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Ten Un-Ranked Twins pitching prospects to watch, 2015

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The Twins' farm system is stocked with talent. Here's a list of guys whose performances help to illustrate just how deep the system is.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This is becoming one of my favorite things to do over the course of a season. I started touching on un-ranked prospects back in September of 2013, when I put together a pair of prospect lists: ten un-ranked pitchers and ten un-ranked position players to watch. For anyone who doesn't follow the minor league system everyday but still wants info on players outside of our Top 30 prospects, it was a good way to flesh out some coverage.

It's interesting now to look back two years ago and see who we were watching as up-and-comers. On the pitching side we featured Cole Johnson (who has subsequently made every list since, although not this one), the recently-drafted Stephen Gonsalves, the enigmatic Felix Jorge, relief prospect Zack Jones, current Twins reliever A.J. Achter, and Alexis Tapia - who went to Tampa Bay as part of the return for Kevin Jepsen. On the hitting side we highlighted Kennys Vargas, the fast-rising Josmil Pinto, and a 17-year old Amaurys Minier.

Back in May I put together a list of ten un-ranked prospects to watch for this year. That list included three position players, two starters, and five relief pitchers. Some of them make today's list, and others don't.

This list is comprised of ten pitchers having good seasons who did not make our Top 30 prospects list prior to the 2015 season. 2015 draftees are eligible to make the list, but deference was given to players with a larger sample size (which is why Tyler Jay doesn't make the cut). Keep in mind that this isn't a "top Twins pitching prospects not ranked" list - it's a focus on unranked prospects who are having a good year.

Mat Batts, LHP
2015 Age: 23
Levels: Cedar Rapids (A), Fort Myers (A+)
Drafted: 17th Round, 2014

Based on his 2014 performance, Batts was in consideration for our community-voted Top 30 prospect list, but he fell short of making any ballots. So far this year he's demonstrated that his lack of inclusion was a mistake on our part, posting a 2.32 ERA in 116.1 innings and 20 starts between the Kernels and Miracle.

Batts is a 5' 11" lightweight whose mechanics and pitch maturity outweigh velocity and stuff. The fastball can sometimes get to the upper 80s but usually sits 86 or 87, and he compliments it with command of his secondary pitches - including a curve and a changeup. The arm motion brings his hand high but his lower half gets low, creating a delivery that can catch hitters off guard. Check out the video from who some of you will recognize as Twitter's Jim Crikket. He also writes for Knuckleballs, which is a blog I can recommend.

Likely to make our 2016 prospect list, the ceiling for Batts is yet to be determined. He's had a lot of success this year, so we should see him in Double-A next summer. Overall in 2015 he's posted a 1.10 WHIP to match that shiny ERA, allowing just two home runs while striking out 110 and walking 26.

D.J. Baxendale, RHP
2015 Age: 24
2015 Levels: Chattanooga (AA)
Drafted: 10th Round, 2012

Baxendale's 2014 was derailed by a number of small injuries, the result of which was a poor performance. It was enough to put him out of our prospect list, where he'd sat heading into 2013 (#23) and 2014 (#25). But so far in 2015, the right-hander is putting himself back on the map.

With a fastball in the low-90s, Baxendale's stuff isn't overwhelming but he gets good movement and works with some serious changes in velocity. His curve rests in the upper 60s, the slider breaks off more sharply in the upper 70s, and his changeup moves as well. The ERA for the Lookouts (3.92) isn't fantastic, but with solid command and four workable pitches he's been better than the ERA might indicate.

There's a chance that Baxendale's future rests in the bulllpen. But for now he's re-established himself as a pitching prospect and could find himself in Triple-A at some point in 2016.

Miguel De Jesus, RHP
2015 Age: 19
2015 Levels: Dominical Summer League (R)
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2014

There isn't a great deal of information available on Miguel Angel (Sullivan) De Jesus, but the tall, skinny right-hander has been putting up some impressive numbers in the Dominican Summer League this year. In 49.2 innings he's struck out 51, walked 10, and his 1.17 WHIP is among the best in the system for players who have made at least a handful of starts. That 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio will impress, regardless of level.

Depending on his post-season evaluation, there's a good chance that we see De Jesus with the GCL or Elizabethton Twins next season.

Ryan Eades, RHP
2015 Age: 23
2015 Levels: Fort Myers (A+)
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2013

Eades' status as a prospect dissipated after back-to-back disappointing campaigns to start his professional career, including a 5.14 ERA in 25 starts and one relief appearance in Cedar Rapids in 2014. Though he was better down the stretch (including a 2.85 ERA from the last week of July through August), it wasn't enough to erase what had otherwise been a poor season.

A good portion of Eades' struggles stemmed from mechanical inconsistencies, according to some scouts. Some of those issues have been corrected this year however, leading to walk rates that have been cut in half since 2013 and consistently better results on balls in play. After allowing 11 home runs in 133 innings last year, he's allowed five in 114 this year. After stranding 64% of base runners in 2014, he's stranding 75% of base runners in 2015. He gave up 160 hits in 148.2 innings between 2013 and 2014, but he's surrendered just 107 hits in 2015. The strikeout rates haven't changed, but right now that's a back-burner issue considering how much better he's been overall.

For a pitcher who was supposed to be relatively polished, the Twins have once again been bitten on the "high floor, low ceiling" type of pick in the top rounds of the draft. But the 3.16 ERA and 3.42 FIP from this season have restored some measure of belief in Eades, and there's no doubt he'll be given every chance to succeed again in 2016.

Trevor Hildenberger, RHP
2015 Age: 24
2015 Levels: Cedar Rapids (A), Fort Myers (A+)
Drafted: 22nd Round, 2014

The third of four pitchers to make this list after making the cut in our May feature, Hildenberger continues to dominate with his combination of a deceptive side-arm delivery and pitches that generate movement, and by posting a 0.80 ERA in 45 relief appearances for the Kernels in Cedar Rapids earned himself a promotion to the Miracle. He's already struck out 11 in 8.2 innings and hasn't issued a walk, but a couple of wild pitches and six hits in two innings over his last two appearances have scuttled his post-promotion ERA in a very small sample size.

With pitches that can move in on a batter regardless of which box he stands in, Hildenberger's delivery and movement make up for his lack of velocity. He should finish the season in Fort Myers and may start there again in 2016, but with his performances standing up behind him we could see him in Double and Triple-A next season if the Twins decide to challenge him. If you haven't heard it before: this system is stacked with some pretty good relief prospects.

Jadison Jimenez, LHP
2015 Age: 21
2015 Levels: Dominican Summer League (R)
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2011

Jimenez has been quietly going about his business in the DSL, and is about to wrap up his fourth consecutive season posting pretty good numbers. These last couple of seasons have seen him better his command significantly, and with back-to-back sub-3.00 ERA seasons it would be a real surprise if he wasn't Stateside for the 2016 campaign.

With a 50% ground ball rate through 207.2 innings and mediocre strikeout rates, it's worth speculating on why type of pitcher Jimenez profiles to be and how his subsequent performances have played into how the Twins have brought him along. In 2014 the command took a big step forward and this year he's induced a great deal more swinging strikes, and that's led to 71 strikeouts in 66 innings. He's walked 11. Opponents are hitting .249 off of him in 2015.

I'd put money on Jimenez being a part of Seth Stohs' prospect handbook this winter.

Felix Jorge, RHP
2015 Age: 21
2015 Levels: Cedar Rapids (A)
Signed: Dominican Republic, 2010

A great 2013 put Jorge on the prospect map for 2014 (#13 on our list), but the aggressive promotion saw him struggle in Cedar Rapids last year. The Twins returned him to Elizabethton, where he excelled, and lo and behold the organization saw fit to give him a second crack at Single-A this spring. They don't regret that decision.

In 18 starts and 114.1 innings this year, Jorge owns a 2.76 ERA with 93 strikeouts and 27 walks. He's barely allowing a base runner per inning. Some folks chalked up last year's step backward to dropping velocity (he sat around 90mph on the fastball last year, as opposed to 93 or 94 in 2013), but he's still topping out around 91mph in 2015. For a kid who has yet to fill out (he's 6' 2" and 170 pounds dripping wet), there isn't a lot of frame to help him out. But he works quickly (this report from last Thursday notes how he'd have to wait for his defenders to get back into position), works with a relatively clean delivery, and has a couple of fair pitches at his disposal.

Jorge will make our Top 30 again next year. Will the Twins try to be aggressive in promoting him again in 2016, or will they slow it down and move him to Fort Myers at a slower pace?

Brandon Peterson, RHP
2015 Age: 23
2015 Levels: Fort Myers (A+), Chattanooga (AA)
Drafted: 13th Round, 2013

Peterson appeared on our ballots at the end of our community prospect voting series over the winter, but didn't make the Top 30. He has allowed a home run this year, his first in two years.

Overall, Peterson has continued to rely upon the things that have been both his strengths and weaknesses: he's aggressive, he tries to tempt batters with high fastballs, and the slider works as a strikeout pitch. His 66 strikeouts in 51.1 innings are evidence of his success. The command still comes and goes, but having allowed 31 hits and with a 0.99 WHIP between the Miracle and Lookouts it's hard to say that's hurt him too much. Opponents are hitting .176. It's safe to say he's had a nice year.

Peterson's 1.58 ERA in 51.1 innings of relief are impressive this year, but the underlying indicators of performance say that he very well could leapfrog more popular relief prospects like Zack Jones or Jake Reed or Nick Burdi heading into 2016. He's certainly been the best Double-A reliever of that group this year.

Tim Shibuya, RHP
2015 Age: 25
2015 Levels: Fort Myers (A+), Chattanooga (AA)
Drafted: 23rd Round, 2011

Shibuya's excellent command keeps him intriguing. In 350 minor league innings he's only walked 55 batters, which is a 3.7% walk rate. The Twins continue to use him as a type of swing man, giving him occasional starts in between what is mostly a career in relief, and that latter category is where his future lies if he's going to have a career.

His fastball sits in the upper-80s, sometimes touching the lower 90s in relief, and he compliments it with a solid cutter and an improving curveball. Performance and roster space will dictate how Minnesota pushes him in the future, but he's one of a number of guys who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter. Oh, he's also the last of four pitchers to appear on this list that also made the cut back in May.

Aaron Slegers, RHP
2015 Age: 22
2015 Levels: Fort Myers (A+), Chattanooga (AA)
Drafted: 5th Round, 2013

Here's another guy who was in the conversation to make the ballots near the end of our community prospect vote over the winter, but other candidates beat him out for various reasons. Slegers is making his case this year though, posting a 2.87 ERA in 19 starts for the Miracle before his recent promotion to Double-A. He made his Lookouts debut on Saturday, tossing seven innings and coming away with three strikeouts, a walk, seven hits, and three earned runs against.

At 6' 10" he can struggle for the same reasons as Alex Meyer, dealing with mechanical hiccups and an occasional loss of command. The issue manifests itself differently in the numbers (Slegers' strikeout rates aren't impressive, but his walk rates are always low), but in the past has been the catalyst for inconsistency. It does look like he's mitigated the issue pretty well in 2015.

With decent stuff and a handful of pitches with which to work, Slegers is quickly working himself onto the short list of starting pitcher prospects worth watching in the upper levels of the Twins' minor league system. Here's one more video for you, once again from Jim Crickett.



Pitchers from the May feature who didn't appear today:

  • Cameron Booser, LHP: At 23, Booser is doing what we expected him to do - strike out almost everyone and walk everyone who doesn't strike out. He's posted 64 strikeouts in 46 innings in Single-A, walking 40.
  • Cole Johnson, RHP: He's 26 now, but Johnson continues to make progress. He's made 18 relief appearances for in Double-A and 12 at Triple-A, combining for a 3.06 ERA in 47 innings, with 45 strikeouts and 17 walks. Rochester has been a bit of an adjustment, but it's also a situation where one outing (three runs versus Buffalo on July 7) makes his time with the Red Wings look less impressive than it probably is.
  • Zach Tillery, RHP: After a blistering start, the 22-year old's season has come back to earth a bit. Overall he still owns a 3.38 ERA between 12 starts and eight relief appearances in Single-A, and his strikeout (7.7 K/9) and walk (3.0 K/9) are okay but not as good as the season's first couple of weeks may have promised.