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February 16, 2011

Future Shock

Minnesota Twins Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: With one of the best scouting departments around, the Twins are always strong, and this year is no different.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Miguel Sano, 3B
Four-Star Prospects
2. Aaron Hicks, CF
3. Kyle Gibson, RHP
4. Ben Revere, OF
Three-Star Prospects
5. Joe Benson, OF
6. Oswaldo Arcia, OF
7. Adrian Salcedo, RHP
8. Alex Wimmers, RHP
9. Max Kepler, OF
Two-Star Prospects
10. Liam Hendriks, RHP
11. Angel Morales, OF

Nine More:
12. Billy Bullock, RHP: A reliever with a plus fastball/slider combination that misses plenty of bats, but he also grants too many walks.
13. Carlos Gutierrez, RHP: Because he's armed with one of the best sinkers around, he could reach the big leagues this year, but scouts have always been frustrated with his performance.
14. Manuel Soliman, RHP: A converted infielder with arm strength and improving secondary stuff, he could move up after his full-season debut.
15. Pat Dean, LHP: Last June's third-round pick is a classic Twins-style strike-thrower, equipped with more command than stuff.
16. Niko Goodrum, SS: He's a fantastic up-the-middle athlete, but he was lost with the bat after signing.
17. David Bromberg, RHP: He's nearly big-league ready thanks to a good fastball and curve, but scouts see nothing special in him.
18. Eddie Rosario, OF: A fourth-round pick out of Puerto Rico with an impressive bat, but other tools need to manifest into skills.
19. Daniel Ortiz, OF: A smallish outfielder who showcased shocking power in the Appy League, but he has some big holes in his swing as well.
20. Bruce Pugh, RHP: An unheralded right-hander hit some bumps in the road at High-A, but he still touched the mid-90s with his fastball.

1. Miguel Sano, 3B
DOB
: 5/11/93
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: .344/.463/.547 at Dominican Summer League (20 G); .291/.338/.466 at Rookie (41 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/run

Year in Review: Representing the Twins' biggest Latin American investment by a wide margin, Sano looked to be worth every bit of his $3.15 million bonus during his pro debut.
The Good: Sano's offensive upside is tremendous, with one scout saying, “if everything works out, he'll fit right in with Mauer and Morneau.” He has the bat speed and hands to hit for average, as well as the plus-plus raw power that combine to make him a potential middle-of-the-order force. Moved from shortstop to third base, he shows solid defensive skills, and a well above-average arm.
The Bad: Sano is already 30 pounds above his listed weight, and still growing. There's a chance he'll need to move to right field, and some wonder if first base will be his only option once he's in his mid 20s. As good as he is offensively, he needs to make some adjustments with his approach, as he can get caught guessing 'fastball' in an at-bat.
Ephemera: Sano hit a triple is his first professional game for the Dominican Summer League Twins, and hasn't hit one since.
Perfect World Projection: Sano is far from being a big leaguer, but his ceiling is the rare No. 3 hitter on a championship-level team.
Fantasy Impact: When are No. 3 hitters on championship-level teams bad fantasy picks?
Path to the Big Leagues: The Twins are notorious for moving prospects up the chain slowly, and barring a massive spring, Sano will spend the first half of the year in extended spring training.
ETA: 2015

2. Aaron Hicks, CF
DOB
: 10/2/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/185
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2008, Wilson HS (CA)
2010 Stats: .279/.401/.428 at Low-A (115 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Arm/power

Year in Review: The Twins surprised many by having their 2008 first-round pick repeat High-A, and he hit .308/.429/.459 in the second half of the season.
The Good: Hicks has some of the best all-around tools, with none of the five rating as less than average. He's a good hitter from both sides, with arguably the best plate discipline in the system, and he still shows above-average raw power in batting practice. A plus runner, he has the potential to be an impact center fielder with good range to both sides and a 70+ arm.
The Bad: As much as Hicks' approach deserves to be lauded, he often crosses the line from patient to passive, and lets plenty of drivable balls go by while looking for the perfect one. He has been slower to develop than most first-round tools players, and his power still rarely shows up in game situations.
Ephemera: Of the four players drafted out of Wilson High to reach the big leagues, half are Burroughs, as both Jeff (1969) and Sean (1988) were first-round picks out of the school.
Perfect World Projection: He becomes a multi-faceted center fielder with good on-base skills, some power, plenty of speed, and plus-plus defense.
Fantasy Impact: Power projections from scouts vary from 10 to 15 to 20+ homers annually; at the latter number, he moves into stud territory.
Path to the Big Leagues: Hicks is ready to move up to High-A in 2011, but the Florida State League won't do him any favors as he looks for an offensive breakthrough.
ETA: 2013

3. Kyle Gibson, RHP
DOB
: 10/23/87
Height/Weight: 6-6/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009, University of Missouri
2010 Stats: 1.87 ERA (43.1-33-12-40) at High-A (7 G); 3.68 ERA (93.0-91-22-77) at Double-A (16 G); 1.72 ERA (15.2-12-5-9) at Triple-A (3 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Slider/Fastball

Year in Review: After dropping to the Twins in the 2009 draft, Gibson proved to be healthy and pitched his way all the way up to Triple-A.
The Good: The Twins tend to favor command and control over stuff, and Gibson is the poster boy for that. He pounds both sides of the lower half of the strike zone with an average-velocity fastball that he can add or subtract from while adding a bit of sink. He uses the heater to set up a pair of plus secondary pitches, with a slider and changeup that both rate as above-average offerings.
The Bad: Gibson's ability to miss bats declined as he moved up the ladder, and some feel he's a bit of a backwards pitcher due to the lack of velocity. He doesn't have much projection, so while he's already big-league ready, he's also already at his ceiling.
Ephemera: In Gibson's third professional start, he coaxed 16 ground-ball outs without a single one of the fly-ball variety in seven innings against Charlotte. Ten days later, he tossed a complete-game one-hitter with 16 more ground balls and only one fly out.
Perfect World Projection: Solid No. 3 starter.
Fantasy Impact: A low walk total will help his WHIP, but don't expect big numbers in other categories.
Path to the Big Leagues: Gibson will get a long look this spring, but is likely heading back to Triple-A to begin the year. Still, he should make is major-league debut at some point during the season.
ETA: 2011

4. Ben Revere, OF
DOB
: 5/3/88
Height/Weight: 5-9/175
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2007, Lexington Catholic HS (KY)
2010 Stats: .305/.371/.363 at Double-A (94 G); .179/.233/.179 at MLB (13 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Run/Power

Year in Review: A first-round pick in 2007, Revere kept on hitting and made his big-league debut in September as a extra outfielder and pinch-runner.
The Good: With a career .328 batting average in the minors, Revere has never seen his average sink below .300 at any level; he can obviously hit. He has good bat speed and the best hands in the system, having struck out just 126 times in over 1500 career at-bats as a pro. He's a plus-plus runner who covers plenty of ground in the outfield, and should be good for 30+ stolen bases per year.
The Bad: Revere drove balls far more often earlier in his career, and now seems content in being a slap hitter who runs well. Just 13.6 percent of his hits went for extra bases in 2010, while two years ago that rate was 22.4 percent. He works the count relatively well, but could still use some more walks. His arm is well below average, to the point where some scouts believe he'll be a liability in center because of it.
Ephemera: While the overwhelming majority of Revere's time in New Britain was as the team's center fielder, he hit .406 (28-for-69) in a corner outfield or designated hitter role.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a fine everyday leadoff man.
Fantasy Impact: Yes, if we're talking about average and stolen bases, but you'll have to find your power numbers elsewhere.
Path to the Big Leagues: Revere will begin the year at Triple-A, but barring injury he has little opportunity for anything more than another September callup.
ETA: 2011

5. Joe Benson, OF
DOB
: 3/5/88
Height/Weight: 6-2/211
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2006, Catholic Academy HS (IL)
2010 Stats: .294/.375/.588 at High-A (21 G); .251/.336/.527 at Double-A (102 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/hit

Year in Review: After years of frustrating performances, Benson's tools finally began to show up in games. Notably, he hit 27 home runs after totaling just 19 in his first four pro seasons.
The Good: Some scouts feel that Benson's raw tools eclipse those even of Hicks. He has plus-plus raw power and well above-average speed to go with good defensive skills and a strong arm. He works the count well and waits for pitches to drive. A football star in high school, he brings a gridiron mentality to the game, with a max-effort style of play.
The Bad: The biggest question concerning Benson is just how much he will hit. He can get inconsistent mechanically as well as quite power-hungry, leading to a long, loopy swing that leaves him a highly streaky hitter. He needs to improve his jumps and routes in order to remain in the middle pasture.
Ephemera: Only nine position players drafted 64th overall have reached the big leagues, and six of them have been catchers, including Brian McCann (2002), the leading home-run hitter out of that slot.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a classic everyday right fielder who can fill in at center in a pinch.
Fantasy Impact: As a power/speed player with 20/20 potential or great, it could be significant.
Path to the Big Leagues: Benson has a shot to move even higher on this list by proving that 2010's breakout was for real while beginning the year at Triple-A.
ETA: 2012

6. Oswaldo Arcia, OF
DOB
: 5/9/91
Height/Weight: 6-0/210
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Venezuela
2010 Stats: .375/.424/.572 at Rookie (64 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Hit/run

Year in Review: After a solid stateside debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2009, Arcia exploded last summer, leading the Appalachian League in batting, on-base percentage, slugging, hits, extra-base hits, total bases, and RBI.
The Good: Arcia is an explosive hitter with tremendous bat speed and average to plus-grade raw power, all of it coming out of a short, thick frame. He already uses all fields, and can go deep to any part of the park. He's a good athlete for his size and has good outfield instincts.
The Bad: Although he's a good hitter, he can nevertheless get fooled by breaking balls, and with 67 strikeouts and a ridiculous .464 BABIP in 2010, there's a considerable amount of luck in his numbers. He's a tick below-average baserunner who's getting slower, and he'll need to watch his conditioning as he develops.
Ephemera: When leading off an inning for Elizabethton, Arcia went 19-for-40 with four doubles, a triple, and five home runs for an even slugging percentage of 1.000.
Perfect World Projection: An everyday corner outfielder with more than enough bat to handle it.
Fantasy Impact: There should be solid average and power numbers out of him, but he's a long way from proving that he'll be a future star.
Path to the Big Leagues: Arcia will make his highly anticipated full-season debut at Low-A Beloit in 2011.
ETA: 2014.

7. Adrian Salcedo, RHP
DOB: 4/24/91
Height/Weight: 6-4.175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: 3.27 ERA (66.0-55-10-65) at Rookie (16 G); 6.26 ERA (27.1-42-8-16) at High-A (6 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: A high-ceiling Dominican, Salcedo was hammered when he was forced to be an 18-year-old emergency starter in High-A, but back at the right level for him for now, he was among the Appy League's most impressive throwers.
The Good: Salcedo is plenty good now, but is loaded with projection thanks to a long, skinny form and ultra-smooth, athletic delivery. He already can touch 95 mph with a fastball that sits at 90-92, and the precision in his delivery gives him excellent control, which is rare considering his age and the length of his levers. He gets occasional tight spin on a 80-83 mph slider. Team officials gush about his makeup and work ethic.
The Bad: Salcedo needs to refine his arsenal beyond the heater. He often gets around on his breaking ball, causing it to flatten out, while his changeup remains well below average. He still needs to learn the difference between throwing strikes and using the strike zone, but that should come with age.
Ephemera: While Salcedo gave up just three home runs against the 260 hitters he faced in the Appy League in 2010, two of those home runs came in back-to-back at-bats by Cardinals prospect Oscar Tavares on July 30.
Perfect World Projection: Salcedo has a star-level ceiling, but is also very, very far from reaching it. There are scenarios where he develops into anything from a No. 2 to No. 4 starter.
Fantasy Impact: Let's get one more year's worth of looks before making this judgment.
Path to the Big Leagues: Salcedo will get his first taste of a full-season league by beginning the 2011 season at Low-A Beloit.
ETA: 2014

8. Alex Wimmers, RHP
DOB
: 11/1/88
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, Ohio State University
2010 Stats: 0.57 ERA (15.2-6-5-23) at High-A (4 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Control/curveball

Year in Review: The Twins love pitchers from the Midwest, and that tendency continued as they selected Wimmers with their first-round pick last June.
The Good: Wimmers is yet another classic Twins pitcher who earns more praise for his command and control than pure stuff. His best pitch is a plus changeup, which many scouts though was amongst the best to be found in the draft. He fills all four quadrants of the strike zone with a 89-91 mph fastball that can touch 93, and he has excellent instincts in term of setting up hitters and keeping them off balance.
The Bad: His curve is a no more than a solid to average pitch, and is one that has a tendency to come and go in his starts. He just doesn't have the pure stuff to be anything more than a mid-rotation type, and he lacks the physicality to provide much in the way of upside.
Ephemera: Wimmers played high school ball at Archbishop Moeller in Cincinnati, and finished his days there as the all-time leader with a career .457 batting average. That's made all the more impressive by the fact that Moeller was the alma mater of Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin, Buddy Bell, and other big leaguers.
Perfect World Projection: Although he is a safe prospect, it's hard to see him as anything more than an innings eater in the third slot of a rotation.
Fantasy Impact: He has far more real-world value.
Path to the Big Leagues: Wimmers has plenty of polish, and could move up quickly through the minors, beginning with the 2011 season at High-A Ft. Myers.
ETA: 2013

9. Max Kepler, OF
DOB
: 2/10/93
Height/Weight: 6-4/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Germany
2010 Stats: .286/.346/.343 at Rookie (37 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Hit/power (present)

Year in Review: Signed to a $800,000 deal out of Germany, Kepler more than held his own as a 17-year-old in the Gulf Coast League.
The Good: He offers plenty to dream on. Kepler has a long frame, is an exceptionally fluid athlete, and he could potentially have five average-to-above tools. He can already hit, showing outstanding bat speed and an ability to use all fields, and scouts believe he'll add power as he fills out and learns how to pull balls. He's an above-average runner who is rapidly improving in the outfield, and his arm is strong.
The Bad: Kepler is very far from being a finished product. His line-drive swing offers little loft or backspin, which prevented him from driving many balls during his debut. He can get tied up by quality breaking balls, and needs to improve his pitch-recognition skills. Because of his size and age, there is some thought that he'll end up outgrowing center and have to move into an outfield corner.
EphemeraKepler is the son of two German ballet stars, as his American-born mother, a graduate of the Joffrey Ballet school in New York moved to Germany in 1984, where she met he husband, a Polish dancer who had joined the same troupe.
Perfect World Projection: Kepler has the tools to be a star.
Fantasy Impact: It's far too early to know exactly what kind of player he'll be, but Kepler has potential in both the power and speed departments.
Path to the Big Leagues: Kepler is the same age as most potential 2011 high school draft picks, and he's not yet ready for a full-season assignment. He'll refine his skills in extended spring training to being 2011, and report to the Appy League come June.
ETA: 2015

10. Liam Hendriks, RHP
DOB
: 2/10/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Australia
2010 Stats: 1.32 ERA (34.0-16-4-39) at Low-A (6 G); 1.93 ERA (74.2-63-8-66) at High-A (13 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Control/fastball

Year in Review: Nearly unknown entering the year, Hendriks was one of the best statistical performers in the minors, finishing the year with a 1.74 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly nine to one.
The Good: Even in a system loaded with control specialists, none can match Hendriks, who treats walks as if they're a criminal offense. He sits at 88-90 mph with his fastball while touching 92, and can mix in a slider, curveball, and changeup, all of which rate as average offerings. All of his pitches play up due to his ability to place them exactly where he wants them, and he mixes his pitches for maximum effectiveness.
The Bad: Hendriks will never light up a radar gun, and on a pure scouting level he lacks a single true plus offering. He can morph his two breaking balls into an ineffective slurve at times. He's unproven stamina-wise, as he threw just over 100 innings last year due to an appendectomy, while back and knee issues have plagued him in the past.
Ephemera: Of the 227 right-handed batters Hendriks faced in 2010, he walked a grand total of one.
Perfect World Projection: A dependable and consistent starter, but one for the back of the rotation.
Fantasy Impact: Don't expect much in this department.
Path to the Big Leagues: Hendriks will face a big test in 2011 concerning how well his stuff and style will play at Double-A.
ETA: 2013

11. Angel Morales, OF
DOB
: 10/24/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2007, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
2010 Stats: .289/.381/.474 at Low-A (60 G); .272/.347/.349 at High-A (73 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Speed/hit

Year in Review: After showing plenty of progress during the first half of the season, Morales struggled in his first exposure to High-A.
The Good: Morales is a compact athlete with plenty of tools. He has enough raw power for some scouts to put an average projection on him in that department, and he's well above average as a baserunner, especially first-to-third once he gets going. He has a easy-grade plus arm that's more than good enough for right field.
The Bad: Morales still has bad habits at the plate, as he's a free swinger who rarely works the count in his favor, and he still gets fooled by off-speed pitches out of the strike zone. He needs to let is natural strength work for him, as opposed to trying to crush any pitch he can reach. His work in center field is shaky, and he could end up in a corner.
Ephemera: While 41 players were drafted out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Acedemy from 2004 to 2008, none have made the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He becomes a solid but unspectacular everyday outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: With power and speed, Morales has the potential to achieve more on a fantasy roster than on a real one.
Path to the Big Leagues: Morales will get a second shot at High-A, but in his fifth year as a pro, it's time for him to get going.
ETA: 2014

The Sleeper: An undersized left-hander, soon-to-be 20-year-old Dominican Martire Garcia was bumping up into the 94-95 mph range with his fastball in 2010, and could get on the prospect radar as well with improved secondary pitches.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/85 or later)
1. Delmon Young, LF
2. Miguel Sano, 3B
3. Aaron Hicks, CF
4. Kyle Gibson, RHP
5. Ben Revere, OF
6. Joe Benson, OF
7. Oswaldo Arcia, OF
8. Adrian Salcedo, RHP
9. Alex Wimmers, RHP
10. Max Kepler, OF

The Twins aren't exactly a young team, with Young the only big-leaguer eligible for this ranking. After predicting significant progress for him prior to the 2010 season, I will do the same once again, as he's still three to five years from his prime. He's still going to be the star many thought he'd become, it's just taking a little longer than expected.

Summary: With an impressive track record in the draft and one of the most far-reaching and thorough international scouting departments, the Twins focus on player procurement and development in order to compete with the teams that have larger checkbooks. This isn't one of their strongest groups in recent memory, but it's hard to imagine them ever being weak.

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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