Top 20 Minnesota Twins prospects for 2019
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.
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.
GRADES ARE PRELIMINARY AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE
1) Royce Lewis, SS, Grade A: Age 19, first round pick in 2017 from high school in California, hit .315/.368/.485 in 295 at-bats in Low-A, then .255/.327/.399 in 188 at-bats in High-A, also stole 28 bases; doesn’t turn 20 until June; impressive pure hitting skills with speed, power potential and feel for the strike zone; good chance to stick at shortstop; makeup is outstanding; checks all the boxes for an elite prospect; ETA late 2020 or 2021.
2) Alex Kirilloff, OF, Grade A: Age 20, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Pennsylvania; missed 2017 with Tommy John surgery; came back in ’18 with no apparent rust, destroyed Low-A and High-A pitching with combined .348/.392/.578 line, 44 doubles and 20 homers in pitchers’ leagues; walk rate is rather low but he has a good eye and explosive bat speed; tools fit in right field, Lewis’ main advantage over Kirilloff is positional premium but Alex is also an elite talent; ETA late 2020 or 2021.
3) Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Grade B+: Age 20, signed out of Venezuela, posted 2.74 ERA in 102 innings between Low-A and High-A, 107/28 K/BB, 89 hits, 1.33 GO/AO; fastball into upper-90s mixed with hard slider and above-average curve; change-up in development but has improved; usually throws strikes although general control (avoiding walks) is ahead of spot-specific command; high-ceiling, just needs to build stamina; ETA 2021.
4) Trevor Larnach, OF, Grade B+: Age 21, first round pick this year out of Oregon State University, hit .303/.390/.500 with five homers, 21 walks, 28 strikeout in 152 at-bats between rookie ball and Low-A; strong feel for hitting with a fine eye, power coming along, should make short work of A-ball level; I loved him coming out of college and this grade/rating reflects that; ETA 2021.
5) Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Grade B: Age 24, fourth round pick in 2013 from high school in California; posted 2.76 ERA in 121 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 120/65 K/BB, only 76 hits allowed; gave up 6.57 ERA in 25 major league innings due to poor 16/22 K/BB ratio; good stuff for lefty with low-90s fastball, change-up, slider and curve; stuff seems solid enough for a number four guy but needs sharper command, will try again with ETA 2019.
6) Nick Gordon, SS, Grade B: Age 22, first round pick in 2014 from high school in Florida; destroyed Double-A at .333/.381/.525 in 162 at-bats but slumped after moving up to Triple-A, .212/.262/.283 in 382 at-bats; stole 20 bases combined; defense has really steadied, just 12 errors in 103 games at shortstop, only one error in 36 games at second; question now is bat, which looked weak in the International League; given past track record and pedigree I still have optimism long-term but needs more AAA time; ETA 2019.
7) Wander Javier, SS, Grade B: Age 19, signed for $4,000,000 in 2015 from Dominican Republic; hit .299/.383/.471 in the Appalachian League in 2017 but missed all of 2018 with shoulder injury; obviously we’re in wait-and-see mode with this one; same grade as last year; high ceiling but we need to see how he fares against full-season pitching. ETA 2022?
8) Brent Rooker, 1B-OF. Grade B: Comp round pick in 2017 from Mississippi State University, hit .254/.333/.465 with 32 doubles, 22 homers, 56 walks, 150 strikeouts in 503 at-bats in Double-A; struggled with strike zone early in the year until going on a tear in June (1.038 OPS) and July (1.010) then slumping again in August (.560); huge power but with contact concerns and poor defense at both the outfield and first base; ETA 2020.
9) Lewis Thorpe, LHP, Grade B: Age 22, from Australia, posted 3.54 ERA with 157/36 K/BB in 130 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 125 hits; missed two seasons of development with Tommy John surgery then a severe case of mono; low-90s fastball, plus change-up, slider and curve are coming along well, throws strikes, nice K-rate; has occasional gopheritis but projects well as number four starter with a chance for more; I like him; ETA 2019.
10) Kohl Stewart, RHP, Grade B-: Age 24, first round pick in 2013 from high school in Texas, posted 4.47 ERA in 109 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 101/33 K/BB but 129 hits; promoted to majors, posted 3.68 ERA in 37 innings, 24/14 K/BB; see more thoughts here and also here; looks like a number three workhorse on the right day but is consistently inconsistent; ETA 2019.
11) Chase De Jong, RHP, Grade B-:: Age 24, second round pick in 2012 from high school in California by the Blue Jays; has been traded three times but had a solid year in 2018, posting 3.66 ERA in 160 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 123/46 K/BB, then 3.57 ERA in 18 innings for the Twins with 13/6 K/BB; like Stewart, De Jong has an erratic track record but looks like an efficient strike-thrower when he’s going well and did enough in his trial to be a rotation candidate with ETA 2019. (NOTE: De Jong is listed as a rookie by some sources and not by others. He is not over the innings limit but may be on service time. As compensation, I am taking the list to 21).
12) Akil Baddoo, OF, Grade B-: Age 20, compensation round pick in 2016 from high school in Georgia; hit .243/.351/.419 with 22 doubles, 11 triples, 11 homers, 24 steals, 74 walks, 124 strikeouts in 437 at-bats in Low-A; secondary average-focused hitter with speed, power, patience contributions, similar to a young Matt Lawton if you remember him; also has 70-grade name tool; overshadowed by Kirilloff and Lewis in Cedar Rapids but a fine prospect in his own right; ETA 2021.
13) Luis Arraez, INF-OF, Grade B-: Age 21, signed out of Venezuela in 2013, quietly had a very nice year hitting .310/.361/.397 between High-A and Double-A with 32 walks, 44 strikeouts in 406 at-bats; line drive type with advanced approach and keen batting eye, not much current power or running speed but a “professional hitter” type with a career .329 average; reliable defender being groomed as super-utility type; I think more power can come eventually and thus a somewhat aggressive grade; ETA 2020.
14) Jordan Balazovic, RHP, Grade B-: Age 20, fifth round pick out of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada in 2016; posted 3.94 ERA in 62 innings in Low-A with 78/18 K/BB, 54 hits; projectable when drafted at 6-4, 170; he’s up to 195 now and his fastball has increased into the mid-90s; slider and change-up have also progressed, breakout candidate for 2019 and one of my favorite cold-weather arms; ETA 2021.
15) Jorge Alcala, RHP, Grade B-: Age 23, signed by Houston Astros out of Dominican Republic in 2014, traded to Twins in Ryan Pressly deal, posted 3.81 ERA with 104/49 K/BB in 99 innings between High-A and Double-A, 84 hits allowed; throws very hard, upper-90s consistently with peaks as high as 102; slider/curve/slurve and change-up aren’t as good and he may end up in the bullpen eventually but the ceiling is impressive either way; ETA 2020.
16) Zack Littell, RHP, Grade B-: Age 23, acquired from New York Yankees for Jaime Garcia; originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 11th round in 2013 from high school in North Carolina; posted 3.98 ERA in 129 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 130/47 K/BB, pitched 20 innings in majors with 14/11 K/BB, 6.20 ERA; similar to De Jong, a strike-thrower with good-enough stuff including a fine curveball but needs his command to be as sharp as possible; ETA 2019.
17) Gilberto Celestino, OF, Grade B-: Age 19, signed by the Houston Astros out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, traded to Twins in Ryan Pressly deal; hit .323/.387/.480 in 127 at-bats in New York-Penn League before the trade, .266/.308/.349 in 109 at-bats in Appy League after, combined for 22 steals; very good reviews for speed and defense, need to see how the rest of his game holds up though I like him overall; ETA 2022.
18) Blayne Enlow, RHP, Grade B-; Age 19, third round pick in 2017 from high school in Louisiana, posted 3.26 ERA in 94 innings in Low-A with 71/35 K/BB, 94 hits; hit 11 batsmen, I guess he likes to throw inside; can hit 95 and draws good notice for his curveball, also a potentially very solid change-up; in need of further polish but career is off to a good start and has breakout potential similar to Balazovic; ETA 2022.
19) Gabriel Maciel, OF, Grade B-: Age 19, signed by Arizona Diamondbacks out of Brazil in 2016; traded to Twins in Eduardo Escobar deal; hit .280/.345/.348 with 16 steals, 35 walks, 71 strikeouts in 397 at-bats in Low-A; switch-hitter with better strike zone judgment than walk numbers imply, runs very well, could develop more power as he matures, another guy with breakout potential going forward; ETA 2022.
20) Lamonte Wade, OF, Grade B-/C+: Age 24, ninth round pick in 2015 from University of Maryland; hit .298/.393/.444 in 171 at-bats in Double-A but just .229/.337/.336 in 253 at-bats in Triple-A; patient approach, draws a lot of walks, other tools are nothing super-special but can flash power and runs well, fourth outfielder or platoon player projection, same grade as last year but down four spots in rankings due to trades and development of other players; ETA 2019.
21) Yunior Severino, INF, Grade C+/B-: Age 19, switch-hitter from Dominican Republic, originally signed by Atlanta Braves for $1,900,000 in 2016 but was made a free agent due to scouting/signing irregularities by the Braves front office, then signed with Twins for $2,500,000; hit .263/.321/.424 in 198 at-bats in Appy League, chance for a power surge soon, though Midwest League will be a challenge; ETA 2022.
GRADE C+: Nick Anderson, RHP; Willians Astudillo, C; Charlie Barnes, LHP; John Curtiss, RHP; Lewin Diaz, 1B; Jhoan Duran, RHP; Ryan Eades, RHP; Taylor Grzelakowski, C-OF; Michael Helman, 2B; Tyler Jay, LHP; Ryan Jeffers, C; Landon Leach, RHP; Jose Miranda, 2B; Jovani Moran, LHP; Sean Poppen, RHP; Luke Raley, OF-1B; Jake Reed, RHP; Luis Rijo, RHP; Ben Rortvedt, C; Cole Sands, RHP; Cody Stashak, RHP; Andrew Vasquez, LHP; Tyler Wells, RHP; Chris Williams, 1B
GRADE C: Jean Carlos Arias, OF; Andrew Bechtold, 3B; Travis Blankenhorn, 3B-OF; Donny Breek, RHP; Trey Cabbage, OF; Andrew Cabezas, RHP; Trevor Casanova, C; Ryan Costello, 1B; Jaylin Davis, OF; Michael Davis, SS; Ricky De La Torre, SS; Ernie De La Trinidad, OF; Yeltsin Encarnacion, INF: Jordan Gore, SS; Regi Grace, RHP; Zack Granite, OF; Griffin Jax, RHP; Felix Jorge, RHP; DaShawn Keirsey, OF; Hector Lujan, RHP; Derek Molina, RHP; Bailey Ober, RHP; Jacob Pearson, OF; Alex Robinson, LHP; Bryan Sammons, LHP; Aaron Slegers, RHP: Devin Smeltzer, LHP; Kai-Wei Teng, RHP; Misael Urbina, OF; Tyler Watson, LHP; Lachlan Wells, LHP; Josh Winder, RHP
The Twins system is loaded and I don’t think I’m being partisan about it.
The large group of B- guys could be ordered in many different ways, so don’t sweat the difference between 12 and 17 for example. Take a tiered approach. For fantasy purposes, move guys up or down accordingly within their grade-group depending on how important proximity to the majors is in your specific fantasy context.
I will be around to answer questions/complaints in the comments section, and we’ll be addressing the list in the inaugural edition of the Minor League Ball Podcast!
Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion on the podcast.