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Ten best un-ranked Twins prospects

We focus quite a bit on the guys that, as a community, we voted into the Top 30 list. Here's a look at some of the organization's best prospects who aren't on that list.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Towards the end of the 2013 season, we put together a couple of lists that focused on ten hitters and ten pitchers who were prospects not ranked in our community vote and yet were worth watching. Four of those pitchers and three position players ended up making our Top 30 this year, so in some sense this could be an early look at contenders for next winter's prospect vote. But even if none of these guys make any of our lists that we'll re-visit later in the year, it's always good to see which guys are playing well.

There will always be another player or four that we could add to the list, but for today I've chosen ten. Ready?

Cole Johnson, RHP
Age: 25
Level: New Britain (Double-A)
Drafted: 44th Round, 2011

After moving to a bullpen role full-time in 2013, he's built on his successes. He's striking out 28.4% of batters faced, with 28 of his 40 strikeouts coming against right-handed batters and lefties managing a meager .146 batting average. Moving into the bullpen has been a revelation for Johnson, and like last year he seems a good bet to earn a mid-year promotion. If he continues to perform, he'll be yet another bullpen candidate for the Twins next year.

Todd Van Steensel, RHP
Age: 23
Level: Cedar Rapids (Single-A)
Signed: 2008, Australia (Phillies)

Van Steensel, like a lot of teenage pitchers, cycled between the rotation and the bullpen during the one season he was in the Philadelphia system. The Phillies released him after the 2009 season, but the Twins noticed he'd lost weight at the Major League Baseball Australian Academy Program (MLBAAP) and signed him there. But the Twins made the same mistake, flipping Van Steensel from the rotation to the bullpen, and they released him in January 2012. Now it seems that both sides are giving it another try, with the Twins liking what they saw in the Australian Baseball League. This year, the Twins are doing it right and keeping him as a reliever exclusively. In 17 appearances (27 innings), the 23-year old righty has a 1.67 ERA while striking out a full one third of batters faced. He's old for Single-A, so hopefully the Twins test him in Fort Myers this season.

Mitch Garver, C/DH
Age: 23
Level: Cedar Rapids (Single-A)
Drafted: 9th Round, 2013

Garver has been splitting catcher duties for the Kernels with 24-year old Michael Quesada. Garver looks like the better player, and after a disappointing debut last season in which he hit .243/.313/.366 in 56 games, he's taken off this year. He's played a few games at first but mostly flips between catcher and designated hitter, and thus far has torn the cover off the ball: .310/.411/.488 in 285 plate appearances, with 33 walks and 42 strikeouts, including eight homers and 17 doubles. Is it a breakout performance? It's too early to say, but it's also a performance too good to not notice.

Brandon Peterson, RHP
Age: 22
Level: Fort Myers (Advanced-A)
Drafted: 13th Round, 2013

When the Twins drafted Peterson last year, he was another third-year bullpen arm with pretty good numbers but nothing that was going to blow you away. Especially considering Peterson's numbers before transferring to Wichita State in his final college season. But for the Twins he's been fantastic, moving from rookie ball last year to Cedar Rapids and then Fort Myers this year. In 29.1 innings between the two levels he's posting a 1.84 ERA in 21 relief appearances, striking out 42 and walking just six without allowing a home run. He's basically allowing one base runner per inning, and less than one in four of those are scoring.

A.J. Achter, RHP
Age: 25
Level: Rochester (Triple-A)
Drafted: 46th Round, 2010

Getting a hit against A.J. Achter is like playing the lottery. He's given up 17 of them in 40.2 innings this year, including just 14 in his 34 innings with the Red Wings, where hitters are putting together a .124 batting average against. This all includes his last ten games, where batters have scored five hits in 17 innings of work. Which is just insane. I want the Twins to call him up just so I can get an extended look at him.

Chad Christensen, 1B/OF
Age: 23
Level: Cedar Rapids (A)
Drafted: 35th Round, 2013

Christensen is an intriguing player. Yes, he's one and a half years older than the average player in Single-A, but it's also just his second year in the system - and of course just his first full year. And based off of his rookie league numbers last season, I don't think anyone saw this coming. He's leading the Minnesota farm system with 18 steals in 22 attempts (82% success rate), all while hitting .299/.354/.450. It all looks impressive, but there are a couple of red flags. The strikeouts are an issue, with 61 of them in 65 games for a strikeout rate of 22%. And in spite of 21 extra-base hits and a healthy slugging percentage, his isolated power is just .151. This means the slugging is propped up by singles and the batting average, and when you combine that with his penchant for swinging and missing, you get a guy who will be interesting to watch going forward. Let's hope it gets better. And it needs to be said, there's nothing wrong with a .450 SLG and a .151 ISO if you're more of a player with "just" moderate power.

Jason Wheeler, LHP
Age: 23
Level: New Britain (Double-A)
Drafted: 8th Round, 2011

Wheeler has just been promoted to the Rock Cats, and made a nice impression in his first start by allowing just two runs in 6.1 innings of work, striking out seven and walking one. His rise through he system has been due to his effectiveness overall than to any singular thing. He doesn't get a lot of strikeouts, his command isn't surgical, and while hitters don't pound him he's not exactly A.J. Achter. He usually does a pretty good job of keeping the ball on the ground, which helps. This will be his first true test as a prospect. At 23, the Twins will get an opportunity to decide whether they really have another starter prospect in Wheeler.

Jorge Andrade, 2B
Age: 19
Level: Dominican Summer League (Rookie)
Signed: 2011

Now in his third year in the DSL, Andrade is killing it. His first two seasons aren't worth remembering, but in 50 plate appearances this year he's tallied five triples and a pair of doubles while stealing five bases in six attempts. The triple slash looks incredible - .442/.500/.721 - but we're still dealing with small sample size theater. After all, he's also struck out ten times. But he has a good hit tool, apparently, and he's also known for his speed. Let's see if he can keep hitting all summer.

Jared Wilson, RHP
Age: 24
Level: Cedar Rapids (Single-A)
Drafted: 19th Round, 2013

The Twins flirted with the idea of having Wilson start, but he's turning into another relief prospect. It's not that much of a surprise, considering he hadn't started a game since in freshman year in college. Even as a collegiate reliever, however, he simply had no control. He walked 68 batters in 104 collegiate innings. But this year, as a reliever for the Kernels, the walk rate is actually below 10%. And he's still making hitters miss, posting a 26.1% strikeout rate. We have to make concessions for that due to his age - at 24 he's two years older than the average player in the Midwest League - but he's putting up numbers good enough to make you take notice.

Tim Shibuya,RHP
Age: 24
Level: Fort Myers (Advanced-A)
Drafted: 23rd Round, 2011

Shibuya's greatest asset is his command. In 51 innings this year (three starts, 18 relief appearances) he's walking a miniscule 2.9% of batters faced. The strikeout rates aren't anything to write home about, just 6.7 per nine innings this season, but the walk rate is so small that the strikeout-to-walk ratio is an insane 6.33-to-1. Shibuya, like Wilson, needs to be promoted to stay ahead of the game and pick up any kind of a prospect status.


  • I kept this list to players 25 and younger. That meant that sluggers like Reynaldo Rodriguez (28 at Double-A) and Deibinson Romero (27 at Triple-A) didn't make the cut. But they're both having very good seasons.
  • The guy leading the Twins farm system in walks in Ivory Thomas, a 22-year old outfielder formerly of Cedar Rapids. That's a 30.6% walk rate, and it's led to a .433 on-base percentage. But he's also hitting just .163. So, that's interesting. But he was recently released.