After tough 2018, Twins prospect Nick Gordon comes out swinging

The Minnesota Twins have positioned themselves as a playoff contender, but the team still has a number of promising prospects.

Every Thursday for the rest of the season, FOX Sports North will take a closer look at some specific young players in Minnesota’s farm system — as well as noting others who might be stepping up — measuring, highlighting and evaluating their progress.

This is the 2nd edition of the 2019 Young Twins Tracker.

 

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Jordan Balazovic, SP (age 20/Single-A)

Last week: 1 game (1 start), 1-0, 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K

Season (High-A): 1 game (1 start), 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 7 IP, 0 H, 0 HR, 0 BB, 10 K, .000 OBA, 0.00 WHIP

Season (Low-A): 4 games (4 starts), 2-1, 2.18 ERA, 20.2 IP, 15 H, 1 HR, 4 BB, 33 K, .195 OBA, 0.92 WHIP

Notable: The 2016 fifth-round pick was promoted to Fort Myers on May 3. On May 5, he made his debut at Palm Beach and retired all 21 batters he faced, 10 via strikeout, before being removed after throwing a season-high 95 pitches.

 

Nick Gordon, 2B/SS (age 23/Triple-A)

Last week: 5 games, 24 AB, 10 H, 4 2B, 3 R, 5 RBI, 3 SB, 1 BB, 5 K, .417 BA

Season: 5 games, 24 AB, .417 BA, .462 OBP, .583 SLG, 1.045 OPS, 4 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 R, 5 RBI, 3 SB, 1 BB, 5 K.

Notable: Gordon struggled in his 99 games at Triple-A in 2018 (.212/.262/.283), so his start to this season is quite encouraging to say the least. Activated from the injured list May 2 (he missed the start of the year due to a stomach ailment), Gordon had a hit in all five games and had 2+ hits in four of those, including his last three. Gordon played shortstop in four of those games and second base in the other.

 

Brusdar Graterol, SP (age 20/Double-A)

Last week: 2 games (2 starts), 2-0, 10 1/3 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 8 K

Season: 7 games (7 starts), 4-0, 1.91 ERA, 37.2 IP, 22 H, 2 HR, 15 BB, 36 K, .168 OBA, 0.98 WHIP

Notable: Graterol threw only 77 and 69 pitches in his two starts last week but was still able to go at least five innings in each. Against Biloxi on May 3 he allowed one run in five innings then followed that up five days later with 5 1/3 shutout innings, giving up just two hits, at Mississippi. Graterol left his second start due to trapezius tightness, but he’s expected to make his next start.

 

Alex Kirilloff, OF (age 21/Double-A)

Last week: 7 games, 27 AB, 8 H, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 R, 4 RBI, 0 SB, 4 BB, 8 K, .296 BA

Season: 7 games, 27 AB, .296 BA, .424 OBP, .407 SLG, .832 OPS, 1 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 4 R, 4 RBI, 0 SB, 4 BB, 8 K.

Notable: Like Gordon, Minnesota’s first-round pick in 2016 made his season debut this week after being activated off the injured list May 2 after being sidelined with a wrist injury. Kirilloff reached base in each of his first six games before taking an 0-for-5 May 8. His on-base percentage got a slight boost as he was also hit by a pitch twice.

 

Trevor Larnach, OF (age 22/Single-A)

Last week: 8 games, 32 AB, 13 H, 3 2B, 2 HR, 7 R, 6 RBI, 1 SB, 3 BB, 6 K, .406 BA

Season: 31 games, 122 AB, .287 BA, .338 OBP, .418 SLG, .756 OPS, 10 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 12 R, 19 RBI, 2 SB, 10 BB, 27 K.

Notable: To say the least, Larnach had a big week. The 2018 first-round pick had five multi-hit games and on May 7 at Charlotte he hit his first two home runs at the Advanced Single-A level. Larnach’s 10 doubles are second in the Florida State League and he now has 23 in 73 career minor-league games.

 

Royce Lewis, SS (age 19/High-A)

Last week: 8 games, 32 AB, 9 H, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 R, 2 RBI, 1 SB, 3 BB, 7 K, .281 BA

Season: 31 games, 123 AB, .228 BA, .314 OBP, .285 SLG, .599 OPS, 3 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 14 R, 7 RBI, 6 SB, 16 BB, 28 K.

Notable: Lewis had a four-game hit streak before going 0-for-4 on May 8. Lewis had four games with two hits last week, including three during his mini-streak. Overall last week Lewis raised his batting average 19 points.

 

Brent Rooker 1B/OF (age 24/Triple-A)

Last week: 3 games, 14 AB, 4 H, 1 2B, 2 HR, 4 R, 3 RBI, 0 SB, 1 BB, 4 K, .286 BA

Season: 19 games, 70 AB, .229 BA, .289 OBP, .529 SLG, .818 OPS, 3 2B, 0 3B, 6 HR, 10 R, 11 RBI, 0 SB, 6 BB, 32 K.

Notable: After missing a week with a hamstring injury, Rooker had a hit in all three games he played in last week. He’s now tied for the team lead in home runs with Luke Raley (25 games, 96 AB) and Zander Wiel (27 games, 100 AB).

Others: Rochester OF Luke Raley went 8-for-18 (.444) last week with five runs and is now slashing .281/.355/.510 with 24 runs (tied for sixth in the International League) in 25 games. … After posting a 0.60 ERA and 0.73 WHIP in Double-A, RHP Devin Smeltzer was promoted to Triple-A Rochester. In his first start there May 2, he allowed one unearned run on three hits in seven innings, with no walks and three strikeouts. … Pensacola 2B Luis Arraez went 13-for-29 (.448) with four doubles, seven runs and four RBI in seven games last week. He’s now hitting .341 on the season and has more walks (16) than strikeouts (13). … Fort Myers 1B Lewin Diaz had four doubles and two homers among his eight hits last week and drove in seven runs. He’s now slashing .313/.357/.449. … Cedar Rapids RHP Cole Sands (5th round, 2018) pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits and no walks while fanning six vs. Dayton on May 5. In five starts for the Kernels, Sands has a 1.73 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, .189 OBA and 28 K in 26 IP.

Statistics courtesy milb.com and baseball-reference.com

Dave Heller is the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow (a Larry Ritter Book Award nominee), Facing Ted Williams – Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns