January 17, 2008

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2008: 40, 39, 38, 37, 36

40. Denard Span | Center Field | DOB: 2/84 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2002-1

2005 A+ 212 .339 .410 .403 1 7 22 25
AA 304 .285 .355 .345 0 11 22 41
2006 AA 597 .285 .340 .349 2 24 40 78
2007 AAA 548 .267 .323 .355 3 30 40 90

Pegged as the eventual replacement for Torii Hunter from the moment that the Twins took him in the first round of the 2002 draft, Denard Span is still nowhere near being ready to step into the center-field vacancy created by Hunter's departure and probably never will be. Aside from a strong half-season at high Single-A three years ago there's little in Span's minor-league resume to suggest future big-league success and he now sports a .283/.348/.348 hitting line in 2,184 career plate appearances.

Span has long been billed as a leadoff-hitting speedster, but struck out 90 times in just 487 at-bats last season despite having zero power and has yet to get on base at a good clip or convert his raw speed into actual value. He's drawn a walk in just 8.3 percent of his career trips to the plate, which works out to 40-50 walks over the course of a full season, and has been gunned down on one-third of his steal attempts despite never swiping more than 25 bases in a season.

Span narrowly clings to a spot on this list because at 24 years old he's still young enough to develop further and did put together a strong second half at Triple-A last season, hitting .306/.371/.393 with improved strike-zone control. At this point only the most out of touch fans still consider Span a big part of the Twins' long-term plans, but the team will be slow to give up on a former first-round pick and even modest improvements could make him an option as a reserve outfielder.

39. Brandon Roberts | Center Field | DOB: 11/84 | Bats: Left | Trade: Reds

2005 RK 311 .318 .386 .438 4 19 24 44
2006 A+ 586 .293 .349 .355 4 23 36 82
2007 AA 420 .293 .355 .374 3 20 32 56

Originally taken by the Reds in the seventh round of the 2005 draft, Brandon Roberts hit .318/.386/.438 with 32 steals in 68 games at rookie-ball after signing, got off to a slow start after being pushed up to high Single-A in his first full season, and was traded to the Twins for Juan Castro in July of 2006. Simply getting rid of Castro made the trade a good one, but Roberts has provided an added bonus by becoming a decent mid-level prospect who might have a big-league future.

Combined between the slow start as property of the Reds and a strong finish after being dealt to the Twins, Roberts batted .293/.349/.355 with 50 steals in 131 total games at high Single-A in 2006. He continued to look like a reasonable facsimile of Jason Tyner last season, moving up to Double-A as a 22-year-old and batting .293/.355/.373 with three homers, 20 total extra-base hits, and a 56-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 110 games, although he surprisingly went just 14-of-21 swiping bases.

Roberts only has power when compared to Tyner or Span and suffers from the same lack of plate discipline, so he's never going to be anyone's idea of a quality starter. However, Roberts is considered a strong defender in center field and should be able to post solid batting averages thanks to a good contact rate and top-notch speed. While a poor man's Tyner doesn't sound appealing, the organization lacks MLB-ready center fielders and like Span he could become a useful bench player.

38. Steven Tolleson | Shortstop | DOB: 11/83 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2005-5

2005 RK 73 .321 .457 .571 2 9 11 4
A- 125 .176 .311 .284 3 5 17 23
2006 A- 204 .287 .390 .392 2 12 27 34
A+ 186 .268 .353 .408 4 13 22 24
2007 A+ 571 .285 .388 .382 5 33 79 97

The son of former big leaguer Wayne Tolleson, Steven Tolleson played three years at the University of South Carolina and was taken by the Twins in the fifth round of the 2005 draft. He signed quickly and batted .321/.457/.571 in 16 games at rookie-ball, but then hit just .176 after moving up to low Single-A to end his debut season. Tolleson went back to Beloit to begin 2006 and batted .287/.390/.392 in 42 games to earn a midseason promotion to high Single-A.

He held his own in 49 games at Fort Myers, hitting .268/.353/.408 for a .277/.369/.396 overall hitting line in his first full season. Despite that solid showing and the fact that he was already 23 years old, the Twins sent Tolleson back to high Single-A and kept him there for the entire 2007 season. He batted .285/.388/.382 with 27 steals in 132 games while leading the entire organization with 79 walks, giving Tolleson a .273/.377/.387 hitting line with a 182-to-156 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 277 career games.

Tolleson has just 16 homers and a measly .114 Isolated Power in 1,168 career plate appearances, but has played all over the infield defensively and could have a future as a solid utility man if the Twins actually give him a chance to move up the organizational ladder. If he can maintain the combination of sound middle-infield defense and excellent plate discipline while making the jump up to Double-A this season, Tolleson could force his way into the Twins' plans.

37. Jose Morales | Catcher | DOB: 2/83 | Bats: Switch | Draft: 2001-3

2006 AA 282 .211 .276 .311 3 18 19 56
2007 AAA 411 .311 .366 .399 2 28 30 44

When the Twins selected Jose Morales out of Puerto Rico in the third round of the 2001 draft, he was an 18-year-old middle infielder. While spending his first two seasons in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, he hit .284/.315/.356 with zero homers and a 54-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 88 games. In 2003 the Twins made Morales a catcher and he spent the next two years hitting .287/.330/.390 with six homers, 38 total extra-base hits, and a 115-to-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 151 games at Single-A.

Morales moved up to Double-A in 2005, but knee and back injuries limited him to seven games. He returned to New Britain in 2006 and hit just .209/.273/.306 in 82 games, but bounced back last season by having the best year of his career at Rochester. Morales hit .311/.366/.399 with two homers, 28 total extra-base hits, and a 44-to-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 108 games to earn a September call-up, going 3-for-3 in his big-league debut before suffering a gruesome-looking ankle injury running the bases.

The injury isn't a long-term concern, but Morales is 25 years old, was likely playing over his head a bit in 2007, and has zero power. With that said, he's a switch-hitting, high-contact catcher with solid defensive skills and has shown some semblance of plate discipline recently after hacking at anything early in his career. He figures to take over for Chris Heintz as the Twins' catcher-in-waiting should anything happen to Joe Mauer or Mike Redmond, and could emerge as Mauer's long-term backup.

36. Matt Tolbert | Second Base | DOB: 5/82 | Bats: Switch | Draft: 2004-16

2005 A+ 472 .266 .326 .365 3 29 35 80
2006 A+ 173 .303 .360 .458 4 13 14 17
AA 292 .258 .341 .363 3 19 30 43
2007 AAA 477 .293 .353 .427 6 37 37 56

A four-year starter at the University of Mississippi, the Twins selected Matt Tolbert in the 16th round of the 2004 draft despite a modest .288/.365/.394 career hitting line. He signed quickly and made his pro debut at rookie-level Elizabethton, batting .308/.376/.500 in 33 games, and then skipped low Single-A while making the jump to high Single-A during his first full season. Tolbert struggled at Fort Myers, batting just .266/.326/.365 in 111 games, but was promoted to Double-A in 2006.

Tolbert again struggled and was demoted back to Fort Myers, but hit .303/.360/.458 in 40 games there to earn a trip back up to New Britain. He hit just .255/.339/.360 in 72 total games at Double-A, but rather than ask a 25-year-old to take another crack at the level the Twins pushed Tolbert up to Triple-A last season. He hit .340 in April and .370 in May before eventually crashing back down to earth, hitting just .267/.323/.396 in the second half to finish the season at .293/.353/.427 in 121 games overall.

Despite an amazing start that got fans who didn't know better way too excited, Tolbert's "breakout" season actually blends in with the rest of his career. He's hit just .280/.345/.405 in 377 minor-league games and turns 26 years old in May, which adds up to a low ceiling. However, as a switch-hitter who controls the strike zone reasonably well, has solid speed, and can handle second base or third base defensively, Tolbert could carve out a decent major-league career as a utility man.

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.