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Twins Daily Top Prospect Countdown: 20-16

It's that time of year. With spring training bearing down upon us, we're going to prep you for the upcoming season with a series of profiles highlighting the top prospects in the Minnesota Twins organization.

Today, our choices for 20 through 16. On Friday, 15 through 11. Then we'll count down one by one over the next two weeks, leading right up to the start of Grapefruit League play.
20. Justin Haley, RHP
Age: 25
2016 Stats (AA/AAA): 146.2 IP, 3.01 ERA, 126/45 K/BB, 1.12 WHIP
ETA: 2017

Attached Image: JustinHaley_LMZ (1).jpg

Photo courtesy Louriann Mardo-Zayat


With the top pick in December's Rule 5 draft, the Twins selected Miguel Diaz, a hard-throwing righty from the Brewers system, but traded him for the player they really wanted. Justin Haley may not offer the fancy ceiling of some others you will read about in this series, but he's a polished MLB-ready product riding some serious momentum.

A sixth-round draft pick by the Red Sox in 2012, Haley got his career off to a promising start, but hit a skid in 2015 when he went 5-16 with a 5.15 ERA at Double-A. For a college draftee with unexceptional stuff, it's the kind of setback that can spell doom.

But Haley rebounded in a big way. He went to the Arizona Fall League and pitched brilliantly, albeit in only a handful of outings. The next year he conquered Double-A in the first half and then graduated to Triple-A where he didn't miss a beat. His last start was his best of the year – eight innings of shutout, two-hit ball. Then he returned to the AFL and was masterful again allowing just one run on 12 hits over 23 innings.

He's coming to the Twins organization with a full head of steam and a fair shot at winning a roster spot in camp. Haley could make a impact sooner than anyone else we profile for this feature.

19. Ben Rortvedt, C
Age: 19
2016 Stats (Rookie Leagues): .222/.306/.253, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 5 R
ETA: 2021

Attached Image: B Rortvedt.jpg

Photo courtesy David McQueen


It's no secret that the Twins have a deep organizational need for more catching talent. They addressed it in last June's draft when they used their second pick on prep backstop Ben Rortvedt from Verona, a small Wisconsin town located about four hours from Target Field.

Clearly the Twins scouted him heavily. They were bold in using the 56th overall selection on him and luring him away from a scholarship at Arkansas. Rortvedt was the only catcher from an American high school taken by any team in the first five rounds. That isn't to say that Minnesota reached; in pre-draft rankings, MLB.com had the teenager 51st in the talent pool and Baseball America had him 82nd.

Rortvedt was touted for his receiving skills and offensive upside. His potential at the plate remains just that – the teen catcher didn't do much damage with the bat in two levels of rookie ball, though his 10/10 strikeout-to-walk ratio suggests he wasn't overwhelmed by the pitching. Listed at 5'10" and 190 lbs, he's got some growing to do and we'll see how that influences his development. At this point there is little to go on performance-wise but we do know that the tools are there.

Unfortunately, as is the nature of raw high school draft picks, he's got a long way to go.

18. Engelb Vielma, SS
Age: 22
2016 Stats (A+/AA): .271/.345/.318, 0 HR, 21 RBI, 47 R
ETA: 2018

Attached Image: Engelb Vielma 2.jpg

Photo courtesy Seth Stohs


He has already established himself as a high-caliber defensive shortstop, but in order to take the next step as a player Engelb Vielma needs to show significant progress with the bat. That didn't really happen last year. In Chattanooga, where he spent most of his time, the slender infielder posted a .663 OPS that represented his best since 2012 in rookie ball but still failed to impress.

As usual, Vielma proved capable of putting the bat on the ball, but rarely struck with authority. In 367 plate appearances he managed only 11 extra-base hits and never cleared the fence. His solid speed only translated to a 10-for-18 success rate on steals. While his glove work made him a sturdy regular at Double-A, Vielma added minimal value offensively.

As he climbs the ladder and pitchers begin to challenge him more and more in the zone, the shortstop's inability to punish them will only grow more inhibiting. Unless he can make meaningful strides in terms of production at the plate he will remain limited in his ceiling as a potential backup in the majors.

17. Nick Burdi, RHP
Age: 24
2016 Stats (AA): 3 IP, 9.00 ERA, 1/1 K/BB, 1.67 WHIP
ETA: 2018

Attached Image: Nick Burdi 3.jpg

Photo courtesy Seth Stohs


When the Twins selected Nick Burdi with the 46th overall pick in the 2014 draft, he was considered perhaps the best collegiate relief arm in the nation. It is important to remember this amidst his stalling development as a pro. That innate high-end talent remains, making Burdi an intriguing wild-card in the organization's relief pitching pipeline, but right now he's nothing more than that.

The 2016 season was a complete loss for the radar-rattling righty. He made only three appearances in Double-A before being sidelined by a bruised humerus he was never able to bounce back from. Now he's going to need to fight his way back into the picture, as he'll be heading to camp without a big-league invite.

The good news is that scans identified no issues with Burdi's UCL, and he has had plenty of time to heal up his bone bruise. The bad news is that his injury is a rare one – likely resulting from stress caused by a high-effort delivery to produce his signature heat – and there is no certainty he'll get past it. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press recently reported that Burdi has made alterations to his mechanics with hopes of alleviating the issue.

16. Zack Granite, OF
Age: 24
2016 Stats (AA): .295/.347/.382, 4 HR, 52 RBI, 86 R
ETA: 2018

Attached Image: Zach Granite 4.jpg

Photo courtesy Seth Stohs


A tremendous 2016 in Chattanooga earned Zack Granite the organization's Minor League Player of the Year award. Keying a Lookouts lineup that ranked second among 10 Southern League teams in runs scored, he was the prototypical pesky spark plug atop atop the order. The lefty swinger constantly put the ball in play (7 percent K rate) and maximized his excellent wheels, legging out 18 doubles and eight triples to go along with 56 steals.

He also provided outstanding defense in center field, rounding out a complete value offering that made him a fitting choice for farm system's top honor. If Granite can continue on this path and add a little more pop he could become a Brett Gardner type in the majors, and any team would love to have that.

However, in the wider scope, he's a former 14th-round pick who hasn't put up even a .730 OPS at any level of the minors, so he's more likely to catch on as a fourth outfielder type in the big leagues. With his contact skill, speed and defense, he looks likely perfectly suited for that billing.


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17 Comments

Barring any injury to the starting OF crew (Rosario, Buxton, or Kepler) I'd love to see Granite get the call to get his feet wet in the majors.

 

Cross fingers for a full, healthy season from Burdi. 

 

    • glunn, Danchat, bluechipper and 4 others like this
Verona isn't the small town it seems to be to those who don't know it. Over the past few decades it has grown into a thriving Madison suburb, which is home to one of America's most exciting and growing private companies...EPIC SYSTEMS.

Didn't Vielema have a leg injury that affected his play for much of the season last year? That may be the reason the number of stolen bases and his success rate was down from the previous year.
    • Parker Hageman, glunn and d-mac like this

 

Verona isn't the small town it seems to be to those who don't know it. Over the past few decades it has grown into a thriving Madison suburb, which is home to one of America's most exciting and growing private companies...EPIC SYSTEMS.

Didn't Vielema have a leg injury that affected his play for much of the season last year? That may be the reason the number of stolen bases and his success rate was down from the previous year.

 

Yeah, I know he was on the DL twice. Once, I believe, was a groin injury that cost him quite a bit of time. There was a second stint too.

    • glunn likes this

 

Barring any injury to the starting OF crew (Rosario, Buxton, or Kepler) I'd love to see Granite get the call to get his feet wet in the majors.

 

Cross fingers for a full, healthy season from Burdi. 

 

 

Problem is he bats left. Ideally, the 4th OF is a right handed guy who can take some at bats against lefties from Rosario and Kepler. Granite's best path to the majors is likely an injury to Rosario or Kepler (or one of them crappin' the bed).

    • jud6312 likes this
Photo
Parker Hageman
Feb 09 2017 09:33 AM
Verona isn't the small town it seems to be to those who don't know it. Over the past few decades it has grown into a thriving Madison suburb, which is home to one of America's most exciting and growing private companies...EPIC SYSTEMS.

 

 

Finally. I was waiting for some wet, hot urban planning takes on this message board. 

    • Brock Beauchamp, Carole Keller, Nick Nelson and 8 others like this

Crossing my fingers on Burdi. I have been adamant that I thought he'd be their next closer when Perkins was done since they drafted him. He had the most electric stuff in the Twins organization since Liriano. Disappointed he didn't get the ST invite if he's healthy, but makes sense if he's working with a new arm-slot.

 

 

 

 

 

    • Carole Keller, Nick Nelson, glunn and 2 others like this

 

Problem is he bats left. Ideally, the 4th OF is a right handed guy who can take some at bats against lefties from Rosario and Kepler. Granite's best path to the majors is likely an injury to Rosario or Kepler (or one of them crappin' the bed).

Even though they all bat LH, they all do fairly well against LH pitching... For Granite, his splits are fairly similar between RH and LH, but he had over 200 PA's more against RH pitching... The story may be different if he had more PA's against LH pitching.

 

RH - .296 / .348 OBP / .744 OPS 

LH - .291 / .345 OBP / .684 OPS

 

Rosario certainly has more power against RH pitching, but he can still hold his own against lefties. 

Kepler hasn't proven to hit lefties well in the majors yet, but he showed he can do it in the minors. 

Love it I think that is close to spot on.!

 

Great job awesome rankings

    • Nick Nelson likes this

 

Problem is he bats left. Ideally, the 4th OF is a right handed guy who can take some at bats against lefties from Rosario and Kepler. Granite's best path to the majors is likely an injury to Rosario or Kepler (or one of them crappin' the bed).

No worries ... Rob's got that spot on lock down. If he hits .642 against lefties it might almost make up for his "defense."

 

(Having been in attendance for the 2-error play, I feel it my right to rip on his defensive prowess at any given moment.)

Some interesting pieces on here. Probably nothing to start a countdown clock on (although I'd love it if this new arm slot restarts "Burdi Watch"), but could all be solid contributors at some point.

    • Nick Nelson likes this

A nice range in talents in this list.  Lets hope they really work on Ben to be there when Castro's contract is done.  Burdi has been a tease and I know it must drive him crazy too, but let's hope it is a quick return to brilliance.  Vielma makes sense as the defensive replacement that Adrianza is suppose to be.  I just wish Haley was higher on this list and really looked good.  I am wondering where they hope he will slot with the new signings and the long list of potential starters. 

    • Nick Nelson likes this

I'm a fan of everyone in this range.

    • Nick Nelson likes this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Feb 09 2017 02:01 PM
Who will be Vielma's replacement after he breaks all four of the fingers on his left hand, by holding his bat like that while bunting?
    • glunn likes this

I thought Granite's lefty-righty splits are fascinating... when I did the story on him in August, he mentioned it and I had to look it up. Pretty impressive.

 

http://twinsdaily.co...h-granite-r4975

 

    • Nick Nelson and glunn like this
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Lee-The-Twins-Fan
Feb 09 2017 04:55 PM

Taking all five players as a group, I would say "tempered enthusiasm" would best describe them all.

 

I really think Justin Haley will surprise some people this spring – he may make the 5-man rotation.

    • Nick Nelson, glunn and Mike Sixel like this
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AlwaysinModeration
Feb 09 2017 08:20 PM
Nice, nice work with "radar rattling righty"
    • ashburyjohn and glunn like this

Nick and Seth and Thrylos I do not know where else to post a question to all three of you.  As I read these lists and try to read between the lines since I rely on your judgments to replace my lack of opportunity to see and judge myself; which brings up a question for each of you.  If you made a roster from just the minor leagues or from your list of prospects who would fill the lineup and rotation - regardless of age or anticipated time of arrival or level of competition.  I realize that the AAA guys should whip the rookie league, but if we just look at potential the lower minors look better to me than the upper.  Give me a starting 9 and a rotation - more if you like, but put together the all potential team as it is now - no Buxton, Sano, Rosario, Kepler...  Thanks. 


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