Monday, February 29, 2016

Floor to Celing: Buxton, Gordon, Kepler

Marilyn Indahl- USA Today Sports
Prospects can be quite the fickle crop of players. Some turn into All-Stars and others fall to the wayside before reaching their full potential. Developing baseball players from teenagers into young men is not an exact science. For every Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, there will be a Joe Benson and an Alex Wimmers.

When it comes to pitchers advancing through a minor league system, there can be plenty of ups and downs. A couple of weeks ago, I looked at the top three pitching prospects in the Twins organization to try and get a pulse on what their ceiling and floors were as they close in on Target Field. Each of these players has the potential to be a very important part of the Twins turnaround.

Today, let's look at the top position players in the organization. Many of these top prospects have been or will be featured in the Twins Daily Top Prospect list. Byron Buxton and Max Kepler could see significant playing time at the big league level this season but Nick Gordon is a couple years away from making his debut.

How high can this trio go? Or will they follow the path of Joe Benson and Alex Wimmers?

Byron Buxton
Ceiling: Buxton has been considered one of the top prospects in baseball since he was drafted with the number two overall pick. His defensive skills and base running would already rank him near the top of baseball world. There have been positive offensive signs during his professional career. He has show more signs of power than what scouts thought during the drafting process and he has a professional approach at the plate. If Buxton can continue trending forward, he has the potential to be an All-Star caliber outfielder with MVP potential. Ceiling Result: All-Star Five-Tool Outfielder

Floor: Much of Buxton's high ranking abilities come from his speed. Running down balls in centerfield and going from first to third on a single is a skill that can't be taught. Luckily, Buxton should be able to rely on his speed for multiple seasons especially as he continues to grow into his body. Buxton's lack of hitting ability in his big league debut was a little disconcerting. He's also been bitten by the injury bug more than once in his professional career. If he can't figure out how to make consistent contact and continues to get injured, it will be impossible for him to reach his potential. Floor Result: Plus Defensive Outfielder

Nick Gordon
Ceiling: When the Twins drafted Gordon, they knew of his family's baseball heritage. His father Tom, pitched for 20+ MLB seasons and his brother, Dee, has played in the last two All-Star Games. When players like Gordon grow up around baseball, there's a lot they can absorb about the game. Gordon spent all of 2015 in the Midwest League so he will likely spend most of 2016 with Fort Myers. Many believe he will be able to stick at shortstop long-term and there's hope that he will be able to develop more power as he reaches his early 20s. Gordon has things to work on but the potential and tools are all there. Ceiling Result: All-Star Top-of-the-Order Shortstop

Floor: Gordon's brother eventually had to move away from shortstop to second base and this could be the eventual landing spot for the younger Gordon. His speed tool is less than his brother so that is also something that could hold him back. At the plate, Gordon struggled in the first part of the season before combining for a .763 OPS in the second half of the year. If his power doesn't develop, he is going to need to continue to keep up his on-base percentage and make better contact. There's a good chance he will become a big leaguer but maybe not the star the Twins were hoping to get. Floor Result: Solid Average MLB Regular

Max Kepler
Ceiling: Patience finally paid off when it came to Kepler. The Twins signed him the same summer as Miguel Sano and have been waiting patiently for him to develop into his athletic frame. Kepler put everything together last season to win the MVP of the Southern League and make his big league debut. He's played centerfield for most of his professional career so he should slide nicely into a corner outfield spot and be a plus defender at either of those positions. His power potential continues to increase and he has good base running ability as well. He has the chance to be the first real baseball star from Europe. Ceiling Result: 20/20 All-Star Outfielder

Floor: Kepler struggled through some injuries in his early professional career so it was good to see a healthy season from him in 2015. Injury concerns can reappear so it is something to monitor in 2016 and beyond. Some question if his power will continue to develop as he has hit double digits in home runs only once in his professional career (2012). His defense and on-base ability should help him to keep a starting job at the MLB level. However, if the Twins want someone with more power to take over his corner outfield spot, he could see his playing time start to diminish. Floor Result: Fourth Outfielder

Which player has the better shot at reaching their ceiling? Are these floor results too optimistic? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.


JoeBraga said...

Really nice article. What do you think about Buxton's floor being around the level of Kevin Kiermaier (4-5 Win player)? Kiermaier posted a 5.5(!!!) WAR last year with a .260/.300/.420 line.

Also, I think your floor for Gordon might be a little optimistic. I don't know anything about him personally (ie I haven't watched him play), but when Law did his future projections, not a single tool from Gordon was above league average.

NoDak Twins Fan said...

I like the thoughts about Buxton. If he can manage to just be a decent OBP guy and use his other skills, he will provide plenty of value.

Some people are down on Gordon but I still have high hopes. He was very young for the Midwest League last year and struggled out of the gate. If he can get off to a better start this year in the Florida State League (a known pitchers league), then he will be back on the right track.