Friday, January 2, 2015

2015 Twins offseason top 40 prospects list: 16-20

Today is the fifth installment in the top 40 Twins' Off-season prospects countdown, getting into the top 20 so the descriptions of the player and their rankings are a bit more detailes.  You can find all installments here in reverse chronological order.  Previous rankings: 36-40, 31-35 , 26-30 and 21-25.  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.   This list has 3 prospects that were not featured in my top 40 lists before:


20. Engelb Vielma SS (21) SHB, DOB: 6/22/1994, 5'11", 155 lbs

Vielma was signed by the Twins as a 17 year old International Free Agent from Venezuela.  Before last season he played professional baseball for 2 seasons, starting in the DSL at 2012 and moving to the GCL and Elizabethton in 2013.  Once he moved to the States, he captured the eye of the scouts with his ability on the field, with some of them proclaiming him a top 10 Twins' prospect.  As usually, I do not buy into hype, unless I see someone play or results of play and his combined .234/.318/.253 in the Twins' Rookie League teams in 2013, left me enough lukewarm feeling about him to be included in my top 2014 off-season list.   I had the opportunity to have a good look at Vielma last Spring Training and wrote the following :

Engelb Vielma.  This is the single one 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 is 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 that he will move into second in my SS rankings after 6th overall ranked Jorge Polanco.  

Indeed, he would have been second in my SS rankings in my 2014 mid-season list , had the Twins not drafted a SS on the first round of the 2014 draft.   Vielma moved to Cedar Rapids this season and hit .266/.313/.323 in 112 games, while continuing his solid SS play.  At first, that slash line seems a bit disappointing; however subtracting a record cold Midwest April when he hit .187/.247/.227, he hit .283/.326/.391 for the season, very respectable for a player who is a year and a half younger than the league.  Furthermore, this included his .231/.268/.282 July when he was shaking out a concussion.   

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%). Vielma will likely begin 2015 in Fort Myers as a 22 year old.  If he continues to improve with the bat, he will fly through the Twins' system, but do not expect any power numbers, other than doubles and triples from him.


19. Jorge Fernandez C (--) SHB, DOB: 3/30/1994, 6'3", 188 lbs.

Fernandez was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 7th round of the 2012  Draft from International Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico.  In 2012 and 2013 seasons he played in the GCL, where he put lack luster numbers with the bat (.263/.288/.293 and .236/.276/.398 respectively) as a younger than the league player.  In 2014 he moved up to Elizabethton at a league average age and had a breakthrough season hitting .321/.361/.440 to produce the second highest OPS for a Catcher in the Twins' organization (Hint: read on to find out who had the highest).  Was that enought to propel him in the top 20 of the Twins' prospect rankings?  No. Fernandez is an interesting prospect.  He has very good approach and mechanics at the plate and as a switch hitter, he is lethal against RHP (.341/.367/.462 as a LHB vs .222/.333/.333 as a RHB.)

The Twins might see him as a 1B/OF because of his tall, slender build, but he has made improvements as a Catcher and I think that he can stick at the position.  Biggest problems right now with the glove are a. his ability to block passed balls, but this will come with time, and b. his ability to throw out runners, which I think it is more of a learning than arm strength issue and this is also something that he can develop into.   I foresee at least Pinto-like numbers with the bat from the Left side, as he fills in, with a better glove than Pinto, as his catching insticts develop, as long as the Twins allow him to be a Catcher.  That's the reason he is in my Twins' top 20 prospects list.

18. Chih-Wei Hu RHP (--) RHSP, DOB: 11/4/1993, 6'1", 209 lbs.

Chih-Wei Hu was singed from Taiwan by Twins for $220,000 in 2012.  Last season he played for the Gulf League Twins, sometimes starting, sometimes relieving, pitching 36.7 innings, striking out 39 and walking 8. (0.982 WHIP, 2.45 ERA, 1.99 FIP.)  As a young pitcher in Taiwan he had the opportunity to represent his country in International Tournaments and was more polished that hitters his age who were touching wooden bats for the firs time, so, even though impressive, his 2013 numbers had a huge grain of salt attached them.  However his season he started in Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids and both his numbers and stuff improved.  He always had 4 pitches:  Fastball (low 90s), Curve and 2 changes (one a slow palmball).

This season, his fastball improved both in velocity (up to mid 90s) and movement and has been commanding his off-speed stuff better.  In 71 IP between Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids, the 20 year old had 64 Ks and 15 BBs, for a 2.15 ERA, 0.873 WHIP and 2.33 FIP.  What you don't see in those numbers are a 62:36 (or 1.72) Ground Out to Fly Out ratio, which is a result of his ground ball inducing FB, hammer curve and palmball. One thing to consider is that his BABIP was .243, which was the result of all those ground balls.  He was 2 years young for the Midwest League, but his K% was not stellar (22.2%)  Add to the considerations the way he is built (think a young Carlos Silva,) and there are some considerations about his future.  A Carlos Silva is a good comparable for his potential (mid of rotation starter) and, like Carlos Silva, to reach it, Hu needs to have impeccable control and induce many ground balls.  So, even though, a lot of people will see his numbers and rank him even higher, I do have serious concerns. 

17. Mitch Garver C (17), RHB, DOB: 1/15/1991, 6'1", 220 lbs

Mitch was the Twins' 9th round pick in the 2013 draft from the University of New Mexica and was not much on the radar last off-season after a .243/.313/.366 performance in Elizabethton, while 1.5 years older than the league average.  Garver really impressed me last Spring Break with his bat, his athleticism and his ability to handle pitchers, thus he was my highest ranked catching prospect in the Twins' organization in my mid-season list as he is in this list.  Puting the highest OPS for a Catcher in the organization .289/.399/.481, does not hurt. He was also 1.5 years too old for the Midwest League, but displayed great selectivity (61:65 BB:K ratio, that translated to an OBP a hair below .400) which is not really related to level of play.  He has excellent power (hit 16 HR in 430 AB and .183 IsoP.)

Mitch looks like a catcher and has good insticts behind the plate.  He did spent time as a DH but the Twins rotate their catchers to DH in the low level leagues.  Mitch will start 2015 at Fort Myers and might finish in Chattanooga, depending on performance and health and how his bat responds to higher level of play, potentially reaching the majors for a cup of coffee in 2016 and maybe as the Twins starting catcher in 2017.  Further improving his ability to call a game, will be critical for his development.  His 17th overall ranking is quite conservative and a reflection of Garver being older for the league.  He has four tools (and average speed) so with a good showing in 2015, I expect him to break into the Twins' top ten prospect list.

16. Jake Reed RHP (--) RHRP, DOB: 9/29/1992, 6'2", 190 lbs.

Jake Reed was drafted by the Twins in the 5th round of the 2014 draft from the University of Oregon and has raised eyebrows from the first to his last pitch in his first season as a pro.  He started his career at Elizabethton (0.5 years older than the league) where he pitched 6 innings in 4 games, allowing a single hit, striking out 8 batters (0.00 ERA, 0.167 WHIP.)  He moved up to Cedar Rapids, where a year younger than league average, he pitched 25 innings, had 31 Ks and 3 BBs (0.36 ERA and 0.520 WHIP).  His pro season was not over, as he represented the Twins in the Arizona Fall League, pitching 12.7 innings, striking out 10 and walking 3 (0.71 ERA, 1.03 WHIP.)  Jake started his 2014 season as a junior in Oregon, pitching 31 innings, striking out 34 and walking 15 (1.95 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.)  His full 2014 season in all of his 4 stops, he pitched 80.7 innings in 61 games, accumulating 22 saves, striking out 83 and walking 22 (and most of those in College) while pitching at an ERA close to 1.00 and WHIP under 1.00.  His 0.452 WHIP and 0.29 ERA with Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids were the lowest for any pitcher in the Twins organization.

Reed has two pitches:  a plus plus fastball with a lot of movement that sits in the mid 90s and touches 97-98, and an above average slider in the low 80s.  The biggest change he made from Oregon to the pros was to change his high effort delivery to a simple delivery.  This increased his command and control (15 BB in 31 IP in College vs 7 BBs in 49.7 IP in the Pros.)  Also the changes in his mechanics added about 2-3 mph to his FB compared to College.  With additional work on the slider and the development of a third pitch (changeup?)  Reed will be well on his way to being a late innings reliever for the Twins.  Will likely start 2015 in Fort Myers with a promotion to Chattanooga mid season.  Both in these rankings and in the organization, there is only one reliever ranked higher than Reed.






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