One of the things I really enjoy about our community vote every year are the sometimes unexpected results. Stephen Gonsalves is absolutely one of Minnesota's best prospects and irrefutably a Top 10 talent down on the farm, but in Round 5 he rallied 1,409 votes. That was good for 59% of your ballots. Consider me impressed.
As noted previously, there will be no new additions to the ballot for Round 6. We return with Tyler Jay, Byung Ho Park, Jorge Polanco, and Kohl Stewart. Who do you like?
Twins top 30 prospects for 2016
- Byron Buxton, CF - 55% (Berrios 24%, Kepler 21%)
- Jose Berrios, RHP - 62% (Kepler 38%)
- Max Kepler, OF/1B - 78% (Jay 10%, Gordon 9%, Polanco 3%)
- Nick Gordon, SS - 59% (Jay 32%, Polanco 9%)
- Stephen Gonsalves, LHP - 59% (Jay 32%, Park 5%, Polanco 3%, Stewart 1%)
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.
Byung Ho Park, 1B
2016 Age: 29
2015 High Level: Nexen (KBO)
Minnesota got a steal in Park, at least in terms of their financial commitment, considering he was unequivocally the best international hitter available on the market. He'll plug in as the Twins' everyday designated hitter, occasionally taking starts at first base where he is rated as a good athlete and fine fielder.
The scouting reports on Park all agree on two things: the power is for real, and he's going to strike out a lot. Scouts rate the power between a 60 and a 70 on the 20-80 scale, and if that power translates to the Major Leagues he could hit 25+ home runs in 2016. Whether or not he can reach that potential depends a great deal on how much contact he can make in the first place, which in turn will depend on how quickly he can adapt to the league's higher quality of pitching.
It should be expected for Park to struggle a bit, particularly during the first four to eight weeks. Early struggles will be normal, and he may start less frequently early in the season as a result, so don't be surprised if the Twins bring him along slowly - as the Pirates did for Jung Ho Kang in 2015. Kang started just six games in April before catching fire and becoming a regular. As scouting reports were compiled, pitchers adjusted, and he went through an extended slump in June and the early part of July. But Pittsburgh was patient and gave him time; he adjusted again, and from the All-Star break through the end of the year Kang hit .310/.364/.548. If Park follows a similar path, the Twins will be elated.
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.
Kohl Stewart, RHP
2016 Age: 21
2015 High Level: Fort Myers (A+)
Stewart spent the last few weeks of the 2015 season on the disabled list, as "a shoulder issue" forced the Twins to shut him down. Reports insist it was nothing serious and that no surgery or procedure was necessary, so he'll be ready to go come spring training. Still, it will be worth noting his fastball velocity when the minor league season gets underway.
Armed with a mid-90s fastball and a good slider in the mid-80s, Stewart already has a pair of plus pitches in his arsenal. The secondary pitches and his command aren't of the same quality, but he'll be just 21 this season with plenty of time to develop.
Oftentimes, scouting reports on Stewart feel like the opposite of reports on a pitcher like Stephen Gonsalves. Where it's often been said that Gonsalves' numbers are ahead of his stuff, it's also said that Stewart's stuff is ahead of his numbers. With that fastball and that slider he should be getting more swinging strikes, and therefore more strikeouts. Perhaps it's just a matter of command, but Stewart - like his rotation mate Gonsalves - was three years younger than his average competition.