Results tagged ‘ Minnesota Twins ’
By Sam Dykstra
Last week, we took a look at the surprising batters of the start of the 2013 season in the Minor Leagues. Now, it’s time to look at the hurlers they’ve faced.
International League: Jose Alvarez, LHP, Toledo – Alvarez has shown promising command in the past — he led the Southern League by allowing just 1.66 walks per nine innings last season — but that hasn’t necessary led to the best results. He went 6-9 with a 4.22 ERA for Double-A Jacksonville a season ago. So when the Tigers signed him as a free agent in the offseason and put him at Toledo for his Triple-A debut, they probably weren’t hoping for more than rotation depth for the Mud Hens. Instead, Alvarez has a case for best IL starter at this early juncture. He ranks in the league’s top three in ERA (1.98, second), WHIP (1.01, third) and strikeouts (55, third). The command hasn’t gone anywhere either. His 1.48 BB/9 also ranks third.
Pacific Coast League: Chris Dwyer, LHP, Omaha – Being that he’s the Royals’ No. 16 prospect, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Dwyer has found success this year with the Storm Chasers. But at the same time, it kind of is. Due to command issues, the 25-year-old left-hander never really got it together at the Double-A level — 5.60 ERA in 27 starts in 2011, 5.25 ERA in 17 appearances last season — and the ERA was only worse (6.97) in a nine-game stint with Omaha last year. But he didn’t allow more than two runs in his first six starts of 2013 and tossed eight innings of one-run ball on Thursday to give him a 2.83 ERA through nine outings. If he can return to his early form and continue to refine his command, Dwyer has a chance to meet the potential the organization first saw in him.
Eastern League: Warwick Saupold, RHP, Erie – After signing out of Australia last year, Saupold worked mostly out of the bullpen for Class A West Michigan and Class A Advanced Lakeland with ERAs of 2.79 and 3.77 respectively at each stop. But as the saying goes, the biggest jump in Minor League Baseball is making that move from Class A Advanced to Double-A ball, and that jump became more treacherous for the 23-year-old as he would begin his first full year as a starter on American shores. Still, he’s held his own in the Eastern League, going 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA — fifth-best in the circuit — with a 1.20 WHIP in his first nine starts for the SeaWolves.
Southern League: Spencer Arroyo, LHP, Birmingham – Since being selected by the Phillies in the 31st round of the 2008 Draft, Arroyo is already in his second organization and has yet to find big-time success at the full-season level — until now. After putting up a 4.59 ERA and .280 opponents batting average with the Barons last season, the 25-year-old has brought both numbers down to 2.10 and .208 through nine starts this year. In fact, he’s only gotten better as the season has progressed. In four May starts, the southpaw is 2-1 with a 1.13 ERA.
Texas League: Jake Buchanan, RHP, Corpus Christi – There was a chance Buchanan would be good for the Hooks this season — he was a Cal League All-star in 2011, and we even named him an Organization All-Star the same year — but no one thought he’d be this good. The 24-year-old has flourished in the Astros’ piggybacking system, hasn’t allowed an earned run since April 26 (six appearances, 27 2/3 innings) and leads all Minor Leaguers in ERA (0.84) and WHIP (0.73). He hasn’t pitched more than five innings in an outing yet this season, so he’s been spared from facing Texas League lineups a third time through. But you still have to like the results as they stand on paper.
California League: Daniel Winkler, RHP, Modesto – Since being taken by the Rockies in the 20th round of the 2011 Draft, Winkler has had a penchant for the strikeout — his 136 punchouts ranked second in the Sally League last season — but it hadn’t necessarily translated into results (4.46 ERA, 1.37 WHIP). The 23-year-old seems to be coming into his own for the Nuts this season, however. His 2.61 ERA ranks third in the circuit while his 0.89 WHIP is right up there at the top. And yes, his 58 strikeouts (in 51 2/3 innings) rank second.
Carolina League: Taylor Hill, RHP, Potomac – There was ample reason for excitement when the P-Nats started the year with Robbie Ray and Taylor Jordan — Washington’s No. 10 and 17 prospects respectively — in their rotation. But Hill, who owned a 4.91 ERA between Class A Hagerstown and Potomac last season, has been right there with them and has often been better. He ranks first in walk rate (1.18 BB/9), tied for first in WHIP (0.99), second in ERA (2.31) — behind only Jordan (1.24), who is now with Double-A Harrisburg — and third in wins (4). He’s also thrown the only solo shutout of the Carolina League season. That’s the kind of stuff that commands attention at any level.
Florida State League: D.J. Baxendale, RHP, Fort Myers – Make what you will of the wins stat for pitchers, but nobody has done a better job than Baxendale of compiling them as a full-time starter in the Minor Leagues this year. He’s a perfect 7-0 for the Miracle through nine starts, but none of those wins have been of the vulture variety. He hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any start en route to an FSL-best 0.94 ERA, and that comes from being nearly untouchable (0.78 WHIP, .166 opponents’ average). Coming out of the University of Arkansas, Baxendale was a breakout candidate after sliding to 10th round last June, but this is at a different level.
Midwest League: Brandon Sinnery, RHP, South Bend – Sinnery has been one of the feel-good stories of the early 2013 season. I recommend reading my colleague Jake Seiner’s story on his journey to affiliated ball, but here’s a quick Sparknotes version. Undrafted out of the University of Michigan, the right-hander moved onto two separate independent league teams before catching the eye of the D-backs, who signed him and sent him to the Midwest League this season. He’s thrived ever since, putting up a 2.25 ERA and 1.07 ERA over eight appearances (six starts).
South Atlantic League: Jake Cose, RHP, Kannapolis – The 2011 27th-rounder was OK (4.38 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) in his first pro season as a starter in the Appalachian League a year ago, but he seems to have taken things to a new level in 2013. He’s maintained a 1.61 ERA — second-best in the Sally League — thanks to an ongoing run of four straight starts, spanning 24 2/3 innings, without having allowed an earned run. The 6-foot-5 right-hander has also struck out 46 batters and walked just 16 in 44 2/3 total frames while holding batters to a .211 average.
By Jake Seiner
Interviewing for game stories can be a fun process. The thousands of players and coaches spread across the Minor Leagues supply a never-ending chain of unique perspectives on the national pastime. The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches.
Bits and pieces of these quotes may have appeared over at MiLB.com, but when you’re trying to dig into somebody’s back story, sometimes it’s most helpful to hear it all straight from the source. In that spirit, here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Brandon Nimmo on moving from Wyoming to Brooklyn for his first full pro season:
“That first summer was a huge learning experience for me. I don’t think I went a day without learning something new. I was from a state where the whole population is less than what fits in a square mile in Brooklyn. We had 500,000 people in Wyoming. It was obviously a huge change for me, living that kind of lifestyle. I was used to being able to see for 40 miles out over the horizon. In Brooklyn, I could see about 40 feet. There were buildings all around you, people living on top of each other in small living spaces. I wasn’t use to that. I had to get used to that fast-paced lifestyle. The thing about baseball is you change your whole life and have to adjust quickly, and I got adjusted and enjoyed my time out there.
“This was a whole new experience for me. Going from, for me, I didn’t have high school ball, and in Legion ball, you faced a good pitcher maybe every fifth day or so. In the New York-Penn League, I just skipped a whole bunch of levels and was facing great guys all the time. You can’t take any at-bats off. It took time to learn how to approach the game and how to be at 100 percent or close to 100 percent every day, mentally and physically. It just, I had to learn how my body works in this kind of season. It’s just always a new learning stage for me. It was great, and I learned how to deal with a lot of failure.”
Padres prospect Max Fried on adjusting to pro ball:
“It’s different now because I’m a full-time pitcher. In high school, I was a two-way guy. Now I’m able to focus on one craft, and that’s opened up new things for me to work on and focus on on the pitching side. It’s also a lot different now because I’m going four or five innings per start rather than the two innings I was throwing last summer in the AZL. It’s enabled me to sort of grow and really just have a more regimented schedule to follow each time I go out.”
Fried on managing his body:
“I’m definitely a slender build, going about 6-4 and 185 pounds right now. I’m fine with that at the moment. Right now, I’m focusing on maintaining through the season, maybe just adding a few pounds. In the offseason, I’ll focus in on putting on muscle and getting stronger, but I’m not too worried about the weight right now. I’m definitely still maturing, and if my body wants to put on weight, it will.”
Fort Wayne pitching coach Burt Hooton (Fried’s coach) on coaching young hurlers:
“The reason these guys play Minor League Baseball is to get the experience. As a coach, you have to step back and let them learn from experience and point out what they should be learning. [Fried] doesn’t have that much professional experience under his belt. One thing you can’t slap on a guy is time and experience. That takes time.”
Pirates prospect Stetson Allie on his refined plate approach:
“I think, for me, it was, ‘I’m a big guy and I want to hit a bunch of home runs.’ For me, I can hit more home runs when I stay simple with my approach and try to drive the ball to right field. If I pull one over the fence, great, but I try to stay middle to middle away. When I first started, I wanted to crush balls, but as you move up, I’ve learned you have to have a hard-headed approach and stick with it. The harder you try to hit a home run, the more likely you won’t get it. For me, I just try to make solid contact every time and not even think about hitting home runs.
“That hasn’t been hard at all. Home run or not, I’m sticking with the same thing I’ve been doing. All I’m looking for right now is just hard contact. If it goes out, great. If not, at least I hit the ball hard. That’s what I’m going to stick with.”
Tampa manager Luis Sojo on Yankees catching prospect Gary Sanchez:
“When he’s on, his best weapon is to go the opposite way, left-center. He’s so strong, and he knows how to hit. When he’s good, he hits the opposite way. That’s something that’s really going to work down the road. Good hitters do that. Every time you see a good hitter, they can hit the other way. For his young age, he’s very good.”
Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz on Twins prospect Eddie Rosario:
“He’s a little unorthodox, but his barrel stays through the zone for a long time. The great ones at the big leagues, their bats stay in the zone for forever. Eddie does that. He has a special knack for finding the ball with the barrel. He has a presence when he walks up there. He’s one hell of a competitor. He finds a way to barrel up the ball, drive it line to line. He has a knack for that, always finds the barrel. The only way he’s making outs right now is if he gets himself out. He’s one of the better ones I’ve seen at staying flat through the zone.”
Dodgers catching prospect Tyler Ogle on 2012, when he played 43 games across four levels from Rookie ball to Triple-A:
“Last year was a growing up year for me. I was drafted fairly high, and I thought I was going to come into pro ball and continue to have success. That didn’t happen. My swing didn’t work well with wood, and my catching needed work.
“They kept me in extended, and I did a lot of growing up there. I had to fight to get myself out of extended and out of the AZL every day. I changed my swing, changed the way I catch. They had me start in the AZL and at that point, I told myself I gotta get out of here as best as I know how. That’s hitting and doing what I can behind the plate to help the pitching staff. After I started in the AZL, our farm director told me he that if I did my thing there, he would get me out, but that I had to prove myself.
“After a few games, he got me out like he said he would. I went to Michigan [to Great Lakes in the Midwest League] and I started 0-for-20, and I wasn’t feeling well at the plate. I was playing every couple of days, and I lost my consistency and routine. They saw that and didn’t think I was best suited there, so they sent me back to Short Season [Ogden]. I spent time there working a lot on my swing and I had my two hitting coaches from extended there at Short Season, and they took it upon themselves to get me back out there, Johnny Washington and Doug Mientkiewicz.
“Then Matt Wallach got hurt in Double-A, and all the catchers had to bump up a team, so they sent me back to Michigan, which was a lot of moving. For me, it was okay. I was comfortable. I had been to Michigan already once, and it was basically a second chance, but I don’t get to start over with a new average. I was picking up my 0-for-20. I turned it around a little bit, and then they sent me to Albuquerque to fill a backup role there, which was a great experience. It was a lot of moving around, but it taught me I have to be mentally tough.”
By Brendon Desrochers
We’re barely a week into the season, but let’s take a brief look at which prospects (those ranked in MLB.com club top-20s) are leading statistical categories (through games of Thursday, April 11):
Total Bases, Home Runs, RBIs and Slugging: Mike Zunino (SEA) with 27, 4, 17 and 1.038
Albuquerque’s Scott Van Slyke is the Minors’ leader in total bases with 32 and slugging at 1.143 (and the venerable Mike Hessman leads with five homers), but Zunino, the Mariners’ No. 3 prospect and No. 23 overall, is off to a strong start with three doubles a triple and the four home runs in six games (and he is the Minors overall leader with those 17 RBIs). As noted in the first Fantasy Focus, the Florida product and 2012 Golden Spikes Award winner may not be long for the Minors. His bat may be ready already.
Batting Average and On-base Percentage: Byron Buxton (MIN) at .500 and .565
Van Slyke also leads the Minors in average at .570, but the precocious Buxton, MLB.com’s No. 19 overall prospect, is 10-for-20 with a double, triple, two home runs and two stolen bases in five games. His three walks give him the edge in OBP at .565 (Billy Burns of Potomac leads the Minors among all players at .640). Like Zunino, Buxton too was featured in the first Fantasy Focus, and though the second overall pick from the 2012 Draft won’t turn 20 until December, the potential five-tool center fielder already has Twins fans drooling.
Runs Scored: Travis d’Arnaud (NYM) with 10
His 51s teammate Josh Satin and Tacoma’s Alex Liddi have 11, but it’s still been a strong start for the Minors’ top catching prospect. He’s drawn seven walks and reached base six times via base hit, which has given him the chance to score those 10 runs. With the way John Buck has been hitting for the Mets, though, d’Arnaud may be in Vegas for a few months longer.
Doubles: Maikel Franco (PHI) with 5
Eleven Minor Leaguers share the doubles lead with five, but Clearwater’s Maikel Franco is the only one of the 11 to rank in his organization’s top 20 prospects. The 20-year-old Dominican third baseman is rated 11th in the Phillies organization, and he’s had four doubles in his last three games (plus two homers and seven RBIs in his last two games). Perhaps this is the year that the raw pop Franco’s always showcased in batting practice will consistently make appearances in live action.
Hits: Xavier Avery (BAL) with 13
Avery is three hits behind High Desert’s Kevin Rivers plus Satin and Van Slyke overall, but his start is impressive nonetheless. He has four doubles and two steals to go with the 13 hits and .351 average for Double-A Bowie. The 23-year-old outfielder got into 32 games with the postseason-bound Orioles last year but still qualifies as a prospect and ranks seventh on the Orioles’ list. Avery continues to strike out a bit too much for a player without much power — he has 10 in 37 at-bats — but at least the Atlanta native has shown a consistent ability to draw walks, even earning a free pass in 10.3 percent of 107 plate appearances in Baltimore.
Profar, as we know, is the complete package as a prospect. Despite starting just 6-for-24 with a double, his eight walks show a mature approach and respect from PCL pitchers and managers. How and where Profar becomes a Ranger for good — especially with the big deal Texas just handed Elvis Andrus — is one of the season’s intriguing subplots.
Grossman came to the Astros from Pittsburgh when Wandy Rodriguez was sent north. The outfielder is known almost entirely for his patience. He became the first player since Nick Swisher to have 100 walks and 100 runs scored in a Minor League season when he achieved the feat with Bradenton in 2011. He has more power and less speed than Reggie Willits, but he profiles similarly to the Angels’ fourth outfielder of years past.
Strikeouts: Jared Mitchell (CWS) with 15
Mitchell is another patient hitter, but he hasn’t been able to battle out of deep counts this season as his 5-for-34 (.147) performance and strikeout total indicate. He does have five walks and three steals this season, but Mitchell’s .213 average in 155 at-bats for Charlotte between this season and last is poor. Though it’s early in this season, at age 24, time is running out for Mitchell to live up to his 2009 first-round billing.
Stolen Bases: Cory Spangenberg (SD) with 9
Another first-round pick (No. 10 overall in 2011), the second baseman has enjoyed his time with Lake Elsinore of the California League, batting .323 and stealing those nine bases without being caught. He has three more than you-know-who and has shown he’s completely recovered from the concussions he suffered last season. His speed will play at any level, and his doubles power could work in PETCO Park, even post-reconfiguration.
If you read my reaction to the release of MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list, you might think I was down on Twins pitching prospect Kyle Gibson. But just because I don’t believe he is the 49th best farmhand in the Minor Leagues doesn’t mean I’m skeptical that he’s going to be a quality Major League starter. Quite the opposite. I first wrote about Gibson in April 2012, detailing his comeback from Tommy John surgery. But you can go back further. How about June 2009, when Minnesota made the 6-foot-6-inch right-hander the 22nd overall selection the Draft? In the four years since, Gibson has pitched for three Minor League teams (not counting the Gulf Coast League Twins, whom he rehabbed with briefly this past year) and one in the Arizona Fall League. I expect him to return to Triple-A Rochester this spring but wouldn’t be surprised to see him north-bound by summer. Here is a gallery of Gibson, in every uni he’s donned to date. Click on any picture to begin the slideshow.
This offseason, Minnesota has traded both of its top options in center field: Denard Span was shipped to Minnesota and Ben Revere was sent to Philadelphia. So it is not out of the realm of possibility that Aaron Hicks — a first-round pick of the Twins in 2008 and now the No. 59 prospect in baseball — will be competing for a big league job this coming spring. Whether he starts with the Twins or, perhaps more likely, makes his Triple-A debut with the Rochester Red Wings, Hicks will wear a fifth different Minor League jersey in 2013. Here are the previous four, in a gallery.
CiPitcher: Noah Syndergaard (from Blue Jays to Mets)
Headline: Mets added d’Arnaud, Syndergaard (12/17)
Team in 2013: Class A Advanced St. Lucie (FSL)
Repertoire: Four pitches
- Four-seam fastball — 94-98 mph — A plus pitch, but is it too straight?
- Two-seam fastball — 94-95 mph — Work-in-progress
- Curveball — 74-79 mph — Improved, but still average
- Circle-changeup — 84-88 mph — Work-in-progress
Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (from Royals to Rays)
Headline: Royals send top prospects to Rays (12/10)
Team in 2013: Triple-A Durham (IL) / Tampa Bay
Repertoire: Four pitches
- Four-seam fastball — 90-96 mph — Not always plus, control is key
- Changeup — 80-83 mph — Work-in-progress
- Curveball — 75 mph — Average at this point
- Slider — 82-85 mph — Average at this point
Pitcher: Alex Meyer (from Nationals to Twins)
Headline: Top prospect Meyer shipped to Twins (11/29)
Team in 2013: Double-A New Britain
Repertoire: Three pitches
- No-seam fastball — 93-98 mph — Plus moving fastball, he plans to add straighter variety
- Knuckle-curveball — 83-86 mph — Not always plus, control is key
- Circle-changeup –87-90 mph — Work-in-progress, this offering’s development could decide his future role
Pitcher: Trevor Bauer (from D-backs to Indians)
Headline: Bauer sent to Tribe in three-team deal (12/11/12)
Team in 2013: Triple-A Columbus (IL) / Cleveland
Repertoire: Eight pitches
- Four-seam fastball — 92-plus mph — Can be a plus pitch, location is key (he likes to pitch up in the zone)
- Changeups 1 — 80-84 mph — Can be a plus pitch, it cuts
- Changeup 2 — 76-81 mph — Can be a plus pitch, it runs
- Curveball — 76-81 mph — Can be a plus pitch when break is right, tight
- Dot slider — 84-86 mph — Can be a plus pitch, big breaker
- Circle slider — 84 mph — A solid pitch, more of a cutter
- Reverse slider — 88-91 mph — His invention, average offering
- Splitter — 86-88 mph — Work-in-progress
These are the facts as I know them. Eight days ago, the Minnesota Twins’ had just three starting pitchers on their Major League depth chart. The Twins also didn’t have a single ready-made option in the Minor Leagues — no one who had pitched consistently enough at Triple-A to move on up without first asking questions.
Eight days later — and without a significant free-agent signing in between — the Twins have acquired three starters in two trades. The headlines:
Top prospect Meyer shipped to Twins — 11/29/12
Twins add Phils’ May to prospect haul — 12/06/12
The one-week transformation from pitching-poor falls under my purview — and interests me — because all three are young, controllable assets and two are what we around here call top prospects. Alex Meyer was No. 2 in the Nationals’ system, and Trevor May was No. 2 in the Phils’; they are now the Twins’ third- and fifth-ranked farmhands by MLB.com’s standard. (The third pitcher, another twenty-something right-hander in Vance Worley, has already pitched in the Majors and pitched well.)
With that said and set up, here is what the Twins’ five-man rotation could like in 2015. As you can see, it could be quite formidable (and long-lasting, as none of the pitchers below can become a free agent before 2018).
2. Trevor May: A peg below Meyer, has a fastball-curveball combo that is very good, just not as good. Likely to start ’13 a step ahead, Triple-A Rochester.
3 .Scott Diamond: Proven commodity out of my purview.
4. Vance Worley: Proven commodity (as long as he can stay healthy) out of my purview.
5b. Kyle Gibson: Once a more high-profile prospect (before undergoing elbow surgery), Gibson should be entrenched two seasons from now. Scouts differ on his ceiling, but he should slot in nicely here.
5c-g: 2011 first-round pick Hudson Boyd and 2012 first-round pick Jose Berrios won’t truly arrive before ’16. Right-handers Matthew Summers and Madison Boer could end up as middle relievers. And then there’s Cole De Vries, who will find a job harder to come by in the years ahead.
My first Prospect Q&A of the offseason — the Q&As are a staff-wide effort that I detailed here not too long ago — focuses on Twins prospect Byron Buxton and was just published on MiLB.com (link here).
Most of the good stuff from the interview is in that story. Below are some leftovers. His answers might strike you as terse or shallow, but consider that Buxton is an 18-year-old kid who is baseball, baseball, baseball all the time. I came away from my chat with him thinking this kid has the kind of mindset that will prepare him for the growing pains of the Minor Leagues.
Me: Did you make any fun, even extravagant purchases after receiving your $6 million signing bonus last summer?
Buxton: Nah, just saving my money.
Me: I was sort of intrigued by the season of one of your Elizabethton teammates, Max Kepler. Impressions of him?
Buxton: He hit the ball as far as I can possibly think of.
Me: What do you have to do on the diamond to improve?
Buxton: Just work hard, keep swinging the bat well, take advice, listen and my performance, hopefully, will take me where I want.
Me: Do you have goals stated for the 2013 season?
Buxton: Not really. I’m just trying to get myself to the big leagues.
Me: What’s your timetable?
Buxton: I want to get there as fast as I can.
For all the analysis and educated opinions I didn’t fit into that piece, read … well … what is below: three reasons why Meyer was a huge one-man haul for the Twins (OK, aside from the fact that he stands 6-foot-9, 230 pounds).
- The tangibles: The Twins don’t produce starting pitchers with this kind of repertoire on their own. For the full details of Meyer’s three-pitch mix, check out the “Prospect Pitch” I interviewed Meyer for last September. Here is the short version of it: a no-seam fastball between 93 and 98 mph that is consistent movement-oriented pitch; a spike curveball between 83 mph and 89 mph that is nasty when commanded; a changeup between 87 and 90 mph that is merely average at this point. It will be — and has already been — argued by some baseball writers, wonks that Meyer has not proven that he can be a Major League starter as opposed to a Major League reliever, but with those pitches and his makeup, I find it much more likely that he remains in a five-man rotation. About that makeup…
- The intangibles: I interviewed Meyer twice in one July week this year (when he won his Class A Advanced debut; when he struck out nine over six scoreless innings in his first post-Futures Game outing) and, in each of my dealings with him, he has struck me as the kind of confident kid that is going to excel in Majors no matter what. Now I’m not saying that every reporter-friendly right-hander is destined for big league success (Gerrit Cole, for one, is an unimpressive interviewee but looks like the Pirates’ next ace, while the ever-engaging Trevor Bauer struggled in the bigs this year), but in my four seasons covering baseball (two at MLB.com and two here at MiLB.com), I have noticed that the ballplayers who can be themselves, know themselves and are therefore better, more resilient ballplayers than their peers. When I think of this, I picture the affable Adam Wainwright doing a broadcast interview on the top step of his dugout … during a World Series game … on the day before he was due to pitch. Come to think of it, the tall, lanky Wainwright has a similar demeanor and repertoire to Meyer. Maybe the former is a good comp for the latter going forward.
- The replacements: I get it, Denard Span is a good player in the prime of his career and only (only?) due $21 million over the next three seasons. I get it. I get it. I get it. But if I am the Twins, I make this deal anyway, and I’m tickled to do it. My third and final reason why: They have about as much young outfield depth as an MLB org could ask for. In addition to center field replacement Ben Revere and current corner outfield options Josh Willingham and Chris Parmelee, Minnesota has three prospects that are a full season in the Minors or less away from the Majors: Aaron Hicks, who is a strong bet to be as good or better than Span, in center and Joe Benson and Oswaldo Arcia manning the corners. (It could also be said that, if all goes well, Meyer will be emerging as the Twins’ ace just as 2012 first-round draftee Byron Buxton, another multi-skilled center fielder, is earning his first big league callup.) Hicks, Benson and Arcia are all among the Twins’ top 10 prospects, and they helped the org to move on without Span.
For a diverging perspective on the Meyer-for-Span swap, read this. I don’t agree with all of it. But there is some sound reasoning. See what you think. Let me know in the comment section.
Editor’s note: Lost and Found is an offseason series in which one underrated prospect from each of the 30 MLB clubs will be discussed in a short, snappy post. The more obvious choices in Minnesota’s system include upper-echelon prospects Aaron Hicks and Kyle Gibson, who enjoyed bounce-back/healthy campaigns this year, but you have already heard of them. Have you heard of…
Lost: Max Kepler, a raw, speed-oriented outfielder, received an $800,000 bonus (a European record) to leave his native Germany at 16 in 2009, “hid out” in the Gulf Coast League at 17 in ’10 before playing short-season ball in ’11. He is the kind of guy that, scouts say, “looks good in a uniform.”
2011: .262 AVG, 15 XBH — 1 HR, 24 RBI, 23–to–54 K-to-BB ratio, 1 SB in 50 G at Rookie-level Elizabethton
Found: According to reports, Kepler has lost some of his speed but more than made up for it by flashing increased skills with the bat, leading some to believe that he can hit and hit for power. The Justin Morneau comparison has already been made.
2012: .297 AVG, 31 XBH — 10 HR, 49 RBI, 27-to-33 K-to-BB ratio, 7 SB in 59 G at Rookie-level Elizabethton
So Kepler was lost, now he is found. Now, about the Twins’ returns: I’m stretching it a little in saying Kepler was ever “lost.” More accurately, he is under the radar. We live in a world of baseball where guys like Bryce Harper and Jurickson Profar can get to the Majors before their 20th birthdays and Kepler, while he has a high ceiling too, is more of an old-school 19-year-old in that he probably has three to four more years of developing to do. He doesn’t have a defensive position yet (CF? LF? 1B?), and he is still learning how to play American baseball. As it stands, he is his organization’s 18th-ranked prospect. Time (in full-season ball) will tell whether he keeps moving up that list.