Monday, January 11, 2016

2016 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list: 16-20

You can find the introductory segment in this series, including my criteria for eligibility to be a prospect and the list of the 2015 top 40 players who graduated as prospects or are not in the system, here.    Here is my 2015 Twins off-season top 40 prospects list (summary of 1-40) for reference.

You can find players 36-40 here, players 31-35 here, players 26-30 here, and players 21-25 here.

20 Felix Jorge RHP (29)
DOB: 1/2/1994; Age: 22
Positions:RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 170 lbs
Acquired: International Free Agent 2/21/2011
Professional Experience: 5; Highest level: A (2014, 2015)

Felix Jorge was signed as an amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2011 for $250,000.  He has been moving along the Twins organization, about a step a season, until 2014 where he had major issues in Cedar Rapids and had to return in Elizabetheton.  He started 2015 agains in Cedar Rapids and was the Kernels' best pitcher, pitching 23 games (22 GS) a team tops 142 IP, had 32 BB (2.03 BB/9) and 114 Ks (7.3 K/9 and 20.3%,) for a 2.79 ERA (3.54 FIP) and 1.056 WHIP (2.67 BABIP).  Jorge came in the organization as a 16 year old with a rare 3 above average pitch mix.   He has a low 90s fastball with good downward movement, which the hitters have a hard time picking up.  Above average slurvy curveball and change up.  He commands all three pitches well, has good control and he mixes pitches well.  One might see his 2015 results and think that Jorge had a break-through season, but his biggest issue surfaced again: endurance.

In the first 11 starts Jorge pitched 70 innings resulting in 2.44 ERA, .195 OBA and 0.90 WHIP; the second half of the season (12 games, 11 starts) pitched 72 innings with considerable drop in performance:  3.13 ERA, .253 OBA and 1.21 WHIP.   Not that his second half was bad, but it was not as good as his first.  He does have mid-rotation potential, but time will tell whether he will have the endurance to be in a major league rotation.

Likely 2016 path: In the Miracle Rotation

ETA: 2018


19 Adam Walker OF (21)
DOB: 10/18/1991; Age: 24
Positions: LF/ RF
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'4", Weight: 225 lbs
Acquired: 3th Round Draft Pick 2012
Professional Experience: 4; Highest level: AA (2015)

There probably is a lot of dissapointment with this ranking, especially by the ones who count the quality of a baseball player based on home runs and RBIs, because those at the things that Walker excells.  His career minor league slash line has been .254/.311/.488 and has been mirrored every season at a new level.  In 2015 in AA Chattanooga, Walker hit .239/.309/.498 with a career high 31 HRs and 106 RBIs, but also career high 34.8 % K% and career low batting average. He did show an improvement in the base paths hitting in a career low for full season ball 8 double plays and stealing a career high 13 bases. 

Another issue with Walker is that he has problems in the field and a relatively weak arm.  To see whether his fielding improves, the Twins switched him last season to Left Field instead of Right, with very similar results.  Walker is a single tool player and it is a good tool; the Twins were afraid that someone might be intrigued by it to select him in the Rule 5 draft that they added him to the 40-man roster.   He really needs work on the plate and on the field to take the next step.  Maybe First Base or DH is where he should be, but those two positions are spoken for in the organization for a while...  It is not out of the question that he will not have a break through season if something "clicks", but it has not clicked yet.  If it doesn't his ceiling will be Steve Balboni, and that is if he cuts down considerably on the strikeouts.

Likely 2016 path: In the Rochester OF mix, might make a September call up or earlier depending on injuries and performance. 

ETA: 2016

18 Daniel Palka OF (--)
DOB: 10/28/1991; Age: 24
Positions: RF/1B
Bats: L, Throws: L
Height: 6'2", Weight: 225 lbs
Acquired: Trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015
Professional Experience: 3; Highest level: A+ (2015)

Daniel Palka was acquired by the Twins from the Arizona Diamondbacks this off-season for C/OF Chris Herrmann.  Palka was the Diamondbacks' third round pick in the 2013 draft.  If the Twins' fans want a comparable, that would be Adam Walker.  Palka is 10 days younger than Walker, has been climbing a step a year in the organization and power is his best tool.  Drafted a season after Walker, his highest level was high A instead of double A, and he hits and throws left.  Palka is a converted first baseman and he is still learning to play the outfield.  Last season in the high A Visalia he hit .280/.352/.532 with 29 HRs, 90 RBI, 24 SB, 56 BB and 164 K (28.5 K%) in 576 PAs. 

Going back to the 1980s, never a Twins' prospect has a season with 29 or more home runs and 24 or more stolen bases.  Palka is a very interesting prospect who might be ranked a bit too low, but I have not seen him play in person, and I am concerned about his strikeouts, which are not as bad as Walker's but definitely a concern point.  An additional concern is that LHPs neutralized him (.213/.285/.352  against LHPs; but he destroyed RHPs .301/.374/.589) which may indicate that there is a possibility that Palka might end up in the strong side of a platoon at some point.

Likely 2016 path:  In the Chattanooga outfield or first base conversation, likely both.

ETA: 2017

17 Lewis Thorpe (11)
DOB: 11/23/1995; Age: 20
Positions: LHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'1", Weight: 160 lbs
Acquired: Signed as an International Free Agent on 7/12/2012
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: A (2014)

Thorpe was signed on July of 2012 by the Twins to the largest bonus ever given for an Australian player, $500,000.   He spend half of 2014 resting and rehabilitating his left UCL, which eventually required Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2015.  Thorpe has 4 pitches, including a plus mid 90s fastball and a plus change up, but 2014, even before the injury was somewhat of a disappointment, showing considerable control issues (a career high 4.5 BB/9) and was fairly ineffective (4.52 FIP).   Not much to say about Thorpe at this point, other than wait and see how his elbow turns out, but there is high enough raw staff and potential to be included in the top 20 prospect list at this point, regardless the many question marks. 

Likely 2016 path:  In the Cedar Rapids rotation, with an outside chance to make the Fort Myers rotation, depending on the elbow and performance

ETA: 2019

16 Jake Reed (16)
DOB: 9/29/1992; Age: 23
Positions: RHP
Bats: R, Throws: R
Height: 6'2", Weight: 190 lbs
Acquired: 5th Round Draft Pick 2014
Professional Experience: 2; Highest level: AA (2015)

Reed's 2015 season was a take of two halves:  First 35 games in Chattanooga where he pitched 47 innings with 21 BB (4 BB/9) and 39 K (7.5 K/9, 17.6 K%) resulting in a 6.32 ERA (4.20 FIP) and 1.617 WHIP (.340 BABIP) and his last 10 games in Fort Myers and 10 more in the Arizona Fall League.  where he regained his control (0.7 BB/9 in Fort Myers, 3.4 in AFL) and got hitters out (0.730 and 0.938 WHIP) but still had strikeout issues (5.1 and 8.4 K/9).   Part of his dominance in 2014 and his gain in command and control was due to simplification in his mechanics in comparison to his College days'.  Reed has a dominant fastball, but not much else.  Maybe part of the reason of his numbers' decline was that he was working on improving his change up and breaking ball.  Maybe those are pitchers he will never command.  

Hard to tell where Reed will be this time next season, and it all depends on the development of at least one above average secondary pitch that he can command well.  He was invited in the MLB Spring Training as a non-roster player this Spring.

Likely 2016 path:  Repeat Chattanooga, potential to break into the majors' bullpen depending on development of secondary pitch(es) and the Twins' needs.

ETA: 2017

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