March 23, 2012

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2012: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6

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

10. Brian Dozier | Shortstop | DOB: 5/87 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2009-8

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2009     RK+    248     .353     .417     .431      0     17     23     26
2010     A-     170     .278     .347     .338      0      8     16     16
         A+     410     .274     .352     .354      5     17     44     41
2011     A+     218     .322     .423     .472      2     18     27     20
         AA     351     .318     .384     .502      7     36     28     46

Brian Dozier was the Twins' eighth-round pick out of Southern Mississippi in 2009 and had an underwhelming first full season in 2010, hitting .275/.350/.349 in 132 games between two levels of Single-A as a 23-year-old. He entered last year as a marginal prospect, as evidenced by the Twins having him repeat high Single-A at 24, but Dozier hit .322/.423/.472 in 49 games to force a midseason promotion and then batted .318/.384/.502 in 78 games at Double-A.

Overall he batted .320/.399/.491 with nine homers, 54 total extra-base hits, 24 steals, and nearly as many walks (55) as strikeouts (66) in 127 games, which put Dozier squarely on the prospect map and got him named Twins minor league player of the year. That likely overstates Dozier's upside, as he had a very good but not spectacular season as a 24-year-old between Single-A and Double-A, but there's no doubt that he's now in the Twins' plans.

Dozier has shown good on-base skills at every stop with a .307 average, few strikeouts, and a fair number of walks, but his power potential is iffy and his ability to play shortstop in the majors is often questioned. Even as a singles-hitting second baseman Dozier would be plenty useful because of the Twins' longstanding inability to develop middle infielders, but handling shortstop and smacking double-digit homers would make him a long-term building block.

9. Alex Wimmers | Starter | DOB: 11/88 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2010-1

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2010     A+      4      4     0.57      15.2       6      0      23      5
2011     A+     12      4     4.20      40.2      28      5      39     22

Alex Wimmers won back-to-back Big Ten pitcher of the year awards at Ohio State and was touted as one of the 2010 draft's most advanced pitchers when the Twins selected him 21st overall, but his first full pro season was derailed by extreme control problems. He walked the first six hitters he faced, was immediately removed from the high Single-A rotation, and spent three months trying to avoid going further down the scary Steve Blass/Rick Ankiel path.

He rejoined Fort Myers as a reliever and later moved back into the rotation, pitching well while avoiding any serious control issues. And then in his final start of the season Wimmers threw a seven-inning no-hitter, issuing just two walks while facing the minimum 21 hitters in a 1-0 win. After his disastrous season debut and lengthy stay in extended spring training Wimmers threw 41 innings with a 3.32 ERA, 39-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .189 opponents' average.

He's certainly not out of the woods yet, but Wimmers is back on track and should move quickly through the system if he can throw strikes. He lacks top-notch raw stuff, but the 6-foot-2 right-hander combines a low-90s fastball with an oft-praised changeup and has 62 strikeouts in 56 pro innings. And prior to the extreme wildness Wimmers' control was actually a major strength, so he fits the Twins' preferred pitching mold and projects as a potential mid-rotation starter.

8. Levi Michael | Shortstop | DOB: 2/91 | Bats: Switch | Draft: 2011-1

Not only is Levi Michael the first college middle infielder picked by the Twins in the first round or supplemental first round since LSU second baseman Todd Walker in 1994, they last used a first rounder on a college hitter of any position for Clemson catcher Matthew LeCroy in 1997. As a three-year college starter who figures to move through the system quickly Michael fills an obvious need in an organization that has long struggled to develop middle infielders.

Michael had a disappointing junior year after a monster sophomore campaign, hitting just .289 with five homers in 65 games, but that was partly due to injuries and the switch-hitter still got on base at a .434 clip with more walks (49) than strikeouts (47) and 15 steals in 16 tries. Despite the down year ESPN pegged him as "the top college shortstop in the class" and Baseball America ranked Michael as the draft's 22nd-best prospect.

Defensively there are some questions about Michael's ability to stick at shortstop, but prior to the draft Baseball America noted that "scouts are warming up to the idea" and publicly at least the Twins are optimistic. He signed too late to debut last season, agreeing to a $1.175 million bonus just hours before the August 15 deadline, so Michael will likely spend most of this year in the low minors and hopefully force his way into the Twins' plans by late 2013.

7. Kyle Gibson | Starter | DOB: 10/87 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2009-1

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2010     A+      7      7     1.87      43.1      33      2      40     12
         AA     16     16     3.68      93.0      91      5      77     22
         AAA     3      3     1.72      15.2      12      0       9      5
2011     AAA    18     18     4.81      95.1     109     11      91     27

By going well beyond the MLB-recommended slot bonus and taking a chance that the stress fracture in Kyle Gibson's forearm would heal the Twins were able to snag a top-10 talent with the 22nd pick in the 2009 draft. He debuted in 2010 by cruising through three levels of the minors with a 3.04 ERA and 118-to-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 142 innings and got off to a strong start at Triple-A last season, posting a 3.60 ERA and 59 strikeouts through 55 innings.

Gibson began to struggle in June, going 0-5 with a 6.47 ERA over an eight-start stretch, and was eventually diagnosed with a torn elbow ligament elbow. He underwent Tommy John surgery in September, which means Gibson is no sure thing to pitch at all this year and is unlikely to reach the majors before mid-2013. It's a shame, because he was looking MLB-ready as a potential No. 2 starter with good control, above-average stuff, and lots of ground balls.

Making a full recovery from Tommy John surgery is a much better bet now than it was even five years ago, but in recent Twins history Francisco Liriano and Pat Neshek have shown that it's still not guaranteed. Gibson's best-case scenario is making a few late-season appearances in the minors and beginning 2013 as a full-time member of the Triple-A rotation at age 25, setting up a possible midseason call-up to Minnesota. Lots of hurdles to clear before then, though.

6. Oswaldo Arcia | Right Field | DOB: 5/91 | Bats: Left | Sign: Venezuela

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2009     RK-    187     .275     .337     .455      5     18     15     18
2010     RK+    283     .375     .424     .672     14     42     19     67
2011     A-      81     .352     .420     .704      5     14      9     16
         A+     227     .263     .300     .460      8     24      9     53

Oswaldo Arcia signed with the Twins out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old in 2007, fared well at low rookie-ball in 2009, and then burst onto the prospect scene by hitting .375 with 14 homers and a .672 slugging percentage in 64 games for rookie-level Elizabethton in 2010. That earned Arcia a promotion to low Single-A last season and he hit .352 with five homers and a .704 slugging percentage in 20 games before being shut down with an elbow injury.

Minor surgery and a stint on the disabled list followed, but instead of Arcia simply rejoining the low Single-A lineup once he got healthy the Twins immediately promoted him to high Single-A. He held his own in Fort Myers, hitting .263 with a .460 slugging percentage, but as you'd expect from a 20-year-old facing much older, more experienced competition Arcia posted a hideous 53-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio and ugly .300 on-base percentage in 59 games.

Promoting him so aggressively was very out of character for the Twins, especially considering Arcia was coming back from elbow surgery, but regardless of the wisdom behind the move it certainly shows how highly they think of him. Aside from Miguel Sano he might have the highest-upside bat in the Twins' system, but a 137-to-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the low minors during the past two seasons should keep expectations somewhat in check for now.

8 Comments »

  1. John Bonnes was on KFAN today and said Chipper Jones should not be a Hall of Famer. I thought he was pretty much a slam dunk..what say yee?

    Comment by B. Cox — March 23, 2012 @ 8:10 am

  2. Jones is a HOF’er. He’s a former MVP, has won championships, has high numbers in every measurable category, Average, HR’s, OBP, SLG, OPS, etc….Plus he is largely seen as a clean player in a steriod era. I’m not sure how you can make an argument he’s not a HOF’er.

    Comment by Abe — March 23, 2012 @ 8:16 am

  3. I certainly can’t, the “expert” did..I think he’s a no brainer HOFer.

    Comment by B. Cox — March 23, 2012 @ 8:28 am

  4. Aaron – Great job as always on the “prospects” list…it looks like our minors are a mess. Of course the next 5 will have Sano and Rosario on the list – might be worth a trip to Beloit this summer!

    Comment by Paul G — March 23, 2012 @ 8:46 am

  5. Gibson as the #7 prospect and he’s at least a year plus from pitching at any level. Really?

    Comment by pk — March 23, 2012 @ 8:56 am

  6. I’d actually put Gibson higher. Recovery rates are just too high now days. It would be nice to have him now, but you’ll still get 6 hopefully active, cost controlled years (unlike Liriano, who got hurt while in the majors, so he earned the service time for the recover).

    Comment by hansob — March 23, 2012 @ 11:23 am

  7. I can see putting Hendriks above Gibson given the uncertainty about his future, but I think Gibson has a clearly higher prospect ceiling.

    Comment by AM. — March 24, 2012 @ 5:59 am

  8. i heard dark star, on the common man progrum, refer to the Twins two best starting pitchers as “innings eaters.” wanna guess who he is referring to? yep Pavano and…………..Marquis.

    He is kind of an insider, with TK and all. It should be interesting to see how the narrative changes with that crew once Marquis is walking his usual 6-8 batters per outing.

    Comment by spoofbonser — March 24, 2012 @ 8:27 am

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