FORT MYERS, FLA. – The Twins will enter the season in the afterglow of being showered with accolades from various publications and websites for having one of the best farm systems in baseball. Having the top overall prospect (Byron Buxton), top power hitter (Miguel Sano) and one of the top power pitchers (Alex Meyer) has led to such praise.
Yet the Twins believe they are an organization with more to offer than only the big three. They believe they have addressed certain positional needs throughout the organization and that they have more prospects on the way — players who might not be of the elite caliber of Buxton, Sano and Meyer but good prospects nonetheless.
“As much as we get the attention at the top of the list, I think we’ve got some depth to this thing,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said.
Minor leaguers reported to camp last week with their spring training games beginning this week. As their season gets underway, here are a few of the key questions heading into the new year:
1 Who is next behind Buxton, Sano and Meyer?
The Twins are very high on righthander Kohl Stewart, their first-round pick (No. 2 overall) from a year ago. He has a fastball that reaches about 95 miles per hour, a very good slider and a decent feel for a changeup. Stewart could open the season at Class A Cedar Rapids.
“I think we’re looking forward to seeing what he does in his first full season,” said Brad Steil, the Twins director of minor league operations. “He really looks like he’s in good shape. It looks like he’s gained some weight over the offseason. I know he trained really hard.”
Eddie Rosario, who must serve a suspension after failing a drug test, remains a fine hitting prospect after hitting .302 between Class A Fort Myers and Class AA New Britain last year. His OPS — on base-plus-slugging percentage — did drop from .903 at Fort Myers to .742 at New Britain, so he must prove he can drive the ball more with the Rock Cats. The Twins also have to decide whether to keep him as a second baseman or move him back to outfield.
Righthander Jose Berrios has a good fastball, changeup and curve. Last year, he tired late in the season for Cedar Rapids after having pitched in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico, but the Twins expected that.
Outfielder Max Kepler missed about half of Cedar Rapids’ season last year due to a sore elbow but showed a smooth swing while in major league camp and has filled out into quite a specimen. Infielder Jorge Polanco batted .308 at Cedar Rapids, and the Twins believe he will develop a little pop.
2 What about power arms?
Once a weakness in the organization, the Twins have addressed that need in recent years. Reliever Michael Tonkin, who throws in the mid 90s, could crack the Twins bullpen this season after making his major league debut last year.
Meyer and reliever Zach Jones are two righthanders whose fastballs average more than 95 mph. Jones, 4-3 with a 1.85 ERA at Fort Myers last season, hit 100 during instructional league in 2012. Unfortunately, he had surgery in February to remove a blood clot, the result of an aneurysm, and will get a late start on spring camp.
“He can’t do anything for another [two] weeks,” Steil said. “Then he will come here and begin some activities.”
Steil has a list of pitchers who top out at 95-96 mph but normally pitch around 93-94: righthanders Stewart, Berrios, Trevor May, Dakota Watts, and Adrian Salcedo and lefthander Mason Melotakis.
There are a few more power arms coming back from injuries. More on them later.
3 What about power bats?