Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Arizona dreaming

Max Kepler in 2013 with Cedar Rapids. The Twins
have a decision to make on the 21-year-old, and his
assignment to the Arizona Fall League figures to
play a role in that decision.
It is a sign of where the Twins are that the most intriguing news of the day Tuesday was the Arizona Fall League assignments.

The highlight of that: Byron Buxton, sidelined now by his post collision concussion, is slated to play for the Salt River Rafters. This is seen as an indication that the Twins expect their top prospect to be ready to roll by October, when the prospect-heavy league gets rolling.

The Twins don't often have players repeat the AzFL, but all three of the position players on this opening list were there last year: Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler. All three have had disappointing seasons, Buxton because of injuries; Rosario with a 50-game suspension and a prolonged behavior-based benching; and Kepler presumably from his rawness.

Kepler is currently on the 40-man roster, but the German hasn't had a particularly strong season at high-A Fort Myers (.257/.330/.386), and the Twins may be considering whether they can risk exposing him to the Rule 5 draft. He remains an intriguing athlete and just turned 21, and the always optimistic Seth Stohs says he's been playing better of late. I expect the Twins will keep him on the 40, but this assignment may be an important test for him.

Rosario is another matter. He had a real opportunity this year to push his way to the majors, and did nothing with it. He's due to be added to the 40 this winter, and the Twins probably will do so, but they can't be pleased with what they've seen from him.

Three pitchers were also assigned to the AzFL: Right-hander Jason Adam (acquired from Kansas City for Josh Willingham) and left-handers Taylor Rogers and Mason Melotakis. All three are currently in Double A.

Adam, shifted this year to the bullpen by Kansas City, is being repositioned by the Twins as a starter, and they presumably want to add innings to his year.

Melotakis, a second-round pick in 2012, may be a dark-horse bullpen candidate for 2015; he certainly figures to have a higher ceiling than Caleb Thielbar.

Rogers has compiled pretty good numbers as a starter the past two years as he climbed from low A to Double A, albeit without imposing strikeout rates. I'm sure the Twins have a reason to send him to the fall league, but I'm not sure what it is. He doesn't appear to need the innings.

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