March 9, 2008

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2008: System Overview

Previous Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2008: 1-5, 6-10 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40

My annual series ranking and profiling the Twins' top 40 prospects finished up last week, so here's the complete list, along with links to each individual write-up:

 1. Carlos Gomez, CF               21. Brock Peterson, 1B
2. Deolis Guerra, SP 22. Mike McCardell, SP
3. Tyler Robertson, SP 23. Yohan Pino, SP
4. Glen Perkins, SP 24. Paul Kelly, SS
5. Anthony Swarzak, SP 25. Angel Morales, CF
6. Kevin Mulvey, SP 26. Nick Blackburn, SP
7. Jeff Manship, SP 27. David Winfree, 1B
8. Philip Humber, SP 28. Jay Rainville, SP
9. Wilson Ramos, C 29. Erik Lis, LF
10. Ben Revere, CF 30. Zach Ward, SP
11. Chris Parmelee, RF 31. Danny Rams, C
12. Oswaldo Sosa, SP 32. Kyle Waldrop, SP
13. Deibinson Romero, 3B 33. David Bromberg, SP
14. Joe Benson, CF 34. Michael Tarsi, SP
15. Trevor Plouffe, SS 35. Dustin Martin, CF
16. Brian Duensing, SP 36. Daniel Berlind, SP
17. Ryan Mullins, SP 37. Matt Macri, 3B
18. Danny Valencia, 3B 38. Brian Buscher, 3B
19. Alex Burnett, SP 39. Brian Dinkelman, 2B
20. Jason Pridie, CF 40. Matt Tolbert, 2B

The Johan Santana trade produced the Twins' top two prospects (Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra) and four of the team's top eight prospects (Gomez, Guerra, Kevin Mulvey, Philip Humber), which suggests that the haul for Santana was a pretty solid one and shows how weak the system was prior to the deal. Even after acquiring the foursome of Mets prospects the Twins' collection of minor-league talent ranks no better than average among all MLB teams.

With that said, the Twins' overall system is deeper and more balanced than last year's version despite graduating Kevin Slowey, Alexi Casilla, and Pat Neshek to the majors and parting with Matt Garza, Eduardo Morlan, Alexander Smit, and Alex Romero. The top-40 list remains dominated by pitching, especially among the system's premier prospects, but between Gomez at the top and 11 other hitters scattered throughout the top 30 the position-player depth has been improved somewhat.

In particular, the team has focused on stockpiling center fielders over the past year, acquiring Gomez, Ben Revere, Jason Pridie, Angel Morales, and Dustin Martin to go with holdover Joe Benson. Three of those players came from early-round draft picks and three came via trade, changing the position from a weakness to a strength in one season despite the continued decline of former first-round pick and one-time "center fielder of the future" Denard Span (who narrowly missed cracking the top 40).

Center-field depth has been beefed up considerably and catcher, third base, and shortstop are also areas of improvement since last year, but the system still lacks high-upside, middle-of-the-order bats. Chris Parmelee, Deibinson Romero, and Danny Rams perhaps fit a loose definition, but none are close to the majors. Aside from the 19-year-old Rams, 20-year-old Parmelee, and 21-year-old Romero, the system's best bats are mid-level prospects like Danny Valencia, Brock Peterson, and Erik Lis.

Of course, with Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, and Jason Kubel each seemingly around for a while, the need for a slugging first baseman or corner outfielder to emerge from the farm system is lessened. In terms of help at the big-league level, what the Twins figure to need in the near future are shortstops, second basemen, and third basemen. Unfortunately, while the system's infield depth has improved it's still far from impressive.

Trevor Plouffe and Paul Kelly (and rookie-baller Starling De Los Santos, who narrowly missed the list) are the system's best hopes to develop into starting caliber shortstops, and whichever one of Plouffe or Kelly doesn't end up at shortstop immediately joins Casilla (who lost his prospect status last season) as the top bets at second base. With former first rounder Matt Moses washing out and David Winfree moving off the position, third base is left with Romero, Valencia, Matt Macri, and Brian Buscher.

The pitching picture is significantly prettier, as the Twins' farm system boasts a nice mix of high-upside youngsters (Guerra, Tyler Robertson, Anthony Swarzak, Jeff Manship, Alex Burnett) and MLB-ready arms (Mulvey, Humber, Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn), plus plenty of other potential rotation options (Oswaldo Sosa, Ryan Mullins, Mike McCardell, Yohan Pino, Jay Rainville, Zach Ward, Kyle Waldrop).

Toss in young non-prospects like Slowey (24 years old), Francisco Liriano (23), Scott Baker (26), and Boof Bonser (26), and starting pitching clearly remains the organization's main strength even after losing Santana and Carlos Silva this winter. Graduating Neshek to the majors and trading Morlan away leaves few outstanding relief prospects in the minors, but odds are that many of those aforementioned starters will end up in the bullpen long term.

Including both prospects and non-prospects, here's a rough organization-wide view of all players who are 29 years old or younger:

CATCHER:                   FIRST BASE:                SECOND BASE:
Joe Mauer, 25 Justin Morneau, 27 Brendan Harris, 27
Wilson Ramos, 20 Brock Peterson, 24 Alexi Casilla, 23
Danny Rams, 19 David Winfree, 22 Brian Dinkelman, 24
Jose Morales, 25 Erik Lis, 24 Matt Tolbert, 26

Trevor Plouffe, 22 Deibinson Romero, 21 Delmon Young, 22
Paul Kelly, 21 Danny Valencia, 23 Michael Cuddyer, 29
S. De Los Santos, 21 Matt Macri, 26 Jason Kubel, 26
Steven Tolleson, 24 Brian Buscher, 27 Chris Parmelee, 20

Carlos Gomez, 22 Scott Baker, 26 Fran Liriano, 23
Ben Revere, 20 Boof Bonser, 26 Glen Perkins, 25
Joe Benson, 20 Kevin Slowey, 24 Tyler Robertson, 20
Jason Pridie, 24 Deolis Guerra, 19 Brian Duensing, 25
Angel Morales, 18 Anthony Swarzak, 22 Ryan Mullins, 24
Dustin Martin, 24 Kevin Mulvey, 23 Michael Tarsi, 21
Brandon Roberts, 23 Jeff Manship, 23
Denard Span, 24 Philip Humber, 25
Oswaldo Sosa, 22
Alex Burnett, 20
Mike McCardell, 23
Yohan Pino, 24
Nick Blackburn, 26
Jay Rainville, 22
Zach Ward, 24
Kyle Waldrop, 22

There are plenty of noteworthy players throughout the organization who aren't listed above, but that should at least provide a rough outline of the Twins' depth at each position.

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