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.

September 8, 2010

Twitter Mailbag: Answers

Last week I asked for mailbag questions submitted via Twitter, so here are about 1,200 words worth of me answering 140-character queries ...

@JosephKrueger: Of all the Twins' prospects, who are you most excited to see in the big leagues one day?

It seems like this question boils down to upside, so I'll pick Miguel Sano. He's been crushing the ball in the low minors at age 17 and is definitely much different than the usual hitters the Twins go after. Could be a bust, could be Miguel Cabrera, and we probably won't know either way for about five years.

@bertrecords: Should the Twins re-sign J.J. Hardy for 2011?

Technically they don't have to re-sign him because J.J. Hardy is under team control for 2011 as an arbitration eligible player, but whether or not to non-tender him is essentially the same question. Hardy's offense has been disappointing, he's struggled to stay healthy, and recently he's made some poor throws, but for the most part his defense has been outstanding and his .696 OPS is actually right around the position's MLB average of .699. I'd like to see him back.

@T_Charbonneau: What's a good place to check for Type A and Type B free agents as they stand right now?

MLB doesn't officially make that information public, but MLB Trade Rumors reverse-engineered the rating system and provides regular updates on everyone's status.

@hinkstar: Is Danny Valencia eligible for Rookie of the Year?

Yes. He'd never played in the majors before June.

@jwursu: I know minor-league success is the best predictor of long-term success, but are there exceptions who don't come back to earth?

There are absolutely exceptions, although for the most part track records prevail over the long haul, good and bad. Denard Span is an example of someone who drastically out-performed his minor-league track record in 2008 and 2009--leading to all sorts of speculation about why he was faring so much better--but unfortunately this season he's hit just like he did in the minors. There are plenty of exceptions, but you won't come out ahead betting on them.

@hubakin: If and when Justin Morneau returns, who do you see losing playing time?

It would make the most sense to sit Michael Cuddyer against right-handers and either Jason Kubel or Jim Thome against left-handers.

@ScottStenzel1: What do you think the Twins' contingency plan would be if Morneau still isn't ready to go next year?

When a player has a broken leg or a torn elbow ligament it's easy for a team to plan for their absence and find a replacement, but the incredibly unpredictable nature of concussions makes that pretty tough. Cuddyer, Kubel, and Delmon Young are all under contract for next season, so the Twins could potentially just try to re-sign Thome and trot out the same group they have been since Morneau went down. There are no real impact bats in the upper minors.

@MNTwinsGUFS: Who's your favorite current Twins player?

Probably either Joe Mauer or Thome.

@jstorlien: If Kyle Waldrop and Anthony Slama join the bullpen next year, which current relievers are most likely to be traded?

Overhauling the bullpen for next season wouldn't require any trades, because Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, and Brian Fuentes are all impending free agents.

@BobStutelberg: How did the White Sox let the Twins get Brian Fuentes?

Couple reasons. First and foremost, they spent $4 million claiming Manny Ramirez off waivers, so also claiming Fuentes and the $1.9 million left on his contract may not have been an option. Beyond that, Chicago's best reliever this season has been left-hander Matt Thornton and they added a second potentially dominant lefty by calling up this year's first-round pick, Chris Sale, who's been almost unhittable so far.

@Leb13: What happened with your weight loss?

Same thing that always happens. I drop a bunch of weight, stop eating right for a couple days thinking it'll be no big deal, and a month later I'm back to the old fatso routine. Pathetic, really.

@SixHoleMN: At what point is Brian Duensing's performance thus far likely indicative of future success?

This depends largely on how you view that "performance." Brian Duensing has posted a 2.80 ERA in 183 career innings, which is a huge change from his mediocre track record in the minors, but his xFIP is a far less spectacular 4.43. I continue to think he'll be a solid mid-rotation guy.

@brandonwarne52: Is Cuddyer overrated?

Definitely. Cuddyer makes $10 million per season and some people act as if he's in the running for team MVP, yet he's hitting .275/.340/.424 this year and has a career line of .270/.343/.452. His defense is overrated when people focus on his good arm instead of his poor range and his offense is overrated when people focus on his nice-looking RBI totals rather than his mediocre overall production. Cuddyer is a perfectly solid player who's paid like and treated as a star.

@jbohrerUW: Do the Twins have any flame-throwing prospects we can expect soon?

Not really. Starters like Kyle Gibson, David Bromberg, and Alex Wimmers are promising and close to the majors, but definitely not flame-throwers. In general the Twins just don't go after high-velocity guys much, although 2009 second-round pick Billy Bullock throws very hard and had 105 strikeouts in 74 innings as a reliever between high Single-A and Double-A this year.

@JosephKrueger: Is it worrisome that the Twins' minor-league teams have struggled for the most part this year?

A little bit, in the sense that their Double-A and Triple-A teams struggling speaks to the lack of MLB-ready impact prospects, but typically win-loss records in the minors don't accurately show the strength of a system's prospects.

@cttacheny: What's one stat announcers could refer to that would help end the obsession with batting average?

OPS would certainly be the easiest and most accessible, but I'm not sure why it would have to be just one stat. I'd be happy if announcers talked more about walks and extra-base hits and on-base percentages rather than just saying stuff like, "Smith is hitting .284 this season."

@JMSemiz: Mary Kate or Ashley?

I was always more of a Lori Loughlin guy, then and now.

@MNTwinsGUFS: Who's your favorite all-time Twins player?

Johan Santana or Matthew LeCroy.

@JosephKrueger: Who is your least favorite Twins player of all time?

Purely in terms of my emotional reaction to someone, I'd say Luis Rivas. He infuriated me not only because he was a terrible player, but because the Twins and many fans assumed he had significant potential simply due to being young. He hit .262/.307/.383 and played bad defense, yet was the Twins' starting second baseman for five seasons. They finally let him go in 2005 and despite being only 25 years old Rivas played a grand total of just 83 more MLB games.

@jwursu: Harmon Killebrew eulogized Kirby Pucket by calling him the greatest Twin ever, but is he?

By beginning a Top 40 Minnesota Twins series back in 2006 my intention was to have provided the answer (or at least my answer) to that question by now, but I got sidetracked a few times along the way and unfortunately the whole project stalled at No. 15. I'm definitely planning to re-start the series this winter, so I'm hesitant to do a short answer because it's a complicated, interesting question and I hope to write a ton about it soon. So, for now ... "maybe."

« Newer Posts