The top end of the Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects list has unfortunately been marred by misfortune this year.
No. 2 prospect Miguel Sano's season was over before it began, as he went under the knife for Tommy John surgery in March. The top guy, Byron Buxton, still hasn't been able to shake a nagging wrist injury that figures to cost him the first half of his season at least. Meanwhile, No. 5 prospect Eddie Rosario is finally set to return from a 50-game suspension next week.
Glancing further down the list, we find some real positive stories that should help offset some of the disappointment surrounding the club's best hitting prospects.
Today I'll take a look at the three prospects among our preseason Top 10 that have remained healthy and have improved their stock markedly over these first couple months:
Trevor May (Preseason Rank: 10)
2014 Stats (AAA): 8 GS, 43 IP, 3.35 ERA, 47/17 K/BB, 1.09 WHIP
May appears on this list rather than Alex Meyer not because he's the better prospect, or even because he's having a substantially better season. May is here because his performance has been most encouraging relative to what we've seen in the past.
The big right-hander barely slipped into the back of our list this spring. He didn't show the kind of progress last year that we wanted to see in his second turn against Eastern League hitters. Although May slightly improved in most key categories, he didn't dominate the way you'd hope a 23-year-old with his stuff would while repeating Double-A. His ERA (4.51), WHIP (1.42) and BB/9 rate (4.0) were all simply too high.
So we all wondered how he'd fare as he moved up a level to take on Triple-A for the first time. And through eight starts, May has been fantastic across the board.
He's averaging more than a strikeout per inning. His walk rate is down to 3.6 BB/9, continuing a three-year trend of improvement. He has allowed only two home runs in 43 innings. And he's holding opposing hitters to a .196 batting average.
May has completed six or more innings in four of his last six starts, including eight shutout frames in his last turn. He's already on the 40-man roster, so we could be seeing him in Minnesota sooner rather than later.
Jorge Polanco (Preseason Rank: 8)
2014 Stats (A+): .319/.400/.425, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 31 R, 5/10 SB
Last year, Polanco was the youngest qualifying second baseman in the Midwest League but still managed to dominate offensively, posting an .813 OPS while controlling the strike zone and playing strong defense.
This year, he has taken the step up to the Florida State League, a notoriously pitcher-friendly environment, and hasn't missed a beat despite once again ranking as one of the youngest players. Polanco ended a 20-game hitting streak with Ft. Myers on Tuesday night. He has shown tremendous plate discipline, with 22 walks and only 18 strikeouts in 185 plate appearances.
Here's another big development: After spending most of his time at second base last year in Cedar Rapids, Polanco has played shortstop exclusively with the Miracle.
I remain somewhat skeptical that he'll stick at short long-term, but this suggests that the Twins still have belief in his ability at the position. Obviously, if he turns out to be an adequate defensive shortstop it raises his value considerably, particularly in this organization.
J.O. Berrios (Preseason Rank: 6)
2014 Stats (A+): 8 GS, 43.1 IP, 2.70 ERA, 45/16 K/BB, 1.31 WHIP
Berrios has a lot of things working against him in his quest to become a standout major-league starting pitcher. He's undersized at 6'0" and 185 lbs. He has not, historically, been able to induce a lot of ground balls. And he doesn't have the big assortment of plus secondary pitches that are often requisite for a starter.
But this kid just continues to get results against hitters who are older and more experienced. He has managed to post the above numbers for Ft. Myers despite the fact that he doesn't turn 20 until next week. No pitcher who has thrown in the FSL this year is younger than Berrios.
And right now, the teen hurler is gaining steam. Coming off two straight shutout performances, Berrios had perhaps the best game of his career in his most recent start, fanning a career-high 10 hitters over seven innings of two-run ball.
In the past, I've held reservations about the righty's true upside, but he's pitching as well as he ever has at this point and it really looks like the sky is the limit.
Along with May and Polanco (not to mention Meyer and Kohl Stewart, who have been expectedly strong), Berrios is a reason to feel good about the farm system, despite some unsettling developments with the top names.
Once you're done here, swing by Twins Daily, where today you'll find:
* A profile on Trea Turner, who the Twins may be looking at with their No. 5 pick in the upcoming MLB Draft.
* A rundown of Tuesday's minor-league action, which was highlighted by strong pitching performances.
* An analysis of the affiliation between the Twins and the Class-AA New Britain Rock Cats. Will the two sides renew?
* A question worth pondering: What to do with Kurt Suzuki?