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Minnesota Twins Top 20 prospects for 2017

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Twins Top 20 Prospects for 2017

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 for that analysis is mine. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses.

The final grades will be finished sometime in February when organization reviews for all 30 teams are complete.

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. 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) Nick Gordon, SS, Grade B+: Hit .291/.335/.386 in the pitching-oriented Florida State League, for a wRC+ of 112. Projects as a regular shortstop with an above-average glove who will hit for average, show some pop to the gaps, and steal 15-20 bases a year. That has a lot of value given the defensive needs of the position. He won’t be an Addison Russell or Francisco Lindor-type super-impact player, but can be in the next tier of productive regulars. Age 21. ETA: 2018.

2) Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Grade B+: You can make a good case to put him ahead of Gordon on strength of stellar 2016, 2.06 ERA in 140 innings, 155/57 K/BB, just 86 hits. Improvement in secondary pitches (curve, change, cutter) was key factor in 2016 and the numbers certainly back up strong reports. Fastball isn’t always premium in low-90s but respectable for a lefty, projects as a number three starter and perhaps more. Age 22. ETA: late 2017.

3) Fernando Romero, RHP, Grade B/B+: One of the better-kept secret in the minors after missing 2015 with Tommy John, came back hitting mid/upper-90s and throwing strikes, posted 1.89 ERA in 90 innings in A-ball with 90/15 K/BB and just 66 hits; a bit more refinement of his secondaries will help but overall both numbers and scouting reports are excellent and he is just 21 years old. Don’t sleep on this one. ETA: 2018.

4) Alex Kirilloff, OF, Grade B/B+: 2016 first round pick from Pennsylvania high school; hit .306/.341/.454 in rookie ball with power (seven homers) and reasonable strikeout rate (32 whiffs in 216 at-bats) but a low walk rate (11); expected to hit for power, average, and at least a moderate OBP as he moves up, defense profiles best in corner outfield with decent range and 55 arm; I want to see how he adapts to the Midwest League early in 2017 before firming up the B+ but he’s very promising; age 18, ETA: 2021.

5) Tyler Jay, LHP, Grade B: 2015 first-rounder pitched relief at Illinois but is a starter in pro ball, posted 2.84 ERA in 70 innings in High-A with 68/21 K/BB but struggled after moving up to Double-A (5.79 in 14 innings, 9/5 K/BB) and was sidelined with neck and shoulder issues, leading to durability concerns; lively 90-95 MPH fastball and plus slider when healthy, off-speed stuff still needs refinement. I like his stuff a lot but ability to manage workload is an issue and prevents a higher grade at this time. Age 22, ETA 2018.

6) Lewin Diaz, 1B, Grade B-: Signed for $1,400,000 out of Dominican Republic in 2013, scuffled in ’14 and ’15 but broke out in ’16, hitting .310/.353/.575 with nine homers, 12 walks, 35 strikeouts in 174 at-bats in Appy League; poor defender and lacks speed but 60/65 power from the left side and ability to make contact stand out, age 19; long way off but high ceiling, ETA: 2021.

7) Adalberto Mejia, LHP, Grade B-: Acquired from Giants for Eduardo Nunez over the summer, posted 3.00 ERA with 126/30 K/BB in 132 innings between Double-A and Triple-A; heater is a tick above average with average slider, curve, change-up, throws strikes, has had trouble controlling his weight in the past and was once suspended for using a banned stimulant. Projected as a number four starter but could be more dominant if used in a bullpen role; age 23, ETA 2017.

8) Travis Blankenhorn, 2B, Grade B-:
Third round pick in 2015, hit .293/.348/.502 with 10 homers, 16 walks, 61 strikeouts in 229 at-bats between rookie ball and Low-A; has work to do with contact and defense but potent left side bat made a good impression on Midwest League observers; if you want to dream he could be something like a left-handed hitting Brian Dozier eventually; age 20, ETA: 2020.

9) Wander Javier, SS, Grade B-: Signed out of Dominican Republic for $4,000,000 in 2015; played just nine games in Dominican Summer League due to hamstring injury but hit .308/.400/.654 with three doubles, two homers in 26 at-bats, four walks and five strikeouts; has tools to stay at shortstop; hitting approach, strike zone judgment, and swing mechanics were questioned when he signed but he didn’t have any problems in the DSL, granted the sample was miniscule; very high physical ceiling but we need more data; only 17 years old, ETA: 2021.

10) J.T. Chargois, RHP, Grade B-: Second round pick in 2012 out of Rice; posted 1.35 ERA in 47 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 55/13 K/BB, 16 saves; pitched 23 innings in majors with 4.70 RA, 17/12 K/BB but still a rookie entering 2017; fastball earns 70 and some 80 grades due to combination of 95-100 MPH velocity and tailing, sinking movement; breaking ball and changeup are workable; if he throws strikes and stays healthy he could close games. Age 25, ERA 2017 and ready for an extended trial.

11) Kohl Stewart, RHP, Grade B-: First round pick in 2013 from high school in Texas, went 12-8, 2.88 in 144 innings between High-A and Double-A; allowed 130 hits with 91/63 K/BB; red flag here is poor 47/44 K/BB in 92 innings after moving up to Double-A; you can make a case as high as number five or six but the lack of strikeouts continues to concern me; has low-90s power sinker along with curve, slider, and change-up but quality of secondaries and overall command can be erratic; on the right day looks like a number two starter but on the wrong one he looks more like a middle reliever; age 22, ETA late 2017.

12) Nick Burdi, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Second round pick from University of Louisville in 2014 missed almost entire season with a bone bruise near his throwing elbow; when healthy throws 95-100 MPH with a plus/plus slider; command can be erratic but is sometimes very good; closer potential if healthy but that’s a big if. Age 23, ETA 2017 if healthy.

13) LaMonte Wade, OF, Grade C+/B-: Drafted in ninth round in 2015 from the University of Maryland, hit .280/.410/.396 in the Midwest League then .318/.386/.518 after being promoted to Florida State League; very nice swing and a good feel for the strike zone; tools are all average in general except slightly above-average speed but he’s very polished and could be a very good fourth outfielder; if power develops further he could be more than that. Age 22, ETA 2018.

14) Huascar Ynoa, RHP, Grade C+/B-
: Signed for $800,000 in 2014; posted 3.18 ERA in 51 innings in rookie ball with 51/12 K/BB; made huge progress with command after having some problems with that in the Dominican Summer League in 2015; brother Michael Ynoa pitches in Chicago White Sox organization; fastball in 90-95 range but could get consistently into mid-90s as he matures; both curveball and changeup have plus potential; needs to build up workload but a very high ceiling and could be top pitcher on this list a year from now. Age 18, ETA: 2021.

15) Mitch Garver, C, Grade C+:
Ninth round pick in 2014 from the University of New Mexico, hit .257/.334/.419 with 25 doubles, 11 homers in Double-A then was very hot late in the year in Triple-A with .329/.381/.434 mark; flashes above-average power but not likely to hit for average in the majors; was often seen as a future first baseman in college but his defense has turned out to be very impressive: threw out almost 50% of runners this year and has made huge strides with receiving and game-calling; older prospect at age 25 but given need for catching in Minnesota he is someone to track closely. ETA 2017.

16) Felix Jorge, RHP, Grade C+:
Went 12-8, 2.69 in 25 starts between High-A and Double-A, combined 109/23 K/BB in 167 innings although ratios were weaker in Double-A (32/12 in 74 innings, 83 hits); command and control are best attributes, fastball can hit 94-95 but may have better movement at lower velocities; slider and change-up have made slow but steady progress; would like to see more strikeouts. Fourth starter projection but stuff could play up if used in bullpen; age 22, ETA 2018.

17) Ben Rortvedt, C, Grade C+
: Second round pick in 2016 from high school in Wisconsin, hit .222/.306/.253 in rookie ball with 10 walks, 10 strikeouts in 99 at-bats; lefty hitter with tools to be a superior defender as well as a good batting eye, plus bat speed, and a strong 5-10, 190 build. I think he’s going to be much better than the early numbers imply but he’ll need development time. Age 19, ETA 2021.

18) Daniel Palka, OF, Grade C+:
Hit .270/.348/.547 with 21 homers in 300 at-bats in Double-A, then .232/.296/.483 with 13 homers in 203 at-bats in Triple-A; drew 56 walks combined but also struck out 186 times. Like Triple-A teammate Adam Walker, Palka has very impressive power but strikes out a lot, won’t hit for average, and is already 25. Both are capable of going on huge power tears. One advantage over Walker is that Palka hits from the left side, making it easier to fit him as part of a platoon. ETA 2017.

19) Zack Granite, OF, Grade C+:
Drafted in 14th round in 2013 out of Seton Hall, hit .295/.347/.382 with 56 steals, 42 walks, 43 strikeouts in 526 at-bats in Double-A; speedy left-handed hitter with some feel for hitting, lacks power but makes contact; has developed into a very skilled defensive outfielder with very good range; collected 13 assists on the season despite a mediocre arm. Age 24, could fit very well as a fourth outfielder. ETA: late 2017.

20) Lewis Thorpe, LHP, Grade C+:
Missed 2015 with Tommy John and 2016 with a viral infection; when healthy can hit mid-90s and shows promising set of secondaries in curve, slider, change; still just 20 years old, showed surprising polish back in 2013 and 2014 for an Australian pitcher just getting started in North America. Monitor spring reports closely.

OTHER GRADE C+ Prospects:
Luis Arraez, 2B; Akil Baddo, OF; Trevor Hildenberger, RHP; Nelson Molina, INF; Randy Rosario, LHP; Adam Walker, OF; Lachlan Wells, LHP

OTHER NAMES TO KNOW: Jordan Balazovic, RHP; D.J. Baxendale, RHP; Tyler Benningoff, RHP; Trey Cabbage, 3B; Michael Cederoth, RHP; John Curtiss, RHP; Tanner English, OF; Niko Goodrum, OF; Tom Hackimer, RHP; Travis Harrison, OF; Yorman Landa, RHP; Pat Light, RHP; Mason Melotakis, LHP; Jake Reed, RHP; Michael Theophanolpolous, LHP; Stuart Turner, C; Engelb Vielma, INF

I will be here to answer questions in the comments section and in particular will give observations and commentary on potential sleepers. I will have comments about the "other Grade C+ guys" especially.