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Twins extension candidates, part 4: New-age ideas

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Could the Twins hop on board and join a new trend?

MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins at Toronto Blue Jays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

You made it! This is the final installment of a four-part series highlighting Minnesota Twins players that could be deserving of a contract extension. In the previous posts, we touched on two players that are high-priority extension candidates, a few additional candidates including an outfielder and a couple bullpen arms, and some players that might get some consideration. The links to those previous posts are below for you to peruse. Today we’ll see if it’s worth riding the new-age wave.

It’s not a big wave, but in the past, some teams in Major League Baseball have opted to extend a player’s contract prior to him reaching the big-leagues. Since 2014, five players have been inked to contract extensions without any major league service time. Some have panned out pretty well while at least one was a dud. Here’s those five players and what their stats were prior to their extension:

  • Evan White is a first baseman in the Seattle Mariners organization and signed his extension this winter - a six-year deal worth $24 million. Three club options worth $31.5 million total are included. Over three seasons in the minors, he’s hit .296/.361/.471 with 32 homers, 133 RBI, and a 22.74% strikeout rate. His 2019 season was spent in Double-A Arkansas and he’ll be entering his age-24 season.
  • Luis Robert is entering his age-23 season as farmhand in the Chicago White Sox system. The outfielder originally came from Cuba in 2017, where he had been playing since at least age 15. His last full season from the island nation saw him batting .401/.526/.687 with 12 homers and 40 RBI in 232 plate appearances. Since signing on with the ChiSox, he’s slashed .312/.381/.551 across all levels of the minors, including 35 homers and 123 RBI. His contract guarantees him $50 million over six years and includes two club options.
  • Back in the dog days of Houston Astros history, they signed a contract extension with a first baseman prospect by the name of Jon Singleton and called him up to the big leagues. From 2012 to 2014 - before he was called up - he was batting .264/.382/.476 with 46 homers and 166 RBI. He was signed to a five-year contract worth $10 million.
  • Outfielder Eloy Jimenez was traded from the Chicago Cubs, who originally signed him from the Dominican Republic, to the White Sox for Jose Quintana in July 2017. (The Cubs includes some other minor-league players and Dylan Cease.) 2017 saw “Big Baby” slash .312/.379/.568 with 19 homers and 65 RBI between High-A and AA and he followed that up with .337/.384/.577, 22 homers, and 75 RBI in AA and AAA. A little more than a week before Opening Day 2019, the White Sox signed him to a six-year deal with two club options that is worth at least $43 million.
  • Scott Kingery batted .304/.359/.530 with 26 homers and 65 RBI in the season prior to signing a six-year extension worth $24 million in March 2018 with the Philadelphia Phillies. The deal also included three team options. In three years of minor-league ball, the utility man matted .283/.339/.434 with 34 homers and 134 RBI.

Royce Lewis

The number one draft pick of 2017 put up great numbers his first two seasons in affiliated ball. Lewis’s 2018 numbers included a .292/.352/.451 slash with 14 homers and 74 RBI between Fort Myers and Cedar Rapids. The shortstop’s speed on the bases got him 28 stolen bases while being caught eight times. However, his 2019 between Fort Myers and Pensacola was disappointing: .236/.390/.371 with 12 homers and 49 RBI. He still kept decent pace with his stolen base numbers from the year prior: 22 stolen, 10 caught stealing.

If the Twins were to sign Lewis to an extension, they would most likely wait to see another top-level tier from him. Additionally, the organization would also need to determine the future for the shorstop if they haven’t already. Does Jorge Polanco move over to second base to make room for the prospect?

Alex Kirilloff

The outfielder/first baseman prospect hasn’t touched foot on a AAA field yet, but he’s certain to do so this season once it gets underway. Kirilloff has batted .280 or better from 2016 to last season, with the exception of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery. Overall, he’s batted .317/.365/.498 with 36 homers and 177 RBI over 1,204 plate appearances. He’s blocked by a logjam of outfield talent as well as the Miguel Sano and Josh Donaldson tandem at corner infield.

Jhoan Duran

Everything in threes - and I went wild and chose to talk about a pitcher for the third Twins prospect. Duran was part of a package that came from the Arizona Diamondbacks during the mid-season teardown of the Twins’ 2018 roster. He spun together a 3.76 ERA (3.83 RA9) in 115 innings of work between Fort Myers and Pensacola last year coming from 23 games (22 starts). Add some peripherals of 10.6 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9, and 1.191 WHIP, Duran has potential and is high on the prospect list.

If Duran were to be ready for the majors within the next couple of seasons, he’d join a rotation that includes Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda, and possibly some other prospects such as Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe. On the other hand, it would be quite a gamble to extend a pitching prospect with serious injuries a grave possibility.

Taking a look back at those five players that have already signed contract extensions, here’s how they turned out:

  • Since White and Robert signed their extensions this off-season, they don’t have any stats of substance to report. Before Spring Training was cut short, White played in nine games, batting .333/.370/.458 with three RBI. Robert saw time in 11 games, batting .333/.394/.567 with a homer and two RBI.
  • Between two partial seasons with the Astros, Singleton was only able to hit .171/.290/.331 with 14 homers and 50 RBI. Oof. He stayed in the minors until 2017 and was released by Houston while he was serving a 100-game suspension for a failed drug test.
  • Jimenez batted .267/.315/.513 with 31 home runs and 79 RBI in his first big-league season with the White Sox. He was batting .222/.344/.370 with a homer and three RBI in Spring Training.
  • Kingery has done okay in two years of work for the Phillies. Batting .242/.291/.407 with 27 home runs and 90 RBI may work in a utility role, but he’s averaging 3.6 plate appearances per game.

Poll

Which prospect would you offer an extension to?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Lewis
    (44 votes)
  • 57%
    Kirilloff
    (141 votes)
  • 3%
    Duran
    (8 votes)
  • 1%
    A different prospect (comment!)
    (3 votes)
  • 20%
    None of the above
    (50 votes)
246 votes total Vote Now