February 20, 2013; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves pitcher Sean Gilmartin (71) poses for a picture during photo day at Disney Wide World of Sports complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to the final week of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Octopus year-end review. We’ve been through a lot over the last three months and today it all comes crashing down. I don’t want anyone to feel sad though. We’ve gone through almost 120 Minnesota Twins Minor League players and we should all be very proud of our progress. We’ll hit on 8 more today. Also, keep your eyes on Puckett’s Pond and Taylor the Prospect Octopus in January as we’ll be unveiling our top 30 Minnesota Twins prospects. It’s going to be so hot.
Before we get back to the alphabetical list, I have two guys to tell you about. I missed Koch on my list. I had Mike Kvasnicka typed twice and in my haste to analyze, I just assumed it was a typo. Actually, I somehow copied over Koch. How unwise! Koch is a pretty decent prospect. Koch was the Twins’ 12th round selection in 2011 and he’s a catcher, so you know I’m intrigued. Koch made the jump from Low-A Beloit to High-A Fort Myers in 2013 and improved his plate discipline quite a bit. His strikeout rate dipped from 29.5% to 19.1%, while maintaining a roughly 10% walk rate. He also made better contact in 2013 and posted a very solid .278/.346/.401 triple slash in 393 plate appearances. Koch should take over as New Britain’s catcher in 2014 and could be a potential breakout candidate if he continues to improve his contact and plate discipline.
I did not leave Gilmartin off of my list because he was a Braves pitcher when I started and it would be unfair to label him as a Twins prospect while on another team. Gilmartin was acquired in exchange for Ryan Doumit last week and he will slot into Rochester’s rotation in 2014. Gilmartin is a soft-tossing lefty with three secondary offerings and great command. His AAA numbers reveal his upside, as he has a 15.8% strikeout rate. That would be well below MLB average and pitchers typically lose strikeouts when they move from AAA to the Majors. However, Gilmartin does limit walks and he has a nice arsenal. He also had some injury issues in 2013 and was a former first-round pick. Gilmartin doesn’t have a ton of upside, but he could slot in as a potential 4th or 5th starter down the line.
Walker was the Twins’ 18th round selection this past June. He spent most of his pro debut with Elizabethton, but also earned a brief, six game stint with Cedar Rapids at the end of August. Walker played mostly shortstop and posted a pretty respectable .970 fielding percentage with Elizabethton. He hit .265/.335/.316 in 2013 and only managed six extra-base hits. Power isn’t vital in the middle infield. Plus, Walker did make good contact and walked at about a 10% rate. You never want to rely on an 18th round college middle infielder, but you can’t ignore him for that either.
Wheeler was an 8th round pick back in 2011. He spent all of 2013 with Fort Myers, starting 26 games and finishing with a 3.70 ERA. He averaged about five and half innings per start and won 9 games while only losing 4. His peripheral numbers are not exiting. He struck out just 91 of the 630 batters that he faced. A 14.4% strikeout rate is not great. Plus, he had a walk rate that was just over 9%. If you just look at win-loss and ERA, Wheeler looks like a decent prospect. It is very hard to find successful MLB starters with strikeout/walk numbers like Wheeler’s as a 22-year-old in High-A. Perhaps he can continue to defy the numbers.
Williams is intriguing. He was drafted in the 3rd round back in 2011. He’s a hard-throwing left-handed reliever with a nice slider and proclivity for inducing ground balls. That combo sounds really great, but it hasn’t translated to a lot of success just yet. Williams spent nearly all of 2013 with Fort Myers. He threw 45.1 innings, struck out 43 and walked 23. He finished with a 5.16 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP. The strikeout numbers are nice, but if he can’t lower his walk total, he’s not going to reach his potential. Williams is 23, which is relatively young for a reliever and he’s likely to spend some time with New Britain in 2014. Keep an eye on his walk totals. If he can get them under control (heh), he has the rest of the package that you look for in a lefty reliever.
I was all mad at Williams early in the season because he was taking at bats from Romy Jimenez and I unconditionally love Romy Jimenez for unknown and unexplained reasons. Williams proved to be the better player in 2013 and had a fine season with Cedar Rapids before struggling a bit when promoted to Fort Myers. Overall, Williams hit .265/.372/.403 in 2013. He walked 66 times in 486 plate appearances, good for a 13.6% rate. He had good overall power too, hitting 17 doubles, 6 triples and 9 home runs. Those numbers remind me a bit of Denard Span – good plate discipline and good, balanced power. He did hit just .236/.333/.293 with Fort Myers, which shows both how great his time with Cedar Rapids was and how much adjustment he still has left to make. Hopefully he can master High-A in 2014.
Wimmers was a first-round pick in 2010. He profiled similarly to Kyle Gibson, as a finesse pitcher with good command and a #3 starter upside. He completely lost his control in 2011 and missed nearly all of 2012 due to injury. Wimmers pitched in 2013, which is a fantastic development. He threw just 15 innings in the GCL, posting a 7.20 ERA in 15 innings. He struck out 18 and more importantly, he walked just 5. Wimmers still has the same profile he had in 2010, but the timetable has shifted drastically. When he was drafted, some were projecting him to reach the Majors by 2012 or 2013. Now, he’ll have to grind his way through the Minors. I’m still optimistic. I think his ceiling might be just a tad lower than it once was, but I still see no reason why he can’t be a future back-end starter with great command.
Zazueta is pretty interesting. He signed with the Twins in 2012 as a right-handed pitcher who threw in the mid-90s. I’m unable to find anything about his secondary arsenal, but he must have something to offer as the GCL Twins gave him 4 starts. In 27 innings, he posted a 4.67 ERA, with 19 strikeouts and 11 walks. Zazueta throws hard, which is nice, but it may be that he needs to “learn to pitch.” Regardless, a 19-year-old with power stuff has a future in the organization. He might be a future “max-effort” reliever, but that future could be years away. The Twins will work with him and see if they can help him add some good support pitches to play off of that hard fastball.
Ah, who am I kidding, you can’t quit me baby. I’ve got one more bonus week for you next Monday including some MiLB veterans, some former Twins we need to check on and some Rule 5 pickups. Happy Holidays, everyone!