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MLB.com Top 30 Twins Prospects

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MLB redesigned their prospect ranking pages and released the Twins top 30 today. 
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Zack Littell on Throwing Multiple Sliders

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https://blogs.fangra...is-two-sliders/ Interesting piece over at FanGraphs where Zack Littell discusses the two different sliders he used...
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Thorpe leaving camp for a spell

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  "To who this may concern! I’ve left camp for a week or 2 for personal matters. I’m healthy and excited for this year. I’ll be bac...
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YouTube TV Drops Fox Sports Regional Networks

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Does MLB and its TV affiliates (mostly Fox Sports channels) realize how idiotic they are being by not being available to be watched on ma...
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Nick Gordon News?

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Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2020: Part 4 (1-5)

Today we wrap up our series ranking the 20 most critical assets in the Twins organization with a look at the Top 5. (Catch up on 6-through-20 by reading Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

From my view, these are the foremost cornerstones around which the front office will build going forward.
First, to reiterate the parameters and stipulations:
  • Things that are factored into these rankings: production, age, upside, pedigree, health, length of team control, favorability of contract, positional scarcity (within the system, and generally).
  • Players are people. Their value to the organization, and its fans, goes well beyond the strictly business-like scope we're using here. But for the purposes of this list, we're analyzing solely in terms of asset evaluation. Intangible qualities and popularity are not factors. (Sorry Willians.)
  • The idea is to assess their importance to the future of the Minnesota Twins. In this regard, it's not exactly a ranking in terms of trade value, because that's dependent on another team's situation and needs. (For instance, Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade Jr. would be more valuable to many other teams than they are to the Twins, who are rich with short-term and long-term corner outfield depth.)
  • This is a snapshot in time. Rankings are heavily influenced by recent trends and where things stood as of the end of 2019.
  • Current major-leaguers and prospects are all eligible. The ultimate goal here to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion?
Any questions or quibbles, holler in the comments. Let's continue the countdown.

TOP 20 MINNESOTA TWINS ASSETS OF 2020 (1-5)

5. Royce Lewis, SS
2019 Ranking: 1

It was a trying year for Lewis. He slumped frequently and finished with a .236/.290/.371 slash line, striking out three times for every walk. The exaggerated leg lift in his swing came under greater scrutiny as he struggled against higher-level pitching. His defensive work at shortstop caused some analysts to harden in their stances that he's destined to switch positions. Even his trademark confidence was framed as a negative in one postseason Baseball America report.

Through all this, the fact remains: He started the year as a 19-year-old and finished it at Double-A, punctuating his pedestrian regular season with an MVP performance in the Arizona Fall League. Lewis's elite physical tools haven't wavered, and most of his present shortcomings seem like the correctable flaws of a raw young talent. He still looks like a star in the making, even if that path is a bit less straight and short than initially hoped.

4. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
2019 Ranking: 5

Health was the big caveat attached to Graterol a year ago, as he vaulted into the national baseball consciousness with his triple-digit heater. His (in)ability to hold up rose to the forefront again this year, as the right-hander missed nearly two months with a shoulder impingement. But upon returning as a reliever in August, he did enough to restore all confidence – and then some.

Ticketed for a late-inning impact on a contending club at age 20, Graterol made quick stops at Double-A and Triple-A before joining the Twins in September, where he was extremely impressive as a rookie. The 4.66 ERA is inflated by one poor outing against Cleveland – three earned runs, zero outs recorded – but the righty otherwise allowed two runs in 9 2/3 innings (1.86 ERA) with 10 strikeouts and only one walk. He added a perfect inning of work against New York in the ALDS, with two strikeouts.

Durability remains a pre-eminent sticking point, as does the uncertainty around his future role, but the battle-tested Graterol is one of the most valuable arms in the game right now.

3. Jose Berrios, RHP
2019 Ranking: 2

Whereas Graterol is a poster child for the volatile health of pro pitchers, Berrios lives on the opposite end of the spectrum: a model of durability. He hasn't missed a start since joining the Twins rotation, and that's basically been the case ever since he was drafted. The right-hander checked off another accomplishment last year, reaching 200 innings for the first time, but for the most part he was his usual self: steadily excellent, just short of elite.

Since being called up for good in May of 2017, Berrios ranks ninth among American League pitchers in fWAR. He's not quite an ace but looks the part at times, and as a 25-year-old he still has plenty of time to find another gear. As the only Twins starting pitcher under control beyond next year, he's the glue of the rotation. But with arbitration now upon him, Berrios is going to start getting expensive quickly and is three years from free agency. A sensible extension would move him to the top of this list.

2. Max Kepler, OF
2019 Ranking: 9

Pretty much the best thing a team can do to increase a player's asset valuation is lock him up with a long-term deal at an established baseline, only to have the player immediately reset that baseline. This is what happened with Kepler, who broke a three-year trend of good-not-great performance by taking a star turn in 2019, fresh off signing a team-friendly five-year contract.

Despite missing the final two weeks as a shoulder injury plagued him, Kepler shattered career highs across the board and launched 36 homers. He's a top-shelf defensive right fielder and perfectly capable in center, which is especially valuable to the Twins given Buxton's frequent unavailability. Kepler's new contract, which can keep him under control through 2024 at bargain rates, gives Minnesota plenty of flexibility to continually build around the stud outfielder.

1. Jorge Polanco, SS
2019 Ranking: 7

At the end of the day, these rankings are about the big picture. When you take a step back, which players are most indispensable, when factoring in risk and contract value? As core players that signed favorable extensions just before immediately breaking out and achieving upper-echelon status, Kepler and Polanco naturally rose to the top under this framework. Between the two, I give Polanco a slight edge.

First, he plays an extremely valuable defensive position – one that is otherwise not well accounted for in the system, especially with Lewis's question marks. Polanco doesn't play shortstop all that well but he can handle it. Second, he's even cheaper than Kepler with an even more favorable contract; Polanco is controlled through 2023 for just $17 million total, and has an additional two team options. All this, as a switch-hitting 25-year-old All-Star who received MVP votes in 2019.

At this point, I see Polanco as he most valuable player to the organization, but he's not a superstar. Nor is Kepler, or Berrios. Getting a true premium player in this spot – whether because one of these three takes another step forward, or Buxton pulls it all together, or someone like Lewis emerges in a big way, OR the Twins swing a trade for a centerpiece-type asset (leveraging some of these assets to do so) – will be instrumental in this franchise turning the corner. They're definitely in good shape and on the right track, just not quite there.

RECAPPING THE TOP 20

20. Ryan Jeffers, C
19. Eddie Rosario, OF
18. Michael Pineda, RHP
17. Nelson Cruz, DH
16. Tyler Duffey, RHP
15. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
14. Trevor Larnach, OF
13. Jhoan Duran, RHP
12. Taylor Rogers, LHP
11. Miguel Sano, 3B
10. Luis Arraez, 2B
9. Alex Kirilloff, OF
8. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
7. Byron Buxton OF
6. Mitch Garver, C
5. Royce Lewis, SS
4. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
3. Jose Berrios, RHP
2. Max Kepler, OF
1. Jorge Polanco, SS

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44 Comments

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tony&rodney
Jan 08 2020 10:33 PM

I like it - good job. Lots of room for discussion and arguments about placement, etc., but well constructed and reasonable at every level. Thanks.

    • Nick Nelson, Oldgoat_MN, Oxtung and 4 others like this

I'd probably flip Balazovic and Graterol only because I think Brusdar will eventually end up in the bullpen.Also, I think Kirilloff could be a couple spots higher even taking into consideration that he won't be playing a premium position.His bat is too promising.

    • Twins33 and MN_ExPat like this
I doubt Jorge would bring the biggest return in a trade, but there are not many ahead of him. IMO Sano, Bux, Jose all bring a higher return in a trade
    • Mike Frasier Law likes this

Polanco #1? If this is so deal him now for maximum return. Was this done by his agent?

 

Polanco #1? If this is so deal him now for maximum return. Was this done by his agent?

 

Ha.....I have to agree with this comment.I was probably closer to assuming he wasn't on the top 20 list at all compared to him being #1.

Nice series of articles!!! Thanks!!

 

Ha.....I have to agree with this comment.I was probably closer to assuming he wasn't on the top 20 list at all compared to him being #1.

He's a 26 year old all star shortstop who put up 4 wins and played 153 games last season. On top of that, he's being paid less than $10m/ year on average for the next 5 years. His defense sucks, but if we were to trade him right now to a team that could afford to move him to 2B, we'd be able to get a ridiculous haul.

 

 

 

 

    • Nick Nelson, glunn, birdwatcher and 13 others like this

Great Series !!This will surely generate a lot of discussion (it already has).We can all quibble on the specific rankings but taken as a whole, this gives all of us a pretty good idea what the layout is.This is similar to ranking who has the biggest trade value.For example, Kiriloff was rated WAAAAY ahead of Eddie Rosario even though Eddie has accomplished much more than Alex at this stage of their careers.And I get that.Have we seen Eddie's ceiling and he will be getting more expensive.Kiriloff on the other hand projects to be a much better hitter than Eddie (I think he will, but it's all POTENTIAL at this point).Thanks for laying this out so well.

Im sorry, but there is just no reasonable argument, IMO, to have a likely future reliever with developing injury issues before he even reaches the majors (Graterol) ahead of the best defensive player on the planet (arguably ever) who has shown impressive offensive flashes (Buxton) with significant team control remaining.

Whether we are talking potential, actual production, or whatever other measuring stick available.....it’s not even close.

I’m even hesitant to put Kepler ahead of him based on one year of production with a juiced ball. Even with the injury Buxton still amassed 3 WAR, compared to Keller’s 4 (which could very well be his career high).

As mentioned, I’d also put Balazovic over Graterol at this point, I think. I just don’t see Graterol sticking as a starter any time soon.
    • Mike Sixel likes this

He's a 26 year old all star shortstop who put up 4 wins and played 153 games last season. On top of that, he's being paid less than $10m/ year on average for the next 5 years. His defense sucks, but if we were to trade him right now to a team that could afford to move him to 2B, we'd be able to get a ridiculous haul.


Plus, with all of the shifts teams play nowadays defense doesn't really matter that much. So yeah that even helps Polanco more. It's not like you need an Ozzie Smith anymore, either the hitters hit the ball into the shift and they are out, or they hit it away from the shift. Defense is no longer crucial in the infield.
    • h2oface likes this
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Nick Nelson
Jan 09 2020 08:14 AM

 

I'd probably flip Balazovic and Graterol only because I think Brusdar will eventually end up in the bullpen.Also, I think Kirilloff could be a couple spots higher even taking into consideration that he won't be playing a premium position.His bat is too promising.

The fact that Graterol has already reached the majors, and succeeded there, should not be downplayed in this discussion. He's a month older than Balazovic (!), who hasn't pitched above A-ball yet. So yeah, Graterol has to prove he can start in the majors, but JB has a lot more to prove just to REACH the majors. 

    • glunn, James, Danchat and 3 others like this

Thanks for a very interesting series, Nick, I enjoyed it.

 

Would agree with those who put Balazovic ahead of Graterol, based in part on Graterol's injury history and part on the unknown of whether or not he will end up in the bullpen.But who can't love the potential Graterol brings with that easy 100mph heater. 

 

Maybe the best description of Berrios would be ACE Light.One more step this year and maybe, just maybe, he can become that legit ACE the Twins are searching for.Agree that now is the time to get him locked up for the next five years.Maybe doubling that $4.5mm estimate in 2020 will get his attention and get it done.

 

Not only did the two extensions drive your decision of the top duo, but they sure as heck earned it on the field in 2019.Although I agree that it would be nice to have a shortstop who plays D better than Polanco, I take exception with the above comment that his D sucks.  

 

Thanks again, Nick.Will be interesting to see the changes you have in 2021.

 

 

    • Nick Nelson and wabene like this
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Nick Nelson
Jan 09 2020 08:37 AM

 

I’m even hesitant to put Kepler ahead of him based on one year of production with a juiced ball. Even with the injury Buxton still amassed 3 WAR, compared to Keller’s 4 (which could very well be his career high).

The fact that you have to add an "Even with the injury" caveat ahead of every statement on Buxton pretty much says it all. You don't have to convince me on his relative impact when healthy, but at this point it's all become so theoretical. You casually allude to Kepler's 4.4 fWAR, which is higher than any mark Buxton has posted in a longer career, and is in fact 60% of Buxton's career WAR. With 5 years of remaining control compared to 3 for Buck, Kepler is also likely to produce more fWAR as a Twin going forward.

 

Add in the fact that Buxton is recovering from a significant shoulder surgery and we don't know how that's going to affect his timeline and performance upon returning, and the uncertainty amounts to a very reasonable argument IMO.

    • glunn and SD Buhr like this

Great Series !! This will surely generate a lot of discussion (it already has). We can all quibble on the specific rankings but taken as a whole, this gives all of us a pretty good idea what the layout is. This is similar to ranking who has the biggest trade value. For example, Kiriloff was rated WAAAAY ahead of Eddie Rosario even though Eddie has accomplished much more than Alex at this stage of their careers. And I get that. Have we seen Eddie's ceiling and he will be getting more expensive. Kiriloff on the other hand projects to be a much better hitter than Eddie (I think he will, but it's all POTENTIAL at this point). Thanks for laying this out so well.


I think saying Kirilloff is projected to be a much better hitter than Rosario is a huge stretch.

I get Rosario has some warts, but recently people have been acting as if he’s a mediocre, or even bad, player.

Rosario with the Twins since 2017:

2017: .290/.328/.507/.836, 27 HR, 33 2B, 2 3B, 9 SB

2018: .288/.323/.479/.803, 24 HR, 32 2B, 2 3B, 8 SB

2019: .276/.300/.500/.800, 32 HR, 28 2B, 1 3B, 3 SB.

A little lacking in the on-base department, but in terms of hitting for power, which is a pretty big deal these days, he’s remarkably consistent. We’ve seen how he can carry the team for significant stretches, and he seemingly always comes through in “clutch” ABs.

“Much better” at the plate than Rosario is pretty darn high bar. Not saying it isn’t possible, but I think Rosario gets a bad wrap. The perception gets skewed because he’s a bad ball guy, and that’s seen as a negative. But, despite being a bad ball guy, he’s been one of the better offensive outfielders in the AL over the past 3 years. Also, did you know he finished 18th overall in AL MVP voting last year ? He received 5 more vote points than Max Kepler and JD Martinez (finishes 20th and 21st, respectively).

I’m not sure if the context in regards to Rosario was lost last year, because of the historic performances for the lineup as a whole. But, it got lost somewhere along the way. Rosario is a damn good hitter. “Much better” than Rosario is going to be guys the caliber of Betts, Springer, and Trout in terms of the OF. I’m high on Kirilloff, but the odds of him reaching those heights is almost nil (possible, but almost nil).
    • birdwatcher, mikelink45, bighat and 3 others like this
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Nick Nelson
Jan 09 2020 09:08 AM

 

I’m not sure if the context in regards to Rosario was lost last year, because of the historic performances for the lineup as a whole. But, it got lost somewhere along the way. Rosario is a damn good hitter. “Much better” than Rosario is going to be guys the caliber of Betts, Springer, and Trout in terms of the OF. I’m high on Kirilloff, but the odds of him reaching those heights is almost nil (possible, but almost nil).

I'd actually argue that the comprehensive quality of the Twins lineup worked to Rosario's benefit last year. The MVP votes you reference were pretty much entirely due to his RBI total, which was pretty much entirely due to the ridiculous amount of run production opportunities he got. His warts would've been more noticeable if not for everyone around him crushing consistently.

 

Is his offensive bar really that high to clear? Corey Dickerson was a significantly better hitter than Rosario last year, and has been for the past three years (121 OPS+ vs 114 OPS+). He signed with the Marlins as a free agent who wasn't in particularly high demand, and his contract (2 years $17.5M) is about the same as Rosario will make over the same span, if not less. 

    • glunn, Oxtung and Major League Ready like this
It's really hard to evaluate the Twins who won 101 games. In 70 games or so against teams above .500 the Twins lost 7 (if my memory serves me correct) more than you won, but, finished 40 games above .500. Just think if you finished 5 games above .500 against winning teams.

It was amazing the number of runs scored by the Twins with over 300 Hrs. But, again hitting over 200 Hrs against teams below .500.

Everyone was hitting 30 Hrs like Garver hitting 31 Hrs out of his 85 hits in 93 games. This could have been a Johnny Bench season. Came out of nowhere.

Then the postseason happened. The Twins should win division in 2020, but, whether they've going to beat good playoff bound teams is unclear.

The top 20 is great. I wish my team could develop 30 Hr hitters.
    • big dog likes this

"Things that are factored into these rankings: production, age, upside, pedigree, health, length of team control, favorability of contract, positional scarcity (within the system, and generally)."

 

So, in the end...trade value. That's the context in which this ranking makes sense.

    • birdwatcher likes this
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Nick Nelson
Jan 09 2020 09:53 AM

 

"Things that are factored into these rankings: production, age, upside, pedigree, health, length of team control, favorability of contract, positional scarcity (within the system, and generally)."

 

So, in the end...trade value. That's the context in which this ranking makes sense.

Basically. The simple way I look at it, when comparing any two players, is: who would it hurt more to lose? 

 

Plus, with all of the shifts teams play nowadays defense doesn't really matter that much. So yeah that even helps Polanco more. It's not like you need an Ozzie Smith anymore, either the hitters hit the ball into the shift and they are out, or they hit it away from the shift. Defense is no longer crucial in the infield.

I mean within reason. Polanco was the worst infielder in baseball by Statcast numbers and it's backed up by his second most errors in baseball. It can't be understated just how much of a butcher he was in the field last season, but that shows how valuable the rest of his game is.

    • Minny505 likes this

 

It's really hard to evaluate the Twins who won 101 games. In 70 games or so against teams above .500 the Twins lost 7 (if my memory serves me correct) more than you won, but, finished 40 games above .500. Just think if you finished 5 games above .500 against winning teams.

It was amazing the number of runs scored by the Twins with over 300 Hrs. But, again hitting over 200 Hrs against teams below .500.

Everyone was hitting 30 Hrs like Garver hitting 31 Hrs out of his 85 hits in 93 games. This could have been a Johnny Bench season. Came out of nowhere.

Then the postseason happened. The Twins should win division in 2020, but, whether they've going to beat good playoff bound teams is unclear.

The top 20 is great. I wish my team could develop 30 Hr hitters.

 

Twins were 32-37 against 500 teams.

 

Interestingly, the Indians were 25-39. Woof.

    • USAFChief and big dog like this

The top three could really be in any order, and I wouldn't argue. I prefer Berrios, partly because they have Lewis in the minors....along with lots of corner OFers.

 

But, the contracts Polanco and Kepler signed really up their value......

    • Nick Nelson, Oxtung, big dog and 1 other like this
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Cap'n Piranha
Jan 09 2020 12:50 PM

 

I think saying Kirilloff is projected to be a much better hitter than Rosario is a huge stretch.

I get Rosario has some warts, but recently people have been acting as if he’s a mediocre, or even bad, player.

Rosario with the Twins since 2017:

2017: .290/.328/.507/.836, 27 HR, 33 2B, 2 3B, 9 SB

2018: .288/.323/.479/.803, 24 HR, 32 2B, 2 3B, 8 SB

2019: .276/.300/.500/.800, 32 HR, 28 2B, 1 3B, 3 SB.

A little lacking in the on-base department, but in terms of hitting for power, which is a pretty big deal these days, he’s remarkably consistent. We’ve seen how he can carry the team for significant stretches, and he seemingly always comes through in “clutch” ABs.

“Much better” at the plate than Rosario is pretty darn high bar. Not saying it isn’t possible, but I think Rosario gets a bad wrap. The perception gets skewed because he’s a bad ball guy, and that’s seen as a negative. But, despite being a bad ball guy, he’s been one of the better offensive outfielders in the AL over the past 3 years. Also, did you know he finished 18th overall in AL MVP voting last year ? He received 5 more vote points than Max Kepler and JD Martinez (finishes 20th and 21st, respectively).

I’m not sure if the context in regards to Rosario was lost last year, because of the historic performances for the lineup as a whole. But, it got lost somewhere along the way. Rosario is a damn good hitter. “Much better” than Rosario is going to be guys the caliber of Betts, Springer, and Trout in terms of the OF. I’m high on Kirilloff, but the odds of him reaching those heights is almost nil (possible, but almost nil).

 

Last year 87 hitters had a better wRC+ than Rosario, including such luminaries as Domingo Santana, Kole Calhoun, Brian Anderson, and Danny Santana.The 3 year stats you shared above show an erosion in his production, which would be even more pronounced were it not for last year's power explosion (61 players had a SLG of .500 or better in 2019, compared to 26 in 2018 and 41 in 2017); in fact, Eddie's gone from 34th in SLG in 2017 to 41st in 2018, and finally, 61st in 2019.

 

As you also showed in your 3 year rundown, Eddie's OBP is rapidly approaching hazmat levels--only 7 qualified players had a worse OBP than Eddie last year; even the hollow shell of Albert Pujols had a better OBP.Even in Eddie's good years of 2017 and 2018, he was 88th and 96th respectively in OBP.This is directly related to Eddie's insistence on swinging more often (swing rate of 59.1% in 2019, up from 54.9% in 2017), especially at pitches out of the zone; Eddie swung at 46.3% of pitches out of the zone in 2019 (compared to 37.6% in 2017), which was 4th worst in baseball.

 

So what we have is a player who is shedding power (relative to the league), getting on base at replecement player levels, demonstrating nearly league-worst discipline, and becoming a defensive liability at the same time he approaches 30 and becomes vastly more expensive, all while playing in the Twins' position of greatest organizational strength.

 

As this series (somewhat) approximates a trade value ranking, I would not be shocked at all to find that other MLB organizations view Rosario as at best the 5th most attractive outfielder in the Twins system, and quite possibly as low as 7.

    • Nick Nelson, glunn, Mike Sixel and 5 others like this

I really liked the thinking that went into this and the thought it generated.I put Berrios first because without him our rotation has no real star potential.Of course if he had an extension (as he should have) he might have moved over the two who do.

I share the thought that Graterol deserves to be in the top five, not sure I agree with Lewis at this point, but overall this was a terrific set of essays. 

    • SQUIRREL and Nick Nelson like this
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sweetmusicviola16
Jan 09 2020 04:45 PM

I would likely switch Polanco and Berrios in the rankings. If trade values is what is driving these rankings I'd find it hard to believe that anyone would have a higher value than Jose Berrios with the high demand for front end SP.

    • glunn, mikelink45 and Sconnie like this

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