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Twins Daily 2018 Top 20 Prospect Countdown: 11-15

As we run through the rest of Twins Daily's second tier of highest-rated prospects before kicking off one-by-one Top 10 profiles on Thursday, you'll find some familiar faces with serious breakthrough potential in 2018.
15. Mitch Garver, C
Age: 27 (DOB: 1/15/91)
2017 Stats (AAA): 372 PA, .291/.387/.541, 17 HR, 45 RBI
ETA: 2018
2017 Ranking: 11

A year ago, we ranked Garver 11th on this list. He went on to post the second-highest OPS in the International League (behind only Rhys Hoskins), rightfully earning Twins Minor League Player of the Year honors. So what's with the slide?

In part, this speaks to the general quality of Minnesota's farm system. But it also points to Garver's ticking clock. He's the oldest player on this list by a big margin. It gets difficult to call someone a top prospect when he's 27 and still hasn't made an impact in the majors. Garver got his feet wet last year but struggled to a .196 average and .636 OPS in 50 plate appearances with the Twins.

In 2018 he is primed to get his full shot, lined up as Jason Castro's timeshare partner behind the plate (a role that got Chris Gimenez plenty of tread). Garver's defense is well regarded and he's proven he can hit at the highest level of the minors, particularly against left-handed pitching. We'll see now if he can do the same in the big leagues. It's not implausible the former 9th-round pick could yet develop into Minnesota's primary long-term catcher after Castro moves on.

14. LaMonte Wade, OF
Age: 24 (DOB: 1/1/94)
2017 Stats (AA): 519 PA, .292/.397/.408, 7 HR, 67 RBI
ETA: 2019
2017 Ranking: 15

Like Garver, Wade was a 9th-round pick who has healthily exceeded expectations as a pro. A lefty-swinging outfielder whose lack of outstanding speed now limits him to the corners, he has made his name on one key skill: getting on base. He posted a .402 OBP between two levels of Single-A in 2016, and last year made the jump to Double-A with a .397 mark that ranked him third in the Southern League.

With his somewhat limited defensive profile, Wade needs to keep producing at the plate, and that will probably require him to add more power. Stellar walk rates in the low minors tend to erode as prospects move closer to the majors, unless they are giving pitchers a reason to fear throwing them strikes. The 24-year-old put up a career-low slugging percentage at Chattanooga, managing only 32 total extra-base hits in more than 500 plate appearances. That probably won't cut it. But with his sturdy lower half, Wade has the build to necessary to start driving the ball with more authority.

Notable slugging improvement at Rochester in 2018 would greatly increase Wade's outlook as an asset, though perhaps more as a trade chip than a future piece. He will have a hard time breaking into Minnesota's outfield as things currently stand.

13. Lewin Diaz, 1B
Age: 21 (DOB: 11/19/96)
2017 Stats (Low A): 508 PA, .292/.329/.444, 12 HR, 68 RBI
ETA: 2021
2017 Ranking: 10

Since being signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.4 million at age 16, Diaz has always maintained a level of lowkey hype in the Twins system despite failing to put up eye-catching numbers. With his big 6-foot-3 frame beginning to fill out as he ages into his 20s, Diaz is turning into the physical prototype for an intimidating force at the dish. But if his numbers don't start reflecting that potential soon, he is doomed to continue his slide on this list after dropping out of the 2017 Top 10.

It wasn't a bad season for Diaz necessarily. Taking on full-season ball for the first time in Cedar Rapids at age 20, he nearly batted .300 and kept the strikeouts in check, with his 15.7% K-rate placing among the ten lowest in the Midwest League. The lefty swinger actually performed better against southpaws, quieting those usual concerns.

But while his ability to make contact and stroke line drives was impressive, Diaz didn't show many other dimensions to his game. Making 321 more plate appearances than he did the previous season in Elizabethton, he hit only three more home runs. He also showed minimal patience, with his 4.9% walk rate ranking second-worst MWL among players with 500+ PA (only 18-year-old Padres prospect Hudson Potts was lower).

Offering minimal defensive value, Diaz needs to hit – and hit a lot – to become a valuable big-leaguer. The Twins still believe he'll get there, but he needs to prove it this year, especially since he'll be Rule 5 eligible again following the season if they don't dedicate a 40-man roster spot to him.

12. Lewis Thorpe, LHP
Age: 22 (DOB: 11/23/95)
2017 Stats (A+/AA): 83 IP, 3.36 ERA, 91/33 K/BB, 1.21 WHIP
ETA: 2019
2017 Ranking: NR

The Twins did make the 40-man commitment to Thorpe last fall, despite not having a ton of information to go on. He threw only 83 total innings in 2017, and that was his highest total since signing out of Australia in 2012. The talented southpaw has been plagued by injuries, which sidelined him for both the 2015 and 2016 seasons in their entirety. But Thorpe's return to the mound last summer went very smoothly.

Spending most his campaign at Ft. Myers after opening in extended spring training, he continued to silence opposing bats as he had before all the missed time, striking out 84 hitters in 77 innings while allowing only three homers. Bringing a potent repertoire from the left side, he induced double-digit whiffs in seven of his final 13 turns, including an August spot start at Double-A where he struck out seven over six frames.

He'll probably start his year at Chattanooga, so Thorpe could quickly emerge as an option for the MLB club. It's not difficult to see parallels between him and Fernando Romero, who returned in 2016 after missing basically two full seasons and has since established himself as one of the team's very best prospects.

11. Zack Littell, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB: 10/5/95)
2017 Stats (A+/AA): 157 IP, 2.12 ERA, 142/41 K/BB, 1.12 WHIP
ETA: 2018
2017 Ranking: NR

Even in an age where the valuation of the almighty "W" among analysts has thankfully diminished greatly, it's hard not to look at Littell's shiny 19-1 record in 2017 and say, "whoa." The right-hander, acquired from the Yankees at the deadline when Minnesota flipped Jaime Garcia, picked up a win in 19 of his 25 starts, a reflection of his masterful performance (17 quality starts).

Littell's numbers have outpaced his prospect luster; he hasn't had any presence on national lists and didn't even make Minor League Ball's Top 20 for the Yankees last year despite going 13-6 with a 2.66 ERA between two levels of A-ball in 2016. But at this point those numbers are getting harder to ignore. He transitioned to Double-A without a hitch, working at least six innings in all but two of his 14 starts with Trenton and Chattanooga while, obviously, delivering sterling results.

Having said that, Littell comes close to cracking the Top 10 more because of his floor than his ceiling. As good as his numbers have been in the minors, few believe he'll achieve remotely similar outcomes in the bigs with his 89-91 MPH fastball and unspectacular secondaries. Having a great feel for the craft of pitching shouldn't be overlooked, as it can make up for shortcomings with stuff. That's certainly been the case for Littell the past two years. We'll see if he can carry it over to Triple-A and – perhaps, in the latter half of the summer, Target Field?

Twins Daily Top 20 Prospects 2018

20. Felix Jorge, RHP
19. Tyler Jay, LHP
18. Yunior Severino, 2B
17. Travis Blankenhorn, 2B/3B
16. Ben Rortvedt, C
15. Mitch Garver, C
14. LaMonte Wade, OF
13. Lewin Diaz, 1B
12. Lewis Thorpe, LHP
11. Zack Littell, RHP
10. Coming Thursday!

Read profiles of 16-20 here

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19 Comments

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FormerMinnasotan
Feb 07 2018 12:57 AM
I think by season’s end Lewis Thorpe will be in the top 5 prospects for the Twins. I see him coming out the gates in Chattanooga stronger than Fernando Romero did last year as Thorpe’s game is not so much power as it is using his 4 pitch arsenal (fastball, change, curve, slider). Thorpe finally has had a healthy off season to improve his craft, something he hasn’t had since 2014, so he should show the improvement most scouts felt he would have on his command/control and his improvement in his curve and slider. Thorpe very well could be another top of the rotation prospect. Of course though he has to stay healthy...
    • Steve Lein, ThejacKmp, bluechipper and 3 others like this

Kind of an uninspiring group from 11-15.These kinds of lists also still reflect the relative youth of the big league lineup, which brings guys slightly further up a ranking than they would otherwise be.But it's baseball, so you know at least one of these guys will develop into a solid big leaguer.Diaz and Thorpe certainly appear to have precious "upside" at least.

    • SF Twins Fan likes this

I'm extremely optimistic that most of 11-15 either slid a bit or was NR last year.If anyone thought we had a good or above average farm system last year, then it should be clear we have a very good one now.

    • Original Whizzinator likes this

15. Mitch Garver, C - I really liked your explanation of his drop.You are right.By age 27 you should be in the bigs or you are on a path to be Crash Davis.I hope takes his opportunity and makes something of it.
14. LaMonte Wade, OF - As I read your description I kept thinking Grossman.Without the OPS there is nothing to recommend him, but then Grossman has made a career out of it.
13. Lewin Diaz, 1B - still lots of hype, but nothing to grab on to.Lets hope he finds a turning point this year.
12. Lewis Thorpe, LHP - he has been written about so much I keep thinking he is older than his actual age.I can only go with what all of you have written since I have not seen him throw and he has not shown us a really healthy stretch.
11. Zack Littell, RHP - This was a great pick up.As a Wins do Count guy, I am very impressed.You have to pitch long enough to qualify for a win and do well enough to leave with the lead.But his raw numbers do not say star in MLB.Good luck to Zack.

 

I am so pleased, again, to have you break things down for the rest of us.This was fascinating and I look forward to your next list.The only question I have for these ten is this:

​How many of them are really expected to make the bigs and how many are supposed to do something good when they do?

    • Nick Nelson, Dantes929, lsh and 2 others like this

Great list Nick!I'm always afraid to buy into the hype for guys who have been injured for so long.Not sure if it's better they were injured at a young age where they can rebound better, or if it's a sign we have injury prone prospects.Romero and Thorpe both have been injured or hampered for a the greater part of their young careers.Are there any analytics on players who have been able to crack the bigs that have been out for so long while in the minors?...that being said, yes, I've bought into the hype for Romero and Thorpe.

 

Diaz swings a nice bat.Seems to be a decent enough first baseman, but man, he is the opposite of fast.You're right when you said, he needs to hit and hit a lot in order to crack the bigs.Who knows, he may develop a solid power swing.Weird that a guy that young already qualified for the Rule V draft.

 

On Littell, and Moya I guess, why were the Yankees so quick to trade off Littell (fan choice for MiLB pitcher of the year) and Gabriel Moya (MiLB relief pitcher of the year) for a mid-level rental pitcher?I've read both of their numbers don't reflect their actual ability.Are they the anomaly in this new world of analytics?

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ashburyjohn
Feb 07 2018 09:26 AM

On Littell, and Moya I guess, why were the Yankees so quick to trade off Littell (fan choice for MiLB pitcher of the year) and Gabriel Moya (MiLB relief pitcher of the year) for a mid-level rental pitcher?

Moya came to us from Arizona in exchange for catcher JR Murphy.

This group looks nice. Garver and Wade seem to be back-ups but that's not a horrible thing. Wade might be underrated a bit around here because of the things he can't do while we are ignoring the thing he can do very well - not make outs. 

 

Diaz and Thorpe are the two guys with upside. Thorpe might be close, actually. I think he'll start the year in AA. Diaz is apparently better than his stats so far but it would be nice if his stats improved this year. 

 

Littel seems like he'll make his ML debut this year. He could be another solid innings eating back-end starter that we used to collect. That's not a bad thing.

    • bluechipper likes this

The ranking of Garver has actually been the most baffling thing to me this year.He was old for his level last year, and every other year.Now he destroyed AAA - where I would say age to league no longer means much of anything - but the argument is now that he's too old.

 

I used to think he was ranked too high, mostly because of his age and questions about defense.I've been encouraged by reports of his defense solidifying, but now he's kind of an afterthought.

 

I get why national rankers more or less ignore guys that are 26 or 27.But it's not that strange for a catcher to be fairly old before making an impact at the MLB level.About a quarter of the dozenish catchers to put up 2+ WAR last season didn't get a regular job until they were at least 27 (Austin Barnes, Robinson Chirinos, and Manny Piña specifically).There's no reason to think that Garver's not still a prospect and doesn't have time to make an impact.

    • gagu likes this

Thorpe is the best guy on this part of the list....he's a legit MLB starter, imo (based on nothing....but when did that stop anyone on the interwebs)

 

Garver should be at least a solid backup catcher, if not more.

 

Wade will get starts for some team someplace.

 

I have never liked the Diaz signing, so I feel too biased to comment, but maybe some actual results would be nice.

 

Littel? I doubt he's ever much more than a AAAA player, gets some MLB time here and there, but is the guy that goes back and forth between MLB and AAA, mostly in AAA. That said, who knows? Maybe he has some insane something that will translate.

 

Nice list, the inclusion of Thorpe, Garver, and Wade make this part for me. All three are MLB players.

    • Dantes929 and Oxtung like this
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ashburyjohn
Feb 07 2018 11:17 AM

Littel? I doubt he's ever much more than a AAAA player, gets some MLB time here and there, but is the guy that goes back and forth between MLB and AAA, mostly in AAA. That said, who knows? Maybe he has some insane something that will translate.

He's now been traded twice for legitimate major league pitching, so evidently the scouts see something.

    • howieramone2 likes this

If Thorpe stays healthy for a full season this ranking will look low in retrospect, but his history makes this the right sort of spot for him. I want to believe, and I'm really rooting for him but injury history can be hard.

 

This will be Garver's last year on a prospect list, since he's almost certainly going to graduate to the big club. Let's hope his cup of coffee helped him acclimate and a defined and consistent role helps him get off to a good start. If he gets 200 ABs this year and can out-hit Gimenez, that will be a nice result.

 

Littell is interesting. The performance has been impressive. He's pitched in 5 different leagues in 2 years and done well in all of them. Control slipped a little when he came to the MN system, but that could be SSS, it could be league adjustment, trade adjustment...who knows? Rochester seems like the right place for him to start, and if he keeps mowing his way through lineups, you have to think he could be a factor in the rotation in the second half of the year. Maybe he's going to be one of those guys who gets just enough Ks, doesn't give up the HRs, doesn't walk too many guys, doesn't get hit real hard and just chews through unspectacular outings time after time. It will be interesting to see if he can get deep into games consistently; he still doesn't have a ton of innings.

    • Mike Sixel, David HK, howieramone2 and 4 others like this

Lewis Thorpe will be a top 5 prospect by mid-season this year. LaMonte Wade will be Grossman's replacement at some point late in the season. 

 

Moya came to us from Arizona in exchange for catcher JR Murphy.

 

 

Haaaa!!!I'm better than that.Thanks for the correction.I was thinking Moya instead of Enns for some reason.

    • ashburyjohn likes this
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Parker Hageman
Feb 07 2018 02:08 PM

I think there is a big unknown in the public realm about what Zack Littell is packing on the mound, mostly because the gen pop doesn't have access to spin rates and the other statcast metrics that teams do, but I tend to think the Twins tapped him because of some of those underlying metrics that they have access to which we do not. 

 

The Twins have had their system-wide trackman in the minors before a lot of other teams and probably have a longer background of data of those opponents. MLB Pipeline alluded to it but it sounds like Littell has one of those lower velo/high spin fastballs which gets plenty of swinging strikes and weak contact. 

 

I think most prospect evaluators have viewed Littell's curveball very much as a plus pitch. Small sample sure but I think you can get a feel for the movement and the hitter's reaction on these two clips.

 

 

So we don't know where LIttell's fastball spin rate sits. Let's assume it is above 2450 RPM making it one of the top rates in the league. 

 

It is really kind of hard to find an existing comp for that -- a high-spin, low heat velo fastball and big curve. Most of the ones that sort of fall under that are aging variety (Matt Cains, Jake Peavys) or are left-handed. Zack Grienke has also been that pitcher with his fastball the last five seasons, but he also has three plus pitches to draw from after that. What's more is all of those pitchers once had much better velocity and grew experience before reducing to that velocity level.

 

The younger(ish) upside comp might be Dylan Bundy, with a low-90s fastball and big curveball, or perhaps Tyler Chatwood. 

 

The wild card here is if he can hone in on that third pitch. Some evaluators have said the changeup looks good at times and he's just started using the slider more. If not, a two-pitch combination can play well as a reliever.  

 

He's a super intriguing prospect to me and I'm looking forward to seeing more from him.

 

    • Nick Nelson, gunnarthor, howieramone2 and 2 others like this

I should have posted this earlier... but here are where the four of us ranked these five players:

 

Mitch Garver: Seth (16), Nick (11), Cody (15), Tom (15)

LaMonte Wade: Seth (13), Nick (10), Cody (16), Tom (16)

Lewin Diaz: Seth (11), Nick (18), Cody (10), Tom (13)

Lewis Thorpe: Seth (12), Nick (13), Cody (11), Tom (14)

Zack Littell: Seth (14), Nick (15), Cody (9), Tom (8)

 

My quick thoughts:

 

Garver's role may be as a backup, but his offense should be good enough that we could feel really good about him as a starter.

Wade has a chance to be really good. He's got the approach, speed, defense.. And he absolutely has the power, it just hasn't shown up in games yet. His floor is probably 4th OF, but he can be a starter. Also, him getting a NRI this year says a lot too.

Diaz has a chance. I know he's a first baseman. He's not fast. That's the only place he can play (besides DH), but I think he's got a ton of power potential that we haven't seen yet. We may not see it in 2018, but it's there. I also think he can be more than "just" a power hitter. Good swing to the whole field.

Thorpe just needs to stay healthy and get innings. Probably starts in AA, but could get to AAA. I don't think he jumps to the Top 5 like some suggest, but he should be Top 8 or so next year.

Littell can spin the ball, as Parker pointed out, and that's important. No one projects him to be a top-of-the-rotation type, but he can be a #3 maybe... and there's a ton of value in that!

    • gunnarthor, gagu and Tom Froemming like this

 

The ranking of Garver has actually been the most baffling thing to me this year.He was old for his level last year, and every other year.Now he destroyed AAA - where I would say age to league no longer means much of anything - but the argument is now that he's too old.

 

I used to think he was ranked too high, mostly because of his age and questions about defense.I've been encouraged by reports of his defense solidifying, but now he's kind of an afterthought.

 

I get why national rankers more or less ignore guys that are 26 or 27.But it's not that strange for a catcher to be fairly old before making an impact at the MLB level.About a quarter of the dozenish catchers to put up 2+ WAR last season didn't get a regular job until they were at least 27 (Austin Barnes, Robinson Chirinos, and Manny Piña specifically).There's no reason to think that Garver's not still a prospect and doesn't have time to make an impact.

Thanks for doing the research on age, 2wins. I was going to do the same thing after reading the comments. You saved me a good hour.

I know that Garver is still a prospect, but I don't even think of him that way. He will be a very solid backup catcher for several years. I don't really have any doubts, and never did, about this.

 

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youngpadawan
Feb 07 2018 09:08 PM
I find it kind of silly that Thorpe isn't a top 5 or at least top 10 prospect in our system. When on the field, he has done little to warrant a slide. If it is a health thing then you would think Romero would sit lower too. He has missed 2 years and at 22 is already at AA. It is possible he would have received his first cup of coffee this last season if he didn't have a delayed surgery and mono.

Rankings are just rankings and they are fun. I always look forward to them and love the debates about them. I just don't get the hesitation of putting him back where he was pre(vacation). He seems like a fair bet to be a pretty dominant lefty. There just aren't alot of those around.

 

If Thorpe stays healthy for a full season this ranking will look low in retrospect, but his history makes this the right sort of spot for him. I want to believe, and I'm really rooting for him but injury history can be hard.

 

This will be Garver's last year on a prospect list, since he's almost certainly going to graduate to the big club. Let's hope his cup of coffee helped him acclimate and a defined and consistent role helps him get off to a good start. If he gets 200 ABs this year and can out-hit Gimenez, that will be a nice result.

 

Littell is interesting. The performance has been impressive. He's pitched in 5 different leagues in 2 years and done well in all of them. Control slipped a little when he came to the MN system, but that could be SSS, it could be league adjustment, trade adjustment...who knows? Rochester seems like the right place for him to start, and if he keeps mowing his way through lineups, you have to think he could be a factor in the rotation in the second half of the year. Maybe he's going to be one of those guys who gets just enough Ks, doesn't give up the HRs, doesn't walk too many guys, doesn't get hit real hard and just chews through unspectacular outings time after time. It will be interesting to see if he can get deep into games consistently; he still doesn't have a ton of innings.

Re: Littell-it sounds like you described Brad Radke to a T


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