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

February 25, 2011

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2011: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Also in this series: 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40.

5. Alex Wimmers | Starter | DOB: 11/88 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2010-1

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2010     A+      4      4     0.57      15.2       6      0      23      5

Prior to the Twins taking him with the 21st overall pick in last June's draft Alex Wimmers won back-to-back Big Ten conference pitcher of the year awards at Ohio State by going 9-2 with a 3.27 ERA as a sophomore and 9-0 with a 1.60 ERA as a junior. He perfectly fits into the Twins' preferred pitching mold as a strike-thrower with strong off-speed stuff, but the 6-foot-2 right-hander is hardly a finesse pitcher and racked up 273 strikeouts in 216 innings at OSU.

Wimmers lived up to his pre-draft billing as one of the year's most advanced pitching prospects by jumping all the way to high Single-A after signing for $1.33 million about a week before the deadline. Despite taking two months off between OSU and his pro debut he went 2-0 with a 0.57 ERA and 23-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in four starts at Fort Myers, including five no-hit innings in his third outing.

He likely doesn't have as much long-term upside as fellow first rounder and college righty Kyle Gibson, but Wimmers figures to move quickly through the Twins' system and could be in the mix as a middle-of-the-rotation starter as soon as 2012. His fastball clocks in at 88-92 miles per hour, but Wimmers has drawn more praise for his outstanding changeup and John Manuel of Baseball America called him "the closest thing to Brad Radke in this draft."

4. Tsuyoshi Nishioka | Shortstop | DOB: 7/84 | Bats: Switch | Sign: Japan

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     JPN    522     .300     .357     .463     13     45     36     68
2009     JPN    531     .260     .360     .427     14     43     67     76
2010     JPN    690     .346     .423     .482     11     51     76

Tsuyoshi Nishioka is a 26-year-old veteran of seven seasons in Japan, but for the purposes of these rankings he's a "prospect" by virtue of Rookie of the Year eligibility. By out-bidding the 29 other MLB teams the Twins secured Nishioka's exclusive negotiating rights for a $5.3 million "posting fee" and then signed him to a three-year, $9.25 million deal with an option for 2014, making the total commitment either $14.5 million for three years or $18.3 million for four years.

Nishioka hit .346 to win the batting title last season, but that was fueled by an unsustainably amazing .395 mark on balls in play and he came into the year as a career .280 hitter. Based on his track record the Twins should be happy if Nishioka can bat around .275 while maintaining the solid plate discipline he showed in Japan. He's unlikely to have much pop, as even sluggers in Japan have seen their power vanish in MLB and Nishioka's career-high there is 14 homers.

He stole 32 bases per 150 games in Japan and won their equivalent of a Gold Glove award at both shortstop and second base, but the Twins will take a look at him in spring training before deciding which of Orlando Hudson or J.J. Hardy he'll replace in the middle infield. His defense and base-running will be key, because as a hitter Nishioka projects to be similar to Hudson or Jason Bartlett as a .275/.335/.375-type bat Ron Gardenhire will likely slot into the No. 2 hole.

3. Miguel Sano | Third Base | DOB: 5/93 | Bats: Right | Sign: Dominican

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2010     DSL     80     .344     .463     .547      3      6     14     17
         RK-    161     .291     .338     .466      4     18     10     43

Miguel Sano was considered one of the top hitting prospects ever produced by the Dominican Republic when he signed with the Twins as a 16-year-old in late 2009 for a $3.15 million bonus that ranked second all time for a Latin American prospect outside of Cuba. His pro debut didn't disappoint, as Sano crushed summer league pitching and then moved up to rookie-ball, where he joined stud Yankees prospect Gary Sanchez as the only 17-year-olds to top an .800 OPS.

He struggled to control the strike zone in the Gulf Coast League, but the average pitcher there was three years older than Sano and swinging at everything is to be expected given his age and inexperience. Plus, it's just tough to find any fault in a 17-year-old hitting .307/.379/.491 while being pushed aggressively in his pro debut. Sano is years away from entering the Twins' plans even if everything goes well, but the first step was a good one and his upside is huge.

Sano was signed as a shortstop and saw about one-third of his action there last year, but no one seems to believe he has any chance of sticking at the position once his 6-foot-3 frame fills out and there's even some doubt about whether he'll be able to handle third base once he's an adult. Ultimately position and defensive value are a secondary concern, because Sano's bat is what makes him a special prospect, but it'd sure be nice to have a slugging infielder in 2015.

2. Aaron Hicks | Center Field | DOB: 10/89 | Bats: Switch | Draft: 2008-1

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     RK     204     .318     .409     .491      4     18     28     32
2009     A-     297     .251     .353     .382      4     22     40     55
2010     A-     518     .279     .401     .428      8     41     88    112

After a somewhat disappointing full-season debut as a 19-year-old at Beloit in 2009 the Twins had Aaron Hicks repeat low Single-A last season and the 2008 first-round pick responded by upping his OPS by 100 points. He's yet to show the power many projected coming out of high school, which combined with a high strikeout rate and .279 batting average makes for modest-looking production, but Hicks' plate discipline is incredible for such a young, toolsy player.

Hicks drew 88 walks and posted a .401 on-base percentage in 115 games. No other prospect in the Twins' system topped 60 walks or a .375 OBP and by comparison Delmon Young had a grand total of 85 non-intentional walks in 353 games as a minor leaguer. And it wasn't a fluke, as Hicks drew 68 walks in 112 games through his first two seasons.  For someone who'll play the entire 2011 season at age 21 that's a remarkable and crucial skill around which to build.

As for everything else, Hicks is largely still learning how to turn his immense physical tools into actual baseball skills, but he has 20-steal speed with the range to be a standout center fielder and an arm that had most teams targeting him as a pitcher. If the power arrives or he can cut down on the strikeouts--both of which can perhaps be accomplished if the switch-hitter ditches a few walks for more overall aggression--Hicks has a chance to be a special all-around player.

1. Kyle Gibson | Starter | DOB: 10/87 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2009-1

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2010     A+      7      7     1.87      43.1      33      2      40     12
         AA     16     16     3.68      93.0      91      5      77     22
         AAA     3      3     1.72      15.2      12      0       9      5

Kyle Gibson starred at the University of Missouri and was widely considered top-10 talent, but fell to the Twins with the 22nd overall pick in the 2009 draft when a late-season dip in velocity led to the discovery a stress fracture in his forearm. It proved to be a minor injury and Gibson signed for an above-slot bonus of $1.85 million literally moments before the deadline, delaying his pro debut until 2010.

He was aggressively assigned right to high Single-A, where a 1.87 ERA and 40-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 43 innings earned a speedy promotion to Double-A. Gibson posted a 3.68 ERA and 77/22 K/BB ratio in 93 innings there and moved up to his third level of the season in time to make three starts at Triple-A. He finished with a 3.04 ERA, .245 opponents' batting average, and 118/36 K/BB ratio in 142 innings overall as a 22-year-old in his first pro season.

Gibson's low-90s fastball isn't overpowering and his 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings are modest for a top prospect, but his control is excellent and he allowed just seven homers in 152 innings while inducing 56 percent ground balls. Unspectacular velocity and the lack of missed bats may keep Gibson from having true No. 1 starter upside, but he looks capable of developing into a strong No. 2 starter and could be MLB-ready by the All-Star break.

February 23, 2011

Twins Notes: Morneau, Liriano, Gardenhire, Nishioka, Slama, and Punto

Justin Morneau arrived at spring training Monday and spoke extensively about his status to the reporters on hand, saying he's made a lot of recent progress in his recovery from a July 7 concussion but remains less than 100 percent healthy nearly eight months after taking a John McDonald knee to the helmet while trying to break up a double play. He's been cleared to fully participate in workouts and took batting practice yesterday, which qualifies as a big step.

However, the Twins have indicated that he's likely to sit out at least the first two weeks of the exhibition schedule and when asked about a timetable for game action Morneau replied: "We'll find out over the next week or so." In other words he still has plenty of hurdles to clear before anyone should feel confident about Morneau being in the Opening Day lineup. We're six weeks away from that, but he's still not totally symptom-free eight months after injuring his brain.

Francisco Liriano was scratched from his first scheduled throwing session of spring training last week because of shoulder soreness, but an MRI exam revealed no structural damage and he had a problem-free bullpen session yesterday. Pitching coach Rick Anderson blamed that early soreness on Liriano failing to follow his team-recommended offseason workout program, which is certainly the type of thing that adds to the Twins' skepticism about his future value.

UPDATE: And now the Twins announced Carl Pavano, not Liriano, as the Opening Day starter.

• Twinkie Town editor-in-chief Jesse Lund conducted a lengthy interview with Rob Antony in which the Twins assistant general manager gave lots of interesting, detailed answers covering a wide range of topics. Kudos to Lund for asking strong questions and to Antony for being so generous with his time. Good stuff.

Rob Kuhn of MiLB.com has a good interview with Billy Bullock, who ranked 10th on my list of the Twins' top prospects for the second straight season.

• Speaking of top prospects, Kelly Thesier of MLB.com wrote a nice feature article about Twins scouting director Deron Johnson.

• Johnson and the scouting department recently added two international pitching prospects by signing 17-year-old Felix Jorge from the Dominican Republic and 19-year-old Markus Solbach from Germany. Ben Badler of Baseball America has video of Jorge in action and reports that the 6-foot-4, 175-pound right-hander "has an 88-91 mph fastball that has touched 92 ... a good delivery, a loose arm, and shows feel for spinning a solid curveball." He signed for $250,000.

Solbach spent four years in the United States as a kid and has been pitching in Australia, with international scouting director Howard Norsetter calling the righty "a projectable talent" with "good arm action and a chance of throwing the ball consistently hard with decent breaking stuff" out of his 6-foot-5 frame. Last year Norsetter and the Twins signed 16-year-old German outfielder Max Kepler for $800,000 and now he ranks 16th on my list of the team's prospects.

Ron Gardenhire never actually played for the Twins, spending his entire 285-game career with the Mets, but he did appear in a Twins uniform during spring training in 1987 and Edward Thoma of the Mankato Free Press discovered video evidence of him striking out against Astros right-hander Julio Solano:

In addition to simply getting a look at skinny Gardenhire, the video is great because it features announcers John Rooney and Harmon Killebrew discussing Gardenhire, Al Newman, and Ron Washington being in a three-way battle for utility infielder. Newman beat out the two future managers, but went on to hit .221/.298/.303 in 349 plate appearances despite Rooney saying "he can do a lot of things." Gardenhire hit .272 with a .380 slugging percentage at Triple-A.

Denard Span introduced himself to Tsuyoshi Nishioka and "asked him how his English was." It turned out to be minor leaguer Ray Chang, whose English is fantastic because he was born in Missouri. And then Span tweeted about it.

• Speaking of Nishioka, this 1500ESPN.com video of him fielding ground balls is worth watching because he doesn't use his non-glove hand at all. Presumably the Twins were well aware of his fielding mechanics when they signed him, but I can't imagine the coaching staff letting that go without some tweaks.

• Nishioka was also the subject of a New York Times article by Brad Lefton.

• After retiring former Twins catcher/designated hitter Matthew LeCroy took a job managing in the Nationals' minor-league system and has been promoted from low Single-A to high Single-A, where he may work with No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper at some point this year.

Nick Blackburn is the latest in a long line of Twins players to perform horribly while trying to play through an injury. I'll never understand why so many people view that as a positive thing.

Jim Mandelaro of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle explains why the Twins signed more minor-league veterans than usual this offseason.

Anthony Slama told Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com that he spent the offseason adding a cut fastball to his repertoire, which may help the right-hander fare better versus left-handed bats. Slama, who ranks 25th on my list of Twins prospects, will hopefully get an extended chance to show that his dominant minor-league numbers can equal big-league success.

• Remember all that stuff I wrote about how the Twins should have re-signed Nick Punto if he was willing to accept the bench role and $750,000 salary he got from the Cardinals? Well, now he's out 8-12 weeks following hernia surgery. Ouch.

• I may have to add this beauty to my bobblehead collection, which for now is limited to just Al Newman and Bill James.

• This might be the most Joe Mauer has talked, ever. And an important topic, too!

February 21, 2011

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2011: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6

Also in this series: 1-5, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40.

10. Billy Bullock | Reliever | DOB: 2/88 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2009-2

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     RK      7      0     1.23       7.1       3      0      10      1
         A-     26      0     2.73      26.1      25      0      35     12
2010     A+     28      0     3.62      37.1      39      2      45     19
         AA     30      0     3.44      36.2      34      3      60     24

Rarely have the Twins averted from drafting pitchers with superior command and control than raw stuff, but 2009 second rounder Billy Bullock was an obvious exception and so far at least the former University of Florida closer has lived up to his pre-draft billing as one of the highest-upside arms in the class. Bullock has a legitimate mid-90s fastball and even without much of an off-speed repertoire he's racked up an incredible 150 strikeouts in 108 pro innings.

All those missed bats have also come with 4.7 walks per nine innings, so his control will have to improve when Bullocks starts to face more advanced competition not so easily overpowered with pure velocity. On the other hand he had no trouble dominating Double-A hitters following a midseason promotion last year, striking out 60 batters in 37 innings and posting a 3.44 ERA despite 5.9 walks per nine frames. He doesn't know where it's going but it's getting there fast.

Bullock has been used as a closer in the minors, accumulating 38 saves and finishing 79 games in 91 total appearances, and with a bit more refinement he certainly projects as a ninth-inning possibility in Minnesota some day. He's been promoted aggressively by the Twins despite the awful control, reaching low Single-A shortly after signing for $533,000 and finishing his first full season in Double-A at age 22, so with a few more strikes Bullock could arrive in a hurry.

9. Adrian Salcedo | Starter | DOB: 4/91 | Throws: Right | Sign: Dominican

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2008     DSL    12     12     1.65      65.1      47      1      50      8
2009     RK-    11     10     1.46      61.2      60      1      58      3
2010     RK+    16      8     3.27      66.0      55      3      65     10
         A+      6      6     6.26      27.1      42      3      16      8

Adrian Salcedo signed with the Twins out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old in 2007 and made his pro debut in 2008 by dominating the Dominican summer league with a 1.65 ERA, .198 opponents' batting average, and 50-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 65 innings. He moved up to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2009 and the skinny, 6-foot-4 right-hander posted more video game-like numbers with a 1.46 ERA and 58/3 K/BB ratio in 62 innings.

Like many very young prospects Salcedo began last year in extended spring training and was slated for rookie-level Elizabethton once the short-season Appalachian League started up, but when injuries depleted Fort Myers' pitching staff the Twins surprisingly sent him all the way up to high Single-A. Not surprisingly for a 19-year-old facing Florida State League hitters 3-4 years his senior, Salcedo struggled with a 6.26 ERA in six starts before heading to Elizabethton.

Obviously the rough stretch at Fort Myers isn't a positive thing, but it's tough to blame Salcedo much for a poor 2010 performance at a level he may not have reached until 2012 under normal circumstances. And once he was back to facing guys his own age Salcedo resumed dominating with a 3.27 ERA and 65/10 K/BB ratio in 66 innings to finish the year on a high note. He'll likely begin this season at low Single-A and perhaps return to Fort Myers in the second half.

8. Liam Hendriks | Starter | DOB: 2/89 | Throws: Right | Sign: Australia

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     RK+     3      3     3.71      17.0      19      0      13      1
         A-     11     11     3.51      66.2      73      3      62     15
2010     A-      6      6     1.32      34.0      16      0      39      4
         A+     13     12     1.93      74.2      63      2      66      8

Liam Hendriks signed with the Twins out of Australia as an 18-year-old in 2007 and fared well at rookie-ball, but then missed all of 2008 and half of 2009 following knee and back surgeries. Hendriks didn't miss a beat when he finally returned to the mound, tossing 84 innings with a 3.55 ERA and 75-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio between rookie-ball and low Single-A, and then turned in by far the most impressive performance by any pitcher in the Twins' system last year.

Hendriks began the season back at low Single-A, where he had a 1.32 ERA and 39/4 K/BB ratio in six starts to earn a quick promotion to high Single-A. He missed some time at Fort Myers due to an appendectomy that also kept him from pitching in the Futures Game, but the 6-foot-1 right-hander still dominated Florida State League hitters with a 1.93 ERA and 66/8 K/BB ratio in 75 innings despite being one of the youngest starters in the league at age 21.

His overall numbers between the two levels were ridiculous, with a 1.74 ERA, .199 opponents' batting average, 105/12 K/BB ratio, and just two homers allowed in 109 innings. His raw stuff can't match that dominance, but Hendriks has excellent command of a five-pitch repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball. Performance-wise he's been nearly flawless, but with a grand total of 236 innings in four pro seasons staying healthy is key as he moves beyond the low minors.

7. Ben Revere | Center Field | DOB: 5/88 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2007-1

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     A-     374     .379     .433     .497      1     28     27     31
2009     A+     517     .311     .372     .369      2     19     40     34
2010     AA     406     .305     .371     .363      1     15     32     41

Ben Revere was initially thought to be done for the year when a pitch to the face fractured his right orbital bone in early August, but instead he rejoined the Double-A lineup and then made his unexpected MLB debut in September when the Twins put him on the 40-man roster after Ron Gardenhire requested some speed. Revere even drew a half-dozen starts in place of an injured Denard Span, but the 2007 first-round pick figures to spend most of 2011 at Triple-A.

Flirting with a .400 batting average at low Single-A in 2008 made it easy to overlook Revere's flaws, but his non-existent power and sub par plate discipline certainly stood out more during the past two seasons as he hit "only" .311 and .305. He managed just three homers, 34 total extra-base hits, and 72 walks in 215 games and 923 plate appearances during that time, and then hit .295 with a measly .330 slugging percentage in 28 games in the Arizona Fall League.

Great speed, few strikeouts, and a line-drive swing make Revere capable of hitting .300 in the majors, but even if he does a glaring lack of secondary skills would leave him with limited value offensively. An empty batting average works when joined by elite defense and base-stealing, but there are questions about Revere thriving in center field and he's yet to turn great speed into great success rates on the bases. Right now he looks like a poor man's Juan Pierre.

6. Joe Benson | Center Field | DOB: 3/88 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2006-2

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     A-     290     .248     .326     .382      4     23     24     73
2009     A+     327     .285     .414     .403      5     18     46     74
2010     A+      96     .294     .375     .588      4     16      8     21
         AA     423     .251     .336     .527     23     50     39    115

Joe Benson got off to a brutal start at Double-A last year, hitting .169 in April, but recovered to hit .283/.411/.609 during the first two weeks of May when the Twins demoted him to Single-A anyway. It was an odd move, as the Twins cited his strikeout total and poor batting average even though he'd been on fire for two weeks and led New Britain in OPS, but Benson took the demotion in stride and hit .294/.375/.588 with 16 extra-base hits in 21 games at Fort Myers.

That earned Benson a mid-June promotion back to Double-A, where he continued to crush the ball and finished with an .862 OPS that led the team by 127 points and was 18 percent above the Eastern League average. Combined between the two levels he hit .259/.343/.538 with 27 homers, 19 steals, and 66 total extra-base hits in 123 games. Benson had the highest OPS in the Twins' system by 52 points and topped the next-best Isolated Power by 37 percent.

Benson's power really stands out in a system where no other hitter had 20 homers or slugged .450, but controlling the strike zone remains a big issue. He struck out 136 times in 123 games and hit .251, both of which match his career marks. As a great athlete with plus speed and the range for center field he brings much more to the table than most low-average, high-strikeout guys, but before projecting him as a star Benson still has a lot to prove in his age-23 season.

February 18, 2011

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2011: 15, 14, 13, 12, 11

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40.

15. Pat Dean | Starter | DOB: 5/89 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2010-3

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2010     RK-     4      0     0.00       5.0       3      0       5      0
         RK+     5      5     2.59      24.1      17      3      32      1

Going into last year's draft Baseball America compared Boston College left-hander Pat Dean to Glen Perkins, so the Twins picking him in the third round may seem strange given how Perkins has fallen out of favor. Of course, Perkins was once a good college southpaw and first rounder himself, so the comparison is meant as a compliment. Dean followed up a standout sophomore season by struggling with injuries as a junior, but proved healthy after signing for $320,000.

He debuted in the Gulf Coast League and was quickly promoted one step up the ladder to the Appalachian League, combining for a 2.15 ERA and remarkable 37-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 29 innings between the two levels of rookie-ball. Dean also showed pinpoint control at BC, walking just 30 batters in 173 innings as a starter, and the 6-foot-1 southpaw is also capable of missing bats with a four-pitch repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball and plus changeup.

As an experienced college starter who faced quality competition in a top conference and then breezed through rookie-ball lineups Dean figures to move quickly through the Twins' system. Much like Perkins he doesn't project as a top-of-the-rotation guy, but Dean has mid-rotation upside and can hopefully keep the comparison going by developing into the pre-2009 version of Perkins who began his career 12-4 with a 4.13 ERA in 185 innings.

14. Rene Tosoni | Right Field | DOB: 7/86 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2005-36

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     A+     170     .300     .408     .414      1     11     21     30
2009     AA     490     .271     .360     .454     15     44     45     98
2010     AA     219     .270     .369     .422      4     16     25     52

Rene Tosoni had a strong 2009, batting .271/.360/.454 in 122 games at Double-A and winning MVP honors in the Futures Game during the All-Star break, yet the Twins sent him back to New Britain to begin last season. He got off to a solid start, basically duplicating his 2009 numbers with a bit less power through 52 games while repeating the level, but then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in June that required surgery.

Between repeating Double-A and shoulder surgery Tosoni's chances of reaching the majors in 2011 took a hit, but he could still get to Minnesota in the second half after being added to the 40-man roster this winter. His production in the minors has been solid rather than spectacular, as the former 36th-round pick from Canada has consistently been above average at each stop without really flashing any standout skills.

He's hit .270/.363/.444 with 19 homers and a 150-to-70 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 174 games at Double-A and turns 25 years old in July, so Tosoni projects as more of a platoon starter or fourth outfielder than everyday player unless his glove proves to be a major asset. He's spent some time in center field, but most of his action has come as a right fielder. If he bounces back well at Rochester he could be in line to replace Jason Kubel or Michael Cuddyer in 2012.

13. David Bromberg | Starter | DOB: 9/87 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2005-32

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2008     A-     27     27     4.44     150.0     149     10     177     54
2009     A+     27     26     2.70     153.1     125      6     148     63
2010     AA     17     17     3.62      99.1     105      4      65     35
         AAA     9      9     3.98      52.0      47      9      47     13

David Bromberg was named Twins' minor league pitcher of the year in 2009 after going 13-4 with a 2.70 ERA at high Single-A while leading his league in strikeouts for a third straight year, but he made the jump to the high minors last year and struggled to miss bats with just 112 strikeouts in 151 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. As he's climbed up the minor-league ladder Bromberg's yearly strikeouts per nine innings have dipped from 10.6 to 8.7 to 6.7.

His control has also improved while the strikeouts have declined, but with 48 walks and 10 hit batters in 151 innings last year Bromberg's command is hardly a strength. He's done a nice job keeping the ballpark in the ballpark, allowing just 13 homers in 151 innings last season and a total of 35 long balls in 564 career frames, but that will be nearly impossible to maintain given that Bromberg has proven to be an extreme fly-ball pitcher.

Bromberg has a pitcher of the year award and track record full of low-minors success, making it easy to assume he's a top-notch prospect. However, the numbers show a fly-baller with so-so control and a declining, mediocre strikeout rate, which isn't a common recipe for success. He's certainly a solid prospect and simply holding his own at Double-A and Triple-A as a 22-year-old was a plus, but Bromberg's upside is in more question than his name recognition suggests.

12. Oswaldo Arcia | Right Field | DOB: 5/91 | Bats: Left | Sign: Venezuela

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     DSL    248     .293     .343     .432      4     20     16     27
2009     RK-    187     .275     .337     .455      5     18     15     18
2010     RK+    283     .375     .424     .672     14     42     19     67

Oswaldo Arcia was the Twins' breakout prospect of 2010 with a monstrous half-season in the rookie-level Appalachian League, batting .375 with 14 homers and 42 total extra-base hits in 64 games. History is filled with hitting prospects who knocked around rookie-ball pitching only to flame out against tougher competition, but even keeping that in mind the degree to which the 19-year-old Venezuelan stood out is incredible.

Arcia had an amazing .375/.424/.672 line in a pitcher-friendly league that hit just .258 with a .384 slugging percentage overall, leading in batting average by 52 points, on-base percentage by 44 points, slugging percentage by 62 points, and OPS by 122 points. He hit .398 off righties and .330 off lefties, won the sabermetric triple crown, finished just three homers short of the traditional triple crown, and not surprisingly won Appalachian League player of the year.

Despite that remarkable production he did a poor job controlling the strike zone, and while not being patient enough to walk much is excusable from a teenager hitting .375 his 67 strikeouts in 259 at-bats are a potential red flag. Arcia split time between center field and right field for Elizabethton, but profiles as a corner outfielder long term. He'll move up to low Single-A for his full-season debut and could have an impressive year at Beloit even if his OPS falls 300 points.

11. Angel Morales | Center Field | DOB: 11/89 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2007-3

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     RK     218     .301     .413     .623     15     28     26     72
2009     A-     418     .266     .329     .455     13     40     30    104
2010     A-     247     .289     .381     .474      4     24     24     65
         A+     301     .272     .347     .349      1     15     28     75

Angel Morales was the Twins' third-round pick in 2007 out of Puerto Rico and had an Arcia-like half-season at Elizabethton in 2008, batting .301/.413/.623 with 15 homers in 54 games as an 18-year-old. Amid those monster numbers Morales struggled to make consistent contact and his shaky strike-zone control has been exposed further as he's moved up the ladder, although he hit .274/.348/.462 in 175 games at low Single-A despite a 169-to-54 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Morales was asked to repeat low Single-A last season and improved his production the second time around, but then saw his power vanish following a midseason promotion to high Single-A. It was a solid season overall, as Morales hit .280 with 29 steals in 133 total games between the two levels and upped his walk rate by 30 percent, drawing 52 free passes in 513 plate appearances. The bad news is that he struck out 140 times while managing just five homers.

Through four seasons Morales has shown big power, good plate discipline, the ability to hit for a nice batting average, and 30-steal speed, but he's yet to put all those skills together at the same time and the only constant has been the strikeouts. He's still just 21 years old and will have strong defensive value whether he winds up in center field or a corner spot and the star potential is still there even if the flaws have become more prominent since his rookie-ball days.

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