The Big Leaguers
Josh Willingham had a down season in 2013 after winning a Silver Slugger Award for his tremendous 2012 season. His best defensive position is probably DH, and heíll likely spend some time there, but he will catch what he gets to in left field. Oswaldo Arcia struggled with the glove in his 2013 debut, though he had never played left field in his pro career until he was called up to the big leagues. I believe if he goes to right field, full-time, he will look better in time. Not great, but better. His bat is pretty potent, though he will need to avoid those prolonged slumps where he struggles to make contact.
The centerfield situation will likely again have Aaron Hicks and Darin Mastroianni involved, along with the favorite, Alex Presley. Mastroianni was removed from the 40 man last month, but heís got a chance to be the fourth outfielder. Hicks hit great in spring training a year ago and then really struggled. Heís got immense talent and will get another chance. However, with Byron Buxton on the horizon, his time in centerfield may be limited.
Chris Parmelee is out of options. Heís played both corner spots and some first base. Since Arcia has options, is it possible Parmelee gets April in right field? And don't forget that Chris Colabello played some right field for the Twins after never playing outfield in the minor leagues. He remains a bench option as well.
2013 Draft Picks
The Twins have drafted a lot of pitching early in the draft the last couple seasons and in 2013 they did not select an outfielder until the 14th round. The Twins took three college outfielders, all capable of playing center field.
In the 14th round, they selected Seton Hall junior Zachary Granite. He is a speed guy who plays very good defense. He played in Elizabethton in 2013 and hit .285/.362/.343 with four doubles and five triples. He also stole 14 bases and was named to the Appy League postseason all-star team.
In the 20th round, they took a four year senior from the University of Buffalo named Jason Kanzler. He went to the GCL and hit just .225/.286/.390 with six doubles, six triples and three home runs. He stole 13 bases in 14 attempts. As a senior, he hit .330 with 12 home runs and 21 stolen bases. He also won his second college Gold Glove.
Ivory Thomas was the teamís 34th round pick. Another four year starter, Thomas spent his first three seasons at Cal-State Fullerton before playing at Cal-State Dominguez Hills his final season. He hit .383 and was on base about 52% of the time during the season. He didnít sign until late, so he played in just 16 games in the GCL.
Just three outfielders appear in my Top 30 Twins Prospects list, and all three of them are in the Top 11.
Byron Buxton is the greatest prospect ever. All right, that may, or may not, be a bit excessive, but he is the clear choice for the #1 prospect in all baseball, which also makes him the pretty clear choice for #1 prospect in the Twins organization. That is pretty impressive because Miguel Sano would be the top guy in most organizations. Buxton has all the tools. He has elite speed which he uses on offense Ė turning ground outs into hits, or turning doubles into triples Ė and defense Ė where he has great instincts to go with the tremendous range. He also has a very powerful arm. He has the ability to hit for average and should continue to add some power to his game. He can steal a lot of bases. He also has a very advanced approach at the plate. He is patient, and like the Twinsí Joe Mauer, isnít afraid to hit with two strikes. Yet, coaches and teammates talk about him as a very coachable, very respectful young man who has a drive to not only be good, but to be great. Prospects like Byron Buxton donít come around all that often. He could be up in the 2nd half of 2014 if all continues to go well.
Max Kepler was also listed in the first base grouping as that may be the future position for him, but he has played more outfield to this point. He is my #9 Twins prospect. Unfortunately, his 2013 season was delayed by an elbow injury. When he arrived in Cedar Rapids for the second half, he played quite a bit of centerfield, taking over for the promoted Buxton. He has good speed, though at 6-4 and probably 220 already, he is a better fit in the corners, probably left field. He is a solid outfielder and looks graceful on the field. Offensively, he holds his hands high and has a very quick, very powerful swing. As he matures, he is going to add even more power. He struggled against left-handers in his time with the Kernels, so that will need to be monitored, but he is all about potential. He was added to the 40 man roster following the season.
Adam Brett Walker was the Twins' 3rd round pick in 2012 out of Jacksonville. He had been a Baseball America Top 100 prospect for the draft, and the Twins were thrilled that he was still available when they picked. After his powerful 2013 performance in Cedar Rapids, I ranked him as the #11 prospect for the Twins. People want to talk about the negative with Walker. He spent the full season in Cedar Rapids as a 21 year old. He walked just 31 times in 553 plate appearances for an IsoD of just .041. If he can find a way to get that up to 0.55-0.60 in the next year or so, then it wonít be such an issue. However, his power is incredibly impressive. I would feel comfortable saying that, outside of Sano, Walker has the best power potential in the Twins' farm system. He drilled 31 doubles, seven triples and a Midwest League Leading 27 home runs. His 109 RBI led the league as well, and it was just one behind fellow Twins prospect Dalton Hicks for tops in all of minor league baseball. He also stole 10 bases in 10 attempts during the season. He is 14-14 as a professional after going 40-41 during his three seasons at Jacksonville. 2014 will be an interesting season for the right fielder. Heíll start the year in Ft. Myers but has a chance to move up to New Britain with a strong first half.
Just outside of my Top 30 you will find JD Williams. He was the Twins' 10th round pick in 2010 out of high school. At the time, he was a toolsy project with terrific speed and very good strength. He was pushed to Beloit in 2012 and showed some signs but he did struggle. He returned to the Midwest League to start the 2013 season and showed great improvement. He hit .281, and he got on base 39% of the time. He also showed power with 12 doubles, six triples and eight home runs. He earned a second half promotion to Ft. Myers where he got off to a fast start before struggling late. He stole 26 bases between the two stops.
Danny Ortiz gets forgotten in prospect rankings because of the Twins outfield depth. He doesnít put up numbers that blow you away. He just puts up solid all-around numbers while playing good defense. I think he can be a fourth outfielder type. Heís not a burner, but he can play centerfield. He was the Twins 4th round pick in 2008 out of high school in Puerto Rico. With New Britain a year ago, he hit .258 with 27 doubles, four triples and 12 home runs. Listed at just 5'-11", he is not a big guy, but he has surprising pop in his bat.
One year ago at this time, Nate Roberts was a popular choice for a Top 30 prospect. He was coming off of a showing in the Arizona Fall League where he led the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He did that despite having spent the season at Low-A Beloit (because he had missed so much time with knee injuries). That was the story in 2013, too. He had knee surgery before spring training last year. He played in one game in Ft. Myers and had to undergo another knee surgery. He still has the skill set to be a good leadoff hitter, but he needs to stay healthy.
Zach Larson is a young prospect worth watching. He has solid tools all around, but he can really hit. He could hit for average and for power. He's an adequate defender in the outfield though he doesn't run real well. But he can hit. He was the Twins 19th round pick in 2012 out of high school. He was paid well over slot. He began 2013 in the GCL but earned a promotion to Elizabethton where he was arguably their top hitter in his time there.
In each installment, I have been making my roster projections. Obviously additional signings or injuries will affect all 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 lists. This just gives an idea of who could be at each affiliate at the start of the season.
- Minnesota: Josh Willingham (LF), Alex Pressley (CF), Oswaldo Arcia (RF), Darin Mastroianni (4th), Chris Parmelee (UT), Jason Kubel (DH)
- Rochester: Chris Rahl (LF), Aaron Hicks (CF), Wilkin Ramirez (RF), Jermaine Mitchell (4th), Evan Bigley (5th), Eric Farris (UT), Nate Hanson (UT), Chris Colabello (RF/1B)
- New Britain: Danny Ortiz (LF), Byron Buxton (CF), Mike Kvasnicka (RF), Lance Ray (4th), AJ Pettersen (UT)
- Fort Myers: Max Kepler (LF/1B), JD Williams (LF/DH), Jonathan Murphy (CF), Adam Walker (RF), Nate Roberts (4th/DH)
- Cedar Rapids: Jeremias Pineda (LF), Zach Granite (CF), Dereck Rodriguez (RF), Jake Proctor (4th), Jason Kanzler (4th)
- Extended Spring Training: Zach Larson, Ivory Thomas, Ryan Tufts, Jorge Fernandez, Adonis Pacheco
Feel free to discuss the players and the roster.
Just a quick note. I will be working on the organizational depth chart for pitchers, but I am going to wait a week to ten days. Iím doing that for a couple reasons. First, I think itís possible that the Twins add another pitcher or two on minor league deals (does Johan Santana come to mind?). Also, I will be making the long trek down to the Twin Cities on Thursday. Iíll be at the Diamond Awards, Twins Fest and the Twins Daily Winter Meltdown, so it will be a busy weekend.