2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospect List: 1-5
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (graphics by Finn Pearson)Continue reading, and then discussing, the Twins Daily choices for the Top 5 Minnesota Twins prospects.
5. Stephen Gonsalves – LH SP
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): 78.2 IP, 3.32 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 5.6 BB/9, 1.73 K:BB
2018 Ranking: 4 | 2017 Ranking: 2
Seth: 6 | Tom: 6 | Cody: 5
Last offseason, Gonsalves was added to the Twins 40-man roster. Not a surprise at all as he has been one of the organization’s top pitchers each of the last three seasons. He was the Twins Daily Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2016and 2017, and he was the runner up in 2015to Jose Berrios (who also won in 2014). It was a surprise to many when the Twins had Gonsalves start his 2018 season in Chattanooga. He had ended 2016 there, and spent most of 2017 dominating the Southern League. He even made a handful of starts in Rochester. As one would expect, he pitched well. He went 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA in his first four starts and moved up to Rochester despite issuing ten walks in 20 1/3 innings.
The walks have been the story and the concern in 2018, but over the course of his career control hasn’t really been a big issue. Gonsalves has certainly had his good and bad moments during his starts in Rochester. In his first two starts, he gave up a total of one run on four hits in 14 1/3 innings. He didn’t get out of the second inning in his third start. He won his next two starts by throwing a combined 10 1/3 innings. Over his next three starts, he once didn’t get out of the first inning and gave up nine earned runs in four innings. But now in his past four starts, he has given up just one run (0.42 ERA) in 21 2/3 innings. In 58 1/3 innings with the Red Wings, he has 60 strikeouts. However, he also has walked 39 batters.
The long, lanky left-hander is going to pitch in the big leagues, and likely for a long time. He’s got a fastball that he changes speeds on and gets varying amounts of movement. He typically sits in the upper-80s and low-90s. He has topped out around 94 in the past. He’s got a plus changeup, and a slow curveball, similar to that of David Wells. He’s also added a cutter/slider over the last couple of seasons that can be a great pitch for him. Gonsalves is a good athlete and fields his position well.
4. Nick Gordon – SS/2B
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): .282/.318/.435 (.753 OPS), 19 2B, 6 3B, 7 HR, 61 K, 16 BB
2018 Ranking: 3 | 2017 Ranking: 4
Seth: 4 | Tom: 3 | Cody: 4
Like Gonsalves, Nick Gordon went to his second straight big league spring training. Like Gonsalves, it was surprising to many when Nick Gordon began the 2018 season back in Chattanooga. Maybe it was gaining strength to avoid a second-half slump. Maybe it was working on his struggles against left-handed pitching. Maybe it was to continue working on some things on the defensive side of the game. In 42 games, he hit .333/.381/.525 (.906) with 18 extra base hits.
“They pretty much have a plan for me, and I trust what they have.” Gordon continued, “There was a thing that I have to develop and get better that I know as well. It’s all about learning, becoming a better player, a better teammate, all those things. It all goes into being a great player regardless of AA or AAA. Whenever they felt I was ready for AAA, they made that decision.”
He was promoted to Rochester where he has now played in 45 games. He has hit .236/.255/.354 (.609). A new level means a higher level of competition. But there is little question that Gordon will hit. He may even develop into a 12 to 15 home run guy. He’s got good speed and runs the bases well. Defense is where there are typically questions with Gordon. While he has primarily played shortstop throughout his career, most believe that second base is his position in the future. While he’s got good speed, some question his range. He has a good shortstop arm.
Gordon will need to be added to the Twins 40-man roster this offseason, though it is possible (if not likely) that he will be added and called up during this 2018 season.
3. Brusdar Graterol – RH SP
2018 Stats (Low-A/High-A): 50.2 IP, 3.20 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 10.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 4.92 K:BB
2018 Ranking: 9 | 2017 Ranking: NR
Seth: 2 | Tom: 5 | Cody: 3
Few have risen up the Twins prospect charts in a manner as quickly as Brusdar Graterol. He certainly has a unique story. Signed out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old, Graterol impressed with an upper-90s fastball. But after just 11 innings, he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. He missed the rest of 2015 and the entire 2016 season recovering. However, it was at Instructs in 2016 that he returned to the mound and reports indicated he was popping triple-digits. He pitched well in the short-season leagues last year, starting in the GCL but eventually moving up to Elizabethton.
He began this season in extended spring training, but before April came to a close, he was moved up to the Cedar Rapids Kernels. He made eight starts for the Kernels and posted a 2.18 ERA. He was our choice for Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Month in May. He moved up to Ft. Myers in mid-June where he has made two starts for the Miracle, as a 19-year-old.
So the stats are good, but Graterol is all about his right arm and its immense potential. The first thing you’ll notice is the fastball. It’s fast. If you watch him make a start, you are likely to see double-digit pitches hitting triple digits, including some at 101 mph. He also has a darting slider that can be absolutely devastating if he stays on top of it. And, on top of that, he’s got an upper-80s or low-90s changeup with good sinking movement. He throws with a smooth, easy delivery. In other words, it doesn’t look like he’s airing it out.The fastball is elite. The secondary pitches can be elite, but as a 19-year-old, they can be inconsistent.
Graterol has the special kind of talent that makes people notice. While he won’t turn 20 for another six weeks, he could work his way up the system quickly.
Side/Seth Note - in my 15 years of following the Twins minor league system, I have not seen a pitcher with the amount of upside that Brusdar Graterol has coming through the system. That includes Fernando Romero, Jose Berrios and - the one that gives me pause - Francisco Liriano.
2. Alex Kirilloff – OF
2018 Stats (Low-A/High-A): .325/.376/.558 (.935 OPS), 22 2B, 6 3B, 14 HR, 62 K, 26 BB
2018 Ranking: 5 | 2017 Ranking: 3
Seth: 3 | Tom: 2 | Cody: 2
When the Twins drafted Alex Kirilloff with the 15th overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Plum High School in Pennsylvania, there were many scouts who felt the Twins got a steal. There were many who believed that Kirilloff might just be the best, most pure prep hitter in that draft. Kirilloff’s career began by jumping straight to Elizabethton where he hit .306 with nine doubles and seven home runs in 55 games. Unfortunately, at the end of the season, he hurt his elbow. He tried to get treatments and came to spring training in 2017. However, it wasn’t better, and the decision was made for him to have Tommy John surgery in March which cost him the rest of his 2017 season.
Kirilloff was cleared for full-go baseball activities in November. However, there were many questions about how he would return from the surgery and after missing so much time. In his first three games for the Kernels this spring, he went 1-for-12. In his next 62 games for Cedar Rapids, the 20-year-old hit .346/.407/.633 (1.040) with 20 doubles, five triples and 13 home runs. He was named an All Star. Recently, he was named to this weekend’s Futures Game, representing the Twins and Team USA. In an interview with Jeff Johnson of The Gazette (in Cedar Rapids), Kernels manager Toby Gardenhire described Kirilloffas “Probably the best player in the league. Fun to watch.”
The day after the Midwest League All-Star Game, Kirilloff was promoted to Ft. Myers. He went 1-for-6 in his first Miracle game, but he followed that with a 4-for-5 game which included a home run and five RBI. The next day, he had three more hits. He’ll experience more ups and downs with the Miracle, but the kid is a natural hitter. He has a good idea of the strike zone. He’s a good combination of understanding the strike zone and being aggressive. He’s got a great swing with a lot of power potential. Most of it to this point has been to the opposite field, but he can turn on a ball from time to time. He is a solid outfielder. While he played center field in high school, he’s played right field in pro ball, and that’s where he should be. He’s got average speed for a corner outfielder, and despite the Tommy John surgery, he’s got a strong arm.
1. Royce Lewis – SS
2018 Stats (Low-A): .318/.371/.484 (.855 OPS), 23 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 48 K, 24 BB
2018 Ranking: 1 | 2017 Ranking: NR
Seth: 1 | Tom: 1 | Cody: 1
There were several names mentioned before the Twins were officially on the clock, ready to make the #1-overall pick in the 2017 draft. Brendan McKay. Hunter Greene. Kyle Wright. MacKenzie Gore. Obviously it’s far too early (maybe 10-15 years too early) to declare a winner, but it is clear that the Twins (and the fans) are happy that Sean Johnson and his staff selected shortstop Royce Lewis out of JSerra Catholic High School in Aliso Viejo, California. The Twins gave him $6.7 million to keep him away from UC-Irvine and join the Twins organization.
Lewis began his pro career in the Gulf Coast League. He got off to a fast start, hitting a home run in his first pro at bat. After 36 games, he was promoted. Not to Elizabethton, but to Cedar Rapids. He had four hits in his first game, and four, multi-hit games in his first seven games with the Kernels (including two, four-hit games).
He began this 2018 season with the Kernels. He has played well throughout the season, but he has really improved his game over the past six weeks.
Lewis is a tool shed of talent. Lewis and his high leg kick has the potential to be a really good hitter, a line drive hitter who uses the whole field well. While he isn’t one to walk a ton, Lewis knows the strike zone pretty well and generally takes really quality at bats. Sometimes he is patient. Sometimes he is aggressive. And while the 6-foot-2, 190 pound infielder is long and lanky, he is strong. He worked out at Scott Boras’s facilities throughout his offseason, and he’s continued to work to gain strength throughout the season. As you can see from the above statistics, it’s paid off. He has a lot of power potential. He could become a 20 home run a year guy, maybe more. As it relates to Lewis, the sky appears to be the limit, so I almost hate to put any limitations on him. Speed? Well, he may not be as fast as Byron Buxton (though it’s close), Lewis can fly. He continues to work on base-stealing skills, but he’s got good instincts and runs the bases well.
There are questions with his defense, but observers have pointed out that he is more advanced defensively than some of the pre-draft reports indicated. There is more of a belief that he will be able to stay at shortstop. He’s got really good range, on ground balls and on pop ups. He’s got a good arm, not Shawon Dunston-like arm strength, but he can make the necessary throws from the position.
Intentionally, I saved the character and charisma comments regarding Lewis until last. Sometimes it seems like that is the first thing people want to say. People that know him or have met him or have even had a brief encounter with him at that stadium, receiving an autograph or a picture understand that he is as genuine as it gets. But sometimes it seems to overwhelm his immense talent and athleticism and baseball acumen. But the personality and leadership are real. As his high school coach Brett Kay said in an interview before the draft, “They didn’t make charts that can measure his makeup and competitiveness.”
The only question right now about Lewis is why he isn’t yet in Ft. Myers playing for Ramon Borrego (his GCL Twins manager a year ago). I don’t have an answer for that. It’s hard to argue that he is making adjustments during the last six weeks to add power which will help him at the next level and beyond.
Are comparisons to Derek Jeter fair? Probably not. But are there a lot of physical and personality traits that are similar to the future, first-ballot Hall of Famer? Absolutely. That’s the level of talent that Royce Lewis has.
2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospects: 36-40
2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospects: 31-35
2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospects: 26-30
2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospects: 21-25
2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospects: 16-20
2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospects: 11-15
2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospects: 6-10
- Tibs, dbminn, SF Twins Fan and 6 others like this