7/27/2014 9:00 P.M. ET
Buxton, Sano remain atop Twins' Top 20 Prospects list
Minnesota's top two farmhands also still rank in top 10 among MLB's best youngsters
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
With the passing of the Draft signing deadline, teams have had a recent influx of talent into their farm systems, and with that, we've updated the Top 20 Prospects lists of all 30 teams.
To be on a list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.
Check out all 30 team Top 20 lists and the Top 100 on Prospect Watch.
1. Byron Buxton, OF
Preseason rank: 1
MLB Top 100 rank: 1 (Preseason: 1)
Scouting grades: Hit: 70 | Power: 60 | Run: 80 | Arm: 70 | Field: 75 | Overall: 75
Buxton took the Minor Leagues by storm in his first full professional season, showing why many evaluators had rated him as the top talent in the 2012 Draft class. He appeared poised to continue his Mike Trout-like climb to the big leagues when a wrist injury initially suffered in Spring Training forced him to miss a large amount of the 2014 season.
Assuming Buxton doesn't have any lingering effects upon his return, he'll get back to showing he's a legitimate five-tool player. He has a simple, direct swing and creates excellent bat speed. Buxton's power has already been better than expected, and scouts expect it to improve more as he grows. His speed grades out at the top of the scale and he knows how to use it on the basepaths. Defensively, Buxton covers plenty of ground in center field and has good instincts in the outfield.
The Twins are traditionally conservative in their developmental timelines, though Buxton had put himself on an accelerated track to the Major Leagues before his injury.
2. Miguel Sano, 3B
Preseason rank: 2
MLB Top 100 rank: 10 (Preseason: 4)
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 75 | Run: 40 | Arm: 70 | Field: 40 | Overall: 65
Sano was in the spotlight even before he signed with the Twins in 2009 for $3.15 million, a club record for an international player. But since reaching the professional ranks, he has shown what all the fuss is about.
Sano has prodigious raw power and knows how to use it in games. He hit 35 home runs between Class A Advanced Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain in 2013. With Sano's power, however, comes a lot of swings and misses. He has struck out more than 140 times in both of his years in full-season ball.
Sano's defense continues to be a question mark. He has made strides at third base, but some scouts believe he is destined to move across the diamond to first base. An elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery in Spring Training and will sideline Sano for the 2014 season complicates his future, but Minnesota will find a place to play him if he keeps pounding the ball.
3. Kohl Stewart, RHP
Preseason rank: 4
MLB Top 100 rank: 25 (Preseason: 40)
Scouting grades: Fastball: 70 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 65 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 60
A two-sport star in high school, Stewart was committed to Texas A&M to play quarterback and pitch before the Twins made him the fourth overall pick in the 2013 Draft. His multisport background and Type 1 diabetes made it difficult for some teams to evaluate him. But Minnesota liked Stewart's athleticism and stuff, and the club was happy to have the chance to draft him.
Stewart throws his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, frequently touching 96 mph. His slider is the best of his offspeed pitches, and his changeup and curveball give him two more quality Major League offerings.
Stewart is still learning how to pitch, but now that he's fully focused on baseball, he should quickly pick up on some of the nuances of the craft. The Twins have several quality pitching prospects, and Stewart has as much upside as any of them.
4. Alex Meyer, RHP
Preseason rank: 3
MLB Top 100 rank: 31 (Preseason: 28)
Scouting grades: Fastball: 70 | Slider: 65 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 60
Meyer's power arm and size have long piqued the interest of scouts. Like many tall pitchers, he struggled with command as an amateur but began to put everything together as a junior at Kentucky. The Nationals made Meyer a first-round selection in 2011, and they traded him to the Twins for Denard Span the next November.
Meyer throws his fastball in the mid 90s and touches the upper 90s. The combination of his fastball's sink and the downhill angle his large frame creates allows him to produce plenty of ground balls. Meyer pairs his fastball with a sharp slider and a changeup.
Meyer was sidelined for two months in 2013 with a minor shoulder injury, but he returned fully healthy and ended the year with an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League. If he can continue to repeat his delivery, Minnesota has all the makings of a front-line starter.
5. Jose Berrios, RHP
Preseason rank: 5
MLB Top 100 rank: 38 (Preseason: 90)
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55
Berrios became the highest drafted pitcher out of Puerto Rico when the Twins took him 32nd overall in 2012. Less than a year later, he was pitching for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic and making his full-season debut in the Midwest League as an 18-year-old.
Berrios proved to be up to any challenge in 2013, showing the polish that attracted Minnesota. He throws his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, adding or subtracting velocity as needed. He mixes in a solid changeup and a hard curveball, which has the makings of an out pitch.
Berrios has better command than most young pitchers and isn't afraid to come right after hitters. He shows a good feel for pitching, which will serve him well as he advances toward the Major Leagues.
6. Nick Gordon, SS
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
MLB Top 100 rank: 42 (Preseason: NA)
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 60
The son of former All-Star pitcher Tom and younger brother of Dodgers infielder Dee, Gordon was the first high school position player to be taken in the 2014 Draft, and he signed quickly for pick value, $3,851,000.
A former two-way player with a low-90s fastball on the mound, Gordon focused on his middle-infield play as a senior, and the work paid off. He has always had the actions and arm to stick at shortstop, and his plus speed plays well on the bases. He has a solid left-handed swing and uses the whole field to hit. He showed the ability to add some strength this spring and will continue to need to add more muscle as he moves up the professional ranks.
A rare high school shortstop who will no doubt stay there, Gordon has the chance to one day become an elite-level talent at the premium position.
7. Jorge Polanco, SS/2B
Preseason rank: 8
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Run: 50 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
Thanks to his abilities with the bat, Polanco was an intriguing prospect. If he can prove that he can play shortstop, he will become even more interesting.
While the young Dominican has seen some time at shortstop during his Twins career, Polanco has played more second base. He has the range and arm for the left side of the infield, but his actions have always been a bit stiff. More reps at the position might help, and Polanco was getting those in 2014, though he'll never be the prototypical fluid Latino shortstop. There are fewer questions about his hitting ability. Polanco has the instincts and mechanics to be an above-average hitter at the Major League level, with some extra-base pop to boot.
Either way, Polanco has the chance to be an everyday middle infielder who can hit. If he can stick at shortstop, his value obviously increases.
8. Trevor May, RHP
Preseason rank: 13
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curve: 50 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50
The Twins loved May's arm strength when they got him from the Phillies in the Ben Revere deal. They're hopeful a strong Arizona Fall League showing can help him reach a ceiling that has previously been elusive.
May has always been more of a thrower than a pitcher, but the raw stuff is still there. He has an above-average fastball, and while he can't command his breaking stuff, he does get swings and misses on it when ahead in the count. May's changeup looked better than it ever has in Arizona. Add in improved mound presence, and the AFL version of May looked like the starter everyone has envisioned.
Minnesota doesn't have a ton of starting pitching in the upper levels, so the club is going to try to hold onto May for as long as it can, knowing he has the power arsenal to succeed in the bullpen if necessary.
9. Lewis Thorpe, LHP
Preseason rank: 6
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curve: 50 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50
Australia has produced a fair amount of big league talent over the years. If everything comes together, Thorpe could be the best to come from Down Under.
While it's early in his development, the early returns say the $500,000 the Twins spent to sign the lefty will be a bargain. Thorpe's fastball velocity has improved greatly, up into the 90s, and could end up in the 95 mph range when all is said and done. The velocity almost doesn't matter, as the movement on it makes it a formidable weapon. He might have a really good changeup to go along with that fastball, and he's tinkering with a pair of breaking balls. Minnesota really likes Thorpe's mentality and competitive mound presence.
Enthusiasm about Thorpe must be tempered with how far off he is, but it's hard not to be excited about the ceiling for this young southpaw.
10. Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF
Preseason rank: 7
Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 40 | Run: 50 | Arm: 50 | Field: 45 | Overall: 50
Even as a high schooler, Rosario was known as a pure hitter. His smooth swing has served him well as a Minor Leaguer, even earning him a spot on Puerto Rico's 2013 World Baseball Classic team.
The key to Rosario's swing is his quick wrists. They allow him to make consistent hard contact and generate good bat speed from his low-hands setup. Rosario has some power and is an average runner, but neither is a big part of his game. Originally an outfielder, the Twins moved him to second base after the 2011 season. Rosario is still improving defensively, but he has the tools to eventually be an average second baseman.
Rosario was suspended for the first 50 games of the 2014 season for a second positive test for a drug of abuse. While that shouldn't affect his long-term potential, he will have to work to make up for the lost time.
11. Kennys Vargas, 1B
Preseason rank: 17
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 20 | Arm: 45 | Field: 40 | Overall: 50
Switch-hitters with power don't grow on trees. Vargas has the chance to be just that, with the ability to hit it out from both sides of the plate.
The most encouraging thing about the Puerto Rican first baseman is that he's not just an all-or-nothing slugger. Vargas has solid swing mechanics with a decent approach. That said, his raw power is his best tool, especially from the left side. If Vargas continues to show he can hit, the home runs will come. He's improved his play at first base to the point where people believe he can play there and not be only a designated hitter.
Vargas needs to improve his focus and intensity on a consistent basis to reach his potential, something he'll work on as he moves through the upper levels of the Twins' system.
12. Felix Jorge, RHP
Preseason rank: 10
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curve: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
There's little question that Jorge, who was signed for $250,000 out of the Dominican by the Twins in 2010, has the stuff and mound presence to succeed. His strength and physicality? That might be a different story.
The 20-year-old right-hander has the three-pitch mix to start, with a fastball that can touch 95 mph, a curve that can get some swings and misses, and a changeup that's his third pitch but could be usable. Jorge can throw strikes with all three and could have better-than-average overall command when all is said and done. The question is just what his innings potential is. Concerns about durability make it more difficult to see Jorge as a high-impact starter.
Jorge will continue to try to add weight and strength, and he could still be a back-end-of-the-rotation starter, though a career as a setup-type reliever seems more likely.
13. Nick Burdi, OF
Preseason rank: None (2014 Draft)
Scouting grades: Fastball: 80 | Slider: 65 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
College closers are often quick-to-the-big leagues relievers, but not ninth-inning guys once they get there. Burdi has the chance to be a Major League closer, a reason some thought he could go in the first round, so the Twins were likely happy the hard-throwing right-hander was still available in the second round.
At Louisville, Burdi consistently hit triple digits and sat in the upper-90s consistently. The heater has good movement and he couples it with a nasty slider that touches the low-90s. He does have a changeup, but don't expect to see it much in his pro career, as his two-pitch power are more than enough to get outs.
There is some effort to Burdi's delivery and he's never going to have outstanding command, but he has everything a team wants to see in a pitcher to close out games.
14. Adam Brett Walker, OF
Preseason rank: 14
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 65 | Run: 45 | Arm: 50 | Field: 40 | Overall: 45
There is no question about Walker's strength and power. Just how much he'll hit to use that tool will determine what kind of impact he'll have on a big league lineup.
The big right-handed-hitting outfielder will put on a show in batting practice with his easily plus raw power. Walker is inconsistent in games, looking terrible in one at-bat, then putting a great swing on a ball the next. He'll need to continue refining his approach if he wants to be able to continue tapping into his power consistently. While Walker is athletic and runs well for a big man, he's a work in progress in right field and will never be better than average there.
It's all about the bat for Walker. As an average hitter, he's a big league regular. If not, a platoon-type career might be in the offing.
15. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
Preseason rank: 18
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curve: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Split: 45 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45
An up-and-down senior year of high school caused this SoCal lefty to slide to the fourth round. Gonsalves has the chance to be a big-time steal from the 2013 Draft.
Some of the southpaw's inconsistencies, particularly in terms of fluctuating velocity, came from a lack of physicality, but Gonsalves has the frame to add a good amount of weight and strength. That should allow him to have a consistent 90-92 mph fastball in time. Gonsalves is still throwing a splitter, but the Twins are trying to have him focus on his breaking ball and changeup, both of which have the chance to be at least Major League average. He has a good feel for pitching and gets high marks for his makeup.
Gonsalves has the body, pitches and command to be a big league starter, one who could jump onto more radar screens in 2014.
16. Stuart Turner, C
Preseason rank: None
Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 40 | Run: 20 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45
While Turner was a third-round pick, he was the second college catcher selected in the 2013 Draft, behind only Andrew Knapp.
Turner was drafted largely because of his defensive profile, and he has a good one. Turner has proven himself --- first at Division II LSU-Eunice, then at Mississippi -- to be an outstanding catch-and-throw guy. He controls the running game with his strong and accurate arm, and he moves well behind the plate while also displaying excellent hands. Since joining the Twins, he's already shown the natural leadership -- working well with pitchers -- teams covet from a backstop. Turner's offense is still a work in progress, though there is perhaps some strength and power to come.
It will be Turner's glovework that gets him to the big leagues. At the very least, he can get there quickly as a defensive-minded backup.
17. Travis Harrison, 3B/OF
Preseason rank: 12
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 30 | Arm: 50 | Field: 40 | Overall: 45
The Twins took Harrison out of the California high school ranks in 2011 because of his bat, and that's likely what's going to get him to the big leagues.
Drafted as a third baseman, the thinking was Harrison would go to first base or a corner outfield spot. He's made enough progress at the hot corner that some feel he might be able to stick there, though he'll never be more than average defensively. Harrison is still going to continue a transition to the outfield that started at instructional league to allow the bat to play. He has legitimate power, with excellent pull home run potential.
Harrison may not be a guy who hits third or fourth in a lineup, but he could be a complementary run producer in the fifth or sixth spot, even if he ends up as a first baseman or a designated hitter in the future.
18. Fernando Romero, RHP
Preseason rank: 16
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curve: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
Romero has the stuff to be a starter. How much he can transition from being a thrower to a pitcher will determine if he can reach that ceiling.
The Dominican teenager can light up a radar gun, has plus action on his breaking ball and he has a workable changeup. The most consistent hard thrower in the system other than Meyer, Romero could have a 70 fastball out of the bullpen, and his approach and style point to a life as a future reliever. He's starting to understand what it takes preparation and conditioning wise to be successful long-term, and he is realizing that there's more to his craft than just throwing hard.
The Twins will let Romero start for now, try to get him innings and increase his pitchability in the hopes a starter can emerge, but a career as a setup man is more likely.
19. Mason Melotakis, LHP
Preseason rank: 20
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
A closer in college who's seen time as both a starter and a reliever with the Twins, the southpaw spent nearly all of 2014 pitching out of the pen.
The left-hander out of Northwestern State was better than expected as a starter during his first full season, especially with his control. Melotakis' above-average fastball and hard slider play up in the bullpen, though he had shown some ability to log innings as a No. 4 or 5 starter. While there was some concern that his breaking ball backed up as the year went on, he's tightened it up and it's a viable weapon. If the changeup improves and Melotakis can throw it for strikes, he could still start.
After a couple of starts early in 2014, though, Melotakis begain focusing solely on coming out of the bullpen, a role he's very familiar with.
20. Max Kepler, 1B/OF
Preseason rank: 15
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 50 | Arm: 45 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
When the Twins signed Kepler for $800,000 out of Germany, they knew he'd be a project. Missing a huge chunk of the 2013 season due to an elbow injury certainly didn't help his development.
Kepler is plenty young enough to make up for lost time, and he did make strides in terms of physical and mental growth. He played some first base because of his elbow and then to get him some at-bats in the Arizona Fall League, but he's still very much an outfielder. Still extremely athletic, Kepler has the chance to hit for average and power if it all comes together.
Kepler is on the 40-man roster, so it's time for him to start showing more than just raw tools. The ceiling is there, now he needs to show it can translate to performance.