Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015 Twins offseason top 40 prospects list: 1-5

Today is the eight and last installment in the top 40 Twins' Off-season prospects countdown (other than the overall summary that is coming up next).  You can find all installments here in reverse chronological order.  Previous rankings: 36-40, 31-35 , 26-30 , 21-25 , 16-20 , 11-15 and 6-10. You can find the 2014 off-season summary list here   In these listings in parenthesis, I am including their ranking in the last prospect list, which was the 2014 mid-season list, with "--" if not ranked.  You can find that list here.   Every Twins' fans should know those names, so I am really going emphasize discussion of the rankings here:


5. Jose Berrios RHP (9) RHSP, DOB: 5/27/1994, 6'1", 185 lbs

Jose Berrios was drafted by the Twins in the supplemental first round of the 2012 draft from Papa Juan (PR) High School.  Since he was drafted by the Twins, he had to face criticism about his height, which he answered by being a maniac worker, improving his arsenal every single season and knocking in the door of the majors just 3 seasons after he was drafted.   Berrios has a plus fastball that sits at 93-94 and can get up to 96-97, an above average change and a plus curve ball. He reached Rochester for one start, but likely will begin his 2015 season anchoring the Chattanooga rotation

4. Alex Meyer RHP (3) RHSP, DOB: 1/3/1990, 6'9", 220 lbs.

Meyer was drafted in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft by the Washington Nationals out of the University of Kentucky and traded to the Twins in 2012  for Denard Span.  Meyer is the best pure pitcher in the Twins' organization stuff-wise.  His repertoire includes 4 pitches: a plus plus fastball that averages 94-96 and hits 98-100, a plus to plus plus hard slider at high 80s with a sharp break a slow curve that sits in the low 70s and he learned a low 80s change up recently, which he used last season.  If you do the math, this is 30 mph differential.  He still needs to command his stuff, but think of a RH Randy Johnson, with a slow curve and a change up, as far as stuff goes.  The only things he needs to do, it to challenge batters and keep healthy.   Definite ace potential here.

3. Byron Buxton OF (2) RHB, CF, DOB: 12/18/1993, 6'2", 190 lbs

This and the next ranking will be the major controversies here.  I have been ranking Buxton second to Sano, but right now I feel that another Twins' prospect has surpassed him.   I am not counting Meyer's, Buxton's, and Sano's injuries against them in these rankings.  My question about Buxton is not whether he is injury prone (which is a fair question because his injuries, unlike the ones for Sano and Meyer that were the product of repetitive use, were on the field of play in plays like sliding head first while nursing a wrist and diving into a teammate's knee head first.)   For me the question is not whether Buxton can be the next Rickey Henderson or the next Bo Jackson.  For me the question is whether he can be the next Rickey Henderson, the next Vince Coleman or the next Otis Nixon.  And unless he dominates with the bat above the Midwest League level, which he hasn't done in at least 3 chances, he might be more like Vince Coleman than Rickey Henderson, and unless he can hit the league average above the Midwest League level, he will be more like Otis Nixon.  After last season he hit .212/.281/.404 in 57 PAs in the Arizona Fall League.  This season he hit .240/.313/.405 in 134 PAs at Fort Myers (I am discounted his single unfortunate game in New Britain) and capped it with hitting .263/.311/.298 in 61 PAs in the AFL.  Sorry, folks, this is not the best prospect for the Twins (and you can read my reasoning from last year regarding the Sano/Buxton comparison here,) which takes us to probably what most people would think of as the biggest surprise in this ranking:


2. Jorge Polanco SS (6)  SH, SS, DOB: 7/5/1993, 5'11", 165 lbs.

Polanco was added to the Twins' 40-man roster last offseason to be protected from the rule 5 draft, and had a cup of coffee (mostly warming the bench while getting 8 PA) when the Twins needed someone because of injuries this season.  Unlike the other prospects who saw MLB time, I don't consider him graduating this status, because he just was practically sitting on the bench.  So why Polanco 2 and Buxton 3, other than the fact that I might be crazy?   Simple.  They are the same age, Polanco has outhit Buxton in the higher levels and Polanco's glove is close to becoming elite.  Last thing first:  For some reason, there is a tale that Polanco's glove is not good enough to be a shortstop and he is better fit to be a second baseman, that has been propagated like the one about the guy with the bathtub and ice and kidneys.  Not sure where that came from, but let's look at one number:  Do you remember when I talked about Vielma's glove here and said the following?

How good is Vielma with the glove?  I will let the numbers speak for themselves and the number I would like to use as a criterion of a good SS is the percentage of Put Outs that were double plays.  Omar Visquel, the perennial AL gold glove winner, had a 40% of his Put Outs being double plays, in average of his gold glove years 1994-2001.  Last season for Vielma 39.6% of Put Outs were Double Plays.  In other words, four out of ten outs were in double plays.  I know that defensive metrics like RZR, RangeF, UZR etc are not believable by some people, because it involves a lot of math, but % POs that were double plays, is a very tangible concept.  For comparison's purpose, here are these numbers for the 2014 Twins with more than 50 POs: Escobar 49/130, 37.7%  and Santana 15/53, 28.3% - (Santana's MiLB career numbers are 209/622, 33.6%)

Here are Polanco's Put Outs that were Double Plays this season: 63/120 at Fort Myers (52.5%,) 18/29 (62.1%) at New Britain and 3/3 100% with the Twins.  I hope that this, along with Twins' fans witnessing his soft hands in the majors this year, seals that myth for ever.

This season Polanco hit .291/.364/.415 at Fort Myers in 432 PAs and .281/.323/.342 at New Britain in 157 PAs.  You can check what Buxton did this season in the same levels.   And I would argue that a good fielding shortstop who can hit is much more rare than a good fielding centerfielder who can hit.  Buxton does have more speed.  But he is more injury prone and he has not hit as well as Polanco at the same levels.  That seals it for me...

Polanco will likely start the season as the shortstop at Chatanooga, and will move up to the Twins at least by September.

1. Miguel Sano 3B (1) RH, 3B, DOB: 5/11/1993, 6'34", 235 lbs.

Sano should be regarded the best prospect in the game.  Period. Rationalization here and not much more needed to even discuss.  His hitting will be back, his fielding has been improving.  Likely will start as the Red Wings' third baseman, with an outside possibility of making the Twins during Spring Training. 




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