February 4, 2008

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2008: 35, 34, 33, 32, 31

Note: Prospects 31-40 in this series were actually posted already last month, but the Twins acquiring four good prospects in exchange for Johan Santana last week caused a shift in the rankings and made the original version out of date. The least-confusing option for proceeding seems to be restarting the whole series, with the four new prospects included and the four lowest-ranked prospects from the original version (Jose Morales, Steven Tolleson, Brandon Roberts, Denard Span) bumped off the list.

Previous Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2008: 36-40

35. Dustin Martin | Center Field | DOB: 4/84 | Bats: Left | Trade: Mets

2006 A- 293 .315 .399 .454 2 24 28 50
2007 A+ 548 .290 .361 .426 8 44 53 118

Dustin Martin led the Southland Conference with a .389 batting average during his senior season at Sam Houston State and was selected by the Mets in the 26th round of the 2006 draft. As a little-known college senior with no leverage, he agreed to a $1,000 bonus and reported to low Single-A, where he batted .315/.399/.454 in 72 games. Martin moved to high Single-A in 2007, batting .287/.358/.412 in 93 games before being traded to the Twins along with non-prospect Drew Butera for Luis Castillo in July.

Martin remained in the Florida State League after the deal, hitting .294/.366/.437 in 32 games at Fort Myers to finish the year with an overall line of .290/.361/.426 in a very pitcher-friendly environment, which included eight homers, 44 total extra-base hits, and a 118-to-53 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 125 games. While he's shown decent plate discipline with solid gap power and good speed, Martin strikes out an awful lot for a hitter who's managed just 10 homers in 845 career plate appearances.

Martin has spent the bulk of his pro career in center field and is considered an above-average defender there, but likely profiles more as a fourth outfielder long term. Terry Ryan's decision to unload Castillo at midseason was criticized heavily at the time and looks even more questionable given that the Twins would have ended up with a supplemental first-round pick if they'd simply let him walk as a free agent, but Martin's an intriguing player who gives them a chance to at least get some value out of the deal.

34. Michael Tarsi | Starter | DOB: 8/86 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2007-12

2007 RK 11 11 2.22 52.2 49 0 59 13

Michael Tarsi went 12-5 with a 3.59 ERA and 122-to-45 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 143 innings during three years at the University of Connecticut before the Twins selected him in the 12th round of June's draft. Tarsi signed quickly and the 6-foot-8 left-hander predictably fared very well against inexperienced competition during his pro debut at rookie-level Elizabethton, serving up zero homers in 52.2 innings while posting a 2.22 ERA and 59-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Tarsi doesn't throw especially hard, even for a southpaw, but uses his height and fastball movement to keep the ball on the ground. He induced three ground balls for every fly ball while at Elizabethton, which helps explain how he was able to avoid giving up even a single homer in 238 plate appearances. Of course, dominating rookie-ball hitters ultimately means little for a pitcher who had three seasons of experience playing in the Big East conference.

However, Tarsi is pretty refined as far as 21-year-old, 6-foot-8 lefties go and has a chance to move quickly through the Twins' system. His control has been relatively good dating back to college despite his size and his secondary pitches are considered solid enough for him to potentially develop into a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Tarsi likely doesn't have the raw stuff to become much more than that, but ground-ball machines who throw strikes are always worth watching.

33. David Bromberg | Starter | DOB: 9/87 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2005-32

2006 RK 10 10 2.66 50.2 42 2 31 18
2007 RK 13 11 2.78 58.1 45 4 81 32

Taken by the Twins out of a California high school with a 32nd-round pick in 2005, David Bromberg was a "draft-and-follow" selection who signed nearly a year later after spending one season pitching for a local junior college. Assigned to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League for his pro debut in 2006, Bromberg posted a sub par 31-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 50.2 innings, but proved difficult to hit while serving up just two homers and allowing a .230 opponent's batting average.

Bromberg moved up one rung on the organizational ladder to the rookie-level Appalachian League in 2007 and was named the short-season league's Pitcher of the Year. Still a teenager, Bromberg led the league in strikeouts and wins while holding opponents to a .211 batting average, posting a 2.78 ERA and 81-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 58.1 innings. Primarily a fastball-curveball pitcher, he works with low-90s velocity coming from a sturdy 6-foot-5 frame and induces plenty of ground balls.

This year will be a big test for Bromberg, because he'll be facing full-season competition for the first time after posting a 2.72 ERA, 112-to-50 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .219 opponent's batting average over 109 innings of rookie-ball. His control definitely needs work and he's a long way from the majors, but Bromberg was dominant at times last season after an uneven pro debut and possesses far more long-term upside than most of the pitchers who're surrounding him in this section of the rankings.

32. Kyle Waldrop | Starter | DOB: 10/85 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2004-1

2005 A- 27 27 4.98 151.2 182 17 108 23
2006 A- 18 18 3.85 110.0 110 8 62 17
A+ 8 7 3.57 45.1 48 4 25 17
2007 A+ 16 16 3.40 92.2 90 3 57 24
AA 11 11 5.34 59.0 74 7 33 19

Drafted out of a Tennessee high school with the compensatory first-round pick that the Twins received for losing LaTroy Hawkins via free agency in 2004, Kyle Waldrop agreed to a $1 million bonus and got off to a fast start. Splitting his debut season between two levels of rookie-ball, he combined to post a 2.15 ERA and 55-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 63 innings. Unfortunately, Waldrop has struggled to miss bats as he's advanced through the Twins' system and has become increasingly easy to hit.

Waldrop had 7.9 strikeouts for every walk in rookie-ball and 4.3 strikeouts per walk at low Single-A, but that number dropped to 2.0 at high Single-A and 1.7 at Double-A (where he was knocked around to the tune of a .306 batting average in 11 starts last season). When the Twins drafted Waldrop he was very advanced for a high-school pitcher and thrived against similarly inexperienced competition in the low minors because he threw strikes and had decent raw stuff.

However, the closer he's gotten to the majors the more difficult it's been for Waldrop to succeed on that mediocre stuff, which is evident by his sub par strikeout rates and the deterioration of his once-great control. With that said, it's important to note that he's only 22 years old despite logging over 500 pro innings already and has induced two ground balls for every fly ball over the past two seasons, which shows that he's still capable of having a solid big-league career as a fourth or fifth starter.

31. Danny Rams | Catcher | DOB: 12/88 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2007-2

2007 RK 106 .258 .311 .361 0 9 5 22

Baseball America rated Danny Rams as the best power hitter in the 2007 high-school draft class and the Twins used their second-round pick and a $375,000 bonus to talk him out of attending Arizona State University. Drafted as a catcher, Rams worked there for most of his debut season and his arm is considered excellent for the position. However, as a 6-foot-2, 230-pound teenager who's struggled with his weight in the past, there are questions about his ability to remain behind the plate long term.

There are also some questions about his bat after Rams hit just .258/.311/.361 with zero homers and a 22-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio during his 27-game debut in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Even as an 18-year-old Rams looked like a big-league cleanup hitter and the pre-draft hype surrounding his power potential was tremendous. Despite his homerless debut, Rams' .103 Isolated Power actually showed average pop for the low-scoring GCL, suggesting that the long balls should arrive soon.

However, the rest of his game requires plenty of refinement. Rams is slow now and likely only going to get slower, his strike-zone control was horrible during his debut, and he simply may not have enough athleticism and mobility to be long for catching. As a big, rocket-armed catcher Rams' power could carry him to stardom and makes him a very intriguing prospect, but a position switch would limit him to first base or designated hitter and significantly reduce his upside. He's a boom-or-bust prospect.

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