Feature Photo: Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Twins
Ed. Note: Click here to listen to Defreitas and Faleris discuss the Twins’ top talent on the debut episode of Defensive Indifference, the official Podcast of 2080 Baseball! You can also follow along as we publish reviews of all 30 teams this offseason by clicking here. And as always, follow us on Twitter and Facebook!
By David DeFreitas and Nick J. Faleris
Rochester Red Wings (Triple-A, International)
Chattanooga Lookouts (Double-A, Southern)
Fort Myers Miracle (High A, Florida State)
Cedar Rapids Kernels (Class A, Midwest)
Elizabethton Twins (Rookie, Appalachian)
GCL Twins (Rookie, Gulf Coast)
DSL Twins (Dominican)
Surprise Saguaros (Arizona Fall)
With young talent already acclimating itself at the major league level, the Twins’ system boasts a number of potential impact bullpen arms nearing Minneapolis to go with a collection of interesting future rotation pieces, first-division regulars, and every day contributors.
CREAM OF THE CROP
Nick Gordon, SS, High A Fort Myers | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 60/55
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/160 B/T: L/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 21y, 1m
Player Stats | 2080 Spotlight | 2080 Video
The Tools: 60 hit; 55 field; 60 arm; 50 speed – Gordon is more steady than impactful, but the tools are solid across the board headlined by a plus hit tool. The pop is below average, playing best to the gaps, but there is lots of hard contact here and a chance for his ISO output to outdistance his below-average power grades. He’s got an above-average glove to go with a plus arm at shortstop, and should have no trouble sticking long term. The speed is average but plays up thanks to his reads and instincts.
The Profile: Son of Flash and brother of Dee, Gordon is long on bloodlines and has been squarely in the cross-hairs of evaluators dating back to his underclass days at Olympia High School in Orlando. The talented six-spotter has made steady progress through the Twins’ system, tackling one level per year, culminating in an impressive campaign in this year’s Arizona Fall League, where he slashed .346/.418/.444.
Gordon has the feel and athleticism to handle shortstop at the highest level and could likewise handle the keystone should that offer a quicker path to Minneapolis. In either spot, he should be a quality offensive contributor off the strength of a plus hit tool that’s driven by a compact swing, good bat speed and feel for the barrel. It’s about refinement at this point for Gordon, as he’ll want to tighten up both his approach in the box and actions in the field before being thrust into an everyday role with the Twins, which could come as soon as 2018. He’ll tackle Double-A this spring with an eye towards growing his on-base profile some, and adding consistency to his execution on the dirt. All in he’s a potential first-division regular at an up-the-middle position, capable of providing positive value at the plate, on the bases and in the field.
Alex Kirilloff, OF, Rookie Elizabethton | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 65/55
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/195 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 19y, 1m
The Tools: 55 hit; 55 power; 50 field; 55 arm – There’s potential for impact with the stick, with Kirilloff showing natural loft, strength, quality bat speed and an advanced approach for his age and level. The speed is below average but he moves well enough to handle an outfield corner, and his above-average arm should play in right.
The Profile: Kirilloff stood out as one of the better high school bats on the 2015 summer showcase circuit, and he continued to hit his way through the fall and spring before being popped by the Twins with the fifteenth overall pick in the MLB Draft this past June. The Pennsylvania native has some length to his swing, but more than enough bat speed to make up for it, as well as impressive barrel-to-ball ability. Kirilloff exceeded lofty expectations in his pro debut in the Appy League, and he already looks the part of an impact lefty bat who could hit his way quickly up the ladder.
The straight-line foot speed is below average, but he moves well enough and shows enough natural athleticism to project as a quality defensive right fielder at full physical maturity. The upside is a middle-of-the-order stick that will hit for average and power will providing value in right, and there’s a chance enough strength develops to push the hit and power grades each up half-a-tick. He should debut in full-season ball with Cedar Rapids next spring, with a chance to hit his way to Fort Myers.
Fernando Romero, RHP, High A Fort Myers | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 65/60
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/215 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 21y, 11m
The Tools: 70 fastball; 70 slider; 50 changeup – Romero’s fastball/slider combo gives him a pair of potential double-plus weapons. The heater works consistently in the middle 90s with dance, and is capable of reaching the upper 90s. His slider is a hard breaker with good depth, and he’s reached as high as 91 mph with the offering. While the changeup lags behind at present, he showed impressive feel for the pitch – particularly considering this was his first season working back from Tommy John surgery – and there’s a chance it blossoms into a third above-average offering with more reps.
The Profile: Romero enjoyed a highly successful 2016 in his first year back from Tommy John surgery, carving his way through 90-plus innings split between Class A Cedar Rapids and High A Fort Myers. Aside from staying healthy and averaging just under six innings per start, Romero showed premium stuff out of a quick arm with some cross-fire deception. The velocity on the fastball and bite on the slider appear to be back to form, and Romero showed surprising feel for his changeup, and for the strike zone, considering there was a span of almost two years between his last start in 2014 and his first this summer. He finished the year averaging nine-plus strikeouts-per-nine, 1.4 walks-per-nine, and posting a SO/BB ratio of 6.5:1.
Romero has a strong lower half, and while he is firmer than he was two years ago, there remains some “bad body” risk. The arm works well enough that there’s every reason to believe he can stick in the rotation as he continues to progress up the ladder and, on the off-chance that durability issues were to force him to the pen, his fastball/slider tandem and above-average command could make him a late-inning, shut-down arm. Regardless of whether Romero jumps to Double-A or logs a few more starts in the Florida State League next spring, he’s poised to hop on the fast track to Minnesota, and could be ready to contribute meaningful innings by the start of 2018.
Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Double-A Chattanooga | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 60/55
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/213 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 22y, 5m
Player Stats | 2080 Spotlight | 2080 Video
The Tools: 55 fastball; 55 changeup – Gonsalves boasts a deceptive fastball that works primarily in the upper 80’s, creeping into the low 90’s, but plays up due to late giddy-up. His changeup is another above-average offering, coming with good deception off the fastball. He’ll show two different breaking ball looks, both of which are fringy at present – a slurvy curve that lacks ideal shape out of his low slot, and a short slider that tends to back up on him.
The Profile: As a projectable mid- to upper-80s prep arm out of Southern California, Gonsalves saw his star rose as his velocity climbed into the low 90s during the summer showcase circuit, before an inconsistent spring saw him drop to the Twins in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB Draft. For the entirety of his pro career, however, Gonsalves has been a steady, and exemplary, performer, showing consistency in execution steady improvement in his command and the quality of his stuff.
Primarily a fastball/changeup guy, Gonsalves took a step forward with his curve in 2016, hitting his release with a little more consistency and giving some hope that it could become an average third offering. He also throws a short slider that works better to miss barrels than bats. The arm action is long on the backside, and while he has historically done well filling up the strike zone, he lacks precision between the black and there is some question whether he will ultimately be able to develop more than average command.
While Gonsalves has done well keeping minor league hitters off-balance, and has avoided hard contact to the tune of just 5.5 hits-per-nine in 2016, hitters don’t have trouble getting the ball in the air and there is some risk that major league bats will have less trouble squaring up his fastball. If he can keep his walk rate under 3.0-per-nine, and continue to avoid hard contact against the best bats on the planet – something still very much up for debate – there is a chance he grows into a good number four or fringe number three starter, with a more likely outcome that he settles in as a steady back-end of the rotation arm.
ON THE HORIZON
Adalberto Mejia, LHP, Twins | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/50
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/195 B/T: R/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 23y, 5m
Player Stats | 2080 Report | 2080 Spotlight | 2080 Video
Quick Hit: Mejia still retains mid-rotation upside thanks to his feel for the craft and the deftness with which he wields his arsenal, but the stuff lacks pop and his fly ball tendencies leave less room for error as he begins to transition to the majors. The low-90s fastball comes with some heft and plays well down in the zone, flattening some when he reaches back for a little extra, while his slider will flash above-average, working primarily in the lower 80s. He’ll also mix in a workable curve and solid changeup, each as off-tempo offerings. Mejia works front-to-back and back-to-front with his full repertoire, at times getting too loose in the zone, but ultimately showing enough feel to project a future as a solid number four starter. He’s ready to compete for a rotation spot next spring.
Mitch Garver, C, Triple-A Rochester | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/45
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/220 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 25y, 10m
Player Stats | 2080 Video
Quick Hit: Previously viewed as a future bat-first back-up, Garver has progressed enough behind the dish over the past 12 months to project as at least a second-division everyday backstop. He’s smoothed out his movements some, including quieter receiving and better overall side-to-side actions, and the catch-and-throw game plays. There’s natural strength here along with quick hands that, despite a slightly restricted swing, leaves the door open for power to eventually emerge as a carrying tool at the high end of his outcome probabilities. Garver should be eased into MLB action this year and will likely be competing for the backup position behind newly-inked Jason Castro come March. The final stages of his development will ultimately determining whether he ascends to the everyday job.
Tyler Jay, LHP, Double-A Chattanooga | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/50
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/185 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 22y, 8m
Quick Hit: The Twins grabbed the former Illinois closer with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft and have since been developing him as a starter – a reasonable approach given the quality of Jay’s four-pitch mix and his multi-inning looks at the collegiate ranks. With 102 pro innings under his belt, the jury is still out as to whether or not Jay ultimately fits best in a starter’s role, however. His plus to double-plus mid-90s heater and power slider are both true swing-and-miss weapons, but both offerings lost some bite after a couple innings of work, and Jay’s overall sharpness waned both later in his starts and later in-season.
There’s some effort in his motion, and the southpaw isn’t overly physical, showing signs of fatigue first in late June and again in August, before transitioning to the pen at Double-A Chattanooga to close out the year. With teams exploring more aggressive uses of their pen arms in today’s game, there’s a chance the Twins tap Jay as a multi-inning power arm out of the pen – a role that would both suit him well and increase his value beyond that of a traditional back-end arm. For now he will likely continue working out of the rotation until he forces the Twins’ hand one way or the other. A return to Chattanooga to start 2017 seems likely.
John Curtiss, RHP, High A Fort Myers | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/50
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/200 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 23y, 8m
Player Stats | 2080 Video
Quick Hit: The former Texas Longhorns closer put together 61 strong innings in 2016, primarily at High A Fort Myers, and followed-up his regular season campaign with a solid AFL performance that saw him strike out almost two batters per innings pitched. Curtiss can work 95-to-97 mph with good life down in the zone and will also show a mid- to upper-80s slider that will flash. The arm generally works well and our looks in the AFL prompted a Joe Nathan (RHP, Giants) comp on the strapping righty. While control has been an issue in the past, Curtiss tightened up his execution in 2016. If he can maintain that his momentum heading into 2017 he could emerge as a quality late-inning arm for the Twins, logging innings in Minneapolis as early as this upcoming summer.
Nick Burdi, RHP, Double-A Chattanooga | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 60/50
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/220 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 23y, 10m
Quick Hit: Over the course of the past five years, Burdi has gone from a pure thrower prep arm that can touch the middle 90’s to a potential first-division closer candidate with triple-digit heat and a legit double-plus slider. Poised to break into the bigs last summer, the former Louisville closer had his season derailed by arm soreness and was shut down after just three innings of work in late April. When healthy, Burdi shows an 80-grade fastball and double-plus slider, each of which he can throw in any count or situation. While the quality of the arsenal is undeniable, and his control has improved enough so as not to be an obstacle, he will at times show a down-tick in stuff when throwing on back-to-back days. And, of course, his status for 2017 remains very much in question until he can get back on the bump and prove that he’s healthy. The upside is immense, and once he’s back and throwing in-game, it shouldn’t be long before he gets the call.
J.T. Chargois, RHP, Twins | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/45
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/200 B/T: S/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 26y, 0m
Quick Hit: Despite an underwhelming MLB debut in 2016, Chargois retains set-up man upside thanks to an upper-90s fastball and quality power breaker that works in the upper 80s. Prior to his call-up, the former Rice closer began 2016 with 46 innings of dominant work between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester, showing improved control but loose command in the zone. That control abandoned him in Minnesota, as did the consistency in his execution. There is quality swing-and-miss stuff here that could shoulder meaningful innings in 2017, but Chargois will need to course-correct and find his way back to the release that jump started his developmental improvements in early 2016.
Mason Melotakis, LHP, Double-A Chattanooga | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/45
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/220 B/T: R/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 25y, 6m
Quick Hit: After missing all of 2015 following Tommy John surgery, the Twins eased Melotakis back into action with 33 innings of work for Double-A Chattanooga. The low- to mid-90s fastball and power curveball are legit weapons, but he lacks a putaway offering against righties and profiles more as a lefty specialist as a result. Melotakis should get an audition in March – if he doesn’t break camp with the club, an assisignment to Triple-A Rochester seems likely.
Jake Reed, RHP, Triple-A Rochester | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/45
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 24y, 2m
Quick Hit: Another potential late-inning arm with set-up man upside, Reed’s struggles revolve around execution. The fastball earns plus to double-plus grades, working in the middle 9os consistently and touching as high as 98 mph. His slider is a hard breaker that flashes plus but can also saucer on him when he misses his release, making it a promising but unrealized weapon against high-level bats. Additionally, the former Oregon Duck has improved his feel for the changeup – a necessary weapon against righty bats – to the point that the offering now projects as a potential average pitch. He’s still just 24 years old, so there is room here for Reed to return to Rochester and continue to refine before being thrust into action against major league bats. But he should get an opportunity to show his stuff in big league camp, with a chance to push his way to Minnesota for good as early as this spring.
Zach Granite, OF, Double-A Chattanooga | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/175 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 24y, 2m
Quick Hit: Granite profiles as a speed/on-base center fielder with some feel for the strike zone and an ability to put the ball in play with regularity. He doesn’t elevate naturally, utilizing a swing that more easily produces line drive and ground ball contact, which works fine with his plus speed. He tracks well in general but tends to produce harder contact against righties. He’ll make the jump to Rochester in 2017 where the efficacy of his 2016 production will be challenged. If the bat proves light he could fit as a solid fourth outfielder with pinch-run utility.
Daniel Palka, OF, Triple-A Rochester | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/220 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 25y, 2m
Quick Hit: The Georgia Tech product has launched over 60 home runs over his past two minor league seasons and is poised to get his first shot at MLB arms this spring, where he could compete for a bench spot. Palka’s power is derived more from brute strength than barrel acceleration, making him vulnerable to good velocity. Tbere’s also a bit of stiffness to the swing, though the lefty slugger is working to close the holes in his plate coverage as best he can. Defensively, it’s purely a left field/first base profile, and it’s unlikely he offers much in the way of positive value at either position. There’s a chance he makes enough contact to carve out some value as a second-division regular, but the more likely outcome is a reserve bat.
Pat Light, RHP, Twins | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/220 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 25y, 8m
Player Stats | 2080 Spotlight
Quick Hit: Light can bring mid- to upper-90s heat on the regular and can pair with it an above-average splitter when everything’s clicking. Unfortunately, his control came unraveled in 2016 at the major league level and there remain significant questions as to whether the high-effort delivery will prohibit the former Monmouth ace from finding success at the highest level. He’ll compete for a bullpen spot this spring and he has some late-inning upside, though a low-leverage role seems to be a better fit considering the control issues.
Tom Hackimer, RHP, Class A Cedar Rapids | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 22y, 5m
Quick Hit: Taken in the fourth round of this year’s MLB Draft, Hackimer is poised to move quickly through the Twins’ system as a deceptive sidearmer with a lively fastball a sweeping slider. The former St. John’s Redman regularly forces hitters to work off the top side of the ball, forcing soft contact and drawing empty swings down in the zone. It isn’t flashy, but Hackimer profiles as a useful groundball specialist who shouldn’t take much seasoning before tackling major league bats at Target Field. Joe Smith (RHP, Cubs) is a fair comp at the big league level.
Tanner English, OF, Triple-A Rochester | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 40/40
Ht/Wt: 5’10”/160 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 23y, 8m
Player Stats | 2080 Video
Quick Hit: English profiles as a speedy center field glove with some feel for contact and an advanced approach to the game. Given the plus to double-plus run, English puts too many balls in the air at present, and the limited offensive upside likely limits him to a fourth or fifth outfield role.
Kohl Stewart, RHP, Double-A Chattanooga | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/50
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 22y, 2m
Quick Hit: The former fourth overall selection in the 2014 draft continues to move up through the organization despite an unrefined game and will enter 2017 as a rare bird – a potential Triple-A arm that very remains a projection case. A quality athlete, Stewart looks the part on the bump, with a strong, durable build and an arm that works well producing heavy low-90s heat that can creep into the middle 90’s. He has feel for both a slider and a curve, each of which could be average to above-average offerings depending on the day, and will flash an average changeup to boot.
He’s excelled at forcing hitters to work off of the top half of the ball, drawing regular soft contact and limiting damage despite the fact his strikeout numbers sit lower than you’d expect to see based on the overall quality of the stuff. Right now, the profile looks more like a solid number four starter, but that undersells the upside in the arm and the athleticism, each of which still retain their draft-day potential. If Stewart can find his identity on the mound, and figure out how to better piece together the components of his game, he has a chance to blossom into a quality mid-rotation arm capable of missing bats and limiting hard contact.
Lewis Thorpe, LHP, Class A Cedar Rapids | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 60/45
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/160 B/T: R/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 21y, 0m
Quick Hit: Thorpe has now missed around two years of development due to Tommy John surgery and unrelated hiccups (knee/mono) as he attempted to work back to game shape last summer. When healthy, the Aussie will show you an electric arm as an athletic lefty who projects well physically and already flashes power stuff.
Prior to surgery, Thorpe’s fastball had climbed into the middle 90s and he projects to add some more as the body continues to mature, potentially settling as a solid plus pitch when all is said and done. He’ll show a solid changeup and there’s feel for spin, with a chance to grow an above-average curveball and quality slider, as well – all with above-average command. With a four-pitch mix, good athleticism, and plus velocity from the left side, Thorpe has mid-rotation upside once he is back and throwing in-game. The Twins will look to ramp him back up this spring and get him moving as one of the higher upside arms in the system.
Luis Arraez, SS, Class A Cedar Rapids | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/45
Ht/Wt: 5’10”/155 B/T: L/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 19y, 8m
Quick Hit: Arraez raked his way through his first year of full-season ball, slashing .347/.386/.444 in the challenging Midwest League environs. While he looks the part of an above-average hit tool already, the remainder of his game comes with questions and potentially limits his overall upside. Arraez is aggressive at the dish, and while he maintains high contact rates he doesn’t walk a ton.
With a limited power profile, that places a lot of pressure on the young middle infielder to continue to maintain a high average, as it will serve as the driving force in his offensive value. He doesn’t run particularly well and is limited to second base, defensively, due to range, and he profiles long term as a pure second baseman who could see some time at third if the arm picks up a tick as the body matures. The hit tool is legit, and hitters tend to hit, so there’s value in the profile, but also lot of pressure to max out on the offensive side of things.
Ben Rortvedt, C, Rookie Elizabethton | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/45
Ht/Wt: 5’10”/190 B/T: L/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 19y, 2m
Player Stats | 2080 Video | 2080 Spotlight
Quick Hit: The 2016 second-rounder boasts a solid defensive foundation with some feel behind the dish and a catch-and-throw game that plays. He’ll show soft hands and a firm wrist in receiving, and handles side-to-side actions adequately. There’s leverage in his swing with a chance to grow into above-average playable power from the left side, and he has a solid approach at the plate – particularly for a cold weather kid who hasn’t necessarily had the reps of some of his southern-bred contemporaries. Rortvedt has the qualities of a future leader on the field, carrying himself with confidence both on the field and in the dugout. He should get a shot at full season ball in 2017 with a Midwest League assignment.
Wander Javier, SS, Rookie DSL Twins | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 60/40
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/165 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 17y, 11m
Quick Hit: Javier’s offensive upside and potential to stick at short long term earned him a $4 million signing bonus during the 2015 J2 signing period, and he looked every bit the part of a high end signing this past year in limited action during the Dominican Summer League, slashing .308/.400/.654. Though not bulky, he boasts a medium broad frame that has already started to fill in with additional muscle mass, and there’s room for the body to continue to add strength.
The swing has some whip to it, and there is potential for him to grow into average or better hit and power grades at maturity. The arm plays on the left side, and his athleticism should help him utilize his additional strength to add some explosiveness to his actions at short, which is currently lacking. There’s a long way to go, but Javier has the raw ingredients to develop into an above-average offensive contributor, with a chance to stick at shortstop while doing so.
LaMonte Wade, OF, High A Fort Myers | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/45
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/189 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 21y, 11m
Quick Hit: The former Terrapin raised eyebrows in 2016 with a much more explosive bat than anticipated over the course of 88 games between Class A Cedar Rapids and High A Fort Myers. Wade has a quick stick from the left side, working best spraying to all fields, but showed a little bit of gap power during his 2016 campaign. While he left the park eight times this past year he doesn’t project to more than below-average power, and while his average to a tick-above-average speed will help him collect some extra bases along the way he isn’t likely to turn singles to doubles on the regular.
He did acquit himself well in center field during his first full pro season, and while there is still a question as to whether or not he will be able to handle an up-the-middle assignment full time at the highest level, he at least looks the part of a potential fourth outfielder than can play across the grass while adding value in the box. He could head back to Fort Myers to begin 2017 but a jump to Double-A wouldn’t be out of the question. Consider Wade an under-the-radar talent who could fly up prospect lists with a strong start this year.
Griffin Jax, RHP, Rookie Elizabethton | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/45
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 22y, 0m
Quick Hit: Jax boasts a slender build that has drawn Mike Leake (RHP, Cardinals) comps, with a fastball that ranges from the upper 80s to as high as 95 mph. He’ll show a quality 12-to-6 curve when on, as well as a fringe-average slider, and can turn over a solid changeup as probably his most consistent secondary offering. Air Force commitments will eat into some of his developmental time in 2017, but he looks the part of a solid number four starter if it all comes together. He’ll need to tighten up his secondaries across the board to miss bats more consistently, but the Twins like what they have to work with and should keep him in the rotation until he proves otherwise.
Lachlan Wells, LHP, Class A Cedar Rapids | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/45
Ht/Wt: 5’8”/165 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 19y, 9m
Quick Hit: Wells is an undersized lefty with wirey strength and good deception in his arm action. The true “south paw” from Down Under, the Aussie projects well as a strike thrower capable of producing regular soft contact off the strength of his fastball/changeup combo – the former now working at fringe-average velocities. Wells is a good athlete who has already seen growth in his stuff over the past year with additional room to add strength. He’s a potential back-end arm if things come together right, drawing a Casey Fossum (Five teams, 2001-09) comp from one evaluator.
Lewin Diaz, 1B, Rookie Elizabethton | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/40
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/180 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 20y, 0m
Quick Hit: Diaz’s carrying tool is his plus raw power from the left side, and during his 2016 tour through the Appy League he also impressed by showing some feel for the barrel and an ability to square up quality velocity. He can do serious damage when he connects, and he connected a lot for Rookie Elizabethton, slashing .310/.353/.575 over 200-plus plate appearances. It’s a first base only defensive profile with well-below-average run, so there is a lot of pressure on the bat to develop. There’s still some room in his frame to fill out and get stronger, making him an intriguing power bat to follow in 2017. He should get a shot at full season ball with Class A Cedar Rapids this spring.
Akil Baddoo, OF, Rookie GCL Twins | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/40
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/185 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 18y, 3m
Quick Hit: Baddoo is a raw but athletic talent with plus speed and good physicality despite a sub-six-foot stature. The profile plays best up the middle where he would have some flexibility as to the development of his offensive game, which is currently built on bat speed and occasional hard line drive contact, though some evaluators see him growing naturally into a little loft and pull-side pop as a thicker left field type.
As one of the younger talents in the draft class the Twins can afford to take it slow with the Georgia prepster, easing him into the Appy League after some time in extended spring training this upcoming season. It will be a long developmental arc for Baddoo, but he’s one of the more intriguing talents in the system with a chance to travel down a few different developmental routes.
Travis Blankenhorn, UTIL, Class A Cedar Rapids | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/40
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/208 B/T: L/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 20y, 4m
Quick Hit: Blankenhorn put together a solid 2016 campaign splitting his time between Rookie Elizabethton and Class A Cedar Rapids, showing feel for the barrel and a compact swing. Though the former third-rounder boasts some strength, his swing is more conducive to line drive contact than over-the-fence pop. He will flash some pull-side power but otherwise looks more comfortable working the middle of the field. He’s a good athlete who could grow into a utility role as a 2B/3B/OF in order to find ways to get his average hit tool into the lineup. He could get another taste of the Midwest League to start 2017 but should hit his way to Fort Myers in relatively short order.
Jaylin Davis, OF, Class A Cedar Rapids | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/40
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 22y, 5m
Quick Hit: Davis was fully healthy for the first time in his pro career, and he enjoyed a solid season split between Rookie Elizabethton and Class A Cedar Rapids. Davis moves well in the outfield with enough arm for right but probably not enough range to stick in center, placing an emphasis on the development of his above-average raw power. There are bat-to-ball issues with the swing, which made it important for the Appalachian State product to log a full year of reps and continue to refine his approach. The upside is a solid right fielder with maybe 20 home run potential, but he is still a long way from bridging his current skill set to that major league contributor’s profile.
Tyler Wells, LHP, High A Fort Myers | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/160 B/T: L/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 21y, 1m
Quick Hit: Already an imposing figure on the mound, Wells’s huge frame looks like it is ripe to add additional strength in addition to firming up some of the baby fat still hanging around. The arm already works pretty well, producing good life down in the zone and at times surprising run. His secondaries lack polish, but the arm and body are clean enough that there’s a chance the whole arsenal takes a solid step forward once the big body has matured and he’s fully comfortable in his skin. Wells is a ways off, but it’s an intriguing profile to keep an eye on as the 2016 fifteenth-rounder enters his first full year of pro ball.
|1. Nick Gordon, SS, High A||6. Adalberto Mejia, LHP, MLB||11. Luis Arraez, 2B, High A|
|2. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Rk.||7. Lewis Thorpe, LHP, A||12. Nick Burdi, RHP, AA|
|3. Fernando Romero, RHP, High A||8. Mitch Garver, C, AAA||13. J.T. Chargois, RHP, MLB|
|4. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, AA||9. Tyler Jay, LHP, AA||14. LaMonte Wade, OF, A|
|5. Kohl Stewart, RHP, AA||10. John Curtiss, RHP, A||15. Ben Rortvedt, C, Rk.|
Despite the recent graduations the likes of Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Jose Berrios, the Twins organization is trending in the right direction, with major league contributors knocking on the door and and a collection of interesting young talent populating the low minors. The club is probably a year away from being truly well positioned to deal from its stock of prospects, but the opportunity should be there over the course of the next two seasons assuming no system-wide set backs.
Nick Gordon and Alex Kirilloff provide two true deal-anchoring talents, with Romero one good half season away from joining them, though none at present get you where you need to be if you are trying to land a high-end, cost-controlled major league talent. Tyler Jay is still straddling the line between future starter and future reliever, so he’s an obvious fit for trade if the new front office and would-be suitors match up in a respective reliever vs. starter projection for the talented lefty. The half-dozen power arms at Double-A and above are probably more useful to the Twins then they would be in trade (considering the risk premium that generally attaches to minor league relievers), though a healthy Burdi could be an intriguing target for teams looking to leverage power arms more aggressively in their pen.
Kohl Stewart likely remains the most interesting trade target as a high upside arm that has succeeded in spite of not fully leveraging his stuff and athleticism. The same attributes that make him so appealing in trade, however, could prevent the Twins from moving him without getting a substantial asset in return. The talent recently acquired through the international market and MLB First-Year Player Draft could establish itself more fully in 2017, opening up a wide array of opportunities as the Twins look to move towards competing for the A.L. Central title over the next three years.
As a new front office steps into the fold this offseason they are greeted with a system that is relatively healthy and a big league club with enough in the way of upside to be able to avoid a full tear down and rebuild. Gordon and Kirilloff combine to form an impressive tandem at the top of the prospect ranks, with Romero offering some upside on the bump and Gonsalves providing a higher floor and nearer developmental horizon.
A focus on high school positional talent and some savvy international signings have the organization well positioned to see solid growth in the quality and quantity of its projected future contributors over the next two years, but it also places a high level of importance on the front office to ensure the correct developmental infrastructure is in place to get the most out of a broad collection of talents that will require a good deal of seasoning and instruction. Any systemic setbacks on the developmental front could set the Twins back a few years as an organization, as there a limited amount of upper-level positional talent to hold down the fort if this next wave struggles as a group.
Overall, the state of the system is “solid” with a chance to grow to “strong” in the not to distant future. Picking at the top of the 2017 MLB Draft, there should be another two or three high-end talents infusing the prospect pipeline six months from now, as well. The addition of some advanced college arms could help balance the profile pool and make this one of the more well-rounded and impressive systems in the game.
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