To say 2011 didn’t go as planned for the Minnesota Twins would be an understatement. Considered a contender for the AL Central crown, the Twins suffered a disappointing season from Francisco Liriano and injuries and disappointment from Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Despite the awful season, the Twins added few prospects to the major-league team with the exception of Ben Revere. The former first-rounder had a rough introduction to the majors, but the 23-year old held his own and added his plus to plus-plus speed to the basepaths and the outfield grass.
Down on the farm, things went reasonably well for the Twins, but things were much better down in the lower minors. Miguel Sano now borders on being one of the top prospects in the game after showing off his tremendous power, though it was only in Rookie ball. Oswaldo Arcia and Eddie Rosario added quite a bit of power themselves as they put themselves on the prospect map. One of the few things that went wrong was Aaron Hicks yet again not quite living up to expectations, but he still remains a solid prospect.
The rest of the system was kind of up and down. Liam Hendriks, Chris Parmalee, and Joe Benson had good seasons that ended in cups of coffees late in the year, and Kyle Gibson was having a good year before going down and needing Tommy John surgery. Other than that, most of the other prospects had rather “meh” seasons. The only real disappointment, however, may have been Alex Wimmers, who somehow lost all sense of control before somewhat refinding it after some time off to clear his head.
The Twins seem to be in somewhat of a bind. They weren’t good this season, but they probably aren’t as bad they seemed, especially with bounce-back and healthy seasons. Their farm system, a potential aid in restocking the team, has a decent amount of depth, but there is limited upside and most of the better prospects are years away from helping. Finally, quite a few prospects on this list are recent draftees, which either means the draft was good or the system was bad otherwise (maybe both). Regardless, this next season will be key as it will give the organization a better idea of what they have in the majors and in the minors.
Miguel Sano 3B
Age/Level (as of 4/2012): 18/Low-A
Projection: 3+ WAR
Sano is still a “third baseman”, but considering how he’s growing, he won’t remain there, needing to move to RF (plus arm) or 1B. That means he needs to hit. Sano’s strength, of course, is the bat, especially his power that rates as a plus to plus-plus tool, but he’s not just a masher, even with the ability to take a few walks. Essentially, even if he has to move to first, he should hit enough for the position. The question now is just how good he’ll be (when is this not the question?), and at 18 and only having played in Rookie Ball, he’s too far away to know for sure. Borderline “Elite” guy, but I’d like a little more confidence in the bat or less doubt he’ll need a position switch.
Joe Benson OF
Projection: 2-4 WAR
A little stretched in center, Benson fits better in a corner, but he has above-average speed and one of the better arms around. At the plate, he is a secondary skills expert, with the ability to draw walks and hit for power. Benson, however, doesn’t hit for a high average, and he strikes out quite a bit. He might walk and hit for enough power to still be an offensive asset, but the swing-and-miss involved in his game means major-league pitching might give him some initial problems. But at the end of the day, Benson still has enough skills (walks, power, defense) to be a valuable major-leaguer.
Eddie Rosario 2B/OF
Projection: 2-4 WAR
Moved to second base to take advantage of his athleticism and the Twins abundance of outfielders, Rosario had a successful introduction to Rookie Ball. Rosario doesn’t have a standout plus tool, but he has several above-average ones scattered across the board. His hit and power tools are both average to above-average, and he has average to above-average speed. Defensively, he’s still learning the position, but he has plenty of range and arm for the position. By the time he gets to the majors, he should be just fine there. What’s next for Rosario is to shine in A-ball, but given his tendency to think he can hit everything, he might get exposed if he doesn’t adjust as he moves up.
Aaron Hicks CF
Projection: 2-4 WAR
Regardless of what you think of his bat, Hicks can go get it in center field, and his arm is probably the best in the minors. He is, right now, an awesome defensive center fielder. Hicks, however, has more questions to answer on the offensive side. His swing gets a little long, which affects his ability to hit for average, and his patience is borderline apathetic, as his ability to draw walks may be more due to him being picky than discerning. Hicks’ power has also yet to come, but he doesn’t really need it to be a solid regular. As he takes on AA, he’ll need to be a bit more aggressive without losing too much patience, which is still a valuable thing to have.
Oswaldo Arcia LF
Age/Level: 20/High-A or AA
Projection: 2-4 WAR
No one would call Arcia patient at the plate, but when you can the ball a mile, you tend to forgive a guy for being excited to hit. Arcia is quite unrefined, but he has the ability to square balls up with exceptional force. But that mighty bat will have to carry him because he’s strictly a left fielder with a bad arm, though it might improve as he heals from elbow surgery (wasn’t good before), and he doesn’t move well. That brings us back to the patience thing. If you’re stuck at a corner outfield spot or first base, you need to hit and get on base at an elite level.
Levi Michael SS
Projection: 2-4 WAR
Most college draftees will be 22 next season, but Michael will have just turned 22, giving him a slight edge on the prospecting trail. Michael can hit the ball well from both sides of the plate, but his power will probably be average at best. A pretty good bat, however, is pretty good for a shortstop, and after moving around for the last few years, scouts think he’s found a home at short. There are concerns as to whether or not he’ll stay short, but while he won’t be above-average there, he shouldn’t do too much harm, either. Like a lot of guys on this list, he could shoot up the list with a good year in 2011 (I guess that applies for just about anyone, huh?).
Kyle Gibson SP
I’ll never understand why people hate players for not being elite. Drafted in the first round, some scouts thought Gibson could be a top-of-the-rotation guy, even though most saw a middle-of-the-rotation guy. While Gibson hasn’t been an ace, being a 3/4 is nothing to sneeze at. Gibson possesses an above-average sinker and an above-average to plus slider, and he even adds an average change. His sinker isn’t good enough to be an elite ground-ball guy, and he doesn’t really have a strikeout pitch. But he should do both enough to stick in a big-league rotation. The catch to this, of course, is sitting out next season due to Tommy John, but the success rate is good enough that no one should fret too much.
Travis Harrison 3B
Projection: 2+ WAR
One look at Harrison will tell what he’s good at – power. He’s a big guy who can smash the ball, and the swing looks good enough to produce a solid average along with it. Defensively, no one’s sure where exactly Harrison will end up. As you might imagine, he’s not fleet of foot, and his actions around third aren’t particularly good. But the hope, as with most high school draftees, is that he’ll get better by the time he reaches the majors, and he’s put in some effort to improve his arm strength, which is a positive sign. Harrison has quite the potential, but he’s got a ways to go to get to it.
Hudson Boyd SP
Projection: 3/4, Relief Ace
Unlike many Twins arms, Boyd throws quite the fastball, but like many Twins arms, Boyd shows an advanced feel for control. To that fastball, he adds an above-average curveball and a change-up that needs a lot of work. His mechanics could use a little bit of work as well. Probably in an effort to cut it loose, Boyd falls toward first base a little as he shifts forward to throw the ball, and his delivery requires quite a bit of effort. In the end, Boyd’s a pretty typical high school righty with the typical myriad of possible scenarios.
Liam Hendriks SP
Hendriks is about as blah as you can get except for one redeeming quality – control. Hendriks just throws strikes and more strikes and more strikes to the point where it might actually hurt him somewhat, but to this point, it means he doesn’t give the other team free baserunners. Outside of his plus control, he has a fastball, curve, slider, and change that all hover around average. It’s hard to know how this will play out when he settles into the Twins rotation. On one hand, the control can lead to a long though unspectacular career, but on the other hand, major-league hitters might just start busting those strikes, knowing they’re coming.
Big Question – Alex Wimmers
Drafted as a polished college pitcher that would need a fairly minimal amount of development, Wimmers caught a case of the yips at the beginning of the season. Having pitched at the end of last season, it wasn’t that he just began pitching in pro ball, but perhaps it was the renewed focus on him as the season began. Whatever the case, getting the yips is never good, and once it’s happened, there’s always the fear it could happen again because it’s a mental thing. He did rebound after working some things out, but he was still a far cry from where everyone thought he would be. We’re just in wait-and-see mode.