February 3, 2011

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2011: 35, 34, 33, 32, 31

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 36-40.

35. Kyle Waldrop | Reliever | DOB: 10/85 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2004-1

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     A+     20      0     3.09      35.0      43      0      20      7
         AA     31      0     1.46      55.2      51      2      30     18
2010     AAA    59      0     2.57      87.2      89      5      60     20

Kyle Waldrop was a first-round pick in 2004 who looked less and less impressive as he moved up the minor-league ladder and then missed all of 2008 following shoulder surgery. He shifted to the bullpen full time upon returning in 2009 and has had back-to-back strong seasons as a reliever. Last year Waldrop had a 2.59 ERA and 60-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 88 innings at Triple-A, allowing just five homers while inducing 64 percent ground balls.

His lack of top-notch velocity and mediocre strikeout rates make it unlikely that Waldrop will be a force in the late innings, but the 25-year-old right-hander certainly looks capable of being a solid middle reliever thanks to good control and some serious worm-killing ability. He also looks to be just about MLB-ready, which is why it was surprising when the Twins declined to add him to the 40-man roster and left him unprotected for the Rule 5 draft in December.

Waldrop struggling down the stretch at Triple-A and getting knocked around in the Arizona Fall League may have scared teams off, as he went unpicked and the Twins lost no players in the draft. However, the fact that they were willing to lose him and his lack of a spot on the 40-man roster show the Twins' absence of faith in Waldrop despite his success as a reliever and could equal an uphill battle for a call-up in 2011.

34. Deolis Guerra | Starter | DOB: 4/89 | Throws: Right | Trade: Mets

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2008     A+     26     25     5.47     130.0     138     12      71     71
2009     A+     16     15     4.69      86.1      95      6      57     25
         AA     12     11     5.17      62.2      62      4      49     17
2010     AA     19     19     6.24     102.1     127     14      67     37
        AAA      5      4     6.84      25.0      35      5      18      8

Believe it or not, many people considered Deolis Guerra the centerpiece of the four-prospect package the Twins received from the Mets for Johan Santana in February of 2008. At the time he was just 18 years old and had already logged 180 impressive innings at Single-A, and the combination of a 6-foot-5 frame, low-90s fastball, and oft-touted changeup earned Guerra the No. 35 spot in Baseball America's annual ranking. Three years later he barely made this list.

Because the Mets had Guerra pitching at high Single-A as an 18-year-old the Twins have been forced to promote him far more aggressively than his performance has warranted. Even now he's one of the youngest pitchers on this list and younger than the average player at Single-A, but had the Twins assigned and promoted him based strictly on age and performance he'd still be in the Florida State League five years after debuting there.

Instead he's been thrown into the fire at Double-A and in the second half of last year Triple-A, leading to some hideous numbers. Guerra is 8-16 with a 5.97 ERA in 190 innings between the two levels, allowing opponents to hit .300 while managing just 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Guerra's raw stuff has also declined since the deal, as he's struggled to maintain peak velocity and ceased being a ground-baller. He's still young, but that's about all he has left in his favor.

33. Luke Hughes | Third Base | DOB: 8/84 | Bats: Right | Sign: Australia

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     AA     319     .319     .385     .551     15     33     28     70
        AAA     117     .283     .325     .453      3     11      7     30
2009     AA     229     .250     .320     .445      6     24     19     38
        AAA     157     .259     .344     .481      6     16     18     38
2010    AAA      81     .257     .313     .405      1      9      5     18

Luke Hughes made his MLB debut on April 28 and went deep off Max Scherzer to become the 106th player in baseball history to homer in his first at-bat, but the rest of his season wasn't very memorable. Hughes' first taste of the majors lasted only two games and he was limited to just 22 games back at Triple-A because of a sports hernia and groin injury that both required surgery, almost surely costing him at least a September call-up.

Hughes has bounced around a ton defensively since the Twins signed him out of Australia as a teenager in 2002, seeing time at every position except pitcher and catcher. Most of his action has come at third base, where Hughes made his major-league debut, and second base, where he looms as a potential fallback option for the Twins this season should Alexi Casilla struggle after being handed a starting job.

While reviews of Hughes' defense vary a lot most seem to agree that he's unlikely to be more than passable as an infielder, so he'll have to hit his way into a job and is running out of time at age 26. He's hit .282/.348/.473 between Double-A and Triple-A, which isn't enough to cancel out a poor glove and projects to make him a bench bat who draws starts versus lefties. He'll likely be in Minnesota at some point this season and it could be a make-or-break year.

32. Trevor Plouffe | Shortstop | DOB: 6/86 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2004-1

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     AA     249     .269     .325     .410      3     23     16     43
        AAA     272     .256     .292     .420      6     26     14     47
2009    AAA     477     .260     .313     .407     10     38     34     68
2010    AAA     445     .244     .300     .430     15     41     27     90

Trevor Plouffe made his major-league debut in mid-May and was called up four different times during the season, but the 2004 first-round pick started a total of just seven games and went 6-for-41 (.146) with 14 strikeouts and zero walks in his first taste of the big leagues at age 24. His performance at Rochester was more encouraging, but only slightly, as Plouffe's third crack at Triple-A involved posting nearly the same poor numbers there as he did in 2008 and 2009.

Plouffe has spent the bulk of three straight seasons at Triple-A, posting batting averages of .256, .260, and .244, on-base percentages of .292, .313, and .300, and slugging percentages of .420, .407, and .430. His overall Triple-A line is .253/.303/.419 in 1,194 plate appearances and his career line in 3,318 total plate appearances in the minors is an equally underwhelming .254/.316/.391. At this point it's pretty safe to conclude that Plouffe simply can't hit.

He's shown 15-homer power, but that doesn't hold much value when it comes along with poor plate discipline, a relatively high strikeout rate, and the inability to hit even .275 at any level in any season since rookie-ball in 2004. Plouffe's value is almost entirely tied to his defense and opinions are mixed on whether he can be an asset at shortstop in the majors, so right now a career as a utility man looks like his most realistic upside.

31. Martire Garcia | Starter | DOB: 3/90 | Throws: Left | Sign: Dominican

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2008     RK-    11     11     3.25      52.2      45      3      53     22
2009     RK+    13     12     4.42      59.0      61      4      54     31
2010     RK+     8      8     1.75      46.1      42      2      63     15
         A-      6      6     6.00      27.0      27      2      30     23

Martire Garcia was signed by the Twins just before his 17th birthday in 2007 and the skinny, diminutive left-hander from the Dominican Republic spent most of his first three pro seasons in various levels of rookie-ball before a second-half promotion to low Single-A last year. He had a rough time in six starts at Beloit, with 23 walks in 27 innings, but also managed 30 strikeouts and held opponents to a .252 batting average.

Consistently throwing strikes was also an issue for Garcia at rookie-ball in 2008 and 2009, but he began last season by posting a 1.75 ERA and 63-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 46 innings at Elizabethton and aside from that six-start stretch at Beloit his control certainly hasn't been bad enough to stand out as a red flag for a 21-year-old with good raw stuff. He'll likely spend most of this year in Beloit's rotation, but the Twins will probably limit his workload somewhat.

Garcia might have to eat a big breakfast just to weigh in at 160 pounds, but he packs plenty of velocity into a 5-foot-11 frame and has 281 strikeouts in 263 innings. He's one of the leading candidates to make a big jump up this list for 2012 once we see how he handles full-season competition, but for now Garcia's ranking is on the conservative side and based more on his potential than actual performance.

6 Comments »

  1. I don’t think Hughes will ever be a great player, but I do think he’s as good or better than more than a handful of MLB players on rosters today. He can play (not great) several positions, and he can hit lefties (I think). Sounds like a guy that should be a bench player on some roster for the next 5 years, if only he can stay healthy.

    When Guerra is claimed in the minor league version of the rulex draft at some point, the Twins will look even worse for the horrible Santana trade.

    Comment by mike wants WINS — February 3, 2011 @ 8:27 am

  2. Not to hijack this thread too much, but to this day, I can’t tell whether the Twins simply overreached in their negotiations with Boston and NY re Santana, or if they truly felt the Mets deal was a good one. Reports at the time made it pretty clear that NY offered Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and lesser player X. Boston, who was more aggressive coming off their WS win, offered different packages: Ellsbury, J. Masterson and X OR Lester, Coco Crisp, and Lowrie.

    The latter deal was apparently short-lived, as the Sox pitching coach and manager really liked Lester and did not want to deal him. But that offer – even at that time – was pretty clearly the best the Twins were reported to have received. And it beat the living hell out of what they took from the Mets.

    What could have been…

    Comment by BR — February 3, 2011 @ 10:12 am

  3. Oof. This is a really pessimistic day; if AG’s assessment is accurate, it’s a fairly harsh indictment of the Twins farm system if “prospects” 31-35 have so little upside…

    Comment by Josh — February 3, 2011 @ 11:32 am

  4. It isn’t so bad. Very few teams have a farm system that goes 20 deep, let alone 40. The Twins are pretty firmly in the middle of the pack, which is quite good considering that the MLB club has been contending for most of the past decade.

    Comment by Jeff — February 3, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

  5. Josh, I couldn’t disagree more. How would we expect the 31st best prospect to have lots of upside? It would be an amazing farm system if he did.

    Comment by mike wants WINS — February 3, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  6. Where’s Waldrop? Could be a good title for a kid’s book.

    Comment by We'veGotaPiperDown — April 7, 2011 @ 11:08 pm

Leave a comment