Simply by the virtue of most people believing the Twins will select prep shortstop Nick Gordon with the fifth overall pick in June's draft, it's a natural extension to look at the Minnesota farm system to see what kind of depth the organization already has going up the middle. We'll look at both second base and shortstop, focusing on the best players at each position. We won't hit every single player at those positions, but instead will focus on players who are A) close to the Majors, and/or B) have any kind of prospect status.
Just a couple of notes about the charts below, before we get started.
- Players on the MLB roster will be noted for their years of team control remaining; minor league players will be given an ETA.
- The grade is my best approximation of the player's current and future value.
Minnesota Twins (MLB)
In Dozier, the Twins have a potential franchise cornerstone who could stick around for many, many years. We already know that both he and the Twins could be considering a multi-year deal in the relatively near future, and that's not a bad thing. He certainly looks like a good player.
Escobar and Santana both have their skills, but overall I don't think either of them will have a ceiling better than a league-average player. Still, that makes them both valuable players while they're under team control. Nunez's bat might be better than Florimon's, but it's not that much better, and his defense certainly leaves much to be desired.
Rochester Red Wings (AAA)
The issue with the Triple-A grouping is that all of them are as ready for Major League Baseball as they're going to get, but that's still not likely to be equal to replacement level value. Beresford has nice discipline, Florimon's speed and occasional defensive prowess gives him value, and Bernier has been around long enough to play the game and get the job done; none of them, however, project to be any kind of a hitter, and it gives their future value a real knock in the teeth.
New Britain Rock Cats (AA)
Rosario will return to duty soon, and will start in Fort Myers before getting pushed back to New Britain. Whether he makes it to Triple-A by year's end will depend entirely on his own performance. Last year I'd probably have given him a B+, but missing the first 50 games of this season and an "okay" performance at Double-A last season leaves me just a tad less optimistic. Maybe I'm just feeling "careful" today.
Pettersen's a good defender but it would be good to see his offensive chops mature a bit more. He could be a bench option in a couple of years.
Fort Myers Miracle (A+)
I know I've put all three of these guys down for a debut in 2016, but that's a trajectory that's both without a hiccup and without an acceleration based on performance. It's certainly feasible that Polanco jets forward, based off of how well he's played. Michael is playing well this season, but it's for the first time and it's his third spin through Advanced A ball. Goodrum's offense could be a stumbling block. And yes, I know he's been playing third base this season, but right now I think that's more a result of having two other middle infielders on the roster who need playing time - and Goodrum has the best arm.
Talent-wise, Polanco could certainly be a star. Goodrum is the player in the system most likely to stick at shortstop. With Michael, I don't think anyone really knows what we have in him. He was supposed to be a high-ceiling player who would move quickly, and he obviously hasn't, but could this season be the year he turns it around? I'm still capping his potential for now, thus the C- grade, but these are always open for change.
Cedar Rapids Kernels (A)
Others: Tanner Vavra (2B), Logan Wade (2B), Engelb Vielma (SS), Ryan Walker (SS)
At the Major League level the Twins look set at second base, while shortstop continues to look like a revolving door - even if Escobar has looked good so far after taking over from Florimon. In the minor leagues there are a number of middle infielders who could start to take on roles within the next two years in Minnesota, with potential plus contributors in Rosario and Polanco. Can they be superstars? Maybe not, but they look like good players right now, and there's nothing wrong with that.
The biggest issue facing the Twins organization in terms of the middle infield is the fact that there is just one player in the system (Goodrum) who looks to have the potential to not just be a decent player, but a player who has the skill set necessary to play shortstop. If something happens where Goodrum doesn't continue to develop as the club hopes he will, then we're back to square one: filling the position with players who are better suited to be second basemen.
There is the potential for a situation where the front office has a number of players, young and under team control, who are in need of playing time at second base. Three years from now it's not difficult to imagine a scenario where Dozier, Rosario, and Polanco are all in the mix somewhere. Maybe Rosario shifts into the outfield and Polanco is forced to try his chops at short, but playing guys out of position isn't ideal. You never want them to play an unfamiliar role or play outside of their skill set at the Major League level - something we've witnessed on multiple occasions with the Twins in 2014. But that's a good problem to have.
Depth in the middle infield isn't the complete black hole it was three years ago, but it's clear that there's still a need for legitimate shortstop prospects. From that perspective, a guy like Nick Gordon certainly has an appeal.
Top Second Base Prospect: Jorge Polanco (Runner-Up: Eddie Rosario)
Top Shortstop Prospect: Niko Goodrum (Runner-Up: Danny Santana)