Part of the notoriously pitcher-friendly Florida State League, The Twins’ High-A affiliate Fort Myers Miracle is a nice litmus test for many young hitters looking to make the giant leap to AA. For pitchers, it is a great chance to pad stats and gain confidence. In 2014, the Twins organization will see no shortage of extremely talented young prospects in Fort Myers. The Miracle roster is jam-packed with talent, but I have winnowed my list to 8, in honor of our beautiful prospect octopus, Taylor.
Jose Berrios – SP
Berrios has rig or swagger or whatever you want to call it and he used that quality to force his way into the Baseball America top 100 prospect list. He more than held his own at Low-A Cedar Rapids in 2013, striking out nearly a batter per inning with an ERA under 4. He wore down as the season progressed, but he also threw more innings than he had before. He’s just 20 and he should find success in the Florida State League. All of his limitations come from his size, but everything else adds up to something big that we can dream on. He’s legit.
Alex Wimmers – SP
Wimmers was the Twins’ first-round selection back in 2010 and he’s had nothing but issues and injuries since his amazing pro debut in 2010. Now back and seemingly healthy, Wimmers will start his season with Fort Myers but could move up to AA if he can prove good health. He was an advanced pitcher when drafted but all that lost development over the last three seasons is quite a lot to overcome. That said, he’s still a very talented, command-oriented starter with number 3/4 upside. He’s not as exciting as he once was, but he could still have a very bright future.
Stuart Turner – C
Oh man, personal favorite alert! I love catcher prospects and I love true catcher prospects. Turner will only remain valuable behind the plate, but he has the skills, ability and profile to stick for a long time. His bat is behind his glove, but it’s not too shabby either. He’s off to a flying start at the plate, showing good contact and OBP skills. If Turner’s bat develops, he could be a top prospect and a very valuable player. We’re a long way from there, but he isn’t Drew Butera 2.0.
Jorge Polanco – SS/2B
Polanco was the breakout prospect of the year for the Twins in 2013. He went from intriguing middle infield prospect to a top 10, fringe-top 5 prospect in the system. He did so with a fantastic age 19 season with Cedar Rapids, hitting .308/.362/.452 with 32 doubles, 10 triples, 42 walks and just 59 strikeouts. He’s a disciplined hitter with good extra-base pop. He’s a switch hitter who didn’t show much of a left/right split in 2013. The Twins have given him the shortstop job at Fort Myers and it will be a somewhat uphill climb. He’s better suited for second base because of his arm, but his offensive upside is too great to make that move just yet. If he can develop into a competent shortstop, he’s a potential monster player.
Niko Goodrum – 3B/SS
Goodrum is logging his time at third base this season, a move made to accommodate Jorge Polanco. Goodrum is a better shortstop right now, but you can excuse the Twins for making room for Polanco because he’s the better prospect. Goodrum is a better fit at third than Polanco because he has a cannon for an arm and he might outgrow the shortstop position anyway. He’s got a big frame, so he could always grow out of the middle infield altogether. Right now, he’s got the tools for short, so this might be a temporary move. His bat is developing and he’s shown great OBP skills as a pro. If he can make better contact, he could become a top ten prospect with relative ease. He has all of the other tools.
Travis Harrison – OF?
Harrison was drafted in the first round (supplemental) of the 2011 draft as a third baseman. The scouting reports always predicted a move to first base, so I guess a move to the outfield is a better outcome. It’s disappointing when a player needs to move down the defensive spectrum, but the outfield is certainly a more alluring option. Harrison’s calling card will always be his power anyway, as he has plus raw power and a pretty solid approach at the plate. In 2013, he hit .253/.366/.416 with 15 home runs and 28 doubles at Cedar Rapids. He also made 26 errors at third, explaining why he is now a power-hitting corner outfield prospect and not a power-hitting third base prospect.
Max Kepler – OF
It’s amazing what one bad season can do to a prospect. Kepler was a top ten Twins prospect going into the 2013 season. He was making his full-season debut and primed for a breakout. He started the season late due to injury, but got off to a fast start. He cooled significantly and finished the 2013 season with a disappointing .237/.312/.424 line. In addition, he went to the Arizona Fall League as a first baseman and some were concerned that his large frame was pushing him down the defensive spectrum. He’s off to a slow start in 2014 with Fort Myers, but he’s also playing center field when starting. A rebound season would be nice, but Kepler is a strong enough prospect that the Twins added him to the 40-man roster after last season. They still see something, so we should too.
Adam Walker – OF
Walker is perhaps the prospect in the system with the most varied fan opinions. Some view him as an elite prospect who is being underrated while crushing Minor League pitching. Others see him as an all-power bat who is thriving against much younger competition. The reality (as is usual) falls somewhere in between. Walker does have fantastic power, but he also has plate discipline issues that he’ll need to iron out to make it past AA. He’s a capable outfielder, but not a great one. He is old for his level, but he can only play against the competition he’s given. Walker is a good prospect and could force his way to AA by the end of 2014. AA will be a real test for Walker.
This list doesn’t even include talented young pitchers Tyler Duffey and Mason Melotakis or intriguing OBP-machine Nate Roberts. In addition, I totally cheated and profiled Byron Buxton in the New Britain preview, even though he’ll start his season with Fort Myers. If you can find a way down to Florida, you won’t be disappointed. Or, you could wait a couple years and a few of these guys will be in Minnesota. Whatever you prefer. We’ll check out the Low-A Cedar Rapids Kernels next week. See you then!