Fall is quickly approaching, and you know what that means:
football the Arizona Fall League! Yesterday, the Twins announced four of the prospects they are sending down south to play for the Surprise Saguaros this year: Tyler Jay, Tom Hackimer, LaMonte Wade, and Chris Paul.
If you’re not familiar with the AFL, it’s where teams send some of their top prospects to face live competition in the off-season. Each team is required to send six players, and can sometimes send a seventh, so the Twins still have some decisions to make for this year. Not every player is eligible to participate, though—there are certain rules about that, which you can read here.
Participating players are assigned to one of six teams to play alongside prospects from other teams. As mentioned, the Twins’ prospects will be playing for the Surprise Saguaros, along with players from the Royals, Cardinals, Rays, and Rangers. You can read the roster for the 2017 Saguaros so far here.
So who are the guys the Twins are sending this year? Let’s take a look.
Tyler Jay - LHP
You’ve probably heard of Tyler Jay before. Jay, 23, was the Twins first round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. Though he was a reliever in college, the Twins planned to convert Jay into a starter. That didn’t go well, so the Twins moved Jay back to the bullpen, significantly dropping his value.
Jay has also been battling injuries all year, severely limiting his playing time. He started off 2017 in Double-A, but only three 2.0 innings before going down with injury. Jay only recently returned to action, pitching 3.2 innings for the GCL Twins and 2.0 for the High-A Ft. Mrers Miracle. Jay spent most of 2016 with the High-A St. Myers Miracle, where he’s posted a 2.84 ERA with 68 strike outs over 69.2 innings.
Participating in the AFL should help make up for the time Jay lost to injury this year. He’s also ranked as the Twins’ eighth best prospect, so it makes sense to send him.
Tom Hackimer - RHP
Tom Hackimer, 23, is a right-handed reliever the Twins took with their fourth bit in the 2016 MLB draft. Though he was a shortstop in high school, he had the chance to make his college baseball team as a pitcher, so he just started pitching. Oh, and he pitched with one of those funky side-arm delivers not unlike Trevor Hildenberger that helps him deceive batters. Here’s some video.
Hackimer spent 2017 between Low-A and High-A, posting an impressive 1.82 ERA with a nice 69 strikeouts over 59.1 combined innings.
LaMonte Wade - OF
LaMonte Wade is a 23-year-old outfielder the Twins took in the ninth round of the 2015 Draft. Joe Mauer probably likes him because he gets on base a lot. He’s spent all of 2017 playing for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts, where he’s hitting .285/.396/.395 with 20 doubles, three triples, and six home runs.
According to Rhett Bollinger, the Twins really like Wade for his makeup and work ethic.
Chris Paul - 3B/1B/OF
Well, this is weird. According to the AFL eligibility rules, teams are only allowed to send one player below Double-A each year, but neither Chris Paul nor Hackimer have played above High-A. Huh. Guess someone messed up? Maybe it was me.
Well, anyway, Paul is a flexible position player who has been mashing the ball for the Ft. Myers Miracle this year. Through 59 games this year, Paul’s hitting .332/.386/.467 with 18 doubles, two triples, and three home runs.
Paul did miss a lot of time this year with a wrist sprain, so the AFL will give him a chance to get back some of that missed experience.
Who else will the Twins send?
As mentioned earlier, teams are required to send six players to the AFL, but the Twins have only named four so far. That means they still have two spots to fill. So who will it be?
As long as we’re throwing those eligibility rules I linked to earlier out the window, I vote for Brent Rooker. Though Rooker was only just drafted this year, he’s already mashing the ball in High-A, where he has eleven home runs in just 38 games. Before that, Rooker hit seven home runs in just 22 games in rookie league. The kid will turn 23 on November 1st, so it’s not like it’s too early to send him.
The Twins could also send Nick Gordon to the AFL some more seasoning. Though he also participated in the AFL last fall—and did great—it’s not unheard of to send a top prospect down there twice. The Twins did it with Byron Buxton, and look where he is now!
As for pitchers, there are multiple possibilities. Gabriel Moya, the guy the Twins got for John Ryan Murphy, has a sparkling 0.80 ERA through 56.1 innings in Double-A this year. He’s not an overpowering thrower, though, so giving him more practice against advanced hitters could be beneficial.
The Twins could also go with a starter, like Kohl Stewart or Lewis Thorpe. Stewart missed time this year due to injures, and Thorpe it coming back from Tommy John surgery, so they could both use more experience in the fall.
And, of course, there’s always Stephen Gonsalves—though it might be better to give his injury-prone arm a rest.
Who would you guys like to see the Twins send to the AFL?