• Twins Organizational Depth Chart - First Base

    It started on Tuesday with the catchers, and over the next few weeks, Iíll be taking a look at the depth at each position throughout the Minnesota Twins organization. Today, Iíll look through the systemís first basemen.

    Joe Mauer and the Twins made the announcement in November, but starting in spring, he will officially be the first baseman of the Twins. He had been the primary catcher for a decade. Likewise, Justin Morneau had been the primary first baseman (when healthy) for the team. Morneau was traded last August to the Pittsburgh Pirates and signed earlier this offseason with the Colorado Rockies.



    The Big Leaguers


    There is no question about it, Joe Mauer will be the opening day first baseman. He will, assuming good health, be near the top of the league in batting average and on-base percentage. The hope is that he will be able to play 155 or so games.

    That doesnít provide a lot of opportunities at first base for Chris Parmelee or Chris Colabello. Parmelee, the Twins first-round pick in 2006, is out of options. He can play some first base and could play in the corner outfield positions, DH or pinch-hit. Parmelee has certainly shown glimpses of power, but consistency has been the issue. 30-year-old Colabello was signed from the independent leagues and in 2013 was the International League Rookie of the Year and MVP after putting up monster numbers in Rochester; he even showed power with the Twins.

    40 Man Roster


    Besides the three players mentioned above, the Twins added two more potential first base options to their 40 man roster this offseason, Kennys Vargas and Max Kepler.

    The twenty year old Kepler has played a lot of outfield, including centerfield, in his young career. Obviously he will not be a centerfielder in the Twins system long-term (you know, because of Aaron Hicks and Byron Buxton). After spending the second half of the season in Cedar Rapids splitting time between the outfield and first base, he was invited to the Arizona Fall League where he played first base. At 6-4 and about 230 pounds, it may be his best position.

    Kepler is dwarfed by twenty three year old Vargas, who is about 6-5 and 260 (or so) pounds. He has immense power from both sides of the plate. Granted, he may never play first base in the big leagues as his best defensive position is likely designated hitter. However, he did work with Doug Mientkiewicz throughout the season in Fort Myers.

    The Century Club


    Dalton (DJ) Hicks, twenty three years old, was the Twins' 17th round pick out of the University of Central Florida in 2012. The 6-3, 230 pound Hicks was the cleanup batter for the Cedar Rapids Kernels for the first two-thirds of the season. He was promoted to Fort Myers where he continued to be a very productive hitter. His total of 110 RBI was the most in all minor league baseball.

    Prospect Rankings


    Kepler is certainly a Top 10-15 Twins' prospect. Vargas and Hicks are among the Top 30 Twins' prospects. Aside from these three, the top prospect is a guy who hasnít yet made an official plate appearance in a game in professional baseball. In July, the Twins spent over $1 million on a big international free agent. Seventeen year old outfielder/first baseman/DH Lewin Diaz was given $1.4 million and the Twins hope he develops into a big-time slugger. The assumption is he will spend time with the Gulf Coast League Twins in 2014.

    Roster
    Projections

    In each installment, Iíll make my roster projections. Obviously additional signings or injuries will affect all of this, and thatís why it is important to have more than just two or even three at each level. There are also always players put on the disabled list. As a disclaimer, these are my projections and not meant to be used as anything official. This gives an idea of who could be at each affiliate at the start of the season.


    • Minnesota: Joe Mauer, Chris Parmelee
    • Rochester: Chris Colabello, Reynaldo Rodriguez
    • New Britain: Kennys Vargas, CJ Ziegler
    • Fort Myers: Dalton Hicks, Adam Bryant
    • Cedar Rapids: Max Kepler, Bryan Haar
    • Extended Spring Training: Lewin Diaz, (last year in the GCL their catchers played a lot of 1B when they werenít catching)


    Feel free to discuss the players and the roster.
    Comments 28 Comments
    1. Miraclemat's Avatar
      Miraclemat -
      I hope I am wrong about Kepler...but I am not seeing him as a top 20 prospect. 5 years from now if he were to make the roster I can see his best(not average) year being 240 BA, 18 HRs. This would mean he would never play first base for the Twins before several of the other guys on this list. I think he has 4th outfielder written all over him...if he makes it at all.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      Quote Originally Posted by Miraclemat View Post
      I hope I am wrong about Kepler...but I am not seeing him as a top 20 prospect. 5 years from now if he were to make the roster I can see his best(not average) year being 240 BA, 18 HRs. This would mean he would never play first base for the Twins before several of the other guys on this list. I think he has 4th outfielder written all over him...if he makes it at all.

      Chances are you are right. There are very few sure things when it comes to prospects.

      But it would be interesting to know why you say that. Lots of folks who have seen him think he could be a good one. He's young, doesn't have much experience, good athlete and has shown a decent eye with some power. Staying healthy and getting AB's has been his challenge to date.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      From the standpoint of Most Prospects Don't Become Stars, I understand this. But when it comes to tools and the things that prospect people look at, Kepler has them. He has the height, the strength, the quickness and athleticism, a good baseball acumen, quick hands and a great swing.

      But of course at the end of the day, Kepler is more likely to become the next Laynce Nix than he is to become the next Josh Hamilton. In the same way, there's probably a 45% chance that Miguel Sano becomes the next Brandon Wood, a 45% chance he becomes the next Dean Palmer and a 10% chance he becomes the next Miguel Cabrera.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Understanding that the deck is stacked against any prospect who hasn't gotten out of A-ball yet, I don't see anything in Kepler that causes me to doubt his chances of ultimately becoming much more than a 4th outfielder.

      I do have doubts whether he'll ultimately be with the Twins when he reaches the Big Leagues as a regular.

      When you have to start using options on a guy who's still at Class A, the chances seem pretty good that you'll part ways before those options are gone.

      Add to it the fact that, while Kepler can play multiple positions, those positions all are pretty deep with young talent ahead of him. Mauer's contract won't expire before Kepler's options are gone and guys like Vargas and perhaps even Sano could end up succeeding Mauer eventually. When Seth gets around to looking at the organizational OF depth, I think it will be clear that Kepler has his work cut out for him breaking through that pack, too.

      Unless he makes some pretty remarkable accelerated progress up through the Classes, I think the most likely outcome will be that he's ultimately traded to an organization with less depth at OF/1B. Honestly, that probably wouldn't be the worst outcome for him, career-wise.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Don't forget that Kepler will (if needed) have a fourth option.

      Also, his prospect status has nothing to do with how that fits into the organization's depth. That'd be like Miguel Sano being in the system with Adrian Beltre as the big league 3B... Sano isn't any less of a prospect just because there are good players above him.

      Kepler's tools are unreal. Obviously he has a long way to go, a lot of development...
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      I've never seen Kepler in person, and even if I had my opinion based on that would be worthless. Still, Kepler might be my pick for breakout player this season. This is based solely on all the comments about his athleticism. In an environment full of great athletes, he gets singled out as being uniquely athletic, doesn't he? Also, didn't we read something about the speed of balls hit off his bat being the best measured during the AFL? I don't think I imagined this, but...
    1. Blackjack's Avatar
      Blackjack -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post

      But of course at the end of the day, Kepler is more likely to become the next Laynce Nix than he is to become the next Josh Hamilton. In the same way, there's probably a 45% chance that Miguel Sano becomes the next Brandon Wood, a 45% chance he becomes the next Dean Palmer and a 10% chance he becomes the next Miguel Cabrera.
      Bite your tongue

      We're looking for Sano=Cabrera; Kepler=Hamilton; Meyer=Glavine; Buxton=Mays!!!!

      A person can always dream!!
    1. Blackjack's Avatar
      Blackjack -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post
      Unless he makes some pretty remarkable accelerated progress up through the Classes, I think the most likely outcome will be that he's ultimately traded to an organization with less depth at OF/1B. Honestly, that probably wouldn't be the worst outcome for him, career-wise.
      Thats not all bad, Terry Ryan has shown a knack for trading Twins surplus into some useful players. More young starting pitching would be a plus!!!
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      I doubt Kepler starts at Cedar Rapids, but, if he does, he'll end up at Fort Myers sooner rather than later this year. You don't send a guy to the AFL and watch him languish behind a 17th rounder.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      I'd say, Meyer is closer to Smoltz than Glavin.
    1. chuchadoro's Avatar
      chuchadoro -
      I'm still optimistic on Kepler but the production needs to catch up to the tools in the next few years. Kepler not looking out of place in the AFL as a 20 year old is a good sign. He will be of average age for a low A player if he repeats at Cedar Rapids in 2014. I think Kepler takes a big step forward this year if he stays healthy.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Also, his prospect status has nothing to do with how that fits into the organization's depth. That'd be like Miguel Sano being in the system with Adrian Beltre as the big league 3B... Sano isn't any less of a prospect just because there are good players above him.
      Sano will be much better player than Beltre. The above is a no-brainer situation, just like the Mauer/Pierzynski or the Morneau/Mientkiewitz situation. Sell high on the veteran and keep the younger better prospect.

      But you cannot say the same for Kepler. There are 1B and OF prospects of similar age who are better than Kepler, will get to the big leagues earlier and stay longer.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      In the same way, there's probably a 45% chance that Miguel Sano becomes the next Brandon Wood, a 45% chance he becomes the next Dean Palmer and a 10% chance he becomes the next Miguel Cabrera.
      No way

      There is about 25% chance that Sano becomes the next Chris Davis, 25% chance he becomes the next Miguel Cabrera, 25% chance he becomes the next Harmon Killebrew and 25% chance that he is better than them all.

      He is that good. Already better than Brandon Wood or Dean Palmer ever were. Chris Davis is his floor.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      I'd say, Meyer is closer to Smoltz than Glavin.
      Meyer is pretty close to a right handed Randy Johnson, if anything
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      May all our prospects become all stars and the beer be free!
    1. Tibs's Avatar
      Tibs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      May all our prospects become all stars and the beer be free!
      I'm with Winston
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      From the standpoint of Most Prospects Don't Become Stars, I understand this. But when it comes to tools and the things that prospect people look at, Kepler has them. He has the height, the strength, the quickness and athleticism, a good baseball acumen, quick hands and a great swing.

      But of course at the end of the day, Kepler is more likely to become the next Laynce Nix than he is to become the next Josh Hamilton. In the same way, there's probably a 45% chance that Miguel Sano becomes the next Brandon Wood, a 45% chance he becomes the next Dean Palmer and a 10% chance he becomes the next Miguel Cabrera.

      This assessment really surprised me coming from your normally optimistic prospect assessments (an area where we all tend to share higher levels of optimism, admittedly).

      But to say that Sano has a 90% chance to end up as either the Next Big Bust, or just another 1-time All Star cog in the wheel seems a might pessimistic in my mind. There's certainly a zone of quality in-between Cabrera and Palmer for Sano's career to land- and most Twins fans would be happy for it to happen.....and as Thrylos stated, Chris Davis should be the floor of that, to coin a phrase, "Zone of Quality."

      And ironically, Sano may still end up at 1B at some point in the near future, what with his current elbow situation.
    1. Rick Niedermann's Avatar
      Rick Niedermann -
      I guess Kepler's numbers don't show it. But when I saw him in Cedar Rapids the ball just jumped off his bat. And even though he has grown into his body I think he has enough talent to be a corner outfielder. I am more excited about his overall potential to be a regular in the bigs then Aaron Hicks. I'm anxious to see him healthy and hopefully at Fort Myers for a full year. I agree with Chucadoro and think he will be the breakout minor player of the year with big numbers at Fort Myers.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      jokin,
      The only point I'm saying is that it's easy for the negatives to say that a prospect isn't going to be this or isn't going to be that because the reality is that most don't become what we hope that they could be. Most don't become Hall of Famers. Only a few turn into frequent All Stars. I think and hope and believe that Miguel Sano can become a frequent All Star. But until he does, we don't know that he will...

      Likewise, it's easy to say Kepler is likely to become only a 4th outfielder. Well, as it relates to any minor leaguer, if he does become even a solid 4th OF, it's better than most will wind up. I believe he has the ability to be more than that.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      jokin,
      The only point I'm saying is that it's easy for the negatives to say that a prospect isn't going to be this or isn't going to be that because the reality is that most don't become what we hope that they could be. Most don't become Hall of Famers. Only a few turn into frequent All Stars. I think and hope and believe that Miguel Sano can become a frequent All Star. But until he does, we don't know that he will...

      Likewise, it's easy to say Kepler is likely to become only a 4th outfielder. Well, as it relates to any minor leaguer, if he does become even a solid 4th OF, it's better than most will wind up. I believe he has the ability to be more than that.
      Sano is no ordinary prospect. For the vast majority of prospects, I can see your point. But some prospects are as close to sure things as you can get, barring carreer-ending injuries. Sano is one of those. Put it this way, would you have said the same thing about Mauer12 years ago, siply because the law of averages says he had a chance to be a bust?
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