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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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
Grant (NYC): What is Mike Tonkin's future role likely to be?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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
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
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
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
Kelly (Saint Cloud, MN): Besides power, what else are you high on with regards to Adam Brett Walker? Top 30 guy to you?
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?
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?
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
nick (atlanta): Is Berrios for real?
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.
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?
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
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
@Jaypers413 (IL): Does Max Kepler draw any comparisons to you? How many jacks is he capable of producing in a single season?
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?
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
Greg (ohio): Buxton or Starling?
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?
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
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?
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?
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
Kirby (MN): What kind of defense can we expect out of Arcia?
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
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.
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
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)?
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?
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
John (Fairfax, VA): How would you rank the Twins system against rest of MLB/the AL Central?
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
How do you think the Twins approach to developing hitters will affect
Sano? The Twins have had a reputation for stunting power hitters. (See
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.
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,
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?
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.
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