The Twins are a fun system to look at. They have the elite guys like Buxton and Berrios, but now we have the breakout Max Kepler and the international signee Byung-ho Park. Outside of the Aaron Hicks trade to New York, the Park signing was the biggest news of the Minnesota offseason. The Twins had some surprising success in 2015, thanks in part to the arrival of their young slugger Miguel Sano. 2016 will see even more prospect talent surface in Minnesota though, and things could gel together quickly. It’s probably do or die time for Danny Santana and Oswaldo Arcia, but there’s a lot of young talent to work with this year at Target Field.
Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings.
Byron Buxton, OF | Age: 22 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA/AAA/MLB
2015 Stats: 327 PA, .305/.367/.500, 7 HR, 22 SB, 9% BB, 19% K
Buxton just slipped under the 130 at bats to stay eligible for prospect lists. He was kind of a tease last year – arguably MLB ready but not utilized by the Twins in such a way that maximized his fantasy value. Then of course he got hurt and didn’t really surface in the bigs again until late August. A healthy Buxton now has a clear path to the everyday center field gig and is pencilled in to lead off. To start, I think it’s safe to expect a solid average, steals, and runs. As he matures I think we’ll see more pop and batting average reliability. If it all comes to together he can contribute in all five categories and be an OF1.
Jose Berrios, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA/AAA
2015 Stats: 166.1 IP, 2.87 ERA, 2.1 BB/9, 9.5 K/9
Berrios is the perfect storm for fantasy pitching prospects. He’s close to the majors with a bunch of innings under his belt, he’ll strike guys out, and his control has been good enough that you won’t have to bite your nails down to the bone every inning he pitches. After the big guns Giolito and Urias, I’m not sure there’s a better quality arm in the minors right now. The Twins decided not to promote him in 2015, but in 2016 he could be a good fantasy starter and should be on the radar in redraft formats. Grey dug deeper in his 2016 outlook.
Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.
Max Kepler, OF | Age: 22 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: A+/AA
2015 Stats: 508 PA, .318/.410/.520, 9 HR, 19 SB, 14% BB, 13% K
Take a look at his plate discipline. Mmmmm, yeah, that’s nice. Jay’s favorite non-Padre, Kepler never really struck out much. But in 2015, he bumped his walks, average, homers, and steals. He’s on the verge of getting a starting outfield gig in Minnesota and looks like a high-floor fantasy option. I’m thinking the end result might not be all that different from Jason Heyward – good AVG/OBP, 12-15 homers, and 20+ steals from a corner outfield slot.
Byung-ho Park, 1B | Age: 29 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: KBO
2015 Stats: 622 PA, .343/.436/.714, 53 HR, 10 SB, 13% BB, 26% K
It’s hard to nail down a projection for guys like Park. They are basically coming over from a different country where they played in an environment even more hitterish than the Cal League. I mean Eric Thames hit .381 with 47 homers there last year. That said, even at 29 years old it’s hard to see Park lasting past the first round in dynasty drafts this year. He’s MLB ready, should get time at first and DH, and has enough pop to get to 20 dingers pretty easily. Jung-ho Kang faced similar question marks last year, and popped 15 homers in 467 plate appearances.
Jorge Polanco, SS | Age: 22 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA/AAA
2015 Stats: 525 PA, .288/.339/.386, 6 HR, 19 SB, 7% BB, 14% K
Polanco is probably a better real life player than a fantasy one, but he’s a good enough defender to stick in the middle infield and has at least average hit and speed tools. He can switch-hit and might fit in the 2-hole if we’re lucky, but more likely he’s a bottom-of-the-order guy who plays every day with light contributions in runs and steals. In an environment like Minnesota I’m not sure he offers much more than the 2015 versions of Alcides Escobar or Eric Aybar.
Adam Walker, OF | Age: 24 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA
2015 Stats: 560 PA, .239/.309/.498, 31 HR, 13 SB, 9% BB, 35% K
This cat reminds me of Steven Moya in Detroit. The power and speed combination is so enticing, but I’m sweating like Poe at a puppet show when I see that batting average and strikeout rate in Double-A as a 23-year-old. The big man’s plus power and 30+ homer potential will always make him attractive in fantasy, but he’ll need to hit enough to get an everyday gig and be a viable option in shallower leagues.
Kohl Stewart, RHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+
2015 Stats: 129.1 IP, 3.20 ERA, 3.1 BB/9, 4.9 K/9
Stewart has been a top fiftiesh prospect for the past two or three years, but honestly his strikeout rates in each of the last two seasons aren’t anything to write home about for fantasy. He also has a shoulder issue on his resume, which only adds to the already risky proposition of investing in an arm. There’s likely a mid-rotation starter here and it’s not like he is hot garbage, but I’d be wary of paying for his name and status on traditional lists. If his K-rate returns to 2013 levels I’ll change my tune, and it certainly could if he’s been forced to be more conservative recently.
Daniel Palka, 1B/OF | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+
2015 Stats: 576 PA, .280/.352/.532, 29 HR, 24 SB, 10% BB, 28% K
Palka came over to the Twins from the Diamondbacks, who drafted him in the third round back in 2013. He’s similar to Walker in that he has power, speed, and strikes out too much. He’s also the same age and hasn’t played above High-A yet. I’d look at him as interesting filler in deep leagues. There’s some fantasy upside, but a) the park change isn’t ideal b) the Twins have a bunch of options in the outfield and d) Park presumably splits the 1B/DH duty for the time being.
Stephen Gonsalves, LHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A/A+
2015 Stats: 134.1 IP, 2.01 ERA, 3.6 BB/9, 8.8 K/9
A tall lefty with three average or better offerings, Gonsalves looks like a BORP but with some upside for more. He’s still pretty young and doesn’t have any upper level experience, but there’s also some projection left and it’s a starter’s profile. The walk rate is less than stellar, but he struck out almost a batter per inning and does a great job of keeping the ball in the park.
Alex Meyer, RHP | Age: 25 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA
2015 Stats: 92 IP, 4.79 ERA, 4.7 BB/9, 9.8 K/9
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat – I don’t think relievers are smart investments in dynasty leagues where you are hoping to get long-term fantasy value out of your players. That’s why the switch to the bullpen dings Meyer, even with the plus stuff and strikeout rates. It’s also why you don’t see me falling in love with players like fellow Twin Nick Burdi. Even if you are going to ignore me and go after relievers anyway, at least find somebody who walks less than four per nine.
Tier 3: Long Shot Lolitas
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs.
Nick Gordon, SS | Age: 20 | ETA: 2018 | 2015 Level: A
2015 Stats: 535 PA, .277/.336/.360, 1 HR, 25 SB, 7% BB, 16% K
Gordon isn’t a burner like his older brother Dee, but he has enough speed to get to 20+ steals and has more pop than his sibling. With enough defense to stick at short, Gordon’s offensive ceiling of 15 homers/20 steals/.280 average should work fine at a position that’s thin on bats. My only concern is that Minnesota will put a damper on his already fringey power and he’ll be more of a gap hitter that struggles to get to double-digit homers. He should spend most of 2016 in High-A with a chance to get to Double-A by the end of the summer.
Tyler Jay, LHP | Age: 21 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+
2015 Stats: 18.1 IP, 3.93 ERA, 3.9 BB/9, 10.8 K/9
Jay pitched mainly as a reliever in college. If he sticks there, the good news is he’ll move quickly. The bad news is he’d have more value in fantasy as a starter. The Twins could still transition him into that role, and the lefty has enough plus stuff to get the job done and pan out as a #3 starter. It’s hard to determine where to take Jay in dyno drafts. I don’t think he makes sense as high as he did in the real draft (6th overall). I’d be more comfortable taking him at the turn or in the early second round.
Jermaine Palacios, SS | Age: 19 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: Rk
2015 Stats: 251 PA, .370/.398/.540, 3 HR, 9 SB, 5% BB, 12% K
Palacios hit like crazy at both rookie levels in 2015. Like Javier, he’s an under-the-radar player that you can probably scoop up relatively easily even in deeper formats. It’s hard to get excited about players when they haven’t even hit above A-ball, but Palacios straight raked and could move quickly if he continues to do so. They weren’t cheap singles, either. He smacked 18 extra-base hits (14 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR) in 145 plate appearances against older competition in the Appy league.
Wander Javier, SS | Age: 17 | ETA: 2020 | 2015 Level: –
2015 Stats: N/A
There’s a good chance Javier is not owned in your league, even if it’s a really deep one. He was a J2 signee in 2015, but was just outside the top tier of talent that you’ve likely already heard about (Vlad Jr, etc). He’s very young, and we’re looking at a long wait, but Javier has potentially above-average power and speed at shortstop. The Twins liked him enough to drop $4 million bucks. When you get to the later rounds of your dynasty draft and everybody else is taking garbage, sneak Javier onto your farm.
Trey Cabbage, 3B | Age: 18 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: Rk
2015 Stats: 129 PA, .252/.302/269, 0 HR, 1 SB, 5% BB, 29% K
If you put enough cheese, salt, and hot sauce on cabbage I will eat it. If you put a left-handed hitter at third base and tell me he has a chance to hit for above-average power, I will look at him. There aren’t enough at bats to get a good read on him yet, but at 18 years old Cabbage has the time and the frame to grow into some power. I wouldn’t sweat him until the later rounds of a dynasty draft though, if at all.