Intriguing Possible Lookouts in Twins Top 30
The MLBPipeline.com staff continued their top 10 farm systems ranking last Thursday with a familiar name sitting at number five, the parent club of the Lookouts, the Minnesota Twins. The staff attributed the top five ranking to the six different players Minnesota’s farm system sports in the site’s top 100 prospects, as well as the depth found top-to-bottom on the Twins top 30 prospects list.
Chattanooga fans will find many familiar names from last season’s roster with a third of the list featuring former Lookouts including number two overall prospect Byron Buxton, Futures Game starting pitcher Jose Berrios and Southern League MVP Max Kepler.
Looking past the 10 former players that contributed to last year’s Lookouts team leaves a handful of intriguing options for players who could play big roles with the Lookouts in 2016 as they defend their Southern League Championship. Since we’re speaking in terms of minor league baseball players and their landing spots for the beginning of the baseball season, it is probably necessary to remind ourselves there are no sure things here. These are merely players that should have enough service time and talent to maybe make them potential pieces of the Lookouts in the near future.
LHP Tyler Jay
Acquired: 2015 Draft, Round 1, Pick 6
Accolades: #60 Top 100 Prospects, #5 Top 10 LHP Prospects, #4 Top 30 Twins Prospects
The Twins drafted Tyler Jay sixth overall in last summer’s draft after the lefty dominated out of the bullpen for the University of Illinois. Jay stayed in that role after being assigned to the Fort Myers Miracle to the tune of a 3.93 ERA in 19 appearances with an impressive 2.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio (22 Ks, 8 BBs in 18.1 Innings).
As Jay goes into his first full season in professional baseball, the central question surrounding his path to the majors will be whether he moves up as a starter or reliever. The scouting report on Jay certainly reads as someone with the tools required to make it as a starting pitcher. He throws strikes and has four pitches rated as at least a 50 on the 20-80 scale, topped by his plus slider and fastball (both at 65).
Should the Twins decide to stretch his arm out, the translation of Jay’s game from the bullpen to the starting role may be the only thing that slows him from reaching the mound at AT&T Field this season.
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
Acquired: 2013 Draft, Round 4, Pick 110
Accolades: #7 Top 30 Twins Prospects, Top 3 in ERA in all of MILB (3rd, 2.01), Top 5 in BAA (5th, .198)
Stephen Gonsalves’ 2015 went about as well as a season can go for a baseball prospect. The 21-year-old began his first full season in pro ball by dominating the Midwest League with a 1.15 ERA and 77 strikeouts in nine starts (55 innings pitched) before getting the call up to Fort Myers
With the Miracle, Gonsalves saw his ERA jump to 2.61, but still finished in the top five in the entire minor leagues in overall ERA and batting average against. The 21-year old also sports projectable growth to his 6’5” frame giving him tremendous upside for any pitcher, not to mention a left handed one.
His young age might end up slowing down his rise through the minors, due to teams often bringing prospects drafted out of high school up slowly. However, if Gonsalves can show development across the board as he continues to physically mature, it won’t be long at all until he dons a Lookouts uniform.
SS Engelb Vielma
Acquired: 2011, Signed out of Venezuela
Accolades: #17 Top 30 Twins Prospects
Engelb Vielma could play, at worst, a respectable shortstop at Target Field this season. With above average rankings in fielding, arm and run categories, there really is no questioning Vielma’s ability to play the field. MLB Pipeline considers him “the best defensive shortstop in the system currently and perhaps in recent memory.” Vielma’s athleticism shines on the basepaths as well, where the shortstop pilfered 35 bases last year.
While both those areas show tremendous promise, Vielma’s credentials will feature one question above all else: can he hit enough for any of it to matter?
In the lower levels of the minors last season, the answer was mostly an affirmative one. Vielma hit .270 in Fort Myers which is enough to keep him a plus prospect with his speed and fielding. However, only 12 of Vielma’s 119 hits in 120 games were for extra bases, and his small, lean stature (5’11”, 155 lbs) doesn’t suggest a ton of room for improvement from a strength stand point. But if Vielma can add some good weight to his frame, and take advantage of what has been a good swing so far, he could prove to be an everyday shortstop with plus speed and phenomenal defense.
LHP Mason Melotakis
Acquired: 2012 Draft, Round 2, Pick 63
Accolades: #20 Top 30 Twins Prospects
After an early pro career experiment of developing into a starting pitcher and sitting out 2015 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Mason Melotakis should begin 2016 as a member of the Lookouts bullpen.
Before the injury in late 2014, Melotakis touched 97 mph with his fastball and missed bats with a solid power curveball in the mid-80s. There were some questions about his control and a third or fourth pitch, but both become less of an issue out of the bullpen. If his pitches show what they did before the injury, and the Twins recently adding Melotakis to the 40-man roster suggest that they do, a successful relief career in the Majors is a definite possibility.