But I thought it would be good to take a look at the Top 50 rankings in its totality to see what it is showing us. Are there any themes? Positions of strength, weakness, etc?
With that, here is the full list of my preliminary Top 50 Twins prospects. Please note that this is not necessarily my final rankings. Those will appear in the prospect handbook.
(last year's rankings in parentheses, or how acquired)
Here are a few themes from this prospect ranking:
The New Guys
On Wednesday night, the Twins traded $1 million in international bonus pool money to the Angels and the Mariners. In return, they acquired the Mariners fifth-round pick in 2017, catcher David Banuelos. From the Angels, the Twins acquired their third- round pick in 2017, outfielder Jacob Pearson. Immediately, I was getting asked where these two prospects would fit into my rankings.
Well, I haven’t had a lot of time yet to research or talk to people, so these are subject to change. As you can see, I ranked Pearson #13, two spots below the Twins third- round pick, Blayne Enlow. Both players competed in Louisiana high schools before the draft. Pearson was the state’s player of the year.
I ranked Banuelos #21. The Twins fifth-round pick this year was Andrew Bechtold, and he’s ranked a little further down the list, at #30 for now. Banuelos is a valuable prospect for a team in that really strong defensive catchers have a lot of value. The fact that there are question marks with his bat keep me from ranking him too much higher than this.
The 2017 Draft
It’s no surprise to see several Twins 2017 draft picks in a Top 50, but it is really nice to see the high impact prospects that show up at the top of the list. Royce Lewis is the new #1. Brent Rooker and Blayne Enlow are also in my Top 10. That’s some quality talent brought in. But second-round pick Landon Leach probably should be higher than where I have him. Charlie Barnes is a high-floor player who could move up quickly. And, Bechtold is a guy who gets on base a ton, could hit for average and could develop some power. I’m also quite high on sixth-round pick Ricky De La Torre, who made the list. And, frankly, the more I research a guy like Derek Molina (14th round), the more I consider the idea of putting him near the back of this list. Then add in the acquisitions of Pearson and Banuelos, two guys that were in Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects in the 2017 draft, and that’s a great job of bringing in talent!
Relievers Too Low
Those that have been following me for years know that I tend to rank relievers lower on prospect rankings than their potential value in the big leagues might be. Consider that I ranked Trevor Hildenberger #42 a year ago, knowing he had the ability to be a good MLB reliever, and my point is illustrated. I really struggled this year with ranking relievers. You see a bunch at the end because those are are guys that I think could get to the big leagues and be quality relievers. But, as we’ve watched Nick Burdi and JT Chargois and Mason Melotakis need Tommy John surgery and struggle to be healthy, it’s such a challenging job.
So, John Curtiss is the highest ranked prospect for me this year. I believe he has the stuff to be a closer in time. Tyler Jay is next. When he was considered a potential starter, I had him in the Top 10 prospects. Now that he’s been moved to the bullpen (and fought injuries all year), he drops.
Youth is Served
It’s not unusual to see prospect rankings have a lot of very young, toolsy players ranked high. If you look at my prospects, particularly the #4 through #11 range, you see just that. They are easy to get excited about while at the same time understanding that they have a long way to go, and with that, a lot of development. Some will take those necessary strides forward. Some won’t. That’s the nature of player development. But with guys like Akil Baddoo and Brusdar Graterol in the mix, fans should start getting excited about what they could be.
Experience is Served
While tools and ceiling are important, floor should be factored in as well. For instance, Mitch Garver’s floor is major league backup catcher. I mean, he’s basically there already. His ceiling is quality starting catcher. He’s coming off of a terrific 2017 season in the highest level of the minors. There needs to be value in having played at the higher level. I subscribe to the thought that once a guy experiences good success in AA and/or AAA, he is pretty close. Luke Bard put up some crazy numbers in AA and then in AAA this year. Sure, he’s 27 and hasn’t played in the big leagues, but I still think he could become a solid MLB reliever.
A Combination of Both
There’s a reason that guys like Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero and Felix Jorge rank where they do. They’ve overcome the struggles of taking their talent and working hard and experiencing success and finding themselves putting up good numbers in the upper levels. They all have the potential to be quality major league starters, but they have worked up such that their floor is higher too.
Trades Help Too
While the Twins were surprising everyone with their turnaround success in 2017, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine never really wavered from their comments about continuing to build and continuing to look for talent, particularly pitching, everywhere.
Since they’ve taken over, they have traded for Zack Littell, Dietrich Enns, Gabriel Moya and Tyler Watson. (as well as the two players this week) Two of those pitchers pitched in the big leagues in 2017. Moya jumped straight to the Twins after completing the Southern League playoffs. Littell went 19-1 and won the MiLBY for the best starting pitcher in the minor leagues this year. They also talked about being able to provide pitching in waves, and that’s where Tyler Watson fits in. He’s just 20 and pitched in low A. He isn’t a top prospect, but he’s got the size and the pitches to move up these rankings significantly.
The Twins system is deep with talent, but there were a lot of injuries (several significant) in 2017. Alex Kirilloff had Tommy John surgery in spring training. Nick Burdi had surgery in June. JT Chargois missed most of the season with more elbow issues. Jake Reed and Stephen Gonsalves missed time early in the season with minor injuries.
Luis Arraez tore his ACL in his third game of the season and missed the rest of the year. Kohl Stewart was on the DL a couple of times with knee problems. Tyler Jay missed most of the season with shoulder/neck/biceps injury.
On the positive, Lewis Thorpe and Brusdar Graterol made their returns from Tommy John surgery and both appear to be back to their old selves. Tyler Benninghoff just returned from Tommy John late in the season.
While I don’t think the Twins farm system will rank near the top of the rankings that will come out in February, I do think this is a very exciting group of prospects right now. While aside from Royce Lewis, there may not be any Buxton/Sano/Berrios caliber prospects, there are a lot of very good prospects, guys who can play a significant role in the big leagues.
There are quite a few players (including some pitchers) who have high-level ceilings, but obviously further development will be required to reach it.
Who Could We See in 2018?
Here are guys that have a legit chance to contribute in the big leagues in 2018:
Stephen Gonsalves, Nick Gordon, Fernando Romero, LaMonte Wade, Mitch Garver, Zack Littell, John Curtiss, Felix Jorge, Zack Granite, Kohl Stewart, Tyler Jay, Gabriel Moya, Aaron Slegers Jake Reed, Luke Bard, JT Chargois, Tom Hackimer.
Obviously, there needs to be opportunity. Not all of these guys will play in the big leagues, but they could. But as you look at that list, you see a lot of pitching, both starters and relievers, Who will be this year’s Trevor Hildenberger? Will any of these starters have a major impact on the Twins this year.
Please feel free to ask questions or find your own story lines or trends within these rankings. Please ask questions and discuss whatever it is you’d like. I’ll try to answer questions throughout the day and throughout the weekend. And please, support the Twins minor league coverage at Twins Daily by purchasing the Twins Prospect Handbook 2018 in a couple of weeks. As has been the case in past years, it’ll be available in paperback (in time for Twins Fest) and electronically.
Oh, and just for fun… wanna know who prospects 51-60 were for me? Here’s some exclusive bonus information for Twins Daily readers…
Here you go: 51. Jordan Balazovic, 52. Mitchell Kranson, 53. Shane Carrier, 54. Hector Lujan, 55. Cody Stashak, 56. Victor Tademo, 57. Chris Paul, 58. Sean Poppen, 59. Edwar Colina, 60. TJ White