Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2019 season approaching, MiLB.com takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.Shining star: Royce Lewis, SSThe
Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2019 season approaching, MiLB.com takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.
Shining star: Royce Lewis, SS
The 19-year-old has more than exceeded the lofty expectations that come with being selected No. 1 overall in the Draft. MLB.com's No. 5 overall prospect reached Class A Advanced Fort Myers in his first full season, finishing 2018 with a .292/.352/.451 slash line, 14 homers, 29 doubles, three triples, 74 RBIs and 28 stolen bases across two levels.
"We see him so much more than just a player who's really good with really good tools and skills but a guy who is going to be a leader in our clubhouse and our community," said Mike Radcliff, the Twins' director of player development. "He's going to be a stalwart clubhouse guy, and he just brings so much to the table each time you have contact with him."
Radcliff pointed out that Lewis is marching in the right direction toward a future as a middle-of-the-order bat and everyday shortstop. Unfortunately, the 6-foot-2, 188-pound infielder has been hindered by an oblique injury that has limited him to just one at-bat in the spring.
While his 70-grade speed might be what stands out most on a scouting report, the Twins' top prospect has the frame to pack on more muscle to better develop some power.
"He's actually a bigger guy than most people think," Radcliff said. "He's going to have speed and power to his game -- power to his swing, which leads to potential home runs, doubles, a real impact in the lineup. That's the most unknown thing right now.
"That's the thing that will take some time, the remaining time it requires him to develop and be a Major Leaguer, that's what we'll be watching and monitoring. I think he's going to be able to impact the game in every phase."
Loudest tool: Alex Kirilloff, OF
Kirilloff sat out the entire 2017 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery, then exploded back into the picture with one of the best offensive seasons in the Minors. The 21-year-old batted .333 with a .999 OPS, 13 homers and 56 RBIs in 65 games with Class A Cedar Rapids, then took it a step further following a promotion to Fort Myers, hitting .362/.393/.550 with 34 extra-base hits and 45 RBIs in the same number of games.
"The amazing thing is that he's shown so much in just a short amount of time," Radcliff said. "Many people thought we might have been challenging him a little too much to go right out of Spring Training having not played for a year and go to the Midwest League. But he went there, he killed that league and continued to hit and produce a league higher.
"He actually, I don't think in the grand scheme of things, has lost any time."
MLB.com's No. 9 overall prospect earned Twins Minor League Player of the Year honors in his first full season and more than held his own in big league Spring Training, batting .278 (5-for-18) with an RBI and three strikeouts over eight games.
Radcliff compares his swing to Minnesota's favorite son and six-time All-Star Joe Mauer, but the club's second-ranked prospect still hasn't found a perfect fit in the outfield. Fortunately, it's his bat that will determine his future.
"There's no panic. He can hit any kind of pitch, he can cover any part of the zone. He's going to hit at the end of the day," Radcliff said, noting that any added power can go a long way for someone with Kirilloff's hit tool. "His swing was eminent as an amateur, and it continues to be his most obvious asset. We see it as the fundamental part of his impact on the future of our team."
At a crossroads: Nick Gordon, SS
Coming from a baseball family, Gordon has always played under a microscope while being featured on most every top prospect list since he was drafted in 2014. After batting .270 with a .749 OPS for Double-A Chattanooga in 2017, the Twins decided to have their No. 10 prospect repeat the level to start 2018. The 23-year-old made quick work of the Southern League, batting .333 in 42 games before getting promoted to Triple-A Rochester in May.
Things started out well for Gordon in the International League. He batted .338 with five doubles and two triples over his first 17 games, but he fell into the doldrums and took a 2-for-29 stretch over the next eight contests, finishing the season with a .212 average over 99 games in Triple-A.
"Almost every player, there's a few that go through systems that don't encounter adversity, but most players hit a level somewhere where they have to make those adjustments and do different things," Radcliff said. "I don't think there's any overreaction or overcompensation on our part. So much of it is a repercussion of his body -- he's faded the last three years in the latter part of each season. He needs more bulk, he needs more strength."
Radcliff explained that the six-foot, 160-pound infielder put in some extra work to bulk up and increase his stamina over the winter. As further evidence to support Radcliff's theory, in 2017 with the Lookouts, Gordon posted a .315 first-half average and saw that number plummet to .221 over the final 58 games of the season.
Full-season debutant: Trevor Larnach, OF
If Kirilloff can be a blueprint for what rewards can come from an aggressive assignment, the next two names on this list should provide a ton of excitement this season. Larnach, the No. 20 overall pick last June, advanced to the Midwest League before season's end and finished with a .303 average, five homers and 26 RBIs in 42 total games between Rookie-level Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids. The Twins' fifth-ranked prospect, he played 68 games his junior season at Oregon State and batted .348 with a 1.115 OPS, 19 homers and 77 RBIs.
"He put up some decent numbers last year, but he was out of gas," Radcliff said. "It's all about his swing -- that's what made him a high Draft pick and that's what will make him a successful Major Leaguer. He's got a … swing that's very adjustable. It's got upside to power and average."
Much like they did with Kirilloff, Radcliff said he and director of Minor League operations Jeremy Zoll plan to buck the Twins' history of being somewhat conservative and truly challenge Larnach at a higher level.
Back and healthy: Wander Javier, SS
The decision to be aggressive could also fall to Javier, who missed 2018 with a torn labrum. It wasn't the first time the 20-year-old missed a chunk of a season -- a hamstring injury limited him to nine games in 2016. He batted .299 with an .855 OPS in his first year stateside with Elizabethton in 2017.
"He looks stronger, he's really excited," Radcliff said. "He's still got the same ceiling he's always had. Unfortunately, he's missed some time, but we just need him to still be standing at the end of the year. That may be a low baseline, but we just need him to be out there this year and stay healthy."
Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $4 million in 2015, Javier has an above-average arm and terrific range, which could create a logjam at the shortstop position in a system that already features Lewis and Gordon.
"There's no different view in our minds at the impacts he can have on both sides of the ball as he's gotten bigger," Radcliff said. "He's still got shortstop skills, and this added strength is only going to add to the potential for the bat. We expected him at game strength and to get bigger and he's done that."
More to keep an eye on: In a system built on hitters, there are some potential front-end starters among the Twins crop of pitchers as well. Brusdar Graterol ranks the highest as the team's No. 3 prospect, possessing a mid-to-upper 90s fastball as well as three serviceable off-speed pitches. The 20-year-old held a 2.74 ERA in 19 starts last season. ... Southpaws Lewis Thorpe (No. 8) and Stephen Gonsalves (No. 11) and right-hander Zack Littell (No. 21) are likely to contribute in Minnesota this year, while Blayne Enlow has the potential to be a fast riser through the Minors. ... Gilberto Celestino, a 2015 international signing, should make his full-season debut after three years in Rookie ball, and Griffin Jax is back in baseball after fulfilling his military commitments with the United States Air Force. ... Brent Rooker (No. 6) blasted 22 homers and drove in 79 runs last season.
2019 Organization Predictions
Most home runs in the system: Rooker
Most stolen bases: Lewis
Most strikeouts: Thorpe
Current prospect to get most Major League playing time: Gonsalves
Non-Top-100-prospect to end 2019 in the Top 100: Larnach
Gerard Gilberto is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @GerardGilberto4.