The Twins have the best farm system in baseball. They have the most high-end talent and ridiculous depth. We’ve spent the last few weeks discussing their depth and now we get to the high-end talent. Each of these players has star potential.
10. Travis Harrison
Who is he? The Twins selected Harrison with their second first-round pick back in 2011. The powerful right-hander is still just 21-years-old and has managed to remain at third base longer than many had predicted. That said, he’s not a great fielder and likely will end up at first. However, his power is legit and if it develops in-game, then he’ll hit plenty enough to play first down the line.
2013 Season: Harrison made his full-season debut with Low-A Cedar Rapids. He hit .253/.366/.416 in 537 plate appearances. He contributed 43 extra-base hits, including 15 home runs. He also walked an impressive 68 times, good for a walk rate over 12%. He did strike out 125 times, but he was just 20 and relatively young for the league. Harrison didn’t wow in 2013, but he held his own.
Trend? Slightly down. Well, at least to the majority. This is probably the highest you will see Harrison on a Twins prospect list, but I still believe in his bat. When you compare him to Adam Walker, a much more popular prospect, he hit almost as many doubles, struck out at a nearly identical rate and walked twice as much. Walker nearly doubled Harrison’s home run total, but Walker is a year older and has college experience. Both are good prospects, but I think Harrison’s ability and willingness to take a walk is significant, especially at his early stage of development.
Irresponsible Comp? Paul Goldschmidt
Gardy-Inspired Nickname: Harry
Inspired Gardy-Nickname: Dexter
One-sentence summary: Harrison was overshadowed by talented Cedar Rapids teammates, but he’s a high-upside prospect with massive power potential.
9. Jose Berrios
Who is he? Berrios was selected with the 32nd overall pick in the 2012 draft. Completely overshadowed by Lord Buxton, Berrios would have been a fine haul if he had been the Twins only first-round selection that year. Berrios is just 19 and stands only 6 feet tall. He has a mid-90s fastball, a good breaking ball and an advanced change. His athleticism and attitude (rig) more than compensate for his relative lack of height.
2013 Season: Berrios finished his 2013 season with an ERA just slightly below 4 and a WHIP just slightly below 1.40. That said, he had an outstanding season. Pitching in Low-A at 19 and with just one season of pro ball under his belt, Berrios held his own for 103.2 innings. He tripled his pro innings total and did so while striking out nearly a batter per innings. He limited walks nicely and if not for a late-season swoon (almost certainly due to fatigue), his numbers would have looked even more impressive.
Trend? Up. Those ERA/WHIP figures aren’t eye-popping, but you have to consider the context. Berrios was one of the youngest pitchers in his league and he had some truly spectacular games. His 6/26 start against Burlington was a glimpse of what he is capable of: 7 IP, 9 K, 0 BB, 5 hits, 2 earned runs. Berrios is a top 100 prospect in some minds and I can certainly see why.
Irresponsible Comp? Johnny Cueto
Gardy-Inspired Nickname: Berries
Inspired Gardy-Nickname: Berry Hose
One-sentence summary: Teams would kill to have a 9th-best prospect like Berrios.
8. Lewis Thorpe
Who is he? Thorpe is younger than Dumb and Dumber. He was signed in 2012 out of Austrailia. The lanky lefty is just 18 and has skyrocketed up prospect lists, both Twins and MLB. He’s added a few MPH to his fastball since he signed and he already boasted an advanced change. He’s also got an impressive curve that has mad potential as an out pitch. That arsenal from the left side? Filthy.
2013 Season: Filthy. Thorpe threw 44 innings in the GCL in 2013. Making his pro debut, he struck out 64 and walked just 6. What the H? I know that Rookie Ball stats are barely worth looking at twice, but my goodness, that K:BB ratio is impossible to ignore. His stuff matches the performance, making it all the more impressive. He’ll move to Elizabethton in 2014.
Trend? Filthy up. It’s not just the K:BB ratio, the 2.05 ERA, the lack of hits allowed and the overall profile, it’s the fact that he’s just 18 and had that season at 17. Thorpe has the potential to head a rotation in the future and lead a prospect list as he develops. He could be a top five Twins prospect at this time next year. He’s surpassed Berrios in my eyes, simply because if each were draft-eligible right now, Thorpe would be taken before Berrios. Both are excellent and both are Twins.
Irresponsible Comp? Cole Hamels
Gardy-Inspired Nickname: Thorpy
Inspired Gardy-Nickname: Leigh Ellis
One-sentence summary: Twins fans are going to love Australia in a few years.
Who is he? The Twins signed Polanco as an international free agent in 2009. The 20-year-old Dominican was signed to play short, but is likely a second baseman. Even if he can’t play short in the long-term, he’s an exciting player due to his combination of speed, hitting, glove and extra-base power. He’s a switch-hitter with line drive power and the ability to take a walk.
2013 Season: Polanco made his full-season debut with Cedar Rapids in 2013. He hit .308/.362/.452 in 523 plate appearances. He hit 32 doubles and 10 triples while walking 42 times. He’s fast, but he only stole four bases, showing that he has some development left in the base stealing department. He played 49 games at short and 57 at second. He made nine errors at each position, although the questions about his ability to play short are mostly related to his arm.
Trend? Up. I admit to liking Polanco more than most. He reminds me of a switch-hitting Chuck Knoblauch, although he hasn’t shown the aptitude for stealing bases like Knoblauch had. That said, it seems reasonably possible that Polanco could hit .300 in the Majors at his peak. His plate discipline is solid and he has good power, just not home run power.
Irresponsible Comp? Roberto Alomar
Gardy-Inspired Nickname: Georgie (I know, I used it earlier, but c’mon, you can see Gardy having two Georgies, right?)
Inspired Gardy-Nickname: Hoe-Poe
One-sentence summary: Polanco might always fly under the radar, but he’s as solid a prospect as they come.
6. Josmil Pinto
Who is he? The Twins signed Pinto out of Venezuela in 2006. Pinto will be 25 next season and made his MLB debut in September of 2013. Pinto made a slow climb through the Twins system, enjoying a true breakout in 2012. He has shown the ability to make good contact, draw walks and hit some balls over the fence. He isn’t a great defender right now, but experts I trust think he has the ability to be a good receiver in the near future.
2013 Season: Pinto was excellent in AA, hitting .308/.411/.482 before earning a short promotion to AAA. That stay was short because the Twins called him up to the Majors in September. After playing just sporadically to start the month, Pinto earned more playing time with his hot hitting. He ended that month with a 165 OPS+ and nine extra-base hits. In addition, he won over fans with his infectious smile. Or, at least he won over one fan (Note – me).
Trend? Up. Pinto broke out in 2012 and continued his breakout in 2013. The Twins signed Kurt Suzuki to be their starting catcher in 2014, so Pinto will likely have to wait for his full-time opportunity. That said, he’s a much better player than Suzuki and could force his way into the lineup by the All-Star break. Pinto is too talented to spend a full season with Rochester.
Irresponsible Comp? Miguel Montero (but right-handed)
Gardy-Inspired Nickname: Pinto Bean
Inspired Gardy-Nickname: Nick Punto
ETA: 2013 (already made his MLB debut)
One-sentence summary: Pinto’s upper-minors and MLB success make him a pretty sure bet to be the Twins catcher for a decent chunk of the future.