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Twins Organizational Depth Chart: Starting Pitchers

6 Feb

also available at –  

Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2012 – Now Available as an e-book for $6.99 by clicking here. You can, of course, still get the print version for $13.99 by clicking here.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve pointed out the organizational depth charts for the Twins hitters. We’ve looked at catchers, 3B, 1B, Middle Infielders and Outfielders. Today, I’ll take a look at the starting pitchers. Now, especially as I move to the lower levels, I won’t pretend to know which players will move to the bullpen. Often, due to innings limits, some ‘starters’ will begin the season in the bullpen. Others will begin the season as starters and get moved to the bullpen later due to innings. Frankly, most of the pitchers in the lowest levels have been starters their whole lives and some will be given at least some opportunity. As we saw with Carlos Gutierrez, even guys destined for the bullpen can be given an opportunity to start to work on pitches and gain arm strength.  

That’s OK, though, because the biggest purpose of this was to provide the organization’s depth. I need to reiterate that these are just 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.

Minnesota Twins  

Carl Pavano (RHP), Francisco Liriano (LHP), Scott Baker (RHP), Jason Marquis (RHP), Nick Blackburn (RHP)

Gardy has announced Pavano as his Opening Day starter, an obvious choice based on last season. He’s been solid in his 2 ½ seasons with the Twins, most important he has provided a ton of innings despite an alarmingly low strikeout rate. There’s no question that Francisco Liriano has the best stuff of anyone on the staff, but if he can’t find control of his fastball, it will be another frustrating season. It is a contract season for Liriano, so the goal has to be for him to have a strong season. In 2011, Scott Baker was easily the Twins top starting pitcher. He was pitching the best he had in his career, until elbow problems curtailed his season. Nick Blackburn averaged 200 innings pitched his first two seasons while posting solid ERAs. He’s been pretty bad ever since getting the long-term contract. Unfortunately, the contract has given him many opportunities and likely will continue to do so. He misses very few bats, so we can just hope that a lot of baseballs get hit right at a defender. Many Twins fans are down on the Jason Marquis signing, and although I’m not a bit fan of the contract, he has actually had a pretty solid big league career.

Rochester Red Wings

Liam Hendriks (RHP), Scott Diamond (LHP), Aaron Thompson (LHP), Jeff Manship (RHP), Deinys Suarez (RHP)

We saw Hendriks and Diamond late in the 2011 season. Hendriks was the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year and likely needs another half-season. Diamond had his moments, but overall 2011 was the first year in his career that he really struggled. He says he has made some adjustments, so we’ll see how it goes. Manship came up with the Twins and his first major league victory came on the final weekend of the 2009 season, when the Twins needed to sweep the Royals. He was supposed to be in the Twins bullpen last season, but he was hurt the entire season. He likely will pitch in the Twins bullpen, but they may have him start in Rochester first. Aaron Thompson is intriguing, at least. He will turn 25 years old later this month. He debuted with the Pirates last season, but in 7.2 innings, he gave up 13 hits, walked six and struck out just one. He has just six AAA games under his belt, and his AA career numbers are 15-37 with a 5.03 ERA in 96 games (80 starts). Deinys Suarez signed with the Twins last spring. The Cuban defector split time between New Britain and Rochester, not pitching particularly well either place.

New Britain Rock Cats

David Bromberg (RHP), Logan Darnell (LHP), Tom Stuifbergen (RHP), Marty Popham (RHP), Dan Osterbrock (LHP), Bobby Lanigan (RHP)

Bromberg’s 2011 season was unfortunately a lost season. He began the season in Twins spring training, but he went back to New Britain, had a line drive break his arm, spent a lot of time rehabbing, came back too quickly, shut it down, worked hard and then found out the Twins had removed him from the 40 man roster. However, he will be just 24 years old throughout the 2012 season, so don’t forget about him. Logan Darnell was a 2010 draft pick who started last year in Beloit and got all the way to New Britain. Stuifbergen had a solid season in Ft. Myers, had a terrific one-start showing in Rochester, and then was the pitcher of the year in the World Cup tournament that his Netherlands team won. He was then knighted in his homeland. Sir Tom Stuifbergen should spent this season with the Rock Cats. Dan Osterbrock missed most of last season with shoulder problems which was unfortunate because he was coming off of a very good season in 2010. Bobby Lanigan was in the Rock Cats rotation all throughout the 2011 season. Some think his stuff (specifically his slider) will play very well out of the bullpen, and we may see some of that this year too. Marty Popham was selected by the Twins in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. He has pitched in Hi-A, AA and AAA each of the past two seasons. He should spend this season in AA.

Ft. Myers Miracle

BJ Hermsen (RHP), Pat Dean (LHP), Adrian Salcedo (RHP), Alex Wimmers (RHP), Manuel Soliman (RHP), Ryan O’Rourke (LHP), AJ Achter (RHP)

This is certainly an intriguing group of pitching prospects. If not for Liam Hendriks’ terrific 2011 season, my starting pitcher of the year choice would have been BJ Hermsen who pitched very well in Beloit and followed it up with a solid performance in Ft. Myers (minus a rough final start). Alex Wimmers had a rough 2011 season too in Ft. Myers, but it ended with the seven inning no hitter. Assuming he has his control issues under control, he could move quickly. Adrian Salcedo has long been a top ten Twins prospect, and he’ll move up to the Miracle. Manuel Soliman was the innings-eater for the Snappers last year despite only having pitched now for three years. He is an intriguing prospect, but for him to remain a starter, he will need to improve his secondary pitches. Pat Dean is definitely a solid prospect  but like so many others, he missed a lot of time with injury in 2011. His season started about six weeks late, but he still pitched for three teams (including a late-season spot start in New Britain). Ryan O’Rourke is a tough, competitive left-hander with a nasty slider. When I saw him pitch in Beloit last summer, my comment was that I didn’t think big league left-handed hitters could hit that slider. He was successful as a starter, but he could also become a very good relief pitcher, so it will be interesting to see how his career progresses. The game I saw AJ Achter start last year, he was tremendous. He touches 90-91 with the fastball, but he has a terrific changeup and a curveball that had good bite.

Beloit Snappers

Tim Shibuya (RHP), Madison Boer (RHP), Matt Summers (LHP), Matt Bashore (LHP), Tim Atherton (RHP), Matt Tomshaw (LHP), Derek Christensen (RHP) 

Tim Shibuya was the Appy League Pitcher of the Year and threw seven innings of a no-hitter for the E-Twins. A smart pitcher with a full mix of pitches, he should adapt well to the Midwest League. Madison Boer and Matt Summers both began their pro careers in the E-Town bullpen. Each unsurprisingly dominated. Boer struggled upon his promotion to Beloit. It is likely the Twins will have each start. I believe Boer will move to the bullpen, but I think Summers can stick as a starter. Matt Bashore was a first-round pick in 2009 and has pitched very little since. However, reports indicate that in Instructs last fall, he was looking really good and throwing as high as 93 mph again. He could be one to watch in 2012. Matt Tomshaw was the Twins 43rd round pick just last year. Like many, he was given a shot with the Ft. Myers Miracle after a couple appearances with the GCL Twins. Like few, he was very successful for the Miracle. My guess, however, is that he will step back to Beloit and start. Derek Christensen had a terrific season as a starter with the E-Twins. The side-winder may eventually move to the bullpen but his combination of deception, fastball and slider make him a very intriguing prospect. Tim Atherton was with the Twins organization a few years ago as an infielder. The team let him go, but he came back in 2011 as a pitcher, and he pitched very well. He has all the pitches, but all will need to further develop.

Elizabethton Twins

Tyler Jones (RHP), Corey Kimes (LHP), Brett Lee (LHP), Chris Mazza (RHP), Angel Mata (RHP), Hung-yi Chen (RHP)

There are plenty of pitchers from the 2011 draft and from last year’s GCL team that will not be heading to Beloit to start the season. Tyler Jones was the 11th round pick a year ago out of LSU. He’s got great upside, throws hard, good breaking pitches. Kimes is a four year college guy who should probably be up in Beloit due to age, but he got hurt last year shortly after signing. Brett Lee and Chris Mazza both signed very near the deadline and didn’t pitch in 2011. Angel Mata and Hung-yi Chen were the two most intriguing pitching prospects from last year’s GCL team. Both have good stuff and are young.

GCL Twins

Hudson Boyd (RHP), Trent Higginbotham (RHP), Kuo-hua Lo (RHP), Austin Malinowski (LHP)

Boyd and Higginbotham are two very high ceiling high school picks from last year. The Twins had to go over-slot to sign their second supplemental first round pick from Ft. Myers. He touched 96-97 at times last year. Higginbotham was a late-round pick but the Twins went way over slot to sign him as well. He touches 94-95, and some believe he can be a top of the rotation starter or a dominant closer. Time will tell for both of them. Lo signed last year from Taiwan, and he’s fairly advanced for his very young age. He also has hit 94 mph on a radar gun. He debuted in Instructional League last year, and will likely be with the GCL Twins in 2012. Malinowski was the Twins 16th round pick out of Centennial High School (MN). He gave up a scholarship to Arizona to sign at the last minute with the Twins.   


1.)    Liam Hendriks, 2.) Kyle Gibson, 3.) Alex Wimmers, 4.) Adrian Salcedo, 5.) Tom Stuifbergen, 6.) Manuel Soliman, 7.) Hudson Boyd, 8.) BJ Hermsen, 9.) Pat Dean, 10.) Matt Summers 


The Twins starting pitching was really bad last year. That was a combination of struggles, injury and poor defense. For the Twins to be successful, Carl Pavano needs to throw 220 innings with a league-average ERA and WHIP. Francisco Liriano will have to pull his regain control of his fastball and show a little bit of self-confidence. Scott Baker needs to pitch like he did the six weeks before he got hurt. All three need to stay healthy. I personally think Jason Marquis will be just fine. He’s not going to post a sub-3 or sub-4 ERA, but I think he can do what Pavano did in 2011. Blackburn needs to pitch like he did his first two seasons… or so badly that Liam Hendriks gets called up. Frankly, there’s not much else waiting in the wings, ready to contribute right away as a starter. Manship can be solid, but I think the team has moved him to the bullpen in their minds. Diamond will have had to improved quite a bit to say he’s ready (which is possible).

That doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare though. There are some solid pitching prospects throughout the minors. Kyle Gibson should be back in 2013 (if not late in 2012). Alex Wimmers could move very quickly as well. There are several pitchers that have the potential to be a decent #3 pitcher, if all goes well on the way up. The Twins have been successful with “Twins-like” pitchers. Guys like Hermsen, Salcedo, Stuifbergen and Shibuya fit that mold. The Twins have added some power arms in the last draft or two, especially in 2011’s draft with Boyd, Higginbotham, Jones, Boer, Summers, Corey Williams and others. It will be interesting to see how they develop. 

If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail me at or leave your thoughts in the Comments Section!


Roster Projections: New Britain Rock Cats

30 Mar

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  • Step 1: Finalize 2011 Minnesota Twins roster – Check.
  • Step 2: Find a way to keep Scott Diamond in the organization – Check.
  • Step 3: Configure the 2011 Triple-A Rochester Red Wings 24-man roster – In progress.
  • Step 4: Configure the 2011 Double-A New Britain Rock Cats 24-man roster – In progress.

The fun of projecting minor league rosters after major league rosters is that we don’t know what’s happening. We don’t always understand the big picture. For instance, I projected that Chris Province would be in the Triple-A bullpen. Yesterday, I found out that he, in his words on Twitter this morning, “voluntarily retired.” The Twins made 12 cuts over the past couple of days, and as I review the names of all of the players still in Twins minor league camp, it is difficult to place all of them. We don’t know injury situations. I was unaware the Bruce Pugh was set back a few days by back soreness. That will likely keep him back in Ft. Myers and in the bullpen for at least a little while. Some of the decisions on these minor league veterans brought in has kept several minor leaguers down a level. In some cases, that’s good. In other cases, it is a little surprising. For instance, I understand that Tony Davis will be heading back to Ft. Myers to start the season.

With all that in mind, I present to you my thoughts on a projected roster for the Twins Double-A affiliate, the New Britain Rock Cats. (the below roster is my opinion and my guesses, and nothing official.)

Catchers: Danny Lehmann (40 man – No) – Jair Fernandez (40 man – No) 

Lehmann was impressive this spring. He has been named the Twins minor league catcher of the year the past two years. Defensively, he is ready to be a backup catcher for the Twins. Offensively, he’s probably a notch above Drew Butera. Fernandez, like Waldrop and Portes, could have been a six-year minor league free agent after last season. He chose to stay with the Twins. He is a big guy with a little pop in his bat. Not a great catcher at all though despite a strong arm.

Infielders: 1B – Chris Parmelee (40 man – Yes), 2B – Steve Singleton (40 man – No), 3B – Nick Romero/Deibinson Romero (40 man – No/No), SS – Estarlin de Los Santos (40 man – No), Utility – Chris Cates (40 man – No), IF/OF/DH – Yangervis Solarte – (40 man – No)

Chris Parmelee is going to be my choice for preseason Twins minor league hitter of the year. Hopefully he will be able to stick with the Rock Cats all season, as I believe that would be best for his development. Steve Singleton should be in Rochester. I know, I’m shy about expressing that, aren’t I? He should get some time at both 3B and SS as well. Estarlin de Los Santos should get a couple of months here to regain his prospect status or else Brian Dozier will be here and get the playing time. 3B is where I’m not certain. So, I can see a scenario in which Nick Romero and one-time prospect Deibinson Romero split time, or even platoon. Solarte can play anywhere on the field, kind of like Luke Hughes. He has hit when healthy and was up with the Rock Cats last year before getting hurt. The utility infield spot will be interesting. Chris Cates is the incumbent, but could Ray Chang or Matt Brown be sent to AA? Neither can play SS well, so I’m leaning toward Cates.

Outfielders: LF – Evan Bigley (40 man – No), CF – Joe Benson (40 man – Yes), RF – Rene Tosoni (40 man – Yes), 4th outfielder – Mark Dolenc (40 man – No).

At this time last year, Rene Tosoni thought he was packing to go to Rochester, but then the Twins signed Jason Repko right before Opening Day and Tosoni went back to New Britain. His shoulder was bad, and he was DHing until a midseason shoulder surgery ended his season. But he was still added to the 40 man roster, and he could move up quickly if he swing returns. Joe Benson was last year’s Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year. The sky is the limit for Benson. The only thing is his contact rate will need to improve for him to advance where we all hope he will. Again, I think the best thing for his development would be to stay in New Britain for the entire season, get comfortable, make adjustments and see what kind of numbers he can put up in a full season. Evan Bigley is an underappreciated prospect. He’s got some power, and he can hit for average. He can play solid defense. When he moved up to New Britain last year, he played better than he had with the Miracle early in the season. I mention Dolenc as the 4th outfielder, and that’s where he is always put. However, every year, he gets a lot of at bats, and he performs better than expected. He is fast and plays very good defense at all three positions.

Starting Pitchers: RHP David Bromberg (40 man – Yes), RHP Deolis Guerra (40 man – Yes), RHP Bobby Lanigan (40 man – No), Liam Hendriks (40 man – No), Dan Osterbrock (40 man – No)

I was very much surprised to learn that David Bromberg would start this season in Double-A after he made nine starts in Rochester last year. That said, I think that it can be a good thing for him to spend a couple of months. He’s seen Triple-A. He’s now been to big league spring training and likely learned a lot. It will be great for him to implement some of the things he’s learned at Double-A, perfect them and get back to Rochester. Deolis Guerra pitched well in New Britain last year before being promoted to Rochester, and from that point on he was never able to find it again. Guerra is the best example of why bringing in some minor league veterans at the upper levels can be good. Guerra should not have been rushed, but the team was forced to. Bobby Lanigan’s fastball/slider combination is tough. I think long-term he can be a terrific reliever, but might as well keep him starting as long as he keeps putting up the numbers and stays healthy. I would be surprised if both Hendriks and Osterbrock start the season with the Rock Cats, but both pitched so well at Ft. Myers last year that they could be ready for this next challenge. Pitchers often say that they experience their first struggles at AA. Osterbrock experienced some struggles with Beloit in 2009, but figured things out last year. Hendriks is a tremendous prospect, very driven and competitive, and worth watching closely.

Bullpen: RHP Carlos Gutierrez (40 man – No), RHP Brett Jacobson (40 man – No), RHP Steve Hirschfeld (40 man – No), LHP Tyler Robertson (40 man – No), RHP Dakota Watts (40 man – No), RHP Santos Arias (40 man – No), LHP Spencer Steedley (40 man – No), LHP Jake Stevens (40 man – No), LHP Paul Bargas (40 man – Yes)

I think that Gutierrez is ready for Triple-A. Some could argue he’s ready for the big leagues. But this is the first time he has gone into a season as a reliever, and I think it would be good to start him back with New Britain for a month or two, let him close and pitch in more tough situations and get comfortable. It also gives some of those AAA guys a couple of months to prove what they have. There is no rush with Gutierrez. He doesn’t need to be added to the 40 man roster until after the season, and they aren’t going to want to use an option, so patience is a good thing. Jacobson was the second piece that came over from the Orioles in the Hardy trade. He has an interesting delivery, but he does throw hard and has a good curveball. Hirschfeld is definitely an option to start. He was terrific in 2009 but missed more of 2010 with injury. Robertson struggled as a starter with the Rock Cats last year, and when he went to the Arizona Fall League, it was announced that he would be moved to the bullpen. I think he has the makeup and the stuff to be successful in the role. Dakota Watts started the 2010 season (his first full season) with Beloit and ended in New Britain, and in the middle, he was touching 98 and 99 on the radar gun in Ft. Myers. Arias really struggled with the Rock Cats last year, but he should be given another shot. Steedley had a terrific April for the Rock Cats last year, but by the end of May, he had his elbow worked on. He could start this season on the Disabled List, but if he can come back, he is a good LOOGY possibility down the road. Jake Stevens is also left-handed. He was out of baseball last year, but the Twins gave the Naples, FL, native a chance to make the team. Paul Bargas was acquired by the Twins in the trade of Jose Morales. He’s got decent numbers in his minor league career, especially against left-handers. Bargas also has meningitis, and on one of the first days of minor league camp, he collapsed on the field and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He has not yet returned to the team, but he should at some point.

Overall: This is where some really exciting Twins prospects will be. A couple of these guys would be ready to play at Rochester, but in terms of development, I think that Parmelee, Benson, Bromberg, Tosoni and Gutierrez may be best served by spending more time in AA. The first four were only added to the 40 man roster this offseason, and Gutierrez isn’t even on the 40 man yet, so time is on their side. This should be a solid team. Don’t be surprised if the likes of Ray Chang and Matt Brown end up here as well, which would make them a more veteran team. This should be a fun team to watch and several of them could be called up to the Twins at some point this season, if needed.

The minor league rosters should be announced later this week as their seasons get started next week. In fact, most of the roster spots have been determined and players are finding out. I have been quite surprised by some of the reports I have heard, but without knowing background, injuries, etc., it’s hard to determine from afar what some of the reasoning might be. Either way, it will be fun to find out and more importantly, to get this season started!

If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to comment or ask.


  • Cody Christie, the North Dakota Twins Fan, joined me on the Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast last night. Lots more Twins topics covered such as the Jim Thome/Jason Kubel playing time question, Joe Nathan and Matt Capps, food options at Target Field, and many, many more topics.
  • If you are interested in the Twins minor league system, Twins Minor League Weekly podcast will begin on Thursday night at 10:00. Travis Aune and Seth will host the 10:00 p.m. podcast each Thursday throughout the season. We will talk about what’s going on with each Twins affiliate, how the teams are doing, who is hot, who is not, transactions, and much more.

Minnesota Twins Top Prospects (Part 1: 26-50)

13 Jan

also available at

Interview – Did an interview for Bullpen Banter regarding the 2010 Twins and many Twins minor leaguers. Check it out here.

Before we jump into Part 1 of a two-part prospect ranking, I need to point out a terrific article in today’s Ft. Myers News-Press. Remember last week when Bert Blyleven got into the Hall of Fame? (You’re Twins fans… you remember!) He, and many others, gave a lot of credit to’s Rich Lederer for pushing Blyleven’s case. It should have been an easy case for baseball’s writers, but obviously it took 14 attempts to get it right. Lederer and Blyleven had spoken several times on the phone in the past with Blyleven frequently crediting Lederer for his help and efforts. On Tuesday night, the two met and embraced. The Twins surprised Blyleven by inviting Lederer to their fantasy camp. Lederer’s answer to their request was easy. Blyleven’s response to Lederer being there was priceless. Just a great story by the News-Press’s David Dorsey; a must read. Minnesota Twins Top 50 Prospects List 2011

As you know, I have been working on the 2011 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook for months. After of research and writing, a conclusion is finally in sight. In the next week, I will provide more information on the book, and how you can order or pre-order.

One thing that the book includes is my Top 30 prospects and a reminder of my previous Top 30s, going back to 2005. The book will include top 10 lists from many of your favorite bloggers.

I did something a little bit different in compiling my Top 50 list. I took the entire list of Twins minor league prospects from the GCL through Rochester, and in an Excel spreadsheet, I put each name in the first column and each name in the first row. Then I went through and compared every prospect to every other prospect, picking which of the two I thought was the better prospect. My ‘vote’ on each was based on a ton of research, stats, scouting reports and more. I considered which of the two players I would trade if a team said that I could pick which prospect to send in a potential deal. I compared Aaron Hicks to Kyle Gibson and Miguel Sano, and also against Matt Schuld and Matt Trau. I compared Manuel Soliman to Dan Osterbrock, Joe Benson and Dallas Gallant. After doing that for every player (which took WAY too long), I added up the total number of times I selected each player. The player that I chose above all players obviously ended up with the most points at the end of the day. The one with the second most votes would be the #2 prospect. And so on. Of course, there were ties, sometimes three-way ties, which I broke by my head-to-head results, so to speak. The results were interesting, at least in the middle of the list, but really throughout. Today I will post my choices for Twins Prospects #26 through 50 with a brief description. As you would expect, there was a tie at 50, so in fact, here are prospects 26-51. As always, your thoughts and opinions are welcome.

#50 (Tie) – Kyle Waldrop – RHP – Rochester

The Rochester relief pitcher has a terrific 2010 season and will head to spring training with the Twins again in 2011. Throws strikes and gets ground balls.

#50 (Tie) – Dan Osterbrock – LHP – Ft. Myers

Based on the season he had in 2010, he should be way up this list. A no-hitter in Beloit and sub-3 ERAs in Beloit and Ft. Myers. The soft-tossing strike thrower is intriguing. It will be interesting to see how he does when he gets to New Britain

#49 – Rory Rhodes – 3B – GCL Twins

                The 6-7 infielder from Australia had a solid season in the GCL. I have mentioned him as a 2011 breakout candidate.

#48 – Cesar Ciurcina – RHP – GCL Twins

                The righty came to the States and held his own in 2010 after putting up very good numbers in the Dominican in 2009. A long way to go, but plenty of potential.

#47 – Daniel Santana – SS – Beloit

                Split time between E-Town and Beloit. Little guy who struggled some in Beloit, but played well in E-Town, including showing some decent power numbers.

#46 – Evan Bigley – OF – New Britain

                The outfielder struggled to start the season back in Ft. Myers, but heated up in June. Played very well following a promotion to New Britain.

#45 – Anderson Hidalgo – 3B – Beloit

                Lone Snappers hitter to hit over .300 in 2010. Has good doubles power already. Missed some time with injury again.

#44 – Lance Ray – OF/1B – Beloit

                Twins 8th round pick in 2010 out of Kentucky, he quickly moved up from Elizabethton and played very well in Beloit. Good power.

#43 – Brian Dozier – SS – Ft. Myers

                Just one of those solid, solid players. Hit about .280 at both Beloit and Ft. Myers. Good defense. OK speed. No power. Surprise non-roster invitee to big league camp.

#42 – Edgar Ibarra – LHP – Beloit

                Experienced ups and downs throughout the season, but the lefty has four good pitches, just needs to be more consistent with them.

#41 – Dakota Watts – RHP – New Britain

                2009 pick pitched at three levels in 2010. Some control issues, but the guy throws consistently in the upper 90s and hit 99 in Ft. Myers.

#40 – Logan Darnell – LHP – Elizabethton

                Twins 6th round pick from Kentucky (yes, he teamed with Lance Ray and non-drafted free agent Gunner Glad there), the lefty had a nice debut with the E-Twins. Three good pitches.

#39 – Kane Holbrooks – RHP – New Britain

                Began the season by dominating in the Beloit bullpen, then made a couple of starts before being promoted to Ft. Myers where he pitched even better. Ended season with a start in AA.

#38 – Nate Roberts – OF – Elizabethton

                Twins 5th round pick in 2010 from High Point University put up some of the best numbers of an Elizabethton Twins player over the last quarter-century.

#37 – Chris Herrmann – OF – Ft. Myers

                The 2009 pick skipped Beloit and held his own (including an All Star appearance) with the bat. Tremendous defensive LF but will also catch, including in big league training camp.

#36 – Michael Tonkin – RHP – Beloit

                It was surprising when he was the first starting pitcher promoted from Extended Spring Training, but he pitched well in Beloit before going back to Elizabethton.

#35 – Luke Hughes – IF/OF/DH/PH – Minnesota

                Homered in first big league at bat. OK at Rochester, but again was injured and didn’t play after June 6. Two surgeries (knee and groin). Potential big league super utility bat and pinch hitter.

#34 – Danny Rams – C/1B – Beloit

                Returned to the Snappers in 2010. Tremendous power. Improving catcher. If he can learn to hit a breaking ball, he could fly up this list. Time will tell.

(NOTE  – I just realized that I neglected to include Anthony Slama in my analysis/rankings. I will put the right-handed reliever with the tremendous K-Rate who should be in the Twins bullpen throughout 2011 right here at #33.5)

#33 – James Beresford – SS – Beloit

                Also returned to Beloit for second straight year, and was the team’s MVP for the second straight year. Amazing defensive middle infielder who just needs to get bigger to be a real big time prospect.

#32 – Rene Tosoni – OF – New Britain

                He’s been a top 10 guy for me in previous years. He was OK last year in New Britain before his season-ending shoulder surgery. Just a solid all-around player. If healthy, he will move up quickly.

#31 – Miguel Munoz – RHP – Beloit

                Hard-throwing right-hander did a nice job as a starter early in the Snappers season. Tired late, and did alright in the Snappers bullpen. Has great stuff.

#30 – Tom Stuifbergen – RHP – Beloit

                Another guy who will move up this list if he is healthy in 2010. He was top pitcher in Beloit after Hendriks and Osterbrock promoted, when healthy. Good stuff, and a very smart pitcher.

#29 – Martire Garcia – LHP – Elizabethton

                Garcia struggled in E-Town in 2009 after strong ’08 in GCL. Returned to E-Town in ’10 and started 6-0 before promotion to Beloit. Throws hard, good movement. Young.

#28 – Scott Diamond – LHP – Gwinnett

                Pitched well in Braves organization since signing as undrafted free agent after 2008 college season. He’ll give up some hits, but he gets a lot of ground balls. Twins Rule 5 pick has legitimate shot to make Twins roster.

#27 – Steve Singleton – 2B – New Britain

                After bad April, Singleton played well for Rock Cats the rest of the season. Led organization with 43 doubles (2 behind Doug Mientkiewicz’s New Britain record). 54 extra base hits. Just 57 strikeouts. Not sure why the Twins don’t seem to like him more.

#26 – Niko Goodrum – IF/OF – GCL

                Don’t worry about the numbers that he put up in the GCL. Goodrum is as good of an athlete as Hicks, Torii Hunter, Joe Benson, any other great athlete in the Twins system. He’s just very raw and has a long way to go, but the sky is the limit.

So there you have it, my choices for Twins Prospects 26-50. What do you think? Any surprises? Remember that the top 25 prospects are yet to come. If I’m able, I will separate them, maybe posting 11-15 later tonight and my top ten around noon on Friday. Check back when you are able to. Feel free to e-mail me or leave your comments here. Minor League Pitcher of the Year

23 Sep

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The Twins have clinched. The team has played remarkably. Now, they are tied with the Yankees for the best record in all of baseball. I would say that the starters earned their day off on Wednesday afternoon, and the whole team will benefit from another day off today. As a minor league guy, I enjoyed the Wednesday lineup that included only Denard Span and Jason Kubel among regular starters.

Following this team through a pennant race is exhausting and it feels like we have covered just about every possible topic as it relates to the 2010 Twins and the push toward the post season.

So today, I’m going to jump back into one of my favorite topics, Twins minor league baseball. Today, I’m going to give you my top five choices for Twins Pitcher of the Year and select the 2010 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Despite some disappointing team records through the minor league ranks, there were some very good pitching performances that deserve to be recognized. When it comes to my choice for Pitcher of the Year, that is different than a prospect ranking. Of the eight players that I will mention below, it is likely that three of them will be in my top ten Twins prospects list later this fall. It is possible that a couple of them won’t even be in the top fifty prospect list, but still had terrific seasons. Last year’s pitcher of the year, David Bromberg, quietly had another very strong season as he moves up the Twins organizational ladder. Let’s get to the list:

#5 – Anthony Slama – Rochester Red Wings – 26 years old – RHP

Anthony Slama finally got his opportunity to help the Twins at the big league level. He pitched in five games for the Twins. He again spent most of his season in Triple A Rochester. While there, he went 2-2 with 17 saves and a 2.20 ERA in 54 games. In 65.1 innings, he walked 32 and struck out 74. Opponents hit just .170 against him all year. Slama will turn 27 years old during the offseason and the Twins really need to just give him an opportunity in 2011 and see what he can do.

#4 – Kyle Gibson – Ft. Myers/New Britain/Rochester – 22 years old – RHP

Gibson made his much-anticipated official pro debut in 2010. He signed late after being the Twins top pick in 2009 and pitched some in the Instructional League. But he played his first official games this year, starting with Ft. Myers. There, he was 4-1 with a 1.87 ERA in 43.1 innings. He moved up to Double-A New Britain and went 7-5 with a 3.68 ERA. He was finally summoned to Triple-A Rochester where he was 0-0 with a 1.72 ERA before being shut down for the season. Overall, he went 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA. In 152 innings, he gave up 136 hits, walked 39 and struck out 126. Opponents hit a combined .242 against him. Gibson definitely fits the mold of a Twins pitcher. Throws strikes, mixes pitches, pitches to contact. We could see him at Target Field by the end of June.

#3 – Dan Osterbrock – Beloit/Ft. Myers – 23 years old – LHP

After being named the Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year in 2008, Osterbrock struggled in Beloit in 2009. He returned to the Midwest League to start the 2010 season. He made five starts, was twice the Pitcher of the Week and threw a no-hitter. And then he was promoted to Ft. Myers. There, he went 7-8, but had just a 2.73 ERA. Overall, he went 9-9 with a 2.65 ERA. In 139.1 innings, he walked just 28 and struck out 106. He does not throw very hard, so his .236 opponent batting average against is even more impressive. Just a tremendous bounce-back season for the lefty from the University of Cincinnati.

#2 – Kane Holbrooks – Beloit/Ft. Myers/New Britain – 23 years old – RHP

Holbrooks was a 2nd team All American in 2009 yet he fell to the Twins in the 21st round of the draft. He pitched solely out of the bullpen at Elizabethton after signing with the Twins. He began 2010 in the Beloit Snappers bullpen where he dominated before getting two starts. In Beloit, he was 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA and nine saves. In 54 inning, he walked 13 and struck out 71! He moved up to Ft. Myers and made seven starts. He was 3-3 with a 2.27 ERA. At the end of the year, he was moved up to New Britain where he made one start and gave up three runs in five innings. Overall, Holbrooks went 8-6 with a 2.10 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He made 32 appearances out of the bullpen and ten starts. In 102.2 combined innings, he gave up 90 hits, walked 29 and struck out 120. Opponents hit just .231 off of him.

The Twins Minor League  Pitcher of the Year is…

Liam Hendriks – Beloit/Ft. Myers – 21 years old – RHP

Hendriks missed just over a month of the season because of an emergency appendectomy and yet his numbers are so incredible that he is still my choice for Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Week. He began the season at Beloit where he went 2-1 with a 1.32 ERA. In 34 innings, he gave up just 16 hits, walked four and struck out 39 while batters hit just .138 against him. He moved up to Ft. Myers where he went 6-3 with a 1.93 ERA. In 74.2 innings, he gave up 63 hits, walked eight and struck out 66. Overall, he went 8-4 with a 1.74 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP. In 108.2 innings, he gave up just 79 hits, walked just 12 and struck out 105 while limiting batters to a .199 average.

Honorable Mention –

  • David Bromberg – New Britain/Rochester – 23 years old – RHP (6-9. 3.75 ERA, 151.1 innings, 152 H, 48 BB, 112 K)
  • Kyle Waldrop – Rochester Red Wings – 24 years old – RHP (59 G, 5-3, 2.57 ERA, 2 saves, 87.2 innings, 89 H, 20 BB, 60 K)
  • Dakota Watts – Beloit/Ft. Myers/New Britain – 23 years old – RHP (6-3, 3.10 ERA, 8 saves, 81.1 innings, 61 H, 44 BB, 89 K)

What do you think? Who would get your vote? Remember, this is now a vote for the best prospect, but the Pitcher of the Year. I think it’s pretty easy to say that Kyle Gibson is the Twins best prospect, although Bromberg and Hendriks certainly have to be in the discussion. Where would your vote go?

Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.

Oh Danny Boy!

28 Jul

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Wilson Ramos was called up to the Twins for a few weeks in April. He had four hits in his big league debut and followed it with three more hits the next day. Quite impressive to say the least. Very few in big league history had knocked out seven base hits in their first two big league games. But what Danny Valencia has done in the last four games in incredible. Let’s not forget that since the All-Star break, Valencia started one game at 3B, then Nick Punto started three, then Valencia started three, then Punto started four (I’m not going to look it up, but it was something like that). So, when Valencia started on Saturday night in Baltimore, I thought that it was just his turn. What he has done should nearly cement his role as the Twins third baseman of the future and more important right now, their third baseman of the present. He had three hits on Saturday. He had another three hits on Sunday. He had four hits on Monday night including his first Major League home run, a grand slam off of the Royals’ Zach Greinke. And last night, he managed four more hits. You will want to check out Phil Mackey’s article to see the historical nature of this run that Valencia and the Twins are on.

Many were amazed when the Twins were able to draft Valencia in the 19th round of the 2006 draft. Someone who had done so well at a national powerhouse like the University of Miami should not  be available on Day 2 of the draft, much less in the 19th round. But to the credit of the Twins and their scouting department, they made the selection. Since then, Valencia has done nothing but hit all the way up the system. He got off to a slow start this year, no question. The lack of home runs was certainly noteworthy. But as you know, I’m big on minor league track record meaning something, so I believed that the power would come. He has five doubles and a home run among the 14 hits from the last four games.

The Twins did well in the 2006 draft. Jeff Manship was taken in the 14th round out of Notre Dame, and he has already contributed at the big league level. Chris Parmelee was the first round pick that year, and he is on an absolute tear right now at New Britain. 2nd round pick Joe Benson has established himself as one of the team’s best and most exciting prospects. Brian Dinkelman is playing well in Rochester, and he was an 8th round pick. Steve Singleton leads the Twins system in doubles, in AA, and has to be considered an option as a future 2B. And don’t forget that Anthony Slama was the team’s 39th round selection that year (although he went back to the University of San Diego and signed with the Twins before the 2007 draft. And Rob Delaney, who has two saves in two chances (with six strikeouts against six batters faced in those two appearances) since Slama was promoted to the Twins, signed after not being drafted that June. If that kind of success doesn’t scream the need to credit the Twins scouts, I don’t know what does.

Danny Valencia has been great in terms of his willingness to do Q&As. He has made four or five appearances on my podcasts. This is why it’s OK to be a blogger instead of a real journalist. It is OK for me to admit in writing that I am really happy for this success and hope that it continues for Danny, and of course because I’m a big Twins fan.

When I was figuring out a format and story ideas for the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook, I really wanted to have an article called Danny Valencia: On the Cusp. After finishing last year at Rochester, I figured it was just a matter of time before he would be in the big leagues. Valencia answered a lot of questions for me for the article and I think it turned out great.

Below is a small chunk of that article… (To read the rest, and much more, including a Q&A with Jeff Manship, a 2009 draft review with an interview with former Gopher Derek McCallum, and lots of information and stories on the Twins work with international signings including quotes from Tom Stuifbergen, Trevor Plouffe, Liam Hendriks and more… plus over 150 profiles on Twins prospects, click here to order you copy(ies) of the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook).

Danny Valencia was born in September of 1984 in Boca Raton, Florida. He played in many baseball leagues, and was playing on travel teams by the time he was eight years old. After a year at UNC-Greensboro in which he hit .338, Valencia headed back home to play for the University of Miami. As a sophomore, he hit .300/.355/.471. As a junior, he hit .324/.382/.475 with nine home runs.

In a 2007 Seth Q&A, Valencia said, “It was an awesome experience to play for one of the best programs in the country.  It was also great to play close to home.  I had a great time at Miami, and we are all very close with one another, like family.”

The Twins almost inexplicably were able to draft him in the 19th round of the 2006 draft. Twins Director of Player Personnel Mike Radcliff, who was in charge of the draft at the time, told, “Every year there are some unexplainable draft situations. We are very fortunate to be able to add a player of Danny’s abilities in such a late round. Our scouts Hector Otero and Tim O’Neil deserve credit for staying with their convictions in Danny’s talents and eventual desire to sign a professional contract.”

Valencia was expecting to be drafted much earlier too. “I was surprised not being selected the first day since I had been told I would go earlier. No one is sure why, but some thought I was going back for my senior year, but I really wanted to play pro ball.”

He signed quickly and reported to Elizabethton. In 48 games, he hit .311/.365/.505 with 13 doubles and eight home runs.

Danny Valencia is on the cusp. But he still has areas where he can continue to improve.

After walking a reasonable amount of time throughout his minor league career, Valencia walked just five times in over 280 plate appearances at Triple A. In the spring, he worked a lot with Twins legend Tony Oliva. “Tony is a great guy and constantly would give me pointers on my approach when I’m in the batter’s box. He pretty much told me to take what the pitcher gave me and not try to do too much at the plate. I feel it helped me this year a lot because I walked a bunch in AA. Since being in Triple A, I feel like the pitchers have 5 balls and 2 strikes.”

What about his defense? Remember that he only moved to third base during his college years. He had primarily been a first baseman.  When asked about his defense in a interview in August of 2009, Valencia said, “I feel my defense has gotten better every year. I still have work to do and I will continue to work hard at it. Not everyone is Joe Crede. I’d like to be able to play with him so he could give me pointers that would help me be a better third baseman.”

Following the season, Valencia was added to the Twins 40 man roster. “Being added to the roster meant a lot to me. It made me feel like all the hard work and sacrifices I’ve made throughout my life are paying off, and I’m just thrilled that the Minnesota Twins organization has recognized it as well. It’s also nice to have been able to make my family proud with this accomplishment and hopefully many more to come in the future.”

The Twins encouraged Valencia to play winter ball during the offseason, so he spent about a month playing for Indios de Mayaguez. “Playing winter ball in Puerto Rico has been a great experience all around. Aside from the fact that I’ve been able to work on certain baseball-related things, I feel as if I’ve been able to grow as a person through becoming more accustomed to other people’s ways of life. I have a newfound respect for Latin players and what they have to go through to be able to have a chance to play baseball in the US. Sometimes many people, including myself, forget how lucky we are to have the things we have, and the opportunities we get, being from the United States.”

Valencia will head to big league camp again in 2010. This time, he is on the 40 man roster, and this time, he has been there before.  “Going into this spring training, I’m most excited about being able to have the chance to really show our coaches and players that I could be a guy they can count on to help the team in the near future.”

What will it mean to get that final promotion, this one to the big leagues? “Getting the big league promotion would really just be probably one of the best feelings I could ever experience. Seeing my name on the back of our big league uniform really would be surreal. It would all just be a culmination of all the hard work, dedication, and sacrifice my family and I have devoted over the years. It would probably be one of the happiest days of my life.”

Valencia is now a big leaguer, and he has accomplished a ton. I think he has shown great improvement since his promotion less than two months ago and that should only continue as he gets more at bats and learns. But he has already shown that he can be counted on.

Here is a quick glance at what happened on Tuesday in the Twins minor league system:

Red Wings Report   

Despite Matt Macri’s 6th home run of the year, a three run blast in the top of the 9th, the Red Wings fell to Gwinett 6-3. Brian Dinkelman was 2-3 with a walk and his 25th double. Matt Fox gave up four runs (3 earned) on seven hits and two walks in five innings. Alex Burnett gave up two runs on three hits in two innings. Pat Neshek then threw a scoreless inning.

New Britain Notes

The Rockcats lost 4-3 to league-leading Trenton. Deolis Guerra gave up four runs (3 earned) on nine hits (including 2 HR) in six innings. Tony Davis got two batters out, and then Carlos Gutierrez came in and got the final four outs. The team managed just six hits, but three of them were doubles. Steve Singleton hit his 32nd. Joe Benson hit his 15th AA double. Juan Portes hit a pinch-hit double, his 13th of the year.

Miracle Matters

Dan Osterbrock continued to pitch great for the Miracle in the team’s 4-2 win over Dunedin. The lefty gave up two runs on six hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out eight. Michael Allen threw two hitless innings. Dakota Watts pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save. Nathan Hanson went 4-4 with his 12th double. Deibinson Romero hit his fourth and fifth home runs. Angel Morales moved into the leadoff spot and went 2-5.

Snappers Snippets

The Snappers, and everyone else in the Midwest League, had the day off.

E-Twins Talkers

With an out in the 10th inning, Nate Roberts came up with Daniel Santana on 1B. He hit a walk-off double to give the E-Twins a 3-2 win over Greeneville. Manuel Soliman pitched well again. In 6.2 innings, he gave up two runs on seven hits. He walked two and struck out a very impressive 13 batters. Ryan O’Rourke threw 2.2 scoreless innings. He gave up three walks, walked none and struck out five. Zach See improved to 5-0 out of the E-Twins bullpen by getting the final two outs of the top of the 10th. Brian Burke went 2-3 with a walk and his third home run. Oswaldo Arcia added his 16th double.

GCL Twins Topics

The GCL Twins lost 5-3 with the GCL Orioles. Miguel Sano played SS (committed his 7th error and) went 2-5 with his sixth double. Candido Pimentel was also 2-5. Max Kepler went 2-4. Kennys Vargas hit his third home run. On the other side of the spectrum, it was a tough game for Niko Goodrum. The Twins 2nd round pick went 0-5 with five strikeouts. Cesar Ciurcina gave up four runs (3 earned) on nine hits and a walk in five innings. Bart Carter gave up an unearned run in his inning. Pat Dean threw two shutout innings. He gave up a hit and struck out two.  

Any thoughts on the Twins or the minor league system? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.

The Bunt

21 Jul

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Seriously? Bunting. In that situation? Believe me, I get what Joe Mauer was thinking, and he is a very good bunter. No question about that. But at that time in the game, the late innings, you want and need your #3 hitter to attempt to drive in the go-ahead run. I say “Attempt” because we don’t know what would have happened. He very easily could have grounded into a double play. He could have drawn a walk. He could have popped up. He could have homered. Who knows?

And I do get the theory in Mauer’s head. He is not selfish. He isn’t selfish and wants to show his confidence in teammate Jason Kubel, even against a left-handed pitcher. He doesn’t feel the need to play hero. Unfortunately (for him), his spot in the batting order, and his mega-contract dictate that he be selfish and go out and win a ball game for his team. Fair or not, that is what he needs to do.

It makes us realize that batting average doesn’t matter, and many other stats don’t matter. As we are no insisting and understanding that a middle-of-the-order hitter go out and drive in runs can no longer argue that RBI are overrated stats. I was one who always thought that RBI were too much a result of opportunity, and I still believe that they are. But teams pay for the guys who produce, and that does mean RBI.

Kevin Slowey was solid. I would say if we are looking at the most recent starts of Slowey, Baker and Blackburn, Slowey’s was the best, and Baker’s was the worst. Does that mean that Blackburn is the one out of the rotation when Duensing jumps into the rotation? Does Blackburn go to the bullpen or to Rochester? What do you think is going to happen?

Is it just me, or is Carlos Santana pretty good?

Here are some quick notes on what happened in the Twins minor league system on Tuesday:

  • Rochester lost 1-0 to Buffalo on Tuesday afternoon. Anthony Swarzak pitched really well. In seven innings, he gave up just one run (in the 7th) on the six hits and two walks. He struck out nine. Brad Hennessey threw two shutout innings. Unfortunately the Red Wings managed just three hits off of former Twin Ramon Ortiz.
  • New Britain was shutout 2-0 by Harrisburg. The Rockcats had just four hits. Steve Singleton went 2-4, and Joe Benson hit his 14th AA double. Tyler Robertson had his second straight good start. He threw six shutout innings. He allowed six hits and a walk while striking out five. Chris Province went 1.2 innings and gave up two runs on three hits. Tony Davis struck out the one batter he faced.
  • Nate Hanson singled in Deibinson Romero with the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning. Allan de San Miguel went 3-3. Evan Bigley went 2-4. Dan Osterbrock continued his excellent pitching. He reduced his ERA to 2.62 In eight innings, he gave up one run on eight hits. He walked one and struck out eight. Joe Testa struck out three in three shutout innings.
  • There were no games scheduled in the Midwest League on Tuesday.
  • Elizabethton lost to Johnson City 4-3. Blayne Weller gave up two runs (1 earned) on six hits in seven innings. He walked two and struck out nine. Jean Mijares gave up two unearned runs on two hits in an inning. Zach See struck out two in a scoreless inning. Daniel Santana went 3-5. Buddy Munroe went 2-4 with his third double. Oswaldo Arcia went 2-4 with a walk and his 11th double.
  • The GCL Twins beat the GCL Orioles 11-10. Eddie Rosario went 4-5 with his eight double, first triple, three RBI and 12th stolen base. Kennys Vargas hit three doubles in five at bats. Matej Hejma went 3-4 with a walk. Jorge Polanco went 3-4 with three RBI. Kelvin Silvania and Jairo Rodriguez each had two hits. Pedro Guerra gave up only an unearned run in six innings. He gave up four hits, walked one and struck out three. Tyler Herr then gave up four runs on three hits and two walks in his inning. Bart Carter then gave up five runs on seven hits in two innings.

And for more about The Bunt Heard ‘Round the State, check out this excellent article by 1500espn’s Tom Pelissero.

If you have any comments, please feel free to leave them here.

Twins Minor League Weekly: Midseason Awards Show

14 Jul

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Last night, Travis Aune and I hosted Twins Minor League Weekly, our weekly review of the goings on throughout the Twins farm system. Last night was a special show. We spent the first half hour discussing the Twins affiliates and their seasons. The second half of the season, we ‘presented’ our Midseason Awards. For the awards, we enlisted some extra help. Travis and I voted, but so did six others who know something about the Twins minor leaguers. They are: LaVelle E. Neal from the Star Tribune, Josh Johnson from Josh’s Thoughts, Roger Dehring from Twinkie Town, Andrew Kneeland from Twins Target, Dez Tobin of Dez Says, and Steve Lien from Gear up for Twins Baseball.

Each voter voted for their top three in five categories; Best Hitter, Best Relief Pitcher, Best Starting Pitcher, Biggest Surprise, and Biggest Disappointment. They each then sent me their current Top 5 Twins Prospects. The results were very interesting. I’m going to ask that you listen to the podcast for the final results, but below, I will give you the top three finishers in each category, in alphabetical order, for you to consider.

Best Hitter: Joe Benson, Anderson Hidalgo, Ben Revere

Best Relief Pitcher: Kane Holbrooks, Anthony Slama, Kyle Waldrop

Best Starting Pitcher: Kyle Gibson, Liam Hendriks, Dan Osterbrock

Biggest Surprise: Joe Benson, Jonathan Goncalves, Liam Hendriks

Biggest Disappointment: Wilson Ramos, Tyler Robertson, Anthony Swarzak

Top 6 Twins Prospects: Joe Benson, Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks, Wilson Ramos, Ben Revere, Miguel Sano

Again, the lists above are in alphabetical order. To hear who the ‘winners’ were in each category, or who ranked first through sixth in the Top Prospect list, click here to listen to last night’s Twins Minor League Weekly.

A couple more notes:

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them here.