Top 24 Prospects: Minnesota Twins

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Minnesota Twins farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF)
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DETKC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)

Twins Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Nick Gordon 21 A+ SS 2019 55
2 Alex Kirilloff 19 R OF 2021 50
3 Stephen Gonsalves 22 AA LHP 2017 50
4 Tyler Jay 22 AA LHP 2018 50
5 Adalberto Mejia 23 MLB LHP 2017 45
6 Wander Javier 17 R SS 2022 45
7 Fernando Romero 21 A+ RHP 2018 45
8 Kohl Stewart 22 AA RHP 2019 45
9 Ben Rortvedt 19 R C 2021 45
10 Mitch Garver 25 AAA C 2017 45
11 Daniel Palka 25 AAA OF 2017 40
12 Zack Granite 24 AA CF 2018 40
13 Lewis Thorpe 20 A LHP 2020 40
14 Travis Blankenhorn 20 A 3B 2020 40
15 J.T. Chargois 25 MLB RHP 2017 40
16 Nick Burdi 23 AA RHP 2018 40
17 Jake Reed 24 AAA RHP 2017 40
18 Trevor Hildenberger 25 AA RHP 2017 40
19 Lewin Diaz 20 R 1B 2021 40
20 Lamonte Wade 22 A+ OF 2018 40
21 Felix Jorge 22 AA RHP 2018 40
22 Huascar Ynoa 18 R RHP 2021 40
23 Akil Baddoo 18 R OF 2022 40
24 Lachlan Wells 19 A LHP 2020 40

55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Olympia HS (FL)
Age 21 Height 6’2 Weight 175 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/55 40/45 20/40 50/50 40/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .291/.335/.386 in Florida State League in 2016. Also saved 11 runs at shortstop, per Clay Davenport.

Scouting Report
Gordon was one of this decade’s most heavily scouted high schoolers, leaving evaluators extremely comfortable with his skill set and big-league prospects despite a lack of big tools. Scouts, who were obviously aware of Gordon’s parentage, began seeing a lot of him as a freshman when they were scouting Olympia High School senior outfielder Jesse Winker. Gordon was also a regular at all-star games and showcases throughout his high-school career. After four years, teams saw Gordon as a likely, but unexceptional defensive shortstop who would hit for average and maybe grow into some power as he approached his peak.

In two-and-a-half seasons since his draft, Gordon has hit well as a young regular at each of three minor-league stops, but he hasn’t added much strength and he’s retained below-average, warning-track power this far. More importantly, his defense remains more smooth and projectable than it does crisp and mature (he booted an easy ball during the AFL championship on Saturday, for example) and there’s some concern about a lack of progression in this area. Not all scouts are totally sure he’s going to be a shortstop anymore. They’ve begun checking their watches while they wait for him to fill out a bit more and add a half grade of arm strength or develop a more explosive first step. Gordon is only 21, however, and has a lithe, lean build, so it’s justifiable to anticipate added development in one or all these areas.

Based on what I’ve seen here in the Arizona Fall League, I fall into the camp that believes Gordon will be a solid average defender at shortstop at maturity. When he fields the ball cleanly his transfer is quick, his feeds to second base are timely and accurate, his footwork is good and I have a 55 on the arm. He’s wispy and unexplosive, but I think the entire package will be enough for short, especially upon review of what some big-league teams run out at shortstop every day.

Offensively, Gordon’s feel for contact is his best attribute and he covers the entire field with batted balls. Despite fringe bat speed and occasionally excessive length, Gordon hits pitches in all parts of the strike zone and projects as an above-average hitter. The power is below average. Some hold out hope that Gordon will add strength into his 20s but, again, there hasn’t been much growth in this area during Gordon’s two full pro seasons and he’s less likely to have average or better raw power now than he was on draft day. A 55/40 hit/power combination from an average defensive shortstop is still an excellent everyday player and, while acknowledging that there is some dissent, I have him projected as such.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 4.0 WARnick-gordon-likelihood-of-outcomes

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Plum HS (PA)
Age 19 Height 6’1 Weight 195 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 55/60 30/50 50/45 40/50 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .306/.341/.454 in 232 Appalachian League plate appearances after signing.

Scouting Report
Kirilloff was arguably the best prospect in a historic prep class for Pennsylvania, a commonwealth traditionally consumed with football and wrestling. He put on quite a show during the home-run derby at Perfect Game’s annual event in San Diego, ripping homer after homer into Petco’s right-field bleachers with shocking uniformity. He projects for plus raw power at maturity. Kirilloff has interesting bat-to-ball skills. He shares some swing traits with Eddie Rosario, often striding toward first base and opening his hips early while somehow retaining his ability to hit the ball the opposite way. If Kirilloff’s power actualizes, some of what are currently routine fly balls into the heart of left field are going to become wall-scraping home runs.

Kiriloff’s wrists can be stiff and his buggy-whip swing can get long at times, which might make it hard for him to catch velocity on the inner half. For now, Kirilloff’s natural hitter’s timing and bat control have allowed him to succeed in pro ball and he was shorter to the ball as the summer went along. His on-paper success after signing is especially encouraging when you consider the rapid adjustments Kirilloff made to advanced Rookie ball after seeing high-school pitching in Western Pennsylvania all spring. He should be at least an average hitter at peak but projecting the bat here is a little foggier because of the swing’s unique qualities.

An average runner with a plus arm, Kirilloff projects in right field where he could be an above-average defender in time. He could become an above-average everyday player, but is obviously a great distance from the Majors.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.8 WAR

alex-kirilloff-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 4th Round, 2013 from Cathedral Catholic (CA)
Age 22 Height 6’5 Weight 190 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
50/55 45/50 55/60 45/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 30% strikeout rate at Double-A. Allowed BABIP around .250 at both High-A and Double-A levels.

Scouting Report
While he frequently sat 89-92 mph in starts this year, Gonsalves has mostly been 86-90 and touching 92 in the Arizona Fall League and is still somehow missing bats with a heater in that range. This could be, in part, because of the deceptive ease in Gonsalves’ delivery and could also be attributed to the fastball spin rates he posts, which approach 2400 rpm. Like many pitchers with above-average spin rates, Gonsalves’ fastball plays well up in the zone and above it. It’s strange to think of an upper-80s fastball that is often up in the hitting zone as an above-average pitch, but I think that’s in play here because hitters routinely swing completely underneath it. Gonsalves’s fastball command is below average and he’s struggled with walks upon promotion to High- and Double-A each of the last two seasons. His swan-like, low-effort delivery (I got a Madison Bumgarner comp on the mechanics) is easy but Gonsalves’ long levers magnify pitch-to-pitch variances that impact his command and he often struggles to locate. He can work toward both sides of the plate but doesn’t hit the corners with regularity and it often looks like he’s nibbling. The delivery’s ease allows for some projection, though, and he should develop at least average command.

Gonsalves’ best secondary offering is easily his changeup, a low-80s pitch that vanishes down and away from right-handed hitters and projects to plus. He supports the fastball and changeup with a fringe average slider in the mid-80s. It’s been 83-85 in the Fall League with short, almost cutter-like movement. Gonsalves has shown an ability to locate this pitch to his glove side with some regularity and it plays up against lefties due to Gonsalves’ arm slot and because he pitches on the first-base side of the rubber. The fastball/changeup combination should thwart righties while the deception will help against lefties. Overall I think this is a league-average, No. 4 starter with a chance for a half grade better than that if the command develops beyond current projections.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 4.0 WAR

stephen-gonsalves-likelihood-of-outcomes

4. Tyler Jay, LHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Illinois
Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 180 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 55/60 45/50 45/50 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Averaged 5.1 innings per start at High-A.

Scouting Report
Scouts still haven’t decided whether Jay is a starter or reliever. He was by far Illinois’ best arm as an amateur and yet spent his draft year in the Illini bullpen. This made Jay particularly difficult for crosscheckers and directors to scout, and he would sometimes go entire weekends without throwing at all. It also made it impossible to tell whether Jay’s stuff would hold deep into games (he made just one start and sat 93-95 for most of the game as a junior) or over the course of an entire starter’s season. When Jay would finally appear, he’d show a quality four-pitch mix led by the same fastball/slider combination that headlines his repertoire today. Minnesota drafted him sixth overall last year and let him finish 2015 in the bullpen.

The 2016 campaign did not yield clarity. Jay’s stuff and command were inconsistent throughout the year. He was moved up to Double-A after mid-year success as a starter for High-A Fort Myers and then into the Chattanooga bullpen in July to limit his innings total. He was shut down in August with a minor nerve issue in his neck called neuropraxia. He missed the rest of the year.

Jay’s fastball, mostly 91-95, is plus and has big, late tail to it. His slider, also plus, is the chic, upper-80s power slider that’s becoming more pervasive throughout baseball. Jay’s curveball and changeup receive fringe-average grades and his command is below average. Scouts have begun to question the length of the arm action as well as stiffness through the delivery’s finish. This not only has scouts concerned about the future control/command profile but also the development of the changeup.

This is a potentially dominant fastball/slider combination but the modest list of concerns scouts had about Jay as an amateur has grown a bit in the last 18 months. It’s still very possible for Jay to become a No. 3 starter but the needle is shifting more toward a role beneath that, either as more of a No. 4 starter or a potentially dominant two-pitch reliever.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.9 WAR

tyler-jay-likelihood-of-outcomes

45 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2011 from Dominican Republic
Age 24 Height 6’3 Weight 195 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
50/50 55/55 45/50 50/55 50/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded average spin rate of 2500 rpm on fastball in lone big-league outing.

Scouting Report
In 2015, Mejia tested positive for sibutramine, a chemical found in weight-loss drugs. It was removed from the medical market a few years ago after the FDA found that it increased the likelihood of cardiovascular events like stroke. Mejia is indeed a rotund young man, but unless his body goes so far backwards that it begins to suppress his command, it isn’t going to matter. Mejia commands the entirety of his four-pitch mix and gets the most out of average stuff. His fastball sits 89-92 and will touch 94 with a bit of late wiggle. He maintains his fastball arm speed on an average changeup that flashes above and could mature there, but the slider is Mejia’s best secondary offering and he locates it well to both sides of the plate.

Mejia can pitch backwards and throw either of his two breaking balls (the curveball is fringey, but a nice change of pace) for strikes in any count. His delivery is compact and repeatable and Mejia should have plus command at peak. The body is completely devoid of projection and, except for maybe another half grade on the changeup because of reps, the stuff has essentially reached maturity. Mejia profiles as a near slam-dunk No. 4 or 5 starter and is very likely to begin 2017 in Minnesota’s rotation.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 6.0 WAR

adalberto-mejia-likelihood-of-outcomes

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic
Age 18 Height 6’1 Weight 165 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 30/50 20/45 55/60 40/55 55/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Spent 2016 in Dominican Summer League and played just nine games there.

Scouting Report
Javier missed much of 2016 with a hamstring injury but raked in his brief DSL stint. He took BP during instructional league and has continued to grow into some of the strength international scouts expected of him as an amateur. His wrists are still weak through contact, but he’s continued to make strides with his bat control and timing, both of which were already improving as Javier’s signing day approached back in 2015. His frame is going to fill out — of that scouts are certain — but there’s some dissent about just how much more is going to come and whether or not Javier will be able to remain at shortstop long term. He was a 40 runner down the line as an amateur but a 55 runner in the 60 yard dash, a sign that his first few steps lacked the explosion he’ll eventually need to develop at shortstop. That was beginning to come before Javier’s hamstring injury. He has the actions for short and his arm projects to plus at maturity so, even if he ends up with average range, there’s probably enough here to remain at short.

If everything comes together, Javier could play above-average defense at shortstop while hitting 12-15 homers. His foreseeable ceiling is that of a first-division regular but of course he’s only 17 and quite raw. The Twins gave Javier $4 million during the 2015 July 2 period, just $250,000 less than Kevin Maitan would get the following year. He has arguably the most upside in this system.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2011 from Dominican Republic
Age 22 Height 6’0 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
60/60 55/60 45/50 45/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Produced 27% strikeout rate and just 4% walk rate at High-A in 2016.

Scouting Report
Despite a healthy season that included plenty of strike-throwing, as well as glimpses of upper-90s velocity, Romero’s delivery and body concern scouts. Romero doesn’t incorporate his lower half into his delivery and instead relies almost entirely on his arm to generate a fastball in the 93-98 mph range. Romero has already had an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction. He made 16 starts this season after making 15 combined starts from 2012 through 2015, but he was still touching 96 during instructional league.

Romero’s slider projects to plus. It’s hard, 86-90, breaks late and has surprising vertical action for a slider at that velocity. It’s his primary weapon against both left- and right-handed hitters. Romero’s changeup projection is tough to nail down. He’ll flash an above-average one but Romero’s delivery and athleticism aren’t the sort that usually elicit significant changeup projection. On the other hand, this is a 21-year-old who essentially missed two full seasons due to injury, and he hasn’t had much chance to develop that change. Independent of the concerns about the health and delivery, I think Romero has a mid-rotation starter’s repertoire. The concerns about the body, athleticism and delivery add to the pool of risk. If he can get another healthy season under his belt, Romero could be near the top of this list next year.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.0 WAR

fernando-romero-likelihood-of-outcomes

8. Kohl Stewart, RHP
Drafted: 1st Round, 2013 from Pius X HS (TX)
Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 50/55 50/55 40/45 40/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Strikeout rate dropped from 21% to 12% after promotion to Double-A.

Scouting Report
The Twins drafted Stewart fourth overall in 2013 and bought him out of a scholarship to play quarterback at Texas A&M. At the time, Stewart was touching 97 with a hammer curveball and eliciting big-time projection because of his prototypical build and two-sport pedigree. Since then, Stewart has dealt with numerous injuries (he stepped on something sharp at a Fort Myers beach and suffered a foot injury in ’13, had recurring shoulder issues in 2014, elbow inflammation in 2015 and then biceps tendinitis in 2016) that have hampered his development and effectiveness ,but scouts still see the stuff of a league-average starter when he’s healthy.

Stewart’s fastball is a heavy 91-96 and helped him create a nearly 3-to-1 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio this season according to the data at MLBfarm. The rest of Stewart’s four-pitch mix is headlined by an above-average curveball that’s still effective but hasn’t developed into the dominant offering scouts thought it would when Stewart was an amateur. His upper-80s slider is average and induces weak contact more than it misses bats — like a short, two-plane cutter. Stewart’s changeup is below average, but he may not need a good one if he can improve his usage and command of the fastball and slider. His two-sport background and young age relative to level (he made 19 starts at Double-A as a 21-year old this year) allow for some projection on the command and the secondaries. He looks more like a sinkerballing No. 4 starter than a dominant, upper-crust arm at this point but should still yield solid big-league innings.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.1 WAR

kohl-stewart-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Verona HS (WI)
Age 19 Height 5’10 Weight 190 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 50/55 20/50 30/20 30/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Pre-draft bat speed was ranked in class’ 93rd percentile, according to PG/Zepp .

Scouting Report
Rortvedt has an impressive physique, above-average bat speed and loft-inducing plane in his swing, which all give him rare power potential for a catching prospect. His swing can get long at times, but Rortvedt barely struck out in his pro debut, which was surprising to those who thought it might be a tough transition to pro ball after Rortvedt saw prep pitching in Wisconsin for four years. Those concerns were mirrored on the defensive side of things where Rortvedt clearly has the physical tools to be a passable defensive catcher but was old for his graduating class and, again, hasn’t exactly had to catch pro-quality stuff until now. He looked fine catching all but the best of velocity during his summer showcases, and he’s especially twitchy for a catcher. Coupled with an above-average arm, Rortvedt should be a solid-average defender at maturity. The quality of his contact will need to improve if he’s going to tap into that power and the bust rate for teenage catchers is extremely high, but he’s a potential above-average regular if everything comes together.

Drafted: 9th Round, 2013 from New Mexico
Age 26 Height 6’1 Weight 220 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 50/50 40/45 20/20 45/50 45/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .257/.334/.419 at Double-A in 2016.

Scouting Report
Garver does enough to remain at catcher with passable receiving, ball-blocking and arm strength. He’s remained energetic throughout his entire Arizona Fall League assignment despite a full season’s worth of catching under his belt and, especially with fellow Minnesota pitchers, his pitch-calling is much better than it was last fall. Once a questionable defender, his glove now projects to average. Garver has average raw power and he could run into a dozen or so homers per year with limited catcher’s at-bats even with a conservative, take-what-is-given approach that leads to a lot of ground balls. There are some who wonder if Garver’s collection of vanilla tools merits everyday duty, but he’s a high probability backup at the very least and more likely a low-end regular.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.2 WAR

mitch-garver-likelihood-of-outcomes

40 FV Prospects

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2013 from Georgia Tech
Age 25 Height 6’2 Weight 225 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 60/60 40/50 50/50 45/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Has recorded total of 66 home runs over last two seasons.

Scouting Report
Palka has plus raw pull power and gets to all of it in games because of his pull-happy, uppercut, beer-league softball swing. He hit 29 homers in the Cal League but the industry was a little skeptical about the power because of Palka’s age, the level of play and the hitter-friendly nature of the league. Palka came to the Arizona Fall League last year and all of baseball got a firsthand look at how much power was actually in there. This year, Palka’s big leg kick became smoother and more controlled, which resulted in better timing. Indeed, despite a move out of the Cal League and to Double-A this year, Palka actually slugged better than he did in 2015.

The home runs are a side dish to a main course of strikeouts. Palka’s ISO ticked up this year but so did his strikeout rate and he struck out at a 38.6% clip in 223 Triple-A plate appearances. Palka’s weight transfer is so aggressive that he’s often way out on his front foot against breaking balls and unable to do anything with them. His contact numbers against both left- and right-handed pitchers are troubling, so this isn’t an issue that can just be solved by putting Palka in a platoon. The potential saving grace for Palka is his eye for the strike zone, which has consistently yielded solid walk rates. He could be a three-true-outcomes, low-end regular if his walk rate holds into the Majors and allows for OBPs in the .340 range, but there’s a chance he’s a Quad-A hitter. Palka has a plus arm and fits best defensively in right field. He was acquired from Arizona for Chris Hermann last fall.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.4 WAR

daniel-palka-likelihood-of-outcomes

12. Zack Granite, CF
Drafted: 14th Round, 2013 from Seton Hall
Age 24 Height 6’0 Weight 175 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 40/40 20/30 70/70 55/60 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded nearly even walk and strikeout totals (42 BB, 43 K) in 584 Double-A plate appearances in 2016. Saved 12 in 107 games as center fielder, per Clay Davenport.

Scouting Report
Granite is a 70 runner and plays an above-average center field. His hand-eye coordination and minimalist ground-ball approach to hitting lead to constant, worm-killing contact. It also leads to zero game power. Granite’s swing is extremely linear and his approach includes mostly bunting, slashing and sprinting his way on base. He was successful this year to the tune of a .295 average. He also stole 56 bases. This approach probably won’t work as well at the major-league level with better defenses but Granite’s BABIP this season was a modest .312 and he still found his way on base consistently. Granite’s ability to play center field well, run and put the bat on the ball points toward a near-certain big-league role of some kind, but it will likely be as a fourth or fifth outfielder because of the lack of power.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 7.4 WAR

zack-granite-likelihood-of-outcomes

13. Lewis Thorpe, LHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Australia
Age 21 Height 6’1 Weight 160 Bat/Throw R/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 45/55 55/60 50/60 40/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Didn’t play in 2016.

Scouting Report
Thorpe has missed two full seasons rehabbing from Tommy John while also enduring mononucleosis along the way. Before injury, Thorpe looked like an Australian version of Julio Urias. He carved through full-season ball as a teenager in 2014 armed with good stuff, advanced sequencing and a mature ability to hold runners. When healthy, Thorpedo sat 89-93 and was touching 95 with nasty arm-side run. The arm action was explosive but violent despite relative stillness throughout the rest of the delivery. In addition to the velocity, Thorpe had a potential plus curveball, plus changeup and was flashing signs of an impact cutter/slider during his second pro season. He profiled as a potential No. 3 starter before he was consumed by health issues. He’s purely a wait-and-see prospect at this point, and he’ll probably have to pitch through multiple healthy seasons to allay concerns about the violence in the delivery and of his modest size.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2015 from Pottsville HS (PA)
Age 20 Height 6’1 Weight 195 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/55 45/50 30/45 40/30 40/45 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Produced .261 ISO in Appy League.

Scouting Report
Blankenhorn is hitterishly short to the ball, tracks pitches well and has some barrel control. He’s a potential above-average hitter at maturity. He has average bat speed and produces fringe-average raw power right now. That might improve in the future, but only by a half grade, as Blankenhorn’s body is already relatively mature. He spent most of 2016 at second base and most of 2015 at third, but he’s played first base and left field as well and, while I think he’ll line up most often at third base, positional versatility will only allow his bat to get into the lineup more often. He has an average arm. It’s unlikely that Blankenhorn’s power will play at a corner every day and he profiles as more of a bat-first utility man in the Greg Dobbs mold, or as a below-average regular.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.9 WAR

travis-blankenhorn-likelihood-of-outcomes

15. J.T. Chargois, RHP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2012 from Rice
Age 26 Height 6’3 Weight 200 Bat/Throw B/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
70/70 55/60 40/45 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded average fastball velocity of 97 mph during big-league stint. Strikeout rate dropped from 29% at Triple-A to 17% in the big leagues.

Scouting Report
Chargois’ fastball/slider combination points toward something between a middle-relief and setup type of role. His fastball will crest triple digits and sits 94-99. Chargois’ upper-80s slider doesn’t bite especially hard, but it has slurvy length at a rare velocity and should be an above-average pitch at peak. His stuff didn’t play in a short big-league stint this year and some are concerned that the lack of plane and movement on the fastball makes it easy to elevate. There might be slider and command refinement still to come here, as Chargois missed significant development time, the entire 2013 and 2014 seasons, recovering from an elbow injury. Chargos throws plenty of strikes for a reliever but, if he’s going to get the most out of his slider, he needs to polish his command.

16. Nick Burdi, RHP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2014 from Louisville
Age 24 Height 6’5 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command
70/80 60/70 30/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Threw just three innings due to injury.

Scouting Report
Burdi has closer stuff. He’ll touch 101 and flash a 70-grade slider. He dominated advanced hitters (he makes quick work of Yadiel Rivera, Jurickson Profar and Gary Sanchez in the linked video) in the 2015 Arizona Fall League and looked certain to make his big-league debut the next year but proceeded to spend almost all of 2016 on the disabled list. Burdi dealt with forearm soreness during spring training and the Twins throttled down his throwing program for a few weeks. Burdi began throwing again and pitched three innings for Double-A Chattanooga before going back on the DL for the rest of the year. Scouts have long been concerned about the max-effort nature of Burdi’s delivery, as well as some of the mechanical inconsistencies that, in concert with one another, make it hard for Burdi to locate. Of all the relief prospects in the system (and there are a lot) Burdi has the highest ceiling. But the command and injury risks loom large right now.

17. Jake Reed, RHP
Drafted: 5th Round, 2014 from Oregon
Age 24 Height 6’2 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
60/60 55/60 50/55 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Posted 25.6% strikeout rate at Double-A.

Scouting Report
Another one of many high-velocity relief arms in the system, Reed was removed from the Oregon rotation in college due to wildness and has always been a pure relief prospect. The Twins got his delivery under control (more than it was in college, anyway) after he signed and his strike-throwing ability has continued to improve over the course of his pro career. Reed has setup man stuff. His mid-90s fastball will touch 97 and features considerable arm-side run. He also features an above-average slider with slicing two-plane movement. Reed’s arm slot is low and left-handed hitters pick up the ball early out of his hand, which may limit his big-league role in spite Reed’s solid average changeup which, in theory, should mitigate his platoon issues. If he can find a better way to deal with left-handed hitters — either through continued changeup development or better command of the slider — then he could be a high-leverage arm, but there’s a chance he’s just a righty specialist.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.8 WAR

jake-reed-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 22nd Round, 2012 from Cal
Age 24 Height 6’2 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
50/50 45/50 55/60 50/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 31% strikeout rate at Double-A.

Scouting Report
A low-slot righty with a three-pitch mix that staves off left-handed hitters, Hildenberger was having an excellent season before he was shut down with elbow tendinitis in late July. Hildenberger’s fastball sits 89-93 and features sink and run. His slider is fringey on pure movement but plays up against righties because of his true sidearm slot. The changeup is above average and should fight platoon issues in the big leagues. He pounds the strike zone and creates weak contact and uncomfortable swings with his delivery’s deceptive funk. He projects to middle relief but there’s a chance the deception/command package allows for a bit more that that.

19. Lewin Diaz, 1B
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic
Age 20 Height 6’3 Weight 180 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 60/70 30/55 30/20 40/45 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .310/.353/.575 in Appy League as 20-year-old.

Scouting Report
Diaz has big raw power, burgeoning bat control and smooth, athletic actions in the batter’s box that keep his timing in order. He could have 70 raw power at maturity and there’s some feel to hit here, too. Diaz has shown that he can spray balls all over the field, but his in-game home-run power is exclusively to his pull side right now. He’s more of a gap-to-gap hitter during games, unless he can catch a ball down and in. He’s also a bit overaggressive at the plate and settles for lesser contact too often. Diaz is a long way from the majors, but he just turned 20 last week and has significant raw power projection, as well as some sound hitters traits. He’s one of the more interesting young first-base prospects in baseball and, given how hard it is to find a first baseman for the World Team, he’s a sleeper for next year’s Futures Game.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.5 WAR

lewin-diaz-likelihood-of-outcomes

20. Lamonte Wade, OF
Drafted: 9th Round, 2015 from Maryland
Age 23 Height 6’0 Weight 190 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/55 40/40 20/30 55/55 45/50 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Has recorded just 80 career minor-league strikeouts versus 101 walks.

Scouting Report
Wade had a tremendous junior year at Maryland but some scouts were concerned that is was partly a product of Maryland’s exit from the ACC and entry into a less competitive Big Ten. But Wade’s foray into pro ball has been extremely successful and he has more career walks than strikeouts. He has excellent bat-to-ball skills and could become a plus hitter at peak, but he’s limited to the outfield corners and doesn’t have the power to play at there regularly. He’s a likely fourth or fifth outfielder.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.8 WAR

lamonte-wade-likelihood-of-outcomes

21. Felix Jorge, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2010 from Dominican Republic
Age 23 Height 6’2 Weight 170 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
55/55 50/50 50/55 50/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Strikeout rate declined from 21% in High-A to 10% at Double-A.

Scouting Report
Jorge has yet to make good on what, a few years ago, seemed like promising physical projection. He’s loose, fluid and repeats a low-effort, low-maintenance delivery that allows for lots of strike-throwing. Scouts have been waiting for the body to mature and the stuff to tick up, but that hasn’t happened as of yet and his fastball sits in the 88-92 range with plane but little movement. His vertical arm slot makes it hard for him to get horizontal action on his pitches, and he struggled to miss bats with his average slider and changeup upon moving to Double-A. The changeup has some projection left because of the ease in the delivery and the arm speed. He profiles as a fifth starter or up-and-down arm.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.2 WAR

felix-jorge-likelihood-of-outcomes

22. Huascar Ynoa, RHP
Age 19 Height 6’1 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
45/50 40/45 50/55 45/55 40/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded strikeout and walk rates of 24% and 6%, respectively, in 2016.

Scouting Report
The younger brother of White Sox reliever Michael Ynoa, Huascar doesn’t have the physical projection that his brother once did, but he might end up as the superior major leaguer because of his ability to throw strikes. Ynoa sits 89-94 with late sink. His fastball lacks projection because of Ynoa’s undersized frame, but the combination of the velocity and sink should produce an above-average heater at maturity. Ynoa was flashing an above-average curveball during instructional league despite a lower arm slot that makes it tough for him to get on top of the baseball. He noticeably decelerates his arm when he throws his changeup, but he can cut it and sink it and it should improve significantly with reps. It could end up being his best pitch. Ynoa’s low-80s slider lacks length but bites late like a slow cutter. His feel for locating comes and goes, but as Ynoa gets older and stronger he should be able to repeat his delivery more regularly and he could develop above-average command. He’s a potential No. 4/5 starter for me but has yet to exit Rookie-level ball.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.3 WAR

huascar-ynoa-likelihood-of-outcomes

23. Akil Baddoo, OF
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Salem HS (GA)
Age 18 Height 5’11 Weight 184 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 40/45 20/40 60/55 40/50 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
Twitchy but raw, Baddoo’s feel for hitting and speed got him drafted in the second round. He struggled during his initial foray in to pro ball and is a long-term project. Baddoo’s speed plays in center field but his routes are raw there and will need to improve. He has a 40 arm and would have to move to left field if he can’t remain in center. Offensively, the bat is promising, but he probably won’t ever hit for more than 40 game power because of the swing and the body’s limited projection. It will be imperative for him to remain up the middle. He has everyday upside but is one of the riskier prospects in this system.

24. Lachlan Wells, LHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Australia
Age 20 Height 5’8 Weight 163 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
50/50 45/50 45/55 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 1.77 ERA in the Low-A Midwest League at age 19.

Scouting Report
The diminutive and fidgety Wells is this system’s most entertaining player. Signed out of Australia during for $300,000 in 2014, Wells is listed at 5-foot-8, 165. His shoulders are as square as the frames on his Michael Palledorous glasses and, despite his measureables, he actually has a pretty strong frame. Wells’ eccentric left-handed delivery is deceptive, which allows his 88-93 mph fastball to play up a bit. His curveball will garner swings and misses down beneath the strike zone but it doesn’t have the depth to compete within it. It’s a fringe-average offering in aggregate and could be average at maturity. Wells has intriguing changeup projection because of his arm speed and short arm action. His delivery is a bit violent and he’s definitely going to be more of a control than command guy, but he can get his breaking ball over early in counts and at least lives in the zone with his fastball. He has a chance to be a back-end starter or a deceptive three-pitch reliever.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.8 WAR

lachlan-wells-likelihod-of-outcomes

*****

Other Prospects of Note (In Order of Preference)

Luis Arraez, 2B (video), 8.0 KATOH+ WAR – Arraez’s skill set starts and ends with his incredible bat-to-ball ability, which allows for a ton of opposite-field contact. Arraez punches the ball the other way consistently and has plus bat speed, but his approach to hitting is entirely devoid of power and he projects for just 30 power at peak — barring a mechanical adjustment that allows him to get the bat head out earlier. The body is maxed out, so there’s no more power coming from natural growth and scouts have some concern about what kind of range Arraez will have at peak if he keeps filling out, though he was a +13 defender at Low-A. We’ve seen players like this ride their sticks to the big leagues and have success. Arraez’s ceiling is that of a low-end regular.

Stuart Turner, C (video), 1.1 KATOH+ – Turner is an above-average defensive catcher with an average arm. His approach at the plate is compact and simple. He profiles as a backup catcher that hits an empty .260.

Randy Rosario, LHP, 0.7 KATOH+ – A 6-foot lefty whose stuff ticked up after moving the the bullpen late in the year. Fastball sits 92-96 in relief, he has an above-average upper-80s cutter and changeup. He’s already had one Tommy John.

Trey Cabbage, 1B (video) – A solid athlete with plenty of physical projection, Cabbage struggled defensively this year and scouts think he might end up moving to first base. It’s obviously going to be harder for the bat to profile there, but he has a chance for an average hit tool and game power.

Brusdar Graterol, RHP – The 18-year-old Venezuelan righty was 93-97 for me during instructional league and flashing an above-average breaking ball in the 83-87 mph range that is often blunt and slurvy. He’s 6-foot-1 and has a lower arm slot, so there’s no plane on his fastball.

Jose Miranda, 3B, 0.8 KATOH+ – Miranda has a pretty right-handed swing, a mature eye for the strike zone and good defensive actions but not everyone is sold on the bat speed. He was drafted as a shortstop but will likely kick over to third base full time later in development due to a lack of range. Miranda’s power projection is up for debate as some don’t think the frame will add much more weight and, again, reports on the bat speed are mixed. He struggled with the GCL after the draft.

Tanner English, CF – English is a 60 runner with great range in center field and an above-average arm. The swing is okay but looked grooved during Fall League. A likely fifth outfielder.

Pat Light, RHP – Light reached the big leagues in 2016 and he throws really hard, topping out around 100 mph. His splitter is average. The arm action is really long and the delivery in general is rough, leading to well below-average command. I think the velocity is a bit of a red herring here and I’m not sure Light has the secondary stuff or command to be a major-league arm.

John Curtiss, RHP, 1.7 KATOH+ – Curtiss throws 94-96 with life but has issues repeating his release point and his 84-86 mph slider is fringey. You could argue it’s a 70 fastball based on the movement. Had Tommy John in 2013.

Aaron Slegers, RHP, 1.6 KATOH+ – Slegers missed time with elbow tendinitis this season which alarmed some scouts who remember how often he was hurt as an amateur. He’s 6-foot-10 and his low-90s fastball and average slider play up due to extension. If he can get healthy he could be an up-and-down arm.

Yorman Landa, RHP – An oft-injured, 6-foot righty with mid-90s heat, Landa also has a slurvy, below-average breaking ball and an average changeup. He has 30 command.

Engelb Vielma, SS, 0.8 KATOH+ – Vielma is a punchless leatherwizard with a bat so light he may not even profile as a utility man despite an acrobatic brand of plus defense at short.

Jermaine Palacios, UTIL, 1.4 KATOH+ – Palacios is a 40 runner without much offensive potential, but his defensive actions are polished and promising, and his arm strength plays on the left side of the infield. He probably won’t hit enough to play every day and, already a 40 runner, he may not have the range to play shortstop at maturity, which makes his utility profile less appealing.

Williams Ramirez, RHP (video), 0.3 KATOH+ – A relief-only prospect still in A-ball at age 24 due to control issues, Ramirez was 93-95 during instructional league with a very inconsistent, but plus-flashing, curveball and below-average changeup.

Sean Poppen, RHP, 0.8 KATOH+ – Poppen’s a 22-year-old righty from Harvard. He throws 91-93 with drop and drive, flashed a plus changeup during instructional league with a slurvy 77-80 mph breaking ball. Has 40 control.

Griffin Jax, RHP – Jax’s development is going to be complicated because of his Air Force commitment. He’s 90-95 and touching 96 with life, an average changeup that has projection because of Jax’s arm speed and fringe curveball. He’ll probably begin his career as a starter, if for no other reason than to squeeze as many reps as possible into his season. He’s more likely a relief piece than long-term starter.

Lean Marrero, OF – A short but stocky Puerto Rican outfielder with above-average bat speed, Marrero has sneaky raw power for a player his size and can spray fly balls to all fields.

Nelson Molina, 3B, 1.2 KATOH+ – A very projectable body with a potential plus glove at third base, Molina began to grow into some bat control last year and still has enough left on his frame to grow into corner-worthy power. He may need frequent mechanical attention at the plate

Cistulli’s Guy
Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.

Luis Arraez, 2B, 8.0 KATOH+
Minnesota features an impressive collection of players whose skills might allow them to craft some manner of major-league career, even if their physical tools suggest otherwise. Both Zack Granite and LaMonte Wade, who appear among Longenhagen’s featured prospects, were included at some point this year in the author’s weekly Fringe Five column. The club also employs Alex Perez (a senior sign out of Virginia Tech in 2015; 0.3 KATOH+) and Christian Ibarra (a former LSU third baseman who played a year-plus in the independent American Association before signing with the Twins this past year; 0.2 KATOH+), both of whom feature a promising combination of contact skill and defensive ability. Finally, KATOH founder Chris Mitchell has campaigned on behalf of Jason Wheeler (2.1 KATOH+), a 6-foot-6 left-hander who’s steadily made his way to Triple-A.

Arraez receives the designation of Cistulli’s Guy for the combination of youth and bat-to-ball skills cited above. He also receives it because of his peculiar resemblance to Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez. Not only are the physical measurements similar, but both exhibit similarly lively actions on the field.

The comparisons go beyond that, however. Consider the following table, which documents the age-19 seasons for both players:

Luis Arraez vs. Jose Ramirez, Age-19 Seasons
Player Year Level PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG BABIP wRC+
Luis Arraez 2016 A 514 6.0% 9.9% .347 .386 .444 .382 146
Jose Ramirez 2012 A 313 7.7% 8.3% .354 .403 .462 .378 145

This is nearly the same exact collection of numbers at the same age and same level — which is a promising sign for Arraez, considering that Ramirez just completed a five-win season as a 23-year-old.

*****

System Overview

The Twins are baseball’s most active team on the Australian continent and they’ve also added some intriguing, under-the-radar talent from Puerto Rico in recent years. Gone are the days of Minnesota targeting pitchability arms. In fact, I’d argue those days have been gone since they traded Denard Span for Alex Meyer. They’ve targeted hard-throwing arms with great frequency of late, many of them likely relievers. In addition to the relief prospects discussed above, Minnesota drafted Kyle Cody in 2015 (he didn’t sign), while Sam Clay (0.7 KATOH+) and Michael Cederoth (0.3 KATOH+) were two of five straight relievers picked in the 2014 draft.

Many of their pitching prospects have had injury issues. The system is more interesting than it is good or deep and whomever the Twins draft No. 1 overall next year will instantly become their top prospect. Teams like Toronto and Los Angeles, who have multiple picks between No. 1 and 39 (Minnesota’s second pick due to comp picks for free agents) will probably discourage the Twins from trying to get creative next June.



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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.


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