2018 Twins Midseason Top Prospect List: 11-15
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs (Graphic by Finn Pearson)15. Ben Rortvedt – C
2018 Stats (A-/A+): .274/.329/.387 (.716 OPS), 11 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 46 K, 16 BB
2018 Ranking: 16 | 2017 Ranking: 19
Seth: 21 | Tom: 10 | Cody: 15
When the Twins took Ben Rortvedt 56th overall in 2016, he became their highest-selected catcher since No. 1 pick Joe Mauer in '01. Having kept a close eye on the Verona, WI, kid as he excelled in high school just hours away, Minnesota was clearly sold on his defensive chops. He had all the tools and a tremendous rep behind the plate. "The kid was born to catch," said Twins scouting director Deron Johnson after the draft.
This in and of itself makes him an asset, but a quality bat is a differentiator for such player profiles. And while Rortvedt's receiving skills and powerful arm were quickly on display once he signed and reported to rookie ball, his offensive game lagged behind. In 113 plate appearances between the Gulf Coast and Appy leagues, the small-framed teenager batted .222 and slugged .253.
His struggles carried over into the 2017 season, which saw Rortvedt slashing .139/.214/.174 in Cedar Rapids at the end of May. But he put up a solid .721 OPS the rest of the way, and then produced similarly there over the first two months this year before a promotion to Fort Myers. In the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, he's sporting a handsome .269/.338/.388 line with two homers (half of his 2017 total) in 20 games.
Rortvedt's upward ascent in our rankings – from 19th pre-2017 to 16th pre-2018 to 15 now – has reflected his progression at the dish. The compact and strong-armed backstop has a naturally high floor thanks to his defensive value, and if his bat keeps improving, his ceiling will follow suit.
14. Lewis Thorpe – LHP
2018 Stats (AA): 82.2 IP, 4.03 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 11.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 4.33 K:BB
2018 Ranking: 12 | 2017 Ranking: NR
Seth: 13 | Tom: 14 | Cody: 16
When he has been on the mound, Lewis Thorpe has dominated. That's been a consistent trend since he signed with the Twins as a 16-year-old out of Australia. Staying on that mound has been his issue. With 82 2/3 innings in the book this season, he's already one out away from his career high (83, last year).
In 2017, the lefty was easing back into action after two full seasons lost to injury. But it speaks to his immense talent that, despite all the missed time, Thorpe still finds himself in Double-A at age 22. And he's wreaking havoc.
Never mind the ho-hum ERA and WHIP – they are byproducts of an inflated .370 BABIP. What matters is this: Facing high-minors competition for the first time, with only 250 total pro innings under his belt, Thorpe has put up a phenomenal 104-to-24 K/BB ratio. He has posted a phenomenal 16% swinging strike rate (Jose Berrios, for comparison, had a 10% whiff rate in his first turn at Double-A – granted he was 20).
The arsenal, a balanced four-pitch mix, is terrific. But it always has been. What Thorpe needs to do is stay healthy and stay on that mound. If he can do so all year while continuing to make batters miss, he'll absolutely be in our Top 10 come next spring.
13. Travis Blankenhorn – 3B
2018 Stats (A+): .241/.302/.406 (.708 OPS), 16 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 82 K, 19 BB
2018 Ranking: 17 | 2017 Ranking: 9
Seth: 12 | Tom: 9 | Cody: 21
Sometimes power takes a while to develop in young hitters. There's no better testament to this than Brian Dozier, who hit 32 total home runs in college and the minor leagues before launching 164 (and counting) in the big leagues. It's possible that Travis Blankenhorn will be Dozier's successor somewhere down the line – he has played a fair amount of second base since joining the organization as a third-round pick in 2015 – but the 21-year-old profiles better as a third baseman.
Coming out of high school, he was the prototype for a slugging corner infielder. Blankenhorn was already big when drafted at 6'1" and 195 lbs. He has since grown a little taller and a little burlier.
But the power hasn't quite manifested. Through 308 pro games he has 34 home runs and a .429 slugging percentage, including eight and .406 this year at Fort Myers. His innate strength is plain enough to see – he participated in the Florida State League Home Run Derby a month ago, and won. It's just not flashing consistently enough in games, leading to mediocre production in the FSL.
But that power? It's in there, and Blankenhorn is on track to set new career highs in both doubles and home runs. He's still awaiting his true breakthrough but the Pottsville, PA, native has a slugger's frame, keeps the strikeouts in check, and plays quality defense at multiple infield spots.
12. LaMonte Wade – OF
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): .286/.397/.448 (.845 OPS), 6 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 36 K, 45 BB
2018 Ranking: 14 | 2017 Ranking: 15
Seth: 9 | Tom: 15 | Cody: 14
LaMonte Wade has never been a great hitter, in terms of being able to swing the bat and drive the ball with consistency. But he has always, ever since joining the Twins organization in 2015, been a daunting adversary for opposing pitchers, and one of the toughest outs in pro baseball.
During his career at the University of Maryland, Wade walked more than he struck out. But his lack of standout speed or power – he hit seven home runs and stole 25 bases in three collegiate seasons – suppressed his stock and caused him to slip to the ninth round, where Minnesota selected him in 2015.
The plate discipline that punched his ticket has translated to the pros, and then some. Thanks to his elite skill for laying off non-strikes and coaxing walks, Wade has a .403 OBP and 187-to-222 K/BB ratio in 346 minor-league games. He has never finished at any level with an OBP below .386.
Wade impressed the Twins with his approach during spring training, opened the season in Chattanooga, and is now in Rochester doing his usual thing (.261/.404/.455 in 27 games). I'd be surprised if he doesn't get a look as a September call-up, if not before. He'll probably never hit for much power, and he should be relegated to the outfield corners, but Wade can play a valuable role in the majors thanks to a Mauer-esque understanding of the strike zone.
11. Blayne Enlow – RHP
2018 Stats (A): 50.2 IP, 3.73 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 1.61 K/BB
2018 Ranking: 8 | 2017 Ranking: NR
Seth: 10 | Tom: 13 | Cody: 13
Coming in under-slot with two of their top three 2017 draft picks (Royce Lewis and Landon Leach) enabled the Twins to go nearly three times over-slot for No. 76 overall pick Blayne Enlow, who turned down a scholarship from Louisiana State to sign for $2 million.
Enlow's curveball, vaunted as the best in the country among preps, was unleashed to devastating effect after he signed, leading to eye-popping rookie ball stats and a spot among Twins Daily's Top 10 this spring. Now, after a bit of a tumultuous first half in 2018, he finds himself just on the outside.
Impressed with his phenomenal debut, the Twins aggressively pushed Enlow straight to Low-A this year, even though he turned 19 in March. Only three qualified starters in the Midwest League are under 20. Enlow is younger than any of them, but he's not in the "qualified" category, since he's been limited to 12 appearances (10 starts) and 50 2/3 innings by a pair of injuries – first to his back, then his ankle.
No, his numbers with the Kernels haven't been great when healthy. But the Twins have been very cautious with his pitch counts (he hasn't thrown 90 pitches in a game, and has only gone over 75 twice in his past 10 outings). He's facing almost exclusively older and more experienced competition. That's not the kind of combo that lends itself to sparkly numbers.
That Enlow is even holding his own under these circumstances is commendable. If he gets on a roll in the second half, he'll skyrocket in the ranks. The talent is absolutely there.
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
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