12 Prospects Who Could Shape the AL Central for Years to Come
Image courtesy of © Kim Klement - USA TODAY SportsNow, it’s just one list and it definitely differs from some of the other national prospect listings while seeming to favor prospects who are closer to MLB-ready. But the sheer amount of talent that will be premiering in the next year or two will certainly make the AL Central a fun division to watch.
Let’s break it down team by team and see where the Twins sit.
Not surprisingly, the Chicago White Sox led the list with four top-50 prospects:
1) Luis Robert / CF / Age 22 - .328/.376/.624 (A+, AA, AAA)
11) Michael Kopech / RHP / Age 23 (missed 2019 due to Tommy John surgery)
14) Nick Madrigal / 2B / Age 22 - .311/.377/.414 (A+, AA, AAA)
35) Andrew Vaughn / 1B / Age 21 - .278/.384/.449 (Rk, A, A+)
This is an impressive group, especially when you consider that the Sox already have young, star-caliber players like Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez on the MLB roster. Bowden is a bit higher than most prospect lists on these guys, but there’s no denying that Chicago has the making of an exciting young core. Robert will likely open the season as the Sox center fielder after signing a long-term extension and Madrigal isn’t far behind. Kopech, who missed last year with Tommy John surgery, should be ready to join the Sox rotation sometime in 2020, while Vaughn could potentially debut in 2021.
Next up are our very own Minnesota Twins with three representatives:
12) Alex Kirilloff / OF/1B / Age 22 - .283/.343/.413 (AA)
18) Royce Lewis / SS / Age 20 - .236/.290/.371 (A+, AA)
48) Brusdar Graterol /RHP/ Age 21 – 1.91 ERA, 61 IP, 61 SO, 21 BB (Rk, AA, AAA)
Both Kirilloff's and Lewis’s numbers were below what we’d like to see in 2019 but the talent is there. Plus, Lewis’s Arizona Fall League MVP and Kirilloff’s hot finish in the AA playoffs (4 HRs in 4 games) helped ease any doubts about 2019. It’s interesting to see Kirilloff ranked ahead of Lewis but Bowden is a big believer in his bat, comparing Kirilloff to Christian Yelich. Kirilloff is closer to the big leagues than Lewis, but doesn’t currently have a spot and both players could use extra minor league seasoning. It will be exciting to see how the Twins use Graterol throughout 2020, but it looks like he will begin the season where he finished 2019 - in the bullpen.
The Detroit Tigers bring the arms to the table with two exciting righties:
2) Casey Mize / RHP / Age 22 – 2.55 ERA, 109.1 IP, 106 SO, 23 BB (A+, AA)
42) Matt Manning / RHP / Age 21 – 2.56 ERA, 133.2 IP, 148 SO, 38 BB (AA)
Mize was the #1 overall pick of the 2018 MLB Draft and features a five-pitch mix (fastball, slider, curveball, changeup, and splitter). While he is unlikely to begin the season in Detroit’s rotation, he should make his debut sometime his year. Manning, who appears higher on many prospect lists, put up really impressive numbers in AA, but may need a little more time to hone his control. If the Tigers hold on to Matthew Boyd, they could have a formidable 1-2-3 punch as early as next year.
The Kansas City Royals have their own duo of high-upside youngsters:
10) Bobby Witt Jr. / SS / Age 19 - .262/.317/.354 (Rk)
47) Brady Singer / RHP / Age 23 – 2.85 ERA, 148.1 IP, 138 SO, 39 BB
Witt Jr. projects to be a great defensive shortstop with a strong arm (thanks Dad!) who should hit for power. As a 2019 high school draft pick, his timeline is further out, but his natural ability could make him a fast riser. Royals fans shouldn’t have to wait too long to see Singer, who is likely to make his MLB debut this year. The righty has added an improved changeup to his fastball/slider mix, giving Kansas City hope for a front-end starter.
Finally, the Cleveland Indians bring a bat:
Nolan Jones/ 3B / Age 21 - .272/.409/.442 (A+, AA)
Cleveland brings just one top-50 prospect , which is fine by me. Jones certainly knows how to get on base and offers some power to boot. He has a big arm and has improved defensively. Of course, Jose Ramirez is currently entrenched at third, but he could easily slide over to second whenever Jones is deemed ready for the big show.
In addition to already having a really good team, Minnesota is well stocked for the future with plenty of other prospects in the top-100 range (Jordan Balazovic, Trevor Larnach, and Jhoan Duran to name a few). Chicago is certainly on the horizon and a busy offseason may have sped up the process. It's unlikely that all of these prospects will pan out, but the AL Central should have plenty of new talent filtering through in the years to come.
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