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Article: 2019 Twins Midseason Top Prospect List: 21-25

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The Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2019: Part 1 (16-20)

Last year around this time, I took a shot at ranking the top 20 player assets in the Minnesota Twins organization. The idea was to think solely in terms of commodity valuation, factoring in things like age, cost, control, and risk management in answering the question: which players are most essential to this team's vision?

Given the tumult of the past 12 months, updating these rankings felt like a worthy exercise. So let's get to it.
Image courtesy of Kim Klement, USA Today (Nick Gordon)
20. Nick Gordon, SS (23)
2018 Ranking: 13

A year ago, Gordon was already plagued by questions surrounding his viability at shortstop, as well as the legitimacy of his bat coming off a lackluster second half in Chattanooga. These doubts were only magnified during a rough 2018 campaign that saw him fail to gain any offensive traction in Triple-A (.212/.262/.283 in 99 games) while ceding more time to second base.

Of course, he was also a 22-year-old in a league where the average player is considerably older. Assessing Gordon's performance is somewhat tough because he's always been relatively young and undeveloped compared to his competition. But now he's catching up, and it's time to show something. Huge year on deck for the former first-round draft pick.

19. C.J. Cron, 1B (29)
2018 Ranking: N/A

While I questioned the fit, Cron was undoubtedly a nifty pickup for the Twins when they grabbed him off waivers from Tampa a month ago. It's not every day you can add an affordable and accomplished hitter, under the age of 30, coming off a breakout season, for nothing.

Cron has pedigree – formerly a star collegiate slugger who became a first-round draft pick and has hit consistently in the minors and majors. He has upward momentum, having posted 30 home runs and an .817 OPS in his first full season a big-league regular. He's fairly cheap ($4.8 million in 2019), and controllable in 2020 via arbitration as well.

18. Adalberto Mejia, LHP (25)
2018 Ranking: 14

In 2018, Mejia did the same thing he's done almost nonstop since coming over to the Twins at the 2016 trade deadline: he performed. In 118 1/3 innings at Class-AAA Rochester since the trade, he has a 3.27 ERA, and he's held his own during multiple stints in the big leagues, including this year when he turned in a 2.01 ERA over five appearances for Minnesota. He's a big, burly left-hander with some velocity and the ability to miss bats.

The only missing ingredient for Mejia has been sustained durability. He totaled less than 130 innings in 2017 and less than 90 in 2018, plagued by wrist and arm ailments down the stretch. Complicating matters is that Mejia's out of options next spring, which forces the Twins' hand in terms of rostering him. But still, this is a proven, capable left-handed starter with five years of team control ahead. There's a ton of potential value here.

17. Jake Cave, OF (26)
2018 Ranking: N/A

Last spring the Twins saw an opportunity to add a player they liked and seized it. Cave had been designated for assignment by the Yankees in a roster crunch, so Minnesota flipped them teenage right-hander Luis Gil to acquire Cave before he had a chance to hit waivers. "He made some adjustments that we thought led to the power surge that he had, and we think those will continue going forward," said Derek Falvey at the time.

They did indeed. Cave hit 13 home runs and slugged .473 in 91 games for the Twins. He also showed solid range and ability in the outfield. Granted, there were some troubling indicators to be found in his performance – among them, a 5-to-1 K/BB ratio that suggests volatility in the AVG/OBP columns is likely – but the power is legit. Cave was a savvy add by the front office.

16. Wander Javier, SS (20)
2018 Ranking: 18

Javier missed the entire 2018 season after undergoing shoulder labrum surgery. So how does he manage to move up two slots on this list, you ask? Well, it's mainly because folks that were above him a year ago have either backslid or departed, and Javier's tantalizing potential remains even after his setback.

He looked like a true shortstop during his time in the Dominican Summer and Appy Leagues, with plenty of range and arm to handle – perhaps even master – the position. That shouldn't change, as the surgery was for his non-throwing arm. He has some lost time to make up for but Javier is expected back fully healthy in spring training and will be poised to take full-season leagues by storm. This has the makings of an Alex Kirilloff-type situation (Kirilloff was 20th in last year's rankings; you'll find out soon where he checks in this year).

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81 Comments

I've been thinking of Javier as a potential Kirilloff-like story to watch in 2019, too, but I'm glad I wasn't the first to say so "out loud." Obviously, that would be an unfair expectation to put on the guy, but we can hope, right? 

 

Hope he's healthy to start the year and gets a good solid full year of work and development in. Really looking forward to watching him play.

    • Dman, DocBauer, PDX Twin and 3 others like this
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clutterheart
Dec 26 2018 09:09 PM
I stopped reading when I saw you have Cron as more valuable than Gordon.

I get it. Its a long offseason and you are struggling for content. But you might want to think it through a bit.
    • ChrisKnutson and SF Twins Fan like this
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Nick Nelson
Dec 26 2018 09:34 PM

 

I stopped reading when I saw you have Cron as more valuable than Gordon.

I get it. Its a long offseason and you are struggling for content. But you might want to think it through a bit.

Care to elaborate on your point of contention? It's not exactly easy to compare 29-year-old MLB first basemen with 23-year-old middle infield prospects, but that's the bit here.

 

These rankings represent a snapshot in time; right now, Cron's value is up and Gordon's is down. There is value in reliability, a decent floor and established production. 

    • birdwatcher, Twins33, PseudoSABR and 10 others like this

It's interesting to me how many people complain when threads go off on the business side of MLB, yet we refer to players as assets.

 

(Sadly, they are. Come to think about it, I wish my employer would call me that...)

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terrydactyls1947
Dec 26 2018 11:17 PM

My employer always called me an abbreviated term of asset.Just ASS.Actually, several employers called me by that term.So glad I'm retired.

    • Twins33, PseudoSABR, Dman and 2 others like this
A little more insight on the methodology would be helpful.

I generally think of asset value as essentially the same thing as surplus value or trade value. We can be very confident that Cron wouldn’t cost Gordon though, so now I’m not sure.
    • TheLeviathan likes this
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SF Twins Fan
Dec 26 2018 11:47 PM

I stopped reading when I saw you have Cron as more valuable than Gordon.
I get it. Its a long offseason and you are struggling for content. But you might want to think it through a bit.


I agree that Gordon should be higher than Cron. The way I look at it is, right now would a team be able to trade C.J. Cron for Gordon? Probably not. Would a team be able to trade Gordon for C.J. Cron? Probably. So I would probably put Gordon higher on the list than Cron.
Just breaking them down as you presented them.

Gordon: I wasn't a fan of his selection so early as he didn't posses a single tool, IIRC, beyond 55 on the 20-80 scale. I still have doubts, but have come around. My reasoning is beyond bloodlines or his off season work with former MLB greats. Honestly he's still relatively young. And it seems we've seen half season flashes of his potential the past couple of seasons. Does he wear down as the season goes on and just has to grow in to his body more? Is it promotion and adjustments? A combination of both? 2019 is big to determine if he's an eventual starter or a nice utility guy.

Cron: He is a mystery. The Twins had a need at 1B with only the unproven Austin available. Forgetting college, draft status, or milb numbers, he has been a decent ML hitter with power never exceeding 409 AB. It appears be was often lost in the shuffle a bit with previous teams who had other options. He tweaks his approach, gets 500 AB for the first time, and puts up a career season. Rocco is obviously familiar with him. Some of the LH options that could be a better "fit" weren't available when he was. It was an inexpensive and smart move at the time. Late bloomer who made adjustments and finally got a chance? We shall see.

Mejia: Really liked what I saw of him in 2017. Only problem was, it just seemed like he threw too many pitches and just didn't know to finish a batter/inning. IIRC, he had an injury to begin 2018 and started slow, and began with Rochester. He looked good when finally brought up, but got hurt again. Forget LH and breathing, he's still learning but has good stuff. Starter, designated starter or pen, you make room for a talented LH arm like his.

Cave: I like this kid! He has good speed, real power, and just seems to love playing the game. He made some great plays in the OF, and some bad ones as well. His contact issues need to be addressed. Some talk about regression. But what about "progress"? He was still only a rookie after all. He still has to prove some things. Jury is out. But I liked a lot of what I saw.

Javier: What do I know about him except for what I read? While injuries were devastating for the ML club, they seemed sympathetic to the milb system. The exception was Javier. From every single thing I read and hear, this kid is a potential stud at SS with all the tools. At worst, he's a legitimate 3B with glove, arm and bat, especially if Lewis stakes his claim at SS. What a problem to have right? If you gave me a top 5 to watch for in the system for 2019, he's in there.
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AlwaysinModeration
Dec 27 2018 03:00 AM
Fun topic. Also fun to look at last year’s list. A notable miss from last year’s list was Escobar, whose great four months netted him a big return. Turns out he had a lot of value, especially if Duran turns into a frontline starter.

In terms of Javier moving up two spots, I’m trying to reverse engineer that move. Without going name by name, I see 12 players who should be clearcut top 15 ahead of him (and that includes May). That leaves 3 spots for Rogers, Rooker, Larnach, Thorpe, Garver, and Austin. Which three are top 15, and which are outside the top 20?
Players should be viewed as assets by the organization, with some exceptions. With regards to Cron being valued higher than Gordon...
Only a Twins fan could possibly think Gordon has more value at this stage. The important thing to remember here is value as seen through the eyes of other organizations. This ignores what we are hopeful for as fans. After last season Gordon has little value. That can change, but he took a step backward and as a guy who hasn't ever plate appearance. He isn't noted as a good fielder and his minor league OPS is barely over .700
    • dgwills and tarheeltwinsfan like this

Expect Javier to be the big mover this year.Also expect this list to look much different next year.

Do not knowif Cron was the correct pickup, but going into 2019with Austin as the main option would have been difficult.I hope Austin turns out, but his swing may have enough holes to be difficult to fix. 

Gordon is a difficult call.He still ranks as a prospect to be a major league player.It is starting to look more like a moderate floor with the ceiling being a slightly above average major league player.This is not bad, since he will have a career, but he is not the player to be a leader on a good team. 

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jorgenswest
Dec 27 2018 07:55 AM
What does it say about an organization when the 19th best asset was available on waivers? What does it say about Gordon who sits behind at 20?

In ranking players would it be reasonable to ask the question, “Would I trade number 20 to get number 19?” Would the Twins have traded Gordon for Cron this winter? If offered a Gordon for Cron today, would the Twins take the deal?

Cron has done nothing this winter to increase his value. He can hit but very similarly skilled players have been easily available.
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clutterheart
Dec 27 2018 08:31 AM

It's not exactly easy to compare 29-year-old MLB first basemen with 23-year-old middle infield prospects, but that's the bit here.


Exactly my point. You need a "bit" so you wrote it. But its silly to suggest that a top 10 23 year old AAA SS prospect has less value then a waiver wire Pickup.
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birdwatcher
Dec 27 2018 08:33 AM

Nick's rankings appear to be biased more to a "present value" look at things, whereas in the trading environment, teams are calculating future value all the time. Teams are generally looking to get a discount due to the future nature of things on one hand and looking for a premium for the present value they're trading away. So presently, Cron's value can arguably be greater than Gordon's, to the Twins. I doubt they would have given up Gordon to acquire Cron despite this.

    • Nick Nelson, SD Buhr, tarheeltwinsfan and 1 other like this

This is a fun series, Nick. I'm with others - Gordon ranks higher than Cron for me. Six years of a 23 yr-old, near-ready middle IF is my preference. 

 

I can't wait to see the higher ranks. Should make for good debate!

 

 

    • markos likes this
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Nick Nelson
Dec 27 2018 09:39 AM

 

Nick's rankings appear to be biased more to a "present value" look at things, whereas in the trading environment, teams are calculating future value all the time. Teams are generally looking to get a discount due to the future nature of things on one hand and looking for a premium for the present value they're trading away. So presently, Cron's value can arguably be greater than Gordon's, to the Twins. I doubt they would have given up Gordon to acquire Cron despite this.

Perfectly stated. I was trying to figure out how best to explain this nuance and you laid it out pretty much perfectly.

 

For the purposes of these rankings I weighed the value of established track record and reliability a little more highly. Otherwise it'd basically just turn into a top prospects list. 

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Nick Nelson
Dec 27 2018 09:51 AM

 

I agree that Gordon should be higher than Cron. The way I look at it is, right now would a team be able to trade C.J. Cron for Gordon? Probably not. Would a team be able to trade Gordon for C.J. Cron? Probably. So I would probably put Gordon higher on the list than Cron.

That's generally the right way to think about it, but the idea is for these rankings to be less universal and more specific to the Twins at this moment in time. So the calculus here is: 

 

Who will be more valuable to the Twins in the near future? Who has the higher floor of production? Cron, pretty clearly, I think. Do Gordon's realistic upside and likely future impact do enough to outweigh this? Not from my view, at this moment in time. He looks like a 700-OPS second baseman. 

 

Obviously you'd get more return from trading Gordon than Cron (though I don't think you'd get enough for either to make it worthwhile). That's not exactly the point.

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The last two years Gordon has had excellent first halves of the season. Then in the second half he was bad two years ago and worse last year...at least with his bat. Does that mean that scouting reports/pitchers are catching up with him? Or does it mean his body wears down as the season goes on? Or maybe, some combination of the two.

One thing he can do to get stronger and more durable is work harder all winter. Maybe he does. But when blogs highlite photos of his rap endeavor, some of us see them and wonder whether he is working as hard as he should on his main profession. As I said, I have no way of knowing if he is, or isn't.

I am of the opinion that the fact the Twins got Cron for nothing enhances his value to the team.Thus, I agree that he has a lot of value to the Twins.And lets remember where he came from, Tampa, who has a history of waiving/trading fine players for nothing or nearly nothing (think the Odorizzi trade).  

 

Prior to last year, my problem with Mejia was his not being able to finish batters and being unable to get into the fifth inning, much less getting thru it.I also thought his fielding in 2017 left a lot to be desired.Although he missed a lot of last year, I saw improvements in both of my concerns.Personally, am looking forward to his being the fifth starter with Romero coming on at the start, or end, of the fifth inning and closing out the games with four-five innings.

 

I wouldn't have Javier as one of the 20 most valuable Twins.You referred to his playing shortstop in the DSL in 2016.What you didn't mention was that his season lasted 9 games (I thought it was 3, but looked it up and it was 9).So in his three professional seasons he has missed all or almost all of two of them.To me, that cuts into his value greatly.Can he recover by staying on the field in 2019? Certainly, and I hope he does and has a season to remember.But valuing assets needs to be done at the time of the valuation...today.Thus, Javier would not be on my list.

    • mikelink45 likes this
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AlwaysinModeration
Dec 27 2018 10:27 AM
Where does Nelson Cruz fit on this list? ;-)
    • ashbury, Danchat, IndianaTwin and 1 other like this

Finished my list. Here's 16-20:

 

16 - Javier. So much upside but I know nothing about him except from reports.

 

17 - Mejia. League average starter with 5 yrs control. Health issues.

 

18 - Gordon. See above.

 

19 - Rooker. Potential power but limited in the field. I trade 2 yrs of Cron for 6 of Rooker if I'm building for the future (like the Twins).

 

20 - Garver/Astudillo. Catchers don't grow on trees. Both have shown they can hit MLB pitching, years of control. Garver has concussion issues.

 

Honorable Mention - Thorpe, Cron, Schoop, Pineda, Duran

    • caninatl04 likes this
As far as Gordon's rap career goes he needs to focus on either baseball or rap music. This idea that people can't have an opinion about his rap music there's a bunch of baloney. He puts it out there for opinions to be had end it works both ways.

I think he needs to focus on getting a little bit stronger. He is so thin It doesn't look like he's worthy of a full season of major-league baseball.
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Wookiee of the Year
Dec 27 2018 01:13 PM

I love this approach to rankings, Nick. Glad you're doing it again this offseason.

 

It's obviously a challenge to make asset ranking decisions between current MLB players with multi-million dollar salaries and unproven prospects who cost nothing, but I think it's a useful exercise. Prospect rankings and Under 25 rankings look at only a slice of an organization's strength; this tries to put it all together in one list. I wish there were more team and organizational lists that took this approach.

 

The Cron vs. Gordon discussion hinges on a few factors: (1) when you think the Twins' competitive window is, (2) how much you think Gordon's stock has fallen in the last year or so, and (3) what you make of other teams passing on Cron on the waiver wire. I'd probably put Gordon ahead of Cron, but it's definitely debatable.

 

Trying to decide if it's an ominous sign that Javier has climbed two spots after missing a year. Does that suggest the Twins' assets are overall less valuable this year than last? Or is it more of a fluke? Not sure. Something I'll be thinking about as the list moves forward.

    • Nick Nelson likes this
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Tom Froemming
Dec 27 2018 01:16 PM

That seems like an awfully aggressive ranking on Jake Cave.

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Nick Nelson
Dec 27 2018 01:29 PM

 

That seems like an awfully aggressive ranking on Jake Cave.

Fair. I guess it just depends on how much you buy into his power emergence and defensive value. A guy who can play center field and post a .200 ISO for several years has a lot of value. And I think he's particularly useful to the Twins at this moment with the uncertainty swirling around Buxton and Kepler. (I'll add that I did not have Cave in my top 20 at first pass, and gradually talked myself into that rank.)

    • dbminn likes this

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