Way back in October 2016, I ranked the Twins Top 15 prospects (found here). While there wasn't a number one prospect in all of baseball like Byron Buxton, there's still a lot to like in the organization from top to bottom. Now with the 2017 Major League Baseball draft behind us, and the minor league slate half over, it's time to reassess the group as a whole.
Going from 15 to 1, the group has seen some movement, and there's been some really strong performances thus far in 2017. We could see a few of these names graduate from the group yet this year, and the Twins could find help internally from the farm. With that said, here we go:
15. Mitch Garver C
Garver just missed out on this list prior to 2017, but has continued to command attention. I opined there was some steam to him making the club out of spring training, and he's probably next in line behind John Ryan Murphy. Garver owns an .808 OPS at Triple-A Rochester in 40 G this season, and has some positional flexibility being able to play 1B as well. He has strong caught stealing numbers, and can defend behind the plate at an above average level. There's reason to believe that Garver should finish the season in Minnesota.
14. Daniel Palka OF
For a time Palka looked like he could push for an early promotion to the big leagues in 2017. His production dipped a bit, and now he's on the DL with a .768 OPS. Power is always going to be his calling card, and he was off to a nice start with eight homers through his first 41 games. The strikeout numbers are only going to rise at the big league level, so he'll have to do more work to draw a consistent amount of walks.
13. Lewis Thorpe SP
Getting back on the mound after missing the past two seasons, Thorpe has picked up where he left off. Through his first four starts at Fort Myers, he owns a 2.12 ERA and a 12.7 K/9 to go with a 2.6 BB/9. He looked good at Cedar Rapids prior to his Tommy John surgery, and it seems he's rebounded well. The Twins will no doubt have the 21 year old on an innings limit (and he's never thrown more than 71.2 IP in a season), so he'll likely end 2017 at High-A.
12. Jake Reed RP
Had he stayed healthy out of the gate, Reed would probably be with the Twins already. He suffered an injury on the final day of spring training, and lost a few months of work. Now back healthy, he made quick work of a brief return to Double-A and is back at Triple-A Rochester. Reed has an electric fastball, and solid movement on his pitches. He's a big league reliever with the ability to move towards the back end of the bullpen.
11. Wander Javier SS
Yet to play in 2017, Javier is likely destined for the GCL. He missed a good amount of time in the Dominican Summer League last year, but remains an incredible physical specimen. Watching him in Fort Myers this spring, I have doubts as to whether he can stick at short simply because of his growth. He's bulked up a good amount, and the power potential already flashes big time. The Twins have no shortage of shortstop prospects, but Javier is among the best of them.
10. Tyler Jay RP
Unfortunately for the former 6th overall pick, health hasn't been something easy to come by. Jay was slated to work solely as a reliever this year, and should be at Triple-A by now at worst. He's on the DL again however, and pitched just two innings at Double-A prior to being shelved. If he can stay on the field, the velocity and stuff play out of the pen, but he needs to get a clean bill of health first.
9. Blayne Enlow SP
Taken with the Twins pick at 76th overall in the 2017 MLB draft, Enlow is a prep pitcher with an arrow pointing straight up. He's got a strong fastball that can sit mid-90's, and a host of different outlets called his curveball among the best in the draft. Enlow should have top of the rotation starter potential for the Twins, and ends up being a great value pick for them.
8. Travis Blankenhorn 3B
Since being selected in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft, all Blankenhorn has done is rise in the Twins prospect ranks. He owns an .804 OPS in 66 games with Cedar Rapids this year, and the power has started to play. With 12 doubles and eight homers already, he's a corner infielder that can drive the ball out of the park. Blankenhorn could push for a late season promotion to the Miracle, and at just 20 years old, he's got plenty of developing left to do.
7. Felix Jorge SP
At the time of this writing, we've already had at least one opportunity where the Twins could've called upon Jorge. Realistically, he probably could use a stop at Triple-A, but making the jump from Chattanooga isn't out of the question. He owns a 3.35 ERA across 13 starts this season, and has compiled a 6.2 K/9 with a 2.5 BB/9. Jorge doesn't have much in the form of strikeout stuff, and he's not going to blow big league hitters away, but he can pitch, and doesn't miss his spots. Expecting him to get a few turns with Minnesota this year is a good bet.
6. Brent Rooker OF/1B
With their first comp pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, the Twins took the SEC Triple Crown winner from Mississippi State. Rooker can hit, and whether or not he can hit at the professional level will determine his fate. 23 already, Minnesota will move him aggressively. He'll be at Fort Myers for the bulk of 2017, and could push for time with the Twins as early as 2018. Finding him a position, either in the corner outfield or at first, remains a question but the bat should be expected to play. The Twins will likely go with a sink or swim approach to Rooker and have a good idea of what they've got quickly, but I believe there's something special here.
5. Alex Kirilloff OF
The 2016 first round pick is missing the season due to Tommy John surgery. After suffering the injury late in the 2016 season and being shut down, it's not ideal how long it took for Minnesota to address the root of the problem. Regardless, Kirilloff has time on his side, and he'll have the success of a strong pro debut in his back pocket. Look for him to make an impact in the lower levels of the farm a year from now.
4. Fernando Romero SP
Quite possibly the Twins lone ace prospect, Romero is one of the most intriguing pitchers in all of minor league baseball. He can push his fastball near triple digits, and the command is something he's beginning to hone in on. With a 3.27 ERA through his first 13 starts for Double-A Chattanooga, he's another guy that the Twins could be looking to bump up a level sooner rather than later.
3. Stephen Gonsalves SP
After getting a late start to the year due to injury, Gonsalves has come out of the gate firing. In six starts, he's posted a solid 3.18 ERA, but more impressive is his 11.1 K/9 and the 2.1 BB/9. Gonsalves had a few bouts of command issues during his initial call to Double-A in 2016, but those appear to be all but behind him. While he may not have the upper 90's fastball, his repertoire puts him in the conversation for a very nice rotation piece in the years to come.
2. Royce Lewis SS
If I was to include Lewis on this list prior to 2017, he'd likely have been number one. He just misses out on the top spot now, but the top pick in the 2017 MLB Draft should make Twins fans salivate. He can hit, hit for power, and field well above average at shortstop. The tools are all there for a star in the making, and while he's no less than four years away from the Twins, he'll be one of the top prospects in baseball for the majority of that time.
1. Nick Gordon SS
There's no Twins prospect that has been more impressive than Gordon in 2017. In his first 64 games at the Double-A Level, he owns an .880 OPS and is batting .315. Gordon has clubbed six homers, doubling his previous career season high, and he's already just two doubles away (21) from tying that career high as well. For someone that was noted as a glove first prospect when he was drafted, he's bounced between second and short, now settling back in at shortstop, and all he has done is rake. I'd still like to see him cut down on the errors, but Gordon is continuing to look more and more like a potential All Star.
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Before the 2005 season, the Twins traded a pair of prospects for Luis Castillo. Castillo was a veteran second baseman coming from the Florida Marlins. For a team that was looking to make a deep run in the postseason, Castillo was a welcomed addition. Hitting at or near the top of the order and filling a void at second base. For one and half seasons Castillo batted a line of .299/.357/.363.
At the deadline in 2007, with the Twins failing to meet expectations, Castillo was traded for a pair of prospects. One of those prospects was catcher Drew Butera. Butera made is Twins and Major League Debut in 2010. With the Twins back in postseason contention, Butera would only be asked to back up Perennial All-Star Joe Mauer. For parts of four years, Drew showed he could not consistently hit major league pitching. His career Twins slash line is a measly .182/.230/.263. However, what Butera lacked with the bat, he more than made up for defensively. Behind the plate, Butera quickly gained the trust of his pitching staff and manager Ron Gardenhire. Highlighting his time with the Twins was his successful battery with Carl Pavano during the 2010 season, in which Pavano won a team high 17 games.
In 2013, however, Drew Butera became expendable. The Twins had added veteran Ryan Doumit for his versatility defensively and upgraded bat. As a result, Butera was moved to the Dodgers for a stunning return. With Drew Butera playing in AAA the Twins were able to move him and bring lefty pitcher Miguel Sulbaran in return. At the time, Miguel Sulbaran was a 19-year-old starting pitcher in Class A ball. Sulbaran had a long road to the majors a head of him, however adding a young lefty starter was a promising move.
Sulbaran would not be with the organization for long though. In parts of two seasons, Miguel made four starts, played five games total and pitched only 21 innings for Class A Cedar Rapids. At the time of the 2014 season, the Twins were mired in a string of losing seasons. Looking to add depth and potential, they moved Sulbaran to the Yankees for utility man Eduardo Nunez.
Nunez quickly became a fan favorite at Target Field. Nuni played two plus seasons in Twins uniform. His time was highlighted with an All-Start selection in 2016. Primarily used as a bench and utility man, Nunez slashed a career .280/.311/.422. At the time of his trade to the Giants, the Twins infielder was hitting .296 with 12 homeruns, 15 doubles, and had swiped 27 bases. While playing nearly every position in a Twins uniform, Nunez will no doubt be remembered for consistently losing his helmet while flying around the bases.
In what was arguably the franchises worst season, the Twins traded Eduardo Nunez at the 2016 trade deadline. Presumably years away from competing, the team was looking to add future long term assets. Striking while the iron was hot, the Twins traded All-Star Nunez to the Giants for another young lefty starting pitcher. Unlike Miguel Sulbaran however, Adalberto Mejia had tremendously more upside. Upon joining the organization, Mejia became a top ten talent in an already strong farm system. After dominating AA earlier that season, Mejia would make his Major League debut during the 2016 season. With the start of the 2017 season, Mejia completes the Luis Castillo trade tree. Adalberto Mejia is only 24 years old and under team control until the 2023 season.
Since the start of this trade tree, the Twins have seen both consistent success and multiple last place finishes. However, early success this season has shown that the Twins are in line for another strong run. Hopefully, the moves made since 2005 that culminated in Adalberto Mejia are a sign of future success for the Minnesota Twins.