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We have looked at the catchers and the first basemen in the Twins organization the past two days. Today, I’ll be looking at the third basemen. Again, the purpose of this series is two-fold (if not more). First, it’s a look at the depth at or near the big leagues. Second, it’s a glance at the depth at the position throughout the system. You can find out who might be coming up to the Twins if there is a need, and you can find out who the prospects to watch might be.
I need to reiterate that these are my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be playing for certain in 2012. Obviously after spring training, some of these players will be let go. There will be Disabled List players, extended spring training and more.
Danny Valencia (Luke Hughes, Jamey Carroll)
2011 was a difficult year for Valencia. In the first half, his numbers struggled thanks to a lot of at-‘em balls. His high BABIP in his rookie season was evened up by his low BABIP in his sophomore season. He can hit, and hitting in the bottom third of the lineup, he will succeed. His defense wasn’t as good in 2011 as 2010 either. More disturbing, he was the player blamed most by the manager, which makes no sense. I expect a solid season out of Valencia in 2012, maybe somewhere along the lines of .280/.340/.450 with 30+ doubles and 12-15 home runs. As I’ve pointed out before, I won’t be even a little surprised if Ron Gardenhire says that Sean Burroughs is competition for a starting job. Burroughs will get plenty of at bats in spring training though. And Luke Hughes, who is out of options, should again receive plenty of at bats and time in the field at three infield positions including 3B. Jamey Carroll is really a middle infielder, but some seem to think he might be a 3B option as well. I can’t see that.
Rochester Red Wings
Sean Burroughs. Ray Chang
Burroughs was once one of baseball’s top prospects, then struggled, then got into drugs and alcohol. But he had a nice comeback season last year that saw him reach the big leagues for the first time since 2006. He did a nice job as a pinch hitter for Arizona. He is known as a very good defensive third baseman, which bodes well for him. He has also shown the ability to hit for average. I really believe that although he likely isn’t in direct competition with Valencia for a starting job, he is likely going to be battling Luke Hughes and maybe Tsuyoshi Nishioka for the final bench spots. With Trevor Plouffe also likely on the bench many nights, Gardy may find it important to have a left-handed bench bat.
Ray Chang made a very good impression last year in spring training. He went to New Britain and played well. He was promoted to Rochester where he played even better, hitting 3rd many games for them. Unfortunately, he broke his fibula and missed almost two months. He will likely get time at 3B and at SS for the Red Wings.
New Britain Rock Cats
Deibinson Romero, Michael Hollimon
Romero was once considered a very good, high ceiling prospect. Following a injury-riddled season in Beloit, the Twins added him to the 40-man-roster. He struggled and was removed from the 40-man-roster a year later. Many questioned his work ethic, but he responded in 2011 with a solid year in AA. He could have become a free agent after the 2011 season, but he quickly resigned with the Twins.
Likewise, the Twins and Hollimon quickly agreed that he would return to the Twins rather than enter free agency. Between New Britain (97 games) and Rochester (29 games), he hit 19 doubles and 18 home runs. He primarily played 2B and LF but also go some time at the hot corner. The Twins drafted him in the 49th round in 2003 but he didn’t sign. In 2008, he got 25 plate appearances with the Tigers. He had six hits, including two doubles, a triple and a home run.
Ft. Myers Miracle
Anderson Hidalgo, Jairo Perez
Hidalgo has been in the organization since 2006. He has moved up one level each year and was with the Miracle last year. His .274 batting average was the lowest of his career. In 2010, he was the only Beloit Snappers player to hit over .300 (.316). He has an unorthodox swing at the plate that many wonder if it will adapt as he moves up the ladder. Defensively, he’s a little below average.
Jairo Perez seemingly came out of nowhere last year. He spent the first two months of the year in Extended Spring Training, but after joining the Snappers in mid June, he hit .337/.413/.580 with 20 doubles and 15 home runs. He had missed all of 2010 with Tommy John surgery. He primarily played 3B but also played a few games at 2B. He is a little guy who takes a monstrous swing. He is not fast and his range is limited, so 3B is a better option.
Miguel Sano, Roy Larson, Adam Bryant
I think most Twins fans have heard pretty much everything about Miguel Sano. He is the consensus top prospect in the Twins farm system. He got the big signing bonus. He draws comparisons to Miguel Cabrera and other great power bats in the game. He had a lot of errors last year in Elizabethton at both shortstop and third base, but he can flat-out hit. He hit .292/.352/.627 with 18 doubles, seven triples and 20 home runs in 66 games for the E-Twins. His power potential is off charts. The Twins are typically patient with their young prospects’ development. The same should be true of Sano. As much as his offensive game is advanced, there are more aspects of the game that he needs to work on. He needs to make more contact. He needs to run the bases better. And he needs to play better defense and just mature, in general. I would expect him to spend the whole season at Beloit.
Adam Bryant was the team’s 9th round pick just last year, and as a four-year college senior, he signed quickly and was sent to Beloit where he held his own. He played all three infield positions and was solid with the bat. He’s a solid, all-around player who will likely advance as a utility player. The Twins signed Larson out of the University of St. Thomas. He’s 6-6 and struggled in E-Town, but he has very quick hands and bat speed. He can play both corner infield spots. Due to his age (he’s 24), he’ll likely have to advance through the lower levels quickly.
Extended Spring Training/Short-Season
Travis Harrison, Javier Pimentel
It will be interesting to see where Harrison and Pimentel will play in 2012. The assumption is that both will go to Extended Spring Training. Harrison was the team’s supplemental first-round pick in 2011 out of high school in California. He has a bunch of power potential and some believe that he could also become an all-around hitter. Pimentel was signed in 2010 out of the Dominican Republic for about a $700,000 signing bonus. He split the 2011 season between the Dominican Summer League and the GCL. I think he would likely head to the GCL again, but he has very good potential as well. Signed as a shortstop, he already spent most of his time at third base in 2011.
TOP THREE PROSPECTS
1.) Miguel Sano, 2.) Travis Harrison, 3.) Jairo Perez
Third base is Danny Valencia’s for the near-term. Sean Burroughs provides some quality depth. This would be a position where the Twins are quite strong at the lower levels (with Sano, Harrison and Pimentel), but there is not much help above Beloit for 2012, at least not anyone that would have any long-term potential. We’ll need to wait until at least 2014 to see Sano (and that’s only if he advances on the Joe Mauer path), and Harrison and Pimentel are likely 2016 arrivals. Will Sano be able to stick at 3B? How will Valencia fare through his pre-arbitration and arbitration years?
If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your thoughts in the Comments Section!