Twins Time is the Present

The Twins last won the AL Central in 2010. They went on a rebuilding path when the major leagues expanded the wild cards to two teams, building a farm system that was rated number one by myworld in 2015 and was in third in 2013 and 2014. That appeared to pay off when they made the playoffs in 2017 as one of the two wild cards. Last year they took a step backward when injuries and poor years from their top rookies from 2017 imploded their hopes for back to back playoff appearances.

From the 2013 to 2015 prospects like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Jose Berrios, Aaron Hicks (traded to the Yankees in 2015 for John Ryan Murphy) and Kyle Gibson contributed to their wild card run. They are still awaiting contributions from Kohl Stewart and Nick Gordon while players like Alex Meyer and Oswaldo Arcia failed to live up to expectations. Last year Brent Rooker, Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Nick Gordon and Royce Lewis appeared on Top 100 prospect lists.

The Twins have a luxury of talent up the middle starting with their top prospect and the number one pick in the 2017 draft Royce Lewis. At this point his bat is far superior to his glove, with the ability to hit for average and a modicum of power. With his sprinter’s speed he could easily achieve 20/20 (homeruns/stolen bases) when he reaches the major leagues. Last year he hit .292 with 14 homeruns and 28 stolen bases at the two A levels. The defensive tools are there to play shortstop, though they will not be of the elite quality because of a throwing arm that may be a little short and inconsistent. Next year he should see some time in AA, which could mean a September callup.

Nick Gordon is the half brother of Dee Gordon and the son of Tom Gordon. Like his brother Dee, Nick started his minor league career as a shortstop but he has been used more at second base now in deference to the rise of Royce Lewis. The 2014 first round pick does not have the speed of his brother Dee but he could have a better bat. Last year he hit .333 at AA in 42 games but struggled when promoted to AAA (.212). His slugging percentage also dropped from .525 to .283. His ultimate role could end up as a super utility player moving around from second, short and the outfield. His lack of speed limits his range which makes playing regularly at shortstop a liability.

The player with the best defensive tools at short may be Wander Javier. A torn labrum required surgery and prevented him from playing in 2018. In 2017 he did hit .299, showing the power to spray the gaps. The concern with Javier is the ability to stay healthy. In 2016 he was limited to nine games because of hamstring issues. The more you see of a player the more his flaws stand out. The 2019 season should see Javier make his full season debut and give a better impression of where his tools best fit.

Another Dominican signed a year after Javier is Yunior Severino. The Twins doled out $2.5 million to sign him after the Braves were forced to release him for rules violations. That was $600,000 more than the Braves paid for him initially in 2016. Severino looks to have a plus bat that can hit for power. Last year in rookie ball he hit 8 homeruns and slugged .424. His lack of speed will limit his range at short and make second base a more viable alternative for him. He should open next season in full season ball.

Staying in the infield we may see Brent Rooker at first base. The 2017 first round supplemental pick was used in left field but lacks the arm and the speed to be a viable option out there. There is a lot of power in his bat as evidenced by his 22 taters last year, but also a lot of swing and miss with 150 whiffs in 130 games. The other concern for Rooker is his righthanded bat. Teams have a reluctance to promote righthanders to the first base position. After slugging .566 in 2017 and dropping to .465 last year, Rooker will have to return to those 2017 levels to force the Twins not to care which side of the plate he bats from.

In the outfield one of their best prospects is Alex Kirilloff, the Twins first round pick in 2016. Though he does not seem to get too much credit for his arm, myworld thought he had the best throwing arm among the prospects we saw at the prospects game, even after coming back from Tommy John surgery. The power makes him a good fit for right field and after hitting .348 at the two A levels batting titles could be within his sights. Alex will start the 2019 season in AA with a full promotion to the majors expected for 2020. If he continues to hit over .330 with 20 plus homeruns his promotion could be sooner.

Trevor Larnach was the Twins first round pick in 2018. His lack of speed and an underwhelming arm may make left field his best spot. That means he will have to hit to justify using him in a power spot. The power is there. Last year he slugged .500 with five homeruns while hitting .303 at two lower minor league levels. Since he was drafted out of Oregon State the Twins will hope his bat develops quickly and he will be ready for them by mid season 2020.

Akil Baddoo is a possibility for centerfield. The speed is there for him to cover the acreage, but the arm is better suited for left field. His bat may not carry enough juice for him to land in an outfield corner, though his speed turns singles into doubles and doubles into triples. Last year he hit 11 triples and his 11 homeruns put him in the triple double category, getting double figures in both doubles, triples and homeruns.

The Twins hope to get some contributions from their pitchers. They have always had a tendency to draft control pitchers rather than pitchers who throw heat. Stephen Gonsalves fits that mold of the lefty who does not throw hard but retires hitters with command and a baffling change. Gonsalves dominated in the minor leagues (2.76 ERA and .184 opposition average) but struggled in his major league debut (6.57 ERA and .283 opposition average). He fought with his control (22/16 walk to whiff ratio in 24.2 innings) though that appeared to be a problem in his 100 innings in AAA (55/95 walk to whiff). The Twins will probably send him down to AAA to work on rediscovering that strike zone.

Brusdar Graterol is not the typical Twins pitcher. The Venezuelan can hit triple digits with his fastball. The secondary pitches need some improvement but he did show the ability to find the plate. Last year he struck out more than a hitter per inning and kept the ball in the park, forcing hitters to pound the ball into the ground. If his secondary pitches improve and he continues to hit three digits consistently with his fastball he could easily fit at the top of the rotation. At 6′1″ that may be a lot to ask but the bullpen as a closer is another option.

Lewis Thorpe is a lefty from Australia who has an atypical low 90s fastball that can reach higher. Most lefthanders from Australia struggle to see 90. He missed two seasons (2015 and 2016) because of Tommy John surgery and returned in 2017 to show why he was coveted by the Twins out of Australia with a splendid 2.69 ERA in 15 starts. He doubled down on that with 25 starts in AA and AAA last year with a 3.54 ERA. He can get swings and misses (157 K’s in 129 innings) but if his command is off he can be hit (.250 opposition average). He can also be prone to the flyball which could result in a number of homeruns. Next year he should make his major league debut.

Tyler Jay, a first round pick in 2015 and Kohl Stewart, a first round pick in 2013 have about seen their shelf life expire. Tyler Jay had trouble staying healthy and will move to a bullpen role. In shorter spurts his fastball can reach the mid-90s and there is always room for a lefthander in the bullpen. Kohl still throws hard but his challenge is finding the strike zone. Getting behind in the count forces him to throw it to the middle of the plate where he gets hit hard (.301 opposition average). Last year he made his major league debut and pitched well. The bullpen may also be his best spot.

Lastly, myworld does not know much about Ryan Jeffers, the Twins second round pick in 2018. He did hit .344 at two minor league stops in his first taste of professional ball. His defensive tools at this point are not his strength but it is reported he has the arm to stay behind the plate. Footwork, calling and framing pitches are still tools he needs to work on.

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