Top 15 Prospects: Minnesota Twins

When it comes to developing in-house talent, Minnesota has a reputation for being rather conservative with the annual amateur draft, both in terms of investment dollars and in the type of player that the organization gravitates towards. In recent years, the club has supplemented its amateur draft talent with a foray into the international free agent market. So far, it’s working out well for the Twins with four international free agent signees among the Top 10 prospects, and another drafted out of Puerto Rico.

1. Miguel Sano, 3B/SS
BORN: May 11, 1993
EXPERIENCE: 2 seasons (Reached Rookie+ in ’11)
ACQUIRED: 2009 international free agent
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 3rd

SCOUTING REPORT: Sano is sandwiched between Joe Mauer and B.J. Garbe for second place on the list of the highest bonuses handed out to amateurs by the Minnesota Twins ball club. Thankfully for Minnesota, Sano appears to have a little more Mauer in him than Garbe. He has outstanding bat speed and a smooth stroke that should eventually lead to 70 power on the 20-80 scouting scale. Defensively, he’s outgrown shortstop and there is some concern that he might also eventually get too slow for third base (He’s 6’3 230 lbs now). Sano should provide enough offense for first base but it would definitely hurt his defensive value.

YEAR IN REVIEW: The infielder had an explosive offensive season while spending his second year in short-season rookie ball and he’s definitely ready for the next challenge. His power output was off the charts with a .345 ISO rate but he had the strikeout rate to match (26.3%). His batting average was helped by a healthy BABIP and he’s not going to continue to hit .290-.300 if he keeps whiffing at the same rate. Sano did not excell defensively at either third base (15 errors in 48 games) or shortstop (11 errors in 16 games).

YEAR AHEAD: Sano will look to continue to refine his approach, which includes improving against breaking balls. He’ll be playing in a less offense-oriented league so it will be interesting to see what his power numbers look like by the end of the season. Defense is something he’ll definitely want to focus on and it remains to be seen how long the organization sticks with him on the left side of the infield.

CAREER OUTLOOK: As mentioned, Sano could very well outgrow the hot corner and move to first base (or possibly left field). A right side of the infield featuring Sano and Eddie Rosario could be quite exciting. Don’t be shocked if he becomes one of the top prospects in all of baseball before too long… and eventually a star player with a middle-of-the-order bat for Minnesota.

2. Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF
BORN: September 28, 1991
EXPERIENCE: 2 seasons (R+)
ACQUIRED: 2010 4th round, Puerto Rico HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Off

SCOUTING REPORT: With strong outfield depth in the organization the Twins recently decided to move Rosario from his natural position to second base in an effort to take advantage of his athleticism and improve the club’s infield depth. The Puerto Rican projects to be a high average hitter with gap power, who could potentially hit 15 homers per season. His speed is slightly above average and he could nab 15-20 bags with regular playing time in the Majors. The left-handed hitter creams right-handed pitching but he needs a lot of work against southpaws.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Rosario’s strong season was overshadowed by his teammate Miguel Sano’s performance at the same level. Rosario hit 21 home runs, including six in his final 10 games, but the total was a product of the league; his power is more of the line-drive variety. He’ll need to trim his strikeouts (20%) but Rosario shows solid patience at the plate (9.1%), which helps him get better pitches to hit.

YEAR AHEAD: Rosario will follow Sano to low-A ball and expect his home run total to drop in half despite more playing time. On the plus side, his doubles output should spike. He’s also a good bet to continue hitting for average, especially if he shows improved at-bats against left-handed pitchers. Rosario will also look to sharpen his skills around the keystone and prove that he has the quickness, hands and feet to play the infield.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Rosario is a long way from realizing his full potential but he could develop into an offensive-minded second base who hits for a high average, gets on base a lot and produces slightly-above-average power. He’s probably three to four years away from the Majors and should spend all of 2012 in low-A.

3. Oswaldo Arcia, RF
BORN: May 9, 1991
EXPERIENCE: 4 seasons (A+)
ACQUIRED: 2007 international free agent
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 7th

SCOUTING REPORT: Much like Sano and Rosario in 2011, Arcia gained a fair bit of attention with an outstanding season in advanced rookie ball in 2010. His ’11 season has tempered some of that enthusiasm. Arcia’s approach at the plate leads to swinging at pitcher’s pitches, which dampens his overall effectiveness. When he’s on, he shows power to all fields. Defensively, he has solid range and a slightly-above-average arm.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Arcia got off to a fast start at low-A (20 games) and was promoted to high-A where his numbers dropped dramatically. The outfielder still showed some power potential (.197 ISO) but his walk rate plummeted to 4% and his strikeout rate jumped to 23.3%. As a result, he also struggled to hit for average (.263). An elbow injury that cost him two months of the season could be to blame for his struggles.

YEAR AHEAD: Arcia should open 2012 back in high-A ball, especially until the weather heats up. If he gets off to a fast start and shows some improvements in his game he should see double-A before too long. He’s probably at least a year away from seeing time at the MLB level but at just 20 years old time is on his side.

CAREER OUTLOOK: If Arcia is going to be an everyday player at the MLB level he’s going to have to show consistent in-game power and better pitch selection. If he can, he could develop into a solid right fielder. If not, he should provide offense off the bench as a fourth outfielder capable of playing all three outfield positions. Arcia doesn’t have any one outstanding tool but he does a little bit of everything (expect steal bases).

4. Kyle Gibson, RHP
BORN: Oct. 23, 1987
EXPERIENCE: 2 seasons (AAA)
ACQUIRED: 2009 1st round, U Missouri (22nd overall)
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 1st

SCOUTING REPORT: Gibson’s career thus far has been defined by his injuries. He originally slid to the 22nd pick in the ’09 draft thanks to an arm injury after entering the season as a potential Top 10 selection. He then saw his 2011 season come to a screeching halt in late July when it was announced his elbow needed Tommy John surgery.

YEAR IN REVIEW: It was a disappointing ’11 season for Gibson, who was very close to making The Show when his elbow gave out. His numbers were not great last year but they were tainted after he allowed 18 runs in the 14 innings at triple-A before he was finally shut down for good. On the plus side, his FIP (3.67) was much better than his ERA (4.81), he had a solid strikeout rate (8.59 K/9) and his ground-ball numbers were also good (57%).

YEAR AHEAD: Gibson has a chance of returning to the mound late in the 2012 minor league season and he could potentially make up for lost time, if all goes well, in the Arizona Fall League. The right-hander, still just 24, should be in the Majors some time in 2013.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Most pitchers bounce back fairly well from Tommy John surgery so Gibson has a good shot at resuming his career where he left off. He’s never relied all that heavily on velocity. His two-seamer gets a ton of movement and induces his ground balls. Both his slider and changeup have the potential to be strikeout pitches. Gibson has a future as a No. 2 or 3 starter.

5. Adrian Salcedo, RHP
BORN: Feb. 5, 1991
EXPERIENCE: 4 seasons (A-)
ACQUIRED: 2007 international free agent
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 5th

SCOUTING REPORT: Salcedo features a four-pitch repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball, changeup, curveball and slider. The right-hander’s stuff is nothing special but he does a decent job of working down in the zone and induces an above average number of ground-ball outs. Although he’s not flashy, Salcedo commands his fastball-changeup combo fairly well and the improvement in one of his breaking balls could help him settle in as a solid No. 3 starter at the MLB level.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Salcedo has a solid pitcher’s frame and he’s increased his innings total each year from 61.2 to 93.1 to 135.0 with no ill effects. His FIP sat at 3.02 (2.93 ERA) and he showed above-average control in low-A ball. On the downside, his strikeout rate plummeted from 8.86 in ’10 to 6.13 K/9 in ’11. He’s going to have to miss more bats if he’s going to succeed as he moves up the ladder; an improved curveball or slider will help him do just that.

YEAR AHEAD: Salcedo will slide up one rung to high-A ball in 2012 but he could see double-A at some point if the organization is ready to challenge him after spending the last three seasons handling him with kids’ gloves. Expanding his repertoire will definitely be one of the main missions. He’s known as a hard worker so don’t be surprised if the 20 year old makes big strides in 2012.

CAREER OUTLOOK: As mentioned above, Salcedo should top out as a No. 3 starter at the MLB level but he’s been durable so far and could eventually become an innings eater in the middle of the rotation. At worst he should be a solid middle reliever if he ends up with a two-pitch (fastball-changeup) mix.

6. Aaron Hicks, CF
BORN: Oct. 2, 1989
EXPERIENCE: 4 seasons (A+)
ACQUIRED: 2008 1st round, California HS (14th overall)
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 2nd

SCOUTING REPORT: Hicks has been the crown jewel of the system since his acquisition but some of the shine is starting to wear off due to his slower-than-expected development. An explosive athlete, he’s struggled to embrace the finer aspects of the game. He has always produced well-above-average walk rates but he lets too many hittable pitches pass by and needs a better game plan at the plate. He possesses 20-20 potential despite never producing double-digit home run totals in any one season. Defensively, he has the potential to be a Gold Glove center-fielder.

YEAR IN REVIEW: After two seasons in low-A ball, Hicks moved up to high-A and saw his wOBA drop from .382 in ’10 to .333 in ’11. He hit just .242 but continued to produce good on-base numbers thanks to his walk rate of 14.8%. The strikeout rate was too high (20.8%) for a player with a .124 ISO rate.

YEAR AHEAD: Hicks could conceviably begin 2012 back in high-A but it might really stunt his growth to spend part of a fourth season in A-ball. Give that his performance was respectable, a move to double-A is probably in the cards. A full year at that level should be expected and he likely won’t see the Majors until 2013 at the earliest.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Hicks has a long way to go to realize his potential as a switch-hitter with a ceiling that could allow him to become both a 20-20 hitter and a Gold Glove center-fielder. That mix of tools is exciting but the club is also sitting on a player that has thrown 93-97 mph off a pitcher’s mound (during his amateur days). The organization will face an interesting decision if Hicks sees his growth stunted at fourth outfielder.

7. Liam Hendriks, RHP
BORN: Feb. 10, 1989
EXPERIENCE: 5 seasons (AA/MLB)
ACQUIRED: 2007 international free agent
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 9th

SCOUTING REPORT: Hendriks is one of the more notable Australian finds currently playing pro ball in the entire MLB. He isn’t flashy but he displays plus control and a four-pitch repertoire that includes a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. His heater averaged out at 90 mph while pitching in The Show in 2011. He allows a few too many fly balls for a pitcher with modest stuff and he needs to do a better job of commanding his pitches in the lower half of the strike zone.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Hendriks made his MLB debut in 2011 and showcased his four-pitch repertoire. He wasn’t overly sharp in four starts but he was better than his 6.17 ERA would suggest (4.10 FIP). His best outing came in his first MLB start against the White Sox when he allowed just four hits in seven innings with four strikeouts and 10 ground balls induced. In the minors, Hendiks pitched very well at both double-A and triple-A, displaying above-average control.

YEAR AHEAD: The right-hander has moved through the system quite quickly over the past two seasons and could be ready to assume the fifth starter role. Depending on how the off-season plays out – with news that Minnesota may be somewhat aggressive with the free agent market – Hendriks could head back to triple-A to spend some time polishing his command while awaiting an injury.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Hendriks is your typical Twins pitcher. He has a modest ceiling but excellent control and a diverse four-pitch repertoire. He should top out as a No. 3 or 4 starter at his peak. He showed good durability in 2011 with more than 160 innings pitched and could develop into a solid innings eater.

8. Levi Michael, SS
BORN: Feb. 9, 1991
ACQUIRED: 2011 1st round (30th overall)
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: NA

SCOUTING REPORT: Michael projects to be a solid No. 1 or 2 hole hitter with an impressive eye and good speed. He bounced all over the infield during his college career from second base to third to shortstop. Michael doesn’t have a ton of experience at shortstop and scouts are mixed on his future position because of questions about his range. However, he was hindered by an ankle issue which could have limited his actions.

YEAR IN REVIEW: The first round draft pick had a successful college season despite dealing with nagging injuries. It was a little surprising that Minnesota did not challenge him with a trip to the Arizona Fall League after the minor league season ended but the organization may have wanted him to rest his ankle.

YEAR AHEAD: Michael signed too late to play pro ball in 2011 but his ability to handle the bat suggests he could open 2012 in high-A ball. If his defense takes off, Michael could see the Majors by the end of 2013.

CAREER OUTLOOK: The infielder doesn’t have a huge ceiling but could carve out a solid career as an average fielder and top-of-the-order hitter with good gap power. All four players that manned shortstop for Minnesota in 2011 had wRC+ rates below 100 so there isn’t much of a roadblock ahead of Michael.

9. Joe Benson, OF
BORN: March 5, 1988
EXPERIENCE: 6 seasons (AA/MLB)
ACQUIRED: 2006 2nd round, Illinois HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 8th

SCOUTING REPORT: A high draft pick out of high school who was signed away from a college football scholarship, Benson has had his struggles in the minors while turning his raw athleticism into pure baseball talent. He possesses above-average power (60 on the 20-80 scouting scale) and also has some speed. With some further maturation he could develop into a 20-20 player at the MLB level. Defensively, he uses his above-average athleticism well in center field and possesses a strong arm.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Despite a healthy .340 BABIP in 71 big league at-bats, Benson posted a wOBA of .266 in 71 at-bats. He struck out 28.4% of the time, which is slightly above his career norms in the minors. When he did make contact, though, he stung the ball with a line-drive rate of 24%.

YEAR AHEAD: Benson has yet to play above double-A (outside of his cup of coffee in the Majors) so some time at the triple-A level could definitely help. His .388 in double-A was encouraging but it was his second trip through the league. He still needs some work on pitch recognition.

CAREER OUTLOOK: As mentioned, Benson could eventually realize his potential and become a regular 20-20 threat as a middle-of-the-order hitter. His tendency to swing and miss, though, limits some of his effectiveness and he will likely grade out as a 50 hitter in his prime; thanks to his raw strength his power could eventually rise to a 70. When I look at Benson I see a future above-average regular but not a star.

10. Hudson Boyd, RHP
BORN: Oct. 18, 1992
ACQUIRED: 2011 supplemental 1st round, Florida HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: NA

SCOUTING REPORT: Boyd is a powerful right-hander that projects to develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter. His repertoire includes a 90-95 mph fastball, potentially-plus curveball and a developing changeup. He needs to get his pitches into the lower half of the strike zone on a more consistent basis. Boyd repeats his delivery well for a young pitcher with a large frame.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Boyd did not pitch during the regular season after signing late for $1 million as a supplemental first round pick. He was committed to the University of Florida.

YEAR AHEAD: Minnesota tends to be rather conservative with their young players so Boyd will almost certainly open 2012 in extended spring training before moving on to rookie ball in June. Look for him to spend the entire year at that level before moving up to a more advanced short-season league in 2013.

CAREER OUTLOOK: As a prep pick he’s got a long way to go to reach his potential but if Boyd’s changeup doesn’t develop as hoped he could become a dominating high-leverage reliever. He’ll have to watch his conditioning as he moves up the ladder.

The Next Five

11. Travis Harrison, 3B: Considered one of the better prep bats in the 2011 draft, Harrison has the potential to develop 70 (on the 20-80 scout scale) power but scouts are mixed on his ability to hit for average (ranging from a potential of 40 to 60). Time will tell but he has the competitive makeup needed to max out his tools. Defensively, he could develop into an average defender at the hot corner.

12. Madison Boer, RHP: The big right-hander was nabbed in the second round of the 2011 amateur draft. His repertoire includes an 89-93 mph fastball, slider and splitter. Boer has the makings of an innings-eater workhorse. Working out of the bullpen, as he did in his debut, his fastball jumps up to the mid-90s and he overpowered hitters in rookie ball with a strikeout rate of 16.10 K/9 in 15 games.

13. Chris Parmelee, 1B/RF: The former No. 1 draft pick finally reached the Majors in 2011 and did so with a bang, hitting .355/.443/.592 in 76 at-bats. It remains to be seen if Parmelee will hit enough to warrant full-time duty at first base or in left field or if he’ll be a powerful bat off the bench or in a platoon role.

14. Max Kepler, LF: Kepler was a rare international signing out of Europe and he’s impressed so far at the lower levels of the minor leagues. The outfielder, though, is still quite raw and will need a lot of at-bats in the minors to hone his abilities. He projects to hit for above-average power but he’s still learning to drive the ball with authority and has just one home run in 331 pro at-bats.

15. Alex Wimmers, RHP: Wimmers is another former No. 1 draft pick of the Twins that has struggled to realize his potential. The right-hander lost control of his repertoire in 2011 and he spent time in extended spring training working out his issues. He bounced back admirably. He has the potential to develop into a solid No. 3 starter.

SLEEPER ALERT: Niko Goodrum. SS: The Twins organization first spotted Goodrum as a sophomore in high school and followed him closely right through his senior year and up to draft day. After a rough debut in 2010 in rookie ball, the Georgia native started to show some serious potential. Here is what one scout had to say about Goodrum on defense:

“His soft hands, quick feet, [and] strong accurate arm give him every chance to stay at shortstop… He has the natural athletic ability to play any position on the field. Niko is still learning the art of shortstop and the mental grind of playing every day by not talking a bad at bat to the field or an error to the plate.” That same scout also summed up Goodrum at the plate: “He has a fluid, balanced, easy swing… not much wasted movement… The power will come as he physically grows into his frame… He needs 2,000 at-bats for memory work of reading spin and how pitchers work in certain situations. The learning curve is the stage he is in now.”

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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mike wants wins
12 years ago

Nice list. The Twins handle all of their prospects with kid gloves, guaranteeing at least one extra year in the minors, and a lost year for the MLB team. If they had run the team this way in the 80s, they may never have won a single world series.

They have two decisions on Hicks, hitter vs pitcher, and switch hitter or not. At some point, if you want him to be a hitter, you may need to get rid of the switch hitting. It isn’t working now, it didn’t work the last couple of years. I have no idea why the change hasn’t already been made.

Luke in MN
12 years ago

Yeah, for a guy who’s developing so slowly, complicating things with switch hitting seems like a mistake.

As for slow minors movement, you don’t have a “lost year” at the major-league level, you just have your MLB team control start one year later. It seems like a smart–if sort of shady–move to get the player to a really fully developed point in the minors before moving him up, in order to make your 6 years of team control run straight through the player’s prime.