I always know that baseball season is quickly approaching when I see all of the prospect lists coming out. It is always entertaining to read differing opinions about the same guy. At the end of the day, prospect lists are always a crapshoot. That being said, they can still be entertaining and informative, especially if the person conducting the list is plugged in with scouts who have seen the player or have seen the player live. Unfortunately, this is not one of those prospect lists. I have seen a handful of these guys live and have seen some of them on TV, but I am not an authority on prospects. That will not keep me from telling you my opinion though, so strap in.
Before reading the list, I wanted to tell you my overall philosophy on valuing prospects. I am of the opinion that, in a vacuum, position prospects are more valuable that pitching prospects. I know what you are thinking. But Mr. bashwood12, pitching is half the game and pitching is always a vital factor in the postseason. First of all, Mr. bashwood12 was my father; you can call me Bash. More importantly, pitching prospects are incredibly volatile and, even surefire pitching prospects get hurt and miss time. Injury risk is an important factor in my rankings. I do not completely devalue pitching, but if everything is even between a pitcher and a position player, I am choosing the position player every day.
Another factor is my rankings is floor vs. ceiling. A guy like Wander Javier has a very high ceiling, but his floor is, well, incredibly low (see his 2019 season). I value known commodities, or at least commodities with less variance, than I do the complete unknown like Javier. Please keep this is mind when looking at my rankings.
1. Alex Kirilloff
Dude can mash. Watching him this spring training has been eye opening as he appears to have a good deal of power the other way. He ended the year healthy and he started hitting for more power. His 2018 season was incredible and I believe this guy could be an average right fielder while hitting over .300 with 25-30 homers. That is a top-flight player and I think there could be more power there as he gets older. Even if he ends up at first base, that would still be a great player. I also think he is a year away at the most.
2. Royce Lewis
I am a little less bullish on Lewis than most, but the ceiling is sky high. He moves well and, at worst, should be a top flight defender in center. At best, he is an above average short stop. Defensively, I like the variance. However, the offense scares me. He may be the fastest guy in the organization not named Byron Buxton, but there is a lot of moving parts to his swing. The high leg kick is part of it, but he is moving his hands a lot before the swing as well. It is easy to get away with some of that stuff in the lower levels, especially for a guy this talented. However, he is starting to face better competition and I do not believe it is pure coincidence he had a down year. That being said, he did well in the Arizona Fall League and I work in insurance. What do I know?
I think Lewis could be a perennial All-Star if he can quiet things down at the plate. The kid obviously has a great work ethic and everyone seems to love him as a person. Sky is the limit for him, but I really think making the leg kick less pronounced and keeping his hands quiet before the pitch could help him.
3. Trevor Larnach
I was contemplating putting Larnach at #2, but I did want the 9 people who read this to get upset with me. His spring training at -bats (I know, I know, it is just spring training) have been great and he really looks like he belongs. He does not appear to be a bad athlete, but I know Keith Law called him "lumbering". I have not seen much of him in the outfield yet, but it looks like the consensus is an average at best left fielder. Larnach is going to live and die with his hit and power tools. The hit tool looks fantastic thus far. He is not afraid to go the other way and has had high batting averages this far in the minors. He also appears to have a good eye at the plate with the high OBP. The power tool is what is going to separate Larnach from a good prospect to a great prospect, and I believe the power will come, even if it is at the expense of the batting average some. I also think Larnach might be the best Twins prospect that is most likely to get traded with Kepler, Buxton and Kirilloff looking like the outfield of the future.
4. Jhoan Duran
Power pitcher who is getting 57% ground ball rate and averaging close to 11 strikeouts per 9 innings in high A and AA? Sign me up. If he can keep developing the changeup to deploy against lefties, he could be a stud. Worst case, he looks like a mid-rotation guy to me or a late inning reliever. I do not see him having to go to relief as he will be 22 years old this year and has already had some success in AA.
5. Jordan Balazovic
I think the ceiling is higher for Balazovic than Duran overall. However, Balazovic has never thrown more than 100 innings in a season, so I can not, in good conscience, put him higher than this. It looks like he is growing into his body and the velocity is starting to present itself. There may be some more velocity to gain and he has some complimentary pitches already. If he can keep developing, this is a guy who could eventually be a solid number 2 starter.
6. Ryan Jeffers
I have watched several at-bats from him this Spring and I think I may be bad luck for him. I am pretty sure he has struck out every at-bat I have watched. However, it looks like his timing is off right now, so I am not concerned. Jeffers plays a premium position and will most likely be called upon to shoulder some of the catching load as soon as next year. From everything that has been discussed online, it sounds like his defense has really improved. The bat seems like it will be good enough to be a starting catcher, which is good because it does not look good enough thus far to carry him if he were a first basement, corner outfielder or DH. If you can play good defense at catcher while hitting .250 with some power, you are at least an average regular, if not more. His floor looks like that of a backup catcher, which would be still be valuable.
7. Matt Canterino
Canterino looks like a guy who will fly through the Twins system if he can stay healthy. If he can, looks like a power pitcher that can kick it up a notch if he can develop a changeup. Mid-rotation starter is the ceiling, but looks like another guy who could be a bullpen stud if starting does not work out.
8. Keoni Cavaco
There is so much variance here, but the talent is hard to deny. Everyone seems to think he will stay on the left side of the infield, but remains to be seen if that will be SS or 3B. Rookie ball was a bit of a struggle, but it is tough transition to go from high school to the pros (not to mention a metal bat to a wood bat). This guy seems like a project, but one that could pay huge dividends down the line. I am very curious to see how he does in short season ball this year.
9. Gilberto Celestino
I am a huge fan of this young man. Plays excellent defense at a premium position (CF) and appears to put the barrel on the ball at a high rate. It also appears he has some OBP skills as well. He has looked good in spring training and appears there may be some power there as he gets older. He may never hit 20 homers a year, but he could get to double digits while being a doubles machine, while getting on base and playing good to great defense. That sounds like a average regular or better to me.
10. Blayne Enlow
Enlow is a guy who seems like he could blow up just like Balazovic did as a prospect. High school pitcher who is still growing into his body/velocity, I do want to see Enlow get more innings before I move him up any further. Twins are bringing him along a little faster than Balazovic, so that gives me some optimism that he may be a bit more advanced that some other high school pitchers at this stage.
11. Lewis Thorpe
Feels like Thorpe should be 35 years old as it seems he has been around forever. We finally got a nice glimpse of his future last year and he was a little up and down. The peripherals were solid, even if the ERA was not, but I was a little concerned with his control/command. I think Thorpe is a nice back end piece for the Twins and will continue to provide quality innings for a cheap price, which is so valuable to an organization like the Twins (rather than pay 10 million a year to a fourth starter year after year).
12. Misael Urbina
There is a lot to dream on here. The OBP skills appear to be prodigious, as it is very rare to see a 16 year old kid walk more than they strikeout in pro baseball. Aaron Gleeman wrote that several teams tried to get him at the trade deadline, but the Twins would not budge, so they obviously think highly of the kid. This is a guy who could fly up prospect lists over the next few years. I can't wait to see how he does this year stateside.
13. Chris Vallimont
I am scouting the stat line a bit with Vallimont, but he has big strikeout numbers while keeping the walks under control. The fact the Twins parted with Lewin Diaz to get a few months or Romo and Vallimont tells me the Twins really like Vallimont, considering Romo is a good, but old, reliever who was a pending free agent. Sounds like a guy who can work up in the zone, which is a skill the Twins seem to covet right now. I imagine he starts in AA, which will be the real litmus test for how good of a prospect he is.
14. Randy Dobnak
I have a man-crush on Dobnak. He is a great story, going from undrafted free agent to the majors in just a few years. He added a one seam fast ball and things really took off for him. It looks like he throws a heavy ball, meaning it looks like there is some downward action right before it reaches the catcher. This can cause a lot of ground balls and weak contact. He also seems to have pretty good control. I enjoy watching him pitch. I think he can be a solid mid-rotation guy for the Twins for years. I think Thorpe has the higher ceiling, but I think Dobnak is a better pitcher currently
15. Brent Rooker
It is about to be sink or swim time for Rooker. Watching him in the outfield is an adventure and first base is going to be blocked by Sano for the foreseeable future. Rooker plays defense in the OF like a future DH, so he will need to have a big bat to be a viable major leaguer. The strikeout rate is concerning, but the dude can mash when he makes contact and has some OBP skills. I have a hard time seeing Rooker as a full time starter at DH because I do not think he will make enough contact. Is a .230/.320/.475 slash line with close to 200 strikeouts palatable for a starting DH? I do not think it is, and I think that is Rooker's ceiling.
16. Edwar Colina
I like the velocity and I am kind of hoping the Twins leave him as a starter this year. I doubt they will as I think Colina pitches for the Twins in the bullpen this year, provided he is healthy. Anyone with a triple digit fastball and a hard breaking plus slider may not need a third pitch in relief, so Colina looks to have the floor of a good relief pitcher. However, if he can develop something off speed for the lefties, even like a Sergio Romo caliber changeup (i.e., just good enough), he could be a starter.
17. Cole Sands
I like Sands alot as I think his floor is that of a mid to back of the rotation. I think his ceiling is not much higher, but he seems like a very safe bet to make the majors as starting pitcher. However, he needs to stay healthy to do that. He had some injury issues in college and missed some time last year, which is concerning. I think, if Sands remains healthy, he will be in the Twins rotation within the next 2-3 years.
18. Akil Baddoo
I like the OBP skills, the speed, and the power he has at such a young age. I do not like the low batting averages, weak arm, and the injury history to date. He is still young, so there is still a chance he can improve the hit tool. However, I just am not a fan of guys who have low batting averages and great on base skills unless they have alot of power.
19. Matt Wallner
We have already seen Wallner hit a walk-off homer this spring and throw a runner out on the base paths from the OF. Dude has a cannon for an arm and looks like he has amazing power and good OBP skills. First taste of pro ball did not show great contact skills, which is concerning for a guy who has been in college for 3-4 years. We will see how he does this year.
20. Nick Gordon
I think you are looking at the Twins utility man next year, unless his offense completely falls off a cliff this year. He had a decent season last year at the plate and can play multiple positions, including shortstop. Adrianza is a free agent next year. Gordon would make a decent, cheap replacement for Adrianza next season. Not what we were hoping for when Gordon was drafted, but I think he is a sure fire major leaguer.