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In what has become an annual article, I present to you the 2008 Minnesota Twins Prospect Team according to friend of SethSpeaks, Roger Dehring. Today we will present the hitters, the starting lineup and the reserves. We will come back later in the week to give you his starting rotation and his bullpen selections. Roger is a big fan of the Twins minor league system and writes a Weekly Twins Minor League Update over at Twinkie Town that is worth checking out. So, let’s get to his thoughts:
2008 Twins Organization All-Star Team
Selected by Roger Dehring
The Twins organization had another successful season with the Ft. Myers Miracle, the Gulf Coast League Twins and the Dominican Summer League Twins all winning division championships and the Miracle going all the way to the Florida State League Championship series. There were many players with seasons worthy of end of the year recognition, however, the following are my selections of players who all had special seasons.
This twenty-nine man team will be presented with a nine man starting lineup, nine reserves and eleven pitchers (five starters, one long relief, two middle relief, two short relief and a closer). All players will include their age as of the first day of the season, my year-end ranking (in red) and the highest level played during the season. Players who had significant playing time with the Twins (Denard Span (#1), Brian Buscher (#3) and Francisco Liriano (#2)) are not eligible.
THE STARTING LINEUP
This year’s starting lineup:
DH – Ben Revere (19, #2, Beloit Snappers)
SS – Steve Tolleson (24, #8, New Britain Rock Cats)
3B – Danny Valencia (23, #6, New Britain Rock Cats)
LF – Luke Hughes (23, #4, Rochester Red Wings)
1B – Randy Ruiz (30, #9, Rochester Red Wings)
C – Wilson Ramos (20, #11, Ft. Myers Miracle)
RF – Angel Morales (18, #19, Elizabethton Twins)
2B – Steve Singleton (22, #18, Ft. Myers Miracle)
CF – Aaron Hicks (18, #25, Gulf Coast League Twins)
Leading off for this years team is Beloit center fielder Ben Revere. Revere began his year in Extended Spring Training, however, after several Beloit players were injured Ben quickly made his way to Beloit where he proceeded to be one of the most exciting players in minor league baseball. Ben flirted with a .400 season until he was injured and missed much of August with an injury that hindered his play when in the lineup. Although he didn’t have enough at bats to qualify, Ben finished with the highest average in the minor leagues at .379/.433/.497 in 340 at bats. Ben stole 44 bases in 57 attempts while scoring 51 runs with 17 doubles, 10 triples and 1 home run. Ben began the season in EST so that he could work on his defense which has improved. I have Ben on this team as the designated hitter so we can also get this years top pick and Baseball America’s top Twins prospect in the starting lineup. Baseball America ranked Ben as the fourth ranked prospect in the Midwest League and second ranked player in the organization. Ben should move up to Ft. Myers next spring where he has a chance to excel in the big ballparks of the FSL.
Hitting second is one of this years most pleasant stories, Steve Tolleson. Steve is a middle infielder who played a lot of shortstop, some second base and even a little in the Rock Cat outfield. After hitting a respectable .285/.388/.382 for Ft. Myers in 2007, Steve moved up to AA and was one of the leading hitters in the league until he went on the disabled list in early summer. Steve didn’t hit as well when he came back, however, finished at .300/.382/.466 with 12 stolen bases in 18 attempts and 28 doubles, 1 triple, 9 home runs and 50 rbi in 343 at bats. Steve continued his claim upon a future role with the Twins this fall when he was one of the leading hitters in the AFL at .383/.449/.543. Look for Steve to move up to Rochester where he will be one plane ride away when the Twins are in need of a middle infielder in 2009.
One of the organization’s top hitters during the first half was Ft. Myers third baseman Danny Valencia. Valencia was leading the Florida State League at .336/.402/.518 at the All-Star break when he moved up to New Britain. In 220 at bats for the Miracle, Danny had 19 doubles, 3 triples, 5 home runs and 44 rbi. Danny started very slow in AA, however, finished strong with .289/.334/.485 in 266 at bats. At New Britain, Danny had 18 doubles, 2 triples, 10 home runs and 32 rbi. Danny was also in the AFL this fall where he didn’t hit as well as his two teammates from the Twins, finishing at .209/.254/.270 with 7 doubles in 115 at bats…until the championship game when he was 2 for 3 with a triple off Tommy Hanson, 2 runs scored and 2 runs driven in. A Florida State All-Star, Danny was ranked as the fifth best player in the Twins organization by Baseball America. Look for Danny to begin the 2009 season back at New Britain with a move up to Rochester at mid-season.
Luke Hughes had a break-out season in 2008 and if it hadn’t been for a nagging injury, he would have been promoted to Rochester much earlier when several Red Wings were called up by the Twins. Luke hit a respectable .283/.356/.438 with a career high 9 home runs for New Britain in 2007. Not known as a power hitter, Luke was one of the leading home run hitters in the Eastern League prior to going on the disabled list for the first time. Luke hit .319/.385/.551 in 285 at bats in AA with 15 doubles, 3 triples, 15 home runs and 40 rbi in 285 at bats. Luke moved up to Rochester later in the year where he hit a respectable .283/.325/.453 with 7 doubles, 1 triple and 3 home runs in 106 at bats. Although Luke will be leaving to join his home team in Australia as they prepare for World competition, Luke is currently playing with the Aragua Tigres in Venezuela. He began slowly, however, has been on fire the past couple weeks raising his average close to .300. Luke had played numerous positions in the past, however, was a third baseman for much of this season. He began this winter season as Aragua’s third baseman, however, has been playing exclusively in left field the last several weeks.
Last winter the Twins signed a veteran minor league free agent, Randy Ruiz. Randy finished his season as the top hitter in the International League, hitting .320/.366/.536 with 33 doubles, 3 triples, 17 home runs and 68 rbi in 416 at bats. Randy was added to the Twins 40-man roster at the end of his season and joined the team as a September callup. Randy was a pleasant addition to the Twins, hitting .274/.338/.355 in 62 at bats. Last September was Randy’s first trip to the major leagues after spending nine seasons in several organizations. The Twins may send Ruiz back to Rochester next year, but it is likely he will make one or more return trips to Minnesota when they have injuries and need a solid bat.
T he top catching prospect in the organization is Wilson Ramos who is also one of the better catching prospects in all of baseball. Ramos, who is known as an excellent defensive catcher, hit .288/.346/.434 in 452 at bats for the Miracle in the pitcher friendly FSL. Ramos was often the DH when not catching so that the Miracle could keep his bat in the lineup, resulting in Wilson driving in a team high 78 runs with 23 doubles, 2 triples and 13 home runs. Ramos is also playing for the Aragua Tigres this winter. In a league with mostly veteran AAA and major league players, Ramos continues to play at a level similar to last summer. Ramos was ranked as the eighth best player in the Florida State League by Baseball America, who also ranked him as the third best player in the Twins organization. Look for Ramos to move up to New Britain next spring and now that he has been added to the 40-man roster, we could see him in Minnesota as early as September, 2009.
Per haps the most exciting young prospect in the organization is center fielder, Angel Morales, who will be penciled into right field on this all-star team. Morales, who was a third round pick out of Puerto Rico in 2007, had one of the best seasons of any player in the Appalachian League this year. Morales didn’t turn 19 until late this November, yet led the league with 15 home runs while adding 12 doubles and a triple in 183 at bats. Morales struck out 72 times, however, hit an excellent .301/.413/.623. He should move up to Beloit next year as a 19-year old after Baseball America ranked him as the eighth best player in the Appy League and tenth best in the Twins organization. If he can continue to hit as he did in 2008 while cutting down on his strikeouts, Morales may have a higher ceiling than any other player in the organization.
Steve Singleton is a solid middle infielder who was an eleventh round pick out of the University of San Diego. After a solid 2007 season at Beloit, Steve began this season back with the Snappers where he hit .302/.348/.421 in 235 at bats with 6 doubles, 2 triples, 6 home runs and 37 runs scored. He moved up to Ft. Myers at mid-season, hitting a respectable .295/.371/.452 in 241 at bats with 19 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs and 38 runs scored. Steve could begin 2009 back at Ft. Myers but should move up to New Britain by mid-season at the latest. Steve is another unheralded player, much like Steve Tolleson, who is a fundamentally solid middle infielder who just may find his way to a future spot with the Twins.
The Twins selected a very talented center fielder/pitcher with their first pick in the 2009 draft, Aaron Hicks. Hicks signed shortly after the draft, reporting to the GCL Twins where he was one of the top players in the league. Aaron is a five tool player who was solid in center field with only 2 errors. He hit .318/.409/.491 in 173 at bats with 10 doubles, 4 triples, 4 home runs and 27 rbi. Hicks also stole a team high 12 bases in 14 attempts. Many people both inside and outside of the Twins organization believe Hicks is the top center field prospect in the organization, including Baseball America who ranked this young man as the top prospect in both the Gulf Coast League and the Twins organization. The Twins often move even their best prospects slowly, however, we should see Hicks in Beloit sometime during 2009.
C – Jose Morales (25, #7, Rochester Red Wings)
1B – Chris Parmalee (20, #26, Beloit Snappers)
2B – Brian Dinkelman (24, #20, New Britain Rock Cats)
SS – Alejandro Machado (25, #10, Rochester Red Wings)
3B – Trevor Plouffe (21, #16, Rochester Red Wings)
LF – Dustin Martin (24, #12, New Britain Rock Cats)
CF – Jason Pridie (24, #15, Rochester Red Wings)
RF – Rene Tosoni (21, #17, Ft. Myers Miracle)
DH – David Winfree (22, #13, New Britain Rock Cats)
Jose Morales is likely ready to play in the Big leagues. Unfortunately, he seldom gets through an entire season without a lengthy visit to the disabled list. This season he started slowly then was on fire when he re-injured the ankle he broke while with the Twins in September, 2007. Jose is an adequate defensive catcher who has always been a very good hitter. He appeared in only 54 games this year with 194 at bats, hitting .315/.348/.426. This coming year will be an important one for Morales who must work to remain healthy the entire year if the Twins are to count on him in the future.
C hris Parmelee, who plays both first base and right field, may be that big power hitter the Twins seem to always be looking for. He was leading the Midwest League with 14 home runs when he had a season ending injury after only 69 games (226 at bats). Parmelee strikes out to much (83), yet also drew 52 walks. Parmelee ended his season hitting .239/.385/.496 with 10 doubles, 3 triples and 14 home runs….thus, exactly half (27) of his 54 hits went for extra bases. Even though he played only half the season, Parmelee led Beloit in home runs, walks and rbi (49). Parmelee should begin 2009 in Ft. Myers where his power will be tested in the major league sized ballparks of the FSL.
Selected in the eighth round of the 2006 draft, Brian Dinkelman was one of the top small college players in the nation. After being one of the better hitters in the FSL during the first half, .293/.399/.414 with 33 walks and only 28 strikeouts 232 at bats, Dinkelman moved up to New Britain where he hit .247/.299/.369 with only 10 walks and 24 strikeouts in 198 at bats. A year after leading the organization with 104 runs scored, Dinkelman scored 70 runs this year as he moved up another level in the organization. Look for Brian to begin 2009 back at New Britain where he will be working to take another step up to Rochester by mid-season.
The Twins selected Alejandro Machado in the 2006 Rule V draft. Machado was injured and missed all of the 2007 season. Machado was battling another injury early this past season, however, when he did return to the Rochester lineup he was one of the better players in the International League and Twins organization. Now 26 years old, 2009 will be a critical season for Machado after hitting an excellent .338/.376/.472 in 195 at bats with 12 stolen bases in 15 attempts.
The Twins selected Trevor Plouffe in the first round of the 2004 draft. Plouffe has consistently moved up each year without putting up the type of numbers expected of a former first round pick. A notorious slow starter, Plouffe got off to an excellent start at New Britain in 2007 which resulted in a season where he hit .274/..326/.410 in 497 at bats with an organization high 37 doubles. This season Plouffe began back at New Britain where his performance was similar to the previous season, hitting .269/.325/.410 in 227 at bats with 17 doubles. With a need for infielders in Rochester, Plouffe got the call and moved up to AAA where he hit a solid .256/.292/.420 with 17 doubles and 6 home runs in 250 at bats. Plouffe has always been one of the youngest players in the league and made it to AAA shortly after his 22nd birthday. Plouffe’s defense has always been a concern as he had a high number of errors even though his talent appears to be above average. After committing 32 errors at New Britain in 2007, Plouffe committed only 7 errors playing shortstop for New Britain during the first half of 2008 with another 11 at Rochester where he split his time between shortstop and third base. Plouffe will likely begin 2009 back at Rochester where he will again be one of the youngest players in the league. The bigger question may be will he be their regular shortstop or third baseman?
The Twins picked up Dustin Martin from the Mets in the Luis Castillo trade. After being one of the top players in the FSL in 2007, Martin moved up to AA where he hit .290/.355/.447 with 34 doubles, 8 triples, 10 home runs and 72 rbi in 510 at bats. Martin also had a team high 22 stolen bases in 33 attempts. Martin’s excellent season earned him a trip to the prestigious AFL where he was one of the champion Phoenix Desert Dog’s top hitters at .314/.397/.449 in 118 at bats. Martin was New Britain’s centerfielder much of the season, however, played primarily left field for the Desert Dogs. With the logjam of centerfielders in the organization, it appears Martin has enough power for left field which is where he will likely begin next spring at Rochester.
Jason Pridie began last spring in a three man battle for the Twins open center field position, but was sent to Rochester when he lost the battle to Carlos Gomez. Pridie was fine his first month at Rochester, however, went into a terrible slump in May when he hit only .142 in 113 at bats. He got his game back on track following the all-star break when he hit .326/.364/.522. Pridie finished his season hitting .270/.305/.435 in 559 at bats with 84 runs scored, 21 doubles, an International League high 16 triples, 13 home runs and 61 rbi. Pridie stole 25 bases in 34 attempts, however, his 152 strikeouts must be of serious concern to the Twins. Pridie, who was voted the top defensive outfielder in the International League, will likely return to Rochester in 2009 and be available should the Twins incur any injuries.
Rene Tosoni was one of the top hitters for the vaunted 2007 Appy League Champion Elizabethton Twins, hitting .301/.407/.428 in 236 at bats in his first year of professional ball. This year he skipped Beloit and moved up to the Hi-A Ft. Myers Miracle. He began the season as one of the top hitters in the league by hitting .325/.430/.452 in 126 at bats before going on the disabled list in May with a broken foot. Tosoni returned for a few games late in the season, hitting two home runs in the Miracle playoff run. Although he hasn’t played a lot of professional baseball, Tosoni appears to be a young man with a very high ceiling. Considering he missed much of 2008, look for Tosoni to begin his season back at Ft. Myers with a move to AA by the all-star break.
After being the Twins Minor League Player of the Year in 2005, David Winfree hasn’t been able to repeat his level of play from that season when he hit .294/.329/.452 in 562 at bats with 31 doubles, 5 triples, 16 home runs and an organization high 101 rbi. Winfree repeated this season at New Britain after hitting .267/.308/.426 with 12 home runs in 460 at bats in 2007. This year the Twins moved David from third base to right field and he hit only .222/.289/.395 in 334 pre all-star at bats with 12 home runs. His play improved in July and he was on fire in August hitting .336/.400/.605 in 119 post all-star at bats with 7 home runs, giving David an organization third best 19 home runs. David was also one of the organization’s most productive hitters as he led New Britain with 87 rbi. Although Winfree strikes out to often and walks to infrequently, he did take more walks this season while also reducing his rate of strikeouts. David is one of the top power hitters in the organization who has a history of driving in a lot of runs. He certainly has aspects of his game that needs to improve, however, we should see David move up to Rochester next spring with a future with the Twins not out of the question should he continue to improve is walk/strikeout ratio.
Well, those are Rogers selections for the Twins Hitting Prospect Team of 2008. We will be back in the next couple of days with Roger’s choices for the Twins Pitching Prospect Team. Any thoughts, please e-mail me, or leave Comments here.