We have officially entered the 2014 MLB season! As a result, we have inched ever closer to the 2014 MiLB season and therefore, prospect season. Taylor, the Prospect Octopus, and I will be here all season long to discuss top performers, disappointing injuries and the next wave of Minnesota Twins. Every week, we’ll have eight players to profile. Why eight? Octopi have eight tentacles, of course. We’ll start with a four-week preview of each of the Twins full season clubs.
The Rochester Red Wings is the Twins’ AAA affiliate and they begin their season on Thursday. By way of being the highest Minor League affiliate, the players on the Red Wings’ roster are the closest to meeting their dreams of being Major League players. In this post, I will profile the eight most notable players on the current Red Wings’ roster. I think that most of these players have a strong likelihood to reach the Twins by the end of the 2014 season. With that intrigue out of the way, let’s get to the players!
There weren’t eight players that I could truly get excited about on the Red Wings’ roster, so here’s a mass of guys who started the 2013 season with the Twins. All four have been removed from the 40-man roster, but each demonstrated some value to the Twins in the recent past. If any of these guys get off to a hot start, they could find their way back to Minnesota. Personally, I think Mastroianni has the easiest path, as the Twins do not currently employ a true back-up centerfielder.
Alex Meyer – SP
Ah, now we can get excited. Meyer is the Twins’ top pitching prospect and he’s so close to Minnesota that we can almost make out his massive shadow. Meyer impressed many in Spring Training, including Ron Gardenhire, who hinted that he may have wanted to use Meyer in the bullpen from the start of the season. Meyer’s development is in good hands and he will start with Rochester as he should. Meyer could be the Kyle Gibson of 2014, pitching so well that he forces his way into a suddenly crowded rotation. Meyer’s development is one of the most important elements of the 2014 season as he has the talent to round into a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.
Trevor May – SP
May’s ceiling was once as high as Meyer’s, but his performance in AA over the past few seasons has lowered that ceiling considerably. There are still plenty of reasons to be excited about May. He’s just 24 and he’s got good stuff. His command hasn’t been great in the Minors, but he has recorded over a strikeout per inning in his 55 AA starts. Most importantly, he hasn’t missed a start in his past three Minor League seasons. Durability is vastly underrated, especially in young, cheap pitchers. If May can translate his strikeout success and durability to AAA and then the Majors, he could be a much more valuable player than his Minor League numbers may show. All that said, I doubt he throws an inning with the Twins until September, if at all in 2014.
Logan Darnell – SP
Darnell isn’t a prospect in Meyer’s or even May’s tier, but he’s notable because he has made a slow climb through the Twins’ system and he had a slight breakout last season with New Britain. Darnell had posted two consecutive seasons with an ERA over 5, but in 2013, he boosted his strikeout rate just enough to complement his generally good walk rate. Darnell threw 57 innings for Rochester in 2013, and while he didn’t get results like he did earlier in the season with New Britain, he did gain valuable experience at the next level. Darnell was added to the Twins’ 40-man roster this past offseason and he could be the first starter summoned from AAA if the Twins need someone before Meyer is ready.
Michael Tonkin – RP
While Darnell could be called upon in 2014, I think it’s a lock that Tonkin will be called upon. In fact, he’s already been beckoned to Minnesota, as a short-term fill-in while Brian Duensing goes on paternity leave. Tonkin probably should have been on the Twins’ Opening Day roster, but I don’t think he’ll be in Rochester long. He has impressive strikeout and walk ratios, good enough to survive the almost certain regression that comes with going from AAA to the Majors. Tonkin will be first on the list of AAA pitchers headed to Minnesota if a current Twins pitcher falters. If a reliever goes down, Tonkin slides in. If a starter goes down, Sam Deduno moves to the rotation and Tonkin takes Deduno’s place. In the world of pitching, this shuffling is all pretty much inevitable.
Ryan Pressly – RP (SP?)
You certainly remember Pressly, as he spent the entire 2013 season with the Twins. A rule 5 pick the previous offseason, Pressly needed to remain on the roster all season or he would have to be offered back to his previous team. Despite never pitching above AA, Pressly held his own in the Twins’ bullpen in 2013, posting a 3.87 in 76.2 innings pitched. However, Pressly was mostly a starter in his Minor League career, and there is some sentiment that he might be stretched out in 2014 to attempt to get back into the rotation. As it stands right now, the Rochester rotation is jam-packed, but we don’t know how that will change over the season. If he stays in the bullpen, the Twins have a guy with MLB experience who is just a phone call and plane flight away.
Chris Herrmann – C/OF
I’m shocked to be writing about Herrmann in this space. I had Josmil Pinto all lined up for this post, but the Twins surprised me by (rightfully) adding Pinto the 25-man roster and sending Herrmann back to Rochester. Herrmann is going to be on the Twins’ roster in the near future and I think he could stick for a long time. Kurt Suzuki is a one-year solution and Josmil Pinto should settle in as the starting catcher before the end of the season. That leaves the long-term back-up catcher position open and the Twins seem to like having a back-up who can play other positions. Enter Herrmann. He’s never hit well in the Majors, but bench players can live off of versatility while inexpensive. He’s hit well in the past, just never above AA.
Danny Santana – SS
Let’s end on a high note! Santana turned heads in Spring Training as well and he caught the eye of manager Ron Gardenhire just like Alex Meyer. Santana is the shortstop of the near future. Pedro Florimon is fine and you know I love Eduardo Escobar, but Santana’s upside and youth trump the current crop by a wide margin. Santana is just 23 and he’s a pure shortstop with great range and a strong arm. He makes too many errors, but if he can prove that he’s working on that part of his game, he could be in Minnesota sooner than later. He’ll never be a big offensive threat, but he makes enough contact to outhit Florimon and Escobar without much difficulty.
A lot of pitching on this list. It is apparent that the Twins’ lineup isn’t going to get a big boost from their AAA team in 2014. On the positive side, the pitching reserves are more promising than in years past. Next week, we’ll head to Connecticut and look at the AA New Britain Rock Cats. I think we might find some offense there. Have a great week, everyone!