February 19, 2008

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2008: 20, 19, 18, 17, 16

Previous Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2008: 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40
20. Jason Pridie | Center Field | DOB: 10/83 | Bats: Left | Trade: Rays

YEAR LV PA AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO
2005 AA 104 .213 .275 .394 3 9 8 29
2006 AA 503 .230 .281 .304 5 20 31 93
2007 AA 300 .290 .331 .441 4 27 14 45
AAA 274 .318 .375 .539 10 30 22 47

Selected by the Rays out of an Arizona high school in the second round of the 2002 draft, Jason Pridie hit well at rookie-ball after signing before struggling with the move up to low Single-A in 2003. Asked to repeat the level in 2004, he hit .276/.327/.470 in 128 games and then made the jump up to Double-A in 2005. Pridie hit just .213/.275/.394 there, missing all but 28 games because of injuries, and the Rays chose not to protect him from the Rule 5 draft that winter.

A 21-year-old with about a month's worth of experience above Single-A, the Twins selected Pridie only to offer him back to the Rays prior to Opening Day. He struggled again at Double-A in 2006, hitting just .230/.281/.304 in 132 games to show how overmatched he would have been spending an entire year in the majors, but followed that up by hitting .303/.352/.487 with 14 homers, 57 total extra-base hits, and a 92-to-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 134 games between Double-A and Triple-A last year.

That caught the Twins' eye again and they re-acquired him as part of this offseason's six-player swap headlined by Delmon Young and Matt Garza. Unfortunately, Pridie's success in 2007 sticks out from the rest of an otherwise mediocre track record of .279/.326/.432 hitting. He's still young, has the speed to play center field, and has occasionally shown the ability to hit, but Pridie's plate discipline is sub par and unless 2007 is the beginning of a sustained breakout he looks like a fourth outfielder.

19. Alex Burnett | Starter | DOB: 7/87 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2005-12

YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB
2005 RK 13 8 4.10 48.1 50 6 33 14
2006 RK 13 13 4.04 71.1 66 6 71 13
2007 A- 27 27 3.02 155.0 140 9 117 38

In ranking Alex Burnett as the Twins' 30th-best prospect last year despite his having zero experience above rookie-ball, I wrote that "it wouldn't be surprising to see Burnett a dozen spots higher in a year." The four-prospect haul from the Johan Santana trade narrowly keeps him from making that dozen-spot jump, but Burnett had an impressive full-season debut in 2007 and has now firmly established himself as a strong prospect.

Taken by the Twins out of a California high school in the 12th round of the 2005 draft, Burnett posted a 4.07 ERA and 104-to-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 119.2 innings at rookie-ball during his first two pro seasons before jumping to low Single-A last year. Still a teenager, Burnett had a 3.07 ERA, 117-to-38 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .239 opponent's batting average while ranking fourth in the Midwest League with 155 innings.

Burnett's strikeout rate last season was modest, but there's room for more missed bats in the future given his low-90s fastball velocity combined with a hard slider and changeup that are considered to be assets already. A 19-year-old posting a 3.02 ERA while walking 38 batters and serving up nine homers in 155 innings at low Single-A is impressive, and Burnett's low opponent's batting average shows that he's been very tough to hit even without racking up huge strikeout totals yet.

18. Danny Valencia | Third Base | DOB: 9/84 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2006-19

YEAR LV PA AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO
2006 RK 211 .311 .365 .505 8 21 15 34
2007 A- 271 .302 .374 .500 11 26 28 54
A+ 250 .291 .332 .422 6 16 16 48

Selected by the Twins in the 19th round of the 2006 draft despite putting up relatively modest numbers at the University of Miami, Danny Valencia skipped his senior season to begin his pro career and then immediately bested his college production by hitting .311/.365/.505 in 48 games at rookie-ball. After playing primarily first base during his pro debut, the Twins made Valencia a full-time third baseman last year and he made the jump to full-season ball by starting out at low Single-A.

He hit .302/.374/.500 with 11 homers, 26 total extra-base hits, and a 54-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 66 games to earn a midseason promotion to high Single-A. Valencia continued to hit for average at Fort Myers, batting .291 in 61 games, but saw both his power and plate discipline decline significantly. Between the two levels of Single-A he batted .297/.354/.462 with 17 homers, 42 total extra-base hits, and a 102-to-44 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 127 games.

Valencia played well in his first full season, but an experienced college hitter beating up on low-minors competition is to be expected and the deterioration of his strikeout-to-walk ratio after moving up to high Single-A is concerning. His bat will ultimately have to carry him thanks to limited defensive skills, although Valencia's long-term outlook improved by spending the entire season at third base given the organization's lack of quality options at the position.

17. Ryan Mullins | Starter | DOB: 11/83 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2005-3

YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB
2005 RK 11 11 2.18 53.2 34 4 60 13
2006 A- 27 26 3.86 156.1 157 14 139 53
2007 A+ 10 9 1.98 54.2 50 4 56 12
AA 14 14 3.99 85.2 87 5 68 23
AAA 4 4 10.57 15.1 28 2 11 5

Ryan Mullins posted a 3.12 ERA and 223-to-62 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 271.2 innings as a three-year starter at Vanderbilt University before the Twins grabbed him in the third round of the 2005 draft that has already produced Garza and Kevin Slowey. A 6-foot-6 southpaw with modest velocity, Mullins had a 2.18 ERA and 60-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53.2 innings at rookie-ball after signing and then posted a 3.86 ERA and 139-to-53 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 156.1 innings at low Single-A in 2006.

He began last year by posting a 1.98 ERA and 56-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 54.2 innings at high Single-A and had a 3.99 ERA and 68-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 85.2 innings at Double-A after a midseason promotion. A second promotion followed, this time to Triple-A, but he was knocked around in four starts at Rochester. Mullins' limited stuff will likely keep him from developing into more than a mid-rotation starter, but southpaws who throw strikes and keep the ball on the ground are good bets.

Mullins induced nearly two ground balls for every fly ball last season and has served up a total of 29 homers in 365.1 career innings, including just 11 long balls in 155.2 innings between three levels last season. Between coaxing ground balls and handing out just 2.6 walks per nine innings during his career, Mullins figures to continue having success despite mediocre strikeout rates and should reach Minnesota at some point this season.

16. Brian Duensing | Starter | DOB: 2/83 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2005-3

YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB
2005 RK 12 9 2.32 50.1 49 4 55 16
2006 A- 11 11 2.94 70.1 68 3 55 14
A+ 7 7 4.24 40.1 47 4 33 8
AA 10 9 3.65 49.1 51 6 30 18
2007 AA 9 9 2.66 50.2 47 2 38 7
AAA 19 19 3.24 116.2 115 13 86 30

Brian Duensing missed nearly two seasons following Tommy John surgery while at the University of Nebraska, but returned to go 8-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 2005 before the Twins selected him in the third round of the draft that June. Duensing signed quickly and debuted at rookie-level Elizabethton, where he predictably thrived against inexperienced competition. Already 23 years old when the 2006 season began, the Twins decided to push Duensing aggressively through the system in his first full year.

He started out at low Single-A, moved up to high Single-A around midseason, and ended the year at Double-A, posting a 3.51 ERA in 159 innings between the three levels. Duensing stayed at Double-A to begin last season, posting a 2.66 ERA in nine starts, and then made 19 starts with a 3.24 ERA after a promotion to Triple-A. His rapid rise through the system and 3.25 ERA in 216.1 career innings between Double-A and Triple-A are impressive, but Duensing's secondary numbers aren't nearly as strong.

Since moving past Single-A he's managed just 6.4 strikeouts per nine innings while allowing a .262 opponent's batting average, which hint against future stardom. Those numbers certainly aren't bad and his control is good, but beyond ERAs there's little in his track record to suggest that he's capable of being more than a mid-rotation starter. Duensing is nearly MLB-ready, but he's already 25 years old and his limited upside is closer to Mullins than previous fast-rising pitchers like Garza or Slowey.


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