Byron Buxton one, Jose Berrios two; the way it should be and the way you played it out. Now is where the list starts getting interesting, because from here through the end of our list there's no consensus ranking. Let's see what you all think.
Twins top 30 prospects for 2016
- Byron Buxton, CF - 55% (Berrios 24%, Kepler 21%)
- Jose Berrios, RHP - 62% (Kepler, 38%)
Nick Gordon, SS
2016 Age: 20
2015 High Level: Cedar Rapids (A)
Gordon's defensive acumen remains on point, with good hands, range and arm ensuring that he has the chops to not just stay at shortstop but to potentially be one of the league's better defenders at the position. Coaches have praised him for his preparation and maturity.
On the offensive side the triple slash doesn't look like anything special, but it's worth noting that Gordon hit .250/.325/.301 in the first half and .302/.347/.416 in the second half. As the months went along he continued to develop, making more contact and a higher quality contact. He's the type of player who will need to exhibit a strong batting line consistently for it to be seen as a legitimately developing tool, but if it develops at all Gordon's worst-case outlook is as a slick-fielding starting shortstop who hits at the bottom of the batting order.
Tyler Jay, LHP
2016 Age: 22
2015 High Level: Fort Myers (A+)
Jay's Twins debut saw him pushed into the bullpen. It was a familiar role for club's first-round pick, as he'd been the closer for Illinois. He's already thrown a career-high 60 innings prior to being drafted, so while the Twins wanted to develop him as a starter long-term there was no benefit in getting him lengthened out for the Miracle's stretch run. Indeed, the fact that Jay was a bit worn down was the reason the Twins didn't push for him to help the Major League team in August and September - he was already exhausted.
With a winter to rest up and get ready, the Twins will get started on Jay's development in earnest. Scouts believe he has impeccable command, which is already something of a rarity for left-handers, and his fastball and curve already show signs of being plus offerings. His slider and changeup still need work, but Twins staff expect Jay will develop four Major League-ready pitches.
Minnesota will give Jay some time to adjust to the new role. It's hard to say how long that will be - two months, one season, maybe two - but if at some point the organization decides that the starting pitcher route isn't going to work, they'll turn Jay loose as a reliever. Considering what he already offers, Jay is nearly Major League-ready as a reliever from Day One. As a starter, his ETA will be closer to 2018.
Max Kepler, OF/1B
2016 Age: 23
2015 High Level: Minnesota (MLB)
There are hitters who had better years in the minor leagues, but there aren't many. Kepler absolutely tore the cover off the ball, and while it earned him a seven-game cup of coffee with the Twins in September that's not what people will be talking about when prospect rankings come out.
Injuries played a significant part in stunting Kepler's development coming into 2015, or at least that was the narrative coming out of last season. Maybe that's true and maybe it isn't, but there's no denying that a fully healthy Max Kepler has put himself front and center when it comes to discussing the Twins' best prospects. He stole 19 bases in 23 attempts, walked more than he struck out, and he racked up extra base hits.
In some respects, Kepler profiles like Eddie Rosario. He could play center field but likely fits as a plus defender in a corner spot; he has good speed and knows how to use it; he does a number of things very well but nothing exceptionally and nothing poorly. Kepler doesn't mind taking a walk from time to time however, and that could be a difference maker in the trajectories of both players.
Kepler probably deserves to be in the conversation for the number two or number three spot on our list for 2016, but with the stellar season he had we just couldn't leave him out of the conversation for number one.
Jorge Polanco, SS/2B
2016 Age: 22
2015 High Level: Minnesota (MLB)
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Polanco has been on the verge of being Major League ready over the last couple of seasons, getting cups of coffee with the Twins in both 2014 and 2015. While he impressed coaches and teammates alike with his maturity and attitude, not to mention 20 surprisingly productive plate appearances, the club has let him spend most of the last two seasons in the upper echelons of the minor league system. It's helped him mature, but this experience has also tempered some of the enthusiasm that may have been building after his incredibly successful runs in 2012 and 2013.
He's played mostly shortstop for the Twins over the last two years, but in the Dominican Winter League this year he was almost exclusively a second baseman. Scouts seem split over which middle infield spot is better suited for Polanco's skill set, with some believing he has the arm for short while others call him a work-in-progress at second base. He looks like at least an average player on both sides of the ball long term. The biggest area of work for Polanco right now is in reading pitchers, as his plus speed hasn't translated to efficiency on the base paths.
With Brian Dozier entrenched at second base and Eduardo Escobar earning an extended look at short to start 2016, Polanco's opportunity to impact the Major League roster will have to come later in the season barring an injury. He's deserving of a shot very soon, however, and along with Danny Santana he does give the Twins a good deal of quality depth up the middle.