Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camps, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system.
Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camps, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system. MLBPipeline.com will be visiting all 30 camps this spring. Today, we check in on the Minnesota Twins.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Imagine if, as a farm director, you could pick the brains of front office executives from two other outside organizations to come up with the best player development plan imaginable. That's exactly what Twins director of player development Brad Steil feels about his current situation.
• Twins' Top 30 Prospects list
:: MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports ::
Chief baseball officer Derek Falvey came from the World Series runner-up Indians and general manager Thad Levine came from the Rangers, the first changing of the guard at the top in Minnesota in some time. Steil, a hold-over from the former regime, has been happy to compare notes leading up into the 2017 season.
"I think there have been some changes," Steil said. "I think it's been good, with Thad and Derek coming from different organizations, it's been good to kind of collaborate and share all of our ideas on the ways our three organizations have done things, what we think has worked well and where we think we need to improve.
"Obviously, they arrived kind of late in the fall last year, so we were behind schedule a little bit in the offseason. We're still going through the process of evaluating the organization. I think there are some things we're doing with development plans, from a process standpoint or organizational structure standpoint that are going to help us and will be good tools for us."
These developmental tools will be helped to usher along a system that was hit a bit by graduations to the big leagues last year. Gone from prospect lists are Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios and Max Kepler, three of the reasons Minnesota had a top 10 farm system a year ago. Steil feels that while it's true there aren't the elite names topping their list, the Twins' system is still plenty strong.
"I think we still have a good group here," Steil said. "I think you could argue that it's a little underrated according to the publications, but that's fair. We don't pay a whole lot of attention to that. I think the goal is to get guys up there. We're focused on the players we have in the Minor Leagues and trying to develop them as quickly as we can so they can get up there and help those other guys. We're just trying to get better."
There is more help on the way. Nick Gordon and Stephen Gonsalves just recently returned from time in big league camp, and there are many power relief arms who could be called upon to help out in 2017. The Twins are preparing for exactly what the farm system should do: provide talent to the big league club so that it can turn things around from a last-place finish a year ago. Besides, given that the recently graduated are still so young, looking beyond the official prospect status guidelines might be a better way to evaluate the entire organization.
"The prospect thing can be a little misleading at times," Steil said. "If someone did a ranking of, say, 25-and-under players by organization, that might give you a little more perspective on where teams are at with their youth. When you have guys like Miguel Sano, Buxton, Kepler and Berrios, who are all under control for another five years, that's valuable. They're still young and there's still a lot of growth that's in front of them."
• Q&A with Lachlan Wells
Twins scouts obviously thought Wander Javier had a lot of talent. Otherwise, the decision to sign him for $4 million in July 2015 would never have been made. But the young shortstop didn't really get to show what he was capable of last summer during his Dominican Summer League debut, as hamstring issues kept him out of all but nine games.
Now healthy, the 18-year-old infielder's skills have been on full display and have been the talk of camp.
"He has been fun to watch," Steil said. "He's certainly shown the tools that our scouts saw before we signed him. We're excited about him. I think some of the rankings I've seen with Javier, I think that will change by the end of the season, but I understand, too, that he hasn't done much on the field yet."
Javier is currently No. 17 on the Twins' Top 30 on MLBPipeline.com.
The Twins have amassed a strong set of relief-pitching prospects in the system, starting with J.T. Chargois at No. 11 on the Top 30 and including Nick Burdi, Trevor Hildenberger and Jake Reed in the top 20. John Curtiss could be ready to join that group.
A fifth-round pick in 2014, Curtiss toyed with starting for a while before moving to the bullpen full-time in July 2015. He started to take off in the new role in 2016 in the Florida State League, then pitched extremely well in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 18 in 12 2/3 innings. The Twins think he's ready to take that experience with him into the 2017 season. "His pitches are improving, his command is improving," Steil said. "His mound presence, confidence and aggressiveness, he continues to improve in those areas. Just the experience of being in the Fall League, pitching against some of the top prospects in the game and having success, some of that will carry over to this year.
"I expect he'll start the season in Double-A and I think he has the chance to move more toward that group of Reed, Hildenberger and Burdi and put himself with them. "
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.