Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the upcoming season. Some compete for jobs in big league camp, while others vie for spots on Minor League affiliates. MLB Pipeline will visit all 30 camps this spring, and today we check
Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the upcoming season. Some compete for jobs in big league camp, while others vie for spots on Minor League affiliates. MLB Pipeline will visit all 30 camps this spring, and today we check in on the Twins.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On paper, the Twins have one of the more interesting farm systems, especially in terms of young, high-upside talent. Until the start of camp, that's all they were for new farm director Jeremy Zoll, names on paper.
• Twins Top 30 Prospects list | Q&A with Brent Rooker
Zoll came over from the Dodgers, so he knows a thing or two about having a deep system. But it was all in theory until he was able to get to Fort Myers and start putting faces, and skills, with names.
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"It's one thing to look at guys on a stat sheet, read the scouting reports and watch video, but then to be able to meet them in person, have conversations with them, get to watch them on the field and start to create your own mental representations really helps," Zoll said. "I'm very excited we're rolling here."
It's easy to see why Zoll and his staff are fired up about the start of the 2018 season. The Twins don't have a top 10 system now, according to MLB Pipeline, but they aren't far off. And with the high-end talent they have, seeing them climb way up those rankings by next year, if not sooner, is an easy projection to make.
"I think we have a ton of talent in the system," Zoll said. "If it's not top 10 right now, it's because we have so many younger, high-upside players. We expect that group to take some pretty big steps forward in 2018 and really make a name for themselves."
It's a big reason why prospect fans should plan trips to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, now. At certain points during the season, as many as seven of the team's top 20 prospects could call the Midwest League home. It starts with No. 1 prospect and last June's No. 1 overall pick, Royce Lewis. The Twins haven't ruled out pushing him aggressively after he made it to Cedar Rapids last summer, but the safe bet is a start back there.
Fellow shortstop Wander Javier should be on the roster as well. Alex Kiriloff, the team's top pick in 2016 who missed last year following Tommy John surgery, should bring his advanced bat skills there, as should toolsy outfielder Akil Baddoo and third baseman Andrew Bechtold, another '17 draftee. On the mound, seeing 2017 draftee Blayne Enlow and fellow right-hander Brusdar Graterol seems to be a certainty.
"Our Cedar Rapids group is going to be really good, regardless of how that Opening Day roster shakes out," Zoll said. "Over the course of the season, the guys we expect to get there at some point, are all exciting names we expect to make some splashes in Cedar Rapids. That's going to be a really exciting team. That's one affiliate we'll want to spend a lot of time with."
Javier dealing with shoulder issue
The only thing that could hold some of that group back, aside from an organizational decision to keep some in extended Spring Training to manage things like innings, is injury. Javier, the club's No. 5 prospect, has been dealing with a left shoulder issue, keeping him out of action in Minor League camp.
"He hasn't been swinging this week," Zoll said. "We're expecting him to be back at some point soon, though that's still a little up in the air. He had been looking really strong early in camp and had good ABs in live BPs, drove a home run to right-center field off a pitcher that's a couple of years older than he is. We're excited and hoping to get him going real soon."
Baddoo, ranked No. 11 on the Top 30, showed vast improvement from his debut summer after being drafted in '16, hitting particularly well in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. He showed up in Fort Myers primed to pick up where he left off.
"He's stood out in a lot of ways," Zoll said. "He took huge steps forward in 2017, and he's come in ready to go this spring. He's really competitive in the box, has had quality at-bats. We're excited about his package of zone discipline and damage that he's going to be able to provide."
Closer to the top of the system is fellow outfielder and No. 13 prospect LaMonte Wade. He just moved over to Minor League camp after making a very strong impression on the big league side. Looking more like a fourth outfielder for much of his pro career, some tweaks at the plate could have him poised to perhaps be more than that.
"People are pumped about some of the mechanical adjustments he's made in the box," Zoll said. "We're really excited about how he's leveraging the baseball right now. He could take a big step forward in 2018. He's always had the zone discipline and we feel like there's going to be some extra juice this year."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.