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The Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets: Part 3 (6-10)

After running through our rankings for Nos. 11-15 and Nos. 16-20 last week, it's time to break into the Top 10 most valuable assets for the Minnesota Twins. Looking beyond performance to account for age, contract, and future impact, the idea is to determine which players will be most vital to the team's ongoing success (or, most useful as trade chips).

Read on past the fold to find out who I picked for spots six through 10, and why.
Image courtesy of Kim Klement, USA Today (Brian Dozier)
10. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP (23)
He doesn't have the same spellbinding upside as Fernando Romero, but Gonsalves ranks a few spots ahead of his fellow top pitching prospect because at this point he seems considerably more likely to reach his ceiling. The left-hander is coming off yet another fantastic season that saw him graduate to Triple-A just one month after his 23rd birthday.

In five starts with Rochester, Gonsalves delivered three excellent outings and two clunkers, but this came on the heels of a brilliant 15-start stretch at Chattanooga (8-3, 2.68 ERA, 1.03 WHIP). While he lacks remarkable velocity or breaking stuff, the 6-foot-5 southpaw attacks the zone with a somewhat deceptive release and that's brought him success at pretty much every level. Most importantly, his strong 2017 campaign quieted shoulder concerns that caused him to get a late start to the season.

9. Ervin Santana, RHP (35)
Gonsalves might be the future. Santana is the now. He's 35 and only under contract for one or two years, but Erv was easily the best performer on the 2017 staff and has generally been a godsend for the Twins rotation since joining up in July of 2015. Heading into the new season, he's the most reliable and trusted commodity on the staff, although his age, career workload (2,400 innings and counting), and seemingly unsustainable formula (4.02 FIP in 2016/17) cast some doubt on his continued high-end effectiveness.

The Twins basically have Santana on a one-year deal for $13.5 million with a team option (automatically activated if he hits 200 innings in 2018). Any team would be beyond ecstatic to get him on such a contract if he were a free agent right now.

8. Brian Dozier, 2B (30)
Over the past two seasons – according to the player valuation algorithm at FanGraphs – Dozier has been worth $47 million and $40 million, respectively. The Twins have gotten him for $9 million, total. He's under control for one more year, and still at a huge bargain ($9 million). In retrospect, that spring 2015 contract extension looks pretty damn good, even though it didn't buy out any free agency.

The looming reality of FA limits Dozier's value as an asset, which is otherwise immense: top-tier slugging middle infielder, Gold Glove defender, clubhouse leader in every sense of the word. Minnesota might only have one year left with the reigning back-to-back Twins Daily MVP, but they're awfully glad to have that.

7. Max Kepler, OF (24)
In 2016, Kepler burst onto the scene with 17 home runs and a .734 OPS as a 23-year-old rookie. That's quite the accomplishment. With his lean and athletic physique, the sky appeared to be the limit, given his transcendent success in Chattanooga the previous season. But in 2017, Kepler stagnated. He posted nearly identical numbers overall and took a step backward against southpaws, going from ugly to unsightly.

But while his production didn't improve as we hoped, it was still perfectly solid. Now, he's heading into his third MLB season as a 25-year-old who has flashed glimpses of All-Star potential, while basically establishing his floor as an average MLB corner outfielder. The Twins control his rights through 2022.

6. Jorge Polanco, SS (24)
An outsider would glance at Polanco's progression from 2016 to 2017 and assume his stock dropped, with his OPS falling by 30 points. But the real story is a lot more complicated than that. He reached his all-time low point as a pro at the end of July, with his slash line sagging egregiously to .213/.265/.305. He took a few days off for a mental break and returned on August 2nd with a double – his first extra-base hit in a full month. From there, Polanco took off, raking to the tune of .316/.377/.553 with 10 homers and 42 RBI the rest of the way.

The amazing surge restored faith in his bat and then some. But perhaps even more importantly, Polanco showed himself to be a credible option at shortstop. His adequacy was very much in doubt following an erratic 2016 debut at the position, but in 2017 the 24-year-old was plenty serviceable, cutting down the mistakes while improving his range and occasionally making legitimately spectacular plays.

We'll need to see him sustain both at the plate and in the field before fully buying into his transformation, but right now he looks like a capable shortstop who can bat third in a very good lineup, and that's a hell of a quality asset with four years of control remaining.

RANKINGS THUS FAR

20. Alex Kirilloff, OF (20)
19. Trevor May, RHP (28)
18. Wander Javier, SS (18)
17. Jason Castro, C (30)
16. Tyler Duffey, RHP (27)
15. Taylor Rogers, LHP (27)
14. Adalberto Mejia, LHP (24)
13. Nick Gordon, SS (22)
12. Fernando Romero, RHP (23)
11. Trevor Hildenberger, RHP (27)
10. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP (23)
9. Ervin Santana, RHP (35)
8. Brian Dozier, 2B (30)
7. Max Kepler, OF (24)
6. Jorge Polanco, SS (24)

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13 Comments

A question at the end of this exercise will be what is Mauer's value?At this point it seems obvious he will be the big name left off the list.With Buxton, Rosario, Lewis, Berrios, and Sano the list seems complete, but what about Rooker?

    • glunn and bighat like this

 

A question at the end of this exercise will be what is Mauer's value?At this point it seems obvious he will be the big name left off the list.With Buxton, Rosario, Lewis, Berrios, and Sano the list seems complete, but what about Rooker?

With the team pursuing Napoli and now this Korean 1st baseman, I'm beginning to think Mauer isn't planning on coming back after 2018.

Tough call between Gonsalves and Romero as far as asset value.Think I'd lean Romero though If Gonsalves' ceiling is a #3 or #4 starter, well... I guess another club could go to the free agent market and get that for a reasonable amount of money.Top end of the rotation guys are harder to find, even if Romero is not a sure thing.

    • glunn likes this

I also had wondered that same issue, and if it was tied to Jake Mauer leaving the organization.I feel Mauer at some point this last year reached out to the Twins about his future here, and was told either wait and see or that it looked like he would not be returning after 2018.Given Rooker's progress and the Twins looking at one or two year deals with the Sano question also, it could be the Twins feel they have enough first base options going after 2018. 

Going by the criteria for this list Mauer isn’t here because at the tail end of his contract it is decidedly team unfriendly. It has no surplus value. Rooker would probably be in the 21-25 range I’d guess. I am curious to see where Nick places the top 5. At this point I’d probably put Buxton in the #1 spot and really want to see an extension for him and a couple other before the season starts. At this point I doubt Dozier entertains an extension that would make sense for the team so, sad to say, but if they haven’t put things together by the trade deadline he’s likely to be flipped…which doesn’t stop the Twins from bidding for him on the open market if it doesn’t seem like Gordon is ready.
    • birdwatcher likes this

I agree on the placing of Gonsalves above Romero, while the latter has a potentially higher ceiling the odds of it happening are not the best.Hope it happens, but probably a better chance he ends up in the bullpen that an ace starter at this point.  

 

Mauer really doesn't have much value, not a bad player at this point, but pretty low on the food chain for first baseman and no team in the league would take him at $23M with his current production.Not trying to knock Mauer, I'm grateful for the career he's had and all, just the reality of a guy at the end of his career with a big contract.  

    • Carole Keller likes this

 

A question at the end of this exercise will be what is Mauer's value?At this point it seems obvious he will be the big name left off the list.With Buxton, Rosario, Lewis, Berrios, and Sano the list seems complete, but what about Rooker?

 

From an asset value standpoint, I guess you'd have to do an exercise on whether or not Rooker could bring a bigger return than any of these 15 and your assumed 5 (I assume the same 5).As far as ongoing success, it appears Sano will be the only corner IF on the list.As I try to read into Nick's thinking, it must be that the combination of affordably acquiring a corner IF or having, say, Lewis move to 3B leaves Rooker (and Mauer) outside the top 20. Kepler also has some 1B experience, so perhaps that goes into it as well.

As much as I like Kepler, I'd flip him with Gonsalves. A southpaw thats close to starting with the Twins is pretty darn valuable. If he can tighten up his control a little, to me, he has the arsenal and moxie to be more than a mid rotation starter
Photo
ashburyjohn
Jan 02 2018 10:21 AM

If he can tighten up his control a little

Well, I suppose that's the question. Is he unable to find the strike zone at will without giving up some "stuff"? Or is he purposely nibbling, in the belief he'd get hammered if he came in with more strikes?

    • MN_ExPat likes this

Interesting to see what DOES happen to Mauer, where Sano ends up, and what the Twins do with Dozier, who suddenly has become an expensive commodity...would I pay him $60 million for a longterm deal at this point, or hope that Gordon/Polanco are suitable replacements.

 

Is Rooker the answer at first base? See how fast he progresses, with Diaz on his heals.

 

Kepler is interesting. He seems to be a very hard worker, but still lacks consistency (or maybe he is consistent). Buxton may be on the rise, and Rosario hs been a total surprise as the team hitting leader. Who is on tap to bring something different and unique to the outfield?

 

The whole Jake Mauer thing was strange. Saw him as possibly a manager of the future. Would he have been better served to be an on-field coach with the Twins....having half the season at home in Minnesota, as well as the off-season? Is it the money you can make in car dealing compared to the time and energy you spend on baseball 24-hours-a-day?

 

It does seem strange to think of Mauer NOT asTwin, but it may happen. I was thinking there would be more changes in the Twins front office, not just some position shuffling. But maybe next year.

    • MN_ExPat likes this

My guess on the top 5 is: 

1) Buxton

2) Berríos 

3) Sanó

4) Lewis

5) Rosario

 

I could also see Sanó and Lewis flopped.But I think the top two has to be Buxton and Berríos given the shortage of young, controllable top-of-the-rotation pitching in baseball right now. 

    • Doomtints likes this

My gut feeling with Kepler is he won't get much better with his bat, so he had better stay dependable on defense.

 

His bat has enough pop to where he can have a good career in the MLB as long as he can defend.

 

I like him, but I don't see him as a top asset, especially not above Dozier. He will have plenty of time to prove me wrong, not that "he should have a good career" is actually a negative (he's just not a star). Teams need guys like Kepler as their #3 outfielder, assuming he remains a decent defender. On some teams he could masquerade as a #2 for a long time....

    • Vanimal46 likes this
Photo
Lee-The-Twins-Fan
Jan 03 2018 03:06 PM

To me, Kepler and Polanco should be in the teens... I like them both, but have a hard time seeing any higher ceiling for either... But then, I did not see Dozier's power explosion coming in 2016 either.


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