Sunday, January 3, 2016

Finding 2016's Twins Breakout Prospect

Minnesota's minor league system has seen a trend in recent years. Each year there seems to be one prospect that stands out above the rest to have a breakout season. Many of these players are already considered top prospects but their individual performances in one season put them on the cusp of being above-average at the big league level.

In 2015, Max Kepler (This year's cover athlete for the 2016 Twins Prospect Handbook) stood out above the crowd on his way to being named Southern League MVP. The 2014 season saw Jose Berrios dominate at multiple levels on his way to winning the first of two straight Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year Awards. Byron Buxton was named Baseball America's 2013 Minor League Player of the Year after he was very impressive in his first full season of action.

So who will follow in the footsteps of Buxton, Berrios and Kepler? All three players could see significant time at the big league level next season so the torch will need to be passed to someone else.

ORDER NOW: 2016 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (paperback, $15.99)

ORDER NOW: 2016 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (eBook, $10.99)


To learn more about all of the prospects in the Twins organization, make sure to order the Minnesota Twins Prospect HandbookThe 2016 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook goes in-depth and provides player bios, scouting reports, statistics and much more on almost 160 Twins minor leaguers. From Abreu to Young, learn more about some of the Future Minnesota Twins.

Nick Gordon- SS
Highest 2015 Level: Cedar Rapids Kernels (Low-A)
Projected 2016 Level: Fort Myers (High-A)
With other players graduating off of the Twins top prospect list, Gordon is poised to take over the top spot going into next season. He will likely play the entire season at Fort Myers in the Florida State League which has been known to be more favorable to pitchers than hitters. As a 20 year-old, it will be interesting to watch him grow into his body. There are expectations that he will be able to add some power as he adds weight and a more experienced swing at the plate. If he can make offensive strides in a pitcher's league and continue to play solid defense at shortstop, Gordon should be the team's easy choice for breakout prospect in 2016.

Kohl Stewart- RHP
Highest 2015 Level: Fort Myers Miracle (High-A)
Projected 2016 Level: Fort Myers Miracle (High-A), Chattanooga Lookouts (Double-A)
Minnesota knew there were going to be things for Stewart to work on when the organization drafted him. He had been a two sport star in high school so he spent a lot of time playing both football and baseball. Now he's had multiple years to work in the Twins system to refine his pitching mechanics. There have been some inconsistencies as he has moved through the system so he could see himself back in Fort Myers to start the 2016 campaign. If he can make small improvements at High-A and Double-A this season, there's a good chance he will be a breakout prospect candidate.

Stephen Gonsalves- LHP
Highest 2015 Level: Fort Myers Miracle (High-A)
Projected 2016 Level:  Fort Myers Miracle (High-A), Chattanooga Lookouts (Double-A)
Some might argue that Gonsalves had his breakout season in 2015. He firmly established himself as one of the Twins best starting pitching prospects and he is a consensus top-10 Twins prospects entering the 2016 season. He and Stewart should push each other by starting at High-A and working to get to the Double-A level. Since Gonsalves is a left-handed hurler, he brings some added value and it will be interesting to see what he can do against competition in the higher levels of the minor leagues. As a more polished pitcher than Stewart, expect him to move faster in 2016 and quite possibly become the team's best pitching prospect as Berrios uses up his rookie eligibility.

ORDER NOW: 2016 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (paperback, $15.99)

ORDER NOW: 2016 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (eBook, $10.99)


Tyler Jay- LHP
Highest 2015 Level: Fort Myers Miracle (High-A)
Projected 2016 Level: Fort Myers Miracle (High-A), Chattanooga Lookouts (Double-A)
As the Twins first round pick in 2015, Jay might seem like an easy candidate to breakout in 2016. He has college experience and he was successful during the second half of his pro debut. However, the Twins are going to transition the lefty from shutdown bullpen arm to the starting rotation. This transition will come with plenty of watchful eyes as it's hard to know what to expect with an unproven asset. The Twins have a lot invested in him so expect them to control his innings and for him to get some bullpen time as well. For him to be the team's breakout prospect, he'd have to be lights out during his time as a starter.

Adam Brett Walker- OF
Highest 2015 Level: Chattanooga Lookouts (Double-A)
Projected 2016 Level: Rochester Red Wings (Triple-A), Minnesota Twins (MLB)
Walker is a monster power prospect and he continues to impress with his show of strength at each level in the organization. He helped lead the Lookouts to the Southern League Championship this season and then he went on to have a big impact in the Arizona Fall League as his team won that championship too. Walker will likely start next season at the Triple-A level where he will need to take some strides at the plate to cut back on strikeouts and increase his on-base ability. He should make his debut in 2016 but he will need to show that he can improve at the highest level in the minor leagues.

Who do you think will be the Twins breakout prospect in 2016? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

ORDER NOW: 2016 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (paperback, $15.99)

ORDER NOW: 2016 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (eBook, $10.99)

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