Promoting Minor League players is serious business. You have to make deft moves. When do you push a player? When do you coddle a player? When is the player ready? Do you look at the stats? The stuff? The climate? Making an incorrect early decision can mar their development, but waiting too long takes away precious developmental time at the next level. It’s a duel-edged sword. That said, as a fan, I can speculate my life away. First, we’ll look at a couple of players who have been recently promoted, then we’ll look at a six more who I think could be pushed to the next level.
Lewis Thorpe – Promoted to Low-A Cedar Rapids
Thorpe is officially playing full-season baseball and I am excited. I’m going to try my very best to ignore his statistics in this season, as Thorpe will be making this huge leap at the tender age of 18. That the Twins think highly enough of him to move him to this level speaks highly of his ability and makeup. While he may not enjoy a ton of success on the field, this valuable experience will help his development immensely. If he does have great results? He’s a monster prospect, even more so than we thought going into this season.
Daniel Ortiz – Promoted to AAA Rochester
The concept of a post-prospect is widely discussed among evaluators, writers and fans. Ortiz was once considered a pretty decent prospect in the Twins’ system. He’s been consistently decent, showing decent power and contact but mediocre plate discipline. His 2014 season with New Britain was outstanding, as he hit .324/.340/.500 and he earned a promotion to Rochester. In New Britain, he showed better than decent power and contact, but the plate discipline concerns are still present as he had a K:BB ratio of 34 to 4. He’s off to a slow start with the Red Wings, but it’s great to see a player reach that final Minor League level.
Jose Berrios – Promote to AA New Britain?
Berrios has dominated the Florida State League in 2014. He’s getting a lot of buzz from national prospect writers. With good cause. He’s averaging more than a strikeout per inning and he has significantly lowered his walk rate. Through his first 12 starts, he has a 2.30 ERA with 81 strikeouts and just 19 walks. The Florida State League does tend to favor pitchers, so a June or July promotion would be a huge test for a man who just turned 20 in late May. In addition, Berrios tired in 2013 and he’s already within striking distance of his innings total from last season. This would be an aggressive promotion, but Berrios is an aggressive pitcher so it might work out.
Trevor May – Promote to MLB Minnesota?
There’s a belief among many “ball-guys” that you want to get a pitcher to the Majors as quickly as possible because there are only so many pitches in an arm. I’m not sure if that is true or not, but May’s durability as a Minor League pitcher does mean that he has thrown a lot of innings that don’t count for the Twins. May has been more inconsistent with his command in May and June, but his overall numbers are still very good. If the Twins tire of one of their veteran starters, May appears to be as ready as he’ll ever be to join the Twins’ rotation.
Mitch Garver – Promote to High-A Fort Myers?
Garver is having an excellent season. His OPS is consistently hovering around .900, he’s shown good contact, good plate discipline and good power. He’s still catching more than he isn’t so promoting him to Fort Myers would create a logjam at that position with Stuart Turner not ready for a promotion of his own. Garver is pretty old for his level and likely could handle the more advanced pitching at High-A. That said, promoting players involves finding a spot for them at the new level and I doubt the Twins want to have Garver catching 25% of the time instead of 50% of the time.
Kennys Vargas – Promote to AAA Rochester?
On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer. Vargas is crushing AA pitching, hitting for power and contact. His strikeout rate is slightly down and his walk rate is slightly up. Moving Vargas to Rochester would push Chris Colabello to DH (or the bench), but that’s probably not a reason to hold off. Vargas will be 24 in August and he’s still relatively young for AAA. There are many who feel Vargas is a top ten prospect in the Twins’ system, but I guess I would personally like to see him continue to mash AA pitching for a few more months. I’m almost on the bandwagon.
Levi Michael – Promote to AA New Britain?
Michael wasn’t even a top 50 prospect heading into this season, as far as I was concerned. He has had an excellent season with High-A Fort Myers, posting an OPS over .800 while making good contact with great plate discipline. Of course, he also hasn’t played since early May due to a foot injury. He is expected back soon and I would imagine he might be ready for a promotion shortly after that. This is Michael’s third season at High-A, so if he’s going to make any impact in the Twins’ system, he likely needs to prove that he can hit at the next level.
Alex Meyer – Promote to MLB Minnesota?
I’m on the fence with Meyer. He’s only made a handful of AAA starts and unlike Trevor May, he hasn’t been as durable in the past. Meyer missed a lot of time last season with a shoulder injury and he hasn’t had great control this season. However, he’s been dominant at times and I have a hunch that his good performances would be good performances with the Twins as well. Bascially, I think Meyer is the type of pitcher who will perform the same in AAA and in the Majors. He’ll be great at times but somewhat inconsistent. His stuff is MLB-ready, but experiencing more AAA success might be a better prescription for him long-term.
I’m not sure that it’s the right move to push all six of these players, but I definitely think a few are up for the challenge. The problem is that it’s very hard to know who is ready until you push them into the pool. If I had to guess, I’d think Vargas, May and Michael are promoted very soon, with Meyer joining the Twins in September. I could see Berrios and Garver sticking with their current clubs, despite their excellent performances. Next week, I plan to update my top ten prospect list. With a new draft class and some new data to look at, the list should look a bit different than it looked in February.
Have a great week, everyone!