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.

November 21, 2011

Twins Notes: Carroll’s contract, Kubel’s compensation, and minor moves

Jamey Carroll's deal was initially reported as two years and $7 million, but the actual details are slightly different. Carroll will get $2.75 million in 2012 and $3.75 million in 2013, and there's also a $2 million team option or $250,000 buyout for 2014 that becomes a player option with no buyout if he tops 400 plate appearances in 2013. Most likely it'll wind up being a two-year, $6.75 million deal, but it could become a three-year, $8.5 million contract.

Obviously committing multiple seasons to a 38-year-old middle infielder isn't ideal, but Carroll's deal seemed like a fair one to me at the time and looks even better now compared to a pair of middle infielder signings that followed. Mark Ellis got two years and $8.75 million to basically replace Carroll on the Dodgers. They're similar players, but Ellis hasn't played shortstop since 2005 and is coming off a career-worst season that saw him hit just .248/.288/.346 at age 34.

Clint Barmes got two years and $11 million from the Pirates, who'll use him as their everyday shortstop. All things being equal Barmes might be a better choice than Carroll for the next two seasons because he's five years younger and an elite defender with 15-homer power, but the money isn't close to equal and Barmes has also hit just .230/.275/.360 away from Colorado. Even with Coors Field included his .302 on-base percentage is 54 points below Carroll's mark.

Reported changes in the soon-to-be-signed collective bargaining agreement would eliminate compensation for Type B free agents, meaning the Twins would receive nothing if Jason Kubel signs elsewhere. Getting rid of the Type B free agent designation and lessening the number of Type A free agents qualified for compensation seems like bad news for the Twins long term, as they lose more free agents than they sign and rely heavily on the extra draft picks.

Not trading Kubel was a questionable decision when the Twins assumed they'd be receiving a supplemental first-round pick if he left as a free agent, but if that compensation for Kubel and other Type B players is eliminated they'll obviously regret the non-move. Instead of cashing him in for a decent prospect or two they'd get nothing, although certainly you can't blame the Twins for not being able to predict the future of collective bargaining changes.

Phil Dumatrait re-signed with the Twins on a minor-league deal after being trimmed off the 40-man roster. Dumatrait's track record shows that even his limited success involved pitching way over his head, but as Triple-A depth he's fine. Along with Dumatrait (and Brian Dinkelman and Jared Burton, who signed last week) the Twins also inked minor-league deals with Jason Bulger, Brendan Wise, Matt Carson, Wilkin Ramirez, Samuel Deduno, and Luis Perdomo.

When the Angels acquired Bulger from the Diamondbacks for Alberto Callaspo in 2006 he was a potential late-inning reliever, but injuries and control problems have held him back and now he's 32 years old with just 133 career innings in the majors. On the other hand he has a 4.33 ERA and 138 strikeouts in those 133 innings and throws in the low-90s with a good curveball, so the right-hander could be a midseason bullpen option.

Perdomo throws hard and spent 2009 in the Padres' bullpen with a 4.80 ERA and 55/34 K/BB ratio in 60 innings, but the 27-year-old righty has been mediocre at Triple-A since then and mostly just adds to the sudden collection of relievers with big velocity and little else. Wise and Deduno don't fit that mold, topping out in the low-90s. Wise's pretty ERA at Triple-A hides poor secondary numbers and Deduno is a ground-ball guy who doesn't miss bats or throw strikes.

Carson and Ramirez are both journeyman outfielders with brief stints in the majors who'll add some speed and right-handed pop to Rochester's lineup. Carson has hit .280/.343/.515 in 378 games at Triple-A, including .279/.337/.533 with 24 homers and 11 steals in 112 games this year at age 29. Ramirez is 27 years old and has hit .247/.308/.431 in 270 games at Triple-A, including .267/.307/.458 with 11 homers and 19 steals in 81 games this season.

• Bulger, Burton, Dumatrait, Dinkelman, and Carson are examples of the type of guys available on minor-league deals every offseason, which is why it's so confusing that the Twins decided to give 40-man roster spots to similarly mediocre talent like Matt Maloney and Jeff Gray. They can always drop Maloney and Gray from the 40-man roster, of course, but in the meantime the deadline to add prospects newly eligible for the Rule 5 draft came and went.

Oswaldo Arcia, Carlos Gutierrez, and Tyler Robertson were the three additions, protecting them from being selected in next month's draft, but the Twins also left decent prospects Angel Morales, Manuel Soliman, and Tom Stuifbergen unprotected and changed David Bromberg from protected to unprotected by outrighting him off the 40-man roster. Odds are that none of those four will be Rule 5 picks, but it certainly wouldn't be shocking if the Twins lost someone.

Bromberg was named Twins minor league pitcher of the year in 2009, but saw his stock drop with the jump to Double-A and Triple-A in 2010 and missed most of this year after a line drive broke his forearm in May. He ranked No. 13 on my list of the Twins' best prospects coming into this season and will probably drop into the 20-30 range for 2012, which is also where Morales, Stuifbergen, and Soliman will likely end up if they remain in the organization.

Delmon Young's postseason power surge caused some people to overreact about the Twins dumping him in mid-August, but now Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com writes that the Tigers are trying to deal him because they're "concerned about his defense." They apparently offered Young to the Braves for Martin Prado, but were turned down. And if the Tigers keep Young for 2012 they'll likely be paying him at least $7 million in his final season before free agency.

February 9, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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