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November 3, 2011

Future Shock

Twins Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System in 30 Words or Less: The team finished 2011 with the second-most losses in Twins history, and there isn't much help on the way; most of the system's strength is years away.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Miguel Sano, 3B
Four-Star Prospects
2. Eddie Rosario, OF/2B
3. Joe Benson, OF
Three-Star Prospects
4. Aaron Hicks, OF
5. Oswaldo Arcia, OF
6. Levi Michael, SS
7. Alex Wimmers, RHP
8. Travis Harrison, 3B
9. Brian Dozier, SS/2B
10. Kyle Gibson, RHP
11. Max Kepler, OF

Nine More:
12. Hudson Boyd, RHP: This 2011 supplemental first-round pick is a big-bodied power arm who needs refinement.
13. Liam Hendriks, RHP: Many scouts feel Hendriks’ extreme command ways caught up to him at Triple-A.
14. Adrian Salcedo, RHP: He’s a potential member of the rotation, but his breaking ball remains a work in progress.
15. Chris Parmelee, 1B: Yes, he made progress this year, but Parmelee’s minor-league track record of not having enough bat for the position trumps 21 big-league games.
16. Madison Boer, RHP: This 2011 second-round pick has a plus fastball and slider. The Twins will try to make him a starter.
17. Carlos Gutierrez, RHP: Gutierrez’s ground-ball rate has been among the best for years, but every other peripheral stat is troubling.
18. Manuel Soliman, RHP: He made a solid but unspectacular full-season debut in 2011, showing a deep arsenal but nothing special.
19. Niko Goodrum, SS: This high-profile 2010 draftee remains very raw, but he has the tools to move up this list.
20. B.J. Hermsen, RHP: Like most Twins prospects, he has more polish than stuff.

1. Miguel Sano, 3B
DOB
: 5/11/93
Height/Weight: 6-3/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: .292/.352/.637 at Rookie (66 G)
Tools Profile: He’s among the best power prospects in the game.

Year in Review: Sano, one of the highest-profile Latin American signings in history, put on a power show in the Appalachian League.
The Good: Sano has pure 80 power, and he has the rare ability to showcase it in game situations. His ability to drive the ball out of any part of the park is also rare; he doesn't have to muscle up his swing, or even make full contact for the ball to go over the fence. His other plus tool is a very good arm.
The Bad: Sano has already grown considerably since signing, and he could end up a slow, one-dimensional slugger once he is physically mature. His swing gets long at times, and he'll need to hone his approach as he develops. He's a sluggish—if not downright sloppy—defender who made 26 errors in 64 games last year and is projected by most to end up in right field.
Ephemera: Thirty percent of Sano's homers came in the fifth inning; he went 10-for-25 with six home runs and slugged 1.200 in that inning.
Perfect World Projection: He's going to slide down the defensive spectrum as he continues to mature, but the bat will play at a star level at any position.
Fantasy Impact: You like guys who compete for home-run titles, right?
Path to the Big Leagues: Sano will make his highly anticipated full-season debut in 2012 at Low-A Beloit.
ETA: 2014

2. Eddie Rosario, OF/2B
DOB
: 9/28/91
Height/Weight: 6-0/170
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2010, Rafael Lopez Ladron HS (PR)
2011 Stats: .337/.397/.670 at Rookie (67 G)
Tools Profile: He’s a true five-tool talent, but none of them are star level.

Year in Review: Rosario, who entered the year as the 18th-best prospect in the system, owned the Appalachian League.
The Good: Rosario has impressive tools across the board. He's a natural hitter with bat speed and fantastic hands that let him consistently put the thick part of the barrel on the ball. He has at least average power out of a smaller physical package. He has average to a tick above-average speed and a solid arm, as well as good defensive instincts.
The Bad: Rosario's game is more one of few weaknesses than outstanding strengths. He's more of a 20/20 type than 30/30, and is a bit of a bad-ball hitter with a tendency to expand his strike zone when behind in the count.
Ephemera: Former Padres infielder Tim Flannery is the only player selected 135th overall in the draft with more than 400 big-league at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a second baseman with 15-20 home runs and stolen bases. That's a star.
Fantasy Impact: If he can somehow stay at second base, he could be uniquely valuable.
Path to the Big Leagues: Rosario was moved to second base during the instructional league, and his infield experiment will begin next year at Low-A Beloit, which looks like a team to watch for.
ETA: 2014

3. Joe Benson, OF
DOB
: 3/5/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2006, Joliet Catholic HS (IL)
2011 Stats: .222/.363/.333 at Rookie (3 G); .285/.388/.495 at Double-A (111 G); .239/.270/.352 at MLB (21 G)
Tools Profile: He has star-level tools, but his hitting ability lags behind.

Year in Review: This athletic outfielder produced at Double-A for the second straight season to earn a September audition.
The Good: Benson has always had tools. He has above-average raw power, and enough speed to generate double-digit stolen-base totals. He's a good outfielder who can handle center field, and his arm is a weapon; he's amassed 24 outfield assists in less than 200 outfield games at Double-A. He's a patient hitter who knows how to slow the game down and work the count to his advantage.
The Bad: Benson is a career .265 hitter in the minors with a high strikeout rate, and that might be his peak in the big leagues. His refined swing is still a bit stiff and mechanical. He'll need to walk, run, and hit for power throughout his career to make up for the number of outs he'll make.
Ephemera: Benson was also a football star at perennial powerhouse Joliet Catholic. He generated Division I interest as a running back by rushing for 2,183 yards with 33 touchdowns in his final year.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday corner outfielder whose value comes from impressive secondary skills.
Fantasy Impact: He'll contribute in multiple categories, but batting average is not one of them.
Path to the Big Leagues: Benson is expected to compete for a big-league starting outfield job in the spring.
ETA: 2012

4. Aaron Hicks, OF
DOB
: 10/2/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/185
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2008, Wilson HS (CA)
2011 Stats: .242/.354/.368/ at High-A (122 G)
Tools Profile: He’s as toolsy as it gets.

Year in Review: This first-round pick from three years ago continued to astound with his tools and frustrate with his lack of performance.
The Good: Hicks is one of the best all-around athletes in the minor leagues. He shows considerable power in batting practice, and is a 60-65 runner. He's a tremendous center fielder with one of the best outfield arms in the minors, one that some scouts put an 80 on.
The Bad: Hicks has made little progress as a hitter. While he draws walks, his approach is more passive than patient, and it’s rare for him to make loud contact in games. He still flails at pitches away and is susceptible to inside pitches. With more than 1,500 minor league plate appearances, some are starting to wonder if things will ever click for him.
Ephemera: Located in Long Beach, Wilson Classical High has a long baseball history, with notable alumni including Bob Lemon, Jeff Burroughs, and Bobby Grich.
Perfect World Projection: Hicks' tools remain the best in the system, but at some point the numbers have to show up.
Fantasy Impact: It’ll be somewhere between bust and All-Star center fielder. You make the call.
Path to the Big Leagues: After repeating Low-A earlier in his career, sending Hicks back for a second year in the Florida State League would be a troubling development. It could be swing or sink time for Hicks in 2012 at Double-A.
ETA: 2014

5. Oswaldo Arcia, OF
DOB
: 5/9/91
Height/Weight: 6-0/210
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Venezuela
2011 Stats: .500/.500/.875 at Rookie (2 G); .352/.420/.704 at Low-A (20 G); .263/.300/.460 at High-A (59 G)
Tools Profile: His plus hit and power tools trump his other weaknesses.

Year in Review: This young Venezuelan was off to a tremendous start at Low-A Beloit, but he was slowed in the second half as he recovered from elbow surgery.
The Good: Arcia is among the best pure hitters in the system. He has bat speed and a good feel for contact, to go with above-average power. He's not special in the outfield, but hardly a liability, and his arm strength is expected to return to average status.
The Bad: Arcia has a roundish build and isn't especially athletic. He's a below-average runner and doesn’t have enough arm for right field, so he'll need to hit. He's very aggressive at the plate, especially early in the count, and needs to work on his on-base skills.
Ephemera: All five of Arcia's Midwest League home runs came at home, where he hit .383/.442/.787 in 12 games.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday corner outfielder who hits in the middle of the lineup.
Fantasy Impact: He could be a slugger who delivers in both the average and power categories.
Path to the Big Leagues: Arcia is young enough that returning to High-A to begin 2012 doesn't affect his development.
ETA: 2014

6. Levi Michael, SS
DOB
: 2/9/91
Height/Weight: 5-10/180
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011, North Carolina
2011 Stats: N/A
Tools Profile: He’s small and a grinder, but he also has tools.

Year in Review: Michael was seen by most as the best college shortstop in the draft, but he fell further than expected and did not sign until the deadline.
The Good: Michael projects as a top-of-the-order hitter with a line-drive swing from both sides of the plate and a very good contact rate. He'll surprise at times with his ability to sting balls into the gap, and can steal bases with above-average speed. He has outstanding defensive fundamentals and a solid arm. He's a baseball rat who plays hard and earns high grades for his intensity.
The Bad: Michael is not your classic quick-twitch athlete at shortstop, and while he makes the play on everything he gets to, his range is bit short. He'll never be much of a power threat.
Ephemera: Michael is the 12th University of North Carolina player to be taken in the first round. Those players have an excellent track record; Michael and Mets prospect Matt Harvey are the only two not to play in the majors.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a steady everyday shortstop with gap power and some speed.
Fantasy Impact: Shortstops with fantasy value are hard to find, but Michael could produce in the average category and have as many as 20 stolen bases per year.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Twins move their prospects notoriously slowly, and though he hasn’t made his pro debut yet, Michael’s polish could land him as high as High-A Fort Myers to begin 2012.
ETA: 2014

7. Alex Wimmers, RHP
DOB
: 11/1/88
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, Ohio State
2011 Stats: 0.00 ERA (1-0-1-1) at Rookie (1 G); 4.20 ERA (40.2-28-22-39) at High-A (12 G)
Tools Profile: He fits the classic Twins profile: average stuff that plays up due to pitchability.

Year in Review: This 2010 first-round pick walked all six batters he faced in his season debut, and took nearly three months to straighten his mechanics out.
The Good: Wimmers was impressive upon his return. He doesn't blow hitters away, but his 89-93 mph velocity is solid. He throws an average curveball and has the best changeup in the system, as it projects to be a true out pitch in the big leagues. The Twins rave about the work he put in to save the second half of his season.
The Bad: Wimmers threw less than 50 innings in 2011, so it was a bit of a lost campaign. His first half will stick with him for a while. While he walked a reasonable 16 in 40 2/3 innings after returning, he still seems to be fighting with his delivery at times.
Ephemera: Wimmers is the highest drafted pitcher in Ohio State history, and the all-time leader in wins among alumni is Dave Burba, with 115.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a solid right-handed starting pitcher.
Fantasy Impact: He could be one of those late-round rotation picks who eats up innings and doesn't hurt you.
Path to the Big Leagues: Wimmers' late-season run created some optimism, and he'll likely return to Fort Myers in 2012 with the chance to pitch himself to Double-A.
ETA: 2013

8. Travis Harrison, 3B
DOB
: 10/17/92
Height/Weight: 6-2/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011, Tustin HS (CA)
2011 Stats: N/A
Tools Profile: He can hit... that's about it.

Year in Review: This Southern California third baseman dropped to 50th overall in the draft, but he still got first-round money, signing for $1,050,000.
The Good: Harrison has the potential to hit for both average and power. He's broad-shouldered, generates leverage from his lower half, and adds loft and backspin in his swing. He has worked hard to improve his defense at the hot corner, and has a solid arm.
The Bad: Harrison's swing has some length to it, and he could find himself behind on good velocity unless he shortens his trigger. He has the tools to play third base, but will need considerable work there. He’s a below-average runner, but not a base clogger.
Ephemera: Orange County’s Tustin High is a baseball powerhouse whose graduates include Mark Grace and Shawn Green, but in 2008, it also had the most alumni in the NFL, with six.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an above-average everyday third baseman, but if he has to move, his future becomes cloudier.
Fantasy Impact: He was given seven figures for his bat and his power, which is what he'll be drafted for if he develops.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Twins rarely put high school picks right into full-season ball, so Harrison will likely stay in extended spring training and begin his 2012 season in the Appy League.
ETA: 2016

9. Brian Dozier, SS/2B
DOB
: 5/15/87
Height/Weight: 5-11/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Eighth round, 2009, Southern Mississippi
2011 Stats: .322/.423/.472 at High-A (49 G); .318/.384/.502 at Double-A (78 G)
Tools Profile: He’s a grinder who can hit.

Year in Review: Seen as a player with more polish than skill, Dozier had a breakout campaign offensively, and was not slowed by a promotion to Double-A.
The Good: One scout thinks Dozier is among the most underrated prospects in the Eastern League, noting, “The kid just flat out hits.” Dozier has a good approach, plus bat speed, and rarely strikes out. He's a 50-55 runner with good instincts on the bases, and is a fundamentally sound defender.
The Bad: Dozier doesn't have the athleticism or arm to play shortstop in the big leagues, so he'll have to keep hitting to fit at second base. While he has gap power and should provide plenty of two-baggers, it's unlikely he'll ever reach double-digit home-run totals in the big leagues.
Ephemera: Dozier earned 10 varsity letters at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Mississippi: four in baseball, three in football, two in golf, and one in basketball.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday second baseman with doubles power and some speed.
Fantasy Impact: His ability to steal bases and hit about 10 home runs per year should be worth something.
Path to the Big Leagues: Minnesota's middle infield is in a state of flux, and if outside reinforcements fail to materialize, it could lead to an opportunity for Dozier. He's a longshot to open 2012 in the big leagues, but he should get there at some point.
ETA: 2012

10. Kyle Gibson, RHP
DOB
: 10/23/87
Height/Weight: 6-6/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009, Missouri
2011 Stats: 4.81 ERA (95.1-109-27-91) at Triple-A (18 G)
Tools Profile: This classic Twins pitcher has command and a deep arsenal.

Year in Review: Tommy John surgery kept this 2009 first-round pick from getting a September look.
The Good: Gibson's bread-and-butter pitch is a fastball thrown with average velocity at 88-92 mph, but it has outstanding sink and plays up due to his ability to locate. He can also throw a low-90s four-seamer to keep hitters honest, and has experimented with a cutter. His slider is a plus swing-and-miss offering, and he has confidence in his average changeup.
The Bad: Gibson proved to be hittable in Triple-A, and scouts wonder if he has a put-away offering to attack big-league hitters with, as plus sliders are more effective in harder throwers. He'll miss the entire 2012 season, and will begin 2013 as a 25-year-old still rehabbing from an injury.
Ephemera: Gibson has a 0.98 ERA during his senior year at Greenfield Central High in Indiana, yet finished the year with a record of just 8-6.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a fourth starter with a shot at becoming a third starter if he can come all the way back from surgery.
Fantasy Impact: He's not a strikeout pitcher, and will likely peak at average in other categories.
Path to the Big Leagues: Gibson's surgery was considered a success, but he's still expected to miss the entire 2012 season.
ETA: 2014

11. Max Kepler, OF
DOB
: 2/10/93
Height/Weight: 6-4/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Germany, 2009
2011 Stats: .262/.347/.366 at Rookie (50 G)
Tools Profile: Athlete. Period.

Year in Review: The recipient of the highest bonus ever for a player signed out of Europe ($800,000), Kepler's numbers might not look like much, but they were actually a pleasant surprise and exceeded expectations.
The Good: Kepler certainly passes the sniff test. He's a graceful athlete with length, and his fluid swing makes it easy to project him to hit for power once his frame fills. His speed and arm strength are both a tick above average, giving him the tools to play center field.
The Bad: Everything about Kepler's game is raw. He's still learning how to recognize pitches, and rarely drives balls in game situations. He needs to improve his reads and routes in the outfield and his baserunning.
Ephemera: Kepler's mother, Kathy, is American. She attended the Joffrey Ballet School at 15, and moved to Germany to further her ballet career. There she met her husband, Marek, also a dancer and an émigré from Poland.
Perfect World Projection: Kepler has the tools to be a star, but he is light years away from his ceiling.
Fantasy Impact: His career could go in so many directions that it's nearly impossible to project what kind of player he becomes.
Path to the Big Leagues: Kepler will turn 19 before spring training, and he'll compete for an Opening Day assignment in Beloit, although he'll have to prove he's ready for it.
ETA: 2016

The Sleeper: Sixth-round pick Dereck Rodriguez is extremely raw, but the outfielder has a projectable frame, power potential, and above-average speed.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Miguel Sano, 3B
2. Eddie Rosario, OF/2B
3. Joe Benson, OF
4. Aaron Hicks, OF
5. Ben Revere, OF
6. Oswaldo Arcia, OF
7. Levi Michael, SS
8. Alex Wimmers, RHP
9. Travis Harrison, 3B
10. Brian Dozier, SS/2B

I'm one of the few who still believes in Revere, or at least his ability to up his batting average by 20 points and become a viable second-division starter. While he took over shortstop duties in the second half of the season, Trevor Plouffe fails to make the list, as he's better suited for a utility role, and in the end, Dozier is the more valuable asset.

 Summary: The Twins are a bad team, with an older big-league roster and little help coming in the immediate future. This is going to take awhile.  

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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