The Future is Blinding
By Chris Holm
Don’t look now, but The Twins’ two class A affiliates are a combined 39-10 on the season. As if that weren’t enough to spark flames of enthusiasm toward 2016 and beyond, they’ve also played much of the early part of the season without some of their top prospects. Levi Michael just rejoined Fort Myers, while J.O. Berrios just rejoined Cedar Rapids who is still missing Max Kepler. And top prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, both already considered two to of the top prospects in baseball are far outperforming expectations thus far. Sano is leading the minor leagues in home runs and playing better than expected defense at third base and Buxton has reached base by hit or walk in every game and looking every bit a 5-tool talent, reminding people around Cedar Rapids of Mike Trout at the same stage of his career. Eddie Rosario continues to hit and is actually the top ranked defensive second baseman in the FSL, which was supposed to be a question for him. And best of all, these three are all very young for the level they are playing. Adam Walker is leading the Midwest League in homeruns and looks like a guy with as much power as anyone not named Sano. Other top prospects, Travis Harrison, Jorge Polanco, and Nico Goodrum at Cedar Rapids are also playing well. And if we look beyond class A, we’re seeing a couple young cornerstones starting to make their mark at the Major League level in Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia. Assuming at least some of this stockpile of talent pans out, the Twins look to be an offensive powerhouse in the not so distant future.
Pitching remains the big question mark for the future of this franchise in the next ten years. The Twins have yet to really see what they got out of their run on high velocity college relievers (some of whom are being converted to starters) from last year’s draft. New pickups, Alex Meyer has been impressive and Trevor May has shown signs at AA. Kyle Gibson has been inconsistent but has shown flashes of dominance at AAA. Berrios may be the crown jewel pitcher in the system but is very young still. With significantly less pitching depth in the minors, the Twins will need to do a good job of developing the talent they do have or go back to the free agency / trade / draft wells to continue to restock what had been a very bare pitching cupboard. Still it’s hard to imagine this current group not improving the Twins’ pitching significantly.
Sano, Buxton, and Arcia look like future stars. Rosario looks like a guy who’s going to hit. If he can stick at second base, he could be an All Star. Berrios and Meyer could develop into front of rotation starting pitchers. Hicks should be a solid Major League outfielder with good on base skills and decent power/speed combination. At the very least it’s going to be an exciting couple of years watching these guys develop and hoping for another class of guys to lead a franchise resurgence like the early 80’s and early 2000’s groups did. This group probably has more raw talent than both those groups.
So how long until we start seeing these guys? Here’s my predictions for a few:
2013 – Gibson (June), Meyer, May (September)
2014 – Rosario, Sano (September)
2015 – Buxton (June), Berrios (September)
2016 – Kepler