Andy highlighted a couple Twins' and Diamondbacks' players participating in the this years' Arizona Fall League the other day. He's pretty geeked about the AFL opener today and his enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I checked out the night's box scores and decided I should contribute a bit on some of the Twins' guys on the Peoria Javelinas, in case there's any interest in following along.
A quick disclaimer: I'm obviously not a scout and I've only seen one of these guys live (Nate Roberts in Beloit this year) so my opinions are pretty much an amalgamation of reading others' reports and following the box scores religiously (admittedly not a good measure of prospect status).
I'll start with Logan Darnell. Logan was drafted in the sixth round in 2010 out of the University of Kentucky. He's a big, physical lefty with (as I recall) a heavy low-90's fastball and some fringy breaking stuff. Darnell has stalled out a bit in New Britain (AA), so his trip to AZ is likely a tryout for his future with the club. He's a candidate to work at the back end of Rochester's starting rotation in 2013, but I wouldn't count on seeing him up in the majors anytime soon.
Caleb Thielbar has one of the better stories in the Twins' system. Growing up in Northfield, Minnesota he played his college ball at South Dakota State U. Thielbar was drafted into the Brewers' system, but he didn't catch on and found himself back in Minnesota playing for the St Paul Saints in Indy ball to start the 2011 season. Caleb impressed the Twins enough to get a late-season shot with Fort Myers. His three game tryout was enough to convince the Twins to bring him back for 2012 and I'm sure they're happy they did. Thielbar worked his way from Hi-A Ft. Myers to AAA Rochester, putting up impressive strikeout and walk numbers the whole way up. His stuff won't make him a relief ace, but he could be a nice piece in the Twins' bullpen as early as 2013.
Michael Tonkin is another reliever in the Twins' system, but has had a much different journey than Thielbar. Tonkin is a very hard throwing righty standing 6'7". Many around the Twins' blogosphere predicted big things for him in 2012, potentially following the Thielbar track of Hi-A ball to AAA ball. However, while he did dominate both the Midwest (Lo-A) and Florida State (Hi-A) leagues, he didn't move as fast as some may have hoped. Now that he has proven himself ready for the upper minors, 2013 could be the year we see him at Target Field. He has quite a way to go, but he's entering his sixth year in the organization and will have to put-up or shut-up very soon. This fall could be a springboard to a 2013 mid-season look in the majors.
Evan Bigley has been a polarizing prospect in the Twins' system. I vaguely remember the Twins' front office heaping praise on him this spring and he's hit throughout the minors. To me, he doesn't feel like much of a prospect at all, there's a chance he could begin the 2013 season as a dreaded #26inAA player and is stuck in the corner outfield positions with a marginal bat. I would peg Bigley as an organizational depth player for now, not that there's anything wrong with that. All that said, I also wouldn't be surprised if he went out to Arizona and put up some impressive numbers. A big showing shouldn't change our opinion on him.
Now, for the one guy I actually saw this season! Nate Roberts is a 23 year old outfielder who has spent the last two years in Beloit. On the surface, Roberts doesn't appear to be much of a prospect. However, when the pieces are put together he profiles extremely well as fourth or fifth outfielder on the big league club. He's speedy, can cover all three outfield positions, hits for a decent average and has great plate discipline. I don't see him getting a shot in 2013 or even 2014, but by about 2015 he could be a Darin Mastroianni replacement. Obviously he has a looooong way to go, but he is somebody who could contribute and the team is clearly trying to find out what they have in him this fall.
Quickly, I'll touch on the two guys who Andy wrote about from the Twins' system. Chris Herrmann, catcher, has a good shot at being the third catcher on the Twins as early as next season. Matt Eddy of Baseball America wrote that he could have a long career as a backup catcher who could step up when necessary. Apparently his defense has improved to an acceptable level and shows solid offensive approach and good pop. Eddy compared him to George Kottaras of the Oakland A's. Kyle Gibson is the guy that all Twins' fans will have their eye on this fall. Returning from TJ-surgery, he worked his way up to AAA this year, striking out 10 and walking just 1 in 6.2 innings. With the big league club's lack in starting pitching, there's a good chance he'll see time in the bigs in early 2013. Gibson is in the AFL to get a few innings (he only saw 28.1 innings of action in 2012) and give Minnesota's scouts and coaches a better look at what they'll be seeing come 2013.