Jun 8, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers pitcher Ryan Eades (37) pitches in the second inning against the Oklahoma Sooners during the Baton Rouge super regional of the 2013 NCAA baseball tournament at Alex Box Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
Do you like young pitching? You might want to start planning a short jaunt to Iowa to see the Cedar Rapids Kernels. The Twins’ Low-A affiliate, the Kernels are stacked with promising young pitching, but very little on the offensive side. The rotation is so packed that one of the more promising 20-year-old starters in the organization has been pushed to the bullpen in his full-season debut. We’ll meet the entire rotation and this sixth man, so to speak, plus two more prospects. Let’s go.
Aaron Slegers – SP
Slegers was the Twins’ 5th round selection last June. Out of Indiana University, Slegers looks more like a basketball player with his 6′ 10″ frame. However, that height generates some nice downward action and helps his fastball run into the low- to mid-90s. He has a good change and a developing slider. He was fantastic with Elizabethton in 2013, posting a 0.47 ERA in 19 innings pitched. He’s off to a very solid start with Cedar Rapids in 2014 and has limited walks at an elite level as a professional. You know the Twins love that!
Ryan Eades – SP
Eades was the Twins’ second-round pick in 2013. A former LSU Tiger, Eades has the stuff, command and profile of a fast-riser. He has four good or better pitches and his fastball can touch 95. That arsenal sounds impressive, but he wasn’t able to generate a lot of strikeouts in college or as a pro, at least not yet. He had a miserable debut in 2013, but he’s looked better in 2014. If his command stays intact, he should move through the system quickly. He will likely be the first starter promoted to Fort Myers if a need arises this season.
Randy Rosario – SP
The Twins have so many young starting pitching prospects that one or two can get lost in the shuffle. Rosario might be getting lost. He’s a lefty with a low- to mid-90s fastball and developing secondary stuff. He’s had success as a pro and will be just 20 in May. He’s off to a slow start with Cedar Rapids and I’m actually surprised he wasn’t given another season of Rookie ball. That said, pushing a guy is not necessarily a bad thing. The Cedar Rapids rotation is packed so he can always move to the bullpen to work on things. He’s got big upside and he’s earned this test at Low-A.
Kohl Stewart – SP
Stewart was the Twins’ first-round pick last June. Just 19, Stewart has top-of-the-rotation stuff and great pitchability for a young man. His command will need to be tightened up, but he’s shown great feel for his pitches. He had a tremendous pro debut in 2013, but he’s been a bit shaky so far in 2014. He’s an excellent prospect regardless of how he fares this season. However, if he does start to put things together, he could start to rise through the system quickly. He has an advanced repertoire for his age. He’ll be the Twins’ top pitching prospect at season’s end.
Felix Jorge – SP
I’m still not completely clear on whether his name is Felix Jorge or Jorge Felix, but we still have some time before we buy his jersey, so I’ll figure it out soon enough. Jorge is another young starter. He’s right-handed, tall and throws his fastball in the low-90s. His frame is big, so he could fill out and add a little velocity as he’s still just 20. Jorge has looked great in Rookie ball and the move to Cedar Rapids appears to be a challenge he was ready for. This rotation is just loaded.
Yorman Landa – SP/RP
In fact, it’s so loaded that this talented starter is going to at least start his season in the bullpen. It’s a logical move as Landa has never thrown more than 55 innings in a season and he’s the youngest of the non-Kohl Stewart group. He’ll turn 20 on June 11 and he could potentially be starting by that time considering the volatility of young starters. Landa has the least impressive stats of the six starters on this list, as he’s never struck out a batter per inning or walked fewer than a batter every other inning as a professional. That said, his walk rate is going in the right direction and he’s still more of a thrower than a pitcher. He’s the furthest away of these six, but he’s got just as much upside.
Hudson Boyd – RP
The Twins made a move with Boyd that I think could save his young career. As a starter with Cedar Rapids in 2013, Boyd made 16 starts and looked generally awful. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was just barely above one and he had a 6.06 ERA. As a reliever, he threw 24.1 innings with a 1.48 ERA and a much more reasonable walk rate. He’s still learning how to pitch and he’s just 21. The former supplemental first-round pick will work as Cedar Rapids’ closer in 2014, a role that he may be best suited for.
Engelb Vielma – SS
Keith Law threw my whole worldview into disarray last Winter when he ranked Vielma as the Twins’ 11th best prospect. I think that ranking is much, much too high, but Law appeared to be very enamored with Vielma’s defense at short. I love a good shortstop prospect as much as the next guy, but I’d also like them to be capable of outhitting Pedro Florimon, something Vielma has not done at this point in his career. He also makes a fair amount of errors, so while his defense is great (and it is), he still has to work on his consistency at short. Vielma could spend two full seasons at Cedar Rapids and I wouldn’t be too surprised. He’s going to move slowly, but his ceiling is very high.
The pitching depth at Low-A is a great sign for the Twins’ future. If 3-4 of these guys are good enough to move to Low-A in 2015, the future is very bright for the system. Next week, we’ll look at the guys who haven’t started their seasons yet. There are still eight impressive prospects working with coaches, waiting for the Rookie Leagues to start in June. See you then; have a nice week!