As long-time readers know, I have been running a "Shadow Twins" farm system since 1996, making my own picks in the yearly baseball draft. I started doing my own parallel international signings in 2012. You can read all about the extensive background of the Shadow Universe here.
As for 2016, well that's what this article is for. Generally speaking I am pleased with the condition of the shadow farm system. It is quite deep in outfielders. I could use more infielders and higher-upside pitchers, however, with Berrios about to graduate and past prospects Kevin Gausman (who I have instead of Byron Buxton) and Jake Odorizzi firmly established in the majors.
Shadow Twins Top 20 prospects for 2016
1) Jose Berrios, RHP, Twins, 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. Supplemental pick in 2012 draft by the real Twins that I stayed with.
2) Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox, Grade A-: Age 21, 2015 first round pick from University of Arkansas, destroyed NCAA this past spring and clobbered pro pitching too, hitting .313/.416/.556 in debut, 11 homers, 10 steals, 35 walks, just 24 strikeouts in 198 at-bats. Power, speed, plate discipline, contact, defense, all stand out. He’s just 5-10 but fewer and fewer people care about that. First round pick by the Red Sox in 2015; I picked him instead of Real Twins pick Tyler Jay.
3) Clint Frazier, OF, Indians, Grade B+: Age 21, hit .285/.377/.465 with 36 doubles, 16 homers, 68 walks, 125 strikeouts, 15 steals in High-A. Terrific bat speed and got to his power more often in the second half, improved plate discipline with lower strikeout rate. Still some swing/miss there but can be an explosive hitter and made considerable progress. Intense player. First-round pick in 2013 instead of real Twins pick Kohl Stewart.
4) Max Kepler, OF, Twins, 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. Real Twins international signing that I stayed with.
5) Nick Gordon, SS, Twins, 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. First round pick in 2014 that I stayed with.
6) Duane Underwood, RHP, Cubs, Grade B-: Age 21, posted 2.58 ERA with 48/24 K/BB in 73 innings in High-A, missed much of the summer with sore elbow but recovered without complications, can hit 95-96, change-up and curve both flash plus but are still inconsistent, reflected in relatively low strikeout rate. Maturing emotionally, has made considerable progress over the last two seasons. Number three starter upside. I picked him in the second round in 2012 instead of real Twins lefty Mason Melotakis.
7) Jorge Polanco, INF, Twins, 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. Real Twins signing I stayed with.
8) Colin Rea, RHP, Padres, Grade B-: Age 25, 12th round pick in 2011 from Indiana State, posted 1.95 ERA with 80/23 K/BB in 102 innings in Double-A/Triple-A; 79 hits; made six big league starts and held his own, 4.26 ERA with 26/11 K/BB in 32 innings; big guy at 6-5, 225 but easy heat in low-90s; took step forward after developing splitter to go with cutter and curveball; should be solid workhorse starter. I picked him in 10th round in 2011 instead of real Twins pick Brett Lee.
9) Jharel Cotton, RHP, Dodgers, Grade B-: Age 23, posted 2.41 ERA with 114/31 K/BB in 96 innings at four levels, primarily in Double-A/Triple-A, 20th round pick out of East Carolina in 2012 took off after steadying velocity in the 90s and improving change-up into an excellent pitch. Breaking stuff still comes and goes, but with more consistency could be a fine fourth starter, could also fit into bullpen with more chance for dominance in that role. I picked him in 19th round of 2012 draft instead of Jonathan Murphy.
10) Jacob Nix, RHP, Padres, Grade B-: Age 20, third round pick in 2015; posted 5.49 ERA with 19/7 K/BB in 20 innings in rookie ball; plus fastball in 90-95 range with very good life; flashes strong curve and change-up but secondaries are inconsistent, as is his command; needs innings to iron out mechanics; mid-rotation type if the off-speed stuff develops properly. I picked him in 2015 instead of real competitive balance pick Kyle Cody.
11) Franklin Perez, RHP, Astros, Grade B-: Age 18, signed out of Venezuela for $1,000,000 in 2014, projection pick ranking him this high but I want him pointed out, 4.50 ERA with 61/14 K/BB in 50 innings between Dominican Summer League and GCL but ERA was deceptive, K/BB and K/IP more reflective of his talent. 2014 international signing.
12) Nick Burdi, RHP, Twins, 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. Second round pick in 2012 that I stayed with.
13) Mikie Mahtook, OF, Rays, Grade B-/C+: Age 26, hit just .249/.304/.366 in Triple-A (after hitting very well there in 2014) but was much better in the majors, .295/.351/.619 with nine homers in 105 at-bats. Reports from International League implied that he was pressing and "playing tight" but he looked relaxed but confident in the majors and hit great. But was he relaxed because he was hitting well, or hitting well because he was relaxed? Either way he was a lot more like the guy who was a star at LSU and a first round pick in 2011. He will not slug .619 in a full season of course but he has slightly above-average power along with good speed and a solid outfield glove. On-base approach comes and goes and he may end up being streaky, but overall should be useful role player. 201 first round pick instead of Levi Michael.
14) Austin Gomber, LHP, Cardinals, Grade B-/C+: Age 22, fourth round pick out of Florida Atlantic in 2014, very successful campaign in Low-A going 15-3, 2.67 with 140/34 K/BB in 135 innings, 97 hits, low-90s fastball delivered from 6-5, 205 frame, best pitch is above-average change-up, has made progress sharpening curveball, control is obviously strong. Could be where Tim Cooney is two years from now. Real Twins pick was Sam Clay.
15) Ben Lively, RHP, Phillies, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, up-and-down season in Double-A, posted 4.13 ERA with 111/45 K/BB in 144 innings, 160 hits. Four average pitches thrown with deceptive delivery, dominated more often in 2014. Like Eflin, I like him more than the pure numbers justify at this point but that may be a stubborn psychological leftover from flashier performances when he was in the Reds system. Fourth round pick in 2013 instead of Real Twins pick Stephen Gonsalves.
16) Christian Walker, 1B, Orioles, Grade C+/B-: Age 24, hit .257/.324/.423 with 33 doubles, 18 homers, 49 walks, 136 strikeouts in 534 at-bats in Triple-A, did most of his damage in second half. Disappointing follow-up to excellent 2014 season but profile hasn’t changed much, looks for balance between moderate power and moderate pure hitting skills, okay with the glove but doesn’t run well enough for the outfield. With Chris Davis ahead of him and Mancini behind him, faces a job crunch. Fourth round pick in 2012 instead of Zack Jones.
17) Corey Littrell, LHP, Cardinals, Grade C+: Age 23, another Cardinals lefty, 2.69 ERA with 93/21 K/BB in 130 innings in High-A, acquired from Red Sox in 2014 John Lackey trade, former University of Kentucky lefty fits Cardinals mold perfectly with four average pitches and strong control, velocity was up a hair and it helped a lot. Possibly another Cooney type.Fifth round pick in 2013 instead of Aaron Slegers.
18) Ryan Kellogg, Cubs, LHP, Grade C+: Age 21, Canadian lefty was fifth round pick out of Arizona State, didn’t thrive in pro debut (4.98 ERA, 14/8 K/BB in 22 innings) but one of my picks for a breakout candidate. Big guy (6-6, 230) with clean delivery, throws strikes with breaking ball and change-up, fastball velocity was not special in college. My guess is that the fastball MPH improves in pro ball and he emerges as another mid-rotation candidate. Fifth round pick in 2015 instead of Alex Robinson.
19) Adam Brett Walker, Twins, OF, Grade 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. Real third round pick in 2012 I stayed with.
20) Chih-Wei Hu, RHP, Rays, Grade C+: Age 22, acquired from Twins in Kevin Jepsen trade, posted 3.22 ERA with 99/31 K/BB in 109 innings between High-A and one Triple-A spot start, fastball is solid-average but has a slider, curveball, straight change, and a palmball to mix with it, along with impressive pitchability. Real international signing I stayed with.
21) Lewis Thorpe, LHP, Twins, Grade C+: Rated a B- pre-season before he underwent Tommy John surgery. Mid-rotation arm if he makes a full recovery. Real international signing I stayed with.
22) Stuart Turner, C, Twins, 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. Third round pick in 2013 I stayed with.
23) Travis Harrison, OF, Twins, 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. 2011 supplemental pick I stayed with.
24) Eric Skoglund, LHP, Royals, Grade C+: Age 23, third round pick in 2014, posted 3.52 ERA with 66/11 K/BB in 84 innings in High-A, throws three pitches for strikes and could be sound number four starter. I drafted him in 2014 instead of Mike Cederoth.
25) LaMonte Wade, OF, Twins, 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. Real pick I stayed with.
26) Isael Soto, OF, Grade C: Age 19, hit .125 with 27 strikeouts in 64 at-bats in Low-A before going down with knee injury, then went 2-for-21 in the NY-P with 10 strikeouts in late August. In between hit .346 in 26 at-bats in GCL injury rehab. Excellent left-side power potential and a favorite of many sources, was supposed to be polished for his age but performance did not support those reports. Like White and Holloway, a very high ceiling talent. 2013 international signing.
OTHER GRADE C+: Mitch Brown, RHP (Indians); Gregory Guerrero, SS (Mets); Felix Jorge, RHP; Jose Vizcaino Jr, 3B (Giants); Jesus Sanchez, OF (Rays); Juan Soto, OF (Nationals);
OTHERS OF NOTE: Seth Brown, OF (Athletics); Trey Cabbage, 3B; Yorman Landa, RHP; Brandon Peterson, RHP; Kyle Kinman, LHP (Braves); Thomas Shirley, LHP (Astros); Engelb Vielma, INF; Lachlan Wells, LHP; Alex Wimmers, RHP; Riley Unroe, 2B