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Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2021: Part 1 (16-20)

As we kick off our countdown of the Minnesota Twins' top 20 player assets, this first batch features a little of everything: from a raw and unproven teenaged prospect to a highly paid MVP-winning veteran.

Let us begin.
Image courtesy of Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
First, you can get up to speed on the 'why and how' behind these rankings by reading Monday's introductory post. If you're already hip, proceed to find my choices (and reasoning) for the 16th-through-20th most valuable assets under Minnesota's control as 2021 gets underway.

20. Keoni Cavaco, SS
2020 Ranking: NR

The 20th spot in these rankings is one I always wrestle with most. There are so many different players with good arguments to appear on the list; this selection becomes a battle between many semi-critical assets, whose competing qualities are fundamental to this exercise.

Which is more indispensable to the Twins' plans: a proven MLB commodity with a relatively low ceiling (i.e. Randy Dobnak, Jake Cave), versus a near-ready prospect with moderate upside (i.e. Travis Blankenhorn, Edwar Colina), versus a more distant and uncertain project with game-changing potential?

Ultimately, I landed on the latter, best represented in the system by Keoni Cavaco. No, he hasn't done anything of note as a professional yet, posting a paltry .470 OPS in his first turn at rookie ball in 2019. But the Twins believed in him enough to take him 13th overall – the highest pick this regime has made outside of Royce Lewis (No. 1) in 2017 – because they so value Cavaco's athleticism and long-term ceiling.

I have no special insight or information on the 19-year-old, especially coming off a lost minor-league season, but frankly I trust this front office enough to consider him an important part of the big picture going forward. Needless to say, 2021 will be a key year for Cavaco.

19. Brent Rooker, OF/1B
2020 Ranking: NR

The former first-round pick reached the majors in 2020, just three years after being drafted, and was exactly as advertised: an advanced bat with big bop, exhibiting no signs of intimidation against MLB pitching.

Rooker has factors working against him in the context of this list – namely, a lack of asset scarcity. Big, immobile sluggers who can only play first base and corner outfield are not hard to come by. He also happens to be a bit extreme in the traditional flaws of this profile: a sub-par defender and extremely strikeout prone.

But on the flip side (pun intended), his raw power is at the highest end of the spectrum and Rooker shows potential to develop into a reasonably disciplined hitter. Although he only made 21 plate appearances as a rookie before breaking his forearm, he made a strong enough impression to solidify his place in the club's plans going forward. Rooker is inexpensively controllable for years to come.

18. Josh Donaldson, 3B
2020 Ranking: NR

Donaldson signed after this list came out last year, so I didn't have to struggle with the challenging task of ranking him as an asset. It goes without saying he would've been higher at that point then he is now. The first year of Donaldson's historic contract was theoretically supposed to deliver the greatest value for the Twins, but was mostly a bust.

Now, he's entering his age 35 season with magnified durability concerns, still owed $70 million in guaranteed money over the next three years. In the scope of this discussion, Donaldson's huge salary is a significant drawback, limiting the front office's ability to build around him within payroll constraints. The need to prioritize adding depth behind him, due to his unreliable health, is also a negative.

And yet ... to an extent, this is all counterbalanced by the monumental impact he's capable of making. Donaldson is the only former MVP on the roster, and someone who was elite both offensively and defensively just two years ago. He showed signs of being that same player while on the field in 2020.

It's possible no other team would take on Donaldson's contract at this moment if they had the chance, which is why he ranks as low as he does here. But his presence will be crucial if Minnesota's is to capitalize on the current championship window.

17. Taylor Rogers, LHP
2020 Ranking: 12

One year ago, Rogers was a top-end closer, set to earn less than $5 million, yet he still didn't crack the top 10 in these rankings. That says a lot about the relative value of relief pitchers, who are – for better or worse – among the game's most fungible assets. (The Twins, having made a habit of letting quality bullpen arms walk, seem to live by this credo.)

Rogers is now a year older and closer to free agency, although the Twins still control him for two more seasons. He's also coming off a tough campaign, albeit it a shortened one where his peripherals and underlying indicators remained strong. Set to earn $6 million, he's no longer the clear-cut bargain he once was.

The lefty's value has surely dropped but his price isn't unreasonable, all things considered, and he remains an integral piece of this bullpen – especially with Trevor May moving on, and guys like Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard (for now) out of the picture.

16. Jorge Alcala, RHP
2020 Ranking: NR

Like Rogers, Alcala has shown the ability to dominate out of the bullpen. The similarities end there. Whereas Rogers is a polished, experienced, time-tested relief fixture, Alcala is an up-and-comer with a sparse MLB track record. But that track record has yielded a 2.45 ERA and 9.8 K/9 rate in 25 ⅔ innings.

The right-hander didn't exactly come out of nowhere. He was a big-ticket international signing by the Astros out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, and was the prospect headliner in a trade that sent Ryan Pressly to Houston in 2018. Though he predictably fizzled out as a starter, Alcala shows all the signs of a quality back-end reliever, and he's under team control for the next five seasons. If he can firmly establish himself as a lights-out setup man or closer in 2021, he'll move up this list.

THE TOP 20 TWINS ASSETS OF 2021

20. Keoni Cavaco, SS

19. Brent Rooker, OF/1B

18. Josh Donaldson, 3B

17. Taylor Rogers, LHP

16. Jorge Alcala, RHP

11-15: Coming tomorrow!



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14 Comments

Very interesting, Nick.

 

Not certain I would have included Cavaco, but certainly understand your reasons for including him at #20. Yes, it was a tiny sample, but I really liked Rooker's at bats and can see him surprising us to the up side, especially with the at bats he will get if Cruz isn't back with the Twins.

 

Like most of us, I was disappointed with Rogers last summer after his unbelievable 2019. Have asked this before, but could his performance have been affected by his being the player rep and the negotiations that were ongoing much of the season?

 

Would love to see Clippard return, not Romo. Am certain I am included with most of us who are hoping for Alcala to have a big year out of the pen. As for Donaldson, will he be healthy most of this season? If so, he can/should replace Rosario's bat in the lineup.

    • MN_ExPat and BeatTheRich like this

Personally, I think Rooker has very little value as an asset.Following your factors I just do not see him that high.He is old for a prospect that has very limited MLB time.Not all his fault as he was behind some decent players.We are loaded in corner OF/1B/DH type guys that he slots into.Yes, he can hit for some good power, and in his very short time he had some good hits, but I fear a player like him will get scouted and that will drop his hitting.He reminds me of Josh Willingham.He can hit HR, strike out a ton, and is basically a statute in the OF.  

 

Really, he only has 1 asset and that is power.Yes, that is important, but everything else is working against him.He has little to no trade value, he is aging, he has no defense, and no track record.If Cruz does not resign, and they do not go out to sign someone else, I could see him be the DH, and that is where all his value is. 

    • mikelink45, Dman and jrod23 like this
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Major League Ready
Jan 05 2021 09:31 AM

 

 

 

Would love to see Clippard return, not Romo. Am certain I am included with most of us who are hoping for Alcala to have a big year out of the pen. As for Donaldson, will he be healthy most of this season? If so, he can/should replace Rosario's bat in the lineup.

 

Clippard would be OK. He is going to be 36 this season. I am hoping for a someone a bit younger and more dominant.

 

I am far more worried about replacing Cruz than Rosario. Cruz had an OPS that was 200 points higher than Rosario over the last two years. Rosario has been very steady around 800 after peaking at 837 in 2017. I would take the over on Rooker if the target was 800 for OPS. Even Jake Cave produced an OPS of 759 over the past two seasons so I think a platoon over Rooker and Cave gets you very close to an 800 OPS.

    • wabene likes this

I agree that this is hard. This is like comparing whether you want a good engine or a good transmission---you need both to succeed. 

 

I guess that the common denominator here is dollars. Each can be bought, which allows us to observe relative prices that signal scarcity. That figures into your discussion of Rooker and the relief pitchers above. 

    • rdehring likes this

Nicely done.Like others I will have my own biased ideas - for example I would not have Cavaco on the list.I need to see some production and not just a draft position. Alcala would be in my top ten, but otherwise Donaldson, Rooker, Rogers are about right and that is a shame, as you noted, they could have been a lot higher last year. 

If no team would be willing to take on Donaldson’s contract and his unreliability is such that the Twins need to prioritize adding depth behind him doesn’t that mean he has negative value. An asset is not supposed to be a liability. The contract does matter.
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drivlikejehu
Jan 05 2021 12:09 PM

What any team needs to win championships is impact players. The Twins have the added challenge that, as a mid-market club, they need some (really most) of those impact players to be cheap.

 

Players like Rooker do not change the Twins' outlook. If they want a 1B/DH that can hit lefties, that's something they can find easily via trade or free agency, at a low cost. The surplus value isn't there and the contribution to being a championship team isn't there. So his inclusion on the list makes no sense.

 

Cavaco is a high-risk prospect, no doubt (that was clear even when he was selected). But he has a *chance* to be the kind of impact player that helps build a championship club, and has future value for that reason.

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Nick Nelson
Jan 05 2021 02:26 PM

 

Personally, I think Rooker has very little value as an asset.Following your factors I just do not see him that high.He is old for a prospect that has very limited MLB time ... Really, he only has 1 asset and that is power. 

This is a very valid argument, and it's one I had with myself quite a bit while compiling the rankings. Everything you mentioned is a very legitimate knock against his case. In my initial pass, Rooker didn't make the cut. 

 

Here's why I eventually changed my mind:

 

I think really highly of Rooker's offensive upside. More highly than most probably. I see his power as being a notch above most good slugging prospects, and see him developing pretty decent patience down the line. Once he reaches full form, I don't think we'll be viewing him as the kinda talent you can go out and find readily. 

 

I also look at the Twins' situation specifically. They do have an ostensible glut of bat-first corner defenders, but when you look at their established RH bats? Sano, Donaldson, Buxton, Garver. All have proven to be injury prone, and all are getting expensive and/or closer to free agency. Rooker is the only developed righty hitter providing depth behind them so I see that as a bit of a value booster as well.

    • DocBauer and wabene like this

I appreciate that you spelled out the values you were placing on how you were ranking players. Makes sense and should reduce a lot of arguments. This isn't science, just speculation. My quib on the list is Rogers. I'd rank him a bit higher of an asset. That's just me

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Nick Nelson
Jan 05 2021 02:30 PM

 

If no team would be willing to take on Donaldson’s contract and his unreliability is such that the Twins need to prioritize adding depth behind him doesn’t that mean he has negative value. An asset is not supposed to be a liability. The contract does matter.

I'm weighing the risk against the upside. I think it's too soon to say his contract is an absolute liability because if he rebounds in 2021 and plays like he did in 2019, then his salary is fine. This isn't a Mauer situation where the glimmers of upside and transformative impact are basically gone. 

 

To say that no team would pick up JD'scontract (in this economic environment especially) is not to say the Twins would instantly dump it if they had the chance. They're in a championship window and he's the kind of asset that can get them over the top. They know that and it's why they ponied up. It doesn't change because of a rough 60-game season, as forebodingly as things may have played out. 

    • DocBauer and Eris like this

To say that no team would pick up JD'scontract (in this economic environment especially) is not to say the Twins would instantly dump it if they had the chance. They're in a championship window and he's the kind of asset that can get them over the top.

Yes. This is pretty key.

 

If teams got a prize for coming in way under budget, say squeaking in to the playoffs with no one on the roster earning more than major league minimum, then Donaldson might be simply a zero or negative-value asset.

 

But they don't, and he's not.

 

Hopefully he bounces back to his assumed level of production, because then it's a decent contract. If he doesn't, then it's a bad contact.
 

Personally I think you're undervaluing Donaldson based on your criteria laid out in the preview article. If your overall goal is to is to answer the question,

 

"Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion?"

 

 

I'm not sure how that happens without JD being a powerhouse at the plate and in the field. On the other hand if your trying to answer who has the most trade value, then clearly Donaldson has no value due to the definition of "highest bidder."

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Nick Nelson
Jan 05 2021 05:47 PM

 

Personally I think you're undervaluing Donaldson based on your criteria laid out in the preview article. If your overall goal is to is to answer the question,

 

 

I'm not sure how that happens without JD being a powerhouse at the plate and in the field. On the other hand if your trying to answer who has the most trade value, then clearly Donaldson has no value due to the definition of "highest bidder."

Well, you have to think of it this way: If they could subtract him, take his $21 million and spend it on other players, could they put themselves in better overall shape to win a championship (not just 2021 but beyond)? Given the injury risk and his age, they could at least invest it a lot more soundly. 

 

Donaldson's ranking in this equation would be a lot higher if we were talking strictly about winning it all this year, but we're not. And the more you zoom out, the more his asset value declines. 

    • Major League Ready, DocBauer and wabene like this

This is a very valid argument, and it's one I had with myself quite a bit while compiling the rankings. Everything you mentioned is a very legitimate knock against his case. In my initial pass, Rooker didn't make the cut. 
 
Here's why I eventually changed my mind:
 
I think really highly of Rooker's offensive upside. More highly than most probably. I see his power as being a notch above most good slugging prospects, and see him developing pretty decent patience down the line. Once he reaches full form, I don't think we'll be viewing him as the kinda talent you can go out and find readily. 
 
I also look at the Twins' situation specifically. They do have an ostensible glut of bat-first corner defenders, but when you look at their established RH bats? Sano, Donaldson, Buxton, Garver. All have proven to be injury prone, and all are getting expensive and/or closer to free agency. Rooker is the only developed righty hitter providing depth behind them so I see that as a bit of a value booster as well.


In my roughly 50 years of watching baseball I've seen teen flashes burn out and some turn out to be HOF players. And I've seen a TON of guys who didn't reach the majors or reach their potential until 25-27yo. Cruz, IIRC, didn't hit any stride at the ML level until he was about 27. Now, by no means am I saying Rooker has some amazing career in front of him. But he also shouldn't be penalized as some sort of nobody simply because he was an older draft choice who has raked at every level and looked "ready" when he got his first shot last year.

So I get his being on this list 100%. While I refuse to commit to projection at this point, I could easily see him as a RH Randy Bush for 4-5yrs of team control. And if that is all he is, that's still pretty damn good and valuable. And he might be even better considering his power.

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