The number 1 to 5 off-season 2014 Minnesota Twins prospects are:
5. Kohl Stewart RHSP, DOB: 10/7/1994, 6'3", 195 lbs.
Stewart was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2013 draft from St Pius X High School (Houston, TX). Other than a single game started in Elizabethton (4 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 8 K) he started his pro career in the GCL at age 18, when he pitched in seven games (four GS) for 20 innings, walking three and striking out 16. He had a 1.69 ERA and 0.938 WHIP.
Stewart has four pitches that he commands well: A plus to plus plus mid-90s fastball that peaks at 97-98, a close to plus mid- to high-80s slider, an above average high-70s low-80s curveball and a plus low- to mid-80s changeup, which is an impressive arsenal for an 18-year-old. Stewart draws comparisons to another Houstonian hurler and the Twins would be ecstatic if he realizes half of that potential. He is still getting a feel of how to pitch, but this is expected of someone his age. Depending on how he shows in spring training, I will not be surprised if he starts 2014, at age 19, in Cedar Rapids' rotation.
For more, prospects 36-40 are here, 31-35 here, 26-30 here , 21-25 here, 16-20 here, 11-15 here, 6-10 here, and you can find all segments in reverse order here.
4. Eddie Rosario LH, 2B, DOB: 9/28/1991, 6'0", 170 lbs.
Eddie Rosario was drafted by the Twins in the fourth round of the 2010 draft from Rafael Lopez Landron (PR) High School as an OF. Rosario is one of those rare prospects who has had success at every step of his pro career, with a career slash line at .307/.358/.510 . His best season was his second, his age 19 season, 2011, at Elizabethton, where he hit .337/.397/.670 with a career high 21 HRs in 67 games (298 PAs). He also swiped 17 bases that season. That was his last season as a full- time center fielder before being converted to a second baseman by the Twins due to their wealth of outfielders.
He played in Beloit in 2012, with his season cut short by a line drive to the face that broke his jaw bone. Despite that, he finished the season with a .296/.345/.490 slash line. He moved up to Fort Myers in 2013 (age 21 season) where he hit .329/.377/.527 before moving to New Britain mid-season. In New Britain he hit .284/.330/.412.
Last year, Rosario played in a career high 122 games with a career high 544 PAs. As if that was not enough, he played at the Arizona Fall League after this season and continued in the Puerto Rican Winter League this winter. Right before he made his appearance in the PWL he communicated to the press that he had tested positive for prescription painkillers and was given a 50-day suspension, but at the time of this writing he has yet to be charged officially.
Rosario has all-star potential. A middle infielder with IsoP in the .200s before he hit drinking age, supplemented with good contact and decent plate discipline (he still needs some work on this tool) is rare. But the key word here is "infielder". Rosario is still learning the position, but has shown a lot of promise and second base is probably the easiest position in the diamond defensively. For this, his impending suspension might be a blessing in disguise: it will give him some necessary rest after about 700 projected plate appearances this year and will also give him a couple months in extended spring training to work on his fielding while serving his suspension. He will likely start 2014 in New Britain.
3. Alex Meyer, RH, DOB: 1/3/1990, 6'9", 220 lbs.
Meyer was drafted in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft by the Washington Nationals out of the University of Kentucky and traded to the Twins last off-season (2012) for Denard Span. I am not really going to give detailed statistics for the top three Twins' prospects, just some information and justification for the rankings. I assume everyone knows enough about them at this point.
Meyer was ranked #83 prospect in baseball by MLB.com before the 2012 season and #59 from Baseball America and #40 by MLB.com before last season. Believe it or not, Meyer is near major league ready after just twoprofessional seasons and at certain teams he would be in their 2014 MLB rotation. His repertoire includes three pitches: a plus plus fastball that averages 94-96 and hits 98-100, a plus to plus plus hard slider at the high-80s with a sharp break and an average changeup, which right now is a complementary pitch. A likely comparable is a right-handed version of Randy Johnson because their pitching styles and their offerings are so similar. Developing that changeup will make Meyer truly dominant. His ceiling is a top of the rotation, perennial all-star starter. He likely will start 2014 (his age 24 season) in Rochester. He is not on the 40 man roster, but may still get a September call-up, depending on how he and the Twins are doing.
2. Byron Buxton, RH, CF, DOB: 12/18/1993, 6'2", 189 lbs
Byron Buxton was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the first round (second overall) of the 2012 draft. Before the 2013 season he was rated the #10 prospect in baseball by Baseball America and #19 by MLB.com. He likely is thought of as the top Twins' prospect by most people. Why he is not here? Because I think Sano is a better player right now, because I saw him strike out on three straight change- ups last spring training, because he had a less than stellar performance in the AFL, and because at the same level (Fort Myers) at the same season, Miguel Sano (who is just 7 months older) was a better player.
As a matter of fact, other than the Midwest League (and this could very well be Beloit vs Cedar Rapids,) Sano's production was better than Buxton's at the same stops. Another issue with Buxton's production is that his OPS dropped more than 100 points (from .990 to .887) from Cedar Rapids to Fort Myers. And his BABIP in both stops were ridiculous .402 and .404, which is about 100 points higher than the combined .303 at the two rookie stops the previous two seasons. I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, just color me a tad worried here and not ready to jump on the "top prospect in the system" bandwagon, at least while Sano is still a prospect.
On the other hand, Buxton is more of a complete player, having better defense and speed tools than Sano. He has been compared to Mike Trout, but his overall performance in the Midwest League in the first half of 2013 at the same age (19) was better than Trout's in the same league at the same age. What is Buxton's ceiling? Rickey Henderson with a stronger arm and fewer stolen bases (just because players do not steal that much these days.) He could be a fixture at center field and an all-star for many years.
But he has to prove himself against AA pitching first and will get that chance, likely starting his age twenty season in New Britain. Twins' fans are wishing for a September call-up to the majors, but I think 2015 is more realistic, unless he tears the Eastern League apart and the Twins are competing in September (and both would be great things).
1. Miguel Sano RH, 3B, DOB: 5/11/1993, 6'3", 195 lbs.
The Twins signed Miguel Sano as a free agent from the Dominican Republic in October, 2009 to a $3.15 million signing bonus. Before the 2010 season Sano was ranked as the 94th prospect in baseball by BA, before the 2011 season the 60th, before the 2012 season the 18th by BA and 23th by MLB.com and before last season the 9th by BA and 12th by MLB.com In the Byron Buxton entry, I talked about why I think Sano is a better prospect, but I shouldn't have needed to, if I had just re-iterated what I wrote here last August, arguing that he should be the top prospect in baseball after this season.
Miguel Sano is number one as far as I am concerned. And I am not going to compare him with Miguel Cabrera, like a lot of people do, because:
a) Miguel Cabrera is a disliked Tiger and
b) I think that Sano will be better.
Instead, I will compare him to a beloved Twins' player: Harmon Killebrew. Nitpickers focus on Sano's K% of around 25% on each of his age 17 to 20 seasons. But Killer's K% in his age 19 to 22 seasons were 34.8%, 35.5%, 24.2% and 36.4%, respectively. There is further nitpicking at Sano's defense, but Killebrew also came up as a third baseman when he was a Senator. He ended up all right by any measure.
Next season will be Sano's age 21 season. He will likely start 2014 in Rochester with a potential September call-up, depending on his and the Twins' performances. He is not on the 40-man roster, so a 2015 MLB appearance, like Buxton, is more likely.
I was recently asked (after this was up) whether Sano's elbow issues might change my opinion on the rankings. The answer is categorically no, the same way that Buxton's shoulder issues do not change my opinion on him. If any of those injuries are catastrophic, it might be a different story. My original thoughts were that both Sano and Buxton will not be in the majors until at least 2015, so even that time- table is not affected....
Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch
Next: Summary of all 1-40.