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  1. I mean, an economical system would produce valuable pitching. It's not like I'm advocating only drafting back-end of the rotation type starters. There are plenty of high school pitchers that turn out to be valuable. But, college pitching seems to produce at a higher volume and produces quicker. Twins tend to draft one or two high school pitchers in the 10-20 rounds every year, usually overslot guys like Enlow and Balazovic. They should continue to do that if the value is there. But drafting college pitchers has turned out well for the Indians and appears to be adding a lot of depth to our system.
  2. Landon Leach is someone that fits my point exactly. He is 20 years old, hasn't pitched above rookie ball, and, at best, would take 3-4 years to build up to 160-180 innings. Even if you believe he is not a bust (and he's certainly heading in that direction given he's thrown like 20 innings in his pro career in 2-3 years), he will take so much longer to develop and so many more resources to reach his potential. I appreciate the conversation, Wise One, as I can see your both of your points.
  3. As a Twins fan, I have seen several different approaches to drafting and developing pitching. We saw the pitch to contact philosophy at work for a long time. We saw the ill-fated drafting college fireball relievers and trying to develop them as starters, which failed (although we did get a nice relief pitcher in Tyler Duffey out of it). However, the current philosophy seems to be drafting college pitchers who have good peripheral numbers, high spin rates, or some other trait that separates them from the rest of the talent pool. This should not come as a complete shock considering where Derek Falvey came from. The Cleveland Indians have been doing this for a long time and it has helped them develop a nice pipeline of pitching talent that has allowed them to compete for the AL Central seemingly every year. Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale are two very recent examples of what I am talking about (Mike Clevinger was acquired in a trade from the Angels). Bieber and Civale were not top round picks (Bieber was a 4th rounder, Civale a third rounder). They were college arms that got to the majors within a couple of years. Falvey has implemented a similar strategy since he has come to the Twins. When looking at the Twins system, there are several college pitchers who could be making their debuts within the next few years. A few names that come to mind are Cole Sands, Josh Winder, Chris Vallimont (received in a trade, but obviously a guy the Twins targeted), Matt Canterino, and a few others. Will all these names become successful starting pitchers for the Twins organization? Almost definitely not. However, these are all pitchers who are advancing relatively quickly through the minor leagues and have experienced a fair amount of success thus far. Personally, I am a huge fan of this strategy. The MLB draft is an absolute crap shoot, but there is a lot less volatility when it comes to drafting college players, specifically pitchers. High school pitchers, unless they are in a warm-weather state and play ball all summer, do not pitch as many innings in a given year than a college pitcher. There are also innings limits placed on the high school pitchers. While there is a lot less tread on the pitcher’s arm, there is also much less experience and the unknown quantity of how that player’s body will handle the increased workload. The quality of competition in high school is obviously worse than college competition. High school pitchers are also being drafted on projection more than college pitchers. The organization, when drafting a high school pitcher who is 6’5, 180 lbs. and tops out at 92mph, are making an educated guess that the pitcher will get stronger and grow into their body, all while gaining strength and adding velocity. All of this while teaching them quality secondary pitches and teaching kids, who have been able to get by in high school on pure talent, how to pitch. With a college pitcher, they have had to develop a little more of a plan on how to attack hitters. They have also grown into their bodies (at least for the most part), so they are more of a known commodity. They have had an increased workload, with some pitchers pitching close to 100 innings or more in a college season (Matt Canterino was just under 100 innings pitched for each season from 2017-2019). While there may not be as much projection as one of the high school pitchers we were discussing, the college pitchers are further along in the process of pitching in in an MLB game. Inherently, these college pitchers are more major league ready and have lower floors, even if they may not have as high of ceilings as a high school pitcher. For a small market organization like the Twins, this is essential for a few reasons. It keeps the Twins from re-signing pitchers who are viable starting pitchers but are not overall difference makers. For instance, let us look at the case of Nick Blackburn. Nick Blackburn was the epitome of a league average pitcher. The Twins bought out a good portion of his arbitration years early because the Twins had a hard time developing homegrown pitchers and because there were few other pitchers coming up the pipeline. The Twins do not have an infinite amount of money to play with, so moves like this are more costly to the Twins than they are the Yankees or the Dodgers. By having a system for drafting college pitchers that rise quickly through the ranks, it also keeps the Twins from signing the Kyle Gibsons of the world for 10 million dollars a year. As much as I like Kyle Gibson, he has a career WAR of less than 10. He is a league average starting pitcher who is going into his age 32 season. This is not a guy a team like the Twins wants to resign for 10 million a year. The Twins did not feel the need to match or exceed the Rangers deal. While it was helpful to sign Homer Bailey to a one-year deal, Chacin to a minor league deal, the Maeda trade, etc., the Twins can also get potentially similar production for a much cheaper price from Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe. If you are going to get league average or slightly above league average pitching, at least make sure you are paying those pitchers the league minimum and not paying eight figure salaries for the privilege. The Twins also seem to target college pitchers that fit their prototype or have not reached their full potential. Cole Sands is a guy that was hurt some in college and may have a little more to give. Randy Dobnak was targeted more for his mound presence (information gleaned from a wonderful article in the Athletic about how he became a Twin by Aaron Gleeman) but added a one seam fastball and rose through the ranks in Matt Garza-style fashion. Chris Vallimont was a small college prospect the Twins targeted in the Sergio Romo trade. The Twins do not target college guys they think are going to be back-end starters only. They target college pitchers that they think they can get as much out of as they can. While this strategy will garner the Twins plenty of back-end of the rotation and relievers (Cody Stashak), they will also potentially get some front end starting pitching as well. Nobody thought Shane Bieber was going to be an absolute stud when he was drafted. If they did, someone would have picked him before the 4th round. But this strategy will bring about some front-end starting talent. This also does not mean I think the Twins should completely abandon drafting high school pitchers. Arguably the Twins top 4 starting pitching prospects (Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, Blayne Enlow, and Lewis Thorpe) never pitched in college. Jose Berrios did not pitch in college. However, for every Jose Berrios, there seem to be three or four prospects that do not pan out for one reason or another (Landon Leach, Hudson Boyd, Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Dan Serafini, etc.). College pitchers are not immune from this (Alex Wimmers, Matt Bashore, Adam Johnson, etc.), but there will always be less volatility in drafting college pitchers, this making them more valuable in my eyes for a team like the Twins.
  4. Thanks dman! I appreciate you reading. Lewis has the highest ceiling for sure. Hopefully he does fantastic in AA, with or without the leg kick, and makes me look like an idiot for having any doubt. The talent and work ethic are there to be amazing. I saw the play at short the other day too and I am with you. No reason he can't be a viable defensive SS.
  5. 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.
  6. Like many diehard fans, it is easy to get immersed in the potential of young prospects. It can be more intoxicating when those prospects are taken first overall in the draft. Royce Lewis is a fantastic prospect with the potential to be one of the best players in the game. The speed, the power, the makeup; it is easy to see why he is viewed as one of the top prospects in the game. However, I have always thought that Royce Lewis is the second-best prospect in the Twins system. Recently, Keith Law had Alex Kirilloff as the Minnesota Twins top prospect and the #9 prospect in all of baseball. I have always been of this opinion as well and it is nice to have someone with as much notoriety as Law agree with me on this aspect. It means even more coming from Law, who tends to value players who play premium positions and are plus athletes over other prospects. Royce Lewis fits that mold to a tee, so the fact that Law has Kirilloff as a top ten prospect tells me how much be believes in his hit tool. The hit tool is the crux of the entire argument of Kirilloff over Lewis. In 2018, Kirilloff hit .333 in in Cedar Rapids with a .391 OBP and a .601 slugging percentage. Once he was promoted to Fort Myers, his average was .362 with a .393 OBP and a .550 slugging. He was 20 years old and hit 20 homers. The fact that Kirilloff had that high of a slugging percentage in the pitcher friendly Florida State League is remarkable. Everyone was expecting Kirilloff to continue to rake in 2019. However, Kirilloff dealt with a wrist injury that sidelined him for a good portion of the first half of the season and zapped his power when he could play. He hit .283 with a .343 OBP and a .413 slugging, which is still decent considering his age in Double-A. However, it is what Kirilloff did in the second half of the season, specifically the playoffs, that leads me to believe it was mostly the injury to blame for the lack of power. Kirilloff had a huge power spike in the second half and finished the year hitting 4 homers in 5 playoff games. Wrist injuries are a killer for hitters, especially for hitters who generate power via leverage and twitch rather than brute strength. Kirilloff would be described as the former, so it would make sense that his power would return as he gets further removed from the injury. While Kirilloff will most likely have above average to plus power as a big leaguer, it is his overall hit tool that will be his calling card. Kirilloff has a sweet swing and has fantastic hand-eye coordination. He also does not strike out at rates that are becoming more common place for hitters selling out for power. While Kirilloff’s walk rates are not high, he does take his fair share of walks which will allow him to continue to get to his power and hit tools by not being a free swinger. It is not out of the question that Kirilloff ends up a .310/.370/.500 type of guy with a plenty of doubles and 25-30 homers. That is a player you want, regardless of the position he plays. This leads us to the main argument of Lewis over Kirilloff as the top prospect, which is positional value. Kirilloff is a guy who ends up as an average right fielder under the best projections. He is an average athlete (compared to other major league baseball players, not people who sit on their couch and write Twins blogs where he would be considered an amazing athlete) with an average to slightly above average arm. He has also spent a fair amount of time at first base already, which is a possibility for Kirilloff as he gets older and fills out more. If Kirilloff ends up a first basemen, the 25-30 homerun power will be something that will deflate his value as a prospect. Lewis on the other hand will either end up a shortstop or, worst case, a premium defender in CF. As we have seen with players like Buxton, getting a premium defender at a premium position has quite a bit of value even if the hitter is average. This is where you must compare the two players and decide. In my opinion, Kirilloff is a player that has a floor as a hitter that is higher than the ceiling of Lewis as a hitter. On his current trajectory, Kirilloff is a guy who will compete for some batting titles, draw some walks, and hit for plenty of extra bases, even if only 20-30 go over the fence. That is a tremendously valuable player at either first or a corner outfield spot. However, Kirilloff is still growing into his body and could grow into some more power as he gets older. Lewis has a higher overall ceiling when you include the defense, but his floor with the bat is not ideal at this point. Lewis is still young for his competition, and I still believe he will be a great player, but the fact that Lewis hit so poorly in Fort Myers and Pensacola and showed very little plate discipline does concern me. Ultimately, I do not believe you can go wrong choosing one of these two guys as your Twins top prospect. The Twins are lucky to have both guys in their system and both could make some noise in the majors within the next year or so. That being said, if I had to choose one prospect to keep, Kirilloff is my guy all the way.
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