Seth's Preliminary Top 50 Twins Prospects: Part 8 (1-5)
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs (photos of L to R: Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Tyler Jay, Nick Gordon)Players eligible to be on this list include players who remain eligible for Rookie of the Year voting in 2017. That is to say, hitters with less than 130 at-bats and pitchers with less than 50 innings. (The list is preliminary. Following research for the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2017 - which Cody Christie, Jeremy Nygaard and I are working on - I’ll provide my final Top 30 prospects list.)
Top Prospects 1-5
#5 – Tyler Jay - 23 – LHP – Ft. Myers Miracle
2016 was Jay’s first season as a full-time starter. He opened the year in the Miracle rotation. He went 5-5 with a 2.84 ERA in 18 games (15 starts). In his 69.2 innings, he walked just 21 and struck out 68. Late in the year, he moved up to Chattanooga where he pitched in five games (two starts). He posted a 5.79 ERA in 14 innings. His season came to an end a little early with a strained neck .
Jay was the Twins top draft pick, sixth overall, in 2015 out of the University of Illinois. As a junior, he worked over 80 innings, primarily out of the bullpen. He was 5-1 with 14 saves and a 0.60 ERA and a 0.61 WHIP. Because of his build, makeup and four-pitch mix, most scouts believed that he could make the transition to starter. Jay has a fastball that sits 92-94 pretty consistently. He has touched 97 regularly, usually out of the bullpen. He has a plus-plus slider. He has a strong curveball. He also has an improving change-up. Most believe that he can be a solid #3 starter with room to be a little better. As a bullpen arm, his comps (in terms of stuff) are Andrew Miller and Billy Wagner.
He pitched in the Florida State League All-Star Game at Hammond Stadium. In May, Jay went 3-2 with a 0.84 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP. In 32.1 innings, he struck out 38. He had an up and down season, but that month showed what he is capable of as a starter.
#4 – Nick Gordon - 20 – SS – Ft. Myers Miracle
Gordon will turn 21 years old later this month as he prepares for his fourth MiLB season. The Twins drafted Gordon with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft out of high school in Orlando. He jumped straight to the Appalachian League where he hit .294/.333/.366 (.699) for Elizabethton. He moved up to Cedar Rapids for the 2015 season. There he hit .277/.336/.360 (.696).
In 2016, he hit .291/.335/.386 (.721). He got off to a fast start. He hit .333 in April. In July, he hit .330. He had his ups and downs, but it was another good step forward for Gordon. Gordon was named to the Florida State League All-Star Game. He did miss some time during the season with a concussion.
Gordon gained 15 pounds last offseason in an attempt to add some pop and to help him through an exhausting season in Ft. Myers. Gordon has gap-to-gap, doubles power. He uses the entire field very well with a smooth left-handed swing. Gordon has above average speed, though he is not a burner by any means. At shortstop, he has good range and a very strong arm. Most believe that he can play shortstop as he goes forward, but he could eventually move to second base depending on other shortstop options.
#3 – Alex Kirilloff - 18 – OF – Elizabethton Twins
Kirilloff was the Twins top pick in 2016, the 15th overall selection in the draft. He led his Plum High School team to the Pennsylvania championship game this year after hitting well over .500 for the season. In high school, he primarily played center field, but he has also been a good first baseman when he has played there.
Kirilloff is an advanced hitter relative to most coming out of high school. His father, David, was once a scout and has held several baseball-related jobs. He currently runs a training program for hitters and has helped Alex immensely. Like Gordon, after signing, Kirilloff went directly to Elizabethton. He started off great. In July, he hit .373. Overall, he hit .306/.341/.454 (.794) with nine doubles, a triple and seven home runs. His season ended a week or so early with a shoulder injury. While he didn’t walk much with the E-Twins, he hit for average and some power. He has the potential to add a lot of power. At Elizabethton, he played mostly right field with a dozen games played in center field. He has average to slightly above average speed.
One more interesting note, all 232 plate appearances for KIrilloff in 2016 came against players older than him.
#2 – Fernando Romero - 21 – RHP – Cedar Rapids Kernels/Ft. Myers Miracle
If I’m being honest, I went back and forth many times over the last few weeks. Romero or Gonsalves. Gonsalves or Romero. In the end, I decided to put Fernando Romero at number two.
Romero was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. He spent a season pitching in the Dominican Summer League. He entered the prospect map in 2013 when he pitched very well in the GCL and showed a big fastball. In 2014, he was called up to Cedar Rapids in early June. He made three starts as a 19-year-old before being shut down. He had Tommy John surgery soon after. He missed all of 2015 rehabbing. He also had knee surgery that year which delayed his return. Last year, he returned for Instructs where he was throwing in the mid-90s. He was doing the same in spring training. In mid-May, he was promoted to Cedar Rapids where he made just three starts before advancing to Ft. Myers. With the Miracle, he went 5-2 with a 1.88 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. Overall, he struck out well more than a batter per inning.
Romero is a sturdy pitcher. He is listed at 6-1 and about 215 pounds. His fastball typically will sit 93-94 and has hit 99 on a few occasions. He has a plus cutter in the low 90s. He has both a slider and a curveball. He also have a change-up. He needs time. He was shut down at 90 innings this year (doesn’t include all of his extended spring innings) which got taken into account in the team’s decision to shut him down. He appears to be quite the fun-loving teammate as well. He won’t turn 22 until Christmas Eve. Let’s hope for some health and see just how good he can be.
#1 – Stephen Gonsalves - 23 – LHP – Ft. Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts
What a year 2016 has been for Stephen Gonsalves. Baseball America and MLB Pipeline both named him the left-handed starting pitching prospect of the year. He was Twins Daily’s choice for 2016 Starting Pitcher of the Year after winning the monthly award twice. His prospect status has risen in the Twins organization but also from a national perspective as well. He should be a consensus Top 100 prospect in all of baseball.
Gonsalves was the Twins fourth-round pick in 2013 and has pitched well each stop and each year since. He split that first summer between the GCL and Elizabethton and went 2-1 with a 0.95 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. He had 3.5 BB/9 and 12.4 K/9. In 2014, he split time in Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids. He went 4-3 with a 3.02 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9 and 9.6 K/9. He split time in 2015 between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers. He went 13-3 with a 2.01 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9 and 8.8 K/9. In 2016, he was the Opening Night starter in Ft. Myers and shortly after pitching in the Florida State League All Star game, he was promoted to Chattanooga. Combined, he was 13-5 with a 2.06 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP, 3.7 BB/9 and 10.0 K/9. Simply put, he has pitched very well. He has produced on the field, enough to where now he’s finally being considered a prospect by people outside of the Twins fandom. .
Gonsalves looks the part of a starting pitcher. He stands 6-5 and a little over 200 pounds. He has a strong mound presence. His fastball sits between 90 and 94 most of the time, though he can pump it up a couple ticks when he wants to. He has a good change-up. His curveball made some strides in 2016, but last offseason, he added a slider/cutter to his pitch repertoire and it helped him tremendously during the season. He also has a very high baseball and pitching IQ. He knows how to set up hitters. He knows how to add and subtract from his pitches to help keep hitters off balance.
In Ft. Myers, Gonsalves was the Opening Night starting pitcher. He gave up a three-run homer in the first inning of that game. He then gave up three more runs combined in his next 38 innings. With the Miracle, he went 5-4 with a 2.33 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9 and 9.0 K/9. With the Lookouts, he went 8-1 with a 1.82 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP despite 4.5 BB/9, and he was helped with 10.8 K/9. Overall, opponents hit just .179/.269/.258 (.527) against him. It was a terrific 2016 season for Gonsalves. He now heads to the Arizona Fall League to put in some more innings. He’s put himself in such a position that he could debut with the Twins sometime in 2017.
So there you have it, my choices for the Top Five Twins Prospects. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The decision between Stephen Gonsalves and Fernando Romero was very difficult, more difficult than you may guess. When considering age, level of competition, ceiling, production and all of the “prospect factors,” I came out with Stephen Gonsalves edging out Romero. But if asked, I could make an argument for all five of these guys. And maybe you can to.
Thank you for all the feedback throughout this series, and keep the comments and questions coming.
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