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Minnesota Twins Top 10 Midseason Prospects

Royce-Lewis-2017-Rob-Cuni
Photo by Rob Cuni

SEE ALSO: Midseason Top 10 Prospects

If 2017 was a surprisingly successful season for the Twins, 2018 has been the hangover where seemingly nothing has gone as planned.

Center fielder Byron Buxton has been hurt again and third baseman Miguel Sano has been sent to high Class A Fort Myers to try to find his swing. Second baseman Brian Dozier has gone from being one of the most productive second baseman in baseball to one of the least productive. Starting catcher Jason Castro was lost early in the season with a season-ending knee injury. Starting shortstop Jorge Polanco was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for a performance enhancing drug. Righthander Ervin Santana has missed the first half of the season with a finger injury.

After missing out on signing Shohei Ohtani, the Twins hit the bargain aisle in free agency signing Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison while also trading for Jake Odorizzi. While Odorizzi has been a serviceable back-end starter, Lynn and Morrison have played poorly enough to have wiped away most of their trade value.

So as the Twins shift from buying to selling, the problem they face is most of their tradeable assets have much less value than they did coming into the season. Pending free agents Dozier, Lynn and Morrison will likely receive modest offers at best in trade. None of the trio looks to be as valuable as righthander Anibal Sanchez, who has found renewed success in Atlanta since the Twins released him in spring training.

Bullpen pieces like 41-year-old Fernando Rodney may end up being the team’s best deadline trade chips.

Thanks to Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Brusdar Graterol, Brent Rooker and many others, the farm system is still solid. In Sano, Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler, the Twins should have the makings of a solid lineup, even if that hasn’t been apparent this season. Similarly, Jose Berrios and Fernando Romero are potential rotation anchors.

But playing in a division where everyone but Cleveland is playing for 2020 and beyond, the Twins have missed a chance to take advantage of everyone else’s tanking. Now they have to decide if they have the pieces to make another run in 2019.

1. Royce Lewis, SS
High Class A Fort Myers
Age: 19

Lewis has been everything the Twins hoped for when they picked him with the first pick in the 2017 draft. He made it to high Class A Fort Myers just a month after he turned 19 and is hitting .318/.372/.481 between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers. Knee tendinitis slowed him briefly, but that’s been about the only hiccup so far. He’s shown off his speed (22 steals in 27 attempts) and athleticism and proven to be a solid if unspectacular shortstop.


2. Alex Kirilloff, OF
High Class A For Myers
Age: 20

Kirilloff lacks the defensive tools or athleticism of Lewis, but he may be an even better hitter. After missing a year recovering from Tommy John surgery, Kirilloff has shown an all-fields approach with plenty of power to left center field that earned him a spot in the Futures Game. Kirilloff will likely be limited to left field, but he has a chance to be a impact bat who hits for average and power.


3. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
High Cass A Fort Myers
Age: 19

Graterol is the highest-ceiling starting pitching prospect the Twins have had in years. He sits 96-98 mph and has touched 100-101. His slider is a second potentially plus pitch as when he stays through it and snaps off 87-90 mph spinners with bite hitters are often overmatched against. Graterol has at least average control, which is rare for a teenager with triple-digit stuff. Graterol’s slider gets slower and loopier at times and his curveball and changeup both still need work, but he has worlds of potential.


4. Brent Rooker, OF
Double-A Chattanooga
Age: 23

Rooker has struggled to come close to matching what he did in his pro debut when he was the most feared power hitter in the Florida State League. Southern League pitchers have generally survived if they can get him to chase out of the zone. But he still goes on power binges where all of a sudden he’s almost impossible to retire. Rooker is going to need to improve his selectivity as his current swing-and-miss tendencies hinder his ability to get to all of his power. The Twins are working to get Rooker to fringe-average in left field, but they’ve also given him stretches at first base, where he’s better defensively.


5. Nick Gordon, SS
Triple-A Rochester
Age: 22

After spending all of 2017 at Double-A Chattanooga, the Twins sent Gordon back there to start this season. He handled the assignment by dominating the Southern League, hitting .331/.381/.525 and earning a promotion to Triple-A. Gordon flips back and forth between second base and shortstop. Most scouts say he’ll eventually end up at second base, but he could also be a fringy shortstop depending on what level of defense a team is willing to take for solid offensive production. Gordon has struggled in his first taste of Triple-A as his plate discipline has suffered, but he should be ready for the big leagues as a 23-year-old next year.


6. Trevor Larnach, OF
Rookie-level Elizabethton
Age: 21

Larnach went from being a solid hitter with little power as a sophomore to a legitimate power hitter as a junior. That got him drafted in the first round by the Twins this year. He’s just getting started with his pro career--he made his pro debut on July 18—but Larnach’s all-fields power should play very well in any park. Much like Rooker, Larnach’s defense is fringy, but if he hits enough, it won’t really matter.


7. Wander Javier, SS
Disabled list
Age: 19

Javier was supposed to move up to Cedar Rapids this year, but instead he’s missed the entire season with a torn labrum injury that required surgery. If there is good news the injury is to his left (non-throwing) shoulder. It’s a lost season but he should be back on the field and ready to go for spring training next year.


8. Blayne Enlow, RHP
Low Class A Cedar Rapids
Age:19

Enlow hasn’t set the world on fire in his first extensive pro action, but he has shown plenty of reminders of why the Twins were thrilled to pay him well above slot as a 2017 third-round pick. Enlow has a excellent plus curveball that is a consistent weapon for him. His fastball velocity has ticked back up to 91-92 mph (and touching 94) after it dropped off a little during his senior year of high school. Enlow’s changeup needs a lot of work and he’s working on adding a hard slider, but he’s got two pitches to rely on most nights already, even if he isn’t missing many bats.


9. Akil Baddoo, OF
Low Class A Cedar Rapids
Age: 19

Like many hitters not used to hitting with frost on their bat, Baddoo was overwhelmed by April baseball in the Midwest League. But since May 1, Baddoo has been one of the tougher outs in the league. He’s hitting .324/.381/.529 since the all-star break. Baddoo has a very good idea of the strike zone and is happy to take the walk if a pitcher nibbles too much. And if a pitcher challenges him, Baddoo has enough strength to make them pay.  He’s still got work to do to remain in center field long term, but his defense is improving.


10. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
Triple-A Rochester
Age: 24

Gonsalves is quite a unique prospect. His 87-91 mph fastball manages to get plenty of swings and misses because of deception and his changeup is an above-average pitch. Gonsalves walks too many batters, but his nibbling has worked for him so far because he manages to avoid giving up many hits. He has less hits allowed than walks allowed in Triple-A. Gonsalves is a back-of-the-rotation starter at best, but he is big league ready.

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RISING

  • OF Lamonte Wade should get a shot at proving his patient, walks-heavy diet of plate appearances will play in Minnesota as well as it has throughout the minors. Wade doesn’t have as much defensive value as teams desire in a fourth outfielder, but he’s also getting to more power this year, which helps his chances of sticking around once he gets to Target Field.
  • LHP Lewis Thorpe’s arm speed has ticked back up this year after he returned from Tommy John surgery and mononucleosis. His curveball is sharper than it’s been at any point since he had elbow surgery, but doubts remain among scouts as to whether Thorpe can be a starter in the majors. Most see him as a future reliever.
  • OF Jake Cave was picked up in a minor spring training trade. He’s proven to be a capable fourth outfielder in his first big league stint.
  • 2B/3B Luis Arraez just keeps hitting. A career .329 hitter, Arraez has to hit to be a big leaguer because he’s a fringe-average second/third baseman at best, but he has some of the best hand-eye coordination in the organization.
  • C Ben Rortvedt has bounced back from a rough 2017, hitting much better in his second try at the Midwest League and earned a promotion to high Class A Fort Myers.

FALLING

  • OF Zack Granite has battled a shoulder injury but his .212/.284/.246 stat line for Triple-A Rochester means he’s likely missed his chance to try to be the Twins fourth outfielder. That role has been filled capably so far by Cave.
  • 3B Andrew Bechtold has been overmatched in the Midwest League.
  • C David Banuelos’ defense is excellent, but he’s hit .216/.248/.294 at low Class A Cedar Rapids. Until he improves his production at the plate, Banuelos will have trouble moving up the ladder.

HURTING

  • SS Royce Lewis has battled knee tendinitis, although he’s yet to miss any significant time.
  • OF Zack Granite is on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.

GRADUATING

  • RHP Fernando Romero got off to a great start in Minnesota after he joined the rotation, but he’s been battered over his last six starts. Opponents are hitting .350 against him since May 30.
  • C Mitch Garver was supposed to be the Twins backup catcher this year. But he’s been the team’s everyday catcher because Jason Castro has missed almost the entire season with a knee injury.

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