It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Our very own John Sickels has started his 2018 preseason Top prospect lists. The first one released was his own Minnesota Twins. Seems like the perfect place to start this weekend’s ‘3 to know’.
Tyler Jay, LHP
Ok. Maybe Jay should have his own special article titled, ‘One prospect you shouldn’t forget about that you may already have.’ (Kohl Stewart would probably be featured in this hypothetical piece as well. I mean, really, what happened to him?)
Jay was (and still very much is) one of the Twins’ top pitching prospects. His brief career has been completely derailed by injury thus far, leaving all of us wondering just who Jay is.
The 23-year-old can throw strikes. He was a shut-down reliever at Illinois, and came into pro ball with a four-pitch arsenal. The fastball-slider combo was advanced, which allowed the Twins to jump him over all Rookie ball levels. He excelled in his half-season, Florida State League debut out of the bullpen, and was even more effective in his first turn in the rotation once year later.
Until the injuries started.
He reached Double-A in his first full season run, but ended the year early with a neck injury. This year, he tossed 11.2 innings due to a shoulder injury. Considering his untraditional delivery and not ideal pitcher’s frame, durability was a question mark on draft day. Three years later it seems it still is.
John has him ranked at No. 20. That has a lot less to do with talent than it does with a start to his career that leaves his future a bit murky. A fully-healthy, complete 2018 should tell us if Jay is still a top-tier prospect, which he could very well be.
Gabriel Moya, LHP
Moya was the one prospect who really stuck out on John’s preseason Top 20. You won’t find him on many other lists, but he did win the MiLBy for Best Reliever in the minors in 2017. I liked what his former skipper in the Arizona system had to say about his stuff.
"I had him again in Visalia in '16, and he just dealt,". Jeff Bajenaru told MiLB.com. ”He throws an invisi-ball -- an invisible fastball nobody can see for some reason -- and he pitches in to righties. The changeup, man, it's great, and the way he commands his fastball to righties with two strikes.... His fastball is nothing special, 89-93 tops and it pretty much sits at 91, but he freezes guys with it.”
Invisible fastball. That sounds exciting.
Moya finished 2017 in the big leagues after splitting time between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Twins and their respective Southern League clubs. He went 6-1 and a perfect 24-for-24 in saves while posting a 0.77 ERA and 0.77 WHIP. He struck out 87 in 58.1 innings, not too shabby for a guy without elite stuff. He’s never had an issue with walks, and the only negative is that he seems to be a fly ball pitcher (45 percent in Double A).
The 22-year-old isn’t an eye-test dream, but behind two solid seasons in the minors, he has made it. He may never be a closer, but he could be a late inning guy that clearly knows how to get people out.
Lewis Thorpe, LHP
Here’s another guy who’s been around for a bit that you may have forgotten. That’s because Thorpe didn’t throw a pitch in 2015, thanks to Tommy John, nor 2016, thanks to mononucleosis. All that said, he’s still a 21-year-old lefty that had a terrific 2017 all things considered.
(video courtesy of Jon Tarr | YouTube)
Thorpe posted a 2.69 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 16 starts (17 appearances) in the Florida State League, earning him one start in Double-A. He struck out 91 in 83 innings while walking 33. A bit wild, sure, but a 3.62 walks-per-nine rate in your first season back after two on the shelf? That’s hardly worrisome. Like Moya, he struggled with a higher fly ball batted-ball rate, but unlike Moya, this seems to be different from earlier in his career.
There’s plenty to like. He threw 83 innings, able to get into the sixth or better in three of his last four starts. His fastball velocity can hit the mid-90s, so that seems to be back, and he controlled his change and curve well enough in his return to erase any worries.
Thorpe is young enough that he can easily put his lost time behind him and move forward. John sees him as a mid-rotation starter, and right now, there is little reason to disagree with that.