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Front Page: Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2020: Part 3 (6-10)

luis arraez alex kirilloff jordan balazovic byron buxton mitch garver
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 12:05 AM

After covering Nos. 11 through 20 in Part 1 and Part 2 of these rankings, we're now venturing into the Top 10. These are foundational pieces in what the Twins are trying to accomplish; ranking these players against one another wasn't easy. Read on to see how it shook out.First, to reiterate the parameters and stipulations:
  • Things that are factored into these rankings: production, age, upside, pedigree, health, length of team control, favorability of contract, positional scarcity (within the system, and generally).
  • Players are people. Their value to the organization, and its fans, goes well beyond the strictly business-like scope we're using here. But for the purposes of this list, we're analyzing solely in terms of asset evaluation. Intangible qualities and popularity are not factors. (Sorry Willians.)
  • The idea is to assess their importance to the future of the Minnesota Twins. In this regard, it's not exactly a ranking in terms of trade value, because that's dependent on another team's situation and needs. (For instance, Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade, Jr. would be more valuable to many other teams than they are to the Twins, who are rich with short-term and long-term corner outfield depth.)
  • This is a snapshot in time. Rankings are heavily influenced by recent trends and where things stood as of the end of 2019.
  • Current major-leaguers and prospects are all eligible. The ultimate goal here to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion?
Any questions or quibbles, holler in the comments. Let's continue the countdown.

TOP 20 MINNESOTA TWINS ASSETS OF 2020 (6-10)

10. Luis Arraez, 2B
2019 Ranking: NR

Last offseason, the Twins briefly considered exposing Arraez to the Rule 5 draft but thought better of it, adding him to the 40-man roster one day after doing the same for Nick Gordon and LaMonte Wade, Jr. It was a wise decision to say the least.

The scrappy and perpetually overlooked Arraez raked everywhere in 2019. He batted .342 at Double-A, .348 at Triple-A, and most impressively, .342 during a 92-game major-league debut that saw him finish sixth for AL Rookie of the Year. At age 22, Arraez was a disciplined OBP force, bringing balance to an aggressive and power-laden lineup. He showed solid defense at second and even looked capable in left. The upward trend with his power – he hit four homers with the Twins after totaling six in 367 minor-league games – hints toward offensive upside yet to be tapped.

9. Alex Kirilloff, OF
2019 Ranking: 4

Kirilloff didn't have a bad year in 2019. Taking on Double-A as a 21-year-old, he batted .283 with a .756 OPS in 94 games. Perfectly solid numbers given the context. But he didn't nearly match the excellence of his breakout 2018 campaign, and lost extensive time to a wrist injury, which is a tough developmental blow for a young player who missed all of 2017 due to Tommy John.

Kirilloff remains the best pure hitting prospect in the organization, but the luster has worn off slightly and his indispensability has diminished somewhat with the continued rise of Trevor Larnach and others. This explains why Kirilloff ranks as a Top 10 asset rather than a Top 5 asset this time around, but he's still plenty valuable and exciting.

8. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
2019 Ranking: NR

The same thought process that led to Jhoan Duran ranking 13th applies here: "Pitching prospects with high ceilings that are close to the major leagues are valuable to every franchise, and especially to the Twins in this moment." Balazovic is a bit further from the majors than Duran, having finished at High-A in 2019, but he's on a higher prospect tier. In fact, Balazovic is the best pitching prospect in the system who has yet to reach the majors.

Duran has great stuff, but he lacks the consistent results to back it up. This is where Balazovic separates. Since joining the organization as a fifth-round pick in 2016, the right-hander has simply performed, registering a 3.32 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 10.0 K/9 rate through his first 228 innings as a pro. At 6'5" and 214 lbs, he's a big sturdy athlete with a mid-90s fastball and advanced command. He was absolutely sensational in 2019, with a 2.69 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 12.4 K/9 rate between two levels of A-ball at age 20, so his stock is riding high. Can he build upon it?

7. Byron Buxton, OF
2019 Ranking: 3

A healthy Buxton can be one of the most impactful difference-makers in Major League Baseball. This was the premise for ranking him No. 1 two years ago, and No. 3 last year. It was reinforced in 2019 when he was on the field, as the center fielder accrued 2.7 fWAR in just 87 games with an .827 OPS, 44 extra-base hits, 14 steals, and almost unparalleled defensive value.

Alas, the overriding story of Buxton's season was, once again, injury. And it's one that spills over into 2020, as the 26-year-old is currently in the process of rehabbing from significant shoulder surgery. He's opened four different seasons with the Twins and played 100 games in only one of them. The mounting physical uncertainties make it impossible to trust his reliability going forward, making him feel like more of a bonus factor than centerpiece crux. And while free agency is still three years away, it's no longer a tiny blip on the horizon.

With that said, if he can find a way to make it happen, a full healthy and productive season from Buxton will be more pivotal to Minnesota's championship hopes than any ace pitcher the Twins could sign or trade for. I firmly believe that.

6. Mitch Garver, C
2019 Ranking: 11

Is Garver the best catcher in baseball? Is he one of the best offensive backstops in MLB history? Will he be an MVP contender for years to come? Based entirely on the sample of his 2019 season, the answer to all those questions would be "yes," and he'd be No. 1 in these rankings with a bullet. But that sample amounts to only 93 games, and is so wildly out of line with his previous track record that it's tough to know exactly how to weight it.

Garver has shown a knack for improving himself and disproving doubters, transforming from ninth-round draft pick to fringy catching prospect to bona fide big-league starter, but the leap last year was drastic by any standard. Thirty-one homers and a .995 OPS in 93 games, from a CATCHER (one with noticeably improved defense), is nuts. But it remains to be seen whether Garver was playing out of his mind for six months with a juiced ball, or setting a new norm. It bears noting that he turns 29 next week, making him the oldest player in this Top 10 by a sizable margin, and the only one who's not on the front end of his physical prime.

Regardless, Garver has clearly established himself as a long-term building block, with four years of team control remaining.

RECAPPING THE RANKINGS SO FAR:

20. Ryan Jeffers, C
19. Eddie Rosario, OF
18. Michael Pineda, RHP
17. Nelson Cruz, DH
16. Tyler Duffey, RHP
15. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
14. Trevor Larnach, OF
13. Jhoan Duran, RHP
12. Taylor Rogers, LHP
11. Miguel Sano, 3B
10. Luis Arraez, 2B
9. Alex Kirilloff, OF
8. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
7. Byron Buxton OF
6. Mitch Garver, C

Check back in tomorrow for Part 4.

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#2 rdehring

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 06:58 AM

Cannot agree more with your last comment about Buxton.For that reason, I am hopeful that the Twins work out a nice extension with him before opening day.Putting the issues of September 2018 behind him together with long term security may be a factor in his changing how he plays the game to becoming a safer Byron Buxton in the field.He is a potential MVP.

 

 

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#3 Twinfan603

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 06:59 AM

I love Mitch, but I think we're putting too much stock into his rise. Let's see him replicate 2019 before even mentioning him in the conversation for best catcher in the game.

For the final five, I'd have them ordered:
5. Lewis
4. Graterol (we need pitching desperately)
3. Polanco
2. Kepler
1. Berrios
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#4 Dome Dogg

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 07:01 AM

If Garver is truly the real deal and not just a guy who had a great season, how on Earth did it take so long for the Twins to realize what they had? 

"Kid, don't you think there's a problem when you get that excited over a seeing-eye single?"


#5 dbminn

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 07:54 AM

Nick, you're doing a great job at a difficult task. I have a comment though...

 

Nick's question: "Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion?"

 

Seems the answer depends on when you think the Twins can be a champion. If it's the next two seasons, I'd rate Sano and Buxton higher than Lewis, Balazovic and Kirilloff (IMO). Maybe put Rogers higher on the list too. If you're shooting for 2021 and beyond, the prospects move right behind Berrios, Polanco and Kepler.

 

This is my problem with the Twins FO. They say they want to win it all now but they act like they're looking at 2021 or 2022. If it's now, they need to trade top prospects for a SP (and maybe a corner bat). If it's later, they could trade Sano, Rosario and May for AA prospects (or sign Sano and May to long-term contracts). 

 

The FO keeps hedging their bets. At some point they have to commit to a plan. There's still time this offseason. Maybe at the trade deadline. Maybe when they have to adjust their 40-man roster next offseason. Ugh

 

 

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#6 mikelink45

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 07:54 AM

Nicely done.I am enjoying these write ups and rankings.I suspect is some ways this was a much easier year for you to rank the players than the last three.We seem to be in a more solidified period with the exception of first base and the end of the rotation.  

 

Going forward this will again be challenging as players like Sano and Berrios move towards FA.Buxton will have to be healthy this year to keep in the top ten. Garver will be 30, Cruz will be even older...


#7 AlwaysinModeration

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 08:44 AM

Fun exercise. Thanks for doing this. In my view, if you are talking about most valuable assets to an organization, service years factor large. Therefore, I don’t think Nelson Cruz, at age 40, signed for one season, should be in this list. He could put up the same numbers as last year, but it’s unlikely. Odorizzi falls in the same realm—although if he were signed to a Jose Abreu-like extension, he could easily turn into a much more valuable asset.

I think I’d view Lewis Thorpe and Keoni Cavaco as more valuable assets for the organization.

Honestly, take a look at Thorpe’s last three years. 10-11K/9, under 3 BB/9, FIP of 3.7 or under. And this is with high BABIP. I think he should be in the rotation to start the year, and could stick.

Cavaco is obviously a wildcard, with a rocky small sample first year. But if he has a good year, he shoots up their boards (while Cruz and Odorizzi are gone.)
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#8 Det95Twins

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 08:44 AM

These rankings are crazy. The players chosen are OK, even easy, but their rankings are all over the place. Cruz is top 5. Ditto Buxton and Sano. Arraez has to prove himself and so does Garver. Berrios, Polanco, Lewis, Kepler and the mystery player that eludes me...it had better not be Graterol!

#9 birdwatcher

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 09:00 AM

 

If Garver is truly the real deal and not just a guy who had a great season, how on Earth did it take so long for the Twins to realize what they had? 

 

He was DEVELOPED into the real deal.

 

The better questions to ask would be: why did every team in baseball pass on him about 8 times, why were 16 other catching prospects selected before he was, and how on earth did he turn out to be more productive than any other catcher in the entire major leagues in somewhat limited play?

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#10 Major League Ready

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 09:15 AM

 

These rankings are crazy. The players chosen are OK, even easy, but their rankings are all over the place. Cruz is top 5. Ditto Buxton and Sano. Arraez has to prove himself and so does Garver. Berrios, Polanco, Lewis, Kepler and the mystery player that eludes me...it had better not be Graterol!

 

Take a look at the ranking parameters. That might help and I am pretty sure all-stars (Berrios / Polanco) have proven themselves. This type of assessment involves a fair amount of speculation but Nick has done a nice job of laying out how he came to these rankings. The fact that's it's not an exact science makes for interesting debate.

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#11 SgtSchmidt11

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 09:28 AM

 

These rankings are crazy. The players chosen are OK, even easy, but their rankings are all over the place. Cruz is top 5. Ditto Buxton and Sano. Arraez has to prove himself and so does Garver. Berrios, Polanco, Lewis, Kepler and the mystery player that eludes me...it had better not be Graterol!

With Duran @ 13 and Balazovic @ 8, Graterol has to be top 5.He qualifies as a top pitching prospect near the big-leagues, as the most top pitching prospect closest and actually in the Bigs.

 

That's following the author's logic anyhow.

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#12 Dome Dogg

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 09:58 AM

 

He was DEVELOPED into the real deal.

 

The better questions to ask would be: why did every team in baseball pass on him about 8 times, why were 16 other catching prospects selected before he was, and how on earth did he turn out to be more productive than any other catcher in the entire major leagues in somewhat limited play?

That's a fair point. He just seems so old to finally be a full time player! 

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"Kid, don't you think there's a problem when you get that excited over a seeing-eye single?"


#13 70charger

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 10:22 AM

 

If Garver is truly the real deal and not just a guy who had a great season, how on Earth did it take so long for the Twins to realize what they had? 

 

I'd argue the exact opposite. He was drafted in 2013 (in the ninth round, no less!), and despite being a catcher, he was in the majors by 2017. The following year he was a primary catcher. 

 

For a pretty good prospect, that's a nice pace through the minors. For a ninth rounder, that's fast. For a ninth round catcher that's breakneck. For a ninth round catcher who was the best hitting catcher in the game last year, that's ludicrous speed.

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#14 bobs

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 11:44 AM

Pretty remarkable how fast Arraez went from the #20 prospect to the #10 asset

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#15 MN_ExPat

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 11:45 AM

 

I'd argue the exact opposite. He was drafted in 2013 (in the ninth round, no less!), and despite being a catcher, he was in the majors by 2017. The following year he was a primary catcher. 

 

For a pretty good prospect, that's a nice pace through the minors. For a ninth rounder, that's fast. For a ninth round catcher that's breakneck. For a ninth round catcher who was the best hitting catcher in the game last year, that's ludicrous speed.

So THAT's why the label on the Spicy Garv Sauce is plaid. Totally makes sense now :).

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#16 Darius

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 12:00 PM

I agree with some of the sentiment on Garver that we really don’t know yet.

Was his production enhanced by the juiced that ball? I think so. And, no, the juiced ball didn’t help everyone. Not all hitters are created equal in terms of fly ball rate, etc. it helped some more than others. I don’t know the data, but it just seemed like he was one who really benefitted from an approach geared towards “lifting” the ball. There’s really no telling at this point how that will affect Garver and his production.

There’s also the issue of playing time. If he’s truly the offensive force he appeared to be in 2019, he needs to play more games. But, if he plays more does his production decline? Likely. Nonetheless, you can’t say he’s one of the greatest offensive catchers of all time and an MVP candidate when he’s only playing in half of the games.

I can’t really argue with where he is placed on this list right now, at the end of the day. But, I have a healthy level of skepticism that he’s indefinitely going to be the player we saw last year. I certainly don’t think he’ll ever match the level of production per PA/AB, so where does that put him?

On Buxton, despite the injuries and past struggles, etc. I still think he’s one of the most valuable piece on the team. He’s certainly higher than 7 in the Twins organization. There’s a reason all of these teams start with Buxton when discussing trades with the Twins. Personally, I think he has a big year in front of him. He could very well be a top 5 piece in the MLB, let alone on the Twins, this time next year.

#17 joefish

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 12:30 PM

Garver needs to do it again this year to convince me of what you say he is. He had a great year. Can he repeat it?

#18 Tomj14

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 01:19 PM

"Is Garver the best catcher in baseball? Is he one of the best offensive backstops in MLB history?"

 

I love me some Garver, but lets not get crazy about Garver, He isn't the best catcher in baseball (yet) and is no where near one of the best offensive backstops ever at this point in his career (218 games and 5.7 oWar) and he will be 29 years old in a week.

 

 


#19 Homerhankie

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 04:05 PM

Honestly, I believe in Garver. Not saying he will replicate last years production per AB. But, I've been watching him for a few years. I see a top 5 catcher at minimum in 2020 in 120+ games started.

#20 Homerhankie

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 04:05 PM

Honestly, I believe in Garver. Not saying he will replicate last years production per AB. But, I've been watching him for a few years. I see a top 5 catcher at minimum in 2020 in 120+ games started.
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