Thegrin reacted to TwerkTwonkTwins for a blog entry, Falvine's Waiver Claim Game
Critique of a front office is easy to make in the midst of a deeply disappointing season. While many fans are languishing over the incoming July trade deadline, I've heard a lot of complaints about the lack of waiver claims made this season by the Minnesota Twins.
Why are the Twins continuing to trot out the likes of Colomé, Happ, and (formerly) Shoemaker, when the front office can claim replacement-level players from other teams for essentially nothing?
The outright waiver transaction process is a deeply complicated one. Whenever a team wants to remove a player that is already on the 40-man roster, that player must first be offered to each of the other 29 major league teams. If another team claims that player, the player goes on that new team's 40-man roster. The full definition from MLB can be found here.
Because I'm insane, and this season is awful, I decided to compile a list of every player that the Falvey/Levine front office has claimed from other organizations, in addition to players they've lost via waiver claims.
How have they fared in the waiver claim game? Should they pick up the pace, now that they have nothing to lose? Do these claims actually amount to anything?
These questions are important... but so is the trip down memory lane, once you read some of these names.
Players Acquired Via Waiver Claim
Date of Claim Player Claimed Position Team Claimed From fWAR in Minnesota 2/6/2017 Ehire Adrianza UTL IF San Francisco Giants 2.1 5/10/2017 Adam Wilk LHP New York Mets -0.2 6/7/2017 Chris Heston RHP Los Angeles Dodgers 0.0 3/24/2018 Kenny Vargas 1B Cincinatti Reds - 4/26/2018 David Hale RHP New York Yankees -0.2 5/28/2018 Taylor Motter UTL Seattle Mariners -0.3 8/3/2018 Johnny Field RF Cleveland Indians 0.1 8/3/2018 Oliver Drake RHP Cleveland Indians 0.2 10/31/2018 Michael Reed CF Atlanta Braves - 11/26/2018 C.J. Cron 1B Tampa Bay Rays 0.3 10/29/2019 Matt Wisler RHP Seattle Mariners 0.6 10/30/2020 Ian Gibault RHP Texas Rangers - 10/30/2020 Brandon Waddell LHP Pittsburgh Pirates -0.3 2/5/2021 Ian Hamilton RHP Philadelphia Phillies - 2/11/2021 Kyle Garlick RF Atlanta Braves 0.3 6/22/2021 Beau Burrows RHP Detroit Tigers - Total fWAR 2.6 The Twins have claimed a total of 16 players from opposing organizations since Falvey/Levine took over after the 2016 World Series. Of these 16 claims, their most consequential claim was their very first one. Ehire Adrianza was never a star, but a very productive role player for a number of contending Twins teams.
After that, the list isn't so impressive. Matt Wisler was great at slinging sliders in the bullpen during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but the Twins cut him last offseason in a puzzling move. C.J. Cron and the currently-injured Kyle Garlick have been the largest "successes" outside of Adrianza and Wisler, each account for 0.3 fWAR as right-handed hitters that were acquired to mash left-handed pitching.
Most of these players did not remain on the 40-man roster for a long time. Quite a few were lost to waivers shortly after the Twins acquired them, which include Kenny Vargas, Johnny Field, Oliver Drake, and Brandon Waddell. Such is the life on the waiver wire for many MLB players.
Players Lost Via Waiver Claim
Date of Claim Player Position Team Claimed By fWAR after Minnesota 11/18/2016 Adam Brett Walker LF Milwaukee Brewers - 8/26/2017 Tim Melville RHP San Diego Padres -0.2 9/14/2017 Engelb Vielma SS San Francisco Giants -0.1 11/3/2017 Randy Rosario LHP Chicago Cubs -0.3 11/3/2017 Daniel Palka OF Chicago White Sox -0.7 11/6/2017 Nik Turley LHP Pittsburgh Pirates 0.2 1/22/2018 Buddy Boshers LHP Houston Astros 0.1 2/23/2018 JT Chargois RHP Los Angeles Dodgers 0.5 3/22/2018 Kenny Vargas 1B Cincinatti Reds - 7/9/2018 Ryan LaMarre CF Chicago White Sox 0.4 10/10/2018 Juan Graterol C Cincinatti Reds -0.2 11/1/2018 Johnny Field RF Chicago Cubs - 11/1/2018 Oliver Drake RHP Tampa Bay Rays 0.4 1/11/2019 Aaron Slegers RHP Pittsburgh Pirates 0.4 5/26/2019 Austin Adams RHP Detroit Tigers -0.1 7/20/2019 Adalberto Mejia LHP Los Angeles Angels 0.0 8/14/2019 Ryan Eades RHP Baltimore Orioles -0.2 9/16/2019 Marcos Diplan RHP Detroit Tigers - 11/4/2019 Stephen Gonsalves LHP New York Mets - 9/5/2020 Ildemaro Vargas 2B Chicago Cubs -0.5 10/1/2020 Sean Poppen RHP Pittsburgh Pirates -0.1 5/8/2021 Brandon Waddell LHP Baltimore Orioles 0 5/14/2021 Travis Blankenhorn 2B Los Angeles Dodgers -0.1 6/5/2021 Dakota Chalmers RHP Chicago Cubs - 6/18/2021 Shaun Anderson RHP Texas Rangers - Total fWAR -0.5 You'll immediately notice this list of players lost via waivers during the Falvyey/Levine regime is a lot longer than the list of players they've acquired via waivers. All together, they have lost 25 players, which is 9 more players than they've claimed from other teams.
The good news for the organization, is that this cumulative list has not come back to bite them. 10 of the 25 claimed players provided negative value for their new teams, after departing Minnesota. Daniel Palka's 2017 season really sunk this group, as he posted a -1.4 fWAR in only 93 plate appearances for the White Sox (after he provided 0.7 fWAR and a 109 wRC+ in 2018).
The largest losses from this group have definitely been in the relief category, highlighted by JT Chargois, Oliver Drake, and Aaron Slegers. However, most of these players have had inconsistent careers, injuries, or both, in their time after playing for Minnesota.
Even when factoring in some bullpen pieces this organization might regret losing, the total fWAR from these players after departing the Twins is -0.5 fWAR. The current front office has been right far more than wrong, when deciding how to churn the 40-man roster.
Yearly Trends And Overall Takeaway
Year Players Claimed From Other Teams Players Claimed By Other Teams 2016/2017 3 6 2018 7 7 2019 1 6 2020 2 2 2021 3 4 Total Players 16 25 Total fWAR 2.6 -0.5 fWAR Difference 3.1 Overall, the Twins have gained 3.1 fWAR from their decisions to gain and lose players from the waiver wire. That's a pretty decent result for a type of front office transaction that is often overlooked. It averages out to about 0.69 fWAR per season, factoring in the 4.5 seasons of the Falvey/Levine regime.
Most of that waiver activity came in 2017 and 2018, when the front office was still adjusting to their inherited players from the previous front office. Successful teams don't always gamble roster spots on players exposed to outright waivers, which is evident in the 2019 team.
One major caveat to point out across the yearly trend is that teams were probably hesitant to claim players from other organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, so 2020 and early 2021 should be viewed through that lens.
However, that didn't stop the Twins from claiming 3 bullpen arms (Ian Gibault, Brandon Waddell, and Ian Hamilton), and Kyle Garlick this offseason. The jury is still out on these claims, but Waddell did not go well.
The most interesting thing about 2021 is that the Twins lost 4 players during their early season free-fall (Brandon Waddell, Travis Blankenhorn, Dakota Chalmers, and Shaun Anderson), before claiming Beau Burrows a few weeks ago from the Detroit Tigers.
Is former first-round draft pick Beau Burrows the tip of the iceberg? Now that 2021 is officially kaput, will the front office be more aggressive?
I sure hope so. Moves will be made in the next few weeks, and this 40-man roster will be significantly different as we approach the trade deadline. The 40-man roster will likely be smaller, and the Twins will be in front of the line when contenders have to cut players to account for their deadline additions.
Waiver claims are rarely sexy transactions, but sometimes you stumble into a Ehire Adrianza or a Matt Wisler. The Twins have proven to be more successful than not when it comes to their waiver claim game. It's time to play, because there's simply nothing to lose.
Thegrin reacted to ashbury for a blog entry, 40 Starts a Season
Recently a side comment came up about why modern pitchers don't start 40 games a season like they used to. The question intrigued me so I did a little searching. The results surprised me. Mostly I used the Stathead tool at baseball-reference.com, and the most useful table I constructed is this:
Since the modern era, 1901 and forward, it's never been the case that pitchers in general were regularly making 40 starts.
For periods of years, the major league leader would regularly reach 40. A few years, there would be more than just one, but never ever as many as there were teams, meaning less than one per team. So it wasn't part of the job description, it was an achievement.
There was kind of a peak of 40-game starts around 1904-08, another 1914-17, then it picked up again after expansion in 1962 (when the season got a little longer), then quieted down and peaked again around 1973, then basically died out around 1979. The last 40-game starter was knuckleballer Charlie Hough in 1987, who come to think of it had that in common with other "recent" 40-game-starters Phil Niekro and Wilbur Wood.
In those 87 years, there were a total of 140 such pitcher-seasons. One or two a year. Zero since then of course.
The individual pitchers weren't doing it for years and years without end, either. Only 31 such seasons were logged by pitchers over the age of 30 (despite the myth that that was when a player would enter his prime). 8 by anyone 35 or older. Starting 40 was always a young man's game.
For another perspective, Sandy Koufax in 1965 holds the record for season strikeout percentage, 29.5%, among pitchers who started 40 games in a season (and of course Sandy led his entire league in that regard that year, among players who qualified for the ERA title). By contrast, in 2019 there were 16 ERA qualifiers who had a higher percentage than that. And even though Sandy was a "unicorn" of his era, and also a prototype for today's pitcher, he was finished before his 31st birthday. Most of the guys who ever started 40 games weren't striking out the side.
Today it's 5-man rotations. Divided into 162 games, that's about 32 starts per season.
Used to be 4-man rotations. Divided into 162, that gives you 40. Divided into the older 154-game schedule, that's 38 or so.
Of course in really olden days, back into the 19th century, you might have 3 or even 2 workhorses who handled the bulk of the chores. But back then the schedules could be more erratic too, and the game was just played differently.
Anyway, major league teams settled into an every-fourth-game routine a lot quicker than people sometimes remember. Well, remember reading about. That made 40 an uncommon feat.
Managers would love to have their best pitcher get as many starts as possible, so they'd be sending someone out 40 times if they could. The tImes changed, not the intestinal fortitude of the players.
Thegrin reacted to Andrew Gebo for a blog entry, First Place Underdogs
Across all sports the term “underdog” is typically given to teams who lack elite talent but are good enough to be relevant. It is rare when a team leads their respective sport in most major statistical categories and fighting for the number one seed in the postseason to be given the “underdog” label. The 2019 Minnesota Twins are the exception to that rule.
As a fan, it is very easy and understandable to be blinded by emotion when talking about your favorite team. We all think our favorite team is the best - unless you’re a Marlins or Orioles fan but then you wouldn't be reading this anyway. Fans also tend to overreact to minor mishaps or punch a hole in the wall when their team doesn’t commit $45million over three years to a 31 year old reliever with declining peripherals.
This article will not be an emotionally driven rant about media biases and the Twins not getting respect because they’re a small market team. Rather, my goal is to present an objective analysis of how absurd it is that this team is already an “underdog” to make a deep postseason run.
Let’s first look at the current playoff odds of AL division leaders, provided by FanGraphs.
Houston Astros: (42-21), 99.9% chance of a postseason appearance, 20.1% chance of winning the World Series.
Minnesota Twins: (40-20), 96.5% chance of a postseason appearance, 7.7% chance of winning the World Series.
New York Yankees: (38-22), 95% chance of a postseason appearance, 12% chance of winning the World Series.
Now let’s compare how these teams have performed so far in terms of offense and pitching, beginning with offense. It’s no secret the Twins have crushed the ball this year and you may not be surprised to see them at the top of the AL, but here it is anyway.
Minnesota Twins: .272/.339/.510 .850 OPS, 114 HR, 14.7 WAR
Houston Astros: .271/.344/.478 .822 OPS, 100 HR, 14.5 WAR
New York Yankees: .257/.334/.448 .781 OPS, 97 HR, 8.7 WAR
You probably didn’t need me to tell you how good their offense has been. If you follow this team then you should (hopefully) already know that. There you have it though, of the current AL division leaders, the Minnesota Twins are the best offensive team. Now let’s look at pitching, beginning with starting pitching.
Minnesota Twins: 3.56 ERA, 1.28 HR/9, 1.16 WHIP
Houston Astros: 3.68 ERA, 1.55 HR/9, 1.06 WHIP
New York Yankees: 3.89 ERA, 1.65 HR/9, 1.22 WHIP
Let that sink in for a second - the Minnesota Twins not only have the best offense but one of the best starting rotations as well. Bullpen stats aren’t as favorable but they’re also not as bad as most people in Twins territory seem to believe.
Minnesota Twins: 4.67 ERA, 1.26 HR/9, 1.41 WHIP
Houston Astros: 3.32 ERA, 1.18 HR/9, 1.12 WHIP
New York Yankees: 3.74 ERA, 1.04 HR/9, 1.26WHIP
If you’re reading this then you likely follow baseball. If you follow baseball you likely already knew the Yankees have a great bullpen and the Astros turned Ryan Pressly into a super reliever - it’s okay to be sad about that one Twins fans, I’ll allow it. However, the Twins bullpen has been respectable and Taylor Rogers is emerging as a super reliever.
Let’s recap - of the three current AL division leaders, the Twins have the lowest odds of winning the World Series, according to FanGraphs. Minnesota also currently boasts the best offensive production among AL division leaders and their starting rotation has the lowest ERA and has surrendered the least amount of home runs per 9 innings. Also, if the season ended today, Jake Odorizzi is the AL Cy Young winner.
Their bullpen has been good but not great and ranks last among current AL division leaders but they’ve still gotten solid production from the bullpen. 10th best bullpen ERA in the league type of production - which by the way, is pretty darn good.
Here’s a quick look at how they stack up against all of MLB in pitching and hitting. Minnesota currently leads the league in the following offensive categories: AVG, SLG, OPS, and wOBA. They’re tied for first in wRC+ and HR. Minnesota has been an offensive juggernaut.
FanGraphs currently has the Twins ranked as the 4th best starting rotation in the league. They don’t lead the league in any statistical categories other than Wins - which for the most part is a useless stat when evaluating a pitchers individual performance - but their overall starting pitching production has been very strong. Any time you can rank in the top 5 of the league you’re doing something right - thank you, Wes Johnson.
Minnesota’s bullpen currently ranks 11th in the league, according to FanGraphs. Top 10 would sound a lot better but 11th is still pretty good. Considering the bullpen expectations were extremely low going into the season, being the 11th best bullpen in the league is a pleasant surprise.
If you have read this far you’ve hopefully learned or confirmed your own beliefs that the 2019 Twins are an offensive powerhouse with a top 5 starting rotation and a bullpen that ranks in the top half of the league - Go Twins!
Yet for some reason, of the current AL division leaders they have the lowest odds to win the World Series (only 7.7% if you can’t remember that far back). Chris Russo of MLB Network thinks Minnesota is a “regular season team that isn’t built for the postseason”. He’s not alone in that sentiment, either.
Most of the publications I have read and TV analysts I’ve listened to seem to echo the same feelings. They don’t believe the 2019 Minnesota Twins are legitimate World Series contenders and it’s shocking.
Most of the time when a team is this good they are a consensus World Series favorite - except that doesn’t seem to apply to the 2019 Minnesota Twins. Maybe it’s because the roster lacks household names. Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, C.J. Cron and Mitch Garver aren’t going to be on the cover of Sport Illustrated anytime soon. The Astros, Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees (when healthy) feature a lineup full of MVP winners, All Stars and future HOFers. This could be why the Twins are overlooked but that’s an idiotic reason.
Perhaps it’s because Minnesota has been relatively irrelevant since 2010 - other than the brief postseason cameo in 2017. The Tigers, Royals, White Sox and Indians have all appeared in or won a World Series over the last two decades. The Twins, on the other hand, haven’t reached the ALCS since they were defeated by Anaheim in 2002. Maybe everyone forgot about Minnesota and now that they’re a juggernaut they don’t believe it, but again, that’s idiotic.
Could it be because they don’t believe their current production is sustainable? This would be the least-idiotic reason to doubt this team. Jake Odorizzi has been a good but not great pitcher over his career. Now suddenly he’s a front runner for the AL Cy Young. Byron Buxton is putting together his best season as a pro, Jorge Polanco is an MVP candidate and up until his last couple starts, Martin Perez has been a completely different pitcher.
As I write this on June 6th, the Minnesota Twins currently have five position players with a top 10 WAR for their respective positions. Those five are Polanco, Schoop, Kepler, Buxton, and Rosario. Top 10 doesn’t do enough justice for Jorge Polanco, he has the highest WAR of all shortstops and the 9th highest WAR in the entire league. He’s on pace to win a batting title and possibly the MVP.
Minnesota is also one of only three teams in the league with two starting pitchers who rank top 20 in ERA - Jake Odorizzi (2nd) and Jose Berrios (20th).
It is very possible that this level of production from relatively unproven players is not sustainable but even that is a bit of a stretch. Byron Buxton was the number one prospect in baseball, so seeing him produce like this isn’t outrageous. Jorge Polanco has always been able to hit and he’s just now entering his prime at age 25. It’s not uncommon for players to have a breakout season after having spent parts of five years in the big leagues and over 1,000 career plate appearances. Jake Odorizzi and Martin Perez, however, are performing significantly better than they have over their careers which does make it harder to believe it is sustainable.
The 2019 Minnesota Twins are a legitimate championship contender. By no means am I saying they’re a lock for the World Series and will cruise through the postseason. It’s very possible they get bounced in the ALDS. It’s baseball, anything can happen but this is a very good baseball team that deserves more respect and should not be viewed a consensus underdog.
Thank you for reading! If you’d like more Twins news and articles follow me on Twitter @Gebo__
Thegrin reacted to Greg Logan for a blog entry, By the Numbers: The Twins’ Biggest Missed Opportunity
“Every artist gets asked the question ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ The honest artist answers ‘I steal them.’” - Austin Kleon
As Twins fans, we tend to look at roster moves through Twins-colored glasses. We know there are approaches to roster construction and talent acquisition outside of the Falvey/Levine mold and we try our best to keep track of them, but it’s difficult and time-consuming to monitor 29 other rosters for ideas the Twins could adopt. Unfortunately opposing players don’t have “amateur free agent” or “trade acquisition” on their jerseys along with their name and number.
The good news, friends, is that your humble author has done the hard work for you. Over the past few weeks I’ve studied the teams that made the 2018 postseason in an effort to better understand to what degree they relied on homegrown talent (i.e. drafted and signed internationally) and external talent (i.e. free agents and trade acquisitions) to reach the postseason. I looked at every player that suited up for these clubs and tracked how they were acquired and how they performed. The results were surprising and fascinating, showing one key area where the Twins have fallen behind - an opportunity they can’t afford to continue to miss if they want to return to the postseason.
Before we dive in, a few notes on methodology:
All WAR figures are based on FanGraphs’ WAR formula. If you aren’t a fan of WAR, you may want to turn back now, but you’re reading a baseball site on Super Bowl Sunday so my guess is we’re safe.
The 2019 Twins projections below are FanGraphs’ Depth Chart projections, which are a blend of Steamer’s projection system and playing time estimates by FanGraphs’ staff.
Several types of averages below help summarize the postseason field as a whole, including median, unweighted average (mean) and weighted average. The weighted average favor the clubs that advanced further into the postseason (crediting 19 games for advancing to the World Series, 12 games for advancing to the league championship series, and so forth). So the Red Sox are weighted more heavily in that average than the A’s, for example.
The “Small Market Average” is an average of Cleveland, Oakland, Milwaukee and Colorado, meant to represent the postseason clubs more closely aligned with the Twins’ revenues and spending capabilities.
Okay, let’s get started.
Any conversation around Minnesota’s underwhelming 2018 starts with the struggles of Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, but readers may be surprised by how competitive the Twins’ homegrown core was relative to those of the postseason clubs, even factoring in Buxton and Sano’s struggles. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers:
In fact, players the Twins drafted or signed as amateur international free agents contributed 19.6 wins to the 2018 club, roughly even with the average playoff team. Among the contending clubs, the Red Sox and Rockies led the way with 23.7 and 23.5 wins respectively from their homegrown talent, while the Brewers managed to lead the National League in wins despite only 3.6 wins’ worth of production from players they’d drafted or signed internationally.
Fangraphs projects the Twins’ drafted and international signings to continue to produce at or above the level of a postseason team in 2019, but 2018 showed us that this won’t be enough to take the club to October. So if the Twins maintained pace with baseball’s best in homegrown production and still fell short, where did the eventual postseason clubs pull away?
The state of free agency has been a hot topic this offseason, and it’s no secret to Twins fans that the free agent market wasn’t kind to their club in 2018. Logan Morrison, Lance Lynn and Addison Reed fall flat, and key free agent investments from previous offseasons Ervin Santana and Jason Castro were non-factors. Let’s take a look at free agent production as compared to the 2018 playoff teams:
While the Twins got a mere 1.3 wins from players acquired via free agency, playoff teams enjoyed an average of nearly 8 wins apiece. There were outliers even within one division, with the Dodgers needing nearly 14 wins from former free agents to squeak into the postseason while the Rockies needed less than 2 free agent wins to do the same. The NL West race also demonstrates a split in strategy between larger- and smaller-market teams, with the smaller predictably relying less on free agents than their larger-market counterparts.
If Twins fans are looking for some good news, it’s unlikely their luck will be nearly as poor in 2019. FanGraphs has rosy projections for former free agents Nelson Cruz, Michael Pineda and Jonathan Schoop, but a return to the postseason will likely hinge on every ounce of the 13.5 wins FanGraphs projects the Twins getting from players acquired in free agency.
But here’s where things get interesting, because if the homegrown core still looks promising and the free agent acquisitions appear poised for fairly strong production, there’s only one player acquisition strategy left that jumps off the page as a missed opportunity for the Twins, and if you took a close look at the charts above you may be way ahead of me.
The Trade Market
While last year’s playoff teams may have had a step up on the Twins in free agency, they absolutely torched the Twins when it came to finding surplus value in the trade market. Let’s take another look at the breakdown of external production:
Outside of the trade for Jake Odorizzi, the Twins have been largely absent from the trade market, and it shows when you compare them to the best teams in baseball. Excluding midseason trades, which we’ll omit due to the Twins having very different goals in those trades than the other teams on this list, trade acquisitions contributed only 6.1 wins to the Twins in 2018, and those were largely concentrated between Odorizzi and erstwhile fan favorite Eduardo Escobar.
By comparison, 2018’s postseason teams averaged a whopping 17.9 wins from players acquired via trade, again excluding midseason trades. That’s nearly 40% of their production coming from such trades, and the number balloons to nearly 50% when you look at just the smaller market clubs. The A’s and the Indians have written the book on building a small market contender by acing the trade market, with the A’s acquiring over half their 2018 production and the Indians acquiring four of five pieces of a dynamic rotation (all of whom were worth 4 or more WAR) via trade.
If there’s one lesson to take from this review of the 2018 postseason field, it’s that effectively leveraging the trade market is critical to building a postseason contender, and the Twins have not kept pace with their competition. Twins fans have seen what can happen when trades go wrong, but we also saw in 2018 the effect that conservative trade activity can have on a club that has eyes on the postseason. Is it time to get out there and make some aggressive moves?
Thegrin reacted to diehardtwinsfan for a blog entry, Top 25 Minnesota Twins Prospects 2014
Last year, I decided to put together a top 20 list that became a top 21 list (b/c I forgot to include Kepler) towards the end of the season in large part b/c the product on the field was pretty bad and b/c I wanted something to talk about. It seems like it could be a fairly fun tradition to maintain, so I'm doing it again this year. I've expanded it out a bit more, and this is in large part due to the fact that the system has gotten stronger. The results from many of the 2012/13 drafts have been very encouraging, and many of the guys on this list have been dropped, not b/c their outlook has changed, but b/c the system has added more people that look to be very capable major leaguers. Last year's list did not graduate any of the members on it (Sulbaran was traded, but that was it), though I had to make a decision to keep Pinto as he's accumulated ML service time. My choice to keep him is largely b/c it's pretty clear he is not a finished product, though I suspect his name will be off of most pundit's lists at this point. I've also kept Vargas, Darnell, Tonkin, and Polanco, all of whom have seen ML service time, but have very few appearances. I didn't rate Santana last year, and he's spent quite a bit of time in the majors showing incredible promise. I'd note that he's significantly out performed his minor league numbers to date. This is pretty rare, and even more so for a rookie. I suspect he will come back down to earth, but his start has been very encouraging.
The system as a whole was hurt by injuries to its top 2 prospects. This has likely delayed the transition time by a year as many people expected to see both Sano and Buxton this season. It may provide a bit of a blessing in disguise as the Twins will have one more season picking high than they otherwise would. On the flip side, many more guys have stepped up and are looking like very capable players. The farm system as a whole has improved.
In terms of ranking, I tend to put more emphasis on results. I like tools, but I have a difficult time with guys like Max Kepler who have the tools, but haven't gotten the results. As such, I include guys like Logan Darnell, who isn't a toolsy guy, but has gotten some pretty good results to date. It's also why I have Polanco ranked above Gordon. It's not a slight to Gordon, but Polanco has done well at much higher levels at the same position than Gordon.
1) Byron Buxton - CF (1) - Buxton remains at the top spot as a five tool player who surprised a lot of people. He raked in both Cedar Rapids and Fort Meyers last season and would have likely started in AA except for a injuries. He has managed to injure both wrists this year. He looked like he had found his old form in A+ only to sustain his second wrist injury. His results thus far in FTM are nothing special, but given the injuries and late start, he's essentially going through his spring training right now. He boasts 5 tool talent at a premium defensive position. His power hasn't quite developed yet, but 20 home run potential seems pretty reasonable. EST 2016 opening day.
2) Miguel Sano - 3B (2) - Sano will miss all of 2014 to TJS. TJS doesn't affect hitters quite the same way it does pitchers, but the Twins are being cautious with their future slugger. Sano will likely begin 2014 in AA where he 'struggled' in his first taste in 2012. His struggles were contact related, posting only a .236 BA, but still managing a .915 OPS. Sano has 80 grade power according to a number of scouts and he will slot into the middle of the order for years to come. His biggest weakness is his contact. He's demonstrated the ability to make contact in the lower minors last season, but he still needs to cut down on the strike outs. EST 2016 opening day.
3) Alex Meyer - RH SP (3) - Meyer is the first of many pitching prospects in the system, and he was acquired by the Twins in large part due to pitching being a weakness of the system at that time. Meyer's overall numbers in AAA look pretty good, sporting an ERA of 3.05. He's striking out more than 10 batters per 9 innings, and can throw in the upper 90s. AAA hitters have not hit well off of him, but his glaring weakness right now is walks, walking nearly a batter every 2 innings. Meyer is still refining his third pitch, but he boasts 2 plus pitches to go with it. He will likely see some time in the bull pen this September and possibly sooner, but he still needs to work on control, as he will struggle in the majors if he continues walking this many batters. EST 2014 Sept callup, SP sometime in 2015.
4) Kohl Stewart - RH SP (5) - Stewart's 1st professional season can only be described as successful. As one of the youngest players in the MWL, Stewart is among the leaders in a number of categories. His biggest knock so far has been a lack of strike outs, though this appears to be due more to his development plan than his talent. He's largely shelved one of his better pitches and has been focusing on developing his fastball. He boasts potential of having 4 plus pitches, and he throws in the mid 90s. He's currently been sidelined due to should soreness, but this appears to be minor. His ceiling is a top of the rotation arm. EST 2017.
5) JO Berrios - RH SP (8) - Berrios appears to have taken a huge step forward this season in his second full season of professional baseball. He destroyed the FSL posting K rate over 10/9 innings and walking just over 2 hitters per 9 innings. He also boasts a mid 90s fastball and advanced control for players his age. He's one of the youngest players in AA presently, though he has struggled in his first taste of the league. He's also a bit shorter than the average pitcher, which some analysts (namely Keith Law) think will make it difficult for him to succeed. That said, his ceiling is like the other pitchers on this list. He can be a top of the rotation guy if things break right. He will finish out this season in AA and probably start there next year as well. EST late 2015.
6) Trevor May - RH SP (7) - When May was drafted, he was considered by many to have a top of the rotation ceiling. His early career in Philly showed impressive strikeout ability, but he struggled with control. After being traded to Minnesota, he showed an improvement in his walk rate to the tune of approximately .7BB/9 IP. However, his peripherals did not improve much. AAA in 2014 has been a different story. He's recorded a similar drop in his walk rate, maintaining a much more respectable rate of around 3.3/9 IP and is still striking out batters at a rate of 1/inning. He has shaved 2 full hits per 9 IP as well, giving him a very respectable 1.12 WHIP. Given the step forward, May is looking more like a starter than the reliever that many had him pegged for, and he'd have likely been in MN had it not been for a calf injury. I think his ceiling is still on the top end of the rotation being anywhere from a 1-3 starter. ETA any time.
7) Jorge Polanco - SS/2B (11) - When Polanco was signed, his defense was considered to be the prize and his bat was questionable. As a pro, his bat has shown quite a bit of promise, and it's his glove that needs work. Forgetting the 6 AB sample in MN, he's amassed a career minor league OPS of .773 with each of the last 3 seasons being above that mark. He's struggling a bit in AA right now, and there's question whether he's going to be able to stick at SS, but he's showing promise as a 2B. With Dozier and Santana occupying those positions at the ML level, the Twins have time to be patient with him, but he is on the 40 man and ahs the luxury of a 4th option as well. ETA mid 2016.
8) Nick Gordon - SS (unrnk) Gordon was the number 5 overall pick. I dropped him down a bit b/c as of yet he hasn't done much. He has all the tools as well as major league bloodlines, so his future is bright. Hopefully he can do a 2013 Buxton and rocket up this list next season. That's probably asking too much, but one can hope. He's likely to start 2015 in Cedar Rapids. ETA fall of 2018.
9) Josmil Pinto - C (6) - I elected to keep Pinto on this list because it's pretty clear that the Twins management thinks he has work to do. His bat is probably ML ready now, but he clearly needs to work on his defense behind the dish. I still think he can be an above average catcher if he can improve his defense. He'll likely be up again in September and I suspect he's going to be starting 2015 as the 2nd C/part time DH.
10) Kennys Vargas - 1B/DH (10) - Vargas is a beast of a human whose primary position is going to be DH. He sports a career minor league OPS of .854. He's not going to bring much defensively to the table and he's just been called up to the majors. His walk rate is pretty decent and he's dropped his K rate by a decent margin this year as well. At 23, he looks to be a middle of the order bat, though I suspect he's going to take some lumps in MLB before he's ready. He's here now, so no new ETA, but I'm guessing he returns to AAA next year at some point. He's in MN to stay late 2015.
I've read from a few sources that the 11-20 of the Twins is better than some team's top 10 picks. As you will see below, here's why. This list reminds me of the Twins top 10 lists from a few years back: Loaded with talent who have done very well in the lower minors, but pretty weak near the top. That's pretty good considering that everyone in the top 10 except for Buxton and Stewart has seen time in AA (and I expect Buxton to get promoted in the near future).
11) Nick Burdi - RP (unrnk). I don't normally rank relief pitchers this high, but Burdi looks like a good chance of being a special one. Forgetting his professional debut, he's striking out nearly 2 batters an inning in Cedar Rapids. I'm guessing he gets promoted to the FSL yet this season and should be on the fast track to the big leagues. He brings upper 90s heat and can hit triple digits on the gun from time to time. ETA, late 2015.
12) Eddie Rosario - 2B/CF (4) Rosario may be the biggest disappointment of the 2014 season. He served a 50 game suspension to start the year and has not performed well in his return. He's shown flashes of being that guy that was ranked 4th on my list last year. Keep in mind he's only 22, he's in AA, and he has a career minor league OPS of .839, even with his rather forgettable season thus far. He's part of what appears to be a log jam of players at his positions in the organization right now, so he may be of more value to the team in a trade. His bat doesn't profile as a corner OF, so a move to the corner doesn't make a ton of sense. Other teams will value him more at CF or 2B, and as such, I suspect he may end up being traded if he puts things together given his spots will likely be held by Buxton, Hicks, Dozier, and Polanco. ETA late Fall 2016.
To be honest, I think the next 3 guys are all very interchangeable. All have the potential to be top of the rotation arms. They are all pitching in Cedar Rapids. They are all young for their league. When the 2014 MWL season began, Kohl Stewart was one of the youngest in the league. Since then, that title has been taken by Lewis Thorpe, who is more than a year younger than Stewart. Stephen Gonsalves is also younger than Stewart and is now pitching there.
One thing to keep in mind, however, about pitching prospects is that they are very hard to predict. A few years back, people in prospecting circles were drooling over the idea of landing Dellin Betances and/or Manny Banuelos from the Yankees in a potential trade. They were even nicknamed the Killer Bs. Both of these kids looked like they could be top of the rotation type arms. Fast forward to the present. Betances was forced to reinvent himself as a reliever. He was promoted in 2013 to the Yankees and has been pretty good as a reliever, but his days as a starter ended in 2013. Banuelos has seen a drop in his stats at each promotion and then missed all of 2013 to TJS. He made it up to AAA, but did not post anything close to the numbers that our current Rochester pitching staff is doing. He's currently rehabbing in AA. He's still a decent pitching prospect, but much of the shine has worn off. While the next 3 are certainly worth being excited over, the failure rate of young pitching prospects is pretty high. Most of us are drooling over the idea of a starting rotation in 3/4 years that could have some combination of Meyer, May, Berrios, Stewart, Thorpe, Gonsalves, and Hu. If all of them pan out, the Twins will likely be trading some of these guys for huge bounties to keep their system stocked and remain competitive. However, history says that some (or even most) of these guys will fail.
13) Lewis Thorpe - LH SP (13) - Thorpe absolutely destroyed the GCL as a 17 year old last year and started getting a lot of national love from prospecters. He turned 18 this year, and some experts said that Thorpe would likely have been a 1st rounder in this years draft had he been a US citizen. The Twins have also believed in him allowing him to skip the Appy league altogether. He predictably struggled in his MWL debut, but is also the youngest player in the league. His first four starts were pretty bad. He should improvement on his next four, and his last 3 have been pretty decent. His innings are a bit low as he's limited to about 75 pitches a game, but he's now got a very respectable K rate of 9.4/9 IP. His walk rate is still too high for the league. If he keeps trending in the right direction he may start in Fort Meyers, but he's likely to repeat at Cedar Rapids. He boasts mid-90s speed, and that could still improve given his age. He has top of the rotation potential if he continues to develop. ETA 2018.
14) Stephen Gonsalves - LH SP (14) - Gonsalves entered his senior year of high school with a reasonable hope that he could be drafted in the 1st round. However, a poor senior year and a suspension from the team eliminated him from quite a few team's draft boards as many expected him to go to college. The Twins got him in the 4th round of the 2013 draft, and right now this is looking like a steal. Gonsalves was recently promoted to the MWL and is currently getting good results. There's some question about his breaking pitches and how they develop, but if things break right, he represents another top of the rotation type arm. Like Thorpe, he can pitch in the low to mid 90s and could still add some speed to his pitches. ETA 2018.
15) Chih-Wei Hu - RH SP (unrnk) - I ingored Hu last season simply because of his age. He dominated the GCL, but unlike Thorpe/Gonsalves, he was older. He was given 3 starts in the Appy and sent to the MWL where he continues to dominate his opponents. At 20, he's not old for the MWL, and he boasts a mid 90s fastball. At this point, it's worth taking notice. He too could potentially be a top of the rotation arm if things continue to break positively. ETA 2018.
16) Sean Gilmartin LH SP (unrnk) - Gilmartin was at one point one of the top prospects in the Brave's system making AAA at age 22. He fell out of favor with the Braves and was traded to the Twins for Doumit this last offseason. The Twins assigned him to AA, where he seemed to have figured something out. He posted a 3.3 ERA with a K rate of over 9/9IP. He was promoted to Rochester where he's pitched well (though not as well), but still better than his previous 2 AAA stints. He's only 24. His ceiling is more of a mid-rotation guy, but he's been getting results at the higher levels. ETA 2016.
17) Mitch Garver C (unrnk) - After the 2013 draft, Garver was listed as a potential sleeper. For what was supposedly a weak draft, it has been productive for the Twins as he's the 3rd of 4 members on this list. His defense is good enough to stick at C, and thus far, the college draftee has destroyed the MWL to the tune of a > .860 OPS. His plate discipline is verry good as well as he has a K/BB ratio of around 1.2. He could profile as a decent defender with an above average bat. ETA 2017.
18) Travis Harrison 3B/LF (unrnk) - Harrison was drafted out of HS and started his career at age 19 in the Appy league. He was considered toolsy but raw and his consistenly performed better than league average (while being young for the league) but posted stats that tend to fly under the radar. He has dropped his K rate in the FSL this year while keeping his BB rate the same. His average has gone up as has his ability to hit doubles, though his HRs have dropped. This may have more to do with the spacious parks in the FSL, and he's my pick to have a break out season next year in AA. ETA late 2016.
19) Adam Brett Walker RF (9) - Walker is the definition of a high risk/high reward prospect. Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, he absolutely destroyed the MWL in his first full year. Contact issues have been a concern, and they've been on display in 2014. His strikeouts have increased and his average has dropped. On the plus side, his walk rate has increased this season over last season, and he needs to get his K rate under control. He could be a star, but he could also flame out and never get beyond AA. He's also a bit faster than a typical RF type guy, so he should be able to provide decent defense in the corner if he makes it. I suspect he's going to repeat A+. ETA late 2017
20) Michael Tonkin RH RP (15) - Tonkin drops down a bit this year, though not due to his own performance. The 24 year old is in his second season at AAA. His peripheral numbers remain the same, though his ERA has dropped significantly. He wasn't terribly good in Minnesota this year, but he should be back to stay next season. He profiles as a back of the pen type reliever. ETA September.
21) Logan Darnell LH SP (18) - Darnell got off to a great start at the beginning of the season posting solid gains across all of his peripheral stats. He's cooled off a bit, and has also earned a 3 game trial in Minnesota this year. His ceiling remains a mid-rotation type guy with a floor of a 4/5 guy. He has a narrow window of opportunity to earn a spot in MN, and I suspect his value will come more from a trade once his options are gone. His walk rate is probably his biggest issue. ETA, September.
22) Jake Reed RH RP (unrnk) - This 2014 5th round pick is quickly turning into a surprise. He's a college junior and elected to sign instead of rolling the dice for a senior season. Thus far, he's been spectacular. He pitched only 4 games in the Appy, totalling 6 innings, striking out 8 and giving up only 1 hit. He was since promoted to Cedar Rapids, where his dominance has continued. His K/9 is over 11. His BB/9 is under 2, he's given up 1 earned run in 13 innings and has only given up 6 hits. Like Nick Burdi, he looks like he could be a fast riser though the system. Reed's fastball can hit mid-90s and by reports has a pretty decent slider as well. His ceiling is a back of the bullpen arm, and I suspect he's going to be fast tracked. ETA late 2016.
23) Tyler Duffey RH SP (unrnk) - When Duffey was first brought up in the TwinsDaily adopt a prospect forums, the general consensus was something along the lines of "Good luck". For Duffey though, it seems that he's gotten some help from more than just lady luck. While his ceiling is more of a back end rotation guy, he's rapidly moved up the system posting a 20-9 record with a 3.48 ERA in just over 2 seasons of work. His WHIP is a respectable 1.13 in AA right now and he's striking out just under 7 batters/9IP. Given the pitching depth, his role in the Twins will likely be more of a AAA guy/spot starter until his options are used up, and he'll probably find himself traded at some point. ETA 2015.
24) Amaurys Minier 3B (unrnk) - Minier was one of the big signings in 2012 and was given his first shot at rookie ball in 2013. He wasn't terribly good last year, but his second go around in the GCL at age 18 has been much better. The 3B has an OPS over .820 and is showing good plate discipline. He's not putting up the video game stats that some of the Twins better prospects have done in rookie ball, but at 18, he'd doing well enough to be on the radar. ETA 2020.
25) Max Kepler OF/1B (17) - People didn't agree with my ranking of Kepler last season, and I'm guessing that will continue. My preference is to find a good combination of results and tools. While Kepler has the tools, the results have been rather pedestrian other than a really good year in the Appy in 2012. This is Kepler's 5th season in the organization and his OPS in the FSL is under .700. It was noted when he signed that he would take some time to develop, but 5 years later, there's good reason to question to wonder how much that will actually happen. In his favor, he's ony 21 years old, and he is playing in a pitchers league. He was added to the 40 man this offseason and due to his slow progression gets an extra option for the team to work with. This will keep him in the system a bit longer, but he's in desparate need of a breakout season. ETA 2018.
Honorable mention: Jason Kanzler, Max Murphy, AJ Achter, Dallas Gallant, Zach Jones(21), JT Chargois, Aaron Slegers, and Tyler Jones.
Overall, the Twins system is easily a top 3 system, and from what I've read, there's a pretty big gap between what the Twins have and every other team except the Cubs. It's a very strong system top to bottom, but it's definitely stronger up the middle, which also happens to be the currency of baseball. Of the 25 guys mentioned here, 10 of them are starting pitchers. 7 of these starters could potentially be that ace that Twins fans have coveted since Santana left. In reality, there's no such thing as a pitching prospect, so the likeliness of many of those guys disappointing is rather high. That said, with 7 guys who could reach that potential, the odds of striking it rich is good. It's clear that the Twins have been targeting strengthening their pitching over the last few seasons as many of these pitchers have been added since Ryan took over. In addition, there are 3 more relief pitchers who look like they can reach the majors and provide excellent back of the pen help in the bottom half of this list. Several of the honorable mentions could also easily fit into this role but fell off the list due to age (Gallant, Tyler Jones) or injury (Chargois, Zach Jones). The bottom line is that the system looks like it could keep the MLB team in most of the pitching leader categories as these guys develop.
The same is true with middle infielders and center fielders. It's clear that the organization has been targeting help in these areas. Of the remaining 12 players, 5 of them (4 of which are in the top 10) fit into this category as well as 2 honorable mentions that at this point there's too little data to quantify. With Dozier locking down 2nd, and Santana looking like he may be an above average major league SS at this point, several of these guys will likely end up being traded if they continue to progress. Aaron Hicks, though not included in this list due to service time, also complicates things in a positive way, as I firmly believe that there's still hope for him to realize his potential, even with the setbacks. Teams tend to add more wins with guys who excel in these positions, as MLB average/replacement level for these positions is pretty low.
The system's weakness appears to be more along the lines. Of the 7 remaining players in the top 25, 2 of them are catchers (though both look like they could be very good catchers). Vargas is the sole 1B. Walker is a RF. The remaining prospects are 3B/OF types. Sano certainly looks like a force at 3B for some time, so this isn't necessarily an area that needs to be addressed quickly, but the team could definitely use some help with high ceiling corner bats. The good news is that those tend to be the easiest to aquire in free agency or even via trade. As well, several of the CF/MI prospects could easily transition in that direction should their bat play up but their position is blocked. Plenty of teams would also trade a good hitting LF/RF guy for some solid pitching, as pitching is always in high demand. I suspect this offseason, Ryan may attempt to trade off some of the AAA pitching depth for a blocked corner OF in another system.
Overall, however, it's a very strong system. With superstar hitting prospects in Sano and Buxton coupled with some very good hitters in Dozier and Mauer, the team should be able to score some runs. The development of guys like Santana, Vargas, Pinto, and Arcia is likely going to be the determining factor of how the offense fits in the next wave. If these guys progress well (and there's good reason to think they can), the MLB team in the later part of this decade will be stacked top to bottom with above average players. A return to meaningful fall baseball is very likely.