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Minnesota Twins 2015 Top 10 Fantasy Prospects

The prospect staff at Fake Teams continues their fantasy prospect rankings and system reviews with an in-depth look at the Minnesota Twins.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Just like last year, the prospect staff here at Fake Teams will be taking an in-depth look at each major league organization, including our top 10 fantasy prospects, an overview of the organization's minor league system as a whole and potential opportunities for playing time in 2015. Our goal is to provide you with more information as you prepare for minor league drafts for dynasty and keeper leagues, as well as look at players that could potentially be worth watching during the spring, as they could be in line to potentially help your fantasy team. We will be reviewing two teams per week until we are through all 30 teams, and you can see the schedule of when your favorite team will be reviewed below. if we have already reviewed the team, a link to the post, along with the team's top prospect is noted.

System Schedule

AL East

AL Central

AL West

NL East

NL Central

NL West

Baltimore
(3/11)

Chicago
(Rodon)

Houston
(Correa)

Atlanta
(Sims)

Chicago
(Bryant)

Arizona
(Bradley)

Boston
(3/14)

Cleveland
(Lindor)

Los Angeles
(Heaney)

Miami
(Kolek)

Cincinnati
(Stephenson)

Colorado
(Gray)

New York
(3/18)

Detroit
(Hill)

Oakland
(Olson)

New York
(Syndergaard)

Milwaukee
(Taylor)

Los Angeles
(Pederson)

Tampa Bay
(3/21)

Kansas City
(Manaea)

Seattle
(Jackson)

Philadelphia
(Crawford)

Pittsburgh
(Glasnow)

San Diego
(Renfroe)

Toronto
(3/25)

Minnesota
(Today)

Texas
(Gallo)

Washington
(Giolito)

St. Louis
(Piscotty)

San Francisco
(Crick)

Organizational Overview
by Jason Hunt

After winning six division titles in nine seasons by 2010, it has been a long rebuilding process for the Twins. 2015 will mark year five of this rebuilding process, and while there is definite improvement from where they sat in 2011, it's not clear that the team will compete for a division title in 2015 or 2016. The team posted its' best record in that time in 2014, although they still lost 92 games and will draft 6th overall as a result. At that point, the organization decided it was time for a change, replacing long time manager Ron Gardenhire with Hall of Famer Paul Molitor. There are definite questions about Molitor's qualifications as a manager, as he has never worked as a manager at any level in the minors previously. That said, Molitor is just the third manager of the Twins in the past 30 seasons, and change was likely a bit overdue.

There were a number of bright spots in 2014 even among the losing, and help to provide hope for this year and beyond. Homegrown star Joe Mauer successfully transitioned from catcher to first base, and while his home runs did not return in the way originally hoped, he should continue to be a solid player for the team (although not as much for your fantasy one). Free agent signings Kurt Suzuki and Phil Hughes both provided unexpectedly good production, in fact earning both players contract extensions fairly quickly. 2B Brian Dozier solidified his hold on the position with a 20/20 season, and likely moving prospect Eddie Rosario back to the outfield once and for all.

The team also saw the emergence of a number of young players that can help the team over the coming years. Shortstop Danny Santana was an epiphany, hitting .319 with seven home runs and 20 stolen bases while splitting time between short and center field, and looks to be the long-term shortstop the Twins have been waiting for. 1B/DH Kennys Vargas was a surprise call up, and hit 9 home runs in just 53 games and will likely be at least in a platoon at DH this year. We also saw Oswaldo Arcia and Josmil Pinto take steps toward establishing themselves as potential starters as well.

The one thing that I feel that the team really could have used (and by no means is there any indication that they could have signed one) was a top-end starting pitcher. They did sign Ervin Santana, and if he returns to the form from a few years ago, could potentially fill that role on occasion. However, the rest of the rotation outside of Hughes is a bunch of #3/#4 types, which could cause issues in terms of matchups when they are ready to make a playoff run.

The farm system is one of the strongest in all of baseball, led by top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. With Sano, Meyer, Buxton, Berrios and Burdi all expected to be in the majors by the end of 2016, there's a lot of talent on its' way. Nearly all of their top prospects that are in the high minors are unblocked or essentially so by the current players, so when they are ready we should see them take on everyday roles.

The future is bright for the Twins, as they could see a renaissance similar to the early 2000's as all these prospects start debuting and providing production to the major league lineup. Their division isn't getting any easier, but with the high number of low-cost, potential high-impact talent that is on its' way, it may not be much longer before they return to the playoffs.

2014 Graduates

The following players have surpassed their rookie maximums of 130 AB, 50 IP, or 45 days of service time.

Kennys Vargas (AB), Danny Santana (AB), Josmil Pinto (AB), Eric Fryer (ST), Yohan Pino (IP), Caleb Thielbar (ST)

Major League Opportunities in 2015
by Jason Hunt

For a team that only won 70 games last year, the Twins have a surprising number of positions locked down for the 2015 season. Miguel Sano could be the hitting prospect that has the biggest impact in 2015, but it's not clear when he will be up in the Majors and whether he will unseat incumbent Trevor Plouffe early on. Center field has continued to be a black hole for the Twins, and while their top prospect is the center fielder of the future, that future likely doesn't start in the bigs until at least 2016. The team will go with one of Aaron Hicks or Jordan Schafer as the starter, although neither is a particularly good fantasy option.

The starting rotation has four pitchers essentially locked in, with Hughes, Santana, Nolasco and Gibson all expected to make 30+ starts this year. There are a number of candidates for the fifth starter spot, including prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May. That said, with both Mike Pelfrey and Tom Milone under contract for at least $3 million each, I find it really unlikely that either prospect starts the year in the rotation over either of these guys.

Top 10 Fantasy Prospects
by Brian Creagh

Our top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are based upon standard 5x5 fantasy baseball leagues, with a balancing of ceiling and present value. While we are having discussions regarding these lists as a collective group, the top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are finalized by the writer listed above. Players are no longer considered prospects once they exceed either 130 at bats, 50 innings pitched, or 45 days of service time in the Majors.

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1. Byron Buxton (OF)

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.234 19 4 16 6
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
137 0.307 0.395 7.30% 26.28%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
20 R R A+-AA
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2016
The fact that Buxton lost most of his 2014 season to injury and is still considered the top prospect in baseball, is a testament to his abilities on the baseball field. Drafted second overall in 2012, after Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton has been an elite prospect since becoming a professional. At 6'2" and 190 lbs Buxton is a freak athlete who is likely to provide an elite level power/speed combination. Buxton is widely regarded as the top prospect in baseball, and that same fact carries over to our fantasy environment. If I were to bet on any prospect to one day de-throne Mike Trout as the best fantasy player, I'm putting my money on Byron Buxton.

Although it was just one game, Buxton did manage to reach AA last season. His final line isn't pretty and not really worth discussing given it's 31 game sample, but reaching AA as a 20 year old is a huge mark in his favor. Assuming a return to healthy play, this trajectory puts Buxton in Minnesota by early 2016, and I kind of want to think he could see a September call up this year but that's probably a little too aggressive. Buxton's fantastic 2013 season gives us a better indication of what his production could look like: in 137 games, Buxton hit 15 HRs, 57 SBs, .322/.411/.509 triple slash with an 120/81 K/BB ratio. Keep in mind that Buxton's power hasn't fully developed so there is still some projection left on those HR numbers. The final line during Buxton's peak is gamebreaking.

The scouting reports fully back up the potential stud that Buxton is being hyped as. His defining tool is his 80 grade speed. Buxton has all the instincts and athletecism to make his every movement on the field look natural. He'll play CF due to his crazy range, but he has the strong arm of a right-fielder and should provide dozens of memorable web gems. Both Buxton's power and hit tool project to plus but are not fully developed. It should come with time as Buxton shows an advanced feel at the plate, but his body will need to fill out to come closer to the 20+ HR potential scouts see. Buxton is a legit 20 HR/50 SB candidate with a .300 AVG. He's going to be the catalyst for many fantasy league championships.


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2. Miguel Sano (3B)

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports
Roster Status: On 40 Man Roster (1 Option Left)
ETA to Majors: Late 2015
Similar to Byron Buxton, an injury derailed Miguel Sano's 2014 campaign as he spent the entire year recovering from a 2013 Tommy John injury. The injury hurts a lot more for Sano as he has a longer road to travel on the development curve to allow his tools to play at full potential. There's still a shot Sano finds the MLB level by late 2015, but my money is on a mid-2016 call up. Sano has been on prospect lists for a long, long time and his prodigous power has withstood the test of time. Most prospects hyped for so long without actually delivering are subject to prospect fatigue and fall off the radar, while Sano continues to cement himself as a Top 10 fantasy prospect.

Miguel Sano's fantasy value is tied entirely to his 80 grade power. Through 401 minor league games, Sano has mashed 94 HRs including two seasons with 30+ HR production. In a time where power is down across the entire league, Sano will be a welcome addition to the fantasy landscape. 40+ HR potential is a reasonable projection during his prime years making him a future leader in the HR category. The risk with Sano is that the AVG might play to a level that saps a lot of his HR value. A .250 AVG is a reasonable starting point, with more downside risk than that. While he's probably not Chris Carter, Sano could fall victim to a similar level of devaluation from an anchor AVG. He does draw a ton of walks and recoups some value in OBP leagues.

Defensively, Sano projects to stay at 3B despite his enormous frame. He has a plus-plus arm but it will be curious to see how well it recovers from TJS. He may outgrow the position, but he'll have the athleticism to handle the hot corner for the first few years of his career and maybe more. Sano is a huge risk/reward guy whose value is about to start climbing again once he starts to play post-TJS. The window may have been missed to acquire him, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's a good argument to trade him away if he comes out hot in AA.


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3. Alex Meyer (RHP)

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
7 0 3.52 1.38 153
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
130.1 0.70 1.13 11.33% 27.08%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
24 R R AAA
Roster Status: On 40 Man Roster (3 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: 2015
There are prospects below Meyer on this list with plenty of more upside, but Alex Meyer lands at #3 on this list thanks to his proximity to the Show. Meyer had a big season in the upper minors and established himself as a strikeout-inducing starter ready for a cup of coffee in 2015. Drafted 23rd overall out of University of Kentucky by the Washington Nationals, Meyer came to Minnesota in the Denard Span trade back in 2012. Meyer is a monster presence on the mound at 6'9" and 220 lbs and backs the size up with an equally monstrous arsenal.

Spending the entire year in AAA, Meyer threw 130.1 innings in 2014 with a 10.6 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, and 3.52 ERA. The strikeouts are huge against advanced bats in AAA, but the walks are certainly a concern. Long-limbed pitchers typically struggle to repeat their delivery, and if they do manage to find consistency it is late in their development. The walk numbers as they are probably good enough to get away with, but I do think there's a chance for improvement even as he hits the major leagues.

Meyer features a fastball, slider, and changeup combo and has a legit three-mix arsenal that can stand as a starter. The fastball is a plus-plus offering sitting in the high 90's. The slider is a plus pitch that induces a lot of swing-and-misses. Most important for Meyer's chances to stick as a starter has been the development of his changeup, it is now an average offering with a chance for more. Scouts still see Meyer's fastball/slider combo and pin him as a future closer, while others think there's enough to be a #3 starter. Either one will work for fantasy owners thanks to the strikeout totals that are sure to come with it.


4. Kohl Stewart (RHP)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
3 0 2.59 1.14 62
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
87 0.400 1.740 6.67% 17.22%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
19 R R A
Roster Status: Protect after 2017 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018
The ceiling for Kohl Stewart is still as high as it was when being picked 4th overall in 2013. In fact, Stewart's ceiling is one of the best of all prospect pitchers given his strikeout potential, loose delivery, and deep arsenal. Stewart spent the entire season in A-ball with quality results: 87 innings, 2.59 ERA, 6.4 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9. I would've liked to see some higher strikeout totals, but the stuff is there and you never know how certain development techniques are altering a player's final stats. There's still risk with Stewart given his multi-year development path ahead of him, but he's a relatively safe bet to make it to Minnesota as a starter.

Stewart throws a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup; and all four pitches project to be average or better offerings. The fastball/slider combo are the best pitches and each could end up being plus-plus offerings. He commands all of his pitches well and when mixed with the electric movement he shows, it could all come together into a special package. The curveball and changeup have flashed potential to be bat-missers, but require a little more development and consistency. Stewart also ran into some injuries in 2014, which adds a small amount of risk to the profile. His body should hold up over a long season, but there's always going to be risk until he goes out and logs a full season. Stewart can shoot up this list, and overall rankings lists with another strong season.


5. Nick Gordon (SS)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.294 46 1 28 11
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
255 0.333 0.366 4.31% 17.65%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
18 L R Rk
Roster Status: Protect after 2018 Season
ETA to Majors: 2019
The Twins 1st Round pick (5th overall) in the 2014 draft was shortstop prospect Nick Gordon. Gordon comes straight out of a Florida High School and lacks the offensive upside of others drafted later than him back in June. At 6'0" and 160 lbs, he has the frame and athleticism to stick at SS long term, which is a plus for his long-term fantasy value, but not enough to carry him towards the top of this list. Gordon is athletic, but not a burner and doesn't project to provide above-average production in steals during his prime.

The upside for Gordon is a solid AVG, and low double-digit HRs and SBs. That ceiling comes only if everything clicks and the realistic outcome is probably less than that. If you haven't had your dynasty draft yet, scoot Gordon back to a 2nd Round pick in your rankings. If you've already drafted and have Gordon, I would recommend selling him now while his small-sample production looks attractive. This isn't to say Gordon holds no value, I certainly have shares of him in my dynasty leagues, but despite the position, athleticism, and high draft pedigree - the offensive ceiling is probably less than you expect. He's also quite a few years away from reaching the big leagues, and the low-upside at the cost of a minor league roster spot for the next 3-4 years is a pretty big opportunity cost to swallow.


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6. Jose Berrios (RHP)

Photo Credit: Jerry Lai - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
12 0 2.77 1.12 140
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
139.2 0.40 0.79 6.65% 24.52%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
20 R R A+-AA-AAA
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2016
Another pitcher in the top half of this system, Jose Berrios lacks the potential of the names above him, but his proximity and advanced profile still make him an attractive dynasty target. Taken at the end of the 1st round in 2012, Berrios has moved quickly through the system on the back of an advanced profile and above-average stuff. Spending time in Hi-A, AA, and AAA during the 2014 season, Berrios final line looks like 139.2 innings pitched, 2.77 ERA, 9.0 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9. Strong numbers to be sure for a 20 year old, but he did get exposed a little bit at the higher levels, and I don't expect similar production at the MLB level.

Berrios throws a fastball, curveball, changeup; and all three pitches project to be plus offerings. The fastball sits 92-95 mph with solid command. The curveball and changeup are a little further behind, but he consistently keeps them down in the zone and rarely gets hurt bad as a result. A big hurdle for Berrios is his 6'0" frame, which makes it difficult for him to throw with a downward plane. His stuff is electric when it's all clicking so his height isn't an insurmountable challenge, but something to look out for as he faces more advanced hitting. Some scouts see him settling in a bullpen role, but the Twins will give him every opportunity to stick as a starter, and I think he ultimately settles in as a valuable #3 starter.


7. Lewis Thorpe (LHP)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
3 0 3.52 1.37 80
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
71.2 0.900 1.130 11.50% 25.56%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
18 R L A
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018
After a breakout 2013 campaign that saw him find his way on the final spot of the Baseball Prospectus Top 101, Lewis Thorpe built on that success in his first full season of professional baseball. At only 19 years old, Thorpe has massive upside but a long development road to get there. At single-A this year, Thorpe threw 71.2 innings, 3.52 ERA, 10.0 K/9, and 4.5 BB/9. As the numbers indicate, the control is the big question mark with Thorpe. His body is still maturing so the spotty control isn't a huge worry this early in his career, but it will dictate whether or not Thorpe ever reaches an elite SP ceiling.

Thorpe has three above-average pitches that can all miss bats. As a result, Thorpe has the potential to be a high-strikeout fantasy option and someone to get excited about. The fastball, changeup, and curveball are all potentially plus pitches, and he throws a slider that shows potential as well. An important step for Thorpe in 2015 is to get a full season's worth of work in. He'll need to build up endurance and get the necessary repetitions to iron out any control problems that may exist. Despite his presence far down the list, Thorpe is still a player worth investing in, and his low ranking is more a result of Minnesota's depth than Thorpe's talent.


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8. Eddie Rosario (OF)

Photo Credit: Derick Hingle - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.243 45 8 40 9
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
370 0.286 0.387 5.68% 19.73%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 L R AA-A+
Roster Status: On 40 Man Roster (3 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: 2016
A former top prospect, the shine has worn off Rosario following an illegal substance suspension. Prior to the suspension, Rosario was a power/speed threat at second base and someone who played up on fantasy focused lists. The suspension plagued Rosario's 2014 season so I'm not so concerned by the 8 HR/8 SB .237/.277/.396 line he put up in his repeat effort of AA. There is still a quality ceiling and a possibility of Rosario playing 2B for Minnesota.

Rosario has a shot to play in Minnesota this year if he can recapture his previous skillset. Scouts note Rosario's unwillingness to settle in as a gap-to-gap hitter. Too often, he tries to mash home run and embraces the slugger's mindset and his numbers struggle as a result. Rosario's 68:17 K:BB ratio needs improvement and would be aided by a more patient approach at the plate. The ceiling isn't what it once was, but he can still develop into a starter in all formats.


9. Stephen Gonsalves (LHP)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
4 0 3.02 1.14 70
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
65.2 0.300 0.610 7.95% 26.52%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
19 L L A-Rk
Roster Status: Protect after 2017 Season
ETA to Majors: 2018
Another massive pitcher in the Minnesota system, Stephen Gonsalves has the ceiling of a #2 starter with a few more years of development ahead of him. Gonsalves is 6'5" and 190s lbs and at 20 years old, hasn't made it passed Low-A yet. Last year Gonsalves spent half the year in low-A with overwhelmingly impressive results. In 36.2 innings he struck out 10.8 hitters per 9 innings and a 2.7 BB/9 and 3.19. It's a small sample size, but the results are encouraging for a projectable left-hander.

Gonsalves works off a fastball/changeup combo and mixes in a curveball that needs some work to become effective. There are some command concerns, but as I've mentioned multiple times for other projectable arms, the big-bodied pitchers can take a while to develop the consistency required for repeating deliveries with long limbs. Gonsalves' upside is still a #2 option and he's probably the least owned in dynasty formats of all Minnesota pitchers. He's worth an investment if he's still on the open market.


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10. Nick Burdi (RHP)

Photo Credit: Jamie Rhodes - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
2 5 2.66 1.131 38
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
20.1 0.00 1.22 12.20% 46.34%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 R R A-A+
Roster Status: Protect after 2017 Season
ETA to Majors: 2016
Drafted in the 2nd Round last year out of University of Louisville, Nick Burdi rounds out this list as another potential impact arm. What puts Burdi beneath the other options is his relegation to a reliever so early in his career. He could end up a dynamic reliever with big strikeout numbers, but there's no shot he is a starter and that hurts his potential ceiling. Burdi will likely move quickly through the system, but to gamble on a role being ready for him early in his career is a silly endeavor for fantasy owners. We can't predict the composition of the Minnesota bullpen in two years, so to give credit to Burdi as a short-term closer is fools gold.

Other Interesting Prospects
by Brian Creagh

Jorge Polanco - A high-floor middle infield prospect, Polanco is what he is at this point in his career. He has a plus hit tool and some wheels to boot so there's a chance he provides a good AVG and double digit steals at the highest level. Unfortunately, that production is more likely to come at 2B due to lackluster arm strength. In deeper leagues, Polanco could be a sneaky MI play that will pay off in a year or two.

Trevor May - His MLB debut wasn't great, but May can still turn into a backend rotation piece. He has a big fastball, but needs to learn to keep it down in the zone. May found a ton of success in AAA last season and his poor results in Minnesota could just be a matter of him finding his footing. A longer look in Spring Training and potential rotation spot out of camp, could give May a late boost heading into Opening Day.

About the Authors

Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects
Follow him on Twitter 

Brian Creagh is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter