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Article: Twins Sign Closer Rodney To One-Year Deal

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2017 Twins Minor League Storylines: Sixth-Year Guys

There are so many minor league stories to follow in 2017. Yesterday we talked about what could be a very intriguing starting staff in Chattanooga throughout the season. Today’s article is more about the business of baseball.

A player can become a minor league free agent after he has played six full seasons of minor league ball, unless added to the 40-man roster. So it is fair to say that this is a big year for a handful of Twins minor leaguers.
Image courtesy of Linwood Ferguson (photo of Dereck Rodriguez)
There are five Twins minor league players who were drafted by the Twins in 2011 who have yet to reach the big leagues. Could they be called up sometime during the 2017 season? Could they be added to the 40-man roster following the season, before the World Series is complete and become free agents?

2010 draft pick Niko Goodrum spent the first half of the 2016 season on the disabled list. Following the season he could have become a minor league free agent, but instead, he quickly re-signed with the Twins. Fellow 2010 draft pick Alex Wimmers could have become a free agent after the Twins took him off of their 40-man roster following the season. Instead, he quickly returned to the Twins on a minor league contract. Both are playing well in spring training.

So while it would be great for these five players to have big seasons in 2017 and force the Twins hand, doors could open up for them after the season via free agency, or they could choose to stay in the Twins organization.

LEVI MICHAEL

The Twins had the 30th overall pick in the 2011 draft. The Twins selected North Carolina shortstop Levi Michael. In his three years with the Tar Heels, he spent a season at each of three infield positions. Many scouting sources had Michael ranked higher than 30th, and the Twins needed middle infielders in the system. The pick made sense. Unfortunately, he missed the rest of that season with injury, and he has fought a variety of injuries throughout his career. He has spent parts of the last three seasons at AA. In 2016, he played in 95 games and hit just .215/.293/.291 (.584) and lost playing time as the season went on. He recently turned 26, and it would be nice to see him get some AAA time in 2017.

TRAVIS HARRISON

The Twins took Harrison with the 50th overall pick in 2011 out of high school in California. He quickly moved up one level each year until 2016 when he returned for a second season in AA Chattanooga. In 120 games, he hit .230 but had a .338 on-base percentage and a .339 slugging percentage. He had 22 doubles, seven homers and stole 15 bases. He has been in the outfield the last three seasons, though he has moved from left to right and back and forth a couple of times. No one questions Harrison’s work ethic, and anyone who has watched him knows that he has tremendous power potential and strength. He will still be just 24 years old through the 2017 season.

DERECK RODRIGUEZ

Dereck Rodriguez, as you know, is the son of recently-named Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez. The Twins drafted him in the sixth round in 2011 out of high school in Florida. They drafted him as a potential five-tool outfielder, but when he was unable to hit in the rookie leagues for three seasons, the decision was pretty easy to give him the option of pitching. He’s progressed slowly up the ladder as a pitcher. In 2015, he was the Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year. He began 2016 really struggling in Cedar Rapids, but in the middle of June, he started pitching much better. He earned a promotion to Ft. Myers where he pitched well too. He pitched very well this winter in Puerto Rico and helped the team win the Caribbean Series. He now is part of Team Puerto Rico in the WBC. He’ll continue to start as the season begins, but the 24-year-old could be a solid bullpen arm.

JASON WHEELER

Wheeler is the one player on this list who has been on the Twins 40-man roster. Two years ago, he was added to the roster and went to spring training with the big club. He really struggled in 2015 and by season’s end, he was removed from the 40-man roster. After that point, he went on to lead the Chattanooga Lookouts to the 2015 Southern League championship (he was named MVP, won a game and recorded a four-inning save). 2016 was a very good year for Wheeler. He began in Chattanooga again, but he moved up to Rochester quickly. And, he put up terrific numbers, good enough to be named the starting pitcher for the International League team in the AAA All-Star game. The left-hander doesn’t throw real hard, but he is generally around the plate and uses his defense. The 26-year-old was the Twins eighth-round pick in 2011 out of Loyola Marymount.

DAVID HURLBUT

The Twins liked Hurlbut enough to draft him twice. He was the team’s 35th-round pick in 2009 out of junior college. Two years later, the Twins took him in the 28th round out of Cal State-Fullerton. He missed some time at the start of 2016 with a shoulder issue, but he pitched well once he got on the mound. He went 7-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 23 starts in AA. He finished the season with five starts in Rochester. The 27-year-old is a soft-throwing left-hander, occasionally touching 90, but he has pinpoint control and a good changeup.

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Obviously all five of these guys are “prospects’ as they have yet to play in the big leagues. The two 24-year-olds are the two that would fit into the “prospect” category meaning there is still a lot of potential with them. It’s a big year for each of them. Not only are they working for a big league opportunity with the Twins, but they will have another season to be monitored by scouts and coaching staffs from the other 29 organizations too.
So what are your hopes or expectations for these five? Will any of them get to the big leagues in 2017? Could any be found on the 40-man roster after the 2017 season?

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18 Comments

All these guys need to show something this year or I wouldn't protect any of them. Here's my take:

 

Levi Michael is not going to hit MLB pitching. If taking a guy who hits .215 in AA and moving him to AAA is the answer then you are asking a very odd question.

Travis Harrison hasn't hit for an OPS of >.730 since low A ball in 2013. This is not going to be acceptable for a corner OF.

David Hurlbut is 27 years old. He had a WHIP >1.3 and 6.0 SO/9 in AA last year. How he got promoted to AAA (where he had a WHIP of 1.538) is a mystery to me.

 

Baseball is cruel. It is a very demanding game and many great athletes (like, say, Michael Jordan) try it and find that they just can't do it.

 

Rodriguez has really only pitched two years. His WHIP was too high but it was better when he moved to A+ in a small sample size. This might be promising. I believe they will want to give him enough rope to either hang himself or use it to climb to AA. He needs to get to at least AA this year, as he will be 25 years old in June.

Jason Wheeler should be on the list of pitchers who are considered for MLB action this year. I've read several times that his pitches are not overpowering, but he has good control (1.197 WHIP & 3.05 SO/W in AAA in 2016) and manages to keep his ERA down. It will be interesting to see if he gets to the Show if he continues to pitch like 2016.

Fun stuff to ponder. Thanks Seth!

    • glunn, bluechipper, Deduno Abides and 1 other like this

If the Twins had gone into total rebuild mode, jettisoning their salaried starters and throwing an all rookie staff out there, Jason Wheeler would've made it for quite a few starts. You can argue if he is a better choice than Duffey, who should probably be in the bullpen, but with the arms in the wings the Twins have so many on-the-edge players that MIGHT get an opportunity in another organization, but probably not the Twins. All the guys mentioned above could depart the Twins and PROBABLY (sadly) not be missed. How time passes you by, or you are replaced at the higher level and kept back because of some minor league veteran contract, of which the Twins have many this season -- be interesting to see how THAT shakes out.

 

You always hope guys like this might get a glimmer of a chance and would thrive...because it is make the majors NOW or not.

 

If the Twins had gone into total rebuild mode, jettisoning their salaried starters and throwing an all rookie staff out there, Jason Wheeler would've made it for quite a few starts. You can argue if he is a better choice than Duffey, who should probably be in the bullpen, but with the arms in the wings the Twins have so many on-the-edge players that MIGHT get an opportunity in another organization, but probably not the Twins. All the guys mentioned above could depart the Twins and PROBABLY (sadly) not be missed. How time passes you by, or you are replaced at the higher level and kept back because of some minor league veteran contract, of which the Twins have many this season -- be interesting to see how THAT shakes out.

 

You always hope guys like this might get a glimmer of a chance and would thrive...because it is make the majors NOW or not.

 

I can't imagine there is anyone in the Twins or Red Wings or Lookouts coaching staff, or in the front office who would think that Wheeler should be starting in the big leagues ahead of Tyler Duffey. 

    • birdwatcher, beckmt, Taildragger8791 and 1 other like this
Nice article Seth. As I see it only Michael(very slim chance) and Rodriquez have a chance to make it to the bigs. Wheeler and Hurlbut are now buried as filler behind about 8-10 other starting pitchers. Harrison would have to have a monster year to get back to prospect status.
Michael has Goodrum, Escobar, Santana and the new guy(do not remember name) to surpass to get equal to this year. It will be difficult, but do not see Santana as being in a Twins uniform at the end of spring training.
Rodriquez has a lot of relievers to pass, but that is a volatile group. He will probably get a look see if he continues to develop.

Some interesting names to watch this season, especially Rodriguez and Wheeler. My biggest takeaway from this list is how underwhelming the 2011 draft class was. Yikes.  

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this

 

I can't imagine there is anyone in the Twins or Red Wings or Lookouts coaching staff, or in the front office who would think that Wheeler should be starting in the big leagues ahead of Tyler Duffey. 

 

Pretty sure that they are some who think that Duffey should not be starting, but relieving instead

    • CUtomorrownight and VikingGuy like this

That was quite a draft.  Nobody made it to the majors, compared to 5 from the following year (2012)  draft.

 

Still a big believer on both Michael and Harrison.  Harrison looks like he gained some muscle last winter will be interesting to see what he does this Spring.  Michael just needs to stay healthy,  Expect big seasons for both of them.

 

Hurlbut outperformed his draft spot.  I don't know what Wheeler needs to do to get a cup of coffee with the Twins, when they trot Andrew Albers and Pat Dean (both inferior pitchers) out there...

 

Rodriguez is an interesting case.  He is still a couple of seasons away, I just do not see him as a starter and there are half a dozen plus relievers ahead of him, unless he has a crazy season.

 

Forgot that they released Corey Williams.  I kinda expected him to be in this list, until I remember him being a Saint for a moon or so last season

    • eLee612 and Deduno Abides like this
Photo
diehardtwinsfan
Mar 09 2017 08:05 AM

Rodriguez and Harrison are probably the best bets to make it, but those chances are definitely slim. If I wanted a dark horse, I think Derek Rodriguez may surprise some people this year though. He's only been pitching for a short period of time, and based on the light coming on last year, I'm wondering if he will continue. 

 

In all, I wouldn't be surprised at all if none of them make though. 

Underwhelming list. I don't expect any of these players to be 40 man adds after this season. 

Photo
Ghost_Of_Sid_Hartman
Mar 09 2017 08:27 AM

 

Nice article Seth. As I see it only Michael(very slim chance) and Rodriquez have a chance to make it to the bigs. Wheeler and Hurlbut are now buried as filler behind about 8-10 other starting pitchers. Harrison would have to have a monster year to get back to prospect status.
Michael has Goodrum, Escobar, Santana and the new guy(do not remember name) to surpass to get equal to this year. It will be difficult, but do not see Santana as being in a Twins uniform at the end of spring training.
Rodriquez has a lot of relievers to pass, but that is a volatile group. He will probably get a look see if he continues to develop.

Re:Michael - new guy is Ehire Adrianza. And you could add Engelb Vielma to that list

    • Oldgoat_MN and eLee612 like this

Good-bye been nice to know you.  I think a part of the lyrics of Supertramp wrap this up:

 

Goodbye stranger it's been nice

Hope you find your paradise
Tried to see your point of view
Hope your dreams will all come true

 

or

 

Now some they do and some they don't
And some you just can't tell like
And some they will and some they won't
With some it's just as well

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this
Harrison is still pretty young, fairly athletic and has real power potential. Sooner or later though, he has to produce a quality season again. I believe this is his make or break season.

Goodrum is a guy I feel good about. He's one of those raw but "toolsy" players the Twins have loved drafting. It's taken a while to get his bat going and he has had some injuries, but he offers pop and speed and vast positional flexibility. I believe he has a pretty good shot to be what we had hoped DanSan would become.

I just don't understand the handling of Wheeler at all. He was fast-tracked initially, added to the 40 man, then was removed after a poor season. Fine. Makes sense. But he pitched well last season and even went to the all star game. He may not throw very hard, but for a 100 loss team he couldn't have been added to the roster and given a shot as a back end SP in place of Albers or Dean? He's going to be passed up pretty quickly, in fact probably already has been, but last season would have been the perfect time to audition him for a role.
    • Oldgoat_MN, eLee612 and Deduno Abides like this

 

...

I don't know what Wheeler needs to do to get a cup of coffee with the Twins, when they trot Andrew Albers and Pat Dean (both inferior pitchers) out there...

Exactly Thrylos. This is one of the main concerns I had last year about Terry Ryan. Both Baxendale and Wheeler had better numbers than Dean and Albers.

I agree with DocBauer though. I think they've both been passed up now.

 

Pretty sure that they are some who think that Duffey should not be starting, but relieving instead

 

Also true... I would probably be in that group too.

 

Exactly Thrylos. This is one of the main concerns I had last year about Terry Ryan. Both Baxendale and Wheeler had better numbers than Dean and Albers.

I agree with DocBauer though. I think they've both been passed up now.

 

I guess, but at the same time... it wasn't Ryan that made the September call-ups. It was the new regime that made the 40-man roster decisions and the Non-Roster invites. 

 

And, I don't think you'll find any scouts who would say that Wheeler's stuff is better than Dean's. Frankly, there is little difference between Wheeler, Dean, Albers, Hurlbut, Darnell and the like.

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this

Hmmm. Not sure I think any of these guys matter to the future of the Twins. But I've been surprised before.

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this

 

Hmmm. Not sure I think any of these guys matter to the future of the Twins. But I've been surprised before.

True. The only one I suspect to be more than an extreme long shot to make a difference to the Twins someday is Rodriguez. As a reliever. Maybe.

What kind of $ do guys like Goodrum and Wimmers get when they sign back as minor league free agents? Are they basically making the same as before or do they get a decent raise?


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