Let's Make A Deal, Part III: The Ammunition
Image courtesy of © Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsIn May, I assumed the Twins would make Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff and Brusdar Graterol off-limits. I don’t think answering the phone and responding that anyone is untouchable is acceptable. That simply means you have to at least listen to any potential deal that would make your team better. Sure, you can say Lewis is untouchable. But what if the Padres offered Fernando Tatis Jr. for him straight up? You couldn’t say yes fast enough. (That’s just one of hundreds of examples.)
Let’s start there.
Royce Lewis has dropped a little in the eyes of evaluators. Keith Law dropped him to #34 on his midseason Top 50, citing both concerns offensively (a changed swing) and defensively (can’t stick at shortstop). Neither Law nor Baseball America considers him the best prospect in the organization anymore, though BA ranks him #21 overall. Of course, things can turn on a dime and have started to for Lewis, July has been good to the 20-year-old. He’s hitting over .300 and OPSing near .900 in the month.
Alex Kirilloff has missed time with injuries but has continued to show the ability to hit and play right field adequately. Both Law (#15) and Baseball America (#17) rank him as one of the elite prospects in baseball. Kirilloff is plenty athletic and has defensive flexibility. If he remains in the organization, Kirilloff could see a move to the dirt and play first base. My personal opinion is that he would be passable in center, and if the Twins had interest in moving him, they would have showcased that ability occasionally in 2019. They haven’t.
Brusdar Graterol has moved up 20 spots in Baseball America’s ratings (from #55 to #35) despite missing significant time this year with a shoulder ailment. He wasn’t going to show up in Law’s Top 50, as he wasn’t listed in his preseason Top 100.
Both Jordan Balazovic and Trevor Larnach have improved their prospect stock throughout the first half of the season. Balazovic (#44) moved into Law’s Top 50 and BA’s top 100 (#98) and though Larnach didn’t make either list, it’s fair to assume he is just outside the Top 100.
Fangraphs views them all a little less consistently than Law and Baseball America. They still view Royce Lewis one of the highest ceiling prospects in baseball (#2 overall) and have Kirilloff (#44), Graterol (#54), Larnach (#76) and Jhoan Duran (#99) in the Top 100. Balazovic is not.
All of that is mentioned for two reasons: 1) It’s information that people are interested in. 2) It goes to show how differently people/publications and teams can view prospects.
It also gives us a pretty good idea that the Twins have six prospects (one shortstop, two corner outfielders, and three pitchers) that are a cut above the rest. When it comes to potentially dealing any of these six, there shouldn’t be any consideration if the return is simply a rental.
If the return is more significant - Thor, Stroman, Bauer - then maybe those conversations can last a little longer.
Let’s look at some other pieces the Twins may consider moving and how they might be viewed in other organizations.
The Twins have one of the best shortstops in baseball on a long-term, team-friendly deal in Jorge Polanco. They also have the emerging Luis Arraez, who fits best at second base. If Royce Lewis remains in the organization, everyone else who plays in the middle infield could easily be dealt.
Wander Javier is a well-known name to prospect hounds - he cracked BA’s Top 100 before the 2018 season - but has dealt with injuries and an inability to hit. He’s hitting below .160 and has committed 10 errors in 36 games. He’s less headliner currently and more well-known lottery ticket. Those players have value… just not as much as we’d like Javier to have at this point. A shoo-in to be added to the 40-man in November before the season started, though that now appears to be far from a sure thing.
The other obvious name is Nick Gordon, who is on the 40-man but hasn’t been able to make his MLB debut despite playing at AA or AAA since the beginning of the 2017 season. He’s showing the ability to hit (just shy of .290) and hit for a little power (29 extra base hits), but evaluators around the game appear to be only lukewarm about Gordon. Could a team with a dearth of middle infield prospects be willing to trade a rental for Gordon? Probably. But is Gordon more than just a part of a deal right now? Probably not. Does his value take a ding because he’s already on the 40-man and will be out of options after the 2021 season? Likely.
The Twins also have Jose Miranda (mostly 3B, but some 2B), Yunior Severino (primarily 2B, but hurt) and Travis Blankenhorn (mostly 2B, but also some LF and 3B) in the middle levels of the organization. All provide nice depth, none of which project as anything more than future regulars.
A very interesting note is that of the nine largest signing bonuses handed out by the Twins in the 2019 draft, six of them (Keoni Cavaco, Spencer Steer, Eduoard Julien, Seth Gray, Will Holland and Anthony Prato) project as infielders. Five of them were college players.
There might not be a lot of high-end depth, but there is both quality and quantity in the organization.
MIDDLE INFIELD RECAP:
Best prospect: Royce Lewis
Most likely to move: Nick Gordon
Who has helped their stock the most this season: Travis Blankenhorn
Who has hurt their stock the most this season: Wander Javier
Though we haven’t seen them together in quite a while, the Twins offer one of the best outfield cores in baseball in Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler. They have high level prospects in Kirilloff and Larnach. They have nice depth pieces in Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade. Jaylin Davis has really emerged in AAA.
But the real depth in the organization is in the corner outfield and first base. Kepler is locked in long-term. The Twins would like Rosario to be. CJ Cron is under control for one more year. Miguel Sano might eventually have to make the move from third base. Kirilloff will play right field or first base. Larnach is probably a left-fielder. Lewin Diaz has emerged and is a plus-defender at first base. Brent Rooker is the classic corner profile. Gabriel Maciel will get every chance to stay in center field, where he profiles best but is a high-ceiling dude who can rake, though he lacks power. Akil Baddoo is another non-traditional corner outfield option, who is out for the year after having Tommy John surgery. Masiel Urbina is far, far away but has looked like a good signing so far in his very young career.
CORNER OUTFIELD/FIRST BASE RECAP:
Best prospect: Alex Kirilloff
Most likely to move: Trevor Larnach and Brent Rooker
Who has helped their stock the most this season: Lewin Diaz
Who has hurt their stock the most this season: Akil Baddoo
Of course, baseball always coming down to pitching. The best teams have it. The worst teams don’t. And all teams are looking to add more. We’ve talked about the Twins Big Three and how they’d probably hope not to deal from it. But it’s not going to be as easy as just not trading pitching.
The Twins have had eight young guys debut this season - including Lewis Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer and Sean Poppen - but don’t have a lot of other guys just banging on the door.
They have, however, had a number of guys who have forced people to take notice. Randy Dobnak, now at AAA, has been a great story since signing as an undrafted free agent. Jorge Alcala, Griffin Jax and Edwar Colina are all at AA and have all shown either the ability or the potential to be future big leaguers. Blayne Enlow and Cole Sands are doing the same at high-A. But once you get further down than that - like Luis Rijo at Cedar Rapids, Tyler Benninghoff or Prelander Berroa at Elizabethton, or Miguel Rodriguez in the GCL - it’s almost exclusively hoping you hit on a project.
STARTING PITCHERS RECAP:
Best prospect: Brusdar Graterol
Most likely to move: No one is safe
Who has helped their stock the most this season: Jordan Balazovic
Who has hurt their stock the most this season: Fernando Romero
The other positions (catcher, relief pitchers and center field) just don’t have enough depth to comfortably project dealing from it. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. The Twins could trade either of catchers Ryan Jeffers or Ben Rortvedt and be ok. They could deal an outfielder that projects to stay in center. They could move any of a number of guys that project solely as relief pitchers.
But it’s all going to come down to finding a team where value aligns. And that’s going to be the extremely difficult part.
We all have our favorites, but who do you think is most likely to be involved in a trade?
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