Monday, December 22, 2014

2015 Twins Top 30 Prospects: 11-20

One of the highlights of the off-season for a core of Twins fans is the release of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. Seth Stohs has worked to put together this fantastic book for the last seven years. In 2012, he gave me my first taste of helping with the book. By 2013, I was writing an article for the annual and for the last three years I have been among a trio of writers that includes Jeremy Nygaard, Stohs, and myself. 

I already released the first part of my top 30 list and there are some strong prospects making their way to Target Field.. I have some differences compared to the other authors but that's what makes this fun. To see their top 30's, you're going to have to go and pick up a copy for yourself.
***Get your copy of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook now (Paperback or PDF).***
11 – Lewis Thorpe – LHP – Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 3-2, 3.52 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 71.2 IP, 36 BB, 80 K
Thorpe exploded onto the prospect scene a year ago and seemed to be busting his way into Twins top 10 prospect lists across the country. A year removed from that explosion and things have come back down to earth. He held his own in the Midwest League while being four years younger than the other pitchers in the league. Thorpe will likely miss all of 2015 after spraining his ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow.

 
12 – Max Kepler – OF – Ft. Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: .264/.333/.493, 20-2B, 6-3B, 5 HR, 59 RBI
Kepler has been one of the most intriguing prospects in the Twins organization since they signed him as a teenager out of Europe. His batting average improved in each month of the season and he got on base over 33% of the time. He continues to be a strong defensive outfielder but his power numbers will need to improve to stick at a corner spot. Kepler did very well in 18 AFL games this season with an .806 OPS including four doubles and three triples.

13 – Stephen Gonsalves – LHP – Elizabethton Twins, Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 4-3, 3.02 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 65.2 IP, 21 BB, 70 K
Behind Thorpe, Gonsalves is the second highest ranked left-handed pitcher in my top 30. He did well at Low-A even though he is only 20-years old. He has some room to grow into his body and he has shown the ability to throw strikes. If Gonsalves continues to make strides at High-A, he could be a top 10 prospect by next off-season. 

14 – Travis Harrison – OF/3B – Ft. Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: .269/.361/.365, 33-2B, 1-3B, 3 HR, 59 RBI
I've liked Harrison a lot since he joined the Twins organization but I didn't like his dip in home runs this season. He was hitting in the tough FSL and he did collect 33 doubles. Some positives were his ability to hit to all fields and he cutback in the strikeout department. He's young and still has some untapped potential. 

15 – Stuart Turner – C – Ft. Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: .249/.322/.375, 16-2B, 2-3B, 7 HR, 40 RBI
I've always liked catching prospects and Turner's defense is enough to carry him to the big leagues. His bat will be the question mark but all of his appearances came in the pitcher friendly FSL. As he moves up the ladder and pitching improves, it will be interesting to see if he can make the adjustments to stay relevant at the plate. I think he makes stress next year and finds himself just shy of the top 10.
 

16 – Adam Brett Walker – OF – Ft. Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: .246/.307/.436, 19-2B, 1-3B, 25 HR, 94 RBI, 9 SB
Walker killed the ball in the pitcher friendly FSL. However there are still questions about his ability to make consistent contact and he strike out a lot since he has trouble recognizing off-speed offerings. It seems like he will have to make some offensive adjustments in the years to come or be relegated to a lesser role at the big league level.
 

17 – Felix Jorge – RHP – Elizabethton Twins, Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 6-7, 4.97 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 105.0 IP, 34 BB, 84 K
I'm higher on this guy than basically anyone else that does a Twins prospect list. He struggled mightily at Low-A but made some positive adjustments when he moved back to E-Town. Jorge lost a little mojo with his fastball this year and his off-speed offerings continue to improve. He still has a high ceiling and I'm higher than anyone else about him.

18 – Amaurys Minier – OF/1B – GCL Twins
2014 Stats: .292/.405/.520, 11-2B, 2-3B, 8 HR, 33 RBI
Minier made solid improvements in his second trip through the GCL. He's still a teenager and he will move up in the system in 2015. He has very good power from the left hand side of the plate but there are questions about how his approach will fare as he moves up. There are some holes in his defensive skills but he is one player that could breakout in 2015
 
19 – Taylor Rogers – LHP – New Britain Rock Cats
2014 Stats: 11-6, 3.29 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 145.0 IP, 37 BB, 113 K
After breaking out at both Low-A and High-A last season, Rogers was able to hold his own at Double-A for all of 2014. He's left-handed and he has a pulse so that puts him a little higher on this list than he might be if he was right-handed. His strikeout rate improved this season and he tossed the most innings of his career. He might not be a starter at the big leagues but he can definitely get lefties out.


20 – Tyler Duffey – RHP – Ft. Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats, Rochester Red Wings
2014 Stats: 13-3, 3.67 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 149.2 IP, 30 BB, 113 K
In only his third year in the system, Duffey cruised his way to Triple-A. He started the year at Fort Myers and the majority of his innings were at Double-A. He was almost four years younger than the other pitchers in the International League. His fastball sits in the low-90s and his change-up was much improved this year. This could make him dangerous moving forward.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Episode 113: The Twins Turn Thirty

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking hereEric and Paul celebrate their 30th year of life by recording a podcast with Cody who already beat them to the 30-year mark. 

This week's episode features a lively discussion as the guys trying to figure out how the batting order will shape up for next season. We also discuss the possibility of trading Trevor Plouffe, using Alex Meyer in the bullpen, and the value of Kyle Gibson. 

We went Down on the Pond to discuss Stephen Gonsalves, the second best left-handed prospect in the organization and we finish the show with beers and news from around the league.

Thanks for listening and enjoy our show.

If you enjoy our podcast, please tell your friends about us and take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews help the Twins to figure out who should bat at the top of the line-up. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2015 Twins Top 30 Prospects: 21-30

One of the highlights of the off-season for a core of Twins fans is the release of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. Seth Stohs has worked to put together this fantastic book for the last seven years. In 2012, he gave me my first taste of helping with the book. By 2013, I was writing an article for the annual and for the last three years I have been among a trio of writers that includes Jeremy Nygaard, Stohs, and myself. 

There is a ton of work that goes into the creation of this book. I don't know if we could create this without the help and push from the other writers involved. Besides profiles of all of the prospects in the Twins system and articles on topics from across the baseball world, one of the best parts of the book is our top 30 prospect lists.

Over the next few days, I will be counting down my top 30. I have some differences compared to the other authors but that's what makes this fun. To see their top 30's, you're going to have to go and pick up a copy for yourself.

***Get your copy of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook now (Paperback or PDF).***


 
21 – Chih-Wei Hu – RHP – Elizabethton Twins, Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 8-2, 2.15 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 71.0 IP, 15 BB, 64 K
Hu had one of the most surprising seasons in the entire Twins organization. He could be on his way to being much higher on this list if he continues on his current trajectory. He doesn't strike out a ton of batters but he controls the strike zone. He had dominant stretches in Low-A as a 20-year old and could be a sleeper pick 

22 – Michael Cederoth – RHP – Elizabethton Twins
2014 Stats: 4-2, 3.55 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 45.2 IP, 18 BB, 42 K
One of a core group of hard throwing college pitchers the Twins have selected in recent drafts. Because of some of his up-and-down track record, he could be a good candidate to end up in a bullpen role. His professional debut didn't go perfect but he should improve as he moves up the ladder.

23 – Niko Goodrum – SS/3B – Ft. Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: .249/.337/.336, 19-2B, 5-3B, 3 HR, 49 RBI, 35 SB
Goodrum has ranked higher on my list in previous years. His speed and on-base abilities make him a threat once he reaches base. However, he struggled to make consistent content this year at High-A. He also doesn't flourish at any specific defensive position. The transition to Double-A could be tough and it might be a make-it or break-it season for Goodrum.

24 – Jake Reed – RHP – Elizabethton Twins, Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 3-0, 0.29 ERA, 0.45 WHIP, 31.0 IP, 3 BB, 39 K
Reed was a fifth round pick in 2014 out of Oregon. He put up impressive numbers in his professional debut as he threw strikes and overpowered the opposition. Cederoth throws a little harder than Reed and that's why he's higher on the list. His fastball hits up to 95 and he has a decent slider to keep hitters off-balance.

25 – Zack Jones – RHP – GCL Twins, Fort Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: 0-0, 3 S, 1.74 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 10.1 IP, 6 BB, 14 K
Jones got into limited action in 2014 after having shoulder surgery at the end of February. Doctors found that he has an aneurysm in his shoulder that was causing circulation problems. Jones served as the closer for the Miracle in their run to the FSL title. He pitched well in the AFL to cap off his 2014 campaign. Over 11 appearances, he didn't allow an earned run and struck out 11. 

26 – Engelb Vielma – SS – Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: .266/.313/.323, 13-2B, 4-3B, 1 HR, 33 RBI
Vielma made some huge strides in the jump from rookie ball to a full season league. He got on base over 31% of the time and his batting average increased by 32 points. Vielma's biggest strength might be his defensive ability and his fielding percentage jumped 42 points. If he can continue to make offensive improvements, he could rise in the years to come.

27 – J.R. Graham – RHP – Mississippi Braves
2014 Stats: 1-5, 5.55 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 71.1 IP, 26 BB, 50 K
The Twins just selected Graham in the Rule 5 Draft so there is a chance that he's back with the Braves organization before the season starts. He spent time as a starter and a reliever. His strikeout rate has dropped in recent years. For him to stay with the Twins, he will have to fill a bullpen role for the entire 2014 campaign.

28 – Fernando Romero – RHP – Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 12.0 IP, 5 BB, 9 K
Romero was three years younger than the competition in the Midwest League. He was limited to three starts after tearing his UCL at the end of June. He underwent Tommy John surgery and will likely almost all of next season. He threw hard before Tommy John surgery so he could move through the system quickly if he can get back to his previous level.

29 – Jason Wheeler – LHP – Ft. Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats, Rochester Red Wings
2014 Stats: 11-9, 2.67 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 158.1 IP, 37 BB, 115 K
Wheeler had arguably the best professional season of his career as he cruised through three different levels and finished the year at Triple-A. He fits the mold of pitch to contact as he throws a lot of strikes and doesn't strikeout a ton of batters. Wheeler's impressive season was rewarded as he was added to the 40-man roster so there's a chance he could debut in 2015.

30 – Brett Lee – LHP – Ft. Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: 10-5, 2.45 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 106.1 IP, 33 BB, 54 K
Lee pitched all of 2014 for the Fort Myers Miracle. His strikeout rate is terrible and he will need to improve this area if he is going to find any sort of success in the higher levels of the minors. Even saying that, he was able to limit runs scored against him and he posted career best marks in wins and ERA. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Santa(na) Comes Early, Now What?

"Making a list, checking it twice.
Terry Ryan got what he thought was nice."

Even though the Twins are coming of four straight 90-loss seasons, there wasn't a ton of things the club needed to accomplish this off-season. The team seemingly had one one position player spot in the corner outfield. Terry Ryan also wanted to add depth to the starting pitching core. Just days after the winter meetings and the Twins have crossed both of these needs off their holiday wish list. 

At the beginning of December, Minnesota signed Torii Hunter to a one-year, $10.5 million contract. This checked off the Twins corner outfield need. Near the end of the winter meetings, word came out of the club's interest in starting pitcher Ervin Santana.Over this past weekend, the club signed the righty to a four-year, $54 million contract, the largest free agent deal in franchise history.

With the ink drying on over $60 million worth of free agent contracts, what's left for the Twins to accomplish this off-season?

If the Twins add any more pitching, it will likely be a cost effective bullpen option. Minnesota took J.R Graham during last week's Rule 5 Draft and he will be in the mix for a bullpen role. There are plenty of options for the back end of the rotation and to complete the bullpen. Mike Pelfrey, Trevor May, Tommy Milone, and Alex Meyer will already have quite the battle on their hands this spring.

One name that popped up over the weekend was former club ace Johan Santana. Darren Wolfson reported that the left-handed pitcher will be trying to get into action by the end of the month in the winter leagues. With all of Santana's health issues in recent years, he could be a very cheap option that could eventually be used in a bullpen role. Even if he had to start the year in the minors to prove he was healthy, it could still work out for the club.

Besides pitching depth, the team could also be looking to add a couple of bench bat option on minor league deals. Apparently, the club has reached out to free agent and Twin Cities native Jack Hannahan. A shoulder injury limited the infielder to 26-games last season so if there is interest from both parties, he could end up in Fort Myers for spring training. 

So if your Christmas dreams included another big deal for the Twins, I wouldn't get your hopes up. It seems as if all of the big presents were opened early this year.

***Get your copy of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook now (Paperback or PDF). If you follow me on Twitter and send me a DM, I will send you a coupon for 30% off a print copy (Offer good through Dec. 15)***

Friday, December 12, 2014

Episode 112: Eric Hates Ervin Santana and Other Lies

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here, and if you want to add the show to your non-iTunes podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.
This week the gang talks about Ervin Santana, the Rule Five Draft, and what the Twins rotation will look like to start the year. The guys were joined by TwinsDaily's Jeremy Nygaard to talk about who JR Graham is, and what the Twins lost in Sean Gilmartin and Matt Tomshaw (THE THING!). 

The episode wraps up with beer, baseball, and the news.

Thanks for listening and enjoy our show.

If you enjoy our podcast, please tell your friends about us and take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews help Trevor May throw strikes.