The 2015 Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: For my analysis – including Ranking the Top 250 Prospects, Ranking the Farm systems, and in-depth commentary for over 900 minor leaguers – check out my book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, now available on Amazon!

 

For an explanation on the CAL, the Comparison And Likeness prospect classification system I derived, click here.

 

 

1. Byron Buxton, CF

Born: 12/18/93 Age: 21 Height: 6-2   Weight: 190   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Justin Upton, Colby Rasmus, Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, Billy McKinney
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 18 R 102 .216 .324 .466 .789 .250 10.8% 25.5% 135
2013 19 A 321 .341 .431 .559 .990 .219 13.7% 17.4% 176
2013 19 A+ 253 .326 .415 .472 .887 .147 12.6% 19.4% 155
2014 20 A+ 134 .240 .313 .405 .718 .165 7.5% 24.6% 106

Background:  Looking at the laundry list of injuries that’s plagued Buxton over the last year-plus it’s: (A) a wonder he managed to accrue 134 plate appearances in 2014 and (B) a miracle he didn’t spontaneously combust, because that’s the only thing left. After earning an invite to Spring Training last year, Buxton injured is pisotriquetral joint in his left wrist diving for a ball. He was then activated (briefly) in early May before re-injuring the wrist. And then during his first game with New Britain following his promotion to Class AA, Buxton collided with Mike Kvasnicka and was later diagnosed with a concussion – an injury that eventually shut him down for the remainder of the year.

The game’s most well-rounded prospect – bar none – Buxton,  the #2 overall pick in 2012, burst onto the scene during his first full season in pro ball, hitting .341/.431/.559 with Cedar Rapids and showed no signs of stopping when the club pushed him into the Florida State League – all at the age of 19. The downturn in production last year should be looked upon as a mirage due to all the injuries.

Projection:  Dynamic. Explosive. Tool-laden. Elite. Potential perennial MVP candidate. Defender of crime. Rescuer of kittens. Yada, yada, yada. There’s really nothing else that can – or needs to be – said about Buxton. He is a complete player. Period. In last year’s book I wrote,

“Earlier in the year I described Buxton’s offensive ceiling as Barry Bonds-esque circa the Pittsburgh Pirates, particularly his 1992 season in which he hit .311/.456/.624 with 36 doubles, five triples, 34 homeruns, and 38 stolen bases.” 

There’s no reason for me to change that now – despite the lost year.

Ceiling:  7.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2015/Early 2016

 

 

2. Miguel Sano, 3B

Born: 05/11/93 Age: 22 Height: 6-4   Weight: 235   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Jay Bruce, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Gallo, Chris Carter, Chris Parmelee
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2011 18 R 293 .292 .352 .637 .988 .345 7.8% 26.3% 153
2012 19 A 553 .258 .373 .521 .893 .263 14.5% 26.0% 146
2013 20 A+ 243 .330 .424 .655 1.079 .325 11.9% 25.1% 203
2013 20 AA 276 .236 .344 .571 .915 .335 13.0% 29.3% 145

Background:  One of the stars of the documentary Baseball: Pelotero, Sano underwent Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow and missed the entire season. The strong-wristed third baseman also did not participate in the winter ball either. Prior to the injury, the then-20-year-old Sano decimated the Florida State League for 56 games (.330/.424/.655 with an absurd 203 wRC+) and bashed his way through 67 games in the Eastern League (.236/.344/.571 with a still impressive 145 wRC+) in 2013. For his career, Sano’s hit .279/.373/.567 while averaging a homerun every 15.3 at bats.

Projection:  Sano’s top CALs – Jay Bruce, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Gallo, Chris Carter, and Chris Parmelee – say it all: pure power and hefty strikeout totals. And despite missing the season, he enters 2015 as a 22-year-old with limitless potential with the bat. Defensively, he’s likely not going to stick at third base for too long – and that was before he shredded his elbow. The bat’s going to play anywhere on the diamond. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to see Sano up with Minnesota before the end of the year.

Ceiling:  4.5- to 5.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2015/Early 2016

 

 

3. Jose Berrios, RHP

Born: 05/27/94 Age: 21 Height: 6-0   Weight: 187   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Eduardo Rodriguez, Jake Thompson, Sean Gallagher, Jacob Turner, Jordan Walden
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 18 R 16.7 1.08 0.73 14.6 43.6% 1.6 4.8% 0.00 80.0%
2013 19 A 103.7 3.99 3.58 8.7 22.0% 3.5 8.8% 0.52 65.9%
2014 20 A+ 96.3 1.96 2.51 10.2 28.0% 2.2 5.9% 0.37 76.5%
2014 20 AA 40.7 3.54 3.65 6.2 17.2% 2.7 7.4% 0.44 67.9%

Background:  Because owning the services of the game’s best overall prospect and one of the top three minor league power bats wasn’t enough; Minnesota is also sporting one of the minors’ better young arms. Berrios, a supplemental first round pick in 2012, had a solid showing as a 19-year-old in Low Class A two years ago. And he turned in one of the more dominant performances last season: he posted a 1.96 ERA, a 2.51 FIP, fanned 109 and walked just 23. The club (wisely) pushed him to the Eastern League for eight starts before the young right-hander capped off a successful year with a start in Class AAA. Overall, he finished the year with 139.2 innings while fanning 22% and walking 8.8% of the total hitters he faced – all of which came against vastly older competition.

Projection:  Overpowering with surprisingly strong control for a young pitcher, Berrios could potentially be in the Minnesota staff by mid-2015. And, really, there’s nothing not here to like – fantastic numbers, youth, and success against older competition. Not sure if he ever takes the last step up to true ace-dom, but he has a chance to be very, very good. Think #2-type arm.

Ceiling:  3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Mid 2015/Mid 2016

 

 

4. Alex Meyer, RHP

Born: 01/03/90 Age: 25 Height: 6-9   Weight: 220   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Greg Holland, Bud Norris, Cody Martin, Jake Arrieta, Brad Mills
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 22 A 90.0 3.10 3.01 10.7 29.2% 3.4 9.3% 0.40 72.4%
2012 22 A+ 39.0 2.31 3.41 7.4 20.8% 2.5 7.1% 0.46 79.1%
2013 23 AA 70.0 3.21 2.85 10.8 28.1% 3.7 9.7% 0.39 71.8%
2014 24 AAA 130.3 3.52 3.66 10.6 27.1% 4.4 11.3% 0.69 74.7%

Background:  It’s at least a little confounding that the Twins, squarely in re-build mode and nothing to play for in 2014, never called up the 6-foot-9 Indiana-born monster late last season. Meyer, who’s dabbled in substitute teaching during the offseason, once again stacked up a plethora of punch outs (153 in 130.1 IP), though his control took a step back for the second consecutive season. He walked 11.3% of the batters he faced last season.

Projection:  Is he a finished product? No. The control’s still a work in progress, but he’s entering his age-25 season with some impressive numbers in the minor leagues. He’s averaged 10.4 punch outs and 3.4 free passes per nine innings in his career. And let’s be honest – there’s an awful lot of moving pieces/parts to a 6-foot-9 hurler’s windup. The fact that he hasn’t launched one over the backstop should be considered a win. If the control takes a step forward he’s a solid bet to a good #2/#3 arm; if it doesn’t then he’s no worse than a league average performer or shutdown reliever.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Early 2015

 

 

5. Nick Gordon, SS

Born: 10/24/95 Age: 19 Height: 6-0   Weight: 160   B/T: L/R                                                          
Top CALs: Adrian Marin, Gian Guzman, Cory Thompson, Humberto Arteaga, Edwin Garcia
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 18 R 255 0.294 .333 .366 .699 .072 4.3% 17.6% 101

Background:  Picking in the top five for the third consecutive season, the Twins – for the third consecutive season – went the high school route and selected the son of former All-Star pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon and the brother of Dee Gordon, who also happens to be an All-Star as well. The youngest Gordon hit .294/.333/.366 with just 11 extra-base hits during his debut in the Appalachian League.

Projection:  Gordon started out on a tear, hitting .330/.374/.429 during his first 21 games before falling off quite a bit during his final 36 contests (.271/.308/.326). He has the size – though he could stand to put on a little weight – to flash average pop to go along with the speed to swipe 30+ bags in the minors.

Ceiling:  Too Soon to Tell

Risk:  N/A

MLB ETA:  N/A

 

 

6. Kohl Stewart, RHP

Born: 11/07/94 Age: 20 Height: 6-3   Weight: 195   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Marwin Vega, Clayton Cook, Nathan Eovaldi, Jonathan Martinez, Joe Wieland
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 18 R 4.0 0.00 0.93 18.0 53.3% 2.3 6.7% 0.00 100.0%
2013 18 R 16.0 1.69 2.21 9.0 23.2% 1.7 4.4% 0.00 56.3%
2014 19 A 87.0 2.59 3.73 6.4 17.2% 2.5 6.7% 0.41 69.7%

Background:  Another one of the club’s top prospects to lose time due to injury last year, Stewart, who was rumored to be the jewel of Minnesota’s eye long before the organization made him the fourth overall pick in 2013, was shut down for about a month late in the year because of some shoulder inflammation. He would come back for two games before the end of the year, so it doesn’t look too major, but it’s troubling when any pitcher – young or old – is hampered with some shoulder tenderness. The 6-foot-3 right-hander finished the year with 62 strikeouts and 24 walks in 87.0 innings in Midwest League.

Projection:  The overall production from last year doesn’t exactly equate to his lofty draft status. Sure, he posted a fantastic 2.59 ERA, but the 3.73 FIP and below-average K-rate (6.41) suggest otherwise. I’m willing to give him a pass because of his age, level of competition, and shoulder woes last season, but he has to show some sort of improvement if he hopes reach his potential and lofty draft status.

Ceiling:  3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  Late 2017/Early 2018

 

 

7. Nick Burdi, RHP

Born: 01/19/93 Age: 22 Height: 6-5   Weight: 215   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: N/A
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 21 A 13.0 4.15 1.33 18.0 48.2% 5.5 14.8% 0.00 62.5%
2014 21 A+ 7.3 0.00 1.35 14.7 42.9% 2.5 7.1% 0.00 100.0%

Background:  The Craig Kimbrel of college baseball, Burdi used an overpowering fastball, which would occasionally touch triple-digits, to dominate the last two years at Louisville. In 72.2 combined innings, Burdi struck out 127, walked 23, allowed one homerun, and surrendered just five earned runs. Quite frankly, he was a steal in the second round last June. The club pushed the 6-foot-5 right-hander straight into the Midwest League where – to no one’s surprise – he fanned a mind-boggling 26 batters in just 13 innings, or nearly 50% of the total hitters he faced. Minnesota then bumped him up to Fort Myers and – again, to no one’s surprise – he fanned another 12 in just 7.1 innings of work.

Projection:  Prior to the 2014 draft I wrote,

“Big, big strikeout ability with the potential to average nearly a punch-out-and-a-half per inning. He’s a very safe selection in terms of big league potential, though his career will ultimately fall short in comparison with players like Carlos Rodon and Casey Gillaspie. With fellow collegiate relievers like Michael Lorenzen and Corey Knebel closing out the supplemental first round last year, there’s no reason to suspect Burdi should fall past the 15th pick [in 2014].”

Well, he fell quite a bit further than I would have ever guessed – lasting all the way to the 46th selection. Other than that, though, the analysis still looks spot on. Dominant, dominant future closer.

Ceiling:  2.5-win

Risk:   Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2015/Early 2016

 

 

8. Michael Cederoth, RHP

Born: 11/25/92 Age: 22 Height: 6-6   Weight: 195   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Jorge Rodriguez, Arcenio Leon, Sam Lewis, Robbie Dominguez, Garrett Cortright
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 21 R 45.7 3.55 3.65 8.3 20.1% 3.6 8.6% 0.20 61.9%

Background:  One of my favorite collegiate arms in last year’s draft class. During the pre-draft analysis I wrote, “The problem, which could actually be a plus in the long run, is that Cederoth spent two seasons in the bullpen, thus limiting his experience to polish his secondary offerings but also keeping his arm relatively free from wear-and-tear. Assuming whichever team that grabs him in the opening round converts him back into a starting pitcher – please let that happen – Cederoth could develop into an upper rotation-type arm, maybe peaking as a fringe #2 for a couple seasons, though the likelihood of this happening is a bit lower. He should have the floor along the lines of a Bud Norris-type. It all comes down to lack of experience and development time.” I should have added opportunity as well.

Minnesota grabbed the 6-foot-6 right-hander in the third round and sent him to Elizabethton where he – fingers crossed – averaged more than four innings per appearance. He finished his debut with some solid peripherals: 8.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9.

Projection:  Armed with one of the two or three best fastballs in college last season, Cederoth inexplicably dropped to the third round last June. Thankfully, so far the Twins look content on keeping him in the rotation. And the results during his debut – 45.2 IP, 42 K, 18 BB/9 – were better than solid. Love this pick.

Ceiling:  2.0- to 2.5-win

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2019

 

 

9. Max Kepler, 1B/OF

Born: 02/10/93 Age: 22 Height: 6-4   Weight: 205   B/T: L/L                                                          
Top CALs: Estarlin Martinez, Jake Marisnick, Aaron Cunningham, Josh Reddick, Gregory Polanco
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2011 18 R 221 .267 .352 .372 .723 .105 10.4% 24.4% 100
2012 19 R 269 .297 .387 .539 .925 .241 10.0% 12.3% 153
2013 20 A 263 .237 .312 .424 .736 .186 9.1% 16.3% 105
2014 21 A+ 407 .264 .333 .393 .726 .129 8.4% 15.2% 109

Background:  The German-born Kepler has had two largely blasé seasons since entering full season ball. First, he was hampered by an elbow issue and missed the start of the 2013 season. And his work in the Florida State League last year – .264/.333/.393 – topped the league average production by just 9%. He did, however, turn it on once the calendar flipped to June, hitting .294/.340/.427 through the rest of the season. Overall, he’s hit .267/.344/.418 with just 25 homeruns in more than 1300 career plate appearances.

Projection:  CAL’s offers more hope than one would suspect based on his numbers. Of his top five comparisons, three – Jake Marisnick, Josh Reddick, and Gregory Polanco – have a shot or have already developed into league average or better players. And a fourth player, Aaron Cunningham, carved out a nice enough career as a fourth/fifth outfielder. Kepler’s power has stagnated after his 2012 season, grading out as slightly better than average. He’ll walk a little bit and swipe a couple bags. The hit tool is questionable now. Again, league average starter – maybe a tick better.

Ceiling:  2.0- to 2.5-win

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2018

 

 

10. Lewis Thorpe, LHP

Born: 11/23/95 Age: 19 Height: 6-1   Weight: 160   B/T: L/R                                                          
Top CALs: Arodys Vizcaino, Clayton Cook, Fabian Williamson, Carlos Pimentel, Doug Salinas
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 17 R 44.0 2.05 1.69 13.1 38.1% 1.2 3.6% 0.41 72.6%
2014 18 A 71.7 3.52 4.24 10.1 25.6% 4.5 11.5% 0.88 70.8%

Background:  Signed from the Land Down Under for $500,000, Thorpe was shut down after a largely successful debut in full season ball because of a sprained ulnar collateral ligament – the same ligament that’s replaced in Tommy John surgery. The 6-foot-1 Australian southpaw breezed through 16 Midwest League starts, fanning 80 and walking 36 in 71.2 innings. Among all teenagers in the Midwest League with at least 70 IP; Thorpe’s strikeout percentage, 25.6%, ranked second, trailing St. Louis’ Alexander Reyes.

Projection:  Assuming the elbow injury isn’t too serious Thorpe should see some action very early on in the Florida State League. Young lefties with solid strikeout numbers and matching control are using worth their weight in gold. Thorpe could be a solid #3/#4-type arm.

Ceiling:  2.0- to 2.5-win

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2019

 

 

 



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.