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  • Here's How The Experts Are Viewing Twins Prospects


    Nick Nelson

    Over the weekend, MLB.com unveiled its official list of Top 100 prospects for 2018. This follows rankings from Baseball America and ESPN, both published in the previous week.

     

    It's prospect season. So let's aggregate the opinions of all three authoritative sources, in an effort to establish a consensus view on the Twins system and its relative standing as we head into the new season.

    Image courtesy of William Parmeter (Royce Lewis)

    Here's a weighted rundown of prospects that made appearances on these lists, with thoughts on what we should make of the variance in evaluations:

     

    1. Royce Lewis, SS

    MLB: 20 | BA: 24 | ESPN: 25

     

    Remarkable consistency among all three outlets. Aside from pitcher, the one position represented most on the top ends of these lists is shortstop, for obvious reasons. Lewis is undoubtedly among the brightest in that field – a rare combination of A+ athleticism and A+ makeup, still barely broaching his potential. The franchise's No. 2 asset is already a top-tier prospect in the game and could graduate to elite status with a strong first full season.

     

    2. Nick Gordon, SS

    MLB: 80 | BA: 93 | ESPN: 37

     

    The monumental slide Gordon experienced in Baseball America's ranking of Twins prospects, assembled by Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, was an attention-grabber. As recently as last July, Gordon had been ranked as the team's top prospect by BA's John Manuel (incidentally, now employed by the Twins). By last week he'd dropped all the way to eighth.

     

    Gordon's fall on Baseball America's overall prospect list (compiled by several national prospect writers instead of one local scribe) was not as dramatic – from 60th in January 2017 to 93rd in January of 2018, still the third highest Twin. But MLB.com also slid the infielder way down in its rankings, from 30 to 80.

     

    The 2017 season was a tale of two halves for Gordon, who was one of the youngest regulars in the Class-AA Southern League. In his first 61 games he hit .318/.382/.510; in the second 61 he hit .223/.302/.311. Clearly the folks at MLB.com and BA felt that Gordon's second half, along with lingering concerns about his ability to stick at shortstop, turned him from prospect to suspect. This wasn't true of ESPN's Keith Law, who bucked the trend by actually moving Gordon up on his board, from 53 in 2017 to 37 in 2018.

     

    While acknowledging he may end up at second, Law believes Gordon's skill set could make him a .300 AVG/.400 OBP guy in the majors, and suggests the sluggish second half only points to a need for the wiry 22-year-old to get bigger and stronger. Certainly feasible.

     

    3. Fernando Romero, RHP

    MLB: 68 | BA: NR | ESPN: 47

     

    Like with Gordon, Law is higher than others on Romero, and in this case it also seems to be rooted in differing views on what went down in the second half of the 2017 season.

     

    A year ago, Twins Daily ranked Romero as our No. 1 Twins prospect, though he was still largely flying under the national radar. He didn't appear on the top overall lists from MLB.com, Baseball America or Baseball Prospectus. Only Law gave him a nod, placing him 65th in his rankings.

     

    The oft-injured Romero, who'd never logged even 100 innings in a season previously, put together an excellent first four months of 2017 with a 2.64 ERA through 20 starts, but shortly after he crossed that 100-IP mark, he wore down quickly. Following three straight clunkers in August he was shut down for the season with a shoulder impingement.

     

    The right-hander proved last year that when healthy, he can dominate in Double-A, which is one of the biggest hurdles for a pitching prospect to cross. The only question now is his health. ESPN and MLB.com are expressing cautious optimism on that front, whereas Baseball America still isn't buying in. Frankly, I think it'll reflect pretty poorly on them if he manages to hold up for a full season in 2018. In terms of pure stuff Romero is one of the best arms in the high minors.

     

    4. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP

    MLB: 78 | BA: 97 | ESPN: NR

     

    Gonsalves doesn't come close to measuring up with Romero when it comes to stuff, which is why he's behind his fellow hurler in aggregate despite a more successful 2017 campaign. While Romero was breaking down in mid-August at Chattanooga, Gonsalves was getting his feet wet in Rochester following a late promotion to Triple-A.

     

    The lanky left-hander's numbers – both this year (3.27 ERA in 110 innings) and overall (2.39 ERA in five minor-league seasons) – placed him on the back end of two lists, but he still hasn't earned his way into Law's esteem.

     

    ESPN's prospect guru has always had a rather low opinion of Gonsalves, suggesting after the 2013 draft that his ceiling was that of a "6th starter" because he is "Not projectable, no breaking ball." Apparently that fundamental viewpoint hasn't changed, even as Gonsalves has experienced tremendous success at every level on the way to his Triple-A debut just a month after turning 23.

     

    Law has always been one to trust his own assessments, and input from scouting peers, ahead of numbers. He is certainly not alone in his skepticism of Gonsalves' lack of velo and spin.

     

    5. Brent Rooker

    MLB: NR | BA: 92 | ESPN: NR

     

    It was cool to see Rooker sneak onto Baseball America's list. It isn't surprising he failed to make the others – a highly drafted college slugger putting up big numbers in his first turn at the lower levels of affiliated ball is hardly a rarity – but there are many things to love about the 23-year-old, and BA is on board. If you follow Rooker on Twitter or catch any of his quotes and insights about the game, then you know he's a cerebral hitter who's very serious about his craft and embraces the most modernized approaches.

     

    There's an extremely high offensive bar for players in his prototype, but with his raw power and superior baseball IQ, Rooker has the attributes to clear it and become a weapon in the middle of the lineup. If he produces the way he's capable of in 2018, he'll be on all three lists next year.

     

    6. Wander Javier

    MLB: NR | BA: 95 | ESPN: NR

     

    Another hidden gem in the Twins system getting some shine exclusively from BA. Their ranking system has a tendency to prioritize raw tools and ceiling above all, which helps explain the athletic teenager's presence on their list. Javier oozes potential, and enjoyed a great season in the Appalachian League, but still hasn't crested a full-season league yet. You don't see too many guys at that stage in these rankings, just because of the vast degree of uncertainty, but it's not hard to understand why Javier would stand out.

     

    He was one of the top international prospects out there when the Twins signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 with a record $4 million bonus. He has since done nothing but validate the investment by slashing .301/.386/.497 through two levels of rookie ball. Berardino ranked Javier as the second-best Twins prospect behind Lewis in his listing of the organization's top talent, calling him a "plus runner with plus athleticism" and adding that Javier "shows plenty of range as well as a plus-plus arm at times." Very excited to see this kid take on Single-A.

     

    NOTABLE OMISSIONS

    Last year, Alex Kirilloff appeared in the 90s on both Baseball America's and ESPN's lists. Unsurprisingly, he's now absent from all three after missing the entire 2017 season following Tommy John surgery. Needless to say, he can put himself back on the map quickly with a strong return to the field.

     

    Kirilloff is the only prospect who appeared on at least one of these lists last year and completely disappeared, but there are a number of others I might have hoped to see such as Brusdar Graterol, Blayne Enlow and LaMonte Wade.

     

    Stay tuned in the coming weeks for in-depth profiles of Twins Daily's choices for the top 20 prospects in the organization for 2018.

     

    By the way, if you'd like to read about all of these prospects and many many more, I highly recommend buying a copy of the 2018 Twins Prospect Handbook, compiled by our own Seth Stohs, Tom Froemming and Cody Christie.

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    I thought Gonsalves had a lot of spin on his fastball. I recall reading an article on this last spring training. Was that article inaccurate? I don’t know. However I hope he continues to prove people wrong. Gonsalves might not have the “best stuff” but from what I have read he sure has pitchability and an advanced feel for pitching. Like all our pitching prospects I hope he is successful, but I understand that very few actually “make it” in the bigs.

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    Sleeping on LaMonte Wade is ridiculous. The guy will be good. After 127 PAs at Fort Myers in 2016 he posted an .805 OPS in Chatty in 2017. I don't care if the "ceiling" is 4th OF (it really isn't, but HOPEFULLY it is on the Twins for the next two years, right?).

     

    On the other hand, he had a .763 OPS, .238 BA, and a real nasty concussion in the AFL.

     

    The last part worries me the most about Wade, and unless I see solid contact and equally good strike zone judgement in 2018, I will be concerned.

     

    Also, I would have a hard time ranking him ahead of Rooker, Kirilloff and Baddoo as far as OFs go.  Add a few pitchers, infielders, and it is hard for him to be a top 10 guy...  And that's before the concussion...

    Edited by Thrylos
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    On the other hand, he had a .763 OPS, .238 BA, and a real nasty concussion in the AFL.

     

    The last part worries me the most about Wade, and unless I see solid contact and equally good strike zone judgement in 2018, I will be concerned.

     

    Also, I would have a hard time ranking him ahead of Rooker, Kirilloff and Baddoo as far as OFs go.  Add a few pitchers, infielders, and it is hard for him to be a top 10 guy...  And that's before the concussion...

    I think you nailed it. It was really his subpar performance in the AFL (super small sample size) that kinda left a bad taste in my mouth about him. And I couldn't agree more about ranking him above the guys you mentioned. I am really high on Rooker and think the kid may in fact be the system's 2nd best prospect behind Lewis. We'll see how Rooker does in getting his K/BB ratio improved this year; if he can walk 12-15% and K >20%, LOOK OUT!!!

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