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Armed with the No. 1 overall draft pick for just the third time in club history, the Twins surprised many in the industry by passing on advanced college arms such as Brendan McKay and Kyle Wright along with high school phenom Hunter Greene. Instead, they took Lewis, a late-blooming gamer with outstanding makeup and the potential to become a five-tool, franchise-changing asset. Signed to a club-record draft bonus of $6.725 million, nearly a full million below slot value, Lewis became the first 1-1 selection for the Twins since hometown catcher Joe Mauer in 2001. Lewis' mother Cindy is a former softball first baseman and pitcher for San Jose State who once beat UCLA great Lisa Fernandez 1-0 at Westwood. Pre-draft concerns about Lewis' hit tool proved unwarranted as he had no problem making the necessary adjustments for a smooth transition to pro ball. Hitting coordinator Rick Eckstein got him to use his hips and legs better, and that opened up the pull side for Lewis, who homered on a full count in his first pro plate appearance. With a high waist and wide shoulders, he showed excellent plate discipline and an all-fields approach that drew comps to Ian Desmond. Lewis has plus speed and advanced instincts on the bases, where he was caught stealing just three times in 21 attempts. In the field, after seeing time at third base and center field at JSerra Catholic High School, he was working hard to improve his range at shortstop with better positioning and pre-pitch anticipation. He flashed plus arm strength before the draft but saw that wane under the Florida heat and an increased workload. A separated left shoulder suffered in high school hasn't been an issue so far. Lewis' makeup and work ethic are off the charts, and his ability to connect with teammates, fans and media are reminiscent of Carlos Correa. After a week or so, Ramon Borrego, his GCL manager, was calling for Lewis to skip the Rookie-level Appalachian League and be promoted all the way to low Class A Cedar Rapids. That happened in early August. Lewis figures to return to the Midwest League to start his first full pro season. If he dominates there the way Byron Buxton did in 2013, a promotion to high Class A Fort Myers could come by midseason. He's given the Twins no reason to doubt his ability to stay at shortstop or their decision to invest the top overall pick in his vast potential.
The Twins liked Javier so much, they spent their entire 2015-16 international bonus allotment on him, even going 1.3 percent over their limit to secure him for $4 million. That's still an international amateur record for the organization, which saw five-tool potential in a player ranked No. 9 in his international class. Javier received the highest bonus among Dominican shortstops that year and was second only to Phillies outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz among all Dominican signees. Limited by hamstring issues to just 26 at-bats in his first pro summer, Javier surged forward in his first exposure to rookie-level Elizabethton. Wiry, long-limbed and lanky upon signing, Javier has begun to add strength to his frame and could still be growing. Still fairly raw with limited game experience beyond the amateur showcase circuit, Javier worked with hitting coordinator Rick Eckstein and Elizabethton hitting coach Jeff Reed to better incorporate his lower half and improve his balance. Javier ditched his big leg kick and now has a simple setup and swing with quiet hands and a small lift of his front foot. While he still has a tendency to chase pitches out of the zone, the ball jumps off his bat and he shows gap-to-gap power with a willingness to stay up the middle with authority. A plus runner with plus athleticism, he shows plenty of range, plus-plus arm strength and should have no problem staying at shortstop as he advances through the system. He's also worked hard to improve his English and is acclimating well. Low Class A Cedar Rapids should be the next logical step for Javier, but the Twins might need to start him at extended spring training in order to produce enough shortstop reps for both Royce Lewis and Javier. Swapping those two between shortstop and third base is another possible avenue.
Drafted 15th overall in 2016 and signed away from Liberty with a bonus of $2,817,100, the home-schooled prodigy raked his way to MVP honors in the Appalachian League after skipping the GCL in his first pro summer. Shut down late in the year with inflammation in his throwing elbow, he rehabbed all offseason but still had to have Tommy John surgery last March that wiped out his 2017 season. Drawing comparisons to such corner outfielders as Max Kepler and Christian Yelich, Kirilloff has strong wrists, quick hands, excellent balance and a smooth lefthanded swing. The year off gave him a chance to strengthen his lower half and pack on close to 30 pounds of muscle, which should enable him to get to his 15- to 20-homer potential sooner. Using an all-fields approach, he has an advanced understanding of the strike zone, outstanding barrel awareness and the almost effortless ability to hit for average. An average runner who has played center field but likely fits better in right, Kirilloff also shows soft hands at first base. That could be a fallback option down the road and a way to take stress off his elbow post-surgery. Kirilloff figures to open 2018 in extended spring training before heading up to the Midwest League, where it shouldn't take him long to make up for lost time.
Given an above-slot bonus of $700,000 as a fourth-round steal, Gonsalves has justified the Twins' faith after he pitched just 48 innings as a high school senior. Makeup concerns had caused him to drop after he was suspended eight games after covering for a teammate's drug use during a national tournament. A shoulder strain landed Gonsalves on the shelf at the 2016 Arizona Fall League and again last spring, when he missed the first six weeks of the Double-A season. Once he returned, it didn't take him long to show the same smooth repeatable delivery, feel for pitching and advanced command that pushed him up the prospect rankings. Tall with long levers, good mound presence and a three-quarters arm slot, he pitches at 88-91 mph and touches 94 mph with his fastball, which shows glove-side run and plays up due to deception and extension. He reads hitters well and works effectively at the top of the zone. He featured his 1-to-6 curveball more often in 2017, when it was a put-away pitch at times. His slurvy slider is just fringe-average with short tilt, but his changeup earns an above-average future grade due to its late fade and his ability to maintain arm speed. He throws slightly across his body, but his shoulder issues aren't traceable to his mechanics. One of three starters added to the 40-man roster in November, Gonsalves figures to open the year back at Triple-A Rochester. If he continues to hone his command and cut his walk rate, which reached a career-best 2.37 per nine innings in his second crack at Double-A, it shouldn't be long before he is vying for a spot in the middle of the big league rotation.
Signed out of Venezuela for $150,000, three days after his 16th birthday, Graterol was part of the Twins' 2014-15 international signing class headlined by fellow righthander Huascar Ynoa out of the Dominican Republic. While the Twins shipped Ynoa to the Atlanta Braves last July in Part 1 of the Jaime Garcia flip process, Graterol returned from Tommy John surgery to rocket up the prospect charts while dominating at two levels. In his final outing of a season capped at 40 innings and 75 pitches in any individual outing, he struck out five in the first three innings of an elimination-game win that sent Rookie-level Elizabethton on its way to a four-game winning streak and the Appalachian League title. After sitting at 87-88 mph with his fastball pre-surgery, Graterol used the rehabilitation process to completely remake his body and his repertoire. Now 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds after packing on nearly 60 pounds of good weight, most noticeably in his legs and hindquarters, he has boosted his fastball to 95-98 mph with flashes up to 101 mph. That enabled him to blow past Double-A righty Fernando Romero for ownership of the best fastball in the system. Graterol also has a late-breaking plus slider at 85-89 mph and a hard curve at 80-83 mph that has a chance to be above-average. His 86-89 mph changeup projects as at least average with good action and feel for his age. Graterol figures to open 2018 at low Class A Cedar Rapids, where he will continue to build up his innings and mound experience. With outstanding work ethic and aptitude that point toward continued improvement, he has the highest ceiling of any Twins prospect, projecting rotation-topping potential.
Signed less than two months from his 17th birthday, the late-blooming Romero was discovered at a select tournament in Jupiter, Fla. He signed for $200,000 after an unexpected bidding war broke out. Rated the Twins' No. 12 prospect after his first Gulf Coast League season, Romero was limited to just three starts in 2014-15 due to Tommy John surgery and a knee injury suffered doing box jumps. He roared back onto the radar with a standout 2016 and mostly built on those gains last season, although he did fade late due in part to a shoulder impingement that landed him on the disabled list. Despite lacking leverage and an ideal pitcher's frame, Romero shows the potential for three above-average pitches. He touches 98 mph with his fastball and pitches at 92-96 mph with heavy sink, although his lack of elite arm speed and a max-effort delivery have raised concerns about his durability. Rated the No. 11 prospect in the Southern League, his high-80s slider shows sharp tilt when he stays on top, but it tends to flatten out when he drifts in his delivery. His command can be erratic, and some see him eventually turning into a Francisco Rodriguez-type late-inning piece. His changeup is just average, allowing lefties to post an OPS that was 116 points higher than righties could muster. Added to the 40-man roster after the 2016 season, Romero twice was bypassed in favor of fellow Dominican righthander Felix Jorge when the Twins needed a spot start last summer. Ticketed for Triple-A Rochester to start the year, Romero should get his opportunity soon. He projects as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter if he can round out his third pitch.
Drafted in successive years by the Twins, Rooker improved his stock considerably by going back to college. After nearly accepting a modest 38th-round bonus in 2016, the Memphis-area product signed for the full-slot figure of $1.935 million following a record-setting season at Mississippi State. He also earned his degree with a double major in business administration and management. Terry Rooker, his father, caught four seasons at the University of Memphis and younger brother Josh is a freshman catcher there now, but neither ever tried to convert Brent to the position. Lynne Oliver, his mother, played college tennis at Baylor and Memphis. Rooker hit the ground running as expected, showing plus power and hitting 18 combined homers in just 62 games in the Appalachian and Florida State leagues. Having honed his power stroke and improved his contact rate in college, the powerfully built Rooker reminds some of former Twins left fielder Josh Willingham. Rooker still has some swing-and-miss in his game, especially on power breaking balls and soft stuff from lefties, but his walk rate should improve along with his pitch recognition. Primarily a first baseman in college, Rooker showed enough mobility and arm to be a tick below average in left. He is a smart baserunner despite below-average speed. After ranking second in Division I with an average exit velocity of 92 mph, Rooker matched that number in the FSL during his first pro summer. Already on the fast track due to his advanced bat, Rooker should remain in left as he climbs the ladder. He projects as a middle-of-the-order weapon with power as a strong carrying tool.
Bloodlines bode well for Gordon, son of 21-year big league pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon and younger half-brother of Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon. Drafted fifth overall in 2014 after a standout prep career in Orlando, the Florida State signee received a $3.851 million signing bonus as the first high school position player drafted. He flashed a low-90s fastball and promising curveball on the summer showcase circuit, but his admiration of Derek Jeter and love of the daily grind led him to the middle of the diamond. Voted the ninth-best prospect and best defensive shortstop in the Southern League, Gordon slashed his way to an appearance at the All-Star Futures Game, where he was the only Twins representative. He managed just 13 extra-base hits after June 18, and he hit .211 over his final 180 at-bats. Lefties have given him trouble at multiple levels, but overall his hit tool tops his list of attributes. Not a burner like his brother but an instinctive runner, Gordon shows advanced barrel awareness to go with sound plate discipline and a line-drive swing that produces gap power. His range is just average and he struggles at times with footwork, hop anticipation and throwing accuracy. His frame remains lean, and he has struggled to add visible muscle. Rival evaluators have their doubts about Gordon's ability to remain at shortstop, where he has averaged 20 errors in his three full seasons thanks in part to struggles with his throwing accuracy. With Royce Lewis and Wander Javier coming up fast behind him in the system and Jorge Polanco handling himself well at shortstop in the majors, Gordon figures to see more time on both sides of the bag (and possibly left field) as he makes the climb to Triple-A.
Rated No. 33 overall before the 2017 draft, Enlow accepted $2 million (well above slot value of $755,500) to forego a commitment to his hometown Louisiana State. He suffered a broken ankle and pelvis in a car accident before his sophomore year of high school, but he made it back to pitch as a senior for Team USA's 18U team. Enlow was rated the 13th-best prospect in the GCL, where his longest outing was 4.1 innings. With a long, lanky pitcher's frame and good arm speed, Enlow projects to add more velocity to a fastball that already touches 95 mph. He pitches at 88-93 mph out of a high three-quarters arm slot, but his best offering is a plus-plus curveball that rated as the best in the high school draft class. Enlow's curve, already the best in the Twins' system, reaches 82-84 mph with tight spin that produces plenty of swings and misses. His 79-80 mph changeup has potential, but he's reluctant to use it. At the Twins' urging he added an 87-88 mph cutter upon signing. He stays in his delivery well and has good mound presence. Heading into his age-19 season, the Twins figure to expose Enlow to low Class A Cedar Rapids. After making just one start in his first pro summer, he will get a chance to adjust to an increased workload. He projects as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.
Taken sixth overall in 2015, one pick ahead of Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi and three picks ahead of Ian Happ, Jay received a $3,889,500 signing bonus and initially made a seemingly successful transition to a starting role after serving as an All-American closer at Illinois. Upon reaching Double-A at midseason 2016, however, the slightly built Jay ran into neck, shoulder and fatigue issues. After Jay was worn down by the summer heat and a rotation burden that caused him to shed 20 pounds, a mutual decision was made to return him to the bullpen last spring. Instead, more neck and shoulder woes (that he blamed on poor mechanics) limited him to just two appearances over the first four months of the season and had him fearing surgery before he finally returned for good in mid-August. Sent to the Arizona Fall League, Jay mostly pitched in the low-90s with his four-seam fastball but did touch 95 mph in the Fall Stars Game. A hard, late-breaking slider that showed plus potential at 86-87 mph in his first two seasons remained erratic upon his return. Even in relief he continued to flash an above-average curveball at 78-80 mph and a show-me changeup just in case he's used in multi-inning roles. The product of the Chicago suburbs has a football background and a competitive streak that should serve him well as he pushes for a spot in the big league bullpen at some point in 2018.
Baddoo received a $750,000 signing bonus to walk away from a commitment to the Wildcats. Former Kentucky assistant coach Rick Eckstein, now Twins minor league hitting coordinator, recruited Baddoo out of high school. After struggling mightily in his first pro summer, Baddoo grew two inches and added nearly 25 pounds of muscle to his frame. He came back in his first full season and wowed evaluators with his overall improvement. Drawing comparisons to ex-Twins outfielders such as Matt Lawton and Ben Revere, Baddoo projects to show more gap power than Revere and runs better than Lawton did at the same stage. Despite adding muscle, Baddoo still gets down the line in sub 4.1 seconds. Baddoo has an average arm at best but has worked hard to improve his routes in center. His basestealing instincts are still being honed. His best tool is his hitting ability, augmented by advanced plate discipline that saw him walk more than he struck out in 2017. He had no trouble handling lefthanders, although his power production suffered against them. Promoted to Rookie-level Elizabethton in mid-July, he took his game to another level (1.057 OPS that was third in the league) in leading a talent-laden club to the Appalachian League title. If he continues to fill out, Baddoo could easily slide over to left field and be a three-hole hitter down the road. His makeup and aptitude suggest nothing should be deemed out of his reach. He figures to open 2018 at low Class A Cedar Rapids.
Signed late in the 2010-11 signing period, nearly two months after his 17th birthday, Jorge has more than justified his $400,000 signing bonus. Durable and long-limbed, Jorge has drawn comparisons to a young Ervin Santana with his smooth, deceptive delivery and unflappable mound demeanor. Jorge's fastball carries a wide range, clocking in at anywhere from 88-94 mph with good arm-side run on his two-seamer. His changeup is his best secondary pitch, and he also features a late-breaking slider and a slow curveball. Added to the 40-man roster for the first time last winter, he dedicated his season to late friend and former teammate Yorman Landa, killed in an auto accident in December 2016. Jorge was given a pair of midseason spot starts in the majors before 44-year-old Bartolo Colon was signed as a stopgap. In five starts above Double-A, Jorge struggled to a 6.95 ERA and saw his strikeout rate drop noticeably. A good athlete, Jorge holds runners and fields his position well. Jorge figures to open 2018 back at Triple-A Rochester, where he appeared to wear down last August and saw his command fade in and out. Once considered a future mid-rotation piece, he now projects as back-of-the-rotation starter.
The first Canadian player taken in the 2017 draft, Leach is a converted catcher who caught the eye of Twins' scouts during the spring while touring Florida with the Canadian Junior National Team. That gave the Twins 10-plus looks at him as he grew two inches and packed on 25 pounds of muscle in the months leading up to the draft. Used sporadically as a closer off the mound as a high school senior, Leach signed for $1.4 million as a second-round pick (slot was $1.85 million). With his frame and repertoire, he draws comparisons to countryman Mike Siroka, a 2015 first-round pick of the Braves. Leach pitches at 90-94 mph, touching 97 mph with his fastball. He also features a sharp-breaking 84-86 mph slider and a present-average curve he throws at 78-80 mph. Now a full-time starter still learning a professional pitcher's routine, he also shows a good feel for his changeup at 79-81 mph. Due to his conversion and cold-weather background, Leach carries a good bit of projection even after his growth spurt. Fluent in French and serious and focused off the field, the former junior hockey player shows good mound presence and high-end competitiveness. He repeats his delivery well and has taken steps to correct some pre-draft lapses into drop-and-drive.
When the Braves' 2016 international class was largely declared as free agents for violations of MLB signing rules, the Twins moved aggressively to sign Kevin Maitan. When Maitan opted to sign with the Angels, the Twins quickly followed up with an excellent Plan B, as they signed Severino for $2.5 million, which is $600,000 more than he received in his original contract with the Braves and $300,000 more than Maitan received from the Angels. A shortstop as an amateur, Severino moved to second base immediately upon signing with the Braves. His below-average speed limits his range at second and he's working on reading the ball off the bat, but his hands and arm work well enough to remain at second. He projects as an offensive second baseman with plus power potential and plenty of bat speed thanks to strong hands and wrists. Unlike many teenagers, Severino has present strength, as he drives the ball even when he's just working to make two-strike contact. The switch-hitting Severino was able to handle the aggressive move to the Gulf Coast League in his pro debut. He'll likely make his Twins debut with Rookie-level Elizabethton in 2018.
Signed out of Venezuela for just $40,000, seven months after turning 16, Arraez has added 30 pounds since turning pro. After leading the Midwest League in hitting and posting park-adjusted production that was 46 percent above league average in 2016, Arraez went down for the year with a torn ACL in his right knee when he awkwardly tripped over first base while beating out a double-play grounder. That came after hitting .335 as a teenager in the Venezuelan Winter League. His hand-eye coordination is off the charts, but he sometimes tries to force inside-out contact, which could give him trouble as he climbs the ladder and faces more back-foot sliders and late-moving cutters. He hits the ball to the opposite field nearly half the time but is learning to turn on pitches that leak over the inner half. His hit tool is easily his best feature, but he's more athletic than he appears and his feet work well around the bag. He also has good hands, an outgoing personality and leadership skills, which help offset below-average arm strength and speed. Arraez should open back in the Florida State League, where his career 8-percent strikeout rate (including winter ball) will be tested anew.
Having missed two full seasons following Tommy John surgery in April 2015 and a bout of mononucleosis in 2016, the burly Australian began to put his career back on track in 2017. After adding two inches and 35 pounds in his first two years after signing, Thorpe hasn't quite reclaimed the velocity that once saw his fastball touch 96-97 mph regularly. He still works at 91-94 mph and did show decent command out of his three-quarters slot with his changeup, which has good sink and fade and projects as a second plus pitch. He also has a tight slider with good depth and a 12-to-6 curve he learned from countryman Travis Blackley. Both breaking pitches have the potential to at least be average, allowing him to hold lefties to a .280 OBP last season and average better than a strikeout per inning for his career. After pushing his 2017 innings total close to 100, including extended spring training, Thorpe was added to the 40-man roster for the first time after being exposed to the Rule 5 draft the previous offseason. He projects as a back-end starter but must watch his conditioning and off-field habits.
Plagued by a broken hamate bone in his junior year at Maryland, Wade slipped all the way to the ninth round, even after a powerful display in an NCAA regional upset of top-ranked UCLA. Signed for $163,800, Wade has consistently shown advanced strike-zone discipline and a high-end hit tool. For his pro career he has drawn 17 percent more walks than strikeouts, a trait that can be traced back to his college career. He reminds some of a young Garret Anderson with a high-contact, line-drive swing. He shows occasional pull-side power. Sturdily built with average speed and a fringe-average arm, Wade has handled center field well enough due to his athleticism but projects as a left fielder with the ability to play all three in a pinch. Wade hit just .238 but again showed outstanding plate discipline at the Arizona Fall League until a scary outfield collision with Cardinals' center fielder Oscar Mercado ended his assignment with a week to go. Wade was diagnosed with a concussion but avoided additional injury. He should open 2018 at Triple-A and could push for a big league look soon.
Traded twice before his 22nd birthday, the former Mariners 11th-rounder just keeps improving. Signed for $100,000 out of a rural North Carolina high school, the former Appalachian State signee was shipped to the Yankees for lefty reliever James Pazos after the 2016 season. Eight and a half months later he was on the move again, this time to the Twins at the July trade deadline for veteran lefty Jaime Garcia. Blessed with a sturdy pitcher's frame and a repeatable delivery, Littell has made improvements to his conditioning, command and pitchability. He pitches at 91-93 mph with his fastball, showing the ability to work effectively up in the zone due to his high spin rate. His sweeping curveball has good bite and depth and projects to be a plus pitch. His changeup can be at least average with swing-and-miss fade. Littell pushed his groundball rate as high as 54 percent in the Southern League while seeing his walk rate spike close to four per game after joining the Twins. He avoids the long ball. Added to the 40-man roster after the season, Littell should open 2018 at Triple-A Rochester. He projects as a solid mid-rotation piece with the potential for a little more.
Signed out of Australia for $70,000, Whitefield comes from a family of athletes and continues to impress with his athleticism and production. Already among the best defensive outfielders in the system, the big-bodied Whitefield is remarkably light on his feet as he covers ground with plus range in center. His arm is just average. He is an above-average runner who has been timed at sub-4.0 seconds to first from the right side. Still fairly raw after focusing on softball into his mid-teens, he squared up a drastically open stance early last year with the help of low Class A hitting coach Brian Dinkelman. That helped Whitefield with his pitch recognition during a standout first half, although he tailed off in August and struggled overall against lefties. Whitefield projects to add another 20 pounds of muscle, which should only add to his above-average raw power as he improves his contact rate. Coachable and intense, he figures to open 2018 in the Florida State League.
Signed out of a Loyola Marymount commitment for $400,000 in 2015, Watson was climbing the Nationals' prospect list when he was sent to the Twins (along with $500,000 of international bonus money) for all-star closer Brandon Kintzler at the July 31 trade deadline. Though hardly overpowering with a fastball at 88-91 mph, Watson does have a projectable frame and hides the ball well with the ability to locate. Watson initially struggled after the trade and saw his strikeout rate drop significantly. However, he rallied to fan seven in a quality start on the road in the playoffs. His 74-mph downer curveball grades out as the best offering of his four-pitch mix, and his changeup projects as future average. He held righties to a .298 on-base percentage, 51 points lower than lefties, with a 23-percent strikeout rate across two leagues. He reminds some of former Twins lefty Mark Redman. A good athlete, Watson fields his position well but needs to improve his pickoff move. He figures to open 2018 at high Class A Fort Myers and projects as a mid-rotation starter if his changeup keeps improving.
Signed for $266,900 out of the sixth round in 2014, Curtiss had already worked his way back from UCL and thoracic-outlet syndrome surgeries in an eight-month span while at the University of Texas. Serving as closer on a Longhorns team that reached the College World Series, Curtiss caught the eye of Twins area scout Marty Esposito. An academic all-America and aspiring country singer-songwriter who graduated in three years with an English degree, Curtiss suffered a freak concussion in 2015 and later missed two months with elbow pain that had him fearing a second Tommy John procedure. Since improving his overall conditioning, Curtiss has posted a 2.04 ERA, 24 saves and 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings at four minor league levels. His fastball tops out at 98 mph and sits at 94-96 mph, but it was a much-improved mid-80s slider that gave him a dominant two-strike weapon. Upon reaching the majors Curtiss struggled to control his emotions and his mechanics. He figures to get more seasoning at Triple-A, but he should eventually fit as a back-end bullpen piece.
The Angels bought Pearson, the Louisiana Gatorade player of the year last spring, out of a Louisiana State commitment with a $1 million bonus after drafting him 85th overall. After batting .519 with 12 homers, 41 RBIs and 53 runs to lead his high school team to a 38-3 record, Pearson struggled in the Rookie-level Arizona League and was traded to the Twins in the offseason for $1 million in international bonus money, which the Angels used to pursue Shohei Ohtani. Pearson is a pure hitter with plus speed--he regularly clocks 4.1 seconds from home to first--and an advanced approach at the plate. He has a strong, athletic build and is physically mature. He doesn't wow with tools, but he generates solid bat speed with a quiet swing that doesn't have a lot of moving parts. His speed allows him to beat out infield hits and turn doubles into triples, and his ability to barrel the ball and impart backspin on it gives him surprising power. Defensively Pearson has a slightly below-average but accurate arm, moves to the ball aggressively in the outfield and has good hands and sound fundamentals. Pearson was an older high school draftee who will turn 20 next season, so he should begin his Twins career at low Class A Cedar Rapids in 2018.
Signed as a senior draft out of New Mexico for $40,000, Garver has worked hard to become the Twins' best homegrown option at catcher. Garver tries to elevate pitches he can handle until reaching two strikes, at which point he shortens his swing and reverts to an all-field, situational approach. Through hard work and constant drilling, Garver has defied doubters and turned himself into an average receiver and blocker who handles pitchers well. He shows an above-average arm with much-improved accuracy, as shown by his organization-leading 48-percent success rate against opposing basestealers in 2016. A good athlete who runs just slightly below average, Garver gamely tried left field and first base at Triple-A in order to increase his versatility. The decision to outright Chris Gimenez clears a path for Garver to serve as Jason Castro's understudy.
The second Puerto Rican player taken in his draft class, behind only Cardinals first-rounder Delvin Perez, Miranda found his power stroke in his first full pro season. He tied for the Appalachian League lead in home runs while fanning less than 10 percent of the time. Extremely athletic and still growing into his body, Miranda shows advanced plate discipline and projects to hit for both average and power as he climbs the ladder. He has good balance at the plate with quiet hands and a moderate load and stride, enabling him to use all fields with authority. An average runner with an above-average arm, he has more than enough mobility to handle second. Miranda did make eight errors in 37 games, but some of that was due to his above-average range. Miranda's power potential and future frame could land him at third permanently. He figures to open 2018 at low Class A Cedar Rapids.
One of four Twins prospects to make the Appalachian League Top 20, Bechtold quickly justified the Twins' decision to give him $600,000 (58 percent above slot) in the fifth round. A product of the Philadelphia suburbs, like fellow Twins infield prospect Travis Blankenhorn, Bechtold spent two seasons at Maryland before transferring to tradition-rich Chipola JC, where he led a talented Indians club to the NJCAA Division 1 World Series title. Area scout Jack Powell did extensive work on Bechtold, who was drafted behind two of his Chipola teammates (second-rounders Rey Rivera and Evan Steele). Bechtold's father Scott played football at Syracuse and baseball at Delaware, so it's no surprise the younger Bechtold is extremely athletic with a mature mindset and approach. He has the potential to be a high-end defender at third, where his plus arm strength already rates at the top of the Twins' system, and could be tried in right field down the road. He has a compact swing with above-average bat speed, a high-contact, all-fields approach and the potential for future power. Bechtold is a fringe-average runner with good instincts who should start at low Class A Cedar Rapids.
Surprisingly left off the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft, Diaz was signed for $1.4 million out of the Dominican Republic at the start of the 2013-14 international signing period. Diaz' 70 raw power ranks a tick behind supplemental first-rounder Brent Rooker within the organization, and Diaz is gradually finding ways to get to that power during games. Most of his thump comes to the opposite field at this point as he learns he can shorten his swing and still do damage against both righties and lefties. Conditioning has been an issue after he packed on 40 pounds after signing, but he made significant strides last year at low Class A Cedar Rapids in improving his diet and cutting body fat. Those changes helped him maintain his strength throughout the season, and he saw his production improve in the second half. He has soft hands, smooth actions and surprisingly good mobility at first base, where he is an average to above-average defender. He has an above-average arm but lacks the wheels (below-average runner) to go back out to right field after some early career looks. Friendly and coachable, Diaz has a personality that has evaluators waiting for him to make that next leap once everything clicks. He figures to open the year at high Class A Fort Myers.
A classic undersized scrapper in the Brett Butler mold, the former 14th-round pick out of Seton Hall is a self-made prospect. A criminal justice major who hails from a family of educators, he is a 60 runner with the basestealing instincts to match. Granite makes up for an average arm in center field with solid routes and jumps, and he showed the ability to play all three spots during a pair of big league callups in 2017. He stepped in ably for Byron Buxton during the latter's injury absence in late July, earning the trust of manager Paul Molitor with his situational hitting and bunting ability. Granite was named Twins minor league player of the year in 2016 after a breakout season at Double-A Chattanooga, where he credits manager Doug Mientkiewicz with teaching him to start his hands earlier and turn on more pitches on the inner half. Granite has well below-average power but shows a good approach, advanced plate discipline, a line-drive swing and enough strength to hit balls in the gaps. Granite did have a couple of odd blips, throwing to an uncovered first base at Dodger Stadium and completely missing first base at Yankee Stadium on a close play in the wild-card game, but those figure to be footnotes to an unlikely big league career.
Few catchers in the 2017 draft class come close to Banuelos' elite defensive ability. He was traded from the Mariners to the Twins in exchange for $1 million in international bonus money. Baneulos is a born leader with outstanding makeup, and the fact that he is bilingual and can easily communicate with his pitching staff is icing on the cake. His arm strength grades plus, with pop times to second base as quick as 1.9 seconds. In addition to his pure arm strength, Banuelos assesses situations well, picks up runners' tendencies quickly and makes firm throws. He has soft hands and blocks well, projecting to be an above-average-to-plus defender. Baneuleos' biggest question is how much he'll hit at higher levels. He controls the barrel and has a patient approach, but projects as a fringe-average hitter at best for evaluators. There is an expectation his near-average power will play when he controls the zone better. Banuelos projects as a backup catcher. He'll head to full-season ball in 2018.
A Kentucky baseball commit who signed for $650,000 after earning all-state honors in Pennsylvania football and basketball, Blankenhorn missed 12 days with a strained lower back late in 2017. During his absence, Cedar Rapids manager Tommy Watkins had him chart whether the first three pitches to each batter were strikes or balls, driving home the importance of getting into offensive counts. He homered five times in his first 11 games after coming off the disabled list and suddenly seemed to have unlocked himself against pitches on the inner half. Blankenhorn draws comparisons to a young Daniel Murphy. He flashes above-average as a runner, but his arm is average to a tick below. He spent most of the first half at third base before moving back to second base, where he moves well around the bag and shows better range to his left. The ball gets on him in a hurry at third, so Blankenhorn's days at the hot corner seem numbered. Intense and streakier than most, he hangs in against lefties fairly well.
Amid another year of nagging injuries--issues with his left knee sent him to the disabled list twice in 2017 --Stewart saw his once-bright star continue to fade. Left off the 40-man roster and unprotected and unpicked in the Rule 5 draft, the one-time Texas A&M quarterback signee struggled so far. Even his trademark heavy sinker, which he throws at 91-92 mph, dropped off in terms of groundball rate (46.9 percent) in his second crack at the Southern League. A Type-1 diabetic, Stewart doesn't miss bats despite a hard 86-87 mph slider at and a 92-96 mph four-seamer. He also features a 12-to-6 curveball and a slow-developing changeup. Now considered a back-end rotation piece at best, Stewart has struggled both to control his emotions and pick up the nuances of pitch sequencing.
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