Baseball America is running a series on the best tools in each league of the minor leagues. You can see their releases for High Class A Best Tools, as well as Triple-A and MLB Best Tools. Where the Twins system really shines in this series is in the Double-A release.
Playing in the Southern League, the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts have hosted a number of Minnesota's top prospects this year, including Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Jose Berrios, and others. It seems they've made their mark. As these pages remark, "Baseball America asked Double-A managers and coaches to break down the best players in a variety of categories." Here's how it breaks down.
Best Power: Adam Brett Walker
Walker's power is his one tool that makes him stand out as a prospect. With 26 home runs, the 23-year old leads the Twins organization (second place Miguel Sano, with 15), but he also leads all of the Southern League. 25-year old Matt Juengel is in second place with 16 home runs. Sano's 15 qualify him for third place. Still.
For what it's worth, Walker also leads the Southern League in RBI with 90 (second place has 63). But he also leads in strikeouts, his 164 an incredible 50 more than the second place player.
Best Strike Zone Judgement: Max Kepler
Kepler's .333 batting average is great, but he's also the proud owner of a .419 on-base percentage in Double-A this year - thanks to an impressive 12.5% walk rate. There are players with similarly great walk rates, including Travis Harrison (12.2%) and Stuart Turner (12.1%); indeed, some players are walking a great deal more often, none moreso than Danny Hayes and his 15.9% walk rate or Christian Marrero's league-leading 70 free passes.
Yet none of them are as young as Kepler, 22, except Atlanta's 21-year old Rio Ruiz. Indeed, Ruiz boasts a .598 OPS, Hayes a .699 OPS, and Marerro is 28. Kepler's combination of hitting ability, youth, and plate discipline make him a great prospect, and that's not touching on all of the skills in his corner.
Fastest Base Runner: Byron Buxton
Nobody is surprised here, surely. Buxton stole 20 bases in 22 tries in 59 games for the Lookouts. He's stolen 93 in his minor league career, which should soon come to an end. Hopefully.
Best Control: Jose Berrios
Berrios walked 24 in 90.2 frames for Chattanooga, a 2.4 BB/9 ratio and 6.5% walk rate. Those are certainly good numbers but they're not the best in the Southern League by any stretch. But he is 29th in the league in innings pitched, and that 6.5% walk rate would rank eighth. It also doesn't hurt that he's the youngest player on the list, at 21.
Best Defensive Second Baseman: Heiker Meneses
At some point, at least a few Red Sox fans thought Meneses might be the next Brock Holt. Indeed, scouting reports for Meneses project his ceiling as a utility infielder. He's fluid and confident in his motions and has a good enough arm to play any infield position adequately, but the accuracy can sometimes lapse and "stays back on the ball" is a phrase I've read a couple of times.
All of which is a replacement for any real justification of Meneses' honor of being called the Southern League's best defensive second baseman. Perhaps he's smoothed out a few things and has found a way to attack the ball. But it's also worth noting that he hasn't necessarily cut back on errors at the position, and that he's played about a third of his games at shortstop. Regardless, he's clearly earned the respect of his managerial and coaching peers that see him play.
Best Defensive Outfielder: Byron Buxton
Because everyone knows he can do this at any time.
Most Exciting Player: Byron Buxton
This was the best glimpse we had of Buxton's potential this year, and there's no doubt in my mind that we'll see more of it come September. This is why he was honored with the title of Most Exciting Player in the Southern League.