Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: #7 SS Keoni Cavaco
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs (graphics by Brock Beauchamp)Age: 19 (DOB: 6-2-2001)
2019 Stats (GCL): 92 PA, .172/.217/.253, 4 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI
2020 Ranking: 8
National Top 100 Rankings
BA: NR | MLB: NR | ATH: NR | BP: NR
What’s To Like
If things go right, Cavaco will be the No. 1 prospect in this system before long. He has real five-tool potential.
Keith Law of The Athletic noted that Cavaco has outstanding work ethic and said “the best bet is that he ends up a 20-25 homer guy at third (base) with above-average defense.” He’s a high-variance player, but there’s potential he beats even that optimistic projection.
In June of 2019, the Twins selected Cavaco with the 13th-overall pick and gave him $4.05 million dollars. Not much has changed since in concern to his overall future outlook.
Cavaco is fast, powerful and has a great arm. It is incredibly difficult to find players with the raw tools to play on the left side of the infield. The current state of the Twins org is a great example of that. Miguel Sanó and Jorge Polanco have been moved off their positions as the Twins have had to look outside the org for better, more athletic defenders at third base and shortstop.
Yes, Cavaco had a very poor pro debut. That was discouraging, but it was also only 92 plate appearances. If you want a reason to look beyond that debut performance outside of it being a small sample, Cavaco was hampered by a minor injury, as mentioned in Keanan Lamb’s comments in Baseball Prospectus’ Twins list.
A poor pro debut is not a death sentence. Torii Hunter hit .190/.283/.220 in his first 114 plate appearances as a professional back in 1993. Here’s hoping part of Hunter’s role as Special Assistant has been to provide guidance to Cavaco in how to overcome an initial obstacle.
Cavaco just lost his age 19 season, which is unfortunate. Keep in mind, however, that Trevor Larnach hit .157/.271/.176 in 59 plate appearances during his age 19 season at Oregon State and Brent Rooker was redshirted his age 19 season at Mississippi State.
The hit tool is Cavaco’s biggest question mark right now, but there’s no reason to abandon ship just yet. It’s much easier to get excited about prospects who are more advanced hitters that mash inferior competition, but again, so few players profile as shortstops or third basemen. Cavaco definitely gets a boost for his potential to deliver power at a premium position.
What’s Left To Work On
If things go wrong, Cavaco is going to struggle to stick in the top 10, even as this system begins to graduate some of its best prospects. There’s a lot going on here.
Cavaco was always expected to be a project, so it wasn’t a shock that he didn’t hit the ground running. He never really had a long-term defensive home in high school, starting out at catcher, then moving to third base with some work at short and even a bit on the mound. Cavaco switched to exclusively playing shortstop with the GCL Twins. In addition to that adjustment, the Twins were also working with him to even out his swing and clean up the timing of his stride.
It would have been great to see him get out on the field, but there was plenty Cavaco could work on without having to play in competitive games. A lot of progress could be made on these mechanical adjustments at home or at his local training complex.
Sooner or later, however, it’s going to need to show up on the field. Even Cavaco’s biggest fans will have a difficult time digesting another performance as poor as his debut. Prospect lists are always about projecting the future but the tools need to show up on the diamond, at the very least in flashes.
There’s a lot you can overlook in small sample sizes, but if Cavaco posts a strikeout rate around 38% again he’s not going to give his power and speed much of an opportunity to impress.
The Twins are expected to provide Cavaco the opportunity to prove himself as a shortstop. He needs to iron out his footwork and improve his range to have a chance. As his body develops, he may just naturally trend toward third base no matter what.
Play. Cavaco had a year to reset and focus on the mechanical adjustments necessary to take the next steps as both a hitter and a shortstop. It’s also been an opportunity to settle into his new frame, as he had a growth spurt late in high school. Now it’s time to put everything into practice.
Cavaco participated in fall instructs, so that’s a plus. The nice thing about Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers flip-flopping levels is the first rung in the system is now right at the complex. I believe that will help most players transition, which could be especially difficult now that the lower levels of the minors have been eliminated. We should see Cavaco with the Mighty Mussels (formerly the Miracle) at some point this year, though the minor league schedule has yet to be finalized.
A Final Note On Prospect Lists
Putting players in order without additional context can lead to things being easy to misinterpret. There’s a gigantic gap between Cavaco and the #6 prospects in the system. Prospect rankings don’t properly illustrate these tiers. One spot difference can represent a razor-thin margin or a massive gap.
Twins Daily 2021 Top 20 Prospects
20. Bailey Ober, RHP
19. Jose Miranda, INF
18. Alerick Soularie, OF
17. Ben Rortvedt, C
16. Edwar Colina, RHP
15. Cole Sands, RHP
14. Misael Urbina, OF
13. Matt Wallner, OF
12. Brent Rooker, OF/1B
11. Gilberto Celestino, OF
10. Blayne Enlow, RHP
9. Matt Canterino, RHP
8. Aaron Sabato, 1B
7. Keoni Cavaco, SS
6. Coming tomorrow!