The 2018 Sixth-Year Minor Leaguers
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (photo of Mason Melotakis)Players can become a minor league free agents after having played six full season of minor league ball, unless they are added to the 40-man roster. So it is fair to say that it is a big year for a handful of Twins minor leaguers.
Let’s start by considering the players from the 2012 draft who are currently on the Twins 40-man roster. It was an impressive draft, despite the fact that injuries have really hurt several of the players.
With the #2 overall pick, the Twins selected outfielder Byron Buxton. It hasn’t always been pretty, but Buxton broke out late in the 2017 season and won a Gold Glove and the Platinum Glove as the best defensive player in the big leagues.
The Twins also received the 32nd overall pick because of losing Michael Cuddyer to free agency. With the pick, the Twins selected right-handed pitcher Jose Berrios. He debuted in 2016. He began 2017 in Rochester (in large part due to his participation in the WBC), but he came up soon and pitched well much of the season.
The Twins received another supplemental draft pick, the 42nd pick, for having lost Jason Kubel to free agency. With that pick, they took right-hander Luke Bard from Georgia Tech. While he fought injuries the first several years of his career, he really took off in 2016 and then struck out a ton of batters between AA and AAA in 2017. He was selected by the Angels in the Rule 5 draft in December, but he could return to the Twins if he is not on the Angels big league roster all season.
The Twins received an additional second -ound pick from the Rockies because of the Cuddyer signing. With the pick, they selected hard-throwing right-hander JT Chargois out of Rice University. He missed the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He worked back in 2015 and debuted with the Twins in 2016. Unfortunately, he missed the 2017 season as well.
With their fifth-round pick, the Twins selected Chargois’s co-closer at Rice, Tyler Duffey. He came up in 2015 and was impressive in the rotation. In 2016, he struggled, and in 2017, he moved to the bullpen.
Finally, in the 11th round, the Twins selected left-handed reliever Taylor Rogers. He worked his way up the system as a starter, but when the Twins had a need early in the 2016 season, they called Rogers up to work out of the bullpen. He pitched well as a rookie. He was tremendous in the first half of 2017, though he may have tired due to overuse in the second half. He may be the top left-hander in the Twins bullpen in 2018 and could learn more from Zack Duke.
The Twins have had five players from their 2012 draft already play in the big leagues, which is remarkable. Clearly Buxton and Berrios are the stars, but Rogers, Chargois and Duffey have a chance to contribute for years to come too.
So while it would be great for these players to have big seasons in 2018 and force the Twins hand, doors could open up for them after the season via free agency, or they could choose to stay in the Twins organization.
The Twins first second-round pick was Melotakis, 63rd overall out of Northwestern State in Louisiana. The Twins gave him the opportunity to start, but in early 2014, he was moved to the bullpen. Following that season, he had Tommy John surgery and missed the 2015 season. He was added to the 40-man roster after the 2015 season. However, early in 2017, he was removed from the roster and cleared waivers. He split the 2017 season between Chattanooga and Rochester. He’ll likely begin 2018 with the Red Wings with the hopes of getting a shot to get added back to the 40-man roster and get to the big leagues.
The Twins foourth-round pick in 2012 out of San Jose State, Jones burst onto the season late that year when he was hitting triple digits in Beloit. Really since then Jones has spent more time on the disabled list than on the field. He’s had a variety of injuries in and around his shoulder. He was selected by the Brewers in the Rule 5 draft and went to spring training with Milwaukee in 2016. Unfortunately, he was hurt and had to rehab. After a couple of appearances with the Brewers AA team, he was returned to the Twins. He had shoulder surgery after the 2016 season and as he was set to return in 2017, he needed another surgery. When healthy, he’s got a big arm and a sharp slider.
Baxendale was selected by the Twins in the 10th round out of the University of Arkansas after leading them to the College World Series. In less than a year, he was starting at AA Chattanooga. Things kind of plateaued for Baxendale there, and he fought some lingering injuries. But in 2016, he made the Southern League All-Star Game as a starter. He moved up to AAA and moved to the bullpen. He’s had some good success in that role. In 2017, he worked in a variety of roles from middle relief to long relief to making spot starts.
Muren was the Twins 12th-round pick out of Cal State-Northridge. He put up great numbers in the lower levels despite a low strikeout rate. Unfortunately, he missed the 2016 season after having thoracic outlet surgery. He returned, but was limited some, in 2017. When on, Muren is a ground ball machine. Earlier, he would be brought on with runners on with the goal of getting a double play.
In addition to the draft picks, a couple of players who signed as international free agents in 2012 will also become free agents.
The Twins signed Alvarez out of Venezuela in July of 2012. He spent three seasons in the Dominican Summer League, and has spent the last two seasons in the Gulf Coast League. He did play one game for the Miracle in 2017 as well.
Like Alvarez, the Twins signed Silva in July of 2012, also out of Venezuela. A defense-first catcher, Silva played 11 games for the Kernels in 2015, and spent his 2016 in Cedar Rapids as well. As a 21-year-old in 2017, he played for Elizabethton, and he showed some offense. He hit .356/446/.446 (.892) for the E-Twins with four doubles, a triple and a homer. He will turn 22 right before Opening Day and should spend the year with a full-season affiliate. The Twins will hopefully have a tough decision to make on him.
TODD VAN STEENSEL
Finally, Australian Todd Van Steensel can finally become a minor league free agent following the 2018 season if he’s not added to the 40-man roster. The right-hander spent a year with the Phillies, and then a year with the Twins, and then he didn’t pitch for an affiliated team for a few years. He returned to the Twins in 2014 and pitched in Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers. He spent all of 2015 with the Miracle as well and posted a 2.32 ERA with 81 strikeouts in 66 innings. For some reason, he went back to the MIracle for most of 2016 but ended the year with a handful of outings in Chattanooga. That’s where he spent the 2017 season where he posted a 1.38 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 58.2 innings. While he doesn’t show up on prospect lists, he continues to put up great numbers every year.
Obviously all of these guys are “prospects’ as they have yet to play in the big leagues. It’s a big year for each of them. Not only are they working for a big league opportunity with the Twins, but they will have another season to be monitored by scouts and coaching staffs from the other 29 organizations as well..
So what are your hopes or expectations for these guys? Will any of them get to the big leagues in 2018? Could any be found on the 40-man roster after the 2018 season?
- Levi Michael went back to Chattanooga before ending the season with a month in Rochester. He has not yet signed a 2018 contract.
- Travis Harrison wasn’t able to get the bat going and was released with about a month to go in the season. He has not yet signed a minor league contract.
- Dereck Rodriguez had another solid campaign, splitting the year between Ft. Myers and Chattanooga. He has signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants.
- Jason Wheeler made his major league debut for the Twins in May but was DFAd and claimed by the Dodgers after pitching twice. Soon after, they DFAd him and he was claimed by the Orioles where he ended the season. After the season, he signed a one year deal with the Hanwha Eagles in Korea.
- David Hurlbut put together a full season at Rochester. Following the season, he signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers.
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