I would argue that the top five Twins prospects approach 'elite' status. Prospects six through ten all have great upside, but each still has a question or two. It may be youth. It may be plate control or discipline. It may be development of a third or fourth pitch. These guys have a chance to be solid major league contributors. Likely they won't be big league All-Stars, but they can be big league regulars (and sometimes they do become All-Stars).
Part 9: Prospects 6-10
As we start the Top 10 Twins prospects today, this group is really pretty interchangeable (and I think Josmil Pinto fits with this group). I think it's fair to say Cedar Rapids is pretty well represented as four of the five players on this list spent at least most of the season there. One was the Midwest League's Player of the Year, according to Topps. Two are hold-overs from last year's Top 10 while the fourth has jumped up prospect rankings over the last 18 months. The fifth is a hard-throwing kid who would still be a senior in high school if he were from the US.
The Milwaukee native went to Jacksonville University and put together three very good collegiate seasons. He posted OPS of 1.035, 1.168 and 1.007 in those seasons. He hit 52 doubles and 42 homers in those three seasons, plus he went 40-41 in stolen base attempts. After the Twins drafted him in the third round of the 2012 draft, he hit 14 home runs at Elizabethton, not to mention the two playoff homers that helped the E-Twins to the Appy League title. At Cedar Rapids in 2013, he hit .278/.319/.526 (.844) with 31 doubles and seven triples. He led the Midwest League with 27 home runs and 109 RBI (which was second in minor league baseball to only Dalton Hicks). He was also 10-10 in steal attempts. At 6-4 and 225 pounds, Walker is built for power. Except for Miguel Sano, Walker has as much power and power potential as anyone in the organization. He didn’t walk much in his first full season in the minors, which is a concern, so that will be the area worth watching. Defensively, he is solid in right field with good speed for his size. Yesterday, Topps named him the Player of the Year in the Midwest League.
#9 – Lewis Thorpe – LH SP (17)
Last week, Lewis Thorpe was kind enough to participate in a Q&A, so be sure to check that out. We know he has grown physically a lot since signing last summer from Australia. He also now has the ability to throw a fastball at 95 mph. He has a good curveball and an improving change up. In his 44 innings pitched for the GCL Twins this year, he walked just six and struck out 66 batters. He then dominated Team USA in international competition after the season. He is very young and has a long way to go, but he has certainly, and very quickly, put himself on the Twins prospect map!
#8 – Max Kepler – OF/1B (20)
Since signing at the same time as Polanco, Kepler has slowly worked his way up the system. Whereas Polanco spent two years in the GCL, Kepler spent two years at Elizabethton. Unfortunately, he began this season with an injured throwing elbow. He moved up to Cedar Rapids for the season’s second half. He hit just .237/.312/.424 (.736) with 11 doubles, three triples and nine home runs. He really struggled against left-handers with the Kernels. At 6-4 and nearly 200 pounds, he has the build to hit a lot of home runs. He stands at the plate with his hands held high, and is able to get the bat through the zone very quickly. He is a solid outfielder with adequate range and arm. If he stays in the outfield, left field is his likely destination. He also plays a very good first base which could be a very good fallback option for him.
#7 – Jose (JO) Berrios – RH SP (19)
Berrios was the Twins supplemental first round pick in 2012 out of high school in Puerto Rico. After an impressive professional debut in 2012 between the GCL and the E-Twins: He combined to go 3-0 with four walks and 49 strikeouts in 30.2 innings. He showed up at the Twins big league camp this year because he was selected to play for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. Because he pitched out of their bullpen, he remained in extended spring training after returning to the Twins. He was stretched out before being called up to the Kernels where he made 19 starts. He went 7-7 with a 3.99 ERA over 103.2 innings. He walked 40 and struck out 100. As pitching coach Gary Lucas told me, there were times when Berrios looked like a future star and other times he looked like a teenager on the mound. He has the pitches to be very successful. His fastball is between 92 and 95. He has a very good breaking ball. His changeup is improving. He just needs to slow it down to get a good differential between it and his fastball. He is just 6-0 and thin. He’s very athletic on the mound and he should advance to Ft. Myers in 2014.
#6 – Jorge Polanco – 2B (20)
When the Twins signed Polanco as a 16-year-old in 2010 out of the Dominican Republic, he was a very skinny kid, known for his defense. It’s possible that his defense was a bit overrated because generally the belief is that he doesn’t really have the arm for shortstop. He is a solid defensive second baseman. The surprise is that he has grown into a really solid hitter. After really struggling with the bat his first two seasons, he had a strong showing at Elizabethton in 2012 and he proved himself again with the bat with a solid first full season campaign in Cedar Rapids. He hit .308/.362/.452 (.813) with 32 doubles, ten triples and five home runs. Although he is an aggressive hitter, he does have a good idea of the strike zone and puts together quality at-bats. He was the 3rd overall pick in the Dominican Winter League draft and began in that league this winter by hitting .359 in his first ten games.
Thank you for reading part Part 9 of my ten-part series with my Top 50 Twins Prospects. On Thursday, the Top 5 Twins prospects (in my opinion) will be revealed. In case you missed any of the previous installments, here are those links:
Part 1: 46-50
Part 2: 41-45
Part 3: 36-40
Part 4: 31-35
Part 5: 26-30
Part 6: 21-25
Part 7: 16-20
Part 8: 11-15