Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Jose Berrios delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)

TWINS BASEBALL – Part 1: Opening Day Rotation for 2019, Under Age 25 in 2017

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Are we excited for the upcoming Twins season Minnesota Sports Fans?!?!?!

Crickets……

Okay, so maybe it’s tough to get ready for the 2017 baseball season when the Twins are coming off a 103-loss 2016.  They didn’t do anything in the off-season, with a new regime, that would get Richard Simmons excited. (Sidenote: Did you know Simmons is missing? At least that’s what some guy said, in a commercial I heard on iHeart Radio, a few times. Anyway, might be worth a Google.. Moving on.. )

Well to start, I am not convinced this team won’t be worth watching this year and you will see a little of why coming up. But, for the purposes of this article, I will show you why you SHOULD be excited for this team’s future.  It is bright and it is full of really good prospects.  I know we are all sick of hearing that term “prospects” with the Twins and any form of “look to the future” thinking, when it comes to any Minnesota Sports Team.  We have been fed that for way too long. “Wait for a few years, this team will be good”.  We have heard it all before.

However, this season is going to be the season to start paying attention to the Twins.  It might be painful at times but there are some exciting pieces coming through the pipeline and many that are already here.  There are going to be some fun moments with the young bats and speed in the batting lineup. The Twins are a rebuilding team and we are going to start seeing a lot of new faces.

To show you how many top-end young talent the Twins have, I have created a full lineup of top prospects/players, under the age of 25.  Every player listed has a legitimate chance to crack the big league roster in 2017/2018, leading into Opening Day 2019, if they havent already made their debut.  Most of my research started with the Twins Prospect Handbook 2017 by the guys at Twins Daily (Seth Stohs, Jeremy Nygaard, and Cody Christie).  If you enjoy this article and love digging deep into the Twins Minor Leagues then I definitely recommend buying it.  For all of you sick of building a team strictly through the farm system, too bad.  The Twins have shown that they are going to try and make long term decisions, mostly through player development, even with the new regime.  That probably means you won’t see anything too splashy in the next couple years.

If you have been able to stomach Twins news at all the past year, and who can blame you if you couldn’t, you have probably heard of the up and coming pitching help.  Unfortunately it doesn’t look like most will make the cut out of Spring Training.  Just 1 out of my 5 starting spots, for 2019, are filled with pitchers who will be in rotation for Opening Day, 2017.

Without further ado, let’s get to my 5 starting pitchers.

Reminder: the point of this article is NOT to try and guess the lineup of the Twins in 2019, although it will be fun to compare, come that time…:

  1. Jose Berrios – 22 yrs old – (AAA) – I am putting Berrios at the top rotation because he is the most accomplished of the young starting pitchers.  That isn’t saying much though and I am not confident that’s where he will be come 2019.  Berrios had an 8.02 ERA last year in the big leagues.  He has been quite the disappointment since he first came up for the Twins.  Two years ago the talk in town was that the Twins’ old regime was dragging their feet with call ups for top prospects.  Berrios and Buxton silenced those voices last year with terrible seasons.  Nonetheless, Berrios’ stuff is absolutely nasty and he has shown, in the minors, that he can control it.  The WBC didn’t help Berrios’ chances of making the big league club out of Spring Training.  He will start in Triple A but we will see him early in 2017.
  2. Stephen Gonsalves- 22 yrs old – (AA) – This guy is someone to be excited about and already has all sorts of accolades from local baseball minds, and even some national.  Seth Stohs of Twins Daily, and Author of the Twins Prospect Handbook, has him ranked as the number 1 prospect in the Twins’ system. The Handbook also gave hime 2016 Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year.  MLB.com has him #2 in the system and #92 in the MLB.  Gonsalves isn’t going to blow anyone away with his fastball.  He throws it around 90 MPH.  But, he is a big tall lefty at 6’5″ that can control the strike zone. He pitched really well this spring in his first big league camp.  Some had him as a Triple A starter, to begin the year, but it looks like he will be with the AA Lookouts for his first outing of 2017.  Gonsalves is only 22 and there is still a very solid chance we see him at some point this year but he will hopefully be a young up and comer, that the Twins can count on, in 2019.
  3. Adalberto Mejía – 23 yrs old – (MLB) – Mejia was acquired from the Giants in the Eduardo Nunez trade.  That trade could end up looking very good if Mejia can come out and have a big year.  This article is about players under 25 now, that will be given every opportunity over the next couple seasons, to be lineup staples come 2019.  However, Mejia will be the 5th starter in 2017 where he will get his first shot to claim a rotation spot going forward, in this cluster of young talent.  His stats this spring were impressive (14.1 IP, 1.88 ERA, 14 SO) but so were ByungHo Park’s and he will start in Rochester. To me, that says the FL Company (Falvey/Levine) had either he or Berrios in their rotation from the start. The decision became obvious when Berrios didn’t see much field in Spring Training or the WBC, with Puerto Rico, and Mejia was in front of Molitor striking out one per inning.
  4. Fernando Romero – 22 yrs old – (AA) –  This might be the pitcher to be most excited about.  A top 5 prospect by local outlets like Twins Daily but he is starting to pick up national recognition too like here with Eric Stachin of Roto Professor.  Romero missed 2015 with Tommy John surgery.  He came back in 2016 and was better than before he left, posting these ridiculous numbers in A ball: 90 IP, 1.89 ERA, .901 WHIP, 90 SO.  Those are stupid numbers for someone who was stupid good the year before, but coming off Tommy John Surgery? With another year like last year, you never know, but Romero would have to jump quite a few people to get a poke at the big leagues this year.  I expect him by 2018 for sure.  And I can’t wait.
  5. Felix Jorge – 23 yrs old –  (AA) –  Jorge will struggle to get starts by 2019 because of the top talent ahead of him.  He was really good and really consistent through 2015-2016 in A ball. He traveled through Cedar Rapids (Mid A) and Fort Myers (High A) posting a 2.17 ERA between the two, in 235 innings, while tossing chairs to 191 batters. He stalled a bit in AA Chattanooga where he had a 4.12 ERA in 74.1 innings.  That is where he will start 2017.  Jorge needs to continue to improve and if he does, he will find himself in the major league rotation sooner rather than later.  With the 4 guys listed above Jorge, plus the pitchers already stapled into the rotation currently, it will take a lot for him to be in the rotation come 2019 but we might see him before then and we should definitely hear about him making an impact in the minors while he works his way to the big leagues.

The AA Chattanooga Lookouts are going to have one hell of a Starting Pitching Rotation to start this season.  Starting pitching won’t be the only spot in Chattanooga where you will be able to find top Twins’ prospects this summer.  The Lookouts should be STACKED for 2017.  If I lived in that part of the country, I would find myself some Lookout tickets and get some autographs.  You are going to be seeing a lot of those guys with the big club in the next couple years.

The Starting Rotation is just the start. With how bad it is right now, it will look much different come Opening Day, 2019. We all know it won’t look like I have it here but all 5 of these guys will have the opportunity to battle for one of the 5 spots.  You will see a lot of Meija and Berrios in 2017 and should see the others sometime in 2018 unless expectations change…which they will.

Next up will be the Bullpen.  As you can probably guess, there will be plenty of new names there too, as one can argue it is worse than our Starting Rotation for 2017… which is NOT good.  Stay tuned for more fun and more young names to get you excited about the Twins’ future.

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Eric Strack

MinnesotaSportsFan.com

@RealMNSportsFan

Sources: Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2017, Twins DailyMiLB.com, MLB.com, RotoProfessor.com

Photo From TwinCities.com (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)

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