Under the Radar Outfield Prospect Overview: Gabriel Maciel, Willie Joe Garry Jr. and More
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (photo of Willie Joe Garry Jr.)The Twins have plenty of highly regarded outfielders in the system. Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Brent Rooker, Matt Wallner, Akil Baddoo, and Misael Urbina all made the top 20 of the 2019 Twins Daily midseason prospect rankings. The Twins also have Gilberto Celestino, Luke Raley and LaMonte Wade. Some are further along in their careers than others but they obviously won’t all end up playing in the outfield with the Twins. Some could end up at first (Rooker, Kirlloff and possibly Larnach or Wallner), some may be traded, and some may fizzle out completely.
Even with all of the big names listed above, there are a few more lesser-known outfield prospects that are having nice seasons to date and today we will shine the spotlight on them for a change. The outfielders that we will look at are at different points in their Twins careers but all carry some similarities including the ability to play center and hit leadoff.
Let’s start off with the prospect that is furthest along in his minor league career, Gabriel Maciel. Calling Maciel “under the radar” is a bit of a stretch as most Twins fans that follow prospects are surely familiar with him, but he is probably less well known than the previously mentioned outfield prospects. He came to the organization from the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of the trade package for Eduardo Escobar during the 2018 trade deadline and currently plays for High-A Fort Myers.
Maciel is an interesting prospect as he signed with Arizona out of Brazil for a $90K signing bonus back in October 2015. Brazil is not exactly a hotbed for baseball talent, but Maciel apparently picked up baseball from some Japanese neighbors. Because of his background, Maciel was rawer than most international prospects, but he possesses great speed and has done a good job of controlling the strike zone through his minor league career. Considering his background, it is pretty impressive that Maciel is already playing High-A ball as a 20-year-old.
Maciel is a good defender and should stick in center because of his speed. Between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers Maciel has stolen 20 bases so far in 2019, while being thrown out six times. With his speed, he could certainly become an elite base stealer over time.
Although Maciel has yet to hit for much power, he gets on base and controls the strike zone (he is also a switch-hitter). In 79 games this year, Maciel has a 36 walks with 53 strikeouts. Maciel has gotten on base at a .377 clip (.359 career), which combined with his speed makes him an ideal leadoff hitter. He can also put the ball in play as he’s hitting .296 (.292 career). With his small frame (listed at 5’11, 170 by milb.com) Maciel is unlikely to develop much power, but with some added muscle or mechanical changes he may hit for a bit more power. Maciel’s skill set could also lend itself to becoming an effective fourth outfielder. Overall in 2019, Maciel has hit .296/.377/.364, for a .741 OPS.
Next we will look at another outfielder who came to the Twins in 2018; this time through the MLB draft. Minnesota selected Willie Joe Garry Jr. in the ninth round out of high school from Pascagoula, Miss. Garry Jr. signed over slot for a $225,000 bonus and played 2018 in the Gulf Coast League. He is listed at 6’1” and 170 lbs and bats and throws left handed.
Garry Jr. struggled in his first taste of pro ball as he hit .160/.266/.210 in the Rookie League, but it is not uncommon for young players to struggle out of the gate as we have seen this year with first round pick Keoni Cavaco (currently slashing .169/.234/.237).
In 2019 Garry Jr. has moved up to advanced rookie ball, playing for Elizabethton. The numbers have improved as Garry Jr. is hitting .269/.356/.429 for an OPS of.784 in 34 games. Garry Jr. has shown more power with six doubles, two triples, and three home runs after only four extra-base hits in 2018 (all doubles). Garry Jr. started the season batting ninth but has recently moved to leadoff. Despite not yet having shown a lot of prowess on the base paths in 2019 (4 SBs, 2 CS), Garry Jr. is athletic enough to have played all of his games in center field so far this season.
It will certainly be interesting to see how Garry Jr. performs for the remainder of 2019. He turned 19 on May 29th and will likely spend the rest of the season in Elizabethton. If Garry Jr.’s numbers continue to improve with his first taste of full season ball in 2020, he should begin to creep up the Twins prospect lists.
Finally, we will get really far out in prospect land and take a look at some Dominican Summer League prospects. The big Twins prospect in the DSL is Minnesota’s top international signing from 2018, Misael Urbina, is doing great, hitting .294/.398/.485 for an OPS of .883. The 17-year-old has walked 17 times to just 11 strikeouts and has stolen 17 bases, but today we will focus on a lesser known pair of DSL outfield prospects.
Urbina will undoubtedly come stateside next year and a couple of his teammates in the outfield are making the case to come with him. Rhodery Diaz and Luis Baez are both listed at 5’11” and 170 lbs as center fielders, but Diaz plays in center more often than Baez (Urbina primarily plays center as well). Diaz comes from the same signing class as Urbina, so this is his first year of pro ball, but Baez is in his second season with the DSL Twins.
Baez struggled last season, hitting .188/.320/.257 for an OPS of .577 as a 17-year-old, but he has been his team’s best hitter so far in 2019, with a team leading .976 OPS (.327/.455/.520). Baez has also stolen 13 bases and has walked 20 times with 23 strikeouts. Of course repeating the DSL and gaining another year in maturity undoubtedly aided Baez, but you can’t ask for a much better second season. Baez has played in 32 games this season.
Diaz has hit the ground running in 2019. The 17-year-old switch-hitter has hit .313/.389/.464, good for an .854 OPS. Diaz has played all over the outfield, but has played the majority of his games in left (probably indicating that Urbina and Baez are the superior outfielders). Diaz hasn’t been as dangerous as his outfield counterparts on the base paths as he has stolen just four bags. Diaz has drawn 12 walks to 17 strikeouts and has played in 31 games.
It would be foolhardy to take too much away from these players’ DSL numbers, as the season is short and the players are very young and inexperienced. Neither Baez nor Diaz have anywhere near the hype or prospect status of Misael Urbina, but if they keep hitting, they could be a couple more names that Twins fans hear about in the future.
While none of the prospects discussed are near the top of any prospect lists and all have a long road to travel if they are to reach the majors, they have all had nice seasons to date and give the Twins a bit of organizational depth at center field. Twins fans should be enchanted with their current center fielder, but Buxton’s only under team control for three more seasons after 2019. A lot would have to go right for any of the “under the radar” outfielders to become a future starting center fielder, but the group’s speed could produce an ideal fourth outfielder. Regardless of what the future brings, it’s nice to shine a little light on some young and unheralded outfielders who have produced in 2019.
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