2013 Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects Chat With John Manuel

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Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Thanks for the chat, John. Just how much agonizing (i.e. banging your head against your desk) was involved when choosing between Sano and Buxton for the top spot? Ultimately, what was the deciding factor?

John Manuel: Quite a bit, actually. In the scouting report it talks about how Buxton likely will be a more well-rounded player. But the more I talked to people about Sano, about his increased maturity and the way he handles the pressure that came with his signing bonus and having a movie made about him, plus the power and the fact he's already made the transition to full-season ball, I was comfortable ranking him ahead of Buxton. That's a dynamic duo.

    Ben (Leland Grove): I see you placed Sano at 3B on the lineup card. While we are supposed to take these with a grain of salt, is it safe to assume he'll have moved across the diamond to 1B in four years' time?

John Manuel: Not safe to assume but I would say it's at least even money. He's got such arm strength that 1B would be a waste. Honestly the best comp I can think of is Miguel Cabrera with less feel for hitting. Cabrera to me defines being an 80 hitter. Sano has ridiculous power, will have little range at 3b when it's all said & done, but has such arm strength he'll make routine plays with more reps and a bit more dedication. If he doesn't care, doesn't want to be adequate, then yeah, he'll move to first. But an 80 arm is a terrible thing to waste.

    Frank (Chicago): Between this year's list of ten and last year's, which one would you pick and why?

John Manuel: This year's, not even close. Did you read the Byron Buxton report? That guy is awesome.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Does Kennys Vargas have anywhere near as much power as Sano? About where did he place among your 30?

John Manuel: Not done with the 30 yet thanks to myriad other distractions, such as the WBC & Astros top 10-30. But right now, Kennys Vargas is toward the back of the 30 if he makes it. He's physically imposing and has significant power, but he's not an 80 power guy. I'm not like the one Twins FO guy I talked to who was throwing 80s around like they're nothing! Haha ... that really was funny. But even he didn't put an 80 on Kennys' power. It's big power and he is a prospect, but obviously the bat demands on 1Bs are significant. He's going to have to keep proving it, for me.

    Carlos (Dallas, TX): Your thoughts on Levi Michael's first season? What did scouts have to say about his skillset, specifically at the plate?

John Manuel: JJ Cooper and I had a spirited Levi Michael discussion in the second AL East podcast, of all places. We were talking about players who scouts expect more out of, like when you call a scout and he says, "I watched him six games, then when I went back to write my report, I couldn't believe he was a first-round pick." Michael was one of those guys this year. The Twins' side of it is, Michael's lower half was ravaged physically by the end of his junior season. He played through a soft tissue injury in his groin and pelvic region, and the Twins say that led to injuries to virtually every joint in his lower half. They're convinced the "true" Levi Michael will show up in 2013, healthier, stronger and more physically mature. Remember Michael graduated high school a semester early to play at North Carolina in the spring of 2009, when he would have been a high school senior. The FSL was a big jump for him. I like Levi's game and know too many scouts who were very high on him as an amateur; he didn't play with those tools in 2012. I'm willing to give him a pass somewhat, but if his athleticism and explosiveness are in the past, then the Twins are left with a guy who's a bit of a shadow of his formal self. That would be a shame.

    Sammy (DC): RHP Felix Jorge is off to a promising start in the US. What does he best project as to you?

John Manuel: Good call. The Twins have so few pitching prospects in their system right now, they have to get excited about their GCL staff, because there are so few potential starters in the system otherwise. Jorge was the guy who will rank highest in the top 30 of those guys (aside from Berrios of course), thanks to his body and clean arm action. He tops out at 93 now and pitches in the upper 80s, and GCL managers liked him as well. But Rosario, Gibbons, Landa ... all those GCL pitchers had their fans. Still not sure how many will make the top 30 but Jorge is on for sure.

    Aaron (San Francisco, CA): Does Kyle Gibson's stuff look better after surgery or about the same as he did when he was first drafted?

John Manuel: The velocity was better; the changeup looks about the same, and the slider has similar shape and action, according to the scouts I talked but, but he hasn't regained the feel or command of the pitch that was a separator for him in 2010, his first pro season. But he might be the most important prospect in the AL Central. The Twins NEED Gibson to contribute in their big league rotation ASAP.I can't think of another prospect that the other teams are counting on as much.

    Eric (Tampa FL): Between Melotakis and Chargois, who is the better reliever within the Twins' system?

John Manuel: Thought it would be Chargois, but I think I would take Melotakis, and not just because of his Greek last name. Power lefty with a pretty good breaking ball. Surprisingly, he wants to start. Not sure he can do it with that arm action, but the Greek WBC team could us a starter now that George Kontos is in the bullpen. (Unless Alex Panteliodis wants to return my emails ...) Chargois sounds like, from a stuff perspective, he was never quite the pitcher he flashed in the Cape in 2011.

    Johnny (St. Louis, MO): Joe Benson - prospect or suspect?

John Manuel: Injury-prone suspect at this point. The tools are still there at times, but his season was a disaster. I am rooting for Joe, having ranked him many times. It would make me look smarter. But at this point, I don't see how anyone could count on him. He just can't stay healthy.

John Manuel: Sorry, I need a 5-minute break. Be right back.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Is command the primary shortcoming for Matt Summers? Could he project as a middle-of-the-rotation SP someday?

John Manuel: I wouldn't put it that way. He's just got this short arm swing that just makes me cringe a bit when he starts. The Twins will keep putting him out there, because he wants to start, and he did stay healthy this year. I was stunned that he threw nearly 150 innings. But he pretty much throws a ton of fastballs with sink and tail, and doesn't have a putaway pitch. Maybe he's a back-of-the-rotation starter with funk, but I think it's much more likely that he goes to the bullpen and the Twins hope the stuff plays up a bit, as it did at UC Irvine. Not many 96-97s as a starter for him though.

    Grant (NYC): What is Mike Tonkin's future role likely to be?

John Manuel: Reliever. Some scouts were pretty impressed when he lit up radar guns at the Midwest League all-star game. He was No. 30 a couple of years ago, and he's starting to grow into that physically. If any Twins pitcher wants to start, the organization is open to it, but that was true in 2012, and Tonkin relieved. He's a solid relief prospect but doesn't seem suited for a starting role.

    Frank (Chicago): About how far down the list did Travis Harrison fall? What did evaluators have to say about him?

John Manuel: He didn't exactly tumble too far, but for a bat-first prospect from Southern California, I think it's fair to hold him to a reasonably high standard that he would either hit his way to Beloit to start the year (not likely) or, more likely, mash in the Appy League. He hit well but the power wasn't what I thought it should be for him to make it to the top 10. He's a R-R corner bat who is as likely or more likely than Sano to move to 1B. He needs to flat rake to make the top 10 for me. Good prospect, 11-15 guy, but I thought he wasn't quite up to the top 10.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): John, Aaron Hicks has certainly taken the scenic route in getting to where he is now, but there were some genuine strides made this year. Question is, do the hit & power tools continue to improve or is he at a point where we are close to a finished product?

John Manuel: Joe, he has taken the Twins route, the one they seem to send all their guys on. For older jokers, there's a lot of Paul Masson to their approach; they'll make no wine before it's time, I believe was the Orson Welles tagline. Hicks made some adjustments from the left side, finally, and stopped getting so big with his swing. The question now is, what's his ceiling? Top of the lineup type? No. 6 hole hitter? My money is on 6-hole hitter, kind of Shane Victorino type of production. Some years, he's going to hit 15-17 homers. Most others, he'll be a good defensive CF and solid average offensive player.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): We're talking Twins, we're talking with #personalcheeseball gatekeeper John Manuel, so it has to be asked: what Twins' pitchability guy, who is flying under the radar, do you love?

John Manuel: I still like Adrian Salcedo. He's been in the top 10 previously, and he'll be in the 30 this year despite health issues in both his elbow and shoulder. But he touched 96 mph in the spring; his stuff was finally coming along, and he's been a big strikethrower in the past. He's pretty key again in this theme of "where are all the starting pitchers?!?"

    Tim (Pittsburgh, PA): Thank you for doing this chat John. Is it reasonable to expect Alex Wimmers to follow a similar rehab path as Kyle Gibson in 2013—several late season starts potentially followed by a stint in the AFL?

John Manuel: It is reasonable to hope that Tommy John surgery will get Wimmers back on a mound. It is not reasonable to hope or expect him to be Kyle Gibson 2.0 in that his diagnosis, much to the Twins' chagrin (and the local media in Minnesota), came pretty late. His surgery didn't happen until August. I would guess he'll throw in instructs, and maybe, if he comes back well and attacks rehab and all that, he can pitch in the AFL. But essentially he's going to miss virtually all of 2013 too. He pitched 42 innings in 2011, 5 in 2012 ... he's going to be way, way behind. Add to that, he had one truly good or great year in college. I like Alex Wimmers, thought it was reasonable when he was a first-rounder. But he's just so far behind now, I don't think the Twins can count on him in any way. A successful career for him now would just be a bonus.

    Tim (Pittsburgh, PA): Do you anticipate the Twins giving Taylor Rogers and DJ Baxendale the opportunity to be SP's going forward? Would it be fair to compare Rogers to Scott Diamond? Did you get any updates on Baxendale's velocity this summer?

John Manuel: Yes, there are two good examples of potential starters in a system in need. Baxendale's velocity was better than it was this spring, but that just means it was average, 88-92, instead of below-average. He pitched with a 40 fastball most of the spring. Encouraging debut, though, and if Baxendale can pitch even with a 45 fastball next year, he should thrive in the low minors, because he locates and has that curveball. Rogers was a pleasant surprise, and Scott Diamond is a fair comparison in many ways. Strike-throwing LHP, Rogers lacks even Diamond's physicality but hits a lot of 91s and throws a lot of strikes with three or four average pitches, depending on the day.

    Jonathan (Saint Louis, MO): Is it fair to say Buxton's profile reads a good bit like Mike Trout's? A centerfielder with plus range, plus-plus speed, potential for both plus hit and power, then apparently a better than average arm, whereas Trout's was rated as average. Of course it should go without saying the chances of his tools developing like Trout's and translating so early to the Majors is probably less than 2%, but is it a fair comparison when taking that out of the equation and just comp'ing their raw talent early in their prospect careers?

John Manuel: Byron Buxton is a total stud. It's hard not to get really, really excited about him. I was trying to temper expectations just to avoid such comparisons, but obviously, I failed. I would say that the ceiling for him is more Andrew McCutchen or maybe BJ Upton; I am not sure that he has the kind of feel for hitting that any Trout comparison implies. But he is so explosive ... he's not as physical as Trout but his explosiveness puts him in the class of some real superstars, and also makes any comparison to Upton kind of moot. Scouts wish BJ played with Buxton's burst. Wow was Buxton fun to watch.

    brian (washington dc): Are Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton the best pair of position prospects in the minors? Could they be batting 3rd and 4th as perennial all-stars for the Twins by 2016 or 17?

John Manuel: As a pair of hitters, I will say yes. Comparable pairs include: pick 2 of the Yankees guys; Profar & Olt with Texas; Baez & Almora (and/or Soler!) with the Cubs; Correa and Singleton with the Astros. But there are pairs that include hitters and pitchers that I would put in the same company such as Zunino and Taijuan Walker with Seattle or Oscar Tavares & Shelby Miller with the Cardinals. I guess writing it all out like that, I'd take the Texas two-step just because Jurickson Profar is Jurickson Profar. But it's close.

    Kelly (Saint Cloud, MN): Besides power, what else are you high on with regards to Adam Brett Walker? Top 30 guy to you?

John Manuel: Well ... that's pretty much what makes Adam Brett Walker. I'm inclined to put him in there but it's touch and go right now. Him or Kennys Vargas? Tough call. Vargas has more hittability, Walker has more power, more athleticism, and has had more chances to fail (Cape Cod League).

    Bob (MN): Who is the real Kyle Gibson? He was dominant hisfirst couple of AFL starts and seemed like he could be a solid #2 starter. But he scuffled after that and continues to be a bit too hitable. Are his secondaries just not consistently sharp enough to be the kind of out pitches a top of the rotation starter needs?

John Manuel: I would say rust and stamina were larger factors, as was the offensive nature of the AFL. He was coming off surgery, so consistency is not necessarily the first thing that comes back. He flashed three plus pitches, he stayed healthy, he got 23 innings in ... I am confident every scout or front-office evaluator would call that a successful AFL.

    Tim (Pittsburgh, PA): With his breakout performance in the AFL, is Nate Roberts starting to receive more attention as a legitimate prospect?

John Manuel: Yes. He actually wasn't far off the radar before but his injury issues (right knee, shoulder among them) in 2012 were kind of a factor. He needed ABs too but clearly made the most of them. The thing is, he has a loose swing that scouts always have liked. What else will he do? Will he run enough? Will he be an average defender? He has to do some other things to help you win when he doesn't hit, because he's not going to totally mash. But he can hit, so he's a legit guy.

    nick (atlanta): Is Berrios for real?

John Manuel: The stuff is real; the polish and pitchability were surprisingly real for his age; the results were real Rookie-ball results. Now he has to do it 28 times in a season. That's also a very real obstacle. Usually the Twins would send a high school pitcher to his first spring training, then extended, then Elizabethton for his first full year; they will push Berrios. He has forced their hand. Will be very interesting to watch. I think his combination of stuff and polish at his age is pretty exciting.

    Brian (Wisconsin): Thanks for the chat. How close was RHP A.J. Achter to making the list? His numbers this year were crazy good; 1.70 era, 86 k's and only 15 bb's in 74.1 innings! Also, what type of prospect is RHP Tyler Jones? Seemed like he had some great starts at Beloit, and then some not so good ones.

John Manuel: Not too close to the top 10, and probably not in the Top 30. Nice season, but he's also now 24 and yet to reach Double-A. He's a minor league reliever whose stuff took a step forward in a bullpen role, which is good. Everything's average, though, even in the pen. Jones meanwhile has much bigger stuff, a much bigger frame, much higher upside and is fraught with plenty of risk. He's not a consistent pitcher, and there's a lot that goes into that. Not a strike-thrower; didn't even make it into the weekend rotation in college. But maturity, preparation ... these are not strong points for Mr. Jones. He does touch 95; he does have a slider that flashes plus. He was second in the system in strikeouts and led their starters in Ks per 9. He'll be in the 30.

    Roger (Greenville, SC): What odds do you give Rosario of sticking at 2B? Even?

John Manuel: Crazy answer, but I think it depends on how much he hits. This doesn't just happen in Gold Glove voting. The better he hits, the better he suddenly seems at 2b. Teams will live with less defense if he rakes. The curious thing is how scouts uniformly give Rosario average power projections. He has produced above-average to plus power as a pro; there's nothing average about his production. In terms of purely evaluating his defense, he'll have to really get after it to be a 50 defender at second base. All that's truly required there are the ability to make routine plays, which you can do at a relatively easy pace, and turning the double play, which is the real art of the position. If he can turn the DP, he'll stay there, but right now I'd say odds are he winds up back in the outfield.

    Greg (Ohio): So theres a pretty good chance that when Twins pick in the 2013 draft best player available will not be a pitcher. Do you see Twins taking a best player available or best pitcher available? Thanks

John Manuel: Great question. They pick fourth; someone they can live with will be there, I reckon. This year, the Twins KNEW they needed pitching but could not pass up on Buxton. I don't see a Buxton in 2013 except maybe Clint Frazier or Austin Meadows. I really cannot see the Twins taking another athletic HS outfielder in 2013. I think they will bear down almost exclusively on pitchers with that selection.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Does Max Kepler draw any comparisons to you? How many jacks is he capable of producing in a single season?

John Manuel: I hope no one compares him to me. There's nothing graceful or balletic about my movements ... I haven't gotten a great comp on him but think of him as a kind of David Murphy type with more power. I think he'll wind up hitting 17-22 homers a year if he's a regular, maybe a bit more. He's getting to be a big boy.

    Tim (Pittsburgh, PA): Does it appear that 2012 draftees Zack Jones, Mason Melotakis, and JT Chargois are potentially on the fast track to the Twins bullpen?

John Manuel: Jones has the hardest fastball in the organization. He's just a reliever, and I think he and Chargois will hop on the fast track. Melotakis will as well unless he starts. If he follows through on the starting deal, then he'll be slogging through the Midwest League.

    Greg (ohio): Buxton or Starling?

John Manuel: Buxton. It is not close for me. We should stop making that comparison.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Any chance Daniel Santana knocks Florimon off his shortstop perch in the latter part of the 2013 season?

John Manuel: Not likely. I think it's funny that those players are a comparison for each other. Santana is a bit more dynamic offensively and a bit less steady defensively, but there are physical similarities.

    Greg (ohio): Does kepler use ballet in his off season training? Also is he related to Johans Kepler the 16th century discover of the laws of planetary motion?

John Manuel: No, and I do not believe so. I'm sure he's happy there's a telescope searching for 'new Earths' that bears his name, though.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Is there still hope for former Met prospect Deolis Guerra, or has he aged out of prospect status?

John Manuel: I ran him up the list last year; I think he was 15 in the Handbook. I may have reached a record level of prospect fatigue with Mr. War though. He's still prospect-eligible, and I'm from the Warren Buffet school of buying & holding, but I've sold my stock.

    Kirby (MN): What kind of defense can we expect out of Arcia?

John Manuel: Good enough to keep him from being a DH. He's got plus arm strength but he keeps slowing down; he's a below-average runner now, though he's fine under way. If he slows down anymore that could be an issue.

    frank (minneapolis): A prospect trade question: does a premium outfield prospect like Byron Buxton (assuming he dominates A ball nex like his skills say he can) bring back a premium pitching prospect like Dylan Bundy? I'm wondering this because in next year's draft, the Twins pick #4 and the 3 premium college pitchers might be gone in first 3 picks, leaving us possibly another stud high school outfielder in Austin Meadows. So, just wondering if we keep stockpiling outfielders if we can eventually trade one for another top pitching prospect?

John Manuel: No, I think it's harder to find Dylan Bundy's than it is to find Byron Buxton's. I had this kind of discussion with Mike Radcliff this fall. He lives in the KC area, as does Dick Tidrow of the Giants, and we discussed how these two veteran, well-respected evaluators have totally different philosophies when it comes to the draft. Mike believes the tie goes to the hitter when you pick high; Dick obviously is a pitching guy. Until the Giants got Buster Posey, I would have said the scoreboard was pretty even. Both evaluators had made their franchises steady playoff contenders thanks to their acumen. Now Posey changes the equation. But the Twins default to the hitter. I think even they realize they probably cannot afford to do that in 2013. A lot of time between now and June. I wouldn't worry about there not being a pitcher worthy of selection at No. 4 yet.

    Kirby (St. Paul): You have Daniel Santana much higher on your list than most. What makes him a better prospect than someone like Jorge Polanco? Comparing him to Pedro Florimon doesn't inspire confidence that he'll hit in the big leagues.

John Manuel: His hit tool is more advanced than Polanco's, and he's more physical. Polanco won't be far behind, but Santana can hit, can steal a base and can play the middle infield. Polanco has improved in that regard and got bigger and stronger, but our reports indicate Santana has more offensive upside than Polanco, and certainly involves less projection. Defensively, Polanco is smoother but moved more to second base this season, while Santana went in the other direction, moving from a utility guy into an everyday shortstop in a full-season league.

    Larry (MN): Now that you've seen them in pro ball, would you rather have the Twins first two picks from 2012 (Buxton and Berrios) or the Astros (Correa and McCullers)?

John Manuel: I did not see Correa and McCullers, didn't get a chance to see Greeneville. that is a fascinating question. If forced to pick, I suppose I would take the Astros because of McCullers, I am a sucker for McCullers. I had his dad in my diamond mind league back in 1986 when he was an absolute stud ... I am a sucker for Lance McCullers Sr. and Jr. Also, junior has two 70 pitches. I like Berrios a lot but he doesn't have any 70s on the report. I'd go Buxton over Correa, but the gap there is narrower.

    Kevin (MN): Eddie Rosario had a big fall despite pretty solid production this season (injuries notwithstanding). Does that reflect more doubts about his ability to handle second and hit for power or just a system that is a lot stronger at the top than it was at this time last year?

John Manuel: I wouldn't call it a "big" fall. But he didn't impress anyone with his defense at 2b, which last year was more of a clean slate. Also, the system is stronger this year. Arcia was fully healthy; Gibson was healthy; Hicks hit. They drafted Buxton. Sano was Sano. You could flip him with Berrios and the fall wouldn't look much farther. Their grades and risk factors will make that ranking interchangable.

    John (Fairfax, VA): How would you rank the Twins system against rest of MLB/the AL Central?

John Manuel: Probably the best group of hitters. In a different system, Oswaldo Arcia probably could be a No. 1. I might take Arcia over Jonathan Singleton, for example. But the lack of pitching in the system keeps the Twins more in the 6-10 range in the game, maybe more 8-12, rather than 1-5. It is a special group of position players, at least I think so.

    Kent (Minneapolis): Hi John. Thanks for the chat. How do you think the Twins approach to developing hitters will affect Sano? The Twins have had a reputation for stunting power hitters. (See David Ortiz).

John Manuel: That's one guy. They also developed Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau, Mauer of course, Jason Kubel, I'll even throw healthy Wilson Ramos in here, even Trevor Plouffe (!) hit 20-plus homers this year ... I know losing Big Papi still stinks, but the Twins reality of developing hitters, both power and otherwise, is quite good. Sano is doing and will do just fine.

    Eli (MN): John, thanks for the chat. What can you tell us about the owner of the best curve in the Twins system Josh Burris.

John Manuel: Converted catcher out of a Louisiana JC with a quick arm, velo and the ability to spin a curve. Many more sliders in this system right now than curveballs. It's a good curve, not a great one, and there's a lack of good curves in the system right now. Burris was on our Texas Collegiate League top 10 one year if you want to check it out, believe in 2011.

    Rich (Central NJ): Your thoughts on Niko Goodrum's season and future upside potential. Thanks,

John Manuel: I have long enjoyed Niko Goodrum as a prospect. It's hard to put him in the 30 this year considering he didn't exactly tear up E-Town in a repeat performance. But he did make progress in the Twins' eyes; he was the shortstop and relegated Polanco to second, and they will share the job next year in low A. Goodrum has the better arm, and I suspect he'll be more of the everyday SS. Next step for him is to develop some consistency at the plate, which means a better approach. He's similar to where Kepler was in 2011 in that his body lacks its "man strength." He's still long and lean; a lot depends on where the body ends up.

    dave (indiana): Where does Logan Darnell project? Starter or bullpen guy?

John Manuel: Back of the rotation starter at best; still might make the top 30, similar case to Pat Dean. Darnell throws harder, bit more fastball, bit less pitch feel. He can show you plus velocity but gets hit when he does. The breaking ball is short for him to be a left reliever right now, that's a problem; LH hitters hit .340 against him. He's more of a fastball and changeup guy, so he's going to have to hone his command, because his margin for error is pretty thin.

John Manuel: Thanks for all the questions today. Hope everyone enjoyed the chat and has a great Thanksgiving. I am back with our next chat Monday, a week from yesterday, when the Astros Top 30 kicks off our American League West rankings. Back to back chats! See you then.