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Minnesota Twins top 30 prospects update: Season in review

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Jesse takes a last look at Twinkie Town's top 30 Twins prospects for 2015, reviewing their seasons and thinking about what role - if any - they might play for the organization in 2016.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Here's a last look at Twinkie Town's top 30 Twins prospects for 2015. Over the next few weeks we'll be giving you position breakdowns, looks at prospects who weren't listed here but who will be worth watching out for in 2016, and thoughts about how the Twins can continue to turn their roster over to give these young players the opportunities they'll need.

These players will graduate the list for 2016:

  • #1 - Byron Buxton (If he collects nine more at-bats, if I understand the system correctly)
  • #2 - Miguel Sano
  • #6 - Trevor May
  • #10 - Eddie Rosario
  • #20 - Tyler Duffey
  • #26 - J.R. Graham
1 Byron Buxton CF Minnesota (MLB)
By making his MLB debut in 2015, a number of Minnesota's and Buxton's goals for the year have already been met. He hit .283/.351/.489 after a slow start in Double-A, appeared in Triple-A for 13 games and hit .400/.441/.545, and has otherwise appeared in 41 games for the Twins this season. The 21-year old has been asked to learn as he goes, and after hitting his first Major League home run last night it's easy to see why everyone expects Buxton to be such a dynamic player. Whether or not he loses his rookie status will depend on how many at-bats he gets over the season's last few game, but regardless it's difficult to know where he'll start the 2015 season. On talent alone he could win the center field spot for Opening Day 2016, but with the development of Aaron Hicks the Twins can be a bit more patient if they feel it's a prudent approach. Those options might play a role considering the performances of Hicks and Eddie Rosario this season, not to mention Oswaldo Arcia, Max Kepler, and potentially even Torii Hunter being in the mix.
2 Miguel Sano 3B Minnesota (MLB)
Sano's push for AL Rookie of the Year has fallen off recently, as he hasn't carried the team with his bat as he did in parts of July and August. He's hit just two home runs in the last 26 days, and his last - on September 19 - was also his last extra-base hit. He's still hitting .277/.393/.546, so there's really nothing to complain about here. For a 22-year old, it's one of the best performances in the history of the organization. With Trevor Plouffe at third base, Joe Mauer at first, and an assortment of corner outfield options for 2016, Sano should start next season as the Twins' everyday designated hitter.
3 Jose Berrios RHP Rochester (AAA)
Berrios finished his Triple-A campaign with a 0.96 WHIP, a 2.62 ERA in 12 starts, and 83 strikeouts versus 14 walks in 75.2 innings. With a career-high 166.1 innings pitched in 2015 the Twins shut him down instead of calling him up to Minnesota, which led to some consternation among the team's fans. But at 21 years of age, the organization chose to play it safe. Berrios will enter spring training 2016 still just 21, and he'll be competing for a spot in the starting rotation. Berrios will be ranked as one of baseball's best prospects in 2016. Berrios was named the Twins' minor league pitcher of the year.
4 Alex Meyer RHP Rochester (AAA)
A brutal campaign that resulted in Meyer losing his spot in the rotation ended on a high. He posted a 7.09 ERA in eight starts, but after shifting to the bullpen gave the Red Wings 30 appearances (52.2 innings) of 3.08 ERA baseball, striking out 59. Command is still an issue here and will continue to be so, but the silver lining here is that Meyer finished the year with seven scoreless appearances (15.2 IP, 19 K, 6 BB). Meyer turns 26 in January, so the Twins will need to decide how they want to approach him for 2016 - as a starter, or as a reliever. If it ends up he gets shunted into the bullpen, whether short term or long term, he could be a part of Minnesota's relief corps from Opening Day. If the club wants to try him as a starter, it may be more of an uphill battle.
5 Kohl Stewart RHP Fort Myers (A+)
Stewart spent all of 2016 in Fort Myers, and was effective in 22 starts. He gave the Miracle 129.1 innings and a 3.20 ERA, and for a 20-year old that's great. But he also wasn't able to find his strikeout pitch, recording just 71 of them, and at times his opposition found him hittable. Part of that comes with the territory when you're three years younger than your average competition, but the result is that - along with not stellar walk rates - Stewart was dealing with runners on base quite often. With sinking strikeout rates and rising walk rates, it will be interesting to see whether the Twins choose to let him repeat in Fort Myers next year, or if they try to challenge him by promoting him to Double-A. My instinct would be to slow it down and to at least let him start 2016 with the Miracle.
6 Trevor May RHP Minnesota (MLB)
May's move to relief has stabilized the bullpen, slowing his overall value (2.2 fWAR) but making the team stronger for it. He owns a 3.03 ERA in 29 appearances, getting some big strikeouts (34) while continuing his stretch of improved command (just seven walks out of the bullpen). The expectation is that he'll return to the rotation for the start of the 2016 season.
7 Nick Gordon SS Cedar Rapids (A)
After a slow start of his own, Gordon picked it up in June and finished the year strong. Overall in the second half he hit .302/.347/.416, cutting down on his strikeouts and more than doubling his number of extra-base hits since the first half. He finishes with a .277/.336/.360 line overall, including 25 steals in 33 attempts, 23 doubles, seven triples, and a home run. He'll be a top prospect for the Twins heading into 2016, will probably make a number of Top 100 lists, and as a 20-year old will probably be tested in Fort Myers - although perhaps not right away. This was a very nice season for the organization's best shortstop prospect.
8 Nick Burdi RHP Chattanooga (AA)
Burdi's return to Double-A was pretty successful, as he allowed a pair of runs in eight appearances. He struck out 21 and walked ten in those 13.1 innings, but perhaps most impressive he surrendered just eight hits. 2015 was a mixed bag for Burdi, who was potentially on the fast-track to the Majors, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him start 2016 at Double-A again. A good season would still give him a chance to debut with the Twins later in the summer.
9 Jorge Polanco SS/2B Chattanooga (AA)
Polanco played most of 2015 between Double and Triple-A, appearing in just four games for the Twins in the middle of the season. He looked taxed in Rochester, and so started and finished the season in Chattanooga, where he hit .289/.346/.393 in his age-21 campaign. He's yet to make noise on any of baseball's Top 100 lists, and a good but unspectacular 2015 won't earn him any big credits there, but should still move up Minnesota's 2016 prospect board. Without a glaring middle infield need for the Twins to start the year, I expect he'll start at Triple-A.
10 Eddie Rosario OF Minnesota (MLB)
Rosario has flashed the skills that have always made him a fascinating prospect: quick hands, contact skills, a good arm, and an aggressive mindset. He's amassed 18 doubles, 15 triples, and 12 home runs this season, allowing him to post a .270/.290/.463 triple slash, giving him the fourth-best OPS on the club. He may not get on base often enough, but he makes the most of it by running aggressively, and his 16 outfield assists have shown off his arm. Even if we need to be wary of regression in 2016, he's in pole position for a starting corner outfield spot.
11 Lewis Thorpe LHP n/a
With rehabilitation coming along, Thorpe still has a long way to go before he sees game action. We're still only a few months removed from his Tommy John surgery, so optimistically Thorpe might see light game action late in the 2016 minor league season. In reality, it could be the 2016 Arizona Fall League or the 2017 season before we see him back on the hill.
12 Max Kepler OF/1B Minnesota (MLB)
With a .322/.416/.531 triple slash in 112 games for the Lookouts, Kepler is now on everyone's radar and should appear regularly in Top 100 lists. The 22-year old broke out in a massive way this season, paving the road for his Major League debut against the Tigers on Sunday. He struck out, but it hardly matters. It's just good to see him get a cup of coffee. He'll get a long look in spring training, but he's probably not going to make the big league roster for Opening Day. Kepler will likely start 2016 at Triple-A. He was named the Twins' minor league hitter of the year.
13 Stephen Gonsalves LHP Fort Myers (A+)
Nine starts and a 1.15 ERA get you promoted. That's how Gonsalves' season started, and the lanky left-hander in his age-20 season moved onto Fort Myers where he posted a 2.61 ERA in 15 starts. On the whole, Gonsalves' season was impressive from a statistical standpoint (2.01 ERA, 132 K, 134.1 IP, .198 Opp Avg, 1.10 WHIP), but it also illustrated a step forward in his arsenal. It sounds like his changeup has taken a nice step forward, which will be a big advantage as the youngster progresses through the system. He just turned 21 in July, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him start 2016 back with the Miracle, where another good start could earn him another late spring/early summer promotion to Double-A.
14 Jake Reed RHP Chattanooga (AA)
Reed started the year with the Double-A Lookouts, gave them a 5.64 ERA, and was demoted to Fort Myers. He blitzed through the competition there, not allowing an earned run in 12.1 innings (just two unearned runs), and so was given a quick last crack at Double-A before the end of the year. He made four appearances for the Lookouts down the stretch, giving up five runs in six innings with seven strikeouts, three walks, and six hits allowed. Performance dictates he should probably stay at Double-A to start 2016.
15 Adam Brett Walker RF Chattanooga (AA)
Walker ended the regular season on a cold streak, but he ended the season with 31 home runs, 31 doubles, 106 runs driven in (in 133 games), and a .239/.309/.498 triple slash. He led the Southern League in home runs, RBI, strikeouts (an incredible 195), and total bases. With a large number of potential designated hitters, corner infielders, and corner outfielders in the system it's hard to see where he might fit for the Twins long-term. If they can sell high on his power potential this winter, Minnesota should do so. Otherwise, there's nowhere for him to go but a corner outfield spot in Triple-A. Which is fine, but barring an injury or trades of player ahead of him on the depth chart, where the road seems to end.
16 Amaurys Minier LF/1B Elizabethton (Rookie)
After a .292/.405/.520 performance for the GCL Twins in 2014, Amaurys Minier looked poised to break out in 2015. It didn't happen, as he batted just .194/.279/.280 on the season. He's just 19 so there's no reason to panic, but his prospect status will understandably take a hit. He should start 2016 with Elizabethton, but he'll be 20 by then and the Twins will want to see him make progress after a disastrous season.
17 Stuart Turner C Chattanooga (AA)
Early in the season we discussed what a disappointing start to the season Turner was having, and that's something that played itself out through the entire first half of the year. But he hit very well in July and September, showing that perhaps it was just taking him some time to adjust to Double-A. Turner hit .184/.280/.270 in the first half but .262/.363/.341 in the second half, and that latter number - along with his stellar defensive reputation and popularity amongst his pitching staff - is more than good enough for a catching prospect you hope will be able to start down the line. It's not out of the question to see him start 2016 at Triple-A, where he could be groomed to take over for Kurt Suzuki in 2017.
18 Chih-Wei Hu RHP Charlotte (A+)
After Hu's trade to the Tampa system he gave his new organization a very mixed bag of results. In the end, his post-Twins-org numbers are four starts and a relief appearance in 18.1 innings, including a 7.36 ERA and .315 opponent average. He and Alexis Tapia were still a lot to give away for Kevin Jepsen, but at least Hu's results (and Jepsen's, let's the honest) are making me feel a whole lot better about that deal.
19 Mitch Garver C Fort Myers (A+)
Like Turner, Garver's second half was better than his first. He hit .236/.358/.286 in 60 first-half games, compared to .252/.354/.372 in 67 second half games - which included all four of his home runs on the year. He only played in 77 of his 127 games at catcher, with 14 as a first baseman. How will the Twins groom him defensively going forward, considering Alex Swim (who hit .311/.349/.360) was with him behind the plate for the Miracle this year? Swim caught 30 games, otherwise playing first base and right field, so Garver's opportunities might continue to be split as well.
20 Tyler Duffey RHP Minnesota (MLB)
All Duffey has done is give the Twins nine starts, worth 51.2 innings and a 3.14 ERA. In fact, if we lop off that first awful appearance that some might call a debut, he's 5-0 in eight starts with a 2.17 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 49.2 innings. As much as Trevor May or Eddie Rosario or Miguel Sano, Tyler Duffey has been a critical rookie performer for Minnesota. He's accumulated 1.2 fWAR on the season.
21 Travis Harrison LF/RF Chattanooga (AA)
It's been a season to forget for Harrison, who finished a disappointing season on another cold streak. The real difference maker was his performance on the road, where he hit .219/.324/.310 versus a .263/.405/.409 line at home. He also excelled in night games, hitting .303/.466/.515, and OPS mark 317 points higher than it was during the day. What you come away with is that this was a season of terrible inconsistency for Harrison. We'll see what happens this season, as the Twins should be able to get away with not adding him to the 40-man roster.
22 Taylor Rogers LHP Rochester (AAA)
It looked like Rogers was going to finish his season on a downward trend, but in his last two starts he pulled out all the stops and held opponents to a pair of earned runs over 13 innings with 11 strikeouts and just one walk allowed. Rogers is good enough to roster for someone, although space on the 40-man may be thin for the Twins this winter. The 24-year old right-hander posted a 3.98 ERA in 174 innings this season, and could be one of Minnesota's trade chips in coming months.
23 Zack Jones RHP Fort Myers (A+)
Unlike Burdi and Reed, Jones didn't get another opportunity to come back to Double-A after his demotion. The front office wasn't nearly as patient with his rough stretch as they were with the other two relief prospects, shunting Jones to the Miracle for the duration of the year from mid-July. He gave Fort Myers 24.2 innings of 2.19 ERA baseball, including 38 strikeouts and ten walks and just 14 hits allowed. Opponents hit .157 off of him in the Florida State League, and Jones allowed less than a base runner per inning. I expect him to be in the mix for a bullpen job at the upper edge of the minor leagues in 2016.
24 Lewin Diaz 1B Elizabethton (Rookie)
He hit .261.354/.369 for the GCL Twins in 33 games to start the year, and the club saw enough in his process to move him to Elizabethton. Diaz really struggled there, much like Minier, hitting just .167/.245/.375 with three home runs in 14 games. Diaz doesn't turn 19 until November and has been in professional ball for less time than Minier, so it's easy to be a bit more forgiving of his performance, but the fact is that they're both very raw players. Diaz's status as a prospect may have taken a hit this year, but patience is warranted.
25 Michael Cederoth RHP Cedar Rapids (A)
Cederoth's illness was something personal that he hasn't chosen to disclose, but near the end of the season he was getting himself back into game shape after not having appeared for the Kernels since June 4. He should return to Cedar Rapids in 2016, and hopefully he's in a better place and can move forward with his baseball career.
26 J.R. Graham RHP Minnesota (MLB)
Amazingly, Graham's 37 appearances this season rank seventh on the club. He's been beat up more and more as the season has come along, but that's not entirely unexpected for a player who is still trying to find himself after a career-altering injury. With Minnesota's plethora of in-house bullpen options for 2016 it's difficult to imagine what his future might hold within the organization, but it's easy to see the Twins holding onto him for another season to see if he can blossom in his new role.
27 J.T. Chargois RHP Chattanooga (AA)
Chargois adapted to better competition at Double-A very quickly, and finished the year with a 2.73 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 33 innings for the Lookouts. That follows on from a very nice start to the season in Fort Myers, where he posted a 2.40 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 15 innings. Overall, batters hit .212 off of Chargois in 2015, and he showed the velocity, the stuff, and the presence to illustrate why the Twins thought so highly of him when they drafted him in the second round of the 2012 draft. This is his first action since that season, and he's proving himself deserving of a reappearance on our prospect list. I expect he'll climb the rankings for 2016, and along with Burdi, Reed, and Jones, will complete a very talented and potentially intimidating foursome of relief prospects.
28 Huascar Ynoa RHP Dominican Summer League (R)
Ynoa closed out the DSL season with a win, giving him a 2.70 ERA in 56.2 innings including 47 strikeouts and a .207 opponent batting average. People talk about how the competition level isn't as thick and fierce in the DSL, which is true, but when tracking a prospect that's just 17 and so far away you're more interested in trends than an overall stat line. But even if we start talking about personality, Ynoa ticked all the boxes this year. He's put together a great year and is poised for a climb in prospect rankings for 2016.
29 Levi Michael 2B Chattanooga (AA)
He missed a little bit of time with an ankle issue this year, but Michael just finished his second strong campaign in a row. After hitting .313/.389/.387 over three levels in 2014, he hit .267/.369/.434 at Double-A in 2015. That line includes 12 doubles, five triples, five home runs, 18 stolen bases in 21 attempts, and an 11.7% walk rate. He deserves to start the 2015 season at Triple-A, a step away from the Major Leagues and joining Jorge Polanco in making Minnesota's middle infield decisions very difficult. He could be considered a trade chip, but right now it's just really tempting to think about a Polanco-Michael double play combo just a phonecall away from the bigs.
30 Tanner English CF Cedar Rapids (A)
English didn't make it back healthy in time for the post-season for the Kernels, after diving for a ball in center field back on August 14. The speedy 22-year old finishes the season with 37 steals in 44 attempts (84% success rate) and a .265/.359/.406 triple slash. It's another case of big first/second half splits, with a .234/.345/.355 first half being overshadowed by a far more impressive .307/.377/.472 second half. English will climb our rankings in 2016, although name recognition might be enough to keep him from climbing into the top 20. That second half, though, along with his speed and defensive abilities, make him a tantalizing talent.