Keith Law: Minnesota Twins

Midseason top five farm systems 

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
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Theo EpsteinGetty ImagesTheo Epstein has stocked the Cubs' farm system with elite prospects such as Addison Russell.
Ranking all 30 organizations based on their minor league talent is a major undertaking each winter, which is why I always decline to do a re-ranking during the season. There's simply no way I could do it justice given the amount of work it requires.

We've had a couple of major news events that affected two of the teams near the top of last offseason's rankings, however, and a slew of questions from readers about which system is now at the top of the heap. So here's a revised look at the top five, considering only what's in the systems right now and excluding anyone on major league rosters.

1. Chicago Cubs

I know Cubs fans have heard this before, but just wait 'til next year, because this club is going to get good in a hurry, at least on the run-scoring side of the ledger.

Assignments for Law's top prospects 

April, 3, 2014
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With the help of Christopher Crawford of MLB Draft Insider, we have compiled the minor league assignments for all prospects in Keith Law's organizational top 10 rankings.

Due to injuries and late assignments, some minor league rosters are not yet official. In those instances, we took our best guess as to where those prospects will be assigned to begin the year.

Note: Players with an asterisk have been traded since the top-10 lists came out, and they are listed with their assignment for their new club.


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Picking division and award winners 

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
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Yu DarvishAP Photo/Darron CummingsThe AL leader in strikeout rate last year, Yu Darvish is an AL Cy Young frontrunner.
Keith Law offers up his win-loss predictions for all 30 teams and winners for the six major postseason awards. Furthermore, explanations for each team are included, along with notes on key players or possible impact call-ups. Award predictions follow the division picks.

AL East

It's hard to pick against a Boston Red Sox team that returns so many of the players who helped them win the World Series last year, losing Stephen Drew but replacing him with one of the majors' best rookies in Xander Bogaerts.

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Byron Buxton is the real deal 

March, 9, 2014
Mar 9
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Byron Buxton Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty ImagesByron Buxton has shown little to dissuade evaluators about his sky-high projections.
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Here are some notes from my last game of Florida spring training for the year, a game which pitted the Minnesota Twins against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Byron Buxton, the best prospect in baseball coming into this year, didn't disappoint, hitting a hanging slider from Toronto starter Drew Hutchison deep over the left-center field wall, showing off his speed with a couple of sub-4.1-second run times from home to first, and smoking a ground ball in the ninth inning ... that led to a double play with the infield in, but hey, let's not quibble over details.

Buxton saw a ton of pitches across his five at-bats, taking the first pitch every time, putting himself in good position to get a pitch to hit in every at-bat but one. There's little new to say here; he's a true five-tool guy, showing or projecting as plus in all five of those categories, with an improving approach at the plate. He did let the ball travel well on him on Saturday, taking advantage of his quick wrists to start his bat a little later than most hitters would. His only real miscue was failing to call for a fly ball to shallow center on the shortstop side, so that the shortstop ran out to catch it and had to peel off at the last second, after which no one caught it.

Max Kepler didn't put anything into orbit like Buxton did, but acquitted himself well through three at-bats, including a double to the right-center wall off a Kyle Drabek curveball, a four-pitch walk, and a base hit off Hutchison.

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Now that the 2014 preseason top prospect package is complete, here are links to all of the rankings, videos, podcasts and chat wraps.

Top 100 prospects Insider
Index | Prospects No. 1-50 | Prospects 51-00
10 who just missed
Top 20 impact prospects for 2014

Top 10 prospects by team Insider
AL East | AL Central | AL West
NL East | NL Central | NL West
Astros No. 1 in farm system rankings

Videos Video
Why Buxton is the No. 1 prospect
AL breakout prospects | NL breakout prospects
Twins, Pirates just behind Astros in farm rankings

Podcast Listen
Discussing the top 100 rankings
Xander Bogaerts and Mets GM Sandy Alderson

Chat wraps
Keith Law
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow
Byron Buxton
Addison Russell

Breaking down Doumit trade and more 

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
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Ryan DoumitBrian D. Kersey/Getty ImagesThe 32-year-old Doumit hit .303 in 2011, .275 in 2012, and .247 in 2013.
We've had a slew of minor moves over the past 24 hours, and I figured it would be easiest to wrap them all into one post.

Doumit to the Braves for Gilmartin (trade details)

Ryan Doumit's best attribute was always his bat, as he's never had a real position and his offense has slipped since he left Pittsburgh -- unsurprising for a player like this entering his early 30s.

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Three-year deal excessive for Phil Hughes 

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
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Phil HughesDenis Poroy/Getty ImagesPhil Hughes had a 4.85 ERA over the last three seasons with the Yankees.
The Minnesota Twins needed bulk for their rotation, which was a solid justification for the four-year deal they give Ricky Nolasco, a mid-rotation starter on a good team, earlier in the week.

That's not sufficient to justify the three-year, $24 million deal they just gave Phil Hughes, a fifth starter on a middling team who might be best cast in a relief role because hitters make too much good contact against his fastball.

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Nolasco signing necessary for the Twins 

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
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Ricky NolascoStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesDespite a rough end to 2013, Ricky Nolasco has proved to be reliable and durable.
Ricky Nolasco's four-year deal with the Twins almost seems cheap given its average annual value of just over $12 million, with a club option that could vest and become a player option that could make the contract a five-year, $61 million deal in the end. For the Twins, the timing seems odd, as they're not going to contend in 2014 and probably not in 2015 as they wait for their bevy of high-end hitting prospects to reach and adjust to the majors, but given the lack of starting pitching prospects on their full-season affiliates, signing a player such as Nolasco actually may have been necessary.

Nolasco seemed to have turned a corner right after the Marlins dumped his salary on the Dodgers in July for three fringe relief prospects, posting a 2.07 ERA across 74 innings before three awful starts ended his year and scared the Dodgers out of using him in their Division Series rotation. When he was on, he was working heavily off his fastball, adding and subtracting from it similar to the way his teammate Zack Greinke did, and finishing hitters off with his slider, leaving the curve and changeup as occasional show-me weapons. When he shies away from establishing the fastball, he's far less effective, and often ends up in that situation because his fastball doesn't have great life and is prone to hard contact. It's an interesting signing for Minnesota, a team that has long preached pitching to contact, because Nolasco throws a lot of strikes but doesn't exactly want to encourage hitters to square up his fastball.

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Top MLB teams at each position 

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
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Cardinals StartersLeon Halip/Getty ImagesFor starting pitching depth throughout an organization, it's tough to top St. Louis.
For this post I was asked to take a look at every position and pick which team has the most overall talent if you look at the organization as a whole. So if a team has a strong shortstop at the major league level but no depth within the organization, it could come in behind a team with a decent shortstop but a couple of really good prospects at the position. So think of this as the sum of current MLB talent plus what's in the pipeline.

It's worth a reminder that strong depth at one position is a good way to fill holes via trades. Anybody saying too much talent at one position doesn't matter because you can't play three shortstops is clueless from a business and personnel standpoint. As a note: outfield and pitching have been consolidated because of how we calculate value at those positions.

Catcher

The Yankees have more prospect depth at the catcher position than any other team, with Gary Sanchez a potential star if he can improve his receiving enough to remain at the position, while J.R. Murphy is emerging as at least a strong backup. Austin Romine should be getting regular playing time in the majors down the stretch, at least once the Yankees decide their playoff odds are too low to ... well, playing Chris Stewart isn't exactly pushing them toward the playoffs anyway, so why not just play Romine and see what you've got?

That said, the Pirates probably have more present value than the Yankees because of Russell Martin, with Tony Sanchez probably a solid major league backup and 18-year-old Reese McGuire among the game's top dozen or so catching prospects. There is so little catching in full-season minor leagues right now that you would be hard-pressed to identify 10 clear everyday starters without reaching down to short-season leagues.

First base

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Farm systems rising and falling 

July, 2, 2013
7/02/13
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With the major league season reaching its midpoint and the bulk of high picks from this year's draft already agreeing to contracts, it's a good time to re-examine farm systems to see which organizations have improved or declined since my organizational rankings at the start of the season.

For the purposes of this exercise, some parameters to keep in mind:

1. I'm only including draft picks who've signed.
2. I'm going to assume players in the majors right now are going to lose their rookie eligibility and won't count for the next org rankings I do in the winter. (This matters because graduating prospects will hurt a system as much as a lack of performance.)

With that noted, let's take a look.

Rising systems

Minnesota Twins | Preseason rank: 2

The Twins have benefited from big jumps by several of their top prospects, balancing out the promotions of their No. 3, 4, and 5 prospects to the majors this year.

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Picking the 'real' All-Star teams 

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
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If we are supposed to believe that the All-Star Game counts for something other than TV ratings and MLB revenues, why don't we see rosters built to win the game? It's part popularity contest, part reward for having a good two months to start the season, but very little about how the rosters are selected makes it look as though the teams are there to win.

Lineups built to win the game would look like All-Star lineups but would move some players around to different positions to try to build the strongest team possible, while also avoiding those hot-start players who aren't the best choices at their respective positions.

Here are the lineups, including one starter and one reliever per team, that I'd set up to give each league the best chance to win one game.

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