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2017 Minnesota Twins Roster Projections - The Outfielders

After beginning our Roster Projections last week with the Catchers, today we shift our attention to the outfield. It’s seemingly always been a position for which we say they have plenty of options and more in the future. And the future is now, though there are still several more outfield prospects coming.
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson, USA Today
So today, let’s take a look at the outfielders throughout the Twins farm system.

Minnesota Twins - Eddie Rosario (25), Robbie Grossman (27), Byron Buxton (23), Max Kepler (24 on Friday), Danny Santana (26)

Center field will, hopefully, be covered by Byron Buxton for the next decade or more. After his strong September, the hope is that he will never spend another day in the minor leagues. His defense alone makes him incredibly valuable. Adding Jason Castro behind the plate helps the pitching and defense. Having Buxton patrolling center field is great for the pitching staff too. Max Kepler took over in right field at the beginning of June. He had an incredible weekend in Cleveland in early July, and he had some ups and downs throughout his rookie season. He also grew more comfortable in right field as the season went along. He was named the Twins top rookie.

Left field is where there could be some competition, or at least some platooning. Eddie Rosario is the great athlete with the ability to be above average defensively. He showed that he can fill a box score during his rookie season in 2015, and his complete lack of plate discipline was taken advantage of by good pitchers in his sophomore season. Robbie Grossman came to the organization in May, in a move that got Rosario sent to Rochester for a while. Grossman took off immediately and even when he came down to earth, he still destroyed left-handed pitching. The problem, of course, is Grossman’s defense. Danny Santana can be the fifth outfielder and a pinch runner, if he’s still on the roster.

Rochester Red Wings - Travis Harrison (24), Zach Granite (24), Daniel Palka (25), JB Shuck (29), Ryan Strausborger (28)

JB Shuck has spent parts of five seasons in the big leagues. He’s got almost 1,100 MLB at bats. He can play center, though he’s better as a corner outfielder. Ryan Strausborger hit .200 in 45 at bats (31 games) for the Rangers in 2015. He hit just .235 in the PCL last year, though he missed time with injury. But hopefully a new group of prospects will get a lot of playing time in AAA.

Zach Granite was the Twins choice for Minor League Player of the Year. He was the Lookouts leadoff man and center fielder almost every day throughout 2016. Like Buxton, Granite can play centerf ield due to his great speed. His speed can also wreak havoc on the base paths where he stole 56 bases in 2017. Daniel Palka was the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year after a season in which he hit 34 home runs between Chattanooga and Rochester. Blessed with tremendous power, he’ll need to make more contact, but he has a chance to be a very productive hitter. Travis Harrison has spent the last two seasons in Chattanooga. It’s time to send him to AAA Rochester. (Did You Know: Harrison can fly!)


Chattanooga Lookouts - Leandro Castro (27), Jonathan Rodriguez (27), Tanner English (23), Edgar Corcino (24)

Leandro Castro is a 27-year-old who spent eight seasons in the Phillies system including a couple of seasons in AAA. The last two years he has played in independent leagues. This winter, he hit .347 in Mexico. Another 27-year-old, Puerto Rican Jonathan Rodriguez, signed with the Twins this winter after spending the last eight seasons in the Cardinals organizations. He got his first taste of AAA in 2016.

Tanner English missed two months of the 2016 season due to Lasik surgery and an ankle injury, but he came back with the Miracle, finished the season in Rochester and then played in the Arizona Fall League. He’s ready for the bump up to AA, and his defense is elite in center field. Edgar Corcino spent the second half of 2016. The tremendous athlete is very good defensively and puts together quality plate appearances.


Ft. Myers Miracle - Daniel Kihle (23), Austin Diemer (23), LaMonte Wade (23), JJ Fernandez (22), Max Murphy (24)

This is a group of outfielders who spent spent part of the 2016 season. Diemer began the season with the Miracle, getting time in each of the outfield positions before an injury curtailed his season. Minnesota native Max Murphy was promoted to the Miracle in late April. He also missed time due to injury. Daniel Kihle hit .259 in 49 games in Cedar Rapids before hitting .259 in 41 games with the Miracle. However, his on-base percentage and slugging percentages were better in Ft. Myers. He played all three outfield positions. LaMonte Wade got off to a fast start with Cedar Rapids in his first full season. He was a Midwest League All-Star and then moved up to Ft. Myers where he was even better. Unfortunately he missed a lot of time due to injuries. While Wade is probably best suited for left field, but he will most likely play a lot of center field again. JJ Fernandez has spent the last two seasons in Cedar Rapids. He hit just .225 and got on-base 29% of the time, but he hit 26 doubles and ten homers. 2016 was his first season without catching. He played a little first base, but he mostly played in the outfield.


Cedar Rapids Kernels - Jaylin Davis (22), Christian Cavaness (22), Casey Scoggins (22), Alex Kirilloff (19), Shane Carrier (20), Hank Morrison (22)

This group includes three players who spent time with the Kernels in 2016. It also includes four 2016 draft picks.

Jaylin Davis made his pro debut in 2016. He began the season in extended spring training before hitting seven home runs in 12 games for the E-Twins. He moved up to Cedar Rapids where he hit another nine home runs in 52 games. Casey Scoggins was drafted in the 39th round last year, and after just a couple of games with the E-Twins, he moved up and became a key cog at the top of the Kernels lineup and in center field. Christian Cavaness split time between Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids.

Shane Carrier provides a bunch of power to the lineup. He was the eighth round pick last June and hit 14 doubles and six homers for the E-Twins. Alex Kirilloff was the top draft pick last year out of high school, and he got off to a fast start. He hit .351 through the first 42 games before his season ended with a .306 average. He had nine double and seven home runs before his season ended with elbow pain (which is fine now).Hank Morrison also could provide some power for the Kernels. He was limited to just 20 games in Elizabethton due to injury, but he has potential.


Extended Spring Training - Matt Albanese (21), Isaiah Aluko (23), Akil Baddoo (18), Lean Marrero (19), Aaron Whitefield (20), Roberto Gonzalez (21), Jean Carlos Arias (19)

Of this group, Roberto Gonzalez is the player who spent time in Elizabethton. He has immense power from the left side, though he’ll need to make more contact. Aaron Whitefield was one of the best players for the Twins GCL team in 2016, and he has been one of the best hitters in the Australian Baseball League this winter where he hit .338. Lean Marrero has five-tool potential, but he’s very young. He showed improvement in 2016 in the GCL and should move up to Elizabethton in 2017. Akil Baddoo was a comp pick in 2016 out of high school in Georgia. A tremendous athlete, he should move up to Elizabethton and get a lot of playing time. Jean Carlos Arias’s stateside debut didn’t go real well, but he has a high ceiling and will repeat the GCL. Matt Albanese was a 7th round pick last year out of college, but an injury cut short his season. He will make his pro debut in 2017. He’ll likely start in EST, though he could move up to Cedar Rapids before the short-seasons start.


Top Prospects
1.) Alex Kirilloff
2.) LaMonte Wade
3.) Daniel Palka
4.) Akil Baddoo
5.) Zack Granite
6.) Tanner English
7.) Edgar Corcino
8.) Jaylin Davis
9.) Aaron Whitefield
10.) Matt Albanese
11.) Travis Harrison

Which prospects are you most excited about in 2017? Which prospects may be on a bubble? What kind of seasons do you think that Byron Buxton and Max Kepler will have, but can Eddie Rosario and Robbie Grossman be a quality platoon combination? Which other outfielders do you expect to see in a Twins uniform in 2017?

Please feel free to discuss and ask questions in the Comments below.


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48 Comments

I hope Buxton stays healthy all year, but if he goes down for more than a week, will Granite be the primary call up?

Looking at the AAA outfield projection I was struck by the ages.  This group has an average age that is older than the MLB outfielders.  By next year when they should project up they will be at their prime, but where will we put them if the MLB trio is really set?  I suspect Rosario is in the most precarious position.

 

The Chattanooga team is even older.  This is not right.  If the future is good we should be getting younger at each level (I am not talking the 4th/5th OF). 

 

I did not realize that Grossman was as young as he is.  If there is any change at the top I would expect that Palka would replace Grossman and Granite might replace Rosario if we decide that we need a glove and a bat this combo would provide it.  Beyond that I think the OF is quite set and we might be waiting for Kirilloff.

 

I hope Buxton stays healthy all year, but if he goes down for more than a week, will Granite be the primary call up?

Let's hope so... Rosario could play CF in a pinch, but I'd prefer seeing Granite there instead of Rosario moving over and Grossman playing in a corner spot. 

I am super excited by the Twins starting OF and am expecting highs and lows over the course of the season as they are all three very young and still learning. But the talent and potential is outstanding! I still don't like Grossman as the 4th OF and prefer him as the 5th OF/DH/PH, but if he can improve his defense even a little I could see him helping in a corner a day here and there against LHP.

Not going to pile on DanSan a there has been enough of that. But talk about a disappointment. I expected regression after 2014 but also thought he'd improve in other areas and be a nice utility player. I get keeping him around for a while longer...still young and athletic...but I think his days are numbered.

On the milb side of things, I remain excited for Palka. He may always strike out more than you'd like, but the power is legitimate, he's not immune to walks, and he can hit some too. Also excited for Granite but suspect English will end up being the better ballplayer eventually.

There is definitely some filler at the top two levels, but what strikes me is the number of quality athletes at the lower levels. There is still a long way to go for some of these guys, and being "toolsy" doesn't guarantee success at all. But if you have a number of those "toolsy" outfielders, you have to figure a couple will develop. And honestly, with the youth of the Twins OF as it stands today, it's OK to only have a couple guys knocking at the door at the moment.
    • brvama and Oldgoat_MN like this

Like/love the MLB OFers.....but the minors are amazingly devoid of upside OFers. Palka learning to hit the ball, rather than miss it, would be a huge boon to the list.

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this

 

I hope Buxton stays healthy all year, but if he goes down for more than a week, will Granite be the primary call up?

 

I'd say that it all depends on the timing. If it's a 10-day thing, they probably wouldn't want to add anyone to the 40-man, so I'd say Granite makes the most sense. 

 

If it's longer than that, it may depend on the point of the season. If it's early, they may want Granite to keep developing and could add a Shuck or someone like that.

 

Looking at the AAA outfield projection I was struck by the ages.  This group has an average age that is older than the MLB outfielders.  By next year when they should project up they will be at their prime, but where will we put them if the MLB trio is really set?  I suspect Rosario is in the most precarious position.

 

The Chattanooga team is even older.  This is not right.  If the future is good we should be getting younger at each level (I am not talking the 4th/5th OF). 

 

I did not realize that Grossman was as young as he is.  If there is any change at the top I would expect that Palka would replace Grossman and Granite might replace Rosario if we decide that we need a glove and a bat this combo would provide it.  Beyond that I think the OF is quite set and we might be waiting for Kirilloff.

 

First of all, Palka is no good as a 4th OF because he hits from the left side as well and doesn't project to be a defensive upgrade over Kepler or Rosario. I can see bringing in someone better than Grossman but hitting from the right is a prerequisite. That really sums up why I'm a little bearish on Palka. Unless he finds room at DH/1B or Rosario really craps the bed, it's hard to see a role for him going forward. Unfortunately, Granite is also left-handed and isn't ideal for that 4th OF role. His splits aren't terrible (Palka's aren't either BTW) and his defense is better than Palka's but it still isn't a great fit.

 

That's why Travis Harrison is a guy I'm excited to see in AAA this year. He mashes left handed pitching and has the added bonus of being a potential backup option at 3B (not someone you'd want to depend on but he's played it in the minors and that positional flexibility could come in handy.) If I had to bet money, I'd bet on Harrison being your 4th OF to begin the 2018 season.

 

As for the age thing, three points:

 

1) I think that age thing speaks more to the quality of prospects the Twins MLB outfielders were. Kepler and Buxton came in young and moved up relatively quickly while Rosario was a really fast riser. The story is "The Twins MLB OF is super young", not "The Twins AA and AAA OFs are too old."

 

2.) Shuck and Strausborger are AAAA filler - 4th OF subs if Grossman went down and you didn't want a real prospect to come up and sit on the bench. They don't really count. If you just look at prospects - Palka, Harrison and Granite - you get appropriately aged guys. They're all 24 and are over a year younger than the average player at their level.

 

3.) Same thing in Chattanooga. There are two organization filler project types and two real prospects. The prospects are right around the right age for their level (though neither of them are very exciting to me).

 

Non-story in my eyes.

    • Brock Beauchamp, Mike Sixel, brvama and 3 others like this
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bluechipper
Feb 07 2017 09:25 AM

Let's hope so... Rosario could play CF in a pinch, but I'd prefer seeing Granite there instead of Rosario moving over and Grossman playing in a corner spot.

I'm really intrigued by Granite, but I'm even more looking forward to Palka getting the call and playing a corner OF spot.
    • Vanimal46 and BuxtonBandwagon like this
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bluechipper
Feb 07 2017 09:27 AM
Those Rochester and Cedar Rapids outfields will be the ones to watch this year. Chattanooga looks pretty bleak, at least until Wade gets moved up.
    • ThejacKmp, DocBauer and Vanimal46 like this
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brockbesler
Feb 07 2017 09:45 AM
Seth, are you that low on Zach Granite? I see you didn't even have him in your top 10 outfield prospects.

 

Seth, are you that low on Zach Granite? I see you didn't even have him in your top 10 outfield prospects.

 

No, I just missed him. I added him after Baddoo and just before English... 

They signed Josh Romanski a couple days ago (converted pitcher, played in the Independent Leagues, can play CF)Likely at AA as well. Pretty sure they are not done making moves.

 

5 OF are just too many in the majors.I just don't see how Santana can make the Twins, esp. after the Adrianza pickup. I'd like to see Palka fight for a spot with Grossman, as well. He brings LH power that the Twins really need.

 

As far as prospects go, it is a make it or break it season for Harrison. I am less bluish on Granite and English than most.I think that their peak (which is close, so pretty good data) is Shane Robinson/Jordan Schafer/JB Shuck/sub any AAAA OF who can play CF the Twins have had the past 5-6 years.

 

Fieldwork is what concerns me about Kirilloff, and I'd like to see what he does with the bat at higher levels, like Fort Myers, but the potential is there.I like the 3 toolsy OFs (Wade, Baddoo, Arias).Jaylin Davis might actually end up a surprise.Speaking of, age and everything, I will be surprised if he does not start the season at Fort Myers.

 

I suspect that some people on this list will not make it past ST.And there are several twinners, like Aaron Whitefield (just saw him up there) and Amaurys Minier who can play at the OF as well.It is not a secret that I still think very highly of MInier and that his arm and bat will play at RF well.Just a matter of getting consistent reps and learning the position.Same for players like Cabbage.

    • Tom Froemming likes this

I know Grossman is bad defensively, but which is better against LHP:

  • Grossman in LF, Vargas at DH, Mauer at 1B, or...
  • Rosario in LF, Vargas at 1B, Grossman at DH?

Vargas is worse than Mauer defensively and Grossman is worse than Rosario. How do you manage those 3 against LHP?

 

I know Grossman is bad defensively, but which is better against LHP:

  • Grossman in LF, Vargas at DH, Mauer at 1B, or...
  • Rosario in LF, Vargas at 1B, Grossman at DH?

Vargas is worse than Mauer defensively and Grossman is worse than Rosario. How do you manage those 3 against LHP?

Option B, for sure. 

    • ToddlerHarmon likes this
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mickeymental
Feb 07 2017 10:53 AM

seems like a lot depends on whether sano sticks at 3b or clogs up the roster spot as dh.

 

seems like a lot depends on whether sano sticks at 3b or clogs up the roster spot as dh.

 

There is no way that Sano "clogs up the roster".The roster should start with Sano...

    • ThejacKmp, HitInAPinch, ToddlerHarmon and 1 other like this

Seeing only 4 OF at AA, 5 at MLB, AAA, and A+ and 6 at A-... Any chance of one moving up from A+ to fill out AA and one of the 6 moving up from A- to fill the new hole at A+?

Seeing this shortage of AA ready players helps me understand the FA MiLB signings as filler especially when none of the AA to AAA guys wow me. Looks like the best we have is 4th and 5th outfielders in our future. We NEED Rosario, Buxton, and Kepler to succeed!

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LA VIkes Fan
Feb 07 2017 11:32 AM

It would be interesting to have Grossman as the 5th OF/RHDH instead of having DanSan on the roster. The problem is I don't see a 4th OF in the minors. Ideally it would be someone who can play a 2-3 times a week instead of Rosario and Kepler, even better of they could play CF to give Buxton a break now and again (Rosario could be that backup CF if necessary). Granite doesn't seem ready. Is Harrison that guy or do we need to find one from another team?  I don't like that idea because we are just clogging up the pipeline in a year we aren't likely to contend. Besides, we already have Schuck and we aren't likely to find a veteran 4th OF any better than he is. I'd like to see them use one of the MiLB guys as the 4th OF and have Palka and Grossman battle it our for 5th OF/backup DH, with Grossman probably winning for the reasons stated below. I don't think you can have both Palka and Grossman on the roster. All of this depends, of course, on only carrying 12 pitchers. If the Twins decide to carry 13 so they can keep Haley and work in Hughes or Perkins, then we only carry 4 OFs and Grossman will win the 4th OF job because of his relatively strong performance at the plate last year at .280/.386/.443/.829 126 OPS+, even better against LH pitching at .344/.418/.596./994, 168 OPS+.  I understand that guy's a butcher in the field but guys that hit like that don't grow on trees.  He stays on the roster unless/until he shows last year was an outlier as compared to a 26 year old guy (now 27) figuring it out at the MLB level.   

    • Mike Sixel, Oldgoat_MN and BuxtonBandwagon like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Feb 07 2017 12:20 PM

I would look at a guy like Granite as that potential 4th OF of the future, though not necessarily in the traditional role. He has the potential to be good enough to start CF, but behind Buxton he's going to find himself in the corners a lot. His bat is probably passable in the corner, but that could lead to some pretty impressive defense. It also means that with 3 CF type guys on the roster (Rosario and Buxton being the other two), you can put some fantastic defense when a fly ball heavy pitcher is on the mound with relatively decent bats to go around as well.That would leave the 2018 and beyond team with a pretty nice 4 way platoon in the OF.

 

Granite's issue presently is that he isn't ready yet, but I think by mid-season he may be the guy pushing hard for that spot.Hopefully that means Grossman's days are numbered.

    • brvama likes this
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diehardtwinsfan
Feb 07 2017 12:21 PM

As for Harrison, his make or break season was last year in my opinion. Obviously, he's still around, so I'll be rooting for him, but he's not exactly young for his league anymore and hasn't really improved in the high minors. He's not a bad option for this season, but I have to think he needs to take a big step forward if he wants to be playing baseball for much longer.

    • brvama, Oldgoat_MN and Vanimal46 like this

 

I know Grossman is bad defensively, but which is better against LHP:

  • Grossman in LF, Vargas at DH, Mauer at 1B, or...
  • Rosario in LF, Vargas at 1B, Grossman at DH?

Vargas is worse than Mauer defensively and Grossman is worse than Rosario. How do you manage those 3 against LHP?

 

What about option C - Grossman in LF, Vargas at 1B, Sano at DH, Polanco at 3B, Escobar at SS. Not bad to give Sano some days off in the field.

    • Oldgoat_MN and hybridbear like this
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mickeymental
Feb 07 2017 12:43 PM

 

There is no way that Sano "clogs up the roster".The roster should start with Sano...

well, i can think of at least one way: as a right fielder.

 

well, i can think of at least one way: as a right fielder.

 

That was not Sano doing that, it was Ryan who, thankfully, cannot do more harm.

    • ToddlerHarmon likes this
LH or not, I absolutely see a future role for Palka as a backup corner OF, DH or even 1B. I'm really hoping he has the glove for 1B.
    • bluechipper and BuxtonBandwagon like this
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HitInAPinch
Feb 07 2017 02:35 PM

I think the thing I liked about Buxton's progress last year: he stopped slamming into the OF walls.Oh, it was also nice to see his offense in the MLB tick up.

 

I see both Kepler and Rosario rebounding after learning some lessons last year.Rosario had better:this could be his last year with the Twins if he doesn't.

    • brvama, DocBauer and ToddlerHarmon like this

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