by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Miguel Sano graduated from prospect to Major Leaguer, entrenching himself as the middle of the order bat most expected him to be. In most cases that would leave a system relatively barren, but not the Twins. There are still a pair of elite prospects waiting and several other intriguing players not too far behind. Let’s take a look at a system that should produce at least two above average performers in 2016:
1) Byron Buxton – Outfielder
Grade – A
ETA – Already Arrived
Had it not been for injuries Buxton would’ve graduated and been ineligible for this list, as he played in 46 games (129 AB) for the Twins this past season. Arguably the elite prospect in the game, a healthy Buxton quickly put his disappointing 2014 campaign behind him:
- Double-A (237 AB) – .283, 6 HR, 37 RBI, 44 R, 20 SB
- Triple-A (55 AB) – .400, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 11 R, 2 SB
- Majors (129 AB) – .209, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 16 R, 2 SB
His problem in the Majors was a significant jump in strikeouts, at 31.9% (19.0% at Double-A), and a lack of line drives (13.9%). It often takes younger players time to adjust, and Buxton’s lack of experience against upper level pitching (he had 3 AB above High-A prior to ’15) supports that thought. Remember Mike Trout struggled in his first taste of the Majors, so don’t read into the numbers. View the talent and expect him to make the necessary adjustments as he establishes himself.
2) Jose Berrios – Right Handed Pitcher
Grade – A-
ETA – 2016
He’d be the top ranked prospect in most systems, but the presence of Buxton knocks him down to #2. That said he has proven that he can bring all the skills to the table that we look for from a starting pitcher as he split time between Double and Triple-A:
- Strikeouts – 9.47 K/9
- Walks – 2.06 BB/9
- Groundballs – 0.96 GO/AO
Sure you can argue for more groundballs, but potentially elite strikeout stuff helps to offset that. The supporting numbers led to a 2.87 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over 166.1 innings.
The Twins ignored the cries for him to try and help the Major League team down the stretch and there are concerns that he may not be able to hold up to a full workload thanks to his size (6’0”, 185 lbs.). Time will tell, but he has little left to prove and shouldn’t face much of an innings limit, if any, in the coming season.
3) Max Kepler – Outfielder
Grade – B+
ETA – 2016
Not many prospects made the kind of jump that Kepler did, hitting .322 with 9 HR, 71 RBI, 76 R and 18 SB over 407 AB at Double-A last season. The power number doesn’t look impressive, but keep in mind that he added 32 doubles and 13 triples, so it’s easy to imagine him improving into the 15-20 range (if not a little more). Couple that with 20+ SB upside as well as a solid approach at the plate (13.1% strikeout rate, 13.9% walk rate) and what’s not to like? He’s put himself on the map as a potential .290/20/20 player, something few others can legitimately say.
4) Tyler Jay – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2017
The team’s first round pick in 2015 (6th overall), Jay worked out of the bullpen last season but is expected to be utilized as a starting pitcher moving forward. He certainly showed his ability to generate strikeouts (22 over 18.1 IP), but he struggled with his control (8 BB). At 21-years old (he will turn 22 in April) he could move quickly through the system, though he will need time to build up innings. As the Twins showed with Berrios last season, they aren’t going to risk a pitcher’s health in search of a quick fix.
5) Nick Gordon – Shortstop
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018
He’s not his brother, Dee Gordon, so don’t look at him and expect the potential for 50+ SB. He simply doesn’t project for that type of speed. Instead he should produce 20-30 annually while potentially adding a bit of pop. He has already shown a decent knowledge of the strike zone (16.5% strikeout rate at Single-A), only adding to the potential appeal.
The Next Five:
6) Kohl Stewart – Right-Handed Pitcher
Note: The lack of strikeouts are concerning, however the potential is there for a significant improvement and he showed elite groundball stuff this past season (2.09 GO/AO)
7) Jorge Polanco – Shortstop
8) Stephen Gonslaves – Left-Handed Pitcher
9) Adam Brett Walker II – Outfielder
10) Lewis Thorpe – Left-Handed Pitcher
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Grading System (still in development):
Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our Top 10 Prospect lists: