Twins Daily 2019 Top Prospects: #5 Wander Javier
Age: 20 (DOB: 12/29/1998)
2018 Stats: DNP
2018 Ranking: 6
National Top 100 Rankings
BA: NA | MLB: NA | ESPN: NA | BP: NA
What's To Like
Losing major time to injury has, sadly, become a rite of passage for Twins top prospects. Miguel Sano and Alex Kirilloff both missed full seasons after Tommy John surgery. Byron Buxton had nearly his entire 2014 erased by wrist and thumb issues. Fernando Romero was sidelined for two consecutive campaigns by elbow and knee surgeries.
Wander Javier is the latest to join this lineage, but there's good news: Each of the prospects above came back after a long absence and almost immediately returned to prior form, if not better.
Javier has shown very good form when on the field, but that doesn't amount to much time. Signed at age 16 out of the Dominican Republic for a club-record $4 million, the skinny shortstop's early focus was adding strength and weight. He played in only 50 official pro games before hurting his shoulder in late 2017. The Twins tried to remedy the issue through rehab but that didn't take, and Javier underwent labrum surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder last May.
The recovery timeline from this procedure was estimated at six-to-nine months, so Javier will be on the other side of it when spring training kicks off, and all reports have him coming in at 100%. When at full strength, the righty-swinging infielder has plenty of offer.
Unlike fellow big international splashes Sano and Yunior Severino, who were both technically signed as shortstops out of the Dominican but with the expectation they'd bulk up and move elsewhere, Javier is fully expected to remain at short and be an asset there. He's quick and fluid in his motions, with good mechanics and a strong arm.
Projecting as a quality shortstop has plenty of value on its own, but what really makes Javier a special talent is his bat. In two stints at rookie ball, he owns a .301/.386/.497 slash line with six homers and 16 doubles in 210 plate appearances. He just hits. It is exceedingly rare to see an undersized teenager flash such immediate power in rookie ball, which created a great deal of hype around what Javier might do in full-season leagues. We've had to wait a bit to find out, but that excitement hasn't wavered in spite of the delay.
MLB.com didn't rank Javier in its Top 100 but did name him Minnesota's best prospect to miss the list.
What's Left To Work On
Well, everything. Javier initially showed the skills that compelled Minnesota to commit all of its 2015 international bonus pool (and then some) to acquire him, but he spent last year rehabbing from major shoulder surgery instead of developing those skills.
It shouldn't surprise, or alarm, anyone if Javier comes out of the gates slow this season. He has missed out on a full year of facing live competition at a time where those reps are so vitally important. Kirilloff showed us how quickly a young player can get back up to speed but Javier isn't nearly the same natural hitting talent.
There was already a rawness to Javier's game and now that element is magnified. He'll see better pitching than ever before and will face a more demanding regimen than ever before. Amidst this setting, he needs to fine-tune and advance his game, while also acclimating to a surgically repaired shoulder leading his swing.
Javier is in for a big challenge. But all evidence suggests he's up to it.
“We need to get him on the field,’’ Mike Radcliff told Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune earlier this offseason. “He has to go out and play.’’
A bulked-up Javier – who claims to now have 200 lbs on his 6'1" frame, according to Reusse's piece – will almost certainly start out in extended spring training as he works back into playing shape. But by May or June he should make his way to Cedar Rapids, where we'll finally get the chance to see what he can do.
It's unfair to bring up Kirilloff's name and precedent in comparison. Expectations should be kept in check with Javier, for all the reasons listed in the section above. But the bottom line is that talent wins out, and on that front – well, I think Baseball Prospectus fantasy writer Darius Austin put it best when answering a chat question via Dusty from Colorado (infamous for his relentless inquiries about Javier) in December: "There is no upside for the player with infinite talent."
Playing to the bit with hyperbole? Sure. But Javier's raw ability and athleticism are immense, and since we haven't yet seen them play out substantively on the pro stage, his possibilities feel almost limitless. There's no Twins prospect I'm more excited to follow in 2019.
Twins Daily 2019 Top 20 Prospects
20. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B
19. Jorge Alcala, RHP
18. LaMonte Wade, OF
17. Zack Littell, RHP
16. Gilberto Celestino, OF
15. Yunior Severino, 2B
14. Ben Rortvedt, C
13. Ryan Jeffers, C
12. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
11. Nick Gordon, SS
10. Akil Baddoo, OF
9. Blayne Enlow, RHP
8. Lewis Thorpe, LHP
7. Jhoan Duran, RHP
6. Brent Rooker, 1B/LF
5. Wander Javier, SS
4. Coming tomorrow!
Get to know more about these five Minnesota Twins prospects and much more in the 2019 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. It’s available in paperback or as an eBook.
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