Minnesota Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia - Kyle Rivas, Getty Images
Minnesota Twins Top 20 Prospects for 2013
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2013 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
THIS LIST WAS REVISED APRIL 4, 2013
1) Miguel Sano, 3B, Grade A-: I think he will be a monster power hitter. Questions about defense persist, and we'll have to see what his batting average looks like, but I am optimistic that he will make the necessary adjustments as he moves up.
2) Aaron Hicks, OF, Grade B: Substantial progress refining his hitting skills last year, tapping into his power more readily. Patience, speed, defense are also assets. Broader skill base than Arcia, but bat isn't as potent. GRADE CHANGE: This grade was raised from B to B+ after Hicks performed strongly in spring training and won the Minnesota center field job.
3) Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Grade B+: Another masher. Upside isn't quite at Sano's level, but he'll be ready sooner. Venezuelan Jason Kubel.
4) Byron Buxton, OF, Grade B+: Would rank ahead of Arcia on pure tools, but Buxton has enough rough edges for me to put Arcia ahead at this point. Tremendous speed/power combination but probably four-five years away. Will battle Sano for top ranking entering 2014.
5) Kyle Gibson, RHP, Grade B+: This assumes the reports out of the Arizona Fall League are accurate. Appears fully recovered from Tommy John, throwing hard like he did before injuries began hampering him in '09. GRADE CHANGE: Raised to B+ in spring training.
6) Alex Meyer, RHP, Grade B+: Acquired from the Nationals for Denard Span. Impressive high-ceiling arm is something that the Twins need, could develop into a number two starter if he maintains the greater mechanical consistency he showed in 2012 compared to his college days at the University of Kentucky.
6) Eddie Rosario, 2B-OF, Grade B: A personal favorite, should hit for average, draw walks, and produce moderate power. Not sure he sticks at second base. Plays with intensity.
8) Jose Berrios, RHP, Grade B: One of my favorite pitchers from the 2012 draft. Throws hard, throws strikes, good secondary pitches, nice delivery, athletic and strong, good makeup. Complete package. Just needs innings.
9) Max Kepler, OF, Grade B: German outfielder took huge step forward, tapping into his power and maintaining his plate discipline. Transition to full-season ball might be a challenge but I'm optimistic that the progress is real.
10) Trevor May, RHP, Grade B-: Acquired from Phillies in Ben Revere trade with Vance Worley. Another high-ceiling arm to match with Meyer, he struggled with control in Double-A but has the arm to be a number three starter if his command comes together. Relief is also a possibility.
11) Travis Harrison, 3B, Grade B-: He probably doesn't stay at third base, but the bat looks promising to me. Reports from Appy League are oddly subdued, but he mashed in high school and has mashed as a pro so far. Gets the benefit of the doubt right now.
12) Mason Melotakis, LHP, Grade B-: One of several lively relief arms drafted in 2012.
13) Luke Bard, RHP, Grade B-: Impressive fastball/slider combination. Bard and Melotakis have the most complete packages of the large group of relievers the Twins drafted in '12.
14) Joe Benson, OF, Grade C+: At this point the placement on the list becomes problematic, with slots 12 through 20 being plausibly ordered in many different ways. Benson's tools (power, speed, defense) continue to stand out. The grade is generous but I'm willing to write off his poor '12 season due to injuries. He really needs to take a step forward in '13, given the outfielders coming up behind him.
15) Jorge Polanco, 2B-SS, Grade C+: Big bonus ($750,000) signee from Dominican Republic in 2009 took a huge step forward with strong season for Elizabethton thanks to better strength and physical maturity. Very good with the glove at second base.
16) Niko Goodrum, SS, Grade C+: Made incremental progress refining his tools. Needs to take a step forward in '13 as he moves up to full-season baseball after two years in the Appy League.
17) J.T. Chargois, RHP, Grade C+: Another relief arm from 2012 draft, has closer potential (as do Bard and Melotakis) and should move through system rapidly.
18) Zack Jones, RHP, Grade C+: Another bullpen prospect from 2012 draft, performed well at Beloit and touched 100 MPH in instructional league, though secondary pitches need some work.
19) Michael Tonkin, RHP, Grade C+: Another relief prospect whiffed 97 in just 69 innings in A-ball this year due to improved command of 92-95 MPH fastball and nasty slider. Pitching well in Arizona Fall League.
20) Adam Walker, OF, Grade C+: Outstanding raw power, also a skilled basestealer with good overall tools. Strikeout rate is very high, and questions about contact are enough for me to be cautious with the grade until we see him at higher levels.
21) D.J. Baxendale, RHP, Grade C+: Excellent pro debut, polished, would rank higher if he threw harder, but knows how to pitch and will make short work of A-ball.
22) Nate Roberts, OF, Grade C+: Has been held back by injuries and was old for the Midwest League, but has a smooth swing, excellent plate discipline, can swipe a base, and is tearing up the Arizona Fall League.
23) Corey Williams, LHP, Grade C+: Another relief prospect features plus stuff from left side, still working to refine command, extremely tough on left-handed hitters.
OTHERS TO CONSIDER: A.J. Achter, RHP; Hudson Boyd, RHP; Tyler Duffey, RHP; Deolis Guerra, RHP; B.J. Hermsen, RHP; Chris Herrmann, C; Pedro Hernandez, LHP; Tyler Jones, RHP; Felix Jorge, RHP; Austin Malinowski, LHP; Angel Mata, RHP; Levi Michael, INF; Amaurys Minier, SS; Josue Montanez, LHP; Josmil Pinto; C; Ryan Pressly, RHP; Bruce Pugh, RHP; Taylor Rogers, LHP; Daniel Santana, SS: Caleb Thielbar, LHP; Kennys Vargas, 1B; Jason Wheeler, LHP; Alex Wimmers, RHP.
The Twins have the makings of a strong offensive core here. Arcia and Hicks should get outfield trials soon, and Benson still has the tools to make a difference if he can shake off an injury-plagued '12.
Top prospect Sano has some of the best power in the minors, and Eddie Rosario simply knows how to play baseball. Harrison, Kepler, the underrated Polanco, Walker, and tool-laden Niko Goodrum should be providing some thunder in the Low-A lineup in 2013. Uber-toolsy Byron Buxton may end up being the best of the lot, but I want to see how he does in full-season ball before pushing him completely ahead of the guys with more proven track records.
If you are looking only at pure tools, put Buxton first. But a list that balances tools and performance, like this one, requires some compromises.
Also keep an eye on first baseman Kennys Vargas, a switch-hitter with power and a good performance record at the lower levels, but with a problematic glove and a PED suspension on the books. Amaurys Minier is a big-bonus switch-hitter with power from the Dominican Republic, but at age 16 it's tough to grade him until we see how those tools actually pan out in games.
On the pitching side, Kyle Gibson looks fully recovered from Tommy John and ready to contribute in '13. Perhaps snakebit Alex Wimmers will be able to say the same thing in 12 months. There is a ton of bullpen fodder here, with a large group of impressive relievers from the 2012 draft. The system needs more starting pitchers, but other than Gibson the only one who really stands out is Jose Berrios. I love that guy, and the Grade B might very well be too low.
The addition of Alex Meyer and Trevor May brings in a pair of high-ceiling arms that the Twins needed badly. As you can see from this list, the Twins have enough outfield depth on the way up to cover for the loss of Revere and Span.
Overall, while the organization has problems, the system looks better than I thought it would when I started the process. The Twins need more starting pitchers, infielders, and catchers, but there are many interesting hitters, considerable outfield depth, and intriguing material for the bullpen.