressive instead of getting himself into deep counts where the pitcher is going to bear down.
So the average took a hit because the strikeouts went up. Look, that’s not good, but it wasn’t a 30% strikeout rate and remember, he played most of the year at 19. The double-plus speed and the great bat speed are very real. The upside continues to be a 20/20 performer and at worse, a .260/.340 hitter. That’s a really good player. I’m still all-in!
7. Nick Gordon (SS/2B)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 2B
Over the past couple of years, I’ve started to downshift on the fantasy ceiling of Nick Gordon. While I do like the player, I just don’t know how much speed or power he will have. In fact, I’ve been disappointed in his power as I thought he would eventually develop at least 15 home run power. But to-date, that hasn’t happened. We know he’s not a burner like his brother, so stolen bases will be more around the 10 to 15 level.
Despite his struggle in Triple-A, I do think he’ll hit. He makes good, not great contact and could show more patience at the plate. Still, I think long-term, he becomes a solid .270/.320 hitter. However, when you marry that with 15 home run potential and 15 stolen base potential, is that an impact fantasy player? I suggest it feels like Dansby Swanson, who again is a nice player but not a star.
8. Gilberto Celestino (OF)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
I drafted Gilberto Celestino last year in most of my Dynasty Leagues. While I always preach patience with young kids, of course, I had none and do not own him anywhere now. While he’s still in Rookie Ball, he doesn’t turn 20 until next year, so he’s right on schedule. He posted a .868 OPS for the Astros before being traded at the deadline to the Twins. While a lot of his success was BABIP driven, after the trade, he continued to play well, even improving his strikeout rate.
Celestino is a double-plus runner and should develop double-digit home run pop in the future. While his approach is currently very aggressive, he does have an idea of what he’s doing, so I think projecting a minimum average of .260/.320 is reasonable. In fact, I think you could add 10 to 15 points on to that total.
If you add it all up, the ceiling is a Top three fantasy outfielder on your team with 30 plus stolen bases and 8 to 12 home runs while batting at the top of a lineup.
9. Wander Javier (SS)
Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 SS with extreme risk
Wander Javier had shoulder surgery in the spring and missed the entire season. Fortunately, the injury was to his left shoulder and since he throws right, that was a minor win for the 19-year-old shortstop.
While the injury delays his development, he’s young enough that the scouting report remains the same. He’s got plus speed, great bat speed that should translate to at least above-average future power and a feel for hitting. The hit tool is still a work-in-progress and missing the entire season hurts, he’s athletic enough that I still think he becomes at least an average hitter.
10. Lewis Thorpe (LHP)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
It’s been six long years since the Twins took a flyer on a 16-year-old Australian kid named Lewis Thorpe. He’s gone through Tommy John surgery and the normal ups-and-downs of the development process and as 2018 wrapped up, he’s on the doorstep of the major leagues.
He’s got good stuff, not elite stuff with his fastball sitting 91 to 93 and scrapping higher with a solid curveball and change-up. The best thing is he pounds the strike zone and that was demonstrated in his 2.5 BB/9 rate. If it all comes together, which is sure looks like it is, the ceiling is a solid number three starter.
11. Stephen Gonsalves (LHP)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
I really wasn’t sure what to think about Stephen Gonsalves. Was he a frontline starter or more a back-of-the-rotation starter? Once I saw him in the Arizona Fall League two years ago, I decided the arsenal and control pointed more to a number four.
He did have a solid season in Triple-A where he posted a 2.96 ERA while striking out 8.5 per nine, but he also walked 4.93. The performance did lead to a late-season callup where he had one outstanding game (his last) and a bunch of poor outings. Again, he showed average stuff and poor control.
12. LaMonte Wade (OF)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 70 OF
LaMonte Wade got off to a hot start in Double-A where he hit .298 and walked more than he struck out. He also slugged .444 but it was mostly driven by doubles as he only hit seven home runs. The performance led to a mid-season promotion to Triple-A where the sledding got tougher. His strikeout rate went up and the hits stopped falling and two months later, he’s hitting .229.
Wade can hit. The problem is he doesn’t have a ton of speed and power. He does have some bat speed, so it’s possible he can hit 15 to 18 home runs in the future. But, when you add it all up, the ceiling is a .280 hitter with 15 home runs and 5 to 10 stolen bases. He’s likely a fourth outfielder for a big league team but with his on-base skills, he could be more. For fantasy purposes, he’s a number 4/5 outfielder.
13. Ryan Jeffers (C)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 C, but may not stay there
Ryan Jeffers was drafted in the second round of the 2018 MLB Drat and got off to a very quick start to his professional career. In 28 games in the Appy leagues, he slashed .422/.543/.578 and was quickly moved to Cedar Rapids of the Midwest League. He continued to hit showing solid power and an ability to control the strike zone.
As a college hitter, you expect that Jeffers could handle the lower levels of the minor leagues. Plus, he also proved he could hit with power in the college (16 home runs and a 1.095 OPS in his draft year). What concerns me is his size. You just so see a lot of catchers who are 6-foot-4.
14. Misael Urbina (OF)
Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF with extreme risk
The Twins signed 16-year-old Misael Urbina for $3 million dollars, $300,000 was applied to a college fund. He likely will not see the states until 2024, but fantasy owners should note the plus speed and the advanced hit-tool. I got mix reports on how much power he is projected to have, but that not uncommon for kids of his age and also physicality. So much can happen over the next five to seven years. Look, he’s a Dynasty League lifetime, maybe two away, but he’s a name to know until I can lay eyes on him and get some box scores to scrutinize.
15. Luis Arraez (2B)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
Since signing in 2013 with the Twins, Luis Arraez has hit .329/.381 in 313 games in the minor leagues. He doesn’t have a ton of speed but does have enough bat speed to suggest he could develop average power in the future. He did slug .421 in 60 games in the Florida State League last season. However, his swing is more geared for contact and that will be his ticket to the major leagues.
From a fantasy standpoint, there’s not a ton of value because of his lack of speed and power. However, players change and develop and since 10 home runs in the minors can turn into 20 in the major leagues, fantasy owners should put him on their radar.