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The Next Twins - 2017

Posted by Steve Lein , 01 April 2017 · 2,169 views

Top prospects lists have always one of the most fun things to read in the baseball offseason for me. Whether that’s by checking out the 2017 Prospect Handbook by Twins Daily’s own Seth Stohs and company, the great prospect capsules that are written on this site, or checking out any of the litany of lists available elsewhere, I can’t ever get enough. But because there are so many resources for this type of information, I like to take a little bit of a different look at prospects coming into a new year, and that means throwing out names that you might actually get to see in the majors with the Twins during the upcoming season.

Players who made their Major League debut for the Twins in 2016 included pitchers Jose Berrios, Taylor Rogers, J.T. Chargois, Pat Dean, Alex Wimmers, and Adalberto Mejia. Byungho Park and James Beresford made their debuts on the position player front, and all of these players besides Mejia, who came over in the Eduardo Nunez trade during the season, were players I profiled in this column before the 2016 season started.

From that list of debuts, only Rogers and Mejia made the opening day roster, but Berrios, Chargois, Wimmers, and Park all likely will make an impact with the major league team at some point during the upcoming season.
With Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Eddie Rosoria already being established in the majors, there’s not a ton of talent represented in this list on the position player front, but there is a bunch of ready or nearly ready pitching that could finally break through and begin to transform the Twins pitching staff that has been in desperate need of it for several seasons.

So for 2017, who are the potential next Minnesota Twins?

Justin Haley – RHP (TD’s #20 Twins Prospect)

I’ll start with the gimme pick. Haley represents the almost yearly Rule 5 draft prospect that is likely to debut right off the bat for the Twins as they can’t send him to the minors without working out a trade. The Twins didn’t make a Rule 5 selection last year, but in 2015 it was J.R. Graham who came over from the Atlanta Braves. Haley is likely to play a similar role out of the Twins bullpen as Graham did, that of a long-man and spot-starter. There’s not much more upside to him than that, but he has a good track record of performance in the minor leagues and is ready to contribute in the majors. He finished the 2016 season with a 3.01 ERA in 146.2 innings pitched across AA and AAA, and was fantastic the offseason leagues, allowing just one earned run in 23 additional innings. Haley didn’t do anything this Spring to lose a spot on the roster, and there is a good chance you could see him make his debut against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field in the first series of the 2017 season.

Stephen Gonsalves – LHP (TD’s #2 Twins Prospect)

Gonsalves has done nothing but dominate the minor leagues every step of the way thus far in his career, and is likely to start the 2017 season in AAA just one final step away from making his MLB debut. His “stuff” has always been talked about as being behind his results, but eventually you have to accept the idea that he might just be pretty good at what he does. He saw a bump in his walk rate when he made the move to AA last season (4.5/9IP), but that also came with a jump in his strikeout rate (10.8/9IP) and a sterling 8-1 record and 1.82 ERA over thirteen starts. Don’t expect to ever see him lighting up radar guns, as a low-90’s fastball is likely the best you’ll ever see when he’s on the mound, but always remember to consider there’s more to a pitch and pitcher than just pure velocity. I’ve started to think of him as a left-handed Brad Radke-type, and while he walks far more than Radke ever did (3.5 BB/9IP vs. 2.0BB/9IP in the minors), he’s also struck out more (9.7K/9IP vs. 7.0K/9IP) with a superior WHIP. He had some shoulder trouble that kept him out most of the AFL season, and this came up again this Spring, but he was back to pitching on the Minor League side of the field before camp broke. If he continues as he has in the regular season throughout his MiLB career a mid-summer debut is certainly achievable for the young left-hander.

Zack Granite – OF (TD’s #16 Twins prospect)

If you really know your Twins prospects, Zach Granite is a guy that should remind you a lot of the career path of a current Minnesota Twins star, Brian Dozier. Both were below the radar college draftees (8th round for Dozier, 14th round for Granite) that weren’t necessarily expected to make an impact in the majors. Dozier did so by reinventing himself as a hitter once he reached the majors (his 42 home runs last year were more than double his career total in the minors over 365 games), and while I don’t believe that’s remotely possible with Granite, he brings a different skill set to the table. Granite was named the Twins 2016 Minor League Player of the Year after hitting .295/.347/.382 and leading the minors in stolen bases with 56 on the season. Granite’s plus speed also benefits him on defense, where he is an excellent center fielder and was able to show the major league staff some of his skills there this Spring. Added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, Granite will start in AAA and is likely high on the pecking order for a fill-in outfielder in the majors when the need arises.

Nick Burdi – RHP (TD’s #17 Twins prospect)

Nobody would be more disappointed with how their 2016 season went than Nick Burdi. After making an impression in Spring Training with the MLB team, he was able to make just three appearances with Chattanooga before a bone bruise in his pitching arm put him on the shelf. A setback in June proved to be the nail in his 2016 coffin, and he comes into the 2017 season looking to do the same things he’d hoped for a year earlier. He’s been trying out an alteration to his pitching mechanics in an effort to stay healthier moving forward, and reports from Spring Training still have him throwing in the high-90’s like he always has. Burdi is the definition of a power pitcher, and if you enjoyed seeing J.T. Chargois or Ryan Pressly hitting 95+ on the radar gun last year, you’ll enjoy seeing triple digits even more. Burdi also brings a high velocity slider with bite, and even if he’s walking a few batters, that combination will continue to rack up strikeouts in the majors. While it’s taken a little longer than he or a lot of fans had hoped, I still believe there’s potential Burdi is closing games for Twins in the future.

Tyler Jay – LHP (TD’s #5 Twins prospect)
Another pitcher who could be closing games for the Twins in the future is left-hander Tyler Jay. Drafted number six overall during the 2015 season, the Twins had visions of turning Jay into a starter despite performing in that role very little during his collegiate career. After what some would call an underwhelming year of development as a starter in the system, this Spring the new front office quickly identified this was not how they would like to proceed with him, announcing they’d be moving him into the bullpen to put him on a faster track to the majors. Back in 2015 I wrote the draft profile on Jay for Twins Daily, and much of what I wrote about there hasn’t changed. Starting in the future has not been completely ruled out by the Twins, but he could be an impact arm in the bullpen much sooner. Many will complain that he’s a top-10 pick that now may only ever be a reliever, but he could be an elite one with his stuff who also has the ability to go multiple innings when needed (as a junior in college, over half his appearances were 1+ innings). Think something like playoff Andrew Miller-Light. I believe the move to the bullpen was made so Jay could make an impact this year if he’s performing. He’ll be back in Chattanooga to start the year, but I would not be surprised if he’s bumped to AAA early in the summer and making a case for the majors before September rolls around.

Daniel Palka – OF/DH (TD’s #14 Twins Prospect)

To this point Daniel Palka is perhaps most famous for being the guy the Twins received in a trade for catcher/outfielder Chris Herrmann, but there’s a reason many believe that was a great trade for the Twins. Herrmann was admirable in the role the Arizona Diamondbacks employed him in 2016 (he hit .284/.352/.493 as the backup catcher and outfielder in 56 games), but Palka brings an elite skill to the plate with his power. His 34 home runs across double and triple-A were good for fourth in all of the minor leagues, and he was named Twins Daily’s 2016 Hitter of the Year for his efforts. His first exposure to AAA proved to be a challenge, as he hit just .232 in 54 games with 86 K’s, but he also slugged a robust .483 on those hits and will look to improve his plate discipline in 2017. He was added to the 40-man roster in the offseason and if and when there is a need for a power bat or a fill-in corner-outfielder, Palka could be the guy who gets the call. I see a September call-up as a more realistic scenario for Palka, but like Adam Walker before him, he will have to show an improved approach in AAA to make the necessary impression.

Engelb Vielma – SS/IF (TD’s #18 Twins Prospect)

Engelb Vielma is an especially intriguing prospect given how the Twins have handled the shortstop position in the majors over the past several seasons. They currently have Jorge Polanco manning the spot, and while his offensive punch has proved an asset in his short time, his defense at short has not. Vielma is the opposite. His defense gets universally rave reviews from scouts and is well known for making the flashy plays with his slick glove and plus arm from the hole, but there isn’t a great profile as a hitter. While he’s shown an ability to make contact, there is little to no semblance of power as evidenced by his .636 career OPS in the minors. If defense at short becomes a priority as the season goes on, Vielma will be the guy who gets the call, but it is also more likely he makes his impact as a utility infielder who actually has the chops to make a difference with defense, as opposed to someone like say, Danny Santana. If he’s getting on-base at a clip around .330 or above, he can provide enough offensive value, but I don’t think he’ll ever have a slugging percentage that eclipses that number.

Jake Reed - RHP

Another reliever with a mid-90’s arm, Reed spent the bulk of the 2016 in AA with the Chattanooga Lookouts, but ended his season by making nine appearances with the Rochester Red Wings. He creates some deception with an unorthodox looking delivery that includes a low arm slot, and although he’s not yet on the 40-man roster, results will get him to the majors at some point this year.

Mason Melotakis - LHP

Melotakis career thus far perhaps should have made the Twins learn their lesson much earlier, that drafting relievers and turning them into starters or bouncing players between those roles doesn’t work, both in results and overall pitcher health. Melotakis missed the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery after being drafted as a reliever, spending a year as a starter, then returning to the bullpen. The Twins took it easy on Melotakis last season, as he did not appear in back-to-back games on any occasion, but should be ready to show off his mid-90’s velocity from the left-side at full capacity this year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start in AA again, but like several others in this list he’s an early bump candidate.

Randy Rosario - LHP

Rosario is another lefty that can bring mid-90’s velocity, and while he was a starter for his first five years in the Twins system, in 2016 he made his final nine appearances out of the bullpen at Fort Myers and then Chattanooga, along with his stint in the Arizona Fall League. This Spring after a brief stay with the Major League team, it was made official that Rosario would also be moved to the bullpen for the 2017 season, a role he also said he prefers. He will start 2017 with the Lookouts.

D.J. Baxendale – RHP

My first of a few darkhorse picks, Baxendale is a lesson to me in why you don’t ever need to put a successful collegiate starter in any league below the advanced single-A level after signing them. After he was drafted, he demolished rookie league and Midwest League hitters before doing the same to Florida State League hitters the next season and getting promoted to AA. For the next three years he languished at that level trying to put it all together as a starter, before finally getting the bump to AAA to end last season. Only thing was, all twenty-three of his appearances there came out of the bullpen. In that role he raised his strikeout rate into territory it hadn’t been since the low-levels, and was pitching in higher leverage roles as the season finished. He allowed just five earned runs in 35.0 innings with Rochester. Although he didn’t get an invite to MLB camp in Spring Training and he’s also not yet on the 40-man roster, it will be hard to ignore similar numbers out of the bullpen in 2017 when almost nobody in the major league ‘pen is a sure thing.

Trevor Hildenberger - RHP

All Hildenberger has done is his MiLB career, is put up numbers. In his three seasons he holds a 1.47 ERA, has struck out 10.5/9IP, and walked just 1.1/9IP with an otherworldly 0.82 WHIP. He’s also racked up 46 saves. Hildenberger reminds me a lot of Pat Neshek, both in their deliveries (side-winders) and the results, though Hildenberger has been noticeably better in the minors in comparison. There is a reason he has been named Twins Daily’s Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year the past two seasons, and barring injury you should see him join the bullpen carousel at some point in 2017.

LaMonte Wade – OF (TD’s #15 Twins Prospect)

Another darkhorse pick on this list for 2017, Wade is an outfielder who does a little bit of everything, despite not necessarily having a tool that stands out. He gets on base, plays good defense, and in general seems to impact every game in a different way. Many might try to tell you something has to give at some point, but it’s hard to ignore an .868 OPS over his first two seasons. He missed some time in 2016 to injury but should start the year in Chattanooga with an outside chance for an appearance in September if he continues performing in several facets of the game as he has thus far in his career.

Niko Goodrum – UT

Goodrum got a lot of run with the major league team this Spring Training and made appearances all over the diamond. He’s been slow to develop, but the talent the Twins saw in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft has started to show the last two seasons in AA. His path to the majors at this point is a utility role much like Danny Santana’s, and if he continues to show improvements in AAA their roles quite easily could be swapped at some point in 2017.

Nick Gordon – SS (TD’s #4 Twins Prospect)

I don’t really believe Nick Gordon will reach the majors at any point in 2017 other than a not that likely cup of coffee in September, but he’ll start the season in AA and I don’t see him staying there the whole season like he has in Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers the last two years. At this point I still think many evaluators are underrating his bat, and while I think his defense lags a bit behind, I do believe he is the shortstop of the future and will bring a much better overall package than the other names mentioned on this list at the position.

Fernando Romero - RHP (TD's #1 Twins Prospect)

Romero isn't as well known as he should be in prospect circles, but that will change in the upcoming season. He's gone under the radar because he missed nearly two full seasons due to Tommy John surgery. He was ready to go at the start of the 2016 season and made it through with no further issues, however he was handled with kid gloves as he pitched just 90.1 innings. If you're looking for a future ace in the Twins system, Romero is your guy. He's not tall but has size (6'0", 215+ lbs) which allows him to maintain mid-90's velocity throughout his starts, and he is capable of dialing it up to 100MPH. That velocity combined with with average to above-average flashing secondary pitches with room for further improvement give him plenty of projection. Due to his lack of innings, I don't think he'll be able to crack the Twins rotation this year, but a stint out of the bullpen when he's close to any imposed innings limit is not out of the question. 2017 could be a big year for Romero's national profile, but 2018 is when you can really expect big things in Minnesota.

Kohl Stewart – RHP (TD’s #8 Twins Prospect)

My final darkhorse pick for this season, my thought process here is much like the one I used to include Alex Wimmers on this list last a year ago. Stewart might have an even bigger hurdle to jump first because of the general belief he can’t strike people out, but I always like to point out his MiLB career ERA is better than another prospect who got far more acclaim for that type of thing in Jose Berrios. I’m not quite sure what has held Stewart back from maintaining his top-5 pick allure in his career thus far, but I can’t ignore the observations I hear from numerous sources about him: he has the stuff. That stuff includes a heavy fastball that he can alter to reach into the mid-90’s when he wants to, a vast repertoire of off-speed pitches, and competitive demeanor that check a lot of big-league talent boxes. Is 2017 the season he can maintain consistency? I think so.

So there you have it, my picks for Twins prospects who you could see making their Major League debut at Target Field during the 2017 season. Who do you think will make their MLB debut for the Twins this season, and when?

  • Oldgoat_MN likes this

Good solid list. The outfield might be a problem, unless someone goes down. But expect a total revamp of the bullpen. Sadly, many of the rotation names won't be here until 2018/19 because of current contracts and the possibility that a Gibson or Santiago may shine brightly.


    • Steve Lein and DocBauer like this
Agree on the rotation candidates, Roster man. While it wouldn't shock me to see Stewart still take a major step forward, he's just too far away, at the moment, and there a couple guys at AAA that would probably be up first.

Also feel Wade, Gordon and Rosario are just too far away, but a September cup of coffee is possible for any and all.

Even though I'm always the optomist, I really like the guys on this list. Very excited about the future of the bullpen and don't believe it's that far away despite the hand wringing taking place about the current one. Love the way Granite plays and approaches the game. Intrigued by Palka a lot and very interested in Vielma as at least a utility infielder. Goodrum, believe it or not, is one of my favorite names on this list. Healthy and being productive now, he, reportedly, can play decent defense at 7 spots and has a decent bat with power and speed. He may never be good enough, or special enough in any area to be a starter, but he could end being what we all hoped DanSan would become.
    • Steve Lein, beckmt and Oldgoat_MN like this


Good solid list. The outfield might be a problem, unless someone goes down. But expect a total revamp of the bullpen. Sadly, many of the rotation names won't be here until 2018/19 because of current contracts and the possibility that a Gibson or Santiago may shine brightly.


I think you're right with the starters. Lots of potential talent to try, but not really a lot of opportunity... Yet.

You are missing Romero from this list.If he gets off to a fast start in AA, he could be in AAA by midseason and a callup in September. 

    • Steve Lein likes this


You are missing Romero from this list.If he gets off to a fast start in AA, he could be in AAA by midseason and a callup in September. 


You're right! And I actually had his capsule written, not sure how I forgot to put that one in!!! As I wrote, the lack of innings makes it hard for me to believe he'll be able to crack the rotation, but it will be a big year for him!

The Wise One
Apr 04 2017 12:21 AM

A list of the prospects in AA and AAA that have not yet appeared in the majors.As about 8 of them are not on the 40 man roster something would have to be going horribly wrong or amazingly right for them to get on the 40 man. Injuries and severe underperformance are the wrongs, trades for lower level, high upside prospects are the amazingly right. .


A list of the prospects in AA and AAA that have not yet appeared in the majors.As about 8 of them are not on the 40 man roster something would have to be going horribly wrong or amazingly right for them to get on the 40 man. Injuries and severe underperformance are the wrongs, trades for lower level, high upside prospects are the amazingly right. .


Well, those are the types that could make their debut's, right? ;)


As for the 40-man roster, I'm not worried about that. I see plenty of guys I would lose exactly zero sleep over if dropping them gets one of these young guys on the team who deserves it.


I am definitely with you on trades, I'm just not sure the Twins have the right guys who can complete them. They tried with Dozier (I would have hated a 1-1 swap for De Leon) and didn't hear anything on Santana all offseason. The Twins real assets right now are the one's they shouldn't be getting rid of (Sano, Buxton, Kepler, Berrios, Polanco). Gotta hope some of the veterans (especially pitchers) are able to build value this year.

Jason Wheeler and Aaron Slegers should be on this list too. They're not lighting the world on fire right now overall, but are near the top of the pecking order in SP depth.