January 20, 2009

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2009: 35, 34, 33, 32, 31

Previous Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2009: 36-40

35. Bobby Lanigan | Starter | DOB: 5/87 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2008-3

2008 RK 13 13 2.78 74.1 74 5 65 9

As a Division II program Adelphi University isn't exactly a baseball hotbed, but the school that produced Gary Dell'Abate and Public Enemy also provided the Twins with their 2008 third-round pick. A big righty who ranks as the school's all-time leader in strikeouts, Bobby Lanigan had a 1.94 ERA as a junior and then signed very quickly for $417,000, debuting at rookie-level Elizabethton with a 2.78 ERA and 65-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 starts.

Lanigan wasn't dominant at Elizabethton, totaling more hits allowed (74) than strikeouts (65) over 74.1 innings, but he ranked fourth among Appalachian League pitchers in strikeout-to-walk ratio. He fits the Twins' mold as a strike-throwing machine, but is hardly a soft-tosser with a low-90s fastball and sharp slider. For now Lanigan looks like a future fourth or fifth starter, but snatching him up in the third round signals that the Twins may think his 6-foot-5 frame can eventually support more velocity.

Lanigan will make his full-season debut this year and won't be on the same type of fast track as fellow 2008 draftees Carlos Gutierrez and Shooter Hunt, but is polished enough to possibly climb two rungs on the organizational ladder if things go well. If not, Lanigan needs only to hang a big clock around his neck or mispronounce the name of his favorite cartoon character to follow the career-making footsteps of Adelphi's most successful alumni.

34. Oswaldo Sosa | Starter | DOB: 9/85 | Throws: Right | Sign: Venezuela

2006 A- 20 20 2.75 117.2 102 1 95 36
A+ 6 6 2.08 34.2 23 1 27 18
2007 A+ 19 19 2.23 105.0 94 2 82 36
AA 9 9 4.50 48.0 45 4 35 22
2008 A+ 17 6 5.44 43.0 46 0 33 32
AA 13 13 5.81 62.0 70 4 47 43

Oswaldo Sosa was fantastic in the low minors, posting a 2.95 ERA while allowing just four homers in 301 innings at Single-A, but stumbled when he moved up to Double-A for the first time in mid-2007 and completely fell apart last year. Sosa began last season at New Britain, but was demoted back to Fort Myers after making 13 starts with a 5.81 ERA. He split time between the bullpen and rotation following the demotion, but couldn't get on track and finished 2008 with an ugly 80-to-75 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Sosa has never missed a ton of bats, so 80 strikeouts in 105 innings is nothing out of the ordinary, but the deterioration of control is concerning. His walk rate was just nine percent from 2004-2007, but that number jumped to 15 percent last season and came along with a .289 opponent's batting average. He continued to induce a high percentage of ground balls and served up just four long balls to 492 batters, so at least the basics of Sosa's success remained intact while his control faltered.

It's also worth noting that Sosa played the entire season at the age of 22, so it's not surprising that he had trouble versus Double-A hitters. In fact, Sosa and Anthony Swarzak were six months younger than anyone else on New Britain's staff and most of the pitchers were 24 or 25. That doesn't explain Sosa's continued struggles after being moved down to Fort Myers, but it does provide enough reason to show some patience in the hopes that he can get back to throwing his heavy fastball over the plate.

33. Steve Singleton | Second Base | DOB: 9/85 | Bats: Switch | Draft: 2006-11

2006 RK 156 .340 .368 .556 4 18 5 19
2007 A- 391 .271 .294 .346 2 22 8 47
2008 A- 259 .302 .348 .421 6 14 13 29
A+ 277 .295 .371 .452 5 26 26 24

Steve Singleton has had an up-and-down pro career since the Twins selected him out of the University of San Diego in the 11th round of the 2006 draft. He signed quickly and debuted by hitting .340 in 41 games at rookie-ball, but then moved up to low Single-A in 2007 and batted just .271/.294/.346 in 102 games while battling through shoulder problems. Not only did Singleton struggle offensively, his lack of arm strength led to 10 errors in 22 games at shortstop before a move to second base.

Back at Beloit to begin last season, Singleton stayed at second base defensively and bounced back in a big way at the plate, hitting .302/.348/.421 in 65 games to earn a midseason promotion to Fort Myers. Singleton then batted .295/.371/.452 in 62 games at high Single-A, finishing the year at .298/.360/.437 in 536 plate appearances overall. Within his 157-point jump in OPS compared to 2007 was significant improvement in both plate discipline and strike-zone control.

Singleton walked 39 times compared to just 53 strikeouts after coming into the season with an ugly 66-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio for his career. With just 17 homers in nearly 1,000 at-bats Singleton will have to get on base at a good clip to be valuable, so tripling his walk rate while cutting strikeouts by 20 percent is an excellent sign. Maintaining those improvements and adding a little more pop would give him a chance to be a starting-caliber second baseman, but for now he looks like a nice utility man.

32. Tyler Ladendorf | Shortstop | DOB: 3/88 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2008-2

2008 RK- 175 .204 .308 .293 1 10 17 29

Drafted by the Yankees in 2006 and the Giants in 2007, Tyler Ladendorf put off his pro career to spend two years at a junior college in Texas. During that time he emerged as the country's top junior-college hitter and then went to the Twins in the second round of June's draft. This time Ladendorf signed for a $700,000 bonus and reported to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he struggled mightily while hitting just .204 with little power and a strikeout in 17 percent of his plate appearances.

Ladendorf's pro debut wasn't pretty and casts some further doubt on his ability to thrive against tougher competition, but his junior-college numbers were so insanely spectacular that they can't be ignored. As a freshman Ladendorf batted .425 while stealing 65 bases without being caught a single time and as a sophomore he went 31-for-32 swiping bases while hitting .542 with 49 extra-base hits, 47 walks, and a ridiculous 1.060 slugging percentage in 53 games. Slugging percentage, not OPS.

He turns 21 years old in March and is already big for a shortstop, so Ladendorf seems unlikely to stay at the position long term. That makes his offensive development crucial, so even if it was only 175 plate appearances at rookie-ball his poor pro debut was concerning. Still, Ladendorf's junior-college exploits suggest that he'll hit for strong batting averages soon enough, he displayed solid plate discipline amid the overall GCL struggles, and the Twins are clearly believers after taking him 60th overall.

31. Jonathan Waltenbury | First Base | DOB: 4/88 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2006-7

2007 RK- 144 .244 .347 .366 3 9 18 31
2008 RK 293 .319 .382 .540 10 35 27 46

Taken out of a Canadian high school in the seventh round of the 2006 draft, Jonathan Waltenbury had a modest debut in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League before breaking out at Elizabethton last year. As a Canadian first baseman with a left-handed stroke and 6-foot-4 frame Waltenbury has naturally drawn comparisons to Justin Morneau and he showed that type of power potential by totaling 35 extra-base hits in 263 at-bats for an Isolated Power that was 77 percent above the Appalachian League average.

Among all the hitters in the Twins' minor-league system last year only Angel Morales, Evan Bigley, and Chris Parmelee flashed more raw power than Waltenbury. Better yet, that impressive pop also came with a reasonable strikeout rate of 16 percent and he's displayed nice patience for someone so young, drawing 45 walks in 437 trips to the plate. Bigley was his Elizabethton teammate and hit .300/.360/.587 for similar raw stats, but is a year older, struck out 15 percent more, and walked 40 percent less.

Not only did Waltenbury tear up the Appalachian League, he did so at a young age and showed some important secondary skills within that performance, which are very important distinctions to make when examining eye-popping numbers in the low minors. He's a long way from being compared to Morneau in a meaningful way despite wearing the same No. 33 to honor his fellow Canuck, but Waltenbury has gotten off to a great start and oozes offensive potential.

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