After a 2015 campaign that saw the Minnesota Twins go 83-79 and second in the AL Central to the eventual World Champion Kansas City Royals, fans could be heard screaming “the future is now!” Unfortunately for those Twins fans, their team experienced a true disaster of a 2016 season that saw them finish 59-103 (the worst record in baseball) while top prospects Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios endured woeful seasons.
The Twins still have a young core to work with, led by Buxton, Berrios, Brian Dozier (though he appears to be on the verge of being traded away) and Miguel Sano with several decent pitching prospects and a couple promising bats awaiting a promotion in the minors. But unless something completely out of the blue comes up like 2015, the Twins looked poised to provide their fans with another rebuilding year.
This is the final team in the AL Central that I will be covering. Later this week, I will begin the AL West with the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Angels. To read more about my prospect coverage, click here.
By the way, if you are interested in more MLB prospects columns, head on over to our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. Throughout the offseason, you will find the rest of our team prospect breakdowns, fantasy baseball prospect rankings, tiered positional rankings, keeper values articles, and more - all in one easy place.
Minnesota Twins Top Prospects for Dynasty Leagues
Top Overall Talent: Nick Gordon
Top Prospect to Debut in 2017: Nick Gordon
Gordon has typically been known more for his glove than his bat, but he still hits more than enough to warrant dynasty ownership. The younger brother of Dee Gordon is not quite as fast as his brother, but he still has more than enough speed to steal 20 bags per season. And for those worrying if he can hit enough to put that speed to use, allow me to ease your troubled minds. He has never posted a batting average below .277 in a professional season to this point and scouts believe he will never struggle too mightily against big league pitching. And to top it all off, there is a chance he dazzles at Double-A and receives a promotion around midseason to take over the shortstop role from the rather uninspiring bat of Jorge Polanco.
Top Prospect who won’t debut in 2017: Tyler Jay
Since being drafted sixth overall by the Twins back in 2015, Jay has had some pretty loft expectations placed on him. And to this point, he has absolutely lived up to them. A year and a half removed from college baseball at Illinois, Jay has ascended through the ranks of the minors, dominating High-A twice and finishing his 2016 campaign at Double-A. Jay did struggle a bit at Double-A, but dynasty owners should not be concerned. Jay still needs time to get more accustomed to working as a starter and as a result seems unlikely to reach the big leagues in any role other than that of a September reliever when rosters expand this season.
Biggest Boom or Bust: Fernando Romero
Romero dominated High-A. There’s just nothing much else beyond that even to say. He struck out 26.9% of opposing batters, walked only 4.1% while posting outstanding run estimators: 1.88 ERA and 2.00 FIP. But there is room for concern with Romero. His command has historically been very shaky and though it appeared to improve this season, there’s no telling when he might lose touch of it again. He also gets most of his outs at High-A thanks to his upper-90s fastball, but that pitch won’t be able to consistently get batters out in the big leagues unless he develops his slider or changeup a bit more. If he can improve his secondary stuff, he has the chance to be a frontline starting pitcher. But failure to do so could relegate him to a permanent bullpen role where that fastball plays better.
Biggest Sleeper: Mitch Garver
Catching prospects can be insanely valuable, especially today when few catchers can hit enough to be real impact players in dynasty leagues. And while Garver is certainly not the next Gary Sanchez, he could produce for owners at the big league level. At Double-A this past season, Garver slashed .257/.334/.419 with 11 home runs, a respectable 21.1% strikeout rate and solid 10.6% walk rate. This power surge was not the first time he flashed double-digit home run ability as he knocked 16 over the wall back at Class-A in 2014. Scouts doubt his average will be super great and some see him as more of a backup catcher, but he might have a role in 2016 as a catcher with Minnesota and could pass Jason Castro if Castro continues his offensive struggles. He’s at least worth the flier.
Top Prospect Hitters
Best Power Hitter: Alex Kirilloff
Kirilloff was one of many high-upside high school bats taken in the first round of the 2016 draft, and I’m sure to this point the Twins don’t regret their decision to snatch up this young outfielder. In 232 plate appearances at the Twins’ Rookie League affiliate, Kirilloff slashed .306/.341/.454 with seven home runs, 4.7% walk rate and incredibly low 13.8% strikeout rate. What always caught the eye of scouts was the power generated in the 6’1”, 195 frame of the young outfielder. Scouts were impressed by his ability to seemingly always barrel up the ball and drive the ball to all fields. He still has some raw power left to convert to game power, but dynasty owners should look at Kirilloff as a potential .280+ hitter with 25+ home runs annually.
Most Likely to Hit over .300: Nick Gordon
Best Burner on the Bases: Nick Gordon
As previously discussed, Gordon is a very talented prospect. Aside from his Gold Glove-caliber defense, Gordon also stands out as a future leadoff hitter for the Twins. He combines a line-drive oriented approach with an improving knowledge of the strike zone to form a potential .300+ bat. And his speed, though not awe-inspiring, is more than enough to excite dynasty owners as he looks to have a floor of 15 steals per season and a ceiling around 30. With that type of skillset, Gordon should have little trouble earning a spot on most dynasty teams.
Top Prospect Pitchers
Strikeout Machine: Tyler Jay
Best Command: Tyler Jay
There is no doubt Jay is the clear top pitching prospect here in the Twins system, especially now that Jose Berrios no longer qualifies. Jay does not have a bad pitch in his repertoire, though his top two are clearly his mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider. His changeup and curveball are adequate, however, and allow him to mix up his pitches enough to keep batters on their heels through most of the game. On top of all of this, Jay has never struggled much with walks. The highest walk rate of his MiLB career came in 2015 (after being drafted) when he walked 9.9% of batters faced. Scouts aren’t concerned about his floor with most believing he should easily become a big league starter. Jay gives both dynasty owners and the Twins a future frontline starting pitcher and someone to own in most keeper leagues.
Top 10 Dynasty Prospects for the Minnesota Twins
1. Nick Gordon (SS, A+)
With little shortstop depth in front of Gordon, all it takes is a promising season at Double-A to warrant a promotion to the majors in late 2017.
2. Tyler Jay (SP, AA)
Reliever-turned-starter, Jay still needs to adjust to the role as a starter, but he has a great feel for pitching and scouts almost unanimously agree he can find a role in a rotation.
3. Stephen Gonsalves (SP, AA)
Smoke and mirrors is probably the best way to describe how Gonsalves gets batters out, but his stuff is starting to improve and his control gives him a very high floor as a four starter. If he improves his repertoire much more, he could be a future two or three starter.
4. Alex Kirilloff (OF, ROK)
Only 19, Kirilloff has several development years remaining before he is ready for a call up, but his upside is too intriguing to pass up on.
5. Fernando Romero (SP, A+)
High risk/high reward. Romero has the fastball for high strikeout totals, but he needs more than that to succeed in a big league rotation.
6. Ben Rortvedt (C, ROK)
If everything works out perfectly for Rortvedt, he could be one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. But he has a long way to go before he is ready to face big league pitching.
7. Adalberto Mejia (SP, MLB)
Mejia stands out more for his floor than his ceiling, he looks like a solid future Major League starter, but his upside stops there. Helpful for dynasty owners, however, is the fact he may start in the majors this season.
8. Mitch Garver (C, AAA)
Garver has quietly hit very well at nearly every MiLB level and could be a sleeper pick to produce for dynasty owners if given a chance to start for the Twins at some point in 2017.
9. Travis Blankenhorn (3B, A)
Blankenhorn finally started to flash some of that raw power scouts have seen in him between Rookie League and Class-A and still could develop into a 20 homer guy at the hot corner. He will need to improve his plate discipline before he is fully ready for the big leagues.
10. Kohl Stewart (SP, AA)
Stewart has an outstanding repertoire, but that stellar array of pitches has never translated into strikeouts. If he hopes to ever improve his value, he will need to start missing bats.
The Twins have spent many years rebuilding their farm system and trying to fix the current state of their franchise. High draft picks have been spent on guys like Nick Gordon (fifth overall in 2014), Tyler Jay (sixth overall in 2015) and Alex Kirilloff (15th overall in 2016) and those picks appear to be headed up to Minnesota at some point in the near future. Most of their picks have looked very solid so far and could be real impact prospects for both the Twins and for dynasty owners.
The clear depth for Minnesota is in pitching where they have three very low risk pitching prospects in Jay, Mejia and Gonsalves along with a couple high upside guys like Romero and Stewart. They don’t quite have elite bat depth like some other farm systems, but Gordon provides dynasty owners with a future leadoff hitter and Kirilloff has plenty of upside as a middle-of-the-order corner outfielder. And with several other notable prospects in the minors, Minnesota is an organization dynasty owners could investigate to find some valuable sleeper prospects.