• Jonathan Mayo on Minnesota Twins Prospects - Pt 1

    Recently I had the opportunity to interview MLB.com senior writer Jonathan Mayo about the Minnesota Twins farm system. Since joining MLB.com, heís produced an annual Top 100 prospect list, several shows on MLB radio and Around the Minors, a radio show that is all about prospects. In part one of the three part series, I talk to him about the Twins' farm system as a whole, where certain prospects are on his Top 100 list and whether this year will be different for Kyle Gibson & Aaron Hicks.

    CF Ė First off, where do you currently rank the Twins farm system in comparison to all of the other teams in the league?

    Jonathan Mayo Ė Well, we donít do an ďofficialĒ organizational ranking. But that being said, I donít think youíre going out on a limb by saying that they are clearly at or near the top of any list if you were going to put one together.

    CF Ė The MLB.com Top 100 list that you put together is coming out, I donít know how far into it you are, but how many Twins prospects can we expect to see on there potentially?

    JM Ė Ohhhh I canít tell you that. (laughs)

    CF Ė I had to try.

    JM Ė I think if you were to say that you would see several Twins on the list youíd be fine. I donít know how you define several.

    CF Ė I could probably think of three.

    JM Ė Three is a few, I can say that there are more than that, but thatís as far as Iíll go.

    CF Ė Fair enough. I know that thereís a reveal and a special on the MLB Network coming up soon.

    JM- January 23rd Ė 10 pm EST, 9 pm central on the MLB Network, and the entire top 100 will be on the site right afterwards.

    CF Ė Do you believe that the struggles that they saw with [Kyle] Gibson in the majors and with [Aaron] Hicks are going to deter rushing guys to the majors? I know that was a big discussion with Hicks jumping from AA to the majors and didnít live up to the expectations people had for him. Will the Twins be more likely to hold guys back because of those experiences, or is it more of a player-by-player basis?

    JM Ė I think itís a player-by-player basis. The Twins have always been good at that. There was a lull when they werenít producing many players. I think that Hicks was the head of the group in some respects, and he might have been rushed a little bit because they didnít really have a center fielder. I think they felt that he could handle it, he had handled some failure in the minors, and was just starting to figure things out. With no disrespect to Aaron Hicks, Buxton has already been much more productive than Hicks in his first season, than Hicks ever was in the minors.

    I donít think you can let what Aaron Hicks did or what Kyle Gibson - coming off of Tommy Johns surgery - did dictate decisions on other players. If Alex Meyer is throwing strikes at the beginning of the year, heís going to see a lot of big league time. If Sano is lighting up AA and there is a need at third? I think you could see him. I think the situation of the individual is going to dictate it more than anything else.

    CF Ė Speaking of Gibson and Hicks, do you think that the potential is still there that made them top prospects? I know they are both relatively young guys, but do you see them starting the 2014 season in Rochester or do they have a real shot at making the opening day roster in Minnesota?

    JM Ė Aaron Hicks is going to be 24 for all of the 2014 season, but even if he goes down to AAA for a little while, heís not that old. It gets more difficult for guys who have had struggles at the big league level, to be that guy who was there and then left. Itís not like they have guys to play center field in Minnesota. Alex Presley? Iím from Pittsburgh, so I actually like Alex Presley a little bit. I think heís a very good fourth outfielder, but I donít think you want him playing centerfield every day. I think that there is still the opportunity for Hicks to win that job again; itíll be interesting to see what happens. If he has another really good spring training, and shows that heís made some adjustments with what he struggled with in the big leagues last year I think he wins that job.

    As for Gibson, with some of the additions that theyíve brought in with Nolasco and Hughes, heís going to have to work his way in. I still think that he has every chance of being a big league starter, but heís 26; heís no youngster anymore. I mean thatís still young enough, but that prospect clock is ticking. I think he probably goes in and competes for the back end of the rotation, and if he pitches well, then he has a chance. Heís never had the highest ceiling in the world, but he seemed to have a lower floor before he got hurt.

    Keep in mind that the learning curve for Tommy John, itís shortened considerably in terms of the recovery time. Not everyone comes back throwing as well as they did before. That happens to some guys it seems, but definitely not everybody. Heís going to be another year removed; he could come back and look like the guy who was about ready to hit the rotation before he got hurt. He certainly can pitch his way into the rotation, and I certainly wouldnít give up hope on either one of them.

    Truth be told, Gibson didnít have that much time in the big leagues last season. Itís not like it was this huge resume of work to judge him by. If you really want to be optimistic about it you could say, ďhe was working his way backĒ and was basically rehabbing at the highest level of the minors and pitched his way to the big leagues. It used to be that the first year was almost like a mulligan, you just get your innings in, get your work in, building your arm strength back, get your feel for your pitches back., which is often the last thing that comes. So the fact that he pitched well enough to get up to the big leagues and make 10 starts, thatís pretty good.

    Part 2 and Parts 3 of this interview will be published on 1/9 and 1/14.
    This article was originally published in blog: Interview with MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo - Part One started by Christopher Fee
    Comments 22 Comments
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Christopher Fee View Post
      Iím from Pittsburgh, so I actually like Alex Presley a little bit. I think heís a very good fourth outfielder, but I donít think you want him playing centerfield every day.
      I hope that Ryan has a viable Plan C for CF this year. Jonathan Mayo seems to value Presley's potential contribution to the 2014 Twins more realistically than the GM apparently does. He's right, while AP is a nice 4th OFer, the Twins appear to be coming up short yet again in CF to open the season. Based on how the season ended for Hicks, you gotta think he's going to have to spend 1-3 months in Roc. to prove himself.
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Jonathan Mayo seems to value Presley's potential contribution to the 2014 Twins more realistically than the GM apparently does.
      I'm pretty sure TR and the FO realizes what they have in Presley, a stop gap.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      It's nice to see a national analyst remind us that half a year of struggles doesn't sink Gibson or Hicks. In both cases, they've faced a double-whammy:
      1. They didn't experience immediate success and
      2. They suddenly look squeezed at their position.

      I don't think #1 should surprise anyone too much. First of all, lots of guys struggle in their first half year. And in both cases, they faced significant challenges beyond that of players making their MLB debuts: Hicks skipped AAA while Gibson was working his way back from Tommy John and approaching (exceeding) an innings limit.

      #2 is bad luck for them. I'm not worried about Presley limiting Hicks playing time in CF; Presley isn't going to ever have the firepower to hold off Hicks if he starts tearing up AAA. I'm more worried about Hicks finding his way into the rotation, just because this organization is now so worried about it's rotation that you can see them hanging onto guys for too long, especially if they're paying them mutli-year deals.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      You clearly mean Gibson, and I agree.....KC or Pelfrey blocking Gibson, ugh.

      As for Hicks, his struggles were historically bad. I believe Fangraphs looked and could find zero players that were that bad their first month that ever turned out good, but that might have been an offhand remark in a chat...... The bigger issue for me last year was that his defense looked a lot less impressive than we had been led to believe. That should not have been effected by being in MN at all.
    1. zenser's Avatar
      zenser -
      If Sano is lighting up AA and there is a need at third? I think you could see him.
      I was thinking he would start in AAA. Would anyone else be shocked if he started the season in AA?
    1. twinsin17's Avatar
      twinsin17 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      The bigger issue for me last year was that his defense looked a lot less impressive than we had been led to believe. That should not have been effected by being in MN at all.
      I agree he had a somewhat rough adjustment his first couple weeks last year but then he started taking better routes to balls and his D improved significantly. Hicks also showed off a cannon for an arm, which could be better than advertised. If Hicks can hit .250 with the plate discipline he displayed in the minors, combined with a little pop and some solid baserunning and SB totals he would be a perennial starting OF for us. The jury is still out if he can do that, however.
    1. amjgt's Avatar
      amjgt -
      "CF – I could probably think of three."

      "I could probably think of four" might have gotten a more interesting response.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      #2 is bad luck for them. I'm not worried about Presley limiting Hicks playing time in CF; Presley isn't going to ever have the firepower to hold off Hicks if he starts tearing up AAA. I'm more worried about Hicks finding his way into the rotation, just because this organization is now so worried about it's rotation that you can see them hanging onto guys for too long, especially if they're paying them mutli-year deals.
      Totally agree. I worry that Gibson is going to have a MUCH harder time getting back into the rotation than Hicks will into the lineup. If anything, it should be the other way around.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Guess I'm not that worried about Gibson being potentially blocked. People act like all a MLB team needs is 5 starting pitchers every year. How often do the Twins not need at least 8 or 9 to spend significant time in the rotation at some point?

      Gibson will get his chances. If he does really well, he'll stay, regardless of what Correia, Pelfrey, et al, do. If Gibson doesn't pitch well enough to clearly put himself above those guys in the pecking order at some point this season, then that says a lot.

      At some point, you have to stop talking about a guy's potential and start talking about his actual performance. Might not be there yet on Gibson, but I would think a year from now we'll be getting close to that point.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by zenser View Post
      I was thinking he would start in AAA. Would anyone else be shocked if he started the season in AA?
      I assume he will start back at AA.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post
      At some point, you have to stop talking about a guy's potential and start talking about his actual performance. Might not be there yet on Gibson, but I would think a year from now we'll be getting close to that point.
      Righ, but as Mayo points out he's also 26. So we need to see that actual performance in the big leagues, not AAA. Hence the blocking problem.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Righ, but as Mayo points out he's also 26. So we need to see that actual performance in the big leagues, not AAA. Hence the blocking problem.
      I agree and, as I wrote, I see no reason why he wouldn't get big league starts this year to prove himself, with or without Correia and Pelfrey around. To think that, because the Twins have 4 veteran SPs now, only 1 other SP will get any opportunities the whole season is just not very reasonable. Will he get 30 starts at the MLB level? Probably not. But I would expect him to get enough to sink or swim.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post
      I agree and, as I wrote, I see no reason why he wouldn't get big league starts this year to prove himself, with or without Correia and Pelfrey around. To think that, because the Twins have 4 veteran SPs now, only 1 other SP will get any opportunities the whole season is just not very reasonable. Will he get 30 starts at the MLB level? Probably not. But I would expect him to get enough to sink or swim.
      I agree. I would be very surprised if it's not an organizational priority to position Gibson and Meyer to be penciled into the rotation come opening day 2015. They probably are not all that concerned about when it happens, as long as it does.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post
      I agree and, as I wrote, I see no reason why he wouldn't get big league starts this year to prove himself, with or without Correia and Pelfrey around. To think that, because the Twins have 4 veteran SPs now, only 1 other SP will get any opportunities the whole season is just not very reasonable. Will he get 30 starts at the MLB level? Probably not. But I would expect him to get enough to sink or swim.
      I hope so, my issue isn't that he reaches a certain number of starts, but that he gets an extended number of them. Getting 5 here and 5 there to a total of 15 isn't the same as getting 15 in a row IMO.

      We've seen too much of that chunked opportunities lately for my liking.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Gibson isn't an Indy ball signing, a relatively cheap international signing or even a low draft pick. The Twins have invested a fair amount of money in him and I think he'll get opportunities. But even if it's "chunks" of 5 starts here and there, it's up to him to do something with those opportunities. That's a month of starts. If you stink the place up with a month of starts, it's not unreasonable to expect the organization to plug someone else in to your spot.
    1. abnormal_1's Avatar
      abnormal_1 -
      Just an observation regarding the Twins starting rotation.

      Nolasco - Signed 4 years
      Hughes - Signed 3 years
      Pelfrey - Signed 2 years
      Corriea - 1 year

      This means there is a 5th slot open to be won this year. With Gibson on year two after TJ I expect him to be better (Gibson go out and get that please!) and if Alex Meyer is lighting it up early on look for one of Corriea/Pelfrey to be moved out of the way (1 year 5 million isn't much for a psuedo reliable #4 pitcher trade Corriea mid season and two slots are open.)

      2015 rotation then is something like this (placed in alpha order not necessarily rotation sequence):

      -Gibson
      -Hughes
      -Meyer
      -Nolasco
      -Pelfrey
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post
      Gibson isn't an Indy ball signing, a relatively cheap international signing or even a low draft pick. The Twins have invested a fair amount of money in him and I think he'll get opportunities. But even if it's "chunks" of 5 starts here and there, it's up to him to do something with those opportunities. That's a month of starts. If you stink the place up with a month of starts, it's not unreasonable to expect the organization to plug someone else in to your spot.
      I disagree. When you bounce him back and forth constantly you aren't giving him the best opportunity. Usually what you do is you create more questions than you answered. (see: Parmelee)

      As you said, they've invested a lot in him, they should also invest the most ideal opportunity into him as well. Not bounce him around during non-contending seasons and still have unanswered questions.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Comparing Gibson to Parmelee is comparing apples to oranges. If you're questioning the overall consistency of how Twins handle players that's the subject of a different thread IMO.

      With Deduno coming back from shoulder surgery and unlikely being ready on time, there is no reason to believe Gibson won't will be given every opportunity to win to the 5th spot, as it should be.
    1. Twins_Fan_For_Life's Avatar
      Twins_Fan_For_Life -
      [QUOTE=Jim Crikket;189605]Gibson will get his chances. If he does really well, he'll stay, regardless of what Correia, Pelfrey, et al, do. If Gibson doesn't pitch well enough to clearly put himself above those guys in the pecking order at some point this season, then that says a lot.


      I agree. Gibson will be 26 all season, and needs to out-perform Correia, Pelfrey and the rest of the fray. If he can't break into a mediocre/bad rotation at age 26, he may never be a pitcher that can contribute to a winning team.

      I expect him to come back healthy, another year removed from TJ. He will have his opportunities to win a spot in the rotation.
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      Throwing in my response to the article here, joining the masses.

      I'm not worried about Gibson being blocked. If he pitches well enough the Twins will find starts for him. I think it's likely (read as ALMOST ASSURED) that someone will get hurt and there will be a need for a guy like Gibson/Diamond/Worley to come in and make starts. Obviously with Diamond and Worley out of options, where they start the season will be a big question (especially if they get put on waivers and claimed).

      As far as Hicks goes, I like what Mayo had to say. I still like Hicks, and at 24, there's no reason to give up yet. I know we are all counting on Byron Buxton to come and be the answer at CF for a long time, but Hicks could provide considerable value as a corner OF guy, bench bat/4OF, and ideally would be a great guy to have roaming CF until Buxton is ready to assume those duties. Of course, I was a huge proponent of Joe Benson, and we all know how that ended. Pour JB, just couldn't seem to put his immense potential and talent together at the higher levels, and that beautiful hair. (author sheds a tear and takes a moment of silence...)

      There is a lot to be excited about as far as prospects go for this organization, and while there may rightly be some hesitation over both Gibson and Hicks, neither should fall by the wayside. Don't give up on them, at least not yet.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.