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Charley Walters: Twins-Saints partnership talks quietly o...

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Twins Scrimmage Highlights

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If you missed the live stream of Thursday's scrimmage, here's a quick roundup of highlights:  
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Take Landis Name off the MVP Award

Other Baseball Today, 08:46 AM
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Best-Case Scenarios for New Twins 40-Man Additions

A 40-man roster spot is a precious commodity, especially for a contenting team. When prospects are added during the offseason, it says something about the organization's belief in those talents, and their potential MLB impact.

As we size up the five newly rostered players, what types of roles might they play in the franchise's near future?
By nature, entering the 40-man roster puts prospects in position for a somewhat imminent arrival in the big leagues. Once added, a player can only be optioned in three different seasons before the club is essentially forced to keep him in the majors or lose him.

So the clock is now ticking for Jhoan Duran, Dakota Chalmers, Luke Raley, Gilberto Celestino, and Travis Blankenhorn. Technically, the Twins could keep all five in the minors through 2023 without risk of losing them, but recent history tells us they'll be arriving much sooner.

Last year, Minnesota's 40-man additions ahead of the Rule 5 protection deadline were Luis Arraez, LaMonte Wade Jr., and Nick Gordon. Two of those guys reached the majors in 2019, with one breaking out as a rookie, and Gordon is poised to do so in early 2020. The prior year's wave of additions – Stephen Gonsalves, Zack Littell, and Lewis Thorpe – all received call-ups within two years of being selected.

As I look at the pivotal impacts made by Arraez and Littell this year, I can't help but ponder how soon, and to what extent, this new class might begin to factor in. None are premier, nationally touted prospects at this point, but then, neither were the aforementioned duo.

Peering through an optimistic lens, here's a look at what these five new 40-man roster additions could potentially bring to the table:

Jhoan Duran, RHP
Age: 21
2019 Stats (A+/AA): 115 IP, 3.76 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.19 WHIP

There was a lot of buzz around Duran and his standout changeup in spring training. He lived up to the hype during his first full season in the Twins system, piling up strikeouts with an overpowering arsenal and finishing the year in Double-A as a 21-year-old. Like Brusdar Graterol, the right-hander can touch triple digits, and he has developed his "splinker" into a weapon along with the quality change-piece.

The depth of his arsenal and relatively advanced workload build (he's thrown 100+ innings in each of the past two years without showing obvious wear) keep him on a starter's track. In that capacity, he truly does have front-of-rotation potential – and if he reaches it, oh MAN what a get for renting Eduardo Escobar to the D-backs last year – but he might take a bit longer to enter the MLB mix. If the Twins elect to slide him into a bullpen role, temporarily or permanently, his arrival could come early in the 2020 campaign. Dominant back-end reliever looks like his floor right now.



Dakota Chalmers, RHP
Age: 23
2019 Stats (A+/Rk): 34.2 IP, 3.63 ERA, 12.5 K/9, 6.0 BB/9, 1.24 WHIP

Dominant back-end reliever is more realistically the ceiling for Chalmers, but it's an achievable one in the short term. This hard-throwing right-hander was even more of a coup than Duran, having been acquired in August of 2018 for aging Fernando Rodney. It was a little surprising to see the A's give up on Chalmers, who they went significantly overslot to sign out of high school as a third-round draft pick in 2015, but not that much. He hasn't been too effective in the minors, besieged by injuries and erratic control, and the latter has definitely been present since he switched organizations.

Still, the Twins felt compelled to protect him because the potency of his arm is easy to see. Clearly they felt another team might be inclined to give him a shot in their bullpen straightaway. It only stands to reason that Minnesota might take a look soon, should Chalmers come out firing at Double-A next year.

Thus far he's worked exclusively as a starter in the Twins system, but that feels like a fanciful plan for a guy who has worked 35+ IP once in five seasons since being drafted, and never anywhere close to 100. If he switches to relieving, he could be on the fast-track, with closer potential if he can stay healthy and rein in his command.



Luke Raley, OF
Age: 25
2019 Stats (AAA/Rk): 158 PA, .310/.361/.517, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 29 R

Raley isn't a guy that screams "upside" but he exudes plenty of "useful" vibes. Acquired alongside Devin Smeltzer at the 2018 deadline for Brian Dozier, Raley has been a steady offensive force since the trade. There's nothing flashy about his skill set – a decent corner outfielder who can hit for average with a bit of pop from the left side – but he's polished and basically MLB-ready. In fact, he likely would've already debuted in 2019, had he not suffered an ankle injury requiring surgery in May.

Raley is a seemingly redundant presence on the roster, stuck behind two lefty-swinging corner outfielders (Wade and Jake Cave) who are stuck behind two lefty-swinging corner outfielders (Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario). But the Twins saw fit to add him anyway, which says something. Of note: Raley has considerable experience at first base, which could quickly come into play should the Twins bring back C.J. Cron, who put up a .685 OPS against right-handed pitchers this year. With benches getting deeper in 2020, it's not hard to envision Raley making a fast impact in a platoon role.



Gilberto Celestino, OF
Age: 20
2019 Stats (A/A+): 536 PA, .315/.385/.491, 8 HR, 54 RBI, 58 R

Perhaps the most surprising and intriguing addition of this batch, given that Celestino is 20 and has played only eight games above the Low-A level. In a sense it's hard to imagine any MLB club rostering such a young and raw player, but then again maybe not: Celestino is a toolsy center fielder with good speed who flashed his offensive upside during a spectacular second half at Cedar Rapids. Hitting just .219/.299/.290 at the end of May, he upgraded to .315/.385/.491 over the next 69 games before earning a late-season promotion to High-A.

Although Minnesota justifiably felt the need to shield Celestino from a bottom-rung team that might've tried to Rule 5 him and stash him, he's the only one on this list that doesn't realistically have a shot at figuring into the semi-immediate picture. His potential down the line, however, is enormous. Around the same time Oakland invested heavily in Chalmers out of high school, the Astros spent $2.5 million to sign a teenaged Celestino out of the Dominican Republic. His tools and athleticism have long been lauded and they all came together last summer at Cedar Rapids.

Travis Blankenhorn, IF
Age: 23
2019 Stats (A+/AA): 471 PA, .277/.321/.466, 19 HR, 54 RBI, 56 R

Among the five players on this list, Blankenhorn is the only one who wasn't brought in by the new front office – in fact, he's the only one who wasn't added around the deadline last year. He's an increasingly rare remnant of the previous regime, but one that could stick for some time.

Drafted in the third round out of a Pennsylvania high school in 2015, Blankenhorn didn't storm the minors, following a more traditional progressive curve. His production has consistently been solid, outside of a rough 2018 in the pitcher-friendly FSL, but never outstanding enough to merit top prospect status; in our latest midseason rankings at Twins Daily, we had him at No. 20, and he peaked on our list at No. 9 in 2017.

But that doesn't mean much. Arraez never gained much traction on top prospect lists either, up until he burst onto the scene as a Rookie of the Year contender for the Twins this season. Blankenhorn's circumstances are somewhat similar to those of Arraez a year ago: somewhat fringey prospect still learning the ropes in Double-A. Blankenhorn hasn't posted an .800 OPS anywhere north of rookie ball.

But the decision to protect him, amidst a slew of their own guys, tells us not only that this front office is high on the blatantly athletic 23-year-old, but that they suspect others are too. His innate strength has always been evident – Blanknhorn won the FSL Home Run Derby in 2018, amidst a season where he struggled to a .686 OPS – and is now starting to transfer into games. He launched 18 homers in 93 games at Double-A this year, while bouncing capably between second base and left field. The defensive versatility, and blossoming power, set him up to provide value in the near future.

He's a very different player than Arraez, but it's not implausible Blankenhorn could be a functionally similar rookie asset – left-handed bat that you want in the lineup, capable of being used at second, third, or left – as soon as 2020.


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24 Comments

I take a slightly different look at these players (except Duran who is a stud and will be a star at some point).But Chalmers and Raley are trade bait - do it soon and get something good.On the other hand Celestino is the guy we are using as insurance for CF if Buxton continues to reside on the injured list and Blankenhorn is the 3B back up if Sano is shoved over to 1B. 

    • brvama, Dman, Richard Swerdlick and 1 other like this

Nice write up Nick. It would really be interesting to have been a fly on the wall when the FO was discussing these 5, and others.

    • MN_ExPat, rdehring, Richard Swerdlick and 1 other like this

Chalmers should probably be moved to the pen this year (as you suggested Nick).In that role, he could be here in 2021 and you can never have enough pitching.  

I see Blankenhorn as more taking over in 2021 for Gonzalez, if the Twins do not retain him, a super utility player with a decent bat.

Raley is either trade bait or the replacement for Cave or Wade if they should be traded, or maybe even Rosario when he walks in two years.

Duran could be a stud.

Celestino isa long way away, look at him more as a lottery ticket if Twins cannot extend Buxton, otherwise maybe more at this time of a 4th outfielder with an upside for more.

    • Dman and wabene like this

 

I take a slightly different look at these players (except Duran who is a stud and will be a star at some point).But Chalmers and Raley are trade bait - do it soon and get something good.On the other hand Celestino is the guy we are using as insurance for CF if Buxton continues to reside on the injured list and Blankenhorn is the 3B back up if Sano is shoved over to 1B. 

I agree that Raley is trade bait, since he's basically a left handed Rooker in terms of profile and we consider Rooker trade bait because of the lack of need for him in the majors. 

 

Chalmers doesn't have much trade value at this point because of his recent injuries and walk rate. He's got a really high ceiling and low floor, and the biggest payoff for him may be in holding onto him and seeing where he goes. 

    • mikelink45 likes this

 

Chalmers should probably be moved to the pen this year (as you suggested Nick).In that role, he could be here in 2021 and you can never have enough pitching.  

I see Blankenhorn as more taking over in 2021 for Gonzalez, if the Twins do not retain him, a super utility player with a decent bat.

Raley is either trade bait or the replacement for Cave or Wade if they should be traded, or maybe even Rosario when he walks in two years.

Duran could be a stud.

Celestino isa long way away, look at him more as a lottery ticket if Twins cannot extend Buxton, otherwise maybe more at this time of a 4th outfielder with an upside for more.

All of this. Exactly my take on each and every one of them

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tarheeltwinsfan
Nov 25 2019 08:57 AM

Good article . Thanks. I hope at least 2 out of these five make a positive difference in the major leagues.

Another excellent read, Nick, thanks!

 

Have several questions.First, do you believe that this FO was a tad bit prejudiced towards the players they brought into the organization when making 40-man decisions last week?

 

Second are a couple questions about defensive ability.Saw that the Twins played Raley in center a few times in spring training last year.Although primarily a corner outfielder, is he serviceable in center?You also mention first base which was a bit of a surprise to me.How good is his defense at first?Serviceable?Average?Better than average?On a related note, who is the better first baseman, Raley or Kirilloff?

 

If I recall, Blankenhorn is often referred to as very athletic.I see he has had some success stealing bases.Does he have good speed?I believe he was drafted as a third baseman.Is his defense adequate at the hot corner?Better than Sano?Or only serviceable as a utility player.He seems to have turned the corner last year, hopefully, he will be the answer for the Twins when Sano moves to first, DH or on in either a trade or as a free agent.Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't Blankenhorn now the top third base prospect in the organization...other than Lewis whom we don't know where he will end up?

 

 

    • In My La-Z-boy likes this
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Aerodeliria
Nov 25 2019 10:06 AM
Very nicely explained. Thanks!

"Dominant back-end reliever looks like his floor right now" might as well be the kiss of death for Twins pitchers. 

 

Still waiting for Tyler Jay's dominant back-end reliever run with the Twins... That was his floor. I believe Fernando Romero also has that same floor of dominant back-end reliever... One of these years we'll remember to stop putting the cart before the horse when talking about prospects! 

    • Twins33, Danchat, big dog and 3 others like this
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Nick Nelson
Nov 25 2019 10:27 AM

 

"Dominant back-end reliever looks like his floor right now" might as well be the kiss of death for Twins pitchers. 

 

Still waiting for Tyler Jay's dominant back-end reliever run with the Twins... That was his floor. I believe Fernando Romero also has that same floor of dominant back-end reliever... One of these years we'll remember to stop putting the cart before the horse when talking about prospects! 

Jay was never much of a prospect. Certainly not at the level of Duran. Romero is still only 24 so, in the spirit of not jumping to conclusions, let's ease up on citing him as a bust example. 

    • big dog, rdehring and Heiny like this
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Nick Nelson
Nov 25 2019 10:37 AM

 

 First, do you believe that this FO was a tad bit prejudiced towards the players they brought into the organization when making 40-man decisions last week?

Sure seems that way. Since taking over, this front office has appeared increasingly intent on building around their own guys (both in terms of players and coaches/FO personnel). Past decisions to move on from relief arms drafted/acquired by the previous regime (Chargois, Bard, Burdi, etc.) served as evidence of this, and these additions even more so.

 

 

Saw that the Twins played Raley in center a few times in spring training last year.Although primarily a corner outfielder, is he serviceable in center?You also mention first base which was a bit of a surprise to me.How good is his defense at first?Serviceable?Average?Better than average?On a related note, who is the better first baseman, Raley or Kirilloff?

I don't think we have enough data to make a determination on the last item. Raley has a lot more experience at 1B, that's for sure.

 

Can't speak definitively to the matter of Raley in CF but my understanding is he doesn't have the speed to be viable there other than in a pinch.

    • mikelink45 and rdehring like this
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Nick Nelson
Nov 25 2019 10:40 AM

 

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't Blankenhorn now the top third base prospect in the organization...other than Lewis whom we don't know where he will end up?

This may be true. But over the past three years he has transitioned from playing primarily 3B, to barely playing it at all (only two starts there in 2019, none above Single-A). So I'm not sure what's up with that. 

    • mikelink45 and rdehring like this

 

This may be true. But over the past three years he has transitioned from playing primarily 3B, to barely playing it at all (only two starts there in 2019, none above Single-A). So I'm not sure what's up with that. 

Wasn't aware that he only played third a few times last year.Would agree that raises a question about what they see as his future.Could be a starter at another position, or as a super utility guy like Gonzalez.I doubt that this FO would do to him what they did to Polanco the year before he came up to play short.  

 

If not Blankenhorn, who is next in line at third from within the organization?I know Bechtold hit better last year and has been reported to be an excellent defender.Is he next?Or could it be Miranda, although he hasn't improved as much as I had hoped for?Although he battled some injuries last year, didn't he?

 

Expect in 2020, if a third baseman is needed it will come from one of the utility guys on the team, ie, Gonzalez or Adrianza.But there sure isn't anyone else screaming for a promotion, unless Lewis ends up at the hot corner when he comes up next year.

 

Jay was never much of a prospect. Certainly not at the level of Duran. Romero is still only 24 so, in the spirit of not jumping to conclusions, let's ease up on citing him as a bust example. 

In 2016 major league baseball had him at 36 overall 2 spots behind Josh Hader.http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2016/

 

To say he was never much of a prospector not at the level of Duran might be a bit a misleading.Has Duran made any top 100 lists yet?

    • Mike Sixel, Twins33, mikelink45 and 1 other like this

Jay was never much of a prospect.

This seems like revisionist history.
 
From some guy in 2016: http://twinsdaily.co...on/#entry567411
 

Tyler Jay, LHP
Age: 22
ETA: 2018
I'll admit that I'm probably lower than most on Jay, as I find it rather concerning that the collegiate reliever's arm couldn't even hold up through even 100 innings in his first year as a starter. With that said, he was the sixth overall draft pick in 2016 and is currently the team's No. 1 prospect according to both MLB.com and USA Today.

He has some work to do, but if Jay can further develop a changeup to complement his plainly fantastic fastball/slider combo, while also building the endurance to withstand 30 starts, he still has a very high ceiling. Perhaps higher than either of the two listed above.

 Looks like this guy was right when everyone was wrong. Or at least, less wrong, less high. He wins teh Internets.

Still, depending on what one means by "prospect", Jay seems to have been one - included as a high ceiling arm in a list of impact talent concerning a brightening future for the Twins.

    • mikelink45, Vanimal46 and Tomj14 like this

 

Jay was never much of a prospect. Certainly not at the level of Duran. Romero is still only 24 so, in the spirit of not jumping to conclusions, let's ease up on citing him as a bust example. 

 

 

A bit of revisionist history here... The number 5 Twins prospect in 2017 according to TD isn't much of a prospect?

 

"I was going to say the opposite on Jay. I think his floor is dominant, late-inning left-handed reliever. His ceiling is #2 starter..." - Seth Stohs

 

"The ceiling is there, if he can command his changeup and prove himself in the durability department, for Jay to become a quality mid-rotation starter in the majors. But what really bolsters his prospect status is the relatively high floor. There is little doubt the hard-throwing lefty can succeed as a reliever in the majors. Baseball Prospectus, in naming him the organization's second-best prospect, suggested he could even become a "poor man's Andrew Miller."" - Nick Nelson

 

"...the plan for 2018 isn’t much different than it would have been in 2017 provided he was healthy. If he’s performing he could be a quick mover, with the Twins bullpen in sight before September rolls around." - Steve Lein

 

I would love for one of these dominant back-end reliever floors come true one day. 

    • mikelink45, Sconnie and Tomj14 like this
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Nick Nelson
Nov 25 2019 01:47 PM

Ok, I should correct that to say he was never much of a prospect on the basis of anything other than his draft position. When you're a top 10 overall pick you're probably going to appear on top prospect lists for at least a year or two afterward. Duran's perceived value, conversely, is based entirely on his performance so it's a bit of a different matter for me. 

 

Obviously "floors" go out the window when a guy wrecks his shoulder. I think it was reasonable to assume Jay would've been, at minimum, a decent MLB reliever if not for that.

Ok, I should correct that to say he was never much of a prospect on the basis of anything other than his draft position. When you're a top 10 overall pick you're probably going to appear on top prospect lists for at least a year or two afterward. Duran's perceived value, conversely, is based entirely on his performance so it's a bit of a different matter for me.

Obviously "floors" go out the window when a guy wrecks his shoulder. I think it was reasonable to assume Jay would've been, at minimum, a decent MLB reliever if not for that.


This is a new one I haven't heard before... So Tyler Jay's mid 90s fastball with late movement and plus slider meant nothing? Just his draft status earned him high praise on this website. Got it.

And we're ready to crown Duran the better prospect based on performance? The 4.86 ERA in 7 AA starts so far? This argument is bizarre.
    • Tomj14 likes this

This seems like revisionist history.


A bit of revisionist history here...
 
This argument is bizarre.

i jumped in on this too, but may I suggest that this tangent be allowed to die now? It wasn't central to anything in Nick's article, I don't believe - just a side comment. Nick has adjusted his position, and I for one am fine with that.

    • Sconnie and Hosken Bombo Disco like this
The thought of Raley possibly platooning in some manner with Cron at 1B never honestly occurred to me. Could be a smart move. Of course, works that much better if he's your 4th OF as the 26 man spot could easily be a RP or Austudillo, etc.

I disagree on Chalmers moving to the pen so soon. His primary issue...other than injury...is gaining control of his stuff. With his limited IP, I'd have him start for now. More opportunity to throw, throw some more, and work on his control.

Later in the season, then shift him to the pen due to IP if nothing else. His future can be determined in the offseason based on what everyone sees.
    • wabene and sweetmusicviola16 like this
Really don't understand Blankenhorn not playing more 3B. If he can't hack it defensively, the obvious move is to 1B or the OF. But while he has played a lot of LF, he's also played a lot of 2B. So good enough for 2B but not 3B simply does not compute unless his arm is weak or wild.
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sweetmusicviola16
Nov 25 2019 05:25 PM

I would agree on Chalmers. He doesn't get better with fewer reps. Keep him as an SP for now.

I am really hoping that Duran can develop into a #2 or #3 starter. Pitching prospects are naturally volatile, and the Twins' pitching prospects so rarely develop... getting Duran to turn into something legit would be phenomenal. It'd be a sign that this front office knows what they're doing when it comes to developing prospects.

 

Chalmers as a reliever sounds about right, perhaps he could end up in the big leagues quicker if they focus on that for him. Raley's ceiling is probably as a platoon / 4th OF. 

 

Not sure on Blankenhorn and Celestino... Gilberto is too far off for me to say anything at this point, and I think Travis has a chance to break out as a MLB starter, but that's certainly not a given.

Could Blankehorn become a Koskie type bat at 3B?

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