Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Understanding The Twins Tradeable Assets

As the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline quickly approaches, the Twins are in position to be buyers for the first time since at least 2010. With 50 wins under their belt, the next handful of games will go help to determine just how aggressive the Twins should be, and where they need help the most. With three glaring holes, the Twins have a couple of options to consider.

I'd still make the argument that bullpen help is the Twins biggest need, and it should undoubtedly come with the lowest acquisition cost. However, if Minnesota wants to address the issues behind the plate or at shortstop, a higher profile solution is likely going to be the target. In those cases, the assets sent away will also be of the heightened ceiling variety.

Minnesota has one of the deepest farm systems in all of baseball, but how do we quantify what players fall where. Let's take a look.

The Untouchables

I think it probably goes without saying who's in this grouping. Led by Byron Buxton, the Twins also would consider Miguel Sano a lock for this title. Rounding out, and being right on the edge of this territory is Jose Berrios.

Buxton is currently shelved, but looked every bit the best prospect in baseball in his romp through the minor leagues. His bat was always going to take some time at the big league level, but it was pretty apparent to see his influence on the Twins outfield.

Sano has started his big league career with a bang. In his first 13 games he's slashed .326/.558/.992 with four doubles, two home runs, and 19 RBI. His power stroke is incredibly impressive, and he;s going to contribute at the plate for a very long time.

Berrios is the lone member of this club yet to make his big league debut. Worrying some projectors with his small 6'0" frame, Berrios has continued to impress in 2015. Recently earning a promotion to Triple-A, the Puerto Rican owns a 3.49 ERA and a 9.4 K/9 across two levels this season. Of the three players, only Berrios could be had for the perfect deal. Acquiring a shortstop like Troy Tulowitzki, or a catcher such as Jonathan Lucroy, it would seem to reason Berrios would be the starting point.

The Ceiling Types

After the big three, the Twins top prospects take on somewhat of a different look. Rather than presenting an already projectable cornerstone type of talent, the Twins have three first round picks that still have the promise of being an organizational influencing talent going forward.

Considering first those drafted by the Twins, we come across both Nick Gordon and Kohl Stewart. Gordon has scuffled at times for Low-A Cedar Rapids, but that was expected. He's seen as an All Star caliber shortstop with Gold Glove ability. His bat will take time, but he recently put together a nice 17 game hit streak in which he slashed .333/.360/.417.

Stewart has been a little bit more disappointing in 2015. After working through a throwing program to strengthen his arm in the offseason, the results haven't provided what would have been hoped. The Texan owns a respectable 3.26 ERA but has struck out batters at just a 4.6 K/9 clip while walking 3.3 per nine. Long term, there's still plenty to hope for here, as he's just 20.

Lastly in this group is a first round guy that the Twins traded for. Alex Meyer was at one time regarded as a top of the rotation starter. He's since been demoted to the bullpen and owns a 7.56 ERA since being sent back to Triple-A after 2.2 IP with the big club. He's 25 and needs to turn things around soon, but the Twins could be motivated to allow him to do so somewhere else.

Moving on from ceiling prospects generally is going to involve a significant return. Outside of Meyer being 25, these types have development and projectability often on their side. Knowing they could be an organizational calling card in a few years makes them incredibly valuable.

The Poker Chips

Creativity aside, this definition does justice for virtually all of these players. Depth of the Twins farm system aside, most of these types are going to be players the Twins hope to cash in on in one way or another. Most organizations around baseball have these types of players down on the farm, but the Twins simply have more of them at their disposal. Flaws here or there provide boom or bust material, but they are definitely not just a throw in to any deal either.

I mentioned the Twins have plenty of poker chips at their disposal, and the names span Stephen Gonsalves, Jorge Polanco, Adam Brett Walker, Max Kepler, Jake Reed, and Nick Burdi. With each of those mentioned having different strengths and weaknesses, the Twins can get creative in any deal they would be putting together.

Of the grouping, you'd be hard pressed not to suggest Polanco is the cream of the crop. A projectable bat who will hit at the next level, he's a second basemen forced to play out of position, and he's not very good at it. Polanco has already debuted with the Twins, but he was recently promoted to Triple-A. He's hit .300/.341/.397 across two minor league levels this season. The issue is that he's committed 23 errors in just 77 games, and it's only going to get tougher at the next stop. Big name deals will likely take a long look at Polanco as well.

Max Kepler and Stephen Gonsalves would probably be argued to have some of the higher values at this level as well. Both are players many organizations have similar types to, but the Twins have watched them succeed to great lengths in 2015. Kepler owns a .336/.415/.528 line at Double-A and has looked ready for a promotion for some time. Gonsalves was promoted to High-A earlier this season and owns a 2.50 ERA in seven starts since his callup. He's a lefty and he stikes people out (10.1 career K/9 in 185 minor league innings).

Both Reed and Burdi are types the Twins would likely rather not trade, but would have hoped to see more from. College relievers expected to help the big league club this year, Burdi has been demoted back to High-A while Reed has struggled since starting strong at Double-A. They could be targets in a deal, but no doubt that Minnesota would rather see them put it together for their own pen.

One of the most talked of names this year has been Adam Brett Walker. He defines poker chip in the greatest sense. Known for his impressive power stroke, Walker has mashed 25 longballs at Double-A this season. The problem is, he's striking out at an incredible rate down on the farm (138 K and just 26 walks). He's got an incredibly long way to go before he's Mark Reynolds or Chris Carter at the big league level, and at 23, he may never make it.

When trading these types of players, it's about adding to your own pocket. Every organization has their own poker chips, but the more you have, the better the odds you are able to cash in. They aren't going to be the lone trade piece, but they're much more than a throw in.

The Long Shots

This set of three players is somewhat interesting as it offers a little bit of everything. There's no doubt some high upside here, but as they ascend towards the big leagues, they could definitely end of being the exciting piece of a deal that went nowhere for their new team.

Starting with the guy having a great year, Chih-Wei Hu has impressed for High-A Fort Myers. Owning a 2.20 ERA across 13 starts, he strikes out a modest 7.9 per nine. In a spot start for Triple-A Rochester, Hu tossed six innings of two hit ball to grab the win. He's 21 and has an exciting ceiling, but there's plenty of development left there.

Jumping up to Double-A, and to a position the Twins need to upgrade, Stuart Turner has been anything but the catcher they believed he could be. A defensive stud who they hoped a bat would develop, Turner is slashing just .247/.317/.351 in 192 minor league games. He could be another organizations Drew Butera right now probably, but Minnesota will need more starting behind the dish.

Rounding out the group is a relative high ceiling type in Amaurys Minier. He's young, 19, and he's raw. Now playing at Elizabethton, Minier is working through some early struggles. He does however have two home runs and 13 RBI in his first 20 games, and he's a prospect many of the national types see as having real power potential.

This grouping could round out a trade either for a big name acquisition, or a lesser, but more immediate need. They have definite value both to the organization and in the form of a trade, but it's hard to say how or when that comes to fruition.

The Meaningful Majors

The Twins are likely going to be buyers at the trade deadline, but that doesn't mean their 25 man roster is off limits (or those who find themselves just squeezed off of it). You won't find Mike Pelfrey or Tommy Milone here (the former has no trade value anyways), but the team controlled types with more to offer definitely will bring a return.

Breaking out as expected this season, Kyle Gibson has been nothing short of spectacular in 2015. Owning a 2.85 ERA across 18 starts, Gibson has also improved his strikeout rate up to 6.2 per nine. His 4.00 FIP could cause teams reason for pause, but he could be equally as coveted as a Berrios type.

Sent to the bullpen, despite being one of the Twins best pitchers, Trevor May would have definite appeal to other clubs. In his last six starts before converting to relief, May owned a 3.23 ERA across 30.2 IP. He also led the Twins rotation in strikeouts. A former top prospect on his own and under team control until 2021, May has plenty going for him.

The white elephant in this pool is the castoff outfielder Oswaldo Arcia. Lacking drive at points this season, Arcia has lit Triple-A on fire. In his last 16 games, he owns a .322/.403/.780 slash line with eight home runs and 19 RBI. It's mind boggling as to why he isn't punching balls out of the park for the Twins, but there's little reason to believe another team wouldn't make use of his services.

Of those mentioned, only Gibson would likely be able to be a feature piece in any big trade. Arcia and may are both great options to pair with some other pieces, but you can bet any suitor will be looking for a bit more. What's important to remember is that while buying, the Twins have some expendable depth even at the highest level.

At the end of the day, the trade deadline is something to approach with a heightened sense of understanding. Nearly every team in the big leagues has the pieces to acquire the same players your favorite team does, knowing which pieces are worth what, and more importantly, which ones aren't worth what you think, is the defining line between fantasy and reality.

Minnesota is entering a critical stretch in deciding what they will do at the end of the month. Don't miss the next handful of games, because it should determine how the end of the Twins summer takes shape.