Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Twins Prospects On The Move

The Minnesota Twins have one of the best farm systems in all of Major League Baseball. Watching players like Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, and Tyler Duffey make significant contributions at the big league level this season gave Twins fans a taste of that. What's important to remember though is there's plenty of talent left on the farm. With a few players coming to the surface, it's time for some other names to step up.

Sano, and Byron Buxton have been two of the most talked about Twins prospects for years. With their talent and tools, it's not at all surprising to see the excitement surrounding them. It's players like Duffey though that develop and help to supplement the expected top tier talent. Paul Molitor and the Twins brass will be looking for more of those types in 2016, and the system has a few opportunities to produce some.

Forget top prospects like Buxton, Jose Berrios, or Tyler Jay for a moment, here's some of the 2016 risers Twins Territorians should be focusing in on.

Stephen Gonsalves LHP

Gonsalves is only 20 years old, but he rose through two levels this past season (as he has done in each of his three professional years). His time at Fort Myers saw his strikeouts dip and his walk rate rise, but his 2.61 ERA across 15 starts was still plenty respectable. With a career 9.5 K/9 across 46 professional games, that will be a number Gonsalves will need to get back to in 2016.

I'd expect Gonsalves to start in Fort Myers again in 2016, but he should be given plenty of chances to make it a short stay. With pitchers graduating the system above him, there will be plenty of opportunities to move up. He'll pitch for Double-A Chattanooga for the majority of the season, and I wouldn't be shocked to see him end at Triple-A Rochester. Just 21 next season, the Twins could have another very strong pitching prospect on their hands. Tommy Milone being the lone lefty in the Twins rotation, Gonsalves soaring through the system should be fun to watch.

J.T. Chargois RHP

Chargois finally enjoyed a clean bill of health in 2015, and the 24-year-old turned in an impressive season. Despite a brief tough stretch, he pitched to the tune of a 2.73 ERA at Double-A Chattanooga and owned a 9.3 K/9 mark. A hard thrower with strikeout stuff, it's players like Chargois that will be relied upon to turn the Twins bullpen around.

I was of the belief that Chargois was deserving of a September call up in 2015. He's an older prospect, and despite his first healthy season in a while, he appears near major league ready. The Twins should (and likely will) send him to Triple-A Rochester out of spring training, and I'd expect him to be in the big leagues at some point in 2016. Chargois would give the Twins a power arm in the pen they have been missing for quite some time. Worth following along with Chargois, both Nick Burdi and Zack Jones should have similar routes in the year ahead.

Lewis Thorpe LHP

Unlike the previous pitchers, Thorpe makes this list for another reason. After missing all of the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery, the Aussie will make his return to the mound in 2016. After pitching to a 3.52 ERA in 16 starts for Cedar Rapids a year ago, there was plenty of excitement about the 18 year old. Owning an 11.2 K/9 and being a lefty, it's hard not to dream about what Thorpe could be.

There's no doubt Thorpe will be eased back into things, but seeing how he responds and rebounds from surgery will be a big story. Tommy John surgeries are more common now, but still not a perfected science when it comes to regaining past effectiveness. Look for the Twins to bring him along slowly, but if Thorpe can flash his 2014 self again, he will immediately be back on the radar as a Top 100 prospect nationally.

Travis Blankenhorn 3B

For whatever reason, Blankenhorn is the lone hitter I have on this list, and he happens to be a 2015 draft pick. Taken in the 3rd round out of high school, Blankenhorn played in both the Appy League and the Gulf Coast League in 2015. While his average wasn't great, the power flashed at the higher level. In the Appalachian League, Blankenhorn blasted three homers and added three doubles. He contributed 20 RBI in 39 games and owned a .306 OBP.

At 18 when the season starts in April, there's no reason to rush the Pennsylvania native. However, his production may deem otherwise. I wouldn't be surprised to see him have some solid success with Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League, and put himself on the national radar.

As the 2016 season unfolds, there will be a handful of prospects that elevate their game to the next level. Watching the prospect pool overflow has been something the Twins can enjoy as fruits of their drafting labor.

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