March 15, 2009

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2009: System Overview

Previous Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2009: 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 concluded last month, so here's the complete list, along with links to each individual write-up and an overview of the whole system:

 1. Aaron Hicks, CF                21. Joe Benson, CF
2. Ben Revere, CF 22. Alex Burnett, SP
3. Wilson Ramos, C 23. Trevor Plouffe, SS
4. Angel Morales, CF 24. Deibinson Romero, 3B
5. Shooter Hunt, SP 25. Brian Duensing, SP
6. Danny Valencia, 3B 26. Rene Tosoni, RF
7. Anthony Swarzak, SP 27. Dustin Martin, CF
8. Tyler Robertson, SP 28. David Winfree, RF
9. Jeff Manship, SP 29. Jason Pridie, CF
10. Jose Mijares, RP 30. Philip Humber, SP
11. Chris Parmelee, RF 31. Jonathan Waltenbury, 1B
12. Kevin Mulvey, SP 32. Tyler Ladendorf, SS
13. Carlos Gutierrez, SP 33. Steve Singleton, 2B
14. David Bromberg, SP 34. Oswaldo Sosa, SP
15. Deolis Guerra, SP 35. Bobby Lanigan, SP
16. Michael McCardell, SP 36. Reggie Williams, 2B
17. Luke Hughes, 3B 37. Daniel Ortiz, RF
18. Robert Delaney, RP 38. Danny Rams, C
19. Anthony Slama, SP 39. Dan Osterbrock, SP
20. Steven Tolleson, SS 40. Charles Nolte, RP

Carlos Gomez, Glen Perkins, Nick Blackburn, Brian Buscher, and Denard Span graduated to the big leagues after being included on this same list last year and Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey, Alexi Casilla, and Pat Neshek moved from this list to the majors in 2007, yet the Twins' farm system is stronger now than it was two years ago. Getting four prospects from the Mets for Johan Santana last winter played a part in the improvement, but Gomez is in the majors and the other three rank just 12th, 15th, and 30th.

More than the haul for Santana, the Twins have improved the farm system with back-to-back drafts that so far at least look highly successful. Ben Revere was the Twins' first-round pick in 2007 and Aaron Hicks was their first rounder last year, and those two players now rank one-two on my list of the team's top prospects. Beyond that, losing Torii Hunter to free agency gave the Twins a pair of compensatory first-round picks that were used on Shooter Hunt and Carlos Gutierrez, who rank No. 5 and No. 13.

Having essentially four first-round picks in the span of two years does an awful lot to restock a system and the Twins helped themselves even further in 2007 by landing Angel Morales in the third round and Michael McCardell in the sixth round. Add it all up and exactly half of the Twins' top 16 prospects came from the past two drafts or the Santana trade, including four of their top five. Despite the recent influx of talent the Twins' system is still far from elite and instead likely ranks right around average.

Hicks, Revere, Morales, and Wilson Ramos give the Twins four high-upside position players, but none of them have played an inning above Single-A and aside from Danny Valencia or maybe Luke Hughes there's nothing in the system in terms of MLB-ready impact bats. Pitching is sort of the opposite story, as the Twins lack truly high-upside arms while guys like Kevin Mulvey, Jose Mijares, Robert Delaney, Brian Duensing, and Philip Humber are knocking on the door to the majors.

Not so long ago outfield was a system-wide area of weakness for the Twins, but adding Gomez, Hicks, Revere, Morales, and Delmon Young during the past two years while watching Span seemingly turn his career around has changed that in a huge way. Toss in Jason Kubel's development and the presence of prospects Chris Parmelee, Joe Benson, Rene Tosoni, Dustin Martin, David Winfree, Jason Pridie, and Daniel Ortiz, and the Twins boast as much young outfield talent as any organization in baseball.

Unfortunately the Twins' long-standing lack of quality middle-infield prospects remains, although with Casilla perhaps emerging as the long-term second baseman the system's lack of standout shortstops is the bigger issue with Nick Punto currently holding down the fort. Trevor Plouffe hasn't developed as expected since being a 2004 first-round pick, Steven Tolleson looks more like a future utility man than starter, and 2008 second-round pick Tyler Ladendorf debuted by batting .204 at rookie-ball.

While the Twins' farm system is likely right in the middle of the pack, the biggest problem with making team-to-team comparisons is that young non-prospects are totally ignored. Prospects are technically only "prospects" until they play regularly in the big leagues, at which point they simply become "young major leaguers." There aren't quite as many lists ranking those guys, but the future of a team is clearly about more than which youngsters retain prospect status by not using up rookie-of-the-year eligibility.

For instance, had the Twins sent Gomez to Triple-A last year instead of making him their Opening Day center fielder or waited another two months to promote Span, their collection of "prospects" would look better without actually improving the team's long-term outlook much. With that in mind, here's a rough organization-wide view of key Twins players who are 29 years old or younger, including both prospects and non-prospects:

CATCHER:                   FIRST BASE:                SECOND BASE:
Joe Mauer, 26 Justin Morneau, 28 Alexi Casilla, 24
Wilson Ramos, 21 Brian Buscher, 28 Steve Singleton, 23
Danny Rams, 20 Jon Waltenbury, 21 Reggie Williams, 20

Steven Tolleson, 24 Brendan Harris, 28 Jason Kubel, 27
Trevor Plouffe, 22 Danny Valencia, 24 Delmon Young, 23
Tyler Ladendorf, 21 Luke Hughes, 24 Chris Parmelee, 21
Matt Tolbert, 27 Deibinson Romero, 22 Rene Tosoni, 22
David Winfree, 23
Daniel Ortiz, 19

Carlos Gomez, 23 Scott Baker, 27 Fran Liriano, 25
Denard Span, 25 Kevin Slowey, 25 Glen Perkins, 26
Aaron Hicks, 19 Nick Blackburn, 27 Tyler Robertson, 21
Ben Revere, 21 Shooter Hunt, 22 Brian Duensing, 26
Angel Morales, 19 Anthony Swarzak, 23 Dan Osterbrock, 22
Joe Benson, 21 Jeff Manship, 24
Dustin Martin, 25 Kevin Mulvey, 24 RELIEVER:
Jason Pridie, 25 Carlos Gutierrez, 23 Pat Neshek, 28
David Bromberg, 21 Jose Mijares, 24
Deolis Guerra, 20 Craig Breslow, 28
Mike McCardell, 24 Robert Delaney, 24
Alex Burnett, 21 Anthony Slama, 25
Philip Humber, 26 Charles Nolte, 23
Oswaldo Sosa, 23 Boof Bonser, 27
Bobby Lanigan, 22

Plenty of players aren't listed above, but that should provide an outline of the Twins' depth at each spot.

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