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Twins announce Arizona Fall League attendees for 2015

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Once again, a number of familiar names will be representing the Minnesota Twins in the AFL.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Two years ago when the Twins announced which seven players would be heading to the Arizona Fall League, it led to a little bit of excitement. Byron Buxton? Eddie Rosario? Max Kepler? Trevor May? Zack Jone? Awesome. Last year's list was even better. This year Minnesota's representatives aren't quite as exciting - because how could they be - but it's still a strong list.

There aren't any players here who are looking to knock off rust. There are two pitchers on the list who were part of the 2014 crop. All seven of these players can be defined in three words: something to prove. Let's take a look.

Nick Burdi, RHP
2015 High Level: Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)

With a 5.93 ERA through his first 22 appearances for the Lookouts, Burdi was sent back to Fort Myers to re-establish himself. Mission accomplished. After striking out 29 in 20 innings and holding Florida State League hitters to a .179 batting average, the Twins moved Burdi back up to Double-A where, since his return, he's pitched very well. In six appearances he's pitched 11.1 innings, striking out 18 and surrendering just two runs (1.59 ERA). The command still hinders him (ten walks in the same time period), but Burdi has been more focused and seems to have adapted.

Could a good performance in the Arizona Fall League accelerate Burdi's timeline, perhaps allowing him to start 2016 in Triple-A? I think it could. The Twins have been aggressive with him, allowing him to start Double-A in his first professional season and he's now been nominated to attend the AFL. You get the sense that Minnesota will let Burdi's performance dictate his promotions, and it's exciting to know that they still have that level of faith in the flame-throwing reliever. He'll turn 23 in January.

Mitch Garver, C
2015 High Level: Fort Myers Miracle (A+)

When Garver hit .298/.399/.481 in 2014 with 16 home runs and nearly a 1-to-1 walk to strikeout ratio, perhaps we placed expectations a bit too high on the 24-year old catcher. As a member of the New Mexico Lobos in college, he did fine but wasn't a particularly good hitter as an underclassman. He hit .377/.438/.612 as a junior, but it wasn't enough to get him drafted. Even when he hit .390/.458/.589 as a senior he wasn't seen as a great target, falling to the Twins in the ninth round of the 2013 draft.

If we had to make a judgement right now, it would have to conclude that Garver's fantastic 2014 campaign was the result of an intelligent hitter taking advantage of younger and less experienced pitchers. His performance as a hitter was brutal in April and May this year, but he hit very well in June and has been a good hitter (for a catcher) through July and August. We know he has an advanced understanding of the strike zone, which will help his offensive value if the batting average never fully comes around, but the Twins need to know whether or not he can stick at catcher. He's playing the occasional first base and gets most of his defensive starts behind the plate, where he's reportedly doing okay, but he also has seen plenty of time as a designated hitter.

Can he catch? Can he hit enough to off-set what is clearly not an ideal skill set behind the plate? It seems like the Twins plan on finding out.

Trevor Hildenberger, RHP
2015 High Level: Fort Myers Miracle (A+)

Hildenberger has appeared on our list of un-ranked Twins pitching prospects to watch, and for good reason. Since being drafted in the 22nd round of the 2014 draft, all he's done is throw 93 innings of 1.84 ERA baseball, striking out 112, walking 12, and posting a WHIP of 0.84. It's a classic case of results over stuff, and perhaps the Twins want to get a focused look at him to see whether or not he needs to be taken a bit more seriously as a prospect.

With his deceptive delivery and plethora of pitches, Hildenberger has found success pretty easily in the lower echelons of Minnesota's farm system. He turns 25 in December however, so he's facing players less experienced than he is. A good performance this winter could put him on a timeline that sees him move faster than other style-over-substance relievers such as A.J. Achter, who is only now just starting to get a look even though he's been in the system for six years.

Jake Reed, RHP
2015 High Level: Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)

Reed started the season in Double-A with Nick Burdi, and remained there for a while after Burdi was sent down to reign himself in. But Reed's performance eventually put him on par with what Burdi had done in Double-A, and so he too was sent to Fort Myers. While Burdi has returned to the Lookouts, Reed has not. He has, however, pitched well for the Miracle, allowing two unearned runs in nine appearances and 12.1 innings. It's a clear case of Reed working on controlling his arsenal rather than just letting it fly, illustrated by a drastic improvement in command off-set by a slight drop in strikeout rate.

Perhaps the Twins felt they were too aggressive with Reed in the early going; he appeared in 20 games between Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids in 2014 before skipping Fort Myers entirely to start the season in Double-A. Minnesota is retracing their steps for the moment, but as one of two returning players that the Twins sent to the AFL last year it's clear that, at the very least, the club wants to see more of him. Considering his disappointing performance in Chattanooga and his strong finish in Fort Myers, it will be interesting to see how he does against good hitters this fall.

Taylor Rogers, LHP
2015 High Level: Rochester Red Wings (AAA)

An injury sidelined him for a good portion of the 2014 AFL. Coming off of a season in which he has thrown a career-high number of innings (168 versus the 145 he threw last summer), he'll have his work cut out for him by extending his year further. Rogers' seven inning, one-run performance yesterday is a bright spot considering how worn down he's looked at times in recent weeks.

Rogers joins Reed as the contingent returning from the 2014 AFL. On the surface it looks like Rogers is outflanked on all sides, as the Twins are deep in starting rotation candidates for 2016 as well as many up-and-coming relief prospects. Is there a role for him in Minnesota going forward? Perhaps it's a test to see just how far he's has come.

Stuart Turner, C
2015 High Level: Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)

It might be easy to think that Turner and Garver are jockeying for a bit of position on the minor league depth chart, but the reality is that both players are attending the Arizona Fall League for their own reasons. While Garver may be under scrutiny for his position, Turner is simply looking for opportunities to develop his bat. Turner's advanced skill set and maturity as a defender has bred a great deal of confidence in him as a catcher, but right now it looks like the Twins want to continue to push him.

The .222/.322/.307 triple slash this year isn't anything to get excited about. But as we've said before, if Turner can hit .240 or .250 and maintain his penchant for a walk, he'll have enough offense to be a starting catcher in the Major Leagues. With a .261/.365/.346 line in the second half, Turner could be on his way.

Adam Brett Walker, RF
2015 High Level: Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)

Walker leads the league in home runs (30), runs batted in (103), and strikeouts (188). We've gone over his strengths and weaknesses ad nauseam in our minor league updates this year, but it's great to see the Twins challenge him by sending him to the AFL. His .215/.307/.421 second half line is way behind the .270/.325/.585 mark from the first half. Has he been wearing down? Have opposing pitchers figured him out? Is he trying to hard to make a move up the chain?

I believe that the Twins will need to trade away some of their minor league depth this year, for a number of reasons. It will help them build a contender at the Major League level, absolutely, but with the constraints of the 40-man roster and the number of prospects to be protected a long one, trades might be a necessity to avoid the Twins losing some of this talent for nothing.