Over the past few weeks, we have been sharing top prospect lists from major prospect ranking sites such as MLBPipeline and Baseball America. Recently, ESPN’s Keith Law got into the prospect ranking fray as well and his lists have been interesting, to say the least.
Law is an interesting figure in the baseball media. Having previously worked for the Blue Jays he has hands on experience that many writers don’t have. But his blunt approach and opinionated nature rubs many baseball fans the wrong way.
Here is the thing about Law: He is very intelligent, incredibly well connected, and generally correct. He will rip apart a bad #hottake in seconds and let whoever posted that take know that they need to spend more time thinking critically and analyzing the scenario at hand. In many ways he is the antithesis of #hottake talking pieces that his own employer has favored over real journalism in the last few years.
If you don’t do your research Law will rip you apart. If you do your research and present a legitimate question or opinion, there are few in the business who will give a more thoughtful reply. I like Law quite a bit, especially when he gives some juicy nuggets of information on the Twins top prospects, which he has this spring.
Of course, Law’s pieces are behind the E$PN+ paywall. For $4.99 monthly, you can read all of the 40,000 words he wrote on MLB prospects this month. I got my subscription for this month and will do so again around draft time. It is certainly worth it, but of course I will go ahead and spoil it a bit for you, by highlighting some of Law’s most surprising takes on the top 20 Twins prospects
#1 - Royce Lewis, SS/OF
#9 Overall Prospect
No surprise here. Law has always been high on Lewis, often comparing him to Justin Upton has a prep SS who likely moves to the OF to get to the majors quickly because of his bat and presence on the basepaths.
Law still isn’t sold on Lewis’ defense, but thinks he could become a 70-grade defender with a 70-grade arm in centerfield (which is interesting, considering many scouts doubt his arm to stick at short... nothing a good crow hop can’t fix).
#2 - Alex Kirilloff, OF
#11 Overall Prospect
Again this is in line with the rest of the prospect rankers. Law does mention that Kirilloff’s swing may encounter issues against higher velocity because of its plane, even though it hasn’t caused issues yet.
Like with Lewis, Law thinks Kirilloff may end up switching positions defensively. Even though Kirilloff is an above average corner outfielder, Law thinks Kirilloff could be a 70 grade defender at first base, which is an intriguing idea hinted by a few others as well, that would help Kirilloff ease into the Twins lineup quicker, with Rosario, Buxton, and Kepler providing defense in the outfield.
#3 - Jordan Balazovic, RHP
#102 Overall Prospect
Now here is one you didn’t see coming. Neither did I, so don’t feel bad. But after posting a 11.9 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 61.2 innings in Cedar Rapids last year, Balazovic was bound to draw some attention.
And Law points out there are some simple things to love about Balazovic. Despite being drafted in 2016, he will be 20 years old for the entirety of his 2019 season (September 17th birthday). Balazovic is also a 6’4” righty with some projection remaining (read: he can add muscle weight to his frame without getting fat) who already maintains his velocity around 94 mph. Law considers Balazovic to have shown plus command in 2018, although he doesn’t go so far as to say he legitimately has plus control, and also thinks Balazovic’s slider could be a plus pitch (60 grade) in the future to go along with a decent curveball and changeup.
With a similar showing in 2019 I’m sure the rest of the prospect ranking world will jump on the Balazovic bandwagon.
#4 Brusdar Graterol, RHP
#108 Overall Prospect
Here is another surprise. Most sites are quite high on Graterol, based on his potential as a #2 or #3 starter with a upper 90’s fastball.
Law takes a more pessimistic view of Graterol. At an uninspiring 6’1”, Graterol generates his velocity and movement from a high-effort delivery, which generally screams “Reliever” as it is harder to repeat, maintain control, and can lead to injury.
How the Twins handle Fernando Romero may help prove insightful regarding Law’s pessimism for Graterol
#8 - Jose Miranda, 3B - INF
Here is another ranking that upends the narrative of many prospects sites, but is good to see for a prospect like Miranda who has always been an interesting project.
Like Balazovic, Miranda was a 17 year old drafted in 2016 who has taken some time to get some recognition. Miranda is a bit older, so he will turn 21 in June, but is still at a point where he could reach Double-A as a younger-than-average player this year.
Law lauds Miranda’s hit tool, giving it a future plus grade with power that will likely reach average. Law also likes Miranda’s defense at 3B, seeing it as potentially 55 or 60 grade in the future with the flexibility to play second.
#9 - Edwar Colina, RHP
Who? I’ve seen Colina’s name in box scores for the low minors but never thought much of him, because I never heard anything about him.
Law gives some insight, but there is still so much I don’t know.
I know he turns 22 in May and has only made two appearances in High-A Fort Meyers. I know he is a starting pitcher who is only 5’11.
Thanks to Law, I now know Colina showed major improvement in the second half of the year after the Twins got him on a new throwing program (Derek Falvey, pitching whisperer). After July 5th, Colina threw 55 innings with 15 walks and 65 strikeouts. Law says Colina has a good arm, so I’m guessing Colina is in the 92-95 range and Law likes his slider between 82-86.
I’d assume he will be one of those players that takes a while to come up and ends up a solid reliever, a la Taylor Rogers, but who knows! No one knows anything about this guy!
#11 -Brent Rooker - 1B/OF
Law sees in Rooker’s bat what most see: big power (.450-.500 SLG) and some walks at the cost of high batting average.
Law doesn’t like Rooker’s defense in the outfield, which was always a project, and sees him at first in the future. The Twins seem to have another log-jam at first base coming, if Kirilloff and Rooker both end up there.
#13 - Jovani Moran - LHP
Moran is another one of those low-minors pitchers who most haven’t heard of.
He is a lefty who works in the low 90s, but Law loves Moran’s changeup and see’s it as a legitimate out pitch.
While Moran has been a long reliever after Tommy John surgery in 2016, Law would like to see him start for a year just to see if his incredible strikeout rate the last two years (16.42 K/9 in 2017, 14.21 K/9 in Cedar Rapids in 2018, 10.52 K/9 in Fort Myers in 2018) can be maintained.
#14 - Nick Gordon - SS
What a fall from grace.
Law notes that Gordon not only struggled to hit in 2018, but that he struggled to make good contact at all.
Law noted Gordon’s lack of strength, so hopefully Gordon was able to add muscle in the way that Byron Buxton and Royce Lewis did this offseason.
Law sees Gordon as a second baseman —and has for a while— and notes that Gordon will have to hit very well (read: around his 2018 Double-A numbers) to regain prospect status.
#16 - Jhoan Duran - RHP
Duran came over for Eduardo Escobar in 2018, and pitched well in Cedar Rapids.
Law ultimately sees him as a reliever, but not because of durability or control concerns.
Instead, Law is the only pundit I’ve seen that has noted that Duran relies heavily on a bizarre splitter/slider hybrid pitch that sits 91-95 with great movement. Apparently Duran relies on it so heavily that Law sees him as a one-pitch reliever, like a non-GOAT version of Mariano Rivera.
#17 - Wander Javier - SS/2B
I’ve seen Law be more positive of Javier in the past, so this may be more out of sight, out of mind due to Javier missing 2018 than anything else.
Law notes that Javier’s surgery may move him over to second which limits his upside. I’m surprised Law didn’t mention 3B as an option, since Javier has always received low-key Sano comparisons as a signee at SS who outgrows the position.
Law also notes that Javier has always been incredibly raw, a fact that may make a year-long injury more problematic for Javier than a more polished player with less raw talent.
#20 - Luis Arraez - 2B/3B/OF
Law tends to agree with most on Arraez’ offensive strengths without seeing much projection left: he will hit for average, but Law see’s no power projection coming.
With that said, Law’s view of Arraez’ defense at both second and third as capable is actually a stronger opinion than many are willing to give. Law also thinks Arraez can handle short in an emergency and the corner outfield, with the potential to be an above average utility player thanks to his left handed bat.
Others of note
Stephen Gonsalves - LHP - Law postulates the same concept that I have for much of 2018: Gonsalves’ lack of an average breaking ball means he has to go outside of the zone to miss bats, leading to his increased walk rates and a loss of effectiveness.
Jorge Alcala - RHP - Law doesn’t like any of Alcala’s pitches other than his fastball, making him reliever material
Lamont Wade - OF - Law sees Wade as someone who can be a legitimate big league 4th outfielder this very season, but a lack of contact and power limits his every day ability.
Willians Astudillo - Demigod (C/DH) - Law notes that Astudillo is too old to be a prospect, but talks about him anyway, because of course. He likes the Turtle’s bat as a backup catcher/DH. His lack of mention of his utility ability may be telling.
Kohl Stewart/Zack Littell - RHPs - Law sees these two as 6th starter types. With Laws blunt style, I don’t know if that means “they will never be a legitimate starting pitcher in the big leagues” or “they may be decent starters at some point” which is a big difference.
Law has the Twins’ system as the 4th best in baseball, combining the high end talent of Lewis and Kirilloff with a bevy of players who might be on the lower end of the top-100 in just a years time.
That is promising analysis for the Twins, especially considering they will have a top-15 pick in this year’s draft.
Such a strong and deep farm system will bode well for a team that will be looking to compete in the near future, and may be able to flip some of those lower-end prospects to help fill out the major league roster.