Chat it up: Twins Top 10 Prospects Chat with Mike Lananna
Knowledge is Power: Twins Top 10 Insider
Want More? Complete Top 10 Prospects Rankings
Go 30 deep: Order the 2017 Prospect Handbook!
TOP 10 PROSPECTS
|1. Nick Gordon, ss|
|2. Stephen Gonsalves, lhp|
|3. Alex Kirilloff, of/1b|
|4. Fernando Romero, rhp|
|5. Tyler Jay, lhp|
|6. Adalberto Mejia, lhp|
|7. Kohl Stewart, rhp|
|8. Felix Jorge, rhp|
|9. Daniel Palka, of|
|10. Travis Blankenhorn, 3b/2b|
The signs all seemed to point in a positive direction.
After four straight years of 92 or more losses, the 2015 Twins won 83 games under first-year manager Paul Molitor. They competed for a postseason berth. A wave of top prospects, led by outfielder Byron Buxton, seemed ready to seize big league roles.
Then the 2016 season rolled in, and those good feelings quickly evaporated. The Twins started the season 0-9 and were 33-58 at midseason (the second-worst midseason mark in franchise history), so owner Jim Pohlad fired longtime general manager Terry Ryan in mid-July.
Ryan was in his second stint as GM. His first ended with a flourish, when the Twins finished first in the American League Central four times between 2002-06. His second stint ended in failure, as he was unable to get the franchise back on track. The Twins finished the 2016 season 59-103—worst in franchise history.
Obviously, little went right for Minnesota in 2016. Byung Ho Park, a 29-year-old Korean first baseman signed to be the primary DH, struggled to adjust to American baseball, batting .191/.274/.409 before being demoted to Triple-A Rochester. Righthanders Tyler Duffey and Kyle Gibson took steps back from their strong 2015 seasons. Powerful Miguel Sano—the team's No. 2 prospect in 2015—missed all of June with a hamstring strain after an ill-fated attempt to play him in right field.
The Twins graduated five of their Top 10 Prospects, with varying levels of success. Buxton, sent down twice during the season, finally clicked in September, hitting nine home runs in 101 at-bats. Righthander Jose Berrios went 3-7, 8.02 in the first 14 starts of his big league career. Shuttled between Rochester and Minnesota, both outfielder Max Kepler and shortstop Jorge Polanco seemingly solidified major league roles by season's end.
The Twins decided to make two hires to replace Ryan. First came Indians assistant GM Derek Falvey, whose title is chief baseball officer, and right after the World Series they hired Thad Levine from the Rangers as GM. They inherit a major league roster in transition, and farm system thinned by prospect graduations.
The Twins' Top 10 might have more questions than answers. Does top prospect Nick Gordon have the athleticism to stick at shortstop? Can lefthander Tyler Jay, the No. 6 overall pick in 2015, make a successful transition from reliever to starter? Can righthander Kohl Stewart, the No. 4 overall pick in 2013, find a way to miss bats? The answers to those questions could define the Twins' immediate future.
The Twins drafted high schoolers in the first four rounds in 2016, and while those picks offer plenty of upside, they are far from helping the big league club. If there's a silver lining from a disastrous 2016, it's that the 2017 draft will give them an opportunity to restock, starting with the No. 1 overall pick.
1. Nick Gordon, ss |
Born: Oct. 24, 1995. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 160. Drafted: HS—Orlando, 2014 (1st round). Signed by: Brett Dowdy.
|Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.|
Background: The son of righthander Tom Gordon—who pitched parts of 21 seasons in the big leagues—and the younger half-brother of Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, Nick benefits from significant major league bloodlines. The Twins drafted him fifth overall in 2014 and signed him for $3.581 million, making Gordon the first high school position player selected that year. The top prep shortstop in his class, Gordon could've also followed in his father's footsteps. He showed a low-90s fastball and flashes of a curveball—Tom's signature pitch—in the summer showcase circuit. Instead, the Twins have groomed Gordon as a shortstop, and he continues to learn the nuances of the position. Gordon built on a solid 2015 season at low Class A Cedar Rapids, during which he batted .277/.336/.360, with a near identical offensive stat line at high Class A Fort Myers in 2016. However, Gordon recorded a .530 OPS against lefthanders and made 24 errors at shortstop—two areas he'll look to improve as he moves up the ladder in the Twins organization. Gordon finished 2016 on a strong note with Surprise of the Arizona Fall League, where he made the circuit's all-star team.
Scouting Report: Unlike his half-brother Dee, Nick doesn't boast off-the-charts speed or athleticism; he's average in both categories. As such, some scouts outside of the organization view him as more of a second baseman. The Twins believe he has the aptitude, instincts and short-area quickness to stick at short, but he'll need to continue to put in the time to learn hitters, properly position himself and refine his footwork. His success at shortstop will depend on his preparation. By most accounts, he has a strong work ethic. Gordon's plus arm strength is his greatest asset, though he did have throwing issues at times in 2016, contributing to his error total, which ranked fourth among Florida State League shortstops. Offensively, Gordon shows strength and bat speed in his lefthanded, line-drive swing as well as an ability to hit to all fields. His power is geared for the gaps at present, but he should put more balls over the fence as he develops physically. With good hand-eye coordination and barrel awareness, Gordon is generally a disciplined hitter, but he also gives away at-bats on occasion, and the Twins want him to take care of his plate appearances with a little more focus and concentration. His issues against lefthanded pitchers in 2016 are worth watching, though he's shown better splits in the past and he could improve against lefties with repetition.
The Future: Gordon's game is predicated more on fundamentals than flash, and he'll need to continue to refine those fundamentals for him to stick at shortstop. Gordon's instincts and feel for the game are ahead of many players his age—thanks in part to his big league genetics—and that aptitude helps him play above his raw tools. The Twins have had 10 different starters on Opening Day at shortstop since 2005, and they will start Gordon at Double-A Chattanooga in 2017 with the hopes he'll end their revolving door at shortstop soon.
|Fort Myers (Hi A)||.291||.335||.386||461||56||134||23||6||3||52||23||87||19|