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The system is deep in future big leaguers with a great topper in Royce Lewis.
Bolstered by a strong early showing from No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis, the lower levels of the Twins’ system are bursting with talent. In addition to Lewis, shortstop Wander Javier and righthander Brusdar Graterol both have the talent to break onto the national radar in 2018. Brent Rooker also showed impressive power in his pro debut, swatting 18 home runs to rank second in their system in just half a season. If all goes well, they could be the second wave of talent that leads a renaissance in Minnesota
The Twins’ system is very strong, but it does lack an immediate answer at shortstop, which has been a black hole in Minnesota for a few years. Jorge Polanco has been untrustworthy at the position, and Nick Gordon looks like a second baseman. That leaves the job for Lewis and Javier, who are years away.
Notable Graduations: LHP Adalberto Mejia (6).
Track Record: Armed with the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2017 for just the third time, the Twins surprised many in the industry by passing on 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 player. Signed to a Twins-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. Scouting Report: Pre-draft concerns about Lewis' hit tool proved unwarranted, and he had no problem making the necessary adjustments for a smooth transition to pro ball in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. 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. Lewis saw time at shortstop, third base and center field in high school, and he worked hard with the Twins 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 demeanor and ability to connect with teammates, fans and media are reminiscent of Carlos Correa or a young Derek Jeter. 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 eventually came in early August. The Future: Lewis figures to return to the Midwest League to start his first full pro season in 2018. If he dominates there the way Byron Buxton did in 2013, a promotion to high Class A Fort Myers could come by midseason. He has 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.
Track Record: The Twins spent their entire 2015 international bonus pool on Javier, 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 signing class. Scouting Report: Wiry, long-limbed and lanky upon signing, Javier has added strength to his frame and could still be growing. Still fairly raw with limited game experience, he worked with hitting coordinator Rick Eckstein and Rookie-level 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 Javier 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 as well as a plus-plus arm at times. The Future: 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 to produce enough shortstop reps for both him and Royce Lewis.
Track Record: 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 Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2016, 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 in March 2017 that wiped out his season. Scouting Report: 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. The Future: Kirilloff figures to open 2018 in extended spring training before heading to the low Class A Cedar Rapids.
Track Record: 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 caused him to drop after he was suspended eight games for covering up a teammate's drug use. Scouting Report: A shoulder strain landed Gonsalves on the shelf at the 2016 Arizona Fall League and again in spring 2017, when he missed the first six weeks of the season at Double-A Chattanooga. Tall with long levers and a three-quarters arm slot, he pitches at 88-91 mph and touches 94 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 putaway pitch at times. His slurvy slider is just average with short tilt, but his changeup earns above-average grades because of its late fade and his ability to maintain arm speed. The Future: Gonsalves figures to open 2018 back at Triple-A Rochester. If he continues to hone his command and cut his walk rate, he should be vying for a spot in the middle of the rotation before long.
Track Record: Signed out of Venezuela for $150,000, Graterol was part of the Twins' 2014 international signing class. He returned from Tommy John surgery in 2017 to rocket up the prospect charts while dominating at two levels. In his final outing of a season capped at 40 innings, he struck out five in the first three innings of an elimination-game win that sent Rookie-level Elizabethton on its way to the Appalachian League title. Scouting Report: After sitting at 87-88 mph before 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 of 101 mph. 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. The Future: Graterol figures to open 2018 at low Class A Cedar Rapids, where he will continue to build up his innings. With outstanding work ethic and aptitude, he has the highest ceiling of any Twins pitching prospect, with rotation-topping potential.
Track Record: Signed less than two months from his 17th birthday, the late-blooming Romero was discovered at a select tournament in Jupiter, Fla. He was limited to just three starts in 2014 and 2015 after having Tommy John surgery and a knee injury. He roared back onto the radar with a standout 2016 and mostly built on those gains in 2017 at Double-A Chattanooga, though he faded due in part to a shoulder impingement. Scouting Report: Despite lacking leverage or 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, though his lack of elite arm speed and a max-effort delivery have raised concerns about his durability. His high-80s slider shows sharp tilt when he stays on top, but it flattens out when he drifts in his delivery. His command can be erratic, and some see him eventually turning into a reliever. His changeup is average. The Future: Added to the 40-man roster after the 2016 season, Romero twice was bypassed in favor of fellow righthander Felix Jorge when the Twins needed a spot start in 2017. Ticketed for Triple-A Rochester, Romero has a ceiling of No. 2 or No. 3 starter.
Track Record: 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. Scouting Report: Rooker hit the ground running in pro ball, showing top-of-the-scale power and hitting 18 homers in 62 games at Rookie-level Elizabethton and high Class A Fort Myers. 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. He showed enough mobility and arm to be a tick below-average in left field. He is a smart baserunner despite below-average speed. The Future: 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 his carrying tool.
Track Record: Bloodlines bode well for Gordon, son of big league pitcher Tom Gordon and younger half-brother of 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. Scouting Report: At Double-A Chattanooga in 2017, Gordon slashed his way to an appearance at the Futures Game. He managed just 13 extra-base hits after June 18, however, and 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. The Future: Rival evaluators have their doubts about Gordon's ability to remain at shortstop, where he has been error-prone. Gordon figures to see more time on both sides of the bag (and possibly left field) as he makes the climb to Triple-A Rochester in 2018.
Track Record: Enlow placed No. 33 on the BA500 predraft ranking but lasted until the third round in 2017. He signed for a well above-slot $2 million to forego a commitment to his hometown Louisiana State. He suffered a broken ankle and pelvis in a car collision before his sophomore year of high school but as a senior pitched for Team USA's 18U team. Scouting Report: 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 his high school draft class. Enlow's curve, already the best in the Twins' system, reaches 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. The Future: Heading into his age-19 season, Enlow should advance to low Class A Cedar Rapids, where he will get a chance to adjust to an increased workload. He projects as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.
Track Record: Taken sixth overall in 2015, Jay signed for $3,889,500 and initially transitioned to a starting role after serving as an All-American closer at Illinois. Upon reaching Double-A Chattanooga at midseason 2016, however, the slightly built Jay ran into neck, shoulder and fatigue issues. After he was worn down by the summer heat and the rigors of starting, he and the Twins mutually decided to return him to the bullpen in 2017. Instead, more neck and shoulder woes limited him to just two appearances over the first four and a half months of the season before he finally returned for good in mid-August. Scouting Report: 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 Future: 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.
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