- C – A.J. Murray – 23 yo
- 2.62/.631 combined – PAG/APPA (LoA Cedar Rapids – 3.03/.681; HiA Fort Myers – 2.18/.569)
- 2016 stats combined: .238/.319/.380; .619 OPS; 25 doubles, 10 home runs;
Looking through the system, I’m proud to say that former 2014 Organizational All-Star Mitch Garver is a step away from reaching the majors. He didn’t light the scoreboard on fire, but he posted a two-level PAG/APPA of 3.06/.729 for Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester this season. In addition to Garver, it’s interesting how consistent the production was at the catching position. The only exception was 2016 – 2nd rounder Ben Rortvedt. The 5’10” – 190 pounder out of Verona HS (WI) debuted in the Gulf Coast League, then saw a late-July promotion to Rookie League Elizabethton, posting a combined 1.52/.442, which was far below the 2.62/.656 P/A average between all other catchers. Comparing the law of averages next to overall production, I had to take into consideration that 2015 – 14th rounder A.J. Murray came close to matching Garver’s production. The 6’2″ – 215 lb. draftee out of Georgia Tech had a 51-game pro debut for Rookie Elizabethton. He batted .264 with 11 doubles and four home runs. This season he stayed consistent over two levels and ranked among the system leaders in extra bases.
- 1B – Zander Wiel – 23 yo
- 3.54/.798 – PAG/APPA (LoA Cedar Rapids)
- 2016 stats: .259/.333/.459; .792 OPS; 27 doubles, 19 home runs
It’s one thing for a hype-deserving prospect Jim and I discuss to be buried underneath several top prospects once they become a pro. But for a kid to have suffered that same fate as an amateur? No worry. It’s old hat for 2015 draft pick Zander Wiel. The 6’3″ – 230 lb. righty came to the Twins organization from a 2015 Vanderbilt team that boasted three #1 draft picks in shortstop Dansby Swanson (ARI), starting pitchers Carson Fulmer (CWS) and Walker Buehler (LAD). In his final season with the Commodores, Wiel led the team in RBi’s (68) and tied for the team lead in homers (15). After the draft, Wiel never got a chance to gain traction. He started his pro career for Rookie Elizabethton; and after only two games, Wiel suffered a broken left hand on an errant pitch versus the Burlington Royals (KC), missing an entire month of action. In only 13 games that season, Wiel posted a PAG/APPA of 2.46/.711. This year, he was rewarded with a promotion to LoA Cedar Rapids; and a chance to show off the power and athleticism the Twins were hoping to see in his rookie year. He didn’t disappoint. Wiel not only led the Cedar Rapids in several offensive categories, he led the entire organization (Triple-A, down) in RBi’s (86), total bases (230) and tied for the system lead in triples (8) with Double-A Chattanooga’s Zach Granite and extra-base hits (54) with Triple-A Rochester’s Adam Walker. I see a well-deserved promotion to HiA Fort Myers for Wiel in 2017; and if you’re in a dynasty league that allows you to house a deep amount of minors, take a no-risk, high reward flier on Wiel.
- 2B – Luis Arraez – 19 yo
- 3.32/.735 – PAG/APPA (LoA Cedar Rapids)
- 2016 stats: .347/.386/.444; .830 OPS; 165 hits, 31 doubles
The second base landscape for the Twins in 2016 provided one of those situations where a prospect’s bat, despite his primary position, is too good not to have in a lineup. 2015 – 3rd rounder Travis Blankenhorn was drafted out of Pottsville HS (Pottsville, PA) and the Twins immediately tabbed him as a third baseman. In the following round, the Twins took Grainger HS (Rutledge, TN) prep star Trey Cabbage, also a third baseman. Both prospects, known for their bat-first profile, found themselves sharing a dugout this season for Rookie Elizabethton. In order to maximize their offensive potential, Blankenhorn was shifted to second base, while Cabbage manned the hot corner. It worked as Blankenhorn batted .297 with 9 home runs and 29 RBi’s in 34 games. Cabbage struggled a bit, but still flashed the tools that has the organization excited moving forward. So, the race came down to Blankenhorn and my final choice, 2013 international free-agent signee Luis Arraez. The 5’10” – 155 lb. lefty is not only a natural second baseman, but an absolute hitting machine. He’s a career .337 hitter and Arraez actually tied fellow second baseman (and major leaguer) Brian Dozier for the most hits in the entire organization (165) this season. Arraez debuted for Minnesota in 2014 posting a 3.55/.815, which earned him a 2014 Organizational All-Star nod. He saw a bit of a production dip in 2015 for the GCL Twins (2.63/.644), but this season, the Venezuela native tied for 2nd (with Cleveland catcher Francisco Mejia) in the Midwest League in batting and Arraez’s 211 total bases ranked fifth.
- 3B – Victor Tademo – 16 yo
- 3.53/.896 – PAG/APPA (Dominican Summer League)
- 2016 stats: .311/.388/.429; .817 OPS; 16 doubles, 21 stolen bases
In Luis Arraez‘ bio above, I mentioned 2015 draftees Trey Cabbage and Travis Blankenhorn as a few of the Twins top third base prospects. Jim and I thrive when a system has one, not to mention more, prospects that draw all the attention away from kids like 6’1″ – 170 lb. Venezuelan third baseman Victor Tademo. In his professional debut with the Dominican Summer League Twins, Tademo had as good a start as you could ask for. He led the DSL squad in runs scored (42), doubles, stolen bases, and ranked second in hits (55), batting, on-base percentage, Slugging and OPS. Not bad for a 16-year-old kid. I know it’s extremely early to anoint Tademo a certified prospect. Even Jim and I know that’s a hefty weight to place upon a kid’s shoulders coming off his first season as a pro regardless of age. But, boy, it does give you something to be excited about when you see this kind of production from a prospect so young. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Twins assign him to the DSL for another season. If I were in control of the organization, I’d press the gas a little and hope for equal success at a higher level. I’d love to see Tademo begin 2017 in the Gulf Coast League. And if does, and he parallels his 2016 production, the Twins suddenly have a savory sweet prospect log jam at third base.
- SS – Nick Gordon – 20 yo
- 2.83/.664 – PAG/APPA (HiA Fort Myers)
- 2016 stats: .291/.335/.386; .721 OPS; 23 doubles, 19 stolen bases
Not really sure I need to say much other than when you have the natural talent and the bloodlines like Nick Gordon, you have all the makings of a major league star. Gordon is on the fast track to Minnesota and could possibly see Target Field as early as late 2017, but most likely, 2018. A few other shortstop prospects that finished high on the list were international star signee Wander Javier. In fact, he’s the shortstop I’m most excited to see develop. Javier has an extremely high ceiling with huge raw power; and scouts say he possesses the defense to stay at the position. Another prospect I considered was 2015 – 10th rounder Sean Miller. The University of South Carolina draftee posted a two-level PAG/APPA of 2.55/6.10 (LoA Cedar Rapids/HiA Fort Myers). The thing that could boost Miller’s organizational stock is his ability to play all over the infield logging time at second, third and short. Despite listing Javier and Miller, Gordon is the future here.
- LF – Jaylin Davis – 21 yo
- 3.75/.889 combined – PAG/APPA (Rookie Elizabethton – 5.42/1.250; LoA Cedar Rapids – 3.37/.803)
- 2016 stats combined: .255/.341/.523; .864 OPS; 16 home runs, 14 doubles.
There’s definitely no shortage of outfield prospects within the Twins system. Alex Kiriloff, a 2016 – Plum HS (Pittsburgh) draftee leads the way, with former Diamondback prospect Daniel Palka and 2015 – 9th rounder (Maryland) LaMonte Wade also sitting inside several current Twins top prospect lists. Well, I believe another is on his way to the outfield prospect party. Minnesota drafted 6’1″ – 190 lb. Jaylin Davis out of Appalachian State University even though Davis missed his entire junior season with a non-throwing shoulder injury. The Twins were confident and assigned him to Rookie Elizabethton; and in 12 games with the APPY League Twins, the 24th rounder registered an astounding 5.42/1.250 PAG/APPA. This prompted the organization to promote the righty to LoA Cedar Rapids. In only 52 games with the Kernels, Davis still led the team in slugging percentage (.469), ranked third in home runs (9) and OPS (.808). Davis’s combined 14 home runs ranked behind only fellow UTR OAS Zander Wiel (19), outfielder Daniel Palka (21) and Adam Walker (27) for most in the system from Triple-A down. It would surprise me to see Davis missing from Minnesota top prospect lists this spring. But on the flip side, we here at UTRMinors will be more than glad to be one of the few driving the Davis bandwagon.
- CF – LaMonte Wade – 22 yo
- 3.40/.771 combined – PAG/APPA (LoA Cedar Rapids – 3.39/.728; HiA Fort Myers – 3.41/.858)
- 2016 stats combined: .293/.402/.438; .841 OPS; 8 home runs, 14 doubles; 54:44 BB:K ratio
In Jaylin Davis‘s OAS bio above I mentioned that 6’1″ – 190 lb. LaMonte Wade as one of the top outfielders in the Twins system; and in my centerfield breakdown, he came out on top. But the race was closer than I thought it’d be. Now, let me get it straight though. Wade is one of those sleeper, semi-stud prospects. He doesn’t have any true standout tool. He just gets the job done every time he takes the field. This season he logged a near 60/40 split between LoA Cedar Rapids and HiA Fort Myers and posted a higher PAG/APPA after his mid-June promotion to the Miracle roster. One thing that clearly stands out in Wade’s arsenal is his ability to get on base. He led all Twins minor (and major) league regulars in On-base percentage this season (.402); and in 156 career minor league games, he carries a career OB% of .409. It helps when you’ve drawn 21 more walks than you’ve struck out (101:80) too. The only knock on Wade is that I’d like to see him steal more bases. A few other centerfielders that were on my OAS radar are Tanner English, however he spent time in Triple-A with the Red Wings. Another kid who made a good impression was the DSL’s Humberto Maldonado. The 6’3″ – 200 lb. 18 year old posted a hopeful 3.06/.762 PAG/APPA in his debut and could possibly see his way to this coming spring’s “Ones to Watch” list.
- RF – Alex Kirilloff – 18 yo
- 3.18/.754 – PAG/APPA (Rookie Elizabethton)
- 2016 stats: .306/.341/.454; .794 OPS; 7 home runs, 9 doubles
Fairness is theoretically the primary factor in creating our lists. And as proud as I am that a youngster drafted from Plum HS in Pittsburgh, a school merely two hours west from where my partner Jim and I grew up, there really wasn’t a right fielder in the Twins system who registered nearly as prominent a season as 2016 – 1st rounder Alex Kirilloff. When comparing all right fielders within the system, the 6’2″ – 195 lb. lefty posted the highest batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS in the system, let alone the highest PAG/APPA. Kirilloff is a supreme athlete who possesses a compact swing that produces substantial power and has a plus-arm strength. It’s easy to root for a semi-local kid; and the Twins, as well as fantasy leaguers, will soon realize he may be ready for the big time sooner than we think. If you’re in a dynasty league that hasn’t held their minor league draft yet, place Kirilloff high on your list. He’ll be worth both the high pick and the wait.
PitchersIn reviewing the Twins since AL UTR tracking began, 2014 was led by Jose Barrios who went on to make his MLB debut in April 2016 and bounced back and forth from Triple-A. The 22 year old took his lumps making 14 MLB starts in posting a 8.02 ERA (49 K / 35 BB) in 58.1 innings. With only 29 total innings at the Triple-A level, Berrios getting a vast big-league experience will only pay-off in the future. Most the UTR-OAS pitchers out of the Twins system didn’t fall under the UTR criteria. Some of the notable prospects were Kohl Stewart (1st Rd-2013), Aaron Slegers (5th Rd-2013), Stephan Gonsalves (4th Rd-2013). Stewart’s 4-pitch mix worked within HiA Fort Myers and AA Chattanooga and saw a decline in his strikeout production, but an increase in GB% by a 3-1 clip. Slegers had to repeat at Chattanooga due to missing some time with an elbow issue. Gonsalves not only made the 2014 list, but repeated in 2015. The latter earned him the “Solid Stash” moniker and this still hold true, as he has received comps to Madison Bumgarner with his low impact delivery. He posted a 30% strikeout rate against Double-A competition. Those arms as “true UTR” are still climbing within the system. This includes Jadison Jimenez and Williams Ramirez, who also made the 14-15′ UTR-OAS rankings. Jimenez was listed on the International Watch list in 2014, a “Legit UTR” in 2015, and I was hoping for a U.S. debut in 2016. This didn’t occur for the 21 year old, as the Twins outright released him as he didn’t post any stats in 2016. Ramirez received an assignment to LoA Cedar Rapids and was placed in the bullpen. He experienced some inconsistent control issues. Age/level becomes a factor with Ramirez turning 24 years at the end of 2016 season. Though this next pitcher didn’t make the cut below, watch out for a 21 year old righthander in Eduardo Del Rosario. He impressed in his full season debut in 2016 with Cedar Rapids. Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score/ TPS 1. RHP Randy LeBlanc – 24 / .135
- 24 years old (LoA Cedar Rapids / HiA Fort Myers / AA Chattanooga)
- 10th Round – 2014
- Progressed through three levels and posted a 12-9 record with a 2.64 ERA.
- 21 years old (HiA Fort Myers / AA Chattanooga)
- International Free Agent – 2011
- Jorge scores high, but I believe his switch hasn’t fully clicked. The lanky framed righty oozes of pitchability and the time spent in Double-A may have been too soon. The only concern would be the lack of movement on his fastball, which isn’t ready for more advanced hitters.
- 23 years old (LoA Cedar Rapids / HiA Fort Myers)
- International Free Agent – 2011
- Romero was added to the Twins 40-man roster. He missed some of the 2014 and all of the 2015 season due to TJ surgery. He absolutely impressed in 2016 with a 27% K-rate and a 4% BB-rate with his high 90’s fastball (touching 98), plus slider, and two different breakers.
- 22 years old (LoA Cedar Rapids / HiA Fort Myers)
- 13th round – 2015
- 22 years old (HiA Fort Myers / AA Chattanooga)
- 1st round – 2015
- 23 years old – (LoA Cedar Rapids / HiA Fort Myers)
- 6th round – 2014
- Curtiss has been on the UTR radar since 2014 when he ranked as the #1 TPS Twins pitcher. His projection at that time was a starter, but after moving to the bullpen in 2016, he returns back to the top spot.
- 24 years old – (LoA Cedar Rapids / HiA Fort Myers)
- 30th round – 2014
- 22 years old – (GCL Twins / Appy League Elizabethan)
- 36th round – 2016