February 9, 2011

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2011: 25, 24, 23, 22, 21

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40.

25. Anthony Slama | Reliever | DOB: 1/84 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2006-39

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2008     A+     51      0     1.01      71.0      43      0     110     24
2009     AA     51      0     2.48      65.1      46      5      93     32
         AAA    11      0     3.45      15.2      11      0      19      8
2010     AAA    54      0     2.20      65.1      41      5      74     32

After four seasons of being nearly unhittable at every level in the minors Anthony Slama finally got his first shot in the majors and didn't impress in five appearances, allowing opponents to bat .300/.440/.550 while showing the mediocre raw stuff and shaky control that convinced the Twins to keep him on the farm until age 26. However, a bad five-game debut is hardly damning and while nowhere near overpowering his low-90s fastball and high-70s slider looked decent.

Slama also surrounded that two-week stint in the big leagues with a very strong performance at Triple-A, tossing 65 innings with a 2.20 ERA, .178 opponents' batting average, and 74-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He now has a 1.95 ERA and 345 strikeouts in 249 career innings in the minors, including a 2.46 ERA at Double-A and Triple-A, which should be more than enough to get him another chance to establish himself with the Twins at some point in 2011.

His velocity will never match those great minor-league stats, but Slama is far from a soft-tosser and plenty of big-league relievers have had long, successful careers with similar raw stuff. His window of opportunity will be limited due to his age and the Twins' lack of faith, but hopefully four years of dominating in the minors earns Slama more than four innings to prove himself in the majors. He deserves a legitimate chance to sink or swim, and I still think he can float.

24. James Beresford | Shortstop | DOB: 1/89 | Bats: Left | Sign: Australia

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     RK+    211     .246     .345     .285      0      6     25     35
2009     A-     505     .289     .342     .313      0     11     34     70
2010     A-     540     .297     .349     .363      1     25     34     56

International scouting director Howard Norsetter has mused that James Beresford still looks more like "the bat boy" than a big leaguer five years after Twins signed him out of Australia as a 16-year-old, but the 165-pound shortstop has developed into a very intriguing prospect by slowly but surely adding some power at the plate to go along with what has always been an outstanding glove.

Beresford had almost zero power in his first two pro seasons, managing just eight extra-base hits and a .292 slugging percentage in 100 games at rookie-ball. He moved up to low Single-A in 2009 and his power went from non-existent to very poor, and last year Beresford repeated the level while hitting his first career homer and more than doubling his extra-base hit count. He's still in no danger of turning into a slugger, but can at least drive the ball occasionally.

While he was young for low Single-A the first time around asking Beresford to repeat the level last year was odd because he won team MVP honors in 2009 and certainly held his own by hitting .289 with a .342 on-base percentage. He repeated as team MVP last year, hitting .297 with a .349 OBP and upping his slugging percentage by 50 points while cutting his strikeouts by 25 percent. Right now he looks like a bottom-of-the-order hitter, but there's room to grow.

23. Niko Goodrum | Shortstop | DOB: 2/92 | Bats: Switch | Draft: 2010-2

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2010     RK-    128     .161     .219     .195      0      4      9     34

His name ranks as the best in Twins' farm system whether he goes by Cartier Goodrum or his nickname Niko, but last year's second-round pick struggled mightily in rookie-ball after signing out of a Georgia high school for $515,000. Pre-draft scouting reports focused on his raw tools and difficulty making consistent contact, and sure enough Goodrum hit .161 with 34 strikeouts in 118 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League.

It's impossible to find any positives within that performance, but Goodrum was drafted for his long-term upside rather than his ability to thrive immediately. Goodrum is a switch-hitter with what Baseball America described as "surprising raw power" and "good hands" while calling him "an easy player to dream on." He's a very long way from the big leagues, so Goodrum's future depends on the Twins' ability to mold his considerable tools into actual baseball skills.

He's athletic enough to play primarily shortstop for now, although no one seems to believe he has any real shot of sticking at the position and Goodrum may wind up shifting to the outfield eventually when his 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame fills out. He has above-average speed and a strong arm, so Goodrum should be an asset defensively somewhere as long as his bat proves worthy of being in the lineup.

22. B.J. Hermsen | Starter | DOB: 12/89 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2008-6

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     RK-    10     10     1.35      53.1      32      0      42      4
2010     RK+     8      6     3.32      38.0      39      2      39      4
         A-     12     12     5.00      72.0      85      6      46     15

B.J. Hermsen fell to the Twins in the sixth round of the 2008 draft due to a broken collarbone suffered as a high school senior in Iowa and concerns over his bonus demands, but ended up getting second-round money in signing for $650,000. He debuted in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2009 and was nearly unhittable with a 1.35 ERA and 42-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53 innings, allowing zero homers while opponents batted just .171.

Hermsen moved up to rookie-level Elizabethton to begin last season and thrived there as well, posting a 3.32 ERA and 39/4 K/BB ratio in 38 innings before earning a midseason promotion to low Single-A. He struggled at Beloit, managing just 46 strikeouts in 72 innings while opponents hit .295 with six homers, but maintained excellent control with just 1.9 walks per nine innings and was among the youngest Midwest League pitchers to start double-digit games.

As a 6-foot-6, 230-pound right-hander Hermsen has an intimidating mound presence and while in high school his velocity was regularly said to be in the mid-90s, but he's typically worked in the low-90s as a pro and has just 127 strikeouts in 163 career innings. He makes up for the lack of missed bats with pinpoint control and a fair number of ground balls, but it remains to be seen if Hermsen's size and once-touted velocity lead to the development of better raw stuff.

21. Manuel Soliman | Starter | DOB: 8/89 | Throws: Right | Sign: Dominican

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     DSL    14     14     2.15      71.0      66      0      55     20
2010     RK+    12     12     3.48      64.2      47      5      74     21

When the Twins signed Manuel Soliman from the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old in 2007 he was a third baseman, but after hitting just .199 with a .288 slugging percentage during two seasons of Dominican summer league action he made the move to the mound in 2009 and had immediate success. Despite never pitching before Soliman joined the rotation in the DSL with a 2.15 ERA and 55-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 71 innings while allowing zero homers.

Last season Soliman bypassed the rookie-level Gulf Coast League to pitch one level up in the rookie-level Appalachian League, starting 12 games with a 3.48 ERA and 74/21 K/BB ratio in 65 innings as a 20-year-old, including seven no-hit innings in his second outing. He served up five homers, but opponents batted just .201 against him overall and the right-handed Soliman was actually more effective versus lefties (.160) than righties (.222).

He's a long way from potentially entering the Twins' plans and still needs plenty of refinement, but Soliman's raw stuff is good enough to take notice of the early success and his unique lack of pitching experience could leave lots of room for further development. Armed with a low-90s fastball and mid-80s slider, Soliman has gone 11-4 with a 2.79 ERA and 129/41 K/BB ratio in 136 innings through 26 career starts and will likely make the leap to full-season ball in 2011.

  • chris

    Still like Slama…this guy is one of my favs!!!

    Goodrum really bad season and i just hope he can at least double his production this year….to lets say .250 avg, .320 OBP and .300 slg …otherwise i will say…he will never reach anything

    this soliman has raw stuff…great success for a player who never pitched

  • TMW

    I’ve never understood this about these lists.

    Slama is all but MLB ready and will probably contribute in 2011. Yet here he is behind 4 guys in Beloit or lower with wide variance of performance and healthy possibilities as they move up.

    We have a strong foundation for what is possible with Slama. Yet he ranks lower than these guys who have their ranking based on physical makeup instead of actual performance.

    Maybe I just would prefer tiered lists of guys ready to go like Slama/Gibson/Plouffe/Hughes/Revere etc., then another tier for guys probably ready in 1-3 years like Wimmers/Benson/Hendricks/Parmalee etc., then a tier for these guys in rookie ball where the possibilities create a huge variance of outcomes.

  • mike wants WINS

    As long as the Twins can find crafty veterans that have failed in the majors, but aren’t rookies, guys like Slama will get the occassional chance, but not much chance. They love guys that have been there, even if they’ve been bad there. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong, but they picked up Hughes after taking Diamond in the Rule V draft….

  • pk

    I agree with Chris. Not sure how Slama could be ranked 25th when other guys are still in single A or rookie ball.
    The fact remains it’s AG’s list and he does a good job of compiling the information. And it’s just nice to be talking baseball.

    Question..
    If Slama was on the Royals or Pirates would he a #1 or #2 reliever for them? Would the Twins then trade one of their top prospects for him at the trade deadline because they felt they needed depth in the bullpen.
    Slama may be with the wrong organization. With that said however,I have a feeling many relievers in the organization will get a more than fair chance to eat up ML innings for the team this year.

  • http://www.mnsportsfeed.com Eric

    I think Slama is ranked 25th because of his potential. The ranking of a prospect has to do with their ceiling and Slama will (at best) be a serviceable relief pitcher in the big leagues. Aaron Hicks and Kyle Gibson on the other hand have star potential.

  • mike wants WINS

    Aaron, are the Twins seriously not fans of Liriano? Are they insane?

  • birdofprey

    So, according to Mike Wants Wins, the Twins absolutely love veteran losers, maybe guys like Rausch and Fuentes, and hate young future stars like Slama, age 26. Maybe, just maybe MWW, Slama projects as a marginal journeyman. You know, the kind of guy teams without money and talent are forced to take a chance on. Like the Twins used to be.

  • Jeff

    Slama doesn’t project to be a star, but he’s cheap and has 6 years of team control. Why not see if he can succeed before deciding he’s a journeyman. He’ll make close to league minimum for 3 years, and unless he becomes a star closer, he won’t make much in arbitration either. Was promoting Neshek in 2006 also a bad idea? A team needs to find bargains somewhere so they can afford the occasional free agent or contract extension.

  • mike wants WINS

    bop: I agree, Slama is likely a journeyman. Don’t use Fuentes and Rausch with me, I wanted them kept. I’m thinking guys more like the journeyman types they pick up, the scrap heap guys. I’d rather they take a chance on young guys, than on guys that have been bad in their MLB careers. I’m not talking about guys like Fuentes that are very good, and should be picked up. I’m pretty sure I said “guys that have failed in the majors”, not guys that are good to great (like Fuentes). I’m talking more about the marginal pickups, I’m sorry for not making that clear. And, I believe this is not limited to pitchers. Of course, I could be wrong. It is certainly possible that the reason they pick up scrap heap guys is that their prospects aren’t good enough. There are certainly plenty of places on the interwebs where you can find people that agree with me, and plenty of places where you can find people that disagree with me.

  • mike wants WINS

    Oh, and I agree with Jeff. The backend of your bullpen should be making the MLB minimum, so you have money for other areas. I find the allocation of resources there odd.

  • Josh

    Slama is a conundrum. The K rates, the WHIP, the HR rates…these look like a great reliever, someone who could be either an elite set-up man or even a closer. The lack of control and lack of elite “stuff” make it more problematic.

    The lack of control is what will likely keep him in the minors until injury or the failure of another reliever mandates a call-up. The Twins pitching philosophy of not walking guys puts him on the outside. His initial run wasn’t good, but it’s such a small sample I wouldn’t count it against him, but others might.

    I’d like to see him in the bullpen this season. If Neshek isn’t all the way back, Slama would make a nice 2nd RH arm to work the 6th-7th innings. But right now, I think the most likely bullpen alignment is Nathan (closer), Capps, Neshek, Mijares, & Diamond. Which should be a very good, if expensive bullpen.

  • Ted

    So Christensen reports that the Twins are open to trading Liriano and have no plans to extend him. Apparently his hints of a 3-year, $39 million extension were too scary for the Twins. Am I alone in thinking this is idiotic? An average annual salary of $13 million for their best pitcher. Is it a budget thing? Having a $100+ million budget is great, but spending it on guys like Cuddyer because of grit and toughness, while freezing out guys like Liriano because he clashed with the front office over service time, well that is just the same old Twins douchbaggery that drives me nuts.

  • TMW

    In general, handing out big contracts to starting pitchers (particularly ones with violent mechanics) tends to be a disasterous idea. The health variance often isn’t worth the risk. You can hand out the big bucks in the biggest markets NY/Boston/Philly/LA because the revenue generated can survive the blow. For most teams huge starting pitcher contracts cripple future payrolls.

    I don’t think it’s idiotic at all to be testing waters right now while the value is at a height. The return just better be worth those 2 years on the cheap and draft picks when he walks.

  • mbrian

    Ted: The Twins have Liriano for $4.3 million this year. If he does well and goes back to arbitration, he’d probably be due about $10 million. That’s 2 years at $14-15 million compared to 3 years $39 million. Why would the Twins want to commit $25 million on the gamble that Liriano is still healthy and effective in 2013?

    . . . Such a fine line between “douchbaggery” and “incredibly reckless spending”.

  • Ted

    mbrian: You are right, signing that extension this season would not have made sense. Not certain why, but I assumed the extension would have started with next season’s contract, and included two years of free agency. I really have no idea why I thought that. Still not certain why they would make him available for trade; any designs on the postseason almost certainly have to include Liriano.