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Ten Un-Ranked Twins Pitching Prospects to Watch

We're familiar with Jose Berrios, Trevor May, Alex Meyer, and Mason Melotakis. Here are ten pitching prospects to keep your eye on in the Minnesota system that didn't make our pre-season Top 25 list.


Last week we ran through ten position player prospects in the Twins system that we hadn't really kept tabs on this season, mostly because none of them made our Top 25 pre-season list, but who nevertheless had good seasons. Not all of them are candidates for the prospect list for 2014, but at the very least they're all interesting players with something to notice.

I actually had a more difficult time trimming down the pitchers than I did the position players. Like the position players I tried to adjust a bit for age and level, but I'm also keeping Kohl Stewart off this list. He didn't make our Top 25 last year for obvious reasons, but as this season's first round and fourth overall selection I don't think anybody needs to be reminded that he should be watched.

Cole Johnson, RHP
2013 Age: 24
Levels: Fort Myers (High-A) and New Britain (Double-A)
Drafted: 44th Round, 2011

After starting a handful of times in 2012 for the first time in his Twins career, Johnson was back into a bullpen role full time in 2013. He made just 13 appearances in Fort Myers before earning his promotion to New Britain, striking out 48 in 39 innings and posting a 1.28 WHIP, but still posting a mediocre 4.38 ERA. As a collegiate draft pick in second full season on the farm, Johnson is moving through the system well. One more year and he should be ready to be tested in a bullpen role with the Twins, provided he continues to be effective.

While he doesn't project to be a brilliant back-of-the-bullpen kind of pitcher, his strikeout rates continue to be strong as he moves up the ladder and, in 138 career minor league innings, he's posted a WHIP of 1.09. Any kind of a career out of a 44th round pick will count as a success.

Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
2013 Age: 18
Levels: GCL Twins (Rook) and Elizabethton (Rook)
Drafted: 4th Round, 2013

It's curious to put a guy on this list who only threw 28.1 innings between two levels on this list, even though as a recent draft pick he didn't have the opportunity to make much of a sample size. But he was so completely dominant over the competition that I'm not sure how he could justifiably be omitted. Gonsalves struck out 39 batters in those 28.1 innings, walked 11, and surrendered just three runs off of 18 hits. None of which came via the long ball. He allowed exactly one base runner per inning.

Yes, it's early. And yes, it was rookie league competition. Still - if you're not excited to see what this southpaw has to offer next season, then get yourself sorted out.

Felix Jorge, RHP
2013 Age: 19
Levels: Elizabethton (Rook)
Signed: Dominican Republic

Jorge spent his age-17 season in the Dominican Summer League and last season with the GCL Twins, before making all 12 of his starts in 2013 for Elizabethton. In 61 innings he struck out 72 batters, walked 18, and allowed 29 runs on 56 hits for a 2.95 ERA. He was a highly sought after international prospect in 2011, and it's safe to say nobody in Minnesota regrets their push to sign him.

Jorge already has a good fastball that will only get stronger and faster, and provided his breaking and off-speed offerings continue to improve he'll be one of the organization's more highly regarded pitching prospects. It's going to be another three or four years before he gets close to the Majors and before we know what kind of a ceiling he really has, but there's a lot of potential and he's definitely exciting.

Pat Dean, LHP
2013 Age: 24
Levels: New Britain (Double-A) and Rochester (Triple-A)
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2010

Dean doesn't look like the mid-rotation-ceiling pitcher that the Twins thought he would be when he was drafted, but after struggling at Fort Myers in 2011 and New Britain to a lesser extent this season, he's become something of an intriguing prospect. Granted, the strikeout rates really aren't good (4.5 strikeouts per nine innings between Double and Triple-A), but he induces a ton of ground balls and displays stingy command to the point of being stubborn. His strikeout-to-walk ratio with the Red Wings (4.40-to-1.00) was outstanding this year.

We all know how difficult it is for pitchers on the margins of passable strikeout rates to be successful in Major League Baseball. It's been paraded in front of us for the last couple of years. In small samples, though, guys like Nick Blackburn have had success. Can Pat Dean be 2014's version of '08-'09 Blackburn?

Zach Jones, RHP
2013 Age: 22
Levels: Fort Myers (High-A)
Drafted: 4th Round, 2012

Jones the first had a great first full season in the Twins' system, making 39 relief appearances for the Miracle. He was dominant, striking out 70 batters and giving up just 28 hits in 48.2 innings. Those are video game numbers, with a 1.85 ERA to support it.

His walk rates are a bit high, but when you're striking out as many batters as he is you can gloss over a number of sins. The fact is that he looks like a fantastic relief option, who needs another season or two to show that he can adjust to stiffer levels of competition while maintaining his ability to miss bats. His fastball and his slider are both strong, and provided they're good enough he'll be a Twins relief option in another one or two years.

Tyler Jones, RHP
2013 Age: 23
Levels: Cedar Rapids (Single-A) and Fort Myers (High-A)
Drafted: 11th Round, 2011

Jones the second paired with Jones the first to give the Miracle a pair of relief pitchers that could strikeout out every batter in the world between them. This Jones struck out 66 batters over 52.1 innings between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers, barely allowing a hit in the former but struggling a bit more with base runners in the latter. Roughly half of balls in play were grounders this season, which was a factor in the number of home runs he allowed this summer: zero.

This Jones is a year older than the first Jones, and needs to get a start at Double-A next season and show that he's ready to deal with more advanced hitters that are more his age. His command is strong already, which should help.

Lewis Thorpe, LHP
2013 Age: 17
Levels: GCL Twins (Rook)
Signed: Australia

Minnesota's latest Aussie has a number of distinctions to roll through: he's the youngest pitcher in the system with the highest strikeout rate (13.1 K/9); his walk-to-strikeout ratio is better than the ace of your video game's baseball team (10.7-to-1.00); his WHIP is second in the organization among pitchers who have thrown at least 40 innings (0.86).

Thorpe signed with the Twins around the same time as Amaurys Minier, and was called Australia's best prospect by Baseball America. His fastball sits right around 90mph and is more developed than his other pitches, but regardless of his stuff he owned his league this season with a 2.05 ERA in eight starts and four relief appearances: 32 hits in 44 innings, 64 strikeouts, six walks, and just two home runs. No doubt the Twins will try to put him through Elizabethton next season, but if he's anywhere nearly as effective as he was this summer then I hope they give him a turn in Cedar Rapids at the end of the year.

A.J. Achter, RHP
2013 Age: 24
Levels: New Britain (Double-A) and Rochester (Triple-A)
Drafted: 46th Round, 2010

Splitting his time in relief between Double and Triple-A this season, what makes Achter so intriguing is how good he is at limiting hits. In 60.1 innings he gave up just 45 hits, posting decent strikeout rates but really having problems at times with his control. His 2.54 ERA this season isn't entirely an accurate reflection of his performances, but with a good season in Rochester in 2014 he'll be in a position for a callup at some point during the summer.

David Hurlbut, LHP
2013 Age: 23
Levels: Cedar Rapids (Single-A) and Fort Myers (High-A)
Drafted: 28th Round, 2011

The Twins really like Hurlbut, drafting him out of high school in 2009 before he decided to attend California State University Fullerton, before taking him again in 2011. He's been a bit of a swing man, making a few starts and a few relief appearances, and that was the case this summer as well. For the Kernels it was 21 relief appearances and a trio of starts, his 2.52 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and strong strikeout and walk rates earning him a promotion to the Miracle. He made four starts there at the end of the season, maintaining his walk and strikeout rates but allowing a few more hits.

Hurlbut's ability to start makes him a bit more interesting, along with his 57% ground ball rate from 2013. While there isn't too much of a reason to get excited about him as a prospect right now, another season like this one and come 2015 he could be getting consideration for the back end of our prospect list as a sleeper.

Alexis Tapia, RHP
2013 Age: 17
Levels: Dominical Summer League
Signed: Venezuela

Tapia, like Hurlbut, split the season between the rotation and the bullpen, but where Hurlbut can be labeled interesting Tapia's potential is is currently untapped. He was among the organization's leaders in WHIP (0.87) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.20-to-1.00), but I've had a difficult time tracking down scouting reports for the righty. The strikeout rates were pedestrian (6.6 K/9), but his command and his penchant for inducing ground balls both look like assets.

The good news on Tapia is that he has a few years to grow into his 6-2 frame, and that added strength can only be of benefit in terms of velocity and stamina. Where the Twins place him in 2014, in a domestic rookie league or in the DSL for a second summer, will tell us what whether they think they can fast track him or not.