February 14, 2008

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2008: 25, 24, 23, 22, 21

Previous Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2008: 26-30, 31-35, 36-40

25. Angel Morales | Center Field | DOB: 11/89 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2007-3

2007 RK 143 .256 .357 .405 2 11 12 44

After stockpiling young arms with extremely pitching-heavy drafts for most of the past decade, the Twins selected high-school position players with each of their first four picks last June. Puerto Rican center fielder Angel Morales was the third of those four choices, signing for $235,000 and reporting to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he slid over to right field because of the presence of speedy first rounder Ben Revere in center.

Considered a good all-around athlete and a strong defender in center field with an outstanding arm, most of the draft-day questions surrounding Morales centered on his inconsistent and raw approach at the plate. Morales' pro debut saw him strike out in 31 percent of his plate appearances, which is an alarmingly high rate, but he also showed decent plate discipline and solid gap power while stealing 11 bases in 38 games as a 17-year-old playing in a very tough environment for offense.

Morales is very much a work in progress, but the skills are certainly there for him to develop into an impact player and his debut was a promising one all things considered. He may have to lag behind Revere as they travel up the organizational ladder simply to get consistent reps in center field, which is fine given that Morales is 18 months younger and a much less refined player at this point. He's a long way from the majors, but Morales is worth watching.

24. Paul Kelly | Shortstop | DOB: 10/86 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2005-2

2005 RK 165 .277 .358 .365 2 8 14 36
2006 A- 423 .280 .352 .384 3 29 32 60

Taken out of a Texas high school by the Twins in the second round of the 2005 draft, Paul Kelly hit .277/.358/.365 in 40 games in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League after signing. He moved up to low Single-A in 2006 and batted .280/.352/.384 in a pitcher-friendly environment before a knee injury cut his first full season short after 95 games. Initially expected to make a full recovery in time for 2007, Kelly instead missed essentially the entire season, playing in just two games.

At 21 years old Kelly is still young enough to make up for the lost development time, but a knee injury that ends one season and wipes out another is a big concern for a shortstop whose bat may not be an asset much further down the defensive spectrum. He showed league-average power during his first two pro seasons, which is good for a player who was young for the level of competition, but most of that was gap power and he doesn't project as much more than a 10-homer threat.

A high-school pitcher, Kelly boasts one of the organization's strongest arms and was considered a solid defensive shortstop before the injury, but knee problems could change that. Kelly's glove will ultimately determine the bulk of his value, but he has the on-base skills and doubles power to become a more capable hitter than his raw numbers suggest. Of course, he'll have to get back on the field and stay healthy first, which is why this season figures to reveal a lot about Kelly's long-term outlook.

23. Yohan Pino | Starter | DOB: 12/83 | Throws: Right | Sign: Venezuela

2005 RK 12 12 3.72 67.2 68 3 64 13
2006 A- 42 7 1.91 94.0 69 4 99 20
2007 A+ 19 9 1.73 67.2 47 2 64 17
AA 9 8 5.13 47.1 57 6 40 9

Despite little fan fare and a fastball that doesn't crack 90 miles per hour, Yohan Pino has consistently put up excellent numbers since being signed out of Venezuela in 2004. After a strong showing in the rookie-level Appalachian League in 2005, Pino made his full-season debut in 2006 and went 14-2 with a 1.91 ERA, 99-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .198 opponent's batting average in 94 innings at low Single-A before going 6-0 with a 1.67 ERA in the Venezuelan winter league.

He continued to compile ridiculous numbers after moving up to high Single-A last season, posting a 1.73 ERA, 64-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .192 opponent's batting average in 67.2 innings to earn a midseason promotion to Double-A. He struggled there for the first time as a pro, but even with a 5.13 ERA managed a fantastic 40-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 47.1 innings, showing that he was anything but overmatched.

Pino's raw stuff has never matched his on-field results and the Twins have been naturally skeptical of his success, repeatedly shifting him back and forth between the rotation and bullpen. He now has a 2.86 ERA, 267-to-59 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and just 15 homers allowed in 276.2 career innings, and at some point performance should take precedence over velocity. He won't be handed any opportunities, but Pino will be tough to ignore if he can put together a strong showing at Double-A in 2008.

22. Mike McCardell | Starter | DOB: 4/85 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2007-6

2007 RK 12 10 2.14 63.0 40 5 95 8

A two-way college star at Division II Kutztown University, Mike McCardell hit .367 with a .570 slugging percentage and posted a 2.30 ERA, 173-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .176 opponent's batting average in 137 innings during his final two seasons. The Twins liked him more as a pitcher when they selected him in the sixth round of June's draft and McCardell made them look smart by dominating at two levels of rookie-ball after signing.

A big, 6-foot-6 right-hander with a low-90s fastball who split time between the rotation and bullpen in college, McCardell went 7-1 with a 2.14 ERA and amazing 95-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 63 innings as a starter during his pro debut. His numbers are sure to come down to earth as he faces more experienced competition, but the Twins had success in the past uncovering a small-college standout who produced exceptional numbers without overpowering stuff.

That's obviously not to suggest that McCardell will automatically follow in Kevin Slowey's footsteps by emerging as a top-notch prospect, because there are certainly plenty of small-college gems whose success doesn't translate to the pros. However, the possibility definitely exists, the Twins have a decent eye for such pitchers, and he's off to a good start. This season will be key for McCardell, who figures to begin the year at Single-A and could move quickly through the Twins' system.

21. Brock Peterson | First Base | DOB: 11/83 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2002-49

2005 A+ 485 .250 .332 .401 12 35 46 102
2006 A+ 500 .291 .356 .497 21 46 40 93
2007 AA 455 .285 .382 .476 15 40 44 90

A Washington high schooler who was picked by the Twins in the 49th round of the 2002 draft, Brock Peterson began his pro career in 2003 as a third baseman and struggled defensively while hitting .290/.404/.473 in 61 rookie-ball games. He switched to first base and moved up to low Single-A in 2004, but hit just .256/.337/.348 in 124 games. Promoted to high Single-A the next season, Peterson hit just .250/.332/.401 in 119 games and was asked to remain at Fort Myers in 2005.

He responded to repeating the level by putting together a breakout season, batting .291/.356/.497 with 21 homers, 56 total extra-base hits, and a 93-to-40 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 121 games. After topping the league-wide OPS by over 150 points in an extremely pitcher-friendly environment, Peterson showed that it was no fluke by moving up to Double-A last season and hitting .285/.382/.476 with 15 homers, 40 total extra-base hits, and a 90-to-44 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 112 games.

Peterson tends to get overlooked despite being one of the most productive hitters in the organization over the past two seasons. Still just 24 years old despite never receiving an in-season promotion and repeating a level, he's arguably the best bet to potentially become an impact bat that the Twins have in the upper minors, but has no clear path to an everyday gig in the majors with Justin Morneau, Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, and Jason Kubel seemingly all around for the long term.

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