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Article: Keith Law On The Twins Minor Leagues

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#1 Seth Stohs

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Posted 17 May 2017 - 08:28 PM

In the third installment of my conversation with ESPN’s Keith Law, he and I discuss the Twins minor league system. Law’s work in scouting as well as his knowledge of analytics make him a very good resource for this topic. He posts his Top 100 Prospect reports, and as we’ll mention a little later, he came out with this Top 25 Under 25 rankings.

Of course, we also want to remind you that Keith Law will be participating in a book reading, baseball discussion and signing at Moon Palace Books in Southeast Minneapolis Thursday night at 6:30. If you are able to go, you will want to. And, if you haven’t already, be sure to pick up your copy of Law’s recently-released book, Smart Baseball.

In Part 1, Law discussed his book, why he wrote it, the process, and some of his thoughts on the analytics of the game today.

Part 2 with Law was a discussion of Derek Falvey and the 2017 Twins, specifically the youth of the Twins roster. He noted that regardless of the win-loss record at the end of the year, it is most important that the right players are playing, getting innings and at-bats. He specifically talked of the patience shown with Byron Buxton and how we all hope that he takes off soon offensively.This week, Law posted his Top 25 Under 25 at ESPN.com. Two members of the Minnesota Twins organization appear, Byron Buxton (#8) and Miguel Sano (#21). In addition to those two, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Jose Berrios and Eddie Rosario are 25 and under and getting the most reps at their positions (obviously Berrios will only pitch every fifth day). Adalberto Mejia may soon be back. The future is exciting as these guys continue to get playing time.

There is reason for optimism in the minor leagues too. Although Nick Gordon is really the only consensus Top 100 prospect in the organization, that is not necessarily an indication of a weak system, especially with that young core in the big leagues.

According to Law, “There are plenty of guys in the system that aren’t Top 100, but they may be in the next 50. They are prospects of value. They will be effective major leaguers in some role.”

The key for fans is not to put too much stake in whether a guy is a Top 100 player. The Twins have had Top 100 prospects. Each of those “core” players mentioned above has appeared in Top 100 lists. Nick Gordon could be added to that core group. But just because a player isn’t a Top 100 guy doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid major league player in a role. Who knows? Several stars never appeared on Top 100 lists. Brian Dozier never did.

Law noted, “A lot of people get hung up on the Top 100/Non-Top 100 distinction. I try to emphasize this every year because I get the same reactions every year. Just because I don’t put a guy in my Top 100 doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re any good players or won’t be any good players. Plenty of great big leaguers have not been on my Top 100. Paul Goldschmidt was on nobody’s top 100 ever, ever. He’s turned out OK.”

We talked about a few players in our brief conversation.

“Tyler Jay, I really wish they hadn’t moved him to the bullpen, but OK. If that’s going to be his role, it’s going to be his role. Stephen Gonsalves. These guys are going to be big leaguers, as long as they stay healthy, they’ll be good big leaguers.” He continued, “There are guys like Lewis Thorpe somewhere out in the ether. Lewin Diaz, there’s value there. Travis Blankenhorn. I saw him one game in spring training. He’s pretty exciting. I’d like to see a full season of good contact rates and consistent performance, but he could be really good. For a big guy, he is big, that’s a big person, he moved really well at third base. He got off his feet fine, he’s got plenty of arm. It was good. And the contact was impressive.”

Of course, Law also acknowledged the elephant in the room as it relates to Twins minor leaguers and their adjustment to the big leagues. Jeff Pickler was brought in as a new Twins coach this year, and part of his responsibility is to work on players' transitions from the minor leagues to the major leagues.

“A lot of those guys haven’t gotten over the developmental hump. And that’s probably a whole other conversation, why they haven’t gotten guys over that hump, but there’s talent in the system. I think they’ve drafted OK, they just haven’t been able to convert enough of those guys into the big leaguers commensurate with the expectations of where they were drafted.”
Speaking of the draft, the Twins have a great opportunity in another month when they will have the #1 overall pick in the draft. That is what we will discuss in Part 4 of our conversation with ESPN’s Keith Law. If you have a chance, pick up his new book Smart Baseball and meet Law at Moon Palace Books on Thursday night at 6:30 p.m.

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#2 mikelink45

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Posted 17 May 2017 - 08:55 PM

Great insight - yes the transition is the problem and if we are addressing that I am pleased.

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#3 Seth Stohs

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Posted 17 May 2017 - 09:01 PM

 

Great insight - yes the transition is the problem and if we are addressing that I am pleased.

 

Yup, the transition has been rough for Buxton and Berrios (last year)... It went pretty well for Sano and Polanco.  Of course, for all of them, there will continue to be ups and downs, but hopefully more ups!

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#4 gunnarthor

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Posted 17 May 2017 - 10:39 PM

Nice article. It'll be interesting to see how some of these guys in the rookie leagues play this year as well.


#5 DocBauer

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Posted 17 May 2017 - 10:55 PM

Another great read! Only regret is it want longer and more detailed. I find his comment on Jay to be especially interesting. I get the idea of moving him to the pen to excel, and to do so quickly. But with Rogers there, Melotakis such a strong contender there, and Rosario possibly as good or better, I'd still like to see Jay starting, developing, and maybe filling out a couple of pounds for endurance sake if nothing else. I think moving him to the pen this soon is a mistake.
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#6 gunnarthor

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Posted 17 May 2017 - 11:14 PM

I don't like the Jay move either and I wonder if it was something that the player and agent pushed a bit more. Relief pitchers get paid a lot nowadays and if he is a knock-out reliever, he'll reach FA a lot faster than if he was a starter since it'd take him longer to reach the majors. But it's done so ...

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#7 HitInAPinch

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 02:52 AM

I've never really paid that much attention to Top Anything lists.  It's a moment in time, and then the moment is gone.  

 

I think both Duffey and Tyler just need more time to build up arm and repertory before being committed to being starters. Adam Wainwright started off in the bullpen.  Seemed to work out OK.  

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#8 old nurse

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 04:46 AM

 

I've never really paid that much attention to Top Anything lists.  It's a moment in time, and then the moment is gone.  

 

I think both Duffey and Tyler just need more time to build up arm and repertory before being committed to being starters. Adam Wainwright started off in the bullpen.  Seemed to work out OK.  

Wainwright was a starter throughout his minor league career. The head scratcher is Wainwright was the same age and experience as Anthony Reyes yet Reyes was the starter and Adam was the reliever. 

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#9 FunnyPenguin

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 06:58 AM

"Paul Goldschmidt was on nobody’s top 100 ever, ever. He’s turned out OK.”

 

Love that, if the Twins could just get 3-4 "OK" hitters in their lineup, we'd have a sweet team


#10 terrydactyls1947

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 06:58 AM

Personally, I don't understand the angst about Jay going to the bullpen. If the Twins think that is where he will excel, then put him in the pen. And I don't care if he was a first round pick or a free agent. If the pen is the best place for him, then I'm glad he is there. And if he turns into the next Mariano Rivera, will you still think the Twins "wasted" a first round pick? Probably not.

#11 Taildragger8791

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 07:19 AM

 

Personally, I don't understand the angst about Jay going to the bullpen. If the Twins think that is where he will excel, then put him in the pen. And I don't care if he was a first round pick or a free agent. If the pen is the best place for him, then I'm glad he is there. And if he turns into the next Mariano Rivera, will you still think the Twins "wasted" a first round pick? Probably not.

 

He's far more likely to end up as "just" a good reliever or closer than he is a Hall of Famer. Obviously everyone would be thrilled with any draftee or signee who ends up the BEST EVER at their position, that's kind of a silly example because that's so extremely rare. So rare that it isn't even worth considering unless a guy has clearly demonstrated that potential at some point. We're not there yet with Jay.

 

If he's an elite shutdown closer then the pick looks a lot more palatable, but it'll still always feel like the Twins left something on the table by using such a high draft pick on a guy who's likely role was a reliever. Teams rarely do that and it's because a single reliever has so much less impact on a game than a position player or starter. Not to mention that bullpens are easier to scrape together from free agents and trades than rotations and lineups are.

 

That said, what's done is done and if the bullpen is the best role for him then I'm all on board and hope he can get/stay healthy so we can get this show on the road. A beefed up bullpen would be a big boost to this MLB squad right now.

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#12 birdwatcher

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 08:15 AM

Matt Garza has produced 14 WAR. Perkins gave us 9 WAR. It's the draft, so I don't have any expectations, just the hope that Jay gives us better than the average #6 production over time in whatever role he has.

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#13 nicksaviking

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 08:25 AM

 

Yup, the transition has been rough for Buxton and Berrios (last year)... It went pretty well for Sano and Polanco.  Of course, for all of them, there will continue to be ups and downs, but hopefully more ups!

 

I wonder if it has something to do with the unintended organizational reinforcement of traditional Minnesota even-keeled temperament?

 

Buxton and Berrios really appear to be humble and quite young men. I'm sure many of us come from a Midwestern family that worries about meeting others' expectations; we know that can be hard and cause a burden. With their restrained and quite demeanors, they appear like they might be cut from the same cloth as many of the same people that fill the stands at Target Field.

 

Sano, Polanco and Vargas? Those guys always look like they're having a good time. I know the coach telling the kids to "Just go out there and have fun!" is a Little League cliché, but I don't know that it makes it any less beneficial.


#14 Thrylos

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 09:52 AM

Ranking Buxton over Sano before they played a single MLB game was questionable.Ranking Buxton over Sano right now is ridiculous.

 

If "baseball" thinks that Buxton has so much value, the Twins should sell high ASAP.

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#15 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 04:40 PM

Ranking Buxton over Sano before they played a single MLB game was questionable. Ranking Buxton over Sano right now is ridiculous.

If "baseball" thinks that Buxton has so much value, the Twins should sell high ASAP.


I would be opposed to selling on Buxton.
I still think he will be a superstar.
I realize that looks like a long shot after how his offensive career started, but nonetheless, I still believe he'll be an mvp caliber player.
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