Mar 4, 2014; Jupiter, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton (70) runs down the first base line during a spring training game against the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
I buy Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook every year. It’s a must for prospect wonks and Minor League enthusiasts. I read the book cover to cover, devouring the scouting reports and Twins-specific information. One bonus they include is a projected team from 4 years down the line. In this case, that would be the 2017 team. They just provide a lineup, but I thought it would be fun to do a similar projection of my own, with some analysis added.
I’ll say this, there’s a 100% chance that this lineup is not the Twins’ lineup in 2017. It would require the Twins to hit on all of their top prospects, something that just doesn’t happen. If nothing else, this 2017 lineup shows how important it will be for the Twins to supplement their farm system with good MLB players. If they don’t, they will be relying far too heavily on prospects who may or may not make it.
Off The Team
Phil Hughes – His contract will have run out and I’m projecting too many current prospects in the rotation for there to be room for Hughes. I think he will be good during his three-year deal though.
Lineup (in proper batting order)
Byron Buxton – CF – Absolutely the real deal. It’s possible that Buxton will have rounded into a middle of the order hitter by 2017, but he’ll be just 23 that season and should still have the running game of a young man. This could be the year when he starts to transition from the leadoff spot to a more run-producing part of the order.
Aaron Hicks – RF – I’m obviously optimistic when it comes to Hicks, but I think his ceiling was always more of a number 2 hitter than a leadoff hitter. He draws a lot of walks, but he isn’t the most adept contact hitter so you don’t mind him giving up some outs to move runners along. Buxton and Hicks at the top of the lineup and out in the outfield is something that I really hope I get to see a lot of in the future.
Joe Mauer – 1B – Yeah, he’ll still be good. Mauer will have collected another 500 or so hits and 500 or so complaints about the fact that he’s only collected about 50 home runs. Either way, his skills should stay sharp for a few more seasons. His plate discipline may start to fade at some point, but I don’t see that happening before age 35. He’ll still be making outs at a very low rate in 2017.
Miguel Sano – 3B – The thumper! Sano’s elbow injury shouldn’t affect his 2017 outlook one bit. He’ll be mashing monster home runs by this time. You’ll notice that I do have him at third. At age 24, it’s hard to imagine Sano moving to first or DH at such a young age. If he can stay in shape, he’ll be the Twins’ third baseman in 2017 and possibly for a few more years as well.
Oswaldo Arcia – DH – I’m a huge Arcia guy, but I hope he’s the DH by this time. Arcia shouldn’t be a terrible outfielder, but he looks like one so far. With Hicks and Buxton already penciled into the outfield, it leaves just one spot. I’ve got that one reserved for another young man. Arcia might not hit 35-40 home runs like the designated hitters of the past, but he could post a .280/.365/.500 batting line for a number of years. He’ll be just 26 and peaking.
Eddie Rosario – LF – Here’s the other outfielder. This isn’t meant to be an indictment of his conversion to second base. I still think that could work. However, I don’t think the current second baseman is going anywhere. Thus, Rosario can play his more natural position and add additional range and defensive ability to a loaded outfield. His suspension is only slightly worrisome to me and the fact that he has hit at every level balances out that worry.
Josmil Pinto – C – Pinto should be established as the Twins’ catcher by 2017. He’s going to be an offense-first catcher, but by this time, he could really refine his pitch calling and pitch framing skills. If the Twins have a good backup catcher (and I think they will, see below), then Pinto could play 130-140 games, with some time at DH and possibly first base.
Brian Dozier – 2B – Dozier will be just 30 and still one more year from free agency, so I see no reason to project anyone else in this spot. Dozier is a good defensive second baseman and he works hard so he should be able to stick in the middle infield for a few more years. He may be nearing the end of his Twins’ career by 2017, but he’ll have made a nice impression by that time.
Danny Santana – SS – I was really impressed with Santana during Spring Training and it sounds like the Twins were too. Even if Santana doesn’t develop as an offensive player, he could provide great value as a rangy short stop with a good arm and good feel for the position. If his offense does develop, the Twins could have an extremely valuable player on their hands.
Alex Meyer – #1 Starter – I’m not sure that Meyer will ever be an “Ace,” but I could see him rounding into the type of guy you are comfortable sending out for the first game of a playoff series. Meyer will likely be inconsistent, but he can also be dominant. By 2017, he should have a couple of MLB seasons under his belt and he could be one of the better starters in the division.
Kyle Gibson – #2 Starter – I’m not sure Gibson will be as good as a “number 2 starter” either. In this projected rotation, I do think he would be the second-best starter. Gibson’s command makes me comfortable projecting his spot in 2017. It could be that he gets better slowly, but in a couple of years you look at his stats and you’re surprised how good they are.
Ricky Nolasco – #3 Starter – The savvy veteran! Nolasco will be in the final year of his contract in 2017 and I see no reason to assume he’ll be gone by then. The Twins should be good or at least somewhat good. Keeping a veteran starter with a durable arm around is always a wise decision, even if Nolasco might not be a true number 3 by age 34.
Kohl Stewart – #4 Starter – I’m projecting Stewart as a rookie in 2017, meaning I hesitate to put him higher than fourth in this rotation. That said, he could emerge as a number 2 or even a number 1 within a couple of years. The one-two punch of Meyer and Stewart could be formidable by the end of this 2017 season.
Trevor May – #5 Starter – Perhaps seeing May in my future plans is surprising, but May has done two things well as a Minor League pitcher – generate strikeouts and pitch innings. All teams need back-end starters and a good back-end starter throws solid innings at a low rate. May will be cheap and hopefully durable. Those two qualities are good enough for me. Put it this way, if you knew May could throw 180 innings of 4.5 ERA baseball in 2014, you’d take that over Mike Pelfrey, right? That’s where we could be in 2017, just with a different veteran in Pelfrey’s place.
Glen Perkins – Closer – I originally had Perkins off the team, but then he signed his extension a couple weeks ago and he vaulted back into my future plans. Perkins is a great pitcher and I see no reason to think that he won’t still be great in 2017 at age 34.
Notable Bench Players
Jorge Polanco – Utility Man – I’m projecting 2017 as Polanco’s rookie season and he should get some time at three infield positions. This could also be the season when the Twins have to trade their veteran second baseman because Polanco simply forces their hand.
Stuart Turner – Backup Catcher – I’m completely sold on Turner as a future Twins player. His defensive chops are great and the Twins love having a solid defensive catcher on the roster. There’s a chance he develops as a hitter too, but as a backup to a solid offensive player like Pinto, Turner just needs to hold down the fort when he’s needed and call a good game. He’ll be someone’s personal catcher one day, mark my words.
Kennys Vargas – Bopper off the bench – I’m not sure that Vargas is primed for stardom, but I think that he could evolve into a Matt Stairs type of player who can come into a game and hit a massive home run and then not play for five days.
Wow. Stewart and Polanco will still technically qualify because they will be rookies. I kind of threw Goodrum on at the end because I like him, although I’m not sure he really belongs with the rest of the guys listed. Those 10 (11 if you count Goodrum) would make up a sick top ten prospect list. It’s possible that the Twins have the loaded team described above AND a truly elite farm system to go with it.
Of course, many of these guys will have fallen out of the public eye by 2017, but who knows who will take their place. This list doesn’t even include the Twins’ 2014 first-round pick (number 5 overall) or any guys who they may sign, draft, trade for, or develop.
The scary thing is how cheap this team would be. Mauer, Nolasco and Perkins would make about $40 million combined. Only Dozier, Gibson, Arcia, Pinto and Hicks would be arbitration-eligible (maybe Meyer, Buxton and Santana, depending on whether they play for the Twins in 2014). They could easily have the money to add a quality starting pitcher with number #2 ability by this time.
While this is hardly a scientific or even realistic endeavor, it sure is fun. I mean, what if everyone met their potential? Can you imagine? That’s what I love about prospects. They have potential until they don’t have potential anymore. All of these guys could become anything right now. 2017 is years away, so there’s no way to gauge this for any sort of accuracy, but then again, baseball is a game and it’s supposed to be fun. Why not have some fun with the future while the present isn’t quite so pleasant?
Next week, we’ll start the 2014 Minor League coverage. Over the next four weeks, I will unveil 8 players to watch at each of the four Twins’ MiLB levels. We’ll start with AAA Rochester next week. Have a good week, everyone!