Top Ten Twins Prospects of the Decade
Image courtesy of Steve Buhr (photo of Byron Buxton)While I am still working toward completing the 2020 Twins Prospect Handbook, I am putting together my official 2020 Twins preseason Top 50 prospect rankings. In the Handbook, you can see my official prospect rankings dating back over 15 years.
But I thought it might be fun to look back at the past decade and try to rank the top Twins prospects of the decade. To do so, I considered several sources. First and foremost, I looked at my Top 30 Twins prospect rankings from the last ten years. I also considered how the players ranked nationally. And then, I tossed in some opinion too.
I hope you enjoy the rankings, and just as much, I hope you have some good memories as you think back to prospects past, guys who made it and guys who didn’t. Let’s start with some guys who just missed the list:
- Max Kepler - Baseball America ranked him #30 before the 2016 season. One of the best European players of all-time already, Kepler signed in 2009. His 2015 season was one of the best that I can recall.
- Wander Javier - Signed to a $4 million signing bonus in 2015, he has shown talent and athleticism. He just hasn’t had the ability to stay on the field much. Baseball America ranked him #95 prior to the 2018 season.
- Jorge Polanco - Another international signing from 2009, Polanco is the longest-tenured player in the Twins organization, a few days longer than Max Kepler. Polanco was signed as a smooth infielder, but when he reached Cedar Rapids, it was his bat that took off. Before the 2016 season, he ranked #99 by Baseball America.
- Fernando Romero - Before the 2018, MLB.com ranked Romero the #68 prospect in baseball. He made his debut that season. He missed two years of development due to Tommy John surgery or it’s quite possible that he would have had more time to rank high nationally.
- Brusdar Graterol - Like Romero, Graterol missed about two seasons due to Tommy John surgery, but when he came back, he was hitting triple digits and people noticed. After staying healthy throughout the 2018 season, he ranked #33 by Baseball Prospectus and #55 by Baseball America. He should rank high again in 2020.
- Oswaldo Arcia - The Twins signed Arcia early. He put up huge numbers in the lower levels and then flew up the ladder. Baseball America ranked him #43 before the 2013 season. He hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2016. He’s just 28 years old.
- Brent Rooker - The Twins liked Rooker enough to draft him twice. Since the 2017 draft, he has moved up the ladder very quickly and is at the cusp of the big leagues.Baseball America ranked him #92 before the 2018 season. He spent 2019 in Rochester.
- Eddie Rosario - Rosario was the Twins fourth-round draft pick in 2010 and he has been hitting ever since. While Baseball American never put him in their Top 100, Baseball Prospectus ranked him #87 in 2012 and #60 before 2014.
- Kohl Stewart - The fourth-overall pick in the 2014 draft was a Top 100 prospect by Baseball America, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus before the 2014 and/or 2015 season, ranking 28th on BP’s pre-2015 rankings. He struggled to get strikeouts but limited damage. He signed with the Orioles earlier this week.
- Joe Benson - Benson was the Twins 2nd round pick in 2006. A great athlete, he had great speed and power potential. He ranked 100th by Baseball American before the 2011 season and 99th before the 2012 season. He spent that September with the Twins and never got back to the big leagues.
- Lewis Thorpe - The Twins signed him from Australia. Baseball Prospectus ranked him #101 in 2014 and #91 before the 2015 season. He missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to Tommy John surgery. Since his return, he has pitched well and debuted in 2019.
#10 - Stephen Gonsalves
The Twins selected Gonsalves from his southern California high school in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. While he wasn’t a flamethrower, Gonsalves simply put up numbers. In Low A, he went 8-4 with a 1.96 ERA. He had 121 strikeouts in 91 2/3 innings. In Ft. Myers, he went 12-6 with a 2.48 ERA. In 145 innings, he struck out 121 batters. In AA, he went 19-4 with a 2.35 ERA. He had 213 strikeouts in 184 innings. In AAA, he went 10-6 with a 3.46 ERA. He had 119 strikeouts in 125 innings. He went 2-2 with the Twins late in the 2018 season. He missed most of 2019 with forearm and elbow issues. The Twins tried to sneak him through waivers after the season, but the New York Mets claimed him. Before the 2017 season, he ranked #99 by Baseball America. A year later, he ranked #97. MLB.com ranked him #78 before the 2018 season.
Seth Rankings: 2014 (13), 2015 (15), 2016 (6), 2017 (1), 2018 (2), 2019 (10)
#9 - Nick Gordon
Gordon was the Twins top pick, fifth overall, in the 2014 draft. Along with genetics, he has a lot of talent. He’s got a smooth, line-drive swing and uses the whole field well. He’s athletic. He’s not as fast as his brother Dee, but he does have a little more power (though not much). He had a solid season in Rochester in 2019. Unfortunately he missed a lot of time with a knee injury. Prospect rankings love him. He was a Top 100 prospect before the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons. He ranked #33 by MLB.com before the 2015 season. He ranked #35 by Baseball Prospectus before the 2018 season.
Seth Rankings: 2015 (4), 2016 (4), 2017 (4), 2018 (3), 2019 (12)
#8 - Kyle Gibson
Gibson was the Twins first-round draft pick in 2009 (21st overall) out of Missouri. He made his pro debut in 2010 and pitched in Ft. Myers, New Britain and Rochester. He was on the verge of his big league debut. Before the 2011 season, Baseball America ranked him as the #34 prospect in baseball. Unfortunately, in late 2011, he had Tommy John surgery. He returned late in 2012. Before the 2013 season, Baseball America ranked him #68. Baseball Prospectus ranked him #64 and MLB.com had him ranked #49.
Seth Rankings: 2010 (5), 2011 (1), 2012 (7), 2013 (6)
#7 - Aaron Hicks
Hicks was the 14th overall pick in 2008. He began appearing on prospect rankings in 2009. His prospect status peaked before the 2010 season when Baseball America ranked him #19 and Baseball Prospectus ranked #26. While he dropped out of the Top 100 before the 2012 season, he jumped back in before the 2013 season when he made his MLB debut. His combination of power and speed with a big arm and great centerfield defense made him intriguing to the Twins and scouts around the game. It took a little time for it to come together, but it certainly did.
Seth Rankings: 2010 (1), 2011 (3), 2012 (4), 2013 (5)
#6 - Alex Meyer
It was well known that the Nationals really wanted Denard Span from the Twins, enough that they were willing to deal former first-round pick Alex Meyer straight-up for him following the 2012 season. At the time, Meyer was a consensus Top 100 prospect. At 6-9 with a fastball in the upper-90s, teams knew he was raw but had potential to become a top-of-rotation starter. A year later, he ranked even higher, and before the 2015 season, he was the 14th prospect (overall) by Baseball Prospectus. He pitched in four games for the Twins before being traded at the July 2016 deadline. He retired from baseball after a series of shoulder injuries after the 2019 season .
Seth Rankings: 2013 (4), 2014 (3), 2015 (6), 2016 (14)
#5 - Alex Kirilloff
Kirilloff was the Twins top pick in 2016 (15th overall) out of high school. MLB.come ranked him #98 after that season, but he missed the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2018 and put together one of the best minor league seasons you’ll ever see, splitting his season in half between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers. He hit for average (.348) and power (44 doubles, 7 triples and 20 home runs). Before the 2019 season, MLB.com ranked him #9 while Baseball America ranked him at #15.
Seth Rankings: 2017 (3), 2018 (5), 2019 (2),
#4 - Jose Berrios
Berrios was the Twins supplemental first-round draft pick (#32 overall) in the 2012 draft. While he was a high draft choice, he was seen as a very raw prospect. Some saw him as a back-of-rotation starter. But as Berrios continued to put up strong numbers throughout the minor leagues, and his workouts became well known, his prospect status rose. He was Top 100 by MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus. Before the 2015 season, all three national sites put him in their Top 50 prospects and kept him there before the 2016 season too. MLB.com and BP ranked him in their Top 20 before 2016.
Seth Rankings: 2013 (8), 2014 (7), 2015 (3), 2016 (2)
photo by Steve Buhr
#3 - Royce Lewis
Lewis was the first overall pick in the 2017 draft out of JSerra High School. He put up strong numbers that summer between the GCL and Cedar Rapids. Before the 2018 season, he ranked between #20 and #27 in the three national rankings. In 2018, he put together a strong season between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers, helping both to the playoffs and the Miracle to a Florida State League title. He showed he can play shortstop, hit and hit for power. Before the 2019 season, he was Top 10 in each. MLB.com ranked him highest at #5. He struggled with the bat in 2019, so he’ll likely drop some in the rankings, but he will still be in the Top 50 and should be much higher.
Seth Rankings: 2018 (1), 2019 (1)
#2 - Miguel Sano
The Twins signed Sano in October 2009 from the Dominican. He was already the star of a documentary telling his unusual story and making him a known commodity around the baseball world. Before even playing a game as a pro, Baseball Prospectus ranked him #35. Even after missing the 2014 season with Tommy John surgery, Sano remained one of baseball’s top prospects. Baseball America ranked him in their Top 100 each year from 2010 through 2015. Four of those years he was Top 20, and twice he was in their Top 10. Baseball Prospectus also ranked him six straight seasons. He never got into their Top 10, but three of the years he ranked between 12 and 14. Lowest they ranked him was #31. MLB.com didn’t add him to their Top 100 until before the 2012 season. At that time, he ranked #23. Before the 2014 season, he reached #4 in their rankings. What made Sano so intriguing was his power potential, and we certainly have seen that!
Seth Rankings: 2010 (3), 2011 (2), 2012 (1), 2013 (1), 2014 (2), 2015 (2)
#1 - Byron Buxton
Byron Buxton was the second overall pick in the 2012 draft out of high school in Georgia. Buxton was as toolsy as any player or prospect. He hit. He had some power. He played elite defense and had a strong, powerful arm. Not only did he have all the tools, but he put up huge numbers. In 2013, he hit .334 with 19 doubles, 17 triples and 12 homers between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers. He also stole 55 bases. Baseball America named him the minor league player of the year. Before the 2014 season, he was the consensus #1 prospect in baseball. He continued to impress as he climbed the ladder. Before the 2015 season, he ranked #1 by MLB.com and BP while Baseball American ranked him #2. Before the 2016, he ranked #2 across the board. In 2017, he won the American League Platinum Glove Award. In 2019, we saw him put it all together for the first half of the season. When he is healthy, he is as talented and impactful as any player in baseball … not named Mike Trout, of course.
Seth Twins Rankings: 2013 (2), 2014 (1), 2015 (1), 2016 (1)
So there you have it… My Top 10 Twins Prospects of the Decade. What do you think? It really is an impressive group of prospects and many of them (and some of the Honorable Mentions too) have achieved success in the big leagues.
Another theme is that the Twins have seen injuries affect so many of these players’ careers. Tommy John for pitchers and hitters. But the Twins have had a lot of talent and still more talent on the way.
How would you rank these prospects? Did I miss anyone?
- SD Buhr, mikelink45, puckstopper1 and 3 others like this