February 7, 2011

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2011: 30, 29, 28, 27, 26

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 31-35, 36-40.

30. Nate Roberts | Left Field | DOB: 2/89 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2010-5

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2010     RK+    153     .336     .444     .547      5     16     21     29

Taken by the Rays in the 48th round of the 2009 draft after leading his junior college team to a national title, Nate Roberts opted against signing and headed to High Point University, where a monstrous junior season led to the Twins picking him in the fifth round last June. Roberts hit .416 with 19 homers and 36 steals in 56 games, leading the country in on-base percentage (.573) and runs (88) while taking home Big South conference player of the year honors.

Despite that spectacular production Baseball America's pre-draft report on Roberts noted that "scouts were concerned that he lacks a standout tool and for some teams he was considered more of a senior sign" than a junior worth drafting as high as the fifth round. That may still prove true, of course, but so far so good as Roberts debuted at rookie-level Elizabethon after signing for $150,000 and hit .336/.444/.547 with five homers and five steals in 35 games.

Thanks to great plate discipline and pitchers being scared of him Roberts drew 53 walks in 56 games at High Point and was also hit by a remarkable 25 pitches so not surprisingly he led the Appalachian League in on-base percentage and ranked 12th in walks despite playing only 35 of a possible 65 games. Dominating in a lower-level college conference and then beating up on rookie-ball pitchers hardly guarantees future success, but it does make Roberts very intriguing.

29. Dakota Watts | Reliever | DOB: 11/87 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2009-16

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     RK-     6      0     0.00       9.1       1      0      10      3
         RK+    10      0     2.70      13.1       9      0      12     12
         A+      5      0    14.85       6.2      10      0       6     10
2010     A-     30      0     2.31      46.2      31      2      55     30
         A+     17      0     3.19      31.0      26      2      29     12
         AA      2      0    12.27       3.2       4      0       5      2

Dakota Watts had a 3.65 ERA and 68-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 67 innings spread over 12 starts as a junior at Cal-State Stanislaus and the Twins picked him in the 16th round of the 2009 draft, shifting the 6-foot-5 right-hander to the bullpen. Watts hasn't stayed very long at any one place, spending time at five different levels despite logging a grand total of just 111 pro innings in less than two full seasons, and reached Double-A at age 22.

His overall performance has been strong, with a 3.50 ERA and 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings, but Watts' numbers would look a whole lot better if not for being clobbered in a pair of brief but ugly stints as part of his frequent level changes. Between his five outings at high Single-A in 2009 and two appearances at Double-A last season he allowed 17 runs in 10.2 innings. In his other 63 games Watts has allowed 29 runs in 100 innings, which works out to a 2.60 ERA.

Watts will definitely need to dramatically improve his control at some point, as he's handed out 5.6 walks per nine innings, but he's missed a ton of bats with a mid-90s fastball that Baseball America ranks as the best in the Twins' system and projects as a potential late-inning reliever if things break right. If nothing else he's worth keeping an eye on as one of the rare pitching prospects not to fit the Twins' preferred mold and is capable of approaching triple-digit heat.

28. Anderson Hidalgo | Third Base | DOB: 9/88 | Bats: Right | Sign: Venezuela

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     RK-    107     .364     .453     .466      1      7     15     13
2009     RK+    205     .291     .379     .469      6     19     25     38
2010     A-     315     .316     .375     .443      3     29     24     50

After putting up impressive numbers in the Venezuelan summer league and rookie-ball during his first four pro seasons Anderson Hidalgo moved up to full-season ball last year and hit .316 with 29 extra-base hits in 81 games at low Single-A before missing the final two months with a fractured right forearm. He had the third-best OPS in the Beloit lineup behind Angel Morales and Aaron Hicks, and only 21 players in the entire Midwest League topped his .818 mark.

He hasn't shown a ton of home run power yet, but Hidalgo has batted at least .290 in each of his five professional stops while showing decent plate discipline and control of the strike zone for a young hitter and averaging 40 doubles per 550 at-bats. As a 21-year-old at low Single-A last season his overall production was 15 percent above the Midwest League average and in 2009 he was 20 percent above average in the rookie-level Appalachian League.

Hidalgo isn't close to the big leagues despite being signed out of Venezuela way back in 2006, but he's consistently thrived versus low-level competition and potentially could reach Double-A by the end of this season if he continues to play well. Hidalgo has played exclusively third base in the past two years, which is interesting since he's 5-foot-9 and only two active big leaguers 5-foot-10 or shorter have even 300 games at third base: Chone Figgins and Placido Polanco.

27. Kane Holbrooks | Reliever | DOB: 6/87 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2009-21

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     RK+    17      1     5.04      25.0      33      0      29     12
2010     A-     33      2     1.67      54.0      47      2      71     13
         A+      8      7     2.27      43.2      37      2      36     15

In the span of just 18 months Kane Holbrooks went from being a 21st-round pick out of Texas State University to solidly on the prospect map following a breakout 2010 season that saw him begin the year at low Single-A and end it at Double-A while posting a 2.10 ERA and 110-to-29 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 103 innings. Statistically he had the third-best season of any pitcher in the Twins system with at least 100 innings, behind only Liam Hendriks and Kyle Gibson.

Holbrooks has racked up 139 strikeouts in 128 pro innings, which is remarkable for someone who didn't miss many bats in college. As a senior at Texas State he went 10-1 with a 3.29 ERA in 16 starts, but Kolbrooks managed just 57 strikeouts in 101 innings. He's nearly doubled that strikeout rate as a pro and has the raw stuff to match, as the 6-foot-3 right-hander's fastball was regularly clocked in the mid-90s while he split time between the rotation and bullpen.

He was used primarily as a reliever prior to arriving at high Single-A in the second half and to stick as a starter Holbrooks needs to develop his offspeed offerings, but Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff told Phil Miller of Baseball America that his fastball "is a tent stick that can be a foundation for a good career" and also noted he "got our attention" and "is in our plans now" even if "we might not have had high expectations when we drafted him."

26. Eddie Rosario | Center Field | DOB: 9/91 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2010-4

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2010     RK-    213     .294     .343     .438      5     16     16     28

Selected in the fourth round of last year's draft, Eddie Rosario was born in Puerto Rico on the same day the Twins clinched the division title on the way to the World Series in 1991. Prior to the draft Baseball America called Rosario "the best pure hitter on the island" and compared him to Bobby Abreu for his "sound approach at the plate" and solid left-handed bat. He signed for $200,000 and debuted impressively in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

Rosario batted .294, drew a fair number of walks, showed some pop with 16 extra-base hits in 194 at-bats, and swiped 22 bases in 51 games. Those raw numbers aren't jaw-dropping, but he topped the GCL average by 111 points of OPS as an 18-year-old and also saw most of his action in center field, although the consensus seems to be that Rosario will eventually move to a corner spot full time once his six-foot, 170-pound frame fills out.

While not quite a success story yet Angel Morales has developed into one of the Twins' best outfield prospects since they nabbed him out of Puerto Rico in the third round back in 2007, so hopefully Rosario can follow a similarly methodical path to top prospect status. He's a long way from the majors and may not even get his first crack at full-season competition until 2012, but Rosario is definitely among the low-minors hitters worth keeping an eye on.

7 Comments »

  1. Really intrigued by Roberts. Here’s a guy who hit over .700 in the juco championships and his batting line with runners on base is really impressive. Whether he has the talent to do it in the show is still a question but the guy seems to do better in pressure situations (we could use that).

    Bases Empty .301 .427 .493 .920
    Runners On .382 .469 .618 1.087
    Scoring Position .385 .500 .500 1.000

    Comment by Clyde — February 7, 2011 @ 9:12 am

  2. Why don’t these guys start full season baseball sooner? Not a rip on the Twins, as other teams do this also. I’m curious what the rationale is.

    Comment by mike wants WINS — February 7, 2011 @ 9:22 am

  3. I would guess injury concerns, but maybe someone else has additional insight.

    Comment by Jeff — February 7, 2011 @ 10:14 am

  4. Roberts is already one of my favorite prospects. Definitely looking forward to seeing how he does this year, hopefully he starts out in Beloit.

    Comment by Steve L. — February 7, 2011 @ 11:30 am

  5. Holbrooks and Rosario look great…Holbrooks storming the ladder so far and Rosario is still really really young. Nate Roberts put quite impressing numbers in rookie level!

    Comment by chris — February 8, 2011 @ 1:38 am

  6. Watch out for a couple of 19/20 year old 2009 signees this year. Nick Lockwood and Rory Rhodes. Lockwood stormed out of the gate last year hitting .325 in the GCL in June and then being promoted and platooned in Elizabethton in late July and August. Rhodes came off of shoulder surgery in June of last year and tore up the GCL the remainder of the summer. I expect both will put up big numbers in ETown this summer.

    Comment by bill — February 8, 2011 @ 9:01 am

  7. Dakota Watts: Finally a player like this has arrived on the scene for our team. A high risk-high reward guy that throws hard, misses bats, and walks people! If he follows the line of the Kershaws, Sabathias, Gallardos, and the other laundry list of hard throwing starters/relievers that ultimately figured it out, they will have a gem on their hands. Love it.

    Comment by Kurt — February 8, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

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