The Twins have signed third baseman Ryan Wheeler to a minor league contract, according to the MLB.com Transactions page. Wheeler, a client of CAA Sports, will report to Triple-A Rochester. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that the Twins were the first to act when Wheeler’s agents notified teams that he’d been released by the Angels, and he was quick to accept the offer.
The 26-year-old Wheeler, a former fifth-round selection by the Diamondbacks (2009), frequented the club’s list of Top 30 prospects (per Baseball America) prior to being traded to the Rockies in exchange for lefty Matt Reynolds. Wheeler peaked at No. 8 on the D-Backs’ Top 30, and he ranked 10th on BA’s list of Top 30 Rockies prospects as recently as the 2012-13 offseason. That winter, BA noted that Wheeler was a work in progress at third and likely lacked the speed to play in the outfield. Their scouting report seemed to consider him a man without a true position, questioning if he’d have the power to man first base or the glove to handle the hot corner.
Wheeler has hit at every level of the minors, however. He’s a career .306/.363/.462 batter in the minors, and BA noted that he’s able to drive the ball well to the opposite field, though sometimes at the expense of drawing walks. Wheeler has received a big league look in each of the past three seasons, including 64 plate appearances with the Rockies in 2014. His strong track record in the minors has yet to carry over to the Majors, however, as he’s batted .233/.280/.335 in the bigs.
The Twins have Trevor Plouffe playing a strong overall third base in the Majors and the slugging Miguel Sano looming in the minors. Eduardo Escobar represents a nice utility option for the club, but the lefty swinging Wheeler could eventually emerge as a bench option for the Twins with a strong minor league showing.
Joining the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate figures to carry extra meaning for Wheeler, as his younger brother Jason (a former eighth-round pick by the Twins) is currently in the Rochester rotation.