2018 Minnesota Twins Midseason Top Prospect List: Recap
Image courtesy of Finn PearsonIn advance of this week's All-Star Game, Baseball America published a fun retrospective piece recalling some of its historical prospect rankings and write-ups for the showcase's participants.
Among those who never appeared in BA's Top 100: Charlie Blackmon, Paul Goldschmidt, J.D. Martinez, Corey Kluber, Jose Altuve.
In fact, Altuve's highest placement on the site's organizational rankings for Houston was 28th. Twenty-eighth! The 28-year-old was 2017 AL MVP and is about to appear in his sixth All-Star Game.
What I'm trying to say is that great players come from all corners, and all levels of repute. But of course, those who are acclaimed and touted as they rise through the minors have much higher rates of success, and those outside the top prospect class who exceed expectations usually have at least one standout ingredient that propels them to superiority.
This is a big reason we've extended our Twins Daily midseason rankings out to 40. The system is as deep as it's been in memory, with conducive ingredients and raw tools stretching to that point and beyond.
Today we'll recap the full updated rankings while breaking down some trends and tidbits worth noting.
MINNESOTA TWINS MIDSEASON TOP 40 PROSPECTS 2018: SUMMARY
40. Aaron Whitefield – OF
39. Jaylin Davis – OF
38. Ricky De La Torre – SS
37. Lachlan Wells – LHP
36. Aaron Slegers – RHP
35. Tyler Watson – LHP
34. DaShawn Keirsey, Jr. – OF
33. Gabriel Moya – LHP
32. Andrew Bechtold – 3B
31. Jordan Balazovic – RHP
30. John Curtiss – RHP
29. Zack Granite – OF
28. Jake Cave – OF
27. Tyler Wells – RHP
26. Griffin Jax - RHP
25. Tyler Jay – LHP
24. Felix Jorge – RHP
23. Kohl Stewart – RHP
22. Landon Leach – RHP
21. Jose Miranda – 2B
20. Luis Arraez – 2B
19. Jacob Pearson – OF
18. Ryan Jeffers – C
17. Lewin Diaz – 1B
16. Yunior Severino – 2B
15. Ben Rortvedt – C
14. Lewis Thorpe – LHP
13. Travis Blankenhorn – 3B
12. LaMonte Wade – OF
11. Blayne Enlow – RHP
10. Zack Littell - RHP
9. Wander Javier – SS
8. Akil Baddoo – OF
7. Brent Rooker – 1B
6. Trevor Larnach – OF
5. Stephen Gonsalves – LHP
4. Nick Gordon – SS
3. Brusdar Graterol – RHP
2. Alex Kirilloff – OF
1. Royce Lewis – SS
BREAKDOWN BY POSITION
RH Pitcher: 11
LH Pitcher: 6
METHOD OF ACQUISITION
Draft: Lewis, Kirilloff, Gordon, Gonsalves, Larnach, Rooker, Baddoo, Enlow, Wade, Blankenhorn, Rortvedt, Jeffers, Miranda, Leach, Stewart, Jax, T. Wells, Granite, Curtiss, Balazovic, Bechtold, Keirsey, Slegers, De La Torre, Davis
Trade: Littell, Pearson, Cave, Moya, Watson
International Signing: Graterol, Javier, Thorpe, Diaz, Arraez, Jorge, L. Wells, Whitefield
A HEALTHY PIPELINE
Premier assets at the top, plenty of quality sprinkled throughout, and low-key intrigue at the back end: It might not rank as a top-three farm system in baseball, but Minnesota boasts a deep and enviable collection of minor-league talent.
The beauty of this group, at present? I promise I'm knocking on wood before I type this, but... they're in really good shape, physically.
Yes, there was the very unfortunate preseason shoulder injury for Wander Javier, knocking him out for the year at a crucial point of development. And there have naturally been some bumps and bruises along the way, but for the most part, players in the Twins' system have been able to stay on the field.
That hasn't been entirely common lately, and is especially refreshing in contrast to the dinged up big-league club.
In fact, several prospects have shown very promising signs while trying to rebound from major health tribulations.
Alex Kirilloff has of course blasted back onto the scene brilliantly after Tommy John surgery cost him all of 2017. But developments on the pitching side have been even more vitalizing.
Graterol had logged only 51 total frames through his first four pro seasons due to health problems, but is already at 55 innings between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers this year. Thorpe, too, has set a new career-high in innings pitched while rebuilding strength after a long layoff.
Toss in Fernando Romero (who has now graduated from his prospect status, but would otherwise be near the top of this list), and you've got three absolutely critical arms that – at least so far – have returned to the fold very successfully after losing multiple seasons to injury.
Many who go through such tumult never make it back successfully. And while nothing is promised, for now I'm appreciating a little good fortune on this front.
Derek Falvey and Thad Levine inherited a good situation in their first year at the helm, with the first overall pick in the 2017 draft and four selections in the top 76. No one could deny they took full advantage, bolstering the system in one fell swoop.
All four players taken with those picks now sit among our top 40: Royce Lewis (1), Brent Rooker (7), Blayne Enlow (11), Landon Leach (22). So do a couple others they grabbed in their first draft: Andrew Bechtold (32) and Ricky De La Torre (38). Obviously the sample is small with all these players and their futures have yet to be written, but there's plenty to like in Falvey and Levine's initial class of recruits.
Their first two picks Lewis and Rooker, in particular, are looking like slam dunks. And we'll see about the second class but so far Trevor Larnach (6) and Ryan Jeffers (18) aren't looking too shabby.
SPEED AT THE TOP
There are some very special talents on this list, and in the top five especially, but Royce Lewis is in a class of his own. Promoted to High-A last week, about a month after his 19th birthday, he's on an even faster path than the franchise's last No. 1 overall pick, Joe Mauer, who reached the Florida State League at age 20 in his third pro season.
Mauer ended up skipping Triple-A entirely on his way to debuting in the majors at age 20. It's becoming reasonable to envision a similar ascent for Lewis. In fact, as long as he can stay healthy, Lewis is a pretty good bet to become the youngest Twin to reach the big leagues since the turn of the century, beating out Mauer and Jorge Polanco who were close to 21 when they made landing.
In his first full season, Lewis has flashed outstanding speed on the field, where he's 22-for-27 on steals in 77 games, and in his development, which continues to progress at an lightning-quick pace. He's currently sitting at No. 10 overall in Baseball America's live Top 100 Rankings, well ahead of all others the Twins considered taking with the first pick last June, so their decision is being roundly reaffirmed one year later.
A LINGERING WEAKNESS
From the positional breakdown a little further up, you can see that the system has a nice balance for the most part: 17 pitchers, 11 infielders, 10 outfielders. But the lack of depth at another position – one of the absolute most critical – sticks out like a sore thumb. There are only two catchers in the rankings, and neither is higher than 15th. Additionally, neither is expected to arrive in the majors before 2021.
Outside of marginal journeymen like Bobby Wilson, the Twins currently have only Mitch Garver, whose defensive aptitude seems in question based on Paul Molitor's usage, and 31-year-old Jason Castro, who will be returning from knee surgery for his final year under contract in 2019.
If there's one position that the Twins clearly need to address from outside, it's this one. I have my own ideas, but there are plenty of other routes to go.
IMAGINING A BUILT-FROM-WITHIN 2023 MLB ROSTER
What might a future 25-man Twins roster, assembled entirely from prospects currently in the system, look like? Subtracting current big-leaguers from the mix and taking a few liberties in terms of positional flexibility, here's a theoretical look at an internally produced lineup, bench, and pitching staff roughly five years down the line:
C - Ben Rortvedt
1B - Brent Rooker
2B - Nick Gordon
SS - Wander Javier
3B - Travis Blankenhorn
LF - LaMonte Wade
CF - Royce Lewis
RF - Alex Kirilloff
DH - Trevor Larnach
C - Ryan Jeffers
IF - Yunior Severino
IF - Luis Arraez
OF - Akil Baddoo
OF - Jacob Pearson
SP - Brusdar Graterol
SP - Stephen Gonsalves
SP - Zack Littell
SP - Blayne Enlow
SP - Felix Jorge
RP - Lewis Thorpe
RP - Tyler Jay
RP - Kohl Stewart
RP - Gabriel Moya
RP - John Curtiss
RP - Griffin Jax
RP - Tyler Wells
- Catch up on the latest news and developments surrounding the system's top talents by reading through Tom Froemming's exhaustive Twins Prospect Pulse
- Trey Cabbage, who ranks somewhere just outside the Top 40, was the subject of SD Buhr's latest column from Cedar Rapids
- If you need a reminder that sometimes top prospects pan out beautifully, Jose Berrios will be participating in Tuesday night's All-Star Game at age 24, and up until the contest ends you can still sign up to a win a free baseball signed by Berrios
What are your thoughts on the state of the Twins system here at the 2018 All-Star break? Did we miss anyone we should've included (other than high-profile international signing Misael Urbina, who came aboard after our ranking process had begun)? Do you have major quibbles with any placements? Let us know in the comments.
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