February 21, 2011

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2011: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6

Also in this series: 1-5, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40.

10. Billy Bullock | Reliever | DOB: 2/88 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2009-2

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     RK      7      0     1.23       7.1       3      0      10      1
         A-     26      0     2.73      26.1      25      0      35     12
2010     A+     28      0     3.62      37.1      39      2      45     19
         AA     30      0     3.44      36.2      34      3      60     24

Rarely have the Twins averted from drafting pitchers with superior command and control than raw stuff, but 2009 second rounder Billy Bullock was an obvious exception and so far at least the former University of Florida closer has lived up to his pre-draft billing as one of the highest-upside arms in the class. Bullock has a legitimate mid-90s fastball and even without much of an off-speed repertoire he's racked up an incredible 150 strikeouts in 108 pro innings.

All those missed bats have also come with 4.7 walks per nine innings, so his control will have to improve when Bullocks starts to face more advanced competition not so easily overpowered with pure velocity. On the other hand he had no trouble dominating Double-A hitters following a midseason promotion last year, striking out 60 batters in 37 innings and posting a 3.44 ERA despite 5.9 walks per nine frames. He doesn't know where it's going but it's getting there fast.

Bullock has been used as a closer in the minors, accumulating 38 saves and finishing 79 games in 91 total appearances, and with a bit more refinement he certainly projects as a ninth-inning possibility in Minnesota some day. He's been promoted aggressively by the Twins despite the awful control, reaching low Single-A shortly after signing for $533,000 and finishing his first full season in Double-A at age 22, so with a few more strikes Bullock could arrive in a hurry.

9. Adrian Salcedo | Starter | DOB: 4/91 | Throws: Right | Sign: Dominican

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2008     DSL    12     12     1.65      65.1      47      1      50      8
2009     RK-    11     10     1.46      61.2      60      1      58      3
2010     RK+    16      8     3.27      66.0      55      3      65     10
         A+      6      6     6.26      27.1      42      3      16      8

Adrian Salcedo signed with the Twins out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old in 2007 and made his pro debut in 2008 by dominating the Dominican summer league with a 1.65 ERA, .198 opponents' batting average, and 50-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 65 innings. He moved up to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2009 and the skinny, 6-foot-4 right-hander posted more video game-like numbers with a 1.46 ERA and 58/3 K/BB ratio in 62 innings.

Like many very young prospects Salcedo began last year in extended spring training and was slated for rookie-level Elizabethton once the short-season Appalachian League started up, but when injuries depleted Fort Myers' pitching staff the Twins surprisingly sent him all the way up to high Single-A. Not surprisingly for a 19-year-old facing Florida State League hitters 3-4 years his senior, Salcedo struggled with a 6.26 ERA in six starts before heading to Elizabethton.

Obviously the rough stretch at Fort Myers isn't a positive thing, but it's tough to blame Salcedo much for a poor 2010 performance at a level he may not have reached until 2012 under normal circumstances. And once he was back to facing guys his own age Salcedo resumed dominating with a 3.27 ERA and 65/10 K/BB ratio in 66 innings to finish the year on a high note. He'll likely begin this season at low Single-A and perhaps return to Fort Myers in the second half.

8. Liam Hendriks | Starter | DOB: 2/89 | Throws: Right | Sign: Australia

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     RK+     3      3     3.71      17.0      19      0      13      1
         A-     11     11     3.51      66.2      73      3      62     15
2010     A-      6      6     1.32      34.0      16      0      39      4
         A+     13     12     1.93      74.2      63      2      66      8

Liam Hendriks signed with the Twins out of Australia as an 18-year-old in 2007 and fared well at rookie-ball, but then missed all of 2008 and half of 2009 following knee and back surgeries. Hendriks didn't miss a beat when he finally returned to the mound, tossing 84 innings with a 3.55 ERA and 75-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio between rookie-ball and low Single-A, and then turned in by far the most impressive performance by any pitcher in the Twins' system last year.

Hendriks began the season back at low Single-A, where he had a 1.32 ERA and 39/4 K/BB ratio in six starts to earn a quick promotion to high Single-A. He missed some time at Fort Myers due to an appendectomy that also kept him from pitching in the Futures Game, but the 6-foot-1 right-hander still dominated Florida State League hitters with a 1.93 ERA and 66/8 K/BB ratio in 75 innings despite being one of the youngest starters in the league at age 21.

His overall numbers between the two levels were ridiculous, with a 1.74 ERA, .199 opponents' batting average, 105/12 K/BB ratio, and just two homers allowed in 109 innings. His raw stuff can't match that dominance, but Hendriks has excellent command of a five-pitch repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball. Performance-wise he's been nearly flawless, but with a grand total of 236 innings in four pro seasons staying healthy is key as he moves beyond the low minors.

7. Ben Revere | Center Field | DOB: 5/88 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2007-1

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     A-     374     .379     .433     .497      1     28     27     31
2009     A+     517     .311     .372     .369      2     19     40     34
2010     AA     406     .305     .371     .363      1     15     32     41

Ben Revere was initially thought to be done for the year when a pitch to the face fractured his right orbital bone in early August, but instead he rejoined the Double-A lineup and then made his unexpected MLB debut in September when the Twins put him on the 40-man roster after Ron Gardenhire requested some speed. Revere even drew a half-dozen starts in place of an injured Denard Span, but the 2007 first-round pick figures to spend most of 2011 at Triple-A.

Flirting with a .400 batting average at low Single-A in 2008 made it easy to overlook Revere's flaws, but his non-existent power and sub par plate discipline certainly stood out more during the past two seasons as he hit "only" .311 and .305. He managed just three homers, 34 total extra-base hits, and 72 walks in 215 games and 923 plate appearances during that time, and then hit .295 with a measly .330 slugging percentage in 28 games in the Arizona Fall League.

Great speed, few strikeouts, and a line-drive swing make Revere capable of hitting .300 in the majors, but even if he does a glaring lack of secondary skills would leave him with limited value offensively. An empty batting average works when joined by elite defense and base-stealing, but there are questions about Revere thriving in center field and he's yet to turn great speed into great success rates on the bases. Right now he looks like a poor man's Juan Pierre.

6. Joe Benson | Center Field | DOB: 3/88 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2006-2

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     A-     290     .248     .326     .382      4     23     24     73
2009     A+     327     .285     .414     .403      5     18     46     74
2010     A+      96     .294     .375     .588      4     16      8     21
         AA     423     .251     .336     .527     23     50     39    115

Joe Benson got off to a brutal start at Double-A last year, hitting .169 in April, but recovered to hit .283/.411/.609 during the first two weeks of May when the Twins demoted him to Single-A anyway. It was an odd move, as the Twins cited his strikeout total and poor batting average even though he'd been on fire for two weeks and led New Britain in OPS, but Benson took the demotion in stride and hit .294/.375/.588 with 16 extra-base hits in 21 games at Fort Myers.

That earned Benson a mid-June promotion back to Double-A, where he continued to crush the ball and finished with an .862 OPS that led the team by 127 points and was 18 percent above the Eastern League average. Combined between the two levels he hit .259/.343/.538 with 27 homers, 19 steals, and 66 total extra-base hits in 123 games. Benson had the highest OPS in the Twins' system by 52 points and topped the next-best Isolated Power by 37 percent.

Benson's power really stands out in a system where no other hitter had 20 homers or slugged .450, but controlling the strike zone remains a big issue. He struck out 136 times in 123 games and hit .251, both of which match his career marks. As a great athlete with plus speed and the range for center field he brings much more to the table than most low-average, high-strikeout guys, but before projecting him as a star Benson still has a lot to prove in his age-23 season.

  • joeboo

    So the top five is Hicks, Sano, Gibson, Wimmers and who am I missing? Seriously, I can’t figure this out for my life

  • theman

    Nishioka

  • D-Luxxx

    Toby Gardenhire.

  • chris

    Toby is the next Punto..:)

    Bullock should play grat at Double A this season until June and then will go to AAA i think.
    Salcedo should stay the whole season in Single High-A to improve. Maybe should get a chance in late august in AA.

    Hendricks Must start in Double A and then will see how great he is…to reach AAA in 2011.
    Ben Revere is high talented but also single-.talented only..
    Joe Benson can be a future 10-year-centerfielder for the twins. He looks great..should improve his OPB and his SLG in AA..to +900, will play also in AAA in 2011 for sure!

  • Ian

    Is Revere the most polarizing Twins prospect? Supporters correctly point out his strong k/bb rate, success at every level despite his age and KLaw ranked him the Twins #4 prospect (and #71 in all baseball). Detractors keep coming back to his lack of power and rank him below Joe Benson.

    One of the nice things, for both, is both are still young for the EL. The avg batter age is over 24 and only 25 players total(even those getting cups of coffee) were 22 or younger.

  • mike wants WINS

    On Revere vs Benson, I’d think Benson can learn to strike out less (possibly), but that there is almost zero chance that Revere will learn to be stonger. Therefore, I think Benson’s upside is higher. His weakness is much more likely to be overcome than is Revere’s.

    On Revere, to me there are two things that turn him from nice player to good player: Improved defense, and improved baserunning. If the guy can get on base 38% of the time, and steal 30+ bases at a high rate of success, that’s a pretty good player. If he can then use his speed to actually field well, that’s a very good player. Unfortunately, that does not YET appear to be the case.

    On Bullock, he’s the kind of guy that should move quickly, and I hope he does. He can probably learn a few things and get better for a year or so, but there are only so many pitches in an arm. I hope he’s up sooner (late this year or next year) rather than later.

  • michael

    I am high on Benson. He has one skill to improve on. Revere and even Hicks have a lot to improve upon. Benson just has to learn when to swing for power and when to swing for contact

  • Daddy

    I have no idea if you have the interest/time/inclination to do this, but when this countdown is all done, I’d love love love to see a post with some wind-angle overviews of the propects–assessing the farm system overall in terms of perceived strengths, weaknesses . . . maybe even also comparing to other farm systems. To sort of give us a big picture with some takeaways.

    Anyways. Thanks!

  • BR

    Revere has to improve defensively. You can survive as a high-contact slap hitter if you play a good CF, but teams don’t want that in a corner OF.

    Benson right now is Mike Restovich, with a better glove. If HE could play CF, a team might put up with the high K rate, given the power. But I think he’s going to need to develop some two-strike contact skills or his career might stall before ever really reaching the majors.

  • michael

    If Restovich had the speed, glove and arm of Benson Restovich would have had at a long rich career.

  • Dan

    “On Revere vs Benson, I’d think Benson can learn to strike out less (possibly), but that there is almost zero chance that Revere will learn to be stonger. Therefore, I think Benson’s upside is higher. His weakness is much more likely to be overcome than is Revere’s.”

    Curse the Twins unwillingness to spend, particularly on a weight room!