Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Twins Gaining In Arizona Fall League

The Major League Baseball Arizona Fall League kicks off and with it, a handful of Twins prospects continue their development. Now playing in games against some of the most talented prospects in minor league baseball, they will be given another measuring stick opportunity. Competition regarded as higher than most of what is faced in a typical minor league game, the "All Star" rosters of sorts go at it.

For the Twins this season, seven players have been asked to compete for the Scottsdale Scorpions. After being affiliated with the Salt River Rafters a season ago, the Twins filled Scorpions will face off against Salt River in game one. The seven players on the squad include: Adam Brett Walker, Stuart Turner, Mitch Garver, Nick Burdi, Taylor Rogers, Jake Reed, and Trevor Hildenberger.

As much about competing and continued development, the Arizona Fall League is about working through some of the issues that may have plagued a player during the season. Each of those seven guys has something to work on. Here's what should be the biggest focus.

Adam Brett Walker

Brett Walker pulverizes baseballs, there's no two ways about it. His 31 homers at Double-A Chattanooga in 2015 were a career high, and he doesn't seem to be losing the power stroke any time soon. The biggest issue however, is that he swings and misses far too often. With 195 strikeouts in just 133 games, Brett Walker had a 238 strikeout pace per 162 games at the Double-A level. that's only going to get worse against better talent. He needs to show more discipline in Arizona, and hopefully carry that approach over into his 2016 season.

Stuart Turner

Turner was drafted to help refuel the Twins catching depth. As a defense first prospect, the hope was that the former Mississippi catcher would eventually hit. With a career worst .223/.322/.306 line for Double-A Chattanooga in 2015, that notion took a significant hit. He picked things up towards the end of the season, but seeing Turner bring the lumber in Arizona would be a very welcomed development by the Twins.

Mitch Garver

Another catcher, Garver was a 9th round pick in 2013 by the Twins. Having played at one level per year, Garver spent 127 games in the Fort Myers lineup this past season. After breaking out to a .298/.399/.481 line with Cedar Rapids in 2014, he slashed just .245/.356/.333 at High-A this season. He followed up his 16 HR performance with just four, and he struck out a career high 82 times (which still isn't a bad number). Like Turner, Garver needs to hit to move up the ranks. The Twins have catching deficiencies and it isn't going to be filled with a Drew Butera type.

Nick Burdi 

Burdi was a reliever that looked the part of a fast mover, and was someone I expected to be with the Twins in 2015. He stumbled out of the gate, and a few times throughout the year. He was demoted back to Fort Myers at one point, and his final ERA for Double-A Chattanooga was 4.53. Looking at his WHIP (1.649), the biggest problem is more than apparent. Burdi throws gas, but his command was non-existent in 2015. Owning a 6.6 BB/9 mark, pounding the zone will be a major focus in the Arizona Fall League.

Taylor Rogers

Continuing the Twins Kentucky pipeline is their 11th round pick in 2012. Rogers had a relatively strong 2015 season. He finished with a 3.98 ERA that was inflated with a few poor starts to end the year, but his peripherals were generally strong. Not a big strikeout guy (6.5 K/9), he also doesn't walk many (2.3 BB/9). Rogers is repeating the Fall League after making two starts a year ago. He's a good bet to push for time on the Twins roster in 2016, and I think his eventual resting place will be as a long man out of the pen.

Jake Reed

It's hard to mention Burdi without having reed to far behind. Taken in the same draft (Reed in the 5th round), the former Oregon Duck is very similar to the Louisville standout. While he doesn't throw as often in the triple digits, Reed has a power arm of his own. Another guy that was expected to surface for the Twins in 2015, Reed had a very up and down season. He too was demoted to Fort Myers, and after dominating the level again, finished with a 6.32 ERA at Chattanooga. Reed saw his strikeout rate drop (7.0 K/9 in 2015 as opposed to 11.3 in 2014), and his walk rate balloon (3.3 BB/9 in 2015, 0.9 in 2014). Like Rogers, Reed is repeating the Fall League this season. In 2014, Reed owned a 0.71 ERA in 12.2 IP for the Salt River Rafters. Another strong performance, with improved command, should have his arrow pointing right back up.

Trevor Hildenberger

Unlike some of his teammates, Hildenberger enters the Arizona Fall League for some different reasons. He was actually promoted in 2015 (from Cedar Rapids to Fort Myers), and compiled a 1.55 ERA, 11.2 K/9, and a 1.0 BB/9. At Fort Myers, his ERA rose to 3.32 but he still struck out batters at a 9.9 K/9 clip while walking less than 1.0 per nine. The Fall League is an opportunity for Hildenberger to launch himself on a quicker path to the big leagues. He's 24, and will need to show he can compete against better talent. If he proves himself, a shortened stop at Double-A Chattanooga may be in the cards.

Make sure to tune into the Major League Baseball Arizona Fall League over the course of the next month. For these seven Twins prospects, the action could position them nicely for a different 2016 season.