7. Aaron Hicks, Center field, 22 years old
2011 Stats: .242/.354/.368 with 5 HRs and 17 SB in 26 attempts for Fort Myers.
Last Year's Rank: 2
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins 14th overall in the 2008 June Major League Draft out of Woodrow Wilson HS in Los Angeles.
Twins fans are historically a patient lot. Sure, there are fringe characters out there, but for the most part, the fan base is patient with its team and prospects. Will 2012 be the season that Twins fans run out of patience with Aaron Hicks? Hicks was considered the crown jewel of the system with his 5 tools and projectable frame, but as he begins his 5th year in the system, he isn't progressing the way many thought he would.
Hicks spent 2011 in Fort Myers after spending two years in Beloit. He has established very nice on-base skills and has gap power, but hasn't been able to generate home run power yet. He also gets caught stealing too much and strikes out too much. Hicks is still young. At 22 in AA, he will still be pretty young for the level, but is he slow to develop or are his flaws holding him back?
A great defensive CF with a .265/.375/.407 line and a 67% stolen base rate looks less like a 5 tool star and more like a 4th OF. What happens if Hicks has another year with a low .700s OPS? One argument has been to scrap switch hitting and have Hicks just hit right handed. In 2010 he hit .248/.383/.339 from the left side and .362/.449/.663 from the right side and in 2011 he had a .219/.349/.337 line from the left side and .259/.342/.391 from the right. His splits were much more pronounced in 2010 but he has a better batting average and more power from the right side. While becoming a strict right handed hitter could improve his numbers, he'd also lose the righty/lefty advantage batting right-handed vs. a right-handed pitcher. He also is not used to hitting right-handed versus right-handed pitchers. He could also be returned to the mound. He was highly thought of as a high school pitcher with a 97 MPH fastball and if he looks to be a mediocre player, a switch to the mound might be in order.
Ideal scenario: Hope Hicks is a late bloomer. Hicks starts to put everything together (he is .250/.273/.550 through 6 games) and starts to develop those potential 20-20 tools in New Britain. Hopefully he can build on his Arizona Fall league .294/.400/.559. Torii Hunter had a .270/.334./417 line and Denard Span had a .286/.355/.356 line in the minors so there is still plenty of hope for Hicks. He's actually been better than both Hunter and Span were at age 22.
Path to the majors: The Twins have a good group of OFs ahead of Hicks right now, so the Twins can take their time with him. Span, Josh Willingham and Ben Revere in the majors and Joe Benson in AAA are all ahead of Hicks. If Hicks starts to come around this year, it will give the Twins options to trade Denard Span or perhaps Hicks himself. Don't expect to see Hicks until late 2013.
Prospect #8 and the rest start here.no comments
8. Kyle Gibson, Right-Handed Starter, 24 years old.
2011 Stats: 3-8 with a 4.81 ERA in 95 innings, with 91/27 K/BB for AAA Rochester.
Last year's rank: 1
Acquired: Drafted by the Twins in the 1st round (22) of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft out of University of Missouri.
Going into last season, Gibson was poised. He was our #1 prospect and he'd jumped three levels in 2010. He looked like he was almost ready to make the team. All he would need was a couple of months to fine tune in AAA and anyone of the Twins starters that fans had anointed as worthy replacement, those they felt were beneath Gibson's ability would be banished and Gibson would come in on a white horse to save the day. That didn't happen, then he got hurt.
Gibson had what looks like a rough year based on his record and ERA, but it really wasn't bad at all. He struck out 8.59 a game and only walked 2.55. He was hurt by the 11 HRs he gave up and the .339 BABIP. Gibson's numbers really took a hit in his last 3 starts when his elbow problems started to flare up. He gave up 16 earned runs in 14 innings, spiking his season ending ERA by almost a run. In his last start, he walked 5 (the most walks given up in his career) in 5 innings.
After his July 22nd start Gibson was shut down. The Twins went with their usual route of rehab for his torn ligament, before eventually opting for surgery on Sept 7th. Would having the surgery earlier have made an impact on Gibson's career? Probably not, but getting a little work in this year could help him get a little better feel his pitching and routine going into 2013.
Ideal scenario: Gibson's rehab goes well and he is ready to go for 2013. The success rate of Tommy John has really increased and that is why he is still worthy of a top 10 ranking.
Path to the majors: Assuming Gibson is fine, he probably should start the 2013 season in with a cup of coffee in AAA. With Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Jason Marquis and Scott Baker all potentially leaving after the 2012 season (or sooner), Gibson will have to be considered one of the options to go north with the team out of spring in 2013.
Prospect #9 and the rest start here:
Also, check me out at my new gig on PuckettsPond here.no comments
9. Brian Dozier, Shortstop, 24 years old
2011 stats: .320/.399/.491 with 9 HRs and 24 stolen bases in 35 attempts for Fort Myers & New Britain.
Last Year's Rank: NA
Acquired: Drafted by the Twins in the 8th round of the draft out of Southern Mississippi in 2009.
Dozier had a quite a year in 2011. After a combined .275/.350/.349 in Beloit and Fort Myers in 2010, Dozier started hot 2011. He put up a .322/.423/.472 line in his return to Fort Myers an early June promotion to New Britain. Dozier wasn't stopping there. He put up a nearly identical .318/.384/.502 line the rest of the season post promotion. His .502 slugging for New Britain was the highest he'd put up in his professional career. He showed a real increase in extra-base power in 2011 with 15 more doubles, 10 more triples and 4 more HRs than he had in 2011. His increase in Ks and decrease in BBs post promotion is a concern, but over-all his AA numbers were strong. He also had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League with a .296/.358/.454 in 125 plate appearances.
Dozier has really established himself as a decent prospect who is close to the majors after a very soft 2010. He led the entire Twins organization in runs scored and triples. He also was a Florida State league mid-season all-star and the Twins minor league player of the year. He was also impressive this spring. He was one of the last cuts today as the Twins set their opening day roster.
Dozier certainly puts himself in the conversation as "next man in" for the Twins. But, similar to Chris Parmelee, Tom Powers has decided to gush uncontrollably over Dozier,
"Everyone seems convinced that Dozier is the next big thing. Of course, spring training is all about hope. If you can't get excited over a prospect in spring training, heck, you should be watching a different sport. But in this case, I really do think that "next" is going to be pretty darn quick."
Really Tom? Dozier certainly has had a nice run since the beginning of last season and has some speed, gap power and plays decent defense, but we're not talking about the second coming. Ron Gardenhire and many Twins fans love Dozier as well, while I see Dozier topping out as a middle of the road middle infielder. A Greg Gagne with a little more speed, a little more on-base skills and a little less defense. Dozier, like Levi Michael both benefit by being in a system with few decent middle infield prospects.
Ideal scenario: Dozier will seize this challenge of being sent to AAA. Continue to put up offensive numbers in the .850+ OPS range and get called up in June. If he's destined to be a plus major league player, I'd like to make sure the he doesn't become a super 2. There is really no need to have Dozier in the majors yet anyway.
Path to the majors: Dozier will be one of the first calls if there is an injury to either Alexi Casilla or Jamey Carroll. Since Dozier is not on the 40 man roster, there is a chance Nishioka could get the first call if he starts the season strong. Avoiding injury, Dozier will see time with the Twins in 2012.
Check out the rest of my top 50 starting here.
10. Chris Parmelee, First Base/Outfield, 24 years old
2011 stats: .287/.366/.436 with 13 HRs for New Britain.
Last Year's Rank: #18
Acquired: Drafted by the Twins in the 1st round (20th overall) out of Chino Hills, CA High School in 2006.
Parmelee was fast-tracked to the majors last season due to injuries to Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. He had a really nice performance in his late season call-up in 2011. His .355/.443/.592 made educated fans and bloggers hopeful that Parmelee was ready to contribute in 2012, but it created some unrealistic expectations of his ability as well.
Friend of the blog "Twins Fan From Afar" tried to temper fans expectations yesterday while also indicating that Parmeless should be fine as a pro. What he did point out is some of the hyperbole surrounding Parmelee since his breakout last season and his hot start this spring. He pointed out the most glaring example of Parmelee hyperbole, this ridiculous post from Tom Powers from the Pioneer Press. Powers was very enamored with his September and the fact that Parmelee hits the ball a long way that he stopped short of calling him the next coming. I wonder if Tom bothered to look at Parmelee's entire resume.
Parmelee had a .287/.366/.436 line as a 23 year old in AA in 2011. Nice numbers, but not star numbers. In fact, he's only broken a .900 in OPS once. With a .273/.369/.532 in 179 plate appearances in rookie ball. Parmelee has always been a decent prospect, but never a guy who made prospect rankings. I don't mean to bad mouth Parmelee. He is my #10 prospect but an .802 OPS in AA as a slow-footed corner is not the makings of a future star.
What Parmelee is, is a solid pro prospect. He's the kind of guy that could eventually top out at an .850-.900 OPS with around 20 HRs. He also plays decent defense at first base. He's a left-handed hitter with some power, some on-base skills who doesn't strike out a ton. If he can maximize his skill-set he will be pretty valuable in the seasons ahead.
Ideal scenario: Parmelee is going to make the team and start the season at 1B with Justin Morneau as DH. The ideal scenario is that Morneau can actually start playing 1B sooner than later and make Parmelee a bench bat and part time 1B/DH/OF. If he plays every day, hopefully he can hit .250/.350/.450 or so and provide decent defense.
Path to the majors: He's made it. He has never played a single game in AAA and unless he struggles mightily, he won't this season. Hopefully for him, and the Twins, he can hit enough at a corner to help them, since he will most likely be there for awhile.
Check out the rest of my top 50 starting here.
11. Levi Michael, Shortstop, 21 years old
2011 Stats: .289/.434/.434 with 4 HRs and 14 steals in 15 attempts at the University of North Carolina.
Last year's rank: N/A
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1st round (Number 30) of the 2011 June Major League Draft out of UNC.
Last June, the Twins departed from conventional draft wisdom (at least for the Twins) by drafting a Michael in the first round. You see, Michael was a college shortstop, the Twins don't draft college position players in the first round. They draft college control pitchers or high school position players, mostly toolsy outfielders. The Twins hadn't deviated from this formula since they drafted high school pitchers Kyle Waldrop and Jay Rainville in the first round of the 2004 draft. The Twins hadn't drafted a college position player since Matty Lecroy was drafted as a catcher out of Clemsen way back in 1997.
So, why the change of philosophy? The Twins have a system full of toolsy outfielders and plenty of strike throwing pitchers, but as I pointed out way back in September of 2010, the Twins have a real dearth of middle infielders. I identified there were only 6 SS on the 40 man roster at that time and all 6 of them have moved on. The Twins really need SS depth that can play in the majors soon.
So, the Twins changed their ways and drafted for need. Michael's abilities and polish suggest the got what they needed. From ESPN's Keith Law: "Levi Michael is a 20-year-old switch-hitting shortstop who can run; unless the ankle is somehow worse than I've heard, it makes no sense to me that he fell out of the top 20, and the Twins are very fortunate that they could grab him." and Baseball America had him ranked as there 22nd prospect. So, the Twins got value at #30.
So, what did the Twins get in Michael? As a freshman, he showed decent power with 13 HRs and a .290/.382/.527 line. As a sophomore he had a great numbers with a .346/.484/.575 line including 9 HRs, 20 SBs and only 26 K's in 214 ABs. His junior year he struggled a bit, especially near the end of the season. After his great sophomore season, his .289/.434/.434 line with only 5 HRsand 47 K's looks like a real drop off, but his struggles, especially at the end of the season could be tied to his ankle injury.
Michael is very polish and almost completely developed. He has decent speed and some gap power. He's a switch hitter that can hit from both sides of the plate and he is adept at working walks. He's considered decent defensively but he may have to move to second due to lack of range. He may not have much upside, but the ability he already possesses could be good enough to become a decent major league player.
Ideal scenario: Although he signed late, Michael will most likely start his pro career in Fort Myers. There are very few middle infield prospects in the Twins system and given his ability and polish, Michael move up to New Britain mid-season.
Path to the majors: Michael has the luxury of decent ability and polish at a position of great weakness in the Twins system. If he can play decent defense at the pro level and show any on-base and gap power, Michael could be with the Twins before the end of the 2013 season. He could very well be the Twins starting shortstop or second baseman opening day 2014.
Prospect #12 and the rest of the top 50 starts here.
12. David Bromberg, Right-handed Starter, 24 years old
2011 Stats: 1-3 with a 6.08 ERA 23/15 K/BB in 37 innings for AA New Britain.
Last year's rank: 10
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 32nd round of the 2005 June Major League Draft.
Coming into 2011, David Bromberg was on the verge of making his MLB debut. He'd just been added to the 40-man roster. He'd had a decent 2010 in New Britain and Rochester, had even more impressive numbers at every level prior to 2010 and he had decent stuff. He was right there, ready to make his pro debut, just one problem, he got hurt.
He started the season a little slow. Going 1-1 and giving up 8 earned runs in 17.1 innings with just 4 Ks and 3 BBs. He was doing well in his 4th appearance on April 26th. He had 7 Ks with just 1 BB and 5 hits given up in 5.1 innings when his forearm was broken by a come-backer to the mound. He missed nearly three months and wasn't the same post injury, eventually shutting his season down. As an extra kick to the head, he was removed from the 40 man roster and went unclaimed.
I had high expectations going into last season. I figured he'd start the year in AAA and predicted he'd be one of the first Twins pitchers called up. Well, I missed the boat there, due to his injury. If he can get back to his pre-injury form, he certainly has a chance to be a decent major league starter. He was the 2009 Twins "minor league pitcher of the year" and had 3 years of better than 8.5 K's per 9. He's also only 24 years old and he always had a decent fastball and secondary pitches. The fact that he has lost a lot of weight over the past couple of years shows his commitment and could have positive benefits in his game management and velocity. Hopefully, I am just a year behind on my prediction.
Bromberg is in a similar position as #13 prospect Alex Wimmers. Both have seen their prospect luster dip compared to where it was and like Wimmers, Bromberg will need a good year to get back on track. While, I have him ranked #12 now, another lost season could spell the end of his time in the organization, the way the Twins have been cutting players.
Ideal scenario: Bromberg gets back on track, has a good start in New Britain and Rochester and is a factor for the Twins by the end of the season. Last year, I had him as top choice for a starter prospect call-up, but he is not on the 40 man roster at this time.
Path to the majors: If he pitches well and avoids injury, he will reach the majors in 2012.
Prospect #13, #14, #15, the rest. Only 2 of my top 50 have been cut in the last week. :/
13. Alex Wimmers, Right-handed Starter, 23 years old
2011 stats: 2-3 with a 4.20 ERA 39/22 K/BB in 40.2 innings for Fort Myers.
Last year's rank: 5
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins 21st overall in the 2010 June Major League Draft.
Alex Wimmers was the Twins top pick in the 2010 draft. Wimmers coming out of college was the "stereotypical Twins starting pitcher" or "stereotypical pitching draft pick" as I wrote last year.He was the 2010 National collegiate pitcher of the year and was also the first Big Ten pitcher to win the conference's pitcher of the year in 2 consecutive years, in 2009 and 2010 Wimmers was a strike throwing college pitcher and also had a good start to his pro career, striking out 23 and walking 5 in 15.2 innings in 2011. He looked poised to have a good year something happened. Wimmers lost the strike-zone.
Wimmers started his season on April 11th by walking the all 6 batters he faced. He also threw three wild pitches and a total of four strikes in 28 pitches. That was very Shooter Hunt like.... in fact it was about as accurate as I am, the first time I throw every spring. The Twins stopped his season right there and he didn't appear in another game until July 1st. "When you see that happening, you better slow a guy down and try to get him on track before he goes out there again," said Eric Rasmussen, Twins minor league pitching coordinator. "So we kind of took some time and worked him through it." Wimmers returned as a reliever and started the last 3 games of the year. His last start, he threw a 7 inning no hitter, walking only 2.
So what to make of Wimmers? Reports are that his control is back. He ended the season pitching a lot like we figured he would all along. I ranked him #5 last year and predicted his ideal scenario; "He could follow the model established by Baker, Slowey, Gibson etc... and pitch in three levels in one season. I see him probably spending the bulk of the season in AA New Britain." That didn't happen. Prospects can be fickle. Last year, we had Kane Holbrooks as our #11 prospect and this year, Holbrooks was cut. Wimmers came to the Twins with the first round pick fanfare, so he will be given more rope. If he goes the way of Shooter Hunt though, he could soon be found elsewhere, like Shooter Hunt. At just 23 years old, I believe he can bounce back enough to rank him #14.
Ideal Scenario: Wimmers will start 2012 back at Fort Myers. Assuming he has regained his control he should end the season in AA New Britain.
Path to the majors: Wimmers needs to establish that he can still throw strikes and that his first start was just a blip and isn't a Rick Ankiel, Shooter Hunt related disaster. Assuming he is the guy we thought he was last year, he should be in the mix to make the Twins out of spring in 2013. If he isn't that guy.... the path could continue to be as bumpy as it was in 2011.