February 28, 2010

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2010: System Overview

My annual series ranking and profiling the Twins' top 40 prospects concluded last week, 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. Alex Burnett, RP
2. Kyle Gibson, SP                22. Robert Delaney, RP
3. Wilson Ramos, C                23. Luke Hughes, 3B
4. Miguel Angel Sano, SS          24. Ben Tootle, RP
5. Ben Revere, CF                 25. Deolis Guerra, SP
6. Angel Morales, CF              26. Shooter Hunt, SP
7. David Bromberg, SP             27. Trevor Plouffe, SS
8. Danny Valencia, 3B             28. Michael McCardell, SP
9. Matthew Bashore, SP            29. Reggie Williams, 2B
10. Billy Bullock, RP              30. Estarlin De Los Santos, SS
11. Rene Tosoni, RF                31. Derek McCallum, 2B
12. Chris Parmelee, RF             32. Jose Morales, C
13. Adrian Salcedo, SP             33. Chris Herrmann, LF
14. Joe Benson, CF                 34. Bobby Lanigan, SP
15. Jeff Manship, SP               35. Danny Rams, C
16. Tyler Robertson, SP            36. Josmil Pinto, C
17. Carlos Gutierrez, RP           37. Steven Tolleson, 2B
18. B.J. Hermsen, SP               38. Anderson Hidalgo, 3B
19. Anthony Slama, RP              39. Loek Van Mil, RP
20. Max Kepler, CF                 40. Joe Testa, RP

Most years at least a handful of significant prospects from my top-40 list exhaust their rookie eligibility or leave the organization via trade, but last season only Anthony Swarzak, Brian Duensing, and Jose Mijares graduated to the majors and only Kevin Mulvey was dealt away. That atypical lack of turnover combined with the addition of high-end talent like Kyle Gibson, Miguel Angel Sano, Matthew Bashore, Billy Bullock, and Max Kepler makes the 2010 list much stronger than the 2009 version. And different.

For the past few years the Twins' minor-league system was long on depth and short on star potential, but the opposite may now be true. While the system still lacks elite MLB-ready talent--Danny Valencia is the only top-10 guy who seems likely to play a big role in the majors this season--the Twins boast four of the top 75 or so prospects in all of baseball thanks to using their past two first-round picks on Aaron Hicks and Gibson, dropping a record bonus on Sano, and Wilson Ramos' continued progress.

On the other hand the second half of this year's top 40 seems weaker than previous versions, although certainly that's a tough thing to accurately gauge. Of course, if given the choice strong in top-end talent and weak in mid-level depth is clearly preferable to the opposite and the potential shift in organizational strategy is a positive one. Taking more chances and spending more money on high-upside prospects is absolutely the way to go for a team that may never out-spend the big boys for major-league talent.

As an organization the Twins have long thrived at churning out potential mid-rotation starters, but it now appears to be a relative weakness within the system and instead their minors are flush with outfielders (Hicks, Ben Revere, Angel Morales, Rene Tosoni, Chris Parmelee, Joe Benson, Kepler) and relievers (Bullock, Carlos Gutierrez, Anthony Slama, Alex Burnett, Rob Delaney). However, some things never change and they still haven't figured out how to develop middle infielders who can field and hit.

Sano was officially signed as a shortstop, but has about as much chance of reaching the majors at the position as I do and may not even stick in the infield once his 6-foot-3 frame fills out (sadly my 6-foot-2 frame has already filled out too much). And after that the best SS/2B prospects are Trevor Plouffe (27), Reggie Williams (29), Estarlin De Los Santos (30), and Derek McCallum (31). I've blogged about the Twins and their prospects since 2002, and young infielders have been a weakness the entire time.

Last year at this time I described the Twins' system as "right in the middle of the pack" amongst all 30 teams, but they're now safely in the upper half and probably in the 10-12 range. With that said, the main problem with making those team-to-team comparisons is that young non-prospects get totally ignored. In other words, 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 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 their MLB-defined rookie eligibility. For instance, had Swarzak thrown just nine fewer innings last year he'd be eligible for this list, but his long-term potential doesn't change because he's absent from the top 40. With all that in mind, here's an organization-wide view of key Twins who're 29 years old or younger, including both prospects and non-prospects:

Joe Mauer, 27              Justin Morneau, 29         Denard Span, 26
Wilson Ramos, 22           Jason Kubel, 28            Aaron Hicks, 20
Jose Morales, 27           Delmon Young, 24           Ben Revere, 22
Danny Rams, 21             Rene Tosoni, 23            Angel Morales, 20
Josmil Pinto, 21           Chris Parmelee, 22         Joe Benson, 22
                           Chris Herrmann, 22         Max Kepler, 17

SECOND BASE:               SHORTSTOP:                 THIRD BASE:
Alexi Casilla, 26          J.J. Hardy, 27             Brendan Harris, 29
Matt Tolbert, 28           Miguel Angel Sano, 17      Danny Valencia, 25
Reggie Williams, 22        Trevor Plouffe, 24         Luke Hughes, 25
Derek McCallum, 22         E. De Los Santos, 23       Anderson Hidalgo, 21

RH STARTER:                LH STARTER:                RELIEVER:
Scott Baker, 28            Francisco Liriano, 26      Pat Neshek, 29
Kevin Slowey, 26           Glen Perkins, 27           Jose Mijares, 25
Nick Blackburn, 28         Brian Duensing, 27         Jesse Crain, 28
Anthony Swarzak, 24        Matthew Bashore, 22        Billy Bullock, 22
Kyle Gibson, 22            Tyler Robertson, 22        Carlos Gutierrez, 23
David Bromberg, 22                                    Anthony Slama, 26
Adrian Salcedo, 19                                    Alex Burnett, 22
Jeff Manship, 25                                      Robert Delaney, 25
B.J. Hermsen, 20                                      Ben Tootle, 22
Deolis Guerra, 21                                     Loek Van Mil, 25
Shooter Hunt, 23                                      Joe Testa, 24

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

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