I’ve learned several important lessons in my adult life. Cheez-its are the ideal snack. Lauder’s whisky is just as good as the expensive stuff. Children want you to spend time with them. And yet, soaking Cheez-its in whisky to sneak it into the movie that you’re attending with your children is somehow not a sound plan. Oh, and Byron Buxton is probably not the next Mike Trout. Lessons learned. This year’s Minnesota preview was really hard to whittle down to ten. There’s a nice balance between high upside guys, specs that are close, and some decent pitching. It’s just a good, deep system. Good and deep like the flavor of Lauder’s Blended Scotch Whiskey. This intro has been brought to you by Lauder’s Blended Scotch Whisky. I present the Minnesota Twins top ten fantasy prospects for your disapproval.
1. Royce Lewis, SS | Age: 19 | ETA: 2021
Lewis is one of the better offensive prospects in all of baseball let alone this system. He combines a plus hit tool with average power and double-plus speed from the shortstop position and the fantasy upside here is enormous. His tools could lead to a 15 homer/30 steal player with an average over .280. And at 19 years old, there’s room for more development, especially in the power department. He’ll likely reach the upper minors this year. After the graduations of Jimenez, Vlad Jr., Tatis and the like, I could see Lewis challenging for the number one spot overall on next year’s lists.
2. Alex Kirilloff, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2020
Kirilloff has an advanced bat from the left side of the plate. Combined with average or better pop and speed, it forms the well-rounded offensive profile that works in fantasy. He hit .348 with 20 homers in A-ball in 2018, and like Lewis should see the upper levels this season. He’s a former first round pick (15th overall) that can play either outfield or first base. His bat will carry him either way, with good on-base skills to boot.
3. Nick Gordon, 2B/SS | Age: 23 | ETA: 2019
There’s bound to be some prospect fatigue with Gordon, who has slowly advanced through the minors since way back in 2014. I think his fantasy value hinges on his power numbers. If he can back into 10 homers or so, that’s solid. If not, I don’t see him having a big impact outside of deeper leagues or AL-only formats. I know that’s a poor report for a player ranking third in a system, but he’s also one of the safer bets to make it to the bigs and stick around in an everyday middle infield role, and that counts for something.
4. Trevor Larnach, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2021
Larnach was a first round pick this past summer (20th overall) out of college. He should move quickly, and I’d expect him to reach Double-A by the end of the 2019 season. His only weakness is his speed – which will shift him down the defensive spectrum – but everything else is average or better. In 152 at bats in 2018, he walked 21 times and struck out 28 times. That speaks to the quality of his approach and it’s one of the reasons I’m pretty high on him. We’ll see if that ratio holds as he faces more advanced pitching.
5. Brent Rooker, OF | Age: 24 | ETA: 2019
Rooker’s best tool is his power, and he showed it in 2018 with 22 homers in Double-A. He also struck out over 25% of the time, which is the current downside to his profile (along with his age). He should get a shot or two in Minnesota this year with a good start in Triple-A, but his fielding will have to be good enough to keep the outfield positions as an option. If he can’t hang there, he did play first base in college. There’s legit 20-25 homer upside.
6. Wander Javier, SS | Age: 19 | ETA: 2022
2018 was a lost year for Javier, who had shoulder surgery back in May. Prior to that, he had played two seasons in Rookie ball, so it’s going to take some time before we see this one in the majors. Plus, he has Gordon and Lewis at the position and both will likely arrive before him. That said, Javier has average or better tools across the board and posted some nice walk rates (10%+) in his first two seasons of pro ball.
7. Brusdar Graterol, RHP | Age: 20 | ETA: 2021
I promised myself I wouldn’t make fun of goofy names, but my gawd Brusdar Graterol sounds like the name a guy named Bruce would make up for himself while on ludes. My name? It’s Brucccdar…Grrraaaater…ol. Yeah that’s it. Brusdar Graterol. Weirdness aside, there’s some nice strikeout potential here from his double-plus fastball and above-average slider. In 2018, he started eleven games for High-A Fort Myers (9.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9).
8. Lewis Thorpe, LHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2019
Not that it’s a major change, but I’m sure a lot of lists will put Gonsalves in front of Thorpe. But for fantasy purposes, I like Thorpe’s strikeout upside more. Both should see some innings in Minnesota this year, so both should be on the radar in redrafts. Between Double-A and Triple-A, Thorpe struck out about eleven per nine while only walking two per nine. He does it with a plus heater and curve and I think the upside could be a No.2/3 starter in the bigs.
9. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP | Age: 24 | ETA: 2019
Like Thorpe, Gonsalves put together a good 2018 season between Double-A and Triple-A. He even got a handful of starts with Minnesota. Gonsalves has a plus changeup that’s his best pitch, so he’s not the type to overpower – more of a finesse/command type. Steamer is giving him another handful of starts in 2019, but again I don’t like his strikeout potential as much as I do Thorpe’s.
10. Luke Raley, 1B/OF | Age: 24 | ETA: 2019
‘Member how I wrote that this system is deep? I had a really hard time deciding who to put here in the magical “take a flier” tenth slot. Gilberto Celestino, Jordan Balazovic, Jorge Alcala, and Akil Baddoo all looked good to me here, but I went with Raley for three reasons: 1) he could be up this year and he’ll cost practically nothing; 2) he can play all three outfield positions as well as first; and 3) his offensive tools should play up thanks to plus makeup and an aggressive approach. Raley was a piece in the Brian Dozier trade this past season. He spent the entire year in Double-A, where he hit .275 with 20 homers and a handful of steals. He’ll start 2019 in Triple-A with a shot to get the call sometime this summer. My main concern is the strikeout rate, but I think he can adjust and he’s shown the ability to take a walk as well.