Minnesota Twins Top 20 Prospects for 2015
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 2015 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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.
1) Byron Buxton, OF, Grade A: Borderline A-. Lost season due to injuries although scouting reports are still extremely positive. There’s some momentum in the general baseball mind behind the idea that Buxton will disappoint, but I think the greater risk is that his physical issues may be chronic rather than any real question about his tools and skills. Let’s see if he can avoid the doctors. ETA: 2016
2) Miguel Sano, 3B, Grade A-: Season lost due to Tommy John surgery. That shouldn’t have a long-term impact on his hitting. Questions remain unanswered about defense and what his batting average/OBP will look like against the best pitching, but enormous power keeps him at premium prospect level. ETA: late 2015.
3) Jose Berrios, RHP, Grade B+: One of my favorite pitching prospects in all of baseball. Fastball in the mid-90s now, solid secondary pitches with two breaking balls and a change-up, excellent makeup, good pitchability, sound sabermetrics. Projects as a number three starter and that may be under-selling him. ETA: late 2015.
4) Alex Meyer, RHP, Grade B+: 6-9 monster still polishing command but has little left to prove in the minors after solid year in Triple-A. Mid-90s heat, strong slider, change-up has improved, looks like a number two starter when his command is on, more like an erratic four or a reliever when it isn’t. ETA: 2015.
5) Nick Gordon, SS, Grade B+: Borderline B. Not as fast as his brother Dee Gordon, but stronger, more power potential, and much more polished in most respects than his sibling was at the same age. Excellent makeup and I think he has a good chance to remain at shortstop. ETA: late 2018/2019.
6) Kohl Stewart, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+ 2014 first-rounder had a pretty good year in the Midwest League, although his velocity fluctuated, and he ended the year with shoulder trouble. His grade is a half-step lower than last year but this is more a reflection of health uncertainty than any loss of ability. May be more of a workhorse type than a genuine ace but still an elite prospect overall. ETA: late 2018
7) Trevor May, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B: I may end up going with a straight B here; feel free to make a case if you like. Solid stuff, nothing left to prove in the minors, all a matter of showing whether his command will be sufficient. If it is, a darkhorse Rookie of the Year candidate. ETA: 2015.
8) Jorge Polanco, INF, Grade B-: Borderline B. Solid tools across the board, versatile, switch-hitter, has less speed than Danny Santana but potentially more power. Likely needs another year in the high minors, but a big breakout is possible. ETA: late 2015.
9) Lewis Thorpe, LHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. Classic lefty from Australia was a bit erratic in Low-A but was just 18 years old, shows low-90s fastball and a good slider and change-up when he’s on. Like teammate Stewart, there were some late-season arm worries with a sore elbow. He understandably needs more polish, but he could be the top pitching prospect on this list entering 2016 with just a little more skill growth and good health. ETA: late 2018.
10) Eddie Rosario, OF-2B, Grade B-: Tools are not as robust as Polanco’s, but up until 2014 he’s always hit very, very well. Impressive instincts and on-field effort help all of his tools play up, but a drug suspension hurt his stock with observers and adjustments to Double-A pitching have not been smooth. I still like him but some caution is warranted. ETA: late 2015.
11) Nick Burdi, RHP, Grade B-: Ranking and grading relief prospects is always tough, but Burdi looks like a great bet to be a future closer: he can hit 100 MPH, has a good slider, will toss an occasional change-up, succeeded against good college competition for Louisville, and shows sufficient command to advance quickly. ETA: 2016.
12) Max Kepler, OF, Grade B-: Still continues to look good in uniform, has sharpened up his defense, makes contact. Power still hasn’t developed, but given unusual European background and his age (21) I still think it may. ETA: 2017.
13) Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Grade B-: Strong statistical profile, projectable body, already hits 90 MPH and has a good change-up, breaking ball still developing but throws strikes and had some dominant outings down the stretch in Low-A. Just 20, could leap ahead on his list next year. ETA: 2018.
14) Travis Harrison, OF, Grade B- Borderline C+. Same grade as last year. Although he hit just three homers, he knocked 33 doubles in the tough Florida State League at age 21, continued to draw walks, and dramatically reduced his strikeout rate while going to the opposite field more often. This was while learning a new position too. Not scientific, but my intuition is that he will get the home runs back in 2015, maintain the OBP, and take a large step forward. ETA: late 2016.
15) Stuart Turner, C, Grade C+: Will rank ahead of Harrison on other lists and that’s quite logical actually: Turner is an excellent defender and that will get him to the majors even if his bat remains in its current mediocre state. If the hitting improves, he’ll get into the B- category. The slotting here is more because I think Harrison will break out rather than any slight on Turner. ETA: late 2016.
16) Adam Brett Walker, OF, Grade C+: Huge power, 25 homers in the FSL is very tough to do. More present power than Harrison but a year older and much more prone to strikeouts and trouble with breaking balls. ETA: late 2016.
17) Michael Cederoth, RHP, Grade C+: Similar to fellow 2014 draftee Nick Burdi, San Diego State product Cederoth throws very hard and has a good breaking ball, but his college track record was more erratic and his mechanics are more troublesome. Could be anything from a number three starter to a closer to a Double-A command flameout. ETA: 2017.
18) Jake Reed, RHP, Grade C+: Another hard-throwing reliever from the college ranks, University of Oregon fifth round in 2014, up to 95, good slider, stuff not quite as powerful as Cederoth or Burdi but did a good job throwing strikes in his debut. ETA: 2017.
19) Amaurys Minier, 1B, Grade C+: HIGH CEILING ALERT: Big bonus Dominican signee from 2012 class slashed impressive .292/.405/.520 in Gulf Coast League at age 18. Raw power from the left side stands out, but scouting reports worry about his swing and approach at higher levels and his defense is troublesome. Could vault up list if he shows sufficient polish against better pitching in ’15. ETA: 2018.
20) Chih-Wei Hu, RHP, Grade C+: SLEEPER ALERT: Hasn’t received much attention outside Twins circles but there are good markers here, low-90s fastball, slider, unusual palmball, throws strikes, dominant down the stretch in Low-A at age 20. Seems like a good sleeper to me. ETA: 2018.
HIGH CEILING ALERT GRADE C+: Lewin Diaz, 1B
SLEEPER ALERT GRADE C+: Tyler Duffey, RHP
OTHER GRADE C+: Mason Melotakis, LHP; Levi Michael, INF
HIGH CEILING ALERT GRADE C: Huascar Ynoa, RHP
SLEEPER ALERT GRADE C: Mitch Garver, C
OTHER GRADE C: Jason Adam, RHP; Cameron Booser, LHP; J.T. Chargois, RHP; Logan Darnell, LHP; Ryan Eades, RHP; Sean Gilmartin, LHP; Niko Goodrum, INF; Tyler Jones, RHP; Zack Jones, RHP; Aderlin Mejia, INF; Max Murphy, OF; Brandon Peterson, RHP; , LHP; Adrian Salcedo, RHP; Aaron Slegers, RHP; Michael Tonkin, RHP; Engelb Vielma, SS; Jason Wheeler, LHP.
Despite injuries to top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, the Twins farm system remains one of the best in the game. Rookies Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas developed into major league contributors a year sooner than expected, and there’s a lot more on the way. Sano should be ready for a cup-of-coffee later this year if the TJ recovery goes as planned. A healthy Buxton remains an elite prospect. Eddie Rosario and Jorge Polanco should also earn trials. If Harrison, Turner, and Walker need to prove themselves in Double-A, but the Chattanooga lineup should be awfully fun to watch and all three guys could get to the majors within two years.
Another promising bat is Mitch Garver, who was old for the Midwest League at age 23 but posted a 154 wRC+ with good plate discipline. Scouting reports are muted and with his profile he’s just a Grade C pending higher-level data, but he qualifies as a sleeper to watch. Up-the-middle talents like Aderlin Mejia and Levi Michael could have utility value.
There’s a ton of pitching. Trevor May is ready for an extended trial and Alex Meyer is not far behind. Jose Berrios should also see the majors soon and has the best balance between stuff and command in the entire group. High-ceiling arms like Stewart and Thorpe populate the lower levels.
There is a large group of hard-throwing relief prospects, with Michael Tonkin ready now and arms with big bullpen potential (Burdi, Cederoth, Reed, Mason Melotakis, Brandon Peterson) not far back. Even forgotten former hot prospect Adrian Salcedo still shows flashes. And don’t forget more traditional Twins-style command-oriented prospects like lefties Logan Darnell, Sean Gilmartin, Taylor Rogers, and Jason Wheeler, who could all be ready for action in 2015 as possible fifth starters and bullpen options.
Paul Molitor is going to have quite a bit to work with.
photo by Rob Carr, Getty Images