Can the Twins Become the New Astros? Part 2
Image courtesy of © Sam Navarro-USA TODAY SportsClick here for Part 1 of this series.
Building the Farm
While Houston’s farm system isn’t as strong as it once was, Jeff Luhnow and company did a great job of using their high draft pics to add invaluable pieces like SS Carlos Correa and 3B Alex Bregman to rebuild the farm. While they added plenty of major league talent, rebuilding the farm also gave the Astros the prospect capital they needed to add key pieces such as Verlander in 2017, Gerrit Cole and Pressly last season, and Zack Greinke this year. Repeated success and the corresponding lower draft position along with several trades have weakened Houston’s farm, but they have been able to add high-end talent without giving up too much and the whole point of having a good farm system is to eventually have success at the highest level, a tradeoff I’m sure the Astros would take ad infinitum.
While the Twins struggles since 2010 were not as intentional as Houston’s, Minnesota received plenty of top 10 draft pics due to their struggles. Ryan and company’s results are a bit of a mixed bag up to this point. With the second pick in the 2012 draft, the Twins picked Byron Buxton immediately after the Astros selected Correa, and although he has suffered several injury setbacks and taken some time to establish himself in the big leagues, Minnesota did well with that pick (if you disagree, look at the pics who followed Buxton). They also selected Jose Berrios with a supplemental first-round pick in that draft, along with Tyler Duffey in the fifth round and Taylor Rogers in the 12th.
After the 2012 draft the results weren’t quite as sterling for the Twins. In 2013 they picked high school righty Kohl Stewart (SP), with the fourth overall pick, and although he has reached the majors his upside is extremely limited and he has to be considered a disappointment at this point. The verdict on 2014 fifth overall pick Nick Gordon is still out. He has yet to reach the majors, but had a good year in Triple A that was shortened due to injury, however questions about his ability to remain at shortstop remain. Hindsight is 20/20 but both Aaron Nola and Trey Turner were available.
With the sixth overall pick in 2015 Minnesota selected Tyler Jay, a college reliever that the Twins tried to turn into a starter and was a complete failure (he’s no longer in the organization), but 2016 first rounder, outfielder Alex Kirilloff (No. 15 overall), has become a top prospect who should join the Twins soon.
Of course, the Astros also wasted a top pick on pitcher Mark Appel who was a bust and the Twins did hit on some later round picks, but given the high draft position that Minnesota had from 2012-15, the results have been underwhelming. Falvey and Levine are too early in their tenure to put too much stock in their draft picks but they were gifted the number one overall pick in their first year. They selected shortstop Royce Lewis, who is very high on most national prospect lists despite a somewhat disappointing 2019, although he has been much younger than his competition and is off to a great start in the Arizona Fall League. Last year’s first-round pick, College World Series hero Trevor Larnach, has had a promising start to his career as well. The Twins went for a high-risk, high-reward high school prospect in this year’s draft, selecting SS/3B Keoni Cavaco who has a long road to travel before reaching Minnesota.
The FO has done a lot to bolster the farm through trades. They gained the most at the 2018 trade deadline due to being out of contention, unlike 2017 where they were surprise contenders, although they did pick up Zack Littell that year, picking up multiple prospects including pitchers Johan Duran, Jorge Alcala, and Dakota Chalmers and outfielders Gilberto Celestino, Gabriel Maciel, and Luke Raley. They gained several other smaller pieces as well, including Devin Smeltzer, and greatly improved the overall depth of the system.
Even while being obvious buyers at the deadline this season the FO was clearly hesitant to let go of top prospects like Lewis and Kirilloff to obtain a top-notch starter, though they even managed to add a pitching prospect, Chris Vallimont, in the Sergio Romo trade. They have built one of the best farm systems in baseball and seem keen to keep it that way. While teams like the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox were willing to part with some of their best prospects, teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and to a lesser extent Houston, have been less willing to give away prized prospects. This has allowed the Dodgers to be good for a very long time, and both the Dodgers and the Astros seem to have new stars come out of their system almost every year. Falvey and Levine like to talk about the long-term future for the organization and seemed poised to follow a similar path.
The Young Core
Although Houston did a lot to improve their club through drafts and trades, a few key pieces of the future World Series champs were in the organization when Luhnow took over. One of the most important pieces of the Astros run of success has been Jose Altuve, an undersized player who puts up big numbers while playing second base. Along with Altuve, Houston had also drafted outfielder George Springer prior to the new FO and he has also been a huge cog in their always potent lineup, batting leadoff for the World Series run. But outside of Altuve and Springer, most of Houston’s players came from within the system after Luhnow took over or were acquired through trades and free agency.
Falvey and Levine were fortunate to inherit a pretty impressive young core to build around. A lot of the credit should actually go to former GM Bill Smith, who in his short tenure was able to sign Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, and Max Kepler in one international signing period. As previously noted, both Buxton and Berrios were drafted under Ryan, as were Mitch Garver and Eddie Rosario. The new FO does deserve credit for extending both Polanco and Kepler to team-friendly deals prior to their breakout seasons this year and it is possible that they will seek more extensions with some of the others this offseason.
- Huskertwin, Fan101 and JDubs like this