February 4, 2015

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2015: 40, 39, 38, 37, 36

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

40. A.J. Achter | Reliever | DOB: 8/88 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2010-46

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     A-     18      1     2.48      40.0      33      5      49     12
         A+     19      0     0.79      34.1      21      0      37      3
2013     AA     25      0     2.21      36.2      28      3      36     19
         AAA    16      0     3.04      23.2      17      4      20     14
2014     AAA    40      0     2.38      72.0      44      4      69     24

A.J. Achter was a 46th-round draft pick out of Michigan State in 2010 and posted a 4.52 ERA in 2011 as a starter at low Single-A, but he shifted to the bullpen in 2012 and has a combined 2.10 ERA in 213 innings as a reliever since then. That includes a 2.17 ERA and 80/25 K/BB ratio in 79 innings last season, mostly at Triple-A, which was enough to get him added to the 40-man roster as a September call-up.

However, his shiny ERAs come with good but not exceptional strikeout rates and Achter's control is mediocre. He's done an amazing job limiting hits, including a .173 opponents' batting average last season, but that was driven by an unsustainably great .228 batting average on balls in play. Toss in underwhelming velocity and his odds of sticking in the big leagues don't seem particularly good, but at age 26 he warrants a "why not?" look.

Achter got into seven games for the Twins as a reliever and posted another nice-looking 3.27 ERA, but he managed just five strikeouts in 11 innings, opponents hit .304/.347/.522 off him, and his average fastball clocked in at 90.2 miles per hour. Middle relief is Achter's upside and the Twins' bullpen depth chart is pretty crowded, but the fact that they kept him on the 40-man roster all offseason suggests they're interested in giving him another shot at some point.

39. Logan Darnell | Starter | DOB: 2/89 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2010-6

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     AA     28     28     5.08     156.0     193     22      98     47
2013     AA     15     15     2.61      96.2      96      4      77     23
        AAA     12     11     4.26      57.0      63      5      43     22
2014    AAA     23     19     3.60     115.0     108     16      90     49
        MLB      7      4     7.13      24.0      31      5      22      8

A solid 2013 season between Double-A and Triple-A got Logan Darnell added to the 40-man roster, but the 2010 sixth-round pick spent most of last year back at Triple-A and managed just 90 strikeouts in 115 innings while walking 3.8 batters per nine frames. That poor strikeout rate matches his high-80s fastball velocity and Darnell has an underwhelming 3.81 ERA and 133/71 K/BB ratio in 172 career innings at Triple-A.

He also got knocked around in his first taste of the majors, allowing 20 runs in 24 innings for the Twins at age 25. Given his sub par velocity, mediocre control, and inability to hold right-handed hitters in check it's hard to imagine Darnell having sustained success as a starter in the majors, but the left-hander could find a home in the bullpen as a southpaw specialist. Of course, that role is such that the same can be said for nearly every decent lefty in the minors.

In the minors during the past two seasons Darnell held lefties to a combined .228 batting average and 74/18 K/BB ratio, whereas righties batted .285 off him over that same span. Regardless of the role Darnell is behind a lot of names on the Twins' pitching depth chart heading into 2015 and seems like a candidate to be removed from the 40-man roster if space is needed early, but if given a chance he could carve out a useful niche in middle relief.

38. Levi Michael | Second Base | DOB: 2/91 | Bats: Switch | Draft: 2011-1

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2012     A+     512     .246     .339     .311      2     20     56     82
2013     A+     375     .229     .331     .340      4     23     49     67
2014     A+     201     .305     .375     .395      1     12     19     25
         AA      63     .340     .444     .358      0      1      7     11

Levi Michael was billed as being close to MLB-ready when the Twins drafted the North Carolina shortstop in the first round in 2011 and the pick made sense for a team that had long struggled to develop capable middle infielders. They showed their faith in his readiness by sending him directly to high Single-A, but three years later Michael was still stuck there. Nagging injuries repeatedly derailed Michael's development and the solid power he showed in college disappeared.

Last season, in his third go-around at Fort Myers, he finally showed some promise by hitting .305 in 45 games to earn a promotion to Double-A, where he hit .340 in 15 games. Those lofty batting averages are misleading because he managed just one home run, but Michael controlled the strike zone well. Even within the overall struggles Michael always made plenty of contact and drew some walks, suggesting the switch-hitter could have value even if the power is gone for good.

Unfortunately he's no longer a shortstop. Dating back to college there were questions about his ability to stick at shortstop long term and last season Michael played almost exclusively second base at both levels. Not only does that raise the bar for his offensive production, it makes it much harder for Michael to potentially stick in the majors as a utility infielder. At age 24 and with just 15 career games above Single-A it's time for Michael to sink or swim.

37. Stephen Pryor | Reliever | DOB: 7/89 | Throws: Right | Trade: Mariners

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     AA     11      0     1.12      16.0       7      0      24      5
         AAA    16      0     0.00      20.0      11      0      20     11
         MLB    26      0     3.91      23.0      22      5      27     13
2013
2014     AAA    38      0     3.16      51.1      32      6      49     34

Acquired from the Mariners on July 24 as the Twins' return in the Kendrys Morales salary dump, Stephen Pryor was one of the few players on the 40-man roster not to get a September call-up to Minnesota. However, he remained on the 40-man roster all offseason and presumably the front office has enough patience in the 25-year-old right-hander to see if he can get healthy and regain his old velocity after missing most of 2013 and part of 2014 following shoulder surgery.

Before the injury Pryor looked destined for a late-inning bullpen role in Seattle. As a 22-year-old in 2012 he blitzed through the minors, going from Single-A to Double-A to Triple-A before debuting with the Mariners in June. Overall that season Pryor posted a 0.93 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 39 innings as a minor leaguer and then racked up 27 strikeouts in 23 innings for the Mariners while averaging 96.3 miles per hour with his fastball.

His arm gave out in 2013 and while Pryor returned last season to log 55 innings in the minors and make two appearances for the Mariners he was a shell of his former self, throwing in the low-90s with less than one strikeout per inning. Pryor has always struggled to consistently throw strikes and control problems that can be overlooked when attached to a high-90s fastball may be tough to overcome if that velocity is gone for good.

36. Lester Oliveros | Reliever | DOB: 5/88 | Throws: Right | Trade: Tigers

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     AA     13      0     1.42      19.0      10      0      16      7
         AAA    19      0     3.07      29.1      24      2      35      8
2013
2014     AA     26      0     0.89      30.1      17      0      36     14
         AAA    24      0     2.29      35.1      27      0      52     13

Lester Oliveros was acquired from the Tigers in the 2011 trade for Delmon Young and missed most of 2013 recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery. He returned last year and was better than ever between Double-A and Triple-A with a 1.64 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 66 innings while holding opponents to a .187 opponents' batting average with zero home runs. And then naturally Oliveros served up a homer to the first batter he faced as a September call-up.

Oliveras has always had a big fastball, averaging 94 miles per hour as a big leaguer before and after elbow surgery. He's also always had iffy control, with nearly four walks per nine innings in the minors. He made some minor strides with his control last season when a lot of pitchers see their walk rate rise after surgery, but there's still plenty of work to be done in terms of harnessing his raw stuff.

As a 27-year-old reliever Oliveros is stretching the definition of "prospect" and expectations should certainly be modest, but when someone with a mid-90s fastball averages more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings at Double-A and Triple-A he's generally worth an extended look. Unfortunately for Oliveros, because the Twins decided against overhauling their bullpen this offseason he faces an uphill battle for an Opening Day roster spot.


For a lengthy discussion about projecting the Opening Day roster, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

February 21, 2013

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2013: 20, 19, 18, 17, 16

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40.

20. Chris Herrmann | Catcher | DOB: 10/87 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2009-6

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2010     A+     408     .219     .310     .301      2     22     41     74
2011     A+     106     .310     .404     .425      1      7     15      6
         AA     406     .258     .380     .392      7     26     64     68
2012     AA     558     .276     .350     .392     10     36     58     89

Chris Herrmann arrived in the majors ahead of schedule because the Twins briefly needed some emergency catching help in September, getting the call-up after repeating Double-A. His numbers for New Britain were nearly identical to 2011, as Herrmann showed his usual good plate discipline and strike zone control with minimal power. His production was nothing special, particularly for a 24-year-old in his second go-around at the level, but he's an intriguing player.

Herrmann was an outfielder at the University of Miami before moving to catcher at high Single-A in 2010 and last season he played 83 games at catcher compared to 43 games between left field and designated hitter. His defense behind the plate gets mixed reviews, but Herrmann threw out 44 percent of steal attempts last year and 38 percent in 2011. As an outfielder his bat is below par, but as a catcher/outfielder he'd have a whole lot more use.

Another issue for Herrmann is that he's a left-handed hitter hoping to become the third catcher behind a left-handed hitter in Joe Mauer and a switch-hitter who swings better from the left side in Ryan Doumit. That makes him less than an ideal fit, although his ability to play elsewhere is handy and it's not as if Drew Butera's offensive ineptitude coming from the right side helps anyway. Herrmann is likely Triple-A bound this year, but he's shooting for Butera's job.

19. Levi Michael | Second Base | DOB: 2/91 | Bats: Switch | Draft: 2011-1

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2012     A+     512     .246     .339     .311      2     20     56     82

Levi Michael was supposed to be one of the more MLB-ready position players available in the 2011 draft after three years in the University of North Carolina lineup and the Twins jumped him directly to high Single-A for his pro debut, but the 30th overall pick struggled. His good patience and strike zone control from college were evident, but Michael hit just .246 with two homers, failed to show even gap power, and attempted only six steals in 117 games.

He was much better in the second half than the first half, but even that amounted to a modest .272 batting average with zero homers and a .328 slugging percentage in 63 post-break games. Also worrisome is that Michael played more second base (65 games) than shortstop (53 games) for Fort Myers, which jibes with the pre-draft questions about his ability to be a quality shortstop in the majors.

It's too early to write off Michael as a bust, but it's unfortunate that the Twins finally went away from their usual draft strategy to take a college middle infielder in the first round for the first time since 1994 only to see him stumble out of the gates. He's still just 22 years old and has the solid plate discipline as a good foundation, but if he's not going to stick at shortstop Michael really needs to show that he's capable of doing more than drawing walks.

18. Hudson Boyd | Starter | DOB: 10/92 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2011-1

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     RK+    13     13     2.95      58.0      63      7      36     23

Touted as a big, hard-throwing right-hander with potentially dominant raw stuff when the Twins made him their supplemental first-round pick in the 2011 draft, Hudson Boyd was anything but dominant in his pro debut. He posted a nice-looking 2.95 ERA in 58 innings for rookie-level Elizabethton, but allowed 5.12 total runs per nine innings and Boyd was forced to rely on the shoddy defense behind him because he managed just 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings.

He also struggled with his control, walking 3.6 per nine innings, and allowed opponents to hit .270 with seven homers in 263 plate appearances in a league where batters collectively hit .254 with a .382 slugging percentage. In fairness to Boyd plenty of high school pitchers struggle in their first taste of the minors and the Twins had him skip the lower level of rookie-ball to face Appalachian League hitters at age 19.

Still, for a 55th overall pick who was supposed to be all about overpowering hitters it wasn't a promising debut and did nothing to quiet pre-draft questions about whether Boyd will eventually wind up in the bullpen. It's worth noting that Boyd is several years younger than the various hard-throwing college relievers the Twins drafted in June and are now trying to convert into starters, so there's no rush to find out yet.

17. 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
2011     RK+    230     .275     .352     .382      2     15     21     56
2012     RK+    269     .242     .349     .419      4     24     38     56

Niko Goodrum had a brutal debut in 2010, but the second-round pick bounced back with a nice 2011 at rookie-level Elizabethton and then built on that further while repeating the level last year. His batting average fell from .275 to .242, but Goodrum upped his power by 65 percent, drew 54 percent more walks, and cut his strikeouts by 14 percent. His overall production as a pro isn't pretty, but the individual skills are more promising.

Goodrum was drafted for his physical tools and considered very raw coming out of a Georgia high school, so the fact that he's walked 68 times in 627 plate appearances is a pleasant surprise. He's managed just six homers through 153 games, but Goodrum has shown decent pop with 26 doubles and 11 triples. As his 6-foot-3 frame fills out he should convert some of those gappers into homers, although that same maturation may keep him from sticking at shortstop.

There are mixed opinions on where Goodrum's long-term home will be defensively, but it's worth noting that along with the improved power, walk rate, and strikeout rate as a hitter last season he also committed significantly fewer errors at shortstop. Whatever the case, as a switch-hitter and up-the-middle defender with good speed and a nice foundation on which to build offensively he's an intriguing 21-year-old.

16. J.T. Chargois | Reliever | DOB: 12/90 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2012-2

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     RK+    12      0     1.69      16.0      10      0      22      5

With the second of two compensatory draft picks for losing Michael Cuddyer to free agency the Twins selected Rice reliever J.T. Chargois, who prior to the draft Baseball America rated 77th and ESPN.com rated 64th. As a junior the right-handed Chargois threw 38 innings with a 2.15 ERA and 38-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio, teaming with Twins fifth-round pick Tyler Duffey to form an exceptional bullpen duo.

Chargois also played first base for Rice and hit .323 with a .411 on-base percentage, but he failed to homer in 51 games and there was never any doubt that his future was on the mound. ESPN's scouting report noted his mid-90s fastball, sharp-breaking slider, and high-effort delivery "that virtually demands he get to the majors as quickly as possible" and makes him "someone to sign and send right out to Double-A."

And yet because the Twins are incredibly conservative when it comes to pushing prospects they sent Chargois to rookie-ball for his pro debut at age 21. He predictably dominated Appalachian League hitters with a 1.69 ERA and 22-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 innings. Hopefully the Twins actually test Chargois with some decent competition this year, because while he's far from a sure thing letting him destroy inexperienced hitters seems like a waste of time.


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June 27, 2012

Down on the farm: Checking in on the Twins’ top 10 prospects

Each winter I rank and profile the Twins' top 40 prospects, so with the minor-league season reaching the halfway point let's check in on the top 10 prospects to see how they're faring:

No. 1 prospect Miguel Sano got off to a huge start at low Single-A, hitting .276/.422/.586 in April, but then showed that for all the incredible long-term upside he's still a teenager with shaky strike-zone control facing full-season competition for the first time. Sano went into a prolonged slump right around his 19th birthday and has hit just .220 with 58 strikeouts in 48 games since May 1, putting on hold any talk of a first-half promotion to high Single-A.

Sano also struck out 137 times in 127 games of rookie-ball, so the lack of consistent contact is nothing new and remains a potential red flag. On the other hand 19-year-olds with massive raw power are supposed to be strikeout prone and Sano has made major strides in plate discipline by drawing 42 walks in 73 games for Beloit after totaling 47 walks in 127 games at rookie-ball. And even while struggling overall recently he's continued to hit for huge power.

Sano leads the Midwest League with 15 homers and ranks fourth slugging percentage, fifth in walks, and seventh in OPS despite being the sixth-youngest player in the league. His low batting average and high strikeout total are certainly worrisome and make it impossible to project him as a future .300 hitter, but in terms of being a middle-of-the-order monster Sano remains right on track with a .240/.355/.483 line at the same age as a college sophomore.

No. 2 prospect Joe Benson has had a miserable season that started bad and got much worse. Finally promoted to Triple-A for the first time at age 24 he hit .179 in 28 games for Rochester, at which point the Twins decided to send him back down to Double-A for a third straight year. He got off to a slow start there before breaking his wrist on a swing in his eighth game, requiring surgery and a two-month recovery timetable.

Wrist injuries often prove tricky for hitters to bounce back from and when combined with hitting .173 in 36 games between Double-A and Triple-A his stock has clearly plummeted this season. Reacting to 28 bad games at Triple-A by demoting Benson back to a level he'd already mastered for two seasons was an odd, seemingly panicky move by the Twins, but that's mostly a moot point now as he simply needs to get healthy and start hitting again somewhere.

No. 3 prospect Aaron Hicks made the jump to Double-A and hit well enough early on to create some optimism that he was finally ready to tap into his offensive potential after underwhelming power and batting averages in the low minors. Instead he's basically back to where he's always been, showing excellent plate discipline and good speed while hitting just .248 with seven homers in 63 games for New Britain.

He's still 22 years old and it would be silly to brush aside 33 walks and 16 steals in 63 games from a strong-armed center fielder, but at this point his long-term upside needs recalibrating. His defense, speed, and on-base skills are still more than enough to make Hicks a potential quality regular in the majors, but any thoughts of stardom can wait until his average or power rise and his switch-hitting actually leads to good production from both sides of the plate.

No. 4 prospect Eddie Rosario was one of the few Twins minor leaguers having a standout year, hitting .293/.362/.473 with seven homers, 20 doubles, and 27 walks in 62 games at low Single-A as a 20-year-old. Then a batting practice line drive off the bat of a Beloit teammate struck him in the face on June 12 and surgery to insert a metal plate above his lip followed, putting his season on hold for at least six weeks.

Halting his strong hitting isn't ideal, but the bigger issue is that Rosario had been transitioning from center fielder to second baseman and all the missed repetitions will further complicate an already difficult proposition. Also worth noting is that while hitting well overall before the facial injury his power was down substantially from last year, which is what many people expected to happen considering Rosario is more of a line-drive hitter than a slugger.

No. 5 prospect Liam Hendriks was the Twins' choice to replace the injured Scott Baker in the Opening Day rotation despite being 23 years old with just nine starts at Triple-A. He predictably struggled and was sent back to Rochester three weeks later, but then put together an impressive seven-start stretch there in which he threw 46 innings with a 1.94 ERA, .180 opponents' batting average, and 42-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

That and more injuries to the rotation earned Hendriks a return to the majors two weeks ago and he promptly served up three homers in his first start back after allowing a total of three homers in 16 starts at Triple-A. Learning to keep the ball in the ballpark will be crucial, because Hendriks' raw stuff is mediocre and his bat-missing ability is in question. Hendriks was the top pitching prospect by default and his upside as a mid-rotation starter hasn't changed.

No. 6 prospect Oswaldo Arcia has moved past the slumping Sano to own the highest OPS by any Twins minor leaguer and while his long-term upside can't compete with Sano he's in the mix as one of MLB's best young outfield prospects. Arcia began the year at high Single-A and hit .309/.376/.517 with seven homers, 16 doubles, and an improved strikeout-to-walk ratio in 55 games to earn a promotion to Double-A and a spot in the Futures Game next month.

At just 21 years old Arcia is one of the half-dozen youngest hitters in the Eastern League and it's noteworthy that the Twins have gone away from their usual deliberate development by aggressively promoting him for a second straight season. In general testing good prospects is smart, although in Arcia's case his plate discipline and strike-zone control are shaky enough that constantly facing new, tougher competition makes improving those skills on the fly tough.

No. 7 prospect Kyle Gibson has been sidelined since undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery last September, but the 2009 first-round pick recently started a throwing program and is ahead of schedule in his recovery. He won't be an option for the Twins this season, whereas before the surgery he was on track to be in the majors by now, but getting back on the mound for some minor-league game action at some point in July would be great news.

No. 8 prospect Levi Michael was supposed to advance through the farm system quickly after starring in college at North Carolina, giving the Twins some much-needed middle infield depth. Jumping directly to high Single-A was part of that plan, but the switch-hitting first-round pick has struggled there by hitting .219 with two homers and 49 strikeouts in 61 games while splitting time between shortstop and second base.

Michael had excellent strike-zone control in college, totaling more walks (93) than strikeouts (73) in 2010-2011. So far the plate discipline side of that equation has remained with 31 walks despite a .295 slugging percentage not scaring pitchers, but the 49 strikeouts are a concern attached to such little power. Hopefully he simply wasn't as advanced as believed, since it'd be a shame if the Twins finally addressed their infield issues with a college pick who went bust.

No. 9 prospect Alex Wimmers recovered from extreme control problems to get back on track by the end of last season and the Twins were confident enough to assign the 2010 first-round pick to Double-A this year. Unfortunately he went down with an elbow injury after just one start there and was diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, which typically leads to Tommy John surgery. For now he's attempting rest and rehab instead of surgery.

No. 10 prospect Brian Dozier began the year at Triple-A for the first time at age 25 and didn't play particularly well, but the Twins called him up in mid-May anyway and he arrived with some misguidedly inflated expectations among many fans and media members. Talk of him being "the next big thing" seems even sillier now, as Dozier has struggled both offensively and defensively while playing shortstop every day for the past six weeks.

He's hit .225/.249/.306 in 44 games with predictably little pop and a surprisingly ugly 33-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio after walking nearly as often as he struck out in the minors. Defensively he's shown iffy range and arm strength while also being less sure-handed than expected. He realistically never projected as anything close to a star, but struggling so much to control the strike zone and consistently make plays at shortstop is worrisome for 25-year-old.

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June 6, 2012

Twins follow Byron Buxton pick by loading up on hard-throwing pitchers

Using their highest pick since 2001 to choose Georgia high school center fielder Byron Buxton over Stanford right-hander Mark Appel will understandably be the focus of the Twins' draft, but along with the No. 2 pick they also had five other top-100 selections in one of the most stacked collections of early picks in draft history. That included No. 32 and No. 42, which are essentially first-rounders and not far off from where they've usually made their first picks.

For instance, last year their top choice was No. 30 and from 2002-2011 they chose higher than No. 20 just once. This year, thanks to a combination of last season's 63-99 record and losing Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel to free agency, they had picks at 2, 32, 42, 63, 72, and 97. That provided a unique and much-needed opportunity to restock the farm system and after taking the best player available in Buxton the Twins loaded up on high-velocity pitchers.

Buxton being the focus of everything means No. 32 pick Jose Berrios will get considerably less attention than No. 30 pick Levi Michael received last year, but in a draft where Carlos Correa became the first Puerto Rican player to be the top pick Berrios also became the highest drafted Puerto Rican pitcher of all time. Berrios threw a no-hitter against Correa's team in April and the Twins snagged the high school right-hander sooner than most draft analysts expected.

Baseball America ranked Berrios as the 49th-best player, including 25th among pitchers, while ESPN.com ranked him 73rd overall and 27th among pitchers. That suggests the Twins may have reached a bit for him, although that's much more common in MLB than the NFL or NBA and the scouting reports on Berrios are encouraging. Baseball America noted that he added significant muscle to his 6-foot-1 frame and "his fastball now sits in the 93-95 mph range."

ESPN had a similar review of his raw stuff, noting that "he'll touch 96 and works at 92-94 with a hard downward-breaking curveball at 80-82 and a straight changeup in the same range." While watching the first round of the draft unfold Monday night it became apparent that there weren't many top-ranked college pitchers left on the board for the Twins at No. 32 and that may have played a part in choosing Berrios, but he certainly sounds like a high-upside arm.

Ten picks later the Twins took Georgia Tech reliever Luke Bard, who'll be given a chance to start. His brother, 2006 first-round pick Daniel Bard, emerged as a top setup man for the Red Sox before struggling in a move to the rotation. Luke doesn't quite have Daniel's overpowering raw stuff, but in ranking him as the 93rd-best player Baseball America noted "plenty of power in his fastball, at times sitting 93-95 mph" and "a power breaking ball with depth and late bite."

Bard's college numbers were fantastic, with a 0.99 ERA and 26-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 27 innings to go along with zero homers allowed, but he missed much of the season with an injured lat muscle that ESPN.com speculated may have kept him out of the first round. Twins scouting director Deron Johnson called the injury "a low to moderate risk" and expressed optimism that Bard can develop his changeup enough to be an effective starter.

Berrios was compensation for losing Cuddyer and Bard was compensation for losing Kubel, so with their own second-rounder the Twins took Northwestern State reliever Mason Melotakis with the 63rd pick. ESPN actually ranked Melotakis higher than Berrios and Bard at No. 63 while Baseball America rated the left-hander No. 88 following a junior season in which he threw 62 innings with a 3.63 ERA and 70-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Melotakis made the occasional start in college, but Baseball America calls him "a true power relief arm" with "short arm action" who works in the mid-90s and has an inconsistent but potentially solid slider. ESPN calls him "one of the best potential left-handed relievers in this draft" and offers more praise for "a hammer curveball" while suggesting that he might have a future as a starter, so like with Bard the Twins may let him try it in the low minors.

With their second compensatory pick for losing Cuddyer the Twins selected yet another college reliever in Rice right-hander J.T. Chargois, whom Baseball America rated 77th and ESPN rated 64th. As a junior Chargois threw 38 innings with a 2.15 ERA and 38-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and according to ESPN he has the mid-90s fastball, sharp-breaking slider, and high-effort delivery "that virtually demands he get to the majors as quickly as possible."

Chargois also played first base for Rice and hit .323 with a .411 on-base percentage, but he failed to homer in 51 games and his future is on the mound. Unlike with Bard and Melotakis there's no chance of Chargois starting and concerns about his mechanics appear in every scouting report, but ESPN says he's "someone to sign and send right out to Double-A" and praises his slider for being "almost comical in how quickly it appears to dive down out of sight."

After selecting three consecutive college pitchers the Twins used their third-round pick on a college hitter, taking Jacksonville first baseman Adam Walker with the 97th pick. Rarely have the Twins used high picks on college sluggers, but the Wisconsin native whose father was a replacement player for the Vikings in 1987 apparently caught their eye by hitting .343 with 12 homers, 14 doubles, and a .581 slugging percentage in 56 games as a junior.

And he was even better as a sophomore in 2011, hitting .409 with a .682 slugging percentage in 61 games. Unfortunately all that power came with 110 strikeouts in 117 games, which along with far fewer walks than strikeouts is often a red flag for a college bat. Sure enough, Baseball America notes that Walker "struggles to lay off breaking pitches or fastballs up and out of the zone." Despite that they rated him as the 58th-best player in the class.

After snagging a potential power bat in Walker the Twins went back to the well for more college relievers, using their fourth-rounder on San Jose State right-hander Zack Jones and their fifth-rounder on Rice right-hander Tyler Duffey. Jones started occasionally, but Baseball America says "scouts view him as a reliever" because he lacks a quality third pitch to go with a mid-90s fastball and hard slider. As a junior he threw 54 innings with a 60/17 K/BB ratio.

Twins scouts apparently saw a lot of Rice games, because Chargois and Duffey were the Owls' co-closers and now they have both of them. Duffey can't match Chargois' dominant raw stuff, but Baseball America says he throws in the low-90s with a good slider and his numbers were even better with a 1.93 ERA and 68/21 K/BB ratio in 51 innings. And unlike Chargois there's apparently some hope that Duffey's changeup is good enough to make it as a starter.

Stepping away from the college ranks the Twins took Florida high school left-hander Andre Martinez and Puerto Rico high school catcher Jorge Fernandez in the sixth and seventh rounds, but then went to college with their next eight picks. That included big, hard-throwing College of Charleston right-hander Christian Powell and good-hitting, iffy-fielding Connecticut second baseman L.J. Mazzilli, whose father Lee Mazzilli played 14 seasons in the majors.

They went high school heavy at the top, putting their faith in Buxton over Appel and using the No. 32 pick on Berrios, but the Twins took college players with 14 of their next 16 picks. And within all those college players the theme is clear: After years of hoarding low-velocity strike-throwers the Twins have finally focused on adding more big-time velocity and bat-missing ability. Powers arms is what the fan base has wanted and powers arms is what they got.

Unfortunately this wasn't a deep draft for high-end college starters and by the time the Twins were ready to start picking again after Buxton the cupboard was pretty bare, so they went heavy on college relievers. Normally that's not a great investment in the top 100, but the lack of highly touted college starters available beyond the first round forced their hand and they seem confident that at least some of those college relievers can develop into starters as pros.

This group isn't the amazing collection of high-upside talent you'd like to see come from such a stockpile of early picks, but that has more to do with the weak draft class than any decisions the Twins made. They deserve credit for addressing the organization-wide pitching issues, albeit several years later than they should have and with relievers instead of starters. It'll be years before we can properly pass judgment on this draft, but the approach was a good one.

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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.

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