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2012 Twins Top 10 Prospects

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It’s that time of the year again when Top Prospect Lists come out for teams all across Major League Baseball. Baseball America gives Top 10’s for each team leading up to their Top 100 Prospects, blogs everywhere chime in on their favorite teams, and universally fans complain that their favorite guys aren’t rated higher.

A lot of fans seem down on the farm system of the Twins after watching prospect after prospect come up and flounder last year while they tried to fill the gaping holes in their lineup with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Alexi Casilla, and Denard Span all missing significant time. Fact is, many of those guys were rushed out of necessity, and it showed. The Twins Minor League system isn’t one of the best in baseball, more of a middling group, but one should expect that when over the past 10 seasons they’ve been so successful in the AL Central that they’ve had just 1 draft pick above slot #20. Fortunately for them, that will change this June when they select #2, but until then, there’s still plenty to be excited about.

Despite their strength being at the lower-levels, fans saw plenty of the immediate future in 2011. Trevor Plouffe took a wrecking ball to International League pitching, then squandered his chance at Shortstop with the Twins and should see more time in the outfield than infield in 2012. Ben Revere’s speed and smile patrolled Center Field in Span’s absence. Then Rene Tosoni, Chris Parmelee, Joe Benson, and Liam Hendriks (and more) all made their MLB debuts.

So with Spring Training right around the corner (will you be there?), here is my 2012 Twins Top Ten Prospect List:

10. Brian Dozier, SS
2011 MiLB Stats (A+, AA): 127 games; .320/.399/.491, 33 2B’s, 12 3B’s, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 24 SB’s.

The 2009 8th round pick was the recipient of a lot of praise from Coach Ron Gardenhire after being invited to Spring Training for the first time in 2011. He receives the same compliments from his lineup mates and pitchers who play alongside him. Steady, confident, in charge, leader; hefty praise indeed, and deserved. Dozier took the confidence gained is ST and ran with it in 2011, quickly earning a promotion to AA, where he continued to thrive, slugging a career best .502 in 78 games and taking home the Twins 2011 Minor League Player of the Year Award. A darkhorse candidate to win an MLB roster spot this Spring Training, Dozier is very likely to see action with the Twins before September if Casilla, Nishioka, or Jamey Carrol hit the disabled list. Former Twins Comparison: Jason Bartlett. Will get on-base, make all the plays at SS or 2B (likely his best position), and swipe a few bases.

9. Chris Parmelee, 1B
2011 MiLB Stats (AA): 142 games; .287/.366/.436, 30 2B’s, 5 3B’s, 13 HR, 83 RBI.
2011 Twins Stats: 21 games; .355/.443/.592, 6 2B’s, 4 HR, 14 RBI.

Parmelee led the entire Twins organization in RBI, with 97 on the season, and made his Major League Debut on September 6th, going 2-4 to collect his first career hits. Parmelee is one of many former 1st round picks the Twins have selected that took awhile to come into his own, but after his September performance, Twins fans should feel a little better about having him around as the backup plan for Morneau at 1B. He’s likely not going to be a mega-slugging 1B-man, but in cavernous Target Field could be able to mirror the double and HR power from the left side of the plate lost with Jason Kubel’s departure to Arizona. Former Twins Comparison: Corey Koskie with the bat, Ron Coomer with the glove.

8. Alex Wimmers, RHP
2011 MiLB Stats (A+): 12 games, 4 starts; 2-3, 4.20 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 40.2 IP, 39 K’s, 22 BB’s.

Wimmers 2011 couldn’t have started any more disastrous. 0.0 IP, 6 BB’s, 6 batters faced. I tuned-in to this game through internet radio, excited to see Wimmers continue his brief dominance of the Florida State League the year before. Instead, the Fort Myers Miracle play-by-play guy, Alex Margulies and I, were left flabbergasted. In his commentary, Margulies recounted 4 pitches Wimmers sent over the head of the Catcher into the netting of the backstop. The Twins shut him down immediately and worked to cure what ailed him in Extended Spring Training. He returned out of the bullpen in July and gradually gained back his mojo and starter status, culminating with a 7 inning No-Hitter in his last game of the season. If he’s put the unexpected control issues behind him, he should move fast in 2012. Former Twins Comparison: Kevin Slowey. Probably a bit better, and hopefully with none of the “issues” (that’s blatant sarcasm on the “issues” part if you didn’t notice).

7. Kyle Gibson, RHP
2011 MiLB Stats (AAA): 18 games, 18 starts; 3-8, 4.81 ERA, 1.427 WHIP, 95.1 IP, 91 K’s, 27 BB’s.

Gibson was well on his way to forcing himself onto the Twins roster through the months of April and May, going 3-3 in 10 starts, with a 3.60 ERA and 59 K’s in 55 IP. But it was about this time where his fortunes turned for the worse. In June and July, he made 8 more starts, but went 0-5 with a 6.47 ERA and just 32 K’s in 40.1 IP. His elbow finally barked at him, and further examination showed he would require Tommy John surgery. This effectively ended his 2011 and all of 2012 in an unfortunate turn of events for a team in need of a top-end starting pitcher. It’s not out of the question Gibson will make it back to pitching this year as Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals returned in 12 months, but I wouldn’t expect to even discuss Gibson with the Twins until 2013. Former Twins Comparison: Worm-burning version of Scott Baker. If his recovery goes well, he’s a potential staff ace (different from “ace”) with above average but not otherworldly strikeout potential.

6. Liam Hendriks, RHP
2011 MiLB Stats (AA, AAA): 25 games, 24 starts; 12-6, 3.36 ERA, 1.134 WHIP, 111 K’s, 21 BB’s.
2011 Twins Stats: 4 games, 4 starts; 0-2, 6.17 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 23.1 IP, 16 K’s, 6 BB’s.

Hendriks was easily the Twins 2011 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and finished the season toeing the rubber for the MLB club with mixed results. Half a year of further seasoning at AAA will do him some good, but at this point he’s #1 on the Starting-Pitching-call-up depth chart, so it’s likely he could be back in the bigs before the summer months heat up. Hendriks will never be overpowering, but with his plus makeup and plus command, should see mid-rotation results as he progresses further. Former Twins Comparison: Brad Radke. The prototypical “Twins Pitcher.” Will give up hits but limit the damage due to his ability to locate all 4 of his pitches for strikes.

5. Joe Benson, OF
2011 MiLB Stats (AA): 111 games, .285/.388/.495, 28 2B’s, 4 3B’s, 16 HR, 67 RBI, 56 BB’s, 109 K’s.
2011 Twins Stats: 21 Games, .239/.270/.352, 6 2B’s, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 2 BB’s, 21 K’s.

Benson’s power numbers fell some during a season in which he had knee surgery right in the middle of it, but by the end of August was back to his old self and got a September look with the Twins. Benson has a plethora of tools (power, speed, and arm) that are perhaps only surpassed by Aaron hicks in the minors, and they could make him a consistent 20-20 guy in the majors. The knock on him is he strikes out too much, but he also has been able to get on base at a very high clip throughout his minor league career (.094 OBP-AVG split), so the K’s don’t bother me as much as some others. He’ll get his first taste of AAA in 2012, and if any outfielders from the Twins miss significant time, Benson likely gets the call. Former Twins Comparison: Michael Cuddyer. He’s less advanced with the bat as far as making contact is concerned, but should maintain a respectable OBP and make up for it with similar power numbers and much better speed and outfield defense.

4. Oswaldo Arcia, OF
2011 MiLB Stats (Rk, A-, A+): 81 games, .291/.335/.531, 23 2B’s, 4 3B’s, 13 HR, 51 RBI.

Arcia demolished the Midwest League to the tune of a .352 batting average and .704 slugging percentage in his first 20 games of 2011 with the Beloit Snappers. Even more impressive, was the fact he did so while dealing with a hurting elbow that kept him from playing in the outfield. When the pain finally became too much, he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair it and missed 2 months of the season. Upon his return, Arcia was promoted to Fort Myers and endured his first struggles, batting just .263 with a .300 OBP. Arcia has been allergic to drawing free passes so far in his career, and this fact was made more apparent in his time with the Miracle where he drew just 9 BB’s in 59 games, the same number he drew in just 20 games while at Beloit. Much of his struggles at Ft. Myers can probably be attributed to the elbow, but Arcia was also added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, so a big 2011 where he demonstrates improvement in this area of his game is important. He was promoted aggressively even after the injury, so a return to the Florida State League and mid-season promotion to New Britain is very likely in 2012. Former Twins Comparison: Jason Kubel. “Professional” left-handed hitter with power and a strong arm from the outfield.

-ESPN prospect guru Keith Law’s #85 Prospect.

3. Aaron Hicks, OF
2011 MiLB stats (A+): 122 games, .242/.354/.368, 31 2B’s, 5 3B’s, 5 HR’s, 38 RBI, 17 SB.

Hicks likely starts the season back in Fort Myers, but could make the move to AA New Britain after an Arizona Fall League campaign where he hit .294/.400/.559, with 8 doubles, 5 triples, 3 home runs, and 21 RBI in 30 games.

I bring up the comparison to Torii Hunter all the time when talking about Hicks. Both were 1st Round picks as toolsy high school hitters with elite defensive potential. I find it even more important now because this will be Hicks’ age 22 season, the same age Hunter’s bat finally started showing promise. They’re similar players when you look at their Minor League stat lines, but a trait Hicks has that Hunter never did, is the ability to get on base by working the strike zone. He’s often too passive of a hitter and this is a trait he needs to improve, but this also has allowed him to score 208 runs in the past 3 seasons (in 304 games), while Hunter scored just 171 at the same ages (in 343 games).

Hunter made it to the Majors almost exclusively because of his defense, and adjusted to become a dangerous hitter. Hicks has shown more promise with a bat and approach, and his defense profiles very similar. You’ll see Hicks in a Twins uniform some day, but 2012 is a big year for him that will go a long way in determining if the end result of the comparison is fair. Former Twins Comparison: Do I even have to say it?!

-ESPN prospect guru Keith Law’s #80 prospect.
-MLB.com’s #72 prospect.

2. Eddie Rosario, OF/2B
2011 MiLB stats (Rk+): 67 games, .337/.397/.670, 9 2B’s, 9 3B’s, 21 HR, 60 RBI, 17 SB.

For the second year in a row, an Elizabethtown player took home the Appalachian League Player of the Year Award. After Arcia did so impressively in 2010, Rosario perhaps was even more so in 2011 (was co-PotY). He led the league in slugging percentage, triples, home runs, total bases, and was 2nd in RBI’s, hits, and OPS. Then, in the fall instructional leagues, Rosario began to transition to the infield as a second baseman in an attempt to maximize his skill set. As an outfielder, Rosario wasn’t likely to receive as much publicity due to the organizational strength there, but as a second baseman, his profile could skyrocket. Former Twins Comparison: Chuck Knoblauch. I’d be surprised if the power numbers remain as high as they were in Elizabethtown, but Rosario will still be an offensive-minded second-basemen if the move sticks.

-ESPN prospect guru Keith Law’s #50 prospect.

1. Miguel Sano, 3B
2011 MiLB stats (Rk+): 66 games, .292/.352/.637, 18 2B’s, 7 3B’s, 20 HR, 59 RBI.

While Rosario was taking home the Appy League co-MVP, Sano was leading the league in extra-base-hits and right on his heels in several other categories. Where Rosario’s power was more of the line drive variety and viewed with caution by many scouts, Sano’s was legit, with many of his HR’s being described as “mammoth shots” (except for his 1 inside-the-parker). The Beloit Snappers should be a very interesting roster to watch this season, and expectations remain high for Sano’s first taste of full-season league play. He’s already ranked highly on many national Top 100 lists, and is without a doubt the most heralded Twins prospect since Joe Mauer. Questions remain about whether his glove and size will allow him to stick at third base, but his bat will play anywhere. Former Twins Comparison: Don’t know if there is one. His raw-power is off the charts (30+ HR potential) and should hit for average as well as he continues his development. Many experts make the Miguel Cabrera comparison, so that’s the reason he’s the #1 prospect in the system.

-ESPN prospect guru Keith Law’s #28 prospect.
-MLB.com’s #23 prospect.

‘Til next time…Win Twins!

You can follow me on Twitter: @MNTwinsGUFS, send any thoughts or questions to: [email protected], or leave your comments below! (Also available at http://twins.gearupforsports.com/blog/)

Updated 02-13-2012 at 05:13 PM by Steve Lein

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