Prospect lists are about tools and potential. But I do go back and continue to think about something Kyle Gibson told me a couple of years ago. "It's nice to be considered a top prospect, but all that really means is that you haven't done anything yet."
That's the beauty of these rankings and lists like it. It's great for discussion, but if you look back at rankings from previous years, you find that to be very true. There are occasionally prospects who get the hype and become everything fans could ever hope. There are prospects who no one would consider a prospect who have come up and been major contributors. And most prospects are somewhere in between. It will be fun to see how this group progressed and develops, and how much of an impact they have on the future of the Minnesota Twins.
Part 10: Prospects 1-5
Today, we are looking at some pretty impressive prospects. There are two pitchers who are able to work in the mid-to-upper 90s. One may be ready next year while the other could be redshirting behind Johnny Football right now. There are two infielders who have been teammates since their days in the GCL. One is a top prospect who has the potential to hit 40 home runs. The other could hit .300 for years to come. And then there is the guy who has been determined, by experts from respected media, to be the top prospect in all baseball. All five of these guys have a chance to be impact players in the big leagues.
#5 – Eddie Rosario – 2B (22)
Rosario was the Twins 4th round pick in 2010 out of high school in Puerto Rico. Since then he has hit every step of the way. He made a name for himself in 2011 with Elizabethton. He was the Appy League Player of the Year when he hit .337/.397/.670 (1.068) with nine doubles, nine triples and a league-leading 21 home runs. He also stole 17 bases and played a terrific centerfield. He went to Instructs where he was moved to second base. At Beloit, he hit .296/.345/.490 (.835) with 32 doubles and 12 homers despite missing about a month after being struck in the mouth by a batting practice line drive. After a strong season in the Puerto Rican Winter League, he played for his country in the WBC. He split the 2013 season between Ft. Myers and New Britain and hit .302/.350/.460 (.810) with 32 doubles, eight triples, and ten home runs. Clearly he is not a big fan of walking, but he has the quickest hands I’ve seen. He is able to watch pitches longer because he can still get the bat through the zone. He also uses the whole field well. He has a lot of pop, particularly for a middle infielder. Of course therein lies the question about Rosario. Can he play second base in the big leagues? There are certainly opinions on both sides. In general, I believe that he could be an adequate big league second baseman because he is such a good athlete. However, he will likely never be a good defensive second baseman. That said, he is already a very good defensive outfielder with a very strong arm. He is getting some good experience in the Arizona Fall League, and will then play in the Puerto Rican Winter League again. He is likely to receive a non-roster invite to spring training with the Twins.
#4 – Kohl Stewart – RH SP (19)
The fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft, the Twins were thrilled Stewart fell into their lap. The 6-3 right-hander from Houston was best known for having signed to play quarterback at Texas A&M behind Johnny Football. Instead, he signed with the Twins and started his professional baseball career. He is an exceptional athlete with a very strong arm. He has a fastball that sits between 92 and 95, but he has hit 97 mph at times as well. He also has a very good slider in the upper-80s. He has four pitches, but the other two will likely be little better than average. He posted a 1.69 ERA in his 16 innings in the GCL. He then made just one start for the Elizabethton Twins and gave up one hit and one walk while striking out eight in four scoreless innings. In his 20 pro innings in 2013, he walked four and struck out 24. Unfortunately, he was shut down with some shoulder soreness and did not pitch in the Instructional Leagues. It is not believed to be serious and he should be ready by spring training.
#3 – Alex Meyer – RH SP (23)
Meyer was the first round pick (23rd overall) of the Washington Nationals in 2011 out of the University of Kentucky. Just about a year ago, he came to the Twins in a one-for-one swap for Denard Span. At 6-9 and 220 pounds, he certainly comes with a mound presence. More important, he has four above average pitches and the ability to be completely dominant. After missing two months this season with a shoulder injury, he returned and after three rehab starts hit 100 mph with a pitch in his first start coming back to New Britain. His fastball sits between 94 and 98 and does hit 100 with some regularity. He also has a terrific slider that could become better as he gains more and more control. He also has a slow curve and a good changeup. With New Britain, he was 4-3 with a 3.21 ERA. In 70 innings, he walked 29 and struck out 84. He is now pitching in the Arizona Fall League to make up some lost innings. He has a chance to be a true ace. He is another guy who should receive an invite to big league spring training. (and, I can't tell you how close I was to moving him up to #2, but I just couldn't pull the trigger.)
#2 – Miguel Sano – 3B (20)
The Twins surprised a lot of people in October of 2009 when they were the team that signed the top foreign player, Sano, to a bonus of $3.15 million. He appeared in the pre-2010 Baseball America’s Top 100 at #94. In the years since, he has ranked #60, #18 and was the ninth overall prospect before the 2013 season. When the list comes out next spring, he will certainly be in the top five, if not the top three. His career has been directly tied to that of Eddie Rosario. They played together in the GCL in 2010. In 2011, Rosario was the Appy League Player of the Year, but Sano hit .292/.352/.637 (.988) with 18 doubles, seven triples, and 20 home runs. At Beloit in 2012, he hit .258/.373/.521 (.893) with 28 doubles, four triples, 28 home runs and 100 RBI. Combined, between Ft. Myers and New Britain in 2013, Sano hit .280/.382/.610 (.992) with 30 doubles, five triples, 35 homers and 103 RBI. Those are just the numbers. Sano is more than just the numbers. He is 6-4 and about 225 pounds. He’s as powerful as anyone in baseball. My sense is that he won’t hit for real high average, but he will take walks, he will hit home runs and he will strike out. A lot. He could hit .270, get on base 40% of the time and hit 40 or more home runs. Defense is the other part of the equation. After posting an .884 fielding percentage at Beloit in 2012. In 2013, his fielding percentage jumped to .932. His errors dropped from 42 to 23. His hands have become much softer. He now plays a very deep third base because he has one of the strongest arms in baseball. Will Sano be the Twins third baseman in 2014? Absolutely, yes! When? If you were to put the over/under at the All-Star break, I would be the over (meaning, before), unless the Twins want to keep him eligible for the Futures Game at Target Field. (Hopefully his elbow injury will not affect his timeline in 2014!)
#1 – Byron Buxton – OF (19)
Go back and review the profiles of Miguel Sano, or Alex Meyer and possibly Kohl Stewart. In many organizations, each of them could be the number one prospect. However, if you’re in an organization with Byron Buxton, then #2 is the best you can hope for. I went down to Cedar Rapids for their Opening Weekend. I assumed Buxton would be talented and look the part, but in my mind, he wasn’t going to surpass Sano atop my prospect list. About two days later, my mind was changed. Byron Buxton was the best prospect I had ever seen (and I saw Mike Trout in Beloit, playing for Cedar Rapids, three years earlier). Speed may be his most obvious tool. In that initial series, I saw him beat out regular ground balls to shortstop, third base and even second base. He also stole 55 bases (in 74 attempts). Not bad considering it is an area that he can improve. I saw him show remarkable range in centerfield. We also saw his range in the game that appeared on Fox Sports North, and not just on The Play. Despite currently being 6' 2" and a lean 190, he is very strong, very powerful. I saw one of the several home runs that he hit in Cedar Rapids that went out of the stadium and across the street. Most of his home runs were line drives. His approach at the plate is remarkable. He is very patient at the plate. Like Joe Mauer, he often takes the first pitch and isn’t afraid to hit with two strikes. He uses the entire field. I could go on and on, but the things that people with the Twins organization stress are Buxton’s makeup and work ethic, pointing out that he wants to be great. Between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers, he hit .334/.424/.520 (.944) with 19 doubles, 18 triples, 12 homers and 78 RBI. Buxton will likely start 2013 in New Britain. I will be completely shocked if he is not in the big leagues by mid-July.
Thank you for reading part Part 10 of my ten-part series highlighting my Top 50 Twins Prospects. Hopefully you have learned something about a few of these guys and have enjoyed reading them. 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
Part 9: 6-10