February 5, 2007

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2007: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Previous Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2007: 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40

5. Anthony Swarzak | Starter | DOB: 9/85 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2004-2

2004 RK 11 9 2.63 48.0 46 1 42 6
2005 A- 18 18 4.04 91.1 81 7 101 32
A+ 10 10 3.66 59.0 72 3 55 11
2006 A+ 27 27 3.27 145.2 131 8 131 60

Selected in the second round of the 2004 draft out of a Florida high school, Anthony Swarzak debuted in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and posted a 2.63 ERA with a 42-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 48 innings. Swarzak spent his first full season between low Single-A Beloit and high Single-A Fort Myers in 2005, combining to post a 3.89 ERA and 156-to-43 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 150.1 innings. A 6-foot-3 right-hander, Swarzak spent all of last season back at Fort Myers and put together a fantastic year.

Swarzak posted a 3.27 ERA and 131-to-60 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 145.2 innings, leading the Florida State League in strikeouts while finishing third in ERA. He was brilliant down the stretch, going 8-2 with a 1.65 ERA in his final 11 starts. Swarzak isn't a ground-ball pitcher, yet served up just eight homers to 613 batters last year and has given up a total of 19 long balls in 344 pro innings. Keeping the ball out of the stands will be crucial as he faces smaller ballparks and bigger hitters in the high minors.

His raw numbers aren't quite as impressive as some other top pitching prospects in the Twins' stacked system, but it's important to note that those hurlers were drafted out of college while Swarzak didn't turn 21 years old until September. He's not particularly close to being major league-ready, but the Twins have plenty of arms that are and Swarzak has tons of potential if he can improve his control while simply staying on course.

4. Kevin Slowey | Starter | DOB: 5/84 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2005-2

2005 A- 13 9 2.24 64.1 42 4 69 8
2006 A+ 14 14 1.01 89.1 52 2 99 9
AA 9 9 3.19 59.1 50 6 52 13

A second-round pick out of Winthrop University in 2005, Kevin Slowey is the most extreme example of the Twins' penchant for drafting and developing control pitchers. Slowey walked a total of 41 batters in 342 college innings, handing out just 13 free passes while going 14-2 with a 2.18 ERA in his final season. He's continued to pump strikes as a pro, walking 30 batters in 220.2 innings, but what makes Slowey a great prospect is that he's also able to miss bats, racking up 235 strikeouts over that span.

After breezing through the low minors, Slowey began last season by putting up ridiculous numbers at high Single-A Fort Myers. In 89.1 innings spread over 14 starts, Slowey posted a 1.01 ERA and 99-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio while holding opponents to a .164 batting average. It'd be difficult for a pitcher to be any better than that, so the Twins smartly bumped him to Double-A at midseason, where he had a 3.19 ERA, 52-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .223 opponent's batting average in 59.1 innings.

A lanky right-hander with a smooth delivery and pinpoint control, Slowey has drawn comparisons to Brad Radke. However, Slowey is a unique prospect in that he works almost exclusively with his fastball, so the comparison is ultimately inaccurate until he develops a world-class changeup to go along with it. Slowey should be at least an effective mid-rotation starter, perhaps by midseason, but I'm somewhat skeptical about his becoming much more than that without improved offspeed stuff.

3. Glen Perkins | Starter | DOB: 3/83 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2004-1

2004 RK 3 3 2.25 12.0 8 0 22 4
A- 9 9 1.30 48.1 33 2 49 12
2005 A+ 10 9 2.13 55.0 41 2 66 13
AA 14 14 4.90 79.0 80 4 67 35
2006 AA 23 23 3.91 117.1 109 11 131 45

The first of six straight pitchers the Twins drafted before the end of the third round in 2004, Glen Perkins went 22nd overall and led off a string of picks that also included fellow top-40 prospects Swarzak, Eduardo Morlan, Jay Rainville, Kyle Waldrop, and Matt Fox. A native Minnesotan who went 19-5 with a 2.87 ERA in two seasons at the University of Minnesota, Perkins climbed the organizational ladder very quickly after agreeing to a $1.4 million bonus.

Perkins dominated rookie-ball and two levels of Single-A to the tune of a 1.79 ERA in 115.1 innings, but struggled after making the jump to Double-A in mid-2005. He returned to New Britain last year, posting a 3.91 ERA and 131-to-45 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 117.1 innings before a promotion to Triple-A made him Rochester's ace for the playoffs. Perkins made his big-league debut in late September, tossing 5.2 innings with a 1.59 ERA out of the bullpen to earn a surprise spot on the postseason roster.

Despite success as a reliever last year, manager Ron Gardenhire has made it clear that he views Perkins strictly as a starter. He'll compete for a rotation spot in spring training and begin the year starting at Rochester if he fails to land the job. Whatever the case, Perkins figures to be in the Twins' rotation full time by the second half. He doesn't project as an ace, but as a left-hander with three solid pitches, including a low-90s fastball with good movement, Perkins has No. 2 starter potential.

2. Chris Parmelee | Right Field | DOB: 2/88 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2006-1

2006 RK 154 .279 .369 .532 8 19 23 47

The Twins used the 20th overall pick in last June's draft on Chris Parmelee, a left-handed high-school slugger from California who Baseball America rated as the second-best "pure hitter" in the class. Parmelee agreed to a $1.5 million bonus and reported to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he hit .279/.369/.532 with eight homers and 19 total extra-base hits in 45 games. Those raw numbers are impressive on their own, but are jaw-droppingly good for the extremely pitcher-friendly GCL.

The GCL as a whole batted a measly .246/.322/.341 with one homer for every 83 at-bats in 2006, while Parmelee managed to go deep eight times in 154 at-bats all by himself. If you adjust the level of offense in the GCL to last year's AL averages (.275/.339/.437), Parmelee's hitting line comes out looking like .315/.390/.685. That doesn't mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but does show the kind of massive power potential he possesses.

The Twins don't have the greatest track record when it comes to developing sluggers, but general manager Terry Ryan and scouting director Mike Radcliff have repeatedly said that they think Parmelee projects as a middle-of-the-order bat who will hit for significant power in the majors. He needs to keep the strikeouts in check and projecting much of anything for a teenager with no experience above rookie-ball is always iffy, but so far at least Parmelee is on the right track to stardom.

1. Matt Garza | Starter | DOB: 11/83 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2005-1

2005 RK 4 4 3.66 19.2 14 3 25 6
A- 10 10 3.54 56.0 53 5 64 15
2006 A+ 8 8 1.42 44.1 27 3 53 11
AA 10 10 2.51 57.1 40 2 68 14
AAA 5 5 1.85 34.0 20 1 33 7
MLB 10 9 5.76 50.0 62 6 38 23

After going 7-9 with a 6.41 ERA during his first two years at Fresno State University, Matt Garza posted a 3.07 ERA and 120-to-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 108.1 innings during his third season. The Twins grabbed the 6-foot-4 right-hander with the 25th overall pick in the 2005 draft, quickly signed him to a $1.35 million bonus, and watched as Garza posted a 3.57 ERA and 89-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 75.2 innings split between rookie-level Elizabethton and low Single-A Beloit in his pro debut.

Last year was Garza's first full season and he blitzed through Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A while going 14-4 with a 1.99 ERA, 154-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .179 opponent's batting average in 135.2 innings. He overpowered the competition at all three levels and was promoted to the majors in mid-August after an 11-strikeout effort. Toronto knocked him around for seven runs in his MLB debut, but Garza recovered to post a 4.75 ERA and 36-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his final 47.1 innings.

Garza's debut was disappointing, but he was a 22-year-old who started the year at Single-A and had already thrown a lot of innings by the time he arrived in Minnesota. He showed signs of simply being fatigued, telegraphing his offspeed pitches and displaying an overall lack of command, and because of that I don't think we've seen the "real" Garza yet. He narrowly retains "prospect" status by checking in right at the 50-inning cutoff for Rookie of the Year eligibility and there are few better pitching prospects.

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