2017 Twins Minor League Storylines: Sixth-Year Guys
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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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