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Are Twins Top Prospects Being Held Back by Loaded MLB Roster?


Twins Daily Contributor

Earlier in the week, I looked at Minnesota’s depth across the board and it makes it tough not to be excited about the club’s chances in 2020. That being said, one group of players might be being held back because of the team’s loaded big-league roster. For better or for worse, Minnesota’s top prospects aren’t going to get a long look this season because the club has big goals and depth at nearly every positionTrio of Top Prospects

Most outlets, including Twins Daily, have some combination of Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach as the to -three prospects in the Twins organization. All three players finished last season at Double-A which usually means a player is getting close to making his big-league debut. Of the trio, Larnach is coming off the best season as he was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year.

 

A wrinkle in that plan is the fact that none of the players are on the 40-man roster. Not like a spot couldn’t be opened for him if it was needed. Larnach is actually the oldest member of the trio and his college experience could help him to move up quickly. Kirilloff needs to be added to the 40-man roster next off-season so it wouldn’t be a stretch for him to be added at some point this season.

 

If everything is going well for the Twins, none of their top-3 trio will debut until September or later.

 

Pitching Options

Lewis Thorpe is going to be a key contributor to the 2020 Twins roster and other pitching options have an opportunity to make their mark. Randy Dobnak already started a playoff game for the Twins but the club added multiple other playoff- caliber starters. Players in the ilk of Donbak, Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer have already gotten big-league opportunities on a 101-win team and this season could also provide opportunities on a team destined for less than 100 wins.

 

Outside of the trio vying for the fifth starter spot, the Twins have other prospects attempting to make the roster. Sean Poppen could be a breakout candidate for the club and his stuff could be more than capable at the big-league level. Other top prospects like Jhoan Duran, Blayne Enlow, and Edwar Colina also have a shot at making an impact, but it will be tough in a loaded MLB bullpen.

 

40-Man Roster Options

Last season, few people would have expected the impact Luis Arraez made on the big-league roster. One season later and the Twins are relying on Arraez to be a regular in the team’s batting order. Like Arraez, there are other members of the 40-man roster that could impact the 2020 version of the Twins.

 

Travis Blakenhorn has a chance to play a significant nubber of games for the Twins and be an impact player throughout the 2020 season. That’s why this spring with Josh Donaldson is so important. He could impact Minnesota’s roster throughout Donaldson’s tenure with the club. Other prospects like Brent Rooker have a shot at impacting the team’s roster.

 

Do you think prospects are being held back? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

 

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At this point there isn't any significant issue with guys who deserve an opportunity being unable to make it to the majors. The only players where this might have been an issue were Gordon and Rooker, but they both missed so much time last year with injuries that it's hard to argue they were being held back. I suspect if any of the top end prospects plays at a level where it's obvious they are ready the Twins could make a trade to open up a spot.

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No.

I can't think of a single Twins prospect that is destroying the high minors to the point that it's hard to find a reason to keep them down.

 

Only one I can even think of that's close is Rooker, and I don't think Rooker is a major league hitter until he can significantly reduce his K rate.

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No.

Although very soon we`ll have a lot, where we`ll have a dilemma relating to our 40 man roster that we`ll need to address very soon. Yes, we have a lot of depth which is great in case of injury. Arraez came up & proved himself.

Excuse me but I think the word "impact player" is thrown around too freely. Yes, Arraez has a lot of potential especially hitting but he still needs improvement on his defense. Impact means a player that can alter the outcome of a season, IMO. Arraez substitution of Scoop IMO did not affect the outcome of the season.

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Players in the ilk of Donbak, Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer have already gotten big-league opportunities on a 101-win team and this season could also provide opportunities on a team destined for less than 100 wins.

 

 

"Destined for less than 100 wins" ???

 

Where does this destiny come from with a MLB Roster so loaded that top prospects are held back?

 

 

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It depends on how you view your prospects.

 

Do you view prospects like the rookie years of Buxton, Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia?  

 

or do you view prospects like the rookie years of Jordan Alvarez, Fernando Tatis, Pete Alonso, Keston Hiura, Bo Bichette, Eloy Jimenez, Mike Ford, WIll Smith, Aristedes Aquino, Vlad Jr, Bryan Reynolds, Mike Yastrzemski, Tommy Edman, Brandon Lowe, Christian Walker, Alex Verdugo, Kevin Newman, Austin Nola, Cavan Biggio, Matt Beaty, Michael Chavis, Oscar Mercado, Austin Riley, Victor Robles or our very own Luis Arraez? 

 

If you view them like the rookie years of Buxton, Hicks and Arcia. I can see why you would want to hold that door shut. 

 

However, if Kiriloff is hitting like Jordan Alvarez or Tatis or Alonso or Hiura. Holding that door shut would be tragic. 

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Only being held back if there isn't a 40-man roster spot for them and someone of lesser quality is protected.

 

The joy is that he TOP prospects do offer depth. If he need arises, they should get regular major league play...like Arraez. To see how they work against major league pitching and for the future of the team.

 

Right now, the Twins have backup infielder, designated hitter, two outfield positions, and rotation arms on the bubble heading towards 2021. If the outfielders play well, there is little need to argue extensions for Rosario and Buxton, unless they become lights out super stars. It's just the matter of when you trade or part company. Cruz is not a necessity to come back in 2021. And the Twins can always play Gordon and Blank and probably get equal backup play for the infield.

 

Many would argue that any of the current starting arms with major league experience class in at a #4 starter or better. All will have an opportunity at some point to get a few games this year. The big question is can they show enough to become the end of the rotation arm on a team that is winning 100 games (or 95 or even 90). WInning does stahl prospects. But when the opportunity arrives, you play the Larnach or Kirkiloff instead of the Cave or Wade, you play the Lewis or Gordon instead of Adrianza...at least for x-many games. IF they are a top prospect. Top prospects don't come up to sit on the bench and breathe the air. They play, they pitch.

 

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Yes - of course we are holding them back.  That is not bad when the player that is blocking their way is an outstanding MLB player and that seems to be the case in all our positions except CF where Buxton remains a conundrum and we have no second choice - sorry no real prospects are ready here, although I would go to a lower ranked prospect which I know frustrates some of you.

 

Rooker has looked good this spring, but where do you put him?  In fact Kiriloff, Larnach, Lewis and especially Gordon have to wait for injuries or retirement.  Will Cruz go another year?  That will open one slot.  If Buxton is not ready do we put Kepler out of position again and give a rookie a shot - Larnach?  I would.  A great team continues to find a way to slip an influx of youth into its lineup like we did with Arraez last year.  The old Yankee dynasty was notorious for finding a way to slip new players in and that helped them maintain a decade of dominance. 

 

What I really want to see is the development of our young pitchers.  Hopefully Balazovic and Duran will me more than fifth spot competitors next year. 

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Offense-wise, Cruz and Gonzalez might be gone next year. Twins could also move/trade/demote guys like Wade, Astudillo, and Cave by the time the season's over. Injuries are an unknown, but Bux has a history. God forbid Donaldson, Sano, Polanco, Rosario, or Kepler go down for a significant period of time but it's always a possibility.

 

I'd also be hesitant to assume any or all of these top prospects are going to play at an All-Star level as soon as they get a chance in the bigs. Be careful what you wish for.

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Yes... and that's a good thing...

 

I'd add that by yes I imply that a prospect needs to force his way on to the roster, which is the way it should be on a winning team. Larnach and Lewis need time. They aren't even on the 40 man yet, so there's no reason to rush them given the situation on the MLB roster... but guys like Poppen, Dobnak, Arraez, and Smeltzer all got chances. Each one of them earned those chances. 

 

We lost a lot of service time rushing guys (Buxton in particular comes to mind). If this team wants to have sustainable success, we need to get beyond that. 

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a person regarded as likely to succeed or as a potential customer, client, etc.

"clients deemed likely prospects for active party membership"

 

If I want to see that I'll go to a minor league game. I want to see players who are succeeding or fulfilling their potential.

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Short answer is absolutely no.

 

When they are ready, they will push for a spot. This is not a rebuilding team who would probably promote anyone and everyone from AA/AAA and cycle through them and live with struggles and hope something sticks and sticks soon.

 

Now next year, depending on who stays and who goes, and how the 40 man sets up, perhaps you'd have an arguement for someone being held back. But that's also called depth.

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Yes... and that's a good thing...

 

I'd add that by yes I imply that a prospect needs to force his way on to the roster, which is the way it should be on a winning team. Larnach and Lewis need time. They aren't even on the 40 man yet, so there's no reason to rush them given the situation on the MLB roster... but guys like Poppen, Dobnak, Arraez, and Smeltzer all got chances. Each one of them earned those chances. 

 

We lost a lot of service time rushing guys (Buxton in particular comes to mind). If this team wants to have sustainable success, we need to get beyond that. 

We did not rush Buxton.  He just fell apart when he got here. 

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2020 is a Win-Now year. That means the roster must be filled with guys that are at or near their very best, NOW. In order to have a chance of beating teams like the Astros, Nats, Dodgers, etc, you best bring your top-level game. Twins can't be a team trying to baby-sit the superstars of two years from now.

 

Much as I like Lewis, Larnach, Rooker, Kirilloff, etc, these guys are all a couple to three years from nearing their peak level of performance. Meanwhile, the outfield of today is composed of guys that each have some years of experience. Rosy, Buck and Kep each have seen enough pitchers that nothing really surprises them. They know how to play balls off the Green Monster and all the other odd quirks of various stadiums. Crowd noise no longer bothers them. They now ignore catcalls and slurs. The Yankees are just another team full of tough bastards. So are the Twins, at this point. 

 

It's no knock on Royce Lewis to say he's not ready to play at Buxton's level. Same with the rest of the prospects. The Show is a tough place to exist, and the guys there now have earned their places. You want to force your way onto this squad? Bat .400 for half a season in AA or AAA. Dominate hitters with amazing pitching. Otherwise, the guy there now is still probably better than you. 

 

Best advice to the top prospects: Dominate. Your fielding routes better be efficient. Your throws best be right on target. Your at-bats better look professional. When you pounce on a pitching mistake, you better make that pitcher pay. If you see the defense let down just a bit, you better take that extra base. The Minnesota Twins have turned a corner, they're one of the best teams in baseball now. If your game isn't quite sharp, stay where you are and improve. 

 

Last year, Luis Arraez forced his way onto the roster with great at-bats and solid fielding. Dobnak forced his way into the rotation with fearless command. That's what it takes. Your can't just play okay at the major league level. Your play has to lift the team a little higher than it is now. Otherwise, no reason to make a change.

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They can also remedy the situation by trading them for a top or the rotation pitcher (or two) that they need to win more than they need prospects to do so.

Winning is the goal, and not moving prospects to the majors. 

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I don't buy it either. If one of our prospects was ready, the front office would have put them in the plans for this year. It is up to the prospects to force the front office's hand, just like Arraez did last year. Maybe Adrianza gets hurt and Gordon seizes that opportunity. For Kirrilloff or Lanarch to make big contributions this year with the big club, we will need them to have a great season and a big injury with the big club.

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Most of them haven't done anything yet to force the hands of the FO. Look at their 2019 results...most of the position players had issues with performance, injuries, or both. A guy like Rooker had 270 PA last year...and though the results were very good...they weren't as good as you'd think given the warped numbers that came out of Rochester last year. Larnach? Ask me in July. The vast majority of time, the guys with needle-moving talent don't get 'blocked' for long. They eventually hit a level that can't be ignored, and/or someone at the major-league level falters or has health issues...or the prospect is moved. It's unlikely to be any different with this group.

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This day in age, I do not think any prospect gets blocked.  They may be slowed to debut, but outright blocked no.  Sure, Kirloff was in a different organization would there be more of a push to have him make the club, at least based on his early spring numbers and prospect status, most likely.  But, we have three decent hitting outfielders and two top fielding at their respective spots.  However, if he keeps raking early in season, he will get his chance because he will force it.  The only reason he won't is if everyone is healthy and all crushing.  There will always be a spot to be found if you can help the team win.  No team will ever sit player simply because they have a MLB player at their position, they will find a spot.  Now, if the prospect is not forcing the hand, then should they come up, no so then they are not getting blocked either.  

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We did not rush Buxton.  He just fell apart when he got here. 

 

 

I believe how we handled Hicks and Buxton was a terrible short sighted mistake, I believe that all front offices should avoid repeating this mistake at all costs. Yet... We kept repeating the same mistake over and over again in CF.

 

Hicks and Buxton were shoved into the opening day lineup with no Plan B should they fail. They failed and the Twins kept trying and they kept failing. 

 

With this so fresh in our memories... I don't understand how people can just say... Next Year Kiriloff will start in LF and we can trade others to accommodate. 

 

It is so much better to debut your minor league talent in the middle of the season surrounded by talent who can absorb struggles from the newly promoted minor league talent. And if the minor league talent performs... like many are these days. Continue to incorporate them into the mix. 

 

When people see a roster full of talent... many think "Blocked". 

 

I don't think "blocked"... I think it's the perfect opportunity to let others show what they can do when injuries occur. The team is protected if they fail.

 

If they fail... send them back down. If they succeed... You've improved your lineup and you've found a cheap option for next years roster which can free up cash to improve somewhere else in the lineup. 

 

All you have to do... is give them a chance to win a job. Let them play if they win it... Send them down if they don't perform. 

 

Depth is a good thing. If you don't play your depth... you don't have it.  :)

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RB, the difference is being in a full rebuild vs. a win now mode. Hicks and Buxton were handled okay.

I get that Howie and certainly understand the differences between teams in different stages of the cycle. However, I would argue that the Twins were never in full rebuild mode and I would certainly say that after 2015, 2016 was time to compete and not take flyers on youth with uncertain outcomes and possible learning curves. 

 

But mainly, it would have been better to work them in instead of cementing themselves to a do or die situation.

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