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Twins Organizational Depth Chart: Starting Pitchers

6 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net –  

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.   

TOP THREE (OR SO…) PROSPECTS 

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 

SUMMARY  

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 sethspeaksnet@hotmail.com or leave your thoughts in the Comments Section!

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2nd Preliminary Top 50 Minnesota Twins Prospects

20 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Hopefully in the very near future, the Twins Prospect Handbook will be available. My goal will be to have it available so that people can bring it to Twins Fest and get it signed by Twins prospects. We shall see. The recent struggles have certainly hurt the timeline, but I’m getting some great help and will try my best. Two months ago, I put together a preliminary Top 50 Prospect list. Since then, I’ve been getting more and more scouting reports, looking a little deeper at numbers and trying to learn as much as I can about each of the Twins prospects. With that, I’ll give you a second preliminary prospect list. There is some serious talent at the top of the list, but there are some players throughout this top 50 and a little beyond that, if things go right for them, you could see in a role with the Twins at some point in the future. Who knows, but definitely feel free to comment and discuss these rankings. Definitely let me know who I missed, who should be higher or lower, etc.

With that, here is my 2nd preliminary Minnesota Twins Top 50 Prospect ranking:

  1. Miguel Sano – 3B – Elizabethton Twins
  2. Eddie Rosario – OF – Elizabethton Twins
  3. Oswaldo Arcia – OF – Ft. Myers Miracle
  4. Joe Benson – OF – Minnesota Twins
  5. Aaron Hicks – OF – Ft. Myers Miracle
  6. Liam Hendriks – RHP – Minnesota Twins
  7. Kyle Gibson – RHP – Rochester Red Wings
  8. Alex Wimmers – RHP – Ft. Myers Miracle
  9. Chris Parmelee – 1B – Minnesota Twins
  10. Adrian Salcedo – RHP – Beloit Snappers
  11. Brian Dozier – SS – New Britain Rock Cats  
  12. Travis Harrison – 3B – Did Not Play
  13. Tom Stuifbergen – RHP – Rochester Red Wings
  14. Angel Morales – OF – Ft. Myers Miracle
  15. Chris Herrmann – C – New Britain Rock Cats
  16. Manuel Soliman – RHP – Beloit Snappers  
  17. Levi Michael – SS – Did Not Play
  18. Max Kepler – OF – Elizabethton Twins
  19. Niko Goodrum – SS – Elizabethton Twins
  20. Hudson Boyd – RHP – Did Not Play
  21. BJ Hermsen – RHP – Ft. Myers Miracle
  22. Danny Santana – SS – Beloit Snappers
  23. Madison Boer – RHP – Beloit Snappers
  24. Logan Darnell – LHP – New Britain Rock Cats
  25. David Bromberg – RHP – New Britain Rock Cats
  26. JD Williams – OF – Elizabethton Twins
  27. Terry Doyle – RHP – White Sox organization, Twins Rule 5 pick
  28. Jairo Perez – 3B – Beloit Snappers
  29. Matt Hauser – RHP – New Britain Rock Cats
  30. Pat Dean – LHP – New Britain Rock Cats
  31. Matt Summers – RHP – Elizabethton Twins
  32. Danny Rams – C – Ft. Myers Miracle
  33. Scott Diamond – LHP – Minnesota Twins  
  34. Angel Mata – RHP – GCL Twins
  35. Corey Williams – LHP – Elizabethton Twins  
  36. Danny Ortiz – OF – Beloit Snappers
  37. Carlos Gutierrez – RHP – Rochester Red Wings
  38. Nate Roberts – OF – Beloit Snappers
  39. Lance Ray – OF/1B – Beloit Snappers
  40. Deolis Guerra – RHP – New Britain Rock Cats
  41. Michael Gonzales – 1B – Beloit Snappers
  42. Lester Oliveros – RHP – Minnesota Twins
  43. Ryan O’Rourke – LHP – Beloit Snappers
  44. Hung-Yi Chen – RHP – GCL Twins
  45. James Beresford – SS – Ft. Myers Miracle
  46. Bobby Lanigan – RHP – New Britain Rock Cats
  47. Tyler Grimes – IF – Beloit Snappers
  48. Anderson Hidalgo – 3B – Ft. Myers Miracle
  49. Tim Shibuya – RHP – Elizabethton Twins
  50. Pedro Guerra – RHP – Beloit Snappers

JUST MISSED – Adam Bryant, Nick Lockwood, Rory Rhodes, Matt Bashore, Evan Bigley, Derek Christensen, Steven Gruver, Kuo-hua Lo.

I’m sure I missed others. Let’s discuss. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments. Final stages of the book development, so help me out!!

Kyle Gibson Update: SethSpeaks.net Weekly Twins Podcast

19 Oct

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

On tonight’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast, Twins RHP Kyle Gibson said that his “arm feels good.” Wednesday marks six weeks since his Tommy John surgery, and he sounded in good spirits after a checkup in New York with Dr. Altcheck. If you would like to listen to the entire podcast, click here.

Gibson, the Twins top draft pick in 2009 out of the University of Missouri, came into the 2011 season as the Twins top pitching prospect. He impressed manager Ron Gardenhire in big league spring training. He was sent to Triple-A Rochester where he was 3-3 with a 3.60 ERA through his first ten starts. In 55 innings pitched, he had walked just 11 and struck out 59. He struggled in June and then pitched in the Futures Game. He was skipped in a couple of starts, and struggled in his final start. He went to Minneapolis and they found the partial tear of his UCL. Although the team prescribed rest and rehab, a month later when re-evaluated, Tommy John surgery was announced. He had the surgery in early September and has been working on rehabbing every since.

The initial thought is that the rehab would primarily be arm/elbow related, but remember that a tendon from another body part is used to replace the ligament in the elbow.

“(My) leg is actually starting to feel like it’s not a pull hamstring anymore because they had to take part on my hamstring to reconstruct the UCL, and it’s feeling really good.”

It’s way too early to know an exact timeline. The assumption by many is that Gibson will miss the entire 2012 season. However, Gibson acknowledged that he knows the Steven Strasburg timeline. He knows that Strasburg had his Tommy John surgery on September 3, 2010, and made his return to the Nationals on September 7th. That is obviously the best case scenario that Gibson is striving for. But each Tommy John situation is different. There are many steps that Gibson will need to work through. In a couple of months, the right-hander will start throwing again. He’ll throw on flat land, gradually adding distance, and eventually throw off of a mound. At that point, he will work some simulated games before getting on the mound against real hitters.

Gibson, who will turn 24 on Sunday, said that it is “good to see the progress I’ve been making.” And really, at this stage, that is what it is all about. It will be a tough year for Gibson, to be sure, but he’s mentally strong and will handle it well.

“It’s going real good.”

Any thoughts?

AFL on Tuesday – Aaron Hicks went 3-5 with a triple and his first AFL home run. Brian Dozier was 0-3 with two walks. Chris Herrmann was 1-4 with a walk. Dakota Watts gave up a hit and a walk but got the final two outs without being charged with a run.

Help Coming?

23 Aug

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

We hear so often that the Twins minor league system is bad, that there are not players ready to come up to the big leagues and contribute to the team. I think most Twins fans understand that the Twins have done a lot in the last two or three years to really improve the overall value and talent level of the minor league system. However, most of that high-end talent is in High-A Ft. Myers or lower levels. Names like Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Angel Morales, Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano will pop up in Top Prospect lists very soon. But the Twins also have some very good talent in the upper levels as well.

I am often asked if there are any players in the Twins minor league system that can come up and contribute in 2012. The answer is absolutely Yes, but there are several angles to answering that question.

ALREADY THERE

In 2010, the Twins came into the season with a very veteran lineup. Not one rookie was in the everyday lineup to start the season. Alex Burnett was a surprise in the Opening Day bullpen despite zero innings pitched above Double-A. Danny Valencia came up in June and became a regular in July. Because he was the only rookie playing, there was little pressure on him and he went out and contributed mightily for the Twins down the stretch. In 2011, because of all of the injuries, Valencia has frequently been joined in the starting lineup for three or four players with less than a year of big league service time. That puts a lot of pressure on everyone in the lineup to do more than what they may be ready for. That isn’t good for the team and we have seen those struggles. Consider the current Twins roster. Here are the players with less than two years of big league service time: Valencia, Burnett, Drew Butera, Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Rene Tosoni, Anthony Swarzak and now Lester Oliveros. We have seen already that Valencia can put up some numbers, including some power. We have seen the value of Ben Revere’s speed on the base paths and in the field. Trevor Plouffe has struggled with the glove, but he leads the organization in home runs this season. Luke Hughes was the story of spring training and has contributed a couple of home runs while playing 1B and 2B. Tosoni has shown patience at the plate and good power potential. Swarzak has been very important as the Twins long reliever and spot starter. Butera’s defense has proven to be as good as advertised. Burnett has shown signs of how good he can be out of the Twins bullpen. And, at this point, we don’t know anything about Lester Oliveros, other than that he throws hard, walks and strikes out a lot and is still just 23 years old. Again, that is a lot of players expected to contribute despite such little time. They have certainly struggled at times this year. However, most of these players have also shown that they can contribute to the Twins over the coming years. Valencia, Plouffe, Swarzak and Tosoni are guys who have been Top 10 Twins prospects and have the talent to contribute for years to come.

RETREADS AT ROCHESTER

The Twins went out of their way to appease the Rochester masses and brought in a ton of minor league veterans. After losing 95 games in 2010, the Twins wanted to give Rochester a more competitive team. It didn’t work. The Red Wings are currently 48-82 this season. Sure, guys like Phil Dumatrait and Chuck James have pitched for the Twins, but those veterans were not really brought in to help the Twins. They were brought in to help the Red Wings. Guys like Jeff Bailey and Chase Lambin really struggled early in the season. However, the real purpose in bringing in the veterans was so that the real prospects who were not ready for AAA were able to stay in New Britain and develop appropriately. The best players of the Red Wings were the prospects. Unfortunately for the Red Wings, all those injuries meant that the Red Wings carousel was continuous again throughout the season. The Twins again called to Rochester frequently, taking the pitchers and top hitters from the Red Wings. Plouffe was one of the International League’s best hitters. Revere, Hughes, and Tosoni were also all in the opening day lineup for the Red Wings.

There are prospects in Rochester, but at this point, there are question marks with them.

  • Scott Diamond – His best start of the season may have been his Major League debut when he went 6.1 innings and gave up three runs. It has been a real struggle for the lefty with the Red Wings. The 25-year-old has gone 4-14 with a 5.88 ERA. It will be very interesting to see how he responds with the team in 2012 because coming into the season, he had never posted an ERA above 3.52 at any stop along his trek up the Braves minor league system. That includes a 3.30 ERA in ten 2010 starts with Gwinnett, Atlanta’s AAA affiliate in the International League.
  • Kyle Gibson – He came into the season as the Twins top prospect and rightfully so. The Twins top pick in 2009 made his minor league debut in 2010 and advanced from Ft. Myers to Rochester. He began the 2011 season with the Red Wings and went 3-3 with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in the season’s first two months. He walked very few, got a ton of ground balls and even struck out a batter an inning. He was definitely on pace to debut with the Twins in 2011. Unfortunately, in his final eight starts, he went 0-5 with a 6.47 ERA and a 1.88 WHIP. Clearly something wasn’t right, and he is currently in Florida rehabbing an elbow injury, hoping to avoid Tommy John surgery that would cost him his 2012 season. However, this does not make him a lesser prospect. It will just be 2013 before he is able to contribute to the Twins.
  • Carlos Gutierrez – The Twins second first-round pick in 2008 has been a starting pitcher to start each of his previous seasons in the minors. This season he finally went full-time into the bullpen. He has had his ups and downs with the Red Wings. His overall numbers are not impressive. He is 2-3 with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. He almost made the Twins roster out of spring training. Control continues to be his problem at times. However, he also missed most of July with an arm injury and has struggled since his return. But again, in terms of ‘stuff,’ Gutierrez definitely has it. He throws hard and gets a lot of ground balls due to his sinker. He will play a role with the Twins at some point in 2012.
  • Liam Hendriks – The Twins pushed Hendriks to AA New Britain to start the 2011 season and he pitched great. The Australian went 8-2 with a 2.70 ERA. Because of the need for pitching in Rochester, he was promoted after pitching in the Futures Game and in the Eastern League All-Star Game. He began his AAA tenure with three very good starts before two clunkers. His last two starts have again been solid. The 22-year-old has walked 21 and struck out 100 batters in 125.1 innings this year overall. Hendriks needs to be added to the 40 man roster following the season, so it is possible that he could get a September call-up.
  • Kyle Waldrop – Another reliever who impressed in Spring Training (For the second straight year), Waldrop struggled in the first half this season. However, since the All-Star break, he has been wonderful. His big sinker ball has been in full effect for the last month and he should be given a September opportunity. If so, he will be another important possibility in the Twins bullpen in 2012.

PLAYOFFS FOR PROSPECTS

The New Britain Rock Cats are 64-64 this season, but they remain in contention for a spot in the Eastern League playoffs. Since the Twins and Red Wings (and Ft. Myers Miracle) are out of contention for the playoffs, there are some terrific prospects who are staying with the Rock Cats in an attempt to make the playoffs. Many believe that being on a winning team, and playing for the team, is an important part of the development process. I would say that it can’t hurt. But the Rock Cats also have several players who could contribute to the Twins in 2012. A couple could be in contention for an opening day spot while each of them could be seen at some point in the 2012 season. Here is a look at the top prospects:

  • Joe Benson – The Twins Minor League Hitter of 2010, Benson has been a much better all-around player in 2011. He is hitting .284/.379.499 with 26 doubles, three triples and 14 home runs. He also has 13 stolen bases. All that, despite missing five weeks after knee surgery. Benson is an incredible athlete with tremendous power who is also probably the second fastest player in the organization after Ben Revere. Benson is also a terrific outfielder with great range and a rocket for an arm. His biggest area for needed improvement was his strikeout rate. In 2010, he struck out every 3.5 plate appearances. This year, that number is about four. Depending upon which outfielders the Twins bring back next year, Benson could play a very big role for the Twins starting in 2012.
  • Chris Parmelee – Benson was the team’s second round pick in 2006. Parmelee was the team’s first round pick, and he backed up a very good 2010 with an even stronger 2011. The left-handed hitting first baseman is hitting .291.371/.451 with 27 doubles, five triples and 13 home runs. He does struggle against left-handed pitching. He has more power potential. It isn’t fair to expect him to be Justin Morneau offensively or defensively, but he can be a very solid big leaguer at 1B, maybe in the Lyle Overbay mold. He has a terrific approach at the plate, and if the Twins have a need at 1B in 2012, Parmelee will be ready to step in. He could also DH against right-handed pitching. He also can play a little bit of right field if needed.
  • Brian Dozier – I would argue that no Twins minor leaguer has made a stronger impression in 2011 than Brian Dozier. The Twins surprised a lot of people when they invited Dozier to big league camp this spring. But he has come through with a tremendous season. It began in Ft. Myers and hit .322/.423/.472 in 49 games. In 64 games with the Rock Cats, he has hit .317/.384/.500. Overall, he has 30 doubles, 11 triples and seven home runs. He also has 24 stolen bases. As a top of the order hitter, he has 50 walks and 60 strikeouts. He profiles as a good #2 hitter. Twins minor league pitchers love when Dozier is playing shortstop behind them. With the struggles of Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the 24 year old Dozier should go to spring training with a legitimate opportunity to be the Twins starting shortstop.
  • Yangervis Solarte – Solarte broke out in 2010 when he hit at Ft. Myers and got an opportunity with New Britain, but he got hurt and missed a couple of months. He began this season with the Rock Cats and he has hit the entire time. He hit .300 or higher in April, May, June and July. Overall, he has hit .320/.361/.441 with 30 doubles, three triples and four home runs. He doesn’t walk a lot, but he also strikes out only about once every 13 plate appearances. The only question with Solarte is if there is a position that he can play adequately. That will be the thing that will determine how big his future role with the Twins will be. The 24 year old has played primarily at second base and can also play both corner outfield positions, but not really well.
  • Deolis Guerra – This may be a surprise name to many, especially if you look at his overall numbers in 2011, but Guerra has been terrific. Overall, he is 7-7 with a 5.83 ERA on the season. He began the year with ten starts. He went 3-5 with a 9.00 ERA. In 43 innings, he gave up 66 hits, walked 15 and struck out 30. Opponents hit .357. Then he was moved to the bullpen, and he has been great since. In 24 relief appearances,e he is 4-2 with a 2.80 ERA. In 45 innings, he has given up 33 hits, walked 11 and struck out 55. Opponents have hit just .198 against him. The still-just-22 year old right-hander has a good fastball and a great changeup. It’s remarkable how the role change has improved his control, but his strikeout rate is very improved. He still has an option year in 2012, so hopefully he continues to make improvements and plays a role with the Twins as early as mid-2012.
  • David Bromberg – Twins fans should not forget Bromberg. He was an easy choice to add to the 40-man roster after last season. He has consistently moved up the Twins farm system, three times leading his league in strikeouts. He began this season in New Britain, but in late April, he was hit in the forearm by a line drive and he missed three months of the season. He returned recently, but probably too quickly. It’s important to note that his injury was not to his elbow or shoulder, it was a fluke injury. In other words, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t regain his form which means he will compete for a job with the Twins in 2012.

There are others on that Rock Cats roster who could find themselves with the Twins in time. Evan Bigley is an outfielder in the Chad Allen mode. Danny Lehmann is the most respected catcher by pitchers in the Twins minor leagues. His defense is on par with Drew Butera’s, with probably a little better offense. Andrew Albers has had a tremendous season with the Miracle and the Rock Cats. The lefty could continue to work his way up. Dakota Watts and Bruce Pugh are two pitchers who can throw into the upper-90s and are potential bullpen arms. Brett Jacobson has had an up and down season, but he has a chance. Bobby Lanigan has struggled some as a starter, but he profiles well as a future reliever because of a good fastball and a very good slider. Steve Hirschfeld was my choice for Twins minor league pitcher of the month in April and May. Finally, lefty Logan Darnell began the season in Beloit and is now with the Rock Cats.

ONE MORE

Although it is a rarity for a player to jump from Ft. Myers to the big leagues in one season, I would encourage people to keep an eye on Oswaldo Arcia. The 20-year-old outfielder was the Appalachian League Player of the Year last year for Elizabethton. He spent a month at Beloit this year, posting an OPS over 1.000. He then missed six weeks due to arthroscopic elbow surgery. Instead of going back to Beloit, Arcia went to Ft. Myers where he has continued to hit well. I believe his bat is legit. I posted on Twitter a couple of days ago that I think Arcia may be the best hitting prospect that the Twins have had since Jason Kubel in 2005. He seems to be a natural hitter. It might be a little aggressive to consider Arcia as a possibility for the Twins in 2012, but if there is a hitting prospect for Twins fans to really get excited about, it is Arcia.

Gibson to Avoid Tommy John Surgery… for now

10 Aug

The Twins announced on Tuesday that top pitching prospect Kyle Gibson has a … let me get this right… flexor pronator muscle strain of the right elbow and a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament… uffdah… and will, at least for now, avoid Tommy John surgery. Instead, he will head down to Ft. Myers and rehab.

This is obviously not exactly great news for the Minnesota Twins as the very talented right hander will be shut down for the rest of this season. The only cure for a torn ligament is Tommy John surgery, but the Twins are going to attempt the rest and rehab thing again. If you recall, that is what they did with Francisco Liriano in 2006 and Pat Neshek in 2007. If Gibson had Tommy John surgery now, he would likely miss all of the 2012 season. If Gibson has Tommy John surgery in October or November, he would miss all of the 2012 season. According to Phil Mackey (Via Twitter) of 1500espn, Braves pitchers Mike Minor and Arodys Vizcaino have successful rehabbed from partial UCL tears and remain great prospects. Both have  been recalled to the Braves in the last week, with the 20-year-old Vizcaino just recalled late last night.

When the Twins drafted Gibson with the 22nd overall pick in the 2009 draft, they were thrilled. Because of some forearm issues, which Gibson was very forthright about, he slipped to the Twins. There was some concern at the time about the injury. However, after signing late in 2009, he made his pro debut in 2010. He scurried through the minor leagues, starting at Ft. Myers before moving up to New Britain and finally to Triple A Rochester where he made three starts before being shut down. In 2011, he returned to Rochester after impressing manager Ron Gardenhire in spring training. He was one of my Top 3 Twins minor league starting pitchers for both April and May. However, he struggled some in June and after pitching in the Futures Game in Arizona, he had just one second half start, and it went really poorly. Uncharacteristically, he walked five batters. Concern for the elbow was immediate. The team shut Gibson down, hoping that it was just inflammation and missing a start or two would help. It just wasn’t recovering as quickly as he had hoped. That’s why he flew to Minneapolis on Sunday night. That’s why he had an MRI on Monday, and went through more testing on Tuesday.

The top pick in that 2009 draft, Steven Strasburg got to the big leagues early in 2010, but was shut down and required Tommy John surgery which he had last September. On Sunday, he made his first rehab appearance and went 1.2 innings. That is a very aggressive timeline. Recovery from Tommy John surgery is generally 12-17 months. If Gibson has his surgery this month, he could be ready next August or September, but most likely (and wisely), the Twins would wait until spring training of 2013 to have him come back. At that point, he will still be just 25 years old and have plenty of time for a comeback. Obviously there is no cookie cutter return from Tommy John surgery, but there are so many examples of pitchers who have come back and been just as successful that there is no reason for pessimism.

But again, first and foremost, best wishes go out to Kyle Gibson and his family. I’m sure this would be a very nerve-wracking moment, but he is very strong and strong in his faith.  FEWDY, right Kyle?!

I asked Gibson if he cared to join me for a bit on last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast. He politely declined saying that he “doesn’t have too many answers right now.” He did say that in the near future he would join a podcast again and we can talk through some of this with him.

The news was a little better for fellow Twins minor league pitcher Anthony Slama who was diagnosed with a flexor pronator muscle strain in his right elbow, as well. He will also be heading back to Ft. Myers to rehab the elbow area. I like to think that, if healthy, Slama could have played a big role in the Twins bullpen in 2011, although the Twins have never really given him that opportunity.

Miracle shortstop Estarlin de Los Santos was put on the Disabled List yesterday and traveled to Minnesota where he will be having Tommy John surgery. I had heard that last week, but he kept playing 2B throughout the weekend.  

Miracle pitcher Brad Stillings is in Minnesota where he will have shoulder surgery

It has been a very difficult year on the injury front of the Twins and throughout their minor league system. Jeff Manship is on the DL with a rib injury. New Britain reliever Tony Davis had his elbow scoped. Michael Tarsi has been out quite awhile now. Miracle outfielders Oswaldo Arcia and Angel Morales also had their elbows scoped. I heard that Miracle starter Miguel Munoz had bone chips removed from his elbow. Jhon Garcia is on the Disabled List now. Dan Osterbrock has missed most of this season with a shoulder injury. Ben Tootle was just put on the disabled list. Matt Bashore hasn’t pitched since July 24. 2010 draft pick Dallas Gallant had Tommy John surgery earlier this spring. Of course, no injury has been as serious as that of Paul Bargas, who was diagnose with brain cancer in April. He continues to be at home in California.

When it rains, apparently it pours.

BLOG SPOTTING

Let’s take a quick look around the Twins blogosphere and see what people are saying:

MINOR LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS FROM TUESDAY

Rochester lost to Durham 10-6. Justin Morneau went 3-5 with two doubles. He now is 8-14 in his last three games after going 1-8 in his first two games with the Red Wings. (yes, I would say he is rather close!) Luke Hughes went 2-5 including a first inning home run, his third for the Red Wings this year. Dustin Martin went 3-5 with his fourth triple. Brian Dinkelman was 2-3. Scott Diamond started and was roughed up again. The lefty gave up eight runs (6 earned) on eight hits and a walk. In four innings, he struck out five. Kyle Waldrop gave up a run on three hits in two innings. Dusty Hughes struck out two in a scoreless inning. Jim Hoey gave up a solo home run in the 8th.

Tom Stuifbergen picked up his fifth win of the season with seven strong innings. He gave up three runs on eight hits. He walked none and struck out five. Bruce Pugh struck out two in two scoreless innings for his 13th Miracle save as Ft. Myers beat Bradenton 6-3. Oswaldo Arcia was 3-5 with his 9th and 10th doubles, and his fifth home run. Angel Morales and Dan Rohlfing were each 2-4. James Beresford was 2-5. Aaron Hicks was 0-2 but he walked three times. Josmil Pinto followed up Arcia’s home run with his fourth homer of the year.

The Snappers split a double header with Quad Cities on Tuesday. In the first game, Beloit won 12-6. AJ Achter gave up six runs (5 earned) on nine hits and two walks in just three innings. Bart Carter came in and gave up two hits and a walk but no runs in two scoreless innings. He struck out two. Jose Gonzalez gave up two hits and a walk in his two scoreless innings. Lance Ray led the offense. He went 3-4 with his 13th home run. Daniel Ortiz was 2-3 with his 30th double. Jairo Perez was 1-3 with a walk and his 12th homer. Andy Leer knocked a grand slam for the Snappers, his second homer of the season.

The Snappers lost the second game 6-5. Pedro Guerra made his first Snappers start of the year. He went four innings and gave up six runs on six hits (2 homers). He walked three and struck out six. Sam Spangler came in and gave up just one hit over three scoreless innings. On offense, Tyler Grimes went 2-3 with his second homer. Lance Ray added his 32nd double.

Elizabethton got a two-run, pinch-hit double from Eddie Rosario in the top of the 9th to tie the score at two. In the 10th, Kennys Vargas knocked his sixth home run of the season to give the E-Twins a 3-2 win over Danville. Max Kepler was 2-5 with his ninth double. Niko Goodrum went 2-2 with three walks. David Hurlbut started and gave up two runs on six hits and a walk in six innings. Cole Johnson threw two scoreless innings. Steve Evans picked up the win with a scoreless frame, and Matt Summers recorded his fourth save with a perfect tenth.

The New Britain/Altoona game and the GCL Twins/GCL Rays game were both postponed by rain.

By the way, LaVelle E. Neal tweeted last night that he will be posting his new Top 10 Twins Prospect list, with numbers 6-10 posted today and 1-5 posted on Thursday. Check out the Twins Insider blog throughout the day to see how it compares to my most recent Top 10 list from August 1. (Oswaldo Arcia, Liam Hendriks, Aaron Hicks, Kyle Gibson, Miguel Sano, Joe Benson, Adrian Salcedo, Eddie Rosario, Angel Morales, Chris Parmelee).

Feel free to E-mail me, or leave some Comments.

SethSpeaks.net Top 50 Minnesota Twins Prospects

29 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Normally I like to post my Top 50 Twins prospect lists before the draft and then following the minor league season in September. I then have updated my top 30 or 40 for the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. Life, writing, kid, work and other things have been crazier this year than ever before. No surprise, but it definitely has affected blogging. Of course, I do encourage people to listen to the four half-hour podcasts that I’m involved in each week to get the most recent information if I don’t blog it.

Typically I have done a four or five part announcement of my Top 50 prospect list, but due to time, here it is today, in one installment. It also has a little different look. The below chart provides the ranking, position, age, team(s) and then some brief comments on the players.

Summary – to be honest, this is the most difficult time I have had putting together a prospect ranking for the Twins. This year, it was pretty easy to rank the top eight to ten, but beyond that, it was quite difficult. I think that the top of the Twins prospect list is very good, with some future all-stars and several big-league regulars. Beyond that, there are a bunch of prospects that I can see coming up and being back-of-the-rotation starters, bullpen types, solid big leaguers who can help the team. However, overall, I don’t think that this top 50 is necessarily as strong as it has been in year’s past.

Here are a couple of quick notes before we get started. First, Ben Revere (probably would rank 7th) and Luke Hughes (probably would be in the late teens) are now beyond rookie status (130 at bats), so they not in this list. I also did not include any of the 2011 draft picks. 2nd round pick Madison Boer is the highest selection to sign. Their three first-round picks have not signed yet. I know the question will come up, so I will answer it now. Where would I rank top pick Levi Michael on this list? Sadly, I would probably rank him somewhere between 13 and 17 on this list. Travis Harrison would probably be in the high-20s, and Hudson Boyd would be in the low-20s. I would probably rank Madison Boer in the mid-30s.

The purpose of these lists is really twofold. First, I think that minor leaguers deserve to be recognized for the work they’re doing without notoriety for the most part. Second, for discussion on these prospects.

Yes, I did flip-flop at the top again. With what Aaron Hicks has done over the last two weeks, I am again really excited about his future. He’s always been about the tools, but having seen him work in person for a few days and to see the numbers, I hope that we are seeing those tools turn into skills. It is in no way a knock on Kyle Gibson who continues to be a great prospect who will certainly contribute to the Twins for years. I’ve been touting Liam Hendriks as a top prospect considerable as well, and I will stand by that. I think he can be a Twins starter for years as well. Miguel Sano has a ton of talent and the comparisons to the likes of A-Rod and Miguel Cabrera are exciting. I don’t question the bat, I’m just curious about a few things. Will he be able to play defense adequately anywhere? Can he cut down the strikeouts? That’s why I now have Oswaldo Arcia up at #3. I think that he can be very solid defensively, but he can also hit for average and power. I am intrigued by his promotion to Ft. Myers after his elbow surgery and am very interested in how he does.

My  Twins Minor League Weekly co-host, Travis Aune posted his Top 50 Twins prospects the other day, and I definitely encourage everyone to check that out as well. He and I both love following the Twins minor league system and see most of the same information. We then generate our own thoughts on the players and you will notice that there are many similarities and many differences. Some of the differing opinions mean a big difference in where we rank the players. The reality is neither of us know for sure what these minor leaguers’ careers will amount to. No one does. And that’s the fun of these lists. We can all have different opinions on the various prospects, generate our own opinions, and then over the next several years, we’ll see how it goes.

With all that introduction, I present to you, the SethSpeaks.net Top 50 Twins Prospects for mid-season 2011. I definitely welcome any questions, comments or opinions on my rankings. I also encourage you to post your Top 5, 10, 20 prospect list as well. Feel free to post any comments here. (Note – See www.SethSpeaks.net for the Comments)

Rank

Player

Pos

Age

Team Comments

1

Aaron Hicks

OF

22

Ft. Myers Hicks is now turning his tools into skills. Future All-Star.

2

Kyle Gibson

RHP

23

Rochester Great K rate, GB rate, K:BB rate, so ignore that 3-7 W-L, Future All-Star.

3

Oswaldo Arcia

OF

20

Bel/FM Missed a month and still promoted, impressive bat!

4

Liam Hendriks

RHP

22

New Britain pushed to AA, has been terrific. 7-2, 2.81 ERA. Good K rate.

5

Miguel Sano

IF

18

Elizabethton No question about the bat potential. Bad D, need to be patient.

6

Joe Benson

OF

23

New Britain Streaky hitter, but great D, arm, speed, power, competitive

7

Trevor Plouffe

IF

25

Roch/Minnesota How is his bat not in the big leagues right now??

8

Adrian Salcedo

RHP

20

Beloit Long and lanky, and pitching well for Beloit!

9

Angel Morales

OF

21

Has Not Played Hasn’t played this year, still ranks in top 10. Good power/speed.

10

Rene Tosoni

OF

24

Roch/Minnesota Kubel-Lite has been pushed too fast this year, but terrific talent.

11

Chris Parmelee

1B

23

New Britain Solid all-around hitter, improving 1B. Needs to keep improving.

12

Eddie Rosario

OF

19

Elizabethton Complete package, line drives, HR power, great glove and arm.

13

Carlos Gutierrez

RHP

24

Rochester throws 97, good ERA, too many walks, not enough Ks.

14

David Bromberg

RHP

23

New Britain broken ulna cost him time, but he’s young and has the pitches

15

Danny Ortiz

OF

21

Beloit April Hitter of Month, small guy, but huge power, good D

16

Tom Stuifbergen

RHP

22

Ft. Myers 4 ER in last 43+ IP. Touching 94, great changeup, good SL & CB

17

Pat Dean

LHP

22

Bel/FM missed first six weeks, 7 Beloit starts, now to Ft. Myers.

18

Manuel Soliman

RHP

21

Beloit Still learning to pitch, but he can get some strikeouts. Throws hard!

19

Bobby Lanigan

RHP

24

New Britain Overshadowed in New Britain rotation. Has a great slider!

20

Niko Goodrum

SS

19

Elizabethton Still very raw, but immensely talented, strong, fast.

21

Max Kepler

OF

18

Elizabethton Still very raw, but immensely talented, strong, fast.

22

BJ Hermsen

RHP

21

Beloit has improved since the beginning of season.

23

Brian Dozier

SS

24

FM/NB Overlooked by me, he is a very steady, solid hitter and fielder.

24

Chris Herrmann

C/OF

23

FM/NB Great approach at plate, catcher versatility, very good outfielder.

25

Yangervis Solarte

IF/OF

23

New Britain Hit .350 most of year with pop, would like to see more walks.

26

Steve Singleton

IF

25

NB/Rochester lots of doubles again this season, would like to see more walks.

27

Nate Roberts

OF

22

Beloit On-Base machine. Little power, but a very good, line drive hitter.

28

Danny Rams

C

22

Ft. Myers Approach at plate has improved, still lots of Ks and power potential.

29

Rory Rhodes

3B

19

Elizabethton 6-7 Australian will put up big numbers in E-Town, all-around hitter.

30

Logan Darnell

LHP

22

Bel/FM Lefty with great stuff has pitched well at two levels.

31

Bruce Pugh

RHP

22

FM/NB Rough 1st outing in NB, dominant since. Big fastball!

32

Anderson Hidalgo

3B

22

Ft. Myers Just hits .300 everywhere, probably overlooked prospect.

33

Deolis Guerra

RHP

22

New Britain Terrible as a starter, but so far, so good in the BP! Still young!

34

Lance Ray

OF

21

Beloit Horrible April, steadily improve since. Good all-around  bat.

35

Nick Lockwood

2B

20

Elizabethton Line Drive after line drive. Good 2B, will hit for gap power too.

36

Evan Bigley

OF

24

New Britain Another overlooked prospect, very good all-around.

37

Alex Wimmers

RHP

22

Ft. Myers 1 outing, 6 batters, 6 walks… shut down. We can hope!

38

Scott Diamond

LHP

24

Rochester After being tremendous in ATL system, pretty bad with Red Wings

39

Dakota Watts

RHP

23

Ft. Myers Throws really, really hard.

40

Miguel Munoz

RHP

22

Ft. Myers 1 start, rehabbing elbow since. He has good stuff. Hope for health!

41

Michael Gonzales

1B

23

Beloit Repeating Beloit, lost weight, quicker bat, great power, good AVG

42

James Beresford

IF

22

Ft. Myers 2-time Beloit MVP hit well early. Struggled of late. Great glove!

43

Ryan O’Rourke

LHP

23

Beloit Lefty has pitched well out of BP and now as a starter too!

44

Anthony Slama

RHP

27

Roch/Minnesota Can’t do any more in minors, needs a chance, with someone!

45

Angel Mata

RHP

18

GCL Very young, very talented Dominican.

46

Danny Santana

SS

20

Beloit Speed. Swings hard for little guy. Lots of Es. Did I mention Speed?

47

Brett Jacobson

RHP

24

New Britain When he throws strikes, he can be really good. Not enough strikes.

48

Steve Hirschfeld

RHP

25

New Britain My April and May Twins Min. Lg Pitcher of the Month!

49

Dan Rohlfing

C

22

FM/NB Keeps getting pushed, much improved behind plate and at bat!

50

Matt Bashore

LHP

23

Elizabethton He’s now healthy and can begin the slow trek up the system.

Any other thoughts or questions on the Twins minor leaguers? Feel free to comment here.

Twins Top Ten Prospect Review

14 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Before we start, a final reminder. It is the last day to enter the below contest:

World Series Contest

I am going to be holding some contests here and on Twitter and Facebook over the next week or two thanks to A&E who has now come out with “A&E Minnesota Twins Vintage World Series Films DVD.”  It includes both the 1987 and 1991 teams! The ’87 team beat the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games. The ’91 World Series was the first that had two worst-to-first teams as the Twins and the Atlanta Braves played one of the greatest seven-game series ever, including Jack Morris’s amazing Game 7. So be sure to look here and other places for some contests for a free copy.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at my pre-season Top 30 Twins prospect list and see how they are doing through just over two months of the season. Some have impressed. Some have disappointed. And, seemingly to keep up with the big league club, there have been a bunch of injuries. This list was compiled and presented in the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook -2011, after looking at a ton of stats and reading a bunch of scouting reports. It is a great example of how, with prospects, you just never know. Let’s get started:

  1. Kyle Gibson – RHP – Last night, Gibson gave up two runs in six innings, but fell to 3-6. However, he has a 3.79 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. In 71.1 innings, he has given up 71 hits, 17 walks and struck out 74. Many fans want the 23 year old to be pitching in the big leagues today. Honestly, I believe that if the Twins really needed a starting pitcher today, he could come up and fill in adequately. It’s exciting to see him striking out more than a batter per inning while still exhibiting tremendous control. He will likely be with the Twins this year, maybe even around the All Star break.
  2. Miguel Sano – 3B – Sano has been in Ft. Myers working out with the Extended Spring Training. He will likely soon be reporting to Elizabethton. After hitting .291/.338/.446 with the GCL Twins. Sano recently turned 18 years old. He is listed at 6-3 and 195 pounds, but he is bigger than that. He has huge legs and a hand shake that I have to assume rivals that of Adrian Peterson. Again, I know a lot of people want this Dominican Bonus Baby to be playing at a higher level, but there is no rush. Last year in the GCL, he struck out 43 times in 148 at bats with just 10 walks. This guy’s ceiling is up there with the likes of Miguel Cabrera, but let’s have some patience and let that power develop.
  3. Aaron Hicks – OF –  To look at Aaron Hicks’ .268 batting average this season in Ft. Myers only tells a small part of the story. Since May 1st, he is hitting .305 with 11 doubles and two homers. His season on base percentage is an impressive .375. Aaron Hicks has amazing tools. He has made some great catches in centerfield for the Ft. Myers Miracle this season, and has several assists due to a very strong and accurate arm. While he continues to walk, his strikeout rate has dropped some as well. To understand fully how much talent and athleticism he has requires actually seeing him practice and play. He is going to be a very good big leaguer. Keep the faith, and keep the patience.
  4. Joe Benson – OF – Benson got off to a very fast start this year in New Britain and then struggled from late April until mid-May. At that time, Benson went on a run that saw him hit .484/.556/.774 between May 24 and June 2. And then Twins doctors found something in his knee, so he had it scoped and will likely miss three weeks of action. Benson is ready defensively. He is a very good outfielder with great range and a big arm. In terms of speed, only Ben Revere is probably faster than him in the organization. Although he is not on pace to match his 27 home runs from 2010, his slugging percentage is better. Strikeouts continue to be what he needs to watch. After striking out every third plate appearance a year ago, he is striking out in one of four plate appearances so far this year.
  5. Alex Wimmers – RHP – After signing with the Twins last year in August, the two-time Big 10 Pitcher of the Year went 2-0 with a 0-57 ERA in 15.2 innings for the Miracle. He gave up just six hits, walked five and struck out 23. He returned to the Miracle to start this season, and it took him just five batters to walk as many as he walked last year, and a sixth batter to surpass it. And he hasn’t pitched for the Miracle since. The team immediately sent him to Extended Spring Training where he continues to work. He entered spring training with a hamstring injury. My hope is that the leg injury affected his mechanics and that he can get it back. That was two months ago, and he still isn’t back. So, hopefully he can get it back soon.
  6. Liam Hendriks – RHP – I wrote last week that Hendriks is now in the discussion, for me, of top Twins prospects. Still just 22 years old and with only 12 starts last year in Ft. Myers, the Twins decided that Hendriks was ready for Double-A. He has responded so far by going 6-2 with a 2.63 ERA. In 65 innings, he has allowed 58 hits, walked 14 and struck out 61. The Australian has thrown a Quality Start in eight of his last nine starts. In his last three outings, he has given up just two runs in 20 innings. He is a very smart pitcher, very competitive and I think has a chance to be very good.
  7. Angel Morales – OF – The Twins drafted Morales in the 3rd round in the 2007 draft out of high school in Puerto Rico, and he is still just 21 years old. Last year between Beloit and Ft. Myers, he hit .280/.362/.405 with 24 doubles, ten triples and five home runs. He also stole 29 bases. He is a very good outfielder with a strong arm. However, it is his arm that has caused him to miss all of the 2011 season. He fought elbow pain in spring, and they shut him down and had him rehab. He had a setback two weeks ago, and there was thought that he would need Tommy John surgery. When he got to the surgery, it was determined that they would just clean his elbow with arthroscopic surgery. This is obviously great news. I talked to GCL Twins coach and former big leaguer Milt Cuyler this spring training. We were watching Morales stand in the batter’s box against some bullpen pitching. He raved about Morales’s balance and approach. No one in the organization questions his power. Hopefully he can rehab and play some winter league ball in preparation for spring training.
  8. Ben Revere – OF – Twins fans have definitely already seen the best of Ben Revere. He can be a catalyst at the top of the lineup. He can hit a ton of singles and steal second at will. His range in centerfield is tremendous and he has shown the glove to play all three outfield spots. In 81 big league at bats, he his hit .272 and has just a .306 batting average with a .284 slugging percentage. In 132 at bats in AAA Rochester, he hit .303/.338/.364 with five extra base hits. We’ve also seen proof of the arm that we’ve heard so much about. We have seen the value and the excitement that the speed of Ben Revere brings to the table. We have also seen signs of why I may not have been crazy to have him as the Twins 8th prospect (many thought it was too low).
  9. Adrian Salcedo – RHP – Seeing Adrian Salcedo throw in the  bullpen, it is easy to see why scouts would be excited about his potential. He is long (6-4) and lean (175… if that). He has long arms and tremendous delivery. He is a terrific athlete as well, having seen him basically sprint the mile run. Still just 20 years old, Salcedo has been the Snappers most consistent start this season. Overall, he is 5-3 with a 3.10 ERA. In 72.2 innings, he has given up 68 hits, walked 18 and struck out 51. He has work to do, to be sure, but he is a very exciting prospect.
  10. Oswaldo Arcia – OF – You always have to be a little cautious of the numbers that hitters put up when they play at Elizabethton. In 2010, Arcia was the Appalachian League Player of the Year after he hit .375/.424/.672 with 21 doubles, seven triples and 14 home runs for the E-Twins. He moved up to Beloit this spring and put on an offensive display in April. He hit .352/.420/.704 with eight doubles and five home runs in just 71 at bats. However, he went on the Disabled List on May 1 with a sore elbow. A week later, he had arthroscopic surgery on his elbow and is expected to miss two months. To watch him take batting practice in spring training was impressive. Everything he hit was solid. Line drives and home runs to all parts of the field. Of course, every time he came out of the cage, he would grab his left elbow. Arcia is compactly built and very strong. Hopefully he can get back to the Snappers and continue to mash.

To see my choices for 11-50, check out SethSpeaks.net, and for much, much more on these prospects and over 100 more Twins prospects, pick up a copy of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook – 2011.

Here are a couple more minor league notes:

  • LHP Pat Dean, the team’s 3rd round pick a year ago out of Boston College, missed the first six weeks of the season. He was named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week last week. On June 6, he threw six shutout innings. Then on June 11, he left the game with two outs in the 7th inning, having not yet allowed a hit in the game. He had issued two walks and struck out nine. So, for that week, he went 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA. In 12.2 innings, he gave up six hits, walked three and struck out 18. Not too shabby.
  • There are several Minnesotan in the Twins minor leagues including 25thround pick last week, AJ Petterson, the former Gopher SS. Here are the others:
    • Derek McCallum hit just .196/.276/.262 in 107 at bats in Beloit, but he was recently promoted to Ft. Myers. There, he has hit .241 in 29 at bats.
    • Nate Hanson was hitting .267/.327/.383 with 12 doubles and four home runs in Ft. Myers. Last week, he was promoted to AA New Britain where he has just one hit in 10 at bats. The hit was a double.
    • Matt Schuld is from Plymouth and pitched at St. Thomas. He is now 3-1 with a 4.40 ERA in 59.1 innings for the Ft. Myers Miracle.
    • Schuld’s former college teammate, 3B Roy Larson, is working in Extended Spring Training this season and will most likely report to Elizabethton.
    • Mark Dolenc went to Minnesota State- Mankato. He is in his second year at Double-A new Britain. He is hitting .257/.313/.337 with seven doubles, two triples and a home run in 175 at bats. He also has nine stolen bases.
    • Cole DeVries had a rough 2010 season between New Britain and Rochester. He began this season in New Britain where he went 0-0 with nine saves and a 2.28 ERA. In 27.2 innings, he gave up just 17 hits, walked five and struck out 33. He was promoted to Rochester where he has continued to pitch well. In six games (9.1 innings), he has give up just eight hits, walked four and struck out 12.
    • Andy Baldwin is 28 years old and spent the last three seasons with Tacoma, the Mariners’ AAA affiliate. The Duluth native has made ten starts for the Rochester Red Wings and is 3-5 with a 4.97 ERA. In 58 innings, he has 13 walks and 44 strikeouts.
  • The Twins signed 27 year old Cuban defector Dennis Suarez. He made an appearance in an Extended Spring Training game. Now he is starting for the New Britain Rock Cats. In his two starts, he has gone 0-1 with a 3.27 ERA. In his most recent start, he took the loss despite allowing just one run in seven innings. It will be interesting to see how he responds to Double-A and if he gets pushed forward.
  • A year ago, 2B Steve Singleton led the Twins organization with 43 doubles, all in New Britain. He began this season with the Rock Cats again and has had two stints with the Rochester Red Wings. He has 17 AA doubles, and now has seven more AAA doubles meaning he is currently on pace to eclipse 50 doubles this year.
  • Brian Dozier was my choice for Twins minor league hitter of the month of May. He was remarkably consistent through the first two months and in early June was finally summoned to play in Double-A New Britain. He went 3-8 in his first three games with the Rock Cats. Unfortunately in that third game, he was also hit in the face with a pitch. He had a fractured sinus bone. After seeing a specialist, it was determined that surgery was not needed. The doctor said that he could play as soon as the swelling goes down. He hopes within the next week.
  • Tom Stuifbergen first made a name for himself when he threw four shutout innings for Team Netherlands in the WBC a couple years ago. He is currently 2-4 with a 3.74 ERA in nine starts with the Ft. Myers Miracle. However, after coming back slowly from some shoulder discomfort, Stuifbergen has been terrific. In his past four starts, he has given up two runs in 24.2 innings. He is now consistently hitting 92 and 93 mph with his fastball, touching 94-95 at times. He has a four-pitch mix, but his changeup is tremendous.
  • Be sure to check out last night’s Twins Minor League Weekly for much more on the Twins minor league system.  

Any other thoughts or questions on the Twins minor leaguers? Feel free to comment here.