Some EARLY 2013 MLB Draft Options for the Minnesota Twins – Part 2

The Twins were off yesterday and, despite yet another Colorado Rockies loss, they are still in position to have the third overall draft selection in the 2013 MLB Draft.  Minnesota’s hold on that 3rd draft selection is pretty tenuous, as they’re just half a game worse than the Rockies, and two games behind the Cleveland Indians.  Something to watch for down the stretch after the Twins are officially eliminated from the playoffs (any combination of 8 Twins losses or White Sox victories).

Here are the final 5 prospect profiles in this early top 11 draft preview:

Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina
Like Levi Michael, the Twins 2011 1st round draft selection, Moran plays his college ball at the University of North Carolina.  Moran lacks any elite tools, and he’s slow, but he makes up for that by being a well above average hitter.  He hits for average, makes good contact,  has pretty good power numbers, and gets on base a ton (68 walks compared to just 57 strikeouts).  In his two years at UNC he’s hit 12 home runs, and has a hitting line of .347/.439/.522.  To move all the way to the top of the draft an be a serious candidate for the Twins Moran will have to hit for more power than he did as a sophomore (just 3 of his 12 home runs came in his 2nd year on the team) and he’ll likely need to demonstrate above average defense at 3B (at 6′ 3″ and only 180 he’s lanky and needs to stay down on balls hit his way).  He was a 1st team College All-American in 2011, so all eyes will be on him for the 2013 season.

Bobby Wahl, RHP, Mississippi
Wahl was originally drafted late in the 2010 draft by the Cleveland Indians (39th round), but chose instead to enroll at Ole Miss.  This past summer Wahl was named to the USA Collegiate squad and primarily serves as a late inning reliever.  In his first four appearances he struck out nine batters, walked three, gave up no runs and recorded two saves.  According to Pinestripesplus.com, Wahl possesses “a great pitcher’s build and a fastball in the low 90s.”  Despite being used as a reliever for the Collegiate National Team, Wahl started 17 games for the Rebels in 2012 and went 7-4 with a 2.55 ERA.  He had 104 strike outs in 99 innings to go along with just 34 walks.  If it wasn’t for the dramatic shift in the way the Twins draft pitchers evidenced by the 2012 draft, Wahl would be exactly the kind of low 90s control pitcher the Twins might normally target.  Will need to be really impressive in 2013 to become a top-5 draft pick.

Clinton Hollon, RHP, Woodford County HS (KY)
The Twins typically shy away from high school pitching, but Hollon is a guy that they might not be able to pass up.  He has a fast ball that generally works between 90-94 but has been clocked as high as 97 mph at times, according to PerfectGame.org.  A lot of things have to go right for a high school pitcher to make it to the Major Leagues, but at 6′ 1″, 195 lbs Hollon has room to grow into his body and could add a couple of extra MPH to his fastball before everything is all said and done.  I do not think the Twins will go this route, but if they think Hollon is the best talent available, and willing to sign at or near his slot value, the Twins could potentially take a gamble.

Karsten Whitson, RHP, Florida
Karsten Whitson is not only one of the leading draft prospects for the 2013 draft, but he has a phenomenal baseball name, which should be good for an extra $50 or something on his signing bonus.  He was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2010 draft, (9th overall) but ended up at the University of Florida instead of playing pro-ball.  In two years at Florida, and 10 starts as a sophomore, Whitson is 12-1 with 112 strikeouts and just 46 walks in 131 innings.  Whitson is a big guy at 6′ 4″, 225 lbs, and throws in the mid to upper 90s.  Despite some minor injury troubles that kept him out of some early season games a year ago, he should be ready to dominate as a Junior in the SEC.  Whitson has a real opportunity to be the number one overall selection in the upcoming draft, and the Twins would be more than happy if he fell to them at number three.

Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (California)
Gonsalves is the 2nd best pitcher, and 5th best overall high school prospect, as rated by ESPN.  In his Junior year was 10-0 with 79 strike outs in 66 innings. Gonsalves has been clocked as high as 92 mph, but at 6′ 5″, 205 lbs, he will definitely put on more weight before he’s done growing and could be throwing in the upper 90s before too long per MLB Draft Countdown.  Gonsalves also throws a change up and a curveball, with the latter being his go-to out pitch.  He’s also a talented player off the mound where his size, athleticism, and arm strength make him a quality centerfield prospect as well should he not realize his future as a starting pitcher.

And there you have it, 11 men/boys that could potentially be the next Minnesota Twins 1st round draft pick.  If you think I’ve missed anyone, or have any additional insights to share please leave me a message in the comments.

-ERolfPleiss

 

Minnesota Twins 2011 First Round Draft Selection Levi Michael

The last time the Twins were any good (2010) they were swept out of the post season once again by the New York Yankees.  The Twins finished that season with 84 wins, 4th best in all of baseball.  They were rewarded for their success with the 30th selection in the 2011 draft.  With that pick they selected Levi Michael.

At the time of the draft Levi Michael and the University of North Caroline Tar Heels were playing their way into the College World Series (where they promptly made a two game exit).    Levi Michael was in the midst of a fairly strong junior season (.289/.434/.434 (BA/OBP/SLG)), but he dealt with an ankle injury early on in that season which nagged him for a good part of the year.  His sophomore season at UNC was his best, hitting .343/.484/.575 and ranked as the 13th best hitter in the ACC.  While Michael was never projected to be a power hitter, his on-base skills (more walks than strikeouts 47/41) and his speed, coupled with pretty decent range on the defensive side of the ball made him one of, if not the top shortstops in the draft.

PHOTO BY SCOTT BUTHERUS, NAPLES NEWS

Selecting Levi Michael was a departure from the Twins’ usual draft strategy of drafting toolsy high schoolers (think Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks) and college arms (Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers), and was their first college position player taken since Travis Lee in 1996.*  Perhaps the Twins selected Michael understanding that he was one of the best players available to them with the 30th pick and they certainly had a system void of shortstops with high upsides.

The Twins signed Michael late for $1.75 million and despite not having a chance to play competitive baseball for the Twins in 2011, they started him at High A playing a combination of shortstop and second base for the Ft. Myers Miracle.  Going into 2012 Baseball America rated Michael as the Twins 6th best prospect.  TheTwins’  rationale at the time had to be that Levi Michael was a polished college player who should not have much trouble adjusting to professional baseball, and could rise quickly through the Twins MiLB system.

In 87 games for the Miracle, Michael has struggled to get his offensive game going.  He is hitting just .237/.333/.309.  He has continued to showcase a strong understanding of the strike zone at High-A, walking in more than 11% of all plate appearances.  Unfortunately, he is not getting on base enough to steal bases and he has not shown any of the power he did in college, with just 15 extra base hits so far this year (his OPS of .642 does not even rank him in the top 100 of the Florida State League).  Michael’s batting line is held down mostly due to a poor 1st half where he batted just .216/.317/.293.  He’s been much better in the second half so far  (.275/.365/.339) and he’s cut his strike out rate nearly in half down to 12.8% from 22.6%.  However, as a switch hitter he’s still struggling mightily against right handed pitching, with an OPS of just .608, almost 100 points lower than against left handed pitching. At 21 years of age Levi Michael is the 3rd youngest player on the Miracle Roster, and almost two full years younger than the average Florida State League player, so even if he spends all of 2012 and part of 2013 in Ft. Myers he would still be a full year younger than the average player when he joins the Double-A Rock Cats.

While his bat is still adjusting to the professional game, Michael is making most of the plays at both SS and 2B and leads the Miracle in games played and Fielding% at both positions.  Michael’s future in the middle infield is still up in the air as the Miracle have him splitting time between the two positions, spending slightly more time at short.  I’m not going to pretend to know much of anything about his defensive abilities beyond the tidbits I have listed above.  I have not seen him play in person, and I do not know if the errors he is committing are because he is getting to balls outside of his range and not making plays, or because he is just booting balls on routine plays.  Any help in this area would be greatly appreciated.

The biggest take-away on Levi Michael is that it is still early.  He is in his first year of professional baseball and he is one of the youngest players on his team.  He is going to face plenty more ups and downs in his career.  Compared to the Twins’ current shortstop, Brian Dozier, Michael has posted essentially the same line in his first year of High-A baseball that Dozier posted in his first full year at the same level, but Michael is two years younger and did not have the extra two years in the Twins system that Dozier had.  The future might not look bright right now, but Levi Michael is still the best middle infield prospect in the Twins system not named Eddie Rosario.

*The Twins whiffed on Lee in 1996, failing to sign him in the two weeks following the draft.  He eventually signed a $10 million dollar 4-year contract with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks and was their starting first basemen in their inaugural season in 1998 (and came in 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting).  Lee posted a career bWAR of 5.3.

-ERolfPleiss

JC’s Top 10 Twins Prospects List

Everyone else does it, so why shouldn’t Knuckleballs have our own Top 10 Twins Prospects list?

Well, the best reason NOT to do it would be that we don’t know nearly as much about the Twins minor leaguers as others who follow them almost religiously. But we’ve never let the fact that we’re not as smart as other people on a subject stop us from expressing our opinions, so why start now?

The first thing I note about this list (and just about every other list of top Twins prospects that I see elsewhere) is that there aren’t many players likely to be spending much time in a Minnesota Twins uniform in 2012. I actually hope that turns out to be the case, because it would mean the Twins stayed relatively healthy and maybe even in contention throughout the season.

In any event, here’s our Top 10 Twins Prospects as we head in to the 2012 season:

  1. Miguel Sano

    Miguel Sano – I suspect Sano will be the consensus top prospect. He was a boy in a man’s body the last couple of years in Spring Training and destroyed the pitchers he saw in the partial season minor leagues. This year, we’ll see how he fares in a full season of Class A ball, probably starting in Beloit. The Midwest League is infamous as a pitchers’ league, so if he gets anywhere within shouting distance of his Rookie League numbers, it will be impressive. Cross your fingers because Sano could be the only Twins prospect with legitimate superstar potential.

  2. Oswaldo Arcia – He’s a legitimate power hitting prospect who beat up on Low-A pitching, but didn’t have as much success after being promoted to High A Ft. Myers. Watch his walk rate. It dropped (along with pretty much every other offensive statistic) after the promotion and he’s going to need to regain it in order for his power to even matter as he rises up the ladder.
  3. Eddie Rosario – It’s going to be interesting to see if Rosario was able to develop any infield abilities at all during the fall instructional league where he got some time at 2B. He’s got enough offensive talent to be a regular contributor, but may not have enough to hold down a starting corner OF spot at the Major League level. But as a middle infielder? He could be very good.
  4. Aaron Hicks

    Aaron Hicks – It seems like Hicks has been a top-5 prospect for a decade. After seeing him a few times with Beloit a couple of years ago, I was less impressed with him than a lot of people. By last spring in Ft Myers, though, I thought he had matured in to his body well. This is a crucial year for Hicks.

  5. Joe Benson – He didn’t really impress in his cup of coffee with the Twins in 2011, but he didn’t look like he didn’t belong, either. This year we’ll see if he looks likely to be a long-term member of the organization.
  6. Levi Michael – The team’s first draft choice last year hasn’t yet “earned” this spot, but by virtue of his draft position, he probably gets a top 10 spot until he proves he’s NOT worthy of it. That may not be “right”, but it’s the way it is.
  7. Liam Hendriks

    Liam Hendriks – The Aussie shot up through the organization very quickly. Whether or not it was too quickly is something we’ll probably find out this season. If the Twins are going to get any rotation help from within their organization this season, there’s a good chance it would come from Hendriks.

  8. Kyle Gibson – It all comes down to how well he comes back from TJ surgery, but if he was worthy of being at the top of these lists in the past, he still belongs in the Top 10 until he demonstrates otherwise.
  9. Travis Harrison – I hesitate to put any guy on this list who hasn’t actually shown any more than Harrison has, but it’s pretty hard to ignore him completely. He’s got power, for sure, but reports are mixed a bit on whether he’ll be able to handle 3B or LF defensively.
  10. Chris Parmelee – He won’t be found on many other Top 10 lists, but there should be room on this list somewhere for a guy who has actually shown an indication that he is capable of hitting Major League pitching

If I was really ambitious, I’d have made this a “Top 25″ list, but that would reflect a degree of ambition (not to mention knowledge) that I simply do not have. One thing I can truthfully say, however, is that, with the exception of those players who will be attending their first Spring Training with the Twins organization, I’ve seen all of these players on the field with my own eyes during Spring Training and/or while suited up for the Beloit Snappers. I suspect that’s more than a lot of other “Top Prospects List” authors can say.

– JC