Twins Daily Top Prospect Countdown: 20-16
20. Justin Haley, RHP
2016 Stats (AA/AAA): 146.2 IP, 3.01 ERA, 126/45 K/BB, 1.12 WHIP
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
2016 Stats (Rookie Leagues): .222/.306/.253, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 5 R
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
2016 Stats (A+/AA): .271/.345/.318, 0 HR, 21 RBI, 47 R
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
2016 Stats (AA): 3 IP, 9.00 ERA, 1/1 K/BB, 1.67 WHIP
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
2016 Stats (AA): .295/.347/.382, 4 HR, 52 RBI, 86 R
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.