February 1, 2010

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2010: 35, 34, 33, 32, 31

Other entries in Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2010 series: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 36-40.

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

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2007     RK-    106     .258     .311     .361      0      9      5     22
2008     RK     166     .228     .301     .428      5     16     15     71
2009     RK      72     .355     .444     .790      6     14      8     22
         A-     195     .229     .308     .429      7     21     18     77

After struggling through his first two pro seasons Danny Rams got off to a monster start at rookie-level Elizabethton last year, batting .355 with six homers and a 1.235 OPS in 16 games. That earned him a promotion to low Single-A, but Rams resumed struggling in his first taste of full-season action and hit just .229 with 77 strikeouts in 48 games. The good news is that he gunned down 37 percent of stolen base attempts, suggesting that Rams may have a shot to stick behind the plate long term.

His strong arm was merely an afterthought when the Twins made Rams a second-round pick in 2007, as Baseball America ranked him as the draft's top power bat among high schoolers. Rams' power has actually translated just fine to the pros with 18 homers and 62 total extra-base hits in 137 games for an outstanding .208 Isolated Power. Unfortunately that pop is masked by the inability to make consistent contact, with 195 strikeouts in 496 at-bats leading to a lowly .252 batting average.

Toss in just 41 non-intentional walks in 553 trips to the plate and Rams has basically been swinging hard in case he hits something so far, but he remains on this list for at least one more year due to his impressive power potential and the fact that he may still end up being able to play a passable catcher. When he doesn't strike out Rams has hit .415 with a .757 slugging percentage as a pro, but whiffing 35 percent of the time in the low minors is usually a very bad sign for a guy whose bat will carry him.

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

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2008     RK     13     13     2.78      74.1      74      5      65      9
2009     A-     22     22     4.52     123.1     130     10     102     29
         A+      7      2     4.70      15.1      21      1      14      4

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.

He moved up to low Single-A to begin last year and then got a late-season promotion to high Single-A, where he worked mostly out of the bullpen. Lanigan pitched quite a bit better than a 4.54 ERA in 138.2 innings overall would suggest, posting a 116-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio while allowing 11 homers for a much nicer 3.25 FIP. However, his rate of 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings was nothing special against low-level competition and he was fairly easy to hit, with opponents batting .272.

All of which suggests that his upside is limited, but Lanigan combines a low-90s fastball with a strong slider and good control, so he definitely has major-league potential. If the Twins focus on his ERA they may make him a full-time reliever this season, but Lanigan certainly warrants more of a chance to stick as a starter after just one year of full-season experience. Either way he throws enough strikes and gets enough ground balls to be worth watching and won't be 23 years old until May.

33. Chris Herrmann | Left Field | DOB: 11/87 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2009-6

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2009     RK     277     .297     .391     .453      7     22     33     40

Chris Herrmann was picked by the Orioles in the 10th round of the 2008 draft after being named to the junior college All-American team as a catcher at Alvin Community College in Texas, but decided not to sign and instead transferred to the University of Miami. That move worked out well for Herrmann, as he started in left field for the Hurricanes and hit .341/.455/.528 in 60 games before receiving a $135,000 signing bonus as the Twins' sixth-round pick last June.

Herrmann is the fifth University of Miami player selected by the Twins since 2006, and that list includes fellow top-40 prospects Danny Valencia and Carlos Gutierrez. And for whatever it's worth, Herrmann's college numbers were slightly better than Valencia's production at Miami, including a team-best .448 on-base percentage with 41 walks in 265 trips to the plate. He continued to show good plate discipline in his pro debut, batting .297/.391/.453 with 33 walks in 59 games at rookie-level Elizabethton.

Herrmann has previous experience at catcher and third base, but played mostly left field at both Miami and Elizabethton, so that's likely his long-term home and will make his offensive development key. The numbers from his pro debut don't mean a whole lot because hitters from major college programs are supposed to knock around rookie-ball pitchers, but he displayed more power than expected and clearly has a good eye at the plate.

32. Jose Morales | Catcher | DOB: 2/83 | Bats: Switch | Draft: 2001-3

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2007     AAA    411     .311     .366     .399      2     28     30     44
2008     AAA    208     .315     .348     .426      4     13      8     28
2009     AAA    242     .336     .413     .436      2     16     28     27
         MLB    134     .311     .381     .361      0      6     14     22

Drafted by the Twins in the third round out of Puerto Rico in 2001, Jose Morales started his pro career as an infielder before moving behind the plate full time in 2003. Six seasons later his defense remains somewhere between atrocious and passable, and he narrowly maintains "prospect" status at age 27, but as a switch-hitter with a line-drive swing who rarely strikes out and has consistently posted strong batting averages Morales looks capable of being a solid backup to Joe Mauer.

Last year Morales shared catching duties with Mike Redmond while Mauer spent April on the disabled list, spent a second stint with the Twins in May, and then returned to Minnesota for good when rosters expanded in September. Morales has hit .317 in 222 games at Triple-A and .328 through 55 games in the majors, which along with Ron Gardenhire turning to him at designated hitter down the stretch has the fans who don't know any better wrongly assuming that he's destined to be an impact hitter.

In reality Morales failed to homer in 134 plate appearances for the Twins after going deep a grand total of eight times in 868 trips to the plate at Triple-A and also doesn't walk much, so he's not destined for stardom. However, strong contact skills should keep his batting average above .275 and he deserves an extended opportunity after spending three years at Rochester, where he batted .317/.373/.413 while striking out just 11.4 percent of the time. Don't expect greatness, but he should be plenty useful.

31. Derek McCallum | Second Base | DOB: 3/88 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2009-4

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2009     RK     260     .241     .310     .382      5     19     23     55

A native Minnesotan who played both baseball and hockey at Hill-Murray, Derek McCallum was picked out of high school by the Twins in the 50th round of the 2006 draft. He opted to attend the University of Minnesota instead of signing for minimal cash and parlayed a huge junior season for the Gophers into a $210,000 bonus as the Twins' fourth rounder last June. Named a first-team All-American at second base, McCallum led the Big Ten in hits, homers, slugging percentage, and RBIs.

He also broke Robb Quinlan's school record by knocking in 86 runs in 59 games and became the first Gopher to bat .400 since 1994. McCallum struggled in his pro debut at rookie-level Elizabethton, hitting just .241 while striking out 55 times in 57 games after whiffing a total of 72 times in three years with the Gophers. He did show some solid pop with five homers and 19 total extra-base hits in 228 at-bats and drew a fair number of walks while receiving positive reviews for his glove at second base.

In theory at least McCallum should've thrived against less experienced competition in the Appalachian League, so the fact that he hit just .241 and had a tough time making consistent contact is worrisome. Given his rough pro debut it's also worth noting that prior to his monstrous junior campaign McCallum slugged just .417 through his first two college seasons. He'll move up the ladder to full-season ball in 2010 and look to show that he's capable of doing damage with a wood bat.

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