Monday, January 25, 2016

Minnesota Twins Top 30 Prospects: 1-10

Even with prospects like Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario graduating off this list, there are still plenty of things to be excited about in 2016. Byron Buxton fell just short of meeting the rookie eligibility so he will get one more year to be considered the Twins top prospect. Other players like Jose Berrios and Max Kepler could use up their rookie eligibility this season as well. 

If all of these players graduate off this list, next year's top 10 will have a very different feel to it. However, that's a story for a different day and a different time. Let's focus on the present and the future of the club with this year's top-10 prospects for the Minnesota Twins.
1. Byron Buxton- Centerfield
2015 STATS: .209/.250/.326, 7 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI (MLB) .305/.367/.500, 10 2B, 13 3B, 7 HR, 45 RBI (Rochester/Chattanooga)
Buxton made his debut in 2015 and found some struggles at the big league level. He saw limited action as the Twins attempted a postseason run but his defense continues to be strong in centerfield. He is a five-tool prospect with more potential than any player on this list. Fans will have to be patient with his bat but he will take over centerfield for the Twins at some point next season. He could be a perennial All-Star and he should be the face of the franchise in the post-Mauer era.

2. Jose Berrios- Starting Pitcher
2015 STATS: 14-5, 2.87 ERA, 27/27 G/GS, 1.05 WHIP, 175/38 K/BB, 166.1 IP (Rochester/Chattanooga)
Berrios has little left to prove in the minor leagues after another dominating year. This time he was overpowering hitters at Double-A and Triple-A which left him on the doorstep of making his big league debut. That didn't happen in 2015 but fans should see him shortly into the 2016 campaign. His strikeout rate continues to be over 9.0 K/9 and he posted a 9.9 K/9 at Triple-A. He has the potential to be a top half of the rotation starter and be part of the Twins rotation for the better part of the next decade.

3. Max Kepler- Outfield
2015 STATS: .143/.143/.143 (MLB) .318/.410/.520, 34 2B, 13 3B, 9 HR, 71 RBI (Fort Myers/Chattanooga)
After years of waiting for a breakout season, Kepler finally lived up to all the hype. He destroyed the ball at Fort Myers before being promoted to Chattanooga and doing more of the same. The Southern League named him the MVP of the league as he helped the Lookouts win the championship. It was the third league title he has won since joining the Twins organization. Minnesota hopes his winning ways payoff at the big league level as he should be called up for good in the second half of 2016.

4. Nick Gordon- Shortstop
2015 STATS: .277/.336/.360, 23 2B, 7 3B, 1 HR, 58 RBI (Cedar Rapids)
Gordon's father and brother have both made an All Star Game so it's looking like Gordon has all the genes to become the Twins shortstop of the future. Gordon held this own this year as a teenager in the Midwest League. He has room to grow into his body and this could result in more power. His strong arm and good range at shortstop should allow him to stick at the position long-term. With the players above him expected to graduate, Gordon could be the team's top prospect at this point next year.

5. Byung-Ho Park- First Base/DH
2015 STATS: .343/.436/.714, 35 2B, 1 3B, 53 HR, 146 RBI (KBO)
Park will join the Twins this season after plenty of experience in Korea. He has hit over 30 home runs in each of the last four seasons and the last two seasons he has topped 50 home runs. Minnesota is hoping his bat can become a potent part of the middle of the line-up that already includes Miguel Sano. Since the beginning of 2014, he averaged over 150 strikeouts per season so he has struck out in just over 30% of his at-bats. He's going to strikeout but the Twins hope that he balances it out with a ton of home runs.
6. Jorge Polanco- Shortstop
2015 STATS: .300/.417/.300, 1 RBI (MLB) .288/.339/.386, 23 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 53 RBI (Rochester/Chattanooga)
Polanco will be out of options after this season so the Twins will need to make a decision about him. There are questions about whether he can play shortstop long-term but the Twins might give him the opportunity to sink or swim at the position in 2016. His offensive numbers continue to be strong as he has an advanced approach at the plate. If things go well, Polanco should be the Twins starting shortstop in the second half of the season and at the start of 2017.

7. Stephen Gonsalves- Starting Pitcher
2015 STATS: 13-3, 2.01 ERA, 24/24 G/GS, 1.10 WHIP, 132/53 K/BB, 134.1 IP (Cedar Rapids/Fort Myers)
Some could argue that the season compiled by Gonsalves was just as good as Berrios. He was over three years younger than the competition in the Florida State League. His big stature on the mound makes him very projectable as a big league pitching prospect. Even though his fastball tops out in the low 90s, his secondary pitches are what will make him an effective starter at the next level. His potential as a mid-rotation starter could make him very valuable.

8. Kohl Stewart- Starting Pitcher
2015 STATS: 7-8, 3.20 ERA, 22/22 G/GS, 1.38 WHIP, 71/45 K/BB, 129.1 IP (Fort Myers)
Even though Stewart's numbers haven't been outstanding over his first few professional seasons, there is still hope that he will be able to develop into a top of the rotation starter. When the Twins drafted him out of high school, he had been splitting time between football and baseball. Since he's transitioned to baseball full-time, he needs to learn more of the nuances of pitching. This will come with more experience as he moves up the ranks.
9. Tyler Jay- Starting Pitcher/Relief Pitcher
2015 STATS: 0-1, 3.93 ERA, 19/0 G/GS, 1.42 WHIP, 22/8 K/BB, 18.1 IP (Fort Myers)
Minnesota's first round pick from this past June is the team's fourth straight top-6 pick. Jay, a left-handed pitcher, was taken out of college where he was primarily used as a reliever. The Twins hope to transition Jay to being a starting pitcher. There are questions about whether he will be able to make that transition but most accounts believe he has the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter. Next year will go a long way to deciding his future path to the big leagues.

10. Wander Javier- Shortstop
2015 STATS: No stats
Javier was signed out of the Dominican Republic this July. Baseball America ranked him as the 9th best prospect available at that deadline. He's only 16-years old so his high ranking is based solely on his potential. Some believe he will be able to stick at shortstop but he's got a long way to go before that decision is made. He will get his first professional action in the Dominican Summer League and some think he could debut in the States when the GCL season starts.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Eddie Rosario: Sophomore Stud?

Miguel Sano got a lot of the praise following his breakout rookie performance in 2015. He finished in third place in the American League Rookie of the Year voting and he was named the Twins Most Valuable Player even though he played in less than half of the team's games. He made a tremendous impact but he wasn't the only rookie leaving his mark at the big league level.

Eddie Rosario made his debut on May 6, 2015 and spent the rest of the season in the Twins outfield. The former fourth round pick  would go on to lead all of baseball with 15 triples and he lead the American League with 12 outfield assists. He became the 18th rookie since 1901 to reach double digits in homers, triples, doubles, and stolen bases. Also, he's on the ninth player in Twins history to record at least ten homers and ten triples in a season.

Rosario's career in the minor leagues might best be described as tumultuous. He burst onto the scene in 2011 by winning the Appalachian League MVP and out homering Miguel Sano and Kennys Vargas. Over the next two seasons, the routine became double-digits in home runs and over 30 doubles. The Twins thought so highly of Rosario, they transitioned him to second base, a position of need in the organization at the time.

During the 2014 off-season, the hammer fell on Rosario. He was handed a 50-game suspension for a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. After returning from the suspension, Rosario hit poorly for the first time in his professional career. The Twins sent him back for a second stint in the Arizona Fall League where his bat started to show some signs of life.

Flash-forward to 2015 and Rosario wasn't exactly hitting the cover off the ball when he was called up from Rochester. Through 23 games, he was batting .242/.280/.379 with six extra-base hits. His batting average was almost 50 points lower than his career in the minor leagues and he was getting on base 6% less than his career average.

Now, it's weeks away from Rosario reporting to his first spring training where he will enter the year with his name already penciled into a starting job. Some players run into struggles during their second full season at the big league level. There are more advanced scouting reports on players so pitchers have a better idea how to attack a batter. This is where the term "sophomore slump" has been used in baseball circles.

Will Rosario be able to breakthrough the sophomore slump and actually be a sophomore stud?

Baseball Reference projects Rosario to hit double digits in home runs, triples, and doubles while increasing his batting average and on-base percentage. FanGraphs ZiPS projects have Rosario's batting average dropping over 10 points and his on-base percentage staying around the same point. They also have him combining for 44 extra-base hits which would be two less than the 2015 season in over 50 more plate appearances.

After the numbers Rosario put together in his rookie season, it is going to be tough to live up to the offensive punch he provided. However, there are some adjustments he can make to avoid slumping in 2016. In every minor league season before his second drug suspension, Rosario got on base over 34% of the time. He also struck out in 19% of his at-bats compared to 26% in his rookie season. If Rosario could improve his walk rate and reduce his strikeout percentage, he might be able to avoid some of the biggest parts of the sophomore slump.

One of the things working in Rosario's favor has been the fact that he's hit tool was always considered advanced in the minor leagues. His quick wrists and good plate coverage meant that his bat looked MLB ready even if other parts of his game weren't there yet. Because of this advanced approach, Rosario should be able to avoid any long-term slumps at the big league level.

Some minor tweaks here and there should make Rosario a solid contributor in his sophomore season and he could surprise a lot of people with his performance.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

What's Next for Alex Meyer?

2015 was supposed to be his season, his moment. After working his way through two different minor league systems over three years, Alex Meyer was on the cusp of making his major league debut. In fact, Baseball Prospectus had him ranked as the 14th best prospect in baseball, his highest ranking on any national list during his professional career.

As Meyer entered his age-25 season at last year's TwinsFest, he compared his age to that of another late bloomer, Randy Johnson. Meyer said, "Randy Johnson, I think I read he came up when he was 25. He just so happened to be tall, too, so let's hope. If I could have half that career..."

Meyer started the year in the minor leagues and things didn't go exactly to plan. He made eight starts in Rochester and compiled a 7.09 ERA with 41 strikeouts and 24 walks in 39.1 IP. Something wasn't clicking and the Twins decided to move him to the bullpen.

"I love starting. I've done it my whole life," Meyer said later in the season. "But going out there and getting my teeth kicked in every game wasn't a good experience."

The transition to the bullpen came with some positive results. In his next nine appearance (17 IP), he posted a 0.53 ERA with 20 strikeouts and six walks. Opponents batted .188 against him during this stretch and got on base less than 27% of the time.

It was time to see if Meyer could resemble Mr. Johnson as the Twins called him up to make his big league debut. In two interleague games, Meyer pitched 2.2 innings and allowed five earned runs including two home runs. Opponents got on base 50% of the time and batted over .360. It wasn't exactly the magical moment Meyer had dreamed about.

Meyer wouldn't make it back to the big leagues in 2015. He'd spend the rest of the season figuring out his new bullpen role. Things didn't got perfectly as he allowed 15 earned runs in his next 13.0 innings pitched with a 17 to 8 strikeout to walk ratio. But he did improve in his last 10 games as he allowed two earned runs in 22.2 innings with 22 strikeouts and 10 walks.

The Twins have seen other failed starters succeed in bullpen roles. All-Star closer Glen Perkins was a starter before finding success in the bullpen. Brian Duensing went back and forth between starter and reliever before eventually being moved to the bullpen. Trevor May had success as a starter last season but his future looks to be that of a reliever.

Luckily for Meyer, the bullpen has more opportunities than the rotation as the Twins get closer to spring training. Minnesota hasn't made little to no offseason moves to bolster the pitching staff as the team seems destined to use internal options in 2016. That being said, it would take a strong spring from Meyer to prove he belongs at the big league level to start the year. Meyer's control and use of his change-up will be keys to him finding success at the next level.

It seems likely that Meyer will start the year in Rochester as the organization monitors how he can adjust to his first full season as a relief pitcher. His path to the big leagues has taken a different course but he can still be an impact player as the Twins become more relevant in the American League.

2015 wasn't his season but 2016 and beyond could bring better moments for Alex Meyer the relief pitcher.

Monday, January 11, 2016

State of the Union: Minnesota Twins

President Barack Obama will be giving his final State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. He is entering the last year as the Commander and Chief and most Presidents like to paint a picture of hope for the future before their term is over. The Twins gave fans hope last year as they were relevant in the final weeks of the season for the first time in half a decade. 

Let's imagine we are all sitting down to hear a message directly for Twins Territory. What is the State of the Union for the Minnesota Twins? 
Mr. Ryan, Mr. Molitor, Members of Twins Territory, My Fellow Americans:

We are over a decade and a half into this new century. Sixteen years ago the Twins were wallowing after years of futility in the AL Central. Things looked bleak and it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. At that time, a young core of players was on the horizon and a new manager took over for the most famous manager in team history. There was hope and hope would result in multiple division championships as the team moved to Target Field.

From there things would turn dark. Players moved on, young talent didn't produce, and the club found themselves back at the bottom of the American League. It was hard to stay positive in these dark times. However, the night is always darkest before the dawn.

But this season, we turned the page. This season, after a breakthrough year for the Twins, our team found themselves relevant when other's assumed they would continue to dwell in the cellar. Our prospects have arrived and some were even better than expected. Our pitcher's earned run average is now lower than before the losing season crisis. And we are as free from the Yankee dynasty as we've been in almost 20 years.

This season, for the first time since 2010, our team was in playoff contention in the second half of the season. Six years ago, the team was composed of veteran players like Morneau, Cuddyer, Hudson, Thome, and Pavano. Today, the team includes Sano, Buxton, Rosario, Gibson, and Dozier. We salute the sacrifice made by the previous generation. We are grateful for your service because you paved the way for the current generation of players.

Twins Territory, for all that we have endured; for all the losses and meaningless second half games required to improve; for all the improvements that are still on the path, know this: The shadow of the of the losing crisis has passed, and the State of the Twins is strong.

In this hour -- with a blooming farm system, disappearing losses, a new direction -- we have risen from the losing crisis with a brighter future than in any time in our generation. It's up to the organization to decide on the path for the team to follow over the next decade and for decades to come.

Will we accept the years of futility that have plagued our past? Or will we commit to a new order that generates a winning attitude that palpitates throughout the baseball universe?

Will we approach the coming seasons with the thoughts of dread and fear that rang through Twins Territory in previous years? Or will we recapture the winning spirit of 1987 and 1991 that united the Twin Cities and Twins Territory with a common goal and purpose?

In under four weeks, the pitchers and catchers of our organization will report to Florida with a new sense of purpose. And in the weeks ahead, the position players will join them. There will be decisions to be made and checklists to follow as the roster is whittled down to the final grouping.

It begins with our minor leagues. Six years ago, Miguel Sano was waiting to sign a contract. His prospect status was high. There were questions about his age. For a young Dominican player, this should be the greatest time in his life. The hope of getting his family out of poverty was within his grasp.

As questions about his age arose, Miguel's contract offers had all but disappeared. As Major League Baseball investigated his actual age, it looked like he'd have to take what every offers were left over. The Twins looked past all of this and gave the young slugger an opportunity. There was promise in his bat and his future looked bright.

"I'm very thankful to get this chance to sign with the Twins," Sano said at the time. "I'm going to work very hard to try and get to the majors in two years."

His estimation was not quite correct but these types of lofty goals were what would help put the team back on the right track. This is the type of attitude that has now become an expectation in the organization. Hard work will result in positive changes and eventually new winning ways.

Twins Territory, a culture of winning has begun. Over the last three seasons, there have been multiple championships won in the Twins system. The Elizabethton Twins won the Appalachian League in 2012. The Fort Myers Miracle won the Florida State League in 2014. The Chattanooga Lookouts won the Southern League title in 2015. Winning is happening and it is happening now.

Names like Dalton Hicks, Niko Goodrum, Adam Brett Walker, Max Kepler, DJ Baxendale, and Brett Lee have been part of all three of these championship teams. Top prospects Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Jose Berrios were part of those rosters at different times. Winning is contagious and changing a losing culture starts with a fresh crop of players.

My first son was born this winter and he has yet to know a baseball season. I want him to grow up in world where the Twins are consistently relevant. Where a fan base can cheer their club to multiple division championship on their way to long playoff runs. That we can overcome the losses of our past and that he can grow up in a united Twins Territory.

My fellow baseball fans, we, are a strong and passionate force. We have made it through the hard times. The dust has settled and a new sun is rising on the horizon of winning ways. This club will get better and this organization is ready to burst from the cellar. Let's start the winning together-- and let's start the winning in 2016.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless this game we love. Thank you.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Where Are They Now? 2011 Twins Top-10 Prospects

Ranking prospects within an organization is no easy task. The internet has opened up a wave of new information for writers as they can analyze video, sort through higher-level statistics, and prioritize scouting reports from a plethora of experts. This level of information can be overwhelming at times but it helps to separate prospects at different levels.

One of my favorite parts of working on the 2016 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook is looking at the old prospect lists from yesteryear. It's entertaining to see some of the players that were once thought of as being near the top of the Twins organization. Seth's lists go further back than Jeremy and I and that can be even more entertaining. His 2008 Top-4 Twins prospects included Deolis Guerra, Tyler Robertson, Anthony Swarzak, and Kevin Mulvey.

I started my blog in the spring of 2010 so my first prospect list was for the 2011 season. There are some very familiar names on the list and some other names that have disappeared from the baseball world. "Where Are They Now?" will help to find out how these top prospects are doing at this point in their careers.

1. Miguel Sano, 3B
2015 Team (Level): Minnesota Twins (MLB), Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)
Entering the 2011 season, Sano was just coming off his first professional action in the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League. I already had high hopes for the young slugger even though he only had just over 200 ABs under his belt. In 2015, Sano made his big league debut and finished in third place in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting. He was named the Minnesota Twins team MVP even though he only played half of a season. Next season will be his first full season at the big leagues and his future looks bright.

2. Kyle Gibson
2015 Team (Level): Minnesota Twins (MLB)
The Twins had been aggressive with Gibson back in 2010. He pitched at three different levels from High-A all the way up to Triple-A. Using his college experience, Gibson had pitched well with an ERA under 3.00 and most Twins prospect lists had him as one of the top choices entering the 2011 campaign. This past season Gibson was named the team's best starting pitcher after he lead the team in most statistical categories. He had to overcome Tommy John surgery and some struggles at the big league level but he has established himself as one of the Twins best pitchers before his 28th birthday.

3. Aaron Hicks
2015 Team (Level): Minnesota Twins (MLB), Rochester Red Wings (AAA)
Hopes were still high for Hicks following the 2010 season as he had established himself as one of the best prospects in the game. Baseball America had Hicks as the 19th best prospect in baseball and Baseball Prospectus had him ranked 26th. Since that time, Hicks would put together other strong seasons in the minor but his MLB time was a little underwhelming. For the 2015 campaign, he made subtle strides on the offensive side of the ball and his defense continues to be strong. The Twins traded Hicks to the New York Yankees this offseason for catcher John Ryan Murphy.

4. Joe Benson
2015 Team (Level): Gwinnett Braves (AAA), Binghamton Mets (AA)
After the Twins took Benson with their second round pick in 2006, he had established himself as one of the team's top prospects. He had hit 27 home runs between Double-A and High-A before being asked to play in the Arizona Fall League. Benson would debut with the Twins in 2011 but he has yet to be back to the big league level. He's bounced around from organization to organization including the Rangers, Marlins, Mets, and Braves. Last year, he played the entire season at Triple-A with the Braves and he hit .248/.351/.361. Minnesota signed Benson as a minor league free agent so he will be back in the organization for the 2016 campaign.

5. Alex Wimmers
2015 Team (Level): Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)
Wimmers and Gibson were both first round draft picks with similar college experience. This gave Twins fans some great expectations for Wimmers especially after a some strong numbers with Fort Myers in his professional debut (1 ER, 0.70 WHIP, 23 K, 15.2 IP). His trip through the Twins organization has been rocky at best. There have been some high moments but his issues with control have deterred him from living up to his first round draft status. The last two seasons he has been over a year and a half older than the competition at his level while splitting time as a starter and reliever.2016 will be big if he wants to stay in the Twins organization.

6. Ben Revere
2015 Team (Level): Philadelphia Phillies (MLB), Toronto Blue Jays (MLB)
At the end of the 2010 season, Revere would make his big league debut before becoming an MLB regular in 2011. Revere, another first round pick on this list, showed the ability to make consistent contact in the minors while stealing bases and playing strong outfield defense. He would become a fan favorite during his couple years playing in Minnesota before being dealt to the Phillies for Trevor May. He's stolen 30 bases or more in four of his last five seasons and he lead the NL in hits back in 2014. Philadelphia dealt him to the Blue Jays at the end of last season to help with their playoff run.

7. Oswaldo Arcia
2015 Team (Level): Minnesota Twins (MLB), Rochester Red Wings (AAA)
Arcia was already showing his power potential in 2010 as he finished the season with a 1.096 OPS for Elizabethton in the Appalachian League. He wouldn't debut with the Twins until 2013 and he would crank 20 home runs at the big league level in 2014. Arcia is still in the Twins organization but he struggled through 2015 to the point where he wasn't given a call-up last September. With the emergence of Miguel Sano and the addition of Byung Ho Park, it will be interesting to see what kind of role Arcia will have in 2016. He could be a good power option off the bench.

8. Liam Hendriks
2015 Team (Level): Toronto Blue Jays (MLB)
Hendriks played at both Low- and High-A for the Twins in 2010 before getting on the fast track to the big leagues in 2011. He'd debut as 22-year old and win nine games as a 23-year old but he'd be out of the Twins organization following the 2014 season. Since then, he has pitched in the Royals and Blue Jays systems. Last year, he was a very effective relief pitcher for the Blue Jays as they went on to win the AL East. This offseason he was traded from the Blue Jays to the Athletics for pitcher Jesse Sanchez.

9. Kyle Waldrop
2015 Team (Level): None
Waldrop had just made his debut during the 2011 campaign following back-to-back seasons pitching at Triple-A. He'd appear in 24 games for the Twins between 2011 and 2012. He'd pitch one more season professionally in the Pirates organization but he never made it back to the big leagues. Waldrop hasn't pitched at any level since 2013.

10. Max Kepler
2015 Team (Level): Minnesota Twins (MLB), Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)
Kepler was coming off his professional debut back in 2010 but he was part of a strong international signing class that included the aforementioned Sano. Kepler seemed to have all the tools necessary to be a five-tool prospect but there were a lot of unknowns surrounding a young player that spent time developing in Europe. He would spend most of his minor league years around the edge of the Twins top-10 prospects before a magical 2015. Kepler was outstanding this season on the way to making his big league debut. He was named Southern League MVP and he helped the Lookouts to win the league's championship.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Running Down the Hall (of Fame)

My first Twins game was May 30, 1994 when the Twins took on the Seattle Mariners. As a kid, I was excited to be at my first big league game but it's fun to look back on the caliber of players in both line-ups. Future Hall of Famers Kirby Puckett, Randy Johnson, and Dave Winfield all played in the game.

Two other members of that Mariners team are prominently featured on this year's Hall of Fame ballot, Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez. Griffey is in his first year of eligibility and he will be enshrined this year with close to 100% of the vote. Martinez has been on multiple ballots but he doesn't get as much support since he played the majority of his career at designated hitter.

Besides Griffey's almost assured enshrinement, there will likely be other's to join him in Cooperstown this summer. Here's a look at the 2016 Hall of Fame Ballot.

Class of 2016
Jeff Bagwell: It's going to be close but I think Bagwell gets just over 75% of the vote needed to get into the Hall of Fame. There are some that have questioned his candidacy because he was a big power hitter in the midst of the steroids era. Bagwell is tied with Ty Cobb for third most seasons with a .420+OBP, .540+ SLG, and 15+ stolen bases. Only Ed Delahanty and Barry Bonds are higher on the list.

Ken Griffey Jr: The only questions surrounding Griffey is whether or not he will be listed on 100% of the ballots. There has never been a Hall of Famer listed on 100% of the ballots and that trend will likely continue this year. Griffey battled through numerous injuries in his career otherwise he might be considered the greatest player in the history of the game. His tremendous defense in center field and his sweet swing at the plate make him a hands down pick for the class of 2016.

Mike Piazza: He may go down as the best hitting catcher of all-time and this should be enough to get him in on his fourth time on the ballot. Much like Bagwell, there have been some that haven't voted for him because of him being a power hitter in the steroid era. I think he makes it in this year and does it pretty easily. If Bagwell falls short, this year's class might only include Griffey and Piazza.

Future Inductions
Tim Raines: Raines continues to gain steam in recent years and I think he falls just short on this year's ballot which will set him up for election in 2017, his last year on the ballot. He is one of the best leadoff hitters of all time. His fifth in stolen bases, 13th in stolen base percentage, and 41st in win probability added. He'd need a 20 percent increase from last year's ballot and that might be too much to do in one year.

Curt Schilling: Schilling is one of the most dominant postseason pitchers of all time and the longevity of his career should help his case. He has received under 40% of the vote in each of his three years on the ballot but he should see a big jump this season. It will likely take a few more years but he should get in at some point.

Trevor Hoffman: For a few seasons, he held the all-time record for career saves before being passed by Mariano Rivera. Even as a relief pitcher, he finished second in the Cy Young voting twice and had two other top six finishes. He was the first pitcher to reach 500 saves and one of two players to have reached the 600 save mark. Relief pitchers have a tough time getting in but he was a trailblazer at the position.

May Never Get In (But Still On My Ballot) 
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina
Even though they are two of the best players of all-time, Bonds and Clemens have the cloud of steroids surrounding their candidacy. Martinez was a designated hitter and it seems like the voters are holding that against him even though he has strong numbers as a power hitter. Mussina was a good pitcher for a long time but he won't get enough support and he was the last name on my ballot.

Others on the ballot: Garret Anderson, Brad Ausmus, Luis Castillo, David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Troy Glaus, Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Hampton, Jason Kendall, Jeff Kent, Mike Lowell, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Gary Sheffield, Lee Smith, Sammy Sosa, Mike Sweeney, Alan Trammel, Billy Wagner, Larry Walker, Randy Winn

So who do you think gets in? Who else should have been on my ballot? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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.

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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.

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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.

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