10. Brent Rooker, 1B/OF, Elizabethton/Fort Myers
2017 Stats: .281/.364/.566, 18 HR, 2 SB, 27/68 BB/K
Info: The Minnesota Twins drafted Rooker in the 38th round of the 2016 draft, and though they didn’t sign him, it was clear they had their eye on the Mississippi State hitter. Rooker then turned the toughest conference in college baseball into his play area for the spring, absolutely dominating the league in all facets, earning his way to the #35 overall selection this spring. Rooker has worked hard over the last two years to improve his swing, especially his zone recognition, and he still has work to do on his pitch recognition, but he’s acknowledged this in post-season interviews. He’s a tremendously hard worker, and while he spent much of his time in the outfield in Elizabethton, he worked plenty at first base in Fort Myers, and he likely will be a fit at first base or DH as a pro due to limited defensive ability, but if the progress Rooker made from 2016 to 2017 and in season as a pro have shown us anything, it’s not to doubt Rooker’s ability to work hard and accomplish something if he puts his mind to it.
9. Lewin Diaz, 1B, Cedar Rapids
2017 Stats: .292/.329/.444, 12 HR, 2 SB, 25/80 BB/K
Info: Twins fans will not want to hear the comparisons I have on Diaz, as it may trigger some PTSD. Diaz is a guy who has grown into his 6’3″ frame, adding natural strength after looking like a long, lanky guy for much of his first few years in the Twins system. He seems to be a bit behind in his development at 21 going to high-A in 2018, but with growing into his frame now, he could jump ahead in a hurry in the system. Diaz has a very smooth swing from the left side that generates natural power, reaching the seats easily in batting practice. Diaz led the Twins system in doubles on the season with 33, so though he didn’t hit a ton of balls over the fence, that power was certainly evident. Diaz has good zone recognition, keeping his strikeout rate reasonable, but he has an aggressive approach at the plate, leading to a low amount of walks, something he’ll likely need to work on. Diaz has a swing that is a spitting image of a young David Ortiz. Of course, Ortiz did a change to his swing in Boston to become the hitter he did, but even remaining what he was in Minnesota would have been extremely valuable, especially since Diaz is a much better athlete and some have even considered him an option to play some left field if he’s blocked at first base due to his arm and long-range speed. He’ll move up to Fort Myers in 2018, and it will be interesting to see if he finds that bat coming alive in a hurry.
8. Lewis Thorpe, LHP, Fort Myers/Chattanooga
2017 Stats: 83 IP, 2.93 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 33/91 BB/K
Info: Before he missed all of 2015 and 2016, Thorpe was considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball, making two Baseball Prospectus top 101 lists in the offseason. He was finally healthy in 2017, and the whowing was impressive. He spent all but one start with Fort Myers, and his age was not out of line for that level. The Twins were pleased to see his fastball return to the low-90s, touching mid-90s along with his cuve and slider both working well and his change returning to its previous plus quality. What was pleasing as well was to see that Thorpe’s control was average to above-average in his first season after missing two full seasons. He’ll likely work out of the Chattanooga bullpen in 2018, and the Twins will hope to build up his innings as Thorpe has a projection as a 2/3 starter.
7. Alex Kirilloff, OF, no 2017 assignment
2017 Stats: no 2017 stats
Info: One of my personal favorites coming into the 2016 draft was Kirilloff, who had a sweet left-handed swing and more athleticism than many were giving him credit for in many of the draft previews I reviewed. The Twins lucked into Kirilloff still being on the board at #15 overall, and they pounced, getting a tremendous first professional season out of Kirilloff and having some very exciting plans for his future in 2017. Instead, Kirilloff’s elbow issues at the end of 2016 were not able to be rehabbed and he had to have Tommy John surgery, missing all of 2017. Kirilloff has tremendous ability to make contact and hit for power. He has more athleticism than he was given credit for, but his defensive home is in question after his throwing elbow was repaired. Even if he’s limited to first base, Kirilloff has the sort of athletic ability that he could likely be a very good defensive first baseman along with providing a plus power and plus contact bat.
6. Brusdar Graterol, RHP, GCL/Elizabethton
2017 Stats: 40 IP, 2.70 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 13/45 BB/K
Info: When I called or reached out to people in the GCL or Appy League about a Twins guy, it was nearly unanimous that, unprompted, I would get an opinion on Graterol. His stuff is some of the most electric that went through either league this season, with a fastball that can sit 95-98, surpassing triple digits. He has two breaking pitches, both sitting above-average, but with his slider taking a step forward this year to more of a fringe-plus offering, though his curve certainly flashes plus as well. Where Graterol made huge strides this season was in his change. It has not developed a ton of movement, but he does work well now in keeping his arm movement near identical with the fastball and change, which makes it near impossible to pick up immediately. He also took a huge step forward in his command and control this season, most notably in control, but certainly he’s shown a ton for a 19 year-old who has missed a season of development to surgery. The Twins will likely try to ease his innings up, likely having Graterol open the season in extended spring again in 2018 before moving up to the Midwest League.