TD 2019 Top Minnesota Twins Prospects Recap
Twins Daily's Top 20 Twins Prospects of 2019
20. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B: Versatile infielder shows offensive promise with contact/power combo
19. Jorge Alcala, RHP: Big arm acquired in Ryan Pressly trade plagued by question marks
18. LaMonte Wade, OF: OBP machine is almost MLB-ready, profiles as rotation guy in corner OF
17. Zack Littell, RHP: Back-of-rotation type with higher potential if he adds velo or goes to bullpen
16. Gilberto Celestino, OF: Speedy CF with a bit of pop and solid plate approach, lofty ceiling
15. Yunior Severino, 2B: Teenage infielder is still developing physically, projects as slugging 3B
14. Ben Rortvedt, C: Took a step forward with bat in 2018, and reinforced strong defensive rep
13. Ryan Jeffers, C: Blasted onto scene in pro debut, providing critical boost to the system at C
12. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP: Flaws were magnified in rocky intro to MLB, but intrigue remains
11. Nick Gordon, SS: Highly skilled middle infielder looks to rebound after falling flat in Triple-A
10. Akil Baddoo, OF: Rare blend of power, patience, speed commingle in uber-athletic package
9. Blayne Enlow, RHP: Riding signature CB, held his own against advanced competition at 19
8. Lewis Thorpe, LHP: Aussie southpaw has performed everywhere in minors, awaits MLB shot
7. Jhoan Duran, RHP: Biggest surprise from deadline deals dominated with legit stuff after arrival
6. Brent Rooker, 1B/OF: Flashed prodigious power while spending first full pro season in Double-A
5. Wander Javier, SS: Prized international talent is back after losing 2018 to shoulder surgery
4. Trevor Larnach, OF: Last summer's first-round pick mashed in pro debut, could reach MLB quickly
3. Brusdar Graterol, RHP: Among the hardest throwers around, complements FB with filthy slider
2. Alex Kirilloff, OF: Can drive any pitch anywhere, with hit tool ranking among best in minors
1. Royce Lewis, SS: Elite skill and athleticism surpassed only by uncommon maturity and makeup
The breakdown here hasn't changed a ton from last year. At that time, I called out catching depth as the biggest area of concern, but things look much brighter on that front now. We still only have two backstops on our list, but that's partially because Mitch Garver graduated with a strong rookie year for the Twins. Meanwhile, he was replaced by a promising talent in second-round pick Jeffers, and Rortvedt took a step forward.
Overall, there's not a glaring weakness (maybe 3B), but the clear area of abundance is outfielders.
WHERE THEY STAND
This system is very highly regarded, and there seems to be consensus that it's on the rise. Keith Law of ESPN ranks Minnesota fourth among all organizations, up from 10th last year. Baseball America, which also pegged the Twins' system 10th last year, now has them up to #7. Few teams can match a 1-2 punch like Lewis and Kirilloff, and there's plenty of functional depth here as well. "A parade of unfamous names who project to at least some tangible big league value," as Law puts it.
In terms of pure upside, I doubt any other farm system can stack up. Therein lies the rub â€“ Minnesota's pipeline is delightfully high on potential, but frightfully low on assurance. None of their top three prospects have played above A-ball, and in fact only two members of their top 10 have done so.
It's a boom-or-bust minefield but the skills, athleticism and projectibility of this group are undeniably tantalizing. It's not hard to envision a toolbox like Baddoo, Javier, Celestino or Severino suddenly emerging as a nationally recognized top-tier talent; it's also not hard to envision any of them bogging down upon reaching the upper levels.
When Minnesota's front office talks about biding its time, and waiting to develop further clarity before charting a decisive course, they aren't just talking about the big-league club. We're going to learn a ton about the farm system this summer.
CREAM OF THE CROP, RISING TO THE TOP
Minnesota's system is on the rise largely because of its two shining stars. Last year, Lewis was the highest Twins prospect to appear on any of the four national lists we track â€“ MLB.com had him at #20. This year, all four have him among their top 10s, with MLB.com placing him highest at #5. Meanwhile, Kirilloff has come out of nowhere to rank in everyone's top 40, with ESPN and MLB.com both placing him among their top dozen overall.
Not since Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano were eligible have the Twins held this kind of national prestige in the prospect arena. I realize that sentence probably made some of you groan, but â€“ FOLKS, you gotta believe me on this â€“ the past does not dictate the future. Everyone should be very, very excited about these two phenomenal incoming talents.
THE NEW WAVE
Derek Falvey and Thad Levine inherited Kirilloff, and had the luxury of a #1 overall pick to procure Lewis, so they can't take TOO much credit for the very top end of this system. But there is zero question they've followed through on a stated mission to thoroughly bolster the minor-league ranks.
Half of our Top 20 now consists of players acquired by the new regime (Lewis, Larnach, Rooker, Duran, Enlow, Jeffers, Severino, Celestino, Littell, Alcala). From the current view, Falvey and Levine have hit on numerous draft picks (notably Larnach and Rooker), and they've gotten solid returns when trading away veterans. In particular, Duran â€“ acquired in the Eduardo Escobar deal and already at #7 on our list â€“ looks like a real find.
Sizing up this system's estimable top five, you see a lot of high-stakes investments paying off. Lewis was obviously a #1 overall pick. Kirilloff and Larnach were also first-rounders. Javier was the most expensive international free agent in franchise history.
And then we have Graterol, who signed out of Venezuela for a mere $150,000 in 2014. He wasn't a big name, or a flashy addition. When he first arrived, the right-hander was throwing in the upper-80s. After logging just 11 innings in the Dominican Summer League at age 16, he tore his UCL and underwent Tommy John surgery.
During the time off, Graterol focused on building strength, and he came back a radically different player, firing in the upper-90s. These are the kinds of development stories that set apart the best organizations; it's important to hit frequently on those crucial top draft picks and high-profile international splashes, but the biggest differentiator is when you can pan this kind of gold from your lesser investments.
UNDER THE RADAR
Speaking of lesser investments, let's talk about the Twins' 2016 fifth-round pick, Jordan Balazovic. He was named by both ESPN's Law and The Athletic's John Sickels as a player who narrowly missed their Top 100s; in fact, Law shockingly had Balazovic (#102) ranked ahead of Graterol (#108).
Balazovic was an honorable mention for us, failing to make our Top 20 cut, but I'm wondering if that'll look silly a year from now. The Canadian right-hander was impressive at Cedar Rapids last year, posting a 78-to-18 K/BB ratio in 61 innings as a 19-year-old, but has totaled only 134 frames since being drafted in 2016.
Where there's smoke, there's fire, and the Twins system has plumes rising from its stellar collection of young arms. It wasn't so long ago that Minnesota had a dire shortage of high-end velo in its minor-league ranks, but now this trait has become a hallmark.
Graterol is of course one of the hardest-throwers out there â€“ a rare starter capable of reaching 100 MPH and maintaining above 95. Duran throws in the upper-90s. Alcala has been known to touch triple digits. And there are a number of other power arms (like Balazovic) that didn't quite crack our list.
MORE PROSPECT COVERAGE
If you want to read up on all of these prospects and many more, I recommend ordering a copy of the 2019 Twins Prospect Handbook (paperback or eBook), which Seth, Cody and Tom worked tirelessly to put together. And of course, you'll wanna stay tuned into Twins Daily, where we'll have on-site reports from camp during spring training, and daily minor-league recaps all season long.
There's no better place to follow the next wave of Minnesota Twins talent.
PAST TWINS DAILY TOP PROSPECT LISTS
TD 2018 Minnesota Twins Top Prospects
TD 2017 Minnesota Twins Top Prospects
TD 2016 Minnesota Twins Top Prospects
TD 2015 Minnesota Twins Top Prospects
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