Twins Daily Roundtable: Top Prospect Timelines
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs (Stephen Gonsalves)Nick Nelson
Nick Gordon is the most interesting case right now. Ehire Adrianza is doing everything he can to play his way out of a regular gig. Maybe that takes care of itself if Miguel Sano returns this weekend, but should that timeline get pushed back at all, you've gotta think it's worth giving the kid a shot. The offense could really use a spark.
Stephen Gonsalves and Zack Littell are ready for a look but there are no imminent vacancies in the rotation. They're behind Trevor May in line, then Ervin Santana, and probably Aaron Slegers too.
Brent Rooker would be making things interesting right now if he were tearing it up in Double-A like he did Single-A, but he's been slow to get going. Still wouldn't totally shock me to see him heat up and reach the Twins in the second half, pending Joe Mauer's situation.
The rest of the team's top prospects are basically all in Low-A ball, so I wouldn't expect to see any until 2020 at least. Outside chance Royce Lewis makes it up in 2019 if he muscles up quick.
Let’s go through a few top prospects, starting with the closest...
Stephen Gonsalves (AAA-P) and Zach Littel (AAA-P) – I’m not sure Littel would be considered a top prospect (he was #11 on our list), but his stock is rising and we'll see both this year.
Brent Rooker (AA-1B/DH) – A slow start, but he’s heating up. Normally, that would mean he waits until next year, but opportunity gets him some time this year.
Nick Gordon (AA-SS) – There’s a decent chance we could see him this year, but I’ll speculate 2019. At just 22 years old, that’s soon enough.
Alex Kiriloff – (Low A-OF) – He's overlooked due to missing last year, but the 20-year-old is killing Cedar Rapids. Still, he would need to be inhuman to make it in 2019, so let’s say 2020.
Royce Lewis – (Low A-SS) – Speaking of inhuman, Lewis thrived in Cedar Rapids late last year and again early this year, making it likely the 19-year-old will make it to High-A soon. That could mean 2020 but, let’s give him room to stumble. I’ll predict 2021.
Seeing 20-year-old Ronald Acuna hold his own with the Braves and now 19-year-old Juan Soto being called up by the Nationals, you can’t help but wonder when we may see Royce Lewis.
Lewis turns 19 in a matter of weeks, but if the Twins intend on developing him as a shortstop I foresee at least two more full seasons down on the farm. His physical development will play a role in where he ends up, but he definitely has the speed to be an impact defender in the outfield. Not a bad fallback option.
Either way, I don’t think we see Lewis at Target Field until 2021 at the earliest.
As for the rest of Twins Daily’s top five, Fernando Romero has already arrived and both Nick Gordon and Stephen Gonsalves appear ready for a taste of the majors. As for Alex Kirilloff, who’s 20, I’ve been really impressed by his swing. As a bat only guy, I wouldn’t be shocked if he was ready at the end of next year. The problem is I’m not so sure where he’ll end up in the field.
If you would have asked me at different points throughout last season, I would have said that Stephen Gonsalves would make his major league debut before Fernando Romero. That doesn’t mean Romero’s stuff isn’t better but Gonsalves had a longer track record of minor league success. Gonsalves has also been very good this season so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him before the end of the year.
Considering Minnesota’s entire left side of the infield has missed time this year, I’m surprised Nick Gordon hasn’t made his debut. The Twins have been filling in the shortstop role with some lackluster options and Gordon could provide a spark. I still wouldn’t be surprised to see him this summer.
There’s an outside chance of Brent Rooker and Tyler Jay making their debuts this season but Gonsalves and Gordon are the two big names I expect to see in the coming months. Other top prospects like Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, and Busdar Graterol are still multiple years away from getting the call.
Alex Kirilloff was my #1 Twins prospect after his short-season debut in 2016. If I recall correctly, he missed the playoffs of that season. Then early in 2017 we find out he's going to miss the whole upcoming season with Tommy John surgery. After not facing live pitching for well over a year, there were obviously going to be questions. It's safe to say, he's answering those questions with his hot start to 2018.
His 14-game hitting streak was snapped recently, but what I find most impressive is his ability to hit left-handed pitchers. In 2013, as a 20-year-old in low-A, Max Kepler had seven hits (including one extra base hit) against left-handed pitchers all year. Kirilloff, also 20 in low-A, has seven hits against lefties already and he's slugging over .600. Needless to say, at some point this summer (or maybe earlier) he'll head to Fort Myers.
And who knows... could he make up some lost at-bats in the Arizona Fall League later this year? Starting next year in Chattanooga doesn't seem out of the question if he continues to hit. Could he be knocking on the door within two years? Seems lofty. But so are his numbers.
The group is loaded at the top, but the Twins have some very nice depth as well. Obviously Royce Lewis is the hot name, but there are some real contributors ahead of him as well.
I’d expect to see Nick Gordon the next time Minnesota needs an infielder. He should’ve been promoted when Miguel Sano was DL'd, and he’s more than graduated beyond Double-A.
Teammate Brent Rooker got off to a slow start, but has heated up considerably of late. I’m not a fan of the K/BB ratio and what it says about plate discipline, but I believe he’ll settle in and that bat will play. Counting on him to debut in 2019 is a decent bet.
Stephen Gonsalves is already at Triple-A, and aside from one lackluster outing in 2018, he’s appeared big league ready as well. Minnesota could opt to give Aaron Slegers or Adalberto Mejia a shot first, but Gonsalves deserves the next rotation opening.
From there you’ve got the group including Lewis, Brusdar Graterol, Alex Kirilloff, and a host of others. Tons of talent amongst them, but at least two years away from the big leagues still.
Among the Twins’ top prospects, there are those who should potentially arrive yet this year (Gordon, Gonsalves, Littell, Wade) and those that are more likely to debut in 2020 (Blankenhorn, Diaz, Lewis, Kirilloff) or beyond (Graterol, Enlow, Javier, Baddoo). In between, there aren’t many I realistically expect to see next season.
Brent Rooker could be one, but he’s not exactly setting Chattanooga on fire so far this year. It’s possible that LaMonte Wade’s arrival could wait until 2019 and it’s also possible that one or both of Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff could shoot up through the ranks enough over the next 15 months that they’d get a September call-up in 2019, though that would seem pretty ambitious to me.
The next year is going to be critical for pitcher Lewis Thorpe. If he can get back on track, he would be another potential 2019 arrival.
I’ve been interested in the prospect timeline idea since the new front office took over in 2016. Not necessarily what any top prospect’s current timeline might be, but just how different Derek Falvey’s crew might handle this part of the organization. There absolutely was smoke behind the national perception fire that Terry Ryan’s regime was slow on such things, and that was the biggest thing I wanted the new guys to change.
Now, I also believe that prospects must earn it with their performance, but does that mean they put up an enticing OPS? Impress a scout’s eye? Meet individual goals set by the organization, or some other statistical thresholds?
I think it’s a combination of things like that, or even one extraordinary circumstance that can hasten a timeline. It also shouldn’t be a one size fits all approach but tailored individually.
Looking at current top prospects, names like Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Nick Gordon, and LaMonte Wade are all deserving of promotions. For the latter two, that could even mean their MLB timeline is this summer. Stephen Gonsalves’ MLB debut is also imminent.
In the case of Lewis, I see the 2019 season mentioned a lot around here but give me 2020 and that still would be fast. Fernando Romero got to the majors quicker this season than I thought he would too.
So, I like how that old perception is changing, and I expect the top prospect timelines will continue to be faster than we’re used to. Overall, that a good thing in my book.
One of my favorite Twins prospects is Blayne Enlow. He has a plus fastball, and had arguably the best high school curveball in last year’s draft. Even better, Enlow has excellent control for a pitcher of his age.
He got off to a great start in the minor leagues last season, but hasn’t been quite as sharp this year in Cedar Rapids, though that could be due to him battling the injury bug. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he flies up the prospect ranking boards over the next couple of seasons.
I'm going to separate the Twins prospects into a few categories based on readiness. We'll start with a couple of guys that are already there. Fernando Romero came up ready to fill a rotation spot, and Mitch Garver earned the opportunity to be one of two MLB catchers. Let's look a little deeper.
Ready Now, Need Opportunity: Stephen Gonsalves has now made four starts for the Red Wings. Three of them have gone well. One, not so much. He's close to ready, but we''ll see how (or if) the Twins create an opportunity for him. The same can be said even more strongly about Aaron Slegers who has little to prove in AAA. In addition, prospects John Curtiss and Luke Bard are ready now (along with no-longer-a-"prospect" Alan Busenitz).
The one position player that fits the Ready Now, Need Opportunity category, for me, is LaMonte Wade. Obviously the DL stint right now with the shoulder injury slows the timeline, but he's ready. Of course Zack Granite and Jake Cave are also prospects who are ready and in need of an opportunity. Cave is currently up but that's likely short-term, for now.
Sometime In 2018: Gabriel Moya needed more time in the minors to start 2018. He's close, but he needs more work. Nick Gordon has been promoted to AAA. He's close. He continues to hit for average while adding more power to his pace from last year. He'll have to show he can last a full season, but the only way to do that is to do that. Zack Littell fits into this category as well. If he continues to pitch well with the Red Wings, he could be up by year's end too. Finally, Tyler Jay is still working his way back,, but he's got the stuff to contribute in the big leagues in 2018. (Don't forget Felix Jorge, who hasn't pitched yet this season due to a knee injury.)
2019 Timeline: Brent Rooker may be up by year's end. He's come on nicely after a slow start, but the Twins will want to see more power before they'd call him up. More likely is a debut early in 2019. By late in 2019, we may see LHP Lewis Thorpe. And, while it would be remarkably quick, don't be surprised if we see any of the Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Brusdar Graterol Kernels trio in the big leagues.
Who do you expect to see at Target Field this season? How fast will the top prospects move? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- TwinsTakes-RD, Cory Engelhardt, MN_ExPat and 1 other like this