by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Minnesota Twins do not own an elite system, and looking at the names that have graduated recently you wouldn’t expect it to be. There is no questioning the strength, with three of their top four prospects currently listed as shortstops. Of course by the time they all reach the Majors, if they even do so with the Twins, there’s a good chance they won’t be playing shortstop anymore (and there are questions about the upside as it is). Joined by a potentially elite pitching prospect there is at least some intrigue (though also ample risk). Let’s take a look:
1) Royce Lewis – Shortstop
Grade – B+
ETA – 2021
It’s easy to argue that Lewis wasn’t the best player available in the 2017 draft, yet he was the first person selected. He’s not Mickey Moniak v2.0, though, as Lewis has the upside to be among the better shortstops in the game. In his first taste of professional baseball (239 PA) he hit .279 with 4 HR and 18 SB. As of today the speed is his best asset, though he’s expected to add power and refine his approach (10.0% SwStr%) as he matures. Considering he won’t turn 19-years old until mid-June, there’s clearly plenty of time for him to figure it out. Time and patience is the key here, and there will likely be growing pains along the way, but he should get there.
2) Fernando Romero – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018
There were some bumps along the way for Romero in ’17, throwing 125.0 IP at Double-A, but at the end of the day he continued to show all of the skills that we like to see:
- Strikeouts – 8.64 K/9
- Walks – 3.24 BB/9
- Groundballs – 52.0%
His control has generally been better than that and he did improve in the second half (3.05 BB/9). Couple the improvement with the ability to generate swings and misses (12.0% SwStr%) and groundballs (career 1.71 GO/AO) and it’s easy to see the potential for success. The Twins are always on the lookout for help in the rotation and it’s easy to envision Romero stepping in at some point in ’18 and making an impact.
3) Nick Gordon – Shortstop
Grade – B
ETA – 2018
The younger brother of Dee Gordon, it’s easy to get lost in the name. The thing is he’s not his brother and is not going to bring the same type of impact speed. While it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have the ability to contribute some stolen bases, his efficiency has thus far left a lot to be desired:
- 2016 (High-A) – 19-for-32
- 2017 (Double-A) – 13-for-20
If he added some power things would be a little bit different, but his 9 HR last season were by far his career best (he had a total of 5 HR prior to ’17). He also showed far too much swing and miss (12.0% SwStr%) for a player without elite power and his 23.2% strikeout rate as a 21-year old in Double-A is a major red flag. He did hit the ball hard (28.0% line drive rate), but that hasn’t been the story of his career. Maybe he takes a step forward, but for now he appears destined to be a decent player if it all comes together (and there are a lot of questions that need to be answered).
4) Wander Javier – Shortstop
Grade – B-
ETA – 2021
He’s 18-years old and in 180 PA at Rookie Ball in ’17 he posted a 27.2% strikeout rate courtesy of a 12.9% SwStr%. Those are scary numbers, but remember the age before holding it against him. If he can begin to develop his ability to consistently make contact, even a little bit, the potential is there to bring both power and speed to the table and be an across the board contributor. Whether or not he gets there remains to be seen, but he could make some waves as early as 2018 and be among the breakout players in the minors. Don’t be surprised to see his grade jump into the B/B+ range by year’s end.
5) Stephen Gonsalves – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B-
ETA – 2018
Gonsalves split time between Double (87.1 IP) and Triple-A (22.2 IP), compiling a 3.27 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. The marks came courtesy of both strikeouts (9.65 K/9, 13.6% SwStr%) and control (2.54 BB/9) and he clearly has the size that teams look for from a starting pitcher (6’5”, 213 lbs.). So far it’s easy to like what we see…
There are two key problems, though. First of all there are universal questions about his pure stuff and whether or not it will translate as he advances. So far there hasn’t been an issue, though he did post a 5.56 ERA at Triple-A as the skills regressed (8.74 K/9, 3.18 BB/9) and the second big issue, the risk of home runs, reared its head. Gonalves didn’t generate many groundballs last season (33.3% overall), and that caught up with him at Triple-A (1.59 HR/9). It’s something we’ll have to continue monitoring and does suppress his appeal.
The Next Five:
6) Alex Kirilloff – Outfielder (Grade – B-)
7) Zack Littell – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
8) LaMonte Wade – Outfielder (Grade – C+)
Note – Wade played the year at Double-A, showing an elite level approach at the plate (71 K vs. 76 BB, 5.1% SwStr%). The question is going to be if he can add some power, combining the approach with 15/10 upside. If he can, he’s a B prospect.)
9) Brent Rooker – Outfielder (Grade – C+)
10) Felix Jorge – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists: