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2018 Prospect Rankings: Baseball Prospectus

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2017-18 non-Twins MLB Off-Season Transactions Thread

Other Baseball Today, 11:51 AM
I thought I'd get this going now (and pin it), even though we still have a few weeks to go. Please use this thread to track MLB NON-TWINS...
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Twins Daily 2016 Minor League Starting Pitcher Of The Year

I think it would be fair to say that the biggest issue for the Minnesota Twins in 2016 (and well, since like 2011) has been starting pitching. As the majority of the Twins hitting prospects have reached the big leagues, most of the top prospects in the Twins system are starting pitchers. There is a lot of talent and most of them had very good seasons in 2016. Today, we hand out our award for 2016 Minnesota Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year.
Image courtesy of Kelly McGlohon, 27 Outs
Below, you’ll find short profiles of our top five starting pitchers, but first, some players worthy of honorable mention.

Honorable Mention
  • Randy LeBlanc, Cedar Rapids/Fort Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts: 24 G, 23 GS, 12-9, 1 Save, 2.64 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 140.0 IP, 123 H, 37 BB, 87 K.
  • Aaron Slegers, Chattanooga Lookouts: 25 GS, 10-7, 3.41 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 145.1 IP, 137 H, 46 BB, 104 K.
  • Kohl Stewart, Fort Myers Miracle, Chattanooga Lookouts: 25 GS, 12-8, 2.88 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 143.2 IP, 130 H, 63 BB, 91 K.
  • DJ Baxendale, Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings: 37 G, 14 GS, 8-8, 2.79 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 116.0 IP, 110 H, 24 BB, 99 K.
Pitcher of the Year

Here are the top six vote getters for Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year.

#5 – Jason Wheeler, Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings: 28 GS, 12-7, 3.30 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 169.1 IP, 157 H, 40 BB, 135 K.


If there were such a thing, Jason Wheeler might be the comeback minor league player of the year in the Twins system. Added to the 40-man roster after the 2014 season, he struggled mightily in 2015 in AAA before being sent down to AA and later taken off the 40-man roster. But really, since then he has pitched very well. He was the MVP of the Southern League championship series in 2015. He began this year in Chattanooga where he walked three and struck out 22 in 24 innings over four starts. He was promoted to Rochester where he was terrific. In fact, he was chosen to start the AAA All Star game for the International League. While he slowed later in the year, he went 11-6 with a 3.53 ERA. Wheeler will turn 26 in October. I’m a little surprised that he wasn’t promoted to make a few more starts for the Twins in September. He was the Twins eighth-round pick in 2011 out of Loyola-Marymount.


#4 – Fernando Romero, Cedar Rapids Kernels/Fort Myers Miracle: 16 GS, 9-3, 1.89 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 90.1 IP, 66 H, 15 BB, 90 K.

It was a long road to recovery, but Romero came back as strong (OK, probably stronger) than ever. In May of 2014, Romero was a 19-year-old flame thrower promoted to Cedar Rapids. He made just three starts for the Kernels before being shut down. Soon after, he had Tommy John surgery. He missed the remainder of that season and all of 2015, in part due to needing a knee surgery too. The Twins had him start this year in extended spring before promoting him to the Kernels in mid-May, almost exactly two years after he went there the first time. In five starts (and 28 innings) for the Kernels, he posted a 1.93 ERA and 25/5 K/BB rate. He was quickly promoted to Ft. Myers where he continued to pitch very well. In 11 starts (62.1 innings), he posted an ERA of 1.88 with a 65/10 K/BB rate. Romero has very good control of a fastball that sits 95-97 and touches 98 at times. His secondary stuff is a work-in-progress, but doing well. He’s got a good changeup and a slider with real potential. When it comes to potential, Romero has the ability to be a future ace. Romero needs to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason or he will likely be selected in the Rule 5 draft.


#3 – Felix Jorge, Ft. Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts: 25 GS, 12-8, 2.69 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 167.1 IP, 159 H, 23 BB, 109 K.

As you recall, Jorge’s first stint in Cedar Rapids in 2014 did not go well. He returned to EST and was the Appy League Pitcher of the Year that year. He returned to Cedar Rapids in 2015 and was good again. In fact, he finished fifth in last year’s Starting Pitcher voting. He took that success to another level in 2016. While Jorge doesn’t yet get a lot of strikeouts, he is a strike-throwing machine who hits 92-94 on his fastball and has a good changeup and curve ball. He was fantastic with the Miracle. In 14 starts (93 innings), he went 9-3 with a 1.55 ERA. Over his final seven starts with the Miracle, he was 7-0 with a 1.13 ERA. He earned his promotion to AA, though he found some rougher times with the Lookouts. After a slow start, however, he had a stretch of seven games in which he gave up three runs or fewer. And, he ended the season giving up one run over nine innings. In 11 starts, 74.1 innings with the Lookouts, he went 3-5 with a 4.12 ERA. His 167.1 innings was just two behind Jason Wheeler for the organization lead. The Twins were able to get away with not putting Jorge on the 40-man roster last offseason, but one would have to wonder if he would be lost if left unprotected again.


#2 – Jose Berrios, Rochester Red Wings: 17 GS, 10-5, 2.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 111.1 IP, 74 H, 36 BB, 125 K.

While Jose Berrios has struggled to a 9+ ERA in his three stints with the Twins in 2016, he showed again that he is capable of dominating AAA hitters. Berrios, who was our choice for Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2014and 2015, struggled some with command and control at times, even in AAA, but a quick look at his numbers reminds us of how good he could be when he is in complete control. Berrios went to spring training with a real opportunity to make the big league starting rotation. Things would have had to play out almost perfectly, but control issues pushed him to AAA. He made three starts before being summoned to the big leagues, weeks before his 22nd birthday. After four starts, he was optioned to Rochester where he had three real good starts and two poor starts before catching fire. Over his next eight starts, he posted a 1.46 ERA in 55.1 innings. In that time, he struck out 60 and walked 15. He earned another promotion to the Twins but again struggled mightily. He was sent back to Rochester and in one start he walked one and struck out 14 over eight innings. He’s back with the Twins and looking to figure things out in the big leagues. There’s no real question that he’ll be a quality major league starting pitcher, but the 22-year-old needs to work through a few things (like most pitchers) before he gets there.



Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year – Stephen Gonsalves, Ft. Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts: 24 GS, 13-5, 2.06 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 140.0 IP, 86 H, 57 BB, 155 K.

A year ago, Stephen Gonsalves finished runner-up to Jose Berrios for Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. That’s certainly nothing to sneeze at. In 2015, Gonsalves went 13-3 with a 2.01 ERA between Low-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Ft. Myers. He pitched to very similar numbers in 2016 only he split the time between Ft. Myers and AA Chattanooga.


Coming into the minor league season, we talked a lot about the starting rotation in Ft. Myers. Gonsalves was the Miracle Opening Day starter, but Kohl Stewart, Tyler Jay, Felix Jorge and Randy Rosario were also part of the rotation. In the first inning of his Opening Day start, Gonsalves gave up a three-run homer. He gave up a total of three earned runs over his next 41.2 innings. Gonsalves was selected to the Florida State League All-Star team and worked a scoreless second inning.


He was promoted to Chattanooga in late June. In his first two starts with the Lookouts, he was charged with eight runs in 8.2 innings. He then gave up just seven earned runs over his final 11 starts (65.2 innings). Over the weekend he was named our August Starting Pitcher of the Month. In that month, he went 4-0 with a 0.28 ERA. He had also won that award in April.

Recently we learned that he will represent the Twins in the Arizona Fall League where he should be able to work another 25 innings or so, getting him to 165 on the season. That would mean that he could be ready for 180-190 innings in 2017, when he will be vying for a rotation spot in the big leagues at some point.


In chatting with Gonsalves in spring training, he had again worked out with the likes of James Shields and Stephen Strasburg in San Diego. One thing that was very important to him was finding an improved breaking ball. He worked on a cutter/slider type of pitch that he’s now able to use at a couple of different speeds, depending upon the situation. That pitch really helped him boost his strikeout rate. Right-handed batters hit just .174 (.511) off of him while left-handers hit .194 (.582). Overall, opponents hit just .179/.269/.258 (.527) against him.


Gonsalves was the Twins 4th round pick in 2014 out of high school in San Diego. He turned 22 in July, and it’s possible he could be in the big leagues by the time he’s 23.


There were some fantastic starting pitcher performances from Twins minor leaguers throughout the system in 2016, even more than you see above. That said, Gonsalves was the clear-cut choice for this award. Congrats to all these pitchers on a fantastic season that was loads of fun to follow.


The Ballots

These awards were voted on by the Twins Daily minor league report writers. In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily minor league writers:
  • Seth Stohs – 1) Stephen Gonsalves, 2) Fernando Romero, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Felix Jorge, 5) Jason Wheeler, 6) Randy LeBlanc
  • Jeremy Nygaard – 1) Stephen Gonsalves, 2) Fernando Romero, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Jason Wheeler, 5) Felix Jorge, 6) Randy LeBlanc
  • Cody Christie – 1) Stephen Gonsalves, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Felix Jorge, 4) Jason Wheeler, 5) Randy LeBlanc, 6) DJ Baxendale
  • Steve Lein – 1) Stephen Gonsalves, 2) Fernando Romero, 3) Felix Jorge, 4) Jose Berrios, 5) Jason Wheeler, 6) Kohl Stewart
  • Eric Pleiss – 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Stephen Gonsalves, 3) Jason Wheeler, 4) Felix Jorge, 5) Aaron Slegers 6) Kohl Stewart.
Feel free to discuss. How would your ballot look?


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18 Comments

Revisionist thinking is always interesting, but I remember being down the Twins didn't grab Gonsalves in the 2nd round. Man was I happy when they later snagged him and felt they got a potentially huge steal.

Despite a rough introduction to the majors, Berrios has everything needed to be successful. So does Gonsalves. Jury is still out on Stewart and Jay, but the talent is there. Jorge looks good, Romero excellent. Man, if he could follow the fast tracks of Berrios and Gonsalves next season, things start to look bright.

Congratulations to Gonsalves.Will need to see in the next 2 years how many of these are prospects and how many are suspects. 

Still do not see Wheeler as more than a stopgap, though he may function as that in the next couple of years, but would not add to 40 man unless I had extra spots(and I do not think I will)

Some great seasons, but Gonsalves clearly had the best. Congrats to him and everyone on this list. 

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SarasotaBill
Sep 07 2016 09:48 AM

Wheeler not added to 40 because they're probably not sure if he'll remain on the 40 during the off season.

 

Rather a club have to put Wheeler on their 25 for a year than put him on their 40.

Just for fun, here are the rankings for the last couple of years:

 

2015:

#1 - Jose Berrios

#2 - Stephen Gonsalves

#3 - Tyler Duffey

#4 - Mat Batts

#5 - Felix Jorge

#6 - Pat Dean

 

 

2014

#1 - Jose Berrios

#2 - Jason Wheeler

#3 - Taylor Rogers

#4 - Tyler Duffey

#5 - Chih-Wei Hu

#6 - Trevor May

 

2013:

#1 - Taylor Rogers

#2 - Andrew Albers

#3 - Brett Lee

#4 - Kyle Gibson

#5 - Matt Summers

 

2012

#1 - BJ Hermsen

#2 - Liam Hendriks

#3 - Jason Wheeler

#4 - Esmerling Vasquez

#5 - David Hurlbut

#6 - Matt Tomshaw 

    • scottz and Tom Froemming like this

Not clear to me how Romero could be behind Jorge. Romero is better on every metric except maybe innings pitched and BBs, the latter of which which they are basically tied on. Id' probably put Romero second ahead of Berrios, although that is pretty debateable.So I don't get it at all. Cody and Eric I'm looking at you.

    • Tom Froemming likes this
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howieramone2
Sep 07 2016 10:53 AM

 

Revisionist thinking is always interesting, but I remember being down the Twins didn't grab Gonsalves in the 2nd round. Man was I happy when they later snagged him and felt they got a potentially huge steal.

Despite a rough introduction to the majors, Berrios has everything needed to be successful. So does Gonsalves. Jury is still out on Stewart and Jay, but the talent is there. Jorge looks good, Romero excellent. Man, if he could follow the fast tracks of Berrios and Gonsalves next season, things start to look bright.

Could you be specific? He has shown me absolutely nothing, and I'm trying to figure out if Mejia or Berrios with be the first man up, or if our favorite team will spoon feed Berrios as a long man. 

Boy do we need some of these guys to go from prospect to star. More than a bit scary how few of our top SP have put up even decent ML numbers. Let's hope Hu doesn't have the most success. Twins pitching staff is a total mess so the new GM has to do a good job of keeping the best and trading off the rest.

 

Not clear to me how Romero could be behind Jorge. Romero is better on every metric except maybe innings pitched and BBs, the latter of which which they are basically tied on. Id' probably put Romero second ahead of Berrios, although that is pretty debateable.So I don't get it at all. Cody and Eric I'm looking at you.

 

I had Romero #2, but I don't think we can or should completely ignore the 80 inning difference in innings pitched. Hard to predict what Romero would have done over those 80 innings (hypothetically speaking)... maybe Romero gets pushed up to AA and struggles there to the same level as Jorge did. 

    • WLFINN likes this
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FormerMinnasotan
Sep 07 2016 02:57 PM
I would have had Lachlan Wells up there my self. A 1.77 ERA and one of the main cogs in the surprising Cedar Rapids staff. Not to mention he is only 19. With his growth (now 6'1ish" 185 or so) there is potential for his stuff to get better ala Lewis Thorpe. Just my opinion. Can't really argue with the picks though. Pretty solid top to bottom.

I know we're a bit down on Berrios but he absolutely dominated AAA and had better numbers and better scouting reports than Gonsalves, who was facing inferior competition.  

This is a "reward" for how they did, not how they are going to do in the future, isn't it?

    • WLFINN likes this
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FormerMinnasotan
Sep 07 2016 04:34 PM
Next year will be interesting for our minor league prospects. At this point Stephen Gonsalves looks to be a lock to join the Twins rotation. The big question is, will he struggle mightily or will he have as smooth as a transition as he did from A+ ball to AA ball.

And also for next year how far will Fernando Romero go? He HAS to be added to the 40 man for next year or we lose him for sure. And what happens if he pitches as lights out as he did in Ft Myers? With an overpowering fastball and developing slider if he has a partial season in Chattanooga like the ones he had in Cedar Rapids and Ft Myers it will be awfully temping to bring him straight to the majors from AA.

Well, at least the first rounder Stewart got an honorable mention. All the pitchers on the lists since 2012, and none have become stars. And Gibson is getting Blackburn worse now too........ what a sad state of affairs from such a touted farm, eh?

 

Well, at least the first rounder Stewart got an honorable mention. All the pitchers on the lists since 2012, and none have become stars. And Gibson is getting Blackburn worse now too........ what a sad state of affairs from such a touted farm, eh?

Tad early to write off these guys.Guys like Appel, Zimmer, Fried from the 2012 draft still haven't made the majors either and although a few guys like Gausman and Heaney have, they certainly haven't become stars yet.

    • howieramone2 likes this

 

I know we're a bit down on Berrios but he absolutely dominated AAA and had better numbers and better scouting reports than Gonsalves, who was facing inferior competition.  

 

I don't think anyone is down on Berrios at all. But Gonsalves was better in 2016. Yes, Berrios pitched at a higher level, but he also pitched in the big leagues and had less minor league innings. Also, this 'award' has nothing to do with prospect status.

 

This is a "reward" for how they did, not how they are going to do in the future, isn't it?

 

It's an award/reward for what they did on the field/mound this year. Who performed best at the level they pitched at.

Just for fun, here are the rankings for the last couple of years:
 
2015:
#1 - Jose Berrios
#2 - Stephen Gonsalves
#3 - Tyler Duffey
#4 - Mat Batts
#5 - Felix Jorge
#6 - Pat Dean
 
 
2014
#1 - Jose Berrios
#2 - Jason Wheeler
#3 - Taylor Rogers
#4 - Tyler Duffey
#5 - Chih-Wei Hu
#6 - Trevor May
 
2013:
#1 - Taylor Rogers
#2 - Andrew Albers
#3 - Brett Lee
#4 - Kyle Gibson
#5 - Matt Summers
 
2012
#1 - BJ Hermsen
#2 - Liam Hendriks
#3 - Jason Wheeler
#4 - Esmerling Vasquez
#5 - David Hurlbut
#6 - Matt Tomshaw


Looking through those names, it surely brings ones expectations into check for this year's batch. Many of those guys couldn't even dominate at AAA, mutch less be effective in the bigs. When Gibson is the best one, you know someone isn't doing a good job somewhere along the line.

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