Twins Not Tanking - Yet

Last year the Twins went from last to a wild card spot. It was a busy year for them signing veteran free agents in an attempt to make another playoff run for the 2018 season. They still recognize being a small market team they will not contend signing big time free agents. So they try to keep the prospect stream strong. With this prospect review it only leaves two teams left - the White Sox and the Yankees.

The Twins lost shortstop Jorge Polanco for 80 games because of a drug suspension. This is a huge blow to their playoff chances. Two of their best prospects in the minor leagues are shortstops. Both are too young to make a contribution this year so the Twins will have to make due with utility player Eduardo Escobar at shortstop.

Royce Lewis was their top pick of the 2017 draft, the first pick of the draft, a reward for their 103 loss season in 2016. Last year Royce played 18 games in Low A. He is far from ready to make a contribution with the Twins this year. The tools are there for him to play short, though there are some who feel the arm may be light. His legs give him the speed to steal bases (18 for 21) and roam centerfield if shortstop is not available. The bat currently peppers the gaps and could create some power as he matures. Contact was not a problem for Royce in the Gulf Coast League. The Twins will start him on a full season team, his spring determining if he goes to Low A or High A.

Nick Gordon is the half brother of Dee Gordon and the son of Tom “Flash” Gordon. Like his brother his best position may be second. He lacks the plus range to play short and struggles with consistency, making 19 errors at short last year in just over 100 games. His speed may fall short of Dee in the stolen base department but he could still steal 20 bases per year. Like Royce he will pepper the gaps with homerun power coming as he learns how to turn on pitches. Last year he had a career high .408 slugging percentage with 9 homeruns. The Twins will use him more at second base but if Escobar struggles Gordon could see some time at short with the Twins. He will start the season in AAA.

Wander Javier may be their best shortstop tool’s wise. The Twins shelled out $4 million in 2015 to sign him out of the Dominican Republic. He has spent the last two years in short season ball hitting .301 with six homeruns in 50 games as a teenager. The Twins will move him to full season ball this year where he has a chance to shine.

The Twins are hoping for two power bats in outfielders Alex Kirilloff and Brent Rooker. Alex was their first round pick in 2016 but Tommy John surgery kept him from playing in 2017. In 2016 he did hit seven homeruns and slugged .454 in 55 games. The Twins will wait until his arm is strong enough, perhaps working him out in extended spring training until the Rookie League begins to start his rehab. Rooker was a first round supplemental in 2017. Drafted as a first baseman the Twins moved him to the outfield. He won’t win any gold gloves in left field but his bat whacked 18 homeruns last season in Rookie and High A ball. Drafted out of Mississippi State he will be moved quickly, starting the season in High A but being promoted to AA if he continues to slug .552 in High A.

The Twins have been trying to develop pitchers in their minor leagues. Stephen Gonsalves may be the best but he is not overpowering by the standards today. His fastball sits in the low 90s, but he has command, stands 6′5″ and has an excellent change. He dominated at AA (2.68) but struggled when promoted to AAA (5.56). That will be where he will begin the 2018 season. Don’t be surprised to see him pitching for the Twins by mid-season.

Fernando Romero throws a little harder than Gonsalves, hitting the mid-90s with his fastball on a pretty consistent basis. He also has a solid slider. The command is not as good so he gets rocked around a little bit with the offense hitting him at a .256 clip in AA. He will join Gonsalves in AAA and may have a little higher ceiling if he can gain more command of his fastball.

Brusdar Graterol is another pitcher who can throw hard. His fastball can hit triple digits but sits in the mid to high 90s. Tommy John surgery put a blank in his 2016 season so he saw a third year in Rookie ball last year. This should be his first season in full season ball, starting the season in Low A. A plus slider and change give him three pitches to stick in the starting rotation.

For a first round pick in 2015 out of Illinois, Tyler Jay has been a disappointment. The lefthander has not advanced past High A in his three years with the Twins. Last year a series of injuries limited him to just 12 innings of bullpen work. That is where he may stick for the 2018 season. The Twins would like to get some production from the $3.9 they paid him in 2015.

Righthander Kohl Stewart is another big question mark. The 2013 first round pick has seen his stuff wrecked by injuries. His fastball still hits the mid-90s and his slider can still keep the ball on the ground. Last year he got to AAA for one start. The Twins hope to salvage his career, though he is not on the Twins 40 man roster and will need to knock someone off if he pitches well enough to get promoted to the rotation. At best he will fit at the back end of the rotation.

Last year Zack Granite hit .338 in AAA earning a promotion to the Twins. Once promoted to the Twins his holes were exposed. The power and the arm are short for him to be a starting outfielder, but decent speed could allow him to make the team as a fourth outfielder. He could be on the AAA roller coasting, getting promoted to the Twins on those days where they need help in the outfield.

Aaron Whitfield and Lewis Thorpe are two Australians on the team. Aaron is a solid outfielder who at 6′4″ has some potential for power. The speed is there for him to roam center but the arm is best for left. If he can improve his contact there is some potential there. Lewis is a lefthanded pitcher who had lots of potential until Tommy John prevented him from having a 2015 and 2016 season. Last year he had a solid season (2.69 ERA) and with more work the mid-90s fastball could return. Next year he will start the season in AA. If he does not make it as a starter he could still work in the bullpen.

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