Today we begin our yearly reviews of the pre-season Top 20 lists with the Minnesota Twins. This is a review of the pre-season list. It is not a new list! These are pre-season grades!
1) Byron Buxton, OF, Grade A: Limited to 30 games at High-A due to a wrist injury, hit .240/.313/.405, wRC+106. Promoted to Double-A and suffered a concussion in his first game, shutting him down the rest of the year. Lost season but still an outstanding prospect, assuming his body cooperates.
2) Miguel Sano, 3B, Grade A: Blew out his elbow in spring training, requiring Tommy John surgery. On hold until we see how he recovers.
3) Kohl Stewart, RHP, Grade B+: 2.59 ERA in 87 innings in Low-A, 3.73 FIP, 62/24 K/BB, 75 hits allowed. I’d like to see more strikeouts but in-person reports were positive. Has been bothered by shoulder trouble in recent weeks. Stock will depend on injury assessments.
4) Alex Meyer, RHP, Grade B+: 3.43 ERA, 3.63 FIP in 123 innings in Triple-A, 139/60 K/BB, 99 hits. All reports are quite good; may or may not be promoted for September depending on workload management. Should be in the rotation mix next year.
5) Eddie Rosario, 2B, Grade B: Hitting .242/.286/.396 in 283 at-bats in Double-A, 86 wRC+. Very disappointing season, not hitting up to his previous standards and having off-field troubles as well including a recent benching. Will have to study this one very closely at the end of the season to determine what’s gone wrong.
6) Jose Berrios, RHP, Grade B: 1.96 ERA in 96 innings in High-A, then 3.72 ERA in 29 innings in Double-A, 129/32 combined K/BB with 99 hits. Reports excellent, statistics quite good, only problem is a minor shoulder issue which appears to be resolved. Stock up and it was already rather high.
7) Lewis Thorpe, LHP, Grade B-: 3.97 ERA, 4.59 FIP in 59 innings in Low-A, 61/27 K/BB, 52 hits. Erratic command but reports on his stuff are good and he’s just 18, holding his own in full-season ball.
8) Josmil Pinto, C, Grade B-: Hitting .222/.323/.407, 107 wRC+ in 158 PA for the Twins, .298/.402/.512, 152 wRC+ in 199 PA in Triple-A. He can hit, his .265/.349/.464 line in 241 big league at-bats is entirely in line with his minor league numbers. Defense holds him back.
9) Jorge Polanco, INF, Grade B-: Hit .291/.364/.415, wRC+ in 432 PA in High-A, .267/.288/.317, 66 wRC+ in 106 PA in Double-A. Got a brief five-game big league look jumping directly from High-A and looked good. I like him but he needs to show more patience at higher levels.
10) Max Kepler, OF-1B, Grade B-: Hitting .257/.334/.379, wRC+106 in 361 PA in High-A. Although he continues to produce slightly above average numbers, I think his stock is slipping; he hasn’t blossomed for power and his defensive value is nothing special. He’s 21 now, so age-relative-to-league is mattering less.
11) Travis Harrison, OF, Grade B-/C+: Hitting .279/.368/.376, 117 wRC+ in 495 PA in High-A. Just four homers but it’s a tough power environment and he is improving in other ways. Stock steady.
12) Trevor May, RHP, Grade C+/B-: 2.84 ERA in 98 innings in Triple-A, 3.17 FIP, 91/37 K/BB. Control problems in the majors so far, 13 walks in nine innings. You have to like his stuff but command is the obvious issue going forward. There’s not much left for him to learn in the minors, so they just need to let him pitch.
13) Adam Brett Walker, OF, Grade C+/B-: Hitting .240/.296/.429 with 24 homers, 105 wRC+, 37 walks and 144 strikeouts in 513 PA in High-A. Outstanding power production for the Florida State League, but contact/OBP is going to be a big problem against better pitching.
14) Michael Tonkin, RHP, Grade C+: 3.10 ERA, 2.87 FIP in 41 innings in Triple-A, 5.84 ERA with 5.49 FIP in 12 big league innings. Has command issues but should be in the bullpen mix next year.
15) Danny Santana, SS-OF, Grade C+: Hitting .313/.349/.460 in 283 major league PA, wRC+127, 12 steals. Remarkably good rookie season with no signs of slowing down, mixture of defensive versatility, speed, athleticism, and line drive hitting blossomed sooner than expected. I don’t think it is a total fluke, either, he should remain valuable.
16) Kennys Vargas, 1B, Grade C+: Hit .281/.360/.472, wRC+129 with 17 homers in 405 PA in Double-A. Promoted to majors and has performed well so far, .292/.333/.444 with 119 wRC+ in 78 PA. I don’t think this is a fluke, either; he’s always hit well but was usually overlooked as a prospect due to doubts about his defense.
17) Felix Jorge, RHP, Grade C+: Opened poorly in Low-A (9.00 ERA, 23/20 K/BB, 57 hits in 39 innings), demoted to rookie ball where he has a 2.08 ERA, 50/13 K/BB in 56 innings. He looks better there but is repeating that level at age 20. Needs to try again in full-season ball.
18) Zack Jones, RHP, Grade C+: Hard-thrower limited to just seven innings this year in A-ball due to an aneurysm. Has recovered and is back on the mound.
19) Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Grade C+: Started off well in rookie ball, 2.79 ERA with 26/10 K/BB in 29 innings, leading to promotion to High-A. He’s remained strong at Cedar Rapids with a 1.61 ERA, 28/6 K/BB in 28 innings. Stock is up, could be in top 10 now.
20) Ryan Eades, RHP, Grade C+: Difficult season in Low-A, 5.68 ERA with 88/48 K/BB in 114 innings, 135 hits for Cedar Rapids. Reports from league sources say he lacks an out-pitch, which is the same thing that concerned scouts when he was at LSU.
Very much a bad news/good news situation for the Twins this year.
The negatives are obvious, injuries striking down the class of the system in Buxton and Sano. Stewart’s current shoulder trouble is also worrisome; it is not supposed to be a big deal but any time shoulder trouble gets involved, fretting is inevitable, especially when there is a concurrent decline in velocity.
On the positive side, the sudden emergence of Danny Santana is a big bright spot. I also think Kennys Vargas is a legitimate hitter and both players are symbolic of recent strides the Twins have made in Latin American scouting. Trevor May and Alex Meyer should be ready to contribute their fastballs to the major league staff in 2015. Jose Berrios has emerged as an excellent prospect, and Lewis Thrope should be viewed as a breakthrough candidate for next season.
The 2014 draft brought in a top-rated high school shortstop prospect in Nick Gordon plus a bevy of advanced college arms, notably fireballers Nick Burdi and Michael Cederoth. Burdi could advance very rapidly in particular.