Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.
If you were perusing this series back in 2016 you would have read:
The Lottery Ticket: Luis Arraez (2B): This young Venezuelan has done nothing but rake as a pro. Over three seasons, he sports a career batting average of .338. He also has a BB-K rate of 66-70 and it was 35-19 is his first two seasons at the rookie ball level. In 114 games in 2016, Arraez hit .347 and produced 165 hits — with just 51 strikeouts. Now the bad news: He doesn’t walk much, so his ability to get on base is very dependent on making good contact. As well, he doesn’t run much and — despite having some gap pop — he’s never going to be a power hitter. Still, he might eventually make a solid No. 2 hitter at the big league level if he can continue to develop. Arraez will move up to high-A ball in 2017 and could eventually be the successor to Brian Dozier — a very, very different type of second baseman — in Minnesota.
Now on to the new stuff:
First Taste of The Show: Mitch Garver, C: Veteran catcher Jason Castro missed most of 2018 due to injury which opened up an opportunity for Garver to show what he’s capable of and he produced a strong freshman offering. He may not receive the bulk of playing time in 2019 but should have at least worked his way into a platoon situation. Garver is a strong offensive catcher who has shown improvements on the defensive side of the ball. If Castro battles injuries again in 2019, the club should be comfortable giving significant playing time to the sophomore catcher.
The Draft Pick: Trevor Larnach, OF: A strong college performer, the Twins popped Larnach 20th overall. He looks like he’s going to be a strong hitter; he hangs in well against left-handed pitching and shows an all-fields approach against all pitchers. The big question is on how much power he’ll produce in pro ball although he showed solid pop in his debut. Larnach’s stance causes him to lean out over the plate and he appears susceptible to pitches down and in. He’s also not the most athletic player so his defensive skill set may be limited but he has a strong arm.
The Riser: Alex Kirilloff, OF: Selected 15th overall out of high school in 2016, Kirilloff missed almost all of 2017 but did not suffer from the lost development time. He showed great maturity and make-up by coming back even stronger. He dominated both A-ball levels in 2018 and will likely open 2019 as a 21-year-old in double-A. He shows well-above-average pop without selling out for power and struck out just 15% of the time. Kirilloff has a chance to be a star if he continues on this development path.
The Fallen: Nick Gordon, 2B: The brother of Dee Gordon, the younger Gordon isn’t as dynamic or as fast but he has a chance to be a solid big leaguer. But he’s also probably not the player the Twins thought they were getting when they nabbed him fifth overall in 2014. His ceiling is more second-division starter with the floor coming in on solid utility player. Gordon likely won’t hit for much pop and doesn’t run a ton so there is a lot of pressure on the hit tool. He needs to use the whole field and focus on hitting the ball in the gaps. More patience and a higher walk total would also help. Gordon has a strong arm so he can handle any infield position and might benefit from getting time in the outfield in 2019 while repeating triple-A in an effort to find his batting stroke.
The 2019 Contributor: Brent Rooker, OF/1B: The Twins have been aggressive with Rooker’s development so it’s not hard to envision him being called on to help out in 2019. He was thrown into double-A in his first full pro season and performed well, although the 150 Ks is definitely a warning sign. He tries to do too much at times and chases pitches he shouldn’t when pitchers refuse to give in to him. When he makes contact, he can hit the ball a long way. If he continues to make adjustments and makes the pitchers come to him then he could have some success at at the big league level. There is a lot of pressure on his bat, though, as he has limited defensive value.
The 2019 Sleeper: Ryan Jeffers, C: Selected in the second round of the draft in 2018 after a strong college career, Jeffers showed extremely well in pro ball. He dominated the inferior competition in advanced rookie ball before settling in at the low-A level where he still managed to produce solid results. He has a lot of raw power but runs into trouble when he tries to pull the ball. Jeffers has a good eye at the plate. In the field, he shows a strong arm and is also intelligent, which should help him on the defensive side of things. He has a chance to be a good leader and call a strong game, which is important because he there is a chance that his other defensive skills will be just fringe-average.
The 2019 Lottery Ticket: Akil Baddoo, OF: Baddoo is a favorite sleeper around the game but he still has a lot to prove after a modest showing in his first full pro season. He has a patient approach and racked up 74 walks in 113 games, which is a great skill to pair with his above-average speed. He swings and misses too much but just needs experience to hone his eye, as well as get better at hitting breaking balls. I really like Baddoo’s stance, which creates great balance. His strong forearms and quick bat help him generate solid pop, which could eventually develop into slightly-above-average pop.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.