It’s awards season in Hollywood, and it’s anticipation season in baseball. Many spring training camps open next week (and in 11 days for the Twins), whetting the appetite for the 2016 season.
And if you’re looking even further ahead, as Twins fans have become accustomed, the next month or so should be fun, too. Preseason prospect lists and organizational rankings are published in February and March, and they will contain plenty of excitement for Minnesotans.
Keith Law, a former front-office executive for the Blue Jays and now ESPN’s chief scouting expert, is one of the first to publish his lists this spring, and he clearly is impressed with the talent that the Twins have throughout their system. “This system is stacked,” Law says in ranking the Twins’ organization third among MLB teams in minor-league prospects, behind the Braves and Dodgers.
That’s actually down a spot from last year, when Law ranked them second behind the Cubs, but that’s understandable — Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and Tyler Duffey are no longer prospects, having graduated to the major-league roster. Law’s rankings of baseball's top 100 prospects — they require an ESPN Insider subscription, but well worth it for all the analysis — include seven Twins, with Byron Buxton ranked No. 2 overall behind Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager.
Baseball America isn’t quite as impressed; the magazine places Minnesota tenth in its newly released organizational rankings (subscription required), a drop from fourth last spring. Part of the reason is that Buxton, though still ranked second among rookies, is “not progressing quite as expected due to injuries,” though noting that the outfielder remains “one of baseball’s most dynamic and elite prospects.”
MLB.com’s “pipeline” rankings, which last year were published in March, had the Twins third last season behind the Cubs and Red Sox.
Rankings like those make it easy for Twins fans to dream about the teams they might soon have at Target Field, much the way Royals fans anticipated, 5-7 years ago, the arrival of a crop of young talent. And few evaluations figure to be as full of good news as Law’s.
“The Twins have high ceilings, they have probability, they have starters, they have relievers, they have lots of position players. I guess they don’t really have catching, if you want to pick nits,” Law writes. “But for a team that runs low payrolls, they’re in damn good shape.”