Minnesota Twins

Original Published Date: Oct. 18, 2012

The Twins minor league organization has depth in their positional prospects as there are four, if not five players that will make my Top 100 list with Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton having all-star potential.  However, the pitching is just not very good with only Kyle Gibson having a chance to make an impact in the majors in the near term.  2012 Supplemental First Round selection Jose Berrios is an intriguing prospect as he is a departure from the safe college command-and-control pitcher that the Twins have drafted for the past few years.

In looking at the Twins organization from the Major League roster through their Minor League system, it is terribly unbalanced.  While there is positional depth, particularly in the outfield, the Twins pitching in the majors is poor with no front-of-the-rotation starter and their minors is void of upper echelon talent brought on by candidly, poor drafting.  Sure, the Twins could turn to free agency to add pitching depth, but history does not support this argument?  From my vantage point, don’t be surprised if there are some changes in the scouting department to refocus their drafting of pitching to young high-ceiling talent.

1. Miguel Sano (3B)

2013 Age: 19 BP: D.R.
Ht:6-3  Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2012 LowA 457 75 28 100 8 .258 .373 68.5 17.5 .309

One of the best baseball movies that I’ve ever seen is Pelotero, the documentary about the Dominican baseball factory that featured Jean Carlos Batista and Miguel Sano.  In watching the movie, you begin to have a better appreciation for the rollercoaster journey of these Dominican teenagers and what the families of these talented baseball players will do to get a million dollar signing bonus.  Most of the movie focused on the corruption involved on both sides of the baseball equation (the teams and the family).  However, in the snippets of the actual baseball footage in the movie, you can easily see what all the fuss was about with Miguel Sano – an elite athlete with plus-plus raw power.

In prospects circles, Miguel Sano has become a house-hold name.  The raw power is for real as was demonstrated in the pitcher friendly Midwest League, where Sano belted 28 home runs.  From a scouting standpoint, Sano generates his power from not only his raw physical gifts, but also from his great bat speed and the use of his ample lower half.  It’s the balance and the torque that he is developing that is the most exciting aspect of his swing.

While his contact rate was a woeful 68.5%, indicating that he’s chasing a few too many pitches, his 17.5% walk rate indicates that there is discernment in his pitch selection.  I fully expect Sano to develop an above average hit tool that could profile as a .275 batting average to complement 35 plus home runs annually.

The negative on Sano is his defense.  In 2012, he committed 42 errors in 129 games and with his poor footwork, turned a lot of outs into hits.  I suspect that he will continue next year at third base and then be move to the outfield.  He does have a plus arm, so he could become a classic power hitting right fielder with the ability for many outfield assists.

The final frightening piece of Miguel Sano is that he will start High-A in 2013 as a teenager and should hit the majors before he is legally able to drink.

Fantasy Impact: While he’s still a few years away, Miguel Sano could be a fantasy force with elite home run power and the ability to drive in runs.  If he remains at third base, his fantasy value will only increase.  He should be one of the first players taken in a Dynasty League draft once the prospects start to fly off the board.

2. Byron Buxton (OF)

2013 Age: 19 BP: Georgia
Ht:6-1  Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
2012 R-SS 165 33 5 20 11 .248 .344 75.2 11.8 .300

Selected as the number two overall pick in the 2012 draft, Byron Buxton has loads of tools that if they fully developed, could result in a perennial all-star player at a premium position.

Buxton is a fast, graceful athlete with plus-plus speed that should translate into both stolen bases and the ability to cover a lot of ground in centerfield.   His outfield play is already above average as he gets great reads on the ball and due to his athleticism is able to react quickly to balls hit to the outfield.  As a two-way athlete in high-school, Buxton’s fastball consistently hit 95 MPH and while he will not be put on the bump as part of his development program, his arm will be a major asset in the field.

In previous years, Buxton would have waited until the deadline to sign and likely would have started his professional career in the Fall Instructional League.  However, with the changes to the collective bargaining agreement, Buxton signed early and received 165 at-bats in both the Rookie and Appy Leagues.  He showed considerable bat speed and the ability to make contact (75.2%) but what impressed me the most was his approach at the plate.  Based on playing in rural Georgia during his high-school career, I assumed his hit tool would be underdeveloped.  However, he clearly had an idea at the plate, was able to work counts to put himself into a favorable hitting position, which led to a very respectable 11.8% walk rate.

With great bat speed, athleticism, and physical projection, Buxton should also develop power.  Because he’s so young and raw, it’s hard to put an absolute projection on his power.  However, it should be at least league average, but with the proper development, it could easily grow into a plus tool.  If you’re thinking the combination of tools sounds similar to Matt Kemp, that would be the ultimate physical projection.

Fantasy Impact: Buxton could be a fantasy beast but it could also take a very long time for him to realize those projections.  He will enter the 2013 season as a 20 year-old and might not make the majors until 2015-16.  If you’re in a Dynasty League that you know will be around for a long-time, Buxton should be a top selection.

3. Oswaldo Arcia (OF)

2013 Age: 21 BP: Venezuela
Ht:6-0  Weight: 210 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2013-14
2012 A-AA 469 76 17 98 4 .320 .387 77.2 10.9 .380

At age 21, Oswaldo Arcia made an impact across two levels in 2012 to generate a lot of helium as one of the better right-field prospects in the minor leagues.  While 2011 was a fine statistical year for the young Venezuelan, it’s was interrupted for two months to remove bone chips from his elbow.  Fully healthy, he showed his quick bat and raw power to slug 17 home runs and bat .320.

As a left-handed batter, the ability to hit left-handed pitching is always a concern.  In 2011, there were significant platoon splits with Arcia that continued in 2012.  In High-A, Arcia had a .210/.352 split with only one home run batting left-handed but six batting right-handed.  Granted it was a small sample size of 62 at-bats against southpaws.

As he moved to Double-A, the batting average platoon split vanished (.328/.329) but a significant power split still existed.  While this is something we need to keep an eye on, his hitting mechanics are solid with nice balance and good use of his lower half which give me hope that his splits will not be a problem as he moves to the highest level.

Fantasy Impact:  I owned Oswaldo Arcia at one point in my Dynasty League but dropped him when he went under the knife.  That was a mistake as I believe Arcia will be a .280+ hitter with 25 to 30 home runs.  He is a lefty and Target field is not kind to lefty power hitters, but fences don’t always stay in the same place.

4. Aaron Hicks (OF)

2013 Age: 23 BP: California
Ht:6-2  Weight: 185 Bats: Both Throws: Right ETA: 2013-14
2012 AA 472 100 13 61 32 .286 .384 75.4 16.7 .352

Aaron Hicks has been on my Top 100 list for several years and even though he has not turned into the superstar I thought he would, I’m still a believer as the tools are still crazy good.  While his listed height and weight is 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, he looks heavier, but not in a bad way.  The guy is chiseled and looks like a premium athlete.

The best news about 2012 is that he finally worked his way out of Class A.  After spending two years in Low-A and last year in High-A, Hicks made the most of his time in Double-A by batting .286 with an impressive OBP of .384.  He’s still striking out a lot as his 75.4% contact represents, but he has shortened his swing to a more compact approach and by loosing the extra length, he should cut down on his strikeouts.  While most people believe that a shorter swing will diminish the power, it’s a fallacy as in fact a shorter more compact swing will maintain the kinetic energy and actually drive the ball farther.  While I don’t believe Hicks will ever win any batting titles, he should be able to maintain a .250+ batting average and produce 15-20 home runs per year at a minimum.

Hicks continued to demonstrate his plus-plus speed in both his outfield play and his ability to steal bases.  Assuming he can continue to make decent contact and take a walk, he should profile as a leadoff hitter in the major leagues and accumulate 30-40 stolen bases a year.

Fantasy Impact: I still believe that Aaron Hicks has the potential to be an elite fantasy contributor with a nice power/speed combination and associated runs as a top-of-the-order batter.  He should begin 2013 in Triple-A and be a phone call away from making his major league debut.  However, as of this writing, there is a logjam in centerfield on the Twins major league roster that will have to be resolved before it makes sense to promote Hicks.

5. Eddie Rosario (2B)

2013 Age: 21 BP: Puerto Rico
Ht:6-0  Weight: 170 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2014
2012 LowA 392 60 12 70 11 .296 .345 82.4 7.9 .330

Eddie Rosario received a lot of Helium after slugging 21 home runs in the Appy League in 2011 in only 270 at-bats.  While the pitcher friendly Midwest League proved more difficult for Rosario, he still had a very successful campaign where he hit 12 home runs, stole 11 bases with a .296 batting average and a .345 OBP.  Most importantly, Rosario survived an errant batting practice line drive that required him to spend considerable time on the DL.  While the Twins notoriously move their prospects along slowly, I do think the freak injury cost Rosario a promotion in the second half.

Rosario has a nice current hit tool where he demonstrates a quick and compact swing that results in a lot of hard contact as well as a decent approach.  While he hit 21 home runs last year, Rosario does not have a classic home run swing as his stroke is more “arm-ie” with not a lot of leg drive.  He could improve as he develops his hit tool, but I am putting his future power at a 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

He also made the move to second base in 2012 and played relatively well, committing 15 errors over 71 games.  While he has good speed, he has yet to master the art of base stealing as he stole 11 bases but was also thrown out 11 times.

Fantasy Impact: Rosario has the ceiling of a first division starter with the ability to hit 15-18 home runs, steal 15 bases and bat .280 at the fantasy scarce position of second base.  I have his ETA to the majors as 2014, so he’s worth a late round selection in a Dynasty League draft.

6. Max Kepler (OF)

2013 Age: 20 BP: Germany
Ht:6-4  Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2016
2012 R 232 40 10 49 7 .297 .387 85.8 11.6 .309

When researching Max Kepler for this profile, my premise that he would be the first player born in Germany to play professional baseball quickly fell apart.  In fact, there are a lot of Major League players who were born in Germany, including Washington Nationals’ right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson and second baseman Jeff Baker – both military babies (ahh, forgot about the military bases).

Nonetheless, Kepler has a great story.  Both of his parents (father was Polish and the mother, American) were professional ballerinas who met in Germany and had little Maximilian Kepler.  Blessed with great natural athleticism, Kepler started playing baseball and rose to prominence in Germany club leagues where he was scouted and signed by the Twins in 2009.

Kepler struggled for his first two years in professional baseball before putting it together in 2012.  He had an 85.8% contact rate while showing surprising plate patience.   Currently, he’s got gap-to-gap power despite his 10 home runs, but the swing is more level and lacks loft and use of his lower half.  However, at 6-foot-4 and a slight 180 pounds, there is clearly physical projection and the hope that the power will eventually arrive.

Fantasy Impact: While there was improvement in 2012, Max Kepler is not yet a prospect that you should consider for your Dynasty team.

7. Jose Berrios (RHP)

DOB: May 27, 1994 BP: Puerto Rico
Ht: 6-0  Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 R 30.2 15 4 1 0.64 14.14 1.17 0.62

For the past few years, the Twins have focused on drafting command-and-control college pitchers that have netted them: Alex Wimmers, Kyle Gibson, and Pat Dean among others.  While Gibson has a chance to contribute at the highest level, the others will probably never make it.  So, it was good to see the Twins switch gears in 2012 and draft for upside in a pitcher.

In the supplemental first round, the Twins drafted Puerto Rican high-schooler J.O. Berrios.  While there’s not a lot of physical projection with Berrios, he does throw hard with his four-seamer sitting in the mid 90’s and can reach higher.  He also throws a slider and change-up that both show a lot of promise.  The results in a very small sample were nothing short of spectacular – striking out 49 while walking only 4.

Fantasy Impact: While not yet draftable in a Dynasty League, with a 14.14 K/9, Berrios should officially be on the radar of fantasy owners.

8. Kyle Gibson (RHP)

As the Twins first round pick in the 2010 draft, the Twins had high hopes that Kyle Gibson would make quick work of the minor leagues.   However, a torn UCL and subsequent surgery in 2011 slowed his progress.  He doesn’t have overwhelming stuff with his fastball sitting 89-91 MPH to complement good but not elite secondary pitches.  What he does is keep the ball down in the zone to generate a ton of ground balls.  I believe Gibson will make it to the majors as soon as 2013 and be a good mid-rotation starter.

9. Travis Harrison (3B)

The first time I saw Travis Harrison swing a bat, I smiled when I saw the old-school bare handed batting grip.  Harrison has plus raw power that is generated from an atypical stiff swing with little lower body movement and a long two-part swing.  It’s working at the moment but will eventually need to revamped or the number of strikeouts will limit the power potential.

10. Niko Goodrum (SS)

Repeating the Appy League usually doesn’t get you on many Top 10 lists, particularly when your statistical output declined in the second year.  However, Goodrum has a number of things going from him including athleticism, nice swing mechanics with great balance and bat speed, and the ability to play a quality premium position.

3 comments on “Minnesota Twins

  1. Obviously Terry Ryan is working to correct the balance of OF prospects vs. high ceiling, high velocity power arms. Meyer & May were great gets.

  2. Now this is an exciting list… I just don’t see how a team like this keeps a guy like Hicks in the minors at the end of a miserable season. He deserves at least a Brett Jackson style look.
    Berrios and Gibson appear on many prospect sleeper lists yet they’re low on this rankings. I am excited for my friends from the Twin Cities…

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