Minnesota Twins Monday Minor League Update
By Brad Swanson
Jun 14, 2014; Omaha, NE, USA; Louisville Cardinals pitcher Nick Burdi (19) throws to first base against the Vanderbilt Commodores during game two of the 2014 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Vanderbilt defeated Louisville 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
With short-season ball now underway, what better time to look at some notable prospects playing for the Twins’ affiliate in Elizabethton? These players are eons away from the Majors and a very high percentage will get nowhere near the Big Leagues. However, there are some very notable and interesting prospects playing with Elizabethton and I have eight to share with you today.
I have written about Gordon in three of the past four Mondays, so I don’t have a whole lot left to say about him. Obviously, he is the most important prospect on this list, as he has the talent to turn into a cornerstone player. He’s off to a good start with Elizabethton, although all rookie stats are pretty meaningless in the great scheme. I would love to see Gordon stay hot and move to Cedar Rapids in July. I think there is an outside chance of that scenario playing out.
Murphy is a local product and a graduate of Robbinsdale Cooper. He’s described as “toolsy,” a label not typically given to a college player. Murphy can handle center, but might be better suited for a corner. He has decent game power, but it isn’t a big-time tool. He made solid contact and showed good OBP skills in college. His profile reminds me a bit of how Levi Michael was described when the Twins drafted him in 2011. Although, Murphy was a ninth-round selection while Michael was drafted in the first round. Big difference. Like eight rounds.
Navarreto is a personal favorite, as I love catchers and I love guys we can call “Navs.” Navarreto is basically a lottery ticket. The Twins drafted him in the 6th round in 2013 and hope that he can play catcher as he continues to grow. At 6’4″, another position might be in his future, but the scouting reports I have read are kind to his defense, while admitting that he needs time to mature at the position. I rated him as the Twins’ 17th best prospect coming into this season, which was very aggressive, but I place great value on catchers. So far, he’s still a catcher and I still like him.
English is the oldest position player on this list, but I have high hopes for a speedy rise and a short stint with Elizabethton. English played three years at South Carolina and the speedy center fielder shouldn’t need long to adjust to professional pitchers, at least not at this level. If English can hit, he’ll round into a valuable player. If he can’t hit, he could still turn into someone like Darin Mastroianni. We’re not talking about a star player, but good defense in center and great speed can be enough to become a solid 4th outfielder.
I profiled Jorge in the Cedar Rapids preview way back in April but he had a pretty rough 39 innings in Iowa and has found his way back to Elizabethton, likely for the remainder of the season. Jorge’s struggles aren’t too worrisome, as he is just 20 and had thrown just about 150 professional innings going into this season. Jorge still has great upside and has looked good since returning to Elizabethton. He’s likely too good for this level, but you’d probably rather have a player dominate a lower level than completely fail at a higher level, especially at such a young age.
Gonsalves is a really interesting prospect and one who is going to start to get a lot of buzz, both positively and negatively. On the positive side, it appears he has the stuff to get Appy League hitters out. On the negative side, there are questions about his stuff, at least right now.
JJ Cooper of Baseball America saw him last week and came away somewhat unimpressed with his stuff, noting a loopy, slow curve and a dip in velocity as the game wore on. One performance is hardly a red flag, especially a performance that saw Gonsalves throw six shutout innings with nine strikeouts, two hits allowed and no walks allowed. That said, many Appy League hitters are pushovers and his stuff will dictate his development. He’s young (19), left-handed and he’s got a big 6’5″ frame. I think he’ll be fine.
The Twins’ third-round selection this past June, Cederoth is a former college reliever who the Twins will give an opportunity to start. Cederoth closed games for San Diego State, and he’s got an excellent fall-back career as a late-inning reliever if starting doesn’t work out. He does have a deep arsenal, although none of his non-fastball pitches have been very impressive. There’s no rush on Cederoth, despite his college background. The Twins can give him a few years to develop his arsenal and improve his stamina and if it works, they could have a front-end starter on their hands. If not, he might be capable of an 8th or even 9th inning role.
Player comps are rough, but Clay sounds a bit like a taller Brian Duensing to me. He throws in the low 90s as a reliever and he doesn’t really have a great secondary arsenal. He is certainly young enough to learn some pitches though. He also has a pretty fresh arm, as he wasn’t really a pitcher until college. However, the scouting reports are not kind regarding his stuff, so he has a lot of development ahead of him. If nothing else, he is left-handed, so he’ll get many opportunities. If he can become Duensing, I think the Twins would be pretty happy with their 2014 fourth-round selection.
If Cederoth and/or Clay are determined to be relievers, they could move through the system relatively quickly, especially if they perform well. If they are starters, then this is a list of eight players who are light years from playing for the Twins. However, it is a very impressive group of young players, highlighted by Nick Gordon, who may move quicker than I am anticipating. Next week, we’ll look at 8 players in the lower rookie levels. Have a great week, everyone!