Byron Buxton Rumors
Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports that the Royals maintain there is a possibility for them to retain Ervin Santana this offseason. GM Dayton Moore has gone on the record in saying that Santana will get a qualifying offer, notes Dutton, and one club official pointed to the struggles that gave Kyle Lohse on last year's market. Lohse was significantly older than Santana, of course, but a qualifying offer does up the price to sign Santana for everyone other than the Royals. Dutton senses that at this time, the team doesn't want to go beyond three years, but that could change once they gauge the market. Here's more out of the AL Central...
- MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger tackles a host of Twins-related topics in his latest Twins Inbox, starting off by dismissing the notion that Joe Mauer's concussion and Josmil Pinto's impressive big league debut spell the end of Mauer's days behind the plate. Mauer and GM Terry Ryan both say that Mauer will still catch, and the proposed destination of first base for Mauer may not be vacant. Bollinger reports that Justin Morneau is a candidate to return to the team, but there mixed feelings about whether or not he'd return, as he may prefer to sign with a contender.
- Bollinger also notes that Brian Dozier's strong season at second base could make top prospect Eddie Rosario a trade chip to land starting pitching, or it could make Dozier himself a trade chip with Rosario nearing the big leagues. He adds that the Twins need to acquire starting pitching this summer, and Ryan will have the funds to do so via free agency and the prospects to do so via trade. Only Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Mauer (who has a full no-trade clause) are untouchable in trade talks this offseason, according to Bollinger.
- The White Sox gave a club-record $1.6MM signing bonus to Dominican outfield prospect Micker Adolfo this July, writes MLB.com's Scott Merkin, and GM Rick Hahn expects more of the same next season as he looks to rebuild the team following a 99-loss campaign. Hahn anticipates being allotted roughly $5MM to spend on international free agents, which should give him plenty of ammunition to be aggressive.
Where did the year go?
The 2013 minor league regular season is in the books, and the lucky few are currently competing in the playoffs. We've seen a lot of exciting moments during the year. We've also seen a lot of prospects significantly improve their values. To celebrate the best of the best, MLBTR is celebrating the 2013 All-Prospect All-Star Team, which features the top players in the minors at each position. Given the depth at some positions -- as well as the lack there of at others -- this was no easy task.
The players were chosen by considering a mixture of future potential and statistical results.
Catcher: Austin Hedges, Padres -- Because of his abilities on both defense and offense, San Diego's catcher of the future narrowly edged out the Yankees' Gary Sanchez. His abilities on both sides of the ball also impressed his employers, according to Padres Assistant General Manager of Player Personnel Chad MacDonald. "He has the tools and skill set to impact both sides of the ball... and we are excited about his future with the San Diego Padres," MacDonald said.
Hedges will probably never be the strongest offensive catcher in the league but he won't embarrass himself, either. Behind the plate, he's perhaps the best defensive catcher in the minors if you take everything into consideration: arm, receiving, blocking, game calling and leadership.
First Base: Dan Vogelbach, Cubs -- This position was the hardest one to find a deserving candidate. The Astros' Jonathan Singleton missed the beginning of the year due to a suspension and then struggled with his consistency. The Angels' C.J. Cron failed to consistently tap into his raw power. Vogelbach, just 20, performed well at two A-ball levels and showed the ability to hit for average and power while also getting on-base at a solid clip.
Brandon Hyde, the Cubs' director of player development, said Vogelbach's successes came from hard work. "It was an impressive season with raw power to all fields," he said. "He has an advanced approach for his age, and he controls the strike zone."
Second Base: Rougned Odor, Rangers -- Second base was another tough position to settle on the winner. The Angels' Taylor Lindsey, Cardinals' Kolten Wong, and Twins' Eddie Rosario also received serious consideration before the award went to Odor. The Rangers' prospect hit more than .300 between High-A and Double-A with a strong OPS and 32 stolen bases -- all at the age of 19. The left-handed hitter also popped 58 extra base hits, including 41 doubles. With all the middle infield depth in Texas, Odor could make things very interesting -- and crowded -- in short order.
Third Base: Miguel Sano, Twins -- Sano was the runaway winner at third base, although the Cubs' Kris Bryant could give him a run for his money in a year's time (assuming both prospects are still in the minors). The Dominican native launched 35 home runs and produced a .610 slugging percentage. However, he didn't hit for a great average after his promotion from High-A to Double-A, and he combined to strike out 142 times in 123 games, so there are some holes in his game that need to be addressed.
Shortstop: Javier Baez, Cubs -- There were five players that were considered in this slot, including Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), Francisco Lindor (Indians), Addison Russell (Athletics) and Carlos Correa (Astros). Baez, though, came out ahead when considering his outstanding statistical results and the fact that he has a chance to be as good as any other player on the list. Just 20, he finished the year in Double-A and hit a combined 37 home runs with 20 stolen bases and a .920 OPS.
Hyde was impressed with Baez's ability to make adjustments after being promoted to Double-A. "He hit in the middle of the order on a prospect-laden team. He made huge strides defensively and with his plate discipline," Hyde said. "He has a unique combination of raw power, speed and off-the-charts instincts, especially for a 20 year old in Double-A."
Outfielder: George Springer, Astros -- Springer, 23, had an eye-popping season while playing at both Double-A and Triple-A. He narrowly missed becoming a 40-40 player (HR-SB) with 37 homers and 45 steals while playing at the highest levels of the minors. Springer's approach produces massive strikeout numbers, but he showed improvements in that area as the year progressed.
The prospect impressed the club's front office not only with his play but also his attitude, according to Quinton McCracken, the Astros director of player development. "George is an exceptional five-tool talent, and even better person. He has great makeup, work ethic, off-the-chart intangibles coupled with incredible athleticism... He's a very special player," he said.
Outfielder: Byron Buxton, Twins -- Buxton was the biggest no-brainer on this list. Just 19 and in his first full pro season, the five-tool outfielder played at two A-ball levels while hitting more than .330 and producing double digits in doubles, triples and homers. He also got on base at a .424 clip, stole 55 bases in 74 tries and played above-average defense in centerfield. The Twins have one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball and could be a massive threat in two to three seasons.
Outfielder: Gregory Polanco, Pirates -- Polanco edged out a few other players because, at a very young age, he showed a five-tool approach and had an impact in numerous areas. The 21-year-old outfielder showed that he may one day develop into a 20-20 or perhaps even a 30-30 player. After beginning the year in A-ball, he ended the season in Triple-A.
Pirates Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway said the most impressive thing about Polanco's growth has been his maturity. "He has fit into each clubhouse and added value to the culture of each club that he's been on," Broadway explained. "He continues to approach the game with a learner's mentality and is always looking to find a way to get better. He's not afraid to make a mistake in the process, which has allowed him to progress well in all areas of his game."
Starting Pitcher: Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks -- Bradley and Dylan Bundy grew up playing baseball together, but the former passed the latter on top prospect lists after the Orioles' prospect blew out his elbow. Just 20 years old, Bradley spent the majority of the year in Double-A and finished the season with a combined ERA of 1.84 and 162 strikeouts in 152 innings of work. He also allowed just 115 hits.
Starting Pitcher: Taijuan Walker, Mariners -- Utilizing a strong fastball and excellent breaking ball, Walker, who just turned 21 on Aug. 13, made older competition look foolish as he produced outstanding numbers in Double-A and Triple-A before earning his MLB promotion. The right-hander struck out 160 batters in 141 1/3 innings while allowing just 112 hits.
Chris Gwynn, the Mariners director of player development, said Walker is oozing talent but he's also an extremely hard worker. "Going into the offseason last year he realized there were some things he needed to work on to get better," Gwynn said, listing fastball command (down in the zone, to both sides of the plate) and improved secondary pitches as two of those things. "Coming into this season he was a man on a mission... and had a dominant season in Double-A and Triple-A didn't phase him. It shows he wants it really bad."
Starting Pitcher: Noah Syndergaard, Mets -- Jameson Taillon (Pirates), Kevin Gausman (Orioles) and Robert Stephenson (Reds) also received consideration as the one of the top pitchers in the minors but the final spot went to the Mets' prospect. Syndergaard showed a rare combination of power (his fastball can tickle triple digits) and control when he struck out 133 batters in 117 2/3 innings and issued 28 free passes. Just 20, the Texas native finished the year with 11 starts at the Double-A level.
Reliever: Steve Geltz, Rays -- It's hard to find a worthy reliever because many of the best MLB bullpen aces originally come from the starting ranks. Geltz, though, is still only 25 years old and he was the hardest pitcher to hit in Triple-A (minimum 50 innings) by allowing a batting-average-against of just .152. That mark was actually the seventh lowest in the entire minor leagues. His strikeout percentage (31.3 percent) was good for 12th in Triple-A ball. Not bad for a player that went undrafted and signed with the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent in 2008.
The Twins look like sellers again this year, as they're on pace for their third straight 90-loss campaign. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports looked at the team's trade chips last week, noting that a market for first baseman Justin Morneau hasn't really materialized as of yet. Here's more on the Twins from Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twins news comes about halfway into the article)...
- Even though they're sellers, vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff tells Wolfson that the Twins could still add a player that is controlled beyond 2013. Radcliff wouldn't comment on specific names, but a league source informed Wolfson that the Twins are interested in Bud Norris. The Twins would have plenty of competition were they to make a play for Norris, as he's been connected to the Rangers, Pirates, Dodgers, Giants, Blue Jays and Red Sox in the past week alone.
- The Red Sox, Braves, and Phillies all had scouts at Target Field over the weekend. All three teams have been connected to bullpen help of late, and the Twins have trade candidates such as Jared Burton and Brian Duensing in their 'pen. Glen Perkins, of course, has drawn quite a bit of interest, but the Twins have turned interested parties away thus far. Casey Fien also drew some interest from the Giants earlier this summer.
- No international signings are imminent, but Radcliff described the process as "fluid," noting that the Twins still have money to spend. However, the team has no plans to trade any of its remaining bonus slots.
- The Twins are still interested in 18-year-old Taiwanese righty Jen-Ho Tseng, who is reportedly close to a deal with the Cubs. The team will remain in contact with his camp until they receive official word.
- Radcliff said Byron Buxton, who was recently named the No. 1 prospect in baseball by ESPN's Keith Law (ESPN Insider required), could ascend to Double-A New Britain before the season is over. That would be a quick rise for the 19-year-old, who began the season with Class A Cedar Rapids and has moved up to High-A Fort Myers recently.
- The Twins were interested in Jake Arrieta before he was acquired by the Cubs in the Scott Feldman deal earlier this month.
In what might be the most eclectic collection of names to ever headline a division notes post, here's the latest from the AL Central...
- Despite the Tigers' late-game problems this season, Dave Dombrowski has no regrets over not acquiring a proven closer last winter, the general manager tells MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. "We didn't feel there was a lock-down, shut-down option in the wintertime that fit in with what we were trying to do, role-wise and financially," Dombrowski said. "Other people may think differently, but there weren't a lot of guys out there, and we felt we had options internally. Now, it may have taken some time, but we still have a chance to do that."
- Joaquin Benoit has recently taken over the closer's role in Detroit and pitched well, which could erase any plans the Tigers had to acquire a stopper at the deadline. "Where are you going to go out and get a guy with better stuff than Benoit?" Dombrowski said.
- Marten Gasparini, the 16-year-old Italian prospect who signed a $1.3MM contract with the Royals, spoke to Fangraphs' David Laurila about his transition to North America.
- The Twins haven't asked agent Jaime Torres about the location of Cuban right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne's showcase in Barcelona tomorrow, 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson reports (Twitter link). Wolfson notes in a follow-up tweet that this just means the Twins haven't informed Torres, not that they won't attend altogether, and Wolfson says the Twins "have a book" on Despaigne.
- Byron Buxton holds the top spot on Baseball America's midseason ranking of the top 50 prospects in the sport. The Twins outfielder "is even better than expected with power, speed, defense and an extremely advanced hitting approach," states BA's staff report. Buxton was ranked as the No. 10 prospect in Baseball America's preseason rankings but has risen to No. 1 after hitting .344/.424/.548 with nine homers and 33 steals in 366 PA at the low and high-A levels this season.
- In AL Central news from earlier today, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported that Twins right-hander P.J. Walters had cleared outright assignment waivers.
Last night, Baseball America's JJ Cooper wrote that an NL scout told him Twins' center field prospect Byron Buxton is the best prospect he's seen in more than a decade of scouting. Buxton's hype has soared this season following a jaw-dropping start at Class A Cedar Rapids, and he's recently been promoted to Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Here's more on last year's No. 2 overall pick and the team that drafted him...
- Baseball America's Jim Callis opines that were he in the Astros shoes in last season's draft, he'd have taken Buxton over Correa, still gone over-slot on Lance McCullers Jr., and neglected to give fourth-rounder Rio Ruiz his over-slot deal. Callis adds that he likes Correa very much, but preferred Buxton and wasn't high on Ruiz (Twitterlinks).
- Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports that the Twins are expected to pursue Phil Hughes as a free agent this offseason (Twitter link). The Twins have struggled tremendously in the pitching deparment over the past few years, and Hughes has been a better pitcher away from Yankee Stadium throughout his career.
- Wolfson also spoke with vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff regarding the upcoming international free agency period. Radcliff expects to sign eight to 10 international free agents and cited the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Italy as areas of focus. The Twins, who have the fourth-largest bonus pool, have been approached by the Rangers about trading some of their funds from that pool, but the team won't do it this week at least (Twitterlinks).
- Radcliff also told Wolfson (link) that there's "nothing imminent" on the trade front for the Twins. However, he and the other pro scouts are diligently watching players that they may add at the deadline.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
“I am positive he’s the best prospect I’ve seen in (more than a decade) of full-time scouting,” a National League scout raved to Baseball America's J.J. Cooper about Twins prospect Byron Buxton. “It’s not even close. Tools, athleticism, feel and vision. Time will tell what kind of major league player he becomes, but the sky is the limit.” Other scouts shared similar praise and there's even a belief that Buxton is as good a prospect as Mike Trout was before his legendary 2012 season.
Here's the latest from around the majors as we head into July...
- Buxton was taken second overall by the Twins in the 2012 draft, with the Astros passing on the outfielder to select Carlos Correa at #1 and then using their surplus bonus pool money to sign Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz. Cooper surveys scouts who have been all four youngsters play and discovers that the majority would take Buxton alone over the other three, even though Correa/McCullers/Ruiz are themselves strong prospects.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos watched Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez pitch on Friday in Tijuana, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports (Twitter link). The Jays made a high-profile signing out of Cuba three years ago when they signed shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria to a four-year, $10MM contract.
- Two Cardinals officials say that trading within the NL Central is "not desirable" and GM John Mozeliak said that the club isn't going to move top prospects like Oscar Taveras or Michael Wacha, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The Cards are likely to look for relief help before the deadline, or perhaps a starter that would then send a current rotation member into the bullpen.
- John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer chimed in on some Reds-related trade deadline discussion on Twitter this afternoon. Finding relief pitching is the priority for the Reds and it's doubtful that they're looking for starters. Prospects Billy Hamilton and Robert Stephenson are probably untouchable in trade talks. White Sox reliever Jesse Crain is a realistic trade target for Cincinnati, while Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo and Mariners slugger Michael Morse are not.
- Mariners right-hander Josh Kinney was listed on the Tacoma Rainiers roster today, Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto tweets, so it appears as though Kinney has accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A. Kinney has been recovering from a rib injury for the entire season and was just reinstated from the 60-day DL on Friday.
The Twins finished up the 2012 season with a 66-96 record -- good for last place in the AL Central. At four games under .500, the Twins are on pace for a much-improved 76-win season, but they're also just six games out of first in the AL Central. Here's more on the Twinkies...
- The Twins won't trade closer Glen Perkins without receiving a "big haul," a rival GM told Peter Gammons of the MLB Network. That same GM opined that the Twins are going to be good "quick" and called Byron Buxton the "best player in minor league ball." He also pointed out that top prospects Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario, both of whom were recently promoted to Double-A, are on the fast track to the Majors. Gammons' unnamed GM said that Twins GM Terry Ryan "doesn't make mistakes" (Twitter links).
- Buxton is nearing a promotion himself, assistant GM Rob Antony told reporters, including Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Twitter link). Buxton, who recently ranked as baseball's No. 2 overall prospect according to ESPN's Keith Law (ESPN Insider required), is hitting .344/.431/.561 for Class A Cedar Rapids and should move to Class A Advanced Fort Myers soon.
- Antony also told Miller that the Twins have begun to field trade calls, as teams determine who will be buyers and who will be sellers this summer. When asked which category the Twins fall into, Antony told Miller the team isn't sure yet (Twitter link).
The 2013 Major League Baseball amateur draft will begin later today and the Houston Astros possess the first overall pick for the second year in a row. The draft acts as a cost-effective tool for clubs looking to stockpile young talent. Despite the thousands of hours logged by each club's scouting department while trying to determine the best amateur talents available, the draft remains a bit of a crapshoot and will be full of hits and misses -- although it may be years before most teams' outcomes are fully known.
Five players from the 2012 draft -- Kevin Gausman (fourth overall, Orioles), Michael Wacha (19th overall, Cardinals), Paco Rodriguez (second round, Dodgers), Alex Wood (second round, Braves) and Michael Roth (ninth round, Angels) -- have already made their debuts in The Show. Many others have seen their prospect values soar, while a select few have already taken steps backward. It's generally thought that the best talents of any given draft will be found in the first five to 10 picks but success is never a guarantee. Let's have a look at the early results from the first 10 picks of the 2012 draft and see if that belief has held true.
1. Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (Puerto Rico HS): It's been reported that Houston's front office went down to the wire before finally settling on Correa as the first overall pick. While speaking with "someone in the know" during the offseason, I was told that one of the things that made the young Puerto Rican attractive -- other than his obvious raw talents -- was that he will likely be ready to be an impact talent at the big league level when the rebuilding Astros are ready to legitimately compete in the American League West. Someone like Gausman, Mark Appel, or Mike Zunino are more likely to see their best seasons occur while the club is still finding its competitive footing. Still just 18, Correa has held his own in A-ball while showing the ability to hit for a solid average, an impressive understanding of the strike zone and good power.
2. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (Georgia HS): Buxton, a toolsy Georgia native, has made Correa's 2013 numbers look pedestrian. The Twins prospect is currently hitting .348 with a 1.023 OPS and 26 stolen bases in 53 games. At just 19 years of age, the gifted centerfielder looks too advanced for Low-A ball. Robert Emrich of MiLB.com wrote a piece on Buxton last night after the prospect went 5-for-6 with two triples.
3. Mike Zunino, C, Mariners (University of Florida): Seattle fans were eager to see the catcher make the big league club out of Spring Training but the organization wisely played it safe and assigned him to Triple-A. After a quick start to the 2013 season, holes in Zunino's game were exposed and his batting average plummeted while his strikeout rate rose. Currently hitting just .228, he's still showing impressive power with 11 home runs in 43 games.
4. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Orioles (LSU): As mentioned above in the intro, Gausman has already reached the Majors -- no doubt a welcome sight for the O's after former top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy succumbed to an elbow injury. Gausman struck out 49 batters with just five walks in eight Double-A starts, though his Major League results have thus far been inconsistent (a 7.20 ERA through three starts).
5. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals (University of San Francisco): Considered almost on par with Gausman from a talent perspective prior to the draft, Zimmer is currently stuck in High-A ball. He's flashed a heavy, powerful fastball and has struck out 65 batters in 52 innings of work but he's struggled with his command, resulting in seven home runs allowed and a 5.54 ERA.
6. Albert Almora, OF, Cubs (Florida HS): Considered a gifted fielder, it was said that Almora's defensive work in center field was almost MLB caliber at the time of the draft. The Florida native got a late start to the 2013 season thanks to a broken hamate bone but he's been on fire since being activated. He's hitting .429 with just six strikeouts in 12 games.
7. Max Fried, LHP, Padres (California HS): Fried got off to a quick start to the year and has shown glimpses of his immense talent but he's also displayed the need for improvements in a number of areas. He's allowed 13 runs in his last 13 1/3 innings of work. On the year, he's issued 22 walks in 44 innings and has struggled against right-handed hitters ( RHHs at .265 vs. LHHs batting .149).
8. Mark Appel, RHP, Pirates (Stanford): Appel was the lone 2012 first-rounder that did not come to terms with the club that selected him. He returned to Stanford for his senior year of college and has improved his draft stock; he's expected to be a top-three pick, going to either the Astros, Cubs or Rockies. That should land him a larger signing bonus than he would have been eligible for with the Pirates in 2012. Had Appel signed with Pittsburgh, he would have given the organization quite an impressive future rotation along with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. Tim Keown of ESPN.com recently wrote about Appel's decision to return to college and re-enter the draft in 2013.
9. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Marlins (Oklahoma State): Like Almora, Heaney was slowed by injury and did not make his first start of the year until late May. In total, he's made three starts and has an ERA below 2.00 with 18 strikeouts in just 12 1/3 innings. He joins Justin Nicolino, who was acquired from the Blue Jays in the offseason, as a pair of impressive left-handed pitching prospects that look close to ready for the challenge of Double-A.
10. David Dahl, OF, Rockies (Alabama HS): Dahl made a very positive impression during his 67-game pro debut in 2012 and, during the offseason, was touted as one of the steals of the draft as the 10th overall selection. However, some questionable decision making (which reportedly involved missing a flight) got him shipped out to extended Spring Training in April, despite originally earning a roster spot on the Low-A club to begin the season. Dahl has since regained his Low-A spot and produced solid-but-unspectacular results in his first 10 games; he was recently placed on the minor league disabled list.
Supplemental Round Picks of Note
The first round of the MLB amateur draft is not the only place to find high-ceiling talent. Quality prospects can be found littered throughout the 40 rounds. Below are some of the players that were taken in the supplemental first round -- picks mainly given as compensation for the loss of key free agents from the previous offseason. A number of the players selected in that round have looked impressive early in their careers and have performed well enough to suggest they should have been true first-round selections.
Jose Berrios, RHP, Twins: Berrios brings a much-needed power arm to the Twins organization. The Puerto Rico native has struck out 44 batters in 39 innings despite being one of the youngest pitchers in the Low-A Midwest League; Berrios just recently turned 19 years old.
Zach Eflin, RHP, Padres: Like his fellow Padres prospect Max Fried, Eflin was a promising prep arm acquired in the 2012 draft. Unlike his southpaw teammate, though, the right-hander has gotten stronger as the year has progressed and has been a little more consistent.
Daniel Robertson, SS, Athletics: Originally expected to move from shortstop to third base as a pro, Robertson's steady defensive play has convinced the organization to give him a longer look at his natural position. Despite missing much of the first month of the year while rehabbing an injury, the young hitter has shown flashes of above-average potential at the plate.
Kevin Plawecki, C, Mets: High draft picks from the college ranks typically skip over Low-A ball and begin their careers in High-A ball, but the Mets organization has been cautious with Plawecki -- possibly to give him an opportunity to polish his defense. The 22-year-old prospect is showing that his bat is more than ready for a promotion with a .341 batting average and 30 extra base hits. MLB.com's Teddy Cahill recently wrote a feature on Plawecki.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Rangers: After a much-hyped start to his pro career that saw him hit 22 home runs in his first 59 games, the left-handed hitter has come crashing back down to earth. He's slugged another 14 dingers this year but he's also struck out 89 times in 55 games, causing his batting average to dip to .210. He has a lot of adjustments to make to avoid becoming the next Russell Branyan.
Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, Astros: McCullers showed the raw potential to be a first round draft pick in the 2012 draft but questions about his delivery and potential move to the bullpen caused him to slip into the supplemental round. The young pitcher, though, has temporarily quieted his critics and overpowered the Midwest League with a 1.70 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings.
Eddie Butler, RHP, Rockies: As with McCullers, Butler was thought to be potentially headed for a pro career out of the bullpen. He's been exceptional as a starter, although the college product did begin the year in Low-A ball where he should have dominated the less-experienced competition. He was recently promoted to High-A ball and has a 3.71 ERA in his first three starts. David Lee of the Augusta Chronicle wrote about Butler's promotion.
Kyle Lohse has appeared in 192 games since he last wore a Twins uniform in 2006, but the veteran righty is facing his old team for the very first time tonight when the Brewers visit Target Field. Should Lohse earn the victory tonight, he will become just the 13th pitcher in history to record a win against all 30 current teams. Here are some more news items out of the Twin Cities...
- Led by top prospects Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Alex Meyer, the Twins' farm system drew high praise from an NL general manager and a rival scout, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports. Buxton, in particular, drew raves and was compared to such stars as Matt Kemp and Mike Trout. "[Buxton] is a better athlete than A-Rod. He's a crazy athlete," the scout said. "These guys come once every 10 years, every 20 years. If you see this guy run, it's unreal. Five steps and he's on the bag."
- The Twins "hold the power" when it comes to Justin Morneau's future, 1500ESPN.com's Brandon Warne writes. This is Morneau's last year under contract and given his performance (a .735 OPS through 213 PA), the Twins could look to internal options or sign a cheap free agent rather than bring Morneau back.
- Right-hander Kyle Gibson was hit hard in a start for Triple-A Rochester today, putting an end to rumors that he would soon get called up to the Majors, 1500ESPN.com's Phil Mackey writes. Twins GM Terry Ryan hinted earlier this week that Gibson could be in line for a quick promotion with another strong appearance though this setback will likely keep him in Rochester for another week or two. Gibson has posted a 2.82 ERA, 3.12 K/BB ratio and a 7.9 K/9 rate at Triple-A this season and entered the year as a consensus top #50 prospect (ranked 41st by Keith Law, 45th by MLB.com, 49th by Baseball America) in the sport.
Despite opening the year with one of the best minor league systems in baseball, the Minnesota Twins' collection of young talent continues to get stronger. The club's system entered the year as one of the top five systems, according to two different publications: Keith Law of ESPN (2nd out of 30 -- subscription required) and Baseball Prospectus (4th). Baseball America had a slightly different opinion and ranked the system 10th overall.
When looking at the three Top 10 lists for those publications (Keith Law, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America -- subscriptions required), a total of 14 players were represented: Oswaldo Arcia, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks, Jose Berrios, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, Danny Santana, Luke Bard, Travis Harrison, Jorge Polanco, Alex Meyer and Trevor May. We can delete both Kepler and Bard because they're in extended spring training and have yet to appear in an official game. Santana appeared on just one list (Baseball America's) and has struggled in Double-A. The highest profile name -- outfielder Aaron Hicks -- is hitting just .144 in the majors after being touted by some as an early American League Rookie of the Year candidate. The other 10 players are thriving in 2013.
Arcia, called up to the Majors in mid-April, has posted a .746 OPS while helping to compensate for the loss in offense as fellow rookie Hicks finds his footing. Strikeouts have been an issue for Arcia but his three home runs have put him in a four-way tie for third on the team in that category despite appearing in just 28 games.
Both Sano and Buxton were ranked either first or second on each of the three publications' top prospects lists. Sano, age 20, has produced an eye-popping OPS of 1.165 OPS in 42 High-A games. The fourth-year pro has some of the best usable power in the minor leagues and he's slugged 13 home runs, more than any other hitter in the minors. According to a front office contact, the young prospect is not just a one-trick pony. "Miguel learned a lot about patience at the plate last season and that's one of the reasons he's off to a good start," he told MLBTR. "He also has a very strong arm at third base and has made good progress defensively this season."
Buxton, 19, is in his first full pro season after being selected second overall in the 2012 amateur draft. After hitting .392 in April, the center fielder's average has dipped in May but he's flashing five tools and still getting on base at a .420 clip. The talent evaluator that spoke with MLBTR said Buxton's natural skills have helped him get off to a hot start although pitchers have started to make adjustments against him. "He's going through a learning process now since he's been seeing mostly off-speed stuff this month," he explained. "He will need to continue to develop that patience and be selective at the plate."
Meyer was obtained from the Nationals during the offseason trade that sent outfielder Denard Span to the National League. The 6'9'' pitching prospect has produced both above-average strikeout and groundball rates while settling in nicely at the Double-A level. When asked what has stood out about the new Twin, the contact stated, "Coming into a new organization isn't easy but Alex has adjusted quite well. He may have the best fastball and the best curveball in the organization."
Gibson continues to rebuild his prospect value after undergoing Tommy John surgery in late 2011. The injury slowed down his big-league timetable but he's looking good at Triple-A in 2013, averaging almost six innings per start. With three big league starters struggling -- Mike Pelfrey, as well as recent demotion victims Vance Worley, and Pedro Hernandez -- Gibson could become a key contributor by the second half of the year.
The 32nd overall selection of the 2012 draft, Berrios has produced solid results so far this year despite being one of the younger arms in his league. He has a 2.86 ERA with 32 strikeouts and just five walks in 28 1/3 innings of work. Another offseason acquisition, May was part of the package that the Phillies sent to the Twins for outfielder Ben Revere. He's struggled to retire left-handed hitters in 2013 but he's shown the potential to develop into an innings-eating workhorse.
Converted from outfielder to second baseman in 2012, Rosario has spent the early part of this year making strides at the keystone while continuing to hit for a high average in High-A ball. Harrison, 20, needs to tighten his approach at the plate but the third base prospect has flashed good pop with 21 of his 43 hits going for extra bases at the Low-A level. Just 19, Polanco is already in his fourth pro season but his first in full-season ball. The switch-hitting middle infielder is batting .325 with surprising gap power and solid control of the strike zone.
First baseman Chris Colabello was a surprise promotion to the big league club on May 22nd. He didn't make any Top 10 or Top 100 list this year but he's been an impact player for the Twins at the Triple-A level. Colabello, 29, hit .358 with 29 extra base hits -- including 12 homers (the second highest total in the minors) -- in 46 games. In his last 10 appearances, Colabello was hitting .500 (19-for-38). Perhaps in preparation of this call-up, he was recently given playing time in the outfield.
Born in Massachusetts, Colabello spent his childhood in Italy and played for that country during the recent World Baseball Classic. He went to a small U.S. college and was never drafted by a Major League Baseball organization. He signed with the Tigers as a non-drafted free agent after impressing the organization during a tryout camp in 2006 but was released less than a month later. He spent seven years playing independent league baseball before agreeing to a deal with the Twins prior to the 2012 season.
A front office contact told MLBTR that he wasn't shocked by the success that Colabello has had since signing with the Twins because of the consistent success he showed in independent baseball. "It was just a matter of someone giving him an opportunity," he said. "He has power to all fields, has a good plan when he goes to the plate, and stays on an even keel. He's a tremendous teammate and he's always working to get better."
Whether or not Colabello truly has the offensive chops to be a big league regular remains to be seen but he should at least be able to provide help off the bench while also backing up at designated hitter, first base and both corner outfield spots. The organization now has roster flexibility with the rookie -- both in terms of positions that he can play and with his three option years. Should the need arise, he can be shuttled back and forth between the Majors and the minors for three seasons without the risk of having to pass him through waivers.
In a piece for USA Today, Ray Glier got reaction from Colabello after the prospect learned of his promotion.