February 28, 2011

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2011: System Overview

Also in this series: 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 prospects concluded last week, so here's the complete list of 40 players along with links to each individual write-up and an overview of the farm system as a whole:

 1. Kyle Gibson, SP               21. Manuel Soliman, SP
 2. Aaron Hicks, CF               22. B.J. Hermsen, SP
 3. Miguel Sano, 3B               23. Niko Goodrum, SS
 4. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS         24. James Beresford, SS
 5. Alex Wimmers, SP              25. Anthony Slama, RP
 6. Joe Benson, CF                26. Eddie Rosario, CF
 7. Ben Revere, CF                27. Kane Holbrooks, RP
 8. Liam Hendriks, SP             28. Anderson Hidalgo, 3B
 9. Adrian Salcedo, SP            29. Dakota Watts, RP
10. Billy Bullock, CF             30. Nate Roberts, LF
11. Angel Morales, CF             31. Martire Garcia, SP
12. Oswaldo Arcia, RF             32. Trevor Plouffe, SS
13. David Bromberg, SP            33. Luke Hughes, 3B
14. Rene Tosoni, RF               34. Deolis Guerra, SP
15. Pat Dean, SP                  35. Kyle Waldrop, RP
16. Max Kepler, CF                36. Scott Diamond, SP
17. Carlos Gutierrez, RP          37. Danny Rams, C
18. Alex Burnett, RP              38. Tyler Robertson, SP
19. Chris Parmelee, 1B            39. Lance Ray, RF
20. Tom Stuifbergen, SP           40. Matthew Bashore, SP

Danny Valencia and Jeff Manship were the only two players to graduate from last year's top 40 by exhausting their Rookie of the Year eligibility with the Twins, but Wilson Ramos, Robert Delaney, Jose Morales, Steve Tolleson, Loek Van Mil, and Joe Testa left the organization via trades or waivers. Joining the system since last year are Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Alex Wimmers, Pat Dean, Niko Goodrum, Eddie Rosario, Nate Roberts, Scott Diamond, and Lance Ray.

And other players join the top 40 for this year by virtue of stepping up their performance, chief among them Liam Hendriks and Oswaldo Arcia. In all the system hasn't changed dramatically since last year, but some strong drafts and intriguing international signings have added to the overall prospect depth and there's also more star potential than just a couple seasons ago, albeit largely in the form of players several years from possibly entering the Twins' plans.

It's still not an elite farm system--no Twins prospects cracked the top 25 at Baseball America or MLB.com and only Aaron Hicks ranked among the top 25 at ESPN.com--but they've built it back to solidly above average. Hicks, Kyle Gibson, and Miguel Sano each have strong arguments for being among the top 50 prospects across baseball and Nishioka, Wimmers, Joe Benson, and Ben Revere wouldn't be out of place in anyone's top 100.

For the most part the system's areas of strength haven't changed a ton, as the Twins remain deep in toolsy outfielders, strike-throwing starters, and middle relievers. They also continue to lack in middle infielders, high-upside bats, and power arms, although the additions of Nishioka, Sano, and Billy Bullock have addressed each of those areas somewhat. In both the draft and international market they've taken more chances recently and the results have been positive.

In terms of major-league readiness, Nishioka will be part of the Opening Day lineup, Gibson and Revere are the other members of the top 10 most likely to join him in Minnesota at some point this season, and Alex Burnett, Anthony Slama, and Scott Diamond may begin the year in the Twins' bullpen, with Carlos Gutierrez, Kyle Waldrop, and perhaps even Bullock getting into the relief mix later on. Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes are candidates for bench roles.

For most of the time I've been ranking Twins prospects their farm system has been underrated somewhat by the fact that they typically had multiple young, prospect-aged guys in prominent big-league roles, which eliminates them from "prospect" consideration without really changing their impact on the team's long-term outlook. That is no longer the case, as Delmon Young is the youngest Twins regular to exhaust his Rookie of the Year eligibility and he's 25 years old.

Most of the regulars are still under 30, so the Twins' nucleus is far from elderly, but they're just no longer prospect-aged and for once the top-40 list accurately represents the organization's young talent in a thorough way. With that said, here's how the system would look by blending the prospects in with the young veterans, resulting in the following 29-and-under depth chart for the Twins' entire organization:

CATCHER                  1B/CORNER OF             CENTER FIELD
Joe Mauer, 28            Delmon Young, 25         Denard Span, 27
Drew Butera, 27          Jason Kubel, 29          Aaron Hicks, 21
Danny Rams, 22           Oswaldo Arcia, 20        Joe Benson, 23
                         Rene Tosoni, 24          Ben Revere, 23
                         Chris Parmelee, 23       Angel Morales, 21
                         Nate Roberts, 22         Max Kepler, 18
                         Lance Ray, 21            Eddie Rosario, 19

SECOND BASE              SHORTSTOP                THIRD BASE
Alexi Casilla, 26        T. Nishioka, 27          Danny Valencia, 26
Matt Tolbert, 29         Niko Goodrum, 19         Miguel Sano, 18
Luke Hughes, 26          James Beresford, 22      Anderson Hidalgo, 22
                         Trevor Plouffe, 25

RH STARTER               LH STARTER               RELIEVER
Scott Baker, 29          Fran Liriano, 27         Matt Capps, 27
Kevin Slowey, 27         Brian Duensing, 28       Jose Mijares, 26
Nick Blackburn, 29       Glen Perkins, 28         Jim Hoey, 28
Jeff Manship, 26         Pat Dean, 22             Dusty Hughes, 29
Kyle Gibson, 23          Martire Garcia, 21       Billy Bullock, 23
Alex Wimmers, 22         Scott Diamond, 24        Carlos Gutierrez, 24
Liam Hendriks, 22        Matthew Bashore, 23      Alex Burnett, 23
Adrian Salcedo, 20                                Anthony Slama, 27
David Bromberg, 23                                Kane Holbrooks, 24
Tom Stuifbergen, 22                               Dakota Watts, 23
Manuel Soliman, 21                                Kyle Waldrop, 25
B.J. Hermsen, 21                                  Tyler Robertson, 23
Deolis Guerra, 22
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