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Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: #7 SS Keoni Cavaco

Yes, we are still high on Keoni Cavaco, our #7 Twins prospect for 2021. Let's take a look at what's to like (a lot), what's to work on (a lot) and what's next for the 19-year-old.
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
ETA: 2025
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.

What’s Next?
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
Honorable Mentions
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!


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17 Comments

I liked the pick for the 5 tool potential but having the bat as the weakest link is always dangerous, because if the player can't hit the other 4 tools don't play as well.Honestly I don't feel like I can tell anything from his first year as he was so young and the sample so small.Lots of young guys struggle the first time in pro ball it is almost the norm not the exception.

 

If the hit tool does come around there is a lot to dream on.Cavaco is fast enough to play short and if he needs to go to third base he will be a mobile third baseman.He has a canon arm so his defense should be above average.He needs to improve his eye at the plate and become a better hitter.We will know more after this year but he has time on his side for now.

    • Mike Sixel, DocBauer, rdehring and 1 other like this
And this kid, unfortunately and perhaps unwarranted, is the lightening rod for top 10 debate. How many top prospects struggle early and then develop? How many mid to late round selections flash early and then fade away to obscurity?

I admit to having real concerns about being a "fast riser" and an athlete who was initially overlooked due to lack of camps and touring teams and whathaveyou. In all sports, at all levels, we see guys who are great athletes but not necessarily good players.

And I'm not saying this will be the case with Cavaco. And being so young, adjusting to wooden bats, being away from home, growth spurts, a nagging injury, can all lead to a poor initial introduction. I'm just saying, it gives me pause.

I think, while virtually ALL milb players lost out on a year of development, I think Cavaco and Javier may have lost the most opportunity in 2020. Which is a bit ironic as they remind me of one another despite their different backgrounds.

I really hope this kid is 100% and ready to go. And I'll definitely be watching him closely this year.
    • Dman, tarheeltwinsfan and rdehring like this

One of these years it will be nice to watch the progression of these top picks, from signing to stardom, and not have to make excuses for them along the way. It is gonna happen, right?

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Doctor Gast
Feb 17 2021 06:14 AM
Cavaco is still young, having a poor age 18 pro debut is understandable, there's a lot to adjust to. I believe patience is the best route to take with him. He'll come around in his own time. I'm high on him, as long as his defense is remains strong, his hitting will come around.
    • Tom Froemming likes this
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Dave The Dastardly
Feb 17 2021 08:20 AM

No. 7 but this summary is mostly about Cavaco's negatives? I know nothing about this kid but if there's little to justify his ranking over a dozen other prospects what's he doing at No 7?

    • mikelink45 and rdehring like this

DocBauer again said everything I was thinking, thanks.

 

But for me, putting a kid who put up miserable numbers ahead of the likes of Canterino, Urbina and others is a mistake. In this case, your selection of Cavaco at #7 is a head scratcher.

 

With that said, I hope this kid develops into a superstar to replace Donaldson at third base when his contract ends.

    • DocBauer likes this

This is my classic ranking complaint.He has potential and hopefully will deserve a high ranking in the future, but until a player shows the beginning of that potential I do not like to see them in the top rankings - especially the top 10, even with your caveat that there is a large gap between him and #6. 

 

I would love to see the prospect lists have two parts - those with good MiLB experience and recently drafted and we hope they will do well.  

 

Your essay did nothing to change my perspective. 

    • rdehring likes this
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SgtSchmidt11
Feb 17 2021 09:18 AM

While I too agree this ranking is too high, I must admit that ranking Cavaco is an impossible task.We've seen almost nothing of him but the Twins took him in the first round for a reason.  

 

He's clearly not a failed prospect with only 59 PA's, so I can't really say where I'd rank him.Like I said, ranking him isn't easy.

    • Dman and DocBauer like this
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Tom Froemming
Feb 17 2021 09:45 AM

For me, prospect lists are about forecasting the future, and if you're doing it well, you don't have guys bobbing all around your rankings year-to-year. Of course if things change, if you see something that causes your evaluation of the player to shift, you make the appropriate change in your rankings.

 

Really from this spot on down through the 15 or so range, there is not a lot differentiates those guys. I'd still keep Cavaco over them maybe because I put more emphasis on future defensive home/profile. But, I want to stress again that he's nowhere even close to the top six for me. There's a big gap between these next guys on our list and Cavaco/etc.

    • Seth Stohs, birdwatcher, Dman and 4 others like this

Our Rankings: 

 

Seth: 10

Nick: 7

Tom: 9

Cody: 7

 

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tarheeltwinsfan
Feb 17 2021 01:07 PM

 

One of these years it will be nice to watch the progression of these top picks, from signing to stardom, and not have to make excuses for them along the way. It is gonna happen, right?

Not many of us go smoothly from being teenagers to being responsible adults. The same holds true in every new job I've ever had. It just takes time to see how a person develops physically, reacts to the inevitable adversities of life, and the fire in one's belly to achieve. 

    • h2oface, chpettit19 and Heiny like this

This will be big year for this kid.He will need to make strides to be considered still a good prospect.Not that he will be given up on, but if he does not show some strides others will start to pass him by on the pecking order. 

Cavaco is a tough one to rank. He's this high because of his tools, his youth,and his draft position. His professional performance has been miserable, but it's hardly enough ABs to be meaningful. I'd feel a lot more confident about where he is if he'd played a full year of pro ball. for all we know, he might go out and dominate this season. Or he might need every AB he can find to get his hit tool on track.

 

I'd probably drop him a bit lower just because he may have been a bit of a reach as a pick and toolsy high school kids can need a longer development curve. Is he Wander Javier or Max Kepler? or does he just need a full year of pro ball and instruction to turn into a fast riser?

 

cavaco has almost unlimited questions...but also has a ton of potential. I think 7 is high, but I get that there might not be a lot of significant different between being ranked 12 and being ranked 7, especially when you consider positional differences.

    • Dman and tarheeltwinsfan like this

I did not want the Twins to draft Cavaco because of his weak hit tool. I wanted Stott who was drafted right after so if Cavaco ever turns out to be anything I’ll be glad but my expectations are practically zero. If I were making a top prospects list he’d make it to 15 at best..probably closer to 20. Obviously I hope I am very wrong. 

I'd put him more in the 12/14 prospect ranks because of how far a ways he has to go. I would rather rank someone like Brent Rooker, who is basically MLB ready but doesn't have Cavaco's ceiling, higher simply because the odds of him contributing in the majors combined with how well he should do is higher. Cavaco might be a good 3B ready to take over in the 2025 season... if he makes it through the minors. I'd just prefer to rank him like one of the international prospects like Urbina, who are also massive question marks with tons of potential.

 

Not many of us go smoothly from being teenagers to being responsible adults. The same holds true in every new job I've ever had. It just takes time to see how a person develops physically, reacts to the inevitable adversities of life, and the fire in one's belly to achieve. 

 

So true, and yes, obvious. Nothing wrong with yearning for the rare star. It happens, not a lot - but I see it happen on other teams, so the wish stands.

    • Mike Sixel likes this

Way too high. Let’s face it, if Cavaco had been drafted at the bottom of the first round or in the second round somewhere (where consensus projected him to go weeks ahead of the draft), he’d be well outside the top 10. Doesn’t matter if you’re drafted #13 overall, or if you’re raw, or if you’re ‘adjusting’, or if you just turned 18: when you come in with questions on the hit tool and you’re completely overwhelmed by instructional league pitching, even in a short timeframe, to the extent that Cavaco was...you’re a lottery ticket. A very shiny one perhaps, but a lottery ticket.