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.
In the first part of my top 30 list there are a core of young pitchers moving through the system. The second part of my list includes a surprise or two but there are some powerful prospects. 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.
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1 – Byron Buxton – OF – Ft. Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats
2014 Stats: .234/.307/.395, 4-2B, 2-3B, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 6 SB
Buxton entered the 2014 season as the consensus top prospect in all of baseball. He suffered multiple injuries and was limited to just 31 games. This still takes nothing away from what his potential could be. His combination of speed, power, and hitting could result in him being a perennial All-Star and the player that leads Minnesota out of the bottom of the American League. However, he's going to have to avoid the injury bug because he can't afford another lost season.
2 – Miguel Sano – 3B – Did Not Play
2014 Stats: DNP
Sano didn't play in 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery during spring training. There was a chance that he would make his debut in 2014 but now he will have to show he is ready for 2015. Some questions remain about his long-term defensive position or his ability to make consistent contact as he moves up the ladder. For now, he's still considered elite because of his power potential. If everything goes right, he'll be at Target Field before the end of the year.
3 – Kohl Stewart – RHP – Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 3-5, 2.59 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 87.0 IP, 24 BB, 62 K
The gap between Stewart and Berrios is small but I give a slight nod to Stewart. He compiled decent numbers at Low-A as a teenager. There were some shoulder issues near the end of the season but I don't think this is going to impact him long-term. As a multi-sport athlete in high school, this was his first full season focusing on baseball. He will continue to rack up innings and figure out the art of pitching. He has the chance to be a future ace.
4 – Jose Berrios – RHP – Ft. Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats, Rochester Red Wings
2014 Stats: 12-8, 2.76 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 140.0 IP, 38 BB, 140 K
Berrios had the best season of any player in the Twins farm system. Even though he is small is stature, he has the work ethic to mold himself into a top-notch big league pitcher. His fastball can hit into the mid-90s and his secondary pitches continue to improve. He pitched out of his mind this past season so it will be interesting to see where he starts in 2015 and how fast he gets to the big leagues. There's no reason to rush him but he might force the Twins hand.
5 – Nick Gordon – SS – Elizabethton Twins
2014 Stats: .294/.333/.366, 6-2B, 4-3B, 1 HR, 28 RBI, 11 SB
Gordon marked the third straight top five pick for the Minnesota Twins with Buxton and Stewart already being featured on this list. He comes from a baseball family as his dad played in the majors and his brother was an All-Star last season. Most reports say he will be able to stay at shortstop for the long-term and he has the potential to be dangerous at the plate and on the bases. He's a long way from Target Field but he could be part of a solid core in the future.
6 – Alex Meyer – RHP – Rochester Red Wings
2014 Stats: 7-7, 3.52 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 130.1 IP, 64 BB, 153 K
There isn't much left for Meyer to do in the minor leagues and it sounds like the Twins might give him the chance to make the Opening Day roster as a bullpen arm. His command wasn't the best this season but he can strikeout a ton of batters. If everything breaks right, he could be a top of the rotation guy or he might end up being a solid bullpen option. The time is now for Meyer.
7 – Jorge Polanco – SS – Ft. Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats, Minnesota Twins
2014 MiLB Stats: .288/.353/.395, 23-2B, 6-3B, 7 HR, 61 RBI
2014 MLB Stats: .333/.500/.833, 1-2B, 1-3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI
When the Twins were in a roster crunch, they looked all the way down to High-A to pluck Polanco up to the majors. He saw limited action but showed off some of his skills. He's switch-hitting ability and powerful swing could make him dangerous. There's questions about if he will stay at shortstop but he made improvements at the position throughout the year. He'll need more time in the minors but his make-up will mean he's only a phone call away from being back with the Twins.
8 – Trevor May – RHP – Rochester Red Wings, Minnesota Twins
2014 MiLB Stats: 8-6, 2.84 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 98.1 IP, 39 BB, 94 K
2014 MLB Stats: 3-6, 7.88 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, 45.2 IP, 22 BB, 44 K
His big league numbers don't look the greatest but May made some strides in 2014. He lowered his walk rate and posted a better WHIP during his time at Triple-A. After some rough outings in his first handful of appearances, May calmed down a little. He struck out 41 and walked nine in his last seven starts to end the year on a positive note. He'll be in the running for the final rotation spot coming out of spring training and he might be the front-runner at this point.
9 – Eddie Rosario – OF/2B – Ft. Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats
Rosario started the year with a 50-game suspension for violating the minor league drug policy. Before this season, he had shown the ability to hit at every level. There might have been some issues adjusting to better pitching at Double-A. He put together some impressive numbers in the AFL by hitting .330/.345/.410 with four doubles and two triples. He also stole 10 bases in 14 attempts. Minnesota tried him out at second base for a couple seasons but it looks like he'll have to make the big leagues as an outfielder.
10 – Nick Burdi – RHP – Cedar Rapids Kernels, Ft. Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: 2-0, 2.66 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 20.1 IP, 10 BB, 38 K
Burdi had to finish up his run through the College World Series before the Twins could get him into action this year. He has all the tools to be a very solid back-end of the bullpen option for the Twins in the very near future. He can hit triple-digits with his fastball and he counters that with a good slider and an occasional change-up. Burdi could debut in 2015 but it might be more realistic to look for him during the 2016 campaign.