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12 Prospects Who Could Shape the AL Central for Years to Come

In reading Jim Bowden’s top-50 prospect rankings at the Athletic, one thing really popped out at me. Of the 50 top prospects, 12 of them came from the AL Central. Given the lack of great teams and abundance of high draft picks, I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising, but that gives AL Central teams about a quarter of the top prospects while representing just 1/6th of baseball.
Image courtesy of © Kim Klement - USA TODAY Sports
Now, 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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11 Comments

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RochesterDave
Jan 24 2020 09:32 PM
Looking forward to hopefully seeing Kirilloff, Lewis and Graterol this year, plus perhaps Larnach. The Twins highly rated farm system has been mainly in the lower levels and all we have really seen is Gordon (way overrated) , Cave and La Tortuga the last two years.

 

Looking forward to hopefully seeing Kirilloff, Lewis and Graterol this year, plus perhaps Larnach. The Twins highly rated farm system has been mainly in the lower levels and all we have really seen is Gordon (way overrated) , Cave and La Tortuga the last two years.

 

I think it's hard to make a case of Gordon being overrated or underrated due to the fact that he hasn't been in a single major league game. Sure his minor league numbers aren't all that impressive, but there have been many cases of guys performing much better in the majors compared to their minor league numbers.

    • MN_ExPat likes this
We still saw last year that pitching wins. Not a lot of pitchers on this list. Many times high end pitching prospects never pan out and a lesser prospect figures something out and is extremely effect.
The central the next decade will depend on who can develop pitching. A lot of young hitting on the horizon, the Twins are no exception.
    • birdwatcher likes this
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Patrick Wozniak
Jan 24 2020 11:11 PM

 

We still saw last year that pitching wins. Not a lot of pitchers on this list. Many times high end pitching prospects never pan out and a lesser prospect figures something out and is extremely effect.
The central the next decade will depend on who can develop pitching. A lot of young hitting on the horizon, the Twins are no exception.

The Twins also have Balazovic and Duran who both made Baseball America's top 100 that was just released. But yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the less heralded college pitching prospects like Cole Sands or Matt Canterino make a future rotation. I do think the FO has put a good system in place and I expect the Twins will have success in developing starters.

    • MN_ExPat, DannySD and JDubs like this
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Richard Swerdlick
Jan 25 2020 06:00 AM

I keep thinking about last year's Cleveland team. In the 2nd half of the season they started 3 pitchers from the 2016 draft and all did well. That is the model that I believe we are following. 

    • birdwatcher likes this
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RochesterDave
Jan 25 2020 07:55 AM


MNT1996
Today, 03:44 AM


RochesterDave, on 24 Jan 2020 - 10:32 PM, said:
Looking forward to hopefully seeing Kirilloff, Lewis and Graterol this year, plus perhaps Larnach. The Twins highly rated farm system has been mainly in the lower levels and all we have really seen is Gordon (way overrated) , Cave and La Tortuga the last two years.

I think it's hard to make a case of Gordon being overrated or underrated due to the fact that he hasn't been in a single major league game. Sure his minor league numbers aren't all that impressive, but there have been many cases of guys performing much better in the majors compared to their minor league numbers.

I agree with you completely that certain minor leaguers rise to the major league occasion. Over the years , two Red Wings who had better careers than most imagined were Denard Span and Trevor Plouffe. The eye sometimes tells you much more than any stats. In Nick Gordon’s case, I am not impressed by his lack of hustle, instincts or clutch hitting. He rarely dives for a ball and at the end of a game, his uni is as clean as at the start. His stats were better in 2019 than previously and I do hope that he continues to improve. However at this point I think he will be part of package at the trade deadline. His 5th overall pick in the draft plus Kohl Stewart’s # 4 overall amplifies how much better the Twins FO is now with Falvine in charge!!
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howieramone2
Jan 25 2020 08:03 AM
The Astros drafted 1-1 two years in a row. The first is out of baseball. Last I heard, the second is injury prone and/or buried in A ball.
    • USNMCPO and dbminn like this
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The Wise One
Jan 25 2020 08:38 AM

Shane Bieber. Unranked as a prospect

Clevinger unranked as a prospect

Plesac unranked as a prospect. 

Civale unranked as a prospect

It is hard to put too much stock in a prospect ranking when they miss so many. Cleveland's future is tied to those 4. It is good for them that they were not too concerned with rankings

    • ashbury, Twins33, DocBauer and 3 others like this

Tarik Skubal is another Tiger SP prospect in the Baseball America Top 50. He will be in the MLB Top 50 after they reveal their list this afternoon. He's already shown as their 4th best LHP prospect for 2020.

 

Skubal started nine AA games at the end of 2019 and averaged 17.5 K/9. Add Spencer Turnbull and Matt Boyd to Skubal, Mize and Manning and the Tigers will have a high upside rotation in 2021. Thankfully, their position players will still be bad.

    • birdwatcher and Patrick Wozniak like this
I wonder if Luis Roberts makes immediate impact or takes a couple of years to just $100 million cost before he plays one game in the big leagues?
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Patrick Wozniak
Jan 25 2020 07:30 PM

 

Shane Bieber. Unranked as a prospect

Clevinger unranked as a prospect

Plesac unranked as a prospect. 

Civale unranked as a prospect

It is hard to put too much stock in a prospect ranking when they miss so many. Cleveland's future is tied to those 4. It is good for them that they were not too concerned with rankings

I agree with your sentiment and we've already seen that happen with guys like Arraez, plus guys like Dobnak and Smeltzer who were better than expected last year. The system the Twins have in place and the fact that Falvey comes from and is responsible for some of that pitching success in Cleveland bodes well for future Minnesota rotations.

    • DocBauer likes this