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  • Spring Training Report: Top Prospects Galore

    The (big) boys were out of town today and this left only the two A-level squads in action at the Lee County Sports Complex fields, playing the A and Advanced A level Orioles' squads.

    One of the things that needs to be noted is that these squads do not see each other in regular season competition. The Twins' Advanced A team, the Fort Myers Miracle, is in the Florida State League, whereas the Orioles' Advanced A team, the Frederick Keys, is in the Carolina League. The Twins' A team, the Cedar Rapids Kernels, is in the Midwest League and the O's A team, the Delmarva Shorebirds, is in the Southern Atlantic League. Even their higher level short season teams are in different leagues: The Elizabethton Twins are in the Rookie Appalachian League, whereas as the Aberdeen IronBirds are in the Short-Season A, New York-Pennsylvania League. So the players (and the coaches) are not really familiar with each other.

    ~~~ Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch ~~~

    Another fun thing about today was that there were nine of my top 40 Twins' prospects playing today and at least 3 more players who will receive consideration for next season: Numbers 8 (Jose Berrios), 10 (Stephen Gonsalves), 11 (Ryan Eades), 12 (Felix Jorge), 13 (Travis Harrison), 16 (Max Kepler), 18 (Adam Walker), 24 (DJ Hicks) and 26 (Tyler Duffey). Here is what I saw from them today:

    Jose Berrios, was on top of his game. He probably gained a couple inches of height from last season and his fastball has gained a few notches. He was throwing easy 94-96 mph four seamers, his curveball was its usual plus pitch (but probably the third best curve by a Twins' pitcher today; more on that later) and his changeup is improving. He struck out the side in the first inning and cruised after that. He is a solid pitcher for that number 8 ranking, who might move a bit higher if he shows some endurance and pitches a bunch of innings at Fort Myers this season.

    Stephen Gonsalves, my 10th ranked prospect, threw the single nastiest pitch on both fields today: his 12-6 slow 69-73 mph curveball is a devastating pitch. And coming from a tall lanky lefty who is all arms and legs, it is even harder to hit. A solid 89-91 mph two seamer and a good high 70s changeup complement his offerings. I have Gonsalves as the highest ranked LHP prospect in the Twins' system, and unless I get really flabbergasted by Luis Thorpe, it will remain the case. That curveball (or any plus plus secondary "out" pitch) is very hard to develop, while adding MPH on one's fastball is easier.

    I admit that I also got a bit of heat when I ranked Ryan Eades as the Twins' 11th best prospect. And the reasons I did are the same reasons that today I think that the ranking is pretty good. He is a very polished pitcher with at least 4 above average pitches. His bread and butter is a 89-92 mph two seamer with crazy movement. Think Deduno, but with better control. Today, the results were not good because he had to throw up in the zone because the home plate umpire did not call the low strike at all, but this is a plus pitch at that level. Add above average to plus slow curve, cutter/slider and change and you get a complete pitcher.

    Felix Jorge (my number 12 prospect) is a guy who a lot of people think is throwing high 90s heat because of the sound of the ball when it hits the glove. He also has a nice frame and fluid delivery and looks like he can throw fast. Here is my mini scouting report in the prospect rankings (go to number 12.) His fastball touched 92 today, but it is a really heavy sinker. This guy is a worm killer. Great downward movement and good horizontal tailing. The breaking ball (called it a slurve back then and I still stand by that) is tight. Second best breaking ball today. Very easy delivery. I think the changeup will improve and I bet he has a four-seamer in his back pocket. Really.

    Keeping with the pitchers and skipping up to number 26: It was good to see Tyler Duffey pitch and I have this feeling in the back of my head he will be a reliever again. His fastball was up to 95; this is about 4 mph more than his average last season. And that was a very effective pitch. He is also throwing a slider and change, both of which are above average.

    As far as the position players go:

    These two guys (who were first and second on one of the most meaningless stats - RBIs - in the Twins' organization last season) look even bigger this season. Florida State League beware.

    Travis Harrison is in incredible shape. The last couple seasons, he was the prototypical slow power hitter guy, even as a teenager, making people think that he is a corner OF/1B/DH type. This season the Fort Myers (and likely New Britain) fans will be in for a treat. Today he legged out a triple and he has much better range in the field. A total delight to see. Dark horse to shoot up the prospect rankings big time. And he hit in the second hole tonight.

    Speaking of people who will shoot up the rankings (at least mine) here are 3:

    Engelb Vielma. This is the single most unknown superstar-in-the-making in the Twins' organization. He turned two unassisted double plays (one a line out/throw out the other a step on second throw at first) today and he made them seem so easy. Like it's an everyday kind of thing. Looks like his contact tool is getting better. He has crazy, nutty speed and as a cutoff guy, he almost threw a guy out at third on a easy triple. Very strong arm. And he has room to grow. I think he will move into second in my SS rankings after 6th overall ranked Jorge Polanco.

    The other two guys are catchers who just look like ball players: Brian Navarreto (pictured below) and Mitch Garver. All of a sudden, I think the Twins are all right in catcher depth.

    Comments 15 Comments
    1. lightfoot789's Avatar
      lightfoot789 -
      "As far as the position players go:

      These two guys (who were first and second on one of the most meaningless stats - RBIs - in the Twins' organization last season) look even bigger this season. Florida State League beware."

      Although considered a meaningless stat - Each RBI leader played a significant role in helping thier respective teams win. ALL of them ALL STARS & Many of them MVPs and /or Finalist.

      2013 Chris Davis
      2012 Miguel Cabrera
      2011 Matt Kemp
      2010 Miguel Cabrera
      2009 Prince Fielder
      2008 Ryan Howard
      2007 Alex Rodriguez
      2006 Ryan Howard
      2005 David Ortiz
      2004 Miguel Tejada

      Joe Mauer has achieved an OBP of over .400 in 5 of the last 6 seasons but has yet to score or drive in 100 runs. I believe being the only player to do so in multiple years. My point being: League RBI leaders aren't necessarily a bad thing. You need those guys to drive in the Joe Mauer's. Getting over 100 RBI helped Willingham earn a Silver Slugger Award and gain respect amongst MN fans.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Moderator's note: the original poster made a side comment about RBI, a responder made a counter-argument. Interesting, perhaps, but let's not turn this thread into a debate about the side comment; start a new thread if you feel so-motivated.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Thanks for the terrific report and great pictures, thrylos. You brightened my morning.
    1. Monkeypaws's Avatar
      Monkeypaws -
      Great write-up - thank you.

      Do you really think Berrios grew? That would be a really late growth spurt no?
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Quote Originally Posted by Monkeypaws View Post
      Great write-up - thank you.

      Do you really think Berrios grew? That would be a really late growth spurt no?
      I kept growing until my low 20's. Left High School at 6'0. Ended at 6'4".
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Great report and a also a very encouraging report. The first thing that jumps out is that Berrios grew and that his fastball has gained a couple clicks. That’s big. It seemed some scouts were cautious about his ceiling because he lacked height. It would sure be nice to see him start to track as a potential true #1. It would also be nice compensation for Cuddyer.

      I have thought (hoped) Gonsalves would be a steal from early on. Hopefully, that optimism comes to fruition. He has the frame to develop a bit more velocity. I will be watching him closely. He could be a very important part of a future contender. Meyer, Stewart, and Berrios should be solid. How big would it be if a couple from the group of Gonsalves, Eades, Jorge, Thorp, and Gibson reach their ceiling. The #5 pick hopefully figures in here too.

      Harrison’s improved physique is also very encouraging. That gives us more flexibility and more options. IT could help facilitate moving Hicks for pitching if he can play the outfield effectively. Of course, if he can stick at 3rd now it helps in the event Sano can’t stick at 3rd. It just nice to see the young man put in the work and even nicer that he appears to be more athletic for the effort.
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      Very nice wrap up and very encouraging!

      Not sure I can ever remember the Twins having so many high quality pitchers in their system. Certainly not since the early 80's when we had the likes of Banks, Gasser, Bumgarner and a few others. Unfortunately, for various and whatever reasons, tha wave never really turned out. Hopefully better luck this time. The sheer volume of talented young arms should bear out better results this time.

      I'm a little disappointed in word of Harrison playing, reportedly, so much OF vs 3B. While he could turn out to be a very good OF ultimately and a real power and RBI threat, I see no reason to move him off 3B at this time. I'm sure Sano's recovery will be full and he'll prove to be at least a solid 3B. If that holds true, then a Harrison conversion shouldn't prove all that difficult. For now, as insurance, even as a tradeable commodity, I believe he should concentrate mostly on the hot corner.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Re: Berrios. He grew 2 inches easily and he gained muscle as well. Remember, he is still a teenager (19.) Plenty of room to grow. Some kids keep growing (vertically I mean) until they are 22-23. Last year he was listed at 6'0" (generously). I walked by him yesterday when he was not pitching when standing with the other kids watching the minor league game and he looks 6'2"ish.

      Re: Gonsalves and his fastball. Gonsalves (and not sure if you can tell from that picture) is really thin and has very long appendages and he throws them all over during his delivery. So what a hitter is seeing is legs and arms and then that fastball drops around knee low with decent movement and it looks like a bullet with that delivery. This is a guy who can make a living with a low 90s FB. If I remember correctly, Frankie V's fastball was about that level but his secondary stuff complemented it and made it look faster. I think that this is the case with Gonsalves as well. And, yes, he has a lot of room to grow.

      Another thing I forgot to mention in these reports (just too many stimuli and thoughts around here and when you sit back in the hotel to write for half to one hour, things get passed by...) I did talk about Harrison's transformation. I did not see him pitch (just drills), but his co-supplementary round pick, Hudson Boyd, also looks really good. Harrison never had a weight issue. He had an agility/speed issue. Boyd did have a weight issue. He looks fit now. I hope that translates into numbers soon...
    1. Larsbars08's Avatar
      Larsbars08 -
      Great write up, it's always great to hear these little observations that you wouldn't otherwise ever hear about. How much getting in better shape (e.g. BSOHL stories) will make these some of these guys better is a little questionable, but it certainly can't hurt and probably will help. I had only heard of Vielma a little bit before Keith Law put him on the Twins top 15 prospect list. Always good to see the non-elite tier guys improving and doing well.
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      I hope these guys stay healthy and dominate. I am looking forward to the minor league season even more than the Twins this year. I hope the depth just keeps rolling in and moving up.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      This is a fun fun read.
      Thanks for the insights.

      Its a big year for Boyd - actually last year was the big year - and he failed. Hopefully he can put it together and get back on track. I predict he will start in the bullpen at CR, but if he looks good in spring, maybe not. Twins spent about 1 MM on the kid in 2011. He might be the only player left from that draft who has a chance to be an impact player.

      Duffy is at 95?!?!? You wouldn't know it by his SO numbers.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Agree with you on your last point, about the catchers. I was incredibly impressed by all three of their Top 10 round pick catchers. I think Stuart Turner will hit and his defense is very impressive. Brian Navarreto has tremendous power, and looks OK behind the plate. He has a very strong arm.

      Mitch Garver is listed as a catcher, but he is getting a lot of work at first base. He's got a good swing.

      Actually, Alex Swim looked solid too. Good behind the plate and a nice swing, took good at bats.

      I think Turner can fly up the system. Navarreto will take a while, but his upside is tremendous!
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      yes. The catching depth is encouraging. Grimes looked good behind the plate as well, yesterday. The thing with Swim, is that he just does not look much like a catcher to me (unlike the other guys I mentioned.) He is kind of small
    1. longstrangetrip's Avatar
      longstrangetrip -
      Really good report, Thrylos. We seem to be as loaded with future + young pitchers as we have ever been, and it's going to be fun to watch these guys develop. If many of them pan out and we continue to have great pitching depth, it's going to put us in a strong dealing position as we become more competitive in 2-3 years. Exciting pitching prospects can bring us the kind of player who can take us to a WS, if we find ourselves in that position mid-summer in a few years.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I really like Grimes. He's done a lot to improve behind the plate in the 1 1/2 years since he made that move. He did play a few innings at 2B as well when I was down there.
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