Mar 8, 2014; Dunedin, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton (70) celebrates with third basemen Trevor Plouffe (24) after a two run home run in the third inning of the spring training exhibition game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
In lieu of another eight-player update, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the entire Twins’ farm system today. Well, maybe not the whole system, but the top guys. The Twins’ farm system was widely considered one of the best, if not the best in baseball. Much has happened since the time when those prospect lists came out but little has changed that perception. That said, it hasn’t been entirely roses to this point.
I created a top 30 prospect list prior to the 2014 season. Of those 30 prospects, I count three guys who have truly raised their stock. Jorge Polanco has gone from fringe top 100 MLB prospect to a fringe top 50 prospect (although he has slumped recently). Trevor May has gone from potential late-inning reliever to a starter who almost certainly will join the Twins’ rotation this season. Kennys Vargas was an all-power prospect but now has emerged as a legitimate hitter who might hit .285 with 25 home runs for the Twins one day.
Of course, three out of thirty isn’t a great percentage. You’d hope that more than 10% of the top 30 prospects would be improving their standing in the system. That said, only a handful of guys have seen their stock drop. The questions about Adam Walker’s hit tool were probably always justified. I almost certainly had Stuart Turner rated too high at 20. Randy Rosario and Felix Jorge might not have been quite ready for Low-A. Luke Bard hasn’t pitched in 2014 and I’m getting worried that he may never have a lengthy pro career. Other than those guys, everyone has performed about as well as I had hoped.
The biggest disappointment in 2014 is the lack of playing time from the Twins’ top hitting prospects. Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario have combined to play just 5 games. Buxton has dealt with a wrist injury all season. Before the season started, there was an outside chance that he would make his MLB debut in September. Now it looks very unlikely. Miguel Sano had elbow surgery during Spring Training and will miss the whole season. Sano almost certainly would have made his MLB debut in 2014. Rosario was suspended last Winter and is just about ready to return. He had a chance to make his MLB debut this season as well.
Imagine adding those three guys to the Twins’ roster in September. Regardless of where the Twins would have been in the standings, those September games would have carried some intrigue because of the amazing young talent taking the field. Instead, those three players won’t be playing any baseball in September, unless things change dramatically between now and then. It’s unfortunate, but this season doesn’t actually change the long-term futures of any of those three.
It’s not all bad news though. As I stated earlier, Trevor May is close to his MLB debut. Alex Meyer, the Twins’ best pitching prospect, should also be ready for the Majors in 2014. Josmil Pinto won’t qualify for prospect lists next year, because he’s an established MLB player at this point. Danny Santana has stayed on the MLB roster longer than I expected and I’ve enjoyed his exciting style of play. Kennys Vargas is on the 40-man roster and he may make his MLB debut this September. His debut won’t carry the weight of a potential Buxton debut, but he’s still an exciting young player with a bright future.
At the lower levels, the Twins’ high-end pitching prospects have been performing. Kohl Stewart got off to a slow start, but he looks every bit the part of a fourth-overall pick. He’s emerged as the Ace of the Cedar Rapids’ staff and he could be looking at a mid-season promotion to High-A Fort Myers. That spot in the rotation at Fort Myers may open up because Jose Berrios looks to be too good for High-A. Berrios, at age 20, has looked fantastic in 2014. He’s striking out more than a batter per inning and he’s keeping his walk rate down enough to have major success. AA is a huge jump, but Berrios might be ready before long. These two youngsters could be in the Twins’ rotation a lot quicker than anticipated.
Twins’ hitters in High-A are looking good too. Travis Harrison and Niko Goodrum are learning new positions and holding their own at the plate. Harrison, Goodrum and Jorge Polanco have formed a nice core, having success in a notoriously pitcher-friendly environment. Levi Michael, not a current top 30 prospect, but a former first-round pick, is revitalizing his career with the Miracle. Max Kepler has struggled, but his plate discipline has been great. Even Adam Walker, who I expressed concern regarding earlier, has nine home runs.
Some players we cannot grade at this point. Lewis Thorpe, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, Brian Navaretto and Amaurys Minier won’t debut for about a month. These players will play in Rookie Ball and we’ll learn little from their stats in 2014. They will be joined by a bunch of guys who aren’t in the organization yet, but will be drafted in a couple of weeks. Those draftees will shake up the top 30 more than anything else.
I’ll be doing an updated top 10 or 20 after the draft. I won’t move anyone too dramatically because I don’t put a ton of stock in two months of performance. Some guys are up right now and might be down later. Some guys who are down could roll off a hot month and then everyone will forget about their struggles. Minor Leaguers are up and down because they’re young and learning. It’s a ride.
Next week, we’ll take a look at some guys who the Twins might select in the upcoming June draft. The Twins have the fifth overall pick and will add another extremely talented player to their stacked farm system. Will they go for another pitcher? Will they grab a shortstop? Will they take an athletic outfielder? We can speculate for about ten more days. Have a nice week, everyone!