Bucking the bust trend: Twins finally seeing top pitching prospects pan out

Fernando Romero is one to watch as a potential high-end starter for the Twins.

Baseball Prospectus has released its top 101 prospects of 2018 and the Twins aren't listed nearly as frequently as they have been in recent years. 

Minnesota's highest rated prospect, Royce Lewis, at 27. The 2017 No. 1 overall pick is still at least a couple of years from reaching the big leagues. 

The rest: 

  • Nick Gordon (35)
  • Fernando Romero (97)

That's it. Only three players in the top 101 this year, which is actually one more than they had in the top 101 in 2017 (Nick Gordon at No. 48 and Tyler Jay at No. 98). 

But it's Romero, who like Jose Berrios last season, appears to be closing in on a call to the big leagues.

It may not happen out of spring training, but the hard-throwing right-hander could be called up in 2018 and be a key figure in the rotation or bullpen for years to come. 

Fernando Romero, RHP

Romero dominated at Double-A Chattanooga in 2017 – his first year back from Tommy John Surgery. Twins manager Paul Molitor raved about him last spring.

“Very confident kid, who we still think has the potential as a starter," Molitor told Twins Daily last spring, "can see him as a reliever, but I think that people envision him being a very high-end starter, so we're going to stick with that here in the short-term and try to get him stretched out." 

Per Twins Daily, Romero throws in the high 90s and has the potential for three plus-plus pitches. His arsenal of pitches helped him post a 3.53 ERA with 120 strikeouts and 45 walks in 125 innings last summer. 

If he doesn't get the call to the big leagues as a starter in 2018, he could find a faster path as an electric arm out of the bullpen. 

Stephen Gonsalves, LHP

Gonsalves wasn't even in the Baseball Prospectus top 101, but he's been very good in the minors. Read this from MLB.com on his potential:

"Gonsalves doesn't have the ceiling of Romero, but possesses a higher floor as a classic lefty with good control and an impressive changeup to go along with his fastball that sits in the low 90s. He's working to improve his slider and curveball, and he is expected to open the year at Triple-A Rochester with Romero. Gonsalves, 23, has a career 2.39 ERA in the Minors, including a 3.27 ERA last season between Chattanooga and Rochester."

The problem: Pitchers haven't panned out

Alex Meyer was a bust and eventually traded to the Angels for Hector Santiago, who was below average the only season he spent with Minnesota. 

Kohl Stewart, a former No. 4 overall pick, has yet to make it to the majors and doesn't appear to be close after posting a 4.09 ERA in 77 innings at Double-A last season.

Lewis Thorpe is a still a long way and Nick Burdi's 100 mph fastball wasn't seen last summer because he was recovering from Tommy John Surgery. 

Berrios is the only Twins starting pitching prospect to have made a significant impact in the majors, and 2018 promises to be a breakout campaign for the 23-year-old. 

Jay is another name to keep an eye on this spring. He's battled injuries but projects as a potentially dominating late-inning lefty who could make the team out of spring training. 1500 ESPN notes that he might have the best slider in the organization. 

Past rankings

In 2016 the Twins were stacked in the top 101 with Byron Buxton at No. 2, Jose Berrios 17th, Max Kepler 60th and Nick Gordon 62nd.

They had even more of a presence in 2015 with Buxton (2), Miguel Sano (12), Alex Meyer (14), Kohl Stewart (28), Berrios (28), Gordon (70), Lewis Thorpe (91) and Nick Burdi (99). 

The Twins report to Ft. Myers, Florida, on Feb. 13. 

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