Thursday, February 11, 2016

Twins Making Sense Of Law

Keith Law, ESPN's Baseball Insider, posted his much-anticipated prospect analysis this week. First he launched his 2016 organizational rankings, and then he followed up with his pre-2016 top 100. With the Twins once again having a loaded system, ranked third overall by law, they had seven prospects show up in the top 100. As with all rankings, there's discussion, and that's where Off The Baggy comes in.

Looking at the organization rankings, there's not much to complain about with the Twins positioning. Despite graduating Miguel Sano and a host of other prospects a season ago, Minnesota trailed only the Braves and Dodgers when it came to organizational rankings. The Twins seven top 100 prospects also was in a three-way tie for first (with the other aforementioned organizations) as the most by any team in baseball.

The prospects themselves are where things start to get interesting for Law. As with all players, some evaluators are going to see certain skills and detractors in a higher light. Law has provided some ammunition for discussion, while also being incredibly fair across the board.

He has Byron Buxton sitting second behind only the Dodger Corey Seager on his top 100 list. Seager plays shortstop and is regarded as a premier talent. While Buxton's plus-plus tools also put him in the premier category, it's hard to ignore the hiccup that was his MLB debut. No doubt Minnesota is hoping for better out of their former first round pick, and it should come in 2016.

Despite his debut, Law still sees plenty of promise in the Georgia native. He notes, "a star even if he hits .240, as that would probably come with 50 steals, 10-12 homers and big defensive contributions." That being the floor for Buxton puts the Twins in a very good place. Eduardo Escobar smacked 12 longballs a year ago, and Buxton's smooth swing should help him replicate at least that amount. He has a good feel for hitting at the plate, and very well could hit for average if things click.

Over the past two years, Law has been incredibly tough on Jose Berrios. If there's a prospect I've been opposite on, it's this one. Law doesn't like Berrios' arm action, and his short stature leads to flat fastballs. He notes that as Berrios reaches the big leagues, the balls leaving the park could turn into a problem.

Despite having kept the ball in the park on his way up the ladder, Berrios continue to draw Law's ire. He gave up 12 homers a year ago across Double and Triple-A. That number could inflate to the high teens in the big leagues, but I'd guess it still shouldn't be much of a concern. A season ago, Law noted Berrios being a third starter at best. Where things stand now, I'd hope he sees him as a two at worst, with ace potential. He has the makings of a very, very good option for Minnesota.

Following the top two guys, Max Kepler squeezed into the top 50 for Law as well. He put himself on the map big time a season ago, and Kepler looks like he could be a real star. He does so many things really well, and he doesn't do too much poorly. Kepler should have plenty of opportunity to make waves for the Twins as early as this year, and all of the waiting on him may finally come to fruition.

On the back side of the top 50, Law's first inclusion was somewhat curious to me. Putting Kohl Stewart at 53 seems to be incredibly high. The Texas native has had two seasons with declining strikeout rates and shoulder issues. He's been billed as a potential ace, but his low level struggles should be serious reason for pauses.

At some point, Stewart is going to have to step out from behind the narrative that he's still transitioning from a football player, and he's going to need to make his splash. doing so in 2016 at Double-A would be a very good start, and no doubt get him back on track. Depending on how the year ahead goes, he could be an option for the Twins in 2017, or he could fall even further off of my radar.

Rounding out the group is a trio of interesting names. Tyler Jay appears first and remains tough to project. As a left-handed reliever, he's probably close to big league ready. Minnesota no doubt drafted him in the first round to start however, and that transition is going to take more time.

I've talked plenty about Jorge Polanco, and he remains one of the most interesting prospects for me in the year ahead. I'd contend he could start on a handful of big league teams at second base right now. The Twins don't have room, and I'd struggle to move Trevor Plouffe to put Polanco and his questionable arm at the hot corner. He's either going to hit his way into the Twins plans, or maybe more likely, into some other organizations.

Last but not least, Nick Gordon makes the list. Of all the Twins prospects Law included, it's Gordon that probably gets chastised the most. No longer seen as an All-Star type by the ESPN Insider, Law suggest Gordon is "very likely to remain at shortstop and become an above-average defender there."

Noting the change in long term belief in regards to Gordon, I struggle to see what Law is making such a brash decision off of. His evaluation is sound, but a half of a season at Low-A Cedar Rapids that started slow shouldn't be worthy of a complete reversal. Gordon slashed roughly the same at Low-A as he did in Rookie Ball, and it was his slow start that no doubt caused the dip in batting average. At just 20 years old, it's probably best to hold out on dropping his season until we see what he can do at either Fort Myers or Chattanooga in the not so distant future.

As the dust settles, Minnesota once again proves to have one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. The Twins have done a great job of drafting talent of late, and it has no doubt contributed to the renewed excitement around the ballclub. We should continue to see those efforts pay off in the years to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment