Here’s another quick award, the Minor League Story of the Year… Not only was James Beresford finally promoted to the big leagues in his 12th season with the organization, Fox Sports North showed that his parents surprised him by flying to Minneapolis from Australia to be at Target Field before last night’s game. Here is the video:
And now, let’s get back to our 2016 Minor League Hitter of the Year award. Before we do our shot profiles on our Top 9 hitters, here is a quick look at some deserving honorable mentions.
- Jorge Polanco – Rochester Red Wings – 81-293 - .276/.335/.457 (.793) – 14-2B, 6-3B, 9-HR, 39-RBI
- Kennys Vargas – Rochester Red Wings – 77-330 - .233/.361/.424 (.785) – 16-2B, 1-3B, 15-HR, 58-RBI
- Niko Goodrum – Ft. Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts – 57-207 - .275/.352/.464 (.816) – 14-2B, 2-3B, 7-HR, 33-RBI
- Lewin Diaz – Elizabethton Twins – 54-174 - .310/.353/.575 (.928) – 15-2B, 2-3B, 9-HR, 37-RBI
- Edgar Corcino – Ft. Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts – 123-450 - .273/.337/.420 (.757) – 20-2B, 11-3B, 8-HR, 59-RBI
Hitter of the Year
Here are the top nine vote-getters for Twins Minor League hitter of the year.
#9 – Zander Wiel – Cedar Rapids Kernels (130-501 - .259/.333/.459 (.792), with 27 doubles, 8 triples, 19 HR, 86 RBI)
Admittedly, our votes were in before Labor Day weekend. Had we waited through the season’s final few games, it’s very possible Wiel would have finished a few places higher on this list. He ended the season on Monday with a couple of homers and seven RBIs. He captured the Midwest League’s RBI championship. Wiel was the Twins 11th-round pick a year ago out of Vanderbilt. His debut season at Elizabethton was cut short for a month when he was hit by a pitch. He had a pedestrian first half with the Kernels but he ended strong. In 58 games after July 1, he hit .291/.360/.574 (.934) with 15 of his 19 home runs.
#8 – Byron Buxton – Rochester Red Wings (58-190 - .305/.359/.568 (.927), with 11 doubles, 3 triples, 11 HR, 24 RBI)
After he began the season with the Twins, he was sent down to Rochester. In 29 games he hit .336/.403/.603 (1.007) with 17 extra-base hits. He returned to the big leagues where he struggles continued. In early August, he went back to Rochester. While there, he had a nice streak of homers in four straight games. However, he wasn’t walking and was striking out a lot. When there was an injury in the big leagues, he was again called up and has been on a tear hitting four homers in seven games. However, this is about the minor league time, and Buxton continued to put up big numbers and show power in AAA during his 49 games with the Red Wings.
#7 – Nick Gordon – Ft. Myers Miracle (134-461 - .291/.335/.386 (.721), with 23 doubles, 6 triples, 3 HR, 52 RBI)
Gordon was the Twins first-round pick (5th overall). In 2015, he hit .277/.335/.360 (.696). While his on-base percentage stayed about the same, he did hit three times as many home runs as he did a year earlier. Gordon started the season by hitting .333 in April. In July, he hit .330. The other months, he held his own despite the fact that he had just two at-bats against pitchers who were younger than he is. He was one of the youngest players in the Florida State League and will jump to AA Chattanooga next year where he will again be very young relative to the league.
#5 (tie) – Mitch Garver – Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings (117-434 - .270/.342/.422 (.764), with 30 doubles, 12 HR, 74 RBI)
Garver was the Twins 9th-round pick in the 2013 draft. In 2014 in Cedar Rapids, he was Twins Daily’s choice for minor league hitter of the year. He was solid in 2015 in Ft. Myers and hit well in the Arizona Fall League a year ago. He moved up to Chattanooga. He was solid the first three months of the season when he posted OPS over .700 each month. He took off in July when he hit .314/.395/.581 (.976) with 13 doubles and five homers. That is impressive because he began the month by going 2-32 in eight games in Chattanooga before being promoted to Rochester. In his first 11 games in AAA, he hit .385 (15-39). Garver will again head to the Fall League. He should be an easy choice to add to the 40-man roster as well.
#5 (tie) – Adam Brett Walker – Cedar Rapids Kernels (116-478 - .243/.305/.479 (.784), with 22 doubles, 5 triples, 27 HR, 75 RBI)
For the first time since the Twins made him their 3rd round pick in the 2012 draft, Walker did not lead his league in home runs or RBsI. In 2016 in AAA, he was second with 27 homers and his 75 RBIs was third in the International League. For the fourth straight year, he hit over 25 homers. During the first three months of the season, Walker struck out 42% of his plate appearances. Then, after July 1, he struck out in 34% of his plate appearances. It is still high, but that’s the kind of improvement that should encourage Walker and the Twins front office. Let’s say he can cut that number down to 28-30% and he has a chance to be a solid major leaguer. And there is no questioning the power potential.
#3 (Tie) – LaMonte Wade – Cedar Rapids Kernels/Ft. Myers Miracle (93-317 - .293/.402/.438 (.841), with 14 doubles, 4 triples, 8 HR, 51 RBI)
The only thing able to slow down Wade in 2016 was injury. On the field, he was able to hit for average and showed some extra-base power. However, his most impressive trait is his ability to put together great at-bats and work a lot of walks. He was our choice for Hitter of the Month in April. He hit .280/.410/.396 (.806) in Cedar Rapids despite the fact that he went 1-28 over his final eight games with the Kernels. He was promoted to Ft. Myers where he hit .318/.386/.518 (.904). Combined, he walked 54 times and struck out 44 times. That puts him at 101 strikeouts and 80 walks since the Twins made him their 9th-round pick a year ago out of Maryland.
#3 (Tie) – Zack Granite – Chattanooga Lookouts (155-526 - .295/.347/.382 (.729) with 18 doubles, 8 triples, 4 HR, 52 RBI)
Granite was a little surprised when he began the season, but he put together a tremendous season for the Lookouts. While he doesn’t have a lot of power, but he turns singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He had four home runs, which is three more than he had since the Twins made him their 14th- round pick out of Seton Hall. Granite’s game is all about speed. His 56 stolen bases tied for the lead in all of minor league baseball. Granite made himself a strong candidate to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason.
#2 – Luis Arraez – Cedar Rapids Kernels (165-475 - .347/.386/.444 (830), with 31 doubles, 3 triples, 3 HR, 66 RBI)
While Arraez had a nice debut season in the States in the Gulf Coast League last year, his 2016 season in Cedar Rapids was a big surprise. His .347 average led the Midwest League. He played somewhat sparingly the first couple of weeks of the season, but when given an opportunity, he took it and ran with it all season, never slowing down. He hit over .300 every month of the season. His monthly batting averages were .313, .340, .330, .306, .425 and even hit .333 in 12 at-bats in September. Arraez is an ideal top-of-the-order hitter. He knows the strike zone well and makes contact. He fights off tough pitches and puts the ball in play. He doesn’t have much power or speed, but he can hit line drives all over the field. In his 114 games this season, he had 51 multi-hit games. He had 34 two-hit games, 13 three-hit games, three four-hit games and a five-hit game. And last night in the Kernels first playoff game, he had three hits. What a season for the still-just-19 year old.
Hitter of the Year – Daniel Palka – Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings (128-503 - .254/.327/.521 (.848), with 24 doubles, 4 triples, 34 HR, 90 RBI)
When the Twins traded catcher Chris Herrmann to the Diamondbacks last November, few Twins fans knew anything about Daniel Palka. However, a quick look at his 2015 numbers in High-A Visalia indicated that we should at least feel pretty good about the acquisition. Palka had hit .280/.352/.532 (.885) with 36 doubles, 29 home runs, 90 RBI, and even 24 stolen bases.
He came to spring training, a burly left-handed hitting right fielder who could also play first base. Late in spring, he was invited to play with the big league club on the road. He started at DH. He hit home runs in his first two at-bats. A couple days later, he was back in the big league lineup and hit another home run. Strong first impression.
He began the season in AA Chattanooga. He hit .270/.348/.547 (.894) with 12 doubles, four triples and 21 home runs in 79 games. He played in the Southern League All-Star Game. Soon after, he was promoted to AAA Rochester where he certainly struggled in many ways, but he still showed his tremendous power. In 54 games with the Red Wings, he hit .232/.296/.483 (.779) with 12 doubles and 13 home runs.
Palka was runner up in our April Hitter of the Month awards. In June, he hit .302/.372/.802 (1.174) with three doubles, two triples, an incredible 13 home runs and 30 RBI. Soon after, he was promoted. He was the easy choice for
hitter of the month
When he came to the Twins, he was considered pretty similar to Adam Brett Walker in terms of strikeout rate. That was the reason he wasn’t in most people’s Top 20 Twins prospects despite the big numbers in 2015. A quick look at his strikeout rate shows that he struck out 29.0% of the time in his AA time this year. Upon arriving in AAA, he struck out 38.6% of the time.
Palka’s 34 home runs combined in 2016 ranked in the
top 10 for Twins minor league seasons
going back to 1961. It was the most since Miguel Sano hit 35 between Ft. Myers and New Britain in 2013.
If you had guessed that a Georgia Tech alum would win a minor league award in 2016, the odds may have been relatively low, but with four former Yellowjackets players in the system, the odds would have been higher than other colleges. Palka joined Luke Bard, Sam Clay and AJ Murray from the school.
Palka had a very impressive debut season in the Twins system. The 24-year-old will most likely be added to the Twins 40-man roster in the offseason and come to spring training looking to debut sometime in the 2017 season.
So there you have it. There were some really strong offensive performances by Twins minor leaguers in 2016. How would they rank in your opinion? Let us know down below.
Congratulations to Daniel Palka and the other hitters written about above. All are deserving of recognition for terrific 2016 seasons.
In an attempt to be transparent, here are the votes from our Twins Daily minor league writers:
- Seth Stohs – 1.) Daniel Palka, 2.) Zack Granite, 3.) Luis Arraez, 4.) LaMonte Wade, 5.) Mitch Garver, 6.) Adam Brett Walker, 7.) Zander Wiel, 8.) Nick Gordon
- Jeremy Nygaard – 1.) Daniel Palka, 2.) Luis Arraez, 3.) Byron Buxton, 4.) Nick Gordon, 5.) Jorge Polanco, 6.) Adam Brett Walker, 7.) Zack Granite, 8.) Mitch Garver
- Cody Christie – 1.) Daniel Palka, 2.) Adam Brett Walker, 3.) Mitch Garver, 4.) Byron Buxton, 5.) Luis Arraez, 6.) Zander Wiel, 7.) Kennys Vargas, 8.) LaMonte Wade
- Steve Lien – 1.) Luis Arraez, 2.) Daniel Palka, 3.) LaMonte Wade, 4.) Zack Granite, 5.) Nick Gordon, 6.) Mitch Garver, 7.) Adam Brett Walker, 8.) Zander Wiel
- Eric Pleiss – 1.) LaMonte Wade, 2.) Daniel Palka, 3.) Zack Granite, 4.) Mitch Garver, 5.) Adam Brett Walker, 6.) Nick Gordon, 7.) Niko Goodrum, 8.) Lewin Diaz
Feel free to discuss. How would your ballot look?