May 8, 2013

Revisiting the best Twins prospects of the 2000s

mauer and morneau rookie

Coming into the season the Twins were universally regarded as having one of the truly elite farm systems in baseball, boasting plenty of star-level talent and impressive depth. I called it the best crop of Twins prospects in my decade-plus writing about the team and nothing has changed since then, as consensus top-25 prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton are off to amazing starts and most of system's other significant prospects have played well.

I've written plenty about the Twins' prospects as part of my annual rankings, so there's no sense in revisiting everything a month into the season, but I thought it would be interesting to examine the recent history of Twins prospects. This year the Twins had six prospects in Baseball America's top 100 list, including Sano and Buxton in the top 10 and Oswaldo Arcia in the top 50, but what exactly has it meant to be a Twins prospect in the Baseball America top 100?

I wanted to focus on how prospects were perceived nationally at the time, rather than local hype or how I personally viewed them or how they actually turned out--no Johan Santana, in other words--so I relied on BA's list. On a season-to-season basis prospect crops vary wildly, so not all rankings are created equal, but below you'll find my best estimate of the highest-rated and/or most-hyped Twins prospects since 2000 (minus current prospects) and where they stand now.


1. Joe Mauer: #7 in 2002, #4 in 2003, #1 in 2004, #1 in 2005

Joe Mauer was basically as good as prospects get. He was a multi-sport superstar in high school, got drafted No. 1 overall, had immediate success hitting .400 at rookie-ball, thrived at every stop in the minors despite being young for the level of competition, was named Baseball America minor league player of the year, and reached the majors two weeks before his 21st birthday. Mauer was arguably the best MLB prospect of the 2000s and has obviously lived up to the hype.


2. Francisco Liriano: #83 in 2003, #6 in 2006

When the Giants traded Francisco Liriano to the Twins he was a former top 100 prospect who'd fallen off the list due to arm problems in the low minors, but two years later he re-emerged as the best pitching prospect in baseball. He showed why with one of the most dominant rookie seasons ever, but that was cut short by elbow surgery. Liriano has found some post-surgery success, but he was never the same and is a prime example of the volatile nature of pitching prospects.


3. Justin Morneau: #21 in 2002, #14 in 2003, #16 in 2004

Coming up in the same farm system at the same time as Mauer made Justin Morneau somewhat overshadowed, but he was definitely an elite prospect. Not only did Morneau rank among Baseball America's top 25 prospects in three straight seasons, he put up big numbers at every level in the minors and debuted in the majors a month after his 22nd birthday. Injuries have unfortunately kept Morneau from realizing his full potential, but he obviously lived up to the hype.


4. Michael Cuddyer: #36 in 1999, #18 in 2000, #55 in 2001, #27 in 2002, #17 in 2003

Michael Cuddyer was the ninth overall pick out of high school and cracked Baseball America's top 50 a remarkable five times, peaking at No. 17 the same year Mauer was No. 4 and Morneau was No. 14. He doesn't have an MVP, but Cuddyer has played 13 seasons as an above-average corner outfielder and occasional infielder, hitting .272/.342/.457. Everyone should be thrilled if similarly hyped prospects turned out as well as Cuddyer.


5. Jason Kubel: #17 in 2005, #58 in 2006

Oh, what could have been. Jason Kubel hit .352/.414/.590 with 16 steals between Double-A and Triple-A at age 22, hit .300 in a 23-game September debut, and ranked 17th on BA's list. Then a gruesome collision destroyed his knee, knocked him out for an entire year, and turned Kubel from an athletic, high-average hitter with good speed to a plodding slugger. And yet Kubel has still managed a decade-long career as an above-average corner outfielder not far off from Cuddyer.


6. Matt Garza: #21 in 2007

Matt Garza made just one Baseball America top 100, but that's because he went from first-round pick to the big leagues in one year. After some initial struggles Garza made 15 starts with a 3.69 ERA as a 23-year-old, at which point the Twins traded him for Delmon Young. Young is one of the biggest prospect busts of the 2000s whereas Garza had a five-season run as a solid No. 2 starter, but injuries have derailed him at age 29.


7. Michael Restovich: #50 in 1999, #26 in 2000, #63 in 2002, #37 in 2003

Drafted in the second round out of a Minnesota high school, Michael Restovich was a 6-foot-6 slugger who put up big power numbers in the minors and ranked among Baseball America's top 100 prospects four times. He debuted with the Twins at age 23 after hitting .286/.353/.542 at Triple-A, but never got an extended chance despite generally faring pretty well. He was lost on waivers in 2005, bounced around a ton, and ended up with just 297 career plate appearances.


8. Carlos Gomez: #60 in 2007, #52 in 2008

Carlos Gomez twice cracked Baseball America's top 100 in the Mets' system and was arguably the centerpiece of the Twins' haul for Santana. He debuted at age 21 and was the Twins' starting center fielder at 22, but rushing Gomez through the minors left him as mostly a mess offensively. Traded to the Brewers for J.J. Hardy after the 2009 season and now 27, he's finally becoming an impact hitter to go along with what was always excellent defense.


9. Adam Johnson: #41 in 2002, #85 in 2002

Adam Johnson was the No. 2 pick in 2000 draft out of Cal-State Fullerton, but Baseball America projected him as a mid-first rounder and the Twins were criticized for making a "signability pick." Johnson predictably fared well in the low minors against less experienced competition and cracked the top 50 in 2002, but things fell apart once he advanced past Single-A. He posted a 10.25 ERA in 26 innings as a major leaguer, washing out at age 23.


10. Luis Rivas: #70 in 1997, #55 in 1998, #63 in 1999, #86 in 2000, #93 in 2001

Luis Rivas ranked as a top 100 prospect in five straight seasons, but in the early days of this blog I wrote often about how his actual performance never matched the hype. He never hit well in the minors, yet the Twins made him their starting second baseman at age 21 and stuck with him as a regular for five seasons despite a .262/.307/.383 mark and iffy defense. He played 565 games for the Twins through age 25, but totaled just 83 more games after they finally let him go.


11. Wilson Ramos: #71 in 2009, #58 in 2010, #96 in 2011

While never quite an elite prospect Wilson Ramos typically ranked among the top five catchers and was a good enough prospect for long enough to create questions about how the Twins could make room for him and Mauer in their long-term plans. Ramos was a top 100 prospect three times and debuted with the Twins at age 22, but was traded to the Nationals for Matt Capps later that season. He's still just 25, but looks headed for a lengthy career as an above-average catcher.


12. Glen Perkins: #91 in 2006, #66 in 2007

Glen Perkins starred for the Gophers, made the top 100 twice, and debuted for the Twins two years after they made him a first-round pick. He was billed as a mid-rotation starter and looked the part as a 25-year-old rookie, but then struggled for two seasons as injuries derailed him. Perkins was demoted to the minors at age 27 and returned as a reliever, throwing harder than ever and quickly moving into the closer role.


13. J.D Durbin: #66 in 2004, #70 in 2005

J.D. Durbin threw hard and talked a good game, nicknaming himself "The Real Deal." He debuted in 2004 with all kinds of promise at age 22, but didn't make it back to the majors until 2007 and all that prospect shine had worn off by then. His strikeout rates and overall numbers in the minors never quite matched his hype and once he got to Triple-A poor control further did him in. Last year Durbin spent his 13th season in the minors, compared to 73 total innings in the majors.


14. Deolis Guerra: #35 in 2008

Deolis Guerra is technically still a prospect in that he's only 24 years old and hasn't reached the majors, but between his on-field struggles and recent health problems he's looking like a long shot to have a big-league career. Once upon a time many people felt that Guerra, not Gomez, was the best prospect in the Santana package, but like Gomez he wasn't helped by being rushed through the minors in the Mets' system and has had little success above Single-A.


15. Matthew LeCroy: #44 in 2000

Matthew LeCroy was a first-round pick out of college and crushed minor-league pitching while moving quickly through the Twins' system, debuting as their Opening Day catcher in his third pro season. He struggled offensively and proved to be a liability behind the plate, but after a demotion back to the minors he returned as a good platoon bat versus left-handed pitching at designated hitter, first base, and occasionally catcher.


16. Kevin Slowey: #71 in 2007

Kevin Slowey was an oft-debated prospect because his ridiculously great numbers in the minors didn't match his underwhelming raw stuff. Baseball America tends to skew heavily toward stuff over stats, so the fact that Slowey still made the top 100 shows just how silly his numbers were. He debuted at age 23 after posting a 2.28 ERA and 159-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio between Double-A and Triple-A, and split the difference by becoming a decent mid-rotation starter.


17. Ben Revere: #59 in 2009

Ben Revere was viewed as a reach in the first round of the 2007 draft, but started to get some prospect hype after he hit .379 at low Single-A in 2008. That was his only year appearing in the top 100, which isn't surprising considering prospect rankings are all about upside and Revere's complete lack of power and arm strength limited that even in optimistic scenarios. He's more or less become the flawed but useful player his minor-league track record suggested.


18. Jesse Crain: #89 in 2004, #63 in 2005

Jesse Crain was a college reliever and second-round pick who moved quickly through the Twins' system, debuting at age 23 after 162 innings in the minors. While the shape of his performance has changed over the years, Crain was a good setup man immediately and has remained so for a decade with a 3.18 ERA that includes just two seasons above 3.60. Relievers are rarely considered elite prospects, but Crain's career has gone almost exactly as hoped.


19. Matt Moses: #81 in 2004, #75 in 2006

Billed as a "pure hitter" coming out of high school as a first-round pick, Matt Moses got by on that reputation for quite a while before everyone finally realized that he couldn't actually hit. He cracked Baseball America's top 100 twice, peaking at No. 75 on a 2006 list that had Jay Bruce, Dustin Pedroia, and Kendry Morales in the next three spots, but never advanced beyond Double-A and hit just .249/.304/.374 in the minors overall before washing out at age 24.


20. Nick Blackburn: #56 in 2008

I disagreed so much with Baseball America ranking Nick Blackburn as the Twins' top prospect in 2008 that I made a bet with the magazine's editor, John Manuel, that Blackburn wouldn't get 70 career wins. I'm feeling pretty safe about the bet now with Blackburn stuck on 43 wins and his career at a crossroads, although in retrospect he did turn out better than I expected even if 819 innings of a 4.85 ERA is nothing special.


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January 24, 2013

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2013: 40, 39, 38, 37, 36

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35.

40. Ryan Pressly | Reliever | DOB: 12/88 | Throws: Right | Rule 5: Red Sox

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2010     A-     26     24     3.72     113.2     110      9      96     43
2011     A+     26     26     4.50     130.0     125      9      72     53
2012     A+     20     12     6.28      76.0      86      9      61     26
         AA     14      0     2.93      27.2      23      2      21     10

Picking fourth in the annual Rule 5 draft the Twins selected Double-A right-hander Ryan Pressly from the Red Sox, who originally picked him out of a Texas high school in the 11th round of the 2008 draft. Pressly's numbers as a starter aren't pretty, but he shifted to the bullpen at Double-A in the second half last year and threw 28 innings with a 2.93 ERA and 21-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. And then he thrived in the Arizona Fall League with an 18/1 K/BB ratio in 14 innings.

Rule 5 picks must stick in the majors all season or be offered back to their original team for half of the $50,000 selection fee, although teams can work out a side deal to get around that like the Twins and Braves did with Scott Diamond in 2011. Last winter the Twins touted Terry Doyle's performance in the Arizona Fall League after taking him from the White Sox with the second pick in the Rule 5 draft, only to let him go midway through spring training.

Doyle was a 26-year-old, low-velocity control pitcher, whereas Pressly is a 24-year-old with what Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com described in his Rule 5 preview as "a big arm that can fire fastballs in the mid-90s and ... an outstanding power curve." Of course, he's still a long shot to crack the Opening Day roster and at this point Pressly's resume includes 400 innings of mediocre pitching as a starter and 40 innings of good pitching as a reliever.

39. Eduardo Escobar | Shortstop | DOB: 1/89 | Bats: Switch | Trade: White Sox

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2010     A+     408     .285     .327     .402      3     29     23     76
         AA     216     .262     .294     .376      3     14      9     35
2011     AAA    536     .266     .303     .354      4     31     27    104
2012     AAA    151     .217     .259     .304      1      7      8     26
         MLB    146     .214     .278     .260      0      5     11     31

Eduardo Escobar won the White Sox's utility infielder job out of spring training and collected dust on the bench until being traded to the Twins along with Pedro Hernandez for Francisco Liriano in August. Sent to Triple-A after the trade, he hit just .217/.259/.304 in 35 games for Rochester and then received a September call-up to Minnesota, where he hit just .227/.271/.227 in 14 games for the Twins.

In seven seasons as a minor leaguer Escobar has hit .267/.312/.348, including .255/.293/.343 in 167 games at Triple-A, so while he's still just 24 years old it's pretty safe to conclude that his defense will have to carry him. And it might, because Baseball America named Escobar the best defensive infielder in the White Sox's farm system for 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Of course, even the slickest of fielders are destined for bench roles unless they can hit at least a little bit.

And so far at least it looks like Escobar can't hit, even a little bit. His power is non-existent, with a grand total of 15 homers in 2,700 plate appearances between the minors and majors, and both his plate discipline and strike zone control are severely lacking. Good-fielding middle infielders are hard enough to find that Escobar cracks this list despite those considerable flaws, with the hope that he's perhaps still capable of improving into "decent role player" territory.

38. Deolis Guerra | Reliever | DOB: 4/89 | Throws: Right | Trade: Mets

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2010     AA     19     19     6.24     102.1     127     14      67     37
         AAA     5      4     6.84      25.0      35      5      18      8
2011     AA     37     10     5.59      95.0     102     11      95     28
2012     AA      7      0     0.71      12.2       5      0      15      1
         AAA    29      0     4.87      57.1      59      7      56     21

Deolis Guerra is the Twins' last chance to squeeze more value out of the Johan Santana trade and at age 24 he remains in the organization after being dropped from the 40-man roster and passed through waivers unclaimed in November. When the Twins acquired Guerra from the Mets he was an 18-year-old starter and consensus top-50 prospect, but after years of struggling he shifted to the bullpen full time in the middle of last season

Guerra pitched very well as a reliever at Double-A down the stretch in 2011 and continued to thrive back in New Britain last year, earning a promotion to Triple-A in late April. His secondary numbers were solid in Rochester with a 56-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 57 innings, but Guerra served up seven homers on the way to posting a 4.87 ERA. He also missed some time with injuries and was bypassed for a September call-up despite then being on the 40-man roster.

Guerra no longer has much upside and has lost velocity since his teenage peak, but since moving to the bullpen his performance has been promising enough to suggest he can be a useful reliever. During the past one-and-a-half seasons he's thrown 124 innings out of the bullpen with a 3.56 ERA and 136-to-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio between Double-A and Triple-A, but he'll face an uphill climb to crack a Twins bullpen that appears pretty well set for 2013.

37. Josmil Pinto | Catcher | DOB: 3/89 | Bats: Right | Sign: Venezuela

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2010     A-     392     .225     .295     .378     10     32     32     67
2011     A+     236     .262     .305     .389      5     17     12     36
2012     A+     393     .295     .361     .473     12     36     39     63
         AA      52     .298     .365     .553      2      7      4     10

Josmil Pinto appeared on this list in 2010, ranking 36th after impressive rookie-ball production, but back-to-back seasons with a sub-.700 OPS at Single-A followed. He repeated high Single-A last year and bounced back in a big way, hitting .295/.361/.473 in 93 games while controlling the strike zone well, and then hit .298/.365/.553 in 12 games at Double-A to finish the season. That convinced the Twins to add Pinto to the 40-man roster in November.

His lack of high-minors experience, inconsistent track record, and uncertain future defensively made Pinto's addition somewhat surprising, but clearly the Twins think the 23-year-old from Venezuela has a chance to be an impact bat. And he'll probably need to be to have significant value, because despite good caught stealing numbers Pinto draws mixed reviews as a catcher and saw about half of his action last season at designated hitter.

Generally speaking a 23-year-old part-time catcher, part-time designated hitter with barely any time above Single-A and a career .266/.337/.427 line is a long shot to develop into a quality big leaguer, but Pinto has shown flashes of noteworthy potential. This season should provide a big test both offensively and defensively, and by this time next year odds are Pinto will either be at least a dozen spots higher on this list or no longer on the 40-man roster.

36. 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
2012     AA      1      1     4.15       4.1       6      1       3      2

What a shame. Alex Wimmers' fast track to the majors was derailed in early 2011 by extreme control problems, which he conquered enough to throw a seven-inning no-hitter in his final start of the season only to blow out his elbow one start into last year. On the Twins' advice Wimmers initially tried to avoid going under the knife, but that simply delayed Tommy John surgery until August and could mean he won't pitch at all in 2013.

Once upon a time Wimmers was a polished, strike-throwing right-hander who won back-to-back Big Ten conference pitcher of the year awards at Ohio State on the way to being the Twins' first-round pick in 2010, but between the Steve Blass/Rick Ankiel-like control problems and elbow injury he's now 24 years old and has appeared in one game above Single-A. His career totals consist of 63 innings in three pro seasons.

Even if Wimmers successfully returns from elbow surgery it's impossible to guess what type of pitcher he's capable of being at this point and he was never considered a high-upside arm to begin with. For both Wimmers and the Twins it would be nice if he could get back on track enough to re-emerge as a potential back-of-the-rotation starter, but we may have to wait until 2014 to find out if that's at all possible.

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December 5, 2012

Twins Notes: Guerra, Field, Oliveros, Butera, Allen, Appel, and Hendriks

• Last week the Twins filled the 40-man roster by adding eight new players, but they've already created four openings. One came by trading Denard Span to the Nationals for a 22-year-old pitching prospect, Alex Meyer, who doesn't have to be added to the 40-man roster for several years, and the other three spots came by designating Deolis Guerra and Tommy Field for assignment and non-tendering Lester Oliveros.

Guerra passed through waivers unclaimed and was sent outright to Rochester, meaning the Twins keep him at Triple-A without taking up a 40-man spot. Once upon a time Guerra was a top prospect and arguably the centerpiece of the haul for Johan Santana, but at this point they'd be happy if he developed into a middle reliever. Field was claimed off waivers from the Rockies last month and when the Twins put him back on waivers the Angels claimed him.

Oliveros was acquired from the Tigers in the Delmon Young trade and the hard-throwing right-hander showed some promise between Double-A and Triple-A this year, logging 48 innings with a 2.42 ERA and 51-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Unfortunately he underwent Tommy John elbow surgery in August and won't be at full strength until 2014, but after being non-tendered Oliveros opted to re-sign with the Twins on a minor-league deal.

• As expected the Twins tendered contracts to all three arbitration-eligible players: Jared Burton, Brian Duensing, and Drew Butera. Non-tendering Butera and his .183 career batting average would have made sense, but the Twins have stuck with him for three seasons already. In other words, if they thought he was worth $450,000 then a raise to, say, $600,000 isn't going to sway their opinion. Obviously with Butera money isn't really the main issue.

Chad Allen, who played for the Twins from 1999-2001 after being their fourth-round pick in 1996, is the new hitting coach for Double-A New Britain at age 37. I'll always remember Allen hopping after a hit to the gap in Cleveland after tearing his ACL and somehow keeping speedster Kenny Lofton from an inside-the-park homer by getting the ball back into the infield before collapsing. He never played for the Twins again.

• With the Twins set to pick No. 4 overall in June's draft Baseball America's early player rankings have Stanford right-hander Mark Appel in the top spot, followed by Indiana State left-hander Sean Manaea, Arkansas right-hander Ryan Stanek, North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran, and Florida right-hander Jonathan Crawford. They passed on Appel with the No. 2 pick this year and he went back to school rather than signing with the Pirates as the No. 8 pick.

Liam Hendriks underwent minor elbow surgery and won't pitch for Australia in the World Baseball Classic, but should be ready for spring training.

• Old friend Pat Neshek, who spent most of this year at Triple-A before thriving for the A's down the stretch, has signed a one-year, $975,000 deal with Oakland to avoid arbitration.

• Old friends Danny Valencia and Lew Ford might be teammates at Triple-A after the Orioles purchased Valencia from the Red Sox. Neither player is on the 40-man roster.

• As expected, Terry Ryan indicated that Chris Parmelee will be given every opportunity to be the starting right fielder following the Span trade, with Ben Revere shifting to center field.

• It turns out Span was born to play in Washington, D.C.

Parker Hageman of Twins Daily analyzed Meyer's pitching mechanics, which are especially important for someone 6-foot-9.

• I'd bet on the Twins signing at least one of the five starting pitchers on this list.

• Target Field was supposed to solve a lot of the Twins' payroll issues, but things haven't gone as planned and the growing local television revenue chasm doesn't bode well for the future.

• For a lengthy discussion of the Span-for-Meyer trade, plus talk about prospects in general and the Twins' next offseason steps, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

May 2, 2012

Twins Notes: Butera, Burroughs, Mauer, Morneau, Pavano, and Guerra

• I was on KFAN this morning, sitting in for a couple segments on Paul Allen's show to talk Twins and blogging and all sorts of other stuff. You can listen to my full appearance here.

• After playing every inning of the first 21 games Joe Mauer took a foul ball off his knee and sat out Monday. He returned last night as designated hitter, but the Twins felt the need to add Drew Butera as a third catcher while designating Sean Burroughs for assignment to make room on the roster. Butera was hitting .279/.319/.419 in 15 games for Rochester, which is simultaneously terrible for a 28-year-old at Triple-A and the best numbers of his career.

Burroughs was signed to a minor-league deal in December and the 30-year-old former top prospect impressed the Twins during spring training, winning an Opening Day bench spot. In theory he was a nice fit, offering a left-handed bat and solid glove at third base to complement and perhaps even push Danny Valencia, but in practice he got three starts and 17 at-bats in a month. He's barely played since 2005, let alone had any success, so he may clear waivers.

Justin Morneau gave everyone a scare when he exited Monday's game with soreness in his surgically repaired left wrist and immediately flew from California to Minnesota to be examined by team doctors. Now he's on the way back to the West Coast after an MRI exam showed no structural damage, but Morneau revealed that the wrist was bothering him before Monday and the Twins have said that Friday is the best-case scenario for being back in the lineup.

Thursday is a scheduled off day, so that absence isn't quite as long as it sounds, but giving him 15 days to heal up on the disabled list would seemingly be worthwhile. Instead the Twins will keep Morneau on the active roster, which is something they've done too often with injured players in recent years and becomes particularly problematic when combined with a 13-man pitching staff and Butera. Last night's bench was literally only Butera and Trevor Plouffe.

Carl Pavano managed zero strikeouts Friday for the third time in his last 33 starts and his average fastball has clocked in at just 86.6 miles per hour this season, down from 89.0 mph in 2011 and 90.1 mph in 2010. Pavano signed a two-year, $16.5 million contract with the Twins after throwing 221 innings with a 3.75 ERA in 2010, but since then he's logged 255 innings with a 4.38 ERA and just 4.2 strikeouts per nine innings. At age 36 he's running on fumes.

Deolis Guerra's overall numbers at Double-A last year were ugly, but his success shifting to the bullpen in the second half earned him the No. 27 spot in my Twins prospect rankings. He picked up where he left off at New Britain with a 0.71 ERA and 15-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 innings, at which point the Twins promoted the last remaining piece of the Johan Santana trade to Rochester and he debuted there with three scoreless innings Saturday.

• Another potential bullpen option, Kyle Waldrop, is on the comeback trail after an elbow injury cost him a spot on the Opening Day roster. I'm skeptical of Waldrop's ability to be more than a decent middle reliever because he's already 26 years old and his strong ground-ball rate comes along with underwhelming velocity and few strikeouts, but he certainly warrants more of an extended opportunity than Jeff Gray.

• As has too often been the case recently Twins management subtlety cast some doubt on the legitimacy of Scott Baker's elbow injury before a second opinion from outside the organization led to Tommy John surgery. In speaking to the local media following surgery Baker addressed what Jon Krawcynski of the Associated Press described as "whispers both inside and outside Target Field":

I knew I wasn't crazy. I knew there was some speculation that maybe I was babying it or taking it easy, but good grief. I did everything I possibly could to get better and to try to pitch with it. But that just wasn't going to happen.

When an injured player has to defend himself amid speculation that his injury isn't as serious as he claims and that speculation is fueled at least in part by the team that's obviously not a good situation. Toss in the ongoing questions about the competency of the Twins' medical staff and it gets even worse. On the other hand, Baker also admitted injured pitchers "are not always completely forthright with the staff" and made it clear that he doesn't hold a grudge.

• As expected Ben Revere's return to Minnesota was brief, with the end of Josh Willingham's paternity leave sending him back to Triple-A. Revere is still better off playing in Rochester than mostly sitting in Minnesota, although Sunday being "Ben Revere bat day" at Target Field perhaps wasn't the best timing (or planning) by the Twins.

• In an effort to beef up the Double-A and Triple-A teams the Twins signed a bunch of veteran minor leaguers during the offseason, yet some reinforcements were still needed a month into the season. Joe Thurston is the latest veteran to join Rochester, although once upon a time he was a promising prospect in the Dodgers' system. Now he's 32 years old with 184 games in the majors and 1,485 games in the minors, including 5,000 plate appearances at Triple-A.

Ron Gardenhire will be away from the team for this weekend's Mariners series, missing all three games to attend his daughter's college graduation from Southwest Minnesota State. Bench coach Scott Ullger will fill in as manager, as he's done on a few other occasions.

Luke Hughes' time as Oakland's starting third baseman was short-lived, as he went 1-for-13 with three errors in four games and the A's signed a washed-up, recently released Brandon Inge to replace him. Hughes was designated for assignment, so he's back on the waiver wire.

• Congratulations to Delmon Young for making the front page of the New York Post. MLB suspended Young for seven days following his arrest on assault and hate crime charges, presumably because an eight-day suspension would have made Hanukkah jokes too easy.

• Willingham was a smart free agent signing and has been amazing at the plate so far, but his defense in left field has been just short of Delmon-esque.

Interesting note from Twins media communications manager Dustin Morse: Saturday was the ninth time weather caused a delay or postponement in 174 total games at Target Field.

• Compared to this same time last year MLB-wide attendance is up 1,700 fans per game overall, but the Twins' attendance is down an MLB-worst 5,000 fans per game.

• For his career Valencia has hit .328/.378/.491 versus left-handers and .243/.282/.369 versus right-handers, which is one of the more extreme platoon splits you'll see and along with iffy defense makes him a poor fit in an everyday role. By the way, that play was ruled a "double."

• After last night Denard Span has 76 career steals and has been picked off 26 times.

No. 11 prospect Adrian Salcedo was hit in the face by a comebacker while pitching Monday at high Single-A and suffered a broken nose.

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February 23, 2012

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2012: 30, 29, 28, 27, 26

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

30. Matthew Hauser | Reliever | DOB: 3/88 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2010-7

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2010     RK+     8      0     1.00       9.0       7      0      13      2
         A-      4      0     0.00       6.2       5      0       4      1
2011     A-     17      0     1.40      19.1      13      1      27     13
         A+     24      0     2.16      41.2      37      3      44     16

After two seasons at a junior college Matthew Hauser transferred to the University of San Diego and was mediocre as a starter, but then moved to the bullpen as a senior and worked his way into a part-time closer role with a 3.67 ERA and 37-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42 innings. That got him taken by the Twins in the seventh round of the 2010 draft and the lack of leverage made him a cheap sign for just $45,000.

Hauser was fantastic in his 16-inning professional debut after signing, allowing one run with a 17-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and then began last season dominating at low Single-A. He quickly earned a promotion to high Single-A, finished the year at Double-A, and between the three levels he threw 64 innings with a 1.98 ERA and 75-to-29 strikeout-to-walk ratio, holding opponents to a .224 batting average and four homers.

Baseball America's pre-draft scouting report had Hauser typically throwing in the high-80s or low-90s in college, but he's added velocity as a pro and was clocked in the mid-90s at times last season. Those extra miles per hour have resulted in worse control, but he made some strides in that department late in the season and that's a tradeoff Hauser and the Twins will gladly take when he's striking out double-digit batters per nine innings.

29. 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
2011     A-     21     20     3.10     124.2     131     10      81     31
         A+      5      5     4.39      26.2      34      1      20      6

When the Twins picked B.J. Hermsen out of an Iowa high school in the sixth round of the 2008 draft and gave him second-round money in the form of a $650,000 signing bonus he was touted as a power arm, but somewhere along the way he lost the ability to light up radar guns and miss bats. Hermsen stands 6-foot-6, so he certainly looks the part, but his fastball is regularly clocked in the high-80s and he's managed just 228 strikeouts in 315 pro innings.

That includes just 101 strikeouts in 151 innings between low Single-A and high Single-A last season, although the lack of whiffs didn't keep Hermsen from pitching well with a 3.33 ERA in 25 total starts. His success came from throwing strikes and limiting homers, as Hermsen allowed 11 long balls in 645 plate appearances and issued 2.2 walks per nine innings, but opponents also hit .278 off him.

Hermsen is still just 22 years old, so there might be time to rediscover the lost velocity, but it hasn't happened three years into his pro career and unless that changes--or he figures out a way to induce more ground balls to compensate--it's tough to project him as more than a potential mid-rotation starter. This season should provide a good test for whether Hermsen's now-mediocre raw stuff will get the job done against tougher competition.

28. Pat Dean | Starter | DOB: 5/89 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2010-3

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2010     RK-     4      0     0.00       5.0       3      0       5      0
         RK+     5      5     2.59      24.1      17      3      32      1
2011     A-      8      8     2.86      44.0      40      4      37      9
         A+     11     11     6.67      58.0      83      8      36     15

Like so many other college pitchers drafted by the Twins during the past decade Pat Dean got assigned to rookie-ball for his debut and predictably dominated far younger, less experienced hitters before struggling upon climbing the organizational ladder. Dean signed for $320,000 out of Boston College as the Twins' third-round pick in 2010, throwing 29 innings with a 2.15 ERA and ridiculous 37-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio between two levels of rookie-ball.

He began last season at low Single-A and continued to pitch well with a 2.86 ERA and 37-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 44 innings, but then fell apart after a midseason promotion to high Single-A. Dean made 11 starts in Fort Myers, posting a 6.67 ERA while opponents hit .332 with eight homers and his strikeout rate declined to 4.5 per nine innings. He made one late-season start at Double-A, finishing with a 5.00 ERA and 76/25 K/BB ratio in 108 innings overall.

Dean's control has been excellent and he's still young enough to get back on track, but for a 22-year-old with lots of major college experience to be knocked around by high Single-A hitters is definitely a red flag and the fact that his low-90s fastball and assortment of off-speed stuff already struggles to miss bats is especially worrisome. He looked like a potential mid-rotation starter when the Twins drafted him, but at this point that seems pretty optimistic.

27. Deolis Guerra | Reliever | DOB: 4/89 | Throws: Right | Trade: Mets

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
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
2011     AA     37     10     5.59      95.0     102     11      95     28

Four years after the Johan Santana trade Deolis Guerra is the lone player acquired from the Mets still in the Twins organization, and unfortunately he's gone from teenage phenom and consensus top-100 prospect to 23-year-old failed starter. Guerra was unnecessarily rushed by the Mets before the trade, which all but forced the Twins to do the same, and his lack of development combined with diminished velocity adds up to a 4.95 career ERA in the minors.

That includes a 5.59 ERA at Double-A last season after posting a 6.36 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2010, but hidden by those ugly overall numbers is that Guerra thrived upon moving to the bullpen around midseason. As a reliever he posted a 2.77 ERA and 65-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 54 innings, which would be extremely impressive from a 22-year-old if it didn't come attached to all his previous disappointment.

Guerra threw much harder at 17 than he did at 22, but the 6-foot-5 right-hander's fastball still reaches the low-90s and his changeup remains an oft-praised pitch. Despite being younger than many Single-A players Guerra has spent two seasons in the high minors and is already on the 40-man roster, so picking up where he left off in the second half of last season could get him into the Twins' bullpen mix in a hurry.

26. 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
2011     A-     28     25     3.97     136.0     128     17     120     50

Manuel Soliman signed with the Twins out of the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old third baseman in 2007, but shifted to the mound after hitting just .199 with a .288 slugging percentage in two summer league seasons. He experienced immediate success as a pitcher and has turned himself into a legitimate prospect, throwing 272 innings with a 3.38 ERA and 249 strikeouts through three seasons.

After overpowering the similarly inexperienced rookie-ball competition in 2009 and 2010 his rough edges were more prevalent last year, as Soliman made his full-season debut at low Single-A and walked 3.3 batters per nine innings while serving up 17 homers in 136 innings. Poor control is to be expected from a 21-year-old with his background and at first glance 17 long balls in 136 innings is reasonable, but the Midwest League as a whole slugged just .370.

Soliman has good raw stuff, with a low-90s fastball and hard slider, but the 6-foot-2 right-hander seems more likely to wind up in the bullpen long term considering his late start to pitching and lack of refinement. He'll stay on the starter track for now and likely spend most of this season at high Single-A, so don't expect Soliman to appear on the Twins' radar for a while even if things go well in Fort Myers.

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