C – Ryan Jeffers – 2019 will be the first that the Minnesota Twins will be without certain Hall of Fame catcher Joe Mauer since 2004. As a contributing catcher however, the former first round draft choice’s games behind the plate have waned over the years. In fact, the last time he played any significant time behind the dish was 2013 when he logged 75 games there. Either way, he’ll go down in history as one of the most pure hitting catchers the majors has ever. Most notably, all with one organization, which is extremely rare these days. So, with light hitting veteran Jason Castro set to share duties with backup Mitch Garver this season, Minnesota decided to go the above average, plus-power hitting catcher route in the draft again in 2018, selecting Ryan Jeffers in the 2nd round out of UNC Wilmington. As a member of the Seahawks, Jeffers compiled a .323 average, hit 27 home runs and drove in 96 before being drafted as a junior. Jeffers was immediately assigned to Rookie Elizabethton where he actually upped his production to the tune of a .422 batting average with 10 extra-base hits (3 home runs), 29 RBi and 20:16 walk-to-strikeout ratio. The Twins saw enough, challenging him with a promotion to LoA Cedar Rapids (Midwest League) in late July. There, he slowed down a bit, as would be expected, yet still batted .288 with 19 runs scored, but saw an uptick in extra-base percentage. Jeffers also came to the organization as a questionable defender. He’s spent time in the outfield, but committed only two errors, both with Rookie Elizabethton. I have a feeling the 6’4”- 225 lb. righty will open the 2019 season back in LoA, but could see a quick promotion to HiA Fort Myers is he shoots out of the gate like he did in his pro debut. 1B – Chris Williams – I’m going full UTR here with Williams, an 8th round selection out of Clemson in 2018. Now, had the Twins stayed the same course he took in college, maybe Williams would have made the UTR OAS list at catcher instead of Ryan Jeffers. While playing for Garden Grove HS (CA), the highly touted Williams didn’t receive any Division 1 baseball offers. So, he chose the junior college route and headed to Golden State West JC (Huntington Beach, CA) where, as a freshman and Rustlers everyday catcher, he batted .319 with four home runs and 32 RBi’s. With his first year in the books, Williams decided to pursue Division 1 schools, and Clemson came calling. Williams latched onto the starter role and ended his three-year Tiger career with a .264 batting average, 40 home runs and 161 RBi. The Twins drafted him and immediately moved him to first base, which isn’t completely surprising, as Williams played some third and first base at Clemson. For Rookie Elizabethton, despite the .252 batting average, the 6’1”- 210 lb. right led the APPY league with 15 home runs, while leading Twins roster in total bases (107), runs scored (39) and RBi (51). So, it’s no surprise that Williams is displaying his athleticism, plus-plus power and good arm as a pro. In fact, when you draw Mike Napoli comparisons (PG), it’s hard not to take notice. 2B –Michael Helman – When you sit back and look at Minnesota’s prospects and the future of the Twins infield, every list should start with super SS prospect Royce Lewis. He’s a stud in nearly every sense of the word. So that leaves the rest of the system’s shortstops and second basemen to vie for the second base position. Nick Gordon, Yunior Severino, Luis Arraez, Wander Javier, Travis Blankenhorn all battling for middle infield supremacy. This “leaves us” with Helman, who the Twins drafted in the 11th round out of Texas A&M last season. I quoted “leaves us” because Helman’s debut far exceeded what you’d expect from an early-middle round prospect. Helman came to the Twins with a scouting report of great speed, and a great defender who can hit. He stole 10 bases and committed only three errors over two levels last season, but he didn’t just hit, he Really hit, batting .375 over 12 games in his pro debut with Rookie Elizabethton. He was tested with an early-August promotion to LoA Cedar Rapids, where he suffered zero slow down, posting a .355 average, six doubles and 20 runs scored in 27 games. Keep a very close eye on Helman. 3B – Jose Miranda – With the saturation of middle infielders in the Twins system, prospect shuffling in order to maximize the options of who makes the OAS list was in order. In doing so, we choose third-year pro Jose Miranda. Now looking at his overall resume, one could easily keep him at shortstop, but some say his game profiles more at third base. In fact, his power potential and defensive range make him a great fit, evident by his 16 combined home runs across LoA and HiA this year (13/3) However, to fit the best possible lineup together, augmenting placement as much as possible is not necessarily necessary but fun for fantasy purposes. UTR is no different. In 2018, Miranda continued to display good plate discipline (31:62 BB:K) and great power, yet the 20-year-old’s momentum was slowed upon his promotion to HiA Fort Myers in early August. With Miranda’s overall skills and room for growth, I don’t think the Twins will be deterred from starting him out in the Florida State League to start 2019, and if he carries on with his bat, I think he could see a quick trigger advancement to Double-A Chattanooga. SS – Royce Lewis – I repeat, a stud in every sense of the word. Will start 2019 in Double-A, and with the way organizations are whisking top prospects to the majors (all worthy promotions by the way) it’s not out of the question to think that Lewis could see a late-season cup of coffee in Minnesota. If possible, add him to any and every fantasy roster you can. LF – DaShawn Keirsey: I can only speak for myself, but it’s a pretty educated guess that as a veteran fantasy league participant, any time I look at a prospect list for research purposes, the majority of the time, I read all the names first on the list, then start reading the the “how and why” a player ended up on it. So, I’m sure those who opened up our Twins UTR OAS, you saw Akil Baddoo and Alex Kirilloff below, and you probably don’t have to read the bios to know that these are two of the premiere OF prospects the Twins have. However, placing 2018 – 4th rounder DaShawn Keirsey among them might intrigue you to read the bio. However, this is UTR and you as a fan of the site, you already know why he’s here. The University of Utah draftee came to the organization a plus-athlete boasting effortless CF range, above-average to plus speed, an average arm and big power upside. So, why place him in left? Because of Baddoo and Kirilloff that’s why. While with Utah, Keirsey was a three-time All-Pac 12 selection and a two-time All-PAC 12 defensive honoree. He posted a career .334 batting average for the Utes with 27 stolen bases. In his pro debut the 6’2”- 200 lb. Keirsey was assigned to Rookie Elizabethton and hit .301, scored 20 runs and stole four bases in 26 games, but credit to his scouting report, went errorless in 2018. Keirsey is a nice “high floor” guy to follow in the system. CF – Akil Baddoo – Despite the .243 batting average and 124 strikeouts, he’s a pure hitter; and according to the 2018 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, the 6’1”- 210 pound lefty draws comparisons to former Twins Ben Revere and Matt Lawton. Baddoo can hit, he can run and he has power, evident by a 2018 season where his 11 home runs are five more than he hit in 2016 and 2017 combined; plus he stole 24 bases, only two less than he swiped in his first two seasons as a pro. Defensively, the Conyers HS (GA) draftee committed one error last season and has only three in 256 career chances. Baddoo has all the tools and skill set to bypass every outfielder in the system not named Alex Kirilloff. RF – Alex Kirilloff – It makes you wonder if the Twins Alex Kirilloff, their 2016 – 1st round pick out of Plum HS (Pittsburgh), would be on the verge of join the Twins major league roster had he not lost all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery. After all, in spite of cutting his debut season short, he still won the APPY League MVP award with Elizabethton after batting .306 with seven home runs, 33 RBi and 33 runs scored over 55 games. He rehabbed all of 2017 and Minnesota rewarded him with a promotion to LoA Cedar Rapids last season. He reciprocated with a .333 average, 13 homers and 56 RBi in 65 games, which earned him a deserved promotion to the pitcher-friendly Florida State League in mid-June. Not sure how friendly Fort Myers pitching was after the 6’2”- 215 lb. lefty clobbered it with a .362/393/.550/.943 slash line along with seven more homers, 45 more RBi and 39 runs scored. He’s a star. Pure and simple. He’s headed for Double-A this season and much like I said about Royce Lewis above, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Kirilloff in Target Field before the end of 2019. Maybe even before Lewis. Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Factor Score) / Highest Level Attained
1. RHP Bailey Ober – (19) / LoA Cedar Rapids
** Ober suffered injuries during his collegiate career at the College of Charleston (SC) that included Tommy John surgery and a back injury. Prior to those setbacks, Ober was already a proven winner by guiding his high school team to two state championships, and garnering Conference Player of the Year and National Freshman of the Year at Charleston. But it was those injuries that saw Ober slide to the 12th round of the 2017 draft, and the Twins may have found gold. The back injury, prior to the draft, had the 21-year old reporting to Elizabethton (Appy) late, but his track record of winning played a part in capturing the Appy League title. The 6′ 8″ 215 lb right-hander no-doubt creates downhill plane with his 93 mph fastball. He also flashes outstanding command with a plus change-up, a curve, and slider. With only 28 innings of work in the Appy League, Ober saw his first full season at LoA Cedar Rapids in 2018 and posted a 7-1 record, 3.84 ERA, 1.067 WHIP, and a remarkable 9.78 K/BB rate (88 K / 9 BB over 75 IP). Ober could be the Twins front-runner for the 2019 “One to Watch”, which will be posted shortly after the start of the 2019 Minor League season.
2. RHP Brusdar Graterol – (16)/ HiA Fort Myers** Graterol is a nightmare in waiting. It’s just a matter whether his tools will play in the front-end of the rotation or bullpen closer. The 6′ 1″ 180 lb right-hander signed out of Venezuela had an outstanding season, in splitting time between LoA Cedar Rapids and Double-A Fort Myers. He missed all of 2016 from Tommy John and spent the 2017 season rehabbing in the Rookie leagues. Holding his own at HiA Fort Myers as a 19-year old has vaulted Graterol as the Twins top pitching prospect and joining top Twins prospects Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff, that Marc mentioned above. MLB hitters can look forward to this repertoire. A fastball that touches +100 mph with ease, but hovers consistency in the upper 90’s with movement. Command of a MLB equivalent high 80’s slider, that has been rated a plus-plus pitch. Its this fastball/slider combination that may destine Graterol to the bullpen, unless he can master a third pitch. At only 20-year old this season, look for Graterol to return to Fort Myers to continue to gather innings and work/add to his arsenal.
3. RHP Tyler Wells – (15) / Double-A Chattanooga “Legit UTR”
** Wells repeats after his 2017 UTR Organizational All-Star nod. The right-hander also split the season in 2018, making 16 starts for Ft. Myers and six games at Double-A Chattanooga. Overall, he went 10-6 with a 2.49 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. He struck out 121 batters in 119 1/3 innings. Though just a small sample, if he can continue to build upon his success at Double-A, Wells could make a nice #4-#5 type. With a frame slightly bigger that Ober (6′ 8″ 265 lb), the right-hander lacks the velo on his fastball, which ranges in the low-90’s with inconsistent movement and command.
4. RHP Edwar Colina – (12.5) / AA Chattanooga
5. RHP Randy Dobnak – (10) / LoA Cedar RapidsTop 3 Relief Pitchers – (Factor Score) / Highest Level Attained
1. LHP Jovani Moran – (9) / HiA Fort Myers
2. LHP Andrew Vasquez – (5) / MLB “Solid Stash”
3. LHP Alex Robinson – (5) / HiA Fort Myers “Legit UTR”