Primer Addendum: Minnesota Twins

By Jake Seiner/MiLB.com

Earlier in the week, I brought you plenty of bonus coverage over here to accentuate our Pirates Prospect Primer. Today, we’re doing the same with Minnesota. For starters, though, be sure to check the Twins Prospect Primer over at MiLB.com, notes from the Twins Spring Training complex from earlier this month and our profile of Australian prospect Lewis Thorpe, then come back here for plenty more.

Byron Buxton, Outfielder

I’m going to save the really good stuff for next week, when we plan to roll out a full profile of the game’s top prospect.

Alex Meyer, Right-Handed Pitcher

Acquired last offseason from the Washington Nationals for Denard Span, Meyer missed time in 2013 due to shoulder soreness, but was still impressive in the 13 starts he did make with Double-A New Britain. He followed that with a stint as one of the Arizona Fall League’s most dominant pitchers and has set himself up to perhaps join Minnesota’s rotation by midseason in 2014.Image

The scouting reports on Meyer all point to a pitcher ready to make that jump. The numbers — specifically his innings pitched — tell a different story. The hurler has just 70 innings of Double-A experience. Some pitchers have the stuff and command to forego the upper Minors finishing school — and Meyer may be that good — but the Twins want to ensure the 6-foot-9 24-year-old spends the requisite time learning to pitch before he gets to the Majors.

“He doesn’t have a lot of innings in pro ball,” Twins director of Minor League operations Brad Steil said. “We’ll get him out there, get him some innings and try to get him ready to get to the big leagues and be able to pitch up there. A lot of it now is just understanding how to get outs. The stuff is there. He’s got a great fastball. He’s got probably one of the best breaking balls in the game. His changeup, he’s made progress with his changeup in the last year.

“I think the total package is just learning how to pitch, for lack of a better phrase. Just refining those things and learning how to set hitters up. Being able to execute your pitches and locate when you need to.”

Danny Santana, Shortstop

Santana is something of a divisive prospect, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Gifted athletically, Santana has a history of inconsistency and his 32 errors in 2013 would suggest those problems plagued him often last year.Image

That isn’t quite the real story, though. Steil estimated that 20 of those errors came in the season’s first two months. Santana’s supporters have often noted that, when the shortstop does make errors, they’re often on balls most shortstops don’t touch. In the past, Santana would get to those balls because of his outstanding range, but would falter on the transfer or the throw.

In the second half of 2013, that changed. If Santana can repeat those skills going forward, Minnesota could have a quality defender breaking into the Majors soon.

“If you’re just looking at what’s on paper, the numbers on paper, it doesn’t explain what he brings to the game,” Steil said. “He does get maybe penalized a little bit because there are balls he gets to and tries to make plays most shortstops don’t get to.

“He also did make improvements in his game that helped him take that number down. That’s something he’s going to have to continue working on and making sure fundamentally he’s doing the correct thing. Footwork, getting his feet set, getting on line when he makes throws, not rushing things. Those are the things we’ll continue to work on with him.”

Kohl Stewart, Right-Handed Pitcher

Last year’s fourth overall Draft pick is battling this spring for a spot in Class A Cedar Rapids’ rotation. Early in camp, the 6-foot-3 Houston native struggled some with his fastball command, not an uncommon problem for young hurlers.

The 19-year-old found plenty of success last year, using his big fastball and sharp slider to dominate over 20 Rookie-level innings split between the Gulf Coast League and Elizabethton. A little shoulder soreness prevented him from throwing more innings, though, putting perhaps a step or two behind where Minnesota might’ve liked him to be by this point.

Which isn’t at all a cause for concern. The big goal for Stewart this season will be learning to better corral his first-round stuff.

“That’s going to be the big thing with him is being able to command his stuff,” Steil said. “He’s a hard worker. He really competes when he’s on the mound. It’s just a matter of refining his command and working on those pitches.

Max Kepler, Outfielder

Kepler was our pick for Breakout Player in the Twins system this season. Last year was a disappointing one for the Berlin native as he missed half the season with an elbow injury then struggled offensively upon his return.Image

The Twins are ready to give the projectable outfielder a mulligan. Kepler looked sharp in Spring Training, even flashing some improved arm strength from the outfield — the tool is still rated below average even by the Twins, but there’s hope he could wind up with average arm strength, which would improve the defensive profile.

Speaking of his defense, Kepler took reps last year in both the outfield and at first base, but the move to the infield was primarily a way to get the youngster more at-bats. The Twins plan to keep Kepler primarily in the outfield this summer, with the hope that he can prove himself a long-term center-field option.

“I think he can play some center now,” Steil said. “We’ll see how long he can maintain that athleticism because he’s a pretty big kid. Right now, he runs enough to play some center. He’s probably not your prototypical guy. He doesn’t have speed like Buxton or anything but he can play out there.”

If center doesn’t work out long term, left field is his likely destination.

Randy Rosario, Left-Handed Pitcher

Rosario is one of a number of promising teenage hurlers in the Twins system. He logged 44 2/3 innings with Elizabethton in ’13, managing a 2.82 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 18 walks without a home run allowed.

The Dominican Republic native’s challenge has been to improve his command, something he has shown signs of doing this spring. Steil said Rosario was sitting at 92-94 mph with his fastball in one early spring outing this year with “better feel and command.” Not that one outing is much to extrapolate on, but for folks looking for deep MiLB sleepers, the 19-year-old is one to watch.

Aaron Slegers, Right-Handed Pitcher

The Twins have shown an affinity for long, lanky hurlers over the past couple years, and the 2013 fifth-round pick out of Indiana University is a prime example. Standing in at 6-foot-10, the hurler had tremendous success pitching to contact in college — he struck out just 4.14 batters per nine innings at IU last year — but has flashed swing-and-miss stuff as a pro. The 21-year-old will pitch either for Cedar Rapids or Class A Advanced Fort Myers this summer.

“It will be interesting to see how he does this spring,” Steil said. “He’s an older guy who might be able to compete for a job at Fort Myers. We will have to see how it goes.”

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