I love prospect list season. It's a great opportunity to gauge the scouting reports for all of the best players in baseball, and for an organization like the Twins with such a strong farm system it means we get an array of takes on our own best and brightest. There are usually some slightly different reads on each individual, and that helps us get a little perspective.
Overall, Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo rank the Twins as the best system in baseball. While the Cubs also boast six prospects on their top 100 list, Minnesota's all come in the top 36 spots. As a result, Minnesota comes away with 464 total points compared to Chicago's 424. The Pirates have seven players on the list, but in terms of overall quality come in a distant third with 354 points.
We're going to pull from a few different MLB.com sources for a comprehensive look at the six Twins prospects who made it into the top 100. For reference, here is how Mayo outlines his 20-80 grade scale:
All players are given future grades for each individual tool, along with an overall grade, on a 20-80 scale: 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.
Byron Buxton, CF
2014 Mid-Season Rank: 1
In my talk with Twins Assistant General Manager Rob Antony, we spoke about Buxton's timeline and about his unfortunate 2014 campaign. Antony confirmed that Buxton could debut towards the end of 2015 provided he can stay healthy and play well.
Scouts have always touted Buxton's 80 speed, and his fielding rating has always seem to come in between a 70 and an 80 as well. It's fun to dream on Buxton, but expectations are a fickle mistress. Let's see how he does shaking off the rust after a lost year of development.
Best tools mentions: Fastest Runner, Best Hitter (runner-up), Strongest Arm (runner-up); Best Defender (runner-up)
Miguel Sano, 3B
2014 Mid-Season Rank: 10
You'll note that Sano's power rating actually took a step up (from a 75, which is drool-inducing anyway) in spite of not taking a professional plate appearance in 2014. Antony was fairly even-handed when talking about Sano's potential to be called up to the Twins later in 2015, but he also said it wasn't a realistic expectation to think he could be ready for a Major League role from opening day. You'll also note that Callis and Mayo have docked Sano on his arm strength, which is to be expected following Tommy John surgery.
Best tools mentions: Best Power (runner-up)
Alex Meyer, RHP
2014 Mid-Season Rank: 31
Callis and Mayo are bullish on Meyer's chances to make an impact from the Twins rotation in 2015, praising both his great fastball and power slider. Antony echoes their sentiments on Meyer's improving changeup. The same cautionary flag appears here as anywhere else: Meyer's tall frame can lead to mechanical issues. But the MLB.com prospect gurus don't even touch on a potential bullpen role, instead stating in no uncertain terms that Meyer is ready for a big league job.
Best tools mentions: Best Slider (runner-up)
Jose Berrios, RHP
2014 Mid-Season Rank: 38
This ranking comes in opposition to Keith Law's take, who listed Berrios near the very bottom of his top 100 list. Callis and May praise his mechanics and focus on his sinking changeup and strong breaking ball, touching on his mid-90s fastball but fail to mention it as "flat" the way Law did. They go as far to say that Berrios has little left to prove in the minor leagues, which jives with the common belief that he could be ready for a cup of coffee at the end of the season.
Last year at this time, Berrios had lesser rated control but a higher overall future value. That feels inconsistent with their ratings heading into 2015, but these things aren't an exact science and the whole is not always the sum of its parts.
Nick Gordon, SS
2014 Mid-Season Rank: 42
Scouts continue to talk about Gordon's present offense in terms of gap power with potential to grow. Callis and Mayo expect he should gain a bit more strength as he gets older, but the consensus still feels like Gordon will never be a guy who hits double-digit home runs.
Gordon is mentioned as being on the fast track thanks to his early promotion to the Appalachian League last summer. With slick fielding skills, the only thing that will hold him back will be how his offense develops.
Kohl Stewart, RHP
2014 Mid-Season Rank: 25
As the only player on this list to actually sink in the rankings since the mid-season update last July, there is still plenty of praised heaped onto Stewart as a prospect saying he "has the makings of a future frontline starter." All four of his pitches look at least Major League average with the fastball and slider showing plus, and combining that with his attitude and mechanics and the Twins (as well as Callis and Mayo) feel like Stewart will be something special - in spite of the lack of strikeouts to date. Indeed, the due mention his age relative to level, and expect him to adjust as he matures.
Still, their ratings for Stewart's pitches have taken a small step back since the middle of last summer. One way or another, 2015 seems like an integral year not just in the views of Stewart as a prospect but in terms of his development as well.