Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 12, 2015

Minnesota Twins' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

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    Injuries derailed Byron Buxton's 2014 season, but the sky is still the limit for the game's top prospect.
    Injuries derailed Byron Buxton's 2014 season, but the sky is still the limit for the game's top prospect.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Heading into the 2014 season, it was almost a forgone conclusion that several of the Minnesota Twins’ top prospects would reach the major leagues. But that never happened.

    Center fielder Byron Buxton, widely considered the sport’s top prospect, lost most of his highly anticipated campaign with a wrist injury and a concussion, while slugging third baseman Miguel Sano ultimately missed the entire season following Tommy John surgery.

    The Twins’ first-round draft pick last year, Nick Gordon (Dee Gordon's brother and Flash Gordon's son), has a high ceiling as a true shortstop with a natural feel for hitting and the underrated strength to put the ball in gaps. The club also added several potential late-inning power arms in the draft in Nick Burdi, Michael Cederoth, Sam Clay and Jake Reed.

    Beyond that, the Twins have an intriguing mix of high ceilings and depth on the mound, highlighted by hard-throwing right-handers Alex Meyer and Jose Berrios, both of whom are likely to reach the major leagues in 2015. Beyond that, the organization’s lower-level arms like Kohl Stewart, Lewis Thorpe and Stephen Gonsalves seem poised for breakout campaigns in 2015 and could end up being three of the more talked-about pitching prospects in the game by season’s end.

    Here are the Minnesota Twins’ top 10 prospects for 2015.

How They're Ranked

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: How well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: Number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: Approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present vs. projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

     

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: Delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: Present vs. future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: Feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal.
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

     

    Resources

Close Calls

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    Jake Reed, RHP

    Trevor May, RHP

    Eddie Rosario, OF/2B

    Michael Cederoth, RHP

10. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 07/08/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 190 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: Fourth round, 2013 (Cathedral Catholic HS, California)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 10

    ETA: 2018

     

    2014 Stats

     

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    65556550

     

    Scouting Report

    Stephen Gonsalves’ projectable 6’5”, 190-pound frame gives him plenty of room to add strength and durability moving forward, which in turn should help him iron out some of the kinks in his delivery and repeat it with greater consistency.

    In terms of stuff, the 20-year-old left-hander features a fastball in the low-90s, and given his aforementioned remaining projection, he could easily be a mid-90s guy at maturity. Gonsalves has an interesting mix of secondary offerings, with a curveball and changeup that respectively flash at least average potential, as well as a slightly below-average splitter, which has carried over from his days as a prep.

    If he can add more velocity (a product of gaining strength) and refine his secondary arsenal, Gonsalves could develop into a solid mid-rotation starter for the Twins within the next several years, with a chance to reach the major leagues sometime during the 2018 season.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 55/60 (No. 3 or 4 starter) - High risk

9. Nick Burdi, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/19/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 215 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2014 (Louisville)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2015

     

    2014 Stats

     

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    80605050

     

    Scouting Report

    Nick Burdi was utterly dominant as Louisville’s closer from 2013-14, as the hard-throwing right-hander saved a total of 34 games while posting a 0.62 ERA and a ridiculous 127/23 K/BB ratio in 72.2 innings (61 appearances).

    Following his selection by the Twins in the second round, Burdi saved five games and fanned 38 batters in 20.1 innings between Low-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers.

    With two present MLB-worthy pitches in an upper-90s fastball that has exceeded triple digits in the past and a devastating swing-and-miss slider that registers in the upper 80s, Burdi should find himself in the Twins bullpen by mid-2015.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (closer)—Low risk

8. Jorge Polanco, SS/2B

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    Position: 2B/SS

    DOB: 07/05/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 165 lbs

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Signed: 2009 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 8

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

     

    2014 Stats

     

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6040605055

     

     

    Scouting Report

    Jorge Polanco continued to hit his way up the organizational ladder in 2014, batting .288 in 131 games between the High- and Double-A levels and even receiving a taste of the major leagues during a five-game stint with the Twins.

    The 21-year-old switch-hitter has an outstanding hit tool, as he consistently makes solid contact and laces line drives from line to line. His short stride and small frame limits his power potential, but Polanco should always be a regular source of doubles and triples.

    Although he can hold his own at shortstop, Polanco’s arm strength is better suited for second base, where his range plays up.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (major league regular)—Low risk

7. Lewis Thorpe, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 11/23/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 160 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/L

    Signed: 2012 (Australia)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 9

    ETA: 2017

     

    2014 Stats

     

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    7060506050

     

    Scouting Report

    Lewis Thorpe didn’t disappoint in his highly anticipated full-season debut, as the Australian left-hander flashed an arsenal of four potentially solid-average to double-plus offerings en route to 80 strikeouts in 71.2 innings.

    At 6’1”, 180, Thorpe may not be the biggest guy in the world, but he makes great use of height to drive balls into home plate, combining a clean, simple arm action and easily repeatable mechanics. 

    Thorpe’s fastball has plus projection, registering in the low 90s, while his frame and arm action suggest the potential for a mid-90s peak. The 19-year-old’s changeup is also a potential plus offering, thrown with fastball arm action and late fade, and his knee-buckling curveball isn’t far behind.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 60/65 (No. 2/3 strater)—High risk

6. Nick Gordon, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 10/24/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 160 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Olympia HS, Florida)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2018

     

    2014 Stats

     

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6045556560

     

    Scouting Report

    In his first taste of professional baseball, Nick Gordon batted .294/.333/.366 with one home run, 28 RBI and 11 steals over 57 games for Rookie-level Elizabethton. However, his season was cut short (albeit by only a few games) when he suffered a broken finger during the Appalachian League playoffs.

    The son of former MLB closer Tom “Flash” Gordon and brother of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dee Gordon, Nick was viewed as the best true shortstop the 2014 draft class before the Twins selected him fifth overall.

    A left-handed hitter, Gordon generates above-average bat speed with strong, loose wrists. He keeps hands inside the ball, with the barrel staying in the hitting zone for an extended period of time, and has a line-drive approach from left-center back up the middle.

    Gordon has good strength to his 6’0”, 160-pound frame, and some power should emerge as he grows into his body and adds muscle. Most of his present power is to the left-center field gap, though he’s also just learning how to really turn on the ball.

    Gordon’s plus-plus arm strength was the best among middle-of-the-diamond players in this year’s class, and he’s also a plus athlete with quick but smooth actions. In general, the 19-year-old is a sure-handed defender who stands out for his instincts and creativity at shortstop, leaving little doubt about whether he can stay at the position long term.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (First-division player)—High risk

5. Jose Berrios, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 05/27/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 187 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Papa Juan HS, Puerto Rico)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 6

    ETA: Late 2015

     

    2014 Stats

     

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    65606555

     

    Scouting Report

    The 2012 first-round draftee continued to impress last year, turning in a dominant showing in the High-A Florida State League before moving up to Double- and then Triple-A.

    Jose Berrios is a big-time strike-thrower with above-average control profile. He may be just 6’0”, 187 pounds, but the right-hander is loaded with arm strength, reportedly hitting 101 mph in his start July 20. For that same reason, there have been and will always be concerns about his long-term durability.

    He made strides developing his secondary arsenal last season; his changeup projects to be another plus offering, thrown with deception and good arm-side fade, and he snaps off his above-average breaking ball with consistent downer action. Berrios’ lack of downhill plane and ability to pound the bottom of the strike zone are likely to be challenged, but his feel for changing speeds with both secondaries should give him a slightly greater margin for error.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter)—Medium risk

4. Alex Meyer, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/03/1990 (Age: 25)

    Height/Weight: 6’9”, 220 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 by Nationals (Kentucky)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 3

    ETA: 2015

     

    2014 Stats

     

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    70655550

     

    Scouting Report

    Alex Meyer continued his ascent toward the major leagues in 2014, as he held opposing hitters to a paltry .241 batting average while posting a 10.6 K/9 rate in 130.1 Triple-A innings. He was a strong candidate to finish the season with the Twins before leaving his final Triple-A start (on Aug. 31) with shoulder stiffness, though an MRI revealed just inflammation and no structural damage.

    One of the tallest pitching prospects (6’9”) in the minor leagues, the right-hander has a massive frame with long limbs but demonstrates a better feel for his mechanics than most pitchers of that size. Working on a steep downhill plane toward the plate, Meyer’s fastball registers between 93-97 mph and flirts with triple digits in shorter bursts.

    He features a filthy plus slider in the 84-87 mph range with sharp, wipeout break, and he also improved his changeup last season to the point where it projects as another solid-average or better offering.

    The right-hander’s impact arm strength and ability to miss bats will get him to the major leagues in 2015, where the Twins will give him every opportunity to stick in the starting rotation. Even if his mechanics and command don’t translate at the MLB level, or if he’s unable to stay healthy, Meyer still has enormous upside as a top-tier closer.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter/closer)—Low risk

3. Kohl Stewart, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 10/07/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (St. Pius X HS, Texas)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 4

    ETA: 2017

     

    2014 Stats

     

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    7055705555

     

    Scouting Report

    Kohl Stewart had an excellent first full season at Low-A Cedar Rapids, showcasing a combination of stuff and pitchability despite being slowed by injuries during the second half. The 20-year-old was scratched from a start in late July due to a right shoulder impingement and subsequently landed on the disabled list. The Twins allowed Stewart to return to Low-A in mid-August but probably should have shut him down for the season, as he left his second start back from the disabled list with the same shoulder soreness.

    At 6’3”, 195 pounds, Stewart is an excellent athlete with present physicality and room to add strength. The right-hander features a plus fastball that consistently registers in the 91-95 mph range on a downhill plane, and there's a realistic chance Stewart could sit in the mid-90s at maturity.

    His slider flashes plus-plus potential, thrown with velocity in the low to mid-80s with good depth and tilt; it’s a swing-and-miss offering that will serve as a legitimate out pitch at the next level. His changeup flashes slightly above-average potential in the low 80s, though it’s an undeveloped offering due to lack of necessity at the high school level.

    Stewart’s ability to command his three-pitch mix throughout the strike zone is tied to the repetition of his delivery and release point. Because he showcases a feel for putting away hitters when ahead in the count and tends to work according to his strengths, he has the potential to move up the ladder faster than expected.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 70 (No. 2 starter)—High risk

2. Miguel Sano, 3B

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 5/11/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 232 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2009 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 2

    ETA: Late 2015

     

    2014 Stats

     

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4580457050

     

    Scouting Report

    Miguel Sano’s highly anticipated season was over before it began, as he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery early in the spring and sit out his age-21 campaign. Though it was a lost year of development for Sano, the injury shouldn't affect his power and or impact his overall ceiling as a potential All-Star third baseman.

    Few prospects in the minor leagues have as much usable in-game power as Sano. A physically strong right-handed hitter with a linebacker build, Sano showcases elite power to all fields, easily lofting the ball out of the park with big-time backspin carry. With legitimate 80-grade power, he has the potential to be one of baseball’s premier sluggers upon arriving in the major leagues and is more than capable of hitting 35-plus home runs in his prime.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 70 (Potential All Star)—Medium risk

1. Byron Buxton, CF

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    Position: CF

    DOB: 12/18/1993 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 189 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Appling County HS, Georgia)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 1

    ETA: Late 2015

     

    2014 Stats

     

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6060806070

     

    Scouting Report

    Byron Buxton entered 2014 as the game’s consensus top prospect, and all signs pointed to him reaching the major leagues before the end of the season. Unfortunately, Buxton wound up missing the first half of the season with a wrist injury and then most of the second half after suffering a concussion in a terrifying outfield collision. His chance to get back on track in the Arizona Fall League was also derailed by an injury, as the 21-year-old dislocated and fractured his middle finger in late October and it subsequently required surgery.

    Still, there’s simply no other player who can match Buxton’s combination of elite athleticism, legitimate five-tool potential and advanced secondary skills. He is a supremely gifted athlete with 80-grade speed and the potential to be an elite defender in center field.

    At the plate, the right-handed hitter showcases outstanding bat speed and hand-eye coordination, while his mature approach and pitch recognition could make him one of the game’s top hitters. And while he’s already an extra-base machine, thanks to his wheels and whole-field approach, Buxton also has the raw power to produce 20-plus home runs at maturity.

    Buxton has the ceiling of an MVP-caliber player in his prime, with five potentially plus tools and a feel for making in-game adjustments. However, after losing nearly all of 2014 due to injuries, the 21-year-old now faces at least some pressure to make up for the lost time.

     

    Ceiling (OFP): 80 (Elite big leaguer/MVP candidate)—High risk

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