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February 19, 2009

Future Shock

Twins Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart

Five-Star Prospects
1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Aaron Hicks, CF
Three-Star Prospects
3. Danny Valencia, 3B
4. Angel Morales, CF
5. Wilson Ramos, C
6. Shooter Hunt, RHP
7. Kevin Mulvey, RHP
8. David Bromberg, RHP
9. Carlos Gutierrez, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
10. Deolis Guerra, RHP
11. Jeff Manship, RHP

Just Missed: Steven Tolleson, 2B/SS; Anthony Swarzak, RHP; Jose Mijares, LHP

Ranking Challenges: The top two traded places a few times, and while Hicks offers a higher ceiling, Revere comes with more certainty because of his core hitting ability. After that, this system grades down significantly, becoming a bit of a crap shoot. With every one of the three-star players, there are a lot of things to like, and a lot of things to be leery about. Regardless of his promise, Guerra still slides toward the bottom based upon both his youth and what we've seen from him in the recent past.

1. Ben Revere, CF
DOB: 5/3/88
Height/Weight: 5-9/166
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, Lexington HS (KY)
2008 Stats: .379/.433/.497, .266 EqA at Low-A (83 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: A surprise first-round pick, he appeared to be an astute selection as he flirted with .400 during much of his full-season debut in '08.
The Good: Revere can hit. He has a lightning quick bat and a simple swing that gives him tremendous plate coverage with the ability to make adjustments on pitches in-flight. Despite his size and having hit just one home run last year, multiple scouts pointed out that he is not just a slap hitter, and he routinely makes surprisingly hard contact while driving the ball into the gaps. He's a burner who can turn singles into doubles, doubles into triples, and any ground ball hit to the left side into an adventure.
The Bad: His baseball instincts need work; he often needs his wheels to make up for bad breaks and routes in the outfield. He also needs to improve his basestealing and learn how to get better jumps and reads on the bases. His arm is well below average, with some rating it only a 30 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He'll need to work the count better to profile as a leadoff hitter.
Fun Fact: Revere hit at least .340 in each individual inning last year, except for in extra innings, when he went 0-for-5.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a .300-hitting center fielder with 50 stolen bases per year.
Glass Half Empty: He'll never be more than a 10-12 home-run guy, so if the walks don't come, he could end up being merely average.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Twins' outfield is crowded, but Revere won't be close to the big leagues for some time.
Timetable: Revere will move up one level to the Florida State League in 2009, which is actually a better place to hit than the Midwest League.

2. Aaron Hicks, CF
DOB: 10/2/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/170
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Wilson HS (CA)
2008 Stats: .318/.409/.491 at Rookie-level (45 G)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: One of the best two-way players in the draft, Hicks could have gone even higher as a pitcher, but he wanted to be an everyday player; he excelled in his pro debut last season.
The Good: Hicks has the best all-around set of tools in the system, and even the Twins seemed a bit surprised at how much polish he's shown so far. He has advanced pitch recognition for his age, a quick swing, and a long, lean build that provides projectable plus power. He's a plus-plus runner and a graceful center fielder with a cannon for arm, as his fastball touched 97 mph last spring.
The Bad: There is still some rawness to his game. He can commit to his swing too early, and he gets tied up when pitchers bust him inside. Like Revere, improved instincts will help him take advantage of his speed more both on defense and on the basepaths.
Fun Fact: Hicks is the third-highest player drafted out of Wilson High in Long Beach; both Jeff Burroughs (1st overall, 1969 and his son Sean (9th overall, 1998) were selected ahead of him. The best player ever drafted out of the school is another first-round pick-Bobby Grich (1967).
Perfect World Projection: He'll play plus defense in center while producing 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases per year.
Glass Half Empty: Breaking balls will prove to be an issue down the road, and will hinder his development.
Path to the Big Leagues: Hicks and Revere will be battling for the future center-field job over the next two to three years, and the Twins may be forced to eventually find room for both.
Timetable: After having the most exciting center fielder in the Midwest League last year, the Twins should retain that title when Hicks replaces Revere at Beloit.

3. Danny Valencia, 3B
DOB: 9/19/84
Height/Weight: 6-2/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 19th round, 2006, University of Miami
2008 Stats: .336/.402/.518, .274 EqA at High-A (60 G); .289/.334/.485, .247 EqA at Double-A (69 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: This once lightly regarded organizational player continued to put up impressive numbers in 2008 while turning scouts into true believers.
The Good: Valencia's hitting skills rank with anyone's in the system other than Revere's. He's "aggressively patient" at the plate, looking for pitches to drive, using all fields, and showcasing average power with the occasional ability to crush mistakes. He's a solid third baseman who makes all of the plays he gets to while featuring a plus arm.
The Bad: There are no real weaknesses to his game, but then he doesn't have massive tools or significant upside potential either. He's a tick below average as a baserunner, and his range at third is average at best.
Fun Fact: No player signed as the 576th overall pick has ever reached the big leagues. (The Cubs selected Micah Owings with the selection in 2004, but he didn't sign.)
Perfect World Projection: He's a solid mid-pack third baseman.
Glass Half Empty: He'll be a good utility player at both corners, though his right-handedness could make that a tougher road to travel.
Path to the Big Leagues: It's wide open; the Twins enter camp without a real answer at third base.
Timetable: Because of his age, Valencia could get jumped to Triple-A Rochester to begin the year as the Twins want to see if he could ready to fill their hole at the hot corner.

4. Angel Morales, CF
DOB: 11/24/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2007, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
2008 Stats: .301/.413/.623 at Rookie-level (54 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Just Missed

Year in Review: After not quite making last year's Top 11 list, this toolsy outfielder exploded in his second season, leading the Appy League in home runs and slugging in '08.
The Good: Despite his size and slight frame, Morales' raw power is the best in the system, and he can put on a show in batting practice, launching jaw-dropping shots to left field. He's also a good athlete with a tick above-average speed, good outfield skills, and a strong arm.
The Bad: Morales is unrefined at the plate. His long swing borders on violent, and when he's fooled he can appear completely overmatched. He's overly pull-conscious, and he needs to learn how to take the ball the other way and shorten his swing with a better two-strike approach. He'll probably be forced to a corner as his body matures.
Fun Fact: Despite his remarkable numbers, Morales only hit sixth, seventh, or eighth in the Elizabethton lineup last year.
Perfect World Projection: He'll hit fifth and be a power source with lots of home runs and lots of strikeouts.
Glass Half Empty: His lack of contact skills may hamper him to the point where everything else he's capable of hardly matters.
Path to the Big Leagues: It's tough to be an outfielder in this system, but like Hicks and Revere, Morales has plenty of time.
Timetable: Hitting home runs is far more difficult at Low-A Beloit, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to the challenge of the Midwest League.

5. Wilson Ramos, C
DOB: 8/10/87
Height/Weight: 6-0/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2004
2008 Stats: .288/.346/.434, .247 EqA at High-A (126 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: The best catcher in the system had another solid season last year, enjoying a strong second half in particular.
The Good: Ramos has value both offensively and defensively. He's a solid hitter with average power who uses all fields, as well as a plus defender who blocks pitches in the dirt well and has a 60-65 arm on the 20-80 scouting scale. The Twins' coaches have nothing but high praise for his intangibles, and he works well with a pitching staff and serves as a captain on the field.
The Bad: Ramos doesn't offer significant potential on offense. His power is no more than average, he can be too aggressive at the plate, and he runs like a catcher.
Fun Fact: When used as a designated hitter last year to keep his bat in the lineup, Ramos hit just three home runs in 156 at-bats, but he slugged 10 in 291 at-bats when catching.
Perfect World Projection: A solid everyday major league catcher.
Glass Half Empty: He'll settle for being a good backup.
Path to the Big Leagues: We assume you've heard of Joe Mauer?
Timetable: Ramos will move up to Double-A in 2009, and he could be one of the Twins' most valuable trade chips should they need reinforcements at the trade deadline.

6. Shooter Hunt, RHP
DOB: 8/16/86
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Tulane University
2008 Stats: 0.47 ERA at Rookie-level (19-4-6-34); 5.46 ERA at Low-A (31.1-26-27-34), 10.38 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: A late-season slump knocked the Tulane ace out of the upper part of the first round, and he mixed in dominating outings with serious control issues after signing last year.
The Good: Hunt has a three-pitch mix, with each offering rating as average or better. His fastball sits at 92-94 mph and features good sink and run, while his slow, loopy curve is his go-to pitch when he's ahead in the count. He also has a solid and deceptive changeup. He's strongly built, has clean arm action, and maintains his stuff deep into games.
The Bad: Hunt often struggles to throw strikes, and there's no obvious reason for it; his delivery is simple and his release point is consistent. He tends to use his curve primarily as a chase pitch, and he needs to learn how to break it into the zone, rather than always starting it there.
Fun Fact: Despite being one of the country's better programs, Tulane has not produced much on the big-league level; the all-time leading winner among alumni is Steve Mura, with 30, and the all-time home-run leader is Micah Owings, with five.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a solid mid-rotation starter.
Glass Half Empty: It's all going to come down to his control.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Twins tend to value strike-throwers even more than most organizations, and for now, their rotation is both set, and young.
Timetable: Hunt's spring will determine whether he's assigned to Low- or High-A to begin the year.

7. Kevin Mulvey, RHP
DOB: 5/26/85
Height/Weight: 6-2/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2006, Villanova University (Mets)
2008 Stats: 3.77 ERA at Triple-A (148-152-48-121), 5.78 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: This solid but unspectacular hurler received from the Mets in the Johan Santana deal had a solid but unspectacular 2008 in Triple-A.
The Good: Mulvey gets hitters out by staying ahead in the count and mixing his pitches effectively. His average-velocity fastball plays up due to movement and location. He also has two breaking balls, with a slider and a curve that are both effective enough to throw a hitter's timing off, and his changeup is solid.
The Bad: Mulvey doesn't have a true dominant offering, relying far more on his pitchability than stuff. He can overthrow at times, leading to a flattening of his secondary pitches. He's an is-what-he-is type of player with little projection left.
Fun Fact: Mulvey is gunning to become the first pitcher ever drafted out of Villanova (there have been 30 in total) to win a game in the majors. His biggest competition is Brian Slocum, who is winless in 10 major league appearances and currently in Pirates camp.
Perfect World Projection: He should be an inning-eating back-of-the-rotation type.
Glass Half Empty: He might make a nice reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: There's no spot in the rotation for him now, and he's a mostly finished product.
Timetable: Mulvey will get a look this spring for a bullpen job, but he might end up biding his time a bit longer at Triple-A.

8. David Bromberg, RHP
DOB: 9/14/87
Height/Weight: 6-5/241
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 32nd round, 2005, Palisades HS (CA)
2008 Stats: 4.44 ERA at Low-A (150-149-54-177), 8.50 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 10

Year in Review: After leading the Appy League in strikeouts in 2007, this big left-hander repeated the feat in the Midwest League last year in his full-season debut.
The Good: Bromberg fills the strike zone with a fastball that sits at 89-93 mph and features significant late life. His curve is average, and he does a good job of using it in the right places. He's a large presence on the mound, and an intense competitor who earns high praise for his makeup.
The Bad: Despite the big strikeout numbers, Bromberg is far from overpowering. He slows down his arm action on his changeup, which tips off the pitch. His body borders on soft, and his conditioning will likely need to be monitored throughout his career.
Fun Fact: David's brother Johnny was also a 32nd-round pick by the Twins in 2007, but he did not sign. He was drafted again last year by the Twins out of junior college.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a fourth starter.
Glass Half Empty: He'll be a good reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: For now, he's far back on the depth chart.
Timetable: Bromberg will move up to High-A in 2009 and hope that his performance will catch up to the scouting reports.

9. Carlos Gutierrez, RHP
DOB: 9/22/86
Height/Weight: 6-3/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, University of Miami
2008 Stats: 2.10 ERA at High-A (25.2-23-7-19), 4.07 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: One of the better college closers last spring, he had little trouble retiring High-A batters in his pro debut.
The Good: Gutierrez' sinker was the best in this year's draft. It sits at 90-92 mph, touches 94, and features incredible late break, making it nearly impossible for hitters to get any lift on the pitch. He throws strikes, he's a good athlete, and ha has the mentality for the role.
The Bad: A starter prior to his 2007 Tommy John surgery, Gutierrez doesn't really have big-league closer stuff. With a slider and changeup that both border on average, the Twins want to return him to a starting role, but he'll need to refine both pitches and gain more confidence in them, while a bigger workload will put him at greater risk for injury.
Fun Fact: The 27th overall pick in the draft has been a good one for potential closers, producing both Todd Jones and Mike Fetters.
Perfect World Projection: The dream for now is that he'll be a starter who is a ground-ball machine.
Glass Half Empty: He'll go back to the bullpen.
Path to the Big Leagues: It's hard to say until we see what his role will be.
Timetable: Gutierrez will begin the year back in the Florida State League, where he'll be eased into a starter's role.

10. Deolis Guerra, RHP
DOB: 4/17/89
Height/Weight: 6-5/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2005 (Mets)
2008 Stats: 5.47 ERA at High-A (130-138-71-71), 8.97 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: The highest-ceiling arm netted from the Mets in the Santana trade had a disappointing 2008 season in his first spin as a Twin.
The Good: Guerra remains young and highly projectable due to his large frame and long arms. He's touched 97 mph in the past, and has always had a very good changeup for his age.
The Bad: Absolutely nothing went right for Guerra last year, and every aspect of his game took a significant step backward. His fastball generally sat in the 87-89 mph range, his command went south, and his curveball remains nothing but a work in progress. One scout referred to his pitching style as, "slow, sluggish, and indifferent."
Fun Fact: He allowed one or zero earned runs in seven of his 25 starts last year, but he allowed five or more eight times.
Perfect World Projection: The ceiling is still there, he's just further away from it than he was last year.
Glass Half Empty: He's in the tall weeds right now, and if he doesn't get out, it's unlikely he'll be seen in the big leagues.
Path to the Big Leagues: Right now, he just needs to get back on track as a prospect.
Timetable: If there is one thing the Twins have with Guerra, it's time; at 20 years old he'll still be young for the league as he returns to High-A.

11. Jeff Manship, RHP
DOB: 1/16/85
Height/Weight: 6-0/165
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 14th round, 2006, University of Notre Dame
2008 Stats: 2.86 ERA at High-A (78.2-68-20-63), 5.60 DERA; 4.46 ERA at Double-A (76.2-90-24-62), 6.72 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 3

Year in Review: Manship continued his trend of slow adjustments, pitching well in his second exposure to High-A last season, but struggling following a promotion to the Eastern League.
The Good: Manship is a strike-thrower who uses his 89-91 mph sinker to generate ground balls and set up his plus curveball, which he'll throw at any point in the count. He's aggressive within the strike zone, and brings an intensity to the mound that scouts love.
The Bad: He's small for a pitcher, and he lacks much in the way of projection. There is still too much effort in his delivery, and he already has one Tommy John surgery in his past. He needs to improve his changeup and work into his repertoire more often.
Fun Fact: He comes from excellent pitching bloodlines; his father was a 28th-round pick by the Brewers in 1978 out of the University of Arizona, while his brother Matt was selected in the 29th round by the A's out of Stanford in 2006.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a fourth or fifth starter.
Glass Half Empty: He'll end up in middle relief.
Path to the Big Leagues: For now, it would almost have to be in the bullpen.
Timetable: Manship will get another shot at conquering Double-A to begin 2009.

The Sleeper: While he's yet to put up big numbers, 2006 first-round pick Chris Parmelee is hardly a bust. He works the count extremely well, has plus raw power, and an arm that should serve him well if he can stay in the outfield. A series of injuries have hampered him over the past two years, and the Twins think that he could have breakout potential if he can just stay healthy.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (as of Opening Day 2009)

1. Joe Mauer, C
2. Francisco Liriano, LHP
3. Delmon Young, LF
4. Kevin Slowey, RHP
5. Ben Revere, CF
6. Aaron Hicks, CF
7. Denard Span, OF
8. Carlos Gomez, CF
9. Danny Valencia, 3B
10. Angel Morales, CF

Not only do the Twins have a lot of young talent, they also have a lot of established young talent already in The Show. Mauer is obviously a stud, and Liriano has the potential to join him in his second year back from surgery. I really think that people are writing off Delmon Young way, way too early. If the Twins put him on the market, I'd call them in a heartbeat, because they'd be selling low. I used to knock Kevin Slowey as a back-end finesse guy, but he's just so damned good at it that he plays up to the level of a third starter. I like Span and Gomez quite a bit; it's just that Revere and Hicks have the potential to be much better.

Summary: The Twins' system has two very young studs who don't come without risk, and a series of merely good position players and pitchers behind them. There is no future ace here, nor is there a future heart-of-the-order type. If there's one word that describes the system after Revere and Hicks, it might be "boring."


Up next: the New York Yankees.

---

While past performance does not always equal future results, the Twins have been able to "stay positive" by developing their own talent. Mike Radcliffe, the team's Director of Player Development, talks about the Twins' latest successes in this edition of BPR.


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Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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