|Nick Burdi- Knuckleballs Blog|
As I tweeted out over the weekend, baseball is no doubt a team sport, however it was the Twins group that carried this team during the title game. Taylor Rogers got the start and went 3.0 scoreless, striking out two and picking up the win. Adam Brett Walker drove in three of Scottsdale's six runs, and the game was closed out by both Jake Reed and Nick Burdi. To put it mildly, the Twins stars shined over the weekend.
Looking back at the Fall League as a whole, the majority of the Twins prospects did themselves some considerable favors. Starting with the two guys who have now won back-to-back AFL titles, Rogers and Reed, 2016 is shaping up to be a great year.
Rogers was second in the Twins minors leagues in innings pitched this past year. He's a lefty who has good command and looked impressive for most of the Triple-A season. He established himself as Scottsdale's ace in the AFL and his 2.88 ERA and 21 strikeouts across six starts was a very good way to end the year. He may begin the season with Rochester, but he's a definite bet to contribute for the Twins in the year ahead, likely out of the bullpen.
After an impressive showing a season ago, Reed improved in his second AFL stint. Pitching in 10 games, the former Oregon Duck surrendered zero earned runs. He threw 10.2 IP giving up just six hits while striking out ten and walking just four. If the Twins are going to improve their bullpen in 2016, giving Reed a shot at some point would seem to be a good idea.
Staying with the bullpen, Nick Burdi was equally impressive in the Fall League. He gave up his lone run on a solo homer in the title game, but was lights out otherwise. Burdi was an inclusion in the Fall Stars game, and his command was impeccable owning an 11/1 K/BB ratio across 8.0 IP. Trevor Hildenberger also did some really nice work in relief this fall. His 12.2 IP were second highest for Scottsdale in relief. He owned a 2.13 ERA and struck out 12 while walking none. Although he played at Fort Myers a season ago, the strong showing against superior talent bodes well for his 2016 trajectory.
Then there's the offensive side of things. Starting anywhere but with Adam Brett Walker would be misguided. His Fall was very similar to the rest of his 2015, very mixed. While he was also the hero in the title game, it was his strikeout numbers that continue to cause reason for pause. His final slash line rested at .240/.326/.493 with five homers and 18 RBI. The issue though is that the strikeout week actually got worse. In Double-A this year, Walker averaged 1.65 K per hit, 1.47 per game, and 6.29 per home run. In AFL action, he averaged 1.94 per hit, 1.75 per game, and 7.0 per home run. Those numbers are going to determine whether or not he can contribute at the next level.
It's almost a certainty that Walker starts 2016 at Triple-A, and as a top 10 Twins prospect, Minnesota wants to see him succeed. However, he is not going to be a viable contributor at the big league level based on power alone. He's well behind the likes of Chris Carter, Mark Reynolds, or Adam Dunn in their minor league careers. In the year ahead, it's about making more contact, working on plate discipline, and reducing the ugly strikeout numbers.
Rounding out the offensive grouping for the Twins in the fall are two catchers who had vastly different results. Stuart Turner continued along the path of being a defensive guru who can't hit. He slashed a Scottsdale worst .171/.306/.220 and totaled just two extra base hits in 12 games. The Twins still have significant reason to hold out hope (lack of catching depth being one of them), but Turner needs to hit in the year ahead.
On the other hand, Mitch Garver shunned his regular season numbers by having an impressive fall campaign. The backstop slashed .317/.404/.512 across 12 games and cranked out five doubles and a homer. He handled the bat well in 2014 before taking a step backwards this past year. If the fall production can carry over into 2016, Garver could vault himself up the ladder and into the Twins plans sooner rather than later.
As a whole, the Twins deep farm system was extremely impressive during action down in Arizona. It was pitching that owned the season, but the group set itself apart. Knowing that the big league club is getting ready to turn the corner, a couple of these contributors should be expected to be front and center in the revolution.