Minnesota Twins Top 20 Prospects for 2016
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 2016 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/A-: Biggest problem here seems to be injuries and being rushed, but I still believe in his combination of elite, multi-category tools and relatively refined skills. Still rookie-eligible for 2016, just barely. Age 21.
2) Jose Berrios, RHP, Grade A-/A: Late dominance in Triple-A (32/2 K/BB in last four starts) was not a fluke, he’s ready now, led all minor leagues with 175 strikeouts, above-average command, above-average stuff, strong make-up, durable so far. Don’t assume he is "just" a number three starter. Age 21.
3) Max Kepler, OF, Grade B+: Got stronger with physical maturity, drove ball more often while improving pitch recognition and plate discipline from decent to outstanding, dominated Double-A as a result. He’s a good outfielder, too, though he spent time at first base due to a shoulder injury. Hitting was not a fluke in my view, though he’ll need some Triple-A time. Age 22.
4) Nick Gordon, SS, Grade B+/B: Other than a May slump he had a fine season in Low-A, hitting .302/.347/.416 in the second half, stealing 25 bases and convincing most Midwest League observers that he can be an above-average defensive shortstop. Makeup also draws praise. Age 20.
5) Tyler Jay, LHP, Grade B: 2015 first-rounder out of Illinois struggled initially in High-A but rebounded and was excellent in August, expected to make conversion to starter in the spring after college career as closer Fastball, slider both plus, curve and change have potential, strong makeup, just need to see how he handles workload. Age 21.
6) Jorge Polanco, INF, Grade B-: Switch-hitter, batted .288/.339/.386 with 19 steals between Double-A and Triple-A, competent defender at both positions up the middle, could develop more power in time, age 22.
7) Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Grade B-: Went 13-3 with 2.01 ERA, 132/53 K/BB in 134 innings between Low-A and High-A, ratios not as strong after promotion. Looks very polished at times with four potential pitches, but still somewhat erratic with location. Age 21.
8) Adam Brett Walker, OF, Grade B-/C+: Enormous power, hit 31 homers in Double-A but also struck out 195 times and he comes by that honestly. Could struggle to hit .230 in the majors but right-handed power of this caliber (at least a 70, some say 80) is quite rare. Can he get to it enough? Age 24.
9) Kohl Stewart, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Will likely rank higher on other lists, but despite past draft status he looks more like an average inning-eater to me rather than an ace, perhaps along Jacob Turner lines. Component ratios are blah (71/45 K/BB, 134 hits in 129 innings), results have yet to match the stuff. Age 21.
10) Nick Burdi, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Fireballing reliever struggled with consistency, at times he showed good control (15/3 K/BB in May, 23/0 in July) but still ended up with 32 walks in 44 innings in Double-A, resulting in a 4.53 ERA. Can hit 100, plus slider, but will there be enough strikes? Age 22.
11) Alex Meyer, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Got killed as a starter early due to command issues, move to relief at mid-season and that seems to be his role going forward, intimidating at 6-9 but like Burdi he needs to show more consistent command. Age 25.
12) Jermaine Palacios, SS, Grade B-/C+: Aggressive ranking but I’ll take a risk here, hit .370/.398/.540 between GCL and Appy League, age 19, reports indicate solid tools across-the-board and a chance to hit for both average and power. Glove needs work but bat may be good enough to move elsewhere.
13) Lewis Thorpe, LHP, Grade C+/B-: Rated a B- pre-season before he underwent Tommy John surgery. Mid-rotation arm if he makes a full recovery.
14) Stuart Turner, C, Grade C+: Age 23, excellent defender, hit just .223/.322/.306 in Double-A at age 23 but posted good 45/69 BB/K in 327 at-bats. Might hit some eventually, glove will get him to majors at least as a backup.
15) J.T. Chargois, RHP, Grade C+: Another hard-throwing relief arm who has been clocked at 100, Rice pitcher with history of injuries, posted 2.73 ERA with 34/20 K/BB in 33 innings in Double-A, closed for Chattanooga. Like Burdi and Meyer, has plenty of stuff but command wobbles. Age 24.
16) Travis Harrison, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, frustrating bat, looks like he should hit, good size, good strike zone judgment, but hit just five homers in Double-A. Doesn’t have speed or defense to play regularly unless the power comes.
17) Lewin Diaz, 1B, Grade C+: Age 18, big signing out of Dominican in 2013, hit .233/.322/.371 with four homers, 17 walks, 41 strikeouts in 159 at-bats in rookie ball, size and bat speed to hit for plus power from left side but still working the kinks out of his approach. High upside.
18) Ryan Eades, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, former LSU workhorse rebounded from poor 2014 season, posted 3.11 ERA in High-A, 80/38 K/BB in 119 innings. Component ratios still mediocre but he showed some occasional dominance ability, more than 2014 at least, could still develop into back-end starting pitcher.
19) Zach Jones, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, yet another hard-throwing reliever with control issues, dominated High-A (2.19, 38/10 in 25) but had problems in Double-A (6.00, 30/18 in 27). Stuff not quite as good as Burdi, Meyer, or Chargois but he can still hit 97.
20) LaMonte Wade, OF, Grade C+: 2015 ninth round pick from University of Maryland, hit .312/.428/.506 with 12 steals in Appy League with excellent 46/34 BB/K. Drew praise for pure hitting skills and better-than-expected power.
OTHER GRADE C+: Michael Cederoth, RHP; Wander Javier, SS; Felix Jorge, RHP; Levi Michael, INF.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Travis Blankenhorn, 3B; Trey Cabbage, 3B; Logan Darnell, LHP; Mitch Garver, C; Yorman Landa, RHP; Amaurys Minier, 1B; Brandon Peterson, RHP; Jake Reed, RHP; Taylor Rogers, LHP; Engelb Vielma, INF; Lachlan Wells, LHP; Alex Wimmers, RHP
We will do the organization summaries a little differently this year, in the form of a conversation in the comments section. I will post my thoughts on guys like Wander Javier and anyone else you ask about, feel free to ask any question about the Twins system.