July 26 2017
Today we share our sixth Minnesota Twins minor league affiliate roster preview, for the Gulf Coast League Twins. It is an interesting group of players including the top pick in the 2017 MLB draft, and some of the other top young talent in the system.
Last Friday night the Elizabethton played their Opening Night game, a day after it was scheduled, so it became a doubleheader. We previewed their roster here. Then on Monday afternoon (well, morning in Minnesota time), the Gulf Coast League Twins played their first game of the season. You might have heard, a certain #1 overall draft pick started his career with a bang! Today, we will preview the GCL Twins roster.
The Gulf Coast League has an interesting blend of players. There are kids who signed after being drafted out of high school. There are players in their first year or two from another country There are some late-round college picks. This year, there aren’t any undrafted free agents (yet) to help fill out the roster, but that’s still possible.
Like the E-Town roster, it allows for many more players, 35, to be exact. The roster is also subject to quite a lot of change as more players sign, or if some players move up and down from Elizabethton. The team plays at noon six days a week (Sundays off). The playing time is generally split a little more equally, generally, with the exception of the guys who are considered the priority prospects. Same thing at Elizabethton. Look at the number of plate appearances and games played to see who the top prospects likely are.
With that mini intro, let’s get to the GCL roster.
The team is managed by Ramon Borrego. He is assisted by extra coaching since these rookie leagues are all about player development. The hitting coaches last year were Javier Valentin and Steve Singleton, but they have moved up to Chattanooga and Ft. Myers, respectively. Toby Gardenhire was hired to be a hitting coach in the GCL after coaching at UW-Stout the last several years. He spent the first half up in Rochester, coaching third base after manager Mike Quade hurt his shoulder in a spring training car accident. The pitching coaches are Virgil Vazquez (third year) and Cibney Bello (second year).
GCL Twins Roster
Catchers: Jhon Alvarez (21), Kidany Salva (18), Kerby Camacho (19), Darling Cuestro (19).
Alvarez signed in 2012 and spent three seasons in the DSL. Last year in the GCL, he hit .259/.371/.293 (.665) with two doubles. Salva was the Twins 17th-round pick last year out of high school in Texas where he spent one year after moving from Puerto Rico. Camacho was drafted by the Twins in 2015, but he missed the 2016 season after a 80-game suspension. Cuestro comes over from the DSL where he hit .245/.376/.315 (.690).
Infielders: Dane Hutcheon (22), Emmanuel Morel (20), Roni Tapia (20), Mariano Calcano (20), Victor Tademo (17), Royce Lewis (18), Ricardo de La Torre (17), Benjamin Rodriguez (22), Alex Robles (21), Edgar Herrera (DL-20).
The big name in this list, of course, is Royce Lewis, the #1 overall draft pick in the June draft. He’s got speed and as we’ve already seen his power potential. He’ll play a lot of shortstop. It will be interesting to see how well he plays, how quickly he develops and just when the Twins will push him up to Elizabethton.
Dane Hutcheon is a middle infielder, drafted out of college in 2016. Alex Robles was the Twins 30th-round pick this year from Austin Peay. Benjamin Rodriguez was drafted as a catcher out of Pepperdine. He will likely play quite a bit of first base. Ricky De La Torre is an exciting shortstop prospect from Puerto Rico drafted in the sixth round this year. Some projected him as a early-round pick early in the season, though he fell back a little bit.
Emmanuel Morel and Roni Tapia spent time in the GCL last year after signing out of the Dominican Republic. Morel hit just .116 in 104 plate appearances. Tapia hit just .127, although three of his seven hits were home runs. Both are still just 20.
Mariano Calcano and Victor Tademo came over to the States from the Dominican Summer League. Calcano is a first baseman who hit .206/.287/.386 last year in the DSL as a 19-year-old. Tademo was probably the most intriguing DSL Twins player in 2016. As a 16-year-old, he hit .311/.388/.429 with 16 doubles, a triple and a homer last year. Edgar Herrera is out with a fractured hamate bone. He hit .317 last year in the DSL.
Outfielders: Jean Carlos Arias (19), Akil Baddoo (18), Humber Maldonado (19), Jared Akins (20), Colton Burns (21).
Akil Baddoo was the first of back-to-back supplemental picks for the Twins following the second round of the 2016 draft. Jose Miranda was the other one, and he’s up in Elizabethton. Maybe that’s where Baddoo will end up, but the outfielder will start in the GCL.
Jean-Carlos Arias is a big kid, young, but very talented. Last year in the GCL, he hit .202/.265/.266, but he should take a big step forward this year.
Jared Akins was the team’s 13th-round pick this month out of Fresno State. Colton Burns was selected in the 18th round this year out of UC-Santa Barbara. It is possible one of these guys will move up to E-Town when Brent Rooker moves up in a week or two.
Humberto Maldonado is a big kid with lots of power potential. He’s quite raw, but he hit .283/.363/.404 (.766) with 11 doubles, three triples and a homer.
Pitchers: Vadim Balan (24), Petru Balan (20), Jordan Balazovic (18), Brusdar Graterol (18), Matz Schutte (19), Jose Bermudez (19), Amilcar Cruz (21), Pedro Garcia (21), Matt Jones (18), Juan Mojica (21), Landon Leach (17), Blayne Enlow (18), Derek Molina (19), Austin Dizzle (22), Zach Featherstone (21).
Let’s start with the starting pitchers. Jordan Balazovic was drafted in the seventh round last year. Many thought he might go up to Elizabethton to start the season, and maybe the Canadian will get there, but he’ll start in the GCL. Brusdar Graterol, coming off of Tommy John surgery and a broken hand, pitched on Opening Day. He’s got a huge arm. Juan Mojica, Pedro Garcia and Carlos Suniaga will start the season in the team’s starting rotation after pitching last year in the DSL. Garcia was 5-1 with a 2.17 ERA. He had 69 strikeouts in 62.1 innings. Mojica was 5-2 with a 2.47 ERA. He had 73 strikeouts in 62 innings. Finally, Suniaga was 7-3 with a 2.03 ERA. In his 57.2 innings, he had 58 strikeouts. (Tyler Benninghoff was the team’s 11th-round pick a year ago out of high school in Kansas. He immediately had Tommy John surgery and could pitch some in 2017.)
Twins third-round pick Blayne Enlow will also start the season in the rotation, though they may stretch him out before he works too many innings. Second-round pick Landon Leach signed last week. He is still working with the Twins to get his visa. When he arrives, he’ll be stretched out as well. Speaking of 2017 pick, 40th-round selection Austin Bizzle will be working out of the bullpen. 14th rounder Derek Molina is going to have his season start late due to a back strain.
I think one of the more interesting roster spot here is the last one listed, Zach Featherstone. He was drafted in 2016 as a first base/outfielder. Just a few weeks ago, he began the transition to pitching. Matt Jones, like Balozovic, was a Canadian prep pitcher drafted last year. He signed later last season and will work out of the bullpen initially as well.
The Moldovan Brothers are both starting with the GCL Twins. On Monday, elder brother Vadim Balanpitched in a game for the first time in two years due to a back injury. He gave up just one hit over 2.2 scoreless innings. Left-hander Petru Balan is going to make his professional debut with the GCL squad as well.
Other bullpen arms who have come to the States from the Dominican Summer League include Jose Bermudez and Amilcar Cruz. Matz Schutte is in his third season out of The Netherlands and still won’t turn 20 until a month after the season.
So there you have it… a current look at the Gulf Coast League team roster. The youngest player on this roster is 17 (Victor Tademo) while the oldest just recently turned 24. (Vadim Balan, and that’s because he’s missed two years with injury) It’s a diverse group in terms of number of countries represented as well. It’s always a fun roster to follow and they’ve now gotten one game under their belts.
Zach Featherstone is a 2014 OF/LHP with a 6-2 205 lb. frame from Charlotte, NC who attends Ardrey Kell HS.
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