Twins 2018 Short Season Hitter Of The Year
Image courtesy of Mike Gallagher (graphics by Finn Pearson)Yesterday, Twins Daily announced the Short Season Pitcher of the Year. Throughout the rest of the week, the other minor league awards will be announced. There were some strong performances throughout the minors and some of these players may be part of the next wave of players heading for Target Field.
Short profiles of our top five are to follow, but first, some players worthy of honorable mention. These players also received votes.
Others Receiving Votes:
- Janigson Villalobos, GCL Twins: 26-84, .310/.363/.393 (.755), 3-2B, 2-3B, 15 RBI
- Yeltsin Encarnacion, GCL Twins/Elizabethton Twins: 50-167, .299/.350/.377 (.727), 8-2B, 1-3B, 1-HR, 22 RBI
- DaShawn Keirsey, Elizabethton Twins: 31-103, .301/.371/.427 (.798), 7-2B, 3-3B, 13 RBI
- Michael Helman, Elizabethton Twins: 15-40, .375/.435/.575 (1.010), 1-3B, 2-HR, 7 RBI (does not include stats from Cedar Rapids)
- Alex Robles, Elizabethton Twins: 66-244, .297/.357/.378 (.735), 12-2B, 2-HR, 35 RBI
- Trevor Larnach, Elizabethton Twins: 19-61, .311/.413/.492 (.905), 5-2B, 2-HR, 16 RBI (does not include stats from Cedar Rapids)
- Tyler Webb, GCL Twins/Elizabethton Twins: 41-143, .287/.373/.336 (.709), 4-2B, 1-HR, 16 RBI
Here are the top five players for the Twins Daily Short-Season Hitter of the Year
5. Yunior Severino, Elizabethton Twins: 52-198, .263/.321/.424 (.745), 8-2B, 8-HR, 28 RBI
Severino split the 2017 season between the Dominican Summer League and the Braves Gulf Coast League teams. Following the season, he was ruled a free agent by Major League Baseball and the Twins quickly signed him for $2.5 million. The 18-year-old is a really good athlete with good speed, but he’s also got real good bat speed from both sides of the plate which could lead to some power. While he could play shortstop, he is already primarily playing second base.
4. Colton Burns, Elizabethton Twins: 23-93, .247/.375/.505 (.880), 6-2B, 6-HR, 14 RBI
Burns was the Twins 18th-round pick in 2017 out of UC-Santa Barbara. He’s fought some injuries in his time as a professional, including about a month due to a knee injury this season. When he did play, he displayed some raw power that made him intriguing to the organization.
T2. Ryan Jeffers, Elizabethton Twins: 43-102, .422/.543/.578 (1.121), 7-2B, 3-HR, 17 RBI
If we’re being honest, Jeffers was clearly on his way to this award, but it was clear that the Twins 2nd-round pick was ready to be pushed to the Midwest League. Jeffers hit for average, he took walks and got on base, and he showed plenty of power. Those things continued after he joined the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
T2. Trevor Casanova, Elizabethton Twins: 48-145, .331/.389/.490 (.879), 14-2B, 3-HR, 16 RBI
Casanova played just one year of high school baseball and then went to three junior colleges before spending a year at El Camino College. He was drafted in 2017 in the 14th round by Seattle, but he chose to go to Cal State-Northridge. The Twins made him their 13th-round pick and sent him as one of four catchers to Elizabethton. He played a little more than half of the time and earned the playing time with his high batting average and doubles power. As he continues to work on his defense, he will be one to watch in Cedar Rapids in 2019. Get to know more about Casanova from his Q&A for Twins Daily.
1. Chris Williams, Elizabethton Twins: 54-214, .252/.372/.500 (.872), 6-2B, 1-3B, 15-HR, 51 RBI
Williams grew up in Southern California and after a strong high school career, he did not have a single Division 1 offer. So, he went to an area junior college and after one year, he moved across the country to play at Clemson University.
In an interview with Twins Daily in late July, Williams discussed the decision to go to Clemson. “Clemson gave me a call and asked if I was interested in leaving California and going to South Carolina to play baseball. All I can remember was being dumbfounded and thinking, What does South Carolina even look like? I had never left home for more than three weeks. But I took a leap of faith, and it was the best three years of my life.”
Over the next three years, Williams played in 211 games for Clemson and hit a combined .276 (.883) with 48 doubles and 44 home runs. He was drafted in the 31st round of the 2017 draft by the Rays but went back for his senior season. This June, the Twins called his name in the eighth round.
Twins minor league director Jeremy Zoll mentioned the Twins scouts finding his potential game-changing tool and took a shot on him. “I think our amateur group identified that there was real power in Chris’s bat and to be able to snag that at that point in the draft was intriguing.”
Since the only defensive position Williams played for Elizabethton was first base, it may surprise many to know that the Twins drafted him as a catcher, and that may be something he gets an opportunity to do starting next month.
According to Zoll, “He’s dealt with some shoulder injuries in college, and he seems to be all squared away now and coming into our fall program, we’re going to explore getting him back behind the dish. That’s only going to help his value long-term.”
Williams reported to Elizabethton where manager Ray Smith took a look at him and inserted him into the middle of the lineup. Smith noted, “ We had situated him into a ‘run producing’ slot early after seeing him a few times and reading the scouting reports. He had shown success (with power) at a good college program, had driven in some runs, hit some long balls for us and we ended up leaving him there for the duration of the year.”
Williams’ 15 home runs led the Appalachian League, and his 51 RBI put him in fourth in the league. Despite the low batting average, he finished in the Top 10 in the league in slugging percentage and OPS.
The numbers match the scouting reports. Zoll adds, “Chris has got crazy raw power. He does a good job when pitches end up in his zone of not missing them, and he showed that from wire to wire in the Appy League. To end up with 15 bombs in short season is pretty cool and speaks to the threat he is in the middle of the order. We saw teams starting to pitch around him at times which only helped that walk total there.”
While he struck out just under 20% of his plate appearances, he walked over 15% of the time too.
His manager noticed. “A lot of that comes from development and application of a hit plan, knowing the strike zone, showing balance and alignment, control of your weight shift, et cetera. Allows you to make adjustments to velocity, spin and location and not get yourself out so much.”
Zoll added, “You can have all the power in the world, but if you don’t find the right place to harness it or get too eager to show it off, it becomes a detriment.”
E-Twins manager Ray Smith discussed how Williams fit into the ideal lineup. “Ideally, you hope to stack your line-up with speed, consistency & some power. Chris supplied us with that power threat in the middle of our lineup. He was especially effective when we had Jeffers and Larnach here for awhile. Got pitched around some late.”
All that being said, Williams had a very nice professional debut with the Elizabethton Twins and was very deserving as the choice for Twins Daily Short-Season Hitter of the Year.
In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily minor league writers:
- Seth Stohs- 1) Chris Williams, 2) Ryan Jeffers, 3) Yunior Severino, 4) Trevor Casanova, 5) Yeltsin Encarnacion
- Jeremy Nygaard- 1) Ryan Jeffers, 2) Chris Williams, 3) Michael Helman, 4) Trevor Larnach, 5) Trevor Casanova
- Cody Christie- 1) Chris Williams, 2) Ryan Jeffers, 3) Trevor Casanova, 4) Colton Burns, 5) Yunior Severino
- Tom Froemming- 1) Chris Williams, 2) Ryan Jeffers, 3) Colton Burns, 4) Trevor Casanova, 5) Alex Robles
- Steve Lein- 1) Chris Williams, 2) Trevor Casanova, 3) Colton Burns, 4) Yunior Severino, 5) DaShawn Keirsey
- Ted Schwerzler- 1) Trevor Casanova, 2) Janigson Villalobos, 3) Yeltsin Encarnacion, 4) DeShawn Keirsey, 5) Tyler Webb
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