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The Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2019: Part 3 (6-10)

This is the third in a four-part series ranking the top 20 player assets in the Minnesota Twins organization. The idea is 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?

Already we've looked at Nos. 20 through 16 and Nos. 15 through 11. Today we dive into the top ten.
Image courtesy of Matt Marton, USA Today
10. Taylor Rogers, LHP (28)
2018 Ranking: 15

In 2017, it looked like Rogers might be starting to emerge as one of the better relief pitchers in all of baseball. In 2018, he hammered that distinction home. While logging career highs in innings (68.1) and appearances (72), the southpaw posted numbers that rivaled some of the game's best, ranking 11th among MLB relievers in WAR (1.9), ninth in FIP (2.33) and 10th in WHIP (0.95).

Thanks in part to a curveball that rates statistically as one of the best in the majors, Rogers has become a shutdown force, leaving behind his prior billing as a lefty matchup specialist. The unheralded bullpen hero has quietly developed into one of baseball's most valuable relievers, and the Twins control him for another three years.

9. Max Kepler, OF (26)
2018 Ranking: 7

Kepler has been the subject of exhaustive discussion this offseason, here and elsewhere. He's an interesting specimen, in that he has gone through various phases as a hitter but his production has perpetually stayed in the same average-ish range. He's an exceptional defender in right field, and seemingly a solid one in center, which is helpful for the Twins given Byron Buxton's durability issues.

The athleticism, commitment and tools are there. He's shown a reasonably high floor, turns 26 in February, and is still under team control for four more years. These things have value, and will lead to solid offers if the Twins are indeed shopping him this winter. But if Kepler continues to stagnate offensively, the fleeting intrigue further diminishes.

8. Eddie Rosario, OF (27)
2018 Ranking: 5

Although he had huge moments and earned our team MVP honors this year, Rosario was actually a tick worse offensively in 2018 than 2017. His defense improved, making him a more valuable all-around player by most measures, but the outfielder has sorta settled into his norm as a very good – but not great – hitter who has stretches of total dominance (as well as an electric playmaker).

Reaching arbitration for the first time this offseason with some strong numbers to build his case, Rosario's window of ultra-low cost is reaching its end, but he's still controlled for three more years. It's not unthinkable he finds another gear, but if this is who Eddie is, he's a good one to have around.

7. Jorge Polanco, SS (25)
2018 Ranking: 6

In late March it was announced that Polanco tested positive for a PEDs, resulting in an 80-game suspension. It was an unfortunate turn of events but he took care of his business, showed up ready to roll in July, and put up rock-solid numbers the rest of the way (.288/.345/.427 in 77 games).

Polanco didn't accrue service time during his ban so the Twins still control him through 2022, his age-28 season. His impressive showing on offense this year was offset somewhat by defensive regression, casting further doubt on his future at shortstop, but he remains usable there. And regardless, a switch-hitting middle infielder who's a reliable source of above-average offense is gonna be plenty valuable.

6. Fernando Romero, RHP (24)
2018 Ranking: 12

A year ago, the highly talented Romero was docked in these rankings by one sole factor: durability. In 2017 he wore down in mid-August, hitting the wall shortly after surpassing 100 innings. His lengthy history of injuries cast some doubt on the flamethrower's ability to hold up.

This year, he logged 146 innings between Triple-A and the majors, pitching into September for the first time ever. He debuted in the majors at age 23 and showed flashes of dominance, catching the league's attention with his upper-90s heat and 0.54 ERA through three MLB starts. I wouldn't say he totally erased the durability concerns, as he still seemed to lose steam over the course of the summer, but Romero took an important step forward. His powerful arm is destined to play a major role in 2019 and beyond.

RECAPPING THE RANKINGS:

20. Nick Gordon, SS
19. C.J. Cron, 1B
18. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
17. Jake Cave, OF
16. Wander Javier, SS
15. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
14. Miguel Sano, 3B
13. Kyle Gibson, RHP
12. Trevor May, RHP
11. Mitch Garver, C
10. Taylor Rogers, LHP
9. Max Kepler, OF
8. Eddie Rosario, OF
7. Jorge Polanco, SS
6. Fernando Romero, RHP

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53 Comments

I have to drop Kepler lower in the rankings.His lack of progress makes him less of an asset now than I expected.I would put him back with Sano.I am impresed with Romero's ranking.It seems too high for me at this stage.We do not even know if he is relief or starter. Rosario I would move up in the ratings. 

 

I expect Berrios, Lewis, Kiriloff are top three and I have to feel that Schoop is a one year player at this stage and therefore is not top five, Castro is okay, but not that valuable. I expected to see Buxton about 10 but you must see him as a top five.Odorizzi is sure not in that ranking for me so I guess I will have to go with the surprise #1 - Willans Astudillo!

    • ashbury, tarheeltwinsfan, gagu and 2 others like this

 

I have to drop Kepler lower in the rankings.His lack of progress makes him less of an asset now than I expected.I would put him back with Sano.I am impresed with Romero's ranking.It seems too high for me at this stage.We do not even know if he is relief or starter. Rosario I would move up in the ratings. 

 

I expect Berrios, Lewis, Kiriloff are top three and I have to feel that Schoop is a one year player at this stage and therefore is not top five, Castro is okay, but not that valuable. I expected to see Buxton about 10 but you must see him as a top five.Odorizzi is sure not in that ranking for me so I guess I will have to go with the surprise #1 - Willans Astudillo!

 

Berrios, Lewis, Buxton, Kirilloff in the top 5.

 

Then....Brusdar Graterol or Willians Astudillo. 

 Graterol or Astudillo.... hmmm.

    • Seth Stohs, scottz, Twins33 and 5 others like this

Top 5 must have Buxton, Hildenberg, Berios, kiriloff, and Lewis.I guess i have hard time figuring Kiriloff and Lewis in the top 5 when they still aways away from making appearance in the major leagues. Lewis is at least more than year away from making the majors and even then if he sticks in the majors. I have gone through to many sure fire prospects to know that this doesn't happen many times looking in the past that i can remember Olivia, Carew, Blyleven, Puckett, Knoblauch, and Mauer were high prospects that came up and stayed. I know there were probably several more but look at the people on the list several on them hall of famers or near hall of famers.I also have hard time with putting Gibson on the prospect list when we are in last year of control of him before he becomes free agent. I just have the feeling were getting to point they are waiting to see how these players are going to turn out before they gain some control in the future. This sounds logical but I have feeling were going to get to close to free agency where names on this list do turn it around are just going to play it out to free agency. Because they know they are going to get good money in arbitration and do not extend their time to free agency. This leaves us with either trading or playing them until we loose them to free agency so we are in this continuous rebuilding mode trying to find a core of players to build around. I think at some point here they are going to have decide what players have future and try to lock them up to build nucleus to build winning club. Maybe I am wrong here but I look in past when we were successful that's what we did and some how we have gotten away from that. This should have been easier with the new stadium and general revenues increasing. I think because of the new stadium ownership and management haven't had work as hard in past to get people coming through the gates so they lost this competitive edge to put winner out there because if don't numbers really start to get ugly. I have feeling they are getting to where they may realize the honey moon is over. 

    • mikelink45 and BJames like this
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sweetmusicviola16
Jan 02 2019 01:05 AM

His Top 5 would have to be Berrios, Buxton, Lewis, Kiriloff and Graterol? Lewis would nudge out Kiriloff as my #1. This will be interesting.

 

I'd agree that Kepler is too high right now and Romero as well. No Cruz though. Is that because his signing hasn't been made official?

    • mikelink45 and gagu like this

Lewis would have to be #1, with Berrios my #2 and Kirloff #3, Buxton #4 and Graterol #5.Interesting finish.Only other thing I could see is if Cruz is on the list and in the top 5 does that mean Buxton did not make the list.  

My guess is that Cruz is not official when this list was made.

    • mikelink45 and gagu like this
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NapoleonComplex
Jan 02 2019 07:57 AM

#1 Berrios 

#2 Lewis

#3 Buxton

#4 Kirilloff

#5 Graterol

 

I can't see a prospect, no matter how great or highly anticipated, be ranked above Berrios. 

    • mikelink45 likes this

Appreciate someone putting some value on Kepler.Lets remember where he came from and that it was expected he would take more time to develop.He has the ability to be a special player, very special.I trust management knows that and has zero interest in moving him.  

 

Everyone points out how Rosario's 2018 was down a bit from 2017.But no one is talking about the reasons.Rosario and Escobar fed off each other's play.When Escobar left, Rosario's production dipped.He was also playing thru some serious injuries the last month or so of the year.Discount those brutal numbers and his results look much different.

 

Like everyone, Nick, I am having a hard time zeroing in on the exact criteria you are using for this exercise.Have a tough time seeing Romero having more value than Polanco or Rosario. 

    • mikelink45, Hosken Bombo Disco, gagu and 1 other like this
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TheLeviathan
Jan 02 2019 08:48 AM

It's going to be hard to explain having Sano at 14 and Buxton top 5.IMO - they should be right next to each other wherever they are in the rankings.They are basically the same argument.

    • diehardtwinsfan, mikelink45, adorduan and 4 others like this

I think what you have to keep in mind with Kepler is that his bat plays pretty well as a regular CF and his defense appears to be good enough for him to handle it on a regular basis as well, which increases his value quite a bit, because it's not just his value to the Twins on the field we're looking at here, but his value to other teams. There are plenty of teams that would probably plop Kepler down in CF and be ok with it even if his offense doesn't improve.

 

There's also the issue with perceived value vs. actual value. Kepler still has greater perceived value because there's still a belief (hope?) that he can & will hit better than this, and as a younger guy with many years of team control upside is still a consideration. he might be ranked a little higher than a lot of us would think because we've grown a little frustrated with his lack of offensive progress, but you have to think there are teams out there who look at him and think, "he's Aaron Hicks, pt. II if we can pry him loose from MN".

 

 

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Nick Nelson
Jan 02 2019 09:08 AM

 

It's going to be hard to explain having Sano at 14 and Buxton top 5.IMO - they should be right next to each other wherever they are in the rankings.They are basically the same argument.

I don't think that's accurate at all actually. There are enormous differences between the circumstances of those two players. But we can dig into this when Buxton's actually in the article.

    • markos, gagu and caninatl04 like this

 

Everyone points out how Rosario's 2018 was down a bit from 2017.But no one is talking about the reasons.Rosario and Escobar fed off each other's play.When Escobar left, Rosario's production dipped.He was also playing thru some serious injuries the last month or so of the year.Discount those brutal numbers and his results look much different.

That doesn't really explain why Rosario's OPS was .659 in April, or .683 in July before Escobar was traded. Rosario had two amazing months (May & June) surrounded by four months with sub-.670 OPS. 

This should be the last year guys like Sano,Buxton,Kepler, keep getting a pass on their value.Young guys like Rosario, Berrios andPolanco keep proving their value.

    • mikelink45 and caninatl04 like this
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Nick Nelson
Jan 02 2019 09:21 AM

 

Like everyone, Nick, I am having a hard time zeroing in on the exact criteria you are using for this exercise.Have a tough time seeing Romero having more value than Polanco or Rosario. 

A solid-hitting middle IF and corner OF are more replaceable to the Twins than an MLB-ready, 23-year-old power arm who still profiles as a starter (or multi-inning/high-leverage reliever) with 5 6 years of team control remaining (thanks markos). Pretty much comes down to that.

 

Personally I didn't think that ranking would be all that controversial. I was more confused about why I had Romero so low last year, but clearly the durability issues were top-of-mind then. 

    • BJames likes this

 

A solid-hitting middle IF and corner OF are more replaceable to the Twins than an MLB-ready, 23-year-old power arm who still profiles as a starter (or multi-inning/high-leverage reliever) with 5 years of team control remaining. Pretty much comes down to that.

 

Personally I didn't think that ranking would be all that controversial. I was more confused about why I had Romero so low last year, but clearly the durability issues were top-of-mind then. 

I'm pretty sure Romero has 6 years of team control remaining.

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Nick Nelson
Jan 02 2019 09:25 AM

 

That doesn't really explain why Rosario's OPS was .659 in April, or .683 in July before Escobar was traded. Rosario had two amazing months (May & June) surrounded by four months with sub-.670 OPS. 

Yeah, Rosario is extremely streaky player. That's been enough of a consistent, unyielding reality for him that I don't really try to get stuck explaining the downswings away with injury/team chemistry explanations anymore (though his quad surely slowed him down to some extent in the second half). 

Look at Nelson Cruz's production as a 25 and 26 year old. Everyone thinks he's the bomb and all but we constantly pick on guys like Kepler, Rosario, etc.... Sure some guys don't figure it out, but when you have the tool set these guys have you have to let them try and figure it out. Cruz didn't perform till he was 28. So let these guys like Kepler, Rosario, Buxton continue to develop as long as they are putting in the work, give them a chance, quit writing them off. Now it's different when you have a guy with all of the tools like Sano and it appears that he doesnt want to work hard. Then you have more reason for doubt. Plus those other guys are multi tool guys, speed, defense, etc... Also play into the equation.

Aaron Hicks is another good example, hit 27 Hrs this year? Turned 28 this year. Some of these guys need to get that experience and delvelop.
    • Twins33, beckmt, kenbuddha and 2 others like this

I don't want to get to far off course, but I don't get the love for Buxton.Yes, he is a great fielder.Yes, he can run, but what is the great outcome to that. 30 SB's?An extra 20 points on the BA?With the way the game is played now, a stolen bases is not that big a deal.As far as Buxton's Bat.What did people expect 30 Hr' .300AVG.Buxton has never had great power or AVG.I see Buxton be simular to a great fieldeing SS that can run. Thats important to a team, but top 5? 

It's going to be hard to explain having Sano at 14 and Buxton top 5. IMO - they should be right next to each other wherever they are in the rankings. They are basically the same argument.


IDK, they really aren't the same player. Jackie Bradley Jr is a career .230 hitter, in Boston, with a monster lineup around him, but he still struggles at the plate, but Boston keeps him in the lineup for obvious reasons. If JD Martinez hit like Jackie Bradley Jr he wouldnt stick around too long. Byron Buxton when healthy offers a few more things than Sano does. If Sano clicks and he clicks for a good 10 years or more, he will put up the prettier HOF type of numbers, but if he doesnt click, he's more expendable than Byron is. Normally speed and defense doesn't get you in the HOF, power and hitting does, but speed and defense plays a role that a guy like Sano doesnt have. For instance, the twins have never played around with moving Buxton to different positions just in order to get him in the lineup, but they have with Sano, and people still talk about it with the Cruz signing that Sano might have a tough time getting at bats.
    • mikelink45 and DannySD like this
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strumdatjaguar
Jan 02 2019 10:05 AM

Sano should be ahead of Rogers, Kepler and Romero. 

    • sweetmusicviola16 likes this

I don't want to get to far off course, but I don't get the love for Buxton. Yes, he is a great fielder. Yes, he can run, but what is the great outcome to that. 30 SB's? An extra 20 points on the BA? With the way the game is played now, a stolen bases is not that big a deal. As far as Buxton's Bat. What did people expect 30 Hr' .300AVG. Buxton has never had great power or AVG. I see Buxton be simular to a great fieldeing SS that can run. Thats important to a team, but top 5?


Well Jackie Bradley had a pretty defined role on the World Champion Red Sox team and he is a career .230 hitter, if JD Martinez was a similar hitter to Jackie Bradley would he still be in the Majors??
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Brock Beauchamp
Jan 02 2019 10:24 AM

 

#1 Berrios 

#2 Lewis

#3 Buxton

#4 Kirilloff

#5 Graterol

 

I can't see a prospect, no matter how great or highly anticipated, be ranked above Berrios. 

Yep.

If Sano consistently hits the way he has shown he can in streaks, he's way too low.

 

Meanwhile, if Buxton becomes a consistently serviceable hitter, only then does he justify where you already have him ranked.

 

Apparently, with one you assume the issues remain, and the other you assume the issues are resolved. Interesting.

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LA VIkes Fan
Jan 02 2019 10:54 AM

I found it interesting that Kepler is still so highly rated after last year, whereas Cave is nowhere to be found. I understand that Kepler has potential, bu he has not matched that potential at the plate in what is now a fairly large sample size of 3 years everyday play and over 1500 at bats. Conversely, Cave has preformed at the plate in a small sample size. People talk about Kepler's defense and how he would be a competent CF but when we needed an everyday CF last year, the manager chose Cave over Kepler. That speaks volumes about the organization's view of the defensive comparison. Given the difference in sample size, I could see having Kepler slightly above Cave, who may simply be a half season flash in the pan, but to have one in the Top 10 and one unranked seems to be a bit of a miss. 

 

I wonder if the obsession on this Board with Kepler is the result of a lack of other options or the fact that we've been hearing about him for so long that we are emotionally invested in his success and are simply ignoring the facts. The facts are simple - he's a good defensive OF who doesn't hit.A corner OF on a good team needs to be at least in the .760-.780 OPS range, more likely at .780 or above and an OPS+ above 110. Kepler has been at .734, .737 and ,.727 the last 3 years with an OPS+ of 96, 95, and 96. In other words, below average for all positions and way below average for a corner OF on a contender. No one has ever really been able to explain his perceived value other than with "he's young and is going to get better", or "don't give up on him too early, look at Hicks".I guess those are valid excuses for awhile but they're getting kind of old after 3 years of below average to poor everyday play. I hope you're right but I think we have to see that hoped for breakout this year or he may be destined for a career as a 4th OF, which is exactly the way he's played for the last 3 years. There's value to a good 4th OF - I think the Twins are in a good spot this year with 4 OFswho all at least have potential - but that guy can't be in a Top 10 value chart. 

 

I hope you're right about Kepler. I'll be cheering for him but I have my doubts. I hope he's practicing at 1B, but it would be irritating to see him playing every day over Cave who clearly outperformed Kepler last year. Players need to earn playing time on this team instead of it being handed to them as it was in the past. Kepler needs to earn his by outperforming either Cave or Buxton and/or by being valuable enough to play 1B as well as the OF and he needs to do it with either a very strong ST or from the bench, not as a scholarship starter. The Twins culture needs to change to reward performance and RF would be a good place to start.

 

By the way, love the rest of the list. Keep up the great work.  

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Nick Nelson
Jan 02 2019 10:55 AM

 

If Sano consistently hits the way he has shown he can in streaks, he's way too low.

 

Meanwhile, if Buxton becomes a consistently serviceable hitter, only then does he justify where you already have him ranked.

 

Apparently, with one you assume the issues remain, and the other you assume the issues are resolved. Interesting.

Again, this is a snapshot of a moment in time. Here's how their seasons ended:

 

Buxton: Healthy at Triple-A, slashed .316/.369/.537 there after July 1st. 

Sano: After an altogether underwhelming run in the minors, returned to Twins and hit .195/.294/.390 with 36% K-rate, then re-injured the leg that (ostensibly) was at the root of his issues, causing another delayed start to his offseason preparation. 

 

Also, Buxton has an extra year of control, meaning he has more time to figure it out as a Twin. 

 

It seems like things are going well with Sano's offseason strengthening/conditioning program, but I have no real insight into that (nor does anyone) so can only go by the way things left off in 2018.

    • kenbuddha and gagu like this

 

Again, this is a snapshot of a moment in time. Here's how their seasons ended:

 

Buxton: Healthy at Triple-A, slashed .316/.369/.537 there after July 1st. 

Sano: After an altogether underwhelming run in the minors, returned to Twins and hit .195/.294/.390 with 36% K-rate, then re-injured the leg that (ostensibly) was at the root of his issues, causing another delayed start to his offseason preparation. 

 

Also, Buxton has an extra year of control, meaning he has more time to figure it out as a Twin. 

 

It seems like things are going well with Sano's offseason strengthening/conditioning program, but I have no real insight into that (nor does anyone) so can only go by the way things left off in 2018.

I really hope you are wrong, Nick, and the Twins do have insight into how Sano's offseason program is progressing.They have to, don't they?


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