February 13, 2012

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2012: 40, 39, 38, 37, 36

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35.

40. Kyle Waldrop | Reliever | DOB: 10/85 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2004-1

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     A+     20      0     3.09      35.0      43      0      20      7
         AA     31      0     1.46      55.2      51      2      30     18
2010     AAA    59      0     2.57      87.2      89      5      60     20
2011     AAA    56      0     3.87      79.0      84      7      44     18

Kyle Waldrop wasn't added to the 40-man roster following a standout season at Triple-A in 2010. He went unpicked in the Rule 5 draft that winter, returned to Rochester, had a worse season in nearly every possible way, and was added to the 40-man roster and called up in September. That doesn't make a ton of sense, even considering the Twins' injury wrecked roster last season, but does suggest that they view him as a potentially useful bullpen option.

Waldrop was a first-round pick back in 2004, shifted to the bullpen following shoulder surgery in 2008, and is already 26 years old, so there isn't much upside beyond what he's shown already. And that hasn't been particularly impressive, as his fastball typically resides in the high-80s and he's managed just 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings at Triple-A. That includes a measly 44 strikeouts in 79 innings there last season.

What he does well is throw strikes and keep the ball on the ground, which could be enough to make Waldrop a decent middle reliever if he can keep his strikeout rate from falling further against big leaguers. He induced 65 percent grounders in two years at Triple-A and anything above 55 percent in the majors qualifies someone as an extreme ground-ball pitcher. Waldrop will compete for a low-leverage role this spring and should get a chance to sink or swim soon.

39. Anderson Hidalgo | Third Base | DOB: 9/88 | Bats: Right | Sign: Venezuela

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2009     RK+    205     .291     .379     .469      6     19     25     38
2010     A-     315     .316     .375     .443      3     29     24     50
2011     A+     384     .274     .332     .395      6     29     27     65

Anderson Hidalgo's quest to become one of the shortest third basemen in big-league history at 5-foot-9 hit a snag last season, as he followed up a strong showing at low Single-A in 2010 by losing 100 points of OPS in the move to high Single-A. His raw totals were better than they look because the Florida State League as a whole slugged .386, but with just six homers and 29 total extra-base hits in 100 games his Isolated Power was slightly below league average.

Hidalgo got away with the lack of power in the past because he hit at least .290 in each of his first five professional stops, but his batting average dropped to .274 last season. Maintaining similar strikeout and walk rates suggest that Hidalgo wasn't overmatched at high Single-A, but then again he didn't make tons of contact or draw a bunch of walks to begin with. At age 23 there's still time for Hidalgo to develop, but his low-minors success no longer means much.

Among active big leaguers listed at 5-foot-10 or shorter only Placido Polanco, Chone Figgins, Nick Punto, Maicer Izturis, and Alberto Callaspo have 250-plus games at third base. Hidalgo lacks the speed and defensive chops to seamlessly fit into that group, but coincidentally or not his offensive upside could be pretty close. Polanco is the high end, Punto is the low end, and somewhere in the middle would be hitting around .275 with doubles power and a .725 OPS.

38. Dereck Rodriguez | Center Field | DOB: 6/92 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2011-6

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2011     RK-     98     .156     .216     .200      0      4      5     35

Named after his future Hall of Famer father, Ivan Rodriguez, junior goes by Dereck Rodriguez and was the Twins' sixth-round pick last year out of a Florida high school. Pudge is still trying to stick around at age 40 for a 22nd season in the majors, but he won't be able to hang on until his son is ready to join him. Dereck made his pro debut in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and hit just .156 with zero homers and 35 strikeouts in 29 games.

While his MVP-winning father is one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, Rodriguez is an outfielder who saw time in all three spots during his debut. He does have his dad's arm, but he'll be trying to gun down runners at the plate instead of trying to throw them out from behind it. If he sticks as a position player, that is. Before the draft there was talk of some teams preferring Rodriguez as a pitcher because they liked his arm and questioned his bat.

For now there's no talk of the Twins encouraging a switch to the mound, but Rodriguez will have to show that he can hit following such an ugly--and albeit brief--debut at the plate. Rodriguez is 6-foot-1, but just 175 pounds and won't be 20 years old until June. Of course, by the time Ivan was 20 years old he was already in his second season as the Rangers' starting catcher, made his first of 16 All-Star teams, and won his first of 13 Gold Gloves. Good luck, kid.

37. JaDamion Williams | Right Field | DOB: 11/90 | Bats: Switch | Draft: 2010-10

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2010     RK-    124     .214     .279     .295      1      6     10     43
2011     RK+    212     .324     .406     .465      4     17     25     58

He was all tools and projection when the Twins took him out of a Florida high school in the 10th round of the 2010 draft, but JaDamion Williams showed last season that there's also a good baseball player beneath all the speed and athleticism. He struggled in his pro debut, hitting just .214 while playing primarily second base in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, but switched to the outfield while moving up to rookie-level Elizabethton last season and thrived.

He batted .317 with 17 extra-base hits, 25 walks, and 10 steals in 50 games, joining Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario in an Elizabethton lineup that scored six runs per game. Williams struck out too much, whiffing 58 times in 212 plate appearances, and the move to right field means he'll have to keep putting up big numbers offensively to make a significant impact, but as a toolsy 21-year-old that's certainly within reach.

Williams still hasn't faced full-season competition yet, so expectations should be held in check, but he'll make the jump to Beloit this year and is definitely someone to keep an eye on when checking low-minors boxscores. It'll be interesting to see if the Twins have completely given up on the idea of him playing the infield, because being even a passable option at second base or third base would dramatically alter his upside.

36. Tyler Robertson | Reliever | DOB: 12/87 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2006-3

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     A+     26     26     3.33     143.1     139      7     103     51
2010     AA     27     27     5.41     144.2     181     17      91     57
2011     AA     55      0     3.61      89.2      87      6      88     29

In the low minors Tyler Robertson looked like a future mid-rotation starter, but his strikeout rate deteriorated as he moved up the organizational ladder and injuries further pushed him off course, leading to the Twins shifting the 2006 third-round pick to the bullpen at Double-A last season. At the same level the previous season Robertson got knocked around for a 5.41 ERA and .308 opponents' batting average, but he performed like a totally different pitcher in relief.

Robertson appeared in 55 games and logged 90 innings with a 3.61 ERA and .252 opponents' average, inducing two ground balls per fly ball. He also had nearly as many strikeouts (88) in 90 innings as he did (91) in 145 innings as a starter, including a 41-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35 second-half innings. In one year repeating Double-A he went from an afterthought left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft as a starter to added to the 40-man roster as a reliever.

However, while that's plenty encouraging Robertson's upside is still limited by mediocre control and underwhelming velocity. Those weaknesses are muted somewhat as a reliever, especially when spotted mostly against left-handed batters, but Robertson is far more likely to develop into a useful situational southpaw than an impact setup man. Hanging on to last year's success while moving up to Triple-A could put him in the Twins' bullpen mix by the second half.

February 7, 2011

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2011: 30, 29, 28, 27, 26

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 31-35, 36-40.

30. Nate Roberts | Left Field | DOB: 2/89 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2010-5

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2010     RK+    153     .336     .444     .547      5     16     21     29

Taken by the Rays in the 48th round of the 2009 draft after leading his junior college team to a national title, Nate Roberts opted against signing and headed to High Point University, where a monstrous junior season led to the Twins picking him in the fifth round last June. Roberts hit .416 with 19 homers and 36 steals in 56 games, leading the country in on-base percentage (.573) and runs (88) while taking home Big South conference player of the year honors.

Despite that spectacular production Baseball America's pre-draft report on Roberts noted that "scouts were concerned that he lacks a standout tool and for some teams he was considered more of a senior sign" than a junior worth drafting as high as the fifth round. That may still prove true, of course, but so far so good as Roberts debuted at rookie-level Elizabethon after signing for $150,000 and hit .336/.444/.547 with five homers and five steals in 35 games.

Thanks to great plate discipline and pitchers being scared of him Roberts drew 53 walks in 56 games at High Point and was also hit by a remarkable 25 pitches so not surprisingly he led the Appalachian League in on-base percentage and ranked 12th in walks despite playing only 35 of a possible 65 games. Dominating in a lower-level college conference and then beating up on rookie-ball pitchers hardly guarantees future success, but it does make Roberts very intriguing.

29. Dakota Watts | Reliever | DOB: 11/87 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2009-16

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     RK-     6      0     0.00       9.1       1      0      10      3
         RK+    10      0     2.70      13.1       9      0      12     12
         A+      5      0    14.85       6.2      10      0       6     10
2010     A-     30      0     2.31      46.2      31      2      55     30
         A+     17      0     3.19      31.0      26      2      29     12
         AA      2      0    12.27       3.2       4      0       5      2

Dakota Watts had a 3.65 ERA and 68-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 67 innings spread over 12 starts as a junior at Cal-State Stanislaus and the Twins picked him in the 16th round of the 2009 draft, shifting the 6-foot-5 right-hander to the bullpen. Watts hasn't stayed very long at any one place, spending time at five different levels despite logging a grand total of just 111 pro innings in less than two full seasons, and reached Double-A at age 22.

His overall performance has been strong, with a 3.50 ERA and 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings, but Watts' numbers would look a whole lot better if not for being clobbered in a pair of brief but ugly stints as part of his frequent level changes. Between his five outings at high Single-A in 2009 and two appearances at Double-A last season he allowed 17 runs in 10.2 innings. In his other 63 games Watts has allowed 29 runs in 100 innings, which works out to a 2.60 ERA.

Watts will definitely need to dramatically improve his control at some point, as he's handed out 5.6 walks per nine innings, but he's missed a ton of bats with a mid-90s fastball that Baseball America ranks as the best in the Twins' system and projects as a potential late-inning reliever if things break right. If nothing else he's worth keeping an eye on as one of the rare pitching prospects not to fit the Twins' preferred mold and is capable of approaching triple-digit heat.

28. Anderson Hidalgo | Third Base | DOB: 9/88 | Bats: Right | Sign: Venezuela

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     RK-    107     .364     .453     .466      1      7     15     13
2009     RK+    205     .291     .379     .469      6     19     25     38
2010     A-     315     .316     .375     .443      3     29     24     50

After putting up impressive numbers in the Venezuelan summer league and rookie-ball during his first four pro seasons Anderson Hidalgo moved up to full-season ball last year and hit .316 with 29 extra-base hits in 81 games at low Single-A before missing the final two months with a fractured right forearm. He had the third-best OPS in the Beloit lineup behind Angel Morales and Aaron Hicks, and only 21 players in the entire Midwest League topped his .818 mark.

He hasn't shown a ton of home run power yet, but Hidalgo has batted at least .290 in each of his five professional stops while showing decent plate discipline and control of the strike zone for a young hitter and averaging 40 doubles per 550 at-bats. As a 21-year-old at low Single-A last season his overall production was 15 percent above the Midwest League average and in 2009 he was 20 percent above average in the rookie-level Appalachian League.

Hidalgo isn't close to the big leagues despite being signed out of Venezuela way back in 2006, but he's consistently thrived versus low-level competition and potentially could reach Double-A by the end of this season if he continues to play well. Hidalgo has played exclusively third base in the past two years, which is interesting since he's 5-foot-9 and only two active big leaguers 5-foot-10 or shorter have even 300 games at third base: Chone Figgins and Placido Polanco.

27. Kane Holbrooks | Reliever | DOB: 6/87 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2009-21

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     RK+    17      1     5.04      25.0      33      0      29     12
2010     A-     33      2     1.67      54.0      47      2      71     13
         A+      8      7     2.27      43.2      37      2      36     15

In the span of just 18 months Kane Holbrooks went from being a 21st-round pick out of Texas State University to solidly on the prospect map following a breakout 2010 season that saw him begin the year at low Single-A and end it at Double-A while posting a 2.10 ERA and 110-to-29 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 103 innings. Statistically he had the third-best season of any pitcher in the Twins system with at least 100 innings, behind only Liam Hendriks and Kyle Gibson.

Holbrooks has racked up 139 strikeouts in 128 pro innings, which is remarkable for someone who didn't miss many bats in college. As a senior at Texas State he went 10-1 with a 3.29 ERA in 16 starts, but Kolbrooks managed just 57 strikeouts in 101 innings. He's nearly doubled that strikeout rate as a pro and has the raw stuff to match, as the 6-foot-3 right-hander's fastball was regularly clocked in the mid-90s while he split time between the rotation and bullpen.

He was used primarily as a reliever prior to arriving at high Single-A in the second half and to stick as a starter Holbrooks needs to develop his offspeed offerings, but Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff told Phil Miller of Baseball America that his fastball "is a tent stick that can be a foundation for a good career" and also noted he "got our attention" and "is in our plans now" even if "we might not have had high expectations when we drafted him."

26. Eddie Rosario | Center Field | DOB: 9/91 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2010-4

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2010     RK-    213     .294     .343     .438      5     16     16     28

Selected in the fourth round of last year's draft, Eddie Rosario was born in Puerto Rico on the same day the Twins clinched the division title on the way to the World Series in 1991. Prior to the draft Baseball America called Rosario "the best pure hitter on the island" and compared him to Bobby Abreu for his "sound approach at the plate" and solid left-handed bat. He signed for $200,000 and debuted impressively in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

Rosario batted .294, drew a fair number of walks, showed some pop with 16 extra-base hits in 194 at-bats, and swiped 22 bases in 51 games. Those raw numbers aren't jaw-dropping, but he topped the GCL average by 111 points of OPS as an 18-year-old and also saw most of his action in center field, although the consensus seems to be that Rosario will eventually move to a corner spot full time once his six-foot, 170-pound frame fills out.

While not quite a success story yet Angel Morales has developed into one of the Twins' best outfield prospects since they nabbed him out of Puerto Rico in the third round back in 2007, so hopefully Rosario can follow a similarly methodical path to top prospect status. He's a long way from the majors and may not even get his first crack at full-season competition until 2012, but Rosario is definitely among the low-minors hitters worth keeping an eye on.